What made this city “ground zero” for the debut of the fantastic film that starred forgotten fiberglass sports cars of the fifties? I think we may have finally figured this out, but it took meeting automotive historian Glenn Brummer to put forth the right questions and answers.
Chasing Johnny Dark:
Most of you know that I collect memorabilia from the movie “Johnny Dark.” Why? Because of the fiberglass sport cars used for the main race in the movie. Some of our favorite cars appeared in the movie and included:
- The Woodill Wildfire
- Victress S1
- Grantham Stardust
- Glasspar G2
- and the Irwin Lancer
Good friend Chuck Tatum was in the movie, too, driving his own “Tatum Special.” How much fun could you have in just one film? Checkout the following link for stories on “Johnny Dark” that appear on our website:
So why did I mention Toledo, Ohio? Let’s explore a bit of research gang…
Johnny Dark’s Kaiser Darrin Connection
In the past many years, I’ve located 4 different pictures showing a Kaiser Darrin dressed up to publicize the Johnny Dark movie. I didn’t notice at first, but all 4 pictures are from one area of the country. Three of the pictures are from Toledo, Ohio, and one from Detroit, Michigan – close by and just north of Toledo.
In all of the research and collecting I’ve done concerning this movie, no other pictures of publicity cars have surfaced, and no mention of the debut of the film in a special location was identified either. I’ve always assumed that the movie “Johnny Dark” premiered in Los Angeles, California or New York City. I would soon find out I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
Close inspection of the photos reveals a few interesting tidbits:
* First: In two photos, the date “June 16th” is shown on the trunk of the car, and the location is identified as Toledo, Ohio. One of these pictures shows Jim Thomas behind the wheel. He lived in Toledo at the time and was at the premier of “Johnny Dark” too (photo from Jim Thomas Collection, 1954)
* Second, the press photo I found showing the side of the Kaiser Darrin sports car is identified as being taken in Toledo, Ohio.
* Third: Three pictures show the same car with the words “World Premier” on the back of the car. Each side of the car has this notation on it.
* Fourth: In another photo “June 18th” is shown on the car. The location is identified as Detroit, Michigan.
So…June 16th, 1954……World Premier…Toledo, Ohio…..why is this important? Let’s put it in context with other known dates for this movie.
Official Debut of Johnny Dark:
A bit of research on the internet reveals key information for the opening date of the “Johnny Dark” Film:
- New York Opening: Week of June 26th, 1954
- Los Angeles Opening: Week of June 30th, 1954
So it appears that the World Premier of “Johnny Dark” occurred in Toledo, Ohio on June 16th, 1954. Three of the four pictures I’ve found show a Toledo location, and the fourth picture is identified as having been taken in nearby Detroit, Michigan – and the premier date was identified as two days later – June 18th, 1954. And now thinking about this….this makes perfect sense. And I have good friend and automotive historian Glenn Brummer to thank for connecting all the dots.
Glenn Brummer Solves The Mystery:
Glenn has been studying fiberglass specials and obscure American cars for the past several decades. Time and time again he has come to my rescue and completed a needed and necessary bit of information that helped me complete an entire story. I’ll be sharing an article he wrote about the history of Woodill Wildfire sports cars soon, and you’ll see why I have such respect for his knowledge and expertise.
Glenn put “two and two” together. Toledo was special to the movie “Johnny Dark” because the initial scenes of automobile production were filmed at the Willys plant located there. In fact, Glenn produced two “behind the scenes” pictures of the film shoot at the Willys plant – one of them even shows Tony Curtis. Both are provided in the photo gallery below for your review (thanks Glenn!)
So….thanks to Glenn Brummer’s efforts, we now know that the movie “Johnny Dark” had its “World Premier” on June 16th 1954 in Toledo, Ohio. This was 10 days before the movie debuted in New York City and two full weeks before it premiered in Los Angeles California.
I wonder how many “World Premiers” have occurred in Toledo since then? Perhaps a trip to the historical society in Toledo might produce some more information. Anyone want to take a road trip to Toledo? Might be fun 🙂
I live for the obscure stuff gang – and with friends like Glenn Brummer – it seems we’ll be scavenging and sharing this type of information on our Forgotten Fiberglass website for some time to come.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
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