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Roadshow!The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s$

Matthew Kennedy

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199925674

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199925674.001.0001

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“Magnificent Apathy”

“Magnificent Apathy”

Chapter:
(p.208) Chapter 16 “Magnificent Apathy”
Source:
Roadshow!
Author(s):

Matthew Kennedy

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199925674.003.0016

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter sixteen covers the 1969 Hollywood recession, brought on in part by underperforming musicals. Production was down, and unions reported widespread unemployment. Every studio was experiencing huge losses. Paramount opened its two big post-Paint Your Wagon musicals, and neither did well. On a Clear Day You Can See Forever barely broke even, but Darling Lili was a downright fiasco. It cost the studio many millions of dollars, and iced Julie Andrews’s film career for the next several years. Despite the grim state of the film musical, ABC went ahead with production on Song of Norway, a biopic of Edvard Grieg. Its director, Andrew Stone, was known for directing thrillers, but there was nothing thrilling about Norway. Released as a roadshow, it became a laughably hokey and contrived film that nonetheless earned a modest profit.

Keywords:   Hollywood recession, Paramount, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Darling Lili, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, ABC Picture Corporation, Song of Norway, Andrew Stone

Production and consumption of American feature films cratered in 1969. Unemployment in craft unions for various technicians, stagehands, and prop men ran as high as 80 percent, while 90 percent of the 23,000-member Screen Actors Guild was out of work. Only 110 of the 634 screenwriters in Hollywood were employed. Seventy-two films were in production by the major studios, but only 16 were shot in Hollywood the old-fashioned way Jack Warner made My Fair Lady and Camelot. The rest were “runaway productions,” shot abroad for a fraction of the cost. Average weekly movie attendance in America was down 40 percent from 1965, which was down 50 percent from the all-time per capita high in 1948.

Careers at all levels were affected. Stars who once made a million dollars a year now took in less than half that. Shirley MacLaine and Rock Hudson went to TV series after Sweet Charity and Darling Lili. After Hello, Dolly!, Gene Kelly was set to direct clowns on a cross-country tour. The ripple effect could be felt; discotheques closed, domestic staff were laid off, and psychiatrists had more time to play golf. Private jets and yachts went up for sale. Polished fruit replaced floral arrangements on Hollywood tables. “The current crisis is the result of a number of factors, but none so obvious as the public’s magnificent apathy in the face of some hugely expensive, apathetic films,” wrote the New York Times.

The Establishment cried that Hollywood was going to the dogs. Hippies congregated along Sunset Strip, while the Los Angeles Police Department blamed them for burglaries, narcotics arrests, and an epidemic of venereal diseases. Industry conditions overseas were no better. Both the United Kingdom and Japan reported a drop in theater admissions of nearly 70 percent over the 1960s. “I see our industry floundering in the biggest storm which has hit it for over 20 years,” reported Andrew W. Filson, director of the Film Production Association of Great Britain. “Fewer people want to buy what it costs us more to make and sell so it is no use lulling ourselves to sleep with the sound of music.”

No one knew exactly where to point the finger. To some, conglomerate buyouts were causing the problem. To others, that was the key to survival. Vincent Canby wrote, “I don’t especially fear the takeover of the major companies by ‘outside’ (p.209) interests. There is, of course, the possibility that when a company such as Paramount becomes one of the components of a conglomerate like Gulf + Western Industries, it could be easily liquidated if, for one reason and another, it does not contribute to the overall health of the parent. That is always a distinct possibility. However, I’m not afraid of people who don’t know anything about movies being in control of movie companies. People who don’t know anything about movies often make rather good ones.”

For the Oscar race held in the spring of 1970, studios once again appealed to Academy stomachs. Members who came to Goodbye, Mr. Chips screenings were offered beer and baloney sandwiches, while Fox tried its Doctor Dolittle trick again, with three-inch prime ribs accompanying Hello, Dolly! But a last-ditch effort to rack up awards and decent box office failed. Chips won Motion Picture of the Year by the Southern California Council of Churches, and Peter O’Toole’s and Siân Phillips won acting trophies from the National Board of Review and National Society of Film Critics, but that made no discernible impact on sluggish ticket sales. O’Toole’s Golden Globe win was more meaningful, but Chips wasn’t even nominated for Best Director or Best Comedy or Musical, while Gene Kelly, Hello, Dolly!, and Paint Your Wagon all were.

