Best Documentary Movies of 1949
Across Arctic Ungava
This documentary follows four scientists and their Native guides into the unmapped wilderness of the Ungava Peninsula, in northern Quebec. Crossing this territory in large canoes, they collect samples of Arctic flora and rocks, take readings of soil temperature and record the correct bearings for rivers and lakes en route. The keen excitement of opening a new chapter in Canadian exploration is evident throughout the film.
Meditation on Violence
Chao-Li Chi shadow boxes indoors and practices with a sword outdoors. Theoretically, the film describes in a single continuous movement three degrees of traditional Chinese boxing, Wu-tang, Shao-lin, and Shao-lin with a sword. A long sequence of the ballet-like, sinuous Wu-tang becomes the more erratic Shao-lin; in the middle, there is an abrupt change to leaping sword movements, in the center of which, at the apogee of the leap, there is a long held freeze-frame.
Let's Go to the Movies
What goes in to the phrase, "Let's go to the movies"? An off-screen narrator takes us back to the earliest days of film: clips remind us of early stars and blockbusters. He explains how sound came to motion pictures: we see Jolson singing "Mammy" and John Barrymore playing Richard III. Next is a salute to the 30,000 people working in Hollywood at 272 different crafts. A montage shows us some of those jobs. It ends with a look at the physical production of celluloid (cotton and silver) and the many aspects of movie making. The narrator promises more short films about each step in production.
City of Children
This final John Nesbitt's Passing Parade series short looks at a community, Mooseheart, in Illinois that orphaned children call home.
So Much for So Little
Little Johnny Jones, to be born in the next year, is shown growing to a ripe, healthy old age, thanks to the efforts of his local public health officers. But without them, he might be one of the 5% or so that dies in the first year. The price for the public health service: about 3 cents a week.
The Rising Tide
This film shows the growth of cooperatives in the Maritime provinces and how they brought new life and hope to poverty-stricken fishermen. The Rising Tide is a 1949 Canadian short documentary film directed by Jean Palardy. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
The film tells of the Armand Denis/Lewis Cotlow expedition that had the two men cover 22,000 miles through Tanganyika, Belgian Congo, and British East Africa. The high points of their ten-month trip are an impressive elephant hunt by the Pygmies of Belgian Congo, the crowning of King Mbofe Mabiashe and the capture of a rhino.
After several farmyard analogies featuring chicks and calves, the well-spoken narrator and director of the film, Winifred Holmes, considers the subject of girls and how they reach adulthood and readiness for the 'important job of motherhood.
Roller Derby Girl
Roller Derby Girl is 1949 short documentary directed by Justin Herman about how mid-twentieth century women made advances and careers in roller derby. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject, One-Reel.
Playlands of Michigan
This Traveltalk series short visits several popular vacation spots in Michigan. Among them are Saugatuck, which hosts a school for artists during the summer; Zeeland, where descendants of Dutch settlers perform traditional Dutch dances wearing wooden shoes; the Silver Lake sand dunes, where specially outfitted cars race; and Colon, "The Magic Capitol of the World", which hosts an annual gathering of magicians.
Glimpses of Old England
This Traveltalk series short focuses on the sights and culture that define "Old England". Included is a visit to the Cotswold Hills area, a ride on the Wye River, and visits to Tintern Abbey in Wales and Laycock Abbey in Wiltshire, England.
Heart to Heart
This Theatre of Life short focuses on heart disease, and how bad diet, lack of exercise, and the stress of fast-paced living contribute to the rising rates of heart disease and heart attacks.
Rites and operation of the circumcision of thirty Songhai children on the Niger. Material of this film has been used to make "Les Fils de l'Eau".
The Dim Little Island
Osbert Lancaster, James Fisher, John Ormston and Ralph Vaughn Williams meditate on the history and culture of England.
Alcohol and the Human Body
This educational short shows how alcohol is produced and its effect on the human body.
Mighty Manhattan, New York's Wonder City
This film visits many of the neighborhoods and landmarks on Manhattan Island and occasionally includes a history lesson. The neighborhoods include the Bowery, Chinatown, Herald Square, and Times Square. Some of the architectural highlights are the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, Temple Emanuel, the Central Park Zoo, and the Rockefeller Center complex. The film ends with a visit to a dining room in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where the Xavier Cugat Orchestra entertains.
Quebec in Summertime
This Traveltalk series short takes the viewer to Quebec, the city that was called the "New France".
In Old Amsterdam
This Traveltalks entry looks at the sights, sounds, people, and art masterpieces in the capital of the Netherlands.
Roaming Through Northern Ireland
A look primarily at the beauty of the countryside and seacoast, starting at Carrick-a-Rede Island then on to Enniskillen, the cathedral at Downpatrick, an appreciation of Medieval Irish craft and architecture, visits to a peat farm and the ruins of Castle Dunluce, and the pastoral beauty of County Down. There we visit the resort seacoast town of Bangor. It's on to Cushendun in County Antrim and finishing at the Giant's Causeway as we examine fascinating rock formations and the mysteries of creation.
A Wee Bit of Scotland
In this Traveltalk series short visit to Scotland, we visit several places with familiar names, including Inverness, capital of the ancient Pictish Kingdom; Loch Ness, home of the famous elusive monster; and Saint Andrews, the birthplace of golf.
Semi-documentary, focusing on the training young boys receive before they are sent down the mines on their first job.
Calling on Michigan
This Traveltalk series short begins with a look at Michigan's major educational institutions, which started as agricultural schools. We then visit the fish hatcheries at Grayling, which are used to keep the state's numerous lakes and rivers well stocked. After a short look at Detroit, the car capital of the world, we spend several minutes at Greenfield Village, founded in 1929 by automobile magnate Henry Ford. Included in the tour are churches, a clock tower, and the homes of several famous persons in American history. Although some of the structures are reproductions, many of them are the actual buildings they lived in.
Ontario: 'Land of Lakes'
This Traveltalk series short visit to the province of Ontario begins in Ottawa, Canada's capital, then proceeds to Algonquin Park, Toronto, and Niagara Falls.
From Liverpool to Stratford
This Traveltalk series short visits several points of interest in England, including the port of Liverpool, war destruction at Coventry, the historic Warwick Castle, and Stratford-on-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.
Educational short that details the inner workings of an ant hill and compares this 'ant city' with a human city.
It's in the Groove
A look at the rise of the record industry from its primitive beginnings to the unveiling of the formats that would revolutionize the world of popular music.
The Little Archer
Despite his tender age, four year old Melvin Beebe is an expert archer. At his family's farm on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, Melvin uses only props as target practice. These practices however are only a prelude to his first hunting experience in the forests around the farm one spring morning. The purpose is to bring home trophies to mount on his walls. The animals he encounters that day change the focus of what he ends up bringing home.
Airline Glamour Girls
This short follows a young woman who is training to be an airline stewardess at the McConnell Hostess School in Minneapolis, MN.
Speech: The Function of Gestures
George is a dealthly dull after-dinner speaker who thinks he's great because he keeps getting invited to speak, probably because of a severe shortage of speakers in his town. John, however, is invited to speak because he's genuinely interesting. The difference between the two? John uses gestures when he speaks, while George just stands there like a mannequin and drones on and on and on.
Ski in the Sky
Documentary about skiing in the Rockies. It shows: skiers coming out of a lodge; attaching seal fur skins to skis to give traction for climbing; protecting eyes with sunglasses and skin with face cream; skiers with their guide; two skiers risking their safety by skiing without a guide; the guide racing to stop the two skiers from skiing over a precipice; the two skiers joining the group; and the skiers arriving at a cabin for a rest.
This short film documentary features Shaw Desmond, founder of the International Institute for Psychical Research. Shaw relates several famous British hauntings.
Canadian Headlines of 1949
Growth in all aspects of Canadian life. Sequence on babies in maternity ward, immigrants arriving by ship, Newfoundland being welcomed into Canada. Governor General Alexander does the honors on Parliament Hill. Sequence on Birthday Celebrations: 200th in Halifax, 75th in Winnipeg, float parades and warships. Hotel Vancouver is shown being demolished. Ships are launched, the Avro jetliner takes to the air, the Toronto subway is begun and an atom smasher goes into operation in Montreal. In sports: largest crowd ever attends running of King's Plate in Toronto, Maple Leafs win Stanley Cup for third time, Allouettes defeat Calgary Stampeders. Sequence on Calgary Stampede. Shots of Miss Canada and Mr. Canada contests. Camera focuses on search for 6 year old boy; on the Noronic fire. Final sequence on election campaign and on Louis St-Laurent as Prime Minister.
Care of the Skin
Structure of the skin; good cleanliness habits; the proper way to wash; the correct use of soap.
Junior Rodeo Daredevils
Old-timer Billy Slater organizes a rodeo for kids.
Exercise and Health
Three problem-plagued teens are shown how to solve their physical and emotional problems by joining the Acrobatics Club and learning teamwork and "the right kind of exercise."
Are You a Good Citizen?
A group of local youngsters are angry that the vacant lot where they used to play baseball has been placed off limits to them by the city. A neighbor shows them how to go through the proper channels to get the city government to help them resolve their problem to the satisfaction of all concerned.
This classroom training film was designed to show the achievements of Roman culture in the areas of government, architecture, engineering, language and writing. It was aimed at intermediate and high-school students.
