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

nancy14242nancyMOV_ec94a6f6_bnancyuntitled

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.

nancyThe-Secret-of-the-Old-Clock-nancy-drew-52519_432_641nancyhiddenstaircasetarpypd10HnancyThe_Bungalow_Mystery

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.

nancyimagesnancy38_d_84398_0_NancyDrewTroubleShooternancystaircaselobby

By C. S. Williams

Advertisements

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)

Big-Combo-6252_6 Big-Combo-6252_7 BigComboEndBaja Big-Combonoir big-combo-still2 Big_Combo_1955_00_lowres-detail-main bigcombo06 bigcombo14 Big-Combo-6252_2

By C. S. Williams

The Ultimate New Years Eve Movie! Repeat Performance, 1947

rp2(2) rp rp1z

I guess it is never too early to prepare for the end of the year, yet, oddly enough, this film which finds its plot entangled with and dare I say integral with New Years Eve was released on May 22nd, 1947. Repeat Performance was directed by Alfred Werker, Cinematography by Lew William O’Connell; starring: Joan Leslie, Louis Hayward, Richard Basehart and Tom Conway.  This is Fantasy-Film-Noir and maybe the strangest of the Noir-genre, with the exception of “Christmas Eve”, 1947. Repeat Performance has solid characterizations by Conway, Leslie, Basehart and Hayward and director Werker shows a steady hand in his pacing and story development. If you like your mysteries with an abnormal bent then as you organize your December 31st evening festivities, include Repeat Performance in your inventory of must-dos; no Bucket-List would be complete without this little sparkling concoction. Enjoy, be safe and Happy New Year!

RPerformanceStill6a rphqdefault RpLeslie(2) rplJXL9JuRZiAqe5i6VPqCwB5StxR rpmgV2KYGDKDuiFhblP2wutKQ rpmTGDrVQpc_bykPidfSSdbAQ rpnJD8yOIMP8JJjG3qLxgQtCMYorB rpeatperformance_390 RPerformance(2) rperformance(23) RPerformance(29) RPerformance2(2)

The Ultimate New Years Eve Movie! Repeat Performance, 1947

rp2(2) rp rp1z

I guess it is never too early to prepare for the end of the year, yet, oddly enough, this film which finds its plot entangled with and dare I say integral with New Years Eve was released on May 22nd, 1947. Repeat Performance was directed by Alfred Werker, Cinematography by Lew William O’Connell; starring: Joan Leslie, Louis Hayward, Richard Basehart and Tom Conway.  This is Fantasy-Film-Noir and maybe the strangest of the Noir-genre, with the exception of “Christmas Eve”, 1947. Repeat Performance has solid characterizations by Conway, Leslie, Basehart and Hayward and director Werker shows a steady hand in his pacing and story development. If you like your mysteries with an abnormal bent then as you organize your December 31st evening festivities, include Repeat Performance in your inventory of must-dos; no Bucket-List would be complete without this little sparkling concoction. Enjoy, be safe and Happy New Year!

RPerformanceStill6a rphqdefault RpLeslie(2) rplJXL9JuRZiAqe5i6VPqCwB5StxR rpmgV2KYGDKDuiFhblP2wutKQ rpmTGDrVQpc_bykPidfSSdbAQ rpnJD8yOIMP8JJjG3qLxgQtCMYorB rpeatperformance_390 RPerformance(2) rperformance(23) RPerformance(29) RPerformance2(2)

Leave Her to Heaven, Don’t Leave Heaven off your List

leave_her_to_heaven

Leave Her to Heaven, is a brilliant thriller, tackling the subjects of love, trust, innocence and of the basest sins of human nature: obsession, malice, domination, winning-at-all-costs and jealousy. This leaves the viewer with a progressively nastier taste in their mouth as the story develops; pulling and tugging the audience along a rugged path, dappled with beauty along the way, which acts as a buffer to the stark and dark reality seen. A methodical pacing is used by director John M. Stahl to draw the observer into close proximity with the characters, providing a claustrophobic atmosphere; issuing a sense of dread, yet, rendering the watcher unable to avert their attention, as though watching the catastrophe of a train-wreck.

The adaptation of Ben Ames Williams’ novel, Leave Her to Heaven, by Jo Swerling is delicately handled, offering many observation posts, outlooks onto the panorama of the two families: Berent and Harland. But the story continues farther afield, beyond Berent and Harland, stretching tentacle like and retrieving the feelings and actions of friends, acquaintances and passerby alike to drive home the message of the tale; securing firmly the basis of the context of the account, so that no one can mistake the meanings coming forth from the screen. If the story-line seems a message laden morality tale, it is intended to be that way; the author, Mr. Williams, had written five previous stories, during his career, plucking themes from the “Seven Deadly Sins.” Leave Her to Heaven was number six, but Williams felt that jealousy was a stronger human emotion and more universal than the rest of the sins, including the two subjects, sloth and gluttony, of which he had not written on, nor would he ever write about.[1] The Seven Deadly Sin titles by Ben Ames Williams prior to, Leave Her to Heaven were: Evered (Anger); The Rational Hind (Pride); Mischief (Envy); A Man of Plot (Covetousness) and Hostile Valley (Lust).[2]

The color of, Leave Her to Heaven, plays a distinctive role in the emotional impact of the film; it’s brighter than real-life look, producing a simultaneous narrative, which communicates to the onlooker, on a different level. This color chronicle plays a significant part in how we feel about this Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde drama; the Technicolor process, adding fresh, surreal or hyper-realistic layers to the already complicated palette of sensations engendered by the subject matter.

Alfred Newman provides a score that accentuates the cinematography of Leon Shamroy, offering beautiful accoutrements to the action, characters and scenery; Newman’s compositional skills had just been heard in, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, from earlier in 1945 and he was responsible for, The Song of Bernadette, 1943. Shamroy had the year before photographed, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and with Leave Her to Heaven he won Best Cinematography, Color, at the Academy Awards; each of these men recorded multiple nominations and Oscar statue wins.

