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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween Harvest 2015 --- Part Two


The Biggest Audiences Hammer Ever Had

When did a largest-ever viewership sit down to Hammer films? By available evidence, it looks to have been during the 1967-68 broadcast season, when networks premiered Evil Of Frankenstein(1-2-68), Hammer's Phantom Of The Opera (1-30-68, repeated 6-29-68), and Kiss Of The Vampire, as retitled Kiss Of Evil (12-19-67), these shown on NBC. Then there was Die! Die! My Darling on CBS (1-27-67, repeated 7-13-67) and The Nanny (also CBS: 10-31-68, repeated 8-28-69). Ratings and audience share aren't there for every title, but it would appear that The Nanny was the best crowd getter of the primetime lot. A number of Hammer films would show up later on the CBS Late Movie, a 70's showcase where most monster boomers saw these films for the first time. Quick poll: How many caught The Nanny, or any of these Hammers, in a theatre as opposed to television? I'll bet statistics would go ten to one in TV, or cassette/DVD, favor. For vast viewing majority, the tube was primary source for not just Hammer movies, but all movies.


Veteran producer Edward Small pointed up the disparity to Variety on 11-17-65: "Most "A" pictures, with few exceptions, play to 5,000,000 people domestically (in theatres) over a period of five years. On TV, they are seen by twenty million in one night." Broadcasting magazine would estimate audience mass in a 4-27-70 survey, to wit "186 million men, women, and children in this nation's 58.5 million television homes today." Competition for high-end theatrical movies for network broadcast was ferocious, prices through the 60's on the up ... and up. Genres were rated by Broadcasting according to viewer appeal, "Science-Fiction" lying at flat bottom. It was OK for late shows and fallow daytime, but a primetime audience resisted far-out content, at least for the 60's period under consideration.


Movies were sold to networks, for a most part, on same package basis as syndication; " ... to acquire the blockbusters from a major studio, it is also necessary to buy the studio's dogs," said The New York Times in a 1-7-68 overview titled "The Silver Screen Is A Goldmine." Of course, there were minimal standards. Some of merchandise was unacceptable on its face, "of non-network quality and many produced in Europe and other parts of the world." These went to so-called "first-run" syndication, and would include most of Hammer films. Fox and Columbia, however, was able to salt CBS packages with The Nanny and Die! Die! My Darling, respectively, these more palatable for being "suspense thrillers" as opposed to monster label hung on most Hammers, and they featured meaningful 60's names (Bette Davis, Stephanie "Girl From U.N.C.L.E." Powers). The mid-60's had seen prices climb to an average of $300,000 for a feature on network primetime. That figure would be bumped by a historic deal inked between NBC and Universal in October, 1965, "About sixty U pix for network telecasting at an approximate price of $500,000 per pic," as reported by Variety on 10-27-65. There would also be "freshly produced features for TV, at a minimum budget of $500,000 per pic," said the announcement. The combination of first-run theatricals and made-for-TV's would run on NBC beginning with the 1966-67 season and thereafter.


The goodies included That Touch Of Mink, The Birds, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Charade. Then there were the "World Premieres," shabby as most were (Ed Small referred to them as "garbage"), though ratings were often a wow. What smelled were small change Universals that should have gone straight to TV in the first place, or theatrical flops that NBC had to take in order to snare the good ones. $500K was tag hung on each of the feature lot, thus checks writ for The Brass Bottle, a McHale's Navy feature, and the three Hammers, Phantom Of The Opera, Evil Of Frankenstein, and Kiss Of Evil. Added headaches from the horrors was necessity to shoot footage to take place of stuff nixed by network standards, or padding to fill a two-hour time slot. Maybe "Vampire" in a title was onerous to affiliates or family viewing, thus Kiss Of Evil as amended moniker to enhance confusion and mislead those (very) few of us who'd bought tickets for Kiss Of The Vampire back in 1963 and looked forward to seeing it again (not here as it turned out, NBC's version a historic shambles).


