The Hasty Heart

A great success on both sides of the Atlantic – THE HASTY HEART

The Hasty Heart 1950

 

Ronald Reagan came over to England to make this film – as of course did Patricia Neal

Richard Todd gave an absolutely wonderful performance as the  soldier Lachie who has no idea that he is dying.   Totally alone in the world with a terrible attitude, the film deals with his coming to realise that there is kindness in the world. Naturally, this is put to the test when he discovers the truth.

Ronald Reagan is excellent as the American soldier who works with the others in the Burma Hospital to bring happiness to the Scot.

Richard Todd received a best actor nomination for his performance. It catapulted him to stardom as it was such a big hit on both side of the Atlantic.

Patricia Neal is equally impressive as the nurse who goes out of her way to show kindness to the dying the Scot.

Stage Fright

 

Richard Todd was back in Alfred Hitchcocks Stage Fright – Made In England. This did not do much for Richard Todd’s career though as the film was just about ok – and didn’t fare that well at the Box Office.

 

When I saw the supporting film on the programme with The Hasty Heart, I had to look much further into it as this was a Western that I did not know although it does get quite good reviews.

Bad Men of Tombstone 1949

Bad Men of Tombstone 1949

Bad Men of Tombstone 1949 2

With Barry Sullivan and Broderick Crawford we had two pretty top line actors involved.  It is ironic that this is on the same bill as The Hasty Heart because Richard Todd was narrowly beaten to the Oscar that year by none other than Broderick Crawford in All The Kings Men – and here he is on the supporting programme to the Richard Todd film – so in this respect he is Second Billed here anyway.

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Scenes I Can’t Forget – Margaret Hinxman Picturegoer 1959-60 Edition

I have to say that these SIX Scenes I Can’t Forget was written by Margaret Hinxman – Chief Film Critic of The Picturegoer Magazine for the 1959-60 Annual.

They would not be my memorable scenes I have to say – but well worth looking at all the same.

After all Margaret Hinxman  was very knowledgeable on films of the era and had seen so many in her illustrious career which is outlined below

Scenes I can't forget

June Thorburn and Russ Tamblyn Tom Thumb 1959. Margaret Hinxman was amazed as we all were at the wonderful special effects in this film – as illustrated above

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ABOVE: Jean Simmons in Home Before Dark – Here she makes a humiliating entrance, as a neurotic guest at a big dinner party. A grotesque pitiful figure, with her over blonde hair, over size dress and over heavy make-up, she teeters to her embarrassed husband’s table. A nightmare moment that must strike a chord of sympathy in every female picturegoer- and Jean Simmons makes it the most striking moment in a striking film.

Scenes I can't forget 3

 

Paul Newman and our own Joan Collins in Rally Round the Flag Boys

Scenes I can't forget 4

 

ABOVE: Sammy Davies Jnr. and Eartha Kitt in  Anna Lucasta – this was his first film appearance – and what an appearance that was.

Scenes I can't forget 5

ABOVE: Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in a dramatic scene from The Defiant Ones

Scenes I can't forget 6

 

Above : Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall in The Reluctant Debutante.

Margaret Hinxman Obituary

One of the leading British film critics of the postwar years who went on to write crime novels

The writer Margaret Hinxman, who died aged 94 only a few months ago in October 2018, was one of the influential band of female critics who did much to encourage film in postwar Britain. She enjoyed a long and productive career on numerous magazines, including the influential Picturegoer, two national newspapers, the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Mail and as a writer of fiction.

Margaret Hinxman with Dirk Bogarde

 

ABOVE With Dirk Bogarde while filming Campbells Kingdom

 

For Margaret Hinxman, the late 1970s, when she was working on the Mail, proved something of a turning point. She lamented the demise of her favourite genres – the musical and the traditional gangster movie – and found the ever-changing television schedules (she provided the capsule reviews of movies on TV) increasingly irksome. At the age of 60, she left to devote herself to a career as a writer of crime novels.

The youngest of four children of Charles Hinxman, a first world war veteran who worked on the railway, and his wife, Alice, Margaret was born in Greenwich, south-east London, and served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service towards the end of the second world war. She came from a family of film enthusiasts and saw up to three films a week as a child. Aged 21, she entered journalism as an editorial assistant (or “general dogsbody”, as she described it) on the feminist weekly magazine Time and Tide, later claiming that her career was based on this “happy accident”.

Her love of writing and cinema led over the next two decades to steady work. For Woman magazine, she provided extended celebrity interviews; for the glossy Queen she worked as a reviewer, and she published short stories in Woman’s Realm. Later in that busy period she became the reviewer for the trade paper Daily Cinema, sometimes reporting on the box-office potential of four films in a day.

Margaretr Hinxman with Steve McQueen

 

Above: With Steve McQueen in 1966

But it was on Picturegoer (the superior rival to Pictureshow) that she came into her own from the late 40s onwards. This colourful, fan-based weekly, devoted to the careers and alleged love lives of (mainly) British and American stars, gave her opportunity for features and criticism. Those generous, but informed, opinions – especially when accompanied by four stars and the magazine’s seal of approval – sent film buffs hotfoot to join the queues.

 

In that austere period – well into the 50s and the onslaught of television – popular reviewers were influential and Hinxman wrote prolifically. After this 20-year “apprenticeship”, she was asked in 1966 to join the Sunday Telegraph, where she was given a free hand, with only one weekly visit to the office required.

This also allowed her time to freelance and she became a regular interviewer at the National Film theatre in London. Many of the lectures were filmed by BBC television and Hinxman proved an adept foil to occasional superstar egos. In the early 70s she began The Films of Dirk Bogarde (1974), written with her niece, the film publicist Susan D’Arcy; it was the only survey of his career on which the star collaborated.

In 1974 she was enticed to the higher profile job of critic at the Daily Mail. A decade later, when television listings and advertising-led reviewing became an increasing burden, she decided to leave London and popular journalism for the south coast and a different venture.

