LENGTH: 28 min
CATEGORY: Educational & Instructional, Sound, Black & White
DIRECTOR: Jerry Lee
PRODUCER/PUBLISHER: Westinghouse Broadcasting Co. and US Public Health Service
Film historian Jennifer Peterson analyzes a set of six 1960s-era films about air and water pollution and the growing environmental and human ruin they’ve wrought. The 1960s marked a turning point in the expansion of popular awareness about environmental problems. The six titles, made between 1960 and 1972, show the emergence of modern environmentalist discourses. All frame pollution as a problem caused by human industry. But in the films made later in the decade, we see the emergence of a broader critique of post-World War II consumerism and waste. Co-produced by the U.S. Public Health Service and a range of commercial and nonprofit institutions, the films reflect an era in which government took a leading role in educating the public about environmental health threats. The earliest film in the group begins with a shot of a frustrated housewife tracing the words “PUBLIC ENEMY” in a deep layer of black soot coating her coffee table, while ominous music rises to emphasize the coming danger. A collaboration between the PHS and the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company, it’s is a black-and-white 16mm Kinescope of a television program, which would have originally been seen live by millions of people. Read The Essay
Stills from Public Enemy
Other Films Featured in the Essay “Darkening Day: Air Pollution Films and Environmental Awareness, 1960-1972”
In the Collections of the National Library of Medicine
NLM Rare Books & Early Manuscripts Collection
NLM Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection
Pope A. Lawrence Papers 1924-1983. Located in: Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD; MS C 539. Series 3: Air Pollution Control Office.
Remarks by John E. Fogarty at the Air Pollution Control Association Dinner, 1958 in Profiles in Science
NLM Prints & Photographs Collection
Related Resources from the National Library of Medicine
Articles and Websites
Orphan Film Symposium 2020: Climate, Water, Migration. Several of the films featured in this essay were presented at the 2020 Orphan Film Symposium. Dozens of other rare titles dealing with the environment were also presented at the international conference.
Watch: Darkening Days, 11:00 am session on “Climate Wednesday,” Orphans Online, May 27, 2020.