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Monday, December 27, 2010


I'll admit to not preparing this as I ordinarily would a Greenbriar post. A weekend normally occasion for that was taken up with Christmas and snow, snow, snow, which among other things knocked my power (temporarily) for a row of pins. Such panic that ensues when computers go down! Twelve years ago, I didn't even own one. Well, five years back of this date, there wasn't Greenbriar Picture Shows either. Latter was an idea that came of reading other bloggers and wondering what my stills might look like online. Seemed simple enough to publish a few Black Cat images with offhand commentary. Maybe that and a couple more posts would be extent of it ...

Greenbriar has been up 710 times since December 27, 2005. I wouldn't have thought there'd be that much to talk about. Health permitting, 710 more should come down the line, for maybe surprisingly, I've not burned out on GPS yet. Heaviest Greenbriar traffic tends toward the archive. That's a separate site with links, index, and search options that's a lot handier than archive and search features provided by Google/Blogger. Click on a past month at the bottom of this page, for instance, and you'll only get half or so of the posts that went up that month, a bugaboo I have not means of correcting. There is a page at Greenbriar Archives that lists every post by date with links to all. That's the surest place to find whatever's wanted, in addition to the names and titles index.

What I need to do now is shut up and put up some (hopefully) unfamiliar images to decorate this anniversary post. These I've saved over a period of time, but had no place to display 'till now. Call today's a hodgepodge then, but one I hope will be fun looking at:

EC COMIX FOR DUCATS: Let's call this a portrait of kids trading hundred dollar bills for admission to wily Warren "Bud" Patton's playhouse back in 1954. Read the caption and imagine what these comic books would be worth today. Did Bud really sell them for waste paper or have heirs cashed in on fantastically accelerated value of EC horror mags since? The idea of this civic-minded promotion was to liberate youth from mind-rotting Vaults of Horror thought to be leading a generation down perdition's tunnel. These comics were, after all, far more explicit than content you could put on '54 screens, so maybe exhibs like Bud wanted much as anything to rid themselves of published incubi and put moppets back in theatre seats for spook subsidy. Patton's Tulsa, Oklahoma scheme was tried elsewhere, and in fact, backfired Miami-ways where small fry queued up to swap over 8,000 horror comics for theatre admission and so-called "approved" mags which were distributed with tickets. Trouble was the promotion actually stimulated interest among Miami's young in shock graphics once they got ganders at contraband gathered for the drive (Miami had an ordinance forbidding sale of chill and crime comics to anyone under seventeen years of age).

CLARA ON THE BEACH: Someone better informed re Clara Bow needs to clue me on wherefores (and whereabouts) behind this Paramount Pictorial short. Your audience swims and romps with Clara in an intimate way ... now does this have possibilities or what? So many single-reel subjects wait to be unearthed. I've spoken to no one who's come across the treasure referenced in this 1930 trade ad. Maybe it's buried in same sand Clara romped upon.

HAROLD LLOYD with GARY COOPER: This was taken at Paramount in the early thirties. Note Cooper holding eyeglasses ... Harold wears fake ones and Coop needs the real thing. I like those novel belts they're sporting. Why can't men's fashions today be remotely like this? Wonder if GC ever visited Greenacres. Assuming he did, it must have astounded Cooper how much money could be realized out of the picture business, though very few saw so much as to equal Harold Lloyd.

GLIMPSE OF A SET: This one is a "spaghetti joint" as envisioned for The Roaring Twenties. Such a thing looks modest put against a sound stage corner. Remarkable how it comes to life in the final movie. I like the cars parked outside the windows. You could still fool people into thinking they shot this outdoors. Warner pics were amazing for bringing exteriors inside. They even shot Sea Hawk ship battles in a sound stage tank.

SNEEZIN' FOOLS: Celebrities were wisest who played to each other's strengths. Billy Gilbert's was a sneezing routine indelible as his signature. Gilbert would perform it to the end of a long life. Here a late 30's Universal gathering with Mischa Auer and letting-hair-down Basil Rathbone, perhaps on break from Son Of Frankenstein doings. Would Basil have maybe preferred clowning to so much screen villainy?

LUNCH IN COLOR: Looks like Bette Davis is having chicken salad with her cigarette between Elizabeth and Essex set-ups. I'll bet actual eating found a blanket-sized bib in the star's lap so as not to stain that period costume. How distracting was it to have still photographers trailing you to lunch? For work days like Davis put in, you'd think fuller course meals would be in order, but stars then as now lived on crumbs (and nicotine) so as to keep weight gain at bay. Given a choice between celebrity and food, which would you select?

