Sunday, January 31, 2016

Primeval Television

The Lost and Rare 2-DVD set of PRIMEVAL TELEVISION is finished and ready to go at Amazon.com and the L&R website. The idea was born about 3 years ago when the Lost & Rare team started accumulating rare early TV shows that were not in the market place and that few had seen or even heard of.

We were encouraged to complete P-TV by recent sales of Industrial Strength America to libraries. Although DVD sales have been declining as more people stream videos off the Internet, libraries continue to want fresh and stimulating films to loan out to patrons. Primeval (meaning very early) Television is a subject that is educational, fascinating and vastly entertaining to almost everyone.

The DVD opens with a narrated introduction  (by partner Derek Myers) to the 16 films in the collection. This doubles as a prevue trailer that you can watch below. The first film is a 1945 documentary about television, rather than an actual TV show, that sets the stage for the 15 shows to come.

Tomorrow Television (1945)
Fascinating documentary looks at television in its infancy: interviews with General David Sarnoff and industry insiders, the science of vacuum tubes and transmission, a look at early studios, sports events and much more. The film was made by Uncle Sam to introduce G.I.s returning from the war to the job openings in the new industry.
Public Prosecutor (1948)
John Howard stars in a 17-minute mystery. This was the first TV episode ever commissioned to be shot ON FILM, instead of broadcast live like all previous shows. "The Case of the Missing Bullets" is the pilot episode filmed in 1947. ABC then ordered 26 episodes which were made in 1948.
The Comic Strips of Television (1948)
Producer Jerry Fairbanks and Jay Ward made this 15-minute pilot with 3 proposed cartoon characters. Crusader Rabbit was the only one picked up and it debuted on Los Angeles TV in 1949 as the first made-for-TV cartoon series. The pilot also has an early Dudley Do-Right and unknown Hamhock Jones cartoon.
Art Linkletter & The Kids (c. 1950)
Before “People Are Funny,” Art talked with kids in 15-minute episodes.
Playhouse 15 (1952)
Anthology series of short dramas that only ran 12 min. to fit in 15 min. time slots. Actor Jack Klugman is featured in one of his earliest TV appearances in “Backfire.”
A Great New Star (1953)
Dinah Shore became a major recording star in the 1940s and appeared on TV from 1951 to 1994. She sings two songs in this early infomercial/promotion for 1953 Chevy cars.
Top Secret (1954)
Few remember this early 12 minute spy film starring Paul Stewart, Gena Rowlands & the first TV computer! 
Felix in the Bone Age (1922/’50)
Silent Felix the Cat cartoons with added music tracks were a staple on early TV, used in kid shows hosted by local talent.
Junior Aces (c. 1950)
We can find no history at all about this children's show about aviation and aircraft. Actor Tom Brown interacts with two onscreen kid sidekicks as well as all the Junior Aces watching at home.
Telenews (1956)
Hearst syndicated this weekly newsreel featuring world events from 1954-1962.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952) First episode of the popular sitcom with Ozzie, Harriet, David & Ricky. A very young David thinks about dating a girl. The only episode released without a laugh track.
Martin Kane, Private Eye (1952)
Lloyd Nolan in a “live” broadcast of detective show, this episode is titled “Dope Pushers.” Nolan also does the commercials live by visiting his favorite tobacco shop.
Ed Wynn Show (1949)
Ed Wynn hosted the first comedy/musical/variety show to be shot in Hollywood where it was staged in front of an audience and telecast live. 16mm kinescopes were then distributed to the rest of the country. Buster Keaton is Ed's guest in this episode.
The Magic Clown (1949)
Children’s show with kids, a clown, magic and "product placement" for Bonomo Turkish Taffy!
Learn to Draw (1950)
Artist Jon Gnagy first appeared live on TV in 1947 drawing an Old Oak Tree. His 15 min. "Learn to Draw" show was widely syndicated 1950 to 1955.
The Beulah Show (1950)
The great Ethel Waters is Beulah, a black maid in a white household. Beulah is the first African-American actress to star in her own TV series. Beulah was later played by Hattie McDaniel and then Louise Beavers.

