Archive for May, 2015

Rex Harrison

Rex Harrisons

Rex Harrison was married six times.

With his slicked back hair and clipped accent cinema audiences adored the star of a string of hit films including My Fair Lady and Doctor Dolittle. He enhanced his reputation by serving in the RAF during the war. However it’s claimed Harrison’s suave image was a sham. According to the author of a new book the Oscar winner was a cad who treated people with contempt.Eileen Younghusband, who was a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force officer and served alongside Harrison in the 1940s, says: “He treated us like dirt. We were nothing because we didn’t have anything to do with his film career. He really thought he was someone special.”Eileen, now 93, first came across Harrison when he was already a screen heart-throb. He was an RAF officer while she worked in an operations room. She would encounter him in the mess where men and women mingled over breakfast and afternoon tea, and her illusions were soon shattered.In her book One Woman’s War she writes: “I particularly disliked him because of his table manners. He would fill his mouth with toast and marmalade and eat so messily that the soggy bread would ooze out of the side of his mouth. Quite revolting!”

Harrison claimed that he arrived at Landis’s home to find her already dead from a drugs overdose. But rumours persisted that she was still alive and instead of calling for an ambulance he telephoned his publicist to ask for advice.

Eileen also recalls how Harrison used the public mess telephone to call his latest mistress, apparely not caring who overheard.It’s a highly unflattering portrait of one of the nation’s greatest idols but we shouldn’t be surprised.Throughout his lifetime Harrison gained a reputation for being difficult and was often critical of his fellow stars. He also had a tangled personal life, marrying six times and allegedly driving two women to suicide.Harrison, the son of a cotton broker, was born in Huyton, near Liverpool, in 1908, later changing his name from Reginald to Rex. He overcame the partial loss of the sight in one eye following a bout of measles in childhood to first appear on stage in 1924.

His breakthrough West End performance was in a play by Terence Rattigan and he made his film debut in The Great Game in 1930.

War interrupted his career and he joined the RAF in a non-flying position, rising to the rank of Flight Lieutenant.By the time the conflict was over he had divorced his first wife Collette Thomas and married German actress Lilli Palmer. Harrison won plaudits for his performance in Blithe Spirit in 1945 and became an international film star in 1946 when he won a title role in Anna And The King Of Siam.At that stage he was earning the huge sum of $4,500 a week but two years later a scandal threatened to derail everything.He began an affair with starlet Carole Landis, 12 years his junior, who committed suicide after his ardour cooled and he refused to leave his wife.

Harrison claimed that he arrived at Landis’s home to find her already dead from a drugs overdose. But rumours persisted that she was still alive and instead of calling for an ambulance he telephoned his publicist to ask for advice.

Later Harrison is alleged to have bribed a police officer to destroy a suicide note. He became known as Sexy Rexy for his philandering ways and with his film career apparently in ruins focused on stage work for the next decade.

Harrison

Above – Rex Harrison threw his heart into acting, playing Caesar in the 1963 production Cleopatra.

For once he was eclipsed, by the affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

After a series of solid performances he returned to the big time with My Fair Lady, which began its run in 1956, playing the waspish Professor Henry Higgins.However Harrison was not impressed by his co-star Julie Andrews who was cast as Eliza Doolittle, his Cockney protégée.

“If that b***h is still here on Monday I’m quitting the show,” stormed Harrison during their fraught Broadway run.

One of the numbers included the line, “I’ve grown accustomed to your face”, but Harrison is said to have refused to sing it to Andrews whom he despised because she initially struggled with the role.

In FACT Harrison was himself far from perfect and admitted he could barely sing.

“Originally I had a block about appearing in a musical,” he recalled years later.

“I went to a voice teacher for a while but that did no good. My range is about one and a half notes. I ended up talking the musical numbers, which was revolutionary at the time.”His poor singing voice mattered not a jot and he won a Tony award for My Fair Lady.Andrews later used a profanity to describe Harrison but said he was such a good actor that she could forgive his boorish and selfish behaviour.Ironically when Audrey Hepburn was later cast ahead of Andrews in the film version of My Fair Lady, for which Harrison won an Oscar, he is said to have thrown another tantrum.

He believed Hepburn was badly miscast and referred to her as “bloody Audrey”.

