23 May 2007


To open this entry, a musical prologue of sorts to set a mood, a pace and firmly chase away any lingering wisps of gloom that might still be clinging about!

"Banjoreno," performed by the Dixieland Jug Blowers, dates from late December of 1926, and it's entirely unlike the sort of tune you're probably now imagining. Nearly impossible to describe, it's as cheering as it is haunting --- and tuneful as it is deceptively simple. Try it.

"Banjoreno" (1926) The Dixieland Jug Blowers

Seeming an old friend by now, Irving Kaufman returns to put over "That's Why I Love You," precisely as he did in August of 1926 --- his unmistakable voice in beautiful form and, while dainty little melodies often suffered when paired with Kaufman's thundering pipes, this one is a love match!

"That's Why I Love You" (1926) Irving Kaufman

An early glimpse of Colleen Moore's 1928 First National film "Happiness Ahead" can be had in the following studio generated publicity placement from early May of that year, at a point when the film was still wavering between two titles, "Heart To Heart" and "Happiness Ahead":

"Having spent an entire afternoon in synthetic New York traffic without traveling more than ten feet, Colleen Moore has decided that she much prefers the real Forty-Second-and-Broadway variety. Director William A. Seiter reproduced the rush-hour traffic of Manhattan, securing autos, trucks, taxis and pedestrians by the score to hurry along a specially constructed street at the studio representing the confusion of a big city."

"This remarkably realistic setting is one of a variety of backgrounds which will be seen in 'Happiness Ahead,' formerly titled 'Heart to Heart,' a story written especially for Miss Moore by Edmund Goulding and Benjamin Glazer. A small-town hardware store, a New York banker's office, a home in the rural district, a lavish Park Avenue apartment, a simple church, and the cold, unsympathetic background of a state prison --- these are among contrasting settings in which Miss Moore enacts her starring role in 'Heart to Heart.'"

Ads for "Happiness Ahead," which arrived in theaters in June of 1928 --- and would find bookings around the country as late as December of 1929 --- left little doubt that audiences were in for an emotional wringing:

"Heartaches to the right of her! Sorrow to the left of her!"

"Shattered dreams, a broken heart, but a spirit born of love that sent her laughing, fighting, ever onward to the happiness she knew was just around the corner."

In actuality, Colleen Moore's trouble didn't amount to much more than landing a husband who's a habitual gambler of so smooth a sort that he can successfully explain away a looming prison stretch as a "business trip" to Buenos Aires. Circumstances that wouldn't matter a bit today, but which --- if it was 1928 and you were Colleen Moore, was serious business indeed.

A review of the film ("real" reviews, as opposed to prepared cut and paste jobs supplied by the studio, aren't as common as you might expect) from a Davenport, Iowa newspaper of June 17th of 1928 is refreshingly honest, if not especially well written:

"Colleen Moore is cast in a story considerably better than any we can remember since her straight bobbed hair and heart-shaped face winked its first way across a screen. She settles in pretty well too as the wife of a man who has a past, who is caught up by one of the women in his history, and is forced to spend a six month term in the D.A.'s rooming house. Incidentally there is a very rude skeleton outline of a picture that is full of good acting, some careful direction for the most part, but is a bit lengthy despite pleasing simplicity and straight forwardness."

"Edmund Lowe you'll scarcely recognize, but he does some of his best work since his appearance in 'What Price Glory.' His change from slick gambler to an honest office worker in a stock broker's office as well as a good husband is not so sudden that it shocks the nerves though he suffers no relapse. These two (Moore & Lowe) are the backbone of the picture but that calculating blonde Lilyan Tashman who has had years of movie experience as such, is credible very as Kay Sears the chorus girl."

"Plenty of laughs will place in where the drama grows too tense as for instance when Mary as played by Colleen remarks 'Babe, let's get a bee and have honey every morning for breakfast.'"

Although "Happiness Ahead" was released only in standard silent form, the film was typically paired with a small clutch of sound short subjects --- Vitaphone and Fox Movietone News products, typically. Accompanying the film for it's Davenport, Iowa run were three Vitaphone items, for which the same reviewer struggled to explain his thoughts: The Brook Sisters ("young harmony girls who'll get your applause if you treat the talking pictures that wash for the way they have and the voices",) The Death Ship ("short powerful drama, but as if the director hadn't figured they were playing to a bunch of comic strip readers and so had to explain their character's actions"and Night At Coffee Dan's ("another mixed musical business with a night club for a background. Good.")

A Brunswick recording from late 1928 (released early in 1929) shared the same title as the Vitaphone short "A Night at Coffee Dan's," (which featured William Demarest) and any early talkie fan worth his or her shellac is likely now nodding in vague recognition of the name "Coffee Dan," so we'll let the copy from a Brunswick ad of March 1929 fill in the blanks for us, even if it twists a few facts a bit:

"Every tourist visiting Frisco goes to Coffee Dan's. It has a national reputation. Here gather stage folks, movie stars, concert artists, celebrities of various kinds. You will remember the cafe scenes in 'The Jazz Singer,' where Al Jolson makes a hit as a singing waiter. Those were made at Coffee Dan's."

"This remarkable Brunswick record brings you the music and laughter of Coffee Dan's as if you were at a table yourself! In come the Big Shots from Little Rock, Pittsburgh and other towns, and you should hear Frank Shaw kid them. Then, of course, there's "I Wish I Was In Peoria," and Frank Shaw does plenty to that tune. Any Brunswick dealer will let you hear 'A Night at Coffee Dan's.' Stop in and hear it today. Its number is 4100."

While the photo of the original "Coffee Dan," (right, circa 1890) isn't likely to conjure up thoughts of Al Jolson, tin plates laden with sizzling ham and eggs or mugs of steaming coffee --- neither will Frank Shaw's 1928 Brunswick recording. Instead, what we have here is a male variation of Texas Guinan, seemingly wearing one of Robert Woolsey's molted skins, and doing quite well too.

Assisted by Les Poe, pianist, Frank Shaw brings you an evening's "typical entertainment from this bohemian rendezvous." The humor is frequently ribald and raw --- just the way it should be --- and if you can warm up to Shaw's unique style and delivery, you're in for a good time. Most surreal moment: Soprano, Madame Ivan AwfulItchie's strangled rendition of "Annie Laurie." Get your wooden table mallet ready!

