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Thursday, September 15, 2016

When Fox's Grable Engine Ran Hottest


Technicolor The Topping On Song Of The Islands (1942)

Vic and Betty Lounge Before Convenient Process Screen

"All This ... and Grable Too!" said ads at the time, "All This" being island getaway at start of a war from which bad news we couldn't get away from. 1942 was large part grim headlines of loss mounted up as Japan seized one island after another. What more welcome, necessary even, than south sea paradise where hula is non-stop and no one mentions war? People talk of all old movies being escapism, not altogether true, but here's one to make their case. Song Of The Islands got no further than Catalina to evoke atolls, most of outdoors staged resolutely indoors, but what was that but charm of a show meant to suspend patron contact with reality. Midst-of-war output looks silly, even pointless, from where we sit, but it all had energy plus grim determination to please amidst concern that all could be lost unless we won.



Lots More Grable Flesh Here Than In Pic
Island yarns were strictly cotton candy after a late 20's cycle of tar the white man for despoil of native purity, basis for White Shadows In The South Seas, The Pagan, others of blame-us category. Asset of these was location shooting, however cheerless the content. Toward establishing useful formula, Paramount put sarongs and eventually color to ongoing A's that were a same narrative told and re-told, but dependable thanks to island pics becoming genre unto themselves. The tropics became lost paradise regained by lead men teaching native lovelies how to kiss. Technicolor went far ways toward popularizing the cycle. An emerged star like Betty Grable was bound to end up in hula circumstance sooner or later, her grass skirt route for Song Of The Islands paved with ads/poster art, not one of which overlooked essential of Grable legs peeking from underneath stalks. Notable was promo art revealing lots more than dancing she did in the film. Thanks to Code oversee, it looks at times like Fox stripped a whole tree and tied it around Betty to prevent our seeing too much.



Believe It Or Don't
Watch Donald Crisp in The Pagan and compare his character with Thomas Mitchell counterpart in Song Of The Islands. Latter is benign to a fault, kind to native hosts, respectful of their culture and environment (he won't let piers be built for fear of ruining shorelines). Grable is his daughter, wise to civilized ways for being US-educated, so there's no pidgin English except for extended gag where she misleads would-be seducer Victor Mature. These two were regarded a height of physical lure at the time, kitted out in swimsuits both here and in just-previous I Wake Up Screaming, those segments primary take-away from viewing of both. Jack Oakie is here for the comedy, fleeing a plus-sized maiden just as Sammy Petrillo later would in Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla. Song Of The Islands premiered two months after Pearl, but there is no mention of war. That might have been corrected had the film come but weeks later, but maybe it was as well, and served overall purpose better, not to emphasize the conflict.


Chicago Duals Island with a Fox "B"
20th took profit from virtually all their wartime musicals by keeping costs under control. Technicolor ones like Song Of The Islands and Springtime In The Rockies held the line at one million for the negative, each realizing a million in gain (Springtime In The Rockies, in fact, got $1.9 profit). It was when spending crept up that trouble began. The Gang's All Here was for Fox a first of the genre to need two million for completion, but thanks to ongoing boom, still realized $410K profit. Something For The Boys, minus a Grable or Alice Faye to headline, had two million in its negative, and lost $449K. Splashy musicals for which money seemed no object dealt with a same reality as series westerns or mysteries: you'd not get back excessive dollars put in. As expense of making all films rose alarmingly after the war, Fox found its brand-name musicals no longer the sure bets they'd been, as even the Grables took on red ink. She'd stay popular, but not so much so as to cover minimum of two million being spent on her vehicles. With expense so out of control on all output, it's no wonder home offices feared for their very survival during late 40's slump.

5 Comments:

Blogger Richard KImble said...

Although I don't see a signature, that leering old rascal in the "photo gelatin" ad certainly looks to be the work of legendary New Yorker artist Peter Arno.

5:35 AM  
Blogger antoniod said...

I was SO upset when Betty Grable died at only 56! I asked myself if somebody up there-a whole panel maybe-decided that one needn't be alive anymore if one's image was outmoded(Look, I was only 14!And a bunch of vintage Hollywood actors seemed to be dying young!)

11:32 PM  
Blogger Barry Rivadue said...

Yep, it is Arno.

I've always like this movie, especially the song where Grable references Abbott & Costello!

8:08 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Let's not forget TIN PAN ALLEY, in which Fox got Betty into a hula skirt two years earlier, and with the fuller-figured Alice Faye, yet.

6:46 PM  
Blogger iarla said...

Shame she missed the nostalgia wave that soaked the seventies.

8:26 PM  

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