What was the bed of the future supposed to look like? If you went to a British movie theater in 1959, you may have seen this high-tech bed of tomorrow displayed in a short film. before the main feature. But this bed wasn’t just about getting a good night’s sleep. There were also some suggestive nods to other things that people might be doing in a bed, including plenty of vibrating toys and buttons.
The old film was produced by production company British Pathe, which has a large online archive of newsreel footage from midcentury. We’ve looked at plenty of their other movies over the years, which showed off futuristic ideas like mobile radios from the 1920s, fashionable antenna-hats from the 1930s, and glass cities of the future from the 1950s. But this film was special in one unique way: The narrator threw his back out trying to be sly with his horniness.
What does the bed of the future look like from the perspective of 1959? The film starts in the bedroom of two women, not identified explicitly as partners, but the first thing we see is one of the women pushing their two single beds together.
The narrator of the film can be heard discussing the bed as a contraption that illustrates just how “highly mechanized” society had become in the 1950s. Horniness aside, the idea of mechanization as a force for good wasn’t quite a given during this era with dueling narratives in mass media about whether tech would be a net positive for humanity.That story played out in theaters around the world with movies like Desk Set (1957), starring Spencer Tracey as a computer salesman and Katharine Hepburn as a old fashioned fact checker— a lighthearted approach to automation and computers right around the same time people were watching this bed of the future.
“Just push the button, and the foot of the bed soars skywards,” the narrator of this British Pathe film says. “Just the thing after a hard day slaving over a hot and fully automatic oven.”
This joke about working hard to push buttons would be repeated in plenty of futuristic media of the following decades, including the 1962 animated TV show The Jetsons where George and Jane Jetson complain about how difficult manual labor can be while simultaneously not doing any real manual labor.
“A tape recorder for the career girl to dictate into, or for the non-career girl, a way of playing hours of soothing music,” said the narrator, as we see our actors settle in for the night in their luxurious futuristic bed.
And then things start to get a little more suggestive.
“A vibro-massage machine, which knows a wrinkle or two, so to speak, and irons them out smoothly,” the narrator explains.
Electric vibrators have been around since the turn of the 20th century, often marketed as “massagers,” that could be plausibly purchased without explicitly sexual connotations. But it seems pretty clear what’s going on here.
“The control panel is a real layabout’s dream,” the narrator continues. “It turns out the light, and a quick flick of the wrist ensures that the curtains are properly closed.”
“The designers of this 2,500 pound bed haven’t missed a trick,” the narrator says. “A late night, or early morning, cup of tea, is right beside you. Other refinements, all controlled from the bed, are the mattress heating units, an intercom telephone to all rooms, an outside line, and, of course, a portable television set at the foot of the bed.”
“About all it doesn’t have is a gadget for putting the cat out and bringing the milk in. No doubt that will come in time, too.”
“Spill your tea on this cover and you’re a peasant,” the narrator declares. “It’s made of velvet and champagne mink. You could spill the weeniest drop of champagne and the merest suspicion of caviar, but nothing common like tea.”
The film really hammers the idea home by the end—assuming you didn’t pick up on any of the innuendo during the first couple of minutes.
“And if you just can’t sleep you can have a whale of a time pressing buttons all night,” the narrator concludes.
The TV. The narrator is clearly talking about pressing buttons on the TV.