tv Cold War Educational Film CSPAN September 1, 2017 3:27am-4:17am EDT
authors david mccullough and thomas freedman, former secretariful state conduct leads ah rice and best selling authors michael lewis and j.d. vance. the national book festival live saturday starting at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span 2's book tv. next on "lectures in history" virginia commonwealth university professor karen rader teaches a class on mid 20th century educational films used to teach students about nuclear warfare and science. during the cold war, policymakers feared the u.s. population was falling behind the soviet union in science education. the class includes a look at animated films from the 1950s created by frank capra. this is about 45 minutes. >> all right. so good afternoon and welcome. today we're going to talk about
cold war era science education films, in particular ones that were made for tv and the classroom. now, we've been talking about classroom films before. really to do any kind of history of classroom films you need to understand the scholarship in a lot of fields. so i will be quoting and referencing and putting together a list that i've done, work that's been done by historians of science, film studies people, communication studies scholars. so this will be particularly interesting. for reasons that should by now be obvious, the topic is interdisciplinarian. we are going to return to this question, what are the relationships between art, science, entertainment and clul occur. in cinema how did they reinforce one another in these particular contexts. we're going to see the movement of people, the same people across institutions, right, across media forums and across
science. so it is all going to be kind of blending together. also, science education. obviously in science education what students are taught depends on what the state of the knowledge is for that period. we have to consider what is the scientific and technical knowledge. really to understand this historically we have to understand how science education is both a product and a driver of culture. what i mean by that is that any form of science education is going to incorporate attitudes and approaches towards both education and science that are kind of predominant at the time. before we move way back to the 1950s -- not that long ago, but i wanted to kind of unpack some assumptions that you might have when i say science on tv. so some of you are probably old enough to remember either seeing the first time or watching in rerun bill nye the science guy. right? he is kind of this generations
predominant tv science educator. he wears a white coat -- in this case it is blue, so i'm already contradicting himself. he does interactive science experiments, very enthusiastic. he himself is a scientist. or you remember someone like sheldon from "the big bang," right? the science sitcom. that's another modem. i didn't put this up here because i thought it would make me sound really old, things like "er" or "numbers." er was the medical doctors, numbers was the mathematician working with his brother. these are genres we have of what science on tv is. but really to understand what is going on in the 1950s you have to back up because tv was new media, particularly for education. so tv was to education then what something like the internet or mooks or online education is to education now. it is this brave, new frontier.
it is not so new. it really comes out of the use of 16 millimeter films in classrooms, which is something we have already talked a little bit about for the '20s and '30s, but moving the discussion forward what is going on in the '50s is a massive expansion of 16 millimeter film in classrooms. that's driven in part by technology. so you see a picture there of the kodak pageant projector. it was one that kodak invented that was lighter, it was more easy to thread, the film didn't burn, although the films sometimes burned, but it was advertised as not burning. this new, new version of classroom technology really sort of fostered the expansion of the educational film industry. so film historian jeff alexander in his book "films he saw in school," estimates there were
approximately 100,000 or so give or take films that were made in this period, and they were made by -- largely by educational film companies. these are companies like cornet, archer. we're going to see archer today. even encyclopedia britannica, again, to capture the new media idea that an encyclopedia producer would branch out into classroom film, kind much captures the enthusiasm and the expansion of this as a technology in the classroom. so any time that a new technology is introduced into the classroom, i mean maybe it didn't happen when teachers had their pointers, right, but any time a new technology is introduced, particularly in the post-war period, there's a little bit of hand wringing that goes on. so you see the appearance in the 1950s of a series of book. this one in particular tells us, it is written by dr. charles
