Friday, January 25, 2013

Batmobile Sold for $4.62 Million

George Barris and the Batmobile.
For all you Batman fans, this one's for you. Not sure if you were watching the recent Barrett Jackson auto auction, but my wife does. She's a tom boy and watches the auction like a religion. I have to admit that while I do not share her passion for four-wheel vehicles and couldn't tell the difference between a red car and a blue except for the color, the antiques formerly owned by Hollywood celebrities. This year I watched an auto formerly owned by Fatty Arbuckle and another formerly owned by Clark Gable went for large figures. But the highlight of the past auction was the iconic Batmobile from the 1960s television show which sold for $4.62 million ($4.2 with a ten percent buyer's premium added) at the Barrett-Jackson classic car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Saturday night sale thrilled famed car customizer George Barris, who first bought the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car for one dollar from Ford. He then transformed it into the Batmobile in 15 days with a budget of $15,000, according to auction notes from Barrett-Jackson. 

Batmobile on the auction block.
There had been some question as to whether the car would fetch a large sum. Craig Jackson, chief executive of the auction firm, said he expected the car to sell for millions. One speculator theorized that the price wouldn't fetch more than $200,000. Others pointed out, though, that many imitation Batmobiles had been built over the years, a good number of them virtually indistinguishable from the original. That raised the question of whether collectors would be willing to pay a huge sum for this Batmobile simply because it was the first.

In this case, the TV Batmobile really is a singular creation. While there have been many imitations, this is the only original.

The heavily modified car, known around the world, was built at Barris Kustom Industries auto shop on Riverside Drive in North Hollywood. It has been on display there in a gallery since the television show ended in 1968.
The Batmobile makes it's way to the auction.
The Futura concept was originally created by a design team at Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln styling department. The 19-foot-long, two-seat, bubble-topped grand touring car prototype was entirely hand-built in 1954 by Ghia Body Works in Turin, Italy, and unveiled in its original pearlescent "frost-blue" white paint finish in 1955 at the Chicago Auto Show.

In late 1965, 20th Century Fox Television and William Dozier's Greenway Productions tapped Barris to come up with a car to foil Batman's enemies. Barris, who also made the Munster Koach and "Beverly Hillbillies" jalopy from the 1960s TV shows, turned out a monster.

The car features bulletproof Plexiglas bubble windshields and the Bat Ray (dual 450-watt laser beams that blasted obstacles to bits). It also has a Bat-O-Meter, which identified the location of the bad guys, as well as oil squirters, fashioned from lawn sprinkler heads, to foil evildoers.

"I saw the script and it said, 'Bang,' 'Pow,' 'Boom,' " Barris, now 87, said in an interview before the auction. "That's exactly what I wanted the car to do. I wanted it to be as big a character as the actors."

My nephews and nieces with a replica.
As for the winner... that's an amusing tale. When the Batmobile came out on stage, the crowd of bidders was so large that security did their best to prevent anyone from touching the pop icon. Hands went up and within 20 seconds, the $100,000 starting bid reached one million. By the time it reached $3 million, the bidding was down to two men and the price crept up $100,000 every minute. Eventually the total reached $4.2 million. Going... going.... sold!

The car's buyer was Rick Champagne, a Phoenix-area logistics company executive. Asked by television interviewers what motivated him to pay such a princely sum, he pointed to the woman accompanying him and said: "Her." He then explained that he'd had his eye on the Batmobile “ever since I was a kid. I had a toy model of it,” according to SPEED TV, which airs the auction "live." Asked whether he'd keep the car in his garage, he said he'd put it in his living room. No joke. "I'm going to tear down a wall and put in my living room," Champagne explained. Smart move when you consider the security issue.

Barris himself was present during the auction and was bigger than life. You could see him getting emotional on Saturday but joined in with the excitement. And he admitted later he was pleased with the price. The Batmobile ties the record for the highest price fetched for a movie car at auction. In 2010, the Aston Martin DB5 driven by Sean Connery in Goldfinger set the record when it went for $4.6 million. In 2011, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car auctioned for $805,000, shy of the $1 million it was expected to fetch.

