The March Toward War: The <em>March of Time</em> as Document and Propaganda
Introduction The Time Empire MOT as Document Marching into War Voice of Conscience Timeline/Index
March of Time as Document
Defining the Radio Show
Form and Function: Radio
Defining the Films
Form and Function: Films
Public Opinion
Censoring Time
Quiz: Spot the Fake!
 Today in Radio

Form and Function: Radio

The March of Time radio show's orchestra.
The March of Time radio show's orchestra.

The radio show used a number of tools to make the news and drama of their show exciting.

Sound and audio effects were key. Sound effects helped set scenes, indicate changes in subject, indicate movement (via footsteps for example) or emotion. Often, music the played between segments matched the temper of the previous report while segueing into the next segment. March of Time composers were particularly ingenious with using classical music or variations on classical music to underline themes for segments, create signature themes for countries or storylines, and even comment ironically on the narration. Certain countries might often have a theme song to help identify them, for example, Tchaikovsky's "March Slave" often indicated Russia. In a segment describing Hitler's capture of Czechoslovakia, a variation of "The Great Gate of Kiev" represents the stoicism of Prague's citizens. In the same segment, the Czech people sing their national anthem, creating a wonderful emotional effect, before they are broken up by the "tweet" of a Nazi whistle.

The March of Time radio show engages the imagination through making ordinary and extraordinary things sound as real as possible: The click of a telephone receiver, the accent of an Ethiopian emperor, the creaking of an opened wooden crate, the haunting sounds of Japanese and Italian bombers as they set their sights on civilians—all create a sense of being there that ties the listener to the affected people in the story. Listeners cannot help sympathizing with the victims of war. They cannot sympathize so easily with the shouting tones of the dictators.

The radio show's format also allows for succinct segments as short as one minute—hard to do in film when setting a visual stage is necessary, but quite possible when an actor playing a witness recounts an event. One short segment had a boyhood classmate of Hitler's—now living in Ohio and an American—tell of Hitler's attempts to get out of class early by magnifying the already-present turpentine odor on his clothes (he was a painter's apprentice). When the teacher protested, Hitler said he had no other clothes. "He got a new suit out of that deal," the Ohio man said. It offers a pithy example of Hitler getting his way early on, with the opposing teacher/authority figure appeasing his desires.

One of the more notable characteristics of the radio show was its use of "Time-speak"—a style of speaking that blended passive voice with maddening sentence structures. Time-speak was first introduced in Time magazine, presumably to help establish the magazine's identity, and the March of Time brand continued the tradition in its radio show and films. Thankfully, the dramatizations still used conversational English.