Thursday, January 29, 2009

Now Playing

This ad for “Typhoon” (1940) promises us a “tornado of tropic romance.” Dorothy Lamour, whose name became synonymous with the tropics, stars with Robert Preston as lovers who meet on a deserted island. Deserted except for Dorothy, her chimpanzee pal, and some bad guys and comedy relief. We can see here that “Billy the Kid in Texas” is second-billed, plus a Donald Duck cartoon. Enough to keep you occupied for the afternoon, for a 15-cent balcony seat.

This Just In....

Since it seems award season is upon us, and the blogging community is not one to be left out, there seems to be a friendly new honor bestowed among bloggers going around. Madame Campaspe across the hall at Self-Styled Siren has slapped me with a Premio Dardos award.

Explanation as follows:

"The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web."

And the rules:
"1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award."

With deep gratitude I will merely curtsy (curtsies) and omit the tearful acceptance speech, even though I have practised it several times in the bathroom mirror. My glad duty now is to pass the award along, and so here goes:

To Moira at the TCM Movie Morlocks, (and other blogs) for her intelligent analysis and fine research on classic films.

To Jonas at All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing! for his masterful technical approach to the discussion of early sound films.

To Thom at Film of the Year for relating popular film as a tool for historical study, one of my favorite subjects.

To John at Robert Frost's Banjo whose blog enriches us not only with a discussion of classic film, but with music, poetry, and literature. It is a liberal arts smorgasbord.

And to Mr. Jeff Kallman at The Easy Ace, a Journal of Classic Radio, for his detailed blog on the art of classic radio programs, a topic dear to my heart and an important 20th century media which needs to be studied more and better understood.

Thank you again, Siren, and congratulations all.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Twenty Actors List

Following in the wake of The Siren’s “Inevitable 20 Favorite Actors” list, here are a group of gentlemen whose presence in a movie might make me watch the movie even if I thought maybe the movie was going to be lousy.

Here goes, sans photos, explanations. In no particular order:

Charles Boyer
Joseph Cotten
Dana Andrews
Jack Carson
Arthur Kennedy
Van Heflin
Harold Lloyd
Buster Keaton
Henry Fonda
James Stewart
William Holden
James Cagney
Fredric March
Lloyd Nolan
Gregory Peck
Van Johnson
Edward G. Robinson
Robert Young
Humphrey Bogart
Charles Bickford

With regret for all the names I must leave off.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tragedy and Comedy in New England

Henry Fonda and James Stewart found acting work early in their careers in summer stock on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Both worked with the University Players in Falmouth. Fonda also worked with the Cape Playhouse down the road in Dennis, where a young Bette Davis was an usher, soon to get her own chance to perform onstage under Laura Hope Crews. Robert Montgomery, Constance Collier, Frances Farmer, and Lloyd Nolan all appeared here in their apprentice years. Other movie stars who performed here were Humphrey Bogart, Lana Turner, and Ginger Rogers.

Later on, Fonda, still scrounging for work on the New England summer theater circuit, would do odd jobs at the summer theater in Surrey, Maine, where he chauffeured and picked up guest actor Joseph Cotten’s trunk at the railroad depot.

Humphrey Bogart appeared a little further south in Maine at the Lakewood Theater in Skowhegan.

Jane Wyatt got her start with the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge, Mass., where Mary Wickes also played.

Summer stock and road shows were not only for the novice actors. Ethel Barrymore, Basil Rathbone, Cornelia Otis Skinner, and Judith Anderson regularly trod the boards of rather humble New England playhouses, long after they had achieved their fame.

This post is actually to introduce a new blog of mine (Yeah, I know. The Internet really needs another blog) on theatre in New England, past and present. It’s called Tragedy and Comedy in New England, and I hope you can stop by for a visit.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Movies about the Presidents

As we celebrate tomorrow the inauguration of our 44th President, it’s interesting to consider that there really haven’t been a lot of movies made about our Presidents.

Hollywood’s heyday covered a lot of historic figures in movies that dramatized fact and fiction, sometimes without seeming importance for one over the other. In this parade of historical figures, the Presidents have been given short shrift. I can think of only a handful:

“The Flag” (1927) covered in this earlier blog post, Francis X. Bushman plays a brief role as a dashing George Washington in a story that is really more about Betsy Ross.

