Flying down to Rio: Hollywood, Tourists, and Yankee Clippers

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Colin M. MacLachlan

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
HAHR richly textured a journey as is its namesake reflects great enthusiasm and intellectual creativity and will appeal to both popular and scholarly audiences.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585444212
  • Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Series: Centennial of Flight Series, #10
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 396
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

ROSALIE SCHWARTZ lives and writes in San Diego, California. Two of her previous books, Pleasure Island: Tourism and Temptation in Cuba and Lawless Liberators: Political Banditry and Cuban Independence, have won the Hubert Herring Award for best publications on Latin American history.
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Table of Contents

Introduction : an entertainment century 3
Ch. 1 Reflections on wonderlands 21
Ch. 2 Inventors and entertainers : aviation 75
Ch. 3 Inventors and entertainers : movies 131
Ch. 4 Surmountable contradictions 181
Ch. 5 Lines in the sky 221
Ch. 6 PAA and RKO : the Rio connection 259
Ch. 7 Musical fantasies, political realities 303
Epilogue : movies, airplanes, and touristic urges 343
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