LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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marknyc

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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 12:39 pm

Daniel Eagan wrote:King of Jazz is what it is, a ginormous Technicolor revue with almost no jazz and exactly one African-American in the cast. It looks fantastic but also gives more screen time to John Boles than to drunk-driver Bing Crosby.


Thanks for pointing out the elephant in the room. The restoration looked gorgeous, but the film was even worse than I recalled. Virtually no jazz, many rightly forgotten songs, and some really bad sketches. Other than the production design, there's very little to recommend in this film.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 2:18 pm

To really enjoy KING OF JAZZ, one has to have a sense of the past. The film is like a time capsule of different ideas of entertainment from that era. I find the performers and the songs charming and extremely hummable. And the Rhapsody In Blue is one of the finest pieces of music to grace any film. One must remember that Rhapsody was, I believe, the first attempt to put a classic piece of music into a sound musical.(And I am going by my DVD of the old VHS tape, I will consider myself lucky if and when I can see the restoration.) I look at any old film from the perspective of the year it was issued. Of course it's just a matter of taste, but I feel most here would feel the way I do. As far as "rightly forgotten songs" are concerned, the song Happy Feet was featured in the 2005 film THE AVIATOR as well as the film SHALL WE DANCE. Mr. Whiteman's music may not fit the modern description of jazz, but his dance orchestra was rightfully the number one band in the country once upon a time.
Last edited by Scott Eckhardt on Mon May 16, 2016 8:36 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 2:41 pm

marknyc wrote:
Daniel Eagan wrote:King of Jazz is what it is, a ginormous Technicolor revue with almost no jazz and exactly one African-American in the cast. It looks fantastic but also gives more screen time to John Boles than to drunk-driver Bing Crosby.


Thanks for pointing out the elephant in the room. The restoration looked gorgeous, but the film was even worse than I recalled. Virtually no jazz, many rightly forgotten songs, and some really bad sketches. Other than the production design, there's very little to recommend in this film.


It's all a matter of taste of course. One should try and remember though when watching this picture that most things in the world have changed over a period of 86 years and unless you try and familiarise yourself with what was what back in the last year of the nineteen-twenties - then of course the film will be lost on you. No jazz? Well perhaps jazz had a different meaning back then too? Forgotten songs? I ain't forgotten "It Happened in Monterrey" for one.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 3:16 pm

One must remember that Rhapsody was, I believe, the first attempt to put a classic piece of music into a sound musical.


Though lots of Vitaphone shorts were of classical performances.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 3:54 pm

I love the Gershwin piece... and I know "classic" is a pretty elastic word...

But the music was only six years old when this film was made!
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 4:14 pm

wich2 wrote:I love the Gershwin piece... and I know "classic" is a pretty elastic word...

But the music was only six years old when this film was made!

OK then, "neo classic".
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 4:17 pm

Donald Binks wrote:One should try and remember though when watching this picture that most things in the world have changed over a period of 86 years and unless you try and familiarise yourself with what was what back in the last year of the nineteen-twenties - then of course the film will be lost on you. No jazz? Well perhaps jazz had a different meaning back then too? Forgotten songs? I ain't forgotten "It Happened in Monterrey" for one.


This one is very familiar with films of the late 20s, and KOJ pales in comparison to the good ones.

I'm also very aware of the great jazz that was being performed and recorded all through the 20s - Whiteman played little of it, and neither did this film. I could accept that if the songs in the film were any good (other than "Happy Feet"). We just watched "Footlight Parade", and though it has silly songs like "Honeymoon Hotel" and "Shanghai Lil", they're infinitely better than the songs in KOJ.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 4:24 pm

I agree with you, Mark, about the quality of the songs. How foolish of the producers of the time not to realize this!

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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 4:59 pm

marknyc wrote:
Donald Binks wrote:One should try and remember though when watching this picture that most things in the world have changed over a period of 86 years and unless you try and familiarise yourself with what was what back in the last year of the nineteen-twenties - then of course the film will be lost on you. No jazz? Well perhaps jazz had a different meaning back then too? Forgotten songs? I ain't forgotten "It Happened in Monterrey" for one.


