Classic movie site with rare images (no web grabs!), original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Thursday, July 30, 2015

Where Operettas Made A Comeback


Naughty Marietta Is a 30's and 60's Hit

Each of majors needed meat to throw wolves that was the Legion Of Decency. With Code enforcement a game played for keeps since 7/34, the industry would prove fealty via pics pure as fresh fallen snow. Each had mode of delivery, Warners with costumes and polite romance of Errol Flynn, Paramount and de-fanging of Mae West plus increased volume on Bing Crosby, Astaire/Rogers dancing for RKO, and most famously, Fox's perfect timing that was Shirley Temple. All were answers to would-be local and/or gov't censorship, and successful besides. Did a buying public want clean pictures? Increased ticket sales convinced producers and showmen that they did, or maybe it was relaxed grip of a Depression and more dimes in circulation. MGM may have been best-prepared to accommodate the new order, having seen reality from further back and scraping barnacles even off '33 shows like Hold Your Man that played like clamps were already down. Smartest move at Metro was when it merged Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy for a first of what anyone with eyes tabbed for a long-run series: Naughty Marietta in March 1935.


Here was purified entertainment, but not oppressively so. In fact, parts of Naughty Marietta are charmingly earthy, being about unwed gals brought from France to the New World as mates for "stout and robust" men, part of shipment being princess-in-disguise Jeanette, with Eddy among lusty recipients of marriage merchandise. Some now laugh at these two in flights of song, but during a 30's peak, Mac and E traded love calls back-forth that was satisfactory sub for sex withheld since the crackdown. I don't wonder why/how Naughty Marietta became so popular. The thing has vitality, a fair pace, and if these two trilling is your bag, a near-best of MacDonald/Eddy teaming. To stay viable so long took real appeal, which they had and practiced until blow-off came in 1942. That's thirteen years, and a run not to be underestimated. Significant too was Naughty Marietta having a wartime reissue that did well, plus nostalgia-driven comeback for it and other MacDonald/Eddys when MGM's "Perpetual Product Plan" saw most of their teamwork back in theatres during the early-to-mid 60's.


It was a group of eight, including others of MGM musical backlog, played on otherwise slow weekdays, and pitched to blue hairs who'd remember Jeanette and Nelson's splendor at song. Prints were new, enough bookings to justify that outlay, and a pressbook plus fresh accessories were issued. Launch in 5/62 was met with immediate success at New England stands where the operettas were figured to get best response. Ted Mann risked the lot at his Minneapolis houses and drew happy hordes; he'd spread the eight-pack circuit-wide as result, this a signal to far/wide that oldies could pay. Helpful was fact these were undeniably clean pics, and tamp down of criticism calling theatres a corrupter of youth ("Families that go to the movies together, stay together," were MGM words set to PPP music). Policy more or less continues today with the "Fathom" series running digitally on saturation basis and pushed heavily on TCM. It's a scheme that can work --- and has --- for several years now (Double Indemnity their latest).




Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Read Off Tablets Like The Flintstones

Showmen, Sell It Hot! Now Available For E-Readers

The March Of Technology continues at Greenbriar. Showmen, Sell It Hot! has just come out in a Kindle edition. My publisher, GoodKnight, just went up with it last week, and from demonstration I've had, it looks great. No matter what kind of E-Reader you use, Showmen will work. All images are high-res and enlarge as well. Amazon has it, of course, but so does I-Tunes, and Barnes/Noble should offer the E-Pub Showmen on their site any day. If you happen to pick up the Kindle Showmen, and like it, by all means leave a review to that effect at Amazon. All of reader reviews so far have addressed the print edition, so any boost for the E-book would be a help. The whole Kindle thing has been something of a foreign language for me, but a couple of books I've read on the format went down easily, and I found the tablet overall to my liking. One thing's sure, like digital projection and streaming movies, it's the future.




Monday, July 27, 2015

Laughs Are Light From This Ring-A-Ding Trio


Who Was That Lady? (1960) Is Sure Enough An Old Joke

I kept thinking of Psycho while watching this, same year after all, with three overlapping cast members (Janet Leigh, John McIntire, Simon Oakland), Lady hewing to formula as Psycho upset all of a public's expectation. We could wish better things for Dean Martin at swinger summit, he being pretty much the character here that Billy Wilder would carry to extreme with Kiss Me, Stupid a few years later. That's what great directors did: take clay tepidly molded by others and ease pedals to the floor; Hitchcock would manipulate Anthony Perkins' persona for Psycho and crack mold so an establishment Hollywood could never use it again. A Light-Hearted Leer At Love Among The Adults was how Lady was sold. There'd been popularity as a Broadway play. Today it yields more curiosity than laughs, 115 minutes an excruciating haul. Naughty humor was in vogue around '60, Pillow Talk and Operation Petticoat having paved way for suggestive dialogue and situations.


