Archive for May, 2019

Matte Painting in Films – Peter Ellenshaw

Peter Ellenshaw is the master of this clever technique and worked most of his life for Walt Disney.


One of his earliest films was ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ – made in England at Denham Film Studios in the summer of 1951 and released in March 1952


Here are just two marvellous examples with a ‘before and after’ picture that says it all about Matte Painting

The Story of Robin Hood 1952

ABOVE: Robin and His Father walk back through the Forest – with the help of Peter Ellenshaw we see the scene on the right quite differently – and very impressively

The Story of Robin Hood 1952 2

ABOVE: Equally so on the above ‘before and after’ pictures – the scene is the Archery Contest – on the right we now have Nottingham Castle.

There are quite a few of these in this film and in the later film’The Sword and The Rose’

Th Film Director Kenn Annain on both these films became very taken with Peter’s Matte Painting and the scope it could give to the films.

In fact Ken Annakin said :

Walt Disney specifically had the film The Sword and the Rose designed in such a way as to use the maximum number of painted mattes; In fact we used 62 mattes in all, and it allowed us to give the picture a much broader sweep visually than it ever could have had.

It resulted in Peter being given a life contract by Walt Disney. 

I got very taken up with this technique and continued to use it on later pictures, but I almost had to train new artists myself and pass on to them the sort of tricks I thought Peter Ellenshaw relied on. But Peter just knew how to modify reality to make it look even realer than real’

Ken Annakin

ABOVE: British film director Ken Annakin, 85, poses with a poster from one of his film’s at a tribute honoring his career at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, May 6, 1999



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William Wyler directs Ben Hur


You often hear of film actors who don’t get on with the Film Director – that is not uncommon – but it is to me  the same scenario as football players and Managers. It can be a clash of personalities or just the coming together of two people who just will never get on.

Personally I am mostly on the side of the Directors and Managers

I am not suggesting that Charlton Heston did not get along with Director William Wyler although he is quoted in an article as saying ‘I have never known a Director who could keep his mind open longer on a scene’

It seems that after around ten takes William Wyler would  say ‘ Y’know, I’m damned if this is the right way to do this after all. I now have a different idea’


William Wyler Ben Hur 3


William Wyler Ben Hur


However to film something on the scale of the chariot race in Ben Hur must have been a big task – to bring those actors and crew and horses together on such a large set and to know what you wanted the camera to show on screen, must have been so demanding. 

We see William Wyler ABOVE crouching down looking through the viewfinder of that enormous Camer 65 and trying to cut the fim together in his head.  To me that is impressive.


Ben Hur 3


Ben Hur 4

Ben Hur 2


When I first saw the two top pictures, it became obvious that to get the scale on the long shots, there had to be Matte Paintings for the top of the  buildings. We see on  the bottom colour shot the tops of the buildings plus the mountains behind as a matte painting

There were some wonderful examples of this clever technique  in Ben Hur

I personally remember those done by the Matte genius Peter Ellenshaw for The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men in 1952


William Wyler Ben Hur 2

William Wyler just seems to be having a bad day here.  Still the end result was extremely successful.

There are many classic moments in Ben Hur during it’s three-hour-and-half hours .

Scenes in the desert or in  the galleys, the big fight and Ben-Hur rescuing Arrius (Jack Hawkins) and it goes on and on.

I think that, after the chariot race, the film seems to go on a little too long – maybe that is because a film of this quality and scale can’t be brought to a hurried ending.

Charlton Heston, in his greatest role, contributed a lot to the appeal of the film.

However it is the Director William Wyler who, with a film budget of 15.9 million dollars brought in a film that grossed 196.2 million dollars worldwide – in those days – although to be fair,  it certainly would have been a team effort – and a very big team at that !!!


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Television Shows from the 50’s


With the arrival of the Rock n Roll era,  many singers of that time found that their careers stumbled. However one that held her own was Alma Cogan who is seen here singing with Marty Wilde on Oh Boy the ITV pop show that went out each Saturday.

Sadly she died of cancer at a very young age.  I really liked her as she seemed so full of life – something that came over strongly when she was appearing  – and in her records too.


Marty Wilde and Alma Cogan


BELOW – In Rehearsal Lord Rockingham’s Eleven with Cherry Wainer at the piano under the watchful eye of Conductor Harry Robinson


Fifties Television Show

‘The Sunday Break’ was  born  when Howard Thomas Chief of the ABC Network, overheard his daughters discussing religion with their friends.

