Our Mr. Sun (1956)

Our Mr. Sun examines the Sun and how it works, the Sun’s profound influence on life on Earth, and the possibilities for harnessing sunlight for solar electricity; solar cells had been demonstrated at Bell Laboratories in 1954 during the development of the film. For the screenplay, Capra first contracted for treatments by two prominent authors, Aldous Huxley and Willy Ley. Ultimately, Capra wrote the screenplay himself, subject to approval by a scientific advisory board put together by N. W. Ayer. The principal scientific source used for the screenplay was the book Our Sun (1949) by Donald Menzel, who also consulted with Capra about the screenplay. Menzel opposed most of the religious elements of Capra’s screenplay, but many were included in the version that was produced.

The film starred Eddie Albert and Lionel Barrymore, as the Fiction Writer and as the voice of Father Time, respectively. The film was Barrymore’s last screen role, and was broadcast two years after the actor’s death. It introduced Frank C. Baxter as Dr. Research; Baxter played this role in the next seven films in the series. Marvin Miller voiced The Sun. Sterling Holloway had a smaller part (uncredited) voicing Chloro Phyll.

The film was first broadcast on November 19, 1956 at 10 PM to an audience estimated at 24 million viewers in the US and Canada, which was considered very successful at the time. Critical reaction was also favorable, and production of the next three films was authorized by AT&T and N. W. Ayer.

Our Mr. Sun was broadcast on CBS (a rare “colorcast” for that network at the time); all other films in the series were shown on NBC.


The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (1957)

The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays is an examination of what cosmic rays are and how they work. It was written by Capra with Jonathan Latimer, a crime fiction novelist and screenwriter. As Gilbert describes it, the third and fourth films “repeated the formulas of his earlier work while ever searching for new contrivances for popularization as well as the best language to express his soft religious message” and that the script was essentially a reworking of ideas Capra had developed for a possible documentary about Robert A. Millikan. The film’s screenplay works from the premise that the nature of cosmic rays is a mystery comparable to the great detective stories. A committee of marionettes representing Fyodor Dostoevsky, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe is called upon to decide the question. The film was broadcast on October 25, 1957, apparently with a smaller television audience share and with more unfavorable reviews than for the first two specials.


2 Classic Bell Science Classroom films on one disc! color, fullscreen, mono, 100 minutes. DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic.


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