Hollywood at Play: Evolution of Photography Styles with Publicity Stills, Exclusive Guest Post by Author Mary Mallory


Evolution of Photography Styles with Publicity Stills

Never a trendsetter, always a follower, motion picture still photography has evolved over 100 years, aping popular processes and styles inaugurated and practiced for decades by art photographers and journalists. Technological advancements and changing tastes in popular culture also shaped the trajectory of film stills photography, helping it move beyond static imagery and “the art of fixing a shadow,” into a potent advertising tool selling mass-produced moving pictures and studio contract players through glamorous, artistic expression.

Throughout its history, technological advances and artistic evolution have transformed the nature of photography. For the first several decades after its creation in the late 1830s, daguerrotypes remained the most popular form of biographical portraiture, a static though detailed capturing of a person’s likeness. While more artistically inclined photographers sometimes introduced varied lighting and precise posing to create special moods or effects, the vast majority of photographic workers focused on general, even lighting, simple backgrounds, and straight ahead images in their work.

Edgar Allan Poe DaguerrotypeEdgar Allan Poe, Daguerrotype

By the late 1880s, photographers began experimenting with lighting and creation of effects to add flair and artistic imagery to their photographs, becoming almost painterly in their approach. Employing artifice and techniques, they began transforming photography into a more artistic medium, creating a style of imagery called pictorialism. Manipulating printing negatives by employing carbon, platinum, or other exotic combinations and then often etching the image as well, they began what English photographer George Davison called “painting with light.”

Portrait photographers began practicing some of the same techniques in their work, aiming to capture not only the personalities of their sitters but to also display some of their own talents as well. Early Los Angeles film photography pioneers like Albert Witzel, Fred Hartsook, and Frank Hoover originally shot portraits of well-to-do and theatrical figures employing simple black or white backgrounds and focused on close-ups or “head shots” of their movie star clients that Joel Finler points out could be easily reproduced on postcards for distribution to fans or movie theatres.

Mabel Normand Fred HartsookMabel Normand (Fred Hartsook, photographer)

Within a few years, emulating the work of artists, movie photographers began employing Rembrandt and chiarscurro lighting and their studios began etching negatives to create lovely, romantic backgrounds to images. Most of the work producing these gorgeous tableaux fell to unknown and unsung women such as actress Nell O’Day’s mother, who created shots that featured simple forests and outdoor scenes. Stars themselves often sent these stills to newspapers and magazines in hopes of stoking their fan base as well idealizing their image.

Struss Swanson Male and FemaleGloria Swanson, Male and Female, 1919 (Karl Struss, photographer)

In the teens, avant-garde artists and surrealists began introducing more elaborate forms of manipulation in the creation of images, blending elaborate lighting and production design, mechanical reproduction, and exotic effects like double printing, overexposure, and use of mirrors to expand the artistic expression of photography. Renowned American photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Karl Struss blended technical and artistic achievement in creating stunning images. James Abbe, famous New York photographer himself, shot both scene and portrait stills for such films as D. W. Griffith’s “Way Down East” and even for Mack Sennett productions. Edward Steichen created works of arts in his stylized portraits of celebrities for Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Hedy Lamarr George HurrellHedy Lamarr (George Hurrell, photographer)

Struss himself employed some of these same practices in Hollywood portraiture in the late teens and early 1920s, creating romantic, idealized images of stars like ones of Gloria Swanson in Cecil B. DeMille’s “Male and Female” in 1919. Producer Jesse Lasky had urged just this sort of thing for marketing purposes when he asked directors and photographers to supply “such attractive, unique and artistic photographs as will materially assist our work.” At this time, motion picture studios began organizing their own photography studios to maintain quality, output, and control of images selling their products, films and stars.

Judy Garland HalloweenJudy Garland, Halloween still

As lensmen like Max Munn Autrey, Erbest Bachrach, and Eugene Robert Richee began practicing these techniques, they produced the glamorous, sensual iconography of the motion picture star employed by film studios from the 1920s through the 1940s, the hey day of Hollywood’s stunning photography work. George Hurrell manipulated and retouched negatives to create stunning, sophisticated portraits of film stars. Other stillsmen employed as much production and lighting design to their images as Cedric Gibbons sketching a luxurious MGM set, producing stunning images of beauty and power, perfect eye-catching tools for theatre lobby displays, fan magazines, and newspaper layouts.

Dorothea Lange Migrant MotherMigrant Mother (Dorothea Lange, photographer)

With the advent of the Depression, photojournalists began documenting hard-edged reality, warts and all instead of creating a whitewashed image of conditions or situations. Walker Evans, Margaret Bourke-White, and Dorothea Lange shot telling images of struggling workers in California, with Lange’s iconic “Migrant Mother” revealing both the dignity and despair of such people. Combat photographers like Robert Capa and Joe Rosenthal captured both the horror and glory of World War II, and in New York, Weegee (Arthur Felig) became renowned in the 1940s and 1950s for his dramatic crime photographs.

Grace Kelly Howell ConantGrace Kelly (Howell Conant, photographer)

Hollywood film studios shifted their focus to more telling realism in the late 1940s and 1950s as well, influenced by these events and the darkening mood of the country following the war. After the landmark 1948 anti-trust Paramount decree, which forced film studios to divest themselves of their theatre chains, studios began shrinking, cutting their workforces and reducing their output. Dark times and less employees also helped push stills in a more naturalistic though idealized direction. Stars agreed to be photographed without makeup, in natural lighting, with independent photographers like Howell Conant, Douglas Kirkland, Phil Stern, and John Engstead leading the way.

Sweet Smell of Success Tony Curtis Burt LancasterTony Curtis and Burt Lancaster, Sweet Smell of Success, 1957

By the 1960s, most studios maintained skeleton stills departments, and photojournalists, freelance photographers, and fashion lensers took up the slack. They continued advancing away from the studios’ traditional forms of stills photography into more adventuresome and popular avenues, often at the behest of stars they were shooting. Today, while some major photographers like Annie Leibowitz craft portraits for entertainment purposes, most stars rely on more personal and direct images they shoot themselves and post to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, cutting out the middleman, and often the art, as well.


