Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tonight's Movies: James A. FitzPatrick Traveltalks Shorts, Volume 1 - A Warner Archive DVD Review

I've been fascinated with James A. FitzPatrick's Traveltalks shorts since I was first exposed to them many moons ago in THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT, PART II (1976).

I'm absolutely delighted that 60 of Fitzpatrick's Technicolor shorts have been compiled by the Warner Archive in a three-disc set, James A. FitzPatrick Traveltalks Shorts, Volume 1. These shorts give brief Technicolor looks -- typically around eight minutes -- at interesting places around the world. I'm hoping for several more volumes to be released in the future!

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT, PART II memorably cut together FitzPatrick's classic signoff, "And so we say farewell to..." In this set FitzPatrick says hello and farewell to cities and countries all over the globe, including Japan, Europe, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and countless spots throughout the United States.

There are many aspects which make these shorts interesting. The earliest Technicolor Traveltalks, in 1934, predated the first three-strip Technicolor feature film, BECKY SHARP (1935). Two 1934 shorts are included in the set, SWITZERLAND THE BEAUTIFUL (1934) and IRELAND: THE EMERALD ISLE (1934).

Winton Hoch, who worked at Technicolor helping to develop the three-color system, got his start as a cinematographer shooting Traveltalks. His work in this set includes BEAUTIFUL BANFF AND LAKE LOUISE (1935), YELLOWSTONE PARK: NATURE'S PLAYGROUND (1936), and HONG KONG: HUB OF THE ORIENT (1937), among others.

In the '40s Hoch moved into shooting feature films. He would eventually win the Oscar for John Ford's SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949); I'll be reviewing the Warner Archive's brand-new YELLOW RIBBON Blu-ray here in the near future.

Oscar-winning British cinematographer Jack Cardiff also developed his skills shooting for the Traveltalks series, including this set's PARIS ON PARADE (1938).

I often think while watching these shorts how amazing it must have been for audiences of the mid '30s to see faraway places in vivid color for the first time. Shorts such as MODERN TOKYO (1935), ORIENTAL PARADISE (1936), and FLORAL JAPAN (1937) also provided U.S. audiences their last tranquil glimpses of Japan before the start of the Second World War.

During the war years, the shorts would focus on the U.S. and also further our "Good Neighbor" policy, looking at points south such as Mexico, before returning to Europe in the post-war years.

One of my favorites in the set is LOS ANGELES "WONDER CITY OF THE WEST" (1935), which includes looks at various movie studios. FitzPatrick even shakes hands with Walt Disney.

The shorts are fascinating windows in time -- including, on occasion, aspects which might now be considered a bit politically incorrect. The title RED MEN ON PARADE (1941) -- set in Gallup, New Mexico -- is not one likely to be used these many years later. Kudos to the Warner Archive for including such shorts without regard for the odd phrase or attitude which may seem jarring now but are historically valuable.

As far as I can tell at a glance, the shorts in the set are presented in chronological order, though many titles are skipped for unknown reasons. (I am guessing some of them might need work done before they can be released.) The shorts included in this set span a dozen years, starting in 1934 and running through 1946.

Some of the shorts have light scratches, mostly notable during the opening credits, while others look terrific throughout.

The set I received consisted of silver-backed pressed discs.

Hopefully many more Traveltalk shorts will be forthcoming from the Warner Archive!

Update: I have now reviewed Volume 2 and Volume 3.

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 Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I've always loved the Traveltalks. A treat when they pop up on TCM from time to time.

8:33 AM  

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