Wednesday, May 28, 2014

THE VITAPHONE OF IT ALL

Having grown truly ill of seeing Arnold riding a chariot through Manhattan whenever my blog (which is my homepage) comes up...(well, it has to be somebody's homepage...) I've decided to end my self-imposed week long blogging and tweeting silence. I wish I could say that the silence was a self-enforced experiment in living off-line for awhile but it wouldn't be true. I was consumed with work--a rare enough event to be taken seriously. Also I was bored.

I've always dug the Vitaphone shorts which were mostly shot in New York (Brooklyn to be exact) at the dawn of the sound era--1928 are the earliest I believe--and moving into the mid-thirties or so. They are nothing but recordings of popular stage acts of the time--shot primitively with two or three cameras which were enclosed in enormous, immovable sound-proof booths. (This leads to some hilarious early camerawork which you'll see in the short I posted below). But its this very rawness that makes the shorts so mesmerizing. You are literally sitting in the audience at a Vaudeville house and watching an act. A complete time-capsule, with no story or normal film technique to get in the way. The one I've posted is Red Nichols and his Five Pennies and features, in addition to Nichols, the legendary Eddie Condon on banjo and vocals (and what a vocalist! Oye...) and PeeWee Russell on clarinet. I can't identify the other musicians but there is some web-based disinformation that I can refute. It is not Gene Krupa on drums as some say. Nor is it Frank Teschmacher on Clarinet. Enjoy the ghostly experience of going back to 1929, heading into an "air-cooled" (actually a block of ice and fans blowing on it through vents) Vaudeville theater in midtown Manhattan on a hot summer day and enjoying one of the many acts you could then see, before Vaudeville disappeared completely...



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1 comment:

russellgibson said...

My Mom told me that when I was a baby that I
swallowed a nickel the next morning I had five pennies in my diaper. Now if you folks believe that
I will tell you another one. Wish that i could say that
I wrote that joke but I can not….