Before the leisure travel explosion in the 1960s and 70s, international travel was a rare pastime mostly attended to by either conquering armies, missionaries or people who had lots and lots of money. Which didn’t leave much room for the rest of the common man.
Fortunately for them, in the early 20th century there was a handful of adventuresome filmmakers who set out to reveal exotic lands to those without the ability to see it for themselves. Early pioneers of the “travelogue” such as Burton Holmes and Andre de la Varre made it their mission to reveal those faraway tracts to eyes who, without a war, probably would never have a chance to see them, immediately making the films very popular and their production a fashionable pursuit.
One such adventurer was Deane H. Dickason, an intrepid soul who made his way at a young age to Europe, India, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Far East to document the native ways. What I appreciate most about Dickason though, over some of the other popular film narrators, is his flair for the dramatic. His voiceovers carry along with them a certain wide-eyed appreciation for the cultures he witnesses.
Dickason’s narration is in the vein of any early century journalism, steeped in a verbose sort of melodrama, but his words are endlessly entertaining and you hang on to every one. The pictures speak for themselves — they give us an obvious reminder just how much (and how little) the world has changed in 80 years.
Dickason produced a series of 13 short travel films from his travel repertoire and in 1934 released them as a series, one on the first of every month.
Below I’ve chosen to showcase today two of the three of Dickason films that made it all the way to the Internet. But if you’re looking for a wider selection of these kind of vintage travel films, The Travel Film Archive has plenty to keep you occupied. Enjoy the films and this momentary trek back in time.