Thursday, October 18, 2012

Florida History: Chasing the Sun - Warner Bros. films Florida in the 1950s

Chasing the Sun –  Warner Bros., 1957
The Wonders of Nature’s Playground! On Land – and Under the Sea
Owen Crump  and Charles L. Tedford, Writers
Andre de la Varre, Director

By Jane Feehan

In 1957, Warner Brothers released Chasing the Sun, a short movie that Herb Rau of the Miami News praised as doing the best job of selling Florida than was ever witnessed. The 31-minute film, directed by Andre de la Varre, told a story of travel in Central and South Florida seen through the eyes of an Austrian artist. Much of it highlighted attractions; some of those remain open today.

Color cameras caught the iconic water skiing girls at Dick Pope’s Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven (closed in 2009). The film also featured Miami attractions: Parrot Jungle (now Jungle Island), Rare Bird Farm (closed), Monkey Jungle (open) and Theater of the Sea in Islamorada (open).

A publicity piece provided by Warner Brothers, who had released 19 films about Florida during the 20 years prior to the 1957 film claimed, “Without question, Chasing the Sun does the greatest selling job for Florida to date, either by magazine, newspaper, or motion picture.” They expected 50 million to view the movie across the U.S. 

Before the film was released, however, Miami Beach was drawing hordes of tourists to the Fountainebleau, Eden Roc and a growing roster of glamorous hotels. Arthur Godfrey was broadcasting his popular TV show from the Kenilworth. In 1957 the first leg of the Florida Turnpike was completed. New towns were established in Broward County, including Plantation in 1953. National Airlines saw a need to establish a route to accommodate keen interest in Florida and, in 1958, began non-stop passenger jet service between New York and Miami.

It could be the film reflected as well as promoted the growing interest in Florida.

For more about the Florida Turnpike, see:

For more about the Fountainebleau and the Eden Roc, see:

Miami News, Nov. 10, 1957

Tags: Films about South Florida, Miami Beach in the 1950s, Miami in the 1950s, 
Florida film industry research

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