The Desert Hawk 1950 in Technicolor

Now this is just perfect early fifties – just what we loved. The Desert Hawk fits that early fifties style so well. It is a Romantic story with action and wonderful costumes and sets – and it is in glorious Technicolor – never bettered !! Yvonne de Carlo stars as Princess Scheherazade and Richard Greene as Omar, the Desert Hawk. By day he is a humble blacksmith, but by night he becomes The Desert Hawk battling against the oppressive regime of Prince Murad (George Macready).
One of the Hawk’s tactics is to trick Scheherazade into marriage, so that he can enlist the aid of the army commanded by the Princess’ father. Murad retaliates by kidnapping Scheherazade, leading to an exciting climactic rescue. Look out for all the film stars in the supporting cast.
Playing the villainous Captain Ras is none other than Rock Hudson, while the Desert Hawk’s loyal companions Aladdin and Sinbad are played, respectively, by Jackie Gleason and Joe Besser
Besser gives a genuinely impressive performance, with some dramatic ability. In one scene Besser as Sinbad is put into a torture device (a vertical form of the rack), and stretched unmercifully.
This was certainly and early outing for Rock Hudson who at that time was just a whisker away from international stardom
In this film he plays a villain though whereas in a short time he would have the lead in ‘Magnificent Obsession’ which was a real hit
The Desert Hawk 1950

Universal bought the story in January 1950. The film was intended to be a vehicle for Yvonne de Carlo. Douglas Fairbanks Jr was sought for the male lead but that role eventually went to Richard Greene, returning to Hollywood after two years in Britain. Jackie Gleason signed to play a comic support role. Universal contract player Rock Hudson, who had just impressed in Winchester 73, was also cast.

Yvonne De Carlo must have been one of Universal’s top stars at this time
The Desert Hawk 1950
Richard Greene was back in Hollywood I think he was still married to Patricia Medina at that time but not for much longer
Richard was approaching the time that he found TV success both sides of the Atlantic with the excellent ‘Robin Hood’
The Desert Hawk 1950
Yvonne’s 3 handmaidens were all beautiful, but one in particular, Anne Cramer, looked very much like her. Anne must have been a fascinating person. Later, she attained a PhD in film technology,, and another in literature. She was employed through the years in various aspects of film production – and then switched to psychoanalysis in her retirement years.
The ending is really interesting, when Yvonne and Omar meet after the big battle in ‘The Palace of 1000 Pleasures’, with Omar in chains.

Yvonne holds all the cards at this time, and heaps psychological vengeance on Omar, telling him that he may be whipped with 100 lashes, or put on the rack.. Then, she rapidly changes her attitude, to bring him some very good news.

During this time, Omar makes some general comments about women: “Be she wench or princess, a woman is only a woman, and always needs a master”. Then he must have thought better of it and came out with “A man should never argue with a woman”.

It’s a almost fairy tale and very much romanticised and Hollywoodised but with above all spectacular clothing and fencing scenes. Almost like a Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino film set in that fantasy world of highly romantic splendour.

Richard Greene as the Desert Hawk is just a dashing adventurer like any pirate – and this is a part he was perfect for – Yvonne de Carlo as the princess.

The colours are also magnificent throughout, this is a dashing costume drama of great swashbuckling and a dazzling extravagance of costumes all the way, and Frank Skinner’s music is first rate.

Great colourful entertainment

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Web of Evidence 1959

Another film on Talking Pictures that I did not know but watching much of it, although the print was not brilliant, the storyline seemed quite absorbing.

Van Johnson and Vera Miles had come over from Hollywood to make this one – they had been here a few years before – to star together in ’23 Paces to Baker Street’ .

There was also a pretty strong cast of top British actors, Bernard Lee, Geoffrey Keen and Emlyn Williams to name but three – also Jean Kent.

In the film Van Johnson had been evacuated from Liverpool to the United States during the Second World War. His mother died young and he is working his way around the world before he settles down to a career in electronics. He doesn’t know what became of his father, so he makes enquiries. He discovers he has been in prison for sixteen years for strangling a young girl. He investigates and finds the official story quite sketchy, and it seems that the officials make it difficult for him to find out more about it.

