Several servicemen relax by playing pool, but one of them goes off to spend time with a prostitute. Later, he discovers he has contracted a venereal disease. A graphic and frank presentation of the types and treatment of venereal disease follows. —IMDb
Shot quickly at Fox and ready for use by March 1941, the black and white Sex Hygiene is suitably horrifying but also somewhat tongue in cheek. Coing directly from making Tobacco Road, Ford was in a bawdy mood when he filmed the scenes of the soldiers (including George Reeves, later known as TV’s Superman) playing pool in an army canteen before one young man makes the mistake of slipping off to a brothel. The results of his and others’ sexual follies are displayed in a graphic illustrated lecture by a medical officer intoned in stentorian fashion by Charles Trowbridge, who later was promoted by Ford to admiral and/or general in They Were Expendable, When Willie Comes Marching Home and The Wings of Eagles. Perhaps it is fitting that the one Ford film dealing explicitly with sexual themes makes the subject seem so thoroughly revolting.
“Ford just loved it!” recalled the film’s editor, Gene Fowler Jr. :… I think he took a perverse pleasure in showing this shocking stuff." Zanuck once dropped into Ford’s office when the director was interviewing a syphilis victim covered with sores. “He don’t scare me,” growled Zanuck. “Send him down to makeup.” Another time Ford sent wheelchair bound sphilitics to an adjacent soundstage so the could watch scantily clad dancing girls filming a musical number.
The film’s preachiness, urging total abstinence as the best safeguard against VD seems laughably unrealistic even by 1941 standards, but Sex Hygiene reportedly did its job well in scaring the bejesus out of millions of GIs. When Bogdanovich asked Ford what his own reaction was to the film, Ford replied, “I looked at it and threw up.” —Joseph McBride
Maine-born John Ford (born Sean Aloysius O’Fearna) originally went to Hollywood in the shadow of his older brother, Francis, an actor/writer/director who had worked on Broadway. Originally a laborer, propman’s assistant, and occasional stuntman for his brother, he rose to became an assistant director and supporting actor before turning to directing in 1917. Ford became best known for his Westerns, of which he made dozens through the 1920s, but he didn’t achieve status as a major director until the mid-‘30s, when his films for RKO (The Lost Patrol 1934, The Informer 1935), 20th Century Fox (Young Mr. Lincoln 1939, The Grapes of Wrath 1940), and Walter Wanger (Stagecoach 1939), won over the public, the critics, and earned various Oscars and Academy nominations. His 1940s films included one military-produced documentary co-directed by Ford and cinematographer Gregg Toland, December 7th (1943), which creaks badly today (especially compared with… read more