Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Youtube Channel - Video Surprises!

Yes, I have a Youtube channel.  I never planned to have one.  I don't promote it.  It's just kind of there.  Where?  Well, let's see, it seems to be exactly HERE!  It was started April 18, 2009 and currently has 69 videos.  The videos were put up for various reasons:

To promote series like the Saturday Matinees.
To illustrate topics discussed in my blog.
To post videos that Matinee at the Bijou could embed in their blog.
To post to my Facebook page.
A few copyrighted shorts just for fun.
For future projects not yet announced (and maybe never will be)
As Movie Memories sample pieces.

The most watched video may be First Buck Rogers Film with over 3,100 views. This 8 minute film is embedded on one of my web pages that promotes the free sample DVD, but most views likely come from Youtube searches for Buck Rogers.

Second most watched is amazingly a copyrighted Screen Song cartoon Candy Cabaret that I only put up on Aug. 5, 2011 when I was researching the color bouncing ball cartoons. It's a lot of fun so go and watch it! 1954 Paramount "Noveltoon" cartoon. Although no longer called a "Screen Song" cartoon, it does feature a Sing-Along with the Bouncing Ball to the 1927 song "Ain't She Sweet." The final Bouncing Ball came along in 1963: "Hobo's Holiday." I believe it has gotten so many views because some other cartoon sites on Youtube have linked to it. They "monetize" views thru their site and so make money off my posting. Hey, folks, it's copyrighted and youtube or whoever owns the cartoon or the music could take it down someday.

I won't rewrite the above so you can see my surprise here when I just noticed that another Screen Song -- The Circus Comes to Town -- has had 4,250 views!  1947 Paramount/Famous Studios cartoon is the first official entry (of 38) in the revived "Screen Songs" series. It was preceded by five color Bouncing Ball sing-alongs. The song is "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze." Same story as for Candy Cabaret. I found I had and posted on Youtube for fun and it turns out the cartoon was not up there already so other sites linked to it.

It is inscrutable - beyond reason -- why this has been watched 1,140 times Main title Only to Paramount's color "Screen Song" series, with the Paramount Mountain with clouds background logo. I thought I was re-creating the original opening, but the only comment I got was from a better expert on the subject who has a youtube channel called Paramountcartoons, who said I got it wrong. I wrote him, but received no reply. So perhaps I should have taken the video down, but left it up and all those folks have watched it since August.

Recent videos put online at youtube:

Most Boring Scene Ever that was filmed for a Hollywood movie, from "Mystery Liner." This is for a DVD project of boring scenes to be marketed as a sleep aid -- "Sleeperzzz - Guaranteed to Put You to Sleep!" More about this later, or maybe not unless I can find someone to promote it in a big way as a Christmas present with the same camp appeal as that old Pet Rock!

Our Gang in "Good Cheer." The only Christmas themed Our Gang short was this gem from 1926 about a gang of thieves dressed as Santas. Where did Hal Roach get all that realistic looking snow? I put my copy of this up so I could share on Facebook. I just watched it again last night and see that some footage is missing that explains why or how a gang of crooks are dressed up as Santa Claus. Our Gang expert Dick Bann wrote me that this one is very hard to get a good copy of. So if he doesn't have a great one, probably no one does.

A number of recently posted videos are for a Matinee at the Bijou webpage that will discuss a typical sample show in a planned revival of the 1980's PBS hit show. Much more on this as it evolves. The four pieces of film I put on Youtube for this purpose are:

Roy Rogers & Serial Trailers
Edgar Kennedy short Hold Your Temper.
First 15 minutes of the Joe E. Brown feature When's Your Birthday.
Joe E. Brown in drag from the same film.

Also for Christmas is Rosemary Clooney sings for Christmas Seals was posted for Facebook friends. Please take a look if interested! And finally I only recently became aware that I had an Abbott and Costello Christmas show on Colgate Comedy Hour.

Visit my website at Festival Films

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Santa Claus is Coming to Town!

It's that time of year again, a joyous time to bring back holiday memories by showing the old films.  Christmas really is a time to recall childhood and happy times, and what better way for the older generation than to re-watch TV shows you might have seen in the 1950s?   For all you youngies, take a chance.  They still offer timeless entertainment and holiday spirit that never ages.

Virtually every TV series in the 1950s created special Christmas themed shows year after year, including Robin Hood, Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion, Four Star Playhouse, Racket Squad, Burns and Allen and more. The TV shows that I offer can be found on various DVDs HERE or on posters that promote Christmas Programs for movie theaters, TV stations or home viewing.

The poster on the right gathers the very best of the best, or ones guaranteed to entertain and uplift today.  A Howdy Doody Christmas is silly but short -- Howdy and Buffalo Bob fly to the North Pole to rescue Santa, all in 8 minutes.  Santa's Surprise is the first Little Audry cartoon; she and some ethnic friends from around the world stow away in Santa's sleigh and give him a big present back at the Pole.  Betty White always delights, and in this 1957 episode of "Date with the Angels" she works in a department store where the aged Santa starts giving away all the presents.  In a rare episode of Ozzie and Harriet from 1953, The Miracle, Ozzie recalls a childhood Christmas incident.  Ricky plays Oz in the flashback while Ozzie and Harriet play his parents and David is his brother.  Um, don't try to figure that out, but do try to see it someday.  "Christmas Shopping Show" is a hilarious Jack Benny Show in which he shops for a present but sends clerk Mel Blanc to the loony bin.  In "Cop and the Anthem," Red Skelton as Freddy the Freeloader tries to break into jail Christmas Eve to get a good meal.

All of these are included in the 13 DVD volumes listed later on the page, so get one for the best shows or get em all like a small TV station did this past week.  They plan to run a segment of TV shows, cartoons or features every day until Christmas, starting as soon as they get them this coming week.

