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  1. Jlewis

    A Shortie Checklist: Paramount

    This set of posts feature an alphabetical list of the Paramount short films. I know… I know. Those of you reading will ask “Are you nuts?!” Yes I am. I will even start with a little itty bitty introduction. On the other now-defunct forum (CMU), I had been making chronological “lists” of each studio’s live-action “shorties” since 2010. These lengthy blogs have… sometimes… received up to 8000 “views”. (I guess I am not the only shorties “geek” online?) This past year or two, I have been adding some of this material to the Wikipedia site and previously to the imdb.com site, but have only covered the bulk of Warner’s shorts so far. These are listed alphabetically. When you line up the titles chronologically, Paramount’s live action shorts intriguingly had three distinct “periods”. Burton Holmes was their most prolific producer; his travelogues following a previous “Paramount Travel Pictures” series of 1915. Arriving two years later was the mighty Mack Sennett whose enormously popular 2-reel comedies of the period brought a huge boost to the corporation’s income. His top star, Fatty Arbuckle, was made head of his own short comedy unit before graduating to features (and some… um… scandal as well), all co-starring newcomer Buster Keaton.Then, rather abruptly, Paramount decided to stop making shorties all together early in 1922. With rare exceptions, the company merely distributed others’ product (and the mid-twenties was a golden age for Pathé, Educational and smaller distributors keeping theaters well stocked) and focused just on their features for a while. When MGM announced in 1926 that they were entering the shortie business by distributing for UFA and (a year later) Hal Roach, Paramount hopped on the bandwagon again by starting up a newsreel and acquiring Al Christie’s comedies from Educational. With some of their features also being done at the Astoria facilities (NYC) in addition to Hollywood, the 1928-32 era was a particularly rich period for testing new talent emerging on Broadway in the 6-20 minute format. This second period of Paramount shorts production spanned exactly 30 years, parallel to the Paramount Newsreel shown in theaters twice weekly. Once the newsreel ended in February 1957, so did the live-action shorts, although animated cartoons with Popeye and Casper continued uninterrupted. Then, in 1960, Leslie Winik’s A Sport Is Born became an unexpected hit and Oscar nominee; thus awakening interest in a THIRD unbroken boom in live-action shorties, mostly of the sport or travelogue kind, that lasted through the 1968-69 season… and there have been a few occasional “one shots” since (like The Absent-minded Waiter). Again, these listed titles are all live-action and do not include animated cartoons, even though the “Speaking of Animals” series do feature cell-animated mouths implanted on live animal footage frame by frame. (Remember the talking camels in Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s Road to Morocco?) Of course, Paramount has been making plenty of ‘toons ever since John R. Bray’s studio began adding “inserts” to the “Paramount Pictograph” series. Most famous of its animation producers was Max Fleischer, who has a building named after him on the Paramount lot in Hollywood despite his cartoons being made in NYC and later Miami. Apart from his early work under John Bray, he started releasing through Paramount in 1927 (after operating independently with Red Seal distribution) and, by the time he and his brother Dave left their animation studio in early 1942, Paramount’s cartoon line-up succeeded very well indeed as the Number Two cartoon factory just behind Walt Disney… with Ko-Ko, Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman, along with the features Gulliver’s Travels and Mr. Bug Goes To Town. After taking charge of the Fleischer studio and moving the animators back to NYC, Paramount renamed it Famous Studios (later Paramount Cartoons) and kept chugging away through November 1967 with more Popeye, as well as Little Lulu, Little Audrey, Casper, “Noveltoons”, “Modern Madcaps”, etc. (Jerry Beck profiles at cartoonresearch.com the season-by-season saga of the animation studio that all animation buffs publically loathe but secretly love, since many later catoons are an acquired taste. Never allow an impressionable young mind watch Herman and Katnip in Mice Meeting You without proper supervision.) Among the later (cell-animated) independent releases distributed were Gene Dietch’s Munro (Oscar winner, 1960) and “Nudnick” series (1964-67) and a trio of John & Faith Hubley productions (1966-69), including another Oscar winner and two nominees. Meanwhile, during 1940-47, George Pal made his stop-motion Technicolor “Puppetoons” in Hollywood (previously running a factory of full color puppetoons in Holland since 1934). He eventually graduated to special effects live-action features. (Ray Harryhausen got his start working with Jasper, another character of “acquired taste” although I find Jasper And The Watermelons more oddly charming than insulting.) Although Pal was Paramount’s primary stop-motion producer, two earlier releases also had frame-by-frame figurines in motion: Lulu In Love was a 1936 re-edit of a Wladyslaw Starewicz production made in France, and Wild Oysters (February 14, 1940 release), which was made by longtime cartoon veteran Charles Bowers. Paramount sold their pre-1950 titles to the U.M. & M. TV Corporation in 1957, which altered many of the titles with their own logos, using the original prints. However, only we eagle-eyed movie fans can detect the difference. Harvey Comics apparently received (according Jerry Beck) both the ’50-59 cartoons AND the live-action Sportlights, Pacemakers and Toppers as well. I am assuming that Paramount kept their VistaVision travelogues and anything kept after 1960, some of it made available to schools on 16mm. After being taken over by Viacom, much of the pre-1950 product was re-acquired (excluding Popeye and Superman which Time-Warner eventually got). Kino Lorber released on DVD a sampling of late ‘20s through Robert Benchley ‘40s materal. Shield Pictures currently owns the rights to the Jerry Fairbanks productions and did air many of these on AMC in the 1990s when that network resembled TCM: http://www.shieldspictures.com/ I need to acknowledge my references for these lists and you folks can let me know of my many boo-boos that need corrected… preferable on another thread. (Also I am not sure how many edits I am “allowed” to make here.) BoxOffice Magazine (scans available online for a while, but a bit harder to access in recent years), Film Daily and Motion Picture Herald Magazine back issues (both found on the Internet Archive), with the IMDb.com site have all been a great help. (I had added many Warner shorties to that latter site.) Equally important are the Library of Congress copyright listings Motion Pictures 1912-1939 (1951), Motion Pictures 1940-1949 (1953), Motion Pictures 1950-1959 (1960) and Motion Pictures 1960-1969 (1971). Also Edwin M. Bradley’s The First Hollywood Sound Shorts, 1926-1931 (McFarland & Company, 2005). Unfortunately the later Paramount shorties are poorly documented, even in the periodicals of the period. So it is good that many Treasure Searchers have been digging up missing prints and additional information (and a few even pop up on youtube if you hunt well enough) in the years since I began posting these silly posts as a naïve Treasure Searcher myself. Anyhoo… this is the basic set up for each film listed: Title of film (producer and/or director) If you see (---), it means I don’t have director information… yet. black & white (bw) or color “approximate” running time in minutes (m) or running time in reels (1 reel is under 11 minutes, 2 reels under 25 minutes) since I couldn’t find an exact time frame here Series Title in () with a key star (a.k.a. name above the title) listed in [] release date or copyright © date and sometimes a filming date in () (any awards) brief description… and I do keep it brief. Additional cast members are also listed here. And now... a salute to the most prolific short film producer for this company:

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