A Re-examination of the Early Career of Robert J. Flaherty [1]

Jay Ruby

Quarterly Review of Film Studies, Fall 1980

(Original pagination preserved for quotation purposes.)

"Suppose we go," said I, "do you know that you and your men may have to give up making a kill, if it interferes with my film' Will you remember that it is the picture of you hunting the ivuik (walrus) that I want and not their meat," (emphasis added)

"Yes, yes, the aggie (movie) will come first," earnestly he assured me. "Not a man will stir, not a harpoon will be thrown until you give the sign. It is my word." We shook hands and agreed to start the next day. (A conversation between Robert Flaherty and Nanook) [2]

It has become fashionable nowadays to be publicly self-conscious about what we know. Styles of inquiry are acknowledged to change through time. What we deem important and how we go about discovering it have themselves become the subject of inquiry. [3] Recent scholarship concerning the early career of Robert I. Flaherty as photographer and filmmaker exemplifies this tendency. The new "discoveries" of Flaherty's Arctic photographs, information about his 1916 pre-Nanook film, and other findings are the result of "excavations" in archives and other sources which contain the artifacts of Flaherty's life. What is, of course, true is that nothing new was actually found since nothing was really lost or even very obscure. Until now, few have been very interested in these materials and their potential significance.

Fortunately Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker was interested, and through her efforts to organize an exhibition of unknown Flaherty photographs at the Vancouver Art Gallery and to edit a catalog, the impetus for additional work was created. The impact of Danzker's efforts is still to be felt. The photographs are touring the Inuit communities and will undoubtedly stir old memories, thus providing us with a rare opportunity to hear what it is like to be on the receiving end of the camera. In addition, a chapter from Paul Rotha

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and Basil Wright's seminal but unpublished biography of Flaherty will appear in an issue of the journal Studies in Visual Communication devoted to Flaherty. There are also plans by a major university press to publish the entire Rotha/Wright biography. (Author's update - The book did appear in 1982 published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. It is currently out-of-print but plans are being made to place it on the Web Archive of Visual Anthropology. Contact ruby@microserve.net for details.)

These efforts reflect a new approach to scholarship. Until recently the dominant paradigm in visual research was to examine the film or photograph as object or text-out of any context. It was assumed that all important information was contained within the work itself, and only people interested in psychological tidbits about the author or in constructing a hero would bother to look at the maker's life.

As scholars examined the sociocultural processes of these cultural artifacts and saw the need for exploring the relationship between the producer, the process of production, the product itself, and its consumption, other data became relevant.[4]

Our interests have shifted from the text alone to the text in context. We are beginning to realize it is important to understand not only the film or photograph but the maker, the conditions of production, and the conditions of consumption if we wish to comprehend how meaning is created.

Examining the films of Robert J. Flaherty as if they were paintings on the wall is no longer sufficient; nor is the idolatry which has grown up around his persona very useful. Flaherty is a curious figure in film history. He is probably more revered than any other American filmmaker. The construction and perpetuation of the "Flaherty Myth" has been the subject of numerous articles. [5]

It is hoped that this renewed interest will place the personage of Flaherty within a context whereby neither hero worship nor iconoclasm is necessary or even very interesting.

While Flaherty's entire career deserves a critical and thorough analysis, three aspects of the production of Nanook are particularly worth discussing in the light of recent thinking: (1 ) Flaherty's use of narrative form; (2) the relationship of art and commerce in Flaherty's career; and (3) his field production methods.

One of Flaherty's most significant and least understood contributions was his use of the narrative form in Nanook. This accomplishment is usually described in one of two ways: either by assuming that he borrowed the idea from feature films ("Flaherty had apparently mastered-unlike the previous documentaries-the grammar of film as it had evolved in the fiction film"); [6] or by simply touting his ability as a story teller-as a person gifted with the ability

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to recount his experiences in a way that captures an audience. Both views are problematic and fall short of providing a comprehension of the importance of Flaherty's contribution.

There is a common misunderstanding about the nature of narrative among writers about film-a confusion which begins at least with the first reviews of Nanook. For example, "There is no story in this picture-only life." [7] Apparently some people are under the impression that narrative means fiction alone; hence, the tradition among film scholars of using narrative as a synonym for fiction. This misconception is one of the sources for the idea that Nanook was "staged" or not a "real" documentary. Critics recognized the narrative form and automatically assumed that they were watching a fiction film, or a "faked" documentary. For example:

The first version of Nanook (which burned up accidentally) was a factual account of what he had seen.... II was the first lime Flaherty had used a camera to record what he had experienced but it did not satisfy his imagination.... The second Nanook became a conflict between the explorer-scientist who had been disciplined into giving facts and figures and the story-teller-turned-film-director who left out certain facts and emphasized others. Facts and figures, useful as they are to the mine-owners and fur-traders, were not exciting to Flaherty whose nature leaned more toward the dramatic. Certainly Revillon Freres had no objections to the omission of steeltraps. The ladies, enjoying the prowess of Nanook, might not feel so pleased if they saw how the foxes were caught whose pelts now adorned their shoulders. The story-teller won out over the scientist. [8]

The idea that nonfiction film should not be narrative stems from the recognition that narrative is a structuring and interpretive device and from the naive assumption that nonfiction films should not be interpretive. The exclusive association of narrative form with fiction leads to misconceptions about the distinctions between narrative, fiction and nonfiction.

Nanook is a narrative film. The recognition of Flaherty's use of narrative in no way diminishes the film's value as a documentary. Flaherty's penchant for telling stories to appreciative audiences was combined with a sophisticated understanding of narrative devices and a knowledge of the existing film styles and possibilities. Flaherty was not the innocent that his public was led to believe but someone with knowledge and with forethought who used the narrative form in a very deliberate and intentional way. He says so in an early draft of an article that was to become "How I Filmed Nanook of the North." [9] I had planned to depict an ethnoligical (sic) film of life covering the various phases of their hunting, travel domestic life, and religion in as much of a narrative Itorm as is possible" (emphasis added).[10]

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It is the complex interweaving of a dramatic story with actuality which sets Nanook apart from the other films of its time. Flaherty elevated the nonfiction film from the often superficial dreariness of the travelogue and the adventurer film to the documentary through the imposition of a narrative in order to cinematically tell dramatic stories of real people.

Nanook becomes even more remarkable when it is compared to its contemporaries. In 1920 there were fiction feature films- photoplay dramas from the dream factories; didactic educational films that usually employed an essay form; and the travelogue-adventure films-either the personal films of people like Osa and Martin Johnson, who were forever barely escaping the headhunters up the Zambesi, or scenics by people like Burton Holmes that had titles like "Bali-Land of Contrasts." Flaherty had these models to look toward for guidance in his own work.

It is difficult to determine how familiar Flaherty was with the commercial films of his day, since he never wrote about their influence on him. However, we do know that he did attend films,[11] and when searching for financial support, the Flahertys did approach several large commercial film organizations such as Paramount. This seems to indicate that they were somewhat knowledgeable about the movie business.

Perhaps the strongest piece of evidence that Flaherty was familiar with and considered for his own work the conventions of "photoplay" narrative was the fact that he and his wife Frances, on April 8, 1915,[12] visited the New York office of Edward S. Curtis, a man known primarily for his monumental visual ethnography, The North American Indian (1907). During their visit they saw Curtis's photographs and his 1914 film, In the Land of the Headhunters, [13] a tale of love and conflict among the Kwakiatl Indians of the Northwest Coast. In Curtis's film one recognizes more readily than in Nanook the conventions of the Hollywood photoplay with rivals fighting over the hand of a maiden.


