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Posts Tagged ‘Kit Parker

Option 1:  Use Scotch tape, scratch remover and melt with a blow torch.

Option 2:  Contact us and we’ll send a speedy replacement.

A customer tried Option 1 and sent us the following unedited message:

 

burning dvd

“hi, could you please refund me on the dvd disc. I played this dvd disc on my dvd player, and it did NOT work. I took it out and found huge scratches and huge cracks in the disc. I repaired the huge scratches with scratch remover, and I repaired the huge cr acks with scotch tape. I then put it back in the dvd player to see if it would play better, but it would NOT play better AT ALL. the lasers inside the dvd player would NOT even recognize the dvd disc AT ALL. it was too IMPOSSIBLE to even be recognizable AT ALL. my other dvd discs work perfectly normal and great on my dvd player, and my dvd player still works perfectly normal and great as well. it’s just that the dvd disc would NOT even play well AT ALL. my other ones did. I just about tried everything I could even do to repair this dvd disc, but NONE of the ideas worked AT ALL. it was just too IMPOSSIBLE to even be recognizable, and there was absolutely NOTHING else I could even do about it AT ALL. I tried to send the dvd disc back to you, but when I was down in my basement welding something together, I had it with me, and when it fell out of my pocket, i accidentally melted the whole entire item with a blow torch. the whole entire item completely melted down into tiny little specs, and there is absolutely NOTHING left of this item WHATSOEVER. i have absolutely NO replacement for this item WHATSOEVER. so please refund me. i need my money back. thank you.”

You couldn’t make this up!  Of course, we promptly returned his money along with an apology for his inconvenience.

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It’s been a year-long journey, but our “Super 10-Chapterplay of the Air” is finally released!

I have owned the chain of title for years, but couldn’t find any film elements to work with. Then long-time friend and film collector, Jeff Joseph, loaned us his one-of-a-kind 35mm tinted nitrate print. Working with an almost 90 year-old-print took time, but it turned out beautiful.

We are delighted that silent film accompanist Dr. Andrew Simpson agreed to score, and what a great job he did.

Our favorite commentator, noted film historian, Richard M Roberts, liked the serial so much he produced and recorded a full-length commentary…excellent, as always.    More time was spent syncing (easier said than done), checking the final master, creating packaging, replication, shipping to Amazon, and impatiently waiting for them to disperse inventory to their various warehouses. It’s here at last!

“Superior to the usual run of serials…full of thrills…” – Schenectady (NY) Gazette

You just might think the Schenectady Gazette’s comment is an understatement.  Feel free to let me know. Of course, you’ll have to buy it first! Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y4GLV4C

 

The following is our formal press release —

The Sprocket Vault announces its DVD release of the 1928 silent serial THE MYSTERIOUS AIRMAN, a ten-part “Super Chapterplay of the Air” starring silent era-serial superstar Walter Miller and Eugenia Gilbert produced by the long-lasting Poverty Row Producers, The Weiss Brothers.

 

 

Featuring vintage biplanes and exciting action, THE MYSTERIOUS AIRMAN was the last silent serial produced by The Weiss Brothers and one of the last silent serials ever produced. Thought to be a “lost” film, Producer Kit Parker, who purchased the holdings of Weiss Global International in 2004, was approached by film archivist, Jeff Joseph of SabuCat Productions, who offered to loan a near-complete original 35mm tinted nitrate print which was missing only the first reel of Chapter Nine. The print was lovingly restored and transferred (recreating the missing reel from stills and plot synopses), and a new piano score was commissioned from ace silent film accompanist Dr. Andrew Earle Simpson, main accompanist of the Library of Congress Packard Campus in Culpeper, Virginia.

