Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Pedestrian Crossing (1948)
For People Who Are Too Stupid to Live
Mr. A is an elderly Briton who does not know how to walk across a street without being struck by an automobile. It is unclear to me how he lived so long and got to the location of the shooting of this British instructional film. However, this week I was at a New York doctor's office in which there were instructions on how to wash your hands over the doctor's private sink: not that hand-washing was required, but how to do it. Because a practicing doctor these days has no idea of how to wash his hands.
Likewise, we are confronted in this movie of an elderly man who has lived through a couple of world wars, the Blitz, the rise of the automobile without being confronted with the dread prospect of walking across a road. Yes, I know. This is a humorous handling of the subject, intended to make it clear to people who might not be aware of it, that crossing is best accomplished through the pedestrian walkway. However, there comes a point at which the artistic assumptions of anything explode and make the viewer look at it in well deserved contempt. This is one of those times.
Operation Vittles (1948)
Following the defeat of Germany in the Second World War, that nation was occupied by Great Britain, the United States, France and the Soviet Union. Each power occupied a different section of the nation. Berlin, Germany's capital, was within the Soviet sector, but was likewise split up into four occupation zones.
On 24 June 1948, the Soviets closed off the roads to Berlin This was seen as the other powers as attempting to assert control over the entire city. They responded with Operation Vittles, a major operation under the command of General Curtis Lemay, to supply the city. This short subject offers the background of the situation and discusses the response.
It offers itself as a dry recitation of the facts, a series of newsreel clips with a narrator explaining what each image means: the power stations that do not run because of lack of fuel; the people standing in line for milk; the burning crashed supply plane that did make a clean landing. The use of newsreel images offers film of a lower quality, arguing a sense of reality. The real art, such as it is, lies in the editing together of the images to tell a cogent story.
Bowling Tricks (1948)
The Hat Trick
This is the third movie in which trick bowler Andy Varipapa appeared that was narrated by Pete Smith. Pete was a snark-voiced publicity man for MGM who began to narrate sports shorts for Metro and later to produce them, winning a couple of Academy Awards along the way. I almost always enjoy his snide humor.
Mr. Varipapa does some impressive bowling tricks in this one, although I recall seeing some of them in his earlier films for Smith. Apparently he had a set repertoire, including ones in which the balls jumped out of the gutter or knocked down pins in several lanes. If you've ever bowled yourelf, you'll admire his skill -- and Smith's showmanship.
Barking Dogs (1933)
The Wolf at the Door
Honey cannot pay the mortgage, so the wolf comes up and takes the house -- quite literally.
Cubby does very little in this cartoon. The action to rescue Honey's possessions are accomplished by a pair of dog-shaped andirons. They come to life and carry out all the action while Cubby valiantly announces "It's never too late for Cubby!" and then does nothing. Still, this cartoon shows that director Mannie Davis is trying for something in cooperation with Gene Rodemich trying to out-Mickeymouse Carl Stalling -- there's one gag in which we get a few bars of "Willow Weep for Me" and then a nearby tree begins to cry. So it's a valiant effort by van Beuren's underpaid, overworked staff.
You and Your Friends (1946)
Loyalty, Good Manners & Dependability
This short instructional film, intended to educate teenagers in the principles of friendship is one of those films produced in the post-war era in which the creators clearly have no idea of who their audience is or how to reach them. The three pairs of teenagers in this movie neither talk nor behave like any teenager I have ever met. They speak in formal banalities of a past era and, despite a lack of adult supervision, they sit and talk politely or dance a two-step interspersed with with occasional twirls.
These well-intentioned but hapless efforts were very common in the era and Coronet Films sold a lot of them into the school market, where they were shown into the 1960s, to our bemused incredulity. The camera-work, sound work and editing are op notch, but the script and direction are ridiculous.
