Repository: Biblioteca Valenciana Digital, Valencia, Spain
Creator: Vogel, Lucien, 1886-1954
Date Created: 1936-08-29
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Paris, France
The Spanish Civil war was the first modern media war, and this contributed powerfully to internationalizing the conflict among a global public. This cover from the French newsmagazine Vu is one example.
Republican governments played a part. They produced posters directed specifically at the British and French publics, including one of the most famous: Madrid, the "military" practice of the rebels. If you tolerate this, your children will be next. This powerful poster played on the novel horror of the aerial bombing of European cities by juxtaposing a photograph of a dead child against another of a squadron of airplanes. The film unit of the Generalitat’s Propaganda office produced English and French versions of its weekly news report Spain Today. For their part, the Nationalists had the Paris-based magazine Occident edited by Joan Esterlich and financed by Catalan businessman Francesc Cambó.
The international press followed the war closely and a number of foreign papers had correspondents in Spain. It was Mário Neves of the Diario de Lisboa who wrote the first story about the Badajoz massacre, and it was the Times of London’s George Steer whose reporting announced the bombing of Guernica to the world.
Photography was central to this phenomenon. Photographers had been taking pictures of wars since the Crimea in the 1850s, but the Civil War was the first to be “covered” in the modern sense. Recent developments in photographic technology, like the portable Leica camera with its fast lens and capacity for 36-shot rolls of film, meant that photographers like Gerda Taro, Robert Capa, and David Seymour could get close to the action. The great popularity of weekly photo magazines, like Vu in France and LIFE in the United States, meant that their images would quickly reach millions of viewers around the world. Millions more learned about the Civil War through newsreels. There were film crews from Britain, France, Italy, Germany, the Soviet Union, the United States and other countries in Spain. Fox Movietone News itself had fifteen crews. Edited and with narration and music added, newsreels were seen by truly mass audiences, 19 million people per week in the United Kingdom.
There were also longer films. Some were documentaries, although the line between this and propaganda was porous. Dutch director Joris Ivens worked with several leading American cultural figures, including Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, and Lilian Hellman to produce the pro-Republican Spanish Earth, which premiered at the White House for President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937. Henri Cartier Bresson made a number of documentaries, including With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. On the Nationalist side, in 1938 American Russell Palmer made Defenders of the Faith, which is said to contain the first scenes of warfare shot in colour.
Other films were dramas. André Malraux’s novel about Republican airmen was turned into Espoir. Sierra de Teruel, which premiered in July 1939. Hollywood made a number of movies while the war was still on, including Blockade starring Henry Fonda (1938). There were also pro-Nationalist dramatic films like Comrades at Sea (1938), made in Germany, and Italy’s The Siege of the Alcazar, which won the Mussolini Cup at the 1940 Venice Film Festival.