Murketing’s Sponsored Film Virtual Festival: “Design For Dreaming”

Design For Dreaming

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Design For Dreaming is the final entry in this virtual festival — and probably the best-known one. It’s even been mentioned on BoingBoing.

In part I assume this is because the film is — on one level — perfectly ridiculous, featuring a sort of Audrey Hepburn type who is “Delighted!” to see new cars that are “Oh so beautiful!” or whatever. It’s campy and funny. We all love to look at this sort of thing and snicker at how naïve people used to be. And without question, Design For Dreaming is absurd. But … I think there is more to be found here than that. Read more

Murketing’s Sponsored Film Virtual Festival: “The Home Economics Story”


The Home Economics Story, Parts One and Two

“What is home economics?” this film from 1951 asks. The answer that is given: It’s partly about mastering “the equipment in a home.” It’s about physics being taught in a way “girls” would like: using kitchen appliances; indeed iIt’s about digging the fact that “Cooking is practically applied chemistry.” And so on.

Here, in other words, we have what looks like a straight-up sexist relic of a past best buried. And of course, that’s what it is — in part.

But first of all, the past is rarely best left buried. By that I don’t mean it should be returned to, but it ought to be known, and known as honestly as possible. These sponsored films may not seem like the ideal place for honesty, but usually, if you look closely, and think about what you’re seeing, things are a little more complicated than they appear. Read more

Murketing’s Sponsored Film Virtual Festival: Why Braceros?

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This 19-minute film, “Why Braceros?,” was produced in around 1959 on behalf of the Council of California Growers. It aims to tell viewers about “the benefits of the bracero program,” The Field Guide to Sponsored Films explains, “originally initiated by the United States in 1942 to alleviate the World War II labor shortage.” This was a “guest worker” program that made it okay for Mexican labor to be brought in seasonally to work on cotton farms and other manual jobs (“stoop labor,” it’s called in the films).

Anyway, the film carefully explains that these are really bad jobs, so they’re hard to fill. The issues are familiar: Even in the pre-Lou Dobbs era, people were angry that these supposedly job-threatening outsiders are allowed. Read more

Murketing’s Sponsored Virtual Film Festival: “The Machine: Master Or Slave?”

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“America is busy now!” this curious film, “The Machine: Master Or Slave?“, begins.

What seems at first like exciting propaganda about the “mighty crescendo of production” revolutionizing the World War II-era United States turns out to be something a little more complicated. What will happen, the film asks, when the “defense emergency” is over, and all the machines used in that effort will instead be used for “making goods people need for living”?

Rumors of layoffs, fear of lost jobs and, perhaps, a return to the pre-War economy – that is, the Depression. The villain: “the new labor-saving machine.” It’s good news for the stockholders, but not so good for the workers. There’s a long montage of machine efficiency, scored with frantic music. That’s the problem: The machines are too efficient! Consumers aren’t buying fast enough! Read more

Murketing’s Sponsored Film Virtual Festival: “A Coach For Cinderella”

A Coach For Cinderella

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This nine-minute film from 1937 was made on behalf of the Chevrolet Motor Company, by well-known industrial film company the Jam Handy Organization.

A pretty nicely executed piece of Technicolor animation, the film tells – as the title suggests – the familiar story of Cinderella. That’s right, she can’t make it to the ball because she has “no coach.” So her little friends set about making her a dress and coach, etc. – all pretty straightforward (except maybe for the bit where you can hear Cinderella being briefly slapped around offscreen, which is slightly disturbing). Read more

Murketing’s Sponsored-Film Virtual Festival: “To Market, To Market”

To Market, To Market.

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For reasons that aren’t clear to me, part one is in black and white, part two is in color.

“Like the waters of a mighty ocean, people also represent a mighty force,” announces the narrator of “To Market, To Market,” a 1942 film commissioned by General Outdoor Advertising Company, identified in The Field Guide To Sponsored Films as a “major billboard and poster company.” The point of the film: “to convince ad buyers of the value of outdoor advertising.”

After all, the “mighty force” that people represent, the narrator continues, is “known as consumer power.” Read more

Murketing’s Sponsored-Film Virtual Festival: “Things People Want”

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It’s pretty obvious that I’d be interested in a film called “Things People Want.” That’s kind of my beat.

In this case, this 20-minute, 1948 film, produced by the Jam Handy Organization for Chevrolet, tells us a story about two kinds of people: those who want things (you), and those “who help them get what they want” (salesmen). The protagonist is a young salesman named Evans, played by none other than John Forsyth (who will always be Blake Carrington to me). Read more

Murketing’s Sponsored-Film Virtual Festival

Some time ago now, Rick Prelinger sent me a book he’s put together, The Field Guide to Sponsored Films. (For quick refresher on Mr. Prelinger and his work, see this earlier post.) The book is intended for scholars, and available from the National Film Preservation Foundation. (Click here, then on “cooperative projects,” then on “The Field Guide To Sponsored Films” for more information, including how to request a copy or download one.)

Compiled by Rick Prelinger of the Internet Archive with the help of scores of scholars, collectors, and archivists, The Field Guide to Sponsored Films singles out 452 sponsored motion pictures notable for their historical, cultural, or artistic interest. The 152-page annotated filmography includes indexes, repository information, and links to works viewable online.

I spent a bit of time going through this — not reading every word, but browsing, and reading up on films with interesting titles — and when possible, checking out the actual films via the Internet Archive mentioned above.

In the days ahead I’ll post more about several of the films I watched — and I’m giving this limited-run series the title, “Murketing’s Sponsored-Film Virtual Festival.”

I’ll start later this afternoon.

Meanwhile, I just want to mention one of the films I read about and really wanted to see, but that apparently isn’t available online. Made in 1954,by production company Sarra Inc., it was titled, The Secret of Selling the Negro. (They mean selling to “the negro,” of course.) The Field Guide says: Read more