Thursday, December 04, 2008

Technocratic triumphalism + free enterprise capitalism + the red scare = FUN!

Remember this, the 1939 GM Futurama video?

Well, the professor for my Disney class lent me the gem that is The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair (1939).

As Kevin Hyde, a clearly competent commenter, writes in some detail on the movie's IMDB page,
"In many ways, it is the grand-daddy of all corporate propaganda films -- i.e., outrageously expensive, shamelessly self-aggrandizing, overblown, naive in its estimate of audience intelligence/suggestibility, and utterly clueless when it comes to creating believable situations and dialog. The loving, earnest ineptness of this show is only magnified by its hapless, jut-jawed, attempt to contrast the mendacious failure of Communism with electric dishwashers and a cigarette-smoking robot."
Yes, there is a cigarette-smoking robot. There is also a clearly deviant Eastern European who - I kid you not - utilizes phrases like "a study in polychromatic harmony," creates abstract paintings, has arched eyebrows that reach roughly to his ears, and tells the sweet Indiana girl he is trying to trick into marrying him, "Now you're being provincial, Babs."
Yes, her name is Babs... But I digress.
The commenter goes on, "What I'm saying, paradoxically enough, is that "The Middleton Family" is an absolute must-see for anyone seeking to know, precisely, when and how America went mad. The 1939 World's Fair, it seems, is the exact moment when we all began buying into our own PR. "Streamlining" was hip. Capitalism was triumphant. Technology was limitless (if all you wanted to do was burp into a microphone). Black people were wise kitchen help. And manly virtue (i.e., compassionate conservatism) gave the lie to flip-flopping, hate-America Leftist claptrap. "
While the movie in its entirety isn't on YouTube, some excellent bits of it are. Do enjoy! Though you might want to get a drink (armagnac, may be?) or a joint first.


And finally, here it is, your moment of Zen:
Electro, the cigarette-smoking robot:

I could spend all day (or night) learning about this thing, but I'll be brief:
The wiki article on the Fair is here;
Lest we forget that minor bit of context, World War II started September 1, 1939. The Fair ran for two seasons, the first from April 30th to October 1939. Worth noting: "Although the United States would not enter the Second World War until the end of 1941, the fairgrounds served as a window into the troubles overseas. The pavilions of Poland and Czechoslovakia, for example, did not reopen for the 1940 season."
And finally, what kind of post would this be if it didn't have a gratuitous plug for the greatness of my native land: "Exhibition in the USSR Pavilion included the life-size copy of the interior of Mayakovskaya station of the Moscow Metro. Designer of the station, Alexey Dushkin, was awarded Grand Prize of the 1939 New York World's Fair." Here are some shots of Mayakovskaya, though none do it justice.

I think I'm gonna make some innocent by-stander watch the movie tomorrow. It's just too fucking good.

6 comments:

Amanda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda said...

Must see this. Must. Then I want to go comb around the old fair grounds on Queens for an afternoon.

rootlesscosmo said...

Armagnac it is! But not until after, oh, 4 pm. In Bermuda. Thanks!

kg said...

Amanda - let me know when you go. I'd love to go hang out in Flushing Meadows, esp since the 1964 Fair took place there, as well, and I learned recently that it's the largest park area in NYC, larger than Central Park. Plus, I think one of my favorite Flight of the Conchords songs was filmed there for the TV series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pY8jaGs7xJ0
Rootless - send me a postcard :). Then, I'll remember you with bitterness and resentment as I freeze my ass off in Michigan :).

rootlesscosmo said...

I just meant I planned to pour myself a drink around noon here. But I'll send you a photo taken out my back window.

Those clips are mind-numbing. I notice Nick the Bow-tied Bolshevik has been whisked away before the Electro act... I found myself feeling sorry for the poor bastard who had to do that hokey dialog routine a couple of dozen times a day. Who was he? Was he an Equity member? Did he commit suicide by gun or by hanging?

kg said...

Rootless - oh, I see now about the time thing. Though really, I'm not a big stickler personally for the "no drinking before noon" thing. Luckily for me, though, I don't drink much at any time of day :).
I actually watched the whole film a second time. I don't find it mind-numbing - it's just too funny for that.
Nick, btw, resurfaces after the Electro scene and is run out of town, in a manner of speaking, later in the film when he comes over for lunch after his trick with fake jewelry has been uncovered by the wily grandma and Babs promptly falls out of love with him...
I don't know who the poor schmuck at the Fair was, nor how he met his demise. Did Equity already exist in 1939? We can only hope that the torturous gig payed well.