Industrial films have a bad reputation. Deadly earnest, boring, poorly acted, cheaply made, people say. No entertainment value, unless seen with an attitude that’s the opposite of the producer’s intentions. That’s what people say.
And they’re right. Of course they’re right! These are rarely good - but they’re often interesting.
The styles, settlings, and colors they take for granted have passed from the landscape, and sometimes these are the only documentaries we have.
This site isn’t intended to study these things in detail, or provide an exhaustive, scholarly look at the genre. God forbid. I'm not even trying to crack wise, or this would be in the Institute of Official Cheer. I suppose you could watch them yourselves, but with few exceptions they don't return the investment.
If you find them elsewhere on the web, you might understand why there's no comments section on these pages. Clever youth or sour-hearted elders love to pick these things apart for two glaring, garish sins: patriotism and optimism. You see, the incisive modern mind regards these films as pure propaganda in the service of corporate entites whose sole purpose was the accumulation of money. And they’re right. Of course they’re right! So? Do you think people watched these with blank eyes as the imagery and words rewired their brains to accept the message of SPEND and BUY? If the films were bad, they didn't work. If they were colorful and well-done, they amused for a while, and gave you some ideas. A cold Coke would be nice. That new car is a good-looking ride. Some recipe help would help break meal-time tedium. It is convenient to have ketchup in profusion all year long, with unvarying quality.
No one made money unless they provided people something they wanted, and if the want was created by the presentation of new goods or new styles, so what? In some of these movies, you see the remarkable amount of choices available to the consumer; in others, a promise of glamor and experience previously limited to the wealthy top stratum. If you think the point of life is to march in one great mass towards a communual future of five-year plans and egalitarian housing blocks stretching unbroken to the horizon, these middle-class aspirations will seem juvenile. If you think the past was perfect then these will be a reason to complain about whoever ruined things between then and now. If you think the past was as muddled as our present, but perhaps more confident in the stories it told itself and the stories it allowed itself to be told, then these may seem a bit sad. You may miss the styles, the public spaces, the mid-century solidity.
Just remember: there was The Bomb and the Reds and Cuba and Korea and all manner of worries about domestic culture. Juvenile delinquents. Computers taking over jobs. The machinations of Mad Av. Race relations. Of course they worried. But now and then you'd want some nice peas. Now and then you'd want to listen to good music. Now and then you'd want some Crazy Vanilla.
That will be the last one in the series, but it could describe the entire genre, and the era it spans. Uniquely American. Crazy Vanilla.