"A Night At Coffee Dan's" (1928) - Side 1

"A Night At Coffee Dan's" (1928) - Side 2

One month following the premiere of Colleen Moore's "Happiness Ahead," the 1928 edition of George White's Scandals opened at New York City's West 42nd street Apollo Theater and, as was typical for productions of the Scandals, it was treated by the press as the somewhat uneducated, under-dressed, poor second cousin to Ziegfeld's Follies. According to Time magazine:

"Producer White has often been regarded as a reckless exponent of exposure, his entertainments as lowly though attractive limbos. As he grows older, White grows cautious. The thigh is his limit now and the Scandals, though not wholly civilizes, are this year less natural and rugged in their charms, more universal in appeal. What is tuneful is combined with what is funny, what is stimulating is added to what is ennobling."

"The courses of the revue were uniformly delectable and served in dishes that were not too conspicuously dirty."

"Ann Pennington, a little older than she was at first, flung herself here and there in the motions of a new dance called 'Pickin' Cotton.'"

All of 33 years old in 1928 --- a mere slip of a girl by today's standards, we can listen to this rousing Australian cinema organ recording of "Pickin' Cotton," and wonder if indeed the beaming girl depicted on the sheet music cover is Pennington or not. The dimpled knees suggest it is. What say you?

"Pickin' Cotton" (1928) Australian Cinema Organ recording

And, for no other reason than I happen to have it handy, and that it's a great little recording despite some odd sonic qualities, here's a 1928 Australian cinema orchestra recording of "Totem Tom Tom" from "Rose-Marie," which also incorporates "Pretty Things" (Friml) from Act II of the musical production. (Thanks to Joseph Rubin, of the Canton Comic Opera Company, for identifying this piece!)

"Totem Tom Tom" (1928) Australian Cinema Orchestra

A Rose Marie by any other name is still... Ok, so it doesn't work, but a segue like that doesn't present itself often! Of course, I'm speaking of Baby Rose Marie. It's 1930, and in the fascinating piece that follows, the Child Wonder is visited by Central Press staff writer Alma Sioux Scarberry. It all rings very true too, for better or worse:

"For two years we have heard Rose Marie on the air, have seen her in vaudeville, and occasionally in a talkie short. Her voice and manner in her act are totally unlike that of a child. Deep, hard boiled, coon-shouting, uncanny, so pathetically unlike a little baby girl that, in a woman's heart at least, it stirs a maternal resentment."

The other day, Rose Marie played hostess for an interview. We met her with curiosity, prepared to find that she was a child several years older than she was billed. But she isn't. She is a little slip of a five-year-old, with dark brown hair, almost black. Latin eyes, kiddish teeth, wide apart and, like the average healthy, mischievous child, always stirring like a busy bee."

"At first she sat primly in a chair as she had no doubt been told to do, and confided: 'I got a little brother Frankie, nine months old. Gee, he's a swell kid. I was only three when I started to sing. Frankie sings now -- honest he does. You know where I live? Why, on the Lower East Side between Avenue B and C. I got about a hundred kids to play with. I like to play out on the street. Once I went to kindergarten for a day, but Mama had me all cleaned up and a bad kid stepped on the back of my shoes and I went home and I said I don't want to go back to that dirty school and Mama says she guesses I'm right -- and I ain't gone back neither.'"

"She showed that she could write 'Baby,' but the Rose Marie stumped her and she printed it laboriously. That is all she knows of her three R's. She does not read at all. However, she knows the words and music of more than 70 jazz songs, and can sing them with all of the 'It' and come-hither motions of a warbling Clara Bow. She never forgets a song once she has learned it."

"Her father is Frank Curley, an Italian, formerly a hoofer and banjo player in vaudeville. When asked what she was going to do with all the money she is earning, the child looked surprised. 'Buy dresses, of course. What else is there for a woman to spend money on?' 'You might buy an airplane,' it was suggested. But she shuddered. 'Get me up in one of those awful old crates? Not much!' She likes dancing and monkeys. 'Not live ones. Just fakes.' Baby Rose Marie's money will soon take her family out of the muck of the Lower East Side --- into what? It will be interesting to observe the career of this strange little child prodigy. Her repartee is as old as her voice. Somehow, we wish they'd have waited a few years."

The previous year, film reviews didn't have much to say about Jolson's "Say It With Songs," ("The primary fault rests in the story itself. In the obvious attempt to force tears into the audience's eyes, the authors and director have dipped liberally into the bag holding the old hokum reliables.") but held nothing back in describing the Baby Rose Marie Vitaphone one-reeler that accompanied Jolson's third talkie: "Baby Rose Marie, who has starred in Vitaphone vehicles, is destined to become one of the screen's greatest talkie attractions. Nor need fandom be surprised to find her paired with Davey Lee, in a Warner feature. She sang two numbers last night, with 'Don't Be Like That,' literally bringing the house down."

"Don't Be Like That" (1929) - Baby Rose Marie

While I don't think we can reasonably lament the fact that a screen pairing of Davey Lee and Baby Rose Marie never took place, not so with the early 1930 announcement that the little torch singer would be joining the cast of RKO's oft-mentioned proposed screen version of Victor Herbert's "Babes In Toyland," where she would have joined the likes of Bebe Daniels and Wheeler & Woolsey in what would have surely been a vastly interesting production, to say the least.

A busy year for the child, was 1930. A six month vaudeville tour, an NBC radio contract (which followed a series of local broadcasts from Atlantic City, NJ) and numerous guest spots on other radio shows:

27 May 1930: "Baby Rose Marie, five year old prodigy of radio, vaudeville and motion pictures, will be a special feature of a program ("The Pure Oil Hour") to be broadcast at 7 o'clock from station WJZ over the NBC network. She will be supported by an orchestra under the direction of Vincent Lopez, and will be heard in songs for which she is famous."

31 August 1930: "Gus Edwards, who wrote the most famous school song of all, will present a Back-To-School program on the RKO Radio Hour. With him on the program will be some of the most noted youngsters in the show world, among them Jane and Katherine Lee, Borah Minnevitch and his Rascals, and Baby Rose Marie."

Given the notoriously low survival rate of radio transcriptions dating from 1929 and 1930, we can be a bit forgiving in listening to this problematic audio artifact of "Whispering" Jack Smith and Baby Rose Marie's delightful duet performance of the tune "All I Want Is Y-O-U" from 1930:

"All I Want Is Y-O-U" (1930) Transcription fragment

Also offered, an orchestral rendition of the same melody as utilized in the Vitaphone score recorded specifically for the foreign-release version of Sophie Tucker's "Honky Tonk" (1929.) I've let the excerpt run on, so as to include "I'm Doing What I'm Doing For Love," simply because it's equally fine.

Vitaphone Disc Excerpt from "Honky Tonk" - Foreign Release

It's quite another Rose Marie that we encounter in March of 1938 on the inaugural broadcast of another NBC radio venture that seems a world away from 1930 and we leave Rose Marie here... not as the hard-boiled babbling little girl with an aura of sadness about her, but as a confident young teenager with a magnificent voice leaving the broadcast studio to step out into the brilliant Winter sunshine flooding Rockefeller Center, the brisk wind catching and snapping the myriad of flags surrounding the plaza like so many ties to the past being snipped once and for all --- The Lower East Side, dirty shoes and fake monkeys a dim memory.

