|Volume 8 Number 1
VITAPHONE MARKS 80th ANNIVERSARY
Eighty years ago this August, DON JUAN premiered on Broadway. While the feature had synchronized music and sound effects, there was no dialog. It was the accompanying eight talking short subjects that truly ignited the talkie revolution. Beginning with Will Hays congratulating the Warner Brothers for beginning "a new era in motion pictures", most of the rest were classical performances --- violinist Mischa Elman, opera singer Marion Talley, a duet by Zimbalist and Bauer, and Anna Case in 'La Fiesta'. The sole popular offering, banjoist Roy Smeck in 'His Pastimes', captured the audience, the critics, and ultimately triggered a shift to more main stream fare in the next Vitaphone program.
Relatively few wired theatres existed in the months following DON JUAN's August 6, 1926 premiere. But a steady stream of shorts, and a quick shift to Vitaphoned (music and effects) silent features fueled the shift from silents to sound. In less than three years, few silent theatres remained, and those that did soon closed or were converted to stores or miniature golf courses.
We strongly recommend Donald Crafton's award winning book, THE TALKIES, for detailed and revealing insights into the transition to sound.
Turner Classic Movies will salute the start of the sound revolution on July 2nd with DON JUAN (12:15AM) followed by all of the originally accompanying shorts at 2:10AM and then the second Vitaphoned feature, THE BETTER 'OLE at 3:15 AM.
2006 also marked the fifteenth anniversary of The Vitaphone Project. Since its founding, we have helped on nearly 90 short subjects and 10 feature restorations, and have uncovered over 3500 soundtrack discs --- and even some nitrate --- in private hands. As this issue confirms, the discoveries continue!
Here is a shot of comedian Ted Healy, circa 1929, with a unknown executive. Healy, who at the time had The Three Stooges as part of his stage act, appears to be handling a soundtrack disc. A 1928-29 Western Electric sound head is on the right. Healy did not make any pre 1930 sound films that we know of, and it is possible the equipment was used to record a stage performance. Blowing up the photo digitally reveals the brand Cellutone, which is unknown to us. If any of our readers have any idea of what this is all about, let us know! Photo courtesy of Cole Johnson.
Warner Brothers was a proactive studio. These theatre program ads from late 1929 advertise several Broadway musicals which the studio bankrolled. The idea was to own the shows ad the related music rights, and then have the studio make the film versions. At the time, musicals were guaranteed moneymakers at the box office. Unfortunately, when these films were finally made about 18 months later, musicals had worn out their welcome. Most of the songs were removed from the film versions. In the case of 50 MILLION FRENCHMEN, all the songs eventually were used in a tab version of the show, PAREE, PAREE (1934), a Vitaphone two reel musical with Bob Hope and Dorothy Stone.
There have been an unusually large number of soundtrack disc discoveries since or last issue. In addition to what we are reporting here, we have heard from several collectors who claim to have large quantities of discs, but have not yet provided us with a list of their holdings. Here is what has turned up since our last issue:
In a huge mid-west collection, the following discs were contained:
- Reel 4 for EXCESS BAGGAGE (MGM/;28) and THE SINGLE STANDARD (MGM/'29)
- reel 2 for MAMMY (WB/'30) which had been tucked away inside a Victrola for generations
- discs for two Home Talkie show-at-home shorts: HOME TALKIE PRODUCTIONS PRESENT PHIL BAKER and THE CUCKOO NUTS, DUKE ATTENBURY & KEN GILLEM. Both date from 1929-30. No accompanying 16mm film is currently known
- reel 6 of THE DESERT SONG (WB/'29)
- ad discs for two early Vitaphone shorts: BRUCE BAIRNSFARTHER ('26) and ABE LYMAN & HIS ORCHESTRA ('27)
- discs for 21 Universal Newsreels from the 1929-30 season
- reels 2, 4, 5, 7. 8, 9, 10 & 11 for ARROWSMITH (UA/'31)
- THE MECHANICAL COW (Univ Oswald cartoon original a 1927 Disney with sound apparently grafted onto it)
- THE TREASURE RUNT (Col. '32, Scrappy cartoon)
- MUTUAL MAN (Col.)
- reels 7 & 9 for SCARFACE (UA/'32)
- reel 6 of CORSAIR (UA/'31)
- reel 2 of THE GREEKS HAD A WORD FOR THEM (UA/'32)
- reel 2 of THE DOOMED BATTALION (Univ. '32)
- reels 5 & 7 of THE UNHOLY GARDEN (UA '31)
- reel 2 for the serial THE DARK CONTINENT (Univ.)