Lots of other good shows are on the other discs like Our Gang in "Good Cheer" (1926) on Volume 13:

On Christmas Eve, it's bitter cold in a raging snowstorm. (How did they do that on the Roach lot?) Poverty and misery are shaking hands. The gang enjoys what they can: watching a Santa in a toy-shop window and smelling bread baking. But hope is in short supply when Joe says that all Santas are fake. The kids ask the shoemaker who tells them Santa is real, you just have to wish hard enough. Mickey and Jackie want to make the younger kids' Christmas happy; the Spirit of Santa helps them out by giving them an idea to sell hot bricks to peddlers, beat cops, and others stuck outside. With the money, they buy presents to distribute that night. Meanwhile, the Mob is using a dozen fake Santas to steal toys; the police force them down a chimney right where the Gang lives, so.... 

Also on this disc is a DuPont Theater episode from 1956 "Three Young Kings."  As part of the Christmas festivities in a Latin-American village, 3 youngsters dressed as the Magi traditionally distribute gifts to other children whose parents purchased the presents. But one year passing through the poor section of town they give all the gifts away to the truly needy.
You can watch all of these and more for free soon -- hey, it's Christmas time -- on Flictopia.

Visit my website at  Festival Films

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lines & Fines & Sid Melton

Beloved character actor Sid Melton died on Nov. 2 at the age of 94.  I heard about Sid's death a few weeks ago while listening to the "Alex Bennett" radio show.  Alex mentioned that celebrities always seem to die in 3s, and the current deaths were Andy Rooney, Joe Frazier and Sid Melton.  Who doesn't fit in this group?  The first two!

Yup, that's Sid on the left.  If you ever enjoyed 1950s TV, then you often spotted Sid and said something like, "Oh, there's that guy again!"  I first knew him as sidekick "Ikky" on the Jet Jackson show.  Sid can be spotted unbilled from 1941's "Shadow of the Thin Man" to "White Heat," "Knock On Any Door" and "On the Town."  Features in which he did have a part were Sam Fuller's war classic "Steel Helmets," the sci-fi clunker "Lost Continent" and "Lemon Drop Kid" with Bob Hope.  His salary in all three of these was $140 per week.

"For years I auditioned for producers and directors who would fall on the floor laughing, but then I'd never hear from them again. Go ask them why I'm not working. Believe me, there's a lot more to working steadily than being a name and delivering the laughs. There's a certain--let's call it kowtowing--that I'm not prepared to do." -- Sid Melton

Sid was short at only 5-4, and remarkably ... remarkable looking, but we loved him anyways.  He provided long-standing comic relief for Danny Thomas on his classic TV show as Charlie Halper, owner of the Copa Club where Danny performed. Eventually Pat Carroll was added to the cast playing Halper's wife Bunny. Frequently kidding with the press, he told reporters he got the part of Charlie because Sid was the only person Thomas could find that was homelier than he was.

So Sid has passed on.  Name another character actor from the 1950s who is still with us.  OK, how about Frank Cady at age 96.  Frank played Doc Williams on Ozzie and Harriet and had numerous appearances   on Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction.  But I defy you to recall the image of Frank Cady as easily as Sid's unforgettable kisser, so back to Sid...

I have a pretty incredible TV show called "Lines and Fines" thanks to my friend Derek Myers.  At first glance it seems to be a game show similar to "I've Got a Secret."  Then you think it's a spoof when they say at the very start, "The greatest brains in show business" which turn out to be Sid Melton, Mike Mazurki, Gretchen Wyler, George Tobias and quiz mistress Pat Tillman.  But no, it's really the world's first infomercial.  Every single question is about Admiral Refrigerators.  The inane questions and fake answers will leave your mouth agape.  Here is a short sample:

We sold the one and only episode of "Lines and Fines" to Alpha video some time ago, so look for it to someday appear as a bonus on some release or other.

Visit my website at

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Surprising Stuff!

So, B-Western fans, do you ever wonder why you have seen lots of Buster Crabbes and Bob Steeles but very few Lash LaRues or Tim Holts?  The answer, other than that perhaps I have no western readers, is that many films starring the first two cowboys are in the public domain, while no Tim Holts from Columbia are PD and only one Lash LaRue from PRC.  I knew about the Tim Holt films, and saw a few of them on TCM a few years ago.  They are just inexpensive B-westerns like so many others and not as enjoyable as many, though that could be because of unfamiliarity.

I was surprised this week to discover that "Law of the Lash" starring guess who is the only PD Lash cowboy film.  I did not happen to have it, but do now.  I also found out that Lash had a short-lived TV series in 1953 called "Lash of the West."  I screened one poor quality chapter that seems to have survived.  It opens with Lash discussing one of his adventures with two guys, who may have acted in the films with Lash, then cuts to highlights from one of his Columbia films, who knows which?  They are 15 minute segments so you can't cram in as much as the half-hour Gabby Hayes Show managed.  At the end of a chase they return to talk, but the show is about over.

Codger with mustache: "I'm sure glad that Trader Joe got what was coming to him, but what was on that stagecoach the outlaws wanted?"

Younger guy: "I want to find out what Lash did with the man behind it all.  I think he knows too."

Lash: "Yes, I'm sure he does, but I'll have to tell you all about it next time.  I'll see you all real soon."


Switching gears radically, the very nice, original German still, from Metropolis shown here just sold at auction by How much?  $6,820.  Now that surprised me?  What is the top price paid for any 8x10" glossy still?  I will close with their lengthy description of this rare and pricey item:

"Note that this is an extremely rare "country of origin" still for this German movie! It has the UFA logo at bottom right, the "Parufamet" logo at lower left, and a faint embossed German "approved" stamp in the top right! Also note that this German still measures 9 1/4" x 11 3/4" [23 x 30 cm]. Also note that original German movie paper of any kind from this classic movie is incredibly rare and ultra expensive (the most expensive movie poster ever sold is the original German three-sheet from this movie!). 

On November 2, 2010, we auctioned four other original German Metropolis stills, and they auctioned for $4005, $585, $545, and $310, and on September 18, 2011, we auctioned five additional stills (one of them was a duplicate of the one we auctioned for $310) from the same consignor (who has had them for many decades) and those five auctioned for between $311 and $881. Now, our consignor has given us their remaining 12 stills, and we are auctioning six of them (in separate auctions) in these Halloween auctions, and the final six of them will be auctioned in our December Mini/Major Auction. 

