Variety (Jan 1943)

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JaniiaiT <>» W43 Thirty-seventh f^^RIETr Anniversary PICTURES 7 ENTERTAINMENT AND EDUCATION COMPRISE TODAY'S SCREEN MISSION Pioneer in Patriotic Picture Production Sees the Cinema as the Perfect Reportorial Medium, While at the Same Time Amusing U. S. Masses 'JUAREZ; 'ZOLA;-. ^confessions of A NAZI SPY' FORETOLD THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME FILM OUTLOOK FOR 1943 First Quarter Looks Exceptionally Strong, But Midyear Still Vague By Roy Chartier Those of the industry who seek to handicap film in advance of release, laying booking and operating plans in accordance, are finding it Jncreas ingly difficult to get the same information to go by that they have had in the past. Among other things, the distributors are not setting up re- leases as far ahead as they formerly did, nor is there the same assurance as to what will be let loose or what will be held back. Moreover, the theatre operators do not know what selling policies will be, how films will be grouped and which ones, if any are coming up, that will be pre-released at advanced admissions. Likewise, fast selling in some territories and slow qontract^getting in others makes pictures avail- able at. different times when the country is taken as a whole. Thus, as pointed out by theatre men and buyers, it has become almost impossible to make comparisons on value of delivered product on a month-to-month basis. However, for the final quarter of 1942, the quality of product was markedly better than for the same period the year before. While De- cember releases, whether played during thai month or to get dates in January, were about comparable in importance to those obtainable a year ago, both October and November showed vast improvement over the same months in '42, Despite inability to peg pictures that will be definitely released and in what manner they will be made available, in buying and operating quar ters it is believed the first quarter this year will produce a strong lineup of Aim. While the second quarter is termed highly questionable, because book- ing is now so close to release and distributors are not inclined to set dates far ahead—or adhere to them at all times—the assumption is that the market will be given as mony good pictures during the first quarter as distribs And possible. Of course, many of the first-quarter releases, may become blocked in various keys or territories as result of sales resistance, extended engagements and lack of enough first-run houses to accommodate new product as it's ready. In ^ome cases, billings have reached their peaks four to even six months following release because of numerous tac tors which delay tlxem in getting wide circulation. Although some move over houses are being made first-runs, creating a larger number of the latter, this is only a partial solution to the problem. Blocking of new film has reached the most critical stage in keys that are under the vir. tual control of one or two circuits. ON THE HOBIZON A check of pictures which, on paper, looks promising to buyers for this month, February and March, produces a goodly number. Of course, there is no certainty that they will pan out to expectations or that they won't be held back for later availability. From the Metro plant, boxoflfice weight is figured for 'Random Harvest, ■Reunion in France,' 'Stand by for Action.' 'Keeper of the Flame' and Tennessee Johnson' (which latter may be influenced one way or another by sundry protests over the theme). Looking over the Paramount list, buyers are placing reliance upon 'Star Spangled Rhythm,' 'China,' 'No Time for Love,' 'Happy Go Lucky,' 'Miracle of Morgan's Creek' and 'Dixie.' 'China Girl,' 'We Are the Marines,' 'Margin for Error,' 'My Friend Flicka,' 'Immortal Sergeant,' 'Crash Dive' and 'Meanest Man in the World are those from the 20th-Fox mill that stand out on the horizon. Warner Bros., which lists only two pictures for January release in addi tion to 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' at pop prices, is expected to furnish b.o. power through 'Casablanca,' 'Air Farce.' 'Watch on Rhine,' 'Mission to Moscow' and 'Adventures of Mark Twain.' though here as at 20th. it is highly doubtful whether all of these will be available for late winter and early spring showings. RKO will furnish 'Hitler's Children' and 'Fight for Freedom' as well M possibly some others that will do better-than-average business. Coming from United Artists are 'In Which We Serve.' grossing poten tiallties of which are regarded as exceptional, and 'Crystal Ball,' 'Jacare, "Young and Willing' and 'G-String Murders." 