“Young Mr. Lincoln” (1939), Henry Fonda plays Honest Abe in this John Ford film.

“Abe Lincoln in Illinois” (1940). Raymond Massey, who many feel owned the role of Lincoln after portraying him in Robert Sherwood’s Broadway play, takes the helm as Commander in Chief in this John Cromwell film. Ruth Gordon plays Mary Todd Lincoln.

“Wilson” (1944), Alexander Knox plays Woodrow Wilson in this wartime-inspired patriotic piece.

“The President’s Lady” (1953). Charlton Heston plays Andrew Jackson the film about Old Hickory’s courtship with his wife, Rachel.

“PT 109” (1963). Cliff Robertson plays a pre-Presidential Navy Lieutenant John F. Kennedy.

The best I’ve seen among Presidential biographies belongs not to Hollywood’s Golden Age, but to HBO’s magnificent series on “John Adams” last year, based on the book by David McCullough. It’s a good thing to be reminded of our heritage from time to time, our strengths as well as our weaknesses, and biographical dramatizations help stir our imaginations if they cannot stir our memories. As the saying goes, you have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.

Hail to the Chief.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Former Strand Theater- Key West, Florida

This was the Strand Theater of Key West, now a Walgreen’s drug store. This Duval Street institution has the distinction of being a movie theater, and then being used in a 1993 film, when it was no longer a movie theater, to stand in for a movie theater.

Art imitates life? Maybe. Opening in the mid-1920s, The Strand closed in the early 1980s. According to this website, it opened as a nightclub, and then became a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in 1993.

The building closed in 2002, but is now open as a Walgreen’s, which restored its damaged marquee in an unusual and fitting manner to display its own advertising.

According to the Cinema Treasures website here, many other elements of its original interior were to be saved. From the IMDb site, we learn that this building was used in the 1993 film “Matinee” with John Goodman, a comedy where a film promoter releases a horror film here during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It may not be often that a theater gets to star, especially when it’s no longer a theater at all.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Twentieth Century (1934)

This post is part of the Howard Hawks Blog-a-thon over at Only the Cinema. Please have a look at the other interesting posts on this very talented director's early career.

Adapted from a Broadway play, Twentieth Century (1934) is at once a postcard from the past, a world of luxury train travel and screwball comedy, and is also a timeless valentine to screwballs and eccentrics of every stripe.

There are plenty of them in this movie.

John Barrymore plays a delightful egomaniac theater impresario, who discovers in a shy and clumsy Carole Lombard his latest project of self glorification, to turn her into a star. This he does, with much coaching, bullying, and jabbing her in the bottom with the pin from her corsage to make her scream to his satisfaction at the appropriate moment in the script.

From the flies of the theater, the catwalk above the stage, he watches her on opening night perform to thunderous applause. In her dressing room afterwards, he declares on his knee, his adulation for her as an artist. She returns his humble tribute by showing him how, with gratitude, she has enshrined the pin with which he assaulted her, on a heart-shaped cushion. Every scene, nearly every line from then on is a parody of the effusive natures in the world of theatre.

After a few years of hits, Miss Lombard, now Mr. Barrymore’s lover, bristles under his obsessive control, takes her own now considerable ego out of their elegant Manhattan digs and heads for success in Hollywood. After a few years of failure without her, Mr. Barrymore catches the same train she is taking to return to New York to woo her, or trick her, whichever works, into signing a new contract with him.

Walter Connolly and Roscoe Karns are terrific as the king’s bumbling courtiers. Also appearing are Charles Lane, who as previously mentioned on this blog had a part in every movie ever made, I’m pretty sure, and Etienne Girardot as the nutty reformer who plasters “Repent” notices on the train windows, on the backs of detectives, and on the unfortunate Mr. Connolly’s hat.

The lines fly fast and furious, and most are not so topical that they cannot be easily understood today. Silliness has no expiration date. However, younger audiences might not catch the significance of “The 20th Century Limited,” which was the name of the train. It was the top of the line in train travel in an era where everybody took the train. Film stars habitually took "The 20th Century” from New York to Chicago, and then took the Chief or Super Chief the rest of the way to Los Angeles.

