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Monday, April 03, 2017

Fox Makes It Soft, Sells It Hard

Take Care Of My Little Girl (1951) A Hot Bed Of Sin As Sold By 20th

Revenue was down enough by 1951 for stage shows  to push movies down the bill. Take Care Of My Little Girl shared a New York Roxy date with an ice revue and Rose Marie on stage. In Chicago, there was Frankie Laine and Rosemary Clooney in person to encourage first week receipts of $50K. Could much, if any, of that be credited to 20th Fox's picture accompany? Take Care Of My Little Girl was college-set drama sans music that lost money ($63K) despite negative cost within reason ($1.2 million). Trouble was dreadful foreign (non)business --- $200K from over there, which was among lowest Fox had seen for calendar 1951. Who in Europe or elsewhere cared about Jeanne Crain's struggle to join a sorority? Offshore rentals had become vital to bottom lines. Many a feature from 20th and others broke to pieces for lack of foreign acceptance. Darryl Zanuck spoke to the problem in memos and acknowledged that his company would need to get out of America's backyard and reach toward worldwide patronage.

Zanuck was also for thinning ingénue talent developed since the war, or before. Soon to go off contract was Linda Darnell, with Jeanne Crain not far from freelancing. She'd been a fluke to many who measured stardom in terms of ability, being a wholesome face/figure, but subject to razz beyond that. To posit her as a recent high school grad fresh to college was turning back clocks, Crain twenty-six by now w/oodles of kids as reported by fan press. She also had played married women three and more years prior to this. Similar was case for Little Girl co-star Jean Peters, who had to view her part in regressing terms. Real interest of Take Care Of My Little Girl was lamp it shone on cruelty of Greek systems in general, Delta, Phi, Kappa, Sigma, the whole alphabet, in for harsh appraisal and left morally/ethically wanting. Had the source novel's author been snubbed by such a body and waited till now to even scores?

"Certain evils" of the fraternity and sorority system would be exposed, said Variety in December, 1950, as Greek orgs pressured Fox chief Spyros Skouras to shelve the pic, which was scheduled for 7/51 release. The group accused filmmakers of "Communistic-inspired propaganda, which would give comfort to the enemies of our country." Skouras stood fast, his reply suggesting that Take Care was stronger meat initially than what he'd finally release: "(It's) un-American, we think, to bar a girl from a sorority because she belongs to a certain religious faith, or happens not to dress as well as her sisters, or comes from the wrong side of the railroad tracks," this giving rise to speculation that Take Care Of My Little Girl might deal with issues of race, class, or anti-Semitism, as had previous Fox hits that swung social issue bat.

Greek pressure warned that five million strong of its membership would remember the insult. Their crusade died for realization that attendant publicity would only increase awareness of the film, carping likelier to draw sympathy away from organized Greek-dom. Query then: how accurate was Take Care depiction of sororities? The film might be instructive at colleges today, for such groups do still thrive. Interesting might be comparison with 28 years later National Lampoon's Animal House, the two joined at hip re themes of Greek snobbery and oppression. Take Care's sorority is a campus witches' coven, rituals not a little spooky. We could wonder why Jeanne Crain wants any part of such a base order. The finish endorses her response, as under circumstance of what's gone before, no girl of sound mind could take this pledge. In a way, it's not unlike final scenes of The Nun's Story six years later. Were/are sororities as cloistered as convents, minus vows of chastity?

Fox's pressbook for Take Care Of My Little Girl included two supplement ad sheets, a "special teaser ad supplement," plus an insert of four pages with "Special Additional Ads." These were on top of ads in the pressbook proper, an unusual instance of shifting sales gear in search of promotion that would work. Copy read like renegade bills operating outside the Code, "A Keyhole View Of Sorority Life" a line we'd expect of 30's exploitation, depth from which also sprang "What Every Parent Should Know ..." This was hardly a story to "Blow The Lid Off," but Fox prepared ads to sell as if it were, and what of "I Know What Goes On ... It Happened To Me" as caption to stricken Jeanne Crain? Exhibitors could choose from such and other options. Some took safe route, others electing art worse even than 20th supplements offered, like the Chicago Theatre at left with promise of "She-Wolves" operating "Behind The Locked Doors Of A Sorority." This was promise made that obviously wouldn't be delivered, so was it a wonder that customers backed increasingly off moviegoing for known quantity of free TV? 


Blogger Dave K said...

