Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"History Detectives": Vitaphone Edition

From a 1928 edition of Screenland magazine.
If you’ve read the last edition of At The Matinee, this writer thought that there were Vitaphone discs hanging on the wall of the Shepherdstown Opera House’s “green room” (in Shepherdstown, West Virginia- according to The News-Post).  The opera house was the first movie theater in the state of West Virginia to showcase sound motion pictures.

ATM has received correspondence from Mr. Ron Hutchinson, one of the founders of The Vitaphone Project- an organization dedicated to preserving vintage Warner Bros. Vitaphone sound-on-disc features and short subjects.   He has collected 350+ feature film sound discs throughout the years, and has worked with Warner Bros. (and corporate sibling Turner Entertainment), UCLA Film & Television Archive, The Library of Congress, and other studios to preserve their sound-on-disc features for future generations to see. 

Throughout the years, the organization has assisted in finding missing Vitaphone sound discs to match up with motion picture material (or vice-versa).

According to Mr. Hutchinson’s findings, they weren’t Vitaphone motion picture sound recording discs- they were ordinary 12” long-playing vinyl discs that hung on the green room wall of the theater.  A normal Vitaphone record would be 16 inches in diameter, and had huge white labels with grids, indicating that the fragile discs were good for only 20 plays (some MGM sound discs were good for about 40 plays, according to this link.).

Although these weren’t Vitaphone discs at the theater, it was an interesting find, and was pleased to get a reply from Mr. Hutchinson.  If you’re reading this Mr. Hutchinson (and other members of The Vitaphone Project), thank you for letting me know about this- and keep up the good work on helping to preserve vintage sound-on-disc features!

ATM REMEMBERS: At The Matinee remembers actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who passed away on May 2nd, 2014 at the age of 95.

The son of violinist Efrem Zimbalist Sr. (1889-1985) and popular singer Alma Gluck (1884-1938), he is best remembered for his role in the first television series produced by Warner Bros., 77 Sunset Strip (as private eye Stuart “Stu” Bailey- which lasted from 1958 to 1964) - and was also known for his role of Inspector Lewis Erskine in another popular television series, Quinn Martin’s The F.B.I. (which lasted from 1965 to 1974).

He also appeared opposite daughter Stephanie Zimbalist on the series Remington Steele (with Pierce Brosnan, which lasted from 1982 to 1987). Modern audiences may remember Zimbalist as the voice of butler Alfred Pennyworth in Batman: The Animated Series (which ran from 1992 to 1995).

Listen to this 2011 Warner Archive Podcast interview with George Feltenstein, discussing highlights of Zimbalist’s acting career.

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