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Dick Barton Strikes Back 1949

On Radio, Dick Barton Special Agent was very popular – in fact so popular that there were three films made to benefit from this Radio success and there would have been more but for the sad fact that Don Stannard the actor playing Dick Barton on screen was killed in a car crash near Cookham

‘Dick Barton Strikes Back’ was an exciting film with action across many English locations including Blackpool and Blackpool Tower

ABOVE and BEOW – In Blackpool

ABOVE – Dick Barton played by Don Stannard, wrestles with an assailant on the lift of Blackpool Tower

This Radio drama held our attention each evening – always finishing with a ‘cliff-hanger’ situation and then the stirring title music – leaving us, so as we had to tune in the next evening. When Dick Barton finished we then got – and still have – ‘The Archers’ which I like very much and have listened to over the years.

Because Dick Bartons’s popularity, it was decided that there should be a film version – and in fact in all there were three films. Apparently another one was planned to be called ‘Dick Barton in Africa’ – sounds as if it would have been very good – but plans were scrapped after Don Stannard’s tragic death

When Dick Barton came to the screen however, Dick’s sidekicks Snowy and Jock did not seem to be as we imagined and a friend of mine made this point – they just didn’t look right.

Duncan Carse

Duncan Carse – the second Radio Dick Barton – I remember him

Don Stannard as Dick Barton in Films
Dick Barton in Haslemere
Dick Barton in Haslemere 2

Hammer Films made three Dick Barton films – so they must have had success and they were planning another when the actor who played Dick on screen, Don Stannard was killed in a car crash   on July 9 1949 at Cookham Dean in Berkshire.

I just have to add that, I have written a similar article to this a few years ago – but having done well over 1,000 articles on here, then maybe I can be excused from repeating myself at times.

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The Haunted Strangler 1958 – or ‘Grip of the Strangler’

I have known this film as ‘Grip of Strangler’ but I see that it is being shown on Talking Pictures as ‘The Haunted Strangler’. Either way, it is the same film starring Boris Karloff and it was made in England at the same time, and alongside, one of my own favourites ‘Fiend Without a Face’

The two were released together on the same bill and MGM were very happy, as together, they made quite a good profit, having done good business both here and in the USA

The film is set in Victorian times, with Boris Karloff playing a writer who becomes obsessed with a twenty-year-old case surrounding “The Haymarket Strangler” and intends to prove that the young man who was hanged for the murders two decades earlier was in fact innocent. All evidence seems to point to a certain Dr. Tenant who used a surgeon’s knife not only to choke the life out of his victims, but to slash their flesh as well. Details of Tenant’s life and whereabouts remain a mystery, and Boris Karloff is keen to investigate but that gives him some uncomfortable surprises.

It is a demanding role for Boris Karloff who was approaching 70 but he is very good in the part as a well-meaning but disoriented author going nearly mad.

Above – This Double Bill from MGM did very good business in the USA – I am not surprised as they are two good films

By the time this film was made Boris Karloff had been a star for almost 30 years mainly in Horror Films.

This film had quite a strong cast with Jean Kent and Elizabeth Allan who appeared from time to time on ‘What’s My Line’ as a panelist.

Also cast was Anthony Dawson who had a memorable role as the ‘murderer’ in ‘Dial M For Murder’ – who comes to kill Grace Kelly in a planned murder, but things do not go as planned. He also had a long and distinguished career in both Films and the Theatre

Anthony Dawson – Here with Grace Kelly ‘Dial M for Murder’ 1954

Anthony Dawson said that when he received the call from Alfred Hitchcock to do this film he was more or less told that he would do well financially out of it – which he did. It also opened doors for many other big roles including being in the Bond films.

This film was not of the standard of others in his career but nevertheless it would have been good.

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Where No Vultures Fly 1951

The Technicolor Cameras went to work in Kenya from around November 1950 on a four month shoot through the English Winter – so Anthony Steele, Dinah Sheridan and William Simons spent that winter in the warm African sun.

