Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rare film #1 - "Mother's Helper" 1933

Last week I wrote in my blog that I had recently acquired three rare El Brendel films on DVD, so let's get to it by presenting the "lost" El Brendel/Zasu Pitts short for the NRA, "Mother's Helper". Last year I penned an article about this 3 minute short and you can read about it using this link, and just to refresh your memory, here is a brief synopsis of what occurs:

"El Brendel tries to explain in a Weber and Fieldian manner how his working only 40 hours weekly will give another man employment. When his wife, Zasu Pitts, wants to know if the NRA affects housewives, Brendel explains he has attended to that and brings in the hot looking Esther Muir, explaining that in the future she’ll take care of half of Miss Pitts wifely duties. Miss Pitts conks Brendel for the fade out."

Here are some screencaps:

The gentleman who found this film, Eric Grayson, is an avid film collector and preservationist, and I asked him to write a little bit about how this rare film can be saved for future generations before it turns to dust:

As far as we know, the original print I found of Mother's Helper is the only one to have survived. I have offered it to a number of archives who are not interested in preserving it. In most ways you can't blame them. They have deteriorating prints of their own that are in desperate need of immediate preservation. Many of you may not know that simply transferring it to a digital format is NOT a preservation. A good piece of 35mm film is the equivalent of 4000 lines, while the best DVDs are 525 lines and even HD is only 1080. Ideally, Mother's Helper should be transferred to safety film through a good archival negative.

This can be done at a private lab, but it is expensive. I would estimate that it would cost about $500 for a new negative, perhaps more if the soundtrack must be rerecorded. From this new prints can be struck and shown in theaters that might be interested in showing older films. I'm all for doing thing kind of thing; I've done a number of them myself. This particular project, with sound track, is a little too expensive for me at the moment. It would be a cool thing to do, in this the 75th anniversary of the NRA.

Many collectors get the name of being private hoarders who won't share anything. Most of them that I know are the exact opposite. We love to share. I, for one, can only afford to share so much, when film lab costs are skyrocketing and interest in older films is steady to declining slightly. I really love to promote the idea of seeing
films on a big screen as they were meant to be seen. I spent several hundred hours repairing prints of The African Queen so that it could be enjoyed in 35mm again (see it on the big screen in May 17 in Phoenixville, PA).

Eric Grayson

If you wish to arrange for a screening of "Mother's Helper" or any of the other films in Eric's collection, you can contact him through his Facebook page here.

Eric and I have been talking about options for the preservation of this little gem and so I am going to try to raise the $500 privately to get this done. ANYONE who wishes to donate to the cause can email me for more details. I have set up a PayPal account for this drive and ANY dollar amount will get us closer to this goal. I will be posting every once in a while to let the readers know how much money we have received so far, so let's do our part for film preservation!


Amy R. said...

Is this Eric close to Philly? That would be great to have a showing of this rare short gem in Philly! I would def be there.

Miss Muir's boobies are showing :)

VP81955 said...

Fascinating! (Remember, Amy Jeanne, this was pre-Code.)

One wonders how ZaSu Pitts felt about making this film, considering she was a noted Republican*, but I'm glad it was found.

* Note to the kiddies: A 1933 Republican was vastly dissimilar from its 2009 equivalent (in a blog the other day, someone referred to the current GOP as "the Confederate Taliban").

Louie said...

Eric is from Indianapolis, Indiana and YES, the cleavage is super!

El and his wife, Flo Bert, were also Republicans, although for many years they declined to state their party affiliation on the voter registration forms.

VP81955 said...

OK, Louie -- wasn't trying to turn this into a political discussion. Anyway, a great find!

Classic Maiden said...

I'll go email you, about donating. I try support stuff like this whenever I can :)

What would we do without collectors and Preservationist!

best wishes,

Keith said...

Wow! Great post. This is my first time visiting your blog. I really like it. Cheers!

Tina said...

Love the lighting in these photos--so over-lit and deep shadows, classic!

Samantha said...

I would be very interested in helping. I know raising that amount of money seems very hard, but if you get enough people interested, you can do it. Would contributors be able to recieve a copy of the film, if they donate a certain amount? I'd love to see it.

Louie said...

You would probably have to discuss that with Eric about getting a copy of the film.

Anonymous said...


Sometimes one has info that just needs to documented somewhere. So here's something about this NRA short "Mother's Helper" that I thought might be of interest, especially if it is shown publicly anywhere and everyone hears the opening titles music and wonders what it is.

The tune played for the opening titles of this short is called "Transcontinental Air Line March", written by Louis E. DeFrancisco in 1932, and used in the 1933 Fox Picture "Cavalcade". Fox reused the selection in later films, notably "Charlie Chan at the Race Track" (1936).

--- Richard Finegan