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Monday, June 19, 2023

Ads and Oddities #2


Ad/Odds: Cornered, The Paradine Case, and Chained

CORNERED (1946) --- “New” being watchword here as Dick Powell new was less accomplished fact than lately implemented one. Murder, My Sweet was first opportunity to see him hard-boiled, a screen switch that didn’t necessarily translate to stage appearances made on behalf of Murder, My Sweet. Ads in oversized magazines were close as then-enthusiasts got to owning posters for their favorite films, a lavish enough weekly good for keepsakes nearly large as a lobby card outside theatres. Very often ads were full color, depending on willingness of distributors to spend for the splash. Timing was trick for placing ads where/when they would do the most good, Cornered either at a local venue or coming soon to one. Films were sold upon pledge by companies to spend big with large circulation magazines. Print promos in newspapers, reader attention less with ads necessarily smaller, muddier than in mags, often lost amidst crowd on a daily's page, these a thicket and tax upon reader focus amidst bally for what competing venues offered. Cornered getting a LIFE or LOOK page all its own lent importance to that or any attraction, readers knowing space did not come cheap in zines reaching millions per week. Suffice to say films I saw first-run seldom got push unless it was something like Thunderball with its LIFE cover plus pages within. Color stills appeared as well in the slicks, which fans cut out and put in scrapbooks. More ads survive from weeklies than any other format, it seems. We could wonder how many of pages, film related or not, were scissored from issues and kept for someone’s posterity. I’ve seen albums dedicated just to soup ads, these at their best aesthetic worthies and who knows but what we’ve all missed a bet for not collecting them.

--- Did all six stars smoke Chesterfield, or smoke at all? Was Charles Laughton approached? I wonder what pressure was applied to make them pose for ads, not just for cigarettes, but any product. Presumably they were paid beyond studio contract terms. I’m told this came often in “swag” from the advertiser, as in Gregory Peck going out to his mailbox to find three dozen cases of Chesterfield waiting. Might he take up smoking just to avoid waste of such freebies? I’m guessing a lot got re-gifted for Christmas and birthdays. Did any star refuse cigarette ads on principle they were unsafe? That undoubtedly happened by the sixties, but 1948? Ads were exposure for celebrities, whatever dubious value of products they hawked. Earliest Hollywood color images we have derive from advertising cast members posed for. Everybody won as not only faces, but films in which they appeared, got boosted. It may be assumed that The Paradine Case needed all of help it could get. I’d like to know what “Cooler Smoking” amounts to … an admission that smoking is too often hot? We coped for years with belching clouds and smells from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem. Any trip down was worse for stench from pollutants. Reynolds was obliged to spare the air eventually, but surely damage was done to generations living in/around Winston. Could even Kiddie Shows at the Carolina Theatre on Saturdays (non-stop Hammer and AIP horrors) have persuaded me to live amidst such contamination, Horror of Dracula, Pit and the Pendulum, and Tarantula on a virtual loop maybe worth trading a few years of life to see (but how many?).

CHAINED (1934) --- Ads once upon a Classic Era could proclaim a “Glorious Hit!” prior even to release, being confidence of a system which indeed had genius behind it. Chained like most out of Metro, in fact any studio during 1934, was calibrated precisely to audience tastes. This is something we might marvel at in modern circumstance of almost willful failure to meet expectation, movies often seeming out to alienate viewership. Chained is said in this ad to be fruit of 62,000 fans seeking encore for paired-up Clark Gable and Joan Crawford (oops, reverse that billing, as her name came first in advertising). You could let the story take care of itself, studio histories informing us that star vehicles were every bit the product of committees as anything corporately so today. Difference may be panel members in 1934 boasting the sort of talent we're less blessed with. A Hunt Stromberg producing or Clarence Brown directing was assurance that standard would be met, formula varied just enough but not so as to upset comfort level with result. Guarantee, at least hope, was that Chained would equal if not surpass Dancing Lady, a Selznick wrapped package that he called gilt-edged for crowd pleasing, this essential goal for anyone entrusted with stars and properties, or better put, stars as properties. Chained is best looked upon like a watch never a second off, featuring a cast with demonstrable appeal plus ongoing aptitude to reassert dominance of a brand proven to please, Chained factory product yes, but seeming not so for satisfaction given, still rewarding despite ninety years passed since newness.

More of Chained here.


Blogger Filmfanman said...

Just recently I watched the 1962 movie "Hatari", which I recalled having enjoyed once when I saw it long ago, in the 1980s; this time around, I found the pervasive tobacco use depicted in that film to affect my enjoyment of it. It was like a cigarette ad in disguise.
I read somewhere that soldiers everywhere during the Second World War received cigarettes/tobacco as part of their daily rations; and that by 1965, 50%+ of all adults in North America were tobacco smokers. That for over the forty years after that date a cancer epidemic swept through the populace is not surprising in light of what we now know about that stuff.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Jorge Finkielman said...

