Lost Footage Of Einstein Driving A Flying Car Has Been Found

You’d think that if anyone would be able to crack the problem of flying cars, it’d be Einstein, right? I mean, after all, you don’t have to be some kind of Copernicus to know that Einstein’s a real Einstein. Even so, it seems improbable. That’s what makes this recently re-discovered film of Albert Einstein flying around in a flying car so wonderful. Is it fake? Well, yes and no.

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The footage is, of course, not really of Einstein driving a flying car, but it is really Albert Einstein, and he’s really pretending to take a little sky-jaunt in what looks like a cut-down Model T. The steering wheel definitely seems like a Model T wheel, at least. Here’s the footage, so you can be suitably delighted:

That’s Albert there, and next to him is his wife, Elsa, and the year was 1931. Einstein was in California on a research trip, and while he was there he took some time to visit Warner Bros studios, where he got a tour that included this little demonstration of the then-new rear-projection technique for movie special effects.

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This seems to be very real footage, as a New York Times article from 1931 mentions the event:

Illustration for article titled Lost Footage Of Einstein Driving A Flying Car Has Been Found

Look at that: “Einstein was surprised tonight into loud and long laughter.” What’s not to like about that?

Einstein never actually learned how to drive, so I guess there’s multiple levels of deception going on here. What’s not deceptive is Einstein’s interest in movie making and camera technology. Being machines that capture light, the physicist had a very deep understanding of how they worked, and even patented an auto-exposure movie camera back in 1936.

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It’s also worth noting that the 1931 article mentions that the master film was destroyed, and the Einsteins were only given one copy. That copy was seemingly lost until this April, when Becca Bender, a student working at Lincoln Center, found a box of old home movies, one of which was labeled “Einstein.”

Incredibly, the reel was preserved in incredible condition, and will be stored at the Library of Congress, with digital versions on the web (as you can see) and preserved at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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Finally, a story about a flying car that’s never going to be sold that doesn’t drive me up the wall.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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DISCUSSION

My great grandfather was good friends with Capt. G. Allan Hancock who was a prominent philanthropist, pilot, and scientific explorer in the 1930's, 40's, and 50's. It was his family who owned the property that the La Brea tar pits was on which they donated to the City of LA. My great grandfather was not just his friend but his personal photographer and author as well, and wrote several limited books about his scientific explorations and an autobiography which were my mother’s and now she has handed them down to me. In looking through one a couple of years ago, I see a great photo of Capt. Hancock and Einstein. I mentioned it casually in speaking with my mother one day, and she tells me all nonchalantly, “When I was a little girl we used to go to the Hancock’s all the time for dinner with my grandparents and often times Albert was there also.”

She then recollected how after the were done eating dinner the gentleman would retire to the study to talk about scholarly things while sipping brandy and smoking pipes and cigars. How freaking cool that would have been to be a fly on that wall.