Best Documentary Movies of 1952
The Olympic Elk
Part of the "True-Life Adventure Series"; The subject of this two-reel are the elk of Washington state's Olympic Peninsula. We see these deer learning to walk, climbing downhill in a herd, and braving local bears. Those, plus some colorful arctic flowers, are the nice bits. We also see the elk engaging in duels (something amusingly observed and "imitated" by marmots), athletic fights with deadlocks said to often end in death by starvation to both participants. If that brutish behavior isn't enough to turn you off, then wait until you see how the polygamous bull males gather up wives and do battle with another (with wives as a wager) before unmelodically announcing the end of their bachelorhood.
Water Birds is a 1952 short documentary film directed by Ben Sharpsteen. The film delves into the still waters of lagoons and marshes to the wild blue wilderness of the vast oceans, to experience the beauty and variety of their majestic birds, each perfectly designed for its habitat. It won the Oscar for Best Short Subject, Two-Reel.
This Is Cinerama
This is Cinerama is a 1952 full-length film designed to introduce the then-new widescreen process Cinerama, which broadens the aspect ratio so the viewer's peripheral vision is involved. This is Cinerama premiered on 30 September 1952 at the New York Broadway theatre, in New York City. The film includes scenes of the roller coaster from Rockaways' Playland, then moves on to a scene of the temple dance from Aida, views of Niagara Falls, a Viennese choir, scenes of the canals of Venice, a military tattoo in Edinburgh, a bullfight, more from Aida, a sound demonstration in stereo, scenes from the amusement park in Cypress Gardens, Florida for a water skiing sequence, and the playing of America the Beautiful as scenes are shown from the nose of a low flying B-25.
Hôtel des Invalides
A tour of the Hotel des Invalides, and more particularly of the Army Museum and the Saint Louis Chapel. From François I's armor to Guynemer's airplane, to Napoleon's and Marshall Foch's tombs. But this is no ordinary tour,it is rather a chilling visit guided by Georges Franju and narrated by Michel Simon emphasizing - at times through biting humor -not the glory but the nonsense of wars, but their tragic aftermath.
Royal Scotland is a 1952 short documentary film directed by Gerard Bryant. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject, One-Reel.
A Portrait of Ga
The 'Ga' of the title refers to the film maker's mother. The film gathers together this elderly lady's everyday actions to offer an abstract insight into her life. Margaret Tait described this film as follows: 'My mother seemed a good subject for a portrait, (she was there), and I thought it offered a chance to do a sort of 'abstract film', in the sense that it didn't have what you might call 'the grammar of film'. It's mostly discontinuous shots linked just by subject, in one case by colour, only rarely by movement'.
This Traveltalk series short visits a few locations where the centuries-old traditions of ancient India are kept alive in contemporary times.
The film is a short documentary about alchemical engravings.
Documentary about the production of a small town weekly newspaper from reporting to printing.
Duck and Cover
An instructional short aimed at school-aged children of the early 1950s that combines animation and live-action footage with voice-over narration to explain what to do to increase their chances of surviving the blast from an atomic bomb.
Light in the Window: The Art of Vermeer
Light in the Window is a 1952 short documentary film directed by Jean Oser. It is an innovative profile of the painter Johannes Vermeer. The film won an Oscar in 1953 for Best Short Subject, One-Reel.
Cruise of the Zaca
Actor Errol Flynn takes a group of scientists from the California Institute of Oceanography on an expedition to the South Seas aboard his schooner, The Zaca.
Trance and Dance in Bali
Explores the themes of trance and dance in the rituals and religion of Bali. The famous Kris Dance is performed.
A short produced by the US government about the development of the hydrogen bomb leading up to its testing and explosion over Bikini Atoll.
B Girl Rhapsody
Filmed record of a burlesque performance.
Early Lindsay Anderson industrial film promoting Sutcliffe's conveyors. Three different uses of Sutcliffe's conveyor installations.
Men Of The Forest
An African-American family in Georgia works to save money for a power saw. Includes depictions of timber harvest techniques and process. Film made in 1952 by the United States Information Service and intended for foreign audiences.
