MEMORIAL DAY MASSACRE: Workers Die, Film Buried
New film written and directed by Greg Mitchell and produced by Lyn Goldfarb, premiered over PBS stations in early May, and now everyone can watch below or free online and streaming via PBS. org and apps or via host station KCET. Narrated by Josh Charles, with intro by Studs Terkel. Companion book now available as e-book and paperback at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
Watch the 27-minute film below (expand to view full screen):
Film and book explore the tragic, but largely forgotten, 1937 incident in Chicago when police shot 40 steel workers and supporters (mainly in the back) and killed ten of them. Then Paramount suppressed the only footage of the murders, until a famed investigative reporter and crusading U.S. senator brought it to light. The book is the first oral history, with commentary from injured activists and workers along with notables such as Studs Terkel, Howard Zinn, Gore Vidal, Dorothy Day, and Howard Fast. Previous films from Mitchell and Exposed Films: Atomic Cover-up (2021) and The First Attack Ads (2022).
Contact Greg Mitchell at: email@example.com Lyn Goldfarb: firstname.lastname@example.org
Early acclaim below, which like Mitchell’s previous PBS film, The First Attack Ads: Hollywood vs. Upton SInclair (2022) was produced by Lyn Goldfarb.
“So important. Another piece of forgotten history and lesson in the manipulation of truth.” –David Maraniss, author of bestsellers Path Lit by Lightning, biographies of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and other books.
“Excellent…this is Oscar-level stuff. There are amazing bits–the fact that they had gas masks at the ready, hired vigilantes, machine guns. And the notion of justifiable homicide. Mitchell is a brilliant documentarian of history.” — Rod Lurie, director of The Outpost, The Challenger and other movies
“Stunning. Rivetingly tells the story of one of the greatest human rights atrocities in U.S. history, and the success of the forces of democracy to defeat the attempt of the powers that be to hide it from the public.” — Rick Perlstein, bestselling author of Nixonland, Reaganland and other books.
“A fine piece of work on American history, film history, and human history. Powerful indeed, on a subject that’s as timely as ever.” — David Sterritt, editor-in-chief, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, esteemed movie critic at The Christian Science Monitor for decades
“Riveting, moving, infuriating and ultimately inspiring. The combination of union organizing, police violence, and good media/bad media makes it very timely. “ — Nina Bernstein, longtime investigative reporter, The New York Times
“Astonishing footage–fascinating film!” — Geoffrey C. Ward, Emmy-winning writer of Ken Burns films, including The Civil War, The U.S. and the Holocaust, Jazz, The Roosevelts and The Vietnam War
“Excellent. You’re doing an outstanding job in reminding us of these incidents we forget.”— Oliver Stone
“A devastating documentary. This film is so good.” — Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
“What a horrifying event, and so effectively chronicled in this film. You were right to tie it to the present day. I can’t believe we are back in the union-busting days.” — Sarah Kernochan, director of Academy Award winners Marjoe and Thoth
“Powerful! I’m old enough to remember the Chicago police riots of 1968. I see it wasn’t their first rodeo. Quaint how a Senate hearing actually accomplished something.” — Lloyd Grove, longtime Washington Post columnist
“An important part of our Steelworkers history.”–United Steelworkers Union
Narrator: Josh Charles. Editor: Rob Burgos. Composer: John E. Low. Advisor: Carol Quirke. Associate Producer: Barbara Bedway. (27 minutes, USA)
“The veteran (and tireless) journalist Greg Mitchell has resurrected this remarkable saga in a short film for PBS and a companion oral-history book. Check it out, and make this Memorial Day a Labor Day.” — Will Bunch, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Very instructive in the best sense of the word. I knew the outlines of the 1937 Republic Steel Massacre, but not the details and the twists and turns of Paramount. Also so valuable to have the voices of the strikers.”–Deborah Shaffer, director of The Wobblies and Academy Award-winning Witness to War and other films.
