Nancy Drew … Reporter, Happy Anniversary! Premiered February 18th, 1939

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Nancy Drew Reporter was the second of 4 films produced and distributed by Warner Brothers, starring the vivacious Bonita Granville as the plucky teenage detective, John Litel as Carson Drew her clueless, loving father and Frankie Thomas appeared as her sidekick, Ted Nickerson. Kenneth Gamet wrote the Reporter screenplay based on the Nancy Drew stories, using the novels as source materials, likewise for the other 3 Drews; Mr. Gamet and director William Clemens worked each of the Drew films. Bryan Foy had the responsibilities as producer for the first entry (Nancy Drew Detective, November 19th, 1938), but for “Reporter” Mr. Foy moved to associate producer, while Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner came on board as executive producers; WB released the 4 movies Nancy Drew: Detective, Reporter, Trouble Shooter, The Hidden Staircase) in 294 days, 11/19/1938 to 9/9/1939. The films were a smash hit but in 1939 Granville moved from Warner Brothers to MGM, shelving any further projects, her onscreen persona being so entrenched with the character of Nancy Drew.

Bonita Granville

Bonita Granville

John Litel

John Litel

Frankie Thomas

Frankie Thomas

The idea for the Nancy Drew books was developed by Edward Stratemeyer (founder, creator of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, publishers of children’s stories communicated by series), and he gave the character outline to Mildred Wirt Benson (staff writer for the Syndicate); writing under the pen name of Carolyn Keene, Ms. Benson began the Nancy Drew series, on April 28th, 1930 with the release of the 3 volume breeder set which included: The Secret of the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, and The Bungalow Mystery.

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It is a great day to celebrate the mystery, the comedy, the thrills and the frills of Nancy Drew, so brightly brought to life by Bonita Granville and the rest of the Drew-crew. The Original Nancy Drew Movies are available on DVD.

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By C. S. Williams

The Big Combo, Happy Anniversary! Premiered February 13th, 1955

On Sunday, February 13th, 1955 The Big Combo premiered in Japan and the United States. Directed by the master-of-style Joseph H. Lewis, photography by near-legendary-cinematographer John Alton, written by Philip Yordan (read further on Yordan from The Film Noir Foundation), music by David Raksin and starring: Cornel Wilde (one of my favorite actors), Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, Jean Wallace, Robert Middleton, Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman. Not much liked by the New York Times  or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops but the Village Voice liked the film and is now regarded by a majority of critics  as a Film-Noir classic, although, some are only willing to assign it as a Top-Notch B-Movie, yet, others see it as a Wannabe-Classic. As for me, I think The Big Combo is a jazzy piece of film-making, full of riffs, darkening tones and sultry voices with pulsations galore that make the heart race. The Big Combo is available on Blu-Ray or DVD.

big-combo-poster Big_Combo_poster big_combo_ver2 Big_Combo-777265780-large big-combo BigComboCard big-combo-germanposter bigcombol_47878_af4ae4d2 bigcombol_47878_ec5807ea bigcomboMV5BNDY4NzQ0MTg1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODQ3MTMyMDE@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_ big-combo-poster(2)

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By C. S. Williams

Metropolis, Happy Anniversary! Premiered in Berlin, Germany at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo Movie Theater on Monday, January 10th, 1927.

Metropolisposter metropolis-postermetropolis-movie-program

Metropolis changed the way I thought of Silent Film. Up to that point I had viewed the era as darkened, scratchy, unclear, with much over-exaggerated movements of body, face and eyes and to make matters worse there was no dialogue. But, here was a movie that challenged my thinking and my preconceived conceptions of non-talking films. This was movie making at its finest, regardless of decade. From the sets to the costumes, the story, the lighting, the cinematography, acting and direction, Metropolis was for that time and for this new century a Masterpiece.

This science-fiction juggernaut was based on the novel of the same name by Thea von Harbou, published in 1926 after principle filming began on May 22nd, 1925; Harbou wrote Metropolis with the purpose of making a film from it and the novel was serialized in 1926 in the journal Illustriertes Blatt leading up to the movie’s release. Harbou and husband Fritz Lang (uncredited) scripted Metropolis which leaps to and fro, one genre to the next all under the control of the imaginative Lang.

Fritz Lang and wife Thea von Harbou

Fritz Lang

Most of the cast were unknowns or as with leading lady Brigitte Helm, no experience at all, yet, Lang gained exactly what he wanted from his ensamble and multitude of extras, as well as from his crew which for this venture was of the most importance. It was in this visual perspective that Metropolis communicates its story. Driven not by words, not even action, but conveyed by the art and stylizations of the sets and costumes we the audience are caught up in and thrust forward by this creative visual contrivance of Fritz Lang to tell this dystopian tale. It has been a while since first I laid eyes upon Metropolis, yet, I cannot forget that I immediately found within its frames, beauty, thoughtfulness and a uncertainty of the future. Today, I am none the less impressed by this classic film, it is two hours that is well spent enjoying a piece of history and at the same time marveling at this piece of art that is: Metropolis.

Brigitte_Helm

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Behind the Scenes of Metropolis:

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By C. S. Williams

One Froggy Evening, Happy Anniversary! Opened December 31st, 1955

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Lobby Card

OneFroggyEvening_Lobby_Card

Lobby Card

A Chuck Jones masterpiece, a one of kind hilarious comment on human nature, the search for our hopes, the quest for our dreams and the pursuit of the happiness that we find in them; all told in just 7 minutes. I don’t know about you but every time I have a tech look at my PC (or for that matter a mechanic at my car, repairman at my washer or dryer, and so on, and so forth) I just can’t seem to reproduce the issue, which is now a called a “Dancing Frog”, a terminology for a computer problem that will not appear when anyone else is watching, due to our Froggy friend. By the way, lest we forget, the song “The Michigan Rag” was written (by One Froggy Evening writer Michael Maltese) solely for this short-film. And further, (I understand that cartoons take on a life of their own, but they are not real, at least that is what my mom told me) Hollywood nightclub singer Bill Roberts (popular in Hollywoodland during the 1950’s) provided the singing voice of the frog.

For  everybody  that loves the “Michigan Rag” here are the words for your perusal:

Everybody do the Michigan Rag
Everybody likes the Michigan Rag
Every Mame and Jane and Ruth
From Weehawken to Duluth
Slide, ride, glide the Michigan
Stomp, romp, pomp the Michigan
Jump, clump, pump the Michigan Rag
That lovin’ rag!

onefroggymichigan onefroggyPicture22 onefroggySingingFrogImage onefroogynotes onefroggy2374569690-d86284ab1b onefroggyevening+%2811%29 onefroggyevening+%2825%29onefroggy3large

 

By C. S. Williams

Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Happy Anniversary! Premiered in New York City, December 30th, 1925

As we can see from the posters, lobby cards, programs and ads for Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, every means and all tools were used to promote this film, yet, because of its budget (most expensive of the silent era at 3.9 million) it lost money on its initial run, finally making a little profit in the re-release in 1931 when a score and sound-effects were added. (See our post about another Easter favorite, from 1935: Golgotha)

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Stills from Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ:

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Forty-eight cameras were used to film the sea battle, a record for a single scene.

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The Guinness Book of World Records (2002 edition), relates that Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, contains the most edited scene in cinema history. Editor Lloyd Nosler compressed 200,000 feet (60,960 meters) of film into a mere 750 feet (228.6 meters) for the chariot race scene – a ratio of 267:1 (film shot to film shown).

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The religious scenes were all shot in Technicolor along with Ben Hur’s entrance into Rome and some of the interiors.

ben-hur-color01ben-hur-color04benhurd8cc82  ben hur 006-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 009-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 045-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 058-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 064-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 073-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 077-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur row06.02-BenHur   ben hur003-ben-hur-theredlist OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA ben hur029-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur00239 ben hur6011207_f520 ben hurGinger-673 1926 Ramon Navarro Ben Hur benhur Annex%2520-%2520Bushman%2C%2520Francis%2520X_%2520%28Ben%2520Hur%2C%2520A%2520Tale%2520of%2520the%2520Christ%29_02 benhur ywjyU

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Behind the scenes stills:

ben hur 060-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 069-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 061-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 059-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 057-ben-hur-theredlistBen Hur 1925ben hur 075-ben-hur-theredlistben hur ac-1926-ben-hur-2-copy

Old Yeller, Happy Anniversary! Opened Christmas Day, 1957?

