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Jazz in Film Bibliography: Introduction, Contents & How to Use the Guide

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Introduction & Contents

This is an annotated guide to jazz performances on film and video in the collections of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress. Included are more than 600 documentaries, television shows, concert performances, theatrical features and short subjects, and various compilations of all types, many of which were produced in recent years for the home video market. The annotations were culled from a variety of sources available in the Division, including several of the works cited in the bibliography, copyright files, film and television reviews, periodicals, various manual and computer catalog files, and from personal viewings.

For the purposes of this research guide, the phrase "jazz performances" typically signifies at least one musical number performed onscreen by at least one jazz artist. For feature films, therefore, titles are excluded in which an actor plays the role of a jazz musician (as does Kirk Douglas in Young Man with a Horn, 1949), unless accompanied by a genuine jazz musician performing at least one number onscreen (as does Louis Armstrong in Paris Blues, 1961). In the same vein, titles featuring jazz on the soundtrack only (as in the morning ride on New York's Third Avenue "El" scored with the Duke Ellington title song in D. A. Pennebaker's Daybreak Express, 1953) have been excluded. That essential reference work, the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (1988), served as the final arbiter on whether or not to include an unfamiliar or debatable jazz musician. However, David Meeker's Jazz in the Movies (1981) proved to be the most valuable resource of all, providing key information about many of the titles.

Duke Ellington is especially well-represented in this guide. In 1991, the Library acquired over 15,000 Ellington sound recordings (published and unpublished) from noted Ellington collector and authority, Jerry Valburn. The Valburn/Ellington Collection includes more than eighty video and 16mm film copies of Ellington performances filmed throughout his career. Dr. Klaus Stratemann's incredibly comprehensive reference work, Duke Ellington Day by Day and Film by Film (1992), proved extremely helpful in shaping the synopses of the Valburn/Ellington titles. Stratemann's extensive research helped identify many unclear titles and provided a wealth of information for describing them.

Thoughout the guide are many references to "Soundies" and, less frequently, "Snader Telescriptions." Soundies were cheaply made, three-minute musical film shorts for use in coin-operated viewing machines (trade name "Panoram") that were somewhat analogous to jukeboxes for 78rpm records. Soundies were filmed in 35mm, then reduced to the 16mm and reverse image format necessary for the Panoram projectors. More than 2,000 were produced from 1940-46, many by the Soundies Distributing Corporation of America, Inc., but only a relatively small percentage featured jazz artists.

Despite their often poor visual quality, they are important because they may embody the only visual record of some jazz artists.

Snader Telescriptions (often "Snaders") were three-and-a-half minute music shorts produced for sale to television stations by the Snader Telescriptions Corporation from 1950-52. Numbering around 750, they could be used by the stations individually as fillers or grouped together in longer formats. In 1952, the Snaders were sold to Studio Films, Inc., which also produced its own music shorts from 1952-54. Like the Soundies, they were cheaply made and only a relatively small percentage were jazz titles. All told, more than 1,100 Telescriptions were produced from 1950-54. In 1955, many of the jazz-related Snader and Studio Telescriptions were assembled into feature-length films for release to theaters under such titles as Basin Street Revue and Jazz Festival. They were also assembled into thirty-minute compilations for television under the series title Showtime at the Apollo. Both the Soundies and Telescriptions have been frequently recycled in recent years in various other guises for cable television and home video.

Because this guide was compiled in the course of a summer fellowship at the Library, there was not enough time to produce a complete list of all jazz-related titles in the Library. This first pass through the Library's immense collections nevertheless represents a very substantial percentage of those titles. Hopefully, future updates will uncover missed titles, as well as add titles newly acquired.

The films and videocassettes in the Library's research collections are not available for loan, but may be viewed at the Library by researchers with an appointment made in advance. For further information, see Guidelines for Viewing Film and Videotapes on page 149, or write to: Reference Librarian; Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division; Library of Congress; Washington, D. C. 20540; Telephone: (202) 707-8572; Fax: (202) 707-2371.

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How to Use the Guide

Entries appear alphabetically by title and the Library's shelf location number is given. Cross references are made from alternate titles, subtitles and episode titles in series. Bracketed titles have been supplied by the Library's catalogers because the original titles are unknown or unclear. Other information given includes the collection to which the work belongs, the production and/or distribution company, the year of release, key production credits, network and telecast date (if applicable), a line of physical description followed by the shelf number, and a summary of contents.

The line of physical description includes running time, whether the work is in color or in black and white, and format. Entries may be assumed to have sound, unless marked silent. For format, films are either thirty-five millimeter (designated 35mm) or sixteen millimeter (16mm) and videos are either three-quarter inch (3/4") or one-half inch (1/2"). All 1/2" videos are VHS unless Betamax is specified. All videos are NTSC (the U.S. transmission standard) unless PAL (the transmission standard widely used in Europe and elsewhere) is specified.

As a result of the research for this guide, the Library is currently making viewing copies for a number of works that were previously inaccessible. These are noted in the guide by the phrase "Ref. copy forthcoming" in boldface type in place of the shelf number. Also, for many of the works cited in this guide, the Library holds additional elements--negatives, fine grain master positives, video masters and second copies. For information about any of these materials, consult the Division's reference librarians.

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  August 31, 2010
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