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|Volume 9 Number 4
WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION:
EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES!
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]
Visit Warner Archive at: http://www.wbshop.com/Warner-Archive/ARCHIVE,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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
||EARLY SOUND FEATURES
- The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929)
- On With the Show! (1929)
- It's a Great Life (1929)
- Rio Rita (1929)
- Sally (1929)
- Golden Dawn (1930)
- Show Girl in Hollywood (1930)
- The Easiest Way (1931)
- Flying High (1931)
- Union Depot (1932)
- The Show of Shows (1929) all-star revue w/Frank Fay, Myrna Loy, John Barrymore, Irene Bordoni, Bea Lillie, Winnie Lightner ["Singing in the Bathtub"], and more)
- So Long Letty (1929) Charlotte Greenwood
- They Learned About Women (1930) Gus Van and Joe Scheck, Bessie Love, Mary Doran
- The Al Jolson Collection Set (Say It With Songs,
The Singing Fool,
The Singing Kid,
Go Into Your Dance, And
Read Peter Mintun's detailed filmography of these shorts HERE!
POSTAGE RATES RISING YET AGAIN… CONTRIBUTED LATELY?
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!
THANK YOU CDs
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.
- KRAZY KAT CARTOON '29-'30 SOUNDTRACK (total of 10) (1)
- EIGHT MORE '29-'30 COLUMBIA VICTOR GEMS SOUNDTRACKS (1)
- "TALES FROM THE ATTIC" VITAPHONE ON WDVR (11/09) with Vitaphone Project's Ron Hutchinson. (Nearly 3 hours on 3 CDs) (2)
Just let us know your pick (number in parentheses indicates number of CDs per title) :
- VICTOR PICT-UR-MUSIC DISCS Vol 1 (1)
- VICTOR PICT-UR-MUSIC DISCS Vol. 2 (1)
- MORE VITAPHONE SOUNDTRACKS - 2007 EDITION - Includes 13 tracks from 1926-30 vaudeville and band shorts, not included on any previous CD. (1)
- SOUNDTRAX STUFF #1 - 29 soundtracks of musical performances from 1930 - 1940, featuring tunes from Paramount features, Vitaphone and other studio shorts, and peppy credits music. (1)
- WHEELER & WOOLSEY TUNES (2 CD's) - includes virtually every one of the songs from their 1929-37 features. For real fans! (2)
- OF PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE, Vol. 1 - features musical selections from 1929-38 Paramount shorts and features. (1)
- FOX MOVIETONE MUSICAL 78's - Prepared for audience entrance music at Film Forum's recent "Fox Before The Code" series, this CD features commercial 78's of songs from 1929-34 Fox Movietone musicals. Bands include George Olsen, The High Hatters, McKinney's Cotton Pickers and Anson Weeks. Toe tapping! (1)
- GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY ('29) Vitaphone discs - 99% of the sound from this still substantially lost early Vitaphone feature. (1)
- MY MAN ('28) - all available discs from the lost Fanny Brice feature, plus trailer disc and contemporary 78's of film tunes. (2)
- BABY ROSE MARIE, THE CHILD WONDER ('29) - all known 1929-38 78's by this popular child star, plus tracks from her 3 Vitaphone shorts, features and even her 1938 radio show. (1)
- MISS FRANCES WILLIAMS - 78's, radio transcriptions and film soundtracks by this popular and sophisticated singer, 1927 - 1937. (1)
- VITAPHONE SOUNDTRACKS - Vol 1-4 Selections from soundtrack discs from vaudeville, band and feature films. (4)
- WHY BE GOOD? Soundtrack - the complete jazzy Vitaphone discs for this soon to be restored 1929 silent starring Colleen Moore. Believed to feature Jimmy Dorsey, Phil Napoleon and Eddie Lang among others. (1)
- UNIVERSAL 1929-30 THEMES VOL. 1, 2 or 3 (1 each, please specify volume)
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.
Donate to The Vitaphone Project securely with any major credit card through PayPal!
- $50 - Pick any one
- $75 - Choose any two CDs
- $100 - Pick any three CDs
- $150 - Pick any six CDs
- $200 or more - Pick any eight CDs
Checks (not deductible) should be made payable to:
Ron Hutchinson (NOT The Project)
5 Meade Court
Piscataway, NJ 08854
50+ VITA SHORTS RESTORATIONS UPDATE
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.
MAMMY WITH COLOR SOON ON DVD!
