“I’d like to see a big star shoot a movie with no retakes.” — Margia Dean
Margia (pron. Mar-Juh) Dean was born Marguerite Louise Skliris to Greek parents in Chicago on April 7, 1922.
Her hair is now white, but her charm, sophistication and sense of humor haven’t changed since the heyday of her film career.
By age seven she was earning money as a stage actress, playing Little Eva in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Becky Thatcher in “Tom Sawyer,” Mytle in “The Blue Bird,” and winning scholarships in two dramatic schools. In 1937, she won the Women’s National Shakespeare Contest for her role as Juliet in the production of “Romeo and Juliet.”
Margia became a model, and was named “Miss San Francisco,” “Miss California,” and a runner-up in the 1939 “Miss America Pageant” where she won first prize in the talent category for a dramatic reading (still has the trophy!) She appeared in several films in small roles and, played Police Officer Mary Faelb in the 1950 ABC TV series, “Dick Tracy,” had a featured role in the Columbia serial, “The Desert Hawk” (1944), and was Andy Clyde’s foil in “Love’s A-Poppin” (Columbia/1953).
In 1945, Margia scored the second lead in the stage version of Victor Herbert musical “The Only Girl,” which played at the then prestigious Biltmore Theater in Los Angeles. She received terrific reviews. Alfred Hitchcock came backstage and offered her a featured role in “Notorious” (Vanguard-RKO/1946), but she couldn’t accept due to a run of the play contract which necessitated her going on the road for several months.
In 1947, Margia’s controversial agent, Frank Orsatti, secured her a bit role in the Gene Kelly M-G-M musical, “Living in a Big Way” (1947). Orsatti convinced studio chief, Louis B. Mayer, to sign Margia to a contract. Unfortunately, Orsatti dropped dead of a heart attack the day of the appointment!
Margia was introduced to exhibitor and B-movie producer, Robert L. Lippert, in 1948 by a mutual producer-friend. Lippert gave her the female lead in “Shep Comes Home” (Screen Guild/1948.)
Subsequently, she appeared in a series of low-budget Lippert (I’m being redundant) productions, and mastered the “one take” 50 – 75 set-ups a day that were de rigueur for the Lippert organization.
Lippert became obsessed with Margia, and kept her working in his pictures where she became known as “Queen of Lippert.”
By the early 1950s Lippert and Margia began an on-again-off-again affair that lasted ten years. In an effort to keep her from straying from his studio and him, Lippert deliberately thwarted opportunities that would have allowed her to appear in major studio films.
Margia told me that she regrets being involved with a married man. However, he was already known as a womanizer. He didn’t get a divorce because he didn’t want to give up millions. She said that Lippert’s first love was money, and he would never have put her in a picture if it jeopardized ticket sales, and if he didn’t hire her he would have to find someone else to work for the same pay. Indeed, she generated respectable reviews from those critics who bothered to review B-movies. Margia was a competent actor and audiences liked her.
Producer, Hal Wallis, was interested in signing Margia and asked Lippert to send over footage of her for him to screen. Lippert provided outtakes, which ended the interest from the veteran producer. Margia didn’t know until later.
Fellow Greek, Spyros Skouras, recommended her to director Michael Curtiz, as “Nefir” in “The Egyptian” (Fox/1954), but Bella Darvi had just been cast. Skouras, was erroneously attributed as Margia’s lover in at least one blog, probably because she dated Plato Skouras, Spyros’ son.
Margia is best known as Judith Carroon in the Hammer Film Production, “The Quatermass Xperiment” (US title: “The Creeping Unknown”) (UA/1955), and her credits are readily available on IMDb.
She also made guest appearances on TV’s “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” “Conrad Nagel’s Celebrity Time,” “Public Prosecutor,” and others, plus various commercials including for Betty Crocker, Cadillac, and Phillips Milk of Magnesia.
Margia told me she appeared in one of the first coast-to-coast live dramas in the early 1950s, but can only recall that one of the “Bowery Boys” was in it. [Anyone know what it might have been?]
In 1958 she co-starred with Scott Brady in the RegalScope production, “Ambush and Cimarron Pass,” released through Fox, and received billing over a young Clint Eastwood, a subject she and Eastwood laughed about 40 years later at a Hollywood function.
Later in 1958, Lippert’s output was elevated to “A-“ CinemaScope pictures for Fox. Margia produced one of them, “The Long Rope” (1961), with Hugh Marlowe. According to Margia, the film’s director, William Witney, objected to having a female producer, but mellowed his stance when she brought it in on time and budget.
Margia co-starred in both “Villa!!” (Fox/1958), with Brian Keith, where she also sang two songs (and wrote additional lyrics), and “Secret of the Purple Reef” (Fox/1960), with Peter Falk.
In 1964, after associate-producing “The Horror of it All” (Fox/1964), directed by Terence Fisher, and starring Pat Boone, Margia met a Spanish architect who had been living in Brazil, Felipe Alvarez.
At the time, Felipe, who is fluent in four other languages, had limited English skills (Margia spoke Spanish) They met at a night club on the Sunset Strip where he sang. Subsequently, Margia invited him to perform at a party for Mexican celebrities. The couple fell in love and married later that year. They are happily married to this day, and he still occasionally sings professionally.