–Mary Mallory for Classic Movie Hub

Mary Mallory is a film historian, photograph archivist, and researcher, focusing on Los Angeles and early film history. She is co-author of the book Hollywood at Play: The Lives of the Stars Between Takes (with Stephen X. Sylvester and Donovan Brandt) and writes theatre reviews for The Tolucan Times and blogs for the LA Daily Mirror. Mallory served on Hollywood Heritage, Inc.’s Board of Directors, and acts as a docent for the Hollywood Heritage Museum. You can follow her on twitter at @mallory_mary.

Books by Mary Mallory:



Posted in Books | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Whales of August 30th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-Ray Giveaway (January)

The Whales of August 30th Anniversary
Blu-Ray Giveaway

And now, we are happy to announce our first Blu-Ray giveaway for 2018, courtesy of Kino Lorber. This time, we’ll be giving away FIVE copies of the 30th Anniversary Special Edition of The Whales of August on Blu-Ray.

In order to qualify to win one of these Blu-Rays via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Feb 3 at 10PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick a winner on four different days within the contest period, via random drawings, as listed below… So if you don’t win the first week that you enter, you will still be eligible to win during the following weeks until the contest is over.

  • Jan 6: One Winner
  • Jan 13: One Winner
  • Jan 20: One Winner
  • Jan 27: One Winner
  • Feb 3: One Winner

We will announce each week’s winner on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub (or this blog, depending how you entered), the day after each winner is picked at 10PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winners on Sunday Jan 7 at 10PM EST.

the whales of august 30th anniversary special edition blu-ray


ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, Feb 3 at 10PM EST— BUT remember, the sooner you enter, the more chances you have to win…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

2) Then TWEET (not DM) the following message:
Just entered to win “The Whales of August” 30th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-Ray #Giveaway courtesy of @KinoLorber and @ClassicMovieHub contest link: http://ow.ly/ASe430hwgC9

Why do you want to win this Blu-Ray? 

*If you do not have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…

THE WHALES OF AUGUST, Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, 1987
Bette Davis and Lillian Gish, The Whales of August


About The Whales of August: Screen legends Bette Davis (All About Eve), Lillian Gish (Duel in the Sun) and Vincent Price (Tales of Terror) unite their iconic talents in this beautifully photographed, intensely emotional drama that offers unexpected and quite marvelous rewards. Libby (Davis) and Sarah (Gish) are widowed siblings who have vacationed for half a century at a seaside cottage in Maine. Now in their eighties, the sisters have unexpectedly arrived at an impasse: While Sarah embraces change and the possibility of romance with a courtly Russian suitor (Price), the stubbornly bitter Libby rages at the inevitability of death. As the summer months wane, can Libby and Sarah rediscover the powerful bonds of memory, family and love? The stellar cast includes Ann Sothern (A Letter to Three Wives) in her Oscar-nominated performance, Harry Carey Jr. (3 Godfathers), Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard), Margaret Ladd (TV’s Falcon Crest) and Tisha Sterling (Coogan’s Bluff). The Whales of August features a wonderful screenplay by playwright David Berry (G.R. Point) based on his play and top-notch direction by the great Lindsay Anderson (O Lucky Man!, If….).

You can visit Kino Lorber on their website, on Twitter at @KinoLorber or on Facebook.

Please note that only Continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico) entrants are eligible.

And — BlogHub members ARE eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

For complete rules, click here.

And if you can’t wait to win, you can click on the image below to purchase on amazon :)

Good Luck!

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged | 17 Comments

Miriam Hopkins Book Giveaway (via Twitter in January)

“Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel”
Book Giveaway via Twitter

Happy New Year to All! It’s time for our next book giveaway, the first of many for 2018! CMH is happy to say that we will be giving away FIVE COPIES of  “Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel” by Allan R. Ellenberger, courtesy of University Press of Kentucky, from now through Feb 3. (plus ONE more copy via Facebook and this Blog, details to follow in a few days).

Miriam Hopkins biography Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Feb 3 at 10PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick a winner on five different days within the contest period, via random drawings, as listed below… So if you don’t win the first week that you enter, you will still be eligible to win during the following weeks until the contest is over.

  • Jan 6: One Winner
  • Jan 13: One Winner
  • Jan 20: One Winner
  • Jan 27: One Winner
  • Feb 3: One Winner

We will announce each week’s winner on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub, the day after each winner is picked at 10PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winner on Sunday Jan 7 at 10PM EST on Twitter. And, please note that you don’t have to have a Twitter account to enter; just see below for the details…

If you’re also on Facebook, please feel free to visit us at Classic Movie Hub on Facebook for additional giveaways (or check back on this Blog in a few days) — because we’ll be giving away ONE MORE cop via Facebook/Blog as well!


ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, Feb 3 at 1oPM EST — BUT remember, the sooner you enter, the more chances you have to win…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

What is one of your favorite Miriam Hopkins films and why? And, if you’re not familiar with her films, why do you want to win this book?

2) Then TWEET (not DM) the following message*:
Just entered to win the “Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel” #BookGiveaway courtesy of @KentuckyPress & @ClassicMovieHub #CMHContest link: http://ow.ly/KQb830hwfLd

*If you do not have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

NOTE: if for any reason you encounter a problem commenting here on this blog, please feel free to tweet or DM us, or send an email to clas@gmail.com and we will be happy to create the entry for you.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…


About the Book: In the first comprehensive biography of this colorful performer, Allan R. Ellenberger illuminates Hopkins’s fascinating life and legacy. Her freewheeling film career was exceptional in studio-era Hollywood, and she managed to establish herself as a top star at Paramount, RKO, Goldwyn, and Warner Bros. Over the course of five decades, Hopkins appeared in thirty-six films, forty stage plays, and countless radio programs. Later, she emerged as a pioneer of TV drama. Ellenberger also explores Hopkins’s private life, including her relationships with such intellectuals as Theodore Dreiser, Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein, and Tennessee Williams. Although she was never blacklisted for her suspected Communist leanings, her association with these freethinkers and her involvement with certain political organizations led the FBI to keep a file on her for nearly forty years. This skillful biography treats readers to the intriguing stories and controversies surrounding Hopkins and her career, but also looks beyond her Hollywood persona to explore the star as an uncompromising artist. The result is an entertaining portrait of a brilliant yet under-appreciated performer.


