Archive for January, 2022

Chase a Crooked Shadow 1958 Anne Baxter and Richard Todd

Anne Baxter starred in this intriguing thriller opposite Richard Todd – which was made in England – and as shown below she also appeared on stage that same year in the West End at the Duke of York’s Theatre in ‘The Joshua Tree’

Whether she came over here for the stage play and then was offered the film role – or maybe the other way round – I do not know

ABOVE – Richard Todd, Anne Baxter, Herbert Lom and Alexander Knox played the main characters in ‘Chase a Crooked Shadow’

This was one of the last films Richard Todd made under his ‘one a year’ contract with Associated British Pictures and it turned out rather well with an absorbing storyline climaxing in a surprise twist, right at the very end

William Sylvester and Hugh McDermott joined Anne Baxter in this stage play

Shortly after returning to Hollywood, Anne Baxter met her second husband Randolph Gait and then, between 1960 and 1963, she abandoned her film career to live on a ranch in the remote Australian outback. She described the experience in her book, Intermission: A True Story.

It turned out to be a disaster. He was the macho ‘outdoors’ type and in that remote and basic environment, she kept herself mainly indoors as far as she could. That is not a formula for marital success, I wouldn’t have thought.

Anne Baxter and Randolph Galt LEFT

This report elaborates a little :

Following a visit to Australia for filming of “The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll” Anne Baxter married Randolph Galt, a wealthy American with property interests in Australia.  The wedding took place in Honolulu on 18 February 1960 and the newlyweds, together with Anne’s daughter from a previous marriage, came to live at a place called “Giro”, Galt’s extensive rural holding north of Gloucesterinland of Sydney

However, Anne found the reality of rural Australia unpalatable. Her daughter was at boarding school and she missed her career. In 1963 the Galts returned to the USA, but their marriage was not destined to last. Notwithstanding the birth of two daughters, Melissa and Maginel, Anne and Randolph were divorced in 1970

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The Yellow Mountain 1954 Lex Barker and ‘Tanganyika’ with Van Heflin and Ruth Roman 1954

This film star Lex Barker but it is one that I have no recollection of at all.

ABOVE – the Press Book from the Film

Lex Barker and Howard Duff play two men at odds over the possession of a gold mine – and the love of a beautiful girl played by Mala Powers.

In the same year I remember Howard Duff having a leading role in a favourite of mine ‘Tanganyika’ with Van Heflin and Ruth Roman – a film I saw as a youngster at the cinema and which was in Technicolor, Cinemascope with plenty of action and set in the African jungle. Great stuff.

Made in Hollywood by Universal Pictures, TANGANYIKA  released in the USA in the summer of 1954  has its action taking  place in 1903 in the territory of East Africa  and  Tanganyika. The story centres on a hunt for a fugitive white man who’s stirred up the “Nukumbi” tribe of natives into making raids on white settlements and outposts.  

Leading  the hunt is  John Gale (Van Heflin) who leads a group of native porters from East Africa into Tanganyika.   On the way he picks up Peggy Marion (Ruth Roman), a schoolteacher from Canada, and her young niece and nephew (Noreen Corcoran, Gregory Marshall), after rescuing them from a native attack that killed Peggy’s brother.

He also picks up a wounded white man, Dan Harder (Howard Duff) who, we learn early on, is the brother of the renegade white man, although he keeps that fact a secret.   Gale leads the party back to his camp only to find it plundered and his partner Duffy (Murray Alper) dead. So they all forge on into Tanganyika to locate the village where Abel McCracken (Jeff Morrow), the wanted man, holds court and rules the natives.

ADOVE – I saw this being advertised earlier. It is the ‘typed-out’ screenplay for Tanganyika dated September 1953

‘Tanganyika’ does not get good reviews in some quarters but it is a colourful, exciting and action-packed film in my view and one very well worth viewing if you can find it to view that is.

The ‘baddie’ is played by Jeff Morrow who had a long career as an actor although never really hit the top in starring roles – after this he was in such films as ‘The Giant Claw’ , ‘This Island Earth’ and ‘The Creature Walks Among Us’ although it is fair to say that he was a very busy actor at that time, and was in a lot of films and TV shows – as well as Theatre maybe.

