Archive for August, 2021

Roger Moore in ‘The Alaskans’

Roger Moore was in Hollywood at this time having had some success before going there with ‘Ivanhoe’ for British Television and quite a few films to be fair

He had made a film with Lana Turner in Hollywood and then he was offered ‘The Alaskans’ by Warner Brothers which was to have been a big budget TV production, but it didn’t quite happen that way.

Although the series was made on one of Warner’s biggest sound stages, there was never any location work. Plenty of big and impressive sets and fake snow – and when they did venture outside filming was done on the Studio backlot. Dressed in furs to keep out the Alaskan cold, the actors were faced with 80 degrees temperatures – so conditions not so good.

Roger ensuring his hair was in place

ABOVE: Roger Moore with his actor friend Gustavo Rojo

Roger has to keep fit at the gym

Roger Moore with his actor friend Gustavo Rojo

One of his co-stars in The Alaskans was Dorothy Provine and her and Roger became very close friends – she was. he says, not like a lot of the actresses in that she was quite and retiring – somethning that appealed to him.

At that time he was married to Dorothy Squires and she certainly didn’t approve but she had a concert schedule in Britain, so Roger was left to his own devices.

Warner Bros were looking for a big name alongside him but settled for Jeff York who had featured in the Davy Crockett films for Walt Disney and had been under contract to him. Roger said that Jeff was good and the two got on well, but if things got boring on set and he hadn’t anything to do, he would sidle off to the Pub close by and partake of the liquid refreshment which he liked.

The Alaskans

Roger Moore, Dorothy Provine and Jeff York – The Alaskans ABOVE

ABOVE – Roger with the lovely Dorothy Provine

On the set of ‘The Alaskans’

I am not sure whether or not ‘The Alaskans’ was ever shown on Television here in England – I would have thought it likely that it had though

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The Veils of Bagdad 1953 – with Victor Mature and Mari Blanchard

I have just come across this one as someone is trying to sell a 16 mm print of the film which to be honest tempted me to put in a bid. It is not a film I know but with Victor Mature starring it has to be good.

Apparently this was filmed just before ‘The Robe’ – a huge success at the Box Office World Wide which doesn’t surprise me – it was a superb film

‘The Veils of Bagdad’ had its release held back until after ‘The Robe’ itself was released – maybe they figured that Victor Mature would be an even bigger attraction after that – I am pretty sure that they would be right. As I have said before, Producers liked Victor Mature because every picture he was in made money

Filmed in Technicolor

ABOVE and BELOW The Press Book for the Film

I have read that Maureen O Hara was lined up for the film, but for whatever reason she withdrew and so Mari Blanchard was drafted in.

This has prompted me to look a little deeper into the life of this actress who as a child suffered with polio which led her into regular daily swimming sessions for several years. After this she ran off and joined a local circus – she was born in Long Beach – where she helped with the elephants and then to the trapeze. That didn’t last too long before she went back to the Santa Barbara College and between studies she joined a model agency. Her picture in a Kodak advertisement in ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ brought her to the attention of Paramount Pictures who signed her to a contract in 1949.

However this did not work out and she was dropped by the studio – but following the success of ‘Veils of Bagdad’ she got a new contract with Universal-International which put her into the same salary class as Tony Curtis and Shelley Winters.

Mari Blanchard in ‘Son of Sinbad’

She then makes ‘Son of Sinbad’ with Dale Robertson in 1953 but later that year misses out on the lead role in ‘Saskatchewan’ to Shelley Winters.

It is reported that in ‘Son of Sinbad’ she refused to dance because she considered her outfit too revealing. She appeared then in ‘Destry’ with Audie Murphy in which she sings.

In 1954 Mari Blanchard starred in ‘Rails into Laramie’ with John Payne – avery good looking film in Terchnicolor which I featured on here quite recently

In an around the middle of 1955, she was frequently in the company of Lance Fuller – about the time that he would be making one of my own favourites ‘The Secret of Treasure Mountain’ but later that year she was often seen with George Raft – my first thought is that he would be way too old for her.

The in early 1956 she dates the singer Mel Torme.

In 1957 she co-starred with Lex Barker in ‘Jungle Heat’ but the reviews I have read were not so good – however one commented that ‘Mari Blanchard really looks good’ I am sure that she did !

Later in November 1956 she is filming ‘She Devil’ and is rushed to hospital for an appendix operation.

In September 1958 she and her travelling companion Gwen Davis, were shown around Madrid by Victor Mature and Bruce Cabot. and later that year in November she is scheduled to appear in the TV Series ‘Belle Starr’

A few years later in 1963 she develops cancer – very sad for such a young woman.

She continued to appear in films and Television throughout the Sixties – in fact she appeared with John Wayne in ‘McLintock’ in 1963 but in May of 1970 she died aged 43 at the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California

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Jean Simmons Car for Sale

Just prior to their marriage Stewart Granger had bought his future wife this now iconic car – a Bristol 402. This was back in 1949

In 1949, Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons were two major film stars

The British couple – who married just 12 months later – acted alongside each other in films including Adam and EvelyneYoung Bess and Footsteps in the Fog but also bought a pair of matching cars.

One of those two vehicle is going to be sold and is being offered to the highest bidder next month, with Jean Simmons’ Bristol 402 – one of just 24 built and 12 known to have survived – and it is going under the hammer at a UK auction, with experts predicting a sale figure of £200,000.

The two cars were bought from Surrey car dealer Tony Crook, who later went on the spearhead the Bristol Cars marque. Each one cost £3,500, which was around the same price as a decent-size family home at the time.

The couple used the matching cars extensively to promote 1949 romantic hit, Adam and Evelyne, in which they starred together.

Jean Simmons drove the car regularly while living in Surrey but eventually left as her fame rose and moved to Hollywood. 

While filming Caesar and Cleopatra, Jean Simmons had developed a crush on Stewart Granger, and they later became sweethearts, though Granger was 16 years older and married. In 1949 he suggested they star together in

Adam and Evelyne, in which a penniless orphan is raised with the support of a mysterious benefactor. It proved a perfect showcase for the couple, and demonstrated Simmons’ expert handling of romantic comedy.

Stewart Granger departed for Hollywood later in 1949 after being signed by MGM, and in 1950 Simmons joined him when cast by Gabriel Pascal in a screen version of Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion with Victor Mature – he was later with her again in ‘The Robe’ where he gave a superb performance.

Stewart Granger and the actress Elspeth March had divorced in 1948, and in December 1950 he and Jean Simmons eloped to Tucson. That same year she had been in four British films, all successful. In So Long at the Fair, Trio, Cage of Gold and The Clouded Yellow.

In 1952 Jean Simmons signed a non-exclusive contract with 20th Century-Fox. She immediately starred in three prestigious movies. In MGM’s Young Bess (1953) she was a radiant Queen Elizabeth I; in The Actress (1953), based on the autobiography of actress-writer Ruth Gordon, she was a stage-struck teenager, buoyed by the fine performances of Spencer Tracy and Teresa Wright as her parents. Jean adored Spencer Tracy as both actor and friend, and The Actress was to remain her personal favourite of her films, partly because working with him was “sheer heaven”. She and Stewart Granger were to name their daughter Tracy after him.

I always felt that it was this that sparked the number of girls being called ‘Tracy’ at the time

Jean Simmons was one of the great beauties of British cinema, and she had a talent to match. She played Ophelia to Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948) when only 18, and won her first Oscar nomination.

Early roles included her memorable cold young heart-breaker Estella in David Lean’s Great Expectations (1946), disdainfully advising young Pip, “You may kiss me now if you wish”.

She was slave girl in Black Narcissus (1947) but it was not the major part be any means

In 1950 she topped a poll as the most popular British actress. Shortly afterwards, she went to Hollywood, where she and Deborah Kerr were the only two British actresses of the time to achieve truly international stardom – a few years later they were joined by the Anglo-Dutch Audrey Hepburn. Her first marriage, to the actor Stewart Granger, ended in 1960 when she divorced him to marry director Richard Brooks, who later recalled, “Every man I would meet would say to me, ‘I have always loved your wife.'”

