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Monday, June 10, 2024

Ads and Oddities #6


Ad/Odds: D. Copperfield for the Liberty?, Raoul Walsh Putting On Brakes, The Lone Ranger Opens for Sears, Posing with Posters

THERE CAN’T BE MORE THAN ONE OF THESE --- Propelling memories way back, remember when Greenbriar told tale of Freddie Bartholomew slated to appear in person at the Liberty March 16, 1948? He was to act in The Hasty Heart till fate dictated otherwise, Freddie a no-show with lawsuits ensuing. I had in 2006 retrieved a newspaper ad for the event, but little else to memorialize its non-happening. Local articles addressed the legal flap, but readers were not told what damages, if any, were collected. For us to even come close to hosting a star of Freddie’s caliber was heady stuff, him no longer being a star per se less important than the fact here was David Copperfield, rather here wasn’t David Copperfield. Did we figure Freddie and handlers blew us off for being such a jerkwater stop? All we had to then, or after, was occasional cowboy names, none too proud to twirl guns on the Liberty stage. Fact is, Freddie had fallen far way by 1948, as evidenced by comparison of Captains Courageous one-sheet art circa initial release in 1937, then for a 1946 reissue lobby card. Ever see billing plummet so? But why not, for a near-generation had come of age since Freddie was a boy and horizons seemed endless. I understand there were grasping relatives who got much of what he earned, an oldest story for child stars. What Wilkes knew was that Freddie was promised and all a sudden no he wasn't. You could not blame us and Liberty management for taking it personal. Imagine embarrassment of having to refund those advance admissions. North Wilkesboro’s entrée to big-time theatre was choked in the cradle, making the collectible shown here a wistful one. Freddie Bartholomew went into television, behind-scenes, and retired from there years later. He sat for an interview in late life and seemed to have rid himself of the British accent, shed finally and altogether as David Copperfield … and The Hasty Heart.

JACKRABBIT ATTACK --- Seems Feg Murray was making merry of inside Hollywood with gloves on and off. I’m guessing a most press director Raoul Walsh had was when that hair raising hare came through his car window and launched shards enough to half-blind the actor/helmsman. For Murray to make a cartoon of it was mere show-doing business, Walsh least to complain, as what was this incident but more of each man in his time collecting one more anecdote to seize floors wherever he brought it up? Walsh for most part wore his patch after, sometimes not. He didn’t mind being photographed either way. Patchless poses chill me a little, Raoul with what looks like a dab of cotton stuck in the socket and never mind appearance past that. He was conceded toughest of tough breed that made action movies. Did he really ride with Villa, steal John Barrymore’s body out of a morgue to prank Errol Flynn? As to the latter, I much hope not. Raoul Walsh was a known tall tale teller. For him the truth was no more required than right/wrong feathers on an Indian. They’d be shot all the same and so would accuracy if interviewers asked Raoul a too specific question. In quiet moments (few), he’d reflect and maybe hint as to something that really happened, few of filmmakers so good at summing up character and personalities of folk he knew or worked with. We won’t get Walsh-types again, his kind and the kind of work he did long gone and not coming back.

LEE POWELL’S IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD --- I should be more conversant about certain serial and western names. Buck, Tim, and Hoot are known to extent by me, nowhere near degree of earlier generations, yet way ahead of what future dwellers will know. These action aces are so much dinosaur bones for all folks care today, fewer all a while to keep lamps burning, and maybe a last to have notion who Lee Powell was. Suffice to say he meant plenty when Sears and Roebuck in Bloomington, Illinois hosted him as the Lone Ranger on Wednesday, July 12th at 10:30 am, but what year? Surely late thirties, maybe early forties before Powell enlisted and went to island combat from which he never returned. Did outpour of grief follow his 1943 death? Powell was not so active as to be another Buck Jones. Nor could his passing be so keenly felt as that of Fred Thomson. Lee Powell enlisted with the Marines. Before that, he had been in westerns and some serials, most notably two where he played the Lone Ranger, these to confer what of immortality he’d get. That was plenty, because even while the serials are forgot, the Ranger as a character is still recognized by lots, and most will hear if not remember that an actor named Lee Powell was once prime enactor. The Lone Ranger serials disappeared after initial runs and missed reissue or TV exposure for decades to come. Cowboy cons ran bootleg chapters to full rooms. Boys-to-eventual men drove far to see Lee Powell be the Ranger and recapture childhood paradise that was late thirties theatergoing. Both chapterplays are readily had if on dupey terms. Reason they vanished in the first place was adapt rights expiring and Republic not spending to clear or renew them.

