Archive for May, 2019

Richard Todd – His Final Screen Appearance


Anyone tuning in tomorrow evening to the episode of Heartbeat on ITV3 in England – it is also on during the daytime – an episode called ‘Seeds of Destruction ‘ will see the very last appearance on screen of the legendary actor Richard Todd playing Major Harold Beecham ( 2007)


Richard Todd In Heartbeat

Richard Todd – ABOVE and BELOW – as Major Beecham in Heartbeat

Richard Todd In Heartbeat 2


Richard Todd BELOW – as Lord Caversham on the London Stage in a Countrywide tour of ‘An Ideal Husband’ – he had scored a major success with this and broken Theatre records when he appeared in this Oscar Wilde play in the late Sixties when he played the leading man.

In those days it virtually did a tour of London Theatres – The Strand Theatre, the  Garrick Theatre and I think  Wyndhams – something highly unusual and a mark of its tremendous success.

This  Production starred  Richard Todd, Margaret Lockwood, Roger Livesey and Ursula Jeans – a  huge hit in England, a kind of yardstick for Oscar Wilde and wonderful escapism

We saw him as Lord Caversham at one of the Theatres in the tour of this famous Oscar Wilde play in early May 2001, where Patrick Ryecart played the lead.

Richard Todd An Ideal Husband


He appeared in the leading role in the stage play ‘The Business of Murder’ at the Mayfair Theatre from 1983 to 1991 and he still holds the record for the number of appearances in the West End in a straight play as the same character

The Business of Murder


Richard Todd’s acting career had indeed been a long and illustrious one – being at the very top of the Film World for a time on both sides of the Atlantic.

He was a star of the Screen and the Stage and before that a War Hero who was one of the first paratroopers – if not the first – to land at Pegasus Bridge under the command of Major John Howard who he later portrayed in the film ‘The Longest Day’

From a personal angle, to me his most famous role would always be as Robin Hood in the 1952 film ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ – the best version of the famous story that I have seen !!

However we will all be able to see him in Heartbeat tomorrow evening 22 May 2019 on ITV3.  Don’t miss it !!

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More fascinating Posters – New Films at the Cinema

I am cheating a bit here because these films are actually from the Sixties – so a little bit later than we normally do


Another Double Bill


It’s also interesting to look at the quite famous names of the actors and see just how many well known names seem to be in just one film alone at that time.  Must have been good work for them then – probably filing by day and on stage in the evening.

A friend of mine did point  out some time ago,  just how many big names appear here  in the one film – and as he said it would be unusual today.


Another Double Bill 2


Donald Houston in the film featured above for instance started off in The Blue Lagoon 1949 – a film that often crops up on this Blog – but after that quite big one his career never hit the high spots it should have done – and certainly nowhere near as successful as his co-star in that film –  Jean Simmons.

Shirley Ann Field above – we saw her in a straight play at the Theatre about three years ago – so she is still active.


Carry on Cabby

Then we come to a Carry On film – just look at the names in this one.

I notice Esme Cannon and always remember her as the naïve young  girl staying at a Butlins like resort in the film ‘Holiday Camp’ – a film I really like. She is murdered by Dennis Price in that film.

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Pier Angeli

This pictures appears on the cover of Illustrated of October 1951 Pier Angeli


I had not realised that she was the Twin sister of actress Marisa Pavan.

The Light Touch


The Light Touch 2


In the Illustated Magazine there is a feature of her with  showing Stewart Granger round the sights of Rome  – she grew up in Italy – and the location for the film ‘The Light Touch’

This is a shorter article than I would like but I will come back with much more about Pier Angeli who died so young


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Joan Rice – Film Star

On January 1, 1997, Derby’s Joan Rice died. Her name may  eluded many but to film fans like me she needs no introduction.

Her natural, dark-haired beauty lent itself just as easily to exotic island beauties as it did to perfect English roses.

As well as being a talented actress, she had added a welcome note of glamour to her roles.

Many Derby residents  might have been surprised to learn that she was originally one of their own, born here almost 67 years earlier, one of four daughters of Hilda and Harold Rice of 314 Abbey Street.

Dorothy Joan Rice was born at the City Hospital on February 3, 1930.

Her early life had been troubled. Her labourer father was imprisoned for child abuse and, subsequently, she spent eight years in a convent orphanage in Nottingham.

