Posts Tagged ‘Kit Parker’
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Bill Cassara’s previous profession, along with its “curse,” is a blessing for those who enjoy reading biographies that reveal heretofore unknown information.
Before retiring, Bill was an Internal Affairs Sargeant for the Monterey County (California) Sheriff’s Department. He was, and is, a film buff. Laurel and Hardy were at the top of his list, and The Three Stooges weren’t far behind. Bill is a naturally curious person, and wondered why nothing substantive had been written about two beloved character actors, Edgar Kennedy and Vernon Dent; and A-list entertainer, Ted Healy.
Professional investigator–movie buff–naturally curious person…a trifecta of attributes needed to pen three biographical gems: “Edgar Kennedy – Master of the Slow Burn” (2005) and “Vernon Dent – Stooge Heavy” (2010,) and now “Nobody’s Stooge – Ted Healey” (2014,) all published by BearManor Media. I’ve read them all; he’s a good writer and knows how to hold a reader’s attention.
Bill and I became friends many years ago through our mutual love and admiration for Laurel and Hardy. I first became aware of his attention to detail when I rode with him in his sheriff’s vehicle as he spent his day protecting and serving. At a stoplight, he “lit up” a driver and pulled him over for tossing a lit cigarette out the window. The offense had occurred so far back down the road that I still can’t figure out how he saw it. Subsequent ride-a-longs yielded similar surprises, while we discussed how he unraveled crimes starting from square one. It was no surprise to me when he became an Internal Affairs sergeant.
After Bill retired, he told me that a career in law enforcement can be a curse because it is a challenge to be out in public and not ignore people and events that don’t seem quite right. By the way, he only gave the butt-tosser a warning.
It disappointed me when several fellow Three Stooges fans gave his book, “Nobody’s Stooge – Ted Healy,” tepid reviews because it contradicted several long held “facts” about Healy being a bad guy. You know the saying, “If you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth.” In this case, a legend.
That being said, I thought Bill needed a platform to discuss his research methods that uncovered new truths about Healy.
The following is our interview of March 25, 2015…and be sure to check out http://www.billcassara.com.
Kit: Why did you get into the profession of law enforcement?
Bill: I wanted to make a difference; I was an idealist and put myself through college while working in jobs that dealt with the public. I was a local history buff, so I had pride in where I lived. Another motivator; I was a victim of burglary; someone stole my coin collection that I cultivated over the years. I channeled my outrage into something constructive, a career peace officer. I consider myself a victim’s advocate.
Kit: Are there parallels between criminal investigation and conducting research for a book?
Bill: There are some, I suppose it depends on what kind of book. The three books I wrote all pertain to biographies of old film clowns: Edgar Kennedy, Vernon Dent, and Ted Healy. Projects like these demand that I research from scratch, remain objective, sift the facts from the legend and corroborate with existing evidence i.e. public records and reliable newspaper accounts of the day.
Kit: Do you consider yourself a “just the facts, ma’am” author?
Bill: Hollywood bios demand a writing style that is part historical, factual and engaging. Gone are the days when bios were written by glorified press agents. Today’s readers want a true picture. My career depended on my credibility as an investigator, writer of reports and expert witness testimony.
Now that I’m retired, I can write for fun. Imagine the joy I had in describing Edgar Kennedy’s “Slow-Burn” as a metaphor to a volcano eruption or relating the aroma of over-ripe fruits prominent in Vernon Dent’s time? I could convey that sense because I grew up in the same neighborhood Vernon did. The Healy book is more clinical and closer to how I used to write professionally.
Kit: How did you come to be a Three Stooges fan?
Bill: I think it was 1959 when all the Columbia Three Stooges films were released on television. They were a sensation and all the kids at school talked about them. Later that year, the Stooges made a promotional appearance at our local TV. affiliate and I fixated on Moe who did all the talking on the program. He communicated to the kids in a grandfatherly concerned way. The Stooges were accessible, unlike my other older film comedian heroes: Laurel & Hardy, Little Rascals, Abbott & Costello, and just about everyone in Robert Youngson’s film compilations.
Kit: Why did you select Ted Healy as the subject of a biography?
Bill: I wanted a challenge. As a historian I have always been interested in “what came first?” and “how did they get there?” I appreciate those who make me laugh; take the case of the Stooges’ success story. In his autobiography: “Moe Howard and the Three Stooges,” he thankfully included details about the genesis of the act which started with vaudeville and Broadway star, Ted Healy. I was struck by the fact Healy died at age forty-one under mysterious circumstances with rumors that he was murdered. With my background as an Internal Investigations Sergeant, I thought I could clarify all the details. My secondary reason was Healy died four days after his only child was born, so Ted Healy Jr. grew up never knowing about his dad. When I found out that his son had recently died, I knew a book about Ted Healy would never happen unless I took on the responsibility. I dived into the murky depths of vaudeville. It was here, as documented by old newspapers and trade publications, that I compiled data and venues pertaining to Ted Healy’s slow rise to stardom.
Kit: Was Joan Howard Maurer receptive to your writing a book on Healy?
Bill: Moe Howard’s daughter was very supportive, she invited my wife and I over to her home to discuss it. She said it was interesting that a retired “detective” was researching Ted Healy.
Kit: What sorts of things did she share?
Bill: The thing that stood out most to me was her comment, “Ted Healy was very generous to our family.” For Joan to emphasize that point is revealing, it is the opposite of what most people think about the Healy/Howard association. Joan no doubt was repeating what her father told her. After all, it was Healy who ”discovered” and mentored the Howard brothers and Larry Fine.
Joan had pulled a file labeled “Healy,” from her father’s personal archives. There were rare photos of Moe with Healy and many ads from their various engagements. I included several images for the book with Joan’s kind permission.
Kit: How did Healy come to be known as such a villain?
Bill: Healy died in 1937, almost eighty years ago and there is still quite a bit of emotion tied into it from “Stooge” fans. This was one of my interests in writing a book; why is Healy portrayed as a “Simon Legree” character in books published after Moe’s death? Mel Gibson made a biopic about the lives of the Three Stooges and naturally included a Ted Healy character who was depicted viciously. The visuals made a permanent impression on the general television audience. Fans, authors and bloggers have been dog piling on him ever since.
Kit: What are your thoughts about Moe’s autobiography?
Bill: Moe’s book is considered the “bible” towards anything relating to Stooge history. Thank goodness his daughter took an active role in completing the project. Understandably, Moe cobbled together most of his recollections without aid of a diary or other documents.
Kit: What were the inconsistencies between Moe’s recollections and the facts?
Bill: When I first read Moe’s book, I was elated. Precious details were revealed for the first time in writing. It became the cornerstone for seemingly hundreds of books. Moe remembered first coming across Healy on July 4, 1909 while strumming his ukulele and singing with Ted, “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.”
It should be noted that Moe was first an entertainer and a beginning story for meeting Healy was essential for his book. One has to expect these kinds of things; many celebrities rely on great stories. Ted Healy sure did.
Most other writers simply repeated Moe’s tales, I started from scratch. It’s where any investigation should start. It may seem inconsequential to point out, but “ukes” were not known on the east coast until they were introduced by Hawaiians for the 1915 San Francisco Panama Exhibition. And the song Moe remembered wasn’t copyrighted until 1912 as a “Ragtime” piano piece.
There is a sequence in Moe’s book where he recounted when he and Ted joined with some local girls for a diving stage act in 1913. Since Healy was part of this act, it seemed important to retell the circumstances to the readers. The story goes that Moe and Ted began in show business as part of the “Annette Kellerman Diving Act” of 1913. History tells us that Kellerman was an international superstar by this time and had appeared in four movies with her aquatic acts. Her diving events were heavily documented by newspapers. Kellerman did not need 16 year-olds disguised as girls to help with her high diving act. Fortunately, Moe remembered an accident associated with his act that claimed the life of Gladys Kelly, there was a mishap on the diving board where she fell to her death. This accident was written up as a small article in the New York Times in an off-Broadway stage. This wasn’t the “Annette Kellerman Diving Act,” So the question remains, “Did Moe intend for the version of what was printed in his book?” I’m sure he meant the act was a “knock-off” of the more established star. Still, this raises a red flag for whom was doing the editing.
