Betta St John and Peter Grant

Betta St John came over to England in  1952 to play one of the leading roles in South Pacific at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane – and here she met one of the male leads in the production – Peter Grant.

They fell in love and were married shortly afterwards on 27 November 1952 in London at the Caxton Hall Register Office. Later they settled in California – he dies there in 1992.

Betta St John is still alive and living in California, I am pleased to report aged 89

Actor and singer Peter Grant of Longwell Green , Gloucestershire had been in  the R.A.F. – he had been on the chorus of a company at the Bristol Hippodrome and I suppose that it was there that he was spotted – after all it is a big jump from Bristol to such a huge  musical  as ‘South Pacific’ at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane.        Peter Grant’s  parents lived  in Longwell Green, Bristol - Peter had at one time worked Messrs W. D. and H. O. Wills.   He acted in Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s musical, “South Pacific”, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London, England with Mary Martin, Wilbur Evans, Muriel Smith and Larry Hagman in the cast. Betta St John 1952   A BOVE:    Muriel Smith,  Betta St John and Peter Grant 1952 Theatre Royal Drury Lane – in South Pacific     Peter Grant was also an Opera Singer and also sang in musicals. He mostly performed in London, but his company also toured Australia, New Zealand and the United States.” South Pacific 2 In this Production Larry Hagman played one of the seamen – he was, of course , Mary Martin’s son. In a later programme in 1953 a young 22 year old Sean Connery had a small role. South Pacific ABOVE is a rare November 1st, 1951 programme (playbill) from the Original West End production of the RICHARD RODGERS and OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II musical “SOUTH PACIFIC” at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London. (The Original Broadway production opened April 7th, 1949 at the Majestic Theatre in New York City and ran for 1925 performances. The London production opened November 1st, 1951 and ran for 802 performances.) This Production  starred MARY MARTIN as “Ensign Nellie Forbush”, the role she had originated on Broadway and featured WILBUR EVANS, RAY WALSTON, MURIEL SMITH, HARTLEY POWER, BETTA ST. JOHN, JOHN McLAREN, PETER GRANT, GERALD METCALFE, ARCHIE SAVAGE, WALLY PETERSON, BILL NAGY, MICHAEL MELLINGER and LARRY HAGMAN Music and Lyrics by RICHARD RODGERS and OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II   Betta St John   Betta St John had played the same role in South Pacific on Broadway before coming to England with the show. – See above with Juanita Hall as Bloody Mary

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The House on Marsh Road 1960

 

Husband David (Tony Wright) is an unsuccessful writer –   His wife Jean Linton is played by (Patricia Dainton).  The pair live in a succession of boarding houses, suffering from a  lack of money.

 

Their luck suddenly changes – or seems to – with the death of Jean’s auntie who has left her a house in the country.

The House in Marsh Road 1960 4

 

ABOVE – Patricia Dainton and her husband David 

David is all for selling the house and a good offer is made

 

When Jean refuses he finds alternative entertainment in the form of local girl Mrs Stockley (Sandra Dorne ) supposedly employed as his typist.  Jean, meanwhile, is comforted by local estate agent Derek Aylward.  

 

Gradually David comes round to the idea of murdering his wife for her inheritance.

 

The House in Marsh Road 1960

 

The House in Marsh Road 1960 3

 

The House in Marsh Road 1960 2

 

The film is  75% domestic murder story, 25% supernatural thriller. Jean inherits a house, moves her drunken no good partner David in, and he meets someone else, a voluptuous blonde, Valerie Stockley. Valerie persuades David to kill his wife, but Jean is protected by a poltergheist,  named Patrick by the potty Irish maid Mrs O’Brien.

It’s unusual to say the least.  Patricia Dainton appeared in some good  films in the 50′s and 60′s, including The Third Alibi, and once again she’s pretty good. Sandra Dorne too is really good in her role.