In case you never heard of the Barrett Jackson Collector Car Auction, this event has a 42 year history and was established in 1971. Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, the auction provides products and services to classic and collector car owners, collectors and automotive enthusiasts. The company produces the “World’s Greatest Collector Car Events” in Scottsdale, Arizona, Palm Beach, Florida, Orange County, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. According to my wife, the best is always the one held in January in Scottsdale, Arizona. Although it is billed as an automobile auction, other items are also sold, including trucks, motorcycles, airplanes, engines, boats and other memorabilia. The auction has also became a place for American car manufacturers to sell the first production vehicles of a given model and generation combination, in charity format. The Saturday auction is commonly known as 'Shatterday', referring to the frequent record breaking sales that occur that day. And the highlights of the weekend are held on Shatterday.

George Barris and the Batmobile
For the record, the Batmobile was the third highest grossing auction in the history of Barrett Jackson. The second was a 1950 General Motors Futurliner tour bus, fetching $4.32 million The fully restored Parade of Progress display vehicle used in GM’s nationwide events was a surprisingly strong seller at the 2006 Scottsdale auction. The most expensive was the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake, sold for $5.5 million Carroll Shelby’s own Cobra, a specially built supercharged big-block version of the iconic performance sports car, sold at Scottsdale in 2007. 

A friend of mine who wished he could have had enough money to buy the Batmobile, joked that he only bid $4.1 million and just missed out. Better luck next time... 

Closing thought... If he was a fan of the Batmobile prior and probably would have bid on it anyway, just what did Rick Champagne's woman tell him to convince him to buy the car?

Friday, January 18, 2013

RECENT PRESERVATION EFFORTS


Og, Son of Fire
The July and August 2012 issues of SPERDVAC's Radiogram featured a two-part article about an obscure radio program called Og, Son of Fire. I never even knew such a show existed until I saw them re-creating a version on stage in George Lucas' 1994 motion-picture, Radioland Murders. That's when the curiosity got the better of me and I discovered in Jay Hickerson's Ultimate Guide that yes, there was in fact a radio program of that name. Since John Dunning and Jay Hickerson were unable to unearth much about the series, it took the talented Doug Hopkinson to do it. I enjoy reading about radio programs like Og, Son of Fire -- shows that don't exist but are rumored to have been broadcast. After all, we have enough write-ups on The Mercury Theater on the Air and Inner Sanctum to quench our thirst.


Doug went into the origin of Og, Son of Fire from Boys Life magazine to the origin of the radio counterpart. The performers, the premiums and other factoids contained in both articles are fascinating and worthwhile if you can seek out both issues. If you are not a subscriber to SPERDVAC's Radiogram, I recommend you pay the annual $15 membership dues today. SPERDVAC Radiogram, Barry Oplinger, 435 Garfield Avenue, Apt. 306, South Pasadena, CA 91030. I know a few people who are not subscribers simply because they don't feel $15 is worthwhile to subscribe to a club or a newsletter. They have the misconception that all they need is available on the internet. Doug's two-part article was one of many examples where informative research findings are published and not available on the web. If awards were given out for the best article and historical documentation on an obscure radio program, Doug wins it for 2012.


Vitaphone disc label.
The Vitaphone Project
In 1991, a group of film buffs and record collectors met to discuss the possibility of seeking out the shellac soundtrack discs that accompanied early 1926-1930 Vitaphone (and other) talkie shorts and features. The Vitaphone Project was formed to accomplish this goal as well as to partner with the studios (particularly Turner Entertainment and Warner Brothers), film archives (UCLA, LOC, BFI), and private collectors worldwide in order to get these films restored and seen again. Of particular interest were the nearly 2,000 talkie short subjects, featuring vaudevillians, bands, opera singers and comedians made by Vitaphone from 1926-1929. In many cases, 35mm picture elements exist without an accompanying soundtrack.

Since its inception, The Vitaphone Project (John Newton, Sherwin Dunner, Ron Hutchinson, Vince Giordano and the late David Goldenberg) has located over 3,500 12- and 16-inch shellac soundtrack discs in private hands, has assisted on the restoration of more than 150 shorts and features, and has developed nearly $500,000 in private funding for restorations. Within the past year, nearly 100 more discovered soundtrack discs have been found. The Vitaphone studios in Brooklyn has been saved. Warner Archive released 60 early restored Vitaphones. Yet with all this good news, there are still over 80 shorts for which picture, but no sound, exists.

