Narrating the life of bachelor Henry, this cartoon-style advertisement for Rinso washing powder shows how this miraculous laundry product can turn anyone’s life around!
Henry is a bachelor who lives alone in a small apartment. He has a ‘lady help’ who does his cooking and cleaning but will not wash his clothes. Henry is a ‘natty dresser’. But because he can’t get the laundry to call around anymore, he is forced to do the washing himself. However, rubbing and scrubbing wears out his clothes, towels, shirts and linen until finally his temper wears out too! Henry’s outburst prompts his ‘lady help’ to bring him home a packet of Rinso washing powder and show him how to get things clean, possible ‘even if you haven’t got a laundry in your flat’.
The narrator says ‘it’s marvellous what you can get from a packet of Rinso’ – Henry’s lady help finally gets him as a husband and they continue on to have many children. All the while the wife, who now takes on the extra washing, never complains because of Rinso.
Summary by Poppy De Souza
A Bachelor Gray is a self-contained narrative in which the main character’s life is introduced, his troubles shown, and then how the product (Rinso washing powder) solves all his problems, getting him a wife along the way. This story format can be seen in a number of other early Rinso advertisements including Then Came Happiness (1931) for Rinso soap powder, Rinso Washing Powder : Fairy Story Comes True (1935) and Rinso Laundry Powder : Hilda and Hugh Jones (1940). The creation of fictional characters and familiar situations aided in the identification of the consumer with the advertised product.
The narrator in this cinema advertisement hints at the Second World War rationing of food and clothing – implemented to manage food shortages and decrease consumption. While our animated hero, Henry, is a ‘natty dresser’, the aside from the narrator ‘pre-coupon, of course’ is a reference to the coupon system of rationing between 1942 and 1948. The second aside is the narrator’s comment that Henry can’t get the laundry to call these days (‘you know how it is’) also implies a cost that many citizens could not afford. The impact of the Second World War on ordinary Australian families can be seen in advertisements such as this one and Don’t Cry Dear Lady (1941), an advertisement for Tandaco prepared stuffing which reduces the need for fresh ingredients at a time when they were difficult to come by.
Traditional gender roles are also reinforced in this advertisement, although the beginning of the ad offers a view of life for a bachelor who does his own laundry. By the end of the ad, however, the family unit has been created and the ‘lady help’ becomes the wife who thrives in the domestic realm, more than happy to do all the extra washing that comes with creating a family. The male is depicted as the ‘strong, overpowering hero’ and the woman as the ‘lady help’ (whether she’s a wife or the actual hired help). In fact, it is interesting that Henry’s outburst of temper is the trigger that sparks his lady help’s interest in him. It is only after he has yelled at her and told her he’s had enough, that she goes out and buys a packet of Rinso ostensibly to win his heart!
Note: The small section of voice-over missing at the end of this advertisement comes from the source print held by the NFSA.
Notes by Poppy De Souza
This narrated clip shows a humorous, animated cinema advertisement for Rinso washing powder in which a series of cartoons is used to describe a bachelor, Henry, who is ‘a bit of a fusspot’ and a ‘natty dresser’ but is unable to do his washing. When his ‘lady help’ criticises his efforts, he ‘sees red’ and tells her to do it. She instantly falls in love with this new ‘strong, overpowering’ Henry and rushes out to buy a packet of Rinso. Before long the two are married with children. Henry’s wife never complains about the extra washing because Rinso makes it so easy.
Educational value points
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia