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carole lombard 04

The past views movies of the future

Posted by vp19 on 2012.07.26 at 00:24
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative
carole lombard photoplay jan 1940 subject lombard 00a

That's how Carole Lombard appeared on an inside page of the January 1940 issue of Photoplay, accompanying Claude Binyon's story "Subject: Lombard" (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/112285.html). Today, we're going to examine how 1940 looked from a Photoplay article written little more than five years before Binyon's.

Seeing how the past imagines the future -- and trying to determine its batting average -- is plenty of fun, including a mid-thirties prediction of fashion in 2000 (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/230950.html). This time, let's look at past seeing the future from a cinematic perspective.

The concept was really nothing new, as this story from the Aug. 3, 1930 Syracuse Herald makes evident:

080330 syracuse herald large

While replacing staff with robots in retrospect seems like something out of 1930's "Just Imagine," the over-the-top movie musical that foresaw 1980 Manhattan as Venice with highways, much of the rest of the article is remarkably thoughtful and prescient:

080330 syracuse herald large 00

080330 syracuse herald large 01

Some four years later, Photoplay decided to try its hand at the future game, as its December 1934 issue included an article entitled, "Let's Go To Tomorrow's Movies." Author William F. French kicks things off with a decision by a hypothetical 1940 to watch a fight at home, by ordering it and having it transmitted by phone (how 1997!). That's right...a prediction of pay-per-view because, as French sensibly notes,

"You see, they couldn't television on the air until they found out a way to collect for their services. That held them up several years. They could have gone ahead with programs back in 1931 if it hadn't been for that."

Technology and profit, partners. Was it ever thus.

However, this 1940 person changes his or her mind and decides to see a movie, and what a cast -- Eddie Cantor, Greta Garbo, Will Rogers and Anna Sten in "Try And See Them." (Of course, Rogers wouldn't be around in 1940, and while Sten was alive that year, she was cinematically invisible.) While that's one of the few false notes of this piece, the rest of it is as informative as the Syracuse article -- and, thanks to the Media History Digital Library, a heckuva lot easier to read. So here it is; go read it:

photoplay dec 1934 let's go to tomorrow's movies 00a
photoplay dec 1934 let's go to tomorrow's movies 01a
photoplay dec 1934 let's go to tomorrow's movies 02a

It's fascinating, factual (the section pertaining to the development of color film is excellent), and propels the 2012 reader into how an expert envisioned the moviegoing experience in 1940. Much of it eventually came true, although not by 1940; technology didn't advance quite as fast as expected, and a little thing that grew into World War II also got in the way. Save for digital technology, the result French foresaw isn't all that different from what we see in theaters today.

Other than CGI effects, superhero films and bombastic soundtracks, of course.

As Photoplay was required reading for many in the film industry, there's a good chance Lombard read this story. And while she never got to experience much of this (aside from three-strip Technicolor in "Nothing Sacred"), it probably conjured up much in her fertile imagination.

carole lombard nothing sacred blu-ray 00a

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