Series using film and photography to examine the 1930s. Industrialist Harry Wright and his brother Bolling's images from around the globe.
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In the 1930s
film exploded into colour.
New photographic technologies really came of age
enabling film-makers to capture the vibrant hues of our world.
Colour film was expensive.
But money was no object for the American steel magnate
Harry Wright and his brother, Bolling.
They were wealthy enough to indulge their twin passions
for travel and film-making.
Throughout the Thirties they shot or acquired many films
that record the world at a pivotal moment in history.
It was the golden age of ocean travel
when those with the means could escape the Great Depression
and take their cameras to the ends of the Earth.
Early colour films in the Wright collection, many of which
have never been broadcast before,
take us to Paradise Islands in the Pacific...
..Europe as it braces itself for war...
..and America, as it looks forward to a brighter future.
But the sea,
the rich man's playground, would be turned into a battleground
as the places and people captured in the Wright brothers' films
became embroiled in the bloodiest war in history.
Born in 1876,
Harry Wright was the son of a tobacco producer from Virginia.
But in the early years of the 20th century
Harry and his younger brother, Bolling, created a business empire
of their own by establishing a steel business in Mexico City.
Soon they were millionaires.
The Wright brothers' wealth allowed them to indulge
in what was the very expensive hobby of amateur film making.
They acquired lightweight, portable, 16mm film cameras
and loaded them with new Kodachrome film,
a technology that allowed them to capture the world in colour.
Both men installed private cinemas in their own homes
where they would entertain guests
with their treasured film collection.
They boasted that their 1,500 reels covered every subject
and featured every country under the sun.
The Wright brothers' film travelogues contain some
of the earliest known colour footage of many remote parts of the world.
From the comfort of their cinema seats guests could be transported
on ocean voyages to the most intriguing
and romantic places on Earth.
On 19th January 1937 the Stella Polaris left New York to begin
a four-month round-the-world cruise
which would stop at 38 ports during a journey of 30,000 miles.
Together with footage from other ocean liners, the Wright collection
contains film of the entire voyage,
showing the luxurious surroundings passengers enjoyed on board.
The Stella Polaris was one of the world's first luxury cruise ships.
She was very select. 165 passengers with 165 crew, one-to-one ratio.
She was elegant and beautiful, looked like she should belong to the king
of Zamboanga or some exotic place. She was just gorgeous.
This was a grand era of travel in the highest style when the finest
of service and the best decor and ambience existed
on these great moving palaces of the sea.
Carefree and comfortable on board
passengers embraced the holiday spirit.
Many seemed oblivious to the fact the world
they were circumnavigating was in crisis.
The world of the late 1930s was a world in turmoil, for two reasons.
The Depression was said to be the worst crisis to afflict
the world since the Black Death.
It had torn at the social fabric of the entire world. And there was
a sense of impending doom because the military dictatorships in Japan
and in Germany and in Italy were on the move.
The threat of war was in the air.
And yet at the same time, while this was going on and perhaps
BECAUSE it was going on, there were people who were escaping from it.
People with money who could escape from the Depression,
who could blot out the prospect of war.
A cruise on the Stella Polaris cost 2,500, or around two years pay
for the average working American.
It was a small fortune but it took you to some of the world's
most alluring places, including the South Pacific,
the Dutch East Indies and southern Africa, before heading to Europe.
To reach the Pacific Ocean she first had to pass
through the Panama Canal.
Completed in 1914, this 51-mile channel
had revolutionised ocean travel.
The Panama Canal was absolutely vital to a world cruise
because it opened up the idea that you didn't have to go
around South America, you could pass through this
eight-hour passage through a series of three locks which moved you
from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and this was a wonderful selling point.
People loved the engineering genius of the Panama Canal.
People setting out on a world cruise would have the marvellous excitement
of going through this
very dramatic scenery and yet reality was catching up with them
even as they escaped from it, because the Panama Canal
was a strategic channel and it was at that very moment being widened
to accommodate the gigantic warships that the Americans were building
to fend off the menace of Japan and Nazi Germany.
What we see is the blasting away of the sides of the canal, in order
to accommodate these huge battleships America was building.
500 miles west of Panama passengers waded ashore to Cocos Island,
a place steeped in pirate lore and tales of buried treasure.
Influenced by representations in books and films from the period,
many in the West believed the Pacific Islands
to be an unspoiled paradise.
