The March Toward War: The March of Time as Document and Propaganda
Introduction The Time Empire MOT as Document Marching into War Voice of Conscience Timeline/Index
The Time Empire
Time Marches—On Radio!
Time Marches—On Film!
Advertising the March
Life and Advertising Tie-ins
Theater Distribution
Citizen Kane and Other Imitators
 Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane and Other Imitators

CITIZEN KANE's "News on the March" Play movie
 News on the March
map
Compare the map above from Citizen Kane to the map below depicting Nazis in America from 1935's "Germany."
 

"Citizen Kane" director and star Orson Welles at one point worked as a voice actor for the March of Time's radio show. Welles clearly was inspired by the March of Time films in making the introduction to "Citizen Kane," which opens with a segment called "News on the March" (1), outlining the life of fictional media mogul Charles Kane, a thinly disguised William Randolph Hearst.

Citizen Kane ad  
This "Citizen Kane" ad ran on the same page as an ad for the full-length feature film on the Vatican. (click to view)  

Welles copies The March of Time well. He includes its misguided passive-voice grammar; silent film-esque intertitles, or text on a black screen marking transitions; and maps that look almost identical to those in its counterpart (2). Perhaps the most tongue-in-cheek moment was the hidden camera shot of Charles Kane (3), which is very similar to a shot in "Munitions," showing an 85-year old arms czar Sir Basil Zaharoff getting wheeled to his train (which really was a hidden camera shot). "By hiding an automatic camera in a railway fruit stand and wheeling it past Zaharoff, who was being escorted in his wheelchair to a train for Paris, the cameraman got the first newsreel shorts ever made of the wealthy manufacturer," Raymond Fielding noted.1 Play movie

Hidden cam Zaharoff, in wheelchair

Far left, the Citizen Kane spoof of The March of Time's secret taping of arms mogul Sir Basil Zaharoff.

Canada Carries OnThe March of Time also inspired real-life imitators, such as "Canada Carries On," and several movies were made about the newsreel business during the 1930s in which The March of Time was said to be a model. The film Ladies Crave Excitement, for example, had "March of Events."2

 

The March of Time had its own spin-offs as well, creating foreign-language versions of the film to play in England, France, Holland, and Spanish-speaking countries. The series faced frequent censorship in England and France, and Nazi officials banned it outright after they invaded Holland.3

 

 OFTEN IMITATED... IN RADIO

  • "Time Moves On"
    This show was accused of being a "carbon copy" of The March of Time.
  • "The March of Rhyme"
    This show lacked a strong announcer, according to this review.
  • "The News Comes to Life"
    A more relaxing alternative to The March of Time.
  • "Yesterday's Worst Accident"
    A morbid take on The March of Time.
  • "Pathe News of the Air"
    Pathe worked with the opposite business model—from newsreel to radio show.
  • "So Goes the World"
    Variety reviews this Seattle-based imitation of March of Time favorably. From the review, the content sounds almost identical, yet the reviewer notes that "So Goes the World" is "keeping away from 'March of Time'."

1 Fielding, Raymond. The March of Time, 1935-1951. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. 53.

2 Fielding, 258 (photos also).

3 Fielding, 156-157 (photos also).