Mystery on Bird Island 1954

‘Mystery On Bird Island’ was filmed in Guernsey and Alderney, and ‘Bird Island’ was Burhou, a small islet off Alderney.

It is from a story by Mary Cathcart Borer. The 57 minute film was released in 1954 by ‘The Children’s Film Foundation’

It is the Story of Four youngsters who discover birds’ nest thieves on a sanctuary island, and go head-to-head with the smugglers to try and stop them.

A few years later came this better known story :-

Five on Treasure Island 1957

The first of Enid Blyton’s popular adventures about four young cousins and their dog with a taste for investigating takes them to an island off the Dorset coast that it is full of mysteries, scrapes and, of course, lashings of ginger ale. However the promise of lost riches from a shipwreck also attracts the attention of greedy men who might put our heroes in danger.

This is the earliest filmed version of the story, made by the Children’s Film Foundation. The eight episodes were originally meant for the kids-only Saturday morning showings that used to be run at cinemas.

The Famous Five are Julian, Dick, Anne, George [Georgina] and Timmy the dog. This film tells the story of how the Famous Five have an exciting but sometimes scary adventure searching for treasure on the island left to Georgina by her grandfather

A young actor in the film was John Charlesworth who had quite a busy career in Films and Television. I remember him very well for playing Harry Wharton in the famous BBC Billy Bunter Television series.

John Charlesworth

Also he had a key role in ‘The Blue Peter’ another favourite of mine which starred Kieron Moore, Greta Gynt and Sarah Lawson also in the cast.

It was a thrilling film set at an Outward Bound School in Aberdovey North Wales. In Colour and Cinemascope

John Charlesworth
Harry Fowler, John Charlesworth and Kieron Moore

Harry Fowler and John Charlesworth filming a scene in Aberdovey
‘The Blue Peter’ 1955

Sad to say that John Charlesworth died at the age of 24 in tragic circumstances – he took his own life on 2 April 1960.

What a waste of such a young man who had become quite well known to many of us through the fifties and I am sure that he would have had so much more to give to films and to Television and to life itself

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Richard Todd as Robin Hood

This is a picture I have never seen before and must have been taken around the time that Richard Todd was making the film ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ for Walt Disney at Denham Film Studios in the Summer of 1951

There seems to be loads of pictures about this film – not sure that this is an official one though.

The ones BELOW are from the Walt Disney promotion of the Film

The Image ABOVE appeared on the original Video release in 1983

‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ – Walt Disney Production was not often shown after it’s original 1952 release Worldwide although it was re-released in England in the Seventies as a supporting film to ‘Scandalous John’ starring Brian Keith which came out in 1971 and did not fare well at the Box Office – although I have read this very good review of the film :-

‘Scandalous John is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. The crazy adventures that John McCanless lives with his ranch worker Paco while taking John’s only cow to sell it and get money to save his home are hilarious.

Brian Keith is terrific as the loud and unpredectible John McCanless. This film is the story of Don Quixote set in the early 1970’s of the American West, with John McCanless has the crazy Don Quixote and Alfonso Arau has his sidekick Paco Martínez. If you want to see a great comedy and have a great time, watch Scandalous John’

Well, as ABOVE, that is someone’s review of the film – and it sounds good. I must watch it when I get chance but it is a film that I can’t recall being on Television

The ABOVE Advertisement shows – as it should do – Joan Rice raised to the Star Billing that she deserves – sometimes nowadays, we see the film coming up on Television and she is not mentioned.

In the 1952 release it was very much – Richard Todd and Joan Rice whose names were, rightly to the fore

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High Wind in Jamaica 1965 – The Child Stars

Quite an interesting snippet in the Daily Mail recently – in their ‘Lost and Found’ feature.

A former child actor who was in the film, Henry Baltram was looking for the other five youngsters who appeared with him in this production

With Vivian Ventura – having fun

A High Wind in Jamaica

Henry Baltram was a child actor who appeared in a few films including ‘A High Wind in Jamaica’ (starring Anthony Quinn and James Coburn) which was screened in Chichester recently.

Henry appeared in the film along with five other youngsters who had been selected – he had recently , through the Daily Mail – been trying to locate three of them with whom they had lost contact. One, Roberta Tovey, did respond and made contact but the missing two have yet to be found.