The Rose Marie Show (NBC Transcription Disc) - 14 March 1938

Lingering a bit longer with early radio, here's a curiosity worth listening to at least once ---

A fragment of a transcribed music show titled "The Dixie Shoe Steppers," which can be spotted in radio listings from mid-1929 to early-1930, although all 60 or so transcriptions were recorded in New York (by Brunswick) in October and November of 1929. The transcription discs played throughout most of the U.S., and even made it clear to Kingston, Jamaica (right.)

This extremely noisy excerpt from Broadcast Record #53, features spirited renditions of "Painting the Clouds With Sunshine" and "Lonesome Little Doll," was recorded on November 4th of 1929...

The Dixie Shoe Steppers (1929)

Whenever early recording artist supreme, Billy Murray, teamed up with Walter Scanlan in the late 1920's, the results were usually grand --- if not more than a bit unusual, blending vaudeville type patter with popular melodies of the day. Tunes from early musicals were called into play for two such recordings, one being "Big City Blues" from "Fox Movietone Follies" (1929) and the other, which we have with us here, "Painting the Clouds With Sunshine," from "Gold Diggers of Broadway" --- also from 1929.

Incidentally, there's long been a bit of confusion about Murray's recording partner's name, which is alternately listed as either Walter Van Brunt or Walter Scanlan (or even "Scanlon") depending on the source. The back-story to all this is that in 1917, Walter Van Brunt decided to use the professional name of Walter Scanlan (likely to disassociate himself from a Germanic sounding name at a point when WWI jitters had taken hold.) Although he wouldn't revert to the old name following the end of the war, he utilized it (and forgive me if details are vague!) to remain married to Mrs. Van Brunt and --- concurrently --- father a child with a Mrs. Scanlon. By 1925, it all came out into the open --- but somehow Walter managed to avoid having the much publicized incident to do much damage, if any, to his career --- a surprise in of itself.

In listening to the team's rendition of "Painting the Clouds With Sunshine," (I wish I could offer a better sounding version --- but every one I've ever heard all seem to originate from the same poor master) it's fun to ponder, when Scanlan's imaginary wife telephones him, just which one of the two popped into his mind at the time. That aside, it's a beautiful bit of audio --- except for that dreadful closing gag, that is!

"Painting the Clouds With Sunshine" (1929) Billy Murray & Walter Scanlan

Gus Van and Joe Schenck, frequent residents of these pages, are seen here in what appears to be the very late 'teens or early '20's --- participating in a charity benefit of some sort, that required the team to do two things they apparently loved dearly, playing baseball and performing for the public.

Photos that capture unguarded moments such as these are always especially satisfying, for they put the viewer very much in the moment they were taken --- especially when they're of such fine visual quality as these (click to enlarge!)

It's easy to "feel" this moment --- the woolen uniforms, the sun radiating warmth upwards from the scruffy turf, the sound of water sloshing in the galvanized bucket and the crinkling of the wax paper wrapped about the sandwich Joe Schenck is finishing off.

All that's missing are Van & Schenck's voices, and we'll correct that now. While surely dating from some 7 or 8 years later than the day on which these images were captured, the team's "Stay Out of the South," from a late 1920's Metrotone short subject, seems a suitable choice to accompany these sunny, cheerful images.

"Stay Out of the South" - Van & Schenck

The Warner Bros. serio-comic "Dancing Sweeties" of 1930 badly needed a hit tune to carry the melancholy film, and while it did reasonably well with the sickly "Kiss Waltz," it'd likely be a far more fondly recalled film today if someone hadn't seen fit to cut "Dancing With Tears in My Eyes" from the final release print. The excised tune went on to enjoy greater and longer lasting popularity than the film ever did, but it's interesting to try and puzzle out just where the melody would have been used, and who would have performed it.

No matter, we have Irving Kaufman with us now --- backed by the Royal Marimba Band, no less, to divert our attention away from such silly pondering. Irving? It's all yours...

"Dancing With Tears In My Eyes" (1930) - Mr. Kaufman

True, Sammy Fain could never sing with anywhere near the same degree of sensuality that Maurice Chevalier could always muster up effortlessly in his earliest talkies, but we wouldn't have "You Brought A New Kind Of Love To Me," were it not for Mr. Fain --- so I'll reserve any and all further criticism as we listen to the "Crooning Composer" put over his own creation --- um, admirably. Great accompaniment here too!

"You Brought A New Kind Of Love To Me" (1930)

No connection, no segue either --- but let's make a bit more room before closing this entry to allow The Riverside Dance Orchestra (Harry Bidgood, in actuality) put over "Happy Feet" from Universal's 1930 revue, "The King of Jazz." You'll be glad we did.

"Happy Feet" (1930) The Riverside Dance Orchestra

Rosetta & Vivian Duncan, au natural --- or nearly so, but quite free of the usual blackface or juvenile trappings we're accustomed to seeing.

When Time magazine bothered to take note of such things, Paul Specht & His Orchestra's recording of two tunes from The Duncan Sisters' 1929 film "It's A Great Life" (MGM) received special mention ---

"Best tunes from the cinema's 'It's a Great Life,' in which an expert male quartet assists Paul Specht's horns."

There's little to add to that --- which, for Time magazine, amounts to a gushing rave, so let's listen in...

"I'm Following You" (1930) Paul Specht

"I'm Sailing on a Sunbeam" (1930) Paul Specht

Lastly, since this post had Entrance Music of a kind, it's only fitting to look about for something to serve as Exit Music...

Here then, is a bit of just that from the 1929 Tiffany film "The Great Gabbo," which has been tweaked a bit to re-introduce a sense of theater acoustics --- say, if you were in the third balcony or perhaps out in the lobby waiting for the next show to begin. Imperfect to be sure, but with a bit more presence and "oomph" than exists on the overly cleaned and scrubbed (i.e. drained of highs and lows) soundtrack that now accompanies the otherwise magnificently restored print.

Until next time! (And, thanks for sticking with me, folks!)

Exit Music - "The Great Gabbo" (1929)


Baby Rose Marie's Vitaphone subject didn't always
accompany Jolson's "Say It With Songs."
Lima, Ohio - 9 September 1929

Alternate text-heavy edition of
Baby Rose Marie's "Ripley's Believe it or Not" Entry
11 September 1930

Just one of many reasons why
Colleen Moore's 1929 talkie "Footlights and Fools"
needs to be located. (I refuse to say "lost!")

