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Electric Stove Cinema Advertisement: Banish Drudgery (c.1940)

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The electric Early Kooka stove education content clip 1

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

‘Mrs Sydney’ (Pat Firman) prepares an evening meal for her husband with her newly acquired electric range while a voice-over emphasises the stove’s economy and efficiency. At the end of the advertisement, she asks to camera: ‘you’ll all eventually cook with electricity so why not now?’

Curator’s notes

The emphasis on economy in this advertisement – of time and of money – is the main selling point of this electric range. In response to the question ‘can I afford it?’, the voice-over assures that ‘the fact is, you cannot afford to be without one’. The stove’s efficiency and ease allows Mrs Sydney to cook a meal ahead of time with no fuss and seemingly no mess. She tells us that the Sydney County Council sells electric ranges with no deposit and five years to pay – an extremely tempting offer given that the Second World War was just beginning and Australians were coming out of a Depression. Today, energy consumption (or rather, where that energy comes from) is a hot political issue. But in the 1940s, electric cooking was just one of many inspired ways to convince householders that electricity use was not just economically sensible, but that electric cooking was the way of the future.

An electric stove similar to the kooka which is advertised here, can be seen in actual domestic use in the 1950 home movie Clarke, R Sydney Diary.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows an advertisement for an early model electric stove. The clip, which is in colour, opens with a shot of the words ‘BANISH DRUDGERY’ superimposed on saucepans and a kettle sitting on a stove. The clip features a young attractive housewife ‘Mrs Sydney’ (Pat Firman) cooking a traditional Australian dinner in an electric oven as a male voice-over expounds on the greater efficiency and the economic benefits of cooking with electricity. The housewife then speaks directly to the camera and encourages viewers to start using electricity for cooking. The clip is accompanied by stirring music.

Educational value points

  • In the 1940s, Australian women who played the roles of housewife and mother were the chief consumers of household goods. Advertising, with its aim of persuading people to buy a product, played on many women’s insecurities and their sense of self-worth. The script of and images in this clip promise that cooking with an electric stove combines the old-fashioned values of homemaking with the modern values of being economic, efficient and independent.
  • The food being cooked in this clip is typical of 1940s Australian food, which was based on the traditional British ‘meat and three veg’. This reflected the influence and heritage of British culture in Australia, which still remained strong in the 1940s.
  • The attempt at British accents made in this advertisement by the housewife as presenter, the man playing her off-screen husband and the man reading the voice-over reflects the cultural cringe displayed by 1940s Australian conservatives. ‘Cultural cringe’ (a sense of inferiority and a belief that anything British was better than anything Australian, particularly in the area of the arts) was a phrase coined in 1950 by the Melbourne critic and social commentator A A Phillips (1900–85).
  • The young housewife in this clip exemplifies the stereotypical role of women common to advertising material in Australian 1940s and 50s society. .Women were presented as being both glamorous and experts in homemaking.
  • In this clip there is some ambivalence about presenting the woman as an authoritative voice. Although the housewife is allowed the last say, the voice-over throughout the advertisement is that of an authoritative male who refers to her as ‘the little lady’.
  • The electric stove being advertised in this clip would have been in competition with gas stoves, which had been in existence for many decades. Electricity is presented as being new, very modern, technology, the way of the future. As the housewife says, ‘You’ll all eventually cook by electricity, so why not now?’
  • The cinematic approach in this advertisement and the advertisement’s execution are typical of most Australian advertising in the 1940s. The script has a heavy-handed approach to describing the benefits of the product, the camera set-ups are static, and wide shots are preferenced over close-ups like those of the electric oven and its temperature knob. In addition the male voice-over’s tone in referring to the ‘little lady’ is common to the time.
  • The direction of this clip is basic. Mrs Sydney’s face is not shown during the phone dialogue, indicating that sync sound was not used here, though at the end of the clip the housewife speaks to camera. The caller’s off-camera voice has not been manipulated to make it sound as though he is on a telephone, the lighting for the shot of the telephone conversation does not match the lighting for the rest of the advertisement and there is clumsy editing between the two final shots of the housewife in the kitchen.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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