It's fascinating to see how Carole Lombard's films were promoted and marketed...and today's entry focuses on the last film for which the adjective "fun" could also be used. (Even if Lombard had been alive at the time of the release of "To Be Or Not To Be," the sudden wartime conditions, not to mention the film's darkly comic tone, would have made marketing it difficult.)
We're going to examine her penultimate film, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," specifically to see how it was sold by the theater that first showed it in Toronto. (For what it's worth, it should be noted that the Toronto of 1941 was far different than the city today; it was much smaller and had far less of a polyglot population.) We can get an idea of some of promotion for the film through Boxoffice magazine, which had correspondents throughout the U.S. and Canada. Here's what ran in the April 12, 1941 issue:
The Uptown Theatre decided to play upon the title couple's last name, offering free tickets to city residents named Smith. That was announced during a fashion show at the famed Eaton's department store attended by more than 1,200 people (not all of them named Smith, of course) -- but only seven tickets were distributed this way. A similar call at a swing dance attended by about 700 resulted in only one free pass. However, the Uptown considered the promotions successful because "the Uptown announcements were secured."
Another promotion, for which no record of response was given, was mailing a flyer to everyone in the telephone directory named Smith. It consisted of a splash announcement for the movie printed over an image of Smiths from the directory.
Here's another thing the Uptown did:
"Jim Cameron, exploiteer, also secured a handsome lingerie window in a downtown store which featured a large display for 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' consisting of numerous poses of Carole Lombard in fancy undergarments."
Alas, there was no photo of the display accompanying the story (I'm sure many of Boxoffice's readers felt similar despair), but I wouldn't be surprised if these were among the images:
The Uptown, built in 1920, seated 3,000 and was arguably Toronto's premier moviehouse for many years. It was damaged by fire in 1960, and although restored lost some of its architectural distinctiveness in the process. Here's a view of its interior at the time:
The Uptown was again briefly closed in the fall of 1969 for conversion into a five-theater multiplex.
In 2001 new regulations mandated that the Uptown be made wheelchair accessible, which its owners declined to do, citing the estimated $700,000 expense. Instead, they announced they would be closing the cinema, and despite a "Save the Uptown" campaign, that's what happened in September 2003. The land was sold, the building demolished and a 48-story condominium constructed on the site.