In response to TopBilled’s suggestion of a James FitzPatrick Traveltalk Fest on the other thread, might I suggest…?
A festival of vintage travelogues not shown on TCM
I covered some of Warner Brothers’ travelogues in the below post, but here is an assortment of riches from other different companies. Most of these I have NOT seen, but read reviews of in ol’ Film Daily, Motion Picture Herald and BoxOffice magazine scans. They may be rotting away… somewhere… in film vaults.
Alexandria (Burton Holmes Travel Picture / April 10, 1921)
Paramount (Famous Players-Lasky)- Burton Holmes
bw & silent-8+m
Burton Holmes was the father of American travelogues, with footage stretching pretty far back. His 1914-22 shorts for Paramount were the most popular shorties of this kind during the silent era and these were often reissued by popular demand… and prompted rival companies to jump on the bandwagon by providing new exotic “scenic” each week. This Egyptian trip is part of a cluster that UCLA has in their archives.
Rheims (PrizmaColor Scenic / June 1921)
Prizma Film- William Van Doren Kelley & Charles Raleigh; camera: Otto C. Gilmore
color & silent- 10m (approx.)
PrizmaColor was Technicolor’s biggest rival during their infant years 1918-23 and their process was quite good for its time, if generally too expensive for features. Lots of short travelogues and novelties running under two reels (20 minutes) were cranked out before the company suffered economic woes. Sadly not many of these survive today, but this UCLA print shown in 1991 at a preservation festival shows France post-war with many buildings not yet restored from their ruined state.
Pathé Review 05-28 (Pathé Review / January 2, 1928)
Pathé- editor: S. Barret McCormick
part color & silent-10+m
This delightfully prolific film “magazine” ran from 1919 through 1930 and was usually highlighted by a stenciled (frame by frame) color sequence of some faraway locale. Sometimes the process looked… almost as good as… early Technicolor and other times… well… “stenciled”. The Blue Nile valley in Egypt is presented in this fashion here, along with black and white segments of equal interest: Sid Smith at home Lake Geneva (Wisconsin) and Virginia May sculpting dinosaurs out of clay and animating them for the camera as "monsters of the past". Every Pathé Review short featured something of interest and I always love the clever and amusing title cards in those I’ve been lucky to see.
Wildlife of the Veldt (Magic Carpet of Movietone / May 9, 1931)
Fox- Truman Talley
This visit with the furry residents of Kruger National Park in South Africa boasts the sophisticated on location sound recording that Fox Movietone News made famous. Technicolor cameras returned here in 1947 for a Movietone Adventure “update” Jungle Closeups.
Fallen Empire (Vagabond Adventure / July 27, 1931)
Amadee J. Van Beuren-RKO-Pathé- Elmer Clifton / bw-9+m
Tour of Haiti with pre-code bare-breasted ladies smiling at the camera crew. This enjoyable “retro” entry is actually available on DVD with Alpha’s The Fantastic World of William Cameron Menzies.
Laughing With Medbury In Mandalay (Laughing With Medbury / June 3, 1932)
Columbia (Walter A. Fuller, producer)- John P. Medbury; editor: David Miller
This 1931-35 series seems low-budget, but Columbia needed a travelogue series of their own to compete with the other studios… and it helped to have a sense of humor. Contemporaries to this include The Road to Mandalay (Newman Traveltalk, Vitaphone-Warner Brothers 1931) and In Far Mandalay (Fox, Magic Carpet 1934). Burma got quite a workout as a tourist trap during this period.
Krakatoa (Special / April 23, 1933)
Joe Rock (distributed by Educational & Fox)- narrator: Graham McNammee
part c (Multicolor)-23+m
Academy Award Winner (Novelty) partly shot in Multicolor, chronicles both the 1883 volcanic eruption and life here since. Interesting tidbit: the producer did not officially receive his Oscar for several decades because his company went out of business before awards time and he had trouble claiming "authorship".
Italian Caprice (Musical Mood / October 18, 1934)
Audio Productions/First Division- Robert C. Bruce; music: Rosario Bourdon
This may have been the first time Venice and other parts of Italy were shot in the 3-strip Technicolor system. UCLA has a copy in its vaults.
