Sunday, February 28, 2010

Deagan Bells


This two-page ad for Deagan Bells appeared in Moving Picture World on 5 April 1913, and it initiated a new advertising campaign for the company, which began running a weekly full page ad in the paper. (One example of the weekly version is shown to the right.) As this ad from 1910 shows, Deagan had previously run ads in the trade paper, but with this ad buy they became the most prominent music advertiser in the paper, eclipsing Wurlitzer's regular quarter page. Presumably, as part of the ad buy, they received this favorable notice in the paper:
Remarkable List of New Electrical Instruments

J. C. Deagan, the well known manufacturer of musical novelty instruments, announces in his advertisement, in this issue of the Moving Picture World, a new catalogue, introducing 240 different, electrically operated instruments, particularly suited for just motion picture theaters, and which can be played either individually, collectively, or in any combination in connection with a piano easily manipulated by the piano player.

A representative of the Moving Picture World recently made a call at the home of the Deagan Bells, a beautifully appointed and modern factory, costing $350,000. located at 1770 Berteau Avenue, Chicago. Claude Deagan, the genial young manager, conducted the World man through the factory and showed him a great number of remarkable instruments, which, no doubt, will make a great hit in motion picture theaters. The two most striking instruments are the new improved Musical Electric Bells and the new Deagan Electric Cathedral Chimes. The Musical Electric Bells have been improved considerably. They can be played soft or loud, single stroke or vibrating, at the will of the operator, by merely pressing buttons conveniently located on an ivory keyboard. The bells are mounted on a handsomely nickel-plated floor rack, but can also be distributed around various parts of the theater, if so desired.

A truly beautiful instrument is the Electrical Cathedral Chimes, made of the purest bell metal. It gives the best imitation of church chimes ever produced. These chimes are also electrically operated from an ivory key-board, and can be distributed throughout the theater, the same as the Deagan Musical Electrical Bells. Other new instruments are the new style Swiss Electric Bells, the Electric Octaphone, the Electric Orchestra Bells, the Electric Parsifal Bells, the Electric Steel Marimbaphone and Electric Xylophones.
Source: “Remarkable List of New Electrical Instruments,” Moving Picture World 5 April 1913, 50.
Image Sources: Two page spread: Moving Picture World 5 April 1913, 112-13; one-page version: Moving Picture World 12 April 1913, 207.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cue Sheet for Shoulder Arms

I picked this and some other cue sheets up a couple of weeks ago on Ebay. This cue sheet comes from a rerelease of Chaplin's Shoulder Arms, which originally appeared in 1918. The other cue sheets available from this supplier all dated from 1926 and 1927, so my guess is that this cue sheet also comes from that period, though I haven't researched the rerelease dates. The film itself is available for (free) download via the Internet Archive.

According to the cue sheet, the runtime of the film should be a bit over 34 minutes, which is quite a lot faster than the 46 minutes for the 1959 reissue (with a musical score Chaplin composed) that was part of The Chaplin Revue. Whether the 1926/1927 version was abridged or it was exhibited at a very fast clip is unclear: I couldn't find an accurate footage count for the film, but the 46 minutes of the 1959 release would be consistent with a little more than 4000 feet run at 24 frames per second (about 11 1/8 minutes per 1000 feet). To run 4000 feet in about 34 minutes would require an extremely fast frame rate (8 1/2 minutes per 1000 feet, which if I'm doing the math right would be above 30 fps). On the other hand, I have not yet watched the film with the cue sheet and stop watch, where any significant abridgment should become evident.

For information on silent film projection speed, this article by Kevin Brownlow is a classic. See also this chart of conversions speeds. The March and April 1998 entries from the Silent Film Bookshelf have a number of other articles on the topic of variable projection speed.

Update

Having done a bit more research, I learned that the film was originally shot as a five-reel feature but released in three reels. At three reels, 34 minutes would mean about 24 fps and 46 minutes somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 fps. I'm still not sure if the 1959 version is an extended cut, projected at a slower speed, or a combination of the two.


Friday, February 26, 2010

British Trade Exhibition

This is an excerpt of an article on a 1913 industry trade show in Britain. A lot of manufacturers of mechanical musical instruments and sound effects machines evidently showed their wares—in any case, there were enough that the article had this whole section devoted to them.
British Trade Exhibition
Moving Picture Symposium in London—Fourteen Picture Theaters in One.
(Specially Reported By Our Own Representative.)

SATURDAY, March 22 will be an important date in the history of the moving picture industry in Great Britain, for on that day was opened in London, under most distinguished auspices, the first industrial exhibition ever held in this country in connection with development of the kinema as an educational, scientific and entertaining factor.

[…]

Sound Instruments.

It would seem from the many mechanical musical instruments shown at Olympia that, so far as the smaller shows are concerned, the orchestra will soon be swept out of existence. A most ingenious contrivance which attracted endless attention was a violin-playing instrument. The sceptic showman will ask "How can a machine draw a bow across a fiddle with accurate musical expression." That is not the point. The violin plays the bow, the latter remaining stationary throughout. The invention consists of a three-legged frame to which is attached three violins, close together and all in line. Across the three is stretched a huge bow and when the motor is set going and the sound regulator fed with paper music rools [sic] the three play together. Pneumatic stops regulate the strings instead of fingers.

The stentorian was another device which attracted endless notice. It was really an elaboration of the gramaphone [sic] except in stentorian notes which could be heard from one end of the building to the other. Combinations of pianos, organs, orchestrions and violins were exhibited by the dozen and all were under electric control, compact, and regulated on the press-the-button principle.

Machines for sound effects were as common as flies on a July morning and the cacophanic [sic] catastrophes produced by some were bewildering in the extreme. One small instrument, for instance, no larger than a sewing machine and known as the "Kinesounder," almost produced a panic. The operator pressed seven of its levers down simultaneously; then immediately fire alarms rang, police whistles blew, the fire engine hooter buzzed, horses galloped and vehicles rattled, timber cracked as though burning and passable imitations of falling floors and roofs were interspersed with many other noises of a fire scene. This machine produces about fifty other different stage noises with one of the most realistic resemblances of smashing crockery I have ever heard.
Source: Our Own Representative, “British Trade Exhibition,” Moving Picture World 19 April 1913, 259.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kinetophone in Louisville

This little item carried in the correspondence section of the Moving Picture World indicates that the Kinetophone was less than successful in its Louisville debut—so much so that it seems that the local Keith vaudeville house was relinquishing its rights to the device and allowing another theater in town to install it.
The Edison kinetophone has made its appearance in Louisville, B. F. Keith’s vaudeville house presenting the latest device of the inventor to the public. Largely speaking, it may be said that the Lousiville patrons of the theater enjoyed the talking pictures, even though some expressions of disappointment were heard. Devotees of the animated pictures, perhaps, had been led to expect too much, and the performance therefore fell a bit beneath anticipations. One of Louisville’s amusement companies is now negotiating for the local rights of the kinetophone, and one of its houses will shortly be devoted to the talking pictures.
Source: G. D. Crain, Jr., “Correspondence: Louisville,” Moving Picture World 12 April 1913, 181.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Day "At the Door"

This is a fictionalized account of one day in a manager's life running a small moving picture house, which includes some details about musicians.
A Day "At the Door"
By Hugh King Harris

LET us stand, if you will, for a moment in the place of the manager of the motion-picture theater, in the average town, and watch, for a day the different phases of the business. It is a most interesting proposition as viewed from various angles. If I burlesque some points a trifle, keep in mind that what I say is founded on actual occurences [sic] related by managers of various houses, on facts, not fancy.

The house is to open at ten o'clock A. M., the film is to come in by express, and there has been a wreck on the road, the feature has been billed heavily. The posters have been up and folks are looking toward seeing something worth while. Jacks, the manager, phones the express office. "Hello, that film in yet? What, a wreck on the P. & O.? The deuce! How soon do you expect it? By noon sure! Say, man, we open at 10, the thing's billed and we stand to lose a nice bunch of money."

He turns from the phone perplexed, the films of the day before are boxed ready for shipment out, on the train that the feature was to come in on. Morning business is always good here; to wait two mortal hours without films is to face a loss of the real profits of the day. But such is life. Just then the phone rings. "Hello, yes, this is Jacks; what, Mary sick, won't be down today? All right, I'll see what I can do."

