Famous Music Master Series

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spadeneal

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Famous Music Master Series

PostThu Nov 08, 2012 12:09 pm

Once again, asking about something no one really cares about, but here goes. After Charles Urban's Kineto Company folded in the United States, his protege James A. FitzPatrick founded his own unit, FitzPatrick Pictures. A major series he undertook in 1925-1929 was the Famous Music Master Series, 10-minute thumbnail sketches of the lives of famous composers. Here are the titles I know of, given verbatim:

Richard Wagner (1925)
Hayden Mozart (1925)
Giuseppe Verdi (1925)
Edward MacDowell (1925)
Franz Liszt (1925)
Frederick Chopin (1925)
Handel (1925)
Mendelssohn (1925)
Ethelbert Nevin (1926)
Jacques Bizet (1927)
Robert Schumann (1927; released in Feb.)
Schumann (1927; released in May)
Rossini (1927)
Johannes Brahms (1927)

Schubert Centenary Series

Schubert's Songs (1929)
Schubert's Inspiration (1929)
Schubert's Friends (1929)
Schubert's Masterpiece (1929)
Schubert's Unfinished Symphony (1929)

Four of these titles are on the web, albeit in watermarked and time-coded form:

Franz Liszt (1925)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVni1vng ... tube_gdata" target="_blank

Johannes Brahms (1927)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXQrggUi ... tube_gdata" target="_blank

Handel (1925)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSyh8F58 ... tube_gdata" target="_blank

Mendelssohn (1925)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFituqGk ... tube_gdata" target="_blank

These films are posted by Archive Farms, Inc., which is a commercial clip licensing service, as part of their Educational Film Archive. All of their prints have synchronized sound which is matched pretty well to the picture. The RCA Photophone System was variable area, and its primary licensee was RKO; it made its official debut in May 1929 with the Fred Waring feature "Syncopation." Of course, practically all of these FitzPatrick shorts were made before that, suggesting that the Educational Film Archive's prints were dubbed in a post-production manner, with the (well-synchronized) shots of Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra slipped in at that time.

I can only find recording data on three of these shorts in the EDVR; "Schubert's Unfinished Symphony" (MVE-47672, 10-19-1928 in Camden under Nathaniel Finston), "Schubert's Songs" (MVE-45278, 6-15-1928 in Camden, also Finston) and "Schubert's Inspiration" (MVE-46260, 7-19-1928 in Camden, likewise Finston). These credits are given to "Motion Picture Orchestra" in the Victor ledgers. The onscreen credits of the EFA shorts are all awarded to Shilkret. Shilkret and Finston worked interchangeably as musical directors on FitzPatrick's TravelTalk series for MGM from 1930 until the very end of that series in 1954.

The sound versions of these films appear to have been distributed by Paramount, who also used RCA Photophone to synchronize the Fleischer Studio animated product, which incidentally, was also post-synched.

My questions are:

1. Is the list above complete? I doubt that it is.
2. How many of these films exist, and do any of them survive in their original, non-synchronous form?
3. Are the other film tracks missing from the EDVR because they were made later than the EDVR cutoff date of 12-31-1928?
4. If they were originally silent, how was the music rendered? With a cue sheet?

Of course, in regard to the composers, these shorts are anything but "educational." But they are charming, and it is an interesting project. FitzPatrick made a series of shorts for Kineto dedicated to American literary figures as well, though these were all silent.

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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostThu Nov 08, 2012 12:38 pm

I don't have any prints of these, but my old Thunderbird Films (and later Morcraft Films) catalogs list Super 8mm sound and 16mm sound prints of Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, and Johannes Brahms for sale. That may be were the Archive Farms clips came from.
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Brooksie

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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostThu Nov 08, 2012 3:22 pm

I have seen episodes of this listed amongst the supporting features in a couple of Australian cinemas in the late 1920s, often as a weekly feature.

The advertisements give the impression that the initial shorts were a ten-part series that was supposed to be shown in a particular order (they are announced as 'Episode X of the Famous Music Master Series'). It's hard to say how official this order was, as it did change in later showings, perhaps with newer episodes interpolated. Beethoven, Balfe and Foster are all additions to your list:

1. Liszt
2. Mendelssohn
3. Beethoven
4. Chopin (some sources give Stephen Foster)
5. ??
6. Handel
7. Verdi
8. Wagner
9. Hayden & Mozart
10. Michael Balfe

Promotion often use phrases like 'Specially selected accompaniment', or 'Featuring a selection of works from the composer', so I guess it's possible that cue sheets were used, but I also wouldn't be surprised if house orchestras didn't just dip into the composer's back catalogue for appropriate pieces. I have not seen it advertised anywhere past 1929, and even then it was in houses not yet wired for sound.
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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostThu Nov 08, 2012 4:27 pm

Thank you Bruce and Brooksie! Bruce, I think you are right about the possible origin of those prints. I noted that one of the Edison railroad films in the Travel Film Archive is an obvious Blackhawk print, with a long title, longer than the early Edison film itself.

And Brooksie I figured Stephen Foster had to be in there somewhere, given his immense popularity in the 1920s, particularly around the time of his centennial in 1924, which would have been when the first subjects in the series was shot. That the series traveled to Australia, and the selection of Balfe as one of the composers, suggests that Charles Urban may have had a hand in planning this series, given that Balfe was mainly considered a major figure in the UK and there may have been some remnant available to FitzPatrick of Urban's connections to the Australian film market. And I guess the sound versions of the earlier films may be later than 1929 as they did not travel.

thanks,

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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostThu Nov 08, 2012 6:40 pm

Another of the Famous Music Masters films was CHARLES GOUNOD, shot in two-color Technicolor and released in May 1928.
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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostFri Nov 09, 2012 10:31 pm

At least some of these were released on 16mm. I had an old amber print of BEETHOVEN, which (appropriately enough for a silent film) stressed his deafness. In the movie he was chubbier than pictured in his usual bust, and no doubt due to a limited budget, the synchronized score stressed his chamber works and did not include quotes from his symphonies or his opera.

David Shepard
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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostSat Nov 10, 2012 2:26 am

spadeneal wrote:Once again, asking about something no one really cares about, but here goes.


Hey, we care!

Trade Paper shorts release charts indicate that between September and December 1930 FitzPatrick Pictures, Inc. released a series of 9 one-reel shorts, "James A. FitzPatrick's Famous Music Master Series":
Bizet
Brahms
Liszt
Handel
Chopin
Beethoven
Strauss
Verdi
Mendelssohn

I don't know for sure if these were sound reissues of earlier silent shorts.
I have the "Vitaphone" soundtrack disc for "Chopin". On the label it says:
Production 59826.
Reel 1-3.
FitzPatrick Pictures, Inc.
729 Seventh Avenue, New York.
Pressed by Victor.
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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostSat Nov 10, 2012 9:37 am

I'm glad that Nitratevillians care about this series! I think FitzPatrick was an important film-maker. As I look into the history of travelogues, the standard was from even the 1890s that the film-maker would assemble the shots of the various locales and action and then provide a live narration, with or without some form of musical accompaniment. Some, even in the silent period, were in color. FitzPatrick seems to have been the first, in 1934, to get all of these elements onto the same piece of film. I think the novelty of what FitzPatrick achieved may be underappreciated as TCM has loved him so well; so many of the TravelTalks series have been aired repeatedly as "One Reel Wonders" that what stands out most is their banality. The banality was deliberate; FitzPatrick's intention was to provide a tourist's perspective on the places his cameras visited, and he was not interested in exploring the depth and complexity of the societies therein; in this sense, he is consistent with Charles Urban's approach to traveogue. In this Music Master Series, the films bear out FitzPatrick's personality more by virtue of the fact that they use actors and consistent stories. Earlier he made a series on American literary figures for Urban's Kineto firm; wouldn't I love to see Edgar Allan Poe (1922)!

