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OU on the BBC: Nation On Film - Selling Cars

Updated Tuesday, 24th October 2006

A story of how film sold the car before the days of television advertising, part of the BBC/OU's series Nation on Film.

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film can Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC

Both the film and the car industries developed in the early 20th century.

This programme shows rare footage of a Lanchester car going up a flight of steps at Crystal Palace, London. It was shot in 1904, just eight years after the Lumière brothers brought the first moving picture show to Britain.

Later footage shows how film-makers associated cars with sex appeal, sophistication and liberation. Cars were sold as vehicles that could literally take people to places they’d never seen before. Some films act almost as travelogues, showing cars in dramatic landscapes, travelling up hills, through streams and along spectacular coastal scenery. Films by Ford also show the detail, magnitude and might of mass production.

In the 1930s car manufacturers responded to public concerns about the number of deaths on the roads. Companies like Morris promoted the safety features in their cars. However, manufacturers were still keen to use speed as a key selling point.

First broadcast: Friday 14 Jan 2005 on BBC FOUR

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