The train left each city in early afternoon, took about 20 hours to reach either New York or Chicago the following morning. It was the most elegantly appointed, had the best food, and was the most expensive. It was a world unto itself.

John Barrymore was called The Great Profile in his day, and either to take advantage of his still handsome looks or to play upon this nickname, he is seen in profile for most of this movie. This was probably John Barrymore’s best performance in films, and perhaps partly due to his own penchant for mockery. Never seeming to completely take himself seriously, this notoriously heavy drinking, womanizing bad boy of the theater also represented the prestige of America’s theatrical “royal” family, and was himself the Hamlet of a generation. Barrymore could not seem to reconcile the two, and brought his sardonic edge and his boyish humor to a role he understood very well.

Five years after this movie was made, when his drinking took his health and his fortunes, and his acting to new lows, John Barrymore gave another theatrical performance mocking both the theater and himself. He toured in a play called My Dear Children where he began to seem to forget lines, ad libbed obscenities, and appeared to be drunk on stage. According to The Barrymores by Hollis Alpert (The Dial Press:NY, 1964), young ingĂ©nue Dorothy McGuire left the show, complaining to director Otto Preminger, “I had great admiration for John Barrymore when we started, but I cannot watch this man making a fool of himself.”

Here is an interesting clip of a radio interview Mr. Barrymore did in Omaha, Nebraska referring effusively both to Miss McGuire and her mother. If Barrymore’s stage drunkenness was an act, he continued it here.

Audiences began to flock to the play, not to be thrilled by the great John Barrymore, but expecting to watch him in a (no pun intended) train wreck of a performance. Otto Preminger rebuked him, and when Barrymore performed perfectly the next night, Preminger asked why he didn’t perform this way every night. Barrymore is quoted as replying, “Bored, dear boy.” He is Oscar Jaffe on the skids, playing with the whole notion of the theater as art and as an occupation, like a bored kid with a paddle ball.

Mr. Alpert’s book also refers to Howard Hawks’ 1963 interview in Cinema magazine where both Hawks and Barrymore were initially disappointed in Carole Lombard in the role of the temperamental actress, finding her too stiff. But when she was encouraged to let go and be more natural and really fight with Barrymore, both men were pleased with her comedic timing.

One of the best scenes is when Barrymore tries to entice her back to his company by promising her the lead in a new production of the Passion Play. This one, however, is all about Mary Magdalene, and all about her. His eloquent and over-the-top descriptions of getting real camels, as he imitates the way camels chew, and getting real sand from the Holy Land, is hysterical. At first she is swept away by his fantasy, and then we see she sees right through him. He leaps away from her kicks.

Another superb scene is when he is accidentally shot, and though the wound is superficial, he plays a grand death scene, savoring it, and almost seems to believe it himself. This is the true genius of the way Barrymore plays the role. Like a man who knows the theater, knows himself, and knows how to manipulate reality, he sometimes is so swept away by what he himself is making up, he almost thinks it real.

The script is literate and silly, but Howard Hawks brings even more to the script by following this fine line of believing the silliness. Lombard’s role is not just a shrewish diva. She believes in theater, and in Barrymore. They know it is artificial, and a touching scene reminds us they know. But like children, they believe because they very much want to believe.

Barrymore’s character could just be a loud-mouthed conman, but he isn’t. He’s an artist, every lie, every exaggeration is art. He continually creates the work of art that is himself. Just as the real John Barrymore did.

Ironically, we lost both Carole Lombard and John Barrymore a few months apart in 1942. "The 20th Century Limited” train was discontinued in 1967. Younger old movie buffs know or will learn about the talent of Carole Lombard and John Barrymore because film makes actors immortal. They’ll probably never understand how significant for both a title and a setting was the train, “The 20th Century.”

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stay Tuned .....

Monday we join the Howard Hawks Blog-a-thon hosted by Only the Cinema. I'm discussing "Twentieth Century" (1934) with John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. Train leaves Monday morning. See you at the station.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Small Screen to Big Screen

In the film “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1962), after the punch-drunk, down and out fighter Mountain Rivera, played by Anthony Quinn, is rejected for a job as a movie usher, his pal Army, played by Mickey Rooney, retorts to the movie manager, “I like TV better anyway!”