In 1957 Harrison married the vivacious actress Kay Kendall. She did not know she was terminally ill but her doctor confided in Harrison, whose wife Lilli agreed to a divorce so he could nurse Kendall through her final days.

She died two years later aged just 32 leaving Harrison devastated. From that moment he always wore a ring Kendall had given him.

 

In his memoirs last year Sir Roger Moore remarked: “Rex Harrison could be a rather mean-spirited man and he wasn’t regarded very warmly by those who knew him. The one decent thing he did was look after my lovely friend Kay Kendall when she became ill.

The one very decent thing Rex Harrison did do was look after his third wife, my lovely friend Kay Kendall, when she became ill

 When Rex was in My Fair Lady on Broadway she used to have to stand at the side of the stage when he sang ‘I’ve grown accustomed to your face’, as he refused to sing it to his co-star Julie Andrews, whom he hated with a passion.

The producers wouldn’t hear of dropping it and so Rex said the only compromise would be if he could sing it to Kay.

Ironically, when he won the Oscar for the film version in 1964, he smiled widely as he dedicated it to his two fair ladies: Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn.

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As Harrison’s fame grew so did his reputation for domineering and unreasonable behaviour on set.

My Fair Lady

 In My Fair Lady Harrison believed Hepburn was badly miscast and referred to her as “bloody Audrey”
Charlton Heston was another co-star to find him difficult stating after working together on The Agony And The Ecstasy: “Rex was in fact a kind of thorny guy but he was so good it was worth the trouble it took.”Many who met him commented on his huge ego and actor Patrick Macnee said: “He was one of the top five unpleasant men you’ve ever met.”Matters came to a head during filming of Doctor Dolittle in 1967. During shooting in St Lucia Harrison moved his yacht to block the cameras in a contract dispute. His antics were so bad that he was replaced by Christopher Plummer until he agreed to be less tyrannical.There were also heated rows with his latest wife, fiery Welsh actress Rachel Roberts.

During that period both were drinking heavily and they would frequently stage their cat-fights very publicly at Hollywood parties.

Scandal continued to dog him although he never found himself short of work and went on to appear in more than 40 films.

He divorced Roberts in 1971 but she committed suicide in 1980, apparently after a failed final attempt to win him back.

His fifth marriage, to Elizabeth Rees- Williams, who was 28 years younger and had been married to actor Richard Harris, lasted four years.

“Wives are like gilt-edged stocks,” Harrison once joked. “The more you have the greater your dividends.”

Harrison, who had homes in London, New York and Portofino, Italy, didn’t mellow in old age. When he last appeared on stage in London in the 1980s a promising young female cast member had the audacity to suggest he was getting a line slightly wrong.

He smiled his deadliest smile and replied: “Mmm, how very interesting to be given advice from quite the worst actress on the English stage.”

He never liked the new National Theatre where the actors’ names were billed alphabetically. “Would it help if I changed my name to ’Arrison?” he asked director Peter Hall.

Harrison, who had two sons, was finally knighted in 1989. The honour was no doubt delayed for many years because of his prolific womanising and arrived just in time. He died only 11 months later aged 82 from pancreatic cancer.

He was survived by his sixth wife Mercia Tinker, another in the line of much younger women.

Rex Harrison was a snob and had a terrible temper. He was loathed by many of his peers and treated many of the women in his life atrociously – but no one ever accused him of lacking talent.

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The Man from Colorado

I had never seen or even heard of this film until today 24 May 2015 when it was shown in the UK on Film 4. What a great western this is. In colour  too but actually released in 1948 so technically not really a Fifties film but I am cheating a bit because it was so good.

The Man from Colorado

If you haven’t seen it then please do. Glenn Ford and William Holden star together in this one for Columbia Pictures.   The Man from Colorado, the first Western after the War, was really the first where they were clearly mature, seasoned players doing a serious job. In this slightly unusual psychodrama, Ford is the Union Colonel who becomes a federal judge and Holden the Captain who becomes his US Marshal. We soon perceive, however, that the relationship should have been the other way round as Holden shows the decency and authority required for command while Ford gives a fine performance of a man descending into megalomania. To complicate the issue, the two are rivals for the hand of the fair Caroline (Ellen Drew), who marries Glenn but should have taken Bill.

