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Valentine Dyall as Dr Morelle

This film dates back to 1949 and was made at the Studios of Exclusive Films. An early Hammer Film with quite a meagre budget – the Dr Morelle stories had been broadcast as plays on BBC Radio in the War years and afterwards – and that had been very successful.

It was hoped that a film version would capitalise on that but, like Dick Barton Special Agent the public preferred it on Radio.

In the case of Dick Barton, it was mainly because the actors chosen just did not fit the public’s perception of how they looked at all. When we listen to an Audio Drama – as I frequently do – we see the characters in our minds very clearly.

I always remember someone telling me that when asked why they liked Radio Drama – the answer came back ‘because the scenery is better’

I know what they mean.

Valentine Dyall had done a lot of Radio work – in fact that is where he is probably best known – as the ‘The Man in Black’

A Hammer – Edward G, Whiting production released by Exclusive Films. 
Ernest Dudleys famous character of “Monday Night at Eight”. Adapted from a play by Wilfred Burr. 
Recorded by United Programmes 

Black & White 73 minutes

Valentine Dyall as Dr Morelle
Julia Lang as Miss Frayle

Heiress Cynthia Mason disappears in mysterious circumstances just as she is about to come into her inheritance and elope with her boyfriend, Peter Lorimer. Worried by her disappearance, her friend Miss Frayle, who is also assistant to amateur detective Doctor Morelle, takes it upon herself to investigate.
Masquerading as a housemaid, Miss Frayle travels to Cynthia’s remote West Country mansion home, where she encounters her friend’s intimidating, wheelchair-bound stepfather, Mr Kimber.
Miss Frayle soon finds herself out of her depth and, when Bensall, the butler, is murdered and she finds her own life to be in danger, she makes a desperate telephone call to her boss, Doctor Morelle, begging him for help 

The Above Picture is of ‘this magnificent building set in it’s own beautiful grounds that has just become the home of production activity lined up for Exclusive Films’ – that was the 1949 caption from one of the first rate Cinema Magazines of the day. It is Oakley Court, Near Windsor.

Interestingly Valentine Dyall worked there on a film shortly after this – a role he was famous for – the film was ‘The Man in Black’

However this Dr Morelle film was mainly shot around Cookham – more towards Henley on Thames.

This film is based on stories written by Ernest Dudley. It was a long-running series, initially starring Dennis Arundell in Wartime years and afterwards – it was very popular. In the 1950s, the role was taken by Cecil Parker with Sheila Sim as Miss Frayle.

There were also short stories, and even a stage play. In fact BELOW we can see a programme from the 1950 stage play at the theatre in Kew with Dennis Arundell as Dr Morelle and Jane Grahame as Miss Frayle. I would think that was a good one to see – I have not heard of any Dr Morelle stage productions.

Jane Grahame was actually the wife of Ernest Dudley the creator and writer of the Dr Morelle stories. She was also the original Miss Frayle in the Radio series – the same role as she had in this stage production

I really wish that the Dr Morelle stories could be done again on Radio or Television – I think they could prove entertaining and draw a good audience.

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Tarzan’s Savage Fury at the Scala Cinema Worcester

This was in the summer of 1952

As we celebrate the Queen’s 70 years on the throne, in her very first year we can look back, in Cinema terms, and see just how much things have changed. During the summer ‘Tarzan’s Savage Fury’ with Lex Barker was released and just look at the queues – incredible. This was at the Scala Cinema in Worcester. It strikes me that if this film were to be put on again in a leading cinema today, maybe you would have a job to sell even a few seats – but just look at this in 1952.

I remember Peter Haigh reviewing this film and we saw clips from it on the small TV screen we had – in fact the type we all had. It looked very exciting and in those days, with only the one channel, such a promotion there would give a great boost to the film – as it did in Worcester.

Sol Lesser’s ‘Tarzan’s Savage Fury’ which stars Lex Barker is proving one of the most successful of all the Edgar Rice Burroughs series. Currently on RKO Radio Release, the film is gaining much added publicity via the ‘live trailer’ of a ‘Tarzan and Jane’ on tour. The players are seen on the canopy of the Scala, Worcester, where great queues line the Theatre. Their appearance received front page prominence in the Worcester Evening News and Times

Above – I have tried to close in on this picture above – not entirely successfully but enough to see the look-alike Tarzan and Jane on the Balcony.

The Scala Cinema (1922-1973) was previously a theatre, it opened as a cinema on 27th November 1922 and was the first cinema in Worcester to have CinemaScope installed in 1954.

