Working for the Michael Todd Corporation
and a little bit of Cinemiracle too
The 70mm Newsletter
by: Glenda Jensen, New Mexico,
Jensen photographed 18 January 2005.
I arrived in New York City aboard the Cunard liner Queen Mary on January 4
1957. Went to work for lace company. Left that position in about 3 months
and went to work at United Artists for Guy Biondi, Mike [Todd’s] Advertising
UA was the distribution company for "Around the World in 80 Days". The office was
very small and crowded. Two desks were placed nose-to-nose. There were no
windows and it was isolated from the main Todd office which was a few
floors down in the building at 729 7th Avenue NYC at 49th Street. My
memory is that there was no 13th floor. We might have been on the 10th
floor. I know that NBC and the Steve Allen Tonight Show had 12th floor.
The actual floor for Todd offices sticks with me as 7th.
We moved downstairs within a few weeks where the main change was that the
office was much much larger and it had an outside window. The two desks
were again head to head (Guy and I faced each other) up against one wall
of the office. The other wall was lined with 4 drawer file cabinets
containing the stills from the production and the correspondence with the
U.S. theatre owners. At this time [May 1957] about
5 cities were operating the hard
ticket showings. My task was as Secretary to Guy Biondi to answer his
phone calls and then inform him of the caller plus type and file his
correspondence. No one answered their own phones in those days. On a
weekly basis I also typed out forms and mailed them out to each of the
theatres confirming the amounts that had been agreed to be split by Todd
and the theatre owner for the showings in those cities. When the theatre
wished to be reimbursed for the advertising expenditure he would send in
the billing from the newspaper, etc. as well as the tear sheets showing
the ads that had been placed. I don’t remember where they went and what
happened to them after they had been reviewed. My experiences of my later
life prompts the question as to whether the theatres were approved to
deduct these costs from the percentage of the gross to be received by
Todd. It’s a guess.
in 70mm reading:
Todd-AO Home Page
"Around the World in 80 Days" DVD
the World in 80 Days" premiere dates
Mike Todd Jr. Interview
Oliver Michael Todd in
Ycca Art Gallery
Society of New Mexico
is me with Guy Biondi behind me. It was taken looking from Guy's desk near
the exterior window toward the door to the rest of the offices.
During my first months
"Around the World in 80 Days" was opening in theatres across the
country. Very slowly. Each
opening was a big event since it was being
promoted as the first hard ticket movie and was marketed as a theatrical
presentation. As many openings as possible featured a tethered gas balloon
handled by the Balloon Club of America. The pilot
Francis Shields lived in
Pennsylvania and would contact us regularly to set up his schedule for
openings. Whatever the gas was, hydrogen or helium, I know it was very
difficult to get one of them. Guy spent many hours locating sources
convenient to the cities of the opening. Also one was very expensive to
acquire. Field men/women were out setting up the press coverage and
promotions for each grand opening. They were given their budgets and were
required to send in their expense account reimbursement requests each
week. We had a couple who were very recalcitrant and rarely sent them in
weekly….generally in a bunch. Thus frustrating Guy. The field men/women
called regularly…often daily…to report progress and get any further
instructions. Due to the hard ticket feature of this movie showing Group
Sales were very important.
Mary Michael Pollock was the Group Sales
Representative for the Todd Company and she traveled throughout the states
setting up groups…she was very successful. Guy had a brilliant idea of
promoting the use of a white Cadillac which would pull a small booth to be
used to sell tickets to the
Rivoli Theatre in NYC where
the World in 80 Days" was showing. Guy got an aspiring actor to drive the car into New Jersey on
specific days but it was very difficult to keep track of the driver. His
name was Seymour Cassell (now a well known motion picture actor) and often
I was asked by Guy to, ‘Find Seymour Cassell that son-of-a-bitch’. I got
to hear the last name as one whole word. SOB was one of Guy’s favourite
was a meal to say "goodbye" to Ruth Blasko (center front) who was leaving to
go to Florida (I think).
Press to see enlargement
Rear l. to r. Harold Roth, Bill Boettcher; Jordan Ramin; Hal Williamson;
Vinnie Liccardi; Guy Biondi; Sidney Levine.
