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The Far Country 1954

Directed by Anthony Mann  This film starred  James Stewart, Ruth Roman, Corinne Calvet, Walter Brennan, John McIntire, Jay C. Flippen, Henry Morgan, Steve Brodie

The Far Country was Anthony Mann and James Stewart’s fourth Western together, and it’s a good one.

“The Far Country” just seems to get better every time you see it. It is a beautiful film to look at. It has James Stewart at his best – and that is very good. It has a unique setting and story. It’s filled with characters that you can care about and others not so appealing. 

“The Far Country” is quite a fast moving film and is very exciting.

Ruth Roman is the female star – I do remember her in another Western ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’ with Richard Todd – not one of the better ones but she looked lovely in that as she did in all her films.  I really liked her.

A couple of years after this she was involved in a dramatic real life adventure when she and her three year old son boarded the liner Andrea Doria in Cannes, South of France

On the night of July 25, the Andrea Doria collided with the Swedish passenger liner MS Stockholm. Ruth Roman was in one of the ship’s Lounges when the collision happened and she immediately  scrambled back to her cabin to retrieve her sleeping son.

Ruth Roman and her son Richard

Several hours later, they were both evacuated from the sinking ship along with many other passengers.

RuthRoman and her Son Richard

The collision happened off the coast of Massachusetts as the liner neared New York Richard was lowered first into a waiting lifeboat, but before she was forced to get  into the next boat but thankfully all the 750 passengers  from the Andrea Doria were rescued by the French passenger liner SS Île de France.  Ruth Roman’s son  Richard was rescued by the Stockholm but was not reunited with his mother until they arrived in New York.

That must have been torture for Ruth Roman


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Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe


This picture must date from the early to mid fifties – in fact February 1955




BELOW – is a claim made in a recent publication :

Ella Fitzgerald was not allowed to perform in Hollywood’s most popular nightclub, The Mocambo, because of her race and  body size. Marilyn Monroe, who was a big fan, called the owner and explained that if he booked Ella, she would be there every night, which guaranteed huge press coverage.

He booked Ella and Marilyn was there, front table, every single night as promised. Ella said, “After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman, a little ahead of her time, and she didn’t even know it.”


However the truth is :

Marilyn Monroe did help to persuade the Mocambo night club to book Ella Fitzgerald.

It seems that the other assumptions are not correct :

While race may have been a contributing factor, black entertainers had performed at the Mocambo club prior to Ella Fitzgerald. The owner of the popular night club was reportedly hesitant to book a true jazz singer and thought that Fitzgerald wasn’t glamorous enough to perform at the West Hollywood hot spot.




Above – a Memo from Ella Fitzgerald’s Agent – and this is dated 15 February 1955

When once asked about her favourite singers, Marilyn Monroe answered, “Well, my very favorite person, and I love her as a person as well as a singer, I think she’s the greatest, and that’s Ella Fitzgerald.” Not only was Marilyn Monroe an Ella Fitzgerald fan, but she was also a friend who used her status as a Hollywood star to boost Fitzgerald’s career.

Their friendship would last until Monroe’s untimely death. And even after Marilyn  had died,  Ella remained grateful for the support the star had provided during her lifetime.



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The Smallest Show on Earth 1957


What a charming film this is, particularly for all us cinema fans. The story of a young couple who unexpectedly are left a cinema in one of their relatives wills and so travel to the small town where it is located and see a really great looking cinema called The Grand.


They are initially well pleased but soon find that it is not this particular cinema they have inherited but the smaller quite down at heel one called The Bijou which is right next to the railway bridge and line.


The Smallest Show on Earth 1957

ABOVE – The Bijou Cinema

On top of this, they have also to take on the employees, Margaret Rutherford as the Manageress, Peter Sellers as the projectionist and Bernard Miles as the Commissionaire cum handy man who really wants his own uniform but has not got one.

All three of them love the cinema.

The Smallest Show on Earth 1957

There is one really touching scene where the couple played by Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers come quietly into the cinema to find the three of them watching and old film together and Margaret Rutherford playing the piano along with the film. Peter Sellers is gazing at the film with tears in his eyes and Bernard Miles sits back, equally transfixed.

The Smallest Show on Earth 1957 2


The two  realise just how much this cinema means to the three of them. Their intention had been to sell it but gradually they are seduced by the sheer magic of the place and it becomes a place they want to keep and they fall in love with it too.


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Bomba The Jungle Boy – Johnny Sheffield

Johnny Sheffield, child actor who played Boy in the 1940s Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller and then starred in his own film series as Bomba the Jungle Boy, died Oct. 15 2010 at his home in Chula Vista, California  from a heart attack. He was 79.

A few hours earlier he had fallen from a ladder while pruning a palm tree, his wife Patty told the Los Angeles Times. “He was a jungle boy to the end,” she said, noting that her husband of 51 years was not high in the tree when he fell but “sometimes he was way up there.”


Years before, Johnny’s father British actor Reginald Sheffield, saw an advertisement  in The Hollywood Reporter that asked, “Do you have a Tarzan Jr. in your back yard?” Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was casting the part of a child adopted by Tarzan and Jane after his parents died in a jungle airplane crash. “Tarzan Finds a Son,” released in 1939, was the fourth in MGM’s Tarzan series starring Weissmuller as the jungle lord and Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane.

Johnny Sheffield was personally selected by  Johnny Weissmuller himself to become one of the family. “Part of the selection process was a swimming test with Weissmuller,” Sheffield recalled. “I could not swim a stroke, but Big John liked me and said he would give me the test anyway … he only wanted to be sure I wasn’t afraid of the water and that I was willing to try to swim.”

After signing him for their Tarzan films, MGM also put Sheffield into “Babes in Arms” (1939) with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, and loaned him out to RKO for the title role in “Little Orvie” (1940), and to Fox for “Lucky Cisco Kid” (1940) starring Cesar Romero. He appeared with Pat O’Brien and Ronald Reagan in “Knute Rockne, All American” (1940), playing Rockne as a boy, and worked with Ronald Reagan again in “Million Dollar Baby” (1941).

MGM released “Tarzan’s Secret Treasure” in 1941 and “Tarzan’s New York Adventure” in 1942, and that was the end of  its six-picture deal with Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. Producer Sol Lesser then acquired the rights and moved Weissmuller and Sheffield to RKO. 

Maureen O’Sullivan declined the offer to join them, happy to get out of the jungle after 10 years as Tarzan’s mate, so Jane was “away in England” before Brenda Joyce took the role in four of the six pictures Weissmuller and Lesser made at RKO.

Johnny Sheffield  was 16 when the fifth RKO picture, “Tarzan and the Huntress,” was made in 1947. By then he towered over  Brenda Joyce and was nearly as tall as Weissmuller. Lesser decreed he’d outgrown the role, so Sheffield and Boy were nowhere to be seen in the next film, 1948′s “Tarzan and the Mermaids.” That picture also marked the end of Weissmuller’s 16-year run as Tarzan. He traded in his loincloth for a safari jacket and moved to Columbia to play Jungle Jim, while Monogram snagged Sheffield for “Bomba the Jungle Boy.”

Bomba had appeared in 1926 in the first of a series of books churned out by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, home of such enduring juvenile adventurers as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. After growing up in a celluloid jungle,  Johnny Sheffield was perfect for the part and Monogram starred him in 12 Bomba pictures between 1949 and 1955.

“I loved it because I was now the star,” Johnny Sheffield told the San Jose Mercury News in 1997. “We filmed them all on a sound stage, but I was amazed at the production quality we got in them.”

The end of the Bomba films coincided with the end of all such B-movie series and chapter serials as movie attendance fell and low-budget film work moved to television. Sheffield tried to continue his familiar jungle roles by playing “Bantu the Zebra Boy” in a TV pilot produced by his father. It didn’t sell and Sheffield retired from show business at the age of 24.

He got a business degree from UCLA and moved to Yuma, Ariz., where he worked for a large farming concern. He later returned to California, where he worked as a contractor and dabbled in Malibu real estate, and also spent many years with a company that imported lobsters from Mexico.

