Saturday Matinee #121: "Snow White Premiere Newsreel" (1937)
Published April 27, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
If you were to watch a Movietone newsreel today, you would find it to be just as shallow, just as empty, and just as non-newsworthy as the plugs we see on the likes of "Entertainment Tonight" or "Access Hollywood." However, due to their age, as well as the era from which they came, entertainment newsreels have a significant historical value. They sometimes stand as the only documented footage we have of important events, whether it be a new footprint at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, or the premiere of a little animated film you may have heard of: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Let's take a trip back to 1937 and attend the high-profile premiere at the Carthay Circle Theatre.
Picture it, December 1937. A Path� News camera is on hand to film the spectacle and attendees for the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In attendance, we find Marlene Dietrich (ironically, one of several now-legendary actors voted "box office poison" that year) and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. George Arliss tips his hat towards the camera. Gossip columnist Louella Parsons shows up, not yet rivaled by Hedda Hopper. Stage actor Preston Foster smiles slyly. And famed child star Shirley Temple arrives escorted by two of the Seven Dwarfs. Also from the Disney stable are the very slim Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and a more-accurate rendition of Donald Duck. Walt Disney also shows up, looking as dapper as usual, as our newsreel comes to a close.
Newsreels were the theatres' way of informing an audience quickly, even if they weren't timely. Unlike today's live "at the scene" footage, these reels were compiled largely from footage cut and edited together, then joined by a narrator. The premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs took place on December 21, distributed at the time by RKO Radio Pictures. The studio also distributed Path� News, one of several entertainment newsreels from the era. As such, it was only natural that RKO send a Path� camera to the premiere in order to document such an important undertaking. After all, many trade papers of the time predicted the film to be Disney's Folly, though we all know today that the film pretty much smashed those expectations and became one of the greatest Cinderella stories in Hollywood.
This newsreel is currently only available on the 2001 "Platinum Edition" DVD of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. If you're interested in seeing footage from other Disney film premieres on DVD, the "40th Anniversary Edition" and "45th Anniversary Edition" DVDs for Mary Poppins includes footage from its premiere, while we get a few narrated clips from Pete's Dragon in its 2009 documentary "Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic." In addition, the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films contain short featurettes about their film premieres, all of which were held at Disneyland. Also, you can check out Pedro Hernandez's "Disney Film Premieres" article from 2012 for a look at some mid-90s Animated Classic film premieres.