While Leave Her to Heaven, can be construed as strictly a psychological-drama, yet, it contains some elements of Film Noir, which genre we most often associate with black and white photography. But the foreboding, the seeming fatalistic results, should classify this colorful piece of Heaven, to the realm of Noir. Cornel Wilde had just reached the level of star-power, with, A Song to Remember, and, A Thousand and One Nights, to gain this co-starring role. With, Leave Her to Heaven, Wilde, planted himself firmly in the history of Hollywood, albeit, he would nary surpass the popularity of this film during his remaining years in celluloid entertainment. Gene Tierney continued with, Leave Her to Heaven, a personal string of hits that would end with, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir; this period for Tierney would not be duplicated in her future. From, Heaven Can Wait, in 1943, followed by Laura, in ’44, A Bell For Adano (like, Leave Her to Heaven, was also released in 1945); Dragonwyck (her work on that film was complete prior to the cameras rolling on Heaven) and, The Razor’s Edge, each opened in 1946. The aforementioned, Mrs. Muir, would finish the chain of seven classic Hollywood films in 1947. Beginning in late 1949, Tierney would turn from the box-office pleasers to three films that would forever etch her name into Film Noir legend: Whirlpool (directed by Otto Preminger, 1949), Night and the City (Jules Dassin, directing, early 1950) and, Where the Sidewalk Ends, again with Preminger, this premiering in the early summer of ’50.

Scene of the Crime; Where and When:

On Wednesday, December 19, Leave Her to Heaven, had a “lush, Hollywood premiere” at the Fox Carthay Circle Theatre, presenting an unusual Christmas Gift for the movie-goer in the Los Angeles area; the film opened at the Roxy in New York City on Christmas Day, with the first showing at 10:30 AM.[3] Zanuck and 20th Century-Fox wanted, Leave Her to Heaven, to qualify for the Academy Awards, therefore the film had to be released by December 31; evidently Zanuck rushed the process in those final days, ensuring that the psychological thriller would be ready on time.[4]

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, December 24, 1945

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, December 24, 1945

 

The nationwide release was then set for January 1, 1946 and exhibitors were anticipating big things from, Leave Her to Heaven, at the box-office.[5] Actually some theaters opened the film on New Year’s Eve; Tucson, AZ, Long Beach and San Bernardino, CA were among the cities which started the 20th Century-Fox production on the last day of the year.

Long Beach Independent, Long Beach, California, December 31, 1945

Long Beach Independent, Long Beach, California, December 31, 1945

San Bernardino County Sun, San Bernardino, California, December 31, 1945

San Bernardino County Sun, San Bernardino, California, December 31, 1945

Tucson Daily Citizen, Tucson, Arizona, December 31, 1945

Tucson Daily Citizen, Tucson, Arizona, December 31, 1945

 

On January 3, 1946, the Roxy Theater of New York, announced that Leave Her to Heaven had established a new box-office record for the house during its first eight days, with over 180,000 patrons and nearly $170,000; no other film (to that time) in Roxy Theater history approached those numbers. The Roxy held over the film through a sixth week (ending its run on February 5), all the while continuing to break house records; the RKO Albee (Brooklyn, NY) showed, Leave Her to Heaven, through February 26, and the psychological-drama was finally released to all of Queens and Brooklyn, NY, on February 28, 1946.[6] Major metropolitan theaters were not the only ones setting records with, Leave Her to Heaven; medium and small markets climbed to new heights in ticket sales… Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (east of Altoona), at the Clifton Theatre, reportedly “smashed” all house records;[7] Harrisburg, PA, also set a new house mark at the State Theatre, leaving the manager having to handle overflow crowds.[8] It did not seem to matter that critics had, in the words of Erskine Johnson, “murdered,” Leave Her to Heaven;[9] the word probably that best describes the critical reception of the film, was “mixed,” that from Herbert Cohn of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.[10] Clearly, audiences were eating up, Leave Her to Heaven, while many of those paid to give their opinions about film, regarded the picture with a less appreciative eye.

 

Literary before Celluloid:

The rush was on, a month before Ben Ames Williams’ new book, Leave Her to Heaven, was published,[11] the rights to it had been obtained by Twentieth Century-Fox; the purchase price was $100,000.[12] Williams, was a popular author nearly from his beginnings, a voluminous writer, selling much of what he penned;[13] Leave Her to Heaven was a Literary Guild choice for June of ’44, published by Houghton Mifflin.[14] Heaven was a mega seller for Ben Ames Williams (7th for 1944), and one has to but read the newspapers of the day to find many glowing reviews and such perusal will ascertain for the reader that the novel was part of book-club must-read-lists throughout the country and often, Heaven, was near the top on reserve and demand lists at libraries nationwide. Louella Parsons thought the price-tag paid by Fox was the highest doled out, to that point for an unpublished work, she, being unable to think of another title fetching such a sum.[15]

51SDSFGYPUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Casting Call; Changes, They Were Aplenty:

Reports suggested that producer Darryl Zanuck intended the production values to reflect the cost of the rights to the novel, which the $100,000 paid to Mr. Williams was considerable for the era; first of all, on Zanuck’s “to do list” was to choose the right woman for the role of the very wrong Ellen Berent Harland. Zanuck, concurrent with purchasing the story, intended to co-star Tallulah Bankhead (as Ellen) and Ida Lupino (Ruth Berent) in the story about, “A woman who had to win, and to hold on to her winnings. A woman who cheated in love, and in death. A woman who dominated the lives of those around her as implacably as she was dominated by a consuming jealousy.”[16] By Thanksgiving of ’44, Bankhead had begun to tell friends that she would not do, Heaven, because she did not want to play a murderess; so reported Hedda Hopper.[17] The next name in the offering for, Leave Her to Heaven was Jeanne Crain (added to the cast in June of ’44) for the part of the sister (Ruth Berent) of the homicidal harpy; this was a portion of a reward for her performance in, Home in Indiana, and a new contract with Twentieth-Fox.[18]

Linda Darnell replaced Tallulah Bankhead as the femme fatale in late September of ’44; Zanuck saw rushes from, Hangover Square, and was convinced that Darnell had to play the part of Ellen Berent Harland in, Leave Her to Heaven. Just a few days after Thanksgiving of 1944, another well-known name was thrown into the mix for the part of that heartless siren, Ellen, that of actress Paulette Goddard;[19] it seemed that there were as many actresses suitable for the role of the villainess as there were shades and facets of the personality of the character that was to be left to Heaven. By the end of ’44, Joan Fontaine was thought to be the next lady in waiting for that juicy impersonation of Williams’ murderess;[20] which producer initiated the negotiations is anyone’s guess but Darryl Zanuck and David Selznick were in talks for Fontaine to star in, Leave Her to Heaven, in December ’44 and January of ’45.[21] Added to the list of actresses under consideration by Zanuck for the lead in, Leave Her to Heaven, was Lauren Bacall; according to columnist Louella Parsons, all the gals were dying to do it. [22]

