Archive for March, 2020

So Long at the Fair 1950 – My second review here of this film with Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde

This film is on Talking Pictures this evening – Monday 30 March 2020 at 10 pm – Don’t miss it !!

So Long at the Fair

David Tomlinson and Jean Simmons – ABOVE and BELOW

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This is one to watch if you haven’t seem it before – I defy anyone to work our what is going on in this sinister plot where a brother and sister visit Paris at the time of the great Paris Exhibition in 1900

Everything seems just normal, until the morning after their arrival when the brother ( David Tomlinson) completely disappears and Jean Simmons his sister, starts a search but there is one big problem – no-one remembers seeing him at all and even the room he is supposed to have booked into just isn’t there.

The Hotel staff and everyone thinks that Jean Simmons is somehow losing her mind – and that her brother never existed. However she meets up with Dirk Bogarde who is an artist living in Paris – he believes her and the search commences.

What will they find ?

This is a great story – and to anyone who hasn’t seen it I can guarantee that they will be glued to the screen until the climatic ending.

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There is no way that Jean Simmons could hallucinate her own brother, her only relation in the world! Stuck in France, not able to speak much French, and all alone, hers is a desperate search.

The film moves in quite a frightening way – overall it is brilliant, and a must-see.

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ABOVE – Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde

 

 

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ABOVE – Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde

 

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ABOVE – Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde

Cathleen Nesbitt - So Long at the Fair

Cathleen Nesbitt also stars ABOVE

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Children of the Stars

 

These pictures I find to be quite unusual and ones that I have not seen before. They date back before the Fifties however as they appear in a Film Annual of 1948

Hugh Williams with his son, Simon

ABOVE -  High Williams Film and Theatre actor and his son Simon who, as we know, went into the acting profession with much success – and he is at present playing Justin in ‘The Archers’ on BBC Radio – I am a regular listener to this programme

 

Rosamund John with her son and husband

ABOVE – Rosamund  John with her husband Russell Lloyd and son John at home. Russell Lloyd was a very successful Film Editor – he and Rosamund John were divorced the very next year in 1949 – but soon after in 1950 he married Valerie Cox and remained married to her until his death in 2008.

 

I am puzzled however by this picture because within a short time of this picture being taken Rosamund John had divorced Russell Lloyd and married the politician John Silkin who she had met through her interest in politics. He was nearly ten years younger that Rosamund but they soon had a child – a son – and went on to live a long and very happy life together. He became an MP and was in the Labour Government of Harold Wilson – she frequently attended Parliament to listen to him speak.

 

John Mills with Juliet

ABOVE – John Mills on the set of ‘The October Man’ – another film I like very much. Here he is with his daughter Juliet who had a small part in the film – as she did in ‘The History of Mr Polly’ soon afterwards.

 

David Farrar with Barbara his Daughter

 

ABOVE – David Farrar in grim-face pose with his Daughter Barbara. He is mowing the lawn at their home is Dulwich – could that have been an early motor mower ?   He again looks suitably dis-interested.

More about Barbara Farrar in later years, to come on this Blog. Not that I have found much but one very interesting snippet of her later life in South Africa

 

Stewart Granger and his Daughter

 

Stewart Granger ABOVE with his Daughter Lindsay – one of two children he had with his wife Elspeth March – they also had a son Jamie. They were divorced around the time – or a bit after this picture was taken.

 

Dennis Price with his daughters

 

Dennis Price with his daughters Susan and Tessa. He looks very happy here – as he would with those two girls beside him.  He was at the peak of his career at this time. About the time of ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ I would guess – and that saw him at his best in my view.

Alec Guinness gets most of the plaudits for the film, but Dennis Price was great – and was in nearly every scene in the film – and even was the narrator of the story.  Wonderful performance.

 

Margaret Lockwood and Toots

 

ABOVE – Margaret Lockwood and daughter ‘Toots’ who herself became an actress of some note both in films and early Television.

 

Phyllis Calvert and Ann Auriol

 

ABOVE – Phyllis Calvert and her Daughter Ann Auriol in the garden of their Cotswold Home – mind you it doesn’t look much like Phyllis Calvert here, I have to say !

Children of the Stars

 

 

 

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The Colossus of Rhodes 1961 – Rory Calhoun

This film came out a little bit later than  the Steve Reeves ones – ‘Hercules Unchained’ was one of them.  Steve Reeves was good in these and fitted the role of Hercules well. The first Hercules was 1959 – and Steve Reeves continued to play in this type of role for the next decade almost – and very successfully too.

