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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Shipwrecked Among Cannibals: 1921

Shipwrecked Among Cannibals: 1921

Washington, January 1921. Now playing at the Leader: "Shipwrecked Among Cannibals." Just loitering outside for a few minutes is practically a graduate course in cannibal lore. View full size. National Photo Company glass negative.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Mad Men

Comparing this with the recent photo of the Zorro film at Lust's theater, I, too, am amazed at the amount and inventiveness of the promo material. Absolutely fascinating. Did everyone have Comedy and Tragedy on their theater facade?


Third top-grossing film of 1920:

Re: Grewsome Decorations

The Leader Theater played up this theme with the macabre side displays of an iron pot with two human feet sticking out and a real skeleton on the right. The jaunty blossoms on the artwork, including in the surf, are a bit puzzling. Exotic orchids?

Now I understand

Cannibal men never work. Cannibals never laugh except once every 4 years.

Of course. It's all clear now. Cannibals are election pundits!

The early adventures of Dr. Jones!

I wonder if a print of this film survives. From your postings, I've learned that theaters went way beyond just posters in advertising. Who paid for the props such as skeletons and what happened to it all after the film's run was complete? I've seen movie posters for sale but the amount of decorating with materials other than paper has been amazing. Thanks for posting these.

Grewsome Decorations

Washington Post, Jan 9, 1921

Astonishing scenes filmed among the savage Kia Kia head hunters of New Guinea are shown in an unusual photoplay attraction, "Shipwrecked Among Cannibals," which will be shown at the Leader Theater this week commencing this afternoon. The film was made by two adventurous camera men shipwrecked off the coast of the territory occupied by the Kia Kia. The savage customs of the head hunters, their mode of life and the grewsome decorations of their homes are illustrated in the production.


This fascination for "cannibals" went on and on, and this is also fascinating in itself. When I was a kid in the 1950s, I remember having seriously pondered the question: What were my chances of being boiled and eaten should I be shipwrecked or whatever on some remote island?

For a documentary... did you notice the fun "facts" on those little pennants? "Cannibals turn green after death" ... "Cannibal men never work" ... "Cannibal men and women never wear clothes" (wow!). This became common knowledge after this film naturally.

[My personal favorite: "Cannibals never laugh except once every 4 years." - Dave]

Thank you Dave for this correction of "pennants" in place of "small triangular flags" or whatever I'd written. I was looking for the word, and my english is not always up to my literary ambitions.

Was this a live performance?

Do you think these performances were done using colored actors in native costumes or did they still use blackface then? Either way, you'd never see something like this today without a herd of demonstrators!

[This is a movie theater. "Shipwrecked" was a documentary/travelogue. - Dave]

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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