 

The Sprocket Vault’s DVD release of THE MYSTERIOUS AIRMAN also features a complete and comprehensive commentary track by noted film historian Richard M Roberts. He weaves a story about the production and the people involved, from stars Miller and Gilbert, co-stars like Robert Walker and Dorothy Talcott to Director Harry Revier and the production staff of Weiss Brothers-Artclass Pictures, a family of low-budget film producers whose filmmaking operations kept them in business from the 1910s up to the 1990s, outlasting some of Hollywood’s major studios.

 

The Sprocket Vault’s release of THE MYSTERIOUS AIRMAN heralds an important rediscovery in film history, as few silent serials exist today in anything resembling complete form, much less in lovely tinted original print quality. It’s a fun, light-hearted cliffhanger that shows the joys of Saturday Matinee moviegoing and what could be done on less-than-spectacular budgets as well as illustrating the early days of flying,   seat of your pants filmmaking from the seat of your pants days of Aviation.

 

Also included as bonus features:

 

  1. “Flying Cadets” (1928) 2-reel short with great vintage plane shots filmed at Brooks Field, TX
  2. New York Censor Board File (some scenes were required to be cut for the serial to be shown in the State of New York!)
  3. Gallery of original posters and lobby cards

 

DVD BASICS

 

Retail: $24.99

Amazon Price: $19.99

Language: English title cards

Running Time:

Color: Original color tints

Year: 1928

Rating: Not Rated

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 – 4X5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

— Out of Sight Out of Mind

soldier and the lady one sheet.png

Through the years I’ve unearthed and released a number of pictures originally distributed by major studios.

One top-of-the bill picture I’ve held off offering on DVD until now is “The Soldier and the Lady,” produced and released by RKO Radio Pictures in 1937.

It’s a good movie…a staple on the late, late show in the 1950s and early 60s, but only sporadically seen since. Too bad, because it’s a fast paced and thoroughly enjoyable adventure picture from producer Pandro S. Berman, complete with a rousing music score, and a whipping sequence that somehow passed the censors. What’s not to like?

I call movies like this “out–of–sight–out–of-mind” pictures. Translation: People don’t know ‘em, don’t buy ‘em, I make no money on ‘em, but go ahead and release ‘em anyway.

Film historian, Richard M Roberts, and frequent KPF and Sprocket Vault collaborator contributed this:

THE SOLDIER AND THE LADY

Based on the story Michael Strogoff by Jules Verne, this epic action adventure follows a courageous courier of Tsar Alexander II as he struggles to deliver vital information to Russian troops fighting a losing battle against invading Tartar hordes in Siberia. It’s a straight ahead action film, adventurous, swiftly paced and blood-thirstily satisfying. The lady in the title has practically nothing to do with it.

Michael Strogoff: the Tsar’s Courier is a famous novel written by Jules Verne in 1876 that tells the story of its title character who is sent to the far east of Russia to warn the governor of Irkutsk about the trainer Ivan Ogareff, who incites rebellion and plans to destroy Irkutsk. This serial-like adventures of Strogoff and his friends battling a Tartar rebellion has captivated Verne fans for decades despite it being one of the author’s few non-science fiction works.

That said, one of the eternal movie history questions may indeed be just how many versions of Michael Strogoff do we really need? More than ten at casual count, and apparently a number of those were produced or coproduced by one Joseph N. Ermolieff, a White Russian who was one of the major film producers under the Tsar, and a political exile himself who escaped to France when came the revolution and spent the next several decades as an ex-patriot film producer over many continents. He apparently owned the rights to Verne’s novel and every decade or so managed to crank out or be involved in the cranking out of at least one new version of the peace, including a lavish three-hour French silent masterpiece directed by Victor Tourjansky and starring Ivan Mouskoujine. Then in 1935, Ermolieff produced a new French-German co-production directed by Richard Eichberg and starring Anton Wahlbrook that utilizes some footage from the 1926 version. As if this was not enough, what does Ermolieff go and do but take this 1935 version and Wahlbrook to America the following year and sell RKO on yet another remake of Strogoff re-using Wahlbrook (or Walbrook as he Anglicized the spelling) and utilizing as much footage from the Eichberg Version as one could possibly match-up with the new American cast. So RKO releases this new version, retitled The Soldier and the Lady (Fair enough, Eichberg’s Version had been titled the Tsar’s Courier) and, surprise, surprise, it’s a grand and glorious flop.

