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The Story That Couldn't Be Printed (1939)

Approved | | Short, Biography, History | 22 July 1939 (USA)
The story of John Peter Zenger, who was tried for sedition based on what he printed in his newspaper. His subsequent acquittal established the concept of freedom of the press.


Joseph M. Newman


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Cast overview:
John Nesbitt ... Narrator (voice)
Victor Kilian ... John Peter Zenger


The story of how foundation for freedom of the press was laid in America. Back in early colonial days a printer named John Peter Zanger exposed the rascality of an official who was misappropriating public funds. A friend of his , John Alexander,undertook to secure positive proof so that Zanger could print the facts .Zanger was jailed. At the trial, Andrew Hamilton, the great lawyer and statesman, walked into the courtroom and announced he was there to defend the prisoner. His plea was so eloquent that the jurors were swept off their feet and brought in the verdict of innocent, thus securing freedom of the press in America. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

22 July 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

John Nesbitt's Passing Parade: The Story That Couldn't Be Printed See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Followed by Of Pups and Puzzles (1941) See more »

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User Reviews

The First Amendment
17 June 2019 | by bobliptonSee all my reviews

This episode of John Nesbitt's THE PASSING PARADE tells the story of the Crown vs. John Peter Zenger case and how it was the basis of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It also established the rights of jury nullification, the right of a jury to nullify a law by finding a defendant not guilty of a crime he committed, which that jury holds to be based on an unjust law. It's an odd precedence, and judges and lawyers in court are barred from mentioning it; yet it is there in every criminal case.

Because THE PASSING PARADE was based on Nesbitt's radio work, in which he narrated a story, this, like other entries in the series, was shot wild -- without a soundtrack -- and Nesbitt's narration added later. Thus the series retreated to silent film techniques, in which a story had to be told visually.

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