Saturday, January 25, 2014

Missing in action

I lament the ones that continue to elude me.

During the early years of Guaraldi's long association with Lee Mendelson, the jazz pianist and composer worked on several projects outside the realm of Charles Schulz and his Peanuts characters. The most noteworthy was a 1965 documentary, Bay of Gold, which told (and I'm quoting here) "the dynamic history of San Francisco and the Bay Area." I discuss the film at some length in my book, and note that it's available for viewing here, thanks to the kind folks at the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive. Take a look, and enjoy Guaraldi's background score.

Aside from Bay of Gold, Guaraldi also scored a few short industrial films for clients such as Sunset Magazine and the Leslie Salt Company. I've never been able to find a copy of the latter, a 1966 film titled An Adventure with Spice Islands, which — according to Lee Mendelson's production index — existed in both a 26-minute and 15-minute format.

Here's the description, from the same Mendelson document:

An Adventure in Spice Islands is a documentary on the history and operation of the Spice Islands Company. A "typical housewife" who discovers the Spice Islands spices and herbs in her search to learn the art of good cooking is a humorous link which ties the shows together. On-camera interviews and an original music score enhance the entertainment value of this film.

Ah, the 1960s ... you gotta love it. The mind doth boggle, wondering how that "typical housewife" behaved on camera.

The Leslie Salt Company, once the largest private land owner in the San Francisco Bay Area, was absorbed by Cargill in 1978. Queries to the latter went nowhere, and from there the trail went cold. All that's known of Guaraldi's score is his "Spice Islands Theme," one of the tracks on his album Vince Guaraldi with the San Francisco Boys Chorus. (At least, I assume said theme is from the film in question. Seems too strong a coincidence to be otherwise.)

I did, however, just come up with this droll little squib from the Wisconsin Rapids (Wisconsin) Daily Tribune, published August 4, 1969, on the society page:

The film "An Adventure with Spice Islands" will be shown when St. Luke's Lutheran Ladies Aid meets at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, members to note change of time. On the hostess committee are Mrs. Leland Hagen, Mrs. Edgar Klingforth, Mrs. Elmer Lueck and Mrs. Carl Polansky Jr.

Okay, so it's clear that copies of the film were circulated, and we all know what that means: Somebody, somewhere, still has one. Needless to say, if any of this blog's followers can think of any leads, do let me know.

While we're on said subject, Guaraldi also scored at least a couple of 1966 TV commercials that Lee Mendelson produced. One was a 30-second spot — or perhaps a series of 30-second spots — for Granny Goose Potato Chips, to promote the company's new "Green Onion" brand of chips. The other was a 60-second spot for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. Titled "Susan," this short film was designed (again quoting from the Mendelson document) "to generate interest in young women to seek employment as service representatives for the Telephone Company. This was accomplished by presenting — in a documentary manner — the friendly people, atmosphere and conditions that the company offers — through the eyes of a young woman employee."

As of this writing, YouTube offers one Granny Goose TV spot from the 1960s ... but clearly not the right one. The few Pacific Telephone spots I've been able to unearth from that era also offer no joy.

Once again, though, I remain hopeful. I'm sure they're out there someplace...

1 comment:

Duggadugdug said...

For what it's worth (from someone who also has struck out in that particular film search), "An Adventure with Spice Islands" was distributed by Modern Talking Picture Service

According to one book, "Modern Talking Picture Service had begun in the 1920s as an AT&T unit. Spun off in the 1930s under antitrust pressure, it continued to grow. By the 1950s it could report that 53,000 schools and colleges, 36,000 churches, and 28,000 clubs and groups were using its films. Theatres devastated by television were beginning to save rental costs by filling available gaps with free sponsored shorts. Television stations were likewise turning to sponsored items to fill fringe periods." [Barnouw, Erik, "The Sponsor: Notes on a Modern Potentate" (Oxford University Press, 2009)]

As late as 1983, MTPS billed itself as "the world's largest distributor of client-sponsored film libraries."

This 1979 notice lists MTPS's various satellite offices:

I can't find any current MTPS office -- online records seem to suggest that the company dissolved in 1992. It seems to have gone the way of the dodo...

So, anyhow, I suppose the best bet (and it's a long shot at that) would be to find a copy in the musty, dusty archives of some school or film collector.