19 September 2008 | jbacks3
The Lion Roars on TV
A little history: By 1955, MGM was already a shadow of it's former self. Once the premier studio in the world, it's status had slipped badly since 1947. Louis B. Mayer had been forced out or quit (depending upon who you believe) 4 years earlier, and a large amount of it's production had been moved to Europe for economic reasons. The studio adopted a spectacle stance as a defense against the video onslaught. MGM honcho Dore Schary, while certainly more progressive than Meyer, had to deal with the same vehemently anti-TV attitude amongst his board of directors and parent Leow's Inc. By 1955, Schary's hit-and-miss track record had him on the outs with the majority of management at the time he greenlighted this, MGM's first stab at TV. Loew's, a vast theater chain, saw TV as the enemy. Embracing TV as a revenue stream was unthinkable to the studio brass. The MGM Parade Show was conceived as a vehicle to promote it's 1955-56 releases while inexpensively padding itself with clips from it's massive film library, which included everything from Garbo to the hypo-nasal Pete Smith shorts, with each episode hosted by an old studio warhorse such as right-wing hoofer George Murphy and the dignified Walter Pidgeon. Occasionally, a contract star was hauled into the so-called "Trophy Room" and interviewed. The show flopped--- it didn't help it was shown on ABC, then an also-ran network, coincidentally owned by Paramount, and went unseen (indeed, was thought lost) until good ol' TCM located it in their purchase of the film library... interestingly, it wasn't immediately known to be among the inventory of Ted Turner's purchase. Industry wags at the time berated Turner for paying too much for the library, which formed the basis for TCM, since expanded to include parts of the Warner's, UA, Columbia and RKO libraries (film buffs rightly proclaim commercial-free TCM to be the main reason to pay for basic cable). As a result of the convoluted history of this flop show, the technical credits are largely lacking. The contemporary material was handled by studio vets Al Jennings (Assistant Director--- whose career would extend into the 70's working on _Deliverence (1972)_(qv) in the same capacity), Harold Marzorati (DP) and Ira Heymann (Film Editor, under contract with MGM since 1942 and active into the 1980's) and produced by Leslie Petersen (a liason exec between ABC and MGM) and associate Jack Atlas (a specialist in movie trailers, whose resume is impossible to catalog in IMDb). Sadly for MGM, unlike Columbia, it would fail to embrace TV production and the result is what we see today: a Vegas casino and an occasional James Bond movie. The MGM Parade Show is, at best, a footnote in MGM's history, only remarkable for how it chose to market it's product on an enemy medium and it's discovery amongst the racks in the vault. Anything else in there?