Thursday, July 16, 2009
CHAMPS FLOP IN FIRST MOVIE
By Luella O. Parsons – Universal Service Motion Picture Editor
Hollywood, April 2
Champions in any field can be assured of a contract with the movies. Producers just love to sign these celebrities and when they do, nine out of every ten make one picture and then blow up. A champion prize fighter, baseball player, football hero, runner, swimmer, aviator doesn’t necessarily make a champion movie star.
Johnny Weissmuller, swimming expert, is one of the few who was ever invited for a return engagement. He just seemed to hit it off in “Tarzan of the Apes.” If he had a picture in which he was inappropriately cast, Mr. Johnny Weissmuller would be back swimming in less time than it takes to write this.
Ruth Elder, one of the prettiest girls who ever made headlines, was signed by Paramount at a good salary. One picture and Ruth found herself listed among the non-movie folk. She married a rich man so her career needn’t worry her. Her fame as an aviatrix, in any event would have exceeded any claim to screen popularity.
Pavlowa, one of the most famous dancers of any generation, was starred by Lois Weber in a picture 12 years ago. Graceful as she was Madame Pavlowa never again made another picture. There just didn’t seem any demand for her although Miss Weber’s picture was called an artistic triumph by many critics.
What about Rudy Vallee? His fame has become synonymous for mob enthusiasm. Women and children stormed the door of every theater in which he sang. Here was a sure-fire thing for the movies. Rudy and his megaphone! He made one picture for RKO and while I never saw the box office receipts, I do know they weren’t sufficient to get him a return invitation.
LINDY WAS WISE
I doubt if our national idol, Charles Lindbergh, would have been good for more than one movie if he had accepted the $1,000,000 offer made him. Mr. Lindbergh was too wise to let himself be starred in a movie drama.
Edwin Carewe offered the Queen of Rumania some fabulous sum. Marie was much intrigued until the diplomats in her country stepped in and refused to give her permission to face a movie camera in anything but a newsreel.
While the fascinating Marie may have been good for one picture, I doubt if the public would have paid twice to see her emote. This public of ours does not select its screen gods from men and women who have been famous in other endeavors.
Mary Garden, whose “Thais” in the opera has been sensationally popular, made a lamentable failure in the movie version of “Thais.” Of course, that was before the talkies. But even with the opportunity now given singers to sing their favorite numbers on the screen none of them have made great successes.
The Fox company lost a young fortune trying to make a movie star of John McCormack. And there are a few on stage, or concert platform, with his popularity.
There are many more who were ballyhooed as coming into the movies at fabulous salaries and who lasted for a brief moment. Red Grange, football hero, crashed the gates of Hollywood with a noise that resounded throughout the world. He made one or two pictures and then after he ceased playing football, we heard no more about him as a movie star.
What would have happened if Knute Rockne had lived? He had a great personality and he was much loved but even so, I doubt if he could have become a permanent movie actor. Jack Dempsey, Gertrude Ederle, Charles Paddock are other champions who, while much discussed as movie prospects, have never been established as screen idols.
As I said, the public want to pick its own movie stars.