Coronet Instructional Films
November 1, 2012 12:32 PM   Subscribe

From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right?

Dating: Do's and Don'ts (12:26) -1949
Shows the progress of the date, from choosing the right girl and asking her through the last "good night." This social guidance "how-to" film has received more camp accolades than any other, and deserves it. Alan Woodruff ("Woody") receives a ticket to admit one couple to the upcoming Hi-Teen Carnival. "One couple," Woody reflects. "That means a date! Not like just going around with the crowd!" Woody decides to ask Ann Davis, who, the narrator points out, "knows how to have a good time." With her perpetual squint and chipmunk cheeks, Ann (pronounced "Ay-yun" by the actors in this film) is the perfect companion for super-nerd Woody. At crucial moments in the date, the narrator stops the action and presents Woody with several possible options for his actions. Happily, Woody makes all the correct decisions and ends up walking home from Ann's doorstep whistling with satisfaction at a job well done. "Thanks so much," says Ann with a toothy grin. "I had LOADS of fun." Rare (but incomplete) Kodachrome version.

Going Steady? (10:37) -1951
Attempts to provoke teens into discussion on the complex issue of going steady. Provides little support for the practice.

How Do You Know It's Love? (12:58) -1950
Gives students a basis for thinking clearly about real love and shows that mere conviction of love is not enough to insure lasting happiness. A drama. Young "Nora" (star of Writing Better Social Letters and future star of How To Say No) thinks she's in love with equally young Jack. Mom gives Nora some general advice (borrowed almost word for word from Are You Ready For Marriage?), and Nora and Jack have dinner with Bob (Jack's older brother) and Jean (Jack's fiance). Nora spends her time thinking about her mother's advice and comparing her relationship to Jack and Jean's. Common sense triumphs, Nora realizes she isn't really in love, and everybody is happy in the end. One of the few Coronet productions to use background music (the "wistful" theme) within the film as a narrative bridge -- to good effect.

How Much Affection? (19:59) -1957
How far can young people go in petting and still stay within the bounds of personal standards and social mores?

How to Be Well Groomed (10:41) -1949
This film details the grooming rituals of brother Don and sister Sue. Both are incredibly neat; in fact, grooming seems to occupy their entire day, while their evenings are spent ironing outfits and polishing shoes. The work load is so heavy it requires two narrators! Features some excellent voice over lines, including:
"Sue avoids red nail polish since it would call attention to her stubby hands."
"Mother too keeps up a good appearance even around the house, for that keeps up her spirits."
"Their good grooming habits help them in friendships and business. For your success depends a great deal on how you look."

What to Do on a Date (10:46) -1950
A high school senior learns how and where to ask a girl for a date, where to take her for a good time, and how to avoid spending too much money or being bored by commercialized amusements. One of the most entertaining films in the social guidance genre, principally because of the bad acting of goony "Nick Baxter." Nick wants to go out on a date with Kay, but he's afraid she'll say no. He finally works up the courage to ask her to the movies (to see Wagon Train), but since she's already seen it, they decide to go to the high school scavenger sale instead. And, boy, do they ever have fun! Nick discovers that Kay likes the same things he does (miniature golf, taffy pulls and weenie roasts) and these two social oddballs are well on their way to a meaningful relationship.

Are You Ready for Marriage? (16:04) -1950
Two teenagers, wishing to marry early, visit their minister for advice and receive counseling, some of it quite pragmatic, the rest a little strange. Larry and Sue, a couple of fresh-scrubbed teens, want to get hitched -- but Sue's parents disapprove. The two lovebirds decide their only recourse is to visit "Mr. Hall," a marriage counselor with incredibly wide lapels on his suit jacket. He shows them some very scientific looking graphs and a "psychological distance board" complete with tiny wooden dolls tied together with piano wire and shoelaces and -- somehow -- this helps them understand that they should wait until they're older. Educational Screen remarked; "The producers are to be complimented on creating an atmosphere of life-like situations." Good stuff, and the cast is a veritable Who's Who of classroom films: "Sue" starred in How To Be Well Groomed, her "dad" had the feature role in Build Your Vocabulary, Mr. Hall played "Treadway" in The Middletons At The World's Fair, and "Larry" went on to play a heroin junkie in Drug Addiction.

Marriage Is a Partnership (16:21) -1951
Flashback on the problems, adjustments and transformations occurring in the first year of a couple's married life. Pretty surprising film coming from Coronet about the "honeymoon is over" drama that newlyweds face. The marriage between Dotty and Pete is pretty traditional--Dotty quits her job to be a homemaker once they are married--but some more modernistic ideas come out, such as the idea that the two newlyweds decide together how the money that Pete earns will be spent, and the small mentions of sex. (!!) The "educational collaborator" listed at the beginning, Lemo Rockwood, was a professor at Cornell University, and her marriage course advocated sexual frankness and pre-marital experimentation, so it's easy to see her stamp on this film.
Social Guidance for Teenagers
Are You Popular? (9:53) -1947
Dramatizes behavior of two teen-agers to illustrate characteristics of personality which lead to popularity & success in dating. Contrasts carolyn, attractive newcomer in high school, with ginny, who is willing to date all the boys but is unpopular with both boys & girls. Shows how carolyn & wally are careful of their appearance, polite, considerate in arranging dates, etc. One of the best examples of post-World War II social guidance films, with examples of "good" and "bad" girls, proper and improper dating etiquette, courtesy to parents, and an analysis of what makes some people popular and others not. A scream and a sobering document of postwar conformity. Mind-boggling double-standard for the "bad" boy and the "bad" girl. Classic Coronet. "Caroline and her mother had found one way a girl can repay a boy for entertaining her [...] perhaps they could bring another couple home with them. That would be fun."

How to Say No: Moral Maturity (10:31) -1951
How to say no to unwanted smoking, drinking and petting, and still keep your friends. "How can you say no and still keep your friends?" A discussion group of earnest, clean-cut teens talk directly to the camera as they (and we) flash back to situations where they had to say no: Drinking beer after football practice, smoking cigarettes at a pajama party, and the ever-popular "petting."

