Let's talk a bit about That's
Entertainment III, which I like better than one.
GF: Well thank you for that
and you're not alone in that. Robert Osborne says the same thing. A
lot of people like III because is took them inside the process and
it wasn't as sugar-coated, because we were being honest about it.
And that phenomenal footage showing how the Fascinating
RAH: And your split screens
GF: Those were the things that
enabled us to bring the audience more into the process.
RAH: One of the things that I
remember about the film was the audio in the opening starting mono
and then surrounding the audience with the new recording.
GF: The audio aspects of the
films are really quite fascinating because for That's
Entertainment I, I was sitting there at 14 years old and
it started with A Pretty Girl is Like a
Melody, but also most notably from The
I'm hearing real stereo.
I'm hearing Judy's voice in the center, and the chorus on the
sides, and I'm saying to myself
little film historian that I
"Wait a minute. They did not have stereo in 1945. How
is this possible?"
And I never got my answer until I started working for MGM and found
out about the multiple microphones and the stems that had been
saved, and because it was transferred, from 35mm optical to ¼"
used tape which had been degaussed
and at 7 ½
IPS, thank you
it had no sync pulse.
So now, with computers I could sync these elements up on my
computer at home in five minutes, but they didn't have that luxury
in 1973 when they were working on this movie, and they had to
I was told by Scott Perry, who was one of MGM's longtime audio
engineers, that they had to literally create those stereo sequences
by hand to keep it in sync. That's why there are so few numbers that
are stereo. On the original 70mm six-track, the numbers for Meet
Me in St. Louis weren't stereo, even though the
multi-tracks existed. It was too much work. They only did it on
three or four numbers because they just couldn't do it for
everything. But we've rectified that using our most recent
Earlier you and I were talking about the That's
Entertainment 1974 premiere TV special which I found
I remembered it and I wanted to track that down and I did at UCLA
because our original 2" master was missing and it turned out it
was sitting at UCLA. The TV special has the people talking at the
premiere about "What's going to happen to this movie?"
They had no idea it was going to turn into the box office phenomenon
it was. But some people thought that this was really going to make a
dent, and Fred Astaire makes a comment about the "nostalgia
boom," which was taking off in the mid-'70s
You had Follies
and No, No Nanette on
Broadway, but people thought it was a fad, and what That's
Entertainment did was to cement the reputation of the MGM
musical as one of the most important factions within the history of
the American film.
It brought it to a level of respect
we all know that Singin'
in the Rain wasn't even nominated for an Oscar. Of course
American in Paris and Gigi
won them, because they had a little bit of an upper crust appeal,
but generally the MGM musicals were never given their proper due in
the realm of film history they really deserved, and That's
Entertainment helped draw attention to those films. And
the proof of the pudding was the following year, in 1975, when MGM
made a bunch of new prints on most of the great musicals and
bicycled them around various theatres during the summer of '75, in
between That's Entertainment
in '74 and That's Entertainment Part II
in '76, and the revivals of those pictures, playing in revival
houses did wonderful business and those prints served the company
well for a very long time.
RAH: So basically we've got
one film from 1974, one from '76, and then
a lapse of eighteen
basically until you were there.
GF: That's right. The thing is
that when I came home from seeing That's
Entertainment Part II, I sat down at my typewriter and
made a list of all the songs that I thought could make a That's
Entertainment III. And I even made an audio cassette that
I called That's Entertainment III.
I still have it. I had the idea then. That was 1976.
Who would have ever thought that eighteen years later it would
become a reality. My life took this path, and when I did get to MGM
in the '80s, and made the move with the company from NYC to L.A., I
eventually tracked down Mike Sheridan and Bud Friedgen, the editors
on the first two pictures, who I had known were trying to push a
project built around the MGM outtakes.
I learned a great deal about the MGM outtakes from reading Hugh
Fordin's wonderful book, The World of
Entertainment in 1975, which has since been re-issued
under the title Musicals Great Musicals.
