'Paramount on Parade' & 'Scarlet Seas': Silent-to-Sound Transition Period

Paramount on Parade Clara Bow

Paramount on Parade all-star early musical. (Image: Clara Bow and [apparently] Mitzi Green.) Paramount on Parade, a 1930 all-star musical extravaganza produced by none other than Paramount, was directed by about a dozen men (Edmund Goulding, Ernst Lubitsch, Victor Schertzinger, and Frank Tuttle among them) and one woman (Dorothy Arzner).

Written by future Oscar winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve), Paramount on Parade consists of a series of musical numbers and comedy sketches featuring just about every one of Paramount's top players at the dawn of the sound era. Among those were Clara Bow, Clive Brook, Evelyn Brent, Nancy Carroll, Gary Cooper, Fredric March, Ruth Chatterton, George Bancroft, Fay Wray, Kay Francis, William Powell, Jack Oakie, Maurice Chevalier, Jean Arthur, Warner Oland, Richard Arlen, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, and countless others.

Paramount on Parade: 'Screening by appointment only'

At Vitaphone Varieties, Jeff Cohen called Paramount on Parade"one of the most elusive [of] all the surviving early all-star screen revues — that despite the fact it has been largely restored (carefully cobbled together from extant picture and sound elements) but with the frustrating status of a 'screening by appointment only' archive gem.

“To be sure, Paramount on Parade can be viewed in any number of smeary bootleg Beta-to[-]VHS-to[-]DVD dubs which can be readily found on internet auction sites (and in eye-straining pixilated clips on YouTube) but even these stem from miserable, highly mangled, murk and blur source prints that once played regularly on Public Television and early cable venues. Here then, an original highly detailed dialogue script serves dual roles as a curiosity and reference tool, allowing us a glimpse of the content of Paramount on Parade as it originally appeared to audiences in early 1930.”

In that same post, Jeff also discusses other early musicals, including Luther Reed's Hit the Deck, starring Jack Oakie, and Ralph Ince's Coney Island, with Lois Wilson (Daisy Buchanan, in the 1926 film version of The Great Gatsby). As a plus, there's a medley from Warner Bros.' 1929 all-singing, all-talking, all-revueing The Show of Shows, directed by John G. Adolfi, and featuring a whole array of WB stars and featured players, from John Barrymore and Dolores Costello to Lupino Lane and Rin Tin Tin.

And here's hoping that in the very near future Turner Classic Movies will lease Paramount's extensive '30s-'40s library from current (and uninterested) owner Universal.

Note: The Paramount on Parade directors are Dorothy Arzner, Otto Brower, Edmund Goulding, Victor Heerman, Edwin H. Knopf, Rowland V. Lee, Ernst Lubitsch, Lothar Mendes, Victor Schertzinger, A. Edward Sutherland, and Frank Tuttle. Also in the cast: James Hall, Helen Kane, Nino Martini, Zelma O'Neal, Mitzi Mayfair, Dennis King, Eugene Pallette, Lillian Roth, Leon Errol, Stuart Erwin, and Mary Brian. As per the IMDb, in addition to uncredited newcomers Phillips Holmes, Iris Adrian, Mischa Auer, Virgnia Bruce, and Joan Peers.

'Scarlet Seas'

“As you may have guessed by now, Scarlet Seas is a lost film — a double loss really, as it not only seems to have been an absolute corker of a film that would boast the best of both worlds of silent and sound cinema, but it's also probably a film that [Richard] Barthelmess would have much wanted to survive long past his career and life. Given that Richard Barthelmess died in 1963, it's disturbing to realize that chances are that as he was entering his final decade of life, the film elements for Scarlet Seas were busily destroying themselves, aided by neglect and profound lack of interest from the company that owned it.”

That's Jeff Cohen in Vitaphone Varieties, discussing the making of Scarlet Seas off Santa Monica Bay in 1928. Directed by the now utterly forgotten John Francis Dillon, the silent (with synchronized score) adventure drama stars Barthelmess and popular 1920s leading lady Betty Compson. (More on Betty Compson in my review of The Barker.)

On his site, Jeff also offers MP3 recordings of excerpts from the film's surviving Vitaphone disc soundtrack, quite possibly the only copy in existence, and some great posters (including the one found in this article).

Scarlet Seas was produced by First National — initially a distributing company; later one of the top studios in the 1920s. Warner Bros. acquired First National and its film holdings at the dawn of the sound era.

Time Warner currently owns the WB and First National films.

'The Pagan'

At Vitaphone Varieties, Jeff Cohen discusses early talking pictures with a South Seas setting in the article "Melody Native."

A brief quote:

"The Pagan, an MGM feature released in April of 1929, hit the mark with escapist minded audiences and devout fans of it's [sic] star, Ramon Novarro, alike. Although a silent film with a synchronized music, vocal and sound effects score, The Pagan had enough drawing power to succeed at a time when theaters were swelling with all-talkie product. Visually stunning, and containing what many justly believe to be Novarro's signature performance and perhaps even role of a lifetime, [the] success of The Pagan was also due in no small way to the film's theme song, which swept the country and globe before, during and after the film's release."

The theme song in question, by the way, is the "Pagan Love Song," with lyrics by Arthur Freed, and music by Nacio Herb Brown. An MP3 recording of the song has been attached to Jeff's article.

'Paramount on Parade' & 'Scarlet Seas': Silent-to-Sound Transition Period © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
Text NOT to be reproduced without prior written consent.

Leave a comment about ''Paramount on Parade' & 'Scarlet Seas': Silent-to-Sound Transition Period'


Don't waste time and energy disagreeing with and/or being deeply offended by the presentation of factual information.

On the other hand, it's perfectly okay to disagree with and/or, if you're so inclined, to be deeply offended by the views & opinions (and/or likes & dislikes) found on this site. And to let us know about any omissions or, heaven forbid, errors.

Just bear in mind that *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative.

In other words: Feel free to add something reasonable & coherent – AND fact-based – to the discussion.

Abusive/bigoted, trollish/inflammatory, baseless (spreading misinformation, whether intentionally or not), spammy, and/or just plain deranged comments will be zapped and offenders may be banned.

And finally, links found in comments will generally be deleted.

Most recent comments listed on top.

1 Comment to 'Paramount on Parade' & 'Scarlet Seas': Silent-to-Sound Transition Period

  1. ki

    I hope that comes out on DVD.