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  1. 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.
  2. Doing things alphabetically this time and restricting to releases dating after September 1928 (start of the 1928-29 season when sound was incorporated... gradually). I could tackled the pre-'28 films on a future date with a special thread all their own... but I wanted to keep this thread not too-too long. After all... Universal has either produced or distributed more short films than any other company during Hollywood's golden age. The numbers for the silent era are staggering, figuring about 4280-4300 released between 1912 and 1928. Fortunately, I do NOT need to blog these thanks to the dedicated contributors on the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com). The silent Universal is well documented title by title (thanks in part to Richard E. Braff for McFarland Publishing), even if only a fraction are accessible today. A popular rumor that is probably not true but certainly sounds true suggests that some studio employees simply dumped countless rolls of film into the Pacific, assuming nothing without a soundtrack would ever be marketable. Nonetheless, it is the later product that is under-represented online and, hopefully, these posts will partly remedy the situation. When Michael G. Fitzgerald published his popular Universal Pictures: A Panoramic History In Words, Pictures and Filmographies in 1977, only the thirties and forties shorts were accounted for, with limited detail. Universal's product is undoubtedly the least recognized in print and very rarely shown today... unless it features Woody Woodpecker. It is a toss up as to who gets the title of longest surviving film major, not counting the ol' Biograph facilities sometimes used for TV. Either Universal or Paramount is game for this, since both were more-or-less "launched" in the spring of 1912... depending on how you would interpret that. That is, Paramount's history books insist that "it all began" with Adolf Zukor's backing of Queen Elizabeth and his Famous Players Company, even though the name "Paramount" (and its mountain of stars logo) wasn't adopted until 1914 as the name of W.W. Hodkinson's distribution company (handling both Famous Players and Lasky feature films). Universal tends to start its birthday with the birth of Universal Manufacturing distribution in May 1912, even though it could easily use Paramount's logic and "start" with Carl Laemle's IMP company in 1909... or... even make itself younger by using the 1914 construction of its Burbank, California facilities and the release of its fourth feature film Damon and Pythias. (This was the first made AT the Universal we know today.) Movie studios, like actors and actresses, have no trouble fibbing about their age. In any case, the first multi-reel feature film released under the Universal logo was Rainy's African Hunt. Yet, the company was slower at backing five-reel "epics" than its rivals, despite the fact that its second, Traffic In Souls, was a runaway smash in 1913. It took about three years before they reached Paramount's level of 40-60 per year. All the while, a huge mass of shorts accompanied the bill, at a rate of five or more titles per week. Obviously, these were not all made at one place, but by many mini studios operating under the Universal fold. A basic rundown of the companies and series were updated here on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_short_subjects_by_Hollywood_studio#Silent_Films_.28pre-1928.29 There were also two silent newsreels full of human interest and travelogue footage: Screen Magazine (105 shorts from November 18, 1916-February 5, 1919) and New Screen Magazine (100 shorts from February 13, 1919 through January 5, 1921) before the official sound Universal Newspaper Newsreel began July 21, 1929, running through December 26, 1967. (http://www.archive.org/details/universal_newsreels) The sound era: The "Universal Movietone" series, launched in 1928, marked the studio's first foray into talkies. By mid-1929, they started moving towards an all-sound program, but some of the western shorts like "The Pioneer Kid" were still filmed silent and available in both sound effects and silent versions. It took a while for some of the rural theaters to wire up and Universal frequently catered to those that the big-wig monopolists ignored in favor of the urban market. Universal had a limited number of theaters it owned and this was reflected in the character of its product. Other studios aimed for sophistication, while this company provided entertainment for Middle America. This was a top company for multi-chapter serials and the Saturday matinee market we now associate with childhood pre-television. For his 21st birthday in April 1929, Carl Laemmle Jr. was put in charge by daddy and made good with All Quiet On the Western Front and the first wave of great horror features. He also made sure the sound shorts got a dramatic make-over. Western 2-reelers were definitely o-u-t, despite being a staple for two decades and always an annual cash-cow. The new aim, again, was to attract more urban audiences. Augmenting the always reliable Slim Summerville, a new crop of comedy stars were conned away from giants Sennett, Roach and Educational. Lloyd Hamilton, Bert Roach, Daphne Pollard and Franklin Pangborn were all part of the two reel lineup for 1931. Warren Doane was put in charge of the more expensive productions after 1932 and Harry Edwards, Gus Meins, James W. Horne, Sam Newfield and even George Stevens added as directors. Unfortunately, critics and audiences made unfavorable comparisons to the Sennetts and Roaches; the Pollard and Hamilton comedies in particular get chewed out for being "unoriginal" in contemporary reviews. Looking attractive in production values was not the same as being "funny". They did better with some multi-star vehicles and a later batch featuring Sterling Holloway (future voice-artist in many Disney cartoons) was more favorably viewed than the other star-vehicles, but only a few were reissued and shown on TV later. Surprisingly, the company threw in the towel after