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World of Tomorrow

World of TomorrowA couple of decades ago, I remember seeing a cool documentary on the 1939 New York World’s Fair on PBS. It was narrated by an old guy looking back upon a special family trip to the Fair as a child. In the end, the man concludes that the Fair symbolized the mixture of optimism and apprehension going on in the world as it was in 1939. It was a fascinating film, filled with clips from beautiful color home movies, newsreels, and campy industrial films.

I didn’t think I’d ever see that movie again, but now — thanks to an gift certificate from my friend Joy — I was able to track down the DVD. Directed by Lance Bird and Tom Johnson in 1984, The World of Tomorrow features the great voice of actor Jason Robards narrating. Although the DVD is pricey and bare bones (lacking even a basic menu!), it was a blast revisiting this film and learning about the herculean efforts to get the thing started in the first place. Gleaming pavilions tout the future’s promise, only somewhat coming off like arrogant statements of power by corporate sponsors like G.E., Ford and Sealtest. Foreign countries take the opportunity to show off their uniqueness, only to find that their homeland has undergone Nazi occupation. Once the fanfare of the gala opening subsides, organizers found that the tacky, carnival-like addition in the rear proved the most popular area with guests. In the Fair’s second and final season, the showman-like lead man is replaced with a dull banker and the Fair takes on a more approachable image. Pretty soon, the World of Tomorrow became yesterday’s memories.

Although seeing the vintage footage from the Fair was a unique treat back in the ’80s, it now occurs to me that much of it can be viewed for free at

One Thought on “World of Tomorrow

  1. I’m eagerly seeking a copy of this DVD! Do you have one you could part with?

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