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Monday, September 01, 2014

Metro Serves One Rare


Confidentially Connie (1953) Makes Us Ravenous For Rib-Eye

This modest Metro from 1953 really got the razz from reviewers at IMDB, but I chanced a Warner Archive DVD (excellent quality) and it pleased. Going in with expectation is ill-advised with any budget pic from majors in TV-wrought decline. Confidentially Connie and ones similar were made to cover talent overhead and give distribution arms something to ship. The fact most lost money was secondary. A Mogambo or Lili of that year would cushion falls Connie took ($42,000 in the red from a mere $501K negative cost) and prevent hemorrhage to lion ledgers. Confidentially Connie is comedy after mirthless fashion, but interest rises from dated aspect of same, to wit pregnant Janet Leigh giving up precious cigarettes so she and underpaid college prof mate Van Johnson can afford red meat for supper. "Wrong then and wrong now" might be warning label Warners would affix to Confidentially Connie, for this is one-of-a-kind celebration of blood rare beef and how much we crave it. There'd be well-deserved Courage Award for anyone who'd dare remake Confidentially Connie today.


So who dreamed all this up? Turns out it was Max Shulman, of later Dobie Gillis fame, whose social satires were 50's-locked and now-fascinating mirrors of lifestyle radically changed since. Co-writing the concept was Herman Wouk, he of triumph with novels to come. The focus on meat becomes obsessive, Metro having ginned publicity by putting real cuts before a grateful cast during production. Spoilage came in Minneapolis when a planned tie-in with a local packer was nixed by the Meat Institute Of America, that national concern claiming Confidentially Connie was a malign on their trade that held butchers nationwide up to ridicule. Reprisals included dealer reduction of meat costs throughout Minneapolis to contradict Connie's notion that meat prices were high and climbing. The local Paramount theatre playing Confidentially Connie tried quelling the dispute by saying the pic inspired staff to stock up on meat, so stimulated were taste buds thanks to Metro's treatment.


All this tempest over a mildest, and now forgotten, comedy. But Confidentially Connie did rouse my own crave for cuts, so I'd endorse it at least as antidote to vegans. The '53 controversy illustrates hyper-sensitivity in play where movies were/are concerned. Other points Connie made were better received. Argument that college instructors are underpaid, and deserve more, was applauded by Minneapolis' PTA and Twin Cities college faculty members, to whom invites were extended for a gratis advance screening. With these groups behind it, picture has been doing better than average business during its eight-day run here, said Variety of the Minneapolis stand. Trade reviewing was generous, even as Confidentially Connie aimed no higher than support on duals. Mostly, it played with other MGM's figured to be safer bets: Jeopardy, Small Town Girl, Sombrero. Leo was still firm-committed to B's, though 1953 would be a final season per the policy. The company got out 45 feature releases that year, but  would drop down to only 25 for 1954, hope being that wide screen specials would make up the difference with longer runs.

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