More bad news, the cashier sick, some one must be pressed into service at once to handle the box office. It is close to ten and folks have already paused, lounging about the lobby, real money is waiting to be taken. Jacks scowls, a hurry call and he locates a girl he knows will be O. K. He is about to call the express office again but feels that will be useless, they know his plight and will send the film as soon as it comes.

Now a shrill whistle from the speaking tube to the operating booth gives promise of more trouble, and sure enough, the operator finds the projecting machine has a broken sprocket and it will take some time to fix it.

"Everything in bunches," mutters Jacks and tells the musicians who are waiting that nothing will be doing until noon. But as gloom is settling thick and fast the express wagon dashes up, and lo and behold, the unexpected has occurred, the film has arrived, twenty-five minutes late, yes, but that's a small matter under the circumstances. A sharp blow on the speaking tube whistle and the operator "thinks" ten minutes more will fix her. So finally all is ready and Jacks takes up his station at the ticket box. A well advertised feature has brought out a good crowd and soon the tickets are dropping merrily into the box.

The speaking tube whistle blows, it is another bit of trouble, possibly ten minutes or so. Instructions are sent down to the orchestra and the singer is forced into quick
action and by strenuous musical stunts the original ten minutes, stretched to half an hour, is passed.

"Gee, mister, I can't hang around here all morning; I came to see a show, not to hear a cheap concert.” It is a red-faced, portly man speaking. His nickel is returned without question. But the next party who departs snorts something about blanked fakes anyway, these snide cheap theaters. Jacks takes it all coolly. It is part of the daily grind.

Now all is going smoothly, it is some feature all right, folks commence to applaud and Jacks knows he has the crowd with him at last. As the audience departs comments of Bully," "Some class" or "It was awfully interesting, don't you think," take the sting out of the episode of the disgruntled folks who left earlier in the morning.

Noon comes; with the regular cashier off duty, Jacks eats a hasty bite and is soon back on duty. Here comes a big lady, loaded with bundles, a weazened little fellow, with sparse gray whiskers trails along meekly, in the rear.

He carries a tin pail with a card board cover tied on it, it seems very precious. The fat lady gurgles. "Oh say, mister ticket man, would you oblige a lady by taking care of the pail while we see the pictures? It is a present for Susan Ann, that's my husband's cousin. Gold fish, yes, she dotes on gold fish. But do be careful and don't set them so near the register, you will kill them; and do keep them out of the draft; don't spill the water. There's a good man, ever so much obliged, we won't be in long, come along Jasper" and she stalks down the aisle, Jasper following in the rear with never a word. Jacks heaves a sigh of relief and rapidly gathers in the pasteboards of the crowd who has had to wait for the fat lady to get rid of her burden and her tale of woe.

"Three men sat on a dead man's chest, yo heave ho"—bang, and the doors fly open, a whiff of onions and whiskey strikes Jacks' nostrils. A burly sailor, three sheets to the wind comes stalking in, bumps against the ticket box and leers cunningly at Jacks, who sees trouble in sight, right there.

"Say, old sport, shiver my timbers, let a man cast anchor, will you?"

Jacks none too gently shoves the sailor out the door, but just outside the entrance (Jacks is very glad it is outside), the sailor turns with an oath and raises a wicked slug shot; Jacks ducks, and luckily the officer passing is on time, the sailor is hauled away and Jacks resumes his duties.

"Mister, does the show run all day for a nickel?" it is a little old woman who asks the question. Jacks sizes up the rusty bonnet, the thin face and eager eyes. The gloves have no tips. "Someone from' God knows where, no money and wants to fill in time." Jacks sizes up things in a hurry. Kindly he explains that one may stay as long as one likes and she goes on in, and Jacks pretends not to notice the lack of a ticket.

Out in front, the big frame with the actors and actresses of the feature company is standing. A rural couple stroll up, gaze at the photos of the players and Hiram remarks in a loud nasal twang, "Guess, Marthy, that curly headed lad must be some good tenor singer. Let's go in and hear the concert." And in they enter, believing the place a regular theater and the players musical artists.

A smart young fellow comes in and leans against the back seat rail. He is one of the floaters and pretends to be so very much of the world. Suddenly on the street is the clang of the fire bells, the department is rushing by.

"Gee, there's a fire," the wise boy calls loudly to Jacks and dashes hastily out the door. Jacks scowls as he sees several patrons in the rear seats shift nervously.

"The fool," mutters the manager, "it takes less than that to start a panic, at times," he saunters carelessly down into the aisle and the folks keep their eyes on him, but his manner reassures them and no trouble comes of the incident.

Now the fat lady of the gold fish comes out and suspiciously inspects the gold fish with a sniff and no thanks to Jacks goes out.

"No dogs allowed in here, madam," this to a flashily dressed young woman who has a big bull terrier on the end of a chain.

"Well, you have a nerve. I have him chained and can sit in the rear." Her voice rises shrill and Jacks calms her as best he can, but she makes a nasty scene before she leaves and Jacks wishes she and her dog in most any place at all, so long as it is away from him.

The day goes on and many fool questions are asked and answered, a fight in the lobby is stopped, a "rough neck" in the audience subdued and ejected.

A short time for supper, and the night doorman comes on. Jacks has a bit of time to himself, but the singer, a young tenor, gets mixed up with some friends and doesn't show up for evening service on time. The extra singer is hastily secured, after a deal of grumbling, and goes on.

The advertising for the next day and the day after is gone over, the janitor makes a "touch," on the plea of illness, a new part is ordered for the machine, and many other duties are disposed of.

It is pretty late when Jacks gets to bed, tired, with some important matters to call him out early the next morning. He has had a "full day" surely, yet some folks sigh with envy at the manager's "job," a bed of roses, maybe, but every rose has its thorns, and every manager can point out a whole lot of these same thorns if you will but ask him.

Source: Hugh King Harris, “A Day ‘At the Door,’” Moving Picture World 19 April 1913, 270.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ball Game—illustrated Song

Here is an excellent essay by Tom Shieber, curator at the Baseball Hall of Fame, on the illustrated song set for "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Among other things, the essay provides information on the slide maker Dewitt C. Wheeler, whose firm made a slide set for the song. This slide set is used as the basis for this overly active rendition on YouTube, which I discuss here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Week 4 and Week 5 Lectures

I'm a little late getting the week 4 and week 5 lectures up due to a big conference on music, sound and film I attended last week.

I opened the week with a discussion of the acousmêtre (acoustical being). I developed the concept using the work of Chion, Bonitzer and Doane. Here are some quotes:
Acousmatic. Dictionary definition: “a sound that is heard without its cause or source being seen.” (quoted Chion, The Voice in the Cinema, p. 18)

Acousmatic—“Pertaining to sound one hears without seeing its source. Radio and telephone are acousmatic media. In a film, an offscreen sound is acousmatic” (Chion, Audio-Vision, p. 221)

Definition—“A kind of voice-character specific to cinema that in most instance of cinematic narratives derives mysterious powers from being heard and not seen.” (Chion, Audio-Vision, p. 221).

Between one (visualized) situation and the other (acousmatic) one, it’s not the sound that changes its nature, presence, distance, color. What changes is the relationship between what we see and what we hear. (Chion, The Voice in the Cinema, p. 19)

The use of the voice-off always entails a risk—that of exposing the material heterogeneity of the cinema. Synchronous sound masks the problem and this at least partially explains its dominance. But the more interesting question, perhaps, is: how can the classical film allow the representation of a voice whose source is not simultaneously represented? As soon as sound is detached from its source, no longer anchored by a represented body, its potential as a signifier is revealed. There is always something uncanny about a voice which emanates from outside the frame. (Doane, “The Voice in the Cinema,” p. 40)

[The consistent use of voice-off for the villain in Kiss Me Deadly] gives to his sententious voice, swollen by mythological comparisons, a greater power of disturbing, the scope of an oracle—dark prophet at the end of the world. And, in spite of that, his voice is submitted to the destiny of the body . . . a shot, he falls—and with him in ridicule, his discourse with its prophetic accents. (Bonitzer, quoted Doane, “The Voice in the Cinema,” p. 41)

The acousmêtre . . . must haunt the borderlands that are neither the interior of the filmic stage nor the proscenium—a place that has no name, but which the cinema brings into play. (Chion, The Voice in the Cinema, p. 24)

De-acousmatization of a character generally goes hand in hand with his descent into a human, ordinary, and vulnerable fate” (Bonitzer, quoted Chion, Audiovision, p. 131).

