JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Helena: 1942

Helena: 1942

March 1942. "Helena, Montana." Now playing at the Marlow: Sullivan's Travels and Paris Calling. Acetate negative by John Vachon for the Office of War Information. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Behind the scenes

As GlenJay points out in his comment on "Paris Calling," there was an ominous background to these tranquil domestic scenes. Around the time this picture was taken, Roy Stryker wrote to John Vachon (March 18, 1942):

"If everything goes well, we will go on a 'partial security' basis, that is the FBI will investigate the field photographers very carefully. You will then carry proper identification as well as have a letter of specific authorization for each assignment."

As a former government photographer myself, I know full well that having an FBI background check really tells you that you're no longer taking holiday snapshots.

That's a Very Strange Sign

Looking at the photo on a large 4k monitor, it is easy to see that the sign is actually a neon sign! Neon has never been cheap relative to other forms of advertising.

Why would they go to that one-time expense for these 2 films, made by completely different studios, with completely different stars, for one particular movie theatre, in an out of the way place such as Helena, Montana, and in the winter, to boot ?

The "Marlow Theatre" and the "arrow" pointer in neon makes sense, but the film names?

[The letters in the sign can be rearranged to spell out whatever is playing. - Dave]

All gone

Everything you see here was destroyed and much of downtown completely rearranged in a 1970s "urban renewal" campaign. describes the orgy of 'progress' as follows:

"Most of the Victorian-era structures in the area fell to the wrecking ball. In total, 228 buildings were demolished, over 140 businesses were displaced, and 430 families had to find somewhere else to live. In a city of Helena's small size, it was a major upheaval."

Before and after the show

Based on the weather and their super-cute signage, I'll be visiting Corr Cafe for a cuppa and a substantial snack shortly after the end credits roll on Sullivan's Travels, in which "Veronica Lake's on the take."

Merchants National and Montana National

A colored postcard view, circa. 1900, of the Montana National Bank (yellowish) and the Merchants National Bank (white), later the Union Bank. Then the aftermath of the January 9, 1944 fire at the Montana National Bank, in which two sisters-in-law died: the widow of the founding vice-president of the bank and the widow of the VP’s brother. More here.

Starring Joel McCrea

"Sullivan's Travels," of course.

His natural style was years ahead of its time. He starred in three Best Picture nominees: Dead End (1937), Foreign Correspondent (1940), and The More the Merrier (1943). McCrea himself was never even nominated for an Academy Award.

Join in the debate

on how to pronounce Helena.

Movie travels far from Montana

"Sullivan's Travels" is Preston Sturges' highly literate 1941 take on "Gulliver's Travels." The title sequence is designed like an opening book. I wonder how many viewers today would recognize the visual allusion to Jonathan Swift's Lilliput.

"Paris Calling" is a film noir involving the Nazi invasion of France. It was released just three days before Pearl Harbor led Americans into World War II.

The male stars of these two films, Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott, had a late-career pairing in the classic western, 'Ride the High Country' (1962). They were both so respected that director Sam Peckinpah flipped a coin to determine top billing; Scott won, which meant that his name is on the left in the titles and ads.

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2022 Shorpy Inc.