|Volume 5 Number 1||
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WARNER BROS. MUSICAL SHORTS HIGHLIGHTING RECENT RESTORATIONS OF CLASSIC 1930s AND '40s MUSICAL AND TECHNICOLOR SHORTS, PLUS VITAPHONE SHORTS FROM THE MID-LATE 1920s!
1926: ROY SMECK in "His Pastimes." Premiered on the program with the first Vitaphone feature film, DON JUAN, starring John Barrymore.
"BABY ROSE MARIE, The Child Wonder".
HARLEM MANIA, with the Norman Thomas Quintette.
LAMBCHOPS, with George Burns and Gracie Allen.
THE OPRY HOUSE, with Lew Hearn and the Mound City Blowers.
1933: SMASH YOUR BAGGAGE, with Small's Paradise Entertainers.
1934: GOOD MORNING EVE, one of the first live-action, three strip Technicolor short subjects.
1935: AN ALL COLORED VAUDEVILLE SHOW, with Adelaide Hall and the Nicholas Brothers.
1937: CAB CALLOWAY in "Hi De Ho."
1938: OUT WHERE THE STARS BEGIN, in Technicolor.
1940: ALL GIRL REVUE, with June Allyson.
1941: GAY PARISIENNE, featuring the Ballet Russe, in Technicolor.
1943: JAMMIN' THE BLUES, with Lester Young.
1945: BORRAH MINEVITCH & HIS HARMONICA SCHOOL.
Restoration work on these shorts was completed by Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. as part of their ongoing preservation program. The 1929 shorts were restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, with the sound re-recorded from Vitaphone discs.
Tickets are $5 for the general public, $3 for Academy members. Doors will open at 6:30pm, and tickets, if still available, will be sold at that time. Advanced tickets may be purchased in person at the Academy during our normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm, or through the mail. If ordering by mail, please send a check, made out to the Academy Foundation, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope, to Academy Foundation Tickets, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211. A ticket order form may also be downloaded at the Academy website: http://www.oscars.org. Please note: the Academy does not accept credit cards; cash or personal checks only.
For more information on this and other Academy programs, please call our 24-hour events hotline at (310) 247-3600.
It’s a real treat to be able to talk to people who actually worked at the Brooklyn Vitaphone studios during its heyday in the 1930’s. Two such folks are singer Sylvia Froos and songwriter Sanford Green. This spring, we were able to spend a leisurely 4+ hour lunch with Sylvia and Sandy at New York’s Variety Arts Club, and listen to recollections of their Vitaphone days. Also attending were club member Peter Mintun, Nighthawks bandleader Vince Giordano, and The Vitaphone Project’s Ron Hutchinson. We’re hoping to schedule an expanded lunch later this year when more friends of the Project can attend.
Sylvia began performing in vaudeville around 1920 as “Baby Sylvia”, introducing such pop songs of the period as “Mr. Radio Man” and “In A Little Spanish Town”. In early 1927, she appeared in two one-reel Vitaphone shorts filmed in the New York Opera House. Film, but no discs, exist for both of these shorts. In 1932, she returned to Vitaphone --- now located in new Brooklyn studios --- to make an early edition of “RAMBLING ‘ROUND RADIO ROW” with Sid Gary and Jerry Wald. Over the next few years, she appeared in a band short with Eddy Duchin (1933), “SOFT DRINKS AND SWEET MUSIC” (1934) with Georgie Price, and VITAPHONE ENTERTAINERS” (1934). She also starred in her own series at Educational. Long a mainstay at the Paramount Theatre in New York, Sylvia later worked on cruise ships and even made some LP’s with Allen Sherman. “I never got to see my own films when they came out,” recalls Sylvia, “because I was always working!” She now hears from a new group of fans who see her shorts on Turner Classic Movies and laserdisc. She believes her agent at the William Morris Agency got her the Vitaphone jobs. “We would make the two reelers in less than a week, even when I was still appearing at the Paramount,” says Sylvia, who has since seen all but her 1927 Vitaphone shorts. “SOFT DRINKS AND SWEET MUSIC” particularly sticks in her memory. “There’s a scene here I’m going to be run over by a train, I recall.” She plays “Little Eva” in a musical number, and sings “Do I Know What I’m Doing?” which was written by our lunchmate Sandy Green. He also wrote “I’d Like To Dance The Whole Night Through” for the same short.
The discoveries of soundtrack discs continue unabated. Since our last issue, here’s what has turned up in collections worldwide:
Above are all early thirties Columbia features
[The above Paramount discs all from collection of the late Paul Mertz, pianist of the legendary Jean Goldkette Orchestra of the 1920’s]
The following group are all 1929-31 Celebrity Pictures shorts and cartoons:
About five years ago, we reported on Gary Lacher’s discovery of 28 early Pathe talkie shorts and one feature in the 16mm show-at-home format. These films were released on the home market concurrent with theatrical releases, and were safety-film equivalents for showing on 16mm projectors with synchronized 16 inch turntables. Most of the Pathe, Universal and Columbia shorts made during this period are gone due to nitrate deterioration. Fortunately, the 16mm home versions were always on safety film, and therefore occasionally survive.
