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The Big Circus 1959

This was shown on TV in England a year or two ago and I have not seen that it has been on since.   Prior to that it must be years since it had last been shown – which is a shame really for such a good entertaining film – with some very well known stars.

The Big Circus


THE BIG CIRCUS. Allied Artists/Warner Brothers, 1959. Victor Mature, Rhonda Fleming.

The Big Circus 4


In this film Victor Mature is ideally cast as Hank Whirling, a circus owner who has just split with his partners and needs  a loan to keep the Whirling Circus going.

Victor Mature was held in high regard by Film Producers – because he was rarely in a film that did not make money -

and many of them like Samson And Delilah made a LOT of money.

Victor Mature’s character ends up in partnership with banker Randolph Sherman (Red Buttons) and publicity agent Helen Harrison (Rhonda Fleming), neither of whom he wants.


The Whirling Circus is a family affair; the prime players being ringmaster Hans Hagenfeld (Vincent Price), sardonic clown Skeeter (Peter Lorre), high wire and trapeze stars The Great Calinos, Zach and Mary (Gilbert Roland and Adele Mara), their catcher Tommy Gordon (David Nelson), and Hank’s sister Jeanie (Kathryn Grant) who dreams of working the trapeze one time before she settles down (her mother fell to her death from the trapeze).

Money problems and his unwanted partners aren’t all that plague Hank — sabotage  is making his life  difficult: a lion escapes and threatens a press party, a fire breaks out and threatens the animals, a train wreck kills two people, one of them Mary Calino, and strands the show. Add to that bad weather and the bank threatening to sell the show  and only a miracle can save them.


The miracle being Zach Calino walking the high wire across Niagara Falls But just before he is to make the walk his wife (Adele Mara) is killed in the train wreck and Zach loses his nerve. Hank makes him mad enough to go through with it, but at the risk of losing his oldest friend.

Then the saboteur in the circus troupe plans to strike while the circus plays in New York while Victor Mature has to keep a low profile to avoid the man sent from the bank to foreclose (Howard McNear )

The Big Circus 3

It all builds to a suspenseful finale as the killer is trapped in the centre ring, after trying to kill Jeanie when she makes her debut with Zach Calino on the trapeze

The mystery element is done fairly well, with suspicion falling on almost everyone — particularly Vincent Price.

This film is certainly worth seeing, and a fine cast  along with a well written script and good direction and camera work

The Big Circus 2



Above: Peter Lorre,  Gilbert Roland and Victor Mature in a scene from the film

All the performers are at their best with Red Buttons more subdued than usual, and Kathryn Grayson in a non-singing role is fresh and attractive. Rhonda Fleming is as gorgeous as usual, and Gilbert Roland. Vincent Price and Peter Lorre both have their moments, and Victor Mature has a nice presence in the kind of part he often played as a fast talking faster thinking promoter with a heart well hidden behind the million dollar smile.

At one point after the train crash the circus is stranded and Victor Mature has the idea of using the elephants, “like Hannibal,” to get to their next play date.

The Big Circus may not be as gaudy as Cecil Mille’s  Greatest Show on Earth but it is entertaining , hits all the marks, and delivers  the thrills, smiles, and laughs it intends to do, and does so with a more than usually attractive and capable cast.

It’s pretty big entertainment, even on the small screen.

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Fighter Planes from the Films

A week or more ago for  three days, my family and I have been staying at the wonderful Petwood Hotel in the Lincolnshire village of Woodhall Spa.

In film terms this should be a magic place for Wartime locations I would have thought and of course it is home to the unique Kinema In The Woods that I have referred to before.

The Kinema in the Woods



The Kinema in the Woods 2

In Wartime terms this is where the Dam Busters 617 Squadrom was based and the Officers Mess was in the Petwood Hotel – and still is.

Lancaster Bomber over the Petwood Hotel

Petwood Hotel 2

Petwood Hotel 3


Petwood Hotel

You can visit there and see the bar / officers mess very much as it was – and now  a tourist attraction for so many.

Whilst there we met with Charles Clarke OBE who is now 96 years old and had been brought back for some re-union. He was part of 617 Squadron and had flown on Lancasters out of Woodhall Spa.   On one particular mission his plane was shot down and crashed into mountainous terrain but he remarkably survived and was take prisoner. The Camp he went was none other the the famous Great Escape Camp.