The the subplot involves Vera Miles, with whom he has fallen in love.

Bernard Lee, later to be ‘M’ in the Bond films is good as Van Johnson’s father, brutalised by years in prison – although I find it hard to take him in this role after seeing the Bond films.

He played quite an uncouth, thuggish character here, which did not suit him – I remember him just before this in a film I like called ‘The Ship that died of Shame’ with Richard Attenborough and George Baker

Emlyn Williams plays a mysterious and creepy man brilliantly. He was a classic stage actor and made quite a few films. He was in Ivanhoe in 1952, and a few years after that The Deep Blue Sea ( a Terence Rattigan play made into a film ) and The Wreck of the Mary Deare

He also played the part of Mr Dick in a film adaptation of David Copperfield – I love the character of Mr Dick – as Aunt Betsy Trotwood says ‘Mr Dick puts us all right

This version had a real star-studded cast resembling a ‘whos who’ of classic British Theatre, film and Television



In this film a character played by Anthony Newlands plays a newspaperman who gets the investigation moving and somehow connects everything together eventually arriving at the truth

Vera Miles, I always like to see in films. She was no stranger to visiting England in the Fifties indeed she came here while Gordon Scott made a Tarzan film – Tarzan and the Lost Safari – mainly at Pinewood – and married him either before the film or shortly after it.

She had played in the previous Tarzan and the two of them became romantically involved during that time – they later married.

Gordon Scott and Vera Miles were married for almost four years. They dated for about a year after getting together in Aug 1954 and married on 14th Apr 1956. Sadly they divorced on 2nd Mar 1960.

American Actor Gordon Scott was born Gordon Merrill Werschkul on 3rd August, 1926 in Portland, Oregon, USA and passed away on 30th Apr 2007 Baltimore, Maryland, USA aged 80. He is most remembered for Tarzan.

Vera Miles was born Vera June Ralston on 23rd August, 1929 in Boise City, Oklahoma, her career from spans 1948–1995.

Her most famous role to me would be in the classic ‘The Searchers’

To sum up this a tense, emotional and very satisfying murder mystery drama, adapted from AJ Cronin’s novel, was only director Jack Cardiff’s second film.

He sustains the suspense throughout by creating an electric atmosphere of corruption in high places and you can sense that just about everyone has something to hide. For example, it transpires that the prosecutor at Mathry’s trial, Sir Matthew Sprott (Ralph Truman), had doubts about the strength of the evidence against him, but he nevertheless employed his considerable skills as a barrister to ensure he got convicted because he didn’t want the embarrassment of losing a case. It would have affected his career progression and, today, he is standing for parliament in a highly publicised by-election. When Paul pushes his way into his office asking a lot of awkward questions about his father, he puts pressure upon the police superintendent to have him confined to his ship until it sets sail for America again because he doesn’t want the scandal and potential mud slinging from political opponents to cost him his election.

The key witness at Mathry’s trial, Louise Birt, the murdered woman’s flat mate, has done very nicely since then owning her own nightclub and bar on New Brighton. Paul suspects that somebody paid her for her testimony and set her up in business as a reward for shielding the real killer.

All of these twists and turns are sufficient to hold an audience’s interest and the performances from the two American leads are quite good too. Van Johnson displays the anguish and passion as Paul Mathry who finds himself battling the city’s establishment to clear his dad’s name and Vera Miles is really effective as his girlfriend. The pair are falling in love with each other, but the relationship is put in jeopardy as a result of an incident in her past that has left her emotionally scarred.

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Television Drama in the 50 s

Way back in 1956 we were treated to some excellent Telvision plays and serials – the BBC particularly excelled in the classic serial – and here we have one ‘David Copperfield’

This would be one of the first such serials and as can be seen and from the picture it would seem that the producers had gone to a great deal of trouble in getting the detail right and selecting a suitable location.

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This scene is from David’s Wedding so quite late on in the story.

