Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hapless Helen and the Dangers of the Internet Movie Database

You may have noticed that I have kvetched a little bit about the Internet Movie Database on these pages. I don't really mean to be to negative, though. The Imdb is as good, and only as good, as its compilers. Which means you and I or anyone else who have something to contribute. All I ask, however, is a bit of vigilance. Don't quote me something like “but the Imdb says ...”

I have the perfect example of how ludicrous the Imdb can be at times. As I have stated elsewhere, I used to write for the All Movie Guide and this material is now more or less in public domain. But please transcribe it with care. I once received an email from a fellow B-Western nostalgia writer inquiring if I had truly married Republic Pictures Western and serial star Helen Talbot! The Imdb, I learned, claimed that Helen Talbot (1924-2010), who was still with us at the time, was indeed married to a Hans J. Wollstein. This was news to me and, undoubtedly, to Miss Talbot herself. An honor, to be sure, but, alas, I had never met the lady. I had, however, written a short career capsule for the AMG. And here is how the essay appeared on such websites as Blockbuster or New York Times, both subscribers to AMG material:

Blonde and voluptuous, Helen Talbot was the girl on the conveyor belt in chapter nine of the 1946 serial King of the Forest Rangers. Bound and gagged and the very picture of a damsel-in-distress, 1940s style, the girl is helplessly headed for the whirling maw of a huge paper-shredder but audiences had to wait a whole week to learn whether she would manage to extricate herself. Under contract to enterprising Republic Pictures from September 10, 1943 to January 6, 1946, Talbot also co-starred in the 12-chapter Federal Operator 99 (1945) -- where she was nearly cremated in an incinerator and helplessly placed in front of a whirling airplane propeller -- and in three above-average B-Westerns opposite offscreen boyfriend Donald "Red" Barry. A Don Loper discovery, Kansas-born Talbot had been a "Goldwyn Girl" in Danny Kaye's Up in Arms (1944) under her real moniker of Helen Darling prior to signing with Republic. She left Hollywood in 1946 to marry an ex-Navy pilot. Hans J. Wollstein.

See what happened? Some idiot – well what else would you call him/her? – missed the all-important full stop between “pilot” and “Hans.”

So use Imdb all you want – I know I do – but please exercise some care.

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