Those of us who were fortunate enough to have grown up in the United States back in the 1930’s may have had no television, but we did have the corner movie theater, one in which new movies were shown each week. Along with our 25 cent movie tickets, we were also able to see news from around the country – and sometimes even from around the world – thanks to the numerous movie news films shown by such stalwart companies as The March of Time (a montly news “magazine”), Fox Movietone News, Universal News, Hearts News of the Day, Paramount News, and Pathé News.
The first video below is from a collection of special news film clips of strange airplanes produced by Fox’s Movietone News.
1895: Actually, this type of short news documentary – or ACTUALITY FILM – was first shown back in 1895. The Lumieres made the first news film in France on June 10, 1895, of a holiday excursion of the Congress of the National Union of French Photographic Societies. Their “news” film was then projected for the Congress two days later. The official birth of the public cinema was later that same year, on Dec. 28, 1895 at the Grand Cafe in Paris, when the Lumieres first projected a series of actualities and news films to a public audience.
1911: Meantime, in the U.S., the silent newsreel began with Pathe’s weekly releases in 1911. In the sound era (after 1926) there were 6 big newsreel companies: Fox Movietone, Paramount, Universal, Warner-Pathe (owned by RKO after 1931), and Hearst Metrotone (released by MGM, renamed News of the Day in 1936); also considered a newsreel was the March of Time monthly film “magazine.”
The Golden Age of the newsreel was 1933-1945, during the era of President Franklin Roosevelt that included the Great Depression and World War II. The slow decline of the newsreel was the direct consequence of the invention and then of the sale of home TV sets, which began soon after WWII. The last Newsreel was circulated in 1967.
Aviation itself captivated the attention of the general public during the 1920’s and ’30s, and Fox Movietone News followed developments in the field quite closely. Along the way, they covered stories of some unusual aircraft, some of which actually flew and others that never made it off the ground. The men behind them ranged from Jack Northrup, one of the great names in American aviation, to Roy Scroggs, a lone inventor in Eugene, Oregon. It was during this same era that the U.S. experienced its love affair with flying in general, and, in addition to those ubiquitous local Newsreels including the latest aviation events were the equally omnipresent Barnstormers, both of which did their vital part to keep that romance alive and well.
Here, below, is the 26 minute collection taken from Movietone’s films from the era 1921 -1934. Some of clips selected were silent, while others have sound.
And here, below, is the 14:34 minute long video entitled “Crazy Flying Machines and aircraft, a blast from the past.” Here we will see some odd aircraft not show in the Movietone collage.