Variety (Jan 1943)

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10 PICTUHES Thirty-seventh P^RIETY AnniverBary January 6, 1943 King's English As She Is Not Spoken-In England Film Star Highlights Some Curious Lin- guistic Contrasts Despite H'wood Film Influence B) EDWARD C. ROBINSON As the only American acto- to go to England under the auspices of the Office of War Information I have been less the entertainer and more the propagandist in my appear- ances before both the British troops and their Allies. In England and in Scotland I have addressed thousands of these lads, and have been tremendously impressed by their spirit and morale. It seemed to me most of these had pencils and autograph books. Apart from these organized meetings I have spent a great deal of time chatting with individual doughboys. For the first time in their lives they are discovering what the Eng- lish, the Scotch, the Welsh and the Irish are really like in their own homeland. Most of these Yanks had been fore- warned about the British preference for warm beer and the complete absence of iced drinks in the hottest weather. They had heard about the street traffic running the 'wrong' way. From travelled Americans they had had tips about many of the obvious differences between conditions and customs in the British Isles and at home. Nobody had told them (because the ordinary peace-time tourist doesn't stay there long enough to realize it) about the most amazing difference between Americans and British. Today these doughboys know there is as great a difTerence between the English language and their own lingo as there is between cricket and baseball, and that's saying a mouthful. So some of these troopers are taking the trouble to 'learn' English. And here, compositely, is what they will have to thell the folks when they come back home. Say you're billeted in some little village and you get 24 hours leave. Naturally you head for London. If you're wise ding' I not only hadn't tried to make the girl; I'd told her to her face I'd never seen anybody as homely as she *Sez he- 'You couldn't have said anything more flattering if youd tried. Only a man looking for a wife picks out a homely girl, homely in English meaning a girl who is all for home life.' . , .. , , Sez vou: 'Well, that puts a period to It, I guess. Sez "he: No, not in English-English. That punctuation mark in this country is known as a ful l stop.' ^ i Not the Whole of It | Linguistic Robinson OWI officioli aver that the film star, Edward C. Robiiuon, made an espccialtu fine impact in the Euro- pean DX propaganda offensive out of London, speaking over the shortwave in English, Russian, Italian, French, Hungarian, Nortuegian, Danish, Romanian and Yidtiish. (and lucky) you'll team up with a Cockney doughboy on leave to steer you straight. Then the fun begins. Sez you: 'I wanna go to a movie.' Sez he: 'You "mean the cinema.' Sez you: 'And I wanna sit in the balcony.' Sez he: 'You mean the dress circle.' Sez you: 'I wanna get an eyeful of one of those long lines of muggs on the sidewalk waiting to get in.' Sez he: 'You mean a queue on the pavement; in England there is no such thing as a sidewalk.' Sez you: 'What do people do, walk in the street?' Sez he: 'No, mate, they walk on the pavement. The road, not street, is for vehicles.' Sez you: 'Okay, but what about a house with a piazza? I haven't seen one. not even in the country.' Sez he: 'You mean a verandah. A piazza is a colonnade, a covered footway lined with columns.' Sez you: 'Well, what about frame houses? All I've seen are built of stone or brick.' Sez he: 'There's no such thing as a frame house in Britain. Is It by any chance the headquarters of gangsters where they ' plan to frame a victim?" Sez you: 'Skip it. But if you had- any gangsters in this country would they wind up in the pen?' Sez he: 'The pen being?' Sez you: 'Penitentiary.' Sez he:' Not unless they were immoral women or boys.' Sez you: 'How come?' Sez he: 'A penitentiary, originally a place of monastic discipline, has now two meanings attached to it in England. It is either an asylum for prostitutes seeking an amendment of life, or a house of correction. In this country crooks go to prison.' Sez you: 'And if they're put on bread and water, the water doesn't come out of a pitcher; it's a sewer, they tell me.' I 'Pitcher' Archaic Sez he: 'Or, more likely, a jug. The word pitcher, once in common use, has been archaic in England for four or five centuries.' Sez you: 'That has all the earmarks of a dirty crack. I suppose we'ie just as far behind the times by saying baggage instead of luggage.' Sez he: 'Quite. Baggage, not luggage, was the word in this country from 1430 to 1766, 10 years before your country was born. But then it was applied to women of an unsavory sort, wherefore naturally decent folk did not care to carry baggage about with them.' Sez you: 'So naturally you haven't got a baggage smasher In this country.' Sez he: 'No. nor a baggage car; it is the goods van. Your baggage room is the left luggage office, your baggage man is our porter. And your .system of checking baggage is un- known here.' Sez you: 'Okay, but tell me the answer to this one. The old lady that runs my billet offered to mend a silk shirt of mine, if I'd get the right colored silk thread. So I went to the villag>! drygoods store and asked for some spools of thread. I might as well have been talking double Dutch. For all I tried I couldn't make 'em understand what I wanted.' Sez he: 'Naturally not. A spool of thread is a reel of cot- ton.' Sez you: 'Even when it's silk?' Sez he: "Even when it's silk.' Sez you: 'SHip it. But how about the time I nearly go. dragged into the village church as principal actor in a wee: Bu; that's not the whole of it. Vaudeville business in this country, being more broadminded (and broads here are playing-cards, not dames) has always stuck to the cogno- men 'baggape' and baggagemen." But no average English- man knows what a citizen of the U. S. means by vaudeville. It's called 'variety'—with a small 'v'—on this side. You know, like the British call a street car a tram, and gas petrol. If a doughboy a.