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Beyond Mombasa 1956 – With Cornel Wilde

A colourful adventure film set in Africa

I am reminded of another film I really like set in Africa which was ‘Tanganyika’ 1954 with Van Heflin and Ruth Roman. It doesn’t seem to get good reviews but is certainly does from me – although filmed entirely in and around Hollywood it has that African feel.

‘Beyond Mombasa’ in truth I have not yet seen but it gets some poor reviews but I have a feeling that I will like it – in fact it is just they type of film that I enjoy – with Adventure, Glamour, African locations, Technicolor and Action.

Beyond Mombasa 1956

 

Cornel Wilde is in Africa having been sent for by his brother who even made hotel reservations in Mombasa for him. Upon arrival he finds kindly missionary Leo Genn and his anthropologist niece  Donna Reed breaking the bad news about his brother’s death at the hands of a revived cult of the Leopard. 

Determined to get to the bottom of things, Wilde goes with Genn and Reed into the interior of Kenya, Beyond Mombasa to find where his brother might have found uranium. Their guide is another partner of the brother Christopher Lee and they’re to join yet a third partner Ron Randell near the mine.

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Probably an  attempt to copy the 1950 “King Solomon’s Mines” and the success that film had -  in Columbia’s “Beyond Mombasa,” . The story is notably similar—an expedition goes into the African veld to solve the mystery of the death of an explorer who had discovered a valuable mine. A good deal of African fauna and flora is observed en route, and the picture is photographed in colour so that it captures and entertains the eye.   “Beyond Mombasa” is  a colourful  African adventure film made on location – however many of the scenes were shot on stages in London -

The cast has Cornel Wilde playing the leader of the expedition, Donna Reed as the pretty lady who goes along, Leo Genn as her seemingly gentle uncle and Ron Randell as the white hunter

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Christopher Lee is excellent as the only elegant member of the party, a dashing French hunter in Africa leading the others into the depths of the jungle to solve the mystery of Cornel Wilde’s brother’s mysterious death.

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Eddie Calvert – ‘The Man with the Golden Trumpet’ – has a guest performance in this colourful safari film.

There is excitement and charm to the film, the jungle environments are terrific with their hidden dangers.  It’s an entertainment with a fresh and nice dialogue, that at least should leave you happy and content afterwards when the curtain has fallen on this exotic drama

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ABOVE – Donna Reed takes a shower

Eddie Calvert plays the theme from the film - released on record

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Curse of the Undead 1959

 

This one is something of a curio from then end of the fifties decade Curse Of The Undead (1959)

Curse of the Undead 1959

Curse Of The Undead is a really strange one in a 50s Westerns list – if there is such a thing. It is  a both Western and Vampire picture nailed together. It somehow stays fairly true to the conventions of both types though.

The combining of westerns with horror has not always made for great films.  We did have  “Billy the Kid vs. Dracula” and “Jesse James meets Frankenstein’s Daughter”.

However “Curse of the Undead”is quite a good one.  This 1959 picture stars Eric Fleming as a frontier preacher who is confronted with a vampire in the form of a hired gun, portrayed with sinister, yet sympathetic overtones by Michael Pate.

Michael Pate’s character had committed suicide after murdering his brother, and that had condemned him for all eternity to be a vampire.

This particular vampire  however seems able to walk around in the daylight with  no ill effects, and we all know from the films,  that vampires  cannot be exposed to sunlight, or they will be destroyed.

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ABOVE It looks as though – in the USA – this film was on a bill with the Hammer hit ‘The Mummy’  – a film I really like

Curse of the Undead had the novelty of being the first vampire Western.   In the 1940s and 50s, the Western was as popular and far more prolific in its output than the modern action and science-fiction films are. I think I have pointed out  in the past that the 1951 Western Film Review gave details and a list of around 115 Western films released that year.   They created a  vision of the Old West where simple tales of heroism could play out in which the good guys WHO dispensed justice with six guns and their fists. All of the  heroic types that the action film draws on today had their roots  in the Western.

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Michael Pate ABOVE was an Australian-born actor who played numerous parts in B movies in the 1940s and 50s, becoming a prolific guest star on TV shows of the 1960s, where he was more often cast as an ethnic character, in particular as an American Indian.

 

As the vampire, Michael Pate has a terse and harsh presence, a sense of contained danger that immediately makes him stand out from the rest of the characters around him. He had a long career in films and Television – he was in Gunsmoke and   Rawhide on Television  among many other roles. The rest of the cast of the film are largely unknown names today.

 

Curse of the Undead was shot on the Universal Studios backlot, using the standing Western town, sets and warehouse costumes that were also used in dozens of other B Western films of the era. It is even shot with the same typically stolid and unimaginative camera set-ups and flat photography of these B Western programmers.   Director Edward Dein had worked as a screenwriter during the 1940s where he had written a number of Westerns.

 

He had also written several horror films, including additional dialogue for the Val Lewton film The Leopard Man (1943) and the screenplays for Calling Dr Death (1943), Jungle Woman (1944), The Soul of a Monster (1944) and The Cat Creeps (1946). He made seven films as director, including two co-directed in Spain. His only other venture into this type of film  as a director was The Leech Woman (1960) about a rejuvenation process.

 

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Rosamund John in Cleethorpes

 

List of the cast for a production of “Gaslight”at the Empire Theatre, Cleethorpes, 1953.

 

Rosamund John in Grimsby

The part of Mrs Manningham was played by Rosamund John, who was a major star of British stage and screen in the 1940s and 1950s. She had significant roles in two classic aviation-related films from the ‘40s: “The Way to the Stars” and “The First of the Few”.

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Here she is a decade later at the Westminster Theatre in London ABOVE – so it does seem that her marriage to politician John Silkin did not altogether stop her acting career as these two plays are well after they wed.

Back to her beginning  the  actor-producer Robert Donat  had spotted her while she was working at Stratford for C.B.Cochrane  doing walk on parts and understudying several Shakespearean roles, and he then cast her as an understudy in his production Red Night (1936).

Robert Donat’s biographer Kenneth Barrows recounts that the actor not only had great faith in  Rosamund John’s ability – he was to write in his journals, “One day I shall be proud to say I was one of the first to recognise her great gifts” – but he also fell deeply in love with her and, though he was married, by Christmas 1938 he was writing that  Rosamund John was “the first truly passionate affair of my life”.

Rosamund John did only a few  films .   Sadly this splendid actress is all, but forgotten nowadays.

Though her films were few, most were classics. The Gentle Sex directed by Leslie Howard was a tribute of the women in the ATS and then  The First Of The Few. She also played a nurse in The Lamp Still Burns with Stewart Granger. However, Rosamund John had a memorable role in The Way To The Stars were she played the films pivotal role of Toddy, playing the girlfriend, wife and widow of Michael Redgrave.

There was also Fame Is The Spur where she played the wife of Labour M.P Michael Redgrave, life.

Then one I remember more thany any other was Green For Danger, where she again plays a nurse, only a murdering one. She then  played a policewoman in Street Corner at a time when women Police Officers weren’t high profile

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Rosamund John ABOVE a letter to an fan after she had been appearing in a stage play in Nottingham.

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Rosamund John  – ABOVE a Signed picture

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ABOVE Rosamund John with James Mason in The Upturned Glass

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Rosamund John  – ABOVE – ‘Fame is the Spur’ 1947

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ABOVE – Rosamund John and Robert Donat – Lovers in real life- seen here in a stage performance of The Devils Disciple in London’s West End in 1938

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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

 

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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.

 

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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 

 

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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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