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Guide to the Time Inc. The March of Time Records
1935-1995
 MS 3009-RG 15


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Samantha Brown

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on November 13, 2018
Description is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Historical Note

The March of Time originally debuted on March 6, 1931 as radio newsreel on CBS Radio. The show was developed by Fred Smith, a radio executive, and Roy Larsen while he was the circulation director of  Time. The two envisioned the show as a way to dramatize the news and reenact events that could not be reported live. At first, the show focused on domestic stories, but changed its focus at the beginning of World War II and began reporting on international events as well. In 1942, the show switched to providing straightforward news reports which relied on  Time correspondents around the world instead of dramatized reenactments. The radio news program continued until 1945.

During The March of Time radio broadcast, Louis De Rochemont, a director of short films for Fox Movietone News, heard the show and had the idea for something he termed "pictoral journalism" which would recreate  The March of Time on film. De Rochemont brought his idea to Larsen, and they began work on the film version of  The March of Time in June 1934. The first episode of the film version debuted at the Capitol Theatre in New York City on February 1, 1935. While there had been newsreels shown before and between films before this point, their popularity had declined after the advent sound films.  The March of Time would update and modernize the newsreels that had previously been seen. Unlike older versions of newsreels that avoided reporting on current events or anything controversial,  The March of Time aimed to report events as they happened and included stories found on the pages of  Time and  Life. The show also included archival footage from the federal governemt, reenactments, interviews, and dramatic voice-overs. As the show matured and expanded, there were fewer reenactments and more interviews. With the rise of television and the costs of production, Time Inc. attempted to reduce the number films of  The March of Time in the hope to reduce the costs while allowing the show to still exist. While this strategy did reduce costs, it also reduced profits. Due to budgetery issues,  The March of Time newsreels ended in August 1951.

An attempt to relaunch the show was started in 1964. This relaunch would broadcast the show on the television channel WNEW instead of in theaters and was created together with the Metropolitan Broadcasting Company. While the original series provided news about current events, the relaunch appeared to have been about historical events and reused ideas and storylines from the original series. This version of the show did not last long and seems to have ended in 1966.

While in theaters, The March of Time delivered new newsreels on a monthly basis to thousands of theaters across the United States and abroad. At its peak, newsreels provided by  The March of Time were played in 13,000 theaters and received forty awards and prizes including two Oscars from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Despite the awards and accolades,  The March of Time was only profitable during two years of production, 1938 and 1939. Nevertheless, Time Inc. viewed  The March of Time as a worthwhile vehicle to solidify its reputation as a news provider.

Citations:

Doll, Susan. "Introduction to THE MARCH OF TIME." Turner Classic Movies. Accessed October 24, 2018. http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/343404|0/75th-Anniversary-of-The-March-of-Time.html.

Elson, Robert T., and Duncan Norton-Taylor. 1973. The World of Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise, 1941-1960. New York: Atheneum.

National Radio Hall of Fame. "The March of Time." National Radio Hall of Fame. Accessed October 24, 2018. http://nationalradiohalloffame.com/march_of_time.htm.

Prendergast, Curtis, and Geoffrey Colvin. 1986. The World of Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Changing Enterprise, 1960-1980. New York: Atheneum.