A Scene from a typical Show BELOW

Fifties Double Bill 2

Band Leader Joe Loss with Joan Edwards and McDonald Hobley in Bid for Fame

Fifties Double Bill 4

Interesting snippet about McDonald Hobley the BBC Announcer – he was born in Port Stanley in te Falkland Islands where his father was the Vicar – in 1917

That would have been a long and arduous journey by sea in those days

McDonald Hobley

McDonald Hobley

BELOW – A typical Variety Show by the looks of it

Fifties Double Bill 3


Fifties Double Bill 5


Drama was never far away I am pleased to say.

Here is Susan Strasberg and Franchot Tone in ‘The Time of Our Life’ a guest production in the ‘Armchair Theatre’ when the New York City Centre Company was touring Europe

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George Baker in Rupert of Hentzau – BBC Television 1964

Just a couple of stills from this version – it was apparently  very good!


George Baker played the 2 Rudolfs, and Barbara Shelley (a Hammer favourite) Queen Flavia.


Rupert was played by Peter Wyngarde, better known as Jason King  and  John Phillips played Zapt. The adaptation was by Donald Wilson.




Rupert of Hentzau 1964 3   Rupert of Hentzau 1964 4

ABOVE: Peter Wyngarde played Rupert of Hentzau and George Baker as both Rudolph Rassendyll and The King.


On looking further into this Production one of the actors in it was a Derek Bloomfield who I did not know at all.

However it seems he died shortly after this serial went on air which was from the end of March 1964 – he actually died on 23 rd July 1964 at the age of 43 in Brittany.

Derek Bloomfield


ABOVE: Derek Bloomfield One other curious fact is that although he looked a very English type of actor and have been acting since he was very young – one of his early  roles in films was in the 1935 version of Mutiny on The Bounty. 


That, of course was made in Hollywood. The films he was in before and after were films made here in England.


Hobsons Choice 1954


He was in Hobsons Choice  ABOVE – that classic film of 1954 with John Mills, Charles Laughton and Brenda De Banzie.

Here he is above seated far left playing Freddie Beenstock – and in this he was 7th on the billing so it was a decent part to get.


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Frieda 1947 – with David Farrar and Mai Zetterling

Another one that featured on Talking Pictures today – I watched it and enjoyed it.    It had a lot of publicity and is quite well known although I cannot remember seeing it before.

It is the story of an Airman who after being shot down over Germany in the War meets and marries a young German girl bringing her back to this country and to the small market town here he had lived most of his life.  He marries the girl and they settle down to life in England but things don’t go too well as she is not accepted by certain folk both in her own family and the town itself.

We have a good friend in the next village, and his father married a German Girl and the settled in a similar small town, but our friend said that his Mother as far as he ever knew settled happily and uneventfully and stayed there all her life and was well received I am pleased to say. So this sort of event did happen.



Frieda 2

Frieda 3

Frieda 4

Frieda 5

David Farrar and Mai Zetterling starred along with Glynis Johns, Flora Robson, Gladys Henson and many more well known faces.#

I wasn’t too keen on David Farrar in this one though. Can’t explain why but to me he didn’t seem to wholly get into the part and I thought that it was a stiff and stilted performance at times.


Frieda 6

Frieda 7

Frieda 8

In the Scenes above – a Bus arrives in the Town for an Election Rally – seems quite topical – where Flora Robson is addressing the crowd – she is somewhat bigotted against the German Girl.


Frieda 9

Frieda 10

Frieda 11

Frieda 12

Frieda 15


Freda 13

In a final dramatic sequence, Flora Robson comes good and sounds the Alarm as a tragic event is about to unfold.

I am convinced that the scenic bridge which we see at two different times – and in different weather – is a studio set as is the snowy woodland that they both run through – but it was certainly a very good set.



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The Moonraker – George Baker and Paul Whitsun Jones

This film was on Talking Pictures earlier today – it still looks good.


A British swashbuckler full of  heroics, sword fights, and in glorious Technicolor too.  It is a shame that this film is not more widely seen but maybe  Talking Pictures will remedy that.


The Moonraker 2


George Baker  in the leading role as The Moonraker is a very likable handsome hero and he copes with the  fight sequences very well.


