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Making some "Shortie Checklists"...

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Time to add a few videos of shorts covered in the "shortie checklists". Sorry it has been a while. Above are the threads you can link to. Not sure how long these stay on YouTube, but it is fun to give life to what is merely a title in a "filmography" list.

First one is from Universal and included in that thread.

Going Places with Graham McNamee was the studio's key black and white travelogue and "human interest" series of the thirties, produced by Thomas Mead and Joseph O'Brien with scripts by Henry Clay Bate. No. 66, released September 25, 1939, covers a Florida "Man Made Jungle" near Vero Beach. It is always fun to compare old travelogues to the modern locations covered, especially when there is little change in one locale. Here is the official website for McKee Botanical Gardens: http://www.mckeegarden.org/


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Now heading south to Cuba as it appeared in 1933 in a title covered in the RKO-Pathé-FBO thread.

Amadee J. Van Beuren is more famous for his animated cartoons featuring a human version of Tom & Jerry, Little King, Cubby Bear and color "Rainbow Parades" featuring Felix the Cat. Yet he also supplied both Pathé and later RKO-Pathé with many short films including a couple comedy series and multiple documentary shorts. The Vagabond Adventures initially featured Tom Terriss, later ones were written by Russell Spalding. This is one of Spalding's with Alois Havrilla as your host traveler, called simply Cuba. It was released November 10, 1933 and includes a fleeting newsreel shot taken that August when Gerardo Machado was forced out of his presidency due to unrest among struggling workers hit hard by the Depression. This was an interesting sign of things to come 25 years in the future. However the contrast between the lower classes and the tourists of leisure are not fussed with here. Our armchair traveler would much rather spend time with an heiress who is destined to inherit 11 million as she plucks from a honey berry tree.

This film is courtesy of Periscope Films: http://periscopefilm.com/


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Back to the states to view Kentucky horse racing, with races shown in Florida and Saratoga of New York, in one of the earlier RKO-Pathé Sportscopes (covered under that series heading on the RKO-Pathé-FBO thread). Produced initially by Frederic Ullman Jr., Turner Classic Movies shows only the last entries of this long running series, those produced post-Howard Hughes RKO in the closing years of 1955 through 1957. The earlier entries are harder to see due to all kinds of ownership issues.

Bluegrass, directed by Frank Donovan with some of the narration from then popular commentator Clem McCarthy, was released December 2, 1938. This copy from the Prelinger Archives unfortunately has its RKO title card replaced by a 16mm reissue Sears Roebuck & Company opening, but is otherwise identical to the original theatrical. At least the personal credits are spared.

Nice shots of Man O'War in his retirement are shown here. Two years later, Robert Carney filmed him in Technicolor for a MGM FitzPatrick Traveltalk called Glimpses Of Kentucky, but the footage is more extensive here and we can see America's favorite horse at his most playful.


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Covered this title here: http://forums.tcm.com/topic/114972-a-shortie-checklist-an-assortment-of-culinary-delights/


Kilauea: The Hawaiian Volcano (The Volcano Kilauea)

William Horsley Laboratories Inc./PrizmaColor

camera: Ray J. Baker

released December 29, 1918

Sadly the color doesn't hold up too well and it all looks more like a tinting process. Yet the reds featured in the lava scenes look better preserved than the other portions. Uploaded by apeters on YouTube, this is still a great rare find.



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Covered this one as part of the Learning Corporation of America's delightful “Classics Dark & Dangerous” series here: http://forums.tcm.com/topic/114972-a-shortie-checklist-an-assortment-of-culinary-delights/


The Rocking Horse Winner is a short story by D.H. Lawrence initially published in Harper's Bazaar back in July 1926 and adapted into several short films and at least one 1949 feature with John Mills that is occasionally shown on TCM. However short stories do not adapt as well to feature treatment as the half hour framework as seen here, although this version has a more contemporary seventies feel to it than other versions. Also, being that its intended audience is younger than some of the other versions, the ending is a bit nebulous (does the kid actually die?) and less gloomy.

