05 August 2009

Anna Case Sings - A Year Before Jolson Speaks!

A New York Times feature story from 1936 on the tenth anniversary of "talking pictures" declared, "Sound Has a Birthday." Indeed it does. The very first presentation of a motion picture with "living sound" took place at Warners' Theatre in New York on August 5, 1926. And Hillsborough's own Anna Case was there to cut the cord.


Warners' Theatre, New York City


Anna, the daughter of South Branch village blacksmith Peter van Nuys Case, was a former Metropolitan Opera soprano, leading concert and radio performer, and renowned Edison recording artist when she was chosen by Warner Brothers to star in the musical short "La Fiesta". The nine minute film, utilizing the new sound synchronization process Vitaphone, was the penultimate presentation on a bill that concluded with John Barrymore in "Don Juan" - the first sound feature.



Vitaphone Program for the premiere of "Don Juan"


The decision to cast Miss Case in this historic movie appears to have been an easy one, perhaps the only one possible. Producer Samuel L. Warner, in a New York Times article earlier that year explained that it was extremely difficult to find a leading-lady pleasing enough that the camera did not see her flaws.


This problem was exacerbated when it came to opera singers. "The film public would need much education to accept the average prima donna physique", opined Mr. Warner. "I know of only one great singer who is near enough the screen type to be accepted by the movie public. That is Anna Case."



Blurb from "Music Trade Review", September 1926


She appears in the second half of the short film, singing her own composition, "Anhelo". La Fiesta proved to be one of the most popular of the early Vitaphone films, and continued to be shown in combination with other shorts and features for a number of years after that intial Auigust 1926 premiere.

Anna Case in La Fiesta
Anna Case filmed one other Vitaphone short. She sang Swanee River in a program which also featured guitarist Roy Smeck and the Jubilee Singers. Neither the film, nor the phonograph soundtrack appear to have survived.

No comments:

Post a Comment