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Volume 10 Number 3
Spring/Summer 2011

THE VITAPHONE PROJECT CELEBRATES ITS TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY!!

Xavier Cugat

This issue marks the twentieth anniversary of The Vitaphone Project. Begun at a time when the Intranet was just starting, virtually any discoveries of soundtrack disks occurred through word of mouth. Today, barely a month goes by without our receiving an email from someone with a disk, or seeking information on a relative who was in a Vitaphone. Since the Project began in 1991 by five record collectors and film buffs --- the late David Goldenberg, John Newton, Sherwin Dunner Ron Hutchinson and Vince Giordano --- over 3500 disks have been found, nearly 150 Vitaphone shorts have been restored, with over 200 already on DVD and more to come, and nearly half a million dollars in funding developed. This issue attests to the fact that things are not slowing down as we enter our third decade. In this issue, you'll read about nearly 100 more discovered soundtrack disks, the DVD release of 60 early restored Vitaphones, the saving (for the moment, at least) of the Vitaphone studios in Brooklyn, and the possibility of yet another GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY fragment surfacing.

When we started, Dave Goldenberg feared we might not have enough news to fill two issues a year. No such problem, Dave! Thanks to all of you for your continued support!


NEW VITAPHONE SOUNDTRACK CD GIFTS FOR DONATIONS OVER $50!
ALL DONATIONS ARE WELCOME!

Your generous donations help to keep our Project going. Escalating printing and mailing costs make your support even more important than ever. While not tax-deductible, your donation allows us to continue spreading the word and seeking out disks and film elements for future restorations. Large donations for actual restorations go directly to UCLA Film and Television Archive (where support is tax deductible).

NEW!     NEW!    NEW!    NEW!    NEW!   NEW!

We've just added a new thank-you gift for a donation of $50. It's a set of twelve 3x5 note cards and envelopes, each with a terrific vintage Vitaphone short still. Twelve different cards include pictures of bands, vaudevillians, the Vitaphone camera booth guys, and more. A unique way to send your friends a note the old fashioned way. Just specify you'd like the note cards when contributing. If you've sent in a donation lately, thanks! If you are receiving Vitaphone News and have not made contribution lately --- or ever -- please consider doing so now. In addition to thank-you audio CDs listed below, we are adding a few new items:

Selected from the 70+ Vitaphone disks acquired earlier last year are two new CDs:

2011 DISK-OVERIES VOL. 1 -includes soundtracks for 1929 shorts by Molly Picon and Dave Apollon, Ruth Etting with Arden & Ohman, Phil Baker and more.

2011 DISK-OVERIES VOL. 2 includes tracks from REDSKIN, a Vitaphone 1929 theatre holiday promo, Charles King in the lost 1929 MGM Colortone CLIMBING THE GOLDEN STAIRS and Al Trahan, plus more.

The above 2 CDs are individually for a $50 contribution, both for $75.

Also new...
For a $50 donation receive our DVD of twenty band, singing and vaudeville excerpts from 1930-39 British Pathetone shorts. Includes the bands of Billy Cotton, Harry Roy and Jack Hylton (recording at HMV in 1932!), plus Sophie Tucker, two clips with Al Bowlly, and many fun music hall and vaude acts. Just request our PATHETONE DVD when contributing!

For donations of $50, you can choose from one of the listed CDs, or you can receive a great Shaw and Lee caricature T-shirt.

And the following audio CDs are still available as thank-you gifts. These are unique, non-professional (but highly listenable) recordings of rare early talkie material. No fancy notes or packaging, but we are sure you'll enjoy them. Just let us know your choice (number of CDs is in parentheses)

