Best Documentary Movies of 1959
Window Water Baby Moving
On a winter's day, a woman stretches near a window then sits in a bathtub of water. She's happy. Her lover is nearby; there are close ups of her face, her pregnant belly, and his hands caressing her. She gives birth: we see the crowning of the baby's head, then the birth itself; we watch a pair of hands tie off and cut the umbilical cord. With the help of the attending hands, the mother expels the placenta. The infant, a baby girl, nurses. We return from time to time to the bath scene. By the end, dad's excited; mother and daughter rest.
Glenn Gould: On The Record
This short documentary (the second of two parts) follows Glenn Gould to New York City. There, we see the renowned Canadian concert pianist kidding the cab driver, bantering with sound engineers at Columbia Records, and then, alone with the piano, fastidiously recording Bach's Italian Concerto.
Cuban Story: The Truth about Fidel Castro Revolution is a 1959 film documentary narrated by Errol Flynn, and the last known performance work of his career.
The results of serious traffic accidents caused by careless driving are displayed. One of several Driver's Education films produced by Highway Safety Films, filmed at actual auto accident scenes and consisting largely of color closeups of mangled accident victims.
This final True-Life Adventure would also appear to be one of the best, as we go into the South American jungle to observe the jaguar. Jungle Cat is more intimate than its kin, allowing individual animal characters to be developed. Central to the cast is a pair of jaguars (one ebony), whose fighting leads to love and, not long after, two babies (one resembling each parent).
Morning in the Streets
Denis Mitchell’s companion piece to ‘Night in the City’ follows various conversations during a morning in Liverpool. As children play on bomb sites and in playgrounds, the elderly reminisce about their own childhoods. It’s a city still recovering from the Blitz over a decade before, not yet the home of football and music that it would become. Although much of the shooting took place in Liverpool, areas of Manchester, Salford and Stockport also make an appearance.
The Alphabet Conspiracy
Dr. Frank Baxter, with the help of The Mad Hatter and Jabberwock, takes young Judy exploring the world of language, in which she finds out that language is for doing more than just talking.
Short drama-documentary showing the first day in England of a Hungarian refugee.
Mysteries of the Deep
Mysteries of the Deep is a 1959 Disney nature documentary short film. Though not an official True-Life Adventures film, it did accompany the release of The Vanishing Prairie and was included on the Walt Disney Legacy Collection's True Life Adventures releases as a bonus feature. It is narrated by Winston Hibler. The film is a panorama of animals inhabiting the sea near the coast: dolphins, sharks, whales, crabs, rays and fish of all kinds.
Rhapsody of Steel
Animated industrial movie about the steel industry.
Come Back, Africa
Come Back, Africa chronicles the life of Zachariah, a black South African living under the rule of the harsh apartheid government in 1959.
I Am a Litter Basket
A litter basket muses on the failure of people to feed it at a busy mainline railway station.
The Diary of an Unknown Soldier
A short story narrated by an unknown British soldier who reveals his hopes, fears, and disillusionment while heading into battle against the German army.
We Are the Lambeth Boys
Seminal piece of documentary filmmaking by New Wave director Karel Reisz following the daily activities of members of the Lambeth Youth club in late-1950s London.
I Want to Go to School
Part of BFI collection "A Day in the Life."
The Cry of Jazz
Filmed in Chicago & finished in 1959, The Cry of Jazz is filmmaker, composer and arranger Edward O. Bland's polemical essay on the politics of music and race - a forecast of what he called "the death of jazz." A landmark moment in black film, foreseeing the civil unrest of subsequent decades, it also features the only known footage of visionary pianist Sun Ra from his beloved Chicago period. Featured are ample images of tenor saxophonist John Gilmore and the rest of Ra's Arkestra in Windy City nightclubs, all shot in glorious black & white.
An orientation film for American soldiers traveling to Korea in the years after the war.
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!
The Sword and the Flute
Visual images consist entirely of Indian miniature paintings, while an off-screen narrator traces the rise of this art form within the courts of Akbar (1542-1605), who united what is now India and Pakistan, and his son Jahangir (1569-1627). Two schools of the miniature paintings, done by anonymous artists, flourished after Akbar established unity and peace across what had been many smaller states: the Moghul (Islamic) school and the Rajput (Hindu) school. The Moghul paintings record the events of the court, while the Rajput school connects physical beauty and, in particular, the longing of women to the transcendent values of the spirit.
The Back-breaking Leaf
Here is a graphic picture of the tobacco harvest in southwestern Ontario. At the end of July, transient field workers move in for a brief bonanza when the plant is ripe. The tobacco harvesters call it "the back-breaking leaf."
Walt Disney and Art Linkletter co-host a live celebration of Disneyland's 1959 expansion that consisted of the debuts of Matterhorn Bobsleds, the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail, and the Submarine Voyage, a project so massive that it was called "The Second Opening of Disneyland". Highlights include a mammoth, star-studded parade and the official launching of the Disneyland submarines by U.S. Navy officers. Among the guests are then-Vice-President Richard Nixon and family, Clint Eastwood, and Meredith Willson, who leads the Disneyland band in his own "76 Trombones." Sponsored by Kodak, the commercial spokespersons include Ozzie and Harriet Nelson.
The Coasts of Clyde
A short documentary.
March to Aldermaston
Collaborative documentary (credited to a committee rather than to individual filmmakers) detailing the CND march from London to Aldermaston at Easter 1958.
City Out of Time
This Colin Low documentary from 1959 depicts Venice in all its splendor. In the tradition of Venetian painter Canaletto, the film captures the great Italian city’s elusive beauty and fabled landscapes, where spired churches and turreted palaces soar into a blue Mediterranean sky. Narration by William Shatner.
