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Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Contest To Do Kilroy


Cooper and Coogan Co-Star in Kilroy Was Here (1947)

A Monogram delight, and very much made for the moment that was end to a World War where "Kilroy" was a mythical figure that seemed to have turned up everywhere. By time the boys got home, he'd gone from foxholes to the Hit Parade, thanks to novelty tuning by Ted Fio Rito and endless reference by club/on-air jesters. This iron was hot and not protected by copyright, having sprung out of nowhere that could be registered, so it was only a matter of who could get to screens first. Arthur W. Kelley announced a Kilroy feature for United Artists release, while Bob Savini of Astor Pictures was for doing a series of six using the character. Even George Pal got in the act with announcement that he would produce Kilroy as an independent.


Things got testy with six contenders at a start post, each claiming prior right. Savini and Kelley had quarrelsome exchange of letters to delight of a trade, Savini having got a script to the Screenwriter's Guild, but forgetting to file with the Motion Picture Association, a neglect that Kelley seized upon. These were the sorts of internecine squawks that paved way to many a finished, or unfinished, film. Even so minor an asset as Kilroy was fought over like meat by starving wolves. Well, they each smelled dollars, and there's all it took to begin a fight. Agent and now start-up producer Sid Luft took the ribbon by signing former child stars Jackie Cooper and Jackie Coogan as rib-tickler team, his Phil Karlson-directed venture to go before Monogram cameras, but wait ... what about that Japanese Kilroy done as a four-reeler with comic pair Dekao Yahoo and Gontaro ... could that crab Luft's act?


The Nippon Kilroy was a curiosity, but not distributed here, so way was clear for "legitimate" Mono treatment, filming begun as of 3/19/47. Jackie Cooper recalled in his memoir that it took ten days to finish Kilroy Was Here at a cost of "somewhere around $100,000." Trade reviewing of the result was generous, Film Daily calling Kilroy "a prize exploitation offering." The pic would be first of four for July Monogram release, the "World Premiere" in Odessa, Texas attended by Jackie Cooper and producer Sid Luft. "It was a dumb picture, but it made some money," Cooper later wrote. Sid Luft saw potential for more Cooper-Coogans and so pledged the parlay to another, Trouble For Two. This was released as French Leave, but an indifferent public put paid to further C&C mirthmaking, Luft's plan for two teamings per year abandoned as result. Kilroy Was Here is available in a fine quality DVD from Warner Archive.

3 Comments:

Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

I remember seeing Jackie Cooper interviewed by Tom Snyder, who asked Cooper what the lowest point in his career was. Cooper grudgingly mentioned the Kilroy Monograms.

I've never seen the features, but the trailers (featuring "The Two Jackies") look promising. I like Monograms anyway, so I appreciate your opinion.

2:41 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson indicates a Disney spot for Kilroy during the 1960's:


In 1965 World of Color did a series of episodes about Oscar Kilroy, a boyish ex-marine who settles in a small town and has comic adventures. He's well-intentioned, mild-mannered, and does good deeds with a bit of light bungling en route. If I recall correctly they never got into whether he saw combat or even mentioned Vietnam; although he affably referees little boys playing war.

Early on, he has trouble when cops don't believe he's really named Kilroy; at the end of the first episode the familiar "Kilroy Was Here" graffiti is attached to a Civil War cannon he saved from a scrap dealer. I remember that the Kilroy thing was a familiar touch to cartoon backgrounds; it wasn't until much later I learned of his WWII origins. Disney must have aimed that reference at parents of boomers.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Kilroy Was Here said...

HA! I love seeing Kilroy making his way around the world AGAIN! He was known throughout the world during and after WWII AND we are still getting Sightings from around the world.
He is still The GI's best friend and, besides Korea, has been spotted in the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. So you don't have to be old just be a GI! There is no doubt as to his origin. See volume 1 in

http://KilroyWasHere.org for all the legends and Sightings from Australia to Bucharest. Scroll down page one for a video interview with James Kilroy's children. Volume 3 has real true stories from GIs who served with him. Some funny, some poignant, some heroic, and some just memories that must not be forgotten.
Editor@KilroyWasHere.org

9:28 PM  

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