The 1930s travellers
going to the Pacific would have been informed by a series
of travel narratives which started coming out
just after the First World War.
A lot of these were turned into popular films.
These films extolled the beauties of the South Pacific
as an unspoilt paradise, there were even theories
which suggested that the South Pacific was the true Eden, cut off,
isolated, therefore untouched in a way by Western civilisation.
Travellers were in a sense trying to get away from the technology
and the mechanisation of the West.
They were seeking a simpler life.
A more unspoilt life.
But in reality, for over 150 years life in the Pacific Isles had been
transformed by the presence of Christian missionaries
and Europe's colonial powers.
In the Marquesas Islands paradise was already lost.
The Marquesas were associated with the notion of the fatal impact.
And the idea of the fatal impact was that Western diseases
and Western technology had brought destruction to the islands.
In many cases like the Marquesas,
there had been great depopulation, early explorers estimated
there might have been 100,000 people occupying the Marquesas Islands.
By the 1930s, estimates were there were around 2,000.
After France colonised the Marquesas in the 19th century
the indigenous culture was virtually annihilated.
They banned tattooing, singing and dancing,
while the Catholic mission stamped out its traditional religion.
Three days sail from the Marquesas
lay an island which epitomised the myth and romance of the South Seas.
Tahiti became famous after the crew of the HMS Bounty mutinied
shortly after leaving the island in 1789.
By the mid-1930s, a successful book and film based on the story
had put the island, or at least a Hollywood image of it, on the map.
Hollywood constructed the islands
and the lives of islanders, so I think this is one way
in which this colour film from this voyage becomes important
because we're not seeing a Hollywood construction of what islanders do.
What we are seeing is islanders very much carrying on with their lives
and they are doing their thing.
In the capital, Papeete,
islanders were filmed loading copra.
Made from dried coconut kernels,
the product was the mainstay of the Tahitian economy.
Copra was one of the really, really important crops of French Polynesia
for many, many years.
The way it is made is the coconut is cut in half, and then the meat
is left to dry for about four or five hours,
just enough that it can be loosened from the shell.
Then it is cut into small bits. And the oil made from that
was very important in Europe for candles during the 1800s.
And after about 1900 it was really important as a cooking oil.
Since that time copra has declined in its importance,
we really don't see this in the port of Papeete right now.
Tourism has since displaced copra production
as Tahiti's most important economic activity.
But in the 1930s only a handful of cruise ships visited each year.
It was a big deal when the boat came.
The whole town would show up with flowers and things to sell
and it was a wonderful time.
Tahitians are known for their really warm welcomes, they are
known for using music to create an ambience, to set a good tone.
Dance in Tahiti's for entertainment
but it's also to reinforce gender roles. What we see
very clearly is that there is a specific way of dancing for men,
it's a flapping in and out of the knees in a scissors-like motion.
And I'm interested in seeing that the women were using the circular
hip movements here, because oral tradition
of Tahiti says that in these years women didn't do this,
they only move their hips side to side
because otherwise it was considered something good girls didn't do.
And so I'm kind of happy to put that myth to rest.
The allure of the dance was so powerful
that often Westerners joined in.
Dance in particular was one way in which a tourist could safely
indulge in the visibility of the so-called native body.
They were particularly struck by both the sensuality of the movement
but also the lack of inhibition.
All of these things, I think, were things that people
coming from the West felt they weren't able to achieve at home.
The Stella Polaris continued onwards
towards one of the areas of the world least familiar to the West.
The boat anchored at Port Moresby, the capital of what
is now Papua New Guinea. A former British colony,
it was administered by its Australian governor, Hubert Murray.
He was determined to limit the impact of Western values
on traditional Papuan culture.
Many people thought he was a very enlightened administrator
who cared for the Papuans greatly
but at the same time he carried on from previous administrators
a series of native regulations
that really kept the Papuans in their place.
There was over 50 different native regulations.
One piece of legislation particularly was about the banning of wearing
dress on the upper part of the body, which applied to both men and women.
On the one hand Murray wanted to preserve the culture of these people,
but the underlying idea was in many ways what we would call today racist,
because the regulations were really intent on maintaining
a very clear separation between the Papuan and the white person.
So I think when we look at these pictures,
although they look very traditional we have to see them in the context
of quite extreme laws that prevent the Papuan from doing many things
that Europeans at the time were allowed.
