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Sally Anne Howes – preparing for her marriage

Sally Anne Howes was only 19 years old when she married American H. Maxwell Coker who was appearing ion the stage version of Oaklahoma at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Sally was working at the time on the film ‘Honeymoon Deferred’

Here they are preparing their Flat in Upper Brooke Street in Mayfair London – just off Grosvenor Street. BELOW :

Sally Anne Howes

 

Sally Anne Howes 2

 

Sally Anne Howes 3

In the picture Below:  Sally tries on her first wedding present – an evening dress  designed by her friend Nina Margo who is seen here inspecting it.

Sally Anne Howes 4

The list of wedding guests reads like a Who s-Who of Theatre with Claude and Jack Hulbert, Cicily Courtneidge, Isabel Jeans, John Mills, Michael Wilding, Sir Michael and Lady Balcon, Terence Rattigan, Hermione Baddeley, Walter Pinkie Beaumont, Jesse Royce Landis and so on.

I am sure the wedding was a wonderful occasion. Sad to report though the marriage did not last long at all. The couple divorced the following year 1951 – although another biography puts the divorce in 1953 so maybe they lasted a bit longer – I hope so.

Sally Anne Howes 5

Above: Sally Ann Howes – but nothing to suggest that this photograph was of this wedding – it maybe was not.

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Diana Lynn – Stage and Screen Actress and Classical Pianist

I mainly remember Diana Lynn for her leading role in Rogues of Sherwood Forest with John Derek in 1950. However when I look into her life and career more, it seems I have overlooked this very talented actress with a very wide range of parts both on stage and screen across the World – with a beginning as a talented classical pianist !!

She was born in Los Angeles and grew up living in Beverley Hills. She began taking  piano lessons at the age of 6 and quickly rose to quite dizzy heights because at the age of 11 she was a prominent member of the LA Junior Symphony Orchestra.

She made her film debut in ‘There’s Magic in Music’ in 1941 and becoming a close firend of Susannah Foster – famous for the film version of The Phantom of the Opera with Claude Rains.

By the age of 15, Diana Lynn had become the youngest performer under contract at Paramount.

Later she became friends with Gail Russell.  She alos appeared with Gail Russell’s husband  Guy Madison in a stage play Dear Ruth at the La Jolla Playhouse

At the age of 21 and in 1947 she purchased her own house. Also in 1947, a three-record album of Diana Lynn’s piano playing included Mozart’s Rondo, Laura, and Body and Soul.

Then on 18th December 1948 she  marries handsome young architect John C. Lindsay at the University of Southern California. He’s 30; she’s 22. Actress Jane Withers is matron of honor; best man is Stuart Martin. The reception is held at Wynn Rocamora’s house. Actress Jane Nigh is heartbroken.

In 1952 she recorded two classical piano performances for Capitol Records.

Diana Lynn Piano Recital

Diana Lynn Piano Recital Recording

In 1953 she replaces Dawn Addams in the Broadway production of Horses in Midstream.

Then she flies off to Mexico for filming of Plunder in the Sun with Richard Widmark

In 1964, Lynn had a six-month stint on Broadway replacing Barbara Bel Geddes in Mary Mary and In the early 1950s, she starred with  Maurice Evans in The Wild Duck on Broadway.

Below in London

Diana Lynn on stage London

American actress Diana Lynn (1926 – 1971) uses a throat spray in her dressing room at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London, watched by her understudy, Miss Helly (right), 3rd December 1953. Lynn rushed off stage the night before, during a performance of ‘The Moon is Blue’, with suspected acute laryngitis.

She also starred in runs of The Moon is Blue in the United States and London at The Duke of York’s Theatre  -ABOVE-  where she went also in 1953 which seemed a particularly busy year for her.

Diana Lynn London Theatre

Diana Lynn London Theatre 2

The same year she  also separated from her husband John Lindsay in that year. In June of 1953 or more probably 1954, she is granted a divorce from Lindsay in Santa Monica. He claims she’s an emotional “idiot” and detrimental to his architectural career. She receives only a $ 1,700 property settlement from him as in June 1954 her divorce from Lindsay becomes final. She then tours with La Jolla’s Sabrina Fair.

In 1954 she is romantically linked to actor Andrew McLaglen while they film The Kentuckian. This breaks up when she’s cast opposite McLaglen’s wife, Veda Ann Borg, in You’re Never Too Young.

kentuckian - cinema quad movie poster (1).jpg

Also receives some unexpected publicity in 1955  during the filming of The Kentuckian in Owensboro, Kentucky. While signing autographs, an 18-year-old fan handcuffs himself to her.

