‘Denver and Rio Grande’ 1952 in Technicolor

This film was shown on one of the Satellite Film Channels today and it proved a little bit unusual with the stars of the film being the trains on this railway.

The film was directed by Byron Haskin who had great ability in bringing action stories to the screen – just before this he had done a superb job directing ‘Treasure Island’ for Walt Disney at Denham Films studios – Walt Disney’s first venture in to live=actio films as opposed to cartoon features – after this came ‘His Majesty O’Keefe’ and The Naked

Back in 1952, the film “Denver and Rio Grande” by Paramount Pictures was filmed on the actual Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in Colorado!

The film dramatised the history of the building of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in which the D&RGW and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (called the Cañon City & San Juan RR in the movie) clashed while trying to compete for space to build their tracks.

The two rival track gangs actually had armed confrontations for trackage rights along narrow canyons and gorges while constructing their own separate railroads!

The film starred Edmond O’Brien and Sterling Hayden and featured a staged head on train crash in which the 2-8-0 Locomotives 268 and 319 were used. Both locomotives were donated by the D&RG because they were destined to be scrapped at the time.

Note: Notice the pyrotechnics went off a split second before the two engines actually collide!

Although damaged was severe to both locomotives, they somehow managed to remain upright on the track after the explosions and crash!

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Santa Fe Trail 1940

Well, this film comes outside of the Fifties era, but it’s main stars were still very active into that decade and beyond.

The film is a great showcase for the wonderful talents of Michael Curtiz, Errol Flynn, Ronald Reagan and Olivia de Havilland.

The final rescue scenes are great – those battle trumpets can still cause a chill to go up the spine.

It is a film with great entertainment value.

Ronald Reagan was very much underestimated as an actor much as Victor Mature was at a similar time.

Ronald Reagan was in some good films – he was teamed up again with Errol Flynn in ‘Desperate Journey’ and another film later was, of course, ‘The Hasty Heart’ made in England with Richard Todd in the leading role

Richard Todd with Ronald Reagan

RAYMOND MASSEY is especially memorable as John Brown. His earnest and single-minded portrayal of a madman-with-a-quest is the great stand-out of this film. The fiery eyes are almost hypnotic in its concentration.

Ronald Reagan and Errol Flynn are top rate.

These are actors that for better or worse will always stand out from the Hollywood crowd with their own special brand of something indescribable and timeless.

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The Rifleman – with Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford

This was a very popular Television series from the late fifties both in the USA and here in Britain

John Ernest Crawford
(March 26, 1946 – April 29, 2021)

Johnny Crawford, the child actor who was absolutely wonderful as Mark McCain (son of Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain) in The Rifleman, has passed away aged 75.

Johnny was in 168 episodes and even at that time he had clocked up quite a few appearances in Film and Television including The Lone Ranger, Have Gun Will Travel, Whirlybirds and Wagon Train – not to mention Wild Bill Hicock

Johnny not only co-starred in one of the best Western series ever, he recorded a single or two with the great Bobby Fuller, and appeared in Howard Hawks’ El Dorado (1967).

In the 90s, he assembled a big band, the Johnny Crawford Orchestra. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago. He was a very nice person.

BELOW – Taken from his Obituary in the New York Times earlier this year

Johnny Crawford in 1997 with a photo of himself as a boy and Chuck Connors, who played his father on the TV show “The Rifleman.” As a teenager, Mr. Crawford received piles of fan mail.
Johnny Crawford in 1997 with a photo of himself as a boy and Chuck Connors, who played his father on the TV show “The Rifleman.” As a teenager, Mr. Crawford received piles of fan mail.

Johnny Crawford, the soulful young actor who became a child star on the western “The Rifleman” in the late 1950s and had some success as a pop singer, died on April 29 in Los Angeles. He was 75.

The death, at an assisted-living home, was announced on the website johnnycrawfordlegacy.com by his wife, Charlotte McKenna-Crawford. It was revealed in 2019 that he had Alzheimer’s disease, and he had been in failing health since his hospitalisation last year with Covid-19 and pneumonia.

“The Rifleman,” which ran from 1958 to 1963, was a low-key half-hour series on ABC about Luke McCain (Chuck Connors), a widowed Civil War veteran and sharpshooter raising his son on their ranch in the New Mexico territory. The boy, Mark, was always identifiable by his Stetson hat and always had an intense expression — usually one of concern or hero worship.

John Ernest Crawford was born on March 26, 1946, in Los Angeles, the son of Robert Lawrence Crawford Sr., a film editor, and Betty (Megerlin) Crawford, a concert pianist. His maternal grandfather was Alfred Eugene Megerlin, the Belgian violinist who became concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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Another episode had none other than Sammy Davies Junior in a starring role – apparently one of the very best episodes

“Two Ounces Of Tin, a 1962 episode of The Rifleman.

