Movies

September 23, 1957 – “The Three Faces of Eve” Fascinates Movie Audiences


On September 23, 1957, The Three Faces of Eve opened in American movie theaters, starring newcomer Joanne Woodward as multiple personality-possessing Eve White.  Based on a book by Corbett Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley, the movie related the story of real-life Chris Costner Sizemore, who revealed her identity as Eve in her 1977 book, I’m Eve.

Personality #1 Eve White is a mild-mannered housewife who suffers from blinding headaches and occasional blackouts.  She consults psychiatrist Dr. Curtis Luther (Lee J. Cobb; On the Waterfront, Twelve Angry Men), who meets Personality #2, wild trouble-maker Eve Black, when he puts Eve #1 under hypnosis.  Eve #2 knows about Eve #1, but unfortunately Eve #1 doesn’t know about Eve #2.  Both Eves are institutionalized when Eve #2 tries to kill their daughter, Bonnie.

Dr. Luther continues to treat the Eves, and helps #1 to remember a deeply traumatic childhood event which led to her personality split (revealed in a spoiler review by Bosley Crowther of the New York Times).  During this work, a stable Personality #3 emerges and takes the name of Jane.  Jane is able to remember everything about Eve #1 and Eve #2, the Eves merge into Jane, and the happy ending sees Jane remarried and reunited with Bonnie.

Joanne Woodward won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role(s) as Eve, Eve, and Jane.  Two other actresses were rumored to be considered for the part: Judy Garland (director Nunally Johnson’s preference, but deemed too “unreliable”); and June Allyson (who let herself be talked out of it by husband Dick Powell, advising her she’d be “miscast”).  Orson Welles was reportedly offered the role of Dr. Luther, but declined in order to direct Touch of Evil.  David Wayne (How to Marry a Millionaire) appeared as Eve #1 & #2’s husband, Ralph; Nancy Kulp (The Bob Cummings Show, The Beverly Hillbillies) played the role of Mrs. Black; and Alistair Cooke (PBS’s Masterpiece Theater, America) warmed up his voiceover chops as the narrator, lending a British flavor of authenticity and reliability to the tale.  Nunally Johnson both directed and wrote the screenplay for the Twentieth Century Fox production.

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

September 21, 1957 – Perry Mason’s First Case

Hamilton Burger, Arthur Tragg, Della Street, Perry Mason, Paul Drake

On September 21, 1957, defense attorney Perry Mason tried – and won – the first of many cases in the Los Angeles County Courthouse, as one of television’s most successful and longest-running legal series premiered on CBS.  Broadcast from September 1957 until May of 1966,  Perry Mason featured Raymond Burr as cool, brilliant, masterful Mason, Barbara Hale as his attractive, husky-voiced, confidential secretary, William Hopper as blond, handsome, semi-playboy private detective Paul Drake, William Talman as hapless, clownish District Attorney Hamilton Burger, and Ray Collins as smug, thick-skulled police Lt. Arthur Tragg.

Each episode title began with the familiar phrase “The Case of the . . .” and the show progressed following a formula, as well.  The first part of the show set up the audience for the murder of a disagreeable, deserving victim and the presence on, or near the scene, of a likable, innocent, soon-to-be defendant to the crime.  Perry would take on the case, Drake would investigate (dropping into the office through his private back entrance and calling Della “Beautiful”), and soon the courtroom drama would begin.  Over-confident DA Burger would present his case, with evidence from gloating Lt. Tragg, Perry would call witnesses, examine and cross-examine, the real killer would get uncomfortable, Drake would arrive at the courtroom in the nick of time with an important envelope, and all of a sudden Perry would force an anguished or angry, emotional confession from the real murderer.

