Educational Pictures

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Educational Pictures (or Educational Film Exchanges, Inc.) was a film distribution company founded in 1919 by Earle (E. W.) Hammons (1882–1962). Educational primarily distributed short subjects, and today is probably best known for its series of 1930s comedies starring Buster Keaton,[1] as well as for a series of one-reel comedies featuring the earliest screen appearances of Shirley Temple.

Business history[edit]

Krakatoa, a 1933 short documentary film produced by Joe Rock and distributed by Educational. It won the Academy Award in 1934 for Best Short Subject (Novelty)

Earle Hammons originally established the company to make instructional films for schools, but making comedies for theatrical release proved more lucrative.[2] Educational did indeed issue many educational, travelogue, and novelty shorts, but its main enterprise was comedy.[3] Educational's heyday was the 1920s, when the popular silent comedies of Al St. John, Lupino Lane, Lige Conley, Lloyd Hamilton,[4] and Monty Collins complemented many a moviehouse bill as "the spice of the program." Educational also released silent cartoons including the Felix the Cat series. In 1930, cartoonist Paul Terry signed with Educational to distribute his cartoons.

Educational made a smooth transition to sound movies by handling the early talking comedies of pioneer producer Mack Sennett. Sennett also introduced singing star Bing Crosby to movie audiences. But Sennett soon became plagued by financial problems, and he left Educational in 1932.[5] Most of Educational's silent stars made only a few talkies for the studio: Lupino Lane left the company in 1930, followed by Lloyd Hamilton in 1931. Most of the earliest Educational talkies feature silent-comedy veterans with stage experience: Vernon Dent, Harry Gribbon, Raymond McKee, Edward Everett Horton, Daphne Pollard, and Ford Sterling. Educational's most prolific comedian in the 1930s was undoubtedly the Sennett star Andy Clyde, who made 54 comedies.

Educational replaced the Sennett films with star-name comedians.[6] Andy Clyde and Harry Langdon led Educational's release schedule for a few years, then Buster Keaton headlined a series that yielded 16 popular two-reel comedies.[7]

For a time Educational maintained studios on both coasts. The Hollywood productions, in addition to those of Clyde, Langdon, and Keaton, hosted comedy stars Moran and Mack, Edgar Kennedy, and Ernest Truex. New York-based talent from vaudeville and radio starred in Educational's East Coast productions based at the Astoria Studios: Joe Cook, Tim and Irene Ryan, Sylvia Froos, Warren Hull, Tom Howard and George Shelton, Stoopnagle and Budd, Bert Lahr, and Willie Howard. Many stars made debuts in Educational shorts: Bob Hope, The Ritz Brothers, Milton Berle, June Allyson, Imogene Coca, and Danny Kaye in New York; and Shirley Temple, Joan Davis, and Roy Rogers in Hollywood. During its last year of production, Educational showcased the young comedy/dance team of Herman Timberg, Jr. and Pat Rooney, Jr., singers Niela Goodelle and Lee Sullivan, comic Charles Kemper, and comedienne Harriet Hutchins.

Twentieth Century-Fox and its predecessor, Fox Film Corporation, had been distributing Educational product to theaters. In 1937 Fox dropped its line of short comedies and withdrew its support from Educational. Earle Hammons tried to keep his company going while trying to enter the feature-film market with the financially troubled Grand National Pictures. The drain on his finances forced both companies into bankruptcy. The final Educational comedies (with radio and screen comic F. Chase Taylor as "Col. Stoopnagle") were released in January 1939, and the film library was sold at auction in 1940. Most were obtained by Astor Pictures, which shrewdly timed its re-releases to cash in on certain performers' popularity. Astor compiled four feature-length comedies showcasing Shirley Temple (in 1942), Danny Kaye (in 1945), Bing Crosby (in 1947), and Bob Hope and Milton Berle (in 1947).

Much of Educational's silent film library was lost in a laboratory fire in 1937,[8] but the sound comedies survive today.


Educational Pictures Logo

Educational Pictures had a logo of a genie's lamp, above which the words "Educational Pictures" appeared formed by the smoke from the lamp. Below the lamp, enclosed in quotation marks were the words The Spice of the Program.

The use of the logo in film credits was unique to Educational. The shorts would begin with the opening title card, usually having "E. W. Hammons presents" at the top, followed by the title of the short. The Educational logo would then appear full screen. Normally, studios would have their logos appear before the opening titles, while Educational placed its logo after the opening credits. At the end, there would be a standard end title card with the mini-logo for Educational Pictures appearing somewhere in the end title.

Selected filmography[edit]

Silent film Schoolday Love (1922) by director William S. Campbell for Educational Pictures. Running time: 21:57. A short comic children's film about a boy and a girl who experience all manner of adventures with a dog, a horse, a monkey, and other animals.


  1. ^ The theater and cinema of Buster Keaton, by Robert Knopf
  2. ^ The Great Movie Shorts, by Leonard Maltin
  3. ^ Stereoscopic cinema & the origins of 3-D film, 1838-1952, By Ray Zone
  4. ^ Lloyd Hamilton: Poor Boy Comedian of Silent Cinema, By Anthony Balducci
  5. ^ A History of the Hal Roach Studios, By Richard Lewis Ward
  6. ^ Stardust and shadows: Canadians in early Hollywood, by Charles Foster
  7. ^ The theater and cinema of Buster Keaton by Robert Knopf
  8. ^ This film is dangerous:a celebration of nitrate film

External links[edit]