Sunday, 13 March 2016

Tralfaz Sunday Theatre – Why Take a Chance?

Combine really obvious back projection of stock shots of 1950s cars with the King of the 1950s Movie Trailers and what do you get? The industrial film Why Take a Chance?

This 10-minute short was made by Jerry Fairbanks Productions, one of the top industrial producers in Hollywood, for General Tire and its ad agency, D’Arcy Advertising. The company was an Oscar-winner; it produced the Speaking of Animals comedy shorts for Paramount, among other films. Fairbanks is known to cartoon fans as the man who bankrolled the original Crusader Rabbit series, then lost ownership of the films in the early ‘50s when his company got into debt with NBC.

The script for Why Take a Chance? was copyrighted on January 8, 1954 by Fairbanks and Leo Rosencrans, who ran his live-action story department (Fairbanks also had an animation department under Lou Lilly). The voice of the highway patrol officer/narrator belongs to Art Gilmore, famous for many years as the announcer on The World Tomorrow religious show. Earlier, he seems to have been the go-to man when you wanted a voice on your ‘50s horror or science fiction movie trailer. Gilmore was also the announcer on the syndicated Highway Patrol TV show starring Broderick Crawford, which was syndicated by Ziv Productions after this industrial film was made.

You’ll love the opening with the happy stock music over stock shots of cars followed by a raspy voice repeating the short’s title. Next comes the back projection behind panicked actors in cars and then CRASH! The next aftermath scene of an accident is great. A child is pulled from a smashed car, after someone who was behind the wheel gets out on the other side and puts his hand to his head. Wouldn’t you think he’d rescue his own child? Then the scene cuts to Gilmore in an official looking uniform, urgently shouting at the audience while cradling a crying girl as more back projection rolls.

The film also features a 1948 Chevrolet going over a cliff, 1953 Mercury Montereys crashing into cardboard cutouts of boys and a 1950 Pontiac being driven off a 10-storey building (at least, it’s a Pontiac when it gets to the bottom).

This isn’t a great industrial (though General Tire seems to have liked it judging by a trade ad) and you’ll have to put up with a time code and a bug from the company wanting to sell you a version with a higher resolution, but if you like old cars or Art Gilmore, you should be able to sit through a decent portion of it.


  1. Loved the old Los Angeles street car in the collision sequence! I want a tire that can fix it's own punctures. Thanks, Yowp, for the Sunday movie!

    1. That poor 1950 Olds didn't come out of it too well, did it? And those things were tanks, too.

  2. I associate Art Gilmore with the narration in many of the Joe McDoakes shorts that George O'Hanlon did for WB; most notably "So You Want to Be a Detective," which has (a la the Lady in the Lake) Gilmore himself as a character, through the POV of the camera.

  3. Yes, Gilmore was "Mr. Trailer" long before Don LaFontaine. He had written the instructional book "Television and Radio Announcing" with Glenn Middleton (years before Stuart Hyde's book of the same name).