One of the finalists for the role of Ellen Berent Harland was Joan Fontaine, at least Gregory Peck thought it was Fontaine and he was anxious to be her co-star in the thriller.[23] Finally the suspense was over, when Louella Parsons reported on January 17, 1945, that Gene Tierney had been given the part; the official announcement was made to Tierney at Darryl and Virginia Zanuck’s early Anniversary party which had been hosted by Lew Schreiber and Gregory Ratoff. Zanuck’s decision occurred between January 11 and January 17; in her column, Louella O. Parsons stated that nearly every actress in Hollywood and a couple in New York had “been up for the role of the insanely jealous wife,” Ellen.[24]

Dana Andrews was announced as the male lead for, Leave Her to Heaven, playing Richard Harland opposite Gene Tierney as Ellen Berent Harland; this reportage was at the last of January of 1945.[25] February brought Thomas Mitchell to the cast, but by April this was changed, when Ray Collins was chosen to replace Mitchell in the role of Glen Robie;[26] why Mitchell dropped from the project was not stated. Collins had to lose ten pounds for his, Heavenly, role and then followed up that with five more pounds taken off for his upcoming part in, Boy’s Ranch.[27] Michael Dunne tested for the junior Harland role in March of ’45 and editors at Twentieth Century said the he had a great ease about him of course,Darryl Hickman did the drowning instead; a couple of days past the middle of April of 1945, Cornel Wilde was named to play, Richard Harland, the unsuspecting husband to the predatory Ellen Berent Harland.[28] Ruth Nelson was signed for a featured role in, Leave Her to Heaven, in April of 1945 but by early June had been loaned out to Columbia for the part of Kate Comstock in, Girl of the Limberlost.[29] Margo Woode got an extension to her contract with 20th Century-Fox and a role in, Leave Her to Heaven, but she obviously did not make it to Heaven.[30]

Choice, Choices:

Director John Stahl was selected to helm, Leave Her to Heaven, in January of 1945; Stahl would direct just six more films after, Heaven, with two of those going uncredited.[31] Chill Wills was borrowed from MGM for his part in, Leave Her to Heaven, in May of 1945; Wills had just returned from a four month tour overseas, doing military-shows, visiting outposts in Greenland and Iceland. Mr. Willis was to follow his work in, Heaven, with a US hospital tour and a USO Tokyo bound troupe.[32] Silent film star, Mae Marsh, appears uncredited as the fisherwoman; Ms. Marsh would continue acting through 1964, albeit mostly without a mention on screen. Kay Riley who portrayed Danny Harland’s nurse (uncredited) was a childhood friend of Roxanna Stahl, the director’s daughter.[33]

Camera Location:

The cameras rolled on, Leave Her to Heaven in the last week of May, 1945; Tierney, after finishing Dragonwyck, went directly to work on Heaven.[34] Nearly two months later the project was still in production;[35] Leave Her to Heaven, was mostly made on location and for the lake scenes in which young Danny Harland dies, the Moxley Range Ranch, near Bishop, California (Bass Lake, at Madera, CA), in the high Sierras was used for the drowning sequence.[36] Three sets (the lakeside lodge, the boathouse and the tavern) were built on the shores of Bass Lake, preparing for the arrival of the dozen or so actors; filming was expected to end at the lake by May 29th.[37] Darryl Hickman who portrayed Danny Harland, spent enough time simulating his character’s drowning, that he became quite ill after his scenes in the cold water of Bass Lake.[38]

Screenland, September, 1945

Screenland, September, 1945

Screenland, October, 1945

Screenland, October, 1945

 

Colorful Connotations:

2015 is the 100th anniversary of Technicolor, a process that would change the way we look at movies; those early days with Technicolor, jolted Hollywood and excited the movie-goer. Had it not been for the Great Depression, the movies of the 1930’s and 40’s may have all been in color. The film-making industry is going through something similar to what the film community did in the 1930’s, 40’s and even into the 1950’s: an upheaval of what has been considered normal; now, with higher frame-rates, digital presentation and a more practical 3-D experience.

The Technicolor method has brought to our eyes a brightness that in some sense is not seen in the real world, yet, one we feel comfortable with. Technicolor has afforded an array of colors that have burst upon our entertainment scene from larger-than-life adventures, musicals where part of the harmony are supplied by vibrant hues, and plodding dramas that move at an attractive rate because of hyper-shades. Some of the most respected films, with many reaching the acme of the Golden Age of Hollywood were produced in Technicolor; today those colorful-celluloid-dreams often stand iconically, pointing lovingly to those days of yesteryear. For the millions who view this era of movies incessantly, for the tens of thousands that research and review, for the thousands of film industry employees, these Technicolor beauties are a wonderful exemplar of Classic Movie making.

For further reading on Technicolor, Adrienne LaFrance wrote an informative article, which appeared in February, 2015, on: The Atlantic. Also the George Eastman House celebrated the 100 years of Technicolor with an exhibition at their facility and published a book, written by James Layton and David Pierce (the filmography by Crystal Kui and James Layton), entitled: The Dawn of Technicolor, 1915-1935. For those who want a shorter introduction to Technicolor history, a special Technicolor page has been added to the George Eastman House website, offering a quick look at Technicolor through the years, an explanation of the Technicolor process and the use of Technicolor outside the US; a company history is also included, with reference to the actual camera department, color control (don’t miss this page) and an overview of the company.

This article is my addition to the 100 year Technicolor celebration; for the countless hours of colorful entertainment that I have enjoyed because of Technicolor, I extend a hearty thank you and copious plaudits to all of those involved throughout the decades for a gift that keeps on giving and that cannot be enumerated. Leave Her to Heaven is available on DVD and Blu-Ray (the Blu-Ray is expensive).