The 1969 Oscars became another collision of Old and New Hollywood, with the big musical again emblematic of all that would soon be outré. Hello, Dolly! was up for seven awards, including Best Picture, but failed to secure recognition for Kelly, Barbra Streisand, or Ernest Lehman as screenwriter. Sweet Charity scored three mentions, for Costumes, Art Direction, and Scoring of a Musical Picture. Goodbye, Mr. Chips earned two—for O’Toole as Best Actor and Scoring of a Musical Picture. O’Toole was up against a would-be Mr. Chips, Richard Burton, nominated for his lusty portrayal of Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days, another roadshow underperformer. Paint Your Wagon earned but one nomination for Adapted Score.

Unlike the 1968 awards, when the Oliver! victory hinted at a resuscitation of the musical, 1969 became a triumph of the new. As expected from the studio that brought forth Doctor Dolittle, Fox poured on the heat for Dolly!, touting it in the trades as “the only film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar with a G-rating for entire family entertainment.” That dull fact did not sway Academy voters, who selected Midnight Cowboy, a dark and despairing X-rated buddy picture, for the top honor. John Wayne won Best Actor for True Grit in a gesture widely interpreted as pure sentiment. Dolly! was the only musical to win anything, snagging awards for Art Direction, Adapted Score, and Sound. While Dolly! lost Best Picture, it did win The Please-Don’t-Put-Us-Through-DeMille-Again Award by Harvard Lampoon. The most obnoxious child star, a.k.a. the Bratwurst Award, went to the entire cast of Goodbye, Mr. Chips.

Midnight Cowboy came out of the recently bought United Artists, which did not compromise this individual work of art. Great movies would come out of the (p.210) smoldering ashes of the old studios. The Los Angeles Times noted that “The movies entered the ’60s as a mass family entertainment medium in trouble and they [left] them as a mass but minority art-form, importantly and newly influential, wildly divergent, and addressed to many divergent audiences.” But MGM, Fox, and Warner Bros. were fatally ill, and UA’s luck ran out with a $45 million loss in 1970. Paramount was struggling but registered a relatively minor $2 million loss. In April of 1970, soon after the Oscars, Paramount’s Robert Evans and Peter Bart moved their office from the lot at Marathon Street in Hollywood to North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills, where they conceived of the “new Paramount” as a sanctuary free of the “elephantine disasters” of late. “No more Darling Lilis or Paint Your Wagons,” Bart wrote.

Soon after Evans and Bart opened their new office, Paramount’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever debuted to muted fanfare. Conceived as a roadshow, it instead came out in standard release and with no formal premiere. Evans and Bart’s hunch about its limited appeal proved to be accurate. It was, then as now, a strange, over-orchestrated Streisand obsession piece. But she wasn’t enough. “All the film lacks is that indefinable something, the alchemist’s gold of the musical, which lifts one out of mere pleasure into exhilaration,” wrote the Observer Review. Its $13.5 million take was a break-even number. “On a Clear Day was quite expensive,” said director Vincente Minnelli. “At that time everybody was paying for everything—that was the idea after Sound of Music. Expensive pictures brought expensive profits. When Easy Rider came along, [the trend] went the other way—and that was wrong also.” On a Clear Day had a weak book, and relied on visuals and Streisand to camouflage vacuousness. It cannot be counted among the greatest disasters of the era, but neither was it a hit to put alongside Funny Girl, Oliver!, or even Thoroughly Modern Millie. “It was not my greatest musical success,” said Minnelli, then added with a wink, “but neither was it Paramount’s greatest musical failure.” On a Clear Day was a red alert for Streisand. One more overproduced, under-earning musical could ruin her, and she knew it. By the time On a Clear Day opened, she was making the X-rated comedy The Owl and the Pussycat, in which she played a sewer-mouthed pot-smoking hooker porn star.

Streisand and Julie Andrews had been competitors with the overlapping releases of Funny Girl and Star! The unnatural union reappeared in 1970, when Paramount released Andrews’s Darling Lili one week after On a Clear Day. Advance sales to the 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall opening were robust, inspiring added seats at top dollar. In fact, Radio City claimed the biggest opening day in its history. The positive sales news balanced some of the most negative publicity of any late roadshow. “‘It can never recoup its costs’ is probably the most frequently heard comment at any of Hollywood’s trade-studded premieres,” reported a Saturday Review piece. “Rarely has so much bad word-of-mouth preceded a picture.” Darling Lili has gone “so far over its budget the studio won’t tell how many millions,” wrote the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Schadenfreude made an appearance. With Hollywood gripped (p.211) in a recession, why should Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews walk into the sunset with their ill-gained millions? Reports like that got Edwards hopping mad. “I’m sick to death of all the figures printed as the cost of Darling Lili. The whispering campaign had it soaring up to $20 million. There was even talk the studio was afraid to let stockholders know how much was in Julie’s picture.” Estimating costs at $14 million, he added, “I’ve never known of an important picture in production so talked about, whispered about, and yes, lied about as Darling Lili.”

