New in the Public Domain

ataraxiaThe new issue of the always diverting Public Domain Review is out, and this month has two moving-image-related items of interest.

What do you know about Miltowns, “peace pills,” more than a billion of which Americans were downing annually in the mid-1950s? Big Pharma was there to explain why they should. It’s a little creepy.

Then there’s this feature on a peculiar series of propaganda cartoons that the U.S. Army and Warner Brothers made between 1943 and 1945 in connection with the eventual U.S. entry into World War II.

“Spies” (1943) shows Snafu confronted by Hitler. Source: http://www.archive.org/details/gov.archives.arc.35827

The writer of Public Domain Review‘s article, Mark David Kaufman, explains that the films, in addition to pitching a containment inclination in American war policy, also risked blowing a major American war secret.

It could have meant curtains for the free world, and ignominy for the anti-hero of the series, Private Snafu, a “motor-mouthed Brooklynite with a penchant for catching tropical diseases, leaking classified information, and accidentally blowing himself up.” One who “stands as a testament to how the military brass evidently viewed G.I. Everyman: na├»ve, careless, and perpetually horny,” Kaufman speculates.

Somehow, the Allies prevailed.

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