"The Lost World" (1925)
Still being booked into theaters in late 1928

Murray & Scanlan - Radio, 1930's

Walter Scanlan - Kingston, NY - 16 November 1921




19 May 2007

Bury My Heart at the Loew's Kings

My parents, both aged nineteen. It's December of 1948, and they'd be married the following year --- on New Year's Eve of 1949.

Hard work, military service and more hard work would chip away at the 1950's, and by the close of that decade they were still childless.

As 1960 dawned, I arrived.

Mom would pass away in 2002, and Dad would follow five years later, on May 10th of this year.

Both played important roles in nurturing my love for vintage film, and I thought it only fitting to reminisce a bit here about just that --- despite the topic being far removed from the usual sort of thing I'm accustomed to writing. I was greatly surprised, touched and heartened to note the public comments posted on this Blog's last entry --- and even more so by the many more private notes of sympathy and encouragement sent to me via e-mail by readers of these pages, most of whom I've never communicated with before, truth be told.

I'm hopeful that readers may enjoy this somewhat scattered recollection, for I tend to believe that similar memories are held dear by a good many of those who regularly find their way to these pages --- for we all have to start somewhere. With that in mind, I dedicate this recollection to my readers as much as to the memory of my Dad.

Sorry, Pop... but it was Mom who introduced me to cinema in the early 1960's, when she decided I was old enough to accompany her to the Loew's Kings Theater (a Brooklyn, New York movie palace in every sense of that term) where "Mary Poppins" had just opened on it's original release. The next few days were spent happily babbling about the film to such a degree that, finally, my Mom asked me if I'd like to go see it again. I could see it again? But how? Hadn't it ended and vanished forever once the auditorium lights brightened, the curtains closed and everyone filed out?

A revelation! No, I was told, it was a "movie," and a movie could be seen time and again, and it would remain unchanged forever no matter how many times you saw it. It would look the same at age four as it would when you were forty. (In retrospect, I'm certain this simplistic explanation of cinema has much to do with my passion for film preservation and restoration, for I always feel somehow cheated to learn someone was responsible --- actively or not, for letting a film vanish without a trace.)

Once that great light dawned, movie-going became a weekly event --- and I stress the word "event," because that's how my Mom treated it. Whether our destination was any number of the still grand movie palaces that dotted Brooklyn or frequent visits to Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall, movie-going wasn't something to be treated lightly. I soon learned to reluctantly put up with being dressed in heavy, stiff little suits, dress shirts, clip-on bow-ties, headgear of all sorts, and leather shoes that would scrape my ankles as I walked in order to get the pay-off: a movie!

Then as now, my geographical sense was poor and I can't recall the names or locations of all the movie theaters I regularly attended --- but certain sensory experiences remain utterly vivid to this day.

I can recall the sense of stepping into a theater entry-way --- stepping onto the heavy rubber mat flooring (with little holes to drain away water, slush and street grime) before the impossibly heavy doors would be opened by a uniformed attendant. As it did, you'd feel a rush of air sweep over you --- air laden with the long vanished scent of a vintage movie palace --- and once it did, you were inside someplace special. It's impossible to analyze the ingredients in that peculiar and unique scent, but I recall it as being a mix of popcorn, fabrics, carpets, dust, an intermingling of hundreds of varieties of perfume and cologne, hair tonic, facial powder, perspiration, some of them probably decades old, and --- depending on the season, freshly cut flowers or balsam.

No matter how old the theater, (and most of the ones I visited dated from the 1920's or 1930's) the carpet was still thick and springy and surprisingly spotless, the lighting soft and subdued --- and the sounds of the city streets vanished behind you, replaced by the same hushed silence I equated with libraries and places of worship.

Every theater had certain physical features bound to intrigue a child, and I still remember some clearly. One had a bubbling marble fountain in the lobby with live goldfish swimming about, pecking hopefully at the pennies people tossed in despite signs warning against the practice. Another had dark blue mirrored walls in the lobby that transformed the reflection of patrons into dark ghostly images as they passed, and I also recall that the seats at the Loew's Kings had an unusually thick covering that felt smooth when you ran your hand down the back of the seat behind you, and rough --- like a new crew-cut, when you ran your palm upwards against the nap. I long puzzled over what caused the difference.

Some theaters had vestiges of earlier days still intact, but no longer functioning. One had a door labeled "Nursery" with fairy-tale characters etched on the glass panels --- while another had buttons on the arm of the seats that once would call an usher to the row for some mysterious purpose. Radio City Music Hall had, up until the theater's restoration, a panel built into the back of seats that would illuminate when you pressed a button, for the purpose of reading your program. The notion of 3,500 seat lights flickering on and off like fireflies in that dark cavernous theater suggests the amenity wasn't in use for long. Then too, all those tiny light bulbs to change! Of course, that never stopped me from hopefully pressing the button whenever I happened to think of it during the show.

I never imagined that these theaters, so huge, vast and sturdy would be largely gone by the close of the following decade. To me, they seemed as much as elements of the city's infrastructure as the subways, the Brooklyn Bridge, the skyscrapers, or the massive Edwardian apartment house in which we lived. But, in the end, most of them --- and the loveliest ones too, would be torn away or shuttered and bricked up like mausoleums, or converted into venues for activities they seemed so unsuited to. I was fortunate to have this early 1960's fleeting glimpse of another day and way of life just moments before progress and society deemed them unsuitably outmoded and disturbing reminders of a recent past the world of the 60's seemed hell bent on rushing away from as swiftly as possible.

Now then, my Dad's view of movies and movie-going were far different from my Mom's, likely because his side of the family hadn't been as hard-hit by the Depression as my her family was, and he'd attend upwards of five shows a week compared to my Mom's very infrequent childhood trips to Radio City Music Hall or the Roxy or Brooklyn Paramount when family finances allowed it.

Whereas my mom experienced the movies via Shirley Temple, Disney's "Snow White" and elegant MGM, Fox and Paramount fare, my Dad was raised on Serials, Westerns, two-reelers, cartoons, and anything that had the Warner Brothers imprint on it. Understandably, there were many heated household discussions as to what films I should be taken to, or not. In the end, both my parents would win out --- with each thinking themselves the victor.

My Mom would tote me along to whatever Disney film was in release, the occasional re-releases of classics, and countless imported children's films from foreign countries --- highly colored, poorly dubbed grotesque affairs that, in retrospect, might have been the cause of many a childhood nightmare.

My Dad thought little of such fancy fare, and in his company --- after promising my Mom we'd be spending the day in the park, or going on a drive --- we'd often end up at a local theater that was featuring a James Bond entry or secret agent movie rip-off, or "Planet of the Apes" and any sort of science-fiction film, or the latest Hammer Films British scare double-feature. Without knowing it, I was learning that there were films and then there were movies, and that there was a time, place and mood for each and, more importantly, that there was value in each.

Dad, being a camera buff (and notorious 8mm home-movie maker who disrupted countless family gatherings with blinding lights) I'd often accompany him to the big camera stores he frequented, among them Lafayette's in downtown Brooklyn, and Willoughby-Peerless in New York City. Both stores were very much a "don't touch anything" sort of place for a youngster, but my good (or reasonably good) behavior while Dad explored camera and projector equipment would always be rewarded by allowing me to pick out an 8mm movie to bring home. It was in this way that I first encountered films of an earlier time.

Even before I could read, I'd study the revolving metal rack holding reels of 8mm and 16mm films in boxes manufactured by Castle Films, Official Films, Blackhawk Films and many others I can't recall, looking for some visual cue that would spark interest. Box artwork was either sparse or non-existent at that time, so I'd invariably end up with a cartoon, or --- without knowing anything about them at that point, something featuring Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy or Our Gang --- simply because they looked like they'd be fun and the boxes were often brightly colored. Little did I know that the plain pasteboard boxes I skimmed past, with typed labels that I couldn't decipher, contained films and players now considered not only certifiable classics but also, in some cases, films that have vanished --- or nearly so, since then.

Oddly, I never questioned the lack of sound when these films would be projected at home. Indeed, most never had any to begin with, but all I knew was what I was told --- that they were old, but quite good --- and that my parents had seen them when they were children too. That recommendation was good enough for me.

There was a 16mm projector as well, which my Dad owned when he was in his 'teens, and which he hauled out of the closet only occasionally. A massive heavy brown metal thing, that sputtered and burned hot when running and always smelled of burning celluloid and simmering machine oil --- but which projected larger images of noticeably better quality than I was used to seeing at home. He only had a few reels of 16mm film left by that time --- they might have been nitrate prints for all I know --- but I believe now he obtained these from a local film exchange, as the reels contained fragments of films rather than complete subjects. All of these bits of film were tinted -- sepia, lavender, rose or a sickly green --- and I recall that Dad himself couldn't tell me much about what we were seeing, or who. Instead, above the loud clattering of the film chugging through the gate and over the metal spools, he'd read the title cards aloud for my benefit, and then invent his own dialogue --- always nonsensical, and changing with each viewing --- either a little or a lot, depending on his mood.

Included on the reels of 16mm film was a Chaplin imitator (he always prided himself in being able to tell the difference whereas nobody else could,) scenes from numerous Sennett and Keystone comedies, bits of business with chimps dressed as cowboys, a lion invading a society party, an early historical epic set in ancient Rome, numerous clips from Westerns, a railroad adventure that featured a robot working the controls in a switch-tower, and many melodramatic quiet (dull) scenes which we always sped past --- which were likely fragments of Biograph or Vitagraph productions.

By the mid-1960's, the monster-movie craze was in full swing and all the horror films of my Dad's youth had begun to air on late night New York television. My Mom had little patience for these films, but didn't intervene in my Dad's desire to have me see these films for the first time either. He'd carefully scour the television schedules, and would announce that "Frankenstein" was coming next week. "Who's Frank Stein?" "You'll see!," he'd warn me --- his face and voice leaving little doubt that this was someone I'd probably be better off avoiding --- but the bait was laid and the trap set.

Any misgivings I had were always put aside on the appointed night, as he'd gently wake me from sleep in what I felt were the utter depths of the night (probably 11PM or so) and we'd retreat to the living room where, still sleepy eyed and somewhat spooked just by being up and about at such a forbidden hour, he'd plop me down in a corner of the sofa, turn on the big black and white console television, and turn off all the other room lights --- for effect.

I'd generally be spellbound for an hour or so, before losing the battle to stay awake, and he'd carry me back to bed, where I was always surprised to find myself the next morning. I suppose because it all happened this way, I never was frightened of Mr. Frank Stein nor any other vintage horror film for the simple fact that no matter how chilling the movie, I'd always come out of it not only just fine but in the safety of my own bed too.

So, via Dad and courtesy of Chiller Theater (although I don't think it was called that then) I had an early exposure to the entire Universal horror canon, as well as "King Kong," and all manner of other creatures of the 1940's and 1950's films that populated New York late night television of the time. Ultimately, much to the dismay and exasperation of my Mom, there simply ceased to exist any other type of movie for me except monster movies --- and I'm certain there's many a reader of a certain age who experienced just that same sort of transformation as I did.

With "Famous Monsters of Film Land" magazine and, later, "The Monster Times" to stoke the furnace, along with a seemingly endless array of monster themed toys and products to attract countless small boys of the 60's and early 70's, I firmly moved away from all things Disney once and for all, and had shelves of plastic Aurora models to prove it --- many of them assembled at the kitchen table with Dad's help, and painted --- rather poorly, all by myself so I could claim total credit for the creation.

By the time the Monster Craze had begun to wane and fade, the 70's had taken hold and I was entering my early teens. We moved away from the old neighborhood and the fading movie palaces to another location, where shopping malls and small modern shoebox theaters were the norm, and all the relics from my Monster period were gradually discarded as I matured and developed other interests, until nothing was left. In what must be an equally lamented and oft-repeated scenario around the country, piles and piles of Monster magazines were tied up and left by the curb. Life and society had changed, imperceptibly but totally, as the last vestiges of the old were snuffed out by the upheavals the 60's and 70's brought.

Later, when attending my first film studies class, I found I had an advantage over most of my classmates --- for I was familiar with film history and silent film via the exposure my parents had given me to vintage product. Not so when the topic of early sound films was approached, for it was very much a blank chapter in film history to me. My parents had been too young to experience the transition (they were both born in 1929) and the only early talkies I remember being televised at that point were "The Cocoanuts," and the occasional "Our Gang" or Laurel & Hardy early sound effort --- which, purely by virtue of the performers, never seemed as primitive as they actually were.

Despite my ignorance of the period, the chronology presented in class didn't set well with me. Huge chunks of history and studio output seemed to be missing, as indeed they were, and the whole period was skimmed over with mention of half a dozen films, and glimpses of half as many assembled into what may have been a "Anniversary of Sound Films" sort of reel.

The school library had a copy of Miles Kreuger's magnificent "From Vitaphone to 42nd Street" compendium of Photoplay articles and advertisements, and I was immediately intrigued by what seemed a lost world of cinema populated by unfamiliar titles, names and faces. Where did it all come from? And, more importantly, where did it all go? I immediately asked just that of my film teacher, and he waved it all aside impatiently, assuring me that all those films --- musical films especially --- aren't discussed because they don't exist any more, and the reason that they don't exist is because they weren't at all good, and shouldn't I be asking about films we've seen instead of films I'll never see?

