One-hundred, five years, ago, today…the silent black & white, comedy-drama To Hell With The Kaiser! was released. Written by June Mathis and directed by George Irving, it starred Lawrence Grant (as The Kaiser/actor Robert Graubel), Olive Tell, Betty Howe, John Sunderland, Earl Schenck (as the Crown Prince), Mabel Wright, Frank Currier, Karl Dane and Walter P. Lewis as Satan.
Following the death of his father, Frederick III of Germany, Wilhelm Hohenzollern becomes the German Kaiser and forms a pact with the devil that, he will conquer the globe in exchange for his soul. During the Kaiser’s invasion of Belgium, the Crown Prince enters a church and rapes Ruth Monroe, the daughter of an American inventor who has perfected a noiseless communications device. When the professor denounces the Crown Prince, he immediately is shot, whereupon his other daughter Alice vows to obtain revenge. While Alice’s sweetheart, Winslow Dodge, fights with the Americans as an aviator, she arranges to meet the Crown Prince through her friend Robert Graubel, an actor who impersonates the Kaiser at public functions. With her father’s wireless [device], Alice informs Winslow of the Kaiser’s whereabouts and, as he captures the German emperor, she kills the Crown Prince. Now a prisoner, the Kaiser drowns himself and wakes up in Hell, where Satan abdicates in his favor, saying that the Kaiser’s tortures are more fiendish than any he ever devised.
Lawrence Grant, who spent his lengthy career playing odious villains, appeared in the dual role of Kaiser Wilhelm II and his look-alike, German actor Robert Graubel. Terrified of being assassinated, the Kaiser hires Graubel to impersonate him at various political functions. In the film, the Kaiser achieves military success through an infernal pact with Satan. Once this is established, the film concentrates on the seemingly endless tally of misdeeds perpetrated by the Kaiser during his quarter-century reign over Germany. His “partner in crime” is the Crown Prince […], who thinks nothing of casually raping convent girls and gunning down protesting nuns. The Crown Prince’s latest conquest is Ruth Monroe […], the daughter of an American inventor. When Ruth’s father protests this outrage, he is brutally murdered, whereupon Ruth’s sister Alice […] vows revenge. Using her father’s newest invention, a wireless machine whose coded messages cannot be intercepted, Alice directs a battalion of planes to bomb the small German village where the Kaiser is hiding. Captured by the Allies, the Kaiser is ignominiously dumped in a POW camp but, not before enduring a well-aimed sock on the jaw from a pugnacious dough-boy. In despair, the Kaiser commits suicide and sends his soul to hell. In hell, the devil […] gives up his throne, confessing that the Kaiser is far more sinister than he could ever hope to be.
[On June 8, 1918], Motography ran a Screen Classics press release explaining that To Hell With The Kaiser “reveals the machinations of Europe’s military monster before and during the war, his contempt for Americans […], his elaborate plans to crush France, […] destroy Russia, […] partition the world, […] his [order] to employ deadly gases in the war, the true circumstances under which he ordered the sinking of the Lusitania, the raiding of hospitals […].” Years before the war, Mr. Grant’s physical likeness to the German ruler was noted by a high official of the Kaiser’s court and a proposition was made for Grant to play the Kaiser in a dramatization […]. The war broke out before discussions went any further.
Actor John Sunderland, playing American pilot Winslow Dodge, was himself “an aviator who has seen service in Belgium.”
[It] had been released in the press that Kaiser Wilhelm II had half a dozen doubles who were employed to pose for him in various parts of the country, where there might be danger of assassination, while the real Kaiser, himself, remained safe behind this cloak.
To Hell With The Kaiser opened in New York City at the Broadway Theatre on June 30, 1918, immediately after it had emerged from the cutting and editing rooms […].
The film turned out to be an effective propaganda tool […]. Not only has the picture been shown in munitions plants and training camps […] but, this power has now been demonstrated in a new way…to convert conscientious objectors.
The National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) included this film on its list of Lost U.S. Silent Feature Films as of February 2021.
I found the building of this post fascinating. What started out as a simple movie post, turned into a history lesson. It’s a shame that it is lost. There are photographs of still pictures on IMDb. ~Vic