Monday, January 18, 2010

Boomer Nostalgia: The Million Dollar Movie

Many of us who remember the Fifties are really just trying to remember them, they’re not really clear to us anymore. We’re struggling to remember our own experiences, and fit them in to what we can remember or read about the details of that long-ago world. (Insert clever, facetious remark about getting older.)

I remember the Million Dollar Movie, but it’s hard to believe that I am remembering it correctly. Did they really show the same movie twice every evening from Monday to Friday, and then three times a day on Saturday and Sunday? The same movie? Sixteen times in the same week? How could they do that? That’s what they did, though, on WOR, channel nine in New York, in the Fifties.

I know that I watched King Kong five or six times in the same week. I remember sitting in Mrs. Lepkeoger’s third grade class dreaming about the movie, and trying to recreate it in my imagination shot by shot, line by line, after I’d seen it a few times. That was 1956, I know that we had a TV then, but it’s hard to believe that I could watch King Kong from seven to eight thirty every weeknight, night after night. What were my parents doing? I know that my father stopped coming home from work at some point, began coming home very late every night, or travelling for days, and thinking about the Million Dollar Movie I suppose that it had happened already when King Kong was showing. But I know he came home sometimes, I know that in ’56 I could still ask him to pick me up a copy of some rock and roll record that I’d heard on the radio. And what about my mother? Did she just watch King Kong with me? Over and over again? My little sister was about four years old, what was she doing? It was a smallish apartment. Boy, I still love that movie.

My little family drama was very ordinary, but it’s amazing to think that a New York City television station, in the Fifties, thought that it was a good idea to show the same movie all week, and kept to that schedule for many years, and made money doing it.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

The theme song of "Million Dollar Movie" is burned deep into my memory, no doubt from having heard it ad infinitum times. Or is that umpteen times? King Kong and, not to forget, RODAN, and Godzilla, were the best!

fred c said...

Multiple viewings of Godzilla I remember well, 1958, I think, because we moved that year and I watched it at the new place.

I also remember loving "I Married a Witch," with Veronica Lake, and "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid." (Mr. Peabody?)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Peabody--wasn't he played by Leo G. Carol? (Topper)...I remember that mermaid movie, too.

It was years later that I learned the "Million Dollar Movie" theme was the theme from "Gone With The Wind." Another favorite TV theme song was The Late Show's--can you remember it? I'll save you the brain stress. It was "The Syncopated Clock." You'll recognize it the second you hear it.

-Ed (if you didn't know)

Anonymous said...

the syncopated clock--always makes me sleepy--

http://attmp3.com/music/percy-faith-syncopated-clock-famous-early-50s_66ee2c.html

fred c said...

I remember The Syncopated Clock very well, but I can't conjur up the Million Dollar Movie theme. Not a big Gone With the Wind fan, I guess. I just kind of remember the sweeping tone of it, without the details.

Anonymous said...

It starts about 25 seconds in--the theme for "Million Dollar Movie" -- how could you forget it??

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cITmlbQKCgI

Anonymous said...

See and hear also--

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnX00UuHJFA

Anonymous said...

I am trying to remember a Movie i saw inthe mid 50's on the Million Dollar Movie. It was about a guy who could walk thru walls and doors but would lose his power. I tried 4-D man, but it wasnt the movie I hopeed it would be. Have no idea who was in it. I will try TOPPER. The guy wasnt a ghost tho>. Help

fred c said...

Now I know how the workers in the video rental places feel!

BobK said...

I remember 3 movies on "million dollar movie" the creature black the black lagoon, the return of the creature and the creature walk a among us. Every month or so (so it would seem) Yankee Doody Dandy.

brian said...

i remember the movie with the guy who could walk through walls! It starred robert lansing, who i always think of with sci-fi themed movies and shows...it was called the 4-D Man...because he controlled the 4th dimension...what a way-back moment!

brian said...

i remember Mothra...star-man...remember john agar in "the brain from planet aurus?" my brother and I would watch those any time they came on...loved it when the brain went in the dog...:) what a hoot!

fred c said...

It's great to see that people are still enjoying posts from nine months ago. Thanks for your comments, Brian!

Anonymous said...

those were the "tender" years of our lives and with "faith," we shall all have them back, one day...

Kelly said...

I saw Yankee Doodle Dandy on TCM last night. I watch it whenever I can. It was one that I watched over and over on the Million Dollar Movie. My mother would ask if I was watching that same movie, but it never got old.. Now many years later, I still love it. Mr Peabody and the Mermaid was also a favorite. It's good to know others remember these movies so fondly.

wbhist said...

"M$M" aired the same movie every night for a week up to 1968. In September of that year, WOR tried to wean itself off of old movies and attempted to have a prime-time lineup of talk shows (including an ill-fated local-based program, "Sound Off!," hosted by Malachy McCourt), but that whole concept went kablooey within three weeks; after that, "M$M" (which, in that interim, was relegated to weekends only) came back as a weeknight show - except in this new incarnation they showed a different movie each night. Incredibly, "M$M" lasted longer in this format (up to a year or two into its run as WWOR after 1987) than it did showing the same film every night for a week.

Prior to WOR upgrading its transmitting facilities to color in 1960, with the addition of RCA TK-26 film chains for showing of color films and slides, "M$M's" theme was the theme from the 1952 film "Ivanhoe." It's possible that the changeover to "Tara's Theme" from "GWTW" coincided with the addition of color (interestingly, WOR was the first indie commercial station in NYC to air any kind of color, in 1960, but the last to have full color [that is, all live local and taped color], starting in late 1967, following WPIX and WNEW-TV which, though it was the last commercial VHF to go color [starting in fall 1965 via film, slides and tape], was the first to have full live studio color [with their purchase of Norelco PC-70's in 1966]).

