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  
Blogger Rivelin Mill said...

If you still have this volume to hand I wonder if you could satisfy my curiosity about 'Scholastic England' which I am having trouble finding on this side of the Atlantic. My father was a scholar at Eton College. I found a letter he wrote home in which he describes the arrival of "James B Fitzpatrick Travel Talks Limited" (of course he meant James A) to do some filming. BUT, that was in 1945. Since Scholastic England came out in 1948 I wonder if it is feasible that they might have kept the footage for three years before using it (this might explain the poor quality?). Or maybe they went back and did some more filming. Comparing the footage with my father's description might help decide. Even if this turns out to a wild goose chase, I think what he wrote says something about the company's way of working and attitude to their subject (my father was 13 years old):

“On Thursday afternoon some welcome light refreshment turned up, heavily disguised as James B. Fitzpatrick’s travel Talks limited, (British Expedition). A[s] I gazed with very little enthusiasm upon my Maths Extra Work, a number of cars drew up in Westons yard. Skipping lightly to the window I saw a complete filming apparatus being unloaded from a van, so collecting various friends I went off to see what all this was in aid of. We were instantly commandeered by a stout gentleman with an American accent which could be cut with a knife, and sent back for our Top Hats (Apparently the Great American Public would consider a film a fraud if it showed us wearing anythng but Top Hats). The American started with the idea that most of us should walk across what he called “the Lawn”, (College Grass) and it took the Captain of the School a good five minutes to impress upon him that it was Holy Ground (capital H, capital G.) However, for an hour the nine of us walked round Westons yard & School yard, while a short stubby man with a Pipe which was certain death at a range of 3 yards to windward solemnly filmed us.”

Thanks for any help you can offer, Hugh in Sheffield, UK

9:02 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

How do I order all 3 volumes and from whom ?

10:41 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hugh, your comment somehow got by me at the time it was posted and I loved reading your account of the filming at Eton. I don't have the DVD immediately at hand now but will be looking for that in the future. Perhaps by now you've been able to see it yourself and find out for sure if it's as your father described. Wonderful story!

Best wishes,

2:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Unknown, if you click on the "Warner Archive" hyperlink at either the top or bottom of the post it will take you to the Warner Archive section of the WB Shop where you can order all three sets.

Best wishes,

2:20 PM  

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