In the back of the book he listed what numbers were shot for certain
Arthur Freed films, and which were deleted. Around that same time
there were a series of bootleg record albums that came out which
contained copies from playback discs of some of the outtake music
numbers. The sound quality was beyond horrendous, but just to "hear"
these musical numbers was so thrilling. I thought they must have all
been destroyed or lost, but going back as early as 1940, there is
significant studio documentation that confirms the studio thought
there was value in saving the musical outtakes for possible future
So I kept pursuing the project for years, and by 1991, when I was
by that time actually running the MGM/UA home video company, I went
to the head of the studio at the time, Alan Ladd, Jr. who is truly
one of the great men of Hollywood history. "Laddie" as he
is called by his friends, and those who work for him, is a very
down-to-earth guy, and he was incredibly supportive of me, as he has
been to so many people. He believed in the project and greenlit it,
and backed it 100%. He's an amazing fellow. Talk about unsung
praise, he has brought forth dozens of great motion pictures, but
most of them don't carry his name because he was a studio chief
harboring their production, and studio execs don't get their name on
movies. He was there for George Lucas to create Star
Wars. He was there for Mel Brooks to make Young
Frankenstein, yet his name isn't on the credits of any of
those movies (just to name a few!) That's why my name isn't on That's
Entertainment! III, even though the idea was mine, and I
participated heavily in the artistic collaboration that went into
the film. So how thrilled was I to fly back to New York in 1994 and
sit in the same seat at the Ziegfeld where I had seen the first That's
Entertainment, and now was seeing the third film that I
helped bring to life. I was quite awed by it all
and it looked
and sounded so great there. We had worked so hard on the soundtrack
for TE 3 going back to the
original recordings, it was thrilling to hear that stuff at the "Ziggy".
RAH: As I recall, when we were
at Warner Hollywood working on Lawrence,
Warner Bros. had set up a major audio preservation and restoration
area, and apparently at that time they had made a commitment to take
all of the magnetic recordings for all of the films, and preserve
all of them to digital copies and analogue backup protection. This
was a huge, impressive, and expensive project, but it meant that
these materials would be saved.
I've got to believe that this has already re-paid its costs in both
the ability to go back to these protected elements for home video,
and then there are all of the new CDs.
GF: Yes, I've produced more
than 60 CD soundtrack albums derived from that material, and it has
been a priceless source to help create the new 5.1 mixes for stereo
films by going back to the very original session masters and
creating a new mix, using the old mix as a representative source.
RAH: As far as I know, you're
still the only studio which has an ongoing archival interview
GF: Yes, that's true. Warner
Bros. is the only studio that has done anything like it. It was the
brainchild of Phil Kent who is now Chairman and CEO of Turner
Broadcasting, but who at the time was head of the now-defunct Turner
Home Entertainment. Two big celebrities died within a week in 1993,
and Phil thought that we ought to invest corporately in a living
archive and start interviewing everyone associated with our library.
He recognized it would be an invaluable resource. We now have more
than three hundred people on whom we have archival interviews At
least 20 percent of them have since passed away.. The interviews are
shot on 16mm film
not on videotape, but with backups on tape
and they are used for interstitial pieces on TCM, by Warner Home
Video for "Easter eggs" and in our documentaries, and we
also use them for other things. I asked to do the interview with
Chuck Jones, which was one of the great joys of my life because I
admired him so much.
And as so many people have passed away since we started doing it
even people that we've lost this year like Elmer Bernstein and David
Raksin, and this becomes an invaluable tool, because even on the new
That's Entertainment DVD we
created a new half hour documentary, mostly derived from the
archival interview series, that was very important to me. It's
called The Masters Behind the Musicals.
I wanted a piece that saluted a lot of the people that weren't
famous but who had contributed as much to the great MGM musicals as
Astaire or Kelly in their own manner.
