THE HOME ELECTRICAL: UN FILM DE GENERAL ELECTRIC

Behold “The Home Electrical”, an informational film produced by General Electric in 1915 demonstrating all the new, modern and convenient devices one could now litter there home with, thus making the home ‘electrical’. It’s a fascinating view into another century (actually two centuries since the film was made early enough in the 20th century to qualify as belonging in many ways to the late 19th century) and a reminder that, once upon a time, not only did we survive without cellphones, but we survived without strange contraptions like the one shown at five minutes and thirty seconds in, which has no modern utilitarian use as far as I can tell.

The plot, such as it is, is rather simple. ‘Mr. Newhouse’ (get it?) is thinking of updating his house to the new electric standard and Mr. and Mrs. Wise (get it?) show off there already souped up pad. Many of these new electric innovations are a bit puzzling. The vaccuum cleaner system is somehow located in the basement, the lunch is called a ‘chafing lunch’ (hmmm), the cigars are lit with a device that appears to be an electric lighter, the master of the house’s workshop contains a strange hanging tool that looks more like a torture device than anything else and the final shot is of the Wise’s sitting by what appears to be a heating device but is shaped like a large table with a very pretty GE logo on the side. (There must be one of these things on E-Bay). Even the car that we see in the opening of the film (a Studebaker I believe) is referred to as ‘my electric’ by the owner. Is this actually the first electric car?

Like all antique movies, much of the pleasure in the viewing experience lies in the ‘meta-film’ experience; Whose house was it shot at and where was it located? (For Edison-like reasons, my vote is somewhere in New Jersey). Who were the actors playing ‘Mr. Newhouse’ and Mr. and Mrs. Wise ? Were they theatrically trained or simply off the street? Who directed it? For whom was it made–salesmen or the general public? And if the latter, then where was it shown? (In an electric theater, of course). Why do they stay on shots so long after they’ve served their purpose–did the editor fall asleep or something? (Perhaps they edited the thing with that weird device shown at five minutes and thirty seconds). Did they have a wrap party where they all got blotto and started wrecking the appliances? My guess is the woman playing Mrs. Wise was  the girlfriend of the director, who promised her bigger and better parts in the future,,,only first she had to watch him take a shower and give him a massage.

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