March of Time: Documentary Series

Aug. 5, 2010 – HBO Archives, the National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) are joining together to mark the 75th anniversary of the theatrical journalism series The March of Time. The special events will include celebrations in New York and Washington, D.C., along with an extensive programming marathon on TCM.

The award-winning series The March of Time was produced by Time magazine from 1935 to 1967.  The series appeared in theaters nationwide and covered a full spectrum of notable events in news, politics and sports.  The March of Time is credited with the creation of documentary newsgathering through the use of reenactments.  Archival footage for The March of Time, recently restored by HBO Archives, is slated to be shown to the public as part of the 75th anniversary celebration.

The events kicked off July 24, when the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., showed The March of Time:  Seventy Fifth Anniversary as part of their series “Film and Reality in the 1930s:  Roots of the Docudrama.”

On Sept. 1, MoMA in New York will launch The March of Time: 75th Anniversary, consisting of nine unique screening programs running through Sept. 10.

The celebration continues Sunday, Sept. 5, when TCM will air a marathon of The March of Time newsreels from 8:00  p.m. to midnight (ET).

HBO Archives, which launched in 2002, has been managing and restoring The March of Time documentary programs since 2007.  “We are honored to be able to partner with the prestigious organizations of the National Gallery of Art, MoMA and TCM to showcase the rich diversity and deepness of these one-of-a-kind, groundbreaking films,“ said Barbara Thomas, senior vice president, HBO.  “Time magazine’s goal was to create a new form of pictorial journalism.  What they ended up doing is starting the mainstream documentary film movement in the United States.”

Professor Raymond Fielding, author of “The March of Time 1935-51,” called the series “a cross between controversial journalism and docudrama; it was provocative, amusing, irreverent and sometimes outrageous and critics didn’t always know what to make of it.”

MoMA’s opening night celebration will be a program of selected highlights, hosted by TCM primetime host Robert Osborne.  The screenings will include “Inside Nazi Germany,” the single most crucial and controversial of the films.  “Inside Nazi Germany” was created in 1937, when The March of Time hired a cinematographer with a hidden camera to shoot in Berlin.  The film introduced Adolf Hitler to a then-fiercely isolationist America.

avid O. Selznick praised “Inside Nazi Germany” as “one of the greatest and most important reels in the history of pictures.”  Radio City Music Hall ran the film for a record 16 weeks.

MoMA’s other opening night films include “Teenage Girls,” “Show Business at War,” “Mid-Century Half-Way to Where?” and the debut of one of three 1934 experimental pilots.

The pilots were produced for Time Inc. to gain approval for the new series.  The films never made it to theaters, and the prints were believed to have been destroyed in a 1977 nitrate fire.  Chris Larsen, son of The March of Time co-creator Roy Larsen, donated the only known copies for their debut at MoMA.  The fragile films are undergoing restoration.

Following the opening night screenings, TCM’s Osborne will moderate a panel of experts, including Time, Inc. archivist Bill Hooper; Henry Luce biographer Alan Brinkley; and “Hollywood on the Hudson” author Richard Koszarski.

The remaining eight programs planned for MoMA are “Beauty and Fashion,” “American Culture,” a The March of Time feature film called “We Are the Marines,” “A World at War,” “Post-War American Lifestyles,” “The March of Time Covers the World,” “World War II’s Aftermath and the Cold War,” and “The Early Years.”

“Our patrons will not only get to experience a strong selection of classic theatrical releases but, for the first time, a number of non-newsreels will be made available,” said Charles Silver, curator of the department of film at MoMA.  Examples include a film commissioned by the New York State Youth Commission, a post-newsreel era TV program, newsreel out-takes and one of four feature-length films.

TCM will air several titles as part of the network’s marathon, including:  “Dogs for Sale,” “Dust Bowl,” “Poland and War,” “Inside Nazi Germany,” “Show Business at War,” “Youth in Crisis,” “Palestine Problem,” “American Beauty,” “Problem Drinkers” and “Mid-Century Half Way To Where?”  “This is the first time TCM has ever featured The March of Time newsreels,” said Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for TCM.  “The March of Time stands as an important piece of movie history, and we’re proud to bring the series to classic film fans.”