by Jim McAllister
With the Thanksgiving season just a week in the past it only seems appropriate to list some "turkey" movies that have haunted us through the years and right up to the present. Usually the terms "turkey" and "money loser" are partners so I am working with that assumption. Some of these actually seemed like a good idea at the time while others gave rise to the question, "What in the world were they thinking?".
In the early days of motion pictures, there was a kind of "wing it" approach when it came to trying to come up with something the audiences might enjoy. After all, the movie business was a new entry on the entertainment scene so some trial and error was in order. Later on, when sound entered the business, a whole new set of rules applied.
So, what are some of these great ideas that turned into losers? It would take a book larger than "War and Peace" and all of James Michener’s epics combined to list them all so I will go strictly from what stands out in my memory.
Katharine Hepburn was in a slump in the mid to late 1930's. She just couldn’t seem to click in any project and then along came "Sylvia Scarlett" in 1935. In this one she is on the lamb with her father (Edmund Gwenn) so she disguises herself as a boy when they join a touring show. It kind of sounds like a couple of real winners from the early 1980's that made a fortune from the same basic theme: "Victor, Victoria" and "Tootsie". Unfortunately, this was the 1930's, an era with very different attitudes about such things, and "Sylvia Scarlett" was a flop with a cost of over $1,000,000 and a net loss of $363,000 in Great Depression dollars. This was a loss that was hard for struggling RKO studios to take and Hepburn was fired assuring her of a few more years of being considered "box office poison".