Friday, January 1, 2010

Paramount On Parade 1930 - A lost Swedish version

80 years ago, in January 1930 a huge movie revue was in mid production at the Paramount lot. Paramount on Parade was their contribution to the revue craze that was going on at the time. The movie was made in several different languages, a quite common procedure, except this time they decided to make a Swedish version (!). This fact is not very well known here in Sweden since the Swedish version of the film is considered lost since the early 30's. The Swedish film institute has no idea where the film took off, there's no trace of it here apart from a box of stills. In some Swedish filmographies it's even stated that the film was never made. I know for sure it was made, shown and reviewed in the Swedish papers. The US version opened in April '30 and the Swedish version somewhat later. Below is a publicity for it dating from May'30, saying it "will certainly be the attraction the coming fall".

In 1929 Paramount had approached Ernst Rolf, the Swedish king of entertainment since almost 20 years. In many ways he was the equivalent to Florenz Ziegfeld with the distinction he also was a performer. Rolf signed a lucrative contract with Paramount running for two years. In January 1930 he and his soon to be wife Tutta Berntzen boarded the liner Annie Johnson heading for Hollywood. They were to stay about ten days in Hollywood shooting some six to ten numbers for the production. Rolf was given Skeets Gallaghers's role as Master of Ceremonies in the Swedish verson. According to the reports Rolf raised hell on the sets, running around blowing in some sort of navy whistle in a very demanding manner. This behavior so impressed the Paramount executives that he was soon allowed to shoot stuff for his own use while he had the technology at hand. For this task Paramount appointed no other than George Cukor as Rolf's personal director.

Rolf and Tutta in Hollywood 1930

Paramount on Parade was a giant production, it was Rolf's third movie and it had been five years since his last. He was by no means an actor. I will even extend that to say he couldn't act at all. He was mainly a singer, made around 900 recordings and was gifted with a photographic memory for lyrics. He had a fantastic sense for finding hits and spotting talent. He discovered many of Sweden's top entertainers for years to come. Rolf always kept a notebook where he jotted down text lines and ideas for others to materialize for him. British band leader Jack Hylton once said he had only met one true entertainment genius in his life, that genius was Ernst Rolf.

Rolf and Clara Bow on the Paramount lot.

Unfortunately Paramount On Parade was the only movie Paramount made with Rolf due to the depression and the studio halting or cancelling all planned musicals during the summer 1930. Since Rolf was a song and dance man who couldn't act he stayed on the roster as long as he could as he got a steady income from it anyway and without being forced to be available in Hollywood.

Rolf, Mitzi Green, Clive Brook and Tutta.

Another thing which is intersting is that Paramount really loved Rolf's wife Tutta and apparently offered her an even better contract which would make her the new Nancy Carroll. Rolf however, didn't allow her to accept it. I guess he couldn't stand the idea of his wife becoming a bigger star than himself.

Rolf and Tutta fraternizing with the Paramount stars.

My main interest is to locate all the "Swedish" footage. Some of it have survived but about two thirds is missing and has been missing since the thirties. Was something shot in color? Since Rolf had a total craze for anything modern and any possible trends, I'm absolutely sure he at least tried to persuade Paramount to shoot a scene or two in color, but maybe he didn't manage, I don't know. I know he bought some novelty shorts in 3D to show in his 1930 summer revue though.

Anyway, The Swedish version of Paramount On Parade was definitely made and shown here but flopped hard. Whatever happened to the film after this is completely in the dark.
Let's take a look at a snippet of the survivning footage from the Swedish version of Paramount on Parade directed by George Cukor. Ernst Rolf singing "Jag Är Törstig Efter Kyssar (I'm thirsty for kisses)" written by Rolf and Fritz-Gustaf.

Unfortunately Rolf died from a suicide attempt that ended up successful on Christmas day 1932. Tutta Rolf later married choreographer Jack Donohue whom she had met in Hollywood. Her son with Ernst Rolf, Tom was about four when he followed his mother to Hollywood in 1935. Tom Rolf later became an award winning film editor and is still living in Hollywood. I'm sure Tutta would have made it in Hollywood but she didn't get a second chance.

Stills from one of the lost Swedish numbers -
Gör Någonting

Until 1996, the only available prints of the American version of Paramount on Parade were missing all the color sequences, each of which was a major musical number: "Sweeping the Clouds Away" with Chevalier; "Isidore the Toreador" with Harry Green; "Nichavo" with Dennis King," "Come Drink to the Girl of My Dreams" with an all-star cast; and "Torna a Sorrento" with Nino Martini. (Fortunately, "Sweeping the Clouds Away" survived in a black and white version.) The running time of this cut version is about 77 min. This version is the one doing the rounds among collectors today.

Rolf presenting "Dancing To Save Your Soul"

In 2007 the UCLA reconstructed a nearly complete print, using new-found sound track recordings and most of the missing color footage. (One scene has soundtrack only plus still photos, another has image only without sound.) Please read Jeff Cohen's walk-thru of Paramount on Parade here. Until we get it on DVD it's the best description available of it.

What happened to the Swedish version is a complete mystery. Here's a song that Rolf and his wife recorded for the movie but where the footage is lost.
The song is "Gör Någonting! (Do something!)" written by Karl Wehle and Tor Bergström.


KING OF JAZZ said...

I was hoping for a New Years treat from this site and you really delivered! Really fascinating; I hadn't a clue about a Swedish version of PARAMOUNT ON PARADE.

Indirectly, I'm frustrated so many reconstructed discoveries are still locked in safe but inaccessible vaults such as UCLA. What a tremendous gift it would be to have a series of "Preservation Series" DVDs from UCLA. Only a trickle of material seems to emerge occasionally for widespread viewing on DVD.

Anyway, you always entertain and educate us with your valuable research!

Raquel Stecher said...

It's sad to think what Tutta could have become if her husband wouldn't have been so jealous of her potential career!

Thanks again Professor Jonas for another excellent lecture! Informative and enlightening as usual.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I love your detective work. This is really interesting material. You always provide such in-depth information no other blog has, Jonas. Thanks again.

ulrich said...

Miss Rolf actually got a second chance and did "Dressed to Thrill" (1935) in a leading part in Hollywood...

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