Between 1976 and 1991 she published, under the Collins Crime Club imprint, nine thrillers, including One-way Cemetery (1977), The Night They Murdered Chelsea (1984) and Nightmare in Dreamland (1991). After the Show (1993) was a change of pace: although crime-based, it was an affectionate portrait of a theatrical dynasty, containing nicely judged liberal touches salted among the showbiz story.

When a big-business-based novel, Losing Touch, initially found no publisher (though it was later published by Severn House, in 1996), she decided to enjoy retirement to the full and travelled extensively, mainly in the US and Canada, with her sister Elizabeth, with whom she shared a home in Sussex.

After her sister’s death, she lived with Susan, and then close by in a nursing home.

 

 

 

 

 

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Marilyn Monroe – more pictures

It always seems a good idea to include on the Blog as much as I can about this screen actress – and what a screen actress she was and for that matter still is.

Marilyn Monroe 6

 Marilyn seems to have appealed to the man getting on the train – well she would wouldn’t she !

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Above: Boarding a train at New York Central Station in 1955

She visited London and stayed for quite a few months during 1956 for the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl with Sir Laurence Olivier

Marilyn Monroe 2

During that period in England  she seemed to socialise quite a lot  - mainly in London of course although she and her husband Arthur Miller rented a house in the country at Wick Lane, Englefield Green a beautiful location close to the edge of Windser Great Park - and not too far from Pinewood Film Studios.

Parkside House

It was the summer of 1956, when the world’s press turned their attention to the tiny village, which had become home to one of most famous faces in the world.

Marilyn Monroe and her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller had moved from Hollywood, to a large house in Englefield Green.

Parkside House was hidden away in Wick Lane, a small country road which leads into Windsor Great Park.

The film star was in the country to film The Prince and the Showgirl, with Sir Laurence Olivier.

Parkside House 2

 Above: Arthur Miller with Marilyn at their home in England with Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh who each look totally overawed by being in Marilyn’s presence. Sir Laurence looks totally besotted. 

Parkside House 3

Some of the people who were around at that time shared their memories :-

Marilyn’s chauffeur’s widow, now in her 80s, told us that she has letters and photographs from Mr and Mrs Miller, thanking him for his services throughout their stay, including driving them back to the house, through thick fog.

But her husband was never mentioned in either of

Having spent time at the house and after hearing from her husband about his daily experiences as Marilyn’s driver, she has many clear memories of events during that period.

Some  local people do still have very personal memories of Marilyn and Arthur Miller in Englefield Green, which have never been shared publicly before.

Nigel Hammett’s Aunt Florrie lived in a small flat in Parkside House at the time, when she worked in the market garden.

As a 15 year old schoolboy, he recalls being very embarrassed and completely bowled over by Marilyn when introduced to her by his aunt. He says she was “stunningly beautiful.”

Patrick O’Shea, now living in Australia, remembers the day when Marilyn went shopping for shoes!

He told us his stepfather Frank Parker and mother Dorothy, ran a shoe shop at 42 High St, Egham called Woodmans.

One day a chauffeur-driven car pulled up outside and the driver came in, advising Patrick’s parents that Miss Monroe required a pair of tennis shoes.

Having been handed a piece of paper noting her size, his stepfather duly boxed up the shoes, before the uniformed driver paid for them.

As he was leaving the shop, Frank asked would it be possible to have some sort of memento of the star’s purchase from him.

Apparently, a few days later, her chauffeur returned with an envelope containing a signed photograph, which he gave to the couple, on the strict understanding it was not to be used for any advertising.

It was of Marilyn and her husband cycling in Windsor Great Park, and showed her wearing the tennis shoes.

Patrick, then aged 16, added:  “What a buzz that night , when I told my friends!”

“I will say this – they look very happy in the photo and they were not too important to ignore the request from a very small local shopkeeper and give great pleasure to my parents. I am now probably the only one left to recall this very small event but big in my memory of course..”

“I now have the photo and smile with fond memories at the mention of Marilyn Monroe.”

It is possible this was the same bicycle given to the star on her arrival in the UK, by national newspaper the Daily Sketch, in the hope of getting lots of shots of her riding it.

It was later reported that the paper’s editor was somewhat disappointed that the only people ever captured on film using it, were members of Marilyn’s staff!

 Marilyn with Terence Rattigan

Marilyn With Terence Rattigan – he, of course was the writer of The Prince and the Showgirl – he also wrote the Screenplay for the film.

On 27 July 1956, Marilyn attended an evening house party at “Little Court” in Windlesham, on the invitation of the owner, writer Terence Rattigan.

PC 607 Jack Packham from Bagshot police station was on duty at the gates to keep out uninvited guests.

He had already waved through a string of famous faces such as Sir Lawrence Oliver with his wife Vivien Leigh, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Audrey Hepburn and John Mills.

A large black limousine pulled up and a body guard clambered out, waving a glass of champagne. He told PC Packham to let them through as it was Marilyn Monroe’s car.

The constable was reported to have said “I’m sorry sir, I don’t know the lady.”

He did eventually concede and allow the car to continue to the house!

And according to retired policeman and local historian Ken Clarke, whose boss happened to be PC 607 in later years, Jack Packham was teased mercilessly by his colleagues at the time, for not recognising Marilyn.

Marilyn Monroe 3

Marilyn with Sir Laurence Olivier at  the Press Conference soon after her arrival to film The Prince and the Showgirl.