LEAVE HER TO FASHION: Here is Gene Tierney in another of those fab fotos in color out of fan mags that promoted she and newly arrived Leave Her To Heaven, a Fox 40's hit of cosmic proportion ($8.2 million in worldwide rentals --- Fox's biggest of that decade). Word-of-mouth was intense, especially for that scene where she let the kid drown. Truly a must-see picture in 1945, and probably better-remembered by its first-viewing generation than Laura.

MUMMIES IN LOVE: Uh, I don't think this scene is in the picture ... but what a stopper it would have made! Selling in those days was pursued with whatever it took. The mummy exiting his sarcophagus into the arms of ... just who is this gal? ... doubtless separated many a twenty-five, then forty cents, from patron purses. So what if the film was something else entirely?

LOCAL PALACES: Finally, here is rare glimpse of our own Liberty and Allen Theatres, both referenced many times over five years of Greenbriar endeavor. The Liberty is circa 1935, way before my time and unlike the Liberty I grew up attending. Among other things, its boxoffice was moved and the marquee replaced. The lady in the window looks almost like a wax figure you'd see in one of those arcade fortune-telling devices. For all I know, however, she might be kin to me. The Allen is a snapshot one of Ann's friends recently came up with. Could you pick a better attraction for that marquee? And how many small town venues put Howard Hawks' name among featured lettering? Yes, he was somebody to average patrons long before auteurists (think they) discovered him. The building is still there with four upper windows intact, but alas, no more Allen.


Anonymous David Hudson said...

Congratulations, John, and many thanks for five great years!

11:16 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Thanks David --- I don't go a day without reading The Daily MUBI. Yours is the best film news site around.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Sincere congratulations on five great years. Your blog is a visual feast.

Best wishes,

12:11 PM  
Blogger JavaBeanRush said...

Congratulations on five years of very unique blogging. I always learn something new from your posts, even if it's just the rare photos.

I wonder how many kids swiped their siblings' treasured comics to go to the movies one Saturday?

I've thought the same - that perhaps he wanted to do more comedy, or at lest that he had a greater appreciation for humor than many of his roles would allow him to express. I recalled thinking this especially after seeing Rathbone unable to keep from laughing during Danny Kaye's "Duke and Duchess" routine in COURT JESTER. And the4y kept it in!

His constant need to jab fruit, etc. in THE MARK OF ZORRO is one role where villainy and humor met.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Louie said...

Congrats, John. I only hope to achieve some of the great things you have written here. Keep up the GREAT work!

2:02 PM  
Blogger Dennis Cozzalio said...

Way to go, John! Thanks for hanging in there for five years, and I really do expect (hope for) at least 710 more posts! This blog is one of the reasons why HAL 9000 invented blogs, and I'm so grateful for the entertaining and edifying work you do that we get to indulge in here every day.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats! I've been visiting here for at least three or four years -- one of the few blogs that keeps your interest over that span of time. (How many burn out, with nothing more to say?)

Rathbone's comic skills were often on display on his radio guest spots. He made many visits to the likes of Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Bergen/McCarthy, Fred Allen, etc., generally spoofing his Holmes image. He certainly had a fine sense of humor, and did not take himself too seriously.

He and Nigel Bruce shared starring roles on "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" for nearly seven years of radio. (What a pity that only a handful of episodes survive from the first five years, somewhat better representation for the last two.) Apparently Basil and Nigel would dispel their pre-broadcast tension with comic hijinks, which included throwing cinnamon buns at the control booth to see whose would stick to the glass.


3:23 PM  
Blogger Poptique said...

Congrats John - you had me hooked from the Blotto post way back at the end of 2005 and a week doesn't go by without me checking in.

All the best and hearty thanks for creating one of my very favourite places on the whole of the web!

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Scoundrel said...

Congratulations and sincere best wishes to one of the finest film history blogs on the web.

I continue to be amazed and humbled by the sheer quality and class that pours out of this site.

Your work continues to be a benchmark of what the best of the web has to offer


Steven Sobolewski

4:37 PM  
Blogger Mark Mayerson said...

