Monday, 26 April 2010

Party political propaganda: 1931 and now

The Right Spirit is a propaganda film released in 1931, in the middle of the lengthy scuffle between Labour's Ramsay MacDonald and the Conservative Stanley Baldwin. Produced by the Conservative & Unionist Films Association, the short is very much on the side of Baldwin.

The protagonist of the film is John Bull, a personification of Britain, who takes his car to a seedy garage run by MacDonald. His car is wrecked as a result and he takes his business to Liberal leader David Lloyd George, who proves to be equally incompetent. Finally, John Bull arrives at Baldwin's garage, and his car is filled with the right spirit.

The film is discussed on the BFI's Screenonline site, which compares it with a 1929 film entitled The Socialist Car of State. 1931 also saw the release of Red Tape Farm, an anti-Labour cartoon put out by the Conservative Central Office; this and The Right Spirit are the only 1931 films listed in Denis Gifford's British animation filmography.

The Right Spirit comes across as very old-fashioned, even for a 1931 film. It's a silent film, for one thing; sound films had become firmly entrenched in America by this time, but took longer to take root in other parts of the world. It also begins with the live-action hand of the cartoonist setting the scene - a technique associated with early novelty films such as Humorous Phases of Funny Faces and Little Nemo.

Apologies for the dubious quality of these stills; this is the only print of the film that I have access to.

Animated party political films are still used in Britain. Here are two animated election broadcasts endorsing the Green Party, one for the 2008 local elections and one for the 2010 general election. The 2008 film was animated by Shroom Studio - I can't find details on who made the second one.

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