Note that of all the 21 Metropolis stills owned by this collector, only TWO showed an image of the iconic robot (the one we auctioned on 11/2/10 for $4005, and the one we are auctioning in this current Halloween set of auctions!)."

In the same auction they sold an original German program for Metropolis for $3,105. One of the interior pages is reprinted here.

From Lash LaRue to Metropolis, always something old that's new comes to light.  Love it!

Visit my website at

-- Ron Hall

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Black History Month -- Every Day!

Introducing ToonWhiz Pictures, a great idea with a promising future.  First off, Toon-Whiz has an illustrious past before the new venture I became involved with about three weeks ago.  You can read about founder and CEO Troy Walker HERE and follow the link on that page to his listing on Wikipedia where it says: 

Troy Walker is an American cartoonish, toy inventor, creative producer and founder of TWP Cartoon Studios. Walker is best known for creating off beat cartoon characters. He got his first commercial break with the wacky children's novelty fad, Hairy Pops finger puppets, used for promotion by the Supercuts chain of hair salons. 

Troy Walker's mother Williejean was the young black girl eating a watermelon in an iconic advertising image from the 1940s.  When Troy described it to me, the picture came right into my head:

I know ToonWhiz Pictures as a storefront theater at 155 Filbert Street in the tourist section of downtown Oakland, CA.  I have never walked around that area, but I get the impression it is the Oakland equivalent of Hollywood Boulevard or San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.  In other words, large crowds of tourists visit the area shops and restaurants and take in tourist attractions like Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

ToonWhiz offers something unique -- a rare chance to watch vintage African-American / Black Heritage films from Hollywood's golden era.
The theater has been open a short while on weekends and does get walk-in customers.  It is currently expanding from something like 20 seats before a large-screen TV to 80 seats watching projected films.  Admission is inexpensive.  While the details are sketchy to me, I do know the films well because I am supplying them, posters and DVDs to sell.

For the walk-in tourists they wanted a short show that has quickly evolved into the one on this poster.  The Puppetoon "Jasper in a Jam" opens, followed by Soundies with Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole -- then a Popcorn Intermission break where they make the real money -- Cab Calloway doing "Minnie the Moocher" and closing with Lena Horne's two-reeler "Boogie Woogie Dream" with Teddy Edwards Orchestra.  It runs about 45 minutes with the Intermission.

That show is designed to run during the day when they can usher in a new audience every hour, or folks can enter in the middle of the show, I guess, if it isn't full.  Then in the evening ToonWhiz plans longer programs with shorts and features.  I have already prepared these shows:

1)  Cab Calloway's Hi-De-Ho with "Jasper in a Jam" and Duke Ellington's "Symphony in Black."
2)  Paul Robeson's "Emperor Jones" with cartoon and Bessie Smith in "St. Louis Blues."
3)  Louis Jordan's "Reet, Petite and Gone" with cartoon "Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat" and Cab Calloway's "Jitterbug Party."
4)  Lena Horne in "The Duke is Tops" with cartoon "Inki and the Minah Bird" and Ethel Waters in "Bubbling Over."
5)  Black Toon Festival.

I am also preparing the last one as a Festival Films release that will appear in my Cartoon Section soon.  Some of the cartoons do contain offensive images by today's standards, so I put the following statement at the head of my program: "Some black caricatures in cartoons of the 1930s and '40s may be offensive to some today.  The images of mammys, spooks, watermelons, Uncle Tom and Little Black Sambo were neither true nor funny.  However, the cartoons are presented here for their perspective on a part of black history that society has moved far beyond."

Troy Walker, definitely black and proud of it, has a more liberal viewpoint that requires little apology.  This is expressed in the foreword to each ToonWhiz program, as you can see in this video.  The music selection is Paul Whiteman conducting his orchestra in "Mammy."


Visit my website at Festival Films

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Supreme Court Ponders On....

The ten-year lawsuit I have been a part of, now called "Golan Vs. Holder," was argued in the Supreme Court on Oct. 5. To recap briefly, in 1995 Congress passed a law that allowed foreign countries to restore copyrights to films that were in the public domain in the USA, films I had been selling from Metropolis to Grand Illusion to Seventh Seal.  The Constitution says that once works fall into the public domain they can not be removed from it.

Ten years later, the ultimate hearing.  I knew Oct. 5 was the date, but had heard nothing from Stanford Law School on or afterward, so I finally searched for news on the Internet. As I should have known, legal arguments take place at that level on one day and decisions are announced some time later. We are still waiting.  Here is an excellent summation of what took place that day:

U.S. Supreme Court Building - H 2011
Alex Wong/Getty Images
The United States Supreme Court today considered arguments in Golan v. Holder, one of the most important copyright cases in the country's history and a case that will decide whether millions of creative works, including early-to-mid 20th century foreign masterpieces from H.G. WellsFritz LangFrederico Fellini, and Igor Stravinsky, will be copyrighted or in the public domain.
The issue presented in the case is whether the U.S. government wrongfully took many foreign works out of the public domain and violated the free speech rights of the American public by joining an international treaty.
The named plaintiff in the case is an orchestral conductor named Lawrence Golan, who wished to create a derivative work based on compositions by Dmitri Shostakovich, but found himself out of luck after the U.S. led a new international treaty signed in Uruguay in 1994 that harmonized many intellectual property laws around the globe.
The moves established copyright protection in the U.S. for some foreign authors who either never enjoyed it or whose initial copyright term had elapsed without renewal, which upset many educators, performers, publishers, film archivists, and some motion picture distributors, who joined with Golan in fighting the removal of important works from the public domain.
At the hearing today, Anthony Falzone of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society represented the petitioners and argued that Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) violated the U.S. Constitution, particularly the Copyright Clause ("to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts...") and the First Amendment.
"The progress of science corresponds roughly to the creation and spread of knowledge and learning," said Falzone today. "A statute that does nothing, like this one, does nothing but take old works out of the public domain without any impact or prospective incentives, cannot stimulate the creation of anything...All it can do is restrict the spread of things."
Advocates for the other side argue that Congress was perfectly within its right to ratify the treaty, and many interested parties including large Hollywood companies and trade associations believe that the URAA went a long way to bolstering copyright protection around the world. 
At the hearing today, representing the side of the respondents, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verilli told the justices,  "The policy-making branches of our government decided we needed to be, and was in the national interest, to be part of the international copyright system."
Verilli argued the treaty was merely intended to "rectify a problem" for foreign authors -- not establish perpetual copyright terms or make new protection on terms that had run its course.
But Verilli encountered deep skepticism from several justices who questioned whether extending copyright protection backwards offered real incentives for artists to create.
Talking about foreign authors who come to the United States to market works already created, Justice Scalia mused, "It makes more money for the guy who wrote it, but doesn't incentivize anybody."
Justice Roberts also admitted that he found the petitioner's arguments to be appealing on an "intuitive level."
"One day I can perform Shostakovich," he said. "Congress does something, the next day I can't. Doesn't that present a serious First Amendment problem?"
Verilli answered that it wasn't so simple, and that Congress had made changes to the copyright system before that may have interfered with speech once freely enjoyed.
For his part, Falzone also was peppered with tough questions, particularly from Justice Ginsburg, who seemed to accept the viewpoint that the treaty was meant to rectify a problem. The justice wondered whether the copyright term ever really began for foreign authors and questioned why they shouldn't receive the same protections that American authors get.
Justice Ginsburg asked: "We are talking about Shostakovich, Stravinski, and I say: Well, what's wrong with giving them the same time that Aaron Copland got?"
During the hearing, Falzone warned that if the Supreme Court upholds the treaty, it could potentially open the door to more actions from Congress.
All Congress would need to do to move Alexis de Tocquieville's 19th century books out of the public domain, he argued as an example, would be to extend existing copyright terms 100 years and apply it retroactively. 
Falzone warned about the consequences of such an event. "Then you never know if you've reached the limit or not," he told the justices.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lotsa Ideas! Lotsa Projects!

I have been pretty silent on this blog the last six weeks.  To anyone who has checked in to Nothing New, my apology.  I've just been busy with a lot of diverse projects.  No time!  I'm late!  Ta, ta, I must be going.  OK, here's just a bit about a lot, and more cookin' in the oven, with further reports when each project gets a goin'.

I met with a man who wants to start an All-Comedy Internet site.  When his father was dying with cancer over an extended period his main relief was watching vintage comedy, so the son would like to make laughter more available to hospitals.  I found out about "Laughing Rooms" in hospitals, still experimental, where patients can gather together to laugh at videos.  The same idea might be popular with retirement homes so I put together 4 programs I currently call "Lotsa Laffs!" Each 2-hour DVD has one hour of short comedy highlights designed to be a single movie session for seniors. One hour at a time seems to be ideal for this audience. The second hour is composed of two classic comedy TV shows from the 1950s. You can see the complete line-up of the four volumes  HERE.

I have a new plan for creating the next volumes of Movie Memories, which is to first find and gather short segments along a theme, then turn into MM segments and lastly put together balanced programs.  So operating helter-skelter like I often proceed, I put cars, trains, travelogs and small town documentaries from the 1940s and 50s onto 3 DVDs that I call "See the USA."  It is ready to sell on its own if I ever put it on my website, or the segments are ready to have questions added to become Movie Memories.

I have turned most of the Paramount Color Screen Song cartoons into Movie Memories with the 4 questions at the end.  I did not bother with a few that would be deemed racist today.  "Camptown Races" features the all-star animal case of hippos, elephants, dogs, etc. in black face putting on a minstrel show! "Jingle, Jangle, Jungle" also has black stereotypes and you can imagine the jokes in "Heap, Hep, Injuns."

I also started a new project of collecting Musical Soundies from the 1940s.  These are 3-minute musical films that were played on juke boxes called Panorams, as per the charming photo on the left.  Major swing and jazz musicians like Jimmy Dorsey, Stan Kenton, Gene Krupa, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller and Cab Calloway made Soundies.  Doris Day, Alan Ladd and Cyd Charisse made their first film appearances in Soundies.  Anyone interested in Soundies sinply must get "The Soundies Book" by Scott MacGillivray and Ted Okuda.  Try!

Some I have so far are merely copycat Soundies that probably played in the same machines.  Rudy Valle sings "Lydia, the Tatooeed Lady," for example.  Another I particularly like is "At Your Service," 1941 by Featurettes, Inc.  Three lovely carhops at a drive-in sing as they serve burgers to attentive male diners.  Since over 1800 Soundies were produced, this is a long range project to get a lot of the best ones I am still missing.

I have a new partner who thinks he has an outlet for selling DVDs.  I supply the films and ideas and he will do packaging, manufacturing and sales.  To keep the costs down, each release must run under 3 and 3/4 hours.  We want to offer a variety of features and shorts so the buyer gets a lot for their money.

A wrinkle on B-westerns is to take the intros and exits from "The Gabby Hayes Show" and wrap them around B-westerns that star Gabby.  You can see the cover here.  The first volume will contain these: "Ridin' Down the Range" with Gabby and Roy Rogers, "In Old Santa Fe" with Gabby and Ken Maynard and Gene Autry and "The Star Packer" with Gabby and John Wayne, plus one complete episode of the real "Gabby Hayes Show" where he presents a Buster Crabbe western.

However, our first release is called "The Wicked Road to Ruin" and contains 3 short exploitation features:

"The Road to Ruin," (1934)  little seen and the inspiration for the title name.
"Reefer Madness" (1936)  being the most seen as well as most famous exploiter.  I recall seeing this in a packed movie theater revival in the 1970s, and I was never into the marijuana scene.  I made a poor hippie!
"Maniac" (1934) by Dwayne Esper is a special favorite that I find as funny and jaw-dropping awesome as Ed Wood's "Glen or Glenda."

A few JD (that's Juvenile Delinquent) shorts and trailers like for "Marijuana, the Weed with Roots in Hell" will round out the depravity... which I hope sells, though I don't know where yet!

I coulda, shoulda written about one of these ideas each week over the past months.  I planned to talk about even more today, like offering just the chapter endings from serials.  Not all my ideas are winners, but a web surfer might prefer to see the last 3 minutes over a complete chapter.  Hmm...

