Hell-Bent for Election

Monday, October 22, 2012, 4:00 p.m.

Theater 2 (The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 2), T2

Includes the following films:

  • The Truman Story

    1948. USA. “The Republican nominee after winning a radio debate with his rival Harold Stassen, [Governor Thomas Dewey] hired Louis de Rochemont to produce The Dewey Story using reenactments and staged scenes with actors in the tradition of his series The March of Time. They planned to send 3,000 prints of the 10-minute film into U.S. movie houses as paid political advertising….[President Harry] Truman protested and got his own campaign film—The Truman Story, which was made almost entirely of newsreel material and assembled at Universal. The Dewey Story was then released to the nation’s theaters as a public service on October 14….[T]he powerful Truman film was shown to Americans after the Dewey picture and one week before the election. [It] proved to be a key element in Truman’s come from behind, upset victory” (Charles Musser). Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive, Los Angeles. 10 min.

  • George Wallace in California: The Beginning

    1968. USA. Directed by Jim Guillott. Written by David Wolfe. Narrated by Tom Paxton. Running for president in 1968, Alabama governor George Wallace famously declared that there “wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference” between the two major parties. Still, in order to get his American Independent Party on the California ballot, the Wallace campaign had to register 66,000 voters. With almost no West Coast contacts, the AIP got that many and then some. This film celebrates their successful “Stand Up For America” campaign, accompanied by some startlingly contemporary political rhetoric and many renditions of the Roger Miller song “Walkin’ in the Sunshine, Sing a Little Sunshine.” Preserved by Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, Montgomery, with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation. 30 min.

  • RFK ’68

    1968. USA. Directed by John Frankenheimer. Documenting Robert Kennedy’s whistle stop tour through the Indiana heartland, Frankenheimer, media adviser to RFK, also directed his official campaign film, which bears a curious resemblance to then box office smash Bonnie and Clyde. Digital preservation. Courtesy Evans Evans Frankenheimer. 25 min.

  • Betty Boop for President

    1932. USA. Directed by Dave Fleischer. Produced by Fleischer Studios. The gags and political jabs come fast and furious in this New Deal-era cartoon classic (including sendups of Herbert Hoover, Al Smith, and Prohibition), as Betty Boop upstages opponent Mr. Nobody by offering promises more ridiculous and grandiose by the second. Preserved print lent by UCLA Film & Television Archive; courtesy Paramount. 7 min.

  • Hell-Bent for Election

    1944. USA. Directed by Chuck Jones. Produced by John Hubley. A rarely screened UPA Studio wartime cartoon, made for the United Auto Workers and featuring the rousing anthem “We’re Going to Win the War” by Wizard of Oz songwriters Earl Robinson and Yip Harburg. Representing America’s shining, victorious future, Franklin D. Roosevelt is a streamlined Raymond Loewy locomotive—the “Win the War Special”—speeding past Republican opponent Thomas E. Dewey’s tired old “Defeatest Limited, no. 1929.” 13 min.

  • A People’s Convention

    1948. USA. Produced by Union Films. Perhaps the most poignant of the three 1948 campaign films, as delegates at the Progressive Party convention rally around presidential hopeful Henry Wallace in support of his anti-segregationist platform and his aspirations for universal government health care and an end to the Cold War. Digitally preserved by Tamiment Library, New York University. 15 min.

  • The Dewey Story

    1948. USA. Produced by Louis de Rochemont. Archival print courtesy the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Washington, D.C. 10 min.

An eclectic assortment of presidential campaign films and cartoon spoofs, proving that when it comes to the hard sell for the Highest Office in the Land, some things never change. Particularly fascinating and historically important are the Truman, Dewey, and Wallace campaign films made during their bitterly fought 1948 race.

In the Film exhibition To Save and Project: The 10th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation

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