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Volume 13 Number 1
Fall/Winter 2014

BROOKLYN STUDIO COMPLEX TO BE DEMOLISHED IN 2015

Sad news as we go to press. America's oldest surviving movie studio is scheduled to be demolished in 2015 to make way for a 302 unit condominium complex. Built in 1907 by the silent Vitagraph Company, the Brooklyn facility was purchased by Warner Brothers in 1925 and converted to sound in 1928 for the production of short subjects under their Vitaphone banner. More than 1000 talkie shorts were produced there until 1939, when the facility was closed and remaining shorts production was moved to Hollywood. During its operation as Vitaphone, the studio produced shorts with Bob Hope, Roscoe Arbuckle, Shemp Howard, Martinelli, Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, June Allyson, Hal LeRoy, as well as the first films of Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart and many others. Over 100 shorts with top bands of the era, countless vaudeville and two-reel musical shorts, and slapstick comedies were made there.

Red flags went up this summer when scaffolding was constructed around the surviving Vitagraph smokestack at the rear of the property. The studio name is emblazoned in brick on the 107 year old survivor. Inquiries revealed the scaffolding was a safety precaution installed as protection from falling bricks. However the action reinvigorated efforts to attain preservation status protection to prevent its eventual demolition. A Facebook "Save The Vitagraph Smokestack" petition received over 500 signatures. In early December, the Vitaphone studios received a double dose of bad news. In addition to the announced demolition of the entire block of studio buildings, the "newer" soundstages constructed by Warner Brothers in 1930, and most recently used to film AS THE WORLD TURNS, were to be gutted by the City of New York and occupied by a health services division. The cavernous studios include a pool for water scenes and are reportedly haunted by the ghost of "Fatty" Arbuckle. Closed in 1939, they were purchased in the early fifties by NBC and used for productions of "spectaculars" like Peter Pan. Sold to JC Studios in the nineties, a subsequent buyer 3 years ago went bankrupt, triggering the City's takeover.

Earlier campaigns to protect the facility from demolition by securing historic preservation status, fell upon deaf ears a few years ago and was revisited earlier this year.

The Vitagraph/Vitaphone studio buildings have been used by the Shulamith girl's high school for about 25 years. The facility was bought directly from Warner Bros and in 1991 Rabbi Zwick gave members of the then-fledgling Vitaphone Project a tour. He noted that the school's new gym and auditorium were constructed by installing walls and ceiling inside the two sound stages. OId Kleig lights and soundproofing were left in place, and might be found during demolition.

The Project and community leaders are banding together to hopefully either stop the massive housing project --- which residents say is out of place in this area --- or at the very least require the developer to repair and preserve the VITAGRAPH smokestack. The issue has received coverage in the NY DAILY NEWS and on local radio as well as extensively on Facebook. Check in regularly at the Project's FB page, "The Vitaphone Project" for the latest developments.


TECHNICOLOR TURNS 100 IN 2015

From 1915, the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation and its revolutionary color processes transformed cinema forever. To celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Technicolor's incorporation, George Eastman House is curating a blockbuster exhibition, creating an online exhibition, and publishing a landmark book. In addition, an international retrospective of films from the museum's collection has been jointly curated by Deutsche Kinemathek, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Austrian Film Museum, and will premiere at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February.

The exhibition In Glorious Technicolor, opening January 24, 2015, celebrates the vivid history of one of the most widely recognized names in the American film industry—a company whose revolutionary motion picture color process enabled such Hollywood masterpieces as The Wizard of Oz (1939), Gone With the Wind (1939), and Singin' In the Rain (1952). Composed of stunning visual displays, this exhibition features original artifacts and projected video clips to explore Technicolor's wide-ranging impact on the form and content of cinema. An online version of the exhibition will also be available, made possible in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. To be launched in January 2015, the site will allow users to explore Technicolor's rich history through original artifacts in the museum's collections. It will also act as a portal for audiences to engage in other Technicolor centennial celebrations occurring throughout 2015 at the museum, including the film series, gallery exhibition, and book launch. The website will facilitate access to highlights from George Eastman House's unparalleled equipment and documentation collections that have previously been accessible only to on-site researchers. Creative, corporate, and technological milestones in the company's history will be illustrated with high-quality digital reproductions of historical artifacts, new animated graphics, and interviews with curators and experts. The multimedia website will be live on January 24, 2015, and can be found by visiting http://www.eastmanhouse.org/technicolor100.