It was formulaic, but it worked.  Perry Mason was highly popular.  Most everyone could hum the show’s theme song, “Park Avenue Beat”.  Many famous actors and actresses appeared as guest stars over the years, including (just to name a few) Robert Redford, Bette Davis, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Angie Dickenson, Louise Fletcher, Burt Reynolds, Barbara Eden, Ryan O’Neal, Diane Ladd, Fay Wray, Cloris Leachman, Lee Meriwether, Dick Clark, Jackie Coogan, De Forest Kelley, Werner Klemperer, Harvey Korman, June Lockhart, and Marion Ross.  Erle Stanley Gardner, the detective fiction author who originally created the story’s characters, played a judge in the final series episode on May 22, 1966.  From 1985 to 1995, 30 made-for-television movies aired on NBC, most starring Burr and Street, with other actors filling in the main roles.  The original episodes are in syndication to this day.

KPTV in Portland, Oregon – where I was born – continuously carried reruns of Perry Mason from its final episode in 1966 until September 4, 2012, when Perry adjourned to another local Portland station, KPDX. Alas, KPDX retired Mason in September of 2014. Diehard fans can now find Perry weekdays on Me TV, at 9:00 AM and 11:30 PM Pacific time.

Appearing at noon on KPTV (except for a brief period in the mid-70s when it was moved to 12:30 PM), Perry was a daily lunchtime staple for faithful fans in the Rose City. For many years, I was one of those faithful fans. As a young adolescent, I found much to love about Perry, a strong, mature man who could always be counted on to protect the good and the innocent. I have to admit that Paul Drake added his own special, erotic thrill.

Image Credit: CBS Corporation

September 16, 1957 – Emma Gatewood Walks on the “Wild” Side

Emma Gatewood on the Appalachian Trail. Photo: Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Emma Gatewood on the Appalachian Trail.

Before there was Cheryl Strayed, there was Emma Gatewood.

On September 16, 1957, Ohio native Emma Gatewood, aged 69, arrived at the 5,270-foot peak of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the 2,050-mile-long Appalachian Trail. Back on April 27, “Grandma” Gatewood had started out from Mount Oglethorpe, Georgia – at the trail’s southern end – equipped with a handsewn denim bag of hiking supplies and a determination to repeat her record-setting trek of 1955. Two years earlier, over the course of five months, Emma had become the first woman to solo thru-hike (travel from start to finish without interruption) the scenic Appalachian Trail.

Grandma Gatewood and Cheryl Strayed – recent thru-hiker of the western-states Pacific Coast Trail and author of the best-selling memoir Wild – had something in common. They were both on a quest. Both took somewhat radical risks to complete their journeys. Both found something on the trail that changed their lives.

Emma Gatewood was born Emma Rowena Caldwell on a farm in Gallia County, Ohio, one of 15 siblings. She did her share of chores, including hoeing, planting, worming tobacco, milking, washing, and cooking. When persuasive P.C. Gatewood insisted on marriage, she consented and went on to birth her own farming family of 11 children. P.C. was not the husband young Emma had hoped for. They had a stormy relationship, witnessed by the children, in which P.C. physically abused Emma.

Sometime in the early 1950s, her family grown and gone, Emma read an article in National Geographic about Earl V. Shaffer, the first man to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Emma found this an irresistible challenge. She, a woman, could do that, too! And – in spite of her bad knees, bunions, false teeth, and feeling blind without her glasses – she did.

An abortive but instructive attempt in 1954 was followed by her successful traverse in the summer of 1955. Emma enjoyed meeting residents along the way from Georgia to Maine, often hiking out for food, temporary shelter, and the finer things like a shower and bug spray. She traveled light, carrying no more than 15 pounds of trail basics stuffed in a bag thrown over her shoulder. Emma tried to avoid predators like bears and rattlesnakes, and pesky critters like mice, black flies, mosquitos, and reporters. She was constitutionally no-nonsense and tended to believe that people could do a whole lot more than they thought. “The hardest part of hiking the Appalachian Trail,” like so many other challenges in life, she told her son Nelson, “was simply making up your mind to do it.” If Emma had worn a button, it might have read, “No Pantywaists!”

Acclaim came Emma’s way during and after her 1955 adventure. She appeared on NBC’s “Today” with Dave Garroway, “The Art Linkletter Show,” and Groucho Marx’s “You Bet Your Life.” Reporters for countless newspapers and magazines dogged her steps and lauded her achievements. What led her to the 1957 repeat? The quiet trail, nature, the sense of a spiritual connection beckoned. “The petty entanglements of life are brushed aside like cobwebs,” Emma wrote in her trail journal. Plus, no woman had ever done it twice!