He looked the part and seemed very ‘at home’ with these roles  - more so that Rory Calhoun in this one.

“Colossus of Rhodes” is a good  action thriller with  Rory Calhoun in a role that you would not normally associate him with but he  is pretty good as the Greek adventurer  visiting the island who finds himself  in the middle of a sinister conspiracy. His villa is invaded one night by mysterious marauders and a very exciting fight ensues with  Rory Calhoun outnumbered and desperately fighting until he’s overpowered … It seems the  young lady he’s been chasing (Lea Massari) is also in the plot.

As Rory Calhoun gets more drawn in, his safety is put at risk and he has to take sides. The duel he fights inside and outside the colossal statue is an unforgettable piece of cinema. 

He suits  the devil-may-care adventurer  who is reluctantly forced into violent action to risk his own skin and stand up for what’s right.

 

The Colossus of Rhodes

 

Rory Calhoun was an underrated actor who deserved more roles than the many westerns to which he was mainly relegated. This is one of the few times he gets to break the mould. 

It is an action film with quite a good  plot and with  outstanding costumes and sets to fill up the impressive Wide screen – in SuperTotalScope

 

The Colossus of Rhodes 2

 

The Rhodes statue of the Colossus is a great design. The use of widescreen – Supertotalscope – is excellent. Overall, the  sets and the production values are well above average than your standard Sword & Sandal films of the day. 

As the story goes – it seems that Rebels want to overthrow the King of Rhodes because of corruption and the lack of justice but then other people within the Kingdom also want to overthrow the King and his army with a group of Macedonian “slaves” captured by Phoenicians who are actually soldiers and are brought into Rhodes.  The Rebels fight the Rhodes soldiers.

 

The Colossus of Rhodes 3

The story is not too complicated really although it sounds  like it is.  If all this action weren’t  enough, during the film’s climax we get  an earthquake which levels Rhodes.

Maybe then we can pause for breath.

According to the records that I have seen – the film brought in a profit of $350,000 which just underlines what we cinema-goers wanted to see at that time – I must admit, this type of film is just my cup of tea – even now !!

Apparently John Derek had been to original choice to take the lead role but for whatever reason he didn’t take it on – and so Rory Calhoun made the trip to Europe to do it.

 

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James Robertson Justice – Again

 

There is no doubt that James Robertson Justice enjoyed a long and quite successful film career from about 1949 with ‘Scott of the Antarctic’ through to ‘Chitty Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ in the mid Sixties and he was continuously working in films throughout that time.

He played Little John in  ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ and later again for Walt Disney was in ‘The Sword and The Rose’ and ‘Rob Roy The Highland Rogue’

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ABOVE – James Robertson Justice as Little John,   Richard Todd as Robin Hood and James Hayter  as Friar Tuck in ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ 1952

This scene  ABOVE – does not appear in the film at all,  as many of you will know – so it was probably just a publicity still. Very good it was too.

He was very good as Little John I have to say – he fitted the part physically and had a good role and played it well – although very much as he would play many if not all, of his later film roles – with a loud voice and much bluster.

He was very good as King Henry VIII in The Sword and The Rose – in fact he really looked that part there – however in his next film ‘Rob Roy The Highland Rogue’ for a man who proudly claimed to be a Scot, he had the worst Scottish accent I have heard in films – he didn’t seem to get it at all.  I always admire the way that actors of all eras seem so able to drop into virtually any accent or dialect that is required to play a part – maybe this exposed James Robertson Justice’s lack of acting skills – I reckon it did.

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However, for all my reservations about this character, he was remarkably successful over a number of years – so that certainly says something about him.

 

James Robertson Justice

 

James Robertson Justice ABOVE at  home in his cottage in Spinningdale, Scotland.

During the 1950s, Justice bought a cottage at Spinningdale in Sutherland where he ‘drank neat Rose’s Lime Juice and breakfasted on whisky and a raw egg’.  He loved to stay there between films, entertaining guests who ranged from locals to royalty, and usually travelled north by road. 

The route to and from Spinningdale took him past the Glenmorangie distillery nearby, and Justice befriended the distillery manager Gordon Smart. Smart’s grandsons remember him turning up at the manager’s roadside cottage on many occasions, often with a glamourous female companion in the passenger seat of his latest sports car. He would speed up and down the road to show off the car’s performance, before going inside to enjoy a dram or two.    

 

 

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James Robertson Justice at Home at Spinningdale  ABOVE and BELOW

 

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James Robertson Justice

 

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James Robertson Justice

 

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James Robertson Justice – ABOVE surprisingly to me anyway, he seemed to enjoy a game of bowls.