Control Your Emotions (13:18) -1950
Well-balanced emotions help to create a well-rounded personality, especially in teenagers. This bizarre film is hosted by an unnamed "psychologist." While spouting Pavlovian claptrap such as "Fear is triggered by loud noises" and "Your emotions can be your own greatest enemy," he repeatedly interrupts the story of "Jeff," the film's protagonist. Jeff -- who looks like a heroin addict -- has a lot of trouble controlling his emotions, and the psychologist is always ready to pop in with statements such as "If this kind of behavior is repeated often, it might lead to a permanently warped personality."Control Your Emotions doubles as a lesson in behaviorist psychology and an admonition to postwar American children. "Before man learned how to control fire and put it to work, it was man's greatest enemy. In much the same way, your emotions can be your own greatest enemy." Similar messages percolate throughout the social guidance films of the 1940s and 1950s (see, for example, A Date With Your Family, where the narrator intones, "Pleasant, unemotional conversation helps the digestion"). The links between the effort to manage and regulate outbursts of feeling and the national offensive to smooth out adolescent behavioral excesses often seem obscure. There is no doubt, however, that the architects of Fifties consensus (psychologists, educators, the judiciary, sociologists and advertisers) wished to discourage "unproductive" and negativistic behavior. "Severe emotional stress," says the narrator of this film, "often decreases efficiency." What seems clearest is that for Americans, recovery from wartime damage was more about drawing away emotionally from war's stresses and strains than digging graves and sweeping up rubble. After twelve years of economic depression and almost four years of world war, parents (and the authorities on child development that stood behind them) wanted a peaceful and disruption-free world for their kids, and they don't seem to have distinguished between internal and external turmoils. All were undesirable. Responsive both to the demands of the era and the process of individual maturation, Control Your Emotions ultimately promoted social adaptation over self-expression. It assumed that kids' behavior was a vehicle for emotions that were essentially uncomplicated, individual rather than social. In its scheme, teenagers' emotions weren't linked with any cultural or social contradictions, but simply combinations of the three basic emotions: rage, fear and love. So while other Coronet films like Shy Guy hinted at the existence of a youth culture with its own rewards and pressures, Control Your Emotions saw teens more as creatures of their hormones than of their times.

Law and Social Controls (9:40) -1949
Uses the story of teens trying to extend the hours of their "Teen Canteen" as a vehicle for explaining customs, moral codes, and laws. The gang at the "Teen Canteen" can't decide if they should close their establishment at ten thirty or eleven. Adult advisers guide them to the correct decision (ten thirty). Coronet obviously felt it plausible that resolving an issue such as this would require the efforts of both teens and adults -- though it's doubtful anyone else would. Some narration and crude animation. "Jane" also appears in Going Steady and you might recognize "Edward" from Dating Do's and Don'ts. This one grows on you.

Act Your Age (13:22) -1949
Jim, an emotionally immature teen, learns to evaluate his personality and to better work out his problems. Mind boggling expose of a delinquent (?) teen who gets frustrated with school and starts vandalizing his desk, only to be sent to the principal to discuss "infantile reactions." Even the wise old janitor gets in on the action. Classic film about using logic to guide your complex, multi-faceted emotions.

Fun of Being Thoughtful, The (10:09) -1950
Social guidance film for teenagers encouraging insight into the motives, tastes and desires of others. "Everywhere you go, people talk about thoughtfulness." With this premise in mind, we are wisked into the life of "Jane Proctor," a happy teen who is slavishly devoted to her "fine, thoughtful family." While uttering lines such as "It'd be the thoughtful thing to do," and "That's what makes thoughtfulness worthwhile!" Jane tidies her room, fixes dinner for the family, and fixes her geeky brother Eddie up with a date. In the end, Jane's thoughtfulness pays off ("A new dress!!!") and we leave the Proctor family basking in the sunshine of family togetherness. The script for this film flies in several directions at once, which makes it fun but a little hard to follow.

Everyday Courtesy (8:56) -1948
Courtesy in connection with invitations, telephone conversations, introductions and entertaining guests. Possibly the first feature to star John Lindsay, who later achieved immortality as "Woody" in Dating Do's And Don'ts. In this film he plays "Bill Anderson," a young fellow who proudly shows his mother around the "courtesy" displays in his classroom at Sunnyside School. This scenario allows the narrator to teach us the time-worn fundamentals of social courtesy, but the only thing you'll remember from this film is Woody, who is a much better actor here than he was later in life. A film with lots of potential, but no payoff.

Better Use of Leisure Time (10:33) -1950
How to make the most of your free time. "Ken" has nothing to do, but the helpful interactive narrator soon puts a stop to that. Sensible leisure activities (bird watching and reading, for example) help Ken "prepare himself for better living" and "use his time well." This film is more imaginative than most when it comes to visual gimmickry. Ken later starred as Chuck-of-the-future in Good Table Manners. Keeping the world safe from beatniks, juvenile delinquents, and riff raff one 72 hour work week at a time.

Mind Your Manners (10:42) -1953
How teenagers can cultivate good manners by manifesting a real desire to get along with others. This classic stars "Woody" from Dating Dos and Don'ts -- a few years older, but just as out of touch with reality. As "Jack," he goes through this entire film being unbelievably polite, but the weird leer on his face makes you wonder what he's really thinking. Don't miss the soda shop populated by waitresses in Hans Brinker costumes(!), or the montage of adults thinking approvingly of Jack's behavior.

Overcoming Fear (12:39) -1950
How Bill overcomes his fear of the water through understanding its sources.

Right or Wrong? (Making Moral Decisions) (10:53) -1951
Assessing the behavior of a juvenile delinquent who refuses to rat on his companions. A gang of "toughs" breaks some warehouse windows, and the night watchman recognizes one of the punks as youthful Harry Green. He's hauled into the police station and he has to decide which is worse -- "squealing" on his friends, or "hiding lawbreakers." This dark film takes place entirely in one night, and as we encounter each character we hear them agonizing to themselves in VOs as they make moral decisions. Sgt. Kelly ("It'll be much easier for you if you help us") played Dick York's weird dad in Shy Guy.

Shy Guy (13:36) -1947
Phil (Dick York), new in his high school, follows his father's suggestion and observes the most popular students to determine what makes them popular. By offering to help others he becomes popular himself and sheds his shyness. Phil (played by Dick York) is the son of an apparently single father who seems recently to have undergone corporate relocation, and things are very different for Phil. He has a problem "fitting in." Everything from the nature of the kids in the new town ("different") to what they wear ("not jackets like me, but a regular sweater") sets Phil apart. Armed only with confusing advice from his father, Phil has to reorganize his behavior and make a new home for himself. Shy Guy marks a kind of turning point in postwar history. When Mr. Norton advises Phil to "look around him" and see what the other kids are wearing and how they behave, he's conceding parental authority to the "gang" and, ultimately, helping to legitimize the formation of a distinct youth culture that rests on group identity and validation rather than the authority of elders. Such a youth culture probably has its roots in the wartime autonomy that teens experienced, but here the adults are okaying it. This change, of course, is one of the key social currents in postwar America. This is Dick York at his dorkiest. Dick's father is especially strange in this classic. Shy Guy is the film that established Coronet as THE social guidance filmmaker. Required viewing.

Self-Conscious Guy (10:22) -1951
Shows how feelings of self-consciousness keep a high school boy from doing his classwork well or making friends easily. Shows how the feelings of self-consciousness keep a high school boy from doing his class work well or making friends easily. The boy discovers many of his classmates suffer from similar feelings, but that several of them have overcome these feelings and developed poise and self-assurance. If you watch this bland film expecting to see another Shy Guy you'll be disappointed. It follows the tribulations of "Marty," who wants a part in the school play but whose self-consciousness dooms him to the inferior role of stage hand. He feels, he explains, "as if there was a spotlight on me," and the inferior stage hands at Coronet help us understand this by shining a spot on Marty whenever he has a nervous moment. Cheap, but effective. Happily, Marty's life turns around when he discovers that he's more confident than leading man "Jack" when it comes to ping pong. Marty, who also starred in How To Say No, has a swath of shaved skin around his ears so wide you could park a truck on it.

