A re-post from my other classic film & multimedia blog, “At The Matinee.” Newer posts will appear shortly after the end of the semester at Hood College. For now, enjoy this classic post!
All the best, Chris Hamby
Before “The History Channel” turned into another reality show channel, the network showcased vintage newsreel-style short subjects that were reformatted for exhibition in classrooms.
A competitor to another newsreel that was reformatted for the classroom
The series premiered in 1958, and it was possibly created as a response to Warner Bros.’ “News Magazine of the Screen.” Warners’ version, which was a brief anthology of the studio’s then-current newsreel shorts (from Warners’ Pathé News unit, which was acquired by the studio in 1948- and was discontinued due to competition from television in 1956).
According to Geoff Alexander’s 2010 book, “Academic Films for the Classroom: A History.” Hearst’s classroom newsreel series was created by Jerome Foreman (who left Hearst’s newsreel division in 1960 to form Allegro Productions, a company that is known for producing the “Science Screen Report”).
“Screen News Digest:” One of the last major newsreel series
Many topics were presented throughout the series’ run, consisting of current events or historical subjects. After Hearst discontinued their newsreel unit in 1967 (the same year that rival Universal Studios discontinued their long-running newsreel series), the producers of Screen News Digest relied on past stock footage from the Hearst Metrotone/News of the Day/Telenews library, in addition to new footage filmed by Hearst’s television news bureaus.
The series migrated to color footage in the late 1960’s, and ran until Hearst discontinued the series in the early 1980’s- as videocassette recorders would replace 16mm film projectors in schools across the country.
Since 2014, the Internet Archive has uploaded 62 select versions of the Hearst “Screen News Digest” series. Perfect for archivists, fans of vintage/cult film and people who would like to learn more about newsreels. A perfect compliment to the Prelinger Archives collection.
A re-post (from “At The Matinee”).
Cross-promotion was nothing new for the major studios and their motion picture newsreels. Up until the time of television (and prior to the 1948 “Paramount” anti-trust consent decree), the major studios usually had their newsreel units cover Hollywood or New York premieres of their parent studio’s motion pictures, or in the form of one-reel publicity short subjects.
For the newsreel that was unearthed on the official YouTube channel of the National Archives and Records Administration, it not only shows one recording artist and his rendition of a popular song, but also showcasing a unique “electric” version of the sitar instrument.
The interesting fact is that the artist’s recording label, the company that manufactured the instrument (that the artist is using during the recording session) and the studio that filmed the newsreel have some sort of connection to each other. And that ties in to the category of “cross-promotion.”
1967: By this time, the motion picture newsreel was winding down in production, and there were only two newsreels in circulation: Universal Studios‘ “Universal Newsreel” and Hearst’s “News of the Day” (formerly known as “Hearst Metrotone News,” as it was released for theatrical exhibition by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer).
In the edition of Universal’s newsreel (narrated by longtime newsreel announcer Ed Herlihy) that was released on Sept. 9, 1967; the story was on Decca recording artist Vincent “Vinnie” Bell, showcasing and playing his new Coral “electric sitar” instrument. The song that Bell played during the newsreel was a rendition of the Bert Kaempfert song, “That Happy Feeling.”
Ironically, Decca handled North American distribution rights of the original Kaempfert recording in 1962.
What does this have to do with Cross-Promotion?
In 1962, the Music Corporation of America (MCA), the leading talent agency and television syndication/production company (headed by Lew Wasserman), acquired American Decca Records. Along with Decca and its subsidiary labels, MCA also acquired Universal Pictures as part of the package (four years earlier, the company acquired the Universal Studios lot in Universal City, California- primarily for production of the company’s television shows).
This did not sit well with the Justice Department, so to avoid any anti-trust concerns, MCA divested its talent business, and decided to focus on motion pictures, television production/syndication and recorded music.
In 1966, the entertainment conglomerate decided to expand into the field of musical instruments, by acquiring the Danelectro Corporation, which was founded in 1947 by Nathan I. “Nat” Daniel (1912-1994).
Danelectro was known for manufacturing electric guitars not only under their own name, but for catalog department stores including Sears, Roebuck & Company (under the “Silvertone” name) and Montgomery Ward (under the “Airline” name).
According to the May 1967 press release in Billboard, the MCA subsidiary introduced the first electric sitar on the market, along with the research and development of both Vinnie Bell and and Nat Daniel. The instrument was introduced to the public at the Chicago Music Show that same year.
When this instrument was put into production, the electric sitar did not bear the “Danelectro” name. It was made under the “Coral” name, as Coral was a former sister label to Decca, only re-purposed by MCA for the production of musical instruments during this time, to compliment the entertainment conglomerate’s music and home entertainment subsidiaries (including a line of “Decca Musical Instruments”).
Yet, the relationship between MCA and Nat Daniel would not last long, as the entertainment conglomerate shuttered the musical instrument division, due in part to lackluster sales.
WITH ALL THAT ASIDE:
Not only is this an interesting look at cross-promotion, but this is a unique look at Bell and his “electric sitar.”
At the end of 1967, Universal Studios decided to end their newsreel operation, while competitor Hearst decided to focus on their existing “Screen News Digest” series for exhibition in the classroom.
Now presented from a new high-definition transfer from the National Archives and Records Administration (with other select Universal Newsreels on their YouTube channel), one can finally see the clarity of Vincent Bell, hard at work with Decca recording engineers recording his rendition of “That Happy Feeling,”
This was interesting piece of cross-promotion between Universal’s then-parent firm (MCA), showcasing their recording artist (on Decca Records) with the latest innovation in the field of electric musical instruments (the Coral Electric Sitar) at the time.
A re-post from my other blog, “At The Matinee.”
Some eleven years before the studio presented its newsreels with “The Eyes of the World” (later “The Eyes and Ears of the World” after the dawn of sound),Paramount Pictures released a news magazine series to theaters- titled Paramount Pictographs.
The weekly newsreel series was produced in conjunction with Bray Studios, a company that was better known for its pioneering work in cartoon animation (though Bray produced a live-action film for General Electric, A Day with Thomas A. Edison in 1921). Bray’s animated output was included with newsreel product featured in Paramount releases.
According to the 1916 issue of The Motion Picture News, this was the second installment of Paramount’s newsreel gazette. For this edition, former PresidentTheodore Roosevelt, who was no stranger to the newsreel camera, presented his thoughts on the topic of preparedness (with inter-titles). The newsreel also showcased Roosevelt, collaborating on the subject of preparedness with the editor of the Metropolitan Magazine. The footage was filmed at President Roosevelt’s house, Sagamore Hill, in Oyster Bay, New York.
It was an interesting and fascinating newsreel of Theodore Roosevelt in 1916, featured in an early newsreel for a major motion picture studio.