The two sneak previews in Oklahoma City and Kansas City went very well. “In both places Julie and I are surrounded by Paramount executives congratulating us and saying, ‘These are our most successful out of town previews,’” said Edwards. When it opened, however, it faced the same identity problems it had in conception. What is it? It was branded a musical by most, despite Paramount distancing their product from such a label. The Los Angeles Times wrote of the pain at seeing so “fantastically costly an enterprise mounted on so flimsy and indeed questionable a story premise, and executed with so little certainty as to whether the tone of the piece was to be pure romance, broad farce, suspense, melodrama, or musical comedy. Darling Lili turns out to be a little of each, and not enough of any…. The effect is of a skyscraper erected on Rice Krispies.” Evoking Hollywood takeover mania, Variety declared Darling Lili “a conglomerate” suffering from “indecision,” its comedy “strained,” title character “contrived,” and dog fights “out of place.”

Lili is set during World War I, but its realities are only hinted at here. Andrews plays a spy and could be a lightning rod for moral explorations, but that is ignored or weakened by Henry Mancini’s easy listening score and the stars strolling romantically among butterflies. In the three months before Darling Lili appeared, President Nixon ordered the bombing of North Vietnamese supply lines in Laos, then sent American troops into Cambodia. A protest of the invasion at Kent State University left four students dead by National Guardsmen. The nation was cleaved by Vietnam for years, yet Edwards would not suppose audiences could stand a more adult depiction of war. Why did musicals, or whatever Darling Lili was, steadfastly refuse to grow up? As in Star!, the war is treated here as a bothersome distraction “evidently fought by Rock Hudson and a few pilot friends against a dozen Germans while the rest of the world in evening clothes sings ‘It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary,’” blasted Look magazine.

Borrowing from Busby Berkeley’s magnificent “Lullaby of Broadway” in Gold Diggers of 1935, Edwards opens with Andrews singing Mancini’s “Whistling Away the Dark.” She is surrounded by blackness, but soon her head and sparkling jewels are lit, then eventually multi-colored lights in the distance reveal that she is alone on a stage, though the background is shadowy and undefined. She spins, and the lights grow hotter. It’s a lovely song well suited for Andrews. Soon enough, however, the mechanical failings of Darling Lili begin to manifest. Its romance consists of Andrews and Hudson making obligatory doe-eyes at each other. As a spy, Lili is downright unprofessional. The prospect that Hudson is involved with (p.212) another woman arouses such jealousy that she confesses, has him arrested, and finds the working end of a pistol aimed at her throat as she is shuttled to the German border. She’s the most conspicuous person in any room, yet she is the last to be suspected as a spy. Then there is her striptease choreographed by Hermes Pan, the same who had been fired from Finian’s Rainbow. She was not believable as a spy, but she is even less believable as a bump-and-grinder.

It was now open season on Andrews and Edwards, who were married on the lawn of her Beverly Hills home the day Darling Lili had its first public screening. Bad press dogged them, while Joyce Haber continued to gleefully swing her wrecking ball: “One newspaperman (who shall also be nameless) seems to be one of the only three people in the world who liked Darling Lili: Lili comes close to the top of my pretentious-inane-and-hokey roster.” Andrews shot back that Haber “needs open-heart surgery, and they should go in through her feet.”

Given its size, Darling Lili was built for roadshowing, yet Paramount was nowhere near as invested in the format as Fox or UA. In fact, Darling Lili’s exhibitors offered free admission to children under 14 and abandoned reserved seats within four months of its premiere. Paramount continued to play down its songs, but that did not extend to the print ads featuring a bonneted Andrews, her mouth unflatteringly wide open to leave no doubt that singing was on the menu. While audiences stayed away from the early and limited reserve seat showings, Paramount cut Lili for general release. A grieving Edwards could only shrug and say, “there is nothing I can do about it.” His sorrow did not meet with sympathy in the studio front offices. “Wouldn’t we be crazy to ruin our own multi-million dollar investment?” said an unidentified executive. “I can tell you with all honesty, Darling Lili is a very, very good picture and we are proud of it.” Now Edwards had something else in common with Robert Wise besides directing Julie Andrews in a box office loser. Just as Wise disowned the studio version of Star!, so, too, did Edwards claim the “new” Darling Lili wasn’t a Blake Edwards picture.

