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Queen for a Day

Queen for a Day(1951)

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The opening credits on the viewed print begin, "Robert Stillman Productions present three American stories." The actual title Queen for a Day does not appear on this print, although all the reviews, news items, PCA and copyright material concerning the film have that title. The radio program Queen for a Day was created by the Raymond R. Morgan Agency. It began on April 29, 1945 on the Mutual Broadcasting Network and became a top-rated daytime show. It made its television debut on January 5, 1950. According to news items, rights to produce a film using the show, with host Jack Bailey appearing, were purchased in 1947 by Seymour Nebenzal. In March 1949, Jesse Lasky and Walter MacEwan closed a deal with Morgan to make the film on a participation basis with the agency. In December 1949, the rights were sold by Morgan to Robert Stillman, who the next month acquired the O. Henry Memorial Award-winning story "High Diver" by John Ashworth, a Columbia University professor, planning at that time to make a separate film based on that story after Queen for a Day. "The Gossamer World" by Faith Baldwin was purchased for use in the film by Stillman in February 1950. According to a Los Angeles Times news item, he wanted to cast five-year-old Mickey Rooney, Jr. in the role of the boy, but his father refused to allow it. The story "Horsie" by Dorothy Parker was purchased in June 1950.
       Charlotte Greenwood was originally considered for the role of "Ella Wilmarth," according to Los Angeles Times. Variety noted that the film was the "first of a bevy of American films due this year comprising series of short stories linked by a unifying theme" and explained the trend by referring to the recent success of the British films Quartet and Trio, and the European trilogy Ways of Love. (The 1952 release It's a Big Country was one of these films; see entry above.) According to Variety, the film was plugged on the show for a year previous to its release, and the show held a "Queen City" contest to select a city for the premiere. According to Daily Variety, the film did not do well at the box office after several test openings, and on July 7, 1951, United Artists released it under the title Horsie with a new ad campaign to link director Arthur Lubin with his previous successful "Frances" pictures. The episode "The Gossamer World" was filmed at a house in Reseda. The company rented the carnival show of the Pan-American Amusement Corp. and set it up at a vacant lot at the corner of Beverly and La Cienega in Los Angeles, for scenes in the episode "High Diver." The high dive from 110 feet into 6 feet of water was accomplished by Sol Solomon, who insisted on 6 feet, rather than the 4 feet called for in the script. The broadcast studio scenes were shot at the Mutual Broadcasting Station.
       Queen for a Day marked the motion picture debut of actors Leonard Nimoy and Adam Williams. According to news items, Stillman discovered Williams working at a Los Angeles Thrifty Drug Store as a soda jerk. The film also marked the American motion picture debut of Israeli actor Albert Ben-Astar, who also worked in films under the name Ben Astar. Edith Meiser, a Broadway actress, was having her teeth "bucked" to prepare for her role in the "Horsie" segment, according to Los Angeles Examiner. According to International Photographer, a number of silent stars played audience members at the "Queen for a Day" studio, including Gertrude Astor, Leah Baird and Kathleen Key.
       Reviews were critical of the film and its concept. Cue commented, "Each story fatuously, unctuously and smugly relates how the big-hearted sponsors of this program play God." Variety stated that the direction and script "are attempts at telling the stories broadly, on a lowest-common-denominator basis, rather than playing for sharp, incisive wittiness or delicate character portrayals of both Miss Parker and Ashworth in their original yarns." Hollywood Reporter stated that "taken separately, [the stories] are representative art pieces-fine for a limited audience interested in short story screen technique, camera work, and performances by unknowns.... But why wrap it up as Queen for a Day!"