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Saturday, April 29, 2023

Herewith a New Series ...

Ads and Oddities #1

Ads and Oddities
proposes to be a gather place for what comes of closet cleans, peruse through stacks of kept images, dig among ancient advertising, whatever might fascinate and delight. Expect much unexpected in this and future entries.

KING SOLOMON’S MINES (1950) --- Pleasing announcement from Warner Archive is King Solomon’s Mines coming on Blu-Ray, sourced we are told from three-strip camera elements of Technicolor as rendered on African location in 1950. Like Ivanhoe of last year’s disc release, Solomon has gone long as less than what it could ideally be, news of Blu among most exciting to come so far in 2023. Above pen-ink rendering of the Liberty’s front is handiwork of noted artist Bradley F. Davis, who here surpassed himself for depicting North Wilkesboro “Showplace of Hits” on Christmas Day, 1950, King Solomon’s Mines fruit of owner Ivan Anderson’s close and ongoing relationship with Metro and oft-early recipient of their best output. In fact, we got King Solomon’s Mines as part of holiday rollout after New York November play which was exclusive as on “pre-release" terms. Davis art went out in 1985 as my Christmas card, first response from a friend who reported being at the Liberty on 12/25/50 opening day, at age ten. Screen spectacle sometimes spread outward to streets where all knew specialness of an attraction and viewed same as holiday happening equal to Santa touching down. Re Liberty and what made it ideal small town showcase, observe what artist Davis did with that same front in 1956 when Blackboard Jungle showed up, an attraction to prove even bigger than King Solomon’s Mines, if produced at a fraction of Solomon’s cost. Davis spent childhood at the Liberty, jumps ahead of me for seeing House on Haunted Hill there on first-run, him telling it in guise of “Brickadoodle” at Greenbriar circa 2019. He and I spent many a Saturday at the Liberty seeing likes of Rasputin, the Mad Monk, For a Few Dollars More, The Devil's Bride, too many to count. Bravo to Brick as great visual recorder of the Liberty in its showgoing prime.

HOLLYWOOD CAVALCADE (1939) --- Hollywood tells its own history, a first as others kept filmland fables within time perimeters to serve A,B, then C, narrative. Hollywood Cavalcade goes from teens to invention of talk via fictional Don Ameche, pioneer after Sennett with dash of Griffith, and Alice Faye, Keystonish girl who'll season via suffer for love and dramatic art. Books told how movies came to be and eventually prosper, Terry Ramsaye’s most readable of them. Hollywood Cavalcade hews to model that was Alexander’s Ragtime Band, major Fox success of a previous year. Having seen latter could save effort watching this, for bumps are same, along with cast, Alexander’s Faye marrying Ameche because she can’t have Tyrone Power, then for Cavalcade wed to Alan Curtis because Ameche won’t be bothered. Thus slags a second half, fun of Hollywood Cavalcade spent by perky leads living epoch when slapstick was king, latter simulated so 1939 could see what joy they had been missing. Selling of Hollywood Cavalcade was built round knockabout, as who wasn’t game for chases and pie fighting done again, even if by comics with no past relation to custard like Buster Keaton, him around eternity enough to make pies a likelihood from his past. Hollywood Cavalcade runs gamut neither fish nor fowl, promise of comedy nulled by rise then fall for Ameche, Faye not invited to sing as most then would expect. One of “1001 Yesterdays” is evoked by Al Jolson, playing himself in The Jazz Singer, not Fox’s property so Al is obliged to fake it. What sustains is the slapstick, lovingly applied by highlights director Malcolm St. Clair, still around from silent days and enjoying we hope, along with Keystone veterans, this late stroll down Memory Lane. Ad shown was back cover of LIFE magazine for October 9, 1939. You could frame it and fool lookers to think it a fine art print, so good was reproduction in lavish LIFE at a circulation peak.