It’s The one where Sammy Davis, Jr. is the gunslinger who’d been in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. He’s in another one, too.

This gives Sammy Davis a chance to show off his gun-handling skills, which are really something to see.

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Elton Hayes promoting ‘The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men’ 1952

What a perfect choice to promote this classic film both in England and the USA.

Here Elton Hayes – or Alan A’Dale – travels around introducing himself to the many fans who would be waiting to see the new film which had been very heavily promoted.

Elton was also enlisted to promote the film in the USA and in 1952 he set off on a demanding eight week tour, making an astonishing 113 visits to cinemas, theatres, Television studios, and whatever was deemed advantageous for Walt Disney, who had taken a lot of interest in this film and its success – and indeed it was very successful.

ABOVE – Elton Hayes visits the Delphian League match between Woodford Town and Rainham Town – and even demonstrates a left foot shot – maybe he is just kicking off the game

ABOVE – Giving youngsters a free song or two in the grounds of Cardiff Castle after he had appeared at the Empire Cinema in the City

ABOVE – Signing Autographs at the Gaumont Cinema in Liverpool

ABOVE – Prior to appearing at the Majestic and Scala Cinemas in Leeds, Elton visited the Tailors – Price – and tried his hand at cutting a suit.

He is watched by Mr W. Finan ( 2nd Left) the Personnal Manager at Price and Mr C. Willmott the Manager of the Scala Cinema ( 2nd Right)

ABOVE – While in Birmingham, where he appeared at the Gaumont, Elton paid a mid-day visit to the National Trade Fair at Bingley Hall, where he is pictured on stage with Harry Roy and his band, entertaining a large audience with hit tunes from the Walt Disney adventure

ABOVE – With Walt Disney himself at Denham Film Studios

ABOVE Elton Hayes in the film

and

BELOW – with the lovely Joan Rice who played Maid Marian

The Technicolor on this film was about as good as it gets – I think that the Technicolor of the early fifties was the best ever.

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Ghost Ship 1952

This film always intrigues me because of it’s parallel – at least from the title – with the Marie Celeste although the story does not progress in any way like that

The film stars Hazel Court and Dermot Walsh who were married in real life.

Hazel Court later married actor and Producer/ Director Don Taylor – who had made a Robin Hood film ‘Men of Sherwood Forest’ here in England in 1954.

They remained happily married until he died

An interesting film with some good acting, an excellent flashback sequence which is told by a medium who the young couple who had recently acquired the ‘ghost ship’ employ – who tells them of a love triangle that had gone gone horribly wrong for the previous owners of the boat.

The Medium had been consulted to find out why the many strange and eerie happenings occurred – which had unnerved the young couple.

Of the stars, there are bit players who would later go on to find fame and success (Joss Ackland and Ian Carmichael also Ewen Solon who turned up in a lot of British films of that era, British star, Dermot Walsh, a brief turn for Sewell’s real-life wife, Joan Carol; an excellent performance from TV’s QUATERMASS, John Robinson, as a wronged captain, Hugh Burden, who later found success in television; and of course, a starring role from lovely Hammer starlet Hazel Court. Hazel takes centre stage for much of the production and she was very good

ABOVE – Dermot Walsh and Hazel Court on location

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Janette Scott’s London Home

This is 1958 and Janette Scott is 20 years old. When she is working she usually lives with her mother Thora Hird and father Jimmy Scott in a small mews house ‘The Old Forge’ somewhere in central London – I think that could be in Shepherds Bush

ABOVE – Janette outside ‘The Old Forge House’

The family have a love of music and quite a large collection of records of very varying types

They also have a large collection of miniature liqueur bottle which need dusting regularly – here Janette takes on the task

Janette had a secret wish to become a blonde – something she succeeds in becoming in her latest film ‘The Lady is a Square’ with Frankie Vaughan and Anna Neagle.

Here she is with blonde hair BELOW

Ted Lune from ‘The Army Game’ had a small part in this. He was a great comic

Again ABOVE – Janette looking lovely in this scene from the film

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The Railway Children – Press Book

Within the last few days, I have been lucky enough to acquire quite a few items of memorabilia from the film world.

One of these items was the original Press Book from the famous film ‘The Railway Children’ of 1977 directed by Lionel Jeffries

Maybe not a Fifties film but there are connections here because in 1957 BBC Television had an 8 part serialisation of The Railway Children with Jean Anderson as the mother and Anneke Wills as Roberta. Norman Shelley played the old gentleman

This 1957 version of The Railway Children  also featured Cavan Kendall as Peter and Sandra Michaels as Phyl.