Later in life, when the acting roles were less, he became an illustrator – so he was obviously a man of many talents

Speaking about his part in ‘The Giant Claw’ he said :

We shot the film before we ever got a look at this monster that was supposed to be so terrifying. The producers promised us that the special effects would be first class. The director -Fred Sears  – just told us, “All right, now you see the bird up there, and you’re scared to death! Use your imagination.” But the first time we actually got to see it was the night of the premiere. The audience couldn’t stop laughing. We were up there on screen looking like idiots, treating this silly buzzard like it was the scariest thing in the world. We felt cheated, that’s for sure, but they told us afterward that they just ran out of money. They couldn’t afford anything but this stupid puppet. But it was just terrible. I was never so embarrassed in my whole life.

This is a summing up of the film :-

This is a 50s favourite about a “bird as big as a battleship” from outer space that not only attacks the Earth and builds a nest, but it also laid an egg at the box office. The butt of jokes for years, and an embarrassment for those involved, this titanic turkey has an inept charm most films of its type can’t replicate. Undercooked in design and execution, the mutant muppet nonetheless gets more screen time than most other movie monsters do.

The only giant bird film made in America I am told.

It has to be said though, that this film is very well remembered even though most B movies of that time are not.

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Dangerous Mission 1954 with Victor Mature

The best thing about Dangerous Mission is the great location cinematography of Glacier National Park where it was filmed – and filmed in Technicolor and 3D

With such spectacular scenery on view there is no doubt that it must have boosted tourism in Montana considerably

Piper Laurie witnesses a mob killing in New York, but she’s afraid to testify and flees back home to Montana where she knows everybody and strangers can be spotted easily. She’s a guest at the tourist lodge owned by Betta St. John and her father Steve Darrell who’s also got some problems with the law but being an Indian he’s pretty good at staying outdoors and living off the land.

Two strangers take an interest in Piper Laurie both quite charming in their own ways, Victor Mature and Vincent Price.

William Bendix is also in the cast as the chief Forest Ranger in the park and he makes the most of his role and maybe he could have been given more to do in the film.

Another thing Dangerous Mission has to recommend it is a very good depiction of a landslide which wreaks havoc on a hillside house and later Victor Mature goes out and tames a downed power line. The final chase scene across the glacier is also well done.

It is well written and staged and Dangerous Mission is enjoyable.

Victor Mature was in a very successful part of his film career at this point – the superb ‘The Robe’ had been released but after this came ‘Demetrius and the Gladiators’ and ‘The Egyptian’

His run of films at that time :

The Robe released 18 September 1953

Veils of Bagdad – released 7 October 1953

Dangerous Mission released 6 March 1954

Demetrius and the Gladiators released 16 June 1954

The Egyptian released 24 August 1954

So in the space of less than a year these Victor Mature films hit the big Cinemascope screen – at least two of them with mega big Box Office returns

Interesting to note that a very young Betta St John appeared in both ‘The Robe’ and ‘Dangerous Mission’

She had been a stage actress and in the London West End production of ‘South Pacific’ in 1952 where she met and soon married one of the cast members Peter Grant – and they remained happily married for many years

Here she is below with her future husband on stage in South Pacific – no doubt singing ‘Happy Talk’

A very pretty girl

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Walt Disney in England

1949 Denham

Walt Disney and his family travelled over to England quite often during the time that he was making his first ‘live’action’ films here.

They were all here in 1949 and they are pictured BELOW in the summer of that year posing with Bobby Driscoll at Denham Film Studios on the set of ‘Treasure Island’

Walt was certainly back in the summer of 1951 – again to Denham – for the filming of ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’


1952: Beaconsfield, England

Walt Disney on location in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. The Hollywood Reporter, July 17, 1952, in a despatch from London dated Friday, July 11: “Walt Disney arrived in town this week and got right down to work on his new British picture, The Sword and the Rose.

Here he is chatting to Alex Bryce, the very experienced Second Unit Director, who was mainly responsible for the outdoor action filming both in this film and the one before ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’

Location shooting was being done by a second unit at Wilton Park, Beaconsfield, about 20 miles out of London, due to start a few days later The film was released a year later.

ABOVE – Bobby Driscoll here in England for ‘Treasure Island’ having fun with some youngsters of his own age

The release in the USA of ‘The Sword and the Rose’ – also showing on the same bill is another Walt Disney film ‘Prowlers of the Everglades’

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Boom Radio – theme from ‘The Boys’ 1962

This may be a a lot of people’s ‘go to’ station on the Radio these days – it is mine – a station that plays records that you have often, not heard in years and as they say ‘every record a surprise’

Normally a Radio station would not feature on this Blog, but a few days ago, David Hamilton, on his lunchtime show, featured a track I can’t ever remember hearing and that was The Shadows with the theme from the film ‘The Boys’ – a film that we have featured before

It starred Richard Todd and Robert Morley, Felix Aylmer and a very young pop star of the era ‘Jess Conrad’

This was a film that was time taken for granted by critics of the day, but acclaimed in 2021 by Simon Heffer – of all people – as “not only a magnificent kitchen sink, but one of the finest films of the whole era”. 