On one of the days that  we were there we left the Hotel and went about 5 miles to the current RAF Base at Coningsby which houses the Battle of Britain Flight with their collection of Spitfires, Hurricanes, a Dakota and a flying Lancaster Bomber.

Hurricane 2

We had a guided tour – and it was pointed out the the above Hurricane had been used in the film Angels One Five in 1952 which was filmed mainly at Kenley in Kent.





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Jennifer Daniel

What a lovely looking girl she was. The other evening I watched one of the Edgar Wallace Mysteries on Talking Pictures – and she was in it – this is what prompted me to write this article having looked a bit further into her life story.

She was actually in THREE of the Edgar Wallace Mystery series – Marriage of Convenience,  Clue of the Silver Key and  Return to Sender.

She was married to Dinsdale Landen the actor from 1959 until his death in 2003.
Jennifer Daniel 

Jennifer Daniel


Jennifer Daniel 2


Jennifer Daniel 3

The Pictures above from the TV Series Public Eye – This episode was entitled ‘Unlucky for Some’ from 1975.

The series starred Alfred Burke

Welsh actress Jennifer Daniel, who appeared frequently on British television and in the Hammer Films The Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and The Reptile (1966), died on August 16 2017 at the age of 81.

Jennifer Daniel was born  in Pontypool, Wales. When she was young she had an interest in music. She was even a a clarinettist in the Welsh National Youth Orchestra. Then her interests eventually turned to acting.

She studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She was in a repertory company before making her television debut in an episode of Leave It to Todhunter in 1958. She made her film debut in Marriage of Convenience in 1960.  She guest starred on BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Theatre Night, and Armchair Theatre.

She also appeared in an episode of the 1959 mini-series adaptation of Great Expectations where she played Clara and just a short time later she was in Barnaby Rudge again for the BBC

Jennifer Daniel - Kiss of the Vampire

Above in Kiss of the Vampire 1963 – before The Reptile

In the Sixties Miss Daniel appeared in the feature films Return to Sender (1963), The Kiss of the Vampire (1963), and The Reptile (1966).

It is for her role in  The Reptile I mainly remember her – although this is a little unfair as she did so much more

She appeared on the series Rooms and in the mini-series People Like Us. She guest starred on such shows as Barlow at Large, Thriller, Public Eye, and The Boy Merlin.

In the Eighties she had a recurring role on The Collectors. She guest starred on Barriers, I’ll Take Manhattan, Rumpole of the Bailey, and Capital City.

In the Nineties she appeared in the feature films Wuthering Heights (1992) and Love Is All There Is (1996).

She also guest starred on Keeping Up Appearances.

She appeared in the films Run for Your Wife (2012)  and Christmas with the Dead (2012).

Jennifer Daniel certainly stood out from other blondes  of her era, and even other Hammer actresses.

Her style was quite subtle particularly in the Hammer Films where she appeared to be very cool – this was perhaps because her stock-in-trade was playing serious young women confronted with unusual situations. Jennifer Daniel wasn’t just providing the  romantic interest or window dressing, but characters that required a certain amount of intensity in her performance.

What is more, she played them very well. It should be little wonder that she appeared so often on British television.

Return to Sender – Edgar Wallace.


Return to Sender - Edgar Wallace 2


Return to Sender - Edgar Wallace 1

Return to Sender - Edgar Wallace 1Return to Sender - Edgar Wallace 3


Return to Sender - Edgar Wallace 4

Return to Sender - Edgar Wallace

Jennifer Daniel – showing just how beautiful she was ABOVE – in Return To Sender 1963


Return to Sender - Edgar Wallace 1

I will prepare another Post on Jennifer Daniel with scenes from the other TWO Edgar Wallace Mysteries series later

