A Headline for the Ages

Today marks the 84th anniversary of the appearance of the greatest newspaper headline ever—or, at the very least, the greatest headline ever to appear in a trade publication.

It was on this day in 1935 that the front page of Variety blared the following:

Photo of aforementioned Variety headline

We’d always understood that the point of the headline (and the story it touted) was that, contrary to the common wisdom of the day, rural moviegoers weren’t showing an interest in motion pictures that took place in rural and small-town settings; they wanted depictions of big-city life.

But that’s not the whole story. In fact, now that we’ve read the article at Variety.com, we’re not really sure this headline is a particularly good fit, as the bit about small-town movie patrons enjoying city-themed movies makes up but a tiny percentage of the story.

Still, over the years, that aggregation of words has brought us great joy; it makes us profoundly happy. We’re not certain who penned the headline—some say it was written by Lyn Bonner; others insist it was the work of Abel Green—but we tip our hat to whomever was responsible.

The headline was also featured in the classic 1942 musical Yankee Doodle Dandy, in which George M. Cohan (played by James Cagney) translates it for a couple of teens.

This post first appeared in this space in slightly different form on July 17, 2012.

Remember to Watch ‘Remember the Night’

Remember the Night posterIf you think you’ve seen every classic Christmas picture (and most of them one too many times, at that), you’ll be pleasantly surprised, we hope, to learn of one that’s flown under the radar of many a classic movie buff.

Remember the Night (1940) was the last movie Preston Sturges wrote before moving into the director’s chair with The Great McGinty (1940). Mitchell Leisen directs here, and though Sturges was said to have been disappointed with Leisen’s efforts, it’s hard to imagine why. It’s a terrific picture, one that should be every bit the holiday favorite that pictures such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, The Shop Around the Corner, and others have become.

Remember the Night features Fred MacMurray as an ambitious assistant D.A. in NYC who finds himself with shoplifter Barbara Stanwyck on his hands because he has asked for a delay in her trial, so as to avoid the jury feeling any holiday-inspired sympathy for her.

It soon comes out that both the D.A. and the dame are Hoosiers, so she accompanies him on a road trip to visit their respective families. Stanwyck’s brief visit with her mother doesn’t go so well, though, so she sticks with MacMurray, whereupon romance and laughs ensue.

Remember the Night is plenty sentimental enough to qualify as a holiday classic, but like It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s got a dark side, too, delivered with gimlet-eyed bite.

It’s a favorite of ours, a picture that deserves much greater fame and acclaim that it has been afforded. Turner Classic Movies has teamed with Universal to offer it on DVD, but if you’d like to try before you buy, it’s airing on TCM tomorrow night (Dec. 22, 2015) at 8:00 p.m. ET. Set your DVR now and give it a look; you won’t regret it.

P.S. TCM follows Remember the Night at 10 p.m. with Christmas in Connecticut (1945), a delightful holiday comedy that also stars Barbara Stanwyck. Together, these two pictures make for an unbeatable holiday double-feature and you should definitely watch them both.

This post was first published in slightly different form on December 6, 2013.

The Twisting Path to a Merry Little Christmas

Our favorite Christmas song has long been Mel Tormé and Bob Wells’ The Christmas Song, made famous by Nat “King” Cole (and really, no one else need tackle the song—every other artist who’s taken a stab at it has fallen short, in our eyes), but coming in a close second is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, credited to Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane (though Martin has since claimed he wrote it alone, with Blane’s encouragement) and introduced by Judy Garland in Vincent Minnelli‘s Meet Me in St. Louis (1944).

Judy Garland in 'Meet Me in St. Louis'

From its familiar opening lyrics—Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, yuletide carols being sung by a choir, and folks dressed up like EskimosThe Christmas Song celebrates an idyllic holiday season, but let’s face it, for many, the holidays carry with them a tinge of melancholy—especially in difficult times like these—and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas openly acknowledges the bluer side of the yuletide.

In the lyrics as we know them, that melancholy is leavened by a certain “keep-your-chin-up sticktuitiveness,” but it wasn’t always so.

The first set of lyrics Martin delivered, which I found in this very informative 2007 Entertainment Weekly story by Chris Willman, were downright maudlin, intended to fit the mood of Garland’s character, who, at the point in the picture at which she sings the song, is upset that her father is moving the family from her beloved St. Louis to New York City.

The story has it that director Minnelli and Garland urged Martin to come up with something just a bit less gloomy, and he agreed, soon delivering a second set of lyrics, the ones Garland sings to young sister Margaret O’Brien in the movie.

Then, in 1957, Frank Sinatra, who was recording a Christmas album called A Jolly Christmas, asked Martin to kick the the Christmas cheer up yet another notch. He specifically asked the composer to revisit the line in the final verse about “muddling through,” and that’s how we came to have the line about hanging a shining star upon the highest bough in yet a third set of lyrics to the song.

Most folks are familiar with versions two and three—Linda Ronstadt melds the two sets of lyrics in her recording of the song—if not with the original gloomy lyrics.