Further stain upon Hammers was fact none of the NBC three had done much good in theatres, Phantom declared a letdown in 1962, while Kiss Of The Vampire of following year took piddling $357K in domestic rentals, followed by Evil Of Frankenstein in 1964 earning $567K. Double these figures and you'll have something near the domestic gross, giving Evil Of Frankenstein, for instance, $1.134 million. Let's say everyone got in for fifty cents, a low number for 1964 admissions (average ticket price that year more like ninety-three cents). That would put 2,268,000 people in seats for Evil Of Frankenstein in theatres. For its TV premiere on Tuesday, January 2, 1968, the film had an 18.8 rating and a 30.8 audience share. The 1967-68 season saw 56,670,000 US households with television sets. 18.8% of that number is 10,653,960, latter being percentage of households with a TV, in use or not. The audience share (30.8) was estimated percentage of television sets actually turned on and viewing Evil Of Frankenstein during the 9-11 PM broadcast hours on 2-2-68. With at least two viewers to a household, Universal could claim, for later syndication promotion, that Evil Of Frankenstein pulled minimum of twenty million watchers on 2-2-68 (same figure cited by Edward Small to represent typical viewership for a network movie at the time). NBC would have its smash run of The Birds on 1-6-68, four days after Evil Of Frankenstein, and nab a 38.9 rating, this conferring bragging right to 47,700,000 tuned in for the Hitchcock thriller. There was argument as to accuracy of such grandiose figures, so much that trade advertising often ran small print disclaimer: Rating and Audience Information Are Estimates Only, Subject To The Limitations Of Source Materials and Methods (another way of saying that audience research was never anything but an educated guess).


Syndication Ad Slick Sent To Buyer TV Stations
The half million paid by NBC to MCA-Universal for the latter's three Hammer films was far from an end to revenue these chillers would generate. Universal owned the negatives, along with other Hammers, and TV was where they'd realize a largest return. A group of 40 Universals for "first-run telecasting" was sold in 1965 at "about $100,000 per title" (Variety) to five US stations owned and operated by NBC. Included in the lot was Brides Of Dracula, which played several of the O&O's in 1966 primetime before it went into wider syndication in 4-67, the point at which all of U's Hammers, including off-network Evil/Kiss/Phantom, as well as Curse Of The Werewolf, Night Creatures, Nightmare, and Paranoiac, were sold to local channels for broadcast dates beginning in fall 1968. As to price, Variety on 2-15-67 reported that "MCA expects to gross about $400,000 per title in domestic syndication." This was money to make the films' theatrical revenue look puny by comparison. Forget Kiss Of The Vampire and $357K from 1963 dates --- now it was Kiss Of Evil with tens of millions more watching (and seeing it for a first time in truncated form), $900,000 rolled up from television sales by the late 60's, with promise of more as Kiss and other Hammers were re-packaged and resold. Theatrical had been the shallowest of revenue streams. Universal realized from a first subcontract with Hammer that television would be ultimate site of pay off, and point at which all this horror group would go into profit.




Monday, October 26, 2015

When Sarcasm Sold Hammer Horror


Halloween Harvest 2015 --- Get Your Hickey From 60's Dracula

Something began to corrode horror movies by the late 60's, or was it me being less enthralled by them? I'd been drawing/writing homebrew monster mags for a couple years and so fancied myself sophisticate equal to Calvin T. Beck at least, not realizing that it's just such attitude that sap fun from shows I took till then on face value. Such was burden of being age fourteen. But chillers by then had slipped, first AIP stubbing toe on stinker imports (Psycho-Circus) and worse effort to maintain brands (The Oblong Box, The Crimson Cult). Sometimes you couldn't help entertaining thought that monsters had been outgrown, time perhaps to put away what you'd been told (repeatedly) were childish things, especially now with a rating system in place and films playing more for grown-up keeps. Further salt to wound was chillers not being taken serious even by their makers (or at least distributors), to which Warners and Dracula Has Risen From The Grave pled guilty. It riled me to see Hammer horror sold like a Batman episode, with all but "Boff" and "Pow" spread across camp-infected ads.


