As a follow up to my recent posts on Rhapsody In Steel, A Coach For Cinderella, and the further animated adventures of Nicky Nome, it’s only appropriate that we briefly rediscover the other screen appearances of Ford’s ‘V8 Imp’.
Just like how Frank Goldman’s A Coach For Cinderella launched the screen career of Nicky Nome, he apparently did the same a few years earlier at Audio Productions with Rhapsody In Steel, as it launched the screen career of the Ford ‘V8 Imp’. As of 2018 only two other films with the V8 Imp exist, The Honeymoon V-8 from 1935 and The Double Feature Program For 1937 from 1936; both films are live action films with animated sequences, that survive complete at the National Archives where they can be viewed and downloaded. Unfortunately how many ‘V8 Imp’ films were made is a bit of a mystery as Ford and Audio did not register these films for copyright and there is not a complete filmography to Audio Productions available. Due to the lack of historical information on the character, this final article in my Rhapsody In Steel Cartoon Research series we’ll be extremely short and not as in depth as the previous four. Hopefully it will instead bring awareness of the character to animation and car buffs and get the word out about other films possibly out there.
The earliest known second appearance of the ‘V8 Imp’ is in a 1935 film entitled The Honeymoon V-8, that was directed by George Glett and Frank Goldman, and features animation by H.L. Roberts along with a wonderful musical score by Edwin E. Ludig. This fun live action two reeler plays out as a romantic travelogue with a newly wed couple touring across the country in their wedding gift, a Ford V8. Throughout the journey, the animated ‘V8 Imp’ highlights popular sites around the country and also the features of their Ford car. Amongst one of the sites they visit is the Rouge River plant (one of the most romantic spaces in the United States!), where the ‘V8 Imp’ reflects upon Henry Ford’s Legacy and the work that goes into manufacturing proud V8 automobiles. (Sadly the newly weds are to much in love to appreciate this American dream of mass production.)
The ending of the film is rather clever as it shows the car ditching the two ‘love birds’, oblivious to anything else around them, and then driving off by itself to visit the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego. The film, which appears to have been made for exhibition in the Ford pavilion at the San Diego fair, was released theatrically to movie theaters and non-theatrically for exhibitions at community club showings (i.e. the Rotary Club). Trade reviews such as an article in the August 25th, 1935 issue of The Film Daily (posted below) stated that this “exceptional short subject” was “one of the most entertaining pictures of romantic youth that has been produced in many seasons” and a film that any short subject producer can study “to learn plenty about putting real entertainment into his product”.
The full film is posted below:
However if you wish to watch the ‘V8 Imp’ segments and the car driving by itself, here is a video highlighting them:
(PS, Apparently you to can get the lady of your dreams if you take her to the location of the Rouge River Plant and reflect upon the legacy of Henry Ford…)
The next known film to feature the V8 Imp is The Double Feature Program For 1937: A Film Story of the 1937 Ford V8-s Which Speak For Themselves from 1936 which was directed by R.F. Chapman and animated by W.O. Bailey. In this film the animated ‘V8 Imp’ is an “ambassador from the motor capitol of the world” who helps a husband and wife find the right car best suited for them: The 1937 Ford with a 60 horsepower or 85 horsepower engine! As the husband and (later) his wife test drive the cars, the 1937 Ford talks to them and the Imp helps showcase the car’s various features. While not quite as good as Rhapsody In Steel and The Honeymoon V-8 this campy production that combines live action and animation, has its charm and is a fun little piece of ephemera. Unfortunately the author has been unable to find details on where this film was shown. However, judging by it’s content and how it’s presented, the author is going to guess that it was only shown non-theatrically, internally to Ford dealers at conferences and possibly non-theatrically at community club meetings. Like The Honeymoon V8 the full film exists at the National Archives and is posted below:
It would not surprise the author if more films or even cartoons (one reel long or 90 second ‘minute movie’ screen ads) starring the V8 Imp, were created for Ford by Audio Productions. With the raved reviews for Rhapsody In Steel and The Honeymoon V-8, it seems only logical that Ford and Audio would collaborate on more ‘V8 Imp’ films. As of 2018, its a mystery how many of these were made, and overall it’s a mystery how many animated films were made by Audio Productions as there is not a consistent filmography available. (For instance, some Audio films such as a lost 1934 Reddy Kilowatt cartoon entitled What’s Watt are documented in copyright logs, while other cartoons such as The Family Album (1931), Getting Together (1933), Once Upon A Time (1934), and Kool Penguins (1935) are not mentioned anywhere in the copyright logs but exist in private collections.) With these details regarding Audio’s animated films, the rave reviews of the early V8 Imp films, and also the unfortunate fact that many Ford industrial films are now lost, it’s very likely that more ‘V8 Imp’ material was probably produced. Hopefully these three existing films along this brief article will help bring interest in the character and lead to other films being rediscovered…
On that note, this wraps up this series of articles regarding Frank Goldman’s Rhapsody In Steel and the films it influenced. I will return on Labor Day where I’ll share some information and treasures regarding another animated steel rhapsody… This one from 1959…