The Oscar-Winning Short-Films of John Nesbitt, Part Two: Of Pups and Puzzles

Previous Film: That Mothers Might Live

Of Pups and Puzzles (1941)

This short film is about a revolution in American industrial hiring practices. The one-reel film talks about the old way, where a foreman would look at a group of men, and make a superficial choice as to whom to hire based on who looked strong.

Circumstances were going to make such arcane hiring practices untenable. While the film was released three months prior to Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II, America had begun a peace-time draft and ramped up national defense production. Getting the right person into the right job would be critical. To do that, employers turned to psychologists, and behavioral experiments involving three dogs and a chimpanzee.

The film does a good job of making its potentially dry content interesting, as it explains how animal behavior studies changed human hiring practices. Having cute animals on the screen for much of the run time keeps things interesting, and Nesbitt’s storytelling abilities keep the story moving along. The resulting hiring practices of the 1940s are quaint to say the least, as we travel back to a time when unexpectedly pulling a gun out of a drawer and firing it was just all part of the hiring process.

While Of Pups and Puzzles presents its material in an entertaining way, I can’t help but feel actual interest in the film’s content is a bit niche for modern audiences. One IMDB user said it’d be of most interest to “research psychologists and industrial/ organizational personnel specialists.” If you fit that niche or just want to see some old animal footage, you may enjoy this film.

Of Pups and Puzzles is available on YouTube.

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