Archive for October, 2020

Peter Ellenshaw – an insight to Walt Disney

Late in 1947, Peter Ellenshaw’s work caught the attention of an Art Director for the Walt Disney Studios. Disney was in the pre-planning stages of his very first live-action film, Treasure Island (1950), which would be produced in the United Kingdom.

Walt Disney chatting with Peter Ellenshaw

Thus began a professional collaboration and friendship with Walt Disney that would span over 30 years and 34 films. Ellenshaw supplied mattes for the next three remaining Disney films made in Great Britain (The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, The Sword and the Rose, and Rob Roy) and soon relocated to California in 1953, where he did matte work on Disney’s first U.S.-produced live-action feature film, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Ellenshaw’s matte paintings saved Walt the cost of expensive location trips and elaborate settings. When Davy Crockett headed for 19th century Washington, D.C. or Mary Poppins flew over the rooftops of London or Robin Hood stormed the castle or Paul Revere rode down the streets of 18th Century Boston—that was all the magic of Peter Ellenshaw.

More than 10 years after his work on Treasure Island, Peter won his own Academy Award for his work on Mary Poppins (1964). In all, he was involved in 34 films for Walt Disney Productions between 1947 and 1979.

As a matte artist, the wide range of Ellenshaw’s contributions can be found in Johnny Tremain, Old Yeller, Zorro, The Great Locomotive Chase, Swiss Family Robinson, The Absent Minded Professor, Blackbeard’s Ghost, and The Love Bug, to name just a handful of films that featured his artistic talents.

In addition, Peter contributed to the special photographic effects of Darby O’Gill and the Little People, served as production designer on Island at the Top of the World, and as art director on Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Black Hole.

One of Ellenshaw’s first Disney projects upon his arrival at the Studio was to create a rendering for Walt’s newest project, Disneyland. Ellenshaw went to work painting an aerial view of the proposed park on a 4-foot by 8-foot piece of storyboard. The painting was then used by Walt Disney to help introduce television audiences to his new project as well as attracting potential sponsors.

Ellenshaw contributed his artistic touch directly to many of the early Tomorrowland attractions at the new theme park, including the first Circarama show “A Tour of the West” sponsored by American Motors, TWA’s Rocket Ship to the Moon and Space Station X-1 that showed a “satellite view of America from 50 miles up.” In 1993, Peter Ellenshaw was named a Disney Legend.

In his spare time, Peter primarily painted sailing ships and, later, seascapes. It was Walt Disney who introduced Peter to the beauty of the desert. When Walt was in the hospital shortly before his death, Peter painted for him a desert vista featuring the smoke tree that Walt loved.

The tree had a light, feathery appearance resembling smoke, and was prominent at Walt’s vacation home in Palm Springs, the Smoke Tree Ranch.

Walt’s secretary, Tommie Wilck, took it to the hospital on December 10, 1966 (five days before Walt’s death) and told Peter how Walt proudly told the hospital staff that “one of his boys” had painted it especially for him.

Here are some excerpts from an interview with Peter in 1997with Jim Korkis

Jim Korkis: How did you get an offer to work for Disney?

Peter Ellenshaw: I got a call from an art director, Tom Morahan, who was working on a film for Disney. The exciting thing was I hadn’t thought of working for Disney. He was an animator. But when my chance came, I grabbed it. I said, “Wow, even if I only get to do one painting for Disney, I’ve got to do it.” It turned out the film was “Treasure Island.” It was the first time I had painted ships for a film and I think it was Walt’s first experience with mattes.

I had been told it was probably not going to be worth my time because they only needed a few mattes but I ended up doing 40 or more mattes in that film. On The Sword and the Rose, I painted 62 mattes in 27 weeks. What was I thinking?

J.K.: Of course, Walt told a quite different story of how you met.

P.E.: That story has haunted me for years. I am sure Walt was trying to joke but many of the men in the room didn’t realize that fact.