Again in this picture he looks like ‘the cat who had got the cream’

NPG x136481; Jeremy Spenser; Marilyn Monroe on the set of 'The Prince and The Showgirl'

Above: A very disinterested Jeremy Spenser sitting next to Marilyn on the film set

 

THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL 1956

The Prince and the Showgirl 1957

Sir Laurence Olivier and  Marilyn Monroe – you would at first think were an unlikely combination and  yet Olivier’s blustering pomposity and Monroe’s giddy naivete create a surprising chemistry between them. It is reported that they did not get on too well during the filming – she was often late and sometimes did not know her lines it is said. However as Dame Sybil said in a later film ‘ We have to give her some space – after all she is the only one of us who knows how to act on screen’    I don’t know how true that was but it might well be.

The Prince and the Showgirl 1957 2

Above: With Jack Cardiff Cinematographer on the film

Marilyn Monroe is absolutely superb –her performance is well thought out and very strong, using every ounce of her famed comedic skill . Plus she is beautiful as always.

The Prince and the Showgirl 1957 3

In support there are wonderful are the outstanding performances by Richard Wattis  and Sybil Thorndike 

It is very well filmed .

 

Marilyn Monroe 5

Not only was Marilyn in England in person in 1956, but she was also starring at this London West End Cinema in The Seven Year Itch

 

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Gypsy Wildcat

Gypsy Wildcat 1944Gypsy Wildcat Director: Roy William Neill

 

Writers: James P. Hogan, Gene Lewis (screenplay)

 

Stars: Maria Montez, Jon Hall, Peter Coe, Nigel Bruce, Leo Carrillo, Gale Sondergaard, Douglass Dumbrille

 

After the success of Arabian Nights Universal requested a series of films starring Mari Montez, Jon Hall and Sabu. It was followed by White Savage and Cobra Woman. Gypsy Wildcat Double Feature

 

Roy William Neill replaced James Hogan as the Film Director on this one – he later did the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films of the time. Filming started October 1943.

 

Peter Coe played Tonio  - he was a former swimming champion, Acquacade performer and stage actor. He later claimed that he and Montez had an affair. Whether that was true or not we will never know.

 

I was not at all familiar with the Actor Peter Coe but looking him up he was married eight times. This was only his third film in fact but a year or two after this he was in Rocky Mountain which starred Errol Flynn.

 

Maria Montez on set

 

Maria Montez and Jon Hall were again exotically paired in Gyspy Wildcat, a romantic adventure with a mediaeval setting in which a group of innocent gypsies find themselves imprisoned in the bowels of wicked Baron Douglass Dumbrille’s castle, charged with the murder of Count Orso. It’s Dumbille who is really the villain and hero Jon Hall, the King’s messenger knows it having witnessed  the murder of the Count by  the Baron’s henchmen. 

Gypsy dancer Maria Montez was top billed at the Count’s daughter who Dumbrilles wishes to marry, as she is the heiress to a fortune but unfortunately from his point of view – but not ours – she is in love with Jon Hall.

This was a Technicolor Production and released in  1944 so not really a Fifties film – although the stars went on to appear into the next decade

   

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Huckleberry Finn 1960

Image result for huckleberry finn  1960 film

Purists of Mark Twain will find fault with this adaption of Huckleberry Finn, but I like it and I think it captures the charm of Mark Twain and perhaps the lessons he was trying to teach.

Huckleberry Finn 1960

 

Huckleberry Finn 1960 2

Because the two are on screen for nearly the whole time, the actors playing the  parts of Huck and Jim have to be good. Archie Moore who was the reigning Light Heavyweight Champion when this was made delivers a great performance as the runaway slave Jim as does Eddie Hodges as Huck. Probably the most riveting performance in this film is Neville Brand as Huck Finn’s Father.

He’s as bigoted and narrow-minded man. In fact MGM put together an excellent supporting cast -  Eddie Hodges and Archie Moore. Tony Randall and Mickey Shaughnessy as con men King and Duke are a joy to watch.

I had not realised until I saw the poster above the veteran actor Finlay Currie the Scottish born actor was in this one as were Buster Keaton and Andy Devine.

Huckleberry Finn 1960 4

Huckleberry Finn 1960 3

 

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Yesterday’s Enemy 1959

A British officer (Stanley Baker)  leading a patrol through the Burmese jungle during the Second World War uses brutal methods to gain vital intelligence from prisoners, to the outrage of a chaplain and war correspondent travelling with them. When the unit is captured by Japanese forces, he faces similar treatment at the hands of his captors.

This film  was shown on Talking Pictures today – and I watched much of it.   Widescreen and thankfully it was shown in that format – which apparently was called  MegaScope and it was quite impressive.

It did strike me that in many ways this was similar to The Long and The Short and the Tall 1961 – just a couple of years later. Both featured similar studio bound jungles and action behind enemy lines at times. Yesterday’s Enemy was filmed at Bray Studios – and this one at Elstree.

Another film made well before this – and another studio bound jungle film was The Hasty Heart and that was very well received all over the World – whereas these two didn’t do that well. The Hasty Heart was made at Elstree

Yesterdays Enemy 1959 Poster

The Studio Jungle Sets I thought were excellent – and very realistic

Yesterdays Enemy 1959

 

Yesterdays Enemy 1959 2

 

Lost in the jungle, the film illustrates the quandary of the last remnants of a British brigade, who — without any method of communicating with headquarters — attempt to make their way to safety. Stanley Baker plays Captain Langford, who guides his men into a tiny Burmese village, only to find a small group of Japanese soldiers there, accompanying a very high-ranking officer. The enemy’s location is not a coincidence, either: the Japanese colonel happens to have in his possession a map that will either mean victory or defeat for the Allies.

 

Yesterdays Enemy 1959 3

Based on the 1958 BBC teleplay of the same name, the 1959 World War II drama Yesterday’s Enemy.

With Yesterday’s Enemy, however, we get to see something altogether different: the plight of a British regiment in the Burmese jungles fighting against the Japanese.

