Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Industrial & Educational Films of the 50s & 60s
No films capture the era in which they were made better than the short industrial and educational films which proliferated in the 1950s and 60s. These films showed us why soldiers were fighting; proper etiquette in school and at home; how to practice good hygiene; how to conform to society's expectations of us; how to improve your life with more appliances; how to plan and throw the perfect dinner party; even how to properly cut pieces of meat! Whenever I view these films, I am totally captivated and lost in the era they reflect. Some of the sentiments and images in the movies are nostalgically pleasing, while others make you cringe. Some years ago, film producer (and friend of mine) Alan Boyd used many of these short films in two compilations: Cruisin' Thru the 50s and Cruisin' Thru the 60s. Luckily, today, if you want to view these little film gems, many websites allow you to stream or download them (free of charge). The best site to begin with would be www.archive.org which has catalogued hundreds of these films to view. Other sites that preserve these films include: www.schoolfilmarchives.com, dedicated to the preservation of educational shorts; and www.chicagofilmarchives.org, since, for years, Chicago was the center of production for many of these films. Some DVD's even offer these films as tongue-in-cheek extras, such as Herschel Gordon Lewis' awful Blood Feast. There, in the special features section, you can catch a short industrial film on proper meat cutting techniques (get it?), that stars none other than a young Harvey Korman (of "The Carol Burnett Show" fame). Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has occasionally aired some of these shorts as filler between features. They never fail to entertain, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Take the time to catch a few.