William Simons ABOVE – had quite a career and as a child actor he played in this one and the Sequel ‘West of Zanzibar’

Many years later though, for almost 20 years, he played Alf Ventress in the long running and very popular TV series ‘Heartbeat’

Anyway, back to the films – Maybe it was not all fun and games making ‘Where No Vultures Fly’ because, during the filming, Anthony Steele contracted Malaria – a very serious illness as we all know – while he was there and was hospitalised for a time

The Film was chosen as the Royal Command Performance for 1951

It did well at the Box Office particularly in the USA

It has just occurred to me that the filming of this would have been about the same time as MGM were doing ‘King Solomons Mines’ – a big and impressive picture – mind you Africa is a huge continent so they would most likely be miles away. Looking even further into this, it appears that most of the African location filming for King Solomons Mines was done by February of 1950 – whereas this one wasn’t started until later that year. Both were in that stunning Technicolor – still stunning to this day.

‘King Solomons Mines’ proved a massive hit at the Box Office for MGM

Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr were top billed – Elizabeth Curtis (Deborah Kerr) is missing her husband, who departed on a quest to find King Solomon’s lost diamond mines.  She meets and hires a disenchanted safari guide – Allan Quatermain (Stewart Granger) to lead a search party to find him.

Richard Carlson, Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger

Along the way they are besieged with several challenges, including a tremendous animal stampede which even today makes one wonder how it was filmed – and this was way before the days of CGI special effects.

 Even now this must rank as one of the best stampede scenes ever done.

It strikes me that these films have many similarities although in many ways they are totally different. ‘King Solomons Mines has a much stronger storyline from H Rider Haggard’s magnificent novel – even though this film was only loosely based on the book – whereas ‘Where No Vultures Fly’ has an interesting take on African life at that time and is really a semi-documentary but very good at that.

I remember someone quite famous saying that he loved H Rider Haggard’s books and he used to encourage his children to read them – this is in quite recent times. He made a deal with them to read the first 50 pages of any one of his novels – and he said he knew that after that they would not be able to put the book down.

H Rider Haggard’s remains one of the greatest adventure story tellers in English Literaure of all time

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The Bullfighter and the Lady 1951

Earlier this year, saw the release on Blu Ray of the excellent ‘Bullfighter and the Lady’ Directed by Budd Boetticher and starring Robert Stack


Starring Robert Stack, Joy Page, Gilbert Roland, Virginia Grey, John Hubbard, Katy Jurado, Paul Fix



This BluRay – a special edition of Budd Boetticher’s wonderful Bullfighter And The Lady (1951) – includes the complete 124-minute cut and the 87-minute version released by Republic.

John Wayne produced the picture, for which Boetticher (and Ray Navarro) an Oscar nomination for Best Original Story.

This is a good film showing the horrors of bullfighting with excellent photography and directed by a former bullfighter himself, Budd Boetticher.

John Wayne produced this picture but did not appear in this film and presented a film that was originally cut into pieces but has been restored to its original print, which is seen today.

Robert Stack, (Johnny Regan) plays the role as a U.S. Citizen who has connections with Hollywood and has become interested in becoming a bullfighter – he travels to Mexico to meet a real famous matador.

Johnny meets up with Manolo Estgrada, (Gilbert Roland) and he soon makes an arrangement with Manolo to teach him how to shoot birds in exchange for Matador lessons.

ABOVE Joy Page in Casablanca

This film goes into great detail about how to fight a bull and the dangers of the sport. Johnny falls in love at first sight with Anita De La Vega, (Joy Page) who initially doesn’t show much interest in him but slowly thing develop

Bullfighter and the Lady was Boetticher’s first film as an A-list Hollywood director. It was a personal and, in many ways, an autobiographical project. The young Budd Boetticher had spent some years in Mexico as a gringo obsessed with bullfighting. He had trained as a bullfighter and achieved some degree of success – just as Johnny Regan (Robert Stack) does in this film. Returning to the United States, he broke into movies as a technical consultant on the bullfight scenes in Blood and Sand (Rouben Mamoulian, 1941).

