Sex Education Films from World War IIDocumentary
Box Office: $0.0M
PRINCIPAL CASTGeorge Reeves, J. Carrol Naish, Jean Hersholt, Tim Holt, Robert Mitchum, Robert Lowery, Ward Bord, Samuel S. Hinds
DIRECTORJohn Ford, Lewis Milestone, Arthur Lubin
During World War II, the government was mightily concerned that venereal diseases would put our soldiers out of action before the Axis Powers could. To this end, they enlisted some of Hollywood's biggest names (both behind and in front of the camera) to create training films that would demonstrate to the average G.I. just how to avoid syphilis and gonorrhea. These three shorts, produced in association with the Research Council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, are often shocking in their graphic nature and unintentionally hilarious in their outdated sexist attitudes.
KNOW FOR SURE (1941): Know For Sure tells the sad story of shopkeeper Tony Medroni (played by J. Carrol Naish using an over-the-top Italian accent more befitting Chico Marx) whose son is born dead due to "the evil chain of syphilis." Fortunately, after receiving treatment from doctors played by Shepperd Strudwick and Samuel S. Hinds, Tony and his wife are assured that they can now "have all the bambinos you want." Strudwick and Hinds then share the accounts of other syphilis sufferers (portrayed by Western favorites Tim Holt and Ward Bord) and impart a little info on how to go about preventing it. Visits to "prostitutes and pickups" are discouraged, as "most of them have syphilis, or gonorrhea." (This admonishment is accompanied by a scene of Etta McDaniel (Hattie McDaniel's sister) ushering men into a whorehouse!) Know For Sure is directed by Lewis Milestone, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).
SEX HYGIENE (1942): After a G.I. contracts venereal disease at a bordello, his fellow soldiers are ordered to attend a seminar on 'Sex Hygiene'. "Most men know less about their bodies than they do about automobiles!" says the commanding officer giving the lecture. With graphic shots of diseased penises, Sex Hygiene is definitely not a film for the faint of heart (the afflicted patients are bizarrely shown wearing Zorro masks, presumably in an attempt to preserve their true identities.) Among the soldiers in attendance are a young George Reeves and Robert Lowery, later to play Superman and Batman (who never had to worry about VD.) The dramatic sequences in Sex Hygiene were directed by the legendary John Ford, while the less savory job of filming the graphic medical footage was handed off to workhouse director Otto Brower.
TO THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES (1943): Jean Hersholt, best known as the kindly 'Dr. Christian' of radio and film, plays an Army doctor treating a bomber pilot grounded for catching syphilis. It's up to him to give us the sober "facts" about syphilis in America, which can affect "the Park Avenue millionaire just as well as the Bowery tramp." To the People of the United States was primarily intended to destigmatize syphilis testing, encouraging (in Hersholt's words) "you, me, and the village idiot" to be tested for the deadly disease before it can spread. Despite this, the Catholic church had it banned from widespread release, arguing that abstinence until marriage was the true solution. Noah Beery Jr. and Robert Mitchum can also be seen as members of the bomber crew. To the People of the United States is directed by Arthur Lubin (Black Friday, the Claude Rains version of Phantom of the Opera, The Incredible Mr. Limpet) and features cinematography by Academy Award winner Milton Krasner (Three Coins in the Fountain).
Alpha Home Entertainment/Gotham