< The Vitaphone Project!
Volume 6 Number 1
Winter/Spring 2002


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We’ve added some new “thank you” CD’s to our list, so check them out. We are very grateful to all of the readers (both hardcopy and on the web) of VITAPHONE NEWS for financial support of our efforts. Large donations are redirected to UCLA for specific restorations. But your contributions of $20, $50, etc. are used to pay for the printing and distribution of this newsletter, and for stationery , postage and supplies. As each issue now costs us about $750 to print and distribute, you can see why all of the donations go into this important networking activity. If you’ve contributed already, THANKS! If not, please consider doing so.

You may now select from a growing choice of “thank you” Vitaphone CD’s when making your (non-deductible) donation. Remember, these are unique, non-professional (but highly listenable) recordings of rare early talkie material. No fancy liner notes or slick packaging, but hours of enjoyment await you! Just let us know your pick:

Available Vitaphone CD’s. # CD’s avail in () :
* = New offering
My Man
Donate to The Vitaphone Project securely with any major credit card through PayPal!

Checks (not deductible) should be made payable to Ron Hutchinson (NOT The Project) and sent to 5 Meade Court, Piscataway, NJ 08854.



Dick May, Warner Brothers’ Vice-President of Film Preservation, and our earliest studio-based supporter, has announced that WB has just stepped up the preservation (onto safety film) of Vitaphone shorts. A large number (over 1000) of pre-1950 one and two reel Vitaphones still exist only on unstable nitrate stock. Dick reports “starting in January 2002, we will be really getting into the preservation of the WB shorts in volume, trying to do 170 per year. I’m selecting them chronologically. I’m trying to stay with the entertainment or history shorts. We will also do the three remaining early three-strip Technicolor Vitaphone shorts, GYPSY SWEETHEART (‘34, with Dorothy Dare), SERVICE WITH A SMILE (‘34 with Leon Errol, just completed and shown May 28 at Film Forum) and SHOW KIDS (‘35). The Project had provided Dick with an extensive list of recommended restorations and that is assisting in the selection process.

Once preserved, the films are then available for airing by TCM as well as showing at film festivals.


Discoveries of 12 and 16 inch shellac soundtrack discs continue unabated worldwide. Since our last newsletter, here is what has been found.....

stills found in sealed room above an old burned out Newport, Rhode Island theatre. Stills for Vitaphone short #683 -- THE FREEMAN SISTERS (‘28) and #734 - AURIOLE CRAVEN, THE DANCING VIOLINIST (‘29) were amid the debris!


“Baby” Rose Marie, star of the first short The Vitaphone Project was involved in [“BABY ROSE MARIE, THE CHILD WONDER” (‘29) ] has just completed her biography. “Hold The Roses” - which will be available online here in October 2002 - published by Kentucky University Press and will be packed with stories and pictures from Rose Marie’s film, stage, radio, and television careers. We hope to be able to arrange for VITAPHONE NEWS readers to buy their own autographed copy directly from this great performer. We will let you know as soon as we have more details.


We continue to hear from relatives of Vitaphone performers seeking more information on their talented ancestors. Relatives often input the performer’s name in a search engine, and it may turn up a “hit” on the Vitaphone Project Web site - www.vitaphoneproject.com.