The Man from Colorado 2

Released in 1948 this dark movie is  directed by Henry Levin (better known for sword and cloak dramas) and well photographed by William Snyder. The film starts on the very last day of the Civil War as Ford gives the order to wipe out a straggling Confederate war party in Colorado despite its Captain running up the white flag. William Holden is shocked but says nothing for the moment out of loyalty. Ford’s villainy worsens in civilian life as he confides his madness to his journal but will not admit it to anyone else. Glenn Ford’s friend Edgar Buchanan (who appeared in three of Ford’s first four Westerns) as the crusty, kindly old Doc makes excuses but the paranoia and blood-lust of Ford grows as he becomes a hanging judge and leads posses to run down criminals or those he only suspects might be criminals.

The Man from Colorado 3

Glenn Ford’s madness – Illustrated in the above picture –  is always measured against the rock-like common sense of William Holden. Glenn Ford is extremely good as the commander descending into insanity and Holden, handsome and noble, is splendid as the former friend who stands up to him. Ellen Drew is moving and strong as the wife even if such parts didn’t allow for much in those days. James Millican plays Jericho Howard, the ex-soldier. The film ends with  with a climactic fire and showdown. Glenn Ford – wild eyed and completely mad – and William Holden are at the top of their game in this one

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Pony Express 1953

Pony Express foreign LC

 

Nat Holt and Paramount  -  Pony Express (1953), a good Western with history re-written by Charles Marquis Warren.

It stars Charlton Heston (as Buffalo Bill, who really rode for the Pony Express), Rhonda Fleming, Jan Sterling and Forrest Tucker (as Wild Bill Hickock). To get the mail through, Heston and Tucker have to contend with weather, Indians, outlaws and have two leading ladies –  Rhonda Fleming and Jan Sterling.

The action scenes are really well done. Olive Films brought it out on DVD back in 2011.

Directed by Jerry Hopper
USA 1953

***

Striking outdoor locations highlight Frank Gruber’s story,

which details the founding of the Pony Express and how

it prevented California from becoming an independent republic.

Ruthless killers (Henry Brandon, Stuart Randall) trying to incite

a rebellion against the United States, employ devious schemes

to prevent Buffalo Bill Cody (Charlton Heston)

and Wild Bill Hickok (Forrest Tucker)

from getting the Pony Express started.

Rhonda Fleming and Michael Moore play siblings who are

loyal Californians, violently opposed to the Pony Express and statehood.

Directed by Jerry Hopper (The Secret of the Incas).

 

 

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Creature from the Black Lagoon 1954

I came across this terrific colour still from the 1954 film ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’ originally made in 3D  but not in colour – so this still is well worth seeing :-

Creature From The Black Lagoon - colour still

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Dolores Hart who made two films with Elvis

Devoted: Actress turned Benedictine cloistered nun Mother Dolores in the Abbey of Regina Laudis

Devoted: Actress turned Benedictine cloistered nun Mother Dolores in the Abbey of Regina Laudis

Mother Dolores, now 76, first shared her story with The Associated Press in 2011 as she and about 40 other members of her Benedictine order faced the possibility that their abbey in Bethlehem would close

Fire officials had found numerous fire code and safety issues in what was a ramshackle collection of factory buildings, barns and sheds that were linked together in 1947 after the nuns purchased the old industrial site.

Mother Dolores went on to write an autobiography, embark on a speaking tour, and make TV appearances. In 2012, she returned to Hollywood to attend the Academy Awards when a documentary short about her life, God is the Bigger Elvis, was nominated for an Oscar.

‘Of course it was only a nomination,’ she joked. ‘I’m still waiting for the real thing.’

But the bigger reward, she said, came as an answer to her prayers for the abbey.

Shortly after her autobiography was published, the monastery began receiving letters and donations from across the world. One man began sending $100 a month. A woman in New Zealand sent $3,000.

‘The Elvis fans didn’t have a lot of money, but they sent quite a few dollars and all their love,’ she said.

The nuns quickly raised more than $1 million. The abbey’s main building now has new alarm and sprinkler systems, an elevator and other safety improvements.

What was once a project designed to keep the abbey from closing has become a fundraising effort to renovate the abbey for a long future. 

