Today the National Film Preservation Foundation adds 33 more films to its digital access project the Online Field Guide to Sponsored Films, a screening room that presents films from the 2006 book The Field Guide to Sponsored Films, written by Rick Prelinger and published by the NFPF with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The screening room gathers 135 sponsored films, all commissioned during the past century by a host of American organizations: businesses promoting commercial products, charities highlighting their good works, advocacy groups bringing attention to social causes, and state and local governments explaining their programs.
The 33 new films in the screening room range across two thirds of the 20th century: Hotel Del Monte, sponsored by Southern Pacific Railroad to promote a resort in Monterey, California, is from 1897, while the most recent film is 1999 A.D., made in 1967. Sponsored by the appliance and radio manufacturer Philco-Ford and starring future game show host Wink Martindale, the film shows a “1999 House of Tomorrow,” where each family member’s activities are enabled by a central computer.
Several of the titles deal with women’s social roles: The Clean Look (1951), a Kodachrome short sponsored by Armour & Co., is a primer on mid-century women’s grooming that showcases Dial soap. The Forgotten Frontier (1931) is a silent documentary about the Frontier Nursing Service, founded to bring medical and dental care on horseback to Kentucky’s mountain communities. It shows locals reenacting moments when nurses rode to their rescue.
Another pair of new highlights depicts manufacturing in Technicolor: American Look (1958) by the Jam Handy Organization, was sponsored by General Motors to promote the 1959 Chevrolet line as the last word in American industrial design and style. Steel: Man’s Servant (1938), is a renowned industrial film on the steel production process, filmed in mines and mills across the Midwest. Documentarian Pare Lorentz considered it “the most beautiful color picture ever made.”
Steel: Man’s Servant appears online thanks to the Pittsburgh based Orgone Archive, a new and welcome participant in this project. Other participating archives are A/V Geeks, George Eastman Museum, the Hagley Museum and Library, The Museum of Modern Art, the National Archives and Records Administration, Northeast Historic Film, the Prelinger Archives, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, UCLA Film & Television Archive, and the USC School of Cinematic Arts Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive. All of the films appear on the NFPF site thanks to hosting provided by the Internet Archive, a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more. A PDF copy of the Field Guide to Sponsored Films book, with clickable links to films available for viewing, can be freely downloaded from the NFPF website.
For a taste of the new collection, see the video of American Look below. The rest of the films are waiting for you in the screening room.