No. No, that didn't sound right --- and besides, who was he to tell me what I'd like and what I wouldn't? Suspecting that his dismissal of these films was somehow connected to the then current fashion for removing books like "Huckleberry Finn" and "Uncle Tom's Cabin" from school libraries (both of which I immediately purchased and devoured) rather than just probable ignorance, I set out to find these films on my own and to see -- and hear --- for myself. The rest, as they say, is history. Or at least, part of my history.

In retrospect, without the encouragement (and incredible indulgence) of two wonderful parents, I know I wouldn't see and interpret things as I do now, nor would I feel the need to explore and, where possible, preserve fragments of not just my past --- but our collective past, as best I can.

In odd corners of the Internet, I find myself being cautiously referred to as an "Amateur Film Historian," but that's a title that would make both my parents --- my first and best film teachers --- very proud indeed.

Now... On With the Show!

Watch for a new "Vitaphone Varieties" post this week!


Your author, Age 5

10 May 2007

A Necessary Pause....

Owing to the loss of a family member,
"Vitaphone Varieties" will pause postings
for approximately one week.




Jeff C. - "Vitaphone Varieties"


05 May 2007

"Crook Talk" & Other Diversions

"I handed the moll my rod and the ice, and told her to ditch it so that the pointed-toe dick couldn't give me the rap!"

So says actor Monte Blue in the late 1929 Warner Bros. crook drama, "Skin Deep." Directed by Ray Enright, the six-reel talkie appears to have long since vanished, although a surviving set of Vitaphone discs for the film's foreign release version allows us some faint notion of the film's mood and pace.

Based upon "Lucky Damage," a short story by Marc Edmund Jones, and first filmed by Thomas Ince for a 1922 silent version starring Milton Sills and released by First National, newspapers in May of 1929 carried an item mentioning that Warner Bros. had successfully "acquired the motion picture rights to the property as a vehicle for Monte Blue," a simple deal indeed given the association between First National and Warners at the time.

In conjunction with the 1929's film release in Fresno, California, a local newspaper prepared a thumbnail biographical sketch of actor Monte Blue which is well worth repeating here --- if only to indicate that this vague figure was once a major box office star, and ought to be remembered today for far more than his later small "heavy" roles in low-budget Westerns, the realm in which his name invariably turns up today, and then only in passing... if that.

"Monte Blue, star of Warner Bros. Vitaphone production 'Skin Deep,' now at the Fresno Theater, is a man of many thrilling adventures. Some day he promises to write a book about them, but in the meantime the interesting facts of his life deserve publication."

"Monte Blue, well remembered as Fresno's Raisin Day King, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana (in 1887) with Cherokee Indian blood in his veins. Monte had a hard fight for life, but developed the unconquerable enthusiasm and good-fellowship for which he is famous."

"His early experience took him all over the United States as soldier, lumberjack, miner, cow puncher, factory hand and superintendent, Indian agent, locomotive fireman, 'bindlestiff,' ditch digger and traveling man."

"Falling by accident under the spell of D.W. Griffith, Monte worked with him as script clerk, actor and stunt man in 'Intolerance,' 'The Birth of a Nation,' and other pictures. The role of Danton in Griffith's 'Orphans of the Storm' first brought him fame."

"Several good mountain-boy parts in such pictures as 'The Jucklins' increased his popularity and Warner Bros. gave him his chance at feature leads and stardom soon after they began screen work in Hollywood. His Vitaphone pictures have been 'Conquest' and 'The Greyhound Limited.'"

The 1929 talking version of "Skin Deep," arrived in theaters in September of that year, and despite having one of those brain-throb inducing convoluted plots, was deemed "swift moving" by The New York Times, and equally well received elsewhere. Indeed, the film was still being booked into theaters as late as October of 1930 --- indicating the film had nimble legs at a time when far more prestigious films would regularly premiere and vanish within weeks.

Via fragments of the film's Vitaphone discs prepared for a foreign release version of the film (which retained only mere scraps of incidental dialogue, with a newly recorded musical score and foreign language inter-titles replacing the original soundtrack,) let's re-visit "Skin Deep" as best we can, relying on extant plot details and audio clues:

"A big city's underworld -- sinister and treacherous rival gang leaders with their ruthless followers ready to kill at a moment's notice -- darkened streets with death hiding in every shadow -- painted molls hanging on the arms of their favored gunmen -- watchful detectives silently smoking cigarettes and watching -- the whole air is tense and seems charged."

Not so as the film opens however, with a ribald and comparatively light hearted party sequence at, it is presumed, gangland king Joe Daley's (Monte Blue) lair. Here, the film's opening titles utilize the film's lilting theme song, "I Came To You," before giving way to a celebration in full swing featuring a young lady finishing up a hot dance number. Two of the film's cast members can be heard at the conclusion of this audio fragment --- George E. Stone as Daley's underling, "Dippy," and Monte Blue as Daley. It's here that the camera would have revealed that gangster Daley has a decidedly ugly visage --- heavily scarred and with grotesquely misshapen nose.

"Skin Deep" - Excerpt 1

Excerpt #2: Joe Daley is serenaded by combination showgirl and moll Sadie Rogers (Betty Compson) with a chorus of "I Came To You," and as an exceptionally hot (but unidentified!) tune kicks in, we learn that the gold-digging Sadie has decided to accept Daley's marriage proposal, and is of the belief that a lavish life style and endless supply of cash will serve to wash away any and all misgivings about Joe's physical shortcomings --- although, of course, she doesn't tell him quite that.

"Skin Deep" - Excerpt 2

Except #3: The pair are married --- and the mind boggles at visualization of this moment! Monte Blue's scarred face and putty nose grotesquely matched with his trademark broad dimpled grin --- and Betty Compson, done up to the nines in bridal regalia, her cupid bow lips and brilliant eyes flashing from beneath a wedding veil, as the pair deliver their sacred vows --- Monte in it for the long haul, and Compson barely hiding a self-satisfied smirk!

"Skin Deep" - Excerpt 3
Marriage transforms Joe Daley, and much to his new bride's dismay, he vows to go straight. So straight, in fact, that he announces his intent to return a plundered $100,000 to the District Attorney to prove he means business. Rather than see her cash cow curl up and die before she can lead it to the slaughterhouse personally, Sadie makes tracks for Daley's rival, Blackie Culver (John Davidson) and the two concoct a scheme to frame Joe --- making it seem that he was responsible for the theft. Their scheme works so well that Joe is sent up the river for five years, without ever being tipped off as to whom was behind it all. The next audio excerpt (#4) is difficult to place, except that it occurs somewhere within all this unfolding plot. If I had to venture a guess, this music accompanied Sadie and Blackie's clandestine meeting --- a playful romp at that, until a ringing telephone brings news that requires immediate action.

