From the groundbreaking invention of the earliest video camera to the creation of the first ‘talkie’, the film world had gone through dramatic changes by the time an international film festival was held in Cannes for the first time in 1939. But it wasn’t just the film world that was evolving. Ongoing advances in technology also created incredibly exciting creative possibilities for the home appliance industry in the first half of the twentieth century. When it came to innovation in the home, Electrolux was way out in front with its built-in fridge taking off in 1930. So how have film and home appliances conspired to have such an amazing effect on our everyday lives?
The birth of cinema
In 1895, Frenchman Louis Lumière and his brother Auguste invented one of the
earliest video cameras. The Cinématographe was a camera and film projector in one. And the amazing fifty-second films by Louis Lumière were among the first widely seen motion pictures. Their film of a train pulling into the station famously had the audience ducking for cover as they believed the train was about to charge into the theatre. But the Lumières believed film to be a medium without a future as they thought people would bore of images of everyday life. In 1902, they sold their patents to Charles Pathé, who improved the camera and made it a success worldwide. At one time, around 60% of all films were shot with Pathé equipment.
Meanwhile, by 1901 Electrolux were also making waves in Europe with the launch of their first product, the Lux lamp. This kerosene lamp, designed for outdoor use, was used in lighthouses all over the world. Not long after, in 1912, Electrolux created a product that brought them to the forefront of technology in the home – the vacuum cleaner. By 1919, the Lux 1 vacuum cleaner was being sold in several European countries and was proving to be a great success. With this initial step, Electrolux was just starting a whole range of innovations that would later have the world reeling.
The age of the talkies
Silent cinema sank like the lost city of Atlantis with the introduction of sound at the end of the twenties. In 1927, The Jazz Singer, a musical starring Al Jolson, heralded a new age of ‘talkies’ (films with dialogue). The studios fumbled their way towards various clumsy recording technologies and audiences couldn’t get enough of the new innovation. Five years on, Walt Disney’s animation, Flowers and Trees, was the first film to be made using the three-strip Technicolour process. This involved filming three times through a red, green and blue filter to produce matrices that were then developed onto blank stock, creating one coloured film. In 1939, two much-loved films, Gone With The Wind and The Wizard Of Oz, were produced with Technicolour.
Meanwhile, in a world before vacuum cleaners and washing machines were the
norm, housework needed muscle. There was coal to be fetched, floors to be
scrubbed, carpets to be beaten and clothes to be washed with a washboard and mangle. In 1921, Electrolux launched the first vacuum cleaner with runners. The Model V was highly portable and reflected Electrolux’s dedication to making people’s lives easier. Electrolux also launched the first built-in domestic refrigerator in 1930, marketed to Americans as ‘a compact product for the modern kitchenette.’ By the end of the decade, two million US homes had an Electrolux fridge.
The war years
In the 1940s there was a downturn in the film industry following the attack on Pearl Harbour by the Japanese, which resulted in the loss of foreign markets. However, there were many advances in technology (sound recording, lighting, cinematography and use of colour) and films became more watchable and modern. With the technical challenges of the early thirties sound era far behind it, Hollywood reached its peak of production between 1943-46 and the film industry thrived once again.
Many key home appliances had been invented by this decade, but they were still considered a luxury that most people couldn’t afford. The onset of the war meant that many Electrolux factories lay dormant in this decade. However the company kept coming up with innovative products that would eventually be considered household necessities. In 1940, Electrolux launch the Assistent food processor. This machine was the company’s only wartime product and in later years became one of its biggest sellers.