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Master Hands 1936

I posted a clip last week of a 1930's automobile production line and mentioned that it came from the excellent film entitled 'Master Hands', someone asked who and what was Master Hands and what did it refer too. In response I put forward this (admitted repost) of an historic classic film set to Wagnerian tones played by the Detroit Philharmonic Orchestra of the mighty Chevrolet Automobile Manufacturing Plant in Flint Michigan.

among the opening lines are;

From the master hands of the toolmakers
to the hands that master the great machines
come the tools and patterns and dies
and then the great factories start..

(taken from the archive)
Molten metal flowing into a mold spells out the film's title in heat and light. A full symphony orchestra plays a score of an adapted Wagnerian Symphony. A negative and positive film sandwiched together (a rare effect in the 1930s) casts a surreal filter over workers filing into the factory. This is high drama, pretentious filmmaking and one of the most impressive records of mass production ever made.

It's 1936, the year that Chaplin's Modern Times and Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will were produced, and it was also the year of Master Hands. Produced ostensibly as a tribute to the "master hands" of the Chevrolet craftsmen, Master Hands looks much more like management's own tribute to itself -- the designers of the system of mass production.

Embodying a genre that might be called capitalist realism this featurette uses the representational methods of the Soviet and German cinemas to strengthen its vision of American enterprise. From Thirties Soviet socialist realism Master Hands borrows a concern for presenting masses of mobilized workers, a fascination with larger-than-life machines, and a sense of economic emergence through technology.

From the Germans, and specifically from fascist representation, it appropriates the mythology of the four elements (showing how earth, air, fire and water are all part of automobile manufacturing) and adapts Wagner's music which, in its original form, portrays the foundry of the gods. Valuing intuition over interpretation, it avoids even narration except for one bit near the beginning:


There's loads more in this vein but I repo'd the above to give you the sense of awe and wonder this film once held - and still does for some (like me!). This is one of my all time faves and from the moment the furnaces are lit to produce the electric to drive the machines the film gathers pace and tells a fantastic visual story of Auto production in the USA of the 1930's.

please note; this is a long film and tells of Industrial History, if the idea does not appeal I strongly urge you to go no further for you will be hugely disappointed... for those that do like this industrial material grab a beer sit back and watch this all time classic of the genre - unsurpassed this side of Zimbabwe.

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Added: May-9-2012 Occurred On: May-9-2012
By: thecleaner001
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Tags: a BR (blatant repost) but what a BR, Master Hands, 1936, Chevrolet Motors, The Machine, blue collar workers, industrial production, hard working men, thecleaner001, zimbabwean practices,
Location: Michigan, United States (load item map)
Views: 2354 | Comments: 34 | Votes: 7 | Favorites: 3 | Shared: 7 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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