Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Junior Frolics & Associates Part 6 of 8

'The Million Dollar Movie' [M$DM] was an interesting concept. The same movie played at 7:30 pm and then again at 10 pm [during the day on weekends] on WOR-TV, Channel 9, a local channel. And this for an entire week! Some of the times changed over the years, but the M$DM lasted for quite some time: 'King Kong', 'Yankee Doodle Dandy', 'Mighty Joe Young', 'Three Husbands', 'Adventure in Baltimore' etc. Not every movie could be a M$DM. Only ones which could gather your attention over and over and not become stale---and me and Mary Anne could attest to that. We watched some of them weekday evenings at the early showing, and on weekends during the daylight hours. [Movies changed on Mondays.]

You don't see that kind of station or network dedication today. One exception is one of the true marathons of one show I've ever seen on TV. Spike TV showed CSI for an entire week. All the time. Every hour a different episode. From 9 am thru 3 am. From Monday through Friday. It filled in a lot of dead time as background for these essays when nothing very interesting was on any of the other stations. I usually have the TV on for company these days, and I can write these essays while they keep me interested between sentences. [USA does have frequent mini-marathons with Law and Order CI or Law and Order: SVU for a whole day] Other than the M$DM, there weren't any marathons in early TV.

Running times for the 'Million Dollar Movie' depended on the length of the movies, and how much had been cut to disinfect them for our poor minds. But, the movies were generally an hour and a half, some two. There were fewer commercials at the time [yet we still complained.] These days, with so many cable channels, you can see one movie a hundred times over the period of a few months. But it'll be hit or miss and won't be on a regular schedule. And I've seen movies on modern channels interrupted by numerous commercials---often at a poorly appointed time---the break often going up to three minutes. TV film editors continue to be lacking a cylinder or two.

Among the movies I particularly remember from that M$DMovie' series were 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' [1942] with Jimmie Cagney and Joan Leslie ['…born on the fourth of July...'] the story of George M. Cohan, the prolific composer and showman, and “Mighty Joe Young' (1949) with Terry Moore. This latter movie featured a stirring rendition of 'Beautiful Dreamer,' proving that the right music can decidedly tame the wild beast. It tamed Mr. Joseph Young of Africa, and it can always tame me. Mary Anne and I loved those two movies, and when they were on the M$DM, we must have seen each one a dozen times during its week. They were definitely one of the movies we had “seen before.'

I still remember lying on the floor watching Jimmie Cagney faking old age, kicking up his heels, dancing around the stage, singing, marching with his movie family, and being rightly humble with President Roosevelt. The music sold me on the pre-war tin-pan-alley tunes. As for Mr. Joseph Young of Africa, I can still see him playing tug of war with the 'strong' men, of whom Primo Carnera was the only one I recognized as being authentic, though I had heard of the Swedish Angel, Killer Kuwalski, and Man Mountain Dean. Later in the movie, Joe was a sight riding in the back of a moving truck, peaking out, shaking his fist, and then climbing out to scale a burning building to save the orphans. Hot stuff! And that fire scene had an orange tint throughout, reminiscent (I suppose) of the silent movie era---although I didn't know that until later when I had a color TV.

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