THE BLACKHAWK LIBRARY IN OUR LIBRARY --- Were there such thing as a Blackhawk collectible, this bookmark would surely be it. By some miracle, our public library purchased a collection of the company's 8mm reels for circulation among North Wilkesboro populace. Year was 1970, point by which but a handful of Blackhawk subjects had come into my hands, nothing like dazzling variety suddenly within walk distance of home. Most Chaplins were here, also Laurel/Hardy, Langdon, Keaton, what little of Lloyd BH offered. Given no notice such windfall might come, these were like miracles raining from sky. Imagine turning corner from Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed at the Liberty to then borrow 1914’s Caught in a Cabaret … heady stuff of dreams. Brick Davis of above art immortality could tell you plenty of seismic effect our library acquisition had, being opportunity as well to see Griffith Biographs, Doug Fairbanks in an abbreviated Mr. Robinson Crusoe, so much more I had not yet worked up to as a private collector. The library’s inventory did not sit on shelves. You had to ask to see the selection. How did such Nirvana come to be? I envisioned a Blackhawk rep walking in one day with his sample case to close the earth-shaking sale. Had I but been there to greet him! Found out later that other North Carolina libraries had a similar Blackhawk arrangement. In fact, the deal was done in Raleigh and partner branches were told to expect shipment of the narrow celluloid. Imagine initial befuddlement at Ben Turpin comedies coming through otherwise staid doors. For myself it was like an instant collection with easy access and far better than what I could ever hope to accumulate. So what finally became of our local archive? A young collector I knew in the early nineties fell heir to a by-now tattered lot, the library having long since gone over to video cassettes and happy to dispose of a now bewhiskered format.


Blogger DBenson said...

Fun stuff and thick memories. I remember 8mm films appearing in our library in Morgan Hill, CA. Mostly Blackhawk releases; copying the address off the box led to the Blackhawk Bulletin which led, eventually, here. Once I checked out "Lilac Time", stacked random LPs on the record changer, and somehow corralled my parents and siblings for all twelve reels.

Blackhawk Films likely had an outreach campaign that got them from Davenport into our local libraries and others. Perhaps ads in library publications, with some kind of discount? I remember ads in mainstream magazines, offering the Preview Reel which included clips from "Easy Street" and a clearly slowed-down Long Count from the famous Dempsey-Tunney fight. For a couple of years there was a Sears specialty catalog for Home Movies, dominated by Blackhawk titles but including some Disney and Columbia items that didn't appear in the Bulletin. These both occurred long after I'd begun receiving the Bulletin.

Camera shops and old-school department stores sometimes had 8mm films. Castle Films in my earliest memory, but mostly Ken and similar second-tier labels when I was old enough to buy my own. I was sometimes tempted to acquire some of those little cartridges for Kenner projectors and Fisher-Price viewers, breaking them apart and putting the film on proper reels. They had bite-sized pieces of stuff not otherwise available, especially cartoons, but suspicion was that the film wouldn't survive a real projector bulb. Once, in an antique shop, I picked up an FP viewer and cranked a minute of two of silent color animation from Disney's "Man in Space". This was in the VHS era, and it would still be years before they put those shows -- briefly -- on home video.

Did anybody here ever own the Remco toy drive-in theater? It looked incredibly cool in commercials and in the Sears toy catalog, but disappointing when I finally saw photos. And yes, I know it didn't show movies but slides.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

I managed a Remco drive-in theatre as a child.

8:17 AM  
Blogger MikeD said...

I was program director of a Kenner's Give-A-Show Projector. Not as cool as the Remco Drive In (Today's Feature 'Have Gun Will Travel') but it did the trick. Pretty sure it's buried up in the attic today.

11:57 AM  
Blogger DokG said...