Yesterdays Enemy 1959 4

Filmed in MegaScope

Yesterdays Enemy 1959 5

Val Guest directs this wartime drama which has  some very good  performances. Guy Rolfe is the British padre, Leo McKern – in an early role – is a journalist along for the bumpy ride, and Gordon Jackson, David Oxley, and Philip Ahne also star (the latter as a villain, of course).  Also I must mention Richard Pasco, who I remember, much later,  in Walt Disney’s excellent The Watcher In The Woods. He is very good in this one too.

Interestingly enough, the film contains no music score - unusual but in some ways adding to the drama.

 

Yesterdays Enemy 1959 6

Columbia Pictures co-funded the film alongside Hammer Films

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Good Studio Sets of the Burmese Jungle

Yesterdays Enemy 1959 8

Realistic sets taking us into the Burmese Jungle.

Yesterdays Enemy 1959 9

I don’t know too much about MegaScope but it was a wide screen process that certainly looked good.

This 1959 black and white WWII film is, I would imagine,  one of the most realistic depictions of jungle warfare . Well  acted by all concerned

 

 

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Cyd Charisse

I remember Cyd Charisse from ‘Brigadoon’ set in  the Scottish Highlands – but actually filmed on the enormous studio sound stages of MGM Film Studios. Even though what we saw was a very large film set – it was beautifully done and on such a large scale that we were in the Scottish Highlands. Cyd Charisse

This picture was taken from the front cover of Illustrated magazine of 10 March 1951 – so quite a few years before Brigadoon Cyd Charisse, took up dancing to build up her strength after surviving polio as a child.    At age 6, the girl from Amarillo, Texas, found her calling.

Cyd Charisse didn’t stay in Amarillo for long and was soon studying ballet in California. She joined a professional company while still a teen and eventually married one of her instructors, Nico Charisse. He was 32, she still in her teens. The pair moved to Hollywood and taught together, but soon she was turning more toward films, appearing in several small films and eventually abandoning her dreams of being a touring ballerina with the birth of her son, Nicky, in 1942.

Fortunately, by 1946 she had signed a contract with MGM and began appearing in major films such as The Harvey Girls and Ziegfeld Follies. . Soon after that Cyd Charisse became a Hollywood star – she and her husband split (she kept his last name).

She was married to Tony Martina year later in 1948 and they remained together for more than 60 years. Her career stalled, unfortunately, because of a combination of injury, pregnancy and a poorly received film.

In 1952, her luck turned around when she won a role as Gene Kelly’s dance partner in the famous “Broadway Melody Ballet” from Singin’ in the Rain. Cyd Charisse

ABOVE:   Cyd Charisse with her Husband Tony Martin Left and Gene Kelly – centre – on set for Brigadoon.

Cyd Charisse and her husband Tony Martin   Cyd Charisse and her husband Tony Martin 2

ABOVE – Two Photographs of Cyd Charisse with her Husband Tony Martin In Brigadoon 1954 it sems that MGM’s musical producer, Arthur Freed, and Gene Kelly,  famously failed to find the Scottish location they wanted in the real Scotland. So they built their mysterious disappearing village and surrounding scenery in Culver City, Los Angeles.

Brigadoon 1954 There was enough heather, tartan and painted Cinemascope landscape to please most filmgoers though

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Gun Fight 1961 – with Joan Staley

I did not know anything about this film when I started watching it on TCM at the Weekend – nor had I ever heard of Joan Staley.

However when I got into watching it, she seemed like a very attractive girl and a pretty good actress at that

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Gun Fight 1961

Gunfight 1961

Joan Staley sings a song in the bar room scene

Gun Fight 2

Joan Staley

Gun Fight 3

Joan Staley

Gun Fight 4

Joan Staley with James Brown  - A Happy Ending Above

Gun Fight 1961

Gun Fight is  a low budget film but although it does not have a well known cast what is has got is a pretty good story and a cast that are giving it their best shot and that seems to show through in the film

Running time  just 69 minutes and I have to say that I found it enjoyable

Snippets from Joan Staley’s career and life that I have come across. As I said I didn’t know her or anything about her but she seems a very interesting person.

Joan Staley was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to James Kenneth McConchie and his wife Jean Alexander McConchie, nee Fraser

Joan Staley

Joan Staley

In 1948 She made her film debut in The Emperor Waltz at age 8

She later married Chuck Staley and relocated with him to Memphis where she sang and did backing on some records for Sam Phillips and met Elvis.

 

Joan Staley confirmed this in an interview in which she said :-

When I was living in Memphis, there was a disc jockey by the name of Dewey Phillips and back then, he was the king of the South.  He was the king of Memphis.  And Sun Records, which is where Elvis got his start, was also in Memphis.  He would come in and plug his records and Dewey would play them.  And he would get interviews.  And one of those interviews overlapped on a meet-and-greet.  So me and my first husband, who was a cameraman for a local television station, got to meet Elvis.

That was in 1956 – so we became casual friends with Elvis.  We were invited to some of the celebrations at Sun Records.  He had a birthday once at Sam Phillips’ house and I was cutting his cake.  So, it was casual.   We were good acquaintances.  When he started making films and became this huge star and I had also made my way into Hollywood…Elvis had already made a couple of other pictures with co-stars named Joan.  Actresses with the first name, Joan.  And I saw him one time and said, ‘When’s my turn?  You’ve worked with every other Joan in town…when is my turn?’ (laughs

Shortly afterwards, I was cast in “Roustabout.”  He was a nice man.

When we were shooting “Roustabout.”  Elvis invited me back to his house with the guys and stuff.  And we had a chance to talk about Disneyland, this and that or whatever it would be, and I asked him, ‘What do you miss the most that your stardom has taken away from you?’  He gave me the strangest look.  And he said, ‘Wednesday nights.’

I said, ‘What do you mean, Wednesday nights?’  And he said, ‘Wednesday night church services.’  Those are the services where they just did prayer and singing.  No sermons.  They just had praise.  He said, ‘I miss the music.  And I miss the Wednesday night services.’  There is a poignancy in his gospel music that puts shivers on my spine.  He was a nice guy.  I’m so sorry that he died the way he did.  He lost his way.