RAH: It's a great piece, by
GF: Well kudos to Peter
Fitzgerald, who by the way was the executive producer of That's
Entertainment III. He put that piece together, based on
my initial concepts, because I am very passionate about my heroes,
who were Roger Edens and Conrad Salinger and Kay Thompson and Hermes
Pan and so many others, these people who poured their talents into
all those MGM musicals really deserve so much more credit than they
The That's Entertainment
films are not documentaries. They are "docutainment
compilations" if you will, and they are not designed to give
you the kind of detailed personal background on the creative talents
behind the camera, and I felt we needed to do that in a way that
would be entertaining and interesting and give these people their
due. So when we looked at what kind of special features we would
create for the DVD, creating a piece like this was essential to "fill
in the blanks" and very important to me personally. I feel I
owe these people a debt I could never repay, especially since I
never had the chance to meet most of them. Some of the people
interviewed I did get to know pretty well, like Saul Chaplin, for
example. Sadly he passed away a few years ago, but because we have
his archival interview, there he was in this new piece, giving a
great perspective about how the MGM musicals were constructed.
And there was Ann Miller, who I was very close to for the last
fifteen years or so. She was like family to me. As you know, we lost
her to cancer in January, but again, because we had her archival
interview, she's there to weigh in with her "tell it like it is"
manner, and that's quite meaningful. , We also use many archival
interviews with people who are happily still very much with us like
Andre Previn, Angela Lansbury, Gloria DeHaven, Betty Garrett and
Alexander Courage just to name a few.
These archival interviews are invaluable. We set up these shoots
for them four times a year, and they are co-funded by Warner Bros.
Entertainment and Turner Classic Movies, and copies of each
interview are deposited with the Motion Picture Academy so they are
available to scholars doing research.
Anybody who worked at Warner Bros., MGM or RKO, in front of, or
behind the camera we try to get. We have people who are secretaries,
we have people who are film editors, gaffers
and big stars. We
have coverage from lots and lots of people.
It's been an invaluable resource to us, and on our upcoming DVDs of
other films, you'll continue to see these interviews.
RAH: On a slightly different
topic, one of the major projects there has been the restoration of
the Looney Tunes and Merrie
Melodies, which for years I remember were copied from
GF: Actually the story there
is very interesting because the library was split. You had the AAP
RAH: The pre-'48 as
GF: United Artists
Turner MGM group with the pre-49 color Looney
Tunes and the Merrie Melodies,
and then the post-'49 over at Warner Bros. The library was split and
the Turner portion materials were always 16mm red prints in
syndication, and then in 1987 they took mostly Technicolor nitrate
prints and made 1" video masters of them. Those became the
bedrock of our Looney Tunes
laserdisc box sets.
From there someone made a decision that the way to preserve the
cartoons was to make internegatives from those prints
was the way to preserve them.
Well, that wasn't
So when Warner Bros. purchased Turner one of the first priorities
that I got involved with was the preservation and restoration of the
entire Warner Bros. cartoon library by going back to the original
successive exposure negatives which (on the nitrate titles) are
housed at the Library of Congress.
We have been doing that for a few years now, and it is
extraordinarily expensive, which is why we can only do about sixty
cartoons a year
I wish we could do more.
RAH: That's actually a lot.
GF: It is a lot. We had
finally had the first release last year, called Looney
Tunes: The Golden Collection, and again it was one of my
marketing battles because I was having to defend the fact that this
is not "kids product". While Warner Bros. cartoons are
perfectly appropriate entertainment for children who can enjoy them
and grow up on them as I did, these films were made for adults. They
need to be marketed to adults who can share them with their
It's not children's product. You demean these works when you refer
to them as "kid vid." These are classic American films
that are animated, and the filmmakers are on camera and on record
saying "We did not make these films for children. We made them
for ourselves." And they were shown in theatres to adults and
they needed to be funny to adults.
One of the classic examples of messing up marketing of a product is
the way that some people did and some still do
it's a cartoon, then it must be for kids. That's just plain wrong.
Treat them as you would treat classic films. Period.