Highgate Associates was a company that William Deneen combined with his Learning Corporation of America that was responsible for much television production (“After School Specials” on ABC included) given 16mm versions for classroom use as well. Many younger Baby Boomers and Generation Xers in school remember this material well. The seventies was a quirky decade for juvenile entertainment.

produced by William Deneen and directed by Peter Medak

cast: Kenneth More, Nigel Rhodes, Angela Thorne, Peter Cellier, Chris Harris & Gwen Nelson

Released January 11, 1977



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Oliver G. Pike (see http://www.olivergpike.info/ ) is an interesting pioneer in “wild animals in their natural habitat” cinematography who was profiled a bit earlier with British Instructional and Gaumont British's “Secrets of Nature” and “Secrets of Life”.

We take such films for granted since it is so easy to make them today with all of our hand held appliances. Animal Planet and famous BBC series narrated by the still-kicking David Attenborough are making it all a virtual reality experience that no longer requires you getting your shoes muddy and your body munched on by mosquitoes. Unfortunately it is also adding to our own false illusions that all of these lovely critters will remain with us indefinitely, when the reality is that many species are becoming extinct at a rapid rate. As suggested in the thread listed above, the very sight of a Tasmanian thylacine in a zoo picture was considered no big deal back in 1930, but now it is a big deal since we only have old black and white films like it, along with some dusty stuffed museum specimens, to remind us that such a dog like marsupial ever existed.

Back in the era of King Edward VII and Teddy Roosevelt, movies were a laborious affair and required a ton of patience even with cooperative humans, horses and dogs. Most in the business would not even attempt, in an era when there were fewer telephoto lens available and no night-time “cams”, to even try capturing a bird outside of its cage with a camera. Oliver Pike began pretty early with his first major film release, In Birdland, shown at London's Palace Theatre (of Cambridge Circus) on August 29th, 1907.

He later moved to the British branch of Pathé and was blessed with their color stencil process for such titles as Wild Birds In Their Haunts. This interesting, if sometimes hopelessly awful looking, process was mentioned in the thread A Shortie Checklist: RKO... and Pathé... and FBO under “Pathé Review”. Obviously Kinemacolor was the superior system available for British filmmakers prior to The Great War and the birth of Prizmacolor and Technicolor on the other side of the Atlantic, since that color system was achieved with a camera and rotating filters... even though it sometimes gave movie-goers eye strain with the frequent red and green outlines popping up as the people moved on screen. Pathecolor involved the laborious frame-by-frame tinting of originally black and white films, if industrialized in order to get the product out faster than during the early days. The effects, when good, were still... well... pretty good. At least there were attempts to match the actual colors of the stars.

As mentioned by H. Kent Webster in an article "Little Stories of Great Films" for the Chicago-based The Nickelodeon on March 15, 1910, "taking the pictures of the ten species of birds of Great Britain shown in this film required practically sixty hours of waiting for the right opportunity, and that during much of that time he was practically doubled up in a small tent watching that particular bird and its nest through a tiny peephole."


Pike released his short bird documentaries through British Pathé until 1917. Wild Birds At Home focuses on the high art of nest building


For British Instructional's “Secrets of Nature” series, he took on The Nightingale for this April 13, 1932 release. It was filmed the previous year with on location sound recordings, still a novelty at the time. However it wasn't the first attempt to shoot birds in the wild with the new “talkie” technology. Arthur A. Allen had camera teams in Ithaca, New York busy during the spring of 1929 doing the same thing. (As one of the last to document on camera the Ivory Billed Woodpecker before its official extinction, Allen and contemporaries like Olin Sewall Pettingill Jr. would, in the late thirties, push the novelty of birds-on-film further when they adopted the faster speed Kodachrome process for color slides printed in National Geographic magazine and 16mm educational documentaries for Coronet Films. Earlier color birdie pics, like the 1933 MGM “Oddity” Fine Feathers in 2-strip Technicolor that is frequently shown on TCM, were shot exclusively at zoos where the cast was forced to stay put.)

Despite being in black and white with the actual audio segments restricted to barely a minute's worth of footage, The Nightingale was still an impressive feat for its time.


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OK, I was a day late celebrating Charles Urban's 151st birthday. Sorry!

Of course, the TCM site says my thread is a "hot topic" but that is only because I was plopping the posts on the thread like aerial bombs from the sky. I need to refrain myself.

