The Weirdest Double Feature Ever?

7 Oct

The above ad appeared in The New York Times on Sunday, March 30, 1969.

Imagine going to a movie theater and seeing these two posters advertising the evening’s double bill:

One of these films is sooooo not like the other.

GONE WITH THE WIND was, of course, the Oscar-winning Best Picture of 1939 and winner of nine other Oscars and, at the time, the highest earning film at the U.S. box office in history. I don’t know how many times it had been re-released in the U.S. before 1969, but it made a ton of money each time.  I, in fact, first saw the film during this run (but not at this drive-in).

PSYCHO-CIRCUS was a retitling of the 1966 English-German thriller, CIRCUS OF FEAR, about a series of murders at a circus. The major names in the cast were Christopher Lee, Leo Genn, Klaus Kinski, and Suzy Kendall. The original version was shot in color and ran 91 minutes, but according to IMDB: “The 1967 USA release was in black and white and edited down to 65 minutes for bookings on the lower half of the bill.” So if you went to this double feature primarily for this film, you got the short end of the stick.

My guess is that the Whitestone and Sunrise Drive-ins, one in the Bronx and one on Long Island, needed a short feature that could be rented cheaply to start the evening so that the drive-in could fill up with cars by the time the nearly four-hour GONE WITH THE WIND played, since the extreme length of GWTW would have prohibited all but one showing per night. Let’s say that PSYCHO-CIRCUS started as soon as it got dark around 7:45 or 8:00 PM. Those who arrived early got to see something while waiting for the main feature. By 9:00 PM, everyone who wanted to see GWTW had paid their admission and driven in, not having missed much by arriving only for GWTW, and then, hopefully, staying to the end for that memorable closing, at approximately 1:00 AM.

Are there any connections between the two films? Yes.

Two actors in the cast of PSYCHO-CIRCUS, Leo Genn and Cecil Parker, had previously acted in films with Vivien Leigh, the star (and Oscar-winning Best Actress) of GONE WITH THE WIND. Leigh had starred as Cleopatra in CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA (1945) and both Genn and Parker had appeared in supporting roles in that film.

Additionally, Parker had appeared in two of Leigh’s earliest films, DARK JOURNEY (1937) and STORM IN A TEACUP (1937).

Also, Vivien Leigh and Leo Genn were both nominated for acting Oscars in the same year, 1951. Leigh won Best Actress for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and Genn was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for QUO VADIS, but lost to Leigh’s STREETCAR co-star, Karl Malden.

 

Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951)

 

Leo Genn, Marina Berti, Robert Taylor in QUO VADIS (1951)

Vivien Leigh in GONE WITH THE WIND:

Leo Genn:

Cecil Parker:

The Whitestone Drive-in was the only drive-in I ever attended and I went there only once–in 1978.

Image result for whitestone drive-in

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