From radio this week, we move to television. Three episodes of the truly heavyweight champ of 1950s television drama, “Playhouse 90”, were later adapted into award-winning films. “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” and “The Miracle Worker,” and “Judgment at Nuremberg” have wildly different subject matter, but running between them is a common thread of telling a story through character and dialogue. Even in “Requiem for a Heavyweight”, a story of the boxing world, there is very little action.

Live television in those days, though not all “Playhouse 90” shows were live, did not allow for a lot physical space. The sets might not have been minimalist, but the action was. It was a theater of the mind, not exactly in the same way radio was, but in that it was up to the audience to decipher the relationships of the characters to each other and the flow of the story through subtle movements and powerful dialogue. Consequences were weighed in the balance, not just by the characters in the story, but the audience at home. Sometimes in today’s movies, with a heavier reliance on action, the consequences are less clear, and obstacles are easily removed with another shooting or explosion, or car crash. On a small, almost claustrophobic television studio set, problems had to be faced because they could not be run away from so easily.

“Playhouse 90” had that title because it was a 90-minute show that featured a new script with new characters each week. One may observe that the scripts were so strong that not only did they appeal to Hollywood as material, but when they were eventually transferred to the big screen, there were few changes in the appearances of the shows.

“Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961) probably changed the most, and that is due to film’s ability to open up views of a post-war Germany and allow us to travel to more locations than just a courtroom. Maximillian Schell appeared in both the TV and film versions, but most of the rest of cast were new. Werner Klemperer, who became known in the 1960s for playing Colonel Klink in the TV sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes” played Emil Hahn in the 1956 TV version, replaced by Burt Lancaster for the film.

“The Miracle Worker” (1962) I think changed the least of all three stories in its transference to film. Its 1957 TV version featured Teresa Wright as Annie Sullivan. She was nominated for an Emmy for this role, and all these three “Playhouse 90” productions won a slew of Emmy awards, and several Oscars among them for the film versions.

There is an interesting difference story twist when it comes to “Requiem for a Heavyweight”. The 1956 live TV show which featured Jack Palance as Mountain, Keenan Wynn as the conniving manager Maish, and Keenan’s father, Ed Wynn, as the soft-hearted cut man Army, gave us a more hopeful ending for the fighter. His boxing career brought to an end with one too many punches, the gentle giant gets a job teaching athletics at a children’s summer camp. Maish picks up another young boxer to exploit.

In the film, Maish, played by Jackie Gleason, does the only gallant thing he ever does by rejecting becoming the new young boxer’s manager and refusing to ruin another person’s life by getting him half killed. The ending is more tragic for Mountain, who agrees to become a clownish professional wrestler to pay off Maish’s debts to gangsters.

It is a more pessimistic ending, and the understated performance of Mickey Rooney deserves special notice, especially as his cries watching the once proud boxer humiliate himself. The shot above the ring, as we look down below on the forced antics of Mountain as a wrestler, is something that could not have been done on TV at the time, but it is an effective shot, making him look like a performing circus animal in a cage. It is one of those times when a film technique enhances the story in a way TV could not.

In all these stories, the transference to film is done with sensitivity to the intimacy created by their original presentations on TV. There seems to be no “bigger is better” attitude in the film versions, and this is rare and fortunate.

In the case of “The Miracle Worker”, what might have kept the film so close to the original TV presentation is the fact that the writer, William Gibson, and director Arthur Penn, were teamed in both the TV and film versions, as well as on the unusual in-between project of the successful Broadway play in 1959. Broadway brought actresses Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke on board, both of whom went along when the story was carried one further step to feature film.

There were other dramas in the 1950s from programs other than “Playhouse 90” which eventually were made into films, such as the Academy Award winning “Marty” (1955). For the first time movies had a new source other than adaptations from books and original screenplays for scripts. TV, which in the 1950s was seen as a competitor to films, supplied Hollywood with a few of its finest films of the early 1960s.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Movie Stars on the Radio

A couple of weeks ago, a reader posted a comment on my essay on “Theater Guild on the Air” from September 2008 (see link to post here):

Professional Tourist said...
I have been trying to track down a copy of the Theater Guild on the Air production of "The Little Foxes" with Agnes Moorehead, which was broadcast on January 4, 1948. So far I've had no luck -- the Internet Archive site, which you link above, does not have this particular program, and I haven't found any place else on the net that has this one.

