Archive for October, 2012

Grace Kelly in ‘High Society’

Louis Armstrong ( OR as he was billed  MR. Louis Armstrong ) opens the film singing the song ‘High Society’ on a bus travelling to the wedding destination where we will meet Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly and Celeste Holm and many others.

Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly)  who, having been through one marriage to likable musician C.K. Dexter Haven (Bing Crosby)  is about to enter another with a rather stuffy, boring social climber.    Dexter and Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra)  a reporter covering the wedding  help Tracy  realise whom she really should marry.

 Dexter-Haven is a successful popular jazz musician who lives near his ex-wife’s Tracy Lord’s family estate. She is on the verge of marrying a man blander and safer than Dex.   Mike Connor, an undercover tabloid reporter, also falls for Tracy.     Tracy must choose between the three men as she discovers that “safe” can mean “deadly dull” when it comes to husbands and life.
Above: Front of House Stills from the film.
Along the way there are little twists and turns of the plot - but also  delightful music and songs – Well there would be really with this cast !!!
Have You heard it’s in the Stars ……… 

 

Who could ever forget Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby singing ‘What a swell Party this is’   with that memorable line –  ‘Have you heard it’s in the stars -Next July we collide with Mars’

Grace Kelly (12 November 1929–14 September 1982)

One of the most beautiful women in movies or indeed anywhere come to that although her film career was very short it was very memorable.

Even more than thirty years after Grace Kelly’s  untimely death she remains an embodiment of beauty and glamour both royally and on film.

Admirers recognise her as the embodiment of how we percieve royalty  to be – as well as a critically-acclaimed actress and the elegant consort of  Monaco,  a loyal friend  and of course  loving mother.

Grace Kelly was born in Philadelphia USA  to John and Margaret Kelly.  John Kelly her father, was a wealthy contractor.  At a young age,  Grace decided she wanted to become an actress, and studied acting - mainly in the theatre at that time - at New York City’s American Academy of Dramatic Art and worked as a stage actress and model before moving to Hollywood.   During her time in New York Grace  appeared on the covers of magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Redbook and even promoted Old Gold cigarettes.

Grace made her film debut  in a minor supporting role, but then starred in legendary western High Noon in which she played a Quaker bride alongside Gary Cooper.

Grace next  appeared in Mogambo along with Clark Gable.  Rumours had it that she had a romantic involvement with him during the making of this film

They were out in East Africa together for a number of weeks while filming – Will probably come back to Mogambo in a later post.  For this part she got an  Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

 Above – Clark Gable and Grace Kelly in Mogambo

She then sparked  the interest of director Alfred Hitchcock, who made  Grace into his ideal of the elegant, beautiful blonde and then cast her in three of his finest films of the fifties  -  Dial M for Murder,  Rear Window  and To Catch a Thief.

She also made Green Fire in 1954 with Stewart Granger but apparently she was somewhat less than impressed by him.

The Country Girl  then won her the Golden Globe and the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role of 1954.

Grace received a golden record for the hit song True Love from High Society.

 

Above: Grace Kelly

Later that year, she married Prince Rainier Grimaldi III of Monaco to become Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco.  She gave up her successful acting career in which she had made only eleven films -  very few really for such a well remembered actress although I do think that she was very lucky to be chosen for the films she appeared in and the Directors and Actors she worked with.

She had three children –  Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stéphanie. Grace died on 14 September 1982 after her car went off a road in the cliffs of Monaco.

 

 

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Norman Wisdom – Trouble In Store

Norman , a lowly stock clerk at Burridge’s department store,   has fallen in in love with another employee, Sally Wilson played by Lana Morris  but he hasn’t been able to pluck up the courage to let her know how he feels. When he falls out  with the new head of the store, Augustus Freeman  played by his long time film straight man Jerry Desmonde he is promptly fired. As he is leaving the store he sees an older lady (Margaret Rutherford) seemingly struggling with a very lareg suitcase and he goes to help her . Freeman sees Norman assisting a “customer” and rehires him.

Meanwhile, Peggy Drew played by Moira Lister the store’s personnel manager is plotting to rob the store along with her boyfriend Gerald (Derek Bond) . Norman is fired and rehired again and again but his escapades somehow manage to benefit the store.

He thwarts the robbery in the end and wins the girl but not before some ‘intersting’ escapades.

Lana Morris

Lana Morris was described as a  bright-eyed brunette who  brought a refreshing liveliness and sense of humour to British films in the Fifties.

