SPECIALISING IN HIGH QUALITY, LOW COST, PUBLIC DOMAIN HISTORICAL FOOTAGE
is among the most useful of collections of actuality footage
existing in the public domain. It begins in 1929 and runs
through to 1967. The collection of the surviving, edited
newsreels and their outtakes were gifted by the Universal
Company to the American people (i.e. the copyright was
placed in the public domain in return for a tax benefit).
These newsreels, which were shown in movie theatres and
varied from 7 to 10 minutes in total, contained a varying
number of stories, and were released twice a week. However
the collection is of an irregular nature for several reasons:
First, immediately after the prints were made the printing negative was disassembled, the narration and music track destroyed for the silver re-use, and each story was filed separately. The company kept several copies with the sound track intact for reference purposes but few survive until the last ten years of issue. Therefore usually the only existent sound is the sound-on-film of speeches, statements of people directly to the camera, and the occasional story that had crowd noises (usually recreated sounds) already printed on the roll.
Second, after the Archives in Washington were given these materials they made the decision to discard a significant number of stories from the outtake cans. These included nearly all stories relating to sports, fashion, human interest, animals, oddities, gags and contests. These type of items were included when they existed in the edited stories, however.
Thirdly, in about 1979 there was a fire in the storage vaults in Washington which destroyed a significant number of the surviving outtakes and several years of edited stories (largely 1941 to 1944).
Still, the surviving Universal Collection is approx. 400 hours of edited stories and an additional 800 hours of outtakes (these end at 1959) covering many of the key political events of the period from 1929 through 1967.
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