Visit my website at Festival Films

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Ultimate Silent Movie Presentation!

My wife Chris and I go back a long way with Kevin Brownlow's restoration of Abel Gance's Napoleon (1927). Here's a mini-history of Mr. Brownlow's lifetime labor of love:

The first major Brownlow/BFI restoration culminated in a screening at the Telluride Film Festival in 1979, with 89-year-old Gance watching from a nearby hotel window. Under the auspices of Francis Ford Coppola and Robert A. Harris, a version of this restoration, accompanied by a score composed by Mr. Coppola's father Carmine, was presented to great acclaim at Radio City Music Hall and other venues in the U.S. and around the world in the early 1980s. Mr. Brownlow and the BFI did additional restoration work in 1983.

Left out is mention of the American premier of the restoration with the tryptych (3 projector) finale, which to our great amazement and joy was held at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. It was co-ordinated by the Walker film curator Rich Peterson, who was a good friend. The projectionist was another friend, Rich Landry, who showed us in advance how he planned to synch the three 35mm projectors for the finale. Piano accompaniment was by Arthur Kleiner, former head of the music department at MOMA, who had retired to the Twin Cities.

My time guess for the event is January, 1980.  I know it was winter because a blizzard was in full flurry. Abel Gance had been invited but the storm delayed his appearance at the screening itself. We met Mr. Gance at a reception in the Walker the next day.  Film restorer Robert Harris attended, as did composer Carmine Coppola who saw the film he was about to score for the first time. We were enlisted to drive Carmine and his wife back to their hotel after the showing, things being a bit frantic what with the blizzard.

The film and event were unforgettable, which is why I have never re-watched Napoleon on video or TV. It did come out on VHS, but due to some rights disputes over that particular restoration with Coppola's score, it has never been issued on DVD.

Now Napoleon is coming back in what promises to be the cinematic event of a lifetime. Four performances only will be held in Oakland's Paramount Theater next March 24-25 and March 31-April 1. The screenings sponsored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will also mark the U.S. premiere of the renowned orchestral score, written over 30 years ago (and twice expanded since), by Carl Davis, who will conduct the Oakland East Bay Symphony. Full details of this once-in-a-lifetime event are HERE! You can also pick your own seats and order tickets today!

Fans from around the world have already made plans to attend.  A late winter trip to San Francisco is not hard to take either!

Visit my website at Festival Films

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Monstrous Success!

It's always gratifying to hear about a Café Roxy series finding an audience that likes the programs and builds from week to week. That's the way it is supposed to work, but I don't often get feedback unless the customer wants more. Such was the case this week in a phone call from one of the programmers at the Hollywood Theater in Dormant, PA.

The Hollywood Theatre, one of two theatres in the Pittsburgh suburb of Dormont, stood closed and shuttered in 1998 after screening Paul Newman and Susan Sarandon in “Twilight”. After nine years it re-opened on 30th March 2007 with “Night at the Museum” and “Dreamgirls”.

For many years in the 1950’s and 1960’s the Hollywood Theatre, with its seating capacity of 980, was one of Stanley Warner’s main second-run neighborhood houses in Pittsburgh, and even enjoyed a spell as a first-run house in the late 1960’s. Later on, Associated Theatres bought S-W’s holdings in the area, which were then sold to Cinema World. The Hollywood Theatre was closed on May 25, 2008.

On June 27, 2009, the Hollywood Theatre reopened for monthly classic movies. Motion Picture Heritage are the new operators.  Their successful programming mixes the old and the new.  Some films shown in August were The Perfect Host with David Hyde Pierce, Beat the Devil, Lee Van Cleef in Day of Anger, To Catch a Thief and Munster Go Home!

The Café Roxy success they reported on was for our "12 Nights of Horror" series, which has been running every Wednesday night for $7 admission.  It seems they added a few wrinkles. When they showed "The House on Haunted Hill" they flew a skeleton over the audience.  That's what William Castle told theaters to do back in 1959, but who has done it since?

Then a few days ago they showed "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" and recreated the head and lab setting onstage.  Whenever the head appeared in the movie, a spotlight came up on the body-less actress.  I forgot to ask if she spoke the lines in the movie.  It's gimmicks like this that will garner local publicity and larger crowds.

The Hollywood plans to run horror all through October and plans to include our "Turkeys in Space" series of sci-fi clunkers.  This week they ordered the 2-hour "Monster Mania" collection of classic trailers and spooky cartoons and the 1950s Space TV program from Matinee series #2.

I included a free DVD of the just finished "Spoooky Stuff" Volume 1.  This is a refinement of Monster Mania that includes excerpts from features, anything spoooky like a scene from the 1926 The Bat.  The one-hour of clips is followed by the "Thriller" TV show "The Return of Andrew Bentley."  This show is not yet on my website, but is finished.  On to Volume 2!

I suggested that the Hollywood re-create a "Spook Show" onstage for Halloween itself with a magician act and running "Monsters Crash the Pajama Party" where the gorilla and other monsters come off the screen into the audience to select a girl victim.  They liked that idea and may use a rising horror host on Pittsburgh TV, Mr. Schlock.  Sounds like a team-up born in Hell.

It's never too early to plan on a Spoooky Halloween.  (Adding the extra "o" makes it 3 times spoookier!"

Visit my spoooky website at Festival Films.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

No Holiday Too Small!

I started the week looking for some 10 second video horror clips to turn into introductions for "Spooky Stuff!"  Why I am stuck on that silly title, I really don't know.  The idea is to make short sequences from horror movies and trailers for Movie Memories and another project still in development.  I found some perfect bits I had forgotten I had.  These were movie trailers for special horror shows on Friday the 13th (how else could you turn it into a holiday) and of course Halloween.

The film titles are not given so theaters could use the same trailers year after year.  Since all the films were revivals from years before, the specific titles did not matter much.  More important, and lest we forget, is the "suggestion" to "Bring your date and have a party...!"  What better opportunity ever presented itself for necking and making out in the dark.  You can watch two of these trailers that run 50 and 32 seconds in the video below and then see how I turned them into "Spooky Stuff" intros, or I should say "Spooooky Stuff!" since the word is spookier with extra "o's" in there.

