Friday, May 30, 2014

Ramona, the song (at San Francisco Silent Film Festival)

Tonight, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival screens the 1928 historical drama Ramona, based on Helen Hunt Jackson's popular 1884 novel of the same name. Directed by Edwin Carewe, the film stars Dolores del Rio and Warner Baxter. Ramona was the first United Artist film with a synchronized score, though it was not a talking picture.

For decades, this 1928 version of Ramona was thought to be lost until archivists rediscovered it in the Národní Filmový Archiv in Prague, Czech Republic. Transferred to acetate safety stock, the restored version had its world premiere in the Billy Wilder Theater at the University of California, Los Angeles on March 29, 2014.

Dolores del Rio, the first Latin American star to be recognized internationally, can be heard singing the film's theme song on RadioLulu, the Louise Brooks Society's online radio station streaming music of the Teens, Twenties, Thirties and today. "Ramona" is one of a number of vintage recordings of silent-era theme songs heard on RadioLulu. The song, as sung by Dolores del Rio in 1928, is also embedded in the video below. (To listen to "Ya Va Cayendo" ["Falling in Love"], the B-side of the 78 rpm of "Ramona," follow the link. "Ya Va Cayendo" was, incidentally, recorded in the Blossom Room of Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel in 1928.)


Ramona / words by L. Wolfe Gilbert, music by Mabel Wayne

I wander out yonder o'er the hills
Where the mountains high, seem to kiss the sky
Someone's up yonder o'er the hills
Waiting patiently, waiting just for me

Ramona, I hear the mission bells above
Ramona, they're ringing out our song of love
I press you, caress you
And bless the day you taught me to care
I'll always remember
The rambling rose you wore in your hair

Ramona, when the day is done you'll hear my call
Ramona, we'll meet beside the waterfall
I dread the dawn
When I awake to find you gone
Ramona, I need you, my own

Ramona, when the day is done you'll hear my call
Ramona, we'll meet beside the waterfall
I dread the dawn
When I awake to find you gone
Ramona, I need you, my own

The popularity of the film and its charming theme song led it to be recorded by a number of different artists, including the Brunswick Hour Orchestra, with vocal chorus by Frank Munn (see the audio-video embedded below).

The song was also recorded by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, featuring Bix Beiderbecke with vocals by Austin Young and Jack Fulton, and the popular crooner Gene Austin, with orchestra and pipe organ (for the latter, see the audio-video embedded below, with promotional images from the film).

Ramona was a hit in Europe, as was its theme song. In fact, the Ramona theme song was recorded in a handful of different languages. Here is a French language version of the song sung by Fred Gouin, which can also be heard on RadioLulu.

As well, there were cover versions of "Ramona" recorded at the time in Belgium (as "Ramonache") by Esther Deltenre, in Germany by Dajos Bela and his Tanzorchester, and by Berlin cabaret celebrity Paul O'Montis, and in Poland, by Tadeusz Faliszewski for Syrena-Electro in 1929. The audio video for this last version is embedded below.

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