Sun. Sep 25th, 2022

It’s not alone. In fact, “Easy to Get” is part of one of the most overlooked and unusual subsets of films: the World War II training film. Most of these films made for the thousands of American men who enlisted or were drafted during the war were meant to cover the basics of military life and survival: jungle warfare, the care and maintenance of weapons, personal hygiene, duty and responsibility, and, of course, keeping your mouth shut to avoid spilling militarily secrets to enemy ears. 

But there was another subset within this subset: training films that dealt with sex and how to avoid catching venereal disease. With so many men volunteering or getting drafted, the Armed Forces were facing a problem. Many of these men came from small towns and rural areas, which were more plentiful back during the ‘30s and ‘40s. That meant that most of these men were, to put it delicately, relatively naïve and unschooled in the ways of the big wide wicked world. And this was especially a problem when these fighting men were on furlough in those sin pots of depravity better known as big urban cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Houston.

These short films, usually running no longer than 30 minutes, were financed and produced by the military, employing the facilities of Hollywood studios in Los Angeles. Studios gladly waived any sort of production or rental fees as their part of the war effort. Furthermore, one very important aspect of these films is that they were only for military personnel and not for public viewing by regular filmgoers. As a result, these movie were not under any restrictions of the Production Code, and could use more explicit language and imagery that couldn’t be possible in any Hollywood film or short of the period. 

The popular series of animated shorts about Private SNAFU aka Situation Normal All Fouled (or put your favorite F word here) Up made from 1942-45 by Warner Bros under the direction of legendary WB animation greats such as Chuck Jones, Frank Tashlin, and Fritz Freleng were filled with all sorts of sexual innuendo, rough language and lewd behavior. Another WB training cartoon has Porky Pig saying to the audience “son of a bitch”!

However there was a fly in the ointment. Segregation was the law of the land in the South, and in many parts of the West, Midwest, and East as well. Segregation affected every part of life for Black folk and their existence including, not surprisingly, even entertainment. Though there were numerous and now legendary Black theaters and clubs, many night spots and venues were forbidden to Black patrons even if the performers in these places were Black themselves. Movie theaters segregated Black audiences to certain sections of the establishment such as the balcony. Other theaters would restrict attendance for Black filmgoers to certain days and times.

By admin