How Honest Are You? (13:50) -1950
For teenagers, honesty can come easy or hard, depending on the stakes. Did basketball star Bob really steal money out of Ben's locker? Since this is a Coronet film he probably didn't, but the characters in this production have to flesh out the truth for themselves. Lots of deep self-examination of motives and what was and wasn't seen, lots of interplay with the camera, and acting that's actually pretty good. There's even a plot twist, when "Rose" confesses her real reason for ratting to the coach about Bob. "I can just see it," she says, as the camera dollies in for a CU of her glazed eyes. "You'll get Bob off the team and Terry will become the regular center. MY Terry. He'll be the star of the team. And I'll be sitting on top of the world!" Whew, pretty heady stuff for Coronet.

Snap Out of It! (Emotional Balance) (12:06) -1951
Discusses why an achievement-conscious boy becomes emotionally upset when he fails to get an expected 'A' in a history course. This film follows the frustrations of confused teen Howard Patterson, who won't show his report card to his parents because he "should've gotten" an A in social studies. "Sometimes we expect great things," Mr. Edmunds reflects, leaning back in his chair as Howard looks on. "And when we're severely disappointed, we become emotionally upset." Mr. Edmunds counsels Howard against "expecting too much" and tells him to keep his emotions "in balance." "If your emotions are in balance, you channel your emotional energy into a direct attack on your problem!" Howard promises to lower his expectations and be more balanced, and another member of the Silent Generation leaves a Coronet film to paint the world gray.

Benefits of Looking Ahead, The (10:30) -1950
Nick cannot plan ahead, but is convinced to do so after imagining himself as a drifter or a bum. "Nick Baxter" is a sloppy teen with greasy hair and a poorly-knotted necktie. His clean-cut friend, "Don," tells him that he'll end up on skid row if he doesn't come up with some detailed plans for his future. Nick's hammy acting make this a fun film. The fantasy sequences -- where Nick imagines himself as a bum and then a successful businessman -- are high points. "Who are the people most likely to succeed?" asks the narrator. Well, not Nick Baxter, a senior in high school and slacker in the making, who can't plan ahead. Whether it's building a table in shop class or planning his life's future, he's clueless and, unless he gets his act together, destined to be a bum. Let's assume for just a moment that Nick is a real person. Since this 1950 film shows him at age 17 or 18, he would have been born in 1932 or 1933--the two hardest years of the Great Depression. This makes him one of the left-behinds--one of the Depression children who didn't get to fight in the war, a sort of middle child between two groups of people who underwent profound experiences completely beyond their control. Is it any wonder that, for Nick, reality bites? Of course, the other, perhaps more valid, argument is that Nick just doesn't understand what it takes to make it in the fabulous Fifties. Don: "To succeed in something, you have to have a purpose, and make plans for reaching it, and work at it all the time." Nick: "Sounds crazy to me." But Nick's friends get the message, and even Nick sees their futures are pretty much assured already. When Don blithely tells Nick that he's "least likely to succeed," and well on the way to becoming a drifter or a bum, this is the kick in the pants Nick has been waiting for. "That could be me...nothing but a bum." Nick finds a worthy metaphor for all of his unfinished business in the school shop. Realizing that drawing up a plan is necessary to building a table that can stand on its four legs, he decides to draw up a plan for his own life. "Plans...sketches...measurements...that's what I have to do with my own future...I've got to look ahead and imagine...what I want it to be like...". He is shortly back on course and in command of his future, and fantasizes himself telling his father that he's been elected chairman of the "Community Club." "Yes, I want a future that's something like that. I want to be happy. Be somebody. Have a good job. Friends. A home. A wife and kids. But how do I get there? If that's my purpose, how do I reach it. How? A detailed plan. How to achieve my purpose. And I'd better be getting at it right now." Although Nick does lack a detailed plan, he's already got something much more important--a sense of middle-class entitlement peculiar to that postwar period. This is the feeling that the world is made to help him achieve his goals, that it can offer him what he needs if he can only figure out how to take it. I'm not so sure Nick (or even Don) would feel the same way in the 1990s. What's going to take the place of a "future that's something like that?" This film represents a whole culture of vocational guidance, a panorama of alternative futures for the young that has given life to thousands of books, films and training aids. In this visually minded century, these publications have focused on visual means of expressing abstract ideas like planning ahead, avoiding vocational deadends, and measuring progress towards concrete objectives. But whether it's little cartoons about the "steps to success" or parables taking place in the carpentry shop, the prejudices and kitschiness of this culture have hardly been explored and urgently await the attention of historians.

Understand Your Emotions 2 (12:54) -1950
Biology teacher explains emotions, voluntary and involuntary behavior.

Friendship Begins At Home (15:40) -1949
How a strong family group helps teenagers learn to form strong friendships. Barry is a teenager who doesn't appreciate his family. "Everybody's always picking on me," he whines. "I declare, Barry," replies mom. "I do wish you'd show as much consideration for the members of your own family as you do for your outside friends!" "Maybe I would," he snorts, "if my family'd show me as much consideration as my friends do!" Barry decides to be a brat and not accompany his family on their annual two-week fishing trip. "I'd rather stay here with my friends," he mutters, sulking. "Don't you consider your FAMILY your friends?" asks kid sister Diana. "How can a guy be friends with his family?" Barry snaps back. But dad is agreeable; Barry is left money for food and the family departs. "We're going away to have FUN," dad declares. Barry's first few hours of freedom are glorious, but he quickly discovers that his "friends" aren't as dependable as his family. George won't invite him over for dinner (Barry eats canned beans and soup for two weeks). Heartthrob Lorraine gets sick and cancels her party. The rest of Barry's friends are either away, working, or on vacation (with THEIR families, no doubt). This mid-section of the film is a thespian tour-de-force for Barry, as his non-stop internal sentence fragment monologue takes the place of a narration, saying things that no outside voice over could get away with. The Coronet "wistful" theme builds as the camera dollies in for close ups of Barry at critical points; he affects these moments of deep thought by suddenly raising his head, narrowing his eyes, and looking up and off-camera at a 45 degree angle. "Why haven't any of my friends called me?" he muses. "Not much fun spending the day alone." (NOTE: No TV in Barry's home) "Nobody to do things with. What are friends FOR, anyway?" Though Barry is a "free man," his friends can't match the "thoughtfulness" of his family. "I never before listened to an -- empty house," he reflects. And now he's visited by ghosts! -- double-exposure images of his family doing thoughtful things that Barry had, until now, not appreciated. Barry realizes that he probably took away some of his dad's "fun" by staying home. "That's a selfish thing to do," he concludes. Mom offers ice cream, Diana offers to get his suit pressed, and kid brother Dick plaintively asks to play checkers. "Boy," Barry cries, "how I'd like to play checkers with you right now!" "They're swell people!" Barry declares, scales falling from his eyes. "ALL of them! They do the kinds of things you expect of your friends! FRIENDS! That's it!!!" Now Barry is a changed young man. His family returns to find him scrubbing the kitchen floor ("You know, mother, you never really appreciate your family until they're not around"), he's bought Dick a new tennis racket ("Gee, Barry, you're swell!"), and he takes his kid sister to a dance when her date backs out ("Wow! Is that my sister? Well -- no WONDER all those fellows telephoned while you were away!"). The gulf between the America that applauded this production and the America that cheered Tom Cruise in Risky Business is what the study of these films is all about.

