Archive for June, 2022

‘Wonka’ a New Film being made in St Albans – Well a part of it anyway !

We are featuring a NEW film ‘Wonka’ – here this time with a strong connection back to a much older but very popular film ‘Charlie & The Chocolate Factory’ – ‘Wonka’ will be released in 2023

Also I have from childhood, strong family connections with the lovely city of St Albans, where scenes for the new film are being – or have been – shot

Warner Brothers used the area around the Lake as we used to refer to it – it is the Verulamium Park – for the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory prequel starring Timothée Chalamet.

Wonka set at Verulamium Park
Image caption,The production of Wonka took over Verulamium Park in St Albans for a day’s filming

A financial contribution “in the thousands” will be made to the Council and will be used to improve the park used as a film location for Wonka.

Parts of Verulamium Park in St Albans in Hertfordshire were closed to the public earlier this year for a short time.

Warner Brothers used the area for the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory prequel starring Timothée Chalamet.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks Pub. St Albans

As well as a set in the area near to the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub, a marquee and temporary pathways were set up on the flood plain next to the River Ver near Westminster Lodge.

Wonka set in St Albans
Image caption,As well as the park, other parts of the city were also used as film locations

A local spokesman said the production was “looking to do a park scene in particular – they were looking at Regent’s Park in London but thought it would be way too busy”.

He said after looking at Verulamium Park the producers “thought it would be ideal”.

The park was covered in fake snow and had a circus stall, Victorian lamps, and a vintage theme

It was only a day’s filming but the amount of logistics and infrastructure that went into that was astonishing

Jim Carter on the set of Wonka
Image caption,The film also stars Jim Carter, probably best known for his role as Mr Carson in Downton Abbey

Wonka, directed by Paul King, focuses on Willy Wonka’s early life and is due to star Chalamet, Olivia Colman, Sally Hawkins and Matt Lucas.

Warner Bros and the Roald Dahl Story Company announced in May that they were working on the new musical movie about the chocolatier before he opened his factory.

Wonka set at Verulamium Park
Image caption,Fans were only able to get a brief glimpse of Timothée Chalamet with the majority of filming taking place in the evening

There is a financial contribution [from Warner Brothers] that has been ring-fenced for park improvements by the Council which could run into thousands

The film is due to be released in March 2023.

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The Long Arm 1956 – Jack Hawkins

This was a film that I couldn’t remember seeing up until last evening on Talking Pictures but I can certainly recommend it when it turns up again as it will do.

Jack Hawkins plays a Police Inspector on the trail of a clever crime whereby a professional key maker at a Safe Factory had devised a way of robbing large companies, Everything goes wrong for him very early in the picture when he and his colleague run over a man who has seen them come out of a factory at dead of night. The young man dies and so a murder investigation begins.

Director Charles Frend does a splendid job with THE LONG ARM. The film has street scenes, and landmarks of the London and Wales of the 1950s which are fascinating

Ursula Howells, the pretty lady who plays the part of Mrs Gilson, she donates £5 towards Ian Bannen’s widow. When we see what happens later in the film we realise just how cruel this was

ABOVE – Ian Bannen goes off to work on an early morning shift

Robbery is about to take place

ABOVE – Dorothy Alison as Jack Hawkin’s wife in the film

ABOVE – The first robbery we see which finishes in tragedy

ABOVE and BELOW – I just love these scenes shot in North Wales

BELOW – the Petrol Station in North Wales – there were many of these around in the 50’s

ABOVE – We are back and now in Shepperton where the trail leads us

BELOW – Home at last – slightly injured

This is a superb police detection drama, with Jack Hawkins tackling a rather complex crime saga. The best supporting performance is by Ursula Howells, who brilliantly conveys menace and desperation in just a few scenes. Ian Bannen who many years later played Dr Cameron in the second series is killed off very quickly, but already in this early appearance we can see that he is a good actor.

The plot has some intriguing features. In the first safe robbery at the beginning of the film, the thief remains at the scene of the crime and pretends to be a night watchman, lets the police in, shows sympathy and bewilderment, and then makes his escape after they have gone. The whole case really is a requires some working out – but it is well worth viewing

It is ironic seeing Ian Bannen run over in this film – he actually died many years later in a car crash on the Loch Ness road in 1999

I also remember him being very good in Walt Disney’s ‘The Watcher in the Woods’ – a favourite of mine and my family

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Dial 999

I have become addicted to this half hour drama each Tuesday evening on Talking Pictures.

A great lesson to film makers on how to set out a story, introduce the characters, show us the crime and then solve it and round up the crooks – all in 30 minutes – I love it.

When I look at the year the episodes were released – the ones I have seen are from 1958 – made for Television although made on film

Robert Beatty took the leading role although quite famous faces appeared in various episode – Patrick Troughton was in one episode playing a villain.

Patricia Driscoll and her husband Duncan Lamont were in another programme not to mention William Hartnell, Campbell Singer, Zena Marshall, Robert Shaw and many others

He appears BELOW after the credits and as was the thing at that time – he lit a cigarette

Below with his assistant

I came across the promotion leaflet BELOW – and initially thought it was for the TV Series but in fact it referred to an earlier film.

What threw me was that there was a picture beside the title, of Robert Beatty but that referred to another film that he was in when you look further. Bit of a coincidence though

From the ABOVE films we can see that the trend of the mid fifties of bringing over stars from Hollywood – maybe not top liners – was continuing.

Gene Nelson was in two of them, along with Faith Domergue and Terry Moore – I haven’t included Robert Beatty as he had been pretty much resident over here since the mid forties.

Robert Beatty had a long and varied career and a busy one too. He starred opposite Gregory Peck in ‘Captain Horatio Hornblower’ then as well as films numerous Television appearances in plays and serials of the day including the very Popular Francis Durbridge ones. He was in ‘Where Eagles Dare, and l.ate in his career played President Regan.

BELOW – he is taking over a starring role in a West End Play from John Gregson – so he also appeared on the stage it seems

ABOVE: John Gregson (Left) Currently Playing In The Financier’S Play,”Difference Of Opinion “Is Shortly To Leave The Cast. Canadian Actor Robert Beatty Is Taking Over His Role.

The Play Revolves Around The Methods Employed By Company Directors To Oust One Of Their Members.

Robert Beatty opens in the play on September 2nd 1964 – this will allow John Gregson to go on Location For “Gideon’s Way “

The photograph was taken as the Actors met outside The Garrick Theatre Stage Door to discuss The Play – 27 th August 1964.

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A look Behind the Scenes on ‘The Birds’

Alfred Hitchcock directed ‘The Birds’ as we all know – one of his very best – a tense and thrilling film with no real explanation in the end – but he was leaving that to the audience to take away whatever they imagined.

There were quite a few ‘jump out of your skin’ moments

BELOW – Is a fascinating shot of Hitchcock explaining what he wants from the actors – among them Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren and Jessica Tandy

It always appears to me that when he directed a film Alfred Hitchcock was very much ‘the boss’ – however Richard Todd who had played the lead in ‘Stage Fright’ in 1951 said in his Autobiography that Hitchcock seemed to let the actors do their jobs, and he seemed more interested in the Camera shots and angles and the general set up in order to maximise the drama.

Whether that was the case with ‘The Birds’ I am not sure because it was during the filming on this that he is alleged to have made unwelcome advances to Tippi Hedren which she strongly resisted and after the incident he was particularly cruel to he – he made the last scenes with the birds pecking at her very realistic – it took days to film and she endured a pretty terrible time – some of the crew and other actors were appalled at what she endured.

Tippi Hedren in a frightening scene – saving the children

Of course, she did make another film with Alfred Hitchcock – ‘Marnie’ with Sean Connery – not one of the best but not a bad film either. She was still under contract to him and remained that way fort a few more years thus virtually ending any hopes of a film career based on the famous films that she had done.

She had signed a 7 year contract at 500 US Dollars per week just before ‘The Birds’ but after ‘Marnie’ , even though she later claimed that a number of film companies had tried to hire her for a film, Hitchcock always refused thus effectively ending her film acting career

However looking at the imdb site Tippi Hedren did seem to be in quite a number of films and Television shows so maybe there is more to the story than meets the eye. I just don’t know.

Later Tippi Hedren actually had a real life full grown lion living in the family house she shared with her husband and daughter – this is something that she later admitted was a huge mistake

The animal was a 400-pound ‘pet’ lion named Neil. Looking at the photos from the celebrated 1971 LIFE Magazine spread where the lion lived in the home she shared with her daughter, actress Melanie Griffith, they now make her ‘cringe.’

Another regretful decision was the infamous 1983 adventure film ‘Roar’ – now commonly touted as ‘the most dangerous film ever made.’ It starred Tippi Hedren and her then-13-year-old daughter – and 150 lethal lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, panthers, cheetahs, cougars, and tigons from their own personal zoo. The film’s carried the publicity line : ‘No animals were harmed during the making of Roar. But 70 members of the cast and crew were.’ 

Tippi went on to say :-

‘Who exactly did we think we were to risk all these lives — our crew’s, our animals, ours, and most of all, our children’s—for what really amounted to nothing more than a very, very expensive home movie?’

Seventy members of the cast and crew were injured during the making of the film, which also features the actress’ daughter Melanie Griffith and 150 big cats and elephants.

Roar was first released in 1981 and was the brainchild of Tippi Hedren and her then-husband, producer Noel Marshall.

Tippi Hedren And Melanie Griffith

The many wounds were well-documented in press coverage at the time and also in Hedren’s 1985 book The Cats of Shambala, referring to her Shambala Preserve north of Los Angeles, where Roar was filmed.

In one instance, Tippi Hedren was bitten on the back of the head by a lion.

She also suffered fractures and skin grafts after being thrown by an elephant.

9th May 1963:  Alfred Hitchcock and American actress Tippi Hedren explore Cannes together after the premiere of his latest thriller 'The Birds' in which she plays the title role.
Image:Hedren and Hitchcock in 1963

Then-teenager Melanie Griffith – who walked out on the film for a short time because she didn’t want to come out of it with “half a face,” according to her mother – but she did return to the set, only to be mauled and clawed by a lion.

Marshall, who wrote, directed and starred in the film, suffered so many bites, including a few that made the final cut, that he was eventually stricken with gangrene.

To read the above is horrendous and it is just so difficult to reason why anyone would do this – it was not only stupid but criminally stupid had the unthinkable happened. Talk about ‘Health and Safety’ – Thank Goodness for it if this is what people get up to

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“The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men” (1952)

It would have been Richard Todd’s Birthday earlier this week on June 11 th. This is the film that I remember him best for though. He was very good and I think fitted the part perfectly. So to mark what would have been his Birthday I have done the article below

Much more about this film on

A Poster at the time of release I think it is possible that this went with a later release
The picture ABOVE was on the front of the very first Video Release in April 1986

A Story Book Opening

This was only the second live-action Disney feature film!  Treasure Island (1950) was first – and that too, was made in England at Denham Film Studios as this one was.  It is a favourite film of mine and always has been with it’s stunning Technicolor and beautiful sets and locations perfectly evoking the age which we all probably have in our mind’s eye.

At the beginning of the story, our hero (Richard Todd) is doing some target practice in Sherwood Forest – actually filmed in Burnham Beeches Buckinghamshire which looks the part in every way.

He is joined in this scene by Maid Marion – the lovely Joan Rice – who proves to be somewhat mischevous

She’s been teasing him by moving his target all the time so he misses.

ABOVE A scene in Sherwood – Burnham Beeches in reality or could be one of those first class Studio Sets at Denham

ABOVE – A ‘live’ scene with additional painted Matte by Peter Ellenshaw the master of this fascinating art.

He has never been bettered.

ABOVE –  Queen Eleanor (Martita Hunt) has a major role in the plot. She is a force to be reckoned with.  King Richard (Patrick Barr) CENTRE and Prince John (Hubert Gregg) FAR LEFT

As soon as Richard and his troops have left in one direction, and the Queen Mother and her retinue (including Maid Marian, her newest lady-in-waiting) have departed in another, Prince John starts to plot.  He begins by appointing a new Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Finch)

This Prince John brilliantly played by Hubert Gregg ABOVE

ABOVE – Another scene which marries a ‘live’ scene with a beautifully painted Matte by Peter Ellenshaw

We hear lots of songs from Allan-a-Dale (Elton Hayes), a traveling minstrel who serves as a narrator linking the story episodes together.

The Archery Contest – This must have been filmed quite early on in the production because the trees are nowhere near in full leaf.

Filming started on 30 April 1951 for ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Man’

Maid Marian presents Robin with the Golden Arrow ABOVE – however the Sheriff of Nottingham does not look pleased BELOW

ABOVE – One of the Sheriff’s henchman Red Gill murders Robin’s father in the forest.

Robin tests the Whistling Arrow before unleashing it – right into his Camp pictured BELOW in order to alert his fellow outlaws

ABOVE – Robin Hood’s Camp deep in Sherwood – actually a superb studio set covering one of the enormous sound stages at Denham

ABOVE – Little John (James Robertson Justice) challenges Robin on the bridge over the deep stream in Sherwood – another breathtakingly good set from designer Carmen Dillon – in my view she was at her absolute peak with this film – and in terms of set design she was just about as good as you could get. Walt Disney certainly knew that – and the results proved him right

More action on the bridge – ABOVE and BELOW

BELOW – Robin takes a ducking

BELOW – Friar Tuck played by James Hayter comes into contact with Robin – in the period and in fact in this year 1952, he played the title role in ‘The Pickwick Papers’ and took a lead role in this one – a big film with a Worldwide release courtesy of Walt Disney

Is there no bridge ? No but that doesn’t stop you wading across as others do

BELOW – Peter Ellenshaw with another Matte Painting – the riders shown approaching the gate are the only real part of the scene – cinema magic from a Master of the Art

BELOW at Windsor Castle, word has arrived that King Richard has been captured while on his way home from a failed crusade mission, and ransom is being sought.

The Archbishop of Canterbury (Anthony Eustrel) and Queen Eleanor discuss how to raise the ransom money Above Scene

ABOVE Marian looks troubled and a little angry until she hears the truth

She accuses him of stealing things, and he insists he’s an honest outlaw who only steals to give money to the poor.  Also, he learns from her that Maid Marian is missing, and he the hurries off to rescue her (she’s been locked in a dungeon by Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham ).

Marian is so happy and relieved to be rescued.  However when they escape from the Castle Robin is wounded but he manages to fight off the Sheriff of Nottingham who perishes

Doesn’t she make a pretty outlaw?

Marian and Friar Tuck nurse Robin back to health in his woodland stronghold.  ABOVE

Enter a stranger – the Black Knight ABOVE

The Black Knight is not initially well received by the outlaws but they soon discover who he really is

The Black Knight is actually King Richard, and he pardons Robin Hood and all his Merrie Men. He then he orders Marion and Robin to get marry

Happiness ensues.

A romantic embrace

Allan-a-Dale skips away into the sunset – still singing his songs

If you really want to read more about this wonderful film I can thoroughly recommend that you go to

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George Raft’s Colony

In the late Sixties, I worked for quite a time in the Head Office of Murco Petroleum which was then located at 65 Grosvenor Street London W1. Each morning I came in by train to Victoria Station and walked up to the Office. The last part of the walk was through Berkeley Square and at the very Southern end of it was George Raft’s Colony – a Night Club / Casino right in the very heart of Mayfair. Being a film fan I would look at this each day – not that I ever went in as I don’t think that I could have afforded to even if I had wanted – but with the name George Raft above the impressive entrance, I was always intrigued..

When I visit London, as I often do, I always wander around this lovely area on central London – my favourite part really.

George Raft, the famous American actor was really known for his leading roles in Warner Brothers gangster films of the 1930s and 40s, and he lent his name and was the front-man and greeter for George Raft’s Colony sporting club, a Las Vegas-type casino in London.

His title there was “Casino Director.” He also had a financial interest in the club. He was eventually barred from the United Kingdom due to his underworld associations – during the time that I was working down there

When the news BELOW was released I was still working in Grosvenor Street

Feb. 02, 1967 – George Raft, the veteran Hollywood film actor, was ”speechless” in Hollywood today, after being told of reports that he was not to be re-admitted to Britain when he returns there from the United States. The report said it was a decision taken by Home Secretary, Mr. Roy Jenkins, after consideration of the issues involved in the expansion of gambling in London. Mr. Raft, now 71, who runs the Berkeley Square Colony, had gone to America for a holiday and was expected back the following week. He said in Hollywood today: ”I am quite shaken. I was not notified of this decision nor any inkling that it was pending. He denied he had any connection with gangsters – outside of the film world. He put it down to his ”image” as a screen mobster in over 100 films.

George Raft’s Colony in Berkeley Square

In 1967 he was a director of the Colony Club in London – it still has all the history, panache and style that you would associate with George Raft

Many actors went to England in the 1950’s and did a lot of these B films, which are done with a limited budget. Among the actors who came over were Dennis O’Keefe, Robert Preston, Dane Clark, and Cesar Romero also Larry Parkes and Wayne Morris

ABOVE – ‘Escape Route’ George Raft and Sally Gray

A few days earlier George Raft had arrived in England on the Queen Mary Liner

In June 1952 George Raft had made a film in England –‘Escape Route’ 1951 and had also gone up to Glasgow to visit a famous tailor in the City

‘Escape Route’ 1951 – in the US the title was ‘I’ll Get You’ for some reason – with George Raft, had some good atmosphere – with pictures of a bombed-out London and also some nice interiors.

Here he is pictured with fellow Hollywood star Herbert Lom and Scottish Comedian Jimmy Logan, BELOW

June 1952, George Raft was in Glasgow to open a new branch of Connell’s, the menswear store frequented by many stars of stage and screen when they were in the city.

Cesar Romero, singer Billy Eckstine, Donal O’Connor and Abbott and Costello were all known to have popped in to the Union Street tailors shop.

This time, George Raft’s arrival was the reason why the crowds turned out in force.

He was a big star at the time. Many years later he was banned from Britain – 1967 for fronting a gambling club in London called The Colony.

Raft’s visit had “disorganised traffic in Glasgow centre of the city” and had to be controlled by “foot and mounted police” after waiting two hours for his arrival.

“When his car arrived, hundreds of women, cheering and screaming, rushed forward to mob it,” continued the report, which explained that George Raft had ‘flown from London to Renfrew by ‘special ‘plane’.

It continued: “Police held the crowds back while Mr Raft walked a few yards from his car to the entrance of the shop. Amid cheers he cut the broad white ribbon barring the entrance and accepted a gold key tied with Gordon tartan ribbons.”

Much later and at the time he was active with the Colony he made the film ‘Five Golden Dragons’ 1967. It was a British Film but much of it filmed in Hong Kong

This is an interesting Double Feature
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‘The Secret of Treasure Mountain’ 1956 on Television today

Just looking through what is coming on the Film Channels this evening 11 June 2022 – and ‘Lo and behold’ here is one that I have been waiting on for decades – one which I am pretty confident has never been shown on British Television before – ‘The Secret of Treasure Mountain’ from 1956 – It is on the TCM Channel.

I do remember seeing this film as a young schoolboy and somehow the plot has always stayed with me – the search for the Braganza crosses – small metal crosses – that if found would lead to the famous Braganza treasure in Treasure Mountain.

I have looked for the name Braganza before – and not been able to find it – and thought I had this wrong but I was pretty sure I had it right – and so it proved to be the case. The production values of the film are not top class by any means but the flashback sequence to the man who had discovered the treasure 200 years earlier when the Indians attacked and killed the searchers and Braganza himself in the cave was very well done – these scenes were pinched for an earlier film Lust for Gold with Glenn Ford.

Back to today and this evening I have watched the film on TCM – a much better print than I had managed to get hold of three or four years ago from my own 16 mm copy which I was lucky enough to acquire about the same time.
Here are a few screen shots from the film. The background to these pictures is that in the story we are told of an ancient legend of treasure being hidden in a mountain – however once hidden by Braganza and his men – a tribe of Apache Indians carried out an attack on them and killed them all so that no-one would ever discover the location of the gold as it was in a location that the Indians had settled in for many years and they didn’t want it disturbed

This was a thrilling sequence – extremely well done on a vast Studio Set

‘The Secret of Treasure Mountain’ 1956 – Please make a note and watch it the next time is is screened.

It would have been just a second features at the time – but a good one at that

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The Riddle of Robin Hood 1952

This short promotional film was released by Walt Disney just about the time of the release of his ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ and in a very clever move it was given to the BBC to show as and when they wished. As there was only one TV channel here in 1952, and that had a very limited service, this short film was shown again and again at all times but mainly in the mornings when the Test Transmissions were on. It was great publicity for the film release.

It is a good little film.

We see Joan Rice leaving home and cycling to work through the impressive gates of Denham Film Studios where she would become Maid Marian in the Classic Walt Disney Technicolor production

We also see Joan trying to get into her dress in preparation for filming – with some difficulty – but the finished product is wonderful as BELOW

Behind the scenes – Location scenes below

Preparing this lovely dog for action
He looks too kind to be aggressive
Chasing The Sheriff of Nottingham

As far as I know in my possession is the only 16 mm copy in this country outside of the BFI.

It certainly is a curio – but in it’s was quite entertaining and revealing in that there are some ‘behind the scenes’ shots as in some of the stills taken from the print – above.

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