- reels 3 & 9 of (UA/'31), both discs for Universal short THE LUCKY DOG (Univ., '33) with Chic Sale
- disc for THE BEER PARADE (Col., '33)
- reel 2 for THE IRON MONSTER (Univ)
- reels 2 & 5 of DANGEROUS CROSSROADS (Col, '33)
- reel 1 for THE JAWS OF DEATH (Univ)
- reels 2 & 4 of HEROES OF THE WEST (Univ., '33)
- reels 2 and 5 for Columbia feature MURDER ON THE ROOF
- reels 6 & 8 for TONIGHT OR NEVER (UA, '31)
- reels 5 & 7 for TOM BROWN OF CULVER (Univ, '32)
- reel 3 for THE LAST RIDE (Univ, '31)
- reel 6 for THE SINGLE STANDARD (MGM/'29)
- reel 6 for THE PAGAN (MGM)
- reels 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 & 9 for OUTSIDE THE LAW (Univ, '30)
- reels 1 & 3 for TWO MEN AND A MAID (Tiffany, '29)
- reel 6 for THE KISS (MGM/'29)
"BAND FAVORITES" IS OUR LATEST "THANK YOU" CD
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
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:
Available Vitaphone CD’s. # CD’s avail in () :
- $50 - Pick any one
- $75 - Choose any two
- $100 - Pick any three
- $150 - Pick any six
- $200 or more - Pick any eight
Donate to The Vitaphone Project securely with any major credit card through PayPal!
- Vitaphone Dance Band Favorites
- Complete WHY BE GOOD? (‘29) track (1)
- 1926-34 Vitaphone, Educational shorts tracks (2)
- Sylvia Froos 78’s & Soundtracks 1930 - 1950’s (1)
- GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY (‘29) 95% of the full track plus trailer (2)
- Warner Brothers 1932-36 Musical Radio Promos (1)(includes WONDER BAR, TWENTY MILLION SWEETHEARTS, GO INTO YOUR DANCE, GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935, much more)
- Baby Rose Marie, The Child Wonder 1929-38. (1) Includes her three Vitaphone tracks, all her 78’s of this period, plus other film tracks and a full 15 minute ‘38 radio show.
- Miss Frances Williams (1) - The great risqué songstress, include all but one of her 78’s, her ‘27 Vitaphone short, soundtracks to her 1930’s features, and radio shows.
- MY MAN (2) - All 11 Vitaphone discs that exist, plus trailer, related pop 78’s of the featured tunes.
- Vitaphone Shorts and features soundtracks 1926-31 (4). Vaudeville, bands, trailers, music & effects. Over 40 tracks.
- Vitaphone shorts music tracks, 1932-38. (2)
Checks (not deductible) should be made payable to:
Ron Hutchinson (NOT The Project)
5 Meade Court
Piscataway, NJ 08854
5 VAUDEVILLE NATION PROGRAMS IN NYC STANDING ROOM ONLY
The Vitaphone Project presented five weekly programs of early vaudeville shorts this March as part of The New York Public Library's VAUDEVILLE NATION series. Each program included ten 1926-39 vaude shorts made by Vitaphone, Paramount and MGM. The shows got great coverage in The New Yorker, Village Voice, Daily News and other publications. Each show drew long lines and standing room only for the 250 seat theatre. Two programs were introduced by the Project's Ron Hutchinson, who also did a Q&A session at each intermission. The audience demographics was mixed, and included many NYU film students, seniors who saw the actual performers during vaudeville's heyday, and many others. Relatives of some vaudevillians, including the niece of Joe Smith of Smith & Dale, Eddie Cantor's grandson Brian Gari, daughter of eccentric dancer (and Vitaphone performer) Hal Sherman, attended. So did nostalgia maven Joe Franklin. The response was so positive that the Library has already decided to do another similar program in March 2007.