But as the film shows, there was one aspect of British culture
that the people WERE allowed to embrace.
Yeah, I found it very amusing and odd.
I first thought it was a kind of set-up,
for the titillation of the European or American audience
But actually if one looks at it more closely,
one realises that these women do know how to play cricket.
There's a lot of anthropological value to the image
because although it's been well documented that women
were playing cricket after the Second World War
there's been virtually no documentation of this
prior to that period, so the clip of film offers
a very interesting insight into village life
that we actually didn't know that much about.
The film captures a moment in Papuan society.
During the Second World War,
Papuan soldiers fought alongside Allied forces against the Japanese
as they conducted their campaign in New Guinea.
When the war was over,
the Papuans were no longer prepared to submit to colonial rule.
With the end of Word War Two, the whole situation for the Papuan
changes tremendously. Their sense of equality with the white people
becomes ever greater
and there are moves afoot to increase labour migration,
economic development and eventually move
towards self-government and independence.
On 6th March 1937, the Stella Polaris left the Pacific
and entered the waters surrounding the Dutch East Indies,
the country now known as Indonesia.
She dropped anchor at Bali,
an island still largely untouched by tourism.
In the late '30s, it received fewer than 250 visitors per month.
Today Bali is established as Indonesia's most important
They steamed on to Java, where the Dutch colonialists
had tried to turn the capital, Jakarta,
into the Amsterdam of the East by building a network of canals.
But the canals brought malaria, cholera and dysentery to the city,
causing tens of thousands of deaths
among Dutch workers and the local population.
Nearby was a place that had proven an even greater challenge
to colonise - Nias, a location described
in the film's inter-title as "The island of savages in armour."
Nias had a particularly bad reputation among the Dutch
as a tough place.
They'd sent a ship there in the mid 19th century
and the ship had been stormed by the Niasans and the crew beheaded.
So this was a... a dangerous place to go.
The Dutch finally conquered the island completely in 1906
but 15, 20 years before this film was shot,
these people were still living the heroic life of warriors.
Raiding enemy villages, capturing hostages
and hunting for heads.
They saw their whole world destroyed
and then they're asked to put on dances which mimic that world.
We see the chief in his ceremonial costume.
But in fact he had very little power by this time because the Dutch
had taken away most of his powers of patronage and jurisdiction.
These pictures are quite tragic to me
because they show people who have lost their world completely.
All of their values were overturned.
Everything that they believed was right about the world
was suddenly wrong. Um, sinful.
And their heroic warrior ethos was suddenly devalued
as something terrible and a crime.
And yet they're standing there in their warrior outfits
with their guns and not surprisingly they look very sour.
Next, the Stella Polaris steamed across the Indian Ocean
towards South Africa.
The country had not yet enshrined in law the structures of apartheid
that would turn it into an international pariah.
But in practice South Africa was already
a racially-segregated society,
as travellers from the Polaris discovered
when they visited the famous Indian market in Durban.
This market scene is really very interesting
because it illustrates many of the tensions
in Durban society at the time. Behind this benign scene
are all the social divisions, the white lady buying the flowers
and looking slightly aloof,
the Indian flower seller assisted by a black assistant.
Indians in general were viewed with a great deal of hostility
by whites in South Africa, in fact in the 1920s there was even
an attempt by white florists to prevent Indians from selling flowers
in Durban because they wanted to keep the trade in their hands.
In the front of this picture are two men
wearing short trousers and tunics who are evidently house boys.
They were Zulu men from the famous Zulu kingdom, renowned as warriors,
not least because they defeated the British in the Anglo-Zulu War
of 1879, and now they've been transformed
into not simply domestic servants but house boys,
and the term "boy" was, of course, applied to African men
in the service of whites whatever their age.
The three Zulu women in the picture
seem to be formally asked to walk into the camera.
This is not entirely traditional dress.
From the 19th century, Africans had to come into the city
with their bodies suitably covered, both because of Victorian scruples
about the naked body
and because it suited British textile manufacturers
to sell their cloth in Africa.
They've skimmed the surface,
they went round the edges of the places they visited.
It's intriguing that this sequence in Port Elizabeth
seems to be almost the longest of any sequence on South Africa.
The tourists were obviously fascinated by the snake farm.
