Convention City

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Convention City
Convention City FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Archie Mayo
Produced by Henry Blanke
Written by Robert Lord
Starring Joan Blondell
Guy Kibbee
Dick Powell
Mary Astor
Adolphe Menjou
Distributed by Warner Brothers
Release dates 14 December 1933
Running time 69 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Convention City is a 1933 pre-Code Sex comedy film produced by First National Pictures and released by Warner Brothers, which has become notorious as a lost film.[1]

Plot[edit]

The plot revolves around the convention of the Honeywell Rubber Company in Atlantic City. Throughout the film, the employees of Honeywell Rubber are mainly concerned with drinking and sex. President J.B. Honeywell (Grant Mitchell) is to choose a new company salesmanager. T.R. Kent (Adolphe Menjou) and George Ellerbe (Guy Kibbee) are two salesmen who both want the job. However, they both get into trouble: T.R. is discredited when jealous saleswoman Arlene Dale (Mary Astor) interferes with his attempted seduction of J.B.'s daughter and George attempts to seduce Nancy Lorraine (Joan Blondell). The position of salesmanager is bestowed upon a drunken employee as a bribe after he catches J.B. about to visit "Daisy La Rue, Exterminator".[2]

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

During production the film had MPPDA censorship problems.[3][4] Jack Warner warned Hal Wallis that he may be going too far in the costuming:

"We must put brassieres on Joan Blondell and make her cover up her breasts because, otherwise, we are going to have these pictures stopped in a lot of places. I believe in showing their forms but, for Lord's sake, don't let those bulbs stick out."[5][6]

In addition, several lines were ordered to be removed by the MPPDA censors including:

"No, but it won't be marriage. I'll guarantee you that. A traveling salesman needs a wife like a baby needs a box of matches."
"Now you take off that dress and I'll take off my toupee, huh!"
"Girl's voice: 'Listen, sister, if they tire you, you better leave town before the Hercules Tool Company gets here.'"[7]

Script changes, suggested by Wingate, Jason S. Joy (director of the Studio Relations Committee), and production head Hal Wallis were nominally incorporated into the script.

The feature cost $239,000 to produce, and earned $384,000 in domestic revenue and $138,000 from foreign release, for an eventual profit of $53,000.[8]

Reception[edit]

Dr. James Wingate, chair of the Motion Picture Division of the State of New York Department of Education — which oversaw the state's censorship board — described it as "a pretty rowdy picture, dealing largely with drunkenness, blackmail, and lechery, and without any particularly sympathetic characters or elements."[9] When Convention City was released, it averaged twenty cuts per state board.[citation needed]

TIME said that "Convention City is a glib, disorganized batch of footnotes on a familiar aspect of U.S. business." and that "Convention City is adumbrated with many a drinking scene, a company song ("Oh, Honeywell" to the tune of "My Maryland"), and some quips which may cause some cinemagoers to wonder what Will Hays is doing."[10]

The New York Times said that "Several of the jokes need a subterranean mind to be correctly understood. An accurate appraisal of "Convention City" should include the information that the Strand's audiences laughed long and loud." The Times also praised Adolphe Menjou's performance while finding Joan Blondell's performances to be getting tiresome as she was playing the same irreverent character in her films.[11]

Later status[edit]

The film was later banned by the Hollywood Production Code. No copies of the film are known to exist, making it the last missing feature from First National or Warner Bros.[12]

Because of the lewdness of the film and lack of influence of the Studio Relations Committee, which was supposed to control objectionable content, Convention City and films like it led to the enforcement of the Production Code, overseen by Joseph Breen. The Code had been created in 1930 at the beginning of the Depression but financially strapped studios often overlooked its authority in the want to make more risque pictures that were good box office. In 1936, Jack Warner attempted to re-release Convention City in a censored form, but Breen deemed it beyond redemption.[13]

In the summer/fall 2006 issue of The Vitaphone Project Newsletter, Patrick Picking questioned the version of events leading to the film's destruction. The project's newsletter reproduces a theatre advertisement showing the film on the bottom half of a double bill with Charlie Chan on Broadway. Since the latter film was released in 1937, it would appear that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Warner Bros. still circulated the film after its initial release.

It has been surmised from surviving promotional materials that the film's Spanish language title was ¡Que Semana![14] The Spanish newspaper ABC advertised screenings of the film as late as August 1942 in Spain.[15]

Studio records of the film's negative have a notation, "Junked 12/27/48" (i.e., December 27, 1948). Warner Bros. destroyed many of its negatives in the late 1940s and 1950s due to nitrate film decomposition.[16]

The original screenplay still survives in the Warner Script Archives. In March 1994, a pre-code film festival was held in South Village, New York. Among the films viewed, was a dramatic reading of the screenplay for Convention City.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Films 1931-40 by The American Film Institute, c. 1993
  2. ^ "Cinema: Lowell v. Block Booking", [[Time (magazine)|]], January 1, 1934.
  3. ^ The Face on the Cutting Room Floor, Murray Schumach, William Morrow and Company, 1964.
  4. ^ The Dame in the Kimono, Leonard Leff & Jerold Simmons, 1990.
  5. ^ The Dame in the Kimono, Leonard Leff & Jerold Simmons, 1990.
  6. ^ Memo from Jack Warner to Hal Wallis, dated 5 October 1933 in Inside Warner Bros (1935-1951) Ed Rudy Behlmer, 1985 p 15
  7. ^ The Face on the Cutting Room Floor, Murray Schumach, William Morrow and Company, 1964, p. 220.
  8. ^ John McElwee, "Musicals and Comedies Go Pre-Code", Greenbriar Picture Shows, March 30, 2008.
  9. ^ Vieira, Mark. Sin In Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood, Harry N. Abrams, 2003, p. 151. ISBN 978-0-8109-8228-4.
  10. ^ "Cinema: Lowell v. Block Booking", TIME, January 1, 1934.
  11. ^ "A Rowdy Sales Convention.", New York Times, December 25, 1933.
  12. ^ [1] and [2], at Vitaphone.org.
  13. ^ Vieira, p. 151.
  14. ^ Que Semana? Vitaphone News Volume 8 #1 http://www.picking.com/vitaphone81.html
  15. ^ ABC 8/29/1942 http://hemeroteca.abc.es/nav/Navigate.exe/hemeroteca/madrid/abc/1942/08/29/002.html
  16. ^ John McElwee, "Musicals and Comedies Go Pre-Code", Greenbriar Picture Shows, March 30, 2008
  17. ^ Janet Maslin, "Critic's Notebook; When Hollywood Could Be Naughty", New York Times, February 4, 1994.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Mark A. Vieira, Sin In Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999)

External links[edit]