Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Pelham in Movies: 1942 Civil Defense Movie Filmed in Pelham

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Early in the history of the medium, Pelham and its residents had a fascination with motion pictures. Indeed, Pelham locations were used in the filming of many early movies, raising the level of “movie madness” in the Town. For example, the exterior of a large home owned by Raymond M. Owens, one of the developers of the Reo car, was featured in many of Mary Pickford’s films.

An interesting tidbit of "movie history" in Pelham involved the filming in Pelham of "Better Safe Than Sorry", a Civil Defense film created at the outset of World War II only months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On March 6, 1942, The Pelham Sun published an account of the filming. That account appears below. No accessible copy of the film seems to exist in Pelham. Nor does the New York firm that filmed it, General Business Films, Inc., seem to exist any longer. Anyone with information about the film or about General Business Films, Inc. (or its successor(s), if any) is asked to contact the author of this Blog.

"Civilian Defense Workers Are 'Shot'! There Are No Casualties; Cameramen Take Picture Record of Activities

Pelham was recently 'invaded' by a film production unit that 'shot' nearly a hundred scenes during a representative assortment of defense activities all over town. The picture crew was composed of volunteers from General Business Films, Inc., New York, who are donating their services without charge. Under the general supervision of the Defense Council, with the guidance of Vice-Chairman Clarence L. Law and Deputy Director Kenneth R. Kelly, the workers included producer Francis Lawton, Jr., president of the film company and Chairman of the Defense Councils' Materials Conservation Committee; Ford Springer, director; David L. Quaid, cameraman, and Herbert H. Grodewald, electrician.

Their equipment of cameras, lights and incidentals made a hefty station wagon load, which was hauled around from place to place by Red Cross Motor Corps members Miss Emma Helbock and Miss Jane Carter.

Whether by accident or design, producer chairman Lawton thought of salvage first, and began with a couple of boys dragging a toy express wagon containing neatly bundled newspapers and magazines. Then a village collection truck, with its three operators piling up waste materials of many kinds. On to the Pelham Manor incinerator, serving all three villages, to 'shoot' the delivery; sorting and shipping of various salvaged materials. A truck load of junk was followed to the great thirty ton metal baling press that takes everything in its stride, from a small tomato can to a large automobile top, all at the same top [sic]. Wham! And out comes a neat, solid lump ready for shipment to feed hungry steel mills.

Through days and evenings, the busy photographers pushed on, from one scene of action to the next, until they had covered about everything except a bomb actually falling in our midst. From activities at Defense Headquarters, they proceeded to a test alarm at the Control Center. Thence to the scene of an 'incident' rehearsal at a selected Pelham residence. Here, all departments responded systematically, going through their respective functions in a most efficient and convincing manner, truly reassuring to the fortunate few who were present.
Fire houses and police stations were visited, and auxiliary training groups photographed at work. Cameraman Quaid had to be almost forcibly restrained from joining the intriguing hose and ladder drill under the interest inspiring direction of Fire Chief Brannan, Nutrition and first aid classes, regular and volunteer ambulances, representative business and residential neighborhoods, emergency hazard, typical individual emergency provisions, and many other interesting and important things were 'shot' from sunrise to moonrise. Thus a complete pictorial slide-film story was assembled, in accordance with the carefully prepared scenario of Pelham Defense work, and accompanying explanatory narration.

The premier of the news film, 'Better Safe Than Sorry,' will be at the Defense Councils' Town Meeting, Memorial High School, Tuesday evening, March 10th, at 8 p. m. Afterwards the film will be loaned for participating organization meetings, on request to Defense Headquarters, Pelham 8-2610."

Source: Civilian Defense Workers Are "Shot"! There Are No Casualties; Cameramen Take Picture Record of Activities, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 31, No. 48, Mar. 6, 1942, p. 5, col. 3.

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