 

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James Robertson Justice ABOVE with his falcons

 

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James Robertson Justice ABOVE and BELOW – walking close to his home in Scotland.

 

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James Robertson Justice

 

 

 

James Robertson Justice (1907-75) was not born ‘under a distillery in Skye’, as he  claimed. In fact this most famous Scottish actor was actually born in London and christened James Norval Harald Justice.  However he decided that he wanted to be a Scotsman like his father and so he adopted  more of a Scottish-sounding name, and an enthusiasm for wearing the kilt.

He claimed that his  early life was full of adventure. He studied in Germany where he was able to develop his  linguistic skills – he briefly became a journalist and the tried his hand at various jobs while living in Canada during the Depression.

Returning home to England, he played ice hockey professionally and competed as a racing driver. In the mid-1930s he served as a League of Nations peacekeeper in the Saar and, subsequently, a fighter (on the Republican side) during the Spanish Civil War. He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War but was invalided out.

He became an actor at the age of 37.

His breakthrough film performance came in 1949, when he played Dr Maclaren in Ealing the  classic Whisky Galore!. He subsequently made around 90 films, appearing in box office hits such as Land of the Pharaohs (1955), The Guns of Navarone (1961), and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang  (1968). His most famous role was that of the eminent and gloriously belligerent surgeon Sir Launcelot Spratt, in the hugely successful Doctor in the House (1954) and its sequels. 

He always denied being  a film star – he acted, he said, simply to pay the bills for his many other enthusiasms. His greatest love was for the countryside and he was especially keen on wildfowling (he was a founder of the Wildfowl Trust), fishing and falconry.

It was falconry that brought him into contact with Prince Philip, and the two became lifelong friends. The Prince invited him to join his exclusive Thursday Club, and sent his teenage son Prince Charles to stay with Justice one summer, to learn about falconry and country pursuits.

After separating from his first wife at the beginning of the 1950s, Justice became the subject of gossip about romances and dalliances with a number of young women including the designer and author Molly Parkin. 

He died virtually penniless in 1976, after a punishing divorce settlement and a period of ill health. He left behind on film a series of performances – Little John, Sir Lancelot Spratt, Lord Scrumptious and others, which continue to delight fans of British cinema. 

He was a ‘larger that life’ character

 

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David Farrar at Home in Dulwich 1952

 

David Farrar and his family confess to being anti-social and consequently the star is seldom on view at any of the popular night clubs or restaurants. He has lived nearly all his life in Dulwich and spends much of his time educating his daughter, for neither he nor Mrs Farrar – who is a qualified music teacher – likesd schools.  That seems a crazy outlook to me I must say.

The basement or cellar of their home is converted into a little Theatre.

 When he can, David Farrar goes out car driving, riding ( he is a keen steeplechaser ) or has a round of golf.

David Farrar with Family

 

Above – We see David Farrar at home with his daughter Barbara and at the Piano his wife Irene.

If we piece together things we have learned about him – we have the visit by the Monrovians to Denham in 1948, where as one of the party said ‘ he seemed disinterested, posed for a picture then disappeared into his dressing room and was not seen again that day’ while the visitors were there.

Then we read as above – about him admitting to being anti-social and finally when he was retired and living alone close to his daughter in South Africa, he admitted to not being in touch with any of his colleagues from the film industry – and stated that he had no friends. Then he added ‘Ain’t that sad’ – it certainly is a sad reflection on all that had gone before.

Back to his film career – after he did The Small Back Room and then Gone to Earth for Powell and Pressburger he thought he’d done all he could in Britain and Europe so he went to Hollywood.  However the roles he got there were usually “friend of hero” or occasionally a role as the villain.

David Farrar  wasn’t really all that happy with his career in Hollywood either. He came back to the UK but by then he was getting roles as the father or the uncle where he still saw himself as the leading man.

He did a good father of the heroine in Beat Girl (1960) and his last film was the epic The 300 Spartans (1962) where he played Xerxes, leader of the Persians – a decent villain role

His wife Irene died in 1976 and he thought that would be a good time to retire so he moved to South Africa where his daughter Barbara was living and he stayed there living in a quiet retirement until he died in 1995, aged 87.

 

We should remember him for his great performances, like as the detective Sexton Blake in a couple of detective thrillers; as the Englishman in the Himalayas flaunting his bare torso and short shorts in front of the nuns in Black Narcissus (1947); as the RAF pilot who comes back to post-war England with the German girl who helped him escape in Frieda (1947); as the physically and spiritually damaged bomb disposal expert Sammy Rice in The Small Back Room (1949); and as the classic “wicked squire” Jack Reddin in Gone to Earth (1950).

