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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Samuel Sax
Samuel Sax, producer. Warner Brothers Vitaphone studios.jpg
Samuel "Sam" Sax in 1934
Born(1880-09-05)September 5, 1880
DiedJanuary 2, 1962(1962-01-02) (aged 81)
Years active1925-1946

Samuel Sax (September 5, 1880 –January 2, 1962) was an American film producer. He produced 80 films between 1925 and 1946, including the last films of Roscoe Arbuckle. [1] From 1938 to 1941, Sax headed Warner Brothers's British subsidiary at Teddington Studios in London. [2]

Career at Vitaphone: 1931-1939

Vitaphone Studios, Brooklyn. Standing L to R: directors Joseph Henabery, Lloyd French and  Roy Mack. Samuel Sax (seated), circa 1935
Vitaphone Studios, Brooklyn. Standing L to R: directors Joseph Henabery, Lloyd French and  Roy Mack. Samuel Sax (seated), circa 1935
Warner Brothers Vitaphone Studio 1939, Sam Sax, producer is seated behind "o" in "Voyage"
Warner Brothers Vitaphone Studio 1939, Sam Sax, producer is seated behind "o" in "Voyage"

During the late silent film era, Sax owned his own Hollywood  poverty row outfit, Gotham Studios.[3] In late 1931 Sax, considered “a no-nonsense studio executive of the old school”, began work with Warner Brothers as general production manager for their Brooklyn Vitaphone facility.[4]

Sax embarked upon his duties during the severest phase of the Great Depression, corresponding to a general collapse in studio box-office receipts.[5] As such, Sax’s task was to reorganize production of Warners one- and two-reel shorts, “films that could be sold without difficulty anywhere in the country”, so as to maximize short-term profits. Indeed, many of the major studios curtailed feature production in favor of shorts during the financial crisis, limited mostly to comedies and light musicals. Most of these were produced in the New York area due to its local talent pool, including Broadway cast members enlisted to appear in screen talkies.[6] The organizational methods Sax included highly structured and disciplined work schedules enforced by the trade unions, which banned overtime and providing film product delivered at or under budget.[7]

Sam Sax emerged as an outstanding practitioner of the studio “factory” system for short film production in Brooklyn, rivaling Hollywood production methods.[8] In 1935, Sax defended his “film factory” approach to filmmaking in a The New York Sun interview:

“We work unlike any other studio in the country. We keep factory hours - 9 to 5 - and turn out a steady amount of movie footage, rain or shine, come what may. Our schedule calls for two shorts per week. And we haven’t slipped up on this in the six [sic] years I’ve been running this place for Warner Brothers. We start a picture Monday morning, finish it Wednesday evening....And we’re ready to start shooting the next one bright and early Thursday morning, finishing up Saturday evening, which gives the carpenters time to build the new sets. Everyone has a holiday Sunday-and we try to [see that] folks get legal holidays- a most unusual thing in the movie business.”[9]

By 1938, Sax was presiding over the filming of about 140 reels of shorts per year for Warners, each with an average screen duration of 5 or 6 minutes. As to the quality of these shorts, film historian Richard Koszarski observes “Sax proved to be the most consistently successful producer of high-quality short films in the East [i.e. East Coast].”[10]

The Vitaphone operations were greatly enhanced by the abundant entertainment troupes and entertainers who could moonlight briefly on film short productions, without compromising their stage or vaudeville commitments. Sax reported that as many as five thousand of these entertainers appeared in his shorts annually, in addition to his contracted talent of over 600.[11] In an effort to profitably utilize all available footage, Sax devised the assembly of “vaudeville compilations”, unrelated snippets of “one forgotten act after another” used to create entertaining shorts that had little thematic unity. [12] Comedian  Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle attempted to resume his screen career with six two-reelers at Vitagraph’s Big V Comedies logo under Sax’s auspices and were well-received. Arbuckle died shortly after completing these comedies and before his Tomalio (1933), directed by Ray McCarey was released.[13]

Warner brothers, despite a major investment in a 26,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art studio in Brooklyn, was already relocating short film operations to their Burbank, California studio. By Apri 15, 1939, the move was complete. Sax was transferred to England to manage Warners’ Teddington Studios in London. In 1940 Sax was back in Hollywood promoting Phonovision.[14][15]

Sax would produce his final film with Producers Releasing Corporation in 1945,  Why Girls Leave Home.[16]

Selected filmography

Footnotes

  1. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 403-404
  2. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 482: Koszarski only notes that Sax was sent to Britain when the Warner’s Brooklyn operations were shut down.
  3. ^ Hutchinson, 2018
    Koszarski, 2008 p. 157:Sax “had even run his own low-budget operation in Hollywood, Gotham Productions.”
  4. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 157: “...no-nonsense...”
    Baxter, 1970 p. 70: “In 1929, Warner Brothers was still endorsed with odd combinations of the Vitagraph, Warners and First National brand marks…” By the early 1930s “Warners Brothers” was their dominant name, except for their Vitaphone productions on the East Coast.
  5. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 157: “...Warners had been severely hit...its stock would drop 87%” that year.
  6. ^ Hutchinson, 2018: Vitagraph, soon Vitaphone, was “modernized and wired for sound in late 1928 to take advantage of nearby vaudeville, radio, Broadway stars…”
    Koszarski, 2008 p. 157: “...there would be no more dramatic playlets...no arty experimentation...” And p. 158 and p. 390: See here for studio investments in short films. And p. 401: See here for high quality of local stage and musical entertainment personnel available to film studios in New York.
  7. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 157: Local 52 mentioned. See Sax interview excerpts with New York Sun describing his work rules
  8. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 157, p. 400-401
  9. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 400
  10. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 401
    Hutchinson, 2018: “Sax had taken over as the studio head, producing up to 60 one- and two-reel shorts annually.”
  11. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 400-401
  12. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 403
  13. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 403-404
    Hutchison, 2018: “...Arbuckle returned to the screen in 1932 at the Brooklyn studio after over a decade’s absence…”
    Koszarski, 2008 p. 403-404: “Reaction to Arbuckle’s comeback was said to have been positive.”
  14. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 405-406 And: p. 482.
  15. ^ Hutchinson, 2018: “As the Brooklyn studio was closing in 1939, Sam Sax sent [director] Henabery to England for a new directing opportunity. Warners’ Teddington Studios was producing “quota quickie” features.”
  16. ^ Koszarski, 2008 p. 407

Sources

  • Baxter, John. 1970. Hollywood in the Thirties. International Film Guide Series. Paperback Library, New York. LOC Card Number 68–24003.
  • Hutchinson, Ron. 2018. Vitaphone View: Vitaphone’s Most Prolific Director, Joseph Henabery. Classic Movie Hub. http://www.classicmoviehub.com/blog/vitaphone-view-vitaphones-most-prolific-director/ Retrieved 30 July, 2021.
  • Koszarski, Richard. 2008. Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-4293-5

External links

This page was last edited on 20 August 2021, at 14:34
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