During the late 1940’s and through the 1950’s, the American car maker Chevrolet commissioned the creation of a series of 3 and 4 minute mini-travelogues which were used to encourage Americans to `get out on the road and see America’ in their new Chevrolet.
The series was called The Roads To Romance.
Okay, these were thinly veiled commercials. But they are no less interesting for it.
Travelogues were once a big part of entertainment. At a time when few people were afforded the opportunity to travel – particularly to the more exotic and obscure places of the world – travel films gave people a way to see how other people in the world live.
Perhaps the most famous of these were the James Fitzpatrick travelogues produced for MGM during the 1930’s and 1940’s (as the sun slowly sets in the west . . .we bid fond adieu to the quaint and happy people of . . .)
The rap on these, and other travel films of the era was that they were often little more than moving picture postcards, showing only the positive and `pretty side’ of life.
Social commentary and gritty realism was great stuff in film noir, but it wasn’t often found in travelogues.
Admittedly, access to places like Borneo, or Lithuania, or Peru (or even some places in America!) for these producers would have been shut down in a hurry if documentary filmmakers has focused on poverty, crime, and human rights.
We view movies (particularly musicals, fantasies, romances, etc) through a lens that allows for artistic distortions of reality, with little complaint. As long as we don’t try to view these travelogues as `documentaries’, we ought to be able to enjoy them for what they are.
A glimpse back at the way we used to be, viewed through the lens of the American Dream of the 1950’s.
So . . . if you’ve a half hour or so, and any desire to see the United States of the late 1940s and 1950’s through the windshield of a classic Chevrolet . . . sit back and enjoy these Sunday drives.
Actually 4 different travelogues – each running about 3 minutes in length. This film features road trips to Oak Creek Canyon (Arizona), California Coastal Highway (San Luis Obispo, San Simeon), San Diego’s Cabrillo Freeway, and lastly Western Michigan’s "Queen of the Great Lakes"
Admittedly, for a Floridian who grew up during the 1950s in this state, this one has special appeal. `Old Florida’ is just about gone, replaced by high rise condos, fast food restaurants, and Interstate Highways.
Romanticized? You bet, but still a wonderful trip back to the past.
Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, Minnehaha Parkway in Minneapolis and the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Cayuga Lake in New York, Olympic National Park in Washington, Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah, and the Columbia River Highway in Oregon