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Ellis Powell – Mrs Dale on Radio

Ellis Powell played Mrs Dale in Mrs Dale’s Diary on BBC Radio in England from 1948 until 1963 when the role was taken over by Jessie Matthew.   Ellis Powell was married to well known film actor Ralph Truman who had many roles although one memorable one for me was as George Merry in Walt Disney’s Treasure Island made at Denham Film Studios and released in 1950.

Byron Haskin, the film’s director, said that he had realised when casting the film, that Robert Newton was just going to ‘let rip’ in the role of Long John Silver - which he did very successfully – so as a sort of balance, he cast Ralph Truman and with instructions for  him to go well over the top in his portrayal of George Merry - and so successfully did he do that, that Byron Haskin said that in the scenes they played together it almost made Robert Newton actually look as though he was underplaying his part. Ellis Powell and Ralph Truman

There is very little information about Ellis Powell available anywhere although she had the main role in the very earliest of Soaps on Radio – of course – Mrs Dales Diary.  She had been a Radio Drama actress from before the War – in fact right through the War until in 1948 she landed this part. She was part of the BBC Radio drama team that was shipped out of London during the War and based in Evesham where she appeared in many radio plays, although some of them were produced in Manchester. Ralph Truman also was a very well known BBC Radio drama actor with up to 5,000 broadcasts to his name. They may have met through BBC radio I would guess.

Mrs Dale 3 Above – a posed still for Mrs. Dale’s DiaryEllis Powell and Grace Allardyce in a scene Ellis Powell

 

Something that is not known generally is that shortly after she left the role as Mrs. Dale. she agreed to become a  Night Spot Club Hostess at the  Nitespot in Charing Cross, London owned by former Light-Heavyweight Boxing Champion Freddie Mills which was due to open at the end of April 1963.  Freddie Mills had been part owner of a Restaurant and was having this converted to the so-called Nite-Spot. It seems that Ellis Powell lost her job as Mrs. Dale in February of 1963.  She was then offered this job from late April 1963 and she died on 2 May 1963. Just over two years later Freddie Mills was found shot dead in his car – it was reported as suicide although there has been some dispute over this.

Ellis Powell at Home 1963 Above: Actress Ellis Powell sitting with her feet up and her pet cat next to her, pictured following her dismissal from the radio series ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’, at her home in London, February 20th 1963 – this is the day after she walked out of Broadcasting House (BBC)  for the last time after being cruelly sacked from her long running part as Mrs Dale.

Ellis Powell was reported to have been ‘sacked’ from Mrs Dale’s Diary  - and from her long running role as Mrs. Dale – she walked out of Broadcasting House on 19 th February 1963 for the last time – very bitter. She had earned £ 30 per week for her role,  although her voice was well known to millions of listeners the country over – but her face was not- so she found fame of a sort but not a fortune – in fact very little. She had been fired partly it is alleged because of her drinking habits but also because – in typical BBC fashion – they wanted to give the programme a face-lift. ‘ The BBC have chucked me out like and old sock’ she said. Her fans believed that she never recovered from the shock and distress of her dismissal. In the last weeks of her life she is reported to have worked as a Demonstrator at the Ideal Home Exhibition and as a Cleaner at a Hotel – although this is at odds with what I have found out that she had lined up this job at Freddie Mills’ NiteSpot.  Maybe she was just taking any job that came in her desperation. There are also references to the vague similarity of the True Life story of Ellis Powell to the plot of The Killing of Sister George – but to me that is stretching things a bit far unless there is something that links the two which  is not  generally known – although on the other hand from the outline of the story of the film below does have a parallel – that is clear.

I have come across this mini article below :- Marcus’s play was inspired by a controversial incident in 1963 when the BBC sacked a beloved radio star and was replaced by Jessie Matthews. The radio soap Mrs Dale’s Diary had been running since 5 January 1948 when the BBC decided to replace the lead actors and move the setting to a new town, with new supporting characters. The actress who had played Mrs Dale for 15 years, Ellis Powell, never recovered from this blow and died three months later, at the age of 57, through the shock and distress of her summary dismissal by the BBC.

Also I have seen another reference to her ‘at one time married to the actor Ralph Truman’ but as far as I can see she remained married to him until her death.

In fact in an interview for a 1954 magazine, she says that she was like Mrs Dale I some ways – they both lover, gardening, They both loved children and they both loved cats although she said that she had three cats Joe, Tortese and Baby Bella , whereas Mrs Dale had one called Captain. Ellis Powell also said that Mrs Dale had a son called Bob and she had a son Clive who was a similar age both in their earl 20s in 1954.

She had married Ralph Truman on 8th March 1928 so presumably had her son Clive around 1930 ish – that is a very little reported fact.

