P. S. Harrison
|P. S. Harrison|
Gumlek, Turkey, Ottoman Empire
|Died||22 October 1966
|Occupation||American journalist, publisher, critic|
|Years active||1918 — 1959|
P.S. Harrison (1880 — 22 October 1966) , known popularly as Pete Harrison, founded the motion picture trade journal, Harrison's Reports, which was published weekly from 5 July 1919 until 11 August 1962. Until 1959, he was the publisher and chief reviewer.
In 1919, he founded Harrison's Reports. Until the 1950s, he may have been its sole writer and reviewer (except for one review in 1943; see below).
Born as Petros Spallios in Turkey of Greek ethnicity. Working as a stoker, he jumped ship in New York in 1903. In Long Beach, California, he worked as a projectionist, and managed a nickelodeon. In 1918, he became a film reviewer for Motion Picture News with a column titled Harrison’s Exhibitor Reviews.
From beginning to end, Harrison's Reports did not accept film advertising, leaving Harrison free to discuss subjects other trade periodicals would not report. Often he would advise, “It is a clean picture”, meaning no subject matter relating to sex. From his editorials, it is clear he believed “dirty” movies were bad for the movie business. He took a strong stand against the practice that later became known as “product placement” that is, brand names appearing in movies. From the late 1940s through the early 1950s, his editorials also took on a strong anti-communist stance.
In the 1950s, cable TV made its first appearance, and Harrison approved efforts by theater owners to make it illegal.
Sued for libel
Harrison’s editorials often discussed Will H. Hays and the Hays Office, rarely favorably. In the 31 October 1931 issue, Harrison reported that Hays Office lawyer Gabriel Hess, among others, had been indicted for criminal conspiracy in Ontario, Canada. The wording of Harrison's editorial was erroneous, and in the issue of 14 November 1931, Harrison printed a retraction/correction, including the text of the indictment as it related to Hess. The same editorial also stated that Hess had filed a libel suit against Harrison.
Libel laws of that period required virtually no proof of damage to the plaintiff. In the 28 September 1935 issue, Harrison reported that Hess had been awarded $5,200 plus costs. Harrison settled the judgment for $5,000, money he did not have, but he did have enough friends who donated or loaned him the money he needed to continue in business.
Brief career as screenwriter
The 13 November 1943 issue published a review of the feature film The Deerslayer, the first review in Harrison’s Reports acknowledged not to have been written by Harrison. The screenplay, adapted from the Novel by James Fenimore Cooper, was co-written by Harrison and producer E.B. Derr. It is the only known production credit for Harrison, and the only writing credit of Derr, who produced several dozen movies from 1930 to 1943 (and none afterward). That movie's review by Variety opined, "Harrison draws a complete blank as a producer-scenarist.”
- Obituary, Variety (2 November 1966)
- Sanderson Vanderbilt. ”Iron Moulder to Cinema Critic”, New York Herald Tribune (10 October 1937)
- Variety (10 November 1943)