But did you know Martin wrote a fourth set of lyrics? In 2001, the composer, then 86 years old, wrote an overtly religious set of lyrics to the song, entitled Have Yourself a Blessed Little Christmas.

Listen: Judy Garland—Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas


Listen: Frank Sinatra—Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

This post originally appeared in slightly different form on December 10, 2010.

Past Paper: Merry Christmas—Stop—Happy New Year—Stop

We don’t view the Cladrite Era as the good ol’ days in the sense that we’re convinced life was better then than now. Different, sure, and it’s those differences that fascinate us. But better? In some ways, yes, but worse in others. We figure things tend to balance out over time. Every era has its highlights and low points.

But we do mourn the passing of certain practices and traditions, and high on that list is the telegram.

Truth be told, we’d give our eye teeth to be able to observe special occasions by sending telegrams. Sure, sure, email’s great, and Facebook, texting and Tweeting all have their place, but none possess the charm or carry the weight of a telegram. And while Christmas cards are a delight to send and receive, imagine sending Christmas telegrams!

We, alas, have never received a telegram, and we’ve sent only one, in 1984 (it never arrived, and to this day, we have no idea whether we were charged for it). But we perk right up any time we see a telegraph office or a telegram delivery depicted in an old movie. The practice and process of sending telegrams continues to fascinate us.

So we were very pleased to come across this promotional pamphlet for Postal Telegraph, Commercial Cables, and All-America Cables (were they all owned by the same concern? We assume so, but we don’t really know. If there are any telegraph experts reading this, by all means, please clue us in).


Hi-res view

Hi-res view

Hi-res view

We like that telegrams are pitched in the pamphlet’s copy as the “modern way” to send holiday greetings, as the “convenient and timely way of sending good wishes.”

And we love the list of suggested messages on the back. We’d heard that one could order a pre-written telegram by the number, like an item on a menu at a Chinese restaurant, but we’d never seen a list of pre-composed messages and their accompanying numbers. Clearly one would hope to receive a telegram bearing one of the messages numbered from 134-141, since they were all intended to accompanied by wired money. Happy holidays, indeed!

This post was originally published in slightly different form on 12/15/2011.

Pitch Perfect: Apparel

Film archivist Rick Prelinger once said, in a 2002 SF Weekly profile:

“I’m fascinated with the look of the past. I have an urgent need to form images of what a place looked like in the ’40s or ’50s. What did it smell like? What were people wearing? What [was] people’s body language? Was it noisy or quiet? Was the air smoky?”

To which we can only offer a hearty amen. We are constantly on the lookout for books, movies, and songs that give us a new angle on understanding life as it was once lived.

We recently bought a book from 1949 called American Slogans, and in this case, it turned out you can tell a book by its cover, because that’s just what this tome contains: a collection of thousands of slogans from companies in every area of commercial endeavor. No commentary, no analysis (other than a brief foreword) — just 318 pages of commercial slogans of the day (with up to 55 slogans per page).

Today, we’re sharing with the Cladrite Radio Clan a list of slogans that were used by clothing manufacturers back in the day:


Wembley Ties adAlways good (Aetna Garment Co.).
Always ready, always dry (Alligator raincoats).
America’s finest fitting outercoats (Barron-Anderson Co.). Boston.
America’s first name in formal wear (Rudofker’s Sons).
America’s foremost fashion creator (Milgrim). New York.
America’s only known-priced clothes (Styleplus). Henry Sonneborn & Co.
America’s smartest buy (TruVal Shirts).
An investment in good appearance (Kuppenheimer clothes).
Anti-freeze underwear for men and boys, The (Hanes).
Aristocrat of shirtings, The (Sea Island Mills). New York.
Aristocrat of summer suits (Priestley’s Nor-East).
As western as the setting sun (Frontex shirts).

Balanced tailoring (Timely Clothes, Inc.) Rochester, N.Y.
Balanced tailoring makes Timely Clothes look better — longer.
Bath Towel you can wear (Toga Towel Co.). New York.
Bear for wear, A (Daniel Wagner & Sons, Inc.). Louisville, Ky.
Because, it’s sure to rain (Alligator raincoat).
Belcraft Shirts, your bosom friend (Belcraft Shirt Co.). New York.
Berkley Ties the world (Berkley Knitting Co.). Philadelphia.
Be Scotch, get your money’s worth (Sportswear). Doniger & Co., New York.
Best buy, wet or dry (Plymouth weatherproofs).
Best by TEST from coast to coast (Test overalls, work pants).
Best for fifty years (F.C. Taylor Fur Co.). St. Louis, Mo.
Bigger than weather (Patrick-Duluth Woolen Mills).
Big name in clothes, The (Styleplus Clothes). Henry Sonneborn Co.
Boy’s suit built for wear, The (J.J. Preis & Co.). New York.
Brilliant as the sun (Lustray Shirts). Lustberg-Nast Co., New York.
Buy overalls from the inside out (Crown & Headlight).
By this sign you shall know them (Currick, Leiken & Bandler).

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