When I remember the films of Jean Simmons – the one that comes to mind immediately is ‘The Blue Lagoon’ filmed in Technicolor in Fiji where she played one of two youngsters who grow up shipwrecked on a desert island

In ‘The Robe’ (1953) she was a Christian in love with a centurion (Richard Burton) who presided over Christ’s crucifixion. Burton confessed to being one of several leading men who fell in love with Simmons but found their advances rejected.

Jean Simmons was one of the great beauties of British cinema, and she was also a talented actress.

Audiences were captivated by Jean Simmons from the moment she first appeared on the screen, climbing on to a dance band stand to sing a spirited “Let Him Go, Let Him Tarry” in the popular movie about the RAF in wartime, The Way to the Stars (1945), and she was to swiftly become one of the UK’s biggest box-office draws.

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Kathleen Byron

A film star remembered for one role – as Sister Ruth in ‘Black Narcissus’ – that’s a bit unfair really because she was in lots of others and active on the stage and Television over a long career in acting.

These pictures are from a 1949 magazine and shows her in her Knightsbridge flat and were taken just before she made the film ‘ The Small Back Room’

She is here in her three b edroom apartment in Knightsbridge – and the caption even says the she ‘does her own housework’

She also designed the attractive furnishings herself

ABOVE – A service lift connects to the kitchen below to her dining room above.

She is a music lover and has a collection of French Cabaret songs

In 1943 she had married USAF pilot Daniel Bowen, and gone to live in the USA but there her film work never made any headway, so she came back to England. She was divorced from Daniel Bowen in 1950 so maybe when these pictures were taken the marriage was effectively over and she was living alone in London.

She must have returned in 1945 because she was in ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ and then ‘Black Narcissus’ – both made here at Denham Film Studios

However it is the role of Sister Ruth that cements her well and truly in the British Film Hall of Fame for this wonderful portrayal which leaves the cinema audience at first frightened and then disturbed.

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Phyllis Calvert

I have just watched an episode of Midsomer Murders with John Nettles from the year 2000, and this looks to have been Phyllis Calvert’s last ever role – she died in 2002, ending a career in films and Television that spanned more than 60 years.

An early role was the love interest of George Formby in ‘Let George Do It’ from 1940, a story where George who is travelling with a Theatre Troupe somehow somehow gets on a boat to Norway where he is mistaken as from British Intellegence. Thus begins a quite exciting film – suitably intersperced with gaps to allow the famous George Formby songs which he delivers with his Ukelele

To star in a George Formby film at that was very much the icing on the cake for a young actress because these were extremely successful.

I recall a former Usherette saying that at that time, if there was a George Formby film on at the cinema, then it was a sell-out

Later, she again hit the jackpot with a series of British made films ‘Fanny By Gaslight’, ‘The Man in Grey’ and ‘Madonna of the Seven Moons’ alongside such actors as James Mason and Stewart Granger.

Madonna of the Seven Moons‘ is maybe the  best of these. Set in 1930s Italy, it tells the story of a young rape victim (played by Phyllis Calvert) who marries and has a daughter but, driven to madness by her early experiences, leads a double life. When gripped by madness, she loses all memory of her respectable life as the wife of a wealthy wine merchant and instead rushes into the arms of her gangster-lover, played by Stewart Granger.

Years later

Phyllis Calvert This Is Your Life

THIS IS YOUR LIFE – Phyllis Calvert, actress, was surprised by Eamonn Andrews  on the doorstep of her West London house.

Phyllis trained at the Margaret Morris School of Dancing and performed from the age of ten, gaining her first film role at 12. She acted in repertory theatre and in several films, before making her London stage debut in A Woman’s Privilege in 1939.

Her role in the Gainsborough Studios production of the melodrama The Man in Grey in 1943 confirmed her status as a leading actress, and during the following decade she starred in many romances, including Fanny by Gaslight and My Own True Love, becoming one of Britain’s highest paid film stars.

Phyllis also appeared on television, playing Mrs March in the 1958 serials Little Women and Good Wives, and in 1970, she landed the leading part of an agony aunt with problems of her own in the drama series Kate. I couldn’t remember this at all.

