Volume 4 Number 2
Fall 1998


Yes. You read that correctly! Dick May, who is now in charge of the combined Warner and Turner film vaults, reports that Warner Brothers has supported his proposal to preserve to safety film, and restore from separated disc and picture elements, a program of roughly 100 Vitaphone 1926-39 short subjects per year. Besides the obvious impact of such a welcome restoration program on saving these films, this project has the added benefit of making it possible for people to see these films again. Once restored or preserved, the titles are added to Warner Brothers list of films available to both Turner Classic Movies for broadcast and ultimately for potential home video release.

At Dick's request, The Vitaphone Project provided him with a comprehensive list of over 300 "worthy" Vitaphone shorts titles for consideration. Dick has essentially adopted that list. A large number of these titles are 1930-39 Vitaphone shorts which may only exist on 35 mm nitrate and therefore need preservation on safety film. There is no "master" list anywhere of all Vitaphone shorts now on safety, so a title-by-title check with The Library of Congress is now being made. Some of these titles may already have been put onto safety film. In those cases, they will be put on Warners "available" list. The nitrate-only titles will be preserved. Over 75 disc-and-picture shorts from 1926-30 are also targeted for restoration.

This massive project supplements the ongoing and, in fact growing, restoration work being done by Bob Gitt at UCLA. We've included a very small exerpt elsewhere in this issue of sample titles to be preserved. The significance of the performers (from DeWolf Hopper and Lew Fields to Colonel Stoopnagle and Budd and Jimmy Stewart!) is obvious.

If there is really a God of Nitrate, he is definitely smiling down on Dick May!