Back to the film – Lex Barker does and did a great job as  Tarzan because he just looked the part, and was athletic enough to cope with the demands of this role in five films –  I wish he had stayed longer as Tarzan  though.

Lex Barker as Tarzan 1952

BELOW – Dorothy Hart with Lex Barker – Tarzans Savage Fury 1952

Dorothy Hart

This film is well worth watching for the action and physicality that Lex Barker brings to the Tarzan role, and also for Dorothy Hart’s presence and fine acting.

Tarzans Savage Fury 1952 B

Here in England at the time, was a Television programme Picture Parade on BBC Television  – in the very early days of Television,  which reviewed new cinema releases.

However I do remember him reviewing this film and showing clips from it one night- and as a small boy to see these scenes from a new and exciting Tarzan film was thrilling – I remember it to this day – and even the clip of film which had Tarzan swimming across a river. 

Peter Haigh

Peter Haigh was replaced in 1962 and went to live in Portugal, where he opened a waterside restaurant. In 1957, he had married the film star Jill Adams.

Interestingly Cy Endfield directed this film – the very last one he did in the USA before he was black-listed for allegedly – and wrongly – being a Communist party member. He then came to England and a few years later had some success with ‘Hell Drivers’ and then came the big one for him – he wrote the screenplay, Produced the Film and Directed it – it was ‘Zulu’

He died in England where he and his family had made their home – in the Cotswold Area.

Cy Endfield directing a scene in ‘Zulu’

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Peter Bull

I have to start by writing about a particular pub in Mayfair which I used to frequent quite a few years ago when I worked in an Office in Grosvenor Street just around the corner from The Iron Duke on Street.

This has come back into my mind because I am attending a business forum meeting next week at this very pub.

Now to Peter Bull – the subject of this article. He was the only famous actor who I ever saw in my years down there working and it was in this Pub that I stopped for a quick half on my way home and he was sitting there chatting to his friends. Even then in that relaxed pose, he seemed larger than life and quite theatrical as you would expect

Peter Bull pictured above as the German Captain in ‘The African Queen’

Peter Bull has had a long career as an actor, notably in plays such as Luther and Waiting for Godot. He has also made several forays into theatrical management as well as appearing many films including an early visit to Hollywood.

He had become a friend of Robert Morley after they appeared in stage productions in the West Country together before the War and when Robert got a part in ‘Marie Antoinette’ in Hollywood which was a big budget film released in 1938. Peter went along to Hollywood and got himself a small role which he claimed was cut when the film was released – I am not sure that it was

He had a very distinguished career in the Royal Navy and became Captain of his own ship and saw action

He survived though and came back into Civvy Street and back into the Theatre putting on his own productions

By his own admission, these were not always successful but he did have some very good shows which went on tour throughout the UK.

He is seen above in a much later film with Fiona Fullerton as Alice in 1972 – he was quite scary as the Queen of Heartsas this still from the film shows.

He periodically appeared in films – well quite regularly really – but his focus and interest lay more with the Theatre, I think.

He had a long fascination with Teddy Bears and had a collection of around 250 at his London home but he said that they were not all in the living room – quite a lot of them lived in the hallway.

Peter Bull with his Teddy Bear Collection, 1973

I always liked Peter Bull – he seemed to be a real character and something of a ‘one-off’

His appearance as the Queen of Hearts I found quite disconcerting and frightening

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The Chiltern Hundreds 1949 made at Denham

I have just watch this film on Talking Pictures and really loved it. In the Credits at the end was the caption ‘made at Denham Film Studios’ so this made it extra good for me as I loved those Studios.

One thing that struck me was the sheer size of some of the sets which was a hallmark of the Denham Films as they were able to make use of the huge sound stages there.

ABOVE: Helen Backlin and David Tomlinson, co-stars in the 1949 British film ‘The Chiltern Hundreds’, do some ride-sharing around the Denham Studios in Buckinghamshire

However local locations were used for some of the exterior Scenes – and they were mainly around Denham Village and Denham Railway Station – however the bottom one which was the large stately home in the film was actually filmed at St Osyth’s Priory Nr Clacton On Sea as it’s location.

Denham Station
Denham Station
At Denham Station again
At Denham Station
A Cottage in Denham Village
Again at Denham Station
This picture of a scene filmed at St Osyth’s Priory Nr Clacton On Sea
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Patterns of Power 1956 Van Heflin

I don’t recall seeing this film but I definitely saw the trailer because the Title remains a strong memory even from that small but intense clip all those years ago.