Walt came into the dailies one day and everyone was sitting there and he said, “You know how I met Peter? I was walking around Trafalgar Square and there was this guy doing some drawings on the pavement. He was painting a loaf of bread on the sidewalk. He’d written ‘Easy to draw, hard to earn.’ And I thought the drawing was pretty good so I said, ‘They’re pretty good. How would you like to come to America and work for me?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I would, governor!’ and that was Peter!”

And what bothers me to this day is that some of those guys believed him! It is a complete myth but Walt loved to tell stories and to have fun so I have seen it printed as if it were absolutely the truth.

J.K.: How did you get assigned to do that huge painting of Disneyland?

P.E.: Walt came in one morning. I’d only been there a few days in Burbank. He came in and said, “I want you to paint a picture. We’ve got the plans of Disneyland. If you could do a perspective, aerial drawing of it, that’s what I need.” I got a storyboard. We had big storyboards there about four feet by eight feet and I thought I’d paint on that. We didn’t have the facilities that you have now. I set this thing up and started painting it.

After I had finished, he came in and said, “I am coming in tomorrow with some people from Look magazine. I am coming in and I would like you to be here because I’d like you to be included. We’ll be here at 8:00 am.” (It appears as a two page full color spread in Look magazine November 2, 1954.)

J.K.: For a long while, I thought you had done two versions because I remember seeing on television the daylight version and also a nighttime version.

P.E.: I used some luminescent paint so under fluorescent light, it would show what the park would look like at night. Walt did do that with the painting on one of the television shows going from day to night and it was very effective. He used that same image on postcards. He sold thousands and thousands of postcards and I never got a penny of that! (laughs) It was used on souvenir books. All over the place. They later found it in a shed at the Disney Studio somewhere and it was restored and exhibited at the Disney Gallery at Disneyland.

J.K.: Actually, your work on “Davy Crockett” led to an interesting request from Walt, didn’t it?

P.E. Walt came in one day. We were at the rushes and that was the place to be because the boss would be there and he gives great ideas. He’d tap me on the shoulder because I’d be in the row in front of him. Boy, I felt good. “Oh, the boss touched me and said, ‘Hello’.” I was in heaven. He didn’t do that with everybody. I really felt privileged.

He tapped me on the shoulder that morning. “My wife’s a fan of yours.” But he said it very begrudgingly. “She likes that Davy Crockett cabin painting and would like a copy. Talk to me later.” Copying a picture, especially your own and trying to make it the same is a fool’s thing. When you try and do it again, you try to improve it stupidly. You can’t improve it. You make it dead. You lose the life of it.

When I had finished the copy, it looked nice enough but it didn’t have that touch. She was sharp enough to see it. I took it to them at their home. “Oh, very nice,” she said. “Very nice” is always a dangerous one. She took the painting and later I heard that she had sent it down to Disneyland and asked for the one they were displaying, the original I had done for the television show. So she had the copy hang down at Disneyland and she had the original. Eventually she got the copy as well. I went to her house recently to photograph it for my book.

J.K.: Mary Poppins remains one of the best beloved films yet most people probably don’t know about a special voice you provided.

P.E.: In those days, the wonderful part of the whole place was that you were called often to do all sorts of odd things like voiceover work. Now it is done by professionals. Now it is not allowed for someone like me to just drop down and do it. In those days, it was fine.

I am also something else in the film. I am an actor in it. I am the hand that goes into draw when they say “there’s a road down through…” when Bert is sketching.

J.K.: And of course, you also get credit for the “Step In Time” number in Mary Poppins.

P.E.: Bill Walsh who co-produced Mary Poppins came in one day and asked me if I knew any vulgar songs. That wasn’t something obscene but something common. Something low-life chimney sweeps might sing. Well, I had gone on a pub crawl and my friend and I would get everyone up in the different pubs we went to and have them sing and dance to an English song called “Knees Up, Mother Brown.”

I showed Bill and he immediately brought in Walt and storyman Don DaGradi, who was one of the best storymen ever at Disney. We danced across the room and back with our arms linked and our knees up very high. It seemed very strenuous for Walt. We didn’t know at the time he might be sick. Walt said to bring in the Sherman Brothers who were writing the music and I had to do it all over again.