JOY PAGE

Joy Page, who died aged 83 in 2008 had previously had a strong supporting role in ‘Casablanca’ – playing the part of Annina, a young newlywed Bulgarian girl who, with her husband, wishes to escape to America, but has no money for an exit visa. For this, she is willing to sleep with Captain Renault (Claude Rains).

“Monsieur Rick, what kind of a man is Captain Renault?” she asks Humphrey Bogart, owner of Rick’s Café Américain. “Oh, he’s just like any other man, only more so,” he says wryly. She then has a speech that crystallises the central love story between Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, though Annina is referring to her own dilemma. “Oh, monsieur, you are a man. If someone loved you very much, so that your happiness was the only thing that she wanted in the whole world, but she did a bad thing to make certain of it, would you forgive her? … And he never knew and the girl kept this bad thing locked in her heart? That would be all right, wouldn’t it?

Because, as the song goes, “the world will always welcome lovers”, Bogart saves her from selling herself, by letting her husband win at the roulette table.

Merely the fact that she was part of the cast of Casablanca is enough to gain Joy Page enduring fame. Nevertheless, her performance in her first screen role was so refreshing and touching that it is surprising that her career never took off. She seemed to have had all the advantages. Born in Los Angeles as Joy Paige, she was the daughter of silent-screen Latin lover Don Alvarado (real name José Paige) and Ann Boyar, the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants. The latter married Jack Warner, head of Warner Bros studios, after she and Alvarado divorced. Joy was 12 years old when Warner became her stepfather.

She was a 17-year-old senior at Beverly Hills high, when she was prompted to read for the part of Annina in Casablanca by Sophie Rosenstein, her acting coach at Warner Bros. Though Warner was pleased with her performance, he did nothing to encourage her acting subsequently, and she never made another film for her stepfather’s studio.

Exploiting her dusky looks, inherited from her Mexican-American father (who died in 1967), and despite her name, Joy Page played a number of señoritas in both films and television until she retired in 1959.

However, her first two post-Casablanca film roles were as an Arab girl, daughter of beggar Ronald Colman, who schemes for her to marry the caliph of Baghdad in Kismet (1944) and an Indian girl (married to Sabu), mauled by the tiger in Man-Eater of Kumaon (1948).

She then did this one – The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) as Anita de la Vega, with whom an American (Robert Stack) on holiday in Mexico becomes fascinated, almost as much as he is by bulls. She co-starred with Stack again in Conquest of Cochise (1953), in which she suffered beautifully as Mexican aristocrat Consuelo de Cordova, held hostage by John Hodiak as the Apache leader.

Joy Page was then an Italian partisan helping American pilot Sterling Hayden in Fighter Attack (1953), and played “the other woman” in The Shrike (1955), notable for allowing June Allyson to play against type as a shrewish wife. Subsequently, Page appeared mainly in episodes of television series produced by her husband William Orr, whom she had married in 1945. Minor film actor Orr was swiftly made a producer by Warner, who later put him in charge of Warner Bros Television, thus engendering such comments as “the son-in-law also rises”.

As an aside to the ABOVE – ‘Casablanca’ was released 80 years ago this month

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Patricia Driscoll as Maid Marian

Well I have to admit hat Joan Rice is my own very favourite Maid Marian from the 1952 Walt Disney film ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’

Only a few years later though we have the Television series The Adventure of Robin Hood with Richard Greene and first Bernadette O’Farrell as Maid Marion and then a very surprised Patricia Driscoll was offered and accepted the role as Maid Marian

She had been doing the Children’s TV programme ‘Picture Book’ when she received the call to go for a test. She was surprised but went along – not really expecting anything to come of it – and lo and behold, she got the part.