There had been silly selling before, and of Hammers, but notion of "Black Stamps" issued to patrons for Curse Of The Mummy's Tomb/The Gorgon, or Rasputin beards as reward with admission to the Mad Monk's saga, seemed less insulting to the product. Merchandising was a must, after all, and show folk had to eat. And weren't horror hosts on late shows just as cheeky, some even interposing themselves onto action during movies shown? Difference it seemed to me was patronizing air toward Dracula, jasmine scent of irony over this and horrors to come. But I was clearly alone for my disdain, as Dracula Has Risen From The Grave did a best boxoffice for the series since Horror Of Dracula, proof to those with eyes that sarcasm did sell. I went to see Grave twice, put to unease by ads, but reassured by steady course the film took, Drac's dignity and stature at no time put in jeopardy.


I'm far from knocking Warners' US campaign, it being brilliant as their send-off for Bonnie and Clyde, Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, Harper, Inside Daisy Clover, others I could name from the mid-60's forward (see the B&C chapter in Showmen, Sell It Hot!). WB surely had a young ad-pub crew on Dracula, the campaign wired to zeitgeist dissolve from camp to counterculture. You've Seen All This Stuff, So Let's Have Fun With It was essential message, and indeed, by 1968, vampire lore had been driven into youth consciousness like stakes to bloodsucker hearts, result of non-stop late shows, Drac movies too numerous to count, let alone see, and comics kidding the character all over series TV. Kids and certainly teenagers knew by now that staying hip meant mocking monsters, a slow-drip process since live spook shows began sending up the genre, then Abbott and Costello meeting one or another Universal fiend. Of actors doing horror, Vincent Price was wisest for recognizing, then riding, a wave of gentle, if not outright, parody.


British merchandising for Dracula Has Risen From The Grave wouldn't kid around. In keeping with prior policy, they'd sell the shocker straight. Was Brit youth, ahead of us music-wise, behind a curve re screen horror? Censorship had been strict over there, "X" certificates keeping kids out of theatres playing rough stuff, and it hadn't been long since certain chillers were banned outright. Could monsters still inspire awe in the Isles? The Hammer films never sunk to lampoon ... sex, yes, and plenty of that because it paid heavy worldwide (She and One Million Years B.C. beat pants off Frankensteins and Draculas at the boxoffice). Dracula Has Risen From The Grave had sex, more than before, yet got a genteel "G" rating in the US, that system only recently installed by time the film was released. DHRFTG seems rough to me for a G, lots of blood and open neck bites, but 1968 was ushering in a wild/wooly era where skies were limit and one-time Bray display of décolleté would plunge to nudity and "R" receipt of The Vampire Lovers and similar ilk within a few short years.


Dracula Has Risen From The Grave may have lured them in with band-aids and laugh tags, but meal served was nutritious. In fact, this may have been the best of Hammer Draculas so far, at the least a big advance on what they'd done over a last couple of seasons. Christopher Lee was back in fangs, pleasingly so with dialogue, which hadn't been case since he did the part a decade before. Hammer bouts with evil called upon crosses and holy water, Baron Meinster in Brides Of Dracula dispatched with both in fact, but here was Godly role in vampire disposal for a Going My Way of chillers (or maybe Bells Of St. Mary's, considering the opening jolt). There is a strong and weak priest, one in Van Helsing mode, another debased to beck/call of Dracula. A stake to the heart is useless lest the wielder be true in his faith, Dracula with unerring eye to separate atheists from believers. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave makes sound argument for renewed church-going if not horror film attending.


So the silly ads served good purpose of bringing business to a show that deserved it, higher-than-average receipts a spur to further Dracventures (four more Hammers with Lee, each arguably a step down, though all with points of interest). Some of ad gags for Dracula Has Risen From The Grave were cute, others a little too cute. The band-aid made for an arresting image and maybe a best of the lot, but close-up of the fangs with "Who Can Brush After Every Meal?" was insult to intelligence of juves nationwide. Warners got out a door panel set of four as was case for Bonnie and Clyde, each with same sort of jibe we'd seen on spook trading cards or mags like Monsters To Laugh With. Best of all was the panels being free to showmen. All was geared to put viewers above horror films they were going to see, that a real rock in my shoe at the time. Hindsight teaches that I should have relaxed and gone with the flow, enjoying fun with incoming ticket-buyers. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is just out from Warners with three other Hammer faves on Blu-Ray. They all look splendid.




