This film is part of Free

Czechoslovakia; Brain Trust Island

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.

Anthology 1938 20 mins


Key West’s transformation from a bankrupt backwater into a top American tourist destination is depicted with typical verve: footage of crowded beaches and cocktail bars, as well as a new sewerage system and a highway from the mainland all add up to a New Deal success story. The second item shows March of Time’s canny grasp of world events in the run up to the Munich crisis, highlighting Czech defiance, Hitler’s ruthlessness and England and France’s powerlessness.

The money for the Key West project came from one of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programmes called the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). The dapper Julius F. Stone - the man charged with the task of investing in the island - is seen worrying whether too much success is a bad thing: the wrong kind of tourist might change the island into ‘a brassy cheap little town filled with racetracks and honky tonks’. More epochal events are the concern of the issue’s second story, which emphasises the bravery of the democracy-loving Czechs (and their thriving industry and agriculture) and provides a fascinating summary of the role played by the Sudeten German Party, led by Konrad Henlein, in the undermining of Czechoslovakian power in the weeks preceding the Munich Agreement.