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Pete Smith (film producer)

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Peter Schmidt (September 4, 1892 – January 12, 1979[1]), known as Pete Smith, was an American producer and narrator of "short subject" films.

Pete Smith
Pete Smith 1918 Publicity Photo.jpg
Smith in a 1918 issue of The Moving Picture World.
Born
Peter Schmidt

(1892-09-04)September 4, 1892
DiedJanuary 12, 1979(1979-01-12) (aged 86)
Cause of deathSuicide
NationalityAmerican
OccupationProducer and narrator of short subjects, Publicist
Years active1931–1955
Known forPete Smith Specialties
Spouse(s)
Marjorie Ganss
(m. 1918; died 1957)

Anne Dunster (m. 1962–1979)
Children1
AwardsAcademy Award for Best Live Action Short Film (1938, 1941)
Academy Honorary Award (1953)

A native of New York City, Smith began working as a publicist at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during the 1920s. He later became involved with movie making. He is best known for his series of short movies, the Pete Smith Specialties, which were produced from the 1930s to the 1950s. Smith produced and narrated more than 150 short movies which earned him two Best Live Action Short Film Academy Awards. In 1953, he was awarded an Academy Honorary Award for his short movies.

Smith's later years were spent in a Santa Monica convalescent home due to ill health. In January 1979, Smith jumped to his death from the roof of the home.

Early life and careerEdit

Smith was born in New York City.[2] He began his career as an aide for a vaudeville performers union. Smith then worked as an editor and critic for a trade magazine before becoming a press agent.[3] By 1915 he was doing movie publicity for Bosworth, Inc., followed by the Oliver Morosco Photoplay Co., Artcraft Pictures Corporation, and Famous Players-Lasky.[4] He was one of the founding members of the Associated Motion Picture Advertisers.[5]

During 1925, Smith was hired as the manager of publicity for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by Louis B. Mayer.[3] He was later recruited to overdub the actions of trained dogs for the studio's Dogville Comedies. Smith would later narrate the studio's sports newsreels; he would embellish the action by running certain scenes in reverse, or adding his own commentary.

Pete Smith SpecialtiesEdit

Both MGM and the movie-going public learned of Smith's flair for comedy, and he was given his own series, Pete Smith Specialties; he produced and narrated 150 short movie subjects for MGM from the 1930s to 1955. His distinctive tenor voice and nasal tone were very recognizable and a trade-mark of the series.

Most of Smith's movies were comedy documentaries, typically one reel (9 to 11 minutes long). Short movie subjects in this era were part of the studios' exhibition packages, along with serials, animated cartoons, newsreels, travel documentaries, etc. Among the diverse topics Smith featured by his short movies were Emily Post-style household hints, insect life seen through a microscope, military training and hardware (during World War II), and dancing lessons. There were even several "series-within-the-series", such as general-knowledge quizzes, professional football news (in the days before widespread television), quirky features concerning different kinds of animals (for example, Donkey Baseball and Social Sea Lions), and "Goofy Movies" (playing antique silent dramas humorously). Smith narrated a patriotic short movie for the U.S. Government, The Tree In a Test Tube (1943), filmed in color, featuring Laurel and Hardy in a demonstration of household wood products, with Smith explaining the various exhibits for the viewer.

 
Poster for his 1936 short subject movie Audioscopiks.

During the 1940s, movie stuntman and actor Dave O'Brien became the primary actor of Pete Smith Specialties. The hapless O'Brien would personify everyday nuisances: dealing with pests at the movies, demonstrating pet peeves, tackling hazardous home-improvement projects, and other problems with which the audience could identify. O'Brien's scenes were silent, compelling O'Brien to express his satisfaction or frustration entirely in visual terms. As narrator Smith offered commentary. O'Brien knew the format so well that he also directed many of the short movies, using the name "David Barclay." He staged many of the sight gags himself, taking stupendous pratfalls for the camera.

Smith produced and narrated more than 150 short movies which earned him fourteen Academy Award nominations and two Best Live Action Short Film Academy Awards.[6] At the 26th Academy Awards, Smith was awarded an Academy Honorary Award "for his witty and pungent observations on the American scene in his series of Pete Smith Specialties."[7]

Smith announced his retirement in 1954. The MGM unit that produced the Pete Smith Specialties was terminated the next year, a casualty of short movies' decreasing popularity at the time.[8]

Personal lifeEdit

Smith married Marjorie Ganss in 1918. They had one son, Douglas, who later became a technician for RKO.[9] Smith and Ganss remained married until her death in 1957. Smith's second marriage was to his secretary, Anne Dunston, whom he married in Las Vegas in October 1962.[10]

Later years and deathEdit

Smith spent his later years in poor health at a convalescent home in Santa Monica, California.[2] On January 12, 1979, Smith committed suicide by leaping off the building's roof.[11] Smith was survived by his second wife, Anne, and his son Douglas.[12]

For his contribution to the movie industry, Pete Smith received a star symbol on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1621 Vine Street.[1]