The on 7th December 1956 she  marries the president of Los Angeles radio station KLAC, Mortimer W. Hall, who is divorced from Ruth Roman, in Mexico. His mother, Dorothy Schiff, was publisher of the New York Post.

On 6th July 1958 her son Matthew is born and two years  later on 26 April 1960 her daughter Dorothy is born. On 2 July 1962 her daughter Mary is born and another daughter Margaret arrives on 6 August 1964. Her family is now complete.

Diana Lynn with one of her children and husband

Diana Lynn with one of her children

 

In 1968 she  moves with her family to New York, where her husband assumes an executive position on the New York Post. They have a town house in Manhattan’s East ‘80s and a weekend home on Oyster Bay, Long Island.

In March of 1970 a new career dawns it seems as Diana is announced as the director of GO (Travel) Agency, headquartered at Bonwit Teller’s Department Store in Manhattan but then it appears she is scheduled to star opposite Anthony Perkins in Play It As It Lays.

This does not seem to have gone ahead though because Diana very sadly on 9th December 1971 suffers a stroke / brain hemorrhage in Los Angeles at the age of 45 and she dies on 17th December 1971  at Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She’s survived by her husband and four children.

On 20th December 1971 a memorial service for her  is held at All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills.

On 22 December 1971 her funeral service takes place at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, Beverly Hills and then she is interred at the Church of Heavenly Rest, New York.

What a short life – but packed with talent and then to be blessed with her family. Those children I know who were so young, would have been absolutely devastated by the loss of their Mother

However BELOW here she is driving her British MG Motor Car :-

Diana Lynn in Her MG Car

BELOW In Rogues of Sherwood Forest as Lady Marianne. Here below are scenes from the film :-

 

Rogues of Sherwood Forest

Rogues of Sherwood Forest 2

John Derek

Rogues of Sherwood Forest - a break from filming

Above John Derek – Rogues of Sherwood Forest with Diana Lynn

 

 

Bedtime for Bonzo

She was in the  Film Bedtime for Bonzo with Ronald Reagan.

Diana Lynn also appeared on the stage, winning critical acclaim in London and Los Angeles as the feminine lead in “The Moon is Blue.” In 1963, she starred on Broadway in Jean Kerr’s “Mary, Mary.”

Diana Lynn has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: for Films, at 1625 Vine Street, and for television, at 6350 Hollywood Boulevard.

Maybe she should also have acclaim for her prowess as a classical pianist – I , for one, think she should.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Anthony Steel – Where No Vultures Fly

This was filmed out in Africa over quite a few months – and it took Anthony Steel, Dinah Sheridan- and a very young William Simon – child star who later went on to be famous as Alf Ventress in the long running TV show – Heartbeat. Anthony SteelAbove – Anthony Steel in smiling pose and Below More serious. Anthony Steel     Anthony Steel prepares for Film Premier These pictures were taken after the film was completed it seems and as this film was chosen for the Royal Performance of that time, preparations were being made. In the picture above Anthony Steel has a fitting for his new suit for when he attends the Royal Premier on 5th November 1951. It is reported as being the second most popular film in the UK in 1951 / 1952

Where No Vultures Fly Above and Below – Scenes from the filmWhere No Vultures Fly Scene

Where No Vultures Fly (1951) is, in many ways, an overlooked Ealing film of the early 1950s,  a colonial action-adventure.  Yet it was an important film in late 1951/early 1952: a huge financial hit for the studio (one of the top performing British films of 1952), screened for the 1951 Royal Command Performance.

A picture that looks so good in Technicolor – the film was shot entirely on location in Africa so this beautiful colour process really enhanced it.
I always maintain that, at that time, none of us would have ventured into such exotic and beautiful location, and if we saw travel film on early TV, it would be in Black and White of course. So to see such as this on the large cinema screen was almost breath-taking – and this would have been a major draw to film goers.
Walt Disney had realised the power and  Box Office potential of wild life filming in Colour – as he had produced a number of his True Life features – very successfully.

Where No Vulture Fly was released  as Ivory Hunters in the USA.

