Evolution (1923)

Article 5174 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-2-2016
Directed by Ovide Decroly, Dave Fleischer, Max Fleischer
Cast unknown
Country: USA / Belgium
What it is: Documentary

The creation of the Earth and the growth of life thereon is explored.

I found this movie on YouTube, and I have to admit to being rather curious about it. IMDB attributes the direction to three different people; the two Fleischer brothers (who were responsible for many animated cartoons from the twenties to the forties) and Belgian scientist Ovide Decroly. One of my sources claims the movie was made as a response to the Scopes monkey trial, but that took place in 1925; this movie is credited as having been made two years earlier. I also read that it was made to argue the scientific side of the case, but it never discusses the most controversial aspects of the theory of evolution; no mention is made of “Darwin” or natural selection, man just appears initially as “java man” and evolves into modern man, though the fact that this is covered right after the great apes are discussed implies the theory slightly. Still, I can’t help but feel the final title card purposely hedges its bets. I do wonder if the documentary was originally made by Decroly in 1923, and then reworked by the Fleischers in 1925, but that is only speculation on my part. At any rate, the overall feel of this silent documentary is like a slightly more focused version of THE ANIMAL WORLD, and it mostly consists of footage of animals, some of them rather unusual. The fantastic content consists of about half a minute of stop-motion animated dinosaur footage; I don’t see any other type of animation unless the sequence showing the creation of the solar system counts.

Addendum: Thanks to Doctor Kiss at CHFB, I’ve clarified some mysteries about this one. Ovide Decroly had nothing to do with this movie; he made a similarly titled movie from the same era that has no connection with this one. Furthermore, the real director was Raymond Lee Ditmars. The Fleischers’ involvement with the film came from a ‘sweetening up’ they did to the movie. They added the stop-motion dinosaur footage, which was lifted from THE GHOST OF SLUMBER MOUNTAIN.


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