CC TV: GM Toast the Midcentury Consumer Boom

Oh, wow! It’s “American Look”, General Motors’ 1958 paean to designers and stylists and, erm, planned obsolescence. There’s something for everyone here; if you love MidMod stuff, bask in the parade of late-’50s design. Or just listen to the music (listen to it!). Or have fun with the narrator’s elocution vs what we have now, or compare and contrast what pro-America sentiment sounded like at that time vs what we have now. Or even if none of the above, this film is just fabulous. It has a bizarrely overcooked, heavenly-choir type of intro sequence which is watchable (once), but the real action gets under way at 2:10. The close-up at 9:30 is a cool old 3M Wollensak portable reel-to-reel tape deck; I used to have one that was my folks’ (and I think their folks’ before that). It didn’t quite have tailfins, but almost.

Although this film is a GM production, not a car or car part appears until over 20 minutes in—then we get a gander at the ’59 Chev designwork under way. Also suspicious: there are non-Frigidaire appliances pictured. It’s GM shovelling plausible deniability and whistling tunelessly: What? No! This is a film celebrating design and style! It’s nothing to do with galloping consumerism! And even if it were, we have nothing to do with any of that; we’re just in a celebratory mood because designers and stylists are excellent! Tut tut, looks like rain! It is interesting to see how subtext was handled in those days when marketing psychology was less advanced on both the sending and receiving ends.

Attention spans were longer back then, as it seems; the movies of the day move along slower than we have now. I find 1.25× speed just about ideal for this, right from the start, but with lots of pausing to admire and lament: why, oh why can’t we have stuff that looks like this? Santa, couldn’t’ve you brought me one of those? Or one of those! Or a couple of those?