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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Putting Up A Great Front

Broadway's Rialto Celebrates Sherlock Holmes

Behold the above masterpiece of front design and marvel that such artistry was taken down and replaced on week or bi-week basis while Broadway's Rialto Theatre was operated by "Merchant Of Menace" Arthur Mayer, the Harvard-graduate showman best of all at his job and known industry-wide for it. Mayer didn't limit to exhibition, being analyst (his many trade columns), historian (a memoir, Merely Colossal, in 1953), and teacher/lecturer at USC, Stanford, Dartmouth, others. He'd begun at '07 graduation, worked Indiana theatres and later for Sam Goldwyn, was tabbed by Paramount to oversee publicity, cooked up the "Panther Woman" search for Island Of Lost Souls among varied stunts. Mayer ran the Rialto for bosses before assuming venue lease and splitting profits with Para for time left (to November 1935). After that, he knocked down the old Rialto, rebuilt from ground up, and took further lease of twenty years. From this, it was Mayer policy what prevailed, being thrill, horror, far-est out exploitation. The Rialto was first-run address of most Universal chillers from 1936 to fade of the cycle, Mayer according them balm of B'way open as singles, with fronts-of-house to set pace for others emulated, but never surpassed.

Ad space sold high as kites in NY dailies, so Mayer put his dollars on the street, where passerbys could be lured by siren tune of ghouls within. Universal's Sherlock Holmes group was strictly B, played beneath larger fish in urban markets, but The Scarlet Claw ran lone at the Rialto, a berth we fans would accord any Universal favorite, but which theatres too-seldom did when pics were new. Here was premiere of The Scarlet Claw on Broadway, in a spot seating 594, admission from forty to eighty-five cents, depending on showtime, and age of patronage. You could enter the Rialto from the street or a subway platform below. Shows ran to 4 AM, per sign at paying window. It sometimes played round the clock, Rialto being habitat for nightcrawlers. Gunshots could and did go off in the auditorium to faint reaction, crowds inured to mayhem on or off the screen.

Mainstream critics always condescended to success that was Rialto's, Mayer playing along as bemused intellect dialed down to primitive taste of his mob. He fed quips to popular press and saved nut/bolt of Rialto routine for trade reportage. Columns by Mayer are primer on how to sell hard and maximize biz. He likely did better off The Scarlet Claw than anyone else that used it. His two-week mid-May 1944 stand got $9K for a first frame, $6K the second ("upper brackets," said Variety). More dough was presumably dropped for War Bonds --- note extensive front-of-house pitching for those. "First Time On Any Screen" presumes a World Premiere, any thrill product in safest hands at the Rialto. The many 8X10 stills on display are unprotected, and I wonder how many were filched by fans bit young by collecting bug. Daily inventory must have revealed a gap or three to be replenished. Rialto's kept-busy art-shop had hands full at image blow-ups (that giant claw! --- Paul Cavanagh's head!), and yes, yes, yes, we must Buy More Bonds.

Sherlock Holmes was singularly exploitable because you could sell him for mystery or outright horror, depending on need. Rialto's Holmes looks like a chillingest thriller, title claw's oversized reach for a shrinking maiden like sci-fi fiends of a next decade. Here was no deceptive advertising, for The Scarlet Claw did come closest to monster merchandise out of Universal, regarded to present day as scariest of their SH dozen. Grind policy at the Rialto meant continuous dirge of projectors for all of operating hours, walk-ins oblivious to "start times." The Scarlet Claw is at 74 minutes accompanied by Donald's Gold Mine from Disney-RKO and a Speaking Of Animals short out of Paramount, plus a newsreel. All were one-reel subjects, total runtime under thirty minutes. Donald's Gold Mine dated back two years, but may have missed Broadway during interim, Disney cartoons known for at-times circulating for long periods in smaller markets ahead of keys. Speaking Of Animals was a live-action series, save some backgrounds and mouth-movement of livestock, dogs, etc. animated by Tex Avery, concept creator and aboard for initial entries. A few can be accessed on line, but none seem available on DVD. The shorts were popular though, and known to theatregoers in same way as MGM's Pete Smith Specialties or the WB Joe McDoakes.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Dinosaur That Came Before Digital