Title Length Stars/Comments
THE CAMPUS MYSTERY 2 reel S.S. Van Dine mystery
THE HIGH SCHOOL HOOFER 2 reel Hal LeRoy musical
ARTISTIC TEMPER 2 reel Ruth Etting musical w/ Eddie Lang
BYE-GONES 2 reel Ruth Etting musical
THE CANDID KID 2 reel Tab musical w/Phil Silvers
CRASHING THE GATE 2 reel Ruth Etting musical
DOUBLE OR NOTHING 2 reel Academy nom. w/Phil Harris
DUBLIN IN BRASS 2 reel Morton Downey Sr. musical
FRESHMAN LOVE 2 reel Ruth Etting musical
HERE'S YOUR HAT 2 reel Musical comedy w/ Phil Silvers
HOTEL A LA SWING 2 reel Eddie Foy, Jr. musical comedy
IN THE SPOTLIGHT 2 reel Hal LeRoy/Dorothy Lee musical
MAIN STREET FOLLIES 2 reel Hal LeRoy tab musical
OH, EVALINE! 2 reel Hal LeRoy musical
PICTURE PALACE 2 reel Hal LeRoy/Dawn O'Day musical
PRIVATE LESSONS 2 reel Hal LeRoy/Dawn O'Day musical
PUBLIC JITTERBUG #1 2 reel Hal LeRoy/Betty Hutton musical
RHYTHMITIS 2 reel Hal LeRoy/Toby Wing musical
SEASONED GREETINGS 2 reel Lita Grey Chaplin/Sammy Davis, Jr.@4
SKY SYMPHONY 2 reel Stoopnagle & Bud musical comedy
THE SUBWAY SYMPHONY 2 reel Frances Langford tab musical
SWING FOR SALE 2 reel Hal LeRoy/June Allyson musical
SYNCOPATED CITY 2 reel Hal LeRoy/Dorothy Dare musical
UP IN LIGHTS 2 reel Pat Rooney tab musical
USE YOUR IMAGINATION 2 reel Hal LeRoy/Mitzi Mayfair musical
WASH YOUR STEP 2 reel Hal LeRoy/Preisser Sisters musical
YOURS SINCERELY 2 reel Tab version of "Spring Is Here"
ALIBI TIME 1 reel Radio Ramblers imitation comedy
BENNY MEROFF & HIS ORCH. 1 reel Great performing band
THE BIG HOUSE PARTY 1 reel Hilarious Earl Carpenter band short
FRANK & MILT BRITTON 1 reel Comedy band before Spike Jones
A CABINET MEETING 1 reel Radio Ramblers imitation comedy
GUEST STARS 1 reel Radio Ramblers, Lionel Stander
HELLO, GOOD TIMES 1 reel Comedy musical to end the Depression
MILT BRITTON & HIS WORLD FAMOUS BAND 1 reel Comedy destruction band
NIGHT CLUB REVELS 1 reel Walter O'Keefe musical
OFFICE STEPS 1 reel Modern office set to music
PLAYING WITH FIRE 1 reel Firehouse antics set to music
RADIO RAMBLERS IN 'NUTVILLE' 1 reel Marx Bros. & other imitations w/music
RAILROAD FOLLIES 1 reel Night club musical on a train
ROAD KNIGHTS 1 reel Cultured tramps discuss Einstein theory.
SKY HIGH 1 reel Hot musical w/Janet Reade,Larry Adler
CAPTAIN BLUE BLOOD 2 reel Georgie Price musical (poss. in color)
THE CITY'S SLICKER 2 reel Musical comedy w/many acts
CLEANING UP 2 reel Cross & Dunn, Grace McDonald music.
THE DOORMAN'S OPERA 2 reel Ray Heatherton in tab musical
HEAR YE, HEAR YE 2 reel Yacht Club Boys musical comedy
HOLD THAT BALL 2 reel Campus musical comedy w/many acts
KATZ' PAJAMAS 2 reel Fifi D'Orsay, Pauline Alpert musical
LET'S PLAY POST OFFICE 2 reel Musical set in a post office
LITTLE GIRL WITH BIG IDEAS 3 reel Featurette w/ Molly Picon
MURDER IN YOUR EYES 2 reel Musical in girls' detective school
MUSICAL MYSTERY 2 reel Books come to life in this musical
OPERATOR'S OPERA 2 reel Donald Novis musical
PARIS IN NEW YORK 2 reel Irene Bordoni musical
POOR LITTLE RICH BOY 2 reel Phil Baker musical comedy
POSTAL UNION 2 reel Funny Georgie Price musical
RADIO SILLY 2 reel Cross & Dunn musical w/many acts
RAINBOW'S END 2 reel Essential! Eddie Leonard stars
RISE AND SING 2 reel Cross & Dunn musical on cruise ship
ROMANCE OF THE WEST 2 reel Technicolor musical w/Dorothy Dare
RUSH HOUR RHAPSODY 2 reel Musical if B'way controlled subways
SCRIPT GIRL 2 reel Musical comedy in film studio
SHAKE MR. SHAKESPEARE 2 reel Shakespeare in swing music
SHOESTRING FOLLIES 2 reel Eddie Peabody musical comedy
THE SONG PLUGGER 2 reel Joe Frisco musical comedy
SOUND DEFECTS 2 reel Rufe Davis comedy w/sound effects
SPEAKING OF OPERATIONS 2 reel Musical w/ tab minstrel show
SPRINGTIME IN HOLLAND 2 reel Technicolor musical w/ Dorothy Dare
STUDY AND UNDERSTUDY 2 reel Music filled girls' college musical
TICKETS, PLEASE 2 reel Song filled Georgie Price comedy
WHEN YOU'RE SINGLE 2 reel Act filled musical in a small town
ART TROUBLE 2 reel Jimmy Stewart's 1st film. Slapstick!
BUZZIN' AROUND 2 reel Arbuckle's best sound short
DIZZY AND DAFFY 2 reel Slapstick w/ Dizzy & Daffy Dean
HEY, POP! 2 reel Funny Arbuckle talkie. His first.