'Stage Door Canteen' is not expected until the second quarter. The exhibition field is looking to Universal for The Shadow of a Doubt, Pittsburgh," 'Amazing Mrs. Holllday' and 'Arabian Nights.' whUe on the horizon from Cojumbia and expected to stack up well are The Com mandos Strike at Dawn' and 'Something to Shout About.' others may be rushed into release during the first quarter, while also among pictures not herein mentioned may be some slated for availability before April 1 that will pan out well. Young Extras Balk At Short Location Coin Hollywood, Jan. 3. Studios are up against a shortage Of young male extras required as screen soldiers in the numerous war pictures. Paramount needs 2S0 at- nvosphere players, between the ages Of 18 and 28, for an Arizona loca- tion for 'Five Graves to Cairo,' but "tany of the young men turned oown the Job when they learned ttiey would have to work for $52.50 a week. Youthful extras preferred '0 work in Hollywood at $10.50 a day, with a possibility of premium pay on Sunday. Screen Actors Guild is preparing to open its membership books for male extras 18 to 2S years old. but the plan is still incomplete. Mean while there is a bottleneck. ENCOBE FOR TEAM Hollywood. Jan. 3 Gertrude Michael and Alan Baxter are teamed again at Producers' Re teasing Corp. as leads in 'Casa Ma nana.' slated for production in mid- January. Pair played top rolc.i recently in ■Behind Prison Walls' Cor the same company. By HARRY M. WARNER It is being said, with considerable solemnity but much rooted truth, that the duty of the motion picture industry 'in these days' is dual and clear: it must entertain and in- form. That is indeed its duty, but it is only half of its duty. The whole truth is that in the minds of most persons 'these days' mean the war days, whereas any thinking in- Harry M. Warner dividual rec- ognises tiiat the first days of the peace will be as critical and be- wildering as the most grievous day of the war period. Actually, the early days of the peace may well be more confusing to the average citizen, since there will be more subtlety and justice required than come during the mass clashing of whole armies. In the hot conflict of warring na- tional ambitions, a stensible man can take his stand for liberality and humanity and, with that stand, can work to see to it that the only acceptable side wins. He may don a uniform and fight for It direct, or he may remain a civilian and do his apportioned share by war work at home, by denying himself for the good of his army, by pledgieg his resources to the maintenance of his country at war. In time of actual war, hysteria and emotion are much a part of the individual and he must not only discipline his own thought but re- ceive from cogent sources all the guidance possible. When the peace comes, the necessity for guided thought and informed opinion be- comes" even more acute, lest the now quieted forces impose on a weary world, an even more terrible and destructive condition than that of full war. In the hands of motion picture makers lies a gigantic obligation. No one man, humble before the fierce winds sweeping his world, can look upon this responsibility with anything but awe. It is at once an honorable responsibility and a frightening one. In the very nature of motion picture creation, such a man must somehow, somewhere find the wisdom to coincide his .re- sponsibilities now with a condition which may obtain months ahead. The mechanics of creating a pho- toplay are slow and no good way of speeding them up yet has been found. Thus & film maker today may think of an informative sub- ject pertinent to its hour, only to find six months later that his fin- ished product is sadly out of step with the swiftly changing times. Wisdom, the fullest possible in- formation, a precise weighing of the probabilities and, let us admit it, an injection of luck, all help a man or a studio, earnestly trying to stand before an appalled world, to say: 'In this way and to our uttermost we have tried to fulfill our duty.' SHIP'S SERVICE Vision—and Coarage For myself, I am proud of what my company, under the production direction of my brother, Jack L Warner, and his associates, has done and is doing. Long ago, when the crooked cross of Germany first became apparent on a horizon in turmoil, we sat down all of us to gether and mapped a course. At the same time we pledged ourselves, no matter what history and fate brought to us. to carry out this course. I believe, and with pride, that up to this point ue have done so and that we will continue to do so. The responsibility to entertain and Inform implies much more than a photographic mirroring ot the times In Its Small Way, This Group (Mrs. Vincent Astor, Mrs. Irving Berlin, Mrs. Larry Lowman, Mrs. Ambrose Chambers, Mrs. Robert Sher- wood) Has Been Doing a Real Job By MRS. W. AVERELL HARRIMAN In the overall picture of 'Show Business at War," in line with 'Variety's* central editorial keynote of this Anniversary Edition, it's only fitting that some prominent wives, related to show business by marriage—perhaps if only faintly, of recent months—have their little chore properly spot- lighted. Because many of the husbands are elsewhere, doing their job for Uncle