His career may not have been all he thought it should have been or could have been, but he did all right, much better than many. As with Roger Livesey and a few others,  he was someone who was mainly a stage actor but who did quite a few films.

Really he gave his  best performances on film  in the films of Powell & Pressburger.   They knew how to get the best out of people.

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Kidnapped 1960 from Walt Disney

This was Walt Disney’s first foray back into England since Rob Roy The Highland Rogue some seven years earlier. This was a great story and one which has been filmed quite a few times – but this has to be one of the best.

He appointed Robert Stevenson as the Film Director backed up by Carmen Dillon in charge of set design as she had been with his last British Films, and the Matte Artist Genius Peter Ellenshaw to add the the Highland Scenery – as if anyone could !!

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Peter Finch took the lead as Allan Breck with Jmes MacAthur as David Balfour.

Kidnapped is based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson - this Disney version is excellent.

David Balfour’s uncle arranges for him to be kidnapped – and it is that memorable visit he makes to his Uncle’s house – The House of Shaws – where  Uncle ( John Laurie) tries to kill him be sending him up to a room where, when he opens the door in the dark he will fall down a huge drop to his death. There is a storm however and just as he opens this door a flash of lightening shows him what would have been his fate.

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Kidnapped ABOVE – A shocking moment for David Balfour - and BELOW John Laurie as Uncle Ebenezer – a wicked and murderous man

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Needless to say he is not well pleased.   However he ends up being  taken aboard a ship which gets shipwrecked along the coast and somehow manages to wash up in the  Scotland Highlands after teaming up with adventurer Alan Breack Stuart. Alan Breck had saved him from being murdered on the ship.The two of them then begin a  journey takes right across the Scottish Highlands and the film makes good use of the spectacular scenery there – they also face dangers along the way including a confrontation with the Redcoats.

This film is shot on location in the Scottish Highlands and contains some great scenery. Peter Ellenshaw chips in with his superb Matte Painting but the scenes that are on the screen show just how good he is at the job – as Director Ken Annakin once said ‘Peter knew how to make his paintings realer than real’

The cast includes James MacArther, Peter Finch, Benard Lee, John Laurie, Finlay Currie, Nial MacGinnis and Peter O’Toole  who were all excellent 

 

Kidnapped

Kidnapped ABOVE – On Location in the Scottish Highlands Peter Finch with his wife Yolande enjoy a brief picnic lunch with James and Joyce MacArther

 

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Kidnapped – ABOVE Back at Pinewood Film Studios, Peter Finch is paid a visit by Pier Angeli and John Gregson who were filming SOS Pacific there

 

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Kidnapped ABOVE  Peter Finch poses in costume somewhere at Pinewood

 

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Kidnapped – ABOVE Duncan MacRae filming on a shore in the Scottish Highlands – No studio Tank here as the real thing is wanted

 

Kidnapped

Kidnapped

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Colin Tapley

 

Here is an actor who, up until about a week ago, I did not know.    ‘Blood of the Vampire’ was on Talking Pictures last weekend and I saw the end of it which I thought was quite good – it also starred Sir Donald Wolfit who I like and admire as an actor. 

Looking down the cast list I happened to click on – among others – Colin Tapley.  The thing that interested me about him was that he was born and raised in Dunedin in New Zealand.   Earlier this year with my family, I was on a cruise ship out of Sydney that docked there for the day – the second time in a decade we had done this – and Dunedin was a place that I fell in love with – and so did my daughter.

I just love the place as I felt at home in this beautiful and welcoming city. It was summertime there and a beautiful warm to hot day – so that is always a factor.

Colin Tapley – Colin Edward Livingstone Tapley was born in Dunedin on 7 May 1909. He was employed by H L Tapley and Co Ltd, the Dunedin shipping agency, his late father had founded.

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 ABOVE – The Centre of Dunedin as it is today 2020 – the former home and resting place of Colin Tapley

However in 1933 he entered and won a film talent contest that took him to Hollywood

 

Colin Tapley found his own cinematic niche playing character roles in American and British films for more than 30 years, without any real desire for stardom.

In 1933 Tapley won the New Zealand male section of Search for Beauty, a worldwide talent quest conducted in English-speaking countries by Paramount Pictures. His prize included a trip to Hollywood to cameo alongside the other winners in the Search for Beauty movie  a comedy romance set in a physical culture school.

