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United Artists is one of Hollywood's leading film companies from 1919 through its merging with MGM in 1981 and having a hit-and-miss life since (as United Artists Media Group, disappearing and then reappearing). The James Bond series is its most famous contribution to world cinema, in addition to a great many Best Picture Oscar winners. Yet its short subject program was never very consistent. Animated cartoons were the most popular and, like all of their shorts, released in spurts: most famously, Walt Disney distributed his Mickey Mouse & Silly Symphonies through them between 1932 and 1937, then Walter Lantz briefly had them handle his Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda during a separation period with his primary distributor Universal. Most popular of all were DePatie-Freleng Enterprises' Pink Panther, Inspector, Ant & Aardvark, Tijuana Toads & other creations from a mostly ex-Warner Bros. Crew, spanning the years 1964-1978. UA also distributed a few one-shot cartoons like Icarus Montgolfier Wright, Jules Engel's 1962 Oscar nominee. In terms of both animation and live-action, it handled several independent productions imported from Canada's National Film Board. Focus here is on live-action, starting with... Feature Production Musicals Produced by Joseph Schenck, these were pretty ambitious for their time and are still highly entertaining today once you get past the aging soundtracks. All were in black and white, but a few were tinted in color. William Cameron Menzies was primary director in charge, collaborating with Hugo Riesenfeld. Alpha Video put a couple of these on a DVD called The Fantastic World Of William Cameron Menzies http://shop.tcm.com/fantastic-world-of-william-cameron-menzies/089218591395 All run roughly 10 minutes unless noted. Impressions Of Tschaikowksky's Overture 1812 / October 5, 1929 Napoleon is profiled in his glory here Tannhauser / October 1929 Musical Marionettes / November 1929 A Night In Madrid / November 1929 Tintypes / December 1929 Irish Rhapsody (Irish Fantasy) (co-director: Orville O. Dull) / December 14, 1929 Features Donald Novis, Helen Foster & Nick Cogley The Fall Of The Bastille / December 1929 Glorious Vamps (supervisor: Orville O. Dull) / 2 reels / © January 15, 1930 (filmed '29) Starring Bobby Watson In A Russian Cabaret / January 1930 The Birth Of Jazz / February 1930 Starring Harry Richmond The Huskin' Bee / February 1930 The Love Cup (music: Rudolph Friml) / February 1930 The Wizard's Apprentice (supervisor: Sidney Levee) / April 1, 1930 Starring in a live-action version of Mickey Mouse's famous Fantasia performance, broomsticjs are cleverly manipulated as puppets. Impressive color tinting here. The Hungarian Rhapsody (supervisor: Eugene Ford) / © May 15, 1930 Romance found, almost lost and regain in rural Hungary. Quite the little mellerdrama here. The Americans Came / July 26, 1930 Starring Otto Matieson & Arthur Lang Zampa (supervisor: Eugene Ford) / September 1, 1930 Featuring Wallace MacDonald Musicolor Shorts David Loew produced these with Werner Janssen credted as key director. These interesting little musical shorts were shot economically in Cinecolor Tocatta And Fugue / 10+m / October 15, 1946 Engulfed Cathedral / 9+m / June 1, 1947 Moonlight / 9+m / September 19, 1947 Enchanted Lake / 7+m / December 10, 1947 Fingal's Cave / 10+m / March 26, 1948 (filmed '47) Liebestraum / 7+m / May 7, 1948 Swan Of Tuonela / 9+m / September 1, 1948 Bolero / 9+m / January 7, 1949 (filmed '48) Songs Of America These mini musical documentaries were produced by W. Lee Wilder for Attwood Productions and featured Jester Hairston. All in black and white, running 8-9 minutes each. Most were filmed in 1949, but some were held over through the 1950-51 season. Treasured Ballads / July 4, 1949 Melodic Spirituals / August 19, 1949 