The University of South Carolina Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC) is home to Fox Movietone News’ early footage of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago.
MIRC Curator Greg Wilsbacher told South Carolina Radio Network that Now It Can Be Shown! features sweeping panoramas of the entire harbor from the waning moments of the Japanese attack. It also features close-in sequences of American battleships blazing that were taken from inside the harbor.
But it took a while for the American public to see that footage. “It was for release into motion picture theaters in 1942, December of that year. So it was a full year after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941,” Wilsbacher said.
Wilsbacher said that the government carefully selected what images to release and when to release them as part of its concerted effort to focus the nation’s energy on the new reality of total war. Now It Can Be Shown! provides a look at a carefully crafted narrative.
The film was shot by Fox Movietone News cameraman Al Brick. “When the attacked happened, he was in a car with a friend of his who happened to be an officer of the USS Arizona. They were driving into Pearl Harbor that morning,” said Wilsbacher. “Like any good journalist he had his cameras with him. And the Japanese planes came overhead. That’s the way he described the events that morning. And he started filming it.”
Both the panorama and close in scenes emphasize the scale of the attack and the horrors faced by Americans onboard the Arizona and other battleships. Brick’s films also invite viewers to pose questions about the morning that feed the symbolic narrative constructed about the attack. What if the Japanese attack not been so ‘sneaky’? What if soldiers, sailors and Marines had known an attack was coming? What if the fleet had been better prepared?
You can watch the original newsreel here.