For examples I used Wizard of Oz and Psycho. In the past, I've also had good luck with 2001: A Space Odyssey, though I've found that film takes a bit longer to get the concept across. The process of de-acousmatization is particularly clear (and amusing) in Wizard of Oz. Psycho, on the contrary, resists showing the final de-acousmatization, which helps produce the uncanny effect of its ending, a gesture that the slasher film has taken over and made its own.

* * * * *

We then moved on to chapter 4 proper and examined the various transitions covered there:

  • Sound Advance. I showed a long sound advance in When Harry Met Sally. We hear Harry and Sally talking on the phone about Casablanca as we see a montage of Harry's and Sally's days both together and apart. Only after about 90 seconds of this do we get synchronization, with each in their own house, in their separate bed, but watching the ending of Casablanca together as they discuss it on the phone. This example is discussed on p. 94 of the text.

  • Sound Lag. For the lag, which is much less common than the advance, I use Goodfellas, which we discuss on p. 95 of the text. Here, the transition from the night club act to the airport caper are linked through the continuation of Henny Youngman's act well into the beginning of the airport sequence.

  • Sound Link. For the link, I showed two examples. I began with a brief sequence from Emma, where Emma must tell Harriet that Mr. Elton is getting married (HtM, p. 96). We then watched the more elaborate "Would You" sequence from Singin' in the Rain. This sequence is discussed on pp. 96-97 and 100 of the text.

  • Sound Match. A Match is generally less elaborate than a Link, and the Match from De-Lovely discussed in example 4-2 (p. 97) could easily be analyzed as a link by analogy with the example from Emma discussed above since in both cases the connecting sound is continuous across the cut and more or less identical in both scenes. A Match may also be based on resemblance rather than identity, however, in which case the resemblance may suggest a metaphorical connection between the two shots. A good example of such a link occurs in The Big Broadcast (1932), where pounding on the table turns into pounding on a car horn. This example is discussed on p. 97 of the text.

  • Hard Cut. For the hard cut, we watched a short sequence from Blue mentioned in the text (p.98). Note the abrupt shift in sound mirrors the abrupt shift in image, and together they help mark a sharp temporal break despite the lack of formal transition.

* * * * *


The distinction between synchronization and counterpoint (playing with or against the film), covered on pp. 98-110, was the next topic. I used a couple of sequences from Singin' in the Rain to talk about general issues of synchronization. We started with the failed premiere, which is useful for emphasizing that it takes a lot of work to get synch sound right.

I then showed the bit where Cosmo illustrates how they might substitute Kathy's voice for Lina's, followed by the short scene of Kathy looping in Lina's dialogue (which was actually done by Jean Hagen, the actress who played Lina). If I had time, I would have screened the "Would You" sequence again, as it brings together many of the concerns of synchronization.

We next turned to the general issue of playing with the image. We watched the sequence where Rick and Ilsa meet from Casablanca, discussed on pp. 102-06. This is a particularly good sequence for illustrating dialogue underscoring, which in this case follows the scene very empathetically. The real effectiveness of Steiner's practice here can be illustrated by comparing it to the French language dub, which on my DVD uses very little of Steiner's score, substituting different music, also based on "As Time Goes By."

For counter- point or playing against the image I showed the sequence from Catch Me If You Can discussed in the text, p. 107. Nat King Cole's rendition of "The Christmas Song" plays, apparently diegetically, while Frank approaches the house and sees his mother happily a part of a new family. Chion notes that anempathetic music, especially when nondiegetic, often signifies the world's indifference to the characters. There is certainly a degree of indifference here, but the music serves as much to emphasize Frank's exclusion from the scene, as though we are hearing music that insists on a point of view that is not Frank's. Choosing to withdraw from the scene rather than force himself back into his mother's life, Frank seems experience empathetic recognition, which is underscored by having the music lag into the next scene as we hear his sentence handed down. The empathetic recognition also helps convince us that Frank is in fact redeemable, which aligns us with Carl.

Music that seems at odds with the image often produces an effect of an intruding—or at least shift in—point of view. Near the end of the opening battle of Gladiator, a solemn hymn suddenly drifts in over the images, which also shift into slow motion with distorted sound. This kind of gesture is occasionally used to underscore battles from the perspective of a "lost cause," but here the film remains very much on the side of the victorious Roman army. The shift in music does seem to signify a new point of view, however, as the cut to the Emperor watching from afar indicates.

* * * * *


The above material took a little less than two class periods to present (NB: my class meets twice a week). In addition, I also prepared the class to write a screening report. For that, we looked at the opening ten minutes or so of Catch Me If You Can. As we did not hold class for the first meeting of week 5, the students worked on their screening reports instead. For the second class meeting of the week, we spent about an hour on the commutation test (pp. 110-13). First I showed the "Non Nobis Domine" sequence from Branaugh's Henry V, which basically consists of a single virtuosic tracking shot across the body strewn battle field accompanied by Patrick Doyle's version of the hymn (in fact that's the composer shown singing at the beginning of the clip below). I have prepared an alternative sound track to this segment using "Vergangenes," the second of Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra, op. 16, and some foley effects. The contrast could hardly be more marked; I've found that with the change in music students will actually see a different preponderance of colors: where with Doyle's score students will generally say they see blues, whites and greens, with Schoenberg's music they will generally say they see, reds, oranges and browns. Schoenberg's music also lays the emphasis on the dead bodies that are strewn across the image, whereas Doyle's score encourages us to see the growing numbers of people marching across the scene. Of course, I play the Schoenberg first, and I don't let the students know that I have changed the sound track. I then play the Doyle under the pretense of listening to the sound track again. If you like, you can easily turn the discussion to the rhetorical force of music, since in this case the sound track alone seems to turn the scene from expressing anti-war sentiment (Schoenberg) to war as something quite a lot more positive, if not exactly warmongering (Doyle).



We also did an actual commutation test, using a scene from Taxi Driver and a playlist put on shuffle. The scene consists of Travis cruising through a red light district to the sound of a soft, jazzy nondiegetic saxophone.

* * * * *


Bibliography on Acousmêtre
Chion, Michel. Audio-Vision (1994).
_________. The Voice in the Cinema (1998).
Doane, Mary Ann. "The Voice in the Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space." Yale French Studies 60 (1980): 33-50.

Sound Editing Oscar

The New York Times published a nice article by Virginia Heffernan on the nominees for Academy Award in sound editing. The article opens with this evocative bit of writing on The Hurt Locker, which I agree should win the Oscar:
”The Hurt Locker” is a bomb movie that mutes its booms. It derives suspense by withholding the expected “boomala, boomala” . . .

“The Hurt Locker” is not cool. It’s hot and dry, a heaving desert parable with a mounting sandstorm howl at the center. The internal explosions matter more than the fireworks. . . . The top notes in the soundtrack are arid metallic clicks, snips, squeaks and creaks, the chatter of wrenches and wire clippers, as bombs are defused in air so parched as to seem combustible itself. Men can hardly summon the spit or breath to speak.
After running through three other nominees—Up , Star Trek and Inglorious Basterds—rather harshly (and I would say a bit unfairly), Heffernan turns to Avatar, calling its sound "brazenly cartoonish”; this characterization is in fact a positive.
What stands out is the whoosh of muscular—not fluttery—reptile wings as they flap and glide. This has to be the sound of flying in dreams. The dragonlike creatures vie for sonic dominance with the machinery in the film and particularly with the man-machine tanks that have their own distinctive sounds, especially in the fantasyland of Pandora, where a clash of resounding arms takes place in an atmosphere of no oxygen.
Heffernan understands sound as one of the best avenues filmmakers have for opening up to the representation of the other worldly, especially one deprived of oxygen, which must then stage the breath of life.
It’s intriguing that both “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker” have built otherworldly environments in which humans are intoxicated—in part by being deprived of oxygen. You can hear this danger much better than you can see it, and it falls to sound editors to exploit its dimensions. What a great challenge in moviemaking: the various sounds of breath—gasping, sighing, speaking, expiring—may be film’s first and most consequential sound effect. Here’s to films that revisit and rethink the sounds of breath and breathlessness.
I would caution against valorizing the breath in this way, however, as it couples rather too easily with the naive authenticity of location sound—Heffernan goes out of the way to inform us that the dialogue for The Hurt Locker "was almost all recorded on location in Jordan (and not looped in a studio)." Surely, like the sound of the breath itself, it is the effective representation of the dialogue—the way its difficult mediation through technology and body is rendered—not the location of its recording that matters.

