Kroger Babb & The Prince of Peace (1948)

I have this fascination with Kroger Babb, who was a movie producer/director from the early days of film. He is known as the King of the Roadshow. He would take his movie on the road from town to town renting out local movie houses and creating events worthy of attracting crowds.

His movies not spectacular, but he was the consummate salesman. He was very good at creating a compelling narrative that brought people into the theaters in droves.

Attached is an advertisement for one of his films, “The Prince of Peace”. This rare surviving page is on an 11″x 17″ page that could be folded in half and mailed to the theater in advance of his arrival. They would typically bring hundreds of these and staple them up all over town to drum up attendance. The item could also be handed out on the street. During the intermission Kroger would sell Bibles and other spiritual literature.

Babb’s associates agreed with his belief that “Nothing’s hopeless if it’s advertised right”, stating that he “could take any piece of junk and sell it.”[4] One film Babb presented in the 1950s was centered on an annual passion play and the story behind putting it on, filmed in 1948 in Lawton, Oklahoma. Initially called The Lawton Story and filmed in Cinecolor, the film was so cheaply, shoddily and quickly made that telephone poles could be seen behind the crucifix. Its cast consisted of local non-professionals whose Oklahoma twangs were so thick that all of their lines had to re-recorded by professional voice-over actors; upon release, one reviewer described it as “the only film that had to be dubbed from English to English.”[4] In addition to re-dubbing it, Babb re-edited and re-titled it The Prince of Peace; it was so successful that the New York Daily News called it “the Miracle of Broadway.”[4]
Source for last paragraph: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kroger_Babb

 

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