  • KRAZY KAT CARTOON '29-'30 SOUNDTRACK (total of 10 tracks) (1)
  • '29-'30 COLUMBIA VICTOR GEMS SOUNDTRACKS (Vol 1 & 2) (1 CD each)
  • "TALES FROM THE ATTIC" - VITAPHONE ON WDVR (11/09) with Vitaphone Project's Ron Hutchinson. Nearly 3 hours (2) Ron Hutchinson on the air!
  • VICTOR PICT-UR-MUSIC DISCS Vol 1 (1)
  • VICTOR PICT-UR-MUSIC DISCS Vol. 2 (1)
  • BABY ROSE MARIE, THE CHILD WONDER ('29) - all known 1929-38 78's by this popular child star, plus tracks from her 3 Vitaphone shorts, features and even her 1938 radio show. (1)
  • WHY BE GOOD? Soundtrack - the complete jazzy Vitaphone discs for this soon to be restored 1929 silent starring Colleen Moore. Believed to feature Jimmy Dorsey, Phil Napoleon and Eddie Lang among others. (1)
  • MY MAN ('28) - all available discs from the lost Fanny Brice feature, plus trailer disc and contemporary 78's of film tunes. (2)
  • GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY ('29) Vitaphone discs - 99% of the sound from this still substantially lost early Vitaphone feature. (1)
  • VITAPHONE SOUNDTRACKS - Vol 1-4 Selections from soundtrack discs from vaudeville, band and feature films. (4)
  • WHEELER & WOOLSEY TUNES (2 CD's) - includes virtually every one of the songs from their 1929-37 features. For real fans! (2)
  • Click on the button below to donate to The Vitaphone Project securely with any major credit card through PayPal!

    If you wish to send a check (not tax deductible) please make it payable to RON HUTCHINSON (NOT The Vitaphone Project) and send it to:

    Ron Hutchinson
    5 Meade Court
    Piscataway, NJ 08854

    THANK YOU!!


    2 NEW DVD VITAPHONE SHORTS SETS FROM WARNER ARCHIVES!

    Warner Archive has just release a fantastic six DVD set of Vitaphone shorts, 53 in all, including two disks of beautiful 3-strip Technicolor two reelers! WA has already release their 60+ shorts "Big Band" set of 1930-45 Vitaphone orchestra shorts, as well; and a multi-DVD set of MGM shorts. We can expect even more vintage Vitaphone shorts to be released by WA in 2011, but snap these two up now to keep the riches coming.

    Click on the pictures above to order them from Amazon.com!

    Here is a summary of what is on the Vitaphone Cavalcade of Musical Comedy Shorts 6 disk set:

    Here is a summary of what is on the Vitaphone Varieties 4 disk set:

    Harris & Radcliffe in 'AT THE PARTY' (1929) Born & Lawrence in 'THE COUNTRY GENTLEMEN'(1928)
    Left: Harris & Radcliffe in 'AT THE PARTY' (1929) - Right: Born & Lawrence in 'THE COUNTRY GENTLEMEN'(1928)



    Special thanks to our preservation partners:
    UCLA Film & Television Archive
    Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation
    and The Vitaphone Project

    The Vitaphone Project has written a set of program notes for this set, and you may request these at no cost at: ron@vitaphoneproject.com


    KING OF THE KONGO, FIRST TALKIE SERIAL, AUDIBLE AGAIN

    Using the sound from two of the surviving soundtrack disks for the first sound serial, KING OF THE KONGO (Mascot./1929), Eric Grayson (aka "Dr. Film") has synchronized those disks to surviving picture elements so that Episode 5 can be seen and heard again. Checkout Eric's handiwork at this youtube.com link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch

    The majority of soundtrack disks for this serial remain among the missing. Our database shows about one-third survive.


    VITAGRAPH STUDIO UPDATE: GOOD NEWS!

    In our last issue, we reported that America's oldest surviving purpose-built movie studio --- Vitagraph's 1907 complex in Brooklyn --- was in danger of demolition. We are happy to report that, at least for the moment, there are no plans to bulldoze the historic site.

    The Shulamith School, a Hebrew girls high school which now occupies the older (Vitagraph) side of the complex, told us recently that a change in management is now focused on continuing rather than closing its operation. The rumored threat of demolition has had the positive effect of stressing the need for historic protection, at least for the VITAGRAPH emblazoned smokestack that dates from the studio's beginning over a century ago. The stack also needs a professional structural assessment and likely repairs to ensure its integrity.