Anthony Steel returned to Africa to film West of Zanzibar (1954). In this one  he played the same character – as did William Simon as his son. However this time,  Sheila Sim played Anthony Steel’s wife

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Smugglers Island – Jeff Chandler 1951

Jeff Chandler stars in the Universal actioner Smuggler’s Island released in on 18th May 1951 in the USA- and it was in Technicolor. Smugglers Island 1951 2Jeff Chandler plays ex-Navy frogman Steve Kent, now employed as a diver for hire in Macao. On the verge of bankruptcy, Kent is bailed out by mystery woman Vivian Craig (Evelyn Keyes), who wants him to locate a stolen cache of gold. Other interested parties include Vivian’s shifty husband (Philip Friend) and ruthless pirate Bok-Ying (Marvin Miller). Plenty of double-crosses and triple-crosses  before the film closes and  the climax is a Technicolorful fireworks display aboard Kent’s sloop, wherein all the loose plot strands are neatly tied up. Smugglers Island 1951   Smuggler’s Island doesn’t make a lot of sense, but this fact does not lessen its entertainment value at all Director: Edward Ludwig Writers: Leonard Lee (screenplay), Herbert H. Margolis (adaptation) Stars: Jeff Chandler, Evelyn Keyes, Philip Friend, Marvin Miller, Ducky Louie, David Wolfe. Jeff Chandler called the film one of his favourites because “I played myself”. Around this time Chandler typically had played characters of varying nationalities from different historical periods; this was a rare opportunity for him to play a contemporary American. The original cast announced for the film was Märta Torén, Dick Powell and Robert Douglas. Evelyn Keyes had just signed a contract with Universal to make nine films over seven years of which this was the first. Evelyn Keyes Smugglers Island 1951 3   Smugglers Island 1951 4 The film begins with a voice-over narration describing the Portuguese colony of Macao, off the coast of China, which serves as a haven for smugglers, gamblers and pirates. Location shooting was done in Macao. Jeff Chandler was born in Brooklyn and attended Erasmus High School. After high school, he took a drama course and worked in stock companies for two years. His next role would be that of an officer in World War II. After he was discharged from the service, he became busy acting in radio drama’s and comedies until he was signed by Universal. It would be in the fifties that Jeff would become a star making westerns and action pictures. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950). He would follow this by playing the role of Cochise in two sequels: The Battle at Apache Pass (1952) and Taza, Son of Cochise (1954). While his premature grey hair and tanned features served him well in his westerns and action pictures, the studio would put him into soaps and costume dramas. In his films, his leading ladies would include Maureen O’Hara, Rhonda Fleming, Jane Russell, Joan Crawford, and June Allyson. Shortly after his last film Merrill’s Marauders (1962). Jeff Chandler died, at 42, from blood poisoning after an operation for a slipped disc. His death  following surgery was deemed malpractice and resulted in a large lawsuit and settlement for his children. Smugglers Island 1951 5 He had concurrent success as a recording artist, wrote music, played violin, and owned Chandler Music, a publishing company. Possessed of a fine singing voice, at the height of his film fame, he recorded several successful albums for Liberty Records. His former lover Esther Williams, in her tell-all 1999 biography, put Chandler back in the headlines after asserting that he was a cross-dresser. She told him, “Jeff, you’re too big for polka dots.”. I always thought that the claims Esther Williams made about Jeff Chandler and her former husband and Johnny Weissmuller and Victor Mature were a load of rubbish designed to sell her book. By the time this book and its claims came out all of the men mentioned had died and so were unable to answer back. Jeff Chandler stood 6′ 4″ by the time he was fifteen, and started to grey when he was eighteen.

The Johnny Quest character “Race Bannon” was modelled on Jeff Chandler.

Smugglers Island 1951 6

The film took over 1 million dollars in the USA – so pretty good.

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Lydia Bailey 1952

Twenty-one-year-old Anne Francis carries off the title-character role in 20th Century-Fox’s Lydia Bailey with class and finesse.

Lydia Bailey 5 1952

 

Set in Haiti during the Napoleonic era, the film concerns aristocratic landholder Lydia Bailey and her more-than-professional relationship with American attorney Albion Hamlin (Dale Robertson). The idealistic Hamlin becomes involved in the Haitian uprising against the French, aligning himself with rebel leader–and former slave–King Dick (William Marshall). At first, Lydia sides with the French, but she eventually realizes that Hamlin’s way is the right way.

