This week’s guest post is from Audrey Amidon. Audrey is a Preservation Specialist in NARA’s Motion Picture Preservation Lab.
How to Succeed with Brunettes (1967) and Return of Count Spirochete (1973):
The Motion Picture Preservation Lab’s Favorite Titles from the DVIC Accession
Sure, the National Archives holds films a lot of really important historical films. Beautifully made educational films about government programs during the Great Depression? Yeah, we’ve got that. Millions of feet of material covering every 20th Century war or conflict? Check! Films documenting the Civil Rights movement, space exploration, or presidential speeches? Check, check, and check.
Down in the lab, we’re accustomed to handling these Very Important Films every day. We appreciate and take seriously our role in making sure that these records of our nation’s history will be accessible for years to come. What sticks out, then, is the occasional film that isn’t like the others. In the DVIC accession, there were a couple of titles that grabbed our attention.
As described in our previous post, the Defense Visual Information Center (DVIC) accession contained films that provided training or education that directly related to the work of the armed forces. We also received preservation elements for a handful of films that were intended to contribute to overall health and well-being of military personnel.
One of these titles was How to Succeed with Brunettes (1967), a film produced by the Navy that demonstrates proper dating etiquette for officers. The film features wonderful music, evocative of its era, and a fair bit of comedy, both intentional and unintentional.
Another title for which we received original elements is Return of Count Spirochete (1973), a delightful animated short that advises viewers on the dangers of venereal diseases. That film was covered in the Armed with Science blog and posted there.
Lab staff were intensely interested when one of the motion picture archivists discovered a video of a 1981 60 Minutes piece that detailed waste and duplication in government filmmaking. Sure, there were some good points made in the 1981 rebroadcast of a piece originally aired in 1974, but we also got to see our favorite titles singled out for derision!
Count Spirochete was used as an example of waste through duplication of subject matter. According to the 60 Minutes story, as of 1974, 14 VD films had been made by the military. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any others that get the message across with an anthropomorphized bacterium. As YouTube user simbared points out, the film was made for 18 year old new recruits who had grown up with Saturday morning cartoons, so perhaps it isn’t as silly as it looks today.
How to Succeed with Brunettes, along with its companion film Blondes Prefer Gentlemen, was awarded the 60 Minutes “Oscar” for most unnecessary and wasteful film, at a cost of $64,000 to taxpayers (approximately $446,000 in today’s dollars). Now, I don’t know if the films were necessary to the mission of creating perfect manners in officers of the U.S. Navy, but hopefully they can create some joy for those who see it today!