Best Documentary Movies of 1931


The House That Shadows Built

6.8/10 IMDB

The House That Shadows Built (1931) is a short feature, roughly 48 minutes long, from Paramount Pictures made to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the studio's founding in 1912. It was a promotional film for exhibitors and never had a regular theatrical release and includes a brief history of Paramount, interviews with various actors, and clips from upcoming projects (some of which never came to fruition). The title comes from a biography of Paramount founder Adolph Zukor, The House That Shadows Built (1928), by William Henry Irwin.

Starring: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx, Ben Taggart, Charles Ray, Sarah Bernhardt, Lon Chaney, Miriam Hopkins, Sylvia Sidney ..
Release date: 1931-07-08
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : Intimate Interviews: Bela Lugosi

Intimate Interviews: Bela Lugosi

6.8/10 IMDB

Actor Bela Lugosi discusses his career, his social life, and his feelings about his most famous role, Count Dracula.

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Dorothy West ..
Directed by: Grace Elliott
Release date: 1931-11-26
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : Portrait of a Young Man in Three Movements

Portrait of a Young Man in Three Movements

6.6/10 IMDB

This is a non-narrative film, comprised of shots that "portray a certain young man in the terms of the things that he likes", such as the flow of the tide on a seashore, the motion of finely-tuned machinery, and sunlight shining through the fronds of a palm.

Directed by: Henwar Rodakiewicz
Release date: 1931-04-15
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : A Bronx Morning

A Bronx Morning

6.4/10 IMDB

Arrival in the Bronx is shown with a view from an elevated train as it enters the city. Then follows a montage of sights from the Bronx. Many typical neighborhood activities are shown, along with scenes from many local businesses.

Directed by: Jay Leyda
Release date: 1931-11-21
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : How I Play Golf, by Bobby Jones No. 11: 'Practice Shots'

How I Play Golf, by Bobby Jones No. 11: 'Practice Shots'

5.7/10 IMDB

Golf expert Bobby Jones arrives on the golf course to join actors James Cagney, Anthony Bushell, Donald Cook, Evalyn Knapp, and Louise Fazenda in shooting a golf instruction film. Louise Fazenda however has no knowledge of golf and her ongoing commentary disrupts Jones's attempts to practice. While Cagney and Bushell hold Louise's mouth shut, Jones demonstrates his approach to golf. Later, upon arrival of director George Marshall, Louise is sent off "to practice" alone while the cast and crew go about shooting the film.

Starring: James Cagney, Louise Fazenda, Anthony Bushell, Evalyn Knapp, George Marshall, Bobby Jones, O.B. Keeler, Donald Cook, Percy Ikerd ..
Directed by: George Marshall
Release date: 1931-04-15
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : Industrial Britain

Industrial Britain

6.3/10 IMDB

Grierson set out to make "propaganda," and this film--with it's voice-over proclaiming the great value of the British industrial worker, without a hint of ambiguity or doubt--fits that category well. The authoritatarian narrator feels out-of-date and unsophisticated, but the footage is well shot and interesting, and the transparency of the propaganda aspect is almost a reflief at a time when so many films have hidden agendas.

Starring: Donald Calthrop ..
Directed by: Robert Flaherty
Release date: 1931-12-31
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : The Forgotten Frontier

The Forgotten Frontier

5.6/10 IMDB

The Forgotten Frontier (1931) is a documentary film about the Frontier Nursing Service, nurses on horseback, who traveled the back roads of the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States.

Starring: Mary Breckinridge ..
Directed by: Marvin Breckinridge
Release date: 1931-12-31

Intimate Interviews: James Cagney

6.6/10 IMDB

Dorothy West, an interviewer for the New York-based filmed interview series "Intimate Interviews" calls up rising screen star James Cagney and asks for an interview. He agrees and she comes to his house. Cagney and West sit down while she asks him questions about his early life and his career.

Starring: James Cagney, Dorothy West ..
Directed by: Grace Elliott
Release date: 1931-10-24
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : Round About Hollywood

Round About Hollywood

6.2/10 IMDB

This short travelogue depicts snippets of locations in Hollywood, California, most of them as seen from the streets. Considerable time is taken showing the kinds of architecture of private homes. There are images of various important buildings, and a depiction of the Hollywood Bowl. Finally, there is a sequence revolving around the premiere of the film “Dirigible” (1931) at the famed Chinese Theatre.

