Best Documentary Movies of 1951
Day of the Fight
American short subject documentary film in black-and-white, which is notable as the first picture directed by Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick financed the film himself, and it is based on an earlier photo feature he had done as a photographer for Look magazine in 1949. 'Day of the Fight' shows Irish-American middleweight boxer Walter Cartier during the height of his career, on the day of a fight with black middleweight Bobby James, which took place on April 17, 1950.
Told with authenticity and perception, David looks back on the life of a school caretaker in a Welsh mining town, from the marriage and birth of his son to the trauma of a pit accident. David was the first film produced by the BFI, in 1951, and the Welsh selection for the same year’s Festival of Britain screenings in London.
Nature's Half Acre
The strange and wonderful world that lies beneath our feet, under leaf, log and rock, peopled by millions of weird and fascinating creatures. Released theatrically alongside Alice In Wonderland.
Two days in the life of priest Father Fred Stadtmuller whose New Mexico parish is so large he can only spread goodness and light among his flock with the aid of a mono-plane. The priestly pilot is seen dashing from one province to the next at the helm of his trusty Piper Club administering guidance (his plane, the Flying Padre) to unruly children, sermonizing at funerals and flying a sickly child and its mother to a hospital.
Notes on the Port of St. Francis
Experimental, impressionistic documentary of San Francisco with narration based on a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson and narrated by Vincent Price
Land of the Zuider Zee
This Traveltalks visit to Holland spotlights The Hague and two smaller tourist destinations. We learn that the economy of Holland, which for many centuries has been based on fishing and the growing of tulips, is slowly changing to an agricultural base.
The Singing Street
Short film documenting children's street games and songs in 1950s Edinburgh.
Glimpses of Argentina
This Traveltalk series short visit to Argentina includes a look at its capital Buenos Aires.
In this Pete Smith Specialty short, we see how real-life investigator Jo Goggin used a motion picture surveillance camera to gather evidence and disprove a fraudulent insurance claim.
This Is Korea!
John Ford's documentary about the early battles of the Korean War, shot in color.
Our Cities Must Fight
"Our Cities Must Fight" is a civil defense film that was produced for the U.S. government to illustrate the importance of not abandoning urban centers during an atomic bombing. The film cautions that doing so would make it easier for the invading "enemy."
World of Kids
World of Kids is a 1951 American short documentary film directed by Robert Youngson. In 1952, it won an Oscar for Best Short Subject at the 24th Academy Awards.
Of Men and Music
A documentary featuring musicians including Artur Rubinstein, Jan Peerce-Nadine Conner, and Jascha Heifetz.
Marriage Is a Partnership
Flashback on the problems, adjustments and transformations occurring in the first year of a couple's married life. Pretty surprising film coming from Coronet about the "honeymoon is over" drama that newlyweds face. The marriage between Dotty and Pete is pretty traditional--Dotty quits her job to be a homemaker once they are married--but some more modernistic ideas come out, such as the idea that the two newlyweds decide together how the money that Pete earns will be spent, and the small mentions of sex. (!!) The "educational collaborator" listed at the beginning, Lemo Rockwood, was a professor at Cornell University, and her marriage course advocated sexual frankness and pre-marital experimentation, so it's easy to see her stamp on this film.
To Be a Woman
Documentary arguing the case for equal pay for women. Women are seen employed in their homes, in factories, teaching, nursing, in politics and in the professions. There are also some newsreel shots of marching suffragettes.
Work in Progress
Replacing a century-old rail tunnel at Woodhead, co-ordinated road haulage services in Argyllshire, Whitemoor freight marshalling yeard, Bristol bus services and the Calais to Dover cross-channel ferry: these are the subjects of this early BTF production covering a world of transport co-ordination now largely vanished.
