Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?: A 1958 Look at How Modern Gadgets & Conveniences Lead to Existential Hell

Think grow­ing feel­ings of iso­la­tion in a world of mod­ern con­ve­niences is a new phe­nom­e­non? Slap a dial on that smart­phone, shove a col­lectible rock­et in your kid’s cere­al box, hop in a Cad­dy with fins and think again, pal!

Have I Told You Late­ly That I Love You, a cau­tion­ary tale cre­at­ed by Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia stu­dents in 1958, is a far-from-silent film marked by a near-total absence of human speech. The lit­tle boy char­ac­ter seems hap­py enough with his pop­si­cle and tele­vi­sion West­erns, but his white-col­lar dad and house­wife mom are marooned in their indi­vid­ual exis­ten­tial hells, unable to con­nect. Could the new­fan­gled, labor sav­ing devices with which their home and dad’s work­place abound be to blame?

The newsy radio report play­ing inter­mit­tent­ly in the back­ground would cer­tain­ly have it so. Sto­ries of hair loss, headaches and a kid shoot­ing his father over a TV-relat­ed dis­pute sug­gest none too sub­tly that progress has long been a source of anx­i­ety.

I might sug­gest that the moth­er is suf­fer­ing more from the rigid gen­der roles of her era than the tyran­ny of an auto­mat­ic dish­wash­er. Per­haps the sub­urbs weren’t offer­ing them much in the way of com­mu­ni­ty. Isn’t it pos­si­ble that the rela­tion­ship has gone cold due to the father’s pen­chant for hop­ping in bed with the girls from the steno pool?

That’s pret­ty stan­dard behav­ior on Mad Men, no?

While this short film offers none of the afore­men­tioned’s sexy, booze-soaked highs, there’s quite a bit of black-and-white design porn on dis­play. Dic­ta­phones, gleam­ing kitchen appli­ances,  a music box that dis­pens­es cig­a­rettes…

Oth­er­wise it’s a vision of an aver­age Amer­i­can 1950’s fam­i­ly as con­ceived of by Ing­mar Bergman.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Before Mad Men: Famil­iar and For­got­ten Ads from 1950s to 1980s Now Online

How a Clean, Tidy Home Can Help You Sur­vive the Atom­ic Bomb: A Cold War Film from 1954

How the CIA Secret­ly Fund­ed Abstract Expres­sion­ism Dur­ing the Cold War

Ayun Hal­l­i­day has always pre­ferred the Roar­ing Twen­ties. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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