This Week in Universal News: The Rosenberg Verdict, 1951

This week in 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were found guilty of providing secret information about atomic weapons technology to the USSR. The couple were sentenced to death on April 5, 1951 and were executed in June of 1953.

From the release sheet:

DEATH FOR ATOM SPIES! New York- It’s a verdict of death in the electric chair for Julius Rosenberg and his wife Ethel, convicted of betraying their country by giving atom-bomb secrets to the enemy. Spy drama comes to the grim climax as Judge Irving Kaufman passes sentence on the Rosenbergs, with accomplice Morton Sobell getting thirty years.

Death to Atom Spies0001

You may view the complete reel, including all the stories listed on the release sheet above. Just a warning: the story about the sea turtle harvest could be upsetting considering the light tone the story takes toward the slaughter of a species now classified as endangered (Audrey actually screamed while transferring it in the lab). Luckily, the reel ends on a bright note, with a celebrity circus featuring sad clown Emmett Kelly, Jimmy Durante, comic actor Ed Wynn, burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, and Celeste Holm riding an elephant.

A clown films the celebrity circus.

About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:

The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.

In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).

While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in the catalog, and on this playlist.

One thought on “This Week in Universal News: The Rosenberg Verdict, 1951

  1. I well remember hearing on the radio on June 19, 1953, of the electrocution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg — as I and fellow Boy Scouts were returning home after seeing an outdoor production in Elgin, IL, of the “Song of Hiawatha.” As for the Rosenbergs, another key memory was hearing John Haynes, now retired from the Library of Congress, mention during a talk at A2, sponsored by the National Archives Assembly, that the Verona files confirmed Ethel’s guilt.

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