Solomon and Sheba 1959 – Tyrone Power – sadly not the star

This film did not star Tyrone Power – it should have done but after quite a lot of the exterior scenes had been filmed with him in them, he sadly died on the set while filming a duel he was having with George Sanders.

It was a sad and early end to a glittering acting career both on stage and on screen – where he is best known.

Some of the vast outdoor scenes had already been filmed in very cold temperatures with easterly winds – and this weather persisted.

Tyrone Power had been a heavy smoker for years – something that probably contributed to his early death – alongside that physically demanding action he had to do in bitterly cold weather

ABOVE – A Newspaper Headline

ABOVE – Tyrone Power with Noel Purcell as King David – After Tyrone Power died and Yul Brynner took on the role, Noel Purcell for whatever reason was replaced as King David by Finlay Currie

ABOVE – Tyrone Power with Gina Lollobridgida and Director King Vidor demonstrating the whip technique

ABOVE – Tyrone Power in a scene with Marisa Pavan

ABOVE – Tyrone Power with Gina Lollobridgida and King Vidor at the Sevilla Studios

ABOVE – With George Sanders in what looks like a tense scene

ABOVE – One of the massive battle sequences

ABOVE Tyrone Power takes a break between scenes

ABOVE – Tyrone Power again with George Sanders

ABOVE – Tyrone Power has collapsed on the floor of the Studios

Tyrone Power, who had been born in Cincinnati, Ohio, had made his name as an actor on Broadway before turning to Hollywood. He became an overnight star on screen with his performance in Lloyds of London (1936). Subsequent films included The Mark of Zorro (1940, the year in which he was Hollywood’s top box-office draw), Blood and Sand (1941), and The Sun Also Rises (1957).

I liked him in ‘Jesse James’ in Colour in 1939

He made repeated returns to the stage for dramas such as The Devil’s Disciple, by George Bernard Shaw.

The 1956 run of the play took him to Edinburgh and Glasgow; he is photographed here holding onto his hat on a visit to windy Edinburgh Castle.

Tyrone Power in Edinburgh

Tyrone Power died in November 1958, aged 44, having suffered a heart attack during the filming, in Spain, of the epic, Solomon and Sheba.

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Ellis Powell – Mrs Dale. The Private Life of ‘Mrs Dale’

We go back to a feature done here some months ago, on the Radio personality Ellis Powell who played Mrs Dale in the long running series Mrs Dale’s Diary. There had been reports of her losing the job as Mrs Dale due to drinking but there is no evidence of this and I think it is untrue.

She, very sadly, died shortly after this. However what is not often reported is about her own life – her own life story from quite well-to-do parents living in lovely surroundings and with a father who was influential and well connected in those days – to a fulfilling career as an actress both on stage in the early days to radio drama. Here we see a picture of a happy and fun loving girl from a loving family who found great happiness in touring the country with plays and dramas before settling into those radio days.

Also very important in this story – as with many others born around that time – her life was punctuated and no doubt marked by Two World Wars which ravaged the country and left people changed in their outlook and aspirations.

We did get something of a glimpse into the life of Ellis Powell in the first article on here – and now we have further information from 1954 – at the height of her ‘Mrs Dale’ popularity

Ellis Powell was often been asked if, like Mrs. Dale, she kept a diary – she said that she did not, simply because she just could not find the time to complete it each day – she receives many letters – more for Mrs Dale than herself .

When she first auditioned for the part, she was not really bothered about getting it – after all she had been mainly a comedy actress and this was very much a straight role.

Ellis Powell waves goodbye to her Radio Husband Douglas Burbidge at the entrance to Broadcasting House in London, after they had finished recording another episode for us

ABOVE – We have Ellis Powell with her husband in real life the film actor Ralph Truman

Ellis Powell could not remember why she became an actress – although as a small child she had written verses and received prizes for that and she had at times insisted on reciting some of those same verses.

Her Mother then decided to send her for elocution lessons.