Patricia Driscoll with her husband Duncan Lamont

Duncan Lamont was Patricia’s husband and also an actor – very busy on Television and in films – in fact he played Victor Caroon in ‘The Quatermass Experiment’ which scared me and my brother so much so that Dad would not let us see the last episode.

His character, on his sick, bed reached out for a ‘cactus-like’plant which gradually grew on him and eventually took him over to become the monster. Memorable Television of that early era.

At that time, he was working a lot, but Patricia on Picture Book had a good but more relaxed life style – that changed with ‘Robin Hood’ when she had to be up at 5-30 am to travel to the Studios, often not getting back home until 7 pm. which left Duncan for much of the time as head cook and bottle washer. Mind you as she admitted her pay rose to three times what it had been.

As we all know this series was a monster hit Worldwide – particularly in America – and Patricia Driscoll received very many fan letters from there.

She had starred before this with Max Bygraves in a really pleasant Colour Film ‘Charlie Moon’ and she was also in an episode of ‘Scotland Yard’ and ‘Fabian of the Yard’ – an episode called ‘The Poison Machine’ one of the only episodes that I have much of a memory of – it was to me at the time quite disturbing.

Patricia Driscoll died in 2020 at the age of 92 but her husband Duncan Lamont had passed away in 1978.

I had always thought that they didn’t have children but in fact they did have two – one was a daughter not sure of the other

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Flame of the Islands 1956

From Republic Pictures and in Truclor. Well – What more could you want – and with an exciting title

Flame of the Islands (1956)

Republic Pictures. With Yvonne DeCarlo in the leading role.

She’s a tough, sensual and glamorous presence as our heroine Rosalind Dee. Yvonne DeCarlo even gets to sing in the film

French language poster for Flame of the Islands (1956)

ABOVE: Zachary Scott and Yvonne DeCarlo in Flame of the Islands (1956).
Republic Studio’s ‘Trucolour’ process was used here , the poor man’s Technicolour. . The better-than-life colours (like the blue of a swimming pool, Yvonne DeCarlo’s ice-pink dress) really stand out on the screen

In fact, for a relatively low-budget film,  ‘Flame of the Islands’is a great viewing experience – the action is set in the Bahamas.

It was definitely filmed on location in the Bahamas and that somehow gives the film an exotic ‘ holiday type’ look

Rosalind upset some of the snobby locals as she belts out’ a raunchy musical performance at the Christmas cocktail party!  

Above: Yvonne DeCarlo and Howard Duff in Flame of the Islands /
Howard Duff comes over as weak a character Doug Duryea, the rich boy who broke DeCarlo’s heart years before – and who she longs to reunite with.

The reliably intense character actress Barbara O’Neil wrings maximum drama from every second she is onscreen as Duff’s neurotic socialite mother Charmaine.

Of course, Charmaine is mortified that her son is entangled with a disreputable nightclub singer with a scandalous past.

Barbara O’Neil ABOVE whose supporting roles in films include ‘ All This and Heaven Too‘ (1940) and ‘Angel Face‘ (1952) / 
James Arness is cast as Reverend Kelly Rand.

The scene where Kelly takes DeCarlo marlin fishing on his boat is one of Flame’s highlights.

Then we come to Zachary Scott who plays Wade Evans, DeCarlo’s best friend who tags along for the adventure.

ABOVE: Zachary Scott in Flame of the Islands (1956)

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Interesting Line Up 1956 – from Various Studios

This must have been a glossy advertisement maybe in a Trade Paper or it could have been a normal Newspaper promotion.

At first glance I wrongly assumed that these were all pictures from Universal Studios but on checking that is certainly not the case

‘Many Rivers to Cross’ 1955 from MGM – the Trailer BELOW makes it look a quite expensive film, as maybe a film starring Robert Taylor, at that time, should have made me realise.

It came just a year or two after he had had a very successful run – in ‘Quo Vadis’ then ‘Ivanhoe’, ‘Knights of the Round Table’ and ‘Quentin Durward’ the last three made in England.

Another Trailer BELOW – and another major film star Glenn Ford in ‘Jubal’

Not just Glenn Ford the film also had Ernest Borgnine, Rod Steiger and Charles Bronson with the lovely Felicia Farr ( I remember her well from ‘The Last Wagon’ ) and English Actress Valerie French who I recall from another of my favourites – with a much lower budget – ‘The Secret of Treasure Mountain’ 1956 released a month earlier than ‘Jubal’

Valerie French had a fling with Rod Steiger during the making of the film and maybe afterwards. They were seen dining out together and there was talk of marriage but that didn’t happen.

She was a British Film Actress who travelled to Hollywood and seemed to have a career there around this time but although she appeared in quite a lot of things – and was active on stage – she never really made the big time

Valerie French was born in London and spent her early childhood in Spain, returning to England to attend Malvern Girls’ College in Worcestershire and then join the BBC drama department.

After several years in television production, she joined the Theatre Royal Repertory Company in Windsor, where she played small parts.

After a screen test and a role in the film “The Constant Husband” in 1955, she went to Hollywood and became a contract actress with Columbia Pictures. She starred opposite Glenn Ford and Rod Steiger in “Jubal” (1956) and with Lee J. Cobb in “The Garment Jungle” (1957).

On Broadway she acted in “Inadmissible Evidence” (1965) and “Help Stamp Out Marriage!” (1966). In “The Mother Lover,” at the Booth Theatre in 1969, she caused something of a sensation by appearing onstage nude with her back to the audience.

Miss French starred on Broadway in Harold Pinter’s “Tea Party” and “The Basement” in 1968, in a 1980 revival of Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels,” and as the mother, Helen, in a production of “A Taste of Honey” in 1981.

Her television credits include roles in “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “The Prisoner,” “The Nurses,” “Edge of Night” and “Brighter Day.”

She was twice married and twice divorced. In a 1981 interview she said that she and her second husband, the actor Thayer David, had been planning to remarry when he died in 1978.

She died of leukemia in 1990

ABOVE – a favourite of mine – a film that up until relatively recently was impossible to find. I did acquire a 16 mm feature film version a few years ago and had some DVDs made from it – then a DVD was issued in the USA and recently it was shown on Talking Pictures in England. I really enjoyed it. Valerie French was the female lead and was very good in her role.

ABOVE – Valerie French was in this one which I definitely saw at the Cinema – ‘The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake’

It is a film that disturbed me at the time – and in a way still does. I do remember being in a low mood all those years ago when I first saw it, because of a girl I am pretty sure – but even so this film made me – still makes me – uncomfortable.

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To Catch a Thief – Alfred Hitchcock

Interesting to see some of the scenes being filmed – first BELOW with the enormous VistaVision Camera. These scenes would have been done at Paramount Studios in Hollywood where much of the film was made

Grace Kelly looking beautiful as always

Cary Grant would go on to work again for Hitchcock in ‘North By North West’ a few years later but Grace Kelly finished her film career with this one.

Hitchcock however looked around for a ‘replacement’ and Tippi Hedren was spotted – someone with no acting or film experience.

Nevertheless she was coached and trained in acting in preparation for her starring role in ‘The Birds’ a few years later. Hitchcock invested heavily in his new protege and signed her to a 5 year contract which should have been good news for this young actress, but after he made ‘full on’ unwanted advances to her – which were quickly and firmly re-buffed – he barely ever spoke to her again. She did star in ‘Marnie’ for him but after that – nothing. Hitchcock was approached by other companies with a view to casting her but he refused all such requests. By the time her contract was over and she was free, she was no longer in demand – so he had effectively made her career and then destroyed it

ABOVE = Alfred Hitchcock’s name above the title

I have included the above because I find it fascinating to look back on the newspaper advertisements of the day to see what was on, and with which film and where

I have not seen this film in 3D but have just sent for the 3D Blu Ray so, all being well, I might shortly be able to report on it. Like most of us, I know the film well.