Lippert tried to get Margia to break off with Felipe, and offered her money and gifts, including a ruby brooch (all of which she returned), uncharacteristic of the penurious Lippert. He used to tell people he purchased a house for Margia, which is untrue. She sold her home and built a luxurious home above the Sunset Strip, which she completely paid for.
Although Walter Winchell praised her in his column, Lippert, who knew all of the producers and exhibitors, successfully blackballed her from making films.
Lippert used his considerable influence to concoct a scheme to deport Felipe, but was ultimately unsuccessful. However, he did succeed in getting Felipe fired from an architectural firm. Then he began a series of attempts to ruin the newlyweds financially. Margia lost a restaurant she owned in Beverly Hills, a dress shop in Brentwood, and he went so far as to have a “contract” put out on Felipe’s life! Through a very good friend (producer Jack Leewood) Margia discovered his nefarious plan, and called the police so fortunately it went no further.
Years later he told Margia, “I had no idea, my attorney must have done it!,” and “I have you in my will for $200,000,” both of which were lies.
By the mid-60s, Fox decided there was no need for the type of product Lippert produced, and didn’t renew his contract. His phone stopped ringing. Having lost both his producer position, and Margia, he headed back to the Bay Area and returned to his first love, his theatre circuit.
Upon his passing, Lippert’s secretary called Margia and said, “Mr. Lippert wanted you to be the first to know”.
Margia told me she was sorry to have made B-movies because it kept her from being assigned “A” roles. I disagree. Lots of A-list actors appeared in B-movies; it was a string of bad luck; the loss of the “Notorious” and “The Egyptian” roles, and especially Frank Orsatti’s death, the Hal Wallis sabotage and, of course, Lippert’s blackballing. The B-movie part of the equation was not the problem per se, it was the ones she was in were produced by Robert L. Lippert.
Fortunately, Margia went on to have successful careers, most notably in real estate, where she became vice-president of a major Los Angeles firm.
Margia Dean starring, or featuring Margia Dean in the cast and owned by Kit Parker Films.
(*) Available on DVD.
SHEP COMES HOME (1946)
I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949) *
RIMFIRE (1949) *
GRAND CANYON (1949)
RINGSIDE (1949) *
TREASURE OF MONTE CRISTO (1949) *
TOUGHT ASSIGNMENT (1949) *
RED DESERT (1949)
THE BARON OF ARIZONA (1950) *
WESTERN PACIFIC AGENT (1950) *
MOTOR PATROL (1950) *
HI-JACKED (1950) *
THE RETURN OF JESSE JAMES (1950) *
THE BANDIT QUEEN (1950) *
FINGERPRINTS DON’T LIE (1951) *
MASK OF THE DRAGON (1951) *
TALES OF ROBIN HOOD (1951) *
PIER 23 (1951) *
KENTUCKY JUBILEE (1951) *
SAVAGE DRUMS (1951) *
LEAVE IT TO THE MARINES (1951) *
SKY HIGH (1951) *
F.B.I. GIRL (1951) *
LOAN SHARK (1952) *
FANGS OF THE WILD (1954) *
THE LONESOME TRAIL (1955) *
© 2014 Kit Parker
I don’t remember not doing business with VCI.
Bill Blair, Rebecca Garza-Ortiz (nee Blair) 
Betty Scott 
Bob Blair [early 1970s]
Don Blair [1970s]
Our relationship began 40 years ago, after I started Kit Parker Films in 1971. I contacted VCI, then known as United Films, a 16mm film distributor like KPF, only larger, and I licensed my first studio films. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United Films’ CEO was Bill Blair*, a consummate film buff who passed his love-of-film genes onto his children.
Over time I grew to know Bill, his son Bob and Genell (Bob’s wife) as I frequently called them in the days when I was distributing movies to the Pacific Islands. Another Blair son, Don, toiled in the shipping department. Betty Scott, worked behind the scenes and wrote the checks. Many years passed before I personally met everyone in the flesh.
In the late 1970s, United Films was one of the first to realize that the future was in selling pre-recorded VHS and Betamax (remember?) tapes. United Films became VCI Entertainment, a pioneer in what we now take for granted…”Home Video.” At first they only licensed movies from various producers and paid them a percentage of each video sold. Then they realized by producing their own movies they could keep all the money:
Voila…VCI’s first in-house production — “Blood Cult” (1985) (3.3 out of 10 on IMDb). During the days of “sell-through,” it retailed for $59.95 ($130 in 2014 dollars) and made a bundle because these tapes were primarily purchased by rental stores like Blockbuster, West Coast Video, and countless independents hungry for product. The era of inexpensive “sell through” DVD’s hadn’t blossomed as yet. Their other in-house low-budget video productions were also successful, although not among the AFI’s 100 greatest American movies of all time.
Today, VCI is one of the oldest independent home video companies, and its story is worthy of a book, but none of the Blair’s have time to write a chapter.
United/VCI left the 16mm business in the early 1980s, whereas I continued representing studios and independent producers non-theatrically and theatrically until 2001. I was one of the last men standing in that field before celluloid became obsolete.