Click here for the full contest rules. 

Please note that only Continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico) entrants are eligible.

And — BlogHub members ARE eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

Good Luck!

And if you can’t wait to win the book, you can purchase the on amazon via the below link (click on image):


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged | 27 Comments

The Funny Papers: Christmas in Connecticut – Holiday Classic or Feminist Screwball?

Christmas in Connecticut: Holiday Classic or Feminist Screwball?

For classic film fans, the holiday season represents a time to wax nostalgic over those classic films that pop up this time of year. Everyone has his or her own must-see favorites. Perhaps you prefer a mainstream flavor like White Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life, or perhaps you go for something a bit under the AMC radar like Holiday Affair or Christmas in Connecticut. Personally, I like them all.

Recently, as I was watching Barbara Stanwyck flipping flap jacks with S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall in Peter Godfrey’s Christmas in Connecticut (1945), I was reminded that this is not only a beloved holiday gem, it’s also a female-driven Screwball Comedy that deals with feminism head-on. This film makes the holiday lists, sometimes it makes the Screwball lists, but rarely the Feminist Film lists. So which is it? Let’s look at the clues.

Christmas in Connecticut Barbara Stanwyck CS Cuddles with pancakes flip flopBarbara Stanwyck and SZ Cuddles Sakall “Watch now. I show you how to flip-flop the flop-flips.”

For those unfamiliar with this film (Spoiler alert: here comes some plot reveals but I’m not here to share a full review), Barbara Stanwyck is Elizabeth Lane, the 1940s version of Martha Stewart, Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis and HGTV’s Joanna Gaines all wrapped into one pretty domestic goddess package. Except, as it turns out, she’s not. She’s a phony. She writes a popular magazine column that features yummy homespun recipes and portrays her as a happy housewife in hyper-drive in an idyllic Connecticut farmhouse vision.

Christmas in Connecticut Diary of a Housewife Column

The recipes belong to Hungarian restaurateur pal Felix (Cuddles) and the farmhouse belongs to her architect beau, Reginald Gardiner as John Sloan. She can’t cook. She lives in the city. She’s a childless, single, career girl. WW2 sailor Dennis Morgan as Jefferson Jones, recovering from being adrift at sea after a German U-boat attack, is a big fan of her column and dreams of feasting in Connecticut at her farmhouse. Media publisher Sydney Greenstreet as Alexander Yardley sets up a visit for publicity. It all goes topsy-turvy when city mouse Elizabeth goes well past her comfort zone in the pretty countryside, pretending to be an ideal wife, mother and chef… and serendipitously finds love along the way.


Holiday Film Criteria:

Christmas in Connecticut Barbara Stanwyck Dennis Morgan by Christmas Tree with pianoStanwyck and Dennis Morgan

While the plot doesn’t deal with the holidays as straight-forward as some, it does take place at Christmas time and the word ‘Christmas’ is in the title, after all. Additionally, Elizabeth falls for hunky vet Jeffrey when he sings Christmas carols to her, as she’s trimming the tree. How romantically Christmassy is that?? There are romantic, wintery scenes abound when we see the farmhouse covered in snow, which is as pretty as a holiday card and reminiscent of other snowy sets such as Holiday Inn (1942). Plus a romantic sleigh ride looks perfection as Stanwyck gets cozy in a mink fur coat with a shimmering scarf, delicately framing her locks. Finally, Yardley breaks fourth wall to the audience with, “What a Christmas! Ho, ho, what a Christmas!” in his typically hardy laugh.

So, does it qualify as a classic holiday film? Most definitely.


Screwball Comedy:

Barbara Stanwyck Reginald Gardner Christmas in ConnecticutReginald Gardner as fake fiancé Sloan

If you read last month’s CMH’s “The Funny Paper” column I wrote on ‘Surviving the Holidays with the Screwball Leading Ladies’, you may recall the signature hallmarks of a Screwball Comedy I listed. Christmas in Connecticut meets many of these.

1)  Female-driven: This film is centered on Barbara Stanwyck’s character as the focus of the entire film.
2)  Mixed-up identities: We see mix-ups everywhere. Elizabeth is not who she says she is (and the multiple role mix-ups that ensue)- even babies get mixed-up, too.
3)  Gender switch-ups: We see that played out in diaper dilemmas with the babies
4)  The less-dominant male in a love triangle: Fake fiancé Sloan is not exactly the strong, assertive male, although he may be in his career ambitions. The chemistry between Gardiner and Stanwyck is ZILCH, which conveniently allows a clear path for sparks to fly with Dennis Morgan. The only reason she’s finally agreeing to marry Sloan is for the sake of keeping her cover to protect her career. Let’s not kid ourselves here; no one believes John ever had real interest in marrying Elizabeth, except to serve as a cover for being ambiguously gay. Obviously not directly stated, but there are clues beyond his prim Brit demeanor that subtly hints at Old Hollywood code for gay:
     Elizabeth Lane: “Oh, it’s Yardley. He’s sending me a sailor for Christmas.”
     John Sloan: “Oh how nice… a sailor!”
5)  Madcap pace: We see this briefly, in moments of trying to get secretly married and other scenes of attempting to hide the truth.
6)  Wealth: Elizabeth is no eccentric heiress, but that farmhouse is big money. And as we all know, Connecticut is a favored geography for Screwball comedies.

So, is Christmas in Connecticut a Screwball Comedy? I’m convinced.


Feminist Message:

Christmas in Connecticut Dennis Morgan and Barbara Stanwyck bathing the babyDennis Morgan, Barbara Stanwyck and baby…

Finally, is there a core value message addressed in this film dealing with feminism and/or women’s roles? What’s interesting about this film in the context of 1945, it asks the question if women can/or should do it all? We are introduced to a woman who appears relatively realistic in her life as a single, city girl. Culinary expertise equals boiling water. She pretends to be a domestic goddess because who has the time to balance a successful writing career in addition to all of those roles in glossy magazine cover style?

