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This week we’re featuring Professor I.M. Nuts, a gentleman who demonstrates his spectacular inventions in several Universal News stories. In this story, Prof. Nuts shows off a gadget that will prevent you from ruining your day while eating grapefruit. According to Nuts, “every home should have at least half a dozen”!

Have you ever had your “whole day” ruined by a grapefruit? You need Oakes’ ingenious invention. Watch to find out how it works!

Professor Nuts was actually Russell E. Oakes, of Waukesha, Wisconsin. Oakes made a career of presenting ridiculous solutions to simple problems like eating corn on the cob (see this 1939 Popular Science article for more background). In some ways, Oakes was ahead of his time–he’s kind of a cross between something you might see on The Onion and the pitchmen that sell you products to meet needs you never knew you had until you see how overwhelmed that woman in the commercial gets while trying to butter toast.

Although Oakes gained fame by playing up his inventions for laughs, there is a certain amount of earnestness in his demonstrations. In this clip, Oakes states that his “breakfast cap” is patented. In fact, he held at least one serious patent, for a novel method of constructing a device that holds advertising cards.

You can see some of Oakes’ gadgets at the Waukesha County Museum.

From the release sheet:

PROF. NUTTS SOLVES PROBLEM.  Waukesha, Wisconsin.  Our old friend, the Sage of Waukesha, is again- with another of his devices to make living more pleasant.  This time, the Professor takes the difficulties out of grapefruit, that vicious citrus that dotes on squirting juice in the human eye.

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Problem solved! Now you won’t end up “swearing at the stenographer”!

You may view the rest of the existing newsreel, including stories about Wallis Simpson‘s seclusion in a French chateau and a display of horsemanship from the Soviet cavalry, here.

About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:

The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.

In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).

While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in OPA, and on this playlist.



With Major League Baseball’s Opening Day right around the corner, the subject matter this week is Baseball.

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Local Identifier: 111-BA-1952, “Baseball game between Union prisoners at Salisbury, North Carolina, 1863”

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Local Identifier: 306-PSD-72-6712, Photograph of a Baseball Game between Boston and Chicago at South Side Park in Chicago, Illinois, August 14, 1904, Source: Library of Congress

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Local Identifier: 306-PS-57-5710 (Box 510), Photograph of Babe Ruth Sliding into Third Base, Source: Library of Congress

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Local Identifier: 306-PSB-50-6892, Photograph of Opening Day at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., April 1950, Source: State Department

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Local Identifier: 306-PS-50-7551, “Jackie Robinson in his Brooklyn Dodgers Uniform, 1950”

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Local Identifier: 306-PSD-65-1935, Photograph of Shea Stadium in New York City, 1965, Source: USIA

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Local Identifier: 330-CFD-DF-SD-04-04276.jpeg, “The Tampa Bay Devil Rays Major League Baseball club, left, and the Detroit Tigers salute the military as part of their Opening Day celebration on April 2, 2002”, Photograph by TSGT Douglas K. Lingefelt

ENDURING FREEDOM

Local Identifier: 330-CFD-DN-SD-04-14135.jpeg, “An Afghani girl plays with her baseball and glove at Camp Harriman, located in the Orgun Province of Afghanistan, during Operation ENDURIG FREEDOM. Mr. Jay Smith, 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, donated the baseball equipment and this girl is reportedly the first Afghani girl, from her area, to ever own a ball and glove, 08/16/2002”, Photograph by PH2 (Dv) Eric Lippmann

070403-N-7981E-090

Local Identifier: 330-CFD-DN-SD-07-24672.jpeg, “U.S. Marine Corps SGT. James”Eddie”Wright grips the honorary game ball for the 5th Annual Seattle Mariners and Boeing Company co-sponsored Salute to the Armed Forces Night, a Major League baseball game which pays tribute to all men and women serving the U.S. military services. SGT. Wright, a bronze star recipient who lose both of his arms in combat in Iraq in 2004, delivered this ball to the mound as part of the pre-game ceremony before the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field, Seattle, Wash., on April 3, 2007”, Photograph by MC3 James R. Evans

 

 



This post was written by Heidi Holmstrom. Heidi works in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, which is responsible for performing conservation and preservation work on motion picture records held across the National Archives. In this post, Heidi answers a frequently asked question.