Enjoy a quick peak at each of the 16 films in Primeval Television:



Executive Producers for Lost and Rare PRIMEVAL TELEVISION are Bob Campbell, Ron Hall and Derek Myers. Visit the Lost and Rare Website.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Lost Cartoons of Carl Urbano

This is a story about discovering some truly lost, unknown and forgotten theatrical quality cartoons directed by Carl Urbano, and a description of those cartoons. I am certain more of these cartoons are out there, so please comment about ones you know and we will update the Urbano filmography in a future “Part 2” of this article in 2016.

Animation director Carl Urbano is widely known and well respected for his Hanna-Barbera television cartoon series and features from 1977 to 1992: The Godzilla Power Hour, Super Friends, The New Fred and Barney Show, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, The Smurfs and many more. In this case, “many more” is an understatement. Just look Carl Urbano up on the IMDB. His early history mentions that he directed “industrial cartoons” for John Sutherland Productions in the 1950s. However, a complete list of the Urbano/Sutherland cartoons from this period does not exist.

Industrial films were produced by major industries and distributed, often for free, as propaganda films to promote their product, such as A is for Atom about our friend atomic energy. They were shown at sales conventions, given to libraries that loaned out 16mm prints, to schools for educational purposes, to TV stations for filler in the 1950s and ‘60s and were sometimes even shown in movie theaters. Even though free, they had to be pretty entertaining and professional or no one outside of car salesmen would watch them. John Sutherland took pride in producing excellent films that theater audiences would enjoy. The purpose and use of such films is excellently stated in this review of Rhapsody of Steel (1959) at IMDB:

The 35mm print was booked into theaters -- that was at a time when cinemas actually SHOWED short-subjects before the feature instead of TV commercials. The 16mm prints (also dye-transfer IB Technicolor) were given to 16mm non-theatrical distributors which specialized in loaning industrial type films like this free of charge to schools and institutions and other non-profit entities. The arrangement benefited the companies that produced them (getting name recognition and sometimes including not-so-subtle advertising content) and it benefited the end-user as it gave schools and the like an inexpensive and welcome means to put together screen entertainment.

Here is how we found 3 lost Urbano cartoons. "We" is me and two partners I work with in a project called "Lost and Rare Film and TV Treasures." Under this banner we have issued DVDs of extremely rare films that are not available anywhere. Our first thematic DVD collections were Sports Immortals, Lost TV Pilots and Golf Mania. The first partner is Bob Campbell, who produced Matinee at the Bijou for PBS in the 1980s. Second is Derek Myers, a film collector and Producer-Director and Senior Video Editor at WGGS TV-16 in Taylors, South Carolina. Derek has a particular knack for finding obscure 16mm films on ebay or private collections that become otherwise available. All three of us specialize in public domain films. 

Early this year Derek acquired a small group of industrial films, which led to us putting six films into a Lost and Rare collection called “Industrial Strength America.” This includes The Columbia (1942) about the building of the Grand Coulee Dam in the state of Washington, featuring three original songs by Woody Guthrie.Unfinished Rainbows (1940, color) tells the story of aluminum and features actor Alan Ladd in his first credited role. Both of these are from the Bijou collection, while Derek supplied the other four films. Born in Freedom: the Story of Colonel Drake(1954, color) is a half-hour story about the drilling of the first oil well and stars Vincent Price. Asphalt Through the Ages (1957, color) tells the story of ... you guessed it ... Asphalt, and is the only routine industrial on the DVD, where in a mere 13 minutes one can learn the fascinating uses of asphalt in building the Tower of Babel and Noah’s Ark, not to mention roads, roofing, etc.