The Moonraker


An the excellent supporting cast also with  Marius Goring as Colonel Beaumont, and John Le Mesurier as a sullen, though surprisingly good looking version of the  Oliver Cromwell.   S

ylvia Syms looks lovely, even if the character doesn’t call for her to do an awful lot and Patrick Troughton does well  as the harassed and hard-nosed Captain Wilcox.


However,the Star-supporting actor has to be  Paul Whitsun-Jones as Mr Parfitt.. Paul Whitsun-Jones shows his fantastic versatility at the end of the film, throwing off his blustery comic role, and donning that of a hero-  doing his part for King and Country when he sacrifices his own life so the King, and his hero The Moonraker, can escape.


It’s a work of fiction, but much thought has gone into the period design and sets and filming locations Location work is spread about the place,  Wiltshire, Dorset and Kent prove to be appealing places for scenes.

The Moonraker 3

Ronnie Hilton who would be big at the time, sang the  theme song over the opening credits.

Back to Paul Whitsun Jones – his name used to crop up again and again on British Television throughout the 1950s

He had an early role in ‘The Quatermass Experiment’ and then in a Francis Durbridge serial ‘The Teckman Biography’ and just after that I remember him playing Porthos in the serial ‘The Three Musketeers in 1954’ These were all for BBC Television – well they would be because that was the only channel available at that time.

Paul Whitsun Jones

ABOVE – As the Reporter in The Quatermass Experiment – an early role for Paul Whitsun Jones.

He worked very regularly in Television and Films throughout his life which sadly was cut short – he died aged only 50 following appendicitis. That does seem to want clarification because normally such things would be dealt with medically quite easily – so there is maybe more to that.

He certainly had a busy and very full acting  career – and is an interesting character.  In many ways he was the best performer in The Moonraker – and I suspect he stole the honours in many of the productions he played in.

On stage he was in the original production of Oliver in the West End


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George in Civvy Street


This turned out to be George Formby’s last feature film, made just after WW2 had finished in 1946 – and maybe audiences tastes had changed by then, although I personally don’t give much credence to this theory because George Formby remained very popular and even had a hit show in London’s West End in 1951 – Zip Goes a Million. 


With his ongoing popularity it should have been easy to adapt the films but here again I don’t think there would need to be much change there even.

The Lion and The Unicorn Pub


In the film, George and his pal Ronald Shiner  go back to George’s rundown pub the Unicorn and try to run it as a  business. They find it difficult going – the main problem being  the  rivalry between  the Lion pub across the river from them – (even though George’s childhood sweetheart owns it.)


George in Civvy Street

Wally Patch plays one of the baddies this time trying to close them down with various wicked schemes.   Songs include  We’ve Been A Long Time Gone (on the demob ship), Christened With A Horseshoe (in the civilian clothes shop), It Could Be (in the Unicorn), and a really good one called  You Don’t Need A License For That’

Rosalyn Boulter plays his girl friend – we have done a piece on her before on here – She had made a number of films before this, but to be in a George Formbv film means she is well remembered really for that one only even though her talents on screen and Theatre are impressive.  She married and went to the USA to live and work.

Rosalyn Boulter For Them That Trespass 1948


ABOVE: ‘For Them That Trespass’ in 1948


Not long after this film she had a leading part in Richard Todd’s first film ‘For Them That Trespass’ in 1948

The Alice dream sequence with the Mad March Hare song was really good and unusual, featuring George singing ‘ The Mad March Hare’.

Some of the outdoor scenes were shot near Richmond in Surrey – and probably Sonning Bridge – pictured below.

Sonning is where the Prime Minister – very much in the news at this time – lives

Sonning Bridge 2



There is a down-to-earth charm about the films of George Formby, and in them his performances are much better than he is often given credit for.    His films exude the warmth and charm of a bygone era.

On screen in ALL of his films, he dominates the screen and is able to pull off singing the songs – sometimes direct to camera which is rarely done although he has the charisma and confidence to pull that off.  I can’t think of many – if any film stars who can do that.

He is the star of every film he is in – Star with a capital S,  I think

Turned out nice again, hasn’t it?

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Bamborough Castle in Films and other lovely locations


I came across this lovely picture on a Railway Nostalgia Calendar which came earlier this year – a spectacular view of a spectacular castle.


Vintage Rail


Bamborough Castle  has been used in film locations over the years – and the whole area too – with the Television Drama Series ‘Vera’ being the setting for all the stories. Probably done a lot of good for tourism – in the much same way as ‘Heartbeat’ did for Whitby and the surrounding area.

