In the early twentieth century, American nursing leaders came to see the motion picture as a quintessentially modern instrument of education, training, and recruitment. In their view, movies were a powerful tool to transform public opinion, to instruct new recruits in the mysteries of nursing practice, and to keep the qualified nurse abreast of new developments in the field.
The United States Public Health Service (PHS) released several education films in the 1930s and 1940s as part of a broader campaign against venereal-disease (VD). The agency had been operating a VD program since World War I, when concern over the number of Army recruits infected led Congress to enact a law that created a Venereal Disease Division in the PHS.
The archival record is mostly silent on the origins of this short film produced and narrated by Frank Armitage, a medical illustrator who also worked as a Disney animator and mural artist, and whose work demonstrates the rare beauty of medical art. By tracing Armitage’s career, we can contextualize and elucidate Anatomical Animation.
From the late 1930s through the early 1940s, low-budget filmmaker and perennial Hollywood underdog Edgar G. Ulmer (1904-1972) directed what appear to be eight educational health shorts for the National Tuberculosis Association (NTA).
A dentist invites a young boy: “Come with me, into the visual instruction room.” And with this, Ask Your Dentist, a silent dental film from around 1930, stages a cinematic revue of instructional techniques and tactics.