Long before blogs, long before TV, you’d be lucky if you had a chance to catch a newsreel playing in a theatre. Every now and then, you’d get something exotic, like a Traveltalk reel from MGM.
Presented by James A. Fitzpatrick, shown here, many of these reels were shot and shown in Technicolor, which had only been invented in 1916. The journalist and filmmaker went on to produce 274 films in his time. Of those, he appeared in and/or narrated 224 of them. He also estimated once his travels covered more than 500,000 miles in producing his Traveltalk series.
Interesting tidbit: He’s thought to be the first-ever producer to narrate his films from off-screen. His series is considered invaluable for capturing a dying age of America, and the world — the age before the highrise building dominated landscapes all over the globe.
It’s no wonder he went on to receive a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Today, Traveltalk reels can be found on Youtube, as well as occasionally airing on Turner Classic Movies channel between films.
Here’s a videoclip from the tireless Fitzpatrick’s series on world travels. This is “Victoria and Vancouver: The Gateway to the Pacific.” It’s a significant time for travelogues, remember, because only in the 1930s did commercial flying, steamship travel, and faster trains become more universally within reach. The Great Depression of the ’30s and Roosevelt’s New Deal were gettting America back to work through building infrastructure that would change life as we know it between then and the post-World-War II landscape.
Victoria’s Inner Harbour has really changed in the 76 years since this 1936 travelogue was filmed. Victoria’s travel spiel hasn’t changed much in that time, though. They still pitch us as Canada’s most British city, and it’s still things like our Mounties and Butchart Gardens that seems to merit mentioning.
Only now are we starting to show Victoria in a richer, less colonial light, and judging from how dated this clip seems, it’s probably not a moment too soon.