The Pittsburgh Press from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 11, 1943 · Page 20
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The Pittsburgh Press from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 20

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Sunday, July 11, 1943
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SIX SECOND SECTION THE PITTSBURGH PRESS, SUNDAY, JULY II, 1943 Regular Guy! Director Sam Wood, Maker Of Hits, Has Done It Again With Tor Whom The Bell Tolls Pals Say Theater News Blue Chip ,. '.;;? I ii rmn-itli .iiwM,.wMiwil.iii-)iiite.i:;: : ,ii iii v n 1 1 in inn i ii iniiini ii i iinrwiiimi ii I mil inn i miiriii nun ill ACE ROMANTICISTS of the year at least that's the prediction) are Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman in Sam Wood's production of "For Whom the Bell Tolls," holding its world's premiere Wednesday evening in New York. SHOW SHOPS To Holljrw-ood, TJSO and any and everybody else it may concern: Egad, this Is what the smart film gossip col umnist might term as "an open letter." Whatever it is, it's a big squawk against what seems to me an utter breakdown in at least one department of your otherwise excellently co ordinated pro- Mr. Monahan gTam to bring entertainment to the men of the armed forces. Here in this country you really are doing wonders, as the local Canteen bears testimony. Sandwiches, cokes, root-beers, movies, bands, dancing with the town's scrumptious belles, free tickets to ball games and what-not all for the boys who stop over in our village between the two rivers. That's fine, that's swell. Everything done for the comfort and amusement of these kids deserves commendation and this sage, from time to time, has not failed to sound your praises in this respect. Listen To This But what about the boys overseas, in the far-off corners of the earth? What are you doing for them? Oh, let's not be silly and unreasonable. Nobody expects 5ou to erect air-cooled cantecjis in Guadalcanal, in islets just wrested from the Japs the day before yesterday, or in the swampy jungles of New Guinea. Or personal appearances of Kit Cornell, Lamarr and Cary Grant and that sort of thing. But Well, listen to a more authoritative voice on this matter than that of Monahan, who, I'll grant you, is given to complainings not always justified by the facts. Hearken : . . As for entertainment, we get pictures through the special services but what pictures! "They gave us a short the other night with Graham McNamee narrating and he's been dead for several years. "They showed us an English picture recently and it was putrid. The final scene showed the Eng- A Problem! Marge Is Buried Under Fan Mail Avalanche HOLLYWOOD Marjorie Reynolds Is facing the biggest fan mail task of her young career and Is hiring her first secretary to help out. The young blond actress has Just returned from eight weeks meeting and entertaining soldiers throughout Alaska, having started the trip Immediately after finshing "Dixie." The first thing that confronted her was a pile of cartons in her dressing room. There were 20 huge cartons in all, each filled with fan mail letters which have accumulated during her absence. In going through the letters, Marjories finds that thousands are from soldiers she met and talked with on her Alaskan trip and each mail She's cot to answer everv letter. She can't Just send out a photo and form letter as in the case of the usual fan mail a star gets. -By KASFAR MONAHAN" lish bombing Germany in bi- planes of all things! "Sometimes I think I have better film on my teeth than they send over here in tin cans. It isn't the fault of the special service men on this side. It traces back to Washington and Hollywood, where they are dumping the films that never would go in the States on us, but what are we to do? "We see pictures so seldom that most of us have looked at the same pictures three or four times. We did have one picture that reached an all-time low. It was some opus titled 'Mother Carey's Chickens." It was supposed to have played two nights but was so bad it lasted exactly one night and was taken out." Speaks For All That's part of a letter from New Guinea; from Lester Bieder-man, a first lieutenant in the Air Corps. Less than a year ago he was our baseball writer here doing pieces on the Pirates. His letter reveals that he and his buddies are utterly starved for some sort of decent entertainment and, don't forget they're in easy bombing distance from the enemy. "Alerts" are common occurrences. Evidently they're under constant strain after months in these jungles and, oh, how they'd welcome a really entertaining movie once in a while! Weigh The Same Of course, the difficulties of shipping movies or anything else to these remote