Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 3, 2003
Contact: Ray Geselbracht, 816-268-8212 . Education and Academic Outreach Coordinator.

New Films and Sound Recordings Featuring
Harry S. Truman Opened at Truman Presidential Museum & Library

The Truman Presidential Museum & Library has opened for research about 75 minutes of film and about 11 hours of sound recordings featuring former President Truman and several of his family, friends and associates talking about his life and presidency. The films and sound recordings, which collectively are called the Screen Gems Collection, were made by Talent Associates, Ltd. and Screen Gems, Inc. in the early 1960s during the production of a twenty-six part documentary called Decision: The Conflicts of Harry S. Truman.

The Decision films were broadcast beginning in November 1964. They were quite popular, and their star, former President Truman, was named the outstanding television personality of 1964 by the American Cinema Editors.

After the films were aired, Truman asked Screen Gems, Inc. to send all the outtakes created during the film's production to the Truman Library. The immense collection of material-about 18,000 film and audio clips stored in about 2,600 metal film cans, never been seen by the public --arrived at the Truman Library in 1965. The archives staff began appraising and processing the collection in 1989. Most importantly, the small percentage of the material that was permanently valuable had to be identified and preserved. A team of volunteers was assembled to help with the work in 1996. Every clip has been viewed and described by the extraordinarily dedicated team of volunteers who have overcome many technical obstacles and devoted quite a few years of their lives to processing the Screen Gems Collection and seeing it opened for research.

Truman apparently considered the Decision series to be a film version of his memoirs, which he published in two volumes in 1955 and 1956. Sometimes in the outtakes he reads from a script, based on his memoirs, in a polished way, but at other times he ad-libs, speaks informally, and sometimes intimately. His subject matter ranges widely, from his boyhood in Independence, to his family and friends, the many important decisions of his presidency, his habits, diversions, and opinions. Other people are featured on the outtakes as well-Truman's sister Mary Jane, for example, his cousin Ethel Noland, his foreign policy adviser Averell Harriman, and local media personality Walt Bodine, who gives many insights into Truman's special ties to Independence and Kansas City.

This opening of Screen Gems materials is the first of three or four openings that will occur in the next few years. Truman Library archivists estimate that the Screen Gems Collection will eventually comprise about 5 hours of film and 25 hours of sound recordings.

The Truman Presidential Museum & Library is one of ten Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. It is located at U.S. Highway 24 and Delaware in Independence, Missouri. Research Room hours are 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday and Saturdays by appointment. For information, call 816-268-8200 , extension 281.

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