Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Spring Finds Cinema Players Pugnacious

By Chester B. Bahn

April 24, 1932
Hollywood’s way being more or less topsy-turvy, it is not altogether surprising that spring’s advent instead of inspiring thoughts of love, causes certain ladies and gentlemen of the Cinema to turn pugnacious.

On the Warner “lot,” the quarrelsome mood threatens to become epidemic. Thus far, it has claimed James Cagney, Joan Blondell and Marian Marsh, all of whom are in salary rebellion.

Mr. Cagney, who not so long ago started at $350 a week, considers that his present salary of $1,400 is inadequate, and wants at least $3,000 pronto. Miss Blondell, receiving $500 a week, is reportedly sulking because her demand for $1,500 has been rejected by hard-hearted studio chiefs. Miss Marsh, now paid $400 weekly, values her services at much more than that.

It is exceedingly doubtful if the studio will meet the demands. Mr. Cagney has already been withdrawn from “Blessed Event” and Jack Oakie substituted. Similar disciplinary action impends for the Misses Blondell and Marsh.

On the First National “lot,” also Warner-controlled, you will remember, Barbara Stanwyck and director William Wellman have been locking horns over certain phases of “Mud Lark.” It is understood that megaphonist bowed to star in this instance.

In the Paramount studio, there are two controversies in progress. Marlene Dietrich and her favorite director, Josef von Sternberg, are at odds with executives over the choice of a story for the German star’s use. Josef and Marlene concocted “Blond Venus,” and the original synopsis, following approval by the studio, was turned over to scenarists for adaptation. The first screen treatment was rejected by B. F. Schulberg, in charge of production, and the second met a similar fate at the hands of star and director. Being head man, however, Mr. Schulberg has advised Marlene and Josef that work starts tomorrow or weekly paychecks stop. While it may be none of my business, I believe it would be best for all concerned, including Paramount, if Marlene and Josef were caused to go their separate ways.

Gary Cooper and company officials cannot agree over terms of a new contract to succeed the one expiring May 14. Gary wants to restrict his labors to four talkies annually; officials, frankly resenting Cooper’s unceremonious departure for Europe and Africa seven months ago, and his prolonged absence, say he is not a four-picture star. And so do not be surprised if Gary’s alliance with Columbia is announced later.

At Culver City, the combatants have included the M-G-M officials and Madge Evans. The actress has not fancied new terms offered by the studio, but there are hints that an adjustment is in the making.

Al Jolson, who shortly is to go to work for United Artists, will not receive a single penny for his artistic labors.

He, you see, already has been paid in full.

When Al signed that famed paper bag contract with Joseph Schenck some three years ago, the black-face comedian immediately began to draw $31,500 weekly against the stated $500,000 guarantee for his first picture; the pact, incidentally, called for the same sum for three others, and also provided that the star share in the net profits on a 50-50 basis.

Weeks sped along, and the $31,500 payments to Al continued despite the fact that the picture was postponed from time to time. Finally, after he had received $850,000 in cash, the drawing account was suspended.

The agreement, however, was not nullified, and its terms will govern Al’s relations with United Artists. Whether, under the circumstances, Mr. Schenck will recover the $350,000 above the $500,000 to which Mr. Jolson is entitled through the medium of profits is dubious.

A half million charged against a single picture as the star’s salary is more of a liability than an asset in these depression days.

New York gentlemen associated with the Rialto are advised, in a most friendly spirit, that the surest way to destroy civic good will and invite drastic censorship is to permit nauseous “dirt” to pass for comedy on the stage and suggestiveness to rule in cinema advertising.

Circuits catering to family patronage owe it to their clientele to see that the canons of good taste are not willfully violated by vaudevillians, whether they be headliners or No. 2 spot acts. Turns that attempt to transform theaters into houses of smut have no place on a program designed for juvenile consumption.

By the same token, it behooves those charged with the preparation of advertising campaigns for cinemas to understand that metropolitan tabloids have one standard, local newspapers another.

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