She was one of a group of Rank starlets that included Barbara Murray, Rona Anderson and Honor Blackman –  she was the below-stairs maid snatching moments to read racy novels in Spring in Park Lane and Norman Wisdom’s girlfriend in Trouble in Store. Her marriage to the BBC radio and TV producer Ronnie Waldman was one of the happiest in show business.     Later she was a star of television series such as The Forsyte Saga and Howard’s Way and was about to appear in a new stage production at the time of her death in 1998 at the age of 68.     She married Ronnie Waldman at about the same time that this film came out.     I seem to remember her being on Whats My Line and I certainly remember Ronnie Waldman in Puzzle Corner which must have been on Childrens TV – BBC of course – there wasn’t anything else in 1953 !!

Jerry Desmonde

His real name was James Robert Sadler.
Bob Hope referred to Jerry as ‘the best straight man in the business’

Jerry had been on stage from a the age of eleven and rose up to playing the theatre straight man to Sid Field – who in the forties was a very big Music Hall star. He appeared in the film Cardboard Cavalier with Margaret Lockwood which should have been a great success for Sid Field but for whatever reason – maybe just timing – it didn’t turn out that way.

He also appeared in films with many famous stars including Charlie Chaplin, Alec Guiness, Sid Field, Margaret Lockwood and the list just goes on.  He was married to Peggy Duncan and they had two children, a daughter Jacqueline and son Gerald.   After the second World War Jerry Desmonde and his family settled in London.  In 1967 following bouts of depression after the death of his wife Jerry took his own life.  Acording to Halliwells Film Book he had been driving a taxi to make end meet when his long career faltered in the sixties. I find this very sad for an actor who had been in so many roles and played with so many of the top stars of the era.

Above – Jerry Desmonde looking suitably exasperated in another Norman Wisdom film Up In The World.

Normal Wisdom used him in his films in much the same way that George Formby had with Garry Marsh.    I have to say  from a personal point of view  I much preferred the George Formby films to any that Norman Wisdom ever  did.

I do remember Jerry Desmonde being on Whats My Line as a panelist on a number of occasions.   All in all I must say that I quite liked Jerry Desmonde – he played those parts opposite Norman Wisdom brilliantly.

Norman Wisdom

Well what can be said of Norman Wisdom that people don’t already know. He virtually saved Pinewood in the fifties with his extremely successful films. I haven’t been his biggest fan BUT I must say a work colleague of mine had seen a programme on his life starting from a very poor and ill treated childhood through his army career in India where he used to entertain his mates and in doing so learned to play many musical instruments, through to his film career and on to stage work, acting and on and on.  A very long life and on hearing this story I have to say that I greatly admire him for the way he lived his life. Good man, Norman !!!

 

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Denham Film Studios

For some reason that I cannot rationalise I love Denham Film Studios – probably because as a child we would holiday down in St.Albans and would travel to Windsor on many occasions, always in my Dad’s car,   and we would  pass by these studios. Films were very much of interest to us all at the time and we sort of viewed these studios as a magic place which in a way it was.  Sadly though by the time of our journeys everything was coming to an end there – in fact the very last film was made in the summer of 1951.

The Studios were built in 1936 and the founder Alexander Korda planned to outsize anything Hollywood could offer and he nearly pulled it off.   The Second World War  came at the wrong time for this venture though.

Denham Film Studios – below

Situated on a 165 acre site near to the village of  Denham in Buckinghamshire  it was at the time  the largest facility of its kind in the UK and Europe.    In the picture above you can see behind  the River Colne and to the left the Denham lake.  These areas proved ideal locations for such films as The History of Mr. Polly and Treasure Island.

Something remains of the studios though in that a short ten minute film called A Day at Denham – and a Link is below to enable you to see it:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9y2YGbacZM.

 Ken Annakin directed the very last film made at Denham in the summer of 1951.  In his autobiography he writes ‘ I drove through the gates of Denham Studios, gazing in awe at the four large sound stages which had been built by Sir Alexander Korda, for his great series of British movies from The Private Lives of Henry VIII (Charles Laughton) through The Thief of Baghdad (Conrad Veidt and Sabu) to Things to Come (H.G.Wells).

Two of the stages were over 200 ft long and both would be filled by enormous sets for his film.

During this time Princess Elizabeth our future Queen visited Denham and watched some of the scenes being filmed and was taken round  the outside sets by Walt Disney who came over to England during that summer to oversee the filming.

Alexander Korda’s house in Denham - below

Below is the house in Denham Village which was owned by Alexander Korda and his wife Merle Oberon and which was later purchased  by John Mills and his wife.

 

The studios were known by various names during their lifetime including London Film Studios, the home of Korda’s London Films  and later the D&P Studios after the merger with Pinewood which is just up the road.

A place that had been a dream factory is now virtually gone except for the Rank factory on  the front.   The vast majority of it was demolished around 1976. That would have been a very sad time for film fans the world over.

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When Worlds Collide 1951

Six Days to Bellus ….

Five Days to Bellus ….

