In this book, author Rosalie Schwartz uses the 1933 RKORadio Pictures production Flying Down to Rio to examine the interplay of technology and popular culture that shaped a distinctive twentiethcentury sensibility. The musical comedy connected airplanes, movies, and tourism, ending spectacularly with chorus girls dancing on the wings of airplanes high above Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Hollywood fantasy capped three decades during which airplanes and movies engendered new expectations and redefined peoples sense of wellbeing, their personal satisfactions, and their interpersonal relations. Wilbur and Orville Wright flew their airplane in 1903, at the same time that filmmakers began to project edited, filmed stories onto large screens. Spectators found entertainment value in both airplane competitions and motion pictures, and movie producers brought the thrill of aviators antics to a rapidly expanding audience. Meanwhile, air shows and competitions attracted large crowds of tourists. Mass tourism grew as a leisuretime activity, stimulated in part by travelogues and feature films. By 1930, the businessmen who envisioned transporting tourists to their destinations by airplane struggled to overcome the movieexaggerated association of flight with danger.
Schwartz weaves these threads into a story of human daring and persistence, political intrigue, and international competition. From Wilbur and Orville to Fred and Ginger, Schwartzs narrative follows the fortunes of aviation and movie pioneers and the foundations and growth of Pan American Airways and RKORadio Pictures, the two companies that came together in Flying Down to Rio.
By the end of the twentieth century, aviation, movies, and mass tourism had become powerful global industries, contributing to an internationally connected, entertainmentoriented culture. What was once unthinkable had now become expected.
What Readers Are Saying:
This book seems to hit virtually every thing of note in the crucial period of modern entertainment and aviation . . . a wonderful tapestry of technology, war, popular culture and social change. . . . an enjoyable read, while providing insights useful to the scholar as well as the general reader . . . history as it ought to be, but seldom is in reality. She has fused imagination, humor, has an eye for attractive detail, and is a skilled writer and historian. . . . It sets a new standard that places aviation history within a very insightful context and ties together a whole range of elements from tourism, popular culture, social change, evolving appreciation for the potential of aviation, politics, etc.--Colin M. MacLachlan, John Christie Barr Distinguished Professor of History, Tulane University
This book uses the film Flying Down to Rio to focus on intertwining themes in the histories of flight, of film, and of tourism. . . . The author is persuasive in arguing for the historical importance ofand the fascinating links amongthese three phenomena. This book is far richer than a book exclusively on any one of the three might be, and readers with an interest in just one particular area (flight, for example) will find this book’s broader context rewarding. . . . a serious interpretation, written in an engaging, narrative style that should be accessible to experts and nonexperts --Emily S. Rosenberg, author, A Day Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in America
“ . . . Rosalie Schwartz’s cultural history of aviation, film, and tourism discovers fascinating connections among these three industries that not only developed contemporaneously—the year 1927, for example, witnessed both Charles A. Lindbergh’s solo transatlantic flight and the first “talkie,” The Jazz Singer— but together ushered in an “entertainment century” (p. 6) defined by the globalization of U.S. capital and culture. . . . as richly textured as a journey in its namesake film. . . . it reflects great enthusiasm and intellectual creativity and will appeal to both popular and scholarly audiences.” --Hispanic American Historical Review