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Ernie Smith Jazz Film Collection

Performer:
Basie, Count, 1904-  Search this
Webster, Ben  Search this
Armstrong, Louis, 1900-1971  Search this
Ellington, Duke, 1899-1974  Search this
Fitzgerald, Ella  Search this
Goodman, Benny (Benjamin David), 1909-1986  Search this
Jamal, Ahmad, 1930-  Search this
Robinson, Bill, 1878-1949  Search this
Davis, Miles  Search this
Collector:
Smith, Ernie  Search this
Names:
Apollo Theatre (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Extent:
30 Cubic feet (352 film reels , 16 mm)
Type:
Archival materials
Collection descriptions
Motion pictures (visual works)
Place:
Harlem (New York, N.Y.) -- 20th century
Date:
1894-1979
Summary:
More than 300 reels of 16mm black and white and color film, silent and sound, fiction and documentary motion picture film documenting jazz and related musical performances, social and popular dance styles and performances, jazz musicians, performance locales, and documentation of African-American popular culture. A list of featured performers in the collection is shown below. The films are frequently compilations produced by Smith for lectures.
Scope and Contents:
The collection consists of 352 reels of 16mm motion picture film. Most of the film is 16mm black and white and sound (composite optical track print), although a few titles are silent or in color. The collection is comprised of compilation reels created by Ernie Smith to accompany his lectures, topical compilation reels created by Ernie Smith, compilation reels created by the Archives Center, and single title reels. The Archives Center produced master and reference video copies using a wet-gate telecine film-to-tape transfer system. Titles were often combined to allow for increased ease of handling, storage, and duplication.

The collection is strongest in the areas of jazz dance styles including Lindy Hop and tap, overviews of jazz musical performers and styles; specific jazz musicians and performers including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, Bob Crosby, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Jack Teagarden as well as a wide range of female vocalists; and documentation of the New York jazz and club scene. The collection includes feature films and excerpts from feature films, Soundies and other film shorts, television kinescopes, and documentary films.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged into one series and is not arranged in accordance with standard archival procedures. The breadth of the collection and the existence of so many multiple topic and/or performer compilation reels made it impossible to impose traditional archival series order. Therefore, each reel is described at the item level in the container list.
Biographical / Historical:
Ernie Smith began collecting jazz-related film in 1955. He wrote the entry about jazz film in the "Grove Dictionary of Jazz," and worked with Marshall Stearns on the book "Jazz Dance."
Ernest (Ernie) Smith began collecting jazz and jazz dance films during the mid-1950s. An Art Director for a New York advertising agency, Smith had a long-standing interest in jazz and jazz dance that began during his youth in Pittsburgh, Pa. Early on, Smith discovered that jazz music was best appreciated while dancing. He became an accomplished Lindy Hopper, frequenting both white and African American ballrooms.

His job at the advertising agency supported Smith's two passions - painting and jazz dance and music. Smith was also a film enthusiast so, in 1954, after taking a jazz class at the New School taught by Marshall Stearns, a leading jazz scholar, he began collecting examples of jazz and jazz dance on film. In the process of creating his film collection, Smith became one of the leading authorities on jazz and jazz dance films. He collaborated with Stearns on the 1964 book Jazz Dance, compiling the book's jazz dance film listing. He also wrote the extensive entry on jazz film for the 1988 edition of New Grove Dictionary of Jazz .

Smith built his film collection by identifying films of potential interest and acquiring them through trade and purchase. He created lecture reels on specific topics -- the history of jazz, social dance, tap dance, Duke Ellington, Lindy Hop -- and presented lecture/screenings nationally and internationally. He also provided footage for numerous documentaries and maintained active relationships with filmmakers, other film collectors, jazz scholars, the swing dance community, and musicians.

Ernie Smith donated his film collection to the Archives Center in 1993. He continues to lecture and participate in swing dance activities, but he devotes the majority of his time to painting and related artistic pursuits.
Provenance:
The Archives Center acquired the collection from Ernie Smith in 1993.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs and negatives. Contact the Archives Center at 202-633-3270.
Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Tap dancing -- 1930-1970  Search this
Motion pictures and music -- 1930-1970  Search this
Dancing in motion pictures, television, etc. -- 1930-1970  Search this
Television and music -- 1930-1970  Search this
Jazz -- 20th century -- United States  Search this
Jazz musicians -- 1930-1970  Search this
Jazz dance -- 1930-1970  Search this
African Americans in the performing arts -- 1930-1970  Search this
Genre/Form:
Motion pictures (visual works) -- 20th century
Citation:
Ernie Smith Jazz Film Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0491
See more items in:
Ernie Smith Jazz Film Collection
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0491