Stags Head London W1W 6XWApparently Ellis Powell  did use this local –  the Stags Head – close to Broadcasting House.

Also just come across these stark facts which gives Ralph Truman’s  and Ellis Powell’s  full name :-

Ralph du Vergier Truman, 1900 – 1977

Ralph married Ellis Agnes Estelle Truman (born Powell).

Ellis was born in 1905, in London, England.

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Son of Belle Starr 1953

This is quite a good  Western with no Star Names – it was on one of the Film Channels a week or two ago in England. I had never seen it before and was quite intrigued with the Colour – which was Cinecolor and although it is not seen as being that good, I thought it was excellent and really fitted such a Western Film as this.

The main Character is Larsen – a young man who has to turn to crime, almost forced to do so because of his mother’s outlaw reputation. (The real-life Belle Starr )-  she also had a daughter, Pearl, believed to have been fathered by outlaw Cole Younger–see BELLE STARR’S DAUGHTER, 1947) Larsen is recruited by underhanded sheriff Healey to help in a robbery. Larsen goes along with the plan because he wants to find out who set him up the year before.

Son of Belle Starr 1953 B.

Son of Belle Starr 1953 A

Son of Belle Starr 1953 C

 

During the robbery, the sheriff’s men turn on him and try to capture him but Larsen guns them down and hides the bounty, hoping to find out the real mind behind the plan. He gets his man, but his reputation as an outlaw gets Larsen in the end too.

A rather sad and un satisfactory ending – I am someone who always likes a happy ending in films – and in life too !!

I really love these Colour shots direct from the film – almost a faded sepia tint –  but very effective I thought.

Son of Belle Starr 1953

Above: Dona Drake.

Dona Drake : A few snippets of information -

She was born Eunice Westmoreland in Miami, Florida, one of five children of Joseph Andrew Westmoreland of Arkansas and his wife, Novella Smith of Alabama. Her parents are of African American descent. Studio publicity will later claim she was born in Mexico City in 1920.
When she left school she started working in one of her family’s restaurants
and changed her name to Una Villon
When she was cast in Aloma of the South Seas, Paramount changed her name to Dona Drake
She also performed in nightclub acts between film assignments
She appeared on the cover of Yank, The Army Weekly
While filming Hot Rhythm, her friend, actress Joan Blondell, introduces her to young designer William Travilla
She married Travilla and concentrated on married life for two years
Her daughter, Nia Novella, was born in Los Angeles

Sadly Dona Drake  died of pneumonia and respiratory failure in Los Angeles, California on June 20, 1989, at the age of 74. She was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea

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Somebody Loves Me and Caribbean Gold from Paramount

This is an interesting bill – a Musical with Betty Hutton  – the last film Betty Hutton ever made coupled with an adventure film starring John Payne and Arlene Dahl with Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Francis L Sullivan – two very experienced British Actors – in fact having worked with them on this film,  John Payne said that  Cedric Hardwick and Francis L. Sullivan were “two of the finest actors in the business.” Double Feature After making ‘Somebody Loves Me’  Betty Hutton had a row with the Studio (Paramount) and walked out. The temperamental star’s skyrocketing career came to earth with a bump in film terms although she made a few stage appearances and was on Television in The Betty Hutton Show which only ran for 30 shows in 1959 and 1960.  This though was a far cry from her Film days.

Somebody Loves Me 1952

Caribbean Gold took almost 1.5 million dollars at the Box Office – so proving quite a hit that year.  Cedric Hardwick had been in a similar sort of film a year earlier with Alan Ladd in Botany Bay – a film I really like – although I do think that one could have been made before Caribbean Gold even though it was released after.

Both films came from the  Paramount Studio

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Richard Todd – Wuthering Heights BBC Play

We featured this a few months ago – this was a BBC play done in the days when there was just One Channel which was BBC.   This drama went out ‘live’ as they tended to do in those days – and not only did it go live on  Sunday evening 6th December 1953 at 8-40 pm they all did it again ‘live’ on Thursday  December 10th 1953 this time at 7 pm – Almost 65 years ago nearly to the day. Apparently this play was done because  Richard Todd, then at the height of his film popularity, expressed interest in playing Heathcliff and the BBC arranged for an adaptation to be made. BBC Wuthering Heights   Above – a tense scene – Yvonne Mitchell as Cathy with Robert Brown as Edgar Linton along with Richard Todd’s Heathcliffe. Sadly no recording of this survives now – the would be before the days of early tele-recording I know but I had hoped there might be a copy. I remember seeing this as a child on our TV at home – maybe a 12 inch screen I would guess – but it was good – and memorable. Nigel Kneale wrote the screen play – none other than the Quatermass writer – and that would come shortly after this. BBC Wuthering Heights 2   The Caption on the pictures says – Models of sets are made to help the actors. Here Richard Todd and Yvonne Mitchell are studying a set for ‘Wuthering Heights’ Above: The Two leading Actors Richard Todd and Yvonne Mitchell view models of the sets used – I imagine to get an angle on moving from one studio set to another in a ‘Live’ production. I do remember one scene where Richard Todd as Heathcliffe was in the door of a stable brushing down the rear of a horse – obviously a model horse – I will look back at Richard Todd’s Autobiography-  he may say more about this.

