Saturday, October 27, 2018

1941 advertisement for the Modern Talking Picture Service

This advertisement for the Modern Talking Picture Service appears within the July 1941 issue of Agricultural Leaders' Digest. The New York-based company, led by W.H. Larkin (possibly the same W.H. Larkin associated with Larkin Products LLC), served as a distributor for corporate-branded educational films. Here's the copy:
How Many of These FREE Movies Would Your Club Like to See?
We are offering for free showing to responsible groups some very fine new talking pictures. These highly entertaining and educational films are sponsored by leading companies and associations for whom we act as distributors.

These are films for everyone to enjoy, with good aims and actions you'll like. We send complete descriptions of each film for your consideration before ordering. All you need is 16 millimeter sound projection equipment, and you pay transportation costs only from our nearest of 35 exchange cities. Get complete details of our list of free films for club meetings. Just fill in the coupon at left and mail to me now.
Researching this company, one of the first things I came across was this article from the October 25, 1973, issue of The Marengo (Illinois) Beacon News:
Free Films Available for Clubs

A brochure titled "How to Stage a Film Program" is available free from the Modern Talking Picture Service, Box 3585, Lake Success, N.Y. 11040.

Aimed at program chairmen of clubs, community groups and employee audiences, it serves as a handy guide to the use of 16mm-sound motion pictures.

Sections of the folder are devoted to a discussion of how to find topics, a checklist for physical arrangements and suggestions for introducing the program.

Modern Talking Picture Service distributes 16mm-sound films and video-cassettes on a free loan basis. The hundreds of available programs cover such subjects are travel, sports, food, environment and many others. They are of convenient program length, usually 15 to 30 minutes. Most are in color.

Some 120,000 community groups have borrowed films from Modern Talking Picture Service in the past 18 months. Schools and community organizations together make about a million and a half bookings from Modern every year. The company has film libraries in major cities from coast to coast.

For a free copy of "How to Stage a Film Program" and a listing of Modern's 30 local libraries, including the film library nearest you, write to: "Staging a Film Program," in care of Modern Talking Picture Service, Box 3585, Lake Success, N.Y. 11040.
This is clearly just a press release that the newspaper published as an article. But it tell us that the Modern Talking Picture Service survived for more than three decades after the 1941 advertisement featured in this post. (It would survived even longer.) Additionally, the company was thriving, if the statistics on the number of titles borrowed are accurate. The mention of video-cassettes in 1973 is curious. They had been introduced to the American market around 1971, but didn't go into widespread use until 1975 or 1976, so the Modern Talking Picture Service was definitely ahead of the curve. It appears that the company eventually transformed into Modern Education Services.

Here is just a tiny drip in the bucket of titles that Modern Talking Picture Service distributed over the years:

  • New Frontiers was exhibited to Kiwanians by R.V. Dean, a representative of the Modern Talking Picture Service. It dealt with the tremendous development of electrical service since the days of the covered wagon. [Source: The Daily Notes of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, in December 1936]
  • Symphonies in Fragrances was a "glamorous exposition of the close emotional kinship between music and fragrance." [Source: Logansport (Indiana) Pharos-Tribune in November 1937]
  • "A cartoon film, explaining point rationing of food, is available without rental charge at the Modern Talking Picture Service, 615 North Illinois street, the office of war information announced. ... The film was completed by the Screen Cartoonists Guild for OWI." [Source: The Indianapolis News in February 1943]
  • Breaking the Habit was a five-minute documentary animated film directed by John Korty and released in 1964. It addressed cigarette smoking and lung cancer, and it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. [Source: Wikipedia]
  • Song of the Salad was produced by the H.J. Heinz Company of Philadelphia [Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture publication, 1966]
  • The Moebius Flip, a fantasy movie about a group of skiers (the Hart Ski Company talent team) who find that the world has flip-flopped onto the other side of reality, by Summit Films [Source: The Fitchburg (Massachusetts) Sentinel in December 1969]
  • Skileidoscope, a 28-minute film directed by Joern Gerdts and featuring the children of Vail, Colorado, in "a warm, and often humorous treatment, of skiing pleasures at this popular Colorado resort." [Source: The Fitchburg (Massachusetts) Sentinel in December 1969]
  • Everything But the Oink, a 13-minute presentation by the Wayne Feed Division of Continental Grain Company, produced by Gilbert Altschul Productions [Source: The Vincennes (Indiana) Sun-Commercial in March 1981]
  • Close-captioned videotapes of movies, including Big, Broadcast News and Wall Street, were available from the Modern Talking Picture Service, through Pinellas Park Public Library. [Source: Tampa Bay Times in August 1991]

Here's a short film I found on YouTube about a longtime worker for the company.

I'm sure there's much more available out there about Modern Talking Picture Service and the educational and industrial titles it distributed. If you have any memories or leads to share, please put them in the comments.


  1. I worked for MTPS in NYC from 1962 to 1969. My first job. It was a family. Jackie Jessee Christianson

  2. My AV dept. at South Orange Maplewood NJ ordered many films from MTP Service back in 1972. Also ordered films from Films Incorporated. I've often wondered where all those reels went. Be nice if they were offered on eBay.

  3. My father helped in the filming of the Susquehanna River for a film called Wild Rivers,made in 1965 by Humble Oil.Wish I could find it...any leads would be appreciated.Thanks,Keith Harter

  4. My mother was office manager for Modern Talking Pictures in Charlotte, NC from about 1958-1962. My brother and I loved going in on weekends to dig through the trash in the back room where films were repaired. We’d glue together bits of this and that to make our own movies! LOL we also loved previewing the new films at home.