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I recent watched a bunch of Vitaphone's experimental films that were
included in the 3-disk set for "The Jazz Singer" and found I really
liked these old musical shorts. So, I checked online and found a few of
them posted and gave them a look. Unlike the ones on the DVDs, the ones
floating around the web have pretty horrid sound and picture--like they
badly needed restoration. The fact, though, that any exist out there is
pretty amazing as the sound was stored separately on a record that
tended to degrade fast (only about 20 playings) and the nitrate film
was highly combustible and degrades over time. So the condition of John
Charles Thomas' recording is certainly understandable.
As for the content, Mr. Thomas had a lovely baritone voice but his choice of songs was a bit odd. The subject of the first song was a hanging--making it seem very surreal with his operatic style and such a low-brow type of song! Worth seeing if you are a film history buff--otherwise, probably NOT the sort of stuff the average person would enjoy today.
John Charles Thomas was an outstanding concert singer with a deep rich
baritone and we are lucky indeed to have this Vitagraph short so we can
see what he looked like performing in concert. I've got several
recordings of him and they mostly have full orchestral accompaniment.
This only has a single piano playing and sad to say we do not know the
In concert Thomas took from a wide range of material ranging from grand opera to novelty songs. One of his biggest hits was a song called The Green Eyed Dragon where he frightens the little kids who don't behave with tales of this dragon's ravenous appetite.
The two songs here an Irish ballad called Danny Deever and an old fashioned ballad In The Gloaming do illustrate his style. I wish he had selected other material, but these are well presented.
Sadly the film is in bad need of restoration, but if you can deal with the flickering quality of the film than enjoy John Charles Thomas.
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