Best Documentary Movies of 1953
The Living Desert
The Living Desert was the first feature-length film in Disney’s True-Life Adventures series of documentaries focusing on zoological studies; the previous films in the series, including the Academy Award-winning Seal Island, were short subjects. The documentary was filmed at the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona. Most of the wildlife shown in the film was donated to what would soon become the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The film was inspired by 10 minutes of footage shot by N. Paul Kenworthy Jr., a doctoral student at the University of California at Los Angeles. Kenworthy’s footage of a battle between a tarantula and a wasp intrigued Disney, who funded a feature-length production following the lives of diverse desert species. Disney was highly supportive of Kenworthy’s work and its impact on nonfiction filmmaking, stating, “This is where we can tell a real, sustained story for the first time in these nature pictures.”
Set to a classic Duke Ellington recording "Daybreak Express", this is a five-minute short of the soon-to-be-demolished Third Avenue elevated subway station in New York City.
This Is York
A look at the 1953 transport infrastructure of York.
A Is for Atom
General Electric sponsors this explanation of atomic energy, detailing some of its uses besides the bomb. Using animation and an off-screen narrator, the film describes the atom, elements and isotopes, the discovery of transmutation, experiments in artificial transmutation, and the reasons for the power of nuclear fission. The film argues that now, besides war, the atomic age holds promise for energy, farming, medicine, and research. The promise of the atomic age will depend on human wisdom.
The Great Adventure
A vixen mother invades a chicken coop to provide food for her cubs. She continues to raid the coop until she is shot by a farmer. The cubs are attacked by the farmer and only one survives. An otter trapped in a burrow is rescued by 10-year-old Anders and his six-year-old brother, Kjell. In secret, the boys cage the animal and finally domesticate it. They obtain food for the Otter by fishing through the ice on a frozen lake. The boys manage to keep their secret from their family. On the eve of the May Day festival, Kjell reveals to family and friends the otter's presence. Anders is so distressed that he runs into the woods with the otter. The otter breaks away and returns to its life of natural freedom. The film was a prize winner at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival.
The Conquest of Everest
A documentary of the first successful expedition to the summit of Mount Everest. New Zealand's Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay climb Mount Everest in 1953.
The Alaskan Eskimo
Oscar Winning short documentary
The Sea Around Us
Irwin Allen explores the mysteries of the deep blue sea in this Technicolor documentary. Based on Rachel L. Carson's famous study, this Oscar winning project investigates everything under the sea, from sharks, whales and octopuses to microscopical creatures and their coexistence in this vast underwater world.
Lindsay Anderson's early documentary film of a British amusement park, the irony of its manufactured fun on full display.
Paul Tomkowicz: Street Railway Switchman
In this film, Paul Tomkowicz, Polish-born Canadian, talks about his job and his life in Canada. He compares his new life in the city of Winnipeg to the life he knew in Poland, marvelling at the freedom Canadians enjoy. In winter the rail-switches on streetcar tracks in Winnipeg froze and jammed with freezing mud and snow. Keeping them clean, whatever the weather, was the job of the switchman.