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The Thread of Life (1960)



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Credited cast:
Frank Baxter Frank Baxter ... Himself


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Release Date:

9 December 1960 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Baxter asks a boy if his father also has blue eyes, although the boy appears on a black and white video screen. See more »

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User Reviews

Less popular than the other Frank Baxter spectaculars, but equally good
25 October 2009 | by jlewis77-1See all my reviews

The Bell Science shows with Frank Baxter hosting were a staple for both Baby Boomers and Generation Xers in schools, thanks to their clever use of funny cartoon characters and easy-to-follow documenting. Fittingly, they were made by Hollywood's elite, expert at making the "educational" entertaining. Frank Capra handled the first four with UPA (Mister Magoo) and Shamus Culhane doing the cartoon work. The later four entries featured the vast resources of Warner Bros., making great use of its Burbank studios, stock footage from its many travelogues and theatrical shorts and its staff Bugs Bunny animators.

This one is less "spectacular" than the other WB productions. In the place of a movie-set (Gateways To The Mind), Alice's over-sized books (Alphabet Conspiracy) and Planet Q (About Time), we get a generic TV room with black & white screen-people questioning Mr. Baxter about heredity. A typical 50s "junior" asks what he's gained from Pop in looks, a neurotic couple asks about their new baby and the "typical house-wife" discusses her hair... was it all inherited? This gets Baxter on the topic of chromosomes, living cells and DNA (including an early "magnified 100 thousand times" photograph), dating back to the pioneering pea studies of Gregor Mendel back in the 19th century and following through with fruit fly "breeding" and the study of color blindness and other human traits that aren't merely "caught" like a disease. (Of course, the subject of cloning doesn't come up, being the 1950s.) There's even a brief study of the affects of radiation on cell-division.

On the whole, this show is a bit dryer and less humorous than the others. Even the cartoon work from Robert McKimson's unit is much more technical (and less cartoony) than what Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng produced on the other three Warner shows... mostly diagrams-come-to-life. This, along with the offbeat set-up of talking heads in TV sets, make this the least-viewed on the eight Bell Science specials. Of course, "less-viewed" does not mean it is inferior or less educational than the others; the production values are top-notch as always.

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