This 1959 documentary short is a frank portrait of the daily operations inside the Montreal General Hospital’s emergency ward.
The working day of enginemen at Newton Heath locomotive sheds, Manchester. They discuss the impact of dieselisation on their jobs.
The Masters Game - Ingo vs. Floyd
A documentary about one of the most famous classic boxing match with the legendary swedish boxer Jens Ingemar "Ingo" Johansson going to New York to face the then current champion, Floyd Patterson.
The March of Todd-AO
From 1958 Brussels World’s Fair to the election of Pope John XXIII
In this film, ten European countries (France, Italy, Greece, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Turkey) are photographed from low-flying aircraft against an evocative soundtrack, revealing the features of their ancient capitals, historical heritage and remarkable landscapes in a new dimension.
The Face of the High Arctic
This short documentary studies the geological evolution that has gone on for millions of years in the High Arctic. Following the evidence of glaciers that have advanced and receded, the film also traces life forms that have changed with the climate.
The Innocent Party
Don and Nicky journey to the big city one night, and pick up two trashy girls who smoke cigarettes and--even worse--wear eye makeup, so naturally they have sex. The next night Don, newly un-virginized, persuades his girlfriend Betty to have sex with him, too. Soon Don and Nicky discover that they have sores and itching "down there", and Don goes to see the school doctor. He is told that he has syphilis, and to tell Betty and have her get examined. It turns out she has syphilis, too. Can their disease, caused by Don's outrageous behavior--which, as the doctor sternly notes, "is condemned by society"--be successfully treated in time?
Last Clear Chance
On the day young Alan receives his driver's license, Officer Hal Jackson visits the Dixon farm to sternly lecture the family on the dangers of carelessness at railroad crossings.
The End of the Line
This documentary short offers a nostalgic look at the steam locomotive as it passes from reality to history. In its heyday, the big smoke-belching steam engine seemed immortal. Now, powerful and efficient diesels are pushing the old coal-burning locomotives to the sidelines, and the lonely echo of their whistles may soon be a thing of the past.
Portrait of a Goon
Portrait of Spike Milligan, then part of The Goon Show examining his views on comedy,
An Introduction to Jet Engines
Training film for the Canadian Department of National Defence.
Man of Music
A film profile of Healey Willan, composer, conductor, choirmaster, organist and teacher. In this film you see Dr. Willan at his favourite organ in the church where he is choirmaster, at work in his study, and dropping in for a visit with students at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
Coupes des Alpes: The Story of the 1958 Alpine Rally
A BAFTA award nominated documentary reviewing the 1958 Alpine Rally.
A BAFTA award nominated dramatised documentary telling the story of two steelworkers who attempt to climb a rock in the Dolomites.
Gaudi, Catalunya, 1959
In 1959 Hiroshi Teshigahara shot the following 16 mm footage of he and his father’s first trip to Barcelona and the outlying Catalonian countryside, including a visit to the home of Salvador Dali in Port Lligat. The footage was recorded without sound.
Behind-the-scenes of the filming of Third Man on the Mountain on location in Zermatt, Switzerland, where the cast and crew endure many hardships.
A Tribute to Fangio
A BAFTA award nominated tribute documentary to Juan Fangio.
A BFI-produced documentary about documentary filmmaker John Grierson speaking about documentary.
Life in a Zen Buddhist Monastery in Japan
In Yokohama, novices wake up early in the Soto zen sect Sojiji temple for their zazen and other practices. A film by Michael Rogge, Dutch photographer, videographer and amateur filmmaker, best known for his depictions of post-WW2 life in the Far East.
Look At Life: Transport
Look at Life was a regular series of short documentary films produced between 1959 and 1969 by the Special Features Division of Rank Organisation and screened in their Odeon and Gaumont cinemas. This release compiles 54 memorable films which offer a fascinating snapshot of transport in 1960's Britain.
Cruise of the Eagle
The varied and important services of the U.S. Coast Guard are glimpsed. They warn ships of dangerous shoals, keep sea lanes open with icebreakers, face gale and hurricane to accurately forecast the weather in remote areas of the Atlantic and Pacific, and perform rescue services to ships and downed aircraft.
A BAFTA award nominated documentary looking at advances in the treatment of infectious diseases.
An Artist Looks at Churches
On the shortest journey you pass a church or two. Out of the 20,000 churches in Britain, the artist, John Piper, whose work contributes to the glory of England's churches, selects and describes a church built in each of the last nine centuries, from Norman times to the present day. Accompanied by the music of Peter Racine Fricker, he reveals the beauty and riches of architecture, decoration, carving and sculpture aged in mellow stone and weathered glass; the art of the wood carver and the sculptor, and in doing so finds that through the centuries the portrayal of the human face and figure has been an unfailing source of inspiration to all who have brought their talents to the service of the Church.
Educational Attainment of West German Pupils in the 1950s
Ingenuity in Action
Hot Rod Magazine film from 1959 With the Parker Brothers from Odessa, TX, and their early hot rods. Shot similar to Endless Summer this movie follows drag racing teams as they travel to the 1959 Drag Racing Nationals. This film features the DRAGMASTER team from California. They are also shown in their shop building an early dragster. Jim Nelson, the owner of the SpeedShop in Ocean Side, California and pioneer of dragsters, is shown in the shop as well. They drag in Detroit and Oklahoma. They are shown traveling with their dragsters loaded.
Shot in 1959, Michael Blackwood’s first film Broadway Express is a portrait of New York City’s diverse population, as captured in the city’s subways during the evening rush hour and late at night. The film is a portrait of the city through the faces of the passengers held captive for the ride.