This site is a consistent pleasure to read and one I visit regularly. Congratulations on five years and I look forward to future entries.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John--I do believe the man pictured in the center in the Allen photo is the late Joe Johnson, who was the ticket-taker there when we were kids. Remember?

6:02 PM  
Blogger VP81955 said...

Kudos to one of my favorite blogs; the promotional side of the film business has long fascinated me, and you do a wonderful job of not only showing how it was done, but trying to comprehend why.

And as someone who's been doing "Carole & Co." for more than 3 1/2 years (thanks for the compliments you've given me, BTW), I can vouch for how doing one of these things gets under one's skin, becomes something you build the rest of your life around.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

Happy Anniversary, John! The Greenbriar is, of course, the inspiration for my own blog... I just wish I had your stamina! It was great chatting with you at Slapsticon, and here's hoping our paths cross again there and at Cinevent in 2011. Meantime, thank you for such outstanding - and wonderfully unique - film history!

10:26 PM  
Anonymous dbenson said...

Congratulations! The nostalgia, the hard facts, and the marketing goodies make each new post more exciting than the old Blackhawk Bulletins, and in the ballpark with an undiscovered William K. Everson book. May the new year bring you good fortune and quality restorations of some misplaced classics.

2:45 AM  
Blogger BijouBob said...

Bravo John! Greenbriar Picture Shows is an awesome achievement and a perpetual delight! Long may it continue.

5:01 AM  
Anonymous Jim Lane said...

Happy Anniversary, John! The last five years have flown by like minutes, at least from your readers' perspective. It's seldom been so enjoyable to have the bar set so high for the rest of us.

5:08 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Thanks Dr. OTR --- Always a pleasure to read your comments, and nice to hear more about Basil Rathbone's fun side.

Laura, I sure appreciate your mention of GPS today at your own fine site, a great place to visit.

Java Bean, it never occured to me that kids might have swiped older siblings' comic books to get in the show. Might be as well I never had younger siblings (only older ones, and they didn't care about comic books).

Louie, I've been watching El Brendel this week on Warner Archive's fantastic new Vitaphone DVD set, which I'll be posting on in a week or two ...

Dennis, your own blog continues to amaze. I only wish I were as prolific as you!

6:44 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Yes, of course, Anonymous. That's Joe! Why didn't I recognize him? I mainly remember Joe when he ran Community Grocery on Hinshaw Street. He used to give Ann twice as much penny candy as she paid for ... BIG handfuls he'd hand out ... and Joe always kept more varieties of candy bars than the Tip Top.

6:51 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Michael, I'll be there for sure at Cinevent and Slapsticon. These are THE two must-go shows for me, and I look forward to seeing you at both.

VP81955 --- Your "Carole and Co." is plain ongoing terrific! How do you keep coming up with all those rare Lombard images?

Glad to hear from you, Mark, and thanks. I'm a long-time admirer of your animation site. Great reading there!

7:04 AM  
Anonymous Paul Duca said...

Happy anniversary and as many more as you wish to have.

I suggest that you (and anyone else) read THE 10-CENT PLAGUE by David Hadju--it tells the history of the hysteria over comic books that led up to the promotion pictured.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Dugan said...

I've enjoyed your site for a while and have recently started commenting, I'm not to the level of your skill and knowledge. You have been a great inspiration for me.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Thanks so much for this site! It was one of the happiest things to happen to me in 2010 when I came across it. I check it every couple of days and it never fails to bring a smile to my face!

12:28 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Let me join in redundantly: great, truly wonderful blog. You'd be tops with the sheer volume of crazy-rare data, clips, pix and facts we've never seen... but then you make these genuinely original, truly insightful observations! I just love this stuff! Please, please keep up the great work!

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin K. said...

Only 710 more? I insist on 7100 (at least).

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Anniversary John!

Your hard work is MUCH appreciated, and I think this is one anniversary where everyone else beside the honoree is doing the celebrating! Here's to another five years---and many more to come! Thank you SO much for all the wonderful memories!

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Bill Luton said...

5 years already?? They flew by! (and how many years ago did we first meet, 35?) As has been said John, thanks for all the hard work that goes into making GPS, in my opinion, the very best vintage movie website on the internet. It is greatly appreciated and enjoyed.

6:19 PM  
Blogger Brian Darr said...

Congratulations! Truly one of the best blogs on any block!

6:41 PM  
Blogger Lou Lumenick said...

Happy anniversary, John, and congratulations on one of the best-written, illustrated and informative film blogs out there. It's one of my favorites!