That didn’t end my relationship with VCI, but revived it.
I began buying rights to old movies and licensed them to VCI for DVD distribution. Not sure if we wrote a formal contract…a handshake in Oklahoma is firmer than a written contract.
40 years later, who do I still work with with VCI? I’m on the phone with Bob Bair, Don Blair, and Betty Scott. Genell (she could write jokes for Don Rickles), and Don’s wife, Jill, figured one film nut in the family was enough. However, their “retirement” recently ended when they were recruited to caption the VCI library for the hearing impaired. Unfortunately, Bill Blair passed away in 2006.
Another Blair son, David, previously worked for Sony, and had a client so important he moved to its home town…Wal-Mart, in Bentonville, Arkansas. Now he’s in charge of VCI’s sales while living in Atlanta. I’ve only met him once, but there is no doubt he is the right man for the job.
OK, let’s take a tour of VCI in Tulsa Oklahoma:
It is an unassuming single-story building on the outskirts of Tulsa (trivia: the most inland seaport in the United States) with offices fronting a warehouse.
Entering VCI’s lobby you’re greeted by a display filled with DVD’s, posters, and a big photograph of VCI’s founder, Bill Blair, with the statement, “Our Leading Man.”
To the right is Betty Scott’s office, with a John Wayne standee to greet you. She and I are kindred spirits because we both started out in “show business” as film inspectors. I shudder at the thought of her retiring. Although I’ve never looked behind her desk, Bob and Don probably have affixed her leg to a ball and chain.
Next office: Bob, conductor of the “orchestra.” The Maestro sits at a desk stacked with teetering papers and DVDs. I can’t imagine how many emails he receives every day. Sometimes a dozen in one day from me! Maybe if Betty writes me an extra big royalty check, I’ll send him and Genell on a long vacation; they deserve one.
Next stop is the control room — similar to the space station. It’s where the restoration, authoring, and graphic design are created. There are computers and monitors all over the place, and I can’t tell you how they do one single thing. All I know is film splicers have gone the way of the buggy whip. Tiffany Beseau-Clayton is the head rocket scientist, and there is Ben Hosterman, and his brother, Greg Hosterman, known as the “graphics guy.” They all belie the popular psychology belief that individuals are either “right brain” (creative) or “left brain” (logical). They are always open to suggestions…no egos at VCI.
Jason Blair, Bob and Genell’s son, works next door replicating special order DVD-R’s.
And then you walk into their warehouse. Wow…manna from heaven for film buffs; a warehouse filled with DVD’s awaiting shipment to customers like (hopefully) you. It’s the domain of Bill Blair’s daughter, Rebecca Garza-Ortiz (who wears many hats,) her husband Steve, and daughter, Olivia.
There are many reels of old film Bill once tried to sell me four decades ago. For years Bob’s been telling me that someday he’s going to ship it all to an archive, but the same cans and boxes have sat there for as long as I remember. Someday never seems to come.
Now pass through the swinging door and meet Penny Brokaw. She handles billings and is the voice of the person who takes your order. I think she has a ball and chain under her desk, too. As you’ve gathered by now, VCI is a pleasant place to work.
In the next office is Exec V.P., Don Blair. He has even more paper stacked on his desk than Bob. Don says he has a TV with Roku in every room in his house. I believe it. His favorite two topics are: sales are going to be off the charts next year (hopefully true) and VCI doesn’t get credit due for its quality restoration work (always true.)
Last is the conference room where Bob, Don and I, and often joined by our friend and collaborator, Steve Durbin, have spent many an hour talking about business, often digressing into tales about various colorful characters and crooks whom we’ve all dealt with throughout the years. We used to sit around grousing about our various physical maladies until Bob said we were complaining like a bunch of old men. If the shoe fits… (But, we did stop complaining.)
Many home video companies have come and gone over the years. Sure, I’ve had other companies ask to distribute my movies. Maybe I’d make more money, but would the graphics be right? Would I get paid? Why bother?
I’ve got an Oklahoma handshake.
*See previous blog.
Kit Parker Films DVD’s available from: http://www.vcient.com
(c) 2014 Kit Parker Films
I hired a private investigator to find the heirs…
My passion is to seek out “orphan” movies, and adopt them into my film library. Sometimes it takes a few months, sometimes over 10 years. I never give up.
First, I need to determine why a movie has been lost in limbo for 50 years or more. It takes lots of digging through old contracts, copyright records, television syndication files, and so forth. Here’s the short version on how I unearthed the “Mr. District Attorney” and “Counterspy” movies.
By 1961, the rights to both series reverted to Phillips H. Lord, creator of the radio programs. However, he elected to do nothing with them, and died in 1975. My next job was to find out who inherited the movies.
As with comic strips (see previous blog: “Lost and Found – Gasoline Alley and Friends”,) radio programs were naturals for the movies, and studios actively acquired the best programs for transition into motion pictures. Not all the deals were the same, but generally they seldom varied much from this:
The Creator of the radio show licenses a studio the exclusive use of the title, and characters in a radio show. Usually option money is paid to the creator, and the studio has a year or so to exercise the option, otherwise all rights (and the money!) revert to the Creator.
If and when the option is exercised, the studio pays the Creator the licensee fee, and commences production on the first film. The distribution deals normally had a duration of 7 – 10 years. After that, the studio and creator may or may not renew the license. If not, the movie falls into limbo because it cannot be exploited without the agreement of both the studio (owner of the negative) and the radio producer (owner of the underlying rights.) Occasionally the creator was assigned all rights to the negative and walked away with full ownership of the film.
April 3, 1939, marked the start of a 13-year run of the popular crime drama, “Mr. District Attorney,” first on NBC, and later, ABC. It was the creation of Phillips H. Lord, a successful and respected producer during radio’s golden age. He created 16 dramatic radio series, including “Gangbusters,” authored six books, and 15 musical compositions.
In 1940 Lord licensed Republic Pictures rights to produce three feature films based on the characters appearing in the “Mr. District Attorney” radio program. The resulting films were “Mr. District Attorney” (1941), with Dennis O’Keefe, Florence Rice, and Peter Lorre, directed by William Morgan, “Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case” (1941), with James Ellison and Virginia Gilmore, directed by Bernard Vorhaus, and “Secrets of the Underground” (1942), with John Hubbard and Virginia Grey, directed by William Morgan. I have no details on the original deal other than all rights were to revert to Lord in 1948, and the productions could not be shorts, serials or television programs.
In 1945 Columbia Pictures approached Lord to produce two of their own MDA movies. The problem, of course, was that Republic still had 3 years left on its two picture deal, and Columbia didn’t want two other MDA movies in the marketplace, since Republic would inevitably sieze the opportunity to re-release their own MDA films in order to capitalize on any forthcoming Columbia productions. This prompted Lord to exercise a $750 option contained within the Republic/Lord contract, against $7,500 to buy outright the negatives to “Mr. District Attorney” and “Mr. District Attorney and the Carter Case.” “Secrets of the Underground” remained with Republic (now, Paramount), presumably because the main title wouldn’t conflict with the new Columbia productions, although at one time Republic later did re-title the movie “Mr. District Attorney Does His Bit.”
The 7-year Columbia deal was set to go upon payment of $30,000 (approx. $400,000 in 2014 dollars), which included rights to the 9 months of radio scripts aired prior to February 29, 1940, a quitclaim of rights to the Big Little Book, “Mr. District Attorney on the Job” (aka “Smashing the Taxi Cab Racket”) (1941), along with four Dell Comics, “The Funnies,” from 1941-42. A prerequisite minimum negative cost of $150,000 per picture assured Lord the movies would have at least respectable production values.
The result was “Mr. District Attorney” (1947) with Dennis O’Keefe, Adolph Menjou (!), and Marguerite Chapman, directed by Robert B. Sinclair. A second feature was never produced, and the reason why is open to conjecture. However, some sort of arrangement between Lord and Columbia was made to allow ZIV to produce a TV series based on MDA for the 1951-52 season, and again for 1954-55.
In 1949 Columbia again approached Lord, this time to acquire rights to produce one or two features based on another one of Lord’s hit radio crime dramas, “Counterspy,” which first aired in 1942 on the NBC Blue Network, and continued through 1957. The deal was $15,000 per feature, with an extended playoff of 15 years, resulting in “David Harding, Counterspy (1950), with Willard Parker, Audrey Long, and Howard St. John (as the title character), directed by Ray Nazarro, and “Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard” (1950) with Howard St. John (top billing this time), Ron Randell and Amanda Blake, directed by Seymour Friedman.
Steve Wachtel to the rescue…
I retained a frequent collaborator, prominent Los Angeles-based private investigator, Steve Wachtel. As a movie buff he enjoys my assignments of determining the who and where of heirs to film people.
In the case of Phillips H. Lord, the heirs turned out to be three sisters, one lived in New York City, and the other two only a dozen miles from me, one in Glendale AZ, and the other in Scottsdale. None had any idea they owned any movies.
I made a deal with them for all rights.
Next job: Find good film elements from which to digitize. The original nitrate negative of “Mr. District Attorney” (1941) had decomposed, and only the picture negative survived, and it was in poor condition. I found an excellent duplicate safety film negative at the British Film Institute in London, and borrowed it to make a digital master. “Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case” only survived only as a poor condition nitrate picture negative, as well, but couldn’t locate a sound track…and I searched around the world. Let’s consider it lost…for now.
Normally film elements aren’t an issue because most movies were released to TV, thus requiring multiple duplicate elements on safety film. But since the two Republic MDA’s had never been reissued theatrically, or sold to TV, there was no need to create duplicates. What is left of the original nitrate negatives are stored at the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
The Columbia movies were another story…there were plenty of film elements still stored by the studio, and they were cooperative in giving me the material. I came up with advertising materials from Columbia, The Margaret Herrick Library (AMPAS), and good old eBay.
One of the pleasures of my business is producing extra features for the DVD’s.
One Lord sister graciously invited me to her house and showed me scrapbooks of her family, and father at work, then allowed me to copy them. She later consented to an interview by film historian, Richard M. Roberts, who is also an expert on golden age radio. And as always he knows the right questions to ask.
Phillips H. Lord Radio Programs:
Counterspy (aka: “David Harding, Counterspy”)
The Cruise of the Seth Parker
Gang Busters (Original title: “G-Men”)
Mr. District Attorney
The Country Doctor (aka: The Old Country Doctor)
Phillip Morris Playhouse (Original title: “Johnny Presents”)
Sunday Evening at Seth Parker’s
Seth Parker’s Singing School
The Stebbins Boys
Uncle Abe and David
Under the Sidewalks of New York
We, the People
Seth Parker and His Jonesport Folks
Seth Parker Fireside Poems, Gems of the Air
Seth Parker’s Album
Seth Parker’s Hymnal
Seth Parker’s Scrap Book
Uncle Hosie the Yankee Salesman
Counterspy Meets Scotland Yard *
David Harding, Counterspy *
Gang Busters (1945 serial)
Gang Busters (1955) (Compilation of “Gang Busters” TV episodes)
Guns Don’t Argue (Compilation of “Gang Busters” TV episodes)
Mr. District Attorney (1941) *
Mr. District Attorney (1947) *
Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case (Only picture negative survives)
Obeah (Lost film)
Secrets of the Underground
Way Back Home
The Black Robe
Mr. District Attorney
Back in the Old Sunday School
(with May Singhi Breen and Peter De Rose.)
Has Anybody Found a Trouble?
If You’re Happy
Jesus Is My Neighbor
Sailing with My Father
That First Little Sweetheart of Mine
There’s Four in Our Family
We Are Gathering with the Lord Today
You Go to Your Church and I’ll Go to Mine
For a complete list of my films check out http://www.kitparker.com -
Check out http://www.vcient.com for DVD’s -
(c) 2014 Kit Parker Holdings LLC
…producer-exhibitor Robert L. Lippert’s mantra and, appropriately, the title Mark Thomas McGee’s biography/filmography of the man and his films as published by BearManor Media. I’m a B-movie aficionado, and this book is a real page-turner.
“I’m not in this for personal glory, I’m giving the public and the exhibitors the films they want for purely commercial reasons.” – Robert L. Lippert
Robert L. Lippert, produced close to 250 feature films, including “The Steel Helmet” (1951), and “The Fly” (1958), and distributed scores more on behalf of other producers. He launched the careers of Samuel Fuller, James Clavell, and others; and owned a theatre circuit of well over 100 theatres. But, he flew under the radar to the degree that only hard-core movie buffs even know him. My company owns all rights to over 100 Lippert productions, and I tried to shed at least some light on Lippert and his films in my blogs and DVD special features, but Mark does the job right.
Mark McGee wasn’t given an easy task: Lippert shied away from giving interviews, and only two people who worked with Lippert are still living, actress Margia Dean, and production head/producer/director Maury Dexter. Mark really did a lot of digging and I believe has revealed almost everything about Lippert that isn’t lost to time.
Lippert’s biography is intertwined with Mark’s observations about the films as separated into four main chapters dealing with Lippert’s four production companies: Screen Guild Productions and Lippert Pictures (produced and distributed in-house), Regal Films, Inc., and Associated Producers (produced for release through Fox). I think this was the appropriate method because in real life it was truly hard to separate Lippert the man from his movies (and his theatre circuit.)
Lippert seldom had artistic pretentions. Many of his productions are at best less than notable — certainly by and large ignored by the critics. Mark lists every, and describes most, Lippert film. I really enjoyed the comments of exhibitors who actually played the films. This was back in the day when every small-town theatre manager stood in the lobby and said goodnight to patrons as they exited. Sometimes the managers hid, but most times the audiences for whom Lippert produced his films were more than satisfied. Less sophisticated audiences during the 1940s and early 1950s often preferred Lippert productions over those from the major studios. Don’t believe me? Read the book! I read every one of those critiques in one sitting. Better than a box of See’s Candies.