sickon, who was credentialed in education and the department of education and he asks the question to which the obvious answer is yes. can it be that education in our time is suffering a sea change? they're really not sure. his next question is, what is excellence in kind of classroom film and video instruction? this is importantly, how is it absorbed? were we focusing not just on the production of the knowledge but on the consumption, the learning as we would call it? so some handwringing is to be expected, but there's also a lot of enthusiasm. so the fcc commissioner in 1951, freedy hammock, published a piece in "variety" which was a trade magazine for hollywood and performing arts in which she articulated her vision for television and education. television, she said, is one of the greatest forces america has
ever known for education. she then asked a heavy question. are we going to let this genie serve as an -- that is are we going to let hollywood take it over or can we harness the genie to perform wonders of public enlightenment not scenes since days of the renaissance. they're seeing another renaissance, another enlightenment in television, which something that today is pretty much mundane, pretty much a part of our every day life. part of where the enthusiasm is coming from is the very successful use of film in war time context, particularly for propaganda and newsreel also. let me talk about newsreels first. they are shorts that were shown before movies. people liked them so much they developed dedicated newsreel videos. you could go to a theater to
watch one after another newsreel also. a 10-minute program was launched, something like maybe the first cnn but not running 24 hours. it is running every ten minutes every once in a while. so newsreels were very popular. propaganda films like "wily site." "whiley site" was a film made during world war ii by frank capra who had war experience, but joins back up after the bombings of pearl harbor and was immediately grabbed by his commanding officers because by that point he was a hollywood director. he had incentives to be used in this way rather than at the front. so his commanding officer recruited him to do what he calls, and i'm quoting now,
"documented factual information that will explain to our boys in the army the principles for which we are fighting." so kind of invoking the documentary ethos but clearly meant to persuade, right? that's what the line is between documentary and propaganda, and capra himself in reflections on this talked about how his approach was framed as an answer to one of the best propaganda films of all time. so they've had a lot of success with -- with the use of film for conveying information for persuading, for convincing. of course, they would think that it would have more applications in the classroom, but this became even more urgent in the context of the dropping of atomic bombs on hiroshima and nagasaki in japan, and the real
escalation of what several people have called the nuclear culture or the nuclear future, right. so this nuclear future on the one hand -- right, everyone knew about this. everyone knew that this ended the war, that it was a massive loss of life. it was a very grim, dark scene. so that's kind of the dark side of atomic culture. the thought was that in the post-war period really harnessing nuclear energy for positive uses. so eisenhower gave a speech in 1953 that became known in retrospect as the atoms. peaceful uses of atomic energy would include reactors for generating energy, but also
radio isotopes which would then become medical traces. that's why you have in the logo that gets made is the medical icon. medical, science, engineering,alry agriculture, it all would be part of our future. they also developed a series of traveling museum exhibits that would put -- that's the atomic exhibit that would travel around. it would be likely if you were an elementary or milling school student that you went to a natural science museum in the 1950s, you would see one of these. you would see radioactive frogs, frogs injected with radioactive isotopes, and you could see
them. that's a good example of museums enforcing other medias, museums are trying to become new as film is trying to become new on television. so the goal of atoms for peace, we find out from looking at -- behind the scenes documents because it wouldn't be marketed this way in public, was a kind of emotional management of the tensions that are involved in the nuclear culture. so the tension being on the one hand escalating nuclear arm meant, that armament, that's the hallmark of the cold war period, but on the other hand, that they want to spin portions as particularly harmless, that they want to domesticate. educating civilians and in particular educating children became a high priority. bo jacobs talks about how this