- Author Tony Toran, whose definitive and extremely detailed biography of crooner Russ Columbo, PRISONER OF LOVE (BearManor) was just released, sadly died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident just weeks before the book came out. Tony had free access to the Columbo family's extensive materials, and he may have "solved" the mystery surrounding the singer's death in 1934. Columbo appeared in two 1928 GUS ARNHEIM band shorts, starred in the 1932 Vitaphone THAT GOES DOUBLE, and may appear in the still missing PROFF MOORE AND HIS ORCHESTRA (1927) short as he was playing with that band at the time
- We recently learned of the passing of another frequently Vitaphone performer, singer Vera Van, who began in vaudeville in the early 1920's. Her Vitaphones include the frequently TCM broadcast MIRRORS ('34) with Freddie Rich & His Orchestra, an entry of RAMBLING 'ROUND RADIO ROW ('34), and THE TUNE DETECTIVE ('35) with song archaeologist Sigmund Spaeth
- People entering the search word "Vitaphone" often get led to our website. As a result, we periodically hear from relatives of Vitaphone performers. Such was the case with William Stone, the great-nephew of comedian Willie Howard
- Senior VP of Warner Home Video George Feltenstein, who has been responsible for the great vintage laserdisc and DVD releases from both Warner and MGM/UA, recently was awarded the National Board of Review's William K. Everson Award for Film History at NYC's Tavern On The Green. Warner Brothers President and CEO Alan Horn presented the well deserved award. By the way, George's recent release of The Busby Berkeley Collection (with 23 shorts and cartoons!) is being mentioned as a candidate for best DVD of the year
- The Project is assisting former Cornell University Business Professor Chuck Wrege in his search for early Western Electric industrial films and test Vitaphone productions. To date he already uncovered details and ads for a 1930 Lloyd Hamilton talkie short made by Western Electric, and may be on the track of hundreds of films and discs. More in our next issue
- Fayard Nicholas, one half of the wonderful Nicholas Brothers, passed away on January 24th. The brothers' Vitaphone shorts PIE, PIE BLACKBIRD ('32), ALL COLORED VAUDEVILLE ('35) and THE BLACK NETWORK ('36) never failed to be huge hits at screenings. Fayard's brother Harold, passed away several years ago, and was also in THE EMPEROR JONES ('33) with Paul Robeson. The Project assisted The Library of Congress on that film's restoration via original soundtrack discs.
- Filmmaker John Carpenter is finalizing a documentary on his miraculous rebounding from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. John had made LATE TO LUNCH, a recreation of a late twenties two-reeler complete with Vitaphone track. Nostalgia maven Joe Franklin appears in the documentary.
Joan Blondell & Dick Powell
A recent eBay win of a Convention City (WB/'33) still may help lead to the location of this long lost film --- if it still exists. The still apparently came from a Mexican theatre. The squib on the back, all in Spanish, referred to the film not as a literal translation of Convention City, but instead as "Que Semana" ("What a Week"). To date, all searches for this film in foreign archives have focused on a literal translation of "Convention City". We are now attempting to learn if any of the Spanish-speaking archives have a film titled "Que Semana"
UCLA VITA SHOW SET FOR JULY 27th
The bi-annual UCLA Film & Television Archive's Vitaphone restoration program this year is set for 7PM on Thursday, July 27th. In addition to the most recent shorts restorations listed below, an early part-talkie Vitaphone feature, THE BARKER ('28) will also be shown. The feature stars Milton Sills and Dorothy Mackaill. Check UCLA's website here for details on the program. The shorts to be shown at the program are:
We would be remiss if we did not thank the generous donors who funded these restorations. Dudley Heer has underwritten the Flippen, Burtnett, Jans & Whelan, Miller & Morrissey, Jack White and Revelers shorts. Dudley began funding restorations in 1998 with THE FOY FAMILY, and has underwritten more than any other individual. Thanks!! Scot Margolin has funded the Dick Rich short, and is currently working on a Fanny Brice documentary. Jimmy Clemons daughter has funded her dad's short, which also features her mother. And Frank Buxton, a new funder, was so tickled by the last Shaw & Lee short that when "Going Places" was found to be restorable, he and his wife stepped up with the bucks. Some of you baby boomers may recall Frank as host of the trailblazing kids science show DISCOVERY '62. Many thanks to all our generous underwriters!
Flyer for The Barker
SF AIRPORT TO HAVE EARLY SOUND EXHIBIT
Opening in early September, 2006, The San Francisco Airport Museum, in conjunction with Dolby Laboratories, will have an exhibition entitled "From Horns To Hard Drives: The History of Sound Technology". The exhibit will be located in the United Gallery F-2 North Connector in San Francisco International Airport.
The Vitaphone Project has provided a number of items for the exhibit, including discs, programs, stills, needles, a record duster, posters, lobby cards, and even an original 1928 Western Electric Projectionists manual. The exhibit will be on view for a year, so if you are passing through San Francisco, check it out!
VITAPHONE BOOK UPDATES, REVISIONS
||Carl Hallstrom has begun to update, add to, and revise entries in Roy Liebman's outstanding book, VITAPHONE FILMS, which lists every known Vitaphone short and feature. Carl has identified cast additions, errors that were present on the original Warner Brothers index cards, and added information such as films that were in Technicolor but were not listed as such. Carl's efforts build upon Roy's mammoth undertaking. Click here to see all the revisions. And if you haven't bought VITAPHONE FILMS yet, we urge you to do so!
