You might think this is Peggy Olson from Mad Men. It’s not.
It’s a still from a World’s Fair movie. Local boosters want Minneapolis to host a Fair in 2023. If so, many are asking: will we have wax-sponsored movies about the joys of being alive?
It’s instructive to see how people fifty years ago believed that life was just too damned fast and impersonal. If there’s been an exhibit that foretold a wonderful new world where people could connect around the world instantaneously and beam movies to impromptu networks, it would’ve been lauded as a marvelous innovation. Technology, bringing us together! Instead we moan about smartphones and swoon over the failed picture phone. Granted, the not-Peggy above might be checking Twitter instead of talking to her friend, but a diner counter full of people reading their phones is no more proof of alienation than a row of people reading the newspaper, or just staring into space.
The movie was described thus by the New Yorker:
It was was seen by five million people; accounts of the Fair said people would stand in line for two hours to see it. “Universally acclaimed as the outstanding attraction at the New York World's Fair,” said one history. How did it happen?
In the 1960s, third generation SC Johnson leader H.F. Johnson, Jr., made a bold, marketing move amid the social turmoil of the time. He told executives SC Johnson would create a film and build a pavilion for the 1964 World's Fair. Not a film about the company and its products -- but about the simple joy of being alive. The other company executives questioned the idea, and after hearing all of their concerns, H.F. replied, "Some decisions are only for the brave.”
The other company executives might have wondered what all this had to do with Johnson Wax. Whether the goodwill translated to greater sales, I’ve no idea. In retrospect it seems like the movies they showed in grade school or junior high when the teacher was feeling lousy.
The World's Fair theater, by the way, was moved from New York to Wax HQ, where it's still in use today. From time to time it shows "To Be Alive," as well as the less-popular "Carnuba: a Son's Journey."
Yes, it's about wax.