1956 Motorama: Design for Dreaming


1956 Motorama Entrance
Waldorf-Astoria, NYC

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Special Invitation to the General Motors Motorama

Because of the widespread interest in GM’s Motorama shows, GM made an annual film, which brought the Motorama to audiences unable to see it in major cities. In 1956, GM sponsored a 10 minute, futuristic fantasy Motorama promotional film (16mm Anscocolor). This particular film, Design for Dreaming, introduced the new 1956 car lineup, Frigidaire's Kitchen of Tomorrow, dream cars and the electronic Highways of Tomorrow. It was filmed at the 1956 General Motors Motorama show that featured 63 exhibits and 26 production cars and occupied 26,000 square feet of New York City’s Waldorf Astoria ballroom space, plus adjoining rooms. That year, the Motorama also traveled to Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston.

Design for Dreaming was a musical about a women (Thelma "Tad" Tadlock), who dreams about a masked man (Marc Breaux) taking her to the 1956 General Motors Motorama. The entirety of the dialogue is sung, though the actors do not move their lips to their characters' prerecorded voices. The film was directed by William Beaudine, produced by Victor Solow and featured the voice of Thurl Ravenscroft. The original music was by George Kleinsinger. MPO Productions produced this video and followed it up 5 years later with a GM sponsored film sequel, A Touch of Magic, for the last Motorama in 1961.

Click Here to Watch Design for Dreaming: Courtesy of the Prelinger Archive

The GM products in this film are as follows (in order of appearance):

High perspective view of the 1956 Oldsmobile's Golden Rocket Show Car (left) and the 1956 Pontiac's Club de Mer Show Car

1956 Chevrolet Corvette 2-Door Convertible
1956 Pontiac Custom Star Chief Catalina 4-Door Hardtop
1956 Oldsmobile 98 Starfire Convertible
1956 Buick Century Convertible
1956 Cadillac Series 62 Sedan DeVille

Kitchen of Tomorrow

1956 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham Town Car Show Car (fashion by Christian Dior of Paris)
1956 Buick Centurion Show Car (fashion by Montesano of New York)
1956 Oldsmobile's Golden Rocket Show Car (fashion by Pat Primo of Los Angeles)
1956 Pontiac's Club de Mer Show Car (fashion by Emilio of Capri)
1956 Chevrolet Impala Show Car (fashion by Digby Morton of London)
1956 Firebird II Experimental Vehicle

Highway of Tomorrow

Frigidaire Kitchen of Tomorrow
1956 GM Motorama

The Kitchen of Tomorrow was one of Motorama's most popular exhibits ever, in part because it didn't demonstrate actual products offered by GM, but rather the company's vision of what modern kitchens of the future might resemble. GM Styling oversaw more than automobiles. GM's Frigidaire Division, under Styling's direction, created the Kitchen of Tomorrow; a fanciful, futuristic assembly of prototype appliances and culinary conveniences for the Motorama. Note the Electro recipe file, battery-controlled serving carts, Ultrasonic experimental dishwasher, marble-topped range that cooks with induction coils and never gets hot, a free-standing rotisserie-style oven with a plexiglass dome for a cover, and glass-walled rotating refrigerator/freezer dubbed the 'Roto-Storage Center'. Entire rooms were designed by GM Styling and built for the shows by the H.B. Stubbs Company.

AHS (automated highway systems) were once the dream of car manufacturers and consumers alike. One of the earliest AHS was epitomised by GM’s Firebird II concept, which was shown at the 1956 Motorama's Highway of Tomorrow exhibit and featured in this film. The Firebird II could drive without human intervention, provided a wire was buried in the surface of the road.

Design for Dreaming has gained a small cult following. One prominent showing of the film was as a short feature in Collection Volume Six: Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). The BBC documentary series Pandora's Box by Adam Curtis made extensive use of clips from Design for Dreaming, especially in the title sequence. Some footage was also used in the music video for Peter Gabriel's 1987 single In Your Eyes, a 1989 commercial for the Nintendo Game Boy game Super Mario Land, and a 1994 commercial for Power Macintosh.

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