The BBC tended to use Studio sets and ‘live’ programmes which required much rehearsal but the advent of Independent TV saw them have a different approach as they mainly used film for their dramas and then broadcast them later – much as they do now although we are now in a digital world.

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After the tremendous success of ‘Robin Hood’ with Richard Greene in the title role, ITV really wanted to capitalise on it’s impact – ‘The Buccaneerswas one such attempt but it did not really cut it.

Looking at the picture above – Don’t you think that the man on the right looks like Nick Cravat it isn’t him apparently – but the more I look the more I think it is him and maybe this picture is wrongly captioned

Also we had ‘Sir Lancelot’ with the later episodes of this being filmed in Colour so they work better when seen today – this series is currently showing on Talking Pictures

Of course there was The Adventure of Willam Tell’ and that was good and exciting but still didn’t live up to ‘Robin Hood’ – but the few such programmes did

Errol Flynn, with his own production company made a series of swashbuckling adventure – half hour tales and he would be well suited to this. Maybe his golden era had passed by but he still retained that charisma and stardust that few of the stars had – he had it in abundance.

ABOVE One of those famous stage productions at the Whitehall Theatre with Brian Rix – the BBC regularly brought one of these to the Television screen direct from the Theatre — this one was ‘Jane Steps Out’ with Ann Firbank (left) seemingly caught in an embarrassing situation by Brian Rix’s wife Elspet Gray – his wife in real life too.

He had the long running ‘Dry Rot’ there which ran successfully for years and I have a feeling that this also was shown on Television direct from the Theatre.

I have often wondered why this has not been done much since although in recent times there has been such productions on Television or in the Cinema, come to that. It does to me seem a good way of showing these plays to many of us living outside London – although I do , on occasions go down to see one of them – last time it was ‘The Mousetrap’ – hugely enjoyable.

Peter Cushing ABOVE with Billie Whitelaw in the Thriller ‘Gaslight’

Peter Cushing did a lot of Television drama in those days – just before he got fully into gear with Hammer Films. Billie Whitelaw was at the start of her career here – I liked her and she was around a lot at the time and later

This Production was the last of the BBC Sunday Night Dramas that Peter Cushing did – the most famous being 1984 but he was also in ‘The Creature’ just before this which he later did again on film as ‘The Abominable Snowman.

Peter Cushing in ‘The Creature’

The same year as Gaslight was ‘The Revenge of Frankenstein’ and Peter Cushing after which he was then in the big league – and it effectively defined his career from that day on.

Here in a scene from the BBC Drama ‘His Excellency’ from 1957, we see a young Shirley Eaton on the Left with Glen Alyn and Donald Pickering.

Donald Pickering went on the play Dr Watson in quite a number of episodes of Sherlock Holmes in 19790 – 1980 and this had Geoffrey Whitehead as Holmes. This gets good reviews although I can’t remember it at all. It was a joint Polish / British production filmed in Poland

Glen Alyn pictured above was an Australian actress who had been quite famous in the Thirties. She had married in 1947 but her husband died in 1948 – sounds a very sad story. He was Stanley Joseph Grove – but I have come across papers that indicate his name had been Stanley Joseph Grove Spiro but in 1944 he registered to drop the ‘Spiro’

Glen Alyn’s appearance in ‘His Excellency’ marked her very last appearance on film or television. She returned to Australia and die there in Sydney in 1984

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‘Return of the Fly’ and ‘The Alligator People’

What a Double Feature this would be – almost stretching the word preposterous to it’s limits I reckon

Return of the Fly

As any horror film addict knows, the fly’s head on a human body came about when a scientist perfected the process of transferring matter through space from one place to another and then carelessly got his own molecules mixed up with a fly’s whilst in transit.

In the earlier film ‘The Fly’ the scientist came to a grizzly end but here his son just can’t wait to get going with the whole experiment all over again with the stern disapproval of his Uncle played by Vincent Price.

The old Lab where his father had worked is cleaned up and the machines start whirring again.

Trouble is, as we might have expected the old problem happens again – this time engineered by his crooked assistant.

