The Sacco and Vanzetti Funeral Footage in Chronological Order
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The Re-edited Film.
Not one of the many versions of the Sacco and Vanzetti funeral footage found on the internet appears in its correct chronological order. That the sequence in which the shots appear is not quite right is apparent from even a casual viewing of the film. Additionally, while a number of shots are out of sequence, others are repeated in ways that make little sense. Both the order and repetition of the shots that make up the funeral footage can be attributed to their having been taken from same source which spliced together surviving footage from two copies of the original, but badly deteriorated, film. Why the surviving footage was so carelessly reassembled in the manner it was remains a mystery, but the unfortunate result has been that this version has been, up to now, the only one seen by the public. The re-edited Sacco and Vanzetti funeral footage presented here is the first serious attempt to show the film in its correct chronological order.
For those who have some knowledge of the case and want to learn more about the scenes shown in this re-edited funeral footage, we have included the commentary below. We recommend downloading this section so it can be more easily read while viewing the film. Those unfamiliar with Boston's streets may also want to keep a map of the city at hand.
Shot 2 (Begins at 00:03)
It is likely that this shot was taken before the funeral began. According to an article in the Boston Globe, soon after 1:00, Hanover Street, in Boston's North End, was cleared of people for one block in each direction of the Langone Funeral Home which was located at 383 Hanover.
Shot 3 (00:09)
One of the large wreaths is shown here being brought to the Langone Funeral Home. This shot appears to have been taken from either a from a window above the Langone Funeral Home or more likely, given the angle, from the bay window of the adjacent building.
Shot 4 (00:14)
The man seen chewing gum a few seconds into this shot is Aldino Felicani. He was the treasurer of the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee and a close friend of Vanzetti.
Shot 5 (00:19)
The Langone name can be seen at the top center. The sign and funeral home are long gone, but the building is still there.
Shot 6 (00:27)
Holding the wreath is Beltrando Brini, seen here as a young man, who as a child testified that he was with Vanzetti selling eels on December 24, 1919, the day of the Bridgewater, MA payroll robbery for which Vanzetti was found guilty. He was thirteen at the time. The man in the top hat is Joseph Langone, owner of the Langone Funeral Home.
Shot 7 (00:34)
Here we see the wreaths being carried down Hanover Street towards Battery Street where the funeral procession was to begin. Barely visible behind the parked cars are some of the people who had been moved off the street. A policeman on horseback is positioned in front of them.
Shot 8 (00:50)
According to the Boston Globe, the hearses pulled up to the funeral home at 2:20 and Sacco's casket was loaded on first. As the casket passes the hearse closest to the curb, one can see that the hearse is empty, so the casket shown in this shot must be Sacco's. Joseph Langone, in tails, leads the pallbearers out of the building. Edward Holton James, the nephew of the novelist Henry James and philosopher William James, is the pallbearer with the goatee on the viewer's left. The other pallbearers that have been identified are Mario Tonucci, at the front right of the casket with his back to the camera, and Alphonso Silvestri, at the back right of the casket. All the pallbearers were anarchists.
Shot 9 (01:03)
The hearses have pulled away from the curb and are heading towards Battery street, a short distance away. The hearse containing Sacco's body is in the forefront.
Shot 10 (01:11)
The man standing center left with the flowers and hanging umbrella, one of Vanzetti's pallbearers, has been identified as Joseph Amare. In the background of this shot one can see the crowd being held back by a rope strung across the side street. When the hearses arrived at Battery Street they turned around and were met by the procession that had gathered earlier at North End Park.
Shot 11 (01:26)
The hearses are now coming down Hanover Street, having been joined by the procession from the park. The crowds has been allowed back onto street. The hearse on the viewer's left contains Sacco's body. This shot, as well as the next nine, were taken from the roof of a building located on the southeast corner of Hanover at Richmond Streets, across the street from the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee's office.
Shot 12 (01:31)
This shot is a continuation of the previous one and is the only footage of the funeral not found in the copy of the film we used. The original source of this segment has yet to be determined. It does not appear in most versions of the funeral footage, but can be found in Peter Miller's film, Sacco and Vanzetti.
Shot 13 (01:37)
The two hearses have passed from the camera's view. Seen here are the open cars containing flowers and some of the wreaths, as well as the closed cars, the first in which rode Sacco's wife Rosa and son Dante, Vanzetti's Sister Luigia, and Aldino Felicani.