Mack Gordon Papers

Composer:
Myrow, Josef  Search this
Revel, Harry -- 20th century  Search this
Warren, Harry, 1893-1981 -- 20th century  Search this
Creator:
Gordon, Mack, 1904-1959  Search this
Actor:
Berle, Milton  Search this
Dailey, Dan  Search this
Dunne, Irene -- 20th century  Search this
Faye, Alice -- 20th century  Search this
Gable, Clark, 1901-1960 -- 20th century  Search this
Henie, Sonja, 1912-1969 -- 20th century  Search this
Lombard, Carole -- 20th century  Search this
O'Hara, Maureen -- 20th century  Search this
Oakie, Jack, 1903-1978 -- 20th century  Search this
Payne, John -- 20th century  Search this
Power, Tyrone, 1914-1958 -- 20th century  Search this
Taylor, Robert -- 20th century  Search this
Singer:
Cantor, Eddie, 1892-1964  Search this
Crosby, Bing, 1904-1977  Search this
Fisher, Eddie -- 20th century  Search this
Jolson, Al, d. 1950 -- 20th century  Search this
Langford, Frances -- 20th century  Search this
Merman, Ethel -- 20th century  Search this
Dancer:
Castle, Nick -- 20th century  Search this
Producer:
Grainger, Edmund -- 20th century  Search this
Director:
Taurog, Norman -- 20th century  Search this
Extent:
1 motion picture film
3 Cubic feet (9 boxes)
Type:
Archival materials
Collection descriptions
Motion picture films
Motion pictures (visual works)
Motion picture stills
Passports
Contracts
Correspondence
Clippings
Business records
Photographs
Scrapbooks
Photograph albums
Songs
Writings
Scripts (documents)
Sheet music
Date:
1926-1977, undated
Summary:
Mack Gordon (1904-1959) was a prolific and successful songwriter, lyricist, and composer. He composed songs for stage and screen. He and Harry Warren won the Academy Award for Best Song in 1943.
Scope and Contents:
The papers document the life and career of songwriter Mack Gordon. They include business records, both personal and business correspondence, contracts, royalty statements, commercially published sheet music, a script for the motion picture Three Little Girls in Blue, photograph albums, a scrapbook of clippings, original music manuscripts, notes and writings that may have served as mnemonic devices for song ideas, an excerpt from the Paramount short film, The Collegians, funeral materials, name change documents, and a passport. The production and creative files give insight into Gordon's creative process, and ideas for lyrics, song titles, and word play are found throughout these files.

The collection is organized in seven series.

Series 1: Production and Creative Files, 1931-1950, undated. This series contains files relating to motion picture and theatrical productions, both produced and unproduced. This series also contains unidentified lyric notes, instrumental sketches, and themes.

Series 2: Business Records, 1931-1975, undated. This series contains business records, royalty contracts, telegrams, correspondence and other business records pertaining to Gordon and his work for theatrical and motion picture companies.

Series 3: Original Music Manuscripts, 1940-1952, undated. This series contains original music manuscripts written by Gordon.

Series 4: Commercial Sheet Music, 1928-1959, undated. This series contains commercially published sheet music. The sheet music was bound by Gordon into volumes he titled, Majors & Minors, there is also a folder of unbound sheet music.

Series 5: Personal and Family, 1935-1977, undated. This series contains personal documents such as passports, life insurance documents, name change documents, the auction catalogue from the sale of furnishings at Gordon's Pacific Palisades home. This series also contains personal correspondence from singer Sandra Werner to Gordon.

Series 6: Photographs, 1933-1956, undated

Series 7: Audio-Visual, 1926
Arrangement:
The collection is organized in seven series.

Series 1: Production and Creative Files, 1931-1950, undated

Series 2: Business Records, 1931-1975, undated

Series 3: Original Music Manuscripts, 1940-1952, undated

Series 4: Commercial Sheet Music, 1928-1959, undated

Series 5: Personal and Family, 1935-1977, undated

Series 6: Photographs, 1933-1956, undated

Series 7: Audio-Visual, 1926
Biographical / Historical:
Mack Gordon was a prolific and successful songwriter, lyricist, and composer who composed songs for stage and screen. Born Morris Gitler (he legally changed his name to Mack Gordon in later life) in Poland on June 21, 1904, his family immigrated to the United States in 1908 and settled in New York. His early career was as a performer in vaudeville and minstrel shows, but by the early 1930s he had formed a songwriting partnership with pianist Harry Revel. Gordon wrote for the Broadway stage and eventually made his way to Hollywood where he worked at a number of different motion picture studios.

In addition to Revel, Gordon worked with such well-known composers as Harry Warren, with whom he won his only Academy Award for Best Song for "You'll Never Know" from Hello Frisco Hello, and Josef Myrow, to name just three. Some of his more famous songs are "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "At Last," and "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?". He was nominated for the Academy Award nine times and became a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He died on February 28, 1959 in New York City (some biographies have his date of death as March 1), and is entombed at the Corridor of Immortality at the Home of Peace Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California.
Provenance:
Collection donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution by Jack Gordon, son of Mack Gordon, in 2015.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Motion pictures -- 1930-1940  Search this
Motion pictures, American  Search this
Motion pictures and music -- 1930-1970  Search this
Motion picture actors and actresses  Search this
Theater  Search this
Musicals  Search this
Music -- 20th century  Search this
Motion pictures  Search this
Musical theater  Search this
Music -- United States  Search this
Composers  Search this
Genre/Form:
Motion pictures (visual works) -- 1930-1950
Motion picture stills
Passports
Contracts -- 20th century
Correspondence -- 20th century
Clippings -- 20th century
Business records -- 20th century
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- Silver gelatin -- 20th century
Scrapbooks -- 1930-1940
Photograph albums -- 20th century
Songs
Writings
Scripts (documents)
Sheet music -- 20th century
Citation:
Mack Gordon Papers, 1926-1977, undated, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.1363
See more items in:
Mack Gordon Papers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-1363

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