Shortly after the opening credits to the 1965 Disney Films incredi-opus That Darn Cat starring Hayley Mills a bank of newspaper vending machines are shown curbside to a street. The troublesome feline, DC, on a nightly prowl of the town is schmoozing one of the antagonists of the film for food. DC follows the villain which eventually leads the cat into a kidnapper’s den and kick-starts the adventure of a meddlesome kid and her pet.
While the vending stands vary slightly in design the common elements of the machines is that the newspapers are not secured and simply rest in an open rack. A slot cut into a box or tube is provided so a customer can insert a coin and then take a paper. My memories of 1965 are a bit hazy from the distance of years but one thing I do recall is that the hippies were everywhere stealing anything not nailed down or bartering for food by spewing plagiarized poetry as they cleaned out a fruit-stand.
Like today, I can’t imagine that the honor system of paying for your goods resulted in anything but serious financial losses on the part of the vendor. In my world within a half an hour those racks would be empty and a gum wrapper would be shoved into the money slot. But on Main Street, USA the narcissistic villain being stalked by DC in the movie actually pays for each paper headlining the crime he perpetrated. I guess bank robbery and kidnapping can be a plot point in a Disney film but the studio was reluctant to show an actual crime in progress, no matter how petty. Either that or the villain was playing it cool and behaving so as not to draw attention to himself.
In the film the full vending stand attests that for the most part the unattended machines appear to be successful in practice. But would that honor system work anywhere but in the idealized Disneyverse? For the answer, let’s ask Hayley Mills. She knows everything!
That’s right, Hayley! In the real world machines and semi-unattended stands, even those inside stores within full view of cashiers and staff are routinely raided and emptied to be hawked by unofficial newsies at intersections and street corners all over the nation. So while art may have imitated life at one point it didn’t take long for vendors to wise up and call for securely locking vending machines.
For those into head-knodding, finger-snappin’ smooth tunes while waiting your turn to play the bongos at open stage night at the Coffee Bean here are the opening credits to 1965’s That Darn Cat as sung by Bobby Darin. It’s cool, Jones, cool. At the end of the clip you can see the newspaper stands being used in practice by bad guy Iggy, played by the scene-chewing Frank Gorshin.
By the way…The remake should be burned, the ashes salted and the ashes burned again.