Only Purists Need Apply

Ventured to boy-room where my first 8mm "theatre" saw fruition, and names like Castle and Blackhawk were synonym for enchantment. There is no Back To Basic like return to 8mm. I was reminded how a small and steady hand is best to thread that narrowest of gauge. Plus a pair of young eyes. Everything about 8mm is scaled-down, the projector, film, its image as projected. Here was a format best enjoyed by children (age ten was start for me). For this last round, I needed two pair of specs on hand, one for close work, a second to view results. Thread process was like putting string through a needle minus its eye. Patience is a must when handling film, delay and frustration the bane of most screenings. A forty-year old projector I used had dubious benefit of self-threading, which means film chatters madly till you feed it in just so. Focus varied throughout, never what we, spoiled by digital, would call sharp. In fact, focus is no issue at all today, a concept gone as adjusting your tuner to pull in distant TV channels.

There is much on 8mm that you won't see anyplace else. Blackhawk used to offer reels that would go out of print like certain DVD's do now. If anybody cared, they'd be collector items. As it is, you have to work for your fun where it comes to 8mm. I got out two subjects for the hour remembrance of how things were, and won't be again. First was a Ken Film, one-time distributor of home movies for United Artists, then-owner of pre-49 Warner inventory. This 8mm spool was called The Swashbucklers, and ran about eight minutes. Every blurry foot was action, all but brief intro featuring Errol Flynn. Glimpse of Doug Fairbanks plus John Barrymore (from Don Juan) lead in, then it's Flynn for the rest, him referred to in "Superimposed Titles" as Greatest Of All Swashbucklers, a point to brook no argument then or now. I contemplated how this was once the only way you'd own footage of Flynn sinking ships, wielding swords, or leading a charge, barest souvenir of shows then less accessible on TV (fewer markets used them after the mid-60's, and by the 70's, mostly UHF). Theatres, save revival housing in NY or LA, had largely bowed out (a Charlotte venue brought back Adventures Of Robin Hood in 1974, a Dominant print in black-and-white). The Swashbucklers, copyrighted 1967, was sunken treasure where outliers like me kept residence.

The Blackhawk box read Melodrama Rides The Rails, which could be anything of course, but sounded like more excerpts, maybe from serials or thrill-stuff done on runaway engines. BH chief Kent D. Eastin was a lifelong train buff, so catalogues were loaded with railroad reels, which I guess sold during days when collectors better remembered iron horses rumbling through town, or riding passenger on same. The fifteen minutes here was culled from ancient scraps --- a crash between steam engines staged for a county fair shortly after turn of the 20th century (explanatory titles said this was often a feature at public gatherings as obsolete trains were fazed out --- so why not exit them with a bang?) --- then there was A Rail Tragedy, where a robber on board cleans a woman's purse, then hurls her off the moving train. She survives, he's captured, so tragedy ends up a relative term, other than my own for not being able to keep the picture steady or get it in focus. Why didn't we 8mm collectors give this headache up and go play basketball like normal youth?

Highlight of Melodrama Rides The Rails was a 1911 Vitagraph short called A Mother's Devotion, or The Firing Of The Patchwork Quilt. High concept in a nutshell: Mother sees son off to engineer duty, later realizes a trestle is out, warns him by setting her patchwork quilt ablaze, laying it across rails as way to give warning. Vitagraph knew how to wring suspense from single reels, and there's fine glimpse of the big hoss chugging toward what might be disaster. My question, then: Once an 8mm collector bought Melodrama Rides The Rails, how many times would he watch? (notice I said "he" --- girls had better sense than to mess with this stuff) I enjoyed Melodrama Rides The Rails, but likely as not, won't go back. "Specialized Interest" is summed up by this very definition of toys you play with alone. Hard to imagine other members of a collector's household sitting in. Who knows but what love entails such, or greater, sacrifice? Many stand guilty of inflicting film passion on others less passionate, 8mm an outer edge of trivia's pursuit (and not a practical one --- where will I find a replacement when this lamp burns out?). Best then, to travel solo down that memory lane, annoying no one save GPS readers with relics and rumination arising therefrom.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Where Flubber Had An Ancestor