This programme went out on December 20th 1972

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Dad’s Army 2016

I watched this film again last evening and have to say I seem to enjoy it more each time – the casting of Toby Jones as Captain Mainwaring and Bill Naghy as Sergeant Wilson was an inspired choice because they slipped into the parts perfectly.

Bridlington old town stood in as Walmington on Sea and it just looked so much in the era of Wartime and conveyed an array of varied shops and of course the Bank

The thrilling climax to the film was shot at North Landing Flamborough just a few miles north and to see that U Boat rise out of the sea was brilliantly done.

I have read one review on imdb that said that we, as the audience, didnt have enough time to take on board everyone of the other members of the platoon who were all good though – and the comment was made that maybe they should have made TWO Dads Army films back to back by which time we would all have been on board. I think this is probably true.

I wish that they had done two films

What a scene this is – a German UBoat surfaces near Warmington On Sea

I mentioned the climax to the film earlier, and remember when we first saw it at the cinema on the big screen, almost jumping on the seat and cheering when that march past through Walmington On Sea took place to the famous Dad’s Army theme song as two Spitfires swooped overhead and away. Wonderful

ABOVE – One of my own pictures – and I love it – so dramatic

Captain Mainwaring and Private Pike

At the World Premiere on 26 January 2016 at The Odeon, Leicester Square in London

In the film one particular element had been used before – when Catherine Zeta Jones asks Mainwaring to remove his glasses which he does, she pretends to be very taken with his appearance – like Churchill

In an episode from 1970 of the original series, Mainwaring ( Arthur Lowe) becomes besotted with a woman called Mrs Gray, who comes to Walmington On Sea played by Carmen Silvera and she again asks for Mainwaring to take his spectacles off with a similar reaction – and in both cases they meet up in the town Tea Shop

In 1970 Carmen Silvera appeared in the Dad’s Army episode Mum’s Army as Fiona Gray, the love-interest for Captain Mainwaring, a role especially written for her by David Croft
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Radio Times from 1955

I remember that we had our first television set from early in 1952, when at that time we only had one channel BBC and even at the time that these Two Radio Times magazines were issued in March 1955 nothing had changed.

Then in September of 1955 ITV was introduced – so we had then two channels. Early sets had to be converted with an ‘add-on’ box that at the flick of a switch gave us the new channel.

ABOVE – Peter Scott was often on Television at that time from his home at Slimbridge

Looking back at the scheduling for Friday 1st April 1955, The Grove Family was on at 7-45 pm but it only ran for 15 minutes.

Transmission started at 3 pm and closed down at 4 pm then re-opened at 5 pm for one that I remember so well ‘The Cisco Kid’ followed by ‘The Range Rider’ and then we closed down again for an hour.

Then from 7 o clock we had the News, The Grove Family, a visit to Wells Cathedral with John Betjeman and after that Arthur Askey ‘Before Your Very Eyes’ – with very special guest Sabrina.

It does sound rather good – I would just love to sit down for an evening and watch that very programme

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The Heart of the Matter 1953

Yet another one with Maria Schell in it – hadn’t realised that until I came to look through the actors.

Also it is a film set in Sierra Leone. A dear friend and near neighbour of ours, who sadly passed away in 2012, had spent two years in the country during the War. He spoke very well of it, in that it was quite safe from German Bombers as they didn’t have the range, but the main dis-advantage was Malaria.

The weather is very hot and tropical so in many ways a paradise

Trevor Howard gives a capable performance as a British colonial policeman who is stationed in Sierra Leone caught up in a mid life crisis. He’s fallen out of love with wife Elizabeth Allan whom he sends away on money borrowed from a man who the authorities suspect of smuggling, an offence during wartime.

He also falls in love with Maria Schell, an Austrian refugee who with others had been on a life raft for 40 days at sea after Elizabeth Allan has been sent away. That and the fact that he now has the appearance of impropriety has his superiors questioning him after accusations were brought by another civilian Denholm Elliott.

Howard’s troubles are big, but he is his own harshest judge

Peter Finch played the priest, Father Rank in the film – he had just finished ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ for Walt Disney, then Gilbert and Sullivan and also a stage play in the West End with Laurence Olivier and shortly after this he was heading to Ceylon for ‘Elephant Walk’ with Vivien Leigh. As we all know by now, Vivien Leigh became ill in Ceylon and had to be flown back to Britain – her place was taken by Elizabeth Taylor.

