Madmen for Ike!

Eisenhower Answers America! The first Presidential campaign TV ads.

Ike seems like an unlikely TV pioneer, but this former soldier had a hunch that TV would be an important feature of modern political campaigns. Dwight David Eisenhower’s 1952 Presidential election campaign hired Rosser Reeves, a Madison Avenue advertising maven, to produce these groundbreaking television spots. The pitch’s specific approach: a candidate addressing voter concerns directly in a (studio simulated) one-on-one setting. The voter “interviewing” the candidate approach lives on in today’s TV town halls, where candidates come face to face with live voters’ everyday concerns.

This particular TV commercial is well-known and has been written about extensively, but the vast majority of historical moving image content at the National Archives and its’ Presidential Libraries remains under-described and inaccessible to all save those willing and able to conduct research in person. Please remember: “searching” does not equal “researching”. Don’t depend on an production assistant or intern to find the images that add polish and impact to your production! Hire an archival media professional!

An “outtake” for a reason

Universal Newsreel outtake footage of a Harry S Truman re-election campaign speech at Charleston, West Virginia from October 1, 1948

Today’s feature is especially topical while those of us in the United States are in the heat of the Campaign 2020. This film, an outtake, is part of the Universal Newsreel film collection, which was donated in its entirety to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in 1977. The deed-of-gift included Universal’s copyrights to this unique (and voluminous!) collection.

This film illustrates perfectly why some outtake content remains just that: outtakes. The image bounces slowly, probably due to a poor transfer, a camera malfunction, or film misthread. The speech itself is classic Truman populism, an excellent illustration of how he came from behind to win re-election in 1948. In normal times, a film copy would likely be available in the research room, but thanks to the COVID19 pandemic, those research rooms have been closed for six months. In the meanwhile, this copy represents this particular newsreel assignment.

This content is not described or identified in the National Archives On-line Catalog. It was not identifiable to anyone not able to physically access a card catalog in the National Archives Research Room in College Park, MD. “Searching” is not researching; don’t depend on a Google search conducted by an intern or production assistant to find you the exact images and sounds you need to add impact and polish to your production. Hire a professional archival media researcher!

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.

Don’t depend on a production assistant or intern to locate the essential footage or images to tell the story of your production or publication. Hire an archival media professional!

Rush Hour 1938!

1938 Detroit – shift change at Dodge Assembly plant

This roll illustrates a shift change at the Dodge assembly plant in Detroit in 1938. This film, shot by Academy Award winning documentary film director Pare Lorentz and Academy award winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby, was part of an uncompleted feature length docu-fiction film on unemployment produced for the short-lived “U.S. Film Agency”. The film, based on a radio documentary, was originally titled “Ecce Homo” was later named more prosaically as “Name, Age and Occupation”. The filmmakers wanted to emphasize that the unparalleled productivity of U.S. industry should make unemployment a thing of the past.

The film is un-described at the roll level in the National Archives Catalog and therefore inaccessible to all but those prepared for a “deep dive” into the film collections at the National Archives at College Park. I was able to identify the location based on advertising on one of the commuter buses and street signs. I was able to pinpoint the site as a street corner across from the Dodge plant (later the site of GM’s Hamtramck Assembly Plant) using Google Maps. Also depicted is a nearby suburb of Detroit.

Web search is not the same as research. Don’t depend on a production assistant or intern to locate the exact footage or stills that will add impact to your production or project. Hire an professional archival media researcher!

Yalta Conference outtakes

British newsreel outtakes

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Yalta Conference, I’m sharing these outtakes of British newsreel coverage of the summit meeting between President Franklin Roosevelt, Soviet leader Josef Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Under the laws existing at the time, copyright in these materials lapsed in the United Kingdom around 1995. There is no evidence that this film was ever registered for copyright in the United States.

This video came from a U.S. Government agency collection in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration. The series is described in general terms in the Archives on-line catalog, but no description of the footage is included, making specific films essentially inaccessible. Only a knowledgeable free-lance archival media researcher working out of the National Archives research room could find and identify this footage. Don’t depend on a production assistant or intern to find the perfect footage for your next production! A professional researcher adds value!