GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

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Jay Salsberg

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GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostMon Jul 11, 2016 1:29 pm

I came across an entry in the Motion Picture Guide for an obscure fantasy entitled GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931). The credits appear very intriguing: starring George Grossmith (of the D'Oly Carte Opera), based on a story "Two Gentlemen of Corona" by Damon Runyon, directed by Berthold Viertel (PASSING OF THE THIRD FLOOR BACK), production company Astor Pictures. The plot revolves around two crooks who decide to turn over a new leaf after meeting an old man whom they believe is God.
The big problem is that the listing in the MPG is the only reference to this film that I've been able to find. There is no mention of the film on the IMDb or in the AFI Guide. It was never reviewed by any trade or newspaper, and there is no script in the NYS Archives. And I can't find anything to corroborate that Runyon ever wrote a story called "Two Gentlemen of Corona". The MPG gives a pretty detailed synopsis of the film and it's production credits; but based on the total lack of supporting documentation, I'm inclined to think that this may be a fraudulent listing, created to expose people who steal info from the book without giving proper credit (the AFI Guide did exactly the same thing in their 1930s volume, by creating a fake feature starring a cast of cats!). Has anybody else ever heard of this film?
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostMon Jul 11, 2016 1:37 pm

The George Grossmith who originated many of the comedy leads in the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, and who is portrayed in the movie Topsy-Turvy by Martin Savage, died in 1912. The George Grossmith you refer to is his son.

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Last edited by boblipton on Mon Aug 28, 2017 6:54 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Mike Gebert

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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostMon Jul 11, 2016 1:49 pm

Although the title is a nice tease for a made-up movie, my guess would be that the project was announced with all hands mentioned in the trades, and then it was never completed, or begun. Normally absence of evidence is, you know, but when only one source seems to be the only source for a title, it seems likely that something existed only just enough for information to get copied from somewhere, but not enough to make it into the usual variety of sources.
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostMon Jul 11, 2016 2:11 pm

That was my initial thought as well, that the film was planned but never actually made. But the synopsis printed in the MPG is too detailed to be from a film that wasn't made. Plus there is a cast and crew list. The one thing that really stands out as suspicious is the production company, Astor Pictures. Astor was a distributer (as opposed to a production company), and dealt mostly with re-releases. I don't believe they were active prior to 1937.
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostMon Jul 11, 2016 3:20 pm

Jay Salsberg wrote:That was my initial thought as well, that the film was planned but never actually made. But the synopsis printed in the MPG is too detailed to be from a film that wasn't made. Plus there is a cast and crew list. The one thing that really stands out as suspicious is the production company, Astor Pictures. Astor was a distributer (as opposed to a production company), and dealt mostly with re-releases. I don't believe they were active prior to 1937.


One thing Astor did do was act as an American distributor of foreign films. Is it possible that this was not an American production, hence it not being listed in the AFI catalogue?
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostMon Jul 11, 2016 4:33 pm

Both Grossmith and Viertel were working in Hollywood during that year and a couple on either side, though. So not likely to be a British film.

It could be another Astor-- the name was certainly associated with money and class then, someone else could have poached it before the better known one.

But I agree that the sheer number of dead ends this film generates makes it very unlikely to have been released. Or completed. Or started. Or to have existed at all.
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostMon Jul 11, 2016 5:42 pm

Jay Salsberg wrote:That was my initial thought as well, that the film was planned but never actually made. But the synopsis printed in the MPG is too detailed to be from a film that wasn't made. Plus there is a cast and crew list. The one thing that really stands out as suspicious is the production company, Astor Pictures. Astor was a distributer (as opposed to a production company), and dealt mostly with re-releases. I don't believe they were active prior to 1937.


Might it have been a re-release with a different title?
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostMon Jul 11, 2016 6:17 pm

Frederica wrote:
Jay Salsberg wrote:That was my initial thought as well, that the film was planned but never actually made. But the synopsis printed in the MPG is too detailed to be from a film that wasn't made. Plus there is a cast and crew list. The one thing that really stands out as suspicious is the production company, Astor Pictures. Astor was a distributer (as opposed to a production company), and dealt mostly with re-releases. I don't believe they were active prior to 1937.


Might it have been a re-release with a different title?


Not if we are to judge by the IMDB. Saw no overlap between Grossmith and either Runyon or Viertel. Of course, an announced cast list doesn't mean anything in preproduction, but if this was ever produced or distributed, it wasn't with any of these three.