I grew up in Burlingame, CA. The library one town over in San Mateo had a collection of 8mm films for loan, as well as an 8mm projector you could check out. I used to walk there and back, lugging the projector and a fistful of movies, every other week or so. They had a lot of the Blackhawk catalog, including some Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Chaplin (the stuff I'd go to see at the local Shakey's Pizza), as well as Disney stuff, like 'Swiss Family Robinson' and a reel devoted to the giant squid attack from '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' (the first time I'd seen any footage from that film).
When I finally picked up my own 8mm / Super 8 combo projector, I regularly swooped in to a local camera shop for screening material. First purchase was a 50ft encapsulation of 'Frankenstein meets the Space Monster', along with "Ghidrah the Three Headed Monster'. Sneak and peek reels of 'Son of Kong', 'Gungha Din', 'Al Capone' and 'I Was a Teenage Frankenstein' followed,before I graduated to 200'editions of 'Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed' and (in stunning COLOR!) 'Revenge of Frankenstein)
The back pages of Famous Monsters offered me the classic Universals - 'Bride of Frankenstein' and 'Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man' were cherished purchases. A little hole in the wall camera show on the avenue turned up a silent reel containing the trailers for 'It Conquered the World', 'The She Creature' and 'The Day the World Ended' (sold through Fantastic Monsters magazine).
In those pre-VHS days, these tiny capsules were genuine treasures.

12:23 PM  
Blogger DokG said...

What were those little hand-crank movie viewers called? Little handheld thing with a viewfinder.
They had, like, 30 sec clips from the "George of the Jungle" show. When I realized they were 8mm film, I busted a few open and edited them together on a reel, so I could run them through my projector.
There was a similar toy from Disney (of course), but this was a small unit that were sold at Pay N' Save and the like.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Those free films at the library put the people who had sold them out of business. Our libraries in Toronto had them as well. They included 16mm titles.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Rodney said...

The hand-crank movie viewers were called, simply, Fisher Price Movie Viewers. I had one as a child in the early/mid 80's with 10-15 cartridges, Disney and Sesame Street mostly, but I seem to recall a Pink Panther or two as well. I cherished it, one of my favorite toys ever.

9:37 AM  
Blogger DokG said...

I did a little more research on the mini-movie viewers, and I'm pretty sure the one I was thinking of was put out by View Master. It was called the Cinemaster. And on reflection, I'm guessing the movie cartridges ran a full minute. I skipped the Disney stuff, but I do recall Pink Panther and Mighty Mouse cartridges.

11:14 AM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Flashing back to an ad for a viewer that looked a little like a camera, with reels mounted on top, a crank, and a handle. It came packaged with scenes from "A Hard Day's Night" and made no mention of being compatible with other films, assuming a minute of the Beatles silently cavorting was sufficient reason to own it. Probably one of my older sister's teen magazines.

Mr. Hartt: Could you elaborate? My impression was that Blackhawk and smaller labels -- most of the latter corporate subsidiaries -- were felled by home video. Here in the Bay Area I don't remember anybody selling or renting 8mm as their main business. Likewise don't recall seeing 16mm films offered at our local branch. My perception was that 16mm was the province of schools, universities, pizza parlors, and jet-setters who could own a projector and afford to rent films from Films Incorporated and the like.

6:15 PM  
Blogger DokG said...

DBenson: Nailed it. THAT is the item I was thinking of - the top-loader with the crank
That sounds much more like it, rather than the Cinemaster thing that popped up in my quickie researches.

I also don't recall 16mm as part of the library loan programs. But then, I was looking exclusively for the 8mm material, so I may have missed it. I agree that home video, rather than library access was the main culprit in fall of the big 8mm and 16mm catalogs. My 8mm digest of "Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man" didn't last long after I picked up the first VHS release.

But in the day, having those 8mm's available on loan only whetted my appetite to purchase more for my own collection.

Many 16mm shorts from the 30s and 40s popped up on KEMO TV-20's "The Worst of Hollywood" in the early-thru-mid 70s. Saw a silent sizzle reel for Bob Steele on there once...

