Best Documentary Movies of 1941
The Reluctant Dragon
Humorist Robert Benchley attempts to find Walt Disney to ask him to adapt a short story about a gentle dragon who would rather recite poetry than be ferocious. Along the way, he is given a tour of Walt Disney Studios, and learns about the animation process.
Kukan: The Battle Cry of China
Rey Scott received an Honorary Academy Award for this documentary "For his extraordinary achievement in producing Kukan, the film record of China's struggle, including its photography with a 16mm camera under the most difficult and dangerous conditions."
Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler In Action
Chronicles combat action of Hitler's elite bodyguard regiment from 1940 to 1941. From Rotterdam to Greece, German frontline cameramen captured footage of early victorious campaigns. Scenes of camp life and ceremonies convey an impression of the comradeship, pride, and elan of this mighty military formation.
When the Pie Was Opened
Surrealism, avant-garde sound montage, and irreverent wit might be the last thing you'd expect from a government-sponsored film about wartime cookery. But director, artist, animator and all-round firework of a man Len Lye specialised in the unexpected. A simple tale of a mother cheering up her daughter with a pie from her rationing-stricken pantry (interestingly the war is never directly referred to) is skilfully crafted into a work of real artistic depth, while retaining an unpretentious charm.
This Traveltalk series short spotlights the natural beauty of the Northwestern United States. Our first stop is Mount Saint Helen's and Spirit Lake in the state of Washington. As we admire the majesty of the scene, visitors are picnicking on the shore and canoeing on the lake. These scenes were filmed many years before the volcanic mountain erupted in 1980. We then take a boat trip on the southern shore of Alaska to see the Columbia Glacier.
Christmas Under Fire
How Britain coped with a Christmas during the war.
A Child Went Forth
A line from Whitman, "There was a child went forth every day," starts this film: a visit to a farm that's a summer camp and progressive school for exploration and discovery. The children, as young as two or three, have room and time to question, wonder, and learn. We build a wading pool, use tools, climb and swing, bath a dog - and learn to live together. There are spats, and little adult interference. A tree house sparks children's imagination. They visit a neighboring farm, play with the animals and ride on a tractor that's plowing. They eat and nap. There's story time, easels for art, and a lollipop. It's the perfect place for city children to be safe from bombardment, says the narrator.
Target for Tonight
Footage of the actual planning and execution of a bombing raid on Germany.
Main Street on the March!
This Best Short Subject Academy Award winning film begins in the spring of 1940, just before the Nazi occupation of the Benelux countries, and ends immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It chronicles how the people of "Main Street America", the country's military forces, and its industrial base were completely transformed when the decision was made to gear up for war. Original footage is interspersed with contemporary newsreels and stock footage.
Mediterranean Ports of Call
This Traveltalk short visits the ports of Algiers and Monaco in the Mediterranean.
The Forgotten Village
Documentary examining the conflicts between the coming of modernization and the traditional culture of a small Mexican village.
Using edited archive footage, mockery is made of Italy's dictator Benito Mussolini.
This Pete Smith Specialty short focuses on the young men who have signed up for the U.S. Army. The film uses the analogy of the speed, accuracy, and teamwork of sports and how these qualities are translated into the weapons training of American soldiers. We watch target practice by Army personnel with shoulder weapons, mortars, and various artillery pieces.
The Inside Passage
This Traveltalk series short looks at what was then the Alaska Territory, which according to the film, was being looked at as a potential home to millions of refugees from World War II.
The people of Britain resist the German air force and navy with help from North America.
A Place to Live
Inner city squalor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the subject of this documentary, which focuses on a child returning from school to his home, a cramped and squalid apartment in a rat-infested slum neighborhood.
Women in Defense
Short documentary extolling the virtues and necessity for women to participate in America's preparation for war, showing women working in scientific, industrial, and voluntary-services activities.
Glimpses of Florida
This Traveltalk series entry takes the viewer to a number of locations throughout the state of Florida.
You Can't Fool a Camera
This short starts out as a documentary. In a dramatization, Eadward Muybridge's photographic experiments prove that when a horse gallops, there are times when all four of the animal's feet are off the ground. We are then brought to the present, where MGM directors and their cinematographers are shown working on current productions. The film closes with closeups of the studio's major stars and a tribute to the studio's actors who have joined the armed forces.
More About Nostradamus
This short film portrays Nostradamus as having predicted the horrors of WWI and Hitler's rise to power, as well as the eventual triumph of "the daughter of the English Isles" against these forces. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject, One-Reel.
Polo with the Stars
A short in the WB Hollywood Novelty series (production number 7301) about the training of polo ponies. Buddy Rogers buys one of the ponies in training, and later uses him in a match where Jack Holt and Joe E. Brown are among the players. Edward G. Robinson and Jack Oakie are among the spectators who see Joe. E. Brown knock in the winning score.
Bomber: A Defense Report on Film
Documentary short demonstrating the process of building a medium bomber for the United States Army Air Corps.
Forty Boys and a Song
Forty Boys and a Song is a 1941 short documentary film directed by Irving Allen. The film is about the Robert Mitchell Boy Choir, consisting entirely of boys aged 8 to 14. The choir, run by organist Robert Mitchell, appeared in Hollywood productions for over thirty years. Accordingly, the boys were recruited to go to a special school where they would go through regular classroom instruction until 1 PM, after which they'd do choir practice. The kids are also shown performing in a church on Sunday as well as camping, as they are all part of the same Boy Scouts troop. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject, One-Reel.