Gary has meticulously restored and resynched some of this collection, and is now offering it for sale. Volume 2 is a collection of seven 1929-30 Pathe Aesop’s Fables cartoons, including the Mickey/Minnie ripoff “The Office Boy” which prompted a lawsuit from Disney . All have peppy musical accompaniments and sound effects and the later ones have dialog. Volume 1 offers three long-unseen 1930 two reel comedies. TWO PLUS FOURS, long thought lost, features Bing Crosby and The Rhythm Boys. TWO FRESH EGGS teams former Arbuckle sidekick Al St. John with comic Jimmy Aubrey in a prototype of “A Chump At Oxford”’s opening. And CHILLS AND FEVER stars vaudevillian (and Marx Brothers uncle) Al Shean (of Gallagher & Shean) with a tuneful haunted house plot. The restorations are beautiful, and we’re thankful to Gary for offering these rarities.
Volume 1 (Crosby and other shorts) is just $19.95, the Aesops Fables and all other volumes to be issued is $14.95. Add $3.00 per cassette for postage.
To order, contact Gary Lacher at 503-233-5861, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or mailing your order to him with payment to 1821 SE Hazel, Portland, OR 97212.
The latest sound film we know of where picture, but no sound exists, is the Technicolor 1937 all-star MGM short HOLLYWOOD PARTY hosted by comedian Charley Chase. A beautiful 35mm print exists, but the sound-on-film track cannot be located. Austrailian film and record collector Charles Slater saw our mention of this in an earlier VITAPHONE NEWS on our website, and emailed to say he has a very fragile nitrate print of PART of this film with an optical soundtrack. It appears to have been an answer print, with erratic color. It runs 855 feet (roughly half of the two reeler), and Charles reports “ it is probably the most brittle piece of nitrate I have ever handled.” He was able to acquire a “flying spot” 35mm tele-cine which ran the film effortlessly to make a video dub. He notes appearance in the film by Clark Gable, Joe E. Brown and Anna May Wong, among others, and it is largely shot outdoors (like the similar all-star MGM shorts PIRATE PARTY, FESTIVAL DE SANTA BARBARA and others). Charles is sending us a VHS dub so the scope of restoration possibilities can be determined.
UPDATE: Here are some snapshots from the VHS DUB! The short has Charlie Chase as Charlie Chan Chase, dressed as a Chinese man. As he greets his hostess he gives her a present of two birds in a cage. "When on a visit, always remember to give hostess the bird", he tells her! The introduction of several special guests and some brief musical numbers follow, and the ending of the film appears to be missing, for it ends abruptly.
Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stansbury of Photoplay Productions contacted the Project a year ago seeking soundtrack discs for Douglas Fairbanks’ last silent, THE IRON MASK (UA, ‘29). This film had a music and effects track, with very fleeting talk by Doug. In restoring this film, Photoplay commisioned a new score for a 50 piece orchestra. However hearing the discs would assist in the project, and hopefully allow use of Doug’s voice. Nine of the eleven discs were at The Library of Congress, the other two were generously transferred and loaned by collector John Johnson of Michigan. Patrick reports the screening of the restored print, with live orchestra pausing briefly as the Dolby Digital transfer of Doug’s speech took over, “was an extraordinary effect. Strangely, the dramatic contrast reinforced the strengths of both modern and 1929 technology without drawing attention to the limitations of the original recording.”
Photoplay hopes to release the restored film on video, with the DVD version having the new score and a VHS version using the original discs.
In 1934, Warner Brothers launched a series of mainly musical Technicolor two reel shorts, all shot on the west coast possibly to counter MGM’s Colortone series. Most were shot outdoors and featured comics like Leon Errol, Mitchell & Durant and El Brendel. Through Project friend Peter Mintun, we connected with singer June MacCloy who appeared in the 1934 color Vitaphone short “GOOD MORNING, EVE” with Errol. We tracked down black and white video dubs of this short, but no color. It’s a peppy and tuneful short, deserving viewing in its original Technicolor.
Enter Dick May, Warner’s Chief Preservation Officer who heard all about this and found the WB vaults contained a 3-strip negative in beautiful condition. “It must have been one of the first live action subjects filmed in three-strip,” reports Dick, “and there are no registration (alignment) problems at all. The color glows.” Dick showed a brief part of the restored new print at a Director’s Guild meeting to show what preservationists do.
June MacCloy remembers making this film, which includes perennial comic sidekick Vernon Dent in a rousing musical number. She said the heat of the lights and outdoor shooting got to everyone except Leon Errol. She remembers Errol kept a shaker of highballs available at all times, and would offer her a sip when things got really hot.
