I married adventure
April 19, 2012 2:59 AM   Subscribe

Before Joy Adamson went to Africa, before Margaret Mead sailed to Samoa, before Dian Fossey was even born, a Kansas teenager named Osa Leighty married Martin Johnson. Whether dancing to jazz in Congorilla or meeting headhunters in Borneo, her life with Martin ultimately led to hours of pioneering documentary footage, books, movies and more. Her autobiography inspired a Kate Spade purse, a perfume and her marriage an entire line of clothing while her joie de vivre put her on the cover of a book on trailblazing women of history. Osa Johnson went on to become a character in a play, in a poem while her married life gave birth to a museum (or two). When Osa met Martin, she married adventure.
posted by infini (4 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
They sound like the married-couple-version of Richard Halliburton.

I can imagine that the exploits of these types of publicity-addicted adventurers were lapped up by a public that found their destinations entrancingly exotic.

These types of adventurers seem very familiar, and endearingly cheesy, in our contemporary culture of self-promotion and travel stunts that result in book and movie deals.
posted by jayder at 6:05 AM on April 19, 2012


These two were among the first to exploit a number of new technologies. 1) global air travel enabled them to reach exotic locales quickly and with less danger than previous overland/sea travelers. 2) a video camera small and light and durable enough to take into the field and work well, it was developed during WWI (and soon after) resulting in a surge of nature documentaries starting in the 20s and 30s. They were pioneers of the modern nature documentary.
posted by stbalbach at 9:14 AM on April 19, 2012


They were pioneers of the modern nature documentary.

Movie Review Congorilla (1932) The Martin Johnsons, With Camera and Gun, in the Jungles of Africa. by L. N. Published: July 22, 1932

The picture is not a travelogue, nor an "animal film" in the connotations usually given to those words. It is a bit more. Perhaps it would not be too much to say that it forms a good model for the future for Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and all the rest of the camera and gun brigade. "Congorilla" is never boring, even though it is long, and its various diversified incidents are strung together into a smooth whole.

It is what in the old days of sound they called an "audible film." With the Johnsons on their most recent safari went recording equipment as well as just film. The chants of the jungle, in its various mores, are there in full. And when the sound device does not tell all the story there is Mr. Johnson's voice to fill it out. His is no idle monologue, talking for the sake of making a speech. When the picture can speak for itself, as it mostly does, it is allowed to go on without help.

posted by infini at 9:21 AM on April 19, 2012


jayder, funny you mention Halliburton. Something extraordinary happened with his house today.
posted by Scram at 3:16 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


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