Four Days to Bellus …..         and so the tension builds as Bellus is on collision course with the Earth.

I remember this film being released when I was at junior school and recall my fascination with it at the time and maybe even now.   There was some kind of colour strip preview in the press or whatever releases they did and there was a picture of a very large planet – Bellus – coming in to collide with the earth – it certainly scared me at the time.

This was another George Pal special effects film but apparently the budget was so low that they had to use  an enlarged print when the spaceship lands in the new world and it did not look at all realistic. It should have been a good quality matte painting – Oh for a Peter Ellenshaw working on this film – we would have seen something really special and then I think the film could have been a classic.

 When Worlds Collide is a 1951 science fiction film starring Richard Derr  and Barbara Rush.     Here we have  a ninety minute adventure as new star Bellus is discovered, but found to be on a collision course with Earth.  There is though  a slight chance of  avoiding certain  destruction by building a spaceship to journey  to planet Zyra in orbit around Bellus.    Millionaire, Sydney Stanton, played by John Hoyt   funds the escape project and attempts to pull all the strings.  As they all go to board the spaceship  Dr. Cole Hendron,  played by Larry Keating  prevents Stanton along with himself from embarking.   Stanton attempts to walk in a desperate and vain effort to board as the ship blasts off.  When Worlds Collide is filmed in Technicolor.

 

Above – The New World

See the Trailer to When Worlds Collide on this link below :-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VXeT-yHNcFI

Barbara Rush we have already mentioned in a previous post – Harry Black. This though was one of her very first films  and she looked good in it.

Richard Derr

This film gave him perhaps his only starring role but he had acted from the early forties and continued into the eighties initially in film and then a lot of TV. He looks to have appeared in nearly all the US TV series that we used to see such as Charlies Angels, Cannon, The Outer Limits, Streets of San Fransisco, Perry Mason, The Phil Silvers Show, Starsky and Hutch, Barnaby Jones, Dallas, and Star Trek.

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King of the Wild Frontier

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee !

The film was effectively  three television episodes stitched together.   It remains to this day Walt Disney’s most successful television film project.  The Davy Crockett phenonemon sparked a national (and later transatlantic) craze for all things related to the character.

The success of the film prompted Walt Disney to create a prequel entitled Davy Crockett and the River Pirates

Actor Fess Parker  became so identified with the role that in 1964 he starred in a successful television series Danel Boone about another American frontiersman.

Davy Crockett took the world by storm in 1956. All the young lads in England at least ran around in Davy Crockett hats and the song from the film was on the radio all the time.

Above – Picture of the Fess Parker Hotel, Santa Barbara.

Fess Parker was never that comfortable with the role. He didn’t care for horse riding and wearing buckskin made him uncomfortable. He was himself more at home in a lounge suit in the modern day world and was quite sophisticated. However fate sometimes casts you into a different mould and that certainly happened here.  He invested his earnings very shrewdly and purchased a lot of property and land in and around Santa Barbara which was a bit out of the way in those days.  Another actor who had discovered the area had been the wonderful English film actor Ronald Colman who had purchased the San Ysidro Hotel near there and in fact retired and died there in 1958.Fess Parker’s investments really paid off – he did still own the Fess Parker Hotel right down close to the beach there – which is now run by a hotel chain. He bought a farm close by and created a vineyard and became an international supplier and expert on wine.

Fess Parker died of natural causes on March 18, 2010, at his home in Santa Ynez, California, near the Fess Parker Winery.

He was buried with his parents in Santa Barbara Cemetery, in Santa Barbara, California.

Buddy Ebsen

Played Davy Crockett’s sidekick in the series but had originally been a song and dance man – and actually had been cast as the scarecrow and then switched to play the Tin Man by MGM in The Wizard of Oz  but he suffered a paint allergy and had to withdraw from the classic film.

Above – Buddy Ebsen in an earlier western with Rex Allen. 

He later became well known for his role as Jed Clampett in The Beverley Hillbillies and after this he played the title role in the 1970s TV detective series Barnaby Jones. He died in 2003.

Walt Disney

This is someone who  we will be coming back to again and again on this Blog because he in many ways he defined the film industry with his ability to pull out the unexpected and the successful and who could combine so many talents in  order to reach the final product which he instinctively knew that his audience would want.

My own view is that it was his visit to England in 1950 for Treasure Island and then The Story of Robin Hood  that coincided with the company moving forward into very profitable times.  I think the films he made here – particularly those two – proved a very lucky break for him and it then catapulted him into Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea  and Davy Crockett among others.

But it was the two films at Denham Film Studios here in England with its huge area sloping down to the River Colne,  that I am going so far as to say, were THE most important ones he ever made.

Below – Another view of the Fess Parker Hotel, Santa Barbara.

 

 

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