Joan Staley with Elvis

Joan Staley then returned to Los Angeles and worked as a secretary by day and did theatre work at night, performing at various venues

Her daughter Sherrye D. was born in Los Angeles

She divorced Chuck Staley in the early Sixties

Following her part in the Western Gunpoint (1966), starring Audie Murphy, and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), a Don Knotts comedy film, Joan’s career went downhill  after a horse-riding accident.

Her second husband is former Universal exec Dale Sheets. Twins were born to them, a boy and girl, on March 24, 1971. Since then, Joan has been content with family life and other outside pursuits.

Apparently her part in Breakfast at Tiffany’s ended mainly on the cutting room floor.

She has three children from her second husband. The Sheets family is a large one, with  Joan grandmother of ten and great-grandmother of twenty.

Joan Staley, who is soon to reach her eighties, is living a content and blissful life with her family in California.

BELOW is the FULL INTERVIEW with Joan Staley which I hope you find as interesting as I did.

As Interviewed by Casey Chambers

JOAN STALEY INTERVIEW  -  AUGUST 2016 

 

Casey Chambers:  The first movie I saw you in, and it’s still one of my all-time favorites, was “The Ghost And Mr. Chicken.” (1966)  I like everything about this movie.

 

 

Joan Staley:  I love that movie.  I saw it just the other night on television.  And it really holds up.  That was one of my last films. I had been doing a television series called, “Broadside” (1964-1965) which was a female counterpart to “McHales Navy.”  The pilot was done on the “McHale’s Navy” (set) and followed some of the same structure.  It ran for a year on ABC.  I played Roberta “Honey-Hips” Love, who was in the Navy as a WAVE and was an ex-stripper.  It was a total dumb blonde type character.

Anyway, Eddie Montagne, who was the producer of that television show said, ‘Joan,  I have something I want you to do.  It’s with Don Knotts.’  And I said, ‘Sold!’ (laughs)  It was wonderful when Eddie Montagne told me that my part in “The Ghost And Mr. Chicken” was going to be a straight role.  He gave me a brief thumbnail and I said, ‘Absolutely.’  So, that’s how it came about.

 

And I loved working with Don Knotts.  He was great!  He was a total perfectionist.  And he was incredibly prepared.  We shot the movie in 17 days.

 

Casey Chambers:  That sounds incredibly fast.

 

Joan Staley:  Yeah, it was.  We followed virtually television scheduling.  And “The Ghost And Mr. Chicken” outgrossed the Cary Grant movie released that same year.  So the studio was very happy.

Joan Staley

Casey Chambers:  Eat my dust, Cary!

 

Joan Staley:  Absolutely.  And Dick Sargent was co-starring in it, too, and he and Don and I went on a tour.  We covered the South and the East for about two weeks, just hitting one city after another.  Sometimes two cities in one day.  And that was…exhausting! (laughs)  But the movie was opening in those cities and that’s what killed it.  And Don was such an incredible worker.  He was fighting a blood clot in his leg, which I didn’t know about at the time and should not have been on the road.  But it was taken care of.

 

Casey Chambers:  So, when you guys were touring, you would actually appear at different theaters where the movie was playing?

 

Joan Staley:  Right.  Most of them were theaters and some of them were just for the newspapers and press conferences, where lots of questions would be fired at us.  But usually, it was at the theatres.

 

Casey Chambers:  When did you finally get to watch “The Ghost…” for the first time?

 

Joan Staley:  While we were on our press tour, we never saw the whole thing.  It was always piecemeal. (laughs)  It wasn’t till we got back in L.A. that we watched it for the first time.  And I enjoyed it.  I thought…Wow!  This really clicks all the way through.  The character actors that they had, even in the minor roles, were stars.  Some of them had been stars in silent screen.  So they were all pros.  And it all was pretty much one take unless there was a malfunction of equipment.

 

Casey Chambers:  I recognized quite a few of them. And it was fun picking them out.  Real thespian veterans.  Was there a favorite scene or otherwise that you recall from the shoot?

Joan Staley:  Well, one scene…and it was not a favorite…but it was the picnic scene.  They used reflectors on an outside shot to catch the sun as well as the hot lights.  And their purpose was to reflect the sun back onto the actors.  They literally burned my eyes.  Or one eye.  They had to rush me to a doctor.   So, that was definitely not a favorite scene for me, (laughs)…but it was a memorable occurrence. I think my very favorite was the chicken soup scene when we’re inside the coffee shop.  Don was so wonderful to work with. C

 

Casey Chambers:  The “I’m having chicken noodle soup with Alma!” scene.  Where you’re already at the crowded diner, having to share a table with a customer finishing up his meal.

Joan Staley:  It was all I could do to keep from cracking up. (laughs)  Don cracked up first and then we were both snickering all the way through the scene.  The other actor trying to finish up his chicken noodle soup had to be so straight-faced.  It was just so funny.  That was a tough scene to shoot because there were three of us and each time a different one would start to crack up.  That was not a one take shot. (laughs)  And I also enjoyed the porch scene with Don.

 

Casey Chambers:  That was one of the sweeter moments from the film.

 

Joan Staley:  Yes, it was.  It was just Don and myself.  We worked very well together.  And it was such a joy, after all of the westerns, and the saloon girl characters, and the silly characters, to be able to simply play it straight.  It was such a joy.

 

Casey Chambers:  What was it like being a fixture on the studio lots back then?

 

Joan Staley:  Early on, I was under contract through MGM. And I spent a year there.  This was during the death throes of the contract player…as MGM always had contract players.  It was tutelage.  They had a drama coach.  Not so much for on set or on film, but just sequences.  Telling you where to place your hands.  Never to show the heel of your hand to the camera.  Maestro Cepparo was the vocal coach.  We’d follow into his studio on the MGM lot.  Followed Howard Keel for voice lessons and Vic Damone. I was an MGM Deb Star.  Every year, the wardrobe people would nominate one person from the studio for what would be considered future stardom.  It was like…society.  A coming out party.  And I was a Deb Star one year. (1962)  It was quite an interesting sequence of events.