Though his Bantu pilot didn’t sell, Sheffield’s Bomba movies became a minor rage on TV in the early 1960s. WGN in Chicago started running them once a week in the early evening  with the films cut from their original 65- to 70-minute lengths to fit a one-hour timeslot with commercials. The huge reaction from viewers caused Allied Artists, the successor to Monogram, to recut the 12 pictures into 13 TV episodes also designed to run in one-hour timeslots with commercials.

Johnny Sheffield

Johnny Sheffield 2

Johnny Sheffield ABOVE – in earlier films as ‘Boy’ in the Tarzan films with Johnny Weissmuller

I always liked this one Bomba and the Hidden City 1950

BOMBA AND THE HIDDEN CITY (1950 – 71 minutes) Sue England. Paul Guilfoyle. Damian O’Flynn. Leon Belasco. Charles La Torre. Smoki Whitfield.

A photographer and his guide meet a corrupt Emir with a dirty secret. Only Bomba knows the truth and the Emir wants him silenced! Bomba defeats the Emir and his henchmen, returning a lost princess to her throne.

This is the first Bomba movie to be filmed outdoors and it is very effective.



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Armand and Michaela Denis

From the Television of the mid fifties

Michaela Denis


Something that I did not know is that Armand and Michaela Denis travelled to Africa in 1950 to work on the feature film, King Solomon’s Mines in which Michaela acted as Deborah Kerr’s double. The film, as we all know, was very successful for MGM.


Michaela denis

Armand and Michaela Denis made a wildlife TV series in the Fifties –  ANGLO-BELGIAN film maker Armand Denis specialised in documentaries about Africa. He was born in Brussels on December 2, 1896, the son of a judge, and studied chemistry at Oxford after military service in World War I.

He moved to America in 1926 and invented a system of automatic volume control for radio that earned him enough money to travel and shoot movies of exotic locations.

He worked as a cameraman in Hollywood before joining forces with Andre Roosevelt to document the island of Bali in 1 9 2 8 . The pair blended documentary footage with the fictional tale of the love between a native prince and a servant girl to produce Kriss (1932) which created a Bali craze in America.

Denis subsequently married Roosevelt’s daughter, Leila, and they had four children.


Armand Denis then directed the 1934 African jungle adventure Wild Cargo (1934). He and Leila travelled to the Belgian Congo in 1934-35 and recorded sound footage to be used in films set in Africa, including the dances and music of t he Tutsi and Mangbetu tribes. They made documentary shorts i n the Thirties and Forties, but Denis then divorced Leila to marry English dress designer Michaela Holdsworth, whom he met in 1948.

The couple lived in Nairobi a nd c ontinued t o make documentaries. Their BBC programme Filming Wild Animals was broadcast in 1954, and  they then regularly contributed to the BBC and ITV.

Below the Sahara

ABOVE – Their much praised 1954 film ‘Below the Sahara’ filmed in beautiful colour actually onto 16 mm film which was later transferred to 35 mm for a cinema release.

The trip took us through the big-game country, down along the South African coast, then up through the equatorial Congo to the home of a gorilla-hunting tribe - like a sight-seeing tour for Michaela and also us in the audience.

Probably we all wanted to see colourful film of Africa – at that time very few of us indeed would have ventured there or anywhere near there as we just could not have afforded it.

So this film opened up at least a little bit of this beautiful land for us

Later Armand Denis suffered from Parkinson’s disease and died on April 15, 1971.

ARMAND and Michaela had settled in Kenya in 1949 and lived there together until Armand’s death. Around 1973, Michaela married Sir William O’Brien Lindsay, who had been their lawyer, but he died of a heart attack after just six weeks of marriage. Michaela stayed in Kenya, carrying on her work in wildlife conservation and as a f amily planning advocate, becoming vice-president of the Kenyan FP Association.

Michaela Denis 2

She had a wonderful sense of humour and greatly enjoyed life. She supported and assisted several local projects to help the community around her.

Subsequently, she met Major George Withey who became her constant companion until his death in 1986.

After George’s death, Michaela lived with good friends at their home  on the Kenyan coast.

For many years, Michaela dealt in property around Nairobi. Every summer she would return to her Ealing house to escape the African heat. “Not to vegetate or rot, but to make every second of this life count. Never feel self- pity – what a vice, what a bore for others!”