The rampaging fly is not a pretty sight

Return of the Fly 1959

Vincent Price is back in action here having starred in the original ‘The Fly’ – and back in similar vein

Then on the same bill, we get The Alligator People

Beverley Garland and Richard Crane in ‘The Alligator People’ 1959

In the film Beverly Garland plays a newlywed wife named Joyce who despairs when her husband (Richard Crane) leaves the train they’re honeymooning on to make an urgent phone call, and then is never heard from again. Desperate, she tries without success to locate him until she eventually gets a lead that he could be at a secluded house somewhere in the swamplands of the Louisiana bayou area

Once there she is made aware of unusual experiments gone awry which involved her husband, and faces the horror that he is gradually turning into a reptilian creature. His mother (Frieda Inescort ) tries to discourage Joyce in her search and at first does not make her welcome.

Beverley Garland ABOVE arrives in Louisiana

Beverley Garland is quite believable and sincere in her part, and this is a nice-looking black and white film shot in the Cinemascope process, showing off some good shots in the land of alligators and snakes.

Also in the cast is none other than Lon Chaney, playing one of the uncouth local Cajun men who sports a hook in place of his left hand, having been a victim himself of an alligator attack.

In his usual drunken state, he carries on a vendetta against all alligators because of his injuries – referring to those “dirty, stinking gators”

He fires his gun at them, and tries to run them down with his jeep when they cross the road.

The scaly makeup for Richard Crane in its early stages is pretty effective, but when he emerges in full alligator-headed form later on, it is less impressive. However we have to remember that this is a ’50s monster film, after all, and many creatures of this era have been bizarre.

Once you get past the initial shock of seeing the Alligator Man, the result actually comes out pretty well.

Also heading the cast in this film is Bruce Bennett who had previously been known as Herman Brix – he played Tarzan in at least one film under that name. When War came he felt that a change of name was required.

I seem to recall he also played in ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ in 1948 and he went on to continue a very busy and successful career for a good many years.

ABOVE and BELOW Richard Crane

Action for the film ABOVE and BELOW

Beverley Garland BELOW narrating this strange story.

I remember her being in one of the Bomba films with Johnny Sheffield titles ‘Killer Leopard’ in 1954

Beverley Garland ABOVE narrating this strange story.

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Frank Vaughan in Hollywood

Frankie Vaughan went to Hollywood in the late Fifties after he had made a couple of films in England, the first of which was ‘These Dangerous Years’ where he got rave reviews and that was followed up by ‘The Heart of a Man’ which I remember seeing during our St Albans holidays at the time.

He had earlier appeared in Arthur Askey’s comedy Ramsbottom Rides Again (1956) and a musical, The Lady Is A Square, with Anna Neagle.

I had not realised but he was booked to appear in Cabaret at the Dunes in Las Vegas in 1959 where he was to do 28 shows instead of which, he went down so well that the contract was extended to 56 nights

From there he flew to New York to guest star on The Perry Como Show then way back to Los Angeles for the Dinah Shore Christmas Show.

20th Century Fox talent scout Bert Gordon flew in from Hollywood to Las Vegas to watch him in cabaret – and came back raving. The first result of this was that Marilyn Monroe wanted Frankie to star in ‘The Misfits’ written by her then husband Arthur Miller

In the picture ABOVE he appears to be having some coaching on Westerns from a gun slinging expert. He looks the part here.

Well as we look back, we all know that he did not get a part in The Misfits but he did succeed in starring along with Marilyn Monroe in ‘Lets Make Love’ with Yves Montand a year or so later.

Marilyn looks so lovely in the picture BELOW

Marilyn and Frankie

In 1960, Vaughan went to Hollywood to make the film ‘Let’s Make Love’ with Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn, it is said, tried to entice him into an affair, but he maintained that he loved his wife, Stella, whom he had met at the Locarno ballroom, Leeds, after the war, and that they needed to live in London. He must be one of very few men that had or would turn down Marilyn

Back home and a bit later, he filled the Talk of the Town theatre restaurant for weeks, and became a sort of statesman among British performers. He returned to the venue for years afterwards. In 1965, he was awarded an OBE, and in 1997 a CBE.