This one is very familiar with films of the late 20s, and KOJ pales in comparison to the good ones.

I'm also very aware of the great jazz that was being performed and recorded all through the 20s - Whiteman played little of it, and neither did this film. I could accept that if the songs in the film were any good (other than "Happy Feet"). We just watched "Footlight Parade", and though it has silly songs like "Honeymoon Hotel" and "Shanghai Lil", they're infinitely better than the songs in KOJ.



In his book "The Dance Band Era" Albert McCarthy a foremost authority on jazz recordings said this of Whiteman:

"no longer satisfied with leading a conventional dance group, he decided that the time was ripe to fulfill his earlier dreams of "symphonic jazz", conceiving then the revolutionary idea of leading a large group in a jazz concert at a symphony hall" (Aeolian Hall, New York concert of 12th February 1924)

...Late in 1927 Whiteman reversed his previous policy and actually introduced genuine jazz musicians into his orchestra... Bix Biederbecke, the Dorsey Brothers, Frank Trumbauer, Eddie Lang, jack Teagarden and Bunny Berigan".

Jazz comes in many forms and Paul Whiteman supplied one idiom.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 5:36 pm

Well, yeah, a lot of things have been called "jazz" - I guess I meant good jazz.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmD7jeIEkfg
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 5:47 pm

We're going to argue taste, now?

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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 6:11 pm

marknyc wrote:Well, yeah, a lot of things have been called "jazz" - I guess I meant good jazz.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmD7jeIEkfg" target="_blank


I think that what you meant was Paul Whiteman, hundreds if not thousands of musicians and probably most of the American population were wrong, and you are right! :D
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 6:16 pm

:) "Thousands of musicians"? Jazz critics have certainly never considered him among the great jazz artists - certainly not in the league of Duke Ellington or Louis Armstrong, who were revolutionizing jazz at the time.

And the point of my post was not to debate the merits of Whiteman's entire career - just to point out that you really have to stretch to label most of the music in KOJ "jazz". And whatever you call it, it's been largely forgotten (except, as noted, RIB and HF).
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 6:45 pm

Donald Binks wrote:
marknyc wrote:Well, yeah, a lot of things have been called "jazz" - I guess I meant good jazz.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmD7jeIEkfg" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank


I think that what you meant was Paul Whiteman, hundreds if not thousands of musicians and probably most of the American population were wrong, and you are right! :D


Well, Venuti and Lang were in his orchestra, so "mostly wrong" is more accurate.

I believe Mark has fallen prey to what I call "the end of history", as if the current consensus, or among the more egotistic, one particular individual's taste is the last word on the subject. Phrased this way, it is ridiculous. Yet it appears again and again, from ancient times to the latest dictates of the commentariat on the Internet, so it must be a powerful impulse.

Nitratevillains, through their interest in older, even antique forms of the lively arts, would seem immune to this impulse, yet here it is again. Since we claim to be willing to insist on our love of things that others deem ridiculous, it would seem that, within limits, we find these older forms interesting. We usually write as if we understand that these are matters of individual taste, and that others may enjoy things that differ from our wheelhouse interests. Frederica and I may disagree on the merits of Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow; Mike and I may disagree on the meaning of Zero Mostel's character in The Producers. Even so, we mostly communicate in order to offer each other new methods of critical evaluation, rather than the "You're an idiot" statement offered by so many.

I am, like Mark, not a great fan of 1920s dance music, so much of Whiteman's product is of little interest to me. However, understanding his work and why it was so popular at the time will allow me to understand the culture of the era and those arts of the era which interest me more fully.

There are enormous swaths of current culture that I do not follow. They do not interest me. This is no statement about their inherent artistic value. Beyonce or Jewel may be the greatest singer of the era, and Shia Labouef may be as great or greater a performance artist than Joseph Pujol and Aloysius Kelly. I don't know and I don't care. I don't have to have an opinion on everything and I don't have an opinion on things that don't interest me enough to pursue. Future generations may judge the Hmong the great nation of the world in all respects, and that we have been foolish to ignore the health benefits of deep frying. They too will pass.

