This Week in Universal News: The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin

This week’s story is from the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin, Germany. The games are most well-known for the controversy surrounding them; there was strong support in the United States and around the world for a boycott because of the Nazi regime’s racist ideology and discriminatory actions against Jews. The United States’ team attended the games, but several Jewish athletes chose to boycott. In the end, the prevailing story of the games was that of the African-American track and field athlete Jesse Owens: The four gold medals Owens won were widely considered a blow against the Nazi belief in Aryan supremacy.

In addition to footage of the track and field events, field hockey and diving contests are featured, as well as an on-field gymnastics display.

From the release sheet:


Berlin, Germany–Sweeping  forward with an irresistible urge to win, the American team conquers the stars of fifty-one other competing nations, capturing the men’s Track and Field title with the astounding total of 203 points to 80 for Finland, their nearest competitor in the series of events that constitutes the sizzling feature of the Olympiad. Little Kitei  Son, a Korean running for Japan, walks away with the grueling Marathon, classic fixture of the Games. Jesse Owens, the Buckeye Bullet, establishes himself as the outstanding star of the meet, in breath-taking individual and team competition. Varied aquatic and gymnastic events add bright splashes of color to the greatest athletic meet of all time.

Sohn Kee-chung (Kitei Son), a Korean athlete competing for Japan, won the 1936 Olympic marathon.

You may view the reel, which also includes a story about a speech given by President Franklin Roosevelt in Chautauqua, New York, in which he expresses his distaste for war and affirms his isolationist views. The original narration track for this reel no longer exists, but the speech and sound effects, such as the crowd noise during the Olympic Games, are extant.                    

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.