Visions And Voices / September 9, 1949 Melodious Sketches / October 7, 1949 Symphonic Shades / November 4, 1949 Melodies Reborn / December 2, 1949 Cherished Melodies / December 31, 1949 Southern Acapella / January 17, 1950 The Tradition / February 25, 1950 Memorable Gems / March 15, 1950 Tunes That Live / April 14, 1950 Glory Filled Spirituals / May 12, 1950 Highlights Of Long Ago / June 6, 1950 Long Remembrances / July 14, 1950 Folk Lore / August 11, 1950 The Moods / September 15, 1950 Design In Melody / October 21, 1950 Treasured Melodies / November 17, 1950 Melodious Patterns / December 22, 1950 War Activities Committee Wartime shorts, all documentaries Mister Gardenia Jones (Office Of War Information; George B. Seitz; narrator: Carey Wilson) / bw-13+m / May 29, 1942 Documentary short film depicting the work of the United Service Organizations (USO) in providing recreational and morale-boosting services for American troops. Ronald Reagan stars. Produced at MGM but distributed by United Artists. It's Your War Too (US Army Signal Corps) / bw-10+m / April 20, 1944 Profile of the WACs. Reward Unlimited (US Office Of War; Mary C. McCall Jr.) / bw-10+m / May 25, 1944 Starring Dorothy McGuire & James Brown Brought To Action (US Navy) / bw-20+m / January 11, 1945 To The Shores Of Iwo Jima (US Marine Corps; Milton Sperling) / Kodachrome 16mm (Technicolor 35mm)-19m / June 7, 1945 (Academy Award Nominee) Documentary short film depicting the American assault on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima and the massive battle that raged on that key island in the Allied advance on Japan. The World In Action (Canada Carries On) Imported from the National Film Board of Canada. All black & white. Directors/producers listed in () Churchill's Island (Stuart Legg) / 22m / June 27, 1941 (co-distributed by Columbia) Letter From Home / 15m / October 14, 1941 Warclouds In The Pacific (Stuart Legg) / 21m / November 1941 Food, Weapon Of Conquest (Stuart Legg) / 22m / 1941 (Canada) & June 5, 1942 (US) Battle For Oil / 20m / January 17, 1942 Ferry Boat (Stuart Legg, producer; Ross McLean) / 19m / 1942 This Is Blitz (Stuart Legg) / 22m / January 1942 (Canada) & February 21, 1942 (US) New Soldiers Are Tough / 18m / June 14, 1942 Inside Fighting Russia (Our Russian Ally) (Stuart Legg) / 22m / April 1942 (Canada) & August 1, 1942 (US) Geopolitik - Hitler's Plan For Empire (Hitler's Plan) (Stuart Legg) / 20m / August 15, 1942 Inside Fighting China (Stuart Legg) / 22m / September 13, 1942 The Mask Of Nippon (Behind The Nipponese Mask) (Stuart Legg, producer; Margaret Palmer) / 21m / October 24, 1942 Freighters Under Fire (Fighting Freighters) / 26m / December 12, 1942 Invasion Of North Africa / 21m / 1942 (Canada) & February 4, 1943 (US) Road To Tokyo (Raymond Spottiswoode) / 18m / 1942 (Canada) & April 24, 1943 (US release) Battle Is Their Birthright (Stuart Legg) / 24m / 1943 Corvette Port Arthur (Joris Ivens) / 22m / 1943 Fighting Dutch (Raymond Spottiswoode) / 15m / 1943 The Gates Of Italy (Stuart Legg & Tom Daly) / 21m / 1943 Paratroops (Stanley Hawes) / 10m / February 12, 1943 Invasion Of Europe / 21m / May 7, 1943 War Birds / 15m / 1943 The War For Men's Minds (Stuart Legg) / 21m / June 1943 (Canada) & August 28, 1943 (US) The Labour Front / 21m / October 1943 (Canada) & November 19, 1943 (US) Letter From Overseas / 15m / 1943 Wings On Her Shoulder (Jane Marsh) / 9m / 1943 Balkan Powder Keg (Stuart Legg) / 19m / 1944 Russia's Foreign Policy / 21m / March 18, 1944 Global Air Routes (Stuart Legg) / 15m / April 1944 (Canada) & June 23, 1944 (US) Battle of Europe (Stuart Legg & Tom Daly) / 15m / May 5, 1944 When Asia Speaks (Stuart Legg, producer; Gordon Weisenborn) / 19m / June 1944 (Canada) & December 16, 1944 (US) Zero Hour (Stuart Legg) / 22m / June 1944 (Canada) & October 21, 1944 (US) Fortress Japan (Stuart Legg) / 16m / August 10, 1944 