X-post

Musical Suggestions

This week's "Music for the Picture" column is devoted exclusively to musical suggestions. In this case, the printer messed up the cue lists fairly extensively, so much of the listing makes little sense. I will provide a corrected version of this column when a list of Sinn's corrections are posted (in his column of 21 June 1913).
Through courtesy of Mr. E. C. Zane, of the Bijou Dream Theater, Chicago, I offer the following musical suggestions for the two-reel Ambrosio feature film:

CHILD LABOR TRAFFIC.

Part One.
1. “Sympathy Waltz” (by Mezzacappo) until title: “The Wicked Guardian, etc.”
2. Waltz Lento until: “The Plot.”
3. Short waltz or allegretto (one scene); an accordeon [sic] is being played in the scene by street musicians. Sound effect can be introduced ad lib. At change of scene:
4. “Dream of the Flowers (Chas. Cohen-Sam Fox), until she writes letter.
5. “Chiffon” (from suite “My Lady’s Boudoir”—Witmark), until Andrea meets her.
6. “In the Shadows” (Finck) until title: “Under the Pretense of Seeking Employment.”
7. Semi-mysterious until: “On the Track.”
8. “La Rose” (Emil Ascher) until end of reel.

Part Two.
1. “Dream of the Flowers” until: “A Lesson in Misery.”
2. Plaintive till Andrea enters supper room.
3. Agitato, pp. at first and crescendo for struggle until change of scene.
4. Short waltz until child is seen a prisoner.
5. Long “hurry” music. I used “Narcissus Overture” by Schleppegrel, beginning at the Allegro moderato and repeating this movement until she receives telegram, then:
6. “Dawn of Love” (by Theo. Bendix) until last scene.
7. Four bars of Wedding March to finish.

* * *

THE LADY AND THE MOUSE (Biograph).

1. Lilacs” (Feist) until title: “Boredom and Inefficiency.”
2. “Bees” Novelette (Remick) until: “On the Road.”
3. Any slow Reverie until title: “More Readjusting.”
4. “The Mouse and the Clock” (Whitney-Witmark) until: “A Change in Climate.”
5. Pathetic music (long) until: “Later.”
6. “Pansies” (Bendix) or any waltz lento until “The Change In Climate.”
7. Waltz until end of reel.

* * *

AN EXCITING HONEYMOON (Pathe).

Part One.
1. “Wedding Glide” until title: “We Want You To Put On Lady Rowley’s Robe.”
2. “Malinda” (Remick) until drinking scene.
[NB 3 is missing.]
4. Agitato pp. and mf. until: “An Inveterate Gambler.”
5. “Apple Blossoms” (Kathleen Roberts) until: “We’uns Want to be Quality Folks.”
6. “Kiss-Me-Quick” (Novelette), by Emil Isenman, pub. by Fischer, until title: “Fleeced.”
7. Semi-mysterious until he drops his head on table.
8. “Simple Aveu” until Goree Remembers too Late, etc.”
9. Semi-mysterious until: “Let Me Ride Ahead.”
10. Agitato until shot.
11. Plaintive until: “Epilogue.”
12. Religioso until finish.

* * *

THE COURAGE OF A SOLDIER (Bison).

Part One.
1. Indian characteristic music until: “The Peaceful Hopis Appeal.”
2. March until change of scene.
3. “Love’s Dream After the Ball” (Czibulka) after introduction. For one scene.
4. Same march as No. 2 until Indians go out of gate.
5. “Spring Dreams” (pub. by Feist) until council scene.
6. “Oy-an-ee-tah,” by Victor Herbert) until all in fort.
7. March until treaty is shown.

1. “I’d Like To Go On a Honeymoon” (from “The Red Rose,” by Bowers) until title: “At Last We Are Alone.”
2. “All Alone” until: “Go ‘way Man, etc.”
3. “One Drink More” (one scene), when colored woman powders her face.
4. “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” (Chorus) once through.
5. “Honeymoon Song from Honeymoon Trail.” When Lord Rowley gets into auto.
6. “Goodbye, Everybody,” until second auto drives on.
7. Galop of lively march until they walk up gang-way to boat.
8. “Goodbye, Everybody,” until boat is seen moving out.
9. “On the Mississippi” until end of reel (lively).

Part Two.
3. Chorus of “Which He Didn’t Expect from a Lady” (from “Peggy,” by Stuart).
4. “Is There Anything Else That I Can Do for You” (Remick).
5. Lively music throughout the picture.

This picture is a bright, rollicking comedy, and the more lively and “snappy” your music, the better. Popular stuff preferred.

* * *

A SPLENDID SCAPEGRACE (Edison).

1. Allegro (4th movement) of “Morning, Noon, and Night” overture by Suppe. Subdued agitato for one scene.
2. Any popular intermezzo until title “Selling the House of His Forefathers.”
3. “Old Kentucky Home”—paraphrase (or any Novelette—scenes are neutral); until they enter barroom.
[intervening numbers skipped]
8. Indian music again until change.
9. Agitato p. and f. until end of struggle.
10. “Starlight Souix (or any popular intermezzo of similar character) until: “The Money Arrives for the Indians.”
11. “Indian Summer” (Moret) until he puts money in desk.
12. Semi-mysterioso until: “Chaplain Decides to Leave the Fort.”
13. “Twilight” (Reverie by Nat D. Ayer) until end of reel.

Part Two.
1. March until change.
2. Indian until change.
3. Sentimental, two scenes.
4. Agitato, pp. until saloon scene.
5. Mysterious, one scene.
6. “Sun Dance” (Freidman) until: “The Lieutenant Accuses the Chaplain.”
7. Intermezzo until Indians.
8. Indian music, one scene.
9. Agitato, one scene; back to Indian music, one scene.
10. Sentimental until: “The Chief Divides His Forces.”
11. Several scenes of hurry and agitato music; when Chaplain lays powder train, softly till explosion—ff. until: “Seeing the Fort Attacked.”
12. March, one scene.
13. Hurry p. and f. Can alternate marches with agitato when cavalrymen seen riding. When army rides into fort.
14. March. When Lieutenant enters.
15. Pathetic until end of reel.
Source: Clarence E. Sinn, “Music for the Picture,” Moving Picture World 31 May 1913, 908.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mr. Frohman's Idea

This is another article on the future of the feature film that Moving Picture World carried in 1913. Here, the author explored an idea floated by Daniel Frohman. Frohman, a theater impressario, wanted to integrate feature film production into a theatrical distribution model. Theater had relied on the road shows of Broadway productions to help defray the costs; indeed, then as now, the Broadway production often served as a loss leader that helped create demand for plays in the rest of the country; the actual money would be made through road show productions and later licensing to stock theaters. By the 1910s, the viability of the model had begun to erode, since theaters specializing in live shows found it more difficult to fill their galleries with the moving picture theaters as competition (and many of the stock companies were simply forced out of business). Frohman's plan was to use the motion picture to reclaim some of that lost revenue. Frohman would in fact be integral to the founding of Famous Players (with Adolph Zukor), which would later develop into Paramount Pictures.
In an interview accorded Mr. Charles Darnton, dramatic editor of the Evening World, a few days ago, Mr. Daniel Frohman, one of the leading theatrical producers and managers of this country, and managing director of the Famous Players Film Company, which has produced "The Prisoner of Zenda," in motion pictures, interestingly outlines what he has in mind for the photoplay field of the future. Although Mr. Frohman's idea is termed "a new move in the 'movies' that will work revolution," it is not an original one, with possibly one exception. The work he intends carrying out will be the fulfillment of prophecies made by the watchful people a long time ago. It will be the adoption of a policy of leading photoplay producers—the Old Guard of the business, they may be more appropriately called. Mr. Frohman's main undertaking will be successful, be¬cause it is founded upon lines which is bound to be important factors in the elevation of the photoplays to a plane that will make them enduring and attract to the picture houses even a still greater patronage from the higher class of patrons than is now accorded them. In this respect it will place these picture houses on a par with the best in the theatrical business, and benefit the motion picture business generally. It is for this reason that Mr. Frohman's advent into the field has not been opposed by, or created uneasiness on the part of, the producers who have elevated the photoplays to their present standard. The attitude of the latter may be summarized thus: The term "film manufacturers" will soon become obsolete, replaced by the more dignified one of "producers," all being bent in achieving the same end sought by the new comer to the field. This classification may possibly be resented in some quarters as undesirable, but it will soon be adjusted to conditions. It may be claimed that some pictures do not give the producers the right to claim positions on a par with others. There is where the turning point will come and the "survival of the fittest" will be effectively demonstrated. It will be decided by the public. Those upon whom it places its stamp of approbation will become the photoplay producers and those who operate on the theory that people go to see motion pictures simply because they are such, and sacrifice those things which are essential to the kind of productions the people want in order to make as much money as possible in the shortest possible time, will become the pikers of the business.

