Film and Photo League

compiled by Russell Campbell
and William Alexander

from Jump Cut, no. 14, 1977, p. 33
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1977, 2004

The great bulk of FPL footage. together with records of its content was lost in a 1935 storage fire. Films known to have survived are so identified. No FPL films (with the sole exception of HALSTED STREET and THE GREAT DEPRESSION) are currently in distribution or available for study. The extent footage is being reconstituted by Tom Brandon end Leo Seltzer and will be released by a nonprofit corporation, it is hoped, later in 1977.

The following list has been compiled mostly from scattered newspaper and periodical references, and is far from definitive. Any corrections or additions readers can supply would be most welcome.

Unless otherwise noted, the films are in 35mm black and-white and silent, and may be assumed to be one reel (15 min. at silent speed) or less in length. Dates cited are those of first known exhibition. Production credits are given where they am known.

Annotating the newsreel footage presents special problems. Particular reels might be referred to by a variety of titles or by none at all. Footage—such as that of the hunger marches—could be exhibited in various shifting combinations, subjected to recutting, cannibalized for later productions. In general, we have listed newsreel subjects as individual films where the nature of the material or the prominence of references to the footage seems to justify it. Occasionally a title has been supplied.

Some New York FPL newsreels were grouped together and exhibited, sometimes with significant commercial newsreel footage, under the series head, America Today. No. 3 in this series was announced as being completed is September 1934, but the total number produced is not known. The extant film with the title AMERICA TODAY is an aggregation of footage shot between 1932 and 1934 and was possibly not exhibited in this form in the 30s.



MAY DAY EVENTS (May): Newsreel of the New York May 1st parade end demonstration,

Other Newsreel Subjects: (a) March 6th unemployment demonstration leaders William Z. Foster, Harry Raymond, Robert Minor and Israel Amter in jail (September (b) Other CP-led demonstrations (September), (c) Activities at the W.I.R. children’s camp, (October), (d) Raid on the WIR camp at Van Etten, N.Y. (October).


ALBANY HUNGER MARCH (April): Documentation of the Hunger March to the New York State Legislature.

MY DAY IN NEW YORK (May): Ph: Irving Lerner, Ralph Steiner. Newsreel of the May Day celebration.

NATIONAL HUNGER MARCH / HUNGER MARCH 1931 / HUNGER 1931 (December): Approx. 2 reels. Some footage survives . Documentary of the first National Hunger March to Washington, D.C., including police attacks.

PASSAIC STRIKE, 1927: Compilation of footage obtained of the Passaic, N.J., textile workers’ strike.

A SHORT TRIP TO THE SOVIET UNION: No information available.

W.I.R. CHILDREN'S CAMP. N.Y.: Newsreel (?).

WORKERS NEWS. 1931: Newsreel.

THE NEW WORLD: 2 reels. Documentary on the history of workers’ Russia. 1914-1931.


THE STRIKE AGAINST STARVATION (January): Ph: Joseph Houdyma, Tom Brandon. 3 reels. Footage of the 1931 miners’ strike led by the N.M.U. in Pennsylvania, Ohio, W. Virginia and Kentucky.

KENTUCKY-TENNESSEE 1932 (April): Newsreel of the miners’ strike.

MAY DAY DEMONSTRATION (May): Newsreel of the New York May 1st demonstration.

MAY DAY SCENES (May): Newsreel of Nay Day events throughout the U.S.

SCOTTSBORO DEMONSTRATION (May): Newsreel probably of the May 7th Harlem demonstration in support of the Scottsboro boys.

WORKERS EX-SERVICEMEN'S BONUS DEMONSTRATION / WORKERS EX-SERVICEMEN'S BONUS PARADE (June): Newsreel probably of the New York Bonus Army contingent marshalling for Washington departure (later incorporated in BONUS MARCH).

FOSTER AND FORD IN ACTION (July): Newsreel of the CP presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

BONUS MARCH / THE FIGHT FOR THE BONUS (October): ph: Leo Seltzer; ed: Leo Seltzer, Lester Balog. 2 reels. Extant. Documentary of the national Bonus March. Washington encampment. and eviction of the marchers by police and army.