Of course, they couldn’t use the actual song so they came up with another song that was similar. I think it was a little too elegant in the final film. It really is much more fun when it is vulgar.

J.K.: Whatever happened to all these great matte paintings that you did?

P.E.: We had to have glass and it was a difficult time to get the glass when I would need another one the next day. We sent those matte paintings down to the painters and they would wash it, clean it all off, so we had another one for the next day.

If I had been allowed to keep them which I wouldn’t have been, I would be a much richer person now. (laughs) They were painted on glass with oil… later acrylic… and then they were scraped off almost immediately so we could reuse the glass for another painting. I’ve seen a few that weren’t scraped and the paint didn’t survive well. It yellowed and chipped. It was like the cels for the animation. It was just part of the process.

It wasn’t meant to survive beyond being filmed. Remember that to judge a matte painting you have to stand back where the camera is and make sure not to give it too much detail, just enough to fool the eye. Too much finish on it and it becomes static. It doesn’t look quite real. One time, Walt was looking at one of my mattes and said, “Looks like a painting” and all the guys started laughing thinking it was a joke but it wasn’t. Walt was trying to tell me to put less into it, not in terms of quality, but detail so that it was the illusion of being real.

J.K.: What was Walt Disney really like?

P.E.: What was Walt Disney like? That’s what we’d all like to know, isn’t it? Walt was the only person who was not an artist who could talk to you like an artist. The only problem you would have had with Walt was if you were not as enthusiastic about a project as he was. I would remember him coming by and talking to me about something and would get me all stirred up with enthusiasm and I would start work on the project. It wasn’t a false enthusiasm. He really believed it could be done and he was able to make you believe it.

Great man. Wonderful man. Loved him. Missed him. Missed him terribly. Missed him so much that I’d wake up in the middle of the night and wonder why I was weeping. It was because I’d lost him. It was wonderful knowing him.

I was just one of the people who knew Walt just from live action. I’m not boasting about that. I’m very humble about that. I used to sit around with these men who had worked with him for so many years in animation and we’d ask, “What makes this ordinary man so extraordinary?” Because he seems so normal. He seems so common in his thinking. He has no taste. Suddenly, you realize he has exquisite taste. He had a certain way of thinking and looking at problems from over there.

We were all looking at it the same way from the common view and he’d say something and we thought he hadn’t been listening to what we were saying at all. Actually, he had seen it from another view. In meetings, I felt obligated to come up with something so I’d come up with some stupid thing. “Peter, what are you talking about?” he’d say and lift that eyebrow. What an extraordinary man! Just an ordinary, humble, gentle tyrant.

J.K.: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

P.E.: Extraordinary things happen in your life if you want them to.

BELOW – A much later film and not one of Peter Ellenshaws but it shows what a wonderful technique matte painting in films was and is, and the sheer scale and illusion that it can add. The film was ‘Predator’ which was released in 1987 – and which did extremely well at the Box Office

The Pictures below are from an excellent web site with loads of details on this technique – I thorouhly recommend you visit :-

http://www.nzpetesmatteshot.blogspot.co.nz/2010/07/creature-feature-special-visual-effects.html

This is one of my own very favourite web sites

ABOVE – The actual Film shot – and BELOW with the bottom half a matte painting

ABOVE – This is what we, the audience, saw

ABOVE – The Bottom Matte

The Bottom Matte Painted on Glass ABOVE ready to be filmed when lined up with the top picture

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The Birthday Present 1957 -Tony Britton and Sylvia Sims

Tony Britton, Sylvia Syms and Geoffrey Keen star in this BAFTA-nominated drama focusing on a man whose life is turned upside down by the far-reaching repercussions of an ill-judged action. The Birthday Present has been shown recently on Talking Pictures

Tony Britton and Sylvia Sims

Returning from a business trip, toy salesman Simon Scott is caught attempting to smuggle a wristwatch – bought for his wife’s birthday – through Customs. He is arrested and, due to a bungled defence by his solicitor, obliged to serve a three-month prison sentence. It is only the beginning of his woes; his employer, Colonel Wilson, is understanding, but he is ultimately forced to sack Simon, who discovers that finding another job under such circumstances is extremely difficult. But Colonel Wilson is determined to help his former employee find a solution…

THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT is a very interesting British crime drama of 1957. Tony Britton who seemed to be on Television a lot at that time often in Francis Durbridge serials starred.

Tony Britton had also been in about Ten of the BBC Sunday Night Theatre productions for Television from 1952 and right through the fifties

Not that many years ago we saw him on stage in a tour of ‘And Then There Were None’ the famous Agatha Christie play. A lot of years before this he had played Professor Higgins in the West End in ‘My Fair Lady’

Back to ‘The Birthday Present’ and it is a quite gripping story.

The supporting cast is very good and includes Geoffrey Keen as his sympathetic employer, plus more minor parts for Ian Bannen, Thorley Walters, and Harry Fowler. .

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More Double Bills at your local Cinema

I always loved it when we were give a chance to see TWO ‘big’ pictures – often an older one with a fairly new film OR a Horror film paring which happened quite often in those days, when they were really popular – we just loved to be scared

ABOVE – ‘Horrors of the Black Museum’ is a well known ‘horror’ film with Michael Gough giving a great performance.

As for ‘Wicked Wicked’ in the ‘new process’ of Duo-Vision – I have not heard of it – or the film process – although it does come to us from MGM – the biggest of the film studios

However I have just come across this :-

In 1973, writer/director Richard L. Bare (best known for the “Joe McDoakes” shorts of the ’40s/’50s and for directing most episodes of “Green Acres“) set out to create a new way of making movies.  Called “Duo-Vision,” today this technique is most commonly referred to as “split-screen” — though the gimmick was that the films were to be presented in split-screen from start to finish.  For the first film, Bare revised an unsold screenplay titled “The Squirrel.”  The result was “Wicked, Wicked,” a campy horror-schlocker openly derived from “The Phantom of the Opera,” heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and with the sensibilities of a ’60s sitcom.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a hit, plans for subsequent Duo-Vision films were scrapped and, because the film couldn’t be cropped for TV/home video, it was basically forgotten.

ABOVE – ‘The Wizard of Oz’ seemed to be released or re-leased periodically and here it is alongside ‘Tom Thumb’

These are very much more recognisable and lovely family films

ABOVE – I remember seeing ‘Johnny Dark’ at the cinema when on holiday in St.Albans – quite a good car racing story. As for ‘Man Without a Star’ it may have been good but it wasn’t a film that would have pulled me in at all

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Some Republic Pictures

Just two articles ago, we had ‘Springtime in the Sierras’ – a Roy Rogers film – and soon afterwards I came across this. These are all Roy Rogers films with Republic Pictures

The odd one out ABOVE seems to be ‘Son of Paleface’ although it is a Roy Rogers picture but with Bob Hope in brilliant form

ABOVE – Some more from Republic Pictures including some really good films – for instance ‘Come Next Spring’ with Steve Cochran and Ann Sheridan, is a lovely heart warming story and it is a film that seems to be more appreciated now than it ever has been

Another one ‘A Man Alone’ had Ray Milland directing the film in which he also starred

‘Fair Wind to Java’ we have featured before.

I remember ‘Flame of the Islands’ because as youngster the title appealed to me as it conjured up visions of adventures in the South Seas. It was very much an escapist fantasy shot in gleaming Trucolor in which Yvonne De Carlo wanders around those islands which probably seldom left the studio set – but as is often the case – it still looked good.

I love the Trucolor process after only fully appreciating it very recently

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Stanley Baker – Zulu and Many others

Stanley Baker was born in in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales, the son of a miner – he wanted to be an actor from his earliest years.

A perceptive teacher at his school noticed the boy’s talent, gave him elocution lessons and the chance to perform in school plays.

He was leaving school at 14 years old and by a stroke of luck in the audience of his very last school play was Producer Sergei Nolbandov who was impressed by the young Stanley Baker and offered him a screen test for the part of a youngster in the film ‘Undercover’ to be made at Ealing Film Studios. – then 15 he was offered and took the part

The following year he joined the Birmingham Repertory Company but soon afterwards he received his call up papers. After two years in the forces he was back, but couldn’t seem to make any headway with his acting career and then out of the blue he managed to get a part in the play ‘A Sleep of Prisoners’ by Christopher Fry which was performed in London and New York.

