Saturday, July 7, 2012

Goofy Golfing Mania!

In Hollywood's rabid thirst for shorts of any kind to accompany movie shows in the 1930s and 1940s, they produced a number of golf shorts featuring famous golfers of the day and Hollywood stars.  A focus on golf also appeared in many newsreels, cartoons, comedy shorts and features.  Many of these are lost, forgotten or never heard of today even by film fans and so they fit right into "Lost and Rare Film & TV Treasures."

The lost golf film I would most like to find is The Golf Chump (1932, RKO) starring Edgar Kennedy in one of his early "Average Man" shorts.  Bill Cassara was unable to find one when he wrote his book about Edgar Kennedy and he considers it lost, although Bob DeFlores says he has seen a poor copy.

In 1998 I issued a VHS tape called Golfing With Bing And Bob in collaboration with my friend and colleague Bob DeFlores.  We created an introductory, narrated montage with the same title about Bing Crosby's contributions to the world of golf, like creating the first pro-am golf tournament.  Most of the shorts were from Bob's collection and they all included Bing Crosby or Bob Hope in some capacity.  The most obscure was perhaps Honor Caddy, a local charity film to honor golf caddies in the Los Angeles area.  We obtained the rare Faith, Hope and Hogan direct from the Christopher's organization in exchange for a better copy of their early '50s film You Can Change the World with 10 Hollywood stars.   A few years later we issued the same films on DVD with the addition of Rough But Hopeful.  The release sold well to Bing Crosby fans who we had been releasing videos to for some years.

Much earlier Bob (DeFlores) had supplied all 12 shorts in the 1931 series How I Play Golf by Bobby Jones to a company that sold many thousands on VHS to golfers and brought nice royalty checks to Bob in return for about ten years.  That project had disappeared by 1998 and all of the Bobby Jones films were copyrighted so we could not use any.  We were aware of a huge audience of golfers out there, but we never had the time or know-how to find a major retailer to handle Golfing With Bing and Bob.

A bit off the subject, on the right is a recently discovered photo of Bing and Bob Hope playing golf together in 1937, a full 3 years before Road to Singapore.  They had first met in late 1932 in New York City and actually performed together onstage in the Capitol Theater for a week.  In 1937 they both had Paramount contracts and hence this publicity photo taken during a round of golf.  Their partners on the round of golf were Shirley Ross, who Bob was filming Big Broadcast of 1938 with and Mary Carlisle (still going at age 100) that Bing was filming Dr. Rhythm with.

With the continued valuable assistance of Bob DeFlores, who contributed two more films to the new project, Lost and Rare is preparing a "Special Edition" release to be called GOLF MANIA.  It is featured as a "Coming Soon" work in progress at the Lost and Rare website.  One partner on Lost and Rare is Bob Campbell, the producer of the original Matinee at the Bijou on PBS in the 1980s, and a longtime Bijou associate is Tom Winmill.  By happy circumstance, Tom is both an avid golfer and a terrific salesman, and he has begun to explore outlets for the DVD in golf stores, golf club shops, online and catalog golf retailers and the Golf Channel.

Our aim is to create an appealing, constantly entertaining package of shorts to golfers everywhere.  Consequently not all of them are rare.  Many golfers have enjoyed W.C. Fields' golf game in The Dentist and his complete The Golf Specialist.  The Larry Semon 1922 comedy Golf is not a lost film, although a good copy has not been issued by a major company before.  Here is a list of the proposed contents of Golf Mania:

Goofy Golfers Newsreel  (2012)  12 min.  A million strokes of mirth from President William Howard Taft, Felix the Cat, W.C. Fields, Bing Crosby, Jean Harlow, Larry Semon and more!  An original Festival Films production!

Golf Magic  (1948)  9 min.  Skiers golf on snow in the mountains.  Jack Redman shows off his trick golf clubs and strokes.  John Montague golfs with both ends of a shovel.  A baby sinks his first putt!

Follow Thru  (1940)  10 min.  Pros Jimmy Thompson, Dick Metz and Borton Smith demonstrate techniques.

Rough But Hopeful  (1946)  10 min.  Rare novelty newsreel with over 20 Hollywood stars on the golf course - Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Randolph Scott, Dennis O’Keefe, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope & more.