completing the 1934-35 season. What's more, they stayed clear from short comedies all together, using their B features instead as a springboard for future talent like Abbott & Costello. Their serials were better liked at the time and Flash Gordon was shown in many first run theaters, so most of the energy was focused here (that is, until International merged a decade later and changed things again). Also, there were animated cartoons providing enough of the laughs. Once again, I'm pushing "live action" here, but Walter Lantz does deserve special mention since his cartoons are the primary Universal shorts seen today. Two very gorgeous DVD box sets of Woody Woodpecker & Friends were issued a few years back, competing very well indeed against the Looney Tune Golden Collections and Disney Treasures. They even included extensive liner notes and stellar restoration (including original United Artists title cards for the late '40s releases made when Lantz and Universal had a brief "separation"). The animation bearing his name was not quite in the same league as Walt Disney and wasn't even Hanna-Barbera TV standard during the lackluster later years, but he could back some grade A-material from time to time. Directorial talents included Alex Lovy, Shamus Culhane, Dick Lundy, Don Patterson, Tex Avery, Paul J. Smith, Jack Hannah and Sid Marcus... adapting quite well to their boss' genial nature after working for more controlling animation rivals. Lantz had started animating for Hearst's studio back in 1916 as a struggling teenager and first hit his stride with the Fleischer Inkwell inspired "Dinky Doodles" for producer John Bray in the mid-twenties. After working in live-action comedies, he impressed Carl Laemmle enough to be put in charge of the newly formed Universal Cartoons in 1929, taking over Oswald the Rabbit (formerly a Walt Disney and Charles Mintz character). At the start of 1930, his staff produced a delightful 2-color Technicolor "crowning of Paul Whiteman" insert for The King of Jazz. The Oswalds of the thirties are not all that bad (for their time) as were his color "Cartunes" starting 1934. When Universal suffered financial troubles mid-decade, he persuaded the front office to allow him to independently co- produce, allowing greater freedom, but also forcing him to keep everything on a budget. (At least twice he had to shut-down temporarily to get enough funding, briefly in 1940 and for a year and a half in 1948-50.) Andy Panda arrived in 1939, followed the next year by Lantz's biggest star Woody Woodpecker. New 'toons were released as late as 1972, with Chilly Willy arriving in 1953 and the Beary Family in '62. (Less famous than Walter Lantz was Dave Fleischer's short-lived “Cartoon Melodies” series that succeeded the mostly live-action, but with animated inserts, “Sing & Be Happy” series and filled in a void during Lantz' two year separation from Universal. In 1965-66, two independent cartoons produced by Ed Graham Jr. were also added to the program: The Shooting Of Dan McGrew and Funny Is Funny.) Universal was distributing sound cartoons before Burbank neighbor Warner Brothers took on Leon Schlesinger and the Harman-Ising team. It is interesting to compare the two companies' line-up in the early thirties, even though the other was a lot more prolific and got all of the praise thanks to its Brooklyn-based Vitaphone. Clearly, there was some friendly rivalry going on. In 1930, Universal responded to Warner-Vitaphone's signing Robert Ripley's "Believe It or Not" with John Hix's "Strange As It Seems", the first being shot in Multicolor. Like Paramount's "Pictorials", they were "screen magazines" with up to eight different segments... in this case, covering the eccentric and unusual, strange animals, interesting locales and peculiar hobbies and occupations. When Warner signed golf champ Bobby Jones for some comic sports-reels, Universal took on Babe Ruth. Inspector Carr was also one-upped by a short-lived adaptation of radio's popular The Shadow. During the years 1932-39, first the team of William Rowland and Monte Brice, then Milton Schwarzwald's Mentone and Nu-Atlas companies provided a variety of comedy vaudeville acts and mostly plotless musicals to both Universal and RKO's programs. All of these were shot in New York City. When Universal's comedy unit in California was halted, it leaned on this eastern product for a couple years. At their best, these showcased a number of interesting performers mostly forgotten today, but occasionally including some familiar faces like Smith & Dale and Bob Hope. All film companies relied on travelogues and human interest docu-shorts to fill up their programs because these could be made at half the cost of a studio-made musical or comedy. Much of the footage could be shot on location silent and given voice-over and music later. When a company like Universal had to economize, this became the preference for pre-feature filler. They closely followed Fox Movietone's model by using their newsreel staff (and sometimes recycling their news footage) to provide a certain quota of one-reelers. When Jerry Fairbanks left for Paramount (starting their "Popular Science"), his series "Strange As It Seams" was taken over by the Universal newsreel staff with Thomas Mead and Joseph O'Brien in charge and renamed for the '34 season "Stranger Than Fiction". It was accompanied by a mostly one-subject in-depth series "Going Places", narrated first by Fox commentator Lowell Thomas and later by Graham McNamee. Charles E. Ford was the key director-editor on many of these. A colorful character unafraid to get first-dibs on the Japanese invasion of China for the newsreel or assisting an expedition through the Amazon (for an independent feature Jacare), Ford maintained a unique, aggressive and often offbeat style with the company's docu-reels. The Oscar nominated Camera Thrills was his. Ironically, shortly before his passing in 1942, the two series titles changed to "Person-oddities" and "Variety Views". The latter title was maintained through the fifties. After Milton Schwarzwald stopped providing New York product, entertainment shorts were re-started at Burbank