Thursday, October 22, 2015

Where A Five-Year-Old Stood Above The Title

Peggy, at Right, Held High at Home

A Baby Peggy Bundle from Undercrank DVD

Baby Peggy was a child star done with starring roles by 1924, none remembered at same level as a Jackie Coogan with The Kid, but Peggy ran him a second in popularity while she worked, a name at age two and peaking at five. Most of her films are gone, ones extant not easy to find, but Ben Model and his Undercrank Productions changes that with DVD release of The Family Secret, part of Peggy parlay with bonus of two short comedies unseen for ages, plus newsreels of her offscreen. 35mm elements were used for all of disc content, and there is crack scoring from outstanding accompanist Model. Big applause to the Library Of Congress and the Museum Of Modern Art for sharing archival treasure that made release possible. All the films are engaging, the dollop an easy single sit (top quality image makes these things really entertaining). The Family Secret is melodrama with requisite happy end of Peggy saving long separated dad from a crook's fate and crusty Grandpa brought round to her elfin charms. It's what 20's folk liked in child-centered narrative and window to at-times weird way of then-lives (were morally outraged parents really so unforgiving back then?). The short comedies came in ahead of Our Gang and likely was template for Roach approach to that series, as here she's a misplaced moppet put to driving trolley (Miles Of Smiles), or kidnapped twin obliged to ride bareback under big tops (Circus Clowns). Happy footnote is Peggy still active, turning ninety-seven on 10/26 (she's seen the DVD and likes it). Greenbriar had "In Association" hand with the project, but Ben Model's was the master mind. His Undercrank label has done much of quality, like with the unbeatable Accidently Preserved series (a new one of those just out). The Family Secret can be had at Amazon.




Monday, October 19, 2015

Paramount's Polar Route for 1930


With Byrd At The South Pole (1930) Goes to Uncharted Places

Richard E. Byrd was second only to Lindbergh as public hero #1 during the 20's. He's less remembered now despite acts as daring as the Lone Eagle's, that attested by summer 1930's Paramount release of With Byrd At The South Pole, a feature tour of polar region unseen by audiences to that point (and barely since). Byrd was an aristocrat by birth, status compounded by marriage into Boston society. He knew how to self-promote and handily got travel backing from captains of industry who supped and socialized with Byrd plus prominent in-laws. Helping also was chiseled look of the man, a movie star ringer risking life to bring breath-taker footage home. Byrd had flown over the North Pole and figured for a try at its equivalent furthest south. Paramount saw boxoffice in the venture and sent cameramen along. This would be a project several years in gestation (the trip begun in 1928), but worth it. By Byrd's arrival in theatres, the silent era was past, and here came a non-talker (other than music and limited narration), but who cared where sights so amazing as these got through?


With Byrd At The South Pole is available on DVD, not from Amazon alas (nor reasonably on Ebay, where prices begin at $99.95), but copies are still had from Milestone at $49.95 ("less than 50" in stock), not cheap admittedly, but worth it for this OOP disc released in 2000. With Byrd At The South Pole is a hardship success that the earlier Robert Scott expedition was not, latter having reached the Pole, but never making it back. Byrd flew over the bottom tip with Para camera aces filming same, a sock pay-off for deprivations endured along the way. Audiences liked a triumph ending and this one had it by yards (or miles, as in thousands over frozen ground). Byrd was showman enough to invite a New York Times journo for exclusive dispatching, plus an Eagle Scout to tend sled-dogs and assure youth appeal throughout the trip. With Byrd At The South Pole would be the climax to an adventure lived vicarious by countless readership, a visual climax to imaginings stirred over two-years by print reportage.


