The Instructional Films of Budge Crawley
When the Canadian government designated Canadian film productions as tax shelters in 1974, there were many other countries who wanted to get in on the act as well. American-Canadian co-productions began to flourish as a direct result of these incentives, just as they had during the 1930s, when England offered favourable treatment to films made in British colonies.
By the mid-to-late 1970s, Europe began showing interest in our shelters as well, and several high-profile Canadian cult films have come out of our partnership with one country in particular, France. Nicolas Gessner's The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane was probably the most widely seen of these co-productions, but Eddy Matalon's Blackout and Cathy's Curse have earned respected places as well. Hot on the heels of these successful genre films, many of the craziest and most obscure Canuxploitation films appeared as co-productions with smaller countries like Romania and the current Czech Republic.
B-film has always had a strong connection to industrial filmmaking. The bad production values, wooden acting and charming earnestness of industrial filmmaking adds up to a cost-conscious aesthetic so similar to B-films that a fan of one is almost certainly a fan of the other. The connection runs deeper, however. Let's not forget that Ed Wood got backing for Plan 9 from Outer Space by promising to use the proceeds to make a series of religious films for a church, and industrial filmmakers made both The Blob and Carnival of Souls. It is easy to see the similarities between instructional films and B-movies, perhaps because each can be derived from the anti-drug and VD exploitation films that go back as far as film history itself. Although Crawley never directed any overtly schlocky features, the handful of teen films made in the late 1950s like A Dangerous Age and The Bloody Brood obviously owe a debt to Crawley's instructional shorts.
While Crawley's social guidance films frequently make use of the same actors and locations, one of the greatest things about them is their sense of realism. Minimizing hokey sets, Crawley made his shorts on location, or in highly detailed studio settings, lending his film a measure of credibility not seen in American social guidance films which can look stagey and false. Crawley's films also tend to examine psychological and social influences on child behaviour, instead of relying on the common, trite solutions featured in lesser films.
Here is a selection of Budge Crawley's instructional films:
The Adolescent Development Series
Not exactly what you would expect, these films about teenagers are not directed at kids, but at parents, covering a wide variety of issues from puberty, sex, personal habits and mood swings.
Age of Turmoil (1953)
One of the earliest Crawley teen films, Age
is the story of young teens Sally, Joan and Kay, and their male
counterparts Sam, Bill and Tom. The film begins by harshly condemning
the adolescent traits of each sex. Narrator Lorne Greene tells us that
girls are silly and opinionated, highly influenced by fashion ads and
are given to giggling and unstructured criticism, while boys are
self-centered, spend hours engaged in worthless activity and are
impressed by material goods and sports heroes. Age of Turmoil
then proceeds to show us more adolescent behaviour that parents find
annoying such as constant hunger, sleeping in, and long phone
conversations. Then, taking a radical turn, the narrator starts
rationalizing all these traits, in effect blaming bad parenting skills.
Tom's need for constant assurance? Caused by his father's lack of
attention towards him! While there is no shortage of "I Accuse My
Parents" themes in both instructional films as well as in many juvenile
delinquency films of the 50s and 60s, such direct cause and effect
reasoning is very rare (Usually the behaviour is blamed on rich,
absentee parents). A fun little film, with a great title.
Emotional Maturity (1957)
An extremely funny entry, Emotional Maturity is about Dave, a teen who has none. Dumped by his girlfriend Jill for football star Jim Dawson, Dave is caught in the school hallway shouting and throwing his books around. That night Dave sees Jill and Jim in the soda shop, and starts complaining loudly to all his friends. Jim ignores him, and begins regaling the ladies with a story about football statistics (!). Jill tells her girlfriends that Dave acts "just like a kid." Why, he even quit the football team just because the coach benched him for one game! Like in Age of Turmoil, we get to see the real cause of Jim's hissy fits: his hard-ass father. Jim's dad won't let him take out the car, and he constantly lectures his son on manners and responsibility. Jim's mom comes to the rescue and helps her husband see how he could become a better parent. But it's way too late. Dave is out walking when he sees Jim and Jill enjoying some lemonade at Jill's house. Hiding, Dave pulls out his jackknife and slashes Jim's tires... but when he turns around, Jim, Jill and Jill's parents are all standing there watching him! The film ends by asking us " How did Dave get into a situation like this? Why can't Dave face facts?" This lurid tale of the accelerated downfall of Dave is definitely more entertaining than instructional.
