IU’s Carolyn Guss “Meets” Edward Feil in 1956

As I have mentioned in my previous blog posts, my summer has consisted of inventorying and researching the Edward and Naomi Feil Collection here at Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive. Just last week, I moved from inventorying the films to wading through the papers in the collection. At first, combing through the papers didn’t seem that enticing of a task because inventorying the films had proven to be such a fascinating and moving experience for me not only as a media archivist but as a human. I have been given the chance to examine the artistic process of a filmmaker whose passion burned so hot with his love for cinema that even his home life seemed like a film set. He could even make something like a cashmere factory look cinematic.

That being said, I moved onto the papers anyway and I was proven wrong. The papers gave me an even more detailed look into the world of Edward and Naomi Feil. Ed kept many interesting things that will ultimately prove to be equally as beneficial in understanding why he became a filmmaker and how he made his films. He also kept some of the correspondences he had with academic institutions who were interested in either purchasing or renting his educational films. This proved to be quite serendipitous for us here at Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive because some of these correspondences connected Edward Feil directly to Indiana University’s Division of Library Science in 1956. Below in chronological order are the correspondences between Carolyn Guss who was the Associate in Selection, Audio Visual Center, LaVern Walther, an assistant professor within the Divison of Library Science and of course, Ed Feil.

   img091On April 21st, 1956, Ed wrote to Lavern Walther explaining that he had been informed by phone that the Division of Library Services here at Indiana University was interested in purchasing a print of a film made about libraries, The Winged Bequest. This film centers around the services libraries can offer to help the handicapped and those who could not leave their homes to go the library.

Six months later on October 11th, Carolyn Guss wrote Ed Feil wondering if he could send the library a copy of the film to preview at no extra cost:



Eleven days after that on October 22nd, Ed proceeded to send Carolyn Guss an audition print of The Winged Bequest for preview:


On November 20th, Carolyn sent Ed a telegram to inform him that the print was being returned and that the library had to delay their purchase since the decision was still pending:

Upon reading the telegram, I was saddened by the response from Carloyn Guss knowing that The Winged Bequest was and still is a film that speaks for the handicapped and the wonderful services libraries can offer for them. Then I realized that even though the final correspondence between Carolyn and Ed seemed to be missing, I could check IUCat and see if the film was in the audio-visual collection here at Indiana University. There it was! We had the answer all along!

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.00.50 AM

-By Rob Anen

‘THINK’ing About the Feil Collection and the Importance of Home Movies

Issue of Business Screen magazine on films at the World's Fair found in the Feil Collection.
Issue of Business Screen magazine on films at the World’s Fair found in the Feil Collection.

Last week I mentioned that the research we are doing on the Edward and Naomi Feil Collection here at Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive has lead to the discovery of something very unique within their home movies.  First, a short back story; as a graduate student of NYU’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program, I had the opportunity to visit the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia back in February. On the last day of our five-day tour of the campus, my cohort and I were treated to a screening of a restoration of a very unique film that debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, Think. The film was created by the famous designers and artists Charles and Ray Eames for IBM’s pavilion at the World’s Fair. It was exhibited on nine screens in the same theatre. There are two versions of Think, the 1964 version and the 1965 version. We saw the 1965 version in February and it’s a film you don’t forget. The 1964 version has been difficult to reconstruct due to the fact that no record exists of how it was exhibited. 

0141122016da0bf3e91ff9c2a5c85218df272ffd64Within the home movies of Edward and Naomi Feil exists footage from the 1964 World’s Fair. Ed never put his camera down and that included when he went into the theatre to watch Think. Thanks to Ed’s penchant for filming everything we now have three minutes of the 1964 version of Think as it was shown in the theater. Ed Feil spliced all the reels he shot from the World’s Fair in sequence as he did with every trip he went on. I noticed the footage right away when I was inspecting the reel because the Ektachrome color reversal at the start of the reel changed to a black and white Kodak stock. I would bet my life on it that Ed knew about the film being shown at the World’s Fair and intended to shoot footage of the film as an eternal lover of cinema.  As evident when watching the entire reel, the black and white portion in between the rest of the Ektachrome had a much higher ISO.  Ed changed the film in his camera while he was still in the theater, films another thirty seconds or so on the Ektachrome reversal and Think becomes muddled due to the lower ISO.

