4. Editorial Note

On August 24, 1917, Frances H.C. Burnett sent a night lettergram from San Francisco to Third Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long. She reported: “Good effect imperial Japanese missions visit here is being undone and anti-Japanese feeling seriously aggravated by film play called Curse of Iku. Influential Japanese feel they cannot protest personally in view of recent hospitality shown commission. Please use every effort to prevent further exposition of film in California.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Decimal File 1910–1929, Box 7527, 811.4061/215)

On August 25, Secretary of State Robert Lansing sent a telegram to William Stephens, Governor of California. He informed Stephens: “The Department is reliably informed that anti-Japanese feeling at San Francisco is being seriously aggravated by the showing of a film play entitled ‘Curse of Iku.’ The Department is informed also that a Bill, Senate 509 Section 10A, was passed in April, 1917, by the California Legislature prohibiting the display of films calculated to create race hatred or international misunderstanding. The Department is not informed as to the exact nature of the ‘Curse of Iku’ but the showing of any film which creates race prejudice is distinctly objectionable at this time in our international relations. I shall be greatly obliged if you will take such steps as you may deem expedient and advisable to suppress the ‘Curse of Iku’ or any other film which you may have reason to believe is prejudicial to the foreign relations of this country.” (Ibid.)

On August 30, Lansing sent another telegram to Stephens: “[F]urther investigation develops that the film ‘Curse of Iku’ is ‘Her White God’, for which picture the censor at Chicago denied an exhibition permit. Vigorous protest was made against the picture by the Japanese Consulate at Chicago. Subsequently the producers exhibited the film to representatives of the Japanese Embassy here and the Department of State. The film was found to be distinctly objectionable and the producers agreed to eliminate certain scenes before showing the picture. It appears that these modifications have not been made or if they have been made they have not been sufficient to remove the objectionable features from the picture. The change of name of the picture to the ‘Curse of Iku’ does not in any way modify the attitude of the Japanese Embassy or of the Department. The action of the producers in showing this film in San Francisco at this or any other time deserves the severest condemnation and it is earnestly hoped that you may find means to suppress the picture.” (Ibid.)