New Faces


1h 39m 1954

Brief Synopsis

A filmed performance (in CinemaScope) of the highly popular Broadway hit that was basically a collection of skits, sketches, songs and dances built around a flimsy plot to meld them all together which, for the most part, worked. The plot involves a performer/producer (Ronny Graham)who finds himself in financial difficulties on the eve of opening night because a big check is needed before the curtain can go up. But a wealthy Texan says he will put up the money, if his daughter is in the show and he can see it first. End of plot, but the beginning of the careers of some young and talented people who have had careers across many decades. Ertha Kitt sings four songs, including "C'est Si Bon" and "Santa Baby" in and around some funny skits; "Trip of the Month", "Snake Charmer", "Crazy Man" and "Oedipus Goes South." Graham and Mel Brooks (in his Melvin Brooks days)are credited with most of the sketch material and just the title of the "Oedipus" bit suggests Brooks. There is a burlesque of "Death of a Salesman", which was probably the easiest to write of all. It also appears that when Brooks later did "The Producers", he hadn't forgotten everything about "New Faces."

Film Details

Release Date
Feb 1954
Premiere Information
New York opening: 19 Feb 1954
Production Company
National Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical revue New Faces of 1952 , produced by Leonard Sillman, original Broadway production devised and staged by John Murray Anderson (New York, 16 May 1952).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Synopsis

Just as the musical revue New Faces is about to begin its first performance, comedian and producer Ronny Graham is hounded by the show's impatient creditor, Mr. Dee. Ronny asks French singer Robert Clary if he has seen his girl friend, Virginia de Luce Clayborn, whose rich Texan father has promised to back the show. When Virginia arrives, however, she sadly tells Ronny that her father has given her only half the money he promised, and will not supply the rest until after he has seen her performance. Desperate to stall Dee, Ronny tells Robert to "handle" him, and the diminuitive Robert locks Dee in a closet, then joins the rest of the cast for the opening number. Following the first number, Eartha Kitt sings "C'est si bon," after which Virginia makes her first appearance. Although Virginia only sings one song, "He Takes Me off His Income Tax," and introduces the skits, she tries hard to perfect her skills, and Robert expresses his pride. The first skit, "Crazy, Man!" features Ronny as a "hep" musician named Dazz Rocco, who is investigated by a Senate committee exploring the potentially harmful effects of "be-bop." After revealing that he stays awake for four days at a time with the help of Benzadrine, Dazz charms the senators into joining his bohemian lifestyle. Robert then sings "Lucky Pierre" and is followed by June Carroll, who sings "Penny Candy" and reminisces about her childhood love of sweets. After watching Alice Ghostley perform "Boston Beguine," during which she describes a youthful, doomed romance, Robert goes backstage, where Virginia reveals that her father is opposed to her acting career. Robert confesses his love in French, but Virginia, who does not understand him, worries that she will have to return to her tiny hometown in Texas. Robert then returns onstage to join Eartha and Rosemary O'Reilly in singing "Love Is a Simple Thing," after which Ronny performs a skit entitled "Oedipus Goes South," in which he plays a Southern writer named Herman Kaput. Herman reads a passage from his latest book, then tells the audience: "a lot of literary critics have been telling y'all that I'm an unhealthy author. I ain't unhealthy, folks, I'm sick!" The next number presents Alice and June as spinster sisters singing "Time for Tea," after which Robert plays a painter and sings "Alouette." Next, Eartha asks Santa Claus to bring her jewels and furs in "Santa Baby," after which the company performs "Waltzing in Venice" and "Take off the Mask," about a masquerade ball in Venice. Backstage, Ronny meets Mr. Clayborn and begs him for the rest of the money, but the hearty Texan insists that he must see how Virginia does in the second half of the show before he will fully fund it. The next skit, "Trip of the Month," features Paul Lynde as a bedraggled traveler who won a jungle safari to the Congo, where he was beset by various disasters, including the loss of his wife. The following number, "It's Raining Memories," is performed by Robert, and after Eartha sings the exotic "Uska Dara," Robert sings "I'm in Love with Miss Logan," about a school boy who is infatuated with his teacher. "Of Fathers and Sons," the next skit, features Paul as "Harry the Heel," a down-on-his-luck pickpocket who hopes that his scholarly son Stanley will follow in his larcenous footsteps. Harry's desire seems destined to remain unfulfilled until Stanley turns him into the police for the reward money, and Harry gleefully realizes that his son has a treacherous streak after all. As Robert and Virginia watch backstage, he assures her that everything will be all right, and she accepts his marriage proposal. The company then performs "Lizzie Borden," after which Eartha and Robert duet on "Bal Petit Bal." Pleased with Virginia's performance, Clayborn gives Ronny the rest of the money, but when Virginia tells him that she is engaged, Clayborn mistakes the tall Ronny for her fiance. Clayborn faints upon hearing that tiny Robert is to be his son-in-law, and while Virginia tends to her father, Eartha performs "Monotonous." After carrying Robert onstage to protect him from the enraged Dee, Virginia joins the company in performing their finale.

