Classic Jazz Films Coming to Wexner Center

Starting Wednesday, February 25th, the Wexner Center for the Arts will present Cinema Revival: A Festival of Film Restoration, a five-day celebration of recent restorations of incredible vintage films (Full schedule here). Of particular note to jazz fans are two afternoon presentations featuring classic jazz artists and vintage performances. On Saturday, February 28th at 1:30pm is a screening of Syncopation, a 1942 musical extravaganza that follows the early evolution of jazz from New Orleans Dixieland through to the swing era with help from legendary jazz musicians like Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa. Immediately preceding Syncopation is Symphony in Black, a 1935 short that includes the first screen appearance of Billie Holiday. On Sunday, March 1st at 1:30pm, the festival will screen the 1929 silent film Why Be Good?, a romantic drama with a jazzy soundtrack that was restored in 2014 after having been lost for decades. Both afternoons’ showings should be educational fun for jazz fans of all ages. Keep reading for further details:

Jazz aficionados will want to make time for two nights of film that connect with pivotal moments in the genre’s history (and that are part of the upcoming series Cinema Revival: A Festival of Film Restoration).

First up, on February 28, is Syncopation, a musical extravaganza with notable jazz talents such as Harry James, Benny Goodman, Todd Duncan, and Gene Krupa. Screening in conjunction with it is the shortSymphony in Black, which features Duke Ellington’s “A Rhapsody of Negro Life” and marks Billie Holiday’s first screen appearance. Then, onMarch 1, it’s Why Be Good?, a silent comedy film that had been considered lost for decades. A restoration was completed only last year after the sole 35mm nitrate print of the work was synchronized with a Vitaphone disc of its soundtrack featuring top jazz musicians of the time.

(William Dieterle, 1942)
Preceded by Symphony in Black
(Fred Waller, 1935)
Sat, Feb 28 | 1:30 PM
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Tracing the evolution of jazz from the early sounds of New Orleans Dixieland to ragtime in Chicago through the swing era, Syncopation is also notable for a relatively progressive portrayal (for its era) of African Americans. (89 mins., DCP)

Preceded by the short Symphony in Black. (9 mins., DCP)

Syncopation restored by Cohen Film Collection at Modern VideoFilm and released by Cohen Film Collection.

Syncopation on

Why Be Good?
(William A. Seiter, 1929)
Sun, Mar 1 | 1:30 PM
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This silent film stars Colleen Moore as a free-spirited flapper who becomes romantically involved with her boss’s son, much to the displeasure of his family. The film, which draws its jazzy musical performances from the popular tunes of the day, was thought to be lost until two film historians finally (and heroically) tracked down a print in Italy and the original Vitaphone disc soundtrack in the US. Restoration work completed in 2014 married the two for the first time since the film’s original release! (90 mins., DCP)

Restored by Warner Bros. at L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna, and released by Warner Bros.

The Colleen Moore Project feature on the restoration

Full schedule for Cinema Revival: A Festival of Film Restoration

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