|Volume 7 Number 4||
Seventy five years or more after they were made, it is increasingly difficult to find the surviving elements of Vitaphone sound-on-disk films. Most of the shellac 16 inch discs were returned to Warner Brothers and destroyed, were broken, or discarded. But when they survive, they tend not to deteriorate. Nitrate film, though rarely survives. Highly unstable, the film usually decomposes to a highly volatile goo or powder. Anthony Slide's book NITRATE WON'T WAIT details this process and the countless explosions and fires that have traced nitrate film's decomposition cycle.
For this reason, the discovery of any lost nitrate footage after eight decades is reason to celebrate. Collector Darren Nemeth contacted us this fall with not one but two color Technicolor nitrate discoveries of major importance. While brief in duration (30-45 seconds each), he had obtained spools of great condition coor footage from GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY (WB/1929) and ON WITH THE SHOW! (WB/1929). In the case of the GDOB footage, it represented picture elements that were previously not believe to have survived. For On With The Show!, the film exists in black and white, but the portion Darren found was unknown to have survived in color.
As of this writing, details are being worked out to preserve and restore both segments of the color nitrate. It is still to be determined which reel of GDOB this discovery is from. Once this is confirmed, the plan is to take the full soundtrack (which exists) and to use existing stills for the still missing picture portion. Then the newly discovered color footage ill take over. Anthony L'Abbate from George Eastman House has generously loaned the Project copies of over 100 GDOB key book stills to consider for use in this restoration. For On With The Show!, the job will be easier. The existing black and white reel will have the restored color section --- featuring character comedian Sam Hardy in a bright red outfit --- dropped into the appropriate section.
GOLD DIGGERS' restoration history has been the most piecemeal and interesting of any early talkie. Until the 1990's, no picture element from the film was known to survive, although the entire soundtrack existed. Then, one color reel was discovered in England and was restored. A second color reel was found in Australia in the mid-1990's and was restored by UCLA. Now, the discovery of less than a minute more color footage continues this film's slow reconstruction.
Money, at least in part, will come from funds generated for the recent HEIGHTS THEATRE Vitaphone fundraiser, which is described in this issue.
SAMPLE FRAME OF 2-COLOR NITRATE FROM "ON WITH THE SHOW!" (1929)
SPOOLS OF NITRATE AS THEY WERE RECENTLY DISCOVERED
|Award-winning filmmakers Paul E. Gierucki and William Hunt have prepared a new DVD collection featuring thirty-two (32) titles starring silent comedy legend Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. The 4 DVD set is available through Mackinac Media
Digitally remastered from original archival materials, or the only known surviving print, each film features completely restored titles, intertitles, and several films include previously lost or alternate footage. Silent entries debut newly-created scores from Philip Carli, David Drazin, Ben Model, The Mont Alto Orchestra, The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, Rodney Sauer and Donald Sosin.
The set includes 23 silent shorts, the rare Arbuckle feature LEAP YEAR (1921), four silent shorts directed by Arbuckle with other stars, the long unseen Arbuckle directed talkie short BRIDGE WIVES ('32) with Al St. John ---- made just before his comeback Vitaphone starring shorts, a 2005 music video THE ARBUCKLE SHUFFLE, plus a 32 page booklet, detaiis on the incredible restorations, and a number of secondary audio tracks.
To order, go to http://www.MackinacMedia.com
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.
In addition to our long standing collection of early soundtrack disc CD's to say "thank you" for contributions of $50 or more, we've just compiled a new CD of favorite Vitaphone dance band tunes. These include tracks from the newly discovered
RUDY VALLEE AND HIS CONNECTICUT YANKEES ('29),
ABE LYMAN AND HIS BAND ('27),
EARL BURTNETT & HIS BILTMORE HOTEL ORCHESTRA ('28)",
DICK RICH AND HIS MERRY MONARCHS ('28),
PAUL TREMAINE AND HIS ARISTOCRATS ('29) and
BEN BERNIE AND HIS ORCHESTRA ('30).
Great to listen to while relaxing at home or motoring to a film festival. This single CD is yours for a donation of $50.
