Cinema History from the Cold War!

To Live Tomorrow
F.C.D.A
The Institute of Life Insurance
1955

In March of 1955, President Eisenhower gave a press conference addressing the United States' willingness to use atomic weapons, startling both political rivals and attending journalists with the directness of his speech.  Responding to comments made earlier by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower compared tactical nuclear weapons to bullets, reiterating his intention to use them in battle when the situation would prove advantageous.  When asked about the consequences such a blunt position would have on the American population, Eisenhower replied "The great chore you have here is to give people the facts, show them what they (atomic weapons) can do without terrifying them.  I have one great belief, nobody in war or anywhere else has ever made a good decision if he was frightened to death.  You have to look the facts in the face, but you have to have the stamina to do it without just going hysterical".
                     
Placing a clip from this press conference at the beginning To Live Tomorrow, the Institute of Life Insurance took Eisenhower's words slightly out of context by interpreting them as a call for a solid civil defense program as opposed to a firm message on weapons usage.  Initiated by this supposed theme of preparedness the film follows an insurance executive on his train commute home.  The fellow passengers occupying the train car depict America as seen by the insurance industry, Caucasian and middle class.  Represented by a young mother and her daughter, a teenaged couple, a business man, and the elderly, the passengers also provide ideal clients for an insurance salesman.  The executive's mind is not on business, however, but still lingers on the subject of an earlier civil defense meeting focused on the ways people react to disasters, particularly with panic.  The train begins to roll as a portly man with several cumbersome bags squeezes into the crowded car.  While the newest passenger mops his brow, the executive takes note of other people's reactions to this minor disturbance.  Observing that people adjust to different circumstances with varying degrees of emotion, the executive provides a flashback to a recent family emergency.
                               
"Here we sit, possibly a cross-section of the people of America.  But what would each of us do if disaster suddenly overtook us?  Some among us would succumb to fear."  Pondering this basic human reaction, the executive recalls an incident in a movie theater he witnessed on a previous night.  Cutting to a popular show, an enthralled audience stares at the screen.  Out of the corner of her eye, one woman notices smoke curling up from a room to the side of the screen.  Her immediate expression indicates she is about to shout in panic.  Before the excited patron can relive the tragedy which traditionally follows the yelling of "FIRE" in a crowded theater, the manager intervenes and calmly announces the situation.  A small fire broke out but is well under control.  Looks of relief spread across the faces of the jittery audience when the manager politely asks them to move cautiously to the exits.  Dangerous panic is avoided when level headed authority relays accurate information and provides immediate instructions.  When panic or apathy take over, a disaster situation can only grow worse, but if met with a clear head and knowledgeable actions, then most emergencies can be dealt with before they become serious.
                               
"That boy and girl, probably high school kids, drilled and re-drilled from the day entered our schools on what to do in the event of fire."  Glancing back to the young couple sitting behind him, the executive makes note of their innocent nature.  He also relates a report he recently read concerning a resourceful school teacher who blocked the normal exit his class was to use during routine fire drills.  Cutting to a classroom setting, children get up from their desks and move towards a side exit while a loud alarm clangs in the background.  The teacher looks on as groups of students mill about the locked door, unsure of where to go.  This continues, wasting precious seconds needed for escape, until one boy stands on a chair and directs his classmates towards another exit.  The boy makes certain each child makes it out of the school while his teacher nods approvingly.


Returning to the train car, To Live Tomorrow focuses in on the executive's face before cutting to stock footage of several disasters including floods, tornadoes, and large factory fires.  Without the leadership that arose in the presented situations, the executive somberly relates, the death toll would have risen dramatically.  Glancing once more at his fellow passengers, the executive wonders what the people will do in time of emergency.  As the film clip above shows, the executive delves into his imagination to see what reactions would give way in an emergency on the train.  Left to their own devices, the passengers demonstrate that panic and rumor will take hold and the conductor's intervention cannot come quickly enough.  Viewing this "cross-section" of American life, the executive's message becomes clear, civil defense needs more conductors.