Now hold on, we didn’t say it was a deserved flop, for as patch-job French – German – American co-productions matching up footage of Anton Wahlbrook and sometimes even Ivan Mouskoujine to Anton Walbrook go, it’s pretty amazingly seamless, and Walbrook in his first English – speaking role is a very dashing Strogoff. The American cast has a lot going for it, number one being Akim Tamiroff in top-villainous mode as Ivan Ogareff, and Elizabeth Allan looking reasonably radiant as Nadia. Perhaps some are a bit put-off by comic relief Eric Blore and Edward Brophy as the reporters covering the rebellion, but this author likes both performers and finds them the occasional breath of fresh air amongst all of Walbrook’s masochistic abuse. Okay, when you get down to Ward bond as a tartar things are getting a bit silly but all in all, this Michael Strogoff moves along at an easy-to-take 85 minutes, give you much of the spectacle of the earlier European version, and gives one and incredible lesson in editing and matching old footage.

And it didn’t stop Mr. Ermolieff from making yet more versions of the darn book, next up with a 1944 Mexican version, Miguel Strogoff, I kid you not, and Curt Jurgens went through the tortuous motions again in 1960. Now of course public domain, Jules Verne’s books all seems to be one of those European co-productions they can always get off the ground though remakes seem to have dropped off since the 70s when both a feature and television version appeared. Seems to this one, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a bit more fun, but Michael Strogoff still beats it in the remake department.

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tall lie

 

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 drinking 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.

 

Order the DVD from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OHLR53S

 

Keep up to date with our new Sprocket Vault releases by liking us on Facebook www.facebook.com/sprocketvault/

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http://bit.ly/2rwgrqs

decomposed

 

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)

 

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By Margia Dean, guest blogger

 

Loan-Shark-kpf-636-cover

 

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.

 

To order DVD’s, visit our site –

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© 2014 Kit Parker Films

30 Margia Glam 2 (2)

“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 from http://www.sprocketvault.com

 

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) *

 

To order on DVD, visit our site –

www.sprocketvault.com

Keep up to date with our new Sprocket Vault releases by liking us on Facebook www.facebook.com/sprocketvault/

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https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLHjjG-o5Ny5BDykgVBzdrQ .

 

 

 

 

z

 

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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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:

http://www.mmmrecordings.com/index.htmlb

The movies themselves are available on DVD from VCI Entertainment:

http://kitparker.com/buy.php

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“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 Deming NM 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.”

http://fiftieswesterns.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/50s-western-scores-by-paul-dunlap-and-bert-shefter/

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There are low budget movies, and there are no-budget movies.

1926

 

        The sound-era came to Weiss Bros. – Artclass Pictures a year before Vitaphone and “The Jazz Singer.”

        Dr. Lee DeForest developed a sound-on-film process in the early 1920s, and many short films used this process, including vaudeville acts and “Song Car-Tunes” produced by Max Fleischer, featuring the bouncing ball. At one time Louis Weiss was the general manager of the DeForest Phonofilm Corporation, but found it difficult to interest the major studios in licensing the early sound process, despite the comparatively good technical quality of many of these films.

        In 1926 Louis persuaded the Phonofilm board to allow Weiss Bros. –Artclass Pictures into distributing a series of the Fleischer cartoons.  The major studios controlled the best theatres, and they weren’t interested in booking the shorts, but Artclass was able to place them into some of the better independent cinemas.  However, the system was doomed, not only by studio indifference, but a series of misfortunes and patent lawsuits that Dr. DeForest was unable to overcome.

1927 – 1928

Artclass produced and released only silent films during these two years.  (See my earlier posts.)