It's Your War Too (1944)
Your Mother Wears Army Boots
Kids were still saying this when I was a child. This confused me no end, because my mother was in the Navy -- a WAVE assigned to Indianapolis, either in recruiting, procurement or possibly to guard the city in case the Canadians took the opportunity to seek revenge for the War of 1812. The picture my father kept of her in his office was always of her in her navy uniform. Still, I'm sure that WACs were helpful.
Still, there was a lot of resistance to women in uniform back then and bits of it still linger. This picture makes the point early on that they could still wear make-up and keep their nice hair-dos. Earlier, a couple of men in their fifties sneer at women in uniform. All that is washed away in the manner in which women were serving in non-combatant roles, and movie ends with a promise that women will serve in Germany and Tokyo after our soldiers take those, and General Marshall promises that the women of the armed forces will march in the victory parades after the war.
Although films like these concern themselves with the matters of the moments, the speed with which they are produced give a perfect image of the moment -- not just the message that they mean to offer, but the attitudes of that moment. It gives a fine image of a time of transition that seemed to vanish in the 1950s, only to reappear in the 1960s and later.
Target - Invisible (1945)
The Captains and the Kings Depart
Arthur Kennedy narrates this film from the Army Air Force. It's about radar, recently declassified in broad outline, and its part in bombing missions. We then see a bombing raid over Japan from the cramped viewpoint of the radar man, played by future Lone Ranger Clayton Moore.
It is clear from early on that this movie was produced after the end of the second World War. Early on, the narration refers to the atomic bomb and at the end, Kennedy notes that the war has been won. Why, then, make this movie? Because even as the armed forces demobilize, the men return to their civilian jobs, factories to production of consumer goods -- even as the captains and the kings depart, scientists will keep on working to perfect and produce more advanced arms. Buy bonds! To a nation weary of war, it was a publicity film that needed to be made. today it looks self-serving. Undoubtedly it was, although not entirely.
We tried to confront our problems, so let's get high!
Several sets of people go to a group session to deal with their marital problems. The women speak in the current (as of 1970) argot of needs and validation. The men mumble, a bit bewildered by the entire process, but trying to make an effort to save their marriages. Then they roll and share a joint.
Looking at this movie, I am impressed by the old dictum that men marry the woman they see while women marry the men they can make into the man they want. Or perhaps men are less introspective and until some one makes a point of it, they don't bother to change. It seems significant to me that when the lead couple catches their son with drugs, it is the man who raises the question of whether they need to stop using pot themselves while the woman wants to just talk about it.
Troop Train (1943)
Less Talk, More Action
If you look at many World War Two propaganda shorts, you will be struck by the way they tell their stories: they talk. They tell us why we fight and how to fly a plane and what a terrible person Hitler is and on and on. The good ones are good, but there are a lot that are nothing more than radio with picture.
That's not how the movies began. They didn't have voices, and the people who made them spent a lot of time, energy and thought on how to show the audience things. That's what this movie does. There are a couple of long titles and a lot of things are labeled more clearly than they would be in real life, but this movie purports to show us how an armored unit travels by railroad across the US on their way to the war.
And that's literally what it does: it shows the audience. There is some music in the background, and occasionally someone barks out an order. And that's it. Everyone knows his job and does it. And that's how the war was won: not by talk, but by action.
Don't Kill Your Friends (1943)
Follow the Rules
This World War Two training film about procedures for flying a fighter plane is some bald instructions enlivened by Huntz Hall as Ensign Dilbert.
In 2014, Dilbert is the hapless cartoon engineer trapped in a corporate structure that makes no sense and is miserable because he is continually thwarted in in efforts to do his job. In 1943 Ensign Dilbert was the hapless, careless sort of man whose negligence kills other people. Despite that terrible thought and the occasional shots of corpses caused by Dilbert, Hall's performance is the only thing that stops this picture from being radio with pictures.
Hall was a capable actor but he specialized in playing comic fools, starting with the stage production of DEAD END and continuing in spin-off series like the Bowery Boys. In real life he was no fool. By the time he semi-retired in 1957 at the age of 38n his investments had made his financially very comfortable.