Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Here's (above) a trailer for "Mildred Pierce", a terrific melodrama about a waitress (Joan Crawford)who works her fingers to the bone to give her daughter a highbrow education, then is rejected by the daughter as low class. I posted this trailer before but didn't bother to comment on how intelligently it was constructed. The clip deserves better so here's a fuller treatment. Let's see....

We open with a fanfare which accompanies this lettering:

Warner Bros. invites you to witness the first scene of a motion picture the world will TALK ABOUT...

BAM! BAM! (gunshots)

A gutshot man collapses and utters the word..."Mildred!"

Announcer: "Mildred! A name gasped in the night! The one last word of a dying man...but one word that tells a thousand stories of a woman who left her mark on every man she met!" [I love over-the-top narration like this!]

Boyfriend #1: "Mildred has more to offer a man with a glance than most women give in a lifetime!"

Boyfriend #2: " Mildred knew what she wanted and wasn't too particular how she got it!"

Boyfriend #3: "Mildred? Loving her was like shaking hands with the devil!"

Lettering: It's JOAN CRAWFORD...In her most Daringly Different portrayal (her robe slips revealing her bikini)..."MILDRED PIERCE!" [The music seemed to want the trailer to end here but it continues]


Mildred: "You make me feel...I don't know...warm!

Boyfriend #1: "And wanted. AND WANTED!!!" [He whips her around behind him so we can't see her and plants a big, rubber plunger kiss on her!]

Lettering; She Bought a LOVE...she could NEVER OWN!

Mildred walks in and finds her daughter passionately making out with her (Mildred's) boyfriend, now her husband.

Mildred: (Gasp!) "How long has this been going on?"

Daughter: "Monty is going to divorce you and marry me, and there's nothing you can do about it! You think that because you made a little money and got a fancy hairdo that you can make yourself a lady! Well you can't! You'll never be anything but a common..." [The dialogue cuts off.]

Lettering sweeps across the screen: The OUTSPOKEN STORY of an INDISCREET WOMAN! Joan Crawford...Zachary Scott...in "MILDRED PIERCE!"

Not everybody likes the choppy dialogue, strange syntax and the odd capitalization you find in trailers. I love it myself. I love how the momentum in a trailer is carried at different times by music, narration, dialogue and lettering. It's so smart and so intuitive. I love wipes and the kind of lettering that starts fuzzy and sharpens to crystal clarity. Why did we ever stop making trailers like this?


William said...

I think movie trailers today aren't that bad, they also don't often give away the entire picture before you see it as they used to.

However, these old ones didn't rely on Holst's Mars so much and they also kept a great deal of exciting momentum. Oh and actors had faces back then.

Micah said...

it's EDDIE FITZGERALD in his most Dizzying Dynamic blog post... THE WORLD DECLARES!

Boy these old trailers do make me grin! The naration/text thing has only recently become no go. I have trailers from teh 80s that still did stuff sort of like this. I'm thinking of Star Trek II. The same dude that did the angry restrained voice from the Jaws trailer does the naration.

The structure is similar. then late 80s/90s they go into something else. mini-movies. Not the coy strip teases of yesteryear. I think they tend to give more away nowadays. Accept for a few trailers.

b'anyway... That was a great trailer. Good bit of mantage. Now I want to see the movie... and I'm drawn to -gasp- TALK ABOUT it.

Sean Worsham said...

I love that they cut-off the dialogue, it makes you wonder what they are going to say next and make you want to watch the movie.


I just caught you John's and Kali's commentary on Popeye the Sailor vs. Sinbad the Sailor and you sound much different than I thought. I then remembered you talking on the Adult Party DVD's and thinking, "he sounds different now." Maybe it's my imagination, but I always thought of you sounding more cartoony (I guess those photographs portray you as being so cartoony, that I imagine a cartoon voice in my head to go along with whatever you're writing). Ah well it was great hearing all you guys together on the commentary and it was cool of you all to give Kali a chance as a student to put her 2 cents on a classic such as Popeye the Sailor vs. Sinbad the Sailor.

P.S. to everyone, I know that last paragraph or so was off subject, but I also wanted everyone to know about the Popeye Dvd collection 1933-38 so everyone can purchase it. The picture quality looked great on my hdtv. Although John didn't have faith in the restoration I myself had never seen these cartoons look so clear before especially when I look back and remember seeing them on broadcast tv and watching those 1 dollar version at 7-11

I.D.R.C. said...

Why did we ever stop making trailers like this?

Probly because they stopped making movies like that. I love everything about that trailer. Craft is all over it. Even the gunshots at the end are keyed to the music.

Pete Emslie said...

"Why did we ever stop making trailers like this?"

