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Tuesdays at Noon – The Bones of the Bounty

Past Event

Diver and submerged anchor
A diver examines one of the Bounty’s anchors off Pitcairn Island

Photograph by Luis Marden

On Tuesday, November 13, National Geographic Live joins forces with the National Geographic Film Preservation Project to present a live-narrated performance of The Bones of the Bounty, Luis Marden’s historic 1958 film documenting his discovery of artifacts from the fabled H.M.S. Bounty in the waters off remote Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific. A legend at National Geographic, Marden introduced color photography to the Geographic, was a pioneer in underwater photography and film (documenting many of Jacques Cousteau’s early expeditions) and was a familiar byline – as writer and photographer – to generations of National Geographic readers for his colorful stories from the world’s most distant, exotic places. His Bounty film, one of numerous films Marden produced during the 40s and 50s, became the first National Geographic film ever broadcast on television when excerpts from it were shown on NBC’s Omnibus series in 1958. The strong public response to this segment showed that National Geographic’s content and the new medium of television were a natural match for each other, and within a few years, the Society was producing its own television specials.

The performance, presented as part of National Geographic Live’s “Tuesdays at Noon” series of free public film screenings, also recreates a type of public program very popular in the mid-twentieth century: the live-narrated film (or “film lecture” as it was long known at the Geographic) This was a film presented with a speaker, usually the filmmaker, giving the narration in person, with music and sound effects (if any) played from a tape or a phonograph record. These film presentations were major public events, with audiences selling out Washington’s Constitution Hall to see National Geographic’s popular lecture series, with presenters like Marden, Captain Irving Johnson, travelogue giant Burton Holmes, and later more familiar names like scientists Louis Leakey and Dian Fossey. Marden frequently presented film-lectures based on stories that he also wrote and photographed for National Geographic. At the February 13 performance, the film will be narrated by Tuesdays at Noon host and programmer Rock Wheeler, who has been working with the National Geographic Film Preservation Project on this project.

The National Geographic Film Preservation Project is a task team created within the Digital Motion/Film Archive group to raise awareness towards preserving the Society’s film making legacy. Members of the team, Joanne Namerow, Karen Buckley and Christina Tkacik, have been working with Marden’s film (which was digitized in the 90’s) as well as other production elements found in the archives, such as Marden’ script for his live performances, and music recording used by Marden in his performances, some of which will be incorporated into Tuesday’s presentation.

The live performance of The Bones of the Bounty will be Tuesday, November 13, a noon, in the Gilbert H. Grosvenor. Admission is free, and no tickets are necessary.

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