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In this story from Universal News, swimsuit-clad women participate in a pie-baking contest on the beach. While there is not much more to be said about the story itself, it is a classic example of the “Bathing Beauties” that appear in the Universal newsreels throughout the 1930s.

The original release sheet reads:

Bathing Beauties in a pie-baking contest.

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The contestants remove their pies from woodstoves.

You may view the rest of the reel, which also includes stories about a swordfish caught with a rod and line, and an anti-skid device for cars, here. The soundtrack for this reel no longer exists.

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.



Sometimes we come across government films that are so well-produced and visually appealing that it stands to reason that they must also have an effective message. Sometimes that’s just not the case. Curious Alice is one such film. Weekend with a Superman is another.

Produced in 1975, “Weekend with a Superman” was part of the Army’s “Our Moral Heritage Series.”  The theme of the film is how boring life can be when leisure time is not put to good use. “Weekend with a Superman” begins more superfly than superman in a scene where Lem Chopper, depicted as a Shaft-like private investigator, fights a number of stereotypical 1970s villains. The plot quickly shifts to the interaction between George, a soldier in the army, and Chopper, George’s wealthy but superficial cousin, as they spend the weekend together at his cousin’s bachelor pad and then his beach house.

Here’s what the production file has to say about why the film production was necessary:

SupermanPlanNoteWe’re not totally sure what that means, either. The film is a lot of fun, however, and can be enjoyed without needing to know exactly what purpose it served.

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Vaseline on the lens and the “too colorful and extreme garb so prevalent today”* are hallmarks of this take on 1970s blaxploitation films.

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George’s cousin, Detective Lem Chopper is like “James Bond, Superfly and the Dirty Dozen all rolled into one–only he ain’t no actor, he’s the Real Thing!”

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Lem Chopper has all the latest gadgets, including an expensive camera and a remote control for his TV, but he lacks depth of character.

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“Sometimes you gotta find out for yourself that what you got is a lot better than what you think you want. Here I am missing the things that I would be doing I wasn’t havin this big, this big swingin weekend.”-  George at the beach after having a boring weekend with his cousin.

 

*Quote from note in script.



Fifty years ago, in what came to be known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, North Vietnamese patrol boats attacked the U.S.S. Maddox. The events led to Congress passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed the president to increase U.S. involvement in Vietnam without Congressional approval. In this week’s Universal newsreel, the story, including President Johnson’s “Midnight Address” to the nation, takes up the entire six minute run time. You can find out more about the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which is currently on display at the National Archives, in this Prologue post. More documents related to the incident are featured at the Today’s Document Tumblr.

The original release sheet reads:

UNITED STATES BOLSTERS FORCES PLANES AND MEN RUSHED TO ASIA Swift and sure has been U.S. retaliation for Communist PT-boat attacks on the high seas. The “Maddox” and the “C. Turner Joy” were attacked while patrolling international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin off north Viet Nam. War planes from two carriers avenged the unwarranted Red assault with 64 sorties against North Vietnam PT bases. Twenty-five boats – more than half the fleet – were destroyed and oil reserves badly damaged. President Lyndon Johnson went before the people to announce the U.S. action and Ambassador Adlai Stevenson reported to the United Nations. Meanwhile, a massive U.S. buildup is underway in Southeast Asia as people of all political faiths rally behind the President in this crisis.

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President Lyndon Baines Johnson speaks about the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in a “Midnight Address” to the nation.

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.



I have one great party trick. Anytime someone asks me if I’ve ever come across something really cool while working in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, I tell them about the time we had what looked like footage of a Boy Scout camp and then the Boy Scouts raised a Nazi flag along with the red, white, and blue. Without fail, I get the attention of anyone in within earshot. Then, I tell the assembled crowd that in the late 1930s the East Coast was home to many summer camps for the junior Nazis of America and the National Archives holds the film evidence. They might have been hoping that I would tell them about footage of the Roswell aliens, but the reaction to “American Nazi summer camps” is just about the same.

In Volks-Deutsche Jungen in U.S.A. (German Youth in the U.S.A) you’ll see what first appears to be an unremarkable story of a boys’ summer camp. The film starts with the camp under construction and excited children piling onto chartered buses to make the journey from New York City to Windham, New York in the summer of 1937. The boys pitch tents, unload crates of baked beans, and perform physical fitness drills. If you pay close attention, you might notice that some of the boys are wearing shorts bearing the single lightning bolt insignia that marked the younger contingent of the Hitler Youth, but it’s not until the “Flaggenappell” (flag roll call) at 13:47 that the affiliation becomes clear.

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That moment when you realize those aren’t Boy Scouts…

After researching what we called the “Nazi Boy Scout” film, I was able to find out a bit about these American Hitler Youth. First, they were most certainly not Boy Scouts. The camp the boys and young men in this film attended was operated by the Deutsche-Amerikanische Berufsgemeinschaft (DAB), more commonly known as the German-American Vocational League or the German-American Bund. The DAB, which came to include more than 70 local chapters, was founded in 1936 to promote Germany and the Nazi party in America. The most well-known of the organization’s activities was the 1939 pro-Nazi rally held at Madison Square Garden that drew a reported 20,000 attendees.

Less well-known is that the DAB also operated as somewhat of a cultural indoctrination organization for German-American children, with activities that are depicted in several of the films we hold. The summer camps, complete with the official uniforms and banners of the Hitler Youth, might be the most visual and chilling example of the DAB’s attempts to instill Nazi sympathies in German-American children. Another film, intended to encourage boys to attend the camp, includes a perhaps unintentionally ominous intertitle that translates to “German boy you also belong to us.” Even though it happened more than 75 years ago, it’s unsettling to see American children raise a Nazi flag and know that it occurred just 150 miles outside New York City.

Since these films were the property of an independent organization, you might wonder how they ended up at the National Archives. The sequence of events that led to the film coming to the Motion Picture Preservation Lab began when the U.S. government searched the DAB’s national headquarters on January 5th 1942. Under Federal Grand Jury Subpoena, agents seized scores of 16mm films and sound recordings that documented the activities of the DAB. The audiovisual material comprised what was labeled “EXHIBIT 147” in the case against the DAB’s un-American activities. These films and sound recordings are held at the National Archives as records of that investigation. An archivist discovered them in the textual holdings in the late 1980s and transferred to the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Branch at that time.

A handful of the DAB films came to the lab for preservation in 2006, which is when I first encountered them. As you can probably tell from the video, Volks-Deutsche Jungen in U.S.A. is in rather rough shape. Excessive projection (probably while the film was actively used by the DAB) caused heavy scratches on the film, while time led to physical and chemical deterioration. We copied the reels onto new film stock to ensure that the images would be preserved into the future.

If you want to see more films of the DAB youth camps, we also transferred a couple of reels to show what the girls were up to. There aren’t any swastikas, but small German dogs abound.

Have you been surprised by something you found at the Archives? Let us know in the comments!

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On July 25, 1909, Louis Bleriot became the first man to fly over the English Channel. In 1959, the flight was commemorated with the first crossing by hovercraft. Taking a hovercraft between England and France was a reality for commercial passengers between 1968 and 2000, when a commercial hovercraft service offered transportation across the English Channel.

From the release sheet: 

HOVERCRAFT SKIMS CHANNEL: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the first flight across the English Channel, Britain’s saucer-shaped “Hovercraft” skims from Calais to Dover, only inches above the surface.

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A hovercraft is prepared for its first flight across the English Channel.

You may view the complete reel, including stories about President Nixon’s visit to the U.S.S.R., elections in the new state of Hawaii, the annual wild horse round-up on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, 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.

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