Kathleen Byron – and Jeremy Spenser

 

Kathleen Byron, who died on January 18 2009 aged 88, was an English actress.

In the British cinema of the Forties, her beauty was faintly disquieting. When Margaret Lockwood played “wicked ladies”, audiences knew where they were. She was a bad lot, and that was it. With Kathleen Byron they never quite knew what to expect. There were hints of schizophrenia in her on-screen personality that left people deeply uneasy.

The film that best reflected this was Black Narcissus (1947), adapted by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger from a novel by Rumer Godden which was set in a convent high in the Himalayas. Kathleen Byron played Sister Ruth. This was a terrific role for her. When she was told she had got the part Michael Powell said ‘make the best of it Kathleen because you will never get a part as good again. She later said that she agreed with him and she didn’t think she had ever had a part anywhere as good again.

“Afterwards I received letters from psychiatrists saying it was a marvellous portrayal of someone on the verge of collapse,” she said later. “And I think it was because I kept in my mind all the time that she was sane.”

Cinema Programme

 

Above: Avery interesting Cinema Newpaper Advertisement – Surprising to see what choices are made of which films to feature on a Double Bill.

We see Kathleen Byron in ‘Prelude to Fame’ with Guy Rolfe and Jeremy Spenser – who seemed to have a successful career in films and on Television – as a child star – in the early to mid 50s but the sort of fell off the radar. He continued in films up to being nearly 30 years old though – and indeed he made quite a lot of films.

The Prince and the Showgirl

 

Also we cannot forget that he played alongside Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier in ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’

Looking at the picture above – you would have thought that being in such close proximity to Marilyn, he would look a little happier

Now back to Kathleen Byron – Michael Powell was the director who best understood her talents, and he offered her roles that would tap them. The first was a small part in the whimsical A Matter of Life and Death (1946) as an angel whose job is to take down the particulars of recently dead airmen prior to sending them before the heavenly tribunal.

Her third film with Michael Powell was The Small Back Room. The story of a troubled scientist (David Farrar) who hits the bottle under the pressure of wartime research.  Far from being the traditional, subservient “love interest”, her role became the stronger of the two, capable of galvanising Farrar out of his self-absorption. It was not how audiences expected their heroines to behave in 1949.

Powell was one of his actress’s biggest fans. He was captivated by her “luminous eyes” and by her deep voice, “with the hint of mockery in it”. Immodestly, he claimed to recognise in her “an intelligence as cool as my own”. But he couldn’t use her more, because, he said, “the parts were not there; and I’m not in this business to work for women.”

The daughter of a railway clerk who became a Labour mayor of East Ham, Kathleen Elizabeth Byron was born on January 11 1923 and educated at East Ham grammar school. She said she spent her schoolyears “daydreaming of becoming an actress” and obtained a scholarship to the Old Vic. After war service in censorship, she spent some time with the theatre’s company, obtaining her first speaking part in the film The Young Mr Pitt (1942).

In 1943 she married Lieutenant John Bowen, a USAAF pilot, joining him in the States; but her career did not prosper there, and Michael Powell persuaded her to return home.

The late Forties, in which she made the three films with Powell, were the most productive of her career. Afterwards it languished. A second trip to Hollywood in 1953 to play in Young Bess led nowhere.

Her part was overshadowed by Jean Simmons as the young Queen Elizabeth I and by Deborah Kerr as Catherine Parr.

“I went to see John Huston for the role of Lygia in Quo Vadis,” Byron said of her Hollywood years, “I said to him ‘I don’t know how you see me,’ and he replied: ‘We in Hollywood see you as strictly neurotic, Miss Byron.’” She even admitted taking a cynical view of the showbusiness world, saying: “I was no Joan Collins.”

Increasingly, she drifted into second features and supporting parts in bigger pictures. Few were memorable. They ranged from stolid literary adaptations such as Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1951) to such horror pictures as Night of the Eagle (1962) and Craze (1973). When she landed more prestigious roles, they failed to register with audiences. Her Desdemona, for example, was heard rather than seen – on the soundtrack of the dubbed version of a Russian film of 1957.

