NEW VITAPHONE BOOK OUT!
|Volume 6 Number 3
Winter 2002/Spring 2003
||The book that every fan of Vitaphone has been waiting for is finally coming out! Roy Liebman’s massive Vitaphone Films: A Catalogue of the Features and Shorts is a reference every reader of VITAPHONE NEWS will want to have. The Vitaphone Project worked closely with Roy, supplying many of the 163 photographs and material from early release catalogues and soundtrack disc labels. The finished book lists all known New York productions 1926-1940, followed by West Coast productions from 1927 - 1970 (yes, the “Vitaphone” name was still being used that late!) For shorts, information when known includes title and alternate titles, instrumental and vocal selections performed, composer(s), performers, release date, film synopsis, names of major cast members, director, set info, and even the amount paid to early performers. For features, entries list release date, genre, and major cast members. A section on performers in shorts is also included.
This essential Vitaphone reference is available from McFarland & Company [1-800-253-2187 or www.mcfarlandpub.com] as well as through amazon.com.
TWO-COLOR 35mm NITRATE VITA FOOTAGE FOUND!
As rare as soundtrack discs are, color nitrate film is even rarer. Over 70 years after original production, it is physically more likely to find the relatively inert shellac discs than the highly unstable nitrate film.
Nevertheless, Chad Hunter, the Preservation Officer of the Motion Picture Division of The George Eastman House reports discovering nitrate two-color Technicolor 35mm film for a 1929 Vitaphone musical short, THE SULTAN’S JESTER and HELLO BABY! (1930) with Ann Pennington as well as a reel of the Vitaphone feature SUNNY (1930) with Marilyn Miller. As luck would have it, soundtrack discs exist for all three films. As this story just broke as we went to press, we will let you know of restoration plans in a future issue.
MORE CHOICES OF VITA CD GIFTS FOR DONATIONS OVER $50!
We continue to be very grateful to all of the readers (both hardcopy and on the web) of VITAPHONE NEWS for financial support of our efforts. Large donations are redirected to UCLA for specific restorations. But your contributions of $20, $50, etc. are used to pay for the printing and distribution of this newsletter, and for stationery , postage and supplies. As each issue now costs us about $700 to print and distribute, you can see why all of the donations go into this important networking activity. If you’ve contributed already, THANKS! If not, please consider doing so.
You may now select from a growing choice of “thank you” Vitaphone CD’s when making your (non-deductible) donation. Just let us know your pick:
Available Vitaphone CD’s (# CD’s avail in () ):
- $50 - Choose any one
- $75 - Choose any two
- $100 - Choose any three
- $150 or more - Choose any six
- Original Vita tracks from ‘26 - 30 shorts & features (4 different CD’s)
- Complete WHY BE GOOD? (‘29) track (1)
- Complete MY MAN (‘29) track + more (2)
- 1926-34 Vitaphone, Educational shorts tracks (2)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SYLVIA
The Vitaphone Project wishes early Vitaphone star Sylvia Froos a happy 89th birthday! Sylvia appeared in two early 1927 Vitaphone shorts as The Little Princess Of Song. Film for both of these shorts exists at The Library of Congress and we have been able to show it to her, albeit without the missing soundtracks. Sylvia subsequently made a number of Vitaphone shorts in the 1930’s, including RAMBLING ROUND RADIO ROW (‘32), EDDY DUCHIN AND HIS ORCHESTRA (1933), and SOFT DRINKS AND SWEET MUSIC (‘34) with Georgie Price. She also made many musical shorts at Educational with Warren Hull and Frank Luther, then some Soundies in the early 1940s. Sylvia is as vibrant and current as ever, and we wish her continued health and happiness!
