Friday, May 29, 2020

Skidoo! Part FIVE


Skidoo was unleashed upon the world in December of 1968. It was obvious that Paramount Pictures was trying to hide the geriatric cast by doing its best to not feature them in print ads. The promotional department featured either a cartoon criminal or a woman’s midriff in posters and advertisements.

Academy Award consideration? Talk about wishful thinking!

The picture landed in theaters with a thud. The young people it was supposed to attract found it to be a square, out of touch mess. The older audience who might have wanted to see Jackie Gleason and Carol Channing found it to be vulgar. The critics had a field day taking the film down.

Gouge your eyes out, kids!

In the end, the film lost a ton of money at the box office. While the picture didn’t quite ruin the careers of its stars, it did cement the idea that Otto Preminger was past it. There were even whispers that he was beginning to show signs of dementia, though those accusations were and are vehemently denied by his family. After its initial theatrical run and its television contracts had expired, Otto quietly put the picture away and forbade it from ever being exhibited, though it did see a bit of a resurgence in the late 1970’s that reportedly pleased Otto. It is the only Preminger film that was never released on videocassette and it was only kept alive through bootlegs.

Get my agent on the line. Chico doesn’t need the money this much!

So where did the film go wrong? While we can only imagine what Doran William Cannon’s original script might have been like, his suggestion that the mob characters be portrayed straight with the hippies bringing the laughs sounds like it could have made for a more intriguing picture. The biggest mistake made by Otto Preminger, however, was the casting. If the goal of the film was to attract a younger audience, Otto should have gotten bigger stars to play the hippies and lesser known stars to play the older characters. That would have allowed the Paramount PR machine to promote the younger stars. Instead, the film appeared to be more suited to a retirement home than a commune.

Even Groucho didn’t want to watch Skidoo.

For years, the only evidence that the film existed was its Harry Nilsson soundtrack, which had originally been dismissed along with the film. Other than the gimmicky credit sequence and Carol Channing’s croaky “Skidoo”, the soundtrack is actually quite good. Bad movie fans would have to wait until 2011 to finally get their own copy of the film. Brilliantly restored and offered on DVD and Blu-ray, the release meant that Preminger’s entire catalog had finally been released on Home video.


The film’s failure reportedly confused Otto Preminger. He had taken the project on as a way to connect with his son and it had failed spectacularly. Despite his inability to accurately depict the younger generation, the trials and tribulations of shooting the film did succeed in bringing them together. For that reason, the picture wasn’t a complete failure.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Skidoo! Part FOUR


His ragtag gang of young unknowns and geriatric legends assembled, Otto began the production of Skidoo. According to legend, both he and Groucho took LSD as “research” for their roles. It soon became apparent that everyone involved was probably going to need something much stronger than that to get through this shoot. Otto was in over his head, not just because he was depicting a generation who could easily be his grandchildren, but also because he could never find a way to direct his legendary cast in comedy.

Yeah Jackie, we’re surprised you did this too.

Otto wanted broad, overplayed comedy. He expected the actors to not just tell the jokes, but make it obvious that these were jokes. Gleason was beside himself that this dramatic director would tell him how to make something funny. Gleason knew comedy; Preminger did not. Carol Channing had started her career on Broadway where actors often have to be bigger to play to the people in the balcony, but she definitely knew that was not the way to make a film. By the end of the production, neither Gleason nor Channing were speaking to Preminger.

Skidoo! Skidoo! Even I think this movie is a piece of poo!

As the grueling production wore on, it was obvious to most that they were all trapped in one big mess of a film. Austin Pendleton, who played Fred the Professor, was as close to an ally of Otto’s that one could find on the set. And yet, even he wanted out. He could sense that the film was going to be disastrous and tried to make the best of things on the set. Off the set he placed several calls to his agent begging her to get him out of his contract. Of course, she could not.

Ski-don’t!

For being a tense set, there was very little shouting or anger. Jackie Gleason mentally checked out and kept to himself, but he never raised his voice. Carol Channing at first tried to please Otto, but when he started to turn his frustration towards her, she started ignoring him. Otto’s long lost son, whose existence sparked Preminger’s interest in producing a ‘today’ picture, became the go-between with his father and Carol. She grew quite fond of him, even though she despised his father.

Back then we had these things called ‘exercise bikes’ where you would put your feet on what were known as ‘pedals’.

