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Mamba  /  Cheer Up and Smile

Cheer Up and Smile
March 18, 2017 - 7:30 pm
Archive director Jan-Christopher Horak, head of preservation Scott MacQueen, film preservationist Miki Shannon.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation and the Franco-American Cultural Fund, a unique partnership between the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique (SACEM), and the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW).

Mamba  (1930)

Starring Jean Hersholt, Mamba takes place in 1913 in German East Africa, now Tanzania. August Bolte is a thoroughly disgusting plantation owner, who violently mistreats his African workers, sexually abuses native women, and is shunned by both the British and German military officers garrisoned in the border area between British and German colonies.  He buys himself an impoverished countess as a wife and brings her back to Africa where she soon is terrorized by the alien environment.

The film went into production in late 1929, when Tiffany, a low-budget, independent studio decided to play with the big boys in Hollywood, investing half a million dollars to make a sound, color and 3-D film, at least according to Film Daily.  Shot on the Universal lot by action specialist Albert S. Rogell, the film kept running out of money, but the gamble paid off.  When the film opened in New York in March 1930, it broke the box office record for the Gaiety Theatre.  That didn't help Tiffany, which went bankrupt in 1932, as the Depression deepened, its catalog of prints and negatives disappearing into oblivion.

It was not until 2009 that an Australian film impresario, Paul Brennan, “discovered” an original two-color Technicolor IB nitrate print, belonging to an old couple in their 80s who lived in or near Adelaide.  But there were problems.  The film had been sent to Australia in 1930 with Vitaphone sound discs, rather than sound on the film, and some of those discs were missing.  Brennan contacted Ron Hutchinson of The Vitaphone Project, who put him in touch with UCLA’s motion picture archivist Todd Wiener; miraculously, the discs had survived at UCLA, as well as two reels of color nitrate.  In 2012, the original print was sent to UCLA for this restoration.  —Jan-Christopher Horak

35mm, color, 70 min.  Director: Albert Rogell.  Production: Tiffany Productions/Colorart.  Distribution: Tiffany Pictures.  Story: F.Schumann-Heink, John Reinhardt.  Continuity: Tom Miranda, Winifred Dunn.  Editor: Richard Cahoon.  Cinematography: Charles P. Boyle.  Art Direction: Andre Chotin.  Cast: Jean Hersholt, Eleanor Boardman, Ralph Forbes, Claude Fleming, William Von Brincken.

Restored from a 35mm nitrate print and RCA sound discs.  Laboratory services by Fotokem, Pacific Title & Art Studio, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., Simon Daniel Sound.  Special thanks to: Paul Brennan, Jonas Nordin, the Library of Congress, and especially to Murray and Pat Matthews who guarded the nitrate print.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute

Cheer Up and Smile  (1930)

Cheer Up and Smile
is a perfect musical fare for a lanky, pre-Dagwood Arthur Lake.  Spurned by college girlfriend Dixie Lee, Lake heads to Hollywood to try his luck in show business.  When popular radio singer “Whispering” Jack Smith is knocked unconscious by robbers, squeaky voiced Lake becomes the overnight sensation of the airwaves.  Enter Dixie Lee to reclaim Arthur, only to become dubious when she is led to believe he is having an affair with steamy temptress Olga Baclanova.

In stark contrast to the tongue-tied, bumbling Lake, the fraternity initiation scene is all but stolen by the film's confident, no nonsense, un-credited 23-year-old former USC footballer named Marion Morrison.  This was the last film that Morrison would work on as a prop man and bit player.  By the time Cheer Up and Smile was released, Morrison, now known as John Wayne, was seeing America first, touring the Grand Tetons and Zion National Park as the star of Fox's 70mm Grandeur epic Western, The Big Trail (1930).  —Miki Shannon

35mm, b/w, 76 min.  Director: Sidney Lanfield.  Production: Fox Film Corporation.  Distribution: Fox Film Corporation.  Producer: William Fox.  Adaptation: Howard J. Green.  Based on the story: “If I Was Alone With You” by Richard Connell.  Cinematographer: Joseph A. Valentine.  Editor: Ralph Dietrich.  Cast: Arthur Lake, Dixie Lee, “Whispering” Jack Smith, Olga Baclanova, Charles Judels.

Restored from a 35mm single-system nitrate workprint.  Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Film Technology Company, Audio Mechanics, Simon Daniel Sound, DJ Audio, Inc.