12:19 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

In HOLLYWOOD CAVALCADE Alice marries Alan Curtis, not Alan Baxter. Not that it matters a great deal, but Alan Baxter! Brrrr! I recommend this picture for J. Edward Bromberg -- one of the great character men who could play for extreme sympathy. Watch the scene near the end when Bromberg and Faye are alone, and Bromberg knows he will never get the girl.

On to Blackhawk. Absolutely wonderful until the mid- to late 1970s, when it became more corporate under new management and investors. Its original approach, under Kent Eastin and Martin Phelan, was to turn film buffs on to early features and short subjects. I still have a complete run of Blackhawk Bulletins going back to 1970, when my love affair with Blackhawk began. I especially enjoyed the oversized, tabloid-newspaper format of the Blackhawk Bulletins and Sales Flyers. The later, more conventional catalogs (from 1973 forward, only half the size) lost some of the old spirit.

Mr. Benson is correct about 16mm being the perceived province of schools, libraries, and those who could afford the equipment. That's why a lot of kids bought the cheaper 8mm and Super 8 prints -- they were silent, anyway, so why spend the money on a 16mm copy? Of course today, these same collectors are chasing the 16mm versions that got away!

12:15 PM  
Blogger DokG said...

Kit Parker was another 16mm distribution company I recall from this period (70s)
I THINK they were the primary source for the local 70s TV shows I mentioned earlier

I had a couple of catalogs offered to schools around that time as well
Great photos and ad art for a movie hungry kid
For some reason, "Who's Minding the Mint?" stands out in my mind...

Still around, releasing material through VCI and others

I always enjoyed Bromberg's Van Helsing-adjacent vampire hunter in "Son of Dracula"

1:57 PM  
Blogger Lou Lumenick said...

HOLLYWOOD CAVALCADE was curiously among films listed in a 1967 ad for William K. Everson's "Aspect of the Thirties'' film series at Manhattan's New School. Among those listed were such then-rarities as OF HUMAN BONDAGE (1934), WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (1933), HEROES FOR SALE (1933), SUPERNATURAL (1933), MASSACRE (1934) and THE KENNEL MURDER CASE (1933) and TAXI! (1932).

5:28 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

When our then-new library was built in the late seventies, it had not only an extensive collection of 8mm, Super 8 silent, sound and 16mm films but several little viewing booths where individuals could watch movies they selected back-projected. The librarians, not surprisingly, hated this set-up as they spend all summer screening movies for kids standing in line with stuff they pulled off the shelf or requested. VHS came along and one day all those 8 and Super 8's were unceremoniously stacked on carts in the back, marked 25 cents a reel! This would have been the dream of dreams for the 13 year old version of myself and even the adult me couldn't resist picking up a couple of boxes full.

The 16mm films disappeared overnight too, but they remained hidden for many years. It wasn't until the 90's that we got word the whole collection was turning up at a county auction. A buddy and I did score the majority of those and, yes, at a ridiculous per reel cost. 50 cents as I recall.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Home video put the kibosh on 8mm and 16mm. But when 8mm films hit the libraries the local dealers who had sold them for years found fewer ad fewer buyers. Time moves on. We move with it or get left behind. I was not a fan of vhs. I love DVD and Blu-ray. They don't shrink, warp, lose their color, get vinegar syndrome, get scratched going through the film gate or bunch up accordion style. After paying hundreds for 16mm prints I have no problem wit Blu-ray ad DVD prices. Best of all, wit Blu-ray I get 3D. This IS progress.

10:39 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Mr. Hartt: Thanks for clarifying -- I thought you meant the bigger outfits who sold to libraries at the county or state level.