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On Charles Urban's thread, I mentioned a certain William Friese-Greene who was in battle with him in the courts over competing color film processes, his Biocolour being similar to Kinemacolor in its two color filter system. Friese-Greene is a very interesting character in his own right, being a pioneer who developed one of the earliest movie cameras around 1888-89 and was toying around with his own color movies just one decade later, years ahead of the Urban backed Edward Raymond Turner and George Smith. He also was subject to much controversy (as described on the BFI site) since some of his patents involved rather faulty equipment that didn't always work well and some of his claims for being “first” were later disputed.

His unexpected death by heart failure on May 5, 1921, while attending a speech at Connaught Rooms, London, happened when he wasn't doing very well financially. Yet his reputation grew over time, partly thanks to one of his sons, Claude, who worked as a successful camera technician in the British film studios until his own untimely death in 1943, and a biographer named Ray Allister. Both men received just enough attention in the history books for daddy to receive his very own glossy biopic in 1951 called The Magic Box, starring Robert Donat (plus too many familiar faces to include in poster credits) and directed by John Boulting with Jack Cardiff's trademark Technicolor cinematography to boot.

In fact, most of the criticism regarding the senior Friese-Greene's contributions really snowballed after this feature overly romanticized him, in addition to Allister's book it was based on being questioned as well. Peter Domankiewicz's blog dedicated to him, https://friesegreene.com/ , sums up his career both alive and deceased as “Famous. Ignored. Celebrated. Damned.”

Great grandson gives a nice family introduction to the real William here:



Claude continued after his father's death with Biocolour by creating Spectrum Films in 1923. A trio of experimental shorts were showcased in March of 1924: Quest For Colour, a series of Spain and UK travel scenes, Moonbeam Magic, a clever fantasy, and Dance Of The Moods, featuring the Margaret Morris Dancers. Later that same year, he took his camera on a motor journey from Cornwall to John O'Groates at the northern end of Scotland (filmed by early 1925) and back to London by way of Edinburgh, including a stop at the zoo. The first batch of these, listed as a series called The Open Road, were presented as one reel (under ten minutes) short subjects at a December 3, 1925 trade show with Wardour Films providing distribution. A total of 25 short films were in wider release by April 1926 with episode #26 added that fall with newer London “back home” material shot in August (presumably a year and half after the Scottish footage was filmed).

While so much Kinemacolor has been lost, Claude's Biocolour material of this particular travelogue has been well preserved over the decades and modern digital technology has solved some of the double images and flickering involving a system that was only marginally better than Kinemacolor and not a “bi pack” system like contemporary Technicolor. (Claude himself later worked with both Dufaycolour and the more advanced three strip Technicolor while working for the major studios, the latter process only a year before his death.) The British Film Institute successfully issued a slightly edited down version of the shorts on DVD in 2006 as Claude Friese-Greene: The Open Road. Autumn foliage looked especially good in the system as this clip reveals. Hard to believe this was filmed about November of 1924, but it was!



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Covered the World Windows series here, under United Artists:

Produced in England by E.S. Keller and F.W. Keller, this series of 16 Technicolor travelogues are fondly remembered today by the stellar work of then 22-23 year old cameraman Jack Cardiff, all a full decade before the glories of Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes and The African Queen. One of his first travel films in the spectacular three-strip system was commissioned by James FitzPatrick of MGM's Traveltalks: Paris On Parade documented the Paris International Exposition in the summer of 1937. (Filmed the same time was Paris On The Seine, which didn't premiere in the U.S. until the spring of '39 at the New York World's Fair.) The Keller team then promptly sent him next to Italy to do The Eternal Fire covering Pompeii and later Rome and Palestine (Israel). By the spring of 1938, he was shooting in India.

United Artists distributed all internationally, but only handled the first 8 in the United States. Paramount distributed the remaining titles under a different umbrella logo “Fascinating Journeys”... two years after their British releases. Competition with the Traveltalks probably curtailed their chances at that time since FitzPatrick's top cameraman Winton Hoch already covered India in the rainbow process well enough for American audiences in such 1936 titles as India On Parade. Yet Cardiff went a bit further than Hoch by not only showcasing the Taj Mahal in all of its Technicolor glory, but also covering it at night for Temples Of India. For a while, the British Film Institute had this one available on YouTube, but later removed it. Three other titles can be viewed... as of now: Road In India, Delhi and Indian Durbar.