Flaherty" chose not to employ the more overt, supposedly crowd pleasing formula of sex and violence to which Curtis fell prey. Instead, Flaherty developed his "conflict and resolution"-an essential element in Western drama-into "man versus environment" - a drama of survival-can the Inuit live in this place?-a device constructed to involve an audience in the Inuit's struggle against a harsh environment. The identification which is so essen-

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tial in good drama is in Nanook designed to transform the audience's ethnocentrism into empathy for a people, a culture, and a hero.

Flaherty had another possible modes-the travel/adventure film. Given the popularity of this genre and the fact that Flaherty was a well-known explorer, why didn't he make a good scenic film? The answer to that question is interesting historically, since Flaherty did indeed make such a film but was prevented through an accident from distributing it.

When Flaherty began to take motion pictures, he did so to have a record of his explorations of northern Canada for possible iron ore deposits. During Flaherty's third (1913-1914) and fourth (1915-1916) expeditions he shot about 30,000 feet of motion picture film in addition to the photographs he was already taking. At the conclusion of his third expedition (1913-1914) shortly after his marriage in 1914, Robert and Frances Flaherty began to examine the possibility of turning the footage into a film and of making Robert Flaherty into a full-time professional filmmaker, photographer, and lecturer. The transition between careers was rapid, since only two years before he had barely thought about making motion pictures.

Frances Flaherty's diary during the period 1914-1916 clearly indicates how important the films, the photographs, and the writings about Robert's work had become to her and how much she assumed that they would make this type of work their life's ambition. For example, on December 17,1914, only a month after their marriage, she wrote, "We hope that they {the motion pictures! will attract a great deal of attention, be widely shown, and gain recognition for R. (Robert) as an explorer, as an artist and interpreter of the Eskimo people, and consequently bring him greater opportunity." The Flahertys produced a travel-adventure film which would be accompanied by a lecture about Flaherty's exploration of the North They contacted a variety of organizations ranging from Paramount to Burton Holmes (the largest travelogue organization of the time) to purchase their work.

A fire destroyed the negative of the 1914-1916 film. With only the unreproducable work print (sometimes referred to as the "Harvard Print" since he apparently intended to show it at that institution), the Flahertys spent the next four years screening the film to raise money for another film. Finally, Flaherty convinced Thierry Mallot of a French fur trading company, Revillon Freres, to finance

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Nanook. Mallot and two other Revillon Freres employees accompanied Flaherty to the Arctic.

What is important about the oft-told story is that during this period Flaherty discovered his travel film was not very good. He became increasingly dissatisfied with it. Nanook was born out of that realization. Flaherty saw two essential flaws in the "Harvard Print"-flaws which were endemic to the travelogue-adventure genre: /1) the lack of continuity: "It was a bad film: it was dull-it was little more than a travelogue. I had learned to explore, I had not learned to reveal. It was utterly inept, simply a scene of this and that, no relation, no thread of a story or continuity whatever.... Certainly it bored me"; [14] and (2) the emotional distance one feels from the subject in a typical adventure film where the exotic natives are seen as curios for the outsider's amusement:

My wife and I thought it over for a long time. Al last we realized why the film was bad, and we began to get a glimmer that perhaps if I went back to the North, where I had lived for eight years and knew the people intimately, I could make a film that this time would go. Why not take, we said to each other, a typical Eskimo and his family and make a biography of their lives through the year! What biography of any man could be more interesting. Here is a man who has less resources than any other man in the world. He lives in a desolation that no other race could possibly survive. His life is a constant fight against starvation. Nothing grows; he must depend utterly on what he can kill; and all of this against the most terrifying of tyrants-the bitter climate of the North, the bitterest climate in the world. Surely this story could be interesting! [15]

Flaherty knew about travelogues. He even tried to make one. He also knew the people who made adventurer films, like Martin and Osa lohnson. He rejected these forms the same way he rejected the "photoplay," not because he was an innocent who intuitively stumbled upon a narrative form that just happened to work-the genius of non-preconception-but because he was sufficiently knowledgeable of the cinematic forms of his day to realize their inadequacies for his purposes. It could be argued that the accidental destruction of the "Harvard Print" had as much to do with the creation of Nanook as did Flaherty's knowledge and intention and, in a superficial way, one would be correct. However, there was no reason why he could not have returned to the North, simply duplicated his earlier efforts, and brought back another travel film. Fortunately for us he did not. When he did go back, Flaherty had something else in mind:

The urge that I had to make Nanook came from the way I felt about these people, my admiration for them; I wanted to tell others about them. This was my whole reason for making the film. In so many travelogues you see, the filmmaker looks

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down on and never up to his subject. He is always the big man from New York or from London.

But I had been dependent on these people, alone with them for months at a time, traveling with them and living with them. They had warmed my feet when they were cold, lit my cigarettes when my hands were too numb to do it myself; they had taken care of me on three or four expeditions over a period of eight years. My work had been built up along with them; I couldn't have done anything without them. In the end it is all a question of human relationships. [16]

Flaherty has for some time enjoyed a reputation as the prototypical independent film artist. The importance of the word "independent" cannot be overly stressed when one compares film to other media. The technology and cost of producing most films cause the filmmaker to have to effect some sort of working relationship with commerce in a way that marks and separates him from other artists (except video makers who are even more tied to the commercial broadcast industry). Until the recent years of foundation and government support, the filmmaker had only three places to go: the commercial film industry; wealthy patrons (who seldom saw film as an "art" worth supporting); and companies which might be cajoled into thinking that backing a film could be both profitable and good public relations. When Flaherty convinced Revillon Freres that producing Nanook would be worthwhile, he started the tradition of companies supporting the independent film artist.

As a consequence of the confluence of circumstances and his ability to be an excellent advertisement for himself, Flaherty is regarded as a paragon of artistic virtue and integrity-admired for his unswerving commitment to his own artistic values-someone unseducible by the money sirens of Hollywood. Flaherty was the object of awe and reverence among the Hollywood and New York commercial, intellectual, and artistic circles. Actor-director John Houseman (whose own career spans from Citizen Kane to The Paper Chase) once wrote about Flaherty: "It is the measure of his greatness that after a quarter of a century Flaherty's myth is today more valid, more universal, and more significant than ever before. And it is no wonder. For it is rooted in love. And what it tells is a story of the innate decency and fortitude and invincibility of the human spirit." [17]


It could be argued that if Flaherty didn't exist, Hollywood and New York would have had to invent him, They needed a figure to point to as someone who had sufficient artistic integrity to resist the financial temptations of the commercial film establishment. In his

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New Yorker profile of Flaherty written in 1949, Robert Lewis Taylor introduced Flaherty to that magazine's sophisticated readership:

His life to date has been a brilliant demonstration of the axiom Thai art doesn't pay.... From time to time he has been mixed up briefly in the production of a few other films, withdrawing in most cases after some truly memorable wrangles over commercialism vs. artistic integrity.... Though unopposed to earning an honest dollar, Flaherty was, and is today repelled by the gross taint of commercialism; ignoring the Hollywood moneypots, he searched for a private patron . . . he was wholly undismayed by the commercial failure of three movies he had made and he artistic collapse of a fourth, which he had worked on briefly.... Flaherty's case, with its slights, rebuffs, hardships. disasters. And general lack of rewards, illustrates the depressing battle that faces an artist relentlessly dedicated to raising the standard of a new cultural medium [emphasis added]. [18]