Verdi and Strauss are both titles new to me. I figured FitzPatrick had to have done something with Verdi, as Verdi's popularity was enormous in the first two decades of the 20th century. The EDVR shows that Verdi was the classical composer who was recorded more than any other by the Victor company prior to their absorption by the Radio Corporation of America in 1929. Richard your contribution essentially answers my question about which silent films were post-synched, as all of the other titles in your list were made in the 1925-1927 timeframe. It appears that only the five titles in the Schubert Centennial Series were the ones that had sound as a pre-production element, though they were probably no different in approach from the others.

David, the Beethoven short was certainly not the only one to portray Beethoven as a portly gent; Harry Baur in Gance's Un grand amour de Beethoven (1938) certainly isn't thin. Am I alone in thinking that this is about the most intolerably bad Gance film I've ever seen?

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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostSat Nov 10, 2012 1:37 pm

I have a tinted 16mm print of Verdi.
Using his music, it tells his life story with subtitles.
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Brooksie

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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostSat Nov 10, 2012 11:10 pm

In addition to the Schubert series, there appears to have been one focusing on the music of different nations. I've come across Indian Love Lyrics, Songs of Italy, Songs of Spain, Songs of Ireland, Songs of England, and Songs of the British Isles. These were showing in Australia by 1928, so it would be fair to guess they were part of the 1927 batch. Also, Gounod and Nevin are another two composers who received their own shorts.

After finding a few advertisements claiming that the orchestra would be providing a 'perfectly synchronised' accompaniment, I began to suspect there was more in the idea of there being specialised cue sheets. The following, which comes from the British Film Institute's National Film Library Catalogue of 1938, seems to pretty much confirm that was the case:

HAYDN AND MOZART (America)

Haydn shows Mozart how to play a phrase he had declared to be impossible. The two friends part, Mozart relating his forebodings of the Requiem messenger incident. In London, Haydn hears of his death. The film is designed to be accompanied by a special programme of music to be played by the cinema orchestra.

Production : One of the Famous Music Master Series written and directed by James A. Fitzpatrick, assisted by Tom Shaw. Photography by Bert Dawley.


I don't know if there are any copies of this one extant; the BFI's copy was listed as being in only 'fair' condition in 1938 so perhaps not.
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Rick Lanham

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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostSun May 27, 2018 5:11 pm

(repeating what I posted in another thread)

I've just found some references to the Fitzpatrick Stephen Foster film in the GenealogyBank newspaper archive.

1926 was the centennary of Foster's birth and the film was shown at least twice that year.

There are no cast listings in the two articles.

One article says the title is "The Life of Stephen Foster," and that it is part of Fitzpatrick's Music Master series.

Although it was made earlier, the film is being shown as a "special" on the anniversary of his birth, July 4th.

Rick
“The past is never dead. It's not even past” - Faulkner.
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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostMon May 28, 2018 8:15 am

Our database shows four copies of the soundtrack disks for UNFINISHED SYMPHONY.
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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostFri Jun 01, 2018 3:57 am

Rick Lanham wrote:(repeating what I posted in another thread)

I've just found some references to the Fitzpatrick Stephen Foster film in the GenealogyBank newspaper archive.

1926 was the centennary of Foster's birth and the film was shown at least twice that year.

There are no cast listings in the two articles.

One article says the title is "The Life of Stephen Foster," and that it is part of Fitzpatrick's Music Master series.

Although it was made earlier, the film is being shown as a "special" on the anniversary of his birth, July 4th.

Rick


Here's a print from my collection, made just a few years after the Fitzpatrick picture:

Last edited by silentfilm on Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Famous Music Master Series

PostFri Jun 01, 2018 5:15 pm

Nice!

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