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|Volume 12 Number 2||
More discoveries and restoration projects have developed in the past six months than perhaps the last 5 years. This issue covers all of them, and marks an incredible watershed in terms of the sheer number of restorations now in the pipeline as well as how some of these discoveries were made.
From the discovery and pending screening of the only lost Three Stooges short, HELLO POP, to new restoration activity on Colleen Moore's final 2 Vitaphone-scored silents, several Technicolor MGM Colortone shorts, over 50 1926-30 Vitaphone shorts restorations and more.
HELLO POP (MGM/'33) has for over seven decades been the only Three Stooges short that was lost. The only known 35mm Technicolor print of this two-reeler burned in an MGM vault fire in 1967. This was the same fire that destroyed the only known copy of Lon Chaney's LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT ('27), Laurel & Hardy's THE ROGUE SONG, Technicolor scenes from CHASING RAINBOWS ('30) and THE BROADWAY MELODY ('29) and some 1927-28 Our Gang shorts, among others. In December 2012, The Vitaphone Project received a short email from Australian Harry Furner, on behalf of a film collector friend. His question was simple: Was HELLO POP a lost film? We confirmed it was, which led the other shoe to drop. His friend had a Technicolor 35mm nitrate print! This triggered a series of communications to verify the condition of the print, confirm that the collector was willing to share it, and then to make arrangements to get it to the United States for preservation. The collector is in his mid-eighties, and has acquired film most of his life. He was extremely cooperative, and simply wanted to ensure HELLO POP went to the right place.
As all this was developing, Ron notified Ned Price, Chief Preservation Officer at Warner Brothers. Ned is the one responsible for pulling together UCLA, The Vitaphone Project, The Library of Congress, and others on the many Vitaphone shorts restorations. He instantly guaranteed support to get the print to the States and to cover the restoration. Eric Aijala of YCM Laboratories, was also enlisted to receive the print and do any needed restoration work on it.
But first, the 35mm nitrate print of HELLO POP had to be shipped. That was not a simple task. Nitrate film is considered, by international regulations, to be a "flammable solid". Unstable nitrate film can ignite or explode. Therefore, normal methods of shipment cannot be used. Fortunately, The Vitaphone Project has an Australian "office" in the person of Paul Brennan. Paul is a film buff and ran a theatre for many years near Sydney. It was Paul who found and promoted the synchronization of the only surviving print of MAMBA (Tiffany, 1930), which was the first Technicolor feature in sound that was not a musical. Since Paul had to ship the nitrate MAMBA reels to UCLA in 2012, he knew all the steps to get it packaged, labeled and transported within the applicable regulations. He visited the collector and helped to make all of the shipping arrangements.
That was completed in early January 2013, with the print of HELLO POP transported by FedEx's Pacific route to China, the Philippines, Texas, and ultimately Los Angeles and YCM Laboratories. Work has now been completed on the film's preservation.
The print appears to be complete, with no decomposition and the color is quite good. A proviso from The Vitaphone Project was that a 35mm projectable print of the restored HELLO POP be produced so that it can again be projected in theatres for new audiences.
Australia and New Zealand have yielded many previously lost American films. This is largely due to the fact that once prints were shipped to theatres from Hollywood, it was too costly or troublesome to ship them back. As a result, previously lost films like a reel from GOLDDIGGERS OF BROADWAY, part of the 1928 Technicolor feature THE PATRIOT, and others have turned up "down under". Paul Brennan will be working with this collector, and several others in Australia, to inventory their collections and hopefully turn up more lost gems.
The same collector had 35mm nitrate color prints of two other MGM Colortone shorts, PIRATES ('30) with Benny Rubin and AMBITIOUS PEOPLE ('31) with Herman Timberg, about 40 years ago. However both prints were badly deteriorating and he made 16mm black and white (because of cost for color) reversal prints. Only 6 minutes remained of AMBITIOUS PEOPLE, which is now otherwise lost.