The contest he had entered as a dare brought the additional reward of a contract with Paramount for his agreeable performance in the film, which was his first. Tapley was the contest’s male runner-up, and South African-born Eldred Tidbury the male winner. Tidbury changed his name to Donald Gray, and would appear with him more than 20 years later in British TV series The Vise.

Tapley meanwhile acted in several Paramount movies of the mid-late 1930s. “The most wonderful experience of my life,” is how he recalled those glorious years. “I adored every bit of it.”

Colin Edward Livingstone Tapley was born in Dunedin on 7 May 1909. At the time he won the contest that changed his life, he was employed by H L Tapley and Co Ltd, the Dunedin shipping agency, his late father had founded.

The screen test that took him to Hollywood was shot at Filmcraft, later National Film Unit, studios in the Wellington suburb of Miramar. Tapley and the other nervous finalists then waited three suspenseful weeks for the judges at Paramount Pictures to name the man and the woman to represent New Zealand.

Tapley’s wish to play character parts came early in his career. He wrote home enthusiastically to one of his brothers about his small, unbilled part in The Scarlet Empress (1934); he described in detail the long black beard and wonderful uniform that transformed him into the captain of the Queen’s Bodyguard.

Colin Tapley derived great personal satisfaction from playing Captain Dobbin in Becky Sharp (1935), the first film shot in three-colour Technicolor. But his favourite role from his Hollywood movies was probably Barrett, the spy, in Oscar-nominated adventure The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935).

Colin Tapley

His only starring role at Paramount was in Booloo (1938) ABOVE – playing Robert Rogers in a tiger hunt adventure set in the Malaysian jungle. During the eight months the crew spent filming in the country’s jungles more than 3500 millimetres of rain fell. One subtropical storm saw them climbing into the trees with the monkeys for survival, after streams rose 11 metres above normal. Tapley regarded the noise of the monkeys as the worst part of his tree-living experience.

His last film before World War II service was a Western -  Arizona (1940). The normally well dressed actor wore cowboy clothes, chewed tobacco, for this role,

He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940. Posted to Britain, Flight Lieutenant Tapley met his future wife, Patricia (Patsy) Lyon, the widowed daughter of Major-General Sir Percy and Lady Hambro. They married quietly in London on 6 August 1943 and had a son, Martin, the following year. Colin cast his best friend, American actor Fred MacMurray, in the real-life role of godfather. Patsy had a daughter named Charlotte from her first marriage.

A brief retirement from acting followed Tapley’s World War II service.  He and his family had settled in New Zealand, where he operated a launch charter service at Wanaka.

The death of his son Martin  in November 1947 was the catalyst for the grieving family to leave New Zealand.   When back in Hollywood, he resumed his film career in a very different atmosphere to the Arabian Nights world that had existed prior to World War Two.

The town was now more coldly competitive,  television had now took a hold. Yet while sitting in a restaurant Cecil B DeMille offered him a role in Samson and Delilah (1949), a friendly gesture that he never ceased to appreciate. He was unrecognisable as one of the princes in the final temple scene.

British films now seemed more inviting than the bleak new Hollywood.    His move to Britain saw him cast in Cloudburst, a 1951 Hammer thriller starring Robert Preston, another former Paramount contract player.  Colin Tapley was third billed as Inspector Davis.

Cloudburst defined the path for much of his future career. Instead of the Ronald Young-type comedy parts he had earlier craved, he often played police officers in Britain. An exception was the slightly dishevelled, moustached and bespectacled scientist Doctor WH Glanville in The Dam Busters (1955).

Colin Tapley spoke in an article at the time about how the realistic approach to filming in British studios enabled actors to give a better performance than in the superficiality of Hollywood.

Tapley appeared regularly in the British TV series The Vise from 1955 to 1960, playing at least five different police inspectors. Donald Gray, his long time friend,  starred as ex-Scotland Yard detective Mark Saber.

Colin Tapley

ABOVE – Colin Tapley – the Matinee idol that might have been – But he didn’t want the leading man roles – he was a character actor all his life – and apparently very good and very well liked !!

Colin Tapley and his wife Patsy lived in New Zealand and Hollywood before settling down in Coates, Gloucestershire.  Colin Tapley had also lived in  lived in New Romney, Kent working for the first time in a regular job not as an actor – he  was employed by the CEGB in 1964 as a meter reader in the control room at Dungeness ‘A’ nuclear power station.

On night shifts he would keep his fellow workers amused with tales of Hollywood actors, their life and loves.  I would have loved to have listened to him on this subject as he would know exactly what went on there during the Hollywood Golden Era in the Thirties.

His last film was a small part as a general in Dino De Larentis spy thriller Fraulein Doktor (1969).