Not too long after that he applied for a key role in ‘The Cruel Sea’ and this was followed by tough guy roles in ‘The Red Beret’ with Alan Ladd, ‘Hell Below Zero’ with Alan again, ‘A Hill in Korea’ and ‘Checkpoint’

Stanley Baker then gravitated on to parts where he played the policeman – he did really well in Blind Date and ‘Hell is a City’ in which he played the role of Detective Inspector Martineau

ABOVE – he looks into the camera lens whilst on location in Manchester for ‘Hell is a City’

Later roles came in ‘Hell Drivers’ and ‘Yesterday’s Enemy’

ABOVE – Stanley Baker was a friend of Billy Smart the circus owner and once spent a weekend performing under the Big Top – actually appearing in the circus ring.

ABOVE – Stanley Baker is also a keen boxer and his mantelpiece at home has quite a few trophies.

ABOVE – He is pictured outside his home in Wimbledon where he lives with his wife Ellen Martell.

ABOVE – Stanley Baker is also a keen cine photographer – looks like a 16 mm camera – I often wonder what has happened to all the cine film that these stars have taken – it would be fascinating to see them. They must be somewhere

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Springtime in the Sierras – Roy Rogers – In Trucolor

Roy Rogers starred in Nineteen Trucolor films for Republic Pictures from 1947 up to 1950 but for whatever reason, even as early as 1952, some of these were re-issued in Black and White.

The market for B Westerns pretty much came to an end at the cinema in the mid fifties, so these were released in Black and White mainly to save costs.

A number of Roy Rogers films were sold to TV in 1956 but with some cuts to the running time. That sadly meant that a lot of the original footage was discarded

Showing on Talking Pictures over this weekend was a really good one – ‘Springtime in the Sierras’ from 1947 and this one had a much bigger budget. It was in colour – this time Trucolor – but it did give the film a good look. The outdoor shots of Roy on Trigger were impressive – Trigger’s colour seemed ideally suited to Trucolor.

The film had been restored to it’s original length I am pleased to say

Some of the studio sets also were very good indeed – just look at the pictures BELOW

The film was directed by William Witney



Jane Frazee with Roy Rogers ABOVE

At the end of the film, in the last few frames, I saw something that I have never seen in a film before. In the Theatre we are used to seeing the end of the play and then the actors appear before us to take the applause and take a bow.

Well – at the end of this film the actors do a similar thing and walk towards the camera and all stand in a line smiling towards us the audience.
Very effective I thought – and original

Jane Frazee was Roy Roger’s leading lady in ‘Springtime in the Sierras’ as she was in a total of Five films with him for Republic Pictures – I think that they were all in Trucolor too.

Jane Frazee ABOVE

This film had reliable sidekick Andy Devine looking very young – he was good as usual and gave us that bit of humour needed – and there was also Bob Nolan and The Sons of the Pioneers – Roy Roger’s backing group for years

Andy Devine as we all know, had a very lengthy and successful career and in the early fifties became well known playing his usual role in ‘The Adventure of Wild Bill Hickock’ which ran from 1951 to 1958 and Andy played in 112 episodes

Later in 1960 he was in one that I liked ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ which also starred famous boxer Archie Moore as Jim – he was very good too.

Andy Devine was also surprised and became the subject of ‘This is Your Life’ on 2 February 1955

Andy Devine with his two boys on the set of ‘Canyon Passage’ which I think they were all played in this film. ABOVE

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Youngsters in Films

Back in the day there were quite a few child stars and here is a selection :

ABOVE – Tommy Rettig – he was in ‘River of No Return’ with Marilyn Monroe – lucky boy

ABOVE : Gary Gray and Flame in ‘Return of Flame’

This must have been one of the RKO short films with a running time of 20 minutes but I can only find them with ‘Pal’ in the title. Mind you Flame did play Pal, so maybe this caption just refers to his return – I think that that must be the case.

