In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Al Brick:The Forgotten Newsreel Man at Pearl Harbor
  • Greg Wilsbacher (bio)

Al Brick, who took some of the remarkable pictures of Pearl Harbor in this week's issue, deserved to get the first american scoop of the war. He went to Honolulu in april 1941, so as to be there when something happened. In his nine months of waiting, he acquired the most beautiful sun tan ever seen at the Outrigger Canoe Club. On the morning of Dec. 7 he was at Pearl Harbor, photographed the Japanese attack from start to finish.

Life, December 14, 1942

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7th, 1941, was photographed by U.S. Navy and Coast Guard cameramen who, despite the surprise with which the enemy forces moved, managed to secure some excellent shots of the disaster. Most of this footage was immediately suppressed by military censors and was not released to the public for many months thereafter.

Raymond Fielding, The American Newsreel: 1911-1967 [End Page 30]

On December 7, 1942, Fox Movietone News released a single-subject newsreel to celebrate the work of one of its top cameramen, whose footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor had been withheld from the public for a full year. "Now It Can Be Shown!" featured Al Brick's sweeping panorama of the full devastation wrought by the Japanese attack as well as his stunning images of battleships ablaze.1 A week later, LIFE printed frame enlargements from Brick's film as part of its anniversary story on the raid and gave special credit to Brick for these photos. Sixty-five years later, though, when Raymond Fielding revised his 1972 study of the American newsreel for reissue in 2006, he added a photograph of the burning battleship Arizona, noting in the caption that a number of navy and coast guard cameramen were in the harbor that morning making the films to be included in newsreels. In this rare instance, Fielding got it wrong. Navy and coast guard photographers certainly [End Page 31] were at Pearl Harbor on December 7, but the motion picture film shot in the harbor that morning and subsequently released to newsreels a year later came from the camera of one Movietone cameraman.2 Fielding is not the only one to have left Brick out of the pages of history. Few remember Brick as the creator of this famous film record, even though Movietone promoted his byline with a special newsreel when the Department of the Navy finally released his negatives a full year after the attack. How, then, has the archival evidence become so misconstrued over the decades? Understanding the process by which Brick went from a celebrated newsreel man to an anonymous navy photographer and through which film with such a clear provenance became a poorly understood body of stock footage highlights not only the importance of film archiving as a field but also the need to project its influence into historical and cultural debates.

For a single-subject release, the dope sheets for "Now It Can Be Shown!" are unusually extensive, containing thirteen separate documents, the bulk of which pertain to Brick's film.3 The published newsreel pulls film from four Movietone stories: 048-078, 048-079, 048-080, and 048-081. The dope sheet for Movietone story 048-078 deserves special study as it provides a framework for Brick's progress through the harbor on December 7 (see Figure 1 for a map of the harbor). Six rolls of film from that day are logged under this one number: five shorter rolls from Brick's Bell and Howell Eyemo and one from his Mitchell camera. The shot list for roll 1 (the Mitchell camera magazine) reads as follows:

  1. Scene 1. LS Panorama of Pearl Harbor, L to R. PENNSYLVANIA burning in dry dock, USS SHAW burning in Floating Drydock, damaged battleship burning at Ford Island moorings.

  2. Scene 2. CU Arizona burning.

  3. Scene 3. WA ARIZONA burning at Ford Island.

  4. Scene 4. West Virginia and Tennessee burning.

  5. Scene 5. OKLAHOMA (capsized) outboard of MARYLAND.

  6. Scene 6. CU OKLAHOMA, MARYLAND, WESTVIRGINIA [sic] and TENNESSEE at FORD ISLAND.

  7. Scene 7. CALIFORNIA beached at Ford Island.

  8. Scene 8. Panorama...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-4235
Print ISSN
1532-3978
Pages
pp. 30-59
Launched on MUSE
2011-02-11
Open Access
No
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