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Monday, March 31, 2014

Your Invite To Glimpse The King


Where Just An Elvis Preview Was Enough

You May Have Gotten In For Free, But You'll Leave Some Money Here
When they crowd the house to see a trailer, you know what's coming is an attraction. None was more so for West Jefferson, NC in 1957 than Loving You, Elvis Presley's second movie, and his first with color. Mere advertising as an event may have had its beginnings here. We wait today for "premieres" of a new Star Wars or Spiderman trailer, often months in advance of the features' opening, but who would have made such currency of humble previews going on sixty years ago? The idea of a trailer as lure in itself was brainchild of Dale Baldwin, manager of the Parkway Theatre and showman extraordinaire who knew two minutes of Elvis was enough to fill his house ahead of Loving You and assure they'd come back when the feature made three day landfall for a following week. When I asked Dale why the free admission for his preview peek, he recalled but one word: Concessions. The teens poured in and ate selves silly as Big E sang snatches of Teddy Bear against purple tapestry. What better background to wolf-down of M&M's and Hershey Bars? Baldwin and the Parkway's snack staff knew their public. They'd not get the quarters for coming in, but kids more than made that up at the corner counter shown at left, where watchful eyes of Bill Holden, Janet Leigh, and Alan Ladd approve each sale.

The "Tri-County Premiere" Claim Was Correct --- The Parkway Had
Loving You a Month Ahead Of Our Liberty Theatre

I remember how it was to lust after a trailer, having half-heartedly gone to Mary Poppins in 1965 less for that feature than to see previews of a Hammer combo Liberty-booked for the coming week. Imagine Elvis electricity switched full-on in summer 1957, school being out and car radios concertizing the King through rolled-down windows where every night was cruise night. What you had of Elvis up to then, beyond platters and airplay, was fuzzy TV and Love Me Tender, that a year old and B/W besides. Loving You pulsed with Technicolor and fact that Presley was the star, not pulling plow for drabbish drama cast. A Brownie snap of the Parkway front captures it all: Short-sleeved folk passing a July's afternoon as Loving You promotion bids them enter. Who'll bet the guy parked in foreground was listening to Elvis right then? We see seven of West Jefferson's small population in this moment's capture, and I'd wager the lot made point to see Loving You that week.

Summer 1957 and The Dawn Of An Elvis World in Northwest North Carolina

The Elvis flame from '56 till his army induction could not be tamped by a mere three features in circulation, Love Me Tender, Loving You, and Jailhouse Rock worn to sprockets by showmen doing repeat capacity with each. The Parkway and Dale Baldwin found avenues beyond mere encoring to feed Presley demand via link with other schemes that sold. What about pairing the Pelvis with reborn-in-1957 Frankenstein's monster, a hit all over again thanks to Curse placed by UK-based Hammer Films and US-distributing Warner Bros. "Elvis Meets Frankenstein" was inspired tandem to keep brand names, one established since the 30's, the other just emerging, before a West Jefferson populace. Something about Elvis made common cause with spook shows. The Parkway tendered Karu-Kum's "Horror-Science Show" featuring "Sadistic Surgery" and 15 Knives Pierced through Volunteer Brains, but even Lady Godiva Riding In Mid-Air On a White Horse was nothing to compare with Elvis "Mystically Transformed" on stage and singing in the bargain. James Dean had departed earthly realms and had to be materialized via spook merchants ... soon it would be Presley snatched from screens to be an army mule and leave needy patronage Elvis-less. Showmen would have to fill the gap however they creatively could.

More Elvis and Loving You at Greenbriar Archive HERE.

1 Comments:

Blogger coolcatdaddy said...

Thanks so much for posting this.

I grew up in West Jefferson and, believe it or not, the theater still looks just like this, minus the advertising for Pelvis.

Baldwin was still running the theater as a single when I was a kid in the 70s. It was turned into a dual-screen in the late 70s, going from two projectors for one screen and manual changeovers to a platter system and one projector for each screen.

I still remember seeing Fred Kirby at a "back to school" matinee when I was in first or second grade.

I think the current owner could probably do really good business if he booked a couple of Elvis flicks in the summer during the height of the tourist season up there. It's a nice little hometown theater and would probably bring back a lot of memories for visitors.

Baldwin had some neat advertising I remember that I've not seen examples of elsewhere. He would get these little try-fold flyers printed up each week that he would leave at local businesses, with each panel on the flyer containing ad art for upcoming movies. Wish I could find some of those!

10:32 PM  

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