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  • 94906 (Source: National Archives Catalog)

Date produced: 1935


Fred C. Ells




800 ft





Sound Notes:



Sound on disc


ACL Ten Best 1935
American Cinematographer Amateur Movie Makers Contest, 1935 - Documentary Class, Runner Up
Seventh Annual Little Movie Party, 1936


"In the Beginning, although far from being a perfect picture, is nevertheless one of the few truly great films thus far to come from a motion picture camera — either theatrical or amateur. Here, the magnificent beauty and awesome strangeness of the natural world have been seen in their fundamental and ultimate meanings. As an interpretation of the epic story of creation, In the Beginning follows directly in the noble tradition of Homer, Dante and Milton. One is left stilled and humble before the simple purity of imagination which conceived it. To this superb document of nature, F. C. Ells, ACL, the producer, has brought a technical skill and sensitive craftsmanship more than equal to the demands of his subject. Using as his titles direct quotations from the first chapter of Genesis, Mr. Ells has added a subtle undertone to the beautiful King James English by the use of primitive, geometrical symbols (indicative of fire, rain, infinity, etc.) for his title backgrounds. Somber and stunning scenes of the heaving waters, the new born earth and bursting streams in the first reel are followed, in the second, by flawlessly executed telephoto and macroscopic studies of the earth's myriad creatures. Integrating the entire production is a musical accompaniment of stately church music, recorded on disc by the Sistine Choir. Mr. Ells, who has looked upon the earth and found it good, has produced a sincere and beautiful film, great even as it falls short of perfection." Movie Makers, Dec. 1935, 550.


In the Beginning is a part of the Harmon Foundation Collection held by the National Archives. A copy is also available in the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers Collection held by East Anglian Film Archive.

"In the Beginning, although an interpretation of the Biblical story of creation, was not filmed by a clergyman on foreign service in Japan. F. C. Ells, ACL, its producer, is an executive in Yokohama of the Standard Vacuum Corporation." Movie Makers, Dec. 1935, 536.

Ells also made a colour version of this film with the same title in 1942.

Discussed in "An American Films in Japan" (Movie Makers, Nov. 1936, 486).

Discussed by Charles Tepperman under "Amateur Religious Filmmaking" in Amateur Cinema: The Rise of North American Moviemaking, 1923-1960, University of California Press, 2014.

The film was available in the ACL's Club Film Library. It was also available to rent from the Religious Motion Picture Foundation in New York.


  • Tokyo, Japan (Filming)






Harmon Foundation Collection, National Archives;
Institute of Amateur Cinematographers Collection, East Anglian Film Archive


  • Screened at the Seventh Annual Little Movie Party, April 1936: New York City, N.Y.
  • Screened by the Toronto Amateur Movie Club in 1936: Toronto, ON
  • Screened by the Hartford Cinema Club in 1936: Hartford, CT
  • Screened by the Metropolitan Motion Picture Club in 1936: New York City, N.Y.
  • Screened by Duncan Little in conjunction with the Third International Canoe Race in 1936: Trois Rivières, QC
  • Screened by Roy W. Winton for New York University in 1936: New York City, N.Y.
  • Screened in multiple Japanese schools in 1936 (Movie Makers, Sept. 1936, 406): Japan
  • Screened by the Cinemat Club of Mt. Kisco in 1937: Mt. Kisco, N.Y.
  • Screened by the Sierra Camera Club in 1937: Sacramento, CA
  • Screened by the Boston Cinamateur Club in 1938: Boston, MA
  • Screened by the Halifax Cinema Club in 1939: Halifax, NS
  • Screened by the Tulsa Am-Mo Club in 1941: Tulsa, OK

Viewing Notes:

"NATURE FILM: On the story of Creation, illustrated by scenes of natural beauty interspersed with biblical quotations from Genesis. R.1: Depicts sky, sunrise, rolling sea, plant and ocean life, including close-ups of an octopus. R.2: More close-ups of the octopus; land and sea animals, birds and fowl; concludes with montage of infants, children, baby animals and insects." Viewing notes via National Archives.