We interrupt our ongoing HGG10 series for this brief diversion.
A third person now – Michael Simmons – has spotted the harp guitar in the 1931 Universal film Frankenstein. It occurs about 50 minutes into the film, in the scene just after the monster throws the little girl in the water. During the village festival, there is a brief scene of the village band and of the musicians is playing some sort of harp guitar. Michael just posted about it on their Fretboard Journal blog after getting some decent screen-grabs for us.
Like the infamous “Valentino Dyer” from one of his silent films, the producers seemed to be aware that some sort of harp guitar was appropriate for their European setting, though the films were shot in Hollywood. So here again, someone may have found a local American instrument. It certainly doesn’t appear to match any of the normal Viennese or German instruments, nor are any American instruments easy candidates. Just not enough resolution. On the sub-bass neck, the separate (?) headstock appears to have 4 tuners on the left, and an unknown amount on the right – that’s what I see, as does my kontragitarre-obsessed pal Benoit.
Michael also sent me a link to this interesting 1927 Vita-phone short featuring Kalama’s Quartet in “Hawaiian Nights.” At the far right is their harp guitar player, whose instrument comes temptingly into view for mere seconds throughout the clip. Here again, I am at a loss. It is not the same Oscar Schmidt-style instrument in their quartet promo photo. Nor do the separate, mirror-image headstocks show a Stella. It actually looks very similar to the unusual Stathopoulo specimen – but I just can’t quite make out that body!
UPDATE: It is indeed a Stathopoulo. See Part 3 of my James Shaw story.
If you’re keeping count, other harp guitars in vintage movies or shorts include Eddie Peabody’s remarkable plectrum-style Gibson performance in “Strum Fun” from 1942.
Then of course the famous clip of president FDR’s train trip where he hangs out with a band containing another Gibson U player.
Anything else out there?
(Of course, my favorite still remains Ben Elder’s Wheeler & Woolsey find of what we think could be an actual giant Knutsen bass. If not, the comedy duo has the joke on us…)
Yes, you have nailed that one Greg. This is not the same photo that I am referring to. The other photo is in the open air, just outside of a tarp covered area of a trench with guys lined up shoulder to shoulder. I think the Gibson was the only instrument in the photo. I will keep looking.
Thanks for reminding me, Joe – I was able to track them down in my files. I was apparently otherwise engaged at the time and actually had not taken a good look at the pics.
I think it’s almost certainly the Lyon & Healy: https://www.harpguitars.net/history/org_images/chinery/american_conservatory1-eguitars.jpg
The program I saw was called Digging Up the Trenches. It was about what they were finding while excavating some of the old trench locations. I saw it a good four or five years ago. The HG in the photo I saw was definitely not a Gibson. I don’t remember what Gregg thought it might be. At the time, the best I could do was some shots of the tv screen with the camera. Not the clearest images, but better than nothing. I should still have the photos. If I can find them, I’ll send a couple to Gregg and maybe he can post them.
I had this program Tivo’d for a while so I could freeze frame it. The photo was not fuzzy and the instrument was fully visible. I did not realize the photo would be of interest at the time. It was definitely a Gibson harp guitar. I was struck by the irony of this Kalamazoo instrument in the same trenches that my grandfather, also from Kalamazoo, was a German translator. I will try to track down the program.
True, Don – no way to know for sure.
Joe Morgan mentioned seeing something similar to me awhile back – his didn’t sound like a Gibson, but I never tracked it down. I believe it was a brief pan of a photo. So not “footage,” in that sense.
I don’t know, that first one looks like it might be fretted. Maybe not.
Has anyone seen a WWI trench warfare documentary in the pass year or so that showed a soldier holding a Gibson HG in what looked like a trench city meeting or mess area? It was a staged photo with several soldiers. The Gibson was in full view, held vertically.