A Celebration of NFI Films  

Irish Film Institute

The IFI Irish Film Archive holds one of the largest collections of film and film-related materials in Ireland. This exhibit highlights a selection of National Film Institute films made between the early 1940s and 1960s. Asides from their educational and historical importance, the NFI produced films are note-worthy not only for their high production values and interesting content, but also for the calibre of those involved in their creation.

National Film Institute films from 1940s -1960s
The National Film Institute of Ireland (now the Irish Film Institute) was founded in 1943. In addition to maintaining a distribution library of films to schools, colleges and associations around the country, they also became involved in the production of safety, health and educational films in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Many of these films were commissioned by Government Departments to offer information on matters of public health and safety, personal finance and on historical and cultural subjects. The NFI films often used humour, a drama documentary style and well- known faces to get their message across and they proved popular with audiences of the time. 

The National Film Institute was founded in 1943 under the patronage of Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, its moral and educational agendas were clear. The Archbishop believed it was important that the Church was actively involved in the production and distribution of film, thus counteracting the immoral influence of commercially produced films.

His main point of reference was Vigilianti Cura (1936) an encyclical on the use and misuse of films issued by Pope Pius XI, which called for the Catholic Church’s involvement in all aspects of motion pictures.

"Uachtarán na hÉireann" showing the inauguration of Sean T. O'Kelly as President of Ireland in 1945. Taoiseach Eamonn de Valera and Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid are in attendance. Also seen are Cardinal McRory, Sean Lemass and Sean McEntee.

National Film Institute's First AGM held at the Gresham Hotel on January 23, 1946. Pictured are P.J. O'Hagan, J.D. Sheridan, D.J. O'Flynn (Chairman), J, Fagan, , Dr. M. Quane and P. O'Keffe at a table

NFI films made for the Department of Health tackled such varied subjects as TB prevention and cure (Dr Noel Browne’s TB Film [1946] and Voyage to Recovery [1953]) diphtheria immunisation (Stop Thief [1953]) , food hygiene (Gnó Gach Éinne [Everybody's Responsibility] 1951) and dental care (Keep your Teeth [1951 & 1968]).

A young man (Joe Lynch) contracts tuberculosis to the dismay of his wife (Joan O’Hara) and to the shame of her aunt (Marie Keane). He recovers following a long spell convalescing in a Tuberculosis sanatorium.
A public information film infused with tension and humour directed by actor/playwright Gerard Healy, this dramatized film looks at the treatment of TB in Ireland and was designed to encourage people to have regular health check-ups and to reduce the social stigma associated with the disease. The film opens with a young man believing he has a cold but when it lingers, is prevailed upon by his wife to see a doctor. The doctor diagnoses TB in its early stages, a disease which was widely associated with poverty and lack of hygiene, and which greatly upsets Aunt Mary. The young man’s case is followed through all the stages of treatment until he leaves the sanatorium restored to his normal good health. The film ends with statistics on governments efforts to reduce TB including building of new sanatoria in Dublin and Galway.
TB was a scourge that ravaged Ireland for much of the last century killing over 10,000 people a year with more than half of them children. This highly infectious disease thrived in crowded tenements in Dublin’s inner city and in the poorly ventilated and thatched cottages in the countryside. By the early 1950s, public awareness, new treatments and improvements in medical care saw the death rate from TB drop from 4,306 in 1943 to 1,600 in 1952. By the end of the 1950s the epidemic had been eradicated.
This film was one of a series of informational films produced by the National Film Institute (now IFI) in both Irish and English versions. The cast of talented, bi-lingual actors would shoot their dialogue scenes in Irish and then in English (or vice versa) and two versions were then edited, titled as appropriate and released in theatrical and non-theatrical venues such as cinemas, schools and clubs.

Publicity information leaflet for Department of Health film "Voyage to Recovery", written and directed by Gerard Healy.

On the set of "Stop Thief", George Fleischmann filming Gerard Healy (director) with school children in Dublin.

George Fleischmann Director Of Photography,Editor

For the Department of Local Government, the Institute produced a series of road-safety films, including Mr Careless Goes to Town (1949), Safe Cycling (1949) directed by Liam O'Leary.

A road safety film where Mr. Careless, usually a good law-abiding citizen, becomes a menace when he gets behind the wheel of a car.
Produced by the National Film Institute for the Department of Local Government in 1949 and directed by Liam O’Leary, this road safety film warns of the dangers of drink driving and the dire consequences that can result. Mr. Careless proves to be a most inconsiderate driver as he faces a series of scenarios where he fails to adhere to basic rules of road. His journey takes him from the Wicklow Hills and the village of Avoca into Dublin’s busy streets passing Christchurch, College Green and the Custom House. Though the tone is sometimes humorous, the message is very serious as the film promotes safe, alcohol-free driving and illustrates the perils of drink-driving with grim statistics.

