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  1. It is, perhaps, the most neglected genre of cinema. The sponsored promotional film never gets its proper respect, any more than your average TV commercial. To be fair, it is hard to analyze films that often lack story-lines or feature major stars, although some of the animated cartoons get modest attention in small circles. Not surprisingly, they were ignored at Oscar time (with one exception listed far below) because Hollywood's bigwigs didn't view them as particularly “worthy”. Nonetheless they existed and some of those spared from the death of nitrate decomposition are quite cinematic and innovative. The two companies I am profiling here were focused in the Detroit and Chicago areas, but with multiple branch offices across the U.S. and in foreign countries as well: Jam Handy Organization and Wilding Picture Productions a.k.a. Wilding, Inc. Because so many films produced by these two were rarely documented even in their own time, outside of select periodicals like Business Screen (1938-1973), it is quite a chore gathering information about them. Hopefully this thread can encourage others to provide a much better listing than mine. This is a history that should not be ignored. Rick Prelinger, a key archivist, has helped spare Jam Handy's name from the ravages of time, providing a mini-history in Films that Work: Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media (edited by Vinzenz Hediger and Patrick Vonderau, Amsterdam University Press, 2009) and uploading a log book for that company, ending abruptly in the '60s, to the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/JHOProdLog3/page/n0 As a film producer, Handy was enormously prolific. For a time, more film stock was being processed in Detroit, Michigan than by several major studios in California combined. Henry Jameson “Jam” Handy was very energetic and dedicated-to-healthy-living, being once part of the Illinois Athletic Club water polo team in the 1924 Olympics and an active swimmer well into his nineties. He started making movies sometime in the 1910s with his first company started during World War I with Herbert Kaufman assisting (as stated in Anthony Slide's The New Dictionary of the American Film Industry, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998). Much of his early work was in the field of animated cartoons, particularly diagram films for the armed services. While he never became the next Walt Disney, he did maintained his own animation department for a rather long time and even employed the great Max Fleischer at one point. The first official “Jam Handy” productions began circulation around 1922 (with this list's earliest title date) and his settling in Detroit the following year. His first sound productions arrived around 1930 and, by 1932, he was expanding with a new facility at 2900 East Grand Boulevard. At its peak, JHO (Jam Handy Organization) employed 600. In addition to the above mentioned animation department, there were two full orchestras that rivaled any out west, a processing lab and mobile projection vans that provided a newsreel you-are-there quality on screen almost equal to Fox Movietone. Technicolor was being utilized by 1936, three years after his arch rival Wilding Picture Productions (as discussed farther below). Initially the process was used for animated cartoons and select Alka Seltzer and Norge live-action ads, but one special two-reeler made for the New York World's Fair of '39 and CocaCola, Refreshment Through The Years, became so popular that many historians have incorrectly labeled it as the first all-color “sales film”. Because Technicolor was still an expensive luxury, Cinecolor and AnscoColor were tested as alternatives until 16mm Kodachrome (and later Ektachrome) became the favored choice for most industrial films. Eastmancolor arrived in 1952, alternating with Technicolor in the 35mm format. Three films utilized SuperScope in the fifties, all absolutely gorgeous productions that still maintain interest today: American Engineer, American Look and American Maker. Almost half of the JOH product was bankrolled by General Motors which, at the time, was the most profitable manufacturing company in America. The vast majority promoted the Chevrolet division, but some involved Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile divisions while, curiously, ignoring Cadillac for the most part. The relationship between film producer Handy and GM was mutually beneficial with the former keeping production costs down and only demanding the smallest take on any profits while the latter received all of the much needed advertising on both big theatrical and smaller household screens. GM's competitors like Chrysler, Ford, American Motors and Packard also utilized Jam Handy's services on occasion, but Chrysler and Ford's auto divisions had a more exclusive deal with Wilding. GM remained Jam Handy's chief supporter through the summer of 1971 when he helped one of his top