1919 Centenary or 100 Years Ago in the Movies

It’s 1919, 100 years ago this year. The U.S. President is Woodrow Wilson. The world population is about 4.4 billion. The cost of a first-class stamp rises mid-year from 2¢ to 3¢. Two pounds of roast beef costs about 38¢ and the most popular work of fiction is The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction goes to Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons. Former President, Theodore Roosevelt dies in his sleep at the age of 60 in January and the Influenza Pandemic rages on, killing more people in one year than during the four years of the black plague.

1919 is the year during which Major League Baseball suffers the worst scandal in the game’s history when nine players from the Chicago White Sox throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. In a positive baseball light, 1919 is the year when Babe Ruth is sold by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees for $125,000, the largest sum ever paid for a player at that time. The deal was announced on January 6, 1920.

The year sees the end of World War I with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The US Congress approves the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guaranteed voting for women, and sent it to the individual states for ratification. January of that year also brings the ratification of the 18th Amendment to take effect the following year.

Dial telephones were introduced by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1919. Numerous important Broadway shows opened that year. You can take a look at the list at Broadway World. And then there were movies by what was by that time a robust industry. Here’s to them and the players who made them possible.


Celebrating a 100th Anniversary

The Movies

Top Grossing Films of 1919:

1. George Loane Tucker‘s The Miracle Man
2. Marshall Neilan‘s Daddy-Long-Legs
3. Ernst Lubitsch‘s Madame DuBarry
4. James Cruze‘s The Roaring Road
5. Victor Fleming‘s When the Clouds Roll By
6. James Cruze’s Hawthorne of the U.S.A.
7. D.W. Griffith‘s Broken Blossoms
8. Cecil B. DeMille‘s Male and Female

A gallery of some of the notable films released in 1919: 

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The People

Listen to the top songs of 1919 here. Among the notables who had hits in 1919 are Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Bert Williams, and the Louisiana Five.

Popular Movie Stars:

Dorothy Gish

Pauline Frederick

Gloria Swanson

Douglas Fairbanks

Mary Pickford

Charlie Chaplin

Harold Lloyd

Roscoe Arbuckle

Rudolph Valentino

Lillian Gish

Harry Houdini

Lon Chaney

Tom Mix


You may recognize some of the famous faces born in 1919…

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The Debuts

Several would-be legends made their debut in 1919. Among them…






  • Oscar Micheaux became the first African-American to produce and direct a feature film when The Homesteader, starring pioneering Evelyn Preer, was released in 1919




  • Erich von Stroheim made his directorial debut with his own script for the film Blind Husbands released in 1919, a film in which he also starred as Lieutenant Eric Von Steuben.


Movie Happenings

A few of the significant movie-related events of 1919…

  • Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and Mary Pickford established United Artists.
  • Charlie Chaplin begins work on The Kid, his first feature film. His co-star will be four-year-old Jackie Coogan.
  • The Barney Google cartoon strip, by Billy DeBeck, premiered. Originally Take Barney Google, F’rinstance, Barney was later joined by Snuffy smith.

  • Harold Lloyd suffered a serious accident while taking some publicity photos for his new series of two-reelers. He lit what he thought was a prop fuse bomb and posed with it when it went off. The accident resulted in his losing a thumb and index finger. Lloyd returned to the screen, however, as one of film history’s most daring actors.
  • United Artists’ first feature film, the comedy His Majesty, the American, premiered. Directed by Joseph Henabery the film starred one of the studio’s founders, Douglas Fairbanks.
  • Walt Disney teamed with Ub Iwerks to form Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists (later known as Ub Iwerks), to create cartoon animations.
  • Max and Dave Fleischer‘s Out of the Inkwell series premiered, introducing KoKo the Clown, one of the first animated characters.
  • Felix the Cat first made his debut in Feline Follies
  • Rudolph Valentino married Jean Acker. The union lasted approximate six hours.
Valentino and Acker

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane and the centenary of 1919. I’ll be back in short order with other significant anniversaries for 2019.

12 thoughts

  1. This is terrific, Aurora. Thank you so much for this slice of history. So much to digest. Interesting to see how many of the great directors were active in 1919 – Lubitsch, Fleming, De Mille.

    1. Swing to those great tunes! You’re not kidding about the number of impressive centennials. It should keep us busy and away from the darn news!

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