Sylvia Froos with bandleader Eddy Duchin in the Vitaphone short EDDY DUCHIN AND HIS ORCHESTRA (1933)
FROOS FILMOGRAPHY (Courtesy of Rich Finegan)
- The Little Princess of Songs - Vitaphone #445 (4/27) 1 reel
- The Little Princess of Songs - Vitaphone #446 (4/27) 1 reel
- Rambling ‘Round Radio Row #2 - Vitaphone #1447 (11/19/32) 1 reel
- Stand Up And Cheer! - Fox Film 80 min (5/4/34)
- Soft Drinks And Sweet Music - Vitaphone #1776/77 2 reels
- The Song Plugger - Educational #5907 (1/18/35) 1 reel
- Love In a Hurry - Educational (5/17/35) 2 reels
- All For One - Educational (6/21/35) 2 reels
- Vitaphone Entertainers - Vitaphone (6/27/36) 1 reel
- Transatlantic Love - Educational (12-25-36) 2 reels
- School For Swing - Universal/Mentone (1/20/37) 1 reel
- Added Attractions: The Hollywood Shorts Story - Turner Classic Movies/Peter Jones Productions. (2/5/2002) 90 minutes
Soundies (each one 3 minutes):
- Isn’t That Just Like Love (3/9/41)
- Cuban Cabby (3/23/41)
- Friendly Tavern Polka (6/2/41)
- The Wise Old Owl (7/7/41)
- Walkin’ By The River (9/8/41)
- Let’s Dream This One Out (10/20/41)
RESTORATIONS IN THE PIPELINE
The following Vitaphone shorts are currently in the UCLA restoration pipeline with funding developed through The Vitaphone Project:
There still remain approximately sixty 1926-29 restorable Vitaphone shorts for which both disc and film exist, but which still require funding. Current (fully deductible) cost for a one-reel short restoration is $4500, through UCLA Film and Television Archive.
- THE NIGHT COURT (1928) with William Demarest. A musical set in a night court with chorus girls, musicians and comedians.
- ABE LYMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA (1928) - hot California band featuring tunes from the then-current show, Good News.
- LARRY CEBALLOS CRYSTAL CAVE REVUE (1928) - a musical along the lines of the large scale stage presentations being featured in movie palaces of the time.
- Two of the EARL BURTNETT & HIS BILTMORE HOTEL ORCHESTRA (1928) Vitaphone shorts. Another hot west coast band, with each short featuring rousing concluding numbers of “Tiger Rag” and “Blue River”.
- MAYER AND EVANS, THE COWBOY AND THE LADY (1928) - the second of two Vitaphone shorts by this little known but highly entertaining vaudeville team which also recorded some 78’s on Brunswick. Their first restored short was a hit at UCLA and Film Forum screenings.
- PAUL TREMAINE AND HIS ORCHESTRA (1929) - Yet another great band that recorded many 78’s in the twenties and thirties.
WANT TO RUN A VITAPHONE SHOW?
We are frequently asked how one can go about arranging a public Vitaphone program at a local theatre. Regular programs have run at UCLA, AMPAS, and New York’s Film Forum, and the Capitol Theatre in Rome, NY has assmbled one for this summer.
A public venue like a theatre, arts center, or college is best for such a program, and consideration must be given to the fact that prints must be rented from Warner Classics or UCLA. For a program of ten shorts, assume a total rental and shipping/insurance cost of roughly $2000. A quality 35mm projector and operator is essential.
The Vitaphone Project would be happy to assist you at no cost in selecting shorts for your theme, year, or even to match shorts originlly show at the theatre.
Author Edwin Bradley is finalizing his work on a book covering sound short subjects from 1928 through 1931. The Project is helping him proof this comprehensive effort which covers all the major and many minor studios. In addition to providing historical background on sound shorts and a history of each studio, Ed is also including a listing of thousands of shorts with cast and release information. Stills from shorts will also be included in this McFarland & Company book due out in 2004. Those thinking they know everything about sound shorts will find many surprises. In proofing the Fox section, we found a previously unknown W.C. Fields sound appearance in a Movietone newsreel from mid-1929 in which The Great Man gets golfing lesson!