You may select from a growing choice of “thank you” Vitaphone CD’s when making your (non-deductible) donation. Remember that these are unique, non-professional (but highly listenable) recordings of rare early talkie material. No fancy notes or packaging, but we are sure you will enjoy them. Contributions, while not deductible, are greatly appreciated and help us continue to get the word out on our efforts. Just let us know your pick:
Checks (not deductible) should be made payable to:
|On a recent trip to Los Angeles The Vitaphone Project webmaster Patrick Picking was lucky enough to catch the wonderful sold out performance of talented singer Janet Klein and Her Borscht Belt Babies at the Steve Allen Theater. The show was a vaudeville show similar to what would have been seen at the early 20th century. Several of the acts featured descendants of actual vaudeville acts, such as Buster Keaton’s great-granddaughter Keaton Talmadge, actress Zasu Pitts' grandson, "eccentric dancer" Rubberlegs Lou’s son, musician Nino Demagio’s nephew, and world-class prestidigitator Marty Klein’s granddaughter Janet Klein.
Hosted by acclaimed band leader Janet Klein, who brings with her a charming Yiddish sex symbol personality reminiscent of the great Vaudeville legend Fanny Brice. The show featured Janet’s comedy numbers, Yiddish novelty tunes, a Vitaphone song or two, knife throwing, and more!
The unearthing of movie soundtrack discs worldwide continues unabated. In addition, since our last newsletter, a significant number of Vitaphone shorts stills --- almost all from 1927 --- have been found in New York and New Jersey. Both stills finds were unrelated, yet both were of exclusively west coast releases, 1927 primarily, and with duplications of a few stills between collections. Very bizarre!
Here are the soundtrack discs found since our last issue:
Dino Everett, who works at UCLA's Film & Television Archive in Hollywood, recently contacted the Project to assist on dating the Vitaphone discs in their collection. In the process of doing so, we found a number of discs that had not previously appeared on lists of holdings. After cross checking availability of mute picture element, it was discovered that the following ADDITIONAL Vitaphone shorts can now be restored, as both film and sound exist:
The 1929 version of SHOWBOAT was partially reconstructed with most, but not all, of the soundtrack discs for a 1990's laserdisc set. Several reels had no surviving sound, and excerpts from existing discs were used to fill in the gap. Among the missing were discs for reels 9 and 11. Both were found this summer and are now held by the Project. We will make them available to Warner Home Video when they assemble their planned 2007 DVD set of all three versions of SHOWBOAT (1929, 1936 and 1951) to commemorate the Broadway show's 80th anniversary. The newly discovered discs include dialogue, music and singing throughout, so are a significant find.
Warner Home Video Senior VP George Feltenstein let us know that The Busby Berkeley Boxed Set is being released on March 21st with 6 discs. 4 new features (GD of 33, 35, FOOTLIGHT PARADE and DAMES) all restored and remastered, the previously available 42nd St. and a new DVD iteration of THE BUSBY BERKELEY DISC that was on laserdisc. It will only be available as a boxed set, with the single disc of 42nd St. still available on its own. The box is priced at $59.92 SRP which is a great bargain, and will likely be discounted by retailers and online outfits. Each new feature will have a new short docu, vintage shorts and cartoons, and trailers. Here's the line-up:
Tom Letness, who operates the historic Heights Theatre in Minneapolis ran an enthusiastically received program of early restored Vitaphone shorts on September 25th. Nearly 200 attendees viewed and applauded every film, often multiple times during a single film. Tom got considerable local publicity, and did some great poster graphics (which are viewable on our website). The program was introduced by film historian and Project supports Bob DeFlores. Over $1200 was raised, all of which will be used to restore the recently discovered color nitrate fragments from GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY and ON WITH THE SHOW!. Tom plans to run a similar fundraiser in 2006.
At press time, the following films have been funded and are being restored. It is planned to have all or most of these films shown at UCLA's Film Preservation program during the Summer of 2006.
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|VITAPHONE NEWS||ISSN 1066-5951|
|Corresponding Secretary & Editor||Ron Hutchinson||5 Meade Court|
Piscataway, NJ 08854
FAX: (732) 463-8521
|Treasurer||Alan Cooperman||23 Clover Hill Road|
Willington, NJ 07946
|Co-Founders:||John Newton||P.O. Box 7191|
Wilmington, DE 19803
|Sherwin Dunner||P.O. Box 1992|
New York, NY 10013
|Vince Giordano||1316 Elm Avenue|
Brooklyn, NY 11230
|Vitaphone Project Web Page||http://www.vitaphoneproject.com||Ron@vitaphoneproject.com|