Sid Davis, who produced more than 180 educational films warning youngsters of the dangers of drugs, drinking and running with scissors, has died. He was 90.
Davis, who was born in Chicago but moved to Los Angeles as a child, died of lung cancer on Oct. 16 at the Atria Hacienda senior residence in Palm Desert, his daughter Jill said.
From the 1950s into the early 1970s, Davis created cautionary short films that were screened in classrooms. With titles such as “The Bottle and the Throttle” and “Seduction of the Innocent,” they warned kids away from underage drinking, drug abuse, vandalism and dropping out of school. One 1972 short tells the tale of two teenagers who break up with their girlfriends, pick up prostitutes and get syphilis.
In 1952’s “Skipper Learns a Lesson,” a dog learns about tolerance when his white owner moves into a racially mixed neighborhood.
Davis was inspired to produce movies when his 5-year-old daughter failed to understand his lecture on avoiding strangers, she said. His first effort was 1950’s “The Dangerous Stranger.”
Davis was a movie set stand-in for John Wayne. The actor loaned Davis the money to start a production company, later refusing his $5,000 repayment.
“Wayne tore up the check and said, ‘Put it back in the business,’” Jill Davis said.
Many of Davis’s movies were made for a paltry $1,000 and the actors were his friends and family, said Ken Smith, author of “Mental Hygiene: Better Living Through Classroom Films 1945-1970.”
In “Live and Learn,” for example, a young girl is cutting out paper dolls before jumping up, tripping and impaling herself on scissors. Other movies warned children away from underage drinking, drug abuse, vandalism, venereal disease and dropping out of school.
“He grew up as a tough kid,” Smith said Tuesday. “He didn’t want kids to follow the same path he did or suffer the same harsh lesson. That was his motivation behind most of his films.”
Besides his daughter, Davis is survived by a grandson.