After appearing as a heavy in Republic’s “Flying Disc Man from Mars” (‘51) against his real life friend Walter Reed, and a minor Mountie role in “Canadian Mounties Vs. Atomic Invaders” (‘53), Republic vaulted Harry Lauter to the lead spot in “Trader Tom of the China Seas” (‘55) and “King of the Carnival” (‘55)—Republic’s 4th from the last and final serials.
Herman Arthur Lauter was born June 19, 1914, in White Plains, NY, to a circus aerialist family. The family moved to Colorado (and later San Diego, CA) when Harry was quite young. While still in school he began working as a radio announcer, then became involved in summer stock. Spotted performing in “The Voice of the Turtle” at Martha’s Vineyard, he was put under contract to Fox where for a year he did practically nothing. Asking for a release, he began to freelance, primarily in Westerns.
In the mid-‘70s Harry told interviewer Jim Hitt, “I never watch myself. When I first came out I would go to see the rushes every day, and I found that I’m such a critic that I’d see one day’s rushes and I’d think—‘Why did I do that?’ The next day I’d do something different, so by the end of the picture I’d wind up having done eight different characteriza-tions. We should have our serials again. It was a great thing for people. We could get away from our normal life, our living every day. We all have enough problems as it is. We were making
“Republic was a great one for cutting corners to save money. For instance on ‘King of the Carnival’ they had this trapeze work. I was only going to be 12 feet up in the air, but as far as the camera was concerned I was at the top of the tent. I had to go from one platform to the other. A couple of days before we shot the scene I asked if I could get the setup to practice. I was told no, they couldn’t afford
it. I would get it the day we shot. I did do many of my own stunts. There was one episode in ‘King of the Carnival’ I remember very vividly. I was supposed to slide down this guide wire which stretched about 70 feet from the top of the stage down to the bottom where some mattresses were piled up. I had rigged up a pipe over the wire and taped it. A wardrobe man told me I had better tuck in my tie. I was in a full suit at the time. I was in a hurry to get the shot and I said no, let’s go ahead and get it over with. They took me up on a camera boom, right to the top of the stage. I leaned over the wire, the director asked if I was ready, and I said let’s do it. I grabbed the pipe, started to slide, the tie went into the pipe and wrapped around the cable which jerked my arms loose. I’m strangling. Fortunately, the boom came up right between my legs and lifted me up. Otherwise I could see the trades carrying the story the next morning, ‘Lauter Killed in Freak Accident.’ But most of the things that happened to me then were well controlled. I was working with stuntmen Davy Sharpe and Jock Mahoney. Both were the best in the business. The only time I was ever hurt was by another actor, never by a stuntman. I refuse to do things with actors because they get to believe their own reviews. I worked with every stuntman in the business and grabbed a little bit off each one. But to me Davy Sharpe is the best all around. He could do almost anything.”
Leading lady Jane Adams called Lucille Lund, “A special, elegant lady and a very dear friend. She contributed much to our field.” Beautiful blonde Lucille was born June 3, 1912, in Buckley, WA, (near Tacoma). She graduated from Northwestern University.
Originally contracted to Universal, based on a COLLEGE HUMOR magazine contest, she gained notoriety in Edgar Ulmer’s “Black Cat” (‘34 Universal) and Richard Talmadge’s “Pirate Treasure” serial (‘34 Universal). Lucille said, “I didn’t want to do that serial at the time. It was considered the end-of-the-road for an actress, but in retrospect, I now see it was very good. The stunts were performed by the
Lucille was an outright heavy…a villainess in her second serial, the 15 chapter “Blake of Scotland Yard” in ‘37 for producer Sam Katzman, well known for his tight-fistedness with a dollar. “It was shot as both a serial and a feature, but the whole thing didn’t make any sense. There is a scene in the serial where I’m to go over a cliff into the water. Sam wanted me to wear my own dress, but I refused! Sam was very funny, but a bit chintzy. He’d want you to work in your own clothes to cut down on wardrobe expenses. He also brought furniture from his own house to dress a set. You’d see notes in the script, ‘Mr. Katzman’s own radio to be used here.’ (Laughs) The budgets were shoestring!”
At 89, Lucille died February 16, 2002, at a hospital near her home in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.
"The Hope Diamond Mystery"
“The Hope Diamond Mystery” features Boris Karloff in one of his earliest major roles. The 15 chapter Kosmik Films silent serial, released in 1921, has not been seen in over 90 years but is now available on DVD from Serial Squadron for $42.12 postpaid, Eric Stedman, 440 S. State St., G-6, Newtown, PA 18940-1973 or online for $32.45 postpaid at <www.serialsquadron.com>
Based on the true story of the discovery and curse of the Hope Diamond from a temple in Burma in the 16th Century, the actors play dual roles in the past and present, with Karloff cast as both the High Priest of the Temple of Sita, and Dakar, a Hindu in the present day who may be his reincarnation and wants to return the diamond to its ancestral home.