Before the days of the internet, virtually any discoveries of soundtrack discs occurred through word of mouth. Today, barely a month goes by without the staff at The Vitaphone Project receiving an e-mail from someone with a disk, or seeking information on a relative who was in a Vitaphone. Very recently, Patrick Picking, who manages the Project's web-site, has also taken on updating and maintaining our soundtrack disk database. Beginning January 2012, Patrick inputted over 1,000 new entries and reorganized the spreadsheet to make it more user-friendly. Also added were holdings of the Library of Congress, UCLA and BFI. This enables a one-stop search of holdings in private collectors' hands as well as film archives.

For more information about The Vitaphone Project, visit http://www.vitaphoneproject.com/


Ed Gardner of Duffy's Tavern
Duffy's Tavern
During the past year, I flew out to meet Ed Gardner, Jr., whose father created the popular Duffy's Tavern radio program. Eddie was very hospitable and for three days I enjoyed asking questions about the Gardner family, scanning family photos and studio publicity stills, and original radio scripts. Duffy's Tavern has been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager -- and an on-going project for more than a decade to document the series in a manuscript that is almost completed. The purpose of scanning the photos was for preservation. During the 1970s, Ray Stark's house caught on fire, destroying 80 percent of what Ed Gardner saved (legal files, radio scripts, recordings, contracts, photographs, etc.) It seemed only logical that I spend some time preserving what remains.

A little more than a year ago I learned that a respected historian in the old-time radio community once borrowed family photo albums from a radio actor who did everything from Inner Sanctum Mystery to The Adventures of Superman. The actor since passed away and the family, as it appears, is still upset because the historian hasn't returned any of their phone calls or letters, responding to their request for the return of the family photos. It's a sad story that one day, I hope, will be resolved. Historians have a responsibility to preserve what they can, not spend time at conventions bragging about their archives/holdings. With the price of scanners and the efficiency and speed for which they perform, there should be no excuse for not returning the items they "borrowed." For Ed Gardner, Jr., I found it easier to fly out to his house and personally scan his family photos (and create backups on CDs) to ensure another house fire doesn't allow history go up in flames. Yes, a book about Duffy's Tavern is due out later this year. Many of those photos will appear in the book.


Mary Pickford
If you love silent movies, like myself, then you probably enjoy watching Mary Pickford. The good folks at the Mary Pickford foundation, including Elaina Archer, Director of Archive and Legacy, and Cari Beauchamp, resident scholar, have done a great job keeping the name of Mary Pickford in the mainstream public. Their archives are open to the public for scholarly research and many of Pickford's movies have been restored from archival prints and released commercially through Image Entertainment as part of the Milestone Collection. Yours truly bought one of every DVD release they came out with. A new Bluray release offers two movies never before available on DVD. And the organization has revamped their image with a new website designed to take Mary Pickford into the 21st Century.

With technology evolving (such as smart phones, iPads, etc.), browsing the web has become a challenge and ten-year-old websites that have never gone through any revision to accommodate for the new web browsers means old websites are bound to be obsolete. This is why every major company from Amazon.com, CoverOut.com, eBay and other sites have revamped their image. Those sites are browser friendly. The Mary Pickford Foundation is thankfully keeping up with the pace.

The Foundation was very instrumental with assisting me in a four-year project documenting Mary Pickford's radio career, for an article that will soon appear in a national magazine, Classic Images. (The same article may also appear on their website in a few weeks, stay tuned!) Video clips, photographs, a filmography,a chronology of her life and career, a biography about the actress and other archival materials are being posted on the site and will continue to be updated monthly. Catch the video clip of Mary Pickford in Rags (1915) and if you haven't fallen in love with the gorgeous Mary Pickford, you haven't explored silent cinema.

The Arthur Godfrey Collection
Back in August, the Library of American Broadcasting in College Park, Maryland, announced further steps in the preservation of the Arthur Godfrey collection. The University of Maryland Special Collections has launched a project to preserve and digitize one-of-a-kind recordings of Arthur Godfrey, a broadcasting powerhouse of the 1940s and 50s. Materials pertaining to Godfrey comprise the University's largest broadcasting collection dedicated to an individual. About 5,000 hours of audio and video recordings are housed in the Broadcasting Archives on the third floor of the university's Hornbake Library.

