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|Volume 10 Number 1||
When we began The Vitaphone Project in 1991 and decided to issue a periodic newsletter, Vitaphone News, co-founder David Goldenberg was concerned. He did not believe we would have enough material to fill two issues a year. He also believed -- as we all did at the time --- that the number of discovered soundtrack disks would likely taper off after a few years.
Happily, nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to the internet --- which was in its infancy when the Project started --- we hear about 100 - 300 soundtrack disks in private hands each year. There have also been single large collections of discs, some as large as 600, that have turned up. And while it is rarer for 35mm film to surface at this late date, even that material has been found. Last year, the two color Technicolor print for MAMBA (Tiffany/'30) was found. Previously (and separately) another color reel of 35mm for the otherwise lost GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY (WB/'30) was found along with color 35mm from THE PATRIOT (Par/'28).
These film discoveries have one thing in common: they were all found in Australia. The theory is that once disks and prints got to Australia and New Zealand, it cost too much to ship them back to Hollywood after their run. So they remained 'down under'. The volume of Australian discoveries in recent years seems to bear this theory out. Last year, a collection of 83 mainly Columbia 1929-30 soundtrack disks were found. About 8 years ago, the soundtrack for the otherwise mute 1937 three-strip Technicolor MGM all-star short HOLLYWOOD PARTY was located and remarried with the picture. That short is now on Warner Archive's Classic Musical Shorts from the Dream Factory (4-Disc Set) set.
The Australian discoveries have continued unabated in recent months.Collector Frank James contacted us this spring and sent a list of two dozen soundtrack disks. They are listed in our Disc-overies column in this issue. All five of the disks he has for Vitaphone shorts translate into restoration possibilities. The mute film elements for each reside at The Library of Congress for JIM AND BETTY MORGAN ('29), MEXICAN TIPICA ORCHESTRA ('29), THE IMPERIAL RUSSIAN COSSACKS ('28), WHAT PRICE PIANO? with PAULINE ALPERT ('27) and JOHN BARCLAY, IMPERSONATOR ('27). Frank kindly dubbed each of his disks to CD for us and has said he would make them available should restoration funding for these films be identified.
On an even larger scale, we were told about Australia's Powerhouse Museum and that their website indicated they held over 50 (unnamed) early soundtrack disks. This was a collection we knew absolute nothing about. We emailed them, and within a day, museum curator Campbell Bickerstaff immediately responded with a full list of their soundtrack disk holdings. We were surprised to hear that he and the archive knew about The Vitaphone Project. Virtually all of the Powerhouse disks are for 1929-30 MGM Movietone shorts and features. Because some performers made multiple shorts with nearly identical titles, it still needs to be determined if the Australian disks match the surviving 35mm prints held by WB. These include shorts by singing group Keller Sister and Lynch, and a band short by Vincent Lopez. A Movietine short by Our Gang's Ernest "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison is definitely restorable, as he only made one short and the Powerhouse's disk goes with WB's surviving 35mm mute film. George Feltenstein is supporting the effort to move ahead on restorations where they are possible.
Here is a list of The Powerhouse Museum's soundtrack disk holdings:
In addition to these Australian finds, film collector and documentarian Paul Gierucki discovered a lost Keystone short with Charlie Chaplin. This incredible find was shown at this year's Slapsticon and will be shown at Cinecon in September in Los Angeles. The short marks one of Chaplin's earliest screen appearances.
Warner Archive continues to regularly release rare shorts and features on DVD from the Turner vaults. In addition to the long awaited Mammy (WB/'30) with restored Technicolor sequences, yet another set of shorts --- this time MGM early Movietone and thirties Technicolor one and two reelers -- has been issued in their CLASSIC MOVIE SHORTS FROM THE DREAM FACTORY. Their 60+ set of Vitaphone band shorts is also a best seller and is highly recommended. See our last issue for full listing of contents. Warner Archive has already issued over 500 titles and frequently runs sales. Their website is www.warnerarchive.com
With the first group from the 53 Vitaphone restorations becoming available for viewing after eight decades, there will be a number of opportunities to see these shorts on the big screen...
FILM FORUM - NYC
Will be screening twelve of the recently restored shorts on July 20th. Title to be shown are:
Check out their schedule here: http://www.filmforum.org. UCLA
Will be screening some of the same shorts on July 21st in Los Angeles, with the following substitutions. Details at www.cinema.ucla.edu
Changes include a different Harry Fox short, a two reel Franklin Pangborn short POOR AUBREY (1929) and different playlets.