1929

        By the later part of the 1920s, the Brothers Adolph, Louis and Max had amassed a considerable amount of valuable real estate, and traded heavily on the stock market.  After the market crash, their highly-leveraged holdings tumbled and much of their fortunes vanished. Among their losses included the property that later became the site of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  

        The first Weiss Bros. talkie was “Unmasked” a leaden and stage-bound mystery based on a Craig Kennedy crime novel, and starring Robert Warwick.  It survives only in fragments.

        “Unmasked” was the last collaborative production effort by the three Weiss brothers.  Thereafter, Louis Weiss became the driving force behind Artclass and its future offshoots, although his brothers, Adolph and Max retained a modest financial interest until 1935.

        The only other releases for 1929 were two silent films to which Artclass had only limited rights:  An Art Mix western, produced by Victor Adamson, “Below the Border”; and “Two Sisters” a crime adventure starring Viola Dana, in a dual role, and Rex Lease.  

1930

        Next year, as expected, there was a lean release schedule.  Only one film, “Damaged Love,” (alternate title: “Pleasant Sins”), managed to complete production.  Starring future cowboy star Charles Starrett (as Charles R. Starrett), the melodrama was based on a 1919 play, “Our Pleasant Sins.”  Much needed cash was brought in to Artclass when Louis arranged a buyout deal for the film with Sono-Art World Wide Pictures, which released it early the next year.

        Weiss picked up two exploitation melodramas from Windsor Picture Plays: “Her Unborn Child,” an anti-abortion melodrama based on the play of the same name, of note because it was Elisha Cook, Jr.’s. debut film role (Louis made several unsuccessful attempts at getting the picture remade as late as 1955); and, “Today,” acquired from Majestic Pictures on a limited distribution basis, starring Conrad Nagle…a topical subject about a wealthy couple losing their fortune, with the exploitation angle being the wife’s wandering into prostitution rather than giving up her lavish lifestyle. 

1931

 

        Artclass reactivated when Louis concluded a deal with Alfred T. Mannon’s Supreme Features, Inc., Ltd. (not to be confused with A. W. Hackel’s Supreme Pictures*) to produce and/or finance a slate of pictures.  In 1933 H.E.R. Laboratories foreclosed on the pictures, and conveyed them to  Aladdin Pictures Corp. (Samuel Tulpin), which caused a series of legal problems because Max Weiss had licensed the pictures to States Rights distributor, J. H. Hoffberg Co. without the permission of H.E.R. or Aladdin.  The suit continued for a year until Artclass settled with Tulpin and took undisputed legal possession of the library.

        The movies were produced by Louis Weiss and frequent Weiss collaborator, George Merrick, although the producer credit given is Supreme Features, Inc., Ltd., Alfred T. Mannon, President. (Mannon went on to form Resolute Pictures.)

 

        The slate of Supreme Features pictures were comprised of a romantic-drama, “Pleasure,” starring Conway Tearle and Carmel Myers; a crime-drama, “Night Life in Reno,” with Virginia Valli; a mystery, “Convicted,” starring Aileen Pringle; and “Cavalier of the West,” the first of four westerns starring Harry Carey.  The balance of the Supreme titles were released later in 1932.  

        Another five features were acquired from independent producers for distribution on a limited territory basis: “Maid to Order,” was the first release from the “new” Artclass, it came from Jesse Weil Productions and starred the legendary female impersonator, Julian Etlinge; “Pueblo Terror,” a Buffalo Bill, Jr. western from West Coast Pictures ; “White Renegade,” a western from Carlsbad Productions starring Tom Santschi; a crime melodrama, “The Sea Ghost,” starring Alan Hale and Laura LaPlante from Peerless Productions (Alfred T. Mannon); a horror-thriller oddity, “The Phantom,” with a miscast Guinn “Big Boy” Williams; and a drama, “Soul of the Slums,” starring William Collier, Jr., the latter two from producer Ralph M. Like.

