Here’s a nice little box set from TCM’s Vault Collection, somewhat paradoxically titled “Universal Rarities” since it consists entirely of Paramount films: Edward Cline’s “Million Dollar Legs” (1932), Leo McCarey’s “Belle of the Nineties” (1934), Raoul Walsh’s “Artists and Models” (1937) and Henry Hathaway’s “Souls at Sea” (1937). Nothing all that important, but it’s a happy day for cinephiles when anything surfaces from Universal’s Paramount holdings. A review here, in the New York Times.
The lobby card above, apart from its vampirish overtones, contains a hidden story. Judging from the censorship stamp (“FOR GENERAL EXHIBITION”), it’s an American lobby card that was modified for the Australian release by pasting a sticker reading “specialties by” over Martha Raye’s name — suggesting that her big number, “Public Melody No. 1,” had been cut out of the Australian version, just as it was for some markets in the American south. The reason: she performs in blackface alongside Louis Armstrong and a chorus of African-American dancers, in what some people (including the Variety reviewer) found at the time to be an unacceptable “mixing of the races.” As it happens, the sequence was staged by Vincente Minnelli — his first Hollywood assignment — and it points directly to his first feature, “Cabin in the Sky,” released six years later.
Farewell to Tony Scott, Phyllis Diller and Phyllis Thaxter. It’s been a grim summer.