Kroger Babb, The Sleaze Merchant (1906-1980)
The filmmakers that are the most interesting to me are the ones who defied the system and won. The crazed visionaires, the cinematic sorcerers and the sleaze merchants without any scruples. Kroger Babb is one of those men. Babb got in the movie business through a job at Cox and Underwood, a company that bought up crappy movies, added ''sensational'' material to them (often medical reels and other stock footage of debatable educational value), and re-released them with new titles. Babb's promotion of one such film, Dust to Dust, was such a success that Babb left to start his own company, Hygienic Productions. Babb met his soon-to-be wife Mildred Horn during a showing of Dust to Dust, where she was working as a movie critic. Her review of the film called it a '' cheap, mislabeled morality play,'' but the two struck up a conversation about it and it ended in marriage. Mildred wrote many of Babb's screenplays, including Mom and Dad. Babb made and promoted numerous other movies (including The Best Is Yet To Come, which he screened in cancer wards), but none matched the success of Mom and Dad, a morality tale about unplanned pregnancy, featuring a for that time, controversial graphic live birth scene. Babb created more controversy by writing to churches and newspapers, usually pretending to be the mayor of a neighboring town who was concerned about the content of Mom and Dad. He also insisted on gender-exclusive screenings of the film (men only for the later show). According to director John Waters, Babb even hired audience members to faint during screenings to get more publicity. I like Babb's taste for lurid subject matter and his shameless promotional techniques - ''You got the tell 'em to sell 'em '' was his motto. He also believed he could ' take any piece of junk and sell it.' The movie One Too Many for instance, was shown mainly at AA meetings. That's just fucking brilliant. One of Babb's valuable lessons is shown here: ' Nothing is hopeless unless advertised in the right way.' He was a marketing genius. And to be honest, where would I be without his archives of campy sleaze? It inspired my love for cinematic atrocities. Babb, for me stands as an example that if you're creative you can do great things with limited money and an eye for opportunity.