This got me remembering newspaper ads in the 1950s for horror revivals I would have killed to have seen as a kid.  Never got to any.  We had no movie theater in Deerfield, Wisconsin and excursions to Madison were rare and NEVER for any midnight show.  I never even asked since I wasn't allowed to see horror films on TV or stay up late.  In 1962 we moved to Madison and I could go to movies on my own, but not at midnight.  I recall an all-afternoon quadruple feature that included "It Conquered the World" and I have no idea what else.  I did attend one live Spook Show when I was in high school and wrote about it HERE.  I also went to all the Edgar Allen Poe Vincent Price films, Ray Harryhausen films, etc.

I just looked for some of these ads on the Internet and could not find much at all.  If anyone knows of a website showing thousands of movie newspaper ads, please let me know.  You sure had a choice on this one Halloween in Appleton!  3 Theatres!  9 Horror Hits!

A further re-watching of my forgotten video reminded me that movie theaters used any Holiday as an opportunity to celebrate it with them -- Father's Day, Mother's Day, a Valentine's Day cartoon matinee, New Year's Eve and even New Year's Eve Matinee.  I put some of these brief trailers into the video below.  Amazingly, one is for a series of Roy Rogers matinees at the Majestic Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin, where I did watch movies in the 1960s, but was not around when the trailer advertised them in the 1940s.  Kids could get free tickets from a bank; all the theater wanted was their concession money.  I bet the place was packed week after week.

Visit my website at Festival Films

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tarzan Escapes - Bat Bait

"Bat Bait" refers to advertising a movie scene with giant bats.  I would watch a film just to see Tarzan fight bats.  Wouldn't you?

To summarize past posts, in 1954 at the age of eight I saw the national reissue of Tarzan Escapes in a movie theater. In the intense and scary climax the safari enters a ju-ju cave where they are attacked by giant vampire bats.  I never forgot but I have never seen this lost horror sequence again.  I have been on a six year quest collecting info and trying to alert people to look for the lost footage, which may well survive in prints of the film residing in foreign archives.  Most foreign posters from both 1936 and 1954 mention the bats, so the prints must have had the elusive scene.  If you hold such a print deep in a Mexican or Italian vault, look at the last ten minutes of it!

The half-sheet movie poster shown here is from this 1954 reissue, and is the only USA poster that shows the bat scene.  It was up for auction at this past week.  I bid $90 but lost out to $99.  I might have bid more except I forgot about the deadline!  A few years ago I missed out on the same poster that I believe sold in the $190 range.  The owner of the highly reputable and long-standing auction house is Bruce Hershenson.  I got Bruce interested in the lost film aspect such that he discusses it like this whenever a Tarzan Escapes item is up for auction:

Tarzan Escapes, the 1936 Richard Thorpe & William A. Wellman African jungle adventure fantasy horror action thriller ("It's NEW! It's AMAZING 2 years to produce"; the second sequel to the hugely successful "Tarzan the Ape Man"; "Based upon the characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs") starring Johnny Weissmuller (in the title role as Tarzan; the 1924 Olympic swimming champion who is best remembered for playing Jungle Jim and for his role in this series), Maureen O'Sullivan (as Jane), John Buckler, Benita Hume, William Henry, and Cheeta (the chimpanzee). 

Note that I thought that I knew a lot about early Tarzan movies, but it turned out I did not know any of the important facts about this movie! Unknown to me, the movie was actually filmed in 1935, and there is a major subplot involving Tarzan, pygmies, and vampire bats, basically making it a horror film! The studio hated the movie, and hired a new director to re-film it in 1936, and they junked all of the 1935 movie EXCEPT for the major vampire bat scene in the cave at the end, and they made drastic changes to the plot (added the tree house home, no great apes, no Jane rescuing Tarzan at the end, etc)! The 1936 version was previewed and mothers complained that the movie was too violent and scary for their kids, so the sanitized version that exists on video today was released to some 1936 theaters. However in 1954, when the movie was re-released, MGM used the uncut negative with the vampire bats. Sadly, when the film was made available to TV and for 16mm rental in the 1960s, MGM again used the censored negative, so there is now no complete print of the 1936 "director's cut" (and of course, the 1935 version is lost as well). But this is just a summary. You should read the collector's entire blog on this at

It's an accurate summation of my researh.  Thanks, Bruce.  So what is new with my search?

I occasionally check Tarzan Escapes items on ebay and was surprised to find two original newspaper ads.  I could "Buy It Now for $25 each" but capturing the images onto my computer suits me just fine.  Both are included in this post.

They advertise showings at Loew's State Theater in Providence, RI starting Nov. 6, 1936.  Both ads have tiny images of the bat attack.  This is further proof that the un-cut bat prints were widely shown in the original 1936 release, along with the censored prints elsewhere.  Tarzan had never fought giant bats before or since.  No movie depicts such a scene.  Bats were a big draw and distinguished the film from other Tarzan films.  I assume that no theater could advertise vampire bats and then show a film without any bats.  Audiences would have gone wild. has a helpful feature whereby one can sign up to get notices of any auction items on your favorite film.  This alerted me a few weeks ago to the auction of a "Herald" for Tarzan Escapes, which I did bid on and get for under $20.  A herald is a promotional insert that newspapers can include if a movie theater pays for them.  MGM sent out sample heralds in their publicity kit, which this was, as opposed to one actually distributed in a newspaper.  It makes more sense that such a fragile piece might survive for years in a pile of press books, etc., from some movie theater than that some fan would save one from a 1936 newspaper.

"This Space Reserved for Theatre Imprint" on the back cover of the 4-pager includes an order blank to order the things from Post Publishing in Appleton, Wisconsin, with the theater playdate info, at a cost of $3.50 per thousand.  It points out: "This tabloid on TARZAN ESCAPES will bring many extra dollars to your office."

Note that the cover has a large picture of Tarzan and Jane in a tree fending off lions.  This scene does not exist, but was part of the lost 1935 version of the film!  A brief shot from the cut and lost "dozens of lions" scene does show up in the opening montage right after the credits of other Weismuller Tarzan films like Tarzan's New York Adventure.  Look fast for the lions next time you watch this one!