I used this approach at MGM for marketing the Looney
Tunes that they distributed at the time before the merger
as well as on the Tom and Jerry and Tex Avery cartoons. We went out
and marketed them to classic animation fans and not specifically to
children, and suddenly what was not a terribly impressive business
turned into a windfall of profit. I'm happy to say that the Looney
Tunes sets which came out last year were a magnificent
RAH: It was a magnificent set,
that looked like the film should look. They were properly
represented on video.
GF: Well thank you very much
and thank you to all the people who worked on the restorations here,
and to my dear friend and cohort, Jerry Beck, who worked with me in
selecting the cartoons, and has worked with me going back to the
first classic Looney Tunes box
on laserdisc in 1988. He and Greg Ford are both great friends of
mine, and those two gents know more about classic animation than
anyone in the world.
RAH: What should be expected
in '05 and going into '06 from the studio?
GF: Where do I begin?
RAH: I know you have some of
GF: There are certain things
that we mentioned on the last HTF chat that are in the works
the Cagney films that people have been waiting for
Flynn films that people have been waiting for
There's more Bette Davis. There's more Joan Crawford. There is
Greta Garbo. There will be more film noir because the film noir set
this year was such a huge success that we plan to do film noir again
in '05. Also the Thin Man
movies are coming soon, and the Miss Marple Movies and many of the "DVD
DECISION" candidates that didn't make the cut, which we've
promised to the consumers. The list of goodies on the way goes on
. some of my personal favorites are in there, such as
A Face in the Crowd and The
This past year we've also been successful with releasing what I
think are very attractive box sets at a reasonable price, thereby
giving the consumer a value when they buy the box set, and giving
them a really stunning presentation, and trying to add, which is
something that I've always tried to do, cartoons and shorts from the
library to give it more of a Hollywood feel. I always did that on
RAH: It's what you would have
seen in the movie theatre
funny because I read reviews online and it will say "Why is
this here? What does this have to do with the movie?"
And what they don't realize is that the cartoon was made in 1946
and the film was made in 1946
On the Warner's legends last year, we had Leonard Maltin doing Warner
Night at the Movies, which worked really well at
explaining that whole concept and presenting it in a "play all"
scenario in which you could watch it all together or separately, and
we'll be doing two more sets of releases next year with Leonard's
Night at the Movies on them
that people are going to really love
A lot of titles that people have been asking for are coming out
next year and in '06.
RAH: Are you going to be
getting into more of the Technicolor Flynns?
GF: Yes. We have a lot of
Flynn coming up and a new documentary that will be part of a Flynn
box set, and the documentary is called The
Adventures of Errol Flynn and it's still in production
right now and we have very high hopes for it.
RAH: Who is your documentarian
GF: The people making that are
Joan Kramer and David Heely, who made Katharine Hepburn: All
About Me, and they're working on that right now. I just
saw a rough cut on the third part yesterday, and it's really
wonderful, and I'm happy to say that Olivia de Havilland
participated in it, which is really a priceless contribution.
When she was in town to do her piece for Gone
with the Wind, she agreed to talk about Errol
made eight films together, so having her in there, along with
Flynn's widow, Patrice Wymore and a lot of other impressive people
who knew him and worked with him, and critics and so forth should be
a wonderful thing. We generally do have these high profile
When we release Easter Parade
next year, it will be Ultra Resolution and it will have on disc two,
the American Masters documentary, Judy
Garland: By Myself, which was very well received and won
a few Emmys a few weeks ago.
I'm very proud of the film. It was originally supposed to be disc
two of Meet Me in St. Louis,
but it ran into production problems and was delayed. We had an
airdate on PBS of February 23rd, and as of January 28th we had no
show. Susan Lacey and her amazing people at American Masters took
the bull by the horns and created a show. We were delighted with the
results. We're honored to be releasing it and that's another thing
that's very important to me is to have the extra content really be
top notch and we really strive for that wherever we can.
RAH: Are there any plans for
any Kevin Brownlow / Photoplay documentaries?
