Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + +)

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For Monday, we have a stylish mystery gent.

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Mystery Movie Plot

Here’s a question for the Brain Trust:

Many years ago, as a young kid watching movies on TV, I saw a film set in the Depression. In one scene in a hobo camp, one of the main characters takes his high school or college diploma out of his shoe and refolds it to cover a hole in the sole. Can anybody identify this mystery movie from my childhood? I have been looking for this movie for years without success.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Republic Pictures Honors ‘The Little Girl With the Golden Heart’

Mabel Normand Hartsook
Mabel Normand in a Hartsook portrait, courtesy of Mary Mallory.


 

 

Hollywood’s public acts of charity often come with an ulterior motive. Such is the case with Republic Picture’s magnanimous naming of its gigantic new sound stage in December 1940 for beloved comedic actress Mabel Normand, who neither stepped foot on the lot nor ever shot a film there, per Brent Walker in “Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory.” While a wonderful remembrance of the gifted comedienne, the gesture served as a subtle promotional tie-in for Republic’s upcoming remake of a Normand film, “Sis Hopkins.”

Herbert Yates’ Republic Pictures began operations in 1935, when Yates merged production companies Liberty Films, Monogram Pictures, and Mascot Pictures. The newly formed corporation leased Mascot’s production facility, the former Mack Sennett studio at 4024 Redford Avenue in Studio City on which to produce films.

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LACMA Acquires Authentic 1940s Zoot Suit

Zoot Suit

LACMA has announced the acquisition of an authentic zoot suit (from New Jersey). Which is a good reason to repost the links to our “ ‘Zoot Suit’ and History” items.

“Zoot Suit” and History, Part 1| Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14

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‘Laura’ — The Making of a Film Noir Classic, Part 53

'Laura'
Note: This is the last of the “Laura” posts I had in reserve from last year, when I went on sabbatical. It was a fun project, but my focus on the Dahlia project prevents me from doing any more.

Reading the final shooting script for “Laura,” dated April 18, 1944, is like walking into your house and discovering that the kitchen and the TV room have traded spots and there’s another family living upstairs.

The completed film flows smoothly and more or less logically, but the final script reveals a narrow path through a junkyard of inferior material that someone had the wisdom to throw out. Whether it was a few lines, entire scenes or an earlier ending that is bad beyond belief, someone – presumably producer-director Otto Preminger — had the vision to know what didn’t work and discarded it.

Here’s a small example of one idea that was scrapped, but couldn’t be eliminated from the entire film.

Spoilers ahead

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Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

Jan. 30, 2016, Mystery Photo

This week’s mystery movie has been the 1961 MGM picture “Ada,” starring Susan Hayward, Dean Martin, Wilfrid Hyde White, Ralph Meeker, Martin Balsam, Frank Maxwell, Connie Sawyer, Ford Rainey, Charles Watts, Larry Gates, Robert S. Simon and William Zuckert. Music was by Bronislau Kaper.

It was photographed with Panavision lenses in CinemaScope and Metrocolor by Joseph Ruttenberg.

The screenplay was by Arthur Sheekman and William Driskill from Wirt Williams’ novel “Ada Dallas.” An Avon Productions Chalamar Picture, the movie was directed by Daniel Mann.

Aug. 25, 1961, Ada

A Feb. 12, 1961, article in the New York Times described filming certain scenes inside the California Capitol, and said it was the first time filming had been allowed inside the building.

Daily Variety (July 26, 1961) called it “a far-fetched story rescued by sharp dialogue.” The movie opened in Los Angeles on Aug. 17, 1961, and received a lukewarm review from Times critic Philip K. Scheuer, who said: “On the screen, it is a tall tale, hard to believe, a kind of ‘Elmer Gantry transferred from the religious to the political arena, from soul-saving to spoils-saving.”

“Ada” opened in New York on Aug. 25, 1961, but apparently was not reviewed in the New York Times.

Footnote: Ford Rainey is the father of Variety reporter (and former Los Angeles Times colleague) James Rainey.