Cycling through a city can be a stressful experience. This public information film, produced by the National Film Institute (now IFI) for the Department of Local Government and directed by filmmaker (later archivist) Liam O Laoghaire (aka O’Leary), advises on the best cycling practice around busy Dublin streets.
This public safety film from 1949 was shot with tongue firmly in cheek. While dangerous cycling habits are usually nothing to smile about, their re-enactment for the purposes of instruction and amusement can make for entertaining viewing. The film shows the streets of 1940s Dublin filled with cyclists – some heavily burdened, some devil-may-care, some attentive to the rules of the road, some not at all – and provides an unusual saddle-level view of a wide range of north and south city locations. From the history of the bicycle to basic road safety procedures this film can still teach even the most proficient cyclist of today a thing or two.

The NFI films often used humour, a drama documentary style and well- known faces to get their message across and they proved popular with audiences of the time. In addition to the titles made for the education of their audiences the Institute made films for the their entertainment; the most well known of these was the series of GAA football and hurling finals filmed between 1948- 1968.

One of the highlights of the GAA series is the All Ireland Hurling Finals of 1959, which includes footage of the official opening of the new Hogan Stand at Croke Park.

The NFI films "A Nation Once Again" (1946) and "W.B. Yeats: A Tribute" (1950) were made for the Department of External Affairs.
This is the original agreement for the distribution of the film, "A Nation Once Again" a film, with narrated documentary and dramatised historical scenes, made to commemorate the centenary of the death of Thomas Davis. 
"W.B Yeats: A Tribute" shows Yeats's poems set to visuals of Sligo countryside, Dublin and London. The film begins with nature images and then moves to Drumcliff Cemetary where Yeats is buried. On his headstone is the inscription "Cast a cold eye on life, on death, Horseman Pass By". Dublin's various city scenes, a haystack in the country and the bustling centre of London follow. The film returns to more nature imagery and then shots of the ruins and land of Coole and Ballylee Castle. Portraits in the Abbey Theatre are shown, as well as advertisements for "The Playboy of the Western World". Following sequence includes landscape shots.
"The Art of  Reception" is a humourous film indicating the rights and wrongs of hotel management in terms of guest hospitality. It was a Government Department film produced for Bord Failte Eireann. Cyril Cusack's character visits the Alpha Hotel which has poor hygiene, bad service and is poorly maintained. He spends an unpleasant night there. However, the hotel comes under new management and he returns to find it clean, efficient and friendly.

The original contract between Director, Gerald Healy and the NFI for film " Art of the Reception"

The NFI also collaborated with Department of Posts and Telegraphs and An Post to produce films that encouraged people to save in lean economic times: Where Does the Money Go? (1954), Our Money at Work (1957) and Love or Money (1961). 

"Where Does the Money Go?" one of a series of public information films directed with verve and humour by actor/playwright Gerard Healy, this film was commissioned by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in the impoverished years of the 1950s, in an attempt to encourage Irish spendthrifts to mend their frivolous ways.
The film’s intention was to encourage people to save in the Post office, to help provide security for their family, for a holiday, old age or in the event of an illness.
The viewer is given many examples of how people are careless with money, a housewife wastes food and electricity, a young woman fritters away her earnings on hats and magazines, and a bachelor puts his money on horses, greyhounds and into the barman’s pocket. The film includes evocative scenes of O’Connell Street and the GPO as well as the hustle and bustle of Moore Street Market in 1952.
This film was one of a series of informational films produced by the National Film Institute (now IFI) in both Irish and English versions. The cast of talented, bi-lingual actors would shoot their dialogue scenes in Irish and then in English (or vice versa) and two versions were then edited, titled as appropriate and released in theatrical and non-theatrical venues such as cinemas, schools and clubs.

In this light-hearted cautionary tale Milo O’Shea and Maureen Toal star as young office workers whose engagement is doomed unless they create some financial security. The film sponsored by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs illustrates the benefits of saving with the Post Office.Donal (Milo O’Shea) is forced to take action after his fiancée, Maureen (Maureen Toal) returns his engagement ring because he has no money saved for their big day. In a series of Walter-Mittyesque fantasies he dreams up a series of get-rich-quick schemes – from winning the lottery to saving a wealthy heiress – before he finally does the decent thing and sorts out his Post Office Savings account.One of a series of dramatised public information films written by actor/playwright Gerard Healy, this one was produced by the National Film Institute (now IFI), directed by Ronald Liles and commissioned by the Savings Committee of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in the straitened 1960s, in an attempt to encourage Irish spendthrifts to avoid squandering their money away and to start saving

National Film Institute invoice for showings of National Savings Committee films January to June 1969.

By the early 1980s, Church influence within the NFI had declined, and in 1982, the decision was made to delete references to the Vigilanti Cura from the articles of association in order to reflect the now secular nature of the Institute, and to rename the organisation as the Irish Film Institute (IFI). While it was clear that the Irish Film Institute was no longer concerned with the morals of its audience, education through (and about) film was still a significant part of its remit: an education department was developed with the aim of bringing a broader and deeper experience of cinema to audiences of all ages and abilities, from primary school children to senior citizens.
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