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Monday, May 22, 2017

Don't Tell What Mildred Did!

Showmen Sell Fierce Their Mildred Pierce

Ad campaigns sometimes took on lives of their own, like when a picture had energy that wouldn't be contained by standard publicity. Such a nova was Mildred Pierce, keyed as it was to closure of the war and servicemen coming home. Among recreation for vets was relax in theatres not visited over a last three-four years. Tie that to courtship in renewed force and there was whopper success for even weak product from late 1945 into '46. Some of soldiers presumably saw Mildred Pierce at camp, or jungles lately seized, them being first in line for new releases and then writing home to recommend what they liked. This was strategy beyond mere generosity to troops for an industry realizing value in letters that spoke highly of new films. Had poll been taken in 1945 (was there?), I'd propose the year as peak, or near-that, of good will for Hollywood and its works. We laugh now at sailors dashing onto dry land crying "Oh Boy! Home and Mildred Pierce!," but there was basis for trade ad boast, for here was Moment for Mildred, with September 28 pre-release at New York's Strand to precede general spread of the show in October. Balance of 1945 would stamp and re-stamp Mildred Pierce onto consciousness of everyone reading magazines, listening to radio, or talking movies among friends.

WB knew they had a special one. This "Ears Burning" trade ad was probably as truthful a dispatch as came out of studios in 1945. Crawford comeback was reported as done deal before Mildred opened, being start for fresh run at tough melodramas. Plus there was sizzle to the steak spelled s-e-x, which ads from start would emphasize. Note packets of good will as expressed above. There aren't many pix of Jack Warner being kissed by contract talent, so let's savor this one. Must have been a jubilant day, possibly one when all realized Mildred Pierce was gold in the bank. Sometimes you could smell a smash on its way out the door. Note Harry Warner apart from the smooch-fest. Wonder if Joan kissed him too. Bet not. Harry comes across like a cold fish. Rather looks like one as well. Louse as he was, at least Jack took fun where he found it, as did onlooking Michael Curtiz, whose directorial triumph Mildred Pierce was. We still underestimate Curtiz, maybe for being a team player rather than rebel or iconoclast. Or was he just too versatile for his own good? There was nothing so convivial as studio-staff relations when everyone was in the chips. It was only when someone began to slip that ice formed.

Going-in misread by some showmen was Mildred Pierce as "Ladies Only" attraction (like above in New London, Ct.). Time, and gender mix among crowds, would dispel notion of that. Mildred Pierce took grosses bigger than any woman-centric or Bette Davis vehicle Warners had, or would. It was clearly reaching men in vast number, outdrawing the Bogarts (except Casablanca) and all the Errol Flynns save San Antonio. Mildred Pierce showed that both sexes could be lured by melodrama revolved around a woman. 20th Fox got a same lesson, to even greater reward, within following months with Leave Her To Heaven. From now on, female passion would have deadly consequence, this demanded by those back from a shooting war, as well was ones who had charted progress of same back home. Joan Crawford would harden sufficiently to kill a lover onscreen and make it seem an only recourse, if not a good idea all round. Here was rougher play that four years of headlines and newsreels had prepared us for. Crawford also had enough sex left by 1945 to be attractive where dealing death, or negotiating with those who do ("The Kind Of Woman Most Men Want" --- how much longer could they say that of JC?) . Ads gave impression that she'd commit murder as Mildred Pierce, not so in the film, but who'd care or remember on exiting such a satisfactory show?

The goal was for people to talk about Mildred Pierce. Who was she? --- or more to point, What Did Mildred Pierce Do? That was what we had to find out, as in pay admission to find out, then keep to ourselves. As with Psycho's ending fifteen years later, Please Don't Tell were key three words to marketing. Here was buzz ahead of the Strand's 9/28 pre-open, advance of which saw Joan Crawford canvass New York to stir press interest in her newest. People talk of Crawford as actress, personality, or offscreen control nut. What they miss is recognition of her as merchandising whirlwind for films she made. What you got for hiring Crawford was both performer and retailer. She had instinct for selling as keen as anyone on Warners' East Coast staff, these overseeing drumbeat for all company product. Crawford touching down in Gotham raised awareness of Mildred Pierce for all of press, broadcast, and ultimately, show-going public. Her clutch with WB staff as pictured above was no idle publicity. She was there to do a job and operate at their level of expertise. I think Crawford's grasp of salesmanship was as much reason as any for her forty plus years of major stardom.

Some secrets were to be kept --- others not. WB asked viewers to stay mum about what Mildred did, but they'd not mind tipping Zachary Scott's fate in the film. One thing the war had done was make us less serious about movies. Melodramas would not be taken so straight as before. Ad copy with Scott's image as "Monte Beragon" ("He'd rather die than double-cross her --- so he did both!") revealed at least some exhibitors had tongues in cheek. As with any film that morphed with mass embrace, there was improvisation in the field. Suggested ads as provided in the Mildred Pierce pressbook were discarded for ones that spoke to snowball effect the film had. Creative enough circuits or lone showmen could zero in on crowd response as expressed from region to region. Changing ads over month or more holdovers was like ticker tape fed to potential viewers. Some might take longer to show up and buy a ticket, but they'd all get there eventually. As to what Mildred did, and keeping it a secret, there would come good natured mockery. Radio and nightclub comedians took up "Please Don't Tell" and made it a country-wide punchline, all this to Warner advantage. Ads warned that loving Mildred was "Like Shaking Hands With The Devil!," a line some might take serious in silent days, but not now. An audience that flattered themselves as more sophisticated, let alone those lately home from the Pacific, sought rise above silliness of movies done old-fashioned way. Advertising for Mildred Pierce let it be known that a new era had dawned.

Theatres from outset tendered Mildred Pierce as fun for all.  
From cartoony ads, you'd think it was the "Road" picture of melodramas. Crawford and her studio would sense direction and go with flow to her later cameo for 1949's It's A Great Feeling, with its spoof of Mildred Pierce and hothouses she occupied during four years since she made it. The gag of not seating anyone for a last seven minutes of Mildred Pierce was figured to preserve surprise of the ending, and get folks talking, especially those accustomed to showing up anytime, and not care where narrative was at. They'd seen these tropes play out a thousand times before, or so they thought. Policy on Mildred Pierce alerted them that, no, you have not. The above State's 2nd "Must-See" week was for "thousands who were turned away" in the first, so word was out, even if reveal of what Mildred did wasn't. Victory was ours, but urgency of war didn't end with that. There were still Bonds to be bought toward postwar clean-up, and Paramount short Hollywood Victory Caravan was reminder that the job wasn't finished.

Mildred Pierce also played off headlines. The above is Chicago's ad for a "4th Explosive Week." By now, what Mildred did was "Another Atomic Secret!" We were just learning background on the Bomb now that it was dropped. There had been no secret closer guarded than this. The United Nations was meanwhile established (10-24-45) and made daily copy. What were these current events but grist for selling Mildred Pierce? Everyone was presumed to know about Mildred by now. Even Joe Stalin with signature mustache and pipe agrees not to tell anyone what Mildred did. Trade ads through the autumn could pull back and let the title alone serve, as here with Mildred Pierce mere name above a doorbell. The film would be remembered thanks to TV and parody as late as Carol Burnett's "Mildred Fierce" in 1976, a year when much of viewership could still recall the initial Explosion. We still have first-hand witnessing thanks to Ann Blyth appearing from time to time with Mildred Pierce. Otherwise, it is viewership seventy years removed trying to imagine what impact was like. Criterion has a splendid Blu-ray of Mildred Pierce in recent release. Their clean-up has made it look better than even HD streaming off VUDU and Amazon.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ramp Up That Sound!

Jolson and Fantasia: They're Both In Stereo Now!

The mid-50's was forefront to progress with sound. Home stereo was in development, an advance on Hi-Fi that was already the rage. Movies had music and voices bouncing off walls. Some old people stopped going due to the racket (history repeats itself: that's why I quit theatres). Oldies became obsolete not just for flat screens they played on, but flatness to the ear compared with magnetic stereo new stuff could boast. If the movie was special enough, as in revolved around timeless music, maybe something could be done, but what? Columbia, and later Disney, thought they had it licked. A revamped track, as in faux-stereo, was the ticket for reissues of The Jolson Story (1946) and Fantasia (1940). The latter was part-way there already, having been recorded in "Fantasound," a process involving multiple tracks made during production and then mixed to simulate full-range sonics. It wasn't true stereo, but the effect was electric for handful of 1940 dates that heard Fantasia that way. Now Disney would use those separations to come up with something to compete with magnetic marvels 20th Fox was getting out. Jolson, on the other hand, was plain mono, at least for 1946 engagements. Columbia doctored what they had and simulated wide sound, but was result so impressive as this ad that promises the moon? ("Hear Al's Whistling Actually Come From The Balcony!") I've no idea if Columbia still has these tracks from 1954. Surely a reissue print survives, as they would have been done on safety. Again, I look to greater expertise here. Whichever way, the ads are fun, hopefully for "Bopsters, Long Hairs, Hi-Fi Addicts, Juke-Box Fans," and everyone else under the Big listening tent.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Chiller With Light Seasoning

The Cat and The Canary (1927) Where Old House Horror Began

Here's my idea of a thrill: The Cat and The Canary for the first time from 35mm nitrate and tinted beautifully throughout. This is one of the PHOTOPLAY restorations supervised by Kevin Brownlow, and what life it breathes it into a chill show till now viewed on compromised basis from 16mm. Actually, those latter seemed OK (for decades) before Brownlow and team did magic. The whole story of Cat/Canary reclaim is told by Christopher Bird, who worked on the project, in a Fall 2009 article for The Moving Image journal. What he reveals about alternate scenes, two-camera shooting, etc. during the silent era, amounts to education way beyond mere matter of The Cat and The Canary's rescue, and makes ideal dessert to viewing of the Kino DVD, which utilized PHOTOPLAY'S best-ever presentation.

Direct From Broadway to Ft. Worth
The Cat and The Canary is an old house thriller in the best sense of scares mixed with comedy, a format known well to patrons for whom further intensity would have been not only unwelcome, but distasteful. We tend to imagine true horrors as having been withheld from a public that wanted them, but I'm of opinion that folks got all of goosebumps needed to enjoy nights out and still sleep afterward. Old housing was popular real estate at theatres right from movies' beginning to late 60's juncture when rules of decorum got disrupted by likes of Night Of The Living Dead and later, Halloween, progenitors of horror that parents could no longer drop off kids to see. These were more disruptive than even we who lived through the upheaval can remember. Chillers now shockers became province of teenagers who'd insist such stuff nauseate them for a proper ticket's worth.

Despite its not-altogether serious approach, The Cat and The Canary was very much the inspiration for lights staying on or candles kept lit on return home. It's only by seeing quality like PHOTOPLAY's that you realize how effective this show was when nitrate-unspooled in 1927. Every shot is composed to creep maximum, with uneasy feeling maintained throughout. Moments relaxed are prelude to cymbal-crash when a clawed hand reaches forward or bodies tumble out of hidden passageway. I never enjoyed The Cat and The Canary so much as this time, all that thanks to PHOTOPLAY handiwork. If there is such thing as a classic reborn, here she is. Universal's horror franchise was a flag raised to full mast with Cat/Canary; it didn't need Dracula to herald arrival. Of course, there had been The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Phantom Of The Opera to introduce famous monsters, but to my mind, it's The Cat and The Canary that sealed chiller mastery deal for Laemmle's Universal. To be without it is to miss a landmark that led to all the Shock Theatres that followed. I only wish we'd had The Cat and The Canary on late show display when initiated first to the Uni horror tradition.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Wringing Last Dimes Out Of Dean

First-Run Saturation In L.A. and Vicinity

More Of Keeping James Dean Alive

I've guessed before that Elvis was salve for the loss of James Dean. Love Me Tender had arrived just behind Giant in 1956, a year after Dean's passing. Now for summer 1957, there was Loving You and few month's later Jailhouse Rock to see out mourning for a youth idol of whom fresh footage was finally spent with The James Dean Story. Latter was a documentary done on spec by Midwest filmmaker Robert Altman, with partner George W. George. Warners fleshed out their work and used The James Dean Story as backstop to product that wouldn't sustain bills alone. I checked Variety and found for most part that it played as second feature to The Black Scorpion, latest of yearly monsters WB sold with help of TV saturation directed at kids with quarters and nothing better to do with them. Dean was a known adjunct to thrill bills, having been "materialized" at spook shows where his image was projected onscreen as conjurers on stage called for him to speak from beyond. Time for reverence had thus past, so what more fitting than to pair last theatrical glimpse of Jimmy with jumbo arachnids as advertised on TV?

