Lloyd's Of London and Star Manufacture
I got a nice history lesson watching Lloyd's Of London this week. Classic-era
Famous name-dropping in Lloyd's Of London is like a Winchell column published in Merry (and very) Olde
The merger of DFZ and Joseph Schenck's Twentieth-Century Pictures with the old (and ailing) Fox company was tacitly endorsed by entrenched
Most inspired was casting of newcomer Tyrone Power, Jr. as grown-up Bartholomew, and from thirty-five or so minutes in, the dominant lead. Power came to Lloyd's from small parts since 1932. He'd made good impression in Girl's Dormitory for Fox a few months previous, so using him here wasn't quite the gamble it appeared. Fox could look to, as inspiration, the truly overnight success of Warners' Errol Flynn a year earlier, a promoting blueprint usable to launch Power. Lloyd's Of London's pressbook posits Power's stardom as a fait accompli, this before audiences beyond east-west coast premieres even had a look at him.
|Una to Freddie: When You Speak Of This In Future Years ... And You Will ... Be Kind.|
The story told, compatible with up-from-obscurity
|Broadway's Premiere at the Astor Theatre|
Power took the same learning curve as had Flynn, his performance and persona forming as Lloyd's Of London itself progressed (did they shoot in sequence?). Audiences rightly saw Ty as green, and maybe embraced him the more for it. A brand new star was exciting, being news to travel fastest through beauty salons, over drug counters, and deepest perhaps in hallways at school. Lloyd's Of London had premieres at Broadway's Astor Theatre and The Carthay Circle in Hollywood, at a time when such were truly gala events. Great depression downturn was far enough back of the industry to enable modified roadshow policy with regards showiest product, thus Lloyd's Of London played twice a day at these venues with seats at $2 tops. This got a persuasive message out that Lloyd's Of London was product to reckon with.
Small towns down the distribution line might wait a year for Lloyd's Of London to reach them, but appetite whetted by star-studded openings and continual fan magazine drumbeat made delay bearable. By the time many saw Lloyd's Of London, Tyrone Power had made at least two further starring vehicles. It was these smaller pics that benefited most from money poured upon Lloyd's Of London (its negative cost $873K). Tyrone Power could not have laid stardom's foundation in a Second Honeymoon or Love Is News. These were, in a sense, opportunistic crows that would feed off bounty of Lloyd's Of London.
Fox had also seen after an international market with Lloyd's, its subject matter a UK/Euro lure, and like many of the company's historicals, realized foreign grosses nearly the equal of what it took domestically. A worldwide $2.1 million put Lloyd's among highest scoring for 20th's 1936-37 season, although Shirley Temple vehicles, done by the company for far less money, routinely out-performed all else tendered by Fox, even epic-styled Lloyd's. The latter turns up on TCM from time to time. Fox must have done a re-master, because it looks terrific. I assume, or hope, that 20th's On-Demand DVD program will have it out before long.