Following a fall in Mombasa in her 80s, Michaela broke her hip and had a replacement. Sadly, she became confined to a wheelchair, but spent many hours sitting in the garden beside the Indian Ocean. She finally died there from heart failure aged 88 in May 2003.

Following her death her ‘adopted’ family built a clinic in Shariani near Mombasa in her name (The Michaela Denis Clinic) to serve the local people of the area, and it continues to do so to this day.



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Floods of Fear 1958


I thought that, in view of the flooding around parts of rural England, this film has a a topical title – although I know there are many families who at least are safe, but are without their home at the moment.

Floods of Fear is directed by Charles Crichton  from the novel written by John and Ward Hawkins. It stars Howard Keel, Anne Heywood, Cyril Cusack, Harry H. Corbett, John Crawford and Eddie Byrne with cinematography by Christopher Challis.


Floods od Fear and Watusi


 ABOVE – Another double feature which I must admit would be just up my street – two pictures of the type I like on the same bill

Two convicts and one guard are washed away into a flood after the barrier they were building collapses. Ending up at the flooded farmhouse of Dr. Matthews (John Phillips), the men find that the doctor is not at home but his daughter Elizabeth ( Anne Heywood) is.    Soon  tensions rise to boiling point, especially since one of the convicts, Donovan ( Howard Keel), appears to be innocent of the murder he has been convicted of and he has revenge on his mind…

The flood recreation scenes are excellent,  we see  destruction sequences as houses and various other parts of the watery landscape fall by the way and the sense of tension and fear is conveyed extremely well.

Much of the filming of the flooded sequences were done in one of the very largest stages at Pinewood – and a huge studio tank.   Charles Crichton did say that the water could not be heated because of the fear of the smell as it became dank because  there was a lot of rubble and dirt in there, so it was pretty cold to say the least.

The actors endured long periods of being wet and cold but they stuck to the task in hand and produced a good film


Floods of Fear 1958 5




Floods of Fear 1958 3



This picture is really exciting.   You feel the characters’ desperation as they fight against each other against the backdrop of the raging flood waters. 

The final fight was one for the record books and Howard Keel’s athleticism throughout the entire film was top rate.

Floods of Fear 1958


Great picture above from the film – filmed in the large studio tank set at Pinewood.

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Cavaliers and Roundheads BBC drama



Plenty of action by the looks of this Television drama.

The Splendid Spur


ABOVE: Patrick Troughton in a scene from  ‘The Splendid Spur’ – that is a very young looking Michael Balfour at top of the stairs – top right.


A wealth of television swashbuckling adventures were produced by BBC Television, based on ‘classic’ works, and presented usually in six weekly  episodes, and more often than not  transmitted live.

A good example was  Robin Hood (BBC, 1953), with Patrick Troughton as Robin then he was also  in Clementina (BBC, 1954), about the stirring 18th century adventurer Charles Wogan, and again in The Splendid Spur (BBC, 1960); set during the English Civil War.


I do remember him playing Chevalier Wogan in Clementina – and in one of the episodes he captured a rival as the potential killer tried to enter the top window of a hostelry where a number of visitors had disappeared and the pub / dwelling did not have a name.   Chevalier intercepted the intruder as this man climbed up emerged the outer wall, and stabbed his fingers to the pub sign and he said – that’s  name for the pub ‘The Mark of the Five Red Fingers’ – I thought that the episode was called that but it seems not, so I am not at all sure of  which episode it appeared in.

Another one was Lorna Doone which came later

Three of the greatest storytellers of historical adventure – Sir Walter Scott, Alexandre Dumas and Robert Louis Stevenson – were the most handsomely produced  by the BBC. Scott’s 18th century north of the border adventures, Redgauntlet (BBC, 1959) and Rob Roy (BBC, 1961), captured perfectly the essence of the outlaw hero. The development of the (literary) swashbuckler structure set by Scott was further enhanced by the works of Alexandre Dumas (père), beginning with adaptations of The Three Musketeers (BBC, 1954; 1966-67) and Further Adventures of the Musketeers (BBC, 1967), supplemented by The Black Tulip (BBC, 1956) and The Count of Monte Cristo (BBC, 1964).