Middle l. to r. ? ; Charlie Kappas; Glenda J; Irma? ; Steve Figueroa.
Front l. to r. ?; Midori Tsuji; Ruth Blasko; Doris Kruse; ?.
The meal was at the Canton Village Restaurant just across 49th Street where
a lot of us ate lunch each day.
Names of field men that I can remember are Seymour Freedman in
Baltimore/ Washington, DC area; Marshall Migatz in Canada; Leo Zabelin in
Chicago; Hanns Kolmar in Los Angeles; Van Wolf elsewhere.
Working out of the main office was Seymour Krawitz the Publicity person
who worked directly for Bill Doll who was Mike’s longtime friend and part
time p/r representative.
Bill Doll had a desk outside my office and
one day during a particularly hectic period his phone rang. Mike happened
to be passing by. He grabbed the phone and responded “Bill Doll’s
phone…this is his assistant Mike Todd”. I remember how much I loved it.
The phone caller must have gotten very flustered because I remember Mike
saying… “Hello, hello, hello.” I wonder who it was.
Mike Todd Company Staff. Press to see enlargement.
Bill and Mike used to have disagreements because Mike wanted Bill to
concentrate on his, Mike’s, business but Bill didn’t want to give up
another account he had and David Merrick the famous Broadway theatrical
producer wanted him to handle Merrick’s p/r exclusively. I wasn’t privy to
the resolution of this but I know that Bill never did get to spend any
greater amount of time in the Todd office.
Midori Tsuji was a fascinating and beautiful woman. I was in awe of her.
She was a person very much in command of herself. She took care of
everything for Mike and, occasionally, for Elizabeth. I wanted to be like
her. She was funny but yet efficient. She worked closely with Doris Kruse
who was Michael Jr.’s secretary. Sadly, when I stopped by the Todd office
on a visit to Manhattan in 1966, I learned that Doris had died of a
domestic accident. I was quite friendly with Doris and often, after work,
we would stop in the restaurant downstairs for a bite to eat before we
made our way home for the day. I know she had been in Hollywood as a very
young woman. She had gone there from somewhere in the Midwest after being
named ‘Miss something or other’ hoping to make it big in the movies. She
was always rather bitter that she wasn’t able to make it.
Clan greeting card. Press to see
Employees in the main office were about 15. Most of the others worked
either on the West Coast or in the field. There was a lot of coming and
going by the employees and very few had a desk. They just checked in
regularly. For instance: Ira Mangel who also fascinated me but whose job I
never really knew. I think he was in charge of group sales for NYC. He did
eventually work for Louis Armstrong as his publicity representative until
Armstrong died so I assume he was affiliated with Bill Doll. Herman Odell
was Mike’s righthand man and seemed to be a legal advisor. He seemed to
always be in Mike’s office when Mike was in town. Morris Lefko was the
Jordan Ramin worked off site in a shipping office in charge of shipping
the one-sheets up to 24-sheets and advertising cards for each theatre
showing "Around the World in 80 Days". The 24 sheets also were used for major promotional
events and the one-sheets were often donated to schools for their
fundraising. In his department was Steve Figueroa a young Puerto Rican, I
think, who often came by Guy’s office to pick up instructions for
shipments to the theatres. Also working in the shipping department was
Raymond St. Jacques who became quite famous in the motion picture business
with many major roles. When Steve didn’t come, Raymond did.
Bill Boettcher was the wizard who seemed to be in charge of any of the
mechanical problems, or film problems, connected with the showing of "Around
the World in 80 Days" anywhere in the US. Harold Roth was, I understand, the contact
between the theatres and the Todd Office.
There was bookkeeping; advertising; publicity; legal; group
general office. The receptionist answered the phone. She had one of those
plug-in telephone boards. Mike had a tie-line direct to his apartment in
Manhattan (before he moved to Westport after the birth of Liza) making him
very much a part of the office operation.
