The Forgotten Film of the 1938 World Cup in France

Many of the official World Cup films are well-known and widely available, such as the classic 1966 movie Goal! and the Michael Caine narrated Hero from 1986. The official FIFA Films page lists 15 World Cup films from 1930 to 2006, all available on DVD. The first World Cup in 1930 has retroactively been given an official film recently made from archive footage, but there is nothing listed for 1934, 1938 or 1950, so we presume the first official World Cup film was commissioned in 1954.

But, in fact, there does appear to be an official narrative film made earlier than that, from the 1938 World Cup. Curiously, there is no mention anywhere on FIFA’s films site or elsewhere as far as I can tell in the English-language of a roughly 30 minute long film made at and released shortly after the 1938 World Cup held in France. Yet I believe that 1938 film, by young French director René Lucot, was an officially sanctioned product. The introduction to the film lists the committee of FIFA in its credits. The film has even been forgotten by chroniclers of Lucot’s long film career, and it may indeed have been his first: Lucot’s IMDB filmography does not list it, giving his 1942 film Rodin as his cinematic debut instead.

I’m not particularly sure why this film has apparently been forgotten (I suppose it doesn’t help that the narration is only in French), and only stumbled upon its existence myself when reading through a detailed academic article on the culture of that World Cup by Joan Tumblety, entitled The Soccer World Cup of 1938: Politics, Spectacles, and la Culture Physique in Interwar France [PDF] and well worth reading itself. According to Tumblety, Lucot’s film was part of a “multigenre publicity campaign designed to extend the event’s audience far beyond the stadium.”

I was able to find a full-version of Lucot’s 1938 film at a French site (you can view the full-length version below, too). Even though the narration is in French, anyone interested in the history of the World Cup should give it a look. One thing that strikes one immediately is the visibility of  the uncomfortable politics that surrounded the 1938 World Cup, with the Germans prominently offering the Hitler salute several times in the film, along with what appear to be broadcasters and other prominent officials on the sidelines and in the stands.

1938 World Cup, France, Sieg Heil, Hitler Salute, Film, Lucot

Maybe this footage isn’t what FIFA wants the 1938 event to be associated with at a World Cup that ended with the triumph of Mussolini-era Italy, and just perhaps, that’s actually the reason why this film is lost in the archives.

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