In 1985, Vaughan had one of his most notable successes – starring in what turned out to be his swansong role, the lead in the musical 42nd Street at Drury Lane. He left the cast after a year at the start of what turned out to be a terminal series of illnesses. He was always sure of his epitaph. “I am lucky to have a talent, lucky to have met such a wonderful girl as my wife Stella, lucky to have such a wonderful family, and lucky to have a job I adore.”

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Carry on Nurse 1959

This one in my view, is one of the best of the Carry On series of films – all the usual actors playing true to form and pretty well at their best.

“Carry on Nurse” is only the second film to be made and it still captures the naive charm of late 50s humour while exploring the more risque ground of the double-entendre.

The usual gang of misfits are present: Kenneth Connor, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques (playing Matron!) and Joan Sims in her first “Carry On…” appearance.

The hospital setting works really well in this film and indeed later entries in the series which sees the same actors often set within Hospitals or other institutions

Hattie Jacques – brilliant as Matron – a role that she seemed to fit perfectly

ABOVE – Shirley Eaton looking lovely chatting with Joan Hickson – I saw Joan Hickson last weekend in one of her wonderful Miss Marple portrayals. She had been years playing these minor roles in British films until her great ‘break’ came later in life – the BBC Miss Marple films that seems to be shown again and again – and I can watch them whenever they come on. My Daughter in Australia rang me to say that they had been watching ‘Nemesis’ probably my favourite – and she had forgotten just how good it was.

ABOVE – A bespectacled Kenneth Williams – none too happy in his Hospital surroundings.

Charles Hawtrey has donned his headphones and is conducting the orchestra to the music he is hearing.

Shirley Eaton again, ABOVE – this time with Terence Longden who, a couple of films later, was in the classic Ben Hur and whilst he wasn’t the leading man he was pretty high up the cast list. He was in a lot of Television throughout his long career.

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Sexton Blake a BBC Radio Drama series

Well, this is a rather different article – not so much a film but a Radio Drama with a full BBC Cast headed by William Franklyn as Sexton Blake.

During the ‘lock down’ that we have all been dealing with, I walked around our village and as the church was closed, we went into the Church porch where villagers had left items of interest to exchange. Quite a few books and jig-saw puzzles which seemed very popular but also some DVDs and among them was this jewel – a CD of Sexton Blake titled ‘The Vampire Moon’ and other stories which starred William Franklyn as the famous detective.

After ‘The Vampire Moon’ episode we had ‘The Fifth Dimension’ ‘First Class Ticket to Nowhere’ and ‘Murder on the Portsmouth Road’ – all of them quite good – with my own favourite being ‘First Class Ticket to Nowhere’ . This was the story of a drug ring which used dis-used Railway Stations as bases for their distribution. Needless to say Sexton Blake got to grips with it.

Sexton Blake had his assistant Tinker played by David Gregory and Heather Chasen as his Secretary.

Apparently these were ‘lost’ BBC Radio episodes that had been rediscovered and put out on CD in the ‘BBC Radio Full-Cast Dramatisation’ format which they have done with so many plays – and I am a huge fan of them and have a lot to listen to – mainly while driving in the car

The ones featured here are just others to add to the collection – and welcome ones at that

William Franklyn had a long acting career in films and television – and it seems on Radio too perhaps he is best known for voicing the “Schhh… You Know Who” advertisements on TV for Schweppes from 1965 to 1973 – at the time he was doing Sexton Blake

Heather Chasen had an even longer career in Films and TV from 1914 until 2014. Actually she died in May this year 2020

David Gregory was born in London in 1935 and has had a career in films and TV also – although he seems to have packed it in a few years ago – maybe he has retired.

In the first episode ‘The Vampire Moon’ we had the appearance of Marjorie Westbury a very well known Radio Drama actress who for 20 or 30 years played Paul Temples wife Steve on Radio.

Again on Radio she appeared in ‘Waters of the Moon’ a famous play – and one I like

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Dr Crippen and The Raven

We are in the Sixties now but I could not resist this one when I came across the Double Bill advertisement below – I am pretty sure that I saw this programme at the local cinema at the time.