When we see her attempt domestic skills, she’s very awkward and unsure. It’s war-hero Jones that feels more at home in the stereotypical maternal roles, such as bathing a baby. Unlike many films at that time that would poke fun whenever men were shown performing basic parenting skills like diaper changing, this film shows this image of equality in a positive light.

Christmas in Connecticut Dennis Morgan Barbara Stanwyck if I wasn't married

The flirting between Lane and Jones dances along the post-code enforcement censorship lines because she is very direct as a married woman seducing a man who isn’t her husband. Granted, the audience knows she’s not actually married, but I’m surprised this was so overt.

In the end, I believe the message is that the domestic goddess image as a goal for women is a fictional, unrealistic one. She is offered the opportunity to have it all – keep her job, with a raise, and still find bliss in love… domestic duties optional. If she chooses to keep Cuddles handy, and Jones appears to make an ideal hubby for parenting, who needs to learn how to cook and run a farm, anyway?

Christmas in Connecticut lobby card

So, is it a feminist film?
Perhaps it’s not the strongest feminist definition, but it does project a more open-minded view for its time by simply asking the questions regarding women’s roles, even if it doesn’t take a firm stance on the answers. And by default as a Screwball Comedy, it plants the female lead into the driver’s seat. I think that’s a good start.

Ultimately, I truly enjoy Christmas in Connecticut, more so every time I watch it. Barbara Stanwyck is in her romantic comedy prime. Plus the setting is pure Christmas classic schmaltz, which I never tire of especially this time of year. Whether you consider it a holiday classic, a Screwball Comedy, or even a film that takes a chance in 1945 to question traditional gender roles, it’s got something for everyone.


–Kellee Pratt for Classic Movie Hub

When not performing marketing and social media as her day gig, Kellee Pratt writes for her own classic film blog, Outspoken & Freckled (kelleepratt.com). Kellee teaches classic film courses in her college town in Kansas (Screwball Comedy this Fall). Unapologetic social butterfly, she’s an active tweetaholic/original alum for #TCMParty, member of the CMBA, Social Producer for TCM (2015, 2016), and busy mom of four kids and 3 fur babies. You can follow Kellee on twitter at @IrishJayHawk66.

Posted in Posts by Kellee Pratt, The Funny Papers | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Classic Movie Memories by Classic Movie Hub’s Mom


Happy Birthday Mom!
Classic Movie Memories and More…

In celebration of my mother’s birthday today, I’m sharing a YouTube clip of an interview with my mom about her lifelong love of classic movies and her classic movie memories.  First she is interviewed by my fabulous friend and classic movie colleague Aurora from Once Upon a Screen (aka @CitizenScreen) — where my mom talks about what it was like going to the movies ‘way back when’ (sorry Mom), the old NYC Movie Palaces like the NYC Paramount, her favorite actor (not telling who), Elvis, Cagney, Frankenstein and more.  Then about halfway in, I chat with my mom about her favorite actors, her desert island movie picks, seeing Streisand on Broadway (I’m all verkelmpt!), and more…

As I’ve mentioned many times before, my parents both shared classic movies with me when I was a kid, and that is a gift I will treasure forever…

This video is posted on our ‘Classic Movies and More’ YouTube Channel

Thanks for watching!


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Classic Movies and More YouTube Show, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | 2 Comments

Silents are Golden: What are the Top Ten Oldest Films? (That Still Survive)

What Are The Top 10 Oldest Films? (That Still Survive)

We’ve all seen clips of early, scratchy films showing a woman dancing or blacksmiths at work, films more like experimental documentaries than anything else. But have you ever wondered: what were the top 10 earliest films ever made?

It’s not an easy list to make, anymore than it’s easy to decide which of the many Victorian inventors receives the most credit for the cinema (Marey? Edison? Muybridge? Friese-Greene??). First, we must determine what counts as “film.” Before the use of light-sensitive paper and celluloid, several photographers had invented cameras capable of taking photos in quick succession, capturing, say, an animal’s movements one shot at a time. (Eadweard Muybridge pioneered this method.) But it’s usually agreed that the earliest bona fide films were the ones shot on light-sensitive strips of material, much the way they are today (or were, until digital started taking over).

It can also be tough to determine an exact chronology for the earliest films, so the following list should be considered a little less Gospel than guideline. In some cases where a “series” of brief films were shot by the same studio in the same vague timeframe, I’ll be counting them as a single entry.

So with that in mind, let’s start with the very oldest film in the entire world:

1. Roundhay Garden Scene (1888) 

Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)

The one that started it all. While in Leeds, England on October 14, 1888, French inventor Louis Le Prince decided to try out his stubby-refrigerator-sized camera in the garden of his parents-in-law Joseph and Sarah Whitley. We see Joseph, Sarah, friend Annie Hartley, and Le Prince’s brother Adolphe apparently strolling in circles just to give Louis some action to shoot. (Sarah’s laughing and walking backwards.) Only 52 frames survive, but I’m sure you and I can agree that we’re grateful for those two seconds or so of footage!

2. Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge (1888) 

Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge (1888)

This was the second film shot by Le Prince, probably not long after Roundhay. He filmed from an upper window of what was then called Hicks the Ironmongers. Today the light-colored brick building is an estate agency, and bears a blue plaque commemorating Le Prince’s day of filming.

3. Accordion Player (1888)

Accordion Player (1888)The third work by–guess who?–our friend Le Prince. This was the last film of his that survives and depicts his brother Adolphe playing an accordion by Joseph Whitley’s front steps. Why is this the final Le Prince film? Not long before he was to embark to the U.S. for a promo tour of his new camera, he got on a train to Dijon, France, and…was never seen again. This disappearance remains a mystery to this day (theories range from regular ol’ murder to the very dubious idea of fratricide).

