In January 1914, Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa signed a deal with Hollywood’s Mutual Film Corporation, selling the rights to film his battles with government forces. Mutual were perhaps best known for a studio best known for producing Charlie Chaplin films between 1916-17. The deal negotiated by Villa saw Mutual pay $25,000 and 50% royalties on the profits earned from the newsreels featuring him and his men. In return Villa promised Mutual that he would try to fight his battles during the day so they could be filmed. The newsreels featuring the revolutionary proved popular across the US making Villa a household name.
In May 1914, a feature film The Live of General Villa was released starring Villa as himself. Produced by D.W. Griffith and featuring Raoul Walsh as a young Villa the film mixed actual footage filmed of Villa’s battles and footage later re enacted by his men for the cameras. Sadly the film and most of its footage is lost.
Between 1914 and 1917 dozens of journalists and photographers flocked to report and photograph Villa’s corner of the revolution making him the best known of the Mexican Revolution’s rebel leaders. The money from the films provided much needed funding for Villa’s campaign and made Villa an iconic figure.
Glass Warriors: The Camera At War, (2005), D. Anderson