When I think of glamorous travel, retro fashion and Art Deco, I can’t help but think of the Orient Express. Just the name conjures up images of tuxedos, flapper dresses, cocktails, fleeting glances between lovers (or soon-to-be-lovers) in railways carriages… it’s all very Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot and that clumsily hidden body peeking out from under the curtains in the dining car…
In France, the national railways, otherwise known as The SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français), came into being in 1938 when the five smaller railway companies were nationalized and combined to form one entity. SNCF (and other companies like it around Europe), made it possible for Mr. and Madame Toutlemonde (Mr. + Mrs. Joe Smith), to travel around France in style … offering them the opportunity to see cities large and small, inland and on the coast, for relatively affordable sums.
Travel posters advertising Chartes (and its unique Old Town dating back to the Middle Ages), Lisieux (the world center for pilgrimages – now really, who knew??) were plastered on every available kiosk and billboard from Paris to … wherever the opposite of Paris was/is, and folks took the family on train trips as frequently as Canadians now take WestJet to Lauderdale. It was the thing
Unless of course you wanted to be surrounded by water…. In which case you could have taken a cruise on the SS Normandie – a ship, which, at the time, was considered the ne plus ultra of ocean-going liners. “SS Normandie was an ocean liner built in Saint-Nazaire, France for the French Line Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. She entered service in 1935 as the largest and fastest passenger ship afloat; she is still the most powerful steam turbo-electric-propelled passenger ship ever built.” Pretty cool when you think about it…
With Art Deco chivalry and rules of behavior, I’m pretty certain the captain of that ship wouldn’t have had to be told to go back and save the women and children… ‘nuff said….
Speed and efficiency were – in Art Deco terms – new. Previously, if a trip took a longer period of time, that just meant you had more time to enjoy the voyage. In the ‘20s and ‘30s, speed was suddenly an option that just hadn’t existed before. Whether you were racing a train, or racing the men up the hill on your bike, the need for speed (and the ability to meet that necessity) was new and different
I still haven’t quite figured out what this small Italian Art Deco ad is really for (why two motorcyclists at breakneck speed around a curve have anything to do with the American Italian Society for Gasoline is beyond me), but I love it anyway.
And finally, because any mention of planes, trains and automobiles would be incomplete without just a teeny tiny bit of Steve Martin dialogue, here you go (from the 1987 movie):
Neal: Sir?… Sir?… Sir?
[runs to man]
Neal: Excuse me. I know this is your cab, but I’m desperately late for a plane, and I was wondering if I could appeal to your good nature and ask you to let me have it.
New York Lawyer: I don’t have a good nature. Excuse me. Cabbie, come on.
Neal: I’ll offer you 10 dollars for it.
New York Lawyer: [scoffs] Nuh!
Neal: Okay, 20! I’ll give you 20 dollars.
New York Lawyer: I’ll take 50.
Neal: [Neal pauses, then begins to take money out] All right.
New York Lawyer: Anyone who’d pay 50 dollars for a cab, would certainly pay 75.
Neal: Not necessarily…
Neal: All right. $75. You’re a thief!
New York Lawyer: Close, I’m an attorney.
Neal: Have a happy holiday.
New York Lawyer: This’ll help!