Cheryl Strayed went “wild” on the PCT in an attempt to recover from her mother’s death. Stuck in protracted grief, she found herself unable to move on in life. She was young, had many years ahead of her, and needed to find a new normal. Emma Gatewood walked into AT history as a woman of age and maturity, after her immediate responsibilities to her family were over. The limitations of an abusive husband and small children to raise, and the cultural expectations imposed on women of her generation may have sat too heavily and fit too closely on her small but sturdy frame. When she could set them aside, she did, and set out to discover in the most basic sense what she was capable of.

How capable was she? After her AT thru-hikes in 1955 and 1957, Emma walked 2000 miles of the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to Portland, Oregon (my birthplace!) in 95 days during the Trail’s centennial year celebration in 1959. She attempted a third AT passage in 1960, but heavy-weather damage to the trail diverted her course through other trails in Pennsylvania, New York  Massachusetts, Vermont, and Canada. She climbed several peaks in the Adirondack Range, and successfully completed a third traverse of the AT in 1964. She was personally instrumental in creating several sections of Ohio’s treasured Buckeye Trail.

Emma died in 1973, but her memory lives on as an inspiration to all that, in the words of (fellow Mount Katahdin-climber) Henry David Thoreau, “If one advances confidently in the direction of [her] dreams, and endeavors to live the life which [she] has imagined, [she] will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Fox Searchlight Pictures brought Cheryl Strayed’s Wild to the big screen, starring Reese Witherspoon, om 2014. Trail Magic: The Emma Gatewood Story, a documentary of Emma Gatewood’s life created by FilmAffects and WGTE/PBS Toledo, was released in 2015 and nominated for an Emmy in 2017. Bette Lou Higgins and Kelly Boyer Sagert of Eden Valley Enterprises were instrumental in bringing Grandma Gatewood her moment in digital-celluloid history.

Image Credit: Appalachian Trail Conservancy

September 12, 1957 – [Subliminal] Messages

Popcorn and Coca-Cola. [1957 Time Capsule].

On September 12, 1957 [1957 Time Capsule], market researcher James Vicary revealed at a press conference in New York City that 45,699 movie-going guinea pigs [1957 Time Capsule] had been recently exposed to what sounded suspiciously to alarmed Americans like thought control.  The Wall Street Journal reported the following on Vicary’s presentation about his new subliminal [1957 Time Capsule] projection technology:

“This story may sound as though a flying saucer [1957 Time Capsule] is lurking behind the scenes, but you can rest assured that all characters in this drama are real.  The tale begins some months ago when several closed-mouthed men walked into a New Jersey motion picture house [1957 Time Capsule] and fitted a strange mechanism to the film projector.  Over the next six weeks, as 45,699 unsuspecting movie goers watched Hollywood’s newest epics [1957 Time Capsule],  a strange thing reportedly occurred.  Out of the blue, it is claimed, patrons started deserting their seats and crowding in the lobby.  Sales of Coca-Cola [1957 Time Capsule] reportedly rose 18.1% and popcorn purchases zoomed 57.7% over the theater’s usual sales.  These claims – and the explanation of this purported phenomenon – were made at a press conference yesterday afternoon [1957 Time Capsule] by executives of a new firm called Subliminal Projection Co., Inc.  The movie patrons had been subjected to ‘invisible advertising’ that by-passed their conscious [1957 Time Capsule] and assertedly struck deep into their sub-conscious.  The trick was accomplished by flashing commercials past the viewers’ eyes so rapidly [1957 Time Capsule] that viewers were unaware they had seen them.  The ads, which were flashed every five seconds or so, simply urged the audience to eat popcorn [1957 Time Capsule] and drink Coca-Cola, and they were projected during the theater’s regular movie program.”

Vicary claimed that subliminal advertising [1957 Time Capsule] would revolutionize the advertising industry – which was moving rapidly to take advantage [1957 Time Capsule] of the growing popularity of television – by promoting products directly to the drives, needs [1957 Time Capsule] and desires of the unconscious mind.  The cool, rational processes of conscious recognition and evaluation [1957 Time Capsule] would be disabled.  The public was worried: were they about to become [1957 Time Capsule] the victims of brainwashing?