Understanding Your Ideals (13:37) -1950
A high school boy primarily concerned with automobiles, dates, and parties learns from his father's example that ideals are really based on honesty, sincerity, and good sportsmanship.

What About Juvenile Delinquency? (11:27) -1955
Jim leaves the gang after it attacks his father, and joins other teenagers at City Hall to argue against the imposition of a curfew. Drama filmed in Lawrence, Kansas.

What Makes A Good Party? (10:33) -1950
Shows teenagers how to plan and attend a party, suggesting games to play and songs to sing ("Jimmy Crack Corn"). This film creates a world so innocent that it's embarrassing. Jean, Nora and Eileen are high school girls who want to throw a "coming out" party to introduce college boy "Steve" to the rest of the gang. But whoa, let's not be impulsive, the narrator cautions, for "a successful party needs planning and skill." Accordingly, every detail of the get-together is mapped out beforehand, from the refreshments (hot chocolate and sandwiches) to the "well-chosen games" (a hat-making contest and Charades). "Everyone's out to have fun and to help OTHERS have fun," the narrator emphasizes. This need to do everything collectively, to allow no room for individual interests, to "help keep the party fun for all," is shown when Nora attempts pull Steve aside for some conversation. Nuh-uh! Who knows where that behavior would lead! Jean drags the two rebels back into the group, and the gang soon has a grand time singing Jimmy Crack Corn around the piano. The narrator offers one last nugget of wisdom -- "Part of a good party is knowing when to go home" -- and the kids do just that. The disapproval of anything impulsive or individual in this film shows a really warped sense of "democracy," and more closely resembles socialism, if you think about it. According to Ted Peshak, "This whole part of the north Chicago area has changed because of that film."

Writing Better Social Letters (10:31) -1950
While a teenage brother and sister write a thank-you note to their grandmother after visiting her on vacation, we learn the five parts of a friendly letter and more about why and how to write one.
Social Guidance for Children
Developing Responsibility (10:06) -1949
Tells story of how frank assumes his everyday responsibilities at home, at school, & on his paper route, & is rewarded by being given a pedigreed dog by a man on his paper route who has observed his acceptance of responsibility.

Why We Respect The Law (12:54) -1950
Ken and three friends steal boards to make backstop for baseball field. Ken suffers from guilt & sees family lawyer who helps him develop respect for laws. Ken then helps other boys settle accounts with the construction company. Explains the importance of law in keeping order in a society. Shows that respect for the law is developed by a realization that law represents accumulated wisdom, that it is in harmony with laws of nature and that it is necessary to prevent trouble In the most jaw-droppingly awful defense of the law ever put to film, the lawyer steals Ken's shoes, imagines a world where hillbillies attack homes at random, and makes the following deductions:
- The universe has physical laws, therefore laws are a part of nature.
- A child who starts out stealing pennies from his mother's change will end up an armed felon.
He actually says, "Peace and happiness are impossible unless our individual possessions are secure." So remember kids, things = happiness.

Joan Avoids a Cold (10:26) -1947
How young children must behave to avoid transmitting germs to one another.

Ways to Settle Disputes (10:07) -1950
Everyday incidents at school and at play teach Alice, Jerry and Eddie to resolve conflicts by compromise, by obeying rules, by finding facts, or finding opinions.

Fun of Making Friends, The (9:19) -1950
Discusses the values of friendships and how to make and keep friends.

Beginning Responsibility: Taking Care of Things (9:20) -1951
Instructs children how to care for toys, clothing and other property; to have a definite place to keep belongings, and how to store and handle possessions properly. Young Andy learns that "cleaning up after yourself is a grown-up way to behave." The narrator helps us become motivated by reminding us that as long as we're messy, we'll be shunned (loners were always given a wide berth in the fifties). The best moment occurs when Andy comes home from school to his messy room:
Narrator: "And here are Andy's tadpoles." CU of bowl. "Aw. They're dead."

How to Study (8:50) -1946
Jim prepares a civics report on labor unions. He uses four different types of reading: scanning, rapid reading, careful slow reading & re-reading. He organizes his information, collects further data, writes his report.

Good Sportsmanship (9:30) -1950
How sportsmanship enriches daily living: a lesson for teens. This film for pre-teens teaches youngsters to "think of what's best for the group." Even if things don't work out the way you'd like, the narrator explains, "it's more pleasant just to take what happens." And if you don't put up a fuss, "everyone will like you better." 1950 must have been a strange year to be a kid.

Build Your Vocabulary (10:37) -1947
Dramatizes the story of a father, who, after finding himself at a loss for words at a public meeting, follows his son's lead and starts a campaign of vocabulary improvement. The film opens at a "civic association" meeting, probably a familiar setting for its late forties audience. "Mr. Willis" wants to speak his mind, but he lacks the vocabulary he needs to articulate his thoughts properly. Afterward, as he sulks at home, dutiful son Pete asks him to read his term paper before he hands it in -- a paper about the need to turn public parks into "playgrounds for the direction of youthful energy into character-building channels." Mr. Willis is impressed with Pete's "explicitness," and Pete encourages him to keep a "vocabulary notebook" in "a business-like way." "People can be interested in new ideas," the narrator explains, but apparently only if they're articulated correctly. Mr. Willis doesn't find building his vocabulary easy ("Nobody can learn all these words!" he yells at one point, "I'm going to bed!"), but in the end it pays and he becomes the star of the next civic association meeting. Who says the young can't teach the old? All interiors. Some nice low-light photography as dad struggles at his desk at night. Some actual intended humor as dad's secretary flees from his silent scowling. Nice use of layered voices echoing inside dad's head as he wrestles with his conscience. The camera actually dollies in for reaction shots; unusual, tricky and effective.

Let's Play Fair (8:43) -1949
Sharing, taking turns and obeying rules are the basic elements of fair play. If Coronet would ever make a German Expressionistic film, it would certainly look like this.

Let's Share With Others (10:27) -1950
A kid-centered pitch for fair play and thoughtfulness. This film is an excellent window on the weird fifties concept of profit through communal living. Young "Jimmy Blake" has a lemonade stand that he wants to run all by himself, even though the narrator warns us that "when we share things there is often more for everybody." Sure enough, Jimmy's off-the-job responsibilities start cutting into his lemonade sales and he quickly realizes that the way to success is through shared effort. Jimmy calls in his friends to help and soon "EVERYONE is having fun. Sharing with others certainly is a good idea, isn't it?" This may not be a very exciting film to watch, but its equating of "fun" with profit, "sharing" with a business, and group action with popularity make it worth viewing. "Learn to share with others. You'll like it. Your friends will like you, too!"

