‘THE MARCH OF TIME’–A 1930 D.O.A. MUSICAL

Why, you may ask, are we watching a women’s prison musical number called ‘The Lockstep’ featuring an act known as ‘The Dodge Twins’ photographed in two-strip Technicolor on a lavishly vertical set (if one can refer to a prison as ‘lavish’) accompanied by dozens of imprisoned chorus girls all gaily dancing the newest dance fad? Let me explain.

Abandoned films have long been a queer obsession of mine. Hence my decades long ambition to host the ‘D.O.A. (dead on arrival) Film Festival’, an event exclusively devoted to showing the fragments of unfinished movies. As a specialist in the field I thought I knew most of the lost children. The obvious ones–Von Sternberg’s ‘I Claudius’, Welles’ ‘It’s All True’–are cinephile 101 stuff but there are many seriously obscure titles as well. Which leads me to this abandoned 1930 musical that somehow escaped me all these years. Originally titled ‘Hollywood Revue of 1930’ to capitalize on the box office success of ‘Hollywood Revue of 1929’, the name of the film was changed during production to ‘The March Of Time’. It was, like its predecessor, essentially an inflated vaudeville show with the many performers under contract to MGM contributing bits, sketches and routines. The unifying theme seems to have been three separate time periods and different styles of performances in those times. Hence the title, which was not yet the title of the ubiquitous newsreel series. Alas, fashions changed overnight and after shooing began in the fall of 1929 the box-office appetite for musicals took a sharp nose-dive and the studio canned the already-in-production movie. The films stars–Buster Keaton, Ramon Navarro, Cliff Edwards, Weber and Fields, Polly Moran, Marie Dressler and even very young Bing Crosby (who apparently performed a ditty called ‘Poor Little G-String’)–were left high and dry and moved onto other things.

In order to salvage the $750,000 that had already been spent on the film, MGM announced plans to use the footage in a planned project starring Jimmy Durante that was to be released in 1932. That project was also abandoned. The footage later found its way into the musical shorts The Devil’s Cabaret (1930), Crazy House (1930), Nertsery Rhymes(1933), Hello Pop! (1933) and Jail Birds of Paradise (1934). MGM’s 1931 musical revue Wir schalten um auf Hollywood (We Tune In to Hollywood), produced for the German market, also featured many sequences from The March of Time. MGM considered foreign versions for the French and Spanish speaking markets as well, but the box office failure of The Hollywood Revue of 1929 in France eliminated that possibility. The Technicolor finale of March of Time along with some black-and-white sequences were included in Broadway to Hollywood (1933).Footage from the unfinished film also appears in That’s Entertainment! III (1994).

Which leaves us with the ‘Dodge Twins’ or ‘Dodge Sisters’ as they were sometimes billed. I wish I had the energy to discuss them but this link will suffice and tell you more than you ever thought you needed to know about this long forgotten (but really quite good) sister act.

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