1932

 

        “Uncle Moses” was certainly a unique 1932 release, and the only production from Louis Weiss’, Yiddish Talking Pictures, Inc.  Produced by Louis, and spoken entirely in Yiddish, it came about at the suggestion of his friend, German director, Max Nosseck, who had produced “Der Schlemiel” the year before.  Based on the 1919 novel by Sholem Ash, and subsequent stage play of the same name, it starred Maurice Schwartz, founder of the Yiddish Art Theatre in New York.  (Character actor, Shimen Ruskin, started his career as an assistant director on this film.) As expected, it performed well at the boxoffice in cities with large Jewish populations, especially in New York City, but it also became a non-theatrical evergreen when it was exhibited to Jewish groups in 16mm.

        Supreme Features offered “Cross-Examination,” a mystery-drama starring H.B. Warner and Sally Blane; “They Never Come Back,” a boxing drama with Regis Toomey and Dorothy Sebastian; three Harry Carey westerns, “Cavalier of the West,” “Border Devils,” and “The Night Rider,” which was the final curtain for Weiss Bros. – Artclass Pictures. “The Drifter” a melodrama starring William Farnum and Noah Beery, was acquired from producer Willis Kent for limited distribution.  

1933

        Three new entities took the now-moribund Artclass’ Pictures place: Weiss Productions, Inc. (1933-38), Superior Talking Pictures, Inc. (1933-35), and Stage and Screen Productions, Inc. (1933-46).   Robert Mintz was the president of all three, although some trades listed Edmund Souhami in the top spot.  In fact, he was only a short-time board member.  

        Louis Weiss and Robert Mintz envisioned producing movies based on plays that had been performed on Broadway.  Despite only 28 performances on Broadway, their first effort was “Before Morning,” a mystery melodrama starring Leo Carrillo, produced by Weiss Productions (Louis Weiss as supervising producer), and released by Stage and Screen. 

        Superior acquired three westerns from producer Victor Adamson, “Circle Canyon” with Buddy Roosevelt; two Buffalo Bill, Jr.’s, “Fighting Cowboy” and “Lightning Range,” particularly shoddy productions for which one would think even the most unsophisticated audiences would demand their money back; “Sucker Money” was an expose of the “psychic racket” from producer Willis Kent (as Real-Life Dramas), directed by Dorothy (Mrs. Wallace) Reid, and starring Mischa Auer.  “Trails of Adventure,” a no-budget Buffalo Bill, Jr. western, from American Pictures Corp., was released in limited territories.  Stage and Screen acquired rights for limited territories to Allied Pictures’ (M.H. Hoffman) “The Eleventh Commandment,” a drama starring Marian Marsh.

1934

 

        International Stageplay Pictures, Inc., was set up as a derivative of Superior Talking Pictures, Inc., with the goal of realizing Weiss/Mintz’ Broadway-to-film aspirations.  It’s one and only release was “Drums O’ Voodoo” (“Louisiana” was an alternate title), with an all-black cast, produced by Louis Weiss, starring Laura Bowman and J. Augustus Smith, who wrote the play and screenplay.  Produced on Broadway by the Negro Theatre Guild, it closed after less than ten performances.   The movie is little more than a filming of the play, with a miniscule budget reportedly using short ends of film stock.  In 1940 Louis reissued it under the title “She Devil.”  State’s Righter, Sack Amusement Enterprises, a specialist in distributing ‘race pictures,’ got considerable playdates for several years thereafter.  

        Exploitation Pictures, another Superior Talking Pictures spinoff, released but one picture, “Enlighten Thy Daughter” (reissue title,” Blind Fools”), a remake of a 1917 wayward-youth drama, produced by Robert Mintz and starring Herbert Rawlinson.   