Ruins Of Palmyra And Baalbek, filmed earlier than the India reels (probably the winter of 1937-38) and released in the United States on November 1, 1938, is particularly interesting since Palmyra's ruins are pretty much gone today, thanks to the more recent war in Syria. Most of what you see documented here was destroyed by 2015. Encyclopædia Britannica had reissued this one for the 16mm market, along with other World Windows re-edited with different titles, as Ancient Baalbek And Palmyra on September 29, 1953. Read further here: http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/arch-palmyra-syria-jack-cardiff-technicolor


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Strand Film is an interesting film production unit that was at its peak between the years 1935 and 1945 as part of the "British School" of documentary films. Many of the names associated with it also worked with the competing GPO Film Unit including the legendary Paul Rotha who helped establish it. For about two years or so, Strand Film was under the supervision of the equally famous Stuart Legg, just before he assisted with others with the newly formed National Film Board of Canada... another company that needs little introduction to film buffs.

Most successful of the films made under Legg was a series distributed by Walter O. Gutlohn Inc. for the American educational market called "Animal Kingdom", made in conjunction with the London Zoological Society. Several big names were associated with this series, including host Julian Huxley and future Hollywood and American independent filmmaker Paul Burnford as cinematographer. William Alwyn provided some rather stirring classical music backgrounds, making these little critter reels seem more ambitious than they really were.

A list of titles are as follows with approximate UK release dates...

  • Behind The Scenes (directed by Evelyn Spice Cherry) / December 1937
  • Free To Roam / May 9, 1938
  • Monkey Into Man (Stanley Hawes) / May 9, 1938
  • The Zoo And You (Ruby Grierson) / May 9, 1938
  • Zoo Babies (Evelyn Spice Cherry) / May 9, 1938
  • How To Look After Your Pets / May 26, 1938
  • Mites And Monsters (Donald Alexander) / May 26, 1938
  • Animal Geography (Evelyn Spice Cherry) / November 24, 1938
  • Animals On Guard (Ruby Grierson & Donald Alexander) / November 24, 1938
  • Creatures Great And Small / November 24, 1938
  • Young Animals / November 24, 1938
  • Animal Legends (Evelyn Spice Cherry) / December 14, 1938
  • Birth Of The New Year / December 14, 1938
  • Fingers And Thumbs / December 14, 1938
  • Time Of Your Life (Stanley Hawes) / March 9, 1939
  • From Fin To Hand / July 18, 1940
  • Monkeys And Apes / December 1940 may be a reissue or re-edit of Monkey Into Man

Also similar, but not officially part of the series were:

  • Galápogos Islands (Richard Leacock & David Lack) / April 1939
  • Land Of The White Rhino (produced by Basil Wright and camera work by J. Blake Dalrymple) / December 12, 1940


A print of Monkey Into Man that features its original title cards can be viewed on the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/monkeyintoman

Ooooh boy! There is plenty to comment here.

All of the primates featured are London Zoo captives and the commentary on chimps in particular is noticeably behind-the-times. It was not until 1960 that Jane Goodall started studying them in the wild with more intensity and interest. The narration insinuates, if not spell out directly, that chimps are only creative when humans push them to be, rather than being creative on their own in the wild. It is also a trifle strange that we progress from gorillas to shots of the aborigines in Australia. There is also a bit of sermonizing on the importance of "family", both among primates and humans.

I especially enjoy how baboons grooming each other are presented as something rather provocative: "it stimulates the nerves of their skin and they obviously get a great deal of pleasure from it just as a man does from massage and a woman does from beauty treatment".

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I don't know why I bother with some of these posts except to entertain myself. Sometimes they even go “poof” for unknown reasons. In any case, I will cast my fate to the winds and post one about two little color reels with some background on the format they used.


Dufaycolor was an interesting alternative to expensive Technicolor in the British film industry, hitting its stride just before World War II (which forced its plant to work on “more important” things and, thus, there was a sudden drop in the production of these). The basic idea here is best compared to a Georges-Pierre Seurat painting: tiny dots... or, rather, filter lines in this case... are printed on the film, coated with a special emulsion and create a full color picture as the human eyes move far enough away. I will allow the experts to explain it further...