It is a film that gets very good reviews

Van Heflin, Everett Sloane, Ed Begley, Beatrice Straight, and Elizabeth Wilson star in “Patternsof Power” a 1956 film written by Rod Serling and directed by Fielder Cook.

This film is adapted from the Television play which was a great success and that had starred Richard Kiley in the Ven Heflin role.

Van Heflin plays a young man named Fred Staples, a small-town manager who is brought into a large firm by the President, Ramsey (Everett Sloane). It’s apparent to the viewer (and everyone but Staples) that he’s been hired to replace one of the vice presidents, Bill Briggs (Ed Begley). Staples admires Briggs and the humanity that he brings to his job, but he’s the last of the old firm back when it was run by Ramsey’s father, a compassionate man who cared about the workers. This Ramsey only cares about finance and efficiency. He’s determined to force Briggs out.

“Patterns of Power” is realistic with tremendous acting. The women don’t have any strong parts – mainly wives and secretaries – and this certainly reflects things in the early to mid Fifties.

Richard Kiley brought a naivete to the role of Staples that Van Heflin, because he’s older, doesn’t have, but he’s still very effective as an honest, smart and decent man who’s ambitious but doesn’t like Ramsey’s tactics. Ed Begley is sympathetic as a man past his prime who can’t let go but whose job and daily battles are killing him. Everett Sloane does a great job as the ruthless Ramsey, who won’t allow emotion into his business sense. We get a hint that he’s not as unfeeling as he appears, but he’s never going to let anyone else see it.

A really strong film

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Eddie Cochran

It’s hard to believe 62 years have passed since the tragic death of one of Rock n Roll’s greatest – the legendary Eddie Cochran.
It is hard to comprehend that he – like Buddy Holly – crammed so much into such a short musical career whilst only reaching the tender age of 21 years old. His extraordinary talent, thankfully, has not been forgotten and he continues to influence musicians, gaining younger generations of fans in the process.
Long live the memory and music of this great musician.
Eddie Cochran
Oct. 3rd, 1938 – April 17th, 1960

One of the true greats of the Rock n Roll era.

When it all kicked off, we had Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran and you could also add Fats Domino and they defined the new Rock n Roll era

Eddie, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly were originals who wrote their own material and performed it – in that regard Chuck Berry must have been way ahead of the others though – but they were all outstanding and iconic

In films Eddie appeared as himself in two films below :-

Go Johnny Go 1959

Untamed Youth 1957 ABOVE

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Jet Pilot 1957 – John Wayne and Janet Leigh

This is a strange film – in that it commenced filming in December of 1949, was finally completed in May 1951 and yet not released until 1957

Howard Hughes had taken control of RKO Radio Pictures and, as aviation was one of his passions, he worked on this film in great detail over many months, asking for more aerial filming to be done and added, and then he changed the musical score and countless other things came in to the mix. Maybe along the way, he lost a bit of interest in it – no one will ever know.

What a post production process that proved to be taking 6 years until the film was finally released in 1957

I have seen this comment which might explain what happened :-

The reason originally for the delay in release was great strides were being made in aviation post World War II. So he re-shot and re-shot the aviation sequences and then eventually lost interest. Jet Pilot was released seven years after it was originally filmed and by then the planes really looked out of date. 

When you think about it, with an estimated budget of 9 million US Dollars, Hughes would have had some urgency about him to try to recoup some revenue.

ABOVE John Wayne and Janet Leigh in Jet Pilot

Janet Leigh looks so young and attractive in these stills – but then again she was very young – she was 22 when this was made – and very attractive too.

Later, although in Film Release terms earlier, John Wayne was in a big budget aeroplane film this time as an airline pilot in ‘The High and The Mighty’ and this was very successful indeed.

William Wellman’s soap opera in the sky is one the first of the disaster films. John Wayne plays the harried pilot who experiences more than his share of turbulence including jealous husbands and an airliner that is slowly dismantling itself. Claire Trevor, Wayne’s old flame from Stagecoach, is on board along with Robert Stack as The Duke’s nerve-wracked co-pilot. Dimitri Tiomkin’s haunting theme song was nominated for an Oscar.

