Sid Davis

Educational filmmaker

Sid Davis, who produced more than 180 educational films warning youngsters of the dangers of drugs, drinking and running with scissors, died Oct. 16 of lung cancer in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 90.

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, who was born in Chicago but moved to Los Angeles as a child, 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.”

Many of Davis’s movies were made for $1,000, using friends and family as actors, said Ken Smith, author of “Mental Hygiene: Better Living Through Classroom Films 1945-1970.”

“He grew up as a tough kid,” Smith said. “He didn’t want kids to follow the same path he did or suffer the same harsh lesson.”

In “Live and Learn,” 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.

Davis started in the business at the age of 4 as an extra in the “Our Gang” comedies, and later became a stand-in for John Wayne. The actor lent Davis the money to start a production company, later refusing his $5,000 repayment.

He is survived by a daughter, Jill, who acted in many of his films, and a grandson, Steven, who also acted in the films.

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