Archive for December, 2018

Ellis Powell – Mrs Dale on Radio

Ellis Powell played Mrs Dale in Mrs Dale’s Diary on BBC Radio in England from 1948 until 1963 when the role was taken over by Jessie Matthew.   Ellis Powell was married to well known film actor Ralph Truman who had many roles although one memorable one for me was as George Merry in Walt Disney’s Treasure Island made at Denham Film Studios and released in 1950.

Byron Haskin, the film’s director, said that he had realised when casting the film, that Robert Newton was just going to ‘let rip’ in the role of Long John Silver - which he did very successfully – so as a sort of balance, he cast Ralph Truman and with instructions for  him to go well over the top in his portrayal of George Merry - and so successfully did he do that, that Byron Haskin said that in the scenes they played together it almost made Robert Newton actually look as though he was underplaying his part. Ellis Powell and Ralph Truman

There is very little information about Ellis Powell available anywhere although she had the main role in the very earliest of Soaps on Radio – of course – Mrs Dales Diary.  She had been a Radio Drama actress from before the War – in fact right through the War until in 1948 she landed this part. She was part of the BBC Radio drama team that was shipped out of London during the War and based in Evesham where she appeared in many radio plays, although some of them were produced in Manchester. Ralph Truman also was a very well known BBC Radio drama actor with up to 5,000 broadcasts to his name. They may have met through BBC radio I would guess.

Mrs Dale 3 Above – a posed still for Mrs. Dale’s DiaryEllis Powell and Grace Allardyce in a scene Ellis Powell

 

Something that is not known generally is that shortly after she left the role as Mrs. Dale. she agreed to become a  Night Spot Club Hostess at the  Nitespot in Charing Cross, London owned by former Light-Heavyweight Boxing Champion Freddie Mills which was due to open at the end of April 1963.  Freddie Mills had been part owner of a Restaurant and was having this converted to the so-called Nite-Spot. It seems that Ellis Powell lost her job as Mrs. Dale in February of 1963.  She was then offered this job from late April 1963 and she died on 2 May 1963. Just over two years later Freddie Mills was found shot dead in his car – it was reported as suicide although there has been some dispute over this.

Ellis Powell at Home 1963 Above: Actress Ellis Powell sitting with her feet up and her pet cat next to her, pictured following her dismissal from the radio series ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’, at her home in London, February 20th 1963 – this is the day after she walked out of Broadcasting House (BBC)  for the last time after being cruelly sacked from her long running part as Mrs Dale.

Ellis Powell was reported to have been ‘sacked’ from Mrs Dale’s Diary  - and from her long running role as Mrs. Dale – she walked out of Broadcasting House on 19 th February 1963 for the last time – very bitter. She had earned £ 30 per week for her role,  although her voice was well known to millions of listeners the country over – but her face was not- so she found fame of a sort but not a fortune – in fact very little. She had been fired partly it is alleged because of her drinking habits but also because – in typical BBC fashion – they wanted to give the programme a face-lift. ‘ The BBC have chucked me out like and old sock’ she said. Her fans believed that she never recovered from the shock and distress of her dismissal. In the last weeks of her life she is reported to have worked as a Demonstrator at the Ideal Home Exhibition and as a Cleaner at a Hotel – although this is at odds with what I have found out that she had lined up this job at Freddie Mills’ NiteSpot.  Maybe she was just taking any job that came in her desperation. There are also references to the vague similarity of the True Life story of Ellis Powell to the plot of The Killing of Sister George – but to me that is stretching things a bit far unless there is something that links the two which  is not  generally known – although on the other hand from the outline of the story of the film below does have a parallel – that is clear.

I have come across this mini article below :- Marcus’s play was inspired by a controversial incident in 1963 when the BBC sacked a beloved radio star and was replaced by Jessie Matthews. The radio soap Mrs Dale’s Diary had been running since 5 January 1948 when the BBC decided to replace the lead actors and move the setting to a new town, with new supporting characters. The actress who had played Mrs Dale for 15 years, Ellis Powell, never recovered from this blow and died three months later, at the age of 57, through the shock and distress of her summary dismissal by the BBC.

Also I have seen another reference to her ‘at one time married to the actor Ralph Truman’ but as far as I can see she remained married to him until her death.