Directed by veteran Montgomery Tully, The House in Marsh Road  is an interesting theme in combining a crime drama with a supernatural one

 

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The Diary of Samuel Pepys 1958 BBC TV with Peter Sallis

When I remember Peter Sallis, it is not for Last of the Summer Wine or indeed ‘Wallace  and Gromit’ – it is for this BBC TV series which only ran for one season and 14 episodes.

 

Peter Sallis

 

Peter Sallis as Pepys  in this portrayal plays the role of Pepys with humour – as the picture above indicates – but also conveys  first and foremost that he is a devoted public servant.

This was Peter Sallis’ very first television role – and it was a starring role.

Also cast was Douglas Wilmer – who later played Sherlock Holmes – who played King Charles II with all the requisite charm and style we imagine, aided and abetted by  a well-trained spaniel.

Also cast was Paul Eddington as Sir William Coventry and Wensley Pithey who had played Friar Tuck in a BBC Robin Hood serial with Patrick Troughton as Robin Hood – I do remember that one.

Others cast were Bernard Archard and a very young Nannette Newman

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Truth or Preposterous fantasy or maybe all true – James Robertson Justice

 

Whatever do we make of James Robertson Justice. Was he for real ?

 

The claims he made about his country of birth- which was not the case – and many of the stories in his youth which seem to be almost too preposterous for words. Did he live in this fantasy world all his life or was that just to get him the fame he eventually was successful with – I just don’t know.

He did have a very good career in films and a long one at that.

James Robertson Justice

 

He was a perfect ‘Little John’. He remains a fascinating character in some ways and maybe those characters are needed – even if they embellish their stories a bit too much.

 

I suppose there is just the chance that some of these stories are true of course.

James Robertson Justice

ABOVE:  Here he is in ‘The Sword and the Rose’ another Walt Disney picture – playing Henry VIII – and looking very much the part.

James Norval Harald Robertson Justice – he added ‘Robertson’ himself, in an effort to appear more Scottish  was born in London although his father was originally from Aberdeen.

He claimed to be able to  speak as many as 20 languages.

He unsuccessfully contested the North Angus Constituency for the Labour Party in the 1950 election

 

Before acting, he had a supposedly varied career which included being a journalist for the Reuters along with James Bond creator, Sir Ian Fleming; teaching in Canada; playing professional ice hockey for the London Lions; racing motor cars at Brooklands; and finally, upholding the law as a policeman for the League of Nations in German, when the Nazis came to power.

He was good friends with the Duke of Edinburgh

Tragically his only son died in a drowning accident in 1949, aged just four

He apparently had  countless affairs during his first marriage. His second marriage took place just three days before he died.

He adored Scotland and claimed to have been born there.

He died penniless in London, – a long period of ill health had led to him being  forced to sell his beloved Scottish home. His final resting place was in Scotland close to his home below.

James Robertson Justice 2

Postcard showing the Dornoch Firth at Spinningdale, including the old mill and James Robertson Justice’s former home.

Maybe I have been unkind to him here – he was ‘larger than life’ – and there is something about him that I admire but much I don’t. To have forged a good acting career starting at the late age of 37, and continued it for a great many years is some feat.

I will leave you with one thought I have just had – Wouldn’t he have been perfect, and very successful in the Harry Potter films – not sure of his role but he would seem to fit I think

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John and Julie 1955 Talking Pictures

Please don’t miss this one – such a charming British film telling a simple story of two children running away from home to see the Coronation in 1953 in London – and the adventures they have on the way – and we too with them

Below I have located a set of Front of House Stills from the film which are perfect – and fit the mood and the era so well.

Film Still John and Julie

 

Film Still John and Julie 2

 

Film Still John and Julie 3

 

Film Still John and Julie 4

 

Film Still John and Julie 5

 

Film Still John and Julie 6

 

ABOVE: I really love these – the colour is slightly faded and the printed words belong to another time – but aren’t they good

Thanks Goodness for Talking Pictures – who have given this film a number of showings and judging by the visits to the pages of this Blog -covering the film - it must have been watched by a great many  people.