Colin Tapley died on 23 November 1995, survived by his wife, second son Nigel, and Charlotte. His ashes were buried at Wanaka alongside his first-born son, Martin. 

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The Pickwick Papers 1952 – James Hayter

 

In 1952 James Hayter appeared in his two most famous roles – and the roles to me that he was best in and best remembered in.  First came the wonderful ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ with Richard Todd and Joan Rice – with James Hayter playing Friar Tuck – with his performance ensuring that he was one of the main characters.

Then came this one as Mr Pickwick in The Pickwick Papers.

Interestingly James Hayter played Friar Tuck in the classic Disney Film mentioned above – and Alexander Gauge, who was in The Pickwick Papers played him in the TV Series with Richard Greene – and played the part in similar style to the way James Hayter had done.

 

Pickwick Papers 1952

 

James Hayter  is excellent as  Mr Pickwick, the lead character in this adaptation of ‘The Pickwick Papers’ by Charles Dickens.

Not in the same league as the David Lean-directed ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Oliver Twist’ which preceded it, this film, directed by Noel Langley, is nevertheless not bad. It is entertaining, with an excellent cast ranging through character actors such as Donald Wolfit,  James Donald, Hermoines Baddeley and Gingold, Nigel Patrick, and William Hartnell and  Joyce Grenfell.

This was not  an expensive production, but it contained nice touches, such as Kathleen Harrison’s twitchy Rachel; Mr Jingle’s deck of cards; the runaway horse; and an early display of outraged bluster from Hattie Jacques.

 

Pickwick Papers 1952 2ABOVE:  Diane Hart as Emily Wardle watches hairdresser Bill Griffiths tidy up the Fat Boy played by Gerald Campion – later to become very famous at BBC TVs Billy Bunter

 

James Hayter is also often  remembered in the UK as the voice of Mr Kipling in the TV advertisements, but here as Mr Pickwick he is excellent

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ABOVE: The Pickwickians – Mr Snodgrass ( Lionel Murton), Mr Pickwick (James Hayter) and Mr Winkle ( James Donald)

 

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ABOVE:  Grandma Dingle ( Mary Merrall),  Mr Wardle (Walter Fitzgerald) and Mr Pickwick and Emily

 

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ABOVE:  Harry Fowler with Joan Heal and Diane Hart

 

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ABOVE:  Harry Fowler as Sam Weller – he got the part on the performance he had give in the film ‘I Believe in You’

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David Farrar – Film Star with An Interesting and varied career

English star  David Farrar was born on August 21, 1908, in Essex.

When looking back at his childhood he writes: “Apparently showed some historical leanings from early age as I played Shakespearean roles at school.”

After some time spent with a repertory school and  then in touring companies, David became actor-manager of his own company in 1930. The same year he took over the lead in The Wandering Jew in the West End, bringing notices that immediately established him as one of the most promising young leading men in the West End.

He took over London’s Grafton Theatre for a series of plays, as he puts it: “Of course, playing the leads. As George Arliss once said, ‘Well, there’s one advantage of having your own theatre – you can always choose the best parts.’”

He says he was “lured” into films in 1937 when he made his screen debut in The Face Behind the Scar. Until the war broke out his screen career consisted of’ ‘big parts in small pictures and small parts in big pictures,” according to Farrar.

One of his early films was ‘Went the Day Well’  – an absolute classic from 1942

Shortly after a bomb hit his theatre he was called up by the Ministry of War and put to work making propaganda films. He is responsible for the feature For Those in Peril (1944), much of which was shot during actual maneuvers in the English Channel.

The Dark Tower (1943) with the late Ben Lyon and They Met in the Dark (1943) came out during the War. Immediately afterward he made Lisbon Story (1946), now a cult film because of the appearance in it of the legendary tenor Richard Tauber.

When David Farrar arrived in New York City in 1947, his film Frieda, which introduced Mai Zetterling to the world and was a smash hit in Europe, was playing at one Broadway theatre and Black Narcissus at another.

Black Narcissus (1947), which costarred Deborah Kerr, was about sexual frustration and madness among a group of Anglican nuns. The film  did very well at the box office in the United States and won two Oscars.

One of my own favourite films of his was ‘Mr Perrin and Mr Traill’ 1948 with Marius Goring giving a wonderful performance as Mr Perrin.

The Wild Heart (1950) or ‘Gone to Earth’ as we in England know it, with Jennifer Jones was nowhere near as successful in America as it had been here

He was offered the lead role of Edvard Grieg in the screen version of The Song of Norway, but the film was to be shot in Hollywood and Farrar was committed in England. Once he was contractually free, there began years of commuting between Hollywood and London, starting with The Golden Horde (1951).