Physical Aspects of Puberty (1953)
This technical and boring film about puberty does nothing to distinguish itself from the many similar films that most of us have seen at one time or another. Catering to both sexes, Physical Aspects of Puberty starts with a long animated sequence, describing bodily changes. Silhouetted bodies are shown with an accompanying discussion on ovaries, bodily hair and "nocturnal emissions." While discussing menstruation, the narrator oddly insists on pronouncing it "mens-troo-ation." The second half of the film is more familiar Crawley territory, in which live actors are shown making social mistakes and popping zits while the narrator explains that puberty causes emotional problems and feelings of inadequacy. The movie finishes by pleading with parents and teachers to have patience with their teens. Pretty standard stuff.
Social Acceptability (1957)
The most enjoyable Crawley short film, Social Acceptability chronicles the woeful tale of Marion's shyness. At the malt shop, Marion overhears the much more popular Suzy telling her friends about a party she is throwing on the weekend. Since Marion used to be friends with Suzy, she wonders if she might get invited... or is she too square? When Suzy's friend Ben puts a dime in the jukebox, everybody dances. When Marion puts one in, she picks a march(!) and the whole gang groans and leaves. On her way out, Suzy almost invites Marion to the party, but instead promises to call her that night about " something." At home, Marion asks her mother if she couldn't have "the gang" over one time, but her mother is too concerned about the time and cost of hosting all those teens. After dinner, Marion's dad tries to reason with his wife, and the truth comes out. Marion's mother is also shy, and is worried the teen girls might judge their house and tell their parents! It is the same reason that her parents don't entertain much. Meanwhile, Marion goes to her room to read a book called "How to be Attractive." Across town, Suzy and her friend are finalizing the invitation list. Suzy suggests adding Marion's name, but her friend doesn't think it's a good idea, telling her that they are an unfriendly family. Unable to decide, Suzy goes downstairs to ask her parents if she can add Marion to the list. Meanwhile, Marion is still waiting for the phone to ring. Time passes... and passes. Finally, her mother calls her. "Marion!" "Yes Mother?" "...Time for bed." The narrator then informs us that for Marion, a lack of social acceptance will leave emotional scars! What's great about this film is the crushing ending, as well as the parallelling between the parent's social sphere and the teens. In this respect it's almost telling parents how to gain social acceptance among their peers. That's all fine, but it doesn't answer the real question: What happened at Suzy's house? Did her parents say no? Did Suzy change her mind or cave to peer pressure? Only Budge Crawley knows for sure...
Social-Sex Attitudes in Adolescence (1953)
This tale of responsible young lovers is narrated by Lorne Greene. The film begins with Bob and Mary on their wedding day, and proceeds to go backwards in time to show how each grew up with healthy attitudes towards the opposite sex. Things only get interesting when the film starts detailing Mary's parade of crushes and steadies, and Bob's falling in with the wrong crowd-- smoking, drinking and making out in cars. The highlight is when Bob's mother finds a crude naked drawing in Bob's room with the words "Bob + Betty WOW!!" at the top. Finally, both Bob and Mary grow up to be responsible and happily married.
Also in this Series
Discipline During Adolescence, The Meaning of Adolescence, Meeting the Needs of Adolescence
Marriage and Family Living Series
This series of films is aimed at love struck older teenagers, instructing them to remain chaste and yet not to rush into marriage with the wrong person. Christian overtones probably made this series a favourite of concerned teachers, parents and youth group leaders.