What existed before of Antarctic actuals was footage and photography captured in 1910-12 by Herbert G. Ponting during the ill-fated Scott expedition, and this got an airing as an eager public awaited Byrd's return. Ponting's At The South Pole had a Broadway run at the Lyric in 12/28, Variety's review saying it would do as warm-up for main event that was Byrd. Paramount kept anticipation hot by sneaking glimpse of Byrd progress into newsreels, one such appearing in 3/29. A cold weather performance at one theatre saw the house organ inside a mock-up igloo with its player dressed in "polar bear pajamas" and "supposedly broadcasting (the) program to Byrd at the South Pole." It's unknown if Paramount sanctioned this stunt. With Byrd At The South Pole joined trade-announced titles in March 1930 as part of Paramount's summer program, and June saw a one-reel short, Back Home, commemorating Byrd's return with, among other things, a song composed by Para cleffers that patrons could sing along to, "a lesson in mob psychology, for by the skillful manipulation of deliberate heroizing, an audience lukewarm at the start was lashed into a cloudburst of enthusiasm," observed Variety. Byrd was meanwhile going ticker tape route a la Lindbergh after hero welcome arranged in part by Paramount, Zukor and execs going out personally to meet the Admiral's boat.


Paramount chief Sidney Kent dispensed with modesty: "Every Man, Woman, and Child In The World Should See This Picture," his company performing a "sacred duty" to distribute With Byrd At The South Pole to "every nook and corner" of the globe (he'd exult to sales staff that Byrd surpassed even The Covered Wagon, Para's so-far yardstick for epic-ness). Trade reviews more/less got with that flow, Variety applauding "thirty miles of film" cut down to two, and predicting that the film "may never stop making money" (a fair prediction, assuming current Ebay prices are being met). The usual bally "bunk" was discouraged this time in deference to Byrd's vaunted status, and besides, said the home office, this picture didn't need it. At least one showman went old-fashioned route, however, Omaha's Publicity Director Lionel Wasson tying up with a pair of ice cream companies to defrost their plants so he could have artificial snow to haul through town on flat-bed trucks, motorcycle police accompanying, with swimsuit-clad chorines tossing snowballs at citizenry otherwise wilting in July heat. The gag spiked Omaha attendance, but even push at unprescedented level failed to lift "falling down" Byrd in San Francisco, even as most markets called it a wow, Chicago and Minneapolis in particular getting benefit of word-of-mouth by amazed first-nighters who told friends.


Best served were spots along Admiral Byrd's personal app route, a lecture or drop-in by him always a spike to ticket windows. For a documentary minus spoken dialogue, and sans romance of any sort, With Byrd At The South Pole had stout legs, especially among youth whose own ambition seemed evenly divided between aviation and exploration, choice of role model coming down to Lindy or Byrd for adventure-seekers. Paramount's link-up with the Boy Scouts gave most momentum to publicity, the organization's leadership encouraging attendance for troops nationwide. Everyone liked triumphal finish to struggle against nature and adversity, that being best reason why Byrd clicked, just as Lindbergh had. With Byrd At The South Pole would be forgot, but for that short season while it was fresh, there'd be nothing to approach fact-based thrills offered here. Its spell is still potent via the DVD, Milestone's transfer being of excellent quality from original elements and highly recommended.




Thursday, October 15, 2015

Four-Star Bumper Pool at MGM

Note Ad Emphasis on Loy's "Hollywood Queen" Status

Romance Less Than Ribald in Man-Proof (1937)

Here was brilliance of light Metro melodramas: they could ponder "moral" issues within framework of utter fantasy and make us imagine it somehow represented real-life. What might we do in Myrna Loy or Walter Pidgeon's place? That discussion was what propelled friends of patronage to look in, and others to return with company to delve deeper. There was artistry in telling a same story over and again, so long as attractive casts revolved efficiently. Put Myrna Loy in this year's model, then let it be Crawford for a next season's rehash. Woman marries man another woman covets, temptation to stray is ultimately overcome as a right partner patiently awaits, mere gender switch sufficient to freshen the formula for next time. Abiding friend in this case is yet again Franchot Tone, but it could as readily be Robert Montgomery, Robert Young, or even Clark Gable. That's how adaptable the blueprint was.