One can't help feeling that their knowledge of Africa
was really not much better, and perhaps not as good as,
the image that the first Portuguese voyagers round the coasts of Africa
would have got. And their maps, for the centre of Africa, had,
"There be dragons." And for these voyagers too, one can't help feeling
that the interior of Africa
and African life was really still the life of darkest Africa.
In Cape Town, home to the South African parliament,
the film captured the memorial
to the industrialist and former prime minister, Cecil Rhodes.
Rhodes became one of the world's richest men
through his ruthless control of diamond mines
and the use of African forced labour.
He was such an ardent believer in colonialism
that he claimed he would "annex the planets" if he could.
In the film, an inter-title describes him
as the Union of South Africa's "greatest citizen".
I doubt if many would give him that title today.
Even in his day, Rhodes was an extremely controversial figure.
Rhodes, of course, was behind the great expansion of white settlement
in South Africa.
He was responsible, really,
for the development of a migrant labour system on the mines,
and the very strict control of Africans in closed compounds
on the diamond mines.
He was in alliance with the Afrikaner political party in the Cape Colony,
which supported flogging bills,
which supported the intensified segregation of Africans.
We see in this picture Rhodes's home, Groote Schuur.
When Rhodes died he left his estate to the state
and the house was occupied by heads of government in South Africa,
including Nelson Mandela
when he became the first black president of South Africa in 1994.
And one really wonders what Rhodes would have made of that!
After a final stop at Gibraltar, the Stella Polaris headed
across the Atlantic to complete her circumnavigation of the globe.
She had scarcely touched Europe
at what was a critical moment in its history.
But another film in the Wright collection was shot on the Continent
just before the Second World War,
a film produced by Bolling Wright himself.
In February 1939 Bolling and his family embarked
on a three-month-long Mediterranean cruise.
He captured their journey on film, edited it together, and presented it
under the name of his own production company, Bomar Travels.
'It is wonderful to see my grandmother and my grandfather
'and my aunt and uncle looking so expectantly
'while they're about to go on this Mediterranean cruise,
'and to see them looking so young and so dapper, and my grandfather'
smiling a broad smile. And you could just tell they were very excited.
By 1939, Bolling Wright was wealthy enough to travel the world
and film his experiences for posterity.
But life for the Wright family had not always been so comfortable.
My grandfather was born and raised in Bedford, Virginia.
They were a fairly well-to-do family,
but after his father died, then the family hit on hard times.
The four younger children had to stop going to school at an early age
and were forced to go to work.
And I would say that my grandfather was probably 10 or 11 years old
when this happened, so his formal education ended
at that point in his life.
Travelling was very important, particularly for Bolling,
because it sort of substituted for a lot of the things
that he wasn't able to learn at school.
His travelogues have a lot of inter-titles
with lots of information.
You feel that he has a need to capture everything,
every single detail, of every building, of every place.
So I think there was this need to sort of learn more,
become more educated, more cultured, through travel.
Many Americans were doing what the British aristocrats had done
in the 18th century, going on a grand tour in search of culture.
And they were looking for an exotic world -
a world that took them back in time,
well away from the realities that they knew at home,
the industrial civilisation of America.
The Wright family's cruise gave them the opportunity to encounter
one of North Africa's most intriguing cultures.
Casablanca was their port of entry into Morocco,
which was still a French colony.
The French came to North Africa very much to carry out what they descibed
as the "mission civilisatrice",
a sort of obligation similar to the British Empire's obsession
with the "white man's burden", this idea of Europeans going out
and improving, if you like, the rest of the world.
Providing education, better economic circumstances,
development of all kinds
to people who couldn't quite achieve that on their own.
But it's very clear from some of the images we see in the film
that there was a considerable amount of poverty across North Africa.
Scenes of deprivation were most apparent
when the travellers visited the old city of Fez, which Bolling called
the 'native quarter'.
What we're actually looking at is an entire medieval city -
it's hardly just a quarter.
The French adopted a sort of urban apartheid.
They created what they tended to describe as a 'cordon sanitaire'
between their new city and the old city.
This has sometimes been presented in quite a positive light
in terms of preserving the architectural heritage of Morocco
and keeping the old city intact,
but the other side of it for the people who lived there was also that
the French didn't want to mix with the locals,
they saw them as dirty, unhealthy.
The French colonial city became the hub of political life, economic life,
So as a result the old city was, if you like,
frozen in time and began to die.