It Happens Every Spring (1949) Pitches Comedy

This was one of the earlier 20th Fox titles that NBC played on their Saturday Night At The Movies inaugural season (4/7/62 and again 9/8/62). A lot of people caught Spring fever there and called it a favorite of sport comedies. The gimmick was memorable, Ray Milland inventing by chance a baseball that repels wood, this enabling him to strike out would-be batters. Late exposure may disappoint for expectation that Spring be wacky as Flubber farces that Disney made in the early 60's, cribbed shamelessly from this Fox original. Milland is absent-minded as Fred MacMurray would be, his baseball vis-à-vis Fred's basketball/football seasons. Somehow fantasy elements blended well with America's Pastime, if this, Angels In The Outfield, and later Field Of Dreams are indication. College professors in movies are always underpaid, and that gets an airing here as it would in 20th's same year Mother Is A Freshman. Were screenwriters former instructors who quit the chalkboard for movie millions?

Monday, January 18, 2016

20th's Christmas Gift To 1947 Crowds

Captain From Castile (1947) Is Noir With A Sword

Merry Christmas, Cleveland
Fox and I-Tunes earn plaudits for delivering this costs-be-damned blockbuster to High-Def watchers at long last. Castile needs all of aural/visual help it can get, locations (spectacular) and Alfred Newman scoring being best elements. Otherwise, certainly story-wise, it is episodic, sometimes clunky, at two hours and twenty minutes the epic takes to unfold. I haven't read Samuel Shellabarger's source novel, but judging by result here, it may be much the same (can anyone confirm or deny?). I call Castile and two-years-later Prince Of Foxes "noir with swords" for hanging costumes on grim subject matter where double-dealing is rife and no one's to be trusted. Lacking is cheer of Zorro or The Black Swan. Did all genres come out of WWII under such cloud? Less swash than vinegar, Castile makes us pay dear for color, music and spectacle it's best known for.

Tyrone Power's title character is three times arrested and bound up in chains. His twelve-year-old sister is tortured to death by the Inquisition. Second half sees Ty head-shot with an arrow --- painful on-screen surgery follows. Captain From Castile fairly hangs with crepe, and we wonder if this was war-born attitude on part of writer-producing Lamar Trotti, director Henry King, or both. Buffs recall Nightmare Alley as Fox and Power's big depart from dream merchandising, but Captain From Castile is the real downer. Still ... I watch and watch again. There was delay seeing Castile a first time, a single 70's run on Charlotte Channel 9 before the SFM Holiday Network ran it w/considerable trims in the early 80's. 16mm Technicolor prints (so few extant) were Rembrandt equivalent for collectors at the time. On High-Def streaming, Castile looks good as I suppose technology can allow, the prior DVD well in shade beside it.

Fox tied holiday hopes on Captain From Castile for 1947, the tab at finish $4.5 million, spending bested only by Forever Amber (6.3!). There was just no way to get that back, and so Castile, despite being a hit ($5.9 million worldwide), lost over a million. Fox would cinch belts after free-spend year that was '47. We can really see economies imposed with product from 1948, the new order lasting to intro of Cinemascope and hypo, if temporary, supplied by that wide process. Costs ran amok most when on location, Captain From Castile gone south of border to face delay and weather-imposed snafus. Mexican backdrop is a lift, King and crew shooting against clouds as well as expected blue sky. The effect rates high on 40's color charts and presages some of departure John Ford would take from Tech orthodoxy for She Wore A Yellow Ribbon two years later. We expect volcanoes on view to be matte-painted, but they're real, and erupting in the bargain. Henry King had habit of flying his private plane over sites under consideration; he'd see and remember best of landscape from hundreds of square miles observed (King knew Mexico from air vantage long before Captain From Castile). "Filmed Where It Happened" brag was honestly applied here, Mexico location standing in for action set there, plus Spain background of a first half.