As for the actual film – The Boys were played by Dudley Sutton, Tony Garnett, Ronald Lacey and Jess Conrad – with the exception of Jess, they have all sadly passed away, although they all did manage to get together for a ‘Talking Pictures’ event a few years ago when they discussed this film

They all spoke highly of Robert Morley who was ‘ like a father to us and such a lovely man, brought us cakes every day’

The Boys 1962

However their recollections of Richard Todd were far less warm. He wasn’t friendly at all, in fact very remote.  Tony Garnett, who admitted to being a ‘bit stroppy in those days’, so annoyed Richard Todd that the star wanted him off the picture – and he would have been sacked if ‘ The glorious Robert Morley hadn’t intervened and with immense good humour got me off the hook’

The Boys Richard Todd
The Boys Robert Morley
Courtroom Scene The Boys with Robert Morley

Reading Richard Todd’s Autobiography ‘In Camera’ this film is not mentioned at length but he does say that, his part in the film took just three weeks to complete and they all got on well together.   He said though that he had a disagreement in a lunchtime chat with Robert Morley when they both had opposing political views and Robert expressed his views very forcefully. Richard Todd says that, very sensibly, he avoided such a subject again.   He also speaks highly of Robert and states just how good he was in the role.

Recollections seem to differ on this one but I do think that – at that time Richard Todd probably saw himself as somehow superior to these actors because he had been a major international star. His film career at this point though, was very much on the wane.

Later in life, he did become much more relaxed and seemed to speak well of everyone in his interviews.

I always remember Robert Morley being the subject of ‘This is your Life’ where he had been surprised while on stage in the West End – and thw whole show came from that Theatre – he remained standing throughout the proceedings and seemed to enjoy the whole thing very much

I have come across this fascinating article on the Show :-

Among the wonderful cast who turned up to pay tribute to Robert Morley on the stage of the Savoy Theatre on 24 April 1974 was a no less a legendary figure of the theatre than the ninety-one-year-old Dame Sybil Thorndike, the star of the first play Robert wrote in 1935.

Robert’s wife, Joan, was the daughter of another theatrical Dame, the late Dame Gladys Cooper.

And Robert was co-author with Rosemary Anne Sisson of the play at the Savoy, A Ghost on Tiptoe, in which he was co-starring with Ambrosine Philpotts and William Franklyn.

There were greetings from old chums such as Peter Bull, Robert Hardy, Peter Ustinov, and his great pal Wilfred Hyde-White, who summed up Robert’s perfect day: ‘Stay at the racecourse till dark, and the casino till daybreak.’

The great film director John Huston – he directed Robert in the classic The African Queen – reminded Robert of one particular day at the races, a selling plate. Robert was trying to persuade Huston into joining him in a bid for a horse which Robert really rated. Huston was just about to agree and join a bid when the auctioneer took them by surprise and announced, ‘Going, going, gone!’ and banged down his hammer, whereupon the horse Robert so fancied joint-owning let out a last ‘neigh … ‘ and dropped down dead.

But it was Dame Sybil Thorndike who summed up Robert Morley, the gentleman actor. Rushing to open a door for her at the BBC, he tripped. ‘Get up, you silly old thing,’ commanded the Dame. But he couldn’t. He’d actually broken his ankle and was taken to hospital by ambulance.

The broken ankle put him out of work – but only temporarily. What did he do? Got himself a part in the television series Emergency – Ward 10 – as a man with a broken ankle.

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The Great Escape

This film is just outside of the 1950 s but what a film it is – and one that has justifiably attained classic status and also one that, when it appears on Television, still draws big viewing figures

ABOVE: James Garner on set with interesting reading material

ABOVE – James Garner with Steve McQueen and James Coburn

ABOVE – James Garner again with Steve McQueen and James Coburn

This time James Coburn, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson along with Director John Sturges – again on the film set in Germany

What a great Cinema Poster this is ABOVE – it really captures the excitement on the film

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The Greatest Show on Earth

Jan 10, 1952: “The Greatest Show on Earth” premiered in New York (Best Picture 1953) it was directed by Cecil B. DeMille and in Technicolor – released by Paramount Pictures.