For a time in the mid-Sixties a car accident, in which she broke her pelvis and some ribs, kept her out of British films. After recovering she was frequently cast in matriarchal roles. She was Robin Hood’s mother in Wolfhead (1969) and the mother of a Polish patriot in From a Far City: Pope John Paul II (1981), both made for television.

Prelude to Fame

There was a cameo role as Lady Waddington in The Elephant Man (1980), the part of Mrs Goddard alongside Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma (1995) and old Mrs Ryan in the Oscar-winning Saving Private Ryan (1998). She found more rewarding work in television, appearing in literary adaptations (Portrait of a Lady and The Golden Bowl) and in long-running soaps such as Emmerdale Farm.

In a series based on the life of King Edward VII, she played Queen Louise of Denmark, mother of Alexandra, the future Queen of England.

Her first marriage was dissolved in 1950. She married, secondly, the radio journalist Alaric Jacob, who predeceased her. A son, a daughter, and a stepdaughter survive her.

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Perce Pearce – Walt Disney’s Trusted Lieutenant

 

Perce Pearce had worked for Walt Disney for 15 years and had co-directed ‘Snow White’ and ‘Bambi’ and produced ‘Song of the South’ and ‘So Dear To My Heart’ for him.

 

Perce Pearce

 

ABOVE – Perce Pearce seems to be looking at notes containing shots of the ‘landing on the island’ sequence in the film with Robert Newton and Bobby Driscoll in the picture he has open.

He looks to be sitting outside when this was taken – and ,as it was filmed in mid August 1949 he could wll have been,  because the temperature was in the 90s when this sequence was done – on or around 12th August 1949

 

It was indeed no surprise for the very first fully live-action film he made ‘Treasure Island’ – filmed here in England at Denham, that Walt Disney entrusted Perce Pearce with the job of supervising the production of this important film.

My own view is that ‘Treasure Island’ and the next film done here at Denham ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’   were defining moments for the Walt Disney organisation and their release and success, gave Disney the springboard to a higher level both artistically and financially.

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Captain Flint – A New Home after his film acting in Treasure Island 1950 !!

Captain Flint – A New Home !!

Bobby Driscoll and Capn Flint

Here is Cap’n Flint ABOVE – with Bobby Driscoll in a posed still while they were filming Treasure Island.

Bobby Driscoll looks very well here – and on top of his acting when he played  Jim Hawkins

Robert Newton with Capn Flint in his new home

The parrot Cap’n Flint  who stars with Robert Newton in Treasure Island and Bobby Driscoll  in the RKO-Walt Disney production of ‘Treasure Island’ made at Denham Film Studios in 1949 – released 1950.

He has earned retirement in a Public House The Prospect of Whitby one of London’s only riverside inns.  Here  Robert Newton is handing Cap’n Flint over to Landlord George H. Broadbent and his wife.  I hope Cap’n Flint enjoyed the long retirement he deserved for his famous role in the classic film.

The ‘Prospect’ may have had its fair share of human celebrities but also was home to a celebrity of the feathered variety, a newspaper from 1951 gives the details.

‘Captain Flint, the talented parrot which rides the shoulder of Robert Newton during his portrayal of Long John Silver in ‘Treasure Island,’ has not been relegated to oblivion. When the picture was finished, Captain Flint was retired to a life of luxury in the famous ‘Prospect of Whitby.’

 

 

 

 

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Ralph Truman – Does anyone out there know anything about this actor ?

Ralph Truman died in Ipswich on 15 October 1977 – and his second wife Mimi also died a few years later in that area.   However there are few details about his second wife or where he lived although I have a feeling it could have been Bungay in Suffolk

If anyone knows any more about this fine actor – or his life – please let us know.

