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Tuesday, January 03, 2006



Great Big Cake On The Set That Nobody's Going To Eat Alert

There's an insidious sort of movieland hypocrisy at work here. It's the old oversized cake-wheeled-on-to-the-set ploy that seemed to bedevil the production of every studio movie that ever was. Why did they do it? We say it narrows down to two possible reasons. One is it's somebody's birthday, and the cast and crew wants to offer sincere tribute and recognition. Yes? Okay, me neither. So it's for publicity, right? Well, yeah, sure, that's it! Otherwise, we wouldn't have seen so many of these inane "spontaneous" moments captured by the still camera. The first one I ever encountered was in Famous Monsters magazine -- Boris Karloff cutting a cake for his natal day on the Son Of Frankenstein set. Cutting is the operative word here, cause nobody ever seems to be eating those great big monstrous things. The just stand and coo over them, sometimes they stick their fingers in the icing (where's the point of that?), or maybe they just grin and look at the camera as if to say, "We're getting ready to have cake and you can't have any!". So we are here today to unmask the lie, and pledge to maintain an ongoing vigilance where this sort of abuse is concerned. To wit, there will be more postings with cakes, and we will just as fearlessy expose their non-eaters.

But what of that other reason we mentioned? Well, it's illustrated here, on the set of Giant. Look closely at that Texas-size behemoth that Liz is holding off with her carving knife. It's a gift from Jack Webb. Yes, that Jack Webb. Dragnet, Adam-12, all that. But why did Jack do it? According to the back caption, it's supposed to be a good luck gesture to launch the production of Giant. But what does Jack care about Giant, or anyone's luck, other than his own? Well, that's where it all ties in, cause maybe Jack figured sending over that big, hulkin' thing might bring him a bit of luck one day. You see, Jack was working at Warner's too, making features. He'd just done a Dragnet for the big screen (a smash, by the way), and probably figured on settling in at the WB lot for a long time. What better way to consolidate your position than to send grotesquely oversized cakes to other soundstages? I won't say Jack was a bootlicker (and we love The D.I., by the way), but I'll bet he didn't send a cake over to the set of Them!. After all, Gordon Douglas was no George Stevens.

Speaking of Kingfish, there he is with the big wheels of his sprawling Texas train (Liz, you watch that knife!), and one of them, the guy with the cheerful expression that looks like a cross between Harry Cohn and Herbert J. Yates, is, I think, a man by the name of Henry Ginsberg. Now Henry (I doubt if anybody ever called him Hank), started out at Hal Roach Studios just like Kingfish, and he was known as a ruthless man with the budget. It's said that when he was at Roach, there were a lot of pink slips flying and corners being cut. In fact, you can thank Henry for that runaway car sequence in Laurel and Hardy's County Hospital looking so phoney. Henry wouldn't let Stan Laurel have the budget to do it right.

That other pose shows Liz serving Rock. Now the man's either going to cut his finger off, or get that gooey mess on a very expensive suit and thereby hold up production to replace it, or he'll stick his fingers in his mouth and lick it off. Kinda gross. Don't let the photographer catch you doing that, Rock. So what's the one thing Liz and Rock won't do. That's right --- eat the cake. I guess the crew might have some -- you know, those little people who are the heart and soul of our great industry. Or it will be fed to the starving multitudes outside the gates of the magic Warners kingdom, sorta like after a bullfight. If I had been there, I would have eaten about a fourth of that leviathan. Sugary white icing is so good -- and then I would have sneaked out that decorative oil derrick and kept it as a souvenir of my day on the set of Giant.
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