When last we met, I offered a selection of short films from the Prelinger Archives on Teen Troubles. But what about those years before adolescence? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of pre-teen primping to do!
First we have the Britannica film Care of the Hair and Nails, from 1951. In it, we meet a Mother Goose type lady who has the ability to freeze time and run it backwards. Does she right the world’s wrongs with this incredible power? No! She gets kids to scrub their nails properly and brush their hair at least 100 strokes a night. It’s a version of the “Let’s try that again” approach popular in the instructional films, with an attempt to make it more magical. Mostly it seems like a primer on OCD habits. The sound (and film) have several skips, especially towards the end. Inference is required to make sense of some of it. Take note of the animation section which shows hair growth – you’ll see it again in our next film!
And here it is, Care of the Skin, produced in 1949. Also from Britannica, it features the skin animation mentioned above, though this time it focuses more on the oil and sweat glands. Like Care of the Hair and Nails, there’s a narrator who talks the audience through proper hygiene (though not a Good Fairy, just a voice). Three siblings wash their faces, trim their toenails, and scrub their hands with soap. Lots of soap. Fred even takes a bath, and we get to see his naked behind as he towels off (drying properly is very important so you don’t get chapped). Stilted acting as usual, but it’s a very good print with few audio or visual hiccups. There’s also a kid who licks himself because he thinks cats are neat.
Well, now that our hands and nails are sparkling clean, it’s time for our last Britannic film, Eat For Health from 1954. The hand comes in again as we meet Ralph, who has little pep and is obsessed with candy bars. He gets reminded of the lesson he learned in school of “Five Fingers That Point the Way to Health”. Essentially the then-current Nutrition Guide and Food Groups. While the categories are a bit outdated, much of the basic information is still valid: whole grains are best, and you need to balance fruits, veggies, and proteins. Ralph starts being mindful of what he eats, and after a month of counting food on his fingers, he’s got the energy and inclination to go skating with his friends.
Incidentally, using your hand as a nutritional guide is still going on – check out these image search results for “hand food guide”.
Now we’re clean and fed, we look good and we’ve got pep, why are people at the party ignoring us? Let’s find out with Adrelene in Health: Your Posture produced by The Centron Corporation in 1953. Adrelene has a pretty dress, clear skin, bright eyes, and shiny hair; she isn’t too fat or too thin, she laughs when she understands the jokes, and she likes playing musical chairs at the party – but she often sits slumped by herself off to the side. She confronts her mirror, who tells her she has bad posture and people don’t like that. The overall message is good: get lots of exercise to keep fit, stand and sit properly, and get plenty of rest so your body will be ready to keep correct posture. The presentation, however, is a bit jarring. This is teaching via social ostracism: stand up straight or people won’t like you! And there’s the fact that the “Adrelene’s” performing is the worst cliche of middle-school amateur dramatics.
Well, we’ve done so much to keep ourselves fit! But what happens when we get Sniffles and Sneezes? This film from Audio Productions (in association with McGraw Hill, to go with one if it’s educational books) is from 1955 and is sort of a round-up of everything talked about above. Washing your hands, bathing regularly, eating properly, getting plenty of both exercise and sleep; all are important to staying well. But sometimes you’ll get sick anyways, so you should stay home and rest. But check with your doctor if the cold isn’t getting better in a few days or you have a high fever, it might be something more serious like influenza, measles, or diphtheria. Remember, this was before many of the immunizations we take for granted today.
If you want to learn more about your health and well being, check out the Health and Hygiene section of the Prelinger Archives. I promise it’s more entertaining (and less likely to make you think you have brain cancer) than WebMD.