A documentary account of the five-week visit of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh to Canada and the United States in the fall of 1951. Stops on the royal tour include Québec City, the National War Memorial in Ottawa, the Trenton Air Force Base in Toronto, a performance of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Regina and visits to Calgary and Edmonton. The royal train crosses the Rockies and makes stops in several small towns. The royal couple boards HMCS Crusader in Vancouver and watches Native dances in Thunderbird Park, Victoria. They are then welcomed to the United States by President Truman. The remainder of the journey includes visits to Montreal, the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, a steel mill in Sydney, Nova Scotia and Portugal Cove, Newfoundland.
A short look at the world of artist Arthur Lismer.
The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Story
Dore Schary presents clips from upcoming Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films.
1951 behind the scenes featurette of the Walt Disney animated classic.
The Screen Director
A documentary short film depicting the work of the motion picture director. An anonymous director is shown preparing the various aspects of a film for production, meeting with the writer and producer, approving wardrobe and set design, rehearsing scenes with the actors and camera crew, shooting the scenes, watching dailies, working with the editor and composer, and attending the first preview. Then a number of real directors are shown in archive footage (as well as a predominance of staged 'archive' footage) working with actors and crew.
Springtime in the Netherlands
This Traveltalk short concentrates on Holland's historical relationship with its main industry: growing tulips. The country's windmills are also highlighted.
Jackson Pollock 51
The photography of German photographer Hans Namuth is largely credited for Pollock’s rise to fame, and as the painter gained a higher profile, along with Abstract Expressionism in general, Namuth returned to capture Pollock’s “action painting” on video for the short documentary below. In a cinematically brilliant move, Namuth asked Pollock to create a painting on glass, so that he could film underneath, giving the viewer the experience of actually being the canvas. Lacking a lighting crew, they shot in the cold Long Island expanse of grassland outside of Pollock’s home.
A Communications Primer
An early attempt to present communications theory, made to encourage the breaking down of barriers of thinking between disciplines and to discourage thinking of communications in a limited way. Music composed by Elmer Bernstein.
Danger Under the Sea
Danger Under the Sea is a 1951 short documentary directed by Jacques-Yves Cousteau: The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject, Two-Reel.
Glimpses of Morocco and Algiers
This FitzPatrick Traveltalk short visits the cities of Casablanca, Rabat, and Marrakesh in Morocco, as well as the city of Algiers in Algeria.
A Word for the Greeks
A visit to Athens, Greece and the island of Rhodes.
Frightening civil defense procedure film aimed at Cold War-era elementary school students.
With Pete Smith providing dry off-screen commentary, we watch some serious fishing: a marlin caught near Catalina, a hammerhead shark caught then wrestled in a small rowboat near Baja, the largest (721 pounds) great white shark caught to date in California waters, Chinook Indians catching salmon at Celilo Falls in Oregon - each with his designated place on the river where his ancestors stood, and, last, a crew on a boat off Mexico hoisting and hurling tuna using unbarbed hooks (baited only with a feather) as fast as they can as long as the school is there - backbreaking work - but a $25,000 catch.
Survival Under Atomic Attack
A Civil Defense film that focuses on what the average American can do to protect himself if caught out in the open or at home during a nuclear attack.
What to Do on a Date
A shy teen wants to ask out a girl on a date - but how can he know what she'd like to do, or what kind of activity would be best suited for getting to know her?
Ridin' the Rails
Ridin' the Rails is a 1951 short documentary film directed by Jack Eaton. This is a Grantland Rice Sportscope from Paramount about hobbyists building steam locomotives, scaled one inch to the foot, by members of the Southern California branch of the Live Steam Model Locomotives Club. The models are powerful enough for the hobbyists to ride over the expensive-and-expansive tracks they also build to scale. Many of these models are perfect working replicas of of the locomotives used on the United States railway system. This short features Walt Disney, one of the experts on model-train building, working on his scaled-down 'Diamond Slacker", and taking kids to ride on his elaborate miniature system. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject, One-Reel.
This James A. FitzPatrick's People on Parade series short takes the viewer to Alexandria, Egypt, with emphasis on the modern nature of the city.
An informative short about the importance of finance.
Toast to Our Brother
Short film documenting fraternity life at UCLA in the early 50's.