Whenever there was call for goodtime girls back then, you got either Joi Lansing or Barbara Nichols. Who Was That Lady? tenders both. The picture could as easily be another Martin and Lewis comedy, Jerry doing the Tony Curtis part with sex toned down (Lady, in fact, anticipates Boeing, Boeing). Aggrieved onscreen wife is Janet Leigh, similarly so in private life with more-less estranged Curtis. Lady is one of those projects where you read about water gun fights among the cast between scenes and, according to Leigh, spontaneous and "inventive" humor they'd ad-lib before cameras. All well and good if you're Dean Martin with inborn wit, but his co-stars apply frivolity with heavy hands, particularly Leigh, who wasn't gifted along such lines. Still, there is interest, for night clubs, street exteriors, and 60's lifestyle, if not gaiety in proceedings, this a case for most comedy from that period, especially ones that dealt in Light-Hearted Leers at Love.




Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fast Sequel For An Eager Public


Father's Little Dividend Is 1951's Sure Thing

A fairly immediate sequel to Father Of The Bride, as in underway quick as chips were counted from gro$$ of the first. Here was what Metro could manage fast and efficient w/ Dore Schary in front office charge, Father's Little Dividend a job done for less than a million that drew four times the same in worldwide rentals. It was also one that Leo let slip into Public Domain during the 70's, thus dollar discs to beware of. TCM had a recent run, listed as HD, but instead a same old transfer at least better than scavengers give. Father's Little Dividend is a follow-up that need not go begging. All of the original's cast is back, Vincente Minnelli again megging, so it's no mere cash-in on what went beloved before. Note anticipation reflected in the Chicago first-run above: Sam Lesner, incidentally, was "nightlife critic" for the Chicago Daily News. Douglas MacArthur, for whom "Chicago's Ringing With Cheers," had just given his farewell address to Congress, while live act Danny Lewis is emphasized as dad to Jerry. And look out, next week attendees: Only The Valiant, advertised here as in Technicolor, would actually be black-and-white.


Dividends of Dividend: Very long takes Minnelli stages. He must have close-rehearsed the cast to get four and five minutes continuous out of set-ups that aren't just talking heads stood still, but players in complex by-play with props, a camera in motion, entrance/exiting. Long as shots go, they don't lose interest. Minnelli must have liked his result, because he'd use same device for many parts of The Bandwagon. This director may have been fussy over sets and decor, but he could be a John Farrow or even Joe H. Lewis when circumstance required. Did Schary ask Minnelli to gun it for a pre-set opening day? There was no doubt of a large audience waiting. Prime interest, of course, is Tracy, doing comedy so well that you wish he'd stuck with it, and not necessarily with Hepburn. If ST had a signature part after WWII, the Father pair was it. He had to know they'd draw a bigger crowd than much of postwar Metro being skipped in favor of TV and grass-mowing. There was actually talk of a third one (read James Curtis' Spencer Tracy book), but that didn't happen --- a regret.




Monday, July 20, 2015

Kay Getting The Double-Cross at Warners


Was King Of The Underworld (1939) A Broom To Sweep Francis Off The Lot?

To hear tell from Kay Francis bios, she was all but cleaning spittoons at WB as they applied late 30's push to be rid of her. KF wouldn't quit, however, not so long as Warners was bound to no-option pay checks they unwisely agreed to when Kay was hot. Her star having set by '39, it was Humphrey Bogart who'd be billed above the title for King Of The Underworld, a crime cheapie (negative cost: $235K) of a piece with what Bogie had been doing in sleep since The Petrified Forest. He's as much amusing as dangerous here, a would-be Napoleon of hoods who's flattered when Francis refers to him as a "moronic" type. Comedy as trump to mayhem kept these programmers out of harm's way that was censorship, violence held at minimum with assure that baddies like Bogart get just deserts (he dies yet again here --- a ritual so common as to be spoofed by montages in at least one HB documentary done to celebrate his 60's cult).


