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A Brief History of
Hollywood's Perplexing Period of

PUBLICITY ONLY
Paddlings!

One of MANY great, graphic rich articles celebrating the short but sweet, & sadly for our Fem-Male fans, sexist history of adult spanking entertainment as depicted in mainstream movies,
television, stage, books, comics, newspapers, advertisements & more featured in our spanking-hot instant collectible:
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Spankabilia!

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Truth is often stranger than fiction, & I believe you'll find that this column about a curious period in Hollywood’s history fits well into that category. However, before I tell you about it, I think I should provide a little background for any younger hands not familiar with the ways of film promotion before mass media marketing brought us commercials running continuously on TV & actors, actresses, directors & producers descending on the TV & radio talk show circuits to hawk their newest masterpiece. Between all that, it’s hard not to see more film clips than you want or know exactly what to expect at the theater these days.

However, during the simpler days of the 20's, 30’s, 40’s, & 50’s, without the mega-reach of modern technology & TV to tell you more than you needed to in a matter of days, the lot of Hollywood’s powerful publicity departments in promoting a film was much harder one. They had to plan campaigns well before a film's release & decide on the best "hook" to pull movie-goers into their film. Remember, there were more studios cranking out more films back then & competition was fierce. Besides the basic coming attraction reels, lobby cards, posters, marquees, & full page ads in popular magazines of the time such as Life, Look & The Saturday Evening Post, the celluloid salesmen tried gimmicks, slogans, publicity stunts, audience handouts & even whistle-stop personal appearance tours by stars to lure movie-goers to their films.


Shelly Winters looked fabulous over costar Farley Granger's knee in this publicity still for the 1951 film, Behave Yourself.  In fact, the studio liked it so much that they used it in lobby cards, posters & a huge banner that hung outside the Rivoli Theater in New York City's Times Square on opening night.  But anyone who went in to catch the spanking scene it obviously suggested was in the flick left in frustrated disappointment as I did because there was NO such scene in the film!!

When the practice of publicity only stills began is a mystery. But it was already in full swing when W.C. Fields posed for this caning still for his 1933 film, International House.

Which studio's publicist came up with the idea of using spanking as the "hook" & for what film, I cannot say. But I can speculate that it was early on in the game, perhaps in the silent film era. And I can certainly understand the attraction from a personal stand point, & a sociological one as well. One must remember that spanking during this time was quite prevalent in "real" life as well as "reel" life. The parent who did not spank was the exception in those days &, more germane, it was also acceptable for men to turn their girlfriends, wives & secretaries over their knee when they thought they deserved a spanking.

Having said all that, I’ll get back to the point, which was when some unknown publicity flak decided that if spanking sells, as it obviously did from all the bona fide examples during this time, then why not use it to promote a film that DID NOT include a spanking scene? It was a simple matter, after all, to get your stars to pose for a spanking still that could then be widely distributed to the media. Then, by the time the film finished & the spanking fan found out to his or her disappointment that there was no spanking scene in the movie, their money was already in the box office till. And, best of all, because spanking was still a risqu?subject regardless of its popularity, how many frustrated spanking fans would march up to the theater manager & demand their money back or bad mouth you or your film to their friends?


I know I didn't when Behave Yourself opened at New York City?s Paramount Theater in 1951. I was very familiar with the
photo of Shelly Winters, quite shapely in those days, being spanked with a hairbrush across Farley Granger’s lap by opening day. The posed still had been well publicized for months in advance, which wasn’t rare, but the gigantic poster above the theater depicting that very same scene was an amazing sight to behold. It was the largest spanking display I’ve ever seen, running the complete length of the large marquee & rising about 20 stories up the side of the Paramount Building. It was, at the time, one of the largest signs on Broadway & impossible for any passerby to miss. Naturally, I didn't need any extra incentive & happily purchased my ticket. I recall watching the screen with one eye & my watch with the other as the film drew toward the end. Mainstream spanking scenes are almost always quick affairs, but this one would have to be very quick indeed, I thought. Well, as you already know, there was no spanking scene in the movie, quick or otherwise. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one frustrated by that fact, or outraged as I left the theater & looked up at the huge banner showing the spanking scene that never was.

I wish I could say that was the first & last time I was so frustrated, but I cannot. My need to satisfy my spanking desires was too strong to resist a good spanking still or publicity campaign. And the only way to find out which were real & which were fake was to go & see the movie. I couldn't very well ask someone who had seen a film if the publicized spanking scene was there or not, now could I? No, I could not, & neither could the other spanking fans like me who were being targeted by the publicity people. They weren't going to all the trouble to hook only me into seeing their films, after all. So many of us had similarly disappointing experiences during this period. But 2 others, a few years before my frustrating brush with Behave Yourself, really stand out.
 

The first is the 1946 film, Janie Gets Married, & an even more amazing example of publicity only paddlings than Behave Yourself. Not only were spanking photos, (3 separate stills that I know of. Unfortunately, none that I have today.), lobby cards & an eye-catching poster featuring a drawing of Joan Leslie in her wedding gown being spanked over Robert Hutton’s’ knees used to promote the film, but the studio embarked on a massive "public opinion" publicity campaign regarding marital spanking! Audience cards were handed out at previews asking patrons what they thought of a grown woman being spanked, flyers were distributed to the public at the various town openings with similar questions on spanking, & the studio encouraged columnists to make spousal spanking an issue in newspapers of the day. An amazing thing to be sure in this day & age, but even moreso when you remember that there was NOT a spanking, nor even the threat of one, anywhere in the film!

