vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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A Fidler's thoughts on Labor Day

I trust all of you are having a fun/exciting/relaxing Labor Day (take your pick), so for the holiday, here's something that isn't really labor-related, but is some food for thought pertaining to classic Hollywood. It's part of a Jimmie Fidler column that ran in the Los Angeles Times (among other newspapers) on Sept. 3, 1940:

'I wanta get something off my chest. In a current fan magazine is a story lauding the 'courage' of Hollywood producers because 'they GAMBLE MILLIONS on their pictures without definite means of predetermining public approval.' There have been many such eulogies.

"I'm getting fed up with them. They misrepresent salient facts. You could count on the fingers of one hand the Hollywood producers who invest their own money in pictures. The millions they gamble so 'courageously' belong to financiers, popularly known in the industry as 'angels,' and to small stockholders who have no active voice in studio production policies.

"Most producers who bask in the spotlight are glorified hired hands. True, they've succeeded in boosting their pay scale to an imagination-staggering high and under a lush system they continue to draw their fat pay checks irrespective of the success or failure of their pictures. There are producers in this business who have been making $100,000 and up for a decade or more, and never once have their films been profitable enough to pay stockholders a decent dividend.

"If we must dish out awards for courage, let's dish them out where they properly belong, on bankers who hold the bag and on small investors who deserve better treatment and more consideration from the Olympian Joves who have mismanaged their affairs."

For anyone who understood the machinations of the film industry, that was hardly a revelation -- but it probably opened the eyes of some not all that conversant with the "business" end of "show business." The so-called "angels," of course, had long been a part of the Broadway and stage equation (think of Mel Brooks' "The Producers" for a take on the concept), so it was no wonder that film production followed in much the same direction.

Some more on the man who wrote these comments:

Among Hollywood columnists, Jimmie Fidler didn't have quite the same impact in print as Hearst's Louella Parsons or the Times' own Hedda Hopper, but in terms of radio, Fidler was likely second only to Walter Winchell, who covered film-related topics but was based in New York. Here's Fidler with Russ Columbo in mid-1934, not long after Jimmie was hired to host a program on NBC:

Like Hopper, Fidler had acted in films, though the comparison ended there; his experience was limited to being an extra in about a dozen movies. He shifted into publicity, working for Gloria Swanson and other clients.

At his peak, Fidler was heard on more than 400 radio stations; television cut into his impact, but he continued on radio (I can recall hearing his reports in the early 1960s) and didn't retire until 1983. He had a rapid-fire delivery and was known for using a bell system for rating films (one to four chimes).

Fidler parlayed his success into a 1938 short for MGM, "Personality Parade," featuring clips of more than 60 performers whose careers began in silent films (including a tribute to the recently-deceased Jean Harlow). Turner Classic Movies occasionally runs it as filler between features.

Fidler had many friends in the industry (including, I believe, Carole Lombard and Clark Gable), but made some enemies, too; in 1938, Constance Bennett sued him over a report where he said she snubbed Patsy Kelly on a Hal Roach movie set and that studio workmen bought flowers for Kelly but none for Bennett. (Two years later, admitting his prior differences with Bennett, he lauded her for her work aiding war relief.)

In April 1988, nearly four months before his death, Fidler said of his career, "There were many better columnists, but not many who were better at finding opportunities. I had no great prowess, really. Anybody with the same willingness to go after the same opportunities could have done it."

Fidler had four daughters, and here's one of them, Judie, in front of her father's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (south side of the 6100 block of Hollywood Boulevard):


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