Though we tend to think of Hollywood when we imagine the movie industry, there was a thriving trade in producing films for purposes other than entertainment, typically instruction or education.

Sometimes Hollywood stars were part of those productions. Gene Kelly directed and starred in Combat Fatigue Irritability, one of many titles the US military produced about combat fatigue, a condition known today as post-traumatic stress disorder. Actor Burt Lancaster narrates or appears on-screen in five titles in the collection, including Handle with Care.

Some directors such as Edgar Ulmer straddled both worlds. You can view four Ulmer-directed films, and he made many other titles, some health-related, many not. He had a promising but short-lived Hollywood career before relocating to the East Coast and continuing to direct foreign-language films and educational shorts. In 2018, a full 4K restoration of one of his best-known films, Detour (1945) was released by Janus Films.

Other directors spent their entire careers working in the medical-filmmaking industry. Billy Burke was a lieutenant in the Navy and worked in the Bureau of Medicine. After completing his Navy service, he formed a production company that made dozens of surgical films. NLM holds about 50 films by Billy Burke Productions.
“In filming surgical technique, a surgeon is able to demonstrate clearly such procedures as the swiftness of making the first incision, or the careful excision of pathologic tissue.”