Dr Crippen was a very good film – mainly a love story and I remember hoping that the two lovers would get away even though I knew the outcome.

Dr Crippen with Donald Pleasance as the doctor and Samantha Eggar as Ethel Le Neve

Donald Pleasance – brilliant as Dr Crippen – to me one of the best roles of his career and he had a good and long career at that.

Coral Browne as Crippen’s wife and Samantha Eggar as Ethel. Plus one of my favourite actors – a larger than life stage actor featured on this Blog before at some length – Sir Donald Wolfit.

Dr Crippen and Ethel are obviously in love.

James Robertson Justice – not my favourite actor – playing the Captain of The Montrose with Samantha Eggar and Donald Pleasance – both of these actors in a different league to him

Donald Pleasance gives a wonderful performance as the down trodden Dr Crippen alongside the shrew-like performance of Coral Browne as Belle Elmore – even from the screen you can feel the tension of their relationship.

Then his mistress, Ethel Le Neve, who is played with a quiet calmness by the very pretty Samantha Eggar.

If you’re a fan of dramas then this could be for you – and any genuine film buff really has to watch this film. Excellent.

The second half of the Double Bill was The Raven with Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre in a film that was shot in just 15 days – a kind of semi comic Horror Film

A young Jack Nicholson was a supporting actor playing Peter Lorre’s son – however in real life it was reported that these two did not get on at all well during the making of the film – however I have come across other reports of Jack Nicholson saying that he admired all three of these leading actors, and sat around picking up tips from them with their vast film experience.

This proved to be Jack Nicholson’s big break in films

Hazel Court enjoyed working on the film particularly with these veteran film actors and, although she said that he was not in the best of health, she enjoyed the company of Peter Lorre

Hazel Court appeared in  three of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe screen adaptations in the 60s: The Premature Burial (1962), The Raven (1963) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964).

However before this she  was in Terence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), the film that launched the Hammer horror series.

In it, Hazel, whose life is threatened by the monster (Christopher Lee), played the naive cousin-fiancee of Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing).

Nice posed Publicity still with Hazel Court and Boris Karloff – ABOVE

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Grace Kelly and Ray Milland – Dial M for Murder

Filmed in 3D ‘Dial M for Murder’ is an intriguing thriller that is in many ways a perfect choice for Alfred Hitchcock as he is able to handle the twists to the plot with great aplomb. The scene where Grace is to be murdered and then manages to turn, grab the scissors and kill her assailant is handled very well indeed – but this would be ‘egg and milk’ to this Director.

We in the audience know what is going on – but how will Ray Milland be found out ?

The tension builds – will he finally be exposed ?

During the filming of Dial M for Murder’ Grace Kelly  soon found herself the subject of the gossip columns because of her closeness to her leading man,   forty-nine-year-old Ray Milland who had been an Oscar winner in 1945 for The Lost Weekend, and he was well liked in Hollywood.

Ray Milland had married the former Murial Weber in 1932, and they had a son, Daniel, born 1940, and a daughter, Victoria, adopted in 1949. 

Ray Milland was particularly susceptible to Grace Kelly’s considerable charms, – who wouldn’t be –  and he fell in love with her and likewise  Grace with Ray. “It was very serious between Ray and Grace,” [Grace’s sister] Lizanne recalls. They began to see each other, making little effort to conceal their romance. 
       Ray Milland surprised Lizanne – Grace Kelly’s sister – one day by confiding the depth of his feelings for Grace to her. “I flew back from Hollywood on the same plane with him,” she recalls, “and we had a long talk. He told me he really was very much in love with her.”