Sam, some of the Washing- ton, Overseas and 'This Is the Army' widows are grate- ful indeed for having something, such as Ship's Serv- ice, to occupy them. But it's no cinch, considering our meagre budget. -The constant barrage of professional charm which a Minnie (Mrs. Vincent) Astor, a Madeline (Mrs. Robert) Sherwood, a Ginny (Mrs. Ambrose) Chambers, a Whit- ney Bourne, a Barry (Mrs. Lawrence) Lowman and others must turn on in order to ■ get the most 'for free' out of hard-headed but, basically, soft-hearted Mra W. ATCrell business men, is a strain indeed. Harrlman My husband's lend-lease palaver is sometimes as nought compared to the patriotic pitch we give the Brewers Board of Trade, the N. Y. Hotel Men'* Assn., to the Waiters Local 6( who have been perfectly grand), the coatroom concessionaires, who are likewise generous, and others who so nobly, unselfishly, tirelessly and repeatedly contribute so that when a ship comes in we're all set for a big hoopla. Hence, the Ship's Service cognomen. We are committed to the idea that the off-shore sailor, just back from somewheres—convoy, patrol, com- bat, or what—needs a little shore fun quickly. We get the flash a liner is due with 1,000 or 2,000 men. That governs the size of the hotel room we must snare. That's where the affable hotel managers come to the rescue with an available grand ballroom in this or that hostelry. Any of the above women, or Bee~Jennings, or Mrs. William K. (Ann) Vanderbilt, or Mrs. Lowman in the past, gets to work. The waiters chip in their services gratis. Th« American Women's Voluntary Service makes sandwiches and we pay fdr them. We receive syrup, favors, prizes, beer (thanks to the Brewers Board of Trade), free checking, and even a WPA dance band. Minnie Astor and Whitty Bourne as chairmen supervise everything; Ginny Chambers is secretary; as treasurer I watch the sordid financial details. TOUGH SCHEDULES In a five-day week, because, after all, the hotels must do business Sat- urdays and Sundays, we have had as many as eight dances and dinners, which means that the girls must double up, each taking command of boss- ing this or that function. We have since learned to Lindyhop and not reprimand, to chaperone and yet not police. We haven't too much to worry about, because the Shore Patrol is omnipresent when young spirits burst forth. When the boats are big enough, in addition to the SP there's usually a ship's chaplain present to help the cause along. It's easier somvstimes than it sounds. At other times, especially when we've overdone the donation Idea, it's tougher to get things arranged, just so than it should be. So far as the men are concerned, the day before the ship's arrival, of- ficers have issued a colored ticket if a seaman expects to bring his girl or his wife; thus, no pickups from the street are possible. HaU ot them bring their wives. A plain ticket means solo attendance. NO MIXING OF BOATS No mixing of two boats. They're all off the same boat, so there's no friendly rivalry to create bothersome situations. The dancing partners? That's easy. The advertising agencies, the de- partment stores and busine.<is firms, the N. Y. Defense & Recreation Bureau, 99 Park ave., and others, have a flock of young girls willing 'to come to dance with the sailors on their first night off duty. Romance? Oh yes, plenty. We even staged a wedding at one dance In an hour and a half It appeared the couple planned a wedding on the morrow and his shipmates knew of it. They tipped us bS. Ellin Berlin got one of her best lace nightgowns. We got them the bridal suite in the hotel where the Ship's Service dance was taking place. They already had the license. Since the ship's chaplain can only officiate In his or- dained terrain,- we got a clergyman, flowers from downstairs, presents from who-knows-where, and it was a lovely affair. Oh, yes, USO allows us $13,500 per annum to do all this. Any wonder we must 'maneuver' everything? It implies an understanding of and harnessing to the intangibles. These intangibles are best illustrated pictorially. A mighty truth was uttered by a Chinese philospher when he said that one picture is worth a thousand words. However skilled the press and literature have been and are in their reporting of the war. however sincere and faith- ful radio has been. I must still hold that the motion picture is the per- fect reportorial form for a world in a state of uproot and violent change. Before a screen, humanity may sit and watch the other parts of hu- manity as they play their roles in this monster conversion. We may sit in our theatres and with our eyes look upon the Poles, the Greeks, the English, the Chinese, the Russians, the French, the Africans as they live day by day and meet the problems of the hour. . In But Two Hours 1 .Nor does this needful visual ex- amination of the transforming world take a citizen away from his grave duties to his country at war. Indeed, (Continued on page 64)