National Red Cross Pageant

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The National Red Cross Pageant
Guy Favieres & Ina Claire.jpg
Film still of Guy Favières and Ina Claire
Directed by Christy Cabanne
Produced byNational Red Cross Pageant Committee
Edited by Mildred Richter
Release date
  • December 1917 (1917-12)
Running time
5 reels
CountryUnited States

The National Red Cross Pageant (1917) was an American war pageant that was performed in order to sell war bonds, support the National Red Cross, and promote a positive opinion about American involvement in World War I. It was also an all-star revue silent film, now considered a lost film, [1] [2] [3] directed by Christy Cabanne.


Production background

On October 5, 1917, a live open-air pageant was held at the Rosemary Open Air Amphitheater on a private estate, Rosemary Farm, near Huntington, New York. It was also performed again a few weeks later at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Both performances drew large crowds whose numbers were in the hundreds, and consisted mostly of wealthy New Yorkers. [4] The event was mainly the brainchild of Ben Ali Haggin, famous as a stage designer. His wife appears in one of the episodes. The earnings from the live pageant itself went to the Red Cross.

Presumably the filming of the pageant was made with a patriotic fervor in the wake of the United States entry into World War I in April 1917. The proceeds from the film going to the war effort, such as the Red Cross, War Bonds, etc.

A litany of famous Broadway and motion picture stars of the period participated in the production. Lionel, Ethel, and John Barrymore all appeared in the production but not together in the same scenes as they did in Rasputin and the Empress (1932). [5] According to the National Red Cross Bulletin, 500 people appeared in the production and more than 5,000 spectators were in attendance. [6]

The proceeds from the pageant were reported as having been in the amount of $50,000 which created a way for American citizens to make a difference for their country's participation in the Great War, and it also allowed these same citizens to feel a sense of national pride for their beloved homeland. [7]

Its success was so remarkable, the National Red Cross later proclaimed December 7 National Red Cross Theatrical Day. [8]


The cast of the 1917 theatrical production at Huntington, New York American Red Cross Pageant, Huntington, L.I., New York - 1917 - NARA - 20802268 (cropped).jpg
The cast of the 1917 theatrical production at Huntington, New York

The pageant consisted of episodes from the history of each of the Allies. The case of each Ally before the bar of Truth, Justice, and Liberty, was organized by actors and actresses of the American stage. Decorators and artists collaborated in the settings and costuming. The first of two parts consisted of historic episodes in relation to the Allied nations. The prologue, spoken by Edith Wynne Matthison, dedicated an altar to Peace and was followed by rhythmic dancing by Florence Fleming Noyes and her pupils. A scene from early Flemish days followed, and four famous cities, Bruges, Ghent, Ypres, and Louvain paid their allegiance to Flanders, played by Ethel Barrymore in the costume seen in Flemish paintings. The Italian scene followed and then the scene of the birth of English liberty, as represented by King John signing the Magna Carta. Medieval Russia was played by John Barrymore as a tyrant borne upon the shoulders of his serfs. In the French episode, Ina Claire appeared as Jeanne D'Arc riding her white charger.

In "The Drawing of the Sword", the second half of the pageant, each nation among the Allies appeared to present its case before the court of Truth, Justice, and Liberty. Serbia entered first and told her story of the opening of the war, to which Truth spoke assent. Belgium followed, and to her aid came England and France, while Russia came to the support of her ally, Serbia. Next, England called upon her overseas colonies, and Japan also, brought her pledge to maintain the cause of liberty on the Pacific. Armenia came to tell her wrongs; and Italy, shaking off the bonds of the Triple Alliance, cast her lot with the defenders of liberty. The grand climax was reached with the entry of America in the person of Marjorie Rambeau. [9]

Jenna Kubly said the pageant described the United States' position in the war as "a nation involved in a just war to free all nations." [10]

The Red Cross Bulletin wrote:

Many of the leading theatrical stars of America contributed their services in The National Red Cross Pageant held on the afternoon of October 5 at the Rosemary Open-Air Theater, on the estate of Roland B. Conklin, Huntington, L.I. Five hundred persons appeared in the production, which was in two parts. The first was made up of festival scenes illustrating the spirit of the allied nations. The second, a dramatic statement of the Allies' cause in the war, was entitled "The Drawing of the Sword". Critics reported the pageant one of the most elaborate and artistic dramatic events ever staged out of doors. Weather conditions were ideal. More than 5,000 people were in the audience. [11]

Costume and scenic elements

The Rosemary Open-Air Amphitheater is an outdoor playing space that includes a stage area for the actors that is separated from the audience by a small moat. The audience space includes raked seating incorporated in the terrain. Behind the stage there are trees and flora that make up the background. The set of The National Red Cross Pageant included a large throne and an archway made of stone. There were many different costumes in The National Red Cross Pageant due to the great variety of roles including soldiers, mermaids, and personified countries. [12]


Rehearsals. actors rehearsing for their role in the pageant as well as the film. left to right: Guy Favieres, Mrs. Ben Ali Haggin(Helen Roche-Haggin), Ina Claire(kneeling), Clifton Webb, Ivy Troutman, Eugene O'Brien, Jeanne Eagels, Ben Ali Haggin. 1917-NRCP-05-French-Rehearsal-Favieres-Roche-Claire-Troutman-Eagels-Haggin.jpg
Rehearsals. actors rehearsing for their role in the pageant as well as the film. left to right: Guy Favieres, Mrs. Ben Ali Haggin(Helen Roche-Haggin), Ina Claire(kneeling), Clifton Webb, Ivy Troutman, Eugene O'Brien, Jeanne Eagels, Ben Ali Haggin.

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  1. "National Red Cross Pageant". Retrieved March 5, 2013.
  2. The AFI Catalog of Feature Films:National Red Cross Pageant
  3. National Red Cross Pageant, 1917, retrieved 2019-06-11
  4. Kubly, Jenna L. ""Staging the Great War in the National Red Cross Pageant"". The Journal of American Drama and Theatre. 24.
  5. The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Films: 1911-20, The American Film Institute, c. 1988, p. 652
  6. "Many Theatrical Stars Help Make Red Cross Pageant a Success". The Red Cross Bulletin. 1: 4. October 15, 1917.
  7. Kubly, Jenna (2012). "Staging the Great War in The National Red Cross Pageant". The Journal of American Drama and Theatre. 24 (2): 49–66.
  8. "Many Theatrical Stars Help Make Red Cross Pageant a Success". The Red Cross Bulletin. 1: 4. October 15, 1917.
  9. "The Red Cross and the Stage". Vogue . 15 November 1917.
  10. Kubly, Jenna (2012). "Staging the Great War in The National Red Cross Pageant". The Journal of American Drama and Theatre. 24 (2): 49–66.
  11. "Many Theatrical Stars Help Make Red Cross Pageant a Success". The Red Cross Bulletin. 1: 4. October 15, 1917.
  12. "Image 2 of The New York times, October 14, 1917". Library of Congress.

Kubly, Jenna L. "Staging the Great War in the National Red Cross Pageant." The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, 2012. ProQuest Research Library [ProQuest]. Stevens, Thomas Wood. The Drawing of the Sword: Together with the Text of the National Red Cross Pageant. C.C. Birchard, 1917.