with just one key genre: the big band short... or, as later billed, "Name Band Musicals". Direction was done over the years by Ralph Staub, Larry Ceballos, Reginald Le Borg, Josef Berne, Jean Yarbrough, Lewis D. Collins and Will Cowan. A few, like the late forties musical westerns featuring country star Tex Williams, incorporated a storyline, but the majority were just straightforward musical performances skillfully edited together with as little "lull" between numbers as possible. For the modern viewer, these are a treasure trove of jazz personalities and singers: Count Basie, Nat "King" Cole, the Ink Spots, Les Brown, Lawrence Welk, Woody Herman and Spade Cooley, just to name a few. There was even an attempt to tap a younger market in the fifties with a little R&B and two even had the novelty of 3-D. The bare bones approach of just filming the performance with limited improvising was different than the contemporaries like Warner's "Melody Masters", which incorporated arty camera angles and special effects. Positively, these kept the performances "pure" for the fan, but negatively could make for some mighty tedious viewing when seen as in mass. These lasted through 1957 and were the solo entertainment shorts on the program apart from a rare "special". Everything else was sugar-coated education. Thomas Mead operated as the primary producer for both the newsreel and the one-reelers after co-producer O'Brien's death in '45 for more than two decades, with Edward Bartsch as editor from the mid-forties through the sixties and Arthur Cohen (a.k.a. Michael Feldman and Phil Foster and a future Laverne & Shirley star) being the most prolific of several director-writers. In short, stability was the name of the game. The "Variety Views" continued a consistent, if predictable, run which covered mostly travelogues (the most engaging being the "Brooklyn Goes To" series), sports outings with a special eye for young viewers and an annual quota of critter subjects. During the declining years of short subjects, a number of producer-directors provided material for more than one studio. Universal-International shared John A. Haeseler and his bear cub and chimp reels with Paramount, while Hamilton Wright also contributed European and South American scenics for Warner and RKO. All of this made many shorts of the 1950s hard to distinguish by studio and U-I unfortunately lacked the Three Stooges, Joe McDoakes, Pete Smith or any specific "in-house specialty" apart from its Name Bands. Ever economical, you can practically count the entire number of pre-fifties full-color shorts with just two hands, but once the studio started its own "Color Parade", it certainly made up for lost time. By 1954, they were partnering with Carl Dudley and other producers on wide-screen travelogues in Vistarama and CinemaScope, mostly the former (cheaper and grainier) process. Eastmancolor was used more than Technicolor and the pictorial quality varied considerably from title to title. Regardless, these later shorts were generally well received by the trade papers. Meanwhile, Thomas Mead continued producing black and white newsreels through 1967, by which time his staff had been reduced to only ten and much material came from outside sources. Color television officially killed the newsreel completely, but it took a bit longer for it to destroy the full-color theatrical. Norman Gluck, who worked on and off with Universal, took charge of managing the 1960s product, which were primarily travelogues, but with occasional jazz performance 2-reelers as well. The simple fact that the company continued releasing up to ten shorts (often high quality by this stage) long after its rivals ceased to is quite remarkable. In fact, it was probably the only studio besides Disney who was still producing most of its own rather than just distributing for the independents. By the late sixties, another key producer-director, William Burch, headed the non-theatrical branch Universal maintained; even though the company stopped releasing shorts theatrically by 1972, they continued making plenty of instructional material for businesses and schools. (Added a few later shorts to this list, but it is far from complete... along with some of their United World Films stretching backward to the forties, initially released on 16mm and sometimes later in 35mm for theatrical distribution.) Although the studio seldom received Oscar nominations, there was still a certain consistency in quality over the decades and most that do make it online on YouTube and elsewhere are quite entertaining regardless of the economics of their production. It is sad that the company isn't tapping into what they have sitting in their vaults. Hardly any have been reissued for VHS and DVD, probably on the assumption that today's consumers would have zero interest. Some of us movie buffs would prefer to judge that for ourselves.
  3. Like RKO, Pathé, Fox & Education, this list is done by SERIES... unlike my lists for Universal, MGM, Warner and Paramount that are done alphabetical. Columbia Pictures is one of the better documented studios in terms of its short subjects. Granted, once you pass the realm of the two reel comedy short featuring The Three Stooges, there isn't a whole lot being discussed. Yet progress is being made... and there has been a nifty website dedicated to Columbia's shorties for a while (and getting updated periodically) and this is something we do not have with the other studios. You can see it here: http://columbiashortsdept.weebly.com/ The listings below are not to be taken as any kind of improvement or replacement for that great site. You will find no pictures here and I only give the most basic credit information. Columbia is, of course, most famous for its comedies, but it also made many nifty documentaries, travelogues, sports reels, jazz shorts and... of course, multi-chapter serials (as late as 1955!) and animated cartoons that I am not including here (since I am sticking strictly to the “live-action” non-serial material). Nonetheless I will give a nod to Columbia's toons... Charles Mintz (married to Margaret Winkler, who handled Walt Disney's cartoons