Film Details

Release Date
Feb 1954
Premiere Information
New York opening: 19 Feb 1954
Production Company
National Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical revue New Faces of 1952 , produced by Leonard Sillman, original Broadway production devised and staged by John Murray Anderson (New York, 16 May 1952).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The opening title card of this film, "Edward L. Alperson presents Leonard Sillman's New Faces," is followed by a sequence of the cast singing the song "New Faces" with their faces appearing in cut-outs set against a black background. The credits note that "the title New Faces is used pursuant to license from New Faces, Inc." and Sillman's credit reads: "Associate Producer Leonard Sillman, Photographed from the Broadway Production of Leonard Sillman's New Faces." Sketch director John Beal, who is listed in the onscreen credits, is unrelated to the long-time character actor of the same name.
       According to the pressbook, this film is an "actual photographic reproduction" of New Faces of 1952, the 1952 installment in Sillman's successful series of "New Faces" Broadway musical revues, which featured songs and skits and were largely performed by unknown actors. New Faces of 1952 introduced such entertainers as Ronny Graham, Robert Clary, Paul Lynde and Eartha Kitt. The film marked the screen debuts of Graham, Clary, Lynde, Kitt and Alice Ghostley, as well as the first film credit for director-writer Mel Brooks, who is billed as Melvin Brooks." The "backstage" story about "Robert" and "Virginia's" romance, and the pressure from creditor "Mr. Dee," however, were added for the film, and Henry Kulky and Charles Watts did not appear in the original Broadway show. An October 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that before filming began, National Pictures Corp. received signed releases from thirty-six people who had contributed to the show.
       According to July 1953 Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter news items, the picture was originally scheduled to be shot on location in Chicago, where the theater company was currently touring, and was to be photographed in 3-D by John Alton. Eventually, however, the film was shot in Hollywood, in CinemaScope, by Lucien Ballard, who was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox. According to a September 1953 Variety news item, changing the filming from 3-D to CinemaScope added $40,000 to the production's budget, raising it to $220,000. Although an October 1953 Los Angeles Examiner news item reported that producer Edward L. Alperson had hired comedian Tommy Noonan to adapt the play for the screen, the extent of Noonan's contribution, if any, to the released film has not been determined. A September 1953 Variety news item reported that the picture would be "filmed directly from the stage" during the show's West Coast run, but instead it was shot on Fox's Western Ave. lot.
       Two of the skits featured in the film, "Oedipus Goes South" and "Trip of the Month," are satires of real people. The author in "Oedipus," "Herman Kaput," is a take-off on Truman Capote, whose first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms, received both acclaim and criticism for its sexual overtones. The author photo on the book's jacket, which shows Capote reclining seductively on a couch, is also satirized in the skit. "Trip of the Month," which became one of Lynde's most famous sketches, pokes fun at famed travel lecturer Burton Holmes, and the skit "Of Fathers and Sons" is a parody of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. Although the film's pressbook lists a skit entitled "Whither America? Or The Energy Contained in a Glass of Water Would Drive an Ocean Liner?" written by Luther Davis and John Cleveland and featuring Virginia de Luce, June Carroll and Jimmy Russell, that skit did not appear in the viewed print.
       The onscreen credits include Murray Grand, Ellisse Boyd, Alan Melville, Herber Farjeon and Peter DeVries among the composers of the show's songs, but their exact contribution to the completed picture has not been determined. A modern source includes the songs "Guess Who I Saw Today," by Grand and Boyd, and "We've Never Seen You Before," by Graham and DeVries, in the film's lineup, but they were not in the viewed print or the pressbook for the film deposited in the copyright records.
       Several reviews compared New Faces to the 1954 UA release Top Banana, which was also based on a Broadway show and was filmed as it was presented on stage. The two pictures were released the same week in New York. The performances in New Faces received mostly praise from film critics, although the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety reviewers asserted that the CinemaScope presentation and static camera work detracted from the intimacy and vitality of the original stage presentation. As noted by several reviews, the songs "C'est si bon," "Santa Baby" and "Uska Dara" did not appear in the stage version and were included in the film to capitalize on Kitt's growing popularity. According to Kitt's autobiography, she was paid $600 for her work in the film version of New Faces and was promised four percent of the profits, which she never received. In July 1953 Variety had reported that producer Sillman and some of the cast, including Graham, Kitt and Clary, would "be cut in on a participation plan."
       The film became the subject of a complicated lawsuit when, in February 1954, Alperson sought compensation for extra expenses he incurred during production. According to a February 17, 1954 Variety article, Alperson was seeking an "extra 20% of the profits for putting up an additional $50,000...to complete the picture." The article further explained that "with the cast and writers participating on a percentage deal, [the budget] was set at $200,000. Of this sum, $100,000 was obtained by a bank loan, with the remainder coming from private sources who contributed in a manner similar to investors in legit shows." Claiming that Alperson's original contract required him to supply any additional funds, the investors requested that distributor Twentieth Century-Fox withhold any payments to him until the matter was settled, according to March and April 1954 Variety and Daily Variety news items. Fox refused to become involved in the controversy, however, and maintained that the matter should be dealt with by Alperson and the investors.
       In early May 1953, co-producer Berman Swarttz and twenty-one other profit participants, including the film's cast and financial backers, filed suit against Alperson, National Pictures Corp. and Fox. The suit requested $1.9 million in damages and appointment of a receiver, and charged that Alperson had violated his contract by requesting more money, thereby depriving the other participants of their share of the profits. On May 26, 1954, Daily Variety reported that Alperson had dropped his request for the additional 20% of the profits, although Swarttz pressed on with the lawsuit in order to force Fox to "pay the profit percentage to each owner directly." According to a December 1960 Daily Variety news item, National Pictures Corp. was ordered by L.A.. Superior Court Judge Fletcher Bowron to pay $38,663 to six investors "as balance owed, if this against guarantee." It has not been determined, however was the final and complete outcome of the suit. According to a Variety news item, the picture was to be re-issued in 1975 by Walter Reade.