Not too far away is Alnwick Castle – probably used more in films – and I can go back to the 1954 adventure film ‘Prince Valiant’ which included shots of that castle – although the vast majority of the film was made in Hollywood and the main characters would not come to England for filming


Prince Valiant was a super adventure film in Cinemascope and Colourand it certainly looked good. I remember seeing it on that enormouse wide screen and it was indeed very impressive.

P.S. Waverley


This iconic Paddle Steamer P.S. Waverley. In truth I could not find a link for PS Waverley to the film world but I liked the picture above so much I could not resist putting in this article

Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott 2



I had also looked at the Steamer on Loch Katrine – The Sir Walter Scott. – In The Trossachs area of Scotland – how beautiful that is and I am reminded of the film Rob Roy The Highland Rogue made in that area by Walt Disney – starring Richard Todd.

In fact Rob Roy lived his life in the area.

Rob Roy The Highland Rogue

Rob Roy The Highland Rogue

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Glenn Ford – The Fastest Gun Alive 1956

The Fastest Gun AliveGlenn Ford, Jeanne Crain, Broderick Crawford, John Dehner,  Russ Tamblyn,  Noah Beery, Jr.


This Film is a real humdinger of a Western from 1956


Broderick Crawford is great as the criminal leader and  a psychopath who must continually show that he is the fastest gun around.

Glenn Ford is superb as the introverted shy storekeeper with a lightning fast draw.

The Supporting cast also adds good depth and character.  

A blind man near the start of the film issues the warning to us “no matter how fast you are there’s always somebody faster” That really sets the scene for the film.  



‘The Fastest Gun Alive’ proved to be one of the Box Office hits of 1956although it has been made on a minor budget


Double Bill Westerns


ABOVE:  This would be a great DVD pack to have in any collection.


The Sheepman 1958


Glenn Ford had a remarkable run of top class Westerns from 1956 to 1958 – with  ‘ The Fastest Gun Alive’ followed by ‘3:10 To Yuma’ and then this one ‘The Sheepman’   – These were about as good as any actor could hope for.

This is one of the 1950’s best westerns  and  ideally cast – it is certainly one of Glenn Ford’s best  roles. He and Shirley MacLaine have screen  chemistry. Familiar faces Edgar Buchanan, Mickey Shaughnessy,and Slim Pickins are around to add to the Western flavour.

Leslie Nielsen plays  Ford’s rival for Shirley’s affections.    Pernell Roberts  – later of Bonanza Fame is a slimy villain.

Director George Marshall was an old hand at combining comedy with action and The Sheepman proved that. 


I’s sure that the Trailer to this film BELOW – will make you want to see the film again – that’s assuming you have seen it before as many of us will have done












The Sheepman still holds up well today and will appeal to anyone who is a fan of western’s,comedies,or just plain entertaining movies. It’s good, clean, old fashioned fun and a prime example of one of those kind of films”that they just don’t make anymore!” More’s the pity

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Ricky Nelson as ‘Colorado’ in Rio Bravo

Ricky N Rio Bravo


Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo where he played Colorado – very much playing second fiddle to John Wayne and Dean Martin in the film but nevertheless a really good part in a big film for him, in what would have been his first film



Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo

Rio Bravo was a big hit at the Box Office – but then again John Wayne was starring and so was Dean Martin so it had a good start.


From a personal angle and from my many memories of that era, as a young teenager quite a crowd of us went each week to a popular dance hall  in our local town and after what was always a wonderful night we finished with Ricky Nelson singing ‘It’s Late’. 

It was a double sider with ‘There’ll Never be Anyone Else But You’ on the flip side. He had another hit with ‘Poor Little Fool’ and a year or two later came ‘Travellin Man’ and ‘Hello May Lou’


By the time Ricky Nelson was 22, he had sold 35 million records and had had 17 Top 10 hits – that is some measure of success by any standards.


His twin sons gave a concert in 2016 in honour of their father  BELOW


Gunnar and Matthew Nelson

Above: Gunnar and  Matthew  Nelson


Most of the concert was dedicated to early rock and roll and Ricky Nelson’s music, including “Travelin’ Man,” “Hello Mary Lou” and “Garden Party.” The twins offered sweet harmony and tight rock and roll.


Then Gunnar talked about what really motivated Ricky Nelson. “My father lived and died for rock and roll – and his fans.”

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