Starring: Frank Fay, Carl Laemmle, Gladys Lloyd, Bessie Love, Sally O'Neil, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Gloria Swanson ..
Release date: 1931-05-22
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : Around the World with Douglas Fairbanks

Around the World with Douglas Fairbanks

5.9/10 IMDB

With the advent of sound, the world's leading screen idol, Douglas Fairbanks, experienced a downturn in his fortunes. His thin, reedy voice was not suited to the talkies, his marriage to Mary Pickford was on the outs, and his son, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., had replaced him as a major box-office draw. Faced with the Hollywood equivalent of a mid-life crisis, Doug called up three of his best friends - director Victor Fleming, cinematographer Henry Sharp, and production manager Charles Lewis - and took them on a six-month tour of Asia, ostensibly to shoot a travelogue for United Artists (of which Fairbanks was still a major shareholder.) Their first stop is Honolulu, followed in quick succession by Japan, China, Peking, Hong Kong, Indochina, the Philippines, Siam, and India. Fairbanks and company spend time at such noteworthy spots as the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, the Summer Palace and the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum.

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Victor Fleming, Duke Kahanamoku, Sôjin Kamiyama, Emilio Aguinaldo, Sessue Hayakawa, Charles Lewis, Henry Sharp ..
Directed by: Victor Fleming, Douglas Fairbanks
Release date: 1931-11-19

Little Journeys to Great Masters

6.0/10 IMDB

This short film provides a glimpse at famous art galleries of Rome, Florence, and the Vatican.

Directed by: E.M. Newman
Release date: 1931-08-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : Wrestling Swordfish

Wrestling Swordfish

4.9/10 IMDB

Wrestling Swordfish is a 1931 American short adventure film produced by Mack Sennett. In 1932, it won an Oscar for Best Short Subject (Novelty) at the 5th Academy Awards.

Release date: 1931-11-08
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : Screen Snapshots (Series 10, No. 8)

Screen Snapshots (Series 10, No. 8)

5.8/10 IMDB

Pola Negri, Bebe Daniels, Mitzi Green, Polly Moran, Mack Sennett and Marjorie Beebe are seen relaxing at Palm Springs, a California winter resort; Barbara Stanwyck and Ricardo Cortez play golf; other celebrities are shown in Malibu Beach.

Starring: Harriet Parsons, George Bancroft, Marjorie Beebe, Joe E. Brown, June Clyde, Ricardo Cortez, Bebe Daniels, Mitzi Green, James Hall, Neil Hamilton ..
Directed by: Ralph Staub
Release date: 1931-06-01

Believe It or Not (Second Series) #2

5.5/10 IMDB

Ripley shows an aged Japanese statesman, a strange fish with legs, the 'Rubaiyat' in a finger ring, how a house of cards is torn up, and a giant typewriter in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Starring: Robert L. Ripley ..
Release date: 1931-10-24

Believe It or Not (Second Series) #3

5.5/10 IMDB

This entry in the series crisscrosses America to find various curiosities. Among them are a church in Nebraska made of bales of hay; a duck with four legs that lives with its owner in Flint, Michigan; a 128-year-old former slave who lives in Holly Springs, Mississippi, with her 100-year-old daughter; and, in a cemetery in Mayfield, Kentucky, a family plot wherein the deceased members are memorialized with life-size statues, including the patriarch's horse and other family pets.

Starring: Robert L. Ripley, Minerva Stone, Laura Stone, Elizabeth Davis ..
Release date: 1931-11-21

Believe It or Not (Second Series) #1

5.6/10 IMDB

This first entry in the "Believe It Or Not" series of shorts visits northern Africa. Included are a look at the Tuareg people of the Sahara Desert, a waterfall whose under-surface builds up because of lime deposits, a clock that strikes 13, and the Tree of Abraham, estimated to be 3500 years old

Starring: Robert L. Ripley ..
Release date: 1931-09-26
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : Intimate Interviews: Walter Huston

Intimate Interviews: Walter Huston

5.5/10 IMDB

On of a series of short subjects created for movie theaters in the 1930s, each an interview with a popular actor of the time.

Starring: Walter Huston, Dorothy West ..
Directed by: Grace Elliott
Release date: 1931-12-31

Wild and Woolly

5.1/10 IMDB

This Sports Champions entry visits a rodeo and highlights the three main events: bronco busting, bull riding, and bull-dogging steers.