        Producer Victor Adamson was responsible for three more Buffalo Bill, Jr.’s, “Rawhide Romance,” “Riding Speed” and “Lightning Bill,” and two Buddy Roosevelt’s, “Range Riders” and “Boss Cowboy,” a remake of “Cyclone Buddy” (Artclass/1924), all released by Superior. 

        Adamson told producer-historian, and editor of the favorite magazine of my youth, Screen Thrills Illustrated (1962-64), Sam Sherman, told me that Adamson accused Weiss Productions of purposefully bankrupting Superior in a scheme to swindle him out of royalties and his negatives.  I have no information on such a dispute.

        In November of 1934, Superior inked a deal with Ralph M. Like, owner of a small studio doing business as Argosy Pictures, to make two westerns for $3,900 each, and two “northwest” pictures (1930’s producer-speak for a Canadian Mounties picture) for $4,400 each, with 24,000 feet of picture and track raw stock included for each production…not a lot left over for retakes!

        Weiss Productions, formed in 1933, released its first production, a Wally Wales western, “Way of the West,” produced by Robert Tansey.

         Producer Willis Kent’s Real Life Dramas, provided a drama, directed by Mrs. Wallace Reid, “The Woman Condemned,” with Claudia Dell, and a Reb Russell western, “Fighting Through,” both released by Superior.

        Stage and Screen’s releases included “Inside Information,” with 38 and 60 minute versions (even the 38 min. version is too long!); the first of three Tarzan the Police Dog Police Melodramas from Consolidated Pictures Corp. (Bert Sternbach, Albert Herman), starring, in addition to Tarzan, of course, Rex Lease, in a rare non-western role; and the first seven of a series of eight two-reel Wally Wales and Buffalo Bill, Jr. westerns, and perhaps some other titles from William Pizor’s Imperial Productions, to which, I believe S&S had only limited distribution rights.

1935

 

        Four Rex Lease westerns came from Weiss Productions and Argosy Productions, produced by Louis Weiss and George Merrick: “Cyclone of the Saddle” (Rough Riders series), “Fighting Caballero,” “Pals of the Range,” “Rough Riding Ranger”; a northwest, “The Silent Code,” starring Kane Richmond and featuring Rex, King of Dogs as played by “Wolfgang,” produced by Louis Weiss; two more Tarzan the Police Dog’s from Consolidated Pictures, “Captured in Chinatown” with Marion Schilling, and “The Million Dollar Haul,” with Kane Richmond.

        “The Drunkard” was an old temperance melodrama allegedly first staged in 1843 by P.T. Barnum, then in 1933 it was revived on the stage at Los Angeles’ Theatre Mart.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, Louis Weiss, under the Exploitation Pictures banner (it was ultimately produced by Bert Sternbach and released as a “Weiss Production” through Stage and Screen), optioned the rights to make a motion picture.  Weiss hired former silent-era stars James Murray, ironically a chronic alcoholic after triumphing in King Vidor’s “The Crowd” (MGM, 1928), as the lead, joined by Clara Kimball Young, Bryant Washburn, and other veterans in support.  Louis planned to road show the film around the country with stars of the film making personal appearances. However, James Murray tragically died a hopeless drunk at age 35, one year after production wrapped.  

        Ten years later, Joseph E. Levine, operating from his State’s Rights film exchange in Boston, purchased all rights for $5,000 ($61,000 in today’s dollars…far more than its production budget), and cut it down for inclusion as a segment in his first feature film, “Gaslight Follies” (Embassy/1945). 

        All of the Weiss Productions were released by Superior Talking Pictures, except for “Million Dollar Haul,” which was distributed through Stage and Screen.

 

        The four proposed Argosy productions mentioned earlier ended up as  three Rex Lease westerns distributed by Stage and Screen, “Cyclone of the Saddle” “Ghost Rider” (Lone Rider series) and “Cowboy and the Bandit,” the latter somehow billed as from International Pictures.