We look forward to both public screenings and TCM broadcast of GOOD MORNING, EVE in the near future.
Novelty pianist Alex Hassan is nearly finished recording his CD of tunes culled from thirties Vitaphone musical shorts. Alex tried out some of these at the Film Forum September 1999 Vitaphone show and has amassed transcriptions of many more of the peppy tunes written expressly for these shorts. Some of the songs will also have a vocalist who Alex reports “has precisely captured the feel of these Vitaphone shorts.” While the song titles won’t ring any bells, they were used by such Vitaphone stars as Hal Leroy, Sylvia Froos, Phil Harris, Lillian Roth, Arthur and Florence Lake, Mitzi Mayfair. A fair number were written by new Project friend Sandy Green. The Project will be helping on the liner notes. We’ll let you know when this CD is available. Meantime checkout Amazon.com for other CD’s by Alex Hassan, Peter Mintun and Vince Giordano!
Canadian film and jazz buff Joe Showler (he restored the 1929 Ben Pollack Vitaphone short with his own funds long before there was a Vitaphone Project) recently found a Variety reference to an obscure ‘29 feature. It was a Rayart B-minus potboiler titled “SHOULD A GIRL MARRY?” with Helen Foster and Donald Keith. It is primarily a silent with a closing talking courtroom scene. By all accounts, it was a bad picture. But the presence of Ben Pollack’s Park Central Orchestra providing the music and effects score makes this a film worth rediscovering. Pollack’s band at the time was a top exponent of jazz and hot dance music, with its clarinetist being none other than Benny Goodman and trombonist Jack Teagarden. We hope film collectors specializing in Poverty Row features will check their inventories for this one.
Rich Markow, who has been with the Project almost from the beginning, has generously offered to update our disc database and add the more than 1000 entries discovered in the last few years. Since Sherwin Dunner initiated the database in 1991, there have been extensive software changes and improvements. Rich will be in contact with possible users of the database (UCLA, LOC, film archives) to assure the new format will meet their needs. We also hope to eventually make the database (minus holders’ identities) on our website. New inputting will begin this summer.
Below is part of a 1935 Vitaphone shorts order sheet used by exhibitors. Vitaphone shorts were generally considered among the very best when it came to musicals and bands, less so for straight comedy. As a result Vitaphones were frequently shown in non-Warner Brothers theatres. You’ll notice that this order sheet was issued before some of the shorts were titled --- or even made. For example, two Ritz Brothers comedy two-reelers were announced (presumably after their successful Educational short “HOTEL ANCHOVY”), but were never made.
Note also that the new Technicolor two-reel series, leading off with Leon Errol’s “GOOD MORNING, EVE” (see story on this elsewhere in this issue).
Singer Harry Richman was announced for a two-reel “Radio Stars” short, and we even have a copy of his signed contract, but the film was never made. Likewise “HITS & MISSES” with Georgie Price and Vera Van.
Perhaps most interesting is the cost to rent a short. For 1-2 day rentals, the cost was $3.50 per short. Apparently this particular exhibitor liked the “Big V Comedies”, as they’ve selected all of them. Of less interest to this exhibitor were the musicals.
So, place your orders today. We’ll take one of each.
The Vitaphone Project’s main expenses are for the printing and distribution of this newsletter, which helps spread the word on our efforts and to uncover discs worldwide. When we hear of potential donations large enough to underwrite a restoration, we arrange for the funds to go directly to UCLA. While not a not-for-profit organization, your non-deductible donations to the Project are both appreciated and necessary to keep us going. If you’ve contributed recently, thanks! If not and you receive this newsletter, we hope you’ll conside a donation. Send checks (payable to Ron Hutchinson) to:
Do you have film soundtrack discs (Vitaphone, Paramount, MGM, etc.), production information, stills, or other ephemera on pre-1940 short films? We urgently need this data for a major film restoration program. Replies will be kept confidential. Project endorsed by copyright owners.
THE VITAPHONE PROJECT
To contact The Vitaphone Project write to:
5 Meade Court
Piscataway, NJ 08854
or email Ron at email@example.com
or project member Bill Cappello at firstname.lastname@example.org
|VITAPHONE NEWS||ISSN 1066-5951|
|Corresponding Secretary||Ron Hutchinson:||5 Meade Court|
Piscataway, NJ 08854
FAX: (732) 336-2603
|Data Base||Sherwin Dunner:||P.O. Box 1992|
New York, NY 10013
|and John Newton:||P.O. Box 7191|
Wilmington, DE 19803
|Newsletter, Advertising, Publicity||David Goldenberg:||840 Winter Road|
Rydal, PA 19046
|(also Rich Markow beginning 6/2000)|
|Vitaphone Project Web Page:||http://email@example.com|