Bob
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostMon Jul 11, 2016 9:36 pm

It wouldn't be the first time a plausible but totally fictional cast/crew list made it into official annals. Four years after I made a similar enquiry about a fake Helen Twelvetrees credit here on Nitrateville, a Google search still yields nearly 600 websites that include the phony picture in her filmography. It's fascinating, in its own way.
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostTue Jul 12, 2016 10:53 am

boblipton wrote:
Frederica wrote:
Jay Salsberg wrote:That was my initial thought as well, that the film was planned but never actually made. But the synopsis printed in the MPG is too detailed to be from a film that wasn't made. Plus there is a cast and crew list. The one thing that really stands out as suspicious is the production company, Astor Pictures. Astor was a distributer (as opposed to a production company), and dealt mostly with re-releases. I don't believe they were active prior to 1937.


Might it have been a re-release with a different title?


Not if we are to judge by the IMDB. Saw no overlap between Grossmith and either Runyon or Viertel. Of course, an announced cast list doesn't mean anything in preproduction, but if this was ever produced or distributed, it wasn't with any of these three.

Bob


I'm not sure we should for films that old. It's certainly a good source, but I don't think it should be the last one.
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostTue Jul 12, 2016 12:29 pm

Frederica wrote:
boblipton wrote:
Frederica wrote:
Not if we are to judge by the IMDB. Saw no overlap between Grossmith and either Runyon or Viertel. Of course, an announced cast list doesn't mean anything in preproduction, but if this was ever produced or distributed, it wasn't with any of these three.

Bob


I'm not sure we should for films that old. It's certainly a good source, but I don't think it should be the last one.



I don't consider the IMDB a reliable source, in that just because it says something there, it's true - especially in the trivia. However, it's an easy prima facie resource. I consider the lack of any film with any two of the three named individuals another nail in the coffin of this movie ever having been produced.

Indeed, there is no IMDB credit for Runyon's writing for the movies before 1933, which I consider surprising but possible.

Bob
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostTue Jul 12, 2016 12:34 pm

There is a Damon Runyon story from 1907 called "Two Men Named Collins," which is a title that is kind of in the general ballpark of Two Gentlemen of Corona, or at least close enough for movie publicity. It was apparently his first published story, but bears no resemblance to that plot outline (it concerns a paranoid soldier narrator, and his double, an army deserter). The Runyon thing might just have been manufacturing credibility, though I suppose.

But no sign of the "Two Gentlemen of Corona" amongst Runyon's works that I can see. Weirdly enough, there is a Two Gentlemen of Corona play written by Jim Geohagen that was first performed in 2005.
https://books.google.com/books?id=uQcW6 ... 22&f=false" target="_blank

Kind of looking like a hoax title in MPG for copyright purposes.
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostSun Aug 27, 2017 4:10 am

Jay Salsberg wrote:I came across an entry in the Motion Picture Guide for an obscure fantasy entitled GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931). The credits appear very intriguing: starring George Grossmith (of the D'Oly Carte Opera), based on a story "Two Gentlemen of Corona" by Damon Runyon, directed by Berthold Viertel (PASSING OF THE THIRD FLOOR BACK), production company Astor Pictures. The plot revolves around two crooks who decide to turn over a new leaf after meeting an old man whom they believe is God.
The big problem is that the listing in the MPG is the only reference to this film that I've been able to find. There is no mention of the film on the IMDb or in the AFI Guide. It was never reviewed by any trade or newspaper, and there is no script in the NYS Archives. And I can't find anything to corroborate that Runyon ever wrote a story called "Two Gentlemen of Corona". The MPG gives a pretty detailed synopsis of the film and it's production credits; but based on the total lack of supporting documentation, I'm inclined to think that this may be a fraudulent listing, created to expose people who steal info from the book without giving proper credit (the AFI Guide did exactly the same thing in their 1930s volume, by creating a fake feature starring a cast of cats!). Has anybody else ever heard of this film?


What's the title of this fake cat film? Time it was started....
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostMon Aug 28, 2017 6:44 am

What's the title of this fake cat film? Time it was started....


I don't have my copy of the 1930s AFI Guide handy right now, but if memory serves, the fake feature was entitled MONSIEUR LE CHAT. There's also another fake feature in their 1940s volume; but I don't remember the name of that film at all.
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Re: GOD IS MY WITNESS (1931): Fact or Fraud?

PostTue Aug 29, 2017 1:57 pm

Jay Salsberg wrote:
What's the title of this fake cat film? Time it was started....


I don't have my copy of the 1930s AFI Guide handy right now, but if memory serves, the fake feature was entitled MONSIEUR LE CHAT. There's also another fake feature in their 1940s volume; but I don't remember the name of that film at all.


Will have to start casting as soon as the script is written. Wages will be in 'Dreamies'...

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