The Wonder Kid was actually released here in 1952.   David Raynor, who often provides very welcome and interesting comments of this Blog, is an expert on Bobby Henrey and has kindly agreed to let me post below the comments he has made on imdb :-

We have actually printed this before :-

While not in the same league as that in “The Fallen Idol”, Bobby Henrey’s performance in his second and last film, “The Wonder Kid”, is just as charming and fascinating to watch. He is totally convincing and often very touching as Sebastian Giro, a ten years old French boy and child musical prodigy found in an orphanage by Mr Gorik (Elwyn Brook-Jones) who exploits the youngster’s talent as a classical pianist and turns him into an international celebrity. He even tells everyone that the boy is only seven years old in order to make the boy wonder’s talent seem all the more remarkable. But Gorik is also a crook who embezzles the takings so that he has almost all the money and Sebastian gets hardly any. Coupled with that, Gorik won’t allow Sebastian to enjoy the simple pleasures of being a little boy, like having a pet dog or playing with other boys or even reading comic books, because, when Sebastian isn’t performing, Gorik isn’t making any money out of him. He works the over tired boy like a slave who must continually practise on the piano. Sebastian’s elderly English governess, Miss Frisbie (Muriel Aked) is very concerned about the boy and confronts Gorik about his crooked activities. But he dismisses her from her post. Miss Frisbie then pays a gang of junior league crooks to “kidnap” Sebastian and take him to stay in a remote lodge in the Austrian Tyrol and Gorik won’t get him back until he’s paid over a huge ransom which is, in effect, all the money he has stolen from the boy. It is here, in this beautiful setting, that the boy finds a freedom and a happiness he has never known and just wants to stay there forever with those who have become his friends. But trouble is on the horizon for him…

This now unjustly forgotten little film is thoroughly entertaining and wonderful to watch.  Apart from the truly picturesque scenery, Bobby Henrey’s performance as the cruelly exploited child prodigy who moves from misery to happiness is just wonderful. Highly recommended.

This film ‘The Mudlark’ went very well at the Box Office here in England. Irene Dunne played Queen Victoria and Alec Guinness was Disraeli

ABOVE – Bobby Driscoll in England to star as Jim Hawkins in ‘Treasure Island’ – this must have been taken in the summer of 1949.

He came to a very sad end a few years later.

I cannot recall much about this child star – Bobby Hyatt or Robert Hyatt as he became known as.

Here he is with a very young Natalie Wood

He acted in quite a lot of films as a child star and beyond but he also became a Film Director, Producer, Writer even Composer for films.

He was a very well respected person in the film industry with a vast experience of all aspects of film making.

Robert Hyatt as a Film Director ABOVE

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Duel on the Mississippi 1955

This looks a really good adventure film – I don’t remember much about it at the time though

Directed by William Castle
Starring Lex Barker, Patricia Medina


Duel On The Mississippi (1955) is not really a Western.

It’s one of those Louisiana riverboat type adventures – set in that area of the USA famous for Huckleberry Finn, and there is plenty of action.

The story centres around a series of plantation raids carried out by vicious bayou killers.

Plantation owner Andre Tulane (Lex Barker) finds himself in debt to the gambler Lili Scarlet (Patricia Medina) and the two are at each other’s throats until one day when Tulane comes to her rescue and soon they are teaming up against pirates.

Lex Barker has just finished with Tarzan – I can’t think why he ever packed it in – and Patricia Medina is beautiful as always – a few years since Botany Bay – one of my favourites, and John Dehner is always terrific.

The Technicolor cinematography is excellent.

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Norah Gorsen in ‘Geordie’

This young lady was born in Weymouth and started her acting career on stage and then quickly in Television having a leading part in the BBC Production of ‘Little Women’ which ran mid December – in six parts from before Christmas 1950 and through into 1951

She had studied acting at RADA

She played alongside Bill Travers in ‘Geordie’ a few years later in 1955 and it was a very successful Technicolor film, but it seems that she never really capitalised on this

GEORDIE 1955

This is a classic story of a small boy who is tired of being small and sends off for a “HE-MAN” mail order course… He then trains and dedicates himself to strength training and eventually grows to become an Olympic champion in the Hammer Throw, one of the Olympic strong man events.