Captain From Castile is history, if harsh. The Cortez expedition, joined by Ty Power's title character, was bold grab for loot, and the film makes no amend for ruthless ways gold was got. Castile reflects postwar reality of wised-up patronage and everyone out to serve himself. Clear-drawn black-and-white of hero v. villain goes past shades of gray to rendering a whole cast dark, reason Castile disturbed me at young age where I preferred Zorro world of right being might with evil vanquished. So don't come to Castile for heroes in clean skirts. Power as much as anyone serves selfish end and continues so to the fade. Wounds of foresaid arrow plus Act Three stabbing don't materially change his attitude (Ty laughs when Aztec temples are leveled by raiding Cortez). First apostle of me-first is Caesar Romero in latter role, him stealing Castile second half as ultra-motivated New World despoiler. Today's rigid Code would make Cortez a heavy on no uncertain terms, but in 1947? --- you go, Hernando.

In-house star creation was still achievable, if tougher, after the war. 20th needed names to replace a senior class eased out with transition to the 50's. Tyrone Power felt ground shift as vehicles took modest turn after Castile loss. It would be Gregory Peck henceforth for first chair at Zanuck table (a not dissimilar passing of torch went on at Warners as Burt Lancaster took projects once defaulted to Errol Flynn, and Peck was there too to have intended-for-Flynn Captain Horatio Hornblower). The Fox broom swept women as peremptorily, "new faces" brought on sure as a high school's prom queen was dethroned by next year's pick. Jean Peters had not an ounce of experience, film or stage, but Henry King gave three days to testing her and clinched female lead for the newcomer with his endorsement to DFZ. Such was Zanuck's trust in King that he stamped Peters a go, major career a clinch with Power away. Thus could stars be born with a single and highest-profile production such as Captain From Castile.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Metro Muscles In Another Musical

Athena (1954) Kids Then-Health Crazing

An MGM musical for the second team: producing Joe Pasternak, stars Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Edmund Purdom, Vic Damone. The accent's on youth; these were to be a next generation of musical leads for Metro, and had this been ten years before, maybe that would have worked out, but 1954 was close to the cliff for dollars it cost to do songfests decently, let alone profitably. Athena lost money even for economy the Schary regime enforced: a mere $1.4 million in negative cost that $1.2 million in domestic rentals wouldn't cover. The loss was $458K, not crippling because there were MGM musicals that year that did earn profits, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and The Student Prince being notables. Vic Damone was a noble experiment, being big on TV and shellac sales, but somehow he wouldn't click in movies. Athena's story was at least a departure, Powell and Reynolds eligible daughters of a screwball "health-nut" family, an idea that got serious traction when cultural nets drew in and welcomed such alternate lifestyle. Maybe Athena was twenty years ahead of its time. Musclemen are a backdrop throughout, one of them Steve Reeves of future Hercules assignment. Irksome how differences seemingly irreconcilable are magically put right, or simply ignored, to force a happy ending. I'll make allowance for lots in a musical, but it's tough imagining much future for these characters beyond the fade. Athena is another that plays HD on Warner Instant, looking great and with (real) stereo applied to the music numbers.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Bold Smack At The Syndicate

711 Ocean Drive (1950) Lays It On The Line

Crack crime thriller also known as "the one that ends at Boulder Dam." Edmond O'Brien is back rigging radios as in White Heat, only this time on a wrong side of law, him up-and-coming from phone company drone to wire service king. Docu-drama aspect teaches us that wire operators, despite servicing bookies, functioned quite within the law, thus nationwide business in support of crime. As one became more sophisticated, the others' talon sank deeper. Alarmers like 711 Ocean Drive woke us up to billion+ accumulation of two-dollar bets. You wouldn't call them noir, but there was prolific cycle of such as 711 Ocean Drive against backdrop of Kefauver Senate investigation into widespread vice. Message was simple and direct: Lay down that horse bet and you feed a snake that will strangle us all. A first half of 50's hammered the point with scare pics spun off headlines, free publicity for each courtesy TV broadcast of gov't hearings.

