Archive for December, 2019

Arthur Howard – Wacko and the film ‘Bottoms Up’

His famous actor brother Leslie Howard was about 20 years older than the character actor Arthur Howard who had his greatest success on television when he played the role of the deputy headmaster Pettigrew to Jimmy Edwards’s  incompetent head in Whack-O! in the late 1950s.

For many years Athur Howard had brightened the cinema screen with a series of cameos (often uncredited), specialising in nervousl type teachers, vicars or “men from the ministry”.

Though a distinct family resemblance was apparent, he lacked the finely chiselled features that made a matinee idol of his brother, and leading men or his nephew Ronald or his son Alan.

Born Arthur Stainer in 1910, he made his screen debut in one of his brother’s films, The Lady is Willing (1933), the first film to be made by Columbia’s British studio but, despite a script by Guy Bolton, the film was a failure. He did not make another film until 1947, when his role as a town hall clerk issuing ration books and identity cards in Frieda started a long and active period as a supporting player, contributing telling cameos to some of the best comedies of the era including The Man in the White Suit (1951), Laughter in Paradise (1952) and The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954).

Arthur Howard in Passport to Pimlico (1949)(left)

ABOVE – In Passport to Pimlico 1949

Arthur Howard

ABOVE – Arthur Howard a signed picture

In Henry Cornelius’s classic Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico (1949) he was a councillor in favour of selling wasteland to prospectors rather than accept Stanley Holloway’s plans for a playground, and in Frank Launder’s hilarious The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950), in which a girls’ school is unwittingly billeted with a boys’, he was the distracted science master barely aware of the chaos being generated around him.

He was a butler in both David Lean’s The Passionate Friends (1948) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright (1950) and in Sidney Gilliat’s atmospheric story of life in a London boarding house London Belongs to Me (1948) he was the head of the “South London Psychical Society”, offering lobster-paste sandwiches to members before a seance.

In Lewis Gilbert’s Cosh Boy (1952), controversial in its day for its depiction of juvenile crime, he was the registrar who marries the delinquent’s widowed mother to the man who brings discipline to the boy’s life.

Arthur Howard


Whack-O!, which started on radio before achieving its very suddessful run on television (1956-60), made him a household name as the none-too-bright assistant to Jimmy Edwards’s conniving and often inebriated headmaster.

Written by Frank Muir and Dennis Norden, the series became a feature film, Bottoms Up!, in 1960 with Athur Howard in his original role, though when the series was revived on television in 1971 Julian Orchard played Pettigrew.

Arthur Howard

Other television appearances included guest spots on George and Mildred, Robin’s Nest, Ever Decreasing Circles, Happy Ever After, Never the Twain, The Eric Sykes Show and, as Professor Plum, the children’s series Plum’s Pots and Pans.

Arthur Howard played in a season of Crossroads, in 1984, and appeared last year in “The Last Englishman”, an episode of Heroes and Villains.

His stage work included classics (the Duke of York in Richard II at the Ludlow Festival: Love for Love at the Bristol Old Vic, the Earl of Caversham in An Ideal Husband at Greenwich) and modern farce (several years in No Sex, Please, We’re British). His later films included Moonraker (1979) and Another Country (1984); his last screen appearance was in Tristram Powell’s American Friends (1990).

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Jean Simmons – Her 21st Birthday

Jean Simmons celebrated her 21st Birthday which would have been on 31st January 1950

Jean Simmons with J Arthur Rank and his wife

Jean Simmons with J. Arthur Rank and his wife.

J Arthur Rank was the saviour of the British Film Industry – born in Hull.


He would have been 61 years old at the time of the picture ABOVE.


Jean Simmon's 21st Birthday


Jean Simmons celebrated her 21st Birthday WITH above – Left to Right Earl St.John,  Sir Michael Balcon,  Lord Archibald and Sydney Box.


Jean Simmon's 21st Birthday with her Mother


Jean Simmons with her Mother ABOVE

Jean Simmon's 21st Birthday Cutting the Cake

Jean Simmons celebrated her 21st Birthday and cuts the cake

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The Far Country 1954

Directed by Anthony Mann  This film starred  James Stewart, Ruth Roman, Corinne Calvet, Walter Brennan, John McIntire, Jay C. Flippen, Henry Morgan, Steve Brodie

The Far Country was Anthony Mann and James Stewart’s fourth Western together, and it’s a good one.

