Reaching for the Moon (1946-Midnight View) Picture

EDIT: changed the end of Professor Lott's section, because of things that will be happening later in the Spyglass View chronology. (And, I hope, later this week.)

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As mentioned in an earlier chapter, in 1937, Spyglass purchased Hourglass View and its race-films subsidiary, Midnight View, changing its corporate name to Sypglass View Studios in the process. At the time of purchase, Midnight View was a surprisingly profitable part of Hourglass View, so Kirnberg wisely left its management alone. As he reportedly said at the time, "They know what they're doing, so why would I screw it up?" "They" being the management of Midnight View. Unusually for the time, and for a studio that had been through two separate acquisitions, the actual management of Midnight View was, in fact, primarily African American. The head of the studio and also its primary director and producer, Rene La Fontaine Robichaux, had a good sense of what his audience needed and wanted, and only one Midnight View film ever failed to turn a profit -- at least on paper -- and that was due to the unusual circumstances surrounding its production and release.

Unfortunately for Midnight View, Robichaux died unexpectedly at the end of 1945, after first completing "Reaching for the Moon" and then his final film considered to be his master work. At the same time, Spyglass View itself was beginning its period of intense financial disorder, highlighted by the accidental death of its founder Michael Kirnberg a month after Robichaux, and the subsequent sale of Spyglass View and subsidiaries. At the same time, the end of World War II marked the end of race films being produced by separate studios in general, as the larger Hollywood studios realized that there was money to be made in minority films. The Midnight View label went dormant with the sale of Spyglass View, not to be seen again until Hedley Lamarr Edinburgh's revival of Spyglass View and its subsidiaries in 1968.

"Reaching for the Moon" (made 1945 and released 1946) was the next-to-last film to be produced before Midnight View's hiatus, and the last to receive wide release. It was a well received and surprisingly thoughtful melodrama, for its day, about a woman (played by Leah Rayne), who was forced to choose between the singing career she had embarked on to support her family during the war and which she truly loved, the family grocery business operated by her mother and her brother (Byson Mike), both of whom had health issues, and her fiancee (DeMarius Wynn), returning from wartime service, and wanting to go to the west coast, where jobs were more plentiful. To its credit, the film made all of the people reasonably sympathetic and complex, and made the decision very difficult. Nobody was unreasonably noble, or generally unreasonable. "Reaching for the Moon" also had a very popular soundtrack, sung by the lead actress, Leah Rayne. She was extremely well known in the African American community in her day, yet faded into complete obscurity during the period between the end of "race films" as such and the rise of blaxploitation. She only had one other role of note in her early career, and oddly enough, most of what you could see of her in that role was her legs. She didn't make any films of note again until she was in her early eighties, although she did have a brief career as a singer after this film.

-- I. Noah Lott, professor of current history, comparative and modern mythology and modern media studies, Serenity Falls University, Hollywood Roars, book 2: the story of one little studio and how it couldn't before it could.

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First, it's worth noting that every song on the poster exists and all but one are actually things Leah Rayne might have sung in that time period:
- Reaching for the Moon (everyone, their brother, and their sister did a version of this one after it came out in 1930; they also probably wouldn't have used it for the film title, but it was the best I could think of)
- Ill Wind
- Until I fell for you
- I dream of you (you'll have to imagine what this would have sounded like with 1940s big band instrumentation)

Second ... there is rather more postwork than rendering in these images. That's largely because film posters from black-oriented films of the day are either (1) very very busy; (2) extremely busy, or (3) INSANELY busy. And frankly, I do not have the time or the desire to figure out how to design and layout a poster with everyone's face in individual stars and everyone's first name in scrolly lower case and last names in ABSOLUTELY GIGANTIC UPPER CASE, and weird counter-charged colors, and and and ... like I said, busy. To give an idea, the two posters I have above would almost certainly have been combined into a single one-sheet -- maybe a two-sheet if they were feeling like they needed to add more stuff. But I needed to do this one to get to the next Midnight View film (which won't be seen for quite some time, for reasons that will become obvious at that time), so there you go.

Also, Oscar Micheaux was a renowned director of black-oriented film, back in the heyday of "race films" (that was a real term used, yes). Originally, I was going to use his last name as a sort of tribute, but then I decided that wasn't quite right, so I changed Rene's last name to Robichaux. Similar, but not close enough to feel weird.

There might be one more scene from this one to come. (Well, one more image to come.) I kind of want to do the title song image as it would have been in the film (sort of), but it would be actually at least three separate images pulled together, so ... we'll see.
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