Robert Brown who played Edgar Linton went on to play Gurth – Roger Moore’s companion in the Television series Ivanhoe – which was very popular. This would come shortly after this production – of course he later played alongside Roger Moore as ‘M’ in a number of James Bond Films.

I have just read about him – and one thing that struck me was that he was born in Swanage in Dorset, England – and he died there. He must have lived there all of his life which I find admirable.  I have to admit that Swanage is a particular favourite seaside location for me.  It is like a place that is locked back in time somehow. Lovely place.

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Jon Hall as Ali Baba

This is an interesting and colourful picture of Jon Hall in costume on the set of Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves made in Technicolor.

Jon Hall as Ali Baba

It also starred Maria Montez who seemed to play opposite him in quite a few of these exotic colourful adventure films.

Jon Hall and Maria Montez

 

Maria Montez
This style of film and the actors involved were very popular at this time in the mid to late 40s  – such actors as Turhan Bey, Jon Hall and Maria Montez.  There was always seemed to be at least one scene where she emerged from a bath or swimming pool, quickly being discretely covered by large towels borne by hand-maidens.

There is a ‘cast of thousands’ in this one but most of the time the director does no more than fill the screen with people particularly in the battle scenes but I suppose that would be where they would be needed – and in film terms look most impressive.

Ali Baba has wicked caliphs and valiant freedom fighters battling it out in the Hollywood desert.

It all makes for colourful and very appealing entertainment.

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The Forsyte Saga – Errol Flynn 1949

 

Errol Flynn was in fact, very good as Soames Forsyte in the Hollywood version of the Book that was adapted so successfully a few years late for BBC Television in Britain.  This film went under the title of ‘That Forsyte Woman’ but I can’t think why – maybe they thought The Forsyte Saga would be a bit too formal for the viewing audiences back in 1949. It seems like a mistake to me.

It shows on the picture below that it got a Royal Film Performance with the title  The Forsyte Saga

The Forsyte Saga Irene was played in this film by Greer Garson.

This is one of the few non-swashbuckling films for  Errol Flynn and one where he plays a character  who is not that appealing . He rises to the occasion and does it not merely well but really well.   Because he was so good at using his natural athletic abilities in costume dramas, he rarely got the meaty roles such as this one. Greer Garson is good..  Robert Young as Philip Bosinney is OK although I did feel he was mis-cast in this part – possibly my judgement is impaired by the actor who later  played him in the Television version - John Bennett -

This film is beautifully photographed in Technicolor with lush costumes but it’s Errol Flynn who steals the show– without even trying.

Filming took place from January to March 1949  with the two stars being recalled for reshoots in June.  However it was released in August 1949 – a quick turn around

Errol Flynn and Greer Garson got along surprisingly well during filming and discussed making another film together – but that never happened

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Lassie in Action

What a lovely dog – Lassie who has appeared in exciting films and Television series over the years.

Below:  In Son of LassieLassie jumps on to the plane to be with her master Peter Lawford in a thrilling sequence where they are together in the cauldron of war. It is quite a moving part of the film where we even fear for Lassie’s life.   Lassie 2

Breathtakingly beautiful location photography (Banff National Park, Canada) provides a colourful background for a war story involving Lassie, Peter Lawford, June Lockhart, Donald Crisp, Leon Ames, William Severn and an early performance by Terry Moore when she was a child actress.

Peter Lawford and Lassie have some strenuous stunts to perform in the rapids as they escape.

Son of Lassie is definitely a Lassie film worth watching.

  Lassie 3 Above:   Lassie lovingly tries to wake up a young Claude Jarman in a scene from The Sun Comes Up.

Lassie 4

Above – again in The Sun Comes Up. It seems Lassie got him out of bed and out in the fresh air on what looks like a lovely day.

I am not  at all familiar with this film  but it receives excellent reviews.

Lassie Above:  Lassie looks to be celebrating Christmas in a charming colour picture.

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The Hellions 1961 – on Talking Pictures

In the past, we have never  got the chance to see this action packed film set in South Africa – but on the wonderful Talking Pictures Channel a couple of days ago, we did get that opportunity – and a Big Thank You to them for that.