But the worst, most temperamental legend on the set was Groucho Marx. Otto had amazingly thought that Groucho was too old to be in the film but hired him anyway at the suggestion of Doran William Cannon, the screenwriter. Groucho was belligerent, crude and dismissive. Luckily for the cast, he was mostly depicted alone or with his mistress. Otto, on the other hand, had to put up with him and mostly failed. It would be Groucho’s final movie appearance.

Everything I did that you hated? It was because Chico needed the money.

Despite the insanity, Otto brought the film in on time and under budget as always. Paramount wasn’t sure what the public would think about this picture. Did they have the dud on their hands that everybody predicted or would it be a pleasant surprise? They would know soon enough.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Skidoo! Part THREE


If Paramount wasn’t somewhat concerned by the fact that an elderly director was promising to bring them a ‘today’ picture, they must have at least started wondering about what exactly Otto Preminger was thinking when he began signing up talent. Based on the early casting news, it seemed as though Mr. Preminger had just rounded up everyone at the Screen Actor’s Retirement Home who was ambulatory and gave them a contract. 

Craft Services here is so much better than the food at Shady Pines!

While it was understandable that the role of a retired mobster couldn’t be played by a young person, when Otto signed up the aging Jackie Gleason as Tony Banks, he was all but guaranteeing that Mr. Gleason would have to be front and center on all promotional materials and in the film.

Skidoo! Skidoo! Your ears will stop bleeding in a day or two!

Carol Channing was cast as Mrs. Banks, adding another older name to the credits. The rest of the geriatric cast included Burgess Meredith, Mickey Rooney, Arnold Stang, Cesar Romero, Peter Lawford and Groucho Marx. Even if the young people at the time knew who any of these old fogeys were, they probably wouldn’t break down the doors to get to their local movie theater to watch them. The youngest of the well known actors in the picture was Frankie Avalon, who would have been seen as a square by the very audience the film was trying to attract. Frankie does have to do some heavy lifting here; he has to endure a Carol Channing striptease.

Eye bleach anyone?

Instead of casting bigger names for the hippies, Preminger went with mostly unknowns, which further exacerbated the problems of promoting a youth film. Otto decided to balance out his geriatric cast with a youthful soundtrack and managed to snag Harry Nilsson to produce it for him. Harry was reportedly so entranced by the script that he even took a small role as a prison guard. Harry claimed that he had never taken drugs and based his LSD scene on being drunk. He must have been lying about that if he liked the script to Skidoo.

Otto made me sign the contract at gunpoint. What’s your excuse?

With a cast rounded up from a nursing home and a script more reminiscent of ‘yesterday’ than ‘today’, Otto began production on the film he hoped would not only attract young people but also get him the acceptance he craved from his newly discovered son.

Groucho needed the money.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Skidoo! Part TWO


With Too Far to Walk officially dead, Otto Preminger began getting Skidoo ready for production. The film’s plot centered around Tony Banks, a retired mob enforcer who just wanted to live out the rest of his life in suburban splendor with his wife and daughter. His daughter, however, gave him constant headaches with her free spiritedness and hippie leaning ways. Just when Banks thinks things can’t get much worse, he is ordered by his former mob boss- the illusive ‘God’- to break into Alcatraz and murder a stool pigeon whose testimony threatened to bring down the rackets. Along the way, his daughter’s hippie world would collide with his and his wife would become liberated. It was a bizarre premise for a film, but Paramount was hopeful that it just might be the ‘today’ picture that would allow it to breakthrough to the youth of the day. In any case, their agreement with Preminger required them to fund and release whatever he brought them. They were along for the ride no matter what.


To outsiders, the film seemed like a bizarre departure for an aging director/producer whose past films had mostly been dark, social dramas. Arguably his greatest film- Anatomy of a Murder- was a dark courtroom drama filled with rape, murder and less than heroic characters. What business did its director have making a comedy about the hippie culture? It all made perfect sense to Otto, however. He had studied up on the LSD drug culture for the abandoned film Too Far to Walk and the script for Skidoo had been written by a young person. Who were these people to tell him what pictures he could or couldn’t make?

