The March of Time
Time Marches On! Though perhaps most famous today for inspiring the opening of Citizen Kane, The March of Time was a truly trailblazing series.
Arriving in the USA in 1935, March of Time immediately lit a fuse under the formulaic newsreel genre with an intoxicating new formula all its own. This was serious screen journalism, covering social and global issues, delivered with pace, an urgent commentary and generous helpings of dramatic reconstruction. March of Time soon set up a London office, appointing British documentary giant John Grierson as consultant. He in turn parachuted his protégés Edgar Anstey and Harry Watt into senior production roles. The London unit was tasked both with filming British stories and editing the UK edition of the series for British cinemas. The London production unit closed just a few years later as the war approached, but March of Time continued to be released here until 1951. It is this British edition of the famous series that we make available here on BFI Player: an exciting account, vividly captured in the urgent present tense, of some of the most dramatic years of the 20th century.
A genuinely historic film, which caused much controversy at the time: the first commercially -released American motion picture to explicitly attack Hitler and Nazism.
‘Crisp and sincere’,‘carefully trained’ or ’resonant and vibrant’? Which voice would appeal to you if you had to pick the Republican candidate for the 1948 Presidential Election?
Weatherproof bunting, fog, clockwork dolls and a Hollywood exodus to London: this sideways look at preparations for the Coronation of George VI provides a wry American take on a very British ceremony.
This ode to New York from March of Time shows us how seven and half million people from every race and nationality in the world, live, work and play together in ‘the greatest metropolis of the New World’.
Charlie Chaplin relaxes on the tennis court in this potted history of Hollywood, which looks back fondly to the early days of film, in a world on the brink of war.
The Magna Carta and George Washington’s family tree spearhead a propaganda campaign to win US hearts and minds as Britain prepares for war.
An exhortation to Britain to stand up to the Nazi threat is paired with a reconstruction of a US Coastguard operation against gun smugglers.
A four-story issue of March of Time, the pick of which is not for the faint-hearted; a report on a US motor safety campaign that reduced deaths on the road, but may have also given a generation of children nightmares.
Three reports from March of Time: Kemal Ataturk relaxes on a Turkish beach, fake cancer cures are exposed and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band reforms to play Tiger Rag.
A compelling case for the involvement of the United States in Britain’s Indian Empire is made, in this comprehensive survey of the war effort in India.
Barefoot sharecroppers and ‘No Coloreds’ signs; plantation mansions and Confederate cemeteries: a look at the Deep South which disturbs and informs in equal measure.
Adolf Hitler glowers from the cover of a Spanish-language version of Mein Kampf in this account of how US diplomats fought the rise of Nazism in South America in 1938.
In March of Time's report from post-war Japan, the Emperor renounces his divinity to study marine biology, while his subjects put feudalism behind them and tentatively embrace democracy.
The inner-workings of the world’s smallest state were shown to filmgoers for the very first time in this lively and revealing portrait of the Vatican of Pope Pius XII.
March of Time profiles the American home-front through the lens of Washington, providing an insight into the machinery of government in the first months of war.
March of Time reports on the beginnings of the summer camp movement in the USA, goes behind the scenes at Oxford University and tracks Madrid under attack during the Spanish Civil War.
Dogs for sale by the roadside, a renaissance on the railroads and an opportunity to look at the Scottish Highlands.
New buildings rise up alongside traditional peasant dwellings as Yugoslavia transforms itself into an anti-Soviet Communist state under the controlling eye of Josip Broz Tito.
Was there a better way of fighting the Soviet threat than the atomic bomb? The ‘answer to Stalin’ was to rebuild Europe with billions of dollars of aid: the Marshall Plan.
From the spires of Prague to the furnaces of the Skoda armaments factory, this tumultuous account of a recently reborn Czechoslovakia portrays a country finding its way in a new Europe.
English tourists queue for visas and the wine begins to flow again, while German POWs clear minefields, in this sober but optimistic account of France’s post-war recovery.
A classroom full of smock-clad Italian children give the Fascist salute in their Tunisian school: a warning sign of Mussolini’s burgeoning power in the Mediterranean.
Was Nazism a good idea poorly carried out? Many Germans still thought so in 1948, according to this portrait of a country threatened by Russia but still trying to escape its own past.
The possibility that the world could face another global conflict, with the added horror of nuclear weapons, forms the backdrop to this tense warning from the age of anxiety.
Anxious young men scan the news for the draft lottery results to see if their number has come up in a film which documents a historic event: the first peacetime draft in US history.
A grinning effigy of Hitler is skewered by the bayonet of a new recruit: one striking image among many from this morale-boosting account of the American army in 1942.
