Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Golden Equator

I've mentioned the shorts that RKO was making in the 1950s before. Another interesting one, the 1956 short The Golden Equator, is coming up on TCM tomorrow at 1:07 PM, or just after Lizzie (11:45 AM, 81 min).

This time, the subject is Ecuador, that small South American country that straddles the equator, hence the name both of the country and of this short. This isn't like the old MGM Traveltalks shorts which by this time had wrapped up. Those were almost entirely fluff and travelogue, with James A. Fitzpatrick overlooking the poverty of places (or telling us that they're happy in spite of being poorer than Americans) in favor of the scenery. RKO does give us some scenery; after all, how could you not in a country like Ecuador? But The Golden Equator is more about Ecuador's attempts to move forward as a developing country, with the narrator seriously, but optimistically, telling us about the various development projects.

It all adds up to a document that's interesting as a time capsule, but also sad in a way. As with the Traveltalks shorts, the use of an optimistic tone in discussing Ecuador's development would likely have left the viewers believing that Ecuador was a country soon to become prosperous. Of course, Ecuador has wound up never reaching the potential that this short claims the country has. This isn't the place to discuss why; suffice it to say that they didn't. (To be honest, I have a feeling shorts like this were overstating the subjects' potential in the first place, and that development was going to take longer than the movie implies.) The playthings for the middle and upper classes are wonderful examples of 50s style, but I wonder what life was like away from these places, and how much the middle classes were made to suffer when the inevitable attempts to close the wealth gap happened.

One other problem is that this short is in black and white. Like the Traveltalks shorts, it should have been in color. They couldn't help but show some scenery, especially since the short discusses some of the development projects that are away from the cities. All of that would have looked much better in color. Still, it's a very interesting short of something that never quite came to pass.

1 comment:

George Lewis said...

I had a chuckle watching that short on Ecuador. Have some pie in the sky with your bananas! The railroad that is under construction in the film has washed out numerous times and only recently have parts of it been restored. And a lot of people went bust in the banana business. That said, Ecuador remains a stunningly beautiful country and I encourage people to visit.