While the Technicolor process was developed starting in 1915, its use hit its first peak during the 1929-30 season primarily in early talkie musicals and musical sequences in otherwise black-and-white features. Almost coinciding with Technicolor's anniversary was this year's discovery in England of many 35mm color nitrate fragments from 1929 musicals, as reported in our last issue.

The Dawn of Technicolor, 1915-1935 is the first detailed history of Technicolor's formative years. The lavishly illustrated book draws on a wealth of previously untapped internal documentation, studio production files, and firsthand accounts. Written by James Layton and David Pierce and edited by Paolo Cherchi Usai and Catherine A. Surowiec, The Dawn of Technicolor includes the first comprehensive filmography of two-color Technicolor titles. The book will have its official launch during the 65th Berlin International Film Festival within the framework of the Retrospective "Glorious Technicolor."

The Vitaphone Project has worked with James in the past, most recently on Technicolor shorts restorations. Both he and David gave their "Dawn of Technicolor" presentation in London in the fall of 2014.

The 448 page book is available now for pre-order and will ship by February 1, 2015. The best deal seems to be through Amazon.com at :


CACHE OF DISKS FOUND IN MELBOURNE

An Australian collector of radio transcriptions (which are usually 16" in diameter) also had accumulated a number of 1927-31 movie soundtrack disks as they are the same size. He kindly shared a list of the 66 Vitaphone-style disks he had, and has generously offered to make available any that are needed for future restorations. A complete list of the collection is included in our DISK-OVERIES column in this issue.

Of particular importance in this cache are the only known disks for the 1928 MGM short 8 VICTOR ARTISTS which stars Billy Murray, Henry Burr Monroe Silver and other important recording artists. Most never appeared in a sound film, and the 35mm picture portion of this short survives. Early Vitaphone shorts by pianist Pauline Alpert, vaudevillians Jim and Betty Morgan, the Mexican Tipica Orchestra, quick change impersonator John Barclay and the Imperial Russian Cossacks can now be restored with their surviving picture elements. Lots of other important finds in this collection too.


LOST JAZZ SHORT RESTORATION NEAR COMPLETION


As reported in our last issue, the long-lost 1929 British (filed in New York) jazz short ME AND THE BOYS was located in Australia and is being restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding developed by The Vitaphone Project. Pursuit of this film by jazz buffs has been a holy grail for over 80 years, as it includes Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Jimmy MacPartland, Ray Bauduc and Dick Morgan. The group plays two hot tunes, with vocals by Estelle Brody. All were members of the legendary Ben Pollack band.

Newly appointed Film Preservation Head Scott MacQueen reports that the 35mm sound-on-film nitrate print is in generally good shape, with some minor, but reparable, water damage to the soundtrack in a few spots. A bonus is that it is a nicely tinted print. Restoration work is expected to be completed in early 2015, and any screenings will be reported on our Vitaphone Project Facebook page.


COLLEEN MOORE RESTORATIONS A HIT WORLDWIDE


As reported in our last issue, Colleen Moore's last two previously lost silent features, which had synchronized Vitaphone soundtracks, have been restored. WHY BE GOOD? and SYNTHETIC SIN have been screened internationally to great acclaim. In July 2014, WHY BE GOOD? got its first screening in 85 years at the Bologna film festival. It was subsequently shown in London, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York City. The Chicago screening was particularly appropriate, as the film's star help found the international annual film festival of which it was a part. SYNTHETIC SIN (which lacks all but its final reel's disk) was screened in NYC at Film Forum, with piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner.