Madison Square Garden
The opening of
the World in 80 Days" in London and the use of Battersea
Amusement Park was such a fabulous success that Mike decided he would host
the movie’s First Birthday Party which would be held at Madison Square
Garden on October 17 1957. Guy was responsible for arranging the
advertising and promotion of the selection of a couple of people from each
of the cities then showing the movie and having them come to NY for the
party. By this time the number of theatres had increased. They would be
selected (I don’t remember how) and flown to NYC, taken to a hotel and
then taken to the Birthday Party at the Garden. I was mostly on the edges
of the promotion and advertising but on the day before the party I was
asked if I would be willing to deliver the necessary tickets to each of
the hotels at which the couples were staying. The day was very long and it
was dark by the time I went on my deliveries. I felt very proud to be
entrusted with the task.
The next day was a usual day at the office…very busy indeed… Midori had
suggested we each take a room at the Taft Hotel ($12 I believe), which was
almost next door, in which to get washed and changed into our fancy
outfits because we, too, were guests at the party.
What an evening it was. I was star struck and overwhelmed with the glitter
and glamour of the people and events going on. A young woman, daughter of
a coal miner, from Eastwood, Nottingham, England mingling with the greats
and not-so-greats of Hollywood and Broadway. The office had been swamped
by phone calls from ‘stars’ who wanted to be a part of the affair. One
major British actor had begged to get a ticket but for some reason Mike
adamantly said, ‘No’. The actor got one from somewhere and did attend.
Dancing was to the music (live) of Duke Ellington; in the Pageant from
India Sir Cedric Hardwicke clung on for dear life in the howdah on the
elephant; Emmett Kelly sweeping up the spotlight; Fernandel; and lots lots
more. Phew. I left the Garden late, went to the Taft Hotel and checked
out…I have no idea of why I did that…and took the subway back to my home
in Forest Hills. Exhausted I slept like a top and didn’t wake until 9am.
Grabbing my work clothes from the day before I scurried off to work and
ran into the reception area. Everyone there said…’Get down to the pier the
boat is waiting for you’. I didn’t know there was to be a trip around
Manhattan Island. Mike had chartered the tour boat for the day to
entertain the world press who had attended the party. I took a cab to the
pier and sure enough they were holding the gangplank for me!!! On board
the boat was a fully catered brunch and the people were the greats.
However, I spent most of my time wandering around looking at the scenery,
nibbling the scrambled eggs, watching the papparazzi of those days taking
pictures of Liz, Michael, Mike, Fernandel etc. etc.. What a great
promotion it was. When the boat returned to the pier there were crates and
crates of large bottles of Dom Perignon champagne, one bottle for each of
the invited guests.
The day of the boat tour was cloudy but dry. I believe it was a great
success in emphasizing the mythic images of Liz and Mike. To this day I
have no idea why they held the boat for me…many employees remained back in
the office. Sadly I didn’t get my picture taken on that trip. I looked at
all the contact prints of the pictures taken by Dick Williams but I didn’t
appear. However, I have my memories.
l. to r. Ann Robertson, Guy Biondi; Andree; Sid Cooper (printer); Ira Mangel;
?; foreground l. to r. Mr. Biondi Sr., ?
Press image to see enlargement
Life returned to
normal…if you can call life at the Todd Company normal. The party was in
October  and "Around the World in 80 Days" was opening across the country more
quickly as the time passed but still as a hard ticket operation. Still ‘no
popcorn’ sold during the showing. Mike thought food was distracting from
the film as well as the fact that he hated the smell of the butter sauce.
Every day telegrams would arrive from each of the theatres. They would be
in code which, when transcribed, gave the gross of the previous day’s
showings. The advertising department kept track of the daily grosses and
they were compared to the grosses of "Gone With the Wind". After
the figures were recorded I don’t know where they went to be reviewed,
We had many visitors to the office usually theatre owners from around the
country would come in to negotiate some financial deals. I particularly
remember Ted Mann from Minneapolis who eventually owned the Graumann’s
Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. He was a jovial person with a florid face
and was very personable…to me the lowly office worker. Also an owner from
Montreal, Canada whose last name was Berlin. He too was a very pleasing
Georgie Jessell was a very close friend of Mike’s and he would often stop
by to visit when Mike was in town. Also Eddie Fisher could be bumped into
in the corridors when he was visiting. Needless to say that we had large
numbers of individuals coming by during the planning of the Birthday party
most of whom were very well known in the theatrical world…I wasn’t aware
of who ‘they’ were. I just knew they were important.