As I do not know what the future will bring, I will stick to those things that interest me, offer to others works of art that I think good in hope that they will find something of interest to them and ignore overarching definitions of "Good Jazz." I urge others to the same tolerant attitude. Try to keep the volume of your club music down, please. I am trying to read the Venerable Bede.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Mon May 16, 2016 7:28 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 7:13 pm

Disregard what was previously said here.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 7:15 pm

Strewth! - All I was trying to say was that Paul Whiteman's music was considered as jazz in the 1920's and perhaps part of the 1930's. Anything else is a matter of opinion or taste. Quod Erat Demonstrandum. I don't try and put my opinions or tastes on to anyone else - I just merely state them.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 7:58 pm

20s sweet jazz— or to name it more honestly, white jazz— has fallen about as far out of fashion as any music can, thanks to exactly these kinds of arguments. So it's not surprising that several generations later, it doesn't strike us as much jazz at all. Still, these were skilled musicians doing the dance music that people enjoyed at the time, and they're not all bad. Here's a nice one that isn't bad to listen to at all:



My great-great uncle Walter wasn't trying to deprive anybody else of their time in the spotlight, he just liked to make music.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 9:53 pm

Early talkies, and especially early musicals, tend to be really polarising among film buffs. For those who connect with the music and performers, no explanation is necessary. For those who don't connect... (See? You CAN invoke The Song of Bernadette when discussing early musicals!)

When I recently revisited comments on KOJ that were posted on alt.movies.silent between 10 and 16 years ago, I found a lot of rumbustious arguing about early talkie musicals in general. KOJ was usually on the "credit" side, but it's remarkable how many people with similar tastes had/have violently opposite stances when song and dance were involved. For book and revue musicals of this period, a person has to get used not only to the film conventions but in some measure the musical theatre conventions of the time. People who can't/won't assimilate them often end up using words like "curio", "dated", "creaky" and such. Revues are especially delicate creatures, since plotless musical films were only rarely produced after 1930 and the whole form is difficult to revive.

The "king of jazz" title has been Whiteman's albatross for many decades. If one can accept "jazz" as a loose, non-technical descriptor of 1920s popular music in general, the term may be somewhat accurate. The various race-related jazz wars are beyond the scope of this post; the late Richard Sudhalter was brave enough to touch that third rail with his book Lost Chords (q.v.). Regardless, most people living in the 20s probably didn't define jazz as narrowly as it is now, so the jazziniess of the film's music (or lack of the same) isn't much of an argument against the picture, IMO.

-HA
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostMon May 16, 2016 10:05 pm

boblipton wrote:I believe Mark has fallen prey to what I call "the end of history", as if the current consensus, or among the more egotistic, one particular individual's taste is the last word on the subject.


I never said my opinion was the last word on any subject. And I love the music of the 20s. But it's clear that if you talk to jazz aficionados, Whiteman is pretty low on the list of bands at the time.

But - once again - I was not attempting to start a debate on Whiteman's entire career. Can I say that again?

I was just commenting on the songs in KOJ, which other than RIB and HF, are far from jazz and pretty much forgotten. I love the music that was prevalent when KOJ came out. If anyone feels that the film contains great music - other than RIB and HF - okay. But I point to how forgotten the songs are, compared to other songs of the time. I mean, look at this list:

"My Bridal Veil"
"I Like to Do Things for You"
"Oh, How I'd Love to Own a Fish Store"
"A Bench in the Park"
"Blackbirds and Bluebirds"
"Monterey"
"My Ragamuffin Romeo" (really?)
"Song of the Dawn"

Just look at what else was being heard in 1930:

I Got Rhythm
Embraceable You
But Not For Me
Get Happy
Dancing on the Ceiling
On the Sunny Side of the Street,
Ten Cents a Dance
Georgia on My Mind
Love for Sale
Sing You Sinners

That's great pop music, in my opinion.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostTue May 17, 2016 5:11 am

I'm not criticizing your taste, Mark, nor your conclusions, just your methods. I think the songs you mention are far superior, but that's not a matter of fact, it's a matter of my taste. My intention is not to humiliate you. I would have written this as a private message, except I believe the sort of error you make is common enough that the point needs to be made where other people can see it. You are assuming facts and conclusions reached after the events. It's like saying "Ignore the Literary Digest poll. Roosevelt it going to kick Landon's butt."