When you watch NARA’s video for The March on YouTube the first thing you see onscreen is a note that the film was “Preserved and Restored by the National Archives.” You may wonder why we make the distinction between preservation and restoration. Aren’t they the same thing?

The differences between preservation and restoration are subtle, but in the archives world they are profound. If we say that we have preserved a film, we are saying that we have taken steps to protect the integrity and accessibility of the images contained on the film. Preservation actions include storing a film properly in an inert can in cold storage, but they can also include copying the image from a deteriorated film base to a stable one. Successful preservation means that the image we have now is the same as the image we had yesterday, last month, or even decades ago.

If we say we have restored a film, we are saying that we have enhanced the film for exhibition. When you watch a film that is scratched or covered with blotches from water damage, these imperfections may distract you from what is happening onscreen. In the digital realm, using specially designed software, we are able to alter the image at the pixel level so that many imperfections disappear. The image looks better, but it is no longer the same as in the original film.

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In the Lab, we use specially designed software to digitally restore films like The March (1963) and John Huston’s Let There Be Light (1946).

You may wonder why it matters that the image has changed if it looks better in the restored version. In the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab, we try to live by the “Rule of Reversibility”*, which states, “To the degree possible, a conservator should not undertake any procedure or treatment that he or she cannot later, if necessary, undo without harm to the [record].” Restoring a digital image in a way that permanently alters its pixels breaks this rule because these changes cannot be undone. There is no way to return the image to its original state.

When we restore a film in the Lab, we always make sure that it has been preserved first. The preserved copy of the film can then act as the best possible starting point for future restoration efforts. Because motion picture restoration software is rapidly improving, the restoration we are able to perform in 2024 will be better than the restoration we do in 2014. However, if we save only the restored version of a film today, the results we are able to achieve in ten years from that starting point will only add further distortions to the visual and audio information contained in the film. Digital restoration tools designed to work on film images may be confused by the digital manipulations of the first restoration. After subsequent “restorations”, the digital version becomes more and more difficult to connect to the image as it actually existed.

In the case of director James Blue’s The March, the Lab photochemically preserved the film before it was ever scanned for the restoration. The preserved record consists of reels of film protected in cold storage. The restored digital version is saved in addition to the preserved film, and is classified as a restoration that is a derivative of the preserved record. The restoration is made available on our YouTube page** and for theatrical projection. You can read more about the preservation and restoration of The March in our blog post “Protecting Your Past—It’s What We Do Here”.

*For more on the Rule of Reversibility and conservation philosophy, check out pages 336-340 in Preserving Archives and Manuscripts, Second Edition by NARA’s own Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler.

**Due to copyright restrictions, NARA was required to mute Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in our YouTube video, though the restored scenes are available for viewing.



This week in Universal News, it’s “another great day for the Irish” at the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade.  In attendance were Robert Kennedy, Mayor John Lindsay, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, and James Farley, Postmaster General under Franklin D. Roosevelt and one of the first successful Irish Catholic politicians in the United States.

From the release sheet:

ST. PATRICK’S DAY PARADE Braving snow and low temperatures, some 120 thousand march up Fifth Avenue in the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. 122,000 marchers trudge the frigid three-mile route while more thousands along the route cheered the hardy procession. 

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It was a snowy day in New York City: the parade commenced after cleanup of “near-blizzard conditions”.

You may view the complete newsreel, including stories about the war in Vietnam, flooding in Australia, a helicopter that can lift a bus, Fashion Week in Rhodesia, the NCAA tournament, a two-year old who is rescued after falling into a well, and others here.

About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:

The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.

In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).

While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in OPA, and on this playlist.



This week, part two of our history of Dr. Seuss’s service in Frank Capra’s Army Signal Corps unit during World War II. 

Last week we told you about Theodor Geisel’s work on the Private Snafu cartoon series, but his war-time service consisted of more than writing verse for delightful animated training films. One of Geisel’s most significant assignments was writing Your Job in Germany, an orientation film for United States Army personnel who would occupy Germany after the war was over. The project was assigned to Geisel in early 1944, over a year before the German surrender (also known as VE Day, May 8, 1945).

