The American Look, 1958
May 12, 2008 2:56 AM   Subscribe

If you can make it through the glacially paced intro and can put up with the typically clunky, often laughable and jingoistic fifties-style narration, this 1958 film from Chevrolet, The American Look is worth viewing. Chock full of futuristic telephones, toasters, blenders, office machines, architecture and more, it's a mid-century design lover's dream. The film is visually striking and elegant, and presented in widescreen format. Here's part 2 and part 3. Or see it here in its entirety.

More from 1958: Automobile commercials:

GM Cars for 1958. Hilarious jingle. Must be heard.
The Edsel. "Just like riding on air, because you are!"
Cadillac. "And of course there's its remarkable look of stature and substance!"
Chevrolet. "Four inches wider than last year! Over nine inches longer!"
Cadillac "Motordom's masterpiece!"
posted by flapjax at midnite (15 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sort of interesting -- I look at the video and all I see is crazy, oversized vehicles and cheap gaasoline that was supposed to last forever. Of the architecture, I see huge open office spaces without any visible filing cabinets. I guess they were already dreaming of the paperless offices, back in 1958.
posted by vhsiv at 4:17 AM on May 12, 2008


The jingle was ridiculous, but the funniest thing in that clip was the evening gowns.

The 50s are so hilarious. I hope they never end.
posted by DU at 4:42 AM on May 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


High rez versions can be found at these:

http://www.archive.org/details/American1958
http://www.archive.org/details/American1958_2
http://www.archive.org/details/American1958_3

It's an interesting bit of ephemera. I was 3 in '58 so it's a fun trip back.
posted by rmmcclay at 5:35 AM on May 12, 2008


Thanks for these. I've spent some time digging around on archive.org but hadn't encountered the 1958 video.

Here are a couple of my similarly-themed favorites.
http://www.archive.org/details/Designfo1956 - A little exercise in corporate surrealism.

And...

http://www.archive.org/details/GreatNew1952 - Dinah Shore sings what is quite possibly the best jingle ever (the second one at 10:30): "See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet!"
posted by signalandnoise at 5:57 AM on May 12, 2008


I actually have some of those little crystal stemmed glasses and my vacuum cleaner doesn't look much different than the one pictured either. I highly doubt most Americans had swimming pools in 1958, more like "prosperity = freedom" propaganda. Buy, buy, buy! And buy a Chevrolet while you're at it! Not much different than the messages we get today.

Got a good giggle out of a lot of it, thanks.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:11 AM on May 12, 2008


Wow. Great find flapjax.
posted by vronsky at 7:12 AM on May 12, 2008


Is this the emerging style-genre of plastipunk? Enhenced with new space age materials and color selection?
posted by fuq at 9:32 AM on May 12, 2008


http://www.archive.org/details/Designfo1956 - A little exercise in corporate surrealism.

Here's a slightly different version of Design for Dreaming. Oh, and while we're at it, here's an odd little Chevrolet film about salesmanship—and MST3K's version thereof, complete with Dinah Shore's "See the U.S.A..."
posted by chrominance at 10:55 AM on May 12, 2008


My favourite part is the kid climbing all over the Henry Moore scupture in the middle of part 2.
posted by Herodios at 1:09 PM on May 12, 2008


The narration is appalling. Simultaneously densely written, yet vacuous:

"Improved styling constantly adds to the ease and grace and gaiety of American living. . . The things we have in America are ever-changing. . .

"On come the development of ideas that keep pace with the emphatic decisions of the American people as to what they want in the shapes of utility and in the manner of their ever-improving good taste
. . . "

Um. What?

"Wondrous possessions that offer new grace and glamour are offered the American people. . . "

Ahh, yesss. The possessions. . . I mean, yeah, the grace and glamour.

"Modern packaging. . . brings festivity to the marketplace -- tempting, hinting, and revealing. . . "

Ooh, baby! Tempt me! Hint me! Reveal me!

Well, at least it's "American People" and not "consumers". That came later.

I'd love to see these same visuals with the narration (and the music!) replaced by comments from someone knowledgeable and respectful of what was going on here -- a post-WWII explosion of creativity and the simultaneous economic changes that placed such lofty aesthetic choices in reach of many more people.
posted by Herodios at 1:40 PM on May 12, 2008


And speaking of ID in the mid-20th Century:
Viktor Schreckengost [previously] at metafilter
Viktor Schreckengost at home (page)
Viktor Schreckengost art at CMA
Viktor Schreckengost remembered at WCPN
Viktor Schreckengost, dead at 101 (NYT)
Viktor Schreckengost, still dead at 101 (WP)
posted by Herodios at 1:56 PM on May 12, 2008


Poke fun if you want, but I often wish I lived in a world where things looked like that.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 3:23 PM on May 12, 2008


Was just reading Prelinger's Field Guide to [those kinda films]... thanks for putting this up on the bulletin board, flapjax! I like the world through 50's-industrial-film-colored glasses.
posted by not_on_display at 4:36 PM on May 12, 2008


Thanks for putting these up. This is almost as good as some of the prelinger ad collections.
posted by kaszeta at 7:16 AM on May 13, 2008


"If you can make it through the glacially paced intro and can put up with the typically clunky, often laughable and jingoistic fifties-style narration..."

I thought you were talking about Blade Runner. This stuff is way better.
posted by chudmonkey at 7:48 PM on May 13, 2008


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