Sometimes it can be a small discovery that a film archivist relishes, like this little ditty I recently found in a film can. I couldn’t help but be charmed by the creative attempt to disguise film care and handling practices in the form of a prayer. A rather gruesome one at that. Statements like, “I have no alternative but to go to my death” and “I am torn to shreds” aren’t exactly heavenly images. The full FILM PRAYER reads as follows:
“I AM FILM, not steel, O user, have mercy. I front dangers whenever I travel the whirling wheels of mechanism. Over the sprocket wheels, held tight by the idlers, I am forced by the motor’s magic might. If a careless hand misthreads me, I have no alternative but to go to my death. If the pull on the takeup reel is too violent, I am torn to shreds. If dirt collects in the aperture, my film of beauty is streaked and marred, and I must face my beholders—a thing ashamed and bespoiled. Please, if I break NEVER fasten me with pins which lacerate the fingers of my inspectors.
“I travel many miles in tin cans. I am tossed on heavy trucks, sideways and upside down. Please see that my first few coils do not slip loose in my shipping case, and become bruised and wounded beyond power to heal. Put me in my own can. Scrape off all old labels on my shipping case so I will not get astray.
“Speed me on my way. Others are waiting to see me. THE NEXT DAY IS THE LAST DAY I SHOULD BE HELD. Have a heart for the other fellow who is waiting, and for my owner who will get the blame.
“I am a delicate ribbon of film—misuse me and I disappoint thousands; cherish me, and I delight and instruct the world.”
I have to admit the last line gets me feeling pretty sentimental. Ah…celluloid.