[ –> Details on Sponsored-Film Virtual Festival are here.]
“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!
Executive types ponder the answer: More ads, a bigger sales force, “an aggressive selling campaign.” A laid off worker, meanwhile, finds that new machines are invading everywhere, keeping guys like him out of work. He and his family consider moving to, of all things, a farm.
It’s not clear what becomes of him, but we do learn that the sales manager’s plan fails: Not enough people can afford to buy the product — whatever it is. Lower prices are considered, on the theory that thinner margins might add up to bigger total profits. The narrator demandingly asks: “How shall these conflicting factors be arranged?”
Strangely, we don’t learn the answer! The film closes with an abundance montage of products, machines, and children playing, and uplifting martial music. The Field Guide to Sponsored Films says the piece “encourages managers to be aware of broader issues as they embrace new technology.” For a sponsored film, that’s an unusually ambiguous message.