Today’s CBS Sunday Morning episode focused on tonight’s Oscars broadcast, film history, actors, movie trailers and film historians. Leonard Maltin, noted film historian, discussed movie trailers with CBS correspondent Lee Cowan.
Movie trailers can sometimes create huge box office returns. CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Lee Cowan claims in his report today that “they’ve become their own genre.” Cowan spoke with film industry insider Leonard Maltin concerning the history of movie trailers, which have become almost as much a part of the pageantry of the Oscars hype as the Oscars’ ceremony itself.
Cowan stated that trailers were originally only seen in a theatre, and after the main feature, hence the title “trailer.”
Maltin revealed during the interview that “When you are advertising the same kind of product again and again and again, I don’t think it is unfair to say that formula is going to creep into the equation.” Not everyone, according to Maltin, appreciated having to market films in such a “brash way.” Orson Welles “made fun” of promotional shorts for his “Citizen Kane” trailer in the 1940s. “He did it in an artful and creative way with tongue-well-in-cheek where he says flat out this is a piece of ballyhoo.”
Cowan also interviewed Matt Brubaker of Trailer Park, and Mark Woollen, who has produced trailers for the last two films that won the Academy Award for “Best Picture” at the annual Oscars ceremonies.
But Maltin has been helping the movie-going public spot the “ballyhoo” for decades by blazing his own trail. His third edition of “Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965” was published in 2015, and was also endorsed and presented by Turner Classic Movies, a cable channel Maltin names “the movie buff’s best friend.”
Maltin’s primary source for film credits is “always the film itself. We generally trust whatever it says on the screen.” There are exceptions, of course, because even a studio employee can misspell a name or mix up technical details. “For further corroboration, we attempt to find source material from the time of the film’s release.”
“Determining a film’s running time can be exasperating in some cases,” and “recent restorations” can change established data, Maltin stated in his recent guide introduction. For example, three variants of Orson Welles’ “Touch Of Evil” exist.
But much of the enjoyment for serious film devotees often begins when reviewing Maltin’s comments about a film, and determining how they mesh with the viewer’s opinions.
For 1947’s “Miracle on 34th Street,” he gives a short synopsis, mentions that it won Oscars for actor Edmund Gwenn, writer Valentine Davies, and George Seaton, reminds readers it was character actress Thelma Ritter’s screen debut, and also included “an amusing bit” for a young Jack Albertson.
Amusing comments also enlighten the reader concerning less than stellar scripts or performances. In 1946’s “Whistle Stop” starring George Raft and a young Ava Gardner, Maltin states the film is an “unusually stupid Raft vehicle about his on-again, off-again, on-again relationship with Gardner, who wishes he would do something with his life. You may feel the same, but Ava is stunningly beautiful.”
In “Come September” (1961), starring Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigidiga, Maltin’s synopsis indicates the film is a “frothy comedy about the younger generation (Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee) and the “older” folks (Hudson and Lollobrigida). Good fun, with some dated Darin vocals,” and the film earned three stars according to the Classic Film Guide’s rating system.
The 1960’s British offering, “The Concrete Jungle,” includes a short synopsis of the film and concludes with the comment that it is “more than just a crime drama., it’s a story of how greed and lust for money can result in alienation, and the destruction of the spirit.” Maltin’s comments, and those of his editorial team, are insightful, sometimes humorous, but always on target.
Organizing such a vast, all encompassing list of films obviously necessitated including esteemed industry historians as part of his editorial team, like Alan K. Rode, Bruce Goldstein, Spencer Green, Rob Edelman, Michael Scheinfeld, Tom Weaver, Richard W. Bann, Boyd Magers, Bill Warren and Casey St. Charnez, who have made Leonard Maltin’s film guide one of the handiest film companions any aficionado can add to the “swag bag” of cinephile accoutrements.
Film buffs pining for those swag bags sent to members of the Academy before the dead heat of the Oscar voting can quit coveting and create their own totes filled with goodies that assuage the craving for more and more knowledge of film, classic and current. The third edition of Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide is a resource that Maltin hopes “will become a useful companion for TCM viewers. Leading people to good movies is the most satisfying aspect of my job.”
Maltin’s latest guide has fulfilled that hope.