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Emmanuel Ravens
Emmanuel Ravens

They Had To See Paris (1929)

The story starts with the all-American Peters family from Oklahoma striking it rich with oil and becoming millionaires, upon which Pike Peters is persuaded by his wife and family that "they had to see Paris" despite his misgivings about leaving his home town.

They Had to See Paris (1929)

The first talkie for Will Rogers, whose funnyman persona really shines through as he ad-libs away in this film about a poor (but happy) family from Oklahoma who strike oil and becoming millionaires overnight. While Will Rogers is content to remain down-to-earth, his family, especially his wife, insist on traveling to Paris for a year where she is intent on finding a rich husband for their daughter. Unfortunately, poor Will Rogers doesnt fit in with the high society, and embarasses his family so much they become ashamed of him, straining their happy family. Will Rogers is really great in this and his character is immediately likable. it's great hearing him speak after his great run as Jubilo the tramp in the silent film, Jubilo.

Rogers plays an small-town-Oklahoma auto mechanic with two grown children. When his newly-constructed oil well literally becomes a gusher, his wife (Irene Rich) decides they must take their children to Paris so they can meet All The Right People. Although Rogers firmly believes all the right people live in his small Oklahoma town, he accompanies his family to the City of Lights.

I have always been fascinated with this time period so reading your review of this movie was very interesting. I love movies and books where you can learn about the time they are set in. I will be looking for this one to watch for those reasons and also to see Will Rogers. What a great theme you all chose for movies to review. Thanks for your insight and suggestion of this movie, Ruth!

Luis Bunuel said that if he were told he had 20 years to live and was asked how he wanted to live them, his reply would be: "Give me two hours a day of activity, and I'll take the other 22 in dreams -- provided I can remember them." Dreams were the nourishment of his films, and from his earliest days as a surrealist in Paris to his triumphs in his late 70s, dream logic was always likely to interrupt the realism of his films. That freedom gave them a quality so distinctive that, like those of Alfred Hitchcock and Federico Fellini, they could be identified almost immediately.

It is useful to remember that "Un Chien Andalou" was made not by the Bunuel and Dali that we see as crumbling old men in photographs, but by headstrong young men in their 20s, intoxicated by the freedom of Paris during the decade of the Lost Generation. There is a buried connection between the surrealists and the Sex Pistols, Bunuel and David Lynch, Dali and Damien Hirst (the artist who exhibited half a lamb in a cube of plastic). "Although the surrealists didn't consider themselves terrorists," Bunuel wrote in his autobiography, "they were constantly fighting a society they despised. Their principal weapon wasn't guns, of course; it was scandal."

The scandal of "Un Chien Andalou" has become one of the legends of the surrealists. At the first screening, Bunuel claimed, he stood behind the screen with his pockets filled with stones, "to throw at the audience in case of disaster." Others do not remember the stones, but Bunuel's memories were sometimes a vivid rewrite of life. When he and his friends first saw Sergei Eisenstein's revolutionary Soviet film "Battleship Potemkin," he claimed, they left the theater and immediately began tearing up the street stones to build barricades. True?

He went to spend a few days at the house of Dali, a fellow Spaniard, and told him of a dream he'd had, in which a cloud sliced the moon in half, "like a razor blade slicing through an eye." Dali countered with his own dream about a hand crawling with ants. "And what if we started right there and made a film?" he asked Bunuel, and they did. They wrote the screenplay together, and Bunuel directed, taking only a few days and borrowing the budget from his mother.

The racers departed the first day of the race in the order in which they had registered. Each day thereafter, except for the final day, the racers departed in the reverse order of their arrival which kept the racers closely bunched which was convenient for the timers, press and arrival crowds. On the last day, the racers departed according to their standing with the pilot who clocked the lowest cumulative time departing first.

