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|Volume 13 Number 4!
VITAPHONE SHOW BIG HIT AT 2016 TCM CLASSIC FILM FESIVAL!
Celebrating the 90th anniversary of the debut of Vitaphone with DON JUAN, the big annual Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival invited Project founder Ron Hutchinson to mark the event with a secial program at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Fifteen early Vitaphone shorts, were screened, including including two just restored by Warner Bros in conjunction with The Library of Congress, UCLAS and the Project. Following Ron's ten minute overview of the coming of sound to films and the cooperative nature of the nearly 120 shorts restorations, the shorts were shown in 35mm on the Egyptian's huge screen. Despite a 9AM Saturday start time, nearly 600 people attended. For many, this was their first exposure to Vitaphone shorts.
Newly restored shorts by Molly Picon and celebrity imitator Zelda Santley joined fan favorites Shaw and Lee, Conlin & Glass, Georgie Price, Baby Rose Marie and Burns and Allen. Attendees included TCM's Scott McGee and chairman Charles Tabesh, Warner Home Video Senior VP George Feltensten, Warner Bros Chief Preservationist Ned Price and head of UCLA's film preservation team Todd Wiener. All marveled at the huge audience's enthusiastic response to the films
The Vitaphone Project's Ron Hutchinson presented a brief “Dawn of Sound 101” course for the audience at The Egyptian Theatre prior to the screening in 35mm of seven restored Vitaphone shorts. The event marked the 90th anniversary of Vitaphone's debut with the original DON JUAN program on August 6, 1926. The annual Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival attracts thousand of fans from all over the world, and this year featured over 60 screenings in multiple theatres on Hollywood Boulevard, including the just restored Marx Brother feature HORSE FEATHERS (Par/'32), and a restored print of SHANGHAI EXPRESS (Par/'32) with director Josef Von Sternberg's son interviewed.
Many long time friends of the Project turned out for the Vitaphone program. L to R: Vitaphone Project co-founder Sherwin Dunner, dancer and author of TAP! Rusty Frank, Ron Hutchinson and singer Richard Halpern. Also attending were actors and stars of the Mike Schlesinger new-old 2 reel “Biffle & Shooster” shorts Nick Santa Maria and Will Ryan, film historian Bob Birchard (who sadly passed away a few weeks later), famed singer Janet Klein (who has some of her own “Vitaphones” on YouTube), Take Two Records and supplier of many lost soundtrack Jim Bedoian, and many more.
Much of the group adjourned across the street for lunch at Musso & Frank restaurant, Hollywood's oldest, following the screening
DEMOLITION BEGINS ON BROOKLYN VITAGRAPH/VITAPHONE COMPLEX
As reported in earlier issues, the country's oldest purpose-built film studio complex in Brooklyn, constructed starting in 1907 by Vitagraph and then bought by Warner Bros in 1925 for production of sound shorts through 1939, was threatened with demolition. The developer plans to build condos on the site. Earlier attempts to attain landmark protection status from the City were denied. While the studio buildings could not be saved as these mid-July 2016 photos confirm, we still hold out hope that the 1907 smokestack emblazoned with “VITAGRAPH” can be saved. It is currently surrounded by scaffolding, and Prof. Melissa Friedling has been in regular contact with the developer regarding saving it. Stay tuned!