I do also remember a good version of ‘Heidi’ with small and effective mountain sets in the Studio.

Inevitably, it was the prolific swashbuckling romances of Robert Louis Stevenson that received the most BBC attention. These adventures ranged from the pirates of Treasure Island (BBC, 1951) and the Wars of the Roses with The Black Arrow (BBC, 1951; 1958) to the Jacobean Rebellion background of Kidnapped BBC, 1952  Patrick Troughton played Alan Breck here and again in 1956,  and The Master of Ballantrae (BBC, 1962).

For its time, the swashbuckler was a colourful addition to the early evening TV schedules.

Patrick Troughton also had a role in ‘The Black Knight’ in 1954 with Alan Ladd and Patricia Medina – made in England


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Phyllis Calvert


This Pictures is taken from the magazine ‘Band Wagon’ from November 1946


Phyllis Calvert


This must have been just before she went of to Hollywood – or maybe had just come back. She didn’t remain there very long in fact I can only see one film that she made there.

I do remember her in ‘Let George Do It’  – with, of course, the great George Formby, in one of his best films

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joan Rice – A photograph I have not seen before


The lovely Joan Rice – featured in a Magazine  of  5 May 1951 – at this point Joan’s brief but impressive film career had just really kicked into gear. She would be busy at Denham Film Studios filming ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Man’ with Richard Todd in the title role.

Filming had in fact commenced only 7 days before on 30 April 1951 – with many of the early outdoor scenes being done  at Burnham Beeches.

Joan Rice

She would just be entering Four months of intense work of this film which, to me, was the very pinnacle of her film career. She took the opportunity of playing Maid Marian, and did a superb job – and it is often voted as the most popular portrayal of this classic part.

She just looked the part and that certainly gives you a head start.

It wouldn’t be long before she flew off to Fiji to film ‘His Majesty O Keefe with Burt Lancaster – then calling in Hollywood on the way. I often woner if she flew round the world – she maybe did – which in those days was really something. Nowadays it would be commonplace.

Then, as we all know, her career just seemed to go downhill so quickly – and as I have said many times – I just have never discovered why or what went wrong.

Joan Rice with Elton Hayes

ABOVE – With Elton Hayes

Joan Rice with Richard Todd

ABOVE – with Richard Todd in a really lovely colour picture.


The Technicolor here is perfect – it was a studio set but it looked so real and the credit for that goes to Carmen Dillon the Art Director on the film – producing in this picture her very best work in my view.

This could be a help to would – be set designers who could look at this film and realise just what could be done.



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Mari Aldon


I came across this 1952 article, where actress Mari Aldon talked about the importance of getting a good rest and how to battle fatigue and survive in the film industry. 

Mari Aldon 2  


It isn’t often that a girl’s first part is a starring one, but Mari Aldon makes her screen debut as Gary Cooper’s leading lady in “Distant Drums”.

It is a film I really like – set in the Florida Everglades with beautiful Technicolor and locations we could only dream of.


Mari Aldon


Mari was asked how it felt being a film star in Hollywood.   “It’s a dream come true” she confessed. “I’ve known I wanted to be an actress ever since I can remember.

My father tells me he had to drag me off the stage at the age of two.


Mari Aldon


Mari Aldon 2


I guess I’m a ham all right.” She was asked how she man aged to look good when she had worked so hard and was tired  to which she replied  “It’s easy to be fresh and radiant when you have had plenty of rest but it takes a little doing when you have to be up before six,  then work before the camera all day - and maybe even  attend a big premier “


Mari Aldon 3


Mari Aldon marries Film Director


Tay Garnett Tay Garnett had been a pilot in the US Airforce during World War 1.  When that was over he got back into films – and was a successful and very respected Director for an astonishing four decades. 

Those years spanned the golden era of Hollywood. He worked with virtually all the legendary names from that era.


I have only just touched on his life here – so we will endeavour to do a much more involved post later on this remarkable man.  

Their daughter Tiela Garnett has written a joint autobiography along with her famous father. She also talked lovingly about him in a talk she gave about her father – and said how much she admired and loved him and that she misses him and thinks of him every day of her life.

What a touching and heart warming thing to say. Lovely !!

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