Golf  (1922)  19 min.  Silent comedian Larry Semon cavorts on the golf course as he matches wits and putts with the villain, played with great flair by Oliver Hardy. Goofy squirrel may have inspired the gopher sequence in Caddyshack!

Golfing with Bing and Bob  (1998)  8 min.  Montage of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope clowning on the links with their professional golf buddies, 1930s to 1950s.  Produced by Festival Films and Bob DeFlores.

Don’t Hook Now  (1943)  19 min.  Bing Crosby’s 6th annual pro-am golf tournament at beautiful Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego, Bing and Bob Hope clown around with golf greats Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Jimmy Hines, Byron Nelson and many more! From the Bob DeFlores collection.

The Golf Specialist  (1930)  20 min.  At a Florida hotel, the great W.C. Fields, goes golfing with the house detective's flirtatious wife and an incompetent caddy!

Faith, Hope and Hogan  (1950s)  25 min.  Episode of the Christopher’s Show with Father James Keller on the golf course with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Phil Harris and interviewing Ben Hogan about his remarkable recovery from an accident.

Goofy Golfer Newsreel is an original Festival Films production for collecting short golf snippets on the lighter side, like the W.C. Fields golf game in The Dentist.  Here are highlights from the newsreel:

Visit my websites at Lost & Rare and Festival Films.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What Kingdom Is This Anyway?

An interesting 1935 film came my way this week -- Thine is the Kingdom, Story of the Bible in Pictures.  The main interest is that no information can be found about it.  It is not listed at IMDB, nor is Centaur Productions or producer Pierre Arnaud, nor is there any info anywhere on the Internet or in J. Stephen Lang's book "The Bible on the Big Screen."  None of the actors are recognizable, so they are all amateurs or perhaps foreigners.  The hairstyles and make up of the women suggest 1920s.  It could well be a silent film re-purposed for sound since it is narrated with music but the illustrated scenes have no sound effects.  Research so far has not found any silent film from any country with scenes from the Old and New Testament.

Mr. Lang's book only covers Hollywood or foreign studio productions of films based on bible stories.  He states that no major bible films were made during the 1930s and 40s.  Thine is certainly not a major studio film.  It is mainly a curiosity.  Stories covered include Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah's Ark, (not Moses), Lot and Abraham, Elisha raising a dead child, Good Samaritan, many more, and of course the life of Christ.  It is rather cheaply produced with a small cast and many settings being outdoors or in huts.  The main design is costumes, as shown in the picture below.

This boring, lackluster poster was auctioned last year for a whopping $11.  Adam and Eve might have sold more tickets.  What, if anything, will cover their nudity?  It is a standard 28"x40" theatrical poster, which implies the film was run in movie theaters.  The auction house,, has an unusual request attached: "Thine is the Kingdom, the circa 1930s religious melodrama ("All - Thrilling - Singing - Music"). If anyone knows more about this movie, please e-mail us and we will post it here."  So they never heard of it before either.

Thine is the Kingdom might have been distributed in the manner that exploitation films were taken town to town by enterprising distributors, heavily advertised for a week in advance via posters, then shown for single nights to packed houses either in a movie theater or exhibition hall.  Wikipedia: Exploitation film is an informal label which may be applied to any film which is generally considered to be both low budget and of low moral or artistic merit, and therefore apparently attempting to gain financial success by "exploiting" a current trend or a niche genre or a base desire for lurid subject matter.   Except for this film the attraction would be the highest moral value.  The "Bible belt" might have jumped at any chance to see the Bible brought to life.  Showings might well have been presented on 16mm film.

Costumes & beards abound!
The film might have been produced by a religious group and distributed at a minimal cost to churches.  A number of independent companies specialized in such films, particularly in the 1950s for TV.  Cathedral Films produced the trend-setting The Great Commandment in 1939 and I Beheld His Glory in 1953 for TV, among many other projects.  Church-sponsored films are often in the public domain because the producers dedicated them to the public and hoped for as much exposure as possible around the world.  More info can be found at Christian Film Industry entry at Wikipedia, which notes that the industry only took root and took off in the 1940s.

So what exactly is Thine is the Kingdom, Story of the Bible in Pictures and where did it come from and does anyone want to see it today?  If anyone knows or hazards a guess, please contact me.  We can include it in a future Lost & Rare release, as it has been truly lost and rare, but first will give some thought on how to find an audience. Meanwhile, here are the opening scenes!

Visit my websites at Lost & Rare and Festival Films.