…and I remember it clearly today.
On the day of Mike’s death
[22 March 1958] I had gone to the beauty salon to get ‘done’
ready for the event the following day. When I returned home my roommate
took me to a couch and told me to sit down. She then broke the news that
Mike had been killed in the plane crash. It was as if a giant hole had
occurred in my life…and I remember it clearly today.
As an aside…I worked
for 14 years for a man who was very similar both in stature, personality
and outlook to Mike. His name was Ben Abruzzo. He was a residential
developer here in Albuquerque who also flew hot air balloons for recreation.
He won lots of balloon races and decided to take it to the next level. I was
then the Corporate Secretary and he included me in a lot of his planning. He
and 2 crew became the first team to fly a gas balloon across the Atlantic
from Massachusetts to France. He and his team then became the first to fly a
gas balloon across the Pacific from Japan to Northern California. Ben was
killed in the mid-80’s in a plane crash here in Albuquerque. This brought
back lots of memories of Mike and his death. Balloons appeared in the lives
of both of these men and, of course, in mine.
Showing how small this world is, a couple of years ago I received a call
from the co-op gallery of which I am a member. The artist was new in the
gallery and was reading the bios of the other members. He asked about the
fact that my bio mentioned Mike Todd and that I had worked for him. George
Hight, the artist, had spent his life as a photographer in Gallup, New Mexico
and being a stringer for the local newspaper received a call about a plane
crash near Grants. He was told to get out there as fast as possible
because the snow was causing problems and the police needed a
photographer. He got there and was the first person to see Mike after his
death. George moved a piece of the aircraft and it revealed Mike. He took
the accident photos. It gives me goosebumps. George is still a member of
our gallery and is known for his miniature oil paintings of the churches
of New Mexico.
During the weeks before his death Mike had been looking at scripts for his
next production. He came up with one about a real life bus driver who had
taken a bus and, hijacked? it to Florida. It had the working title
“Busman’s Holiday”. The script was airmailed to California for work.
It never arrived in California and several months later, a box arrived at
the Todd office containing a package of script pages, burned around the
edges and water stained. The script had been on a flight that had gone
down and burned outside Chicago. Michael Jr. had continued looking for a
new script and nothing was further done on "Busman´s Holiday".
“Scent of Mystery”
for the New York premiere of "Scent of Mystery". Press to see enlargement.
Michael Jr. had continued Mike’s fascination with smells and films. Hans Laube who was Swiss, began showing up in the office for meetings with
Michael and eventually we found out that a new movie was in the works. It
was to feature smells and since Scent-O-Vision was taken Michael took the
leap and named the new process Smell-O-Vision! The scriptwriters Bill and
Kelly Roos became regulars for meetings. “Scent of Mystery” came
into being. The locations were to be in Southern Spain. Ira Mangel went on
the location as well as the rest of the head staff. I tried to get my
favorite actor Tony Britton the lead role but Denholm Elliott won out.
the search for the female lead, Guy Biondi came into the office one day to
tell us how he’d followed this gorgeous young woman who was walking down
Broadway. She went into a building and he followed her into the elevator.
Asked her if she was an actress, she said ‘yes’, he gave her his card and
asked her to call him. Well, she called and came in to audition for
Michael. She didn’t make it but later on she became famous as Elly Mae on
"The Beverly Hillbillies". Her name was
Todd, Jr. greeting card. Press to see enlargement.
Our office became quiet and sparsely populated when the film began
shooting. We kept in touch, hearing from them regularly. One particular
event I was involved in was looking for a match to the tie worn by Denholm Elliott
in the earlier shots in the film. It seems, that there was no duplicate tie
on the set and they needed to reshoot some scene. My task was to take a
clipped piece of the tie around all the men’s clothiers in
Manhattan…Brookes Brothers, etc… hoping for a match. No luck. It seems
that ties were made from ends of fabrics and it was rare to be able to
match a tie of the quality Elliott was wearing. I pounded a lot of the NY
pavements on that one.