4. Monkeyshines No. 1 and 2 (1889) Thomas Edison and W.K-L. Dickson 

Monkeyshines No. 1 and 2 (1889) Thomas Edison and W.K-L. Dickson

Filmed in Thomas Edison’s famed Black Maria (the world’s first film studio), the two very warped, scratchy Monkeyshines films are essentially camera tests a few seconds in length. No. 1 shows a figure in white gesturing against a black background, and No. 2 shows the same figure waving his arms and bending from side to side. A third Monkeyshine (the word for “mischief making”) is lost. Some historians dispute whether the films were made in 1889 or 1890, but they do seem to be the very first ones made in the U.S.

5. London’s Trafalgar Square (1890)

This tiny documentary, shot at 10 frames per second, is not only one of the world’s oldest films but is the earliest footage ever shot of London. Interestingly, filmmakers Wordsworth Donisthorpe and William Carr Crofts decided to capture the action with a circular frame over the lens of their “kinesigraph.”

London’s Trafalgar Square (1890)

6. Mosquinha (1890)

Mosquinha (1890)

Étienne-Jules Marey used his chronophotographic gun, a camera which looked, well, exactly like a chunky gun, to take this closeup shot of a fly taking flight. Marey’s invention took sequences of photographs similar to the famous ones by Muybridge. By 1890 he figured out how to operate it with film strips, making him officially one of our earliest filmmakers..

7. Dickson Greeting (1891)

Dickson Greeting (1891)Inventor William K-L. Dickson, one of Edison’s most skilled employees, created this little film to demonstrate Edison’s kinetograph–making it the first American film to be screened for the public. Three seconds of it survive today, showing the mustachioed Dickson passing his hat from one hand to another. Apparently in the original film he also bowed, smiled and waved at the camera.

8. Duncan films (1891)

Duncan films (1891)

James C. Duncan was a member of Edison’s staff and “starred” in several of the earliest Black Maria experimental shorts: Duncan Smoking; Duncan and Another, Blacksmith Shop; and Duncan with Muslin Cloud (all 1891). The titles are pretty self-explanatory.

9. Newark Athlete (1891)

Newark Athlete (1891)A teenaged boy, apparently an athlete of sorts, does an Indian club-twirling demonstration for the camera, although we only see a few seconds of it (these clubs were popular for strength-training exercises). This was yet another Edison product, and we can assume the original probably showed a longer demonstration.

10. Je vous aime (1891)

Je vous aime (1891)Georges Demenÿ was an assistant to Étienne-Jules Marey, and was perhaps the earliest filmmaker to pursue the commercialization of moving pictures (rather than just using them for scientific purposes). Hector Marichelle, professor and director of the National Deaf-Mute Institute in France, had asked Demenÿ to make films that would help instruct deaf and mute students how to lipread. Demenÿ took this closeup of himself saying “je vous aime” (“I love you”). The experience lead Demenÿ to feel that commercialization was a part of cinema’s future, which lead to a break with Marey. You might say that Demenÿ was the more prophetic one.

While these films were merely very simple, no-frills exercises in the new motion picture technology, they are incredibly important pieces of our cultural history. We can only imagine–and hope!–that as the decades and centuries go by, their value will become nearly incalculable to future generations.


–Lea Stans for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Lea’s Silents are Golden articles here.

Lea Stans is a born-and-raised Minnesotan with a degree in English and an obsessive interest in the silent film era (which she largely blames on Buster Keaton). In addition to blogging about her passion at her site Silent-ology, she is a columnist for the Silent Film Quarterly and has also written for The Keaton Chronicle.

Posted in Posts by Lee Stans, Silents are Golden | 8 Comments

Classic Movie Travels: Betty Garrett – Missouri, Washington State and New York


Betty Garrett – St. Joseph Missouri, Seattle & Tacoma Washington
and New York City

Betty Garrett


“I loved the farm. It was my favorite time of the year.” -Betty Garrett

No musical cast is complete without fabulous supporting cast mates, and Betty Garrett was one of the best. Hilarious, unfailingly energetic, and lovely, Betty was the perfect addition to many an MGM musical.

Elizabeth “Betty” Garrett was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, on May 23rd, 1919, to Curtis and Elizabeth Octavia Garrett. While she was born in St. Joseph, most of her childhood was spent in Seattle, Washington, where her family relocated not long after her birth. There, her mother worked as the manager of a sheet music department at Sherman Clay & Company, a retailer of musical instruments as well as a publisher and seller of sheet music. Her father was a traveling salesman but struggled heavily with alcoholism and an inability to manage the family’s finances, which eventually led to the couple’s divorce. Her father would pass away in 1921, leading Betty and her mother to live in various hotels while they tried to regain control of their finances.

Betty was roughly two years old when she moved to Seattle with her mother, but also spent time back in St. Joseph on a farm situated on the outskirts of the town. Her father previously lived there and she would stay with his relatives over the summers — a time she remembered fondly, according to a 1989 interview with the St. Joseph News-Press. Moreover, she was also close with her aunt, Catherine Pike, a highly active St. Joseph resident. Despite turning 80, Catherine practiced yoga and accomplished worldwide travels, which inspired Betty to be just as vivacious as she.

When Betty turned eight, her mother married a former boyfriend and the three of them settled in Regina, Saskatchewan, where Betty’s stepfather worked for the meat-packing industry. Unfortunately, the marriage came to an end when Betty’s mother learned of her new husband’s relationship with a male assistant. In response, she and Betty moved back to Seattle, where Betty carried out her education.

Betty enrolled at the Annie Wright School in Tacoma, Washington, with a full scholarship. The school had no drama department, so Betty decided to organize musicals and plays for special occasions throughout the academic year. Upon her senior year performance in Twelfth Night, Betty was urged by others to consider a career on the stage. Her mother’s friend also coordinated an interview for Betty with American modern dancer Martha Graham, who was in town for a concert tour. Graham recommended Betty for a scholarship at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, New York.

By 1936, Betty and her mother resided in Manhattan, where Betty began to take classes for dance, drama, music, and classics. Betty felt that she would become a dramatic actress and typically avoided comedic roles.

betty garrett sitting on CouchBetty Garrett

Betty performed throughout the Borscht Belt during the summers, where she grew her singing and dancing skills. She joined Orson Welles‘ Mercury theater as an understudy and performed with Martha Graham’s dance company. She also found work as a singer and appeared in various satirical and political revues. During this time, she joined the Communist Party and performed at fundraisers for its causes.

