The film clips on this page are the result
of a cross between current entertainment and new technology (in 1925, that
is). A decade before the Old Maestro would say 'Yowsah, Yowsah' and 'Au revoir,
pleasant dreams' on the radio, Ben Bernie, impressed with
approach to music, formed an orchestra using players from a band led by Don Juelle.
Originally scheduled for a limited engagement, the orchestra played exclusively
at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York from 1923 to 1929. Ben
Bernie and His Orchestra recorded on the Vocalion label in 1923 and, in 1925,
on the Brunswick label.
At the same time, Lee DeForest invented a
sound-on-film process for talking pictures. The Deforest Phonofilm Corporation
was formed in November 1922. Several years before the release of the Warner
Brothers/Vitaphone film "The Jazz Singer", considered by many people as the
beginning of sound films, DeForest produced a series of Phonofilms and sought
out theaters to distribute them. However, due to the loyalty of theaters to
the major film producers and the expense of wiring a theater for sound,
his attempts only met with limited success.
directed the Phonofilm of Ben Bernie and All The Lads in late 1924 or early 1925
(this film has been dated as early as 1922, but some of the songs filmed
were not published until later). The orchestra included Jack Pettis on
tenor sax (and doubling
soprano) and Oscar Levant on piano.
The first clip is described as a
medley of songs by George Gershwin and Vincent Youmans. However, the songs
played in this medley are: "Rose Marie" (1924 - Otto Harbach - Oscar Hammerstein II - Rudolf Friml) /
"Oh, Lady Be Good" (1924 - George and Ira Gershwin) / "Tell Her In The Springtime"
(1924 - Irving Berlin) / "Rose Marie (reprise)" / "Indian Love Call" (1924 -
Otto Harbach - Oscar Hammerstein II - Rudolf Friml) / "Tea For Two" (1924 - Vincient Youmans, Irving Caesar) /
Fascinatin’ Rhythm (1924 - George and Ira Gershwin).
Some of these songs were recorded by Ben Bernie and His Orchestra on Vocalion
in late 1924/early 1925.
The songs recorded on the other three clips
are "Craving" (1925 - Ben Bernie, Philip Charig, Kenneth Casey, William Lewis), "Titina" (1925 - Elisha Ronn,
Marcel Bertal, Louis Maubon, Leo Daniderff - This melody comes from the french music-hall or café-concert of the early 1900s. The full name of the song is "Je cherche après Titine" (I'm looking for Titine). The song was used with special lyrics in the 1936
Charlie Chaplin movie "Modern Times"). "Sweet Georgia Brown" (1925 -
Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard and Kenneth Casey). These songs were recorded by the orchestra on
Vocalion in early 1925. On the Sweet Georgia Brown clip, Jack Pettis
performs the first jazz solo recorded on sound film.