TRT: 90 min.
Our Prelinger Archives series returns for another installment this April!

No outlet served post-war American culture’s ebullient pride and prosperity better than that of the now-infamous educational film. Pioneered by the Coronet Instructional Films company, Centron Productions, McGraw-Hill and Encyclopaedia Britannica—as well as more eccentric individuals like Sid Davis and Jam Handy—these films today have been relegated to sideshow status by the likes of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Weird Al, MST3K and Adult Swim, who freely lampoon these easy targets for their comically dated sensibilities.

April’s EPHEMERA program FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIAL GUIDANCE compiles moments from these films that focus on the frequent theme of social development. Looking to properly shape the future sons and daughters of the U.S.A. into well-adjusted citizens, the milquetoast, aw-shucks sincerity of these shorts of course strikes an uncanny, off-kilter chord to today’s audience. This compilation arranges its selections into a rough narrative of growing-up; our protagonists age and learn lessons stage-by-stage, gradually maturing into utterly perfect adults ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Preceding the feature collage will be the full short A DATE WITH YOUR FAMILY (1950, 10m, B&W, USA) interspersed with full-color outtakes from the set of the film itself, exposing glimpses of the personalities behind the actors in gag-reel relief; a fascinating peek beneath the characteristically unnatural, almost inhuman veneer of sponsored films from this era.

Sources for FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIAL GUIDANCE include: Act Your Age (1949), Appreciating Our Parents (1950), Are You Popular? (1947), Beginning Responsibility (1951), The Benefits Of Looking Ahead (1950), A Better Use Of Leisure Time (1950), The Bully (1952), Cheating (1952), Cindy Goes To A Party (1955), Don’t Get Angry (1953), Each Child Is Different (1954), Family Life (1949), Good Table Manners (1951), Gossip (1953), How Quiet Helps At School (1953), How To Be Well-Groomed (1949), Office Etiquette (1950), The Procrastinator (1952), Shy Guy (1947), The Snob (1958), Social Courtesy (1951), Ways To Settle Disputes (1950), What Makes A Good Party (1950) and Your Junior High Days (1963).

Special thanks to the Internet Archive, Rick Prelinger and everyone at the Prelinger Archive.Rick Prelinger began collecting “ephemeral films”—all those educational, industrial, amateur, advertising, or otherwise sponsored—in 1982, amassing over 60,000 (all on physical film) before his Prelinger Archive was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002. Since then, the collection has grown and diversified: now it exists in library form in San Francisco and is also gradually being ported online to the Internet Archive (http://archive.org), where 3,801 of its films are currently hosted (as of this writing).

Of course, the content of the Prelinger Archive’s films varies in accord with the variety of mankind. Historic newsreels, mid-century automobile infomercials, psychological experiments, medical procedurals, big oil advertisements, military recruitment videos, political propagandas, personal home videos, celebrity exposes, amateur narratives, scientific studies, war bulletins, instructional films, special interest op-eds, safety lessons, hobby guides, travel destination profiles and private industry productions all sit comfortably together in one marginalized category.

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