Though I've yet to lay hands on Charles Peden's 1932 memoir, pictures like this have made it a mission. Newsreel Man unspools the early life adventure of a young Fox Movietone photographer; a dashing lad who skips from one continent to the next with a futuristic 'sound camera' by his side. It's heady stuff and the young Peden can't mask his enthusiasm for the burgeoning form and where in the world it takes him.
"The newsreel man may be interviewing a king one day, and the next be on his way to the wilds of an African jungle. He may be photographing an airplane crash in the morning and a fashion show in the afternoon."Man, that sounds familiar. Who knew the themes I've been exploring here for the past four years were so masterfully mined six decades before my birth? I'll tell you who: Amanda Emily. The KXLY web developer obviously shares my affection for broadcasters past. As chief archivist at the Lenslinger Institute, she's unearthing treasures faster than I can slather them in overbaked prose. Thanks, Amanda - together we could put together one hell of a coffee table book.
"In short, the newsreel man must be prepared for anything, anywhere, any time. He must always expect the unexpected."As for Newsreel Man, it's on my short list. Soon after he wrote it, Peden left Fox for Hearst Metrotone News, where he remained a vital force until his death in 1973. From the Lindbergh kidnapping trial to the Hindenburg explosion, from flying over wartime Saipan in a B-29 to manning the floor of political conventions during the tumultuous sixties, Charles Peden took life behind the lens and left an engaging account of the way it made him feel. Countless lessons can be gleaned from his text, but I'm buying the book for the following paragraph alone...
"As might be expected, cameramen have their pet aversions. They seem to agree that animal shows, birds, publicity stunts, polo, and people who persist in shifting from one foot to the other while being photographed in close-up, are the main reasons for headaches. Sound men grit their teeth when confronted with lispers, whiners, juice-suckers, and such. Carillons, ten-ton dynamite explosions, traffic noises, and gusty winds add to their woes. In the majority of cases the average man or woman records well, and no one should feel apprehensive about standing up to a microphone. But deliver me from the timid soul who protests that he or she cannot speak a little louder."Looks like I got a new hero.