At the time her family lived in a large house in North West London with 5 acres of garden and a lake. She was one of three children and they just loved the place – it was like being in the country but close to the City.

Her father was a Doctor of Science and a Bachelor of Law and for a long time editor of the Financial News. Among his friends was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He married Rose Alberta E. Badhams and they had three children

Ellis Powell as a young girl began writing sketches that she would also act in, and during the 1914-18 War, she appeared in concerts for the Adair Wounded Fund – these were at the Palladium – so she effectively started at the top. Her school teacher encouraged her with her writing and acting.

Her father died in 1922 and then she had to earn a living so she chose the theatre and went to RADA and then joined a Rep touring with plays – often farces such as ‘Rookery Nook’. During that time she lived along with three other women in various houses around the country as they travelled to each provincial location. She described the four years they did this as very happy ones. Apparently they all got on well together and she described them all as being ‘as happy off the stage as we were on it’

Around this time of course Radio or ‘the wireless’ was becoming very popular. She auditioned for a play on radio in 1927. She did not really take to this at that time so nothing materialised

She makes no mention of the fact that she married another actor Ralph Truman on 9 March 1928. However there is a reference to her having a son who in 1954 was in his early twenties, so he would probably have been born around 1929 or 1930.

ABOVE – a picture of her son Clive’s wedding in 1960 to Myra Vaughan.

Ellis Powell kisses the bride – her son is reported in the caption to be called Clive Roman but why I just can’t imagine

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Ralph Truman and Ellis Powell remained married until 1963 when she died. It says on the imdb site that their marriage foundered but I can’t find any evidence for that at all.

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The next thing she refers to in the interview is getting back into radio in 1938. She auditioned again and described it as ‘a very different audition to the first one’ – she was in a better frame of mind.

When War came, she was often asked to appear in productions with the BBC Rep Company, mainly in Evesham and sometimes Manchester.

She was offered the part of Mrs Williams in ‘The Robinsons’ a ‘true-to-life’ series and grew to love all the people in the Robinson’s family circle. It was after this had finished – and after the War had ended – that she got the part of Mrs Dale – which she is famous for. She got to love the role – there were similarities between her and her character though – they both had sons about the same age – Mrs Dale had Bob and Ellis Powell’s son was Clive.

She also said that ‘like Mrs Dale’, she loved people and was interested in everybody and everything because at some point everyone is the central point in a history story.’

Now to a link which I have never seen mentioned before in any reporting of Ellis Powell – her father – quite famous and well connected he was.

Thomas Ellis Powell, born 1869 in Ludlow, England. Ellis married Rose Alberta Badams and they had three children – Mary Elizabeth Rose, Sidney & Agnes Estelle, born 1904 in London.
From 1909 – 1920 Thom. Ellis Powell held the position of Editor of the newspaper ‘Financial News’ He was a prolific author and his interests included politics, music and Psychic research.
In 1913, the eldest child, Mary, married Wilfrid Lindsay Sturt. To my knowledge they had one child, a girl.
Sidney was interested in film making.
Agnes became an actress using the professional name of Ellis Powell. During the 1950’s Agnes became a household name when she took the leading role in the B.B.C’s daily radio programme “Mrs. Dales Diary.”

Ellis Powell was named after her father, quite famous in his own way, and certainly a man of some standing with influential friends – details of his life as below :

Her father :-

Powell, Ellis T(homas) (1869-1922)

British barrister, journalist, and Spiritualist. Powell was born in Ludlow, Shropshire, and educated at Ludlow Grammar School. He served an apprenticeship to a draper in Ludlow, then came to London, where he became a journalist on the Financial News, eventually becoming editor. He mastered several languages, including Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. In his spare time, he studied law and became a barrister. Powell was a fellow of the Royal Historical and Royal Economic Societies, the Institute of Journalists, and the Royal Colonial Institute (member of council). He lectured at the London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London).

