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|Volume 10 Number 3||
This issue marks the twentieth anniversary of The Vitaphone Project. Begun at a time when the Intranet was just starting, virtually any discoveries of soundtrack disks occurred through word of mouth. Today, barely a month goes by without our receiving an email from someone with a disk, or seeking information on a relative who was in a Vitaphone. Since the Project began in 1991 by five record collectors and film buffs --- the late David Goldenberg, John Newton, Sherwin Dunner Ron Hutchinson and Vince Giordano --- over 3500 disks have been found, nearly 150 Vitaphone shorts have been restored, with over 200 already on DVD and more to come, and nearly half a million dollars in funding developed. This issue attests to the fact that things are not slowing down as we enter our third decade. In this issue, you'll read about nearly 100 more discovered soundtrack disks, the DVD release of 60 early restored Vitaphones, the saving (for the moment, at least) of the Vitaphone studios in Brooklyn, and the possibility of yet another GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY fragment surfacing.
When we started, Dave Goldenberg feared we might not have enough news to fill two issues a year. No such problem, Dave! Thanks to all of you for your continued support!
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).
NEW! NEW! NEW! NEW! NEW! NEW!
We've just added a new thank-you gift for a donation of $50. It's a set of twelve 3x5 note cards and envelopes, each with a terrific vintage Vitaphone short still. Twelve different cards include pictures of bands, vaudevillians, the Vitaphone camera booth guys, and more. A unique way to send your friends a note the old fashioned way. Just specify you'd like the note cards when contributing. 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:
Selected from the 70+ Vitaphone disks acquired earlier last year are two new CDs:
2011 DISK-OVERIES VOL. 1 -includes soundtracks for 1929 shorts by Molly Picon and Dave Apollon, Ruth Etting with Arden & Ohman, Phil Baker and more.
2011 DISK-OVERIES VOL. 2 includes tracks from REDSKIN, a Vitaphone 1929 theatre holiday promo, Charles King in the lost 1929 MGM Colortone CLIMBING THE GOLDEN STAIRS and Al Trahan, plus more.
The above 2 CDs are individually for a $50 contribution, both for $75.
For a $50 donation receive our DVD of 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 music hall and vaude acts. Just request our PATHETONE DVD when contributing!
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:
Click on the pictures above to order them from Amazon.com!
Here is a summary of what is on the Vitaphone Cavalcade of Musical Comedy Shorts 6 disk set:
Here is a summary of what is on the Vitaphone Varieties 4 disk set:
Special thanks to our preservation partners:
UCLA Film & Television Archive
Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation
and The Vitaphone Project
The Vitaphone Project has written a set of program notes for this set, and you may request these at no cost at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Using the sound from two of the surviving soundtrack disks for the first sound serial, KING OF THE KONGO (Mascot./1929), Eric Grayson (aka "Dr. Film") has synchronized those disks to surviving picture elements so that Episode 5 can be seen and heard again. Checkout Eric's handiwork at this youtube.com link:
The majority of soundtrack disks for this serial remain among the missing. Our database shows about one-third survive.
The Shulamith School, a Hebrew girls high school which now occupies the older (Vitagraph) side of the complex, told us recently that a change in management is now focused on continuing rather than closing its operation. The rumored threat of demolition has had the positive effect of stressing the need for historic protection, at least for the VITAGRAPH emblazoned smokestack that dates from the studio's beginning over a century ago. The stack also needs a professional structural assessment and likely repairs to ensure its integrity.
And, in a related story.....
Since Vince's discovery, it has been the Project's hope that one day the tunnel might be opened for inspection. That day may now come soon, as during the making of WNYC's SECRETS OF NEW YORK episode on Vitagraph the new staff at the Brooklyn site showed an openness to the idea. As we go to press, the Project is working with the school to determine what insurance and reparation commitments are required.
Readers of VITAPHONE NEWS have often heard us mention Bill Cappello as the master "Tracer of Lost Persons". Armed with countless tools far beyond Ancestry.com, Bill has been able to find relatives of many Vitaphone performers.
Following the recent UCLA and FILM FORUM screenings of restored Vitaphone shorts, we asked Bill to see if he could locate any information on relatives of several of the hits of the shows: Eddie White, Jack Waldron, Florence Brady and Russ Brown. In less than a week, Bill successfully uncovered lots of background on these long-forgotten vaudevillians. Here's a sampling:
EDDIE WHITE - Truly the hit of the show, White seems to have made no other films. A robust singer of pop tunes interspersed with ethnic humor, Bill found his real name was Michael Weintraub. He remained a major show business force into his seventies, entertained the troups during WWII, played NY night clubs and even Catskill venues. It was Eddie who was playing Atlantic City's Steel Pier in the late thirties when he saw a comedy team at a nearby club. He brought them over to the Pier to appear with him, and a year later Abbott & Costello were making over $5000 a week there, always thanking Eddie for their success. Bill quickly located Eddie's son, Jay, in Florida and he's now seen his father's Vitaphone.
JACK WALDRON - His hilarious 1928 Vitaphone short, 'A Breath of Broadway' presents what is alleged to be the first true stand-up comic act. Bill found two of Waldron's nephews, who regaled the project with stories of their uncle's career. In 1925, Waldron partnered in vaudeville with Shemp Howard. His delivery soon morphed into one later adopted by Henny Youngman. He worked through the fifties on Broadway, notably in THE PAJAMA GAME. He eventually became the Shepherd of The Lambs Club.
