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Thu Mar 9 11:57 am  #1


These Old Radio Films Now Seem Both Quaint And Corny

If you were a student in the 60s or 70s, you probably remember those old Coronet Films they showed you in classrooms with the wobbly sound, the slipped frames and the ridiculous acting and narration.
 
Which brings me to the Internet Archive, a wonderful site that brings old public domain flicks and other items back to life for all the world to see. (If you’ve never been there, set aside some time. There’s a ton of amazing stuff housed there.) Several of them involve radio, and they’re alternately ghastly and fascinating, like a traffic accident you know you shouldn’t gawk at but can’t help yourself.
 
Take a 1951 film produced, for some reason, by the U.S. Army, about WMCA in New York. I have no idea why this was made – do soldiers really need a primer about the inner workings of a big city radio station? Nonetheless, it’s here and from statements in the flick, it’s obvious how times have changed.
 
This was long before WMCA became one of The Big Apple’s legendary Top 40 stations, but even then there were disquieting notes about how it was one of the few “independent” outlets left in the city. (So maybe things haven’t changed so much after all!) I love the fact that the owner’s wife is pictured “educating” people in the community about radio and the script’s reference that they’re “on the air all day and most of the night.” Not to mention how, at the end of the broadcast day, the lone engineer turns off the outside neon sign. 
 
If you’re into radio history or just bizarre broadcasting artifacts, it’s worth a look, although you’ll be hard pressed to get through all 18 minutes.
 
Other radio items on the site include a 1940 retrospective about the radio industry, another 1938 flick called “Back of the Mike” (sic) that shows the state of the art in radio and sound effects in the 1930s, “Behind Your Dial: The Story of NBC” from 1947 and a bizarre 1958 explanation of that newfangled stereo thing that sends sound to both of your eardrums at the same time.
 
And there’s lots more - including, yes, those old Coronet Films, with such gripping titles as "Joan Avoids A Cold," "Dating Do's & Don'ts" and of course, "Are You Popular?" 

Although maybe you don't want to know the answer to that last one.