HARRY AND TR ZANN As a result, an awe of lions stayed with Reichenbach for life.

Two decades later, he found himself using a lion to promote The Return of Tarzan in 1920; it was, simply, a logical progression after Prince Charley the orang-utan, had made a hit of the first Tarzan Picture . In the three years between the Tarzan movies that Reichenbach promoted, he had become a major player. Following The Virgin of Stamboul, he was employed by Universal at $1,000 per week to promote Shipwrecked Among Cannibals. The accompanying stunt, which should have revealed a collection of cannibals living in New York to the press, went wrong and failed to generate headlines, but it is more notable for Reichenbach s contract, which stipulated that no concrete plan of exploitation can be give here for this is largely a matter of inspiration and opportunity, but it is understood that Universal is engaging me upon the belief that unusual ideas and startling, sensational manifestations will be exercised to put the film over . That sort of freedom was rare then and is even rarer now. Certainly it is the sort of free reign that Nottage enviously craved throughout his life but never achieved. It was the sort of freedom that allowed Reichenbach to pull off his greatest stunt. The Romance of Tarzan had slipped in and out of New York unnoticed, wrote Reichenbach, and without the aid of exploitation, it remained a permanent secret between the producer and the warehouse. Samuel Goldwyn, who took the third of the series, called The Return of Tarzan, didn t want this one to follow in the same hushed footsteps of the second. Where is Prince Charley now? he sighed regretfully as we watched the preview of the 18 picture. I found that the last of the Tarzan pictures centred in a lion and that gave me a reminiscent thrill. He concocted an extraordinary plan; eight days before the movie opened he installed one of his actors Greg Polar, who had started out as a fireman and had got into the movie industry after allowing Reichenbach to use him as a stooge in the Great Reynard ring

affair disguised as an erratic looking professor of music, at the Hotel Bellclaire, then one of the most exclusive in New York. The professor was primed to request a room on one of the lower floors since he needed his piano hoisted into his quarters. That afternoon, a huge piano box was lifted into his rooms and the professor settled in. As is often the case with exclusive hotels, no one questioned the fact that the professor, who had been so insistent on having his piano with him, did not appear to be playing the instrument. Indeed, all that emanated from his rooms was an interesting smell but nothing was said. No one asked any questions at all. The next morning, untroubled by the staff for the whole night despite the increasing odour of animal leaking through the floorboards and under the door, the professor called for room service and a boy arrived to take his order. He claimed to have a delicate stomach, but surprised the boy by asking for a vast quantity of meat. 19 The boy exclaimed in surprise, unnerved that a delicate stomach could require so much meat. His shock, as Reichenbach had hoped it would be, was clearly apparent to the musician, who invited him to see the reason he required so much meat. He had a lion in the room. Reichenbach had cunningly exploited the hotel s notorious willingness to accede to the more curious demands of their guests and hadn t questioned the contents of the large crate hoisted through the window. It s hard to imagine a hotel acting the same politely unsuspicious manner today, except, perhaps, for the most insanely famous film stars, and that is thanks, in part, to Reichenbach s continuous and high-profile stuntsmanship in the early twentieth century. The bellboy, unsurprisingly, fled to the management in a state of terror upon seeing the lion, which had yawned in an altogether too friendly fashion at him. The manager, an incurious and equable man by the name of Albert Flather, assumed that his panicking employee who arrived at his door talking incoherently about jungle animals was under the influence of illicit hooch, but the boy was so insistent that he went to take a look. One