The following series of full-color ads (four full page, one half-page) are from, the December 29, 1944 edition of, Box Office magazine…

Box Office, December 29, 1945Box Office, 2, December 29, 1945Box Office, 3, December 29, 1945Box Office, 4, December 29, 1945

Box Office, 5, December 29, 1945

 

By C. S. Williams

[1] Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) June 11, 1944

Milwaukee Journal (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) July 2, 1944

[2]  Colby Library Quarterly, Ben Ames William and the Saturday Evening Post, by Richard Cary, volume 10, issue 4,

1973, September 1972, pages 190-222

[3] Tucson Daily Citizen (Tucson, Arizona) December 24, 1945

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) December 24; 26, 1945

Film Bulletin, December 24, 1945

[4] Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio) December 20, 1945

[5] Film Bulletin, December 10, 1945

[6] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) January 3; 21; 26;  27, 1946

[7] Daily News (Huntingdon, Pennsylvania) January 15, 1946

[8] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) January 19, 1946

[9] Miami Daily News (Miami, Oklahoma) February 13, 1946

[10] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) January 16, 1946

[11] The book was released on June 8, 1944 and the rights to the book were purchased by Twentieth Century-Fox in

the middle of May, 1944

[12] Motion Picture Daily, May 18, 1944

[13] Colby Library Quarterly, Ben Ames Williams: The Apprentice Years, by Richard Cary, series 9, number 11,

September 1972, pages 586-599

[14] Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) April 16, 1944

[15] Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) June 11, 1944

[16] Motion Picture Daily, May 18, 1944

Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) June 8, 1944 (description from an advertisement of, Leave Her to Heaven)

[17] Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) November 24, 1944

[18] Film Daily, June 29, 1944

[19] Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) November 28, 1944

[20] Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) December 31, 1944

[21] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) January 8, 1945

[22] Middletown Times Herald (Middleton, New York) January 11, 1945

[23] Salt Lake tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) January 18, 1945

[24] Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) January 17, 1945

[25] Film Daily, January 30, 1945

[26] Motion Picture Daily, February 23, 1945

Film Daily, April 10, 1945

[27] Film Daily, August 2, 1945

[28] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) March 8, 1945

Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) April 18, 1945

[29] Film Daily, April 9; June 11, 1945

[30] Film Bulletin, May 14, 1945

[31] Film Bulletin, January 22, 1945

[32] Motion Picture Daily, May 21, 1945

Morning Herald (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) June 21, 1945

Pottstown Mercury (Pottstown, Pennsylvania) November 10, 1945

[33] Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio) June 22, 1945

[34] Film Bulletin, May 28, 1945

[35] Film Bulletin, July 23, 1945

[36] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) May 14, 1945

Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) May 18, 1945

[37] Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) May 18; 20, 1945

[38] Morning Herald (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) June 21, 1945

Leave Her to Heaven, Don’t Leave Heaven off your List

leave_her_to_heaven

Leave Her to Heaven, is a brilliant thriller, tackling the subjects of love, trust, innocence and of the basest sins of human nature: obsession, malice, domination, winning-at-all-costs and jealousy. This leaves the viewer with a progressively nastier taste in their mouth as the story develops; pulling and tugging the audience along a rugged path, dappled with beauty along the way, which acts as a buffer to the stark and dark reality seen. A methodical pacing is used by director John M. Stahl to draw the observer into close proximity with the characters, providing a claustrophobic atmosphere; issuing a sense of dread, yet, rendering the watcher unable to avert their attention, as though watching the catastrophe of a train-wreck.

The adaptation of Ben Ames Williams’ novel, Leave Her to Heaven, by Jo Swerling is delicately handled, offering many observation posts, outlooks onto the panorama of the two families: Berent and Harland. But the story continues farther afield, beyond Berent and Harland, stretching tentacle like and retrieving the feelings and actions of friends, acquaintances and passerby alike to drive home the message of the tale; securing firmly the basis of the context of the account, so that no one can mistake the meanings coming forth from the screen. If the story-line seems a message laden morality tale, it is intended to be that way; the author, Mr. Williams, had written five previous stories, during his career, plucking themes from the “Seven Deadly Sins.” Leave Her to Heaven was number six, but Williams felt that jealousy was a stronger human emotion and more universal than the rest of the sins, including the two subjects, sloth and gluttony, of which he had not written on, nor would he ever write about.[1] The Seven Deadly Sin titles by Ben Ames Williams prior to, Leave Her to Heaven were: Evered (Anger); The Rational Hind (Pride); Mischief (Envy); A Man of Plot (Covetousness) and Hostile Valley (Lust).[2]

The color of, Leave Her to Heaven, plays a distinctive role in the emotional impact of the film; it’s brighter than real-life look, producing a simultaneous narrative, which communicates to the onlooker, on a different level. This color chronicle plays a significant part in how we feel about this Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde drama; the Technicolor process, adding fresh, surreal or hyper-realistic layers to the already complicated palette of sensations engendered by the subject matter.

Alfred Newman provides a score that accentuates the cinematography of Leon Shamroy, offering beautiful accoutrements to the action, characters and scenery; Newman’s compositional skills had just been heard in, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, from earlier in 1945 and he was responsible for, The Song of Bernadette, 1943. Shamroy had the year before photographed, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and with Leave Her to Heaven he won Best Cinematography, Color, at the Academy Awards; each of these men recorded multiple nominations and Oscar statue wins.

While Leave Her to Heaven, can be construed as strictly a psychological-drama, yet, it contains some elements of Film Noir, which genre we most often associate with black and white photography. But the foreboding, the seeming fatalistic results, should classify this colorful piece of Heaven, to the realm of Noir. Cornel Wilde had just reached the level of star-power, with, A Song to Remember, and, A Thousand and One Nights, to gain this co-starring role. With, Leave Her to Heaven, Wilde, planted himself firmly in the history of Hollywood, albeit, he would nary surpass the popularity of this film during his remaining years in celluloid entertainment. Gene Tierney continued with, Leave Her to Heaven, a personal string of hits that would end with, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir; this period for Tierney would not be duplicated in her future. From, Heaven Can Wait, in 1943, followed by Laura, in ’44, A Bell For Adano (like, Leave Her to Heaven, was also released in 1945); Dragonwyck (her work on that film was complete prior to the cameras rolling on Heaven) and, The Razor’s Edge, each opened in 1946. The aforementioned, Mrs. Muir, would finish the chain of seven classic Hollywood films in 1947. Beginning in late 1949, Tierney would turn from the box-office pleasers to three films that would forever etch her name into Film Noir legend: Whirlpool (directed by Otto Preminger, 1949), Night and the City (Jules Dassin, directing, early 1950) and, Where the Sidewalk Ends, again with Preminger, this premiering in the early summer of ’50.

