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Hail 'Caesar'

October 30, 1994

Regarding " 'Caesar' Played the Game Before 'Quiz,' " by Patt Morrison (Film Clips, Oct. 16):

What a delight to read an article about one of my all-time favorite films, "Champagne for Caesar." I thought I may be one of a handful of people who not only remember this film but think it is top-notch fare.

I watched it numerous times when it was first on TV many moons ago and finally taped it to have it in my collection. It's always an enjoyable experience.

I had the good fortune to meet Vincent Price a few years ago. Although our encounter was brief, I did tell him that the role I liked the most was his portrayal of Burnbridge Waters. He seemed pleased, especially since I suppose so many people told him they found his horror roles more satisfying. Not me, and I guess not Patt Morrison either.

I agree that the most delicious moment in the film is when Price gets that call from Prof. Einstein. A classic!

DAN MORIN

Los Angeles

*

Where do I sign up for your campaign for a revival, not a remake, of "Champagne for Caesar"?

I have such fond memories of this movie of the '50s, which was one of the first few I saw as a then-new immigrant to the United States. It surely prompted me to memorize my Social Security number forever more.

Please, do seriously use your influence to bring it back for all of us to relish once more.

H. K. HSIEH

Pacific Palisades

*

It's hardly surprising that Vincent Price delivered a "splendid comic turn" in "Champagne for Caesar." Despite the popularity of his horror films, the actor had one of the best senses of humor in Hollywood and excelled in farce.

Interestingly, Price himself was a quiz-show celebrity contestant. Twice in 1956 he appeared in the capacity of art expert on "The $64,000 Challenge," both times tying for the championship. Aline Saarinen wrote in the New York Times: "At once urbane and appealing, (Price) communicated to millions an infectious enthusiasm and an adventuresomeness into modern art. . . . When he said, 'You don't need $64,000 to be a collector or enjoy art--it doesn't even cost sixty-four cents to go to a museum,' he took art off its pedestal and showed it to be alive and pertinent." (Price was never implicated in the ensuing coaching scandal.)

"Champagne for Caesar" is not "virtually forgotten"--in researching my book for Citadel Press on Vincent's film career, I've found fans aplenty. Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of his death. How nice to see a classic Hollywood comedy that contains one of his most memorable performances basking in the spotlight.

LUCY CHASE WILLIAMS

West Hollywood

*

The obscurity and apparent unavailability of "Champagne for Caesar" is the unfortunate fate of a number of independent films.

It was originally released by United Artists, though all rights were retained by producer Harry M. Popkin. Unlike such sources of UA product as Goldwyn, Hughes, Korda and Selznick, whose protection of their libraries was well documented, many other UA releases (and those from companies like Screen Guild and Film Classics) were early bargain titles in the 16mm non-theatrical market and the earliest American films to be released to TV. There, they were run to death in the early '50s, then shunted aside and forgotten as the major studio releases became available, and their copyrights were often allowed to lapse into the public domain.

With ownership in question and storage fees not being paid, not only have the 35mm negatives on so many of these films been lost or junked, but so have even the dupe negatives used to make the 16mm prints. What copies do exist are usually from either 35mm prints saved by collectors or cobbled together from what is left of those beat-up 16mm library or TV prints.

If a good copy of "Champagne for Caesar" is not in an archive, perhaps Patt Morrison's article will inspire someone who has a good copy to make it available for preservation.

RICK MITCHELL

Los Angeles

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