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The Best Newsreels


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  • 3 weeks later...

The sad thing is, virtually all were badly stored, and in the end, outside of the really final days of them, few are complete. The way they would keep them was to file the segments only. this leads to losses all over the place. Because a segment, say, a shot of a Prime Minister. After it's representing a specific news item, it could possibly be re-used as a stock shot if a new story mentions him. Then it could happen again, say, in his obituary or in a documentary collage. Pretty soon, the segment is cut up, and eventually useless and discarded. I recall that after some films, especially silent ones, in one particular newsreel's lab, were considered so useless they would casually unspool the segments to get the reels they were stored on, the films tossed on the floor of the fireproof vault. (all was nitrate stock, of course)

Nitrate decomposition lead to the furnace for countless feet of newsreels. The Fox-Movietone library has a very healthy archive, but the segments would have to be matched up again to make a complete reel. UCLA has the Hearst archive now; that represents about 50 years worth of stuff. It too, is all in segments.

I would love to see old newsreels, they can be quite entertaining, as well as educational.

The holders of these archives though, routinely overprice use of their footage. That's why you never see any new footage in documentaries any more. Everyone relies on the Universal newsreel archive, which you can use free of charge. It was donated to the National Archives in Washington, DC. There's millions of feet of subjects going back to the First world war. Spoiler: virtually all the sound material up to the 1950's have NO SOUND TRACKS. They were inexplicably stored in a separate place, a lab that burned down, taking the tracks with them.

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