As soon as I noticed this unique footage, I contacted George Willeman, the Nitrate Vault Manager at the Packard Center and he exclaimed that “the big deal with this home movie is that it is (far as we know) the only footage of the 1964 version of Think. He also went on to say that this home movie “is going to make us re-think our restoration!” I am beyond thrilled that the work we are doing here at Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive is leading to exciting and pivotal discoveries such as this. 

Original label on the can the "Think" footage was found in.
Original label on the can the “Think” footage was found in.

Lastly but not less important was the discovery of what may be the most endearing home movie ever filmed by any person ever. Ed and Naomi Feil got married in 1963 and went on their honeymoon to the Bahamas. Much like his official productions, Ed went into this with a vision and edited together the most beautiful cinematic love letter to Naomi. Ed saw no line separating his official productions and his home movies. Ed composed this film the same way we composed the rest of his productions and set the film to music.  I cannot wait to make this accessible to you all one day. As evidenced by my blog posts there are many exciting things to come with the Edward and Naomi Feil Collection. 

Original can, screen shots and tail of "Honeymoon."
Original can, screen shots and tail of “Honeymoon.”

– Robert Anen

Traveling Around the World with Ed and Naomi Feil

Robert here again:

Last week I alluded to the fact that Ed Feil was not your average filmmaker. He put great care into every production he made for Edward Feil Productions and the same went for his home movies. As early as 1939, Ed was making his own productions at home on 8mm, editing them and creating his own title cards. By the time Edward Feil Productions began in 1952, with the production materials at his disposal, he was shooting all of his home movies with his family and friends on 16mm film. By the 1970s, with his clap board in hand, he was recording sync sound on magnetic track at family gatherings.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Ed and his family traveled all over the world and by the looks of it, filmed everything. Here at the Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive we have in our possession hundreds of feet from many exotic places: Paris in 1945, Vienna in 1946, Mardi Gras/Miami in 1954, Las Vegas in 1956, Hong Kong/Rangoon/India/Afghanistan in 1956, Milan/Venice Florence/Rome/Capri/Switzerland in 1959, the Bahamas and Denmark in 1963, both New York World’s Fair 1939/1964, Mexico in 1967, Bermuda in 1969, New York and Puerto Rico in 1972, and Disneyland in 1970/1979. All in color. This doesn’t even include the countless family events that Ed has filmed over the years, some have a matching magnetic track.

Based on our in-progress work on the Feil’s films, home movies make up roughly 15% of the Feil Collection. Truth be told, we have only just started to inventory this collection and these are the gems we have uncovered.  I consider myself incredibly lucky to have the ability to work on such an exciting collection to work on.  Not only does this collection contain industrial films that span many decades and multiple professional fields but well-crafted home movies too.  We aren’t talking about disparate, 100-foot reels of 16mm home movie footage. Ed had the foresight to splice together all of the reels from a given trip in chronological order, number the reels and sometimes insert titles card for changes in destinations such as this one seen below:


In the case of this still taken from Ed’s time in Italy in 1959, Ed shot a few hundred feet of each destination he went to within Italy: Milan, Venice, Florence, etc. and then with the extra shots he had left over, he edited together a travelogue. This was not the first time he did this. We also possess an edited travelogue of Ed’s time in Asia in 1956. In that case, pieces of leader with the change of country are supplied in between each 100-foot reel of Kodachrome. He hadn’t yet elevated his home movies to the production level of his Italy trip.  By the late 1950s and into the 1970s, Feil home movies all retained a similar form. The first reel of every trip begins with the family getting on a plane, a shot of the pilot in the cockpit, the takeoff, the landing. The last reel of the every trip ends as same way, with the Feils once again getting on a plane headed for home, a shot of the cockpit, etc.  Every trip spliced together in sequence for our viewing pleasure. Here are some quick pictures I snapped with my iPhone from our Steenbeck:

Italian Countryside, Milan, 1959


Las Vegas, 1956


Next week we will take a look at more of Ed’s home movies and how the inventorying of this collection has led to Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive assisting the Library of Congress in research for a restoration they are working on.