generation was the first generation that learned to live in a nuclear war. you can see where it is a quote from one of the folks at the indian springss school in nevada which is next to an air force base. it is a two-room school, and they're not being taught to duck and cover but duck, and i guess, hold one another. this was on the cover of a magazine and the person from the school was boasting that they learned how to spell atom and bomb before they learned how to spell mother. to kind of imagine that shift, right, in learning those words that had much bigger social and cultural meaning and were certainly more scary than the word mother. the federal government was interested in educating a lot of civilians, but in particular a lot of children in the procedures of civil defense, in what are the actual threats of an atomic attack, what would it look like. they devised this film called "duck and cover." what we're going to do here is watch a small clip of the introduction to "duck and
cover," featuring the theme song. ♪ and danger ♪ never got hurt ♪ he knew just what to do ♪ he ducked and covered ♪ duck and covered ♪ he did what we all must learn to do ♪ ♪ you and you and and you ♪ duck and cover >> you must remember what bert the turtle just did, friends, because every one of us must remember to do the same thing. that's what this film is all about, duck and cover. this is an official civil defense film produced in cooperation with the federal civil defense administration in consultation with the safety commission of the national
education association. produced by -- >> there we go again. if it goes again you're going to want to sing that. all right. so what do you notice about that introduction? a couple of things. so i played through the song so that i could talk a little bit about the ways in which the production values of this -- both the content and the production values were framed by interactions between lots of different kinds of artists and those who were interested in conveying the actual information. so those who were interested in conveying the actual information like the federal civil defense association cited there, school safety organization from the national educational association, right. so government people collaborating with school teachers, collaborating with fairly high-quality talent that was recruited by the producers at archer films. the film was written by ray
meyer and direct by anthony rizzo and the jingle was written afterwards. it didn't initially start with a jingle. the jingle was written afterwards by the same team that advised usa in the chevrolet -- it wouldn't resonate with your generation, but if you watched "mad men" those who created these advertising slogans. and it became a hit for a pop singer named dinah shore. it is a cross over here. it is an upbeat and positive song. it is memorable. you have female and male voices. the goal of this film, bo jacobs talks about in his article atomic kids, it is to teach children how to survive an atomic attack by themselves also. that's important. right? part of what is going on here -- there's two parts to what is going on here.
on the one hand you have to inform children what it is they're actually seeing if they see a nuclear attack. so you see a kind of -- i'm going to talk about this as kind of domesticating, but bo jacobs says making the threat normative, right? something as scary as an atomic attack you cannot show film of to children, right? it is too horrifying. instead, using the medium of animation they portray the bright light, right? the light is described as a bright flash, brighter than the sun, right? and then it turns into the animation where clearly the atomic bomb is, and the narrator is saying in calm tones, smashing through buildings, right, causing winds, causing a burn worse than your worst sunburns, right? so these are all ways to kind of take the knowledge and convey it but in a way that maybe children would understand and would be a part of their -- part of their
world. now, the other side is not just conveying what it is that you're actually seeing, knowing that you're doing this, that you're being a part of this, but what to do. so it also takes a kind of domestication tone, right? it talks about responding to a bomb is not unlike responding to a fire, right? or an automobile accident, right? these are all things that could happen in your daily life. just add atomic bomb to the list, right? and come up with a brand for the song. this kind of doe mes indication through both the use of animation as a technology and the narrative of the film is one of the hallmarks. the other thing that jacobs talks about is the way in which this film acknowledges -- and now they're kind of transitioning to attitudes towards education, right? so the idea that you would have to respond as a child by yourself to an atomic bomb
rather than through a teacher or some authority figure, right, is a real shift. it is a shift in traditional social roles that is really part and parcel of the new atomic world, right? so what the film does is they show children that grownups will be around, some quoting from the film now. older people will help us -- by the way, it is an adult narrator pretending to be a child. older people will help us like they always do, but there might not be any grownups around when the atomic bomb explodes, then you're on your own, right? so they can help you get across the street, they can help you find a shelter, but in that moment what are you going do to respond? and so really kind of trying to heighten the alert of the children. when you're on your own, be aware of when this is happening. so places like -- you can see the girl cowering against the school building yard. it can happen in the school yard. it can happen when you're riding