Two Carl Urbano cartoons rounded out the collection. The first is Destination Earth(1956, color) about a martian flying to earth where he discovers the power source of our mobile vehicles - gasoline! This John Sutherland cartoon directed by Carl Urbano is the only one of the six ISA films that is NOT rare, having been issued in numerous cartoon collections and is easily found on youtube. The cartoon is still one of the most entertaining industrials with Hollywood-style animation and many funny cartoon jokes. You can watch Derek’s print here:



The second cartoon that Derek acquired much by accident in that batch of industrial films is Fill ‘Er Up (1959, color). This lively animated tale presented by the Du Pont Chemical Co. blends petroleum history and propaganda along with cartoon gags starring a genii/muscle-man oil drop character. Fortunately the 16mm print had a copyright notice and date on it since many of them do not. It was never registered and so is in the public domain. Here is where the story gets interesting. We tried to research Fill ‘Er Up online but found no information at all - no listing on IMDB by title or under Carl Urbano or John Sutherland. In fact, Jerry Beck was totally unfamiliar with it as well. Long for a cartoon at 12 minutes, the extra time is used to first entertain and then expound on the many benefits of gasoline after you get hooked. Here is the opening that may leave you wanting to see more:




The discovery that Fill ‘Er Up was lost and unknown led us to look for other Urbano/Sutherland industrial cartoons in the collection. Derek says he has boxes of shorts he hasn’t even opened and who knows what treasures might be inside? He does have 16mm copies of these:

Why Play Leap Frog? (1950, color, 10m.) Harding College. No copyright notice or date. Not rare, can be viewed on youtube.

The Devil and John Q (1951, color, 10m.) 1951 copyright on the film, but never registered. RARE.

It’s Everybody’s Business (1954, color, 20m.) Copyrighted by Chamber of Commerce of the United States in cooperation with E.I. du Pont de Nemours. Not rare; on youtube.

Destination Earth (1956, color, 14m.) Produced for American Petroleum Industry. 1956 © notice on the film but not registered. Not rare; on youtube.

Dear Uncle (Color, 9m.) Harding College. No copyright notice or date. No info on Internet. Not on youtube. RARE! Several researchers have found it was made in 1952 or 1953.

Fill ‘Er Up (1959, color, 12m.) © notice on the film by E.I. du Pont de Nemours, but never registered. Previously RARE, but now available on “Industrial Strength America.”

The films fall into two categories. Two are obvious propaganda for the petroleum industry, while the others are public service films sponsored by Harding College. A foreword to Why Play Leap Frog? explains: “This is one of a series of films produced by the Extension Department of Harding College to create a deeper understanding of what has made America the finest place in the world to live.” Another title card says “Fun and Facts About America.” These films were likely aimed at schools since they truly have educational value about american business and economics.

Here is an excerpt from Dear Uncle, which we only recently discovered that we had. Can anyone suggest the year it was made? I would guess early 50s since it has more of a 1940s animation style than the sleeker look of Fill ‘Er Up. The subject is as timely as today’s headlines -- the need to pay taxes.




The third unknown Urbano/Sutherland cartoon that we have is the most interesting one of all. The Devil and John Q (1951) opens with a vivid cartoon depiction of Hell. The Devil himself wants to vex America by spurring inflation and he takes several guises in our world to work his devilish ways. His final disguise is as a southern Senator (a Republican?) who blows his stack. The hero is a meek economist who preaches the need to control inflation.

Derek had two prints of John Q, but only recently did we notice that they were different versions. Producer Jerry Fairbanks acquired the film in the 1970s for the National Education Program (whoever they were) and planned to update and reissue it with different dialog. The revision does not have a date and we don’t know if it was ever released. Fairbanks’ last production was in 1972 and he died in 1995 at the age of 90. The story goes that just a few years ago one of Fairbanks’ storage facilities was being emptied; some friends found out and rescued this film and many priceless early TV shows from a dumpster, then put them on ebay where Derek found them. Yes, that dumpster thing still happens.

