Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tonight's Movies: James A. FitzPatrick Traveltalks Shorts, Vol. 3 - A Warner Archive DVD Review

James A. FitzPatrick Traveltalks Shorts, Volume 3, is now available from the Warner Archive.

This recent release follows Volumes 1 and 2; I reviewed Volume 1 last June and Volume 2 in November.

Volume 3 contains 64 Traveltalks shorts released from 1940 to 1954; the majority of the shorts are from the postwar era. The previous volumes had 60 shorts apiece, although Volume 2 had one short which was inadvertently duplicated from Volume 1.

The new set also includes a pair of "extras," the 20-minute MIGHTY MANHATTAN, NEW YORK'S WONDER CITY (1949) and a promotional short for QUO VADIS (1951) called ROME, THE ETERNAL CITY (1951). The box thus advertises 66 shorts on its cover.

My previous reviews include background information on Traveltalks and what makes them special. Thanks to Volume 3, viewers can once again "armchair travel" around the world, from California to New York, Nova Scotia to Brazil, and Spain to India, with many more stops along the way.

The Traveltalks allow time traveling back to cities and famous sites as they were decades ago, which is mostly fascinating and very occasionally disturbing. A notable example of the latter is a children's park in PRETORIA TO DURBAN (1952) labeled "Europeans Only"; it took a second for the meaning to register, that the park was segregated. Still, that's as educational to the modern viewer as any of the more lighthearted scenes.

My favorite short in the set is perhaps GLIMPSES OF CALIFORNIA (1946), which tours Hollywood Boulevard, the Farmers Market, and Forest Lawn Glendale. It's fascinating to see the Chinese Theatre with a big parking lot next door!

AROUND THE WORLD IN CALIFORNIA (1947) is also fun, featuring tours of Olvera Street and Chinatown in Los Angeles, as well as a visit to actor Leo Carrillo's ranch, seen at the left. Leo Carrillo State Park and Beach would later be named for Carrillo, along with an elementary school in nearby Westminster.

Print quality of the shorts is variable; for example, the California shorts mentioned above look terrific, while SCHOLASTIC ENGLAND (1948) and PLAYLANDS OF MICHIGAN (1949) are faded, and a few scenes in the latter short are yellowed.

This set consists of three discs; the discs in the set I received for review were silver-backed pressed discs. All three volumes are highly recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD set. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Maricatrin said...

My dad recently bought several sets of these, and while he loves the globe-trotting back-in-time aspect of them, he says the narrator's frequent mispronunciations really set his teeth on edge. Apparently, "Riviera" has to be heard to be believed, but "Culloden", "Zuiderzee", and others like them fare little better. In fairness to the narrator, he had probably never heard of many of these places before the scripts were shoved in front of him, but still... "Riviera" is pretty basic.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Laura said...


Since FitzPatrick, the narrator, is seen on screen in many Traveltalks, he went to at least some of them himself -- I wonder if evolving pronunciations could also be a factor? Along those lines, while I watched this weekend I was noticing his pronunciation of Los Angeles, an issue which has been discussed here before; in some '40s films you'll hear it with a hard G. (The L.A. Chamber of Commerce endorsed the soft G in 1952.) Here his narration was somewhere in the middle, not a super hard G yet not what I would think of as a common pronunciation of Los Angeles, either!

Although, as you say, Riviera seems pretty basic...not sure there could be another way to say it! LOL.

Best wishes,

9:32 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

I received all three TravelTalks volumes for Christmas and have already watched the first several from Volume 1. I wholeheartedly agree with your recommendation of the series as a great visual time capsule (the same reason I enjoy other similar films, like the Cinerama travelogues).

4:13 PM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

Laura: well, there goes my excuse for him! I'm watching one of the Travel Talks right now, and it seems to me that he sometimes places an odd emphasis on everyday words too... so maybe it's just a regional accent or personal trick of speech. And, as you say, the pronunciation of certain places can change (though probably not for Riviera, Culloden, or Zuiderzee;-)) Interesting fact about LA.

The series seems like a pleasant enough project (even with FitzPatrick saying "Culloden" like it was a brand of toothpaste), and commendable for capturing precious little vignettes from faraway places... and now, to us, faraway times as well.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Seth, delighted to know you like them! I'd like to check out the recent Cinerama releases from Flicker Alley.

Maricatrin, you're correct, he does have unique pronunciations in general...I guess I've gotten used to it but you're right!

Another reason I find the sets interesting is the early use (in the mid '30s) of Technicolor, plus, if you're not already aware, the films were a training ground for future Oscar winners Winton C. Hoch and Jack Cardiff. Combined with the long-ago looks at places near and far, a lot to enjoy here.

Best wishes,

10:36 AM  

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