your bike in the neighborhood. it is timmy or tony, i can never remember his name. he drops his bike and covers. so jacobs talks about how in order to achieve these new social roles what the film has to do is make some traditionally idyllic childhood spaces kind of scary. if you are in the school yard or riding your bike, an atomic bomb could fall. so he says this is sort of the dark side of cold war science. this is a movie that tells a sale, i'm quoting now, of a dangerous present and a dismal future. it begs the question if you're around and the atomic bomb drops and you have done your duck and cover, when you come up maybe you're still alive, maybe this is the future in this decimated nuclear world. so "duck and cover" is a film that educates about the actual phenomenon but tries to persuade
children they can have a response, they have a social role on the home front to respond to this, that goes beyond what any role of the military would be to, say, to respond to an attack, that they have control. pretty heady stuff for elementary schools. the lighter side of science education in this period, kind of coming at it from the other angle, still children all the way through college teens, but focused on enhancing funding and investment by the government in science research and science education. this is not new to the 1950s. this is something that comes out of world war ii. so the presidential science adviser described here on the cover of "time" magazine, the fact that the presidential science adviceor is making the cover of "time" magazine should tell you something, the fact he is described as the general of physics to tell you that this is the vision of support, that government will support research activities by public and private
organizations and in particular science education, right. so the first thing to come out of this, vinnie bush, which is his name for the general of science, general of physics, he heads a national science board roll into what is now the national science foundation. so the national science foundation becomes the first very big government foundation. they were in health before that but this is a big, kind much pure research and education funder. as the '50s move on, dispusputn which you may or may not be familiar, it was a satellite fired into space, it was circling the u.s., spying on us, really escalating cold war tensions between the russians and us, and in particular around the issue of what they would call today the pipeline problem. the pipeline problem is the idea that you need to have people at
every level of science education staying in science education so we can build what they called scientific manpower, right? same language as the language of war, except with these scientific manpower and woman power people are going to do is work for research, to counter this soviet threat. so in addition to sputnick and these additional efforts of the government to fun science and push an agenda in education, there was a massive economic boom after the war and a large corporate windfall, particularly companies like at&t and bell who were particularly science companies, and the thought from the companies was some of this must be plowed into promoting science education. as presented in public, and you
can hear if you listen to the beginning of "the magnificent" why are we doing this, brought to you by at&t, to promote man's efforts to understand nature's laws. well, yeah, that's all well and good, but the other push is coming from advertising agencies which, of course, have ties not just to advertising and communication media but to hollywood, right? so the crossover is there. so in particular marcell sole has done research and found that they were pushing bell to attract more family audiences. so hook them early on the brands and then you'll have more -- you have a bigger market as time went on. so this led to at&t bell labs investing in a series of science films which are among the most popular and widely-held in
classroom collections teeven to this day, they're still held though not known as much. you can see from the shape of the icons now they're on vhs and dvd. these are ones that capra was involved in. i'll talk about that in a minute. unchanged goddess about the weather, right. ultimately it was eight one-hour programs and one half-hour program over roughly a seven or eight-year period through which -- and i'm drawing the analogy between "duck and cover" and this, a similar kind of recruitment of top-level artists took place to produce these films. so it's kind of -- it is less in congress i think the focus on frank capra as doing his duty for the government to make a propaganda film than it is to imagine someone who has one three oscars deciding he is going to do science films. so what gives?