They didn't know in 1930. A lot of people loved Whiteman. A lot of people hadn't heard of Armstrong and a lot of people thought the whole debate was about varieties of noise, not music, so who cares? I listen to Mike's great-great-uncle and think "It's 'Toot-Toot-Tootsie Goodbye' played sideways and they probably made funny faces to spice up the performances. Well, no worse than 'wardrobe malfunctions'."

Sorry, Mike. I recall debates about whether Josie and the Pussycats was a better band than the Archies. Producers try something new because tastes change. Tastes changed against Whiteman. Given that King of Jazz was intended to have a street life of maybe four years, it was fine. Some parts of it still work.

Bob
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostTue May 17, 2016 6:30 am

westegg wrote:What I find unsettling is that I discovered KOJ on VHS in 1983 when I was 27. Now I'm reading of possible restoration circa 2014 and I'm now 57. Let's say another thirty years skip by. Maybe when I'm 87 I'll finally see it restored--by that time KOJ itself will be 113 years old. Ain't time grand!

:shock:


That reminds me. Thank you, Universal, for getting this done, in plenty of time for Westegg's 87th birthday.

Bob
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostTue May 17, 2016 7:40 am

Even in 1930 it seem ironic , though, that the "jazz melting pot" number mentions everyone but African Americans.

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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostTue May 17, 2016 8:25 am

boblipton wrote:My intention is not to humiliate you. You are assuming facts and conclusions reached after the events.


I'm strong enough to handle a poster who disagrees with me.

It's often been said that the only real arbiter of taste is time, and the fact is that many songs from 1930 have survived - some have become standards that are performed constantly. On the other hand, the songs in KOJ are largely forgotten, which is the best indication of their quality.

In the end, I'm just relaying my personal reaction to watching the film - a beautiful restoration, lots of pretty pictures, and some pretty awful music.

Just my opinion.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostTue May 17, 2016 9:07 am

This is just my opinion. "By A Waterfall", "Honeymoon Hotel", and "Shanghai Lil" are in no way superior to the songs in KOJ. The surrounding dance numbers are fine, but more than one reviewer has complimented the "Waterfall" sequence in spite of "endless choruses of an insipid tune". It's all in your individual perception.
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1926 Books (Whiteman's With Mary Margaret McBride)

PostTue May 17, 2016 9:14 am

Earliest books with Jazz in title ? - images from abebooks
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostTue May 17, 2016 9:24 am

greta de groat wrote:Even in 1930 it seem ironic , though, that the "jazz melting pot" number mentions everyone but African Americans.

Greta


Goldurn it, Greta! There's another of my bugaboos. I'm waiting for someone in this thread to write "data is" so I can turn my hat around.

The lack of Black people in the number is not ironic. It is a lie, which is not a synonym for "ironic". Everything in Whiteman's history is a record for striving for respectability and that's why the only Black individual onscreen is a little girl. That's why the melting pot number has bagpipers in it. For some reason, I can't think of any jazz bagpipers.

If I were editing this picture, I would have cut it after the Paul Whiteman dance number and burnt the overblown, overproduced, racist number for the silver content. The fact that this was not done says everything about the consensus of 1930.
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostTue May 17, 2016 9:42 am

I remember my grandfather Tileston playing jazz on the spoons, so I'm pretty sure there must have been a jazz bagpiper out there somewhere.....
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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostTue May 17, 2016 10:02 am

The point of the bagpipes and everything else in the finale was to point out that elements of these contributed to what they perceived as jazz then. Whiteman does say that "Jazz was born in the African jungle. To the beating of the voodoo drum." This WAS made in 1930 as an entertainment film, not as a social tract. Get over it. That "overblown, racist number" was one of the highlights of the picture for me.
Last edited by Scott Eckhardt on Tue May 17, 2016 10:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Rufus tells us something good

PostTue May 17, 2016 10:11 am

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Re: LONG AWAITED "KING OF JAZZ" RESTORATION BEGINS IN 2012

PostTue May 17, 2016 10:26 am

Hideous!..... But toldya so
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