Scene of the Crime; Where and When:

On Wednesday, December 19, Leave Her to Heaven, had a “lush, Hollywood premiere” at the Fox Carthay Circle Theatre, presenting an unusual Christmas Gift for the movie-goer in the Los Angeles area; the film opened at the Roxy in New York City on Christmas Day, with the first showing at 10:30 AM.[3] Zanuck and 20th Century-Fox wanted, Leave Her to Heaven, to qualify for the Academy Awards, therefore the film had to be released by December 31; evidently Zanuck rushed the process in those final days, ensuring that the psychological thriller would be ready on time.[4]

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, December 24, 1945

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, December 24, 1945

 

The nationwide release was then set for January 1, 1946 and exhibitors were anticipating big things from, Leave Her to Heaven, at the box-office.[5] Actually some theaters opened the film on New Year’s Eve; Tucson, AZ, Long Beach and San Bernardino, CA were among the cities which started the 20th Century-Fox production on the last day of the year.

Long Beach Independent, Long Beach, California, December 31, 1945

Long Beach Independent, Long Beach, California, December 31, 1945

San Bernardino County Sun, San Bernardino, California, December 31, 1945

San Bernardino County Sun, San Bernardino, California, December 31, 1945

Tucson Daily Citizen, Tucson, Arizona, December 31, 1945

Tucson Daily Citizen, Tucson, Arizona, December 31, 1945

 

On January 3, 1946, the Roxy Theater of New York, announced that Leave Her to Heaven had established a new box-office record for the house during its first eight days, with over 180,000 patrons and nearly $170,000; no other film (to that time) in Roxy Theater history approached those numbers. The Roxy held over the film through a sixth week (ending its run on February 5), all the while continuing to break house records; the RKO Albee (Brooklyn, NY) showed, Leave Her to Heaven, through February 26, and the psychological-drama was finally released to all of Queens and Brooklyn, NY, on February 28, 1946.[6] Major metropolitan theaters were not the only ones setting records with, Leave Her to Heaven; medium and small markets climbed to new heights in ticket sales… Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (east of Altoona), at the Clifton Theatre, reportedly “smashed” all house records;[7] Harrisburg, PA, also set a new house mark at the State Theatre, leaving the manager having to handle overflow crowds.[8] It did not seem to matter that critics had, in the words of Erskine Johnson, “murdered,” Leave Her to Heaven;[9] the word probably that best describes the critical reception of the film, was “mixed,” that from Herbert Cohn of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.[10] Clearly, audiences were eating up, Leave Her to Heaven, while many of those paid to give their opinions about film, regarded the picture with a less appreciative eye.

 

Literary before Celluloid:

The rush was on, a month before Ben Ames Williams’ new book, Leave Her to Heaven, was published,[11] the rights to it had been obtained by Twentieth Century-Fox; the purchase price was $100,000.[12] Williams, was a popular author nearly from his beginnings, a voluminous writer, selling much of what he penned;[13] Leave Her to Heaven was a Literary Guild choice for June of ’44, published by Houghton Mifflin.[14] Heaven was a mega seller for Ben Ames Williams (7th for 1944), and one has to but read the newspapers of the day to find many glowing reviews and such perusal will ascertain for the reader that the novel was part of book-club must-read-lists throughout the country and often, Heaven, was near the top on reserve and demand lists at libraries nationwide. Louella Parsons thought the price-tag paid by Fox was the highest doled out, to that point for an unpublished work, she, being unable to think of another title fetching such a sum.[15]

51SDSFGYPUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Casting Call; Changes, They Were Aplenty:

Reports suggested that producer Darryl Zanuck intended the production values to reflect the cost of the rights to the novel, which the $100,000 paid to Mr. Williams was considerable for the era; first of all, on Zanuck’s “to do list” was to choose the right woman for the role of the very wrong Ellen Berent Harland. Zanuck, concurrent with purchasing the story, intended to co-star Tallulah Bankhead (as Ellen) and Ida Lupino (Ruth Berent) in the story about, “A woman who had to win, and to hold on to her winnings. A woman who cheated in love, and in death. A woman who dominated the lives of those around her as implacably as she was dominated by a consuming jealousy.”[16] By Thanksgiving of ’44, Bankhead had begun to tell friends that she would not do, Heaven, because she did not want to play a murderess; so reported Hedda Hopper.[17] The next name in the offering for, Leave Her to Heaven was Jeanne Crain (added to the cast in June of ’44) for the part of the sister (Ruth Berent) of the homicidal harpy; this was a portion of a reward for her performance in, Home in Indiana, and a new contract with Twentieth-Fox.[18]

Linda Darnell replaced Tallulah Bankhead as the femme fatale in late September of ’44; Zanuck saw rushes from, Hangover Square, and was convinced that Darnell had to play the part of Ellen Berent Harland in, Leave Her to Heaven. Just a few days after Thanksgiving of 1944, another well-known name was thrown into the mix for the part of that heartless siren, Ellen, that of actress Paulette Goddard;[19] it seemed that there were as many actresses suitable for the role of the villainess as there were shades and facets of the personality of the character that was to be left to Heaven. By the end of ’44, Joan Fontaine was thought to be the next lady in waiting for that juicy impersonation of Williams’ murderess;[20] which producer initiated the negotiations is anyone’s guess but Darryl Zanuck and David Selznick were in talks for Fontaine to star in, Leave Her to Heaven, in December ’44 and January of ’45.[21] Added to the list of actresses under consideration by Zanuck for the lead in, Leave Her to Heaven, was Lauren Bacall; according to columnist Louella Parsons, all the gals were dying to do it. [22]

One of the finalists for the role of Ellen Berent Harland was Joan Fontaine, at least Gregory Peck thought it was Fontaine and he was anxious to be her co-star in the thriller.[23] Finally the suspense was over, when Louella Parsons reported on January 17, 1945, that Gene Tierney had been given the part; the official announcement was made to Tierney at Darryl and Virginia Zanuck’s early Anniversary party which had been hosted by Lew Schreiber and Gregory Ratoff. Zanuck’s decision occurred between January 11 and January 17; in her column, Louella O. Parsons stated that nearly every actress in Hollywood and a couple in New York had “been up for the role of the insanely jealous wife,” Ellen.[24]

Dana Andrews was announced as the male lead for, Leave Her to Heaven, playing Richard Harland opposite Gene Tierney as Ellen Berent Harland; this reportage was at the last of January of 1945.[25] February brought Thomas Mitchell to the cast, but by April this was changed, when Ray Collins was chosen to replace Mitchell in the role of Glen Robie;[26] why Mitchell dropped from the project was not stated. Collins had to lose ten pounds for his, Heavenly, role and then followed up that with five more pounds taken off for his upcoming part in, Boy’s Ranch.[27] Michael Dunne tested for the junior Harland role in March of ’45 and editors at Twentieth Century said the he had a great ease about him of course,Darryl Hickman did the drowning instead; a couple of days past the middle of April of 1945, Cornel Wilde was named to play, Richard Harland, the unsuspecting husband to the predatory Ellen Berent Harland.[28] Ruth Nelson was signed for a featured role in, Leave Her to Heaven, in April of 1945 but by early June had been loaned out to Columbia for the part of Kate Comstock in, Girl of the Limberlost.[29] Margo Woode got an extension to her contract with 20th Century-Fox and a role in, Leave Her to Heaven, but she obviously did not make it to Heaven.[30]

Choice, Choices:

Director John Stahl was selected to helm, Leave Her to Heaven, in January of 1945; Stahl would direct just six more films after, Heaven, with two of those going uncredited.[31] Chill Wills was borrowed from MGM for his part in, Leave Her to Heaven, in May of 1945; Wills had just returned from a four month tour overseas, doing military-shows, visiting outposts in Greenland and Iceland. Mr. Willis was to follow his work in, Heaven, with a US hospital tour and a USO Tokyo bound troupe.[32] Silent film star, Mae Marsh, appears uncredited as the fisherwoman; Ms. Marsh would continue acting through 1964, albeit mostly without a mention on screen. Kay Riley who portrayed Danny Harland’s nurse (uncredited) was a childhood friend of Roxanna Stahl, the director’s daughter.[33]

Camera Location:

The cameras rolled on, Leave Her to Heaven in the last week of May, 1945; Tierney, after finishing Dragonwyck, went directly to work on Heaven.[34] Nearly two months later the project was still in production;[35] Leave Her to Heaven, was mostly made on location and for the lake scenes in which young Danny Harland dies, the Moxley Range Ranch, near Bishop, California (Bass Lake, at Madera, CA), in the high Sierras was used for the drowning sequence.[36] Three sets (the lakeside lodge, the boathouse and the tavern) were built on the shores of Bass Lake, preparing for the arrival of the dozen or so actors; filming was expected to end at the lake by May 29th.[37] Darryl Hickman who portrayed Danny Harland, spent enough time simulating his character’s drowning, that he became quite ill after his scenes in the cold water of Bass Lake.[38]

Screenland, September, 1945

Screenland, September, 1945

Screenland, October, 1945

Screenland, October, 1945

 

Colorful Connotations:

2015 is the 100th anniversary of Technicolor, a process that would change the way we look at movies; those early days with Technicolor, jolted Hollywood and excited the movie-goer. Had it not been for the Great Depression, the movies of the 1930’s and 40’s may have all been in color. The film-making industry is going through something similar to what the film community did in the 1930’s, 40’s and even into the 1950’s: an upheaval of what has been considered normal; now, with higher frame-rates, digital presentation and a more practical 3-D experience.

The Technicolor method has brought to our eyes a brightness that in some sense is not seen in the real world, yet, one we feel comfortable with. Technicolor has afforded an array of colors that have burst upon our entertainment scene from larger-than-life adventures, musicals where part of the harmony are supplied by vibrant hues, and plodding dramas that move at an attractive rate because of hyper-shades. Some of the most respected films, with many reaching the acme of the Golden Age of Hollywood were produced in Technicolor; today those colorful-celluloid-dreams often stand iconically, pointing lovingly to those days of yesteryear. For the millions who view this era of movies incessantly, for the tens of thousands that research and review, for the thousands of film industry employees, these Technicolor beauties are a wonderful exemplar of Classic Movie making.

For further reading on Technicolor, Adrienne LaFrance wrote an informative article, which appeared in February, 2015, on: The Atlantic. Also the George Eastman House celebrated the 100 years of Technicolor with an exhibition at their facility and published a book, written by James Layton and David Pierce (the filmography by Crystal Kui and James Layton), entitled: The Dawn of Technicolor, 1915-1935. For those who want a shorter introduction to Technicolor history, a special Technicolor page has been added to the George Eastman House website, offering a quick look at Technicolor through the years, an explanation of the Technicolor process and the use of Technicolor outside the US; a company history is also included, with reference to the actual camera department, color control (don’t miss this page) and an overview of the company.

This article is my addition to the 100 year Technicolor celebration; for the countless hours of colorful entertainment that I have enjoyed because of Technicolor, I extend a hearty thank you and copious plaudits to all of those involved throughout the decades for a gift that keeps on giving and that cannot be enumerated. Leave Her to Heaven is available on DVD and Blu-Ray (the Blu-Ray is expensive).

The following series of full-color ads (four full page, one half-page) are from, the December 29, 1944 edition of, Box Office magazine…

Box Office, December 29, 1945Box Office, 2, December 29, 1945Box Office, 3, December 29, 1945Box Office, 4, December 29, 1945

Box Office, 5, December 29, 1945

 

By C. S. Williams

[1] Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) June 11, 1944

Milwaukee Journal (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) July 2, 1944

[2]  Colby Library Quarterly, Ben Ames William and the Saturday Evening Post, by Richard Cary, volume 10, issue 4,

1973, September 1972, pages 190-222

[3] Tucson Daily Citizen (Tucson, Arizona) December 24, 1945

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) December 24; 26, 1945

Film Bulletin, December 24, 1945

[4] Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio) December 20, 1945

[5] Film Bulletin, December 10, 1945

[6] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) January 3; 21; 26;  27, 1946

[7] Daily News (Huntingdon, Pennsylvania) January 15, 1946

[8] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) January 19, 1946

[9] Miami Daily News (Miami, Oklahoma) February 13, 1946

[10] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) January 16, 1946

[11] The book was released on June 8, 1944 and the rights to the book were purchased by Twentieth Century-Fox in

the middle of May, 1944

[12] Motion Picture Daily, May 18, 1944

[13] Colby Library Quarterly, Ben Ames Williams: The Apprentice Years, by Richard Cary, series 9, number 11,

September 1972, pages 586-599

[14] Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) April 16, 1944

[15] Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) June 11, 1944

[16] Motion Picture Daily, May 18, 1944

Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) June 8, 1944 (description from an advertisement of, Leave Her to Heaven)