Tracking The Explorers (Adventures of the Newsreel Cameraman / February 8, 1935)
Fox (Truman Talley, producer)- Lew Lehr
Not exactly a travelogue in the strict sense, but boasting plenty of exotic locales from Mongolia to east Africa. This is a “best of” portrait of the real Indiana Jones explorers of the twenties and thirties: including Roy Chapman Andrews, Martin & Osa Johnson and “bring ‘em back alive” Frank Buck
Going Places with Lowell Thomas #13 (Going Places / August 18, 1935)
Universal (Allyn Butterfield, producer)- Charles E. Ford
Not sure how many of these survive from Universal’s omnibus series, directed by a leading newsreel and documentary filmmaker Charles Ford (who died too young) and hosted by the familiar Fox Movietone News host and ‘50s Cinerama commentator Lowell Thomas. (This was the same guy who got his picture on many popular View Masters that kiddies enjoyed in the Eisenhower Era. Universal later curiously replaced him on this particular series with rival commentator Graham McNamee.) Typical entries cover three destinations in one reel… for the price of one as they say. Here we learn all about museum restorations, including religious structures in the southwest US and the Akeley African Hall of stuffed mammals at American Museum of Natural History (NYC).
Rube Goldberg’s Travelgab (Paragraphic / October 13, 1938)
Paramount- Leslie M. Roush
Cartoonist Rube Goldberg takes on New York City from a rather unique perspective.
Children Of Japan (Children Of Many Lands / © October 15, 1940)
Electrical Research Products Inc. (ERPI)- Hugh Borton; narrator: James A. Brill
It is interesting to compare this pre-war (filmed 1938) ERPI Classroom title with the below mentioned Japan: Miracle of Asia, made long after ERPI morphed into Encyclopædia Britannica Films… and long after the nation got itself involved in a war with the United States.
See here: https://archive.org/...pan_19_20_39_00
Cajuns Of The Teche (Panoramic / August 13, 1942)
Columbia- André De La Varre
Before becoming Warner Bros. top travelogue director, André De La Varre provided a series of shorties for Columbia including this intimate look at Louisiana, the first of an aborted "Quaint Folks" series.
Fantasy of Siam (Movietone Adventure / January 3, 1947)
20th Century Fox (Edmund Reek, producer)- Valeska Weidig; narrator: George Carson Putnam
Fox’s Movietone Adventure series was a successor to its earlier (often black and white) Magic Carpet of Movietone. What makes this particular color short interesting is that it was roughly shot the same year (1946) as the studio’s fictional Anna and the King of Siam, starring Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne.
Cross Section of Central America: Guatemala (Earth & Its People / August 1, 1948)
United World (Universal-International)- Louis De Rochemont
In the late forties, Universal decided to tap into the 16mm school film market with its United World subsidiary company. With the cooperation of Louis de Rochemont of the “March of Time” series, it decided to do an in-depth series of travelogues that ventured further than most films of the period. Although economically shot in black and white at a time when most travel journeys were seen in color, these were so popular in schools that they were reissued in 35mm for theater release in 1951-53.
People Along the Mississippi (February 21, 1952)
Encyclopædia Britannica Films- John Barnes, Gordon Weisenborn (co-director) & Clarence W. Sorensen
In 1950, Encyclopædia Britannica hired a radio and stage veteran John Barnes to direct some of their most prestigious classroom 16mm documentaries. Among these was this portrait of the Mississippi that begs for a better print than the Internet Archive has available (https://archive.org/...the_mississippi ). A boy sends a toy boat into Minnesota waters and it winds up in New Orleans. (This film invites comparison to a more popular 1966 National Film Board of Canada color short featuring a wooden Indian toy, Paddle to the Sea. ) Not so much a “this-place-is-called” travelogue, but a narrated story of early cinéma vérité that, according to historian Geoff Alexander, may be one of the earliest school films to touch on the sticky subject of pre-civil rights era race relations. In a key scene, Paul must stop playing with his darker-skinned friend on account of peer pressure. In 1953, another John Barnes production for Encyclopædia Britannica, The Living City (profiling Chicago and other cities, made available to theaters in 35mm) was nominated for an Academy Award.