Impressive L.A. Showcase, Including Stand At the Egyptian, For Revived Pair

James Dean is for me the most fascinating personality to come forth in the 50's, both for how he was sold and the impact he had. Alec Baldwin and his "Essentials" guest David Letterman hashed over Dean this past weekend on TCM, where East Of Eden was shown to maximum benefit of true HD. This was not how most people of their age group saw East Of Eden, or Rebel Without A Cause, for the first time. I'm surprised Dean gathered new admirers after these films were sold to television in 1960-61, so brutally compromised as they were. Neither played network, first-runs on local stations likelier as late shows than primetime (owl slots for first-run of both in our Charlotte viewing market). A couple of generations discovered James Dean in this reduced circumstance, making it hard to realize how dynamic and lovely East Of Eden and Rebel Without A Cause had once been on wide screens. Chances are Baldwin and Letterman caught them first, during youth, on the harsh, square box, as others of us did. That lingering impression could be why Letterman expressed some reservation about Dean's performance in East Of Eden. He wouldn't have had opportunity to optimum-see the film until years after it first appeared on television.

I watched some of Eden after Baldwin/Letterman's intro. There was an overture, which I assume played at key 1955 dates ahead of Eden credits. Listening made me realize that it was Leonard Rosenman's music that put much of sting in James Dean's tail. There had not been a score quite like it --- emotional, modern yet symphonic in a way to please those of an older school. Four-track stereo no doubt cut right to nerve of listeners. It still conditions us for something powerful. Rosenman was kept on to score Rebel Without A Cause. I'd say much of magic we call James Dean came of this man's music. East Of Eden and Rebel Without A Cause are like two movements of a Rosenman concert. I don't wonder that there was a record album issued in 1956, part of ongoing "tribute" to departed Dean. Eden and Rebel as a double feature filled seats that year as fully as new releases, one of handful of occasions when a revived pair went ideally together. Eden had gone out with Battle Cry in early '56 as first swing at the post-mortem Dean fence, but it was with Rebel later that year, and through 1957, where wickets lit up. They still play nicely in tandem.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

DeMille Aloft At MGM

Madam Satan (1930) Tickles Lunatic Fringe

With such a title plus finish on a runaway zeppelin, there's little wondering why this lines them up at precode festivity, but there's a long wait getting to fun, and for all promise of her titular character, Kay Johnson is pretty glacial. Her tiltings with errant husband Reginald Denny makes you wonder how they got together to begin with; we're never vested in this couple's problem. Denny had amused in a series of domestic comedies for Universal, but they were silent with fleet of movement; Madam Satan is caught for much of a first half between four walls with players stock still. Cecil B. DeMille directed on lavish Metro scale, being awkward guest there despite a multi-pic contract and all smiles upon signing. No way would Thalberg and Mayer let him be king of Culver hill, as he'd been (and would be again) at Paramount. Where Madam Satan takes off is aboard the doomed zep, where first is staged an art deco blowout with scant-clad chorines and Denny getting dithers over masked K. Johnson.

This latter third is how fan base would like all precode to play. It's bizarre, wildly uninhibited, and filled to cusp with special-fx peculiar to uncertain era of silent-to-talk transition. DeMille looked to be in something for everyone mode, Madam Satan conveying almost a desperation to please. Thalberg was unimpressed and proven right by losing numbers, ice beneath C.B.'s feet slickened from there. If not for red ink from Madam Satan and two others DeMille made for Leo, Dynamite and The Squaw Man, he might have thrived as contract helmsman, but how to reconcile C.B.'s iconoclast ways with bend-to-will-of-management policy at Metro? There's just no way he'd have lasted there. Madam Satan would go years in obscurity; when TV stations bothered, it was cut to tatters, though few cared for woeful dating of content. Like so much from the early 30's, Madam Satan needed a spike that only cultists could hammer, rebirth the by-product of MGM's library being played finally to nationwide viewership via TNT and later Turner Classic Movies. Were it not for these outlets, Madam Satan would surely have stayed obscure.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Miller Machine At Full Throttle