This proved a little late for Roberta to attend the ‘reunion’ in Chichester when the film was screened again – and apparently very well received

Another actor from the film – Deborah Baxter did attend. In the film she had put in an astounding performance as an 11-year-old and stole virtually every scene that she was in

A few years later she was cast as Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter in “The Wind and the Lion.” 

At the reunion screening of ‘High Wind in Jamaica’, Henry, Deborah, and Deborah’s sister Beverly (an extra in the film) hosted a Question and Answer session after the film was shown.

ABOVE: Viviane Ventura and Henry Baltram as they appear in the film

Something that I didn’t know though, was that, one of the stars of the film, Viviane Ventura was the official mascot for England’s winning World Cup squad of 1966

BELOW – The Chichester New Park Cinema where ‘High Wind in Jamaica’ was shown recently

Chichester Cinema
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El Paso 1949

Another good Western filmed in Cinecolor – which I quite like – and starring John Payne and Gail Russell.

This was shown on British Television this weekend

EL PASO – a Cinecolor Western starring John Payne and Gail Russell

The film is set just after the Civil War, when Clay Fletcher ( John Payne), a lawyer from Charleston, arrives in El Paso on business. Clay also hopes to reunite with his long-lost love Susan ( Gail Russell), who moved to El Paso while he was away fighting for the South.

El Paso is a lawless city run by Bert Donner (Sterling Hayden) and his crony Sheriff La Farge (Dick Foran). They keep Susan’s father, an alcoholic judge (Henry Hull), well supplied with alcohol and under their control as they scheme to use taxes to take control of local farms. Clay successfully defends a former friend (Arthur Space) on a murder charge after he kills one of Donner’s men in self-defence, but eventually Clay is forced into a situation where he has to to deal with the town’s criminals with guns rather than law books.

The climactic action sequence is a gun battle during a dust storm.

ABOVE – Gail Russell with John Payne

Gail Russell with John Payne made a few films together – this was a good one.

An interesting aspect of the film is its use of Cinecolor, a relatively inexpensive process. In certain films Cinecolor looks good — it works quite well in Randolph Scott’s  The Nevadan (1950) — and also in this one El Paso ( 1949 )

I remember the process being impressive in the Jon Hall ‘Prince of Thieves’ from 1948 and some later Roy Rogers films which, by then, had a bigger budget

Super Cinecolor followed which was even better.

The film has an excellent cast, including a small but colourful appearance by Mary Beth Hughes as a clever thief, “Stagecoach Nellie.” John Payne and Gail Russell do well in their roles, and their strong performances are central to the film.

There’s also an appealing turn by Eduardo Noriega as the friendly Don Nacho Vazquez.

ABOVE – John Payne and Mary Beth Hughes

The film starts out well and has an entertaining first half, which includes Vazquez training Clay in the art of being a quick draw.

ABOVE – A big finish at the film’s end

ABOVE – A rousing ending

BELOW – The Film Premier in Oklahoma City on 25 March 1949

Back stage waiting to appear at the premiere of “El Paso” in Oklahoma City on March 26, 1949 are (L-R standing) Paramount exec Duke Clark, actor Paul Hogan (husband of Helen Forrest), Frank Faylen, Eduardo Noriega, theatre manager George Spelvin, co-producer Bill Thomas, songwriter Harry Revel. (L-R sitting) famous songtress Helen Forrest, Mr. and Mrs. Gabby Hayes, Mary Beth Hughes, John Payne.

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The Lone Ranger

The origin of Lone Ranger’s story begins with a group of Texas Rangers chasing down a gang of outlaws led by Butch Cavendish. The gang ambushs the Rangers, believing to have killed them all.

There is one survivor however, who is found by an American Indian named Tonto, and Tonto nurses him back to health.

So the bond between these two was established

As we all remember the Lone Ranger was played by Clayton Moore – well most of the time it was because he had a contractual dispute with the Producers and the role for two seasons went to John Hart.

Viewers though wanted Clayton Moore back, so he duly was re-instated.

