I Saw Kitty Hawk: Film, Memory, and Archives
December 17th marks the 110th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk. To celebrate the day, our colleagues in the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab have shared I Saw Kitty Hawk, featuring a first-hand account from a man who claimed to be present at the first Wright brothers flight:
The man is not identified in the film, and there is no further information in the production file. However, a little research turned up this 1962 article with details similar enough that we can reasonably say that this is Frank B. Wood. According to Wood’s story, he and automobile racing pioneer Barney Oldfield were present for the Wright brothers’ earliest flights in Kitty Hawk.
Wood’s story, although compelling, is not without critics. In First in Flight: The Wright Brothers in North Carolina, author Stephen Kirk disputes Wood’s version of events.
Certainly, there are elements of Frank Wood’s story that seem more likely to be embellishment, like his claim that it was Barney Oldfield that made a crucial suggestion to change the wing that made the December 17th flight possible. But which parts are fact and which are fiction?
Perhaps we can explain the discrepancies with the adage (commonly attributed to Mark Twain) that advises one should “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” In the case of the making of this little Air Force film, it could be that Wood’s account was too interesting to spend much time fact-checking. Maybe we don’t need to know whether Wood was there since it has no bearing on the events of December 17th, 1903 or the Wright brothers’ historic flight.
But it certainly makes a good story.
Does anyone out there have more information that could add to our understanding of this film? We would love to hear from you.
The 110th Anniversary of The Great Train Robbery
Moving images changed with the debut of The Great Train Robbery in December of 1903. Produced by Thomas Edison, inventor of many audio and visual playback machines, the film began to shift the focus from novelty films such as Carmencita to plot-based cinema.
The Great Train Robbery was one of the first crime dramas and archetype of the western genre. The film introduced moviegoers to robberies, chase scenes, and gun shoot-offs. The film was also one of the first to incorporate a full cast of actors and to shoot on-location.
Most of the films preserved at the National Archives were produced by government agencies. Yet The Great Train Robbery was produced by the Edison Company. This raises the question, how did it get here?
Learn the answer - and more background to The Great Train Robbery at our Media Matters blog: Media Matters » The Great Train Robbery
A Vintage Fashion Flashback from the Women’s Army Corps for Fashion Week!
In 1970, the Army began using a series of three training films produced for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). The third film in the Military Etiquette and Grooming series, The Pleasure of Your Company (1970), covers many pressing fashion & etiquette questions for WACs watching the film, including:
- Can I wear a mini skirt and jewelry when out of uniform?
- Who opens the door first when not in uniform?
- If I go out on a dinner date, who orders? (Hint: It’s not the lady!)
- How should I introduce my date to the Chaplain and his wife? (Hint: Gentlemen are always presented to ladies!
- Which fork should I use first?!? (Um, you get the picture.)
The Pleasure of Your Company, stands as an artifact of an American military and society that were to undergo sweeping changes over the following decade. By the end of the 1970s, the WAC would be integrated into the rest of the Army and society would be on its way to treating women much differently in the workplace. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how far we have come until we take a look back at the films of the past.
The March (1963, Restored)
To mark the 50th anniversary of the The March for Jobs and Freedom, the National Archives’ Motion Picture Preservation Lab completed a full digital restoration of James Blue’s monumental 1963 film. The original negatives assembled by James Blue were scanned and three months were spent restoring defects in the image and enhancing the audio track.
For more information please visit the National Archives Media Matters Blog:
Making the March and Protecting Your Past: The Preservation and Restoration of The March
On August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands of people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The event included performances by Marian Anderson and Bob Dylan, and speeches from John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the March, the National Archives Motion Picture Lab completed a full digital restoration of the James Blue’s 1964 film, The March, produced for the USIA. Using Blue’s original negatives, staff restored defects in the image and enhanced the audio track. The film documents the event from its preparations through Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
You can view the documentary in its entirety on our YouTube Channel: http://ow.ly/ok5Tr
Do you remember the 1963 march, and do you plan on participating in the 50th anniversary celebrations today?
Protecting Your Past–It’s What We Do Here: The Preservation and Restoration of The March
The March, the James Blue film documenting the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was released to countries around the world in 1964. Despite this wide reach, the film remained out of the American public eye for decades. That is, until August 1st, 1986 , when Congress passed HR 4985 instructing “the Archivist of the United States to provide for the distribution within the United States of the USIA film “The March.”
To read more about The Preservation and Restoration of the March, visit NARA’s Media Matters blog!
The National Archives is screening the digital restoration of The March at the Archives building in Washington, D.C. at noon August 26th – 28th in the McGowan Theater and will make the restored version available for viewing online.