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Paris on Parade

Paris on Parade(1938)

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teaser Paris on Parade (1938)

James A. FitzPatrick's Traveltalks series of travelogues began in B&W in 1930, and then switched to early Technicolor in 1934, the year before the first 3-strip Technicolor feature film was released. Separate Travel Talk episodes demonstrate how the series developed over three decades. The subject of the elegant early entry Paris on Parade (1938) is the Paris Exposition of 1937, a somewhat somber plea for international harmony made just months before Europe would be plunged into war. The expert taking on the challenge of the 3-strip camera is Jack Cardiff, who is by far the most prestigious name associated with the Travel Talks. Cardiff would later film many Technicolor classics, such as The Red Shoes (1948). He shoots from high on the Eiffel Tower and from the deck of a boat on the Seine. We see many visitors in long shot, but close-ups are reserved for pavilion dancers from Hungary and Spain. The Soviet Union's theme statue appears to be the same one featured on the logo for the state-run film studio Mosfilm. Under-cranking the Technicolor camera allows Cardiff to film the Expo's colored fountains and fireworks at night. From 1946, Looking at London departs from the series' lightweight postcard art to show the effects of the war on England's capital. We see some pageantry as the Lord Mayor greets a parade of WWI veterans. The tour of bombing sites begins with views of bridges on the Thames, 'some old, some new, some blitzed.' Piccadilly Square is unchanged, and we're told that most of the famous landmarks, like the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London, were untouched. But the entire area around St. Paul's Cathedral has been leveled. The narration notes that flowers growing in the ruins are a positive inspiration and suggests that the rebuilt city will be a major improvement. 1953's Seeing Spain shows the Travel Talks becoming less relevant in the 1950s. The camera skips between Granada, Seville, Toledo and Madrid, offering impressive views of famous landmarks but even more condescending comments on the 'gentle' locals seemingly present to service American tourists. A variety of staged scenes cover flamenco dancers, a sword-maker, cathedrals and the house of El Greco, but a new political view predominates. The ancient Moors are described as 'aggressive and warlike,' even as they are credited with many of the region's cultural and scientific achievements. The recent civil war is referred to once as 'the Spanish rebellion'.

By Glenn Erickson

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