I point this up not to ridicule, but admire. Man-Proof is likeable for knowing its public and how to please. The fact it did so seventy-eight years ago, but won't necessarily again is no reflect on genius of a system that brought Man-Proof one million in worldwide rentals (against negative cost of $513K). All but a handful of 30's output dates, most in fact date badly, except for those of us who celebrate antiquity. I'm increasingly into joy of dialogue and situations that retreat further toward irrelevance, entertainment of the 20th century becoming more akin to that of the 19th rather than our 21st. Man-Proof was Code-cleansed in a fourth year of strict enforcement, taking characters further beyond realm of identifiable human behavior. It worked because beautiful people weren't like you or I in any event, so to act/react in irrational fashion came as no surprise, and was, in fact, expected, all the more so as viewer instinct got hep to censor regulation and limits that imposed. Man-Proof harks nicely to crowded loges of Loew housing where a right cast walked thinnest wire for a public grateful to watch them do it (acknowledged perk of loge seating: folks could neck there to less visibility of staff and other patrons, a big reason why tickets for the section cost more). Man-Proof is just out from Warner Archive on DVD.




Monday, October 12, 2015

When Columbia Had Dizzy Fingers


The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) A Crowd-Pleaser Still

Winchell Warns Chicago: Bring Tissue!
A tip to those spreading gospel of old movies: Try The Eddy Duchin Story. I've run it to groups and it clicks every time. Not all of classics do that. In fact, many won't, and never mind your own enthusiasm for them. I've tried to figure what's foolproof about Duchin. Maybe the music, or the heartthrob (very sad at times, but no bummer aftertaste). There's gloss too, like 40's romance re-cooked for a hi-fi 50's. Color, Cinemascope, and Manhattan locations turn back the clock like few vintage others (eighteen NYC sites utilized, including the Waldorf Astoria's Starlight Roof). This was lushest valentine so far posted to Gotham on a wide screen, as unlike 20th Fox with their second units sent for How To Marry A Millionaire and Woman's World, Columbia took principals to streets and parks. You can feel rain fall on Ty Power and Kim Novak under a dye-transfer umbrella (shot Eastman, but prints by Technicolor). Product warning, however: The Eddy Duchin Story must be seen wide, and preferably HD. Twilight Time has a Blu-Ray where picture gleams and sound dances off walls. Get that and give guests unexpected pleasure on your next antique pic night.


Kim Novak is the survivor cast member (there's also Rex Thompson --- what became of him?) and makes frequent landing at classic fests, but always with Vertigo, which is odd, because crowds would enjoy The Eddy Duchin Story a lot more. Vertigo continues to be respected, but is there pleasure in watching for a general audience? Hitchcock scholars have nulled what fun it had by dissecting the thing to parsley, with coup de grace of selection as All-Time #1 (how intimidating is that?). The Eddy Duchin Story would be ideal for a next TCM Festival. Or even better on their cruise. Everyone could get misty, cry outright, or hook up with others unattached on the boat. Part of why The Eddy Duchin Story works is gatekeepers not having found it, thus no academic burden and pollute that implies. I quote what one civilian viewer said after a Greenbriar screening: If all old movies are good as this, I should watch more of them.