Powell became a supporter of the Spiritualist movement, travelling throughout Britain and lecturing on psychic subjects. He was a member of the British College of Psychic Science and was a council member of the London Spiritualist Alliance. He frequently contributed to the Spiritualist journal Light.

As a good friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Powell’s name figured in the séance conducted by Doyle and his wife for Harry Houdini. In 1922, when the Doyles were in Atlantic City, they met Houdini on the sea front. Lady Jean Doyle offered to give Houdini an automatic writing séance. This took place at the Ambassador Hotel, where they were staying.

Lady Doyle produced automatic writing purporting to come from Houdini’s dead mother. At the end of the message, Houdini took up the pencil and wrote on the pad—the name “Powell.” This convinced Doyle that Houdini was a medium, since his friend Ellis Powell had died a few days earlier. Houdini later stated the message claimed to be from his mother was not evidential, since she would have been unable to communicate in fluent English, moreover he had been thinking of Frederick Eugene Powell, a fellow stage magician.

As a barrister, Powell brought his legal training to the problem of what he termed the “barbaric legislation” against mediums, campaigning to amend the Witchcraft Act of George II, still used against mediums during the twentieth century. He died June 1, 1922. He was only 52 or 53

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I wonder if he died of Influenza in the terrible epidemic of that the early twenties that ravaged the world. By 1922 it had all but fizzled out – but I just wonder

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‘Waters of the Moon’ – a 1952 Stage Play

In 1983 we were lucky to have a Television version of N C Hunter’s classic English play ‘Waters of the Moon’ – a production which is full of traditional English characters living at a small Devon Hotel in 1950 – and living their own routine way – which seemed to suit them – until a family descends on the hotel. Their car has been stranded in a snow drift nearby, and their arrival seems to upset the life structure the hotel residents have – for a short time

I do have a CD copy of the Radio Play which starred Marjorie Westbury in a play she herself chose to mark her 50 years in BBC Radio Drama.

Also in the cast were Mary Wimbush, Patricia Hayes and Martin Jarvisher friends in everyday life

I must admit that Mary Wimbush is one of my favourite radio actors – her distinctive voice tends to add a quality to whatever production she is in

One Review about Marjorie Westbury in the famous play:

It was a joy to hear Marjorie Westbury in Waters of the Moon, in the Edith Evans part. She celebrated her jubilee in style, projecting glamour and sophistication (as, long ago, she did for Steve in PAUL TEMPLE). The New Year Party was admirably done – there was a real sense of a group of diverse people interacting, in Graham Gauld’s production


Two of the co-stars of the 1983 TV production were Carry On actors – Joan Sims and Dilys Laye. As well as being wonderful actresses and veteran Carry On characters, Joan and Dilys were also the best of friends. They had been friends right from the early days of revue in the 1950s and it was a friendship that endured right up until Joan’s death in 2001. 

I think both Joan and Dilys were extremely talented and to a certain extent, undervalued performers. Both were successful actors, beloved by fans and their peers but they were never true stars as we would know them.

Anyway, back to ‘Waters of the Moon’ – if you fancy an interesting diversion, check out this television play. It also stars Penelope Keith, Virginia McKenna, Ronald Pickup and Lesley Dunlop. Quite a cast. So sit back and enjoy!

Somewhere I have a Video copy of this version and I am frantically looking through my mountain of old VHS Tapes to try to find it – up to now with no success

It started as a stage play in the West End of London, where it ran successfully for two years or so on its first run

The 1983 Television Production with Penelope Keith and Ronald Pickup is a very handsome production of this N.C. Hunter play and has several excellent performances to recommend it.

