SOCKING OVER SLEAZE--- You'd think these were
50's paperback covers at first glance, but it's actually a Warner combo circa
'54 for brass knucklers representing last gasp of a B unit the studio was
fazing out. Output from WB slowed drastic from 28 features in 1953 to only 20
in 1954 (not including reissues), part of an overall cutback as the industry
assumed a long-run, if not blockbuster, mentality. Cinemascope was part
responsible for changed attitudes; in any case, small pics like Crime Wave and
Duffy Of San Quentin got the hook. You could sell these as"shockers" for violent
content, if not sex lure indicated in this ad that wouldn't (couldn't under a
still-enforced Code) show up on screen. I just looked at Crime Wave and don't
recall Scream Baby, I Don't Mind anywhere in dialogue. There are
"Gutter-Guns" on view, I suppose, but no "Gang-Girls."
Still, Crime Wave is a honey (haven't yet seen Duffy). Shot in latter months of
1952 (November/December), but held for January '54 release, Crime Wave was
among few (any?) full-frame Warner pics playing off in an otherwise 1.85
season. Titled Don't Cry, Baby, then The City Is Dark before and during
production, the project was initially set for Humphrey Bogart, as would be
months-later The System, but HB was turning away everything Warners tendered,
so sour was he after years of servitude.
Eventually labeled Crime Wave thus
went on B schedule to be produced by Bryan Foy, who was seasoned at these.
Directing Andre De Toth had two weeks and a low budget (neg cost a piddling
$377K, by far a WB lowest for its release year). Worldwide rentals of $880K
meant profit; audiences could still trust Warner for bristling gang subjects.
Gene Nelson was given the ex-con lead, a depart from dance work previously
engaged. Like Gene Kelly at MGM, there was desire on both actor and studio
parts to widen range, thus the two detoured on occasion to rugged subjects.
Pace is quick: there wasn't time to dawdle, givenabbreviated schedule. Crime Wave has much location
and night shooting, a bighelp. Not much regarded then, but
Warner values CW now, as witness HD streaming on their Archive Instant arm.
THE HEART OF SHOW BUSINESS KEPT BEATING--- It's
May 9, 1957 in Cincinnati.
The RKO Albee has a bonus with Untamed Youth that I'd very much like to see
today, but where is The Heart Of Show Business, presented by Variety Clubs? A
forty-minute subject with such star power would make fascinating history today,
and I'm guessing names perform in addition to pitching for thecharity. IMDB
says Ralph Staub was the writer/director. Cecil B. DeMille shows up in it too.
Wonder what John Wayne does, or Jerry Lewis, or Roy Rogers. Oh, and there's
Technicolor as well. Variety Club was a long-time institution by 1957
(Greenbriar visited the topic hereand here). Everyone in show biz answered yes
when they called. My question: are there prints of The Heart Of Show Business
still around? Does Variety Club have a vault containing this and other
featurettes? It certainly wasn't the only one they made. Assuming the Club is still in the
business of raising donations, would a DVD release of The Heart Of Show
Business and similar subjects help toward that? I'd like to hear from anyone
who's just seen one of these.
A FORTY YEAR DELAYED BIRTH--- This is an 8/1/56 Cleveland, Ohio
ad for Birth Of A Nation's revival. At least I thought it was a revival
before discovering that D.W. Griffith's film had been shut out of Ohio since its initial
release back in 1915. Seems there was movement to ban Birth that wound ways to Ohio's
Supreme Court, their uphold of the state censorship edict coming in October of
'15, and remaining in effect all the way till '56. So lo and behold, the HeightsArtTheatre was an apparent first-run for Cleveland. The 40-year exile
had just been declared unconstitutional in another court decision that paved
ways for the Independent Theatre Owners Of Ohio to book Birth throughout member
venues in a special arrangement with the pic's distributor(they'd get
"booking priority"). A first "arter" playdate in Columbus, at the recently
opened Indianola Theatre, had a best boxoffice since the house opened doors,
according to Variety. The distributor added a forward to prints that would
hopefully cool controversy. So, query: How long did Birth Of A Nation continue
to receive mainstream bookings? My first ever exposure was at a Winston-Salem hardtop in
1969, a theatre that normally took first choice of biggest new product, so this
was some kind of anomaly, a real see it to believe it moviegoing experience.
Don't recall the crowd, if any, but the WinstonTheatre
(where I had lately caught 2001: A Space Odyssey) ran Birth's 1930 sound
reissue version, the print of which was in like-new shape.
THE JAZZ SINGER'S STANDOUT--- Again, it's Cleveland. The Stillman,
built in 1916, had become a Loew's house by 1927, seated 1,800, and was
considered the city's "first true movie palace." Any ad for The Jazz
Singer is noteworthy, each theatre wherever located selling it, for good
reason, as a show-world revolution. What strikes me here is management singling
out "the one scene in which Jolson "kids" his "mammy."
This was quoted from a review in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the critic and
Stillman staff noting audience response to the brief dialogue exchange that
history says gave viewers an even bigger thrill than songs Al sang. Such
natural exchange of talk waswhat patrons all went home raving about. Note too
the Stillman's boast of "improved" Vitaphone. Loew had wired the
house early in 1927,Don Juanhaving played there during February-March. Ads throughout
early intro of sound, for many theatres besides the Stillman, refer to upgrades
in voice reproduction. Quality had to have been an issuenearly everywhere,
this being such new and untried technology. Were these promises of a better
aural experience in response to complaints from customers who'd taken a chance
on talkies and been burned?
WHAT'S NEW AT THE SILENT COMEDY MAFIA--- This I
want to mention ahead ofCineventin Columbus.
Noted writer/historian Richard M. Roberts informs me that his new book, SMILEAGE GUARANTEED, PAST HUMOR, PRESENT LAUGHTER, THE
COMEDY FILM INDUSTRY 1910-1945, VOLUME ONE: HAL ROACH, will be available at the
show, where the author will also be on hand to sign copies. Roberts also
informs thatThe Silent Comedy Mafia, an online mainstay for vintage pic
discussion and scholarship, has widened its format to include non-comedy topics
such as sci-fi, horror, noir, and more. What's emphasized is that The Silent Comedy
Mafia will no longer limit content to just silents, or comedy. There is, for
instance, a vintage television category where I've this week seen some
fascinating, and till now elusive, stuff, including a 1961 TV pilot called Just
For Laffs, a comic assemblage that included Moe Howard and Mel Blanc trading
jokes. There's also a video segment from a 1963 series starring Fess Parker,
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,
in which Buster Keaton guests. Who knew Buster and Fess ever worked together?,
yethere it is. The SC Mafia has always been a regular stop for me; now there's
all the more reason to get there regularly.