 

Lydia Bailey 1952

Based on a novel by Kenneth Roberts. It is William Marshall as King Dick, with his considerable acting skill and imposing presence, who dominates the proceedings in a well-written, non-stereotypical role. The resourceful King Dick saves Hamlin’s life on more than one occasion, and it is plan for  Hamlin tom impersonate a slow-witted servant, that gets them within Leclerc’s stronghold. Their mission is to assassinate a traitor to the Haitian cause. Dale Robertson plays the hero,  Hamlin – he took on the role after Tyrone Power refused to do it,  and  Anne Francis (as the title character) is a beautiful woman and good in the role.

Lydia Bailey Film Poster 1952

Charles Korvin plays Andre D’Autremont, Bailey’s fiancé. Their love triangle is dwarfed by the larger story of Haitian revolutionary, where Ken Renard puts in an understated but effective appearance as the great Toussaint.

Lydia Bailey 4 1952

This was the film debut of William Marshall as King Dick, and what a career he could – and should - have had.

The film was originally to star Tyrone Power who went on suspension rather than film “another costume picture.   Power said he had filmed five historical-period films in a row and wished to do a film where “people talk normally and not in stilted dialogue.”  The lead was therefore given to one of Fox’s postwar contract players, Dale Robertson. With Fox’s option on the novel running out, the film was shot at the 20th Century Fox Movie Ranch and backlot of Fox’s California studios.

Lydia Bailey 3 1952

Lydia Bailey 2 1952

Colourful cinematography in Technicolor by Harry Jackson , shot in Calabasas , California and Ranch Twentieth Century Fox . Evocative production design enhanced with  matte painting . Thrilling  musical score by the classy composer Hugo Friedhofer .

The film was well directed by Jean Negulesco . He was a filmmaker of both popular , polished entertainments , as well as critically acclaimed prowess.

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Twice Upon a Time 1953

Following my previous post detailing the amazing story of Susan Shentall – this time TWO young ladies who again made just one film.  Nothing like such a big film as Susan Shentall appeared in but I am sure just as memorable to these two.

This is a film that I was not at all familiar with. It is an early version of the story we later would know as The Parent Trap with Hayley Mills but this featured identical twin girls – and they were Yolande and Charmian Larthe. In the later film Hayley Mills played both girls with clever split screen filming but in this the first version of the story, they did not need to use such a technique. Twice Upon a Time 2 The picture above is scanned from the magazine Illustrated from November 1952 – however the caption with the picture centres on the fact that they are clearly identical but their fingerprints are noticeably different. Back to the film itself – Twice Upon a Time is a 1953 film, directed by Emeric Pressburger based on the book Lottie and Lisa by Erich Kästner.

It concerns twin sisters who are separated when their parents divorce and meet again by accident when they are sent to the same summer camp – and they hatch a plan to reunite their parents. Lotte and Lisa had already been adapted into the films Two Times Lotte (1950) a Germany Production.    Twice Upon a Time was the first English-language film adaptation of the story.

Twice Upon a Time 1953 Emeric Pressburger as we all know collaberated with Michel Powell who directed the films they made together -  some of the very best films this country has ever produced.

Michael Powell I once heard being interviewed about his first meeting with Emeric Pressburger  - it was at a ’round the table meeting – in advance of the making of The Spy In Black. Sitting around the table was Michael, Alexander Korda, the Author of the book that Emeric had adapted for the film, and Emeric himself. Korda introduced Emeric and ask him to go over the screenplay he had written which he duly did.  Apparently he had turned the original story on its head – the author was not happy – but Michael Powell thought that it was brilliant. He then thought ‘ I must work with this man again’  – which we all know he did. This film, however, was Emeric’s debut as a  Film Director in his own right.  He never directed another film, so maybe he thought that it didn’t suit him – I don’t know.

The film Twice Upon a Time starred Hugh Williams and Elizabeth Allan – she appeared on Whats My Line as a panellist very occasionally in the early to mid fifties. Hugh Williams had a long career both on stage and screen. He played in Hollywood in Wuthering Heights  in 1939 – and the very next film back in England was Dark Eyes of London – a film that, for some reason, I do remember from Television years later – it starred Bela Lugosi who must have come over to England to make this one – I had not realised that before.

After the War Hugh Williams had a leading part in the lavish Korda production of An Ideal Husband in 1947. Then he was in The Holly and the Ivy in 1952 – another of my favourite films.

 

Hugh Williams – His son Simon Williams the actor talks of his father BELOW  :-

Throughout most of my childhood my father, the actor Hugh Williams, was working in drawing-room comedies in the West End, some of them written by him and my mother, Margaret. In those days, French windows were de rigueur in the theatre, the way dry ice is today.