Shot 21 (02:26)
The following two shots (nos. 22 and 23) were thought to have taken place at Scollay Square, but were in fact filmed by the same camera as the previous shots, that is, from the roof of the building at the corner of Hanover and Richmond Streets, a few blocks away from Scollay Square. While these two shots may show people reacting to the attempt by police to block the procession at Scollay Square, they may instead be showing the crowd reacting to something that happened earlier and nearer to where the camera was located. According to the Boston Globe, there was an attempt by authorities to separate the official funeral cortege from the large crowd following it in the "unofficial" procession. This occurred where Washington Street crossed Hanover Street. Several large trucks completely blocked the street to prevent the mass of people from following. What we see in the next two shots may have been the crowd panicking when this intersection was closed off. If this is the case, than the caption preceding this shot may actually have been meant to precede no longer existing footage that actually did show the police turning back the procession at Scollay Square. Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing. We can only say with certainty that these two shots took place some distance from the Scollay Square.
Shot 25 (02:46)
This and the next four shots were thought to have been taken in Scollay Square which was at the end of Hanover Street. The preceding caption (shot 24) certainly suggests that. However, there is strong evidence that these shots were actually taken after the funeral procession had left Scollay Square, most likely somewhere along Tremont Street. The Boston Globe reported that it was on Tremont Street that the column of marchers proceeded "shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, grasping umbrellas to produce an unbroken front, at least 50 in line." A column fitting this description appears in shot 29. Note that the wreath bearers and the twelve men that had been walking along side the hearses as they made their way down Hanover Street to Scollay Square in the earlier shots, are nowhere to be found in these shots. There is at least one photo, published in Harold Blumfeld's Sacco and Vanzetti: Their Story in Pictures, showing the wreath bearers and the men still walking along side the hearses after the procession had left Scollay Square and was making its way down Tremont Street. This most likely means these shots were taken later, somewhere along Tremont Street. But where? You can see in this shot that the street curves to the left and that the streetcar tracks running down the center of the street intersect another set of tracks at right angles. The only intersection along downtown Tremont Street where this occurred was the one where Berkeley Street crossed over to become Dover Street (now East Berkeley Street). These facts indicate that the shots were not taken as the procession was just leaving Hanover Street or passing though Scollay Square, but further down on Tremont Street, and quite likely by a camera set up at the intersection of Tremont and Berkeley Streets.
A man entering the screen on the viewer's right half way through this shot is wearing an armband. This may be the armband worn by some that read "Remember. Justice Crucified. August 22, 1927." He is the only person in this film seen with an armband.
Shot 27 (02:57)
Note the young man in the striped sweater who walks past the camera a few seconds into this shot. He first appears in the previous shot, off to the viewer's left, and reappears later at Forest Hills Cemetery.
Shot 28 (03:02)
The hearse on the viewer's right contains Vanzetti's casket.
Shot 29 (03:08)
Here we see the "unofficial" procession, "shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, an unbroken front, at least 50 in line, they advance steadily."
Shot 31 (03:24)
This and the next shot were taken on Walk Hill Road, just off the intersection with Wachusetts Street and a short distance from the Forest Hill Cemetery Crematorium where Sacco and Vanzetti were cremated.
Shot 32 (03:32)
Continuation of the previous shot. The first hearse contains Sacco's casket.
Shot 35 (03:45)
It's not clear when the remnants of the procession arrived at Forest Hills Cemetery. At some point along the route, as previous shots (31-33) show, the vehicles making up the funeral cortege picked up speed and left those following on foot behind. How far behind is not known. However, the many open umbrellas in this shot and the absence of any raised umbrellas in the next shots taken at the crematory, as well as the Boston Globe's report that it was only when the funeral party left "the chill drizzle that has prevailed all day turned into a cold, dreary rain," suggests that the procession arrived somewhat later, after the funeral party entered the crematory as shown in shot 39. Whatever the case may be, cinematically it makes the most sense to place this shot here, after the hearses pass, and one can reasonably assume that it also appeared in this order in original film.
The young man in the striped sweater, who first appears in the shots taken on Tremont Street in Downtown Boston, is here seen again.
Shot 38 (04:16)
The tall man standing next to the back door of the automobile and looking in is Aldino Felicani.
Shot 41 (04:30)
Needless to say, Governor Fuller did not attend the funeral. This shot was obviously taken at a different time and place.
The Boston Globe article cited in this commentary appeared on August 29, 1927, pages 2 and 6.
Jerry Kaplan for the Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society, 8.19.13