The inside two-page, newspaper-size spread also mentions the bat battle in tiny print: "See! See! The giant vulture bats swoop from the sky in a vicious air attack!"

Lastly, I ran across this clip on Youtube from the excellent TCM documentary about the MGM Tarzan films.  Maureen O'Sullivan discusses filming the dreadfully uncomfortable swamp/bat scene.  She concludes that the scene was cut from the film.  Not true!  I saw it and hope to again.

Visit my website at Festival Films

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Farewell to the Bouncing Ball!

I have learned so much about Screen Songs in the last 3 weeks that I have written another blog article about it for the Bijou Blog and am considering starting a new website. This entry may be short, as I will send you to the other blog down below.

Paramount made 5 Screen Song color cartoons before they were called that. Then from 1947 to 1951 they made 38 in the Screen Song series that opened with this title card and music (although that Paramount Mountain is incorrect). In 1951 the series name suddenly changed to Kartune Musical Shorts producing 12 under that banner through 1953, then two late entries again called Noveltoon:

Candy Cabaret, 1954, was directed by Dave Tendlar who had animated Betty Boop and Screen Songs for Fleischer from 1932, and ranks among the most charming Screen Songs.  A sugar cube leads the orchestra in a night club where the patrons, band and dancers are all pieces of candy.  The girl singer is a cute candy heart, and the catchy song "Ain't She Sweet" is a real crowd pleaser.  You can enjoy it HERE.  

Then out of the blue nine years later (1963) came Hobo's Holiday, directed by Seymour Knietel, an equally experienced animator who worked on the first Popeye cartoon in 1933.  The animation is "limited" like the Popeye, Casper and Beetle Bailey TV cartoons that Kneitel also directed.  The single gag involves a hobo stealing a fresh pie from a bulldog.  "Big Rock Candy Mountain," about a paradise for hobos, is fun to sing but many audiences may have gaped in silence, not knowing they were supposed to unite in song after so many years.  Let's say kids might have been in the dark; adults had long memories and still join in on sing-alongs at select revival showings today.  The tradition of the hobo hopping on words that turn into animated images remained.  You can pay a fond farewell to the Bouncing Ball HERE.

I put a few Screen Songs and Kartunes on Youtube and found there is a fan following.  This gave me the idea that a website devoted entirely to Screen Songs might be useful to fans.  I could send out an SOS looking for original 16mm and 35mm prints, from which better video transfers might be made.  I could list them all and post a link to the best quality versions currently on Youtube.  One goal would be to find all of them.  The 1948 color Screen Song "Readin', Writin' and Rhythmetic'" seems to be missing at the moment even though it is in the public domain, and there must be many of the 108 Max Fleischer sound ones currently unavailable for viewing.  Any encouragement out there?

Take a look at Time on My Hands from 1932.  Ethel Merman sings the title song, but the main attraction is a comely but topless Betty Boop (voiced by Mae Questel) as a mermaid.  Also the first color Paramount in the Screen Song series -- The Circus Comes to Clown.  Then one of the Kartune series from 1951: Fresh Yeggs with the theme of animals in prison.

To read more from me about Screen Songs, plus a list of the 12 Kartune Musical Shorts, please visit The Bijou Blog. I have been associated with the Bijou folks for the last 6 or 7 years. Among many active projects, we are trying to bring back the hit 1980s PBS series "Matinee at the Bijou" in new episodes in Hi-Def or in DVD releases of the original series only with the complete features re-mastered. We hope to announce concrete plans soon! 

Visit my website at Festival Films

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sing Me a Thousand Screen Songs!

Everyone uses Wikipedia as a quick source of information. Everyone should know they don't know everything. It says so right on the site. Thus last week I wrote there were around 40 color Screen Songs made by Paramount from 1945 to 1951, which is true, except this week I found more of them.  The history of Screen Songs at Wikipedia is well written:

The Screen Songs are a continuation of the earlier Fleischer series Song Car-Tunes. They are sing-along shorts featuring the famous "bouncing ball", a sort of precursor to modern karaoke videos. They often featured popular melodies of the day. The early Song Car-Tunes were among the earliest sound films, produced two years before The Jazz Singer. They were largely unknown at the time because their release was limited to the chain of 36 theaters operated by The Red Seal Pictures Company, which was equipped with the early Lee DeForest Phonofilm sound reproduction equipment. The Red Seal theater chain -- formed by the Fleischers, DeForest, Edwin Miles Fadiman, and Hugo Riesenfeld -- went from the East Coast to Columbus, Ohio.

Between May 1924 and September 1927, the Fleischers released 36 Song Car-Tunes series, with 17 using the Phonofilm sound-on-film process. The films included Oh Mabel, Come Take a Trip in My Airship, Darling Nelly Gray, Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?, and By the Light of the Silvery Moon. Beginning with My Old Kentucky Home (1926), the cartoons featured the "follow the bouncing ball" gimmick, that lead the audience singing along with the film. The Fleischers were ahead of the sound revolution, and just missed the actual change when The Red Seal Company filed for bankruptcy in mid-1927.

The Fleischers signed a new contract with Paramount Pictures in late 1928. Beginning in February 1929, the song cartoons returned under a new name, Screen Songs, using the Western Electric sound-on-film process. The first was The Sidewalks of New York (East Side, West Side) released on 5 February 1929. In the 1930s, the shorts began to feature such musical guest stars as Lillian Roth, Ethel Merman, Cab Calloway, Rudy Vallee, the Mills Brothers, the Boswell Sisters, and others. The series, which eventually focused on many of the "big bands" of "The Swing Era" continued until 1938.

In 1945, Famous Studios, successors to the Fleischers, revived the Screen Songs as an all animated series in color. The earliest color Screen Song part of the Noveltoon series, "When G.I. Johnny Comes Home Again." was released on February 2, 1945.

The Wikipedia entry goes on to list all of the Fleischers and the 38 color cartoons that were in the official "Screen Songs" series from 1947 to 1951. The title screen as shown up above and the opening credits all include the catchy tune:

"Start the day with a song, and sing the whole day through.
Even while you're busy working, do just like the birdies do.
Though the day may be long, you never will go wrong.
Off key, on key, any old key, just start the day with a song!"