Jean Anderson reprised her role of Mother from the earlier 1951 BBC version, with Hilda Barry also returning as Mrs Viney. The script stuck closely to Dorothea Brooking’s original 1951 script.

Baynards railway station, on the Cranleigh line in Surrey (now disused) was used for location filming.

In the 1951 BBC Television version Clive Dunn had an early role and so did Ysanne Churchman from The Archers.

ABOVE – The poster really hits the button as regards the joyousness of the film

A tranquil family scene ABOVE – Lovely picture

Oakworth Station

Lionel Jeffries discusses a scene with Bernard Cribbins on the set of the film

I cant recall if the above scene was in the film – I don’t seem to remember it being though – maybe this is from the NEW version filming now

ABOVE – A tense and dramatic scene from the 1977 film

ABOVE and BELOW – The New Film – The Railway Children Return currently in production

I am quite looking forward to this new film being released early next year and seeing it in the cinema on the big screen – I think it will be good. Then again, I thought that the 2016 film version of ‘Dads Army’ was excellent but my views are not shared be everyone I know.

From the original 1977 film Press Book BELOW

From the Press Book

As a friend pointed out, the address ‘Wardour Street London W1’ has been closely associated with the film-land over the years

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The Love Match –

With football very much with us at the moment, I go back to a great favourite of mine ‘The Love Match’ with Arthur Askey

In the film Arthur’s son is a young professional footballer who has signed for United when Dad, all his life, has been an ardent supporter of City

This is a very funny film from the mid 50’s about Bill ( Arthur Askey) who is a railwayman and a real football fan. He goes to a match with his co-worker Wally (played by the writer, Glenn Melvyn) and by accident he hits the referee with a pie in the face. He is hauled off to court and fined 5 pounds, but Wally, who is deliberately dim, hands the bag of money which was for a railwaymen party to someone who promptly uses the money to pay her fine of 50 pounds.

They then have the task of somehow getting the money back.

There are other characters in this film, namely Bill’s wife – Thora Hird -who has great one liners, his son who is going to play football for the team Bill hates and his daughter, the stunning Shirley Eaton, who is entered in a dance contest in Liverpool. This is a great comedy film.

The screenplay by Glenn Melvyn is superb, and there are genuinely hilarious moments. No matter what kind of comedy you like, this is very highly recommended. Its crisp, the wit keeps flowing and the laughs are plenty.


Alf Hall ( played by Danny Ross ) is Rose Brown’s dim-witted boy friend. When he knocks on the Brown’s front door for the very first time Bill Brown opens it and all Alf can do is splutter out his name “Alf ‘all, Alf ‘all.” Bill’s reply is “Don’t worry I’ll catch you.”

ABOVE – Glenn Melvyn again teamed up with Danny Ross as they appeared together in a stage play at the Victoria Palace in London in the mid to late fifties with Mollie Sugden – and Valentine Dyall – BBC Radio’s ‘The Man in Black’

Valentine Dyall is a name that was around all the time on Radio, TV and films in the fifties. I remember him doing a TV Series with mysterious true stories that both fascinated us and scared the life out of us at the same time

Valentine Dyall

More about him in a later article on this Blog – he is an interesting character

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Cinemas in English Towns

We were all lucky enough in the 1950s to be able to visit the cinema in our local town – not just one cinema but two or three or more in each town and each one with a different ‘two film’ programme along with the usual Pearl and Dean advertising slot. Then we got the ‘Coming shortly’ trailers which I just loved – they were very enticing and before we knew it we were planning the next cinema trip as we just could not miss what we had seen – even though we had only seen a tiny bit.

This was a picture taken in the lovely town of Gainsborough in Lincolnshire advertising what was on at the State Cinema in 1960 – but is was not what it seems. In fact ‘Carousel’ was not the film but the Gainsborough Theatre Players putting on their yearly production on the stage of The State Cinema

A truly beautiful vintage cinema, The Palace Cinema in Cinderford proves that running an independent cinema is a real labour of love for owners. There’s a hand-drawn map on how to get there on the website, a whole host of original features in the building itself, and a friendly couple who run it. Free tea and coffee with winter tea matinees are a winner.

ABOVE – Now this is one of the most famous cinemas in the Country in the beautiful small town of Woodhall Spa, again in Lincolnshire.

It is the ‘Kinema in the Woods’

There is still an organ that is, quite often played prior to the film being shown

The Odeon Cinema St Albans

This was a favourite of mine – the Odeon St Albans which is now beautifully restored and has been re-named as the ‘TheOdyssey’

The Odyssey Cinema St Albans

The Cinema is breathtaking the original Art Deco features that remained have been incorporated into the new scheme and the end result is an auditorium which is beautiful and a true picture palace which harks back to a bygone age . Unlike the multiplex’s The Odyssey has Screen Curtains and all the sense of occasion and grandure that a visit to the cinema used to have.