of the twenties and famous for getting into a three-way battle with him regarding Oswald the Lucky Rabbit that also involved Universal) headed a Krazy Kat cartoon series that Columbia began distributing in 1929, followed by Scrappy, “Color Rhapsodies” and... after Mintz's passing in 1940 and more changes in management... the Fox & the Crow. The company, known as Screen Gems during its second decade, closed shop in early 1947 with enough 6 to 8 minute shorts “on the shelf” for Columbia to release on a reduced scale during the next two seasons. Walt Disney distributed his Mickey Mouse and “Silly Symphonies” tentatively in 1929 (The Skeleton Dance was booked in some Columbia “block booking” programs) before the studio became his official distributor at the start of 1930. Disney (who apparently wasn't fond of Harry Cohn) left and joined United Artists in the summer of 1932 just before he started releasing his “Silly Symphonies” in Technicolor. (In 1934, Mintz-Screen Gems began their “Rhapsodies” in a two color system before Disney's monopoly on the three color system was lifted.) UPA... United Productions of America... revolutionized American animation in the forties with a more modern “anything goes” style of graphics that contrasted from the Disney “chocolate box illustration” style (as critic and historian Leslie Halliwell humorously called it). Columbia started distributing their “Jolly Frolics” with a revamped Fox & Crow in 1948, then scored big with Mister Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing. UPA later branched into television production and was always making commercials and industrial films early on, but Columbia handled their theaters-only contract through the release of the feature 1001 Arabian Nights in 1959. When UPA didn't renew their Columbia theatrical contract in order to focus on features and TV, William Hanna and Joe Barbara decided to get “back into” the theatrical business after two years of TV work (and still continuing their empire created there) with a series of Loopy De Loop. 48 titles were released from 1959 through 1965. The National Film Board of Canada distributed a couple of their 'toons through Columbia in the late sixties... and there was the occasional independent production also picked up that decade. One title of importance was Sam Weiss' Little Boy Bad (1964). Columbia took great pride in its short subjects, which often boasted better production values than the even higher-up-on-the-totem-pole studios which forked over the big bucks on their features. Although few Columbia feature films were in color prior to the forties, their shorties were dabbling with the process in the “Color Sensations” as early as 1929. More important... and this accounts for the company's enduring reputation... was its commitment to the 2-reel comedy long after Mack Sennett and Hal Roach stopped making them in the thirties. Columbia kept the Three Stooges employed as late as 1958, even if the later titles economized with a higher ratio of “lifted” material from earlier ones. Other studios like RKO (with Edgar Kennedy and Leon Errol) and Warner Brothers (with the decade and a half run of “Joe McDoakes” one-reelers) may have (arguably) boasted a more consistent high standard of quality, BUT they were never as prolific as Columbia... and Columbia certainly was capable of knocking 'em out of the park with all of their creative personnel. In the travelogue and documentary arena, there were still “extras” released with the features as late as the seventies with one covering Norman Rockwell earning a shortie Oscar in a decade when the major studios were seldom nominated for anything not feature length. One reason the studio maintained plenty of shorts for possible theatrical release as late as it did was due to its involvement in the 16mm educational market with the Learning Corporation of America, which I also included here (just their Columbia-backed shorts). Again... 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), Motion Pictures 1950-1959 (1960) and Motion Pictures 1960-1969 (1971). Then there’s Leonard Maltin’s The Great Movie Shorts (a.k.a. Selected Short Subjects, Crown, 1972), The First Hollywood Sound Shorts, 1926-1931 by Edwin M. Bradley (McFarland) and other books worth searching out such as Ted Okuda's The Columbia Comedy Shorts (McFarland), first published in 1986 at a time when The Three Stooges were dominating the wonderful world of VHS as they were on television. ************ The way these are structured are as follows... -Title first -Producers, directors and only the most important credits for space reasons are listed in (). If a series was consistent with its credits, I just list them once up top. -“bw” obviously means black and white, although it could have been colorized for home video (i.e. Three Stooges). Also the approximate... very approximate... running time in minutes or “m”. A 1 reel film ranges from 6 to 112 minutes (and I am not certain if you see this listed) and 2 reels run under 24 minutes. -Release date or copyright date ©, which is close enough... and occasionally both if I happened to be in the mood. If I have a filming date that is significantly earlier than release time, I have added that () -If a plot is available, along with supporting cast members performing, I have included it after the date in italics. ************ All Star Comedies (Broadway Comedies) This is just my personal "assortment" featuring stars who only “headlined” one or two shorts each. When Do We Eat? (Alfred J. Goulding) / bw-20m / March 19, 1934 Starring Lou Holtz. Lou's theatrical troupe must make money as a nudist restaurant. Supporting cast includes Bud Jamison, Luis Alberni, Adrian Rosley, Benny Baker, Arthur Treacher, Julia Griffith & others. His Old Flame (James Horne) / bw-18m / January 25, 1935 (filmed '34) A local citizen (Charles Murray) decides to run for town mayor, on a "family values", but an old girlfriend has some steamy love letters. With Geneva Mitchell, Billy Gilbert & others The Captain Hits The Ceiling (Charles Lamont) / bw-19m / July 6, 1935 Franklin Pangborn argues with his sea captain, not realizing he's a