Image Credit: Faux Food Diner

September 10, 1957 – Jerry Lewis Solos at Ben Maksik’s Town and Country Club

Jerry Lewis (Not Nutty Yet)

On September 10, 1957, singer, dancer, and comedian extraordinaire Jerry Lewis gave a powerhouse solo performance at Ben Maksik’s Town and Country Club in Brooklyn, New York.  After years of second-billing behind Dean Martin doing successful comedy nightclub acts, radio and television programs, and films, Jerry was on his own before a live audience with his unique brand of slapstick comedy.  The duo’s breakup in July of 1956 ended a relationship that had become increasingly strained by Lewis’ dominance in popularity.  Each went on to success as solo performers.  Neither would ever comment on the split or consider a reunion.

In the Paramount film released in June of 1957, The Delicate Delinquent, Jerry became a major comedy star in his first solo role playing a juvenile delinquent mistaken for a gang member.  Officer Darren McGavin put Lewis through police training – compete with amusing “mishaps” – and young Jerry finally “reformed” and redeemed himself by graduating from the academy.

Later that summer, reviewer Robert W. Dana of the New York World Telegram and Sun covered Lewis’ act at the Town and Country Club for his column, “Tips on Tables”.  Dana admitted “I haven’t always been an ardent Lewis fan.  I am now after this performance.”  He continued, “Given the keynote at the outset by Ned Harvey’s crack band, the man with the shorty  haircut never let up.  He’s Mr. Rhythm with a voice.  He’s Mr. Hoofer, with a loose-jointed grace of a true showman.  And he’s Mr. Clown, who makes each line count for a laugh.”

Lewis, the son of a vaudeville entertainer father and a radio-station-piano-playing mother, spent part of his opening night kidding around with a Spanish dancer act, poking fun at rock and roll, crooning a “Danny Boy” spoof, and giving a side-splitting portrayal of “Tokyo’s foremost singing star”.  After initially bumbling about, he “caught on” and joined in a tap dance number.  And he gave serious and skillful renditions of “Shine on Your Shoes”, his top forty hit “Rock a Bye, My Baby”, “Come Rain or Come Shine”, and closed the evening with the somewhat poignant “I’ll Go My Way By Myself”, which Dana described as “a touching, straightforward conclusion”.  Lewis deeply appreciated Dana’s column, sending him a signed note on September 12th “to express my heartfelt thanks to you for your very, very nice column.  I more than appreciate your kind words, and my only hope is that I can live up to them.”

Jerry Lewis went on to great fortune and fame all over the world.  He received numerous rewards for his film and television work.  In spite of suffering nagging health concerns through much of his adult life, he maintained a full work schedule. Until stepping down in 2011, Lewis dedicated himself to his yearly Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, raising 2.6 billion dollars over the years for research and treatment of the crippling disease.

Image Credit: Public Domain Publicity Photo

Vintage 1957 – Irwin Allen’s The Story of Mankind”

Story Mankind Color PosterIn 1957, disaster film maestro Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno) directed and released his first feature film, The Story of Mankind. Story was also a disaster film, with a very 1950s trope – potential nuclear-bomb annihilation of the world.

The setting is a courtroom – a “High Tribunal” in “The Great Court of Outer Space.” Scientists have almost unlocked the secret to H-bomb production. Can they be allowed to continue? The court is in session.

The fate of mankind is debated by Vincent Price as devilish “Mr. Scratch” and film legend Ronald Coleman as “The Spirit of Man.” Price and Coleman recall great and horrific moments in mankind’s history to present their case. Allen used stock footage from previous movies interspersed with close-up clips featuring history’s most famous or infamous characters.