When the party come to Fez,
they set their camera up at the gate which is in some ways
the crossing point between the native and the modern quarters
and the camera captures in brilliant colour
all these very interesting faces and distinct costumes
and people doing strange things.
So there's a kind of ethnographic quality here,
a fascination with the exotic.
And it even when it comes down to the pictures
that they attempt to take of one young man
whose hair had captured their attention, they describe him as -
This little boy thought being filmed
would keep him from going to heaven,
because at every opportunity he ducks the gaze of the camera.
Even today in North Africa, people can feel uncomfortable
about being photographed or filmed.
Visitors, particularly Westerners tended to completely disregard.
They felt as if North Africa and the other countries that they visited
in North Africa, or the Orient or elsewhere,
were just there for them to view.
I think we see it more poignantly with the little girl in Tunisia
who's standing there, and she doesn't have the confidence to say
"No, go away" or to walk away.
She's sort of totally disempowered by the camera.
This footage really does show how poor a lot of people were.
You see the tattered clothes with holes,
the children look dirty, they look unkempt...
they don't look happy.
It's a very sad picture really.
When the nationalist movements began to gather speed across North Africa
at this period in the 1930s,
one of the main criticisms of colonialism
which indigenous people put forward was
that it had impoverished them,
that colonialists had come in and taken the wealth of their country,
exploited the country,
whilst they themselves had not been given the kind of benefits
that they might have expected, such as citizenship, education,
opportunities for employment.
The only kind of opportunities they had were sort of at the lower levels
of the administration, or in the army.
The presence of African troops fascinated Bolling Wright.
In the capital, Rabat,
he filmed several men recruited from the French colonies of West Africa.
These red-clad soldiers actually came from Senegal,
but they were part of a huge contingent of African soldiers
that the French drew on in WWII,
and shortly they were to be fighting the Germans.
The French needed African recruits for the very simple reason that
the French suffered the most appalling slaughter in WWI.
So these African soldiers were going to fight
for the soul of France in Europe.
What their involvement did trigger was a strong sense
that they should be considered as equal.
Their argument was "if our blood is equal to a Frenchmen's
"and we can die on the battlefield for France,
why should we not be granted equal political rights
"and independence, if we wish it?"
The movement for independence would gain momentum
across North Africa after the war.
But in another Arab land, one under British control,
the fight for self-determination was well under way.
Palestine wasn't on the Wright family's itinerary
but it appears in another film in their collection
that was also shot in 1939.
It paints an extraordinary picture of a troubled land.
The film opens with a musical sequence
where the music itself is meant to impart a kind of sense of
bucolic joy and happiness, and peace in our time.
-NARRATOR ON FILM:
-When springtime comes to Palestine,
it colours all the contrasts of this ancient country
and hovers over the walls of ancient Jericho,
as it did when the Israelites came 3,000 years ago.
There's the voiceover of a very reassuring English accent
that tells you that things in Palestine,
or the Holy Land as he calls it, are as good as they've always been
since biblical times and very little has changed since.
The scriptures come to life.
Jacobs and Davids tend their flock and lead their simple lives.
What's really striking is the way in which the film maker
has treated the Palestinian people as extras on a biblical film.
We see no notion of Palestinian doctors or lawyers or modern people.
The Palestinians are these vestiges of the biblical past.
The most extraordinary thing about the film is what it doesn't show.
Taken in 1939, had the camera been diverted a couple of degrees,
it would have shown you a Palestine that had been completely destroyed
by three years of rebellion of the Palestinian Arab community
against both the Jewish settlers and the British colonial presence.
Palestine would have been a fractured landscape of roadblocks,
of search points, of police presence, of military presence.
There were concentration camps, collective punishments.
Houses were destroyed.
Towns had been laid low.
The country was flooded with British troops.
It's remarkable that they could film Palestine at this moment,
without having a single British soldier or policeman in the frame.
British control of Palestine was cemented in 1920,
when it was granted mandated powers over the territory
by the League of Nations.
By then, the British government had already pledged to create
a Jewish national home in Palestine.
Britain had assured the Arab population
that nothing would be done to disadvantage them.
But that promise wasn't kept.
Really across the 1920s and '30s,
there had been a massive expansion of the Jewish presence in Palestine.