Developing Self-Reliance (10:20) -1951
Social guidance film showing how necessary self-reliance is to all successful endeavors and happiness. The narrator explains that some people like "being dependent," but that those who do "never do any more than just 'get by'." Alan understands this, and after being chided by his dad ("Haven't you read Emerson's Essay On Self-Reliance?") Alan develops leadership qualities and becomes "a happier and better person." As he becomes more and more confident, he starts wearing ties on dates (Does he bring flowers, if it's a ritzy affair?.. oops, wrong movie) and settling school issues on his council.

Am I Trustworthy? (10:22) -1950
How a child learns to return borrowed items, keep promises and fulfill assignments. his film follows young "Eddie" as he learns to become trustworthy. Actually, "trustworthiness" in this film is pretty loosely defined -- it seems to be synonymous with "obedience" and "conformity." Eddie, at the prodding of his dad and the narrator, quickly and eagerly sees the value of trust (he even makes his own Trustworthiness Chart), and we leave the film knowing that Eddie is well on his way to normalcy. "People have to show they can be trusted with little things if they want to be trusted with big things."

Family Life (9:48) -1949
Impossible drama proving that proper management of schedules, responsibilities, privileges and finances leads to a happier home. Another winner from Coronet Instructional Films! Get a little organized and you too will be able to afford those major medical expenses and finally get your hair under control!

Sharing Work At Home (10:21) -1949
A family cooperates to an unbelievable degree. The Taylor family -- Mom, Dad, Howard and Martha -- live in a messy house and, what's worse, they don't seem to care. But Martha has culled some modern ideas from her home economics textbook and the Taylor renaissance is about to begin. "General housekeeping is made much easier if each person picks up after himself," Martha reads to Howard; he thinks for a moment and responds, "Hey, sis...maybe we should get organized!" As anyone familiar with postwar Coronet films knows, "get organized" is an unresistable rallying cry. Soon, the Taylors are making neat, handwritten lists for everything, and smiling so broadly that it must hurt. "Here! It's all organized!" cries Howard as he holds aloft yet another list. "That's the idea! Each of us picks up after himself!" echoes Dad. In less time than it takes to pull a tally sheet out of the Job Jar, the Taylors have become "a far happier and better family." "This is more than just a story of wallpaper and slipcovers," the narrator proclaims. "It's a story of improvement in the Taylors themselves!"

Your Thrift Habits (10:35) -1948
Modern-day moral tale resembling Ben Franklin's autobiography. Irresponsible "Jack" is envious of the camera that sensible "Ralph" has just purchased. How can Jack possibly save the money he needs to buy one for himself? "Are budgets just for parents?" the narrator asks, mockingly. "If he'd do without extravagances he could save every week!" Jack concedes that he should learn to budget his income, so he devises a "cameragraph" and attempts to follow it. This isn't always easy, but the narrator is always on hand to humiliate Jack whenever greed and gluttony surface. "Too many movies! Too much candy!" he chides. "You can't have EVERYTHING you want!" Needless to say, Jack does finally save enough money to buy his camera -- and probably had a good laugh at this film once the unthrifty fifties got rolling.

Your Family (7:37) -1947
Family values in action bring happiness and concord. "Your Family" details a happy go-lucky family willing to jump through hoops to do family chores so they could get dinner over with so they can watch their home movies of them shoveling snow. All the family has duties, Mom takes care of the house, Tony takes care of the unfortunately-named terrier Fluffy, Nancy sets the table, and Dad, well, he doesn't deserve to do anything, as he's of course had a hard day at the office.

How Quiet Helps at School (10:28) -1953
Social guidance film for young children suggesting that they take their noise out to the playground. This film starts off dull, but then it gets pretty strange. First, we're taken on a tour of a typical, boisterous grade school classroom ("You couldn't be proud to be part of such a noisy room, could you?" asks the narrator), and then we're taken into the classroom of "Miss Bradley" -- a place where all sound has apparently been banished. Miss Bradley tells us that keeping a classroom this quiet is good because it's "like an office," and that "knowing when to be quiet is a part of growing up." A cheerful geek named "Bobby" then gives several demonstrations of quiet behavior, and the narrator ends the film by asking, "This is a good room, isn't it?" Pretty weird stuff; lots of dead air. Watch for the scenes displaying the strange, tabletop "model farm."

Good Table Manners (10:20) -1951
A bad-mannered 14-year-old meets himself as a young man of 21, and learns the fundamentals of good table manners. The best of the table manners films. "Chuck" has terrible table manners. But then he's visited by himself, several years older (and with even less acting ability), and Chuck-from-the-future teaches Chuck-of-the-present how to "park your fork" and countless other details of table etiquette. "People judge many things about you just by the way you eat!"

School Rules: How They Help Us (10:13) -1953
Shows everyday scenes in which rules influence our behavior. Shows ways new student can learn rules, why exceptions can't be granted. Discusses rules and stresses the point that rules are ways of making life more pleasant, smooth and safe. Rules are good for you. Obey. Obey.

Social Courtesy (10:17) -1951
Dramatic film offering instruction in basic social graces. Sour-puss "Bill" is invited to a "hard times" party with his girlfriend Carol, but he believes that social courtesy is "old fashioned." Whoa, just a minute there, says the feisty interactive narrator, who soon sets Bill on a proper course. Bill takes the narrator in stride, as he does being teleported through space and backward in time (repeatedly) in this very bizarre Coronet production. "Let's take a picture of this situation," the narrator says as a strobe flashes from behind the camera and the scene we just saw is transformed into a photo on a wall in the next scene. "You'd better back up and start all over again. Maybe you'd better try to be more FRIENDLY this time." Bill beckons the invisible narrator closer so that he can discuss things in private, and the camera obligingly dollies in while the other teens at the party remain utterly oblivious. "You discourage others when they want to be friendly," the narrator scolds. "You're supposed to rise when an adult speaks to you; everybody knows that." "Come on, Bill. Sit up! That's a chair, not a bed." You have to wonder why Bill, who is so rude to his friends, puts up with this invisible nagging narrator (you also have to wonder why he has any friends, period). Even the party is surreal. Signs such as "hobo jungle" and "bum's rest" (over the couch) hang on the wall, which is spotted with weird, unexplained stains. One of the girls, suddenly aware that Bill is having a solo conversation, asks "Are you talking to yourself?" which, in the early fifties, was much worse than talking to an invisible narrator. "Learn from watching others," the narrator concludes. "You can even get a book on courtesy from the library. Be friendly. Thoughtful. YOU'LL get along!" It works; the mom chaperon exclaims "Isn't that the boy who used to be so rude?" and Bill is accorded the ultimate symbol of fifties' conformist success; he's invited to another party. "Those changes made a big difference, didn't they!" he exclaims in wonder. "Social courtesy DOES pay! Thanks!!!" Certainly one of the most inventive Coronet films ever made. Good camera work by Bruce Colling.

