Saturday, February 9, 2013

Newsreel footage

So I was watching Wilson last night during the blizzard since I didn't feel like going up on the roof in the dark to clear off the internet satellite dish. It was humorous to see the scene where he's serving coffee to the soldiers going off to World War I and hearing him make the comment, because of the presence of a German-American and an Italian-American, that the military brought together soldiers of every race. It was painfully obvious from the scene that there weren't any black soldiers there. Indeed, the military was still segregated at the time the movie was made; it wasn't until a few years later that Harry Truman ordered its desegregation.

More interestingly was the scene in which a movie theater shows a "Fox News" newsreel of footage of soldiers training for war and then going off to France. I was always under the impression that Fox's newsreel division was called "Fox Movietone News". Indeed, a bit of research on the Internet shows that Fox Movietone News didn't come along 1928. I don't think they had a newsreel divison under another name. Wikipedia suggests two major newsreel producers around in 1917, Pathé and Hearst Metrotone. The latter, I believe was distributed by Universal, while I couldn't figure out who distributed Pathé.

As for the newsreel footage, the intertitles certainly looked as though they didn't date back to 1917, while the images themselves seemed tough to date. I don't know if Fox would have gone ot the expense of making a bunch of stuff designed to look like newsreels for something that's not an important part of the plot. Indeed, my understanding is that real newsreel footage was used years later for the opening of Wild River, although that wasn't the sepia-toned stuff you'd see in silent movies. I'm trying to think of what World War I-themed silent movies Fox made. Offhand, I can think of the silent version of What Price Glory, as well as Seventh Heaven, but it's been too long since I've seen either of those to remember what sort of war footage is in them. TCM showed Lucky Star several months back, but I don't recall the sort of footage that showed up in the newsreel being in Lucky Star. IMDb's "Movie Connections" page for Wilson doesn't say anything about footage from other films showing up, either.

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