Ink-stained Hollywood

Madrid, May 14, 2022

For many decades, journalists at the old Variety office on West 46th Street referred to themselves as “ink-stained wretches” or “galley slaves”, self-mocking monikers that were prompted by the configuration of the elongated editorial room where they sat at their manual typewriters. At the head of the row of reporters, on a raised dais, next to the picture window that overlooked 46th Street, sat the publisher Syd Silverman and a series of editors-in-chief, though I believe they never cracked any proverbial whip over the “galley slaves”. The most famous of those sitting on the dais with Syd over the years were Abel Green, Bob Landry, Bob Hawkins, Mark Silverman and Frank Meyer.

The “ink-stained” monicker has now been used as the title of a new book that zeroes in on the early era of show biz jounalism called “Ink-Stained Hollywood: The Triumph of American Cinema’s Trade Press”. Its author is Eric Hoyt, a professor of Media Production at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison. and is published by the University of California Press.

Given the credentials of its author and the publisher, it is no surprise that this is a serious, academical work which does not shy away from analyses and historical details

To my knowledge, it is the first book published since my own Inside Variety (2000) that mentions some of Variety’s early protagonists, starting with Sime Silverman, but also referring to Daily Variety’s first editor-in-chief, Arthur Ungar, and others. In consonance with the title of the book, Hoyt concentrates mostly on film activities in Hollywood and when he writes of “Variety” it is usually Daily Variety that he is referring to, not the New York-based weekly.

However, a number of pages in the book are also dedicated to slanguage (Hoyt also uses the term “industry speak” which is a modern expression). His research has been thorough as he dipped into the trade press of the early part of the 20th century, and he even makes mention of the New York Clipper, a trade mag of the 1920’s which Sime acquired but then folded a year later. Also covered in the book is some of the infighting among the vaudeville moguls of the time.

If Hoyt’s book remains in the purely academical vein, eschewing any attenmpt at evoking the atmosphere of the early Variety years and the muggs that worked on it, it is notwithstanding a welcome, well-written addition to a subject – old show biz journalism – which seems to have been largely ignored since the publication of my own book. PB

Muggs Illuminate History of Reporting Box Office

New York, April 21, 2021

The twisted history of public reporting of U.S./Canada box office—the grosses!—gets a look in a story that cites Variety as the historical pace setter, and quotes muggs Marie Silverman Marich, the late Larry Michie and Peter Besas’ book Inside Variety (Ars Millenii, 2000)

Summary box office has been provided to the press since the mid-1990s, but before that time getting a count of ducats from the wickets was difficult, patchy and inconsistent.

Marie was one of the journos who wrote the “L.A. Box Office” at Daily Variety in the 1980s while Larry wrote the notoriously difficult Washington D.C. box office stories starting in the mid-1960s. Both pieced together raw box office numbers from local theatres to create a mosaic, as was the custom in that era.  

Pulling the historical recollection together, Peter’s book Inside Variety recounts the full history, starting with the Bible of Showbiz coaxing figures out of the then-biggest theatre chain in the period around World War I (that goes back to silent films!).

The website MarketingMovies.net, which just published the analysis article, is connected with Robert Marich’s book Marketing to Moviegoers (in three editions). So Bob relied on no-less-an-authority than his wife, Marie, for eyewitness recollections.

Variety just published a story speculating that national box office summaries may go hush-hush again to some degree, since Hollywood has been patchy in reporting to the press during the pandemic.

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Retro ‘Variety’ Cover Celebrates Old Hollywood

by Bob Marich

Dec. 2, 2020

A print edition of Variety last month presented a retro cover of Variety circa late 1930s/early 1940s for a story about the Netflix drama film about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz.

Variety served up its history with a retro cover for its Nov. 18, 2020 print cover date edition. The old-fashioned cover art ties to a story inside about a Netflix movie titled Mank dramatizing the life of  Herman J. Mankiewicz (who is portrayed by Gary Oldman). Of course, the real Mankiewicz shared the 1941 Oscar for best original screenplay with Orson Welles for Citizen Kane.

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Sean Connery turns 90 and Variety recalls its kudos in 1963

                                                                                    Hollywood, Aug. 25, 2020

By Bob Marich

Variety mined its rich editorial vault in a Aug. 25, 2020 salute to Sean Connery, as the actor best known for portraying suave British agent 007 celebrates his 90th birthday.

The birthday salute article reports that decades ago Variety presciently intimated that the first James Bond pic was positioned to be an on-going franchise: In a June 26, 1963 article, Variety in a bit of imaginative word play noted that the public’s reaction to Dr. No was ‘yes, yes.’ It went on to report that United Artists was looking to create a franchise and that Connery was expected to reprise the role in 10 features, which would shoot every year. Ultimately, the actor would play the role six more times…”

 A column item by the legendary Army Archerd dated March 14, 1963 reported: “Sean Connery feted last night by UA at the Directors Guild screening of Dr. No, plus a feed at Chasen’s restaurant, was only a coupla years ago hitching rides on Hollywood Blvd. That’s show biz. He returns to England, wife Diane (Cilento) and their newborn after the Coastour, starts another Ian Fleming film, From Russia with Love…”

Click on the link below to see the whole story.