HOW'VE YOU BEAN? 2 reel Arbuckle talkie comedy
IN THE DOUGH 2 reel Arbuckle talkie comedy w/Shemp
TOMALIO 2 reel Arbuckle talkie comedy
BROADWAY BUCKAROO 2 reel Early Red Skelton comedy
Dr. CUPID 2 reel Ken Murray comedy
THE IMPERFECT LOVER 2 reel Jack Haley, Claire Trevor comedy
PAREE, PAREE 2 reel Bob Hope in great 2 reel version of "50 Million Frenchman" w/all songs
SEEING RED 2 reel Early Red Skelton comedy
CIGARS, CIGARETTES 1 reel Marjorie Beebee slapstick comedy
THE DUEL 1 reel Lew Fields comedy
FOR TWO CENTS 1 reel DeWolfe Hopper comedy
GHOST TO GHOST HOOKUP 1 reel Radio imitators in haunted house
GINSBERG OF NEWBERG 1 reel Ethnic comedy w/Eddie Lambert
GOING PLACES 1 reel Great eccentric dancers Shaw & Lee
GOOD MOURNING 1 reel Eddie Foy, Jr. comedy
GOOD PIE FOREVER 1 reel Funny Thelma White slapstick
THE GRAND DAME 1 reel Patsy Kelly comedy - her first
GREAT LIBRARY MISERY 1 reel Grouch Club comedy by Nat Hiken
MOVIE DUMB 1 reel Funny Naggers comedy at a studio
PALM BEACH KNIGHTS 1 reel Chas. Ahearn hobos put on a show
THE RIDING MASTER 1 reel Great Poodles Hanneford comedy
ROCK-A-BYE-BYE 1 reel Zany Doc Rockwell inventions comedy
AT THE ROUND TABLE 1 reel At Algonquin w/all the greats
RURAL HOSPITALITY 1 reel Rural vaude act w/ Roger Imhoff
THE STILL ALARM 1 reel Comedy w/Clifton Webb, Fred Allen
23-SKIDOO 1 reel Lew Fields comedy playlet
THE WRONG,WRONG TRAIL 1 reel Funny Block & Sully comedy
A PRIVATE ENGAGEMENT 1 reel Yacht Club Boys musical comedy
THE BARD OF BROADWAY 2 reel Walter Winchell, Madge Evans
HATS AND DOGS 2 reel Joey Faye, Wini Shaw musicomedy
HER WEDDING NIGHTMARE 2 reel Thelma White, Fanny Watson slapstick
HIGH, WIDE AND HANSOM 2 reel Funny comedy w/bizarre Herb Williams
IN THE FAMILY 2 reel Very funny White & Watson slapstick
LIFERS OF THE PARTY 2 reel Yacht Club Boys musical comedy
LUCKY 13 2 reel White & Watson comedy in car race
ONE ON THE HOUSE 2 reel Legendary Willie, West & McGinty act
PRETTY POLLY 2 reel Polly Moran comedy
SERVICE WITH A SMILE 2 reel Leon Errol musicomedy in gas station
SLIDE, NELLIE, SLIDE 2 reel Herman Bing girls's softball musical
SWEETHEARTS AND FLOWERS 2 reel Preisser Sisters in musical comedy
THEY'RE OFF 2 reel Yacht Club Boys nightclub comedy
TAKE THE AIR 2 reel Eddie Foy, Jr. comedy in radio studio
DOUGH NUTS 2 reel Yacht Club Boys musical comedy
THE VODKA BOATMEN 2 reel Yacht Club Boys musical comedy
BED TIME VAUDEVILLE 1 reel Kiddie vaude acts
CHILDHOOD DAYS 1 reel Kiddie vaude acts
BACKYARD BROADCAST 2 reel Top kiddie acts
REG'LAR KIDS 2 reel Meglin Kiddies musical
STARLETS 2 reel Excellent kiddie musical
TOYLAND CASINO 2 reel Entertaining kiddie musical acts
TROUBLE IN TOYLAND 2 reel Fun kiddie musical acts for Santa
HIP ACTION 1 reel Bobby Jones golf short w/ W.C. Fields
THE ALMA MARTYR 1 reel Tuneful Waring's Pennsylvanians
MEET THE KERNEL 1 reel Funny Dave Apollon band short
DAVE APOLLON & HIS ORCH. 1 reel TWO SHORTS w/this title -both good
DAVE APOLLON & HIS CLUB CASANOVA ORCHESTRA 1 reel Great band w/ eccentric dancer, too.
DAVID MENDOZA & HIS ORCH. 1 reel Vitaphone house band on camera
EDDY DUCHIN & HIS ORCH. 1 reel Band and Sylvia Froos
DON BESTOR & HIS ORCH. 1 reel Top radio & recording band
HOT FROM PETROGRAD 1 reel Entertaining Apollon band short
ISHAM JONES & HIS ORCH. 1 reel Excellent 1932 band short
IT'S A PANIC 1 reel Benny Meroff Band in poor house
NICK LUCAS & HIS TROUBADORS 1 reel Lucas performs his many standards
ROGER WOLFE KAHN & HIS ORCH. 1 reel Top band in mid-thirties
SMASH YOUR BAGGAGE 1 reel Hot black band in train station
SWING STYLES 1 reel Hot Adrian Rollini short, Frazee Sisters
HARRY WARREN, AMERICA'S FOREMOST COMPOSER 1 reel Warren performs his top compositions
EDDIE PEABODY 1 reel Banjo great performs many tunes
GOLD DIGGING GENTLEMEN 1 reel Mini musical w. Marie Gambarelli
LISTENING IN 1 reel Great singer Irene Taylor, others
MUSICAL NOVELTIES 1 reel Act filled musical comedy
STRONG AND WILLING 1 reelComedy w/ Trixie Friganza
VAUDEVILLE HITS 1 reel Multiple vaude acts
VAUDEVILLE INTERLUDE 1 reel Multiple vaude acts w/Harmonica Rascals