[17] Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) November 24, 1944

[18] Film Daily, June 29, 1944

[19] Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) November 28, 1944

[20] Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) December 31, 1944

[21] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) January 8, 1945

[22] Middletown Times Herald (Middleton, New York) January 11, 1945

[23] Salt Lake tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) January 18, 1945

[24] Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) January 17, 1945

[25] Film Daily, January 30, 1945

[26] Motion Picture Daily, February 23, 1945

Film Daily, April 10, 1945

[27] Film Daily, August 2, 1945

[28] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) March 8, 1945

Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) April 18, 1945

[29] Film Daily, April 9; June 11, 1945

[30] Film Bulletin, May 14, 1945

[31] Film Bulletin, January 22, 1945

[32] Motion Picture Daily, May 21, 1945

Morning Herald (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) June 21, 1945

Pottstown Mercury (Pottstown, Pennsylvania) November 10, 1945

[33] Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio) June 22, 1945

[34] Film Bulletin, May 28, 1945

[35] Film Bulletin, July 23, 1945

[36] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) May 14, 1945

Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) May 18, 1945

[37] Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) May 18; 20, 1945

[38] Morning Herald (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) June 21, 1945

Johnny O’Clock, a Gritty, Grimy, Grisly, Gat Filled Noir

At the Tone it Will Be Johnny O’Clock:

Johnny O’Clock is a story that at the beginning has only two characters who have any integrity or could be considered to be on the side of good. These two are both women, sisters in fact, Nancy Hobson, the older sister of the first murder victim of the story, Harriet Hobson; Nancy was played by Evelyn Keyes and Nina Foch appeared as Harriet. This is not to say that by the time the clock strikes twelve that the Hobson siblings are the only people of veracity left standing (or lying in Harriet’s case); it is a plot were any evidence in others of integrity is in question and the virtue is sorely needed in aid by the Hobson girls.

As with any Noir drama, there is much darkness both in the story-line and in the photography; plaudits to each member of the crew is warranted and gladly given. The members of O’Clock’s world are either misshapen, misbehavin’, misconstrued or are being mistreated. Everyone has an angle, each, with the exception of the aforesaid, Hobson sisters, have a loaded agenda, with heights above as their goal. The hero of Johnny O’Clock, a casino operator (a man of many names), has finally come to the point where his time is running out in his present circumstance; he (unlike the audience), just doesn’t yet know it. These various situations like a confluence of streams drive him to a point of desperation.

Lust, love and self-preservation, play a large part in the actions of Johnny O’Clock, who appears to be the typical anti-hero. Yet it is the same strengths that drove O’Clock to serve in WWII, which serve the greater good of Nancy Hobson, and the memory of her younger sister, Harriet Hobson (aptly played by Nina Foch). Harriet is at first thought to have committed suicide but eventually it is discovered that she was murdered; Harriet Hobson was a hatcheck girl (watched over by O’Clock, yet she is one of those classified as mistreated, this at the hands of a Police officer) at the casino in which O’Clock is partners with Guido (pronounced Gedo) Marchettis, portrayed by Thomas Gomez. Ellen Drew imitates the part of Nelle Marchettis, who is ever pursuing, O’Clock, and is openly flirtatious with Johnny, even with hubby Guido present. Inspector Koch (cigar chomping Lee J. Cobb), is tough, rough, by no means a dirty cop, but by no stretch of the imagination, a completely clean and honest police inspector. The final member of those characters central to the story of O’Clock, is Officer Chuck Blayden, boyfriend, intimidator and oft times abuser of Harriet Hobson; Blayden is the epitome of the dirty-cop, out for money and any power he garner.

As Time Goes By With Johnny O’Clock:

Johnny O’Clock follows the Film Noir formula close to the cuff until the end where it diverges into the unexpected territory of the patented Hollywood happy-ending. As Dick Powell and Lee J. Cobb exit the secret room where the final words of the script are played-out, the scene is reminiscent of Casablanca, where Humphry Bogart and Claude Rains began their “beautiful-friendship,” on the tarmac of the airport. The viewer of O’Clock can easily see the restrained respect each of these men have for one another, albeit, a begrudging admiration. These comparisons between Johnny O’Clock and Casablanca may seem forced but the similarities I draw attention to, are mostly directed toward the internal makeup of each of these men. While Rick Blaine and Johnny O’Clock share many of the same weaknesses, they also have common points of valor and honor. Captain Louis Renault and Inspector Koch are both men of opportunity, each Officer with nagging frailties and an obsession of self-importance. Rick and Johnny each run a casino, crossing the lines of criminality often, and each keeps the police close to his vest, or in his pocket, placating them with money, and feeding their egos with beautiful women. Both characters are also noble, which becomes detectible under pressure; this nobility is particularly visible when the needs of an “innocent” demand attention.

Much of the goings-on in Casablanca, happens also in, O’Clock, those peripheral characters that weave in and out of the plot-line at the casino; the leading ladies, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) in, Casablanca, and Nancy Hobson of, Johnny O’Clock, are each women who fall for a harsh man, who yearn and need “someone to watch over” them. Nancy and Ilsa want to do the right thing, but they are not sure how to go about it; the difference between the endings of Casablanca and Johnny O’Clock, is Ilsa flies off leaving Rick behind, while Nancy stays by her man. I do not intend to purport that Johnny O’Clock is a mirror image of Casablanca, nor do I proffer that O’Clock has the same movie-making qualities as Casablanca. My assertion is that the two films offer similar views of awkward friendships developed through adverse circumstances, love that flourishes inopportunely, with an assortment of backstabbing, betrayals and mayhem in general being the substance of their worlds.

The Hours of Johnny O’Clock:

First came the story, and then the production company came on-board; J. E. M. Productions, determined on the property of, Johnny O’Clock, written in 1945, by Milton Holmes. Holmes who brought to the table, O’Clock, was a follow-up to Mr. Lucky (the 1943 starrer for Cary Grant), also penned by Holmes, and Holmes was the third initial in J. E. M.; the other two initials of the production company were, Los Angeles attorney Jerry Geisler and Edward Nealis.[1] For Geisler and Nealis (who provided the financing for, O’Clock) this would be their only involvement in producing a picture, while Holmes would be involved in the production end three more times. Holmes was offered $20,000 for his screenplay from one of the major studios, but turned down the offering, deciding for 20% of the picture’s profits.[2]

Dick Powell signed to play the lead in, Johnny O’Clock, in May of 1946 at the salary of $150,000; and Evelyn Keyes was set as the love interest for, O’Clock in June of ’46.[3] First Choice for the role of, Nancy Hobson, the dame to Powell’s casino operator, O’Clock, was June Allyson, wife of Powell.[4] Allyson was under contract to MGM and they did not see fit to loan her out for the movie.