The Home Economics Story
This high-school educational film describes the benefits and opportunities available to young women who go to college and major in home economics. The film follows Kay, Helen, Louise, and Jean throughout their college years, as they take a variety of interesting and useful classes and eventually accept job offers in their chosen specialties. Nevertheless, the traditional middle-class ideals of marriage and stay-at-home motherhood are reinforced.
Mrs Cunliffe wins the North West Area Festival Fare cookery finals. Manchester
Can't find what you are looking for? All you have to do is ask. Such advice is not so straightforward when you can't speak the language. By 1951, Australian postwar migration programmes were geared to receiving large numbers of non-British migrants. Considerable efforts were made to overcome prejudice on the part of the predominantly British-derived community towards the newcomers. Double Trouble was an attempt to make the point with humour. Bob and Stan, two Aussie blokes, are magically transported to the streets of a foreign country, where their inability to communicate gets them into a tight spot. They discover that it's not easy being a foreigner in a strange land. The central message in this film is that Australia needs migrants so Australians should make them feel welcome and offer assistance, not complaints.
This TravelTalk short focuses on the ancient ruins in Rome, the leaning tower of Pisa, and the architecture in Florence, Italy.
Toronto Boom Town
This short documentary studies the contrast between the sedate Toronto of the turn of the century and the thriving, expanding metropolis of 1951. Aerial views give evidence of the conversion of the old Toronto into the new--the city with towering skyscrapers, teeming traffic arteries, vast industrial developments and far-reaching residential areas housing over a million people. Toronto's mid-century progress is also Canada's, as manifested in the building of Canada's first subway, and in the bustle of the nation's greatest trading centre--the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Birds and Billabongs
A record from the 1948 Arnhem Land Expedition lead by anthropologist Charles P Mountford that explores the abundant birdlife and waterways of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia. Thousands of birds, both native to Australia and from around the world, find sanctuary in the billabongs of Arnhem Land, feeding on the fish, insects and flowers that flourish there. Apart from their beauty, the birds serve the useful purpose of helping to keep the balance of nature in the wilderness areas of Australia’s far north. Close photography makes it possible for some of the more interesting birds to be carefully studied. The film’s soundtrack is perhaps the most unique ever recorded, bringing us the thrilling sound of the voices of thousands of birds breaking the quiet of the virgin bush.
The White Continent
An account of the first expedition to the Queen Maud Land region of Antarctica.
The Lion the Griffin and the Kangaroo
Perugia and its Italian University for foreign students.
A Day With The F.B.I.
U.S. government film that examines the duties of an FBI employee.
Sights of London
Village Children of South China
This short film is an introduction to oyster farming in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Showing the various stages of oyster cultivation, the film highlights the sampling of larvae by Department of Fisheries biologists, the staking of oyster beds by farmers, the nurturing of spat, and underwater scenes showing the dragging of the seabed with cotton mops to ensnare starfish, which prey upon the oyster. Final sequences show the grading and shipping of oysters and their arrival at the seafood restaurant or family dinner table.
This documentary which opens with a ten-minute period drama about the importance of Williamsburg in 1774, explains the mission of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin in the 1920s to restore Williamsburg to a colonial American icon. Through the painstaking research of curator, historians, and architects, the town's restoration plan is mapped out. Construction tradesmen from the twentieth century transform rundown exteriors into period edifices. Interiors are modified and restored to livable, sometimes elegant, period condition. This vast undertaking leads to mid-century historical interpretation about the importance of the people and ideas of Williamsburg that forged a new nation.
The Longhouse People
Get an up-close look at daily life among the Longhouse People with this short documentary from 1951. It depicts the rites and rituals of this Indigenous community, including a rain dance, a healing ceremony, and the celebration of a newly chosen chief.
The Silent Order
Filmed shortly after World War II,"?The Silent Order"?records the lives of Trappist monks living inside the 12th-century Monastery of the Holy Cross, Roscrea, County Tipperary, as they quietly go about their business as farmers, scholars, artists, and writers—evoking 10 centuries of a shifting social, political, and religious landscape in the heart of Ireland.?