The Guns of August (1964)

99 mins | Documentary | 24 December 1964

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HISTORY

A 2 Apr 1963 DV item announced that Guber-Ford-Gross Productions, Inc. had acquired screen rights to The Guns of August, Barbara W. Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book about World War I (WWI), published by Macmillan in 1962. Later that month, the 24 Apr 1963 Var stated that Byron Productions would produce the documentary. Eugene Gelber, who was said to have brokered the option, was granted associate producer status, and Barbara W. Tuchman was enlisted as an advisor. The project marked the first feature-length, theatrical motion picture for Nathan Kroll, who was described by Var as a “former radio conductor who has done several tv educational films.”
       The 24 Apr 1963 Var noted that the documentary would incorporate “newsreel footage, location shots and Army pictorial accounts.” New footage was slated to be shot in Europe, beginning in mid-May 1963. An article in the 20 Jul 1963 NYT listed possible filming sites in Paris, France, and the Belgian cities and villages of Brussels, Antwerp, Leuven, Loncin (at Fort de Loncin), and Tamines. Historic film clips and photographs were sourced from government archives in France, Belgium, and England, via the British Imperial War Museum and the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Hulton Film Library. In addition to a ninety-minute theatrical version, Kroll planned to make a sixty-minute version for television.
       Universal Pictures signed on to distribute, as announced in the 17 Jul 1963 Var. The picture was named as an inaugural project for the studio’s recently launched “new horizons” program for budding filmmakers. A premiere was originally planned to take place on 1 Aug 1964, to mark the ...

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A 2 Apr 1963 DV item announced that Guber-Ford-Gross Productions, Inc. had acquired screen rights to The Guns of August, Barbara W. Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book about World War I (WWI), published by Macmillan in 1962. Later that month, the 24 Apr 1963 Var stated that Byron Productions would produce the documentary. Eugene Gelber, who was said to have brokered the option, was granted associate producer status, and Barbara W. Tuchman was enlisted as an advisor. The project marked the first feature-length, theatrical motion picture for Nathan Kroll, who was described by Var as a “former radio conductor who has done several tv educational films.”
       The 24 Apr 1963 Var noted that the documentary would incorporate “newsreel footage, location shots and Army pictorial accounts.” New footage was slated to be shot in Europe, beginning in mid-May 1963. An article in the 20 Jul 1963 NYT listed possible filming sites in Paris, France, and the Belgian cities and villages of Brussels, Antwerp, Leuven, Loncin (at Fort de Loncin), and Tamines. Historic film clips and photographs were sourced from government archives in France, Belgium, and England, via the British Imperial War Museum and the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Hulton Film Library. In addition to a ninety-minute theatrical version, Kroll planned to make a sixty-minute version for television.
       Universal Pictures signed on to distribute, as announced in the 17 Jul 1963 Var. The picture was named as an inaugural project for the studio’s recently launched “new horizons” program for budding filmmakers. A premiere was originally planned to take place on 1 Aug 1964, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of WWI. However, theatrical release appears to have been delayed until 24 Dec 1964, when the film opened at the Beekman Theatre in New York City. A review in the 25 Dec 1964 NYT lamented that Kroll had failed to “convey the essence” of Tuchman’s work, while a critique by novelist Joan Didion in the 1 Feb 1965 issue of Vogue echoed that “very little of” Tuchman’s thesis came through in the “superficial” documentary.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Apr 1963
p. 3
Los Angeles Times
25 Nov 1963
Section E, p. 5
New York Times
20 Jul 1963
---
New York Times
25 Dec 1964
---
Variety
24 Apr 1963
p. 7
Variety
17 Jul 1963
p. 17
Vogue
1 Feb 1965
p. 99
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Created and prod by
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
SOUND
Dick Vorisek
Sd mix
VISUAL EFFECTS
PRODUCTION MISC
Stills & maps
European research
Titles
ANIMATION
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman (New York, 1962).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 December 1964
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 24 Dec 1964
Production Date:
began spring 1963
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
99
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

The film is a narrative of the events leading up to World War I, a study of the European royalty and statesmen involved in these events, and a chronicle of the crucial action of the war itself. The film opens with the funeral procession of England's King Edward VII on May 20, 1910, and includes portraits of many of the statesmen in attendance: Czar Nicholas of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, King Albert of Belgium, and the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir apparent to the throne of Austria-Hungary. The film then deals with the gathering storm of political and royal intrigue from 1910 to the assassination of Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914; among those shown are Clemenceau, Poincaré, Marshal Joffre, Woodrow Wilson, Major General Ludendorff, Winston Churchill, and Rasputin. The war begins and there is fighting on two fronts. In the east, the crucial Battle of Tannenberg reveals the devastation visited upon the Russian Army by the Germans. Lenin and Trotsky appear. On the western front, the German Army marches through neutral Belgium against valiant but futile resistance, and then takes ten French cities in one-and-a-half weeks, leaving much of France desolated. The French finally stop the German advance in the Battle of the Marne. Other action includes the Battle of Verdun, the Battle of the Somme, and the final offensive of 1918 under Ludendorff for control of Northern Europe and Scandinavia. The film also details the German Navy's submarine warfare, the American entry into the war, and the Armistice in ...

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The film is a narrative of the events leading up to World War I, a study of the European royalty and statesmen involved in these events, and a chronicle of the crucial action of the war itself. The film opens with the funeral procession of England's King Edward VII on May 20, 1910, and includes portraits of many of the statesmen in attendance: Czar Nicholas of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, King Albert of Belgium, and the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir apparent to the throne of Austria-Hungary. The film then deals with the gathering storm of political and royal intrigue from 1910 to the assassination of Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914; among those shown are Clemenceau, Poincaré, Marshal Joffre, Woodrow Wilson, Major General Ludendorff, Winston Churchill, and Rasputin. The war begins and there is fighting on two fronts. In the east, the crucial Battle of Tannenberg reveals the devastation visited upon the Russian Army by the Germans. Lenin and Trotsky appear. On the western front, the German Army marches through neutral Belgium against valiant but futile resistance, and then takes ten French cities in one-and-a-half weeks, leaving much of France desolated. The French finally stop the German advance in the Battle of the Marne. Other action includes the Battle of Verdun, the Battle of the Somme, and the final offensive of 1918 under Ludendorff for control of Northern Europe and Scandinavia. The film also details the German Navy's submarine warfare, the American entry into the war, and the Armistice in 1918.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.