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Miranda with Glynis Johns


Quite a number of films have appeared over the years about Mermaids and this is probably the best. It was released in 1948 so technically slightly too early for a Fifties film but here goes anyway.
Mermaids always seem to be  mysterious and enchanting creatures somehow spanning the worlds of fantasy / make believe to reality .  The  mermaid at the centre of this quaint little English film is  Miranda.
While out fishing, Dr. Paul Martin – played by Griffith Jones –  is himself caught by a mermaid by the name of Miranda.    She brings him to her undersea cave, agreeing to release him only in exchange for a trip to London as his “patient”.
It is made clear early on that Miranda and men find each other irresistible, and she quickly adds the chauffeur and the fiancé of Paul’s neighbor to her list of conquests. This causes more than a little consternation among their respective women, whose pity turns to jealous anger over their eagerness to carry and otherwise indulge the wheelchair-bound Miranda. Since
Miranda sleeps in a tub of cold water at night, and her diet consists almost exclusively of raw fish, it’s only a matter of time before her secret is revealed (one hilarious clue is that she treats the goldfish bowl as sort of a candy dish). Glynis Johns is utterly charming as Miranda, and Googie Withers is excellent as Paul’s ultimately understanding wife. Despite the improbable premise, one can’t help but be drawn into this very funny film. And don’t miss the scene at the very end, which may leave more questions asked than answered
Glynis Johns as Miranda
It stars Glynis Johns as Miranda, a mermaid who catches herself a Doctor on a fishing holiday and convinces him to take her home with him for a holiday.
Glynis Johns (best known for her work in Mary Poppins) is eccentric, guileless and winning.
The director Ken Annakin – who within a couple of years or so of this got his big break when he directed The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men at Denham Films Studios for Walt Disney – uses her skills to fullest in this story that sets Miranda loose in a world of extremely civilized men and women all doing the proper thing.
Of course, being the late forties and on a limited budget, the special effects are somewhat simple compared to what is available today, but to me, it only adds to the charm of it.
Margaret Rutherford
Also worth noting is Googie Withers as the Doctors wife.
Miranda is  a view, and was very successful in 1948.  It even spawned a sequel, Mad About Men - not quite as good though.
Miranda, Mermaid of Dartmouth, as sculpted by Elisabeth Hadley
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Jay Silverheels as Tonto – The Lone Ranger

Jay Silverheels was a full-blooded Mohawk Indian, born Harold J.Smith on the Six Nations Indian Reservation, Ontario, Canada in 1918. He got the name Silverheels from a tribal elder.

He began his acting career as an extra in 1937 and appeared in quite a few films including The Yellow Sky, Walk The Proud Land and Broken Arrow, also  doing supporting roles to Gene Autry and Audie Murphy, but he is best know for playing  Tonto in all but four of the 221 episodes of The Lone Ranger.

The Lone Ranger

Aboye:  As Tonto in the Lone Ranger alongside Clayton Moore – this was the part that he will always be remembered for.

After The Lone Ranger programme finished in 1956, he had part in films that included Indian Paint 1965, The Sphynx 1970, and True Grit in 1978 and founded the Indian Actors Workshop in Hollywood.

He had a stroke in 1973 which curtailed his activities but in 1979 he became the first native American to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He died on 5th March 1980 with his Italian-born wife Mari at his side. Lone Ranger Clayton Moore wept at the funeral saying ‘He was my kemo sabe ( faithful friend.

Captain from Castile

I hadn’t realised that among the films he did before The Lone Ranger TV Series was this quite big film alongside Tyrone Power no less.

The Lone Ranger's last tribute to Tonto

His is a name that is well remembered in England though – from the early days of Television – hence this article some months ago in the daily Mail – Above.

He holds a unique place in early Television History. The Lone Ranger Series ran from 1949 to 1957



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The Odyssey Cinema – St Albans

I know this cinema very well – or at least did do when it was the Odeon and went there many times in the mid to late 1950s when we saw such films as His Majesty O Keefe, Trapeze and Gunfight at The OK Corral – all good films by any standards.

In my own mind I have His Majesty O Keefe was the best of the lot because it gave us a look at the South Sea Islands – and my goodness it did look good. So did Joan Rice who starred in the film.


On a very recent visit to St.Albans, I was shown round the new cinema and chatted to some of the young people who worked there. It is now a first class venue – about as sumptuos as you could ever get.

Also the choice of films interested me – of course there were all the new releases but also an old film was shown each month and when I was there it was to be The Third Man ( which one of the young girls had never heard of ) and this month Jaws is showing.

His Majesty O’Keefe (1953)Starring Burt Lancaster Some scenes were  shot in the country’s capital – Suva.

