Archive for January, 2023

Rondo Hatton

On the screen he was a thug, a convict, a leper and a psychopathic killer. Off screen, he was the son of well respected parents – he was a shy and devout man who had been an exceptional athlete, an esteemed journalist, and above all a beloved friend and wonderful husband.

Rondo Hatton achieved a distinction that survives to this day.

He played his most famous role as The Creeper towards the tail end of the Hollywood horror cycle

The ABOVE Picture story tells in very simple terms the The Rondo Hatton Story – a very sad one really for such a nice person

He later took the role of The Creeper again in ‘Brute Man’ and this seemed to be teamed up with quite a lot of different films on release, so it really was shown over and over again over a long period

ABOVE – The film trailer

Rondo Hatton began acting in films in 1930. During the 30s and 40s he was mainly seen in small roles, always cast in similar roles to The Creeper. He had contracted acromegaly after being gassed during the First world War which led to his being deformed facially and otherwise, and he won these roles because of that – What a sad fact !

In 1944 he was cast as The Hoxton Creeper in a Sherlock Holmes film, The Pearl of Death, and achieved brief stardom-or at least cult stardom-until his early death from a heart attack at age 52 in 1946 shortly after this, his last film, was released.

In real life he was a wonderful and gentle man, and a loving and loved husband. This is how he should be remembered

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Carol Marsh in ‘Salute the Toff’ 1952

John Bentley back in action as Richard Rollison alias ‘The Toff’ and this time the lovely actress Carol Marsh with him – I really liked Carol Marsh – her lovely face and looks really appeal to me and I find her so magnetic – every scene she is in, her looks just draw you to her.

She had a meteoric start to he film career when she had the female lead in ‘Brighton Rock’ opposite Richard Attenborough and then went on to play Alice in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and then after ‘A Christmas Carol’ things seemed to stall. ‘Salute the Toff was made in 1951.

She was busy though in this period – she appeared in a BBC Drama adaptation of ‘Time and the Conways’ in 1950 – that would have gone out ‘live’ in those days and she also played Alice – this time on stage – in ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ at the Princes Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue and that was in 1954. I have seen a picture of her in this production with Margaret Rutherford and that was from the Wimbledon Theatre – so maybe it was transferred there

Much later she played again in the West End in the very famous Agatha Christie play – ‘The Mousetrap’

Carol Marsh – ‘The Mousetrap’

It does appear that the production of ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ toured quite extensively – Above at Her Majesty’s Theatre Brighton. The cast is impressive – Margaret Rutherford and her husband in real life Stringer Davies, Michael Denison and Griffith Jones among many others

Back to ‘Salute the Toff’ – it was a film made in the late summer of 1951 and Nettlefold Studios and was the second of the The Toff films made there – one after the other apparently. The fist to be made and released was ‘Hammer the Toff’ released in January 1952 with this one out in May of that year.

I enjoyed ‘Salute the Toff’ as it kept the plot moving well and was sprinkled with outdoor scenes and action too at times. John Bentley played The Toff each time

I do have the Radio Dramas of The Toff which starred Terence Alexander and he is very good in the role. There are quite a number of these plays – I have listened to them all and can recommend them

John Bentley in a scene from ‘Salute the Toff’
Carol Marsh in ‘Salute the Toff’
Roddy Hughes as ‘Jolley’

Roddy Hughes who played ‘Jolley’ the Toff’s faithful manservant, had perhaps the most interesting and accomplished career of any of these actors.

He was born in Portmadoc North Wales and began his sacting career on stage after the First World War. He didn’t enter the film world until 1932 but after that was very busy in many productions.

His stage work saw him as a regular performer in the West End and on Broadway

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Southwest Passage 1954

Originally in 3 D and now to be released in that format on BluRay in the next year we are told. Also it is in PatheColor – maybe not the early tinted type but the later spin-off or re-name from Eastmancolour

Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Joanne Dru, Rod Cameron, John Ireland, John Dehner, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Morris Ankrum

This was one of only two films for which the original 3-D elements were lost. However, 3D Film Archive founder Bob Furmanek confirmed that the four missing reels were located in a UK film lab in 2018. The UK lab had acquired the inventory of a bankrupt Italian lab, and the reels in question had been labelled as “Camels West”, which someone realised was the film’s UK title. The film is now in the process of being restored by the 3D Film Archive and released on Blu-ray 3D in 2024

Rod Cameron and the then married team of Joanne Dru and John Ireland star in Southwest Passage about an expedition to test the feasibility of using camels in the American Southwest. Apparently after the experiment was eventually dropped, the camels were turned loose on the Arizona desert – even now some of their decendants can be spotted to this day on occasions

Rod Cameron plays the real life character of western explorer Edward Beale

Here he’s on a surveying party with camels, mules, and horse and soldiers. Add to them a fugitive John Ireland posing as a doctor and his girlfriend Joanne Dru as someone they rescue in the desert you’ve got quite a mix facing the Apaches who eventually turn hostile.

John Ireland has just robbed a bank and one of the crew on the expedition, John Dehner, recognises him. He also quite fancies Joanne Dru who in turn has taken a liking to Rod Cameron. What a mixture !

There’s a desert shootout with the Apaches which must have been something to see in the original 3-D and on the big screen

Southwest Passage is a good action packed Western where the camel experiment is just a side issue.

Joanne Dru (the former Joanne Letitia LaCock) was unusually effective in westerns in a time when the casting of most female roles was a secondary consideration at best.   She married John Ireland in 1947, and one result was their collaboration in this cavalry and camels vs. Apaches story.

Although Rod Cameron seems to get top billing Joanne Dru is the best thing in the Film. 

Filmed on location in southern Utah, near Kanab. 

Joanne  Dru was good in Westerns, but she didn’t always enjoy them.  “I simply hated horses,” she said in a 1957 interview with Hedda Hopper.  “And those long gingham dresses with boned bodices are miserable things to wear.”  By the end of the 1950s she had drifted almost entirely into television work, and she and Ireland were divorced in 1957.

Edward Fitzpatrick Beale and his involvement with camels in the American southwest is based on actual history.  In 1857, Lt. Beale, with the support of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, used 25 camels to survey a route for a wagon road from Fort Defiance in Arizona to the Colorado River, then took the camels on to California.  The Santa Fe Railroad and U. S. Highway 66 subsequently followed this route.  With the outbreak of the Civil War, the Camel Corps was largely forgotten, although there were reports of feral camels in the southwest well into the 1900s—even as late as 1975 in Baja California.  Hadji Ali, an Ottoman citizen, was the lead camel driver of the Camel Corps beginning around 1856 and lived in this country until his death in 1902 in Arizona. 

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Behind the Scenes – TV Drama

I took these colour pictures from a Children’s Book from Christmas 1960 showing ‘behind the scenes’ preparation for what looks like major drama. At first I thought that the sets looked too lavish for a TV programme of that era but looking more closely there are Television cameras as opposed to film cameras.

BELOW – this looks more a a Drawing Room type play – lovely set though

ABOVE – No real idea of the actual play in the two scenes – snow outside.

I am trying to guess – could it be something like ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ or maybe ‘Waters of the Moon’ or what about ‘Dr Finlay’s Casebook’

Probably none of these – but I will re-read the book and try tro ascertain just what this studio play is.

Fascinating – also seeing these pictures in Colour when the drama would not be shown in Colour adds another dimension.

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This film has reached the status of a classic among classics and is well remembered by all film fans the World over

I can’t add any more than has been said many times before but I did come across this Colorised publicity shot which is just so good

The film was not thought, at the time of filming, to be anything special and came with few expectations of the enormous success it would have over decades.

It is difficult to know why there was so little confidence in it when you look at the array of actors in the cast

Even though it featured a stellar cast and top writers, nobody working on the film expected it to be anything special — just one of dozens of films to come out of Hollywood each year.

But favourable reviews and Academy Awards for outstanding motion picture, best director and best screenplay propelled the film into the limelight. 

As exotic as it looks, the entire film was shot at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, California. There was one exception: the opening scene, which sees Nazi villain Heinrich Strasser flying past an airplane hangar, was shot at Van Nuys Airport in Van Nuys, Los Angeles. The final farewell tarmac scene, however, was filmed at Warner studios in Burbank.

Playwright Murray Burnett co-created expat café owner Rick Blaine, piano player Sam, Czech resistance fighter Victor Lazlo and fresh-faced Ilsa Lund when he and his writing partner Joan Alison penned a play called ”Everybody Comes to Rick’s” in 1940. Having watched the political change that was sweeping across Europe, the pair intended it as a cautionary tale about the perils of fascism.

The play was meant for Broadway, but never made it — reportedly in part because of the implication that Ilsa had slept with Rick in order to get letters of transit. But Warner Brothers certainly saw its potential: they purchased the script and all rights for a record $20,000.

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Heaven Knows Mr Allison 1957

What a treat to have this shown on Talking Pictures yesterday. I thought afterwards that to have a storyline with virtually only two people in it, to hold the audience for 100 minutes means that you have to have a good story, a good script, a good director and two leading actors ‘out of the top drawer’. This film had all those attributes.

It was also beautifully filmed and so, visually it was stunning and a big production in Colour and Cinemascope

In 1957 when this film was released, few of us had ever seen such paradise islands and there was no likelihood that we would, coupled with the fact that even if we saw such locations on Television it would be in Black and White – and on a 14 inch screen maybe.

During WWW II in a Pacific tropical island that might be a paradise in another time , American Marine : Robert Mitchum is shipwrecked there and to his astonishment he finds a nun Deborah Kerr’s living alone on the island – they form an unlikely friendship and eventually falling in love .

Later the island is invaded when a Japanese detachment overrun the lonely place and the two hide out during the day and forage for food by night , gradually revealing their pasts to each other .

They struggle to survive until USA forces invade the island.

This is an enjoyable film with plenty of action , entertainment , high pathos, excitement and tenderness . Perfectly cast Deborah Kerr as kind nun and Robert Mitchum as Marine Sergeant Allison , both of whom providing top-notch performances .

The story is based on the novel by Charles Shaw with the film script from John Lee Mahin and John Huston himself .

In many ways it reminds me of The African Queen made a few years earlier

Colourful cinematography from Oswald Morris conveying to us the humid and lush atmosphere of a small tropical island.

John Huston said that when his films are discussed this one rarely gets a mention, but he felt that it was one of his best

Deborah Kerr with her Daughter at the Film Premiere

BELOW – Scenes filmed on Tobago in the West Indies, standing in for the South Seas island in the Pacific

Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr loved working together; you can see that in in “The Sundowners,” and you can see it here again

Robert Mitchum is a capable but a not-very-bright marine who is washed up on a deserted South Pacific island – Deborah Kerr is a nun who’s been living there alone since the recent death of her aged priest.

John Huston’s direction is, as always, just right

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North West Frontier 1959

This is a film that I really like – a real good action adventure and set in India which is an added bonus.

Not sure that I would have cast Kenneth More and Lauren Bacall in these roles though, but I imagine that she was cast to give the distributors in the USA a lift although I wouldn’t have thought that, by then, she would have had that much appeal at the Box Office. If the film were to have been concentrated on a romantic link between these two then it wouldn’t have worked either, as there seemed little spark there.

Still the action, colour and adventure was what we were treated to – and that certainly worked.

Herbert Lom was great in this film as he seemed to be in all the films he made – I always remember Ken Annakin directed him in ‘Third Man on the Mountain’ and during the shooting of scenes for the film in the Alps, he refused to venture up any height or put himself in any dangerous situation on the mountain which the other actors did. Herbert Lom said that he was an actor and told Ken Annakin that whatever he did or didn’t do, he would do his job and be as realistic on screen as anyone. Ken later agreed when he saw the ‘rushes’ and later the film, that Herbert Lom came over as the most convincing of them all in these scenes. Maybe that is the art of an actor

ABOVE – Lauren Bacall was in the film and this would be about three years after her husband Humphrey Bogart had died.

The top picture looks to be in India with Lauren Bacall and Kenneth More fooling around when not ‘in action on set’

Much of the film was made out in India although some filming was done in Spain

It was a big Cinemascope picture – something that sold the picture at the Box Office. That enormous wide screen presentation gave these films a dimension that , when now viewed on Television, they do not have. In my view it takes a lot away from them.

We couldn’t not mention another star name in the film –  I.S. Johar as Gupta in a brilliant portrayal as the Indian Train driver who takes us on a thrilling rail ride through India pursued by rebels who want to capture the young prince they are helping escape.

He was brilliant.

Lauren Bacall said of the film that it was a good little picture with a silly title – that referred to the American release title ‘Flame over India

The Press Book from the film release
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Joan Rice – the subject of Bullying on ‘Robin Hood’

We go back to the summer of 1951, when a young and very pretty actress who was only just 20 years old was cast by Walt Disney in one of the leading roles as Maid Marian in ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ which was to be made at the legendary Denham Film Studios over that summer – and it was a big Technicolor production

Her name was Joan Rice. Here was a young actress who had made a few films but came from a poor background in Derby where she had been in care due to a violent and abusive father. She had gone to London and got a waitress job there at one of the Lyons Corner House Restaurants – and it is there that a talent scout spotted her good looks and poise.

She made a film with Dirk Bogarde who treated her very well and this led to a contract with the Rank Organisation.

Dirk Bogarde giving Joan Rice some advice – he was very good to her

However it came about, there seems little information, but it seems that Walt Disney must have seen her and in his eyes she fitted perfectly the part of Maid Marian. So he chose her and insisted on her being cast which she was.

His judgement was perfect here because the public worldwide just loved her and still do to this day, she is voted as their favourite Maid Marian.

Now we come to the making of the film – initially she was welcomed on set by everyone – Richard Todd dined with her in the studio canteen for instance but as things progressed Richard Todd playing Robin Hood turned against her and treated her with disinterest and disdain throughout. He was a public school type and as such was confident and self assured and I am sure that he looked down on her – she also was so young and not at all confident and her feelings were easily bruised.

England, 1951, British actress and Joan Rice talks with English film star Richard Todd as they eat dinner on the set of the film “Robin Hood”

The Films’s Director Ken Annakin was not quite as bad although in his Autobiography he makes cruel remarks about her – and we hear of incidents where things were said to her that should never have been tolerated.

1951, Actors Joan Rice and Richard Todd, on the set of the film “Robin Hood”

The ABOVE pictures were taken at the very early stages of the filming and maybe at the screen testing stage – and I am pretty sure that this was done at Elstree and not Denham

How I wish that Joan Rice been able to stand up for herself during that time, these two would have backed off.

Even years later. when she came on as the special guest on his ‘This is Your Life’ Television Programme, he was very cool towards her and at the end when the credits rolled, she could be seen shuffling awkwardly at the back – possibly keeping out of the way. How sad that is

Maybe I am being hard on these two because these were – as a friend of mine used to say – different days and some women were not well treated then.

Another actor in the film James Robertson Justice in fact, left his wife maybe around this time and even though he earned well from this time until his death, he did not support her. She was eventually successful not long before he died, in an action to receive such finance and this was back-dated so it was a tough one for him to take. In my view he wasn’t much of an actor but he was very self confident and able to bluster his way through in a way that the young Joan Rice could not.

Anyway, maybe things evened up when Joan was cast opposite Joan Rice in ‘His Majesty O Keefe’ for which she travelled to Fiji and starred alongside Burt Lancaster – and the American Director Byron Haskin had no problems with her at all – in fact he later said that this film made much more money than most because it did well at the Box Office and later very well on Television. Against that the disinterested and disdainful Richard Todd, went to the South of France after Robin Hood to film’ 24 Hours in a Woman’s Life’ which ‘sank without trace’

Joan Rice in ‘His Majesty O Keefe’

On a slightly different note – I have just come across this – almost 70 years ago to the day. BELOW

Jan. 01, 1953 – New Romance for Joan Rice. Miss Joan Rice, 22-year old waitress turned film star photographed last night with her fiance, 19-year old Mr.David Green. When she returned from the Fiji Islands two months ago she denied that she had broken her engagement to Mr. Martin Boyce – but last night she revealed her engagement to Mr. Green whom she met at a Christmas party. He was public schools heavy weight champion before leaving Harrow, and is now a film salesman traveling for a Hollywood company in England.

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