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“A Splendid Piece of Photography”: The Siege and Fall of the Alamo (1914)

December 2, 2011
A stock certificate for the Siege and Fall of the Alamo Motion Picture Co., November 17, 1913.

A stock certificate for the Siege and Fall of the Alamo Motion Picture Co., November 17, 1913.

A single document (shown above) and a handful of photographs at the DRT Library are thought to provide a crucial record of a lost silent film about the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. No copy of the The Siege and Fall of the Alamo (1914) is known to exist, and earlier generations of historians believed that the film was never made. While this assertion has proven to be false, information is sparse and many questions remain unanswered.

This picture from the DRT Library's collection shows the palisade that scholars believe was reconstructed in front of the Alamo church during filming of The Siege and Fall of the Alamo.

This picture from the DRT Library's collection shows the palisade that scholars believe was reconstructed in front of the Alamo church during filming of The Siege and Fall of the Alamo. (SC98.103)

A synopsis of The Siege and Fall of the Alamo, written for copyright registration, survives at the Library of Congress and is reproduced in its entirety in Frank Thompson’s book Alamo Movies. Unfortunately, Thompson writes, the summary “tells us little about what the film might have been like.” In addition, a review and advertisement in the San Antonio Light (not in the Library’s collection) describe the film’s showing at the Royal Theater on June 1-2, 1914. According to the ad, The Siege and Fall of the Alamo was made in San Antonio with a cast of 2,000 actors “at a cost of more than $35,000.00.” At “five great reels” in length, it was the first feature-length film about the Alamo. Praising the film, the Light called it “a splendid piece of photography, clear in every detail, and the acting is perfect. The play seems to please the patrons and is pronounced by historians as a great production.”

The reconstructed palisade. The Siege and Fall of the Alamo may be the only movie about the 1836 battle filmed at the actual Alamo.

The reconstructed palisade. The Siege and Fall of the Alamo may be the only movie about the 1836 battle filmed at the actual Alamo. (SC98.101)

The production stills below were previously thought to be from The Immortal Alamo (1911). However, the actor shown to be portraying David Crockett (below) is not Francis Ford, who played the famous Tennessean in The Immortal Alamo. The wooden palisade shown in the photographs above appears to be same one behind “Crockett” in the picture below. Other clues in the palisade photos and production stills support the conclusion that these materials show The Siege and Fall of the Alamo, although a lack of definitive corroborating evidence means that this identification remains less than certain.

An unidentified actor portraying David Crockett in front of the reconstructed Alamo palisade.

An unidentified actor portraying David Crockett in front of the reconstructed Alamo palisade. (SC96.601)

Davy Crockett struggling with a Mexican soldier.

Davy Crockett struggling with a Mexican soldier. (SC96.602)

A woman attempts to defend Jim Bowie while Susanna Dickinson protects her daughter.

A woman attempts to defend Jim Bowie while Susanna Dickinson protects her daughter. (SC96.600)

Texians firing and reloading rifles.

Texians firing and reloading rifles. (SC96.603)

References and Further Reading

Books by writer and film historian Frank Thompson include Alamo Movies (1991) and The Alamo: A Cultural History (2001), both available at the DRT Library. Another work by Thompson, Texas Hollywood: Filmmaking in San Antonio Since 1910 (2002), does not discuss The Siege and Fall of the Alamo specifically but provides interesting contextual information. Additionally, the DRT Library has a vertical file on various movies that have been made about the Alamo, and Richard R. Flores’ book Remembering the Alamo: Memory, Modernity, and the Master Symbol (2002) also contains a chapter on the topic.

Click here for a full citation of the documents and images included in this entry.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. sissy crowson corrales permalink
    April 6, 2012 4:38 pm

    My 5 or 6 great grandfather is John Marshall Wade. He helped fire the cannons. He was summoned by Sam Houston. We are trying to trace his steps and background. He lived with Indians, he fought and was wounded so he missed the Alamo caught up to fight at San Jacinto. Ran the first newspaper in Texas. Would like to know how we join Daughters of Texas.

  2. drtlibrary permalink*
    April 9, 2012 3:34 pm

    Ms. Corrales, In order to qualify for DRT membership, you need to prove that one of your direct ancestors was living in Texas while it was a Republic, i.e. prior to February 19, 1846. First, you need to use archival records to prove each link in your family line (you to your parent, your mother or father to their parent, your grandmother or grandfather to their parent, and so on). Second, you also need to use historical records to prove the direct ancestor’s residence in Texas prior to 1846.

    For additional information about DRT membership, please see the organization’s website (http://www.drtinfo.org) or contact DRT headquarters in Austin.

    The DRT Library has a variety of materials that can help you research your Texas ancestors, and we can mail copies of items to you if you’re unable to visit the Library in person.

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