JACK MOORE writes:
Just saw something in the Sunday LATimes that set me to reminiscing. (Not that that is hard to do!)
As part of a 90th anniversary celebration for Technicolor in December they are showing some films in Technicolor with Jack Cardiff (91) to speak a couple of times. They will be at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.
One they picked is “Music Man” because it was done in a new process. How I’d love to see it in a theatre again. After it was finished in 1961 I saw a sneak prevue at a theatre in Burbank – missing the whole first number with the salesmen on the train (didn’t know it was there until the next year) because I had a flat tire on the way and changed it myself in the dark (on a ’53 Ford convertible – aqua – my “I’ve gone Hollywood” car!)
When I finally got to the theater they let me in because I was so dirty they believed my story. I was put up in the mezzanine. When the lights came up after I discovered I was with all of the Warner Brothers big shots – it was the only seat left!
The next year a friend took me to see it, again in Burbank, and I was surprised to see the opening number. So that was 1962.
I saw it on TV a number of times in the ensuing years. Neither Onna (ed: White) nor I had seen it on widescreen since it opened. I was working at AFI when they took over the LA FilmFest. One year had a number of small festivals incorporated into the big one. One such was a widescreen festival which had to be held in Long Beach because they had the equipment to show widescreen. (Today’s ratio is not the same as Cinemascope and all of the others of the time.)
They wanted to do an homage to a choreographer. Someone came and asked if I’d ever heard of someone named Robert Fosse. I allowed as “yes” I had but what ever they had in mind didn’t happen. They next tried for Michael Kidd who had just had one in New York and wasn’t interested in another. They were desperate so I said I could get Onna – explained she was the only woman ever to get an Oscar for Choreography. So I became co-producer for the evening.
There was no clean, good print of “Oliver” at that point so they picked “Music Man”. There was to be a question and answer after so Onna gave me a list of stars wanted including Ronnie Howard and Helen Reddy – never heard personally from either of them!
Shirley Jones was on a concert tour in Australia but sent a fax (New then) and Ann Margret sent a long letter to Onna (she was just starting a movie for TV. Mickey Rooney was in Toronto doing “Sugar Babies” but his wife Jan, a singer, learned and recorded at her own expense (we had no budget) Irving Berlin’s “Choreography” for me (and Onna) to use to open the Q&A; session.
We got one star, Janet Leigh who was leaving bright and early the next morning for a book tour. She said there was not another person in the world she would have done it for but Onna. So we saw “Music Man” in a clean print in widescreen about 10 years ago.
Onna insisted on bringing her dog along so she carried the dog and I the Oscar.
We sat sort of by ourselves to the side and kept saying “Oh look, there’s Barbara Pepper, there’s Larri Thomas, Doesn’t Bob look swell and slim in his ice cream suit, I don’t remember that sign on the side of the barn, etc. until some man shushed us! Then Janet joined us so I had Onna and dog on one side of me and Janet, whooping and hollering all through he the chase scenes on the other side. of me
Before the Q&A; Janet was introduced to the narrator and leaned over and said, “Don’t worry, honey, I talk!” There was supposed to be another dancer but he was sick so I filled in. Onna said to me before we went out, “You talk – you remember more about me than I do!”. We had a ball! And that’s where Janet and I became friends.
Well, ten years have gone by and both Janet and Onna are gone. Having seen it with them and the Warner Bros. suits, I’d love to see it again in widescreen…