Do you know of any additional resources for these Theater Guild on the Air programs (preferably in MP3 format, but CD would work too)?

Thank you.
December 19, 2008
Jacqueline T Lynch said...
Hi, and welcome to the blog. I've taken a look around the sites with which I'm familiar, and unfortunately I've come up with nothing. There are a few episodes of Theater Guild on the Air which seem to be missing, or at least not commercially available. I know how frustrating that is. I'm still looking for an episode broadcast the following month, "Romeo & Juliet" with Dorothy McGuire and Maurice Evans. The only source I've found is the Paley Center for Media, formerly called the Museum of Television and Radio. I'd have to go to New York City to listen to it. I may just, sometime.

I've checked their database, but among the many entries they have for Agnes Moorehead, the show you want isn't among them.

I'll keep looking, and if ever I find it, I'll post it on the blog. I hope our readers will keep an eye out, too.

I hope some of our readers can help with Professional Tourist’s request. It raised for me the question of why more old movie buffs are not also old radio buffs? Old movies and old radio are like peanut butter and jelly. They go together.

This blog has addressed the appearances of Hollywood stars on old radio before, in the above-mentioned post, and in a post on the Lux Radio Theatre from April 2007.

Part of the reason for so many old movie fans not to jump on the old radio bandwagon could be that many of these programs were difficult to obtain before the days of Internet. Early collectors of classic radio programs, which today are commonly referred to as “Old-Time Radio” or “OTR”, had to scrounge for reel-to-reel audio or transcription to acetate disks. In the nostalgic craze of the 1970s, some old time radio programs became available on vinyl LP, and later cassette.

Today, collectors are more fortunate in obtaining a wide selection of OTR shows on audio CD, as MP3 files, and in the presence of so many dealers in old time radio with easily accessible websites and some of which also publish mail order catalogues.

One website is The Vintage Radio Place, which also posts a valuable log of programs with dates and guest stars.

Another site is, which offers interesting collections of programs. I’m shortly due to receive from this dealer a collection of appearances on different programs by Barbara Stanwyck, and another with a collection of different Shakespearean presentations on radio. If you have a favorite star or program, this site offers entire collections, including collections of programs relative to different holidays or subjects.

There are a number of these sellers of old-time radio packages, and also free sources like the Internet Archive of shows in public domain. You can also listen to streaming audio of old-time radio shows on, hosted by Wayne Boenig.

OTR fans can also enjoy a wealth of information on one of my favorite blogs, The Easy Ace.

Newcomers to OTR might think of old radio in terms of serial programs for children, like “The Lone Ranger” or “The Shadow”, but most stars of Hollywood’s heyday performed on radio, and some of them, like Barbara Stanwyck, or Joseph Cotten, performed on radio a lot.

I’ve also been surprised reading through biographies or autobiographies of film stars through the years that they rarely mention radio performances, yet this was an important part of an actor’s resume before television.

Radio curiously melded together the competing worlds of Film and Stage, which usually disdained each other. Here, before a standing microphone and usually before a live audience, those two worlds collided, and usually with fascinating results.

(Actually, some programs were not done live, but recorded without an audience, on disk, and played for later radio transmission. It has been noted that Joan Crawford, who did not do a lot of radio, preferred this method because she was not a stage actress and the thought of performing live made her anxious. She preferred having the control of being able to do over a mistake.)

Radio was the place for newcomers to get their first jobs. Jennifer Jones had her own local program in Oklahoma when she was still Phyllis Isley. Robert Walker and Dorothy McGuire both started on radio soap operas.

Radio was the place for actors and actresses to play roles which otherwise would not be offered to them, playing Shakespeare, playing roles which were older or younger than they might normally be cast. Or, play against type. Heroes and heroines became killers and nasty people without any noticeable detriment to their film careers. Character actors, like Agnes Moorehead, frequently played leads on radio.

Radio was the place where almost the entire cast of a movie could be reunited, such as in Screen Guild Theater’s production of “How Green Was My Valley” in 1941, with Sara Allgood, Walter Pidgeon, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowall, Rhys Williams, and Maureen O’Hara.

