Directed by Peter Friedman • Documentary • With Roy Smeck, Gene Autry, Arthur Tracy, Mel Bay • 1984 • 27 minutes
In 1926, Warner Brothers premiered the first sync-sound film ever made. It featured a largely unknown vaudeville performer named Roy Smeck. The film showcased Roy’s virtuosity on the guitar, the ukulele, and the banjo, and it made him a major national star overnight, with appearances in many other films, his name on guitars and sheet music, and ultimately he became a major influence on American pop culture, popularizing these instruments as never before. This Academy Award—nominated short includes archival footage of Roy in the 1920’s and 1930’s, his farewell performance at the age of 82, and testimonials from Gene Autry, Arthur (Pennies from Heaven) Tracy, Mel Bay and others.