Speaking of Fields, his definitive biography has just been written by James Curtis in W.C. Fields, A Biography, from Knopf (ISBN 0-375-40217-9). Fields sued Vitaphone when they filmed “The Family Ford” routine he owned in 1929. He succeeded in holding up the short’s release until Warners settled financially with him. The book is full of previously unknown material, and Jim had access to family materials not available to earlier authors. Highly recommended!
Author Armond Fields, descendant of the great Lew Fields of Weber and Fields, has a knack of turning out first class biographies of performers with Vitaphone connections. He has already produced a bio on Eddie Foy, whose kids all worked in Vitaphone shorts together (“CHIPS OFF THE OLD BLOCK and FOYS FOR JOYS both 1928) or separately (Eddie, Jr. and Charley in many shorts and features for WB, and Bryan producing shorts then features for Vitaphone.)
Armond’s latest book is Sophie Tucker from McFarland & Company (ISBN # 0-7834-1577-0). Tucker starred in the still lost HONKY TONK (1929), for which only discs, but no picture, survive.
650+ VITAPHONE DISCS AWAITING HOME
San Francisco collector Chuck Lindsley owned thousands of 78 rpm records (Crosby was a specialty) and also possibly the largest private collection of Vitaphone soundtrack discs. The discs are primarily for 1928-32 features, although there are discs to about a dozen shorts. There are normally 8-12 discs per feature. Some may include overtures. These features were produced by MGM, Columbia, RKO, WB, UA, Paramount and smaller independents like Tiffany.
Chuck’s friend, Chris Snowden, is assisting him in disposing of the entire soundtrack collection due to Chuck’s age and health issues. At press time it had not yet been determined where this massive (imagine a 6 foot high stack of discs!) collection would go. Discussions are underway to donate it to the UCLA Film and Television Archive although other options are also being considered. Discs for about a dozen shorts are intermixed with those for the following features:
Jazz baby Janet Klein, who performs vintage tunes regularly at such Los Angeles venues as THE SILENT MOVIE THEATER and The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel has actually created her own “new” Vitaphone short, shot on film and enhanced to give it an aged look. In it, she performs “Yidisha Hula” with her Parlor Boys. The production was made as part of a dicumentary on popular music, and it has a true Vitaphone look. Janet is mulling over options on releasing the short to the public
In our “Relativity” department, The Project has heard, via the internet, from a number of relatives of early Vitaphone performers, including the daughter of Chaz Chase, the son of mandolin player Bernardo DePace, a number of descendants of the Pat Rooney family, and relatives of performers in the 1928 short The Original Hillbillies
Author Gary Fishgall is working on a bio of Sammy Davis, Jr. and contacted the Project regarding his two Vitaphone shorts, SEASONED GREETINGS (‘33) which starred Lita Grey Chaplin and had Robert Cummings in a cameo, and RUFUS JONES FOR PRERSIDENT (‘33)
Chris Langley, president of the annual Lone Pine Film Festival, seeks information on director Clarence Badger. Badger shot at least seven films in Lone Pine, and directed a number of early Vitaphone talkie features starring Dorothy Mackaill
Fleischer expert Ray Pointer reports that his 70 minute documentary showcasing DeForest Phonofilms premiered in April at the Houston International Film and Video Festival. Discussions are in progress on making the film available on PBS. MIT Senior Fellow and historian Emily Thompson is working with the Project in her development of a book and possibly a documentary on the transition to sound. Of particular interest to her is the 1929 fatal Pathe Studio fire in NYC, and she has already been in contact with relatives of those involved (and indicted!) in the tragedy.
