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In 1977, ABC aired a television special titled The Making of Star Wars. This the first “Making of…” I am personally aware of, but was it the first ever such “Making of…” documentary?

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    Good question. My memory is that "The Making of"s were already a regular "filler" feature on HBO by the early 80's, but that doesn't mean they existed before '77. – T.E.D. Dec 20 '16 at 23:21
  • @T.E.D. My memory is the same. "Making of" features became a staple in the '80. – DukeZhou Dec 20 '16 at 23:25
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It looks like The Making of Star Wars definitely helped popularize the "making of" documentary subgenre, since most of the ones I can find were made after 1977. There are several earlier documentaries about making films in general, or about the films of a specific director, like Directed by John Ford (1971), but very few about a specific film.

The earliest documentary I can find about a specific film is a short (28 minute) made for TV film about Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey which aired in 1970.

A Primer for '2001: A Space Odyssey'

Primer on the meaning, techniques and background of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey." Keir Dullea, who starred in the film as astronaut Bowman, narrates on camera and over many excerpts from the film.

This may not be the oldest, but it only takes one to show that The Making of Star Wars wasn't the first, even if it is the earliest one that most people will remember.

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    Dang! I thought I'd remembered that for 2001. Still, it didn't use the name "Making of", which I find telling. I did find a lot of documentaries about the making of even older movies, but none of them were shot simultaneously with the production of the movie like a true "Making of...", and most were created long after release. – T.E.D. Dec 21 '16 at 15:50
  • @T.E.D. Yes, I thought I'd hit pay dirt several times in my searches, only to find that a documentary was made years or even decades after the original film. – Bill the Lizard Dec 21 '16 at 15:58
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I've seen a Making of McQ (1974) featurette showing the filming of this John Wayne movie, so they were certainly being made before Star Wars. HBO really gave these "Making of" shorts exposure in the 1980s, as they used them as filler between feature films, since HBO did not show commercials.

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