Held in Rome, NY at the historic Capitol Theatre, this August 13-15 program of silent and sound films will include the following recently restored Vitaphone shorts:
Across the street, new sound stages were built in 1930-31 and included then state of the art production facilities and even a swimming pool for water scenes. This also closed in 1939 when all WB short subject production shifted to Hollywood. The complex was later bought in the fifties by NBC for television production, including The Cosby Show, then was sold to Ron Bernknopf. It became JC Studios, and has been used for over a decade there to produce AS THE WORLD TURNS.
Ironically, the fate of both properties is now clouded. Shulamith will soon be closing and will be incorporated into other Hebrew school campuses. And AS THE WORLD TURNS has been cancelled after a 54 year / 13,858 episode run, leaving the fate of that studio in question.
Documentarian Melissa Friedling is working on a project about filmmaking in Brooklyn, and is touring JC and Shulamith. There is faint hope that the tunnel under the street between the two facilities --- built in the early thirties so props could be transported without disturbing traffic --- can be opened for inspection. It was sealed in 1955, and the opening points on each side have been identified.
We are closely following these developments, and hopefully can provide more information in our next issue.
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:
GET YOUR OWN SOUNDTRACK DISK!!
For donations of $350 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:
Carla Arton and Rob Stone of The Library of Congress have the archeology bug, and have been digging into the deepest recesses of that archive. The sheer size of the collection, the various donor sources, and decades of filing system all bode well for finding previously unknown Vitaphone material. During some recent digs, several disks for Vitaphone shorts were found. Each one matches existing mute film (serendipitously also at LOC), so restorations are now possible. Titles that are now restorable with both picture and sound elements are:
As mentioned in our cover story, there have been a bumper crop of discoveries over the past six months. In addition to the soundtrack disks listed for the Powerhouse Museum in Australia, a batch of 471 (we got that exact number but no list of titles yet) disks have been reported in NY State. Obviously we'll be pursuing that collection vigorously and hopefully can report on it in our next issue.
Here are additional disc-overies since our last issue...
Since its inception in 1991, The Vitaphone Project's database of soundtrack disks has been populated and maintained by Rich Markow. This has been a massive undertaking, with each disk entered by title, reel number, studio, production number, and (not publicly) who holds each disk. The original Excel spreadsheet included only privately held disks, not those in archives like LOC, BFI or UCLA.
Rich's other commitments did not permit him to continue maintaining our database. Fortunately, Patrick Picking, who also maintains our website, generously stepped up and volunteered to take over. Pat is currently inputting the sizable backlog of disks, and will also be adding soundtrack disks known in archives. This will enable a review of all known disks in one spot.
Thanks to Rich for his years of support on the database, and to Pat for taking over this key part of the Project.
We continue to search for CONVENTION CITY (WB/'33), the long lost all-star feature comedy which has seemingly vanished. The myth that all prints were destroyed in 1935 by Jack Warner due to its wildly risque content has been disproven. We have learned that is not how the film was released in foreign markets.
We reported in an earlier issue that we had heralds advertising the film on a double bill in late 1937 with a Charlie Chan feature. With the help of the Margaret Herrick Library, we obtained and reviewed the extensive censors notes on the film, learning relatively few cuts were mandated.
Yet, still no luck in finding it. We contacted both of Dick Powell's sons to see if they had a print from his film collection. Nothing. We are also pursuing relatives of those involved with CC's production. George Eastman House is assisting in checking foreign archives. Until now, any searches overseas have likely been using a literal translation of "Convention City". We have learned that is not how the film was released in foreign markets. In Spanish language venues, it was titled "QUE SEMANA!" ["What a Week!"].
We did not know the French title until a poster for the film surfaced on eBay. That shows the title there was "LA FOLLE SEMAINE". So now the search is on in French archives for that title. We are including a color view of the French poster on our website.
Movies and books mentioned in this issue can be purchased through Amazon.com by clicking on the items here!
|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://firstname.lastname@example.org
|Leonard Maltin's Site||http://www.leonardmaltin.com|
|Jeff Cohen's "Vitaphone Varieties" Site||http://vitaphone.blogspot.com|