Godfrey hosted a daily morning program and two other highly rated entertainment shows. "For influence and popularity he was the Oprah of his day," says curator Chuck Howell. A goal of the multi-year digitization effort is to preserve and make accessible about 3,400 hours of rare wire recordings—a format used before magnetic tape. One hour long spool contains 7,200 feet of stainless steel wire about the thickness of human hair. "It's very fragile and tangles easily," Howell says of the wire format. "Consequently, it's almost completely inaccessible."

Another goal of the project is simply to reveal the contents of the recordings. "Playback equipment hasn't even been manufactured in 70 years," Howell says. "The specific content of each spool is unknown to us." By seeking specialists and working with vendors to preserve and extract the content, the university will unlock valuable new information for researchers.

And then there's the time that Rosemary Clooney bested Tony Bennett on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, a popular talent show of the 1940's and 50's. This episode has been requested several times, and Howell is keeping his fingers crossed that it's included in the thousands of wire recordings in Godfrey's personal collection. The problem – nobody, not even Tony Bennett himself, remembers the exact date he and the late Rosemary Clooney actually appeared on the program.. Sources disagree, with the years 1948 and 1950 both being suggested. Mr. Howell is pulling for 1950, as the earliest recordings in Godfrey's personal programming archive are from June of 1949.

"Because Godfrey was on the air so much and had so much time to fill, much of the content is of him talking, reading articles from newspapers, and commenting on events of the day," Howell says. "That in itself is an incredible resource. It will be very enlightening for historians looking for a way into the mindset of Middle America during the Eisenhower years."

Caption: Arthur Godfrey compares the conventional twelve-inch disc with one of Columbia's then new seven-inch Microgroove records. Pity his own program recordings weren't on disc! — From the Jerry Lee On-Line Photo Archive

The California Historical Radio Society
This just came to my attention last week. With all the preservation societies and historical societies in the country, I find it difficult to keep track of them all. The C.H.R.S. is a non-profit, educational corporation chartered by the State of California in 1974 to promote the research, restoration, preservation and presentation of early radio and broadcasting. Their goal is to provide a forum for exchanging ideas and information on the history of radio and broadcasting, particularly in the West, with the emphasis on collecting, restoring and displaying vintage equipment, and related materials. They are dedicated to the study of early radio and to the importance of this first wireless medium to the San Francisco Bay Area. They recently transferred among their holdings an episode of Invitation to Learning, which I wrote a book about. An obscure but entertaining radio program. They posted the audio on the internet for those wanting to hear the recording and browse the web site for more information.

 http://www.californiahistoricalradio.com/et-project/invitation-to-learning-440904/

Artist signature, "Lanse"
The Marx Brothers Mystery
A good friend of my father's gave me a rare print (only 300 made) and signed by the artist named "Lanse." It's taken me 25 years to finally get into my loft and make an effort to have the entire thing matted and framed to be hung on the wall. Some slight damage had been made as a result of the acid in the matting it came with, but those things happen. We got it professionally matted and framed and it's now a proud artifact in the basement. Question: Anyone know who Lanse is? Can anyone provide some background information about this particular print? I'd like to know the story behind it.

Mystery picture of The Marx Bros.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hitchcock (2012) A Movie Review

I went in to see this expecting a movie about the making of Psycho, the 1960 film that Alfred Hitchcock challenged the censors, challenged moviegoers, and Universal Studios. After all, the movie trailer focused primarily on the movie and Hitchcock's involvement. Why would I think otherwise? What I saw was something below par and not what the movie trailer promoted. Because of this, I was disappointed. 

By 1959, Hitchcock was reaping the rewards of North by Northwest, a $3 million dollar adventure thriller with Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint (gorgeous as always) and James Mason. Lush color and widescreen cinematography, the crop duster sequence, the thrilling climax on the top of Mount Rushmore... and then theater audiences went to the movies a year later to see a black and white film in standard aspect ratio, a woman who embezzled lots of money, semi-lost on a dark and stormy night, windshield wipers going back and forth.... and a third of the way through the movie a brutal stabbing that made the audience squirm in their seats.

"It was an experiment in a sense," Hitchcock later explained to Francois Truffaut. "Could I make a feature film under the same conditions as a television show? I used a complete television unit to shoot it very quickly. The only place where I digressed was when I slowed down the murder scene, the cleaning-up scene, and the other scenes that indicated anything that required time. All the rest was handled in the same way that they do it i television."

