“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.
Sources & Notes
“A Cavalcade of Texas” was directed, edited, and narrated by James A. Fitzpatrick and can be seen in full on YouTube, 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.