Radio was the place where actors who never performed in a film together, could be paired off like Humphrey Bogart and Dorothy McGuire in “The Valiant” on Screen Guild Theater, a play that had been written by another actor in the show, Robert Middlemass.

Middlemass wasn’t the only author to trod the boards, or rather the airways. Novelist Edna Ferber played Parthy Hawks in a Campbell Soup Playhouse production of “Show Boat”, based on her novel, in 1939 that starred Margaret Sullavan, with Helen Morgan reprising her original Broadway role as Julie. Ferber clearly threw herself into the role, which was her acting debut, but since there was no actual scenery to chew, we can just say she approached the part with gusto.

Radio was the place where stars got their own shows, like “Bold Venture” with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, a steamy series set in Havana, where they do a take on their “To Have and Have Not” characters. One of my favorite characters in this series is the sarcastic chief of police who once returned a lost purse to Bacall’s character, named Sailor Duval. He said he knew it was hers because it didn’t have any money in it.

Ronald Colman and wife Benita Hume played in the comedy “The Halls of Ivy”, and Dana Andrews starred in his own noir-ish series, “I Was a Communist for the FBI.” Phil Harris and Alice Faye ran amok in a funny situation comedy, “The Phil Harris and Alice Faye Show.”

And if you’ve never heard the comedy “Our Miss Brooks” with Eve Arden, her sardonic delivery is as delightful as any of her film performances, and she’s backed up by Gale Gordon, who was probably the best foil anybody ever had on radio. Again, here we have a case of an actress who never got lead roles in film, but made radio her ticket to stardom and became an icon of popular culture.

Radio was where actors and actresses got a crack at performing roles made famous by others, like Loretta Young in a Campbell Soup Playhouse production of “Theodora Goes Wild” in 1940, a role performed on film by Irene Dunne.

Ronald Regan and his then wife Jane Wyman took over the Dennis Morgan and Barbara Stanwyck roles in “Christmas in Connecticut” in 1946 on Screen Guild Theater. If you listen to this one, the sound is distorted in the first few minutes, but hang on, it clears up. And probably the funniest performance by a sound effects guy comes when they do the scene of bathing the baby. The audience continually breaks up.

Radio was a seat-of-your-pants venue, where when Screen Guild Theater’s “History is Made at Night” had a last-minute cast change. This 1940 show was meant to feature Charles Boyer and Myrna Loy, but the announcer tells us that Greer Garson is stepping in at the last minute because Myrna Loy has spent the last week in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital “fighting a bad case of the flu.” It was Greer Garson’s first radio performance in the United States, and as is supposed to happen in theater, the understudy became a star.

Actually, the understudy was already a seasoned actress and on her way to being groomed to become one of MGM’s biggest stars. Where else but in old time radio would a star acquiesce to understudy status? Filling in for each other at the last minute was common in radio then. Barbara Stanwyck even famously filled in for Mary Livingstone on the Jack Benny Show. All one needed was a script in hand, a good voice, and steady nerves.

While old-time radio has become more easily accessible than ever, there are still, unfortunately, a number of missing programs that collectors and fans are trying to locate. For the newcomer, a whole new world is opened when listening to these programs. Largely, it is a world of your own imagination, and that is the most astonishing, and gratifying, part of it, as well as getting to enjoy favorite actors and actresses showing another side.

For a gallery of photos of stars behind the mic, have a look at the Old Time Radio Scrapbook.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Now Playing - New Year's Day at the Movies

Here is an ad for "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" (1944), the offering at this Loew's Poli, an MGM movie theater, on New Year's Day, 1945. I've also run this graphic on my New England Travels blog this week, as the theater was once a fixture in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, though there were other Loew's Poli theaters in other towns.

We see the special midnight screening of "Meet Me in St. Louis" preview, which was an attraction for war workers on the swing shift who chose to spend their New Year's Eve not in formal wear and paper hats, but at the movies in their work clothes.

We are ever urged to buy war bonds. On this year when we've lost Van Johnson, who is featured in this movie and in this ad, let's take a moment to look back on those those special talents we've lost in 2008. Let's also recall a time when the movie theater was so much a part of our daily lives that it never seemed to close. We could buy bonds here, and give blood here, and sometimes walk away with dishes.

Happy New Year.

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