Also BELOW I have managed to copy some pictures from Reel Streets giving the locations  around Beaconsfield where filming took place.

John and Julie

 

John and Julie 2

 

John and Julie 3

 

John and Julie 4

Beaconsfield ABOVE

John and Julie 5

Waterloo Station ABOVE

John and Julie 6

ABOVE – Near Amersham

John and Julie

 

Beaconsfield and other locations ABOVE

 

 

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The Adventure of Ben Gunn – BBC Television.

Although I can’t remember much of this serial, it seems that it was an expensive production for those days and – as was the case at that time – it went out ‘live’ from the Ealing Studios that the BBC had taken on.

It is as though the BBC were trying to take on ITV who had had great success with ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ later ‘Ivanhoe’ and ‘Sir Lancelot’ .     However ITV were much cleverer here – they made these on film and so were able to sell them to America which in the case of ‘Robin Hood’ proved a great move.

With ‘Sir Lancelot’ some of the episodes were filmed in colour – had that happened with ‘Robin Hood’ then even greater success would have come their way.

It does seem that the BBC were a step behind here – surely it would have been obvious to them that on film it had much more potential

The Adventures of Ben Gunn tells the story of how Ben met Nick Allardyce, son of a local parson, who yearned for a life of adventure.

The Adventure of Ben Gunn BBC TV

Nick had finished medical school before gaining his full qualifications, but he managed to get the job as  surgeon on a transport vessel, the Walrus (later to become Captain Flint’s pirate ship)

Nick and Ben meet John Silver and others from Treasure Island. We learn where  the buried treasure in Treasure Island came from.

The story also tells how Ben came to be marooned on the island years after he had fled the ‘Walrus’ pirate ship

The television series, which starred Peter Wyngarde as John Silver and John Moffat as Ben was a six-part serial which began at 5.35 pm on 1 June 1958 with The Parson’s Son

The last episode was broadcast on 6 July.

The BBC spent a large amount of money on this production

 They even had a giant wave machine and a Spanish galleon for the scenes on board the ship.

During a sword fight between Peter Wyngarde and Olaf Pooley,  Peter sustained an injury but luckily only in a rehearsal.

This as we have said was done ‘live’ so had this sort of thing happened, I really don’t know what would have been done.

Peter Wyngarde was taken to hospital with the  sword still protruding from his leg which to say the least must have been pretty alarming at the time.

Peter Wyngarde played John Silver as a young man. He did say that “I played Long John absolutely straight. In this series he was a young man – about 30 years before the Long John of Treasure Island.”

He was also played as a quite well to do type from a good family who later fell into bad ways.

One role I well remember from Peter Wyngarde was in the 1961 film ‘ The Innocents’ with Deborah Kerr

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The 20 Questions Murder Mystery 1950

The 20 Questions Murder Mystery is a 1950  British whodunit screened  on Talking Pictures TV this morning

The 20 Questions Murder Mystery 1950 4

 20 Questions, was a radio panel show  broadcast on  BBC Radio from 1947 to 1976. Host Stuart MacPherson and panelists Richard Dimbleby  and Jack Train, I do remember from the show – but the two others Jeanne De Casalis, Daphne Padel , I did not know at all.   When I listened it, it  had on the panel Joy Adamson and Anona Winn  plus ‘mystery voice’ Norman Hackforth.

However looking further into this, it appears that Daphne Padell had indeed been on the panel and was replaced in 1950 by Anona Winn.        In fact Daphne had been on of the panel when a special performance of 20 Questions was done in Windsor Castle with the King and Queen, with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Maragaret who were all seated on the front row of the audience in the Ballroom.  This occasion was Christmas 1949

The 20 Questions Murder Mystery 1950

 

The 20 Questions Murder Mystery 1950 3

However in this film Robert Beatty and Rona Anderson were  in the audience of the recording of the Radio Show A listener has submitted a mystery object, Rikki-Tikki-Tavy (the mongoose in Kipling’s story), which the panel didn’t guess. Later that night, a butcher named Ricky Tavy (Meadows White )is found hanged. Though Bob spots the connection, Inspector Charlton (Edward Lexy) of Scotland Yard puts it down as a suicide until another object suggestion (‘Hanging Judge’) from the anonymous listener is followed by the strangling of a retired Judge. It becomes apparent that a   killer is at work who links the murders through questions to the Show, and seems to be settling old scores dating back to a murder trial in India.

