Doing things a little differently this time. 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 20thCentury 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.