If Hello, Dolly! was not the End of an Era, then Darling Lili certainly was. It became a “kind of romantic gesture we’re not likely to see again for a very long time,” wrote Vincent Canby. “It’s the last of the mammoth movie musicals (Dolly, Paint Your Wagon) that were inspired by the success of The Sound of Music (and each of which cost two or three times as much as Alaska). I doubt that Hollywood, now practically broke and trying desperately to make a connection with the youth market, will ever again indulge itself in this sort of splendidly extravagant, quite frivolous enterprise.”

With the quick exit of Lili, and no more projects pending, Julie Andrews was asked to vacate her $70,000 apartment at Paramount. “Success is bankable, talent is disposable,” she said. “My screen departures from sweetness and light didn’t alter my public persona because they didn’t make much money or find an audience,” she said. “Meanwhile, I’m the same disreputable lady I’ve always been.” She went into analysis and stopped singing. “I have never found singing easy or (p.213) enjoyable,” she said. As for professional help, “There I was in the ’60s, having enormous success, but I wasn’t happy, didn’t understand why, and felt I was in an awful mess. I desperately needed some answers, and analysis seemed to be the best way of providing some for myself.”

When Gulf + Western chairman Charles Bluhdorn saw the appalling negative number on Darling Lili, he attempted to make them disappear with creative bookkeeping in a bogus subsidiary, despite the specter of prison should he be caught. He flew to Rome and met with his friend, disreputable Italian banker Michele Sindona. He spoke of Gulf + Western’s financial crisis and suggested a merger with real estate and construction giant Società Generale Immobiliare International (SGI) in exchange for $5 million in promissory notes and a package of debentures in, among other potential assets, Darling Lili. Bluhdorn’s sales pitch led Sindona to invest. He also sold Marathon Studio real estate as a subsidiary of Paramount to SGI for a gain of $15 million. But as Darling Lili failed to break even, its losses were not properly recorded against income from the deal, putting Bluhdorn in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “In retrospect, it’s easy to see that Bluhdorn was over the edge—a maverick bent on self-destruction,” wrote Peter Bart. He “presented himself as a spirited outlaw who was raiding the sanctum sanctorum of the entrenched corporate power players. While the CEOs were playing golf at their country clubs, Bluhdorn was stealing their companies out from under them.” The SEC eventually filed suit in a US District Court alleging Bluhdorn had overstated the income of Darling Lili as part of a 60-page brief claiming widespread fraud. As if the musical genre didn’t have enough troubles, Blake Edwards’s tuneful valentine to Julie Andrews prompted a Mafia takeover of Paramount.

CamelotDoctor DolittleStar!Sweet CharityPaint Your WagonGoodbye, Mr. ChipsHello, Dolly!Darling Lili. Hollywood was piled with musical corpses. Even so, two moviemaking companies believed the book musical was still viable as motion picture entertainment. Cinerama International Releasing Organization (CIRO) in collaboration with American Broadcasting Company (ABC) had an ambitious plan to produce 25 films over the next two years. “At a time when most companies have been turning away from roadshow attractions, we and ABC are enthusiastically setting the roadshow pattern for Song of Norway,” said CIRO president Joseph M. Sugar. “We believe the entertainment impact of this film will prove again that there is an exceptional market for the right attraction.” He then sang the chorus that nearly killed Hollywood. “I feel that Song of Norway has the basic ingredients to appeal to the same audiences who were attracted to Sound of Music.” As a musical biography of Edvard Grieg, the “Chopin of the North,” it lent itself to spectacular location filming. It also originated on the stage, in a long-running 1944 production. Its sentimental nationalism echoed the love of home that coursed through Music. Florence Henderson, who came to be cast in Norway after its director Andrew Stone caught her act in (p.214) New York at the Plaza Hotel’s Persian Room, dismissed the Music comparisons. “I heard that talk, but it’s a totally different film,” she said. “The Sound of Music appealed to all religions and families with an incredible score with hit songs in it. Norway was a classical film about a classical composer that wouldn’t have broad appeal.”