Sidney Atherton (played by Harry Carter), a high-class crook with mind-control powers who masquerades in different identities, including that of Asian underworld leader Nang Fu, wants the diamond for himself and uses every method
Lady Francis Hale, the real-life last owner of the coveted gem, appears in the serial in its chapter introductions and closings.
For the real-life story of the Hope Diamond and Lady Francis consult Wikipedia.
For Batman 1943 was a big year because he was going to appear in both his first movie serial and the start of his own newspaper comic strip. Columbia Pictures released the first episode of its “Batman” serial on July 16, 1943. It starred Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin. J. Carrol Naish played the villain, a character named Dr. Daka, a Japanese spy working in America. The film is the first time Batman appeared outside the comics and his first movie appearance. It introduced what was called “The Bat’s Cave” and its secret entrance through a grandfather clock inside Wayne Manor. Both of these were to become standard parts of the Batman comics mythos. This serial also changed how Alfred Pennyworth’s physical appearance would be shown in future Batman comics. Alfred first appeared as a somewhat overweight butler in BATMAN #16 on sale in February 1943 prior to the serial’s release. After William Austin’s appearance as a slim Alfred with a mustache in the serial, National Comics redesigned their Alfred to look the same, starting with DETECTIVE COMICS #83 (January 1944).
1943 also saw the debut of Batman in his first newspaper comic strip, the first daily appearing on Monday, October 25, 1943, carried by the McClure Newspaper Syndicate. This strip represents the last and possibly largest solo body of work that Bob Kane penciled completely by himself. It featured stories by all the big Batman writers and artists of the time including writers Bill Finger and Jack Schiff and artists Dick Sprang and Jack Burnley. Most of Batman’s rogue gallery as it existed at the time appeared at some point during the run either in a daily story line or a Sunday one. According to Joe Desris in his wonderful Kitchen Sink reprint of the entire run of both the daily and Sunday strips, only 33 newspapers have been documented as having carried the strip and not all of them carried it all together at the same time. There was no mention of the coming appearance of the comic strip in any of the advertising for the serial according to Joe.
Despite that fact there is a good possibility the “Batman” serial and the Batman newspaper strip could be linked together. In the ‘43 Batman serial press kit a promotional mask was advertised for movie theaters to give out to kids attending their showings of the serial during the summer of ‘43. This same mask would show up again because in the fall of ‘43, around the time the newspaper comic strip made its first appearance and to promote the start of the Batman newspaper comic strip, a Batman mask was given out according to Joe, by the PHILADELPHIA RECORD,one of the bigger newspapers carrying the strip and it was the same mask shown in the serial press kit. It measured 5 1/2” by 8 1/2” and according to Joe the mask itself was designed and made to order by a Philadelphia costuming company to the tune of 250,000 copies of the mask. The back of the mask promotes the carrying of the strip by the PHILADELPHIA RECORD and the art was most certainly done by the DC staff. Joe notes the RECORD gave out the mask at a Halloween party in their office building in ‘43 according to a press release by the paper. Joe says the mask was also given out by dealers and newspaper carriers. Further increasing the possible tie-in to the movie serial is the fact there are two versions of this mask, both the same but with one exception. One version of it has the name Batman across the top front and while the other has that same Batman logo but below it says “State Theatre new serial starts Monday 22 each Monday after plus Deanna Durbin in ‘Her’s To Hold’.” The movie opened on July 16, 1943, the same date the Batman movie serial was released but the mask also says a new serial was going to begin on Monday the 22nd and one could presume, by just reading the mask and knowing nothing else, in July, given the release date of both the Durbin movie and the serial.
I found several possible candidates for the theatre in question but I believe the most likely is the State Theatre movie house that was located at 105 South 52nd Street in Philadelphia. The State Theatre was one of the most magnificent Art Deco style movie palaces ever built. The State Theatre was demolished in 1967, and today a McDonald’s Restaurant stands on the site.
Now July 16, 1943, was a Friday and as stated above, the front of the State Theatre mask says a new serial was opening on Monday the 22nd but there were only three days in 1943 that the 22nd falls on a Monday, the first in February, the second in March, neither of which could have been the date the mask is referring to as they are just too soon before the movie and strip began, and the third in November which seems to be the most likely date.
Either version of this mask today is considered one of the rarest of all the non-comic book Batman collectibles from the ‘40s but as noted above 250,000 of them were supposedly printed just for the RECORD. What happened to all of them? Well, they were made of paper and certainly war time paper collection drives scooped up large portions of them. Since they were made for kids to be worn they were not going to last long and if they were inserted in newspapers sold by venders and newsstands they would not have been used for anything except perhaps place markers by adults who did not have any kids in their reading of the RECORD. Are there caches of them sitting in some storage warehouse today never handed out but waiting to be found? It’s possible, but to date that type of discovery has not yet been made. Reproductions of the mask appear on eBay and while the dealers I have seen selling them identify them as copies, that might not be true of everyone offering one, so be careful.
Excerpted from an online SCOOP (9/26) article by collector and Overstreet Advisor Art Cloos.