Selected filmographyEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1931 Fishermen's Paradise Narrator Producer
1931 Whippet Racing Narrator Producer
1931 Wild and Woolly Narrator Producer
1932 Color Scales Narrator Producer
1932 Desert Regatta Narrator Producer
1932 Trout Fishing Narrator Producer
1932 Microscopic Mysteries Narrator Producer
1932 Swing High Narrator Producer
1932 Fast Life Race Announcer Appeared as himself
1932 Snow Birds Explanatory Remarks
1933 Goofy-Movies Number One Narrator
1933 Menu Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Novelty
1933 Handlebars Narrator Producer
1933 Fine Feathers Narrator Producer
1934 Goofy Movies (Parts 1 - 9) Narrator 10 part series released February through December in 1934, with only the first 9 narrated by Smith.
1934 Roping Wild Bears Narrator
1934 Vital Victuals Narrator Producer
1934 Strikes and Spares Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Novelty
1935 La Fiesta de Santa Barbara Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Color)
1935 Audioscopiks Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Novelty
1935 Water Sports Narrator
1935 Trained Hoofs Narrator
1936 Wanted – A Master Narrator/Voice of Dog Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1936 Killer-Dog Narrator Producer
1936 Harnessed Rhythm Narrator
1936 Bar-Rac's Night Out Narrator Producer
1937 The Grand Bounce Narrator
1937 Candid Cameramaniacs Narrator Producer
1937 Penny Wisdom Narrator Producer
Won: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Color
1937 Pigskin Champions Narrator Producer
1937 Romance of Radium Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1938 Football Thrills of 1937 Narrator Producer, director
1938 Three on a Rope Narrator
1938 Fisticuffs Narrator Features Max Baer
1938 Hot on Ice Narrator Producer
1939 Football Thrills of 1938 Narrator Producer, director
1939 Radio Hams Narrator Producer
1939 Let's Talk Turkey Narrator
1939 Poetry of Nature Narrator
1939 Weather Wizards Narrator Producer
1940 Spots Before Your Eyes Narrator Producer
1940 Quicker'n a Wink Narrator Producer
Won: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1941 Aeronutics Narrator Producer
1941 Third Dimensional Murder Narrator Producer
1941 Army Champions Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1941 Lions on the Loose Narrator Producer
1941 How to Hold Your Husband Narrator
1942 Acro-Batty Narrator Producer, writer
1942 Marines in the Making Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1943 First Aid Narrator
1943 Seeing Hands Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1943 The Tree in a Test Tube Interlocutor (voice)
1944 Movie Pests Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1944 Football Thrills of 1944 Narrator Producer, director
1945 Hollywood Scout Narrator Producer
1945 Bus Pests Narrator Producer
1946 Treasures From Trash Narrator Producer
1946 Gettin' Glamour Narrator Producer
1946 Fala at Hyde Park Narrator Producer
1946 I Love My Husband, But! Narrator Producer
1946 Sure Cures Pete Smith - Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1946 Studio Visit Narrator Producer - Pete Smith Specialty
1947 Now You See It Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1947 I Love My Wife, But! Narrator Producer
1947 What D'ya Know? Narrator Producer
1947 Have You Ever Wondered? Narrator Producer
1948 I Love My Mother-in-Law But... Narrator Producer
1948 Bowling Tricks With Andy Varipapa Narrator Producer
1948 You Can't Win Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1948 Just Suppose Narrator Producer
1948 Ice Aces Narrator
1949 How Come? Narrator Producer
1949 Water Trix [de] Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1949 Did'ja Know? Have You Ever Wondered #3 Narrator Producer
1950 Wrong Way Butch Narrator Producer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1950 A Wife's Life Narrator Producer
1950 Curious Contests Narrator Producer
1951 Bargain Madness Narrator Producer
1951 Bandage Bait Narrator Producer
1951 Fishing Feats Narrator Producer
1952 Gymnastic Rhythm Narrator Producer
1952 I Love Children, But! Narrator Producer
1953 The Postman Narrator Producer
1953 Things We Can Do Without Narrator Producer
1954 Do Someone a Favor! Narrator Producer
1954 The Camera Caught It Narrator Producer
1954 Rough Riding Narrator Producer
(Color)
1954 Fish Tales Narrator Producer
(Color)
1955 The Man Around the House Narrator Producer
1955 Animals in Action Narrator Producer
1955 Fall Guy Narrator Producer

Home media availabilityEdit

Pete Smith’s short films are included as extras on DVDs of many classic Warner Home Video films of the era. These include:

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Pete Smith". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  2. ^ a b "Pete Smith". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  3. ^ a b "Specialty producer dies at 86". The Leader-Post. January 16, 1979. p. 25. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  4. ^ "Pete Schmid". Moving Picture World, July 20, 1918. Retrieved 2012-08-02.
  5. ^ "Movie Ad Men in Association". The Fourth Estate. August 5, 1916. Retrieved 2012-08-10. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  6. ^ Zone, Ray (2007). Stereoscopic Cinema & the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838-1952. University Press of Kentucky. p. 147. ISBN 0-813-12461-1.
  7. ^ Maltin, Leonard (1972). The Great Movie Shorts. Crown Publishers. p. 145.
  8. ^ Doherty, Thomas Patrick (2013). Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration. Columbia University Press. pp. 1864–1865. ISBN 0-231-51284-8.
  9. ^ "Following In Their Parents' Footsteps". The Sydney Morning Herald. July 6, 1937. p. 9. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  10. ^ "Pete Smith Weds His Secretary". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. October 22, 1962. p. 1. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  11. ^ "Pete Smith". Associated Press. Toledo Blade via Google. January 14, 1979. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  12. ^ "Leap From Roof Kills Former Filmmaker". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. January 14, 1979. p. 4B.

External linksEdit