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In the Groove: 1940

1940. "Lana Turner and Artie Shaw with audio recording system in their Beverly Hills Home." Possibly rehearsing a movie script. Photo by Earl Theisen for the Look magazine article "Lana Turner and Artie Shaw at Home." View full size.

1940. "Lana Turner and Artie Shaw with audio recording system in their Beverly Hills Home." Possibly rehearsing a movie script. Photo by Earl Theisen for the Look magazine article "Lana Turner and Artie Shaw at Home." View full size.

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The Microphone

The microphone is an American Model D 8T manufactured by the American Microphone Co. of Los Angeles.

Serious Lathe

That is a professional looking record cutting lathe, quite possibly a Presto. The oddly crude cabinet appears to have been custom made to house the lathe since it does not look like anything I've seen turned out by the traditional home entertainment companies, particularly the high-end companies. The wood almost looks like cedar (which would be a curious choice) or more likely redwood. Perhaps it was chosen to match some paneling out of camera view.

Acetate Disc Recorder

Although this staged publicity shot of Lana Turner and Artie "at home" is fascinating, I'm that much more curious about their expensive acetate disc recorder in its custom cedar cabinet. "Broadcast quality" recording devices were very new and mostly seen only in the biggest radio corporation studios and in Hollywood sound departments. The so-called acetate discs were actually thin wafers of aluminum coated in nitro-cellulose lacquer, and the recording cutter engraved the sound grooves into the lacquer. These discs were very fragile and could only be played with soft styluses made from fiber or cactus spines. Several companies began to produce disk recorders for home or office use in the late 1930s, but they were very pricy novelties and the discs deteriorated easily. Here is a 1940 recording equipment catalog page, found online at the Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording site.

Great First Person Info

Chris Albertson, I really enjoyed your story of your experiences with Artie Shaw and to me those personal ties to the subject matter adds to the enjoyment of this site.

And Lana Turner, wow what a beauty.

I Still Can't Get Over

The fact that Lana Turner was only 19 in these pictures posted recently!

The house is Booked

Just Saturday I heard an interview with Booker T. Jones, who said he had bought Lana Turner's former house, across the street from Bob Dylan. She probably had as many homes as husbands, but maybe this is the same one!

A pricey item!

That home recording machine likely cost about what most people paid for new automobiles in 1940. My own parents' Pacific Palisades wedding ceremony was somehow recorded on thin silver wire by a tech-savy friend of theirs in that same general era. It lasted, though their marriage sadly didn't.

The metal box on the couch

Oh wait, she's rich so it's probably a divan, but I digress.

Wonder what's in the box, either part of the record cutter or enough cigarettes to last them the next hour or two?

Artie Shaw used to say

"These people [the press] always want to talk about my marriages. I've had lousy marriages, but some great divorces—nobody wants to talk about them."

He was a nice man who knew how fortunate he had been to make such a good living playing jazz. The only time I saw him erupt was when he heard that the New York Jazz Museum (on whose board we both served) was not paying less fortunate musicians for playing there, "because they'll do it free anyway."

I wish I had a recording of his response! The fact that he was chosen to present me with a Grammy many years ago still means more to me than the trophy itself.

Hi tech gear

Looks like that tone arm is the kind that tracks horizontally, as opposed to the standard kind that change angle as the record plays. Heavy duty stuff. And I'll speculate on the basis only of the style of the cabinet, that the system is a high end one made by Scott. Pure guess.

[That's a cutting head, not a tone arm. As noted in the caption, this is recording equipment. -Dave]

You wouldn't think it to look at him

Artie Shaw was a relentlessly successful ladies' man, at least until he married them. His eight marriages, not including a fling with Judy Garland, ended in six divorces and two annulments. Both Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, who had ample experience with difficult men, found Artie to be in a class by himself in that regard.

About those wedding vows

A total of 14 marriages between the two of them, not counting their marriage to each other.

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