From 1950 to 1952 over seven-hundred performances were filmed for producer Lou Snader. These two & a half to three & a half mintue films tended to have well-recorded sound for straightforward performances that put singers & musicians in a perfect limelight.
Occasionally the sets were designed to be lively, but usually they were very plain, & unlike the soundies of the 1940s there was no drawing attention away from the music with gorgeous half-clad showgirls, or mini-dramas like scenes out of musical comedies. The Snaders were for the music.
Their initial use was to be played in random sets by a "disc jockey" emulating a musical radio show, but in the new medium of television. But as television quickly developed in directions of its own, this radio format did not become as common as Lou Snader had been counting on.
Lou sold his company's backlist to Studio Films which added their own telescriptions in 1954. This company continued to service the fewer & fewer stations that had shows formatted for disc jockies on tv, plus Studio Films began bunching the three-minute films into half-hour groupings with comedians & a master of ceremonies added, & fobbed these off as live concerts for syndicated television, or in one-hour-plus groupings for theatrical release.
Sarah Vaughan had two telescription sessions in 1951 that produced five short-short films released in 1951 & 52. Most were re-released in 1953 with new Studio Telescription title cards replacing the Snader Telescription titles. And a couple were slightly re-edited in 1955 to splice into collections of telescriptions fobbed off as concerts.
Her telescriptions can be found on several dvd compilations such as Swing Era: Sarah Vaughan (2003), which includes all her few telescriptions plus an array of featurettes, short-shorts, & clips by other women. The quality of the individual films is not general the best & a few are in awful shape.
But the material itself is superb, including Bessie Smith's only film St Louis Blues (1929) & Lena Horne's short film Boogie Woogie Dream (1944); a badly faded clip of Lena Horn singing "The Man I Love" from Jubilee: G. I. Journal (1942) of Lena singing "The Man I Love"; a Mamie Smith clip from Paradise in Harlem (1939); two Ida Cox clips from Woman's a Fool (1947); Ethel Waters singing "Quicksand" from Stage Door Canteen (1943), & a rare selection of numbers by the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.
The Vaughan telescriptions are also on The Snader Telescriptions: The Vocalists (1988) together with Snaders by Peggy Lee, June Christie, & Mel Torme; & in Swingtime Video: Meet the Singers Volume I (1985) together with telescriptions of the Nat King cole Trio & Herb Jeffries.
Sarah's Snaders are also apportioned between The Golden Classics of Jazz: The Best of Jazz (1980) & The Golden Classics of Jazz: Juke Box Saturday Night (1980), with additional soundies, clips, & telescriptions by Cab Calloway, Peggy Lee, Lionel Hampton, the George Shearing Quintet, Henry "Red" Allen, Count Basie, Dinah Washington, Mel Torme, Fats Waller, Thelonius Monk, Buddy Clark, Charlie Barnet's orchestra, Frank Sinatra, the Inkspots, & many more.
There are doubtless other accumulations too. Though such sets often claim somewhere on the package or the video that they are remastered, they aren't; they're just copied from one uncopyrightable compilation to the next getting a little fuzzier with each couldn't-care-less fly-by-night outfit that tosses out hastily manufactured dvds. We can only hope for proper remastering of the best copies to someday appear, but difficult to count on when cheap outfits flood the market. And I admit I'm glad to have them at all.
In the Snader telescription You're Mine, You! (1951), Sarah sings on the staged rooftop setting seen in several Snader telescriptions.
This version is distinct from the Quincy Jones arragement done for Sarah a decade later on an album for which this 1933 John W. Green & Edward Heyman compositon is the title song. Green & Heyman wrote some great songs, including "Body & Soul" & "I Cover the Waterfront."
Sarah is looking amazonian in a beautiful, beautiful way, big earrings, a sleepy look as she does a smooth-jazz rendition of a sweet dominatrix lyric which may not go down well with every audience today, much as Phoebe Snow's "Two-fisted Love" offends many.
The s/m lyrics run: "Arm in arm, hand in hand/ We will be found together/ Heart to heart, lips to lips/ We're chained & bound together/ I own you. I don't need to bow love/ You're a slave to my love/ In every way you're mine. You're Mine!" Hey, she could own me, that'd be all right!
This aggressive number was included in the program Showtime at the Apollo: Basin Street Revue (1955), a half hour of Snader telescriptions from 1951-52, Studio telescriptions from 1954, with footage featuring comedian Nipsy Russell & host Willie Bryant to help make it look like a concert night instead of a random selection of black artists on recycled telescriptions.
Sarah Vaughan's telescription of the jazz standard The Nearness of You (1951) really startled me because as presented on the compilaltion dvd Swing Era: Sarah Vaughan it's in full color.
I'm sure the Snaders were exclusively in b/w so this was colorized at some point. When? The color scheme is a bit less annoying than in most colorized films, someone at least had reasonably good taste in deciding which colors at what depth.
It's on the same rooftop as You're Mine, You! The Ned Jones & Hoagy Carmichael composition was introduced in the 1937 film Romance in the Dark, & begins:
"Why do I just wither & forget our resistance/ When you & your magic pass by/ My heart's in a dither dear when you're at a distance/ But when you are near -- oh my!/
"It's not the pale moon that excites me/ That thrills & delights me/ Oh no, it's just the nearness of you..."