potential father-in-law. With Bud Jamison, Geneva Mitchell, Arthur Houseman, James C. Morton, Arthur Rankin, Phyllis Crane, William O'Neal & Stanley Blystone. Unrelated Relations (Del Lord) / bw-18m / January 9, 1936 (filmed '35) Monte (Monty) Collins and his new wife are moving into their new home. All is going well until her family decides to drop in for a visit. With Louise Caver, Tommy Bond, Mary Foy, Ken Hollis & others The Champ's A Chump (Sam White) / bw-19m / June 20, 1936 Big Boy Williams joins a college in order to get a boxer's contract. With Louis Prima, Fred Kohler, Shirley Chambers & James C. Morton Oh Duchess! (Charles Lamont) / bw-16m / October 9, 1936 Starring Polly Moran. A fish marketer poses as "royal" for her daughter's beau. With Jack Lipson, Mary Blake, Symonia Boniface, Vernon Dent, Eva & Robert McKenzie & Al Thompson Sailor Maid (Charles Lamont) / bw-19m / February 12, 1937 Starring Polly Moran. An immigrant seeks an American husband. With Eddie Laughton, Theodore Lorch, Frank Mills, Cy Schindell, Al Thompson & Black-ie Whiteford Oh, What A Knight! (Charley Chase) / bw-18m / November 22, 1937 Starring Herman Bing. A barber is mistaken for a rich woman's new servant. With Louise Stanley & Claud Allister Cuckoorancho (Ben K. Blake) / bw-17m / March 20, 1938 Starring Joe Besser. Two wanderers are mistaken for rich tycoons by a Mexican rancher. With Lee Royce, Charles Master, Lolita Cordoba,Willis Clare & Ned McGunn's Dancers Half-way To Hollywood (Charley Chase) / bw-18m / July 1, 1938 Starring Tom Kennedy & Johnny Arthur. A struggling screenwriter and his buddy make a movie in their backyard about his boss, which causes trouble with him as an unsuspecting visitor to the set. With Ann Doran, Harry Holman, Cy Schindell, Beatrice Blinn, Bobby Burns, Doodles Weaver, Al Thompson, Beatrice Curtis, Victor Travers A Star Is Shorn (Del Lord) / bw-17m / April 21, 1939 Starring Danny Webb. A Hollywood agent tries to hook up “Miss Maple Syrup” with an astrology obsessed producer. With Mary Treen, Raymond Brown & Ethelreda Leopold Black Eyes And Blues (Jules White) / bw-17m / April 18, 1941 Starring Roscoe Karns. Once again Roscoe's wife is seeking a divorce in Reno. With Dorothy Appleby, Elsie Ames, Don Beddoe, Lynton Brent, Richard Fiske & others French Fried Patootie (Wee Wee Fifi) (Jules White) / bw-18m / June 27, 1941 Starring Alan Mowbray. Two ex-soldiers attend a war convention with their wives and one must hide an old flame he meets. With Lorin Raker, Mae Busch, Greta Granstedt, Johnny Kascier & Kitty McHugh Love In Gloom (Jules White) / bw-19m / August 15, 1941 Starring Henny Youngman, running a "Meet A Mate" agency. With Al Shean and the Radio Rogues. Half Shot At Sunrise (Del Lord) / bw-17m / September 4, 1941 Starring Roscoe Karns. Roscoe's wife leaves him on account of his practical joke making. While away, he gets involved with a pretty refugee clothes gatherer. With Ann Doran, Bobby Larson, Symona Boniface, Marjorie Kane, Marion Martin & others Three Blonde Mice (Jules White) / bw-16m / January 22, 1942 (filmed '41) Starring Alan Mowbray. When a cop stops him for speeding, Alan tries to get out of it by claiming that he is rushing home to his expectant wife. When the cop decides to follow him home to check up on his story, Alan has to come up with a wife and child. With Dorothy Appleby, Monte (Monty) Collins, Bud Jamison & others Groom And Bored (Del Lord) / bw-16m / April 9, 1942 Johnny Downs has to find a way to keep his marriage a secret from his boss, who feels that marriage is not good for business. With Arthur Q. Bryan, Marjorie Deanne, Helen Lynd, Bud Jamison, Walter Soderling, Fred Toones & others Kiss And Wake Up (Jules White) / bw-18m / October 2, 1942 Johnny Downs breaks up with his angry fiance before their marriage and tries to make up by making her “jealous” with his buddy in drag. With Adele Mara, Frank Sully, Etta McDaniel & Betty Blythe Two Saplings (Harry Edwards) / bw-19m / March 5, 1943 Starring George Givot & Cliff Nazarro. Two Greek restaurant owners foil a bank robbery. With Gwen Kenyon, Ann Evers, Vernon Dent, Mabel Forest & Monte (Monty) Collins Shot In The Escape (Jules White) / bw-19m) / August 6, 1943 Starring Billy Gilbert & Cliff Nazarro. The boys make the error of aiding a lady on a muddy street, only to cleaned off at her place when the jealous husband arrives. With Grace Leonard, Kathryn Keys & Barbra Slater Quack Service (Harry Edwards) / bw-18m / September 3, 1943 Starring Una Merkel & Gwen Kenyon. The duo get jobs as process servers, and are assigned to serve papers on a prominent local doctor (Stanley Brown). With Monte (Monty) Collins, Vernon Dent, Dudley Dickerson, Bud Jamison, Blanche Payson, Snub Pollard & Al Thompson Garden Of Eatin' (Harry Edwards) / bw-19m / October 22, 1943 Slim Summerville is in the pokey after being mistaken for a kidnapper and must deal with an angry mob. With Bobby Larson, Chester Conklin & Christine McIntyre Bachelor Daze (Jules White) / bw-17m / February 17, 1944 (filmed '43) Starring Slim Summerville. Two buddies battle over a town widow. With Emmett Lynn, Minerva Urecal, Vernon Dent, Frank Sully, Victor Travers, Al Thompson & Charles Dorety Crazy Like A Fox (Jules White) / bw-19m / May 1, 1944 Billy Gilbert starring in a remake of Andy Clyde's AM I HAVING FUN? With Billy as a taxi driver. With Jack Norton, Black-ie Whiteford, Esther Howard, Dan Seymour, Heinie Conklin, Judy Malcolm & Christine McIntyre Wedded Bliss (Harry Edwards) / bw-17m / August 18, 1944 Starring Billy Gilbert & Vernon Dent. Billy tries to fix a friend's marriage. With Frank Lackteen & Christine McIntyre Silly Billy (Jules White) / bw-18m / January 29, 1948 (filmed '47) Starring Billie Burke. Billie invites the father of her daughter's fiance to her home, under the mistaken impression that he is her daughter's fiance. With Virginia Hunter, Myron Healy, Tim Ryan, Ruby Dandridge, Emil Sitka, Black-ie Whiteford, Cy Schindell. Billie Gets Her Man (Edward Bernds) / bw-17m / September 9, 1948 Starring Billie Burke. Billie thinks her daughter is pregnant and must decide if she should remarry an old chum, now a