In Your Job in Germany, Theodor Geisel (himself a German-American) created a film that advised soldiers to remain suspicious of the German people. The film portrays warfare as part of the national culture of Germany and is a fascinating document of how the U.S. military planned to handle the occupation.

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The message of Your Job in Germany is anything but subtle. According to the film, Army personnel should be on guard at all times because all Germans are a “potential source of trouble”. Youth in particular are singled out as the nation’s next big threat. The job in Germany is to prevent “Chapter 4”, or the next war. As the narrator intones, “The German people are not our friends.”

In fact, in one of the harshest passages of Geisel’s script, viewers are advised that even Germans who appear to regret their nation’s actions during World War II should not be taken seriously:

“They cannot come back into the civilized fold just by sticking out their hand and saying ‘sorry’. Sorry? Not sorry they caused the war; they’re only sorry they lost it. That is the hand that heiled Hitler; that is the hand that dropped the bombs on defenseless Rotterdam, Brussels, Belgrade. Don’t clasp that hand. It’s not the kind of a hand you can clasp in friendship.”

Your Job in Germany uses every tool in the filmmaking kit to pound this lesson home. In order to establish warfare as an overall pattern and culture of the German people, a jarring contrast is made between Germany at peace and Germany at war. The build-up to war features quick cuts, tense music, and an insistent narrator, while Germany at peace is represented with a wistful tone, images of the countryside, folk dancing, dirndls and lederhosen. Viewers are advised not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

The non-fraternization policy introduced by Your Job in Germany was not without detractors. Geisel said himself that that was the one part of the film he did not support. The sheer impracticality of the idea led officials to ease restrictions and then completely eliminate the regulations within months of the end of the war.

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This letter, justifying the cost of an estimate for animation work, is from the production file for Your Job in Germany.

Perhaps the best stories of Geisel’s war-time service come from Geisel himself, as told to his biographers Judith and Neil Morgan in Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel (1995).

After making his most significant contributions to the war effort while safely stationed at “Fort Fox” in California, Geisel was placed closer to the action when he was sent to Europe to screen Your Job in Germany for the approval of top generals. Traveling around France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands in November of 1944 (six months before Germany’s official surrender), Geisel received a front-row seat to the vast destruction of the war, while bombings and artillery could still be heard from the front lines.

The situation got dicey when Geisel visited Bastogne, Belgium in December. The surprise German offensive that became known as the Battle of the Bulge erupted and Geisel was trapped ten miles behind enemy lines. It was three days before Geisel and his military police escort were rescued by the British.

Theodor Geisel’s final major assignment, in the summer of 1945, was to create a film that would impress upon postwar soldiers the danger of another world war. For his story, Geisel used a concept he found in a science article in the New York Times: the idea that a single glass of water contains enough energy to obliterate half of the planet.

Geisel spent three months drafting the script and storyboard for the film, only to have it ordered destroyed when officials immediately deemed it a danger to national security. Geisel would not have known at the time, but his own story was too similar to the reality of the atomic bomb that was used on Japan. (Interestingly, a similar story is told about the Private Snafu short “Going Home”, which was never released the troops. You can view it here.)

Even though Geisel’s biography reported that all records were destroyed, I had hoped there would be some shred of evidence at the National Archives—perhaps just a memo assigning the film to Theodor Geisel, or a mention of the project being cancelled. I asked archivist Patrick Osborn to look around, and despite his best efforts, he could turn nothing up. His conclusion was that it was likely we were searching for a needle in a haystack, but without the needle. (If anyone out there is inclined to take on a mission that is nearly assured to result in failure, please let me know if you find anything!)

Theodor Geisel completed his Army service January 27, 1946, having attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. It would not, however, be the last he would see of his projects for the Army. Warner Brothers’ version of Your Job in Germany was released in 1946 as Hitler Lives and won that year’s Academy Award for best documentary short. The following year, Geisel adapted Your Job in Japan for RKO into a feature-length documentary, Design for Death, that won the 1947 Academy Award.

As we all know, Theodor Geisel did not stay in the business of making films in Hollywood for long. Over the next decade, using his penname Dr. Seuss, he would establish himself as one of the most important authors of children’s books in America.

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