A production shot in the Brooklyn studio. Taken around 1931. Note the three cameras.


Our last issue reported that over 600 early talkie soundtrack discs had turned up in four months. Over two hundred more discs, including several particularly important ones, have been found since July of 1998. Here's a rundown of some of what has been located since the last VITAPHONE NEWS

Some outdoor shooting of a Vitaphone short not far from the Brooklyn studio c. 1932. Note the Vitaphone sound truck at right.


My Man, the 1928 part-talkie feature starring Fanny Brice, has been considered a lost film since its initial release. No film element is known to exist. Until recently, only the disc for the trailer and one reel (with her "I Was A Floradora Baby" number) survived. Late this summer, three discs (apparently master pressings not ever played with the film) turned up in California. They represent reels 3, 4 and 11, and show this film to have been largely a talkie with relatively brief, "silent" passages with music and effects scoring. One disc duplicates the existing "Floradora Baby" reel. However the other two include an extended version of the song "My Man", and a full length version of Brice's "Mrs. Cohen At The Beach" and "I'm An Indian" routines.

We can only hope that like its contemporary "lost" features GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY and IS EVERYBODY HAPPY?, film elements will now start to turn up. Sophie Tucker's '29 feature "HONKY TONK" still has no surviving picture element, but after 68 years with only a couple of discs, three complete sets of discs covering all reels (including a foreign version) are now known.

Left: A projector and player system.
Right: A series of 16" soundtrack dubbing turntables at the Brooklyn Vitaphone Studios, c. 1930.


We at the Project have a particular love for late twenties jazz and hot dance bands. A number of such Vitaphone shorts have been restored at UCLA over the years, including three by Gus Arnheim's Orchestra ('27 and '28), Red Nichols ('29), Tal Henry and His North Carolinians ('29), Ben Pollack ('29), Horace Heidt's Californians and Leo Reisman ('29). There are still a number of true jazz shorts still missing elements. These include "Low Down: A Bird's Eye View of Harlem" ('29), Reb Spikes Band ('27), and two 1927 shorts with Roger Wolfe Kahn's Orchestra (one of which also includes the great Mound City Blue Blowers, jazz violinist Joe Venuti and legendary guitarist Eddie Lang).

Among this previously unrestorable group is the 1929 short coupling the great pop singer Grace Johnston with the legendary Indiana Five jazz band. A picture portion has existed for years at The Library of Congress, but no soundtrack was known. Until October 1998.

A disc for this short turned up in northern California in a group with 24 other soundtrack discs. Hearing the performances of "Bashful Baby" and "Glad Rag Doll" by Johnston, separated by a very hot version of "Clarinet Marmalade" by The Indiana Five confirmed that this belonged in the same category as the Nichols and Pollack shorts.