Lippert productions and co-productions available on DVD from VCI Entertainment:
Key: Theatrical distributors: LP = Lippert Pictures; SG = Screen Guild Productions; Hammer = Lippert/Hammer Films Co-production
APACHE CHIEF (1950) LP
ARSON, INC. (1950) LP
AS YOU WERE (1951) LP
BAD BLONDE (1953) UK: Flanagan Boy, Hammer, LP
BANDIT QUEEN, THE (1950) LP
BIG CHASE, THE (1954) LP
BLACK GLOVE, THE (1954) UK: Face the Music, Hammer, LP
BLACK PIRATES, THE (El pirata negro) (1954) US-Mexico, LP
BLACKOUT (1954) UK: Murder by Proxy, Hammer, LP
BORDER RANGERS (1950) LP
CASE OF THE BABY SITTER (1947) Featurette, SG
COLORADO RANGER – TV: Guns of Justice (1950) LP
COWBOY, THE (1954) LP
CROOKED RIVER – TV: The Last Bullet (1950) LP
DALTON GANG, THE (1949) LP
DANGER ZONE (1951) LP
DEADLY GAME, THE (1954) UK, Third Party Risk, Hammer, LP
DEPUTY MARSHAL (1949) LP
EVERYBODY’S DANCIN’ (1950) LP
FANGS OF THE WILD aka Follow the Hunter (1954) LP
FAST ON THE DRAW – TV: Sudden Death (1950) LP
FBI GIRL (1951) LP
FINGERPRINTS DON’T LIE (1951) LP
GAMBLER AND THE LADY (1952) UK, Hammer, LP
GLASS TOMB, THE (1955) UK: The Glass Cage, Hammer, LP
GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID, THE (1953) LP
GUNFIRE (1950) LP
HAT BOX MYSTERY, THE (1947) Featurette, SG
HEAT WAVE (1954) UK, House Across the Lake, Hammer, LP
HELLGATE (1952) LP-D
HIGHWAY 13 (1948) SG
HI-JACKED (1950) LP
HOLIDAY RHYTHM (1950) LP
HOLLYWOOD VARIETIES (1950) LP
HOSTILE COUNTRY – TV: Outlaw Fury (1950) LP
I SHOT BILLY THE KID (1950) LP
I’LL GET YOU (1953) UK: Escape Route, LP
JUNGLE GODDESS (1948) SG
JUNGLE, THE (1952) LP
KENTUCKY JUBILEE (1951) LP
KING DINOSAUR (1955) LP
LEAVE IT TO THE MARINES (1951) LP
LITTLE BIG HORN (1951) LP
LOAN SHARK (1952) LP
LONESOME TRAIL, THE (1955) LP
MAN BAIT (1952) UK: The Last Page, Hammer, LP
MAN FROM CAIRO, THE (1953) Italy-UK-USA, LP
MARSHAL OF HELDORADO – TV: Blazing Guns (1950) LP
MASK OF THE DRAGON (1951) LP
MASSACRE (1956) Fox
MOTOR PATROL (1950) LP
MR. WALKIE TALKIE (1952)
OPERATION HAYLIFT (1950) LP
OUTLAW COUNTRY (1949) SG
PAID TO KILL (1954) UK, Five Days, Hammer, LP-D
PIER 23 (1951) LP
QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS (1947) SG
RACE FOR LIFE (1954) UK: Mask of Dust, Hammer, LP
RADAR SECRET SERVICE (1950) LP
RENEGADE GIRL (1947) SG
RETURN OF JESSE JAMES, THE (1950) LP
RIMFIRE (1948) LP
RINGSIDE (1949) LP
ROARING CITY (1951) LP
SAVAGE DRUMS (1951) LP
SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR (1952) UK: Lady in the Fog, Hammer, LP
SHADOW MAN, THE (1953) UK: Street of Shadows, Hammer, LP
SILVER STAR (1955) LP
SINS OF JEZEBEL (1953) LP
SKY HIGH (1951) LP
SKY LINER (1949) LP
SQUARE DANCE JUBILEE (1949) LP
STOLEN FACE (1952) UK, Hammer, LP
STOP THAT CAB (1951) LP
THEY WERE SO YOUNG (1954) W. Germany-USA, LP
THREE DESPERATE MEN (1951) LP
THUNDER IN THE PINES (1948) SG
TRAIN TO TOMBSTONE (1950) LP
TREASURE OF MONTE CRISTO (1949) LP
UNHOLY FOUR, THE (1954) UK: The Stranger Came Home, Hammer, LP
VARIETIES ON PARADE (1951) LP
WEST OF THE BRAZOS (1950) LP
WESTERN PACIFIC AGENT (1950) LP
WILDFIRE (1945) SG
WINGS OF DANGER (1952) UK; Dead on Course, Hammer, LP
YES SIR, MR. BONES! (1951) LP
Lippert productions directed by Samuel Fuller arevailable on DVD from the Criterion Collection
BARON OF ARIZONA, THE (1950) LP
I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949) LP
STEEL HELMET, THE (1951) LP
(c) 2014 Kit Parker Films
I wanted to write about the pleasures of watching “Gasoline Alley” and “Corky, of Gasoline Alley.” They’re well written and directed by the underrated, Edward Bernds, with above average production values expected from a Columbia Pictures programmer. You’ll enjoy both movies, especially several sequences in “Corky,” which are laugh-out-loud funny.
Leonard Maltin felt the same way; here is what he had to say:
VCI’s DVD collection contains the two Gasoline Alley features, plus four bonus feature films from Lippert Pictures, “Stop That Cab” and “Leave it to the Marines,” (both 1951), starring Sid Melton; “As you Were” (1951) and “Mr. Walkie Talkie” (1952) with William Tracy and Joe Sawyer. Six features in all, plus trailers and photo gallery.
Features, serials and animated cartoons based on comic strips have always been popular starting with the live-action “The Katzenjammer Kids in School” (1898), running less than two minutes, and continuing through today’s blockbusters based on Marvel Comics heroes.
“Gasoline Alley” first appeared in newspapers in 1918, the creation of the innovative cartoonist, Frank O. King. It still is published today! The second longest running comic strip behind “The Katzenjammer Kids.”
