In 1928, MGM Movietone made At The Club, a short film featuring the famous Eight Victor Artists. This group, with varying personnel, had been making concert tours since 1915 to promote their records. The performers seen and heard in At The Club – which include the incomparable Billy Murray – represent the final lineup of the group. They rank among the top popular recording artists of the acoustic disc and cylinder recording era.
All of these artists (except Murray) performed at the time on the NBC series The Goodrich Silvertown Orchestra emanating from WEAF, New York. So At The Club is of interest to golden-age radio fans as well as record collectors.
At The Club was produced using the Vitaphone system. This early sound-film process synchronized large 16” phonograph discs with a separate print of the film. Unlike other systems, the soundtrack was not printed on the film itself. So, over time, discs often got separated from the films, sometimes falling into the hands of collectors and, more often, getting destroyed.
For over 25 years, a coalition of enthusiasts and archivists known as The Vitaphone Project has been working to restore these productions, marrying the prints with discs to produce new 35mm sound-on-film prints. So far, they have restored more than 50 films. However, over 80 films remain mute. The film exists but its disc-based soundtrack has been lost.
At The Club was in this category. A silent print of the film exists at the Library of Congress, but no soundtrack existed…until now. One copy of the essential soundtrack disc was recently located in Australia. You can hear a tantalizing clip of it on the above video!
At long last, it’s possible to create a new synchronized print of At The Club, so we can see and hear these former stars perform!
The restoration is estimated to cost $12,000 ($13,500 including Kickstarter & ancillary costs). The Antique Phonograph Society – a nonprofit member organization – asks for your help to fund this. The process will take several months to complete. Once restored, At The Club will be screened at Antique Phonograph Society (APS) events. At least two of these screenings are envisioned in 2018 and there will be many more. Plus, the restoration of the completed print will be credited to APS in perpetuity, including our organization’s logo.
Note that all contributions to this project are tax deductible under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Here is a little more information about each of the Eight Victor Artists:
Billy Murray, one of the most popular recording artists of the “acoustic era,” made hundreds of records between 1897 and 1943. His clear tenor voice and precise diction were perfect for the early technology. But it was his warm and enthusiastic singing of comic songs, musicals, ethnic tunes, and topical numbers that made him famous. Later in life, Murray sang and provided character voices for several cartoons produced in the early ‘30s, but this is the only theatrical live-action film of him known to survive.
Henry Burr was a successful tenor in the cylinder and disc era, making hundreds of records between 1902 and 1929. He also worked as a producer, businessman and radio star, performing on radio’s National Barn Dance in the late 1930s. No other film of him is known to exist.
Monroe Silver was best known for “Cohen on the Telephone” and other dialect-comedy records for Victor, Silver made many Irish/Jewish duets with Billy Murray as “Casey and Cohen,” and they were still recording together in 1943.
Frank Banta was an exponent of the novelty piano style, recording for a number of record labels, including Victor. In At The Club, he plays the composition, “Novelette.”
Sam Herman is regarded as one of the great xylophonists, heard on NBC radio and television from 1928 to 1966. For ten years, he and Frank Banta had a daily radio program, The Herman and Banta Show. No other film of him is known to exist.
James Stanley is a fine baritone, featured here singing “Gypsy Love Song.” He was part of Victor’s Peerless Quartet, performing here with its other members, Henry Burr, tenor Carl Mathieu and bass Stanley Baughman. No other film of Mathieu and Baughman is known to exist.
Risks and challenges
The Vitaphone Project is aware of this effort and will initiate the restoration process pending its full fundingLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
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