* * *

As far back as eight years ago, the "Old Guard" predicted in the columns of the magazines devoted to the interests of the motion picture business that the people who were deriding the pictures as a short-lived elaboration of the stereopticon and slot machine devices would see them dedicated to posterity, and the time has come. In the interview referred to, Mr. Frohman uses the expressions, "I believe the industry is in its infancy," "How far it will go remains to be seen. It is like throwing a pebble in a pond-the ripples spread in every direction."

* * *

The interview, although reflecting views that are not entirely original, has attracted wide-spread attention. The one idea to which originality attaches, is the outlining of a plan by which successful plays converted to picture form shall take on a fourth life. The first will be in the two dollar houses of the New York theatrical field, the one-dollar life will be in the combination houses, and then they will take on the fifty-cent life in the stock company theaters, after which the plays, in picture form, will go into the picture houses. Whether or not it will become practicable remains to be seen. It sounds good, but many who have discussed it are inclined to the belief that the plays in picture form will force themselves to a better than fourth position. Some time ago the Moving Picture World pointed to the great advantage to which photoplays based upon leading productions could be adapted in drawing people to the theaters making the original productions and in one of his statements. Mr. Frohman indorses the views. He said. "I think we shall be a hopeful ally to the stage by drawing those who see the pictured play to the theater." This seems to be nearer the mark. If the photo¬play is to await the passage of the originals through the three grades of theaters that have been mentioned there is danger of the photoplay life losing its vigor for the time being, and the necessity presenting itself that the photoplay production be placed on the shelf until a revival becomes opportune. It is true that nothing can replace the magnetism of the living actor. From this point of view it is equally true that it would not be good policy to have original and photo-form productions simultaneously in the same city, but the magnetism of the photoplay will also suffer if it is held back until almost all theatergoers have had an opportunity to see the play itself. They patronize the photoplay houses as well as the theaters and expect as much from the former as the latter, so far as new attractions are concerned. What they see in the picture houses will undoubtedly entice them to go and see original productions, but it is doubtful that the reverse would be effective.

* * *

But whatever may be the outcome, so long as the regular photoplay producers maintain the required standard they will continue in the running. There is a big field for feature productions and it is constantly growing, and there is also similar inducements for the short-story film. Features consist of two or more reels. The length is required to properly bring out all the striking points of the play or story. They are in a class by themselves. Short photoplays also control a domain. They are made from stories of merit that cannot be extended beyond one reel. In many instances they hold the same interest as many of the feature subjects and they will continue to hold their places on the programs. They also retain their popularity on account of the variety of tastes of audiences. In some places feature reels are the more popular. The appetite for them is strong and growing in this country. In Europe and many other foreign countries there is a great demand for them, but in nearly all quarters the audiences yearn for variety—short stories of an effective, sentimental character, and comedy. Educational subjects are also desired and in this case it has been found that one reel is the most desired, because there is danger of monotony.

* * *

So it can be seen that the field continues open for all styles of merit—long and short. The advent of the big producers is not of a threatening nature to those already on the ground. In fact, there is only one thing that warrants uneasiness; that is the multiplicity of producers. There is danger of the market becoming stagnated and, the most to be feared, the effect of inferior productions.

* * *

And now the vaudeville profession is asking why it should not figure in the motion picture possibilities. The answer is plain. With the talking feature eliminated from the pictures, vaudeville acts without voices are devoid of interest. They have been tried time and time again. Occasionally some novelty act has made good, but none of them has stood repetition. Years ago, when the pictures were known as "chasers" in the vaudeville theaters, short films were introduced, showing strong men, acrobatic and dancing acts, and the work of magicians were demonstrated. The pictures themselves were a novelty at that time, and, consequently, helped the acts along, but soon the people learned that trick photography was an important factor in the making of the pictures, and from that time on, no matter how good the acts were. they could not become interested. They declared the performer was not the original and what was shown them was simply the creation of trick photography on the part of the film maker. This impression resulted in the gradual and absolute disappearance of such films. At one time a famous manufacturer in France did an enormous business in this country with films, based upon magical acts. People wondered how this and that was done. They were astonished by some of the productions and amused to the extreme by others, but as the explanation gradually gained circulation their admiration and amusement turned to—well, I guess it was offended dignity. They seemed to feel that part of the price of admission had been repaid by trickery and nothing but travel and story pictures could hold them. There are some very clever vaudeville acts on the bills to-day, but none that any well-equipped studio cannot reproduce with equal effect, although doing so with practically the camera alone, the figures being mere tools. A few years ago Harry Lauder posed for a film showing his act, but it fell flat. His entrance, walks and exits created a laugh. but to get a film of fair size repetitions were required and the subject became monotonous.

* * *

It is announced that a Baltimore inventor has perfected a new motion picture-taking device that will combine with the pictures an apparent perfect reproduction of voices of the performers. It is said to be especially adaptable to singing acts. If he has the right thing vaudeville performers may take courage. If a correct, synchronizing reproduction of the voice is there, a big field will be found for the films. Then another discontented element will arise in protest. It will mark the gradual fading away of the illustrated song singer. In many respects it will be a blessing. A great many picture homes have suffered in reputation and other respects through placing the song part of their programs in the hands of those having more talent in the mashing line than for singing.
Source: “Observations By Our Man About Town,” MPW 19 April 1913, 287.
Image Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Future of the Single Reel

This article by W. Stephen Bush is not concerned with music or sound at all. But it is an illuminating account of the situation with respect to transition from single reel to multireel (feature) production in 1913. At least in part because the distribution system for features differed somewhat from that of the single reels (following a complicated system of state's rights rather than a general release to the film exchanges), features were often shown in venues other than motion picture houses, including legitimate theaters, which had higher prices and more elaborate traditions of accompanying dramatic presentations. Even when motion picture houses chose to put on features, they tended to treat the feature as something special and augment the number of musicians or include a lecturer. As some of the ads that have been posted suggest, the production companies encouraged more elaborate accompaniment by commissioning scores for special features, a practice that had been tried on and off for a number of years. (Click on the Vitagraph ad on the right to see that the company had begun providing music for all its special features in March 1913.)
The Future of the Single Reel
by W. Stephen Bush

Less than three years ago the single reel held absolute sway. Old moving picture men will easily recall the wonder expressed in film exchanges, when the Pathe "Dreyfus Case" was released. This splendid feature ran but a couple of hundred feet over one reel and the short end had an old-fashioned "comedy" for a running mate. Exhibitors were puzzled as to how it should be put on, but most of them guessed right and waited awhile before they let the tear-stained climax of the tragedy be followed by the farce. Nobody then thought much about features and the possibilities of the multiple reel. "The Fall of Troy" was among the early features consisting of more than one reel.

Then along toward 1911 multiple releases became more frequent, but they were still looked upon as exceptions, and there were few indeed who then anticipated the coming rise and development of the multiple feature reel. Multiple releases were given to the exhibitor in installments, the continuity of the subject to the contrary notwithstanding. In that shape they were anything but welcome to the exhibitor, who had to hear frequent complaints from his audience because subjects of multiple reels were split up and often released at intervals of a week and more. When producers at last began to heed the demands of the public and the repeated urgings or this paper and decided to release multiple reels on one and the same day there were many vaudeville houses which sandwiched acts of vaudeville into reels treating the same subject. We mention all this just to show what a novelty the feature reel was in those days and how long it took for producer and exhibitor to properly adjust themselves to the new conditions.