Orchestra Wives (1942) Goes Behind Big-Band Scenes

A cruelest scene in Blackboard Jungle has rotten juves smashing a gentle school teacher’s prized collection of swing on shellac. Bust-up of 78’s stood for chasm between grown-ups who’d been through it all and kids that, many said, had it all handed to them. Sides were chosen, each picking music to exclusion of the other as gulf widened. 45 singles sought level that was kids and fifty cents or thereabout they’d spend for latest rock and roll. Adults chose LP’s which were priced higher and customized for mature listening. Sinatra got his 50’s spike via High-Fi albums. Sadness for many was swing on decline as 40’s turned to 50’s and novelty songs went up the chart. Nostalgia for Big Bands was intense, even as bands themselves gave way to risen costs and thinning crowds. 1954’s The Glenn Miller Story tapped into that longing and took Universal over the moon. 20th Fox waded in on conviction that there was Miller money enough for everybody by reissuing combo of Sun Valley Serenade with Orchestra Wives, both starring the departed bandleader and wall-to-walled with his sound. Victor was the “diskery” behind a pair of LP’s, new to the market said Variety (5-13-54), “since there wasn’t a (previous) soundtrack album on either film” (that not correct, as Victor got out a 78 set when Orchestra Wives was new).

Orchestra Wives told of life inside bands, specifically Miller’s, him but faintly disguised “Glenn Morrison” here, surrounded by sidemen known by most (at least in 1942) to be his. Maybe Fox underestimated fan awareness of Miller membership, for even now, 20th personnel subbing on instruments stick out like bandaged thumbs, especially as they’re merged with real-thing musicians who look the authentic part. Caesar Romero at the piano is spared close exam at the keys, while George Montgomery’s trumpet tooting was said to draw razzes from guys who knew from performance. Jackie Gleason makes a smartest move by avoiding his instrument altogether and sticking to comedy (for life of me, I can’t even remember what he was supposed to be playing in this Fox-faux band).

Miller is a benign maestro, as was case in previous Sun Valley Serenade. He underplays, coming off quite modern in fact. Bandleaders were liked and sought out in movies no matter the bad actors some of them were, as what mattered where sounds they made were sweet? A few, like Kay Kyser, had personality to burn, so it was richer field he’d plow at RKO so long as vogue lasted. Miller, however, was King of music’s tall (and till) hill who'd certainly have done more films if not for military service, then premature end in a vanished plane. Fox shot more numbers with his group than was used in Orchestra Wives, this stuff gold dust when records were reissued later on. I would assume that if filmed outtakes were extant, there’d be access, but don’t recall any showing up on DVD’s for Wives or Sun Valley.

Were band-following girls the groupies of their era? Orchestra Wives at least sanctifies their mating with marriage, though overnight nature of couplings marks swing clearly as aphrodisiac. Ann Rutherford is a small towner who weds/beds George Montgomery mere hours after hearing him play, while femme body around the bandstand pant to rhythm made by bad boys and their horns. What were families to make of daughters spirited off by such pied piping? I’ll bet many a Dad saw white slaving at core of what these gypsies practiced, and could wonder if county magistrates weren’t obliged to polish up their Mann Act as many a Betty Sue got lured over state lines and into motor courts where band busses stopped. Plain folk saw plenty to suspect in troubadours on constant move, a same view attaching here as with vaudevillians who were figured by small towns to travel for sole purpose of despoiling innocence (in fact, many did feed on the corn-fed, per more than one Marx Bros. account from the road).  Did Glenn Miller maintain vigil on morals of his boys? I could picture close calls or rush for a county line under right, or better wrong, circumstance. How many weddings among musicians were shotgun induced? Orchestra Wives raises such questions without necessarily answering them.

Miller on tour was caravan of publicity for Orchestra Wives. Hits from the film became so as the picture traveled parallel with the band. Swing music lent itself to synergy, all cash roads leading to Glenn Miller live, on radio, jukeboxes, or theatre screens. Orchestra Wives could have done with more of him and less of a story where new-wed Ann Rutherford is target of bitchery from titular trouble makers Carole Landis, Mary Beth Hughes, Lynn Bari, all familiar from Fox kennels. What contradiction musicals could be --- clicking solid with song, but choked on story --- runny egg white spoiling healthy yolk. Still, Orchestra Wives holds interest in dated ways, showing at least how private lives of band membership were perceived when swing was hottest, curiosity rife then, if cooled since. To matter of 50’s revive of interest in Glenn Miller, there was big hypo that was stereo in 1958 when members of the band came together, along with Tommy/Jimmy Dorsey’s crews, to do salute albums with wall-bouncing separation of sound. This was swing like it had never been heard when the tunes were new and Miller was leading them.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Sunset For The West?

