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Monday, January 04, 2016

Another Good One From Twilight Time

Kings Go Forth (1958) to Blu-Ray

Kings Go Forth achieved backhand notoriety as the movie CBS substituted at the last minute for Psycho on Friday, September 18, 1966. Latter cancellation was result of affiliate worry over content of Hitchcock's thriller, and headlined murder that took place a same week (senate candidate Charles H. Percy's daughter). Kings Go Forth was weak tea in lieu of stronger mix we tuned in for, but I'd watch for it being followed on Charlotte's channel with 1943's Phantom Of The Opera (black-and-white, of course). These were days, after all, when viewing choice was limited. Kings Go Forth came loaded with ads, and trimmed for time besides. Now there's Blu-Ray from Twilight Time to resurrect war-set melodrama where focus is more three-corner love match (Frank Sinatra, Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis) than liberation of France, much shot there and with principals, which helps. KGF also looks good as intended 1.85, a first on home format.

UA Marketing Targets Minority Audience With Specialized Bally

Plot device had been done a few seasons earlier by Fox with The View From Pompey's Head, latter even less remembered than Kings Go Forth. Frank loves Nat, albeit twenty-three years her elder, while she flips for slight-more age-appropriate Tony. Central to conflict is racial mix of Wood's character, her confess of same emphasized by in-coming camera to emphasize the shock. This would become primary point of sale for Kings Go Forth. Sinatra is self-sacrificial, almost Chaplinesque, through bulk of second act, going sour near a finish on turned-heel Tony. It's this we get rather than Germans routed, but for suicide mission where FS forfeits a limb to love and duty. Who but Delmer Daves to helm such warm-up for older-fashioned dramatics to come at Warners? Performances are fine, especially Curtis at apex of work opposite bigger names. Within his range, this star could lead or support good as any until age and the 60's dealt him out.

Frank Is Feted With a Birthday Cake On The Set

Kings Go Forth was co-produced by Sinatra's company with independent Frank Ross, latter filthy rich from The Robe, which he owned much of. Ross, Sinatra, and source novelist Joe David Brown would share negative of Kings Go Forth, partnering with United Artists, latter to finance the film in part and distribute. Here was industry's new face for the 50's --- stars and independent producers in control of projects they'd launch, and splitting up spoils after banks and backer distribs (most often UA) got theirs. Kings Go Forth bringing back $4.3 million in worldwide rentals meant gravy for all, assuming Ross adhered to his announced budget of $1.8 million. UA would benefit via ongoing collection of distribution fees, this continuing past theatrical and into the CBS network sale, then syndication. Barring participants selling out interests to UA, estates still collect respective % on Kings Go Forth.

Watch Chaplin's The Circus, Then KGF: They're a Lot The Same

Less Eating Dirt and Crawling On Their Gut Than
Love Stuff, But KGF Still Pleases
Not all of Kings was shot on French soil, chateau stuff (Natalie Wood and mother's residence) lensed at Harold Lloyd's fabled Hollywood estate, a first time the slapstick-legend permitted his manse to be so used, according to UA publicity. Much of Kings Go Forth, in fact, takes place there, and the pic is worth seeing if for no reason other than tour of "Greenacres" that was home to Harold and host to many a filmland soiree. Lloyd permitted access thanks to long-standing friendship with Delmer Daves, who'd once been a writer/gagman for the comedian. Racial theme of Kings Go Forth was heavy-exploited at release time and helped differentiate it from standard-issue combat pics. Targeted was the "Large Negro Audience" (Sell 'Em This Way!) via ads in publications aimed at that viewing sector. Word-of-mouth was figured surest way to get out detail of Kings' "Bold" content. Seen in '58 context, and with its compelling triad of leads, Kings Go Forth passes 109 minutes nicely, especially w/benefit of Twilight Time's Blu-Ray.


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I don't know if it is by chance or design but it looks to me like Al Hirschfield has Tony Curtis looking clueless as to how to play that horn.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

The "Negro" pitches read as comical to modern eyes, especially as the main selling point is one character -- played by a white actress -- admitting to black blood. Did they figure in the movie's success?

One never knows. Yunte Huang's book "Charlie Chan" reports that in 1936, Anna May Wong visited China and found herself widely reviled for her stereotyped roles (admittedly all Hollywood gave her). Warner Oland also visited China that year and received a hero's welcome. It was no secret that Oland was Swedish, but his Charlie Chan movies were hugely popular and the detective was embraced as a positive image.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Is that Hershfeld playing the xylophone?

12:46 AM  
Blogger Barry Rivadue said...

I think Hirschfield had dramatic eyebrows and a fuller beard.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Mark Mayerson said...

I suspect the player of the vibraphone is supposed to be Red Norvo.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Mark, good call!

10:32 AM  
Blogger Bill DeLapp said...

Between CBS and syndication, "Kings Go Forth" also had two NBC runs in 1970, on Tuesday, Jan. 27, and exactly six months later on Saturday, June 27. UA occasionally network-hopped some of its bigger titles: CBS had runs of "The Apartment" and "McLintock" in the mid-1960s, then they turned up several years later on NBC. The most extreme example might be "One, Two, Three," which premiered Sunday, Jan. 31, 1965, on ABC, then nine years later had its final network airing as an NBC summertime burnoff on Wednesday, June 19, 1974.

12:35 PM  
Blogger kenneth Von Gunden said...

I think Hirschfeld didn't want to cover Tony Curtis's face.

2:17 PM  
Blogger rnigma said...

CBS made a poorer movie substitution in the early 2000s (it may have been 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11) when it scrubbed a Sunday-night showing of "GoodFellas" at the last minute, in favor of one of Chuck Norris' "President's Man" TV-movies.

10:44 AM  

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