        Stage and Screen also released two Northwest  Morton of the Mounted adventures from Weiss Productions (sometimes credited to “Empire Pictures,” which may have been only a regional distributor), “Courage of the North” and “Timber Terrors,” with John Preston, Dynamite, The Wonder Horse and Captain, The King of Dogs!

        Limited territory releases included “Get That Man” (Scott-Bennet Productions/Mayfair Pictures), with Wallace Ford, and “Arizona Trails,” an Art Mix (Victor Adamson) western.

        By this time the Brothers had the controlling interest in the Hillcrest Golf Club in Jamaica, New York, and Utopia Park Villas of Flushing New York, and Hillcrest Manor, also in Flushing.  Adolph and Max sold their film interests to Louis.

        Max Weiss left the picture business altogether and stayed on the East Coast, only occasionally visiting Adolph and Louis in Los Angeles. 

        Adolph, the introspective and much loved Weiss brother who mentored his younger brothers in the business, and set the foundation for the various Weiss brothers motion picture exhibition, production and distribution businesses, allegedly became a wealthy man.  He chose to dabble in various production manager capacities for Louis, where cast and crew affectionately called him “Uncle Adolph,” overlooking his obsession of stopping production caravans to collect empty bottles and return them for the deposits.  In his mid-50s, he pursued, and got, his dream job…working in the wardrobe department at MGM. 

        Louis continued his dream job — to produce movies, especially serials, and it wasn’t long before he earned the nickname of “Mr. Serials.”

The Serials: 1935 – 1938

 

         Louis’ first talkie chapter play was to be called “The Mysterious Pilot,” and star famed aviator, Wiley Post, who, among other feats, had been the first man to fly solo around the world.  In late July, 1935, Post told Louis he’d be ready to start work in two weeks, after returning from a flight to Siberia with Will Rogers, but the two perished in a remote part of Alaska.

        Three Weiss Productions (Louis Weiss/Robert Mintz) serials were filmed and released in quick succession in 1936, “Custer’s Last Stand,” with Rex Lease was the first.  To promote it, an elaborate insert was placed in the December 14, 1935 issue of Boxoffice Magazine (see above.)  The first three episodes received uniform acclaim in the trades, and Weiss and Mintz plastered them all over the insert.  The balance of 12 chapters were duds.    

        Louis’ son Martin told me that one of the great thrills of his youth was being on the set of “Custer’s Last Stand” and watching the wind blow the curtain off the outdoor dressing room of actress Ruth Mix (daughter of Tom Mix), completely exposing her for a brief instant for all to see…an instant he can still describe in vivid detail over 75 years later. 

 

        A Craig Kennedy mystery, “The Amazing Adventures of the Clutching Hand” (the alternate, and feature version title was “The Clutching Hand”), followed in 1936, with Jack Mulhall in the title role.  Fifteenth down the cast was Charles Locher, who became known as Jon Hall, and an instant star in John Ford’s “The Hurricane” (Samuel Goldwyn-UA/1937).  Not to miss an exploitation angle, Louis later inserted a full-frame title, “Starring Jon Hall,” into the negative.  It was such a blatant example of false advertising, even from a Poverty Row studio, that the title was subsequently removed, although it occasionally pops up on public domain DVD’s.

 

        “The Black Coin,” a mystery with Ralph Graves, was the third and final serial.  Both “Custer” and “Clutching” were also released in cut-down feature versions.

        Among the files I donated to the Margaret Herrick Library of the AMPAS, are pay stubs for the actors performing in some of the early talkies and serials, and they were miserly.  Ruth Mix, second-billed in one serial, and fourth in the other two, was paid only $3.75 a day for her work…and despite being subjected to embarrassment due to the “tent malfunction,” felt compensated enough to write a “thank you” note to Louis, asking him to consider her for any roles  in his future productions!  (Yakima Canutt was by far the highest paid performer in the three serials, getting $125 a day for risking his life doing stunt work.)