Here are the openings to both versions. The 1951 version references Communism, the atom bomb and the Cold War, which have all been removed for 1970 audiences.



Here is a list of Carl Urbano/John Sutherland cartoons that we have been able to compile so far. Since we have in our possession 3 “unknown” ones, we suspect there are a number of others out there. Please comment in this post with corrections or titles and descriptions of additional films. If we get substantial feedback, we will update the list in “The Lost Cartoons of Carl Urbano, Part 2.”

Make Mine Freedom (1948) Harding College. The dangers of Communism. On youtube.

Going Places (1948) Harding College. The profit motive. On youtube

Why Play Leap Frog? (1949, color, 10m.) Harding College. About economics. on youtube.

Meet King Joe (1949) Harding College. Economic propaganda. On youtube.


The Devil and John Q (1951, color, 10m.) 1951 copyright on the film, but never registered. RARE.

Inside Cackle Corners (1951) Co-directed by Urbano and George Gordon.  on youtube

What Makes Us Tick (1952) The New York Stock Exchange. On youtube

A Is For Atom (1952, 15m.) by General Electric Co. on youtube.

It’s Everybody’s Business (1954, 20m.) © by Chamber of Commerce of the United States in cooperation with E.I. du Pont de Nemours. Business economics. On youtube.

Destination Earth (1956, color, 14m.) Produced for American Petroleum Industry. 1956 © notice on the film but not registered. Not rare; on youtube.

Working Dollars (1956) New York Stock Exchange. On youtube

Dear Uncle (1952-'53, color, 9m.) Harding College. No copyright notice or date. No info on Internet. Not on youtube. RARE!

Fill ‘Er Up (1959, color, 12m.) © notice on the film by E.I. du Pont de Nemours, but never registered. Previously RARE, but now available on “Industrial Strength America.”

Rhapsody of Steel (1959) US Steel company  on youtube

And what did Carl Urbano do between Rhapsody in Steel in 1959 and Scooby’s Laff-A Lympics TV show in 1977? 

My thanks to Jerry Beck for encouraging me to write this story for Cartoon Research. Please check out the article there for numerous reader comments about Carl Urbano and John Sutherland.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Meet Rolf Forsberg


Rolf  Forsberg is a fascinating, amazing writer/director of numerous independent short films since 1964. Many of his films are religious in nature, yet told with an avant-garde surrealism suggestive of Fellini and Bergman. THE ANTKEEPER (1966) depicts mankind as antsARK (1970), though made 45 years ago, warns of the dangers of man-made pollution and climate change destroying the world. ONE FRIDAY (1973) is about race warfare told through the eyes of a toddler.

Rolf's very first film is still his most famous -- PARABLE -- since it was made for and shown at the 1964 New York World's Fair as the main attraction in the Protestant and Orthodox Pavilion. It was highly controversial since it depicted Jesus as a circus clown clad all in white. PARABLE was added to the National Film Registry in 2012. Rolf is still with us at age 91 and just completed a writing project. We recently filmed some comments about his life and film legacy. This excerpt will introduce you to the distinguished film director and these four films.



I am a member of "Team Forsberg" dedicated to restoring and reissuing Rolf's best films, and at the same time bringing awareness of him to the film community and rallying new fans. We plan three stages to achieve the goal. First is to release the four films discussed above in Rolf Forsberg Legacy Collection Vol. 1 on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download. Stage 2 will release four more films, probably PEACE CHILD, STALKED, KING OF THE HILL and JESUS ROAST. Eventually we plan to produce a world-class feature documentary about Rolf that will preserve his legacy for future generations.

This is a costly undertaking. So far we have been working on a zero budget. Extensive interviews of Rolf have already been shot. Films are being restored to higher quality than the current excerpts on the website. But we simply can't finish Stage 1 without some financial assistance. For that purpose an Indiegogo campaign began on Oct. 2. If it succeeds, then Volume 1 will be released in November of this year.

