December 12, 2012

Man or Monster?

In the long ago days before standardized, top-down, corporate-designed film advertising, selling a movie was usually the province of individual exhibitors who mixed and matched from a wide range of studio-provided promotional materials, or had their own ads made up by in-house artists. Here’s a very unusual newspaper ad for Frankenstein (1931) showing a stripped-down Monster in loincloth, revealing robot legs with ankle bolts and mechanical fingers. A scientifically manufactured demon!... Watch His Eyes!... Man or Monster?  

The Monster’s menacing stare evoques Karloff’s gaunt and grim features, though the actor doesn’t get a credit here. Mae Clarke is prominently featured.

Another lost pleasure of the era was the full film program that typically included shorts, cartoons and companion features. Many theaters still carried live Vaudeville acts as filler. It is fascinating to consider the films — often musicals or flat-out comedies — that were screened alongside Frankenstein’s grand guignol, making for a very eclectic evening at the movies.

Here, Frankenstein is backed with something called an Organlogue, a newsreel and a 20-minute feature, Many a Sip, starring Charles “Chic” Sale — sometimes billed as “Sales” — a former vaudevillian who specialized in Old Man and “rural” characters. Forgotten today, Sale was once so popular as to be name-checked onscreen by Groucho Marx. Sale’s 1929 book, The Specialist, ostensibly written to copyright his widely copied material, was a massive bestseller, translated into nine languages. Chic Sales passed away in 1936, aged 51. Twenty years later, his influence was still felt as it inspired a young comic, Soupy Hines, to change his name to Soupy Sales. 

Many a Sip was directed by Mark Sandrich who would soon graduate from shorts to features and go on to direct Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in such classics as Top Hat, Follow the Fleet and Shall We Dance

I have no provenance for the ad here, likely published in late 1931 or early ’32. This Rialto theater could be anywhere. If anyone can pinpoint this one, please share.


Ana said...

I don't know if you check that mail account listed on your Blogger profile - have you seen this bookbinding for Frankenstein, by Dimitris Koutsipetsidis?

I think it's unbelievably good, I hope you like it, too :D .

Robert Kiss said...

The Rialto was located at 41 Market St., Amsterdam (NY), and FRANKENSTEIN played there from January 3rd to 6th, 1932.

This particular ad was run alongside a review of the movie in the Amsterdam Evening Recorder of Jan. 4th. It was the only time that this particular artwork was employed in newspaper ads for the Rialto, with more familar images being used in ads run on Jan. 2nd and Jan. 5th.

I've sent you a message at the CHFB with some extra material...
All the best,