"Skin Deep" - Excerpt 4

Joe serves his time behind bars dutifully, strengthened and encouraged by the deceitful Sadie's visits, who is about to play the second act of the scheme she and Blackie have carefully prepared. On one of her visits to the prison, she tells Joe that the District Attorney (John Bowers) who sent Joe up the river has taken certain liberties with her, effectively spoiling the goods before Joe can get to them upon his release. She convinces him that he must make a break for it and escape, figuring all the while that at best he'll be killed in the process --- or at worst, returned to the nick for a much extended stay. Joe --- poor, misguided Joe with his big putty nose, agrees.

In the following excerpt, (#5) the night for the escape arrives -- and we first see Joe carefully watching the clock for the appointed moment (details of the escape are unclear from our imperfect vantage point and surviving materials at hand) before cutting to Sadie, Blackie and gang elsewhere, confidently making merry as the critical moment draws near.

"Skin Deep" - Excerpt 5

Excerpt #6: The escape! Sirens blare --- prison searchlights pierce the night sky! Machine guns spew lead at a darting figure with a prominent nose! Joe makes use of a motorcycle to expedite his break out, and is doing alright --- successfully eluding his would be captors, until he spins out and flips over into a ditch, quite literally at the heels of pretty young Elsa Landon (Alice Day,) daughter of brilliant but reclusive Dr. Bruce Landon, Plastic Surgeon supreme (Tully Marshall) who gained extensive experience during the Great War but who has since sought to escape the horrors of that time by living his life in an out-of-the-way community with his loving daughter.

"Skin Deep" - Excerpt 6

In the hands of Elsa and her doctor father, Joe is nursed back to health in the bucolic setting, and Doctor Landon takes it upon himself to transform Joe's irregular face --- perhaps believing it damaged in the accident --- transforming him into the dashing Monte Blue of 1929, a far cry from the twisted visage once attached to Joe Daley.

Excerpt 7: Joe falls for Elsa, and she does likewise --- as the pair share a tender moment, perhaps in a canoe on a lake --- as Elsa warbles "I Came To You" to Joe, accompanying herself on the ukulele. The vocal, left intact from the original release, may or may not have been sung by Alice Day, but as it concludes, the audio switches to the "new" orchestral score prepared for the foreign release print, and sweetly reprises the tune at a point where dialogue would have been heard.

"Skin Deep" - Excerpt 7

The New York Times review used the term "swift moving" to describe "Skin Deep," and highly accurate it seems to be too. Taking advantage of his new, improved and conveniently unrecognizable face, Joe returns to the city --- intent on revenge for any number of misdeeds done to him --- and learns, once and for all, of Sadie's true nature and intent. Joe surprises Sadie with a visit, and in this excerpt -- #8, is met by his pet dog Mugs, who's intuitive recognition of Joe --- new face and all, reveals that this handsome stranger is actually well known to both Sadie and Blackie.

"Skin Deep" - Excerpt 8

An attempt to silence Joe before anything else happens doesn't come off quite as planned, and a bullet that Blackie fires at Joe instead finds a home within Sadie's anatomy and as she breathes her last and the outlook isn't bright for Blackie either, Joe departs this sordid world once and for all, and makes track for his little bit of heaven where Elsa awaits him.

In the final excerpt, (#9), Joe approaches his new home --- with loyal dog Mugs in tow, whistling the film's theme song. Elsa hears it, and recognizing her cue, dashes out to welcome home her soon to be husband. The music swells as the "End" title appears, the curtains close as the house lights rise and the Vitaphone orchestra swings into an up-tempo reprise of "I Came To You."

"Skin Deep" - Excerpt 9

Before leaving "Skin Deep," here's Henry Busse & His Orchestra's rendition of the film's theme song, which served as Exit Music to usher patrons out of the theater and, many years later, the film itself from this world.

"I Came To You" - (1929) Henry Busse & His Orchestra

A few loose strands from the previous post, which profiled actress and dancer Mary Eaton...

Incorporated into the heavily music laden score for "Glorifying the American Girl" were two period tunes of particular merit, "At Sundown" and "Doll Dance."

"At Sundown" can be heard as incidental scoring during a dressing room sequence in which Eaton opens a gift from her suitor, which finally reaches her after being shuffled about the country from post office to post office in an effort to reach her at the theater in which she's currently performing. We see her hands tear away the scribbled wrapping paper to reveal a handsome jewelry box, which she opens and tilts --- allowing her face to be reflected in the mirror inside the lid of the case.

"At Sundown" (1927) Clicquot Club Eskimos

Nacio Herb Brown's 1926 "Doll Dance" turns up in numerous films of the period, although primarily as background scoring, in such films as "Lord Byron of Broadway," and almost always in conjunction with a backstage setting, as in "Glorifying the American Girl" too. In a curious coincidence where the latter film is concerned, "Doll Dance" was made especially popular by it's introduction in "The Hollywood Music Box Revue," where it was danced by none other than Mary Eaton's exceptionally busy sister Doris, who --- in later life, would muddle facts a bit and claim that she introduced "Singin' in the Rain" in this production as opposed to "Doll Dance."

No matter, it's a grand tune that readers will surely recognize, and here's Nat Shilkret & the Victor Orchestra to prove it as we move on and away from the Sisters Eaton.

"Doll Dance" (1927) - Nat Shilkret & the Victor Orchestra

It isn't often I stray much beyond 1930 into the realm of Pre-Code films --- and I won't here either, save to offer three melodies from two of my personal favorite titles of the era.

"Three On A Match" (WB-1932) has long appealed to me on a number of different levels. There's a corker of a cast (Warren William, Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak & Bette Davis to name but a few) to begin with, and enough plot to fill three films --- all within a scant 70 or so minute running time that plays and feels like an epic melodrama.

Then too, before it's deserted midway through the film, "Three On A Match" utilizes a unique presentation technique to introduce the three principals as children, and then re-introduce them again as teenagers, and again as adults.

What could have easily been accomplished with simple stark title cards, the passage of years --- from 1918 to 1932 I believe, --- is indicated instead with montages of newsreel footage, newspaper headlines, sheet music covers, and other forms of media that document not only the sweeping changes that effect everyone, everywhere, but also the small incidental elements (such a popular music, clothing styles and technological innovations) that also mark time and with it, our lives as well.

I suspect I've given a typically wheezy explanation of an otherwise simple film device --- but those who've seen "Three On A Match" will know of what I speak, and not only how effective it is but also how memorable too.