1940's Suva, Fiji

A picture from around the 1940′s and 50′s in Suva, Fiji. Around the time His Majesty O’Keefe would have been filmed.

Filmed in Fiji in the South Seas.

The Odyssey Cinema was originally built in 1931 during the golden age of Cinema. It was one of three Cinemas in St Albans and is the last one that survives. This building was originally called the Capitol and then from 1945 The Odeon. It was converted to 3 then 4 Screens and closed very unjustly in 1995 and laid empty.

James Hannaway of The Rex Cinema in Berkhampsted was offered the building in 2010 by the property developers that wanted to demolish it. With the help of local donations and fund raising Mr Hannaway purchased the building then spent several years raising funds to restore the building. The building reopened as a restored single screen cinema on 29th November 2014 and fully to the public on 13th December 2014.

Odyssey Cinema St Albans

The Cinema is breathtaking the original Art Deco features that remained have been incorporated into the new scheme and the end result is an auditorium which is beautiful and a true picture palace which harks back to a bygone age . Unlike the multiplex’s The Odyssey has Screen Curtains and all the sense of occasion and grandure that a visit to the cinema used to have. In the Stalls area tables with swivel seats offer a different experience as you can sit at a table with a drink and then turn towards the screen as the film starts. In the balcony the rows of seats have massive amounts of leg room and the seats themselves are all armchair type offering the height of comfort.

The Odyssey technically is brilliant it has a massive Screen with the very latest digital projection technology, the sound system is the very latest reactive sound system and has the surround speakers hidden in the walls, the Odyssey offers sound and vision better than West End Cinemas in Leicester Square. The Cinema in summary is a beautifully restored Art Deco masterpiece

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Elton Hayes – Entertainer, Film Star and Farmer


The Heading just shows what a versatile man Elton Hays was.

The success of the Walt Disney ‘Robin Hood’ film – in which Elton had one of the leading roles as Alan A Dale – led to a nineteen-city tour of the USA and Canada, making 113 radio and TV appearances in 8 hectic weeks in 1952

Elton Hayes


He bought a 47-acre farm at Hartest, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk and soon built up a prestigious herd of pedigree pigs. He now found time to return to his youthful hobby of horses.

Elto Hayes 2

Sadly a severe stroke in 1995 put an end to these activities and Elton had to give up his farm and move to live with friends at nearby Cockfield. With characteristic courage and determination he overcame many of the difficulties associated with the stroke but lost the brave battle he had with his final illness in 2001.

Elton Hayes Farm


A friend and colleague lives close to the Farm that Elton Hayes owned in Suffolk – this was the farm he had there

Elton Hayes on stage

Elton Hayes became a star after The Story of Robin Hood and appeared on Television and Radio – and on stage – see above Theatre Bill.  He seemed to be top billed at the Finsbury Park Empire – so that must have been around 1952 after he scored his big film success.

Elton Hayes 5


Elton Hayes 4


Before this in 1949 he had minor stage parts – and is billed here as The Singer – but that would seem to be a key part in this stage play – which I have to say I am not familiar with – However he is at that time appearing in the West End so he must have been well known in the Theatre before his film work began.

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Mario Lanza – Seven Hills of Rome

After a three year absence Mario Lanza is back with the film Seven Hills of Rome – much to his liking is this one.   He did not care for Because Your Mine or Serenade which he described as having a ‘gloomy guy’ full of sadness and he felt that the fans wanted much more light heartedness and fun – and this what we got with Seven Hills Of Rome.

Seven Hills of Rome - Mario Lanza

His recordings sold in astonishing amounts – probably still do – and I have to admit that if you listen to them it is a wonderful experience.

Seven Hills of Rome - Mario Lanza 2

Described in the Picturegoer Film Annual as a ‘svelte like thirteen stones  – as opposed to the ‘over twenty  stones’ he had weighed in at some time in the last few years, he had seemed to settle down and following a sell-out tour of Britain he had intended to make Europe his base.

Sadly that was not to be. He suffered a heart attack and died in October 1959 at the young age of 38.

He was very much a family man.

This article cannot do justice to this phenomenal singer and film star – it is only looking at this one film and includes pictures above –  taken from The Picturegoer Film Annual.

