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Main Street to Broadway

Main Street to Broadway(1953)

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Crying Boy

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NOTES

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The format and cast of Main Street to Broadway changed considerably from conception to production. Pre-production news items in Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter and the daily newspapers provide the following information: DeWitt Bodeen was originally assigned to write the screenplay, and playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller were to contribute special material. The film was originally to be shot in Technicolor, with four or five directors handling the various stage sequences. Olivia de Havilland was to perform the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, and Gregory Peck and Katherine Cornell were to appear in a scene from Peter Ibbetson. The following celebrities were also announced as cast members, although they did not appear in the final film: Yul Brynner, Rouben Mamoulian, Henry Fonda, Ethel Merman, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield and Jos Ferrer. A May 27, 1952 news item in Hollywood Reporter's "Broadway Ballyhoo" column reported that producer Lester Cowan sought Gertrude Lawrence for a role as a drama instructor, and was considering casting Cloris Leachman and Val Dufour as the romantic leads. According to a April 6, 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item, a jazz ballet by George Balanchine was to be danced by Tanaquil LeClerq and conducted by Benny Goodman, but no such dance sequence appeared in the released film.
       Contemporary news items add Jinx Falkenberg, Betty Field and Eddie Mayehoff to the cast, but they were not in the released film. News items also include the following people in the cast, although their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed: Peter Cookson, Elmer Rice, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Vanderbilt, Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Miller, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Dietz, Dorothy Sarnoff, Herbert Bayard Swope, Herbert and Dorothy Fields and theater critics John Chapman, Robert Coleman, Richard Cooke, Wolcott Gibbs, William Hawkins and George Jean Nathan. Portions of the film were shot on location in New York City, and Broadway's Martin Beck Theater was the site of the opening night sequence.
       According to news items, the film was produced as a fund-raising vehicle to benefit the Council of the Living Theatre, a non-profit organization founded by a small group of New York actors to promote and fund live theater. A November 19, 1952 Variety news item noted that 25% of the film's profits would be donated to the organization, which would use the money "to increase memberships in 'road show' cities and to further interest in the legit theatre." In addition, writer Robert E. Sherwood donated his entire $50,000 story fee to the Council. Cinema Productions, Inc., which produced Main Street to Broadway, was made up of film exhibitors and headed by Fred Schwartz and M. A. Lightman, both of whom were presidents of regional chains of movie houses. The Variety news item maintained that despite M-G-M's financial collaboration with Cinema Productions, the exhibitors involved in the project would not receive preferential treatment, and would have to bid against other exhibitors to book the film. A October 3, 1953 news item in Daily Variety noted that Main Street to Broadway constituted "the first time a group of top exhibs has banded together in the financing of a motion picture," adding that M-G-M and Cinema Productions had split the cost of producing the film. Some contemporary news items claimed that Main Street to Broadway was the first M-G-M release since Gone With the Wind to be produced by another company, but that statement was incorrect.
       A July 2, 1952 Daily Variety news item reported that the exhibitors in Cinema Productions were so encouraged by the advance bookings that they were considering additional studio collaborations. Enthusiasm for this venture faded in the wake of Main Street to Broadway's extremely poor critical reception, however. The Cue review, which dismissed the film as a "mish-mash of movie clichs, dramatic flubs and sticky self-adulation," concluded, "Nothing, but nothing is quite so funny as watching Broadway-in frank and unabashed love with itself-admire itself self-consciously in front of the camera. Did nobody among the scores of theatre-wise folk within lens range bother to read the script?" According to a August 5, 1953 Variety news item, under M-G-M's original promotional arrangement with the Council of the Living Theatre, Main Street to Broadway was to open simultaneously in twenty-two cities with live, subscription theater. Moreover, the Council was to provide a leading stage actor to make a personal appearance at each opening. However, the multi-city opening fell through, and M-G-M blamed the Council for failing to come up with top names to promote the film. Main Street to Broadway marked the last film of actor Lionel Barrymore (1878-1954) and actress Mary Martin (1913-1990). The film was also popular radio and television humorist Herb Shriner's only film, and the last film produced by Lester Cowan.