It's interesting that while cigarette ads were banned in television around 1971, the ads continued to be seen on TV stations in the rest of the world.

CORNERED is notable for being one of the extremely few times in which Buenos Aires was actually recreated correctly by Hollywood. The only image that was actually filmed in Argentina is a shot of subway train entering a station; the rest was staged in the studios.

12:25 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Ah, magazines. From 60s childhood I remember the usual ones appearing and disappearing, at home and in friends' living rooms: Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look, Time, Newsweek, McCall's, Family Circle, National Geographic, Sunset, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Reader's Digest, New Yorker and TV Guide, plus slightly less common Today's Health, US News and World Report, New West, Esquire, Saturday Review, and my father's slick medical magazines. Certain friends had secret caches of Playboy, which they'd show off briefly and return to hiding.

Recalling with a jolt that they tended to be thick -- American Heritage was actually hardbound -- and many published weekly. Trying to recall if many people still have colonial-style magazine racks in their living rooms; I notice that thrift stores always have them in stock. Anyway, I do remember flipping through every magazine in search of cartoons, occasionally stopping for an article or two.

Somehow I don't remember movie ads so much as gushy articles with color photos. Jack and Jill, a glossy kiddie magazine, had spreads for the Beany and Cecil show and Dale Robertson's animated feature, "The Man From Button Willow". The grownup mags would have angles like Audrey Hepburn modeling gowns from "My Fair Lady", or the guy who built the one-man copter from "You Only Live Twice". Uncle Walt got plenty of exposure, seemingly as often for the theme park as for an upcoming movie. The big color ads were mainly in the entertainment sections of the Sunday newspapers. Also recall "Jumbo" rating a half page in the Sunday comics.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Rodney said...

We still subscribe to a few magazines, both involving the classic media persuasion (Nostalgia Digest, Sperdvac's Radiogram) and more general interest (Readers Digest, and until recently, Saturday Evening Post) and we have a magazine rack in our living room. I still enjoy a proper, real, magazine that you can hold in your hands instead of staring at a screen.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

The studios might not promote as-yet unreleased movies as "hits" anymore -- that's what the internet is for. In 2016, the Huffington Post promised readers "all the reasons you'll want to see Lin-Manuel Miranda's 'In the Heights' film adaptation" -- four years before it was even filmed. I guess nobody read the piece, because it did a major flopperoo upon release. At least MGM knew they had an audience ready to be "Chained".

As for that Chesterfield ad -- I've never smoked, always thought it was a weird habit, but those old ads with celebrities shilling cigarettes continue to make me laugh. Did the tobacco companies have people thinking, "Gee, Ethel Barrymore smokes Chesterfields, they must be classy!"?

12:16 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

In the Heights was not only a big flop. But it is not even a good movie, with mediocre songs, and for a movie that pretended to be bilingual the Spanish scenes were all irrelevant where nothing important or useful was ever stated.

Movie stars endorsing cigarettes continued way after the TV ads were banned in the United States because they were not in the rest of the world. If you look for them, you will find them.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

In the country of Bhutan, the possession, use and cultivation of tobacco is prohibited by law.

3:36 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer has, in his always inimitable way, got CHAINED all figured out:

“Chained” is like a fine watch, with a mechanism efficiently turning towards a date display already set. By the end of the show, Gable will get Crawford. In a watch movement, the Otto Kruger character would be known as a “complication.” Ironically, he is everything most women think they want. He is so intelligent and kind, so wealthy, so gentle in manner and so genuinely in love with Crawford. That is, he is so bourgeoise. As you say, he is outclassed by Gable, just because Gable is Gable, a natural aristocrat, and Kruger, dedicated and hardworking, is, as we’ve said, bourgeoise. The hallmark of the bourgeoise is to want to have the class and manners of their betters. This means that Kruger, if he really wanted to be an aristocrat and if he truly loved Crawford, should want to give her up to the man she loves. As with many aristocrats, however, Gable really has more in common with the Warren William characters in “Skyscraper Souls” and “Employees Entrance,” while Otto Kruger is more like Ronald Colman in any number of Ronald Colman pictures, except, of course, that he is Otto Kruger, not Ronald Colman, and he is the mechanical impediment between Gable getting Crawford. Gable could do the decent thing and walk away from Kruger and Crawford, but then it would be a Dan Mercer picture, not a Clark Gable one, and I don’t think the box office would be much good.

2:16 PM  

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