 

Casey Chambers:  That’s good stuff. J

 

Joan Staley:  Yeah, it was.  And then my contract expired and I became freelance.  I then started at Warner Brothers, not under contract, but I started doing a lot of Warner Brothers shows.  And then I went under contract to Universal because they wanted the character of Roberta “Honey-Hips” Love for “Broadside.”  We had a contract with ABC for 36 episodes.   I also did a lot of other shows at Universal.  I did all their westerns.  “Wagon Train,” etc.

 

Casey Chambers:  What was the first TV show you got to dip your toe in?

 

 

Joan Staley:  “Perry Mason.”  I did several of them and my parts kept growing in content.  I don’t remember the succession of the roles, but I have done over 350 television shows and I have been involved in 30+ films. You made the rounds at the studios all the time.  The pictures.  And ya got to know the casting people for each show.  And you could actually go in and meet someone.  And, of course, I had an agent who would set up appointments for me.

 

Casey Chambers:   It sounds like a lot of running and dashing all over the place.

 

Joan Staley:  Yeah, you really were.  You carried your wardrobe in the car because you might have an appointment in the morning for one type of character and something else in the afternoon.

 

Casey Chambers:  A lot of chasing down jobs and rumors on the studio lot.

 

Joan Staley:  Yes, it was very busy.  And it could also be very disappointing because you’d make the rounds of the studios never knowing if you were going to be asked to read.  And it would be a cold read.  They would just open the script to a place and you’d read one sequence from a character and they would say, ‘Thank you very much.  We’ll let you know.’  And didn’t! (laughs)  But I was good at cold reading and at capturing the character. C

 

asey Chambers:  Cold is tough.

 

Joan Staley:  It is. It is tough.  And usually, the casting directors didn’t even give you a thumbnail.  You didn’t know if you were a good guy or a bad guy.  Sometimes they did.  And it was wonderful when they did. (laughs)  It made it a lot easier.  But there was a lot of discouragement.  You had to go into them happy and bubbly.

 

Casey Chambers:  Enthusiastic, sure.

 

Joan Staley:  Exactly…and you’d get knocked down and be left never knowing when you got a character.  They’d call you later.  After a day or so.  You were getting shot down a lot. You were either too tall, too short, too fat, too blonde, too dark.  Many of the casting directors would know what they were looking for.  Or know what the director was looking for.  But there were a lot of the casting directors who just didn’t. Casey Chambers:  Well, I’d like to switch gears and jump to another iconic film you made from the 60′s…“Roustabout.” (1964) Joan Staley:  With Elvis. “Roustabout” Trailer (1964)

 

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, I was hoping you might share a little story about working with “The King,” if you wouldn’t mind?

 

Joan Staley:  Sure!  When I was living in Memphis, there was a disc jockey by the name of Dewey Phillips.  And back then, he was the king of the South.  He was the king of Memphis.  And Sun Records, which is where Elvis got his start, was also in Memphis.  And he would come in and plug his records and Dewey would play them.  And he would get interviews.  And one of those interviews overlapped on a meet-and-greet.  So me and my first husband, who was a cameraman for a local television station, got to meet Elvis. Casey Chambers:  This would have been back in the ’50s, right? Joan Staley:  Oh yeah.  It was in 1956.  And we became casual friends with Elvis.  We were invited to some of the celebrations at Sun Records.  He had a birthday once at Sam Phillips’ house and I was cutting his cake.  So, it was casual.   We were good acquaintances.  When he started making movies and became this huge monster star and I had also made my way into Hollywood…Elvis had already made a couple of other pictures with co-stars named Joan.  Actresses with the first name, Joan.  And I saw him one time and said, ‘When’s my turn?  You’ve worked with every other Joan in town…when is my turn?’ (laughs)

 

Shortly thereafter, I was cast in “Roustabout.”  He was a nice man.   We were on set.  We had several sets in the film.  But there was a scene where he was going to take off and just leave me.  And I was supposed to slap him.  And I said, Elvis, do you really want me to slap you?’  And he said, ‘Yeah!  I do karate.’  I said, ‘Oh come on!  Karate is not slapping’ (laughs)  So when we came to that point in the scene, I hauled off and whacked him!

 

Casey Chambers:  For real?

 

Joan Staley:  For real.  I said, ‘Do you want me to pull it?  Do you want me to pull the slap?’  Because I was at a camera angle where I could have pulled the slap and not hit him.  But he said, ‘No! No, no, no!  I want you to slap me.’  I said, ‘Are you serious?’  And I could talk to him because I had known him in Memphis.  So I said, ‘Okay!’  And the slap that you hear in the film is the one that I delivered.  That was not dubbed in.

 

Casey Chambers:  I’ll never hear “Don’t Be Cruel” the same way again! (laughs)

 

Joan Staley:  Yeah, his head shook!  Anyway, a story that I have only told once before…and not in recent years…was when we were shooting “Roustabout.”  Elvis invited me back to his house with the guys and stuff.  And we had a chance to talk about Disneyland, this and that or whatever it would be, and I asked him, ‘What do you miss the most that your stardom has taken away from you?’  He gave me the strangest look.  And he said, ‘Wednesday nights.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, Wednesday nights?’  And he said, ‘Wednesday night church services.’  Those are the services where they just did prayer and singing.  No sermons.  They just had praise.  He said, ‘I miss the music.  And I miss the Wednesday night services.’  And I’ve never heard that in print.  And if you listen to his gospel music and you listen to his voice, there is a poignancy that isn’t there in the other songs.  He had fun with the other songs.  And he worked ‘em well.  But there is a poignancy in his gospel music that puts shivers on my spine.  He was a nice guy.  I’m so sorry that he died the way he did.  He lost his way.