islands are great. That's granted. But a can of film is a can of film, regardless of whether it's a feeble turkey such as "Mother Carey s Chickens" or something up-to-date and breezy such as, say, "The More the Merrier." One weighs no more or takes up any more precious space than the other. That being the case, why aren't the fellows down whose necks the Japs are all but breathing being supplied with a higher grade of movie entertainment? I think the BIG PROBLEM in filming "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was the sleeping bag sequence but canny old Sam Wood, left, pictured as he directs Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper in the scene, managed it in good taste. By IIEDDA HOPPER HOLLYWOOD, July 11 Hollywood calls Sam Wood its blue chip director. Sam's the fellow who produced and directed "For Whom the Bell Tolls." He's now formed his own company in partnership with Gary Cooper, and he's just finished "Saratoga Trunk," with Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, for Warners. Sam's been around so long he's a landmarks He began in the movies here in 1907 and had more ups and downs than a roller coaster and provided more entertainment than a A Peo For Our 'Forgotten Men" matter is of utmost importance or is all this talk about "morale," just so much empty vaporing? I think it's important enough for the USO and the movie industry to investigate conditions and then to exert every effort to get first-class and reasonably new films to these boys. If the expense is great then cut down whatever is necessary in the budgets for entertainment of the service men still in the States. Plainly Lt. Biederman is not merely reporting his own views but the opinions of th& other "forgotten men" in New Guinea and other outposts in the South Pacific. North Africa. Too Reports from North Africa, regarding the entertainment situation while not as gloomy as from New Guinea indicate that the lads on the rim of Europe are not getting much to brag about, either. In other words, our men on the actual fighting fronts who have, or soon will, face enemy fire, are pining for the entertainment they grew up on the movies. Perhaps you may think I'm grossly exaggerating the case. You may go to a movie any time you wish have your pick of 20 or more films. So it may be difficult for you to put yourself in the place of one of these boys. But with a little exertion of your imagination I think, you can realize to some degree their state of mind. Movies, American movies, picturing the homeland, letters from home anything and everything associated with the existence they gave up to go to the wars is the very breath of life to them. Surely, with all the millions of dollars in the war entertainment chest and the thousands of men and women actively engaged in the program, some method can be devised whereby the actual fighting men will get a few crumbs of divertissement. And if it's red tape that stands in the way well there's no use messing with red tape. You just slash it and kick it to one side. dozen roller coasters with such films as "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," "Our jTown," "Kitty Foyle," "Kings Rowland "Pride of the Yankees." They're saying that F. W. T. B. T. is a great movie and Paramount was lucky getting Sam to produce and direct it. They're saying other directors might have gone arty, screwy, rugged, or just plain bad. But Sam didn't go wrong. He knows from sad experience what the pub lic will stand for and what it won t Sam's story of how Paramount really got Cooper to play Robert Jordan is this: They were wildly seeking somebody else for it when they discovered they could borrow Cooper from Sam Goldwyn, who then owned his contract, if Para mount would loan Sam Wood to Goldwyn to direct Cooper in "The Pride of the Yankees." The deal was made, and both Wood and Cooper became equally important to the pictures. His Master's Voice I was talking to C. B. Ee Mille about Sam the other day and learned that C. B. laughingly claims credit for teaching him the busi ness. C. B. told me he knew that Wood was going places "because he was the first and only assistant who ever said no to me." Wood worked for C. B. back In 1917. Sam had lost a fortune in real estate and was undecided whether to devote his time to re couping via real estate or the films C. B. convinced Wood his future lay in films and gave him- a job as his assistant. Wood stayed with De Mille three" years, then branched out on his own with the Wallace Reid auto racing series. He never allowed himself to be typed, but deliberately established a reputation for versatility. He worked with Gloria Swanson, Valentino and Reid alternately. "It was good to switch back and forth between a sports yarn, very dressy, sopnisticatea stories witn Gloria, and those Elinor Glyn things I did with Valentino. If you ever allow yourself to be typed you lose your chance to do outstanding things. An ideal career for a director is to switch, for example, from a screwball comedy with the Marx brothers to Garbo, and from musi cal comedy to a 'Kings Row' or 'For Whom the Bell Tolls. Simple Formula Sam has just two theories about movie making. One is that players must possess some of the personality of the characters they portray, and the other is that actors cannot chew scenery. He has no patience what ever for an actor who starts eating his lunch off the papiermache moon while he's doing a love scene. It's unforgivable because it destroys realism in acting and literally cheats the audience of what they want escape from their personal troubles If Sam doesn't get these two factors straightened out before a show begins he doesn't do the show. On the set Sam is a martinet He won the Academy award for Ginger Rogers in "Kitty Foyle" and for Robert Donat in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips." They wonder when he'll win it for himself. He's Respected Actors respect his Judgment. They know (most of them) that he once was an actor. Not a good one that's why he gave it up. He used to chew scenery, and that's another reason ne cant stana watenmg other actors doing it. That was in 1908-'10, when Sam was much, much younger. He worked in pic tures under the name of Shad Ap plegate. He only used Shad Ap- plegate when he played a villain. Other times he was Sam Wood, leading man Playwrights seeking material for the "Once in a Lifetime" school of drama will find no subject in Sam Wood. He's quiet, good-natured (except when actors ham), and he has no directorial whimsies. He lives in the old section of the city where the homes are like those on shady streets in Cleveland or Kansas City, say, and there is little or no automobile traffic. He's proud of his daughter, K. T. Stevens (real name Gloria). . Typical of Wood is the way he introduces her; "Meet the talent in the family." Sam has an enormous enthusiasm (Continued On Next Page) i if v A If &rr - Y 0 ,:" N. Bii fill POPULAR LADY is Betty Grable, for her Technicolor film, "Coney Island," yesterday entered its second week at the Fulton. She has two leading men George Mont gomery and Cesar Romero. Poet Villon Returns To The Boards Revival OT Vaqabond Kinq . . . .... hinds Kousing Welcome In New York " By JACK GAVER United Press Drama Editor NEW YORK, July 10 Eighteen years don't mean much in the life of "The Vagabond King." but. boy, i enmphnrfw twttinff nirti Trst wn. , L UUVCU 111 -1741, bllC lauiuuo 1VU dolf Friml operetta, which rocketed Dennis King to fame and consigned the Duke of Burgundy to hell in thundering chorus for some 500 con secutive performances, is back on the boards in an excellent revival by Russell Janney, the original pro ducer. The show, you may not remem ber, tells how the eminent poet-bum Francois Villon (and, believe me, this is the season when we'd really like to know where are the snows of yesteryear), influenced by the love of a good woman, rouses the Parisian rabble of low degree to the defense of King Louis XI against a Burgundian revolt and is saved from the executioner. The book, which Brian Hooker and Janney devised from the Justin Huntly McCarthy play, "If I Were King," stands the test of time much better than those of most operettas and there is always the music, one of the finest operetta scores Friml or anyone else ever wrote. It is strictly a pleasure to hear again apod singers giving out with "Only a Rose," "Waltz Huguette," "Some Day," "Serenade" and, of course, the unforgettable, rousing '.'Song of the Vagabonds." Yes, indeed, those were the days. . With all due respect to the baritone of John Brownlee, on loan from the Metropolitan Opera Company, I could wish that Dennis King again were lending his elec tric personality to Villon. There is something missing in Brownlee's performance, but we can't have everything, as your ration book will tell you. And if Brownlee falls a little short of perfection, there is Frances Mc Cann as Katherine de Vaucelles, the woman in the case, who is all that the eye and ear can ask. That good actor-director, Jose Ruben, has the role of the wily King, and the comedy, which is a little better than that in most operettas, is mad' more palatable by the work of Will H. Philbrick and Curtis Cooksey in the roles of Tabarie and Le Dain. Huguette, underworld sidekick of Villon, is well played by Arline Thompson. In short, this revival is one to see. Might as well go the whole hog with this communique. Revivals all over the place, as you were warned a few weeks ago. The New Opera Company, which did a bang-up job with