The War Film Collection

The Academy Film Archive’s War Film Collection was established in 1942 in the Academy’s Research Library. Librarian Margaret Herrick began acquiring a catalog of films that would eventually total nearly 500 titles. The 231 titles that survive provide a wealth of information for educators and film scholars as well as social, cultural, and military historians.

Between 1941 and 1945 many Hollywood producers, writers, directors, actors and technicians served in the various branches of the military. The United States Government utilized their expertise to produce wartime short films for both military and civilian audiences. Running an average of two reels in length (around 20 minutes), these short films were created by the thousands, covering many topics, all with the same goal of promoting and aiding victory by the United States and its allies in World War II.

The collection represents a unique survey and historical record of informational short films produced and released through U.S. Government agencies such as the Office of War Information, the U.S. Navy, the Department of Agriculture, the Army Signal Corps and the Treasury Department, as well as the governments of Australia, Belgium, Britain and Canada.

Early war films were designed to emphasize American unity for the war effort on the home front. "Manpower" (1942) explores how the social and industrial patterns of the country were altered to meet the demand for workers in every American industry. "Henry Browne Farmer" (1942) depicts an African-American family’s contribution by maintaining a prosperous farm as a son trains in the Army Air Force. Eleanor Roosevelt comments on the role of women entering the fields of science and industry in "Women in Defense" (1941). Films such as "Two Down and One to Go" (1945) document the conclusion of the Allied war effort. Producer David O. Selznick contributed to war films such as "Reward Unlimited" (1944). Other Hollywood figures whose work is represented include directors John Ford, Jacques Tourneur, Jean Negulesco and Garson Kanin as well as prominent actors such as Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope and Spencer Tracy.

Many prints in the Academy’s War Film Collection represent the best surviving material for those titles, making them the basis for preservation work. In the last few years, the Academy has preserved several titles in this collection, including "Bomber" (1941), "Women are Warriors" (1942), "The Battle of Midway" (1942), "Rat Destruction: Methods of Control in Urban Areas" (1942), "Library of Congress" (1945) and "Tuesday in November" (1945).

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