What a fine, fine voice for a song as romantic as this. It puts me right in the mood for love! Miss Vaughan adorns the music minimally but just enough of the husky note here & there, & a slight quaver, to convince that she's turned on too.
Seeing something this good, it makes me wonder where all the great singers & songs have gone. Even the later Sarah Vaughan wasn't this good.
This tiny film was recycled into Showtime at the Apollo: Harlem Merry-Go-Round (1955) with other Snaders by Duke Ellington (V.I.P.s Boogie & Caravan, 1952) & Herb Jeffries (After Hours, 1950), two Studio telescription by the Larks (Shadrack, 1954) & the Paul Williams band (Riffing all the Time, 1954). Plus there is footage of host Willie Bryant, dancers Coles & Atkins, & commedians Nipsy & Mantan, spliced around the telescriptions to help make it look like a night of performances at the Apollo.
Startling me again by being colorized, You're Not the Kind (1952) is staged as indoors, beginning with a view of the back of the pianist, the rest of the orchestra heard but unseen. Through a doorway hurries Sarah in evening gown & smile.
She takes her position behind the microphone & we at first view her across the piano top. I've heard some differing lyrics on this 1936 Will Hudson & Irving Mills composition, but Sarah sings:
"You're not the kind of a boy for a girl like me/ 'Cause I'm just a song & a dance, you're a symphony/
"I thought that you never would doubt me/ But, I'm telling you you'd be much better off without me/ You're just the kind of boy who would always play fair/ I'm just the kind of a girl who would never be square/ It's so hard to let you go/ But it's only because I know/That you're not the kind of a boy for a girl like me..."
There's a horn solo with a close up of the horn, plenty of close-ups of beautiful Sarah, & of course her remarkable interpretation of the lyrics.
This telescription was initially released as a separate mini-film, then recycled into faux television concert Showtime at the Apollo: All Star Review (1955), a half hour episode in a thirteee-episode syndicated series.
Other Snaders worked into the faux Apollo Theater concert included in this episode featured Lionel Hampton, the Nat King Cole Trio, Martha Davis. A newer Studio telescription was added of The Larks, plus special footage of the Paul Williams band & comics Mantan Moreland & Nipsey Russell, worked between telescriptions to help give the illusion of a concert.
On the same set as You're Not the Kind with same orchestral & piano accompaniment, but not colorized so looking like the Snader telescriptions were intended, These Things I Offer (1952) has Sarah singing as soon as the film begins.
The full title of the number is "These Things I Offer You (For a LIfetime)." It begins: "A heart that longs for you/ Two arms that will be true/ These things I offer you for a lifetime./ Two lips with one desire/ To set your heart afire/ Things things I offer you for a lifetime."
I must say I don't feel Sarah was as much into this song. It's well done but not deeply emotive or sexy as on all Sarah's other telescriptions.
It's the kind of jazz vocal one gets used to hearing from "great" voices after they stop feeling, & Sarah certainly had not yet stopped, so I'm sure it's the song's fault for not catching her heart, so she can't put it straight into ours.
But if her inherent sensuality is subdued, her sweetness is enhanced. No longer the dominatrix of You're Mine, You! nor the combustible romantic of The Nearness of You, she's more girl-next-door on this one.
This telescription together with You're Mine, You! was recycled into Showtime at the Apollo: Basin Street Revue (1955) with other telescriptions by Faye Adams, Ruth Brown, Cab Calloway, the Clovers, Amos Milburn & Herb Jeffreys, with new footage of Willie Bryant acting like a master of ceremonies pretending the half-hour show was live at the Apollo Theater, which of course it never was.
Her remaining telescription, Perdido (1952), is again colorized on the Swing Era: Sarah Vaughan compilation, opening on a drummer before leaping to Sarah at the microphone.
Now Snaders were live performances, but the editing is odd on this, as the close-up of the horn is the same shot spliced into These Things I Offer & You're Not That Kind.
It makes me wonder why in three films from the same session, we never see more of the orchestra than a horn close-up, pianist, & drummer, without even a shadow of the other musicians.
Is it likely only the pianist & drummer accompanied her live & the rest of the orchestration was pre-recorded? I wonder only because one of the great strengths of the Snaders over the earlier Soundies is the Snaders are true live recordings whereas the soundies were mimed performances with the sound recorded a day or so before the filming.
Sarah's vocal is the most antic on Perdido but I prefer her subtler performances so this one seems overdone, in the same way that so many modern so-called divas use a plethora of warbles & trills that high-notes & fancy-shit that it makes me begin to doubt they could sing straight if their careers depended on it. But Sarah obviously can & it slightly disappoints me when she elects to scream out all the tricks.
Perdido was re-edited & recycled into the half-hour concert episode Showtime at the Apollo: Variety Time (1955) together with material by Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, Bill Bailey, Cab Calloway, & new footage Willie Bryant again pulling the wool over everyone's eyes that it's at the Apollo. Much the same material & a good deal more was also stitched together at feature-film length for theatrical release as Rhythm & Blues Review (1955).
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