Best Documentary Movies of 1957
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.
On the Bowery
A mix of documentary and scripted footage on the Bowery, New York City's skid row. Against a backdrop of men (and a few women) drinking in bars, talking and arguing, and sleeping on sidewalks, we have the story of Ray.
Toccata for Toy Trains
An interesting look at the world of toy trains, shot from the perspective of the little world itself. Originally created for model train enthusiasts, this short film transcends it's intended audience to delight viewers of all ages and interests!
Lively holiday in Blackpool, with jazz accompaniment.
Rembrandt, Painter of Man
In Rembrandt, Haanstra shows that it is possible to make a fascinating film only with images from paintings. He had to travel though all over Europe to numerous museums and private owners in order to film the works of art. In the work of the great painter, Haanstra recognizes his particular interest in man as an individual human being, cutting straight through all the religious motives. And Haanstra also wants to see Rembrandt as an individual.
After the Ball
The life and loves of Music hall singer Vesta Tilley, who married into the nobility
The Golden Age of Comedy
A compilation featuring comedic stars of the silent era including Will Rogers, Laurel and Hardy, and the Keystone Cops.
Our Friend the Atom
Dr. Heinz Haber, a noted scientist in the field of atomic energy, hosts this look at the possibility of an exciting new power source. He starts by comparing atomic energy to a genie in a bottle, both of which capable of doing both good and evil, and it is up to humankind to develop safe controls over this largely unexplored science.
A day in the life of the city and citizens of New York as seen through the fantastic eye, and the incredibly distorted optic lenses, of filmmaker Francis Thompson.
An ethnographic film that documents the efforts of four !Kung men (also known as Ju/'hoansi or Bushmen) to hunt a giraffe in the Kalahari Desert of Namibia. The footage was shot by John Marshall during a Smithsonian-Harvard Peabody sponsored expedition in 1952–53. In addition to the giraffe hunt, the film shows other aspects of !Kung life at that time, including family relationships, socializing and storytelling, and the hard work of gathering plant foods and hunting for small game.
This biographical drama/part-time documentary, narrative written by Dr. Albert Schweitzer and spoken by Frederic March, traces the life of Dr. Schweitzer (with actors playing the characters), from his birth in France up to about the age of 30 when he makes the decision to go to French Equatorial Africa and build his jungle hospital. The latter half of the film encompasses a full day in the hospital-village following the 80s-plus Samaritan in his daily rounds.
One Potato, Two Potato
A study of games played by London schoolchildren in the streets and playgrounds. The games range from the traditional to the contemporary.
City of Gold
This classic short film depicts the Klondike gold rush at its peak, when would-be prospectors struggled through harsh conditions to reach the fabled gold fields over 3000 km north of civilization. Using a collection of still photographs, the film juxtaposes the Dawson City at the height of the gold rush with its bustling taverns and dance halls with the more tranquil Dawson City of the present.
A montage of the night-life of Piccadilly Circus across the hours, from early evening to the last lingering passers-by.
A Dancer's World
A glimpse into the world and methodology of dancer Martha Graham.
The James Dean Story
Released two years after James Dean's death, this documentary chronicles his short life and career via black-and-white still photographs, interviews with the aunt and uncle who raised him, his paternal grandparents, a New York City cabdriver friend, the owner of his favorite Los Angeles restaurant, outtakes from East of Eden, footage of the opening night of Giant, and Dean's ironic PSA for safe driving.
Intended as a publicity film for Chrysler, Rhythm uses rapid editing to speed up the assembly of a car, synchronizing it to African drum music. The sponsor was horrified by the music and suspicious of the way a worker was shown winking at the camera; although Rhythm won first prize at a New York advertising festival, it was disqualified because Chrysler had never given it a television screening. P. Adams Sitney wrote, “Although his reputation has been sustained by the invention of direct painting on film, Lye deserves equal credit as one of the great masters of montage.” And in Film Culture, Jonas Mekas said to Peter Kubelka, “Have you seen Len Lye’s 50-second automobile commercial? Nothing happens there…except that it’s filled with some kind of secret action of cinema.” - Harvard Film Archive
Every Day Except Christmas
Every Day Except Christmas is a 37-minute documentary film filmed in 1957 at the Covent Garden fruit, vegetable and flower market, then located in the Covent Garden area of East central London. It was directed by Lindsay Anderson and produced by Karel Reisz and Leon Clore under the sponsorship of Ford of Britain, the first of the company's "Look At Britain" series.
The True Story of the Civil War
Documentary short about the American Civil War
MGM short that looks at the behind the scenes production of Raintree County.