Ha! Love your header with one of the Auto-Lite 'Look-alike' ad. This was a highly successful ad campaign featuring many celebrities and their 'amazing' look-alikes, not always shown side by side as in your clip. The photos were usually heavily retouched, but still often startling... and sometimes not. No matter what the ad copy claimed nobody was ever mistaken for Bette Davis!

12:13 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

I'm curious about who constituted the organized Greek-dom. Precocious law students currently living in those houses? Proud alumni? A trade organization that somehow served frats and sororities? Manufacturers of pins and paddles?

Also, the ad referencing a GI Bill student -- The influx of ex-soldiers, physically and emotionally aged, must have had an impact on the college experience. Did this film reflect that, or was it still the Hollywood vision of an upscale, unsupervised high school?

3:36 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

The Dale Robertson character has some shadings brought on by his war service. "Take Care of My Little Girl" is an excellent picture, at least to my mind. It also has a fine Alfred Newman score that is available on CD. Unfortunately, the film is not to be had on DVD. There are sightings on FXM, but the transfer is ancient, and does not flatter Technicolor of the original release.

4:12 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

Taking about international markets...

20th Century-Fox should have never cancelled their successful and critically well received Spanish language series in 1935.

Except for the pioneering work of Robert G. Dickson and Juan B. Heinink (to whom I kept sending updates and information for more than 20 years up until now) and except for a couple of foreign language versions of English films, it is really a shame that almost nobody in the field pay any attention or try to get anything from the Spanish language films produced right here without any other version.

To look at Europe only is a typical display of snobism by people who refuse to accept facts: the natural foreign market for Hollywood has always been Latin America. Hollywood frequently and physically remove all Latin American references in the environment of the movies relying always in clichés that are usually insulting.

And a movie like the one mentioned today is simply irrelevant and uninteresting for Latin American audiences simply because the educational field is completely different. I myself in Argentina never experienced sororities nor student parties nor any stupid thing that the movies have constantly put in the screens for decades.

I simply went to the University and then always back to my home... to study. Studying is actually hard work without any income and sometimes we have to face frustrations with the choices we ended up making.

Not trying to sound negative and ranting, I'm sure that this movie was probably well reviewed in the international movie magazines (there are those from Brazil available online if somebody wants to pay a look at them) and was probably distributed as a programmer.

I have been questioning lately the status of many classic films with reasons... yet, this unknown movie unquestionably deserves a chance to be better known.

10:24 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Canadian Ken supplies some detail on the Auto-Lite celebrity lookalike ad series:

Must say I was impressed by that Auto-Lite ad featuring dueling Jeanne Crains. The resemblance is so astonishing I just assumed both were the real Crain. Checked out the Auto-Lite campaign photos on Google and found out the girl on the right is actually one Yvonne Barron from New York. Wow, she really was a doppelganger. Looked at a raft of the other Auto-Lite ad subjects (Davis, Stanwyck, Gary Cooper etc) and none of them were remotely convincing. The Hedy Lamarr clone (from 1948) was so heavily made up she looked like a waxwork. Interestingly, genuine Lamarr lookalike Constance Smith (from Ireland) was already in films. She'd caught the attention of the British film industry when her resemblance to Lamarr won her a movie star lookalike contest. And Fox signed her for U.S. films around the time "Take Care of My Little Girl" was in production.
I've seen "Take Care" a couple of times and have a soft spot for it. Especially enjoy all the beautiful choral work in the film. Love the sound of those old-timey all-girl choirs. Surprised that Mitzi Gaynor (after one supporting role in Betty Grable's "My Blue Heaven", somehow managed to get billed ahead of Jean Peters. Peters had been playing leads at Fox (and beautifully) since her smashing 1947 debut in "Captain from Castile" . Was Gaynor's agent really that good?

4:49 AM  
Blogger iarla said...

A terrible era for movies was the early 50's. Fox pic's really stank. Constance Smith was beautiful. She married Paul Rotha, even though she stabbed him, tried to kill him twice. She does look quite like Jean Peters - they both shade each other in "Lure of the Wilderness", too.....she hated Hollywood, the 'business', and Zanuck was hopeless with all those bland stars at Fox. Grable, Power, Ameche, Faye, Temple, Henie, Tierney - its like a roll call of the dead. Don't get me wrong - I have weakness for, say Tierney, even Darnell - but compared to Warners, or Paramount, or MGM - Fox's stable of stars were very bland. Not great Technicolor, either - very blue in the 50's.

6:44 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Paul Rotha? The guy who wrote the film history books? Thanks, iarla, I never knew that.

6:58 AM  

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