Motion Picture Herald (Jul-Aug 1944)

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MOTION PICTURE HERALD MARTIN QUIGLEY COLVLN BROWN. Publisher President and Editor-in-Chief TERRY RAMSAYE. Editor Vol. 156, No. 5 BXtEfl JulV 29' 1944 BUILDING CODE THE making of a new building code for New York State affecting theatres, recently discussed in the news pages of Motion Picture Herald, progresses constructively under an exceptional state of cooperation between the industry and state authority. Meanwhile, the impetus toward higher safety resulting from the Boston Cocoanut Grove fire has been additionally spurred by the circus tent fire at Hartford. Under such pressures there often has been a swing to extremes, with a tendency to devise arbitrary, impractical and costly provisions. And sometimes these have proved to be more gestures than effective measures. In this fortunate instance, however, the New York State Commissioner of Labor, who is the code authority — and might, under the law, have acted arbitrarily — has elected to take into counsel representative theatre men and to defer revisions until they have been heard. Current re-examination of building codes in a number of these suggests that the formulation of a basic building code for motion picture theatres might well be a job for the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, with an eye to a national standardization, eliminating some of today's regional conflicts. ■ ■ ■ "NO SUNDAY ARTICLE" THE other day this page made mention of a fund established by Mr. John Golden, producer, for the saving of the stage and the salvation of the drama. That came somewhat in sequel to a birthday interview by The Herald with Mr. William A. Brady who observed that all the playwrights had gone to Hollywood. The stage admittedly has rather gone to pot. But a full realization of the extent of this development — and development it is — is to be had of this loafing Sunday examining the dire state of those palladiums of the art, the dramatic pages of The New York Times, staid and orthodox, and of The New York Herald Tribune, which is anyway staid. They are plainly in a bit of a fix. In ordinary summer dramatic doldrums Mr. Brooks Atkinson used to take refuge in extended nature notes under the heading of "No Sunday Article". But last Sunday that space was taken over by a piece by Miss Edith J. R. Isaacs, editor of Theatre Arts Magazine, trying to explain that the playwrights are all writing something else. Also, now for several weeks, the long reluctant Times has moved over Mr. Bosley Crowther's principal piece on the movies to its dramatic section, Page I. That is almost as radical, for The Times, as its initiation of a motion picture review column, during the last war. It was a sideline job then, done by the late Mr. James Oliver Spearing, assistant city editor. PRIOR to that, about the only attentions the motion picture got in The Times was in some six-point miscellany, written by Mr. Brock Pemberton, then stage reporter. He admitted that he did that only because he and your editor both came from Kansas. Anyway, the movies are first-page stuff in The New York Times now, by reason of the retreat of the stage. The Herald Tribune has long given the screen a top-of column position on the first page of the dramatic section, but this last Sunday the movies had both sides. Mr. Howard Barnes, drama critic, also movie critic, these days, did an extended reconsideration of "Dragon Seed", which he still likes, and Mr. Otis L. Gurnsey, Jr., with apology for "inactivity of the legitimate theatre", led the other side of the page with a reconsideration of "Since You Went Away", which he considers a great picture, except that it ought to be recut. His big hand goes to Mr. Joseph Cotten and Soda, the venerable bulldog. Also in the Tribune that indefatigable bon vivant and raconteur, Mr. Lucius Beebe, in valiant pursuit of a stage item, wound up in Miss Barbara O'Neill's backyard, interviewing her in green carpet slippers on the intelligence content of plays, if any. Mr. Richard Watts, Jr., until the war in charge of dramatic affairs, tried to come to the rescue from Chungking, and ran up considerable space on the fact that he could find no show, no night club, only a crap game, in that world capital. That is what Hollywood has done to the stage. THE DURBIN ADVENTURE FOR a while now Universal Pictures has been confronted by the fact that Deanna Durbin has been growing up. In fact, they found a while back that she was quite grown-up. She was and is a large artistic and financial fact in that corporation and at the box offices served. Something had to be done about it, in a definite fashion. So came "Christmas Holiday", .in which Miss Durbin is her adult age and a tragedienne, not an ingenue. Also she emerges as actress, not songbird. Many an exhibitor and all of the critics decided that "Christmas Holiday" was all wrong and that Miss Durbin was miscast, mishandled and would arrive nowhere. The picture was a complete break with those successes that had gone before, including "Hers to Hold", a release of July, '43, and "His Butler's Sister" which went into the eager market of last November. Meanwhile, the public had not been consulted. Now the box office reports come in, the home office figures on which they pay off. Taking the totals for a series of directly comparable engagements, it is found that "Christmas Holiday" has so far done I I I per cent of the business of "His Butler's Sister", 118.3 per cent of "Hers to Hold", 107.1 per cent of "Ali Baba" and 109 per cent of "Gung Ho". This makes Miss Durbin's latest the best she has had with Universal and additionally very probably Universal's top picture. VITACRAPH PASSES BY official announcement the name of Vitagraph, Inc., passes into history August I when its name is to be changed to Warner Brothers Pictures Distributing Corporation. Vitagraph was among the first great concerns of the industry. It appeared in 1897, when Mr. James Stuart Blackton, car [Ccmtimied on following page, column 1]