Although we have a fairly good idea about the class films of the 1920s, there is virtually no information about the class films of the 1930s. The exception is the film of the Class of 1939. That is probably not an accident: it was the class of previously featured Frederic Fox ’39, who was the first and only keeper of Princetoniana from 1976 until his untimely death in 1981. The 16mm film in the archives turned out not to be the two hour long film that was announced in the Daily Princetonian on May 1938, and it sadly also lacks the sound that was supposed to have been a major innovation. How much the ultimate film ‘shattered precedents’ by depicting ‘intimacies during campus years’ as the Prince announced in March 1938, we may never know. But one thing is clear: the Class of 1939 had a lot of fun that included women and beer.
The footage is in chronological order, starting with freshmen football practice during days, nights, and in the snow. After this, athletics (always emphasized in previous class films) get very little attention: only football and rowing are featured without any identifications, other than a Yale-Princeton game (6:49). The freshmen scenes continue with footage about the Veterans of Future Wars (VFW) (1:50), founded in March 1936 by members of the Class of 1936 and 1937, which became one of the most famous college pranks in the country. The footage is part of a newsreel of March of the Times, which can be viewed online (with sound!). The three “likely pieces of cannon fodder” (shown at 2:19 in the chairs), who came up with the idea, are Lewis J. Gorin ’36, “National Commander” (middle), Urban Rushton ’36 (left), and probably Richard Waters ’36 (right). According to 1939’s class history in the Nassau Herald, it was the “main event” of the second term that year, and the movement received the freshmen’s “whole-hearted backing.” The records of the Veterans of Future Wars are kept in the University Archives.
It is not known why the class film ended up in the University Archives without sound. The original idea to have a two-hour film with sound seems to have been too ambitious: on June 7, 1939 the Prince announced that the senior class film was delayed by audio editing. The final result, to be premiered at the Class’ first reunion, would only be 1000 feet long, due to the extensive costs of the sound track. The Prince’s description of the final film, which would also include some added campus scenes in color, is very different than the footage that is featured here. What happened? Did the sound track get lost? Or could this be the footage that was excluded from in the final film? If anybody could explain the mystery, we would love to hear it!