On May 16, 1940, M.G.M.'s Edison, the Man had its World Premiere in Edison's adopted town of West Orange, New Jersey, giving rise to a mystery novel which has once again been optioned for a motion picture.


PRLog (Press Release) –May 7, 2009  – Frequently, on or near the date
of May 16th,  the local newspaper throws together an article about
how Spencer Tracy once came to town. Unfortunately, the events
are never reported correctly and the proper feel is never conveyed
of what such an event would have meant to a small pre-World War II
community. Those details and that atmosphere were left for novelist,
screenwriter, and playwright John Dandola to explore in a mystery
novel entitled Dead at the Box Office, which has never gone out of
print in nearly twenty years. Besides being the only thorough
documentation of the events and attitudes involved in how Hollywood
once promoted movies, it serves as a very entertaining backdrop to a
series of fictional murders.

The novel's synopsis:

In 1940, Hollywood decided to pay homage to a small New Jersey
town. It was where Thomas Alva Edison had lived and worked for
nearly fifty years, ultimately making it the birthplace of motion

What better place to hold the World Premiere of Spencer Tracy's Edison, the Man? The idea seemed not only flawless but guaranteed to generate terrific press—until a series of sexual murders breaks out a week before the festivities are scheduled to begin.

Already straddled with the ever-reticent Spencer Tracy and overly exuberant starlet Ann Rutherford, M.G.M. publicity girl Edie Koslow is forced to reluctantly hush the crimes and then just as reluctantly solve them in the midst of studio manipulations and small town politics with only the help and protection of a local mystery man.

From its first publication, the novel has repeatedly interested movie producers and has been optioned several times for motion picture development. Hopefully this most recent option will be the charm—although superstitious Hollywood will undoubtedly change the title.

When the third novel in Dandola's series of mysteries debuted a year ago and he embarked on plotting the fourth, it fueled a whole new interest in his work. He was signed by one of Europe's largest literary agencies for foreign editions and Los Angeles-based production company, White Bread, Ltd., inquired about the availability of the motion picture rights to all three books: Dead at the Box Office, Dead in Their Sights, and Dead by All Appearances. After several meetings, the match-up of producer and writer seemed so right that Dandola was also signed to write the screen versions.

"The bottom line is that these are period pieces and period pieces are expensive to recreate," Dandola acknowledges. "You have to be extremely budget-conscious when doing the writing. Finding a neighborhood of vintage buildings is only a small portion of it; costumes, set pieces, and antique cars add tremendously to the cost even though these are not huge ‘cast-of-thousands' stories."

Dandola has run into similar problems as he is adapting a British series of mystery novels by Roy Lewis which are set in the present-day but involve flashbacks to medieval times. Recreating history without a mega-budget can be a daunting undertaking. (To see his article about screen adaptations

"I love historic subject matter. But when you tackle those types of scripts, you need to know quite a bit about the movie-making process in order to assure the best way to get all the money up on the screen," Dandola explains. "Your mindset has to be so much more than just the writer. Within the context of a script you have to be able to present how to actually capture the era without overspending."

So where does that leave the production company when it comes to finally getting this film made?

"White Bread, Ltd. will probably look into partnerships. They'll explore where to find the most cost-effective locales—even if it means going out-of-the-country," Dandola says quite candidly. "Besides being a West Orange historian, I have always become extremely knowledgeable about all the time periods and places of which I write. I know what will believably pass muster in locations no matter where things wind up being shot. That's always a huge plus for a producer even though everything else is out of my hands."

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Copyright © 2009 by The Quincannon Publishing Group. All rights reserved.
Sixty-Nine Years Later,
this New Jersey Movie Premiere
Still Captures the Interest of Hollywood
Dead at the Box Office has once again been optioned for a possible movie although superstitious Hollywood will undoubtedly change the title.