Monday, April 17

Veteran movie producer laments loss of genre.

Beverly Hills, CA — (AP) Longtime movie mogul Cy Zelnick is a rare breed. At 93 years of age, he still flashes his trademark smile, and is still known for cutting a deal or two.

“I’ll give you two bucks if you smuggle in a Cohiba.”

Spending his twilight years at Comfort Keepers on Wilshire Boulevard hasn’t dampened his taste for fine cigars, nor softened his well-known tenacity.

One of the youngest producers ever in the business, Zelnick made his first ‘moving picture’ at the tender age of 23.

The year was 1935. The film was the then-bawdy-for-the-times comic romp “Mister Tipsy”, about a wealthy playboy who seduces an ice cream heiress from the arms of a dashing Arabian prince.

Zelnick is now disheartened by the dearth of such whimsical fare available to modern theatergoers. “Nurse Richards reads me the trades every damn day. All I can say is… why does that Brett Ratner palooka have to act like such a pill? And, where are all the pictures about zany rich socialites hoofing it and boozing it up with rakish ne‘er-do-well charmers in spats?” Zelnick sputtered.

He then went on to reminisce about Hollywood’s tireless efforts to rebuild American morale during the Depression.

“Don’t tell me about the soup kitchens and the WPA! Aloof, wacky cads in high-hats and tails, gettin’ soused, gallivanting about in their Auburn breezers, swindling eccentric spinsters, romancing uptown heiresses despite their father’s grim misgivings! That’s what picked up Joe America when he was down on his luck! You think a cup of thin gruel from a gravy line can hold a candle to the hare-brained misadventures of a young Cary Grant debauching oil scions in the upper echelons of Manhattan society? Horsefeathers!”

Zelnick produced many of the genre’s biggest hits, including 1938’s “I‘m Gettin’ Girl Happy”, in which a well-heeled heiress is kidnapped by an impeccably-dressed English tea magnate, the 1937 aptly-named laugher “Let’s Drink Because We’re Rich”, in which an aristocratic magnesium baron sweeps an unsuspecting Dutch princess off her feet and onto the Broadway stage, and the 1935 hit “Champagne For All!” which features a young James Stewart as the debonair son of a evaporated milk tycoon who captivates the daughter of an affluent French dignitary en route to Brazil on a luxury oceanliner.

“Madcap delights about dapper merchant princes and beautiful blue bloods and their droll, riotous whirlwind romances! That’s what clodhoppers and philistines pay to see!” Zelnick sputtered before fading into a coma-like state, a thin line of drool dribbling down his chin.