Friday, September 18, 2009

Francis Martin's Oshkosh Connection

We recently completed an informal analysis of writer Francis Martin's script for "U.F.O." in these pages. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate Mr. Martin back in the seventies, even after contacting a few (mostly) California resources available at that time. Had the Internet been commonplace back then, I dare say the lost would have been found and Martin may well have offered a wealth of information about his role in the production.

However, the June 12, 1956 edition of what appears to be the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern Reporter carried an article entitled, "Ex-Oshkosh Man is Movie Script Writer," and we learn that Martin was born in Ashland, Wisconsin in 1900. The occasion for this article was his visit to Oshkosh whilst preparing scripts for a couple of unspecified TV documentaries. Of course, the other big news, duly noted in the newspaper article, was Martin's accomplishment of the movie script.

A veteran of both World Wars I and II, Martin actually experienced a very interesting career. He started as a dancer in Los Angeles nightclubs and began appearing in movies as a dancer and actor in the 1920s. By his own estimate, he had "a couple of hundred screen credits" before he began directing and writing scripts in 1926, and had been under contract with major studios such as Universal and Paramount. Martin proudly admitted turning out movie scripts for the likes of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, George Burns & Gracie Allen and W.C. Fields.

Fields was a favorite, and the two were close friends. While Martin described Fields as "a delightful and generous person," and one of the greatest entertainers ever, admittedly Fields could be difficult, often rewriting portions of script at the list minute, or resorting to ad libs and scrapping his lines altogether when the cameras rolled -- still, according to Martin, resulting in brilliant results, even if such antics angered other actors and studio executives.

The article's remaining paragraphs summarize Martin's new UFO movie with words of encouragement, and I would suspect that, when the film came to town, loyal Oshkosh and area residents congregated in neighborhood theaters to view the work of a native son.

(Credit: Barry Greenwood. Note -- I put a link up to Mr. Greenwood's revised Web site in the link list on my adjoining blog, and his thoughtful analysis of UFO-related issues as a veteran researcher must not be missed.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Movie's New York Synopsis

In the earliest pages of this blog we posted a lengthy 1956 synopsis of "U.F.O." issued by a Greene-Rouse Productions representative in Los Angeles. Now, a shorter description of the movie has come to light, shown here, issued by United Artists' New York office. This appears to be the same synopsis whose words were chosen for printing in the British version of the motion picture pressbook, and this, therefore, was the source for my Argosy UFO magazine article (to read it, see link in margin re two magazine articles at the site) about the motion picture in which I quoted and commented upon the complete synopsis. The U.S. pressbook, for some reason, did not use this document, relying instead upon studio-prepared newspaper articles, all of which have been scanned and appear on this blog. (Credit: Barry Greenwood)

Movie Promotional Photos

While the movie, "U.F.O." enjoyed only a brief, but determined, moment of national publicity, its details peppering newspapers from coast to coast, various photographs emerged, not all from the standard press kit. These photos were obviously issued for newspaper publication by publicity departments, but I don't know the specifics. With thanks to Barry Greenwood for these, I've extracted three photos from various articles for display here. One is a routine picture of Tom Towers, two (one normal and the other enhanced by me) actually show Tom Towers, Al Chop and former USAF Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt together in an apparently very rare photo, and the third (two versions) shows Towers and actor William Solomon in a scene from the movie.

In general, it may be said that most of the motion picture reviews and editorials gracing the country's newspapers were kind, if not at least lukewarm, to Clarence Greene's film. R. H. Gardner's column entitled, "Of Stage and Screen," from the Baltimore, Maryland Sun of June 22, 1956, proved remarkably insightful about the movie's substance and things that should have been. Gardner, admitting a familiarity and respect for the UFO writings of Maj. Donald Keyhoe, confessed his belief that the movie was "repetitious" and "dull" at times. "But," he added, "due to the importance of the subject matter, the film -- which traces the investigations of Albert Chop, as Pentagon press chief -- may in time be regarded as the most dramatic ever produced." Yes, it should be.