Variety (January 1959)

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January 7, 1959 Fifty-third P'SniETY Anniversary PICTURES British Film Makers Look Ahead To Expanding Co-Production Markets i Chairman of Federation of British Film Makers,. With Eye On New Cinematograph Films Acts in 1960, Stresses Main Objective Must Be Quality Pictures To Command Global Boxoff ice Support By LORD ARCHIBALD Crying In Their Fort Knox By HARRY HERSHFIELD — — Some years ago a producer, down on his luck, griped to a fellow Broadwayite: “It just doesn’t figure. Here I am bom in America and I can’t make a living— Morris Gest has been here only three years and already owes $600,0001” Today, most of them are making big money and still moaning. Ex¬ emplified by the star who wrote to the Income Tax Bureau: “Gentle¬ men: I have not been able to sleep at night, because I cheated on last . year’s income tax. Enclosed find my check for $1,000. If I find that I still can’t sleep. Til send you the balance!” This brings up the subject, spurred by the wails, lately, of big-dough stars, crying how they’re deprived of big earnings by the Government. In the lush days of Hollywood, one’s standing in the community was measured by how much he lost, in gambling, the night before. With witnesses at the gaming table the loser was the big topic of conversation/Anybody losing so heavily without batting an eye must be making plenty more. And hasn’t been lying about his salary. Gag at the time concerned the boasting star who was finally forced to do jury duty. Got plenty publicity on how he was doing his duty as a citizen. But he was a “ham” still. Though the jurymen were getting only $4 a day — this guy was telling everybody that he was getting eight, with options. Qur present stars bemoan that, with the terrific moneys they earn, they’re practically broke because of the heavy income tax. Some claim they have to borrow to pay their taxes. One of America’s most success¬ ful composers actually cried, “I’m making a fortune a year. So what? With the Government taking a tremendous bite out of it, the Govern¬ ment won’t be blamed for my plight years later — all people will say years from now: ‘With all the money that guy made, what did he do with it?’ ” Measuring it in calmer mood, however, the short-end of the “take” is not to be sneezed at. Let’s barb the point by the current yarn con¬ cerning the supposed “recession-depression” in the country. To get to the truth, a pollster asked a pedestrian: “How* 1 do you find business?” “Well,” came the reply, “business is like making love— when it's good It’s very good, and when it’s bad, it ain’t bad!” Getting down to the root of all evil, which everyone roots for — money and the earning of same. To begin withi a controversial question: “If this country had no income tax, would performers, or for that matter •would most endeavors • be getting the fabulous salaries they re¬ ceive? Isn’t the economy such that everybody “passes the buck,” so that he or she w?on’t be trapped with the. bundle to pay taxes on? Haven’t you heard it a hundred times, by some star: “I’m not going to take the next assignment — why should I be working for nothing?” Yet, an artist like Bob Hope gets many of his top laughs razzing the Gov¬ ernment about the devastating taxes. And the more laughs he gets on his programs, because of it, the more money they pay for his appear¬ ances. He sure is in a fix! (I should be so trapped). Bemoaning our fate, economically, has crept into ordinary dialog: “Hey, you look like a mil¬ lion dollars.” “Yes, I know — with the income tax taken out!” J _ _ _ In Another Era _ _ J A headliner getting from $l,000-$2.000 a week was happy on all counts. True, without the tax then, (which was the original fortunebuilding of many of our present/ retired performers) and living costs much lower, the star of his day wasn’t harassed by the Collector of In¬ ternal Revenue to explain an item here and there. But in spite of that former, supposedly happier state of affairs, I doubt that our top-priced stars would change places, even to have that supposed peace of mind. The complaining topperoo of today probably knows of the evicted ten¬ ant, sitting out in the inclement weather, the picture of utter dejection. A good Samaritan asked the reason of his plight to which the victim cried: “My hard-hearted landlord threw* me out — I’m out of a job and can’t pay the rent!” “Don’t worry, old man. I’m an employer and I’ll give you a job and you can pay your rent.” “No, no, that’s very nice of you, but I don’t want it — I’d rather have my grievance!” Occasionally you get an actor who doesn’t try to put on a “front.” When he tries to genuinely work for less, to tide him over till another “break” comes along, he finds himself in another form of trouble. I heard a producer say to a needy actor pleading for any kind of a part, and for “coffee-and-cake” salary: “How greedy can you get, with . that big bankroll of yours stashed away?” J _ _ Irvin Cohl/s Nifty _ ~ ~ . 