This film is part of Free

Movies March On

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.

Non-Fiction 1939 21 mins


This affectionate account of the movies crams forty years of history into twenty minutes of film, with cameo appearances from various Hollywood legends, including Buster Keaton - seen dolefully winding a camera - and Walt Disney, who gives a wonderfully expressive portrayal of the queen from Snow White. The nostalgic tone is tempered by an awareness of film’s new social responsibilities: in a world on the verge of war, simple entertainment is no longer enough.

This issue begins with a look at the film preservation and education programme at the MoMA Film Library in New York, showing that the March of Time recognised in other entities the same zeal to inform that was so much a part of its own ethos. The emphasis on Hollywood’s growing social awareness is also typical of the newsreel’s broadly liberal outlook. According to contemporary film journal Today’s Cinema, when the commentary announced that the 50 year-old Charlie Chaplin (seen relaxing on the tennis court) would burlesque Hitler in his next film - The Great Dictator - audiences clapped and cheered.