Rediscovery is helped by digital rescue. For years, The Eddy Duchin Story looked rotten on TV crop/scan cycle. Then a laser disc parted curtains. DVD and now Blu-Ray did the rest. I agree that most bio-pics are hoke, or packs of lies, but somehow this one is different. To start, it stays with at least surface of fact (son Peter Duchin reveals fallacies in his book, but they're not severe, at least not in comparison with other music-men recounts). To casting, Tyrone Power is too old to be young Eddy, but ideal for a second half's mature Duchin. Since the pic covers a whole career, we can't have it both ways. This has to be Ty's most appealing late performance. He's earnest, dreamy in that way that brought fame since the 30's, and oh, what he does with those keys. Little of piano stuff is faked beyond Carmen Cavallaro supplying the actual track, Duchin's device being an essential same as when Al Jolson put voice to Larry Parks performance for The Jolson Story. So it's Tyrone Power's hands we see, the result, said publicity, of the actor training over three months of seven hours per day at the keyboard (would this not make at least a competent pianist of anyone?). There's a great gotcha moment where the camera lingers close on fingers, us thinking it's Cavallaro doubling, then the pull-back, and ... Tyrone Power. I'll bet that earned applause in a lot of first-run situations.


Query put to a 1956 public: Why Aren't There More Movies Like This? Columbia chief Harry Cohn signed a handout (above left) to launch a bulls-eye campaign rightly posing The Eddy Duchin Story as an old-fashioned Movie movie in best and most popular sense. Traditional ways of song were under siege from arriving storm of rock and roll --- might The Eddy Duchin Story push back that wave? You didn't have to be so old, after all, to remember Eddy Duchin (who died in 1951, was active almost to the end). How big a hit was The Eddy Duchin Story? Deservedly massive. Exhibs fairly fell down and wept (along with patronage) over a show that for once yanked customers away from their TV's. Check showman comments in '56 trades and feel the love. The Eddy Duchin Story took five million in domestic rentals, walloping every thing Columbia had that year except Picnic. It was like second coming of The Jolson Story. Cavallaro did a soundtrack LP. It differs from arrangements in the film which include George Duning scoring, but essential tunes are there, and a 2008 double-CD has the original Decca album plus a Duchin tribute follow-up Cavallaro got out a following year. There are experts who decry Cavallaro's approximation of Eddy Duchin, but as I don't fall into authority class where it comes to vintage bands (though certainly an enthusiast), I'll stand back of further comment. 'Nuff said that I listen to the CD's and enjoy them.


Romance Push to Drive-Ins
Columbia threw the declining radio medium a lifeline with The Eddy Duchin Story. Showmen and ad/pub staffers throughout a 50's industry had eased off airwaves in favor of quick-emerging television as promotion adjunct, the tube having proved itself a better bet for getting movie word out. Free listening wanted back in the sales game, so went all out on behalf of The Eddy Duchin Story, theirs an opportunity to prove that radio could still get results. CBS with its 206 affiliates bedded down with Columbia to feature Duchin on all of programming where tunes could wedge in. Even daily soaps worked ED tunes as background. The idea was to crest awareness and interest in Duchin well before The Eddy Duchin Story came to towns, further tie-in with record companies (six participating) making sure there'd be no shortage of "tribute" albums for the departed band-man in addition to Cavallaro discs. Scent of cash from two-years earlier The Glenn Miller Story was still in the air, that one having spun gold off oldies and demonstrated that even youth could be lured by sounds their parents liked.

Eddy Duchin and Orchestra Make a 1938 Theatre Appearance

Eddy Duchin had been gone five years when The Eddy Duchin Story came out. He was known as a "society" bandleader of "sweet," as opposed to swing, sounds, and reached a wide audience thanks to radio he commanded from the 30's, plus theatre appearances where his band preceded first-run movies. Duchin had looks plus sophistication and moneyed connections. He was, in fact, like Tyrone Power in many respects. There's a fun trailer for The Eddy Duchin Story hosted by Power where he speaks of having been a "close personal friend" of Duchin's. In addition, Eddy had once-upon-time taught piano to the film's director, George Sidney, and producer Jerry Wald (who still hasn't gotten due for many excellent pics he guided) was a Duchin booster from early days in New York, where Wald got his scribe start. There's illuminating glimpse of Eddy in a WB short from 1933 as part of a six-disc Big Band, Jazz, and Swing DVD set from Warner Archives. Duchin's also sighted in a couple or three features, none of which appear to be available, so this Vitaphone one-reeler may be an only opportunity to measure the real thing against Tyrone Power's impersonation, latter so imbedded as to render Duchin himself invisible.
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