1 Irvin S. Cobb once argued: “There should be a law preventing a rich man from griping. He isn’t entitled to . both — invading the poor man’s only privilege and main form of entertainment, the complaint.” Only when the high-salaried performer is suddenly reduced, does he take cognizance of the state of affairs of thousands of his confreres, who have never tasted the heights. He can’t understand, when his op¬ tion isn’t taken up, how his employer could lie to him; when he was told to go ahead and’buy a large home and autos and yachts, that he would be the star for years to come. And when suddenly forced to sell all (read the ads to show how many are in that fix) he is hurt even more, with a second shock; can’t understand why he has to take so much less for the stuff than what he paid for it. Is there no sentiment in the heart of the buyer? Why, he should be glad to give any high price to be the possessor of a house, auto or yacht that once belonged to Mr. Big! When one in this papier mache game gets too smug and feels safe forevermore let him hearken to the story of the rich man who swal¬ lowed the chickenbone. He couldn’t breathe. The doctor arrived in the nick of time, removed the bone and the life was Saved. Soon as the victim found himself breathing easier, he asked, “Doctor, what do I owe you?” “At least half of what you were ready to give me, when the bone was still in your throat,” replied the knowing medico. Our Cinematograph Films Acts expire in I960, but we do not yet know whether the new measure, whose draft is probably in a very advanced state at the Board of Trade, will be coming up for Parliamen¬ tary discus¬ sion within the next. 12 months or w h e t h er it will be kept for the ses¬ sion beginning 1^ October . Lord Archibald. 1959 Qn th0 whole it is more likely that the new bill w-ill come forward in the early part of 1969, but in any event the various trade organiza¬ tions have submitted their views and recommendations and are now waiting for the new bill to appear and for the debate to open. No doubt, many readers of Variety have reason to be interested in what is going to be proposed, as changes may . affect the prospects of American films entering the United Kingdom and the pros¬ pects of Anglo-American coopera¬ tion in production. Informed opinion is that the old Acts have worked with a very considerable, degree of success and that no fundamental changes* are likely. This time last year, how1* ever, one would have prophesied a determined effort by some groups to secure a radical modifi¬ cation in the definition of a Brit¬ ish film, as they wanted to exclude from the British screen quota, and certainly from the benefits of the British Film Production Fund, most if not all of the films produced through some form of AngloAmerican cooperation. The legacy of 'that mood can be seen still, in some parts of the submission made to the Board of Trade by one trade association, but even so the rec¬ ommendations made were not nearly so severe as some that had been discussed and even favored at an earlier stage. The heat has now gone out of the controversy, howrever, for hos¬ tility towards Anglo-American co| operation has significantly weak¬ ened. Perhaps the Federation of British Film Makers can claim some credit for helping to bring about this change in the climate of opinion, but the most persuasive factor has been the critical state of the British production industry. It has been increasingly difficult I to find finance for new produc¬ tions and. because of falling at¬ tendances at home it has been more and more imperative to mar¬ ket our films abroad. In conse¬ quence the old attitudes of insular purity have been recognized as ridiculous and it is now generally accepted that American finance, distribution facilities and person¬ nel do help the British industry in selling British films in the inter¬ national market without prevent¬ ing the films from being British. There is little likelihood that any serious attempt will be made to persude the government that the growth of Anglo-American co¬ operation should be obstructed. There may well he, of course, changes of detail designed -to pre¬ vent abuses, but these will be de¬ bated on their merits and without partisan bitterness. Just as the crisis in the British industry has made many previous critics seek cooperation with those they have previously condemned, so also has the crisis persuaded many others to seek new allies on the Continent where previously al(Continued on page 52) THE CLICHE HALL OF FAME’ By MILT JOSEFSBERG Hollywood. Some years ago, many more than I care to remember, I turned in my press agent’s shingle, and hun^ out a shiny new one reading, “Wr er.” : As a Writer I was bright and eager ; and full of ambition, while as a ( press agent I was allegedly full of; other things. My greatest desire in my new profession was to , cleanse the air of cliches. j Since those dear dead days two decades have drifted away, and the j passing years have altered my am : bition and attitude. I now want to cling and cleave to the cliches. ; They are old friends. They are ; what the people want. What the ! producers want. What the spon! sors want. What everybody wants, i When^he current broadcastingseason burst upon us last fall, filled j with promise, I sat with my two ; young sons watching a new series : make its debut. ' In one . scene a ! lawyer assured his comedian client ' tliat he had never lost a case yet. j As the scene slowly started to dis j solve, Steven, my younger son, ■ said, “Watch — the next thing he’ll . be in jail.” Hardly had the last . syllable left his mouth when the : scene faded in showing the comic ; in the c-ink. I Steven laughed heartily at this predictable turn of events, and* he was joined in the merriment by ! his brother Alan, who is elder and should know better. Exceedingly ! exasperated, I asked them why j they laughed at what happened j when they knew exactly what was 1 going to happen. Steve, explained 1 with all lopic of a 12-year-old, “Well Dad, it’s funny because after . the lawyer said he never lost a case, the man wound up in jail, i It wouldn’t be funny if the next j scene showed him playing base¬ ball.” While:-! pondered this wisp of wisdom I had the distinct feeling that Alan was drawing large im ' aginary squares behind my back. Well . . . there’s no doubt that , the kids are right. Many movies ; and dozens of tv shows have proved ' that if the husband firmly says j to his wife, “I definitely, positively will not goihe Van Schermerhorn’s ; party,” the next scene will provoke ; a mirthquake of merriment if it * shows them at the party. Or, if the husband says, “This is a per j feet day for a' picnic. My corns I don’t hurt me and that means the ; weather will be beautiful” • • j then . . . the next scene must show j the family miserably huddled j under a tree treading water in : the biggest flood since Noah. ! Another new series which made 1 its debut th^s season brought back ; one of broadcasting’s, best be¬ loved characters — the wife who patiently; and lovingly rectifies all of her bumbling husband’s mis¬ takes. And just when I thought all such portrayals were lost in limbo, she came along and epitomizes the best of them. • _ _ ... _ J _ Follows The Script j I really enjoyed it when she rearranged her busy doctor-hus¬ band’s schedule so he could spend the weekend with her and her two loyely children. I anticipated in advance, if that’s not redundant, that she would straighten things out when it seemed their brief vacation would be spoiled because hubby had to appear as a witness in court. But what bothered me ever so slightly was when a mys¬ terious disease bedded one of her 1 husband’s patients and defied all . ■ the medical knowledge he had pLked up through several years of pre-med, medical school, interni ing and Lord knowjs how* many : years of practice . . . she cured the patient in less'than 10 seconds. ; Please understand. I’m not be¬ littling the lady with the cure-all . qualities. ; She was cute. She was ; personable. She was likeable. And be.o+ of all she was an old : friend. A cliche character. And . yet, 20 years ago, the younger me, : the bright brash boy, would have ; wanted lp_eradicate her and all i the other loveable ladies of like : nature from the entertainment j scene. ! I hope this confession will ; cleanse my soul. Please don’t i judge me harshlj*. Not only am I ^confessing, but I’m going the whole : hog. I am Arming an organiza! tion known as the SFTPOKTCC — ; “The Society For The Prevention | Of Killing The Classical Cliches.” ; Below I have compiled a list ; loveable scenes in pix and tele¬ vision which shall and must be , preserved. If necessary we will ; lobby in Congress so there wifi be no open season when critics may i snipe at and kill off any of these faithful friends. <= The organization is open for membership. There will be no dues. Contributions will be welcomed in the form of famed cliches which have won our life-long love and therefore most certainly deserve our protection. Here are my. first 10 nomina¬ tions, not necessarily in the order of antiquity or loveableness: 1. The Sea Picture. The philo¬ sophical drunken doctor . . . de¬ spised and derided by the crew until he performs an operation (always during a hurricane or monsoon) so advanced That the Mayo Clinic won’t learn about it for at least 50 years. 2. The War Picture. The young soldier who is afraid to die, but who eventually saves the hero’s life by covering a just landed live hand grenade with. his body. (Note: This is even more effective if the kid is from Brooklyn, or Jewish, or colored, or better yet, a com¬ bination of all three.) 3. The Western. The dude who comes to town quietly and is tricked by the cowboys into rid¬ ing the most vicious horse in lrstory (alternately named “Mid¬ night” or “Dynamite.”) The dude breaks the beast with' the utmost of ease and as he dismounts asks, “Haven’t you a beast with a bit more bounce?” 4. The Backstage Story (With Music). Ya see;, the husband and wife are beating the bushes with a vaudeville turn, and the hus* band thinks he’s the star. wThen everyone can see it’s the wife who’s loaded with talent while he’s just loaded most of the time. So this Big Broadway, producer gels stranded in a jerkwater town be¬ tween trains and goes to this thea¬ tre to kill time between trains, and catches the act and wants to sign the wife but not the husband, but she don’t wanna leave him. ya see, but he realizes he’s standing in the way of her big chance,, but he doesn’t let on, so he slyly acts like a heel to, her .so she’ll leave him and become the new Mary Martin. (An excellent ^touch is to have her shoves Broadway open¬ ing on a particularly snowy night, and as everyone comes out of the (Continued on page 54)