SHORTS DOC ON DVD
The new DVD set of Laurel & Hardy's BONNIE SCOTLAND ('35) and FRA DIAVOLO ('33) includes ADDED ATTRACTIONS, the 90 minute documentary on short subjects which aired on Turner Classic Movies in 2002 and in which the Project was heavily involved. Our favorite part, of course, is that on Vitaphone and the Brooklyn studios. But the entire production gives a great overview of the other studios and shorts stars. Highly recommended!
NEW DVD SET HAS MORE SHORTS
Warner Bros. Pictures Tough Guys Collection is all new to DVD, six-disc set with "Bullets or Ballots," "Each Dawn I Die," "'G' Men," "San Quentin," "A Slight Case of Murder" and "City for Conquest." All six titles have been fully restored and digitally remastered with special features including historian commentaries and new making-of featurettes. Each disc also contains an exclusive "Warner Night at the Movies" segment that recreates moviegoer attractions such as newsreels, comedy shorts, cartoons and trailers from the years each film was released. The collection will be available for $67.92; each title is also available separately for $19.97. (Warner).
- Bullets Or Ballots (1936) Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell, Barton MacLane, Humphrey Bogart. Extras: New featurette "Gangsters: The Immigrant's Hero," commentary by Dana Polan, "How I Play Golf by Bobby Jones No. 10: Trouble Shots," "Breakdowns of 1936": studio blooper reel, audio-only bonus: 4/16/1939 Lux Radio Theater broadcast with Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart, "Warner Night at the Movies" 1936 short subjects gallery: vintage newsreel, vintage short "George Hall and His Orchestra," classic cartoon" I'm a Big Shot Now," trailer "The Charge of the Light Brigade."
- Each Dawn I Die (1939) James Cagney, George Raft, Jane Bryan, George Bancroft, Max 'Slapsie Maxie' Rosenbloom. Extras: New featurette "Stool Pigeons and Pine Overcoats: The Language of Gangster Films," commentary by film historian Haden Guest, "Breakdowns of 1939": studio blooper reel, bonus cartoon "Each Dawn I Crow," 3/22/43 Lux Radio Theater broadcast, trailer, "Warner Night at the Movies" 1939 short subjects gallery: documentary short "A Day at Santa Anita," classic cartoon "Detouring America," trailer "Wings of the Navy."
- G Men (1935) James Cagney, Margaret Lindsay, Ann Dvorak, Robert Armstrong, Barton MacLane, Lloyd Nolan. Extras: New featurette "Morality and the Code: A How-to Manual for Hollywood," commentary by Richard Jewell, "How I Play Golf by Bobby Jones No. 11: Practice Shots," "Things You Never See on the Screen: Breakdowns of 1935" studio blooper reel, trailer, "Warner Night at the Movies" 1935 short subjects gallery: comedy short "The Old Grey Mayor" starring Bob Hope, classic cartoon "Buddy the Gee Man," trailer "Devil Dogs of the Air."
- San Quentin (1937) Pat O'Brien, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, Barton MacLane .Extras: New featurette "Welcome to the Big House," commentary by Patricia King Hanson, "Breakdowns of 1937" studio blooper reel, trailer, "Warner Night at the Movies" 1937 short subjects gallery: vintage newsreel, "Broadway Brevity" short "The Man Without a Country," classic cartoon "Porky's Double Trouble," "Kid Galahad" trailer.
- Slight Case Of Murder (1937) Edward G. Robinson. Jane Bryan, Allen Jenkins, Ruth Donnelly. Extras: New featurette "Prohibition Opens the Floodgates," trailer, "Warner Night at the Movies" 1938 short subjects gallery: vintage newsreel, drama short "Declaration of Independence," classic cartoon "The Night Watchman," "The Dawn Patrol" trailer.
- City For Conquest (1940) Dir.: Anatole Litvak; James Cagney, Ann Sheridan, Frank Craven, Donald Crisp, Frank McHugh, Arthur Kennedy, George Tobias, Jerome Cowan, Elia Kazan, Anthony Quinn, Lee Patrick. Extras: New featurette "Molls and Dolls: The Women of Gangster Films," "Breakdowns of 1940" studio blooper reel, audio-only bonus: 2/9/1942 Lux Radio Theater broadcast, commentary by Richard Schickel, trailer, "Warner Night at the Movies" 1940 short subjects gallery: vintage newsreel, short "Service With the Colors," classic cartoon "Stage Fright," trailer "The Fighting 69th."
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