1940 was a crucial year for the U.S. Navy. From the Panama Canal to the South Pacific, see how America was preparing its fleet for a war which was drawing closer by the day.
In 1941 America’s working men and women were the ‘indispensables’ of the industrial offensive to arm the USA and provide aid for embattled Britain. This film tells their story.
Nominated for an Oscar, this film dramatically depicts the carefully plotted invasion which took Hitler by surprise and led to the defeat of Axis powers in Africa.
From the bustle of Buenos Aires to the estancias of the fertile interior, this film shows the people of Argentina at work and at play in factories, on farms, and at football matches.
A Tokyo cabaret dancer twirls a parasol emblazoned with the Swastika and the Rising Sun: one striking image among many in this 1939 film about the dangers of Japanese aggression.
Windswept palm trees on Devil’s Island and warships in Guantanamo Bay: this evocative issue vividly captures the fear and uncertainty spreading through the Caribbean in 1940.
Microfilm, fifth columnists and special agents: this dramatic reconstruction of an undercover operation against Nazi spies shows J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI fighting the enemy within.
A film full of contrasts captures Australia at a pivotal point in its history: under threat from Japan at home, but pledging to defend the British Empire and the Crown abroad.
From New York’s Foundling Hospital to the US Children’s Bureau in Washington DC, this film introduces us to the orphans of America and the couples who wish to become their parents.
A new approach to a national problem. This sensitive look at the National Institute for Mental Health shows America’s changing attitudes to ‘diseases of the mind’ in the post-war years.
A nervous couple tie the knot in front of a stern priest, in a film which is enjoyable for the sheer zest with which it shows the varieties of misery possible in modern marriage.
Style never goes out of fashion! From Dior couture to the mass productions of New York’s Garment District, this issue celebrates the pleasure - and business - of being well-dressed.
Lured by the promise of a career in the big city, Patricia Kugleman leaves Tulsa, Oklahoma to brave the perils of life in New York City as model - and potential cover girl - Patti Cook.
By 1937 the American lifestyle promised pleasure at home and adventure on the road: this entertaining film shows how the country was coping with some unforeseen hazards.
South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts delivers a stirring speech in London, watched by an approving Winston Churchill, in this affirmative film about South Africa’s contribution to the war.
Will war come to the Philippines? This film shows a nation on the brink of crisis: fearful of Japan, reliant on US protection, and now uncertain of the benefits of independence.
‘March of Time investigates the bootleg baby racket, visits the vineyards of France and reports on a Loyalist victory in Northern Ireland’s elections.
A modern fleet, centuries of tradition - and properly ironed collars - lay the foundations for victory, as the Royal Navy prepares to battle the U-boat threat in September 1939.
Follow a notorious forger from Nebraska to New York, see mutinous sailors stage a sit-down strike, and watch British noblemen find new ways to earn a living - not all of them ethical.
Finnish modernity, the threat of the White-Fringed beetle and a gripping item on heart disease make for a riveting film, filled with drama but told with optimism.
Neighbourhood vigilantes tell an unscrupulous trader to ‘hop it’, as MP Ellen Wilkinson’s bill to protect working class buyers from Hire Purchase swindlers becomes reality.
Idle Mormons, angry cotton pickers and a boom in detective fiction: a mix of intriguing and provocative stories set against a turbulent background of unemployment and recession.
A bankrupt mill-town, the evils of political patronage and Hawaii’s struggle for statehood. Three ways of looking at the same question: how to change society for the better?
A hard day’s work in the fields and rolling hills of Iowa’s fertile farmlands is followed by barn-dancing and cider-drinking in this tribute to the farmers of America’s Corn Belt.
This issue scooped rival newsreels by venturing deep inside the Maginot Line’s labyrinthine tunnels, to reveal an underground city of French soldiers preparing for war.
A dire warning to isolationists, this graphic retelling of Hitler’s conquest of Europe shows that the only certain fact about Nazi promises of peace was that they would be broken.
Praise for the unsung heroes of the Battle of the Atlantic: the merchant seamen who faced the deadly threat of U-boats and Stuka bombers to bring vital supplies to Great Britain.
Released in the USA on the day that Germany invaded Poland - 1st September 1939 - this timely and dramatic issue warns America to prepare for a new kind of warfare.
Hair-raising footage of a US Navy dive bomber squadron in action puts the viewer in the cockpit, in this account of the ever-growing importance of the US navy’s air force in 1941.
A sinister, bearded figure walks the streets of Paris at dawn. Follow French public executioner Pierre Deibler, as he travels with his guillotine, to perform his deadly trade.
Drama on-stage and behind the scenes, from auditions to first night reviews, as The March of Time raises the curtain on the 1948 Broadway production of ‘Anne of the Thousand Days’.