Song of Norway would not suffer from anything like the roadshow bottleneck of 1968. It was banking on now uncommon après garde filmgoing. By 1970, it had very little company. Darling Lili’s theatrical career as a roadshow feature was short-lived, and Hello, Dolly! began its general release in June. “Beyond [Tora! Tora! Tora! and Song of Norway], it seems that the motion picture roadshow will have had it,” announced Variety. “First as [a Columbia executive] put it, ‘the American public is not a roadshow public; they don’t like leaving a theater for home late at night. This, of course, refers to the family trade. Second, the hard ticketers have always been big budgeters, and the producer-distributors mostly have put a stop to tall-stakes product investments.”

Andrew Stone, like Robert Wise and Richard Fleischer before him, would seem an unlikely director of musicals. Now in his late sixties and with a career that reached into the silent era, he forged a reputation for tight, effective thrillers on a budget. Now he was adapting Song of Norway for the screen. The stage production took great liberties in accuracy, but Stone maintained that the film would keep close to Grieg’s life. “I tried to give it documentary accuracy, the ring of truth,” he said. “What was most difficult was to contrast a straight documentary with the musical numbers—some of which are shot in realistic style and others as fantasy. It was daring, but fortunately it worked.” Documentary feel? A musical? At least one publication, America, believed Stone might have the winning ticket: “Though the formula that brought unprecedented financial rewards to [The Sound of Music] is not definable and virtually every major studio carries a large chunk of red ink on its books from at least one project that tried unsuccessfully to duplicate it, Song of Norway just might turn the trick.”

Stone and film editor wife Virginia went scouting in Scandinavia and England, shooting Grieg’s haunts with a 16-millimeter camera. Then Stone wrote the script. “If I had done it the other way around, it would have cost $30 million.” ABC approved his film for a measly $3.5 million. Instead of building sets and props, Stone gained approval to use lavish destinations, including North London’s Witanhurst, the Georgian Heveningham Hall in Suffolk, and the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. Twenty-seven Scandinavian and English locations were used over seven months of shooting in non-anamorphic Super Panivision 70, for screenings in highly select Super Cinerama theaters.

There were no expensive personnel, and, according to Henderson, not a single set was built. Toralv Maurstad as Grieg was a stage star but was not widely known outside of Norway. The sole big name was none other than Edward G. Robinson as a kind-hearted piano dealer, reportedly accepting the job to visit Oslo’s art (p.215) museums. For a change, all the actors did their own vocals. Robert Wright and George Forrest added lyrics to Grieg’s melodies, which Claude Debussy once dismissed as “bonbons wrapped in snow.” The London Symphony Orchestra supplied a full sound to blast against those fjord walls, with a 72-piece ensemble and a 20-voice chorus. Henderson was thrilled to be backed by such big noise but expressed ambivalence over Stone. “I liked him very much, he was very good at certain things, but he was old-fashioned in dealing with actors,” she recalled. “He approached scenes quite literally and without a lot of imagination. We would rehearse a scene and come up with our own intentions of what we wanted to do.” And on one of those sub-zero Norwegian nights, Virginia began an affair with an assistant director, and would later divorce Stone.

“Magnificent Apathy”

Florence Henderson and fellow cast member Frank Porretta rehearse for Song of Norway. From the collection of Photofest.

Despite the comparatively low cost, Cinerama and ABC fought over Norway expenses, with Cinerama threatening to pull out during postproduction. Stone tried sincerely to economize, but costs swelled to nearly $4 million, and the (p.216) release date was postponed a year. ABC nonetheless went all-out in marketing. Colorful ads highlighting scenic wonders appeared in newspapers with ticket-ordering instructions. ABC combined with the Royal Caribbean on a Song of Norway cruise ship to be used as a press junket to Miami, though what Miami had to do with Norway was not explained. The Song of Norway was touted as “one of the best ‘stacked’ young ladies of the Caribbean.”