Jay Silverheels who played Tonto had been around for quite a while in films but this proved to be his most famous role by far. The very first episode went out in September of 1949 and the series carried on successfully through to 1957 – and there were a couple of Lone Ranger film releases along the way, in the mid 50’s

He had been in many films since before the War – one of them was ‘The Sabre and the Arrow’ in 1948 in an uncredited role among many others.

Clayton Moore

He was born Jack Carlson Moore, the son of a real estate broker, in Chicago. He performed in a trapeze circus act for several years, after learning acrobatics, tumbling and swimming as a teenager at the Illinois Athletic Club. One of his instructors there was Johnny Weissmuller, the champion swimmer who later played Tarzan in the movies.

An injury ended Moore’s circus career, and so this handsome athlete later became a John Robert Powers model.

He first appeared in films in 1938, playing bit parts and performing stunts in serials including “Dick Tracy Returns” (1938) and “The Perils of Nyoka” (1942). Nicknamed the “King of the Serials” for all the cliffhanger episodes he helped churn out to encourage return visits to cinemas, Clayton Moore first donned a mask in the 1949 serial “The Ghost of Zorro.”

His acting career, like so many, was interrupted by World War II where he served three years in the Army Air Force

A fan of the Lone Ranger radio series since its inception in 1933, Clayton Moore beat out 75 actors to become television’s version of the classic hero. When producer George Trendle told him the good news, Moore said he replied: “Mr. Trendle, I am the Lone Ranger.”

I also came across this interview with Clayton Moor’s daughter which is fascinating:-

As TV’s Lone Ranger in the 1950s, Clayton Moore was a hero both on and off the screen.

“I still get letters from policemen, firemen, and teachers who say they chose a career in service because of him,” said daughter Dawn Moore from Los Angeles. “He not only acted out the Lone Ranger’s Creed on TV, but lived it.”

The Creed, written by Fran Striker in 1933 for the original Lone Ranger radio show, was an ethical guide that emphasized friendship, respect, truth, God, country and, remarkably for the period, stewardship for the planet.

Clayton Moore receives his "Star" on the Walk of Fame in 1987. Dawn is behind him in the picture.

Clayton Moore receives his “Star” on the Walk of Fame in 1987. His daughter Dawn is behind him in the picture.  

“It’s important for me now to look back as an adult and understand that my father was not preachy,” said Dawn. “He led his life and really made his decisions each day on the Lone Ranger Creed. And that is really quite extraordinary parenting, leading by example. He didn’t tell me what to do and what not to do ever, so I made plenty of mistakes and he let me make them. But fortunately for me, my father was an excellent example to follow.”

Like many busy actors, duties on location sets would often mean sacrificing home time for Moore.

“He would be gone for two or three months at a time, but when he was home he was there 24 hours a day and was my buddy,” recalled Dawn. “That was just how our household worked, so I didn’t have any reason to question it. He would love it when my friends came over and would be out there playing with everybody, and giving them all nicknames. He loved children and was a big kid himself with a fantastic sense of humour.”

Clayton Moore passed away in 1999

Dawn Moore and father Clayton Moore at the 1990 National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Dawn Moore and father Clayton Moore at the 1990 National Cowboy Hall of Fame.  

As a child, Dawn didn’t even know her father had been the Lone Ranger until one day the pair went shopping for a television and the salesperson recognised his voice.

“I was eight or nine, and wondered how this stranger knew my father,” she recalled. “The show ended in 1957 so I never saw it growing up. And when we went out, no one recognised him because his character had always been masked.”

In addition to the one he had sold, Clayton Moore used two other masks on the show. One found its way into a private collection and Dawn donated the other to the Smithsonian after her father died, in accordance with his wishes.

“The original masks used on the show impaired Dad’s peripheral vision and he couldn’t see where to land after a fall. So the costumer made a mold of his face and created three felt masks which were covered with resin on the inside. But they were hot to wear.”

Clayton Moore’s clothes were also uncomfortable.

“They filmed the Lone Ranger at the Iverson Ranch, near Los Angeles, where summer temperatures were over 100 degrees,” explained Dawn. “Dad’s costume was made out of heavy wool and was skin tight.

Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto, wore an outfit of heavy suede. So these guys worked their tails off making the show

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October Moth 1960

Lana Morris and Lee Patterson are in this British Second feature which has a small cast

This film appears on an Edgar Wallace DVD release although it wasn’t originally one of the Edgar Wallace films – however it did have a film release in cinemas in the UK

It will be shown on Talking Pictures next week

Now to the Plot – Finlay ( Lee Patterson ) is a disturbed young man, who finds an injured woman following a road accident and takes her back to the farm he runs with his sister Molly. He thinks the injured woman is his dead mother come back to them. Molly tries to save the woman and also her brother but those two things are eventually incompatible. She is helped by Tom, a telephone engineer who works nearby.

This is a tense film with good and heartfelt acting by Lee Patterson, Lana Morris and Peter Dyneley.

The Director is John Kruse – a film well worth watching.

Lana Morris was married to Ronnie Waldman who, I remember presented ‘Puzzle Corner’ on BBC Television in the Fifties. He rose to the position of ‘Head of BBC Light Entertainment’ so he had a successful career

They had a son, Simon Waldman who is a BBC News Editor

This was one of Lana’s last films. Mind you, she was active long after this – she died whilst preparing to go on stage at the Theatre Royal in Windsor in 1998

This is pretty good although a low budget drama set at an isolated farm house. The action takes place over the course of one night at this house which is occupied by a frightened sister and her neurotic brother, played by Lee Patterson in a Norman Bates type role.

The very low budget budget is quite obvious from the outset, but the tension and drama makes up for that – Lee Patterson is excellent in the part

This Film was made at the Beaconsfield Film Studios and features on a very recent DVD Release as below

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Lee Aaker – Rin Tin Tin and more

Not a well known name – but a successful child actor

With John Wayne in ‘Hondo’

Lee Aaker
(September 25, 1943 – April 1, 2021)

Lee Aaker, who has died recently, will be remembered mainly for the Rin Tin Tin TV series – he played in 164 episodes between 1954 and 1959.

He also appeared in Hondo (1953, above) with John Wayne, High Noon (1952), Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954) and Destry (1954).

Also ‘A Lion in the Streets’ 1954 and ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ 1952

He is quoted as saying that when the long running TV Series ‘Rin Tin Tin’ finished he was, quite quickly, out of the public eye and not ‘the centre of attention’ anymore

Such is fame – a fleeting time in the spotlight – although in fairness his film acting career lasted from 1948 until 1963 – so a good run by any yardstick

In England in the early days of Television, one of the first American Shows was ‘Rex and Rinty’ and we all loved it – It was basically the same as ‘Rin Tin Tin’ but what surprised me was that this series was made in 1935 – so well before the US Television series mentioned here.

‘Rex and Rinty’ had been directed by Ford Beebe an extraordinary character with an incredible work ethic, who wrote scripts, directed films, acted in them, cut the film and prepared it for screening – more on him in a later post.

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Vivien Leigh ‘Gone with the Wind’

This is just about the most famous film of all time. Beautifully made in Technicolor and with an iconic cast.

Vivien Leigh perfect in her role as Scarlett O’Hara

ABOVE – Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara

Vivien studies the script

ABOVE – Vivien Leigh outside ‘Tara’ – a publicity still but a very impressive one

ABOVE – Scarlett looks unimpressed by Rhett’s affection

ABOVE Margaret Mitchell Centre laughs along with David O. Selznick, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and Olivia De Havilland

ABOVE Vivien Leigh shares a laugh with Director Victor Fleming

ABOVE – A pompous looking Laurence Olivier with the lovely Vivien Leigh probably in the grounds of the San Ysidro Ranch owned by Ronald Colman

He must have been seething with jealousy at her great screen success against his moderate film work. He did play the lead in ‘Rebecca’ only after Alfred Hitchcock was unable to acquire Ronald Colman for the role – who would have been perfect in the role. Olivier was ok though

Apparently Sir Laurence used to check the scripts that Vivien Leigh was sent and he decided which ones were suitable – as he saw it that is. She was a wonderful screen actress and in fairness, could turn her hand to anything offered

Later on he decided to direct the film ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’ in with he starred with Marilyn Monroe. She was very much the star and with her in the cast you could guarantee a healthy Box Office

However, it is reported that the two stars did not get on well at all – with Sir Laurence heard to call Marilyn an unpleasant name

How dare he be so rude to such a great film star

ABOVE – The Prince and the Showgirl

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Dining at Denham

BELOW – This would be much earlier at Denham – in fact just before the War because Charles Laughton is in costume for ‘I Claudius’ in 1937.