After that he appeared in Night Without Stars (1951) with Nadia Gray, Obsessed (1951) with Geraldine Fitzgerald, Duel in the Jungle (1954) with George Coulouris, Lilacs in the Spring (1954) with Anna Neagle, Lost (1957), Solomon and Sheba (1958), John Paul Jones (1959) with Bette Davis, Middle of Nowhere (1960) [aka The Webster Boy (1962)], and Beat Girl (1962) with Shirley Anne Field and Adam Faith.

David Farrar with Jeannette Sterke in Captain Banner BBC

ABOVE – David Farrar – here with Jeannette Sterke in a BBC Play ‘ Captain Banner – BBC Armchair Theatre - 8 th August 1954 – this would have gone out ‘live’ in those days of course.

United States television viewers probably know him best for his portrayal of the strong, silent “Mr. Dean” in Black Narcissus and the “Black Duke” in Son of Robin Hood (1958).

David Farrar himself believes that he misjudged his choice of film parts to his own detriment – the first was when he could have played the villain in the 1952 film of Ivanhoe, made here in England,   but declined because it was not the title role. He later admitted  “The part I had been offered, which was subsequently played by George Sanders, was the most colourful. In retrospect it was a bad mistake to turn it down.”

In 1962 he played Xerxes, which he considered to be a “wonderful, flamboyant part,” in The 300 Spartans, and “then I quit while the going was good!”

David Farrar, a widower, lives near his daughter on the Natal coast of the Republic of South Africa.

David met his wife, Irene Elliot, in 1926 when he was playing the title role on stage in David Copperfield. He describes her as an “actress and beautiful pianist” After she died in 1976, he followed their only child to the Natal coast of the Republic of South Africa.David Farrar with his Daughter Barbara

ABOVE – David Farrar with his Daughter Barbara

David Farrar with his Daughter Barbara 2

 

ABOVE With His Daughter Barbara – reading her a Fairy Tale before bedtime. Not sure he should have been smoking his pipe though but that was how things were in the day.

David Farrar with his Daughter Barbara 3

ABOVE With His Daughter Barbara

He admits to having made no effort to keep in touch with those he knew in England and, has been rumored dead among his profession.

He lived with his dog, a few miles from his daughter.  David Farrar described his activities in retirenment as “a bit of writing and painting. He played the piano often and golf three times a week. He said that he read a lot and averageed fifteen crossword puzzles a week.

Sounds a lonely existence

He sums up his career thusly: “Tough, frustrating, but with many wonderful moments and memories. I found being a star a lonely business. I have no friends. Ain’t that sad?”

 David Farrar in Hollywood

David Farrar went to Hollywood and, though he enjoyed the glamour, it ruined his career, via films such as The Golden Horde (US, d. George Sherman, 1951) and The Black Shield of Falworth (US, d. Rudolph Maté, 1954), usually in two-dimensional villain roles.

A strongly virile figure, he had served a ten-year apprenticeship in British films before making his mark in Michael Powell‘s Black Narcissus (1947), as the district agent who stirs up sexual tensions in a Himalayan convent. There were two other striking roles for Powell – as the lame bomb-disposal expert in The Small Back Room (1948) and the swaggering squire in Gone to Earth (1950) – and substantial leads for Ealing in Frieda (d. Basil Dearden, 1947) and Cage of Gold (d. Dearden, 1950).

This burst of star filming climaxed a career begun in 1937, after a stint at journalism and stage experience from 1932: he played Sexton Blake twice, had small parts in big films, like Went the Day Well? (d. Alberto Cavalcanti, 1942), starred in Ealing’s semi-documentary about the Air-Sea Rescue Service, For Those in Peril (d. Charles Crichton, 1944), and made several poor films at British National, including Lisbon Story (d. Paul L.Stein, 1946), before hitting his stride in the late 1940s.

David Farrar at Home in London

David Farrar lived at Alleyn Park in Dulwich.  One of his daughter’s School Friends recalled this :-

Your article about David Farrar brought back many memories of the times my sister Gill and I spent with his family when they lived in Alleyn Park. They lived in a huge house – probably number 14 (possibly the site of Rouse Gardens). It had a lovely garden with a grass tennis court. We often played tennis and David Farrar sometimes joined us. As their daughter, Barbara was an only child who did not attend school; Mrs Farrar was keen for her to have local friends. Although she was younger than us, she was so used to adult company that she seemed older in many ways. She was a demon at Canasta!

