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
Search Index Here

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mining The Art Shop

Too distracted getting ready for this week's Cinevent to concentrate on writing, but wanted to have something up while I'm gone to the show, thus a handful of theatre ads recently scanned. Hope a lot of you will be at Columbus. It's a great show I've attended since 1982.
How big a serial was Columbia's Superman? Well, not many chapter-plays merited newspaper ads like this. Back in the era of silent serials, lavish displays were commonplace on theatre pages, but that was when adults attended weekly installments. Talkies consigned these to kids and their Saturday matinees, where it mattered less what played as long as it could mount a horse. Superman, however, was always something special. Even if that 1948 serial disappointed, still it was the Man Of Steel and he had a following bigger with each passing year. I remember Kirk Alyn setting up his dealer's table at shows where few of us had even seen his Superman output, it having been decades since the two Columbia serials played anywhere other that in pages of Screen Thrills Illustrated.

Were youngsters dismayed when they paid to see Davy Crockett and realized it was "adapted" from the Disneyland TV episodes? I'd guess color made up for letdown otherwise, along with seeing their hero on a large screen. Disney had been wise enough to shoot his Crockett adventures that way so as to secure residual value later when televisions graduated out of black-and-white. The craze over this character must have come as a shock to everyone involved. I'm too young to recall coonskin caps and such, and would probably have preferred cartoons anyway. The Mickey Mouse Club was usually a wait for whatever animated filler Mouseketeer Karen Pendleton pulled out of that drawer (she was my crush on the show and I was jealous at age five of Cubby getting to spend so much time around her).
He Made Women Curse The Day They Were Born ... so this is dignified treatment Fritz Lang's M received when imported to US shores? Maybe art houses approached it with reverence, but grind situations knew there was much to exploit in the venerable German classic, and they weren't above using lowdown art to lure patrons in. Peter Lorre looks like he's strangling a Baby Jane doll here. Thank goodness no such scene was included in Lang's original. Lorre's designation as "lust-murderer" implies something even more disturbing than what the film depicts. This ad dates from the forties, long before M was taken up by various churches of cinema. It's always interesting to come across ballyhoo for titles since canonized, wherein shlock merchandisers took what was rented them and really went to town with it.

Folks in Mason City, Iowa evidently took quite a shine to badman John Dillinger after he robbed their First National Bank on March 13, 1934. This ad for newsreels featuring the desperado fairly celebrate Dillinger's determination and deliberation as he emptied their vaults after the cool manner of his suggested inspiration, Jesse James. Would these have been the sorts of downtrodden folk that covered for Bonnie and Clyde when they passed through? This ad looks for all the world to me like an endorsement of JD's taking ways. Depression- whipped citizenry must have really had it in for those banks! Wonder if they cheered footage of Dillinger when Movietone reels flashed him up. Must have been a kick having a bank knocked over right in your own home town (likely just a few doors up from Mason City's Palace Theatre). Incidental to the Most Thrilling Episodes of John Dillinger's life would have been opportunity to see Charlie Chan's Courage, one of four Fox Chans we'll not see again thanks to that disastrous warehouse fire a few years later that took out most of their pre-merger inventory.

They say Frank Capra thought a lot of himself, and seeing this ad, I don't wonder. The occasion was Lost Horizon's two-a-day opening in San Francisco, and do note these advanced prices. Not many directors enjoyed this man's renown. It Happened One Night clocked record repeat bookings and wrote boxoffice history (was any comedy of the 30's more influential?). By 1937 and Lost Horizon, any Capra project was sure to draw a widest public, for his appeal reached all segments of the paying audience. Plush theatres used to routinely advertise big names expected to attend their opening nights. Not all of these would necessarily show up, but enough did to make for truly gala events. If nothing else, said crowd saw a longer version of Lost Horizon than we ever will. I've always had problems watching this show for the mess that is so much formerly lost footage patched in from inferior prints.


Anonymous sjack said...

Will you be at Cinevent for the entire weekend? I can only attend Saturday (to see the Louise Brooks film). Will you have a table or be at a specific location? Would like to be able to say hi again.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Kevin K. said...

I enjoy posts like this. It's like a triple bill of shorts rather than a feature. Don't wait for another trip to Cinecon for another!

3:48 PM  
Anonymous sjack said...

Sorry I missed you.

7:10 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

sjack, I'm really sorry we didn't connect at Cinevent. I was around the dealer's rooms most of the time, and only watched one movie and some shorts. Next year for sure ...

10:05 AM  
Blogger Paul Penna said...

So in 1937, Lost Horizon was "The Mightiest of All Motion Pictures." Did it have to wait until 1954 to be dethroned by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, "The Mightiest Motion Picture of them All," or were there any mightier ones in between?

11:02 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson e-mails about Superman ...

Greatly enjoyed.

If you want to feel more outrage, check out "Men of Tomorrow" by Gerald Jones. It's a very readable history of superheroes that details, among other things, how the creators of Superman were stripped of ownership early on and ended up in near-poverty until Warner came through with creators' credit and serious cash in '77 (to quiet an embarrassing campaign by other cartoonists on the eve of the big movie).

In strange counterpoint, it also tells how the shrewd but almost comically sleazy Bob Kane secured a first-class ticket on the Batman gravy train for life.

Today, of course, enlightened executives in all media respect and reward their content providers.

10:29 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson follows-up with comments on Disney and small to big screen shows:

Several Disney two-parters were sold as features abroad, while single episodes went out as "featurettes" (I suspect the "Arizona Sheepdog" referenced in the Crockett ad was one of these). Other projects planned for TV ended up going to theaters first, such as "Johnny Tremain".

"The Man from Uncle" created movies by cutting, pasting and shooting bits of fresh footage (or shooting two-parters intended for that purpose); "Tammy and the Millionaire" was actually three episodes of short-lived sitcom and I think some of Roger Moore's "Saint" adventures made it to moderately big screens.

Somewhere in the 60s, obviously repurposed TV seemed to vanish from the double features. You still saw movies based on TV shows, using the same people and sets (Munsters and Batman). And Universal had a knack for turning out movies that looked and felt exactly like TV shows, but weren't.

A multitude of other series, especially expensive but short-lived projects like "Planet of the Apes", were pasted up into features for non-network stations, hungry cable channels and the growing video market. But pretty sure those never made it to any theater.

Was there a point when actual TV-to-movies was put to rest?

10:31 AM  
Blogger heralde8 said...

Thanks for sharing the M poster; would have been a much different movie if they'd shown Lorre doing that!

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Paul Duca said...

O recently learned there was an American remake of "M" from the early 1950's, with David Wayne in the Peter Lorre role. You can find out about it at www., in the "Black & White World" section under "50's--Mid Century Morality"

6:04 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home
  • 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
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019