On June 17, 1911, The Moving Picture World said in its editorial columns : "The present upward trend of the moving picture could not be shown more strikingly than by grouping together the titles of the following films released recently or about to be released : 'The Fall of Troy,' 'A Tale of Two Cities,' 'Enoch Arden,' 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic,' 'The Maccabees' and 'Faust.'" We prophesied the further rapid development of the feature films in the same article in these words "It is * * * characteristic of the present higher ideals that of the subjects above mentioned one consists of three reels and two consist of two reels each. The two and three reel subject is indeed a necessary product of the higher ideal. It is bound to come, and in two or three years it will be the rule rather than the exception in all dramas."

Events have literally verified this prediction. I believe that on the whole the quality of the feature reels has been above that of the single reel, though the feature reel has lately gone to inferior sources for its material and inspiration. The fond hope that the feature and the higher ideals would become synonymous has not been entirely fulfilled. European productions especially have too often departed from the higher ideals in the selection of subjects for multiple reels.

With the feature still holding the center of the stage and with every prospect of continuing to hold it for many years to come the question will occur to every exhibitor: What is to be the future of the single reel? The studios and equipments of every producer who issues regular releases every week is especially adapted for the making of single reels. The great fortunes in the manufacturing branch have in the last five years been made through the production of single reels. To the men who supply the staple of the exhibitor's program the feature is, as a rule, a thing most difficult of achievement. They look at the film situation from an angle wholly different from that of the feature men. It is well nigh impossible to put out a weekly supply and at the same time astonish the film world with wonderful features. There are some producers, not too many of them, who have foreseen the coming triumph of the feature and who have prepared special facilities for the production of features, entirely separate and distinct from their equipment for single reels. Such producers are the exceptions rather than the rule. The great majority of manufacturers will for a long time to come be dependent for their financial success and their artistic reputation on single reels.

It seems plain that the diminished demand for single reels will suffer still greater diminution unless the average of quality in the single reel takes a quick and decided turn for the better. In the regular single reel issues of certain producers there is about as much variety and interest as in the links of a chain of sausages. When one remembers to what heights of artistic achievements the industry rose in the days of the exclusive reign of the single reel, it is strange that there has been so much retrogression.

It would be easy to recall instances of splendid single reels. Take for example the old Shakespearean series of the Vitagraph Company, which no multiple Shakespearean reel since made has ever been able to approach in dramatic power and condensation ; take the famous old Biographs such as "Pippa Passes," "The Greaser's
Gauntlet" and scores of others, which were the delight of the public and the exhibitor. The old companies still release an occasional fine single reel, but on the whole even their single reel issues have shown meager quality, while of the newer companies scarcely one can lay claim to even a fair average of quality in the single reels. Originality of invention and dramatic power are sadly lacking.

We hope the day will never come when the single reel can be considered as little more than a "filler." There is to say the least as much chance for a display of directorial skill in the making of the single reel as there ever was. No matter how many features may be produced hereafter and how good such features may prove to be, the single reel will continue to be the backbone of the motion picture show. That show will in the end be judged by its single reels. If these are given over entirely to the exploitation of cheap comedy and cheap melodrama it will be a sorry day for the exhibitor and the public.

The coming of features consisting of eight reels and even twelve reels will undoubtedly have a tendency to decrease the demand for the single reel. Such features will establish new standards in kinematography. If the difference in quality between these very big productions and the every day single reel release is too pronounced it is not at all improbable that the single reel will lose in popular favor and will be relegated to the very cheapest of motion picture theaters. There is but one way to prevent this. The single reel must conform to higher standards. Its place in the kinematographic procession must not be too far in the rear of the modern feature of many reels.
Source: W. Stephen Bush, “The Future of the Single Reel,” Moving Picture World 19 April 1913, 256.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pictures in Cincinnati Music Halls

This account of the opening of a new picture theater in Cincinnati demonstrates that by 1913 the idea of the picture palace was already well on its way to realization.
Pictures in Cincinnati Music Halls

Arthur Smallwood Plans Big Project for the Queen City's
Mammoth Palace of Amusements.

If the plans of Arthur Smallwood are successful, Cincinnati will have a picture show par excellence. This energetic young man, whose home is in Cincinnati, but who has been engaged in the advertising business in New York for the past few years, has secured a lease of the big Music Hall on Elm Street in that city and will put on a strong picture program beginning March 29.

Music Hall is one of the largest auditoriums in the country, seating several thousand people, and is used for grand opera and other big musical entertainments. The picture entertainment will be conducted by the Empire Exhibition Company, which was promoted by Mr. Smallwood and is under his management. Several large Cincinnati capitalists are interested, so there will be no lack of funds to finance the enterprise.

The picture program will consist of eight reels of the best pictures including features and single reels. This will be varied by vocal and instrumental solos by the best of talent, and a fourteen piece orchestra will play the pictures.

A feature of the program will be the frequent appearance of popular photoplayers. For the opening week Mr. Francis X. Bushman, a former Essanay star, has been secured. For the week of April 7 Mr. John Bunny, the popular comedy man of the Vitagraph Company, will be the feature, and during the following week Miss Florence Turner, the first of the motion picture stars and a Vitagraph player, will appear. Others are being negotiated for.

Mr. Smallwood has had some experience as a picture theater manager and is planning many little comforts for his patrons. He will have a chaperone for young children and a playroom with nurses for the babies. There will be lady ushers and a maid in the ladies' retiring room.

The scale of prices for the house will be ten, fifteen and twenty-five cents.

To popularize the venture Mr. Smallwood proposes to bill it like a circus. For the opening nine thousand sheets of paper will be posted on the billboards all over the, city. Elaborate heralds and other forms of advertising, including liberal newspaper space, will be used. Special advertising will be used for the feature pictures and the photoplayers.

Mr. Smallwood has been in New York for the past week getting ideas and features for his show. He announces the "Prisoner of Zenda" for the opening.

Source: “Pictures in Cincinnati Music Halls,” Moving Picture World 5 April 1913, 24.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Music and Features

At the end of March 1913, James McQuade, contributing editor of Moving Picture World in the Chicago office, printed a letter from the manager of a film exchange in St. Louis that argued many exhibitors were not treating their features in a suitable fashion. In particular, the letter argues that features should be handled more like theatrical productions, with careful selection and rehearsal of appropriate music for the dramas. The letter is interesting not only for its advocacy of better music for features but also with its account of what constituted normal musical practice for live theater: "nearly every theater devoted to the spoken drama has an adequate orchestra for the enhancement of the play." For the author adding music, then, was akin to treating the feature film in line with the expectations of a theatrical presentation.
The following article, contributed by Mr. Cotter, manager of the Universal Film Exchange of St. Louis, is timely and shows a careful study of present conditions in the film industry, especially in the Independent field:

“In the history of the film business, there has never been a time when the public demand for high-class subjects was so imperious and persistent as the present. Several years ago, one feature a week was welcomed by the exhibitor. Times have changed. With the fierce competition of the various manufacturing companies, there has come into the field a persistent demand for features. This demand has become so insistent, that it behooves manufacturers, who are striving for the betterment of the business, to take cognizance of this condition, and produce pictures which are up to the standard created by the advanced artistry and perfection of detail, which distinguish the productions of the best producers.

“That good features pay, has been demonstrated time and again; still the mass of exhibitors seem oblivious of the tremendous possibilities presented when a great feature is shown. In this respect the value of appropriate music cannot be too strongly emphasized. For instance, nearly every theater devoted to the spoken drama has an adequate orchestra for the enhancement of the play. Why cannot exhibitors see the advantage of having correct and appropriate music, rehearsed with the same care and attention that is bestowed upon the melodic accompaniment of the spoken drama? The value of appropriate music can scarcely be estimated in, for instance, such photoplays as “Dante’s Inferno” or “Satan,” or in great plays like “As in a Looking Glass,” with Marion Leonard, which, by the way, broke all records for a feature in this city last week. Of course the exhibitor will say that this will entail more expense. But will not increased patronage more than offset this condition? In other words: make the feature picture a FEATURE in every sense. It is time for exhibitors to realize that the feature in the world of entertainment, has attained a rank of rivaling in importance the great productions of the dramatic world, and they should endeavor to enhance their offerings with the same care as to detail and musical accompaniment that is bestowed upon their more ancient rival. As to the manufacturers, the sooner they realize that the day of the wild and woolly, and the insipid has passed, and that real, vital subjects are the demand of the hour, the sooner the film will cease to be an adjunct to cheap vaudeville, and will be regarded as sufficient in itself and command the patronage it deserves.