Another stumbling block was to corroborate Moe’s recollection detailing when he joined Healy’s act in “1922.” Moe said he answered an ad that Healy needed a replacement for an acrobatic act that walked out on him. It was written that Healy was playing at the Prospect Theatre in New York at the time. Later day researchers have never been able to find this “ad” in the trade papers. Furthermore, Healy did not play at the Prospect in 1922.
An existing program (May 27, 1923) shows Moe (As Moses Harry Horwitz) directing a play in his Brooklyn neighborhood. So Moe couldn’t have joined Healy until after this date. Moe described this act in his autobiography, “Ted was already in an act with his wife and dog by then.” This hit revue was called “Syncopated Toes,” and started on Sept. 3, 1923. Ted and Betty were the stars and producers.
Kit: What about Larry’s biography, written by his brother?
Bill: That book, “Larry-Stooge in the Middle” was allegedly written by Morris Feinberg in 1984. It was one of the first books about the Stooges by one who was close to the action…except he wasn’t. There are so many falsehoods in this book starting with the author; it was confirmed to me by Gary Lassin and Steven Cox (who were close to the project at the time), that Larry’s brother was in his eighties with a heart condition and had no access to research. This book was published by the appropriately named “Last Gasp” in San Francisco which is now defunct.
The ghostwriter apparently thought it needed “punching up” by making Healy a very imposing villain who was an archenemy with our favorite innocents. To make him more evil, the “author” described scenes in which Healy was so revengeful of the boys leaving his act that he would phone theatres where they were playing, introduced him-self and threatened to firebomb the place if their act went on. Think about this seriously; a threat like that would impact everyone in the theatre including the paying customers. The press would have written it up if such a stunt happened as described.
Perhaps even worse, the author had the audacity to print a date (September 30, 1930) in which Healy allegedly brought suit against “Howards & Fine” in Los Angeles, Ca. This was a calculated intent to invoke emotion into the prose for contrast. Even more absurd; after his day in court the author claimed, “Healy lost the case.” Invented dialogue ensues with Shemp’s quote to Larry, “I don’t think we’ve heard the last from Ted Healy.” None of this ever happened. I couldn’t find any mention in the Los Angeles papers of that time and they would have been all over that. I made it a point to search out the court files and there was nothing. Never mind that Moe, Larry and Shemp returned to Healy on August 7, 1932, the question is; why would they return if Healy was so dangerous? The truth is: Moe, Larry and Shemp, (later replaced by Curly) rode Healy’s coattails during this era. In 1933 it got them to Hollywood. This takes nothing away from the Stooges later success, but coming back to Healy was the break they needed professionally.
The damage has been done-for over thirty years people have been conditioned to believe Healy was a monster.
Kit: Did your research turn up any tidbits about the Stooges that you didn’t include because they had nothing to do with Healy?
Bill: There are other examples that Moe said that weren’t quite accurate; Moe said Shemp quit Healy’s act to join Vitaphone as “Knobby Walsh.” That role didn’t occur until years later. Moe described his brother Curly cutting it up as a member of Orville Knapp’s Band in 1929. Knapp didn’t have his own band until 1934 (Knapp was a musician for another band in 1929). I can pass all that off as entertainment. My main concern in credibility was in one particular sequence in Moe’s book; it was after the filming of “Soup to Nuts” in 1930 when Moe, Larry and Shemp split from Healy after their contract expired. According to Moe’s book, the reason for the separation was because he heard a third person rumor that Fox was going to offer Moe, Larry and Shemp a seven-year deal. The story goes that Healy squashed it by appealing to a company executive. This is curious because Fox wasn’t making short comedies at this time and they certainly wouldn’t have started up a whole new unit during this stage of the depression. I have a hard time grasping that Fox would offer the boys (sans big name Healy) a seven-year feature deal (even back-loaded) on the strength of their performance in “Soup to Nuts.” They weren’t even known as “Stooges” yet. Moe allegedly claimed Healy “begged us to come back to him,” and “I don’t have an act without you.” In truth, Ted Healy could throw his hat on the stage and be well received. He put together other comic foils and continued in big-time vaudeville. He really struck gold when he performed on Broadway with Fanny Brice and Phil Baker in “Crazy Quilt.” The act toured America’s biggest cities throughout 1931 based on advanced ticket sales.
