Today movies just “Open”— and then everybody checks the weekend grosses the following Monday.

But in Hollywood’s heydey movies “Premiered.”  When the studios ran the industry they realized they could get maximum publicity for a film if they opened it with great fanfare and had major stars appear in person at the theater.

Joe Morella and Frank Segers back again with reflections on Classic Movie premiers — big, splashy and often more entertaining that the pictures themselves.

Joe once had one of the sweetest studio jobs.  Supervising the openings of new films.

Movie Premieres were still big in the 1960’s when Joe worked for Universal Pictures. Those were still the days when generating hoopla around a movie premiere was regarded as “exploitation.” Some studios actually had executives in charge, as in “vice president of publicity and exploitation.”

Of course, Hollywood output usually got more publicity in smaller cities rather than in more sophisticated (aka more jaded) urban centers, so films were often taken to regional outposts in such states as Texas, and opened simultaneously in several cities at once.

Certainly a publicity tour of the Lone Star state was a natural for the 1966 film “Texas Across the River.” The star, Dean Martin, was saved for the Big Premiere in Dallas.

However, a minor actor from the film — in this case Peter Graves, who was a TV name due to “Flicka” (this was years before “Mission Impossible”) — was dispatched to the work smaller cities, along with a beautiful starlet from Universal’s vast reservoir of lovelies.

A few lines about “Texas Across The River.” Its is totally forgettable comedy western in which Martin’s eclectic costars included French actor Alain Delon and comedian Joey Bishop. Graves, the younger brother of “Gunsmoke’s” James Arness, plays one Captain Rodney Stimson, and given to delivering such lines as “Take it easy, Yancy. You got a wedding to go to.”

Joe toured with Peter Graves and Marianne Gordon for a week through Texas before they joined the other stars in Dallas for the BIG NIGHT. (Gordon was an actress who later married and divorced singer Kenny Rogers.)

The above shot is a VERY RARE PHOTO from Morella’s private collection.

That’s Graves waving to his adoring public at an event billed as the Texas Rose Festival. Gordon is seated to the right.  And, if you look closely (get out the magnifying glass) you’ll see a handsome, well-clad young man seated in the front passenger seat.

Yup, that’s Joe.

We wonder why film premieres are a thing of the past.  Don’t you?  They were such fun.

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