Dolores Hart played Elvis Presley’s love interest in ‘Loving You’

Dolores Hart and Elvis Presley promoting Loving You
The movie poster

Looking back: Dolores Hart and Elvis Presley promoting Loving You, in which she played his love interest

Loving You: The pair shared a steamy smooch, but Mother Dolores is shocked by the public's intrigue

Loving You: The pair shared a steamy smooch, but Mother Dolores is shocked by the public’s intrigue

Change of attire: Shown here with George Hamilton, Dolores Hart starred in the 1960 film Where The Boys Are

Change of attire: Shown here with George Hamilton, Dolores Hart starred in the 1960 film Where The Boys Are

With actor John Saxon

The most recent version of the renovation plan, dubbed New Horizons, calls for a new chapel (the ceiling is sagging), housing and other environmentally friendly and disabled accessible spaces to live and pray.

Among other things, the nuns need to install new wiring and insulation to prevent the constant freezing of pipes in the winter, fix the falling gutters, replace rotting wood and get rid of the black mold that can be seen growing on the ceiling of the former barn that now houses the print shop, bakery and sewing room.

More than anything, they need more space – common areas and places where people can reflect without bumping into one another. They have no conference room and currently no way to walk inside from one end of the monastery to the other without going through the chapel and disturbing those who are praying there.

The nuns estimate the work will cost between $7.5 million and $9 million. They have so far raised more than $3 million.

‘That first phase was more of an urgency, a survival thing,’ said Sister Angele Arbib, who serves as the abbey’s spokeswoman. 

‘But this is all needed. We have to continue, because we aren’t going to be in a position to do this ever again. We are doing this for the future.’

Mother Abbess Lucia Kuppens said it has been hard for the nuns, who were used to living a cloistered life, to reach out to the public and ask for assistance. But with Mother Dolores as an inspiration, they have all found a way to help, each using her unique talents.

They have set up a website, organized fundraisers, begun speaking to the media and increasing sales of their handcrafted pottery, artisan cheeses, and choir recordings.

Mother Dolores’ documentary trailer: God is the Bigger Elvis

 

What was once a project designed to keep the abbey (pictured) from closing has become a fundraising effort to renovate the abbey for a long future. They have already raised $3 million and hopes to raise another six
A different life: Though she still votes on films for the Academy Awards, her main focus is the Abbey and the much-needed renovations which are expected to cost $9 million

A different life: Though she still votes on films for the Academy Awards, her main focus is the Abbey and the much-needed renovations which are expected to cost $9 million

Pictured on May 15, Mother Dolores takes a baby sheep from shepherdess Sister Alma at the Abbey

Pictured on May 15, Mother Dolores takes a baby sheep from shepherdess Sister Alma at the Abbe

Here she attends a Vespers, evening prayer, at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, in Bethlehem, Connecticut

Holy: Mother Dolores prays seven times a day in the Abbey, which she joined at age 25

Holy: Mother Dolores prays seven times a day in the Abbey, which she joined at age 25

‘We now know we can do it,’ the mother abbess said. ‘We’ve gained courage and confidence.’

Mother Dolores’ story has attracted more than money, Mother Lucia said. Other professional women have connected with the idea of leaving their hectic lives for the monastery. Some come to the abbey to visit, working in their dairy and learning how to live a more self-sufficient life on the abbey’s organic farm.

Judith Pinco, a former singer from Hollywood, read about Mother Dolores and decided to visit the abbey. She ended up joining the church and now serves as Mother Dolores’ assistant and liaison to the outside world.

‘I thought I was coming here for a contemplative life, but this is my way of giving back,’ she said.

There has also been a steady stream of young people, many inspired by Mother Dolores’ story, showing up and looking for direction. Every room where the novices live is currently filled.

‘So there has been more than just donations,’ Mother Lucia said. ‘People have really been finding spiritual renewal.’

That has put even more strain on the abbey already cramped housing, helping make the planned renovations a necessity, Mother Lucia said.

The changes will make it possible for the abbey to grow and continue its service, she said – like a movie with a happy ending.

‘I couldn’t ask for a better legacy,’ said Mother Dolores.

 

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Creature From the Black Lagoon in 3 D

Super 8 Sound Digest
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON

3-D

 

Creature From The Black Lagoon

A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle.
A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilisation for study.

 

I saw this Super 8 film available for sale the other day. I have of course seen the film – which years ago I have to say – frightened the life out of my eldest daughter when she sat and watched it with me one night on Television.

That time it was not in 3D so I am tempted to buy this and sample the 3D which was very good in those days.

 

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