          "Most of the films I've made are very much products of the Sixties, as I am. I feel that the span between 1963 and 1971 was one of spiritual seeking, and of iconoclasm. Billy Graham was the leading evangelist throughout the entire world. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Christian clergyman, led mass marches for justice and equality. Theologians made the covers of Time Magazine. And the Beatles sang poetry. We have nothing like it today." 
-- Rolf Forsberg, June 2015

If you are intrigued about the films of Rolf Forsberg in the two video clips on this page, you can help immensely by doing one of more of these:


  • Visit the Rolf Forsberg website to learn more about Rolf and his filmography.
  • Visit Rolf Forsberg on Facebook and "Like" him.
  • Visit the Rolf Indiegogo campaign and purchase one of the inexpensive "Perks."
  • Share posts from the Facebook page on your own timeline or other FB groups.
  • Refer any friends who might be interested to this blog, FB, website or Indiegogo


Here is an excerpt from PARABLE (1964):



-- Ron Hall, for Team Forsberg

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Gospel Films Direct

Gospel Films Archive is a growing library of  rare and forgotten Christian films from the 1930s thru the 1970s. They include TV series such as "The Christophers," "This is the Life" and "Crossroads," feature films like "Martin Luther," "Reaching from Heaven" and "The Great Commandment" along with literally hundreds of short films made to be shown in churches and on television to tell stories from the Bible, inspire Missionary work or simply explore the problems of Christians in a modern world. All are professionally produced using Hollywood directors and actors. They hold up extremely well today since the stories are timeless, yet few remember the films or know where to view them today.

Gospel Films Archive is an ongoing project with partners Bob Campbell, Derek Myers and myself, Ron Hall. We owe a great debt to distributor Vision Video for issuing our first 7 DVD releases with a special Children's Collection coming soon.

We are dedicated to educating the public about the films such that they want to see them. We continue to explore getting them on religious TV networks where they could be widely enjoyed. We are seeking grants so we can restore and stream them on the Internet or give away DVDs to all interested parties. A long range plan includes a documentary about these "lost" Gospel films that should be fascinating to secular film fans as well as Christians.

Regarding DVD sales, video rental stores are ancient history while Beta machines and Laser Discs are mere whispers. Present viewing trends include free streaming on youtube or subscription streaming on Netflix, Hulu and similar venus, or viewing on Watch TCM, Amazon Prime or HBO-GO. With the exception of TCM, none of these venus stream many vintage films, no matter how good, and especially not religious films that few have ever heard of.

Another delivery method which we hope is the wave of the present and future (because we have jumped in with our clothes on) is ... Ta-Dah!

Video-On-Demand
under the new GFA label
GOSPEL FILMS DIRECT

Anyone with a computer, iPhone, iPad or other device can rent a film for 24 hour viewing at the affordable price of $1.99 or purchase for unlimited viewing for $3.99. The company that hosts our new Gospel Films Direct VOD product line is Christian Cinema, who is currently expanding into Video on Demand in a big way. Christian Cinema sends out weekly emails to 85,000 and has a well visited Facebook page. They will promote our weekly releases far better than we ever could via the GFA Facebook page and website.

Our ambitious plan, which we are well into, is to release 3 new films every week. Here is a preview trailer of the first four  GFD releases: "A Christian in Communist China," "Africa and Schweitzer," "The Gospel Blimp" and a double feature of "This Is The Life" TV episodes. These may be rented or bought from Christian Cinema today:



Three more films were released the week of August 10. First is the 1955 Christophers production of "Lincoln Speaks for Himself," introduced by Danny Thomas with closing comments by Father James Keller. Actor Reed Hadley excels with a commanding voice as he delivers speeches from throughout the career of Abraham Lincoln. Stock footage from Lincoln's era plus new staged scenes enhance the high production values. Hadley was familiar to 1950s TV audiences through his lead roles in "Racket Squad" and "Public Defender," while action fans might remember him as Zorro in "Zorro's Fighting Legion" (1939).

