Newly Unearthed Footage Shows Albert Einstein Driving a Flying Car (1931)

During his lifetime, Albert Einstein apparently never learned to drive a car--something that also held true for Vladimir Nabokov, Ray Bradbury, Elizabeth Bishop, and Jack Kerouac. But he did manage to experience the thrill of getting behind the wheel, at least once. Above, watch a newly-discovered home movie of Einstein and his second wife, Elsa, visiting the Warner Bros. soundstage on February 3, 1931. The following day, The New York Times published this report:

Professor Einstein was surprised tonight into loud and long laughter.

Hollywood demonstrated its principles of "relativity," how it makes things seem what they are not, by use of a dilapidated motor car.

At the First National studio, German technicians persuaded Professor Einstein to change his mind about not being photographed and photographed him in the old car with Frau Elsa, his wife. He cannot drive a car.

Tonight the German technicians brought the film to the Einstein bungalow. The lights went out.

Then the ancient automobile appeared on the screen with Einstein at the wheel, driving Frau Elsa on a sight-seeing tour.

Down Broadway, Los Angeles they drove, then to the beaches. Suddenly the car rose like an airplane, and as Einstein took one hand from the wheel to point out the scenery, the Rocky Mountains appeared below. Then the car landed on familiar soil and the drive continued through Germany.

It was just a Hollywood trick of double exposure and a thrilling comedy, but not for the public. The master film was destroyed, and the only copy was given to the Einsteins.

That one surviving copy of the film eventually ended up in the archives at Lincoln Center, where it sat unnoticed for decades, until Becca Bender, an archivist, stumbled up on it last year. And fortunately now we can all enjoy that light moment shot so long ago.

To learn more about the discovery of the 1931 film, watch the video below. Or read this article over at From the Grapevine.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Read the “Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down” Letter That Albert Einstein Sent to Marie Curie During a Time of Personal Crisis (1911)

Albert Einstein Imposes on His First Wife a Cruel List of Marital Demands

Albert Einstein Tells His Son The Key to Learning & Happiness is Losing Yourself in Creativity (or “Finding Flow”)

The Musical Mind of Albert Einstein: Great Physicist, Amateur Violinist and Devotee of Mozart

Albert Einstein on Individual Liberty, Without Which There Would Be ‘No Shakespeare, No Goethe, No Newton’

Listen as Albert Einstein Calls for Peace and Social Justice in 1945

Albert Einstein Reads ‘The Common Language of Science’ (1941)


by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Support Open Culture

We're hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture's continued operation, please consider making a donation. We thank you!


Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Tom Smith says:

    This film is not newly discovered, I remember watching it 25 years ago or so. I read this article on Grapevine but found that the comments section was closed so i am posting this comment here. Unfortunately the fact checker of this story did not do enough research.

Leave a Reply

Quantcast