Ralph Truman

 

Ralph Truman had been a Radio actor from around 1925 with the BBC  and much later got into films. He first came to real prominence when Director Byron Haskin cast him as George Merry – one of the Pirates in the 1950 Walt Disney version of ‘Treasure Island’

He was told to go out there and give Robert Newton a ‘run for his money’ in the acting stakes – and seeing that Robert Newton  would play Long John Silver in a brilliant almost pantomime ‘over the top’ way it was claimed that at times Ralph Truman as George Merry virtually  ‘out-hammed’ him.

Ralph Truman as George Merry

Nevertheless Robert Newton’s portrayal was just what was needed – and it was a brilliant portrayal – that lingers in the memory – and has become a yardstick for actors when taking on any pirate role to this day.

 

Robert Newton’s performance here was one of the most memorable in screen history.

I have done a post a few weeks ago on the Radio actress and former Mrs Dale star Ellis Powell who was married to Ralph Truman.

She died in 1963 – not very long after she was replaced as Mrs Dale by the BBC.

 

It would appear that Ralph Truman married again to Maria Vittoria or Mimi as she was known.   They both died in the the Ipswich area – and I have a feeling may have lived around Bungay in Suffolk

Birthday: May 7, 1900

Birthplace: London
British actor Ralph Truman may seldom have played a leading role in films, but on radio he was a well known star. Ralph Truman once estimated that he had appeared in 5000 broadcasts.
He played Maigret on BBC Radio in 1957

His full name was : Ralph du Vergier Truman 1900 -1977

Ralph’s second wife was  Maria “Mimi” Vittoria H Truman (born Cooper).

Maria was born on November 13 1918, in Brentford, Middlesex, England. She died on July 1st 2004 aged 85 see the Announcement below :-

Maria Vittoria Hayes (Mimi), widow of Ralph du Vergier Truman. Peacefully on July 1st at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, aged 85. Requiem Mass at St. Edmunds Catholic Church, Bungay at 12 noon on Thursday, 15th July. Private cremation at St Faith’s followed by a Memorial Service at Metfield Parish Church where all are welcome at 3 p.m. on Friday 16th July.

Ralph married his first wife  Ellis Agnes Estelle Truman (born Powell). She was Ellis Powell – another actress with the BBC over a long period eventually finding fame as Mrs Dale of Mrs Dales Diary.  She died in 1963.

I imagine Ralph met Ellis from their work with the BBC Radio Drama department

Ralph Truman was born in North Finchley. His parents were John William Truman, a surveyor, and Adele Duvergier Tabernacle.

He had four siblings, Beatrice (b.1891), Frances (b.1893), George (b.1895) brother Guy William Truman was born on the 28th May 1896

His brother Guy William Truman was born on the 28th May 1896

Guy was educated privately at St Lawrence College, Ramsgate and Merchant Taylors’ School in Northwood. Almost immediately after matriculating as a law student, he joined the Rifle Brigade in September 1914 and went to France on 24th January 1915. He died in the Northern Central hospital in Leeds on 13th May 1915 from wounds received during the 2nd battle of Ypres.

So Ralph Truman lost his brother in the first war – many families lost loved ones during that terrible conflict – and the sadness and grief for Mother and Father and his brothers is difficult to imagine.

 

 

 

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Alfred Hitchcock – and His Family

Well, here is one of the most famous Film Directors in history – Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock

 

ABOVE: He relaxes in the sun while filming ‘To Catch a Thief in the South of France

 

Alfred Hitchcock 2

 

He often used his wife Alma Reville as the writer on the screen play and often of the actual story. Above she is with him in the Thirties as he directs one of his films.  He certainly looks very excited and focused in this shot

 

Alfred Hitchcock 3

 

His daughter Patricia appeared in a number of his films also. She was in Stage Fright – Made in England, then Strangers on a Train and a few years later Psycho. – BELOW with her Mother the writer Alma Reville

 

Patricia Hitchcock and Her Mother

At the time – certainly with those three films it was very much a family affair although by the time they got to Psycho Patricia had married.