On the set of ‘Dial M for Murder – the two do look to be getting on very well indeed


 Gossip in Hollywood tended to spread like wildfire and Ray Milland’s wife, known to her friends as Mal, soon heard talk about her husband and this beautiful newcomer. She feared it was true, but there was no proof. Several weeks after her suspicions were first aroused, her fears were confirmed. A close friend of the Millands, who requested anonymity, recalls: “Ray was going on a trip, and he had just left the house. Mal’s sister Harriet was there, and Mal poured her heart out to her about her suspicions. Harriet got in her car, followed Ray to the airport, and sure enough, there was Ray with Grace, going off on a tryst somewhere.”
       The Millands separated – Grace and Ray discussed marriage. He took an apartment in Hollywood and Grace spent a great deal of time there. One of the publicists at Paramount at the time, said, “I don’t know if they were living together, but the story got back to me that someone from the studio went over to Ray’s apartment and Grace answered the door.”

It wasn’t the publicity, which the veteran Ray Milland was more used to and less affected by than Grace was, but rather his realisation of the impracticality of his divorcing Mal that caused him to reconsider. Studio publicist Andy Hervey recalls that Mrs. Milland had an ace up her sleeve: “Mal told Ray, ‘You go ahead and get a divorce and marry Grace Kelly. That’s okay with me, because all the property is in my name.’ Needless to say, it wasn’t long before the marriage plans were off.”
      
      
Grace Kelly had  wanted to marry Ray Milland, and she was convinced that he would leave his wife and marry her.

That did not happen as we all know.

Rather a sad story – as this does seem to have been true love for them both – but it was not to be

Now back to the film ‘ Dial M for Murder’

Dial M for Murder would ultimately become one of Hitchcock’s best-known—and best-loved—classics.

The film is, in terms of locations and number of characters, quite a sparse film that barely leaves the studio set. This is because it was based on a stage play by Frederick Knott, which premiered as a BBC TV special in 1952 and later opened at London’s Westminster Theatre and, eventually, Broadway. After seeing the BBC production, producer Sir Alexander Korda acquired the rights to make the film version, and later sold them on to Warner Bros. for $75,000.

In the early 1950s, the 3D film craze was raging, and Warner Bros. were keen for Hitchcock to direct, sensing this was just up his street, although they also  insisted that he use the 3D process on Dial M for Murder.

It meant that Hitchcock had to work with the giant cameras necessary for the process.

In order to make the film look  interesting in 3D, Hitchcock used a pit into the floor of the set, so the camera could move at lower angles and capture objects like lamps in the foreground. As a result, the film looks different to any other that Hitchcock ever shot, particularly for the famous scissors murder scene. Unfortunately, by the time Dial M for Murder was released in 1954, the 3D fad was dying out, so the film was shown in 2D at most screenings.

Would love to see it in 3D – Wonder if such a print exists – I bet it does.

THIS WAS HITCHCOCK’S FIRST FILM WITH GRACE KELLY.

Of all of the iconic blonde stars Hitchcock cast in his films, the most famous one must be Grace Kelly, the actress-turned-princess.

 He described  her as a “rare thing in films … fit for any leading-lady part,” and it was said he had the easiest working relationship with her of any star. They worked so well together that they went on to make two more films

Rear Window in 1954 and To Catch a Thief in 1955.

Because Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play, the original script had very little in the way of outdoor set pieces. Hitchcock wanted to keep it that way.

“I’ve got a theory on the way they make pictures based on stage plays; they did it with silent pictures, too. Many filmmakers would take a stage play and say, ‘I’m going to make this into a film.’ Then they would begin to ‘open it up.’ In other words, on the stage it was all confined to one set, and the idea was to do something that would take it away from the confined stage setting.”

Hitchcock wanted to keep the confinement intact, so almost all of the action in the film takes place indoors, largely in the Wendices’ apartment. This adds to the  tension.

Hitchcock was always known as a meticulous director obsessed with detail, but on ‘Dial M for Murder’ even more so, in part because the 3D cameras were going to capture objects in a way his other films hadn’t and because of this he selected every item in the Wendice apartment himself.

He also had a giant false telephone dial made for the famous “M” close-up in the title sequence.

Hitchcock’s exacting eye also led him use the Colour to portray the psychological condition of Grace Kelly’s character. As the film begins, the colours she wears are all very bright, suggesting a happy life in which she doesn’t suspect anything is wrong. As the film grows darker for her, to the point that she’s framed for murder, the wardrobe grows darker and “more sombre,” as Hitchcock put it.