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Old Yeller, did not actually have its world premiere on Christmas Day, 1957, it was seen instead on Tuesday night, December 17, in two different cities. The first venue was the Metropolitan Theater, which was on Main St. (1018) between Lamar St. and McKinney St., in downtown Houston, Texas. This was a particularly unusual opening, for to see the film you had to bring a dog;[1] the Associated Press blurb proclaimed, “The Metropolitan theater went to the dogs at a premier last night.”[2] On the same evening, Yeller was viewed for a March of Dimes benefit showing, at the Trans-Lux Theater at 52nd St. in New York City; then the film went on hiatus until Christmas Day.[3]

The Christmas Day release was limited by Walt Disney Pictures, with just a dozen locations nationwide.[4] The Fox Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills was a key screen for the launch of this live action Disney drama based on the novel of the same name by Fred Gipson. Fess Parker took seventy-five underprivileged boys from the Lark Ellen elementary school in Covina, to the premier at the Fox Wilshire; he chartered a bus for the thirty-plus-mile trek and paid the kids’ admission from his own wallet.[5] In Boston, at the Beacon Hill Theater, Old Yeller broke the all-time house record;[6] the Stanton Theater in Philadelphia, located at the corner of 16th St. and Market Street, hosted a Christmas Day opening, an ole Yeller feller extravaganza.[7] Buffalo was another of the chosen-dozen to show Old Yeller beginning on Christmas of 1957; Basil’s Lafayette Theater was the Beantown host for the Yeller story.[8]

Philadelphia Inquirer Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 27, 1957

Philadelphia Inquirer Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 27, 1957

Buffalo NY Courier Express, Buffalo, New York, December 30, 1957

Buffalo NY Courier Express, Buffalo, New York, December 30, 1957

 

With the aforesaid behind us, Old Yeller’s first bark was heard not on December 17, but in November, the week prior to Thanksgiving at the New York Coliseum, which was host to the Festival of the Pets, from November 21-24.[9] Disney did not miss a beat with the canine-cross-promotion in offering this unique screening directed at both owners and their best friends.

Film Bulletin November 25, 1957

Film Bulletin November 25, 1957

 

Yet, most of the country did not see this now classic Disney tear-jerker until the middle of January and later, 1958.

The_Sedalia_Democrat_ Sedalia, Missouri,Thu__Jan_16__1958_

Sedalia Democrat, Sedalia, Missouri, January 16, 1958

The_Gazette_and_Daily_ York, Pennsylvania Fri__Jan_17__1958_

Gazette and Daily, York, Pennsylvania, January 17, 1958

The_Post_Crescent_ Appleton, Wisconsin, Wed__Jan_22__1958_

Post Crescent, Appleton, Wisconsin, January 22, 1958

 

Ho, Ho, Ho and a Very Merry Christmas to You!

By C. S. Williams

 

 

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[1] Freeport Journal-Standard (Freeport, Illinois) December 18, 1957

Bridgeport Post (Bridgeport, Connecticut) December 18, 1957

[2] Courier News (Blytheville, Arkansas) December 18, 1957

[3] Motion Picture Daily, November 21, 1957

[4] Motion Picture Daily, December 2, 1957

Film Bulletin, December 9, 1957

[5] Film Bulletin, December 9, 1957

St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) December 25, 1957

[6] Motion Picture Daily, December 27, 1957

[7] Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) December 22, 1957

[8] Buffalo Courier-Express (Buffalo, New York) December 22, 1957

[9] Billboard, November 4, 1957

Film Bulletin, November 25, 1957

Holiday Affair, Happy Anniversary! a Delicious 1949 Christmas Time-Capsule

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To say that Holiday Affair was a Christmas Eve release (most modern reports state this) is true only from the perspective that it was seen around Christmas at most theaters nationwide; another film added to that always growing list of the soft-roll-out-national-opening.