Alfred Hitchcock and family

She married Joseph E. O’Connell, Jr., 17 January 1952, at Our Lady Chapel in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York.

They decided to have their wedding there because her father  had many friends on the East Coast and her husband had relatives in Boston. They had three daughters, Mary Alma Stone (born 17 April 1953), Teresa “Tere” Carrubba (born 2 July 1954), and Kathleen “Katie” Fiala (born 27 February 1959). Joe died in 1994.  She currently lives in Solvang, California.

Alfred Hitchcock

 

I just couldn’t finish this post without this picture of Alfred  Hitchcock posing against the house from Psycho

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Creature From the Black Lagoon

 

Universal International gave us  “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954), one of the most famous ’50s. monster films.

 

In the first “Creature” film, Julie Adams is torn between loyalty to  (Richard Denning) and the scientist she loves (Richard Carlson). However in the sequel Lori Nelson is cast as the leading lady in, “Revenge of the Creature” (1955). When she isn’t studying the Creature at an aquatic park in Florida, she is romancing John Agar.

creature from black lagoon poster
The Creature from the Black Lagoon was one of the film’s made as part of the 3D craze from Hollywood in the early fifties. However, unlike many of those film’s that were made in the format over those two years, this one has  become regarded as a  classic of its type.
The amount of sympathy garnered for “Gill-Man” is helped enormously by the illogical actions of the humans; who in turn go diving and swimming where legend has it men get eaten!
 Under Arnold’s direction, atmosphere and unease is built up by  talk and sightings of the Black Lagoon-and only initial glimpses of the creature’s scaly webbed claw; accompanied by the attention grabbing theme music.
When the creature finally reveals itself it doesn’t disappoint for its an impressive creation.
This Half-man/ Half-fish creature is covered in scales, resplendent with gills and with cold, dark featureless eyes.
It also has great characteristics with a distinctive swimming style in the water, and a lumbering Frankenstein thing going on when on the land. A classic film monster.The film has wonderful  underwater shots  and the shadow and light work down in the depths is memorably mood enhancing.  Then there’s of course the definitive sequence, the  underwater flirting as “Gill-Man” swims below the shapely form of Kay, beguiled by her, it’s love at first sight.
Two sequels would follow, Arnold would return for Revenge Of The Creature in 1955 and then the John Sherwood directed The Creature Walks Among Us which rounded off the trilogy in 1956.
 Creature in 3D
The film holds up as well as any modern classic.
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Peter Butterworth

In 1952  On alternative Saturdays, there was on the BBC Television Channel on alternate Saturdays  ‘Saturday Special’,  which was hosted by that memorable and wonderful character actor, and World War II hero, Peter Butterworth, with ‘Porty’, the parrot.

 

 

Peter Butterworth 5

 

He had joined the Fleet Air Arm just as War broke out and in 1941 was shot down while on a mission over Germany. He was a pow from that time onwards. In between escape attempts he and his colleagues ran a small theatre club putting on performances in the Camp.

 

When the War was over and he had returned to England he went into acting and was offered the part on the Children’s Programme Saturday Special with Porty the Parrot.

 

Ironically he had tested for a part in The Wooden Horse film but said nothing of the fact that he was in fact, in real life, in the actual escape attempt portrayed in the film.   Incredibly he did not get the part as he was deemed not to appear ‘heroic enough’ for the role.

 

I was also just thinking and recalling people such as Peter Butterworth and Humphrey Lestocq - also  Denholm  Elliot – all of whom were held prisoner of war for quite a long time but who were able to return to ‘civvy life’ and carve out a career.

 

Richard Todd although not a POW was one of the first paratroopers into France at the famous Pegasus Bridge assault. He too found fame after the War as an actor – in fact for a time was the most successful of the War Heroes.

