Showmen, Sell It Hot!

by John McElwee




ISBN: 978-0-9711685-9-6

July, 2013

hardcover with dust jacket
301 pages

125 full color and 244 B&W images





Praise for Showmen, Sell It Hot!


"Every chapter of this lavishly illustrated volume is packed with information that was new to me and fascinating to learn. I can't say enough about this entertaining book or the ongoing research John McElwee offers at his site."

Leonard Maltin

Author, Film Historian, and television personality


"Catnip for movie buffs, all told in an irresistible, wryly amusing voice... a must-read book!"

Lou Lumenick

Chief Film Critic
New York Post


After an initial browsing of John McElwee’s SHOWMEN, SELL IT HOT!, I realized this was a book that I wanted to sit down and thoroughly absorb each and every page. As a life-long film buff, I found the book’s subject matter to be both original and insightfully written. A major plus is the generous use of period visuals that were carefully chosen and assembled. In conclusion – ‘Great Stuff!’”

Rudy Behlmer

Film Historian and Author of Inside Warner

Bros. (1935-1951), Memo From David O. Selznick,

Memo From Darryl F. Zanuck  and many more

"John McElwee's Showmen, Sell It Hot! deals with the sensual business of selling a movie. It looks, feels, and smells like the lavish movie books of yore. It's elegantly designed, beautifully printed, and, as content should follow form, it's engagingly written, transporting the reader to a time when a theater manager had to be as much of a showman as the producer of the film he was exhibiting."


Mark A. Viera

Author of Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell

in the Glamour Capital, 1928-1937, Irving Thalberg:

Boy Wonder to Producer Prince, and many other books


The Story


Based on his million-visit blog and with new content and many rare and previously unseen images, Hollywood historian John McElwee takes a first-time look at the campaigns to sell the motion pictures generated by Hollywood's fabled movie factories. A network of showmen brought these campaigns to life on behalf of theatres large and small in thousands of locations around the United States and represented the unsung heroes of the motion picture industry. This lavishly illustrated, 304-page hardcover takes a marketing approach to the making and merchandising of important Hollywood pictures. Topics include:

  • Erich von Stroheim's mutilated Foolish Wives
  • Selling sex and salaciousness in the "pre-Code" era
  • The astonishing reissue success of King Kong
  • New sensations Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Flying Down to Rio
  • The Marx Brothers start over at MGM with A Night at the Opera
  • MGM's packaging of Saratoga following the death of Jean Harlow
  • The powerhouse 1938 combination of Dracula and Frankenstein
  • Jesse James holds up the box office for decades with strong regional selling
  • The making and selling of The Wizard of Oz in 1939 and its theatrical rebirth in 1948 and 1955 before television took over
  • The emergence of John Wayne as an 'A'-picture action star in Stagecoach
  • Maverick filmmaker Orson Welles strikes out with his Citizen Kane launch
  • World War II propaganda pictures and tag lines like "Slap the Jap"
  • The Val Lewton "Thinking-Man's Shockers"
  • The unusual campaign for an unusual picture about Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard
  • Billy Wilder's misfire, Ace in the Hole becomes The Big Carnival
  • The disastrous production and selling of the anti-Communist My Son John
  • John Huston's MGM Civil War debacle, The Red Badge of Courage
  • Selling Marlon Brando and his new kind of picture, On the Waterfront
  • Making sweet box-office music with the sanitized The Glenn Miller Story
  • The unexpected 1954 success of a Little Caesar/The Public Enemy double bill
  • Selling Rebel Without a Cause, Giant, and East of Eden after James Dean's death
  • A new genre, "Fashion Noir," takes off with Midnight Lace and Portrait in Black
  • Alfred Hitchcock's big gamble: Psycho
  • Ghoulish, hijinx-laden campaigns for Hammer vampire pictures
  • Selling the shocker, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
  • The brilliance of the Bonnie and Clyde ad campaign

See the effects of the Depression, censorship, World War II, the Cold War, television, and the counterculture movement on the changing tastes of moviegoers, and the way showmen responded with creative and sometimes zany concepts. With 125 full color and 244 black-and-white images, this is a volume that will leave you wanting more!


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