The story of how this collector, and others in Australia, came to acquire these films is itself a fascinating saga. In the early 1960's, most of the Hollywood studio film exchanges in Australia began to drastically downsize or close., forced by competition from television and the closing of large theatres, necessitated this Film exchanges were large buildings used to store thousands of reels of theatrical film for distribution to theatres. By the early sixties, demand for silent and early talkies was negligible, so those titles were the first to go. As the collector related to the Project, garbage trucks were loaded with reels of film to be hauled off to the dump. Some of the collectors, then in their twenties, got wind of this and paid the drivers to swing by their homes to unload the film instead. Little did these collectors know that they were helping to save some films that subsequently were lost through decomposition or fire/. As of this writing, Paul Brennan is assisting the remaining collectors in inventorying their previously unknown holdings, and identifying titles of significance. We'll report on his progress in our next issue.
Yet another early Technicolor discovery was made, unrelated to the Australian find. It is the trailer for the otherwise lost 1931 RKO Edna Mae Oliver comedy feature FANNY FOLEY HERSELF. Long time Vitaphone Project supporter Malcolm Billingsley has had a beautiful Technicolor copy of the trailer for years, and has kindly loaned it to George Eastman House for restoration. Although it lasts only about two minutes, it gives a brief glimpse at what this starring vehicle for Oliver was like.
The Vitaphone Project has put together funding for the restoration of several early Technicolor talkie shorts in addition to the work on HELLO POP as discussed in this issue. Thanks to generous donations from Frank Buxton, Dudley Heer and Robert Marcus, James Layton at George Eastman House now has three restorations in progress. They are: THE SULTAN'S JESTER (Vitaphone, '29) which is the only Vitaphone short from that first season to survive in Technicolor ; MANHATTAN SERENADE (MGM, '29) a musical with The Brox Sisters and Nina Mae McKinney; and PIRATES (MGM, '30) a musical two-reeler starring Benny Rubin. The donations leverage a matching grant, and work will be completed before mid-2014.
THE SULTAN'S JESTER (Vitaphone, 1929) - The print appears to be complete, with no decomposition and the color is quite good. A proviso from The Vitaphone Project was that a 35mm projectable print of the restored HELLO POP be produced so that it can again be projected in theatres for new audiences.
Film exchanges were large buildings used to store thousands of reels of theatrical film for distribution to theatres. By the early sixties, demand for silent and early talkies was negligible, so those titles were the first to go. As the collector related to the Project, garbage trucks were loaded with reels of film to be hauled off to the dump. Some of the collectors, then in their twenties, got wind of this and paid the drivers to swing by their homes to unload the film instead. Little did these collectors know that they were helping to save some films that subsequently were lost through decomposition or fire/. As of this writing, Paul Brennan is assisting the remaining collectors in inventorying their previously unknown holdings, and identifying titles of significance. We'll report on his progress in our next issue.
Ned Price at Warner Brothers has been instrumental in making this happen. He negotiated with the Italian archive which had Antonio Moreno's donated prints of both films. Transfer of Ron Hutchinson's disks for WHY BE GOOD? were completed in December 2012.
Noteworthy for the Colleen Moore feature disks is that the musical performances are jazzy, toe-tapping and highly reflective of the late 1920's. This is especially true of the soundtrack for WHY BE GOOD? Jazz historians have identified such legendary musicians as Jimmy Dorsey, Phil Napoleon, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang on the disks.Until the late 1990s both SYNTHETIC SIN and WHY BE GOOD? were thought to be lost. Fast forward to 1994 and New York's Film Forum. This wonderful venue screens vintage, independent and foreign films to appreciative city audiences. Each year, Ron presents a program of restored Vitaphone short subjects from the 1926-30 period. These are primarily, vaudeville, music and comedy short subjects, and often represent the only known record of these performers.
Prior to a screening, he updated the audience on latest activities of The Vitaphone Project. He casually mentioned that he'd recently acquired all the soundtrack disks for Colleen Moore's WHY BE GOOD? saying "unfortunately, this is a lost film."
Film historian Joe Yranski, who was a friend of Colleen Moore, and knew more about this film than probably anybody on the planet, yelled out "No it's not! I know where it is!" The full house at Film Forum cheered.
