Mar 29, 2012

The Flatt and Scruggs Grand Ole Opry Show, archived at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

With the recent passing of banjo master Earl Scruggs, we find more video and audio recordings of Flatt and Scruggs appearing across the Web. Some footage you won't see (near as I can tell) is coming out April 11 on the DVD set Orphans in Space: Forgotten Films from the Forgotten Froniter

Here's a modified excerpt from the set's booklet.

The Flatt and Scruggs Grand Ole Opry Show
excerpts featuring Jake and Josh (1961)

Guitar-banjo duo Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs honed their musical chops as part of Bill Monroe's famous group, the Bluegrass Boys, for two years before they broke away in 1948 to form Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys. In 1953, they became popular Nashville radio regulars on WSM's early morning Martha White Biscuit Time. After six months of live weekday broadcasts, the group recorded its fifteen-minute shows and shipped them to WSM from the road. Thanks to their popularity and Martha White sponsorship, the team became "members" of the Grand Ole Opry in 1955, performing regularly on its Nashville stage and broadcasts. Soon they were television stars of The Flatt and Scruggs Grand Ole Opry Show. The half-hour TV program aired weekly, syndicated to local stations across the South, and running until the duo split in 1969.

The tunes in these excerpts from the show feature Foggy Mountain Boys Jake Tullock and Josh Graves. (Right names: English Pierce Tullock Jr. and Burkett "Buck" Howard Graves.) Like all members of Flatt and Scruggs groups, both were talented string players. Graves in particular mastered the dobro (resophonic guitar), while Tullock played bass fiddle and guitar. "Cousin Jake" and "Uncle Josh," however, were better known for their comedy segments, done in the guise of country rubes. As with their contemporary comic television characters on The Beverly Hillbillies (on which Lester and Earl appeared) and The Andy Griffith Show, the stereotypes could not disguise a sly knowledge of the modern world and accomplished musicianship.

In these New Frontier performances from 1961, Jake and Josh sing about the space race in the topical novelty songs "They're Gonna Put a Monkey on the Moon" and "The Sputnik Dog" (aka "When That Shaggy Dog Gets Back from Outer Space"). Flatt introduces both numbers, while Scruggs and fiddler Paul Warren provide accompaniment. The lyrics to "Monkey on the Moon" directly reference Ham, the chimpanzee NASA launched into orbit, January 31, 1961. (The Orphans in Space DVD also includes footage of Ham, shot on February 1; courtesy of the University of South Carolina Moving Image Research Collections.) "Sputnik Dog," written by Flatt in 1959, alludes to Laika, the canine cosmonaut aboard the Soviets' Sputnik II (1957) and to the popular 1959 Disney film The Shaggy Dog (which opens with its protagonist building a missile interceptor and culminates with the apprehension of foreign spies trying to steal a "hydrogen missile"). This Cold War hillbilly ditty is remarkably free from the post-Sputnik panic that permeated American culture of that moment. In fact, it practically celebrates the Red dog who "comes back from outer space." (In fact Laika died during her flight).

Neither song appears among the many commercial recordings by Flatt and Scruggs, or anyone else its seems. 

Here's a note on "Sputnik Dog," courtesy of UNC's Southern Folklife Collection.

Preservation Note

The archive of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum holds original 16mm kinescopes of 36 televised episodes of The Flatt and Scruggs Grand Ole Opry Show. Although hundreds of episodes aired during the program's 1955-1969 run, all were presumed lost until 1989, when retired advertising executive William Graham found 24 films in his private holdings. After the museum announced the acquisition, an anonymous donor gave 12 other filmed episodes. The warped and shrunken prints required extensive restoration. After rights were cleared, in 2007 the Country Music Foundation and Shanachie Entertaiment released a ten-volume DVD series, Best of the Flatt and Scruggs TV Show: Classic Bluegrass from 1956 to 1962. Volume 7 includes a segment about the preservation and restoration work done by the museum's archivists.

The recovery of these Flatt and Scruggs programs illustrates the peculiar distinctions between the roles that film and videotape played in early television. Initially, The Flatt and Scruggs Grand Ole Opry Show was broadcast live from wherever the bluegrass stars were touring. Then, as band member Curly Seckler recollected, “videotape came along and we danced a little jig." When 2-inch Quad videotape reached the market in 1956, the shows were recorded on the new format. The cast performed at WSM-TV studios in Nashville, often recording material for four episodes in a single day. Producers then re-recorded the video playback on film. Local stations received the edited half-hour kinescopes for broadcast, then returned them to Nashville.

It should be noted, however, that a pair of original Quad videotapes survived erasure and were donated to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in 1979. Cataloged in the Martha White Flour Show Collection as The Flatt & Scruggs Show, nos. 383 and 384, these two episodes, shot in color in 1968, feature guests Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. This modest video preservation work escaped the attention of fans and collectors, who celebrated the film bonanza the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum announced a decade later.

