Wednesday, November 23, 2022


Selling It: Unusual Facts Revealed


What to do if you are a newspaper editor wanting to add a little Hollywood glamour to your paper, but you don't have the resources to buy a feature like Seein' Stars, Screen Oddities or even a celebrity gossip column? Never fear, Mr. Editor, just check your in-box. There you'll find freebies from some of the major Hollywood studios that fit the bill. 

While most of these freebies, ads disguised as entertainment, tried to hide their origin, you've got to give Columbia Pictures points for being forthright about Unusual Facts Revealed. It carried a 'syndicate stamp' for Columbia Feature Service, a nom de plume about as transparent as Hemming Ernestway. 

As with most of these freebies, determining start and end dates is pretty well impossible. Even if they came with release dates on the proofs, you can be sure any newspaper that was on the skids enough to use them ran them when they needed to fill a hole, even if it was ten years late, or running a whole page's worth of them in a single edition. I suppose if we wanted to make a life's work out of Unusual Facts Revealed we could examine the movies being flogged, check their release dates, and .... no, it's just too depressing to think about a time sink like that.  

My best fix on a start date, December 1 1933, is from the Moorhead County Press. The feature seemed to be available on a more or less weekly frequency through 1943*, I'm guessing with some gaps. It's not as if Columbia Pictures was overly concerned with guaranteeing papers an installment every single week.

The feature was credited as "by Movie Spotlight", and I'm going to go out on a limb and declare that's not someone's real name. Seldom was the art signed, and there were definitely a number of different artists involved, but Barrye Phillips did sign some early episodes (the top sample here is signed by him), and he occasionally admitted his involvement through sometime in 1935. I don't know much about him, but his work appeared on some paperback and magazine covers in the 1950s and 60s. He also did a stint on the Sunday strip Famous Fiction from 1944-46.  

After Phillips' departure the panel was unsigned for a long stretch, but then in 1939-40 Erwin Hess signed some. After that the feature was unsigned until its apparent end in 1943.

* Source: end year from Covington Virginian.



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