Erik and Otto

Otto’s biggest motivation for making Skidoo, however, was his newly discovered son, Erik. Otto had been kept in the dark about his son’s very existence and he saw Skidoo as a project that could help him bridge the generation gap and make up for the years the two had not been in each other’s lives. Thus the film had a lot of baggage attached it before it had even entered pre-production.

Doran William Cannon

Pre-production began in earnest as Otto, his son and screenwriter Doran William Cannon began re-working the script. Cannon’s vision for the film had been for the mob world to be played straight. He recommended casting dramatic actors for those roles. The hippie side of things, however, would be played for laughs. The seemingly unnatural juxtaposition of the two worlds would thus create even more laughs. Otto, on the other hand, wanted the entire film to be played for laughs. He wanted to cast legendary comedic actors to play the various roles. It soon became apparent that the partnership would not work out as hoped. 

Mel Brooks

Doran was removed and Otto went looking for someone who could help him rewrite the script. Mel Brooks was briefly considered, but Otto predicted that he and Mel would probably not work well together as collaborators. Doran suggested that Otto hire Elliott Baker, another up and coming screenwriter. Elliott was able to provide Otto with exactly what he was looking for. The script completed, Otto began looking for his cast.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Skidoo! Part ONE



In the late 1960’s, Hollywood was offkilter. The rise of television had taken a huge chunk of business from the movies. In order to combat this, the studios began making films that couldn’t possibly be experienced on television- lavish, grandiose films with soaring visuals and wide angles. While this would work for awhile, it threw their business off balance. As Twentieth Century Fox found out with Cleopatra, these big films could cause big headaches if they weren’t successful. The industry decided that appealing to young people with daring pictures that couldn’t be aired on television was the answer, since they could be made for less money. The key was finding a project that would satisfy ‘hippie’ youth and attract them back to theaters. Famed older director Otto Preminger thought he had found such a project- Skidoo.


Otto Preminger was not someone who anyone in Hollywood would have ever imagined could produce or direct a ‘today’ picture for swinging 1960’s youth. He was an older, foreign director whose only exposure to the young people was playing the role of Mr. Freeze on Batman. What made him think he could make such a picture? As it turned out, he had an unknown son who had recently appeared in his life. A past dalliance with famed burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee had resulted in a son that she had hidden from him for years. The relationship revealed on her deathbed, Otto had embraced his newfound son, who was of the same generation as these hippies that Hollywood was trying to court. A ‘today’ picture would be just the father/son project Otto was looking for.


At the time, Otto was working on a shooting script for what he believed would be his next project- Too Far to Walk, a novel by John Hersey that he had optioned. The LSD-laced book had at first seemed like a great choice for a ‘today’ picture; but everyone he had hired to adapt the book had turned in stories that were, To Otto, too dark and depressing. The young aspiring screenwriter Doran William Cannon had been hired to give another shot at the screenplay based on his own spec script for a movie called Skidoo. To the writer (and everyone’s) amazement, Otto scrapped plans to adapt Too Far to Walk and instead chose to make Skidoo. His deal with Paramount required them to finance and release anything he delivered to them, so this dramatic change wouldn’t cause him any problems- those would come later.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Bad Decisions: Airport ‘79





Imagine you’re making a film in which a comical scene depicts a woman in a wet blouse. Another scene shows a woman pretending to be blind so she can sneak her purse sized dog onto the airplane. Your film stars an in her prime Charo and an elderly Martha Raye, so of course you’d put Charo in the wet blouse and Martha Raye would be the lady with the dog, right? 

Not if you’re making Airport ‘79. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you!)

Charo is shown for a few minutes trying to smuggle in a dog...


And the geriatric Martha Raye gets the wet blouse...



Saturday, May 23, 2020

Gotti Quote


John Gotti: Why don't you get some ice cream, pizza or something.

Peter: I don't like ice cream.

John Gotti: Get fudge sticks, you love fudge sticks, get that.

Frankie: I don't like pizza either.

John Gotti: How about the movies? You like, you like- what's the movie you like so much? About spaghetti, Meatballs or something. Go see that.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Girl in Gold Boots

While some B-Film producers like George Weiss had no delusions about how their films would be received by audiences, other “auteurs” often imagined that Hollywood would bow before them and audiences would be amazed and delighted by their small films. Certainly, some lesser budgeted films would occasionally outperform expectations, but most of these lower tier films would often get forgotten for decades until Mystery Science Theater 3000 or ironic hipsters would rediscover and embrace these types of films. One such film that obviously held higher hopes for blockbuster status was 1968’s Girl in Gold Boots.