Appreciating Our Parents (10:00) -1950
Shows Tommy's development into responsible family member after he is brought to realize depth of parent's affection for him and their sacrifices. He tries to help family by saving money, putting things away, drying dishes and repairing broken furniture.
Science & Health
Nature of Light, The (8:28) -1948
Demonstrates light as a form of radiant energy. Explains the principles of reflection & refraction & shows how these principles apply to the science of optics. Shows how 2 boys on early a.m. Fishing trip discover principles of reflection and refraction of light through simple experimentation. Diagrams explain the operation of camera & human eye.

Nature of Sound, The (10:45) -1948
Boy uses his radio equipment to demonstrate how sound is produced and transmitted.

Attitudes and Health (9:56) -1949
Demonstrates how self-confidence and right attitudes are necessary to good health. This film tells the story of "Marvin Baker" -- "an average fellow from an average home in an average town" -- who learns that having an "attitude" can make him sick and a failure in life. Happily, by the end of the film, Marv has adopted a "better perspective" and makes the first team in basketball. Watch for the montage of people with bad attitudes, including a woman with giant shoulders and scary eyebrows, and a fat-faced man with a "tick."

Exercise and Health (9:51) -1949
How exercise will make you healthy and popular. Ernie, Jean, and Hal are three teens who have problems: Ernie is in "a run down condition," Jean is "shy and withdrawn," and Hal is "tense and irritable." But then all three join the Acrobatics Club at school and get into shape. Now Ernie, Jean and Hal "make friends easier" and have "outlets for their emotional tensions." But they're still painfully dull.

Good Eating Habits (9:46) - 1951
Drama focusing on gluttony and "hidden hunger," where well-nourished people eat poorly and malnourish themselves.

Rest and Health (10:36) -1949
Dick York plays a high-school track star whose running lags because of his lack of sleep.
Alaska: A Modern Frontier (Revised edition) (10:20) -1948
Views of the Territory of Alaska.

Life in the Central Valley of California (10:23) -1949
Shows the agriculture, trade and infrastructure of California's Central Valley, all made possible by irrigation.

Mighty Columbia River, The (9:59) -1947
Hydroelectric power, shipping, irrigation and salmon fishing.

Rivers of the Pacific Slope (10:39) -1947
The Columbia, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Colorado river systems.

Who Are the People of America? (10:07) -1953
Explains how the United States came to be a diversely populated nation. Not a very exciting film, but one with an interesting, transitional attitude -- forties' One-Worldism diluted by fifties' "sharing." The narrator tells us that Americans are "a mixture of the people of the world" and that "much of that which is American is of the world." We're shown a montage that includes spaghetti, baseball, a jukebox, and hot dogs, and the narrator explains that "these are some of the things we share as Americans. For we have become Americans through the process of sharing." Lots of stock shots from previous Coronet films litter this production (along with the obligatory cheap animated lines and arrows converging on a map of the U.S.), but it's all incidental eye candy to hold our attention while the narrator delivers his social utopian blarney. "Playing together, growing together, learning together," he declares. "America is a land whose people shared what they knew." This film is one of Mel Waskin's favorites; he claims he wrote the script and then assembled the film "rhythmically" at home using footage from the Coronet stock library. According to Mel, this film brought tears to Jack Abraham's eyes when he first viewed it.
Work of the Stock Exchange (15:40) -1941
Examines each step of incorporation and listing of stock. Illustrates the details of buying and selling operations on the exchange floor and in the broker's office, showing how these operations bring to land, labor and management the necessary capital for production.

Corporations: "What Is A Corporation" (10:26) -1949
Discusses the principal forms of business ownership-single proprietorship, partnership and corporation-and explains the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Selling as a Career (10:34) -1953
Typical Day Of Work Of Art Williams, Salesman Of Sporting Goods. Preparations At Home For Next Day's Work, Fills Out Reports, Estimates Sales Prospects, Schedules Calls. Focuses On Procedures & Personal Characteristics.

How to Keep a Job (11:23) -1949
What you need to do to stay employed: choose the right job, get along with colleagues, maintain positive attitude, etc. "Ed" is a teen seeking employment at the "Star Products Company." His interviewer, Mr. Wiley, is a little leery of Ed, since the brash teen had the audacity to quit his prior job. "Nobody thinks very much of a man who talks against the company he works for," Mr. Wiley explains. However, Ed "might really amount to something," so Mr. Wiley tells him the story of identical twins Bob and Walter Anderson, who worked in the Star Products shipping room. Through the miracle of split screen photography (pretty daring for Coronet), we see that teen actor Bob is presentable and conscientious (he gets a promotion) while identical teen actor Walter is sloppy and ungrateful (he gets the boot). "Wouldn't you like to have Bob working for you?" asks Mr. Wiley. Ed is humbled and promises to be a good corporate man from now on. Let's hope he didn't rush out and buy a suit jacket with lapels as wide as Mr. Wiley's.

I Want to Be a Secretary (15:52) -1941
Follows a young woman through her clerical training and job search. Shows pre-World War II offices and office workers, primarily women. One of Coronet's earliest educational films. Great title, but the muddled soundtrack and bargain basement production of this early Coronet effort make it less satisfying than other "career woman" films. The stilted interaction between the aspiring secretary and her various elders is okay, but nothing to write a memo about. This film's soundtrack was re-recorded when it was re-scripted and re-edited down to a 10-minute version in 1951. It was then remade in 1954 as the less-dogmatic Do I Want To Be A Secretary?

Supervising Women Workers (10:37) -1944
Management addresses the special problems of women workers with concern and a heavy dose of sexism.

Secretary's Day, The (10:47) -1947
Compares daily activities of a secretary with those of a stenographer. This film takes us through a typical work day of "Jean Carroll," a professional secretary who is tactful, courteous, poised, alert, personable, efficient, prompt, neat, and orderly. We learn that Jean's morning dictation period is "the foundation of secretarial skill," and are given many opportunities to view her invaluable calendar pad. A more or less typical secretarial film. Jean's boss, "Mr. Williams," plays the young politician in Political Parties.
Banks And Credits (10:36) -1948
Coronet Instructional Films (a division of Esquire Inc.) presents Banks and Credit. Educational collaborator James Harvey Dodd, PhD., Professor of Economics and Business Administration, Mary Washington College at University of Virginia

Understanding The Dollar (9:39) -1953
A dramatization which explains the essential purposes of money as a medium of exchange, analyzes factors which affect the value of the dollar, and shows the effects of rising prices on people with various types of income.

Capitalism (9:24) -1948
A group of teenagers on a high-school radio program discuss just what capitalism is, seizing onto the example of the butcher who supplies the weenies for their picnic. Capitalism is one of many "free-enterprise education" films released in the first few years of the Cold War. Unlike many films produced under corporate sponsorship, it avoids taking jabs at socialism, Russia or New Deal government programs. Nonetheless, it uses the common Coronet device of showing a group collectively engaged in coming to terms with an idea -- a process with predetermined conclusions. In this respect, I imagine that it's not so different from Soviet educational films.