RENT STRIKES (Spring?): Newsreel; no other information available.

NEW YORK'S HOOVERVILLES: No information available.

Other Newsreel Subjects: (a) Bonus Army scenes later incorporated in BONUS MARCH) (June-July). (b) Antiwar demonstration (August). (c) Miners’ strike (September). (d) Farmers’ holiday (September). (a) T.U.U.L. picnic (September), (f) Washington. D C Scottsboro demonstration (incorporated in the extant AMERICA TODAY) (November). (g) National Hunger March Seems (later incorporated in HUNGER) (December)


HUNGER / HUNGER 1932 (January); Ph: Leo Seltzer. Leo T. Hurwitz. Robert Del Duca, Sam Brody, C.O. Nelson, William Kruck, Irving Lerner, Alfredo Valente; Ed: Leo T. Hurwitz, Robert Del Duca, Leo Seltzer, Norman Warren. 4 reels. Some footage survives. Documentary of the second National Hunger March to Washington, D.C., including introductory footage of life of the unemployed.


UMEMPLOYED DEMONSTRATION (March): Newsreel “showing delegations from Boro Park, Staten Island. Bronx, Pioneers, etc.”

MAY DAY CELEBRATION / MAY DAY DEMONSTRATION / MAY DAY 1933 (May): Newsreel of the New York May Day events,

Other Newsreel Subjects: (a) Farmers’ Conference (Held Washington DC, December 7-10, 1932, by the United Farmers’ League), (b) Lenin Memorial at the Coliseum, (c) Gibson Committee Protest, (d) Anti-Jim-Crow Demonstration, (e) Anti-war demonstration in Wall St. (These five items issued as one of the America Today series, February).


TAXI STRIKE (May): Newsreel coverage of the New York taxi drivers’ strike. February-April.

MAY DAY 1934 (May): Newsreel of the New York May Day parade and demonstration, Including aerial shots.

PORTRAIT OF AMERICA (September): Compilation file edited from commercial newsreel clips.

WIRE / MARINE STRIKE / MARINE WORKERS / WATERFRONT / WORKERS ON THE WATERFRONT (December): D: Edward Kern (see Seltzer interview); Ph: Leo Seltzer. Approx. 15 min. l6mm. documentary on the life of New York longshoreman.

WORLD IN REVIEW: Compilation film. including scenes of Hitler and Mussolini, probably edited from commercial newsreel footage.

Other Newsreel Subjects: (a) “Anti-fascist struggles,” probably including united front demonstration outside the Austrian Consulate (May), (b) “Negroes and whites fight for democratic rights” (May), (c) Soviet freighter Kim in New York (May), (d) Scottsboro trial, including courtroom scenes (May), (f) Striking middle western farmers, (f) “Clarence Hathaway (editor of Daily Worker) outside Madison Square Garden after been assaulted” (May).


1934 (March?):, No information available.

EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE (March?): Documentary contrasting life in New York on opposite sides of Fifth Avenue.

HR. 2827 (April): Ed: A. Tish, 3 reels. Documentary on the Unemployment and Social Insurance Congress held to press for passage of the Workers Unemployment, Old Age end Social Insurance Bill.

MAY DAY 1935 (May): Partly (200 ft.) in color. Newsreel on the united front May Day demonstrations around the country.

TAXI (May): D: Nancy Naumburg, James Guy. Approx. 80 min. l6mm (?). Dramatized documentary on the life and struggles of taxi drivers, based on the 1934 strike end acted by members of the Taxicab Drivers Union and the Theatre Union Studio.

UNITED FRONT (May?): Ed: Edward Kern. “Documented short on the recent Madison Square demonstration against fascist legislation.’

HOLLYWOOD (Spring?): D: Vic Kandel, Robert Del Duca. 2 reels. Dramatized satire on Hollywood.

