1930’s Auto Assembly Line

1930’s assembly line at Dodge Main assembly plant: Hamtramck, Michigan

This film documents the engine assembly process at the old Dodge Main assembly plant in Hamtramck, Michigan in 1938. Shot by Academy award winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby (father of classic-rock icon David Crosby) the reel is an outtake from an uncompleted film treatment of documentarian Pare Lorentz’s radio broadcast “Ecce Homo” on unemployment during the Great Depression. Unsurprisingly, the exposure and focus control in this reel is excellent, especially given a challenging shooting location, using the slow film stocks of the era.

Lorentz was working for the short-lived U.S. Film Service, which became a victim of Congressional hostility to government film making during the Depression. The reels created for this production are now in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration. As the work product of a government employee, the film is ineligible for copyright protection as a “U.S. Government work”. Because of years of sub-standard budgets, little reel-level description and no shot logging exists of these films, making them accessible only to those willing to do a “deep dive” into the collections in the Archives. The production files associated with “Ecce Homo” are found with the Pare Lorentz papers at Columbia University.

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