-By Robert Anen

Meet Our Summer Intern Robert Anen!

Hello! My name is Robert Anen and I’m a graduate student who’s currently enrolled in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Moving Image and Preservation program. At the moment I am halfway through the program and as a requirement, I have to intern throughout the summer. This has landed me here at Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive. This week marks my fifth week here and I have five more to go.  While I’m here I will have a chance to witness the inner workings of a moving image archive for the very first time in my career. Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive has also moved into a beautiful new space on the ground floor of the Wells library so it shall be a new experience for both the archive and me.

Here I am working on the Edward and Naomi Feil Collection:

Copy of IMG_4480

I have been assigned to the Edward and Naomi Feil Collection while I’m here. Edward Feil created Edward Feil Productions in 1952 and continued to make films into the 1990s.  From the more than three hundred film reels we have already inventoried here at Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive, we can tell you that Ed has made films for multiple industries since the creation of his production company. These industries include the surgical field, mechanical engineering, dental, nursing, the librarian field, fashion, art, gerontology, and municipal development.  

Edward Feil Productions was based out of Cleveland, Ohio and towards the late 1960s Ed’s wife, Naomi, was involved in the filmmaking process. She researched, wrote scripts, starred in, filed the copyrights and later went on to edit some of Ed’s films. Though the collection is far from being completely processed, from what we already know, Naomi‘s involvement helped shape the direction that Edward Feil Productions would move in as time moved on.

Naomi Feil is a social worker who is still active today and helping people all over the world. In fact, that seems to have been the mission of Edward Feil Productions, help people. Naomi developed a method to communicate with people who have Alzheimer’s disease called The Validation Method. This led to many successes for the Feils and a number of the films that Ed created for his company involve Naomi using the Validation Method on elderly patients.  

This is just a very brief overview of the discoveries we have made as we work on the Edward and Naomi Feil Collection here at Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive.  I’m so fortunate to be part of this archival family.  I will be posting more updates in the near future on the Feil Collection and the many goings on here at Indiana University Libraries’ Moving Image Archive. Until then, I will be enjoying this gem of a town, Bloomington, Indiana. 


Social Guidance Sunday is Back for a Special Summer Edition! See it at 8pm on July 10th at the Bishop Bar in Bloomington.

You'll feel you're on flying on a carnival ride in "Your Indiana State Fair" (1947)
You’ll feel you’re on flying on a carnival ride in “Your Indiana State Fair” (1947)

It’s summer time but that doesn’t mean a break from Social Guidance Sundays! “Too Cool for Summer School” will have you humming along to a song with Smokey the Bear, preparing your next lemonade business venture, and practicing your frisbee throwing skills. You may even want to enter your prize watermelons and farm animals into the Indiana State Fair! This special summer program visually captures all of the fun summertime activities while gently teaching you about the perils of sun damage and the need for fire safety. There are plenty of amazing feats, delicious treats, and sporting meets to entice you!

As you prepare to embark on your summer adventures, there is one big factor to prepare for — the sun! If you are going to indulge in some fun in the sun, consider our first film, Sun – Friend or Enemy? (1949, 5 min.). Getting a tan may seem appealing, but you don’t want to look like a roasted hot dog!

Captivating juxtapositions featured in "Sun - Friend or Enemy?" (1949)
Captivating juxtapositions featured in “Sun – Friend or Enemy?” (1949)

Once you’ve lathered up with sun block, you will be partially prepared to start your lemonade business. However, you will want to watch Lemonade Stand: What is Fair? (1969, 13 min.) to consider fair practices when it comes to going into business with your buddy or your brother!