Columbia Pictures had success with the “Blondie” series which ran its course by the late 1940s. In 1950 the studio contacted Frank O. King through his syndicator, Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. A deal was struck: $5,000 to option the property for two feature films, and $17,000 (almost exactly $170,000 in today’s dollars) to exercise it, which was done, and the two features began production. Television syndication rights were not included and King retained the right to produce a TV series, though none materialized. Typical licensing deals granted the studios a ten-year window to produce and distribute the films, after which time their rights ceased. This was the “Gasoline Alley” deal.
Before television, studios only made money from theatres. By the time the character right licenses expired, movies were generating only occasional $12.50 bookings, not worth it except with high-profile properties like Tarzan.
After the licenses expired, studios usually owned the negatives, but couldn’t exploit them without permission from the cartoonists; this worked visa versa, too. Movies disappeared into limbo—sometimes for decades. Occasionally negatives became the property of the character-owners, as with “Gasoline Alley.”
The King-Columbia deal expired in 1960-61, and the movies fell into obscurity. We’ll never know why King, who died in 1969, never exploited them.
In 2006, I took it upon myself to find out why, and discovered that King’s heirs unknowingly owned the movies. It took a while to find them, purchase their rights, and locate the negatives. Easier said than done. The heirs were surprised they owned two movies, and were very easy to work with, and very committed to perpetuating their father’s works. After a half-century, the negatives were controlled by Columbia. I was delighted because for once I didn’t have to search around the world for film elements to use as source material for making our masters.
Digging through dusty old files, finding lost heirs, locating film elements…that’s my job, and how the “Gasoline Alley” are now available for your enjoyment.
Lost and Won’t Be Found –
“Bringing Up Father” and “Joe Palooka,” two series from Monogram Pictures produced between 1946-50. Occasionally I’m asked why these aren’t available. In a nutshell: The rights are a mess, and even if they weren’t, many of the negatives are missing. I gave up…very unusual for me!
Gasoline Alley DVD Set from VCI Entertainment
COLUMBIA PICTURES PRESENTS
SCOTTY BECKETT and JIMMY LYDON in “GASOLINE ALLEY”
with SUSAN MORROW, DON BEDDOE and PATTI BRADY
BASED on the COMIC STRIP by FRANK O. KING
PRODUCED by MILTON FELDMAN
SCREENPLAY and DIRECTED by EDWARD BERNDS
The popular Frank O. King comic strip characters go from newspaper page to screen in this 1951 feature from legendary comedy director Edward Bernds (of Three Stooges and Bowery Boys fame). Scotty Beckett and Jimmy Lydon are Corky and Skeezix, half-brothers who find themselves in the restaurant business until complications and some family conflicts arise.
Bonus: Lobby Card Set
LIPPERT PICTURES PRESENTS
WILLIAM TRACY and JOE SAWYER in “AS YOU WERE”
with RUSSELL HICKS, JOHN RIDGELY and SONDRA RODGERS
SCREENPLAY by EDWARD R. SEABROOK
PRODUCED by HAL ROACH JR.
DIRECTED by FRED GUIOL
Oh, those Army daze–and nights! An infusion of WAC beauties adds to the fun when ex-G.I. “Dodo” Doubleday (William Tracy), now a hotel clerk, impresses Army brass with his memory, and considers going back into the military. But recruiting station sergeant Bill Ames (Joe Sawyer), remembering how Tracy jinxed him back in WWII days, begs him not to re-enlist!
BONUS: Original theatrical trailer
LIPPERT PICTURES PRESENTS
WILLIAM TRACY and JOE SAWYER in “MR. WALKIE TALKIE”
with MARGIA DEAN, ROBERT SHAYNE, ALAN HALE JR. and RUSSELL HICKS
SCREENPLAY by NED SEABROOK and G. CARLETON BROWN
PRODUCED by HAL ROACH, JR.
DIRECTED by FRED GUIOL
Joe Sawyer and William Tracy return in another wacky service comedy, Sawyer as the exasperated sergeant of a GI trainee (Tracy) who remembers everything he has ever heard. Their misadventures include reassignment to Korea, an enemy spy and the offer of a Congressional Medal of Honor for Sawyer—if he can control his temper long enough to get it!
COLUMBIA PICTURES PRESENTS
SCOTTY BECKETT and JIMMY LYDON in “CORKY OF GASOLINE ALLEY”
with DON BEDDOE, GORDON JONES and PATTI BRADY
BASED on the COMIC STRIP by FRANK O. KING
PRODUCED by WALLACE MacDONALD
SCREEPLAY and DIRECTED by EDWARD BERNDS
How long can a cousin visit? That’s the question for Corky (Scotty Beckett) when his wife’s cousin (Gordon Jones) makes himself an unwanted houseguest, begins telling Wallet family members how to run their businesses, and blows up one of Corky’s restaurant’s ranges AND one of Skeezix’s (Jimmy Lydon) cars! Another entertaining comedy-drama for fans of the classic Frank O. King comic strip.
LIPPERT PICTURES PRESENTS
SID MELTON in “STOP THAT CAB”
with MARJORIE LORD, TOM NEAL, WILLIAM HAADE and GREG McCLURE
SCREENPLAY by LOUELLA McFARLANE and WALTER ABBOTT
PRODUCED by ABRASHA HAIMSON
DIRECTED by EUGENIO de LIGUORO
Babies and bandits spell trouble for Sid Melton, a bumbling Hollywood cabby whose night is filled with constant harassment from his wife (Iris Adrian), and whose fares include a radio quiz show contestant in search of a movie star, an expectant mother who is no longer expectant when she LEAVES his cab—and a gunman!