Since our last issue, quite a few more soundtrack discs have been found. From collector Gary Lacher comes this group of mainly early Van Beuren cartoon soundtracks:
from the University of Southern California - Santa Barbara:
- A ROYAL FLUSH (Pathe/'30)
- THE GRAND PARADE (Pathe/'29), reels 6 & 8
- ROMANCE DELUXE (Educational/'29)
- COLD SHIVERS (Educational/'29)
- SOCIAL SINNERS (Educational/'29)
- PEACE AND HARMONY<(Educational/'30)/LI>
- HIS BABY DAZE (Educational/'29), reel 1
- BLAZE 'O GLORY (Sono Art-Worldwide/'29), reels 4 & 6
- LUCKY BOY (Tiffany Stahl/ '28), reels 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9
- HELLS ANGELS (1930), trailer
- FURNACE TROUBLE (Fox/'29, 2 copies)
- disks for two Home Talkie shorts, covered elsewhere in this issue, for ISABELLA PATRICOLA and PHIL BAKER, both 12 inch
- Congratulations to Grammy award winning twenties and thirties bandleader and Vitaphone Project co-founder Vince Giordano on his band's recent live “Vitaphone-esque” original accompaniment of the long largely lost Laurel & Hardy short THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY ('27) and three other Hal Roach silent comedy shorts at MOMA. Sold out show. Vince also is receiving accolades for the music in Woody Allen's latest film, CAFE SOCIETY
- The MOMA screenings of the newly restored THE KING OF JAZZ boasted an audience that included daughters of two of the Brox Sisters (who sing “A Bench In The Park” in the film, and two of Paul Whiteman's daughters
- Thanks to film collector Gary Lacher for generously loaning use of his two mint soundtrack disks for the restoration of Laurel & Hardy's 1930 Hal Roach short BRATS. These restorations are being managed by UCLA's Scott MacQueen with funding support from Jeff Joseph
KING OF JAZZ UPDATE
Authors James Layton and David Pierce gave us the sumptuous and incredibly detailed book THE DAWN OF TECHNICOLOR 1915-35 two years ago, setting a high bar for quality and film research. Concurrent with the release of the restored 1930 Technicolor Universal feature KING OF JAZZ, the team will be publishing a new book about the making and restoration of the film.
A Kickstarter campaign pre-sold hundred of copies this spring, and expect the book to be available this fall. Details of the film's planning, false starts, production, re-release in 1933 and the complicated but very successful restoration of this $2 million production are covered, with countless never before published photos. Look for KING OF JAZZ: PAUL WHITEMAN'S TECHNICOLOR REVUE this fall! You can pre-order it now by clicking on the link below:
The Project can strongly recommend several recently published film-related books as well as two that will be released in 2016.
- Authors James Layton and David Pierce gave us the sumptuous and incredibly detailed book THE DAWN OF TECHNICOLOR 1915-35 two years ago, setting a high bar for quality and film research. Concurrent with the release of the restored 1930 Technicolor Universal feature KING OF JAZZ, the team will be publishing a new book about the making and restoration of the film.
A Kickstarter campaign pre-sold hundred of copies this spring, and expect the book to be available this fall. Details of the film's planning, false starts, production, re-release in 1933 and the complicated but very successful restoration of this $2 million production are covered, with countless never before published photos. Look for KING OF JAZZ: PAUL WHITEMAN'S TECHNICOLOR REVUE this fall! For info, if you had not already pre-ordered via Kickstarter, go to this link: http://kingofjazzbook.com/
- David Lightner, author of the upcoming biography of early talkie star Winnie Lightner, kindly had shared his draft manuscript with us for review and comment.
We can tell you that his WINNIE LIGHTNER, TOMBOY OF THE TALKIES shed much light on the star's early life and career in vaudeville and in musical revues, her success in Warner Bros talkies, and he exit from films in the mid 1930's. The book is due out from University of Mississippi Press on December 1, 2016. You can pre-order the book from Amazon by clicking on the title above.
- Ray Pointer is THE expert on Max Fleischer, from Max's earliest silents and DeForest Phonofilm sound cartoons that preceded Disney's STEAMBOAT WILLIE to his wildly creative thirties cartoons with Betty Boop, Popeye, and jazz legends Louis Armstrong, Don Redman, and Cab Calloway. THE ART AND INVENTIONS OF MAX FLEISCHER, AMERICAN ANIMATION PIONEER is due out from McFarland in late October 2016 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon title above.
- LAUREL & HARDY: THE MAGIC BEHIND THE MOVIES Ultimate Edition by Randy Skretvedt is the massively expanded and large format update of the author's minutely detailed study of the comedy team's films. Now with 1000 rare photographs, over 50% more test, interviews with more than 60 Roach employees, the most detailed L&H filmography ever, this is a must-have book for every one of our readers. It's available now, and it's great! Click on the link above to order.