The process was used with still photography roughly between the first World War and the late 1950s, but its association with motion pictures only began tentatively in 1931 and gained full attention by the masses when a popular feature film that included sequences was released in December 1934: Radio Parade Of 1935. As mentioned on the other thread, Gaumont British was experimenting with it in some short subjects earlier that same year and also used it later with some “Secrets of Nature” reels. When lofty Technicolor itself opened its ambitious new headquarters at West Drayton (just outside London) in the spring of 1936, film producers in the UK who wished to compete but couldn't afford Technicolor were all too happy to have Dufaycolor on stand-by. Further prestige had already been established the previous year when it officially was used to document the Silver Jubilee of King George V.

In the end, however, just one truly successful UK feature was all-Dufaycolor: Sons Of The Sea. Yet there was quite a flood of shorties using it during the second half of the thirties and early forties. Mostly these were travelogues and fashion parades, in addition to a couple of animated cartoons made by Len Lye and Norman McLaren.

The great Humphrey Jennings, a leading poet of the Brit “Documentary School”, decided to use Dufaycolor to document some otherwise drab everyday situations at a farm and on board a ship. Both of these presented here were produced by Dufay-Chromex Ltd. and Cecil Blacker is credited as assistant.

Farewell Topsails features cameraman Adrian Klein and covers a schooner transporting china from Cornwall to London. This one was released November 4, 1937.


English Harvest was also shot in 1937 but did not officially premiere until early 1939. A companion piece titled The Farm was released August 11, 1938 and essentially features the same footage but is longer. J.D. Davidson is behind the camera. Personally, I find this title a bit dryer than the other but it is still a good you-are-there look at everyday farm life.



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1 hour ago, Jlewis said:

English Harvest, reissued later as Farm, was also shot in 1937 but did not officially premier until August 11, 1938. J.D. Davidson is behind the camera. Personally, I find this title a bit dryer than the other but it is still a good you-are-there look at everyday farm life.



The music keeps it a bit livelier than it probably would have been otherwise. I've never seen such clean farmers. (I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin.) There are no unpleasantries depicted on screen. Nobody's complaining that tasks are too difficult. Nobody with sore muscles or a bad back that often comes from these arduous tasks. No manure. No flies or mosquitoes swarming around. It's all quite lovely (and fictional).  

This video would have you think that life on a farm is all a bit idyllic. But some people find this way of life a misery, eager to escape the drudgery. In my experience, at least a quarter of the people who live and work on the land can't wait to get off the farm and head into the city.

The scene where they knock off work for a bit to drink ale is probably the most realistic. Later when the wives bring tea, it seems to be mainly just tea. In modern day Britain "Tea" is now a synonym for snack or even an early light dinner. It includes what people eat while they're drinking tea. 

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You will especially enjoy Humphrey Jennings' little film "poems" covering the home-front during the war. Everybody looks so relentlessly cheerful among so much city rubble and great discomfort in subway terminal fall out shelters. It was a form of propaganda, if less pronounced than, say, what Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union were bombarding on their screens to hoodwink the masses during this same period.

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8 minutes ago, Jlewis said:

You will especially enjoy Humphrey Jennings' little film "poems" covering the home-front during the war. Everybody looks so relentlessly cheerful among so much city rubble and great discomfort in subway terminal fall out shelters. It was a form of propaganda, if less pronounced than, say, what Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union were bombarding on their screens to hoodwink the masses during this same period.

Yes, definitely home front propaganda. It lacks realism. 

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Teenagers... they are a strange lot.

Yet it is interesting how different the Canadian species compares to the United States species. In many Baby Boomer period pieces, the parents south of the border were always frustrated maintaining them as housebroken pets. Yet, north of the border, it was all one big “whatever”. As long as they don't destroy the carpet that was just cleaned.