Restoration is being generously funded in its entirety by Larry Rubenstein. Larry is the nephew of prolific songwriter Milton Ager ("Happy Days Are Here Again", "Is She My Girlfriend?", "Ain't She Sweet?"). He had been searching to underwrite a restorable short which included one of his uncle's songs. Ager's "Glad Rag Doll" closes this short.

Restoration work is expected to begin shortly at UCLA under Bob Gitt's direction.


Patrick Picking's wonderful work in developing, linking and updating The Vitaphone Project website at http://www.picking.com continues to payoff. A number of soundtrack discs have been located as a result of folks surfing the Net. If you haven't checked out this site, please do so. Back issues of VITAPHONE NEWS, a photo gallery, Frequently Asked Questions, and articles are included.

Thanks to Patrick for his work in helping to take our message worldwide, with tangible results after just a few months!


We often learn of film discoveries which do not fall into the narrow category of 1926-30 sound on disc sound films. Such was the case in October, 1998, when we were contacted about 10 reels of silent 16mm black and white silent home movie film taken by Earl Carroll's Vanities bandleader Ray Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh's niece found the film in the family's eastern Massachussetts home, and asked us to help identify the content.

What we saw was a pristine glimpse back into 1928-33 Broadway. Clear, long takes of onstage routines from the 1928, 1929, 1930, and 1933 Vanities, plus the 1931 show "Murder At The Vanities", were unreeled for nearly two hours. Extended shots, taken during rehearsals and actual performances, show Vanities star W.C. Fields performing his "Dentist" sketch (much more risque than in his Sennett short), a schoolroom sketch, and other routines. We also see Patsy Kelly, Jack Benny, Jimmy Savo, comic Will Mahoney, Al "Rubber Legs" Norman, William Demarest, and countless others both on stage and clowning at the stage entrance. There are also shots of the Earl Carroll theatre under construction in 1930, lots of marquees, shots of the Roxy across the street, and much more.

It was easy to be transported back to late-twenties Broadway because the films look like they were shot yesterday. Plans are in the works to make these films available, both in documentaries ("Broadway" and Betsy Baytos' eccentric dance project) as well as possibly as a home video. We'll keep you posted.

Left: The sound recording staff at the Brooklyn Vitaphone Studios, circa 1930.
Right: Joe Henabery (I) director, with Jack Dempsey during the making of an unknown 1932 short.


We've just received word from documentary producer Tom Santorelli that he is beginning work on a two hour documentary on the history of Vitagraph studios. Tom indicates he may continue his story slightly into 1925-26 to cover the Warner Brothers' acquisition of the Vitagraph Stuidios and exchanges, and their conversion of the studios to talkies. Because NBC Television still shoots several of its soap operas in the 1928 Vitaphone studio building in Brooklyn, the site qualifies as the oldest still-operating production studio.


Bob Gitt and his staff at the UCLA Film & Television archives have a very full fall restoration schedule. As we go to press, work is being finished on the 1929 Technicolor ROGUE SONG trailer with Lawrence Tibbett and Laurel & Hardy, CHIPS OFF THE OLD BLOCK (Vitaphone, '28), another Technicolor reel of GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY (WB, '29), BUTLER & BRENNAN (Vitaphone, '29), WARINGS PENNSYLVANIANS (Vitaphone, '27), HAWAIIAN NIGHTS (Vitaphone, '27), SWEETHEARTS AND WIVES (a 1930 Billie Dove WB feature), WHEN A MAN LOVES, a February '27 WB silent feature starring John Barrymore and having a score entirely composed and original for the film, JONES & HARE, THE HAPPINESS BOYS (Vitaphone, '27), VAN & SCHENCK (Vitaphone, '27), and, thanks to Leith Adam's (of the Warner Museum's) suggestion, our long desired restoration of GEORGIE PRICE in 'DON'T GET NERVOUS (Vitaphone, '29) co-starring on-screen director Bryan Foy trying to calm the nervous Price about making his first Vitaphone short in Brooklyn.

