The Washington University Libraries’ Film & Media Archive has received a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) to preserve 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).
Won by a Sweet tells the fictional story of a track coach who implements a no-candy rule to ensure the best performances from his athletes at the state track meet. When his star athlete eats candy before the meet, the coach removes 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 the coach 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, on the cusp of the Great Depression. With the rationing of sugar attached to the U.S.’ 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 grandfather was in the confection business. The film will be available for educational purposes and will be promoted at Washington University Libraries events.
Washington University was one of 24 institutions selected for a Basic Preservation Grant by the NFPF in 2018.