Debated on doing a thread on Frank and Judith Crawley's Ottawa and Toronto-based Crawley Films, but this company is well enough documented online with most (if not all) of their 1938-1988 titles accounted for here: http://www.screenculture.org/cesif/producers/crawley-films and a nice intro that can be read here: https://web.archive.org/web/20070929091748/http://www.filmreferencelibrary.ca/index.asp?layid=46&csid1=153&navid=46

Among these were some nifty teen and child psychology reels co-produced with McGraw-Hill of New York City and catering more to the markets down south that felt they were more of a necessity. How Much Affection? is part of a trio based on Paul H. Landis' book Your Marriage And Family Living. The other titles, all probably filmed during the summer of 1957 and dumped into the U.S. school systems by early 1958, were Is This Love? and When Should I Marry?


How Much Affection? features sweet and lovable Mary, who seems a bit too old to still be in high school, asking her kind but authoritative mother if she is expressing too much passion with boyfriend Jeff. Jeff, in turn, feels guilty for coming on too strong when they were... y'know... parking. Momma knows best by telling her daughter that there is nothing wrong with a little sexual chemistry as long as you know how to slow down with the brakes and not make any decisions you later regret.

The case study whom Mary and Jeff do NOT want to be like are Ilene and Fred. They had a bouncy baby boy only five months after the honeymoon, a honeymoon they hadn't planned on since each had dreams of climbing up the ladder of fifties success and still attending parties. Worse yet, “poor, poor” Ilene (how poor is she?) pushes the stroller like it is a fate worse than those ol' MGM Crime Does Not Pay shorts. Is she wearing dark eye shadow to suggest lack of sleep? No, motherhood does not agree with her.

Yes, Mary and Jeff learn that it is best to drive sloooow to prevent any, um, accidents. I should mention that Jeff drives a really rad 1957 Dodge hardtop that might have set his very generous parents back some $2,580 in U.S. dollars. Unless he is merely borrowing Daddy's. Not that daddy has much to fear here since Jeff is unlikely to have any, um, accidents with it in this film.


On the other hand, I have the feeling that the parents in control are much more nervous about the way a $2800 Dodge Polara gets driven in the next title, George Kaczender's The Game, which entertains me to no end. Going by the Montreal scenery and the vintage Car & Driver and Road & Track magazines on display, this one was likely filmed in July of 1966, although school is still in session if we go by the script. Times have changed in the ensuing nine years and teenage appetites are much more aggressive.


The motto of Peter (Robert Fairley) in The Game is “work the minimum, get the maximum”. Yet he works very hard at The Game... the dating game, that is. The girls of '66 are playing harder to get, particularly Nikki (Mira Pawluk). While Mary literally grabs Jeff into the house despite her parents not being home and even offers to cook for him, Peter asks “Why don't we go to your place?” and gets the cool response of “What are we gonna do at my place?” Yet both attend Winston Churchill High School and we all remember what Churchill used to say: “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

What I like about this film is the way it was shot. It reminds me of Mike Nichols' The Graduate of the following year, especially in the early scenes of fellow guys looking down at Peter from a high angle and sporting their sunglasses (think Dustin Hoffman in his pool looking up at mother as she instructs him to “say hi to Mrs. Robinson”). Also plenty of Freudian imagery that hardly pleased the more conservative school districts who stumbled upon 16mm versions of this 35mm theatrical release in their film catalogs. When Peter first thinks that he will get lucky, we see the Dodge zoom upwards in a very... ahem... interesting angle and a splash of lights explode on the screen. Then we cut to him defeated and limp back at school since she stood him up. (Please, don't get me started on the construction site power drill scene later.) Note how stationary his Dodge is presented when stuff actually happens... and not how he expected. I have a sneaky feeling that Peter Bogdanovich greatly enjoyed watching this one before making The Last Picture Show.

Two years earlier, George Kaczender created a ruckus at the National Film Board with his directorial debut, the 28 minute Phoebie a.k.a. Sylvia. This film was outrageous for showing a happy, contented and unwed teenage mother who is the very antithesis of Poor, Poor Ilene. Other interesting films of his are You're No Good (1965, with a young Michael Sarrazin as a high school drop-out stealing a motorcycle and boasting some impressive New Wave-ish camera work), The World Of Three (1966, told from the perspective of a toddler with the future “Olivia Walton” a.k.a. Michael Learned as Mommy) and the rather depressing, but still fascinating and well-acted, feature film Don't Let The Angels Fall (filmed '68 and shown at Cannes '69). At least two of these are available at the NFB site.