Starring: Pete Smith, Pete Smith ..
Directed by: Charles Dorian
Release date: 1931-11-07

Europa Radio

0.0/10 IMDB

Commissioned by Philips, Europa Radio celebrates the company’s experimental PCJJ shortwave radio station in Eindhoven that went on air in 1927 and broadcasted to Europe as well as the rest of the world in various languages. Hans Richter’s film covers one day from morning to night, showing the range and scope of the daily radio programs – from stock market news and sports events to live concerts and a speech by Albert Einstein. (via:

Directed by: Hans Richter
Release date: 1931-12-31

She Goes to Vassar

0.0/10 IMDB

This silent film follows a freshman through the course of her first year at the college

Starring: Shirley Ewald, Katharine Ziegler, Katherine McLean ..
Directed by: Marvin Breckinridge
Release date: 1931-12-19

Ostend, Queen of Seaside Resorts

0.0/10 IMDB

This montage film is composed of extracts from 35 reports filmed by Storck in 1930 in his capacity as official 'cinegraphiste' of the city of Ostend. A film about pleasure in general and the particular pleasure of being from Ostend, by day and night a city of parties and beaches, of sport and games.

Directed by: Henri Storck
Release date: 1931-12-31


0.0/10 IMDB

The concept of machine-made knit was known as early as the 1850s, but it was only during the 1920s that the quality of the material had improved. When the plant known as "Atlas" was introduced in 1931, the shop windows drew a lot of attention, and Aho & Soldan was ordered to make a promotional film. In this well-paced film, we see the jersey production step by step.

Directed by: Heikki Aho, Björn Soldan
Release date: 1931-12-31

Voice of Hollywood (Series 2, No. 3)

0.0/10 IMDB

Rare footage of Jean Harlow and Bela Lugosi discussing Dracula, as well as Walter Huston performing a musical number. It exists solely in fragmentary form.

Starring: Jean Harlow, Bela Lugosi, Walter Huston ..
Release date: 1931-01-01

Declaration of the Poll at Chertsey Town Hall

0.0/10 IMDB

This handsome local newsreel is an accomplished and charming record of Chertsey crowds gathering for the announcement of the 1931 election result - where National Government candidate Archibald Boyd-Carpenter wins a huge victory. With the occasion so well attended, it's no surprise that the camera focuses on the spectacle of the town's packed streets: almost every shot is crammed with local faces. The film was probably commissioned by local cinema director Clifford Spain, who produced and edited a number of local films to support his programmes at the Capitol cinema in Walton-on-Thames.

Release date: 1931-12-31
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : Dream Flowers

Dream Flowers

0.0/10 IMDB

The poppy flower in its psychedelic glory.

Release date: 1931-12-31

Stars of Yesterday

0.0/10 IMDB

Stars of Yesterday documentary film.

Starring: Gilbert M. Anderson, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Theda Bara, Sarah Bernhardt, Betty Blythe, Mary Fuller, Texas Guinan, Mildred Harris, William S. Hart, Helen Holmes ..
Release date: 1931-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1931 : Land of the Maharajahs

Land of the Maharajahs

0.0/10 IMDB

This travel film takes the viewer to the northern part of Rajasthan. After a quick day tour in New Delhi and its surroundings we visit the magnificently painted havelis of Shekhawati, in Jhunjhunu, Mandawa and Fatehpur, an area that used to be one of the most prosperous parts of India. From there we visit Bikaner with its impressive fort, maybe the most beautiful in Rajasthan, and the city's Jain temples ending the tour with remarkable traditional music and dance in Kuri village right outside of Jaisalmer.

Starring: James A. FitzPatrick ..
Release date: 1931-08-16

Bear Festival in Chikabumi near Asahikawa-city

0.0/10 IMDB

Documents the most important ceremony of the Ainu people of northern Japan. For both the Ainu – and the peoples of the Amur river area on the mainland – the bear is an important spirit ancestor, and the annual ceremonial year used to revolve around ceremonies of the bear cult, where a bear is ritually killed and its spirit honoured. Also documented are aspects of Ainu daily life in the 1930s: houses, boats, ornate swords, religious artifacts, and the elaborately tattooed mouths of the older women. There are two shortened versions (28 and later 25 minutes) of this documentary edited in the 1960s. Although shorter, these versions include some new images that Munro had not sent to England.

Directed by: Neil G Munro
Release date: 1931-11-12

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