assistants, William H. Sandy, branch out on his own by transferring over to him the lofty $5 million account, as covered by a New York Times article on September 7th of that year. Earlier, in the autumn of 1969, JHO became a part of Reeves Teletape and began decreasing the number of actual motion pictures but still maintaining a prolific output of 16mm filmstrips, a staple of the business since the thirties (but not covered on this thread). The company was still quite large at that time with additional sales branches in Chicago, New York City, Hollywood and Toronto. Yet after Sandy branched off with his own company, very few actual movies were made and most often these were done by other production companies with Handy merely providing some financial backing and expertise. By 1979, video cassettes had completely replaced filmstrips and these included some rather interesting car maintenance “how to” guides. By the time of his passing at age 97, his company was down to just two key employees but it still stayed afloat for a few more years mostly in video production. The Grand Boulevard studio was taken over for a period by Faith for Miracles for a series of religious TV shows. The building still stands today almost by default. In recent years, it has hosted a few film retrospectives and have preserved some of the Handy legacy. Although little effort was made to save the Jam Handy films for preservation, a surprising number survive because they are literally everywhere in private collections and thanks to Prelinger and others considering them worthy of rediscovery. Their aim was to sell and educate first and entertain secondly; sugar coated education is one way to describe them. A few even featured familiar faces like comedian Edgar Kennedy in the delightful The Other Fellow and soon to be famous Karl Malden in Joe's Kid. Others can best be described as “retro” entertainment, particularly those made in the shallow consumerist fifties with an emphasis on happy housewives fussing over the latest appliances from Westinghouse and Frigidaire. Yet thought provoking documentaries like Both Sides Of The Equation, directed by John MacDonald as late as 1970, are certainly worth a second look. Two personal favorites of mine: This one from 1936 starts with a solarized image of the workers appearing as if they are reliefs formed in some imaginary metal plate. Many of the Handy films of this period invite comparison to the contemporary British documentary “school”, highlighted by the GPO Film Unit and John Grierson, in that they emphasize how The Common Man is both the brains and muscle behind every machine. The narration on this next 1958 production was done by the mighty Marvin Miller of CBS radio's The Whistler, UPA cartoons and Warner Brothers travelogues. He also voiced Aquaman on Saturday morning TV. This exposé on mid-century design is a delightful overkill for the wide screen... perhaps it suggests that 1950s society was as trapped in the same geometric patterns as the trendy furnishings and wallpaper designs showcased? It then progresses towards a “soft sell” of Chevrolet's latest model ready to roll off the assembly line for '59. Jam Handy Organization Checklist Below is the far from complete list of the short films that is hopefully easier to read than past Shortie Checklist posts. If “one reel” is mention, it can run anywhere from a minute to eleven minutes and I will have to provide actual minutes (m) and seconds (s) later when/if that information becomes available. Two reels is roughly twenty minutes, three thirty and so on. Obviously black and white is indicated as “bw”. First up, a brief list of Jam Handy's feature films: General Motors: Around The World (General Motors Export) / bw & silent-49m / January 1928 / video: https://archive.org/details/GeneralM1927 / video: https://archive.org/details/GeneralM1927_2 / video: https://archive.org/details/GeneralM1927_3 / video: https://archive.org/details/GeneralM1927_4 Every Third Wheel (Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.- John A. Freese) / bw-8 reels / February 27, 1931 (listed in production by Film Daily) Keep 'Em Holding (Thermoid Co.) / bw-60m / January 15, 1941 Doctor In Industry: The Story Of Kenneth W. Randall (General Motors Corp.- Harford Kerbawy) bw-55m / February 22, 1946 / video: https://archive.org/details/0217_Doctor_in_Industry Strange Interview (General Motors Corp.- Herbert Kerbawy) / bw-60m / © March 6, 1947 On Guard For Complete Engine Protection (Fram Corp.) / color (16mm)-59m / April 27, 1949 The Safest Thing On Wheels (Thermoid Co.) / bw-52m / June 20, 1949 All That I Have (Church of God) / bw-57m / July 17, 1953 Handy's first TV show was done on June 11, 1946 for the Dumont and ABC Networks just before the former's official launch. As expected, Chevrolet promoted this untitled production. I don't get into live TV productions here, but do list (again, in a very generalized way) some of the 35mm shot TV commercials.
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