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Fair Wind to Java

An epic from Republic Pictures.  An adventurous captain of an American  merchant vessel – played by Fred MacMurray – is looking for a sunken Dutch vessel that contains 10,000 diamonds. However, he is not the only one searching for this treasure. The island where the diamonds are supposed to be has an active volcano on it.

Native girl Vera Ralston falls in love with him and defies local laws to help him. She is punished by the island rulers, compelling MacMurray to spirit both Vera and the pearls off the island.

As they make a last desperate attempt to escape, a lava-spewing volcano threatens to destroy the island.

The climax to the film – a volcanic eruption is wonderfully created  by miniature experts Howard Lydecker and Theodore Lydecker.

Fair Wind to Java    

 It was based on the 1948 novel of the same name by Garland Roark. His first novel Wake of the Red Witch, published 1946, was a Literary Guild selection and adapted later by Republic Pictures company starring John Wayne and Gail Russell.

Fair Wind to Java - Poster


Fair Wind to Java was filmed inMalibu, California, and on the Republic Pictures backlot.

Vera Ralston said that shots of Java inserted in the film were made by John Ford, but there are other angles on this story – so not quite sure. Either way there was a lot of model work cleverly cut into the film.

Fair Wind to Java 2

In glorious trucolour! Another Republic storybook masterpiece from the last 5 years of the studio -this is an Indiana Jones pirate/volcano movie before anyone had done it.

I wonder if Steven Spielberg saw this as a youngster and took inspiration from it.  

FAIR WIND TO JAVA stayed in cinema circulation even after 1960 and was often seen in cinema screens at Kids matinees with other Republic films.

The 1969 Cinerama sized KRAKATOA EAST OF JAVA  might have attempted a bigger screen and scope, but this 1953 version with Fred and the pirates – and genuinely beautiful art direction and great modelwork, is a lot better.

I do remember seeing Krakatoa Esat of Java at the cinema – it had a big build-up – and was a must see film at the time. I enjoyed it though.

Fair Wind to Java - Poster 2


A Republic Picture – filmed in Trucolor


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Congo Crossing 1956

This was an old fashioned jungle melodrama set in the Congo and released by Universal in Technicolor.

Universal International

Although filmed mainly in Hollywood and not on location the way this is done is first class as we can almost feel the heat and humidity of the jungle

Congo Crossing 1956 8

ABOVE: Virginia Mayo takes the film’s main role with George Nader - a handsome leading actor who does a good job in this one.

They’re both in a real sleazy town in the French Congo where Peter Lorre runs a rather loose enforcement policy. There’s also Michael Pate who seems to have been sent to track down Virginia Mayo.

Rex Ingram plays  a black doctor running a hospital. 


Peter Lorre


Among the supporting Cast of Congo Crossing as already mentioned is Peter Lorre – in a scene above –  as a cynical Police Inspector and Rex Ingram as a dedicated doctor.

Peter Lorre appears unwashed and  quite shabby, hanging about in his dirty uniform, covered by medals in the style of a South-American dictator.   Needless to say his time on screen is a joy to watch

 Congo Crossing 1956 2

I have read  that Universal got Virginia Mayo’s services for Congo Crossing in exchange for Rock Hudson going to Warner Brothers.

Congo Crossing 1956


Congo Crossing 1956 3


Congo Crossing 1956 4

Shot in the Botanical Gardens of Los Angeles  ABOVE – where some of the Bomba films were also shot – this good action adventure film has Virginia Mayo as a socialite on the run and George Nader an engineer on a surveying mission.


Congo Crossing 1956


Congo Crossing 1956 2

Steamy Jungles where people are eaten by flies – in this case Virginia Mayo on the boat fending off those creatures ABOVE.

Congo Crossing 1956 5

Action and colour in the Jungle as their boat is attacked ABOVE

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Congo Crossing 1956 7


Congo Crossing 1956 4

More action Scenes from Congo Crossing 1956

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Congo Crossing 1956 10

This is a much better film than you might imagine – very colourful and is able to put over a film that you would think had been filmed in Africa – as the Producer, Director and Set Designers seem to have got the style and mood very accurately – and we think we are there.

Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre ABOVE.

Congo Crossing 1956


Congo Crossing 1956 2

Action Scenes ABOVE

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