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.

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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)

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Comments (3)
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  • 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.

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  • keaton says:

    I liked the arti­cle and I think that it is inter­est­ing that Ein­stein actu­al­ly had the thrill of rid­ing in an auto­mo­bile.

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