Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Middleton Family: My Kind of Propaganda


(From the Prelinger collection at archive.org)

Don't bother hitting play unless you have an hour to spend on this delightful slice of 1939 America.  It was fun to watch even if I couldn't stand the kid protagonist.

From an original ad for the film,

Here's a family of folks you know - friends who live just around the corner from everyone. Doing the Fair - because that's what everyone is doing this year. Thrilled by its beauty . . . amazed at its wonders . . . the Middleton Family, from Everywhere, U.S.A.!

There are Babs and Bud, overflowing with the exuberance of 18 and 14 . . . romping through Wonderland like two kittens across a rug. There are Father Tom and Mother Jane, trying unsuccessfully to be calm and judicious about it all. And there's Grandma, whose eyes, bright with the memories of other Fairs, grow brighter still with the vision of a new Tomorrow for her dear ones.

Watch the pages of your favorite magazines for the diverting adventures of this lovable family. Better still, join them in person at the Great Court of the Westinghouse Building. A warm welcome awaits you - and a fascinating exhibit of electricity's greatest marvels.

Oh, yes. The entire film is one giant Westinghouse advertisement! But more than that, it lets us see some of the New York World's Fair of 1939 and, best of all, it pits the American spirit of capitalism and invention against the pseudo-intellectualism and hypocrisy of Marxism, both represented by two young suitors of the lovely, but confused Babs Middleton.

Don't worry, Babs makes out in the end, so to speak, by allowing her family to dispense with Mr. Makaroff, the scamming, sleazebag communist, and holding onto the arm of Jim, the Westinghouse engineer, as they gaze onto the singing tower of light. (I'm just not convinced that Babs'll be happy with the missionary position for the next 70 years.) 

Highlights include the exploration of the time capsule, Mrs. Modern vs. Mrs. Drudge dishwashing contest, and a WPA zinger from the 14 year-old.

Enjoy.

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