Evidently, Holmes’ screenplay version of his own story was not the “Deuce coupe” it was supposed to be and director Robert Rossen, who was to be at the helm was also set to write the picture; Rossen was already tapping away at the typewriter keys, adapting the original story by Holmes in April and May of ‘46.[5] Filming was scheduled to begin for, Johnny O’Clock, on July 1, 1946, but the production started one week late on Monday, July 8; principal filming was complete by late September of ’46.[6]

As the previews were being held in the middle of December of ‘46, the adulations began to pour in, this was especially true for Lee J. Cobb and his performance as Inspector Koch.[7] Some reviews were negative, mentioning slow pacing, and a lack of plot, and when criticism was positive, reviews were nearly off the chart in their account of what many now consider O’Clock to be, a Film Noir classic.

While the premiere date is correct, most of the country did not see, O’Clock, until February and later. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was one of the first cities to have a run of, Johnny O’Clock, which started on Wednesday, January 29, 1947.[8] The Advertising campaign in Harrisburg began early, was seen often and used large display ads. Milt Young[9] part of the Columbia Pictures publicity-department made a stop in Harrisburg on January 14, 1947, to promote, O’Clock, the city being one of the select few that hosted the movie prior to the film’s general release.[10]

Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 22, 1947

Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 22, 1947

Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 27, 1947

Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 27, 1947

Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 28, 1947

Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 28, 1947

HarrisburgTelegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 29, 1947

HarrisburgTelegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 29, 1947

 

The Minutes of Johnny O’Clock:

The mother-of-pearl, differing colored poker chips seen in the casino scenes in, Johnny O’Clock, were on loan from producer Edward J. Nealis, who said the set of 1,447 chips, had a face value of $663,945.00; each chip’s value being hand-carved.[11]

In the latter part of July, 1946, Evelyn Keyes eloped with writer director John Huston and were married in Las Vegas; the couple made a quick retreat (three hours) to the Columbia studios for Keyes to continue her shooting schedule. Keyes did not at first meet John, instead on a plane ride, she became acquainted with his father, Walter Huston; elder Huston nary changed the subject from his son for the entirety of the trip with the actress. Evelyn said, she practically fell in love with John Huston before she met him.[12]

Mount Carmel Item, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, July 31, 1946

Mount Carmel Item, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, July 31, 1946

 

One would think that with Dick Powell on set, that no one else would have the impudence to sing but one day of location filming was lost due to some ribbitting warbling, provided by some native bullfrogs. The gathering of amphibians made such a racket for the crew of film-makers, that soon the Lithobates catesbeianus found their way to a new venue, appearing with the film company’s caterer as froglegs.[13]

Real life G. I. Joe, Ira Grosel, who made an appearance in the, Thrill of a Romance, in 1945, was tagged for a small role for Johnny O’Clock. Of Course, Ira Grosel is not a well-remembered name in Hollywood lore, but his chosen silver-screen pseudonym is, that of: Jeff Chandler.[14]

May 12, 1947 saw the, Lux Radio Theater, present, Johnny O’Clock, with Dick Powell, Lee J. Cobb and Evelyn Keyes reprising their film roles, on the live broadcast.[15] As with most of the Lux productions, the acting is top-notch, populated by fine supporting voice talent, and the sound-effects are on target, adding depth and wonderful atmosphere to the show. Of course, the film’s script is truncated for radio, from 96 minutes down to 43; most of the editing was accomplished by utilizing numerous fade-outs throughout the program. This was common for radio adaptations of movies, since most of these radio presentations were confined to an hour or less, but the heart of O’Clock still remains for those who are willing to take their entertainment aurally.

For the discriminating woman the, Johnny o’Clock Beret was available at finer department stores, manufactured in eight colors, with price tag of $1.95.[16] As we see today much of the marketing for films relates to t-shirts and collectables of all kinds, we often forget that this is not a new phenomenon, it is just that most of the items available during the Golden Age of Hollywood were clothing, perfumes and jewelry. Articles offered that were related to film franchises of that era were directed toward adults, and most of that merchandise and its related advertising focused on women.

Delaware County Daily Times, Chester, Pennsylvania, Feb 13, 1947

Delaware County Daily Times, Chester, Pennsylvania, Feb 13, 1947

 

Johnny O’Clock did well at the box-office, pleasing patrons and should provide an hour-and-a-half of good entertainment for you and yours; O’Clock can be viewed online at archive.org for the fee of, well, it’s on the house, complimentary, if you will. Or, O’Clock can be had as part of a Film Noir compendium from TCM. The selling point for the TCM version is that the film has been restored and remastered. If looking for a stand-alone Johnny O’Clock DVD, you will have to be satisfied with a copy (most likely the same quality as seen on archive.org) from either Jubilee or DVDs Entertainment; I give no advice except, buyer beware, for I have no personal experience with these last two DVD outlets.

Motion Picture Daily March 12, 1947

Motion Picture Daily March 12, 1947

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Film Daily, November 26, 1945

[2] Film Bulletin, September 3, 1945

[3] Dixon evening Telegraph (Dixon, Illinois) December 26, 1946

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) May 3; June 20, 1946

[4] Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin, May 13, 1946

[5] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) May 3; June 20, 1946

[6] Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin, June 24; July 8; September 30, 1946

Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio) September 25, 1946

[7] News-Herald (Franklin, Pennsylvania) December 26, 1946

[8] Evening News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) January 28, 1947

[9] Milt Young had previously been a member of the Warner Brothers publicity staff; with Columbia, he out of Philadelphia, PA

[10] Evening News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) January 15; 28, 1947

[11] Neosho Daily News (Neosho, Missouri) December 23, 1946

[12] Carroll Daily Times Herald (Carroll, Iowa) July 29, 1946

Mount Carmel Item (Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania) July 31, 1946

Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) August 13, 1946

[13] News-Herald (Franklin, Pennsylvania) September 3, 1946

[14] Ruthven Free Press (Ruthven, Iowa) September 4, 1946

[15] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) May 10, 1947

[16] Delaware County Daily Times (Chester, Pennsylvania) February 13, 1947