UCLA TO RESTORE TWO HOME TALKIES
UCLA Film & Television Archive has, with the Project's assistance, located both picture (16mm) and soundtrack disks for two 1929 Home talkie shorts. These were made for the home market for use on 16mm silent projectors with attached and synchronized 16 inch turntables. Essentially these were Vitaphone systems for the home. They were expensive, and short-lived due to the Depression arriving less than a year after their introduction.
The restorable shorts are vaudevillian PHIL BAKER in ANN AND HER LITTLE SEDAN and pioneering recording artist, singer and vaudevillian ISABELLA PATRICOLA. Baker made a few shorts and feature film appearances, while Patricola made none.
Each short runs about 4 ½ minutes, and the UCLA restoration budget estimate for each is just under $6000. At this time, we are seeking funding support from one or two individuals, and anyone who is interested and financially able should email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
VITAPHONE FAQ's ANSWERED
- Current cost to restore a sound-on-disk 10 minute one reel short at UCLA is $12 – 14,000 (deductible)
- Donors receive their own personal copy of the restoration on DVD and on-screen credit.
- The Project's soundtrack disk database currently contains over 6,000 disks, primarily held by private collectors.
- There are over 250 Vitaphone shorts (plus over 75 MGM shorts) currently available on DVD through Warner Archive.
- Between 1926 and 1930, there were approximately 1500 sound-on-disk Vitaphone shorts and features produced by Warner Bros and First National.
- There are about 320 1926-30 Vitaphone shorts for which picture (film) survive but for which accompanying soundtrack disks are still missing.
- Warner Bros abandoned direct-to-disk sound recordings around March, 1930 and moved to the industry standard of optical sound recording and editing.
- To date, the Project has not found soundtrack disks issued by Warner Bros after late 1932.
VITAPHONE PROJECT ON FACEBOOK
Even if you are not currently on Facebook, we strongly urge you to join (it's free) if only to be able to check in on the regular posts at our page. Postings of discoveries, stills, recordings, questions, screenings announcements, film clips, and other info is posted often several times a day. We now have over 2300 followers! The material shared on this site greatly exceeds by many times what could be included in any single issue of VITAPHONE NEWS. Here's the link:
Just go to the page and click on “Join Group” to join.
90th ANNIVERSARY OF “DON JUAN” & VITAPHONE!
August 6, 2016 marks the 90th anniversary of the premier of the first feature film accompanied by a synchronized Vitaphone soundtrack, John Barrymore in DON JUAN. The production had a full symphonic score as well as sound effects, but no dialog. It was Warner Bros intent to be able to supply even the smallest theatres with full synchronized musical accompaniment and thereby allow them to both present higher class musicianship, but to also allow theatres to eliminate the cost of live musicians. Talking pictures were never the brothers' primary interest.
A prologue of talking shorts, however, turned out to be the true hit and the public response to them prompted the studio to re-think Vitaphone's true potential. The DON JUAN prologue of shorts included ukulele player Roy Smeck, opera stars Anna Case, and an congratulatory introduction by MPAA President Will Hays.
The second Vitaphone program a few months later reflected the new studio focus on popular talking shorts. The prologue to the Vitaphone synchronized feature THE BETTER 'OLE starring Syd Chaplin, featured shorts starring Al Jolson, Willie & Eugene Howard and George Jessel. By the end of the decade, Warner Bros had produced nearly 1,000 one and two reel Vitaphone shorts and the silent film was essentially dead.
The DVD from Amazon.com contains BEFORE THE FEATURE - THE AUGUST 6, 1926 OPENING NIGHT VITAPHONE SHORTS PROGRAM: Will B. Hays Introduction to Vitaphone, Overture to Tannhauser - New York Philharmonic, Mischa Elman - Humoresque and Gavotte, Roy Smeck in His Pastimes, Marion Talley - Caro Nome, Efrem Zimbalist and Harold Bauer - Theme and Variations from The Kreutzer Sonata, Giovanni Martinelli - Vesti La Giubba, Anna Case - La Fiesta.
Order the DVD by clicking on the photo above!
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