    And, in a related story.....


    TUNNELVISION: ALIVE AGAIN

    Map of the tunnel
    Over a decade ago, we reported that Project co-founder, bandleader Vince Giordano, had uncovered blueprints confirming the existence of a tunnel under the street between the two sides of the Brooklyn Vitaphone studios. The prints indicated the approximate position of the 7-10 foot wide tunnel in relation to the building footprints. The tunnel was sealed up at both ends in 1955. During the Vitaphone era (1928-39) at the complex, the tunnel was used to move props, scenery and costumes from one side of the studio to the other without interfering with local traffic.

    Since Vince's discovery, it has been the Project's hope that one day the tunnel might be opened for inspection. That day may now come soon, as during the making of WNYC's SECRETS OF NEW YORK episode on Vitagraph the new staff at the Brooklyn site showed an openness to the idea. As we go to press, the Project is working with the school to determine what insurance and reparation commitments are required.


    BILL CAPPELLO: A MASTER PEOPLE DETECTIVE

    Readers of VITAPHONE NEWS have often heard us mention Bill Cappello as the master "Tracer of Lost Persons". Armed with countless tools far beyond Ancestry.com, Bill has been able to find relatives of many Vitaphone performers.

    Following the recent UCLA and FILM FORUM screenings of restored Vitaphone shorts, we asked Bill to see if he could locate any information on relatives of several of the hits of the shows: Eddie White, Jack Waldron, Florence Brady and Russ Brown. In less than a week, Bill successfully uncovered lots of background on these long-forgotten vaudevillians. Here's a sampling:

    EDDIE WHITE - Truly the hit of the show, White seems to have made no other films. A robust singer of pop tunes interspersed with ethnic humor, Bill found his real name was Michael Weintraub. He remained a major show business force into his seventies, entertained the troups during WWII, played NY night clubs and even Catskill venues. It was Eddie who was playing Atlantic City's Steel Pier in the late thirties when he saw a comedy team at a nearby club. He brought them over to the Pier to appear with him, and a year later Abbott & Costello were making over $5000 a week there, always thanking Eddie for their success. Bill quickly located Eddie's son, Jay, in Florida and he's now seen his father's Vitaphone.

    JACK WALDRON - His hilarious 1928 Vitaphone short, 'A Breath of Broadway' presents what is alleged to be the first true stand-up comic act. Bill found two of Waldron's nephews, who regaled the project with stories of their uncle's career. In 1925, Waldron partnered in vaudeville with Shemp Howard. His delivery soon morphed into one later adopted by Henny Youngman. He worked through the fifties on Broadway, notably in THE PAJAMA GAME. He eventually became the Shepherd of The Lambs Club.

    Harris & Radcliffe in 'AT THE PARTY' (1929)
    Florence Brady in 'A CYCLE OF SONGS' (1928)

    FLORENCE BRADY - Her dynamic 1928 Vitaphone, "A Cycle of Songs", is overflowing with power and personality. No further film credits could be found for her, but Bill's research indicated she married vaudevillian Gil Wells, who died a few years later. Wells' own Vitaphone is restorable, and worth doing per UCLA's Bob Gitt. Sadly, Bill reports that she died at age 41 of cirrhosis of the liver.

    RUSS BROWN - His 1927 Vitaphone with partner and then-wife Jean Whitaker, is a record of the quintessential vaudeville act. It's filled with wise cracks, bad jokes, songs, and Brown brimming with confidence. Bill found that Brown's career spanned over 50 years, and included winning a Tony in the mid-1950's for DAMN YANKEES. He stopped the show with his rendition of "You Gotta Have Heart". He made many appearances in shorts and features, and can be seen here in the film version of YANKEES:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch

    Before partnering with Whitaker, Bert Wheeler was one of his vaudeville partners. He died in 1964 at the Actors Fund Home in NJ. So far, Bill has been unable to find any surviving relatives.


    PEOPLE