It is a Cecil B. DeMille extravaganza, one of the best he produced and directed – it is a also nice tribute to the Ringling Brothers&Barnum&Bailey Circus .

The film won The Best Picture Oscar for 1952

Box Office success – this was the highest grossing film in the USA in 1952 – way ahead of its nearest rival – these figures are adjusted for inflation to todays finances

DistributorGenre1952 GrossTickets Sold
1The Greatest Show on EarthJan 10, 1952Drama$36,000,00060,000,000
2The Snows of KilimanjaroSep 17, 1952Drama$12,933,40321,555,671
3High NoonJul 24, 1952$8,000,00013,333,333
4The Quiet ManAug 21, 1952Romantic Comedy$7,600,00012,666,666
5Singin’ in the RainApr 10, 1952MGMMusical$7,124,33511,873,891
6The World in His ArmsOct 9, 1952$3,000,0005,000,000
7Million Dollar MermaidDec 4, 1952MGMMusical$2,750,0004,583,333
8Invasion, U.S.A.Dec 10, 1952$1,200,0002,000,000
9Snow White and the Seven Dw…Feb 22, 1944Walt DisneyMusical$1,100,0001,833,333
Total Gross of All Movies$79,707,738
Total Tickets Sold132,846,227

The circus as a cinema subject, gives us dazzling colour and liveliness making it ideal for a Cecil B DeMille production

He himself narrates portions of the film showing the work involved in putting on the Greatest Show on Earth. His was a familiar voice to the American public because for 10 years DeMille came into American households via radio narrating the Lux Radio Theater. In fact until Alfred Hitchcock got his own anthology TV series, DeMille’s voice was probably the most known to the American public of a film director.

When you think about it, outside of main actors, only Cecil B. DeMille and Walt Disney’s name could sell a film and guarantee box office returns in those days

Spectacle was his thing and DeMille was the master.

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‘Underwater’ 1955 with Jane Russell

In one of the most ludicrous publicity stunts in film history 200 Journalists and screen personalities were flown to Silver Springs in Florida in January 1955 to attend the premiere of Howard Hugh’s film ‘Underwater’

They donned bathing suits, aqua lungs and swim fins and viewed the film 20 ft underwater at Silver Springs. Those who chose not to get wet could view the film from the portholes of six electrically powered submarines.

Some have since said that RKO should have left the film on the bottom as they said that it was quite talky and boring in the main.

It was however filmed in Technicolor and Superscope.

John Sturges directed.

Jayne Mansfield pictured here with Jane Russell at the film Premiere of ‘Underwater’ at Silver Springs Florida on 10 January 1955

Dominic Quesada (Gilbert Roland) and Johnny Gray ( Richard Egan) believe they are on to something when they find ancient artefacts scattered on the sea bed whilst diving. All they need to do is persuade Johnny’s wife Theresa (Jane Russell) to allow him to use their boat to finance their treasure hunt although Dominic manages to persuade the attractive Gloria (Lori Nelson) to join them and use her boat. Also along for the expedition is Father Cannon (Robert Keith) who believes there is a much greater treasure to be found in a life size golden Madonna. Between the danger of sharks, the galleon teetering on an under water ridge as well as some locals who are obviously not the fishermen they say they are, it is a dangerous adventure.

The film has some good under water scenes but it is really an ordinary treasure hunting story with danger from sharks, thieves and the precariously perched sunken galleon.

Lori Nelson and Gilbert Roland in Underwater! (1955)

Howard Hughes originally planned to film Underwater! in 3-D, but the craze had faded before production began. By mid-1954 Fox’s new CinemaScope format was in use by other studios as well. Some predicted that ALL feature filmmaking would soon be anamorphic

Howard Hughes instead rolled the dice with the clever Superscope format. * Rather than lining up to rent an expensive CinemaScope lens, RKO simply took a horizontal ‘stripe’ out of the middle of a normal 35mm frame. An optical printer blew it up and squeezed it so that it would yield an extra-wide image projected with a ‘scope lens. The added granularity was partly counteracted by Technicolor printing. It was a poor man’s Cinemascope

A couple of years later , SuperScope introduced SuperScope 235 which used the entire 35mm picture width, including the soundtrack area. It’s essentially the same as today’s ‘Super 35′ format, the one favoured by James Cameron in his more recent films

ABOVE – The ‘Underwater’ Premiere

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