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
- Sybil Jason was brought to WB in 1935 as the studio's 'answer' to Shirley Temple. During her tenure, she made several shorts (some in the improved Technicolor) as well as features LITTLE BIG SHOT ('35), THE CAPTAIN'S KID ('36) and THE GREAT O'MALLEY ('37). TCM celebrated Sybil's 80th birthday on November 23rd with a screening of all her Warner features
- Carla Laemmle, niece of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle, celebrated her 100th birthday with her family and friends at the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, California on October 20th. Her birthday celebration recognized over eight decades in cinema, growing up on her uncle's Universal lot and witnessing the early years of Hollywood's growth. At just 16 she was the prima ballerina who danced in the Lon Chaney classic The Phantom of the Opera (1925). She also spoke her first lines in Universal's Dracula ('31). Carla Laemmle is now the last surviving cast member of both films. Laemmle continued to star in small roles until the late 1930s and recently became the subject of two biographies
- The theory of Vitaphonic 'relativity' continues, as we keep hearing from relatives of performers who appeared in Vita shorts. Since the last issue, we've been contacted by relatives of bandleader Henry Halstead, who made the first west coast Vitaphone band short in 1927 (with Lew Ayres in the orchestra), relatives of early talkie singer J. Harold Murray; Earl Carroll's Vanities singer and comedienne Gracie Worth, who appears in Arbuckle's IN THE DOUGH ('33) and IN THE GOOD OLD PLUMBERTIME ('36); the daughter of legendary jazz guitarist Eddie Condon contacted us on availability of her father's Vitaphone appearances for her upcoming documentary on the musical great
- The Project's Ron Hutchinson has been actively 'spreading the word' through a number of appearances this past fall. In September, he spoke before the Audio Engineers Society in NY (ironically across the street from the old Fox sound studios on 10th Avenue); in October, Ron presented some Vitaphone shorts at The Sons Of The Desert New York Tent meeting at The Players Club, and in November, he was guest for WDVR-FM's 3 hour "Songs From The Attic" program. You can get the 3 CD set of this show as a thank-you gift. Ron's daughter, Heather was married this September on the stage of the historic Loews Jersey Theatre in Jersey City, just 2 days shy of the theatre's 80th birthday. The reception in the lobby had Vince Giordano's Nighthawks playing vintage 1920's and 1930's tunes --- many of course featured in Vitaphone films
- Paul Brennan, the fellow who found the mute Technicolor of MAMBA ('30) in Australia, visited the US this fall to start the ball rolling on hoped-for funding of a restoration. He met with the Project and we hope to ultimately find a donor for the expensive (est. $100K) but important restoration and marrying with the discs held by UCLA
- Richard Barrios has issued an updated version of his great book on Hollywood musicals, A SONG IN THE DARK. Much new material, Vitaphonic and otherwise, has been added. See our "Vitaphone Bookshelf" story in this issue
NEW '1928' COMEDY WITH VITA SCORE
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: http://www.syracusecinefest.com/. Cinefest 2010 runs from Thursday, March 25th through Sunday, March 28th. We hope to see you there!
MOLLY PICON & BOBBE ARNST SHORTS DISCS FOUND
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.
NEWEST VITA RESTORATIONS SHOWN IN LONDON
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:
- DOUGLAS STANSBURY IN 'PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES" (1929) 8 min. Irish singer
- BORN & LAWRENCE in 'THE COUNTRY GENTLEMAN' (1929) 7 min.Singing and comedy team
- CARLENA DIAMOND, HARPIST SUPREME (1929) 6 min.Very lively, and for last number she strips down to a shorty skirt and plays the harp while tap dancing.
- HENRY B. WALTHALL in 'RETRIBUTION' (1928) 11 min. Dramatic playlet
- HARRY FOX AND BEATRICE CURTIS IN 'THE FOX AND THE BEE' (1929) 8 min. Breezy vaudevillians sing, dance and do funny patter.
- BILLIE "SWEDE" HALL AND COMPANY IN 'HILDA' (1929) 9 min. Old Mother Riley type vaude act
- OKLAHOMA BOB ALBRIGHT AND HIS REDEO DO FLAPPERS (1929) 8 min. Songs and dance in peppy act.
- CONLIN & GLASS in 'SHARPS AND FLATS' (1928) 9 min. Vaude act with Sturges perennial Jimmy Conly and his wife.
- BRYANT WASHBURN AND HELEN JEROME EDDY in 'NIAGARA FALLS' (1929) 10 min. touching playlet
- VAL & ERNIE STANTON in 'ENGLISH AS SHE IS NOT SPOKEN' (1928) 7 min. British comedy team sing, joke and play ukes.
- FRANK WHITMAN, THE SURPRISING FIDDLER (1928) 7 min.Fiddles with a card, a bottle, tiny bow while doing contortions.
- AL LYONS AND HIS FOUR HORSEMEN in 'A MUSICAL MELANGE' (1928) 9 min.Frenetic and funny musical goup perform pop songs.
LOC RESTORING 7 COLUMBIA SHORTS
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.
1908 CAMERAPHONE DISCOVERED
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:
- Reel 3 for Chaplin's CITY LIGHTS (UA/'31)
- Reel 6 for MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (MGM/'29)
- Reel 3 for the all color THE VIKING (MGM/'28)
- Reel 10 of D.W. Griffith's LADY OF THE PAVEMENTS (UA/'28)
- Reel 7 for NEW MOON (MGM/'30)
- Reel 7 for REDSKIN (Par/'29)
- Reel 1 for ROBERTA (RKO/'35) --- this is the latest soundtrack disc for a film yet found
- #934 - THE LETTER BOX
- #725 - PHIL BAKER in 'SPAIN'
- #919 - ZELDA STANLEY in 'LITTLE MISS EVERYBODY'
- #913 - BOBBE ARNST & PEGGY ELLIS in 'RHYTHMS IN BLUE'
- #931 - EDDIE BUZZELL IN 'HELLO THAR'
- #894 - RUTH ETTING in 'GLORIFYING THE POPULAR SONG with Ohman & Arden
- #870 - RED NICHOLS & HIS FIVE PENNIES
- #840 - THE BIG PARADERS
- #917 - MOLLY PICON, 'THE CELEBRATED CHARACTER COMEDIENNE'
- and one disc for WEARY RIVER (WB/'29)
THE VITAPHONE BOOKSHELF
We can recommend a number of books for readers of VITAPHONE NEWS, all available on amazon.com:
ONLY ON OUR WEBSITE
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:
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