Thanks to Kelli Hix, Curator of Moving Images, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville, Tennessee.

Mar 23, 2012

Is 70mm film a category of orphan film? You bet.

Animator-songstress and Helen Hill Awardee Jodie Mack writes on Facebook today:

"Here sits 2300 feet of clear 70mm leader for collaborative animating with Danielle Ash. Want to see the results? Register for Orphans 8: Made To Persuade - A Film Symposium."

The spool of 70mm-wide polyster film that sits in Jodie Mack's lap weights about 25 pounds. That will yield about 2 minutes of running time.  The Orphan Film Symposium will show the forthcoming Mack & Ash direction animation on Thursday evening, April 12, as prelude to the Helen Hill Award screenings.

When Museum of the Moving Image announced it would host the 2012 Orphan Film Symposium, we knew its 70mm projector must get at least one use during the week. Mack & Ash excitedly volunteered to make a piece for the occasion. (They both received the symposium's Helen Hil Award at Orphans 7, and both are coming back for Orphans 8.)

Jodie Mack shows off a roll of 70mm leader, sent to Dartmouth by NYU from Kodak. March 22, 2012.

Mar 21, 2012


Thanks to the National Archives for liberating this nice film by Richard Heffron

NARA's 35mm print showing at Orphans on Saturday night, April 14. Introduced by Nico de Klerk, who hepped us to this title (which he saw in a Dutch-narrated edition). 

Mar 1, 2012

Official Program listing for the 8th Orphan Film Symposium at Museum of the Moving Image

?? trailer for On the Bowery (Lionel Rogosin, 1957) Blu-Ray 1'
and/or for The Connection (Shirley Clarke, 1962) HD .mov 1.5'  Any other historical trailers?

Wednesday, April 11    
8:00 pm   Sensation | Transformation | Persuasion   
Carl Goodman (Museum of the Moving Image, Director) Greetings
Dan Streible (NYU) on Transformations (Ralph Sargent / IBM, 1968)

Benedict Salazar Olgado (NYU MIAP) introduces
Anke Mebold (Deutsches Filminstitut) and Tom Gunning (U of Chicago) on the new DIF restoration
Die Hochbahnkatastrophe (Valy Arnheim, 1921) aka The Elevated Train Catastrophe  (The 16th Sensational Adventure of Master Detective Harry Hill)
Dennis James pianist, Harrison M. Beck narrator

Thursday, April 12 
9:30 am  Welcome to APC Building 13
Richard Allen (NYU Cinema Studies) and David Schwartz (MMI Chief Curator)
Dan Streible Made to Persuade: The Moving Pictures in Our Heads
Barbara Miller (MMI Collection Curator) The U.S. Army's Movie Studio in Astoria

9:45 am  Other Orphans: Bastards, Fugitives, and Test-Tube Babies
Anna McCarthy (author, The Citizen Machine) Pushing on the Analogy
Hadi Gharabhagi (NYU) Bastard or Orphan? The USIS's News of Iran (1954)
Tina Campt (Barnard College) Orphan Photos, Fugitive Images: Family Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe

10:45 am  break

11:00 am Ad Films for Theaters, Television, and the Web
Annette Groschke (Deutsche Kinematek) Charles Wilp's Sexy-mini-super-flower-pop-op-Afri-cola Campaign, 1968-1974
Leenke Ripmeester (EYE) and Julia Noordegraaf (U of Amsterdam) Joop Geesink’s Dollywood Advertising Films
Skip Elsheimer (A/V Geeks)  Digitizing Duke U's AdViews: Post's Sugar Crisp Campaign
Devin Orgeron (NC State U)  Sugar Bear Sells Sugar Crisp, 1949 to present 

p.s. Walter Forsberg (NYU Libraries) Redating: Let’s All Go to the Lobby (195?)

12:45 pm   lunch

1:45 pm  Making Films at AT&T/Bell Labs, 1967-1980
Nell Cox Operator (1969) with David Schwartz
Walter Forsberg on computer animation pioneers, 1960-69
Bill Brand Touch Tone Phone Film (1973)
Katy Martin Dot Squared (1977) 
Lillian Schwartz Pixillation (1970), UFOs and Olympiad (1971), Enigma (1972), Papillons (1973), Galaxies (1974)

3:45 pm   break

4 pm  Commerce 
Martin L. Johnson (U of North Carolina) Booster Films and the Paragon Feature Film Company: Past and Present in the Cradle of Dixie (Montgomery, 1914), The Lumberjack (Wausau, 1914), and The Blissveldt Romance (Grand Rapids, 1915)  
Yvonne Zimmermann (U of Zurich) Hans Richter's Sponsored Films: Die Börse als Barometer der Wirtschaftslage [The Stock Exchange] (Swiss Exchange Zurich, 1939) restored by the Swiss Film Archive
Dave Davidson (City College of New York) Hans Richter at the CCNY Institute of Film Techniques: It's Up to You (Leo Seltzer, Office of Price Administration, 1944)

6:00 pm   dinner at Studio Square

8:00 pm  Poetic Persuasion: What happens if you eat watermelon seeds?