Flaherty was accepted among the East Coast artistic and intellectual circles and in Hollywood as America's native son in a world of art film dominated by Italian Neo-Realism and the newly discovered Russians like Eisenstein. It must have made it easier for these people, who were convinced that all culture and art came across the Atlantic, to accept the vulgar American Flaherty as their own home-grown genius when they discovered that Serge Eisenstein, the Russian producer, said, "We Russians learned more from 'Nanook of the North' than from any other foreign film. We wore it out studying it. That was, in a way, our beginning.'' [19]

There is, of course, some substance to the image. In addition to obtaining Revillon Freres' sponsorship, Flaherty secured financial backing from Paramount Pictures (Moana), Standard Oil (Louisiana Story), and the United States Government (The Land). In virtually every case the relationship was mutually unsatisfying. He went over budget almost every time. He even walked out of several productions due to disputes with the management. Now, depending upon one's point of view, either these were the actions of an artist who could not and should not have been burdened by the limitations of a commercial industry, or they were the unjustifiable actions of an unreasonable and undisciplined prima donna. The eye of the beholder is undoubtedly the crucial factor in this case.

The tensions and conflicts of the commercial/theatrical versus the artistic, education, and socially concerned interests are certainly endemic to the cinema from the moment of its inception. In addition, there are the problems faced by the filmmaker who wishes to make a living from his films but who needs or wishes to remain outside of the commercial industry. Ail of these tensions and problems are to be found within the career of Robert Flaherty. His solution is instructive.

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In order to understand Flaherty's choices in these matters, one has first to contextualize them in the world of film during the formative period of Flaherty's career-1914-1920. There were virtually no non-theatrical film outlets of any consequence. A handful of people made a living making travelogues. There were a smattering of screenings in schools, churches, union halls, and a few nascent film societies. However, ninety-nine percent of the funds and activities were to be found in the commercial theatrical world. This situation remained virtually unchanged until the 1950s, when film societies such as Amos Vogel's Cinema 16 and The Museum of Modern Art in New York began to create alternative outlets for films.

It is quite clear that Flaherty was torn between his need to make a living, the attraction of big money and its promise of future projects, his desire to have his work seen, and other less commercial interests. Let me illustrate the ambivalence with some excerpts from Frances's diary from the 1914-1916 period when they were trying to sell the first footage and finance additional film expeditions. I cite the quotations in chronological order, since they speak quite well for themselves.

1. December 21, 1914-It was Mr. Currely (sic), curator of the Royal Ontario Museum. He has come in through a dark passage into a most interesting high studded room all wood paneled with a great open fire. After introducing his wife he immediately launched on the subject of the moving pictures and his plan to show them at Convocation Hall under the auspices of the University Archaeological Institute of America and with wide circulation of invitations and advertising something that would give them a good send off. [20]

Mr. Currelly did arrange a screening of the 1914 film. [20] After the screening Currelly wrote to Flaherty extolling the virtues of the film. "I cannot too strongly congratulate you on the moving pictures you exhibited in Convocation Hall. They are much the best I have ever seen.... I have never known anything received with greater enthusiasm." [21]

2. February 7 1915-The real intrinsic value of the pictures is of course scientific ethnological and geographical and the real place is with the schools and universities and scientific societies. I am not at all sure but that they should be exploited from that point of view alone. R. is full of the idea of the use of moving pictures in education in the teaching of geography and history. Someone might well make it a life work. Why not we?

3. March 10 1915-New York City-Today I sought out Dr. Grosvenor (brother of the head of the National Geographic) for possible light on the moving picture game. Finally reached him by telephone: How would we get our film before the marker for open competitive bids? Suggested making arrangements with some

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theatre manager to run our film at a certain time and send a circular letter to M. P. Co. (motion picture companies) inviting their inspection. Suggested also writing to Sir Douglas Mavson who was in "touch" with the N.Y. market for educational films.

4. April 9, 1915-The Picture Playhouse people had estimated the film to be worth $50,000. This was far under R's own calculations and much figuring did we do.

The Flahertys failed to obtain the funds necessary to launch their film/lecture from the 1914 expedition. Sir William MacKenzie was willing to fund another expedition, this time with an emphasis upon filming more than exploring. At the time of this next entry, Robert is apparently not certain of MacKenzie's support.

5. May 16, 1915-Toronto-R., having reduced his estimate of cost to a minimum, cutting his own salaries, relinquishing past claims and with them all hope of paying his debts, is now turning every stone to get enough cash to get the expedition going. Wired to N.Y. offering the pictures (e.g., the 1914 film) for cash: $5,000 was the most Paramount Co. would even consider paying outright. From $100,000 (dreams of an earlier day) to $5,000!

6. Undated draft of a letter to Sister "Tollie" from Toronto (from placement in diary it was written in May/July, 1915-prior to the Flahertys leaving for the fourth expedition)-Sir Wm. (William MacKenzie) gave R. $1,000 out of his own pocket for his photographic outfit. He seems keen about the moving pictures, holding onto them like a leech. I have given up the fight for the pictures on R's account: I was for basing his whole future on them, wrenching them free of Sir Bill somehow, and developing them by and for ourselves, gradually weaning ourselves away from this slavery to salary, MacKenzie and Mann, or anybody else; make the pictures pay for future expeditions of our own. But Sir Wm. won't give them up and he won't do anything with them, just sit upon them as though they were a mineral claim, while the reels reel on! Judge of his appreciation of R's work when he didn't even know it was R. himself who took the pictures....

7. From the Bryn Mawr Club, New York City, December 29, 1915 (also to Tottie)- just been reading the prospectus of the "Scenograph Feature Film Co." Percy A. McCord, Sec'y. and Treas.... Robt. Priest, Esq., Vice-Pres. and Gen'l. Mgr. Our old acquaintance, Mr. Hendricks has nothing to do with it: he fell down as Mr. McC. expressed it. I had a talk with him yesterday morning in Boston at his office-a neat and unpretentious affair, the office.-and in spite of myself I was rather taken with the little man this time. His talk was straight forward and straight out, and I couldn't help admiring the stick-to-it-tivness that after four months fooling with the picture corporations, and four more months wasted over Hendricks, kept him at it until he had formed a company of his own to handle his film and others like it on lines entirely outside the main movie system.

With the movies it's all drama this year. harder than ever, with one exception, the Paramount Co., and you see by the enclosed clipping what they are doing. Was much interested in that notice for the reason that Mr. Louis Francis Brown is the man I saw at the American Play Co. where I was recommended to go by Miss Anne Morgan thro' Molly. I found Mr. B on that occasion in the act of getting on his overcoat to catch a train to Phila and our whole interview look place in the

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elevator on the way down from the tenth story: but from it I gleaned the fact of his Connection with Burton Holmes and on the strength of it went home and wrote him a letter giving all the explorational circumstances of the film. Then Mr. B. went and got sick like everybody else in this miserable pest-ridden city, and have not seen or heard from him since. It is no use bothering him again until the film comes anyway. Spent this afternoon at the customs, and delivery is promised for the first of the week. Then it's got to be cleaned up somehow before I show it.