The basement of the house was where Barbara had a little theatre. We used to make up plays and once we performed at one of Barbara’s parties. I remember being the Mad Hatter and Gill was the Dormouse (guess who was Alice?). On another occasion Mrs Farrar took us to the cinema. We walked down the end of Alleyn Park and caught the bus to Crystal Palace. As we walked down Church Road I could see the enormous photos of David advertising the film ‘ Cage of Gold’. As Mrs Farrar was paying for the tickets I kept thinking this is odd – surely she should get in for nothing! During the film whenever he kissed someone I looked at Mrs Farrar to see her reaction – disappointingly there was none. The film was too old for Barbara and I fancy we left before the end!

That is a very interesting and telling memory.  I must just finish by going back to one of my very favourite film ‘Mr Perrin and Mr Traill’ which starred Marius Goring and David Farrar. I have previously posted this – but it concerns a visit to Denham Film Studios by the Old Monrovians School when this film was being made.  The group were shown round and introduced to some of the actors – Edward Chapman was very kind and friendly – However David Farrar appeared from his dressing room, greeted the party with little enthusiasm or interest, had a picture or two taken – and then disappeared back into his room and was not seen again while they were there.

I must admit that some of his acting he seems to portray a superior and even dis-interested manner – but that may just have ben the parts that he was playing. 

David Farrar certainly had a long and successful film carer on both side of the Atlantic and seemed a devoted family man who loved his wife and daughter.  He must have been very lonely after his wife died.

I wish he hadn’t retired so early – it seems such a waste of talent.

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Diamond City

 

This film which I remember well from childhood – mind you no-one else remembers it – is nowadays shown quite often on Talking Pictures

Director David MacDonald’s 1949 adventure film Diamond City is a  tale conflict  in a South African diamond mine. Diamond City gives the British an interesting chance for a British Western type film.

In the star role, David Farrar plays a self appointed peace-keeping lawman Stafford Parker in the diamond fields of South Africa in the latter half of the 19th century. Niall MacGinnis has a better role as the unscrupulous rum-dealer and illicit diamond buyer Hans Muller.

Honor Blackman (as Mary Hart), Diana Dors, Niall MacGinnis, Andrew Crawford and Mervyn Johns were all on good form here though.

18-year-old Diana Dors plays Dora Bracken, and was lucky to get the role as a last-minute replacement for Jean Kent. She had already acted for director David MacDonald as Lyla Lawrence in her fifth film, Good-Time Girl (1948).

Diamond City also features Phyllis Monkman, Hal Osmond, Bill Owen, Philo Hauser, John Blythe, Dennis Vance, Norris Smith, John Salew, Reginald Tate, Ronald Adam, Harry Quashie, Julian Somers and Ernest Butcher.

Unfortunately Gainsborough Pictures filmed it in black and white when colour is called for. It was shot at  Denham Film Studios, Denham, Buckinghamshire,  although  some of the filming took place in South Africa

Diamond City

Diamond City

This is quite a good film but would have been much better in colour. However for film fans of the day, the main interest is probably in the cast - David Farrar (of Black Narcissus fame) has the lead, with a  supporting cast including a very young Diana Dors and an equally young Honor Blackman.

Honor Blackman plays a prim and proper  type, in stark contrast to some of her later roles.

Diana Dors has her largest role to date in this film and as always is good – she also looks lovely. in fact here she is AS BELOW

Diana Dors in Diamond City

Much of the film was made at Denham Studios where they had the studio space to create almost anything – and the outside grounds again to replicate what they wanted.

Not many studios had the size or the facilities to cope as Denham did.

Thinking about it I doubt if any film studios has the size and space of Denham today

Diamond City 2

 

Diamond City – Later on Richard Todd didn’t fare much better with The Hellions which came over a decade later – and was in Colour and Technirama but somehow even that missed the mark at the Box Office although I thought it a good film.

 

Diamond City 3

 

Diamond City ABOVE – a bar room brawl as it happens

Diamond City 4

 

Diamond City – ABOVE  A Studio set but looking good.

 

Diamond City 5

 

Diamond City – Another Scene ABOVE again probably a Studio Set

Diamond City 7

 

Diamond City - Another Scene ABOVE probably filmed in South Africa where a small unit was sent prior to the main filming – I don’t think any of the actors went out there

 

Diamond City 9

 

Diamond City ABOVE – Again possible from the location filming in South Africa

Diamond City 10

 

Diamond City  ABOVE  Directing a boxing sequence with  David Farrar, Director David MacDonald, amateur boxer Bombardier Billy Wells 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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