LIPPERT PICTURES PRESENTS
SID MELTON in “LEAVE IT TO THE MARINES”
with MARA LYNN, GREGG MARTELL, IDA MOORE and SAM FLINT
SCREENPLAY by ORVILLE HAMPTON
PRODUCED by SIGMUND NEUFELD
DIRECTED by SAMUEL NEWFIELD
Quintessential schnook Sid Melton, looking for the license bureau so that he can marry his girl Mara Lynn, instead stumbles upon a Marine recruiting office and ends up in uniform. Lynn reacts by joining the Women’s Marine Corps. Between the two of them, they’re the Howls of Montezuma and the Roars of Tripoli in this frantic service comedy.
Like a box of See’s candies…which should I try first?…
Bob Furmanek’s web site, www.3dfilmarchive.com, is a great place to read about the golden age of 3D movies. The only problem is selecting which article to read first! They are all well-researched, fun to read, and supported by vintage articles and advertising materials.
I clicked on “Widescreen Documentation,” and got some questions answered about my own films:
“SHOOTS ‘SINS’ at KTTV: Robert L. Lippert, Jr., tomorrow moves his “Sins of Jezebel” company from Chatsworth location site to sound stage at KTTV studio. Ansco color feature starring Paulette Goddard is being filmed for “all-purpose” wide screen. All camera set-ups and Frank Sylos’ sets are planned for 2-to-1 widescreen ratio. Consequently director Reginald Le Borg is shooting a minimum of close-ups.” — Variety 5/15/53:
THE SINS OF JEZEBEL (Lippert/1954) with Paulette Goddard and George Nader, began filming on location in Chatsworth, CA on May 13, 1953, and was the first widescreen feature to begin shooting for the 2.1 ratio. Universal-International adopted it but didn’t begin filming in 2.1 until June 3, with BORDER RIVER. Producer Robert L. Lippert, Jr. told me Paulette Goddard, a star on the way down, was paid $20,000 for her role as Jezebel, and she was happy to get it. He said the movie was shot in color, a luxury seldom seen in a Lippert production, because Ansco wanted to get producers to use its “Ansco Color” process, and was willing to extend credit to his notoriously penurious father, studio-head, Robert L. Lippert, Sr.
THE GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID (Lippert/1954) in Ansco color, starring Willard Parker, Barbara Payton and Tom Neal, began filming April 1, 1953 for 1.37:1. It was released on July 17, 1953 and adapted to widescreen, as was SHANE, THUNDER BAY, YOUNG BESS and many others.
BLACK GLOVE (UK: FACE THE MUSIC) (Lippert/1954) starring Alex Nicol, was the first Lippert-Hammer/Exclusive co-production released in widescreen (1.8). It premiered in the United States on Jan. 29, 1954, and in the U.K. through Exclusive Films on Feb. 22, 1954.
* Ansco also extended lab deferrals on Lippert Jr’s. MASSACRE and THE BLACK PIRATES, both 1956. Some of the trailers were printed in Technicolor. The domestic picture negative to THE BLACK PIRATES is lost, and the Spanish Language picture negative (it was a U.S.-Mexico co-production) survives, but is in poor condition.
AVAILABLE ON DVD FROM VCI ENTERTAINMENT
LEGENDARY OUTLAWS DOUBLE FEATURE:
THE GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID, RENEGADE GIRL (Screen Guild/1946) with Ann Savage and Alan Curtis, RETURN OF JESSE JAMES (Lippert/1950) with John Ireland and Ann Dvorak, GUNFIRE (Lippert/1950) with Don “Red” Barry and Robert Lowery, DALTON GANG (Lippert/1949) with Don “Red” Barry and Robert Lowery, and I SHOT BILLY THE KID (Lippert/1951) with Don “Red” Barry and Robert Lowery.
MOVIE BAD GIRLS DOUBLE FEATURE
SINS OF JEZEBEL and QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS (Screen Guild/1947) with Robert Lowery and Patricia Morrison
HAMMER FILM NOIR DOUBLE FEATURE VOL. 6
BLACK GLOVE [UK: Face the Music] (Lippert/1954) and DEADLY GAME [UK: Third Party Risk] (Lippert/1954)* with Lloyd Bridges and Simone Silva.
DARN GOOD WESTERNS VOL. 2
MASSACRE (Fox/1956)* with Dan Clark and James Craig, SHOTGUN (Allied Artists/1955)* in Technicolor, with Sterling Hayden and Yvonne De Carlo, FOUR FAST GUNS (Universal/1959)* in CinemaScope, with James Craig and Martha Vickers, DEPUTY MARSHAL (Lippert/1949) with Jon Hall and Frances Langford, THREE DESPERATE MEN (Lippert/1951) with Preston Foster and Virginia Grey and OUTLAW WOMEN (Howco/1952) in Cinecolor, with Marie Windsor and Richard Rober.
*Widescreen 16X9 versions.