I think that Paramount and the Scenograph feature film Co. are our only hope. Mr. McCord had the assurance to the MacKenzie expeditionary film in his Company's prospectus, so of course they are keen to get it. They would route it as a separate theatrical venture, like Mawson, Scott, Rainey, etc., putting out ten copies, each with a lecturer. I shall hear more about it when I see Mr. Priest, their theatrical manager. The plan is ideal; its working depends on the truth of that little statement of page four of the prospectus to the effect that a growing and eager public is waiting for just this sort of educational film food. No figures are given as to the "fortunes" so far made out of expeditionary films; we could name several that failed to make a red cent. They were attended in any case by a spasmodic public attracted thro special advertising means. The success of the Scenograph venture depends upon making of that spasmodic public a regular class of "better movie" patrons. I certainly do wish them well,-I certainly do believe in the idea and its eventual success; but that this particular company is destined to be the one to lead the way . . . neither its personnel, judging from my measure of Mr. McCord, not its wares, judging from my view of the So. American Film, nor its backing, judging from the "names of interested Boston people" Mr. McCord gave me, are strong enough. Mr. McCord is, distinctly, uneducated, illiterate; the So. African film has no artistic or literary merit above the merest newspaper "copy"; the names given me as chief stock-holders and directors in the Scenograph Co. are not names known to "anybody one knows" in Boston. I'd rather (someone) with known reputation and weight in educational matters were chiefly concerned in the affair, together with some body else with the same sort of standing financially, and then a good business manager,-such as Mr. Priest may be.

The Paramount Co. then. They have signified their desire to see the film again. I'd give a good deal to know what arrangement Burton Holmes has made with them. I'd like to meet him personally. They would probably cut the film up, might probably not run it at all until they had your next-to-run-work in with it.

From my Line-a-Day Diary: fan. 12, Films received from Express Co. (after much fuss and fuming!)

Jan. 11, Gave film to Joseph Fitterman to clean.

Jan. 17, Burton Holmes lecture,-ran reel no. 1 for him to see,-very enthusiastic. This all happened at the Chandler Theatre as a result of dear Dr. Coggeshall's interest and effort in securing me an introduction to Mr. Holmes thro' his patient Mr. Kramer, Mr. Holmes' understudy. Showing the film was Mr. Brown's happy suggestion. Nothing came of it but a few minutes talk with Mr. H. on the subject of lecture films and lecturers.

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Jan 18. Pictures (4 reels) shown to Mr. Eaton, on charge of news and travel Dep't. of Paramount Co.

Jan 24. Letter from Mr. Eaton. (They turned us down, gently, advising that the film would be just as valuable, "if not more so," six months or a year hence. The facts of the case are that they have under contract with Burton Holmes all the travel material they can use for more than a year to come. Mr. H. is supplying them with 1000 feet per week from his studio in Chicago.)

Jan 31. Sunday, 5.30 P.M., pictures on at Globe Theatre (New Haven), audience of about 30. (I was visiting Jaynsie, the party was hers, and for fun.}

Feb. 20. Interesting talk with ''Brother Philip'' about film. (Philip-Sailsbury-is a wide-awake young business man employed in the advertising department of the Ingersoll Watch Co., in which capacity he has had to do with the Movie Companies, writing scenarios for animated cartoons (Edison Co.) and negotiating for a film of the plant in operation will some other company ($700 per 1000 ft.) for he Mutual Exchange. He thought the Pathe Co.. Hearst-Vitagraph and Selig-Tribune the most likely people for us to deal with. But strongly advised against pushing this film now, in the interest of the next.

While Robert was in Toronto editing the 1915-1916 footage into the 1914 film, Frances was in New York attempting to sell the 1914 version.

8. February 22, 1916-I took the film to Pathe Freres yesterday-my last move in the matter, because I have decided beyond doubt in my own mind that it would only hurt your next film to have this one out now. I regret nothing of the experience either in its main or its side issues, because in the main I have acquired a few useful ideas and a certain philosophical point of view that may apply helpfully to the situation in the fall when you come down.

What these diary excerpts clearly demonstrate is the degree of ambivalence they felt about the work: from delusions of grandeur in assuming that their footage was worth $100,00, to wanting to devote their lives to educational films.

When Flaherty's plans for an illustrated travel lecture film went up in smoke in Toronto, he went back to the North to film Nanook. He returned with a feature-length theatrical film with an investor looking to recoup the investment. Given his decision, he had only one possible outlet-the large theatrical distribution companies. He landed Pathe Pictures, who logically did what they knew how to do: promote Nanook as a movie.

If one examines from the vantage point of today the Campaign Book for Exhibitors sent by Pathe to local exhibitors to promote Nanook, it looks like a tacky ad campaign pandering to the lowest common denominator in public taste. It should serve as a reminder of the socio-economic factors facing Flaherty. It would be easy to

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use this booklet as evidence that Flaherty "sold out." Flaherty either actively participated in or was at least a passive supporter of promotional campaigns for several of his other films that were not exactly "uplifting." Paramount released Moana as "The Love Story of a South Sea Siren." When Man of Aran was premiered in England and the United States, Flaherty paraded his "players" on stage as the first documentary pop stars. And finally, there is the unfortunate story of Sabu the Elephant Boy's road to fame and ruin, started when Flaherty "discovered" him in India.

Before one makes too facile a judgment about Flaherty's decisions to acquiesce to the commercial realities of theatrical cinema, one must realize the complexities of the situation. Flaherty had two viable options-theatrical release or the travelogue circuit. Both outlets promoted their wares in similar fashion-the only real difference being in the size of their budgets. It is quite clear from her diary that Frances scoured New York for backers. Short of refusing to release the film, Flaherty had little choice-either accept the commercial realities of the time or cease being a filmmaker.

It is clear that he did not care for these conditions. When they continued with Moana he tried without success to create an alternative:

Paramount's head distribution executive told Flaherty that if he had had a series of good, modest-budget pictures, he could have built up the sort of specialized distribution Flaherty wanted. But economically it wasn't worthwhile to do it for a single picture. Appreciating that his problem concerned not merely Paramount, but the cinema industry as a whole. not merely himself, but other directors of "off-beat" films, Flaherty approached the Rockefeller Foundation with the suggestion that a special organization should be built up to draw the attention of the "latent audience" to unusual films from any part of the world. A meeting of their board was arranged to discuss the project and a representative of the Hays Organization was invited to attend. This representative agreed that the proposal was interesting, but its implementation ought to come within the province of the Hays Organization rather than a special foundation. [22]

Flaherty started the battle that is still being fought by independent filmmakers. He wanted his work to be seen by large audiences and he wanted to earn a living through his films. His decision was to continue-to produce films by making the concessions that were necessary at the time. a decision that should be familiar to all filmmakers.

The production methods used by Flaherty in Nanook are strikingly different from those used by his contemporaries both in fiction and non-fiction. Moreover, they are amazingly similar to

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what is being advocated today by certain contemporary filmmakers. He was a pioneer in participatory and reflexive cinema. [23] Flaherty is frequently called the first ethnographic filmmaker and Nanook, the beginning of ethnographic film. The assignment of terms like ethnographic or ethnological or anthropological to Flaherty's films is a complex matter-one that needs further discussion since it sheds light upon his methodological contributions and upon those filmmakers that he has most clearly influenced.

