kitparkerfilms

Lost and Found: Gasoline Alley and Friends

Posted on: March 28, 2014

 

 

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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:

http://blogs.indiewire.com/leonardmaltin/gasoline_alley_and_friends

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
76 minutes
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
59 minutes
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
65 minutes
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
80 minutes
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
57 minutes
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
68 minutes
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.

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1 Response to "Lost and Found: Gasoline Alley and Friends"

Nice piece, Kit! I remember writing a book review of Bernds’ auto-biography for Classic Images. He was always a very
competent director.

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