“Another thing: the manufacturers who are now releasing films of one-reel subjects to the various exchanges throughout the country, are doubtless equipped and furnished with the material to produce really high-class subjects, such as are in urgent demand. Why not a feature each day in their daily program, thus saving the exhibitor an inordinate amount of trouble, and anxiety, in securing his daily feature program from two or more exchanges? The insistent demand for the BEST subjects shows the healthy trend of public taste; but a high standard can only be maintained by the intelligent co-operation of both manufacturers and exhibitors.”

Source: Ja[me]s S. McQuade, “Chicago Letter,” Moving Picture World 29 March 1913, 1322.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Against Illustrated Songs

This article appeared as an editorial in Moving Picture World and made a strong argument against the illustrated song. Criticisms on the illustrated song had been relatively common even in the nickelodeon days, when the illustrated song was generally considered an integral part of the moving picture show. By 1913, however, the practice was in decided decline. Though new illustrated song sets continued to be advertised weekly (the notice on the right dates from 5 April 1913), the illustrators were feeling under attack, as can be seen from Alfed L. Simpson's response to this article, which is also reprinted below. (You can see in the notice on the right that Simpson was one of the regular slide advertisers.)
We believe that with certain exceptions the moving picture audience of today has outgrown the illustrated song. The exception in the main is the small and generally rural community, where “everybody knows everybody else” and where interest in local talent is always keen. In the larger theaters in such cities as New York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia, the illustrated song elicits but a very weak response from the audience. We have in many electric theaters in the big cities fine and intelligent audiences, consisting of mostly grown people in commercial and even professional walks of life. Audiences of this kind ought not be asked to join some callow youth with untamed vocal cords in a chorus, wherein the singer assures an imaginary sweetheart that he will love her until “the sands of the desert grow cold” [a 1911 song by Ernest R. Ball]. Nor is this the worst. There are some very nasty and vulgar songs which are simply obnoxious to the men who go to such theaters with their wives and daughters. When the manager of a metropolitan moving picture theater on Broadway can find no lesson in the profound silence that greets the showing of the chorus slide on the screen he casts a serious cloud on the title to his salary. There was a manager of a large house who, when multiple reels became numerous, would sandwich cheap vaudeville in between the different parts of a feature. This sort of nonsense has been stopped. To persist in asking a thousand sane and intelligent adults to burst into “song” at the end of each show shows either a cruel disposition or an approach to idiocy. There are other and less drastic means of emptying a house.

*

Moving picture theater must not be made responsible for the spreading of bad songs. One sure way of avoiding such a reproach is their total elimination from the electric theater. A prominent Western daily after deploring the many obscene and disgusting “popular songs” holds the motion picture theater responsible for their [441] wide circulation. The paper goes on to say: “The demand for ‘popular’ songs is greater than ever before because such songs are heard in public a hundred times to-day where they were heard once a dozen years ago. This is due to the cheap motion picture and vaudeville houses. Unfortunately these places are too often run by people who mistake noise for applause. It takes only a very few to make a great noise.” The paper might have gone further and pointed out that the noisy element is a distinct detriment to any reputable motion picture house. They make order impossible and a theater given over to rowdyism of any kind will not last long.
Source: “Facts and Comments,” Moving Picture World 1 February 1913, 440-41.

As mentioned above, this article prompted a quick response from Simpson—though it would not be published until 22 March.

New York, Feb. 8th, 1913.
Editor of the Moving Picture World,
New York City.

Dear Sir:—Have read with much interest your article on page 440, Moving Picture World of February 1st, 1913, in reference to illustrated songs, and think that same is very much to the point and well put, and certainly the principal cause of the general lack of interest taken in illustrated songs of today.

As you state, this very beautiful form of amusement is so horribly misgiven, both in rendering of obscene and disgusting songs, and also from the fact to expect an intelligent audience to join in the chorus and make themselves ridiculous, would be enough in itself to kill the whole proceeding. Would also state that the cheap music publishers of today or a certain class have tried to use this excellent form of amusement for the purpose of cheap advertising for their miserable musical publications which are unfit in many cases to ever see the light of day. They employ a lot of cheap, irrepressible, ineffective and utterly unmusical boosters, as they are called, to render these musical compositions, which are truly an insult to any clean-minded audience, as most of these individuals would be much better adapted behind a push cart, or assisting the well-known gun men of today with their labors. When these factors can be eliminated the illustrated song properly done will again be restored to its proper place as a much desirable and beautiful diversion to the picture theater of today, as there is nothing more beautiful than good music and song poems properly rendered musically and pictorially.

I can well remember the time when a refined theatrical audience would show more appreciation to a well-rendered act of this kind than to any headliner on a program.

As I have been the principal one to develop this beautiful feature of amusement, it seems a pity to allow it to do down in dust without some word of remonstrance. Trust that you publish this letter, and hope it will have some effect. I remain
Sincerely yours,
Alfred L. Simpson,
Manufacturer of Simpson’s Celebrated Slides, and formerly
of Maxwell & Simpson, Kings of Illustrated Song.
Source: Alfred Simpson, “Letters to the Editor: Concerning Illustrated Songs,” Moving Picture World 22 March 1913, 1224.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Talking Picture Devices

This item is a brief run-down of the most prominent devices for synchronizing film and phonograph as of 1913.
Talking Picture Devices

Several Concerns Claim Priority, But Edison’s Kinetophone Seems to Have Created Greatest Interest.

In answer to many inquiries regarding the so-called “talking pictures” and to note the several claims of priority in that particular field, the Moving Picture World offers the following information:

Cameraphone.—This was the first device offered to picture theaters in America, for which it was claimed that the picture and the voice could be reproduced simultaneously. J. H. Whitman was the promoter and owner of the patents covering the synchronizing mechanism. The Cameraphone Company operated a large studio and factory at Eleventh Avenue and 43rd Street, New York, for some time, but eventually failed for lack of interest on the part of the public.

Gaumont Chronophone.—This device for the production of “talking pictures” was perfected by the Gaumont Company, of Paris, and was first shown at the St. Louis World’s Fair. It was not until 1908 that the device was offered for sale in America, during which year Mr. Herbert Blache opened offices on East 25th Street, New York. The Chronophone was, to all appearances, successful in meeting all claims of the inventors, but it did not meet with favor here, so its promotion was discontinued for the time. We are informed that it is in successful operation in Paris and that the Gaumont Company is preparing again to urge its use in America.

Cort-Kitsee Device.—This is a synchronizing device invented by Dr. Kitsee, of Philadelphia, Pa., and is being promoted by Mr. John Cort, a New York theatrical man. Up to the present writing no attempt has been made to offer the device to the public, but private demonstrations have been given that are said to have proved the practicability of the mechanism.

Synchrophone and Cinematophone.—A new deice being promoted by the Synchrophone Motion Picture Company of New York. This device may be seen at Sherwood’s picture theater on Fulton Street, New York, between Broadway and Nassau Street. Many advantages are claimed for this mechanism, but there has been no effort made to place it generally.

Kinetophone.—This is the Edison device now being operated in a number of the larger cities in connection with vaudeville theaters. It is being handled by the American Talking Picture Company. Whatever may be said by rivals regarding the merit of the Kinetophone and the work of Mr. Thomas A. Edison in bringing it up to its present state of perfection, it must be admitted that it has been instrumental in gaining recognition for the “talking picture.” If not the first in the field, it is the first to gain any considerable recognition in America.
Source: “Talking Picture Devices,” Moving Picture World 29 March 1913, 1318.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Classification of Music

In this week's column, Sinn features a number of musical suggestions provided by readers. He also published a letter from a reader requesting a list or catalogue of music classified by musical topic. Sinn in fact had not only considered the idea, as he mentions in his response, but had actually produced such a list, which he supplied to readers upon request in the early days of his column. For the purposes of his column, Sinn points out that he adopted the expediency of well-known exemplars that could stand in for their type. In fact, about this time (1913) catalogues did begin to appear, first as appendices to early "how to" manuals, then as formal publishers' catalogues (most notably Fischer's Analytical Orchestra).