It is necessary to clarify terminology, since words like "ethnographic" are often employed incorrectly when applied to film. Ethnography is an analytic description of a culture which is the result of a long-term intensive period of participant/observation field research by a trained anthropologist. Ethnology is a theoretical treatise based upon ethnographic data. Unfortunately, it is popularly assumed that any documentary film of exotic peoples is somehow automatically ethnographic regardless of the maker's competencies or intentions. Some, if not most, of the labeling of Nanook as being ethnographic or ethnological is due to this sort of inaccuracy. [24] However, simply because the film is mislabeled through ignorance does not mean it can be dismissed automatically as being irrelevant to ethnographic film. On the contrary, Nanook is one of the most influential films in the development of an anthropological cinema.

Flaherty had no formal anthropological education, nor do we have any evidence that he was self-trained or that he sought out the professional advice or assistance of any anthropologists. No evidence exists that he screened his films for anthropologists to get them to review or discuss them as serious attempts at doing anthropology on film.

There are only three known incidents where anthropologists were even remotely associated with Flaherty's film work and in none of these was Robert Flaherty directly involved. In 1915, when Frances Flaherty was in New York City trying to sell the 1913-1914 travel/lecture film and to raise funds for the fourth expedition (1915-1916), she contacted several anthropologists. In the entry dated March 8. Frances describes the visit:

For the rest of the day R. and I parted company. I met Isabel who look me to Dr. Adler, who gave me a letter of introduction to Prof. Boas of Columbia University, "the foremost ethnologist and authority on the Eskimo in America." R. knew him immediately by reputation. Later in the afternoon I went to the Natural History Museum.... There I saw Mr. Sherwood and Dr. Whistler and the gist of the visit was that they would be glad to see a few reels of the picture run, that their lecture program for the year was filled. but that Prof. Osborne on his return might consider a special lecture.

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Later that week Frances did see Franz Boas, and in an undated draft of a letter to her husband she recounted the visit:

Late in the afternoon I reached Columbia for an appointment with Prof. Boas. I d have given anything if you had been there in my stead, he would so gladly have talked with you, had read the article in the Times,-"very interesting"-and the portraits were "beautiful"-just where did you winter and how far had you penetrated"-Amadjunk Lake, yes, it was he who had discovered it 30 years ago-and what could he do for us, I mentioned how anxious you were to go back to the islands;-yes, it has taken 20 years to get that same call out of his own blood-and how desirous it seemed to bring your work to the attention of interested people. Had I seen the Museum people?-yes, and I told him the result,-and did I know of Capt. Cromer and his work on Southampton Island- his own greatest interest lay in the region north of Southampton Island on the mainland. He thought it would be most advisable to get in touch with Capt. Cromer and his financial backer, Mr. Ellsworth,-thought that in conjunction with them and the Museum the chances for arranging an expedition for next year were excellent as next year the Museum would be "very rich. "He gave me Capl. C's address.

When Nanook was released in 1922, its distributor, Pathe Pictures, obtained a quotable blurb from a young anthropologist (who was later to become one of America's most prominent anthropologists) for their press release: "Ralph Linton, Assistant Curator of North American Ethnology (Chicago),'It is the best show of the sort that I have ever seen. It is entertaining and at the same time has great scientific value.' " It would appear from the above, that the extent of involvement with anthropologists was for the Flahertys to seek assistance for financing and promotion rather than scientific advice about the cultures they filmed.

Conversely, apart from the Linton quote there is no evidence that anthropologists ever wrote about Flaherty's films as being anthropologically significant, the one exception being Margaret Mead, who notes {n a letter to the author dated September 20, 1976:

I knew Flaherty's work from the time I went to Samoa (1928). I had seen Nanook before I went to Samoa, and an article by Flaherty which appeared in Asia Magazine provided me with pictures that I used in making a Samoan picture interpretation test. I met Flaherty for the first time in 1931, but I had always followed his work with interest. I should think that he kept up pretty well with anthropological works in areas where he worked, and that he undoubtedly had read Eskimo things. Nanook, Moana, and later Man of Aran were simply taken for granted as important documentary films. We didn't begin to formulate the defect of documentaries-which involve acting by "real people"-until much later. My Samoan Diorama in the Peoples of the Pacific Hall (in the American Museum of Natural History, New York), finished in 1972, is based upon a scene from Moana

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The only demonstrable influence within anthropology has been in the development of ethnographic film. Jean Rouch, a French anthropological filmmaker and founder of Cinema Verite, frequently cites Flaherty's participatory cinema as fundamental to his work. (25)

Whether or not anthropologists regarded Flaherty as being an anthropologist or his films as ethnographic, the Flahertys certainly did and so did many people who have written about the films. Virtually from the beginning of Flaherty's Inuit work (i.e., from 1913 on), both Robert and Frances Flaherty saw his writings, still photographs, and films as having ethnological import. On February 1, 1915, Frances wrote: "The real intrinsic value of the pictures is, of course, scientific, ethnological, and geographical...." In writing about Nanook Robert said: "I had planned to depict an ethnoligical (sic) film of life covering the various phases of their hunting, travel, domestic life and religions. (26)

Since ethnology and anthropology were not professionalized at this time, Flaherty's lack of formal training or academic affiliation would not have prevented people from regarding him as an ethnologist. In a letter written by a Canadian friend of the Flahertys to serve as an introduction to people in New York, the friend writes:

This will introduce Mr. Robert J. Flaherty of Toronto who has a most interesting series of ethnological moving pictures of Eskimo life which show the primitive existence of a people in the way they lived before being brought in contact with explorers. He is looking to bring them out in the best way I know you are thoroughly in touch with the moving picture game from the inside and can at least give him some pointers. Do what you can.(27)

Several reviewers of Nanook also made the same assumption. For example, Bruce Bliven said, in an August 8,1922 review in the New York Globe, "It is, in the first place, a piece of ethnographic research of solid scientific value."

It would only be a slight exaggeration to suggest that everyone except professional anthropologists saw Nanook, and probably Moana, as being anthropologically significant and regarded Robert Flaherty as a gifted "amateur" (in the sense of lacking formal training) anthropologist.

In many important ways Flaherty behaved not only like an anthropologist but his field methods, his stated intentions, and his willingness to be methodologically explicit place him more solidly within orthodox anthropology than do the actions of most of the contemporary self-professed anthropological/ethnographic filmmakers.

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For example, Flaherty articulated a theory of ethnographic film:

Films are a very simple form and a very narrow form in many ways. You can't say as much in a film as you can in writing, but what you can say, you can say with great conviction For this reason, they are very well-suited to portraying the lives of primitive people whose lives are simply lived and who feel strongly, but whose activities are external and dramatic rather than internal and complicated (emphasis added). I 'don't think you could make a good film of the love affairs of an Eskimo . because they never show much feeling in their faces. but you can make a very good film of Eskimos spearing a walrus. (28)

From the time of Nanook. Flaherty espoused a view of film as a medium for communicating ethnography which is very modern. In his 1922 review of Nanook, Bliven quoted Flaherty:

It seems to me that it is possible to record the life of primitive people in such a way as to preserve the scientific accuracy and yet make a picture which has vivid dramatic interest for the average man or woman. . Plenty of pictures have been made of the life of savages in various parts of the world, especially the tropics. The difficulty is that such pictures are usually episodic, showing unrelated scenes with little to hold the wandering attention of one who has not a scientific interest in the lives of primitive people. In Nanook of the North,, by taking a central character and portraying his exciting adventures and those of his family, in the effort to wrest a livelihood from the frigid arctic, we secure a dramatic value which is both legitimate and absorbing.

