THE DESERT SONG (1929)

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drednm
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by drednm » Sat Jun 16, 2012 6:28 am

Public domain? Or does Warners still own copyright?
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by mndean » Sat Jun 16, 2012 7:17 am

drednm wrote:Public domain? Or does Warners still own copyright?
Copyright was renewed in Dec. 1956 by Associated Artists Productions, so I can't say who owns it now.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by drednm » Sat Jun 16, 2012 8:10 am

One article I read said that the 1929 version could not be shown again after the Code came in, mostly because of a gay character played by Johnny Arthur. But I guess that has nothing to do with copyrighting it anyway.....
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by entredeuxguerres » Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:04 am

mndean wrote: I can't say who owns it now.
Probably, a corporate dog-in-the-manger, with no interest in licensing use of it without the prospect of huge profits in doing so--which of course there'd never be in the case of such a special-interest picture.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by DShepFilm » Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:13 am

The copyrighted film is now owned by Warner Bros. It is also protected by the copyrights on the underlying operetta and the many songs. Warner Bros. does not presently license its properties to outsiders (BARDELYS was a unique exception) but as THE DESERT SONG is complete and in good condition, it might be a candidate for Warner Archive release. Instead of making snide remarks, one could ask them ....

Somehow the 35mm original negative had fallen into the hands of a private collector, who gave it to the Library of Congress via AFI in return for a 16mm print (authorized by U.A., copyright owner at the time). It is probably the source of whatever is now floating around. There were no color elements.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by entredeuxguerres » Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:55 am

DShepFilm wrote: Instead of making snide remarks, one could ask them ....
Here's another: that there should be copyright issues applicable to any 83 yr old production suggests how persuasive an argument greenbacks can make in the US Congress.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by mndean » Sat Jun 16, 2012 11:49 am

DShepFilm wrote:The copyrighted film is now owned by Warner Bros. It is also protected by the copyrights on the underlying operetta and the many songs. Warner Bros. does not presently license its properties to outsiders (BARDELYS was a unique exception) but as THE DESERT SONG is complete and in good condition, it might be a candidate for Warner Archive release. Instead of making snide remarks, one could ask them ....

Somehow the 35mm original negative had fallen into the hands of a private collector, who gave it to the Library of Congress via AFI in return for a 16mm print (authorized by U.A., copyright owner at the time). It is probably the source of whatever is now floating around. There were no color elements.

David Shepard
Thanks, David. I'd run into instances where a different production company (not a successor) had renewed a copyright originally held by the original film's studio, usually because of sale for a remake, as with One Sunday Afternoon/The Strawberry Blonde. This one stumped me, as Warner itself did a remake only a few years before renewal of the original copyright.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by momsne » Sat Jun 16, 2012 11:54 am

A little off topic, after reading these posts about The Desert Song, to me the comments about the movie show the tremendous strides Warner Bros. achieved in movie making between 1929 and 1931. Roy Del Ruth directed this movie and 1931's Blonde Crazy. Blonde Crazy has old cars in it but the story and film technology in this two years' newer movie about grifters is not that dated. In my opinion, Roy Del Ruth was in a groove in the early thirties at Warner Bros., turning out one high quality but low budget movie ($150,000) after another, not one of them a musical, AFAIK. Fast forward to 1950, to The West Point Story, a musical starring James Cagney that Del Ruth directed for Warner Bros. Technically well made, this 1950 movie musical takes place in a world detached from reality, just like 1929's The Desert Song. Whatever the reason, many pre-Code Warner Bros. movies in the thirties had some sort of magic to them. A fountain of youth effect, these movies have aged well.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by entredeuxguerres » Sat Jun 16, 2012 1:51 pm

Though I don't dislike Desert Song, it isn't necessary to leap forward 2 yrs to see an immense improvement, as demonstrated by the pitiful remains of Del Ruth's Gold Diggers of Broadway... of all "lost" pictures, maybe the one I most long to see rediscovered. But I wonder how much credit any director can legitimately claim for the success of a musical, as it's the music, performers, sets which will make or break it. Also made in '29 by WB, & also vastly superior to Desert Song, were Sally & On With the Show, each by a different director.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by drednm » Sat Jun 16, 2012 2:21 pm

Great info all.... Thanks.
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by josephh » Sun Jun 17, 2012 4:00 pm

Wasn't The Desert Song finished 6 months before release? When was Gold Diggers of Broadway finished?

