One Film, Three Versions

The March as we know it today has evolved since James Blue completed his work in late 1963. Political conflicts and conservation technologies have made their marks on the film over time. Below, you can learn more about the different versions of The March, view one of them, and read a new transcript that expands our understanding of the film.

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The three versions

There are three versions of The March, reflecting the film’s complicated history.

1) James Blue’s “director’s cut” (late November or early December 1963)

This is the original version of the documentary. The director’s cut does not include the Carl Rowan introduction, and because of the filming technology available to Blue in 1963, there are several minor distortions involving the alignment of the sound with the image. The director’s cut was viewed in January and February by President Johnson, several members of his cabinet, key senators, and the USIA Advisory Committee, and it was sent to US ambassadors for their judgments.

2) President Johnson’s version (April 1964)

President Johnson decided the film needed a framing that celebrated the Kennedy and Johnson administrations’ support of the March and of civil rights. The vast majority of US ambassadors affirmed the quality of the film, with several expressing country-specific reservations. Carl Rowan, the Director of the United States Information Agency, created a one-minute introduction, which was added to Blue’s film in April 1964. The film was then re-distributed by the USIA to US embassies throughout the world.

View a clip of Rowan’s introduction to The March.

3) The United States National Archives’ restored version (2013)

To mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and to create an updated print of The March in recognition of its selection to the National Film Registry, the National Archives and Records Administration’s Division of Motion Pictures repaired the minor technical distortions in the original print.

You can learn more about the restoration process from an interview with Criss Kovac, supervisor of the Motion Picture Preservation Lab at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC.

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View the restored version of The March

Recording the public domain. Transcript edited by Liam Maher, incorporating research by David Frank and Liam Maher.

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Why has “I Have A Dream” been redacted?

“I Have A Dream” is the intellectual property of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the copyright is held by Dr. King’s estate. The National Archives’ version of The March redacts the speech out of respect for the copyright restrictions, and the team behind this digital exhibition chose to follow suit. Many scholars of public address and free speech would prefer to have the speech in the public domain so that it could be reproduced without restrictions, but the text and recordings are readily accessible online through authorized sources. Unfortunately, the emotional impact of James Blue’s film is dramatically altered by the removal of King’s voice. 

You can listen to “I Have A Dream” and read a full transcript of the speech via The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

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A new transcript of The March

Prior the launch of this exhibition, two primary transcripts existed for The March. The first was prepared by Randy Jacob and Gerald O’Grady of the James Blue Memorial Foundation in December of 1963 for the film’s release in France. This version features a side-by-side English/French transcription with minimal cues or stage directions. The text is taken from James Blue’s original script for The March prior its completion. The second transcript was produced by the National Archives and Records Administration in 2013 after they acquired The March and completed a full restoration and digitization of the film. This version is nearly void of cues or contextual information beyond dialogue and speaker names, omitting sung dialogue in several cases.

These transcripts contained inaccuracies and errors both small and large. Small errors appear in the 1963 version because it relied predominantly on Blue’s preliminary script and not the actual dialogue in the film. The 2013 version included additional errors and omissions that further obscured the 1963 version. In not including much of the sung dialogue, this edition omitted significant elements of Blue’s film (as the eclectic collection of songs constitutes most of the dialogue in the film’s second half).

By simultaneously listening to the film audio and reading these transcripts, the team behind this digital exhibition was able to identify discrepancies in the 1963 and 2013 editions and create a new transcript truer to Blue’s documentary. Specific words, individual names, and song lyrics were re-transcribed to capture the exact verbiage of the film. This digital exhibition features both a transcript of the film’s dialogue, which you can read while watching the film above, and a “screenplay” that presents dialogue along with directorial cues, place names, and details relevant to the narrative, which you can read at the link below. Each has been carefully tailored to provide a more accessible written account of The March.

View the full Oregon Screenplay of The March.

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