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.
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:
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.
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!
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!
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!).
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.)
*Intermission* 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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: http://collections.libraries.iub.edu/IULMIA/exhibits/show/world-war-ii-propaganda-films
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.
Harmon, F.S. (1944). Movies As Propaganda. In The Command Is Forward (pp. 8-13). New York, NY: Richard R. Smith. http://www.archive.org/stream/commandisforward00harm#page/8/mode/2up 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 Heritage37(4), 114-118.
IULMIA has chosen to showcase Irving Jacoby’s 1942 High Over the Borders as another of the outstanding films recently digitized for our soon-to-be expanded online exhibit WWII Propaganda Films and IU. Over 80 new titles from IULMIA’s collections will be available for viewing as part of this curated project that explores the distribution and exhibition of propaganda, educational, and training films on 16mm by the I.U. Extension Division throughout World War II.
An area of special focus in the exhibit is the WWII-era film productions of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA). High Over the Borders is one of seventeen OCIAA productions viewable in the expanded exhibit, drawing attention to a body of remarkable films reporting on the nations of the Americas, many of which have not been widely available for viewing and study outside of archival collections.
Irving Jacoby was a member of an influential early generation of documentary filmmakers who went to work for governments of the Allied nations as war broke out, making a contribution to the war effort, developing their craft as filmmakers, and producing films of lasting value in the process. In the U.S. the OCIAA employed a remarkable roster of civilian filmmakers to create films showing life in the U.S. to the southern nations of the hemisphere, and educating U.S. audiences on the culture and geography of the Latin American countries.
The Pan-Americanism of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy, and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter American Affairs, under the direction of Nelson Rockefeller, sought to boost political and economic relations between the U.S. and Latin American nations. Before war broke out this U.S. public relations campaign worked to improve relations and counteract an imperialist image prevailing the south. Soon after the war began the OCIAA hastily shifted its priorities toward working to assure hemispheric solidarity, and preventing South American nations from any undue alliances with the Axis. In late 1941 a program of motion picture production and distribution by the OCIAA commenced, intending to use films to “show the truth about the American Way” to southern nations. A report on the new OCIAA film program in a December, 1941 issue of Motion Picture Herald makes mention of Irving Jacoby’s work-in-progress, referring to the film by the working title As Birds Link the Americas.
The seasonal flights of birds all over the American Continents, irrespective of boundaries and man made laws, constitute the theme of High Over the Borders, a two reel movie prepared jointly for the Office of Inter American Affairs, the National Film Board of Canada, and the New York Zoological Society. Most of the footage came from the newsreel and nature footage libraries of the National Film Board, while John Ferno did the camera work and the editing. Irving Jacoby was the writer and director, Phil Brown was the narrator and Vittorio Giannini composed the musical score. The National Film Board is handling theatrical distribution in both Americas, while the Office of Inter-American Affairs takes care of the non theatrical circulation in South America.
Having worked in London under John Grierson’s General Post Office (GPO) film unit (occupying W.H. Auden’s recently vacated writing position) from 1938-39, Jacoby was among the first filmmakers to join Grierson in Ottawa, Ontario as the newly forming National Film Board of Canada was taking shape. In the logistics of its production, as well as in its thematic content, High Over the Borders embodied the internationalist message intended by Jacoby and the OCIAA. The migratory journey of barn swallows from the Ontario farm of young Richie, to their wintering grounds over 7000 miles south to coastal Peru, near the village home of Richie’s counterpart Ricardo, serves as a narrative thread through the film. With Grierson the Scot as producer, Jacoby the New Yorker writing and directing, and the Dutch John Ferno (given name Johannes Fernhout) shooting and editing, this U.S.-Canadian co-production was to be exhibited in all corners of the hemisphere, with 16mm prints following the north-south routes of the birds themselves.
For the NFB, in association with the New York Zoological Society and the [OCIAA], Irving Jacoby produced, directed and wrote High Over the Borders, an appealing, straightforward film about bird migration between North and South America. Tinged with the spirit of internationalism, Dutch filmmaker John Ferno gave Jacoby first-hand experience in balancing the exigencies of organizations and government agencies with his own artistic and social concerns. High Over the Borders was a major success in every way.
