Yesterday and Today (United Artists/1953)
I’m getting ready to release a new DVD thru VCI called “Yesterday and Today.”
Two years ago I purchased the Medallion TV Enterprises film library. Some movies were prestigious, others schlock, and still others in-between. (More on Medallion in a later blog) One, “Yesterday and Today,” is an oddity. It’s a silent movie compilation primarily covering the period 1900 – 1910. The excerpts really interesting, well above average, but the identification of them in George Jessel’s voice-over is a mess. The majority are incorrectly identified!
It all started with two 1951 British compilations, Return Fare to Laughter, produced by Henry E. Fisher, compiled by James M. Anderson, and Those Were the Days, produced by Bishu Sen Butcher, and edited by Philip Wrestler, both for Butcher Film Service Ltd. Y&T is essentially a combination of these two films.
The British producers apparently had access to an excellent library of early films. But, the descriptions? A mess! I got the feeling that some of the films came from mislabeled, or unlabeled, cans with, in some cases, made up titles! Y&T perpetuates these errors, but the good thing is the excerpts are sharp (from 35mm) and long enough to actually enjoy…most I’ve never seen before.
This is the part I really enjoyed:
Richard M. Roberts
As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to identifying the most obscure of silent films, there is Richard M. Roberts, and then all others. I called him into service, but many of these films are so obscure that even he had to call in his fellow film historians. They eventually identified just about every one, sometimes starting with the absolute thinnest of clues. The fruits of their efforts are contained in the supplemental commentary track. Roberts narrates it himself in his usual light-hearted, unpretentious way. In fact, I think I’ll take a break from writing and watch (listen) to it again.
BTW, the posters, lobby cards, etc. from this movie are lackluster at best, sporting images of major stars of the silent era, most of which appear only in short clips or stills.
Trivia: The producer was the late talent agent Abner J. (“Abby”) Greschler, who dabbled in the importation of some minor British pictures. Here comes super-trivia; they were: Emergency Call (US: The Hundred Hour Hunt) (1952,) Bombay Waterfront, (1952,) and Life’s a Luxury (US: Caretaker’s Daughter) (1952.) Why did a powerful, and extremely wealthy, agent for Martin and Lewis, Danny Kaye, Al Jolson, Benny Goodman, Eddie Cantor, and Milton Berle (later, Vince Edwards, Marcel Marceau, The Monkees, Jayne Mansfield, and others) bother with some grade B English movies, and also spend time creating a special-interest picture like Yesterday and Today, with the end result being a difficult-to-book 57 minute running time? Tax shelter? Hmmm, maybe I’ll ask Richard…when he’s recovered from this assignment!