Menace, Happy Anniversary? Release Dates Can Be Such a Menace

 

Menace

 

A Menace for Thanksgiving? What an odd release date for a horror-thriller picture. If we go by the references made by modern sources, then, Menace, starring Gertrude Michael and Paul Cavanagh, was released just one week ahead of Turkey Day on November 22, 1934. Most probably this idea was perpetrated by a review in the New York Times, stating that the film had opened at the Rialto Theater (of course if it opened at the Rialto in New York that had to be the official release date), the previous evening. A cursory internet search will reveal November 22, 1934 as the release date for Menace, on Internet Movie Data Base, and on Cinefania.com.

As happens so many times when relying on information with little further investigation, a new history is written, which becomes the new collective memory, and finally that revised history becomes so common that the error is no longer challenged. This is what occurred with, Menace. The movie was not a Thanksgiving release; instead it opened the week prior to Halloween. Paramount had announced an opening date of October 26,[1] which in and of itself was not a hard and fast premier day, as can be seen from the following advertisements.

The_Ogden_Standard_Examiner_ Ogden, Utah Tue__Oct_23__1934_

Ogden Standard Examiner, Ogden, Utah, October 23, 1934

The_Daily_Independent_ Murphysboro, Illinois Sat__Oct_27__1934_

Daily Independent, Murphysboro, Illinois, October 27, 1934

The_Courier_News_ Blytheville, Arkansas Sat__Oct_27__1934_

Courier News, Blytheville, Arkansas, October 27, 1934

Harrisburg_Telegraph_ Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Tue__Oct_30__1934_

Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, October 30, 1934

The_Independent_Thu__Oct_25__1934_

Independent, Hawarden, Iowa, October 25, 1934

 

 

Menace, was an immediate hit, at least with the critics.[2] And in a sneak preview in Inglewood, California, in late September, the audience responded with squeals of fright at more than half the picture; so its unofficial premier was an unqualified success.[3]

The story written by Philip McDonald, was handed to the Bayard Veiller scenarists unit at Paramount, in March of 1934, although he received no credit for the project for writing he did produce and his son Anthony Veiller along with Chandler Sprague got credited for what appears to have been a rather large collaborative effort with newly acquired scripters, Garnett Weston and Alice D. G. Miller, all of which were guided by the elder Veiller.[4]

Benjamin Reynolds the cinematographer for the film was one of those listed in the, Photography of the Month, section in American Cinematographer for their November, 1934 edition; inclusion was determined by positive photographic references in reviews.

The cast included the aforesaid Gertrude Michael and Paul Cavanagh, with Henrietta Crosman, John Lodge, Ray Milland, Berton Churchill and Halliwell Hobbes. Not exactly marquee names but a strong company of performers none the less. Ralph Murhpy sat in the director’s chair; Menace being his twelfth of thirteen projects that saw release from December of 1931 to December of 1934.

Side Notes:

Jay Marchand (AKA: Jay Marchant) a director of more than twenty films during the silent era was the assistant director for Menace.[5]

You would think that with the following oddity that Menace would have been a court-room drama instead of a thriller. John Lodge, Paul Cavanagh and Gertrude Michael were former law students. Michael studied at the University of Alabama, Mr. Lodge graduated from Harvard law school and Cavanagh was a graduate of the law college of Cambridge in England.[6]

When a knife was thrown at the back of character Norman Bellamy, portrayed by Berton Churchill that was no rubber knife, but the steel deal! A piece of wood was strapped under the actor’s coat which took the point of the dagger with no injury to Mr. Churchill. Veteran Hollywood knife hurler Steve Clemente was responsible for the throw. [7]

 

Photoplay December, 1934New Movie Magazine, December 1934

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Motion Picture Herald, September 15, 1934

[2] Hollywood Filmograph, September 29, 1934

National Board of Review Magazine, November, 1934

[3] Hollywood Filmograph, September 29, 1934

[4] Variety, March 20, 1934

[5] Nassau Daily Review (Nassau, New York) September 10, 1934

[6] Utica Observer Dispatch (Utica, New York) October 28, 1934

[7] Nassau Daily Review (Nassau, New York) September 10, 1934

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