She took work as a lady’s maid and as a housemaid before leaving for a new life in London with just half-a-crown (12.5p) in her purse.

She took a job as a Lyon’s Corner House waitress, or “nippy” as they were popularly known, earning the princely sum of £3 per week.

In 1949 her pretty looks and natural poise helped her to win the “Miss Nippy” competition.

The prize was a week-long promotional tour to Torquay,  but more importantly, it lead to an introduction to a theatrical agent who arranged for her a screen test.

From this came a contract with the Rank Corporation who sent the previously untrained actress to the Company of Youth, otherwise known as the “Rank Charm School”.

In reality it was a training institution for young film actors that occupied a disused church hall – the  Highbury Studio.

There, youngsters were trained in all manner of useful skills, like voice production and fencing.

Other stars who trained there included Honor Blackman, Kay Kendall, Shirley Eaton, Joan Collins, Diana Dors, Christopher Lee, Donald Sinden, Patrick McGoohan and Dirk Bogarde.

It was with the last of these with whom she appeared in her first notable film role – the feature Blackmailed (1950).

Another role, in the Robertson Hare and Stanley Holloway film One Wild Oat (1951) soon followed.

Unfortunately, the Rank organisation never saw her potential as a lead actress and instead she was given numerous supporting roles.

Joan Rice


Finally none other than Walt Disney saw her star potential, in 1952, when he cast her kin the leading role as Maid Marian  in his live action film The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952) made in England at Denham Film Studios.


Joan Rice The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men 1952

Joan played opposite Richard Todd and was declared “the new Jean Simmons”.

Very quickly afterwards she again took one of the starring roles in  His Majesty O’Keefe (1954) where she played Dalabo, the Polynesian girl who marries Burt Lancaster’s daring sea captain. For this she flew out to Fiji to make the film.

So she had just completed two major films and everything looked good.

For whatever reason – we have speculated for years as to why – lead roles in major films remained hard to come by which is unbelievable after these two very good films so she took roles  in ‘B’ movies like A Day to Remember (1953) with Stanley Holloway and Donald Sinden, as were smaller roles in feature films like Curtain Up with Robert Morley, Margaret Rutherford and Kay Kendall.

In 1954, Joan Rice appeared as Iris in Norman Wisdom’s film, One Good Turn, in which the residents and staff of an orphanage, including Thora Hird and Shirley Abicair, fight to save it from closure.

Joan Rice in Plymouth


ABOVE – Joan Rice in Plymouth attending the cinema showing The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men – one of the mots successful films of 1952

However, changing fashions – in the minds of casting directors at least – and the arrival of the Hitchcockesque blonde, meant that she was unable to land many more lead roles.

Instead she took the supporting roles of Pat Lewis in Police Dog (1955),  a prisoner Cleo Thompson in the prison drama Women Without Men (1956), also known as Blonde Bait, and the part of a young ATS private in the wartime comedy Operation Bullshine, which starred Donald Sinden and Barbara Murray.

What would be her last film role for more than a decade came in 1960, in the crime drama, Payroll.

There were roles in television series like Zero One, The Pursuers, Ivanhoe (starring a young Roger Moore), and The New Adventures of Charlie Chan.

Eventually, Derby’s Joan Rice left the film business and, after her ten-year marriage to David Green ended in divorce, she built a successful career in repertory theatre with a role, among many others, as Catherine in Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, and John Mortimer’s Voyage Around My Father.

In 1970, she did return to the big screen with a small role in The Horror of Frankenstein.

She then left the business and set up her own Estate / Letting Agency from an office in Maidenhead and she carried this on until she died.

She was a very memorable actress and somehow fitted the era of the early 50’s so well.  No one could have looked lovelier than her dashing around in Sherwood Forest opposite Richard Todd – and that is how will I remember her.

Joan Rice and Richard Todd 1952



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More 50s Double Bill Horror Films


We did get quite a lot of this type of Double Bill at the Cinema – certainly in the mid to late Fifties.  As we have seen, some of them were full of gimmicks to pull the customers in – we had 3D and Emergo then seats that gave us an electric shock – although really it was this sort of Poster that tended to sell the film to us.




Fifties Double Bill


Somehow they were cleverly able to lure us in and although time has passed since those days, I can still see why as looking at them I get a tinge of excitement. The Wasp Woman 1959



The Wasp Woman.