Everything and everyone involved in this film appeared to be covered in a thin layer of grime. Set in a Charles Manson era Hollywood, the film seeks to warn us about Hollywood’s seedy underbelly by showing it to us. The film pretends that its goal isn’t to titillate us with countless scenes of writhing go go dancers, but rather to educate us about its pitfalls. To do this, the film depicts scantily clad women performing in a joint that appears to be the last barely legitimate job available to aspiring actresses before they were forced to resort to stripping or pornography. 


This B-Film used a well-worn filmmaking strategy that had been pioneered by films such as Reefer Madness and I Accuse My Parents; claim your film was just trying to show how terrible drugs, debauchery and recklessness were and you can show some of it in your film. Audiences that were too embarrassed to go to a stag film or titty bar would have no problems going to see one of these films. After all, how would we know how bad these things were unless someone showed them to us? Keep in mind, there were still certain restrictions on what could be shown or how much skin could be bared, but at least audiences could get a glimpse. Such films filled the role of a Hooters today- too embarrassed to be seen at the gentleman’s club? Head over to Hooters!


In this instance, however, the producers of Girl in Gold Boots had loftier goals than just producing a movie that would satisfy low grade pervs who didn’t want to be caught going to a strip club or porno Theater. They wanted to build a movie franchise. Despite the film’s bad songs, poor acting and overall sheen of sleaziness, a tie in album was produced that obviously anticipated the huge demand that never arrived. Despite spending as many dimes as they could scrape together for promotional purposes, the film and its soundtrack never became a thing.




“So here's a puzzler: who of these two is worse at their art form?”
- Mike Nelson

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Bad Pirates!


In 2003, when Walt Disney Pictures premiered Pirates of the Caribbean, many industry watchers assumed that it would be a big box office disaster. Conventional wisdom was that pirate movies were disastrous undertakings. Why? For these reasons:   




The Pirate Movie was a bad decision from start to finish. They hired non-singers, gave them stupid, smutty songs to sing and made it about pirates. Anyone should have seen that the film was a bad idea regardless of content, but the pirate subject matter got the blame.


Pair up the worst Hollywood studio at the time with the fugitive director Roman Polanski and you get Pirates, an expensive, overlong disaster that made a fraction of its budget back. It's hard to tell how much money the studio lost on this one, however; Cannon Films was notorious about overstating film budgets as a means to defraud investors.


The film that seemingly put the final nail in the pirate film coffin was Cutthroat Island. A long, wild mess, the film starred Geena Davis and was directed by her then husband Renny Harlin. The disastrous production was an even bigger disaster at the box office, effectively killing pirate films for almost a decade.


With this background, it is easy to see how doubtful the industry was about Pirates of the Caribbean's success. But Captain Jack Sparrow was no conventional pirate and PotC was no conventional pirate film. Disney's Pirate film was a huge hit and now a multi-billion dollar franchise.

Things We Learned From The Movies!




Every single woman living in NYC has a gay friend who makes Liberace look like Rambo.

If you hear a noise and think it’s just your cat- you will be murdered in a few minutes.

Irresponsible singles are frequently put in charge of caring for babies, unruly children and/or dogs.

All women have a crazy friend, a slutty friend, a boozy friend & an “ethnic” friend.

A plucky young white teacher is the only thing needed to turn around a struggling inner city school.

It is possible to stop any plane by running in front of it and waving your hands at the pilot.

Every swinging single guy is really just looking for the right woman to step in and take over his life.

Any guy who says his life is perfect while looking at a picture of his family will die within 15 minutes.

When you start singing & dancing everyone around you will join in and know all the lyrics & dance moves.


Hollywood’s Finest


Looking for the best of Hollywood? We’ve moved that content to Hooray for Hollywood now open at http://www.LouisBMayer.com!





Monday, May 18, 2020

Welcome to the New Blind Kiyomi!


The New Blind Kiyomi is like the original Blind Kiyomi- focusing solely on the films that Hollywood would rather forget! 



Our name is inspired by the classic film The Curse of the
Screaming Dead, in which one character is officially named
“Blind Kiyomi”apparently because the filmmaker didn’t think we could tell she was supposed to be blind based on
her performance alone.