GF: Yes. The upcoming Buster
it's the first time Kevin has ever done
anything specifically for DVD. We're doing The
Cameraman and Spite Marriage,
which come out on December 7th, as our second TCM Archives release,
and I talked to Patrick [Stanbury] and Kevin and said "I don't
know if you want to do this but I have to ask you this knowing that
you're normally in a different ballpark, but I have to ask you this
because you're the expert
would you like to do something on
Keaton's MGM period, which is a very sad story
heartbreaking. And it's not a fun subject because that was when he
made some personal decisions that really wreaked havoc on his life
And Kevin couldn't replicate what he had already done on his A
Hard Act to Follow, not only because he wouldn't want to
duplicate himself, but also because he doesn't own those old shows,
so he made something new and something fresh, and he found a
collector who had old movie footage of Buster Keaton in Times
Square making The Cameraman,
and it's in there. It's unbelievable. Leave it to Kevin.
RAH: That's why Kevin should
be brought in on these things.
GF: Kevin and Patrick, for
Photoplay, are working with
Warner Home Video and Turner Classic Movies on two feature length
documentaries that will be available on DVD next year. I can't yet
discuss what they are, but I'm happy to announce the association. We
love working with them. We have a group of filmmakers whom we really
love working with
RAH: There is no one better.
GF: No. Kevin is in a class by
RAH: Anything to report on
When the Lion Roars?
GF: We have that ready to go.
We had that ready to go about two years ago, and we're trying to
find the right way to release it
You know if you just put it
out on its own you're not going to make enough to support it. It's
got to be part of a promotion, something in line with a release with
a number of classic MGM films which haven't been on DVD yet
there are so many
People are waiting for San Francisco
and The Good Earth, these
black and white films
GF: Precisely. People are
waiting for those films, and as I have to remind everybody
wasn't until seven or eight or nine years into VHS that you started
seeing them come out on VHS, and it's the same thing with DVD as the
market is now maturing.
Fred and Ginger are coming to DVD in 2005 at long last
Val Lewton films are coming in 2005
RAH: As a collection?
GF: As a collection. All nine
will be in one box. We have a great guy who's going to be doing
commentary on that. You know, we're aware of what everybody wants,
looking at the threads
Missing Warner titles has been a recent thread on HTF, and there
are some ridiculous titles that show up once in a while, but most of
the titles are quite respectable and likely choices, and it makes me
happy because I can look at it and say "Yep, we're doing that
and we're doing that
RAH: One of the problems that
some of the people on HTF and other websites may not understand is
that in the VHS days you could get away with a second class film
element for transfer
GF: You could get away with
anything. You could put anything at all in a box or a jacket,
regardless of the quality and you had a master.
RAH: But with DVD all the
warts are out there on the screen.
GF: I know. People are now
saying "Well, there are nicks in this shot
" I had to
with the film noir package, every one of those films, we
went back to the nitrate camera negatives, and made a new fine grain
we spent a fortune creating new masters and those films have never
looked so good.
Most of the reviews had comments reflected as such. The one that
really blew me away was Gun Crazy,
because that was a low budget movie, and you could see Russ
the sweat coming off his face in the beginning and
the pores in his skin
RAH: The image quality was
GF: So clear
some people said "Well there are some nicks and digs and
my favorite new term, it just cracks me up
it didn't exist
before the people on the internet is the "age-related
RAH: Let's go back to That's
Entertainment for a moment. There's a rather startling
difference in image quality between the first two productions and
GF: Well, of the three films,
three does look so much better, and the reason is that everything
was back to the original negative
Cinetech did all the
they were done right
such care was
taken in that respect
Not that the people in the '70s didn't do their best on one and two
for the time.
RAH: Everything is "for
the time." I recall there was a conversation on HTF when Mutiny
on the Bounty came out, and people were talking about the
fact that it was grainy and scratchy and dirty, and I did a piece on
GF: And the fact that there
were no duping stocks that were any good
RAH: And original negatives
are gone, and reels are missing and sections are missing
there's nothing to go back to and Mr. Gable is unavailable.