The text of Jacoby’s narration drives home the metaphoric significance of migratory bird routes for the message of internationalism. After their southward migration, Canada geese are “full fledged residents of a new country, by virtue of the laws of nature and their power of flight. A thousand miles are nothing, borders do not exist, for the birds have in their wings a passport to the world.” Later we hear the narrator proclaim that migratory birds “mock the man-made lines by which nations separate themselves. For the birds are free, they are at home in the hemisphere, to them belongs all the land over which their wings carry them, and they belong to all the peoples who live in those lands.”
Turning away from propaganda toward a tone of more conventional nature education, the film shows the motion picture camera as an instrument of scientific study. In what was apparently a contribution of the New York Zoological Society’s participation in the production, footage using “super-speed photography” reveals that the ruby-throated hummingbird makes 75 wing strokes every second. According to this essay on nature film by scholar Helen Sommer, the hummingbird footage appearing in Jacoby’s film originated from Nazi government research in high frame-rate photography:
Friday, February 2, 1940: During a meeting at the Institute for Women’s Professional Relations, Mr. Osborn, from the New York Zoological Society, gave a speech on the topic of photography; both as a tool in scientific research and as a form of record for science. He recalled an incident when the society borrowed from Germany a truly remarkable slow-motion-film; 1,200 exposures a second showing the flight of a hummingbird. He reveals apologetically that it was later discovered that the origin of the film was the German Government, more specifically, the Nazi division of Ballistics and Aeronautics. Consequently in 1942, Osborn appropriated the Nazi hummingbird footage in a Canadian/American production: a documentary called High over the Borders, about bird migration in the western hemisphere. The thought of the hummingbird being turned against democracy frightened Osborn to such an extent that he appropriated it into another context in an attempt to rescue it.
The film then turns to the patient and less glamorous work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, protecting migratory birds by providing sanctuary and regulating sport hunting. The use of banding in scientific study of migration is explained and a vast card file of data gathered by fieldworkers around North America is shown housed in Washington D.C.. Species maps charting migration data – and the 30,000 letters reporting banded bird sightings around the hemisphere received every year – are maintained by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Maps of the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific flyways across the hemisphere are animated.
Returning home to New York City after his Canadian stint, Jacoby, along with documentarian Joris Ivens, persuaded the City College of New York to create an Institute of Film Technique, instructing students in production of non-fiction films during the wartime boom years of training and instructional film production. The institute would go on to greater fame under the leadership of the German expatriate abstract filmmaker Hans Richter, from 1943 to 1946.
After leaving the Institute of Film Technique in 1943, Jacoby went on to become chief of the Non-Theatrical Section of the Office of War Information (OWI) Overseas Branch. During his tenure at OWI Jacoby wrote and produced Henwar Rodakiewicz’s short film Capital Story, IULMIA’s catalog record gives this brief summary:
Tells the story of the part played by the U.S. Public Health Service in tracing the cause of a lung infection contracted by a shipyard worker. Details of the tracing of the poison cadmium to a small order of flanges are pictured.
Jacoby concluded his tenure in governmental film production in 1946 with The Pale Horseman, a documentary on the postwar problem of epidemic disease, and the work of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) in aiding European and Asian nations devastated by the war.
Founding Affiliated Film Producers in 1946 with Henwar Rodakiewicz, John Ferno, and Willard Van Dyke (distinguished filmmaker, educator, and later director of MOMA’s Department of Film), marked Jacoby’s turn to private production for the post-war educational film and television market. Jacoby served as writer and producer on a series of short films in the social guidance vein, produced to accompany the Mcgraw Hill textbook Marriage For Moderns. Offering “guidance for young people in the preparation for successful marriage,” the films are perennially popular viewing at Prelinger archives.
