Archive for January, 2015

Ronnie Ronalde – Innocent Sinners 1958

Ronnie Ronalde 2

Ronnie Ronalde has died a day or so ago – a name I remember so well from the radio days here in England in the early fifties. However I forgot that he whistled the soundtrack for Innocent Sinners in 1958 – a British film not really much known these days. I must search it out because apparently it is a charming film of its time – and it is adapted from a novel by Rumer Godden – featured on this Blog a while ago when we covered another of her works – Black Narcissus and The River.

And what about  Ronnie Ronalde – The Voice of Variety AS HE WAS CALLED..

In the 40 s and 50 s he  was a headliner, and broke box office records all over the world –  he was a big name in the UK, US, Australasia, Scandinavia, Africa, South America and Europe.

Such was his success in the US in the 1950s, he was seen as serious competition to Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, and others such as Richard Tauber and Josef Locke.

Ronalde had his own BBC Radio Show from 1949 called The Voice of Variety. During this series, the volume of Ronalde’s fan mail caused a problem for the BBC. The Voice of Variety News fan publication had a print of 55,000 copies twice yearly, and fan clubs during this era existed all across the UK. Thames TV also presented a weekly show titled Meet Ronnie Ronalde.

Ronnie Ronalde

In 1949 Ronalde filled Radio City Music Hall in New York City (with capacity of over six thousand) every night for ten weeks. He was at that time the most frequent UK artiste to ever perform there (over a thousand times).

During the same period he filled a 25,000 capacity venue in Toronto Canada for a fortnight.

 

Ronnie Ronalde whistled the theme to Innocent Sinners.

 

Innocent Sinners

Gentle children’s drama based on the novel An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden following a Cockney girl’s  efforts to brighten her drab life by cultivating a bomb-site garden. Director Philip Leacock was an adept hand at capturing youthful emotions and had earlier done so on films including The Kidnapper’s (1953) and The Spanish Gardener (1955). Characteristically of the director, it’s a sensitive and well acted drama.

It is set in London during the period of post-war austerity.  A 13-year-old girl,  Lovejoy Mason (June Archer) lives with guardian parents whilst her mother Bertha (Vanda Godsell) treads the boards at the coastal holiday resorts. When the girl comes into possession of a packet of cornflower seeds she decides to make something beautiful out  and creates a small garden in a bombed-out section of London. To tend her garden Lovejoy requires two-shillings for some garden tools and resorts to singing in the street – where she comes to the attention of terminally-ill resident Olivia Chesney (Flora Robson). She eventually gets the  money she needs  by robbing the collection box at a nearby bomb-damaged Roman Catholic church

A group of street urchins led by street-smart Tip Malone destroy Lovejoy’s garden and the young sparrow is forced to scour London in search of a new plot. Tip feels remorse for vandalising Lovejoy’s creation and offers to help her create a better garden in the grounds of the ruined Catholic church – providing she repays the money stolen from the collection box. Meanwhile, Lovejoy’s guardian’s, dreamer Mr Vincent (David Kossoff) and his wife Emma (Barbara Mullen), have troubles of their own with a restaurant that is failing and when news reaches them that Lovejoy’s mother has married and eloped to Canada the couple no longer have the funds to care of their young ward.

Lovejoy and Tip are arrested by the police for stealing from a communal garden, and together with her mother moving away, the  young teenager is taken into care. The one sympathetic figure transpires to be golden-hearted spinster Olivia Chesney, who having overseen Lovejoy’s predicament, calls on her solicitor to draw up a trust fund to ensure both Lovejoy’s future and that of likeable restauranteurs the Vincent’s in a new West End premises. Sadly Mrs Chesney passes away before the fund can be finalised and it’s left in the hands of her stern sister Angela (Catherine Lacey) as to whether her dying wishes are carried out.

Ronnie Ronalde with the them from Innocent Sinners 1958 :-

 

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The Blue Lagoon 1950 – Film Script

I have recently acquired this item – an original typed film script from the famous film The Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon Film Script 2  It is a fascinating find because it reminds us of an era now gone – and it also shows the great detail necessary in film making. Quite a lot of the filming went on in Fiji which in those days would be even more remote and inaccessible than it is today – but for young actor like Jean Simmons and Donald Houston it must have been a very exciting period in their lives. How on earth would they get there in those days. Even in the mid fifties to get to New Zealand would mean around nine hops by air – and whether Fiji meant another plane journey or by sea I don’t know. I do know however that Jean Simmons went to Sydney on her way out to film The Blue Lagoon  and received a very warm reception there. She also describes how she travelled back in luxury. Jean Simmons said :- “I’ve got some lovely memories.   I remember coming back from the Fiji Islands on the Queen Mary after we’d made The Blue Lagoon. I travelled with Eleanor Roosevelt and she gave me a bunch of violets. I was so thrilled. I was just 18. I’ve had a lovely life. Not bad for a kid from Cricklewood.” I must query Jean’s recollection here though, because there is a newsreel film of her celebrating her 19th Birthday on Fiji before she left for home.  Still that hardly seems to matter !!

The Blue Lagoon Film Script

Below is a jig-saw puzzle from the film – my Mother and Dad bought me one like this way  back probably in the early fifties and I treasured it and remember it to this day.

However years later  I was able to get hold of the full set of FOUR of these which made me very happy.

 

 

The Blue Lagoon Film Script 3.

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Blackmailed 1951 – Joan Rice

 

Joan Rice and Dirk Bogarde in ‘Blackmailed’

Within two years of winning a beauty contest Joan Rice found herself starring alongside Dirk Bogarde, in director Harold Huth’s black and white movie Blackmailed (1951).

She had been considered for the part of Mary, a girl injured in a tragic accident, but Huth decided to give Joan her first big chance and cast her in the role of Alamaan artists model.

Joan Rice and Dirk Bogarde in ‘Blackmailed’


 For a young girl who had been working as a housemaid for a doctor in Middlesex and then as a waitress in a Lyons Corner House – from where she was spotted it seems, this was the first step on her sudden meteoric rise to stardom. The movie was released in London in January 1951- two months later Joan was screen tested with six others for the role of Maid Marian in Disney’s live-action Technicolor film the The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). She was personally selected for this really plum role by Walt Disney himself who explained “she get’s my vote, she has quality.”  It seems that neither Ken Annakin the film’s director nor star Richard Todd in the title role rated her as an actress BUT fans of the film including myself, disagreed and thought she fitted the role perfectly – and certainly looked the part.

Blackmailed 1951
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Father Brown – New BBC Series

I am cheating a little here when I bring in the wonderful NEW series of Father Brown starring  Mark Williams in the title role – and excellent he is too.

Why this is not on at a peak time I just do not know.

 

However the reason that I can include this reference is the fact that in the Fifties there was a film version starring Alec Guiness as Father Brown and his adversary here was Peter Finch.

Alec Guiness as Father Brown – 1954 film version.

Five years after their collaboration on the Ealing classic, Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Alec Guinness and director Robert Hamer reunited for this teasing adaptation of GK Chesterton’s first Father Brown story, ‘The Blue Cross’. Purists may balk at the manner in which the sleuthing priest has been altered slightly in the transition from page to screen, but this remains a fascinating battle of wits that engagingly balances humour and suspense, while also deftly dispelling ideas about the Catholic Church’s supposed detachment from ordinary life.

Ignoring Bishop Cecil Parker’s suggestion that he entrusts St Augustine’s cross to Scotland Yard inspector Bernard Lee during their passage to Rome, Guinness has the relic stolen from him in Paris by notorious cracksman, Peter Finch, and vows not only to recover the artefact, but also to try and save the soul of his adversary. With Joan Greenwood playing a widow who stages a fake auction to entrap Flambeau and Sid James as one of Guinness’s more pugnacious parishioners, this is consistently compelling on both a criminal and a Christian level

 

Father BrownFather BrownFather Brown

Father Brown returned for a third series and this time he was uncovering a Soviet spy team in the Cotswolds

 

Father Brown (BBC1) returned for a third series, with an episode every afternoon for the next three weeks, and this time he was uncovering a Soviet spy team in the Cotswolds.

Actor Mark Williams fills out the role with a combination of delicacy and slapstick.

He isn’t clumsy, or socially inept. Visiting a young couple to offer his condolences after their friend was murdered, he sat with his teacup balanced on his knee, a gesture that seemed to reassure them that he wouldn’t intrude for long into their grief.

Creator G.K. Chesterton stated that Father Brown had an ability to lose his head and, by putting two and two together make four million. As Father Brown himself put it: ‘I am a bumbling idiot but I see patterns in things.’

 

Even if you’re not a fan of murder mysteries, these 45-minute dramas deliver entertainment with their glorious Fifties sets.

Sir Alec Guinness is considered one of the finest actors of the twentieth century, known for his ability to portray a wide range of characters.

Alec Guinness was born in London in 1914 to Agnes Cuffe, an unmarried woman who cared for him in a haphazard manner. She refused to divulge his father’s identity, and he never discovered why the name Guinness appeared on his birth certificate. By the time he was six, the child often was left alone for hours at a time. His mother entered a brief marriage to a brutal man who was hated and feared by young Alec. The boy’s only release from the misery of poverty and neglect came when he was sent away to school. As a teenager, he discovered the enchantment of the theater.

At the age of sixteen, Guinness was confirmed in the Anglican faith, but he secretly declared himself an atheist. “Certain incidents or sayings in the New Testament,” he wrote, “would pluck me back, from time to time, to something approaching belief, and I retained a constant interest in religious matters while being ignorant of any theology, but for the most part gave in to adolescent cynicism.”