- Irving Foy, the last of The Seven Little Foys, died on April 25, 2003. He appeared in two 1928 Vitaphone one reel shorts shot in the Burbank studio, FOYS FOR JOYS (picture exists, no disc known yet) and CHIPS OFF THE OLD BLOCK (recently restored with funding from Dudley Heer). The Foy family had a close working relationship with Warner Brothers. Eldest brother Bryan helped set up the Brooklyn studios and even appears as himself in the Georgie Price short, DON’T GET NERVOUS (‘29). He later headed the WB “B” pictures unit in the 1930’s, grinding out fast paced features often running just under 60 minutes. Charley Foy often appeared in those features, and can also be seen in such Technicolor Vitaphone two-reelers as SWINGTIME IN THE MOVIES (‘38)
Relatively few discs have been uncovered since the last issue, although a verified report of a nearly two-foot high stack of soundtrack discs in the midwest bodes well for the near future. Since our last report
- the disc for a 1929 Colubia “Victor Gem”, JAILHOUSE BLUES, has been located
- a private collector contacted The British Film Institute reporting the disc for a 1929 Johnny Arthur Vitaphone short PAPERHANGING. The mute film had existed at The Library of Congress for years, but until now no sound was known. Arthur is best remembered as Spanky’s henpecked father in ANNIVERSARY TROUBLE (‘35)
- a complete, pristine set of soundtrack discs (some appear unplayed) for Paul Whiteman’s KING OF JAZZ (Univ./’30) have been reported
- discs for two shorts, JAN GARBER AND HIS ORCHESTRA (MGM/’28) and DEEP C MELODIES (Par./’29) with Frances Williams and The Yacht Club Boys were found in New York
- a significant collection of Vitaphone shorts stills, including those with Sissle & Blake, The Merle Twins, and numerous vaudevillians, was found and acquired by the Project
“Baby Rose Marie, The Child Wonder”, (Vitaphone/’29)
Rose Marie’s fascinating biography, HOLD THE ROSES (University Press of Kentucky, 208 pages, ISBN # 0183122643) details her incredible career from vaudeville and early talkies, through radio, Broadway and television. The book can be ordered through amazon.com.
As a special “thank you” to Vitaphone Project contributors, the Project now offers a privately made CD of all of Baby Rose Marie’s 78’s, soundtracks from her 3 Vitaphone shorts, other soundtrack excerpts, and even a complete 1938 radio show. This special gift goes to supporters contributing $75 to the Project (non-deductible) and this disc is not available in stores. Coutesy of Derek Tague
- New York’s Film Forum is planning a Vitaphone Convention with more shorts not previously seen in the east. No firm date yet, but likely in the September/October 2003 timeframe. Check their website at www.filmforum.com for details this summer
- The historic Capitol Theatre in Rome, NY is holding its “CAPTOLFEST” on August 9 and 10, 2003. Included on the program are CHIPS OFF THE OLD BLOCK” (Vitaphone, 1928) with The Foy Family, LUCKY BOY (Tiffany, 1929) with George Jessel, THE SATURDAY NIGHT KID (Para, 1929) with Clara Bow, and the glorious FOLLOW THRU (Para, 1929) in breathtaking Technicolor. For details, contact Art Pierce at 325-337-2576 / email@example.com
- The National Gallery of Art at The Library of Congress is putting together a salute to Warner Brothers Preservation this August, focusing on the years 1930-35. The Project assisted Mike Mashon in the selection of shorts, which will include, among many others, THE HAPPY HOTTENTOTS (‘30) with Joe Frisco, GOOD MORNING EVE (‘34) in beautiful Technicolor with Leon Errol, and SOFT DRINKS AND SWEET MUSIC (‘34) with Georgie Price. Sylvia Froos who appears in this short, and Sandy Green, who wrote the music, may attend this screening. Again, no date at presstime, but please contact us in July ‘03 at firstname.lastname@example.org or check the Library Of Congress website
- Longtime Vitaphone restoration funder Scott Margolin is currently working on putting together a Vitaphone shorts vaudeville program, to be presented in a historic Boston theatre.
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