Pete Smith (film producer)

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Pete Smith
Pete Smith 1918 Publicity Photo.jpg
Smith in a 1918 issue of The Moving Picture World
BornPeter Schmidt
(1892-09-04)September 4, 1892
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 12, 1979(1979-01-12) (aged 86)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Suicide
NationalityAmerican
OccupationPublicist, short subject filmmaker and narrator
Years active1931–1955
Known forPete Smith Specialties
Spouse(s)Marjorie Ganss (m. 1918; died 1957)
Anne Dunston (m. 1962)
Children1
AwardsAcademy Award for Best Live Action Short Film (1938, 1941)
Academy Honorary Award (1953)
 
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For other people of the same name, see Pete Smith (disambiguation).
Pete Smith
Pete Smith 1918 Publicity Photo.jpg
Smith in a 1918 issue of The Moving Picture World
BornPeter Schmidt
(1892-09-04)September 4, 1892
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 12, 1979(1979-01-12) (aged 86)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Suicide
NationalityAmerican
OccupationPublicist, short subject filmmaker and narrator
Years active1931–1955
Known forPete Smith Specialties
Spouse(s)Marjorie Ganss (m. 1918; died 1957)
Anne Dunston (m. 1962)
Children1
AwardsAcademy Award for Best Live Action Short Film (1938, 1941)
Academy Honorary Award (1953)

Pete Smith (September 4, 1892 – January 12, 1979)[1] was an American publicist, short subject producer and narrator.

A native of New York City, Smith began working as a publicist at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1920s. He later moved into film making. He is best known for his series of shorts, the Pete Smith Specialties, which were in production from the 1930s to the 1950s. Smith produced and narrated over 150 shorts which earned him two Best Live Action Short Film Academy Awards. In 1953, he was awarded an Academy Honorary Award for his short films.

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 career[edit]

Smith was born Peter Schmidt 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]

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

Pete Smith Specialties[edit]

Both MGM and the movie-going public picked up on Smith's flair for comedy, and he was given his own series, Pete Smith Specialties; he produced and narrated 150 short subjects for MGM from the 1930s to 1955.

Most of Smith's films were comedy documentaries, typically one reel (9 to 11 minutes long). Short 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 covered in his short films 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 lighthearted general-knowledge quizzes, professional football highlights (in the days before widespread television), quirky looks at many different kinds of animals (for example, Donkey Baseball and Social Sea Lions), and "Goofy Movies" (playing antique silent dramas for laughs). Smith narrated a patriotic short 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 Audioscopiks

In the 1940s, movie stuntman and actor Dave O'Brien became the primary focus 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 shot silent, compelling O'Brien to express his satisfaction or frustration entirely in visual terms as narrator Smith offered get-a-load-of-this commentary. O'Brien knew the format so well that he also directed many of the shorts, under the name "David Barclay." He staged many of the sight gags himself, taking stupendous pratfalls for the camera. Many of the laughs generated by the highly ironic voice-over narration were delivered by Smith himself. His somewhat nasal, matter-of-fact vocal style was imitated and parodied.

Smith produced and narrated over 150 shorts 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]

By 1954, Smith's shorts had declined in popularity and Smith announced his retirement that same year. The M-G-M unit that produced the Pete Smith Specialties closed down the following year.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Smith married Marjorie Ganss in 1918. They had one son, Douglas, who later became a technician at 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 death[edit]

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 film industry, Pete Smith received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1621 Vine Street.[1]

Selected filmography[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1931Fishermen's ParadiseNarratorProducer
1931Whippet RacingNarratorProducer
1932Trout FishingNarratorProducer
1932Microscopic Mysteries :)NarratorProducer
1932Swing HighNarratorProducer
1933MenuNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Novelty
1933HandlebarsNarratorProducer
1934Vital VictualsNarratorProducer
1934Strikes and SparesNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Novelty
1935La Fiesta de Santa BarbaraNarrator
1935AudioscopiksNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Novelty
1936Wanted – A MasterNarrator/Voice of DogProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1936Killer-DogNarratorProducer
1937Penny WisdomNarratorProducer
Won: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Color
1937Pigskin ChampionsNarratorProducer
1937Romance of RadiumNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1938Football Thrills of 1937NarratorProducer, director
1938Hot on IceNarratorProducer
1939Football Thrills of 1938NarratorProducer, director
1939Radio HamsNarratorProducer
1940Spots Before Your EyesNarratorProducer
1940Quicker'n a WinkNarratorProducer
Won: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1941Third Dimensional MurderNarratorProducer
1941Army ChampionsNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1942Acro-BattyNarratorProducer, writer
1942Marines in the MakingNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1943Seeing HandsNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1943The Tree in a Test TubeInterlocutor (voice)
1944Movie PestsNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1944Football Thrills of 1944NarratorProducer, director
1945Hollywood ScoutNarratorProducer
1945Bus PestsNarratorProducer
1946Fala at Hyde ParkNarratorProducer
1946Sure CuresPete Smith - NarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1947Now You See ItNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1947I Love My Wife But!NarratorProducer
1947What D'ya Know?NarratorProducer
1948I Love My Mother-in-Law But...NarratorProducer
1948You Can't WinNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1949How Come?NarratorProducer
1949Water TrixNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1950Wrong Way ButchNarratorProducer
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One-reel
1950A Wife's LifeNarratorProducer
1951Bandage BaitNarratorProducer
1951Fishing FeatsNarratorProducer
1952Gymnastic RhythmNarratorProducer
1952I Love Children, But!NarratorProducer
1953The PostmanNarratorProducer
1953Things We Can Do WithoutNarratorProducer
1954Do Someone a Favor!NarratorProducer
1954The Camera Caught ItNarratorProducer
1955The Man Around the HouseNarratorProducer
1955Animals in ActionNarratorProducer
1955Fall GuyNarratorProducer

References[edit]

  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. 
  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 the 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 links[edit]