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Underground Film History 1948: Ministers Accept Roles In ‘Underground’ Film

Newspaper article from 1948

From The Salt Lake Tribune, April 7, 1948. Article text EXCERPT:

CHAPLAIN PENS MOVIE

Ministers Accept Roles In ‘Underground’ Film

By Hedda Hopper

HOLLYWOOD – Twelve ministers will play themselves in Eagle-Lion’s “Twelve Against the Underworld,” which is based on a story by Dr. Norman Nygaard, a World War I veteran and civilian chaplain in the last war. When he returned to his home in Steubenville, O., in 1945, Nygaard found it overridden with the underworld, so he and 11 other ministers organized to rid the town of gangsters and grafting politicians. Aubrey Schenck will produce and Director Anthony Mann and Cameraman John Alton, who worked together on “T-Man” will be reteamed. The picture will be made entirely on location. It might set an example for other towns throughout America.

Underground Film Journal notes: The film critic Manny Farber is typically credited with inventing the term “underground film” in 1957 for an article in the magazine Commentary in which he praised the work of B-movie directors such as Howard Hawks.

However, the above article appeared nearly a decade earlier and used the phrase ‘Underground’ Film — in the headline only — to describe a movie to be made about underworld gangsters. It is unknown at this time how likely it would be for gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who wrote the article, to have written her own headline. How the word “underworld” got transformed into the word “underground” in the headline is also unclear.

And from some basic research, it does not sound like the film being described in the article, “Twelve Against the Underworld,” was ever actually made. Director Anthony Mann and cinematographer John Alton, whom Hopper claims were collaborating on this intended film, did work together on several pictures, but not one matching the description of a chaplain who takes on mobsters in his hometown following World War I. Or, at least as the Journal can determine at this time.

Hopper also used the working title T-Man instead of the title the film was released under, T-Men.

Lastly, Hopper’s article did report on several other films, but none relevant to the topic of underground film.


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