In this film, as one of the passengers, was one of my favourite actors fresh from Treasure Island and Long John Silver – none other than Robert Newton in a much more restrained role. He never, to me, seemed to excel in the understated roles – he needed more and the role of Long John Silver in Walt Disney’s Treasure Island had given him just that – and he was superb

Robert Newton and Robert Stack
The Pilot John Wayne climbs aboard the airliner
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Black Horse Canyon 1955

This film was released six months after the film in the previous articleThe Outlaw Stallion – Black Horse Canyon has a Release Date of January 13 January 1955

Excellent Western in Technicolor! It’s about a wild black stallion that Mari Blanchard wants for stock rearing. Joel McCrea and Race Gentry as her neighbours set about to help her capture the horse. However there is another neighbour, Murvyn Vye who also wants the horse. To complicate things, Joel McCrea and Race Gentry fall in love with Mari Blanchard. There are no gun fights just some fist fighting.

Up until reading about this film I had not heard of Race Gentry – he had a fairly short career in films. In the fifties he mainly appeared in Westerns it seems, but latre on he was in a few well known Television series, such as Circus Boy, Whirlybirds and Rin Tin Tin – in just one episode of each

Back to the film and it has to be said that the scenery is incredible and beautifully photographed.

Another interesting aspect of this film was the close relationship between McCrea and Gentry. McCrea had raised Gentry after the death of his parents and they have a very close relationship.

Although not one of his better known films I’m sure that Black Horse Canyon must have been a favourite of Joel McCrea’s.

He had lived on a working ranch where he lived a normal life as a working cowboy much as he was here

This is an ideal film for those who love westerns and horses.

A straight forward and lovely film. The real ranch setting adds much to it.

The horse called Outlaw is also one of the stars of this film.

One of the supporting actors was a Murvyn Vye – again an actor who I had never heard of. Looking further he seemed to be in quite a few films and stage productions.

I came across this newspaper snippet – he was married once and briefly in 1935 to Patricia Savage but that ended in divorce as the picture below tells us with it’s own story. This does not give him a good look.

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The Outlaw Stallion 1954

A Technicolor Western from Columbia directed by Fred Sears has a running time of just over an hour and during that short time, we get a good story and plenty of action.

Phil Carey and Dorothy Patrick were the stars and in truth I did not know of them at all – nor any of the other members of the cast. Nevertheless they all pulled together to bring us a good little film.

The series of pictures below are from a thrilling sequence close to the end of the film

Fred Sears the Director had regularly been used by Columbia because he could bring a film in under or on budget and usually they were reasonably successful. Fred died very young at the age of 44 following a heart attack.

He had some really good ones in his portfolio as well as not so good such as ‘The Giant Claw’ but that was not his fault – he had completed the film and left the special effects to others who, constrained by finance, rather let Fred down with the ludicrous giant bird

This film had gorgeous scenery and a spirited plot making it just as enjoyable as many other Columbia westerns from the 1950s.

The film was shot on location in Utah, and the photography by Lester White is stunning – there are a number of great shots of the stuntmen handling the horses with great skill.

If you’re a Western fan, you’ll enjoy the bit where an abused horse ties one of the baddies to a tree – really getting his revenge

All in all, a film well worth seeing

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Separate Tables 1958

From another stage play by that brilliant writer Terence Rattigan and brought to the screen in an expensive production by Burt Lancaster’s Production company – he had a leading role and I have to say that he was mis-cast in my view. The company did, though, put together a Who’s Who of famous actors. Rita Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, Gladys Cooper, Wendy Hiller, Felix Aylmer and David Niven as the Major.

It centred around long stay guests in a small seaside hotel – all different types put together but not necessarily with any perceived warmth for one another. Really a study in loneliness.

Gladys Cooper with Deborah Kerr ABOVE

ABOVE David Niven – as The Major – enters the dining room – in disgrace and fears the reaction of his fellow residents.

ABOVE Deborah Kerr hears the news that The Major will be leaving

Above and Below – The Major enters and proceeds to his usual seat

BELOW – An awkward breakfast with The Major very uncomfortable as the other residents look on

Terence Rattigan is one of my favourite playwrights, his dialogue is so intelligent, and witty, and the storytelling so beautifully constructed.

Along with ‘The Winslow Boy’ and particularly ‘The Browning Version’, ‘Separate Tables’ is a perfect example of Terence Rattigan at his best.

On ‘The Terence Rattigan Collection’ DVD issue there is available many of his best works as done by the BBC over a period of years. There is ‘The Winslow Boy’ with Eric Porter and Alan Badel, and the 1985 adaptation of ‘The Browning Version with Ian Holm and Judi Dench.

This is nowhere near as good as the Michael Redgrave film of 1951 ( one of the finest adaptations of any of Rattigan’s plays )

Then we have what is described as the ‘magnificent 1970 version’ of ‘Separate Tables’. This is reported to be ‘the standout’ of the Terence Rattigan Collection – I have yet to see this version though

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