HANDS OFF ETHIOPIA (November): Compilation of war footage from commercial newsreel sources (?).


GETTING YOUR MONEY'S WORTH (April?): D + SC: Julian Roffman; ph, ed: Julian Roffman, Vic Kandel, Robert Del Duca; supervised by Arthur Kallet for Consumers Union, 1 reel. Sound. Documentary on Consumers Union research lab testing milk, shoes, and lead toys. First in a series of consumers films (others produced by Roffman, Kandel and Del Duca as the unit Contemporary Films, Inc.).

THE BIRTH OF NEW CHINA (May): Ed: Julian Roffman. 6 reels. Documentary on the Chinese Revolution from 1924 to 1935, edited from suppressed and other newsreels.

Extant Assemblage:

AMERICA TODAY: Ph: (FPL footage) Leo Seltzer; ed (part): Leo Seltzer.

Composed of the following (dates of filming given):

A. FPL footage

  • 1) Hans Weidemann (Nazi emissary) protest (May 25, 1933)
  • 2) Washington. D.C. Scottsboro demonstration (November 7. 1932)

B. Commercial newsreel footage

3) Fascist parades and Nazi activities in Italy and Germany (montage of F.D. Roosevelt included here in one version)

  • 4) March of workers in united front antifascist demonstration and political strike. Paris (February 12, 1934)
  • 5) Attack of deputies on steel strike pickets. Ambridge, Pa. (October 4. 1933)
  • 6) Interception of scab milk shipments by striking Wisconsin dairy farmers (probably summer 1932 or May 1933).

Independent Films Made in Association with the New York FPL:

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS (May, 1934) P: International Labor Defense, in association with NY FPL; d: Leo T. Hurwitz; ph: Lewis Jacobs, Leo Seltzer, Leo T. Hurwitz; ad: Leo T. Hurwitz. Documentary account of the Scottsboro case, including the 1933 Decatur trial.

SWEET LAND OF LIBERTY (July, 1934): P: Political Prisoners Committee of International Labor Defense. in association with NY FPL; d: Leo T. Hurwitz; ed: Leo T. Hurwitz. Ironically edited film on the harassment of dissenters.

SHERIFFED (September, 1934): P: Nancy Naumburg, James Guy. In association with NY FPL; d: Nancy Naumburg, James Guy; ph: Nancy Naumburg; cast: Lew Bentzley (organizer), Mr. and Mrs. John Cummings and their four children, members of the United Farmers Protective Association. Approx. 40 min. 16mm. Dramatized documentary, filmed in Pennsylvania, on the struggle of farmers against mortgage foreclosures.

ERNEST THAELMANN: FIGHTER AGAINST FASCISM / ERNST THAELMANN: FIGHTER FOR FREEDOM (September, 1934): P: Thaelmann Liberation Committee, in association with NY FPL; dist: Garrison Films. 4 reels. Sound. Documentary on the political life, 1924-33. of the German Communist leader, compiled from smuggled newsreel footage, and with introduction and closing remarks by Earl Browder. Includes scenes of the burning of the books, the Reichstag fire, Dimitroff speaking in court, Dimitroff in Moscow, and episodes in the worldwide struggle to liberate Thaelmann.

HARLEM SKETCHES (April. 1935): P: Vanguard Films, in association with NY FPL; d: Leslie Bain; prod asst: Samuel Brody; mus: George Antheil. 2 reels. Sound. Documentary of miserable living conditions in Harlem, together with scenes of demonstrations and of Communist organizer James N. Ford in action.

Unfinished Films:

WINTER 1931 (1931-32): Sc: Whittaker Chambers, Robert W. Dunn, Hugo Gellert, Joe North, Robert Evans, H.A. Potamkin. Projected file designed to portray the struggles of the workers and poor farmers against the miserable working conditions in the third winter of the economic crisis

CHILD MISERY / MISERY AMONG WORKING CLASS CHILDREN (1933-34): Documentary undertaken to support the WIR relief campaign. On “the misery and degradation of proletarian children leader capitalism in general and the economic crisis in particular.”

