Thursday, December 3, 2009

An early talkie Christmas!

Today Warner Brothers announced the release of some really interesting titles in the fantastic Warner Archives series. In this latest batch we find some absolute necessities for the early talkie fan. Below I have selected seven titles I would buy at once if I resided in the US (which I don't) as the Warner Archives series is only available to film fans in the US.

The Hollywood Revue Of 1929 A very prolific movie, instrumental to the movie revue and musical craze of 1929-30. It is unique in many ways. It was the first attempt at filmed musical revue and features all your favorite MGM stars except Lon Chaney and Greta Garbo. It is also the only movie in which you get a good glimpse of Queen Norma Shearer and John Gilbert in living color. Cliff Edwards is performing the original version of Singing in the Rain, a song that was written for this film. Be sure to get a copy of it!

Next in line and equally important is the first all color talkie ever made, On With The Show! (1929) Unfortunately, all color prints are lost since long but at least the film survives intact. Among the many great songs we find Am I Blue performed by Ethel Waters.

"With unpaid actors and staff, the stage show Phantom Sweetheart seems doomed. To complicate matters, the box office takings have been robbed and the leading lady refuses to appear. Can the show be saved?"

A personal favorite I have mentioned many times on this blog. Rio Rita (1929) was the biggest hit of the 1929-30 season. This is the 1932 re-release print I wrote about in my last post, but until the original 1929, 140+ minute version resurfaces it will have to do.

Rio Rita helped put RKO on the map and paved the way for a string of no less than 22 Wheeler & Woolsey comedies between 1929 and 1937. It was much thanks to the success of those early films RKO was able to give us all the fantastic Fred & Ginger movies during the later part of the 1930's. Say thanks by getting yourself a copy of Rio Rita, the film that started it all!

We move on to two movies which both opened in December 1929. The first It's A Great Life (1929) Starring Rosetta & Vivian Duncan (in their only full length feature) and Lawrence Gray. A very typical 1929 musical including three great Technicolor sequences. Let's hope the last of them hasn't been cut like it has been on several occasions when aired on TCM.

Sally (1929) Ziegfeld superstar Marilyn Miller in her first film of three. Sally was a no expenses saved all color talkie which used the biggest indoor sets ever built to that date. Sadly the color prints are lost except for a fragment of four minutes I hope is included in this Warner Archive print.

Show Girl In Hollywood (1930) See Alice White play Dixie Dugan. A totally charming musical showing how a musical talkie was made from the inside. Don't miss it! The final reel was originally in color but now we'll have to do with Alice White in grayscale.

Golden Dawn (1930) Another all color talkie musical. Golden Dawn is probably the most bizarre musical ever made and deserves a post of its own. Set in German East Africa we get Noah Beery in blackface singing a strange song to his whip. Marion Byron beating up her beau Lee Moran etc. Good score and wonderful songs by Stothart and Hammerstein but it stays a very peculiar picture.
More on Golden Dawn soon, stay tuned...


Elizabeth said...

I heard about the new releases earlier today from ClassicFlix! I'm so excited!

Raquel Stecher said...

Yay! A great moment for Early Talkies. I hope this means more people will watch these films. :-)

Terence Towles Canote said...

I've seen it before, but I will definitely have to get a copy of The Hollywood Revue Of 1929. Very important movie. And Cliff Edwards singing "Singin' in the Rains" is fantastic.

KING OF JAZZ said...

I believe a lot of Vitaphone shorts are now being made available on the WB site on a 6-DVD set. Most of the shorts are derived from the laser set collections from the mid-90's. Though many of the shorts are of a somewhat later vintage (swing type music shorts post-1935), it's a good sign.

I like all of the early musicals being made available, save for the decidedly ultra-weird GOLDEN DAWN. I wouldn't choose it as my first example of an early musical!

KING OF JAZZ said...

One other thing...I hope SHOW OF SHOWS (1929) is made available, given its Warner origins. Now there's one heck of a musical revue. Students of early musicals will know what I mean. I first discovered it via a hazy TV antenna airing back in the '80s, and couldn't believe what I saw. Never mind "Singin' in the Rain," how about "Singin' in the Bathtub" with Winnie Lightner? There's so much from this era to cherish!

Jonas Nordin said...

Thank you all for your comments!

King Of Jazz, I think your prayers just got answered :)

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