Thursday June 17, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Pan Am World Airways

On this Day:

In 1947, Pan Am Airways was chartered as the 1st worldwide passenger airline.

Pan American World Airways, originally founded as Pan American Airways and commonly known as Pan Am, was the principal and largest international air carrier and unofficial overseas flag carrier of the United States from 1927 until the airline’s collapse on December 4, 1991. Pan Am is credited for many innovations that shaped the international airline industry, including the widespread use of jet aircraft, jumbo jets, and computerized reservation systems. Identified by its blue globe logo (“The Blue Meatball”), the use of the word “Clipper” in its aircraft names and call signs, and the white uniform caps of its pilots, the airline was a cultural icon of the 20th century.

Founded in 1927 by entrepreneur Juan Trippe, Pan Am commenced operations as a scheduled airmail and passenger service flying between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba. In the 1930s, the airline purchased large numbers of flying boats and focused its route network on Central and South America while later adding some transatlantic and some transpacific destinations. By the early 1950s, Pan Am enjoyed a near monopoly of international routes. The airline led the aircraft industry into the Jet Age with large purchases of new jetliners and as the launch customer for the Boeing 707. In 1970, Pan Am received its first widebody Boeing 747, again as the type’s launch customer. The revolutionary aircraft allowed Pan Am to fly large numbers of passengers at a long range with fewer stops and was a mainstay in the airline’s fleet until its bankruptcy. Pan Am’s primary hub and flagship terminal was the Pan Am Worldport at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.

With a large and modern fleet, Pan Am reached its peak in the early 1970s. Pan Am was a founding member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airline industry association. In an era dominated by flag carriers that were wholly or majority government-owned, it was also the unofficial overseas flag carrier of the United States (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

A buzzard turns up at the Pan Am airport check-in desk with two dead animals. The staff member at the check in says, “Sorry, only one carrion per passenger”.

Second, a Song:

2001: A Space Odyssey is the 1968 science fiction novel written by Arthur C. Clarke and the 1968 film directed by Stanley Kubrick. It is a part of Clarke’s Space Odyssey series, the first of four novels and two films. Both the novel and the film are partially based on Clarke’s 1948 short story “The Sentinel”, an entry in a BBC short story competition, and “Encounter in the Dawn”, published in 1953 in the magazine Amazing Stories.

Clarke was originally going to write the screenplay for the film, but this proved to be more tedious than he had anticipated. Instead, Kubrick and Clarke decided it would be best to write a prose treatment first and then adapt it for the film and novel upon its completion.

Clarke and Kubrick jointly developed the screenplay and treatment, which were loosely based on The Sentinel and incorporated elements from various other Clarke stories. Clarke wrote the novel adaptation independently. Although the film has become famous due to its groundbreaking visual effects and ambiguous, abstract nature, the film and book were intended to complement each other.

The film was written by Clarke and Kubrick and featured specialist artwork by Roy Carnon. The film is notable for its scientific realism, pioneering special effects, and provocatively ambiguous imagery and sound in place of traditional narrative techniques.

Despite receiving mixed reviews upon release, 2001: A Space Odyssey is today thought by some critics to be one of the greatest films ever made and is widely regarded as one of the best science fiction films of all time. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, and received one for visual effects. It also won the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Best Director and Best Film awards of 1968. In 1991, 2001: A Space Odyssey was deemed culturally significant by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

A musical score was commissioned for the film and composed by Alex North, but Kubrick ultimately decided not to use it, in favour of the classical pieces he used as guides during shooting. These included Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube Waltz”, and music by twentieth-century composers Aram Khachaturian and Gyorgy Ligeti.

Toward the end of the sequence where the HAL 9000 computer is lobotomized, it begins to play the 1892 song “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)” by Harry Dacre, which Clarke had seen a demonstration of computer synthesis on an IBM 704 at Bell Labs in 1961. The rendition is gradually slowed down to a progressively lower sample rate, which then creates a strikingly electronic, distorted, basso profundo.

“The Blue Danube” is the common English title of “An der schönen, blauen Donau”, Op. 314 (German for “By the Beautiful Blue Danube”), a waltz by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, composed in 1866. Originally performed on 15 February 1867 at a concert of the Wiener Männergesangsverein (Vienna Men’s Choral Association), it has been one of the most consistently popular pieces of music in the classical repertoire. Its initial performance was considered only a mild success, however, and Strauss is reputed to have said, “The devil take the waltz, my only regret is for the coda—I wish that had been a success!”

After the original music was written, the words were added by the Choral Association’s poet, Joseph Weyl. Strauss later added more music, and Weyl needed to change some of the words. Strauss adapted it into a purely orchestral version for the 1867 Paris World’s Fair, and it became a great success in this form. The instrumental version is by far the most commonly performed today. An alternate text was written by Franz von Gernerth, “Donau so blau” (Danube so blue). “The Blue Danube” premiered in the United States in its instrumental version on 1 July 1867 in New York, and in the UK in its choral version on 21 September 1867 in London at the promenade concerts at Covent Garden.

When Strauss’s stepdaughter, Alice von Meyszner-Strauss, asked the composer Johannes Brahms to sign her autograph-fan, he wrote down the first bars of “The Blue Danube”, but adding “Leider nicht von Johannes Brahms” (“Unfortunately not by Johannes Brahms”).

The Blue Danube was prominently used in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. After a leap from humanity’s prehistoric past to its spacefaring future, the first two-thirds of The Blue Danube are heard as a space plane approaches and docks with a space station; it concludes while another spacecraft travels from the station to the Moon. The piece is then reprised over the film’s closing credits (per Wikipedia).

So here is the segment from 2001: A Space Odyssey featuring the Pan American space plane performing its approaching docking waltz with the space station set to The Blue Danube.  I think this segment is simply a piece of genius; I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“Juan Tripp was a friend. Good name for an airline man, huh? Juan Tripp after another?” – Fay Wray


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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