Monday, May 16, 2016

#2,100. Symphony in F (1940)

Produced By: The Ford Motor Company

Score Composed by: Edwin E. Ludig

Release: This film was shown regularly at the 1940 New York World's Fair

Trivia: Most of the Ford-related footage was shot at the company's Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan

From the Earth come the materials to be transformed for human service by Ford men, management and machines”.

Symphony in F, a promotional short for Ford Motors, was included as a bonus feature on my DVD for Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. Released in 1940, the movie combines documentary footage and stop-motion animation to celebrate a landmark in the company’s history: the manufacturing of its 28 millionth car, and while Symphony in F is undoubtedly a glorified commercial for Ford, it’s not without its charms.

The film opens with footage of various manufacturing plants across the United States, turning out everything from cotton to lumber, all of which were used by Ford to build their vehicles. Once the raw materials are delivered (by way of a train), we’re shown the assembly process, and as each new car rolls off the line, a counter adds another number, moving faster and faster as it approaches the 28 million mark. Then, when we’re a digit or two away from that magical milestone, an animated man pops to life and leads a parade of auto parts, all marching in unison as a crowd of people (some animated, some real) watch in amazement, cheering them on.

I suppose I should start by telling you that the 10-minute version of Symphony in F I watched is not complete; produced for the 1940 World’s Fair in New York, the entire movie (which is 17 minutes long) begins with an animated segment (much like the one that closes the film out) before launching into the scenes at the manufacturing facilities. But even in this truncated state, Symphony in F is fairly interesting. The animation sequences are certainly well-done, but it’s the real-life, documentary-style scenes at the factories I found most enjoyable (in particular, the process by which glass is made, which included a glassblower and an assembly line for the car’s side windows).

In addition to praising the American production system, Symphony in F harkens back to an era before TV commercials, when companies relied on motion pictures to “get the word out” about their products. And while some may roll their eyes at the grandstanding that occurs towards the end, Ford’s Symphony in F is an entertaining time capsule of a film, and one I was glad I got a chance to see.

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