However, several Bouncing Ball sing-alongs appeared in the Noveltoon series before the SS series started: "When G.I. Johnny Comes Home Again" (1945),  "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" (1945), "The Goal Rush" (1946), "Madhattan Island" (1947, with two songs "Penthouse Serenade" and "42nd Street") and "The Mild West" (1947).  All five are in the public domain.  I have the fascinating "Madhattan Island," but the current quality is too poor to do anything with it.

Last week I borrowed a nearly complete collection of Paramount cartoons from 1943 to 1967, minus the Popeyes and George Pal Puppetoons, but with Little Lulus, Little Audreys, Caspers, Buzzy Crows, Herman and Catnips, etc.  Some were poor quality, a few were black and white and some had great color.  Many were transferred from the 16mm prints distributed by U.M. and M and NTA TV in the 1950s and 60s.  I really don't know where this massive library came from.  (Before I forget, the images in this blog came from Jerry Beck's superb Cartoon Research site.)

I had wondered why the popular Screen Songs ended suddenly in 1951.  Turns out they didn't!  The series stopped, but Paramount kept making them through 1954, except the cartoons fell back into the Noveltoons series.  Did audiences start going to the concession stand if a cartoon song came on, but stayed to watch a normal cartoon?  It is impossible to tell in the first half if the Bouncing Ball will make an appearance.  I can't list all of these "extra" Song Cartoons because you can't tell from the titles listed in Len Maltin's "Of Mice and Magic" (1980) and I could not view one of the discs due to damage. These 1953 cartoons include Screen Songs: "Philharmaniacs," "Aero-Nutics," and "Invention Convention" where the audience can sing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart."

Right here and now you can enjoy "Candy Cabaret" from 1954, which just might be the last Paramount Screen Song ever made!  Sing along at home to "Ain't She Sweet!"

Visit my website at Festival Films

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sing-Along With Screen Songs!

Audience Sing-Alongs to words projected on a screen go back before 1900 using magic lanterns.  The famous "Bouncing Ball" debuted in 1924 in the Max Fleischer "Ko-Ko Song Car-Tune."  The first song was "Oh Mabel."  A superb discussion is in this Nov. 2007 entry in the  Bijou Blog (that I may have helped write, not sure).  Fleischer made many sing-along cartoons in the silent era with a seamless transition into the sound era  up through 1938.

In 1945, Famous Studios, successors to the Fleischers, revived the Screen Songs as an all-animated series in color. The earliest color Screen Song was part of the Noveltoon series -- "When G.I. Johnny Comes Home Again" -- and was released on February 2, 1945.  This series produced around 40 cartoons thru 1951.  Both the Fleischer and Paramount sound ones are listed by title at Wikipedia."

Audiences singing out loud and together in a movie theater was tremendously popular, which may be hard to believe by anyone who did not share the experience.  The words appeared onscreen as the Bouncing Ball bobbed from one word to the next so the audience was never in doubt just what to sing, in case they were not familiar with the song.  Over 25 of the color ones are in public domain and I include them in volumes of Movie Memories.  Seniors sang along way back then in theaters in the 1930s and 40s and they sing along today.

Although the cartoons are clearly in the public domain, some of the songs are still copyrighted.  In most cases you can use films (with © music) as public domain without paying royalties to the owner of the music.  The theory goes that the music was paid for when the film was made and when the entire entity goes into public domain, then you can show, sell, broadcast or use the complete film anyway you want.  If you take an excerpt out of a film to use in a documentary, then you need to separately clear rights to any music involved.  Most TV stations still have an arrangement with ASCAP that allows them to show any films without clearing music rights.  I don't know what rules might apply for using public domain films with music on the Internet.

The only time I recall being contacted about music was 30 years ago re. the score by Virgil Thomson on "The Plow That Broke the Plains" (1936).  I offered it for sale on 16mm at the time, which rarely sold.  I don't recall what I wrote back, but never heard from them again, not even when I began selling it on video and now DVD.  If I tried to sell this or any film with music to Turner Classic Movies, then I would certainly clear music rights if needed to be completely safe.

Today I am considering turning more of the color Screen Songs into Movie Memories for a situation that might request either song clearance or assurance that the song was also in the public domain.  The series used familiar standards so many of the songs were written before 1923.  This is the magic cut-off date for songs, films and books: all written before 1923 are public domain; most made in or after 1923 are copyrighted as long as they were properly renewed.  So here is a list of the Paramount Screen Songs that I have that are in the public domain along with the song included in each and the date it was written.

The Emerald Isle - "McNamara's Band" (1945)
Old MacDonald Had a Farm - Title Song, of course (1917?)
Sing or Swim - "By the Beautiful Sea" (?)
The Mild West - "I'm an Old Cowhand" (1936)
Base Brawl - "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (1908)
Short-nin Bread - Title Song (1900)
The Big Flame-Up - "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" (1896)
Helter Swelter - "In the Good Old Summer Time" (1902)
Comin' Round the Mountain - Title Song (late 1800s)
The Lone Star State - "Deep in the Heart of Texas" (1941)
Marriage Wows - "For Me and My Gal" (1917)
Little Brown Jug - "Little Brown Jug" (1869)
The Golden State - "California Here I Come" (1921)
Winter Draws On - "I'm Alabama Bound" (1909)
Snow Foolin' - "Jingle Bells" (1857)
When G.I. Johnny Comes Home - "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" (1863)
Win, Place and Show Boat - "Waitin' for the Robert E. Lee" (1920)
Spring Song - Title Song (1894)
The Funshine State - "Tallahassee" (1947)
The Stork Market - "Pretty Baby" (1916)
Gobs of Fun - "Strike Up the Band" (1927)
The Big Drip - "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More" (1923)
Our Funny Finny Friends - "Three Little Fishies" (1939)
The Ski's the Limit - "Swiss Miss" (?)
Farm Foolery - "Shine On Harvest Moon" (c.1905)
Toys Will Be Toys - "Oh, You Beautiful Doll" (1911)

Well, that was interesting research. To Me!

Visit my website at Festival Films