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Volume 9 Number 4
Fall/Winter 2009



By far, the most frequently asked question we've received over two decades of The Vitaphone Project has been "when can I buy these films for myself?". The question first started in the VHS days of 1991 and continues today with DVD requests. The huge success of THE JAZZ SINGER 3- DVD set in 2007 was due, in large part to the desire to see early talkie material and, particularly, early restored Vitaphone shorts. The producer of that set was Senior VP of Warner Video George Feltenstein, who also was responsible for the great Vitaphone laserdisc box sets of the 1990's and countless vintage WB DVDs, many winning top awards from the industry.

It is George's love of film and vision that has made the studio's new Warner Archive program a success. While overall DVD sales, like those for CDs, have plummeted industry wide in recent years, the incredible classic offerings from Warner Archive are selling well. The idea is simple: eventually offer every short and feature in Warner's vaults (not only WB, by MGM and RKO films) for online download or purchase at a very low price (usually $19.95 or less per DVD). Instead of pressing thousands of copies of each title, each is custom produced for the buyer when they order it. This eliminates a huge and costly inventory and its inherent overhead.

As of this issue, Warner Archive has release over 300 titles, with as many as 30 new ones each month. Discounts and package deals are frequent. In the last few month Warner Archive has put out a number of 1929-31 musicals, a boxed set of 6 DVDs of Vitaphone band shorts, and will be issuing the restored MAMMY ('30) with Technicolor sequences shortly in the next few months. Plans are in the works to issue a set of all the available Technicolor Vitaphone shorts and by Spring 2010 a set of early restored 1926-30 Vitaphones. Already available are many Pre-Code WB features, the complete MGM "Dogville" shorts collection, a set of MGM Benchley shorts and the full run of 60+ Joe McDoakes shorts.

Keep in mind that the other studios have done little or nothing on releasing their early material except for the mega-titles everyone knows.

While the list of Warner Archive offerings grows every 2 weeks, here are some of the titles we think will interest readers of VITAPHONE NEWS:

Warner Bros. BIG BAND, JAZZ & SWING-SHORT SUBJECTS (6 DISCS) [all are 1930-45 Vitaphone shorts]

Nina Mae The Nicholas Brothers Johnny Green Ozzie Nelson Ethel Waters The Boswell Sisters Baby Rose Marie
Disk 1
  • Ramblin' 'Round Radio Row #1 (1932-33)
  • Ramblin' 'Round Radio Row #2 (1932-33)
  • Ramblin' 'Round Radio Row #3 (1932-33)
  • Ramblin' 'Round Radio Row #4 (1932-33)
  • Ramblin' 'Round Radio Row #5 (1932-33)
  • Ramblin' 'Round Radio Row #6 (1932-33)
  • Ramblin' 'Round Radio Row #1 (1933-34)
  • Ramblin' 'Round Radio Row #2 (1933-34)
  • Ramblin' 'Round Radio Row #1 (1934-35)
  • The Yacht Party
  • The Audition
Disk 2
  • Yamekraw
  • Smash Your Baggage
  • That's the Spirit
  • Pie, Pie Blackbird
  • Rufus Jones for President
  • All Colored Vaudeville Show
  • King for a Day
  • The Black Network

Disk 3
  • Eddie Duchin & Orchestra
  • Mills Blue Rhythm Band
  • Isham Jones & His Orchestra
  • Ben Pollack & His Orchestra
  • Dave Apollon & Co. in The Wishing Stone
  • Johnny Green & His Orchestra
  • Borrah Minevitch & His Harmonica Rascals
  • Red Nichols & His World Famous Pennies
  • George Hall & His Orchestra
  • Harry Reser & His Eskimos
  • Little Jack Little & Orchestra

Disk 4
  • Jimmie Lunceford & His Dance Orchestra
  • B.A. Rolfe & His Orchestra in Off the Record
  • Leon Navara & His Orchestra in Sin-Copation
  • Cab Calloway & His Orchestra in Hi De Ho
  • Freddie Rich & His Orchestra
  • Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra
  • Larry Clinton & His Orchestra with Carol Bruce
  • Ray Kinney & His Royal Hawaiian Orchestra
  • Swing Cat's Jamboree with Louis Prima
  • Saturday Night Swing Club
  • Larry Clinton & His Orchestra in The Dispy Doodler
Disk 5
  • Ozzie Nelson & His Orchestra
  • Artie Shaw & His Orchestra in Symphony of Swing
  • Vincent Lopez & His Orchestra with Betty Hutton
  • Frances Carroll & the Coquettes
  • Larry Clinton & His Orchestra with Bea Wain
  • Rita Rio & Her Orchestra
  • Artie Shaw & His Orchestra
  • Henry Busse & His Orchestra
  • Cliff Edwards & His Buckaroos
  • Woody Herman & His Orchestra
  • Skinnay Ennis & His Orchestra