Introduction to Foreign Trade (10:38) -1951
Cold War-era treatise on globalization.

Trading Centers of the Pacific Coast (10:38) -1947
The Pacific Rim at the start of the air age.

What Is Money? (10:33) -1947
Following the journey of a five-dollar bill through many transactions, the film shows how money functions as a standard of value and future payment, a storehouse of value and a convenient medium of exchange. This film follows a five-dollar bill (Federal Reserve Note G12463089B, series 34E) as it flows from person to person and performs different functions in the money channels of America. The narrator explains that money is "a quick and easy medium of exchange," which we use because "life today is too complex." Actually, money is a pretty abstract concept, and this film does a good job of making us aware of it. Watch for the cameo by "Mrs. Moore," who later played roles in Making Your Own Decisions and Political Parties.

What Is Business? (9:49) -1948
Business produces Mother's pen, the bread on the breakfast table, and the pop-up toaster into which the bread goes. "The world we live in is a world of business." This postwar paean for the glories of free enterprise showers much praise on the Trinity of production, distribution and communication, which "have made the world of business TRULY one world." There's no narrative story line in this film, just a general overview, and much impressive talk about how business is "essential to our modern mode of living" and "helps fulfill our desires for a better way of life." As the camera pans down the storefronts of Main Street, the narrator cries, "Just think what it would mean if all this were taken away!" The battle lines of the Cold War couldn't have been drawn more succinctly.
Communism (10:41) -1952
Educational film on the Cold War conflict. Unlike Capitalism, this Coronet film has no dorky teenagers or weenies in it. Classic cold war propaganda film.

Starting Now (10:44) -1951
High school students anticipate and prepare for the military draft. (Are You Ready for Service? No. 4)

Getting Ready Emotionally (10:25) -1951
(Are You Ready for Service? No. 6)

Getting Ready Morally (10:43) -1951
(Are You Ready for Service? No. 7)

Getting Ready Physically (10:29) -1951
Korean War-era film encouraging high school boys to use the physical training, health and recreational resources of their communities so as to be ready for military service.

Service and Citizenship (11:03) -1951
Korean War-era film points out that military service should be understood as part of citizenship and that training in the everyday duties of citizenship is a part of the preparation for military service.

Powers of Congress, The (10:30) -1947
Mr. Williams drops off to sleep for a few minutes to find himself confronted with a world in which Congress has been suspended and federal authority dissolved. This film marks Coronet's earliest excursion into surrealism. It opens in the living room of "Charles Bentley," whose checked suit and zebra-striped tie clash maddeningly with the room's bulls-eye wallpaper pattern, and give some hint of the strange sights to come. "Congress this! Congress that!" Bentley snorts as he throws down his newspaper. "I've got more things to think about than Congress!" He stomps down to the post office to mail his tax return, and continues his tirade for the benefit of his strange-looking friend, "Williams." "What's Congress ever given me except a lot of trouble?" Bentley grunts. "You know what I think? I think we'd be better off if there WASN'T any Congress!" CUs of soap bubbles suddenly appear as Bentley is catapulted into a black void nightmare world where all the sets are built on German Expressionist angles and everyone's voice has an echo. "LOTS of things are different without the powers of Congress!" cackles Williams, who has been transformed (thanks to low-angle lighting) into a kind of omnipresent demon. "YOU'LL see! Hee hee hee hee...." Bentley quickly discovers that, without Congress, his money is worthless, his court system is in ruins, and, worst of all, Social Security is bankrupt. "You'll have to look out for yourself when you lose your job!" Williams crows. Next, Bentley's wife arrives, sobbing that without Congress "our FHA loan was no good" and that now the Bentley's have been thrown out on the street! Thankfully, the soap bubbles reappear and Bentley wakes up back is his nightmare-inducing living room. It was all a dream! "NOW I know what to put in my speech for the club!" he chuckles, and we leave him with a better attitude and a Social Security system that his beloved Congress would eventually leverage into bankruptcy anyway.

Plantation System in Southern Life, The (10:39) -1950
Eurocentric view of the plantation system and its effect on Southern U.S. culture.

Palmour Street (23:54) -1957
Everyday aspects of mental health in an African American community in Gainesville, Georgia.
Much of the annotation of this post was written by shaggylocks and the good folks at the Internet Archive - where all of these videos should be accessible in perpetuity if their current links die.
posted by Blasdelb (41 comments total) 140 users marked this as a favorite

I'll watch these right after I get done building these two robots from special parts.
posted by stevis23 at 12:35 PM on November 1, 2012 [23 favorites]

Interesting, did not know that these were in the public domain. David Smart's nephew is a friend of my late father's, and ran the company's marketing in the 1970s.
posted by dfriedman at 12:42 PM on November 1, 2012

posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:49 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wow. I remember "Dating Do's and Dont's" from Nightflight back in the 1980's. What about the children's etiquette film where they referred to the unpolite boy as "Mr. Bumble." I didn't see mention of that in any of the annotations.

I'm only about 3 minutes into "Plantation System in Southern Life" film and was impressed that they used the word "slave." "These small houses were for the slaves who did ALMOST ALL THE WORK." Nice.

My favorite euphemism for "slave" is "antebellum workforce."
posted by marxchivist at 12:49 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Holy crap. I work near where Palmour Street was (it's now under an airport/industrial park). I am currently sitting about a half mile and 50-odd years from where that last movie was shot.

I am now tempted to dig out some old insurance maps and see if I can pinpoint exactly where it was. Because, as you say, I wasn't getting any work done this afternoon anyway.

(FWIW: it's still a miserable part of a miserable town, but now we have more taco trucks, so that's some improvement)
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:56 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Amazing, thanks for collecting! My first weed experience was at a mental hygiene film festival, and for years I was that guy who forced all my university friends to watch these. One of my favourites (not Coronet) is Habit Patterns, about a poor girl with terrible habits and how her life is a mess and it's all her fault, contrasted with the perfectly perfect girl next door. The narrator is BRUTAL.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:59 PM on November 1, 2012 [11 favorites]

A couple of these were featured on MST3K, of course - What About Juvenile Delinquency, What to Do On a Date, and Are You Ready for Marriage (there may be others)
posted by dismas at 1:00 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

A couple of these were featured on MST3K, of course - What About Juvenile Delinquency , What to Do On a Date , and Are You Ready for Marriage (there may be others)

Also, Appreciating Our Parents, which inspired this host segment .
posted by cottoncandybeard at 1:05 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by AugieAugustus at 1:06 PM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

The Fun With Shorts version of Habit Patterns

posted by The Whelk at 1:06 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is fantastic. Now, the next goal should be to get the Jam Handy collection.

Ah, Jam Handy - I've been searching for the actual shooting location for 'Uncle Jim's Dairy Farm' for years. It's in Illinois... but where?
posted by chambers at 1:14 PM on November 1, 2012

On the one hand, these are judgmental and very narrow in their view of the "right" and "wrong" way to behave. On the other hand, we get so many "how do I handle these basic tasks as an adult/college student living on my own now" questions in . . . I wonder if it isn't time for a revival of the "how to be human" film series and health/human development class?