A drawing-room drama starts out and sets the scene, by establishing the lives of a group of people in a residential hotel in the Devonshire countryside. The four residents form an ill matched crowd but they have lived alongside one another for a few years and got used to each others ways. There’s the retired colonel (Richard Vernon) who sleeps away his life when he’s not shooting birds. There’s a displaced Austrian (Ronald Pickup), and two women at opposite ends of the pole: Mrs. Whyte (Virginia McKenna), a brittle upper-class woman who’s lost her money, and Mrs. Ashmore (Joan Sims), a cheerful working-class type. The hotel is run by the dour Mrs. Daly (Dilys Laye) and her adult son who is ‘sickly’ possibly has had TB but that is never said.

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My Darling Clementine – Victor Mature as Doc Holliday

A top-rated Western from John Ford even though it is from before the Fifties – in fact was released in 1946. I wish that this had been in Technicolor – however it is possible to get the colorized version on DVD and to me that is the one to see

The acting contains a number of career-best performance from two top actors — Victor Mature and Walter Brennan. Victor Mature takes the Doc Holliday role which has tended to be the one most sought after and he gives the most moving and arguably the finest of all interpretations.

In fact in the film there is a Shakespeare scene where Victor Mature performs the great Hamlet soliloquy from Hamlet, ‘To be or not to be’.

The character Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) completes the soliloquy when the actor falters. The inclusion of this scene is seen as a meditation on America’s transformation from wilderness into civilisation.

Famous actor Alec Baldwin describes this as ‘the most beautiful Shakespeare recitation you’ve ever heard in your life.’

Walter Brennan plays the dark and vengeful Ike Clanton – very much against the type of parts he had before or after this one

ABOVE – Victor Mature

ABOVE – Henry Fonda looks very dated in this shot

Walter Brennan above – as Ike Clanton – a very different part to the ones that we are used to seeing him in.

He looks a lot younger here – which of course he was.

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Long John Silver 1954

I started to plan an article on here about the 1954 film ‘Svengali’ mainly because it gave a starring role to one of my favourites – Donald Wolfit but I got led down another path – something I did not know at the time, was that Robert Newton was cast in this role until he walked out, or was asked to go, and this happened after filming had started.

He went straight away out to Australia to make the film ‘Long John Silver’

Possibly one reason for his rapid exit was that he was being pursued by the Inland Revenue for back tax

We now cut to Australia and in early 1954, a world away from the dense urban spread of today’s Sydney there was Pagewood, Australia’s only purpose-built film studio complex – and it was there that “Long John Silver”- a Hollywood style blockbuster was to be made.

Australia’s first film in Cinemascope and Technicolor. If you view the film now online it is one of the very wide screen Cinemascope films that I love – and very impressive.

I have read also that the film had to be flown back to Denham in England for processing and then sent back. Also each film was shot twice – so that smaller cinemas could show the film – cinemas who had not as yet installed the new equipment.

The UK based Ealing Studios had re-opened Pagewood Studios after the war and did an expensive refurbishment. Following several feature productions, the studio closed down yet again in 1952. The closure didn’t last long:

Treasure Island Pictures was formed.

This film would capitalise on the success of ‘Treasure Island’ the Disney 1950 version – and more particularly on the fact that Robert Newton was to take on the role that he had made his own. Without him there would have been no film.

The film would be followed by a 26 episode television series called “The Adventures of Long John Silver” with the same main cast and, broken up into self-contained tales of some 25 minutes each; It was to be a huge and exciting project that would take 3 years to complete and would reportedly cost over one million pounds overall – possibly the equivalent of Aus. $20 million in today.

‘Treasure Island Pictures’ was an independent partnership headed up by the experienced Americans, Producer Joseph Kaufman, Screenwriter Martin Rackin and Director Byron Haskin – who had made such a good job of directing ‘Treasure Island’ at Denham in England for Walt Disney.

However it was Robert Newton who was the vital cog – he was a gifted and colourful English Shakespearean actor who was also an alcoholic!

He excelled in this role, though he had played Bill Sikes in the David Lean version of ‘Oliver Twist’ among many other film and mainly Theatre parts. He was an accomplished actor – right out of the top drawer

One good thing came out of this picture – the crew and cast had greatly benefited from the opportunity to develop their skills on both the film and the series and many continued on to other films shot at Pagewood before its enforced sell-off to Holden Motors in 1959.