GF: People have to understand
that in cases like that, especially with really important films that
we're going to do the best we can, and every once in a while there's
a miracle like finding the original camera negative, mis-marked, on
David Copperfield at the BFI
deposited there in 1939. That's amazing. We thought that most of the
black and white MGM camera negatives went up in the fire at Eastman
House, and that we didn't have anything to go back to
So when I see people complaining about films from the early '30s
RAH: They're seventy years old
GF: They don't realize that
they look so much better than they ever have before on video
And then you run into a situation like the 1931 version of The
Champ, where the original negative was thought to have
burned at Eastman House. It didn't burn. We brought it in. We made
three new fine grains at YCM, and I haven't seen the print, but I
understand that it looks like it was shot yesterday.
Those are the types of films which are going to be a little tougher
to sell on DVD, but we do have them scheduled.
RAH: You need the support of
the collectors in the marketplace to help amortize all of these
costs which is giving them first quality releases.
GF: We intend to use all of
our abilities and efforts to get them out there. Our corporate
initiative is something that we share with our friends and
associates at Turner Classic Movies, in that we want to expand the
base of people who watch classic motion pictures. We want to educate
them. We want to interest them into wanting to explore this. The
great thing about the That's
Entertainment films in general, is that they make you
want to see the whole film
RAH: Which sells DVDs
GF: Exactly. They're like a
big trailer for the library. Especially with That's
Entertainment III taking people into the filmmaking
process. I think that really stimulated a lot of interest. And it
does sell a lot of DVDs. There are a lot of people saying "Why
aren't the Esther Williams films on DVD yet?" We do have a
master ready, newly restored, of Bathing
Beauty. I would love to be able to put together a set of
her films and see it sell well but I don't know if we're there yet.
We have to get player penetration higher in the older demographics.
RAH: What kind of things have
you been finding lately in terms of elements that might affect the
way the DVDs may look on some of these films?
GF: The real Godsend has been
that over 140 films where we thought the original negative had
burned in the Eastman House fire in the late '70s were still in
existence. Eastman House had given us incorrect information in
regard to what had burned. And to our delight and to their delight
they're saying that they still have it.
It may be listed as original negative that they found, and it may
be a dupe nitrate negative and not the camera original, but it's
still something better than what we have.
The camera negative to Dancing Lady
was found and we've done preservation on it. The other point that
I'd like to make, and this is interesting in regard to the pre-49
Warner pictures, a subject with which you are very familiar
when the films were owned by United Artists, they made safety fine
grain protections on about the top two hundred titles, and the fine
grains they made were not very good at all. They did no preservation
of the lower tier titles. When MGM bought United Artists, they
started preserving the library, including the trailers and the
shorts, and of course, now the cartoons
And that preservation work continues
but on movies like Now
Voyager and Mildred Pierce
and Casablanca and so on,
instead of doing what was done before, which was going back to the
same rotten fine grains, we're going back to the camera negatives
and making new preservation elements, and that's why those films
look so good.
There are still some films where we have problems based upon the
surviving elements, but for many of them, the original elements
haven't been touched in a long time and the results are really
This is interesting
Public Enemy was censored for
the post-production code re-issue, and we were hopeful that we could
fill in the missing scenes from 16mm, but 35mm elements have been
located in Britain, and those will be part of that release when that
RAH: That's going to be
exciting. That's going to be the first time in over seventy years
that the film has been seen un-censored.
GF: And I've got to tell you.
Public Enemy and Little
Caesar have always looked so awful, and while I haven't
seen what they look like for real, but I've seen VHS copies of the
documentaries about them which will be on our upcoming DVDs, and
they look amazing. They're clean and bright and beautiful.
RAH: All you have to do is put
quality elements in Ned's hands
GF: If we have them, and sadly
on some films, we don't have them. With something like A
Night at the Opera or Munity
on the Bounty, we're doing the best that we can with the
RAH: I'm going to change the
subject again, if I may. I took a look at the new release on Seven
Brides, and it's interesting because you can see
you can see the color breathing
the color is
beautiful. I don't recall it ever looking as good in recent decades,
and people are going to be complaining about these "age-related
artifacts," ARAs we'll call them, and there's nothing that can
be done about it without spending a fortune.
