“A Cavalcade of Texas” — Dallas, Filmed in Technicolor, 1938
by Paula Bosse
Screenshot from “A Cavalcade of Texas”
by Paula Bosse
(SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH THE FILM CLIPS.)
Brought to my attention last night in a Dallas history group was the heretofore unknown-to-me full-length, Hollywood-slick travelogue called “A Cavalcade of Texas,” shot around the state in 1938 under the auspices of Karl Hoblitzelle in his capacity as chairman of the Texas World’s Fair Commission. (Hoblitzelle also built the Majestic Theater and founded the Interstate Theatre chain.)
“A Cavalcade of Texas” — a 49-minute full-color travelogue touting the beauty, history, natural resources, and industries of the state — was made to be shown at the New York World’s Fair, but because of a variety of production and logistical problems, the film was, instead released theatrically. John Rosenfield, the legendary “amusements” critic for The Dallas Morning News, was suitably impressed. After an early preview of the film he wrote:
The picture should be a revelation to the outlanders who still think of Texas as the backwoods with a hillbilly civilization. (DMN, June 27, 1939)
The film opened in Dallas in October of 1939 at, unsurprisingly, The Majestic, second on a bill with a Ginger Rogers film (which was fitting, as Ginger had begun her professional career at The Majestic as a teenager). The pertinent paragraph from Rosenfield’s official review is amusingly snippy:
“Cavalcade” shoots the Houston skyline as a bristling metropolitan acreage, but hides the Dallas buildings behind the towering Magnolia Building. Maybe we are sensitive about it but we don’t feel that architectural justice has been done. The Fort Worth aspect is glorified more than it deserves. (DMN, Oct. 15, 1939)
(Sorry, Fort Worth!)
The Dallas scenes are only about 4 minutes’ worth of the whole film, but to see Dallas at this time in color — and moving — is kind of thrilling. The entire film is on YouTube, but I’ve bookmarked the two Dallas bits. First, after an interminable sequence on how fantastic things will be when we finally make that darn Trinity navigable, is a Dealey Plaza-less Triple Underpass, shots of Main Street (including the now partially obliterated 1600 block at the 17:52 mark, on the right), Fair Park (including a description of the Hall of State as “the Westminster Abbey of the New World” (!)), and a neon-lit Elm Street at night. (If you let it keep going, you’ll see “the Fort Worth aspect.”)
(I am having problems embedding this clip to begin at the 17:30 mark. If the above does not begin at the Dallas sequence, see it at YouTube, here.)
Twenty minutes later, the viewer is, for some reason, shown the Dallas Country Club with what I’m guessing are Neiman-Marcus models pretending to play golf.
(If the above does not begin at the Dallas Country Club sequence at 40:09, see it at YouTube, here.)
Those are just the Dallas bits — the whole film is an impressive undertaking, and it’s great to see documentary footage of this period in rich color, presented with incredibly high production values, in full Hollywood style.
Ad, Oct. 14, 1939 (click to see larger image)
Sources & Notes
“A Cavalcade of Texas” was directed, edited, and narrated by James A. Fitzpatrick and can be seen in full on YouTube, here.
Background on Karl Hoblitzelle can be read in information provided by the Handbook of Texas, here, and by the Dallas Public Library, here.
The wonderful and vibrant 1939 footage of downtown Dallas that was discovered on eBay a few months ago and “saved” by a group of preservation-minded Dallasites, which included Robert Wilonsky and Mark Doty, is one of my favorite Dallas-history-related stories of 2014. Watch that footage here.
Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.
Well-done, Paula, yea! I know I’ve complimented you on producing this blog before, but let me do it again: receiving it via email is one of the highlights of my week! Thanks again! – Steve Schaffer
Thank you, Steve! And thank YOU for bringing my attention to this full-length Texas travelogue in the first place!
The Tarrant County Courthouse is a “town hall?” And the Hall of State “the Westminster Abbey of the new world?” Gawd!
Haha. Well, it WAS a promotional film, masquerading as a travelogue.
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This is just amazing!
Thanks! It was very interesting to research.
Great article, but Cavalcade of Texas was filmed in Telco-Color and not Technicolor. You can check here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_color_film_systems
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Thanks for the comment. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of the Telco-Color process — it certainly may have been used in Cavalcade of Texas — but the opening title card of this film says “Interstate Theatres of Texas Presents ‘A Cavalcade of Texas’ in Technicolor, Produced Under the Auspices of The Texas World Fair Commission.” See this at the 4:09 mark in the video (after an introduction): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lv2q97thzQ
That’s strange. I wonder which it really is. I just found this news article about Telco-Color and Cavalcade. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1018&dat=19360807&id=ALckAAAAIBAJ&sjid=zA8GAAAAIBAJ&pg=1609,36535&hl=en
Maybe certain parts were done in Technicolor?
“Cavalcade of Texas” was also the name of of a huge production which was staged several times a day at the Centennial, replete with massive, complicated sets and hundreds of performers.
I’ve done some digging and can find no mention of the “Telco” color process in the Dallas Morning News archives. I also didn’t see anything about the experimental “instant” newsreel being shown at the Majestic Theatre (it might have been, I just see no mention of it — the Majestic was the HQ for the Interstate Theatres company).
I did find an article (linked at the end of this comment) which indicates that this experimental film was shot on Sat. June 13, 1936, during the Texas Centennial Exposition and captured “all the brilliance and pageantry of the carnival celebration.” There is no “carnival celebration” Centennial footage seen above in the 1939 “Cavalcade of Texas” (there are shots at Fair Park, but they don’t appear to have been shot during the jam-packed Centennial). Also, the downtown footage was shot at Christmastime — probably the same time the rest of the Dallas footage was shot.
Perhaps the Telco process never really worked as well as they thought it might, and it was ditched for the making of this full-length documentary. Perhaps these “Cavalcades” have nothing at all to do with one another.
I saw only one mention of “Telco” in a Texas newspaper: in the March 7, 1941 edition of the Hondo Anvil Herald (Hondo, TX), the Western “Lure of the Wasteland” was mentioned (“filmed in Telco color”) playing at a local theater.
Here is the article that had more specifics than others mentioning the experimental newsreel footage shot at the Texas Centennial (Salt Lake City Tribune, June 17, 1936): http://bit.ly/29LGYZx
All of this is very interesting, and I’d love to see the footage that Hoyt and Ungar shot that day in June at the Centennial!
Or maybe the Technicolor people bought out the whippersnapper competition.