This may be considered sacrilegious, but when Moe discussed the Healy era, were his writings embellished? Or did his publisher (like the Larry book), fill in details to make things more dramatic? It should be emphasized that Moe died before his book was published and tampering with the material could explain some of the inconsistencies and drama.
Kit: Any thoughts, even little ones, about writing another biography?
Bill: The reason I wrote books about Kennedy, Dent, and Healy is because I had so much interest in them from seeing their films. They deserved a study. I have many more favorites that I hope someday other authors pursue. I would love to read a book about: Leon Errol, Andy Clyde, Bud Jamison, Mae Busch, Lloyd Bacon, and even the tragic stories of F. Richard Jones and Clyde Bruckman…the list goes on. Is there a market there?
Bill Cassara about the time of the “butt-tossing” incident.
The subject was “hazing,” and no studio would touch it…
Paul Henreid (“Casablanca”,) wanted a hard-hitting exposé of a problem he felt needed to be addressed…hazing. He pitched it to the studios, and each time was met with an emphatic “No.” So he financed, produced, directed, and starred in it. When he screened the completed picture for the studios, it was the same story…none would touch it. With his options and money running out, he sold the movie outright to producer/distributor, Robert L. Lippert, known for small-town, family-friendly B movies, the exact opposite of “The Tall Lie.” Lippert also released it under the more familiar title “For Men Only.” Although the small towns were shocked by it, business was brisk in college towns.
“Tod” (Robert Sherman,) a gentle pledge is forced to swim in freezing water until he almost drowns…and that’s before the main titles even start! In his screen debut, Russell Johnson, beloved captain of “Gilligan’s Island,” plays “Ky,” the sadistic president of the fraternity. Vera Miles (“Psycho”,) also in her first film, appears as Tod’s girlfriend. Tod’s grades plummet because of the unrelenting abuse. His professor, played by Henreid, takes notice and ponders whether hazing and the forthcoming “Hell Night” might have something to do with it. Nonetheless, he recommends that Tod’s mother sign a release to let her son take part in the final initiation. Big mistake.
“Hell Night,” the fraternity initiation of all initiations, starts off with the relatively tame ripping of the pledges’ clothes and painting their faces. Then comes the final initiation…shoot a puppy; this is 1952! (His friend “Beanie” (James Dobson) wants to be inducted into the fraternity so bad he stoops to drinks blood drawn from a live puppy.) Although Tod refuses, he is subsequently ostracized, hounded to his death as a coward. This prompts Henreid to push for an investigation and reforms, but is met with resistance and organized destruction of evidence, supported by college administrators and past pledges, bent on saving the good name of the college.
Censorship was an issue. Various state censor boards objected, but the distributors emphasized that it was an “exposé” and “educational,” an argument that generally had positive results. Then there was the UK where animal cruelty, real or implied, was strictly prohibited. Exclusive (Hammer) Films, the distributor throughout England, managed to get the picture passed without cuts by adding a lengthy written prologue (included in the DVD) revealing the evils of hazing.
Available on DVD from VCI Entertainment: http://www.vcient.com
You see it every day on television. Scratches, splices, specs, and hairs added by computer to reenacted scenes in order to make them appear “old.” They do it to vintage film, and pre-HD video tape as well. I watched a story about NASA on network TV that used video tape from the “ancient” 1980s, and they even “antiqued” it.
I’ve spent over 40 years trying to take away scratches. Whatever happened to adding “archive footage” in small letters at the bottom of the screen instead of defacing the image?
Enough grousing. In my business it is a constant chore finding suitable film material to make our DVD’s look good.
Here is a brief primer on what we look for in film materials to make our DVD’s look good.
The basic principal of film is positives are made from negatives, and negatives from positives.
