Film & Media Archive Completes Preservation of Rare Promotional Film

The Washington University Libraries’ Film & Media Archive has successfully completed the preservation of Won by a Sweet, a rare silent 16mm promotional film from 1929. The film was produced by R.P. Young Productions for the National Confectioners’ Association (NCA). The project was completed with the support of a Basic Preservation Grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Commissioned by the NCA, the industrial film tells the fictional story of a track coach who, wanting the best performances from his athletes at the State Track Meet, implements a no-candy rule. When his star athlete is caught eating candy before the meet, the coach has no choice but to remove him from the squad. However, as the big meet approaches, the coach, too, toys with the idea of eating candy. In a surreal hallucination, the coach is visited by the “Spirit of Candy,” who liberates him from his misperception that candy isn’t healthy.

The film is a rare and fascinating moving-image example of the promotion of candy in the complex context of 1929, when the nation was on the cusp of the Great Depression. With the rationing of sugar attached to the United States’ involvement in World War I, candy had acquired a bad reputation as being a wasteful use of the sweetener. To counteract the poor public perception, the NCA aggressively promoted sugar as a public good.

Part of the “Candy is Good for You” campaign, Won by a Sweet is a fun, campy time capsule with significant research value to scholars of advertising, economic, social, and cultural history. The film was donated by Dr. Dan Gillen, whose great-grandfather was in the confection business. Funds from the grant were used to generate new preservation elements, including a black-and-white duplicate negative and a new color answer print, as well as Blu-ray access copies for on-site viewing. The film will be available for educational purposes and will be promoted at Washington University Libraries events.

For more information, contact Tyler Bequette, Film Preservationist, Film & Media Archive, at (314) 935-6991 or tbequette@wustl.edu.

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