 

Casey Chambers:  It was sad.  I loved hearing that story.   Cherry-picking another one of your films, I’d like to ask you about your western adventure…“Gunpoint.” (1966)

 

Joan Staley:  Yes, that was my picture I did with Audie Murphy.  He was a nice man, too.  And you know the story of Audie Murphy, right? He was a medal of honor winner.  Cited for incredible bravery.  We were filming on location in Utah for that picture.  And that was a rough location.  We came into St. George, Utah which is a lovely city now, but back then it was mostly just motels and rest stops on the way to the capital city.  But it was beautiful scenery. Anyway, there was this one sequence…and before I go on, let me tell you that I have been in Paris.  That’s where I graduated from high school.  I have been to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  I mean, my senior year in high school, I was hanging, ya know, over the side of the Eiffel Tower.  And in those days, they didn’t have any protection like they do now.  So I didn’t think I had any problems with heights. But there was a sequence in this movie where we were going up the side of a cliff.  They had told us on the way up, we were using good horses.  And to hold onto the horse in front of you by the tail and hold on tightly to the reins on the horse behind you…’cause we were walking them.  We couldn’t ride them up.  And the horses were not at all thrilled with going up, I must tell you! (laughs)

But that’s the way we went up.  Then when they changed the camera shot, they wanted me to be standing on the side of this cliff.  After the shot, they said, ‘Okay, Joan.  C’mon.  Cut. We’re fine.’  I couldn’t move.  And I said, ‘Y-y-y-you want me to come down?’  And they said, ‘Unless you’re going to spend the night up there, yes.’  And I couldn’t. I was so embarrassed because they had to halfway shut down the production.  The camera guys were already carrying their reflectors and stuff down.  They were slipping and sliding, but they got down the side.  And I couldn’t move.  I was scared to death.  Here I was starring in this picture and I couldn’t move. (laughs)  Everybody in the crew was watching.  Everybody in the cast was watching.  And I’m the only one on the side of the cliff.  Finally, the director said, ‘Joan, just sit down and slide.’   And s-l-o-w-l-y, that’s what I did.  The whole way down.  They had a bit of a cheering section going on for me. And Audie was a practical joker.  There was this one time when the cast and crew were staying at a typical motel.  And the stuntmen would all congregate in one of the rooms before they decided to call it a night.  And Audie threw in a bag of snakes.  He just wanted to see what everybody would do.  And, of course, they scattered.  He was a kid at heart.

 

Casey Chambers:  Was it around this time that you decided to take a break from show business?

 

Joan Staley:  It was.  And I didn’t leave show business entirely.  I broke my back the last year of my contract with Universal.  My husband Dale (Sheets) and I were horseback riding and we had some of our kids with us.  And by the way, the name Staley was my married name from my first husband, Chuck Staley. Anyway, we were horseback riding around Griffith Park and the horse that I was on was a Stallion.  And something spooked him.  Or he just wanted me off, I’m not sure which.   Horses have a lead foot that they start out with.  And he started changing leads.  He started spinning.  And then he switched leads.  And he did this about four or five times.  I reset successfully each time.  And then on the last one, he changed leads and I went…‘I’m going off.’  All I could think of was I wanted to make sure the reins were tightly in my hands because he bucked.  He bucked me over his head and I wanted to hold onto the reins so that he wouldn’t step on me.  So I held the reins and I landed in some metal.  And I broke my back.

 

Casey Chambers:  Now that’s scary!

 

Joan Staley:  Yeah, it was.  I tried to get back on the horse, and couldn’t handle it…so I got off and walked him back.  We stopped by my mother-in-law’s house to drop off the kids and I laid down on the floor and could not get up.

 

Casey Chambers:  I dropped an ice tray on my foot once and I howled like a baby!  You’re amazing!

 

Joan Staley:  Well, I think I was in shock, honestly. (laughs)  My husband took me to the hospital.  They X-rayed me and said, ‘Joan, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’ve broken your back.’  And I started to laugh.  Laughing was not the right thing to do because that made it hurt even more.  Anyway, I spent the next couple of months in a brace.  I could not get up out of bed.

 

Casey Chambers:  Good lord, you’re Wonder Woman.  I can see how that would slow down your film career.

 

Joan Staley:  It was all, “This can’t be true!’ (laughs)  I had met my husband, Dale, at Universal.  He was an executive and was gorgeous…and we started dating and consequently got married.  We’ve been married for 49 years.  We have 7 children.  And 7 grandchildren.  And 24 great-grandchildren. Casey Chambers:  That sounds like a nice legacy you’ve grown. Joan Staley:  It is.  When Dale left Universal, we started up a personal management company for artists, singers, and actors.  And our first client was Mel Torme.  A fabulous singer. “Autumn In New York Medley”  -  

 

Casey Chambers:  Oh yeah, Mel is huge.

 

Joan Staley:  Yeah.  We managed Mel his whole career.  In fact, we still manage his estate.

 

Casey Chambers:  Do you have a favourite song? J

 

Joan Staley:  Every piece of music that he did.  Mel was a master musician and he, too, was a total perfectionist.  One of my favorites was “Autumn In New York.”

 

Casey Chambers:  He was known as The Velvet Fog, right?

 

Joan Staley:  Yeah, and that was a name given to him that he hated.

 

Casey Chambers:  Why did he not like it?  It was a good thing.

 

Joan Staley:  It was a compliment, but he didn’t see it that way.  It was given to him by a disc jockey named Robin who had a show in New York called “Robin’s Nest” and Mel didn’t care for that.  But he did succumb.  The license plate on his Rolls-Royce said…El Fog. We managed Mel for 35 years and that led to many, many, many other artists.  Some of whom we still manage.  We are very excited about managing The Four Freshmen, who are in their 24th incarnation and still internationally touring.  Brian Wilson, whom we’ve met many times, has said that if it wasn’t for The Four Freshmen, the Beach Boys wouldn’t have had the sound that they did.