Flaherty's assumptions about the nature of "primitive" culture and cinema are, of course, subject to debate and rebuttal. Their validity is not important. What is important is the fact that he articulated his ideas so that they could be discussed. The explicit stating of the theoretical basis of one's work is the first premise of all scientific investigation.

Further, Flaherty was quite clear about his intentions in the making of Nanook: "I wanted to show the Inuit. And I wanted to show them, not from the civilized point of view, but as they saw themselves, as 'we, the people.' I realized then that I must go to work in an entirely different way." (29) To see how much Flaherty thought like an ethnographer, one has only to compare this statement with those of Malinowski, an anthropologist credited with the development of modern ethnographic field methods: "The final goal, of which an ethnographer should never lose sight . . . is, briefly, to grasp the natives' point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world." (30)

It is clear that Flaherty planned from the very beginning to have the Inuit participate in the making of the films in ways which were quite extraordinary. He sufficiently anticipated the role that the

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Inuit would play to write a clause in his contract with Revillon Freres for "a $3,000 credit at Port Harrison for 'remuneration of natives.'" (31)

In the 1915-1916 Expedition, Flaherty began the process of making the Inuit collaborators and sought feedback from them about his understanding of their way of life. He began revealing his methods as early as 1918, when he described showing footage to the Inuit:

During the winter, we compiled a series of motion pictures showing the primitive life, crafts, and modes of hunting and traveling of the islanders-an improved version of the film we had previously made on the Baffin Island expedition. With a portable projector bought for the purpose, we showed the islanders a copy of the Baffin Island film, purposing in this way to inspire them with that spirit of emulation so necessary to the success of our filming. Nor were we disappointed. Enthusiastic audiences crowded the hut. Their Ayee's' and Ah's at the ways of these their kindred that were strange to them were such as none of the strange and wonderful ways of the kablunak (white man) even called forth. (32)

Flaherty was quite explicit about his reasons for screening footage in the field:

It has always been most important for me to see my rushes-it is the only way I can make a film. But another reason for developing the film in the north was to project it to the Eskimos so that they would accept and understand what I was doing and work together with me as partners. They were amazed when I first came with all this equipment, and they would ask me what I was going to do. When I told them that I had come to spend a year among them to make a film of them-pictures in which they moved-they roared with laughter. To begin with, some of my Eskimos could not even read a still-photograph. I made stills of several of them as preliminary tests. When I showed them the photograph as often as not they would look at it upside down, I'd have to lake the photograph out of their hands and lead them to the mirror in my hut, then have them look at themselves and the photograph beside their heads before, suddenly with a smile that spread from ear to ear, they would understand. (33)

Flaherty's participatory approach did indeed work. The Inuit themselves began to suggest scenes that Flaherty might include in his movie:

In the long evenings around the hut's crackling stove my Eskimos and I talked and speculated as to what scenes could be made. Said Wetalltok one night: "Why not, when the ice breaks in spring, make the aggie (picture) of the big iviak (walrus). There are small sea-swept islands some three sleeps north of here where the iviak live I know, for I have killed them there. Twenty I killed during one short day

The walrus is bad when he is angry," Wetallok continued "That same summer one Eskimo went out from shore with his kayak to hunt ducks. Though early in the morning there had been a walrus kill, there were no signs of walrus then. He did not come back. All that the people could find were pieces of kayak. The water was red red, red.

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And you have heard of that kablunak (a member of the Northwest Mounted Police at Cape Fullerton). Their whale-boat was strong and big, but the walrus they had wounded with their gun but did not kill swam under the boat and up over the side. With his tusks he turned it over. Two of the kablunak swam in to shore, which was near, but the other one was frightened. He swam out. The two kablunak who swan in to shore saw the walrus charge the kablunak who was swimming. The walrus kept on charging him, even after he was dead. Then he went for the boat and smashed it to pieces with his tusks. And then he charged the pieces which floated on the sea.

To come upon the walrus sleeping upon the shore will be surest way to make he aggie. I will crawl in among them and throw my harpoon. Quick they will all roll into the sea. Then will come the fight. It will take all of us to hold him with the line of my harpoon. You will see his mates close around him. They will all be very, very angry. Such was the beginning of the iviuk aggie." (34)

The Inuit performed in front of the camera, reviewed and criticized their performance, and were able to offer suggestions for additional scenes in the film! A way of making films which, when tried today, is thought to be "innovative and original." Moreover, Flaherty trained some Inuit to be technicians!

To "Harry Lauder" I deputed the care of my cameras. Bringing them from the cold outside into contact with the warm air of the base often frosted them inside and out, which necessitated taking them apart and carefully drying them piece by piece. With the motion picture cameras there was no difficulty, but with my Graflex I found to my sorrow such a complication of parts that I could not get it together again. For several days its "innards" lay strewn on my work table. "Harry Lauder'' finally volunteered for the task of putting them together and through a long evening before a flickering candle and with a crowd of Eskimos around ejaculating their "ayee's" and "ah's," he managed to succeed where I had failed. (35)

One of the oft-asked questions about Nanook and other ethnographic documentaries is: Didn't the presence of the camera and crew alter the event being filmed by Flaherty was very aware of the fact that he was recreating the past in front of the camera:

I am not going to make films about what the white man has made of primitive peoples.... What I want to show is the former majesty and character of these people, while it is still possible-before the white man has destroyed not only their character, but the people as well. The urge that I had to make Nanook came from the way I felt about these people, my admiration for them: I wanted to tell others about them. (36)

Barnouw comments upon this aspect of the Flaherty method an its relationship to anthropology:

The urge to capture on film the nature of rapidly vanishing cultures had been pursued also by anthropologists, who have given it the name salvage ethnography. Flaherty was doing such work for deeply personal rather than scholarly

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reasons, but the outcome was similar. It has been called "romantic" in that Flaherty was not recording a current way of life but one filtered through memories of Nanook and his people. Unquestionably the film reflected their image of their traditional life. Yet a people's self-image may be a crucial ingredient in its culture, and worth recording. Anthropologists, while aware of the distorting lens, study it with care. In effect, so did Flaherty. (37)

The idea of portraying native people as they see themselves, as Flaherty and Malinowski professed a wish to do, is made even more complicated when the self-image that one is searching for is not a contemporary one but that of the culture prior to the intervention of Westerners. Anthropologists call this time "the ethnographic present." In order to create this illusion, it is often necessary to rely upon the oldest members of the culture to tell about the "good old days" (called "memory culture" ethnography). Both Nanook and written ethnographies of the time are "authentic reproductions." One is tempted to ask filmmakers and others who reconstruct to place some sort of a disclaimer at the beginning of their work much like the one in John Huston's film The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, which says: "If this ain't the way it was, it's the way it should have been."

Flaherty has repeatedly been criticized for reconstructing Inuit culture in Nanook. (38) It is somewhat ironic that he has been taken to task for doing something that anthropologists do with virtual impunity. The difference is even more striking when you realize that few anthropologists fulfill their scientific responsibilities of being methodologically explicit. (39) That is, anthropologists' writings and films tend to conceal the reconstructions and alterations that are necessary in order to provide the illusion of an "ethnographic present." Nanook also conceals or avoids the contemporary cultural and political realities of Inuit life (e.g., the trader and trading post is shown as benign rather than an exploitative agent of culture change).

