2018-04-25 / Features

The World of Tomorrow Returns To Film Forum 34 Years After Its Premiere

By Jason D. Antos

President Franklin D. Roosevelt opening the World's Fair in April of 1939.President Franklin D. Roosevelt opening the World's Fair in April of 1939.When the documentary, The World of Tomorrow made its premiere at the Film Forum on Houston Street in 1984, it was released to critical praise.

This incredible documentary on the 1939 New York World's Fair shows rare footage of Queens and how it was eight decades ago.

Using newsreel footage, home movies and some wonderfully revealing promotional movies shown within the fair, producer Tom Johnson and director Lance Bird and writer John Crowley, created what New York Times critic Vincent Camby called, "an exceptionally perceptive film-essay on the cockeyed optimism that since the mid-19th century has been a historical obligation for all right-thinking Americans."

Narrated by acting legend Jason Robards, The World of Tomorrow has not been seen in cinemas since its debut 34 years ago. Using archival footage, the 83-minute documentary show how the fair was built upon the old Corona ash dumps.

The footage shows interviews with Mayor LaGuardia and provides an intimate look at the fair's development using the footage which has not been viewed by public eyes in 80 years.

"The past is black and white,'' says Jason Robards. ''The future is color,'' and the black-and-white newsreel footage, which opens the film, slowly merges into the color footage of the home movies and the official films made to celebrate the fair itself. The assembly of the Westinghouse time capsule. The assembly of the Westinghouse time capsule.

With gorgeous color footage showing the white trylon and perisphere, surrounded by acres of color-coordinated pavilions we hear Judy Garland's Dorothy, in a line from the sound track of ''The Wizard of Oz,'' whisper to Toto. ''I have a feeling that we're no longer in Kansas.''

One of the many delights of the documentary shows a family from Huntington, Long Island going to the fair and witnessing the glory of the Westinghouse Pavilion.

There is also rarely scene moments of President Franklin Roosevelt opening the fair in April of 1939, Albert Einstein opening the fair for 1940 and the visit by the King and Queen of England in 1940.

The 1939-40 World's Fair served as a pivotal moment in world history. For America, it marked the end of the Great Depression and gave a glimpse of what was possible in the future. As for the rest of the world it marked the end of an era of peace with World War II already spreading out across Europe as Germany invaded and acquired nation after nation many of which had pavilions at the fair. The fair would go on to represent the transition of time from the old to the new. From the old way of life to the new way of the world, in which we now live.

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