Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library

11 October 2013

World Newsreels Online

Sampler video for World Newsreels Online

I'm delighted to be able to report that the British Library is now offering access in its Reading Rooms to World Newsreels Online 1929-1966.

This is a collection from Alexander Street Press of 500 hours (8,000 individual items) of newsreels (filmed news for cinema release) from Japan, France, the Netherlands and the USA, including wartime propaganda newsreels and a complete run of the important The March of Time series in its American edition (the British release version was slightly different). Most of the films have been fully transcribed, with transcriptions available in synchronisation presentation alongside the video. The contents include:

Nippon News—36 hours of Japanese newsreels from 1940-48 with English transcripts.

Four French newsreels, 75 hours of fully translated and transcribed news items from:

  • Les Actualités Mondiales—Selections 15-20 minutes in length, adapted from the German series that ran from 1940 to 1946.
  • France Actualités—A coproduction of the Vichy regime and the Germans from 1942 to 1944.
  • France Libre Actualités—1944–1945 segments from an offshoot of the French Resistance.
  • Les Actualités Francaise—selections from the 1945–1969 series in which the French state discussed war topics, consequences, and reconstruction

The March of Time—Full run of this American series, 115 hours of fully transcribed content, 1935-51.

United Newsreel—More than 35 hours of 1942-46 American weekly newsreel produced by the US Office of War Information, complete with transcripts.

Universal Newsreel—More than 200 hours of content with full transcripts from Universal Studios’s bi-weekly series that ran 1929-46.

Polygoon Profliti—87 hours of Dutch newsreel 1939-45.

The March of Time is of huge importance for the history of news on film. It was founded by Louis de Rochment in 1935 as an offshoot of Time magazine and as a follow on to a CBS radio series of the same name which started in 1931. It immediately made its mark with its dynamic presentation of the stories behind the news. It courted controversy in its outspokeness, in its occasional use of dramatised recreations, and in its choice of controversial themes at a time when newsreels (the form of news shown regularly in all cinemas) were looked upon more as part of the entertainment industry than as hard news offerings. Its distinctive bold style with booming commentary was artfully pastiched by Orson Welles for the News on the March sequence in Citizen Kane (1941).

The series ran in cinemas until 1951. Notable stories include Leadbelly (vol. 1 issue 2, 1935), Huey Long (vol. 1, issue 3, 1935), Father Divine (vol. 2 issue 2, 1936), League of Nations Union (vol. 2, issue 5, 1936), An Uncle Sam Production (vol. 3 issue 4, 1936), Conquering Cancer (vol. 3, issue 6, 1937) and the issue-length Inside Nazi Germany (vol. 6 issue 6, 1938) and Norway in Revolt (vol. 8 issue 2, 1941)

The key publication on The March of Time is Raymond Fielding's book The March of Time 1936-1951 (1978) and he provides a handy overview of the series on the HBO Archives site.

World Newsreels Online is available now in the British Library Reading Rooms and adds to our growing number of onsite audiovisual resources, including the Library's own television and radio news service, Broadcast News, which has a collection of over 30,000 UK TV and radio news programmes recorded since May 2010, to which over 60 hours of new content is added daily.

British Library onsite users can access World Newsreels Online via our Electronic Databases pages. Sadly access is not possible outside our Reading Rooms.


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