Trucolor Roy Rogers Upholds The Cowboy Creed

Like buffalo vanished off the plains, so goes caring for categories of film once popular. Series westerns, "B" westerns sound pejorative, and serials have long been considered preserve of old men who knew less than us what was good. There's no snobs like those born after the war. Ones who will sit through everything John Ford directed will not suffer a Tom Mix, and yet Ford worked with Mix and was probably influenced by him. What we're hearing in 2017 is death rattle of the small western. Swap meets where survivors of a matinee era gather are themselves going. Williamsburg breathed its last this Spring, and Winston-Salem's Western Film Fair will drop the curtain in July. That one dates back to the 70's in Charlotte, from which it moved upstate some ten years back. North Carolina had elsewhere conclaves, like in Siler City where Milo Holt hosted. I just got the latest catalog from Sinister Cinema, prime source of westerns on DVD, in which owner-operator Greg Luce laments "the increasing loss of our customer base, sadly, due to death," this "especially evident with our B-western customers, whose numbers have drastically fallen." I'd not miss Winston-Salem for anything this year, to survey that dealer's room with what's left of Republic lobby cards and cowboy gimcracks, plus small spaces where Hoot, Ken, and the rest still ride in 16mm. "Last of a dying breed" as Rex Allen Jr. once sang, and on a film gauge already dead. Whatever tears I have for the passing of a great fan culture and its idols will be shed there.

"But we're still riding high ..." went Roy Rogers' guest vocal to "Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys," that recorded by Rex Jr. in 1982 when we were hard-pressed to see Roy in anything past chopped versions of his western output, let alone in Trucolor as applied to nineteen of them. Only a handful exist now (never mind shadowy B/W prints), a horror of a cultural loss, though a lovely exception is just out on Blu-Ray, Sunset In The West. I'd call it "Sunrise In The West" for current viewing purpose, colors lit as if Renaissance painters came three centuries later to direct for Republic. It matters not a tick if this ranks below best of Roy, just having him and Trigger and trains and chase stuff in cloudburst like this is balm to senses dulled by years of westerns indifferently reproduced. Did Sunset In The West look so splendid in 1950? If so, the Rogers religion makes plentiful sense, and I'm talking among his fans, not Roy's own observance of Faith. Sure there are hiccups, even beyond ones belabored by sidekick Gordon Jones, his running gag pressed to point where I despaired for serious medical condition he might have (unstoppable hiccups can and do kill, they tell me).

Are all western tropes here and duly played out? Do pigs oink? Imagine not having them and how much less fun Sunset In The West would be. To picture it as mere kid cliché is to risk loss of stuff at times emotionally powerful. I'm talking key character Sherlock the dog, pivotal to solving the mystery (hence his name), but wounded by a dog heavy made utterly despicable for attacking him. To hurt Roy Rogers, even a beating to bloody pulp (which sometimes happened to postwar Rogers) was nothing beside mistreatment of animals, a most grievous crime anyone commits in Roy-dom. Narrative will always break to heal an injured horse or dog, these expressions of humanity unique to Rogers' westerns, and I've no doubt, a reflection of his own priorities and beliefs. There's a section of Sunset In The West where a misguided, if well-intentioned, character means to kill Sherlock to relieve his suffering, Roy's race to intervene a summit of intensity. It's not giving much away to reveal that Sherlock is saved. I don't think I could have stood it otherwise. Never mind Gordon Jones' hiccups or whatever else is formula in Roy Rogers, heart and soul of him was interaction with animals, and therein lies his westerns' greatness.

So yes, Saturday westerns taught good values. I've wondered if a 60's generation gap wasn't born of parents raised on cowboy teachings being confronted by offspring that were not. Nihilist westerns, fun as they seemed at the time, probably did my generation no good in the long run. Old-timers sensed that and grieved for us. They formed clubs and nostalgia meets in part to re-instill a morality they saw slipping away. Heroes like Roy Rogers stood for all that, but what could he or other of survivors do as cultural ground shifted beneath them? Nod in agreement with fans and signing another autograph was about all that was left. Roy would lend heartfelt coda to Rex Allen Jr.'s song, to which Rex Sr. also contributed. The King Of The Cowboys will play to at least tolerant degree for moderns because he's spangled and sings and is sort of campy to those who think they're hep to what ancestors liked. Also Roy lasted longer, did a lot of TV, had fast food named after him. I'd like to think Sunset In The West, if it sells, would usher in the whole of surviving Rogers, if not Republic in toto, but no, this is likelier a novelty release, a brief sup at wells where Dad and Granddad gorged. That's heaps better than nothing, though, so let's take Sunset In The West and be grateful.
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