 

We owed people such as this an awful lot  

 

Peter Butterworth Peter Butterworth 2

 

ABOVE – Peter Butterworth in an episode of Dads Army in 1975 entitled  ‘The Face on the Poster’ which was first screened on 10 October 1975   and earlier that same year on 5 March 1975 he was the subject of ‘This is your Life’ having been surprise by Eamonn Andrews

 

He had married the actress Janet Brown in 1946 and they went on to have a Son and a Daughter.

Peter Butterworth 6

 

They are both buried Nr Haywards Heath in Sussex where they had lived for a number of years.

I like Peter Butterworth as he represents a memory – along with Humphrey Lestocq - of those very early days of Television all those years ago – and my own childhood.

He might have come over as a comic character on TV but he was a War Hero in real life.

Peter Butterworth 3

 

In an early episode of Doctor Who – ABOVE with William Hartnell.

 

Peter Butterworth 4

 

With Miss Marple – Margaret Rutherford in a film version – Murder She Said 1961

 

 

 

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Battle at Apache Pass 1952

Battle at Apache Pass 7

 

Battle at Apache Pass 6

 

The Battle at Apache Pass stars Jeff Chandler and  John Lund – with  Susan Cabot, Jay Silverheels, and Jack Elam in supporting roles.

I remember seeing this film at the local Cinema as a very young boy and it really impressed me – so much so that I remember it today – not so much for the storyline of the film itself but for the title and how colourful it was.

Battle at Apache Pass

 

Battle at Apache Pass 1

 

Battle at Apache Pass 2

 

Battle at Apache Pass 3

 

Battle at Apache Pass 4

Filmed beautifully in Technicolor the locations used were at Moab, Utah, with Arches National Park, Colorado River, Courthouse Wash, Ida Gulch and Professor Valley forming the backdrops to the story.

The film is a fictionalised account of the Battle of Apache Pass that occurred in 1862.

It deals in the events that led up to the battle and focuses on the in fighting between Chiricahua warriors Cochise and Geronimo.

Both  Jeff Chandler and Jay Silverheels reprise their character roles from Broken Arrow 1950

A good storyline  with beautiful Technicolor scenery,  George Sherman directed the film.

The action scenes are really good, with the actual battle  brilliantly constructed in a rock formed valley, with loads of extras, and much action.

Battle at Apache Pass 5
It is a fine Western film.

Beverley Tyler

Among the supporting Actors was Beverly Tyler – a very attractive young lady who had a supporting actor type of career but nevertheless remained around for a good few years

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Television Films in the Fifties

 

Once ITV came into being, Hollywood filmed series such as ‘I Love Lucy’ ‘Gun Law’  ‘Rawhide’ Cheyenne, Wagon Train, Bonanza Maverick and Laramie became very popular  - so it seemed at that time the American produced  Film Series held sway.

Fifties television 5

ABOVE – Peter Graves in Whiplash

So as regards the making of television films, we the British were again slow starters – but gradually we kicked into gear.  One of the first was ‘Mark Saber’ with Donald Gray and then The Man From Interpol.

J Carroll Naish was brought over to do ‘The Adventure of Charlie Chan’.

Twickenham Studios then made ‘White Hunter’ with Rhodes Reason – a film series that I really liked.

Beaconsfield came up with a bigger success with ‘Ivanhoe’ starring Roger Moore.

However British TV film producer – a TV pioneer was Hannah Fisher who brought us ‘The Adventure of Robin Hood’ with Richard Greene – and that hit the jackpot both here and in the USA where it went very well indeed.

She then produces ‘The Bucaneers’ with Robert Shaw and ‘Sir Lancelot’ with William Russell.  Neither of these had the success os Robin Hood though – but they were good and did well.

Another series ‘William Tell’ had Condar Phillips in the title role and also starred Jennifer Jayne.

Fifties television 7

After the Swashbucklers we had Patrick McGoohan as Danger Man and Roger Moore as The Saint. Here Patrick McGoohan is directing this episode called: Vacation.