Both features were directed by William A. Seiter, and his grandson, screenwriter Ted Griffin) attended the Film Forum screening. At that venue, each restoration's screening was introduced by the Project's Ron Hutchinson and film historian (and personal friend of Moore's) Joe Yranski. Moore's daughter and other relatives attended the Chicago showing of WHY BE GOOD? We will report any additional screenings for 2015 on the Vitaphone Project Facebook page.

Read more about the discovery and restoration of these two films here: https://sites.google.com/site/colleenmooresite/lost-no-more-the-re-discovery-and-restoration-of-why-be-good-and-synthetic-sin

WHY BE GOOD? is now available on DVD from Warner Archive here:


DISC-OVERIES


As mentioned in this issue, a big cache of soundtrack disks was reported from a collector in Melbourne, Australia. Here is what the group includes:

and from The National Library of Norway, they report having four discs the soundtrack for a 1909 Feuillade film LES HEURES, made on the 1902 Gaumont sound system Cyclophone


VITAPHONE BOOKSHELF

This season, there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to film-related books. Here are a few of our recommendations:

And permit us to remind you of these important books, published a few years ago, but still an essential part of any Vitaphoniac's bookshelf…..


VITAPHONE T-SHIRTS & STICKERS NOW HERE!


Clear vinyl Vitaphone stickers are available NOW! Perfect for your car windows, black guitar cases, your mirrors, just tons of places you can put these! The sticker is clear except for the Vitaphone logo which is white and meant for the outside of the window, so all you see is the Vitaphone logo. These stickers are durable, waterproof, and made for all seasons! Cost is $3.00 per sticker. Shipping is $.75 in the USA (no matter how many you purchase) and $1.50 for all regions outside the USA (no matter how many you purchase). Payments will be handled securely though PayPal (the email address to send the payment to is louie9@charter.net) where you can use your account. Credit card payments can also be accepted through this method.
Stickers

He can also accept money orders and personal checks. Please email him (louie9@charter.net) for his address & when using personal checks, Ships after check has cleared the bank. Orders will ship as soon as they are received.


And they're here! A new batch of beautiful Vitaphone T-shirts are now available. Checkout our website to see them in color. Here's how to order from Tim Reed: KJ5KX@yahoo.com

2-color silkscreen logo on Royal Blue tee. Port and Company 100% cotton shirt. Sizes: S M L XL $14 + USPS Priority shipping.

Shipping cost: 1-3 shirts:$6, 4-6 shirts:$12, 2XL add $2, 3XL add $3, 4XL add $4, 5XL add $5, 6XL add $6. Larger orders, $6 for every three shirts.

Sizing (L x H): S: 27"x18" M: 29"x20" L: 30"x22" XL: 31"x24" 2XL: 33"x26" 3XL: 34"x28" 4XL: 35"x30" 5XL: 36"x32" 6XL: 37"x34"

If your order isn't in the drop down below, Please order from Tim Reed via PayPal to KJ5KX@yahoo.com and specify "Vitaphone Shirt". These are not stock items, so Tim must take orders for a short time and then have the shirts manufactured. Delivery times will be affected accordingly.

T-Shirts


VITAPHONE PROJECT BY THE NUMBERS

Here are a few numbers we're often asked about:
  • NUMBER OF SHORTS RESTORED TO DATE: ~95
  • NUMBER OF SHORTS IN RESTORATION PIPELINE: 53
  • VITAPHONE SHORTS SURVINING W/PICTURE, NO SOUND: ~325
  • VITAPHONE SHORTS SURVIVING W/SOUND, NO PICTURE: ~80
  • VITAPHONE SHORTS NOT SURVIVING AT ALL: ~125
  • COST TO RESTORE 1 REEL SHORT THRU UCLA: $8,000
  • VITAPHONE SHORTS CURRENTLY ON WARNER ARCHIVE DVD's: ~ 250