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An interesting curio is this 16mm educational titled Journey Into Time.

In a mere 14 minutes, we move from the birth of the Earth through the rise of humans. The animated sequences are quite beautiful, resembling Disney's Fantasia and its “Rite of Spring” sequence. Actually one brief shot of molten volcanoes looks rather suspiciously Disney “borrowed”, but other scenes of trilobites, sea scorpions, fishes, nautiloids, Diplodocus, Pteranodon, Mososaur, Styracosaurus, Paraceratherium and assorted beasties look fully original. The music score is also quite dreamy with an emphasis on clarinets and strings. It all heightens up in intensity just before “The End” appears.


According to the H.W. Wilson Educational Film Guide annual supplement for 1960, both black and white (seen above) and color versions were distributed to North American schools by Viking Films of Ontario and Sterling Educational Films of New York. Apparently it was neither filmed originally in Canada or the U.S.

Roughly 80% of the original film material, if not all, comes from the Soviet Union. Летопись жизни (Chronicle Of Life) was a twenty minute instructional produced by Centrnauchfilm in 1957 with V. Shnejderov listed as director and script writer and Yu. Razumov as “operator”. The full color version can be viewed in its original Russian soundtrack here: https://www.net-film.ru/en/film-57035

A couple key differences of note. There are no outer space shots, rocket ships or atomic scenes. These could have been culled from another Soviet documentary; there were quite a few astronomy reels made by Leningrad Popular Science Film Studio, in particular, during the fifties. Also the shot of Darwin is curiously missing. Was this to please any Creationists not ready to stomach the “ape” connection to man suggested towards the end?

Being that the original source material was made just before Sputnik was launched and all of the havoc it created in U.S.-Soviet relations, there was some interesting modification made to the America version so that it appears less Russian. Of course, shots of the Moscow Museum of Paleontology and Leningrad Zoological Museum had to go. Nonetheless there must have been a lot of fascination in what those “commies” were teaching the kiddies over there, science-wise. Around this same time, producer David L. Wolper got a hold of one of the Leningrad efforts, re-edited it with additional NASA material and re-titled it as The Race For Space, earning an Academy Award nomination for it.

Speaking of Soviet-to-U.S. film transitions nominated for Oscars, there is another golden oldie worth mentioning from the above mentioned studio of Centrnauchfilm (and also carrying the studio name of Mosvoyentekhfilm). The U.S. version only lasts eleven minutes but gets shown every February-March on TCM as part of the Oscars fest: Warner Brothers' Smart As A Fox was nominated in the short subject live-action category just as the Cold War was underway in early 1947. Boris Dolin's original Закон великой любви (The Law Of Great Love), which premiered in March 1945, ran close to 48 minutes in length and can be watched here: https://www.net-film.ru/en/film-58437

For a fun comparison to Chronicle Of Life, Walt Disney released a 16mm version of Fantasia's "Rite Of Spring" segment. The original feature was released in 1940. The school version with narration added came out in 1955. You can watch that one here: https://archive.org/details/aworldisborn

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  • 2 months later...

Two charming children and pet films produced in France and distributed in the United States by the Hollywood majors Walt Disney (Buena Vista) and Columbia Pictures are currently available on the Internet Archive. Both were in active distribution in 16mm for the school market during the 1960s and '70s after their 35mm theatrical runs in the previous decade and may already be familiar to readers here.

Edmond Séchan was a key cinematographer on Louis Malle and Jacques-Yves Cousteau's Le Monde du Silence (The Silent World), probably the most popular French documentary feature of the fifties and a must-have for any movie buff's DVD collection, and Albert Lamorisse's Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon), probably the most popular French shortie of all time and the one 16mm film almost every American child of the 1960s-1970s had to sit through at least once between Kindergarten and 4th grade.


Niok l'éléphant was filmed in Cambodia near Angkor Wat in 1956, three years after this Kingdom was declared independent of French rule, and premiered at Cannes in May 1957. Disney released it in the United States on August 28th. It tells the simple story of a boy and a baby elephant, which the head leader of his village ultimately sells to a wealthy animal trader and his group bound for Singapore. Of course, our juvenile hero will not allow that to happen so he plans a master escape.