The 20 Questions Murder Mystery 1950 2

Eventually, it is Robert Beatty and Rona Anderson who together crack the case but only after they enlist the help of the 20 Questions panel – this culminating in the killer being flushed out as he goes for one murder too many.

Robert Beatty is an actor who seemed to eb around in Television plays / dramas in the early to mid fifties along with Tony Britton and Patrick Barr – as I remember it anyway.

Rona Anderson

In the 1950s, while watching a second feature at the local cinema,  British filmgoers would often have seen Rona Anderson.

She starred in 20 films between 1950 and 1958 – and this is one of them  mostly , low-budget thrillers. Opposite such lactors as Robert Beatty, Jimmy Hanley, John Bentley, Paul Carpenter and Lee Patterson.. She was the classy girlfriend who helps the hero solve a murder, as she did here

According to the Scottish actor Stanley Baxter, Anderson “had this incredible, porcelain-like face, too beautiful for film … The camera likes angularity, to see the edges, and I think Rona’s face was just too perfect.” Whatever the reason, she made few major films.

Rona Anderson and Gordon Jackson

She was happily married to actor Gordon Jackson ABOVE

Kenneth Williams was a great friend of the family for 30 years or more – and in his diaries he always spoke very highly of them when he had visited for a meal or for a chat.

A year or two after  this film, she appeared in the  drama ‘Little Red Monkey’ (1955), where she played opposite the Hollywood tough guy Richard Conte. This was the film version of the BBCTV serial that went our over six Saturday nights a year or more before.

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Play it Cool – Billy Fury

 

Billy Fury was a major star of the late fifties on the music scene. He had a lot of hits and is still well remembered today with tribute acts touring regularly around the country.

 

Billy Fury Play It Cool

 

In the Photograph we see Bill Fury chatting with Anna Palk, Helen Shapiro and Norrie Paramor.

Norrie Paramor seemed to be connected to all the British Pop Artists at that time – I also remember he had Norrie Paramor and the Big Ben Banjo Band and they had ont hit – they were a studio group and didn’t appear at all as far as I know – but I just remember the name.

Billy Fury was one of our big Pop Stars – I saw him on a bill with Marty Wilde in the Summer of 1964 at Great Yarmouth. He was good – in fact they both were good.

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Lex Barker – Tarzan of course !!

 

Lex Barker was apparently the 10th actor to play the role of Tarzan in Hollywood

His full name was Alexander Crichlow Barker Jr. He succeeded Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic swimming star, in the Tarzan role in 1949 after  Johnny had played it for some 17 years.

Lex Barker

Tarzan and the She Devil

ABOVE – Tarzan and the She Devil – I just love that tree house – here with Jane played by Joyce MacKenzie – the only time she played the role. She retired from films in 1960 and later became a teacher

He was born in New York and educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and at Princeton University, and had had considerable training as an actor before Sol Lesser, the Hollywood producer, signed him for the Tarzan role.

He appeared in summer stock and briefly on Broadway before he tried the Hollywood film factories in 1945. He had small roles in “The Farmer’s Daughter,” “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” and “Velvet Touch,” and then made his first Tarzan film, “Tarzan’s Magic Fountain.”

Tarzans Magic Fountain

This one is my own favourite of the Lex Barker Tarzan films – although the others were all pretty good – I just wished that the films had been made in colour as they could easily have been.    I reckon they would have had a much stronger appeal and given the films an impressive look if we could have seen those jungle locations in Technicolor which, as I have said many times before – produced a colour which has never been bettered in my opinion.