Because Hollywood marketing types decided that nobody today has an attention span that can tolerate any single image lingering on the screen for more than a split second. To accompany this mindless quick-cutting syndrome, they also love to provide as many explosions at as high a decibel level as is possible with their THX sound system. I find myself just lowering my head, closing my eyes and trying my best to tune out the noise that constitutes most of today's trailers.

And like i.d.r.c. said, they just don't make movies like this anymore. That's why I spend less time these days at the movieplex and more time at home watching TCM.

Jenny said...

"Why did we ever stop making trailers like this?"

...because they were so much of their time that that style of promotion-used from the 30s-50s-seemed hopelessly dated and corny by the mid 1960s at the latest.
Now they're fun for their hystrionic, emphatic style. There was another kind of trailer template for the 70s-80s, and yet another one for the 90s-today("In a world..." is still being used!).

Kelly Toon said...

I hate today's trailers mostly because they tend to give away every "good part." If it's a comedy, lets have the lines where the biggest laffs are expected to occur. Or the most startling scenes from a scary movie. By the time you see the movie, you are desensitized! And since those scenes are generally lame anyway, it stands to reason that the rest of the movie will be just as unfunny and predictable.

Rambling, I know.

in the vein of classic/camp promotional material, I dug the poster for the incredible film, Black Snake Moan. Have you seen it?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Sean: Thanks for being so candid about the Popeye commentary. I haven't heard it yet but I'll look out for it.

The problem there was that the Popeyes we were asked to comment on were (with one exception) the normal ones and not the looser, edgier ones I could have gotten more excited about. They're still fun to watch but someone (Max?)was exercizing tight control over them and not letting the artists improvise. What you get in those cartoons is the house style, pure and simple, and that's hard to comment on.

Jenny: It doesn't speak well for the 60s people that heroism seemed corny to them.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Kelly: "Black Snake Moan" looks hilaroius!

Jenny said...

Rejecting or reacting to the "corniness" of trailers from that age isn't the same as rejecting the values of the movie's narrative, Eddie.
I thought we were talking about the graphics, the emphatic style of declaiming that the narrator often used, which is, yes, dated--"classic" now but obviously old stuff in the late 50s-present, except as kitsch. Not MY taste are the newer trailers, just making an observation here.
I thought I was pretty specific about that but anyway the corn factor has zero to do with an eschewing of heroism. Vietnam aside, antiheroes and all of that, I think people still enjoyed heroes in the 60s. But what would I know? I was a tiny kid then. My favorite film was "Jungle Book". Eh.

I have a lot of 40s trailers in my head(I had a friend who collected old trailers on 16mm and we watched them a lot, and thought they were hilarious though at the same time we appreciated the artistry of them and loved them. One of my favorites is the trailer for the deathless classic "Beyond the Forest", a Bette Davis potboiler that was I think the tail end of her WB contract.
Opens with a bewigged, spitting Bette screaming "I'm NOBODY'S FOOL! I'm ROSA MOLINE!!!!!!!"--with the stentorian tones of the narrator cutting in "Yes, THIS is ROSA MOLINE!" And it just gets better from there(certainly better than actually watching the film). I mean, it's fantastic stuff. YMMV!

Sean Worsham said...

>What you get in those cartoons is >the house style, pure and simple, >and that's hard to comment on.

Well, those particular Popeye cartoons are still a lot more fun than most of the cartoons today, house-style or not.

Your commentary was still entertaining Eddie and I really loved all of you guys comments. I also thought it was funny whenever you guys laughed, it showed you guys had true enthusiasm over the material. The best comment was when John mentioned how network execs would totally try to veto funny gags like the bump appearing on the 2 headed giant's 2nd head when the other one was punched simply because it wasn't logical. I kept thinking to myself, "But this is funny, it's funny because that can only happen in a cartoon and it was unexpected but explains how the giant shares pain all over the place!" It's simply more fun that way.

It shows how those execs John was talking about were simply trying to show their worth (when it was obvious they don't know what they are talking about) and how it chips away at the artists tolerance after awhile.

Funny stuff nonetheless, I'll be listening to you guys' other 2 commentaries tonight.

I.D.R.C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
I.D.R.C. said...

I hate today's trailers mostly because they tend to give away every "good part."

Kelly: "Black Snake Moan" looks hilaroius!

If only the movie lived up to the possibilties. Other than a black man who happens to have a white girl on a chain, it's not hot, or steamy, or lurid or any other quality that you might expect. There is no dominance/submission-theme, and that is obviously what they are selling. The poster and the trailer are essentially false advertising. You do get a woman on a chain, but you don't get anything you might be expecting as a result. I hate that kind of crap. There is no way you could see that Mildred Pierce trailer and not know what kind of movie you are going to get.

