FDR’s “Four Freedoms” Speech

This post was written by Criss Kovac. Criss Kovac is the supervisor of the Motion Picture Preservation Lab.

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation in the 153rd State of the Union Address. Known more popularly as the “Four Freedoms Speech,” he proposed four fundamental freedoms that all people should have the right to – Freedom of speech and worship and freedom from want and fear. He also spoke out against dictators, in support of providing assistance to Britain and her allies, and in readying America for potential conflict.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Four Freedoms speech, the Motion Picture Preservation Lab undertook a full digital restoration of the Paramount Newsreel covering the speech. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library provided us with a negative that was two generations removed from the original negative. Below is a clip from the newsreel.

Using our DFT Spirit 4K film scanner, we captured the images from the negative and then used our Digital Vision Nucoda Film Master color correction and restoration program to create the digital master. The Film Master software is extremely good at automated removal of defects such as dirt, dust, and scratches introduced over time, but it isn’t perfect, so manual defect removal is frequently required. Manual defect removal consists of performing fixes frame by frame, a time-consuming and tedious process. To give an idea of how long this process can take – the film is approximately 8 ½ minutes long and the restoration process took forty hours.

The original soundtrack on the newsreel is a variable density track which was full of hiss, pops, crackles, and inherent hum that made it extremely difficult to hear the speech. Staff at the FDR Library instead used a 1/4″ audio recording that was transferred from an original disc recording of the speech. Unfortunately, the audio did not sync up exactly. Nick Tormey, senior editor at the Pare Lorentz Center, manually edited the recording sentence by sentence to match the film.

For more on Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, see “The Four Freedoms Remastered” at the FDR Library’s “Forward with Roosevelt” blog.