1st choice for producing digital masters –
35mm Camera Negative (“EK”) – The film that actually went through the camera. Best and sharpest element to work with.
2nd choice –
35mm Fine Grain: A positive copy made from the camera negative. Grain and contrast are kept low because each successive generation (the duplicate negative and subsequent prints as described below) add both grain and contrast.
3rd choice –
35mm Duplicate Negative: A “dupe negative” is the source of manufacturing release prints.
4th choice –
35mm Print: A release print as shown in theatres.
5th choice –
16mm Duplicate Negative: Before digital, this element was used to manufacture prints for television stations, and non-theatrical exhibitors such as colleges and libraries.
6th and last choice –
16mm print. Although on rare occasions I’ve found 16mm prints struck off the 35mm camera negative, or dupe negative, normally 16mm prints are at least 4 generations from the camera negative, with expected result…loss of clarity. I use 16mm material only after we’ve searched the world for good 35mm elements.
There are many thousands of cans of films in my collection going back to 1923 stored at the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Academy Film Archive (part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). Both institutions offer state of the art facilities with carefully monitored cold temperature and low humidity vaults. Both institutions are dedicated to preserving our motion picture heritage, and are a pleasure to work with.
Once the best film material is selected, it is retrieved from the vault and let stand for a day or two to be brought up to room temperature. Then it is sent to the lab for digitization. The subsequent digital master is sent to VCI Entertainment where imperfections are minimized as best as possible using special computer programs…or sometimes frame by frame (by a very patient technician.) If the final output is to be a DVD, special features (the fun part) and menus are added.
BTW, while distributing the Warner Bros. classics library on film, I discovered some prints of Clint Eastwood movies struck from the original camera negatives. Clint came to my office to discuss using some of my footage for his documentary about Carmel, California, “Don’t Pave Main Street,” and during our conversation (he made it clear he was not interested in reminiscing about his work before “Rawhide”!), and I mentioned the EK’s, which were subsequently turned over to him.
(Photo of actual decomposed film courtesy NFSA)
By Margia Dean, guest blogger
George Raft was a friend of mine, and I worked with him in the film, “Loan Shark” (Lippert/1952).
On December 30, 1959 my date and I flew to Havana and gambled at Capri Casino in Havana where George was a part-owner. (I still have a $1.00 chip from there.) I mentioned to George that we heard there was unrest and trouble in Cuba. He pooh-poohed it and said that it was the tourist people in Florida spreading that rumor to discourage anyone from going to Cuba. George said he would be the first to know if anything was going on.
The next night my date and I travelled to the Isle of Pines to attend a New Year’s Eve party at the invitation of the Cuban dictator, President Fulgéncio Batista. It was a lavish affair, with many prominent people there, including the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, his associate (and ultimate playboy) Porfírio Rubirosa, plus the owners of Saks Fifth Ave., and many wealthy sugar plantation owners, with their ladies, lavished in diamonds.
All of a sudden young men from Fidel and Raúl Castro’s revolutionary forces appeared with machine guns. Chaos ensued, and all the workers fled.
We were there for about three days. Others weren’t so fortunate and stayed for a few weeks. Food ran short, and the men fished for food. Many of us were outside and soon covered by mosquito bites because no one knew how to operate the DDT machines. The prisoners were freed from the prison, and we were afraid they would come after us, but I guess they just wanted to escape from confinement. The daughter of the commandant came hysterically to us and said they murdered her father.
I heard that Batista fled to the Dominican Republic during the night on Trujillo’s yacht.
George Skagel (father of Ethel Kennedy) had a private plane and offered us a ride along with Aileen Mehle, who wrote society columns, most notably in the New York Daily News as “Suzy.” We headed down to the beach and flew off. It was a daring escape, we could have been shot down as there were young men with guns all around us.
We were the first ones to leave. I heard that everyone else was trapped there for many days. The Cuban guests, who wanted to get home, were trapped on rat infested freighters for weeks in the bay outside of Havana.
Louella Parsons called and asked me not to speak with any other news reporters, and to give her an exclusive about the adventure. She didn’t want me to talk to any other news reporters, and I agreed.