A 1947 documentary on Edward Weston, The Photographer, a series of well-regarded films on mental health produced with his wife Alberta Altman, and a 1960 Academy Award nomination shared with Shirley Clarke and Willard Van Dyke for their 1959 short documentary Skyscraper, are among the highlights of Jacoby’s later career.
Too little seems to have been written about Jacoby, despite the fact that the many films written, produced, and directed by him have been shown around the world for the past 70-some years. In every period of his career Jacoby was closely involved with the influential figures and major developments in the evolution of documentary and educational filmmaking. A search of IULMIA’s catalog returns at least 18 titles that Jacoby played some part in.
In addition to the many Affiliated Film Producers titles available at archive.org, an early National Film Board production Hot Ice (1940) can be viewed online. Also, James Beveridge’s 1978 book John Grierson: Film Master includes a transcript of an interview with Jacoby conducted for the 1973 documentary film Grierson.
Before the expanded WWII Propaganda Films and IU online exhibit is released on June 6, we’ll have one more post here featuring another exemplary war era film recently digitized by IULMIA, the 1943 short Farmer At War. This co-production of the Office of War Information and the War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry profiles the stoic Pennsylvania Dutch farming communities of Lancaster County, a film intended to inspire citizens to greater thrift and cooperation in their contributions to the war effort.
Leading up to IULMIA’s June 6 unveiling of the expanded WWII Propaganda Films and IU online exhibit, we’re presenting in-depth posts about three outstanding titles among the many newly digitized war-era films from our collections. The first film in this series of feature blog posts is a 13 minute Kodachrome gem from 1942, You Can’t Eat Tobacco.
Curation of the 84 films in the expanded exhibit has focussed on the uses of government produced informational, educational, and propaganda films in civilian life. Films were selected from IULMIA’s collections of 16mm prints distributed during WWII to school and community groups around Indiana by the University Extension Division’s Bureau of Audio-Visual Aids. Beyond the combat reporting and heavy-handed propaganda intended to mobilize public sentiment behind the war effort, government film production also addressed nearly every other sphere of civilian life, from natural resource conservation to workplace training and educating citizens about the cultures of Allied nations. IULMIA’s expanded WWII Propaganda Films exhibit brings together an extensive collection of these war-era films, representing the great breadth of U.S. Government film production during the conflict.
You Can’t Eat Tobacco is a perfect starting point for taking such an expanded view of wartime filmmaking. The war is neither mentioned nor obviously evident in the world documented, yet the film stands as a strikingly personal and artistically executed work reporting on problems of public health and nutrition resulting from tenant farmers’ economic dependence on cash crops. A clear position advocating reform and improved community health comes across in its brief running time, exemplifying the short form 16mm sound film as a means of educating and informing the public, as a medium for Government to speak to its citizens.
With the film itself offering no more identifying information than this title and the names of the writing and photography team of Margaret T. Cussler and Mary L. De Give, no record on Worldcat, and scarcely anything written about the film turned up in Google searches, excitement mounted at IULMIA at the discovery of this beautiful and apparently rare film. Though it stands on its own as a well crafted, stately work of documentary filmmaking, the story of its creation and its creators is no less interesting.
Piecing together the story of this film and its creators has relied foremost on the account given in Margaret Cussler’s highly entertaining memoir Not By A Long Shot: Adventures of a Documentary Film Producer, published in 1951 (in the public domain and available in its entirety at Hathi Trust). Described on the jacket flap as a “lighthearted, firsthand story of two young women who set out on a shoestring to form a film company,” promising the reader that “when two young women step from the college campus to enter into a new audio-visual medium of education and information, you can look for things to happen.” Armed with Radcliffe credentials, government funding, a 16mm motion picture camera, and an abiding love for Kodachrome color reversal film, the team of Cussler and De Give produced You Can’t Eat Tobacco while assigned to conduct an anthropological study of “food habits” in the rural southeast.
In 1940, while both were still doctoral students working under Harvard sociologist Carle C. Zimmerman, Cussler and De Give were sent to a tobacco growing region of coastal North Carolina to study the role of nutrition in the cultural changes of the area. Their study focussed on a place referred to as Seaford, or “a village of 300 inhabitants of the coastal plains area of a southeastern state,” actually Bath, North Carolina’s oldest town, a port located near the mouth of the Pamlico River.
