This film is part of Free

Salt Lake City; Amateur Sleuths; The Land of Cotton

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.

Anthology 1937 20 mins


A scheme to prevent idleness among unemployed Mormons; striking sharecroppers fighting for their rights and a ‘crime club’ of amateur sleuths helping to solve real-life felonies: this compelling issue from 1937 shows The March of Time at the height of its powers and includes one of the most dramatic ‘re-enactments’ in the entire series: the recreation of the murder of a black sharecropper and the brutal flogging of a pastor and social worker by angry plantation owners.

The stories in this issue take place against a background of rising unemployment and reflect the March of Time’s commitment to producing stories which reflected social reality. The ‘Land of Cotton’ story, which champions the striking sharecroppers and their angry demands for better pay and the right to organise, is ultimately compromised by a refusal to attribute blame. Nonetheless, the story (emphatically called ‘King Cotton’s Slaves’ in the US edition) was deemed to be so provocative in its criticism of the planters that the March of Time’s business manager took out an extra $10,000 life insurance policy on director Jack Glenn, while he was filming near Memphis, Tennessee.