Farmer Moving South
A record of a winter journey, when a farmer decides to move his whole stock by rail from Yorkshire to Sussex.
Here's a Health to the Barley Mow
Documentary short showing folk singing and step dancing traditions in a Suffolk pub.
Southampton, a deep-water port with four tides a day, is an ocean terminal for the world's largest liners. Their coming and going, and the people who work with them are the subject of this film as they reflect in their personal lives some of the drama and romance of its situation. Among them are a tug skipper and his crew, a stewardess on a Cape ship, an assistant wharfinger in charge of handling baggage and freight, a taxi driver, and a pilot taking a great liner down Southampton water at night.
The initial stages of the construction of an oil refinery on the Isle of Grain, Kent, and its impact on the local farming community.
Dodging the Column
The transporting of a distillation colurm, 137 feet long, 500 miles by road from Greenwich to Grangemouth in Scotland. The commentary, spoken by the rigger in charge and one of the tractor drivers, expresses the humour and resourcefulness with which these transport workers tackle their job; and the camera has captured moments of beauty as well as some amusing episodes in this journey of the longest load to travel by road in Britain.
We start in Rio de Janeiro, with the statue of Cristo Redentor on Mount Corcovado, the avenue along the beach, the beauty of an historic city, and the landmark, Sugarloaf. Brazil's 47 million people celebrate racial diversity. From the Copacabana, we travel 40 miles to a resort, Quitandinha, where President Truman spoke. Then it's on to Sao Paulo, a modern, industrial city, and finally to the spectacular waterfalls of Iguazu on the border between Brazil and Argentina.
Journey to the Sea
This is the story of a lorry's solitary journey with a new propeller for a trawler laid up in a port on the rugged sea-coast of Wales. For the lorry-driver and his mate it is all in a day's work; minor mishaps are overcome on the journey from Preston through the beautiful Welsh countryside. The story ends with the trawler on its way to sea.
Jasper National Park
This travelogue of Canada's Jasper National Park starts with a visit to the totem pole in the town, then to Lac Beauvert and the park's lodge and bungalows, where more than 600 guests enjoy golf, swimming and scenery. Within the park are the Canadian Rockies' highest summit, largest glaciers, greatest ice fields, and deepest canyons. After a lesson about feeding bears, we tour the vast park: Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Mountain, Mount Edith Cavell and Angel Glacier, a horse trail overlooking the Athabasca River, Athabasca Falls, the Great Colombia Ice Field, Athabasca Glacier and the special cars that bring tourists, and finally Maligne Lake, a fisherman's paradise.
Picturesque New Zealand
This Traveltalk series short visit to New Zealand starts in Auckland, a bustling, modern city. Next is Christchurch, home of Canterbury University, where rowing teams participate in a regatta. Nearby is Lake Wakatipu, which inspires artists to put their impressions on canvas. We then visit Rotorua, a city famous for its geysers, hot springs, bubbling mud pools, and other geothermal activity. At Ferry Springs there is lots of trout for fishing. Later, a group of natives performs a canoe dance.
In this travelogue of Ceylon, the first stop is Colombo, the capital and chief seaport of this island nation. A short train ride from Colombo is Mount Lavinia, one of the country's most popular pleasure resorts. The next stop is the Peradeniya Gardens, the highlight of which is a magnificent avenue of majestic royal palms. Another botanical item of interest in Ceylon is the manufacture of rubber and the abundance of rubber trees in cultivation. The final stop is the city of Kandy, the primary attraction of which is the Temple of the Tooth.
The Heart Is Highland
A British Transport Films short film
Pretoria to Durban
This Traveltalk series short gives a glimpse into South African history, albeit from a white person's viewpoint. South Africa is a union of four separate states: the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, Natal, and the Cape Provence.
This public-school educational film warns of the dangers of cheating. John Taylor is struggling with his algebra course, and convinces his friend Mary to show him her answers during the tests. But when he is caught, his reputation among his fellow students, along with his student-council seat, is put in jeopardy.