Brides is a sad story that was confirmed to me. When the
MGM lab blew Seven Brides up
to 70mm in 1968, they trashed the original negative
splices started coming apart and sprocket holes were torn
RAH: They were printing from
GF: They were printing from
the original and they ruined it. They ruined the negative. And on
that film, and we're talking about the scope version, the separation
masters were made incorrectly in 1955.
[NOTE: In 1968 printing from original negatives to 70mm was not
only common practice, but the only way of producing a high quality
print. This was the era before quality duplicating elements which
enabled a lab to create a 65mm IP and 65mm printing dupe.]
RAH: They would have been
dry-gate anyway, so any wear or damage would have been photographed
to the protection element.
so they used
a multitude of different elements to try to reconstruct the film as
well as possible. There's one scene in the barn-raising dance where
you see the frame jumps a bit for a split second
RAH: But that's all there is
GF: This film has always been
problematic because you've got the earliest antiquated scope lenses,
you've got Ansco color, and then you have elements that have been
trashed and put through the meat grinder, and a film that was
released many times because it's so damned good. That film was
actually in release internationally until the early '80s.
But doing this DVD was a delight because virtually everyone who
worked on the film is still with us
Stanley Donen and the
major cast members
and the film is timeless.
RAH: The reason that I brought
it up, and it's like the Mutiny on the
people are going to see and
they're going to be discussing the ARAs, and they're absolutely
GF: It's not perfect
then there's the other aspect which I think is worth mentioning. For
example, when you have a director like Vincente Minnelli
Vincente Minnelli loved dissolves
RAH: And they're all dupes
GF: There you go. Exactly.
Which is why parts of Meet Me in St.
Louis don't look as great as Robin
Hood or some of the other films because you may have a
three or four minute scene which is all dupe
RAH: Well that's the problem
with the Fit as a Fiddle
number from Singin' in the Rain
RAH: Where you've got dissolve
into dissolve into dissolve
GF: But people don't know
that, and one of my great debts to you as a film person
have done such a great job of educating the layman to understanding
the film part of what goes into the DVD, and explaining those things
RAH: Anything else before we
wrap that you can add about new releases?
GF: Well I can talk about this
because it's mentioned in the new That's Entertainment box.. for
various reasons, we have to be somewhat vague about when we're
putting out certain things
RAH: Well you're listing Broadway
Melody of 1929, which is quite an exciting release.
GF: Yes. We haven't announced
when it's coming out, but obviously it will be out for Oscar time
because it's a Best Picture winner
but what I'm really
thrilled about is that several of those wonderful early Metro
Movietone Revue shorts that I put on the Dawn
of Sound laser boxes are coming!
I've got about six
or seven of them on the Broadway Melody
DVD. That will make some people very happy.
It was a lot easier to put things out on laserdisc because it
wasn't as big a market and there wasn't as much of a problem with
legal clearances. But DVD is perceived as a huge revenue generator,
which it is for big titles, but not the same for little things like
obscure short subjects or rarely-seen features.
RAH: That's why a lot of
titles can't come out
We could do
things on laserdisc, that we can't on DVD because it's just too
expensive, not to mention that where we could get away with the
moderate quality of an old 1" analog master on LD, we can't
allow that for DVD.
It is my hope eventually
you know, we want to do The
that's actually being restored right
now. If we can put things out profitably and to our standards of
quality, we're going to do everything we can. And if The
Jazz Singer sells well, I'd love to be able to put out
some of the other Jolsons. We just found the original negative to
Go into Your Dance, mislabeled
in a vault in New Jersey, and a few years ago, the Technicolor
sequence to Mammy in Finland.
So there are always developments going on the search-and-find dept.
RAH: How about films like The
Big Parade or the Garbo silents?
