thE drEamworld
of cinEmatic travEl
n October 1911, an anonymous editorial in the trade journal Motography
asserted the popularity of travelogue films: “Of all forms of motion pic-
tures, scenics are the most popular and will always be so.” This is true,
the writer explained, because “in all the broad field of motion pictures—
dramatic, comic, educational—none are so pleasing to all of us, or bring
out the best that is in us, as the perfect reproductions of beautiful scenery.
The human craving for scenery is unquestionably the strongest of any purely
aesthetic demand of our natures.” While it may be surprising today, this sort
of claim about the popularity of travelogues (also known as “scenic” films)
was in fact commonplace in the early 1910s. Such breathless declarations of
the travelogue’s dominance were eventually proven incorrect, but for a brief
moment in early film history, travel films and other “nonfiction” subjects
such as science films, nature films, and industrial films were touted by some
as the future of the film industry. Even more striking about the editorial is
its attempt to put forth an aesthetic theory, given that aesthetics were not a
common concern of the early film trade press:
Among those who have not thought much about it, there is prevalent a
misunderstanding of the function of the scenic picture. It is popularly
classified as educational; yet scenery is fundamentally and primarily
merely entertaining. That is, it appeals first to our emotional side. We re-
spond to beautiful scenery, whether real or pictured, much as we respond
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