The Francis factor lights up modern day interest as much as Bogart did a half-century back, she being the old movie face on more recent rise thanks to TCM unspool of KF backlog. Ordeal of final Warner years lend stature to Kay as indomitable in the face of organized abuse --- they really did try every means of humiliating her right off the lot --- but Francis wouldn't budge. For this kind of money, she said, "I'll sweep the stages if they give me a broom." Forget B. Davis and O. DeHavilland as Joans Of Arc against studio tyranny ... Kay was the one who really beat bosses at perfidious game, and kept all of marbles besides, for what did Bette and Olivia accomplish beyond spend of thousands in legal fees and loss of income thanks to studio suspension clause? King Of The Underworld turned up on TCM last week in HD, thus the watch. It's also on DVD from Warner Archive.




Thursday, July 16, 2015

Should Andy Hardy Have Come Home?

From MGM's Sales Manual for 1964 TV Release

Andy Grows Up, But Did 1958 Care?

Twelve years had past since a last Andy Hardy, though change-wise, that may as well have been a last century. Teens would not remember him from theatres (none reissued), though plenty by summer '58 knew the character from TV run-off of MGM Pre-48 Greats, a package going on its second syndicated year when this reprise came out. What gave birth to Andy Hardy Comes Home was curiosity borne of home viewing the oldies, and off-chance that Metro could pull out of tar pit that was (lack of) 50's biz and make the Hardys viable again. To that came willingness of Mickey Rooney and "personal manager" Red Doff to do this one cheap ($307K negative cost) and surely realize profit for so little spent. Mick's payday? $35,000, according to biographer Arthur Marx, this a bargain for Metro, as Rooney contributed gags and bits as had been prerogative in 30/40's glory days of the series.


MGM had negotiated with Rooney and Doff the previous year for a possible vid series, or for Rooney to direct features, a deal stalled until the Hardy idea juiced interest. Major help was Mick lately scoring in a Playhouse 90, where he earned critic claps as a hateful TV comic. The Hardy deal was inked in January 1958, Rooney to star, Doff to produce. It was hoped that cast regulars, minus deceased Lewis Stone, would come aboard, as well as walk-ons by Hardy g.f.'s gone since to picture fame: Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Esther Williams. Exploitation grass looked green for this reunion, but came dawn of wish list femmes unwilling to cameo, and even Mother Hardy (Fay Holden) wanting high tariff to come out of semi-retirement. Early scripting (as Andy Hardy Grows Up) contemplated Polly Benedict as wife to Andy, but even here was stoppage, as Ann Rutherford was $ecure married (to producer William Dozier) and in no particular need for cash. Could Andy survive a pinch-hit wife and mother? Metro proceeded on basis he could, feelers put out to Spring Byington in case Holden stayed intractable (part of the deal: Rooney guesting on Byington's series December Bride), and Patricia Breslin subbing for Rutherford, Breslin a Metro exec girlfriend who couldn't act, said director Howard Koch, him expected by brass to smooth her out.


Mickey meantime talked ex-spouse Martha Vickers into letting their son Teddy play Andy Jr. for the pic, this to be major slant of publicity. There were also Vegas dates Mick would fill at the Riviera Hotel, these to buttress quick shoot (12 days) of Andy Hardy Comes Home. By May and production, there was meeting of minds w/ Fay Holden, plus series regulars Cecilia Parker and Sara Haden, but whose idea was it to put Jerry Colonna behind Carvel's soda fountain, as if he'd been there all along? And Andy's best pal "Beezy" was now real-life Rooney chum Joey Forman rather than George P. Breakston, latter having switched to directing since 40's essays of the character. A hung portrait of Judge Hardy would stand in for absent Lewis Stone and serve as guiding spirit to Andy (and backdrop for his "man-to-man" talk with offspring Teddy). Need for speed was increased when an "exhibitor's poll" resulted in opener dates moved up to mid-summer, Andy Hardy Comes Home figured to plug holes in Leo's hot weather lineup.


Rooney teamed with songwriter-since-the-30's Harold Spina for three numbers to be heard in Andy Hardy Comes Home, each keyed to teen listeners, one tune, Lazy Summer Nights, pushed toward Hit Parade placement via 45 RPM by the Four Preps. Kids beyond Mickey's own were cast to widen youth appeal, mile-tall Johnny Weissmuller Jr. as an AH nephew and locus for contrast gags between himself and diminutive Mick. Teddy Rooney took a bow on Ed Sullivan's 7/27/58 broadcast, this a cinch to heighten awareness, along with 10,000 "giant" and full-color postcards Metro mailed in advance of July playoff. Trade ads (Dig That Goldmine!) touted tens of millions that previous Hardys had earned, with assurance that Comes Home would be as boffo.