Disk 6
  • Hal Kemp & His Orchestra
  • Glen Gray & the Casa Loma Orchestra
  • Six Hits and a Miss
  • Borrah Minevitch & His Harmonica School
  • Ozzie Nelson & His Orchestra
  • Jammin' the Blues
  • Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  • Jan Savitt & His Band
  • Spade Cooley, King of Western Swing
  • Stan Kenton and Orchestra
  • Desi Arnaz & His Orchestra


Visit Warner Archive at:,default,sc.html and visit often to see latest additions. While currently purchases can only be shipped to US customers (not WB's choice, and they are working on a resolution), we understand some overseas buyers have US friends make the purchase and send to them.

Read Peter Mintun's detailed filmography of these shorts HERE!


A number of recipients of Vitaphone News send in generous donations regularly, and this is greatly appreciated. If it has been a few years or longer since you've sent in a contribution, please consider doing so. Postage rates are rising yet again in January 2010, and combined with rising printing costs, makes your support more important than ever. Virtually all contributions go to the printing and distribution of VITAPHONE NEWS. Please consider sending in a donation today. You may go to our website and contribute via PayPal, or send your check (payable to Ron Hutchinson) to 5 Meade Court, Piscataway, NJ 08854. Thanks!


We've added more rare CD's to thank those who contribute to The Vitaphone Project. We've compiled 8 MORE of the 1929-30 Columbia Victor Gems short subject discs recently found in Australia. Also, a new CD with ten 1929-30 KRAZY KAT cartoon soundtracks. And a three-CD set (*just counts as 2) of the recent all-Vitaphone NPR broadcast "Songs From The Attic" on WDVR-FM. This features almost 3 hours of material with interviews of the Project's Ron Hutchinson and countless soundtrack samples.


STILL AVAILABLE: Just let us know your pick (number in parentheses indicates number of CDs per title) :
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. You may go to our website and contribute via PayPal, or send your check (payable to Ron Hutchinson) to 5 Meade Court, Piscataway, NJ 08854.
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)
5 Meade Court
Piscataway, NJ 08854


As previously reported, Warner Brothers, under the direction of Ned Price, is funding and restoring over 50 1926-30 Vitaphone short subjects. Bob Gitt, retired Chief Preservation Officer at UCLA, is assisting. The Project is providing the funding (with donations primarily from generous Dudley Heer) to make projectable 35mm prints (which WB does not require). At press time, about 25 of the shorts have been restored. Ned found that four shorts had badly cracked discs. The Project was able to provide replacements for two of them, For the other two, Ned is enlisting the expertise of Jim Cooprider, who repaired the severely cracked (in 5 places) disc for AL JOLSON IN A PLANTATION ACT (1926).

It is expected that at least some of the restored shorts will be available for public screening in the US in early 2010. We will of course keep you posted on details when they become available.


Warner Home Video will soon be issuing it in their new DVD of Al Jolson's MAMMY ('30), in a beautifully restored version which includes the UCLA restoration of Technicolor sequences, further enhanced with new technology by WB.

The print had been found by UCLA about 10 years ago in The Netherlands and had the Technicolor scenes that were only available in black and white in the surviving US prints. Unfortunately the color scenes had interfiles physically cut into them for Dutch audiences. To remedy this, Bob Gitt at UCLA replaced the intruding titles with sepia-tinted footage from the black and white version to make the transitions back and forth less distracting. Under the direction of WB's Ned Price, the color sequences have been further enhanced and sharpened.

MAMMY will be issued in addition to Warner Archive's previous offering of individual DVDs of Jolson's THE SINGING FOOL ('28), SAY IT WITH SONGS ('29), BIG BOY ('30), WONDER BAR ('34) and THE SINGING KID ('36).


Some birthdays of note recently, with an early talkie or Vitaphone connection


Filmmaker John Carpenter produced, directed and starred in an homage to late twenties two reelers with his "LATE TO LUNCH". Inspired by Charley Chase, John took great pains to use locations, costumes and plotlines that were reminiscent of the period. In mid-1928, Hal Roach began to release his silent shorts with synchronized music and sound effects. So John has decided to do the same. Using authentic 1928-30 Victor Pict-Ur-Music discs, he has scored LATE TO LUNCH to really put over the feel of watching --- and hearing --- a late silent short subject.