A prize-winning heifer from "Your Indiana State Fair" (1947)
A prize-winning heifer from “Your Indiana State Fair” (1947)

As you may already know, it is a customary characteristic of a Hoosier to attend the Indiana State Fair. While the state fair took a break during World War II, it re-emerged in 1946 with plenty of exciting features. Your Indiana State Fair (1947, 22 min.) will make you feel like you are walking among the prize-winning farm animals, playing carnival games at the Midway, and eating cotton candy. This film is so realistic that we’ll offer a short intermission for you to go get another drink!

The program will return with a familiar face, Smokey the Bear, as well as “The Voice of RCA,” singer, actor, and writer, Vaughn Monroe. Both of these celebrities caution about protecting the forest from wildfires caused by careless behavior in A Vision in the Forest (1957, 5:20 min.).

Vaughn Monroe’s soulful singing will certainly put you in the mood for the next film, Seasons of Sexuality (1980 14 min.). This film reminds us what summer is really about: hanging out at the beach, spending time with people you love, and shedding your inhibitions (and perhaps clothes!).

This pooch catches discs with poise in "Floating Free" (1977)
This pooch catches discs with poise in “Floating Free” (1977)

On that note, we close the program with the 1977 World Frisbee Championships. What was probably a stressful competition for these frisbee players looks effortless as they gracefully throw discs across the field. Floating Free (1977, 11 min.) will put you in a summer mindset.

Program Schedule
Sun – Friend or Enemy (1949, 5 min.)
Lemonade Stand: What Is Fair? (1969, 13 min.)
Your Indiana State Fair (1947, 22 min.)
A Vision in the Forest (1957, 5:20 min.)
Seasons of Sexuality (1980, 14 min.)
Floating Free (1977, 11 min.)

For more information on this event and to let us know you’re attending please read visit our Facebook page for the event.

~Katie Lind

Carla Arton joins the Moving Image Archive team

My name is Carla Arton and I recently joined the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive this past February as the new Film Digitization Specialist. I’m so happy to be a part of the Archive team and to work with our great collection. My initial work includes creating a minimal item level inventory of film held within our archive and within other special collections around campus. I will also be setting our standards for digitization and building up our infrastructure and workflows in order to process large collections quickly and prioritize them for digital transfer; and restoration for our higher profile titles.  
I come from the Library of Congress where I was a Recorded Sound Library Technician. While there I worked on multiple high profile projects and collections, such as the National Jukebox, the Tony Schwartz Collection, and the Film Synchronization Disc collection. Prior to my Library of Congress work, I served as the first Film Archivist at the Wende Museum of the Cold War and spent the beginning of my career at Chace Audio by Deluxe preparing multiple audio formats for preservation and restoration. 
I currently serve as Co-Chair of the Association of Moving Image Archivists’ (AMIA) Education Committee, which provides information on educational resources and training opportunities for students and professionals in audiovisual archiving. I also hold a master’s degree in Film Archiving from the School of Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia and a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies from Chapman University.  
I’m also a classic Hollywood fan; proud to have lobbied for Betty Grable’s Down Argentine Way to be added to the National Film Registry. Please come stop by our space in the Herman B. Wells Library to say Hello. I’d love to show you what we’re up to. 
–          Carla Arton

April SGS: Mmmm! Digesting Educational Films about Food

We know you are salivating for another scrumptious Social Guidance Sunday so we are pleased to close out the spring semester with a treat! “Mmmm! Digesting Educational Films about Food” dishes out delicacies featuring good nutrition, funny industry films, and morsels of movie magic to munch on.

