Ep. 21: King of Jazz with James Layton & David Pierce

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Mike Gebert

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Ep. 21: King of Jazz with James Layton & David Pierce

PostMon Apr 09, 2018 7:15 am



NitrateVille Radio Episode 21: King of Jazz, with James Layton and David Pierce

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NitrateVille Radio liked the movie, so we read the book...

It was the biggest production of 1930, and the biggest flop, despite a hugely popular bandleader, Paul Whiteman, an up-and-coming star named Bing Crosby, and a classic of American music in George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Effectively lost for decades, then painstakingly restored by Universal in the last few years, King of Jazz is now out from Criterion in an eye-popping restoration. At the same time, curators and restorationists James Layton and David Pierce were working on their coffee table book history of the production, King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue, and their discoveries informed the restoration, while they contributed to the supplements on the Criterion release.

In this episode, I speak with Pierce (a NitrateVille member and creator of the Media History Digital Library, which NitrateVille hosts comments for) and Layton about the history of King of Jazz. (57:53)

(1:45) Rediscovering King of Jazz
(8:01) Paul Whiteman, John Murray Anderson, and Paul Fejos
(19:02) Technicolor enters the picture
(24:40) Stage-tested material
(34:56) 1930 release, 1970s rediscovery
(43:12) The restoration
(49:12) Book, restoration and Criterion

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David Pierce and James Layton with their previous book, The Dawn of Technicolor.

Here's the video release at Criterion, and at Amazon.

Here's the book at Amazon, but if you order directly from the book's website, you'll get a numbered copy, autographed by both authors, for about the same price.

Here's The Dawn of Technicolor.


Original trailer, as heard in the episode. The Criterion is much better quality!

About the authors

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. In 2011 he founded the Media History Digital Library, providing free online access to millions of pages of motion picture magazines and books.

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Re: Ep. 21: King of Jazz with James Layton & David Pierce

PostMon Apr 09, 2018 5:54 pm

Mike! You forgot the teaser about the next episode!

This was, as always, a fine one. I was particularly interested in the discussion about the fact that the images were sharper than they were in the original release!

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Re: Ep. 21: King of Jazz with James Layton & David Pierce

PostMon Apr 09, 2018 5:59 pm

I stopped doing that after the first few, it's too hard to predict what might fall into your lap and also, it was kind of just to assure people that there were more coming. Hopefully after 21, people are confident there will be #22.

Yeah, it's too bad you can't see the Cuckoos clip that James Layton showed at Capitolfest anywhere (The Cuckoos is on a Warner Archive Wheeler & Woolsey set but I can't find if it's the color restoration anywhere, which makes me think it probably isn't). It was really nice looking and, with the hint of yellow varnish, probably the most convincing two-strip looking like natural color that I've seen— but definitely a little soft, just from the spreading of the dyes, I guess.
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
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Re: Ep. 21: King of Jazz with James Layton & David Pierce

PostTue May 08, 2018 10:25 am

Just listened this morning, great episode that touched on all the major points worth talking about. Looking forward to making my way through more installments.
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