Cindy Goes to a Party
Courtesy of Prelinger Archives
Cinderella resurfaced in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1955, this time as Cindy, a bit of a tomboy who is decidedly unsure of her social status. Her vexing problem: some of the kids at school are having a birthday party, and she hasn't gotten an invitation. Falling asleep, Cindy wakes and is greeted by a young woman in formal dress identifying herself as her fairy godmother, who transports her and friend Dennis (who needs some education in manners) to the party. While the other partygoers, quite unaware of the intense training happening around them, play games and consume refreshments, the fairy godmother sets up a series of didactic demonstrations of proper party behavior for Cindy and Dennis.Liberal use is made of the magic wand, superimposed titles ("Don't break things" and "Leave on time") and minor cinema trickery. When Cindy wakes, the invitation is in her mother's hands and she really is going to the party. But she's changed, like so many dreamers in educational films. No longer a tomboy, she is growing into a "good girl."Educational and training films are full of dreams, an ideal vehicle to enable the imagination of scriptwriters. Troubled protagonists fall asleep and are visited by supernatural figures with special expertise and knowledge. Although few mid-century educational films ever explicitly counseled children on the acceptance of proper gender roles, a good many of them contain strong implicit messages to this effect. For Cindy, gravitating away from a mixed gender identification to full-blown "girliness" is presented as a necessity and as an answer to her expressed need to "fit in." This is the way it came down in 1955, and not enough has changed.As scriptwriter Trudy Travis reveals in her interview (on the Make Mine Freedom disc), Centron shot most of its productions in and around Lawrence, using nonprofessional talent from the nearby University of Kansas and elsewhere. Their films collectively form an unusually interesting record of the "look and feel" of Lawrence and the surrounding area throughout the postwar years. While Centron, like other producers, generally avoided explicit regional references, it made no attempt to homogenize the distinctive speech and mannerisms of its prairie-reared talent and, perhaps without intending to, created movies that have real ethnographic and documentary value quite aside from their declared subject matter.