However, in Flaherty's writings he was quite open about how much of Nanook was-constructed. Barnouw discusses one of the most famous illusions-"the big aggie igloo":

The building of an igloo became one of the most celebrated sequences in the film. But interior photography presented a problem: the igloo was too small. So Nanook and others undertook to build an outsized "aggie igloo." During the first attempts the domes collapsed-as the builders roared with laughter. Finally they succeeded, but the interior was found too dark for photography. So half the igloo was sheared away. For the camera Nanook and his family went to sleep and awoke "with all the cold of out-of-doors pouring in." Daylight lit the scene.

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Flaherty was intent on authentically of result. That this might call for ingenious means did not disturb him. Film itself, and all its technology, were products of ingenuity. (40)

The illusion is not exactly perfect. Even a casual viewer of the film can see shadows where they shouldn't be. Moreover. Flaherty does not hide the illusion; he describes it as an accomplishment:

One of Nanook's problems was to construct an igloo large enough for the filming of interior scenes. The average Eskimo igloo, about twelve feel in diameter, was much too small. On the dimensions I laid out for him, a diameter of Twenty-five feet. Nanook and his companions started in to build the biggest igloo of their lives. For two days they worked. The women and children helping them. Then came the hard part-to cut inserts for five large slab-ice windows without weakening the dome. They had hardly begun when the dome fell in pieces to the ground. "Never mind," said Nanook, "I can do it next time."

For two days more they worked, but again with the same result, as soon as they began setting in the ice windows, their structure fell to the ground. It was a huge joke this time, and holding their sides, they laughed their misfortune away. Again Nanook began on the big aggie igloo but this time the women and children hauled barrels of water on sledges from the waterhole and iced the walls as fast as they went up. Finally, the igloo was finished and they stood eyeing it satisfied as so many children over a house of blocks. The light from the ice windows proved inadequate. however, and then the interiors were finally filmed the dome's half just over the camera had to be cut away, so Nanook and his family went to sleep and awakened with all the cold of out-of-doors pouring in. (41)

Flaherty began a tradition of participatory filmmaking which continues today. The Netisilik Eskimo Film Project under the anthropological direction of Asen Balicki and Jean Rouch's films Jaguar, Petit a Petit, and Cocorico, Monsieur Poulet are clear examples of films which employ the participatory method of Flaherty or "shared anthropology" as Rouch (1974) calls it. Every time a filmmaker shows his rushes to the subjects of his film and asks for their comments and approval; every time a filmmaker asks people to self-consciously portray themselves and the events of their lives in front of the camera; every time a filmmaker tries to mesh his interpretations with those of his subjects-the filmmakers are continuing to build "big aggie igloos" for their audience.

There can be little doubt that Robert Flaherty is a seminal figure in cinema. He was a complex man who consciously sought to create another, approach to the production of film and a new cinematic form. He was interested in finding a way to collaborate with the people he filmed so that his need to tell interesting and dramatic stories that would hold an audience could be interwoven with the

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image the people had of themselves. In doing so he was able to synthesize the two dominant tendencies of the cinema of his time-the episodic "slices of life" travelogues which espoused the "outsider's" view of the exotic world, and the dramatic fiction stories. Flaherty told us stories about real people living out the drama of their lives.

John Grierson summed it up well in his analysis of Nanook:

Nanook was the simple story of an Eskimo family and its fight for food, but in its approach to the whole question of film making was something entirely novel at the time it was made. It was a record of everyday life so selective in its detail and sequence, so intimate in its shots, and so appreciative of the nuances of common feeling, that it was a drama in many ways more telling than anything that had come out of the manufactured sets of Hollywood.... Without actors, almost without acting he built up in his camera what he considered the essential story of their lives. (42)

I began this essay with a conversation between Flaherty and Nanook where Flaherty explains to Nanook the difference between real life and the movies. Because Flaherty understood that "the aggie must come first," cinema was never the same after Nanook.

We live in a time when the people exotic to our experience are striving to understand and maintain their own cultural identity in the face of our methodical attempts to re-create them in an image that suits our fantasies of the "primitive" and the "peasant."

On April 26, 1979, The Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (the Eskimo Brotherhood of Canada) requested

screening rights for Nanook of the North to be used in our Anik B Satellite project Inukshuk Inuit Tapirisat of Canada is the National Inuit Brotherhood representing all 22,000 Inuit in Canada. The staff of Inukshuk saw Nanook of the North at a training workshop in November of last year. It was the first time that most of them had seen the film and they were very excited by it and anxious for other Inuit to have the opportunity to see it.... I don't know if there is anything else I can add other than to emphasize the hopes that our staff have pinned on being able to screen this film in the communities with their families and friends. The film excited great pride in the strength and dignity of their ancestors and they want to share this with their elders and their children. (emphasis added)

So in June of 1979, Nanook's aggie was sent back home, this time to be seen on a television set and not on the wall of the house.

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1. Portions of this essay were published in a more extended version under the title. "The Aggie Must Come First: The Demystification of Robert Flaherty," in Robert Flaherty: Photographer/Filmmaker, edited by Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker (Vancouver Art Gallery, 1979).

2. Robert Flaherty, "An Early Account of the Film," unpublished and undated manuscript in the Robert J. Flaherty Papers, Box 24, at the Butler Library of Columbia University, New York.

3. See Jay Ruby, eds., A Crack in the Mirror: Reflexive Perspectives in Anthropology. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982).

4. Jay Ruby, "The Image Mirrored: Reflexivity and the Documentary Film," Journal of the University Film Association, 29, No. 4 (1977), pp. 3-11.

5. Cf. Richard Meram Barsam, "The Humanistic Vision of Robert Flaherty," in Nonfiction Film: A Critical History, edited by Richard M. Barsam (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1973) Richard Corliss. "Robert Flaherty: The Man in the Iron Myth," Film Comment, 6, No. 3 (1973), pp. 38-42; Richard Griffith, The World of Robert Flaherty (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1953); and Helen Van Dongen, "Robert I. Flaherty, 1884-1951," Film Quarterly, 18, No. 4 (1965), pp. 2-14.

6. Erik Barnouw, Documentary: A History of Non-Fiction Film (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), p. 39.

7. Review of Nanook of the North. Kinematograph Weekly (London), 14 September 1922.

8. Van Dongen, p. 13.

9. Robert I Flaherty, "How I Filmed Nanook of the North," The World's Work September 1922, pp. 553-60.

10. Flaherty, "An Early Account of the Film."

11. In an entry of his wife, Frances Flaherty's, diary dated March 15,1915, she said, "That evening we went to see the great film play, The Birth of a Nation-three hours of absorbing soul-wracking melodrama." Since the entry is rather matter-of-fact, one could suppose that going to the movies was at least not an unusual event. A fragment of the diary covering 1914 to 1916 housed in the Robert J. Flaherty Papers at Butler Library, Columbia University, provides an important source for this paper. The passages quoted herein from this typescript diary will be seen to have occasional typographical errors (generally quite obvious) and shorthand forms ("thot" for "thought," etc) which will not be cited beyond this point. The "R." to whom Frances refers repeatedly will be easily seen as her husband, Robert. Permission to quote from the diary and other unpublished materials from the Flaherty Papers was secured from International Film Seminars, Inc.