One of Film director Roger Cormans’ most beloved pictures and it is great fun. Nowadays it has become something of  a minor  classic. Roger  Corman regular Susan Cabot  plays Janice Starlin, a 40 year old cosmetics magnate who fears getting old. One day, she makes the acquaintance of mad scientist Eric Zinthrop.    He’s developed a serum, derived from wasp enzymes, that can restore youth to living things.      She insists that she be the first human guinea pig, with devastating results: she sometimes turns into a humanoid monster with a wasp head and hands, and seems  compelled to kill.


Beast from Haunted Cave 1959


Another one from Roger Corman. This  plot centres on a  group of gold-robbers who unwittingly run into trouble when they become stalked by a strange spider-like beast while hiding out  in the woods. This film has an  ending which is a  surprisingly effective climatic showdown with the monster which is certainly entertaining.


Double Bill Sydney


This is the scene ABOVE outside a Cinema in Sydney in the 50s.    At first I was looking at the programme with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis but also Copper Canyon supporting – this must have been in the early fifties because Dean and Jerry went their separate ways quite early in the decade – but then I became intrigued with WVDASCOPE screen which must only have been at this cinema – unless it was an Australian style I don’t know.


It is billed elsewhere as the ‘Giant WVDAscope’ screen.


The Fly Double Bill


Well, The Fly and Return of the Fly really need no introduction to film fans.


Double Bill


Another Double Bill ABOVE – Featured on the front cover of Radio Times


Triple Bill 50s


Even a Triple Bill ABOVE  – ‘The Astounding She Monster’ dates from 1957 and is billed in England as ‘The Mysterious Invader’

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John Cobb – A Real Life Hero and Land Speed Record Holder – and appeared in a film


Who remembers John Cobb ? – Well I for one do !

John Cobb died whilst attempting to break the Water Speed Record of Loch Ness in September of 1952.

He is nothing like as well remembered as is Donald Campbell but in my view he should be.  Maybe it is because he was a quiet type was much less of a showman.


John Cobb on Loch Ness

There is a  link to the film world here here as John Cobb appeared in a 1941 film Target for Tonight which was a Crown Film Unit Production for the Government – much of it filmed at RAF Mildenhall.

John Cobb

The A82 is the major transport route south from Inverness to Fort William at the opposite end of the Great Glen. Exactly 1 mile south of Urquhart Castle  the A82 passes a beehive-shaped cairn by the side of the road overlooking Loch Ness. Itcommemorates the tragic story of John Cobb, who lost his life while attempting to break the world speed record on Loch Ness on 29 September 1952.

John Rhodes Cobb was born in Esher, Surrey in 1899. He was  quiet spoken and unassuming. His wealth enabled him to follow his passion for fast cars and that evolved into repeated attempts to break the Land Speed Record, a feat he achieved in 1939 by travelling at 367.91 mph. He broke the record again in 1938, travelling at 394.19 mph

During the War he served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force between 1943 and 1945  and was demobbed with the rank of Group Captain.

He made an  appearance in the wartime propaganda film Target for Tonight (1941).

This film was made using actual service men and women of the Royal Air Force, as a wartime morale-booster. When viewed over fifty years later, it is still fascinating to watch the planning and execution of the raid over Germany, and in particular follow the progress of F for Freddie and her crew. For once we can be sure that this is how it was done, it has the sense of realism that most dramas lack. A film made by the Crown Film Unit.


John Cobb 2

Not content with holding the Land Speed Record, John Cobb turned his attention to water. He spent some £15,000 designing a jet-propelled watercraft dubbed The Crusader and transporting it to Loch Ness.

Crusader was the first boat in the world to be built specifically for jet propulsion. It was 31 feet long and powered by a De Havilland Ghost 48 Mk1 engine. It was officially launched at Temple Pier, just north of Drumnadrochit on 26 August 1952.


John Cobb s wife waits


ABOVE – John Cobb’s Wife waits, as she always did, for her hsuband to attempt a trial run or a run for the record.   This time he did not come back to her.  This is such a good picture of Mrs. Cobb and yet a very sad one too.

