Watch Dating Dos and Don’ts: An Old-School Instructional Guide to Teenage Romance (1949)

From the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s, Coro­net Instruc­tion­al Media, that for­mi­da­ble fac­to­ry of class­room edu­ca­tion­al films, taught Amer­i­ca’s school­child­ren how to study, how to land a job, how to per­form their soci­etal and fil­ial duties, how to bathe. Cer­tain gen­er­a­tions no doubt retain vivid mem­o­ries, fond or oth­er­wise, of such 16-mil­lime­ter stand­bys as Good Eat­ing HabitsJoan Avoids a ColdAre You Pop­u­lar? and Com­mu­nism. In 1949, Coro­net came up with a short sub­ject rather clos­er to the eter­nal inter­ests of the teenag­er: Dat­ing: Do’s and Don’ts. This twelve-minute film, direct­ed Gilbert Altschul with the assis­tance of Reuben Hill, Research Pro­fes­sor of Fam­i­ly Life at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na, nav­i­gates the gar­den of fork­ing paths formed by all the choic­es, from ide­al­ly gen­tle­man-like to poten­tial­ly dis­as­trous, that con­front young Woody on his very first date.

Who, for instance, should Woody ask to join him at Cen­tral High­’s Hi-Teen Car­ni­val? “Whose com­pa­ny would you enjoy?” asks the voice-of-mid­cen­tu­ry-author­i­ty nar­ra­tor.” “Well, one thing you can con­sid­er is looks. Woody thought of Jan­ice, and how good-look­ing she was. He real­ly had to rate to date some­body like her.” Still: “It’s too bad Jan­ice always acts so supe­ri­or and bored. She’d make a fel­low feel awk­ward and infe­ri­or.” Per­haps the more ground­ed Bet­ty? “And yet, it just does­n’t seem as if she’d be much fun. What about Anne? She knows how to have a good time.” Even 64 years on, I dare­say fel­lows would still do well to cleave to the Annes of the world. But giv­en how far the pen­du­lum of sex­u­al pol­i­tics has swung since Coro­net’s hey­day, oth­er pieces of of Dat­ing: Do’s and Don’ts advice seems more quaint than cur­rent. For a more mod­ern per­spec­tive, see also How to Be a “Mr. Good-Date,” a Looney Tunes par­o­dy star­ring Bugs Bun­ny as the hope­ful suit­or Reg­gie Geran­de­vu and Elmer Fudd as the pro­tec­tive home­own­er of whom he runs afoul.

When you’re done watch­ing Dat­ing: Do’s and Don’ts, don’t miss Coro­net’s 1951 sequel of sorts “Going Steady.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sto­ry Of Men­stru­a­tion: Walt Disney’s Sex Ed Film from 1946

Duck and Cov­er, or: How I Learned to Elude the Bomb

How to Spot a Com­mu­nist Using Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism: A 1955 Man­u­al from the U.S. Mil­i­tary

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les PrimerFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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