Bill Travers, Norah Gorsen and Alistair Sim star

Those lucky enough to see an original Technicolor print are lucky indeed for the colour cinematography was one of the best things about that film.

The film did well at the Box Office

The above has Bill Travers but not Norah Gorsen

Bill Travers and Norah Gorsen

A year or two after this she had a role in the TV Series of ‘Ivanhoe’ with Roger Moore

She had also appeared on stage in Pantomime along with Donald Wolfit and Pat Kirkwood at the Scala Theatre in 1953, where she played the part of Wendy in ‘Peter Pan’

She later appeared in Dixon of Dock Green playing Gorge Dixon’s daughter

Here she is ABOVE with Jack Warner and Marjorie Fielding

Norah Gorsen in ‘Ivanhoe’

Birth Name: Norah Ethal Gaussen
Date of Birth: 22 November 1931
Place of Birth: Weymouth, Dorset, England
Stage Name: Norah Gorsen

Norah Gorsen was born on November 22, 1931 in Weymouth, Dorset, England as Norah Ethal Gaussen. She studied for the stage at R.A.D.A. and became an actress, known for Geordie (1955), The Great Detective (1953) and Personal Affair (1953).
Spouses:
(1) Ronald G. Lewis, born 11 December 1928, in Port Talbot, West Glamorgan, Wales. Married 1953 in Hampstead, London, and later divorced. He was an actor. He died on 11 January 1982, in Pimlico, London, England.
(2) Michael Henry St. George Ashe, married in 1960, and later divorced. She had a son with her second hsuband
(3) Russell Taylor, married in 1965 in Chelsea, London.

Although I cannot be sure, I have seen a report that she died in the South of France in April this year, 2020 aged 88 years.

This is not reported on the imdb site though

Norah Gorsen’s son by her second marriage – in fact her only child – was James – some details as follows :-

Extract from England and Wales Birth Registration Index
Name: Thomas J. S. Ashe
Birth Registered: Oct-Dec 1960 at Southwark, London, England
Mother’s Maiden Name: Gaussen


Born 55 years ago (5 August 1960).

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The Pickwick Papers – this time the Television adaptation

After the excellent 1952 film version, we had in 1955 on ITV – in the Theatre Royal series of 34 plays – a play entitled ‘Bardell v Pickwick’

This wasn’t exactly The Pickwick Papers but an episode from it.

This was the first production in the Theatre Royal series going out on 25 th September 1955 – probably going out ‘live’ in those days.

It featured Roddy Hughes as Mr Pickwick and Donald Wolfit as Sergeant Buzfuz.

Sam Kidd reprised the role of Sam Weller

Television dramatisation of an episode from Charles Dickens’ “Pickwick Papers”, in which Mr Pickwick is taken to court by his landlady Mrs Bardell. She accuses him of breach of promise after she believed he was offering her a proposal of marriage when he had been talking about getting a manservant.

ABOVE – It seems that in this scene Donald Wolfit is strongly making a point

The amusing law courts scene from the famous masterpiece was one of the highlights of this production

This television play was produced by Harry Alan Towers – Harry Towers who later moved into making feature films – two of the first he did – and filmed in Africa both starred Richard Todd in ‘Death Drums Along the River’ and a follow up ‘Coast of Skeletons’

In fact would you believe it, Harry Towers later produced this same story ‘Bardell v Pickwick’ under the same name in 1959 in the Armchair Theatre Series – this time John Salew played Mr Pickwick

Now back to an actor featured above –

Sir Donald Wolfit was without doubt one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of the last century. He was not appreciated by the likes of the pompous Laurence Olivier and his contemporaries, mainly because, in my view, Sir Donald came from a working class background and scaled those dizzy heights like no other had done.

He was the last of the Actor-Managers who brought Shakespeare to the masses – and saw that as his mission – all over the world

ABOVE – Sir Donald Wolfit , Lady Wolfit and their daughter

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