Filmed in Technirama and Technicolor – and mainly around the town of Brits – which is somewhere between Johannesburg and Pretoria and South of Sun City – and some of the interior shots were done at a small Studio in Pretoria.

Filming began in Mid February 1961 and ended early to mid April 1961

The Hellions Richard Todd starred along with Lionel Jeffries – and a strong castThe Hellions 2 BELOW – A thrilling sequence.  His wife played by Anne Aubrey, has just broken the news to her husband Ernie Dobbs,  played by Jamie Uys,   that she had been attacked and accosted by the leader of the Hellions. He receives this news while escaping with his family from the town on the train. On hearing this shocking information  he decides to jump from the train – as pictured below, and go back and face the Hellions head on. The Hellions 3 The Hellions 4 The Hellions 5   The hellions 6

The final confrontation between lawman Richard Todd and ‘baddie’ brilliantly played by Lionel Jeffries.  Terrific action sequence this proves to be on the roof of a building.

Stuntman Bob Simmons made the dramatic fall from the roof – in the scenes below. He also doubled for Richard Todd when he had to dive through a glass door into a room.

Hellions Fight Hellions Fight 2   Hellions Fight 3 Hellions Fight 5 Hellions Fight 6

BELOW: The Last TWO of the Hellions are killed by the townsfolk after their reign of terror – Just below Marty Wilde comes to a sticky end – and  the one played by Colin Blakeley tries to escape on horseback but is brought down with a long distance rifle shot.

The Hellions end The Hellions End 2   BELOW – Closing Credits of the film – a really thrilling film it was too !! Hellions 7

Good action drama all round.

Please look out for this one coming up again on Talking Picture – it no doubt will do shortly.

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The Ghost Train

Ghost Train (1941)

 Stars: Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch, Kathleen Harrison

A group of mismatched travellers are stranded overnight at a lonely rural railway station. They soon learn of local superstition about a phantom train which is said to travel these parts at dead of night, carrying ghosts from a long-ago train wreck in the area.

The Ghost Train

The travellers eventually get to the bottom of it all in a thrilling finale. In between the scary bits, comedian Arthur Askey jokes in his normal very lively style of humour, which at times is to the irritation of his fellow passengers. He is very good though and really carries the film.

 

From a famous stage play by Arnold Ridley – who we all know well as Private Godfrey in Dads Army

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Richard Todd in The Hasty Heart

This picture catapulted the then unknown Richard Todd to International stardom after his terrific performance as Lachie in The Hasty Heart – alongside Patricia Neal and Ronald Reagan who had come over to England-  not too long after the War –  to make this film.

It went very well in America and here – and on the back of this Richard Todd got major roles in three  films for Walt Disney – all made here – and a One a Year contract with 20th Century Fox.

The Hasty Heart

This photograph above – shows Richard Todd chatting to Patricia Neal and Vincent Sherman on the set at Elstree

The Hasty Heart is the  work of author John Patrick, who also wrote  The Teahouse of the August Moon – something that until today I had not realised.

The Hasty Heart ran on Broadway from  1945  for 204 performances with  a cast that  starred Richard Basehart, Anne Burr and John Lund on stage.

It is a story about a wounded  soldier played in the film by Richard Todd who doesn’t know it,  but will die within a matter of weeks and nurse Patricia Neal moves him in with some other convalescent soldiers including an American, Ronald Reagan and tells them to go easy with him.

However Lachie  is  a bitter angry man, with no family or friends to speak of .

Richard Todd got his first break in The Hasty Heart.  He was of course  a real life war hero who had parachuted in to Pegasus Bridge with Major John Howards soldiers – so in playing this part he brought a wealth of experience of someone who had been there.  Richard Todd got an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and his competition included, John Wayne for Sands of Iwo Jima, Kirk Douglas for Champion, and Gregory Peck for Twelve O’Clock High. The eventual winner though was Broderick Crawford in All the King’s Men.

Patricia Neal also got her first really good part as the compassionate nurse.  Also a veteran contract player with Warner Brothers who left the movies for another career, Ronald Reagan got some of the best notices of his career. The Hasty Heart is definitely one of the three films most identified with him in, the others being Knute Rockne – All American, and of course –  King’s Row.

These three actors – and the supporting ones, certainly did there very best in this film – making it a very very good one.

Richard Todd - Golden Globe 2

Richard Todd receives a Golden Globe for The Hasty Heart – above Pictured along with Mercedes McCambridge.

They were in the film ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’ about this time.

Richard Todd - Golden Globe

The Hasty Heart

Richard Todd chats with Olivia deHavilland and she receives a Golden Globe – above

 

 

 

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