Kenji Comes Home
Kenji Comes Home is a 1949 documentary film produced by Paul F. Heard. Written and directed by Charles F. Schwep, it was filmed on location in Japan and employed native actors. The film is the story of Kenji, a repatriated prisoner of war in Japan, and his difficulties in settling down. He is torn between the glowing promises of communism and ideals of his girlfriend Aki's Christian religion. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
This year the Musica Viva Festival will feature content from the NFSA's Film Australia Collection to be screened in the Bang & Olufsen Salon throughout the festival in Sydney. This film Music Camp is one of those films. Directed by R. Maslyn Williams for the National Film Board in 1949. Each year the Melbourne Junior Symphony Concert Orchestra holds a summer camp organised by the National Fitness Council at Point Lonsdale Victoria, for three weeks it provides an opportunity for music students to continue their education over the holiday season.
Filming of actor Thorkild Roose in some of his greatest theatrical roles: as Delescluze in "The Defeat" (Nordahl Grieg) and as Cardinal Gonzaga de Castro in "The Cardinals' Dinner" (Julio Dantas). In addition, well-known actors such as Tove Maës, Johannes Meyer and Palle Huld are also seen.
A surprising film about the large number of inadequately addressed letters that the postal service receives every day. The film is an invitation to the audience to address letters correctly.
Behind the Big Top
The Wirth Brothers Circus, one of Australia’s largest and most successful, survived another 15 years after this film was made.
Glimpses of Gandhiji
This narrative in the form of photographs brings to the screen important scenes from the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Scene after scene flashes past, vividly recalling to mind his childhood, his student life in England, the launching of the satyagraha campaign in South Africa and subsequently in India, and his martyrdom in January 1948 when when a whole nation was plunged into grief.
In the estuaries and lagoons of the Northern Territory, freshwater and saltwater crocodile are hunted for their hides by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous hunters. This film shows Aboriginal people using age-old hunting techniques to land crocs either for food or for skins. The methods employed by the professional hunters, who earn as much as 3000 pounds during the season, are also depicted, followed by a brief look at how the hides are skinned and prepared before being transported to the leather factories of Sydney and Melbourne.
What is the Christmas stamp collection money used for? Vulnerable and especially needy children get the opportunity to come to the Christmas brand homes around Denmark. Not all children have it just as easy at home, the funds can be small and they can be very much left to themselves. Child life in the backyards is a condition for many. Many children need good care and fresh air after illness. The lucky ones will stay at a Christmas brand home. However, it can be difficult to say goodbye at Central Station. We follow the daily life at Lindersvold in Faxe, which has 80 children all year round, Fjordmark by Flensburg Fjord, Holbølls Minde by Svendborg, which has 60 smaller children, the Hobro home by Mariager Fjord, which is the newest and most modern, and the Christmas brand home in Juelsminde . The royal couple visit Hobro Christmas brand home.
Darwin: Doorway to Australia
Original archival synopsis: The Japanese bombed Darwin many times during World War II because it was strategically important target number one in their attack on the Australian mainland. Before the war, Darwin was little known except to the crews of pearling luggers and cattlemen. During the war it become an important air base which contributed much to the success of General MacArthur's island-hopping campaign against Japan. Today Darwin is an aerial port of call for all planes travelling either from Europe or the Far East to Australia. The Darwin touchdown is, in fact, for many travellers the first sight of the Australian continent. The film shows Darwin as it is today (1949), much ravaged by Japanese attack during World War II, but already showing signs of building activity and general recovery. The film indicates the general life of the town and also explains the plan which will make Darwin a model city of which Australia will be very proud.
Yours Is the Land
A film about conservation of the earth made in 1949 by the N.Y. Zoological Society.
Scientists Go to Antarctica to Study Weather
This black-and-white newsreel segment shows a team of scientists making their way to Heard Island in 1949 to relieve the previous year's team. The segment, entitled Scientists Go to Antarctica to Study Weather, opens with HMAS Labuan leaving Melbourne, followed by scenes of the voyage. As they near shore, Big Ben volcano comes into view. Stores for the team's 12-month stay are then brought on shore. After a sequence showing local fauna, humorously described by the commentator, the segment ends with the outgoing team briefing their replacements.
Tanglewood Music School and Music Festival
This video depicts Tanglewood in its very early years. It contains very rare footage of Serge Koussevitzky and Aaron Copland.
Saturday Night Square Dance
"Saturday Night Square Dance" was released in 1949 as a Soundie. Featured here are Jim Boyd and His Men of the West. Jim Boyd was the brother of Bill Boyd, well known for western swing music, and this film combines some western swing music with calls. The footage shows some fine examples, like the styling sometimes called the Abilene Lift.