Mysto the Magician in "Food and Magic" (1943)
Mysto the Magician in “Food and Magic” (1943)

Cut from the highest grade and arranged to perfection, we bring you an array of savory 16mm films. The appetizer is a short classroom film from 1951 featuring Bill, a glutton for junk food (Good Eating Habits, 1951). The first course will be Eating on the Run (1975), a comical film featuring good nutrition and the importance of taking time out to savor your food.

In Mystery in the Kitchen, we experience a little domestic intrigue as we follow an invisible detective as he investigates an average housewife’s meal preparation for her family.

Housewives bear the burden of making sure their families are well-fed as we see in the third course, Food and Magic (1943), where Mysto the Magician explains better food management to prevent waste. Dessert will be brought to us by the U.S. Department of Agriculture who made a comical film featuring the importance of statistics and selecting food. Even if you don’t much care for math, this film will have you craving for more numbers!

From Canada’s Food Guides http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/context/fg_history-histoire_ga-eng.php
From Canada’s Food Guides http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/context/fg_history-histoire_ga-eng.php

We encourage you to eat, drink, and be merry as we bring you foodies films that inspire critical reflection as well as a satisfied pat on the stomach. Our guest programmer for this delicacy is Rebecca J. Butorac, a food studies scholar who is interested in the intersections between food, social class, and culture. She is particularly interested in how media portrayals of “correct” shopping, eating, and housekeeping habits tend to ignore the social, cultural, and economic differences that shape our attitudes toward – and access to – food.

If this program makes you hungry, and we are positive it will, there will be food trucks stationed outside of the Bishop for your dining needs. Food trucks will be available starting around 7pm. The show will begin at 8pm on Sunday, April 17th.

April’s Films:

Good Eating Habits (1951)

The Eating on the Run Film (1975)

Mystery in the Kitchen (1958)

Food and Magic (1943)

Alice in Numberland (1962)˙

Bloomington’s Gyro Truck will be outside of the Bishop from 6:30pm-8:30pm on Sunday, April 17th!
Bloomington’s Gyro Truck will be outside of the Bishop from 6:30pm-8:30pm on Sunday, April 17th!

~Katie Lind

16mm and Chill! Turn Down the Lights for Another Social Guidance Sunday!

Still from “VD: Play it Safe” (1980)

Join us for another scintillating evening of Social Guidance Sunday this Valentine’s Day! We know how to treat you right with beer in the backroom of the Bishop and our newest program: “16mm and Chill.” That’s right, on Sunday, February 14 at 8pm IU Libraries Moving Image Archive presents four seductive short films on the topic of sex, dating, and STDs. In what promises to be an entertaining if not informative evening, this month we present 16mm films that offer a glimpse of American educational programming addressing the highs and the lows of sexual relationships.

This month our guest programmer, Alyssa Bossenger is a dual Ph.D. student in Gender Studies and Communication in Culture where she studies how people learn about sexuality in ways that uphold power structures of heteronormativity and whiteness particularly in relation to television,
film, and digital media. While these films feature formal sex education, Alyssa focuses on how people find information about sex through television and the internet.

Still from “VD: Play it Safe” (1980)

Our featured films this month are frank and funny, posing important questions about sex and relationships. In the first film, called Engagement: Romance and Reality (1965, 15 min.), we will have a heart-to-heart conversation confronting the tendency to rush into marriage without making sure s/he is the right match. Is a pet name like “Sweetie Pie” a deal breaker? To provide informative, anatomically correct demonstrations of the growing body, we will then show Achieving Sexual Maturity (1973, 16 min.) which will address or remind you of your adolescent years. Ah, puberty! The third film, V.D. – Play it Safe (1980, 20 min.), will answer all of your “burning” questions about different venereal diseases.
And finally, we conclude our program with a film titled, It Must Be Love, ‘Cause I Feel So Dumb (1976, 30 min.). This sweet story features a young boy in the throes of first love and then real tragedy. Will he be able to see a better relationship blossoming beyond his love interest? All of these questions and more will be answered when you join us for “16mm and Chill.”

