Today the NFPF adds 12 movies to its Online Field Guide to Sponsored Films, a free digital screening room that presents entries from The Field Guide to Sponsored Films, written by Rick Prelinger and published by the NFPF in 2006.
The screening room hosts a total of 171 sponsored films, commissioned during the 20th 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. Though several of the films circulate online in low-resolution copies made from analog transfers, the new videos on our site are derived from HD scans created by the Library of Congress.
Just Imagine (1947), a stop-motion animation film that shows cartoon character Tommy Telephone using magic to produce his namesake, was produced for AT&T by the famous Jam Handy Organization, which also made The Things People Want (1948), a training film made for Chevrolet salesmen.
Stop-motion animation is also utilized in Saint Paul Police Detectives and Their Work: A Color Chartoon (ca. 1941), filmed in vivid Kodachrome. And AT&T returns to sponsor Seconds for Survival (1960), where host Raymond Massey illustrates the role of America’s telephone network in the Distant Early Warning Line and the North American Air Defense Command.
The American Cowboy (1950), sponsored by the Ford Co. and filmed at the Roberson Hereford Ranch near Gunnison, Colorado, to document real-life cowboys. Less rough terrain is covered by In the Suburbs (1958), which promotes advertising in Redbook as the best way to reach young suburban consumers.
Three films address issues concerning working class and rural audiences. Seed for Tomorrow (1947), sponsored by the National Farmers Union, valorizes the hard work and economic sacrifice of family farmers and ranchers. A Place to Live (1941) was sponsored by the Philadelphia Housing Association to advocate improvements in poor neighborhoods. The Automobile Manufacturers Association sponsored Singing Wheels (1937), a celebration of the trucking industry that has its own theme song (sung by a truck driver of course).
Rounding out the new films are three rather eccentric works. In Brink of Disaster (1972), sponsored by the National Education Program of Harding College, a old-timer from 1776 warns that modern America is at the destructive mercy of “young hooligans.” This is Hormel (ca. 1964), produced by its own sponsor, gives a graphic look at how frankfurters, pigs’ feet, and Spam are made. Last but not least is The Your Name Here Story (ca. 1962), a delightful spoof of industrial film cliches, produced by Calvin Communications. Stayed tuned for more in 2024!