In 1942, Betty debuted on Broadway as part of a revue called Of V We Sing. In the same year, she was also cast in a revue called Let Freedom Sing, which producer Mike Todd saw. Todd enjoyed Betty’s performance and hired her both as an understudy to Ethel Merman and as a small role in Cole Porter‘s Something for the Boys (1943). When Merman fell ill, Betty was able to carry out her role for a week. She was spotted by producer Vinton Freedley, who cast her in the musical, Jackpot. Though the show closed soon after, Betty toured the country with a nightclub act. She returned to New York and became an acclaimed actress after performing in Call Me Mister. 

As her act toured the country, Betty was invited to perform as part of a comedy sketch for the Actor’s Lab in Hollywood. Larry Parks was producing the show and it wasn’t long until they fell in love during her two-week stint in Hollywood. Parks was determined to marry her, though she soon left for Chicago with her nightclub act. He quickly joined her in Chicago and introduced her to his mother, as Parks and his family were from nearby Joliet, Illinois. Parks returned to Los Angeles to work on a film, while Betty left for New York to work on a show. Before her rehearsals began, she called Parks and proposed. On September 8th, 1944, Betty and Parks were married four months after they met, with Lloyd Bridges standing as best man. Betty would later be godmother to Lloyd’s son, Jeff Bridges.

After their honeymoon, the couple lived apart for two years to further their careers. They had two sons–Garret and Andrew–and remained married until Parks’s death in 1975.

Betty Garrett and Larry Parks and son GarrettBetty with husband Larry Parks and son Garrett

Parks enjoyed success after portraying Al Jolson in The Jolson Story (1946), with the film being extremely popular in the United Kingdom. He and Betty toured the United Kingdom with a nightclub act before audience interest in the novelty of television eventually created a gradual decline in live entertainment.

By 1947, Hollywood called for Betty and she signed a one-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She made her film debut as a nightclub performer in Big City (1947), co-starring George Murphy and Robert Preston. When her contract was up, Mayer renewed it, leading Betty to appear in a string of musicals, including Words and Music (1948), On the Town (1949), Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), and Neptune’s Daughter (1949). One of her more notable performances is in On the Town (1949) as cab driver Brunhilde Esterhazy, who is in hot pursuit of Frank Sinatra’s character, Chip. Betty worked with her husband once again when the two of them temporarily replaced Judy Holliday and Sydney Chaplin in Broadway’s Bells are Ringing.

betty garrett in a taxi in the film on the townBetty Garrett as Brunhilde Esterhazy in On The Town, 1949

While both of their careers were on the rise, past affiliations with the Communist Party became a problem for Betty and Parks. Both of them came under the scrutiny of the House of Un-American Activities Committee, though only Parks was called upon to testify. As a result, Parks was blacklisted, and both he and his wife had a difficult time finding work in the entertainment industry. Eventually, Parks founded a successful construction business and the couple owned several apartment buildings in the Los Angeles area, with Parks profitably serving as landlord.

Though Betty and Parks sometimes performed in various live acts in Las Vegas, summer stock shows, and as part of Broadway touring companies, Betty’s career transitioned towards television. In 1973, she appeared as Irene, an Irish-American wife and new neighbor to the Bunkers, in All in the Family, winning a Golden Globe for her performance. When performing a one-woman show called Betty Garrett and Other Songs, she also took on the role of landlady Edna Babish on Laverne & Shirley. She left the series to join the cast of The Supporting Cast on Broadway, but the show closed quickly and Edna Babish was already written out of the show.

betty garrett and cindy williams laverne and shirleyCindy Williams and Betty Garrett in Laverne & Shirley

Nonetheless, Betty made appearances on Murder, She Wrote, Grey’s Anatomy, The Golden Girls, and many other television shows. She also continued acting on the stage in various productions, including carrying out the role of Katie the maid in Meet Me in St. Louis. She fondly recalled her aunt Catherine Pike from her St. Joseph days and decided to take on the role in memory of her. Well into her 70s, Betty’s portrayal of Katie included performing a dance on a tabletop, singing two song, and advising the other characters in the show.

Betty remained active as a performer all the way until her passing on February 12, 2011. She even attended Turner Classic Movies‘ first Film Festival with co-star Esther Williams. The pair attended a poolside screening of Neptune’s Daughter (1949), the film in which “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was introduced. Ricardo Montalban serenades Esther Williams, while the roles of “cat and mouse” are reversed in the second half, with Betty serenading Red Skelton.

While there are no direct tributes to Betty in her hometown, the farm on which she spent her summers remains privately owned at 1819 E. Jule Street in St. Joseph, Missouri. Here is the property today:

1819 e jule st, st joseph missouri, site of betty garrett childhood farm1819 E. Jule Street in St. Joseph, Missouri

One of Betty’s Seattle residences in 1930 was at 1014 Minor Ave. This is the property today:

1014 minor ave in seattle, one of betty garretts former residences1014 Minor Ave, Seattle, Washington

The Annie Wright School that Betty attended continues to function as a private school. It is located at 827 N Tacoma Ave.

Annie Wright School that Betty Garrett attended at 827 N Tacoma Ave in Tacoma WashingtonAnnie Wright School in Tacoma, Washington

Finally, when Betty and her mother moved to New York in 1940 for Betty to begin taking various classes relating to the performing arts, they resided at 243 E. 39th Street in New York, New York. This is the property as it stands today:

243 e 29th st nyc where betty garrett moved with her mom in 1940243 E. 39th St, NYC

Though Betty is no longer with us, audiences can still enjoy her boundless energy preserved through her many performances.


–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.

Posted in Classic Movie Travels, Posts by Annette Bochenek | Tagged | 23 Comments

5 Things You May Not Know about Betty Grable


5 Things You May Not Know about Betty Grable


Like that today would have been her birthday. Happy 101th Birthday to the legend Betty Grable!


