Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Coronet films

One of my friends posted a link on their Facebook page to a YouTube video about Facebook etiquette that was in the style of one of those 1950s films about manners or hygiene. I've always thought those were hilarious, maybe because I grew up watching Pee Wee Herman specials (no Mr. Bungle in THIS lunchroom!) and MST3K. I did see some of these as a kid, and I also found them to be rather goofy since the ones I saw were mainly from the 1970s and very, very dated from the clothing. In the 80s there wasn't much funnier to us than bellbottoms.

After seeing this Facebook etiquette video, I checked around YouTube for actual films from the 1950s. I found quite a few, and some that I've seen as MST3K shorts. This one is my favorite so far.

This was produced by Coronet Films which if you ask me, is the gold standard for hilarious educational films. This one is called "What To Do On A Date", and there is something so charming about the squareness of these ideas. I'm all for creative ideas for first dates, something other than dinner and a movie. A movie is fine as a first date as long as you do something else too since you can't really talk during a movie. But a swim meet or a square dance? Adorable! I'd be totally cool with setting up the scavenger sale, but when I was a kid, it was considered uncool to do too many activities organized by the community center or school. It was considered more grown up to come up with your own ideas, and being at a chaperoned activity was a total buzz kill. But from this video, it looks like the adults of this town trust these clean cut kids to set up the scavenger sale and take a bike trip by themselves.

I also love Kay and Nick's playful banter. And when Nick says he always thought that girls only wanted guys to take them fancy places and spend lots of money, Kay answers with "Not THIS girl!" She's a good egg, that Kay.

All in all, this one has a good message, but doesn't give very good examples. Something creative and not too fancy is a good idea, but a weenie roast may just be a bit too Girl Scout camp for me when it comes to a date.

There is another Coronet film that I liked, but I don't like the message. This one is called "Shy Guy", and it's on YouTube in 2 parts. Part 1 can be found here.

While we were watching this one for the first time, once we saw the "star" Chris said, "Is that Darren?" And lo and behold, this one stars a young Dick York who is just adorable as usual. He's a shy kid who dresses in suits and likes to tinker with radios, and has just moved to a new city and school. He's finding it hard to make friends, and is too shy to put himself out there. His father tells him to watch what the outgoing, aka, popular kids do, and see how they differ. Fortunately, Dick York's new school is full of polite and kind popular kids, so he actually picks up good habits. These kids are helpful and polite. If my dad had given me this advice, I'd have learned how to act dumb to get the football players to like them, or chew gum too loud while making fun of people's clothes.

Anyway, this film is too one sided. All of the burden is on the shy guy to conform and be like everyone else. There is nothing about how everyone else should be tolerant of the shy person and not make up stories about why they are so quiet. Granted, about a decade later Coronet did a film about understanding other people and their personalities and feelings, but in this on it just sounds like "Snap out of it, Shy Guy! Wear the same kind of clothes and be more like the rest of the gang and they'll like you!" Nothing about being yourself and finding others like you. Oh well, I grew up in the middle of the Marlo Thomas "Free To Be You And Me" era which says you are who you are, and we need to tolerate everyone.

One sided as it is, I have a new favorite quote that I'm going to be saying all the time. When the Shy Guy is observing the outgoing people, he hears one boy tell another about a book that will help him prepare for the exam. Shy Guy is mad at himself for the missed opportunity, and says "I knew about that book! I coulda been the guy who helped a guy!" Next time I need help, I'll ask someone "Hey, can you be the guy who helps a guy and give me a hand with this?"

There is something so charming about what people in the 1950s wanted everyone to think was the way to be. I'm sure way fewer people were really like this than Coronet would have us believe. Bettie Page and John Willie prove that. But the squareness is so cute. Too bad the squareness hides the intense intolerance. These are the palest short films you'll ever see.

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