Having seen the study conducted for Harvard, the director of the Federal Security Agency’s National Nutrition Program sent Cussler and De Give back to Bath over a year later to evaluate the effects of the Nutrition Program. The two were sent on by the government to study the contrasting food habits of other areas of the rural south with those of the Bath tobacco country: the “live at home economy” of self-subsistent agriculture in German Flats, South Carolina, and the cotton growing economy in Thomas County, Georgia. The two women’s remarkable fieldwork tour of the rural south in the earliest months of WWII is narrated in charming detail in the first third of Not By A Long Shot. This work also resulted in doctoral dissertations, both completed in 1943 (Cussler’s Cultural Sanctions of the Food Pattern in the Rural Southeast and De Give’s Social Interrelations and Food Habits in the Rural Southeast, see bibliography below).
Bath, N.C., and the surrounding communities of tenant tobacco farmers, became a focus of Cussler and De Give’s work as it exemplified a local economic and cultural food system failing to provide nutrition and health to its citizens. As Cussler would write in her narration of the film, the reliance on a “one crop” system meant that farms weren’t producing food to feed farm families, and the paltry cash yielded by a tobacco crop too often went to store-bought foods of poor nutritional value. From November 1941 through February 1942 Cussler and De Give lived in a boarding house in Bath, observing, photographing, filming, and conducting interviews about local food habits.
In their 1952 book ‘Twixt the Cup and the Lip (also available in full at Hathi Trust), drawn from the cumulative experience of their research on food habits in the southeast, Cussler and De Give reflect on their decision to use filming in their fieldwork, also indicating that they were screening their footage locally in Bath as they worked:
Documentary photography provided a device for securing supplementary data on the physical milieu, and also provided some insights into the social and cultural milieu. Besides a collection of still shots, a movie in color and sound, You Can’t Eat Tobacco, depicting socio-economic factors affecting nutrition in the rural, one-cash-crop South, was produced in the course of these studies. An additional advantage proved to be the entree which photography gave to homes when it was desirable to check the behavioral pattern with regard to food against the ideal pattern. Also, the popularity of local showings of scenes from local movies facilitated continued work in the community.
Shot on 16mm Kodachrome over the course of these four months, using mostly naturally lit outdoor shots with handheld camera, the film has all the apparent spontaneity and unscripted intimacy of a particularly beautiful home movie, yet a striking, serious aesthetic intention in De Give’s composition of her shots. Repeated throughout the film are steady, eye-level portraits, held long enough for each subject to stare back into the camera’s lens. The fieldwork itself required a degree of trust and intimacy, going from farm to farm interviewing mothers about the diet and health of their families. As they note in ‘Twixt the Cup, “working as women with women informants on a topic so closely associated with women’s traditional work appears to have its advantages (…).”
Poverty, broken lives, disease-ridden people . . . these are all-too-common by-products of the one-crop system throughout the tobacco country of the South. You Can’t Eat Tobacco deals with the evils of this system, then proceeds to illustrate some of the ways in which the impoverished Southern tobacco farmer may improve his lot. The film opens with scenes of the typical broken-down homes and under-nourished families of farmers who plant all of their acreage in tobacco. Raising practically nothing for themselves, these families depend on the “rolling store” to supply them with the sweets and starchy foods which constitute a major portion of their diet. Pellagra is prevalent throughout tobacco-land with patent medicine men and unscrupulous druggists thriving on sales of costly remedies. Tobacco farmers can, however, improve their diet, their health and their income by devoting some of their land to raising food crops and livestock. They can turn to Federal, state and local agencies for assistance in planning and growing foodstuffs and selling their surplus at nearby markets. Local schools can help speed community rehabilitation by developing school lunch programs, by teaching good nutrition and health to parents and children, and by offering instruction in home economics to future farm mothers and classes in farm management to future farm fathers. The county doctor, too, can be encouraged to play a more active role in fighting malnutrition in his locality. Even church meetings and picnics may be used to teach better health through better eating. Thus, through individual and community effort, the one-crop system with its attendant malnutrition and disease, can be banished from tobaccoland forever.
