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Found 2 results

  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:
  2. Doing things a little differently this time. My previous Shorties Checklists were done alphabetically. These covered: Paramount http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/78341-a-shortie-checklist-paramount/ MGM http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/81165-a-shortie-checklist-mgm/ ...and Warner Brothers http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/81033-a-shortie-checklist-warner-bros/ This one will be arranged by SERIES. Might save some space and reading here. If you struggle finding a title, you could try a “find” search with the “Ctrl” and “F” keys together... maybe? Huh? Maybe? Depends on your keyboard. Also I am combining three film companies for the price of one. In (), I have listed how the company was showcased on the title cards. RKO Radio, a studio that needs no introduction to a classic movie fan Film Booking Offices of America or FBO, a short-lived outflt that was absorbed by RKO in 1929 Pathé Exchange, which merged with RKO in 1931. Series initially started by these rival distributors continued uninterrupted as RKO-Pathé productions. Although RKO sold the Pathé newsreel to Warner Brothers in 1947, RKO-Pathé short-subjects continued on through the fifties. Pathé Frères, perhaps the biggest name in French (and world) cinema in the silent era (and still a distributor mostly in Europe today, although it co-owned MGM in the 1990s for a while), dabbled a bit as a distributor for US-made series like Richard L. Ditmars' animal reels and then launch an American production company at Fort Lee, New Jersey to film Perils of Pauline (1914). This was a very popular multi-chapter movie serial, a genre that... ooooh.... sorry, I am not covering here. Soon, reorganized as the Pathé Exchange, the company was distributing Hal Roach's comedies made in California with Harold Lloyd as the star and, later, would be Mack Sennett's top distributor in the 1920s... in addition to blockbuster features like Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North and Cecil B. De Mille's The King of Kings. Joseph P. Kennedy, daddy to a future president, invested in this company in 1927 along with the Keith-Albee-Orpheum theaters. Gradually they merged with a new power-studio called RKO Radio Pictures, started in 1928. RKO-Pathé officially completed their merge in the spring of 1931, with the former company focusing on entertainment shorts and the latter on documentaries, sports-reels and travelogues. When most movie historians actually bother to “think about” RKO shorties, it is usually the Clark & McCullough, Edgar Kennedy and Leon Errol Comedies that enjoyed considerable TV exposure in the 1950s and '60s, along with the “March of Time” and Walt Disney films distributed by them. Of course, there was so much more to their shorties program, but many of their films have been forgotten in more recent decades because many of the Pathé co-productions, in particular, have been scattered all over the place in various vaults, sometimes with copyright issues and other legal “red tape”. McGraw-Hill distributed much of the “This Is America” series and assorted “Sportscopes” to schools on 16mm for a period, but color was always favored in classroom instruction by the 1960s and these became harder to view in later years. One other factor that may have kept many of RKO's non-Disney films out of circulation is that very few were, in fact, made in color in comparison to rival studios (particularly Warner Bros. and MGM which made many more shorts than features in the process during the thirties and forties), despite earning an Oscar for the pioneering La Cucaracha (see RKO Specials below). Today TCM mostly airs the 1955-57 post-General Tire & Rubber Company shorts that are part of their library. A vast variety of shorties are covered here, but I only list the LIVE-ACTION material (as in the other Checklists posted on this forum). Yet these companies backed animated cartoons of importance as well. Before being absorbed by RKO, FBO handled distribution of the “Dinky Doodles” series produced by John R. Bray and directed by Walter Lantz of future Woody Woodpecker fame, along side some “Krazy Kat” made by William Nolan. These were done mostly in the middle '20s, about the same time the company also aided a young Walt Disney and his distributor Margaret Winkler with some “Alice in Wonderland” part-animated/part live-action comedies. A bit earlier, in early 1921, Paul Terry launched his “Aesop's Fables” for Pathé, starring Farmer Al Falfa and an assortment of mice, cats, dogs, fowl, etc.. Co-producer on these was Amadee J. Van Beuren, who handled many documentaries and occasional live-action comedies for Pathé as well and would take full control of the animated cartoons by the time Paul Terry decided to leave and form his Terrytoons for Educational Pictures (later distributing for 20th Century Fox). These incorporated sound by 1928 with the title Dinner Time, released just before Walt Disney's Steamboat Willie... and Disney apparently wasn't impressed at a screening and made sure his Mickey Mouse scored a much bigger impact. Before merging with Pathé, RKO set up its own animation studio in 1930, featuring a character named Toby the Pup and animators Sid Marcus, Art Davis and Dick Huemer. Charles Mintz, who also handled Columbia's Krazy Kat (post-FBO), served as producer. However poor Toby suffered early retirement when RKO decided to make Van Beuren its official animation studio. Van Beuran continued on in the thirties with a human (pre-cat & mouse) version of Tom & Jerry, Amos & Andy in cartoon form, Little King, Cubby Bear, and Felix the Cat (revived in glorious color) as part of a “Rainbow Parade” series. Then... like Toby the Pup... all of Van Buren's cartoon characters suffered their own untimely fate in 1936 when RKO announced it had signed on the animation king himself, Walt Disney. Curiously, RKO had no cartoons to release during the fall 1936 through summer '37 season on account of Disney being required to complete his contract with United Artists first and RKO's previous factory having shut down a bit early. Yet RKO made up for lost time when it gained Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, the Silly Symphonies and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Disney distributed most of his product through RKO until the 1955-56 season, even after he established his own Buena Vista company for 1953's The Living Desert. Included in these lists are his True-Life Adventures and People & Places series done in live-action. On occasion, RKO-Pathé would distribute an independently produced cartoon. The one notable stand-out was a stop-motion 3-D color film initially shown at the New York World's Fair in 1940 in which an automobile literally “puts itself together”. This was reissued at the height of the 3-D craze (1953) as Motor Rhythm, interchanging with Walt Disney's Adventures In Music: Melody as a supplement to RKO's feature 3-D programs. Pathé by itself was a distributor of 3-D films back in 1925 (see Stereoscopiks). Key references used are the same as with the other lists: BoxOffice, Film Daily and Motion Picture Herald Magazine back issues (latter two found on the Internet Archive), the IMDb.com site, Motion Pictures 1912-1939 (1951), Motion Pictures 1940-1949 (1953) and Motion Pictures 1950-1959 (1960). Then there’s Leonard Maltin’s The Great Movie Shorts (a.k.a. Selected Short Subjects, Crown, 1972) which has a particular focus on RKO's Edgar Kennedy and Leon Errol. Now... with the Mack Sennett and Hal Roach comedies, I am keeping credits and plots VERY simple. Seek out the following for more detailed work: Mack Sennett's Fun Factory (2 Volume Set) by Brent E. Walker and http://www.theluckycorner.com/ This is FAR from a complete “information guide”, but hopefully it will perk some interest among my fellow movie geeks to “dig for more”. I particularly dedicate this series of posts to the long-running Pathé Review, which provided the movie screens of 1919-1930 with the best alternative to the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, the Learning Channel, the Nat Geo Channel and every other cable “educational” network of today... and trying to gather enough (but still incomplete) information on THAT series was a labor of love. Believe me.

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