«ked lor some gas for his lighter they'd think he was nuts. Which starts a thought. After over 15 years of American talkies being 90% of their screen entertainment, and pix being 90% of all their enter- tainment, Britishers still Ulk English, except for a few odd words. They've adopted 'lousy,' except on the air (BBC thinks It's vulgah!), the former connotation of which In this country was 'lice-ridden' and almost actionable. 'Sez you," 'You're telling me," 'Nerts' and 'So what?' are about all that have gone into the common Anglo-Saxon tongue, despite the efforts of Hollywood. Most Englishmen, following the example of British Broadcasting Corp.'s braintrust, Leslie Burgin. still make five words where one would serve. It's a bald fact that a well-known English author, re- cruited from the old-school-tie class, gives as his version of 'Don't shoot th' pianner-player': 'Do not shoot the man at the piano; he is doing his utmost.' And—as he's probably found out by now—there are no 'walk up' signs in any office block. That doesn't mean there's an elevator ('lifts' to them); most business blocks built before War I haven't got any. Talking about vaudeville—variety—oh heck, music halls! —he won't catch an act, he'll 'see a turn.' And he won't go backstage. He'll go 'behind the scenes'—maybe! Another thing. Don't, doughboy, ask your English buddy just being called up ('drafted' to you), when he gets his induction. The only guys inducted in this man's land are parsons when they formally enter the Church. Here the rookies are 'attested.' Also, if you see one of those spotted ladybugs on your girl's momma's best aspidistra, don't, oh don't, say. 'Gee. that's a swell bug. mom." The only kind of 'bugs' she knows are bedbugs. All other "bugs" are beetles —and with individual names at that—to her. Finally, it's a railway station, not a depot; suspenders are 'braces,' garters are 'suspenders.' You don't ask for an 'order" of a dish, you demand a 'portion.' Warning; don't try to improve your 'English' idiom by lis- tening to and copying the stufT on the air from the BBC. No Englishman or woman, outside the BBC operatives, talks that way. No girl you ever meet will say, 'Thet werz Heenry Haul's Beend' or "This is the Hoom end Fawces Proogram.' If you want to hear plain English spoken plainly, apart from the regular folk on the sidewalks, listen in when the King of England is on the air. That's English! End of Duals Depends On Raw Stock Problem Polls and Wishful Thinking Regardless, As Long As Enough Film Is Available Twin Bills Still Widespread Policy ♦ ♦♦ MM t« MMMM ««»»» MMMMMHM »» RETAKES OF 1942 ;; By GEORGE E. PHAIR Double features promise to dominate the nation's theatres for about 10 months or longer, despite polls showing the popularity of single features, wishful thinking by some ex- hibitors and short feature boosters, as well as a belief in certain quarters that- solo feature bills would aid' in the conservation of raw film stock. That's the consensus of opinion among exhibitors in nearly every section of the country. Flurry of hope for a return to single features immediately after Lowell Mellett's speech in N. Y. favoring solo programs represented no more than that when it was explained later Mellett's plea was not a government directive or order. His anxiety for a single feature per program was a natural development since it is felt he would like more playing time for government-made or sponsored shorts. • Answer to most polls, as interpreted by the average ex- hibitor, is that many of those quizzed still continue to patronize twin bills even though claiming they favor one feature on a program. Many exhibs contend that the resulU of most polls indicate wishful thinking on the part of exhibi- tors or a desire to sway public opinion. Also, that even when certain polling of regular theatre patrons reveals a majority for single features, exhibitors are unwilling to abandon dualing while competing theatres remain pat with their double-features. j Twas Ever Thus | So long as major studios continue producing a certain number of second-rate features, there is sure to be wide- spread dualing, especially by theatres already using two feature films per program. The major company affiliated circuits contend they need such dual setups to compete against the opposition, usually independent theatres. They blaine these indies for originally starting twin bills and aver that the independents evidence little inclination towards going back to the solo picture standard themselves. While major distributors having theatre subsidiaries, would be willing to eliminate double-features'if opposition spots also agreed to such an