The evening following the first leg of the route ending in San Bernardino dragged on with speeches, entertainment, and a movie. It was past midnight before the contestants finally met to discuss a plan to address their concerns about the suitability of the Calexico airfield. For the second leg, the racers were to fly to Calexico for a stop then on to Phoenix for the night. The women felt it was unnecessarily dangerous to stop at Calexico when Yuma was an easy and close substitute. Collectively banded together to support safety, the racers signed a petition they would not go further than San Bernardino unless routed by or through Yuma instead of Calexico. At 2:30 a.m., Floyd Logan, the air race chairman in Cleveland allowed a compromise that the en route landing could be in Yuma but all racers had to fly over and be identified at Calexico. The compromise was acceptable to the pilots and after re-working their charts, the racers finally went to bed in the pre-dawn hours to ready for their 6:00 a.m. take-off for leg two of the race.

In Pecos, a flood of cars were parked near the edge of the narrow runway. Those unfamiliar with aviation did not understand that when pilots raise the nose of their aircraft for landing, they are virtually blind to the front and could only maintain their momentum straight down the runway by using their peripheral vision. One citizen drove too far into the landing strip and when Pancho Barnes descended for landing, she landed right on his car, demolishing both her upper and lower right wings, putting her out of the race.

The fact that women pilots would want to supervise while their airplanes were serviced did not occur to the planners. Had they been asked, the women flyers would have preferred to camp under the wing rather than endure all the social obligations, but they were polite, understood their objective of promoting aviation and women in aviation and did not want to appear ungrateful for the hospitality.

After nine days of similar mishaps and challenges along the way, most of the women competitors made it to Cleveland, Ohio. Louis Thaden would take the top prize for the larger sized, more powerful racers while Phoebe Omlie would win in the light plane class. For the press and sponsors, the Powder Puff Derby (as humorist Will Rogers had jokingly dubbed it) was a huge success. The women pilots too benefited from all of the publicity, even if the news writers seemed more enamored with reports of what clothes they wore and how they did their hair rather than details about the flights and challenges they had faced along the way.

Those who had preflown the route shared the notes they had describing the airfield, obstacles and the general condition of the landing area. Although they were fiercely competitive for speed, the women supported each other for safety.

The banquets, socials and receptions were recognized by the aviators as public relations duties connected with their objective of promoting aviation and women in aviation, and they attended in good spirit.

General and Mrs. Eisenhower lived in various army posts in the United States and around the world. From their small quarters at Fort Sam Houston, they moved to their first real home--a white pillared fraternity house at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where Ike commanded the Tank Corps Training Center at Camp Colt. After Camp Colt they were transferred to Camp Meade, Maryland, and then to Camp Gaillard in the Panama Canal Zone.

1924: They returned to Camp Meade, and then moved to Fort Logan, Colorado. Eisenhower then received an appointment to the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from which he graduated first in his class, in 1926. After Fort Leavenworth, they spent a few months at Fort Benning, Georgia, before Ike was named to serve with the American Battle Monuments Commission. With this new assignment, they took an apartment in Washington, DC, where Mamie remained until 1936, except for a short stay in Paris.

After eight years in the White House, the Eisenhowers retired to the farm they had purchased in 1949. This home at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was the first one they actually owned. After the General's death, Mamie continued living on the farm, with extended winter vacations in California and Georgia, until she took an apartment in Washington, DC, when her health began to fail in the late 70's.

In 1876, when she was 23, a chance meeting at the royal Aquarium with Lord Ranelagh, whom she knew from Jersey, led her into London society and the world of the Aesthetes. Devotees of a Romantic knightly past, they included in their number the architect and designer William Morris and the painter Edward Burne-Jones. Lacking furs, jewels, a proper maid and sufficient funds, Langtry knew she could not compete with women of fashion. Cleverly, she cultivated her own style and dressed down in simple clothes fashioned for her in Jersey, and arranged her hair with a loose knot at the nape of her neck and a fringe of bangs on her forehead.

