#138) The Way of Peace (1947)

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#138) The Way of Peace (1947)

OR “Plastic Jesus”

Directed & Written by Frank Tashlin

Class of 2014

The Plot: Funded by the Lutheran Church and narrated by Lew Ayres, “The Way of Peace” is a stop-motion tale about the dangers of non-belief in our modern (‘40s) world. After a whirlwind CliffsNotes version of the Bible (both Old and New Testament), we are warned that turning away from God and His message will lead to mankind’s destruction, as demonstrated by a lot of miniature sets being blown up.

Why It Matters: The NFR describes the film’s history and undertaking, but cites no specific reason why the film has been chosen for preservation. A much more detailed look at the film can be found in this article by Mark Quigley of UCLA’s Film Archive (who, not so coincidentally, recently restored this film).

But Does It Really?: The aforementioned article helps a bit, and I can give this film a pass on historical merit. If you’re willing to overlook the film’s (obvious and intentional) heavy-handedness, at its core is a plea to stop killing each other, from a generation that had just survived yet another war to end all wars. Sadly, 70 years later, we still need the reminder.

Everybody Gets One: While not his only NFR entry (see “Legacy” below), we’ll give a quick shout-out to director Frank Tashlin. An animator for practically every major studio in the ‘30s, Tashlin finally landed at Warner Bros., helming many of their shorts, including the infamous “Private Snafu” shorts during World War II. Artist and sculptor Wah Ming Chang produced “The Way of Peace” through his business venture, The East-West Film Company. Among his many accomplishments over the years are the communicators used on the original “Star Trek” series.

Wow, That’s Dated: Atomic age paranoia, and the organ as a dramatic instrument (forever associated with early soap operas).

Take a Shot: As if they knew that 70 years later some yahoo would try to turn this into a drinking game, the phrase “the way of peace” pops up frequently in this 18 minute short. I’m pretty sure at one point Lew Ayres says it twice in the same sentence.

Seriously, Oscars?: No Animated Short nomination for “The Way of Peace”. The winner that year was “Tweetie Pie”, the first Merrie Melodies cartoon to pair Sylvester with Tweetie.

Other notes

  • This is the only film I could find that was produced by Christian Films, a company with the imaginative logo of, wait for it…a cross.
  • Jeez, half of this movie is credits.
  • This thing has all the production values of an episode of “Thunderbirds”.
  • Lew Ayres warns about man building walls out of fear, intolerance, and greed. Have you guys talked to the Cards Against Humanity people lately?
  • What is the New Testament if not the Bible’s soft reboot?
  • In true “Ben-Hur” fashion, we do not see Jesus’ face. But someone did make a Claymation Jesus, remember that as you go about your day.
  • We went from Jesus’ crucifixion to Nazis and lynchings real quick. I think I got whiplash.
  • Atomic bombs really are just an extension of penises.
  • Why did I pick a nuclear destruction film to watch right now?
  • It must have been fun blowing up miniatures that day on set.
  • Okay we get it! Total friggin’ annihilation! Move on!
  • The film ends with the passage John 3:17. I thought John 3:16 was the one everyone liked quoting. Anyway, I’m more of a John 11:35 man myself.

Legacy

  • Frank Tashlin somehow pivoted from animated shorts to live-action features, directing several Jerry Lewis titles as well as fellow NFR entry “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
  • I’ll go ahead and blame this short for “Davey and Goliath”.

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