Running through the score of "Three on A Match," is the film's title tune --- and for those familiar with (and fond of) the film, this recording by Russ Carlson and his Orchestra will be a treat, given how closely it approximates the orchestration used in the motion picture and also for the fact that the lyrics (having to do with a three-way love affair that goes awry, as they often do) are heard here too.

"Three On a Match" (1932) Russ Carlson Orch.

Nothing makes much sense in Paramount's 1933 "International House," nor is it supposed to, which is why guests at the Wu-Hu, China International House hotel can flick on their room radio and be entertained by the local radio station ("The Voice of Long Tongue") presenting Ah- Fooey and His Manly Mandarins playing that hotter than hot jazz tune, "Look What I've Got." It loses something without the beautifully timed visual of Peggy Hopkins Joyce and W. C. Fields undressing in the same room without being aware of one another's presence --- but is sure to bring a smile to listeners with a good memory for such things! The tune's lyrics (unheard in the film version) suggest that more than just casual thought went into choosing the melody to score the scene: "Look what he's got, look what she's got..." Brilliant, pre-code nonsense!

"Look What I've Got" (1932) Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra

Well in keeping with the opium hallucination quality of the film, is Baby Rose Marie's lusty vocalization of "My Bluebird's Singing the Blues." Ordinarily, a youngster warbling about doomed romances is dodgy at best and difficult to pull off, but not so with Baby Rose Marie, who appears to have been born carrying a torch instead of a rattle.

Her performance of the tune on this Brunswick recording is, I believe, actually better than the version performed on film.

"My Bluebird's Singing the Blues" (1932)

The Friedlander/Conrad stage musical "Mercenary Mary" proved to be a hit when opening at New York City's Longacre Theater in April of 1925. Said one review, "'Mercenary Mary' could open in the Panama Canal zone in July and do capacity business throughout the summer."

Never revived and little remembered today (although I suspect those involved with the creation of a current hit Broadway parody of 20's stage musicals might have studied it somewhat) even the cast seems unremarkable today save for the inclusion of John Boles as one of the male leads.

No matter, just listen to this two sided medley of tunes from the production (recorded here for the British presentation) and what you have is a time capsule of what seems to be all musical comedies of the decade rolled into one incredible confection.

As heard in this recording, are the tunes: "I'm A Little Bit Fonder of You," "I Am Thinking of You," "Dipping in the Moonlight," "Tie a Bit Of String Around Your Finger," "Mercenary Mary," "Over My Shoulder," "Honey, I'm In Love With You," and "Shake Your Daddy."

Gems from "Mercenary Mary" - Part 1 (1925) and Part 2

A phonograph curiosity from 1916 -

"The most artistic and practical casing for the phonograph that has been devised as yet is a drawing-room lamp with a broad, swelling base in which the mechanism is concealed."

"Instead of the conventional horn, the carrier of the sound waves is found in the stem of the lamp, which ends in a trumpet-shaped ground glass shade."

"The manufacturer claims that the sound waves are affected by the heat waves from the lamp, which are thrown off in every direction, and tend to diffuse the sound, giving it a peculiar softness and mellowness of tone."

As soon as I can locate a manufacturer, I'll be happy to begin taking orders!

We'll never know what tune was being played as this female dance instructor attempted to teach the latest steps to five burly but seemingly game athletes, but it could well have been:

"Blue Baby" (1927) George Olsen & His Music

Likewise, the couple daintily stepping across the printed linoleum may have just been listening to "My Sing Song Girl" (1930) --- their smiles prompted --- as ours are, the busily intricate LeRoy Shield orchestration that recalls his masterful compositions (also utilizing xylophones and such) for numerous Hal Roach comedies of the period.

"My Sing Song Girl" (1930) LeRoy Shield & the Victor Orchestra

It's always nice to encounter recordings that while not new by any means, are new to me --- and that they both feature Vaughn DeLeath, who should be an old friend to regular readers by now, makes it that much more a pleasure.

"Kentucky Babe" (1927) Vaughn DeLeath

"Joy Bells" (1927) Harold Leonard & the Waldorf Astoria Orchestra

While one doesn't usually associate particular music with the silent masterpiece "The Crowd," the film does indeed contain an important music cue and --- lo and behold, it's not only acknowledged and carried out by the wonderful Carl Davis score for the film, but he also recognizes its value and utilizes it elsewhere in the film during key sequences. Few things are more irksome than to have blatant musical cues ignored by (shall we say) "young composers" who feel they can do better with a kazoo or glass harp, and therefore this brand of innovation has relieved countless silent films of not only theme songs written especially for them, but little notations of time and period that were deemed important enough to include in the film frame itself. Happily, so important a film as "The Crowd" was in fine hands indeed when a newly recorded score was prepared, and it's certainly evident in a near perfect union of image and music. Herewith, a double dip:

"There's Everything Nice About You" (1927)
Vocal version by Johnny Marvin --- and,

Orchestral version by Nat Shilkret & the Victor Orch.

While we have Johnny Marvin with us, he'd like to perform two melodies from the 1929 Fox musical "Sunny Side Up," which he'll do so --- beautifully, right now...

"I'm A Dreamer (Aren't We All?)" (1929) Johnny Marvin

"If I Had A Talking Picture Of You" (1929) Johnny Marvin

Once, and not all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, Paramount's "Monte Carlo" could be found regularly on local New York television stations. It's since gone to that great vault where all of it's Paramount companions are kept under careful watch, lest someone see them again. The memories linger on however, as does the music. This recording, by Jesse Crawford, preserved on what amounts to a mechanical player piano roll but played on a theater organ, will stir you to the soul --- maybe a bit. Perhaps?

Selections from "Monte Carlo" (1930)

Before closing this post, we again look in on our athletic team (members of the Washington, D.C. Palace Club basketball team) and our instructor seems to have done the trick, perhaps aided by this ethereal 1926 recording of "Maybe" from the stage musical "Oh, Kay!" --- performed by Jesse Crawford and Nat Shilkret leading the Victor Orchestra. Dance on, fellows --- dance on.

"Maybe?" (1926) Jesse Crawford & Orchestra



A novelty in December 1929, now almost
an enforced rule in museums and archives, it seems.

January, 1924

October of 1929, and other more
pressing issues would soon hold sway.

Ironwood, Michigan - 15 May 1930
Anyone check this theater's basement recently?
Connellsville, Pennsylvania - 3 August 1930
They did, indeed, pause the film program to
pipe in the "Amos 'n Andy" radio broadcast.
Manitoba, Canada - 11 October 1930
Can anyone offer any information on this one?

Read more about the Phono Lamp here.
Thanks to reader Mark for the link!

Until next time!