Tanks for the Memories…

This film is notable because the narrator of this World War II era documentary short, produced for the U.S. Government’s Office of War Information, was the great Orson Welles, creator of “Citizen Kane” and “The Magnificent Ambersons”. The dramatic music and tempo are highly reminiscent of Hollywood’s “Golden Age”, as it should be, since droves of Hollywood production professionals and talent volunteered or were drafted, kickstarting the U.S. Government’s efforts to educate the public, and its own soldiers, about the war effort.

However, I’ve got mixed feelings about this one! I need to apologize for the poor video and audio quality of this screening reel. This was originally transferred to videotape 25 years ago and shows all the limitations of the technology of the time. I worry that sharing such screeners helps reinforce the expectation that archival film looks soft and low contrast, with lots of scratches. Reproduction from actual archival elements using a modern film scanner are usually contrasty and sharp, and lack the multiple scratches common to projection prints. Best of all, as a “U.S. Government work”, films like this are not subject to copyright, which means that documentary film producers can spend what they won’t need to clear rights on beautiful new transfers!

Flying Tigers!

From the National Archives’ Record Group 306 (The Records of the United States Information Agency), this footage was found in a collection called “Library Stock Shots”. Apparently no logging exists of the thousands of rolls in this collection. It includes pre-war footage of various domestic U.S. scenes, inherited from the wartime “Office of War Information”, as well as wartime footage from multiple sources, including the U.S. Armed Forces, Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union and Italy. These rolls may exist in multiple other collections and archives, but without detailed description, locating imagery is a matter of hard work, and sometimes, serendipity!

This particular roll contains footage of the “American Volunteer Group” operating out of Kunming, China. Note the distinctive “tiger teeth” livery on the aircraft and the lack of U.S. emblems on the uniforms of the volunteers. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the volunteers were folded back into the U.S. Army Air Forces, becoming known as the 23rd Fighter Group. Their commander, Capt. Claire Chennault, appears in the film.

Feel the burn!

Screenshot.mp4

General Leslie R. Groves, military chief of the Manhattan Project, examines a test tube of plutonium! This screenshot is from newsreel outtakes (originally on 35mm motion picture film) in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration.

This footage is not described in the National Archives catalog and isn’t locatable through Google. Don’t depend on an intern or production assistant to locate the footage that will add unique impact to your documentary film or other production. Consult a free-lance archival film research professional! hashtag#filmproduction hashtag#archivalresearch

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