1.) That Stage Mother Tho

I couldn't find a photo of Grable as a child, but I did one of Grable with her children. So, I was close.I couldn’t find a photo of Grable as a child, but I did one of Grable with her children. So, I was close.

If Betty Grable was born in the 1990s, there’s a chance she would have been on Toddlers and Tiaras. Her mother, Lillian, was a true stage mother who enrolled Betty in dancing classes as soon she could walk. In fact, Lillian was so determined to shape her youngest daughter into a star that she left her husband and eldest daughter behind in St. Louis to bring Betty to Hollywood.


2.) That Stage Fright Tho

Betty Grable graumans prings Looks like she got over it...Looks like she got over it…

Despite her career as an entertainer, Grable suffered from “demophobia” AKA the fear of crowds. She also was a somnambulist, AKA a sleepwalker. Probably not the best combination of disorders for an entertainer but, hey, I guess none of that matters if your mother is grooming you for stardom.


3.) That Baby Bump Tho

Betty Grable pinup There are actually 2 people in this photo.There are actually 2 people in this photo.

In her iconic pin-up photo, Grable has her back to the camera as she looks over her shoulder, smiling coyly. While it may seem like the pose is an artistic moment of genius, the pose was actually done for a very practical reason: Grable was pregnant and showing. Yup, Grable flaunting a baby-bump definitely would have taken away from that “everyman’s gal” fantasy they were building.


4.) That Pay Tho

How to Marry a Millionaire? Well, just marry Grable.How to Marry a Millionaire? Well, just marry Grable.

In 1946, Grable was highest paid woman in American, with the Treasury Department noting that she made over $300,000 a year. Nice!


5.) Them legs Tho

Betty Grable Those legs are worth than my, well, everything I own and have ever owned.Those legs are worth more than my, well, everything I own and have ever owned.

OK, so perhaps you already know this one, but at the height of her fame, Grable’s legs were insured for 1 million dollars. To put that in perspective, that’s a little over 9 million in 2016 dollars. That’s 4.5 million per leg…who needs the left leg anyway, am I right?


Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Birthday Legends, Posts by Minoo Allen | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Noir Nook: Christmas Holiday

Noir Nook: Christmas Holiday

 It’s called Christmas Holiday.

It stars famed hoofer Gene Kelly and popular singer Deanna Durbin.

This is noir?

You bet your rain-swept streets it is.

Christmas Holiday 1944 poster Deanna Durbin Gene KellyChristmas Holiday, 1944, stars Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly

Released in 1944 and directed by Robert Siodmak, Christmas Holiday is fairly overflowing with unexpected events and a twisty-turny plot from start to finish. It opens during the war at Christmastime, where we see a soldier, Lt. Charlie Mason (Dean Marens) about to take advantage of his leave by jetting off to San Francisco to marry his lady love, Mona. Unfortunately for him, he gets a telegram from Mona before his departure, informing him that she’s said “I do” to someone else. Turning down a pal’s sympathy-inspired offer to accompany him to New York, Charlie insists on going to San Francisco: “She’s not going to get away with this,” he growls. But his flight encounters inclement weather and is forced to land in New Orleans, where Charlie is put up in a hotel. There, he meets newspaper reporter Simon Fenimore (Richard Whorf), who takes him to a local nightclub, where he’s introduced to singer Jackie Lamont (Deanna Durbin).

Christmas Holiday 1944 Deanna Durbin Gene KellyDeanna and Gene

And then the noir begins. Here’s how:

  1. When we first see Deanna Durbin’s character, she’s singing on stage, wearing a knockout black dress and a world-weary, why-can’t-I-be-somewhere-else attitude. She literally has no expression on her face whatsoever. It’s really a quite startling performance.
  2. Twenty minutes into the film, we launch into the first of two flashbacks – narrated in voiceover by Jackie Lamont, Deanna Durbin’s character.
  3. Jackie Lamont’s name is not Jackie Lamont. It’s Abigail Mannette. She changed it to distance herself from her husband, Robert – who’s serving a life sentence in prison . . . for MURDER!!
  4. In the flashback, we see that Abigail and Robert lived with Robert’s mother (played to perfection by Gale Sondergaard), who is domineering and wholly devoted to her baby boy – no matter what he does. She’s also quite obviously in charge of the entire household; Mama is running the show.Gale Sondergaard

     Gale Sondergaard

  5. On the outside, Robert appears to be a charming, fun-loving, devil-may-care type of guy. It doesn’t take long for him to be exposed as a gambler, a liar and very probably a sociopath.
  6. There’s an atmosphere of doom in the Mannette home; the feeling that something’s not quite right. Robert comes home in the middle of the night. (“I do keep terrible hours, don’t I?” he asks.) His mother finds a wad of cash in his pants pocket. Robert’s clothes have a mysterious stain on them. When Robert comes down to breakfast, his mother cryptically assures him that there’s nothing in the paper. (“You know what I mean,” she says.) After first seeing Robert’s mother trying to scrub the stain out of Robert’s pants, Abigail later spies her burning the garment in the incinerator.
  7. Before long, Robert’s asking Abigail to lie for him. “If anybody asks you, you never saw me with that money,” he instructs her grimly. “My life may depend upon it.”
  8. In the film’s second flashback, which focuses on Abigail and Robert’s courtship, we learn that Robert’s connection with his mother was “pathological,” according to Abigail: “Robert was the only thing in the world she cared about. He wasn’t just her son. He was her everything.”
  9. In an interesting manipulation of time that I can’t recall seeing in any other noir, the second flashback, which started earlier than the first, then catches up with and passes the first one. If that makes any sense.
  10. The movie contains this awesome monologue from Robert’s mother: “From the day you married him, I think now from the day you met him, you’ve closed your eyes to what it was all about. To what he was all about. Selfishly. Just so you could be happy. He needed your strength. That’s why I let him marry you. And all you gave him back was his own weakness. You weren’t blind because you had to be. You wanted to be. It might have hurt to know that Robert is what he is. But if you had been willing to be hurt for his sake, you could have helped him. I tried to make him strong myself. I couldn’t alone, so I relied on you. You have failed.”
Christmas Holiday 1944 Deanna DurbinDurbin

After Abigail finishes telling her story to the lieutenant, the film takes yet another unexpected noirish turn that I’ll let you discover for yourself. Suffice it to say that it further supports the contention that Christmas Holiday. Is. Noir.

