Frank Capra’s Science Film The Unchained Goddess Warns of Climate Change in 1958

Last month, we high­light­ed for you The Strange Case of the Cos­mic Rays, a large­ly-for­got­ten 1957 edu­ca­tion­al sci­ence film. The pro­duc­tion is notable part­ly because it was shot by Frank Capra, the influ­en­tial direc­tor who had won not one, not two, but three Oscars for best direc­tor. And also because the film fea­tured pup­pets of Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky, Charles Dick­ens & Edgar Allan Poe. Don’t believe me? Then watch here.

But the sub­ject of today’s post is not The Strange Case of the Cos­mic Rays. It’s anoth­er of the four films that Capra cre­at­ed for “The Bell Lab­o­ra­to­ry Sci­ence Series.” It’s called The Unchained God­dess, and it has its own rea­sons for get­ting high­light­ed here.

Shown on Amer­i­can TV and lat­er in US class­rooms, The Unchained God­dess explains what weath­er is, and how weath­er works. And, real­ly quite pre­scient­ly, it talks about the risk of man-made cli­mate change … in 1958. One of the nar­ra­tors declares:

Even now, man may be unwit­ting­ly chang­ing the world’s cli­mate through the waste prod­ucts of its civ­i­liza­tion. Due to our releas­es in fac­to­ries and auto­mo­biles every year of more than six bil­lion tons of car­bon diox­ide, which helps the air absorb heat from the sun, our atmos­phere may be get­ting warmer.

And is that bad, the ques­tion gets asked?:

Well, it’s been cal­cu­lat­ed a few degrees rise in the Earth’s tem­per­a­ture would melt the polar ice caps. And if this hap­pens, an inland sea would fill a good por­tion of the Mis­sis­sip­pi val­ley. Tourists in glass bot­tom boats would be view­ing the drowned tow­ers of Mia­mi through 150 feet of trop­i­cal water. For in weath­er, we’re not only deal­ing with forces of a far greater vari­ety than even the atom­ic physi­cist encoun­ters, but with life itself.

Inter­est­ing dia­logue, to be sure. But what makes it all the more intrigu­ing is this: Frank Capra co-wrote the script for the film, and he was no lib­er­al. He was a con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­can, who strong­ly opposed F.D.R. and cel­e­brat­ed Amer­i­can indi­vid­u­al­ism. But Capra stud­ied chem­i­cal engi­neer­ing at Cal­tech and put stock in sci­en­tif­ic research — before it became ide­o­log­i­cal­ly anath­e­ma to do that.

You can watch the key cli­mate change scene from The Unchained God­dess up top, and the full film below. It’s also added to our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pup­pets of Dos­to­evsky, Dick­ens & Poe Star in 1950s Frank Capra Edu­ca­tion­al Film

Fee Online: Meet John Doe, Frank Capra’s Inspir­ing 1941 Clas­sic

Glob­al Warm­ing: A Free Course from UChica­go Explains Cli­mate Change

132 Years of Glob­al Warm­ing Visu­al­ized in 26 Dra­mat­i­cal­ly Ani­mat­ed Sec­onds

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