 

Casey Chambers:  It sounds like you guys are just as busy as ever. “Zaz Turned Blue”  -  Was (Not Was) feat. Mel Torme (1983)

 

Joan Staley:  Yeah, we are.  And Mel had a saying and it’s true…‘When you rest, you rust.’  And so many people will retire, they’ll play a little golf, and pretty soon, it’s…bye-bye!  And we’re not ready to go yet.

 

Casey Chambers:  Something to think about.  Well Joan, thank you so much for letting me cherry-pick a few of your many achievements.  I really appreciate it.

 

Joan Staley:  Casey, thank you very much.

 

 

 

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Viking Film Studios – I’m a Stranger 1952

I had never heard of these Film Studios, and it was only when I was l0oking at the films of James Hayter that I came across one called I’m a Stranger made in 1952 at the Viking Studios in London.

Double Bill

The Film I’m a Stranger 1952  gets off to a quirky start, with glamorous star Greta Gynt, playing herself, having engine trouble en route to meeting a Hollywood producer, accepting a lift from local window cleaner and amateur sleuth James Hayter, discovering an injured woman in the back of his van and even more improbably, hanging about to help him investigate.

There is a  rather clever twist ending though.   Jean Cadell has an unsympathetic part as usual, as a charmless nurse, Charles Lloyd Pack hams it up as a smug lawyer and there’s an early role for a young and barely recognisable Fulton MacKay as a doctor called Alastair Campbell. Another famous-name-to-be, this time behind the scenes as editor was future Carry On director Gerald Thomas.

I'm a Stranger 1952

This film can be recommended to fans of British 1950′s B films, especially for the enjoyable performances from Greta Gynt and James Hayter.

I'm a Stranger 1952 2

Viking Studios was located in St Mary Abbots Place, a quiet cul-de-sac off Kensington High Street in central London.

For filmmakers on low budgets these Studios proved a boon as it meant they could create the illusion of filming in different places without ever leaving the street because all the houses on the street  had been built in a different style.

So in “I’m a Stranger”, John Kelly walks past number 5, knocks on the door and enters number 3 (actually a door into the studio). Later, Greta Gynt tells James Hayter (who comes to her assistance) that her car has broken down. In reality, they’re across the road from the studio. When she and James Hayter drive off, they’re heading towards the end of the cul-de-sac. They stop upon discovering their stowaway and are, in fact, outside number 2 – which is where they started. Their stowaway asks to be taken to ‘Dr. Westcott, number one Oxley Street’. They oblige and arrive at 1 St Mary Abbots Place, just across the road and another door into the studio.

The Viking Studiowas also known as ‘St Mary Abbott’s Place Studios’.  It was sited, not surprisingly, in St Mary Abbott’s Place which is just off Kensington High Street – between Edwards Square and Warwick Gardens in Kensington.  A document dated 1953 states that there were two studios, 1: 40ft x 26ft and 2: 35ft x 26ft.  Looking at the plan below, it appears that these were knocked through to form one larger studio some time between then and 1955.  This probably happened when ITV became involved.

 

Viking Film Studios Site

 

St Mary Abbott’s Place in 2006. The studios were on the site of the new red-brick building to the right of the white-walled restaurant.

Viking Film Studios Site 2

The frontage of the new building on the site of the Viking Studios. The passage on the left was the original access to the studio although at that time it was wide enough to reverse a scenery truck up it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trouble in the Glen 1954

This one didn’t fare well at the Box Office even though it is awash with Film Stars of the time including none other than Orson Welles – plus Forrest Tucker, Margaret Lockwood, Victor McLaglen and John McCallum.

I remember seeing this film at The Gaumont Cinema in St.Albans when very young – and remember bits of it.

My Brother and I went with My Uncle and Aunt who lived in the City – as we had gone on holiday to their home at the time which  we often did in the Summertime.  I loved it there.

Trouble in the Glen

Trouble in the Glen is a comedy featuring Orson Wells (in a kilt) as the new laird who stirs up the locals. The film is a mix of studio and location filming with some scenes filmed in Perthshire

 

Trouble in the Glen 2

In the Film Forrest Tucker’s Daughter who was crippled following Polio, is played by Margaret McCourt who had quite a busy career through the Fifties as a child actress – She was in The Invisible Man

Margaret McCourt

ABOVE – Margaret McCourt in Trouble in the Glen

Margaret McCourt 2

ABOVE – Margaret McCourt in The Invisible Man

 

Trouble in the Glen 3

Filmed in TRUCOLOR – I hadn’t realised that until I saw this title. It looked good though.

Trouble in the Glen 4

Margaret McCourt, Margaret Lockwood and Forrest Tucker

Orson Welles

Orson Welles

Trouble in the Glen is a sort of sequel to Republic’s biggest hit “The Quiet Man” – same writer and same formula.

Orson Welles and Victor McLaglen are at their scene stealing best. Forrest Tucker and Margaret Lockwood are an attractive pair of romantic leads.

The film is reasonably fun mainly because of Orson Welles constantly hamming it up and just having fun. In fact, Orson Welles is so larger than life in his presence and portrayal that he pretty much blasts poor Forrest Tucker off the screen any time they are together. Victor McLaglen is quite good and well able to hold his own with Orson Welles – but they do work well together.

The Film was made at Elstree Film Studios for Republic Pictures  - with location filming in Perthshire.

Trouble in the Glen

 

Trouble in the Glen 2

 

A set of Stills from the film – I used to love these and gaze at them when passing the cinema on my way to School for whichever film was showing that week – sometimes two programmes per week though -in the town  I have seen better than these but nevertheless these are good examples of what we would see.

 

 

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