If you’ve never seen this underrated film, treat yourself during this wintry season and snuggle up with Gene, Deanna, and Christmas Holiday. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

– Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for Classic Movie Hub

Karen Burroughs Hannsberry is the author of the Shadows and Satin blog, which focuses on movies and performers from the film noir and pre-Code eras, and the editor-in-chief of The Dark Pages, a bimonthly newsletter devoted to all things film noir. Karen is also the author of two books on film noir – Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film and Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. You can follow Karen on Twitter at @TheDarkPages.
If you’re interested in learning more about Karen’s books, you can read more about them on amazon here:


Posted in Noir Nook, Posts by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Vitaphone View: Victor Pict-Ur-Music: In Case the Silents Hang Around

Victor Pict-Ur-Music: In Case the Silents Hang Around

It is hard to believe, nine decades after the talkie revolution began, that at the time many felt sound films would be a passing fad soon rejected by the public.  After all, hundreds of earlier attempts to synchronize motion pictures and sound had consistently failed. Some of the biggest producers of the period publicly stated that talkies would soon disappear and that the public would always prefer a quality silent to a sound picture. No less than Thomas Edison and Charlie Chaplin said as much.

Cover of the Victor Pict-Ur-Music recordings catalogCover of the Victor Pict-Ur-Music recordings catalog

With its premiere, The Jazz Singer truly kicked off the sound revolution. But heads of the other major studios (except Fox, which had its own sound system in Movietone) decided to take a “wait and see” approach. MGM, Paramount, First National, Universal, and Producers Distributing Company met secretly to decide what to do. The resulting “Five Cornered Agreement” stipulated that none of their studios would convert to making talking pictures unless all of them did.  And that they would all adopt the same sound process. Needless to say, a revolution waits for no one, and within a few months it was clear that any studio that resisted the switch to sound would soon be out of business.

So by mid-1928, the studios decided to play catch-up with Fox and Warner Bros and began wiring their studios for sound and testing their stars’ voices. But even then, many studio heads felt that before long, the public would reject talkies and they would be back making silent pictures.

Sample page from Victor's catalog of available mood music and sound effectsSample page from Victor’s catalog of available mood music and sound effects 78s

Amid this uncertainty, the Victor Talking Machine Company saw a business opportunity. One of the pioneering makers of phonographs and 78 rpm records for the home, Victor constantly changed with the times. Before being bought by RCA in 1929, they had rolled out increasingly sophisticated phonographs, a electrical recording process, automatic record changing players, radio-phonograph combinations, and an all-star roster of artists.

In 1928, Victor launched its “Pict-Ur-Music” line of hundreds of 10- and 12-inch 78’s with mood music and sound effects. Targeting theatres seeking to fire their house musicians or resisting conversion to sound films, their catalog offered recordings for every conceivable category of mood: romance, hurry, danger, peppy comedy, and dozens more.

Example of recommended cue sheets show where in a film specified Pict-Ur-Music disks could be usedExample of recommended cue sheets show where in a film specified Pict-Ur-Music disks could be used.

The key behind the Pict-Ur-Music concept was the use of a dual turntable console that allowed switching from one disk to the other to provide continuous accompaniment to a silent feature. Music could also be played on one turntable while a sound effects disk (bells, horns honking, wind, etc.) was played on the other. For a time, Victor issued “cue sheets” that would suggest which disks could be used to back each scene of a film.  Rehearsal was strongly suggested, and today one can only imagine how stressful and hectic the operator’s job was.

The Victor Pict-Ur-Music disks were two sided, with the same selection on both sides. The idea here was that once one side became too worn, the other could be used. Some of the disks derived from non-vocal commercial Victor 78s that were already offered to the home market. In other cases, new “mood” tunes were specifically recorded for the series.

Label for a 1929 Victor Pict-Ur-Music disk Happy Go Lucky One StepLabel for a 1929 Victor Pict-Ur-Music disk

To give you an idea of what some of these recordings sounded like, here are links to a few of my own Pict-Ur-Disks:





Enough theatres apparently bought these disks as they still turn up today on eBay and on record collector auction lists. I own about a hundred myself. The number two and three phonograph record companies of the time, — Columbia and Brunswick respectively — saw a business opportunity and came out with their own series of mood and sound effects 78s after Victor launched their Pict-Ur-Music line.

A dual turntable system used for 1928-29 mood music recordingsA dual turntable system used for 1928-29 mood music recordings.

Needless to say, none of this lasted very long. Launched in mid-1928, the dual turntables and mood disks were finished in theatres within a year. By mid-1929, every Hollywood film being made was with synchronized sound, although silent versions were also offered for a short time.

Many of these recordings survive today because they soon found another home and use: radio. Both the mood music and sound effects disks found extensive use on radio programs and often batches of them have turned up when a station cleans out their storage rooms.

– Ron Hutchinson, Founder of The Vitaphone Project, for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Ron’s Vitaphone View articles here.

Ron is widely recognized as one of the country’s foremost film historians, with special emphasis on the period covering the transition to sound (1925-30) and early attempts to add sound to film. As the founder of The Vitaphone Project, he has worked with Warner Brothers, UCLA, LOC and private collectors worldwide to find previously lost soundtrack discs and restore early sound shorts. Ron’s unique knowledge has  been sourced in over 25 books as well as documentaries for PBS and TCM, and commentary for “The Jazz Singer” DVD boxed set. He was awarded the National Society of Film Critics “Film Heritage Honor” for his work in film preservation and discoveries, and was the presenter of rare Vitaphone shorts at the 2016 TCM Film Festival. For more information you can visit the Vitaphone Project website or Facebook Group.

And, if you’re interested in exploring some of these newly discovered shorts and rarities, you can pick them up on DVD via amazon:


Posted in Posts by Ron Hutchinson, Vitaphone View | Tagged | 3 Comments