Tarzans Magic Fountain 2

I wonder if any of them have been colorised – well at least the publicity still above is in Colour

Lex Barker dropped the Tarzan role, and eventually made his way to Europe and particularly in Germany  where he became a top boxoffice star.

Lex Barker 2

The ABOVE picture is in the early fifties during his Tarzan Years. Here he is on the occasion of Lex Barker and Arlene Dahl’s engagement chatting to actress and dancer Ann Miller

Here BELOW is an interview given by Arlene Dahl many years later. Her marriage to Lex Barker was quite short but she obviously still thought a lot of him :

What do you think about Tarzan?

I thought it was fabulous that he was Tarzan. He got me exercising with him every day. He had a fabulous physique, he was very proud of it and he worked a lot to keep it that way. I didn’t see him in the studio as Tarzan and I couldn’t go to be with him in Africa because I was making films under contract — I had just signed a contract with Paramount. When he came back I was filming every day in the Paramount studios. All of this worked against our marriage.

Looking at the book Tarzan and Hollywood you saw many familiar faces again. What can you say about producer Sol Lesser?

Sol gave Lex a bonus that he could use for his honeymoon. Sol Lesser was not very generous with his contract with Lex. I never asked Lex how much he was making. He certainly wasn’t making a lot of money, even though he was the star of Tarzan. Sol Lesser was not very generous that way, but because of all the publicity and everything he gave the bonus to Lex to use for the honeymoon, which I thought was very nice, of course! But I met Sol Lesser on various occasions. He never gave parties or anything like that, he was a businessman. The bottom line was the most important thing for him. Lex wanted me to go with him to Africa. I don’t know if Sol Lesser would have picked up the tab or not. It never came up because I was just put under contract for three pictures to Paramount and one of them started almost immediately. I never had a chance to go to Africa. I think had I gone to Africa we would probably still be together. Who knows? That’s life!

Have you ever met Johnny Weissmuller?

Oh, yes…

How was he different compared to Lex?

Completely different. The only thing they had in common was the great physiques. But Weissmuller was not as social as Lex. He didn’t go out very much. He was a very nice man, but he was not very social. And he didn’t go to the big Hollywood parties and so on.

The last question: what place does Lex Barker hold in your life today?

I only have to close my eyes and I can hear his voice in my mind. Lex is already and always a part of my life.

 

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‘Master of the World’ and ‘On The Fiddle’

This programme had these two very different films showing on the same bill but maybe that’s a good idea.

‘On The Fiddle’ had a big cast of well  known British stars with Sean Connery and Alfred Lynch who shared top billing – but also it had Cecil Parker, Wilfrid Hyde White, Stanley Holloway – and the list goes on. It even includes John Le Mesurier – but then again in those days he cropped up a great many films. He was always good though.

 

On The Fiddle

 

ABOVE:  Alfred Lynch and Sean Connery

Alfred Lynch had a  chirpy, unaffected appeal with a lot of charm, and on screen he will be remembered as the cockney soldier who, Bilko-like, devises scams and avoids active service in On the Fiddle (1961). He was top-billed in the comedy above Sean Connery, who played the gypsy friend Lynch recruits to help him fleece the soldiers by such schemes as selling rations and leave passes

Sean Connery was just a year away from playing James Bond in Dr. No

Double Bill 3

 

‘Master of the World’ starred Vincent Price who specialised in this type of role where he could really let rip in his own inimitable style, a mixture of hammy, camp and tongue in cheek – but somehow an appealing style.

Vincent Price

Vincent Price does his usual hammy bit, and if you like Vincent Price you will probably like the film.  He has made better films though such as “The Raven” and “The House On Haunted Hill”

Interesting to see Charles Bronson  in this film, where he plays John Strock -probably far from the best role he ever played in his career

Vincent Price 2

Vincent Price plays Robur, a mad inventor who has much the same anti-war mission as Captain Nemo in 20 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea – he captains a giant flying machine rather than a submarine, and flies around the world trying to end war by the threat of mass destruction.

The Film uses a lot of stock footage as it has been made on a limited budget

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