Song Film


The “Sing Them Again” series of song films made in 1923 and 1924 were the very last films ever made at the Betzwood studio. The one-reel films were made by Russell Shields and Norman Jefferies, former studio employees, with the assistance of Van Avery and William Darrow.  The funding and support for their efforts is unclear, but the connections of the two principles would have easily gotten them the use of the vacant studio. The films used actors to portray sentiments or circumstances of old and famous popular songs. The words for the songs appeared on the screen so the audience could sing along.

Only one of these films survives today and it is an incomplete reel that suffered severe nitrate decomposition before it was rescued. The reel was found with the negatives for High Pockets and Oh! Johnny! in the summer of 1992 and was conserved by the Museum of Modern Art. It may be the next to final reel made by the studio, which went out to theaters in December of 1924 under the title, Echoes of Youth. The reel contains images and words for the songs Old Black Joe,  Little Annie Rooney, and.Home Sweet Home. Only Home Sweet Home survives intact without nitrate damage.

Echoes of Youth was showing in Norristown’s Garrick Theater in December 1924 when the Betzwood Studio closed for good. Locally, the films were often featured at the Garrick where the combination of Vaudeville and Film lent itself to the presentation of Song Films. As the films often featured local talent, they were popular offerings in local theaters. However, the films did see national and even international distribution as evidenced by ads for them in papers from several other states and Canada.

Other titles in the series included Close Harmonies, Companions, Golden Gems, Memories, Home Again, Lest We Forget, Long Ago, Old Friends, Heart Throbs, Lost Chords, Echoes of Youth, and Melodious Moments.

Produced by Norman Jefferies, 1923-1924. Directed by Russell Shields, with assistant directors, Van Avery and William Darrow. No actors have been identified.

A scene from the song, “Old Black Joe.”


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