Archive for August, 2022

Grace Kelly – High Society

The last article had the very beautiful Hedy Lamarr – the film ‘High Society’ has the equally lovely Grace Kelly

MGM were able to secure the talents of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm, and Louis Armstrong for this great musical adaption of The Philadelphia Story.

Grace Kelly

ABOVE – Frank Sinatra rehearses a song with Grace Kelly for ‘High Society’

I am tempted to say to Frank Sinatra – ‘you’ve got no chance’

Frank Sinatra got a couple of good ballads in You’re Sensational and Mind If I Make Love to You, but what he’s best remembered for is that classic ‘Well Did You Ever’ duet with Bing Crosby

Cole Porter contributed a great original score for this film with songs written to suit the talents of High Society’s stars

For this film, the story is reset from Philadelphia to Newport, Rhode Island to bring in the famous Jazz Festival.

Mr. Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong – as he is billed – opens up the proceedings whilst travelling on a bus – with the title song ‘High Society

Grace Kelly got her big chance here

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Copper Canyon 1950 Ray Milland and Hedy Lamarr

‘Copper Canyon’ is a Western I saw for the first time this evening and thoroughly enjoyed it – From Paramount and in Technicolor and with a pretty good budget I would say from the looks of it.

Ray Milland looked good and very young and Hedy Lamarr was very beautiful – and she is a good acor – in fact they both are.

ABOVE – Ray Milland deals with a sticky situation

Ray Milland gives an excellent performance to lift this above most of the Westerns of the period.

He often boosted films with his style and occasional moments of intensity. – just think of “Dial M for Murder,” “The Man with X-ray eyes,” and earlier ‘The Lost Weekend’

In this film his character, Johnny Carter, is a gentle, humorous, trick shooter and vaudeville performer who dislikes violence.

Hedy Lamarr – this was two years after her own big film “Samson and Delilah,” She brings only a little of Delilah’s sexiness to her role but she certainly looks good and when on camera dominates the screen

Macdonald Carey is a sheriff who abuses his power and gives law and order a bad name.

The Technicolor is wonderful as always and the film is pretty fast moving, with enough action sequences to hold our attention.

ABOVE – a Studio set but very good

ABOVE – Hedy Lamarr – She is just perfect for Technicolor. It is reported that she was paid 108,000 US Dollars for this film – slightly more than she got for Samson and Delilah – mind you it was obviously the huge success at the Box Office of ‘Samson and Delilah’ that enabled her to command such a fee for this one

Action sequences from the film

Action sequences from the film

COPPER CANYON is an entertaining Western shot in glorious Technicolor. It has a polished and very good cast, a few unusual plot twists, and some gorgeous Sedona Arizona  locations, all of which combine to make it really enjoyable.

Ray Milland stars as a vaudeville sharpshooter who may or may not be a former Confederate colonel who escaped with $20,000 from a Union safe. Although he never directly admits his true identity, he comes to the aid of a group of ex-Rebel copper miners who are being robbed and prevented from making a new life for themselves in the west. Ray Milland is excellent as the calm, smooth-talking man of mystery who dazzles with guns but would prefer a peaceful life.

Beautiful Hedy Lamarr plays a lady gambler who seems to be in league with the crooks but who is falling in love with Ray Milland. Although not much is explained about Hedy Lamarr’s character she certainly is lovely in Technicolor.

The film makes great use of colour and is visually beautiful, with excellent filming locations

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The Hawk of Wild River 1952

I don’t know this one at all and can’t recall it being at the Cinema even but maybe that is because it had a running time of around 53 minutes, so definitely a supporting film.

I have managed to cobble together details of the film from other sources

Directed by Fred F. Sears

Charles Starrett starred in The Durango Kid, in 1940. Columbia didn’t get around to The Return Of The Durango Kid until 1945. By the time the series was shut down in 1952, Columbia had released 65 Durango Kid films — at which point Charles Starrett retired from films.

The Hawk Of Wild River (1952) has a terrific cast with Jack Mahoney and Clayton Moore . Of course, Jack Mahoney had been part of the series for quite a while, stuntman for Charles Starrett.

After being replaced by John Hart for the third season of The Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore went back to work in a lot of Westerns.

In The Hawk Of Wild River, he is The Hawk, a half-breed bandit who’s as proficient with a bow and arrow as he is with a six-gun – almost seems like another Tonto which would have been or appeared bizarre.

US Marshal Steve Martin (Charles Starrett) is sent to the town of Wild River to stop a run of stagecoach robberies by The Hawk and his gang. The Hawk has been killing off Wild River’s sheriffs.

When Steve hits town, the acting sheriff is Jack Mahoney (Jock Mahoney). The Durango Kid captures The Hawk and once he’s in jail, Martin gets himself arrested and thrown into The Hawk’s cell, never revealing that he’s a law man. They escape and Martin joins The Hawk’s gang — and eventually they bring the outlaws to justice.

Smiley Burnette is hypnotised and convinced he’s an Indian chief. ABOVE

Running just 53 minutes, The Hawk Of Wild River is really one for the children. The usual things are in place: Smiley Burnett in the usual comedy role, and lots of riding, fighting and shooting. Director Fred F. Sears keeps the action moving at a quick pace.

Fred F. Sears started out working as a character actor before eventually climbed into the director’s chair. From there, he became a fixture in Sam Katzman’s unit at Columbia until he died in his office on the lot in 1957

This film must have been made around the time that Jack Mahoney was starring in the well known TV series ‘The Range Rider’ – in fact looking this up it seems he was doing that series at this time – he must have been busy then but I suppose as a working film actor you had to take the opportunities that came along while your popularity was high

The Range Rider

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Curucu – Beast of the Amazon 1956

This appeared on a Double Bill with ‘The Mole People’ featured on here before but I personally did not know about ‘Curuca Beast of the Amazon’ which means that I must get a DVD Copy and watch it.

John Bromfield and Beverly Garland travel up the Amazon to kill the title character, a large parrot like creature.

The best thing about the film is that it was shot in the Amazon, which means we get all sorts of shots with various animals ranging from pythons to huge spiders.

Filmed on location in Eastman Color, Beverly Garland plays a doctor in Brazil who learns that if the local headhunters in Amazon territory can shrink heads then maybe the formula can be used to shrink cancer cells in humans.

She is accompanied by plantation owner John Bromfield who is tracking down a legendary monster that is killing and terrorising the natives in the region.

Tribal dancing, anaconda, spiders, piranha, cayman, a jaguar, a water buffalo stampede, snake charmer, scary natives and more punctuate the adventure, and, as such, is still exciting and interesting.

The spectacular Iguazú Falls (a stand-in for the fictional “Curucu Falls” in the film) is the backdrop for a sequence, featuring stunt doubles for the stars.

This film was made in Eastman Colour – very good but over time the colours fade and this trailer looks very much like that has happened.

A Very early Eastman Color Film – Summer Madness 1955

Technicolor Films on the other hand, have a beautiful colour that looks as fresh today as it did when the film was made.

I marvel at films like ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ 1952, ‘Treasure Island’ 1950 and ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ 1952 also ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ 1950 – for the beautiful Technicolor which in my view has never been equalled.

Technicolor in some hands might have been seen as a gimmick. In others, it was an art.

However all in all, it was a spectacle.

ABOVE another picture of the large Technicolor Camera being used

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The Stranglers of Bombay

THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY released in December 1959 – on it’s original Cinema release, the supporting film was ‘Kill Her Gently’

It is years since I last saw this film but remember how good it was at the time – particularly for the ‘cobra’ scene

The Stranglers Of Bombay takes place in the early part of the 18th century when India was in British hands

Stranglers of Bombay is quite accurate in describing the religious cult of Kali and the actions of the thugs however by using modern methods of the time, the British succeeded in wiping out the cult, which had originated as far back as the 6th Century

The film has a good script script and direction and is exciting and well-paced.

Also Hammer had, in this film, some really good sets which certainly made you feel that you actually were in India – I also remember in ‘The Abominable Snowman’ with Peter Cushing filmed again in very wide screen, that the sets there were large and impressive – so they had a good Art Directors and Set Designers and the room to build those sets.

‘Stranglers, The Mummy all came out around the same time but The Abominable Snowman was a little earlier- all Three from Hammer

ABOVE – George Pastell in a similar role to the one he had in the same year for Hammer – and a more famous one – ‘The Mummy

In ‘The Stranglers of Bombay’ he played the High Priest of Kali and in ‘The Mummy’ released a couple of months before he played ‘Mehemet Bey’ – whose responsibility it was to direct the Mummy to find and kill those who had robbed from the ancient tombs

ABOVE – I remember this scene being particularly well promoted on the film’s release – Death by Cobra- as a victim is staked out for the snake to bite and kill. How dare they do this we would speculate and in one of the film magazines it said that a glass screen divided the cobra from the poor frightened prisoner

Guy Rolfe is excellent as a Captain in the British Army who has spent twenty years in India and is rather steeped in the culture. He’s the right man for finding out what’s at the bottom of a lot of mysterious disappearances, but Colonel Andrew Cruickshank selects the arrogant Allan Cuthbertson, newly arrived in India for the job – and clearly not up to it

The film’s release in the USA was through Columbia Pictures

A new slant that I have only just noticed – filmed in ‘Strangloscope’ ABOVE

Stake him out ready for the Python

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Republic Pictures – The Very last film

With ‘Plunderers Of Painted Flats’, Republic Studios came to an end after over 20 year of mainly B films – many of them Westerns

It’s main film product had been Westerns but by this time Television churned them out quite successfully

‘Plunderers Of Painted Flats’ was not a classic Western but even so Republic went out at least with a pretty good one.

George MacReady is an unpleasant character and owner of a large ranch – one which he wants to expand almost at any price.. He has no scruples whatever chasing down whoever he doesn’t want on his land. One of his gang shoots down the father of Skip Homeier and little Ricky Allen but then an old gunfighter played Edmund Lowe shoots MacCready’s the person who had done the shooting

MacReady decides thast he needs help now so he hires another gunfighter John Carroll. Just to make things more interesting On the same stagecoach as Carroll is travelling there on are three mail order brides, Madge Kennedy, Bea Benedaret, and Corinne Calvet.

Calvet is intended for Skip Homeier

The story is well acted and well told. Carroll gives one of his best screen performances, in this neglected Western.

As the demand and market for B-pictures declined, Republic Pictures began to cut back, slowing production from 40 main films annually in the early 1950s to 18 in 1957.
A tearful Herbert Yates informed shareholders at the 1958 annual meeting that feature-film production was ending; the distribution offices were shut down the following year.

In the early 1960s, Republic sold its library of films to Television.
CBS bought Republic’s studio lot but they had in fact been using these facilities for some years.

Republic Pictures was one of the first major independent film studios best known for creating B-movies. Founded in 1935 by Herbert Yates as a merger of several smaller “poverty row” studios, Republic produced memorable feature films and launched the careers of John Wayne, Gene Autry, Rex Allen, and Roy Rogers.

Republic Pictures earned its greatest reputation for its numerous serials, which were generally considered the best in the business. The company introduced choreographed fight scenes, and excelled in the special effects of model work, explosions, and simulating superheroes’ ability to fly.

Republic exploded into national prominence with its focus in Westerns, film serials and B-films emphasising mystery and action, the staples of Saturday afternoon matinees. The studio rocketed serials like The Adventures of Captain Marvel and Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe into the public imagination throughout its fabled 24-year history. Notable Republic Pictures include Under Western Stars (1938), Flying Tigers (1942), Macbeth (1948), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), The Red Pony (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), and Johnny Guitar (1954).

Out of interest Under Western Stars (1938), was the first film for Roy Rogers.  He had been in a number of films before this – under his own name Leonard Sly and the last two as Dick Weston but Republic decided that for his first starring role he would be Roy Rogers – and that was how he remained.

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June Spencer – Peggy Archer retires

June Spencer had played the part of matriarch Peggy Woolley ( Archer) since 1951.

Most of us are very familiar with this long running series and I have to admit that it can be quite compulsive listening – it certainly was when we had the Helen / Rob storyline which resulted in one of the tensest episodes of anything I have ever heard – and all done on Radio. Over the Covid period however when the BBC had run out of recorded episodes a new style was briefly tried where many of the characters were effectively talking alone about their situations but somehow that did not gel at all with the listeners. It was pretty poor but at least they tried – it is now back to normal I am pleased to say.

Anyway back to June Spencer who is 103 years old

June described how the programme came in to being, Godfrey Baseley the creator and producer was at a farmers’ dinner one evening and the farmer next to him said what we need is a farming Dick Barton. Something to tell us all these blessed new instructions they keep giving us in palatable form. So, that’s what they did. They took the Dick Barton script writers and said write five episodes.”

Broadcasting since 1943, June describes herself as having “been around a bit” by the time The Archers started. In 1950 June featured as Peggy Archer in the programme’s trial episodes and was part of the cast for the official first episode of The Archers on 1 January 1951. Seventy years and over 19,000 episodes on, June has been working as part of The Archers cast.

When it was first dreamed up the job came as a surprise to June. She found out about it from someone she didn’t know “ standing in a queue in the BBC canteen for lunch” while working on another drama programme.

June accepted the role but before she and her fellow original Archers actors could record an episode they were put through their paces. She said, “We were gathered together and said without a script you’re going to be interviewed in character and that’s what Godfrey Baseley did. He said, “This is not a drama programme, it’s real life over-heard”.”

June doesn’t think anyone else other than Godfrey Baseley could have launched The Archers. “He was a very strong character. We used to call him God of course, short for Godfrey. He was a very domineering man and if he got an idea he would carry it through. He was the man to do it”, she said.

Time has moved on a long way since those early days and now in August of 2022, we learn that June Spences is to retire from her role as Peggy Archer.

She is said to have recorded her last episode, which was broadcast on 31 July – she says that she had make efforts to retire earlier but because of her popularity the producers were not ready to let her go

“I’ve been trying to retire for at least a year,” she told The Telegraph.

“They didn’t want to lose her character. Every time I tried to stop, they gave me more episodes.”

June Spencer had in fact stepped back from playing Peggy in the mid-1950s – and Thelma Rogers took over the role as Peggy – but she returned to the role in the early 1960s.

Peggy was often viewed as a traditionalist, a conservative character in the long-running drama charting the ups and downs of life in the village of Ambridge.

London- UK- 7th Dec 2021. HRH The Duchess of Cornwall hosts a reception for the BBC Radio 4 series ‘The Archers, celebrating 70 years of broadcasting. The reception was held at the home of Her Royal Highness, Clarence House in London where The Duchess met members of the cast and production team from the series.

Among Peggy’s many fans is the Duchess of Cornwall, who invited June Spencer and her co-stars to Clarence House last year for a reception marking the show’s 70th anniversary.

In a statement in The Telegraph, Camilla called Peggy “a true national treasure who has been part of my life, and millions of others, for as long as I can remember”.

ABOVE – Peggy Archer with her first husband Jack

Members of the cast were pictured together at the end of 1990 as the drama prepared to celebrate 40 years on the air with a special edition featuring the wedding of Peggy and Jack Woolley, played by Arnold Peters. SEE ABOVE and BELOW

Although Peggy has not yet been written out of the show, June Spencer has her own ideas on how best to manage her character’s exit.

“The simplest thing is if Peggy has a fall or something and goes into The Laurels -the fictional care home in Ambridge,” she said.

“She can languish for years there.”

Whether this happens, we the listeners will just have to wait and see

Members of The Archers cast gather to celebrate the 10,000th edition in 1989. Left to right: Tom Forrest (played by Bob Arnold), Jill Archer (Patricia Greene), Peggy Archer (June Spencer ), Phil Archer (Norman Painting) and
seated Walter Gabriel (Chriss Gittins).

As a footnote – the actress that took over the role as Peggy in 1956 until 1962 was Thelma Rogers

In 1962, Thelma left the The Archers to return to her stage career, mainly in Scotland. It was an amicable departure, with June Spencer returning to the part. Thelma went on to join the Perth Repertory Company. She appeared in major parts in Dundee and Glasgow, and featured in the Lionel Bart musical, Oliver, both in London and on tour. On Television, she had a part in another Birmingham-based series, Crossroads, and in Coronation Street. In Scotland, she took a prominent role – playing an author – in the Scottish TV series Take the High Road.

Thelma was a quiet person, but a wonderful conversationalist and a serious reader, whether it be Shakespeare or Shaw, Virginia Woolf or Jane Austen. Not all actors wish to talk literature, but Thelma did. She hated the name Thelma – until someone pointed out it was an anagram of Hamlet. She had a quiet enthusiasm for things.

She died in the year 2000 at the age of 75

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The Prisoner of Shark Island 1936

A John Ford Film made well before the Fifties but a film that is well worth viewing.

It stars Warner Baxter as Dr Samuel Mudd who was wrongfully accused of being involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln – when in fact he had nothing to do with it – what he had done was to treat the actual assassin who had been injured. This was enough, with feelings running high, to have him imprisoned on Shark Island.

Warner Baxter was a great friend of Ronald Colman – in fact they looked quite similar and they both had star appeal and remained very popular with cinema audiences. Another friend was William Powell

This is one of John Ford’s more under-appreciated films – and is is the biopic of Dr Samuel Mudd, the doctor who set John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Dr. Mudd (Warner Baxter) is convicted of being a part of the assassination and sent to a Union prison on Shark Island one of a a small group of islands off the coast of Florida. The prison island is – as the title suggests – surrounded by sharks. He endures brutal treatment and living conditions. but when hen the prison is stricken with an outbreak of yellow fever, Dr. Mudd rises to the occasion and heroically saves lives.

It is directed by one of the greats with a good script and starring a fine cast. In addition to Warner Baxter, who does an excellent job in the lead, the cast includes Gloria Stuart, Harry Carey, and Claude Gillingwater.

Ernest Whitman is good as Mudd’s friend (and his former slave!).

John Carradine plays a nasty and abusive Union guard who seems to have it in for Dr Mudd from the start.

This film is really good entertainment – Warner Baxter excellent in the leading role

ABOVE – Gloria Stuart with Joyce Kay

ABOVE and BELOW – Arriving Home after the drama and cruelty

This must have seemed like Paradise – back with his Wife and little Daughter

Dr Mudd wasn ‘t the only one re-united with his family – this was virtually the final frame of the film

An added snippet – The lovely Gloria Stuart who played Dr Samuel Mudd’s wife – and is pictured above – died in 2010 at the age of 100

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