Norway was released as a reserve seat attraction in early November and received withering reviews. It’s hard to know where to begin the autopsy, but its dreadful script is as good a place as any. The dialogue is laced with efforts to be adorably self-aware:

  • “A countryman of yours was asking for you,” announces a clerk to Grieg.
  • “Who’s that?” he says.
  • “Mr. Ibsen,” replies the clerk.
  • The critics had a field day. “This film’s scenery and music will please the naïve, but its substitution of sentimentality for thought and characterization will offend practically everyone else,” noted Films in Review. “There is no justification for a total absence of the cinematic art that saved Sound of Music, e.g., from bathos.” In History of Movie Musicals, Thomas Aylesworth writes, “Some of the more polite critics characterized Song of Norway as a bomb…. when the audience heard performers sing ‘Norway waits for the song of one man’ to the tune of one of the themes from Grieg’s Piano Concerto, they walked out in droves.” Pauline Kael drained her poison pen. “The movie is of an unbelievable badness; it brings back clichés you didn’t know you knew—they’re practically from the unconscious of moviegoers. You can’t get angry at something this stupefying; it seems to have been made by trolls.” That last remark is in reference to a sequence of giant animated trolls looming over the Norwegian mountaintops. It’s so bad it upstages some of the greatest scenery on planet Earth.

    Given its universal condemnation, Song of Norway might be assumed to be a super-flop, but not so. A disgraced Stone shot back, claiming that Norway “sold out night after night after night” at the Cinerama Dome, then lambasted critics who try “to pretend [they’re] sophisticated.” It made most of its money in England, earning roughly $7.9 million in worldwide rentals. Cinerama’s fees, marketing, and loan interest left ABC with a $1 million profit. The haul was hardly distinguished, but a minor profit for any musical in 1970 was news in itself. Stone would use that fact to his advantage one more time.

    Also opening in late 1970 was Scrooge, a musical version of Dickens’s Christmas Carol, but it was not roadshowed in the States. “Let’s hold no wakes for the musical,” said its composer Leslie Bricusse, late of Doctor Dolittle and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. “Ailing it may be, but it’s a long way from being dead and buried. The film will make its money back before you can say ‘Merry Christmas.’” He offered a (p.217) recipe for curing the musical blues. “They ought to stop paying $4 or $5 million just to bring a show from Broadway to the screen,” he said. “It’s sheer madness. By the time you’ve paid the star a ridiculous amount the budget has jumped preposterously and you haven’t even begun. Instead filmmakers should use something in the public domain—like we did with Scrooge. Pay the stars a small salary and give them a share of the profits. The prices will go down but the quality won’t.” Scrooge was slavishly imitative of a certain smash British musical of two years ago. That was no accident. “Scrooge was like a sequel to Oliver! as we pretty much assembled the same technical crew,” said Oswald Morris, the director of photography of both. Musicals may not be dead, but innovative filmmakers appealing to restless young people had moved on to Five Easy Pieces and Little Big Man. In an era before franchising aimed at teenagers, copycatting was shelter for the middle-aged who wanted their movies safe and stupid. Charles Champlin wondered what the next aping trend would be as follow-ups to the massive hit Airport. “I can see Wharf, Terminal, Depot, and Carport all coming our way, each with George Kennedy chewing cigars and solving problems while Barry Nelson steadies Dean Martin.”

    While Hollywood floundered, there was the fast rise of some 900 “skinemas” in America specializing in eight and 16-millimeter porn. Recognizing America’s splintered demographics, film journalist Axel Madsen asked, “Can Hollywood films talk to suspicious blacks, to anxious idealists, to groping youngsters; can they evoke a spark, a sense of inspiration? The argument is not between liberals and conservatives, but between those who think the system will work and those who don’t.” Comedian-writer-director-producer Jerry Lewis, bemoaning the proximity of G and X-rated movies in newly subdivided theaters, took action. He combined with Network Cinema Corporation to build small theaters exclusively for family audiences. They were called “Jerry Lewis Cinemas,” featuring prefab suburban micro-theaters (100 seats) or mini-theatres (350 seats) as low overhead alternatives to the “old antiquated movie palaces located in downtown areas with traffic and parking problems.” With automated projection, one of his theaters could be run by as few as two people. The first one went up in Old Bridge, New Jersey, and one of its bookings was Song of Norway.

    Lewis wanted to screen nothing but G-rated features, but the numbers would not support it. He had to offer a tossed salad of movie choices, though nothing racier than M-rated movies were allowed. With mature fare also on the marquee, Lewis installed a hotline so that parents could make informed decisions. He wanted a clean outlet for the saddened youth of today. “Remember the 1930s and ’40s! Where did the average red-blooded American kid go when Mom wanted him to get lost for half a day? To the neighborhood movie house. He’d sit through a double feature and seven shorts and six cartoons. Where are those teenagers today?” What a silly question. They became the parents of teenagers who smoked dope, listened to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water,” laughed over Laugh-In, cried over Love Story, and boarded aircraft bound for Southeast Asia.