An entry in the 1947 H.W. Wilson Educational Film Guide confirms that the film was generally available for rental, noting “Sequences of special regional interest include: a day in the life of a sharecropper, typical pellagra cases, a Negro church service, the visit of a patent medicine man and teaching in a rural school.”
Circumstances surrounding its distribution by Indiana University are less clear; the print held at IULMIA is dated 1943, yet the title does not appear in the War Films catalog or any of the other Burueau of Audio Visual Aids catalogs published during the War.
After a short stint working on educational films for Eastman Kodak, Cussler and De Give ultimately went on to found their own production company, Social Documentary Films, making at least two more completed films that are known. Not By Books Alone (1945) commissioned by the Rochester, NY, public library, with this summary in the Wilson guide:
How one library serves the citizens of its community in education, enrichment, and recreation, making better homes, earning a living, and intelligent citizenship.
An issue of Rochester History Journal notes that Not By Books Alone was so successful that “the U.S. State Department paid for its translation into several languages and UNESCO screened the film at conferences in Mexico City and Paris.”
Their third and final film, Hopi Horizons (1946) was shot around Arizona reservation communities while Cussler and De Give had temporarily relocated to Los Angeles. IULMIA’s sole Kodachrome print of this film has been judged too delicate for flatbed viewing, and the Wilson guide’s description gives little more detail than IU’s own scant catalog record:
Life today on the Hopi Reservation is presented from the Indian view-point. Aspects included agriculture, primitive methods and introduction of modern farming; handicrafts; economics; health; education; influence of missionaries and others on customs and habits of living. Film provides starting point for further discussion.
We at IULMIA hope to eventually give both of these later films by Cussler and De Give more thorough attention and research – the work of this remarkable independent production team seems too little known and is certainly deserving of study, appreciation and preservation. Anyone with knowledge of Margaret Cussler and Mary De Give’s filmmaking work, other existing copies of their films, their papers, or their descendants is emphatically encouraged to contact IULMIA.
Coming up next in our series profiling educational films from the World War II era: High Over the Borders (1942), Irving Jacoby’s film on North American bird migration, where flight paths “mock the man-made lines by which nations separate themselves,” providing a useful metaphor for a wartime spirit of alliance between the nations of the Americas.
Margaret T. Cussler and Mary L. De Give non-exhaustive bibliography
Cussler, M. (1943). Cultural Sanctions of the Food Pattern in the Rural Southeast. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Radcliffe College (Harvard University).
Cussler, M. (1951). Not by a long shot: adventures of a documentary film producer. New York: Exposition Press. [Full text at Hathi Trust]
Cussler, M & De Give M.L. (1942) Some Cultural Factors Affecting the Nutritional Situation. Nutrition Division, Office of Defense Health and Welfare Services, Federal Security Agency.
Cussler, M. & De Give M.L. (1942). The effect of human relations on food habits in the rural southeast. Applied Anthropology 1(3):13-18.
Cussler, M. & De Give M.L. (1942). Let’s Look It in the Eye. Consumer’s Guide, March 15.
Cussler, M. & De Give M.L. (1943). Foods and nutrition in our rural Southeast. Journal of Home Economics 35:280-282.
Cussler, M., & De Give, M. L. (1952). ‘Twixt the cup and the lip: psychological and socio-cultural factors affecting food habits. New York: Twayne Publishers. [Full text at Hathi Trust]
De Give, M.L. (1943). Social Interrelations and Food Habits in the Rural Southeast. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Radcliffe College (Harvard University).
De Give, M.L. & Cussler, M. (1941). Interrelations between cultural pattern and nutrition. A study of a village of 300 inhabitants in the coastal plains area of a southeastern state. U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension Service, Circular No. 366. [Full text at archive.org]