You can enjoy this productions part of a new DVD compilation of 12 classic silent shorts from Alpha Home Entertainment. Go to

to order. And it even has a 1928 price --- $5.95!


The legendary annual Cinefest held in Syracuse, NY is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and it should be a don't miss event for every fan of Vitaphone and early film. Over 400 people from all over the world attend Cinefest, held at the Holiday Inn where ballrooms are converted to theatres and vendor centers. The showing of rare silent and sound shorts and features is nearly around-the-clock. And this year, a bus will take attendees to Rome, New York's historic Capitol Theatre for a day of 35mm screening by owners Art and Kylie Pierce.

Details will be posted on the Cinefest link here: Cinefest 2010 runs from Thursday, March 25th through Sunday, March 28th. We hope to see you there!


When we hear from people with soundtrack discs they've found, we immediately scan the list for titles we know have existing picture, but no sound. Such was the case when we were contacted this fall. Jumping from the e mail were two important shorts titles: Vitaphone #917 - MOLLY PICON, THE CELEBRATED CHARACTER COMEDIENNE and Vitaphone #913 - BOBBE ARNST AND PEGGY ELLIS IN 'RHYTHMS IN BLUE', both filmed in Brooklyn in October 1929. 35mm mute film for both shorts survive at The Library of Congress, so both shorts can be restored as soon as funding is identified.

Molly Picon was a great star of both the Yiddish theatre and vaudeville, and made three Vitaphone appearances. This earliest one, a 1933 starring three reel musical short, A LITTLE GIRL WITH BIG IDEAS and the one reel "Big Time Vaudeville" Vitaphone short VITAPHONE HIPPODROME ('36). Ironically as we go to press, Project co-founder Sherwin Dunner is working on a DVD release of the 1960's series CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU?, which had several appearances by Picon.

Bobbe Arnst was a popular Broadway singer and dancer, seen shimmying in a heavily fringed dress in the lone surviving reel of Paramount's NIGHT CLUB ('29). She was married to Johnny Weismuller at the time she made her Vitaphone short.


The first 12 of the eventual 50+ Vitaphone shorts now being restored by WB's Ned Price (with the assistance of UCLA's Bob Gitt) were screened in London in October. Our British branch reporter, Malcolm Billingsley, and tells us the venue was packed and very responsive to the latest restorations. It is expected that a total of 25 restorations will be done by the end of 2009, with the rest completed by Spring 2010. Arrangements are in progress for US screenings, possibly initially at NYC's Film Forum.

Malcolm and Bob report that the big hits were the Jimmy Conlin, Born & Lawrence, Val & Ernie Stanton and Frank Whitman shorts. But all got a great reception. But apparently the consensus is that Billy "Swede" Hall helped kill vaudeville! Here is the line up of the initial screening:


George Willeman and Rob Stone at The Library of Congress are working on restoring a total of seven 1929-30 Columbia "Victor Gems" one reel shorts using discs acquired by Ron Hutchinson from a collector in Australia earlier in 2009. The "Gems" were filmed by the Victor Talking Machine Company in a converted church in Camden, NJ. They were among the few companies outside of WB to produce shorts directly to disc rather than sound-on-film.

Ron shipped the discs to LOC this fall and work is expected to begin at the Library's Culpepper, VA labs in early 2010. The films being restored are:

Once this group has been restored, the possibility of the first non-Vitaphone Vitaphone shorts show will be a reality. We'll keep you posted on progress.


Read the 1907 article here!
The cylinder phonograph portion of a 1908 talking picture system called "Cameraphone" turned up recently at a collectors show. John Pisano, an avid antique phonograph collector and came across this interesting phonograph at a show. The seller didn't know what it was and neither did he. Little has been written about the system, which used an electrically controlled cylinder phonograph to synchronize films. Apparently Thomas Edison sued for patent infringements and by 1910 the Cameraphone was history.


Since our last issue of VITAPHONE NEWS, the following soundtrack discs have been found:

and a bunch of soundtrack discs for 1929 Vitaphone shorts:


We can recommend a number of books for readers of VITAPHONE NEWS, all available on


Because of quality and space limitations, we've put the following companions to this issue on our website at: Just click on the "new" issue, Volume 9 No. 4 for:


Add me to the Vitaphone Project E-Mail List!

Corresponding Secretary & Editor Ron Hutchinson 5 Meade Court
Piscataway, NJ 08854
(732) 463-8521
FAX: (732) 463-8521
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
Leonard Maltin's Site
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All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!

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