Inside France (Stuart Legg & Tom Daly) / 21m / November 4, 1944 Our Northern Neighbour (Stuart Legg & Tom Daly) / 21m / 1944 Ships And Men (Ernest Borneman, producer; Leslie McFarlane) / 18m / 1944 Food: Secret Of The Peace (Stuart Legg) / 11m / 1945 Guilty Men (Tom Daly) / 11m / 1945 John Bull's Own Island (Stuart Legg) / 20m / 1945 Maps In Action (Stuart Legg) / 20m / 1945 Now – The Peace (Stuart Legg) / 21m / May 18, 1945 Spotlight On The Balkans (Stuart Legg) / 11m / 1945 Headline Hunters / 10m / June 1945 World Windows Produced in the UK by E. S. Keller & F. W. Keller for World Window Productions, these absolutely gorgeous Technicolor travelogues featured camera work by Jack Cardiff, later famous for his feature films (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, The African Queen, etc.). Directors/editors are listed in () No. 1- The Eternal Fire (Pietro Francesci & Hans Nieter; music: Ezo Masetti ) / 10+m / filmed 1937; released October 1, 1938 Covers Vesuvius and Pompeii No. 2- Fox Hunting In The Roman Campagna (Alassandro Blasetti; music: Ezo Masetti ) / 8+m / filmed 1937; released October 1938 Sometimes listed as #3 No. 3- Rome Symphony (Giacomo Gentilomo; music: Ezo Masetti ) / 10+m / filmed 1937; released October 1938 Sometimes listed as #2 No. 4- Jerusalem (Hans Nieter & John Hanau; music: Ludig Brav ) / 8+m / November 1, 1938 No. 5- Wanderers Of The Desert (Hans Nieter & John Hanau; music: Ludig Brav ) / 10+m / November 1, 1938 No. 6- Petra The Lost City (Hans Nieter & John Hanau; music: Ludig Brav ) / 8+m / November 1, 1938 No. 7- Arabian Bazaar (Hans Nieter & John Hanau; music: Ezra Masetti ) / 9+m / November 1, 1938 No. 8- Ruins Of Palmyra And Baalbek (Hans Nieter & John Hanau; music: Ludig Brav ) / 10+m / November 1, 1938 Series two was distributed by United Artists in the UK, but not in the United States. Instead Paramount handled them in 1940-42 under the umbrella title “Fascinating Journeys”. This was two years after their initial release overseas. No. 1- A Road In India (Hans Nieter; music: Giovanni Fusco; narrator: Frank Gallop ) / 10m / February 1939 (UK release) & October 24, 1941 (US release) No. 2- Temples Of India (Hans Nieter; music: Ludwig Brav & Menaka India Ballet “Shiva’s Dance of Destruction”; narrator: Frank Gallop ) / 10m / February 1939 (UK release) & September 4, 1942 (US release) No. 3- Sacred Ganges (Hans Nieter; narrator: Frank Gallop ) / 10m / April 20, 1939 (UK release) & December 27, 1940 (US release) No. 4- A Village In India (John Hanau & Hans Nieter [also ed]; narrator: Frank Gallop ) / 9m / May 29, 1939 (UK release) & January 31, 1941 (US release) No. 5- India Durbar (John Hanau & Hans Nieter [also ed]; narrator: Frank Gallop ) / 10m / May 29, 1939 (UK release) & May 15, 1941 (US release) No. 6- Delhi (Hans Nieter; music: Ludwig Brav; narrator: Frank Gallop ) / 10m / June 1939 (UK release) & March 21 1941 (US release) No. 7- Jungle (Hans Nieter; narrator: Frank Gallop ) / 10m / June 1939 (UK) & July 25, 1941 (US release) No. 8- River Thames Yesterday (Hans Nieter; music: Ludwig Brav; narrator: Frank Gallop ) / 10m / November 8, 1940 (US release) Another title, London On Parade, was released in the UK in January 1939 and probably uses similar footage as the last entry. And a selection of others... All in Technicolor unless noted Royal Symphony (Castleton Knight/Rank; Malcolm Sargent) / 26+m / March 2, 1954 Jacqueline Kennedy's Asian Journey (Motion Picture Service of United States Information) / 30m / December 21, 1962 In Eastmancolor This Is Jordan (Harold Baim Film- Paul Weld Dixon; narrator: Ed Bishop) / 24m / October 15, 1963 The Beatles Come To Town (British Pathé) / Techniscope-6m / December 26, 1963 (US release June 1964) Dave Clark Five (British Pathé) / 6m / February 4, 1964 Chagall (Auerbach Film Enterprises & Albert Skira- Simon Schiffrin; script: Leonard Neubauer; narrator: Vincent Price) / 26m / October 1964 Completed in 1963, a profile of the painter Marc Chagall Skaterdater (Byway Prod.