John Cobb made his record attempt on 29 September 1952 over a measured mile from Urquhart Castle. According to the generally accepted rules of the time for speed records, two runs were required. On the first run, Crusader travelled at 206.89mph, making Cobb the first man in history to reach 200mph.

Tragedy struck on the second run, however, when Crusader hit a boat wake that should not have been there and nosedived suddenly into the depths of the loch, killing Cobb instantly. Believers in the Loch Ness monster would later claim that Nessie was in some way to blame for the accident. Cobb was buried at Christ Church in his birthplace of Esher, Surrey.

In 2001 the Loch Ness Project launched an attempt to discover the wreckage of Crusader, thought to lie over 650 ft  below the surface. Over 18 months the research vessel Deepscan traversed the likely wreck location with sonar, mapping the loch floor.


John Cobb s Body is recovered from Loch Ness


One of the men assisting the search was Gordon Menzies, who as a child had witnessed the tragedy and as an adult owned Temple Pier where Crusader had first launched. At 3 pm on 5 July 2002 the remains of Crusader were found.    They were left where they lay on the bottom of the loch.

This Post on the Blog has a tenous link to films in that John Cobb  appeared in a 1941 film Target for Tonight which was a Crown Film Unit Production for the Government

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Flying to Fiji for The Blue Lagoon in 1949

Just after the war, the VIPs using the Air Service from Poole Harbour included film stars Gracie Fields, George Formby, Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger and singer Vera Lynn.

Jean Simmons as a very young actress who had never left England at that time or been in an aircraft, flew out to Fiji to make the film ‘The Blue Lagoon’ and she left in one of these planes from Poole.

She flew from Poole Harbour and her itinerary was much as below :-

Flying from Poole Harbour 

The era of flying boats in Poole lasted until Easter 1948, when the service returned to a new marine air terminal in Southampton. In eight-and-a-half years, 34,000 passengers had flown in and out of  Poole on seaplanes.

So when Jean Simmons boarded the plane at Poole – probably with other members of the film crew – and maybe Donald Houston, she was facing a journey with hops from one place to another to get to this far flung part of the world.  The list below says it all. 


I do remember a Travel Agent in our local town who told me that he had visited his sister in New Zealand in 1955 – so a few years after this – and his flight entailed at least Eight stops even then.


Poole 0600 Thu
Marseilles 1000/1100
Augusta (Sicily) 1640/1740
Cairo 2359/0230 Fri
Basra 0930/1030
Bahrain 1340/1440
Karachi 2240/0200 Sat
Calcutta 1140/1240
Rangoon 1710

Rangoon 0545 Sun
Penang 1205/1305
Singapore 1555

Singapore 0600 Mon
Surabaya 1145/1245
Darwin 2330/0130 Tue
Bowen (N Queensland) 1000/1100
Sydney 1700 Tue

The Blue Lagoon 1949


The famous flying boats splashed in and out of Poole, connecting Britain with its colonial outposts across the globe.

Many even consider Poole to be the birthplace of British Airways, its forerunner BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) having established itself during its short time in the harbour.




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James Roberston Justice – Again

Well here are two more pictures of this large than life actor – around the time of the release of The Sword and The Rose for Walt Disney in 1953

Here he is BELOW with his Falcon ‘Siubhlac ( Gaelic for Soft )

James Robertson Justice 2


He was quite a character no doubt and in some ways I admire how he grasped the chance to go into films and to become very successful. He was lucky enough to have a very good role as Little John in The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men  and again – this time as the King in ‘The Sword and the Rose’  – Below – Both films for Walt Disney and both – particularly the first one – did very well at the Box Office on a Worldwide scale.  This gave him the publicity and credibility as an actor that he needed.

The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men 1952




The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men 1952



ABOVE        Two Stills from The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men 1952 where James Robertson Justice was ideally cast as 

Little John – What a wonderful film that was !!


As regards his many reputed exploits prior to the War – and after – I take much of this with a pinch of salt. He was a Storyteller and Fantasist not just  with his claim to have been born on the Isle of Skye which was  completely untrue but things like dropping his rifle in front of Hitler and fighting in the Spanish Civil War,  being a racing car driver – the list goes on.

I have a feeling though that there was some truth in the racing car driver claim.

Terrible tragedy struck him and his wife  when their son James died at the age of four in 1949 when he drowned in a mill stream near the family home in Whitchurch, Hampshire.