Witness the rise of the record industry, from its primitive beginnings to the unveiling of the formats that would revolutionise the world of popular music: the LP and the single.
Round-the-clock fun is the order of the day in this whirlwind survey of the tourist industry in 1949: from a mass Hokey Cokey at Butlin’s Pwllheli, to stand-up comedy in the Catskills.
This sardonic appraisal of the fashion choices available to men in 1950, reveals how to carry off a variety of unflattering looks, from terry cloth beach coats to platform shoes.
Should Uncle Sam pay for public medical care? This absorbing film champions the work of the American medical profession, while highlighting the lack of aid for the underprivileged.
Saved by the timely advice of a child expert! A jealous sister is poised to smash a bottle over her baby brother’s head, until the wise words of a counsellor avert disaster.
Eager science students, devout peasants, tough farm workers and hungry families: this film offered a rare chance for viewers to see the human face of Russia in the aftermath of war.
From the thriving streets of Amsterdam to the troubled shores of the East Indies: Dutch postwar prosperity is in jeopardy as the Netherlands become embroiled in a colonial conflict.
Key West is transformed into a thriving resort - and becomes a victim of its own success. Fearful of a German invasion, Czech president Benes calls upon his army to mobilise.
ABCD stands for America, Britain, China and Democracy: a young Chinese boy learns to write English in one of the striking images in this dispatch from the Sino-Japanese War.
A shipment of dried cod bound for Germany is sprayed with kerosene by a young Norwegian in one of the more inventive acts of anti-Nazi sabotage from this gripping film.
A group of young Nazis meet in a clandestine ‘Werwolf’ gathering as they plot resistance against the occupying Allied forces, in this frontline report from postwar Germany.
From an explosive Gene Krupa drum solo to the power of colliding atoms, this 1950 film finds expressions of change, uncertainty and tension in the worlds of art, politics & science.
Rumour clinics, female garage attendants, scrap metal drives and zoot suits: American society was changing in unexpected ways as the country entered its second year of war.
A New York dentist discovers an anaesthetic formula for pain-free dentistry, and superstar Soviet miner Alexei Stakhanov celebrates his Man of the Year award in style.
A New York City cop goes undercover to solve a double-murder case, in a report which shows ordinary American policemen fighting America’s post-war crime wave.
Your navy needs you! This film was made to appeal to young Americans’ sense of duty and patriotism, while promising an exciting life at sea at a critical point in the Second World War.
The humming banks of teletype machines in the New York offices of the Associated Press bring news of the world-changing events of 1939, from Shanghai, Madrid, London and Moscow.
Featuring dramatic footage of the Battle of Britain, this film looks at the war in Europe from the point of view of American foreign correspondents and their mission to tell the truth.
See a gang of back country bootleggers, a tax-evading meat dealer and a small-time jewellery smuggler brought to justice by the enforcement agencies of the US Treasury Department.
Enjoy the sounds - and sights - of American public radio in 1948. From soap operas and game shows to political debates and classical music concerts, all human life is here.
Bumper crops, shiny new cars and enormous kitchen appliances. America’s farmers enjoy their new prosperity in a film which hints at the worries beneath the confident exterior.
An impressive overview of the work of the men and women responsible for organising, planning and producing equipment for the US Navy in 1943, from riveters to radar manufacturers.
Watch America’s ‘oldsters’ dance, get married, play baseball and work more efficiently than their younger counterparts in this spirited challenge to prejudices about old age.
A man breaks down in tears while undergoing psychoanalysis in a powerful scene from this survey of the groundbreaking changes in medicine since the end of World War II.
Forced to work in a tavern to supplement his poor wages, a teacher pours a customer’s beer then marks homework at the bar, in this hard-hitting look at the US education crisis in 1947
‘We’ve got a week to get a bill written!’ Shocked at the poor standard of their children’s schools, a local PTA group campaigns to change educational policy in the state of Virginia.
Italian children, left homeless after the war, get a chance to rebuild their lives in a miniature republic where they make their own laws. But adjusting to the new life is not easy...
If fifth columnists took over what would Main Street USA look like? This issue imagines life in an American town controlled by the goose-stepping members of a Nazi ‘New Order’.
When does reading a Betty Boop comic count as a political act? Possibly when it’s done by an unemployed protester amusing his child during a daring sit-in in Trenton, New Jersey.
The Italian Communist Party in 1948 : a force for progress and reform or the last refuge of a desperate population and a threat to the rest of Europe?
The ethics of American college football; a controversial plan to build a seaway to the Atlantic, and a proto-Nazi political party’s influence over King Leopold III of Belgium.
How did Taiwan cope with the huge influx of Chinese refugees from the mainland after the war? This report explains why the island is a symbol of hope for all developing countries.