The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 7, 2010 5:40PM

from "Age of Turmoil"
Ah, adolescence. Once upon a time there was more to being a teenager than just texting with your thumbs, hanging out at the mall, and sleeping late on Saturdays. Like being courteous, maintaining personal hygiene, sitting up straight, and laying the foundations for a successful career as corporate drone or model housewife. The Chicago Film Archives has put together a fascinating program of retro shorts from their holdings which highlights an American era when being a teen was both charmingly frightening and scarily dull.

"The Worst Years of Our Lives," screening at 7 p.m. on April 14 at the Chicago Cultural Center, includes three films from the '50s and '60s. Produced by Coronet Instructional Films, Social Courtesy from 1951 examines the sad case of Bill, a teen who's rude, sloppy, and selfish. But he learns to be more considerate, thoughtful and sit up straight in his chair, all with a little help from the etiquette advisors at Coronet. Age of Turmoil, created for Mc-Graw Hill Book Company in 1953, talks directly to parents about the strange creature known as the adolescent. As narrator, Lorne Greene soothingly reassures viewers that, yes, Susie's talking on the phone all the time is perfectly normal. Lastly there's Sixteen in Webster Groves. Produced by CBS News for a 1966 TV special, it profiles a town in Missouri where the teenagers seem to defy the stereotype; rather than being rebellious and withdrawn, they seem unimaginative, conformist, and downright conservative. The documentary's unflattering portrait embarrasses the town even now, decades later.

These movies were all formerly part of the Chicago Public Library's educational films collection. We're glad that Chicago Film Archives is doing their part to keep these fascinating bits of history accessible!

The screening is at the Claudia Cassidy Theater in the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. It's free.