In the Stalls – as shown – are tables with swivel seats which offer a different experience as you can sit at a table with a drink and then turn towards the screen as the film starts. In the balcony the rows of seats have massive amounts of leg room and the seats themselves are all armchair type offering the height of comfort.

The Odyssey technically is brilliant it has a massive Screen with the very latest digital projection technology, the sound system is the very latest reactive sound system and has the surround speakers hidden in the walls, the Odyssey offers sound and vision better than West End Cinemas in Leicester Square.

The Cinema in summary is a beautifully restored Art Deco masterpiece.

It must lay claim to being the finest cinema in the country – maybe even the world !!

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Another favourite the Cinema in Lobethal, South Australia – just outside of Adelaide – a small village in Adelaide Hills

Lobethal Cinema – ABOVE

Lobethal Cinema – ABOVE

Inside this classic cinema – very English

Preparing for ‘Curtain Up’

These pictures evoke a cinema experience from the past.

I love this Cinema in Lobethal

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Johnny

This is the 900 th article I have written on this films of the fifties site, so I have chosen someone extremely well known and popular as the subject – and someone who requires no introduction to film fans the World over

It would have been Johnny’s Birthday a few days ago on June 2 nd

Here he is Rumanian-born American Olympic gold medallist, competition swimmer, water polo player and actor Johnny Weissmuller on his birthday (June 2, 1904 – January 20, 1984),

Much better known for his roles as Tarzan (1932-1948) and Jungle Jim (1948-1958).

ABOVE – In his most famous role

What a life he had – a swimming World Champion who made the transition to films very successfully indeed with the big budget Tarzan films for MGM – and they were big budget and very well made.

Johnny with Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs

The next step was when RKO Radio released the next tranche but these, although very good and very watchable were nowhere near as good.

ABOVE – A lovely colour picture of Johnny with a new – and very good Jane – Brenda Joyce

When Johnny got too old he simply got dressed but didn’t retire from the jungle escapades – instead he became Jungle Jim in a series of cinema release films before playing the same role on Television for quite a few years. These were shown in England in the 50s and were very popular.

In his spare time, apart from getting married quite a few times, he played a lot of golf.

A Biography of Johnny – I must try to acquire this book

In 1954, MGM re-released his first two films to great success; a whole new generation now saw him in his prime on the big screen. In fact, most of the 12 Weissmuller Tarzan movies were re-released in theaters worldwide over the years.

And then the television era ushered in five more decades of widespread international viewing of those Weissmuller films, which are among the most broadcasted movies of all time.

By 1957, Weissmuller had retired from acting and went on to partner in various business ventures. In great shape in midlife, Johnny also continued to bring his popularity directly to his fans via water shows throughout the 1950’s.

ABOVE with a young lady and another former Tarzan Buster Crabbe

He also travelled the world doing charity work throughout his life, always willing to lend his fame for a good cause when asked. He helped to open and fundraise for children’s hospitals in places like Istanbul and Madrid. One of his pet charities was the Special Olympics, and to that end in 1976 he donated all of his Olympic medals and many trophies to the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation for disabled children, to be used in fundraising exhibitions. (They are now housed at the International Swimming Hall of Fame museum.)

Johnny Weissmuller meets The Queen at the 1966 Commonwealth Games

He is so obviously impressed and overawed – and maybe The Queen really enjoyed meeting Tarzan – Johnny Weissmuller

When he died, Johnny Weissmuller was one of the very few non-heads of state ever to be afforded a 21-gun salute, at his memorial service at Good Shepherd church in Beverly Hills. Arranged by Senator Kennedy and President Reagan, it was a singular honour for a man who was a true American icon. Concurrent memorial masses were also held at St Michael’s in Chicago (where he had been an altar boy), St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC, and the Vatican in Rome.

Though he had endured many trials and tribulations in his life – growing up in a poor immigrant family with an abusive father, the untimely death of his teenage daughter Heidi and suicide of his beloved Lupe, financial ruin caused by his unscrupulous business manager of 25 years and his own debilitating series of strokes that rendered him so physically disabled the last few years of his life – Johnny was always happy-go- lucky, down to earth and considerate with everyone who crossed his path. And his legendary sense of humor, generosity and accessibility to his fans made him all the more beloved.

As good friend and former TV Tarzan Ron Ely said recently in a filmed interview:

“If you talk about Johnny Weissmuller, you can only say positive things. He was a positive person, and didn’t show his troubles on the outside. He had a lot of friends; everyone loved him. I didn’t know anyone to ever make the tiniest negative comment about Johnny..

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