The rest of the time of the shoot was quite uneventful. No more panic
shopping trips just regular everyday work. "Around the World in 80 Days" was still out in the
hinterlands and still hard ticket.
“Scent of Mystery” opened on Thursday February 18, 1960 at the
Warner Theatre, Broadway and 47th Street with black tie optional. Dick
Williams decided to do a press event by getting the car taking Elizabeth
Taylor to the opening, to ‘break down’ on Broadway about 1½ blocks from
the front of the theatre thus causing a traffic jam and Elizabeth would
have to walk the remaining distance to the theatre giving photographers
and reporters lots of opportunities for shots and stories. It didn’t quite
work out that way even though the photographers were prepared to take lots
of pictures. I seem to have a memory of the car stopping but then making
it the rest of the way. I have a vague memory that it may have been raining
lightly. Dick was disappointed. The premiere of "Scent of Mystery"
garnered mixed reviews. It had been eclipsed by a Walter Reade production
that had premiered a month or so earlier and I believe that process was
The smells became a bit of a problem. It seemed to be that the theatrical
ventilating systems didn’t clear out one smell before the next one came
up. It wasn’t a tremendous problem but it did cause a lot of furious work
by Laube and others. When the premiere took place in Chicago I was able to
go along to carry some things and help when there. The opening was in the
Cinestage which had been renamed Todd Cinestage. "Around the World in
80 Days" was no
longer showing there. Herman Odell, Michael Jr. and Hans Laube stood at
the back of the auditorium intercepting the employees as they left after
the show (or during intermission) to get their feedback. I too had noticed
the carryover effect and, not realizing that they were aware of it, gave
them that tidbit.
My memory of the rest of the "Scent of Mystery" story is very
vague. I don’t believe there was a lot of notice taken of it by the press
and it slowly slid from sight.
After this, the company began to release some of the staff. Because of the
advertising for "Around the World in 80 Days" still running, Guy and I
remained there for longer than others. But the time arrived and I left.
"Windjammer" in CineMiracle
Guy got me a job
with Van Wolf, who had previously been a field man for us, working on the
distribution of "Windjammer" which was in Cinemiracle.
Van Wolf needed
a secretary/girl friday to work with him on the release of "Windjammer".
He contacted Guy Biondi who very graciously recommended me to him. Due to
the lack of business for "Scent of Mystery" my time with the Michael
Todd Company was coming to an end and I would very soon be looking for new
Van and I visited (we knew each other from Van’s time as an advance man for
the Todd Company) and we came to an agreement. I had one requirement…that I
didn’t have to punch in on a time clock as did the other employees at the
distribution company. I hated having to be there by a certain time and it
was my belief that if I was arriving at almost 9 o’clock and leaving
whenever my work was done after 5pm then both of us were fair with each
other. It worked and it was a very satisfactory arrangement.
The office, at
that time, was in a 100 story office building at Columbus Circle which is at
59th and Broadway. Later on Van and I moved to an office in the CBS building
at 53rd and 5th.
The distribution company for “Windjammer” had a name that I’m afraid
I can’t remember. I know it ran a television station in New York City and by
presenting a lot of live plays was considered more highbrow than the usual
commercial tv stations.
Being the fan of actors and movies that I was, I thoroughly enjoyed the fact
that Marian Dougherty’s office was a few doors away from us so there was a constant parade of ‘known’ actors coming through the offices. Marian
Dougherty is/was the famed casting agent for both tv and movies.
Again, I was working after the production had been completed and it was
being shown in limited release across the US. The three-projector process
was very complicated and the press agents were able to generate a lot of
newspaper space in explaining how it worked. I never did see the movie…I
think the film had not yet opened in New York ["Windjammer" opened 9
April 1958 at the Roxy, ed] …but I can’t be sure.