MissLacey Lisa said...

But, what was the theme song from the Million Dollar Movie, circa 1960s? It featured whistling. Would someone please answer the question? We've been looking for this a LONG time!

tina benez said...

Yes I think ur right about them showing them 16 times a week. I remember watching King Kong too in Pgh PA over and over! As well as Auntie Mame! What a Double feature! LOL!!! Great Blog!;D Thanks! All the best and Happy Holidays!;)

McMolly said...

Hello, it's surprising to find these cool comments. My younger bro and I watched this show, all day on Saturdays when left alone. It was about the mid 60's. Living in Costa Mesa, CA. Our favorite of all favorites was that Genghis Khan, or Mongols movie. After shis-ka-bobbing 6 soldiers on a long spear, remember when all soldiers walked by emptying their pockets of gold coins amounting enormous mounds? Their leader was violent! Was thid the Mongol, movie? Well, we could not get enough of the story acting scenes. Any comments out there? Today, we are 62, and 60 years of age...

EmpressDR said...

For those who want to hear the theme it is on YOuTube, last time I heard. Whistling on the theme song? I will presume you are ot confusing this with The NBC Mystery Movie. Another poster said the MDM theme used to be from Ivanhoe, so I do not know what that sounds like.
I too remembered lines from Mr Peabody and the Mermaid (It's a people bite!" when the mermaid bit the girl on the ankle). I wonder if Peabody and Sherman owes the dog's name to that film?

Anonymous said...

I. Remember watching. The. Giant. Behemoth

Gary Zaboly said...

Actually TARA'S THEME was the Million Dollar Movie theme as far back as 1956. I know...I was there. The first opening graphic was a movie clapboard with the MDM logo imprinted on it, rising over the NYC skyline as Tara's Theme played. It was very dramatic, and unforgettable.

gary zaboly said...

That was the Russian fantasy film, THE SWORD AND THE DRAGON. I remember it well!

Frank Frankino said...

Does anyone remember a B&W science fiction B movie, probably from the 50's or early 60's where towards the end the plot was in a time loop where the action kept repeating faster and faster. I remember it was kind of comical and involved robot parts coming off a conveyor belt.
Trying to find it on the web, but that's all I can remember. Any suggestions as to the name?

McMolly said...

FOR GARY:


Thank you so much for the title of that 1960 fantasy movie!
"The Sword and the Dragon"

I kept returning to the other similar title of "The Sword and the Stone" but I knew that wasn't right.

Today I found your reply so I just watched It!

Molly

Gene Berkman said...

I grew up in Southern California and watched "Million Dollar Movie" when I got home from school. When it started they showed the same movie twice a day and 3 times a day on Saturday and Sunday. Then they increased it, so for years they showed the same movie every day, Monday through Friday, at 12:00 noon, 5:00 PM and 9:00 PM, and then 4 times on Saturday and 5 times on Sunday.

They had a limited number of movies so they showed the same ones regularly. I watched "Godzilla", "King Kong", and "1984" dozens of times. They also showed war movies - "Manila Calling", "Guadalcanal Diary" and "One Minute to Zero" fairly often. Since I liked these movies I was happy to watch them over and over, but it would be hard to maintain an audience these days.

Anonymous said...

I lived in NY until I was 13 so "Million Dollar Movie" was something I remember. I loved any movie with Robert Ryan or Joseph Cotton. I watched all the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies; my favorite was "The Story Of Vernon & Irene Castle". Watched it 16 times in a week during the summer. When they played it again sometime later, watched it 16 more times! Funny trivia - when "Gone With The Wind" was re-released in 1966, my new husband & I went to the drive-in for a double feature, They paired up "Gone With The Wind" & "How the West Was Won, no less; totaling approx. 5-6 hours of cinema magic. We missed the first showing of Gone With The Wind, so we went to the 10 P.M. show seeing "How The West Was Won" first; then intermission, then Gone With The Wind. When the movie started and I heard "Tara's Theme, the first thing out of my mouth was "That's the theme from Million Dollar Movie!" It took years, but one of my childhood mysteries was finally solved!

Harriet Andrade said...

I recall getting acquainted with some classic noir, possibly DOA. I also got engrossed in Hard, Fast and Beautiful, directed by Ida Lupino. So grateful to that program and station.

Dolly45rpm said...

My Father would come home about 7-7:30 every night, and we would be watching Million Dollar Movie AGAIN!! He would comment something like “for Chrissakes are you watching that same movie AGAIN!! We would watch every single night IF it was King Kong , Jimmy Cagney,or Fred and Ginger..it didn’t matter, we were well-rounded that way LOL it would be us kids and my Grandmother..I miss those days, that New York, and all my family together.

lesquick said...

this is not the origanl opining for mdm....the 60s version had a man going down a esqulator, a man making change at a paper stand and a phone dangling off the hook...and taras theam was played at a different pace

Unknown said...


les quick-There was actually an older version from the mid late 50s that showed a still shot of a clapperboard with the words Million Dollar Movies written on it. And if memory serves behind the clapperboard was a still-shot of the NYC skyline. And Tara's Theme was a softer, more mellow version. Also when they aired the movie King Kong, in place of the clapperboard they had a still-shot of King Kong towering over the NYC skyline. I have tried to find that original version of Tara's Theme but have had no success. I remeber it aired on WOR channel 9 and it had two showings - one at 7pm and then again around 10pm.

William Thompson said...

Whistling in the MDM theme? That was the opening theme from "The High And The Mighty," composed by Dmitri Tiomkin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJb5rizD6ao