UNEMPLOYMENT COUNCIL (1933-34): D + SC: Michael Gold. Dramatized documentary to have been made for the Unemployed Council on the lot of an unemployed family on New York’s East Side.

WASTE AND WANT (1934): D: Sam Brody. Documentary project undertaken by the New York FPL’s Harry Alan Potamkin Film School, as a student workshop under instructor Brody.

CIGARETTE (1934-35): SC: Nathan Asch, David Platt. Projected 1-reel dramatized file.



THE FORD MASSACRE / DETROIT FORD MASSACRE: Ph: Joseph Houdyma et al. 1 reel. Extant. Newsreel of the March 7th Detroit/Dearborn demonstration and hunger march of unemployed Ford workers. showing the attack by police; funeral of the four workers killed; and subsequent protest picketing.


SPEEDUP IN AUTO INDUSTRY: Consultant: A.B. Magil. Documentary to have been made with assistance from the John Reed Club and Theatre of Action. Probably not completed.

WORKERS HEALTH: Consultant: Dr. Bicknell. Documentary to have been made with assistance from the John Reed Club and Theatre of Action, to be “partly enacted.” It is not known if this project was completed.



HALSTED STREET: D, Sc, ph, ed: C.O. Nelson. 1 reel. Documentary portraying the various ethnic groups along Chicago’s Halsted Street. Archive print in the Collection of the Film Center, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


COMMUNIST CONVENTION IN CHICAGO (June): Newsreel of the CP Convention, held in Chicago, May 28-30.


THE GREAT DEPRESSION: D & Sc: Maurice Bailen; ph: John Freitag; ed: Maurice Bailen; cast: Jacques Jacobsen (man in the street), Nettie (prostitute). 1 reel. Extant. Part of the collection of the Film Center, School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A documentary of hard times. Including footage of united protest actions involving Heywood Broun, Norman Thomas, Lucy Parsons, Mother Ella Bloor, and John L. Spivak.

WORLD'S FAIR (Fall): No information available,


CRIMINAL SYNDICALIST LAW ON TRIAL (February): Documentary on the Hillsboro case.

The Chicago FPL was also responsible for several newsreels not mentioned above whose content is not known. In January 1935 a project was announced for a film which would expose the real state of affairs among Chicago’s unemployed, through consultation with doctors and child health specialists, The film was not completed.


CHICAGO MAY DAY: D, sc, ph, ed: Maurice Bailen. 7 min. 16mm. Extant. Newsreel of May Day Parade.

PEACE PARADE: D, sc, ph, ed: Maurice Bailen. 10 min. 16mm. Newsreel of a Chicago peace parade, rally, and picnic.



IMPERIAL VALLEY: “Synthetic” documentary of labor conditions in the agricultural “hell hole” of California. (Note: This file was advertised as being shown in New York in November, 1932. Another FPL film of this title was advertised as being given its “first public showing” in New York in April 1936; it is possible that the later film—if it is indeed distinct—is a revised version of the earlier one. To add to the confusion, Experimental Cinema editor Seymour Stern was commissioned by the WIR to make a film on Imperial Valley in 1933; Stern’s film was not completed.)



SAN DIEGO POLICE ATTACK ON WORKERS: Newsreel of an anti-war demonstration subsequently used in court to obtain acquittal for the defendants.


BLOOD MEMORIAL DAY (June?): Newsreel of the police terror in Los Angeles, Memorial Day, 1934. Used in court by a group of workers arrested for “inciting to riot.”

CALIFORNIA 1934 (Summer): No information available.

CANNON FODDER: Compilation film edited from newsreel footage of various world armies.

LIVING WAGE OR DEATH: Dramatized documentary about the calling of a strike.

TOM MOONEY: Documentary on the case and the campaign to free Mooney (?).

Other Newsreel Subjects: (a) El Monte berry pickers’ strike (January); (b) Los Angeles County Hunger March demonstrations (January).