Psycho was a project Hitchcock found exciting simply because he loved planning movies -- not so much making them. To film the shower sequence with Janet Leigh, for example, they had to construct a shower that came apart so the camera could film from all four directions. Wheels on the bottom of furniture so a sofa could be out of the way when it was out of range of the camera and the camera could follow the actor into the next room. It's those kind of things Hitchcock liked to plan. But when he couldn't find a studio willing to finance the picture, including Universal Studios, he went to Paramount who agreed to release the film if Hitchcock would back his own money into the project. Referred to as Production 9401, Hitchcock paid James P. Cavanagh to write the script. Cavanagh had proven faithful when it came to writing teleplays for Hitchcock's weekly television series, since it began in 1955. Dissatisfied with his first draft, Hitchcock paid the writer off and wen in search of someone else. Enter stage left, Joseph Stefano, who knew very little about screen writing and that was what Hitchcock wanted. Damn the censors and forget the rules. Just write the script and Hitchcock would work out everything else. The sky was the limit.

Hitchcock spent less than $1 million of his own money and having made a profit on every episode of his television program, this was not too much of a financial burden. This financial arrangement is perhaps one of the only things I observed in the movie that was fairly accurate. Yes, Paramount signed for distribution rights -- nothing more. The rest of the movie... well, that's a different story.

You can imagine my surprise when, half way through the movie, I discovered the film is not about the making of Psycho, but rather a speculation of Alfred Hitchcock's personal life. Suggesting a rocky marriage between Alfred Hitchcock (played by Anthony Hopkins) and his wife Alma (played by Helen Mirren), the film dealt with Hitchcock's preoccupation of the blonde actresses he worked for in the past -- and Vera Miles who worked with him on The Wrong Man (1956). I admit that I enjoy reading an autobiography or two every year simply to know more about the personal lives of the Hollywood elite. But movies like this are mere speculation and one man's interpretation of another man's personal life isn't exactly easy on the eyes. I hate trying to forget what was not considered the gospel. In short, facts were thrown about and liberties taken to tell a story about... well, Hitchcock. After all, that is the title of the movie.

Scarlet Johanssen as Janet Leigh
Funny thing. In the theater, I noticed how the audience reacted many times but only when Hitchcock employed one of his witty remarks and when there were scenes that involved the making of Psycho. Which makes me wonder... why didn't they make a movie about the making of Psycho? That was apparently what the audience enjoyed best. After all, Stephen Rebello's wonderful book (I recommend you buy a copy today), is a superb documentary on the making of the horror classic and is credited on the screen as the source material. I sometimes wonder if the screenwriter read the liner notes.

There is no bad acting throughout the entire picture. Anthony Hopkins, who is receiving lots of praise from critics, was not a bad Hitchcock. But at times he was still Anthony Hopkins. Will he win a few acting nominations? Yes. Will he win any? We shall have to see. Mr. Hopkins is a great actor. But to play the role is to be the role and very rarely do I see an actor play a role so strongly that I honestly forget for two hours who is playing the character. Yes, rarely. I personally thought Daniel Day Lewis was an excellent Abraham Lincoln and I will not be surprised if he wins the Best Actor Oscar. The only person who could beat Lewis is Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables, but again at times I saw Hugh Jackman... not Jean Val Jean. Helen Mirren gave one of her better performances and I wish I could see her in more movies. James D'Arcy was great as Anthony Perkins and it's sad his role was played down to a small brief scene. The person who stood out among the entire cast, however, was the beautiful Scarlet Johansson. As Janet Leigh, Johansson hit her mark and then some. I really thought she was Janet Leigh.

Helen Mirren (Alma Hitchcock) and Scarlet Johanssen
In 2000, I had the opportunity to interview Janet Leigh who told me what intrigued her the most about the role. "When I read the screenplay, I was thrilled because it was so much better than the novel. The character of Marion was so thoroughly gone into and researched that it made my role a more interval part. She was so important in the first part of the movie that when she leaves, the audience was just struck with shock. I was stunned when i first saw it. I had no idea that it was going to have that kind of an effect on me and on the audience in the screening room. Of course, we didn't know how the larger audiences would feel, but I can tell you that it had an extremely horrific imprint on my mind and on the people who first saw it on the screening."

