Directed by: Various (Documentary)
Countries & Regions: United Kingdom
Length: 281 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 7 June 2010
Cat No: SND1015
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Public Information Films of the British Home Front 1939-1945
A collection of public information films released by the Ministry of Information to bolster the Home Front during the Second World War.... Read More
With questions of national energy security, food wastage, diet, obesity and public health high on the current political agenda, and with talk of a new era of 'austerity Britain' ahead, this definitive compilation of second world war public information films from the Ministry of Information may well present an early opportunity to glimpse the Britain of the future. So what does it look like?
Well, it’s a place where some of the advice remains as pertinent as ever – the importance of eating greens for example (and not boiling all the goodness out of them), and not spreading germs around (‘that man ought to be prosecuted' says one man about a wanton sneezer in a cinema). And though Miss Sew-and-Sew of the Make-Do and Mend campaign isn’t likely to find much favour today in a world flooded with cheap clothes, you have the feeling she is just biding her time. Agricultural camps are shown as a way of maintaining health and fitness while helping out on the land (though the appeal of lifting potatoes as a way of spending the holiday isn't likely to find much favour with anyone.) Warnings about immunisation continue – though the subject, diphtheria has changed – while exhortations to give blood and invest in National Savings (with 'Lend to Defend' changing to 'Back the Attack' as the war progresses) are familiar. And 'Don't buy Flimsy Clothes …Buy for Service’ sounds like advice from despairing parents everywhere.
Of course the tone in which the advice is given is markedly different: 'Mother, do you realise what an unprotected child will suffer if diphtheria strikes?' and 'think about it parents' sound offensively paternalistic today. It’s interesting too to see just how the most unlikely things were counted towards the war effort – keeping moths out of your clothes for example, thereby not needing to replace them and wasting precious resources.
In short, here is the substance behind the famous catchphrases of the era: ‘Dig for Victory’, ‘Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases’. ‘You Can’t Be Too Careful’, and ‘Look Out in the Blackout!’. The films, which include a fair sprinkling of animation, are filled with household names of the era – Tommy Trinder, Cyril Fletcher, ‘Cheerful’ Charlie Chester, Old Mother Riley, Jimmy Hanley, Stanley Holloway, Arthur Haynes, Alastair Sim and even a young George Cole.
Also included are a selection of equally interesting postwar MofI films, requesting, among other things, paper recycling for packaging for exports ('fill the ships and we will fill the shops'), and women to fill the vital services of nurses and telephone operators. This a fascinating and valuable archive.