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Film / Men and Dust

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A worker with silicosis gets the card saying he can't work.

Men and Dust is a 1940 documentary short (16 minutes) directed by Lee Dick, written by her husband, photographer Sheldon Dick.

The film grew out of Sheldon Dick's photography of coal miners in the tri-state area of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. After an opening montage showing the natural beauty and splendor of scenic America, the focus of the film turns to the decidedly not scenic lead and zinc mines of the Ozarks. Sheldon Dick's camera documents the horrible working conditions the miners endure, the crude dilapidated shacks they live in, and worst of all, the health toll taken by silicosis, a disease of the lungs caused by inhaling rock dust, and tuberculosis, which often follows silicosis in the lungs.



  • Blade-of-Grass Cut: A close-up shot of wheat swaying in the field, part of the opening montage of scenic beauty used to contrast with the ugly, ugly mines.
  • Call-Back: The narrator says "somebody always gets something" when describing the chronic health problems of miners and their families. At the end, when showing the montage of people who have died from silicosis and TB, the narrator says "somebody always gets something" again.
  • The Dead Have Names: Near the end there's a roll call of pictures of miners that have died of silicosis and tuberculosis, as well as wives and little children that have also died from inhaling dust blown off the waste rock piles adjoining the mines.
  • Dramatization: Some of the footage, like the scene with a miner visiting a doctor, was clearly staged for the movie.
  • Advertisement:
  • Match Cut: The jaws of a rock excavator are matched with the flapping mouth of a radio broadcaster droning on about the price of the metals being mined.
  • Narrator: Four narrators, delivering both straightforward exposition about stuff like the health effects of silicon dust, as well as near-poetic narration of the miseries endured by the miners.
  • The Noun and the Noun: Men and Dust
  • Scenery Gorn: A lot of really depressing footage of the ugly mines, the dilapidated shacks the miners live in, and their dirty, crumbling towns.