He would get home around midnight and one of my earliest memories is of him getting me up to ‘pot’ me. He’d sit on the floor beside me with his tumbler of whisky, chatting.

Sometimes he’d do magic tricks.  He smelt of theatre, of greasepaint, tobacco and Trumpers hair oil (honey and flowers), and was at his most genial, so I soon learnt to hold back my pee to prolong the secret time with him.

As I grew older I would drink copiously at bedtime so I’d wake up for our midnight tryst. He’d have cold roast beef and claret, and I’d have a bowl of cereal. ‘It was a good house tonight,’ he’d say, ‘packed.’ With the hours he kept, I thought he must be a burglar. When I was old enough I was allowed to see him at work.

There he was, wandering about the stage in his usual clothes, speaking quite normally, giving people drinks and kissing women who weren’t my mother. Money for old rope – all you had to do was take your glasses off.  In his dressing room I liked to watch the ritual of his preparation.

There he was, wandering about the stage, giving people drinks and kissing women who weren’t my mother

With The Archers on his Roberts radio and his deaf dresser polishing his shoes, he’d rub greasepaint into his face and darken his moustache. When they called ‘Beginners please,’ he’d finish his Bell’s whisky and stub out his Craven A.

For me the die was cast. I’ve always liked the story of the boy who tells his dad, ‘When I grow up, I want to be an actor.’ His father replies, ‘You’ll have to choose son, you can’t do both.’

When I summoned the courage to tell Dad I wanted to follow in his footsteps, he was seemingly distraught and said he’d cut me off without a penny.  I asked, with due respect, how that was possible with him being an undischarged bankrupt. After a longish pause, while my heart was thudding, he began to roar with laughter.

Two years later he wrote a part for me in his new play, His, Hers and Theirs, and we set off around the country on a pre-London tour.  After the show we’d sit together in stage-door pubs till closing time – it was as if I’d been practising the late-night drinking with him since I was two.

 

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Susan Shentall – My Wonderful Year as Juliet

Susan Shentall made only the one film ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in 1954 after being ‘spotted’ dining in London and cast as Juliet in a film made in Italy mainly during the summer of 1953.

In this magazine she describes the making of the film as ‘My Wonderful Year as Juliet’

Susan Shantell looking very happy 2

This is an astonishing story – and here it is in her own words :-

We walked into the cinema, took our seats and the lights went down. The two hours that followed are the only proff I have that last year was not the dream that it seems to be now. As I watched the story of star-crossed lovers unfolding on the screen,. I let my mind drift back to9 that Italian summer. The heat, the noise, the colours, the tears, the laughter, the weariness, in endless procession through Rome, Venice, Verona, Siena ….  It seemd incredible that something had been created from all that confusion. But to go back to the beginning …..

One Friday night last year ( 1953) my parents and I were dining at the Caprice, a restaurant we often went to in London. During the meal, Mario, the proprietor, came over to talk to us. Suddentl he said: ‘How would you like to play Juliet?’. I was completely taken aback. Mario explained: An Italian Film Director, Renato Castellani, was looking for someone to play Juliet in his film ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Apparently he often came to the Caprice and had asked Mario to keep a look-out for any potential Juliets. Now, Mario thought. I might be the type Castellani was searching for. Could he give him my telephone number ?

Susan Shentall outside Caprice

Highly amused. we agreed, and went back to our hotel not expecting to hear no more. However, next morning, I found a message waiting for me. Would I phone Mr. Janni ? I think I was more intrigued than anything else. Who were all these people ? Where would it all lead ? The sequel to that telephone call was the most embarrassing half-hour of my life.

Mr. Janni had arranged to meet my father and myself that evening at our hotel. He sadid that he would bring Signor Ghenzi, the Italian Producer with him. They arrived, and for a full ten minutes not a word was spoken. They just sat and looked at me as though I was something in the Zoo. Then, suddenly, the three men went into a long and rapid discussion in Italian.

Eventually they asked if I would do two tests. I was amazed that they even considered me for the part. I had thought they would take one look at me and try to leave as tactfully as possible. I suppose I was flattered so I agreed. I remember little of my first test, at the house of Bob Krasker, the cameraman.  I seemed to be surrounded by at least thirty people, all staring; someone doing things with my hair,  someone else daubing  my face.  Later, I came to know and love these people – the hair-dresser, the make-up man and the others – but then they were just part of the general confusion. I was put in the center of an arc of impossibly bright lights, unable to see beyond them, but knowing that all those people were still there. I did as they requested;  I lokked this way and that, smiled, repeated some lines. Somehow I got through.