- Marshall Backlar & Noel Black) / 17+m / December 1, 1965 (Academy Award Nominee) Profiling the skateboard craze with music by Mike Curb and Nick Venet Reflections On Love (Clarendon, Barry J. Kulick, producer; Joe Massot) / 14+m / May 1966 Features shots of The Beatles, Jenny Boyd, Jane Lumb & Michael Morris in a romantic scene set in swinging London Behind The Veil (Clarendon; Jean Oser) / 21m / July 1966 Profiles an Indian wedding ceremony Tender Touch Of Love (Clarendon, Stanley Darer, producer; Robin Cantelon) / 20m / July 1966 Looking at teens in Hong Kong The Lovers' Knot (How Thais Fall In Love) (Clarendon; Jean Oser) / 19m / July 1966 Profiles romance in Thailand Shark Hunt (Plaza Pictures-Ry Associates) / 10m / November 9, 1967 Filmed off Cornwall Wet And Wild (Grant Rohloff & Fred Hudson) / 14m / January 1968 Surfing in Hawaii and California. Co-distributed by Pyramid Films People Of Provence / 9m / April 24, 1968 Beyond Wakiki / 19m / December 18, 1968 Blaze Glory (FilmFair Communications; Len Janson & Chuck Menville) / 11+m / December 19, 1968 Part animated pixilation spoof on westerns. Co-distributed by Pyramid Films. Das Apartment (1501 ½) (Paul B. Price) / 20+m / June 1971 Drama with Paul B. Price & Madge West The Last Of The Wild Mustangs (FilmFair Communications & Philip Morris Inc.) / 9m / March 9, 1972 Solo (Four Star Productions-Pyramid Films; David Adams & Phil Tucker, producers; Mike Hoover) / 9+m / December 1972 (Academy Award Nominee) Poetic views of a mountain climber. Co-distributed by Pyramid Films.
It is, perhaps, the most neglected genre of cinema. The sponsored promotional film never gets its proper respect, any more than your average TV commercial. To be fair, it is hard to analyze films that often lack story-lines or feature major stars, although some of the animated cartoons get modest attention in small circles. Not surprisingly, they were ignored at Oscar time (with one exception listed far below) because Hollywood's bigwigs didn't view them as particularly “worthy”. Nonetheless they existed and some of those spared from the death of nitrate decomposition are quite cinematic and innovative. The two companies I am profiling here were focused in the Detroit and Chicago areas, but with multiple branch offices across the U.S. and in foreign countries as well: Jam Handy Organization and Wilding Picture Productions a.k.a. Wilding, Inc. Because so many films produced by these two were rarely documented even in their own time, outside of select periodicals like Business Screen (1938-1973), it is quite a chore gathering information about them. Hopefully this thread can encourage others to provide a much better listing than mine. This is a history that should not be ignored. Rick Prelinger, a key archivist, has helped spare Jam Handy's name from the ravages of time, providing a mini-history in Films that Work: Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media (edited by Vinzenz Hediger and Patrick Vonderau, Amsterdam University Press, 2009) and uploading a log book for that company, ending abruptly in the '60s, to the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/JHOProdLog3/page/n0 As a film producer, Handy was enormously prolific. For a time, more film stock was being processed in Detroit, Michigan than by several major studios in California combined. Henry Jameson “Jam” Handy was very energetic and dedicated-to-healthy-living, being once part of the Illinois Athletic Club water polo team in the 1924 Olympics and an active swimmer well into his nineties. He started making movies sometime in the 1910s with his first company started during World War I with Herbert Kaufman assisting (as stated in Anthony Slide's The New Dictionary of the American Film