This “constant interest in religious matters” led the young Guinness to attend Presbyterian services for a time, but the attraction did not last. He wrote in his autobiography that it had never even crossed his mind to step inside a Catholic church. He said his “tolerance for Catholics, unless one personally knew them, was limited to the sympathetic, although condescending” view.

Guinness left school at eighteen and went to work as a copywriter for an advertising agency. He no longer thought much about religion, believing it just “so much rubbish, a wicked scheme of the Establishment to keep the working man in his place.” He flirted with Communism by distributing Marxist/Leninist literature. He visited Quaker meetings, investigated Buddhism, and had an interest in tarot cards.

Guinness’s career as a copywriter was a failure, so he turned to the stage, realizing an attraction he had since childhood. Success came soon.

He was playing Hamlet at the Old Vic when an Anglican priest visited him in his dressing room. The priest complained that Guinness was blessing himself incorrectly in the play. This encounter turned out to be a step back toward Christianity.

On a terrible night during World War II, when London was under a Luftwaffe attack, Guinness sought shelter at Rev. Cyril Tomkinson’s vicarage. He was concerned about his wife and their young son, who were in a rented cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon. Over a glass of claret, the Anglican cleric gave Guinness a copy of St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life and advised him always to genuflect before the altar. Guinness had no idea what was meant by the “Real Presence,” but with bombs exploding around them, it did not seem the appropriate time for discussion.

Guinness returned to the Anglican faith and often bicycled in the dark of winter mornings to receive communion in a country church. His friendship with Tomkinson had reduced his anti-clericalism but not his anti-Romanism. It took Father Brown to begin that process.

Father Brown is the drab and delightful Catholic priest invented by G. K. Chesterton. One of Guinness’s most memorable characterizations was of this humble, crime-solving cleric. The film was being shot in a remote French village. One evening Guinness, still in costume, was on his way back to his lodgings. A little boy, mistaking him for the real thing, grabbed his hand and trustingly accompanied the “priest.”

That incident affected Guinness. “Continuing my walk,” he said, “I reflected that a Church that could inspire such confidence in a child, making priests, even when unknown, so easily approachable, could not be as scheming or as creepy as so often made out. I began to shake off my long-taught, long-absorbed prejudices.”

Shortly thereafter, Guinness’s son Matthew, age eleven, was stricken with polio and paralyzed from the waist down. The future for the boy was doubtful, and at the end of each day’s work on the film, Guinness began dropping in at a little Catholic church on his route home. He decided to strike a bargain with God: If God would let Matthew recover, Guinness would not stand in the way if the boy wished to become Catholic.

Happily Matthew recovered completely, and Guinness and his wife enrolled him in a Jesuit academy. At the age of fifteen, Matthew announced that he wished to become Catholic. Guinness kept his end of the bargain with God: He readily agreed to the conversion.

But God wanted much more. Guinness began to study Catholicism. He had long talks with a Catholic priest. He made a retreat at a Trappist abbey. He even attended Mass with Grace Kelly while he was working on a film in Los Angeles. The doctrines of indulgences and infallibility slowed him for a time, but his description of finally entering the Church said it all: “There had been no emotional upheaval, no great insight, certainly no proper grasp of theological issues; just a sense of history and the fittingness of things.”

Guinness was received into the Catholic Church by the bishop of Portsmouth, and while he was in Sri Lanka making The Bridge over the River Kwai, his wife surprised him by also converting. As is often the case with new converts, he felt periods of deep peace punctuated by physical delight. He recounts once running like a madman to visit the Blessed Sacrament in a little nondescript church. Reflecting on that episode, he wrote, “If religion meant anything at all it meant that the whole man worshiped, mind and body alike . . . There was some reassurance when I discovered that the good, brilliant, acutely sane Ronald Knox had found himself running, on several occasions, to visit the Blessed Sacrament.”

Sir Alec Guinness died in 2000 at the age of eighty-six, grateful to Chesterton’s Father Brown, who led him by the hand into the Church, and to a young boy’s recovery, which sealed a bargain with God.

 

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Richard Todd Rehearsing at Denham for The Story of Robin Hood 1952

Richard Todd and Rupert Evans rehearsing for action shots for The Story of Robin Hood 1952Walt Disney – in the summer of 1951. The film was released here in England in 1952.

If you look closely at the picture on the right – at the very back of the photograph, I reckon that is James Robertson Justice – who plays Little John in the film – seen chatting to someone who I think could be Walt Disney himself.   He came over that summer and appeared a number of times on the set both at Denham and Burnham Beeches.

These pictures were taken at Denham Film Studios – I reckon at the rear of the studio where it slopes down to the River Colne.

Rupert Evans was an expert swordsman and as such had been drafted in to train the actors when necessary – which in this film would have been quite often I guess.

Richard Todd training for Robin Hood 1952

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