It could also be said that the entire Long John Silver adventure trained and developed a core of dedicated film technicians who helped create the foundations for the Australian film renaissance of the 1970s – for instance it gave a start in films to actor Rod Taylor, camera operator Ross Wood, and of course the production designer Bill Constable.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Robert-Newton.jpg

Back to Robert Newton -On Sunday March 25th, 1956, barely a year after returning to California from Australia, he died on his lounge room floor in front of his 4th wife with whom he was attempting a reconciliation. He was 50 years old.

In the last year though he had appeared in two very successful films ‘The High and the Mighty’ and ‘Around the World in 80 Days’

His brilliant appearances on stage, his memorable Shakespeare roles, his decades of subtly nuanced film performances… his years of being a top box office star, his friendships and collaborations with the elite of the acting world… are all now pretty much a footnote to his main creation – his immortal Long John Silver.

“The Sabotage Times” entertainment blog describes his position in our collective cinematic memory as well as any other commentary…

He never lived to see the part he created lodge itself immovably in the popular conscious and become so influential. Some could argue that Brando as Don Corleone gave us our mental image of a mafia don, that Bela Lugosi defined Dracula or Lon Chaney did the same with Frankenstein but only Newton as Long John Silver, has come to completely define in the world’s conscience an entire sub-division of the human race.

No other performance that can be brought to mind can legitimately claim to have done that.

Kit Taylor, (1942- ) – “Jim Hawkins” Unlike the tragic Bobby Driscoll who played Jim Hawkins to Newton’s Long John in the 1950 “Treasure Island” film, Kit Taylor survived the transition to adulthood acting. Co-Starring in LJS at age 12, Kit continued on through the series… stopped acting… and then returned to the small screen in his early 20’s. He remained in steady work thereafter.

Twenty years after the series ended, he had only kind words to say about his co-star.

I was a proper little monster. At the age of (12) I realised the power I had… if I didn’t get what I  wanted I became unco-operative. Robert Newton would get fed up with my behaviour and he’d  give me a swipe on the backside to keep me in order. At other times he’d dangle me on his knee  and tell me stories, marvellous adventure tales. As I got older I heard people gossip about him,   tearing him down because of his faults. But nothing is going to destroy my image of him.

I thought  he was great.



Robert Newton – this time with Kit Taylor as Jim Hawkins

ABOVE – A colourful scene from the film

ABOVE – the films sets look good – here we are in the ship’s main cabin

Long John Silver does not seem too perturbed by the sword held at his chest.

Robert Newton ABOVE and later then this one in ‘The High and The Mighty’

ABOVE – Silver seems to be up to his old tricks by the look on his face

Before this film, in 1952 the studio filming of ‘Kangaroo’ was done at Pagewood Studios – I have featured this film on this site before.

The film starred Maureen O Hara who spent a lot of time in Austriala while doing this film – both in South Australia in the Adelaide Hills and at Pagewood Studios in Sydney

Maureen did not have a very good time making the film and commented afterwards “although I hated every minute of the work I absolutely loved Australia and the people.

She also said “I cried many nights during the shoot. ” Peter Lawford and Richard Boone were horrible to me even though I had saved both their hides… I still had to fight off a swarm of flies for every mouthful of food.

Here she is ABOVE with her two co-stars who she said, did not treat her very well during the making of the film

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Box Office 1954

1White ChristmasApr 27, 1954Paramount PicturesMusical$30,000,00066,666,666
220,000 Leagues Under the SeaDec 23, 1954Walt DisneyAdventure$28,200,00062,666,666
3Demetrius and the GladiatorsJun 18, 1954$26,000,00057,777,777
4Rear WindowSep 1, 1954USA FilmsThriller/Suspense$22,953,83551,008,522
5The Caine MutinyJun 24, 1954Sony PicturesDrama$21,800,00048,444,444
6Gone with the WindDec 15, 1939MGMDrama$16,666,66737,037,038
7The EgyptianAug 24, 1954$15,000,00033,333,333
8The High and the MightyJul 3, 1954$10,400,00023,111,111
9On the WaterfrontJul 28, 1954Drama$9,600,00021,333,333
10Vera CruzDec 25, 1954$9,000,00020,000,000
11DesireeNov 17, 1954$9,000,00020,000,000
12Garden of EvilJul 9, 1954$7,000,00015,555,555
13ApacheJul 9, 1954United ArtistsWestern$6,000,00013,333,333
14Dial M for Murder (1954)May 29, 1954Thriller/Suspense$5,987,43813,305,417
15There’s No Business Like Sh…Dec 16, 195420th Century FoxMusical$5,000,00011,111,111
16Seven Brides for Seven Brot…Jan 1, 1954$5,000,00011,111,111
17A Star is BornSep 29, 1954Drama$4,400,0009,777,777
18River of No ReturnApr 30, 195420th Century FoxWestern$3,800,0008,444,444
19Casanova’s Big NightApr 17, 1954Paramount PicturesComedy$3,500,0007,777,777
20Deep in My HeartDec 9, 1954$3,500,0007,777,777
21King Richard and the CrusadersAug 7, 1954$2,100,0004,666,666
22Suddenly (1954)Oct 7, 1954$1,400,0003,

One thing that strikes me about this is that Victor Mature starred in two of the top 10 biggest money spinners of 1954

Another surprise – Gone with the Wind – in a re-issue grossed 16 million dollars and was in at Number 6

Just down from this ‘The High and the Mighty’ the earliest of airline tension pictures – and a very good one at that.

‘White Christmas’ at the top – well it gets a showing each year at Christmas time and, to be fair, is enjoyable and a feel-good film.

When I read this back, it is like I am taking on Saturday Afternoon’s Pick of the Pops – Well, in film terms, maybe I am !

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The Titfield Thunderbolt – more on this lovely film

This film seems to have acquired classic status among film fans, railway enthusiasts, nostalgia fans and almost everyone young and old.

It was in Technicolor which was a great boost and made the English countryside in summer look so lovely – as indeed it always does.

I always think that if I lived overseas and was homesick – as I frequently would be – I would watch this film again and again. It just evokes a feeling of the quirkiness of life in England at any time really but the storyline fits the fifties perfectly.

Thinking of what I have just written above, it occurs to me that watching this film would make me even more homesick

Just enjoy the Trailer Below – It gives us a taste of the treat we are in for :-

I do remember holidaying down in St Albans with my girl friend at the home of my family where we went as often as we could – this would be in the early to mid Sixties – and there was a Film Club in the Town Hall in St Peter’s Street. While we were there they were showing ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’. In an immediate fit of excitement I rushed to buy tickets only to find out that they had sold out days before.

What a dis-appointment that was – I would think that it would have been a really great venue

ABOVE – The old Titfield Thunderbolt is brought back into services to save the day

Stanley Holloway and John Gregson

I always think that even when in his early career as he would be here, that he was self confident enough to hold his own in any scene with any actor – he was not overawed in any way. I have watched him in many films and noticed this and admired him for it

An early film for Sid James – ABOVE

Naunton Wayne, Stanley Holloway and Gabrielle Brune enjoy a drink as the train travels along it’s route.

In the spring of 1952 a car was making its way through the lanes of the Somerset countryside. Seated in the car were film director Charles Crichton and cinematographer Douglas Slocombe. The pair were on the look-out for the perfect country railway track, a possible location for the latest Ealing Comedy. Everything was already set; the stars had been chosen, the screenplay and the scripts were being finely tweaked in Ealing, and filming was already scheduled for the summer of 1952 with hopes that the film would be completed and released by the spring of the following year. But the production didn’t have its most important ingredient: the film’s location. 