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by vitaphone » Sun Jun 17, 2012 5:13 pm

Yes, actually THE DESERT SONG was completed by the end of November 1928, and would have been the first sound movie musical released had it not been for a requirement that WB could not release it until its Broadway run was completed. So THE BROADWAY MELODY beat it to the screen.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by Donald Binks » Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:11 pm

"The Desert Song" is one of my favourite musicals - from that golden period of the musical comedy and operetta. I find that the 1929 film is of particular interest in that it is a representation taken straight from the stage production - which was still in progress during it's filming. It gives one the rare opportunity to see a performance as it virtually was given.

The last time I saw "The Desert Song" on the stage would have been in the 1960's and I would love to see it again but awful things like "Wicked" seem to (dis)grace the stage these days.

The 1953 film version changes the story somewhat and a lot of the music is missing. I have never had the opportunity to see the 1943 version unfortunately.

I believe that anything to do with Hammerstein musicals are a mite difficult when it comes to rights issues.
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by drednm » Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:28 am

vitaphone wrote:Yes, actually THE DESERT SONG was completed by the end of November 1928, and would have been the first sound movie musical released had it not been for a requirement that WB could not release it until its Broadway run was completed. So THE BROADWAY MELODY beat it to the screen.
Not sure of this since the Broadway production closed Jan 7, 1928.

The Broadway Melody premiered February 1929 in Los Angeles and New York, wasn't widely released until June 1929. IMDb says The Desert Song was released April 1929.

In any case, the Broadway production seems to have closed well before either of these films got released.
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by Harlett O'Dowd » Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:26 pm

drednm wrote:
vitaphone wrote:Yes, actually THE DESERT SONG was completed by the end of November 1928, and would have been the first sound movie musical released had it not been for a requirement that WB could not release it until its Broadway run was completed. So THE BROADWAY MELODY beat it to the screen.
Not sure of this since the Broadway production closed Jan 7, 1928.

The Broadway Melody premiered February 1929 in Los Angeles and New York, wasn't widely released until June 1929. IMDb says The Desert Song was released April 1929.

In any case, the Broadway production seems to have closed well before either of these films got released.
According to Barrios, the contretemps was over the west coast tour, not the B'way run and the courts ultimately ruled in the studio's favor. As previously noted (by you?) in December 1928 Warners also declared a moratorium on 100% talkies after the dismal reactions to On Trial and The Home Towners and the enthusiastic reaction to the part-talkies The Singing Fool and My Man. Add to that the legal troubles over the stage tour of The Desert Song AND Warners' penchant for stockpiling films so they could close the studio down for a month or two at the end of the year and you have what should have been the first 100% talking musical becoming just another of the dozens of musicals that followed in the 18-month wake made by The Broadway Melody.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by drednm » Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:06 pm

Interesting. I hadn't thought of tours. It's estimated The Desert Song was budgeted at $350,000 and grossed over $3M worldwide. I'm not sure what "worldwide" meant for a 1929 talkie/musical..... But this was a smash.

With Rio Rita and The Desert Song under his belt, John Boles must have ranked as a major box-office star in early talkie period.
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by SFBOB » Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:40 pm

"As previously noted (by you?) in December 1928 Warners also declared a moratorium on 100% talkies after the dismal reactions to On Trial and The Home Towners and the enthusiastic reaction to the part-talkies The Singing Fool and My Man."

I was under the impression that that My Man did not do well at the box office. Was it a success?

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by vitaphone » Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:45 pm

Per Donald Crafton's THE TALKIES, MY MAN cost $195,000 and grossed nearly $1.1 Million. I think it was the stars of THE SINGING FOOL and MY MANY that brought in the money, not whether they were part-talkie or not.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by drednm » Wed Jun 20, 2012 7:48 pm

Well.... John Boles is pretty terrific in this film and has a great voice. Carlotta King in her only film appearance sings well but maybe not so great in the acting department. Johnny Arthur is very funny in a stereotyped role. Louise Fazenda is wasted. Myrna Loy is totally gorgeous and actually dances well. No idea who plays Ali Ben Ali but he has a good singing voice.

