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  • Ahola home movies
    • Nick Dellow
      Posted Apr 30, 2004 2:54 AM

      I am the seller of the DVD of Ahola's home movies. During several visits I made to his lovely home in Lanesville, Massachusetts, Hooley ran a number of reels from his collection of home movies, of which this DVD is therefore only a part. After his death, Boston trumpeter Scott Philbrick (also a friend of Hooley's) copied some of the more interesting footage onto NTSC-format video and sent me and several other people a copy. Now I have a DVD copier so I thought it would be a nice idea to convert the movies to DVD. I have made several copies for friends and I am also advertising it on ebay.

      Albert, the word in the Description is "revised" not "translation". This word appears because I revised the description after I had initially submitted it.

      Regarding the format, yes you are right Albert - you cannot play this DVD on NTSC-only format machines. In Europe, most better-quality DVD machines can play NTSC and PAL but the same is not always true the other way round in the USA. You need to check your machine's specifications first. I should have mentioned that on the description!

      These 16 mm home movies were made using a hand-cranked camera and in fact Hooley must have had two cameras because there is footage of Hooley examining his camera! The quality of the movies is amazingly good, and it looks to me as if it is running at the correct speed. The footage of the California Ramblers is short - only about 5 minutes. It does not show the band playing instruments, but instead features several little comedy routines (very corny!) performed by Adrian Rollini, Jack Russin and several others (Bobby Davis maybe? and I think the slim Italian-looking guy is Tommy Felline). In one sketch, Rollini dons a huge curly wig and pretends to be a heartbroken girl sobbing into her handkerchief!! In another scene, Rollini is playing the guitar, serenading what looks like Bobby Davis in a woman's wig and then up pops Jack Russin (playing the father) to bash Rollini on the head with piece of wood! There is also a scene showing Rollini and several other members of the band clapping and tapping their feet in time to a dancer (who dances faster and faster!). All this footage was, Hooley recalled, taken on the roof of the Branford Theater in Newark, New Jersey, in February 1927. Hooley said that the comedy routines were performed by the members of the band on stage, between numbers (I'd rather have heard the band!!)

      In these comedy acts, Rollini et al. are wearing striped blazers, but I also have copies of photographs that Hooley took of the band in which they are dressed as Canadian Mounted Police!! According to Dick Hill's excellent biography of Hooley, "Sylvester Ahola: The Gloucester Gabriel":

      "The show at the Branford Theatre was emceed by Don Alvin, and included a musical chorus, a pit band, and a ballet chorus, as well as the California Ramblers, who were required each week to dress up in uniforms, usually as the Canadian Mounted Police or as pirates. Hooley took many photographs of the Ramblers, up on the roof of the theatre, and he even recorded them on 16 mm film."

      Hooley also took 16 mm film of the New Yorkers band but Bix was sleeping apparently. He lent the movie to Brigitte Berman for her documentary about Bix, but she never returned it (or even used it in the documentary!); this was despite several requests from the Aholas for the material to be returned. In the end, myself and Dick Hill independently wrote to Berman in Canada and politly asked that she return the home movie (and a large photograph of the New Yorkers Club with the name of the band in lights)to the Aholas but she never did. Understandably, that upset the Aholas greatly.

      NOTE: A set of yellow traffic poles are all that remains of the Branford Theater on Branford Avenue in Newark. It was located across the street from the Adams Theatre, which still stands though greatly altered.

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