Big Parade is another one where the original camera
negative was thought lost, and it was found at Eastman House, and it
is being preserved and restored as we speak
it may even be
completed by now. I know there are plans to do something as it's
having its 80th anniversary next year. We haven't formalized any DVD
plans yet, but we hope to do something with it. We do have
particular issues with this title because there is the theatrical
re-issue version which has the Dr. William Axt score from 1930, and
then there's the wonderful Carl Davis score, and they won't sync
because of speed issues, so it may have to be a two disc set with
Our goal is definitely to get more silents out. We have nearly 300
extant, preserved silent features, which is far, far more than any
other studio. We co-fund (with TCM) the creation and recording of
new scores to be recorded for silent films that need music in order
to become viable for distribution. The Chaney
Collection was the start of our mining our library of
silents... the Keaton is the second... we hope to be doing one or
two releases of silent film collections every year.
They're not going to be making anybody rich, but they have been
profitable and successful, and consumers value the effort that goes
into the presentation, which means we can keep doing them.
You know it's an embarrassment of riches, when you've got the
world's most wonderful film library
RAH: Back together again...
GF: It's wonderful for Warner
Bros. to finally have its legacy reinstated, it really is. And the
amount of money and time and effort that's put into the maintenance
of the library, and the preservation of it is really without peer.
We're very proud of that.
(Special Update - 10/28/04)
There was a bit of information in my discussion with Warners
George Feltenstein, which may have been misconstrued, and all of us
involved want to clarify the facts.
After the George Eastman House fire in 1978, a listing of
negatives, either totally or partially destroyed was sent to MGM.
Somewhere there was miscommunication, and although GEH archivists
were aware of what had survived and what had not, there seems to
have been confusion in the studio records, which when copied over,
with the advent of computer data bases, continued incorrectly for
The actual information came to light when GEH archivists showed
Kevin Brownlow the original nitrate negative as well as a duplicate
nitrate negative of The Big Parade
in 1997. The Big Parade is
currently being restored as a joint project of Warner and GEH.
Since the discussion went on line, I was informed by Mr.
Feltenstein that the 128 films thought lost, were only thought lost
by MGM. Other films were lost. But thats a different story.
The archival and preservation area of Warner Bros. has made it
clear that the lack of proper information dates back to handwritten
records from the 1970s that incorrectly spoke of the elements as
During the past three decades, GEH, as it always had been doing,
was keeping meticulous care of the elements, and have always had
them properly inventoried.
Only in recent years, after a specific request was given to them
was it revealed that the company's inventory information was
incorrect, and the problem has since been rectified.
This has led to the manufacture of many new preservation elements
on a host of key titles, none of which were "lost films"
(safety fine grains and dupe negatives had been made before the
nitrate went to Eastman House), but now can look much better with
new elements being manufactured from those held by GEH for even
Warner Bros. is very grateful to have a wonderful working
relationship with the archivists at George Eastman House, and wants
to set the record straight that at no time did GEH ever maintain
anything but the most accurate and complete inventory information.
From my own perspective, having spent time at GEH, I can personally
speak to not only their superb inventory and nitrate vault system,
but also of GEHs Jeffrey Selznick School, which via offers on
site training to our future archivists in the highest manner.
Also, since Im an fan of GEH, Ill take to the soapbox
(or apple crate) to mention to those who enjoy film classics, that
high quality material continues to exist at GEH and is the source of
not only some wonderful preservation work, but can be the source of
I would also like to mention that GEH is about to begin a new
Capitol Endowment fund-raising campaign.
Every bit helps, and every bit of contributions goes to actual film
restoration. Anyone who has an extra dollar or five... or more... is
welcome to call the Development Office of GEH directly at (585)
271-3361. Additionally, contributions towards GEH's ongoing film
preservation projects are always welcome and can be sent directly to
the Motion Picture Department. All of us in the restoration trenches
thank you for your support of the GEH Archive. And all donations are
The Digital Bits would very
much like to thank George Feltenstein for all of his fantastic work,
and for taking the time to speak with us.
HERE to discuss this interview with Robert and other home
theater enthusiasts online right now at The
Home Theater Forum.