Sadly, we heard from the daughter of Vitaphone child star Billy Hayes, who appeared in Arbuckle’s first comeback short, “HEY POP!” (‘32) as well as in a series of “PENROD & SAM” Vitaphone shorts. Eileen Heyes was seeking copies of some of her father’s films and contacted us in early April, 2002. Billy passed away at the end of that month. Milton Cohen contacted us seeking info on his grandfather who starred in “MEL KLEE, THE PRINCE OF WAILS” (‘29). This is a restorable Vitaphone short, and we were able to share the soundtrack with Milton’s family. We located Kay Meroff Bohmann, widow of performing bandleader Benny Meroff who made several Vitaphone shorts including “IT’S A PANIC!” (‘31). We shared copies of this short with Kay and asked here if the 6 foot sax in the short was still around. “It’s upstairs,” she said. Bandleader and Project member Vince Giordano acquired it and is currently restoring the 70+ year old stage prop to working order. The son of mandolinist Rex Schepp, who made a 1927 Vitaphone, contacted us hoping to see his father’s short. It still requires restoration, though. Bella Stander, daughter of character actor Lionel Stander, enjoyed seeing her dad again in the early thirties’ Vitaphone shorts he made with Roscoe Arbuckle, Jack Haley, Bob Hope and Shemp Howard. “I knew nothing of my father’s pre-Hollywood films and I loved seeing these,” she told us. Francis Baggett of Salem, NH learned that a 1937 Vitaphone short with her performing family, “The Five Elgins” existed. We helped the family acquire a copy. “You were the key to bringing a lot of happiness to the Baggett family,” he said. A long time favorite of the Project has been comedian, songwriter and monologist Jack Osterman. His 1929 one reel Vitaphone short, “TALKING IT OVER” has just been restored by UCLA with generous funding from Scott Margolin. It is being dedicated by Scott to Project co-founder David Goldenberg who owned the disc and introduced many to Osterman’s infectious, off the cuff delivery. Well, this winter we got a call from Jack’s granddaughter, Marisa Iacomini. She’d been searching for any information on Jack, who died at age 37 in 1939. No family memorabilia existed, and her grandmother (Jack’s wife) committed suicide in the 1940’s. Fearing the trail was cold, she tried us. We were happy to share the soundtrack recording, info on Jack’s other surviving short, “UMPA” (Col./’34) some sheet music and articles. Marisa plans to be in the audience when “TALKING IT OVER” is screened for the first time in 73 years. Not known to audiences by name, beautiful Margaret Cooper graced many a late thirties Vitaphone musical in the background, in dance numbers and in WB print ads for the shorts. John Lavery of Canada contacted us about his mother’s Vitaphone work. He found many stills, but none with any titles. A review of scans indicated they included Hal Leroy, Ken Murray and Rufe Davis shorts. The family was able to connect with The University of Wisconsin to again see a number of Margaret’s films.


The sixth Vitaphone program was presented at New York’s Film Forum on May 28th, and once again it was a sell out. The program included a number of Vitaphone shorts not previously seen in the east since their restoration by UCLA. On the bill was FRED ALLEN’S PRIZE PLAYLETS (‘29), ARDEN & OHMAN, THE DUAL PIANISTS (‘27). GREGORY RATOFF in ‘FOR SALE’ (‘29), JOSEPH E. HOWARD (‘239), JOE E. BROWN in ‘TWINKLE TWINKLE (‘27), THE HAPPY HOTTENTOTS (‘30), BURNS & ALLEN in ‘LAMBCHOPS’ (‘29) and a super new print from Dick May at WB of the 1934 three-strip Technicolor Leon Errol Vitaphone musical SERVICE WITH A SMILE.

Film Forum plans to present the Vitaphone program of shorts described on our front page some time later this year. Be sure to check their website at http://www.filmforum.com for the latest destails!


John Carpenter’s silent three reel comedy, “Late To Lunch” has been selected to be shown at the Long Island International Film Expo on July 18, 2002. This film boasts a custom Vitaphone music track of vintage tunes to accompany the comedy. The black and white film is an authentic looking comedy with a 1928 “feel”. The Vitaphone score includes pop dance tunes which enhance the chase and restaurant scenes, and is likely the first film in over 70 years to have its own “Vitaphone” score.


Ten years ago, the only surviving elements of the lost 1928 Fanny Brice WB feature "MY MAN" were the disc for the trailer and one disc from the film itself. No film element is yet known to exist. In the summer of 1998, three more discs turned up, representing sound for reels 3, 4 and 11. The emerging discs showed the feature to be largely a talkie with relatively few music-and-effects silent passages. In the Spring of 2002, a collection of discs found overseas included all but reel 10 of "MY MAN". should the film ever be found, this missing sound could, in some way, be abridged from the other discs as was done by UCLA for "EVANGELINE" (UA/'29).

So keep your fingers crossed. Nitrate still turns up occasionally, and it would be a major accomplishment to resurrect the first sound film appearance of the original "Funny Girl" who sings "My Man", "I'd Rather Be Blue Over You", "If You Want The Rainbow, You Must Have The Rain" and When A Woman Needs A Man", "I Was A Floradora Baby", "I'm An Indian", "Second Hand Rose", as well as performing "Mrs. Cohen At The Beach".

Corresponding Secretary & Editor Ron Hutchinson 5 Meade Court
Piscataway, NJ 08854
(732) 463-8521
FAX: (732) 336-2603
Database Rich Markow richmarkow@aol.com
Newsletter, Advertising, Publicity Alan Cooperman 23 Clover Hill Road
Millington, NJ 07946
John Newton P.O. Box 7191
Wilmington, DE 19803
Sherwin Dunner P.O. Box 1992
New York, NY 10013
Vitaphone Project Web Page http://www.vitaphoneproject.com Ron@vitaphoneproject.com

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