the lovely Rosalinda" last season (and it's still running), promises to outdo it self writh a revival of Lehar's "The Merry Widow," now in rehearsal. Jan Kiepura, the Polish opera star. and his wife, Marta Eggerth, one of Europe's greatest singing movie stars before Hitler, will have the leading roles, and also signed are Melville Cooper, the eminent English co median, and Norman Lloyd, an old Orson Welles crony .who attained fame as the villain of the film, "Saboteur." And George Balanchine no less, will do the choreography. Comes Richard Rodgers, com poser, with the announcement that he is going to satisfy his yen to be a solo producer this September by reviving "A Connecticut Yankee; a little number based on Mark Twain's fantasy which ran a mere year here and two years on the road after its premiere on Nov. 3 1927. t rj v. x Jf A - " (SJfl! SP1 LAST OF THE 'EXPENDABLES' in await the Jap attack. Tom I DARE SAY Now the Nixon Theater is dark for the summer, it takes on that curious, musty nostalgic ghostli- ness that is only to be found in a deserted "Opera House." (What a lovely old name! So much more elegant-sounding, somehow, than our more modern word The atre, just as Graveyard has somehow a more stately Mrs. Parry sound than Cemetery). For as long as I can remember, an empty theater has cast a spell upon me. Just to walk down its empty aisles, just to walk across its empty stage, just to look up at the overhanging empty balconies, gives back to me an over whelming homesickness akin to that which I find myself feeling wnen x enter our oia cnurcn at home and look up again at the old stained glass windows with the names of the town's pioneers written there under the Angels, and Christ in his manger. Now, does this shock you for me to brace the theater and the church? That is because the true smell of the theater has never invaded your lungs, nor its lure and romance youc heart. I Dare Say we all treasure dreams of what we would like to do when our ship comes in; and mine would be, I am sure, to build a theater. And it would be something like this: . For the Actors.' It would be built, first of all, for the actors and not the audience, for as anyone who knows the theater knows, performances are not given upon the stage for the benefit of any audience. They are given strictly for the benefit of the participants. Therefore, my theater would have two front entrances: One would be, of course, a fine, wide lobby for the audience. The second, right alongside, and no less bright and convenient, would be the entrance for the actors. Now, I have been in theaters all over America in every major city and in every sizeable town, and in theaters in Canada and Europe and in South America, and I have yet to to see a theater whose entrance for the -actors can compare in any way with the entrance for the audience. They are miserable covert back alley holes. But my theater would in stitute a new facade, and my actors would walk as proudly from the street into their front stage J. teJy tWrHfi reV'V'w ware V 'LEOPARD GIRL' is the role assigned to Dolores Del Rio, the adagio dancer in the spy-infested "Journey Into Fear," co-starring Joseph Cotten on the Stanley screen. Horace Heidt's orchestra is the current stage attraction. "Bataan" at the Penn, Lloyd Nolan, left, and Robert Taylor, Mitchell has a featured role in the movie. o By FLORENCE FISHER PARRY- door as any dowager could sweep from her carriage into the lobby of the theater! Now, this front entrance for the actors would lead down through a partitioned side aisle on to the stage, surrounding which there would be built an inverted horseshoe of dressing rooms to compare with any diamond horseshoe of an Opera House! These dressing rooms would be on the stage floor so that no actor or actress would ever be subjected to the physical hazard and the indignity of mounting narrow, circular steps to lofty tiers of dressing rooms. Eaph dressing room would be provided w'ith a toilet, bowl and shower, a chaise-lounge and a full-length mirror, and a clean covering for the floor, changeable each week; to say nothing of ample wardrobe space and handsome dressing table framed with lights! It's Monstrous For it has always seemed to me a monstrous neglect that artists as sensitively attuned as actors should be relegated to the all too dismal little cells, tier on tier, up to .the flies, when nightly and twice matinee days he is subjected to an ever present danger of breaking his neck in his frantic ascent and descent on the perilous steel stairs. Nor have I ever been reconciled to the fact that Milord and Milady, however splendidly his name may twinkle on the Broadway marquee, has to submit to the shame of a dark alley stage entrance and a miserable little cramped, call-board lobby, and