How Much Affection? (1959)
"I'm so mixed up!" Laurie tells her mother after running from her boyfriend Jeff's car one night. While her mother tries to comfort her, Laurie tells her mother how they almost went all the way after the dance. Mom tries to explain that Laurie is at an age where her physical urges fight against reason, and that she must always remain careful. The message doesn't really hit home until the next day at the school newspaper meeting. One of "the gang" mentions Ilene, who was forced to drop out a year ago when she got pregnant. Later on, Laurie and Jeff run into Ilene and her baby on the street. They ask her questions about her life, and she tells them about her husband Fred and how he's doing. While she talks about his great job, his undying to attention to both Ilene and the baby, the viewer is let in on the truth with scenes of Fred lying around in his undershirt, watching TV and ignoring everyone else. In the end, Jeff and Laurie go to Laurie's house, where they find a note saying that her parents won't be home for hours. They gaze deeply into each others eyes as the picture fades out. Oh, will they succumb? The message of this film is clear-- if you get pregnant out of wedlock, you will be forced to marry someone who you may not really love. So that's how much affection!
Also in this Series
Family Portrait, Future in Hand, Is This Love? (1957), It's a Date, Seeing Double, With This Ring, Whom Should I Marry?
Health For Effective Living Series
This series, apparently made later than many of the other films, encourages healthy living for adults.
Quacks and Nostrums (1959)
This short was filmed for the American market to describe the role of the FDA. Unlike most Crawley films, Quacks and Nostrums has no narrator. Instead, it relies on interviews with authority figures to deliver the hard facts. When his ailing mother comes home from a "health lecture," her son (a burgeoning doctor) finds she has bought a medicinal tea from a "South Seas" Doctor. He can't convince her that she was scammed, so he goes to family practitioner Dr Evans for the straight goods. Evans directs him to the FDA, where the tea is analyzed and found to be not dangerous-- unless it prevents someone from seeking legitimate medical attention. A suit shows him a cabinet full of "nostrums," phony medical devices and medicines sold across America, and the son says "I had no idea we were such suckers about our health!" Next stop is the FTC, where we all learn what happens when someone prints a bogus health ad. On arriving home, our hero finds that his mother has collapsed and calls Dr Evans right away. His mother only had "gall bladder trouble," and will be fine... no thanks to the tea. Today, this well-meaning short almost plays like pharmaceutical industry propaganda, dismissing alternative medicines, however that assuredly was not the intention at the time. A mostly fun short that moves along nicely thanks to a lack of narration.
Also in this Series
Choosing a Doctor, Community Health is Up To You, Making Life Adjustments, Should You Drink?
Other Crawley Films
Ages and Stages Series (1949-1956)
This series starred the Crawley's children, and actually won some
international awards. Titles include He Acts His Age
(1949), The Terrible Twos and the Trusting Threes
(1951), The Frustrating Fours and the Fascinating Fives
(1953), From Sociable Six to Noisy Nine (1954), and
From Ten to Twelve (1956).
Safety of Slaughter (1958)
According to Ken Smith's book Mental Hygiene, Budge
Crawley was the first director to insert real footage from highway
accidents into safety films, making him a pioneer in the safety/gore
films that have warped shop students and new drivers everywhere.
Why Won't Tommy Eat? (1948)
From NFB website: "This film examines the problem of children who won't eat, and what can be done about it. Tommy should be hungry, but he just picks at his food. Going back to early babyhood, the film traces in detail, how eating habits are formed, how individual likes and dislikes must be taken into consideration, and that the worst habit of all is the permanent battle over food. After this analysis, Tommy still sits by his well-filled plate. In despair his mother takes him to the doctor, who explains that she is really the problem. She realizes that she has been tense, impatient with Tommy from the start. Now it will take painstaking care to build a new atmosphere of cooperation and friendliness, to learn understanding of Tommy's personal requirements at mealtimes, and all the time."
Other Crawley Classroom Films
Picture Making by Teenagers (1956), The Teens (1957)