what gives with frank capra and his directing and production of many of these films? first off, capra it was thought had the perfect background for this. he actually had some science training. he earned his undergraduate degree from cal tech in chemical engineering in 1918, and during world war i he taught math to artillery recruits at fort scott in san francisco. at the age of five his family immigrated to l.a. he work himself through college with odd jobs. one day when working as a math teacher in san francisco he saw the advertisement for the opening of a satellite film studio. he went and basically husband willed himself in the door. made them thing he had more experience than he actually did with cameras and other things because he was interested in that, and that got the ball rolling. he left -- although he had a great deal of success in
hollywood in the '30s, he left hollywood to enlist in world war ii and make these other films. he came back at a moment when his career was in a bit of a lull. again, it sounds kind of incon grew ens because many of us remember him for "it's a wonderful life" which was made in 1946, which was a christmas classic, a much-beloved film. at the time it got mixed reviews and he was in a lull, so that's part of the reason he wants to do these films. the other piece, however, had to do with the fact he was a deeply committed catholic. so we're going to see when we look at these films that influence. i will talk more about that after we watch the clips. so another thing to say about capra is later in his life he reflected back on what was it that made him a success. he subscribes very strongly to what film study scholars would call that the director has the vision and the director is the one without any interference
from producers or anyone recruits the writers, works in close contact with them. so it is that theory but it is kind of a team. the team is going to work together closely. he said this is the way that motion pictures can become more important, they have something to say to the picture-going public. so he did that when he was recruited to work for the bell laboratory series in several ways. the first was he picked well-known actors. the characters name even on the back of the dvd box and in the script is the fiction writer, played initially by a well-known tv character actor eddie albert. he became more known as his career went on. in some of the later bell science films played by richard carlson who would have been recognizes to viewers from "creature from the black lagoon," kind of a sci-fi context. interestingly carlson, to kind
of reinforce the idea of the team that capra had, carlson directed some of the later films when capra backed out. there really was this sense of collaboration. similarly, if you thought you heard dafy dufy duck, you did. mel blank who was voices it, who later voices barny rubble on the flintstones, was one of the voicing on this. the animators was headed by a production company. and we had people traveling from film culture into tv as an influential new medium, as a place where they can sort of work with really other really interesting artists. so culhane had a television program, an animated television program he was making, mr. magoo, but he participated in animating disney's "snow white."
it is a long legacy being taken from film to science education for television. i want to transition to talk a bit about the plot structure and the characters. this should be most familiar to you because we talked last time about frank enstein and jaws, who were the scientists, what did they represent. the plot is that the fiction writer -- all right, this guy. in this case it is carlson. the fiction writer creates cartoon figures and they're animals alongside a greek god figure they call their king, right? this is hemo. hemo the magnificent is king of nature, king of the animals, but really the persohninative
indicati personification of blood. he was called dr. research. there was not a lot of creativity with names in this production. dr. research is actually a university of southern california research professor named frank baxter. if you went to school in the '60s and '70s, you are guaranteed to have seen one of his films. he had a famous series about shakespeare that he did. he became the sort of personification of the scientist, even though he's not a scientist but a doctor. they interact with the animal through a magic screen, which is an interesting way to describe a screen in which animation is predicted. the writer is kind of the wise guy, joking in public, voicing the concern that the audience might have.
he smoked cigarettes. he is a little twitchy. dr. research is very calm. he has a lot of the markers of a stereo typical nerdy scientist, going back to fred mcmurray in "the nutty professor." the glasses, the calm temperament, the bland gray plan el suit. much of the first part of the film is a discussion between the animated characters and the human characters about blood mechanics. so it is a discussion that takes place partially in film and partially in animation, but about halfway through there's a sort of pivotal moment where hemo gets a little more confrontational. he says, stop, we've just been talking about sunning. and the humans are taken aback. what do you mean? he says, we're not going to go any further unless you can tell me the two words that unites the study of blood mechanics and the
study of art, poetry and nature. so mr. fiction writer gets a panicked look on his face and says, doc, let's not do it, it is a trap. that only becomes a cliche later. and he tries to get him to not do it, but dr. research is very calm. so let's watch a clip where this goes down. >> that's a good question. but before i can go into that i'll have to tell you something about blood itself. >> just a moment, brother scientist. so far your chatter on plumbing has been misery but harmless. now that you have come to me i refuse to listen further unless you first describe to me in just two words. >> i can. >> never mind. professor, mention the two key words and i'll know you understand the poetry, the mystery and the true meaning of blood. otherwise, back to your bombing.