        Other proposed serials, “The Phantom Railroad,” “Pony Express,” and “Jungle Perils,” touted as an amazing African Adventure by the Intrepid Herbert Bruce, were never produced.

 

        Weiss Productions, operating as Adventure Serials, Inc., produced three chapter plays under Louis’ supervision for Columbia Pictures: “Jungle Menace” (1937), starring outdoor adventurer Frank “Bring ‘em Back Alive” Buck; “The Secret of Treasure Island” (1938) a pirate adventure starring Don Terry; and the reactivated Wiley Post adventure, “The Mysterious Pilot” (1938), starring another famous pilot, Frank Hawks, who himself died in an aviation crash one year later.  

        L. Ron Hubbard, later the founder of Scientology, regularly peddled stories to Louis, and according to Martin Weiss, said he was going to start a religion.  Louis retained Hubbard to write the screenplay for “Island,” and reportedly to work on the script for “Pilot.”   

        Upon delivery of the last serial to Columbia, the former Weiss Bros. production and distribution offshoots, for all intents and purposes ceased; although Stage and Screen continued as a corporate entity until 1946. 

 

        The majority of the original nitrate negatives of the sound era were burned in a vault fire.  I practically cried when I saw so many of the old film element cards boldly rubber stamped “AXED.” Fortunately, by that time most of the sound features and serials had been transferred to 35mm safety fine grains to facilitate the manufacture of 16mm negatives.  Although the silent features and serials were “axed,” the comedy shorts were preserved.  They are stored in temperature and humidity controlled vaults at the UCLA film and Television Archive, and the Academy Film Archive (AMPAS). 

        In 1940 Louis Weiss purchased last of the old guard, Robert Mintz’, interest in Stage and Screen Productions, and Louis’ son Adrian joined the board of directors.  It was a new era for Louis, Adrian, and, later his brother, Martin, and grandson Steven.  More “Weiss” stories to follow, and as well as a complete sound-era filmography.

* The Supreme Pictures releases were not released theatrically by any of the Weiss entities, but Louis did purchase sixteen Bob Steele and eight Johnny Mack Brown Supreme westerns  outright from A.W. Hackel in the late 1940s for use on television.

Sources: Bob Dickson, Margaret Herrick Library AMPAS   American Film Institute, Boxoffice Magazine, December 14, 1935, Film Daily Yearbook, I Went That-a-Way: The Memoirs of a Western Film Director Harry Fraser by  Wheeler  W. Dixon and Audrey Brown Fraser (Scarecrow, 1990), IMDb, International Motion Picture Almanac 1936-37, Kit Parker Collection, Margaret Herrick Library AMPAS, New York State Archives, Poverty Row Studios, 1929 – 1940, by Michael R. Pitts (McFarland, 1997), Sam Sherman, Martin Weiss, Steven Weiss, U.S. Copyright Office

(c) 2012 Kit Parker Holdings, LLC

Kit Parker Films/Weiss Bros. Collection on DVD: 

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https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLHjjG-o5Ny5BDykgVBzdrQ .

Other Weiss Bros. releases available from VCI Entertainment:

“Boss Cowboy” http://store.vcientertainment.com/product/buddy_roosevelt/125

“Cavalier of the West” http://store.vcientertainment.com/product/cavalier_of_the_west/123

“Circle Canyon” http://store.vcientertainment.com/product/circle_canyon/125

“Cowboy and the Bandit” http://store.vcientertainment.com/product/COWBOY_AND_THE_BANDIT/128

“Fighting Caballero” http://store.vcientertainment.com/product/FIGHTING_CABALLERO/128

“Last of the Clintons” http://store.vcientertainment.com/product/LAST_OF_THE_CLINTONS/130

“Pals of the Range” http://store.vcientertainment.com/product/PALS_OF_THE_RANGE/145

“Range Riders” http://store.vcientertainment.com/product/RANGE_RIDERS/144


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