On now until 4.26.09 is the 14th iteration of the UCLA Festival of Preservation, when the UCLA Film & Television Archive presents films preserved by its world-renowned preservation department. The Festival again offers a veritable mixture of the ancient and the modern, silent masterpieces and sound diversions, fictional shorts and full-length documentaries.
On tap for Monday April 6 is a double bill at the Hammer, starting with the first feature film by Amos 'n' Andy, once the biggest stars on radio.
Monday April 6 2009, 7:30PM ( Buy Ticket )
Preservation funded by Rich Correll
By 1930, NBC's "Amos ‘n' Andy" was a radio phenomenon broadcasting six nights a week to over 30 million listeners. With interest bordering on a national craze, anticipation for the team's heavily promoted film debut was high. Photoplay predicted, "Fifty million Amos ‘n' Andy fans [would] mob the theaters to see their idols for the first time." Viewed three-quarters of a century later, the film offers an invaluable glimpse into the complex, indelicate racial dynamics of the Depression era. The film is also notable as the Hollywood feature debut of composer and bandleader Duke Ellington.
RKO. Producer: William LeBaron. Screenplay: Bert Kalmar, J. Walter Ruben, Harry Ruby. Cinematographer: William Marshall. Editor: Claude Berkeley. Cast: Freeman F. Gosden, Charles J. Correll, Sue Carol, Irene Rich, Ralf Harolde. 35mm, 71 min.
More info on Amos 'n' Andy and their first movie can be found at the website http://xroads.virginia.edu/~1930s/radio/amos/film/film.html, along with more photos and analysis. Here is a sample:
"I can recall walking past motion picture theaters and seeing signs promising to stop the movie and turn on the radio when it came time for the show." -Jack Benny
Although radio legend Jack Benny was discussing the popularity of the Amos 'n' Andy radio show in the above quote, one can only wonder what happened when Correll and Gosden's first (and last) feature film was being screened when the radio program came on. For the sake of the blackface duo, it is hoped theater owners stopped the projector and turned on the radio to remind fans why they had come to sit through this screen disappointment in the first place.
"Check and Double-Check", released in 1930 by RKO pictures, was a heavily promoted critical and commercial disappointment. Amos and Andy are actually secondary players in their own movie. According to Melvin Ely, producers feared that Correll and Gosden's fifteen minute radio shows would be difficult to carry a full-length feature and so, they supplemented the duo with a love triangle between three white people (including the son of Amos and Andy's former employer), a haunted house, and a missing will.
And here is the other classic movie on the bill for Monday: