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Posts Tagged ‘Maury Dexter

talk's cheap

 

…producer-exhibitor Robert L. Lippert’s mantra and, appropriately, the title Mark Thomas McGee’s biography/filmography of the man and his films as published by BearManor Media.   I’m a B-movie aficionado, and this book is a real page-turner.

 

“I’m not in this for personal glory, I’m giving the public and the exhibitors the films they want for purely commercial reasons.”  – Robert L. Lippert

 

Robert L. Lippert, produced close to 250 feature films, including “The Steel Helmet” (1951), and “The Fly” (1958), and distributed scores more on behalf of other producers.  He launched the careers of Samuel Fuller, James Clavell, and others; and owned a theatre circuit of well over 100 theatres.  But, he flew under the radar to the degree that only hard-core movie buffs even know him.  My company owns all rights to over 100 Lippert productions, and I tried to shed at least some light on Lippert and his films in my blogs and DVD special features, but Mark does the job right.

 

Mark McGee wasn’t given an easy task:  Lippert shied away from giving interviews, and only two people who worked with Lippert are still living, actress Margia Dean, and production head/producer/director Maury Dexter.  Mark really did a lot of digging and I believe has revealed almost  everything about Lippert that isn’t lost to time.

 

Lippert’s biography is intertwined with Mark’s observations about the films as separated into four main chapters dealing with Lippert’s four production companies: Screen Guild Productions and Lippert Pictures (produced and distributed in-house), Regal Films, Inc., and Associated Producers (produced for release through Fox).  I think this was the appropriate method because in real life it was truly hard to separate Lippert the man from his movies (and his theatre circuit.)

 

Lippert seldom had artistic pretentions.  Many of his productions are at best less than notable — certainly by and large ignored by the critics.  Mark lists every, and describes most, Lippert film.  I really enjoyed the comments of exhibitors who actually played the films.  This was back in the day when every small-town theatre manager stood in the lobby and said goodnight to patrons as they exited.  Sometimes the managers hid, but most times the audiences for whom Lippert produced his films were more than satisfied.  Less sophisticated audiences during the 1940s and early 1950s often preferred Lippert productions over those from the major studios.  Don’t believe me?  Read the book!   I read every one of those critiques in one sitting.  Better than a box of See’s Candies.

 

Lippert productions and co-productions available on DVD from VCI Entertainment:

 www.vcient.com

Key: Theatrical distributors: LP = Lippert Pictures; SG = Screen Guild Productions; Hammer = Lippert/Hammer Films Co-production

APACHE CHIEF (1950) LP

ARSON, INC. (1950) LP

AS YOU WERE (1951) LP

BAD BLONDE (1953) UK: Flanagan Boy, Hammer, LP

BANDIT QUEEN, THE (1950) LP

BIG CHASE, THE (1954) LP

BLACK GLOVE, THE (1954) UK: Face the Music, Hammer, LP

BLACK PIRATES, THE (El pirata negro) (1954) US-Mexico, LP

BLACKOUT (1954) UK: Murder by Proxy, Hammer, LP

BORDER RANGERS (1950) LP

CASE OF THE BABY SITTER (1947) Featurette, SG

COLORADO RANGER – TV: Guns of Justice (1950) LP

COWBOY, THE (1954) LP

CROOKED RIVER – TV: The Last Bullet (1950) LP

DALTON GANG, THE (1949) LP

DANGER ZONE (1951) LP

DEADLY GAME, THE (1954) UK, Third Party Risk, Hammer, LP

DEPUTY MARSHAL (1949) LP

EVERYBODY’S DANCIN’ (1950) LP

FANGS OF THE WILD aka Follow the Hunter (1954) LP

FAST ON THE DRAW – TV: Sudden Death (1950) LP

FBI GIRL (1951) LP

FINGERPRINTS DON’T LIE (1951) LP

GAMBLER AND THE LADY (1952) UK, Hammer, LP

GLASS TOMB, THE (1955) UK: The Glass Cage, Hammer, LP

GREAT JESSE JAMES RAID, THE (1953) LP

GUNFIRE (1950) LP

HAT BOX MYSTERY, THE (1947) Featurette, SG

HEAT WAVE (1954) UK, House Across the Lake, Hammer, LP

HELLGATE (1952) LP-D

HIGHWAY 13 (1948) SG

HI-JACKED (1950) LP

HOLIDAY RHYTHM (1950) LP

HOLLYWOOD VARIETIES (1950) LP

HOSTILE COUNTRY – TV: Outlaw Fury (1950) LP

I SHOT BILLY THE KID (1950) LP

I’LL GET YOU (1953) UK: Escape Route, LP

JUNGLE GODDESS (1948) SG

JUNGLE, THE (1952) LP

KENTUCKY JUBILEE (1951) LP

KING DINOSAUR (1955) LP

LEAVE IT TO THE MARINES (1951) LP

LITTLE BIG HORN (1951) LP

LOAN SHARK (1952) LP

LONESOME TRAIL, THE (1955) LP

MAN BAIT (1952) UK: The Last Page, Hammer, LP

MAN FROM CAIRO, THE (1953) Italy-UK-USA, LP

MARSHAL OF HELDORADO – TV: Blazing Guns (1950) LP

MASK OF THE DRAGON (1951) LP

MASSACRE (1956) Fox

MOTOR PATROL (1950) LP

MR. WALKIE TALKIE (1952)

OPERATION HAYLIFT (1950) LP

OUTLAW COUNTRY (1949) SG

PAID TO KILL (1954) UK, Five Days, Hammer, LP-D

PIER 23 (1951) LP

QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS (1947) SG

RACE FOR LIFE (1954) UK: Mask of Dust, Hammer, LP

RADAR SECRET SERVICE (1950) LP

RENEGADE GIRL (1947) SG

RETURN OF JESSE JAMES, THE (1950) LP

RIMFIRE (1948) LP

RINGSIDE (1949) LP

ROARING CITY (1951) LP

SAVAGE DRUMS (1951) LP

SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR (1952) UK: Lady in the Fog, Hammer, LP

SHADOW MAN, THE (1953) UK: Street of Shadows, Hammer, LP

SILVER STAR (1955) LP

SINS OF JEZEBEL (1953) LP

SKY HIGH (1951) LP

SKY LINER (1949) LP

SQUARE DANCE JUBILEE (1949) LP

STOLEN FACE (1952) UK, Hammer, LP

STOP THAT CAB (1951) LP

THEY WERE SO YOUNG (1954) W. Germany-USA, LP

THREE DESPERATE MEN (1951) LP

THUNDER IN THE PINES (1948) SG

TRAIN TO TOMBSTONE (1950) LP

TREASURE OF MONTE CRISTO (1949) LP

UNHOLY FOUR, THE (1954) UK: The Stranger Came Home, Hammer, LP

VARIETIES ON PARADE (1951) LP

WEST OF THE BRAZOS (1950) LP

WESTERN PACIFIC AGENT (1950) LP

WILDFIRE (1945) SG

WINGS OF DANGER (1952) UK; Dead on Course, Hammer, LP

YES SIR, MR. BONES! (1951) LP

Lippert productions directed by Samuel Fuller arevailable on DVD from the Criterion Collection

BARON OF ARIZONA, THE (1950) LP

I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949) LP

STEEL HELMET, THE (1951) LP

Contact:  kit@kitparker.com

(c) 2014 Kit Parker Films

 

 

 

“Today we are engaged in a great Civil ‘Wah’”

— Maury Dexter, from the 3 Stooges short, “Uncivil Warriors” (1946)

Maury Dexter(1)(2) is one of the most interesting individuals I’ve ever seen in the motion picture industry, and he’s put his amazing rags to riches life into words in a well-written, page-turning, autobiography, “Road to Hollywoodthe hard way.”   

Maury was born into dirt-poor poverty during the Depression in Paris, Arkansas.   Early on, he developed a love of acting, which he parlayed into a successful career as an actor, producer, director of feature films and television programs and, of particular interest to me, head of production for Robert L. Lippert’s Associated Producers, Inc.    

Without the thought of having it published, Maury Dexter wrote his life story to fulfill a personal goal of putting his life story on paper.  Tom Weaver, who interviewed Maury in his book, “I Talked With a Zombie” (McFarland, 2008)(3), couldn’t persuade the usual movie book publishers to take it because they felt their readers might find fault with the first part of the book which covers Maury’s life before becoming involved in the motion picture business.  I suggested to Maury that he release it as an ebook, and after explaining what “email,” “Internet,” and “downloads” meant (He’s just fine with knowing absolutely nothing about computers), he agreed, but didn’t want to make money on it. 

Hat’s off to one of my favorite movie bloggers, Toby Roan, who produced the ebook, and Jim Briggs for designing it.  Here’s the link to Toby’s terrific blog, which includes the link to Maury’s autobiography. 

http://fiftieswesterns.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/maury-dexter-hollywood-the-hard-way/

P.S.  As I write this I’m laughing to myself about Maury’s challenges of producing movies on the meager budgets demanded by his penurious boss, Robert L. Lippert…and especially about how he once achieved the goal of producing two low budget westerns for the price of one.  Then there’s the story about how Samuel Fuller who shot the windows out of….

(1)    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0223317/

(2)    http://billcappello.blogspot.com/2010/11/maury-dexter.html

(3)    http://www.amazon.com/Talked-Zombie-Interviews-Veterans-Television/dp/0786441186/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336102379&sr=1-1

Contact:  kit@kitparker.com

DVD’s:  www.vcient.com

Saved from embarrassment!

Ronnie James, one of the great unsung movie and television researchers, pointed out that I neglected to include the most important Lippert movie of all, THE FLY (1958).  I had intended to highlight it, but instead hit the delete key, the most dangerous key of all!  He also mentioned QUATERMASS 2: ENEMY FROM SPACE (1957) and FROZEN ALIVE (1964)…I’ve asked him to double-check.  Ronnie felt that the Filmography would be more useful and telling, if it was in chronological order.  It started out that way, but I found too much conflicting information among my various research publications.

Film editor and film historian Rick Mitchell has great credentials when it comes to wide screen cinematography. He asked several excellent questions that I’m sure others have wondered about as well.

RICK MITCHELL: I believe there are some errors in the Lippert piece. I don’t believe Sam Fuller’s CHINA GATE and FORTY GUNS were made for Lippert but under a separate deal Fuller’s Globe Productions made with Fox, like Edward L. Alperson’s. THE FLY is not considered a Lippert production but an official Fox one.

THE FLY is definitely a Lippert production. Director Kurt Neumann came to Bob Lippert with the story, and Lippert felt it would be a big hit so, according to Dexter, authorized a $700 – $750K budget…astronomical for a Lippert production, but small by Fox standards. Most of the money went into special effects and, of course, it was filmed (in Canada) in color.  Lippert showed it to Fox president, Spyros Skouras, and he decided to make it a Fox “A” release.

KIT: Sam Fuller was the producer of both CHINA GATE and FORTY GUNS, released in 1957. 

 These were Lippert RegalScope productions that so impressed the Fox brass that they were released as Fox/CinemaScope pictures. Head of production was Bill Magianetti, and his assistant was Maury Dexter.  I spoke to Dexter and he confirmed this and also went into detail about the filming. Maury also told me some great Fuller stories connected with those two pictures which I’ll reveal in a future blog!

RICK: Are you sure THE FLY was filmed in Canada? I’d seen THE GIFT OF LOVE a few weeks before I first saw THE FLY and was shocked to see the same interiors of the house in both films. Fox did recycle standing sets: the schoolroom build for PEYTON PLACE appears in THE YOUNG LIONS and THE LONG HOT SUMMER with no changes, for example.

KIT:  Rick was mostly right…only some scenes were filmed in Montreal, the rest at Fox studios.

In one of my blogs I wrote that Lippert couldn’t put his name on any of his Fox productions because he totally alienated the unions by insisting on releasing his earlier productions to television and refusing to pay residuals.

RICK: Lippert takes executive producer credit on THE YELLOW CANARY (1963).

KIT: Yes, by 1963 the union problems were behind him.

RICK: The first Regal film credited on the film as being in CinemaScope; I haven’t seen any ads or trailers, so I don’t know what’s on them.

KIT:  I do know they used CinemaScope lenses on all of the Regal’s, but Fox didn’t want to use that name on low budget, black and white second features. One thing that continues to stump me is some of the Regal prints have the Fox logo, and other prints of the same picture say Regal Films! Maury Dexter didn’t know, either, so it is a probably a question that will never be answered.

 

RICK:  See attached frame blowup from a friend’s 16mm print of STAGECOACH TO FURY; I now have one of my own. It has the Regal Films logo at the head. I have not seen any of the other RegalScope films released in 1956 and don’t know how they were credited but all Regal films I’ve seen after that were credited in being in RegalScope, including British made THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN OF THE HIMALAYAS, which was actually shot in what’s now called Super 35; [a film collector] e-mailed me that his 35mm print credits Megascope, the term Hammer used for the films it shot in Super 35 and Columbia used on spherical films it released in Europe with anamorphic prints.

RICK: Incidentally, re your Lippert Pictures filmography, THE BIG CHASE was expanded from what was to be 3-D short, I believe BANDIT ISLAND.

 

KIT:  True; producer Robert L. Lippert, Jr. made both the 3D short and incorporated the footage (in 2D) into his feature film, THE BIG CHASE (1954).  The 3D short itself is not known to survive.

RICK:  I believe the color films Lippert did before the formation of Associated Producers were released as official Fox films because they were in color.

KIT: The only two color films that came out of Regal Films were THE FLY (1958) and THE DEERSLAYER (1957), which were released as Fox pictures, but produced by Lippert. When the Fox-Regal deal expired, a new one was set up under the name Associated Producers. Many of those were in color.

RICK: Were CATTLE EMPIRE, VILLA! (both1958) and THE OREGON TRAIL (1959) not part of the Lippert deal? They are credited as being produced by Richard Einfield, the son of a former Fox exhibition executive. I’d gotten the impression that all the obvious color B’s Fox released during the Skouras years went through the Lippert Unit. [condensed for clarity]

KIT: CATTLE EMPIRE, VILLA! And THE OREGON TRAIL are Lippert (API) productions.  I know IMDb isn’t the be-all-end-all of credits, but it doesn’t list CATTLE EMPIRE or VILLA! as Einfield films. Maury thinks Einfield “may” have produced CATTLE EMPIRE, and he did produce OREGON TRAIL.

Both Dexter, and VILLA! star, Margia Dean, confirm that Spyros Skouras’ son, Plato Skouras, produced VILLA!  Dexter says that Plato wanted to be a movie producer so his father assigned him to “produce” some Lippert’s, a way to get him off his back and still allow his son to call himself a producer, although his involvement usually wasn’t much more than as a figurehead.  Dexter adds it was a similar situation with Richard Einfield, whose father was indeed an exhibitor, and therefore a customer of Fox.  He added that Einfield did not have much to do with the actual producing, but did more so than Plato Skouras given Einfield had a background in film editing and directing.

Dexter has given me more details on THE FLY.  He says Lippert read the “The Fly” short story in a 1957 Playboy Magazine, at the suggestion of director Kurt Neumann.  He immediately dispatched someone to Paris to buy the movie rights from its author, George Langelaan.  Langelaan was paid $2,500, a little over $19,000 in 2010 dollars.

I’m thankful for Rick’s questions and comments, and hope he will contribute more.

GREAT NEWS!  Maury Dexter wrote an unpublished autobiography which I found to be a page-turner.  He has asked me to make it available at no charge.  I’ll get to work on the project as soon as I can figure out how to upload the book from a floppy disc!

Recommendations:

Google Rick Mitchell, or start with this site: 

http://www.in70mm.com/workshop/departments/mitchell/index.htm

The Big Chase DVD:

http://vcientertainment.com/forgotten-noir-collectors-p-556.html

  

 

“’The Black Pirates’ (1954) was shit, and ‘Massacre’ was no good either.”  — Producer, Robert L. Lippert, Jr.

By 1959 the Lippert/Fox/Regal Films contract was finished.  However, Fox still needed B movies, and Lippert was always the man for that job.  A new 7-year deal was struck.

The new production entity became known as “Associated Producers, Inc.” (API).  Bill Magginetti continued running the company and, of course, Bob Lippert called the shots.  When the API deal ended, “Lippert Pictures” was reactivated and produced another 10 films for Fox release.

Producer/director Maury Dexter was a pivotal figure during the Lippert-Fox years.  Dexter told me he was born into poverty during Depression-era Arkansas.  He became interested in acting, came to Los Angeles, and had a few bit parts in films, including the 3 Stooges short “Uncivil War Birds (1946), and became involved in TV and stage.  He served in Korea, and soon after was hired by Regal Films head of production, Bill Magginetti, as his assistant.   When Lippert fired Magginetti, Dexter took over.  It was a good decision as Dexter was a natural organizer, could do many things at the same time, quickly and under pressure…the prerequisites for success at Lippert!  In addition to overseeing the company, he personally produced and directed 16 feature films!

After almost two decades in production, Robert L. Lippert returned to Alameda where he died of a heart attack at the age of 67 on November 16, 1976 in Alameda, California.

Lippert Trivia:

Samuel Fuller was set to write and direct a Lippert production of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” in CineColor as announced in exhibitor publications in 1949.   Walt Disney bought the project from Lippert Pictures, either because it inspired him to make his own version, which he eventually did 5 years later, or he had planned making it all along and didn’t want another version to compete against.

Robert L. Lippert entered into negotiations with the Estate of author L. Frank Baum for rights to produce a series of “Wizard of Oz” movies.  The reason he abandoned the project is lost to history.

The shortest shooting schedule of any Lippert production was one day, “Hollywood Varieties” (1950).

The runner up at 58 hours is “Highway 13” (1948).  Coincidentally, it was a 58 minute movie, so it literally took only one hour to produce one minute of screen time!

Lippert productions had a minimum of 50 daily camera set-ups.

Just to prove he could do it, producer Robert L. Lippert decided to direct a movie, “The Last of the Wild Horses” (1948.)  When production fell behind he fired himself and Paul Landres completed the film.  After that Lippert stuck to producing.   BTW, Lippert accorded himself something he never allowed other directors…an extravagant (for a Lippert production) running time of 84 minutes.

After a day of filming “Massacre” (1956) in Guatemala Producer Robert L. Lippert, Jr. was relaxing in his hotel room and heard gun shots in the room next to him.  Recalling that a General was staying there, he immediately calculated it was an assassination (it was.)  Lippert didn’t want to be shot as an eye witness, so he jumped out the window and ran on foot all the way to Mexico, and the cast and crew, who were staying in another hotel, departed by plane.

Again during the filming of “Massacre,” Lippert, Jr. said he was on location in a rural town where he found the electrical power was at best unreliable. Of course power was essential.  To proceed with filming he went to the local airport, such as it was, which was powered by a generator.  He paid off government officials to obtain the airport generator during the daytime hours.  Daytime air operations ceased, and each night the generator was returned to the airport thus enabling planes to once again take off and land.

There wasn’t enough money in the production budget to afford a pirate ship in “The Black Pirates” (1954), so the movie begins with the “pirates” arriving on shore in a row boat.  They never leave land for the entire movie.

Beloved character actor, Sid Melton, made 20 appearances in the early Lippert productions before becoming a TV mainstay.  I asked him why he was in so many, and he replied, “Mr. Lippert had faith in me.”  The fact Melton was willing to work for $140 a week may have helped. (2)

Between 1955 and 1965, Lippert co-financed and/or co-produced  four European productions not released by Fox: “The Quartermass Xperiment” U.S. title, “The Creeping Unknown” (U.K./1955), a Hammer Films production released through United Artists; “The Last Man on Earth” (Italy/1964), filmed in Rome and released by American International Pictures; “Walk a Tightrope” (U.K./1965), released through Paramount; and “The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die” (U.K./1965),  released through Warner Bros.

Margia Dean, Actress and Producer

Several years ago I met Margia Dean, still charming and beautiful, who appeared in 39 Lippert productions.

She revealed a story about Clint Eastwood who appeared with her in “Ambush at Cimarron Pass” (1958).  Years later at a Hollywood function, she ran into the by-then renowned actor-director and couldn’t resist chiding him, “Just remember, I got top billing over you!”

Here are some more fun bits she told me on June 17, 2011: “I was executive producer of ‘The Long Rope’ [1961] starring Hugh Marlowe. That was the only one for Fox. I was associate producer on a couple of others. It came in on time and made money.  I remember that I had difficulty getting respect because I was a woman [producer] and that was very rare in those days.”

“There was a scene in a little Mexican town and it was too bare, so I suggested that they have a few chickens and a stray dog for some atmosphere. Someone said “the producer wants chickens” and when I came on the set it was swarming with chickens!   The writer [Robert Hamner] told me I was the best producer he ever worked for and he worked for several big producers. I remember one was Aaron Spelling.”

I remember that the star wanted some aspirin so I asked the driver to go to the drug store and get some and he replied that according to the union he couldn’t go, he could only drive, so I went along, and got the aspirin. Then, in a cantina scene I asked the prop man to put some serapes on the wall and he said he couldn’t, I would have to hire a drapery man, so I hung them! I hired the director [for “The Long Rope”, William Witney] whom I worked for in another film (Secret of the Purple Reef) [1960] and I sensed he didn’t like taking any suggestions from me!”

* Mr. Lippert did produce, direct and or edit some good films!

The Robert L. Lippert Foundation.  Good overview with biography and filmography, the latter of which I am in the process of revising.

http://robertllippertfoundation.com

“Massacre”:

http://vcientertainment.com/darn-good-westerns-p-550.html

Maury Dexter interviewed by Tom Weaver in “I Talked With a Zombie”

http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-4118-1

“Hollywood Varieties”:

http://vcientertainment.com/showtime-usa-vol-3-p-548.html

 “Highway 13”:

http://vcientertainment.com/forgotten-noir-crime-collection-p-557.html

Margia Dean:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0212869/bio

Interview with Margia Dean (special feature on the “Savage Drums” DVD)

http://vcientertainment.com/sabu-double-feature-p-424.html

Sid Melton:

http://www.bmonster.com/profile38.html

Sources:  Conversations between Kit Parker and Robert L. Lippert, Jr., Maury Dexter, Margia Dean and Sid Melton; issues of Motion Picture Herald and Film Daily Yearbook; the Kit Parker-Lippert Collection at the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; interviews with Maury Dexter and Sid Melton by Tom Weaver in “I Talked With a Zombie” (BearManor Media, 2011).

“That Thanksgiving we had two turkeys”

The early days of television were a boon to independent producers like Lippert because they could now license their movies to television.  The big studios could too, but were afraid to alienate exhibitors they were dependant on to show their new releases.  Although Lippert had problems with exhibitors as well, his first major hurdle were the music composer and musician unions.  He had previously paid them when his movies were first made.  He had the right to show them anywhere, but the unions wanted additional compensation for TV, and threatened television stations if they dared to air them.  At first he replaced the original compositions with monophonic organ scores.  Eventually the original music was restored, but his problems were just beginning.

The Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) told him that unless he gave their members residuals for television airings, he couldn’t use SAG actors in future productions.  Lippert’s position was the same, but he couldn’t make movies without actors, so he closed “Lippert Pictures.”

Lippert still wanted to produce movies, and 20th Century-Fox needed to get out from an edict it handed down to exhibitors.

The Fox problem began after it notified exhibitors that all of their forthcoming productions would be in color, CinemaScope, and stereophonic sound. But Fox still needed “B” movies as second features to its “A” product.  Also, drive-ins were coupling two B’s together as double features.  In any case, Fox couldn’t afford to make them in color.

Lippert and Fox head, Spyros Skouras, came together and created Regal Films, solving both of their problems with one name change.  Ed Baumgarten, former chief loan officer for the motion picture division of the Bank of America, and Vice-President of Lippert Pictures, became the straw man “president” of the company.  Lippert called all the shots, but with his name appearing nowhere in the credits, he was free to sell his movies without fear of union reprisal.

Concurrently, Fox got out of its ill-conceived “color, CinemaScope, stereo sound only” policy by informing exhibitors that the Regal films were independent productions, merely distributed” by Fox…technically true, even though Fox provided the funding.

All of the releases* were black and white and “RegalScope,” which allowed Fox to keep its prestigious “CinemaScope” name off low budget, black and white movies.  Earle Lyon, producer of three Regal films, told me that RegalScope was strictly a name change, and that the lenses used in the RegalScope productions were the same CinemaScope ones used for the regular Fox “A” titles.

Maury Dexter, who started out as Lippert’s assistant in 1956, and later became one of Lippert’s most prolific director and/or producers during the Lippert-Fox era, told me the budgets were only $100,000 (just under $800,000 in 2010 dollars), which is incredibly low considering the production values, such as they were.   I’m told Lippert got an additional $25,000 as a producer’s fee.  “The Fly,” which was in color, cost $700,00 – $750,000 (Approx. $5.5 million in 2010 dollars) according to Maury Dexter who was in charge of production at Lippert.  

The only Regal color productions were “The Deerslayer” (1957), and “The Fly” (1958), which along with Samuel Fuller’s black and white, “China Gate” (1957), were released under the Fox/CinemaScope banner.  When I used to distribute those pictures through Kit Parker Films, there was an occasional instance where one print had a Regal logo, and another a 20th Century-Fox one…I have no idea why.

I asked former exhibitor Shan Sayles, if he played any RegalScope movies.  He told me “Yes, a western double feature that ran on Thanksgiving of 1957,” continuing, “that Thanksgiving we had two turkeys!”

One of the unfortunate hallmarks of many of the Regal titles is too much talk, too little action.    According to his son, Robert L. Lippert, Jr., the elder Lippert knew it was cheaper to film dialogue than action.

Producer Earle Lyon told mes a story about Lippert’s penuriousness while in Montana producing “Stagecoach to Fury” (1956), Lippert’s only Oscar nominee – for best black and white cinematography, when he got a call from the boss asking him to get to Las Vegas right away for an urgent meeting.  The “meeting,” according to Lyon, lasted about three minutes, long enough for Lippert to tell Lyon the movie was not to go one cent over budget.  “Do you understand, not one cent.  Now go back and go to work!”  Why Lippert spent money on a plane ticket to tell Lyon something that he and everyone else knew was an iron-clad rule, remains a mystery!

In 1959 Regal Films was abandoned altogether, but Lippert continued to produce low budget movies for Fox for another ten years.  It puzzles me that Fox didn’t release those films to television.  Instead, Lippert somehow gained control of the Regal library, and in the early 1960s sold them outright to National Telefilm Associates (NTA.)  Paramount is the current owner.

But there’s more to Lippert’s producing career…to be continued…

* At the time of the Regal deal Lippert had one unreleased picture, “Massacre” (1956), a USA-Mexico co-production Lippert and Intercontinental Pictures, Inc.  Fox’s involvement was only as distributor.

(References:  Robert L. Lippert, Jr., Maury Dexter, Earle  Lyon and Sam Sherman)


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