Excellent corporate film made for the soap company Hudson & Knight. Ostensibly a film about their sales conference of 1951 the film is a fantastic insight into the training of salesmen, management techniques, advertising strategies, sales campaigns, targeting buyers etc. The management team decide to get their message across with some amateur dramatics.
01:19:58 C/U of the exterior of a News Theatre at night. Interior - audience watch a newsreel story about cricket. Story changes - title "Caravan Conference" is seen on screen. Story follows about a sales convention at Car Olympia. C/U of Bob Danvers-Walker in a sound booth recording his commentary. When he finishes Bob takes off his glasses and talks directly to camera describing how he often feels that he would like to know more about the stories he commentates. The caravan conference had "captured the imagination of the world's press", but Bob was interested in finding out more about the background to the story. (Seen from a 1990s perspective, Bob's sincerity about a Caravan Conference beggars the question "How much did they pay him for this?")
01:21:13 L/S of Houses of Commons. Bob states that the story begins when soap rationing was abolished in 1950. C/U of sales assistant reading of this in the newspaper. He looks very excited. C/U of the newspaper headline. The salesmen hands the paper to a colleague. A salesman comes in and the grocer shakes his hand. Bob tells of the failure of chocolate de-rationing when demand outstripped supply. The more alert soap companies had already prepared for de-rationing with sales campaigns. "1950 was a heyday for salesmen."
01:21:52 L/S of delivery van leaving a depot. "Stork Margarine" is painted on the side of the van. C/U of two men beginning to unload a lorry filled with boxes of "Rinso". Inside the bedroom of the grocer seen earlier, lots of boxes of Rinso are stacked! Mildly comedic sequence follows of the grocer standing on his bed and trying to stack the boxes. A pile of boxes fall over and cover the grocer.
01:22:30 L/S of a Mrs Mop type housewife walking towards the camera on de-rationing day. We see our grocer piling up the boxes he walks down his step ladder. Bob states that "the buying avalanche never really came..." The housewife comes in and only buys two boxes rather than the six offered to her by the grocer. "Buying habits that had grown cautiously" governed how soap powder was sold. Salesman sits writing at a desk filling out his returns. Hudson and Knight is the company featured. "They had reason to be satisfied with their first drive in a free market." They had broken records which had stood for 45 years. C/U of sales charts showing how deliveries and sales are up. Meeting at the firm's headquarters in Wapping. A group of men sit around the table discussing their sales techniques. They talk in rather a forced and stilted manner. It is decided to direct their sales campaign not only at the shopkeeper but also at the housewife. One of the men says of the salesmen: "Julian we must convince them of the need for merchandising." The salesmen will have to radically change their technique.
01:24:17 It is decided to set up "a new line for conferences - everyone under one roof." C/U of men walking along, we see just their lower legs and feet. Two men are looking for a suitable place for their conferences. Various hotels: men come out of the revolving doors of a hotel. Names are seen: Kenilworth, Ivanhoe, Kingsley. L/S of the men looking at Buckingham Palace. They arrive at Earls Court. Empress hall. Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath. Back in Wapping headquarters. The men worry about how to get their chairman's new ideas across to the salesmen. Three men in an office - one sits at the desk, one walks around talking, the other sits on top of a desk. The man standing up paces backwards and forwards. They are having a brainstorm session. C/U of one of the men jotting things down in a notebook. Man walks down an office corridor. A woman in one of the offices calls him in.
01:25:30 The idea they hit upon is the fable (of course!) "dressed in modern clothes and mounted on the stage". C/U of a model stage set. C/U of woman sitting in an office in front of filing cabinets typing. C/U of the paper as it is fed through the typewriter. Four one act comedies are the result to "put across a modern sales philosophy." Four members of staff learn their lines in the model school room where salesmen had been taught their selling lines. The rehearsals are recorded. Camera pans across microphone and recording equipment. The recordings will be played to board members. The board members sit in easy chairs whilst one of the "actors" plays the recording. C/U of some of the men listening and smiling to themselves.
01:26:35 The two members of staff who have been searching for a conference location have at last hit upon the "Olympia Grand Hall." M/S of a man working at a drawing board. C/U of a blueprint of Olympia. C/U of a list of the equipment needed for the conference - a very long list - being fed through the typewriter. Bob Danvers-Walkers underlines the fact that many, many things are needed by saying, "etc. etc. etc." about 15 times. Funny.
01:27:17 L/S of many caravans being driven through a rainy street. Salesmen arriving at a railway station and two climbing into a taxi. High angle shot of interior of Olympia. Many caravans fill the hall. Crowds of 300 salesmen wander around the conference. Two of the salesmen open the door to a caravan and go inside. It has all home comforts. Presumably they will be sleeping here.
01:28:04 C/U of two pints of beer. Beer garden inside Olympia. Men sit at tables with gingham tablecloths sipping beer and smoking. L/S of the circus ring at Olympia performing horses trot around the ring. L/S of audience. Various shots of men cutting and painting wood to construct the set for the fables.
01:28:24 The set is constructed. Shots of this are intercut with shots of the circus. C/U of a newspaper report about "The Caravan Village". Two salesmen in bed in their pyjamas read the newspapers and smile. Caravan doors open and salesmen walk out. High angle shot of salesmen sitting in an auditorium. Various shots of the salesmen. C/U of a programme for "Olympian Fable the second - Humpty Dumpty."
01:29:43 We see part of the fable performed on stage. The fable is set in a courtroom. A policeman is being questioned by a barrister. The salesmen in the audience laugh at some of the jokes. One of the characters is given a tube of Vim to swear upon (rather than a bible). Lots of in-jokes that the salesmen would understand about market research, sales for 1950, standards of cleanliness, etc. The sales techniques of Hudson & Knight are praised. The market research man accidentally shows the judge a picture of a glamour girl. The judge makes a joke about "curves." The judge is paid by the Company Chairman. The salesmen listen to his summing up with great interest. Crux of the matter is that salesmen must turn their attention to the housewife as well as the grocer. Some of the salesmen chat to one of the actors. They sit at tables and chat to each other about what they have seen. A dartboard can be seen in the background, and also a table skittles game.
01:34:52 Backstage - we meet some of the actors. The Advertising Director is cast in the role of Parson. "The Lion and the Mouse" is the second fable featured. C/U of programme. This fable is about marketing strategy. "One can't afford to stand still, you've got to move with the times..." The grocer and the housewife seen earlier answer questions about the influences on the soap market as if they are part of a machine. "Who controls soap stocks in 1950?" is the question. The grocer steps forwards and says "I did". "Who'll control them in 1951?" "I will!" replies the housewife. Some comedy business ensues.
01:37:27 Another machine is featured - an advertising machine. The Advertising Director appears inside a television set type box. C/U of the Parson speaking about how to appeal to the housewife through advertising. A hand turns a dial over which a sign reading "Do Not Touch" is hanging. Through a camera trick the Parson head suddenly changes to a pair of women's legs! Laughter from the audience and applause.
01:38:43 Salesmen travel back to "the hard realism of their daily contacts." Two men sit together on a train talking about the new sales philosophy. Shot of the train moving away from the camera. The Pathe cockerel is seen as if on a cinema screen. It then enlarges to fill the screen with the Pathe News logo.
01:39:12 Intertitle reads: "This Was News" was a Film Report on the 1951 Sales Conference of Hudson & Knight Ltd.
Directed by Peter Bradford. Photographed by Reg. W. Cavender. Commentary written by Lambton Burn. Edited by Lionel Hoare. Commentary spoken by Bob Danvers-Walker. Sound Recorded by Jack Miller.
Note: a documentation file exists with commentary and shot list.