In Hitchcock (2012), it was the liberties that the scriptwriter and director applied that made me squirm in my seat. Most notable factoids that were incorrect? Psycho went about Hollywood in the form of a galley, not as a novel. Hitchcock never sent his people out to buy every copy of the novel after it was already published. Most people referred to him as Mr. Hitchcock -- not "Hitch." Janet Leigh is portrayed referring to him as the latter but even first-year film scholars know that Grace Kelly and Alfred Hitchcock's relationship, while professional, still remained "Miss Kelly" and "Mr. Hitchcock." Janet Leigh, in 2000, still referred to him as "Mr. Hitchcock." The director sent Joseph Stefano to the production code censors because as Stefano explained to me, "Hitchcock sent me to argue with them as he just thought I would be able to defend the screenplay because I had written it. A lot of it was just very weird stuff. You know, they didn't want me to use the word 'transvestite' and I said, 'But that's a scientific and medical word. A psychological word.' And they seemed to think it was some kind of slang about homosexuals and I said, 'Well, I don't think anyone has ever called a homosexual a transvestite'."

Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock
I rarely go into the theaters with an expectation level. For this movie, I certainly had one. And was I a bit disappointed? Yes. The movie trailer led me to believe that the film was the making of a motion-picture classic. Did Hitchcock really scare Janet Leigh in the shower by waving the blade himself? No. Did Hitchcock argue with the censors about scenes? No. (He did film additional scenes for the movie he knew would never have been approved and inserted them into the print so he could negotiate... "I'll take out these three scenes but I keep the toilet scene...") My only fear is that the younger generation who knows nothing about Hitchcock or his movies will assume the movie is purely factual. Worse, ten years from now at a film festival some young kid will start quoting the plot of this movie as the facts behind the making of Psycho. If this is so, movies like this should have had the disclaimer at the beginning of the movie -- not at the very end.

It would have been nice for the producers to have filmed a scene demonstrating how movie critics at the time panned the movie because they were not allowed to see the film in advance. Yes, they took it personal. But Hitchcock did not want anyone revealing the shower stabbing sequence until after the movie was released in theaters. It also would have been nice for the producers to go into detail about such movie facts as...
-- The blood running down the drain was actually Hershey's chocolate syrup. The company had recently released on store shelves a new squeeze bottle. Prior to this, chocolate syrup came in a can.
-- Janet Leigh had skin-colored undergarments to protect herself from peering eyes on the set.
-- The take-apart shower I mentioned above.
-- Hitchcock thanked Simon Oakland at the conclusion of the filming, telling the actor that his explanation of the solution to the mystery made his entire picture.
-- Who really voiced Mother Bates in the picture?
-- How they accomplished the car-sinking-in-the-swamp-then-pausing-before-another-sinking scene.

There is a happy little ending to this review. After Psycho made a large fortune for Alfred Hitchcock (who used his television crew to film the movie), Universal Studios sought interest in buying the movie. In 1964, by the advice of Lew Wasserman, the director sold the movie to the studio (Paramount only had distribution rights, nothing more) along with his entire TV series (when it concluded in 1965). Universal would own the rights to the entire Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Psycho. In exchange, Hitchcock received a small fortune in Universal Studios stock (150,000 shares of MCA stock), a deal that made the director the company's third largest shareholder. And more importantly.... every movie Hitchcock ever made was released through Universal. This prevented the kind of problem Hitchcock suffered in the past with his movies. Distribution was guaranteed. (This is why, when you watch the movie today, the film opens with today's Universal Studios logo, followed by the actual movie print with the Paramount Pictures logo.)

Today in New York City, if you pay to go through the NBC Studios Tour at Rockefeller Center, you are treated to a 20 minute video about the history of NBC and Universal Studios. They are apparently proud of taking credit for Psycho (and the 1932 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) when in fact, they were released through Paramount Pictures. Universal later bought ownership but the studio was not responsible for the film's production or theatrical release. To claim the studio was responsible for such movies is inaccurate. I later wrote a letter to the CEO of NBC/Universal pointing out this historical error. Two years later, nothing has been done to correct this oversight. What's even sad is the fact that a 20-something kid in the audience knew that and made a remark about the films being Paramount productions. Which goes to show you that you cannot fool a kid in his twenties... and when an inaccuracy is brought to the attention of the CEO and nothing is done afterwards... that's irresponsibility and there's no excuse for that.