Mutual friends arranged for Lillie to meet Queen Victoria's son Edward, the prince of Wales (the future king Edward VII), at a dinner party, and soon they began an affair. When Edward openly flaunted their relationship, Langtry was lionized by hostesses. She was no longer intimidated by her social gaffes and felt they did not matter. She once asked Ulysses S. Grant, who was on a world tour, what he had done since the Civil War, oblivious to the fact that in the interim he had been president of the United States.

Baker's unforgettable opening night with La Revue Nègre, attendedby the fashionable café society of Paris, was vividly described byNew Yorker correspondent Janet Flanner: She made her entry entirely nude except for a pink flamingo feather between her limbs; she was being carried upside down and doing the splits on the shoulder of a black giant [Joe Alex]. Midstage he paused, and with his long fingers holding her basket-wise around the waist, swung her in a slow cartwheel to the stage floor, where she stood. . . . She was an unforgettable female ebony statue. A scream of salutation spread through the theater. Whatever happened next was unimportant. The two specific elements had been established and were unforgettable-her magnificent dark body, a new model that to the French proved for the first time that black was beautiful, and the acute response of the white masculine public in the capital of hedonism of all Europe-Paris. When the troupe of twenty musicians and performers of La Revue Nègrecame to Paris on October 2, 1925, Paul Colin, a young artist from Nancy,had recently created a poster for the Swedish Ballet. Through a friend whohad become the administrator of the popular Théâtre des Champs-Élysées,Colin was commissioned to create a poster for the Revue. The successfuldesign of his poster-influenced by the work of Mexican-born artist MiguelCovarrubias, who created the backdrops for the Revue-launched Colin's careeras a poster and theatrical designer. Over the next twenty-five years, Colinbecame one of France's preeminent graphic artists, creating some 1,900 postersand hundreds of sets for the theater. After a brief love affair, Paul Colinand Josephine Baker maintained a long-lasting friendship, which resultedin numerous commissions for posters, program covers, and other designs documentingher remarkable career.In 1927, Colin contributed thirty illustrations to Baker's Mémoiresand mounted a spectacular event called the Bal Nègre at the Théâtredes Champs-Élysées, which was attended by three thousand Parisians.These efforts to celebrate the "black craze" led him to publishLe Tumulte Noir. Colin drew the images for his portfolio directly on lithographicstone, and they were subsequently colored using the process known as pochoir.Requiring great skill, this technique involves a series of hand-cut stencilplates for each color application, and short, stubby brushes called pompons.Pochoir prints, characterized by areas of rich, flat color painted in gouacheor watercolor, determined the look of Art Deco graphics until the hand-colorprocess gave way to less expensive photochemical methods around 1935.Combining music, dance, and the reckless energy of the jazz era, Colincreated dynamic images that reveal both his genuine admiration for his subjectand his remarkable flair for graphic design. The lithographs-inspired byAfrican sculpture, Cubism, and Art Deco modernism-portray the eclectic movementsof the performers and the Parisians' frenzied imitations. One geometricalfigure, holding a flag, was inspired by a Fernand Léger poster ofthe Swedish dancer Jean Börlin. A jazz ensemble performing againsta fragmented backdrop of ocean liner, skyscrapers, and construction equipmentevokes the Revue Nègre band, led by pianist Claude Hopkins, withdrummer Percy Johnson, Bass Hill playing the tuba, Joe Hayman on saxophone,trombonist Daniel Doy, and Sidney Bechet on clarinet.Two images in Le Tumulte Noir specifically portray Josephine Baker: oneshows her wearing a skirt of palm leaves, and the other, her famous skirtof bananas. According to her son and biographer, Jean-Claude Baker, thisexotic costume was probably designed by Monsieur Christian, companion ofthe preeminent couturier Paul Poiret. Baker wore the original skirt of satinbananas that swung freely about her hips when she starred in her own showat the popular Folies-Bergère music hall in 1926. In her role asFatou, set in a jungle, Baker descended to the stage by climbing backwardsdown a tree. The fashionable heiress Nancy Cunard described the provocative,improvisational dance that followed as "the purest of African plasticin motion-it was free, perfect