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Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Prize For Your "Conquering Power" Essay

The Cincinnati Walnut Tree Is Dropping Dollars

Showmen had a confidence back then that's pretty much gone now. For instance: Cincinnati's Walnut Theatre, in this ad dated November 1921, inviting patrons to explain why The Conquering Power is a "great picture." There seems no room for dissenting opinion here, as in what if The Conquering Power is not a great picture? --- but for $10 as first prize, who'd argue? Online "Dollar Sense" says that would be equivalent to $124.45 today. With the contest gone viral in daily newspapers, we can imagine how many essays hit the manager's desk during "One Week Only" that The Conquering Power ran. Did his brother-in-law or first cousin cop the prize, or was competition on the level? A then-City Directory estimated 410,000 as population of Cincinnati. Tiny participation within that would have deluged the Walnut with essays, and it must have looked like easy pickings for folk who could read and write. I certainly would have taken a plunge given pulse of life and Cincinnati residence in 1921, gladly lauding any picture's greatness where a ten spot was reward. Among ancillary pleasures that week, as ad-shown, Rudolph Valentino as star not only of The Conquering Power, but next attraction The Sheik as well. Pleasing note 97 years later: Both are available on home disc.

4 Comments:

Blogger Kevin K. said...

So is it great?

7:21 AM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

It does seem poorly thought out at the very least. My weak guess is that a trade journal or promo kit proffered this as a "sure-fire, proven ticket seller", and a hapless manager dropped a near-generic blurb into the ad. It doesn't say when or where winners will be announced, or whether the winning entries will be published or posted, or any restrictions at all beyond the word count and the deadline.

If the thinking was that entrants would flock to see the film so they could write about it, the manager would be unhappily surprised. Every red-blooded kid has bluffed a book report from the dust jacket, and I'd be surprised if a lot of entries weren't based entirely on the ad (or, in the case of the more industrious, a browse through fan magazines and reviews at the drugstore).

Pity the poor "Contest Editor" tasked with reading them all and selecting plausible winners. With a lookalike contest or a talent competition you can leave most of it to the audience.

Back in the '80s I was in a newspaper marketing department. Official Rules were very thorough, reflecting both legal requirements and hard experience (a guy won a cruise package and immediately demanded we help him sell it, individuals would come in for a Free Entry Form and get huffy if not allowed to take the entire supply, a mother all but threatened to sue over her child not winning an essay contest, etc.). If the Walnut did any more contests, I'd bet money the language was more specific.

2:13 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer remembers his Cinecon view of THE CONQUERING POWER:


I saw “The Conquering Power” just once, many years ago, at a Cinecon. It was a 16 mm print made from a copy that was fast approaching dissolution. Images were speckled or scratched, and some were on the verge of melting into chemical decomposition. From out of this murk was seen the piquant profile of Alice Terry or the yearning eyes of Rudolph Valentino. Some find a certain poignancy in such relics, the ravages of time suggesting the timelessness of what remains. Certainly, it would be an aid to contemplating the greatness of the film, however, in that one would, in a sense, be imaginatively re-creating it. After so many years, I cannot offer an opinion as to its quality, only that, at the time, I found myself affected by it for reasons other than a bare summation of its plot would suggest. Had I seen it on its original release, with the fresh, lustrous images and composition its director, Rex Ingraham, was known for, perhaps I would have had a better sense of it, or perhaps the imagination is always more potent than reality, whatever spurs it, or else why do some films linger in memory long after they were seen in less than ideal circumstances?

11:52 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

The only copies I have of this are terrible. If someone knows of a good one please point me the way. Thank you.

8:56 AM  

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