An MGM Movie Short from 1949 Shows a Very Different Michigan
Rabbitholes. I love them, and I found myself in another one. I was watching an old movie on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and after it ended, it filled with a movie short, sometimes called a travelogue. "Calling on Michigan" is one in a series from MGM TravelTalks. These shorts were fillers shown at movie theatres back in the day, much like now they show commercials and previews. But remember, in 1949, when this TravelTalks short was produced, hardly anyone had a TV set, so this was a way for many people to see things they might not otherwise be able to see.
Another thing that makes this one special is it is in color. I love black and white film, but in this instance, color makes it feel more real, rather than just a monochromatic piece of history.
The film starts with these opening words: "this is Lansing, Michigan", and it's a look at downtown Lansing almost 75 years ago, and its starts by telling us the state capital's location was chosen because it was remote enough "to be safe from foreign invasion". That's followed by a look at the State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, and it shows a giant statue of a spartan, and you realize the school the narrator is talking about is what we now call Michigan State University. And it's only been officially MSU since 1964, not exactly ancient history.
After a quick shot of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, there's a long piece on Grayling, the city, and the fish for which it's named.
(Yatra Helpline on YouTube)
Another thing to put some perspective on this is that there's no mention of the Mackinac Bridge because work hadn't even started on it yet and it wouldn't be finished for another eight years. But there is a nice shot of the Ambassador Bridge as the film transitions from the AuSable River to the Detroit River.
You do see a nice look at mid-20th century Detroit and a time when the city was the automotive capital of the world. Then the film segues to show some of Grosse Pointe and St. Clair Shores. The film concludes with a segment on Greenfield Village from some 70 years ago, with details on Henry Ford and his friend Thomas Edison.
One thing some of the other movies in this series did show you were historical figures when they were alive, but not in this one, other than a bit at the end about Ford and Edison.
This TravelTalks feature is truly a glimpse at another time and era, and I believe it's quite fascinating.