The second occurred a couple of years later, in 1948, & to a lesser degree when My Dear Secretary premiered at the Rivoli Theater in Manhattan's Times Square. Similar measures were taken with posters, life-size cutouts & lobby cards showing the widely distributed still of Lorraine Day being spanked by Kirk Douglas. Just above the marquee were large, illuminated wooden displays of the same scene. And, last but not least, a large banner hung above the theater to delight passers-by for blocks around with the sight of gorgeous Lorraine Day poised over Kirk Douglas's knee. This banner did not compare to the 20 story blockbuster for the still to be filmed Behave Yourself, but it was no less impressive or frustrating since, once again, there was NO spanking scene in the film.

Wouldn't you think there was a spanking scene in this film if you stumbled across this newspaper ad as many did when it was repeatedly printed to promote Janie Gets Married? Of course you would!

Sure this still from Dear Secretary  looks posed. But does that excuse the studio from using it as shamelessly as they did to promote the film?   No, not in the opinion of anyone who was hooked into seeing the film & frustrated to find it wasn't there.


The 3 examples I've described above were the most blatant cases of false advertising I know of & fell victim to. But they were not the only ones. I have included a list at the conclusion of this piece to save you the frustration I & others faced, & others continue to to this day when publicity only paddling stills are published without a word of caution about what they really are. My like-minded colleague, SHE president Michael C., ruefully admits to going to great pains to watch Father of the Bride when he was younger & it appeared on TV, not once but twice, because he thought he blinked & missed the Spencer Tracy spanking Elizabeth Taylor spanking scene he'd seen in an oft reprinted spanking still the first time around.  Well, as Michael & everyone else like him found out, young Liz did not get spanked in her wedding gown or any other outfit anywhere in the film.

Now, I do hate to disparage the reputation of publicity people in any way & accuse them of false advertising or engaging in a conspiracy to defraud without proof supporting my charge. So, to be fair, I will offer the possibilities that publicity departments did have to work well in advance of the opening of the film & circumstances beyond their control could have come about. Perhaps scripts were rewritten when female stars refused to be spanked? Perhaps the scenes were shot but were left on the cutting room floor? Perhaps they were cut after films were previewed in response to negative reactions from the preview audiences?


Without information from a veteran Hollywood insider, we will never know for sure. However, with the popularity of spanking being what it was, the massively misleading examples I've noted here, & the other cases listed below, I find it very hard to believe that the curious period of Publicity Only Paddlings was anything but a calculated deception that, save for worries over a backlash from frustrated fans like me, might have been even bigger & more blatant than it was.
 

Oh, & lest you think all traces of this deceptive practice have completely vanished from the marketplace, I’ll leave with a curious continuation of the legacy I recently unearthed at my local video store.

 The Fuller Brush Man, a 1948 slapstick farce starring Red Skelton, fulfilled the spanking only publicity still requirement of its time when America's favorite clown happily posed with both his leading lady, Janet Blair, (pic below)  & cast mate Trudy Marshall, over his knee. But it didn't stop there, for, if you go to your video store today & look at the back of the box of the recently released home video version, you’ll see the Trudy Marshall spanking photo staring back at you. (right) Does that mean they put the spanking scene missing from the original back into the movie?

This widely distributed Fuller Brush Man still of Red Skelton about to spank leading lady Janet Blair with a huge hairbrush is certainly as comedic as the film, but no less misleading!

In truth, I'm not going to buy the film to see. I've let myself be fooled too many times to try it again. But if you'd like to give it a go & let me know, please do. Just don't say I didn't warn you if you end up disappointed!

The heady days of Hollywood's History of Publicity Only Paddlings are long gone now, but the legacy remains in the photos & mementos left behind. And while the traces of that curious period are mostly positive now, the danger of disappointment remains for those not familiar with which films & photos fall into which categories, so I’ll repeat my warning that you can’t always believe your eyes & offer my list of films in this frustrating category in hopes of saving some of you from being disappointed.

I'll also add an additional warning that there well might be other more obscure/foreign photos & films I have not listed. If you happen to know of any or, worse, fall victim to them, please do let me know. Until next issue, keep your eyes open! You just never know when a spanking sighting will pop up! - EB

A list of 27 known examples of Publicity ONLY Paddling Stills:

Bachelor Father (1931)

Back To God’s Country (1953)

Bandit Of Sherwood Forest (1946)

Behave Yourself (1951)

Between Us Girls (1942)

Broadway Rhythm (1944)

Count Three And Pray (1955)

Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950)

Dear Brat (1951)

Dear Ruth (1947)

Father of the Bride (1950)

Fernandel The Dress Maker
(French 1956

The Fuller Brush Man (1948)

The Girl He Left Behind (1956)

Heart Of The Rio Grande (1942)

Hit Parade of 1943
(a.k.a. Change Of Heart)

International House (1933)

Janie Gets Married (1946)

Kiss And Tell (1945)

The Lone Wolf And His Lady (1949)

My Dear Secretary (1948)

My Man Godfrey (1957)

Pollyanna (1920)

Saddle Tramp (1950)

So This Is New York (1948)

Suddenly It’s Spring (1947)

Treat ‘Em Rough (1942)

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