millionaire. With Patsy Moran, Dick Wessel, Emil Sitka, Gay Nelson, Jimmy Lloyd, Andre Pola, Symona Boniface, Stanley Ince, Cy Schindell, Harold Brauer, Johnny Kascier, Wanda Perry, Teddy Mangean, Virginia Ellsworth, Dee Green, Maudie Prickett, Charles Heine Conklin. French Fried Frolic (Jules White) / bw-18m / December 8, 1949 (filmed Oct) Starring Wally Brown & Tim Ryan. The boys get tangled with French girls (Christine McIntyre and Nanette Bordeaux) who need husbands to fool a rich uncle (Emil Sitka). Also Grace Lenard & Kathleen O'Malley Innocently Guilty (Bert Wheeler) / bw-15m / August 21, 1950 Starring Bert Wheeler. Through a series of misunderstandings, Bert becomes innocently involved with his boss' wife. With Christine McIntyre, Margie Liszt, Nanette Bordeaux, vernon Dent, Joe Palma, Heinie Conklin, Kathleen O'Malley The Awful Sleuth (Richard Quine) / bw-18m / April 15, 1951 (filmed '50) A soda jerk (Bert Wheeler) is a detective tale buff who doesn't recognize gangster “Memphis Mike” as a customer and confident until he is held captive later. With Ben Welden, Tom Kennedy, Minerva Urecal, Jean Wiles, Vernon Dent & Ralph Volkie Down The Hatch (Jules White) / bw-17m / November 26, 1953 Harry Mimmo is employed by a couple of jewel thieves getting him to carry a stolen ruby out of Italy by ship. With Rita Conde, Maxine gates, Johnny Kascier, Joe Palma, Emil Sitka & Philip Van Zandt Kids Will Be Kids (Jules White) / bw-16m / December 9, 1954 “The Mischief Makers” with Sally Jane Bruce & Emil Sitka. Junior & Highpockets enter their dog Daisy in a pet contest, and she wins doing a dance until a kitty interfers. Tricky Chicks (Jules White) / bw-16m / October 24, 1957 “Girlie Whirls Comedy” featuring Mureil Landers. Two girls at a night club are romantic with investigating agents and try to fool them with fake evidence on some criminals they are seeking. With Dick Wessel, Bek Nelson & Benny Rubin
  4. Charles Urban was a giant in early cinema and a most fascinating character, an ambitious and forward thinking American tycoon who enjoyed his biggest success on the other side of the Atlantic. Then he returned to his home country during the last year of The Great War, but competition with Hollywood was too great and his fortunes collapsed in a few years. Sadly, so many of his films have been lost over time even though material that he financed got recycled in films made by other companies. Fortunately his stock has been on the rise in recent years, with one researcher working more devotedly than others since the 1990s in bringing the attention he deserves. Luke McKernan published a biography on him in 2013: Charles Urban, Pioneering the Non-Fiction Film in Britain and America, 1897 – 1925. According to his website at http://www.charlesurban.com/, we are told the following: “No complete list of all the films that he produced exists, and it would be an almost impossible task to construct one, as he re-edited and re-used his film material so frequently.” Not that I won't try with a small... small “starter” sampling. No, these lists won't be complete. Further more, I am focusing exclusively on the post-1903 period instead of his years with the Warwick Trading Company (which operated with and without him between 1898 and 1915), although I might tackle them on a future date. You folks know that I can't resist the temptation. Born April 14, 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Charles Urban got started in the movie business when marketing Thomas Edison's Kinetoscopes in Detroit, Michigan in 1895. He moved to the United Kingdom while working with Maguire & Baucus, agents of Edison, before becoming a part of the Warwick Trading Company three years later where he held a top position until February 1903. When he left to start up his own company, he ignited a lawsuit with Warwick by taking some top personnel with him, including Alfred Darling, Thomas Grant, George Albert Smith, John “Jack” Avery as a key co-executive and camera operator and Alice Rosenthal, sister of one of Urban's top cameramen Joseph, as a top salesperson. It didn't take long for the Charles Urban Trading Company to ape his former company as a leader of scenic “factuals” shot as far from the British Isles as one could get. These Urban-Bioscope Expeditions traipsed through Borneo, the Swiss Alps, the major destinations of Europe and “darkest” Africa. In addition to all of the pretty scenery, there was no shying away from the human thirst for violence and warfare, even having cameramen Joe Rosenthal and George Rogers tackle the Russo-Japanese War from both sides. The official 1903 and '06 film catalogs are quite a feast for the eyes, offering more for British movie goers than even National Geographic offered American magazine subscribers in its early years: https://archive.org/details/weputworldbefore00unse http://www.cinematheque.ch/fileadmin/user_upload/Expo/Gustave_Doret/Catalogue_Urban_1906.pdf Nickelodeon attendees were also introduced to worlds that weren't so much far away but hard to see with their limited eye sight. F. Martin Duncan made several series featuring amoeba, hydras, bacteria, close-ups of insects, circulation of blood and anything else of interest that required special microscopic lens. By 1908, F. Percy Smith was added to the fold, along with a new sub-company Kineto, with his landmark frame-by-frame time lapse photography of flowers blooming and close-ups of spiders and insects in action. Smith later would work with British Instructional (which I profiled on a separate thread here) and was among the first to document Mother Nature in color as well... Ah, yes, color... or shall I spell it colour? Urban certainly deserves credit as one of the great financial backers in this arena. While still with the Warwick Trading Company, he supported Edward Raymond Turner. He patented a system with Frederick Marshall Lee that involved three filters (red, yellow and blue) attached to a camera that exposed different images on consecutive frames of one black and white film roll. A few film clips survive today that were taken before Turner's untimely death in 1903, resurrected from obscurity by the National