So I have to diagree with Kelly. Had they let me discover the chain by going to the movie, I would have found it amusing, but since they led with it, I kept waiting for it to mean something more that it never did. If the movie had a set piece, that was it. The only surprise was how bland and good-natured it ultimately was.

Jenny said...

'Black Snake Moan' isn't a great film but boy, what a must see. Sam Jackson is as always something else again.

I.D.R.C. said...

Sam Jackson is uasually very watchable, as is Christina Ricci, but the movie is destined to air on Lifetime.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny: LOL! Well, I guess the longer explanation is, if an era doesn't believe in heroism then it's less likely to evolve media techniques that emphasize that quality.

I never heard of "Beyond the Forest." I'll look out for the trailer and the film.

Soos said...

"There is no way you could see that Mildred Pierce trailer and not know what kind of movie you are going to get."
Isn't the entire point of this post that the advertisement is intentionally misleading?

Eddie, do you remember the early MAD parody of this kind of advertisement? I'll have to dig up my reprints to find out what issue it's in - it was illustrated by Wood, if that helps.

It would give a brief summary of the movie, then show you the newspaper ad for it - the running joke being that advertisers were playing up the sex and violence in genres were they were increasingly nonexistent.

I.D.R.C. said...

Isn't the entire point of this post that the advertisement is intentionally misleading?

Is it? Then I missed the point and I disagree. Have you seen Mildred Pierce?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Soos, IDRC: In my opinion the trailer is indeed divided in what it wants to say. I'm not surprised that you guys disagree because part of it makes Mildred out to be a wicked city woman and part makes her out to be a victim to be pitied.

Far from being a flaw this is actually an asset. Trailers aren't an exercize in logic; if they get people into the theater they've succeeded, logic or no. On a visceral level the trailer works.

Maybe the people who made the trailer had different opinions about the film and the result was a compromise. Me, I like to think they all agreed about the meaning and made a deliberate choice to take two sides.

I know the Mad parody. It was great!

Soos said...

In that definition, the modern trailers are better than the older ones, aren't they? As our generation finds that trailer style to be corny, or tacky.

Granted, I haven't seen the actual movie, but it struck me as being what MAD was making fun of - that the trailers attempting to advertise the film as the same one the American public had seen a million times before, and the actual meaning and originality of the film were somewhere between irrelevant and an obstacle to be overcame.


Slight tangent, but Eddie, your "Am I a toady?" post got me to reread the MAD reprints I have. I'd forgotten how fantastic Wood's early stuff looked! It's so fun and cartoony (despite the sloppy color job the reprinters did), how could John K not love his stuff? I might just be an uneducated goon for saying so, but I feel like Elder's overrated.

I.D.R.C. said...

In that definition, the modern trailers are better than the older ones, aren't they?

No. The Mildred Pierce trailer actually captures and leads your imagination to the fuller cinematic experience of seeing the film. The flavor of the film is more similar tham dissimilar. If you liked that trailer then the film probably won't disappoint. Granted, that's not strictly possible if the movie is no good. You still need to try and make a captivating trailer. That's what Mad was talking about, I think.

I am contrasting that Mildred Pierce strategy of intrigue with the strategy of giving away the best parts and leaving nothing of substance for a surprise in the theatre. That is a stupid choice in my book. That is what Black Snake Moan did. I find it hard to believe that the director would've wanted it that way.

it's like if the trailers for Psycho had shown Anthony Perkins running around in his mother's dress, or worse yet, clips from the shower scene. Makes no sense.
Can you imagine a movie poster of Psycho like Black Snake Moan? Perkins in a wig and granny gown brandishing a butcher knife over Janet Leigh? If you are gonna give that away, you had better have something more to deliver.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Soos: John ought to answer this one himself. My guess is that he thinks Wood is a serious artist who unsuccessfully tries to be funny. I can see that, but you also could argue that he's a funny artist who tries to be serious.

JohnK said...


Anonymous said...

Black Snake Moan, Craig Brewer's second film, isn't as good as his first, Hustle & Flow. That movie is deep, and believe me, it's about alot more than prostitutes and rappers.

>The problem there was that the Popeyes we were asked to comment on were (with one exception) the normal ones and not the looser, edgier ones I could have gotten more excited about.

I must disagree. I don't know if "Ali Baba" was the exception you were talking aobut, but that's my favourite Popeye cartoon of all time.

> It doesn't speak well for the 60s people that heroism seemed corny to them.

Holy shit! That brief (13 word) statement was one of the most scathing indictments of the 60s people I've ever heard. How did you do that? Brilliant!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jorge: I'll look for it!

Anonymous said...

Eddie, if you watch it, make you you watch it with John K and Mike F! You guy'll really laaaaaaaaaaugh!

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