Peter Finch

So we can see that Peter Finch was then a very busy actor

Trevor Howard looking quite stern

ABOVE – the actors and crew gather together on the set of the film

Arriving in Sierra Leone

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New Film Studios in England

Just about 70 years on from when the legendary Denham Film Studios were closed and later demolished, we learn of a renaissance because NEW film studios are to be built at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire.

Sunset Studios the Hollywood studio facility that were behind such hits as “La La Land” and “When Harry Met Sally,” looks to be heading for Hertfordshire

Hudson Pacific Properties, who own Sunset Studios, have partnered with private equity firm Blackstone Group to create a film, TV and digital production facility in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.

It will be Hudson Pacific’s first international expansion. Together with Blackstone, they own 35 sound stages and on-site creative offices in the U.S.

The 91-acre site, which cost £120 million is less than an hour’s drive from Central London, and nearby Leavesden studios, where the “Harry Potter” and “Batman” franchises have been filmed.

Leavesden first came into use for ‘Goldeneye’ in 1995 – it was a former Rolls Royce Factory with its own runway at that time – in fact in that film the opening sequence set at the nerve gas establishment at Archangel in Northern Russia was mainly filmed on the runway.

I visited Leavesden around 1995 while the Bond film was in production and had a good long tour round it – it had huge amounts of space much as Denham had years before.

The sites will be about 15 miles apart.

Denham Film Studios

Denham Film Studios
The Denham Studio ‘Tank’ later changed to a Car Park

On Feb. 24th 1952 the last chapter in the story of Denham Film Studios was written when the final contents were sold by auction. It was in 1936 that Sir Alexander Korda opened the studios which were the largest in Britain, the first to be built here on Hollywood lines – and one of the largest if not THE largest in the world then

Denham was aimed at making British films of international importance and it drew to the studios world famous stars and directors.

Famous films made there included The Ghost Goes West ” and ”Rembrandt”. At one time the studio had 15 features on the floor. The last complete film made at the studio was Walt Disney’s ”The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Man” in 1951 – and released almost at the time of this closure.

Before that Walt Disney had produced his very first ‘live-action’ film there ‘Treasure Island’ with Robert Newton. The Deham Lake was used for the ‘landing on the island’ sequence

Since then it has been gradually dying, only being used for a few ”bits and pieces”, and for music recordings.

It should never have closed – and if it could have stayed around for another decade I am convinced that it would have been successful again.

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The Magic Box 1952

I hadn’t realised that the lovely actress Maria Schell was in this. She was later in that great film ‘So Little Time’ with Marius Goring – who actually was also in this film.

The film was also shown later in 1956 in the Kraft Television Theatre slot in America. NBC had purchased the film version for just one showing only and even then they trimmed the length of the film to 50 minutes.

Robert Donat give a typically moving performance as the British inventor who experimented with film making in his Bath studio.

This film was made for the Festival of Britain in 1951, and is notable not just as an interesting slice of nineteenth century history, but also for a parade of famous faces, all popping up in the film as though to pay homage to one of the founders of cinema.

In the cast are Laurence Olivier, Margaret Rutherford, Peter Ustinov, Stanley Holloway, Marius Goring, Sybil Thorndike, Sid James, Michael Redgrave, Joyce Grenfell, Michael Hordern and many more.

I remember Frederick Valk in ‘Dead of Night’

William Freise-Greene ( Robert Donat )

William Green had changed his name to include his first wife’s so that it sounded more impressive for the photographic portrait work he was so good at.

He was also an inventor and his search for a way to project moving pictures became an obsession that ultimately changed the life of all those he loved.

Robert Donat with Maria Schell

With his wife played by Maria Schell

The film belongs to Robert Donat as the obsessed, but strangely appealing William Friese- Greene who helped give the world a new and universal medium of entertainment.

Robert Donat did not make many films but they are all memorable to such an extent that you always think of him as being prolific in the cinema. It is fair to say that he never gave a bad performance on the screen and William Friese-Greene ranks among his best.

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