Apparently initially when the film was released the 3D craze was on it’s way out – very surprising to me as I loved it – and soon after it reverted to a normal ‘flat’ style. Hitchcock is reported as saying that he always though that 3D would be a nine day wonder – and added that the trouble was that this film came out on the 9th day !!

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BBC Television Drama from 1955 and ‘The Blue Peter’ film – same year

Well, there was really no alternative viewing in those days – but I have to say that the programme content was generally very good. Typical of the plays we used to get are the ones below :-

ABOVE – ”The River Line’ which was broadcast in May of 1955 with Charles Norgan, Rosalie Crutchley, James Donald and John Charlesworth (Seated)

I well remember John Charlesworth from Billy Bunter and the wonderful film ‘The Blue Peter’ which he must have filmed straight after this play. Very sadly he took his own life about a decade later

‘The Blue Peter’ was a Widescreen Colour film that I saw at the Cinema years ago. The outdoor scenes in Wales – in and around Aberdovey were quite breathtaking on the big screen – particularly the climax on the cliff- I thought that was brilliantly done. sadly it does not have the same impact on the Television screen

ABOVE – Harry Fowler and Srah Lawson in a scene from ‘The Blue Peter’

Kieron Moore with John Charlesworth

Wales never looked better than in this film

ABOVE – ‘Candida’ with Michael Hordern, Irene Worth and Tom Criddle

ABOVE ‘ For Dear Life’ with Malcolm Keen, Patricia Burke, Anthony Oliver (seated) and Hamilton Dyce

ABOVE ‘ For Dear Life’ Patricia Burke and Anthony Oliver

The above are good quality Television plays from 1955 with top actors

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A Cinema long gone – The Chequers at St Albans

This is a Cinema that I went to quite often when on holiday in the City – usually in summertime. I am drawn to this story mainly because of the films mentioned – ones that I know well.

The Cinema opened on Saturday 20th January 1912.

The entrance was between two shops and there was Tudor-style decoration above. With possible theatre use in mind, space was left for a stage and dressing rooms. The seating capacity was 799.

In January 1927 the Cinema was acquired by Captain Frederick A. Webb and renamed the Chequers Cinema.

Early in 1933 the auditorium was extended at the screen end into the space left vacant for possible theatre use. This increased the seating to 1,000.

In the 1950’s the Chequers Cinema was adapted for CinemaScope releases. However, in 1962 the cinema was purchased by a property company for conversion into a supermarket. The Chequers Cinema closed on Saturday 30th June 1962 after a week’s run of two re-issues, “Young at Heart” starring Frank Sinatra and Doris Day, and Guy Madison and Vera Miles in “The Charge at Feather River”.

However, permission for change of use was turned down, on the grounds that a redevelopment of the area was pending. So the owners granted a year’s lease (with an option to renew) to Panton Film Distributors, who, after redecoration and reseating, re-opened the Chequers Cinema on Saturday 1st December 1962 with “The 300 Spartans”, starring Richard Egan and Ralph Richardson.

Unfortunately, the cinema became starved of good, current product and had to rely on revivals and lesser releases. Finally, after the double bill of “Portrait of a Mobster” starring Vic Morrow, and “His Majesty O’Keefe” with Burt Lancaster, on Sunday 18th July 1965, the Chequers Cinema closed for good.

‘His Majesty O Keefe is one of my favourite films and one I saw at the Odeon in St Albans in the summer of 1954 – and to think that around eight years later it would be the very last film ever shown at The Chequers Cinema in the City – What a good film to go out on though !

Another Double Feature – another good one

In 1974 the building was compulsorily purchased by the council. The proposed demolition was delayed, and bingo returned for a while, but the building was adapted to form part of The Maltings development in 1983. The canopy and mock Tudor frontage were removed and three shops created. At the rear, two storeys of shops and business premises have been created.

Princess Diana officially opened The Maltings on14 April 1988

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