In fact in an interview for a 1954 magazine, she says that she was like Mrs Dale I some ways – they both lover, gardening, They both loved children and they both loved cats although she said that she had three cats Joe, Tortese and Baby Bella , whereas Mrs Dale had one called Captain. Ellis Powell also said that Mrs Dale had a son called Bob and she had a son Clive who was a similar age both in their earl 20s in 1954.

She had married Ralph Truman on 8th March 1928 so presumably had her son Clive around 1930 ish – that is a very little reported fact.

Stags Head London W1W 6XWApparently Ellis Powell  did use this local –  the Stags Head – close to Broadcasting House.

Also just come across these stark facts which gives Ralph Truman’s  and Ellis Powell’s  full name :-

Ralph du Vergier Truman, 1900 – 1977

Ralph married Ellis Agnes Estelle Truman (born Powell).

Ellis was born in 1905, in London, England.

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Son of Belle Starr 1953

This is quite a good  Western with no Star Names – it was on one of the Film Channels a week or two ago in England. I had never seen it before and was quite intrigued with the Colour – which was Cinecolor and although it is not seen as being that good, I thought it was excellent and really fitted such a Western Film as this.

The main Character is Larsen – a young man who has to turn to crime, almost forced to do so because of his mother’s outlaw reputation. (The real-life Belle Starr )-  she also had a daughter, Pearl, believed to have been fathered by outlaw Cole Younger–see BELLE STARR’S DAUGHTER, 1947) Larsen is recruited by underhanded sheriff Healey to help in a robbery. Larsen goes along with the plan because he wants to find out who set him up the year before.

Son of Belle Starr 1953 B.

Son of Belle Starr 1953 A

Son of Belle Starr 1953 C

 

During the robbery, the sheriff’s men turn on him and try to capture him but Larsen guns them down and hides the bounty, hoping to find out the real mind behind the plan. He gets his man, but his reputation as an outlaw gets Larsen in the end too.

A rather sad and un satisfactory ending – I am someone who always likes a happy ending in films – and in life too !!

I really love these Colour shots direct from the film – almost a faded sepia tint –  but very effective I thought.

Son of Belle Starr 1953

Above: Dona Drake.

Dona Drake : A few snippets of information -

She was born Eunice Westmoreland in Miami, Florida, one of five children of Joseph Andrew Westmoreland of Arkansas and his wife, Novella Smith of Alabama. Her parents are of African American descent. Studio publicity will later claim she was born in Mexico City in 1920.
When she left school she started working in one of her family’s restaurants
and changed her name to Una Villon
When she was cast in Aloma of the South Seas, Paramount changed her name to Dona Drake
She also performed in nightclub acts between film assignments
She appeared on the cover of Yank, The Army Weekly
While filming Hot Rhythm, her friend, actress Joan Blondell, introduces her to young designer William Travilla
She married Travilla and concentrated on married life for two years
Her daughter, Nia Novella, was born in Los Angeles

Sadly Dona Drake  died of pneumonia and respiratory failure in Los Angeles, California on June 20, 1989, at the age of 74. She was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea

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Somebody Loves Me and Caribbean Gold from Paramount

This is an interesting bill – a Musical with Betty Hutton  – the last film Betty Hutton ever made coupled with an adventure film starring John Payne and Arlene Dahl with Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Francis L Sullivan – two very experienced British Actors – in fact having worked with them on this film,  John Payne said that  Cedric Hardwick and Francis L. Sullivan were “two of the finest actors in the business.” Double Feature After making ‘Somebody Loves Me’  Betty Hutton had a row with the Studio (Paramount) and walked out. The temperamental star’s skyrocketing career came to earth with a bump in film terms although she made a few stage appearances and was on Television in The Betty Hutton Show which only ran for 30 shows in 1959 and 1960.  This though was a far cry from her Film days.

Somebody Loves Me 1952

Caribbean Gold took almost 1.5 million dollars at the Box Office – so proving quite a hit that year.  Cedric Hardwick had been in a similar sort of film a year earlier with Alan Ladd in Botany Bay – a film I really like – although I do think that one could have been made before Caribbean Gold even though it was released after.

Both films came from the  Paramount Studio

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