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12. During the 1914-1916 period there are numerous references to appointments with film executives in Frances's diary:

April 9, 1915-The Picture Playhouse people had estimated the film to be worth $50,000.

May 70, 1915-(while they are getting ready to go into the field for the fourth field expedition [1915-1916])-Wired to New York offering the picture for cash, $5,000 was the most the Paramount Co. would even consider paying outright....

December 11, 1915-(in a draft of a letter to Robert, Frances wrote) That is the way I intend to try to handle this affair of the pictures. l wrote to the Paramount Co. that I was here (New York City) ready to take up negotiations where we left off last spring.

December 29, 1915-I think the Paramount Co. and the Scenograph Feature Film Co. are our only hope.

February 22. 1916-I took the film to Pathe Freres yesterday....

13. The film was made by Curtis as a means of raising money for his lifelong photographic work among Native Americans. It failed to receive either much acclaim or financial rewards, although it was reviewed in the New York Times and mentioned by Vachel Lindsay in his book, The Art of the Moving Picture (Liveright New York, 1915, p. 114). The film has been restored by Professors Bill Holm and George Quimby of the University of Washington and released under the title In the Land of the War Canoes. Holm and Quimby are also writing a book about Curtis as a filmmaker. Since the fact that Flaherty knew Curtis and saw his film has not been published before and the diary entry which describes the event is so insightful about Flaherty, I include it here in its entirety.

April 9, 1915, New York City.

We decided to walk up the avenue and call upon Lee Keedick, Mawsons' agent; we were kept waiting in the outer office for some time, and when finally R. sent in his name and errand we were informed that Mr. K. was not interested. (It was undoubtedly our own fault, we should have written, enclosing press notices; this we subsequently did.)

Most crest-fallen, to console ourselves, we stopped in at Curtis's studio on the same floor. We were shown the portfolio of photogravures for the 10th volume of Mr. Curtis's colossal work on the North American Indian-500 sets at $4,200. and $3,500 per set-his life work and one to stir the imagination. The same thot crossed our minds at once: why not the same for the Eskimo! We learned that Mr. C. too had ventured into moving pictures and just put out an elaborate Indian Drama film,-the World Film Co., 50-50 royalty basis-26 copies routed.

From that moment Curtis became the man to be seen. Would he be interested in us? R. was sure of it. We made comparison between his portraits and it's:Indian portraits,-flat. toneless quality of drawing, interest decorative, and dependent upon picturesque costumes and other details.

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Eskimo portraits-depth and tone quality of painting. interest centering in personality independent of race, costume, or detail of any kind. On the whole the Eskimo portraits were "bigger"; the question in my mind was whether Curtis was a big enough man to interest himself in R's work.

Tuesday, April 13 (1915):

Surely our "stop in" at Mr. Curtis's studio was a lucky change. Yesterday Mr. C. saw R. by appointment and arranged to have the pictures shown this morning before an audience of experts, including besides the unapproachable Mr. Keedick, a Mr. Whitney, a broker for the European marker, a Mr. Collier of the board of censors, and several others. Cousin Julie and Molly came bringing Mrs. Damroschj; I rather look satisfaction when they came in turning a retaliatory back on Mr. K.

Mr. C. showed his own film first.-all taken in and about our old hunting ground that wonderful west coast of Vancouver's island,-vivid scenes that were like flashes of memory; and our old friends, Sulor's kinsmen, the Siwash Indians, were the actors. It was a story of the customs and ceremonies of the old head-hunting days a generation past with a thread of romance running through it.

1t ran thro 6000 feet: by the lime our pictures were called R. and I were prepared to see them fall perfectly flat on tired eyes and brains. They didn't,-everybody asked questions galore; and tho as R. said, it was an acid test for them, putting them with all their crudities in juxtaposition with an elaborately toned and perfected film such as Curtis's, it was a curiously happy one, in all their crudities they stood out human, real, convincing and big in contrast to the spectacular artificiality of Curtis's-wonderful as they were as a mere spectacle. As Mr. C. himself said of our pictures, there was an ''intimacy'' about them; but he also critisized (sic) them as "monotonous." Blood and thunder and the ''punch" again: but it is my belief that the punch that the "yap" audience demands is not necessarily the blood and thunder for itself but the human appeal it has in it. And that is just where I think R's film would "get across" where C's wouldn't. Mr. C. told us how a little upstate N.Y. town, a Texas town, and Rochester N.Y. itself had turned his film down as high-brow stuff. He had just been lunching with us here at the hotel. been talking to us like a father, with such infinite tact, too,-giving us all the benefit of his own experience in the moving picture world; we swept it all, sweeping away kinds of illusions in so doing, and finally really getting down to what it would be best to do with our film. I am inclined to think he is right, absolutely.-to hold them over until expedition. the material with the real human punch in it. Sir Wm. would do it undoubtedly, has himself already suggested holding them over for a better market. The market at present is chaos, demoralized by over-speculation and the war; the whole business is a new, headlong, phenomenal thing, which nobody really knows anything about..

14. Robert Flaherty, "Robert Flaherty Talking," in Cinema 1950, edited by Roger Manvell (London: Pelican. 1950) p. 12.

15. ibid., p. 43.

16. ibid., pp. 18-19.

17 Robert Lewis Taylor, "Profiles" (of Robert Flaherty) New Yorker 25 June 1949, p 43.

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18. Taylor, "Profiles" (of Robert Flaherty), New Yorker, 11 June 1949, pp. 30-41; 18 June 1949. pp. 2B-40; and 25 June 1949, pp. 28-43.

19. Cited in Taylor.

20. See Danzker (1979).

21. Barnouw, p. 35.

22.Arthur Calder-Marshall, The Innocent Eye: The life of Robert J. Flaherty based upon research material by Paul Rotha and Basil Wright (London: W. H. Allen) p.120.

23. See Ruby (1977) and Ruby, "Exposing Yourself: Reflexivily, Film and Anthropology." Semiotica, in press

24. Ruby, "Is an Ethnographic Film a Filmic Ethnography?" Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication, 2, No. 2 (1974), 104-111.

25.Jean Rouch, "The Camera and Man?" Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication, 1, No. 1 (1974), pp. 37-44.

26. Flaheryy, "An Early Account of Ihe Film."

27. Barnouw, p. 35.

28. Flaherty, Recorded BBC Talks, London, 14 June. 25 July. 5 September 1949.

29. Cited in Griffith, p. 36.

30. Bronislaw Malinowski, The Argonauts of the Western Pacific (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1923), p. 25.

31. Barnouw, p. 36.

32. Flaherty,''The Belcher Islands of Hudson Bay: Their Discovery and Exploration." Geographical Review, 5, No. 6 (1918), pp. 433-58.

33. Flaherty 1950, pp. 13-14.

34. Robert Flaherty, in collaboralion wilh Frances Flaherty, My Eskimo Friends, New York: Doubleday, (1924), pp. 126-27.

35. Ibid., p. 140.

36. Cited in Barnouw from autobiography, Sunday Referee (London 29 July - 9 Seplember), p. 45.

37. Barnouw, p. 45.

38. Cf. Calder-Marshall, p. 85, and Van Dongen, p. 13.

39. See Ruby (1980).

40. Barnouw. p. 38.

41. Flaherty (l924), pp. 139-40.

42. John Grierson.

43. Excerpt from a letter by Lyndsay Green, Operations Manager, Inukshuk, to Barbara Van Dyke, Executive Director, International Film Seminars.