A short, avant-garde movie, starring twelve-year-old ballet student Gwen Thomas, Nymphlight is a lovely blend of fact and fiction, using Bryant Park at the New York Public Library as a stage set for the fantasy inclusion of a certain nymph. A meditation on an ephemeral day in the the life of a park shared by birds, the young and the old.
Glimpse of the Garden
Experimental film showing film clips of a garden, with birds chirping for the soundtrack.
Day of the Dead
A portrayal of the Mexican Day of the Dead consisting of still shots and narration. Deals with the special objects and events surrounding the annual Mexican celebration of “All Souls Day”. It is not only a rich flood of folk art, but a view of the way that the Mexicans have come to terms with death. Searched out with the help of Alexander Girard and a moving guitar score by Laurindo Almeida.
Isle of Levant
A documentary on the island off the French Riviera where 'bathing in the buff' isn't just practiced, it's highly encouraged!
Niok, The Orphan Elephant
Near the region of Angkor Watt, a group of children capture a baby elephant and are just growing attached to it when it is sold to a travelling safari. Pursuing the new owner, a boy manages to steal it back, and the children free it to return to its mother.
Satchmo the Great
In this 1957 biography film of the jazz-great Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, he and his band tour the world as American good-will ambassadors bring jazz at its best to the people of the world. Within the film, the life of Louis Armstrong is portrayed through the music. One of the outstanding scenes in this "biography/docudrama" shows blind songwriter W. C. Handy, with tears streaming down his face, as Armstrong, backed by Leonard Bernstein leading the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, play Handy's immortal "St. Louis Blues."
Demonstrates different types of epilepsies in various personalities and age groups.
Search for Paradise
High in the frigid zone of the continent of Europe, where the Arctic Circle cuts through the upper tips of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, is the land of the Lapps—a people privileged to cross these frontiers unrestricted because of their nomadic traditions and their owing allegiance to no one nation. Their economy, dependent on migrating livestock, is explained, as well as their customs and gypsy-like existence.
A look at the transport system in the South Wales Valleys and how it effects peoples livelihoods and everyday lives.
This program looks at the people, history, culture and geography of: Portugal.
Fully Fitted Freight
An express freight train links manufacturers with their customers at the other end of Britain.
A collection of twenty short films, averaging 2-3 minutes, by various filmmakers depicting American life, intended to be shown in a continuous loop at the American Pavilion of the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Some releases of the film include ten extra minutes of rough cuts.
A Future on Rail
Short documentary hymning the wonders of 'modernisation' on the railways.
There Was a Door
The Day Called X
Portentously portrays the evacuation of Portland, Oregon, when threatened by a nuclear attack on its state-of-the-art civil defense system.
The Film That Never Was
This RKO-Pathe short film produced with the assistance of the United States Air Force is about the construction of the DEW Line, the Distant Early Warming System, a string of radar stations built across Alaska and the Canadian north as part of NORAD, the North American Air Defense Command. These are isolated outposts, many of which are only accessible by air. Buildings, roads and landing strips had to be built from scratch. There's a visit to Barrow Village, Alaska the most northern point of US territory.
Venice: Theme and Variations
A short documentary.
The holiday attractions of the Lancashire coast, including a beauty contest in Morecambe, Southport flower show and Blackpool Fun Fair.
A documentary about the Xhosa tribe of Cape Nguru, Africa.
This Sportscope short focuses on the sport of kayaking.
This Sportscope short focuses on sailboat racing in Bermuda.
Dirt Track Racing
This RKO Sportscope entry introduces the viewer to the sport of speedway, a type of motorcycle racing, in post-World War II Vienna.
Salar, the Leaper
The joy of fishing for Atlantic salmon in New Brunswick, Canada.
The England of Elizabeth
A romantic overview of England in the Elizabethan Age.
This short documentary takes a look at a group of Austrian speleologists who explore a newly-discovered cave.
The Beach of Nazaré
This Screenliner short looks at the dress and customs of Nazaré, a fishing village on Portugal's Atlantic coast.
Kiss Me Baby
Striptease and burlesque action at the Follies Theatre, 337 S. Main Street, Los Angeles.
Martha Graham: Dance on Film
One of the great artistic forces of the twentieth century, performer, choreographer, and teacher Martha Graham influenced dance worldwide. Criterion presents a sampling of her stunning craft, all collaborations with television arts-programming pioneer Nathan Kroll. A Dancer’s World (1957), narrated by Graham herself, is a glimpse into her class work and methodology. Appalachian Spring (1958) and Night Journey (1961) are two complete Graham ballets, the first a celebration of the American pioneer spirit, scored by Aaron Copland, the second a powerfully physical rendering of the Oedipus myth. These are signature Graham works and tributes to the art of the human body.