Then followed a week’s intensive rehearsing with Castellani. WE had decided to do the balcony scene, so I wherefore-art-thou-Romeoed through the week and set out for Pinewood Film Studios for a full test. This time the lights did not bother me.

At Pinewood I met Laurence Harvey, who was to play Romeo. I remember feeling very sorry for him, having to waste his time in this way. But he was very kind to me, and we swore undying love for each other for the best part of a day. People said afterwards how amazed they were at my calmness, but I was fascinated by all that was going on around me, and as I had not the slightest expectation of getting the part anyway, I didn’t see that there was anything to worry about. When it was all over Larry said: ‘very pleased to have met you, Miss Shentall,’ and steamed off in his white sports car. I went home to Derbyshire.

About a fortnight later, when I thought that by this time they would be at least half-way through the film, Castellani phoned to say that I had the part. Everybody took it calmly. My Mother went around looking as though she had lost a near relative. I don’t quite know what she thought was going to happen to me. The others, far from being vastly impressed and thinking they had a second Helen Terry in their midst, treated the whole thing as an enormous joke.  I felt it would be a wonderful experience.  I had nothing to lose.   The fact that I would spend six months in Italy really clinched the matter; my parents had said that I must make my own  decision.

Of course, in a way the whole thing was preposterous. Unlike many of my friends in our schooldays, I had never imagined myself reclining on a leopard-skin in the heart of Hollywood; nor had I any ambition to see my name in lights.  At the very mention of any play or entertainment being organised, I would make myself as scarce as possible in the hope of being exempted from even the smallest part. I was once induced to play and Angel in a Nativity play, and it took me many weeks to recover from the ordeal.

I passed the two months in a complete daze. There was the whirl of preparation – make-up tests, a three day visit to Florence for costume fittings, and final packing and farewells. Then the first day’s shooting with Flora Robson, cast as the nurse, and Lydia Sherwood, who played Lady Capulet. The thing I found most difficult at first was trying to forget all the people on the set, and the great unwinking eye of the camera, and to concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing.  I would return to my hotel at night with abrely enough strength to have a meal, and the alarm clock would rouse me again all too soon.

Laurence Harvey and Susan Shentall on set

I remember walking on to the set one day, as though suddenly emerging from a great fog. I found that these people, who had worried me so much to start with, I now knew individually. I discovered that I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

People often ask me if I found it difficult to play the role of Juliet. I must admit I never thought of it in that sense. I merely tried my best to do what Castellani asked of me. He is a wonderful person – small volcanic, with a typical Latin temperament, one minute crying and tearing his hair, the next laughing like a schoolboy at some joke. We were all under his spell. He never lost patience with me, though he must have often felt like doing so.

Before shooting a scene, he would spend hours explaining the significance of it to me. He would say: ‘It is what you feel that metters. Never think too much about what about what you are doing. If you have it here – pointing to his heart – it will be alright. You will see’.  He was tireless and a perfectionist. He would rehearse until every detail was perfect, so that when we came to shoot I could forget the technicalities and concentrate on my heart !  This must have been extremely frustrating for all the others taking part, but they were wonderful to me, especially Flora Robson.

Castellani directs Susan Shentall in a scene

I shall ever be grateful for Flora’s kindness and sympathy, and the advice she gave me. She was always ready with a word of encouragement. I remember I found it extremely difficult to cry – really cry. Castellani did not approve of using glycerine or fake tears, and he was quite sure I must have plenty to cry about anyway ! Then Flora explained to me the ‘technicalities of crying’ and told me the story of the origin of the beautiful song ‘Loch Lomond’, which has always brought  tears to my eyes. So, after that,  I was able to weep on request.

I had been told about Venice, but when the time came to go there from Rome, I was hardly prepared for that magical city. It completely took my breath away. I found it absolutely fascinating to travel everywhere by gondola or walk the narrow streets. We started shooting in the Ca d’oro, a famous old museum  on the Grand Canal.

The weather was appalling, and in one particular bad storm the canal water came up several feet and came flooding on to the set. All the lights went out and to add to the confusion, a crate of pigeons was knocked over and the pigeons escaped. The uproar was unbelievable. The Italian Unit blamed the English Unit and vice versa.  At last, when things looked like getting out of hand, Castellani decided to call it a day.