"Empty Shoes" (1956, color) is the story of missionary William Carey who was the first englishman to bring the Gospel to India in the late 1700s. The final film in GFD's "Trio #2" is "Charlie Churchman and the Teenage Masquerade" (1967). Charlie is modeled after silent comedian Charlie Chaplin and is full of genuinely funny slapstick. In this episode Charlie volunteers to be youth director for his church and learns of the real problems facing teenagers behind the masks they currently wear.

Here is the preview trailer for those three films:



Click on Gospel Films Direct Videos on Demand and you will see all our releases to date! Once there, click on any poster/film and you can both read about it and view a trailer.



We invite you to browse these relevant and related links:

Vision Video's Gospel Films Archive Page
Christian Cinema
Christian Cinema's Gospel Films Direct Page
Gospel Films Archive Website
Gospel Films Archive Facebook




Saturday, June 6, 2015

Lost & Rare: INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH AMERICA

Partners Bob Campbell, Derek Myers and myself launched the Lost & Rare Film and TV Treasures series in 2013 with 4 releases: Lost TV Pilots, Sports Immortals, Golf Mania and Heavenly Christmas Film Classics. Each contained films which were truly rare, not out on youtube or DVD, and were often unknown to even the most ardent film fans. Finding such "Lost" films and organizing them thematically is quite exciting, but we don't find them every day!

"Industrial Strength America" contains 6 historic energy propaganda films (listed below) from the 1940s and 1950s. Regardless of one's opinion on fracking or oil pipelines today, 70 years ago few opposed the extraction or use of petroleum, aluminum and other natural resources since the products greatly increased our quality of life and the industries created jobs that built a great nation. Hundreds of such films were made and are called "Industrial Films" since industries produced them to promote good will in their products. They can also be called "public service" films since they educated the public and were distributed freely (and maybe for free) to schools and movie theaters.

5 are in color and all 6 are filmed to Hollywood standards. Born in Freedom (1954) tells an entertaining story about the first oil well and stars Vincent Price, with Andy Clyde and Alan Hale Jr. in prominent roles. Unfinished Rainbows features Alan Ladd in his first credited screen role, and in color no less. (B-western fans might spot villain Charles King in a late scene.) Fill 'Er Up and Destination Earth are superbly animated Technicolor cartoons by Carl Urbano -- Earth is quite funny and Fill 'Er Up by the future director of The Jetsons has a good share of jokes as well. Asphalt Through the Ages and The Columbia are more traditional documentaries, except The Columbia soundtrack is by folk legend Woody Guthrie who sings three original songs.

We feel we truly have a release that will appeal to film fans, history buffs, schools and library patrons. Our main marketing will be to libraries. Here is more information on the six films.


Here are some preview scenes from each of the 6 "Lost and Rare" films that are lost no more:



"Industrial Strength America" DVD is available now for $19.95 from Festival Films. Visit the Lost & Rare website to order and for more information on all our releases.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Edgar, Charlie & Fin

MAJOR EDGAR KENNEDY NEWS!


We have proposed to Turner Classic Movies that they present an EDGAR KENNEDY DAY Tribute, featuring Edgar biographer Bill Cassara as co-host. The response from TCM was extremely encouraging, concluding with "I do think there’s a very good chance we can make this happen." No date has been set and "Edgar Day on TCM" is not assured, but it seems highly likely. TCM often holds such tributes on a star's birthday, and Edgar's birthday was ... last week! So look forward to April 29, 2016 (a Tuesday) to see 12 hours of Edgar on TCM.
TCM can include in the tribute classic Hal Roach shorts with Edgar plus features already in their library like San Francisco, Duck Soup, A Star is Born, Unfaithfully Yours and My Dream is Yours with Doris Day.
To flesh out an Edgar Day tribute, we are offering TCM 8 of Edgar's best RKO shorts and several feature films that are not in TCM's library. FLIRTING WITH DANGER (1934) is one Edgar feature we are offering TCM. Three brash and cocky TNT powder mixers -- Robert Armstrong, Edgar Kennedy and William Cagney -- are sent to South America to work at a dynamite plant. This scene shows Edgar mixing a powder batch while his fellow TNT cohorts are busy romancing.