no place whatever to summon his dignity before an entrance, or recline his bones between scenes. For Shame! As for the front of the house: I would place the rows of seats at such a distance from each other that at antr'acte, it would not be necessary to contort the ttipps nnri nlav Houdini with the feet in order to make way for the restless exits of the lobby hounds. Or, this provision being impossible, I would enforce a nolite edict that, once seated, the audience would remain so through at least two acts. I would have a few simple rules for ushers, who, as a rule, behave surprisingly well under duress; but would forbid them to accept the sliehtest tip for serving water. This has always seemed to me the last indignity! I see no more point of tipping a hired usher for water than I would tip him for showing me to my seat, although both pourboires ifm ; -I it r -1 Wistful Musings On 'An Actor's Theater are the established rule In England and in Europe. Needed Reform As for the box office: I am afraid that my reform would be almost too revolutionary for the public to embrace. The shock would be too great upon their sensibilities, inured as they are, to the cold-shoulder box office approach. In short, the man I would employ to sell my theater tickets would have to be a good salesman, and when I say "salesman" I mean exactly what the word implies; an interest in the commodity he is selling. For no salesman can be successful unless he is excited about his merchandise, and communicates that liveliness to his prospect. In this regard the man at the Box Office has maintained a lofty condescension. For I Dare Say that in the whole field of merchandising, there cannot be found a more apathetic salesman than the typical man at the box office. It can be said in his defense that his position is a trying one, for nowhere does the human hedng show up at a greater disadvantage than when he is purchasing theater tickets. But there is vast room for improvement on both sides of the window, and in my theater I would make great effort to establish friendly relations between these two hostile camps. Curtain at 8:30! Above everything else I would have a price scale that would be determined by the position of the seats. I would charge far more for the center seats than for the side seats and more for the first 10 rows than the back rows. In any theater there are only a few choice seats. These are in the center from about the third row back to the 12th row. It seems to me to be reasonable that an extra fee should attach to this peerless location. In my theater I would have a top balcony with a top price of 25 cents and a top age of twenty, for in this way and this way only could I hope to encourage youth to become an addict of the theater. I would establish tempting season rates, and thus tempt my patrons to constant attendance. I do not quite know how I would manage to establish and maintain the rule of strict promptness, so that when the curtain would rise on the first act, my audience would be seated and quiet! Now that I think of it, if I had to discard all other features of my theater, I would sacrifice them all in order to maintain this one superlative feature. For of all the disadvantages which the theater suffers to day, this one is the greatest of all! TaUGall But Thelma Is Doiig Okay In Films HOLLYWOOD, July 10 (Special) Because of her height, Thelma Joel feels shell never rise to great heights In the movies. Despite her 5 feet 11 Inches, Thelma is doing fairly well as a showgirl in the studios. Right now she's under contract to Universal, playing one of the ladies-in-waiting to Maria jviomez m iuwa u"iQ"- Mv height loses me a lot of good TMrtc " che confides, "but VOU Will never catch me knocking myself out worrying. Many a time Ive been down to my last dollar and a job turned up. It always wonts out tnat way. She's a beautiful girl, with dark brown eyes that crinkle up when she smiles. When she laughs she displays a set of teeth that could easily serve as a tooth-brush ad. In fact, her teeth have been used for that purpose. "I can handle character parts and even featured roles," she says. "If I could only get a chance at a Rosalind Russell part you know, fast- talking, wisecracking, heart-oi-goia sort of thing, I'd be all set. "But the movies are a funny busi ness. My Dreait may cu'ue wuiut- row or never." Eighteen months age she played. a cnaracier roie in my ravunw Wife." The part ran to six pages of lines and she was under contract for two weeks at $25 a day. "Later I got screen test at another studio for a part that called for a comedy love scene," she recalls. "The next day the studio called me up and told me my test was the best of some 40 they had made.

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