Heritage Club and Hollywood

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Heritage Club and Hollywood

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May 2, 2017, 8:12 pm

The Heritage Club Song of Songs Which is Solomon's is featured in the 1944 Hollywood film The Woman in the Window, being read by the Edward Robinson character. This happens 7:50 into the movie, which is available on YouTube. Perhaps our movie expert Roberts knows something about TWITW. I am just sharing this curious bit of information.

May 3, 2017, 12:43 am

>1 BuzzBuzzard:

"The Woman in the Window" was one of those odd films that Hollywood made back in its salad days--also meaning made during the era of the Production Code when showing such things as a glamorous prostitute (the woman in this film), getting away with murder, and suicide was verboten. The movie does all these things so you think you are seeing the rules broken, only to have someone at the end wake up and find it was all a dream. Although this formula could work well in a film such as "It's a Wonderful Life," in a thriller such as this, it seems like cheating, and the audience seemed to think this was so as it was far less successful than Lang's similarly-themed "Scarlet Street," made the following year with the same principal actors, but this time played seriously with a downer ending (based on the grim film by the great Jean Renoir, "La Chienne").

The cameo by the Heritage Club Song of Songs Which is Solomon's is easy to explain: "The Woman in the Window" was produced by Nunnally Johnson, talented screenwriter and producer, who was a longtime friend of George Macy and who wrote a "Tribute" to Macy which was read at his funeral service and later distributed as a pamphlet to the members of the Heritage Club. The use in the movie is what is called "product placement" today, and usually involves discreetly plugging someone's product in a movie in return for a little kickback of one sort or another. In this case, it was apparently just one friend plugging the product of another.

May 3, 2017, 6:38 am

Among Nunnally Johnson's circa 30 writer/producer credits was the Oscar-nominated screenplay for The Grapes of Wrath. Clearly having the LEC or HP version casually lying about as a piece of set dressing would have been inappropiate not to mention anachronistic, but maybe he could have slipped something into the publicity...

As it turned out, of course, 20th Century Fox did commission artwork for their poster (and the souvenir programme) from Thomas Hart Benton:

Perhaps this was a result of Johnson's having nudged them in Benton's direction?

May 3, 2017, 10:09 am

>3 featherwate:

Jack, I've often wondered about that poster with Benton's artwork. Of course using Benton must have seemed like a natural to anyone back then (as it was to Macy!), so I don't know if there was any suggestion planted by Johnson. Many Hollywood folk were LEC members then, including 20th Century Fox's top male star Tyrone Power (who talked Henry Fonda into applying for membership), so it would be hard to say just where the idea came from. Incidentally, Benton did a full color painting of the "Departure of the Joads" for Fox, based on his LEC lithograph, and if you compare the painting and the lithograph with the poster above, you'll see that the art was flipped.

When I was working at the Special Collections division of the USC Library, one of my jobs was unpacking and shelving the 20th Century Fox script collection--a wonderful resource as it included multiple versions of the screenplays for the studio's films, showing the script development from treatment, through revisions (many of which had Zanuck's marginal notes and suggestions), to final screen continuity. As I unpacked I kept hoping to find a copy of that souvenir program for "Grapes," which included portraits of the main characters, which Benton made as part of his commission, but that was not part of the collection.

May 3, 2017, 1:00 pm

There are also 25 limited lithographic portfolios with five portraits of the main characters. The same used for the 20th Century Fox promotional campaign. One sold just yesterday at Swann's auction for $6,000. Comes to prove how great of a deal the LEC is.

Benton did another movie poster illustration for the 1955 production of The Kentuckian produced by United Artists and directed by Burt Lancaster. Benton made the face of the title character look like Lancaster.

May 3, 2017, 1:14 pm

>4 Django6924:
Fascinating job, Robert! Looking at the USC Special Collections site it has an extraordinary amount of film material (and thank goodness it's still there, and hasn't been sold off yet to fund a state-of-the-art Fast and Furious Franchise Virtual Reality Study Space and Non-Stop Drive-Thru McDonald's...)
Talking of speed, I'm amazed by how fast Macy moved to get the illustrated edition/limited edition rights to The Grapes of Wrath from Viking Press and the book out by October. Obviously it helped that he had already brought Benton on board, and that Benton looks to have been a fast worker. Imagine if he'd signed up Miguel Covarrubias...the LEC would probably have finally emerged as The Tenth Anniversary Edition.

May 3, 2017, 1:34 pm

>4 Django6924: >5 BuzzBuzzard:
...and a copy of the Souvenir program is on Abebooks for $600 - a hundred bucks a page.

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