Categories: A Few Words About

A few words about…™ King of Jazz — in Blu-ray


Even “Stumpy,” from Rio Bravo was young-ish once.

Appearing in one of the quicky vignettes, you’ll find Walter Brennan.

How about a Bing Crosby in what I believe to be his first film appearance?

Universal has done cinephiles a huge favor. A major studio supporting the restoration of a film that on its face has more historical than entertainment value.

But today’s audiences discovered that the now 87 year-old production could be fun, as it toured the festival circuit.

Filmed in two-color (let’s please not call it 2-strip, as it was a single strand of film, with two exposures for each frame (over/under), King of Jazz is a beautiful artifact of the end of that Technicolor era.

Generally, used sparingly, and usually for sequences, we’ll put things in perspective.

In 1930, there appear to have been 29 films using the process, with 13 using it for sequences only.

Many don’t survive, or survive partially, in black & white, or as discs only.

Bottom line, for those with a desire to experience the process, at least in full quality, King of Jazz is a rarity.

Warner’s 1932 Doctor X, and 1933 Mystery of the Wax Museum have survived as release prints.

King of Jazz is substantially based upon camera negative, with portions from other elements.

Possibly because it was also rarely used at Universal, survival (by chance or luck) leaves us in good stead.

The earlier sequence from the 1925 Phantom of the Opera, survives as camera negative.

And if my sources are correct, it would not be until 1942 (with 3-strip) that the studio would again visit the technology with Arabian Nights, 1943 for Cobra Woman and the re-make of Phantom of the Opera and White Savage.

We can thank Criterion for licensing the project, and crating a superb Blu-ray, spine number 915, for those who keep track of such things.

For cinema fans, this is one of the early wonders.

Image – various – 4.5 – 5 for original material

Audio – 4

Pass / Fail – Pass

Highly Recommended


Kevin Collins

View Comments

  • The neat thing about this movie is that you can go to any given point and nothing is ever out of context - you can skip around and enjoy the segments as totally independent vignettes.

  • TJPC

    Like skip the interminably dull Bridal Veil production number!!

    This is where I differ with the general consensus, as I came to better appreciate the Bridal Veil number after seeing it restored. The intricate details in the costumes and closeups of Jeanette Loff and the brides are quite stunning. All of this was missing before, which robbed the sequence of its true visual splendor. The entire piece is akin to a Ziegfeld Follies, Earl Carroll's Vanities or George White's Scandals stage production of that era. Call me sentimental, but I also find the lyrics to "My Bridal Veil" hauntingly poignant. It makes a good tonal counterpoint to some of the other, more upbeat numbers.

  • I love a lot about “The King of Jazz”, but that number is so grating, and the singing is so terrible, we must agree to disagree.

  • TJPC

    I love a lot about “The King of Jazz”, but that number is so grating, and the singing is so terrible, we must agree to disagree.

    That's what I mean about a viewer feeling fully satisfied by the film, even though he or she might skip over certain segments. The parts you love can exist as separate entities.

  • I was going to give you a reply here, but it will have to wait until later, when I don’t have happy feet!

  • The only part of the film that I didn't find enjoyable at all was the bit with the guy who kept pulling a card out of his pocket. Good lord, was he unfunny. Stopped the movie cold. The rest ranged from fun to amazing.

  • Malcolm Bmoor

    Laura La Plante was interviewed by Kevin Brownlow in the 70s (I think - not looking at the archive) and was a very lovely and friendly lady who provided fascinating information about her Silent career.

    Here's Laura with Groucho on You Bet Your Life.

  • A noteworthy detail in the "Happy Feet" number is when the chorus girls are going through the miniature city set, the traffic they're stepping over is in motion. You can clearly see the tiny models of cars and pedestrians being automated along tracks in the same manner as the miniature effects in METROPOLIS (1927) and THINGS TO COME (1936).

  • Here's Laura with Groucho on You Bet Your Life.
    Nice clean footage. If I was a non-English speaker I would not want to learn from those subtitles.

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Kevin Collins
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