Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Scriptos in Times Square

Killer's Kiss (1955), written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, is a great film noir. Running only 67 minutes, it feels like a longer, fuller film, as it's told largely in images: fight posters, dance-hall posters, photographs tucked into the edges of a mirror, a doll tethered to a bed railing, a tile staircase. Boxer Davy Gordon and dance-hall girl Gloria Price (played by Jamie Smith and Irene Kane) meet, fall in love, and become the targets of jealous dance-hall owner Vincent Rapallo (played by Frank Silvera). There are great scenes of Times Square at night and a brutal fight in a mannequin warehouse.

Above, a still from a Times Square scene with Davy and Gloria. Imagine: an electric sign for Scripto mechanical pencils in Times Square. In 1955, people took their pencils seriously. But even better: the sign has moving parts and becomes, as Davy and Gloria talk, an advertisement for ballpoint pens: 29¢, same price as the pencils.

If you're wondering what the sign on the left is advertising, it's Himberama, "a sleight-of-hand musical revue" under the direction of orchestra leader and magician Richard Himber. Note the changing position of the rabbit: this sign too has moving parts. In another shot, the snappy slogans are readable: "A HARE RAISIN' SHOW," "THE 4D PRODUCTION."

I'm indebted to the New York Times obituary for Richard Himber (1966) and two articles from American Speech, John Lotz's "The Suffix '-Rama'" (1954) and the unattributed "Some Popular Components of Trade Names" (1958), in working out the mysteries of Himberama (save for that fourth dimension). The phrase "a sleight-of-hand musical revue" is from the Times.

Related post
Is there a pencil in The House ? (on pencils in The House on 92nd Street)

comments: 2

stephen said...

A nice discovery.

Thanks for sharing this.

JuliaR said...

I love mechanical pencils because they never need sharpening. I even use them for drawing. Mine appear to be made by Pilot and Sanford. But Scripto is a more evocative brand name.