Finding Mr. Right: A 1950s Guide to Dating

‘She thinks it’s wonderful that he’s so wonderful. She’s right -- for him.’ 

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From a series of films based on the book Marriage for Moderns by Henry A. Bowman comes "Choosing for Happiness," a dating how-to guide for young women in 1950, courtesy of the Prelinger Archive. Our narrator, Mary, who is relatively unfamiliar with the social scene on campus, looks to her friend Eve for advice in navigating the tricky dating waters. We get to witness Eve on several dates with men who are more or less poorly suited to her personality. After reflecting on Eve’s bad dates, Mary tells her friend that it is actually she who needs to change, not the men. Her behavior is simply too demanding (e.g. telling the men where she would like to go on their outings, preferring not to stay inside and watch them build boats, and expressing frustration when they flirt with other women). 

In an era when the median marrying age for women was 19, this instructional film reminds us that, in the '50s, society still viewed college for women as merely a layover on the way down the aisle. Female viewers take note: Be careful not to allow your own wants and needs to take precedence; it’s about changing yourself, not the other person. Oh, and make sure to find a man who knows what he wants. 

For more from the Prelinger Archive, visit their site

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Alessandra Ram is a former writer and producer for The Atlantic Video Channel. Her work has also appeared in Foreign Policy.

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