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Friday, May 01, 2009


GREENBRIAR SHORT SUBJECTS



Here’s another posting concept I’ll float over the next while that hopefully will work toward getting images up and ideas out that don’t necessarily merit a longer piece. I’ll use the Greenbriar Short Subjects format to recommend books and maybe a few DVD’s as well.



SHOW ALERT: Cinevent 2009 happens three weeks from today in Columbus, Ohio (May 22-25). It’s a four day collector and fan gathering that’s gone on since I was but a youth, and what a marathon this is for rare screenings and unique memorabilia. We used to drive ten hours over perpetually unfinished West Virginia highway to get there. Since ridding myself of that incubus named 16mm collecting, I can traverse the hotel’s exterior lot minus nagging compulsion to intercept dealer vans to see what they’ve brought. Film's been largely displaced by DVD, but there are still ghostly images projected upon walls in the selling area, and I’m nostalgic near to wistful tears for projectors grinding and Super 8 (yes, Super 8!) prints of Castle Films’ Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde being unspooled by dealers I’ve known for nigh onto thirty years and then some. People in the movie life may die, but they never quit. Guys twenty years my senior buy up books and stills like teenagers just entering the hobby. Do we ever lose our childish enthusiasm for this stuff? I keep waiting for my interest to subside, an event concurrent with onset of much belated maturity and realization that all of it’s ephemeral and shouldn’t matter to grown-ups, but in the meantime, I buy up books and stills and wonder if twenty years from now I'll be doing the same (hope so!). They’ll be showing a Bill Hart feature new to me, and I’ll sure be there for that. Also a dye-transfer Technicolor print of Hello, Frisco, Hello which will remind us of what Alice Faye musicals looked like before Fox junked their three-strip negatives. Morris Everett has another of his poster auctions Saturday and Sunday. Program coordinator Steve Haynes sent an e-mail reporting that rooms at the Ramada Plaza Hotel and Conference Center are still available, but going fast. If you’re within a continent’s travel of Cinevent, by all means check it out.




I look at theatre ads like this and so many questions arise. What were the Three Stooges like on stage? This was 1942. Curly was still in pretty good performing shape, but how long before these live appearances became untenable for him? The recent Stooge DVD sets gave us opportunity to examine his decline from one short to the next until a stroke took him out. Bloggers have even posted frame grabs to pinpoint moments when you could see Curly giving it up. I’m open to Stooges now whereas I used to switch off whenever their theme came on, thus nearly all these are fresh viewing meat. One the other day had me levitating upon realization that its setup was lifted wholesale from The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case. Now the rest of you have been on to this for a lifetime, but here I exalted, What A Discovery! Obviously, I’ve got lots of Stooge catching up to do (and I’ve been helped in that regard by Stuart Galbraith IV's excellent DVD reviews). Next question ad wise: Would Jackie Cooper remember this gig with the Stooges? They’d have done at least five or six shows a day (doors opened at Ten AM). That’s a lot of backstage waiting, and I’m wondering how much conversation Jackie might have had with the boys. Did they send out for sandwiches? Things like that cross your mind when looking at these promotionals ... wishing to Heaven you could have been there primary among them, of course.

RADIO vs. MOVIES CIRCA March 29, 1928: The above group supplied an hour’s free entertainment on NBC radio that was like opening cannon fire at Fort Sumter, the first of many battles to come between theatres and media piped into homes. United Artists’ Joseph Schenck committed star talent for an hour sponsored by the car manufacturing Dodge Brothers for purposes of selling their Victory line of six-cylinder models (from left to right at top is A.K. Schoepf representing Dodge, Douglas Fairbanks, Joseph Schenck, and Dolores Del Rio, with John Barrymore, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, and Norma Talmadge at bottom). Exhibitors hit roofs nationwide over movie people competing with theatres they proposed to support with then silent features. A public’s curiosity assured interest in hearing Chaplin, Fairbanks, Talmadge and the others speak for the first time. It was a coast-to-coast broadcast that neatly bifurcated show nights in the east (8 to 9 PM) and kept normally paying customers hearthside, a chilling portent of things to come. Theatre-men assailed Schenck and got his promise not to let it happen again. Exhibs more open-minded played the Dodge Brothers show with comedy shorts and trailers on screen as UA luminaries spoke and sang from recently installed Vitaphone speakers. There was clean reception or major static depending on location, commercial radio being still in its comparative infancy. Audiences stamped and hooted disapproval according to sound quality or their level of disappointment with speaking voices new to them. Chaplin’s was a particular letdown, and there was reason to believe pro orators stood in for Talmadge and Dolores Del Rio. The whole scheme was pretty much a train wreck and object lesson to discourage further such experimentation, but there was no denying sound’s penetration into theatres and the fact it was very much here to stay.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

RICHARD FINEGAN said...

