Sunday, 15 September 2013

Chasing the Blues

'Cotton Kings! Are the medieval conditions and dangerous working practices in your dark satanic mills affecting productivity and cutting into your profits? Well, why not spend a few quid you miserable bastards!'

'Chasing The Blues' is a short, frothy film from 1947 which extols the virtues of tidying up the workplace and installing brand new fangled facilities like running water, toilets and canteens. Change is personified by Mr. Will and Mr. Way, two lively dancers from Sadlers Wells who rampage around the mill wielding paint brushes and putting in showers, all the while pirouetting and kicking their legs up to a jolly swing soundtrack by Jack Parnell.

She's happy, she's just been able to join the 20th century by having a wash at work. Next stop: get those teeth sorted! 

The price of progress is neatly shown in terms of increased output and profits rather than cost - an appeal to the head rather than the heart via the wallet - guaranteed to make sense to even the most Dickensian mill owner.   

Energetically and innovatively done, 'Chasing The Blues' owes a lot to Len Lye's jazzy films for the GPO (co-director Jack Ellit had worked with Lye extensively). The most extraordinary thing, I suppose, is that this film was made in 1947, and was targeted at places which, despite having a workforce of thousands, still didn't have places for them to wash their hands or eat their sandwiches.

Thankyou Mr.Will and Mr. Way -but not for your bastard grandchildren, Mr. Health and Ms. Safety.

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