The Project was also was happy to help Bob on an eleventh-hour addition to the just-restored feature EVANGELINE (UA, '29). UCLA had used as many discs as existed, but several (reels 1, 2, 3, 4, and 9 were still missing shortly before the screening. Bob had used excerpts of other discs to fill in the gaps. Through the Vitaphone Project, Bob was put into contact with collector Michael Thomsen of Denmark, who had discs for reels 2, 4 and 9. Michael kindly transfered his discs to digital audio tape and sent this to Bob in time for last minute incorporation into the restoration. Now, only sound for reels 1 and 3 is missing. Does anyone out there have these?


Some quick news briefs on Vitaphone Project Activities Ron Hutchinson was honored to be among the presenters on May 29th (alongside Betty Comden) of the Lincoln Center's awards for excellence in Performing Arts books. Ron presented an award to Don Crafton for his outstanding book, "THE TALKIES" (Oxford University Press). You MUST have this book if you are at all interested in the transition to sound.

Sound restoration wizard Seth Winner spent nearly four hours in his Long Island studios upgrading the sound from the sole disc for the ROGUE SONG trailer. The disc found by collector Bruce Miller aquired was poorly recorded originally by MGM, and was badly worn. Taking seconds at a time, Seth upgraded the sound dramatically and provided a DAT to UCLA for synching up with the newly struck safety print of the Technicolor trailer.

The Project's Dave Goldenberg and Ron Hutchinson spoke on the Project to a packed house for two hours at the annual Record Collectors' Bash June 21st in South Plainfield, NJ. Despite sweltering conditions in the meeting room, no one left!

Film collector Murray Glass, whose Glenn Photo Supply markets many early sound restorations of PD items [818-881-8110), has volunteered to restore three early sound shorts whose 16mm and 16" discs were discovered in a San Francisco garage last year by pianist Peter Mintun last year. They are POP AND SON ('29) with Benny Rubin, HE'S A SHE ('29) with Sunny Jim, and a 1929 TONY SARG MARIONETTE short.

Many thanks to Sheldon Hochheiser of the AT&T Archive in Warren, NJ for providing the Project with a 300+ page copy of the Archive's Vitaphone shorts catalog, including deleted titles and a wonderful May 1927 supplement.


Professor Roy Liebman of Cal State continues to go over the data he collected during three months sabbatical in the USC Warner Brothers archives. Roy focused on learning more about the Vitaphone shorts numbering system, and the hope of finding a "magic bullet" complete list of every short and number. Here are some highlights of what he's learned so far:


With the Project's success has come increased expenses, largely for the printing and mailing of VITAPHONE NEWS. Our mailing list is now over 450 per issue, with roughly 10% going overseas at around $1.00 each. We will soon have to pare down our distribution list, so it's important that if you are receiving this issue and have not written or contributed to us in over a year, that you do so as soon as possible. It's important for us to know that you are still interested in our efforts and in receiving the newsletter.

If you've already written in the last year or donated, no need to contact us. Otherwise, please write now. Thanks! Checks should be payable to RON HUTCHINSON (not the Project). While not deductible, they are appreciated!

Corresponding Secretary Ron Hutchinson: 5 Meade Court
Piscataway, NJ 08854
Data Base Rich Markow & Sherwin Dunner: P.O. Box 1992
New York, NY 10013
Newsletter, Advertising, Publicity David Goldenberg: 840 Winter Road
Rydal, PA 19046
and John Newton: P.O. Box 7191
Wilmington, DE 19803
Vitaphone Project Web Page: http://www.picking.com patrick@picking.com

Please Help Us........

Do you have film soundtrack discs (Vitaphone, Paramount, MGM, etc.), production information, stills, or other ephemera on pre 1940 short films?  We urgently need this data for a major film restoration program.  Replies will be kept confidential.  Project endorsed by copyright owners.

To contact The Vitaphone Project write to:
Ron Hutchinson
5 Meade Court
Piscataway, NJ 08854
Phone 1.732.463.8521
FAX 1.732.336.2603
or email Ron at medusashaircut@erols.com
or project member Bill Cappello at billcapp@ix.netcom.com 

 Write to:  Patrick@Picking.com