peek around the door was enough to put Flather in a lather and make him run from the room. He didn t stop after that till he had reached the Sixty-eighth Street police station, wrote Reichenbach. There Flather gave the sergeant an incoherent story about a about a crazy musician whose piano had turned into a lion. A policeman escorted Flather back to the 20 hotel and together they entered the wild man s quarters. They found him and the lion sitting on the floor, chatting pleasantly. When the man asked a question, the lion answered with a roar. The officer felt lonesome and returned to the station for companionship. With drawn revolvers and followed by reporters and cameramen, the valiant detachment from the Sixty-eighth Street precinct finally arrived and tiptoed gingerly into the presence of the strange couple. Hands up! they commanded the lion and he turned playfully over on his back. What s the meaning of this? they asked the professor and he looked up into the inquisitive muzzles of their guns. He was persuaded to talk. I bought Jim, he said, from a circus when he was five days old and we ve been pals ever since. He s just a big, overgrown kid. See? And the strange man put his head in up to the neck between the ivory-shod jaws of the beast. The police stopped breathing until the man s head reappeared. Then he asked Jim to sit up, roll over, trot around and shake hands with the gentlemen of the force but they refused to believe he was different from other lions and kept him at target s length. I ve been reading a lot of stories, explained the man, about a boy born in South Africa who was kidnapped by an ape and who made a pet of a lion and a tiger. I m on my way to 21 the jungle just to see if I can t do what the boy did. I ve made a lot of money out of the lumber business and can afford to get this thrill out of life. I ve even changed my name to T.R. Zann to resemble that of the character in the book I m telling you about, and I m

sailing next week on the Union Castle line for the land where the lion is king. The hoax was a masterstroke on Reichenbach s part; the press lionised the story, featuring it on every front page of the morning papers in New York. The weekly newsreels picked up on it as well, adding further weight to the story s momentum. Before long, the story of T.R. Zann and his incongruous, hotel-bound lion friend had spread over the wires to the whole of America. Reichenbach gloated quietly and prepared the publicity machine for The Return of Tarzan. When the publicity, announcing that the film would open at the Broadway Theatre, finally appeared and the stunt became apparent. The newsmen, in the midst of a revelation of Damascene proportions, revelled in the hoax all over again, this time linking T.R. Zann of the Belleclaire Hotel with the Tarzan of the pictures. 22 BIRDWELL Birdwell was immediately drafted in to promote Little Lord Fauntleroy, the first film from the Selznick stable. He tackled the job with élan and ambition, taking a simple idea that Reichenbach or Nottage would have been proud of and adding a machine age twist. His idea was to paint David O. Selznick s Production of the Immortal Little Lord Fauntleroy will have its World Premiere on [such-and-such a date at such-and-such a theatre] in massive letters on one of the highways in Culver City near to Selznick s studio and then pay someone to photograph the resulting graffiti from an aeroplane. Unfortunately, as with the murderer s confession in Birdwell s own hand, he had overreached himself and arranged for the words to be painted along several miles of pristine highway, which was then far more ground than an aeroplane could cover, as it was not safe to get the plane high enough to take a single shot. It could have ended his career if it had not been for the fact that Birdwell spotted people bent over in the street peering at the letters and trying to work out what they said. The sign began at the edge of Los Angeles, said Birdwell in a series of interviews

published in the Hollywood Reporter in 1965, and ended at the entrance to the MGM studios. Newspapers, magazines, syndicates and photographers, both from the foreign and domestic media rushed to Culver City to investigate the calls flooding the press switchboards. Indignant MGM officials wryly commented the sign could at least have ended somewhere short of the front door to their studio. Baffled City Fathers rushed to the archives of ordinances but could not discover any legislation that outlawed the sign 23 that was making news around the world. Unable to photograph the sign in its entirety the photographers came up with a solution. They posed all the Selznick International stars alongside various letters contained within the five-and-a-half mile advertisement. It is the sort of stunt that still gets reused today publicists promoting the 2007 release of The Simpsons Movie in Britain painted a huge Homer Simpson on the side of the hill next to the Cerne Abbas giant, generating worldwide interest in the movie, proving that nothing is original and that the greatest knack a flack can learn is how to raise the bar higher with every stunt. With a single stroke, Little Lord Fauntleroy left the realms of mere moviedom and became an event and made Birdwell, or Bird, as he was known, was an established name. Selznick was certainly happy he inscribed the following on the invitational program: For Russell Reichenbach, Menace, Madman, and Master of his racket with appreciation and admiration of DOS.

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