My work consisted of dealing with the media who would call for clarification
of the releases as well as asking for clips of the movie to use at the tv
stations etc. Regarding the clips I would contact the Los Angeles office by
twix machine and have them send the clips to the station. Twix machines were
like giant manual typewriters that communicated via the telephone line. The
keyboard was laid down in alphabetical order causing typing letters or
requests to take longer than would be the case by regular typewriter. I
liked the idea that I was in ’touch’ with the West Coast while typing. I
expect it’s the feeling that people got when the first cell phones came out
using text messaging.
Windjammers. Top: Harald Tusberg. Left: Kaare Terland. Right: Sven Erik
I also did the correspondence dictated to me by Van Wolf…I had training in
Gregg shorthand…and I remember it was a very busy office but I’m afraid I
don’t recall all the details of my job. I did have one task that was
thoroughly enjoyable. I had to escort the three young Norwegian [Harald
Tusberg, Sven Erik Libæk & Kaare Terland, ed] men from the movie to perform
in a show copied from “American Bandstand”.
“American Bandstand” was a
groundbreaker in the US. It was broadcast from Philadelphia and featured the
up and coming rock and roll singers of the day…along with some well known
singers…and was created by Dick Clark. The teenagers were part of the show
and would show off their dancing skills while the singers were performing.
It was a phenomenal success becoming the biggest teen tv show in the US. Due
to its success, a local New York TV station decided to make their own show
which was broadcast from Palisades Park in New Jersey. Palisades Park was
an amusement park with the dubious distinction of being the location of the
popular music program for teenagers. The young men were to perform their
rock and roll music. Later on I heard that one of the young men [Sven Erik
Libæk] had become a
very popular music host in Australia. I remember taking the boys (young men)
to New Jersey but I remember practically nothing about the trip.
There weren’t many people working on “Windjammer” in the NY office. The
field men didn’t come into town. However there was one individual who
visited regularly…Steve Kesten who seemed to be the press agent for NY area.
I believe he became a motion picture producer but I have no additional
knowledge of him.
I got married in September of 1960 and I’m afraid I must
have been very distracted from my job. I continued to work there through, I
think, April of 1961 when I left because I was pregnant delivering my baby
in late June of that year. I remember that NYC experienced a huge snowfall
that winter but as I lived closed to the subway station in Forest Hills it
wasn’t difficult to get from Queens to Manhattan and I showed up at the
office when none else did. I think I made Van feel guilty because when the
same thing happened the next week I decided not to try to get to work…the
sidewalks were very icy and I was pregnant…but, of course, Van arrived and
wondered where I was! Sadly, Van died in the late 1960’s of a long illness.
I worked there for about 18 months until I married. Then the rest of my life
Born in Eastwood, Nottingham, England, the daughter of a coalminer,
Glenda Jensen fulfilled a lifelong wish when in 1956, aboard the
Queen Mary, she emigrated to the United States to spread her wings
and be whatever she wanted to be.
In New York City she worked for Mike Todd and Elizabeth Taylor
during the release of "Around the World in 80 Days" and then for
Michael Todd Jr.
during the making of his film
"Scent of Mystery" in Smell-0-Vision.
After marriage she lived in New York City, Texas, Connecticut and
now New Mexico. Her work beginning in 1973 with Alvarado Realty and
the Sandia Peak Companies before, during and after the fabulous
ballooning adventures of Ben Abruzzo, gave her a broad education in
the business world.
Arrived USA 04.01.1957
United Artists April 1957
Mike Todd office May 1957
Married Sept. 1960
Left April 1961
After retirement in 1989 the accidental discovery of 'making art',
as well as her interest in it, led her to participate in the
co-operative of the Yucca Gallery in Old Town, becoming heavily
involved in the Pastel Society of New Mexico and acting as
Albuquerque coordinator for the 1999 Albuquerque Convention of the
International Association of Pastel Societies.
Pastel has become her chosen medium due to the capability of drawing
with a dry medium and the glorious selection of pure colors
The strange coincidence of her attraction to the New Mexico
landscape and the connection of her birthplace to author D.H.
Lawrence -- (he too was born in Eastwood) -- continues to amaze and
fascinate her. The contrast between the grey, sooty, damp and gloomy
countryside of the British Midlands in the 40's and 50's and the
bright, clean, sunny and glorious vistas of New Mexico, are a
constant delight for her.
- top -
- news index