John;
Any idea of the location or exact date of that Three Stooges ad for their live appearance with Jackie Cooper? I'm guessing the date would be some time in July 1942, as one release date given for the accompanying feature "Sweater Girl" is July 13, 1942 (although I have two reviews of it from May 1942).

11:38 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Regret to say I don't have an exact date on this, Richard, other than the year, nor the location. Maybe another reader will recognize the theatre name.

5:39 AM  
Anonymous East Side said...

Even when I was eight years old, I could tell the healthy Curly from the sick -- he lost weight (not in a healthy way) and his voice was weak and whiny. The Curly from "Micro-Phonies" doesn't appear anything like the human tornado of "Punch Drunks" a decade earlier. I dreaded watching anything from his last two years of acting -- it was just too sad.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Dave Weiner said...

I think it's San Francisco - at least, there is a big intersection at 11th & Market Streets & the Fox Theater was once at 9th and Market.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous zafrom said...

Thanks very much John for taking the time to research and post all of these Greenbriar entries. I did a quick internet search, finding the Earle Theatre in Philadelphia, and also Midgley as a more likely spelling. Actually, the name (as opposed to the morale-building photo) that first caught my eye in the full-page ad for the Earle was that of Betty Jane Rhodes. I see that she turned 88 on April 21. Betty, just give me a sailboat in the moonlight and you. :-)

7:14 PM  
Anonymous r.j. said...

John,

If I get around to calling my cousin Barbara, I MAY ask her if Jackie remembers anything about this, but mind you, I'm not making any promises. Sure, they sent out for sandwiches between shows, they're people, like anyone else. They probably sat around backstage talking "shop" and probably playing gin or poker.

I did see The Stooges perform live here in L.A. It was on something like my eleventh or twelfth b'day (who can remember?). My parents WAY TOO GENEROUSLY chartered a bus, and took myself and a whole group of friends from school down to what was then called "The Moulin Rogue", which had formerly been "Earl Carroll's" and later became "The Star Search" Theatre on Sunset, to see the boys performing live. I remember it was a lot of fun, my parents catered a beautiful lunch there at the restaurant, (They were just way "over the top" looking back), everyone had a splendid time, and as the "topper" to the afternoon, I recall being taken backstage afterward to meet with the boys, and I had a photo taken with them.

They were nice guys, all of them. Of course, you understand, I'm sure, that this was with the later "Curly" replacement. A year or two after that, our family went to dinner one night at a restaurant in Beverly Hills called "La Scala" and as we walked in and were seated in the dining area, Moe Howard, seated at the booth in front of us, called me over. He introduced me to his wife and several others seated at his table, and could not have been more gracious. My grandfather, M.K. must have been there too, that night, because I vividly recall the two them standing outside afterward, deep in conversation. (We laughed later about the two "Moe's" talking to each other). My grandfather had known the boys in vaudeville, and later worked with them, on a film called "Myrt and Marge" shot at Universal, which my grandfather wrote the songs for, and made a cameo appearance in, so I guess they had a lot to reminiscence about! (Somebody evidently remembered it well, because it turns-up as an extended clip in George Clooney's "O Brother Where Art Thou").
And finally, dear friend of mine, dancer named Jerry Antes told me a story once about appearing as the opening "musical" act, along with some other singers and dancers as a "production number" intro in Las Vegas for the boys. This would have been most probably late fifties. He said, from backstage, they heard not one person laugh during their act. This was at the dinner show. Before the "Midnight" show, they were canceled by the management, and hastily replaced and sent packing! Yikes!

I have vivid memories of "The Crime of the Century" from when I was a very little boy. The film stops dead, just before the end, and gives the audience a minute to figure out the killer!

All best, always,

R.J.

8:47 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

A chartered bus to a live Stooges show followed by a catered meal would pretty much ring the bell for my next birthday, RJ, if such a thing could be had at this late date. Hard to imagine anyone experiencing such a remarkable day as you did, and I really appreciate your sharing that event with Greenbriar.