Media Museum in 2012: Because this first system was rather cumbersome, Urban had George Albert Smith (famous for such landmark novelties as The Haunted Castle and Grandma's Reading Glass) simplify the process to just two filters, making the results less “colorful” but more practical. (Leon Gaumont, however, would return to Turner's three filter concept with his excellent, but still troublesome, Chronochrome system a full decade later.) The black & white film was exposed with a disc of rotating filters, then shown with a specialized projector with matching filters to present it for the screen. In July 1906, his first experiments were made of Smith's children in Southwick, Brighton. By early 1909, a new name was established for this process, Kinemacolor, along with a new Urban-controlled company, Natural Color Kinematograph. Because each second frame was exposed differently than the frame proceeding it, fast movement of people jumping and horses galloping sometimes created a double-image effect. Over time, the cameramen got around some of this by having much action coming towards the camera and decreasing the amount of side viewed action. The film also had to be projected faster than most other films at 1/32 a second. Some of these issues were fixed later in the U.S. by the competing Prizmacolor and Technicolor companies, which followed the “bi-pack” route of exposing two rolls of film at once, thanks to a special glassware involving two filters, then having the rolls combined as one with special dyes on each side so they can be used in standard 24 frames per second projectors without filters. Urban himself also kept tinkering in later years, even after Kinemacolor ran its course, with his top engineer Henry Joy on another system called “Kinekrom” that almost, but not quite, solved the problems. Like Cinerama in the fifties and IMAX decades later, early Kinemacolor often involved special theaters and special ticket prices, with its biggest showcase being the glamorous Scala Theatre on Charlotte Street, London. Like the later widescreen spectaculars, these films held the same appeal of presenting far away places in a format unlike any other travelogue at the time; top cameraman John Mackenzie even published a book in 1910 called Rambles In Many Lands. Aside from England and France, major countries presented for the first time in color without tints or stenciling included Belgium, Holland, Germany, the United States, Canada, Italy, Algeria, the Balkans, Egypt, India, Spain, Canary Islands, Greece, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Japan. Essentially the Urban team was achieving the same goal in motion pictures that Albert Kahn's team did with Lumière Autochrome still photography in Les Archives de la Planète, a collection that survives more complete today. A few separate Kinemacolor companies were established outside of England such as Kinemacolor de France, Luca Comerio operating in Italy and Kinemacolor of America (profiled later on this thread), but the Japanese probably enjoyed the most success with it: Toyo Shokai, renamed Tennenshaku Katsudoshashin Kabushiki Kaisha, maintained a steady output of kabuki play adaptations and scenics through 1917. King Edward VII was the first royal to be filmed both alive and in funeral procession by the Kinemacolor cameras. Then Smith and Urban's team went all out documenting the coronation of George V, followed by his visit to India in 1911-12 titled With Our King And Queen Through India (a.k.a. The Dunbar At Delhi). This and the Kinemacolor of America's Making Of The Panama Canal are sometimes listed as the world's first feature length films in color, but were viewed at the time as presentations of individual short subjects. Not to be outdone, France's President Poincaré became a subject more than once and Kinemacolor of America made sure two presidents in office, Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, were also documented in color. Both the U.S. and U.K. companies covered ex-president Teddy Roosevelt. While educational films garnished Urban much of his critical prestige, it was obvious that the business of movies had to bring in the cash with plenty of fictionalized comedy, drama and adventure. These were done both in black & white and Kinemacolor, probably half of the latter productions being shot in Nice, France which boasted better sunshine than the British Isles. In addition, Urban also set up Société Générale des Cinématographes Éclipse in Paris to increase his entertainment output. Eventually this company broke off as its own independent operation, becoming the fourth largest film company in France before long. Among the more interesting films done in England were directed by Walter R. Booth as part of a then popular “trick” fantasy genre, similar to what George Méliès had been doing earlier. His 1912 part live-action / part stop-motion collaboration with F. Martin Thornton and Edgar Rogers, In Gollywog Land, boasts what may be the earliest animation in color, unless one counts Winsor McCay's hand-tinted Little Nemo of the previous year. (I do include cartoons in this thread for a change.) Another leading director, filming in both countries, was Rotterdam-born Theo Bouwmeester (sometimes listed as Frenkel, his original name, or Bouwmeester-Frenkel, the name I use here). He played Napoleon in Kinemacolor's first fictional production, Checkmated (1910), and later supervised the first western in the process, Fate, set in Texas but filmed in Sussex. The first official color feature (or the first not to be a documentary at least) was F. Martin Thorton's The World, The Flesh And The Devil, a rather torrid melodrama that the critics weren't kind to when it opened at the Holborn Empire on April 9, 1914. There was just one more follow-up feature that summer, Little Lord Fauntleroy. Urban's ambitious move into all-color features was halted due to some court battles involving the competing Biocolour headed by William Friese-Greene, who accused Urban for being monopolistic over color processes. Although Biocolour ultimately was a failure financially (and Gaumont's more competitive system stayed mostly in