The Pittsburgh Press (September 18, 1944)
I DARE SAY —
Man to remember
By Florence Fisher Parry
I went to see the Pittsburgh premiere of Wilson. I had seen it in New York. It had impressed me very deeply – one of the few motion pictures I had ever really felt the need of seeing again.
I sat among “young people;” the First World War had not happened to them; the era of Wilson was but a history lesson to them. They were interested, they were greatly impressed, but they were not reliving any portion of their lives. I felt immensely superior to them, somehow; glad I was old enough to have lived these two wars and see them in relation to each other.
I had time, this seeing of the picture, to notice its embroidery, its consummate setting, its wealth of historical detail. There is not an anachronism; there are few departures from the strict chronicle of fact, and these serve but to illumine, never distort, history. The action moves with a kind of even and ordained majesty… like the course of the constellations wheeling across the sky…
THUS WAS IT TO BE, we sense. This is history. This is the grist that is ground in the mills of the gods…
There was a man with a dream. It enlarged him, inspired him, consumed him, killed him.
But dreams, unlike mortals, do not die. Conceived of man, they yet take on a separate immortality.
The dream did not die. But to survive, it had to undergo great travail.
Blood-soaked, it is rising now to its full stature. The ghosts of 20 million new dead who would not have needed to die, will not let it languish again.
Never was a motion picture so fortuitously timed. A way must be made for all who live in this Republic to see it. It is a propaganda picture, yes; but it is not a political propaganda picture. At least to the informed it is not; to the intelligent and mature it is not.
It can be used, I dare say, by the base machinery of politics to point the way to the November polls; and frankly I fear that this may happen. That would be a pity; but we must take that chance. The important thing is for all to see it.
It does, however, point one fault which is, I think, deplorable. I wonder that the Republican Party has not been more successful in handling this American tendency; and that is, the assumption that the democratic form of government is espoused by the Democratic Party as opposed to the Republican Party.
I think that the picture Wilson could easily have avoided the accusation that it “plays” party politics, by introducing, in its text, the word REPUBLIC occasionally as a synonym for the word democracy.
To me the most brilliant passages in the picture were those devoted to our national presidential conventions! Never has the public been afforded such a magnificent, colorful, LIVING duplication of this strange American institution IN ACTION. We are shown the American system of free government in full play. All its weaknesses, all its dangers, all its terrifying risks, are conspicuously acknowledged in a series of stunning convention sequences which, for sheer abundant circus impact, have never been equaled on the screen!
Yet through it all THE DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM of FREE GOVERNMENT manages to survive, thrive, and turn the august tide of history! It DOES work.
Once to every man
If only for this, the picture Wilson must be seen; for never have we had greater need of this assurance.
There are other, many other, distinguishing features which left the picture up and out of all molds that have gone before. Perhaps the manner in which it avoids making Wilson a great man, but is content to present him as he was – an honest, fearless, impractical and stubborn human being whom crisis reared to prominence and who rose to the circumstance and did it honor – perhaps this is the picture’s greatest achievement.
Perhaps Wilson will make motion picture history, establish some new record – I do not know, perhaps it will be found to be another magnificent box-office failure. I hope not this; for that would frighten me.
If Wilson’s dream, neglected in his day, does not interest us now, God pity us, and those who will pay later for our folly.