By the way, everything I've ever read about Moe suggests he was a super nice guy and always gracious to his fans. Glad to have it confirmed again here by you.

Thanks Dave and Zafrom for helping ID that theatre where the Stooges appeared. All I had was the clipping itself ... not the page on which it appeared.

5:40 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Any idea on the grosses of those Curly-Joe feature films of the late 50's and early 60's? They must have done pretty well, they cranked them out.

6:30 AM  
Blogger Walloon said...

The Earle Theater was at 11th & Market in Philadelphia, 1924–1953.
http://www.world-theatres.com/PHILADELPHIA%20THEATRES.html

10:58 AM  
Anonymous r.j. said...

John,

First of all, sorry, I should have spelled it "Moulin Rouge". The luncheon was actually held at the nightclub (only in this case it served as a "Dayclub"), before "The Main Event" as I recall, and as you can imagine the place was mostly kids that afternoon,who were roughly my, and my friend's ages. The Stooges were then at the "height" of their "resurgence", owing to the reissue of their Columbia shorts on television (I saw very few of their "newer" features theatrically), and I do recall that the only kind-of disappointment my friends and I had that afternoon was that they were doing a standard "nightclub" act, when what we had come for -- and were fully expecting -- was to see these three guys beating the you-know-what out of each other!

Moe was extremely nice. After dinner that night at "La Scala", he escorted me over to his car, a parked station wagon, opened the back of it, and out spilled all these 8x10 glossies that were piled in back, took one out and autographed it to me. They were all current stills to promote their upcoming feature, "Snow White and The Three Stooges", which was, I believe, the only one of those later features of theirs I can recall seeing in a theatre. I guess at the time I thought it was "okay".

Jerry, I do recall now, said, that they were not pleasant to work with, at all. They were kind of miserable and mean, and made derogatory remarks about some of the male chorus dancers which didn't help endear them to anyone in the show, and might have helped to encourage the management to decide to cancel them. As I wasn't there, I can't say. This may have been during a very "down" period for them before they made their comeback. He just said that their act was kind of pathetic. I don't really think the Stooges were "Vegas" material at best. I remember my parents taking me to see George Burns and Carol Channing one night at The Riviera, THEY were "Vegas" material, not the 3 Stooges!

I'm afraid that like yourself, John, I was never really an "aficionado" of the gentlemen, and as I got older, less so. I still enjoy them, but in small amounts. Laurel & Hardy are more my style, and of course, you know of my great, undying affection for "Uncle Claude". By the way, I just got a "line" as recently as last evening from someone, on a pub down in Manhattan Beach which is frequented, I understand, by his grandson, Ron Fields. I'd love to meet him, if only to convey my respects and offer my heartfelt condolences on the passing 70-years ago now of Mrs. Nesselrode.
I do have a good excuse to contact my cousin Barbara thanks to you, and if I do, I will alert her as to your post.

Thanks again, and again, my very best, as always.

R.J.

11:38 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

RJ, I'd heard that Moe was pretty exacting about keeping the act in line while performing, so maybe some of that behavior was his impatience over inefficiency connected with putting on these shows ... that plus overrall second-rate circumstances of various clubs/dates they filled before the comeback got them back into features for Columbia.

Greg, I do have a few figures on the Columbia features:

"Around The World In A Daze" did $603,000 in domestic rentals, with $205,000 foreign. "The Outlaws Is Coming" did $598,000 in domestic rentals with $240,000 foreign.

11:50 AM  
Blogger The Great Bolo said...

The jig was up for Eve Kendall in today's mystery house banner.

Fortunately, ROT came to her rescue.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Jim Lane said...

Re: Today's (Sunday, 3 May) "Name This House!" Challenge.

Well, John, I don't know if I can "name" the house, but I think I can identify it: It's the house occupied by Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) overlooking Mt. Rushmore in Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Or am I way off...?

1:59 PM  
Blogger James McAndrews said...

I agree with Jim Lane that its James Mason's house near Mt. Rushmore from North by Northwest. I had better know that since it is one of my favorites.

12:36 AM  
Anonymous r.j. said...

I believe that the house, located there in North Dakota, near Mt. Rushmore, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Walloon said...

That house in NORTH BY NORTHWEST doesn't actually exist. It was a matte painting. There are no Frank Lloyd Wright houses in North Dakota. http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/1469/flw_nd.html

8:08 PM  

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