LET’S POSE WITH POSTERS --- There is an inscription on the back of this snapshot, from somebody to somebody, only I can’t read it and would defy anyone else to, this what I’ve always disliked about “cursive” writing. Truth is I was force-taught cursive and refused to use it at school forever after, taking the position that print where deftly applied could always be understood, and show me please one person out of a hundred who can do cursive legibly. Goal in youth was to print clearly as TV listings in the newspaper or even more ideally, pages in the TV GUIDE. Teachers sometimes got punitive for my shunning cursive. Cruel, cruel school! To topic at hand, why didn’t I pose in front of favorite posters back in the day? Given poses at Liberty entrance beside one-sheets for Brides of Dracula or Goldfinger, well … they’d be banners at Greenbriar yet, maybe passport photos or on my driving license. Photos like this turn up from time to time. Was novelty of movies such in 1922 to be backdrop (foreground!) for fans wanting to memorialize a trip to the show? The Truthful Liar looks good from a hundred years out, but I’ll guess it is lost today. What a comfy afternoon this appears, with attendee clad in simple attractive dress, a straw hat to suggest mid-Fall, perhaps early Spring. Imagine hearing from this Miss what the Great War was like on home front and what she recalled of nickelodeons. We need spectral visitors to return and explain life as it was … books and even films are just not enough. Such ghosts would not scare me if they’d be anything like this cheerful vision.


Blogger Mike Cline said...

If I recall correctly, the deal with the Lone Ranger serials (both of them) was that after seven (perhaps) years, Republic was supposed to burn the negatives, so the serials were not supposed to be seen again.

A grown Fred Bartholomew was an executive for the top-rated TV sudser, As the World Turns, for a number of years.

7:27 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Griff considers Raoul Walsh and Freddie Bartholomew's lowered billing:

Dear John:

If the story -- or dark anecdote, or extreme example of Hollywood-lore, or however we might describe it (it's certainly a sobering, chilling vignette in the director's memoir) -- of how Raoul Walsh came to lose his right eye had been perhaps a little better known in the 'seventies, I might have expected to see some kind of post-modernist smart-alecky cartoon like this in a period-Tinseltown-themed issue of the National Lampoon. But, gosh -- this actually ran nationally back in 1939 in Feg Murphy's Seein' Stars feature in King Features' Puck, The Comic Weekly supplement! Holy Cow! What were they thinking? I gather Gentleman Raoul must have taken the cartoon in stride. [What about the rabbit?]

My only other comment on your fine post this week is to give thanks to MGM for managing to find room for Freddie Bartholomew's name on that busy 1946 CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS title card...


10:30 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

That Raoul Walsh comic strip proves Harry Langdon's theory that tragedy can create the funniest comedy.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

I can think of a few plummeting credits offhand.

GLORIA JEAN: Universal's newest star of 1940 was co-billed with Bing Crosby in IF I HAD MY WAY, but after she left the studio Universal reissued the film in 1946. Legally she still got second billing to Crosby, but now her name was in much smaller type.

THELMA TODD: She was featured in Edward Small's independent feature PALOOKA in 1934, but died in 1935. Astor Pictures brought PALOOKA back in 1941 and cut her out of the credits entirely.

BOBBY BREEN: His Sol Lesser musicals of the 1930s came back in the 1940s, and Screencraft hated to admit these were old pictures. Some of the film titles were changed, the supporting players received top billing, and Bobby was always listed at the end of the cast.

HENRY MORGAN: Star of Richard Fleischer's SO THIS IS NEW YORK in 1948 but shunted down to fourth billing in 1953. (Hugh Herbert's name vanished completely.)

KLINTON SPILSBURY: Clayton Moore's big-screen successor is no longer a selling point on the latest (British) Blu-Ray, as seen and described on Amazon. Composer John Barry gets star billing.

3:51 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

The "real" Lone Ranger for many years was Brace Beemer, who starred on the radio show. He was well known for it. When Clayton Moore got the television version, he embraced the identity to the extent of making all his public appearances masked. Moore will likely be remembered as the face of the Lone Ranger, if only for his battle with the producers of "The Legend of the Lone Ranger" over appearing in character (he was legally required to replace the mask with sunglasses). "Legend of the Lone Ranger" was an obvious and overblown attempt to start a franchise, but sank like a rock. 32 years later, history repeated itself.

There's a fun book, "Ticket to Paradise" (1991) that combines photos of vintage theaters with short nostalgic essays by moviegoers, employees, and Saturday matinee faithful. One writer describes a particularly threadbare bijou in Higginsville, Missouri. He closes with an account of a personal appearance by an unnamed western star, now fat and more than a little surly, before an audience of jeering little hecklers.

One of Harry Golden's books (somebody must remember those) described how, in the 1950s, Ginger Rogers was booked for a big event in Golden's hometown of Charlotte, South Carolina. After weeks of anticipatory fluff in the newspaper, there came a terse announcement: "Ginger Rogers, 54-year-old former film actress, has cancelled her appearance."

6:24 PM  
Blogger MikeD said...

Wasn't Ross Alexander a victim of plummeting credits? I think it was a film he made with Dick Powell towards the end of his life.

10:04 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

There is a Greenbriar column from 2010 that addresses the Ross Alexander death and plummeted credit for READY, WILLING, AND ABLE:

11:10 AM  

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