The movie is available from Warner Archive for $19.49.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Let’s Talk Turkey Cooks Up Promotions

 

“Let’s Talk Turkey,” 1939.


 

Motion picture studios and exhibitors dreamed up great exploitation campaigns in the early decades of cinema in order to build interest in a title, increase word of mouth, and hopefully draw larger audiences to theatres. They created elaborate promotional campaigns with a variety of media outlets like magazines and newspapers to reach diverse audiences, as well as partnering with consumer product manufacturers connecting in some way with the film, as well as putting together key art, lobby cards, photographs, ads, and even stories that could be employed in programs, handbills, and local newspapers.

Often they accomplished this through great ballyhoo, such as producer David O. Selznick and Selznick International Pictures’ intense two-year casting campaign for the perfect Scarlett O’Hara to star in “Gone With The Wind,” or through staging film premieres at the city where a film was set or which included some unusual name or feature.

“Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays” by Karie Bible and Mary Mallory is now available at Amazon and at local bookstores.

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‘Laura’ — The Making of a Film Noir Classic, Part 52

"Laura" Cover

One important aspect about the script for “Laura,” beyond the filming of the movie, is the complicated agreement that Twentieth Century-Fox had with David O. Selznick in sharing the contract of Jennifer Jones, who was originally cast in the lead of “Laura.”

Recall that Jones had just made “The Song of Bernadette” at Fox, which opened in Los Angeles on Christmas Day 1943, and for which she would win an Academy Award in March 1944.

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‘Laura’ — The Making of a Film Noir Classic, Part 51

"Laura" Film Script Cover

The final shooting script for “Laura,” dated April 18, 1944, with additions as late as July 1944.


On Monday, Nov. 1, 1943, Twentieth Century-Fox head of production Darryl F. Zanuck issued his stinging critique of Jay Dratler’s draft of “Laura.” A week later, Daily Variety reported that Ring Lardner Jr.  had been hired to revise the script, although it erred in saying that the movie was in production at Warner Bros.

In “Behind the Scenes,” Rudy Behlmer (Page 183) says that Lardner had been working on the aborted Fox project “Ambassador Dodd’s Diary”  and when the film was abandoned, moved to “Laura.”

The trade papers that are indexed on Media Lantern reveal no connection between Lardner and “Ambassador Dodd’s Diary,” which was retitled “Now It Can Be Told,” according to the Oct. 1, 1943, Film Daily.  (It’s unclear if this film is related in any way to the 1945 Fox film “Now It Can Be Told,” finally issued as “The House on 92nd Street” by Barre Lyndon, Charles Booth and John Monks Jr.)

However, in “Backstory 3: Interviews With Screenwriters of the 1960s,” Lardner says that “While I was working on the Nazi script, for example, it was ‘Laura’ for which I rewrote all the Clifton Webb dialogue and contributed to a few other scenes. Jay Dratler wrote me a note of gratitude for not challenging his sole screenplay credit.”

Spoilers ahead.

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‘Hail Caesar’ and E.J. Fleming’s ‘The Fixers’

Josh Brolin 'Hail Caesar'

Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix in “Hail, Caesar!” the Coen brothers’ fanciful tale about MGM’s purported “fixer.”


We’re reluctant to write too much about the upcoming film “Hail, Caesar!” the Coen brothers’ comedy scheduled for release Feb. 4. It is a fantasy, after all. Not a documentary.

However, a distressing number of news articles (that would be you, Michael Cieply in the New York Times) casually refer to E.J. Fleming’s “The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine” as if it were some sort of authoritative book on Hollywood. It is not. And simply because one goes through the motions learned in middle school of properly citing material has no effect on whether it’s the least bit accurate.

Fact-checking all of E.J. Fleming’s “The Fixers” would be a life’s work, but we devoted a great amount of time to debunking the “Wallace Beery beat Ted Healy to death” yarn, and based on what we found in “The Fixers,” we would have to deem the book no more dependable than “Hollywood Babylon.”

I encourage anyone to peruse the following posts before entering the nonsensical world of “The Fixers.”

