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A new book about the production, release and restoration of the 1930 musical film "King of Jazz" starring Paul Whiteman.
A new book about the production, release and restoration of the 1930 musical film "King of Jazz" starring Paul Whiteman.
285 backers pledged $23,323 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue tells the untold story of the making, release and restoration of Universal’s 1930 Technicolor musical extravaganza King of Jazz. This special limited edition hardcover book needs your help to get published!

Authors James Layton and David Pierce have uncovered original artwork, studio production files, behind-the-scenes photographs, personal papers, unpublished interviews, and a host of other previously unseen documentation. The book will offer a richly illustrated narrative of the film’s origins, production and release, with broader context on its diverse musical and theatrical influences. The story will conclude with an in-depth look at the challenges Universal has faced in restoring the film in 2016, as told by the experts doing the work. 

The 256-page book will be illustrated with over 200 color and black & white images, many of which will showcase the never-before-published Academy Award winning designs of Herman Rosse. Intricate behind-the-scenes stills will give insight into the scale of the film’s ambitions, while other full-color reproductions of original music arrangements, storyboards, posters, magazine ads, programs and frame enlargements will appear throughout.

Additionally, a comprehensive appendix will present a day-by-day production chronology, synopses of deleted scenes, analysis of the film's nine foreign-language versions, a breakdown of the film's costs and box office returns, and complete listings of all the film’s performers and music cues.

King of Jazz was one of the most ambitious films ever to emerge from Hollywood. Just as movie musicals were being invented in 1929, Universal Pictures brought together Paul Whiteman, leader of the country’s top dance orchestra; John Murray Anderson, director of spectacular Broadway revues; a top ensemble of dancers and singers; early Technicolor; and a near unlimited budget.

Paul Whiteman and his orchestra
Paul Whiteman and his orchestra

The film’s highlights include a dazzling interpretation of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” which Whiteman had introduced to the public in 1924; Walter Lantz’s “A Fable in Jazz,” the first cartoon in Technicolor; and Anderson’s grand finale “The Melting Pot of Music,” a visualization of popular music’s many influences and styles.

The film is not only a unique document of Anderson’s theatrical vision and Whiteman’s band at its peak, but also of many of America’s leading performers of the late 1920s, including Bing Crosby in his first screen appearance, and the Russell Markert Dancers, who would soon become Radio City Music Hall’s famous Rockettes.

The Rhythm Boys: Harry Barris, Bing Crosby and Al Rinker
The Rhythm Boys: Harry Barris, Bing Crosby and Al Rinker
Producing a book of this quality is costly. At this moment the book is fully researched and in the final stages of writing, but we need your help to realize the project in its final form. The end result will be a beautifully designed and printed hardcover book, available exclusively to Kickstarter supporters in a limited edition signed and numbered by the authors. 

Your generous contributions will help support:
  • Image scanning and clearances
  • Professional book design
  • Copyediting and proofreading
  • Hardcover printing with sewn binding

Thank you so much for all of your support to date. We are delighted that we have met our goal so soon! This book is now going to happen. But with additional support, we can make the book even better.

Since launching the Kickstarter campaign we have located more rare artifacts related to the production and release of King of Jazz. In order to include these never-before-seen items we would like to expand the book with more pages. And in keeping with the book’s exemplary scholarship and design, we would also like to further enhance the printing.

If we can raise $20,000 we can add the following new features.

Extra pages with even more illustrations:

  • never-before-published snapshots taken by Jack Fulton of Whiteman band members on tour and during rehearsals and filming of King of Jazz (courtesy of the Jack Fulton family and Matias Bombal)
  • rare lobby cards from the personal collection of performer and historian Michael Feinstein
  • even more behind-the-scenes stills from the NBCUniversal Archives and Bison Archives
Upgraded printing:

  • Cloth-covered hard case with foil stamped lettering for the cover and spine
  • An improved dust jacket with a non-scuff matte finish enhanced with premium UV spot effects, and upgraded full-color end pages reproduced from high resolution scans of rare jumbo lobby cards
The Whiteman boys on the Universal lot. Courtesy of the Jack Fulton family / Matias Bombal
The Whiteman boys on the Universal lot. Courtesy of the Jack Fulton family / Matias Bombal
As a gesture of thanks for your donation we are offering a selection of rewards. These will be delivered to campaign supporters by September 2016.