FLORENCE BRADY - Her dynamic 1928 Vitaphone, "A Cycle of Songs", is overflowing with power and personality. No further film credits could be found for her, but Bill's research indicated she married vaudevillian Gil Wells, who died a few years later. Wells' own Vitaphone is restorable, and worth doing per UCLA's Bob Gitt. Sadly, Bill reports that she died at age 41 of cirrhosis of the liver.
RUSS BROWN - His 1927 Vitaphone with partner and then-wife Jean Whitaker, is a record of the quintessential vaudeville act. It's filled with wise cracks, bad jokes, songs, and Brown brimming with confidence. Bill found that Brown's career spanned over 50 years, and included winning a Tony in the mid-1950's for DAMN YANKEES. He stopped the show with his rendition of "You Gotta Have Heart". He made many appearances in shorts and features, and can be seen here in the film version of YANKEES:
Before partnering with Whitaker, Bert Wheeler was one of his vaudeville partners. He died in 1964 at the Actors Fund Home in NJ. So far, Bill has been unable to find any surviving relatives.
While you can now enjoy over 200 Vitaphone shorts on DVD in your home (Warner Archive's VITAPHONE VARIETIES, VITAPHONE MUSICAL COMEDIES, and BIG BAND sets), nothing replaces seeing these films in a theatre with a live audience. Here are some upcoming screenings of Vitaphone shorts:
CAPITOLFEST, ROME, NY August 12-14, 2011 will be screening Vitaphones GRACE JOHNSTON & THE INDIANA FIVE (1929), ARTHUR 'PAT' WEST in 'SHIP AHOY' (1928) and BETTY AND JERRY BROWN in 'LET's ELOPE' (1930) along with the super rare 1929 Columbia Victor Gem short STAGE DOOR PEST with Boyce Combe. The shorts are interspersed throughout the three day festival featuring many rare early talkies. For more info, go to:
HEIGHTS THEATRE, MINNEAPOLIS - will again be presenting a program of selected restored Vitaphone shorts at this historic midwest theatre. Manager Tom Letness has previously run two Vitaphone programs, one with "Baby" Rose Marie in attendance! Program details were still in the works at press time, but check in at the following site, where information on this show will ultimately be posted:
|VITAFACT: In 1932, there were still over 3000 US movie theatres that could only show sound films in the sound-on-disk format. For this reason, while all studios, including WB, had stopped direct-disk recording by mid-1930, disks continued to be pressed from optical tracks as late as 1936.|
Researcher and longtime Project friend Sam Brylawski, whose grandfather ran a movie theatre in Washington, DC, now heads an exciting major research effort creating an "Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings" (EDVR). Partnering with The Library of Congress and based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the team has already cataloged more than 10,000 recordings beginning in 1900, thousands of which can be heard on-line.
As part of this research project, Sam reports the discovery of the long-lost 1928-32 Victor recording ledgers containing special soundtrack recordings data for the motion picture industry. Included are entries for scoring and sound effects synchronization of silent shorts and features, dubbing of optical soundtracks to disks, promotional and trailer recordings, and other film projects. Thought to be gone forever, this rediscovery promises to be a boon for researchers of the early talkie period. There are nearly 1400 pages of daily recording logs, often listing musicians and singers names. Much of Victor's work was for Hal Roach Studios, MGM, Educational, RKO and Paramount.
Visit EDVR's site at:
Patrick Picking, who manages the Project's website, has also taken on updating and maintaining our soundtrack disk database. Beginning in January, Pat inputted over 1,000 new entries and reorganized the spreadsheet to make it more user-friendly. Also added were holdings of LoC, UCLA, and BFI. This enables a one-stop search of holdings in private collectors' hands as well as film archives.
We'll be adding the updated database to the website soon. Many thanks to Pat for taking on this massive and important job!
Work soon resumes at UCLA on the next batch of Vitaphone shorts restorations. Cost is $4500 (fully deductible, payable to UCLA). Interested? Contact us at email@example.com
A recent discovery of over 70 early soundtrack disks in the northeast translates into nearly a dozen new possible Vitaphone restorations. The long mute surviving 35mm prints at The Library of Congress can now be mated with the found disks. Soundtrack disks usually turn up individually rather than in large groups, but this cache was a happy exception to the rule. Here's what we found when we visited the collector:
This collection included the following disks.
* indicates the previously lost but newly found disk which can permit a restoration:
Also discovered elsewhere since our last issue:
UCLA will resume Vitaphone shorts restorations late in 2011 (following their exciting work on Laurel and Hardy shorts). The Vitaphone Project has already lined up funding for the following restorations, the first six with underwriting by Dudley Heer:
In addition The Library of Congress has nearly completed work on restoring six 1929 Columbia Victor Gems one reelers as reported in our last issue.
Just as we are going to press, we've heard from another collector in the UK who seems to have located a little more of the film. We don't know yet how much, the condition, or if it duplicates any other known footage. However, this frame capture suggests that it is previously unknown material.
Movies and books related to Vitaphone 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
|Vitaphone Project Web Page Designer||Patrick Pickingfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|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|