Posted by Anne Nelson.
I’m a big, big fan of Ken Burns’ documentaries, but Horatio’s Drive is easily my favorite. It never gets the attention that the sweeping histories like Jazz or The Civil War do, but it is a gem: a quirky transcontinental picaresque about a real-life Mr. Toad and a put-upon mechanic and a dog that wears goggles. In 1903, exactly 100 years after Lewis and Clark set out on their own trip across the continent; a rambunctious doctor from Vermont named Horatio Nelson Jackson did it by car to settle a $50 wager. Although others had attempted to drive across the country (at a time when America had no paved roads and no gas stations), Horatio Nelson Jackson was the first person to actually manage it. His story is a terrific screwball comedy: loony characters, impossible odds, and it seems that everything that can go wrong does, but he’s too upbeat to notice. There is a companion book that includes most of the photographs used in the film, but I have to recommend the movie. Tom Hanks features as the voice of Jackson. And Burns’ cameraman strapped himself to the hood of a car to film some scenic shots with the proper degree of old-timey bounciness. It’s a thrill!