Here he is seated and having lunch with Mary Pickford and Alexander Korda at the Denham Canteen

BELOW – This would be 1947 at Denham and again in the Canteen waiting to be fed. David Niven is in costume as filming of ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ was well underway – it was released in 1948

It does seem as though all the staff and the stars waited for their meals in the Canteen – and this is a surprise to me because I would have expected Alexander Korda to have had his own private dining room. Maybe he did and this was just a publicity still – and it seems from the picture below that that was indeed the case.

When Denham Studios opened in May 1936 it was hailed as Britain’s largest, most up-to-date film studio, located on a 193-acre site on an estate called ‘The Fishery’ north of Denham Village in Buckinghamshire. Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, it was celebrated as symptomatic of the revival of the British film industry, and of the rise of Alexander Korda’s London Film Productions, the company that built the studios with finance provided by the Prudential Assurance Company.

Denham was by far the largest of the film studios in Britain, but it was soon to be rivalled by J. Arthur Rank’s Pinewood Studios which opened just a few months after Denham in September 1936

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Sapphire 1959

Basil Dearden directed this Thriller which starred Nigel Patrick, Yvonne Mitchell, Michael Craig, Paul Massie, Bernard Miles and many stalwart and well known actors of that era.

Basil Dearden had directed some impressive films including ‘Dead of Night’ “The League of Gentlemen” and this one “Sapphire”

The film begins with the discovery of a dead woman in a park. However, this turns out to be anything but a routine case when the police investigate further. It turns out that the lady was pregnant. Secondly , for whatever reason, she was black and posing as a white woman. While this sort of plot might seem pretty routine today – back then in 1959 it was quite daring.

The film is very well written. Nigel Patrick did a first class job in playing the chief inspector- I remember him for two film roles particularly – one in ‘The Browning Version’ where he plays Frank Hunter a young teacher who is having an affair with Millie Crocker-Harris, the wife of teacher Andrew Crocker-Harris played by Michael Redgrave in one of his best roles and the other in more light-hearted mode when he played Mr Know-All in one of the story segments in ‘Trio’

Michael Craig is in the early stages of his film career with this film – he plays the Chief Inspector’s Assistant

Paul Massie and Michael Craig ABOVE

Yvonne Mitchell is also very good as a key witness, and Earl Cameron is outstanding as Sapphire’s dignified brother whose skin is closer to their mothers.

From him we get to see the indignities that an educated man must face because he’s a black doctor at that time

This is a film well worth seeing. It’s not surprising that the film won the BAFTA ( British version of the Oscar) for Best Picture.

ABOVE – Michael Craig and Nigel Patrick with Orlando Martins behind the bar

BELOW – Nigel Patrick here with Jean Kent and Michael Redgrave in ‘The Browning Version’ 1951

BELOW – Nigel Patrick as Mr Know-All in ‘Trio’

Michael Craig who is still alive today aged 93 started in films in the very early fifties and throughout that decade and the next he remained a popular leading man with his classic good looks helping him there.

One film he made early in his career in 1954 was ‘Svengali’ with the great Shakespearean actor Donald Wolfit who had been drafted into the leading role with only two week’s notice because the original star Robert Newton suddenly pulled out and flew back to the USA. One theory is that it was for tax reasons.

Michael Craig, though, was way down the cast list

I like Robert Newton and Sir Donald Wolfit as actors of that era. They were both Shakespearean trained stage actors who had gravitated into films quite successfully

Robert Newton had great success in ‘Treasure Island’ and after this failed ‘Svengali’ attempt – he went to Australia and made ‘Long John Silver’ and then a full television series by the same name which turned out to be very popular on a world scale – certainly on Television here in England

Donald Wolfit used his film earnings to help finance his Theatre tours which brought Shakespeare to the masses with great success.

He was much maligned by the likes of Sir Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson but he was at the very least their equal.

More on Sir Donald Wolfit another time

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