February’s schedule:

Still from "Engagement: Romance and Reality" (1965)
Still from “Engagement: Romance and Reality” (1965)

Engagement: Romance and Reality (1965)

Achieving Sexual Maturity (1973)

V.D. – Play it Safe (1980)

It Must Be Love, ‘Cause I Feel So Dumb (1976)


~Katie Lind

The Return of Social Guidance Sunday!

What better way to begin another academic semester than an exciting Social Guidance Sunday program on listening! This might sound like a dry topic but the short films that will be screened on Sunday, January 24th will be sure to have your full, undivided attention. For the past three years the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive has screened 16mm original celluloid reel-to-reel films from the Libraries’ collection. These short films feature quirky relics of Americana: cheesy classroom instructional films, goofy commercials, job training films that may or may not provide necessary guidance, along with films featuring somber messages regarding serious topics. A projector clicking away in the background offers a blast from the past for some while younger generations get to experience the fun of programmers providing witty banter while they switch film reels. Social Guidance Sunday takes place on a monthly basis at the Bishop.

Each show features a theme such as the rise of the digital age, the threat of atomic power, and the dangers of puberty. Continuing last year’s tradition of inviting a doctoral student to visit the moving image archive, Dan Hassoun, a Ph.D. in Communication and Culture is the special guest programmer for the first SGS show of 2016. While his research is primarily concerned with the problems that arise with technology and distraction, the topic of listening and paying attention offer a unique glimpse at the ways our everyday life is filled with opportunities to either listen and understand or mishear, misinterpret, and miss out on a million dollars.

Kicking off this year’s first Social Guidance Sunday will be a rousing film called You’re Not Listening! (1978, 17 min.). An overly dramatic Shakespearean actor portrays the problems associated with failing to listen. In The Strange Case of Mr. Finch (1983, 15:40 min.), a man walks around town with a briefcase and a list of names of potential millionaires, in order to become a millionaire, all these people have to do is listen! As these films demonstrate, the struggles of listening and comprehending information are not just difficulties faced by school children daydreaming about recess but these are struggles that can have detrimental impacts on the job as well. In Telemarketing III – Techniques for the Phone Sales Representative (1983, 12 min.), two telemarketers, a male and a female, explain the differences in their techniques when making a sales call. Although some films feature problematic stereotyping, they often give us new perspectives on the past through laughable “teaching” moments. Hassoun has selected a compilation of short educational films featuring dramatic renditions of listening skills, children dressed as anthropomorphic ears, and the chance to win a million dollars. So listen up and pay attention! There will be a quiz at the end.

January’s SGS films will include:

You’re Not Listening! (Callner Films, 1978)

Telemarketing III-Techniques for the Phone Sales Representative (Centron, 1983)

Listening Skills: An Introduction (Coronet, 1965.)

The Strange Case of Mr. Finch (Filmfair Communications, 1983)

Are You Listening (Educational Communications Inc., 1971)

~ Katie Lind

Pacifist At War

Rural Electrification News, July, 1944
Rural Electrification News, July, 1944

IULMIA’s expanded  WWII Films and IU: Audiovisual Production, Distribution, and Education exhibit includes an extensive selection of films on food production, agriculture, and natural resource conservation produced and exhibited for civilian audiences during wartime. Our earlier post on the 1942 Federal Security Agency-produced You Can’t Eat Tobacco profiled the role of government sponsored films promoting federal public health and food policy. This week’s post showcases another wartime food and agriculture film appearing in the expanded exhibit, the 11 minute Farmer At War released March 11, 1943 by the Office of War Information Bureau of Motion Pictures, and Columbia Pictures, under the aegis of the War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry.

Girl of 12 driving tractor, still from Farmer At War
Wartime reliance on children’s farm work, still from Farmer At War

The November, 1943 issue of Educational Screen advised readers in the audio-visual education field of the Office of War Information’s current themed propaganda campaigns: November was “Food For Freedom” month, and December’s campaigns included “Farm Production Goals” (along with “Don’t Travel” and “Security of Military Information”). A list of OWI produced and distributed 16mm films relating to food and agricultural subjects supported these campaigns, including World of Plenty (included in the IULMIA’s original WWII films exhibit), and Farmer At War, the short to be discussed in detail here.