“A film that should be seen by anyone concerned with labor conditions and the history of police violence in the USA.”-– Paul Buhle, retired Senior Lecturer, Brown University, author of dozens of books on labor and radical history
“The Paramount film footage is powerful, the narration is great. I absolutely love this. It needs to run on Memorial Day.” — Scott Horton, contributing editor, Harper’s magazine
“Really powerful, and I like the way you give it such a pointed contemporary relevance at the end. I’m amazed at the film and audio footage you are able to turn up. Kudos to all involved.”— Gary Krist, bestselling author of City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago and other books.
“I had no idea of that history– the resonance for the here and now is loud and clear.” — Allison Russell, Birds of Chicago, multiple Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter
“Take 30 minutes to watch this incredible doc from on 1937 Chicago police massacre of striking Republic Steel workers and the initial coverup of the newsreel footage—all revealed by progressive reporters and Sen. La Follette. So much more, too.” –Daniel Denvir, Jacobin, author of All-American Nativism.
“Required viewing for historians, especially media historians. Of course, all kinds of docs draw on newsreels, but this one also examines the medium—how Paramount News suppressed incriminating footage of a police assault on striking steel workers over Memorial Day in 1937.” — Thomas Doherty, author, Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939
“Extraordinary piece. Such an illuminating and important film. Especially right now.” — David Morrissey, actor
“An awesome film–and the hidden history behind it.” — David Beard, executive editor, National Geographic
Memorial Day Massacre explores a largely forgotten episode in labor–and media–history, all the more vital today as union organizing catches fire in the United States after years of decline.
This is the first film in several decades devoted to the tragic events in Chicago in 1937, at the height of union activity across America, when police opened fire on striking steel workers and their supporters in an open field, killing ten (nearly all shot in the back as they fled). Press accounts generally accepted false police accounts that the unionists, allegedly But led by Communists and other radicals, attacked first and were “rioting.”
A cameraman for Paramount News was at the scene, however, and captured the truth on film. But Paramount then suppressed its newsreel devoted to the incident. When a famous reporter revealed the cover-up, a Congressional committee held hearings and screened the footage for the first time, inspiring national outrage. But the damage to the labor cause had already been done, slowing union organizing for years to come in the steel industry.
Memorial Day Massacre, narrated by Josh Charles, tells this story via interviews with first-hand observers, graphic news photos and the airing of the shocking Paramount footage–never screened at this length previously–which is so historic it now resides in the National Film Registry.
It concludes with highlights of the recent surge in union organizing and victories–and why the 1937 tragedy matters today.
GREG MITCHELL, Writer and Director
Greg Mitchell is the author of a dozen books, including The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics, winner of the Goldsmith Book Prize and one of five finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Awards. It was later named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the five greatest books every written by an election race. His previous film, the award-winning feature Atomic Cover-up, drew wide acclaim in 2021. He also co-produced another festival favorite, Following the Ninth, in 2014. Among his other books are the bestselling The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall (2016), The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood–and America–Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (2020), as well as the earlier Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady and Hiroshima in America. He has written about the 1934 campaign several times for The New York Times, and also for the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, American Film, and numerous other magazines.
LYN GOLDFARB, Producer
Lyn Goldfarb is an Academy Award-nominated and award-winning independent documentary filmmaker, with 19 films broadcast nationally on PBS and major cable. Her latest documentary short Eddy’s World played at more than 30 film festivals, winning Best Short Documentary at the Port Townsend Film Festival, and was featured for several months on The New Yorker’s site. Her feature films include: With Babies and Banners: Story of the Women’s Emergency Brigade; Danger: Kids at Work; People in Motion; The New Los Angeles; Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race; and the series: The Roman Empire in the First Century, Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire, and California and the American Dream. Goldfarb was director, producer and writer of We Have a Plan, an episode in the acclaimed 1993 The Great Depression series, produced by Blackside, Inc. The documentary included Upton Sinclair’s campaign as part of its story of the social and political upheavals that shook the nation in 1934. Greg Mitchell served as principal advisor. Goldfarb conducted the interviews featured in The First Attack Ads.