As we were all working so hard, no-one felt like much more than a meal and bed at the end of a day’s shooting. That is why the party given for my Birthday was such a wonderful surprise.  Norman Wooland suggested that I should stroll along to the set with him, as he ‘wished to see someone’. Unsuspecting, I went – to find the entire unit in the courtyard of the Cap d’Ora. On  a table was the most enormous cake I’ve ever seen with Birthdau Greetings in Italian and bottles of local wine called Guilietta.

It was a wonderful party. Larry and I cut the cake with the dagger ( the one with which later we were both to meet our ‘deaths’ ) and handed pieces round to everyone. I was so deeply moved I nearly cried.  This was my reward for all the despair, the tears, the long hours, the exhaustion. To know that all these people were my friends, that they acres enough to arran ge this, made it all seem worth while. I realised what people had told me; that the film business gets into your blood – and heart.

From Venice we moved to Verona, the home, according to legend, of Romeo and Juliet.  It was here that I first saw some of the rushes of the film. I remember being terrified at the thought of seeing myself on the screen. However, when I did, I found it quite impossible to associate myself  with the girl I saw; she seemed so remote and utterly unlike myself.. After that, I lost all fear of seeing the film. I found it as impersonal as watching someone else.

We all found working in the heat very trying. The temperature was around 112 degrees, on top of which we had the lights and heavy costumes. Castellani would produce two hot-water bottles which he filled with ice, and at every available opportunity would lay on our foreheads.  I think this really only increased our discomfort, but we could hardly tell him so.

Gradually, the shooting of the film was completed. One be one, people finished their parts and went home. At last it was my turn. There was the last day’s work in a little mountain village near Siena; then the farewells, the mad dash to catch the train to Rome,  and the arrival at London Airport one cold October day. It seemed unbelievable that the whole wonderful experience had not been a dream. But I have my proof that it was not, and I know I shall always have happy memories of that Italian Summer.

The future ?  I am always being asked if I will make more films. The answer is ‘No’.  Without a dierector of Castellani’s calibre, I don’t think I would be capable of doing so.  My ambitions now centred solely on my marriage and new home.

Susan Shantell Marriage

Now, after the London premiere of Romeo and Juliet – when, for the last time, I shall see all those well-known faces – my wonderful year will be all over. But what a story to tell my Grandchildren.

I have to say that writing this article as above, has proved one of the most interesting tasks I had had doing this Blog. From finding a scene from this film in one of my old Film Annuals with a picture of Susan Shentall – who I had never heard of up to that point – to then finding out her astonishing story and then delving further into any information I could glean – to finishing with this article  actually  In Her Own Words.

She is sadly no longer with us so the question I would have liked to ask her can never be answered – I wonder if, for a brief moment, she maybe regretted  leaving this film career behind after such success AND the ‘the wonderful year’ she had or maybe she was quite happy with her one year in film land. I hope she had a happy life though.

 

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Cinema Advertisement – Whats on in town Summer 1958

What an interesting item from an old Local Newspaper which gives us a great insight into what was showing a SIX different cinemas in the Summer of 1958 Some of these films I have to admit I am not familiar with.

Cinema Showings 1958

At the Essoldo was Down Payment with Joanne Woodward and Cameron Mitchell supported by Body Beautiful with Susan Morrow and Robert Clark from 1953.

The Pavilion showed ‘Drums of Tahiti’ which was made in 3 D and gets some good reviews. Typical South Sea Island type film – which I love – A 3-D Production from producer Sam Katzman which is  quite good  as B-movie’s go, with Dennis O’Keefe involved in smuggling guns into Tahiti to fight the French, and finding romance along the way. Some nice scenery – filmed in Technicolor. Also at the Pavilion was The Golden Mistress which starred John Agar and Rosemarie Bowe who later married Robert Stack and was happily married to him for 47 years until his death. She gets very good reviews for this one but did not pursue her film career after she married in 1956. Co-starring was John Agar who was also in the film showing at The Royal ‘ Gog’  a Sci-Fi Film made in 3D. I do not think though that these were shown in 3D at that time.

On to the Majestic Cinema which was showing a new film Orders to Kill with Paul Massie and Eddie Albert and a cast of good quality British Actors. I have read this review :-

This World War II movie has a realistic well written script, good acting. I saw this movie 40 years ago and have never forgotten it. The tragedy is that it apparently did not have big promotional dollars behind it so has never reappeared. Nine stars out of ten.