Thus began long effort to negotiate the loan of both SYNTHETIC SIN and WHY BE GOOD? for full restoration and synchronization with their Vitaphone disks. While the entire soundtrack to WHY BE GOOD? survives in my collection, only the disk for the last reel and exit music is known for SYNTHETIC SIN. Fortunately, a full list of Vitaphone music cues exists and will be used to recreate the soundtrack (possibly by Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks).
The restoration effort represents a true partnership between Warner Brothers, UCLA Film and Television Archive, Joe Yranski, and The Vitaphone Project. Restoration efforts will likely not be completed until 2014, when both films will be screened, for the first time. over 80 years, in 35mm and sound.
When this happens, we fully expect both films to be embraced not only by silent film buffs, but by the wider film community. Both films were well budgeted, had strong First National art direction with a heavy art deco slant. In the case of WHY BE GOOD?, there is the added attraction of Jean Harlow as a prominent dress extra and a super musical score with top jazz musicians of the period.
Smileage Guaranteed, Past Humor Present Laughter, Musings on the Comedy Film Industry 1910-1945, Volume One: Hal Roach by Richard M. Roberts is a comprehensive study of the Hal Roach Studios, from its very beginning through the sound era.. Every major and minor player is covered, as is each series. A complete filmography caps off this massive tribute to "The Lot of Fun".
The Charley Chase Talkies: 1929-1940 by James L. Neibauer is due out in September and covers the comedian's 79 sound films in detail. The transition to sound and how Chase dealt with it creatively is described for the first time and utilizes some rare material supplied by our Project.
For Art's Sake: The Biography & Filmography of Ben Turpin by Steve Rydzewski is the long awaited story of the cross-eyed comedian. Steve offers never before known details of Turpin's earliest years in silent comedies, right through all of his talkie work. At 446 pages, you will surely learn everything possible about this legendary comic.
Lame Brains and Lunatics by Steve Massa, the ultimate authority on silent comedians and players shares his encyclopedic knowledge combined with hundreds of rare stills from the silent and talkie era. Over 200 pictures accompany the coverage of series, studios, individual comics and forgotten stars. Of particular interest to Project followers are the many stories on how performers fared once sound came in.
The first public screening of the long-lost Three Stooges Technicolor short, HELLO POP (MGM/'33) will be at New York's Film Forum on Sunday, September 29th (matinee) and Monday, September 30th. The short will be part of a program that will include other rarities including rare Technicolor fragments from George Eastman House, a newly struck print of Robert Benchley's 1933 Universal short YOUR TECHNOLOGY AND MINE, a new 35mm print of the Vitaphone comedy GOBS OF FUN with a previously unknown appearance by Shemp Howard, some Library of Congress gems, and more. Tickets may be bought online beginning after mid-August at http://www.filmforum.org/more/tickets#online
Below are some film strips from this original nitrate print!
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!
This issue we offer two NEW thank-you gifts, each for a $50 donation (or both for $75):
A new BRITISH PATHETONE VIDEO DVD, featuring sound clip of bands and vaudeville. Includes Duke Ellington, Gracie Fields, Sophie Tucker, Casani Club Orchestra, Bert Lahr and Buddy Rogers, the Roy Fox, Jack Payne and Teddy Brown bands, and more. An hour of unseen material.
A CD of hot and peppy 1928-32 78's that will keep your feet tapping. Great tunes from the early talkie era.
From our last issue, we still offer
Selections from the unique early studio recording disks reported in this issue. Includes actual on-set recordings with studio chatter before and after from early MGM shorts and features, Cliff Edwards, and unissued material from GOLDWYN FOLLIES
A fantastic compilation of 1930-37 Warner Brothers opening titles music, many by musical director Ray Heindorf. Assembled by Peter Mintun.
2012 VITAPHONE ACQUISITIONS - has the newly found audience entrance, exit and intermission music for HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929, MAL HALLETT AND HIS ENTERTAINING ORCHESTRA (Vitaphone, 1929), Vitaphone #427 FRED WARING AND HIS PENNSYLVANIANS (1927) and the Overture disk for WARMING UP (Par/’28) (with Billy Murray).
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:
Friend us on facebook 'The Vitaphone Project'
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|
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