Event: The March of Time Film Series

<i>Show Business at War</i> (<i>The March of Time</i> volume 9, episode 10). 1943. USA. Courtesy of Home Box Office, Inc.

The March of Time 75th Anniversary
September 1st – September 10th
Presented by the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York and HBO Archives
Free with MOMA admission; Film screening only, adults $10, student (with ID) $6.

In the spring of 1935 a remarkable short-subject film series called The March Of Time premiered in American movie theaters. Released every four weeks to a monthly audience that by 1938 totaled more than 20 million in the United States and millions more abroad, its 20-minute films addressed issues never before touched upon in the American cinema.  A cross between confrontational journalism and docudrama, The March Of Time series was provocative, amusing and sometimes outrageous. It was banned in Germany, Italy, Japan and the Soviet Union, and censored widely even in democratic societies. Miraculously, the series survived in the United States for 16 years—from 1935 through 1951.

A product of Time, Inc., publisher of Time, Life and Fortune magazines, The March Of Time first aired in March 1931 as a CBS radio series, in which the news of the day was dramatized using professional New York actors. Regulars included Art Carney, who portrayed Franklin Roosevelt; Agnes Moorehead, who played Eleanor Roosevelt; Dwight Weist, who played Hitler; and Orson Welles, who performed from time to time in a variety of parts. The creator was Roy Larsen, originally the circulation manager at Time and later the publisher of Life. Larsen decided to adapt the radio series for motion picture production and hired Louis de Rochemont—a veteran newsreel cameraman and producer—to do so.

The most unusual feature of the films in The March Of Time series was the re-creation or staging of events that had taken place, but had not been photographed by newsreel cameras. De Rochemont argued that he had the same right to clarify news events with staged scenes as a re-write man on a newspaper had with words to make sense out of a reporter’s notes.  He used both professional and amateur actors to impersonate famous people on the screen, and then blended the staged scenes with newsreel footage. By 1940 the series was so well known that it was parodied by Orson Welles in his production of “Citizen Kane,” including an imitation of Westbrook Van Voorhis, the “Voice Of Time.”

MOMA will screen this unique event at various times from September 1st to September 10th.  Film topics include “American Culture,” “A World At War,” and “Beauty and Fashion.”

Program #2, “Beauty and Fashion,” will screen on Thursday September 2nd at 4:00PM and Friday September 10th at 7:00PM in MoMA’s T2 theater.
The 4 titles being shown are:
  • 1.    American Beauty (1945, 18 minutes) – the beauty routines, spas, exercises and hairstyles that women obsess over as they strive to maintain their looks in preparation for their soldiers returning from World War II.
  • 2.    The Male Look (1950, 16 minutes) – a lighthearted look at men and the women who dress them throughout their life. This episode features footage of the “Eve Dresses Adam” exhibition from the Met Costume Institute.
  • 3.    Beauty at Work (1950, 18 minutes) – Print, runway and store modeling in New York City; the beauty regimes and modeling agencies, along with several supermodels of the 50’s (Lisa Fonssagrives, Anita Colby) and other major players in the industry.
  • 4.    Fashion Means Business (1947, 17 minutes) – Examining the garment industry – the dresses and designers, companies, mass market appeal and influences. Go Inside: Martin’s Department Store, Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman, the Women’s Wear Daily offices, the design houses of Lelon, Lanvin, Piguet, Fath, Dior, Teller, Carnegie, Valentina and Jean. Also featuring accessories designers, a Vogue photo shoot, the Garment District, the ILGWU, and the New York fashion shows of Claire Potter and Nettie Rosenstein.
Click here for a PDF version of the complete program guide.

*The first person to email Monica will receive two FREE tickets to the “Beauty and Fashion” screening on Friday, September 10th at 7pm.*


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