BELOW – a sample of the Television Films of the time.

Fifties television 2

 

However one film series that did really well was The Human Jungle with Herbert Lom as Dr Roger Korder. This was an expensive series to make at £300,000, however it was well made and used at times, some well-known actors.

Herbert Lom was doing well in  his career and said to be earning £ 2000 per week. One of the regulars on the series was Sally Smith wh9o played Dr Korder’s daughter, Jennifer.

BELOW:  The Saint episode ‘Arrow of God’ here Roger Moore is with Honor Blackman.

 

Fifties television

 

Fifties television 6

 

Above: Roger Moore as The Saint – with Jane Asher in  the episode – The Invisible Millionaire

 

Fifties television 11

 

Roger Moore

 

Fifties television 10

 

ABOVE:  Roger Moore with Vera Day in the episode The Man Who Was Lucky – from The Saint Series.

 

Fifties television 4

 

Man of the World – with Shirley Eaton and Carlos Thompson – the episode was The Sentimental Agent.

 

Fifties television 8

 

Man of the World – with Shirley Eaton and Carlos Thompson – the episode was The Sentimental Agent.

 

Fifties television 3

 

Above:  Craig Stevens LEFT with Suzanne Neve and Joseph First in a Man of the World episode ‘Shadow of the Wall’

 

Fifties television 9

Above: Craig Stevens and Jacqueline Ellis – an episode of Man of the World – entitled ‘Nature of Justice’

 

 

 

 

 

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James Roberston Justice – Larger than Life

 

I really don’t know what to make of this character – James Robertson Justice.   He had a very successful film career, he was friends with Prince Philip and taught Prince Charles about falconry,  he had a brief spell in the diplomatic services – or did he ? fought in the Spanish Civil War, worked for Reuters and on and on. 

He had a very crowded life if it is all to be believed – but much of it can be checked to be true in fairness.

James Robertson Justice

 

He also raced cars at Brooklands before the War. He claimed to be born in Scotland – untrue   – and he added the ‘Robertson’ name just to add a sliver of authenticity to the claim.

In later years he could be seen at Silverstone - as an enthusiastic spectator at BRDC Silverstone meetings through the 1950s and ’60s.

 

He campaigned as a Labour candidate in a General Election but failed to get in.

 

However, lets look on the plus side for James Robertson Justice.  After his first film Vice Versa, he built up his career quite nicely – Scott of the Antarctic, The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, The Sword and the Rose and then Roby Roy The Highland Rogue – the last three for Walt Disney, then the Doctor series – and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and many in between – so that is a pretty good film career I would say.

 

The Story of Robin Hood 1952

ABOVE – as Little John for Walt Disney here with Elton Hayes and Michael Hordern.

That was a good role for James Roberston Justice and he did well in it – he certainly looked the part and fitted it like a glove.

 

The Story of Robin Hood 1952 A

ABOVE – as Little John for Walt Disney here with Richard Todd as Robin Hood – the Quarter Staff fight on the Bridge

Back to the films – There was also Land of the Pharoahs ( made in Hollywood) and Moby Dick plus Murder She Said with Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple.

James Robertson Justice at Home in Scotland

He seemed to be in his element wandering in the Scottish Highlands ABOVE

James Robertson Justice at Home in Scotland 2

There is no doubt that he loved Scotland and identified with his family roots there.  Here he is training Falcons ABOVE

James Robertson Justice at Home in Scotland 3

 ABOVE – At Home in his Highland Cottage at Spinningdale

James Robertson Justice at Home in Scotland 4

With the earnings he made from the film Doctor in the House (1954), James Robertson Justice bought a cottage in the Scottish Highlands village of Spinningdale – quite a bit further North of Inverness, Nr Bonar Bridge – so right up in the Highlands but close to a Loch.

After he died in 1975  His ashes were buried in a Scottish moor near his former home in  Spinningdale.

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