“The Far Country” just seems to get better every time you see it. It is a beautiful film to look at. It has James Stewart at his best – and that is very good. It has a unique setting and story. It’s filled with characters that you can care about and others not so appealing. 

“The Far Country” is quite a fast moving film and is very exciting.

Ruth Roman is the female star – I do remember her in another Western ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’ with Richard Todd – not one of the better ones but she looked lovely in that as she did in all her films.  I really liked her.

A couple of years after this she was involved in a dramatic real life adventure when she and her three year old son boarded the liner Andrea Doria in Cannes, South of France

On the night of July 25, the Andrea Doria collided with the Swedish passenger liner MS Stockholm. Ruth Roman was in one of the ship’s Lounges when the collision happened and she immediately  scrambled back to her cabin to retrieve her sleeping son.

Ruth Roman and her son Richard

Several hours later, they were both evacuated from the sinking ship along with many other passengers.

RuthRoman and her Son Richard

The collision happened off the coast of Massachusetts as the liner neared New York Richard was lowered first into a waiting lifeboat, but before she was forced to get  into the next boat but thankfully all the 750 passengers  from the Andrea Doria were rescued by the French passenger liner SS Île de France.  Ruth Roman’s son  Richard was rescued by the Stockholm but was not reunited with his mother until they arrived in New York.

That must have been torture for Ruth Roman


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Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe


This picture must date from the early to mid fifties – in fact February 1955




BELOW – is a claim made in a recent publication :

Ella Fitzgerald was not allowed to perform in Hollywood’s most popular nightclub, The Mocambo, because of her race and  body size. Marilyn Monroe, who was a big fan, called the owner and explained that if he booked Ella, she would be there every night, which guaranteed huge press coverage.

He booked Ella and Marilyn was there, front table, every single night as promised. Ella said, “After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman, a little ahead of her time, and she didn’t even know it.”


However the truth is :

Marilyn Monroe did help to persuade the Mocambo night club to book Ella Fitzgerald.

It seems that the other assumptions are not correct :

While race may have been a contributing factor, black entertainers had performed at the Mocambo club prior to Ella Fitzgerald. The owner of the popular night club was reportedly hesitant to book a true jazz singer and thought that Fitzgerald wasn’t glamorous enough to perform at the West Hollywood hot spot.




Above – a Memo from Ella Fitzgerald’s Agent – and this is dated 15 February 1955

When once asked about her favourite singers, Marilyn Monroe answered, “Well, my very favorite person, and I love her as a person as well as a singer, I think she’s the greatest, and that’s Ella Fitzgerald.” Not only was Marilyn Monroe an Ella Fitzgerald fan, but she was also a friend who used her status as a Hollywood star to boost Fitzgerald’s career.

Their friendship would last until Monroe’s untimely death. And even after Marilyn  had died,  Ella remained grateful for the support the star had provided during her lifetime.



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The Smallest Show on Earth 1957


What a charming film this is, particularly for all us cinema fans. The story of a young couple who unexpectedly are left a cinema in one of their relatives wills and so travel to the small town where it is located and see a really great looking cinema called The Grand.


They are initially well pleased but soon find that it is not this particular cinema they have inherited but the smaller quite down at heel one called The Bijou which is right next to the railway bridge and line.


The Smallest Show on Earth 1957

ABOVE – The Bijou Cinema

On top of this, they have also to take on the employees, Margaret Rutherford as the Manageress, Peter Sellers as the projectionist and Bernard Miles as the Commissionaire cum handy man who really wants his own uniform but has not got one.

All three of them love the cinema.

The Smallest Show on Earth 1957

There is one really touching scene where the couple played by Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers come quietly into the cinema to find the three of them watching and old film together and Margaret Rutherford playing the piano along with the film. Peter Sellers is gazing at the film with tears in his eyes and Bernard Miles sits back, equally transfixed.

The Smallest Show on Earth 1957 2


The two  realise just how much this cinema means to the three of them. Their intention had been to sell it but gradually they are seduced by the sheer magic of the place and it becomes a place they want to keep and they fall in love with it too.


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