I don’t have to tell you that movies like Gone With the Wind (or The Wizard of Oz — Lawrence of Arabia — Dr. Zhivago) were made for theaters like The St. George. But, with the exception of The Man Who Would Be King (which flopped miserably), we never ran Gone With the Wind, or any of them.
By the time we came along, what the neighborhood wanted was blood and action. A little sex was good, but not romance, and certainly not dated romance that harbored apologies for ante-bellum slavery. Still, late in the season of our crazy theater entrepreneurship, Dean insisted on ordering — and re-ordering — the trailer for GWTW, with no hope of booking the movie itself. When this “Coming Attraction” shone its red/gold light on the first few rows of the orchestra, I could usually find him camped out front row center, with a box of Sno-Caps. Max Steiner’s glorious soundtrack had called us both to watch.
Trailers really are short films — there’s an art to making them. They’re hors d’oeuvres. If we couldn’t dine out on a classic, we could snack on brief glimpses of it: A spooked horse and a rickety wagon against the backdrop of burning Atlanta, Scarlett and the white portico of Tara, Rhett carrying his flailing wife to bed up an improbably long crimson staircase. As dated as the movie itself, the trailer was a satisfying glimpse of what our endangered movie palace had been built to contain.
That full-color trailer was crafted in 1939, arguably the golden year of movies, when stylized Deco letters swung in from the right and popped over scenes of a promised film: THE LAUGHS ARE MONSTROUS! (Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein), MIGHTIEST ADVENTURE OF ALL TIME! (The Charge of the Light Brigade), SPECTACULAR! (almost anything not a comedy), in high-contrast black and white. Even though GWTW was one of Hollywood’s first full-length feature films shot entirely in color, its trailer stuck — but for the use of color — with the classic trailer formula: an establishing shot of name actors, a two-minute-thirty-eight second sound track, and the inevitable baritone announcer, “The most memorable event in the annals of motion pictures...”
GWTW’s original trailer currently boasts 116,384, while a modern adaptation stands this morning at 1,716,917. I’ve added one to each of these numbers. Remarkable! You don’t have to rent a movie palace to visit Tara anymore.
FLASHBACK FORTY YEARS:
Wednesday, August 18, 1976
All the President’s Men, starring
Robert Redford &Dustin Hoffman
"All Seats, All Times, $1.50,
Children 90 cents."
August Children's Film Festival
Munster, Go Home! (G)
TV’s weirdest family in living color, stars:
Fred Gwynne, Yvonne DeCarlo,
Terry Thomas & Hermione Gingold
Today at 2:00 PM, Tomorrow at 1:00PM