and exact, it centered admirably on the sparegold banana fronds round the dynamic hips." The New York Times laterwrote that "real stardom" for Baker dated to her banana clad appearanceat the Folies-Bergère. Other female images in the portfolio, suchas a figure dancing on a grand piano, evoke Baker's distinctive, long-limbedbody type and flexible physique.Unlike fellow dancer Louis Douglas, who was already popular in Europe,Baker was relatively unknown when she came to Paris in 1925. After two noteworthyappearances in music hall revues, she was chosen for the cast of La RevueNègre. Although Paul Colin would later claim that he had persuadedthe directors to feature Baker in the Revue instead of blues singer Maudde Forrest, she had already been engaged as the star before leaving America.However, he did introduce her to the haute société and theartistic elite of Paris. Baker enchanted a host of writers and artists,including Georges Simenon, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso,Georges Rouault, Alexander Calder, and architect Adolf Loos, to name a few.The Parisian fascination with black culture, which peaked with the jazzera and the Roaring Twenties, was inspired by a complex web of culturalinfluences. Following Picasso's so-called discovery of African sculpturearound 1906, l'art nègre became a dominant force in many avant gardecircles, as artists perceived in non-Western art forms a pure and intuitivecreative impulse, in contrast to the over-refined artifice they deploredin Western European art.In the performing arts, the folie noire was anoutgrowth of the nineteenth-century minstrel shows in the bohemian nightclubsof Montmartre. Around the turnof the century, Parisians enjoyed ragtime and danced to cakewalk music.During the First World War, jazz rhythms were imported by regimental bands andother groups touring in France. The advent of radio in the early twentiesbrought a greater vogue for American jazz, and it soon prevailed throughoutthe fashionable nightclubs and dance halls of the capital. New Orleansmusician Sidney Bechet was among these early jazz disciples, playing inParis several years before his appearance with the Revue Nègre.The success of the 1923 ballet The Creation of the World-which incorporatedAfrican creation stories, a musical score with jazz overtones, and FernandLéger's sets and costumes derived from African art-was a precursorto the more popular Revue Nègre of 1925. Both were produced by Rolfde Maré at the Théâtre des Champs-Élyséesand culminated in the reign of Josephine Baker. In the words of dance criticAndré Levinson, she was a "sinuous idol that enslaves and incitesmankind." After only a few weeks in Paris, Baker was appearing in fashionablenightclubs as one of the most sought-after entertainers. At a gala celebrationfor the monumental Art Deco exposition of 1925, "La Baker" wasfeatured as the guest artist. She followed the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova-whohad danced during the appetizer-with a tantalizing performance during themain course. The Parisian infatuation with the Charleston is describedin Baker's humorous anecdote, "Topic of the Day," which she wrote specifically for Paul Collin's portfolio.She adopted Florenz Ziegfeld's famous quote, "It'sgetting darker and darker in old Broadway," to relate to similar developmentsin Paris since the arrival of the Revue Nègre. In her later Mémoires,Baker was more critical of the Parisians' attempts at refining the Charleston.She insisted on more abandon, with "hips pressed together, one footcrossing the other, sticking out the behind and shaking your hands about.For too long people have hidden their behinds: they exist, I see no reasonto be ashamed of them."Josephine Baker lived the rest of her life in France. Over the next twodecades, she made numerous world tours, starred in several films, and recordedsongs that she had made famous, such as "J'ai deux amours." Althoughshe retired for a few years in the 1950s with her "rainbow tribe"of adopted children, Baker maintained a rigorous performance schedule. Stilladored by fans worldwide, she made her final triumphant appearance on theParis stage at the age of sixty-nine.Le Tumulte Noir captures the spirit of uninhibited expression that JosephineBaker embodied throughout her remarkable career. Paul Colin's unique tributeto the African American entertainers who brought the jazz age to Paris notonly celebrates Josephine Baker, but also the French love affair with theCharleston and jazz music, and the monumental impact of these artists onFrench popular culture during the 1920s. 041b061a72


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