As publicity and reviews frequently pointed out, Farmer At War is notable for its use of “actual farmfolk” – farm families of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania – filmed in a documentary style unlike many of the other propaganda shorts of the period.

Motion Picture Daily, March 10, 1943
Motion Picture Daily, March 10, 1943

The farms of Harry Schaeffer and Moses Zimmerman, both identified as being of “Pennsylvania Dutch” (German) ancestry are profiled, as well as a meeting of a farmers’ cooperative group discussing shared use of equipment and resources. While the overt message of the film’s narration is motivation and patriotism, showing a model of American hard work and resourcefulness as these farmers increase food production despite a scarcity of labor, Farmer At War also stands as a document of the role of Mennonite and Old Order Amish pacifist religious orders in WWII.

Earlier this spring IULMIA digitized in 1920×1080 HD over eighty films originally distributed by the IU Bureau of Audio-Visual Aids during the war years to be included in the expanded WWII Films and IU exhibit, including a 16mm print of Farmer At War . Exact dating of this print on DuPont film stock has not been possible, but is believed to be at least 70 years old. The print held by IULMIA was made with a variable density optical soundtrack, which, combined with slight warping of its aging cellulose acetate base, contributes to the noisiness of the sound in the first few minutes.

The Office of War Information, Bureau of Motion Pictures

In June of 1942 President Roosevelt established the Office of War Information (OWI) as a centralized agency supervising all print and broadcast media, with a goal to “facilitate the development of an informed and intelligent understanding, at home and abroad, of the status and progress of the war effort, and of the war policies, activities, and aims of the Government.”¹ The Bureau of Motion Pictures was formed as part of the Domestic Branch of the OWI, both to produce short, quickly made short informational films, and to liaison with Hollywood studios for the production of government-ordered films. Farmer At War was one of the dozens of films created in the first year of OWI production (other OWI productions from this period viewable in IULMIA’s exhibit include Salvage and Paratroops).

After this initial year OWI’s film work shifted to its Overseas Branch, with a mandate to create movies for audiences outside the Western hemisphere, while Hollywood assumed more complete control of domestic film production for the remainder of the war through the War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry.

Our previous post on filmmaker Irving Jacoby overlaps with the OWI’s shift of movie making from the Domestic to the Overseas branch: this change coincided with Jacoby’s start as director of non-theatrical distribution for the Overseas branch in 1943, bringing on dozens of leading documentary filmmakers from Europe, Canada, and New York City. The 1943 Swedes In America (with Ingrid Bergman) is an excellent example of an OWI Overseas Branch production newly available in IULMIA’s expanded WWII exhibit.

The War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry

Showmen's Trade Review, March 13, 1943
Showmen’s Trade Review, March 13, 1943

The Hollywood motion picture industry during the war years was the epicenter of expert artists and technicians of filmmaking in the U.S. The urgent need for propaganda, motivational, training, and instructional films during wartime caused the government to call upon this national resource of talent to do its patriotic duty. Coordinating the roles of the Hollywood studios, theatrical exhibitors, distributors, newsreel producers, publicists, and the trade press in the war effort was the War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry.  Representatives of the major studios and dozens of other leading businesses in the movie industry made up the committee. Thousands of employees of the movie industry turned from feature film production to work on educational and inspirational films for both military and civilian audiences.