You can help make TCM Edgar Day happen by posting Likes and Comments to Edgar's Facebook page to show TCM your enthusiasm, Like Edgar on Facebook and invite your friends to do the same: https://www.facebook.com/edgarkennedyshow.

Hal Roach friend, collector and expert Richard Bann presented a program of rare Roach shorts at the final Syracuse Cinefest #35 in March. The excited and large audience was treated to 3 Edgar shorts that none of us had seen before. First was the Spanish language version of the Our Gang comedy "When the Wind Blows" (1930). In the early sound era Roach filmed many of the Laurel and Hardy and Our Gangs in French, Spanish and Italian versions for the foreign markets. Jackie Cooper, Mary Anne Jackson, Wheezer and the other kids actually spoke Spanish one line at a time without knowing what they were saying. The most convincing and very funny Spanish delivery was by Edgar as Kennedy the Cop as he tromps through a dark and windy night trying to catch burglars.


"Crazy Feet" (1929) is an early Charley Chase talkie that only recently had its sound track restored to the picture. When Thelma Todd is struggling with Eddie Dunn in her car, Charley comes to help her. Kennedy the Cop shows up and mistakes Charley for the trouble maker, so Edgar shadows Charley the rest of the film as he tries out various vaudeville acts with Thelma.


"Dad's Day" was a 1929 Roach All-Star film starring Edgar as a beleaguered father with a teenage daughter and son and their boyfriend and girlfriend. The whole family goes to the beach for the day, but still no respect for poor dad as he loses his bathing suit among other trials. Charlie Hall supervises the changing room and gets to call Edgar "Baldie." The plot is like a pilot film for Edgar's RKO Average Man series, except the family dynamic lacks chemistry. Roach liked Edgar and proposed a Kennedy series to MGM, but their theaters said viewers did not want Edgar. How wrong they were! So Roach started a Harry Langdon series instead, Edgar moved to RKO under Harry Sweet's guidance and the rest is history.

Laurel and Hardy's little nemesis, Charlie Hall, appeared in cameo roles in 12 of Edgar's RKO shorts, including our recent acquisition "Slightly at Sea" (1940). This is one of the mid-series films with Vivien Oakland as Edgar's wife and short Bill Franey as his father-in-law. Jack Rice plays brother-in-Law in what may be his only film as Franey's son. The series truly tried every combination and this plot required Brother. The funniest gag with Charlie Hall. The joy the two veteran's show playing against each other is clearly evident.




Changing subjects drastically to the Roy Rogers 1948 Trucolor western Grand Canyon Trail... Although the film is in the public domain like more than 60 of Roy's Republic westerns, I had never gotten a decent copy before and so had never watched the film or sold it. It was shot and first shown in Trucolor, which is similar to Cinecolor withou a true blue. However, when Republic released the roy's to TV in the 1950s they only issued it in black and white and DESTROYED all of the color elements, so it is no longer thought to exist in color.

A big surprise in Grand Canyon Trail is the appearance of Jimmy Finlayson as a sheriff in his last scripted and credited comic role. Fin only shows up in the last 8 minutes but zings in some funny one-liners and has comic business with sets of hand cuffs.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Strange Case of O. HENRY PLAYHOUSE

THE O. HENRY PLAYHOUSE was a single season, half-hour anthology TV show released in 1957. No one has seen the show since 1957 or the limited run in syndication shortly thereafter. There are no episodes out on DVD and none on youtube other than the excerpt you can view down below. All episodes are clearly in the public domain since none were registered with the Library of Congress when the show was released to TV. A 1957 show would also need to be renewed 28 years later, and there are naturally no renewals with Library of Congress since no episodes were registered in the first place.

