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Weird Old Car Shorts: ‘Hired!’ (1940)

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Imagine if selling Chevrolet door to door was your job…
Photo: David Adam Kess via CC

In a previous article for The News Wheel, we discussed the weird and wonderful world of antique theatrical/educational shorts. These old, often bizarre little relics of a bygone age ran the gamut from insane educational films to weird industrial reels. And for car enthusiasts, there was practically an entire subgenre of auto-related shorts being produced. In this review, we’re analyzing one of the era’s better-known weird car shorts: an epic tale of sales and Chevys called Hired!

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The story of ‘Hired!’

When it came to the arena of educational shorts, perhaps no company was more prolific in the 1940s and into the 1950s than the Jam Handy Organization. Over the decades, the company produced hundreds of short films, often of the industrial variety. A fair number of these shorts involved cars, and Hired! is probably the best known of the lot.

Produced in 1940 specifically for Chevrolet, Hired! was created as a kind of motivational/educational tool for the automaker’s sales managers. However, instead of just being a lecture or class, the short takes the format of a narrative-driven story.

In that story, a Chevy sales manager named Warren is disturbed that his numbers are lagging. Remember, this was during the door-to-door era of auto sales, meaning that salesmen were literally knocking on doors to move their employer’s inventory. It seems that Warren’s salesmen, especially a young upstart named Jimmy, aren’t delivering the goods.

And this, dear reader, is where…

Things get weird

It’s at this point where the short takes a beeline for the strange. A despairing Warren seeks council from the one man whose wisdom may guide him: his grouchy father. In a bizarre sequence, father and son sit on a porch at night, Warren looking defeated while his father swats at invisible flies and chastises his son for poor management skills. The highlight of the scene is the elderly father inexplicably placing a handkerchief on his head and then continuing to talk as if everything was normal. It’s unintentionally hilarious, and hard not to chuckle at.

In the end, Warren is inspired to take a more personal approach with his sales team. Turns out it was his hands-off approach that was affecting sales, not his employees. After a montage showing how good management skills can result in better workers, the short concludes. The moral: “Salesmen need guidance from experienced managers.” In other words, being a good boss requires more than just assigning work and signing papers.

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If you’re interested in giving Hired! a watch for yourself, it can be seen here for free thanks to its public domain status. If you’re looking for a funnier way to watch the short, check out this version for a few laughs.