711 Ocean Drive shows how a regular and reasonably bright guy can be sucked into crime. Edmund O'Brien is good with electronics, that a pathway to success or corruption so far as movies think. He'll become almost Karloffian in high-tech service to mad science that is modern bookmaking, ill-got gain pouring forth from devices Eddie builds. The "organization," under calm leadership of Otto Kruger, eventually muscles in. Here is presumed depiction of then-octopus that was the Mafia, but Kruger and first-lieutenant Don Porter are white bread in the extreme, dog heavies in their employ more like ones you'd see in a western. Still, there is at least surface authenticity to 711 Ocean Drive, a cop's narration throughout explaining tricks of horse-parlor trade. Pace doesn't flag, and there's a sock finish at cooperating Boulder Dam, pursuit through its bowels sort of America's answer to Euro sewer chase that climaxed a same year's The Third Man.

Indie producer Frank Seltzer had made 711 Ocean Drive late in 1949 with bankroll assist of Edwin Silverman, head man of the Essaness theatre circuit based in Chicago (the two had earlier teamed on three pics for Fox release). They shopped 711 to Columbia and latter would embark on heavy-exploited summer 1950 release. Columbia, like other majors, dealt outside product where profit seemed likely, 711 Ocean Drive their second such buy that year (first being Douglas Fairbanks Jr.-produced State Secret, out of England). Columbia had decided to go whole hog on fresh selling tool that was TV saturation, 711 Ocean Drive their test case. Seven L.A. station execs had proposed the link, their idea to demonstrate value of tube ads. A first six months of 1950 had proven that TV backing could boost a film's draw, latter part of July targeted for the blitz. Two weeks advance of opening was figured a start point for TV ads, Variety estimating that Columbia would spend "between $15,000 and $20,000 for the push" (fifteen broadcast trailers were eventually made). Bugaboo was who should stand for costs, the studio or exhibitors, an argument to heat distrib-theatre relations for years to come.

Politics and publicity shared a bed as 711 Ocean Drive neared release, Senator Alexander Wiley (R-Wisc.) fulminating before a special committee that "rat criminals" had tried to stop Seltzer from making his exposé (Wiley ID'ed by Variety as "a long-time friend and frequent champion of the film industry"). All this, plus other official statements, made for good (that is, free) ink on 711's behalf. There were attempts at interference with cast-crew, up to/including physical threats, result the "armed protection of U.S. Forest Rangers" as 711 Ocean Drive went about location business at Boulder Dam. Bigger payoff still was nine Congressmen/Senators who volunteered to go on-camera for a special trailer, their appearance gratis, after a 711 screening arranged by Seltzer. 400 lawmakers were on hand for that, filmed reactions sent out quick by Columbia in "nationwide video blanket of the country." Seltzer followed up with a four-city Eastern junket to tell press and vid outlets of confront with "muscle mobs" that tried to silence him.

TV ballyhoo was ramped for July 19 L.A. opening at twelve sites. Columbia and the broadcasters did a first by excerpting an entire sequence (three and a half minute) from 711 Ocean Drive to juice interest. Most helpful was a clip ending with a cliffhanger. To test effectiveness, the distributor would put spotters in theatre lobbies to ask attendance what had attracted them to 711 Ocean Drive (70% replied that TV was indeed the lure). Radio outlets in New York were meanwhile miffed when Columbia skipped them altogether for promotion, sales putting all of chips on TV and use of the excerpts plus testimonials. Gotham's Paramount Theatre did lusty business, with Louis Jordon in boogie-woogie support, plus Bobby Van, the Fontane Sisters, juggling ... a whole vaude banquet. Seltzer pulled further coup by getting ads in local Racing Forms, provided they say nothing "derogatory" about the betting angle, thus removal of crime and police protection copy.