For the scene in which Swann (Anthony Dawson) attempts to murder Margot (Kelly) by strangling her (until she manages to stab him with a pair of scissors), Hitchcock had another exacting wardrobe request. He had an elegant velvet robe made for her, hoping to create interesting textural effects as the lights and shadows played off the fabric while she fought for her life. Kelly reasoned that, since Margot was alone in the apartment (as far as she knew) and was only getting out of bed to answer the phone, she wouldn’t bother to put on a robe.

“I said I wouldn’t put on anything at all, that I’d just get up and go to the phone in my nightgown. And [Hitchcock] admitted that was better, and that’s the way it was done,” said Grace Kelly later

Dial M for Murder had a very short shooting schedule – 36 days. The director took special care with one scene in particular: the murder sequence in which Margot stabs Swann with the scissors. Not only was it a key scene in the film, but it was also a moment that required particular care to make the 3D effects work. Hitchcock agonised over the scene to such a degree that he was reputed to have lost weight as a result – it certainly wouldn’t have done him any harm !!

As for Hitchcock’s famous cameo appearances in his films – In Dial M for Murder he appears in a class reunion photograph in the Wendice apartment, seated at a banquet table among other men.

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Michaela Denis – a name from the early days of Television

One of the first travel type shows we got in the early days of television would be ones that featured Armand and his Wife Michaela Denis who, in those days, just seemed to travel around Africa, filming and producing fascinating documentary style programmes.

They were very popular – introducing to us places that seemed so far flung and unattainable – as they were in those days – and it opened our eyes to Africa and it’s wild life. Sadly it was not, of course Colour Television – I have not heard if Armand shot the 16 mm films in colour – if he did then maybe they would still be around to view again.

At the same time – or maybe a bit before this Walt Disney had cleverly brought out his True Life Adventures – and these were filmed in colour and released onto the Cinema circuit often as supporting pictures to the main feature.  These were very well received and as someone pointed out quite cheap to produce as the ‘actors’ didn’t get paid !!

ABOVE – Michaela in her New York days as a Fashion Designer. She would even then, save up for adventurous holidays and on one of them to South America, she met Armand which led to marriage and a new life.

They were married in Potosi, high in the Andes, by special licence.

ABOVE – This picture of Armand and Michaela Denis was taken near Mount Kenya in Africa where they later lived – and these two cheetahs were their pets.

My memories were of their programmes is that they always seemed to come from the Ngorongoro Crater in the Serengeti National Park

ABOVE – Back in South America, Michaela is getting first hand experience of the cosmetics used by the Colorado Indians in South America.

ABOVE – We have moved on to Australia – in the Outback where Michaela is washing the hair of a small aboriginal girl by a ‘billabong’

Back in Africa ABOVE to see Michaela giving a piece of fish to a beautiful crested crane.

Here Michaela is with an Aadvark in Kenya – I have never heard of such an animal. They are nocturnal with large claws apparently and dig quite deep holes.

Michaela Denis did not have much of an opinion of David Attenborough who she said was a ‘fool and a thief’ – mainly because he had started his ‘Zoo Quest’ programme on the back of their ideas and had quite blatantly copied a feature they were due to bring in on their next show.

Later in life and living in Kenya as she did, although she always maintained a home in London and came back each year for a time until the heat had subsided back home in Africa, she knew many of the English people who lived there, among them Joy Adamson who, it is said, she loathed because of the way that Joy Adamson treated her servants.

I may have mentioned this in a previous post – Armand Denis had helped with location filming of King Solomon’s Mines for MGM in 1950 in Africa and it was that that introduced him to a potential for capitalising on his talent for film making and his love of African Wild Life – and travel.

In fact Michaela Denis also doubled for actress Deborah Kerr on location in Uganda for King Solomon’s Mines

Four years after Armand died in 1971, Michaela Denis met and married her lawyer, Sir William O’Brien Lindsay, a former chief justice of Sudan, who died in his sleep a couple of months later. Rather a sad story.

Michaela died in 2003 in Nairobi. She was 88 years old.

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