The next step is supposed to be the end of physical media, but this boomer is holding out.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

DBenson, physical media is always going to be with us. Much of what we possess may well end up landfill as each generation is remarkably nearsighted.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

The Denver Public Library had about 50% of Blackhawk's titles in 8mm. I believe with hindsight that I estimate the library bought them in the early to mid '60s as most of the 8mm titles came in 200' lengths.
I checked out my titles from the Englewood Public Library. I assume they had a relationship with the Denver Public Library. In 1976 we founded the Liberty Tent of the Sons of the Desert and we met at the Englewood Public Library.
Prior to December '72 my 8mm projector only had a 200' capacity yet the Denver Public Library copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame was Super 8 on 400' reels.
Poking around the crawlspace in our house a couple of weeks prior to Christmas I found the Montgomery Ward Dual 8 projector I was to get later in the month. It had a 400' capacity. So I checked out HOND and waited until everyone went to sleep and I snuck down to the crawlspace with an extension cord. I projected the film on the inside box cover of an LP anthology. With the smells of the projector, concrete and dirt, it was a nice cinema experience thanks to the library.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

Oh I forgot to say I have the Blackhawk bookmark too. It came folded in half in my copy of Preview 8 I bought in Wards. Blackhawk had a relationship with Wards as I acquired my first Blackhawk Bulletin from the counter of a Wards catalog store. I lost it not long afterwards and it is one of the merciful few that Lantern does not have. I remember the cover was pink and it had a picture from Berth Marks and His Trysting Places on the front.
In the projector section (where I often went to dream) of a Wards catalog in the mid 70's Wards sold four Blackhawk shorts one being That's My Wife.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

Way back then they adapted radio shows, books and literature into film entertainment, but now with better special effects they've been able to add more comic strips/books and video games as source materials to adapt, while dropping any radio-drama/comedy inspired material entirely.
Thinking of TV, other than Star Trek, I can't think of any thing that's gone from TV series to feature films- perhaps adapting TV series into feature films never really was a thing, I don't know.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Filmfanman: Mission Impossible, Transformers, The Munsters, there are more.

4:06 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...


5:50 AM  
Blogger DokG said...

There were a fair number of TV series that with big screen adaptations. "The Line Up" (1958) made the leap, courtesy of Don Siegal. "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." movies were a bit of a cheat, as they were 2-part episodes cut together. But TV's "Batman" and "The Munsters " had quickie features - cash grabs, but all original material. More substantially, Blake Edwards tried to revive "Peter Gunn" as a feature film with "Gunn" (1967), More modern times are strewn with the wreckage of nostalgia-baiting IPs, like "McHales Navy" (which, come to think of it, had TWO vintage features - only one with Ernest Borgnine), "Maverick" and (god help us) "Wild, Wild West". In a more positive vein, "Mission: Impossible" has become a wild successful series of action blockbusters. The original TV series went the "Man from U.N.C.L.E." route, with a two-parter clipped together and sent off to European cinemas as "Mission Impossible vs. the Mob". I'm sure there are a number of other examples - not even counting failed TV pilots that made the theatrical rounds (I'm looking at you, "Chamber of Horrors" and "Dark Intruder").
Ultimately, TV might be up there with radio as a source for movie material.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

Oh yeah how could I have forgotten "Mission Impossible" being a spin-off from a TV show which generated a successful series of movies - that example like Star Trek is much like the radio-based movie spin-offs of yore that I recall, most of which if initially successful on the big screen would generate entire series of films.
Many of the others mentioned, the one-off quickies like "The Munsters" and "The Man From Uncle", and most if not all of the more recent nostalgia-driven big screen remakes of vintage TV shows like "Wild Wild West" and "The Avengers", I must have blotted from my memory due to their overall lack of quality.
Examining the list at the link kindly provided by Mr. Hartt was also very enlightening for me, there's just so much stuff derived from other stuff previously seen on TV.
I suppose once somebody finds they have produced a successful piece of entertainment (which I suspect sometimes comes as a surprise) it's only natural to try to see if that success can be amplified and repeated by the material being carried over and adapted into other forms and other venues of entertainment. Into movies, Broadway shows, comic books, video games, and even toys.

1:41 PM  

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