711 Ocean Drive showed what gold could be struck from independent filmmaking. Negative cost to Seltzer and partnering Silverman had been $486,000. They sold the film to Columbia "outright," said Variety, for $800,000, plus "a small percentage for the producers." Seltzer later announced that 711 Ocean Drive had, within twelve weeks after release, "paid off all expenses with a gross of $867,000." Seltzer was pleased enough with Edmond O'Brien's performance and bally assist (the star did multiple P.A.'s) to extend 2% interest in 711 Ocean Drive as reward ("it wasn't in (the) original deal which called for straight stipend," said trades). Columbia's Harry Cohn saw value in TV promotion as result of $1.6 million in domestic rentals ultimately taken by the film, and announced to Variety that "Columbia Pictures will utilize television as a selling agent for all of its motion pictures in the future." The "wedding" of pics and TV, he said, was "inevitable." Immediate follow-up for tube spotting would be Born Yesterday. 711 Ocean Drive is available on DVD, streams at Amazon and I-Tunes in HD, and has shown up on the Sony Channel in High-Def.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Perry Mason Back On The Job

Fun Fact: "Hawkshaw" as Slang For a Detective Had Its Birth in an 1863 Play Where a Sleuth Character Went By That Name

The Case Of The Curious Bride (1935) Joins WB "Crime Club"

Would You Stay For
Whole Of This Show?
I hesitate to call this a programmer, even though that's what it is. Something so expertly done should bear more distinctive name, as there's no shorting any programmer out of 30's Warner. Virtually all their precodes were, after all, labeled thus. The term applied to product sat among units of a "balanced program" by venues that knew it needed more than one attraction to wrest coin from Depression-whacked patronage. Double-features would eventually serve that purpose, "two (features) for one" being exit cue for many of shorts once spice of shows (producer Hal Roach would, in fact, stop making them). Note at left the crowded bill wherein The Case Of The Curious Bride comes up last. For this offering at least, live portions were sold as most compelling, each of names known from movies, radio, or vaudeville, and all ranking as "star" attractions. Also note celebration of Keith's fifty-second year as a vaude force, the firm a colossus among bookers since the 1880's. Many claim vaudeville to have died by the 30's, but ads such as here put the lie, or at least the overstatement, to that. Fact is, stage acts played beside pics well into the 50's, at fewer locales admittedly, but backstage lights would stay lit for longer than many have since presumed.

Flynn Gets a Neat Flashback at Bride's Finish, His Character Talked About Throughout ... No Wonder He Made an Impression

I got out Warner Archive's DVD of The Case Of The Curious Bride last week after a collector-friend asked an Errol Flynn-related question that needed disc peruse. Yes, Errol's in it, first as a corpse under a sheet, then as combatant and ultimate murder victim in Bride's last reel dénouement. He gets no dialogue, but the profile is unmistakable 'neath that sheet, and starting-out Errol is afforded moody close-ups for a vigorous brawl engaged at the finish. Did director Michael Curtiz lend fledgling Flynn a hand with knowledge this was a star in the making? Low-lit showdown favors the newcomer and gives EF a socko slow death and dramatic reaction to same that I'll bet drew letters to Burbank as in "Who's the new face"? His highlight in The Case Of The Curious Bride likely had much to do with Warner dice rolled for Captain Blood. Call it a screen test shared with the public, not uncommon practice among studios gauging public interest in fresh ware.

And what of The Case Of The Curious Bride otherwise? As said, it's expert in all ways, not least for Curtiz in charge. What a master at composition he was. Opener reel finds Warren William's Perry Mason and team buying live crabs from a street vendor, then followed via intricate track-shot through a crowded restaurant and into rear kitchen area, where Mason takes over as chef amidst much movement and foreground activity. All this could and would be broken up and dully served by lesser talent. From Curtiz, it's exhilarating. I'm more and more of opinion that he was the best of all studio-contract directors. There's a bio coming soon by Alan K. Rode, which I put at top of anticipatory list. Rode did a fine book on Charles McGraw, is recognized expert on film noir, and all-round noted historian. His Curtiz volume should be definitive word on the director. Author website has further info. The Case Of The Curious Bride meanwhile can be had in a Warner Archive Mason set with all others of the series, a variable lot it's true (Curious Bride the only one helmed by Curtiz), but all worthwhile and at least enjoyable for one reason or other.

An update and more images for The Black Watch HERE.

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 nothing 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.
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