Late last year a large collection of original network 16mm prints fell into my hands. I was contacted by a TV station manager that I work with who had been given 250 prints from the series. I offered to give him free transfers of each episode in exchange for the right to sell them elsewhere. In due course all 250 prints were shipped off via FedEx to Derek Myers, who received quite a shipment as you can see in all the boxes surrounding him.

Inside these boxes were indeed 250 multiple prints of only 39 episodes. There were 17 copies of the first episode alone -- "The Reformation of Calliope!" This western story features an all-star cast of Ernest Borgnine, Dick Foran, Beverly Garland and Elisha Cooke, that amazingly no one has seen since 1957!

How many episodes of THE O. HENRY PLAYHOUSE were made remains a mystery. The IMDB says 39 and we have 39. 39 is also a common number for a 1950s TV season, as in 39 episodes of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" and "Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans."

O. Henry
However, the Classic TV Archive lists 42 episodes and a question mark about a few additional ones (which seem to be re-titled versions of ones in the 39). The 3 titles CTVA lists that we do not have are "Tobin's Palms" (© 5/16/57), "The Count and the Wedding Guest" (©5/20/57) and "The Gentle Grafter" (© 5/23/57). A closer inquiry reveals these are copyright dates by Doubleday for the film scripts and not for the films themselves. CTVA lists cast or plot synopsis for all episodes except these three. Since no one has seen the show in recent years, their synopses must have come from old issues of TV Guide. This suggests the 3 shows in question were never listed in TV Guide, never ran on TV and possibly were never even made. We seem to have every episode that was syndicated to TV, and very possibly every episode in the entire series.

Veteran character actor Thomas Mitchell stars in each episode as writer O. Henry himself. In stories that are period pieces like westerns, he discusses with his publisher where he got the idea for the story. But in stories of old New York, Mitchell/O. Henry interacts with the story and meets his characters as he supposedly discovers first hand the story he will later write. In some he tells the story to his publisher and meets up with the real characters at the end of the episode. This rather unique story telling method is made possible by the fame of the author himself and the audience's presumed desire to learn where each story came from, plus the professionalism of actor Thomas Mitchell who makes it all credible.

Thomas Mitchell
Anthologies were quite popular in the 1950s, from Four Star Playhouse to Climax, Suspense, Studio One, One Step Beyond and others. The O' Henry Playhouse is an anthology series, meaning that each show has a complete story and often notable guest stars. Some of the famous actors are paired with others one would never suspect worked together, like Louis Hayward and Johnny Crawford in "Hearts and Hands," DeForest Kelly and Jackie Coogan in "Fog in Santone" and John Carradine and Charles Bronson in "Two Renegades."

The film clip below is from "Two Renegades." First O. Henry visits Civil War vet and doctor John Carradine who is about to be executed 40 years after the end of the war. He then visits his publisher when soldier of fortune and yankee Charles Bronson shows up to say hello. O. Henry continues relating how Carradine saved Bronson's life when he had jungle fever in latin america and they become unlikely friends. When Bronson is arrested as an insurgent, Carradine bribes his captors with confederate money to get him released, but fails to leave the country before the deception is discovered, and is hence sentenced to death.




The 39 episodes of THE O. HENRY PLAYHOUSE are not yet for sale. I hope to sell the entire collection to a DVD company that will promote them the way they deserve, and make many sales to libraries, to the education market, to the O. Henry Museum in Austin, as well as to fans of vintage television. Since the stories are also in the public domain, a book collecting some of the stories that were made into TV shows could easily be included for added value. It is quite rare for a TV series unseen for close to 60 years to suddenly turn up. It will come as quite a surprise to the many O'Henry fans out there who at this moment are unaware that many of his classic stories were ever filmed.