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Q: When did Warner Bros officially end their used of disc technology for films and did they make a official effort to transfer the material to sound on film?
A: Around March 1930, Warner Brothers and First National finally stopped recording shorts and features directly onto disc, and did it on film like all the other studios. For a period (around 1926-29) disc sound reproduction was superior to sound on film. However, improvements to the Movietone process, and the severe limitations of disc recording (especially mobility and editing) destined Vitaphone recording for oblivion. Nevertheless, all the major studios continued to issue disc versions of soundtracks with features and shorts until as late as 1935. These were for the thousands of theatres that had taken the cheaper disc-only route to go talkie, and could not show sound-on-film versions.
PS - I strongly recommend a new book by Donald Crafton from Oxford University Press: "The Talkies". It's incredibly detailed and a great read on this transition period.
Other great books about the Vitagraph Studios are:
Q: How long did the disc process last?
A: For Vitaphone, from 1925 (experimental) until 1930. By March 1930, even Warners realized the cumbersome nature of disc recording and switched to sound-on-film in the making of talkies.
Q: What is a 16" soundtrack disc worth?
A: Content and condition is everything! For an average, non-jazz disc, figure $25-$35. But a rare performance by a noted performer or a hot jazz or band short could bring $100. Buyers are limited, because few can play these large discs.
Q: Did all studios make sound films on disc?
A: No. Only Warners, First National and Hal Roach made disc-only talkies through 1929. The other studios all filmed and released in the sound-on-film format, but would still then make disc versions of the soundtrack for those theatres that could only show in the disc system.
Q: What's the latest soundtrack disc you've uncovered?
A: Some 1936 Monogram westerns, the 1935 RKO musical "Roberta", and some 1934 Charlie Chase shorts (the opening music is fantastically rich!) are late examples. All were first made as sound-on-film productions, though.
Q: Can I fund a restoration?
A: Absolutely! Contact The Vitaphone Project at firstname.lastname@example.org for info on making a tax deductible donation to UCLA for a restoration. Corporate matching funds can be used also. Restorations currently cost $4500 (fully deductible, paid directly toUCLA.
Q: How many shorts exist with picture only (no disc)?
A: About 80.
Q: How many soundtrack discs has The Vitaphone Project uncovered in private hands so far?
A: Over 3,500. That's in addition to over 1,500 in archives throughout the world.
Q: What's the latest short with picture but no sound?
A: It WAS the Technicolor Charley Chase two-reeler "Hollywood Party" (MGM/1937), an all star short that Charlie hosts. A beautiful color print existed at The Library of Congress, and the Project was able to locate the sound in Australia. WB restore it and it can be seen and heard now in the Warner Archive FILMS FROM THE DREAM FACTOR DVD set of MGM shorts.
Q: Are there any Vitaphone shorts available on home video?
A: Yes! The Warner Archive website has a number of Vitaphone shorts available on DVD. As more titles are being added all the time, we suggest you check back frequently. But titles include VITAPHONE MUSICAL AND COMEDY SHORTS (6 DVDs, 53 shorts), the WARNER BIG BAND SHORTS set (over 50 1930-45 shorts), The complete JOE McDOAKES Vitaphone shorts collection (over 50 shorts), and others. The FILMS FROM THE DREAM FACTORY multi-DVD set has over 40 MGM early musical shorts. And THE JAZZ SINGER 3 DVD deluxe set has 24 1926-30 Vitaphone shorts plus a dozen others on the coming of sound. But again, there are more offerings all the time, so check their site frequently. http://www.wbshop.com
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).
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:
Our latest offering for a $50 donation is a DVD, not a CD. It contains 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 muscal hall and vaude acts. Just request our PATHETONE DVD when contributing! Any donation, big or small, is greatly appreciated! There is no minimal amount to donate!
GET YOUR OWN SOUNDTRACK DISK!!
For donations of $300 or more, we will send you an actual 1928-32 16 inch soundtrack disk (our choice) from the Vitaphone era. This offer is for a limited time only.
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)
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:
|VITAPHONE NEWS||ISSN 1066-5951|
|Corresponding Secretary & Editor||Ron Hutchinson||5 Meade Court|
Piscataway, NJ 08854
FAX: (732) 463-8521
|Co-Founders:||John Newton||P.O. Box 7191|
Wilmington, DE 19803
|Sherwin Dunner||P.O. Box 1992|
New York, NY 10013
|Vince Giordano||1316 Elm Avenue|
Brooklyn, NY 11230
|Vitaphone Project Web Page||http://email@example.com
|Leonard Maltin's Site||http://www.leonardmaltin.com|
|Jeff Cohen's "Vitaphone Varieties" Site||http://vitaphone.blogspot.com|