Guide to the Norman and Sally Coe Scopitone Film Collection

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.1230
Creators:
Coe, Norman
Dates:
circa 1962-1970
Languages:
English
Lyrics in English, French, or German.
Physical Description:
141 film reels
Repository:
Scopitones are three minute long 16mm films that were viewed on a Scopitone machine, a jukebox-like player. A precursor to music videos, Scopitones -- both the films and the machines -- were popular in the United States from around 1962 to 1968. The films featured sets, costumes, and dancers in support of well-known performers singing a single song. The collection includes Scopitone films from the United States and Europe.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection comprises approximately one hundred and forty 16mm color composite magnetic track motion picture prints produced to be played on a Scopitone juke box. These films were produced in Europe and the United States.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is organized into one series. The order follows the original catalogue/distribution numbers. Series 1, Original Films, 1962-1970

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Referring to both the films and the machines that played them, a Scopitone is song-length film viewed on a juke-box like machine with a screen. Introduced in the late 1950s in France, and based on technology developed during World War Two, the Scopitone machine offered a selection of up to thirty-six titles. Patrons would insert coins (twnty-five cents per play in the United States), press the button for the film desired, and the film would appear on a small screen that formed the top of the machine. The Scopitone films were three minute-long 16mm composite magnetic track prints that featured performers singing popular songs of the time. Like their predecessor, Soundies, and paving the way for music videos, Scopitones included basic sets, costumes, and choreography. Scopitones were made in France, Great Britain, and Germany. Scopitones (both the machines and the films) were most popular in France. Consequently, a large number of the films are in French and star performers well-known in France. One of the major producers of American Scopitone films was Harman-ee Productions, a company owned by Debbie Reynolds. In the United States, Scopitone machines could be found in bars, restaurants, and lounges. Performers as varied as Debbie Reynolds, Neil Sedaka, and Ethel Ennis appeared in American Scopitones. In many of the films the stars sang the songs while surrounded by scantily-clad dancers. On occasion the production numbers told the "story" of the song. More often, the sets, dance moves, and costumes appeared superfluous. The "look" of the films reflected the times with choreography influenced by the Twist and other contemporary dances and clothing and hair-dos straight from a mid-1960s teen fashion magazine. Scopitones flourished in the United States for a very short period of time. First introduced around 1962, interest in producing and viewing Scopitones had ended by 1968. Most American machines and films were tossed in the trash. Collectors acquired the remaining machines and films. Scopitone films, once a mostly forgotten genre, are now easily viewed on Youtube, introducing this short-lived cultural phenomenon to new generations of viewers. The donor, Norman Coe, became involved with Scopitone as a business in 1964 when he purchased ten machines from the Scopitone division of Tel-A-Sign, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois. Coe placed his machines and the films in bars and restaurants around the Albany, New York area. He left the business in the late 1960s, selling all but one of his machines and several cartons of Scopitone films. He donated his remaining machine and films to the National Museum of American History in 2011.

Administration
Processing Information
Processed by Wendy Shay, archivist, April, 2011.
Author
Wendy Shay.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Scopitone machine and films donated by Norman and Sally Coe in 2011.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
[Title], Norman and Sally Coe Scopitone Film Collection, circa 1964-1970, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
16mm composite magnetic track motion picture film. No reference copies exist. Special arrangements must be made with the Archives Center to view film. Many Scopitones are available for viewing on Youtube.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research.

Related Materials
Materials in the National Museum of American History
The Division of Culture and the Arts acquired a Scopitone machine as part of the same donation. Accession #: 2011.0056

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Music Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
16mm motion picture film Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gore, Lesley, 1946- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rydell, Bobby Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
McNair, Barbara Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Greco, Buddy Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ennis, Ethel Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Carr, Vikki Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Riley, Billy Lee, 1933- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rawls, Lou Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anka, Paul Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Legrand, Michel, 1932 - Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hallyday, Johnny, 1943 - Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Warwick, Dionne Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Eckstine, Billy Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sinatra, Frank, Jr., 1944- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sedaka, Neil Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Reese, Della Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Darren, James Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Damone, Vic Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Vee, Bobby Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lansing, Joi, 1934-1972 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Morgan, Jane, 1920 - Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Starr, Kay Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Reynolds, Debbie Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Alpert, Herb Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bach, Vivi Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives