Archival Film of the Day

Prices Unlimited (1944)

Director: Erle C. Kenton

Source: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive

Collection: War Film Collection

Duration: 10’30”

In a narrative short produced by Universal Pictures for the U.S. Office of Price Administration and the U.S. Government Office of War Information, it’s evening of another WWII day. As Gracie and Louise glumly head home from work, Louise laments: “It’s funny how the manpower shortage hits us every day at about this time.”

Louise responds: “Manpower! I’d settle for one without any power.”

How about they cheer themselves up a juicy steak and take in a show?

Pity rationing is in place. Their local butcher rebuffs their pleading that he not worry, just this once, that they have no rationing points.

That evening, he appears to them in a dream, and takes them to the chairman of their community rationing board, one of 5200 in the country. The handsome chairman – not a devil, after all, but a war-time volunteer – sends them off into an alternate world where rationing – and ceiling prices – have been lifted.

Alas! Demand has shot sky high. Consumers squabble over scarce good. “Everybody loses.”

The Academy Film Archive’s War Film Collection holds 231 titles, among them films by well-known directors – Hitchcock’s little-known The Fighting Generation is there, for example – and with big-name actors – Katharine Hepburn narrates from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s script in Women in Defense, for example – as well as a variety of shorts designed to rouse citizens back home to the war effort. Librarian Margaret Herrick began the collection in 1942, and built it to almost 500 titles. The 231 that survive – deterioration took many – provide a wealth of information for educators and film scholars as well as social, cultural, and military historians.

As the Archive notes on its website, some of the films are very “Hollywood,” like The Last Will and Testament of Tom Smith, in which George Reeves (later of 1950s TV Superman fame), plays a pilot awaiting execution in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.

Restoration is ongoing. To date, 30 of the collection’s prints have been restored and preserved, and the goal is to secure all the titles.

Categories: Shorts

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