The Jewish colonies were a source of grievance with Palestinian Arabs,
who had believed that their lands
were being taken over by foreign people,
that there was restriction on their own access to land,
and this becomes a real source of tension between the two communities.
The film appears to show both communities working side by side.
But a close inspection reveals that Arabs and Jews
never appear in the same shot.
Man and women, Arab and Jew,
old and young, here is work for them all
in raising oranges that grow sweeter and juicier in this famous soil.
One of the main objectives of this film
was to serve as a commercial for the Jaffa orange.
The Palestine Post ran a story
that there had been a special screening of this film
attended by British officials
as well as the officials of the Palestine Citrus Board.
Clearly, we see who the main protagonists behind the film were.
So what, at first viewing, comes across
as a fairly benign portrayal of a peaceful land
with biblical associations, is actually something quite sinister.
From the perspective of the British authorities, it is clearly
a propaganda film that's trying to demonstrate
that they're in full control of their Palestine mandate.
For the Jaffa Citrus Board, this is a piece of commercial propaganda.
It's designed to convince consumers around the world
that their product was untainted by association
with the violence of the recent conflict.
And so what we see is a total disregard of the realities
of Palestine in 1939,
in the interests of promoting imperialism and the economy.
In February 1939, the Wright family were visiting countries
that were similarly fractured and volatile.
In their film, signs of trouble in Europe
are first evident in the Canary islands.
When the Wrights disembarked here,
Spain was still embroiled in a bloody civil war.
It was to Tenerife that General Francisco Franco had been sidelined,
amid fears that he might plot against the newly elected
Popular Front government of Spain.
In July 1936, the man who would become Spain's fascist dictator
left Tenerife for Spanish Morocco,
to initiate the military coup
that would plunge the country into three years of civil war.
Like all civil wars, the Spanish Civil War was viciously fought,
it was brutal and Franco was more brutal than I think
almost anybody else in Spain.
You had terrible atrocities taking place.
You had torture, you had massacres and murders.
It was a cruel and brutal event.
Conservative estimates suggest
that in the course of the Spanish Civil War,
around 350,000 people were killed.
The Canary Islands were being used both as a recruiting station
for Franco's side
and also as a base to treat wounded Spanish soldiers.
We see patriotic signs, "Viva Franco" and "Arriba Espania",
celebrating the victory of the authoritarian forces
in the Spanish Civil War and also showing
and demonstrating the Canary Island as loyalty for Franco
and for the new government that's being imposed in Spain.
One of the most powerful instruments
of fascist repression was the Guardia Civil.
We see them with their strange kind of hats which the poet Garcia Lorca
compared to enamelled coffins -
obviously a metaphor for their own kind of murderous brutality.
The dictatorship of Franco crushed the poor, who were very poor indeed.
The situation in Spain and in the Canary Islands
was almost medieval in its poverty.
And the Canary Islands faced a bleak future under the heel of fascism.
The Wright family's journey took them to another country
that was being transformed by fascist rule.
Their contact with Mussolini's Italy began in Rome,
where, in an ambitious programme of demolition,
construction and renovation,
the Eternal City was being rebuilt
to embrace modernity and to glorify the past.
Rome was to be the stage on which the dictator
would attempt to showcase the power of fascism.
MUSSOLINI ADDRESSES CROWD
Mussolini seeks to legitimate his fascist rule
by connecting and identifying himself as a Roman Emperor
and the Italian fascist regime
as the legitimate heirs of Roman civilisation.
As far as Mussolini was concerned, he was the master of Rome.
And he wanted to create a kind of Mussolini-like Rome of his own.
And so we see his main creation, which was to emulate
the Forum of ancient Rome, and this Forum was a great open space.
It was a place where people gathered,
and it was surrounded by marble statues showing the human form,
the fascist form, which Mussolini himself often showed,
because he liked to strip off his shirt
and to take part in sporting activities and athletic displays
and horsemanship and sword fighting and all that,
to show off his own virility and vigour.
Mussolini constantly came back to himself with this phrase
that he loved, "Duce, Duce, Duce". CROWD CHANTS
And "Duce" meant "leader".
So we see "Duce"
on the tiling of the Forum.
He's there, everywhere. He's inescapable.
He is the animating force and spirit of fascism.
Even religion was exploited to confer spurious legitimacy
on Mussolini's regime.
In Florence, Wright filmed an Easter procession,
in which fascists and Roman Catholics marched side by side.
