Harry Reichenbach  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Harry Reichenbach (1882-1931) was a US press agent and publicist who dreamed up sensational publicity stunts to promote films. He worked both for actors, as an agent, and for the studios as a promoter.

Among his first jobs was to promote a woman called "Sober Sue" who never smiled. He got her a contract at the Victoria Theater on Broadway and made them offer $1000 to any New York comedian who could make her laugh. Actually, the woman had Mobius syndrome - ie. paralyzed face muscles - so she was incapable of laughter.

Later Reichenbach founded his own public relations company. Looking for new customers he noticed lithograph of Paul Chabas' September Morn, a modest nude painting, in an art store window. He made a deal with the storeowner who had not sold any of his 2000 prints. Next he incited interest of moralist crusader Anthony Comstock and took him to see the store window. Reichenbach had also hired couple of boys to "ogle" the picture so the Comstock would be suitably outraged. Comstock's Anti-Vice Society took the case to the court and lost. However, the case aroused lots of interest to the painting, which sold out on the art store and several million prints more. Reichenbach made $200 from his deal with the art store. The original of the September Morn is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Reichenbach promoted the first Tarzan movie in 1918 with setting loose apes and lions in hotels in New York. To promote the sequel the Return of Tarzan, Reichenbach hired an actor who checked into the Hotel Bellclaire with a name Thomas R. Zann. Zann had a huge crate that was hoisted to his room through a window. Then he ordered fifteen pounds of raw beef. When the cook and the hotel detective arrived, they saw that the meat was for the guest's pet lion. Hotel called for police and the "Mr Zann" explained to them and the press that he was a huge Tarzan fan.

One of the actors Reichenbach worked for was Rudolf Valentino. Reichenbach convinced him to grow beard to cause a bad reaction that was followed by a good one when he "agreed" to shave it.

For the 1923 film Trilby, which included nude scenes and hypnotism, Reichenbach hired a young woman to run several times around the block and take a seat besides him just before the movie ended. She looked agitated and exhausted and Reichenbach hinted that the hypnosis scenes in the movie might have something to do with it. He also arranged that various psychologists would speculate on possible effects of hypnosis through cinema.

In 1928 Reichenbach was managing the Colony Theater in New York City and took Walt Disney's animated film Steamboat Willie for a two-week run.

When Reichenbach was working for an actor Francis X. Bushman, he took him to see studio executives. He began to walk with Bushman from the railway station and dropped pennies to the street from his pocket. Lots of people followed them, picking up the coins and following them. The crowd gave the studio executives an impression that Bushman was very popular and they signed him up for Ben-Hur.

For The Virgin of Stamboul, he hired actors to pose as a clandestine Turkish rescue party that was hunting for a royal bride that had eloped with an American soldier. Reichenbach leaked the details to the press.

Harry Reichenbach died July 4 1931.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Harry Reichenbach" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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