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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Just Before Cinemascope's Wave Hit ...


Dangerous Crossing (1953) Boards A Familiar Ship

Out just weeks before The Robe opened and swept 20th away from B/W flat features, Dangerous Crossing was shipboard suspense traveling second class, its negative cost a puny $519K, from which Fox still lost money. Was there no hope for commonplace programmers in this new age of television? Studios had to do cheapies to feed distribution and keep overhead down. Ongoing double feature policy at most theatres supplied a market, but diminishing. These B's, even where solidly mounted, weren't enough to part customers from coin where nearly-as-good entertainment could be had for free at home. Zanuck saw the problem, and Cinemascope as its solution. He'd replace a Dangerous Crossing that would play but days with The Robe and others of wide persuasion that could run weeks, maybe months, to full seating.

Fox had 39 feature releases in 1953. Most bled red. New York chief Spyros Skouras sent continuous wires that the shop would go broke if a fix wasn't found. 20th touted upcoming Cinemascope to the trade for nearly a year's run-up to The Robe, this against backdrop of humbler output to excite no one. Fox "hits" for the period were relative, profits nothing like what rolled in once-upon 40's flush, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Titanic, and White Witch Doctor averaging quarter-million to the good, best pay-out of the year's pre-Cinemascope lot being Niagara, which came off $939K ahead. If the company had a savior beyond wide screens in development, it was probably Marilyn Monroe, a sole star under contract who seemed a guarantor of profit. She certainly stole thunder from Fox ingĂ©nues that prospered over a decade past, Monroe graduating to high-profile projects as Jeanne Crain, Jean Peters, Linda Darnell, fell to lower-tier, or left the lot. Dangerous Crossing was near an end for Crain at Fox, slipping status as clear to her as it was to a public bored with familiar faces in all too familiar vehicles. So many below highest star placement rode the sled from company contract to what free-lance or TV work could be had.

For such dispirited effort, Dangerous Crossing does have pluses. Director Joe Newman gets a maximum with borrowed resource, using sets left over from Titanic (the focal transatlantic ship) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (a swim pool immediately recognizable). While The Bad and The Beautiful had its fun with filmmaker Kirk Douglas cribbing backdrops for B's, Newman was doing the deed for real and getting handsome result. His Dangerous Crossing looks economical, but never cheap. The yarn derives from a radio play, Jeanne Crain gaslighted by what appears to be a whole ship's crew. The set-up has since been duplicated enough so that we might guess its outcome, but that won't deter pleasure in a story efficiently told, even if greater fascination lies in Dangerous Crossing as soon-to-be-discarded mode of Fox production. It would but faintly be remembered. NBC passed on a network run, one of few from 50's Fox not so honored on Saturday, or later Monday, primetime, Dangerous Crossing set upon syndication wave by 1963. There is a DVD from Fox as part of its Noir line, which some might call mislabeling, but where's harm, so long as it's out. Best means of current viewing is FXM rotation (frequent) in HD, Dangerous Crossing a most pleasing visual voyage since 1953 theatrical dates.

1 Comments:

Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

John makes an excellent point: Zanuck's plans for launching CinemaScope in 1953 resulted in Fox unloading the flat features awaiting release. This explains why STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER was released not during the flag-waving summer of 1953, but in December of 1952.

Fox did keep a backlog of flat titles available for spot bookings. (Laurel & Hardy's THE BULLFIGHTERS was still in service 50 years after its release!)

9:09 AM  

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