The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in August, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 121st installment in the series.
June 6, 1914: Crisis In France Over Military Service Law
As the European arms race accelerated in 1912 and 1913, France’s response was the Three-Year Service Law, which aimed to increase the size of the standing army by extending conscripts’ term of service from two to three years. A key victory for conservative President Raymond Poincaré (above, left) the law was bitterly opposed by the left (always a powerful force in France) for a whole slew of reasons: Socialists attacked it as a symptom of growing “militarism” and feared the army would suppress workers’ demonstrations, while the more moderate Radicals said the law was passed at the behest of France’s ally Russia, practically making France a vassal of the tsar.
In the elections of April and May 1914, the left swept to power with major victories by both the Radicals and Socialists, forcing the cabinet of center-right Premier Gaston Doumergue to resign on June 2 and setting the stage for an all-out assault on the Three-Year Service Law. But Poincaré was determined to save it, declaring in a speech on June 1 that France “needs an army … capable of rapid mobilization.” On June 3, the Socialist leader Jean Jaurès (above, center) attacked Poincaré’s speech as “frankly unconstitutional” (at that time the presidency was supposed to be a ceremonial office) and the battle lines were drawn.
Now Poincaré began a frantic search for someone—anyone—in the new Chamber of Deputies who could cobble together a new government that would uphold the Three-Year Service Law. His task was a little easier because the Radical leader, Joseph Caillaux, was temporarily out of the game following his wife’s murder of the newspaper editor Gaston Calmette—but Caillaux would return to the arena as soon as her trial was over, so time was of the essence.
On June 4, Poincaré offered the job of Premier to an inoffensive moderate socialist, René Viviani (above, right), who attempted to square the political circle by promising that the Three-Year Service Law might be revised at a later date, if “external circumstances” allowed—meaning if the Franco-Russian Alliance no longer required it. But this offended the Radical members of his proposed government, who said it just proved that France was a Russian vassal after all, and on June 6 the cabinet fell apart.
Now Poincaré’s job became even harder thanks to his friend Maurice Paléologue, the French ambassador to Russia, who (probably not coincidentally) happened to return to France on June 5 at the height of the political crisis. A staunch supporter of the Russian alliance, but not the most suave politician, Paléologue bluntly declared he wouldn’t return to Russia if the Three-Year Service Law were overturned at home—a bizarre and totally inappropriate statement from a serving diplomat. Outraged, the leftists accused Paléologue of using foreign policy to hijack domestic politics; Paléologue explained, a bit melodramatically, that he simply couldn’t face the Russians if France let them down.
On June 7, Poincaré went back to the drawing board, offering the premiership to five leading leftist politicians, but was turned down by every single one. Eventually a moderate, Alexandre Ribot, agreed to try forming a government even though it was a long shot—and as expected on June 12 the new Chamber of Deputies rejected his proposed cabinet amid catcalls and shouts to end the Three-Year Service Law.
With war looming, France was adrift and its alliance with Russia in peril. Poincaré had to act fast.
Ben Hawkey is best known for playing Hot Pie, Arya Stark’s Direwolf bread-baking companion on Games of Thrones. The actor recently got the chance to demonstrate his baking skills in the real world with the opening of You Know Nothing John Dough, a pop-up London bakery inspired by the HBO series.
A venture between Hawkey and the UK-based food delivery service Deliveroo, You Know Nothing John Dough launched for Deliveroo members on July 17, to coincide with the series' seventh season premiere. The menu consisted entirely of Direwolf-shaped loaves made with whole wheat cornbread and orange zest. According to Digital Spy, the treats were meant to be eaten warm with soft butter.
"It's brilliant that we have been able to help Ben realize his dream of opening a real-world bakery, bringing a classic piece of on-screen cuisine to the real world," a spokesperson for Deliveroo told Digital Spy of the culinary collaboration.
Fans snatched the treats up quickly, which was no surprise considering that they were selling for just £1 (about $1.30) a pop. That’s a bargain compared to some Game of Thrones-themed desserts. While the bakery was meant as a one-time tie-in to the new season premiere, don't be surprised to see it pop up again; you can keep an eye on its Deliveroo page here.
ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.
In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that last year Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. Here are 10 sweet facts about the ever-quotable comedy.
1. DEB IS BASED ON JERUSHA HESS.
Jared Hess’ wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.’”
Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. “The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me,” she told Rolling Stone. “Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before.”
2. NAPOLEON'S FAMOUS DANCE SCENE MANIFESTED FROM THE SHORT FILM.
At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”
Heder told The Huffington Post he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt “pressure” to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”
3. FANS STILL FLOCK TO PRESTON, IDAHO TO TOUR THE MOVIE’S LOCATIONS.
In a 2016 interview with TheSalt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”
Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamitefestival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.
4. IDAHO ADOPTED A RESOLUTION COMMENDING THE FILMMAKERS.
Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.
5. NAPOLEON WAS A DIFFERENT KIND OF NERD.
Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told The Huffington Post. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”
6. THE TITLE SEQUENCE FEATURED SEVERAL DIFFERENT SETS OF HANDS.
Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”
7. THE MOVIE MESSED UP NETFLIX’S ALGORITHMS.
Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.
The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.
Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”
9. LAFAWNDUH’S REAL-LIFE FAMILY STARRED IN THE MOVIE.
Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.
10. A SHORT-LIVED ANIMATED SERIES ACTED AS A SEQUEL.
In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”