arrangement, the major circuits won't do it unless the indie competish also quits dualing. It will be recalled that major chains went dual'several years ago in many communities mainly because, indies persisted in twin-billing. Showmen who are in close touch with the situation are convinced that RKO and Loew's would return to single features in most localities if there was any guarantee that the opposition would do likewise. Present trouble is that (here i.s not even a voluntary guarantee or offer that means, .inything. .Many in the trade, who have favored single features for ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦«4«»»«» ' > Gone is the Hollywood we used to know, The strumpet strutting In the night club's glow. Premieres and searchlights in the sky Are memories of nights gone by— The town has aged since one short year ago. No more you read the tales of midnight brawls. The village goes to work when twilight falls. And in the night the war planes drone A solemn military tone And swing-shift gals perform in overalls. • * * Hollwii)Ood'« fo«ri.'!f.<! this year nrf. not like the tourists of 1/ore. IiiTPd bu the blandishments nf the Chamber of Com- merce. Thev nre Soldiers. Sailors nnd Marines, pausing for a glimpse of the town before they shove off for the world's greatest drama. Unlike most tourists, you hope they toill come back—and soon. • * • Secret ambition—To see Monty WooUey riding to work on a scooter. • * • You could always tell a villain in the simple days of yore By his slick ond sneaky nionner and the furtive sneer he he u'ore. But «ou o/ten miss vour guesses at the pieftire Show today When the slinky guy turns out to be the hero Vf the play. • • • Joan Davis reports a picture so good that the customers turned around and gave the house a set of dishes. • • • Rubber, gas and sugar may be restricted, but there are no priorities on crockery. Domestic war marches on. • • • The Bonds you buy from Uncle Sam Are aimed to make dictators scram. They are designed to keep you free From bondage made in Germany. • • • The synthetic rubber problem is solved, according to Rich- ard Thorpe, who paused at a roadside lunchery along the beach and ordered a steak. • • • When a film gal reiuses to pose for leg art she is either a great actress or she hasn't got that sort o] legs. • « « Waldemar the Wolf had been restless all day, pacing around the den with a faraway look in his eyes. 'What's the big idea?' asked his ma, Winifred the Wolf. 'You have been that -way ever since you lurked around that film location and listened to the actors.' 'You said it. ma,' answered Waldemar. 'I want to be a Hollywood Wolf and prowl around Sunset Strip.' 'That's what your old man thought,' said Winifred. 'Now he is a rug in an agent's office.' • • • After 'Invisible Man' and 'Invisible Woman' we have 'In- visible Agent,' which is all right as long as the film cus- tomers don't get that way. • • • A statucsqne beauty Is an oversized gal with a press agent— or a rich father. • • • Years ago, when there was a war between oil companies, they were selling gas at 9c the gallon, but that was a different kind of war. , • • • War restrictions on the Catalina Channel are causing hard- ships among studio press agents. Since Dec. 7, 1941, no actor has nonchalantly hooked a 47S-pound swordflsh. • • • Gone Is the army of tourists that swooped down on Holly- wood to meet the film stars. Now the film stars are swoop- ing around (he country to meet the Army. • * • War restrictions pn bathtubs may have changed the course of the film industry if they had been promulgated 30 years ago when Cecil B. DeMille set out on his career of production. • • • The corn is green in jocund Moy Amid the fields where zephyrs play. But in the cinematic sphere The corn is golden all the year. • • • Shortage of leading men in the film business is serious but not fatal. It will be time to worry when there is a shortage of customers. • • • With all the glamour boys going Into war service, Holly- wood ia confronted with a new dramatic formula: 'Gal Meet* Toupee.' years, are hopeful that the reduction in raw film stock for picture companies by Government order will gradually pro- duce the elimination of two features per show. Although the slash in film stock supply may result in shorts being employed to fill out a theatre program, with the gradual reduction in shows from three and four hours, to two hours or two and a half hours, this undoubtedly would be a slow process. And the manner in which the industry has scheduled its lineup to meet the raw film stock cut does not make a heavy reduction in total features per year likely for the present. As long as there is sufficient product to frame a double- feature bill, there will be plenty of twin bills around, accord- ing to industry opinion. Actually, the most certain way of making a real large scale saving in raw film stock would be to limit the number of hours a theatre operates while maintaining the same number of performances. This would insure a saving on raw stock, and quickly, but would have to come from a government order. Thus far, there is little in the shorts production outlook which would indicate that producers are figuring on stronger .shorts product to bolster forthcoming single-feature bills. • It is the most realistic tipoff as to what the Industry thinks about double-featuring now and for at least 10 months to come.