PEOPLE


DVD SUGGESTIONS

Warner Archive continues to issue many early talkie shorts and features, so regular visits to their website are recommended - http://www.wbshop.com/home.do. WA recently issued the 1930 Vitaphone feature OH, SAILOR BEHAVE! Starring Olsen & Johnson. The Project was happy to answer Warner's call when they needed better source material for the soundtrack. Our database confirmed collector Mike Kieffer had all the disks for the film and he kindly dubbed his disks for them. WA has also released CLASSIC SHORTS FROM THE DREAM FACTORY, VOL. 3 set. This DVD features the recently found Stooges Technicolor short HELLO POP! As well as all their other surviving MGM shorts. Earlier this year, volume 2 of the VITAPHONE COMEDY COLLECTION came out, and completes the remaining 1934-36 Shemp Howard Vitaphone appearances.

The rediscovered and restored 1929 Colleen Moore WHY BE GOOD? with jazzy soundtrack and sound effects is also now available. If you haven't gotten them already, volumes 1 and 2 of VITAPHONE VARIETIES contain almost 100 1926-31 restored shorts. And the WB BIG BAND, JAZZ AND SWING set (actually contains many pre-1936 band shorts) has 63 Vitaphone music shorts.


WATCH VITAPHONE SHORTS ON YOUTUBE.COM!


While the quality isn't as good as those found on the DVD's, there are plenty of shorts to be found online. For the best quality available, buy one of the DVD sets and help support film preservation!


THANK-YOU'S FOR DONORS

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!

NEW with this issue - we now are offering 16 new CDs of peppy, hot dance and personality 78s from the early talkie era. If you ordered our "hot and peppy 78s" CD last time there are still 14 more new ones now available! You can email us at ron@vitaphoneproject.com for content. First CD for a $50 donation, $75 for two, $100 for 4 and get all 16 CDs for a contribution of $300! Checks must be made payable to Ron Hutchinson, not The Vitaphone Project

We also still offer each for a $50 donation (2 for $75 or all 3 for $100 ):

A new BRITISH PATHETONE VIDEO DVD, featuring sound clip of bands and vaudeville. Includes Duke Ellington, Gracie Fields, Sophie Tucker, Casani Club Orchestra, Bert Lahr and Buddy Rogers, the Roy Fox, Jack Payne and Teddy Brown bands, and more. An hour of unseen material.
A CD of hot and peppy 1928-32 78's that will keep your feet tapping. Great tunes from the early talkie era.

Selections from the unique early studio recording disks reported in this issue. Includes actual on-set recordings with studio chatter before and after from early MGM shorts and features, Cliff Edwards, and unissued material from GOLDWYN FOLLIES

A fantastic compilation of 1930-37 Warner Brothers opening titles music, many by musical director Ray Heindorf. Assembled by Peter Mintun.

2012 VITAPHONE ACQUISITIONS - has the newly found audience entrance, exit and intermission music for HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929, MAL HALLETT AND HIS ENTERTAINING ORCHESTRA (Vitaphone, 1929), Vitaphone #427 FRED WARING AND HIS PENNSYLVANIANS (1927) and the Overture disk for WARMING UP (Par/1928) (with Billy Murray).

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.

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)
  • 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!!

    Friend us on facebook 'The Vitaphone Project'


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    VITAPHONE NEWS ISSN 1066-5951
    Corresponding Secretary & Editor Ron Hutchinson 5 Meade Court
    Piscataway, NJ 08854
    (732) 463-8521
    FAX: (732) 463-8521
    medusashaircut@erols.com
    ron@vitaphoneproject.com
    Database: Patrick Picking patrick@picking.com
    Co-Founders: John Newton newtonjj2@aol.com
    Sherwin Dunner jazzgypsy@verizon.net
    Vince Giordano vincegiordano@optonline.net
    Vitaphone Project Web Page Designer Patrick Picking
    patrick@picking.com
    Vitaphone Project Web Page http://www.vitaphoneproject.com medusashaircut@erols.com
    ron@vitaphoneproject.com
    Jeff Cohen's "Vitaphone Varieties" Site http://vitaphone.blogspot.com
    Leonard Maltin's Site http://www.leonardmaltin.com
    Talkie King http://talkieking.blogspot.com
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