Kings of the Turf
Kings of the Turf is a 1941 American short documentary film about horse racing, directed by Del Frazier. This entry in The Sports Parade series shows us how Mortimer, a Standardbred horse, is trained for harness racing. It was nominated for an Academy Award at the 14th Academy Awards for Best Short Subject.
Steel Goes to Sea
A British documentary depicting the manufacture of a ship, demonstrating the moulding and the hammering of the steel and the gradual creation of the vessel.
This Is England
Edward R. Murrow narrates Humphrey Jennings' short documentary about life in England during wartime.
A Letter from Home
1941 Oscar nominated short documentary
Documentary about an average day during the Blitz.
Meet the Stars #8: Stars Past and Present
Stars past and present gather to take part in the ceremonies at the dedication of Republic's new sound stage to the memory of Mabel Normand.
Yosemite the Magnificent
This Traveltalk series short celebrates the beauty of Yosemite National Park. Besides the majestic mountains, we see Bridal Veil Falls and a giant sequoia with a road cut through its trunk. Tourist activities, including horseback riding and fishing, are also highlighted.
Compilation of footage from three Frank Buck films about his adventures capturing animals for the world's zoos: "Bring 'Em Back Alive" (1933); "Wild Cargo" (1934); and "Fang And Claw" (1935).
This documentary follows painter A.Y. Jackson on his canoe trips and on foot to the northern wilderness of Canada in autumn. This leading member of the Group of Seven discusses his approach to his subject matter and shows some of his paintings.
Tins for India
The manufacture of kerosene tins in an Indian factory.
More Dangerous Than Dynamite
A short film warning the unaware housewife of the dangers of “dry cleaning” with gasoline at home.
Five and Under
Childcare for working women during the Second World War.
Willie and the Mouse
John Nesbitt's "Passing Parade" purports to show how the behavior of mice can be studied in relation to the interaction of school children.
This Traveltalk series short introduces the viewer to Alaska.
This Traveltalk series short highlights such Maryland destinations as Baltimore, Johns Hopkins, Annapolis, and Fort McHenry.
Safeguarding Military Information
World War II propaganda short which focuses on the dangers of inadvertent dispersal of military information.
Lions on the Loose
In this Pete Smith Specialty short, two lion cubs escape from the zoo and go on an adventure.
Glimpses of Kentucky
This Traveltalk series short visit to Kentucky starts with a view of the Cumberland River, which flows for about 700 miles through the state. The first stop is Old Fort Harrod State Park, which has a replica of the original fort, the first permanent white settlement in the state. We then visit the grave sites of two of Kentucky's favorite sons, Henry Clay in Lexington and Daniel Boone in Frankfort. At My Old Kentucky Home State Park, we see the mansion and grounds that inspired composer Stephen Foster to write the song most associated with the state. We then visit three horse farms in the area of Lexington, the state's horse racing capital: Spindletop Farm; Faraway Farm, where we are introduced to Man o' War, the greatest racehorse of the 20th century; and Elmendorf Farm, where Man o' War's sire and dam, Fair Play and Mahuba, are buried.
George Town: 'Pride of Penang'
Also known as Prince of Wales Island, Penang is a British colony located off the west coast of the Malay peninsula. As it is an island, many residents make their livelihood off the water, such as in fishing or port activities as it serves as both a vital link in the chain of British colonies and one of the major ports of entry into the Malay. Penang's major city and capital is George Town, with approximately 160,000 inhabitants, primarily Chinese, Malay or South Asian. The Chinese dominate life on the island, economically, culturally, and in sheer numbers. Because of the diverse racial mix, there are also an associated number of different religions, one which specifically worships the snake, the nocturnal and poisonous adder roaming freely through its temple at night. Also because of the diverse racial mix, there is also often a blending of cultures, such as in the cuisine of the island.
Haiti: 'Land of Dark Majesty'
In this FitzPatrick's Traveltalk short, a trip to Haiti serves as a portal into its history, mainly under 19th century ruler Henri Christophe.
Red Men on Parade
This Traveltalk series short visits a large intertribal meeting of American Indians from all over the western United States. Members of about 30 tribes attended the event, which lasts several days. Attendees perform various tribal ceremonies, demonstrate their skills at crafts (pottery, weaving, doll making), and participate in rodeo events.
Adventure in the Bronx
1941 Oscar nominated documentary
They Wear No Clothes!
A unique presentation that attempts to explain why people like to appear naked.
Alive in the Deep
Alive in the Deep is a 1941 American short documentary film directed by Stacy Woodard and Horace Woodard. It was nominated for an Academy Award at the 14th Academy Awards for Best Short Subject.
Canadian Army Newsreel
The Canadian Army Newsreels hold an important place in Canada's military history. The newsreels were produced by the Army for soldiers serving overseas. The front-line cameramen were soldiers first and took guns into battle along with their 35 mm movie cameras to record the Canadian Infantry in action. Their heroic efforts enabled them to scoop the international press on the major events in Europe, including the invasion of Sicily and the top story of the century - D-Day. 106 episodes with a total runtime of 1099 minutes.
An African in London
A Nigerian man is shown the famous sights of London by a friend.
Words for Battle
Poetry by Rudyard Kipling, John Milton, and William Blake, and excerpts from speeches by Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, all read by Laurence Olivier, illuminate documentary footage of England during its defense against the Nazi blitz in World War II. This short film serves as both propaganda and as a rallying cry to the British people.