Very impressive in that all the singing is live.
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by entredeuxguerres » Wed Jun 20, 2012 8:59 pm

Since Carlotta was obviously, unmistakably the co-star of this picture, no one except Boles playing a larger role in the action, it seems a raw deal she received only 4th billing.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by drednm » Thu Jun 21, 2012 5:56 am

Yes that's interesting that Fazenda gets 2nd billing. The story about Carlotta King is that Jack Warner heard her on radio and said if she looked at good as she sounded she'd get the role in Desert Song. She did and she did. She then moved on to MGM where she was supposed to star in Rose-Marie but got tired of waiting around doing nothing so she bailed. If memory serves, both Marion Davies and Joan Crawford did photo ops as Rose-Marie, but of course it didn't get filmed until Jeanette MacDonald did it.

John Boles may not have been a great actor, but he's certainly in fine voice in Desert Song and Rio Rita, and he's much more appealing than Lawrence Tibbett or Nelson Eddy.
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by Ray Faiola » Thu Jun 21, 2012 9:14 am

I saw the restored 1943 version at the Bijou on West 57th Street in NYC about 20 years ago (It was on a double bill with the restored IT'S A GREAT FEELING).Romberg, Roemheld and Heindorf made for a swell soundtrack! I subsequently picked up a 16mm B&W print of both the feature and the trailer. Who knows when we'll ever see this one on TCM or DVD.
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by entredeuxguerres » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:43 am

drednm wrote: John Boles may not have been a great actor, but he's certainly in fine voice in Desert Song and Rio Rita, and he's much more appealing than Lawrence Tibbett or Nelson Eddy.
I wouldn't try to make the case that the theater has been diminished by his failure to essay the role of Hamlet, but I can think off hand of two roles for which his quiet, dignified, demeanor was so perfect that I can imagine no one else playing them equally well: those in Stella Dallas & Age of Innocense.

But judging anyone hired (primarily) for their vocal abilities by the same standards applied to other actors seems rather too stringent. Lilly Pons, another example, was certainly no great actress...but it wasn't for dramatic skills that she earned her roles. Everett Marshall seems to be a favorite target for ridicule...but that voice!

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by drednm » Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:06 pm

I also like Boles in Music in the Air and he's fun in Romance in the Dark with Gladys Swarthout.
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by FrankFay » Thu Jun 21, 2012 5:18 pm

Boles is especially good in Music in the Air- he's given a much better part than usual
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by josephh » Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:01 pm

Were some musical numbers like Romance and It cut in the rerelease version?

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by entredeuxguerres » Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:20 pm

FrankFay wrote:Boles is especially good in Music in the Air- he's given a much better part than usual
Watched this for the first time recently, & though Boles was indeed very good, I couldn't avoid the impression that he & Swanson had been "starred" to attract an audience for a picture in which Douglas Montgomery & June Lang played the leading roles. Not that those two didn't deliver excellent performances...but I'd bought my ticket to see Gloria in one of her relatively few speaking & (especially!) singing roles, & felt I'd been somewhat shortchanged. Gloria was prettier in the early '30s than she'd been 10 yrs earlier, I think, a better actress, & to me just more appealing, in general, than in the golden days of her silent stardom.

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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by FrankFay » Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:28 pm

It's pretty obvious that Music In The Air had a lot of cuts, either during or after production. The big number"The Song Is You" plays over the credits but it was cut from the film. It's a good film that could have been great (Swanson is very funny) and it's a shame the only prints around have muddy sound.
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by drednm » Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:35 pm

I agree. It's a real cheat that Swanson doesn't finally get her big production number after everything seems to lead up to it. Was it cut? Was it ever filmed? The seconds leads are ok but Swanson and Boles really seem to get shunted aside.

I can't imagine that the Broadway hit production robbed the leading lady of her big number.
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Re: THE DESERT SONG (1929)

Unread post by Donald Binks » Sun May 24, 2015 3:43 pm

I have just had the opportunity to view the 1943 version of "The Desert Song" - and found it similar to the 1953 version in that it concentrated more on dramatic intrigue than the musical element.

As the 1943 version was unavailable for donkeys years due to rights issues and now has finally become available on DVD, I wonder if there is any hope that the 1929 version may be similarly put out into the public arena? I know that there is a copy of it on You Tube - but one would like of course to see a much better quality print if such ever became available.
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