Also at The Majestic – The Narrowing Circle with Paul Carpenter and Hazel Court made in 1956. This sounds like one that would be shown on Talking Pictures – that wonderful TV channel in Britain.

At the ABC formerly The Ritz was Dale Robertson in Top of the World – a spy adventure film set close to the North Pole – With the tag line ‘Trapped on a Crumbling Island of Ice – 500 Mile from Nowhere’

To of the World - Dale Robertson 1955

Also at the ABCChicago Syndicate with Dennis O Keefe and Abbe Lane. A film about Chicago Gangsters.

Here again as with John Agar,  Dennis O Keefe was appearing in TWO different films at different Cinemas in the town.

Saddle The Wind with Robert Taylor was billed for the following week – this is a good and well remembered film from MGM  that had all the publicity on release.

Then at The Roxy – which had been called The Globe’ – was a well known one ‘Where The River Bends’ originally released in 1952 with James Stewart. With is was Headline Hunters - from Republic Pictures  with Rod Cameron - and for a change for Rod Cameron - not a Western.

Going through this list has reminded me of certain films and introduced me to others – and other films stars too like Rosemarie Bowe ( Stack) – who in truth I knew little about.

 

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Romeo and Juliet 1954 – Susan Shentall again

This film has only just come to my notice, and seems to have grabbed my interest mainly because of the fact that the film Director Renato Castellani chose a young British girl, Susan Shentall to play Juliet mainly because her looks were such that she fitted the character PERFECTLY.

Romeo and Juliet 1954 6

A big film with  Laurence Harvey and filmed mainly in Italy – and beautifully filmed at that in  glorious Technicolor.

Romeo and Juliet 1954 7

Romeo and Juliet 1954 8

This version has Laurence Harvey as Romeo opposite  Susan Shentall’s Juliet. They seem to generate a soft glow between them that gradually picks up heat.  Juliet’s death scene is rather stark and complete as it should be and Susan Shentall’s acting was so good  that she gave Juliet’s death a type of dignity rarely seen on screen.

Romeo and Juliet 1954 9

Some of the location filming in Italy comes beautifully to the screen – again in  glorious Technicolor.

Romeo and Juliet 1954 10

 

Below: This is one particular comment from someone who loved this film – some of the words slightly changed though.

Never have the personalities of the two lovers been so intensely portrayed in the screen. Susan Shentall conveys all the fire of  first love and the impending tragedy that will follow it. Laurence Harvey, manages to convey Romeo’s brash, passionate  nature. The great Robert Krasker’s photography is the work of a  master: each picture frame reflects a Renaisssance painting, as well as the sets (all original ones in Venice, Padova, Verona and Siena), costumes and the décor. The best names then available in those fields in Europe were recruited to recreate what Romeo and Juliet’s Verona should have been.

The result is a joy to watch.  The ball scene alone could receive all the prizes this film was awarded in the 1954 Venice Film Festival. Roman Vlad’s  musical comment is a lesson in itself. When compared to Castellani’s masterpiece, all other versions seem like pale, unfocused, poor readings of Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy.
Castellani “Romeo and Juliet” is one of the greatest films of all time. Castellani was surely not a Visconti nor a Rosselini, but his “Romeo and Juliet” is absolute perfection.

After Reading this, the Trailer to the film ABOVE – will really whet your appetite and show the scale and beauty of this classic film – PLEASE just take a few minutes to watch it.

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Movie Memories Magazine – Just out Summer 2018

It is always a Red Letter Day, when the Post arrives and that large white Envelope appears – it contains the latest edition of the wonderful Movie Memories Magazine produced by Chris Roberts  who has done this for quite a few years now and has attained a large following.

Movie Memories - Summer 2018

The TV Channel Talking Pictures to my mind, is helped very much by Chris who really promotes the film era that is their core business. The other afternoon on Radio 5 Mark Kermode was reviewing films – mainly New ones – but a reference was made to Talking Pictures and Mark said that through all his Social Media and emails, the TV Channel most often mentioned nowadays, is Talking Pictures.

Movie Memories - Summer 2018 2

Anyway back to Chris and Movie Memories Magazine – I really recommend anyone with an interest in the Films of the Fifties and Earlier of course to subscribe to this magazine.

Visit   www.moviememoriesmagazine.com and reserve your regular copy

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