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In the Valley of the Rhine

In the Valley of the Rhine(1953)

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teaser In the Valley of the Rhine (1953)

Travelogue short subjects had been standard film fare from the beginning of motion pictures, but the development of Technicolor in the 1930s made James A. FitzPatrick's Travel Talks series the gold standard of travelogue entertainment. Distributed by MGM, the ten-minute shows dazzled Depression-era audiences with Technicolor views of famous locales they might never see in person. FitzPatrick billed himself as 'The Voice of the Globe'. He tended to oversimplify his narration, but audiences didn't care. 1950's Colorful Holland gives the impression that The Netherlands is a rural amusement park, with its low waterways, appealing milkmaids in traditional costumes, fishermen fixing nets and cheese makers rolling out wagons filled with balls of Edam. By this late date in the series many scenes were filmed with posed models, in this case smiling locals wearing wooden shoes. The narration stresses that all share a lifestyle of idyllic contentment, but FitzPatrick does mention the absence of the traditional rural storks, which had become a source of food during the war. In the Valley of the Rhine (1953) obtains its footage of breathtaking castles from the deck of a touring boat. FitzPatrick's narration assures us that they're available for rent, cheap, but then adds that 'the spirit of the people has been indestructible' when views of Cologne show widespread bombing ruins, with a large cathedral largely untouched. We see what we're told was once Adolf Hitler's tour boat, and we are given an explanation of the legend of the Lorelei. Romantic Riviera (1951) substitutes an organ soloist for orchestral music. We see faraway views of Nice and Monte Carlo, and take an only slightly closer peek at outdoor restaurants and a seaside promenade. The second half of the short subject centers on a little inland town, to display the 'simple manners and customs of the native people' as they bowl in the park. Although viewers don't look to travelogues for political comment, the Travel Talks were noted for a slight tone of condescension, as if all these pleasant peasants were movie extras hired for our amusement.

By Glenn Erickson

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