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I'd never seen another post, anybody'd that do a three-part piece on VistaVision deserves to be around for five-plus years.

Thanks for each and every post.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

John, It never ceases to amaze me how you can present a subject with which I have no interest and make it absolutely fascinating. Congatulations!

10:42 PM  
Anonymous harlowish said...

Happy anniversary!

I've been reading this blog for over four of its five years, and it's surprising to me how big of an impression it has had on my life. I can go back and read favorite posts and remember exactly where I was the first time I read them. In college I actually quoted some of your posts on silent films in a paper I wrote about flappers (for a "Politics of Style" class). And now college is three years in the past and I think, "Wow, I've been reading Greenbriar for that long?"

So I guess I can say that for me, your blog is like favorite songs that can immediately transport me back to specific places and times.


11:41 PM  
Anonymous r.j. said...


Allow me to add my name to your many other fans and well-wishers. Your columns are compulsive reading for most of us!

P.S.: I went to high school in B.H. with Billy Gilbert's nephew and had the honor of being taken to meet the great man at his home. This boy to whom I refer was also the "godson" of Blake Edwards, and his mother, Fay McKenzie, was "Queen of the B's" at Republic (and elsewhere) in the 40's.

A very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to you and yours.

With all best personal wishes,


5:14 AM  
Blogger Uncle Gustav said...

Congrats, John! I've been checking in to your site since the beginning and plan to continue doing so. Great stuff, a lot of knowledge, a friendly vibe, and an unyielding passion. Very, very cool. You should be proud.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

I'll gladly get in line behind all the well-wishers, John. Few movie buffs work as hard as you do. The writing alone must take up so much valuable time, and then there's digging up the boxoffice numbers and finding the appropriate graphics amid what must be a very impressive library. To do all of this once is a success; doing it 710 times is a real achievement.

Thank you for keeping the flag flying for vintage film.

9:52 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Folks, I am really overwhelmed by your kind words. So many of you have sites that I enjoy and often (try to) emulate. R.J., Scott, Ray, Lou, Bill (yes, it's been at least thirty-five years!), Toby (thanks so much for your GPS post at Fifties Westerns), and all the rest --- your support, friendship, and continuing comments are very much appreciated. Hannah, words won't describe how gratified I was by your observations --- they meant so much and surely will motivate me toward goal of another 710 posts.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Bernd said...

The world has certainly become a better place with your blog. Keep up the great work, so many great movies still to be discussed!

1:29 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

I always enjoy reading this blog,even if the subject would normally not appeal to me,you always have a fresh and interesting angle.The fotos are rare and tops!and I always feel at home when old film collecting and Blackhawk films comes up in the subject!!

10:29 PM  
Blogger Miguel said...

Ā”Felicitaciones por los primeros cinco aƱos del mejor blog del mundo!

Un saludo desde Buenos Aires, Miguel

Now in my poor english:
Congratulations for the first five years of the best blog of the world!!!
Best wishes from Buenos Aires, Miguel

11:51 PM  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

You make the cyberworld a better place. Thanks for all you've done - it's been terrific -and for letting us know that you intend to keep right on doing it.

12:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Congratulations on five years of great work.
And, Happy New Year!

3:36 AM  
Blogger Paul Castiglia said...

Happy 5th Anniversary, John! What can I say that others haven't already said? Your blog is essential reading and while I often cite Trailers From Hell as my favorite website, yours is my favorite blog, and so I guess you're tied with the fine folks from TFH. :) I have learned so much and been so entertained and even enthralled by your blog - it is a pure joy.

RE: The comedic Basil Rathbone - I invite all Greenbriar readers who haven't previously availed themselves to partake of the vastly underrated "COMEDY OF TERRORS" - you can read my review of it at

9:28 AM  
Blogger Tom Ruegger said...

Happy Anniversary and Happy New Year, John!

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

One of the best blogs on the Internet. Keep it up, John!

Fyi, if you've got cable on-demand, TCM is now showing a short from 1934 called "Soft Drinks and Sweet Music" that regular readers should enjoy.

Warning: ladies underwear and blackface content!!!!

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Without a doubt my favorite website, thanks for 5 years of great posts. And have a Happy New Year!!!

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Marc in Atlanta said...

My favorite website. An adrenaline rush every time I see a new post.

Congrats and happy new year!

12:54 PM  

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