The story of The Titfield Thunderbolt actually goes back to the spring of 1951, when regular Ealing writer T. E. B. Clarke (Hue and Cry, 1947, Passport to Pimlico, 1949, The Blue Lamp, 1950 and The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951) was on holiday in North Wales: “I found myself standing on a station of the narrow-gauge Talyllyn Railway, blinking incredulously at a notice which said, ‘Volunteer Platelayers Required’. Curiosity had to be satisfied, and my inquiries brought the information that this was a private line run through the summer months by railways enthusiasts from all parts of the country, who spent their holidays as engine-drivers, firemen, guards or booking clerks. Thus was born the idea of The Titfield Thunderbolt”

After seeing Clarke’s draft proposal, with some elements influenced by the Talylln railway manager’s published book Railway Adventure (1953), Ealing boss Michael Balcon green lit the project.

There was one slight problem, however, trying to find a big enough location – one that included a good few miles worth of track as well as a train station. To top it all off they needed to have classic British countryside as a backdrop (perfect for Technicolor). They seemed to be asking too much.

The location ended up being a seven mile stretch of line between Limpley Stoke and Camerton. When Crichton and Slcombe recced the disused line and train station they realised they had found their Titfield. Slocombe, armed with a 16mm Ben & Howell colour camera shot a number of sequences in the area, giving a general idea of the surroundings for the rest of the team back at Ealing. That footage still survives today. 

Hugh Griffiths joins the crowds

Filming lasted 6 weeks from June into July with members of the general public straining to see what was happening in and around Limpley Stoke. Crowds were held back at Britsol Temple Meads as the crew filmed sequences which doubled as Titfield’s local town. Filming was also frustrating at times; due to the very bright, sunny weather they had throughout the summer. 

The plan was simple: Crichton wanted an idealised country village set within an even more idealised English countryside, which Slocombe delivered. Taking possible influences from the famous national railway posters, Slocombe gave The Titfield Thunderbolt the essence of nostalgia that both Balcon and Crichton wanted.

Slocombe later said “It was a fun film to make. it was fun because we had our own railway. Also, one could feel when making it that this was a bit of old England that was going forever – but I was very conscious of the beauty of the English countryside.” 

Filming on location also gave Slocombe the chance to free himself from the prying eyes of Technicolor’s ‘quality control team’.

What we end up with is a beautiful film – not Ealing’s best comedy, but most certainly their most beautiful and, if anything, it symbolised the true spirit of what Michael Balcon wanted to do in the later history of Ealing Studios: to celebrate the lost English countryside. 

The railway has always had an incredibly important place in the history of cinema. Many films have been celebrated, but there is only one film that has been celebrated by film and railway enthusiasts alike, Charles Crichton’s The Titfield Thunderbolt

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The Siege of Pinchgut 1959

I am very familiar with this film from remembering it being released and shown – to the reviews in Picture Show and Picturegoer Magazines

It seemed an odd title at first, but when I came to learn that Pinchgut is a tiny fortified island in Sydney Harbour, then somehow to me it had more appeal. We then knew what the film was about and where it was set

The Film had been on ‘Talking Pictures’ and having recorded it, I sat down and watched it this Saturday afternoon – and am so glad that I did.

It was a tense drama played out against this Sydney Harbour background with much of the filming done on Pinchgut island.

We see great shots in and around Sydney Harbour – shots of how it was in those days, before the famous Opera House was built.

Heather Sears was the pretty female lead with Aldo Ray in the main role

Heather Sears, Barbara Mullen and Gerry Duggan

ABOVE: Aldo Ray I remember him being around in films but he was never an actor on the radar somehow. He seems to be very well thought of as an actor – more so these days in fact.

Apparently he was someone who was not afraid to voice his opinions – something that would not always go down well – and he did tend to drink too much which would not be helpful. Nevertheless he had a long and quite successful career.

This film offered him a good role and in fairness he was well up to the job.

