Volume 5 Number 2
Summer/Fall 2000


Add me to the Vitaphone Project E-Mail List!


There's been no slowdown in the discovery of soundtrack discs since our last issue! This latest batch brings the total number of discs found to nearly 3,000 since the Project's inception in 1991. Here are the discs reported since July, 2000:


Elaine Burrows of the British Film Institute kindly shared her organization's complete list of soundtrack disc holdings with the Project. This represents a major addition to our database, and confirms how American talkies flooded British theatres with the coming of sound. Here's a list of what BFI current holds in the way of soundtrack discs:


Ruby Keeler  Douglas Fairbanks Jr.  Mary Astor  George Arliss  Marie Wilson 


The Project's Rich Markow has taken on the mammoth task of reconfiguring the entire soundtrack disc database, adding over 1,400 new entries, and making it more searchable. The database was originally developed by Project founder Sherwin Dunner in 1991, and there have been vast improvements in database software since then. Rich will be making the new database easier to search and it will ultimately be accessible (minus holder's identities) via our website. It will also include discs known to be held in archives throughout the world. Rich has extensive experience in recorded sound databases, having assisted Tim Brooks on his recently published early Columbia American Records discography.



Illicit  General Crack  Noah's Ark 


Following our report in the last issue of the discovery of the disc for Eddie Cantor's lost 1928 Paramount short THAT PARTY IN PERSON, we learned of yet another Cantor talkie discovery. His 1929 two reel Paramount short A ZIEGFELD MIDNIGHT FROLIC has long been considered lost. Rumors circulated that a print existed, and that one had even been shown at the Museum of the Moving Image. But none of the stories could be confirmed. During filming for the shorts documentary at the Loews Jersey, one of the restoration volunteers mentioned he had a nice 35mm print of FROLIC. Within weeks, we also saw a 16mm print of this allegedly lost talkie offered on eBay (it went for $200!). A third NY collector confirmed having a print soon after. So, in one month this short went from "lost" to "plentiful"!


Novelty pianist Alex Hassan has just completed a unique and enjoyable CD of tunes culled from some of the best 1930's Vitaphone shorts. Anyone who has enjoyed these musical Vitaphones starring Hal Leroy, Georgie Price, Dorothy Dare, Phil Harris and others know how toe-tapping they can be. Alex has transcribed over 50 Vitaphone tunes from the original soundtracks, and plays them in his infectious style. Some tracks also have vocals. In addition to individual tunes like SWING FOR SALE, LET THE RHYTHM GO TO YOUR FEET, SOFT DRINKS & SWEET MUSIC, ONE HAMBURGER FOR MADAME, and SCHOOL DAZE, Alex has put together a nearly 15-minute long VITAPHONE FANTASY medley. The CD has been professionally produced by David Charvonia with a slick booklet with liner notes by the Project's Ron Hutchinson. The CD is $15.99 and may be ordered from www.maestosorecords.com


Gary Lacher has added to the catalog of restored 1929-30 Pathe comedies he now offers on video.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.

Gary has meticulously restored and resynched some of this collection, and is now offering three volumes for sale:

All tapes are $14.95 each. Please add $3.00 per cassette for shipping. To order, contact Gary Lacher at 503-233-5861, by email at gplacher@aol.com or mail your order to him with payment to: 1821 SE Hazel, Portland, OR 97212.


(I attended, but photos were not allowed inside - Patrick)

The Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences offered a three hour program of musical Vitaphone shorts on August 17, 2000, attracting an audience of over 600. Program Director Ellen Harrington worked closely with WB's Dick May on the selection of titles, which included the newly restored Technicolor two-reeler GOOD MORNING, EVE (1934) with Leon Errol, BABY ROSE MARIE, THE CHILD WONDER (1929), ALL COLORED VAUDEVILLE (1935) with The Nicholas Brothers, and BURNS & ALLEN IN 'LAMBCHOPS' (1929). The Project assisted in publicizing the event by mail and via the Internet (see story in our last issue), as well as helping Ellen get Rose Marie and Fayard Nicholas to attend. Both were enthusiastically received by the audience. The great turnout for this event is expected to lead to more Vitaphone shows at the Academy in the future.


As we go to press, the actual opening outlines of the tunnel under the street between the Vitagraph and "NBC sides of the Brooklyn Vitaphone studios have been found. Ron Bernknopf, Chief engineer at JC Studios (which occupies the 1928-32 constructed Vitaphone soundstages for the production of "AS THE WORLD TURNS") pinpointed the sealed tunnel entrance after searching for a year. Labelled as a "tunnel/pipe chase" on the old prints, Ron realized that a bunch of dead-ended conduits through a wall near the street pinpointed the eastern end of the tunnel. Then, during filming on December 1, 2000 in the basement of the Vitagrtaph side (now the Shulamith School), a clear outline of a sealed opening in the schools basement lunchroom was seen. The location matched the prints discovered by Vince Giordano, and the spots on either side of the street match up with each other. The logistics and permission to gain acces into the tunnel still remain.