Industry, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998). Much of his early work was in the field of animated cartoons, particularly diagram films for the armed services. While he never became the next Walt Disney, he did maintained his own animation department for a rather long time and even employed the great Max Fleischer at one point. The first official “Jam Handy” productions began circulation around 1922 (with this list's earliest title date) and his settling in Detroit the following year. His first sound productions arrived around 1930 and, by 1932, he was expanding with a new facility at 2900 East Grand Boulevard. At its peak, JHO (Jam Handy Organization) employed 600. In addition to the above mentioned animation department, there were two full orchestras that rivaled any out west, a processing lab and mobile projection vans that provided a newsreel you-are-there quality on screen almost equal to Fox Movietone. Technicolor was being utilized by 1936, three years after his arch rival Wilding Picture Productions (as discussed farther below). Initially the process was used for animated cartoons and select Alka Seltzer and Norge live-action ads, but one special two-reeler made for the New York World's Fair of '39 and CocaCola, Refreshment Through The Years, became so popular that many historians have incorrectly labeled it as the first all-color “sales film”. Because Technicolor was still an expensive luxury, Cinecolor and AnscoColor were tested as alternatives until 16mm Kodachrome (and later Ektachrome) became the favored choice for most industrial films. Eastmancolor arrived in 1952, alternating with Technicolor in the 35mm format. Three films utilized SuperScope in the fifties, all absolutely gorgeous productions that still maintain interest today: American Engineer, American Look and American Maker. Almost half of the JOH product was bankrolled by General Motors which, at the time, was the most profitable manufacturing company in America. The vast majority promoted the Chevrolet division, but some involved Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile divisions while, curiously, ignoring Cadillac for the most part. The relationship between film producer Handy and GM was mutually beneficial with the former keeping production costs down and only demanding the smallest take on any profits while the latter received all of the much needed advertising on both big theatrical and smaller household screens. GM's competitors like Chrysler, Ford, American Motors and Packard also utilized Jam Handy's services on occasion, but Chrysler and Ford's auto divisions had a more exclusive deal with Wilding. GM remained Jam Handy's chief supporter through the summer of 1971 when he helped one of his top assistants, William H. Sandy, branch out on his own by transferring over to him the lofty $5 million account, as covered by a New York Times article on September 7th of that year. Earlier, in the autumn of 1969, JHO became a part of Reeves Teletape and began decreasing the number of actual motion pictures but still maintaining a prolific output of 16mm filmstrips, a staple of the business since the thirties (but not covered on this thread). The company was still quite large at that time with additional sales branches in Chicago, New York City, Hollywood and Toronto. Yet after Sandy branched off with his own company, very few actual movies were made and most often these were done by other production companies with Handy merely providing some financial backing and expertise. By 1979, video cassettes had completely replaced filmstrips and these included some rather interesting car maintenance “how to” guides. By the time of his passing at age 97, his company was down to just two key employees but it still stayed afloat for a few more years mostly in video production. The Grand Boulevard studio was taken over for a period by Faith