Wikipedia: Murder and Myth: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17| Part 18

 

The Death of Ted Healy: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15

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‘Laura’ — The Making of a Film Noir Classic, Part 50

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“Memo From Darryl F. Zanuck,” edited by Rudy Behlmer.


On Nov. 1, 1943, Darryl F. Zanuck, the Twentieth Century-Fox head of production, issued a stinging critique of Jay Dratler’s first draft of “Laura.” In this post, we will look at Zanuck’s analysis of each character.

If you haven’t read the earlier posts examining the book, you should know that novelist Vera Caspary told her 1942 novel “Laura” from multiple viewpoints, using the voices of Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), Det. Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) and Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), plus a transcript of the interrogation of Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price).

Spoilers ahead.
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Midnight Show at the Follies Burlesque — July 29, 1939

July 29, 1939, Follies Ticket
Somebody bought a ticket for the July 29, 1939, midnight show at the Follies Theatre and got to see Betty Rowland, “the ball of fire.”

The ticket stub is listed on EBay for 99 cents.

July 29, 1939, Follies

Posted in 1939, Downtown, Theaters | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

In Memory of Elizabeth Short

Over the years that I have been researching the Black Dahlia case, I have seen Elizabeth Short remembered in all sorts of ways. Some people buy “Justice for Beth” buttons on EBay. Others leave cigarettes and bottles of liquor at her grave — although she had asthma and didn’t smoke, and rarely drank.

Instead, I encourage people to make a donation in her name to a charity that works with homeless or abused women. My preferred organization is Heading Home, which helps the homeless in the Boston area. But truly, a donation to any organization that works with women who are homeless or victims of violence is a better way to honor her memory.

I’m sending off my check today. I hope you will too.

Posted in 1947, Black Dahlia | Tagged , | 7 Comments

‘Laura’ — The Making of a Film Noir Classic, Part 49

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“Memo From Darryl F. Zanuck,” selected and edited by Rudy Behlmer.

 


Jan. 19, 2016, update: When I began my “sabbatical” last year, I had a backlog of a few unpublished posts on the making of “Laura.” At the time, it seemed like a good idea to push those off until January 2016 with the idea that I would resume them now. Unanticipated events have changed my plans and although I won’t be writing any new posts on “Laura,” I will publish the ones that I had finished a year ago.


On Nov. 1, 1943
, Twentieth Century-Fox head of production Darryl F. Zanuck issued a stinging critique of Jay Dratler’s first draft of “Laura,” which is quoted by nearly everyone who writes about making the film.

Several things are clear in this memo: First, Zanuck had apparently read Vera Caspary’s novel rather than referring to a synopsis. He says: “There was a good thing in the book, which you have eliminated here, and that was the point that fashionable Park Avenue murders were not Mark (McPherson’s) dish.”

The Making of “Laura” Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26 | Part 27 | Part 28 | Part 29 | Part 30 | Part 31 | Part 32 | Part 33 | Part 34 | Part 35 | Part 36 | Part 37 | Part 38 | Part 39 | Part 40 | Part 41 | Part 42 

James Ellroy to script remake of ‘Laura’

Update, Jan. 19, 2016: I had forgotten that Ellroy was supposed to write a remake of “Laura.” One can only imagine how awful it would be. I can’t find anything recent on the project, so I assume it’s at the bottom of the ocean two miles off Point Fermin.

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Who Can Spot the Mistake?

Jan. 16, 2016, Illustration

This illustration by Los Angeles artist Jeffrey Smith appeared in the New York Times on Jan. 16, 2016, accompanying a story about an elaborate hoax that occurred in 1941. Who can spot the mistake?

Posted in 1941, Art & Artists | Tagged , , | 45 Comments

Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

Jan. 23, 2016, Mystery Photo
This week’s mystery movie has been the 1946 picture “Cloak and Dagger,” starring Gary Cooper, Robert Alda, Vladimir Sokoloff, J. Edward Bromberg, Marjorie Hoshelle and Ludwig Stossel, and introducing Lilli Palmer.  The screenplay was by Albert Maltz and Ring Lardner Jr., from a story by Boris Ingster and John Larkin, “suggested by the book by” Corey Ford and Alastair MacBain. The movie was directed by Fritz Lang.