France), Urban still had to liquidize the Natural Color Kinematograph and re-organize as a new company, Colorfilms Ltd., dropping the key word “natural” on account of all of the bad press Kinemacolor received for its hardly natural two-spectrum system. Adding to the decline in Kinemacolor was a souring relationship between Urban and George Smith, who hardly spoke to each other until the 1930s. The war soon took up a huge chunk of Urban's activities, along with providing much needed subject matter for movie screens. He was appointed to chairman of the British Topical Committee for War Films in 1915, but ran into some controversy the following year when he negotiated with William Randolph Hearst for a U.S. distribution deal; Hearst being sympathetic to Germany while his country was still neutral did not go well with the British press at the time. Two key features Britain Prepared (How Britain Prepared) (December 1915) and The Battle Of The Somme (August 1916) nonetheless did well on both sides of the Atlantic. The former featured some rare Kinemacolor sequences of battle, another Urban first. The second strictly black and white film still holds up as an outstanding documentation with stellar camerawork by J.B. McDowell and Geoffrey Malins that has been recycled in many movies, TV shows and YouTube since. His gradual move of operations to the United States began with his take over of David Horseley's Centaur Film Corporation in Bayonne, New Jersey in March 1917, followed eight months later by the formation of Kineto Company of America at 71 West 23rd Street in New York City to produce a newsreel series called the “Official War Review”. By the autumn of 1918, he had pretty much phased out his British operations and stayed put in America, settling by 1920 with a Stanford White designed building in Irvington, New York and consolidating his companies under Urban Motion Picture Industries, Inc. Unfortunately many of his big ambitions for the American market didn't pan out well, perhaps because he was too ahead of his time. Among his most interesting novelties involving co-engineer Harry Joy (co-developed with Theodore Brown) was the Spirograph, a disc-formatted projector aimed at bringing movies into homes and schools for personal use, a fore-runner to the “home entertainment” explosion of later decades, first with 16mm and 8mm and then VHS and laserdisc by the '80s. Yet it all seemed way too early for 1920. Had his Kinekrom system been successful, many of his Kinemacolor films would have enjoyed a longer shelf life as reissues in later years, but there were still technical issues involved. On the plus side, he boasted a spectacular library of material that, along with some newly filmed footage done in America, got used extensively in several series: “Urban Movie Chats”, “Wonders of the World”, “Kineto Reviews”, “Urban Popular Classics” and “Great American Authors”, the last edited by future Traveltalks guru James FitzPatrick. All of these shorts were part of an ambitious program called “The Encyclopedia of Knowledge”, a “thousand-reel” attempt to provide a motion picture counterpart to every library's reference book section. (He also had some involvement in George McLeod Baynes' earliest “Kinograms”, a newsreel that outlasted all of Urban's own series.) Two somewhat successful features were added in 1921: The Four Seasons, supervised by leading New York zoological celebrity Raymond Ditmars and previewed February 18th, and Permanent Peace, released in November to coincide with the Washington Naval Peace Conference. One later Urban production was a real curio that is likely impossible to view today, if not lost. Evolution: From The Birth Of The Planets To The Age Of Man was supervised by Ditmars with plenty of his own personal animal footage along with some stop-motion dinosaurs by Willis O'Brien (likely lifted from his earlier short The Ghost Of Slumber Mountain). It was first shown at All Angels Episcopal Church in Manhattan, December 1922, despite Ditmars' blatant preference for Darwin over Genesis. Of course, the national publicity over the Scopes' “Monkey Trial” in Tennessee prompted a re-edit and reissue involving Edward J. Foyles of the American Museum of Natural History and the animation team of Max and David Fleischer, whose co-owned Red Seal also handled distribution. By the time this second version was released in July 1925, Urban was forced to close shop. According to July 1924 reports in Film Daily, his “$10, 500, 000 corporation” had been petitioned for bankruptcy. There was a second, but short-lived, rebooting of the company later by investor C.M. Bortman. Max Fleischer's team once again got recruited to edit material for a new and short-lived “Urban Searchlights” series (one of which is posted on this thread). By 1929, Urban was mostly retired and back in England. He lost his second wife, Ada, in 1937; she herself had contributed both financially and as a key supervisor for the company since they married in 1910. Charles passed away on August 29, 1942 while still writing his memoirs. Meanwhile, a large chunk of the Urban library fell through the cracks of court-battled ownership and much valuable source material was either recycled for its chemical components or lost/discarded by accident. This is sad when one considers Urban's motto for many years as “Putting the world before you”, which he pretty much did long before we had cable TV and the internet. What we have today to remember him by are crumbs of a once spectacular film empire. **** Urban backed many critter reels. The BFI site labels this one The Porcupine- A Prickly Subject, but it could be Animal Drolleries (Kineto 1915, minus the parrot), one of the Animal World Series (1916) or just a hodgepodge of several titles. What is nice about these compilation reels is that they preserve so much valuable footage lost in their original state. The bunny and girl shot may go back a good dozen years or so. The otter, badger and jerboa all appeared in their own longer starring roles in previous years, the otter's 1912 performance is also uploaded on this thread.
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