Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Do Nice Girls Shimmy? -- December 29, 2020


Motion Picture News, 04-December-1920

The Chorus Girl's Romance, starring Viola Dara was based on F Scott Fitzgerald's' short story "Head and Shoulders."

Cops Oppose Schmidt's Animated Cut-out Exploitation and Police Court Publicity Vie With Each
Other in Putting Over " A Chorus Girl's Romance "

THIS is the true and touching "drama " (which came near being a melodrama) of a cut-out which didn't shimmy. It has all the elements of drama — a hero whose motives are questioned, who is denounced, and arrested, of the police force, whose duty, according to the latest " crook-drama," is to hound a man back into jail as fast as he gets out. And for a heroine, it has a beautiful life-size cut-out of Viola Dana.

To begin at the beginning, Manager George Schmidt, of the Alamo No. 2, Atlanta, booked " The Chorus-Girl's Romance," and, looking over the campaign book for an effective idea for exploitation, happened on the stunt that tells of an animated cut-out. The idea struck his fancy, and he made all the necessary arrangements.

A week before the picture opened for a three-day run at his theatre, a huge banner appeared across the front of his theatre — jade-green letters on a buff background — reading, " Do Nice Girls Shimmy? Viola Dana will tell you." The "teaser" screen-campaign is always a part of Mr. Schmidt's exploitation stunts, and this one began a week ahead of the picture. Each day the slide was changed, and during the week, such slides as "Could She Shimmy? Oh, Boy! A maple leaf in an October gale had nothing on Marcia Meadows!" "Gilda Grey, shimmy-art- ist, had her shoulders insured for fifty-thousand dollars! Some shoulders, we'll say! But she had nothing on Marcia Meadows!" "Could she shake a wicked shoulder? Oh, lady, lady! You tell 'em, standing room — I'm reserved" created interest in the picture.

On Sunday morning, the animated cutout was rigged up in front of the theatre. It was a cut-out of " Marcia Meadows" seated, with her knees crossed. A second part of shoulders cut out and mounted was hung just an inch in front of the main cut-out, and these shoulders, by an electrical device, "shimmied " most convincingly. This cut-out, with a lobby-frame full of interesting photographs from the picture, held up traffic for more than an hour Sunday afternoon. The crowd grew and grew — until finally the fat and good-natured "traffic cop" on the corner below the theatre came up to investigate — and remained to admire. He went back to his post, quite lenient with the people who continued to make his job unpleasant.

But noon on Monday brought trouble, in the person of a very important Captain of Police, who took one look at Marcia, and gave Mr. Schmidt five minutes to take her off the sidewalk. Mr. Schmidt protested, belligerently, which resulted in a trip to the police-station, where he was advised to explain it to the Chief.

Which he did. There were two or three newspaper reporters at the station when Mr. Schmidt arrived, but he was too angry to notice them. They, bored with an unusually dull Monday, when nobody had taken poison by mistake, or jumped out of a fourteenth story window, listened to the heated argument between him and the Chief with much enjoyment.

Early in the spring, in a laudable effort to get a great many undesirables out of Atlanta, a sort of "Purity Squad " had been organized. During the hectic enthusiasm resultant from their first activities, they had passed a number of more or less trivial laws over which the most innocent of citizens find themselves tripping. One of these laws had to do with " shimmy-dancing," and the law had been framed and aided through by the Chief himself. So what the crimson cloth is to the celebrated bull, so is the bare mention of the hated word "shimmy" to the Chief.

The end of the argument, when Mr. Schmidt grew too angry to care for fines, and the Chief lost his temper so far he forgot to impose any, the Chief agreed to go up and see the picture and the cut-out. The reporters, half a dozen "smaller fry" policemen and the self-important captain went along. They looked at the picture and the Chief agreed that there was nothing wrong with it — "though it did seem unnecessary to have all that shimmy-dancing in it" he added, and stuck to the decision in spite of all arguments.

But when he saw the cut-out and watched it "dance " — well, when the sulphuric atmosphere cleared a little, he could be heard agitatedly warning Mr. Schmidt that he would fine him one hundred dollars for every five minutes "the thing operated" and would, if opposed, close the theatre. So, borne down by weight of superior numbers, and still too mad to permit himself to talk, Mr. Schmidt agreed. He was told, grudgingly, that the cut-out might remain in the lobby, provided there was no further movement. He went away, content — and, an hour later, a sign was fastened across the bottom of the cut-out — a sign which told its own story — "Censored."

The morning paper, and the noon editions of the two extras treated the whole affair with a great deal of what Mr. Schmidt is morosely convinced was ill-placed humor — but the Alamo No. 2 was packed to the doors for every performance from then on — and such remarks as, "Why, I don't see anything wrong about that picture !" "Why should the police object to it?" and so on indicate the source of their enthusiasm.

Despite the fact that it was good publicity, Mr. Schmidt is very, very sore! For he has been accused of some things which make him fighting mad — and there's nobody he can fight !

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