This procession is a kind of living metaphor
of the unity of church and state in Italy.
There had been a concordat, an agreement,
between Mussolini and the Pope in 1929.
The irony was, actually Mussolini was an atheist at heart
and he had no time for the Pope at all.
But he realised how powerful the Pope was,
and he realised that that it was important
for him to get the Church on side.
This vast sea of ecclesiastics parading
in and out of the cathedral,
is surrounded by the forces of the state,
the military forces, the Black Shirts.
The two are entwined.
They are part of a single entity which is fascist Italy.
And what is interesting about the alliance between Church and state
is how much they have in common.
There was a conscious effort on Mussolini's part
to mimic religious procession in his processions.
They have the same sense of ritual, the same sense of observance,
which of course gives his regime,
which is a new regime, the sense that it is steeped in history.
It's a way of provoking emotion, rather than reason,
on the part of the participants and the audience.
When the Wright family left Italy and headed towards northern Europe,
fascism seemed everywhere in the ascendancy.
But if the changes unfolding elsewhere in Europe seemed menacing,
the Wrights found little to disturb them
when they reached the peaceful town of Volendam in Holland.
Here, many of the residents still wore traditional Dutch dress,
including pointed bonnets and wooden clogs.
The clothes worn by the people on the streets of Volendam
were very different from those on the boulevards of a city
that by the 1930s had become synonymous
with the most up-to-date couture.
In Paris, Bolling took his camera to the sights,
unaware that in less than a year,
The City of Lights would find itself plunged into
the long night of Nazi occupation.
As any tourist would, Bolling Wright films the Eiffel Tower.
And there's a poignancy about this shot,
because this is the last spring, as we now know, of peace.
And a year later Hitler himself, after the success of the Blitzkrieg,
the extraordinary invasion of France in six weeks,
find himself walking under the Eiffel Tower.
He stands there with his acolytes around him,
triumphing over the defeat of Germany's ancient foe.
This is a moment of supreme joy for the Fuhrer,
here at the base of the Eiffel tower.
On the other side of the English Channel, life continued as normal,
though by that spring, war was looming.
London proceeds, as London has always proceeded,
with the Changing of the Guard.
And this is a typical British traditional pageant,
which contrasts with its jingling spurs
and its old-fashioned accoutrements,
with the brutal, mechanised jack booted pageants of the Nazis.
It's a cosy world in some ways.
It's a cosy world of red buses and blue policemen
and perhaps it's a world that hasn't yet woken up to the danger.
Although the danger is there
and it must be constantly in the background.
And of course, the holiday party catch a glimpse
of the anxieties that are gnawing away at British hearts.
They see that the odds on peace are diminishing.
The Wright family left Europe and sailed back to an America
that was still neutral, and anxious to avoid being drawn into
a war that was now all but inevitable.
Already, New York was one of the world's great cities.
But Manhattan was very different from the metropolis we know today.
The city had suffered during the Depression,
but now its citizens were invited to look with hope to the future,
with the opening of the 1939 World Fair.
Here was the new city of tomorrow, untouched by poverty or war.
Corporate pavilions sold visions of a future
filled with consumer products that promised a better world.
International exhibits stood side by side,
seeming to represent the ideal of world peace.
It is striking to see the pavilions of different countries
that will soon enough be at war with one another.
Yet the idea of a Worlds Fair is to emphasise a different
kind of world - a world of cooperation, a world of peace.
And not a place where we're gonna sacrifice millions of lives.
It seems odd to us now, on the very eve of World War Two,
most people were kind of blithely putting that out of their mind.
They come upon this futuristic World's Fair
when everything looks new.
So by the time you think of TV, air-conditioning,
new modern automobiles, modernistic, futuristic cities...
The world is becoming a better place,
and isn't it wonderful where we going?
And all the things which they celebrate,
all that is soon going to be put on hold.
Because all those factories that are making clothes
will now be making uniforms.
Factories that are making automobiles will be making tanks.
Everything is going to be shifted to a wartime footing.
The whole economy is going to be changed -
not in the way they had envisaged, of a cleaner,
more modern, more prosperous world - but of a frightening,
dark period of loneliness and fright.
Around the same time, on the West Coast of America,
Bolling Wright's brother Harry watched the night skies
illuminated spectacularly by the Golden Gate Exposition
on Treasure Island - San Francisco's own World Fair.