And speaking of film legends, take a look at this partial cast list (in alphabetical order):

  • John Carradine – Khufu
  • Charles Coburn – Hippocrates
  • Reginal Gardiner – William Shakespeare
  • Cedric Hardwicke – High Judge
  • Edward Everettt Horton – Sir Walter Raleigh
  • Dennis Hopper – Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Hedy Lamarr – Joan of Arc
  • Peter Lorre – Nero
  • Groucho Marx – Peter Minuit
  • Chico Marx – Monk
  • Harpo Marx – Sir Isaac Newton
  • Virginia Mayo – Cleopatra
  • Agnes Moorehead – Queen Elizabeth I
  • Cesar Romero – Spanish Envoy
  • Marie Wilson – Marie Antoinette

Screenwriter Charles Bennett maintained that Allen paid each of the many near-the-end-of-their-career actors a slender $2000 to appear.

The Great Court’s verdict? No spoilers, now! Should you see it? Utgard14, one of IMDB’s Top Reviewers, has this to say:

“This film has the reputation of being one of classic Hollywood’s biggest stinkers. Personally, I like it! But part of why I like it is because it’s so flawed. It’s got an all-star cast, most of whom are laughably misused. The script is terrible with some of the corniest dialogue you’ll ever hear and some truly cringeworthy speeches. The history is inaccurate and blends myth with fact. It’s all filmed in lush Technicolor but on cheap sets with tons of stock footage. Still, I can’t help but enjoy it. It’s a movie that falls squarely into the ‘so good it’s bad’ camp for me. Taken seriously, it’s ridiculous and offensive to your intelligence. Taken lightly it’s quite a bit of cheesy fun.”

Story Mankind BW Poster

Image Credit: Warner Brothers

September 8, 1957 – Pope Pius XII on the New Media, a “Wonderful Invention”

His Holiness Pope Pius XII

On September 8, 1957, Pope Pius XII issued the 39th of his 41 encyclicals, or circular letters, on that cultural doppelganger, the media.  At the age of 81 and midway through year eighteen of his almost twenty-year pontificate, Pius XII saw the need to give direction to church authorities and the Catholic faithful about motion pictures, radio and television – technologies that were entirely new creations during his lifetime.  Miranda Prorsus, which is Latin for “wonderful invention,” begins by claiming that television, movies, and radio “spring from human intelligence and industry,” but “are nevertheless gifts from God, Our Creator, from Whom all good gifts proceed.”  His Holiness continued with his reasons for writing his letter:

“Just as very great advantages can arise from the wonderful advances which have been made in our day, in technical knowledge concerning Motion Pictures, Radio and Television, so too can very great dangers.

“For these new possessions and new instruments which are within almost everyone’s grasp, introduce a most powerful influence into men’s minds, both because they can flood them with light, raise them to nobility, adorn them with beauty, and because they can disfigure them by dimming their lustre,  dishonour them by a process of corruption, and make them subject to uncontrolled passions, according as the subjects presented to the senses in these shows are praiseworthy or reprehensible.

“In the past century, advancing technical skill in the field of business frequently had this result: machines, which ought to serve men, when brought into use, rather reduced them to a state of slavery and caused grievous harm.  Likewise today, unless the mounting development of technical skill, applied to the diffusion of pictures, sounds and ideas, is subjected to the sweet yoke of the law of Christ, it can be the source of countless evils, which appear to be all the more serious, because not only material forces but also the mind are unhappily enslaved, and man’s inventions are, to that extent, deprived of those advantages which, in the design of God’s Providence, ought to be their primary purpose.”

Pius went on to declare that the Church had the sacred right and duty to further its mission to sanctify souls by using the new media to spread truth and virtue.  He acknowledged that governments had the responsibility to spread news and teachings for the common good of society.  Individual citizens could also use media to enrich their own and others’ intellectual and spiritual culture.  But Pius denounced people who used these new avenues of communication “exclusively for the advancement and propagation of political measures or to achieve economic ends,” or for anything “contrary to sound morals” that would put souls in danger.

Following specific sections addressed to both makers and consumers of television shows, movies, and radio programs, Pope Pius XII entrusted his new precepts and instructions to the Pontifical Commission for Motion Pictures, Radio and Television.  He expressed his “firm confidence in the ultimate triumph of God’s cause” and imparted his Apostolic Benediction on all within the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Image Credit: The Vatican