"Thank God for film archivist Dennis Nyback. If not for his encyclopedic knowledge of rare films and his tenacity for acquiring them, we would never have the privilege to view some astounding works of cinema." Kim Morgan

Dennis Nyback takes his films around the world. Find out how to book a show, what programs are available, how to arrange for custom programming, and just about anything you would like to know about Dennis Nyback.

The Age of Oil: Gasoline in the Twentieth Century


Have you ever given thought to just how insidious and dominating automobiles are in the United States economy?  I wonder if anyone has made a pie chart that shows just how big the slice is.  I suppose it starts with cars coming out of Detroit or being imported from abroad.  Then you have the vast support system for them.   Gas stations are just part of it.  It includes repair shops, parts stores, car washes, detail shops and etc.  It also includes the financing from GMAC to parents buying a car for their kid. Then there is the advertising.  Then you have to factor in the huge cost of all the roads that criss cross the nation.  The amount of money spent on maps has probably lessened but has been replaced by the cost of Mapquest and Google maps.  I am sure I am leaving plenty out.  The last thing to consider is the fuel itself.   The whole Tower of Babel  was predicated on oil coming out of the ground in abundance.  In the Twentieth Century it looked like it would never end.  This programs looks at the subject through films made by petroleum interests, plus a couple of others made for laughs, and one that tries to illustrate the whole thing in ten minutes through a Marxist viewpoint.

American Frontier Produced by American Petroleum Institute  Directed by Willard Van Dyke 1953  BW  28 minutes

This film is quasi-documentary look at a farmer who is approached by oil interests who want to drill on his land.  It is even more piquant if you have seen Gasland which is about the modern equivalent of renting land from farmers to look for natural gas.  In Gasland you can see how drilling for natural gas can result in water coming out of your kitchen faucet that can be set on fire.

California Bound 1934  Short produced by Castle Films in the fifties is a clip from the W.C. Fields film It’s a Gift.  Mr. Fields and his family drive across the United States. BW 10 minutes

Ah, the carefree days of happy motoring with not a care outside of where to stop for lunch.  It was about the time this film was made that Will Rogers made the remark that we would be the first nation that drives to the poor house in an automobile.

Toast 1974  Directed by Daniel Hoffman.  Produced by Technifilm  Portland, Oregon.  A Marxist look at how much oil it takes to produce a piece of toast.  Color  12 minutes

Starting with a swooping view of an off shore drilling platform we see just what it takes to create the slice of bread you drop into your toaster, and if it burns, it is  blithely tossed in the trash.

MAN ON THE LAND Produced by the Oil Industry Information Committee and  made by UPA (United Productions of America)  Produced by Stephen Bosustow  Directed by Bill Hurtz   Animation by Art Babbitt Grim Natwick    1952  Technicolor 15 minutes

Ah, the Oil Industry in the fifties claiming that there is so much oil in the ground that it will never, ever, run out.

Three For Tomorrow excerpt to end   A man considers a job in the oil industry  Parthenon Pictures c1960  color 7 minutes

Just another part of the equation of how tied into every facet of daily life Oil is.  Here it dominates the dinner table conversation of a man seeking his life work.

It’s a Gift Directed by Hugh Fay  Starring Snub Pollard as an inventor who produces an alternative to gasoline.  1923  BW 10 minutes

From the get go there were people looking for something better than gas.  They are still looking.  This 1923 film is a very funny example.