I DIG MOVIE STUDIO LOGO’S PT. 4

Here’s a Warner Brothers logo from the mid 1930s that I’ve never seen. It’s the same WB in a heart shaped box as always only this one begins from nowhere and dramatically zooms toward the audience. Beyond that, what’s interesting about these credits is the tangle of companies listed on the front and back ends. You see, it’s not just a Warner Brothers movie. It’s also a First National movie. And Vitaphone gets in there as well. Who are these other companies and what rocks did they crawl out from under? Well, ‘First National’ was originally a distribution company started in 1917 by a group of independent theater owners who saw an opportunity to make money by not only showing films but by owning them and leasing them to themselves (hence distribution). That worked so well that they went into production in the 1920s and managed to snare Charlie Chaplin, who was promised complete independence in his productions and no time limit on how long it took for him to make and deliver a film. This risky gamble paid off handsomely when Chaplin delivered ‘The Kid’, which was First National’s first true smash hit. By the late twenties, Warner Brothers had become so successful with their early talking pictures that they bid to acquire First National and succeeded. So now First National is folded into WB and is generally given the distribution credit for musicals and crime stories. But wait, there’s more. Vitaphone was, of course, Warner Brothers early sound-on-disk system for showing talkies and the name lingered on at WB long after the clumsy system had disappeared, replaced with optical tracks on film. The Vitaphone name, however, was still attached to shorts–musicals and comedies–to distinguish them from the more serious WB features (and the second tier First National programmers). By the mid-thirties both Vitaphone and First National were folded into the WB banner and largely disappeared from the credits. Except for this movie which is ‘The Case Of The Curious Bride’ from 1935. I’m not sure why all three companies were jammed together in this one little (sort of) movie. Perhaps as a sort of going-away gift? For First National would be gone within a year and Vitaphone would linger on for only a short time more. The name ‘Vitaphone’ really does sound awfully 1920s and it may have been time to leave behind the era of ‘The Jazz Singer’ in favor of the upcoming season of ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’, most definitely not a Vitaphone kind of title. I’d like to start a new streaming service called ‘Vitaphone/First National’. Would anybody object? Or even know what the hell I’m referring to?

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