New reward added! A limited number of beautiful 8" x 10" art prints are being made available courtesy of artist Joe Busam. This high-quality reproduction of a cel from Walter Lantz's cartoon will be printed on archival photo paper. Don't wait until it's too late!

King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue is brought to you by the same team behind The Dawn of Technicolor, 1915-1935: authors James Layton and David Pierce, and production coordinator Crystal Kui. Additionally, esteemed historian Richard Koszarski has joined the team as general editor.

David Pierce and James Layton
David Pierce and James Layton

James Layton is Manager of the Museum of Modern Art’s Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center. Prior to this he worked at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, where he curated two gallery exhibitions and the website Technicolor 100. Layton has also acted as Cataloguer and Workflow Coordinator at the East Anglian Film Archive in Norwich, UK, and is co-author of the Image Permanence Institute’s informational poster Knowing and Protecting Motion Picture Film (2009).

David Pierce is an independent film historian and archivist. He was formerly the Head of Preservation and Curator of the National Film and Television Archive at the British Film Institute. His articles have appeared in numerous journals, and his report on the survival of American silent feature films was published by the Library of Congress in 2013. He founded the Media History Digital Library, providing free online access to millions of pages of motion picture magazines and books.

Crystal Kui is a film archivist and researcher. She has curated several exhibitions as the former owner of an independent art gallery in Long Island City, NY and was a Collections Management Assistant at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to writing The Dawn of Technicolor’s filmography, Kui has contributed an essay to the National Film Registry website, and has written program notes for several film festivals.

Richard Koszarski is Professor of English and Film at Rutgers University. He is the author of numerous books including Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff (2008), Von: The Life and Films of Erich Von Stroheim (2001), and An Evening's Entertainment: The Age of the Silent Feature Picture (1994). He was curator of the Museum of the Moving Image in New York from 1977 to 1997, and was editor-in-chief of Film History: An International Journal for more than 25 years.

Russell Markert dancers
Russell Markert dancers

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Risks and challenges

Without your support this book will not be realized. Reaching our goal of $15,000 will guarantee a limited edition print run.

Our aim is the have the book ready to ship to Kickstarter supporters by September. However, this release date could be delayed if there are unexpected setbacks along the way. Regular progress updates will be sent to all supporters.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    A copy of "King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue" signed by the authors and delivered in advance of the book's official publication date.

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    Pledge $70 or more About $70

    A copy of "King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue" signed by the authors and delivered in advance of the book's official publication date PLUS a “Music Has Charms” King of Jazz T-shirt.

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    Pledge $90 or more About $90

    Two copies of "King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue" signed by the authors and delivered in advance of the book's official publication date.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    A copy of "King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue" signed by the authors and delivered in advance of the book's official publication date PLUS a signed copy of the authors previous book "The Dawn of Technicolor, 1915-1935," now out of print.

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    Reward no longer available 5 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    A copy of "King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue" signed by the authors and delivered in advance of the book's official publication date PLUS a beautiful 8" x 10" art print of a scene from Walter Lantz's cartoon illustrated by Joe Busam and printed on high-quality archival photo paper.

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    A copy of "King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue" signed by the authors and delivered in advance of the book's official publication date, a “Music Has Charms” T-shirt PLUS a special thanks with your name printed in the book’s acknowledgements.

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    A signed copy of the book, a "Music Has Charms" T-shirt, a printed acknowledgement inside the book, PLUS a VIP invitation to the book’s launch party in New York City in October - meet the authors and Ron Hutchinson of The Vitaphone Project, and hear Vince Giordano and The Nitehawks play hits from "King of Jazz." Travel to NYC and accommodation not included.

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Funding period

- (55 days)