In closing, Hitchcock (2012) is by no means a bad movie. If there is any failure to turn a profit it is the lack of distribution and the horrible movie trailer that misleads theater audiences to come see the movie. People go to the movies with an expectation and it is that expectation that drives them to the theaters in the first place. Had I gone to the theater expecting a speculative marital relationship, I might have enjoyed the movie a bit more. Sadly, our movie theater did not chose to carry the film and my wife looked online to find the nearest movie theater carrying the picture... two hours away in what appeared to be the only movie theater in the state of Maryland even screening the movie. Had I known the film was not going to be as advertised, I would have waited until the DVD release. Of course, a written comment towards the end of the closing credits reminded movie goers that what they watched was based on true events, but scenes were written for dramatic appeal. In other words, while most of the audience had already left the theater by that time, the filmmakers only then wanted us to approach Hitchcock as a piece of entertainment. Not a documentary.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Whatever Happened to Kato?

This is for all you Green Hornet fans...

In late 1935, radio director Jim Jewell was responsible for casting the new radio program, The Green Hornet. Not satisfied with the way the Chinese actors were portraying Chinese on the Dr. Fang program (circa 1933-1934), Jewell talked by phone with Cullen Landis, once a leading juvenile in the movies and now directing commercial films for Jam Handy. Since Landis was looking for two Chinese actors for a film and Jewell was looking for a Japanese for the role of Kato, they made a successful exchange. Actor Tokataro Hayashi was the first to play the role of Kato beginning in January of 1936. His talent contract assured him $25 per week to play the role, “whether by radio or visual broadcasting and for as many performances as are necessary.” As of September 8, 1938, his salary went up an extra $5 per week. Hayashi was renamed by Jewell as Toyo, and he is sometimes credited on paper as Raymond Hayashi and Raymond Toyo. 

Today, fans listening to the radio program prefer the earlier adventures because the actors playing the roles were best suited. When Toyo was replaced, the actor tried to speak Oriental but there can be no comparison when an Oriental tries to speak English. But there remains a mystery that has puzzled thousands of historians... until now.

Sometime in 1942 (the exact date remains unknown), Raymond Toyo Hayashi came upon a problem that offered no solution. Because of the war, the U.S. government sent official notice that Toyo was to be sent back to Japan. Since Dick Osgood was broadcasting a series called March of Victory for the Hi-Speed Gas Stations, and a number of scripts had to be cleared through six departments in Washington, the little Japanese believed that Osgood might have an “in” with the government. But it was not so and when Britt Reid phones Kato from his office at The Daily Sentinel to make preparations for the evening’s adventure, he does so alone using a private line. Numerous episodes make reference to the private line, but many of the later ones do not mention it. Fans of the series often wondered why Reid would discuss such plans over a phone line that could be monitored by a switchboard operator, but this explanation was offered many times in the earliest of Green Hornet adventures.

Osgood could do nothing to aid Toyo. Trendle had no influence with members of Congress to have the notice served on Toyo waived. According to Osgood, the Japanese actor disappeared, “presumably to a concentration camp in the west.” No one at WXYZ ever saw Toyo again. This was what Osgood reported in his book, Wyxie Wonderland (Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1981). And for more than two decades, historians including Terry Salomonson and myself assumed the same.

Bob Keller in Waukesha, Wisconsin, brought to my attention some information that solves the mystery. A recently-published article by Clifford Hayashi reveals not only Raymond's past before he became an actor at radio station WXYZ, but what happened to the Japanese actor during and after World War II.

Small note I would like to add before you click the link and read this amusing story. Some of the facts are not 100 percent accurate. For example, Hayashi claims the actor was paid $60 a week at WXYZ. Both Terry and myself have a zerox copy of all the talent contracts at WXYZ and his starting pay was $25 a week, later raised to $30, as stated above. But for the most part, like any historical document, this is as good as it gets and we are very thankful Clifford Hayashi was able to compile this information, with the assistance of Raymond's daughter.

CLICK HERE:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

The way I look at it, if Sports Illustrated can have their own swimsuit issue, we can have one of our own to ring in the New Year!

Barbara Kent

Donna Reed

Dorothy Lee and Thelma White

Joan Vohs