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.