IT REMINDED HIM OF THE BATTLE-FIELDS
by Max Linder.
War, Monsieur, is not so terrifying as one who has not been in it may conceive. Pardon me if I remind you that I have had the experience - two long years of it. But, as a motor dispatch-bearer for France, I felt no horror, particularly, at what fate might be hovering over me, preparing to strike the next moment. The Great Divide, it seems has provided at least one single solace in this game of life and death. He has made the bullets, the shrapnel and the tremendous bombs to fly so quickly at us that we cannot see them. And what we cannot see, we do not fear so much.
In truth, I have had some experiences in the production of my cinema-plays which have filled me with more terror, momentarily, than battlefield ventures. I shall mention the last of such, for it is the most vivid now in my mind. I had conceived what you might call a "thriller" as a scene in my third Essanay comedy, "Max in a Taxi". Having been disinherited by my wealthy father, the scenario directed that I lie down in front of a onrushing express-train, thus to doff my life-burdens. The train was to rush down upon me; all would be over - but no! Within ten feet of where I lay was to be a switch, which the audience had not perceived. And, even as the engine's pilot stretched forth to snuff out my life, the train suddenly was to strike the switch, swerve to a side-track and whizz past, leaving me and my life-burdens intact.
The scene was filmed without a flaw. I lay down upon the track; the huge express-train rushed up to within ten feet of me. The switch opened and it swung to the left and past. Yet during the fleet second of the action, the terrible horror almost paralysed me - What if by some unforeseen accident the switch refused to open? Here was death which I could see hurtling directly at me. I could not escape it.
As I said before, all went well. But as I arose from that track, I felt almost a craving, Monsieur, for the battlefields again. There at least, I did not have to look at the death as it rushed at me or as I rushed at it. (Motion Picture Magazine, Oct. 1917)