How do you walk that line? Teaching people what society expects from its ordinary members and how to approach basic social situations without invalidating all sorts of nonmajority ways of being?

(Also! I totally remember these from MST3k.)
posted by crush-onastick at 1:22 PM on November 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

That's a lot of post, right there.

One of these has to be the video from Peewee Herman's original HBO special. "Big enough piece of cake, or what?"
posted by dglynn at 1:25 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Some colege friends used a sound bite from one of the dating films as their outgoing answering machine message for a while. Call them to ask a question and all of a sudden you were listening to Lyle inviting Ann out to a skating party and a weenie roast over at Teen Town.

Upon reflection, they never seemed to get bothered by telemarketers once they started doing that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:35 PM on November 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

Let's not forget that series of weird Nick At Nite interstitials, How To Be Swell.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:37 PM on November 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

There are so many tags on this post that it's making the page scroll slower. Well done.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:45 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

What's with all the "don't get married early" films? My mother claims that in the 60s, there was immense pressure to get hitched and produce babies. Were the films completely contrary to popular social mores even then?
posted by five fresh fish at 1:47 PM on November 1, 2012

If you got married you could have sex.
posted by The Whelk at 1:50 PM on November 1, 2012

Fun With Shorts has covered many of these. I think they are easier to watch with commentary.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:53 PM on November 1, 2012

Korean War-era film points out that military service should be understood as part of citizenship and that training in the everyday duties of citizenship is a part of the preparation for military service.

A good idea, especially if used for disaster recovery & peace-keeping.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:53 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh my god I fucking love you. Coronet films are one of my favorite things in the entire world. Some of them even have good advice!

There's a fantastic book on the subject called Mental Hygiene. It's a great history and retrospective of social hygiene movies.
posted by griphus at 2:04 PM on November 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

What's with all the "don't get married early" films?

From what I recall, those "don't get married/don't go steady" ones were specifically targeted toward teenagers. My family isn't from here, but did that pressure apply to teens as well?
posted by griphus at 2:07 PM on November 1, 2012

Now I'm sad I've never gone on a swell taffy pull date. My life is so incomplete.
posted by ifjuly at 2:19 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I mean they're saying to wait until the girl is 19 or 20 in the "don't get married" shorts. Not "wait until you both have independent sources of income and are ready to settle down."
posted by dismas at 2:30 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am pretty sure the "don't get married" films are in part thinly veiled "don't get pregnant so you don't have to get married" films. But also, according to my mom, that was a thing - dropping out at 16 or 17 to get married - in her world, where they lived in a decent-sized town but most kids were *maybe* first-generation non-rural. Plus, if you weren't going to college and weren't ever going to work, why not get started on the only option?

Also hormones.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:41 PM on November 1, 2012

also the pretty blatant "Don't date outside your class!" thing which is really strange to just say out loud like that.
posted by The Whelk at 2:48 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, for my parents, if you were getting into your twenties, you were an old maid. Popping out kiddies by age twenty was really important.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:58 PM on November 1, 2012

Those Coronet films were all produced sometime in the 1940s/50s, but they were still showing 'em regularly in the 1960s and 70s at our schools. That's about the time I learned (as a class projectionist one year) the fine art of tugging at the film loop with a pencil when it hit a spot with a string of broken sprocket holes and started flickering....or skipping like a record, for you older folks in the crowd.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:21 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

YouTuber OneMinuteGalactica does a series of Nerdy Instructional Films that mashes up films like these with geek favorites.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:50 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also as a voicemail away message. (WAV)
posted by Nomyte at 4:37 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

. . . we get so many "how do I handle these basic tasks as an adult/college student living on my own now" questions in . . . I wonder if it isn't time for a revival of the "how to be human" film series and health/human development class?

It's time for MeFi to make some social hygiene films of our own, I think - first up, "Should I Eat That?" and "Counseling: You Probably Need It".
posted by ryanshepard at 5:47 PM on November 1, 2012 [18 favorites]

One of these has to be the video from Peewee Herman's original HBO special. "Big enough piece of cake, or what?"

That would be this one , which is also where the band Mr. Bungle got their name from.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 6:07 PM on November 1, 2012

Huh. I thought Mr. Bungle got its name from LamdaMOO's Mr. Bungle, but I guess not.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:59 PM on November 1, 2012

This seems incredibly naive by today's standards, but I think there was a real effort to at least try to provide coherent guidance for social behavior before, that doesn't exist now.
posted by effugas at 8:14 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Rifftrax has also covered quite a few of these...
posted by Lucinda at 8:29 PM on November 1, 2012

five fresh fish: "Yes, for my parents, if you were getting into your twenties, you were an old maid. Popping out kiddies by age twenty was really important."

I remember one conversation with my mother (born 1941). "Why did you marry Dad, anyway?" I asked. (I was in my late teens at this point, and they had been divorced for a decade or more.)

She sighed. "Because I was 23 and I was beginning to believe the people who told me I was an old maid."
posted by Lexica at 9:41 PM on November 1, 2012

"Let's Play Fair" is a treat, if only because that's a young Ken Nordine doing the narration.
posted by fontor at 6:12 AM on November 2, 2012

The only thing the narrator didn't suggest in Dating: Do's and Don'ts was for Woody to fix that unibrow. But I guess the whole point was to make sure he didn't get laid, so well played.
posted by Devils Slide at 9:54 AM on November 2, 2012

The trouble with prescriptive instructions is that they only work for those who share the values you used to derive the instructions.

I guess "prescriptive instruction" is a little redundant. These films give prescriptions. Not the kind you'd get from a doctor, although, I guess therapists kind of do?

Anyway, if you want to help someone without knowing what values you share with them, you have some options, but they're not much like these videos. They're more like children's books, you know, the ones about going to bed or enduring puberty. They show and tell what would logically happen in those situations. Sometimes that involves making some assumptions about what it's logical for a person to do in a situation--my childhood beddy-bye manual assumed I'd wear pajamas, and I ended up wearing those for a long time after I got my own bed and therefore didn't have to.

Even so, you can write descriptions in ways that are helpful to people who will need to interact with the things described. This provides many of the benefits of actual instruction, and at least has less risk of unintended influence than prescription does. Very nearly all college-level instruction works like this. But it might not be considered advice! Certainly, when I've been most desperate, I've ignored all the useful information everyone gave me about my problem-space in favor of those parts I could interpret as an order.

A decent compromise is to prescribe research techniques. This is essentially what "seeing a therapist" is. The subject of that research is the asker's emotional state, which is pretty difficult to understand at the best of times, though it only really needs to be understood at the worst of times.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:17 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is epic. Thank you for putting it together!
posted by batmonkey at 11:20 AM on November 2, 2012

Oh wow. What a comprehensive list. Thank you muchly.

In the Toronto area, some of these films have been used in Mr. Sub commercials - I recall seeing an excerpt from "Are You Ready For Marriage" in one of them. (This was perfectly legal - the Prelinger Archives are in the public domain.)
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 12:57 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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