Oct. 8, 1946, Cloak and Dagger
Released by Warner Bros., the movie was the first production by Milton Sperling’s United States Pictures Inc. and was the first of five independent films he originally planned for 1946.

The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther wrote (Oct. 5, 1946) that the film “is highly suspenseful in a slick cinematic style. Apart from the realm of realities, it is fast entertainment on the screen.”

And yet he quibbled with the plot: The filmmakers “loaded the whole thing down with the baldest and most familiar of the spy-thriller cliches.”

The film opened in Los Angeles on Oct. 11, 1946, at the Wiltern, and the Warners Hollywood and Downtown.  Writing in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 12, 1946, critic Edwin Schallert said it was almost a documentary, calling it “a thrilling adventure narrative that simultaneously is illumined by good strong highlights in the dialogue.”

“Cloak and Dagger” was suggested as a mystery movie by Earl Boebert and set off an unusual quest to defeat Google’s image search function. For some curious reason, much of the film turns up on Google’s image search —  at least in some circumstances. Earl did extensive research on why he and I were getting different results from Google. The simple explanation is that Google personalizes my results as “a movie guy” and customizes his results something else. Cloak and Dagger indeed!

The movie is available from Amazon.

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Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: The Priscilla Dean Tam – Fashion Statement and Marketing Ploy


Priscilla_Dean_-_Photoplay_Jan_1921_Page_21
Priscilla Dean and her tam, Photoplay, January 1921


 

The entertainment industry mastered the use of publicity and cross promotion from its very beginnings, creating elaborate ballyhoo campaigns to build word of mouth and huge box office receipts. It quickly realized that joining together with other organizations, businesses, and mass communications allowed a wider dissemination of the news to audiences at a much cheaper price, thereby helping both institutions or groups in the process.

Universal Feature Film Manufacturing Company deployed an extremely effective and relatively inexpensive cross promotional exploitation campaign in 1920 and 1921 for the Priscilla Dean film, “Outside the Law.” Employing a fashionable tam-o’shanter sold under the Pricilla Dean name, the stunt successfully spread the word of the film among female audiences, leading to high theatre grosses around the country.

“Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays” by Karie Bible and Mary Mallory is now available at Amazon and at local bookstores.

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Jan. 16 in L.A. History

Jan. 16, 1910, Aviation Meet

Jan. 16, 1910: The Times recaps Aviation Week.

 


A Week of Aviation Triumphs, Jan. 16, 1910

Library Officials May Remove Books on Making Alcohol, Jan. 16, 1920 

TV Writers Go on Strike Over Residuals, Jan. 16, 1960

Matt Weinstock, Jan. 16, 1960

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Black Dahlia: Photo of Not Elizabeth Short Listed on EBay

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Apparently nobody fell for this photo the first time around, so a vendor on EBay has listed it again. For $499.99. Seriously.

The vendor (ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE ON EBAY WHO HAS NO IDEA HOW TO TURN OFF THE CAPS LOCK) claims to have gotten this “rare” photo of Elizabeth Short at an estate sale of “A WWII VETERAN.”

“I DID SOME RESEARCH AND FOUND OUT IN 1945 SHE DATED A SOLDIER FROM WWII AND WHO WAS FROM NEW JERSEY. SO I DID MORE RESEARCH AND HAD THE PHOTO LOOKED AT BY MULTIPLE PEOPLE FROM A FORENSIC DETECTIVE TO MIKE FROM THE SHOW ODDITIES. ALL SAY IT IS HER. ”

Well that is certainly conclusive evidence — that some people can’t see what is in front of them.

This isn’t Elizabeth Short, it’s just some random woman from the 1940s. Really.

The price has gone up. The last time it was listed, bidding started at $99.99.

Posted in 1947, Black Dahlia, Found on EBay | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Today is Jan. 15 — Trim Your Roses

Today is Jan. 15, and the Daily Mirror marks the anniversary of Elizabeth Short’s death by pruning back the roses.

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