Yes, I have kinda spoiled the whole plot here but I think most will enjoy this film regardless, particularly the Cardiff-style Technicolor cinematography that isn't at all like other Disney releases of that era. It also isn't necessarily “cute” either, although the Disney company would soon make many other TV shows and films with virtually the same kiddie and critter formula. Only some English narration intrude what is otherwise a French film with some Khmer language spoken on the soundtrack as well.

A picture book was concurrently published, but not by Disney apparently.


On to the other...


Histoire d'un Poisson Rouge, filmed in 1958 and also premiering at Cannes in May of 1959, literally translates as History of a Red Fish. However the executives at Columbia Pictures clearly saw the star as a different color, so the October 12th, 1959 U.S. release was titled The Golden Fish. Although featuring the name of Jacques-Yves Cousteau as producer, the fish is the only connection to his many undersea explorations.

Séchan directs this one in the style reminiscent of a classic MGM, Warner or Disney cartoon, but on a more serious tone without all of the slapstick. We have a Japanese boy living in Paris who wins the fish at a fair, along with a pet canary that helps get the fish into trouble with his musical performance and, of course, a black cat that starts out as the villain here but ultimately is a good kitty in the end. Like Sylvester and Tom of cartoon fame, the feline is first seen foraging through trash cans until he sees the canary singing away in the window, a familiar set-up we have all seen many times before. Some scenes are very similar to earlier cartoons of the 1930s-50s, but there are also some very impressive experimental shots of either the cat or boy going up stairways that are sharply lit with sunlight contrasting dark shadows that create interesting geometric patterns.

Although Niok failed to earn an Oscar nomination, The Golden Fish scored the full gold as Best Live-action Short Subject of 1959.


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  • 4 months later...


On 1/10/2020 at 7:01 PM, LareBear said:

Curious to know how to find out if some particular Vitaphones shorts have indeed been restored. I've searched the internet high and low trying to find out if they've been restored. All I've managed to locate however are some still photographs at the University of Chicago, for which I've submitted a copy request but have not yet received.

My Great Grandfather was a member of the Mexican Tipica Orchestra during the US Tour in 1928 . In January of 1929  the orchestra stayed behind in NY to do some recordings. 

The Vitaphone files I am interested in finding out about are: "Lerdos Mexican Orchestra" #705 &  "Mexican Tipica Orchestra" #707 .

I, as well as my family, would absolutely LOVE to be able to see video of the orchestra in action.  




Sorry I am a little late in replying here. Figured I should comment on this thread since this is a better one for lengthier conversations of this sort.

The UCLA site has quite a few Vitaphones but I couldn't find these there.


That does not mean that the films are lost. You can also email The Vitaphone Project too at http://www.vitaphoneproject.com/

If there is enough interest, the Warner Archive may plop out another Vitaphone DVD with newer discoveries like any with the Mexican Tipica Orchestra.

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  • 9 months later...

Pulling this over from the thread on Warner Brothers shorties.

On 10/27/2020 at 8:44 AM, Old Film Lover said:

Thanks for doing all the work to put together this list of shorts.  I have a question for you regarding ""20,000 Cheers for the Chain Gang" (1933).  Do you have a copy of it, e.g., as the extra feature on the I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang film, and if so, would you check something for me?  Have a look at the dancers in the picnic scene, about 4:36 into the film.  Notice the prominent blond smiling dancer who is on screen for less than 10 seconds there, but whose face can be clearly seen and whose smile is noteworthy.  Does her face look familiar to you?  It looks like a major Warner star (before she became a star) to me, but rather than try to influence what you see, I'll just ask your opinion.  Is that actress the actress she looks like?

It is a fun one to watch, a great parody of a classic feature. The one girl in the picnic scene that I noticed does look like a lot like Bette Davis. Now... if it actually was her, what was she doing in New York making a short when the studio had her busy making features in Burbank/Hollywood? One possibility is that the film incorporates a stock shot lifted from an earlier Bette Davis feature, since it was not uncommon for short films to borrow clips from other features and shorts bankrolled by the same studio to economize. I kinda doubt it in this case, however. My more logical suggestion is that the girl merely looks like her in that particular scene but if we saw more of her on screen, maybe the resemblance would vary. She certainly would make a wonderful "stand in".

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