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Friday, May 19, 2017

Ramp Up That Sound!


Jolson and Fantasia: They're Both In Stereo Now!

The mid-50's was forefront to progress with sound. Home stereo was in development, an advance on Hi-Fi that was already the rage. Movies had music and voices bouncing off walls. Some old people stopped going due to the racket (history repeats itself: that's why I quit theatres). Oldies became obsolete not just for flat screens they played on, but flatness to the ear compared with magnetic stereo new stuff could boast. If the movie was special enough, as in revolved around timeless music, maybe something could be done, but what? Columbia, and later Disney, thought they had it licked. A revamped track, as in faux-stereo, was the ticket for reissues of The Jolson Story (1946) and Fantasia (1940). The latter was part-way there already, having been recorded in "Fantasound," a process involving multiple tracks made during production and then mixed to simulate full-range sonics. It wasn't true stereo, but the effect was electric for handful of 1940 dates that heard Fantasia that way. Now Disney would use those separations to come up with something to compete with magnetic marvels 20th Fox was getting out. Jolson, on the other hand, was plain mono, at least for 1946 engagements. Columbia doctored what they had and simulated wide sound, but was result so impressive as this ad that promises the moon? ("Hear Al's Whistling Actually Come From The Balcony!") I've no idea if Columbia still has these tracks from 1954. Surely a reissue print survives, as they would have been done on safety. Again, I look to greater expertise here. Whichever way, the ads are fun, hopefully for "Bopsters, Long Hairs, Hi-Fi Addicts, Juke-Box Fans," and everyone else under the Big listening tent.

3 Comments:

Blogger radiotelefonia said...

Around 1967, RCA Victor had the deplorable idea of reprocessing tango recordings from the 40s in stereo. The results were frankly lousy because they added echos and more bass than originally was there. For this reason, collector have always rejected and dismissed the LPs in which those versions were issued. But to add more frustration, Sony today uses masters in mono of those fake versions instead of the original recordings.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

I remember "Sensurround" as the gimmick on "Earthquake" and "Midway". Both played at the San Jose Century theaters -- domes built for Cinerama -- and the rumbling low bass effects drew complaints from residential neighbors.

In 1982 Disney had Irwin Kostal re-record the entire Fantasia soundtrack in digital sound. Since then they've restored the Stokowski tracks.

Going backwards: My father's family ran a theater in Minneota, Minnesota for a while. For "Wings", one of my uncles riveted a leather strap to a fan and held it near a drum for the machine gun shots. Going back further, Harry Golden wrote about a lower East Side nickelodeon that advertised "Talking Pictures" more that a decade before "Jazz Singer". The technology was a man and a woman, each with a megaphone, attempting to voice all the characters in a standard Keystone silent in Yiddish.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

That Irwin Kostal soundtrack was out of synch. That "Superscope" Fantasia? I saw it in a theater. Disney has rightly left it buried.

7:09 AM  

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