ABOVE – Neil McMallum

Approaching the climax of the film here with these dramatic actions shots on Pinchgut

The military storm Pinchgut ABOVE

Aldo Ray

From Pinchgut Island looking at the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Almost the end of the siege ABOVE


A Michael Balcon Production

Out of interest an actor in this film, playing a police inspector in Sydney, was Kenneth J Warren who was actually born in Sydney. He was in quite a lot of films but also ran a very popular Australian Restaurant just of Leicester Sqaure in London. He sadly died very young at 43 years old.

I mention Kenneth Warren here because I remember him from a Steptoe episode ‘Cuckoo in the Nest’ where he played Albert’s long lost son who surprises them when he comes ‘out of the blue’ to visit and decides to stay.

Harold is none too pleased as his father lavishes all affection on this new ‘son’ and Harold leaves and takes a room somewhere else close by and sets up a rival business with a horse and cart.

Albert slowly comes to realise that the new ‘son’ is lazy and constantly after money – when it comes to getting out on the rounds with the horse and cart he is reluctant and seems to be more interested in the horses ‘running at Kempton Park’ than the business – and he is continually asking for money to bet with.

His ‘new son’ clears off after Albert tells him off and then Albert has to meekly go round and persuade Harold to return which he of course does.

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The Flame and the Arrow 1950

Now here is an action packed, adventure tale that lives up to all schoolboy hopes – when we were taken to see this we were just wide-eyed and totally overawed – it was just brilliant.

Here is one stunt BELOW – done by Burt Lancaster which, at the time was just so impressive in that woodland setting – a studio set but again just how good that was.

Burt Lancaster falls backwards with a back flip onto the ground BELOW

Backward Drop in The Flame and The Arrow | First Impressions

Virginia Mayo starred alongside Burt Lancaster

I am not familiar with the musical score from the film but it must have been pretty exceptional to be released as a record at that time

I have used this picture before – showing a wonderful Matte Painting shot very early in the film

Also I have come across this picture – BELOW of Burt Lancaster with Nick Cravat – I felt sure that this still is from ‘The Crimson Pirate’ made a little later, but now it seems that this is from ‘The Flame and the Arrow’ – I still have my doubts though

BELOW – I have cropped the picture a little to see how it would have looked on the screen – although a still photographer is in the foreground – doing a good job I am sure

The Flame and the Arrow – in fact it seems the photographer did do a very good job – picture BELOW

The Flame and the Arrow

We keep coming up with these Double Bill promotions – what about this one for two great adventures stories :-

A really good promotion I reckon – both these films excellent, colourful and action packed – with Joan Rice in there too in the South Sea Islands‘His Majesty O’Keefe’ of course

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Fabulous Double Feature on Video – ‘She’ and ‘The Reptile’

You just couldn’t get much better than this as a double bill – a Video that I purchased when with my family a few years ago in Port Adelaide at a very large – and very good- market there.

Both of these films are, of course, from the Sixties

First the trailer :-

Ursula Andress looking very beautiful in ‘She’ – the spelling on the video sleeve above is clearly wrong.

ABOVE – Jacqueline Pearce – a useless fact but this young actress was married and divorced twice and in each case her former husbands both went on tomarry Felicity Kendall

Jennifer Daniel BELOW- a very attractive young lady – starred in ‘The Reptile’

Jennifer Daniel and Noel Wilman in a tense scene
Ray Barret, John Laurie and Jennifer Daniel

This was just before John Laurie became a firm favourite in ‘Dads Army’

Jennifer Daniel

I have written about this lovely actress before –

What a lovely looking girl she was. The other evening I watched one of the Edgar Wallace Mysteries on Talking Pictures – and she was in it – this is what prompted me to write this article having looked a bit further into her life story.

She was actually in THREE of the Edgar Wallace Mystery series – Marriage of Convenience,  Clue of the Silver Key and  Return to Sender.

She was married to Dinsdale Landen the actor from 1959 until his death in 2003.

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