Journey Into History
In the cities of Britain we can travel in time as well as space. This film chooses the England of Hogarth, Gainsborough, Robert Adam and Captain Cook. As the camera moves across outstanding monuments of their work and relics of their achievements from Syon House to Greenwich, members of the Old Vic Company speak appropriate passages from the literature of the mid-eighteenth century. The musical score was specially composed by the late Sir Arnold Bax.
Land of the Taj Mahal
A brief but colorful travelogue of India's biggest cities following the partition of the country in 1947 at the end of the British Raj.
Life in the Andes
The Andes Mountains travel the western side of South America. Unlike many other mountain ranges of their altitude, the Andes do support human life on their high altitude slopes. Modern life is slowly making its way to the high altitude Andes, but the natives for the most part continue with the traditional ways of their ancestors, growing limited crops such as beans and potatoes - where the crop originated - raising sheep and pigs, and living in crude huts. The llama is the most useful of their work animals. The most conspicuous aspect of the native dress is their derby hats, the origins which are unknown. Further down the slopes, agriculture and ranching is more productive and is carried out by descendants of the Spanish settlers. There is a famous lake district in the Chilean part of the Andes, where resort hotels are located.
In the Land of Diamonds
This Traveltalk series short visits South Africa, including Cape Town.
10 Days in a Nudist Camp
A documentary that profiles nudism and its lifestyle around the world.
The Million Dollar Nickel
Short subject anti-communist 'documentary' in which foreign-born movie stars such as Leslie Caron and Ricardo Montalban urge the audience (in their native tongues, subtitled) to write letters home speaking of how wonderful life in the United States is.
Vital true sex facts and scenes formerly restricted to medical books, this film was billed as an illustrated lecture on film.
The Flying Saucer Mystery
An early documentary examining reports and hypotheses about flying saucers.
A teacher gives her third-grade class a "posture test". Four students--two boys and two girls--fail it. The teacher then suggests that the four become each other's "posture pals" and point out to each other when they're slouching, slumping or engaged in other such deviant non-good-posture activities.
Land of the Long Day
This short documentary journeys to Baffin Island. For four months in the summer, the Arctic has continuous daylight. During this time, provisions must be made for the long dark winter ahead. Idlouk, an Inuit hunter, recounts his experiences living in this northern land, where he hunts seal, walrus, whales and polar bears, among other animals. His wife, children and elderly parents each have their own work to do in their unending struggle to survive in this harsh land.
A young Navajo Indian boy is caught up in the conflict of cultures when he rejects the white man's school. Told in semi-documentary style.
Deep Sea Fishing
A ten-minute short film that shows actor Errol Flynn and archer Howard Hill fishing for marlin and sail fish near Acapulco.
The Way to Wimbledon
Focuses on the fifty weeks of the year when Wimbledon is preparing to host the next tennis championship.
FDR Hyde Park
THe life and work of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelty are vividly recalled in this Pictorial Films production through a moving photographic study of his home. All the things and places pertinent to FDR at Hyde Park, New York are shown in the film , handsomely and reverently directed and photographed by Jullian Roffman. Accompanying the pictorial record is a commentary by Norman Rose and some excellent music composed and conducted by Irving Landau.
The California Zephyr
The tale of The California Zephyr, part of the Blackhawk Railroad Series
Thar She Blows!
Thar She Blows! is a 1952 short documentary directed by Richard Statile, composed of color footage of a whale hunt, filmed in a five month period near Antarctica. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject, Two-Reel.
Athletes of the Saddle
This Grantland Rice Sportlight directed by Jack Eaton visits the internationally famous Mexican Army Equestrian Teams as it puts on a demonstration if the finest in horsemanship. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject, One-Reel.
Joy of Living: The Art of Renoir
Joy of Living: The Art of Renoir is a 1952 short documentary film directed by Jean Oser. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.
Shot in Manhattan’s St. Vincent Hospital, creating what would be the antecedent of the direct cinema (or cinema verité) movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Mastery of the Air
Highlights from the Farnborough Airshow of 1952.