The loss of his son  must have been a heart breaking time for both  him and his wife – and it really broke their marriage as she blamed him for not fencing the access to the River nearby where their son lost his life. It must have been a devastating loss for them.

His wife eventually divorced him but not until many years later when his own health was breaking down.

James Robertson Justice


Really good colour picture from that time, I think – as Henry VIII in ‘The Sword and the Rose’ for Walt Disney

He was personal friends with Prince Philip and Prince Charles, who he seemed to take under his wing in that he taught him about falconry and other country pursuits  – I have a feeling that this may have when Prince Charles was at Gordonstoun and he lived just North of Inverness.

James Robertson Justice 2

Indeed Prince Philip attended the ceremony at which his friend James Robertson Justice was installed as Rector of Edinburgh University

ABOVE   Edinburgh University, Scotland. Actor James Robertson Justice is installed as the Rector – on 17 th February 1964

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Doris Day – One of the Greatest Stars in Hollywood History



Very sad to hear that Doris Day has died today although we have to say that she had reached the great age of 97


Doris Day


I make the claim in the title to this post of her being ‘One of the Greatest Stars in Hollywood history’ – and I stick by that

On Moonlight Bay


When it comes to ranking stars of a golden period in Hollywood, she would be in the very top echelon. I cannot think of another who compares to her.


By the Light of the Silvery Moon

The two films ABOVE were highly successful at the Box Office as was the one that followed it – Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane

-ABOVE  Scenes from  Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane 2

-ABOVE and BELOW –  Scenes from  Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane 3

I was listening this evening to a BBC Radio 4 programme paying tribute to Doris Day and it began with clips from the songs ‘The Deadwood Stage’  ‘ Secret Love’ and ‘ Que Sere Sera’ – and believe you me, they sounded wonderful – I had forgotten how good they were.

Reminiscing as you tend to do on these occasions, I always remember living in a village over 40 years ago, and there was a man in the local pub who had in the past over many years shown films in the local village hall – and these had been very popular.

He told me about it quite often, as he knew I was interested in the films – and he said that he had shown the film ‘Young at Heart’ with Doris Day and he described how wonderful it was to hear the projector and see the film  IN CLOUR as he stressed – and how lovely it had looked on the screen.  He of course mentioned Doris Day.  He seemed at that time almost lost in another world.  That little memory of how he described it and loved it, stays with me to this  day.

I can see and hear him now even though he was not someone I knew well at all.  Just a memory for me of Doris Day

This does not do justice I know to such a great star but I felt that today this had to be written.

I intend to  return to Doris Day in the future on this Blog

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Cliff Richard – In Films


When I was much younger, I remember going to see Cliff Richard and The Drifters ( as they would be before they changed their name to The Shadows ) over in the City of Hull where they were in a Pantomime – although it was less of a panto and more of a Rock n Roll show. They were fantastic and my brother and myself and some friends were so impressed by this live show of such stars. At that time Cliff was in his Rock n Roll early stage and to many of us, at his best.


Cliff In Panto 11 January 1960

An astonishingly long and successful career for Cliff Richard as regards his singing and to be fair his films also did very well from his first part in ‘Serious Charge’ with Anthony Quayle – this was a very good and dramatic film and then onto the two below which were more light hearted, colourful and with quite good storylines.


Cliff Richard


I can’t recall Cliff being dressed up as a cowboy though, but I have to say, he looks good and seems to fit the part. Maybe he should have gone to the USA and done a Western after all Elvis started with one – ‘Love Me Tender’ – and then on to King Creole which to me was his best – and then GI Blues – and the films then although very successful were not brilliant – but they gave the fans what they wanted.

However the picture of Cliff ABOVE – is from the film ‘Wonderful Life’

Cliff in Summer Holiday was on great form with a strong cast.


Cliff Richard 2


ABOVE:  Cliff with Una Stubbs and Jackie Daryl taking advantage of the location in the Canary Islands

Summer Holiday

Summer Holiday is one of those enchanting  films,  made when musicals were the rage in Hollywood. 

Cliff Richard really enjoys himself and displays to  the audience with his immense onscreen charisma as well as his songs and dance routines.

This well-cast film  also has Cliff Richard singing the theme song, which we can all sing along to –  “Summer Holiday”. Great entertainment and very good fun to watch

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