GREENBRIAR SHORT SUBJECTS
STRETCHING SCREENS IN 1953: Shane came along at the worst possible moment for a flat western shot on wide-vista locations. If ever there was an ideal subject for expanded projection, this was it. Shane was several years in production. George Stevens had prints ready for release about the time his public discovered 3-D and blown-out screens. Conventional formats were suddenly passé, and exhibitors wanted wide. Paramount hosted three hundred showmen in March 1953 for a jerry-rigged demonstration of features completed in standard ratio, now "enhanced" for panoramic. You are at the crossroads of your business existence, said Paramount chief Y. Frank Freeman to those in attendance, and so are we. He urged all not to discard conventional projection too quickly even as he ran scenes from Shane, War Of The Worlds, Forever Female, and others through a wide-angle lens that (not so)effectively expanded images by shaving off tops and bottoms. Dessert by way of increased ticket sales would reward houses that spent the mere $600 and up needed to retrofit auditoriums, said Freeman. We have no selfish interest in this process apart from the good that it may conceivably do for the industry. To George Stevens’ undoubted chagrin, Shane went the route of a cinematic lab rat and emerged far afield of what its director intended. Chicago’s State-Lake Theatre boasted the Midwest Premiere --- Only Our New Panoramic Screen can bring out it’s magnitude … only our New Stereophonic Sound can emphasize its emotional appeal, with sublime music, which comes to you from every part of the theater! This was May 27, 1953, with Shane coming on the Chicago Loop heels of Man In The Dark (5-8) and Fort Ti (also 5-27), both in 3-D. MGM’s Young Bess was opening the same night as Shane on a Wide-Dimension Radiant Screen at the nearby Oriental Theatre. According to Motion Picture Daily, the State-Lake engagement of Shane was first as well with aforementioned stereo accompaniment, Paramount having re-mixed the track earlier that month in response to patron’s enthusiastic embrace of This Is Cinerama and House Of Wax.
FAULKNER BOOSTS PHAROAHS: Here’s a collaboration literary scholars never saw coming … Bill Faulkner in Memphis helping Warners kick off that city’s Land Of The Pharaohs campaign, posing with WB branch and publicity men. There was a cocktail party for the author and his family, followed by a private screening on June 13, 1955. Pic was to open June 29 and Faulkner’s drop-in enhanced much local interest in the Howard Hawks project for which he was credited scenarist. Bill’s aunt (of Memphis) said Hawks called Oxford, Miss. eight times before its famed resident finally agreed to write Land Of The Pharaohs. For Faulkner, the trip up was both a family reunion and accommodation to Warner sales personnel. As to Hollywood handling of his work, Bill was a realist. Too many hands were in, he said. By the time they’re through, a writer’s effort has been altered or even lost. So how much of Faulkner’s concept survived Land Of The Pharaohs second-guessers? To that, he didn’t comment.
THE DIARY OF JONATHON HARKER: Much effort goes into tracking Hammer veterans. The Horror Of Dracula cast can be mostly accounted for. Of those surviving, many have been contacted and some have reminisced. One was recently knighted. I’m intrigued by those shunning limelight after exposure in 1958's classic. Valerie Gaunt has proven elusive, as did her intended victim in the unforgettable library scene that is probably Dracula’s best remembered. John Van Eyssen was down cast listings as Jonathon Harker, but a lot of fans spent years wondering what became of him afterward. He’d left acting and was said to avoid discussion of screen work put behind. A story's been told of Sammy Davis, Jr. spotting Van Eyssen in a pub and shouting Jonathon Harker!, to the former actor’s considerable embarrassment. Here is the only photo I’ve ever seen of a post-Hammer Van Eyssen, though interestingly, it’s a feature from that company he’s publicizing. Julie Ege (Miss Norway), in the center, was just signed to do Creatures The World Forgot for Hammer when she posed with Van Eyssen, then head of Columbia British Productions, and producer James Carreras. This was July 1970. John Van Eyssen had retired from acting in 1961 to become a literary agent. He seems to have found far greater success there and at Columbia than was to be had in front of cameras at Bray. I’ve not heard of Van Eyssen being interviewed by anyone, though Little Shoppe Of Horrors #13 says he was approached and had promised to sit for a talk, but died in 1994 before that could be arranged.