Vesuvius Express (Fox CinemaScope Special / December 16, 1953)
20th Century Fox- Otto Lang; camera: Charles Clark
color CinemaScope (& stereophonic sound)-15+m
This Oscar nominee has the widescreen cameras follow a train ride through Italy. Warner Brothers and Columbia started pumping out ‘Scope travelogues during the next year or so (i.e. Columbia’s Wonders Of Manhattan, a “Musical Travelark”, seemed a better fit to booked with the widescreen feature Picnic instead of a black and white Three Stooges comedy). Universal-International made use of the cheaper Vistarama format, while Paramount introduced their own superior process with our next shortie…
VistaVision Visits Norway (VistaVision Special / October 14, 1954)
Paramount- James Fitzpatrick
It is a pity that Paramount didn’t put this on their DVDs for White Christmas, the feature this travelogue was shown with in theaters.
Samoa (People & Places / July 16, 1956)
Walt Disney- Ben Sharpsteen; camera: Herb & Trudy Knapp
This Academy Award nominee is among Disney’s Forgotten Films… at least until Leonard Maltin decides to dust if off for a TCM Vault Disney lineup. Although the People & Places series (1952-59) enjoyed a successful afterlife in classrooms during the sixties through early eighties and fleeting interest on the Disney Channel right about the same time schools and libraries began chucking their 16mm projectors for VHS, it appears that the mighty corporation would rather have EPCOT represent its rose-colored perception of the world instead of these ol’ travelogue “thangs”. To date, none made the DVD cut, probably because Roy Disney Jr. struggled enough just to get the True Life Adventures on disc… and these only sold to geeks like me.
Japan: Miracle in Asia (© September 16, 1963)
Encyclopædia Britannica Films- William Deneen
Many of the EB films (called ERPI in their pre-1943 period before joining the popular encyclopedia franchise) made for schools between 1929 and 1995 (by which time VHS long replaced 16mm film) are still entertaining and timeless. Director William Deneen later headed Columbia’s very successful school film company Learning Corporation of America and was particularly skilled in relating foreign cultures to American children. This impressive take on Japanese manufacturing, transportation and family life has not one second of boredom. The cameras are literally everywhere in homes and factories. You can view it here: https://archive.org/...le_in_asia_1963
The Two Faces of Kenya (Universal Color Adventure / November 1966)
Universal (Norman Gluck, producer)- Ed Bartsch; script: William O'Connell; narrator: Jim Branch
Universal kept a surprisingly consistent run of travelogue and sports shorts in movie theaters as late as 1972, all shown before its main features along with a newsreel (at least until 1967) and the latest Woody Woodpecker, Chilly Willy or Beary Family cartoon from the Walter Lantz studio. These were generally well reviewed at the time and even had individual advertising posters. This documentary contrasts modern Nairobi with the older agricultural cultures… and includes the usual quota of giraffes, lions and so forth.
Building a House (African Village Life / © June 13, 1967)
International Film Foundation (Julien Bryan, producer)- Hermann Schlenker
Part of a series shot in Mali in 1965 that was shown in many public schools on 16mm so that children in the United States can experience everyday life in a land that lacked TV sets and grocery stores. Other typical titles included Building a Boat and Fishing on the ****.
The Middle Atlantic Region (U.S. Geography Series / 1976)
McGraw-Hill- John Wilkman
The 1970s may not be considered a golden age for theatrical short subjects (Sheriff Hoot Kloot anyone?), but it was a golden age for 16mm school films. This travelogue gets considerable attention by Geoffrey Alexander in Academic Films for the Classroom: A History because it is not the usual animated maps and landmarks piece, but a cross selection of people interviews that hardly aim to please tourists. One taxi driver in New York complains about racism impacting his business, while a Philadelphia supervisor has to deal with a garbage dump crisis.