We reported two issues ago on John Carpenter's excellent recreation of a late-twenties two reel comedy, titled "LATE TO LUNCH". The film captures the feel of a comedy short of the era, both in plot and appearance. John recently had an authentic "Vitaphone-style" track added using original Victor Pict-Ur-Discs from 1928-29 and excerpts of late twenties dance band 78's. The addition of this peppy track, along with vintage-looking titles has brought this film even closer to the feel of a 1928 Roach or Sennett comedy. John is now pursuing exhibition venues, and offers a CD of the soundtrack for $18. He can be reached at 55 Broadway, Massapequa Park, NY 11762.


Turner Entertainment, under the enthusiastic direction of Senior Vice-President George Feltenstein, has commissioned a 90 minute documentary on short subjects. The production will air on Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2001, and The Vitaphone Project is pleased to be actively assisting. "We'll be using footage from all of the studios, not just those whose output is now owned by Turner," says producer John Griffin. John, who works for Peter Jones Productions (which made last year's "Glorious Technicolor" documentary) and Assistant Producer Helen Hood Scheer, will be obtaining shorts clips from Universal, Fox, Columbia, Educational, RKO, Roach, Pathe, and other studios to tell the story of what live action short subjects were all about. The Project has supplied a comprehensive list of suggested shorts titles to consider, as well as production ideas (coming of sound, stars who debuted in shorts, 3D and color technology, etc.) and contacts for the many surviving performers and technicians who worked on shorts.

Shooting began in September, with a full two week schedule in the east. Vitaphone alumni Sylvia Froos and Sandy Green were filmed recalling what it was like working at the old Brooklyn studio. Also filmed were Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks (performing Roach shorts tunes), Peter Bogdonovich, Tim Conway, and Walter Cronkite (recalling newsreels). A full day of filming also took place at the nearly restored 3,000 seat Loews Jersey theatre, whose projection booth now boasts a working projector with Vitaphone disc turntable. On the west coast, interviews were filmed with Baby Rose Marie, many Our Gang survivors, and, Lois January. Also to be filmed for the documentary are June Allyson (many Hal Leroy and Educational shorts), director Richard L. Bare and Phyllis Coates ("Joe McDoakes" series), Thelma White, nonogenarian Sam White (the last of the White Brothers, who directed Edgar Kennedy, Betty Grable and Clark & McCullough shorts for RKO), Joe Franklin, and several dozen more. The plan is to intermix interviewees' recollections with clips from the shorts themselves. The documentary will also offer the chance to see many clips for the very first time. Such rarities as Universal shorts (unseen for nearly 70 years), Columbia all-rhyming musicals from 1933, Movietone footage of the fatal 1929 Pathe studio fire, and sound footage of Arbuckle directing will be included. Sadly, some of the interviewees scheduled for inclusion have recently passed away. Claire Trevor, whose film career began with two 1931-32 Vitaphones, "Angel Cake" (a musical restored by Dick May) and "The Meal Ticket" (a Jack Pearl comedy) died earlier this year. Columbia sound man Ed Bernds (see article elsewhere in this issue) was responsible for the sound effects in the Stooges shorts and later directed many himself. We also lost Ed in 2000. And Charlie Chase foil Muriel Evans passed away this fall. The documentary will therefore be important in preserving the recollections of those shorts performers and directors who survive.

On the Vitaphone front, many unseen shorts clips from that studio will also be used. A day of shooting at the Brooklyn facility is planned with the cooperation of the Shulamith School (which occupies the older Vitagraph side) and Ron Bernknopf, chief engineer of the newer, former NBC side. Shots of the old Vitagraph smokestack, arched studio entrance, neighborhood buildings used as backdrops in 1930's shorts, and interviews with local residents who remember the studio's active days will be incorporated into the production. While readers of VITAPHONE NEWS are familiar with short subjects, much of the general public is not. Feltenstein hopes the documentary will serve to introduce shorts to a whole new audience. TCM will program an increased number of shorts to compliment the airing of the show. It will also help set the stage for eventual home video release of shorts (more on this in our next issue).

The Project is pleased to be helping on this important and worthy documentary and will let you know when a firm airdate is set.


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!! No amount is too small to help us!! Send checks (payable to Ron Hutchinson) to:

5 Meade Court
Piscataway, NJ 08854

Please Help Us........

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.

To contact The Vitaphone Project write to:
Ron Hutchinson
5 Meade Court
Piscataway, NJ 08854
Phone 1.732.463.8521
FAX 1.732.336.2603
or email Ron at medusashaircut@erols.com
or project member Bill Cappello at billcapp@ix.netcom.com 

Corresponding Secretary Ron Hutchinson: 5 Meade Court
Piscataway, NJ 08854
(732) 463-8521
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://www.picking.com patrick@picking.com

This web site is maintained by:  Patrick@Picking.com
Copyright 2000