There was a time when it was legal to set up a tower of scaffolding and charge spectators for a ticket to climb it and watch the Indianapolis 500. That changed in 1960 when a tower holding more than a hundred spectators toppled, killing two and injuring dozens. This week’s Universal newsreel features the Indianapolis 500 as the lead sports story, including footage of the tragedy as it unfolded. You may view the complete newsreel, including stories about natural disasters in the Pacific, a non-violent demonstration in Paris, and others here.
From the release sheet:
SPORTS TRAGEDY, THRILLS, AT INDIANAPOLIS: The Indianapolis 500 mile Speedway classic is marred by tragedy before the race starts, when a makeshift tower, with over 100 clinging to it, topples onto the crowd below. In the race itself, Jim Rathmann wins in record time after a sensational 400 mile duel with last year’s winner Rodger Ward.
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 OPA, and on this playlist.