Miss Dittmar is here again with her usual good offering. I hope it is in time to be of service to those who may have occasion to play for this picture, as it appears to be well balanced, thoughtful, and in every way worthy of the subject it accompanies. She says: “Inclosed [sic] find my program for ‘The Crimson Cross’ (Éclair). It might be of help to some one.”

First Reel.
  1. “Pilgrim’s Chorus” (Thannhauser).
  2. “Prayer from ‘Der Freischütz’” (Weber).
  3. “The Rosary.”
  4. “Consolation” (Leschetszky).
  5. “How Lovely Are the Messengers” (from Saint Paul).
  6. “Gloria from the Twelfth Mass.”
Second Reel.
  1. “The Agony” from “Crucifixion.”
  2. “Procession to Calvary” (Crucifixion).
Mysterious and Agitato until end of reel.

Third Reel.
  1. Several bars from introduction to “Otello,” very softly, then a few bars of “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.”
  2. “The Heavens Are Telling.”
  3. “Funeral March” by Tschaikowsky.
  4. “How Lovely Are the Messengers” until end of reel.
A splendid accompaniment. I would suggest that it might be easier for another to use if you had given an idea of where to being and stop each number, taking cues from the action or from sub-titles appearing on the screen. Anyhow, the constituency is your debtor.

* * *
J. D. S., Nebraska, says in part: “Can you give us a list of classified music (not dramatic) in your suggestions. For instance, some suggestions for music say ‘play —, or —, or —.’

“Now it seems that a list of music might be made out in which all music of the same character might be placed under the same head, thus enabling a person to choose from 25 or 50 numbers if he doesn’t happen to have the particular one called for.”

I want to say to J. D. S. that this question occurred to me when I first began contributing to this page three years ago. It seemed to me that considering the countless musical numbers on the market and in various libraries (and possibly no two pianists in the world have libraries exactly alike), a long list of numbers similar in character would fill more space than its importance would warrant. I therefore chose several numbers of different character, all of them well known, and let each one stand as a representative of its class. For example, Schumann’s “Traumerie” is presumably well enough known to give any pianist an idea of the character of music intended. Knowing this, he might play that number or substitute any similar piece of music he chose. The same may be said of [Braga's] “Angel’s Serenade,” and [Rubenstein's] “Melody in F.” I believe these three numbers are sufficiently well known to represent any number of similar pieces a pianist may chance to have in his library. Novelettes are so much alike it is seldom necessary to specify any particular one, though when a correspondent mentions titles his program of course appears as he sends it. Bendix’s suit of four: “Longing, Parting, Meeting and Reconciliation” I have also mentioned freely, not because I don’t know any others, but because they are good representatives of their class of music, are fairly well known and easy to get. The “Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffmann” [Offenbach] might be taken as representative of another class; Gautier’s “La Secret,” and Delibes’ “Pizzicato from Sylvia Ballet” may be taken as typical allegretto movements from scenes calling for something light, rather lively and not so noisy as a march (for example) might suggest. About all of the old standard music is published in cheap form by some one or other and is easily obtainable at small cost. I take it for granted that the average pianist is more familiar with these as a whole than with the more recent publications—that is, that these numbers are more widely known. For that reason alone I have thought it advisable to stick pretty closely to well-known pieces in my suggestions for music to the pictures, believing it would be intelligible to a larger number of readers than if I tried to choose new programs of up-to-date music for them. Your plan is all right so far as it goes, but it would take quite a large catalogue to hold a list that would be useful to all and for this reason would not be expedient in our limited space.

* * *
The Selig Polyscope Company are making into pictures some of the successful satires of Chas. T. Hoyt, which were so popular a couple of decades ago. The first one to be released is “The Midnight Bell.” This is a comedy with a little melodrama running through it. The music is mostly of a lively nature, and as the characters are all of the “Down East” country type I would suggest that “barn dances” and “rube” music generally would help to carry out the atmosphere of the story. Suggestions for music are here offered:

“THE MIDNIGHT BELL” (Selig).
Part One.
  1. Any “Barn Dance” until title: “Steve and Ned Are Rivals.”
  2. Chorus of “My Irene Is a Village Queen” (Remick) once. (Von Tilzer’s “Sun Bonnet Sue” my be substituted. Not important.)
  3. “Daly’s Reel” (not too fast), or any similar “rube” tune, until title: “Steve Decides to Rob the Bank.”
  4. Light mysterious music (not too pronounced) until: “Next Morning.”
  5. Agitato pp. until title “Lemuel Tidd, Justice of the Peace.”
  6. Any intermezzo for neutral scenes until: “The Squire’s Lawyer Is Called From Boston.”
  7. Short Waltz—about 16 bars—just enough to make a change of music for this scene; until title: “Nora Resents, etc.”
  8. “Parting” (Bendix-Witmark), until: “Afraid of Being Caught, etc.”
  9. Mysterious until end of reel.
Part Two.
  1. “Chicken Reel” (by Daly), or “Barn Dance,” until: “The Entertainment at the School House.”
  2. “Well, I Swan” (Rube song pub. by Witmark), until telegram is shown; then a few bars of moderato (leading to next movement) until title: “Stop, My Uncle Is Innocent.”
  3. Light Agitato. After he coasts down hill, a short strain of “rube” music may be introduced for comedy business to end of scene. Then back to agitato and continue until: “The Sewing Society.”
  4. “A Good Old-Time Straw Ride” (Witmark), or any lively music suggestive of country scenes; until: “Leave My House Immediately.”
  5. “Meeting” (Bendix-Witmark), until: “But As a Citizen of These United States.”
  6. “Turkey in the Straw” until: “After Choir Practice.”
  7. First strain of “Meeting” until Steve enters Church.
  8. Long Agitato. A church bell effect is used in this number. Play until crowd enters church and Steve is arrested.
  9. Lively intermezzo until: “The Minister’s Faith in Nora Is Restored.”
  10. Any Novelette until end of reel.
* * *

“THROUGH THE TEST OF FIRE” (Great Northern).
Part One.
  1. Waltz Lento (long) until Count leaves Goldstein’s room.
  2. “Apple Blossoms” or any similar slow “Reverie” until: “After the Wedding.”
  3. Waltz until “Bride and Groom Depart.”
  4. Novelette until: “The Factory Workmen Have Arranged.”
  5. Lively music—work up to gallop as runaway horse is seen; crescendo till Jack falls, then:
  6. Short plaintive (about 16 bars).
  7. Allegretto (“La Secret” by Gautier or “Passion” by Helf & Hager), until end of reel.
[694]
Part Two.
  1. “In the Shadows” (Finck) until: “Jack Advises His Comrades to Strike.”
  2. “Entr’Acte Gavotte” (Gillet) until: “Eight Days Later.”
  3. Pirouette—“Pas Seul” (Finck) until: “A Few Days Later.”
  4. Waltz until she is seen on bridge.
  5. Agitato—p. Work up to f; till both men knocked down.
  6. Waltz until: “Mr. Goldstein Is Killed in the Explosion.”
  7. Hurry p. and f. (fire scene) until: “Count Hardegg Has Inherited a Vast Fortune.”
  8. Pirouette until: “No, I Will Not Leave My Husband.”
  9. “Reverie” until: “Youthful Arrogance.”
  10. “The Flatterer” (Caprice by Chaminade), or some light allegretto; work up faster in agitated manner as action develops—until men exit. Then:
  11. Intermezzo until end of reel.
Part Three.
  1. Any novelette until: “The Workmen Press Their Claims.”
  2. Agitato—p. and f. until they ride through crowd and exit.
  3. “Love In Idleness” (Carl Fischer) until: “Let Me Stay With You, Dear.”
  4. Short Waltz one scene.
  5. Hurry (fire scene) till: “I Will Find Your Husband.”
  6. Change to heavier hurry until both men come out of burning building.
  7. Plaintive until wreck is seen burning, then hurry (fire scene) until end of reel.
Source: Clarence E. Sinn, “Music for the Picture,” Moving Picture World 17 May 1913, 693-94.