The_Post_Standard_ Syracuse, New York, Wed__Dec_21__1949_

Post Standard, Syracuse, New York, December 21, 1949

The_Nebraska_State_Journal_ Lincoln, Nebraska, Thu__Dec_22__1949_

Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska, December 22, 1949

Clovis_News_Journal_ Clovis, New Mexico Fri__Dec_23__1949_

Clovis News Journal, Clovis, New Mexico, December 23, 1949

The_Daily_Times_News_ Burlington, North Carolina Sat__Dec_24__1949_

Daily Times News, Burlington, North Carolina, December 24, 1949

Lubbock_Evening_Journal_ Lubbock, Texas Mon__Dec_26__1949_

Lubbock Evening Journal, Lubbock, Texas, December 26, 1949

 

Nor was Holiday Affair a Thanksgiving Day opening, but instead, a Thanksgiving Eve premier in New York City, at Loew’s State Theater; with showings beginning at 10:00 A.M…

The_Brooklyn_Daily_Eagle_Tue__Nov_22__1949_

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, November 22, 1949

The_Brooklyn_Daily_Eagle_Wed__Nov_23__1949_

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, November 23, 1949

 

Holiday Affair is a Christmas movie filmed with an adult sensibility, romantic, witty, sometimes acerbic; this Christmas gem is a must see for the Christmas Holiday Season. Robert Mitchum performs warmly as the sentimental, amorous lead – Steve; Wendell Corey, (one of my favorite actors, underrated) smooth as always, as Carl the fiancé, the beautiful Janet Leigh as the confused widow – Connie, with young Gordon Gebert as Timmy.

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Robert Mitchum

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Janet Leigh

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Wendell Corey

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Gordon Gebert

The basic plot is simple and as far as romances go oft used. Just before Christmas, toy-department clerk Steve Mason (a World War Two Veteran) meets comparison shopper Connie Ennis. He of course knows that she is undercover but lets her go, which gets him dismissed immediately. Their new found friendship-romance causes problems with Carl (an Attorney, later playing well into the writers’ scheme) Connie’s beau,  adding tension to the already stressful situation, for Timmy (Connie’s son) likes Carl but does not want his mother to marry him, wanting everything to remain the same (just him and his mother, or as he refers to her “Mrs. Ennis”), yet, after Timmy meets Steve, he is swept off his feet and ready for mom to go down the bridal-path with this out of work clerk, to the chagrin of Carl.

Lush photography, crisp staging, droll dialog with abounding script complications makes this one-present that you won’t want to re-gift. Holiday Affair, directed by Don Hartman, screenplay by Isobel Lennart and cinematography by Milton R. Krasner.

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One year after its premier, Holiday Affair was adapted for radio broadcast for the Lux Radio Theater, on December 18th, 1950; Mitchum and Gebert reprised their film roles, for the 60 minute radio program.

Holiday Affair (released nationally on December 24th, 1949 and November 23rd, 1949, premier in New York City) received a luke-warm review from New York Times Film Critic Bosley Crowther, and did not do well at the box office, reportedly [1] losing $300,000.

Why the box-office doldrums for Holiday Affair? Possibly, the reason lies within the story itself. It was just not quite as “traditional” or “sweet” as, A Miracle on 34th Street, nor did its plot-key turn upon “ghosts of Christmas,” angles of any kind or seasonal songs. The story-line that was directed to adults did not make this a family-friendly time at the movie-house for “Mom and Dad, with kids Jeff and Sue” in tow. It was better suited for young-couples, single mothers seeking hope, desultory men searching for purpose who, one and all would attend this film in the harsh realities of post-WW2 America; this may have been just a little too much, just a little too real for the audiences of 1949 to digest. For us today Holiday Affair is a reminder of love and responsibility, of friendship, trust and intimate lasting relationships, which without makes us all the poorer, which with, makes us all the richer.

 

Merry Christmas!

By C. S. Williams

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[1] “The RKO Story”, 1982, by Richard Jewell & Vernon Harbin, Arlington House, New Rochelle, New York, Page 234.