Helen Hill Media Education Center (Whispering Statues / Nickelodeon Theatre, 2011)

Danielle Ash & Jodie Mack, 70mm direct animation

Jeanne Burkhardt [Francena Feeding the Chickens] (Charles Camp, 1905)
Dwight Swanson (Center for Home Movies) Camera Test (Helen Hill, 2005)
Jim Bittl (HBO) "Gross Facts" [What Happens If You Eat Watermelon Seeds?] (Helen Hill, 1997-98)  

Susan Selig (Kodak) and Laura Kissel (U of South Carolina) present
the 2012 Helen Hill Awards to artists Jo Dery and Jeanne Liotta  

Jo Dery with Ivria Dubs
            The Last, The Rest (2000), Roll (2004), Scream Tone (2004), Echoes of Bats and Men (2005), The Great Exodus (2006), Woodpecker in Snow Shoes (2008), Peeks (2009), and String Stories (2011)

Jeanne Liotta with Adrienne Henry
            Blue Moon (1988), Loretta (2003), Observando el Cielo (2007), Science’s 10 Most Beautiful Experiments: #2 Galileo’s (2006), Sweet Dreams (2009)

Amy Sloper (Harvard Film Archive)
The Florestine Collection (2011) a film by Helen Hill, completed by Paul Gailiunas

Friday, April 13

9:30 am Presidential Campaign Films and TV spots
David Schwartz on The Living Room Candidate
Charles Musser (Yale U) Three Stories of '48: The Truman Story (Universal), The Dewey Story (March of Time, RNC), and A People’s Convention (Union Films)

10:45 am and an Advocacy Campaign Film
Larry A. Jones (the Arc of Washington) Children Limited (1951, Children's Benevolent League)
Faye Ginsburg (NYU Council for the Study of Disability) and Laura Kissel (U of South Carolina) respondents

11:30 am  break

11:45 am  Hollywood and the World
Catherine Jurca  (CalTech) The “Motion Pictures’ Greatest Year” Campaign: The World Is Ours (MPPDA, 1938)
Ethan de Seife (Hofstra U) The Cartoon at the End of the World: Frank Tashlin and The Way of Peace (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 1947)
Dana Polan (NYU) moderator
12:45 pm  lunch

1:45 pm  In a Family Way
Susan Courtney (U of South Carolina) Midcentury Screen Maps for Model Citizen-Spectators
            excerpts from Family Camping through Forty-eight States, 1954-1961 (Robbins Barstow, 2000)
Irene Lusztig (UC Santa Cruz) The Motherhood Archives: Maternal Education Films 
Jennifer Horne (UC Santa Cruz) Welcome to the Nanny State: Carlyle Ellis and the U.S. Children’s Bureau, 1919-1926
Andrew Simpson (Catholic U) accompanies The Best-Fed Baby (1925)
Crystal Sanchez (NYU MIAP) moderator

3:30 pm  break

3:45 pm  Community Youth Filmmaking
 Jay Schwartz (Secret Cinema) and Louis Massiah (Swarthmore College; Scribe Video Center) introduce The Jungle (1967, 12th and Oxford Street Film Makers) digitization by The MediaPreserve
Elena Rossi-Snook (NYPL Reserve Film and Video Collection) The Young Filmmaker’s Foundation Collection, ca. 1964-1979
                        The Flop (19//) 10'
                        Aspirations (19//) 10'
Jonathan Kahana (UC Santa Cruz / NYU) moderator

            [stretch break]

5:15 pm  Race and Rebellion
Mark Quigley (UCLA) One Friday (Rolf Forsberg, 1973) a classroom discussion film imagines an all-out race war
Allyson Nadia Field (UCLA) and Jacqueline Stewart (Northwestern) The L.A. Rebellion Project: Daydream Therapy (Bernard Nicolas, 1977) 

6:00 pm  dinner (on your own)

8:00 pm  Archivo Memoria: National Memory Reconsidered
Audrey Young (Cineteca Nacional) One Film Survived the Fire: Cine Móvil (Javier Arroyo, 1976)  Preserved by Colorlab
Issa García Ascot (filmmaker) Un Modo de Decir (2011)

Alice Lovejoy (U of Minnesota) Beyond Persuasion: The Czechoslovak Army Film Studio
Křivé zrcadlo [Crooked Mirror] (Karel Kachyňa, 1956)
Metrum (Ivan Balad’a, 1967)
Příležitost  [Opportunity] (Vojtěch Jasný, 1956)
Michal Bregant (Czech National Film Archive) introduces filmmaker Vojtěch Jasný

Sunniva O’Flynn (Irish Film Archive) Of Irish Persuasion
Dail Bonds Film (1919)
Ireland 1922
Dublin of the Welcomes (1935)