Film scholar Thomas Doherty, in his excellent history of Hollywood during WWII Projections of War, emphasizes the tensions arising from the government’s attempt to oversee the Hollywood film industry’s production of patriotic propaganda and motivational shorts. Many “Victory shorts” of the war years bear credits of individual studios, the OWI Bureau of Motion Pictures, and the blanket sponsorship of the War Activities Committee. Roles of production and distribution differed among Government and the film industry for various titles, but Doherty reports that Victory shorts such as Farmer At War achieved a degree of saturation in the American public matched only by the most successful feature films. A War Activities Committee survey found that 94 percent of theaters were including a Victory short in every show, and WAC vice-chairman Francis Harmon is quoted stating that “only eighteen to twenty four weeks is are now required for one of these war information reels to appear on more than fourteen thousand screens.”

As one of many non-theatrical distributors, the IU Bureau of Audio-Visual Aids contributed to even greater exposure to war information films such as Farmer At War through impromptu screenings using portable 16mm sound projectors in classrooms, community groups, and churches.

Pacifist Religious Orders in Wartime

Though Farmer At War presents the work of Pennsylvania Dutch farmers in terms of the contribution to the War effort by those too young or old for military service, it also provides a much rarer glimpse the role traditionally pacifist communities during wartime through its documentation of Mennonite and Amish communities of Lancaster county.

Historian and scholar of Amish history Steven Reschly has written on depictions of Lancaster county pacifist religious orders in wartime propaganda, and particularly on Farmer At War as a document of the role played by members of Mennonite and Amish religious groups in the national war effort. Though the film never identifies religious affiliation of its subjects, Reschly identifies Moses Zimmerman as “a plain farmer whose wife wears a head covering,” referring to the plain dress customs of those religious groups descended from the Christian Anabaptist tradition.

The family of Moses Zimmerman, still from Farmer At War
The family of Moses Zimmerman, still from Farmer At War

While members of these historic peace churches were entitled to exemption from military service as conscientious objectors, Farmer At War depicts their cooperation in the nation’s war effort through increased food production.

In addition to images of plain farmers appearing in Farmer At War, the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information produced photographs and posters using images of old Lancaster county farm families as part of domestic propaganda campaigns. OWI leadership called for morale-building, pro-America pictures, and photographers John Collier Jr. and Irving Rusinow travelled to Lancaster county to produce them.  Images of the Lancaster county Amish served as “wartime symbols of American comradery and abundance.”²

The use of synchronous sound in Farmer At War also sets it apart from many of the similar Victory shorts in IULMIA’s exhibit.

Moses Zimmerman delivers closing prayer, still from Farmer At War
Moses Zimmerman delivers a Thanksgiving prayer, still from Farmer At War

Instead of the usual narration and music added to silent camera footage or compilations from stock footage libraries, this production evidently brought cumbersome field sound equipment to Lancaster county to record Schaeffer, Zimmerman, and the voices of the farmers’ cooperative. Most notable is the closing Thanksgiving prayer delivered in an unbroken 90 second take by Moses Zimmerman, summarizing the film’s message: calling for aid to the Allied nations and particularly for the nation’s farmers as “doubtless this coming year we will have less help, less machinery…”

Release of the new WWII Films and IU exhibit

On June 6, the 71st anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings at Normandy by the armies of the Allied nations in World War II, IU Libraries Moving Image will release its expanded World War II Propaganda Films and IU online exhibit. More than two hundred 16mm wartime films from IULMIA’s collections, originally distributed for classroom and non-theatrical exhibition by Indiana University during the war, will be available for streaming viewing through the exhibit, here:

1.  Larson, C. (1948). The Domestic Motion Picture Work of the Office of War Information
Hollywood Quarterly. 3(4), pp. 434-443.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/1209318
2. Reschly, S. D., & Jellison, K. (2008). Shifting images of Lancaster county Amish in the 1930s and 1940s. Mennonite Quarterly Review, 82(3), 469-483.
Also see:
Harmon, F.S. (1944). Movies As Propaganda. In The Command Is Forward (pp. 8-13). New York, NY: Richard R. Smith.

Reschly S.D. & Jellison, K. (2014).  Picturing World War II on the “Garden Spot” Home Front: Images and Memories of Mennonite Farm Families in Lancaster County. Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage 37(4), 114-118.