I remember watching a short film that was probably from the 40's or 50's. It was in black and white. I don't remember any names; just how the story goes. It wasn't aired on television when I saw it; it was during a high school class on a VHS tape.

It starts with an elderly man being honored for having traveled 100 years into the future 100 years ago to the day. The story implies that he was the only one to have done it and did it only the one time. When he came back he told everyone of a paradise society, and, naturally, 100 years later, that society was a reality.

The world was anxiously waiting to see his historic journey conclude. Many gathered around the area where his vessel was to appear from 100 years earlier. They waited up to the minute, but he did not come. Nothing happened. The people were bitterly disappointed and utterly confused. The society he saw was here; his story had been verified, but he did not appear. When asked what was going on, he confessed a different story than he told everyone 100 years ago.

He never did go into the future. He deceived everyone with essentially a magic trick and an a very convincing demeanor. He created the story so that the people would believe it then work to that end, which is exactly what they did. The paradise society became a reality because they were told that is what would happen. A self fulfilling prophecy.

What is the name of this short film? It should be in public domain by now, so if it is available on YouTube or somewhere else that would be awesome.

  • 4
    It is unlikely to be in the public domain, even if it dates back to the forties. Public domain starts 70 years after the death of the author. That may increase as Mickey Mouse gets older ...
    – babou
    Feb 19, 2014 at 22:44
  • @babou: In the US, the expiration of copyright is not based on the life span of the author. It is in most other countries.
    – user2490
    Apr 21, 2020 at 21:24
  • @ben I didn't bother addressing that comment because it's grossly misinformed. The part it did get right is that copyright in USA is the life of the author plus 70 years. What it misses is that before 1978 there were significantly different rules involved and a lot of works before then are indeed public domain, though the author has not been dead 70 years. The USA government has a dedicated website for information on and registering copyrights: copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-duration.html The allusion to Disney is also grossly misinformed, as their copyrights are either 95 or 120 years.
    – user15742
    Apr 22, 2020 at 0:32
  • But the point is well made, that Disney's old stuff has been extended in their copyrights twice now, most recently in 1998.
    – user15742
    Apr 22, 2020 at 0:39
  • @BenCrowell - @ 15742 I am fully entitled to my comment, at least as much as you are to yours. It is correct in my country and in most of the world, even for American works. Copyright law is always the local law, as far as I remember; I have not looked at this stuff for many years. And SE is international. Furthermore, the successive changes in US copyright law make it a mess to determine if something from the forties is or is not under copyright in the USA. In addition, there is nothing that says this film is US made. And the USA have specific copyright rules for foreign works.
    – babou
    Jun 9, 2020 at 10:53

1 Answer 1


The story you are describing is The Toynbee Convector, but it was written in 1984, so if you remember something that looked like it was from the '40s or '50s you may be confusing the look of it with some other film you saw (or maybe you just saw the 1990 TV adaptation on a black and white TV?)

  • 1
    This is interesting, but I distinctly remember an old style film on a color television. I also distinctly remember the protagonist's face quite clearly. He looked similar to Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars; just fatter in the face and bigger body. Unless the tv episode was made to be black and white, I'm sure this is not what I am referring to.
    – user15742
    Feb 19, 2014 at 20:45
  • 5
    You can see the Toynbee Convector TV adaptation at youtube.com/watch?v=W2sv5XWaiQY and check if the old actor is the one with the face you remember. Either way, I think your memory is playing tricks on you: the story details you describe are clearly those of The Toynbee Convector, so either you're projecting that story onto a totally different movie, or you're misremembering the video above as being a black and white production with '40s or '50s style.
    – Hypnosifl
    Feb 19, 2014 at 20:56
  • Yes, that is exactly it. I knew right away when I saw his face. I seriously remember it being black and white though. Strange how 15 years can change your memory like that.
    – user15742
    Feb 19, 2014 at 21:19
  • 3
    Or maybe in your school they had a black and white television. ;) Mar 31, 2014 at 14:35

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