L.A. First-Run Saturation
Reviews were perhaps kinder than Andy Hardy Comes Home deserved, the pic "disappointing" (Variety) in virtually all of keys, where it rode double with likes of The Badlanders, Tarzan's Fight For Life, and whatever else Metro couldn't sell singly. One Pittsburgh exhib had the "odd" experience of refund demand from patrons complaining that they'd come to see revival of an old Hardy film, and had no interest in the character updated to 1958. Rooney reunion went down in comparative flames, Andy Hardy Comes Home earning but $412K in domestic rentals, with $216K foreign, numbers low even by blighted standard of 1958 (Mick in hindsight: "The public simply didn't care what had happened to Andy Hardy"). A "40 for '64" saw first syndication exposure for Andy Hardy Comes Home, offered with 39 other post-48 Metros for the 1964 TV season. TCM has lately dusted AHCH with a widescreen transfer in HD, good on one hand, but also cruel reveal of a show shot cheap and hurried. By all means, see it anyway, for mirror of Metro in decline if not re-acquaint with Carvel crowd.




Monday, July 13, 2015

True Crime Dug Up To Shock A New Audience


Compulsion Is Fox's Thrill-Kill Diller for '59

Objective here was to renew shock of a murder case heard thirty years before that stunned a public and made Leopold-Loeb synonymous with things sick and twisted. Those names which were altered for the film weren't critical to selling, as it was parents, if not grandparents, of a 1959 audience who'd recall L&L or care less if they were fictionalized here. Details of the actual event were used, and since there'd been no high-profile killings along same line since Leopold-Loeb, we'd not call Compulsion obscure despite names changed. Pic would need teen patronage to get back $1.3 million spent on the negative, Fox not wanting to stumble as Warners had with The Spirit Of St. Louis, where casting of overage James Stewart as Lindbergh helped send that period craft crashing to earth. Still and all, there seemed a hex on 20's-set stuff, for Compulsion lost money too, though not so much that 20th couldn't recover via network sale to ABC in 1968 (for 1/69 broadcast, plus a repeat).


Promotion was set on stun --- You Know Why We Did It? Because We Damn Well Felt Like Doing It! --- this may have been a first time profanity was utilized so freely for ad copy. Some newspapers, of course, wouldn't accept these, so there'd be alternatives, but Fox meant to give notice that Compulsion would be no-holds-barred, even as they shrunk from seamier aspect of the Leopold-Loeb relationship and on-screen depiction of little Bobby Frank's killing. You could, in a way, think of these two as an older generation's extreme of juvenile delinquency, a reminder that our 50's line in bad lads had nothing on truly twisted Leopold and Loeb. Compulsion stayed safely above the fray of exploitation it could easily have descended to, considering the subject matter. In fact, a more explicit telling might have helped a fallow boxoffice.


Richard Fleischer wrote a very entertaining memoir called Just Tell Me When To Cry. In it, he tells of directing Orson Welles in Compulsion. Scarce is mention of Bradford Dillman or Dean Stockwell, who played (and well) the characters based on Leopold and Loeb. Welles was the acting fascination so far as Fleischer, and probably most of critics, were concerned. His entrance delayed till a final third, OW dominated Compulsion from there as the Clarence Darrow-inspired defense attorney, his highlight a marathon speech running past twelve minutes. It's the expected bravura highlight, and probably Welles' most effective work in front of a camera. What better than a largest-of-life actor to play a same sort of lawyer, especially as public performing was/is integral to both professions?

Supplemental Ad Art Stresses Sex Angle for Stronger Selling

Welles was contrary at times, according to Fleischer, who opened his Compulsion chapter with reference to Orson as "huge," "grotesque," and "monstrous," that being just starters to describe the actor's physical countenance. By modern (and much revised) standard, Welles seems not so oversized. He'd certainly be bigger later on, though we may safely assume he was well corseted to play Darrow (OW acknowledged that he'd been strapped in as far back as Jane Eyre, and most of acting occasions since). There was also reliance on a teleprompter, which Welles "had brought in." Much post-dubbing and the courtroom finale done in chunks made life tough for editors, but what survives looks seamless. Fleischer noted flairs of jealousy where Welles realized (often) that he wasn't directing Compulsion, only acting for hire. Tax trouble limited OW to ten days on American soil, which limited options. This is probably good as any reason why he got minimal US work, for the game seemed always afoot with an unforgiving IRS. Fortunately, a Euro demand for Welles stayed strong enough to keep him busy through the 60's, and there would be opportunity there for him to direct as well. Compulsion is available on DVD, and streams at VuDu in HD.
grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015