What really annoys me is that many years later Aileen Mehle told a different, and untrue, story to Vanity Fair, and didn’t even mention me. Why? I don’t know. (Maybe she didn’t want anyone to know she was Batista’s guest.) She said Skagel flew her to Miami from the airport, which was impossible, because it was totally sandbagged…no one could fly from there.
I never saw George Raft again after that December night when he was so happy because my date, and others lost a lot of money on his tables! He was forced to leave Havana, penniless.
“Loan Shark” available on DVD from http://www.vcient.com
© 2014 Kit Parker Films
“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 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.
When I think of movies like “Hellgate” (Lippert/1952), directed by Charles Marquis Warren, and “The Tall Texan” (Lippert/1953), directed by Elmo Williams (Oscar-winning film editor on “High Noon”), I marvel at how directors like that were able to produce really entertaining films on a minimal budget (and an even more minimal shooting schedule.)
David Schecter does the same, only he thinks of the composers, in this case, Paul Dunlap and Bert Schefter.
“Monstrous Movie Music” is the name of David’s company. He specializes in producing CD’s with music scores from lower-tier science fiction films, but there are a few “A” features as well. These movies were helped immeasurably by the gifted composers, who like their director and producer counterparts, relegated to the demands of low budgets and extremely tight production schedules.
Some bring back fond memories of my going to the movies as a kid at the State and Rio Theatres in Monterey, CA: “The Blob” (Paramount/1958) composed by Ralph Carmichael; “The Last Man on Earth” (AIP/1964), composed by Paul Sawtell and Bert Schefter; “The Brain From the Planet Arous” (Howco/1957), composed by Walter Greene. I remember as the end title on “Arous” came on the screen and thinking I’d just wasted $.50. My disappointment was forgotten after watching the co-feature, “The Alligator People” (API-Fox/1959), composed by Irving Gertz, exemplifying there is no accounting for the taste of an 11-year-old.
David Schecter is a champion of composers, especially the lesser-known ones, many of whom he knew personally, and dedicates himself to making their scores available. He and his staff have gone to the trouble of re-recording the scores utilizing renowned symphony orchestras in Poland and Slovakia when they aren’t releasing original soundtracks. He write superb liner notes as well.
Monstrous Movie Music:
The movies themselves are available on DVD from VCI Entertainment:
“Hellgate,” starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Leslie, Ward Bond, and James Arness (one of my favorites), directed by Charles Marquis Warren, is part of the two-disc DVD collection titled, “Darn Good Westerns” Volume 1, featuring five additional titles, “Panhandle” (Allied Artists/1948) with Rod Cameron, in “glowing Sepiatone,” and four from Lippert Pictures, “Fangs of the Wild” (1954), with Charles Chaplin, Jr., and underrated actress Margia Dean in one of her best roles, “The Train to Tombstone” (1950) which is a Don “Red” Barry western, “Operation Haylift” (1950) with Bill Williams and Ann Rutherford, and “Wildfire – The Story of a Horse” (1945) starring Bob Steele, in Cinecolor, which was the first production from legendary exhibitor turned producer, Robert L. Lippert.
“The Tall Texan,” is a solid western starring Lloyd Bridges and Lee J. Cobb, with cool special features, including “The Making of ‘The Tall Texan’” by Elmo Williams (still alive at age 100!); audio reminiscences by Ross May, a wrangler for the movie; the original theatrical trailer, and Chapter 1 from “Secret Agent X-9” (1945).
On the subject of Elmo Williams, I highly recommend “The Cowboy” (Lippert/1954), a feature length documentary filmed in color. Both “The Tall Texan” and “The Cowboy” were made in DemingNM where in 2005 my wife Donna and I went to produce the commentary featuring reminiscences of four of the original cowboys who starred in the film. Listening to these authentic cowboys fifty years later is a hoot…worthy of a blog of its own.
*Usually credited as a Lippert production, it was actually an independent film from producer by John C. Champion (brother of Gower), under his Commander Films banner. Champion also produced “Panhandle.”
© 2013 Kit Parker Holdings LLC