>> hey, doc, do you know what the two words are? he's trapping us. oh, you do? >> the two words that best describe you and connect you with the mystical origins and traditions of life are sea water. >> sea water? >> brother research, my apologies. >> you mean he's right? >> listen to this learned man and you will hear a real tale. >> sea water? >> doctor, please tell them who i am. >> thank you. it is only a theory of course. >> this i got to see. >> if you squeeze the human body as you would a sponge, you squeeze out 30% of the body weight, that's about six gallon also of free water, which you could call body fluid.
this squeezed out body fluid has a salt content of 1%. sea animals might exist in this acquire yum of body liquid. now, the salts in sea water are like the salts in body fluid, as you can see. although sea water today is two or three times saltier than body fluid, some biologists account for this difference by saying body fluids today represent the less salty composition of sea water as it was nearly 400 million years ago when life began to emerge from the sea and began to crawl on land. at any rate, a billion and a half to two billion years ago life is presume to have originated in tropical waters as a single cell organism. something akin to the single cell we know today as the amoeba. this shapeless, jelly like cell absorbs oxygen directly from the
sea and passed out carbon dioxide and other waste to the warm ocean. it is the beginning, it was the sea. >> all right. so what we have there is on one hand dr. research articulating what he says is just a theory about the oceanic origins of blood. but the linking of oceanic origin also of blood with hemo as the sea, is basically frank capra wading into the territory of evolution, right? evolutionary biology. for capra there's no divide between a scientific vision of evolution and a religious appreciation for science and its view of evolution. later on you can see joe q. public, mr. fiction writer gets impatient with that. he says to dr. research, are you saying i'm like all of those germs? i'm different. he does say, you are different, you have the human spirit, you are capable of doing science,
right? and science is what links, right, all of these things. so kind of not what you expected, right, something on evolution in a film about blood? similarly, at the end of the film capra once again invokes christian imagery in a -- what is supposed to be an inspiring final statement on the possibilities of science and art. let's watch that one, too. >> the challenge the spirit of man. now, the man of science will solve, brother hemo, some day. >> sure you will. what better way to love thy neighbor than to heal him? i've got my little set job and my animal friends have theirs, but we're limited. man is not limited. your creation state, you can
imagine. we, we, create. you know right from wrong. you see the divine gift is your job, all of nature is waiting the see how you handle it. you're right, brother righteous. researching could become rewarding and far reaching in all of the arts. said over the temple of science should be written the words, he once had faith. your great apostle paul wrote to his church in thessalonians, hold tas that which fast that w but science says have faith, but says prove all faith. together they spell hope. >> faith. >> it is a lesson.
>> all right. in case you weren't getting it before the hymn-like music started, right? what is capra doing here? he is really articulating what he sees as fluid connections between science, art and religion, right? so human exceptionalism, that's part of sort of the western kris tradition, but human exceptionalism is -- part of that is being given divine gift to reason, right, and that juxtaposition of max plunk saying, ye must have faith -- that is to say the religious thing -- against st. paul saying, prove all things, the scientific things, is meant to be sort of a use of imagery that really blurs those boundaries. he doesn't see the blurring of those boundaries as a anythingtive things. he sees it as a hopeful thing, a thing that could drive things forward in an inspirational way.
there's other imagery throughout this film and to other bell science films in which capra was involved. when we get to a discussion, we can talk more about how that shifted without his involvement. so i want to hear more about what your reactions are in the future when we talk about these films. in the meantime, let's stay in the 1950s. what was the critical response to hemo the magnificent? the critical reviews were not great. from "time" magazine, hemo is a costly mon yult. they thought that the film was con descending because it spoke to potentially grade school children and those type to interest them in silly ways, but also the circulatory discussion is really boring. why is it boring?
the "time" viewer thinks it is because he used moran mae anima than film. this is a case where the viewer says by jazzing up the story of circulatory system you put a blight on scientific film that was as good as any of its kind ever televised. the effect was it was -- you never want to get this next sentence. not a fan. interestingly the animal works in "duck and cover" in a different way. there's probably ways that film could have been used but there also would have probably had to be film of animals. labor