for Miracles for a series of religious TV shows. The building still stands today almost by default. In recent years, it has hosted a few film retrospectives and have preserved some of the Handy legacy. Although little effort was made to save the Jam Handy films for preservation, a surprising number survive because they are literally everywhere in private collections and thanks to Prelinger and others considering them worthy of rediscovery. Their aim was to sell and educate first and entertain secondly; sugar coated education is one way to describe them. A few even featured familiar faces like comedian Edgar Kennedy in the delightful The Other Fellow and soon to be famous Karl Malden in Joe's Kid. Others can best be described as “retro” entertainment, particularly those made in the shallow consumerist fifties with an emphasis on happy housewives fussing over the latest appliances from Westinghouse and Frigidaire. Yet thought provoking documentaries like Both Sides Of The Equation, directed by John MacDonald as late as 1970, are certainly worth a second look. Two personal favorites of mine: This one from 1936 starts with a solarized image of the workers appearing as if they are reliefs formed in some imaginary metal plate. Many of the Handy films of this period invite comparison to the contemporary British documentary “school”, highlighted by the GPO Film Unit and John Grierson, in that they emphasize how The Common Man is both the brains and muscle behind every machine. The narration on this next 1958 production was done by the mighty Marvin Miller of CBS radio's The Whistler, UPA cartoons and Warner Brothers travelogues. He also voiced Aquaman on Saturday morning TV. This exposé on mid-century design is a delightful overkill for the wide screen... perhaps it suggests that 1950s society was as trapped in the same geometric patterns as the trendy furnishings and wallpaper designs showcased? It then progresses towards a “soft sell” of Chevrolet's latest model ready to roll off the assembly line for '59. Jam Handy Organization Checklist Below is the far from complete list of the short films that is hopefully easier to read than past Shortie Checklist posts. If “one reel” is mention, it can run anywhere from a minute to eleven minutes and I will have to provide actual minutes (m) and seconds (s) later when/if that information becomes available. Two reels is roughly twenty minutes, three thirty and so on. Obviously black and white is indicated as “bw”. First up, a brief list of Jam Handy's feature films: General Motors: Around The World (General Motors Export) / bw & silent-49m / January 1928 / video: https://archive.org/details/GeneralM1927 / video: https://archive.org/details/GeneralM1927_2 / video: https://archive.org/details/GeneralM1927_3 / video: https://archive.org/details/GeneralM1927_4 Every Third Wheel (Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.- John A. Freese) / bw-8 reels / February 27, 1931 (listed in production by Film Daily) Keep 'Em Holding (Thermoid Co.) / bw-60m / January 15, 1941 Doctor In Industry: The Story Of Kenneth W. Randall (General Motors Corp.- Harford Kerbawy) bw-55m / February 22, 1946 / video: https://archive.org/details/0217_Doctor_in_Industry Strange Interview (General Motors Corp.- Herbert Kerbawy) / bw-60m / © March 6, 1947 On Guard For Complete Engine Protection (Fram Corp.) / color (16mm)-59m / April 27, 1949 The Safest Thing On Wheels (Thermoid Co.) / bw-52m / June 20, 1949 All That I Have (Church of God) / bw-57m / July 17, 1953 Handy's first TV show was done on June 11, 1946 for the Dumont and ABC Networks just before the former's official launch. As expected, Chevrolet promoted this untitled production. I don't get into live TV productions here, but do list (again, in a very generalized way) some of the 35mm shot TV commercials.
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