It was a thrill every time you'd come across the bridge or the ferry.
There was just something about it,
that just got the old goosebumps going
because you knew you were in for something new.
It's just like out of nowhere, grew this wonderland.
For three years, an army of workers had toiled
to build this 400 acre island
from the mud and sand of San Francisco bay.
Like the city's new bridges, Treasure Island
was one of the major New Deal public works projects
which the government funded
to generate work for America's millions of unemployed.
The authorities planned to build
an international airport on Treasure Island.
But first, the site would host a World Fair -
an event that symbolised
the nation's hopes for a brighter tomorrow.
At the time while the island was going, the people and their hopes
were there, it was like a dream coming true.
The end of all the bad times that we had and went through,
and the Depression, and it gave you a feeling
of... "good times are coming".
On Treasure Island, good times always prevailed,
especially along the so-called "Gayway" -
the main pleasure-ground of the fair -
where some of the attractions were surprisingly risque.
# I sailed away
# To Treasure Island
# And my heart stood still when I landed on the silvery shore... #
I was a swimmer in the Aquacade, Billy Rose's Aquacade.
I was 20-years-old.
And this was my first and only taste of show business at that time.
We'd be out on stage and then we'd dive in to the music.
Then pretty soon you'd blend together
and start swimming together stroke for stroke.
It was just a thrill there every time you did a show.
The Fair had the atmosphere of a carnival,
but it also had more lofty aims.
At the centre of Treasure Island stood Pacifica,
an 80-foot-high mythical goddess
which symbolised the goal of peace and unity
among the nations of the Pacific.
But by the time Fair closed in September 1940,
war in the Pacific was inevitable.
Eventually, the United States Navy took possession of Treasure Island,
and turned its exhibition halls into barracks.
Even the Fair's great symbol of peace, Pacifica, fell victim to war.
The navy moved in and started tearing things down.
They put a cable round the statue
and they took some tractors and pulled it down.
And when it hit the ground, it just burst into pieces.
It was the feeling of hope, of things turning round,
then all of sudden you've got that feeling, "What's going on?"
We weren't sure,
you could only hear rumours, that we were going to go to war pretty soon.
The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour on 7th December, 1941,
forced the United States into the Second World War.
In the attack, nearly 2,400 personnel were killed
and over eleven hundred others were injured.
Once the playground of the rich, the oceans became a battleground.
The cruise liners that had carried the Wright family around the world
were commandeered and used as troop transports.
A Golden Age of ocean travel had abruptly come to an end.
What we are seeing in this wonderful colour footage
is the last of a grand era.
The curtain was closing
and we didn't know that it would be locked forever.
One third of the ships would be destroyed in the Second World War,
but more importantly, the way we felt,
the way we looked at things, changed forever.
I don't think people were ever quite the same,
the style of travel was ever the same -
the same deep indulgence that we had in those 1930s escapist years.
In the years after the war, the Wright brothers
travelled less frequently,
as age and infirmity gradually took their toll.
After a long illness, Harry Wright died in Mexico City in 1954.
And Bolling passed away in 1975.
But in their extraordinary collection of films,
which shed light and colour
on one of the most momentous decades of the 20th Century,
the Wright brothers live on.
This tourist footage is fascinating for a number of reasons.
It illuminates the...
dark valley of the 1930s in the most vivid way.
It brings to technicolour life
a world which we have seen only in terms of black and white.
It gives us a sense that this tourist idyll
is actually about to come to an end
with the sound of the dropping of bombs.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Four-part series using rare, private and commercial film and photographic archives to give poignant and surprising insights into the 1930s, a decade which erupted into colour as polychromatic photographic technology came of age and three important processes - Dufaycolour, Technicolor and Kodachrome - were brought to the market.
Together with his younger brother Bolling, the American industrialist Harry Wright was wealthy enough to indulge his twin passions for travel and filmmaking. Both siblings collected and shot films that captured the world at a pivotal time in history.
They captured astonishing images acquired and filmed in the islands of the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, as well as South Africa, Morocco, Palestine, and several countries in Europe, including Britain. These destinations were visited during the golden age of ocean travel, when the well-off could escape the Great Depression and travel the world on luxury cruise ships.
The sea had become a playground but it would soon become a battleground, as the world lurched towards the bloodiest war in history.