BETTE DAVIS: LARGER THAN LIFE

This beautiful 264 page coffee table book is big and luxurious and only cost me £4.50 in a second hand book shop. Published in 2009, it is quality printing  and photo reproduction.

George Perry provides a mini-biography and cast lists/synopsis for Bette ‘s films, all with excellent illustrations.

And there’s a sublime 30 page introduction by Richard Schickel. His analysis is so well written – and he introduced me to two words completely new to me!

The Man Who Played God was the PALIMPSEST for many roles to come.”    (Palimpsest means something re-used or altered.)

A Bette Davis film was usually an exercise in SOLIPSISM.”

(Solipsism is the quality of being self- centred or selfish.)

 

Some of Schickel’s comments:

”I like JEZEBEL more than I do Gone With The Wind, that glacially paced faux epic which remains, for me, a triumph of publicity over filmmaking.”

 

”Her movies in the 70s and 80s tended to be carelessly horrific…..but, so far as one can tell, she never patronised her roles. She gave her all to them, as if it were still 1940 and she was still queen of the Warner lot.”

 

”The omnipresent cigarette, the clipped words, the abrupt gestures…….”

 

There have been many books about Bette Davis and this one is a fine addition to the list. Definitely to be displayed prominently on the coffee table!

It’s currently on Amazon for $5! (and Amazon UK).

And some of the terrific photos in the book:

 

 

 

 

 

 

With William Wyler

 

HARRY WARREN: YOU’LL NEVER KNOW

 

Harry Warren

One of my favourite composers, HARRY WARREN (1893-1981) had 11 Oscar nominations and won the Best Song  category three times – “Lullaby of Broadway” (with Al Dubin); “You’ll Never Know” (with Mack Gordon); and “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” (with Johnny Mercer).

Harry , a native New Yorker, was born Salvatore Antonio Guaragna. He taught himself to play the piano and played in silent movie theaters and at the Vitagraph Motion Picture Studios. His first hit was in 1922 – “Rose of the Rio Grande”.

Moving from New York to Hollywood , his first assignment at Warner Brothers was writing three songs for SPRING  IS HERE in 1929.

In 1932 he was assigned to FORTY SECOND STREET and he was teamed with lyricist Al Dubin.

He went on to write the music  for 18 Busby Berkeley musicals.

Al Dubin, Busby Berkeley, Harry Warren.

 

Warren and Dubin split up as a team in 1938 and for several years in the 1940’s , Harry wrote with Mack Gordon at Twentieth Century Fox. Their songs were in DOWN ARGENTINE WAY, THAT NIGHT IN RIO, WEEKEND IN HAVANA among many.

The song, “You’ll Never Know” ,first sung by Alice Faye, has been recorded over 50 times.

 

Harry Warren

 

 

And he wrote for MGM also  –  HONOLULU, ZIEGFELD FOLLIES,THE HARVEY GIRLS, SUMMER  STOCK, THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY.

 

Eleanor Powell, Gracie Allen. HONOLULU

 

 

An impressive congregation of songwriters at Hollywood’s famed Trocadero nightclub on the Sunset Strip in 1938. Front row from left to right: Lorenz Hart and Hoagy Carmichael. Back row from left to right: Al Dubin, Mack Gordon, Leo Robin, Harry Revel and Harry Warren.

 

 

Al Dubin, Harry Warren

Always interesting to know, what comes first, the words or the music.   Harry said ,with Al Dubin, he’d provide the melody first, but with Johnny Mercer, they’d work on a song together.

(Though Sammy Cahn’s answer to that question was, “The phone call!”

 

“Lullaby of Broadway”, Harry’ s first Oscar with Al Dubin, for Best Song in 1935.

 

“Remember My Forgotten Man”.

 

By the 1950s, Harry was working at Paramount.

Harry’s last Oscar nomination.

 

A recording showing many the great singers who loved to sing a Warren tune.

 

I found a fascinating 15 minute interview from 1972 with Harry Warren on You Tube. I wish it had been much longer and with more informed questions, but it was great to hear Harry playing and singing some  of his hits, including ‘You’ll Never Know” and “I Love My Baby, My Baby Loves Me”.

Some of Harry’s comments during the interview by Ian Whitcomb:

“Mr. Zanuck had a script of “Forty Second Street” and said he thought it would make a good picture. He said, ‘why don’t you fellas read it and come up with some songs for it.’

I remember I gave Al Dubin some music and he came back from San Francisco with the lyric for ‘Shuffle Off to Buffalo’ written on a menu card,! Busby Berkeley said, “I can do a lot with that number.”

Busby never turned down any of our songs.”

 

On his 80th birthday, Harry was elected to the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. There’s a Harry Warren Theatre in Brooklyn.

Harry kept a low profile in Hollywood and said he never socialised with Hollywood people. Perhaps that’s  why he is regarded as the least known of the most successful composers in Hollywood.

There is a few scenes in TV’s ‘The Nat King Cole Show’ on  You Tube, in which Nat talks to Harry then sings Harry’s ‘September in The Rain’ and ‘Lullaby of Broadway.’

Harry was married from 1917 to Josephine Wensler who died in 1993.

A year before Harry’s death in 1981, FORTY SECOND STREET became a hit all over again in a great Broadway production  directed by Gower  Champion. I wonder if Harry saw the production.

What a composer. Working at all the major studios throughout his life and leaving us with a wealth of the greatest film songs.

Favourites? There are so many to choose from – I love his songs for Carmen Miranda and ‘Shanghai Lil’ from “Footlight Parade “, and of course ‘Remember My Forgotten Man’, the title song from HONOLULU (sung by Gracie Allen, lyrics Gus Kahn );  ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’.

One great discovery for me when researching Harry  Warren’s career was discovering for the first time a Warren/Dubin song called “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, sung by Constance  Bennett in MOULIN ROUGE (1934). The song is done as a big production number and  can be seen on You Tube. I wish the film was on dvd.

i wondered if Constance was doing her own singing. Apparently yes.

Warren and Dubin were loaned to Darryl Zanuck for this film, only one of two loanouts Warners allowed them. The other was to Samuel Goldwyn  for ROMAN SCANDALS.

 

 

Two useful websites. http://www.americansongwriters.com and http://www.harrywarrenmusic.com

 

 

JAMES STEWART LEADING MAN

I picked up this 1994 well illustrated book on James Stewart by Jonathan Coe for £3. A real bargain.

The author covers Stewart’s career in some detail in under 200 pages. And Jonathan Coe doesn’t hesitate to criticise as well as praise.

Every Stewart film is covered, the early career when he ‘began  to climb up the MGM star roster with surprising agility.”. 

How some admirers see in Stewart “the cinematic equivalent of Mom’s apple pie.”……. but pointing out how many of his key performances are subversive of his image…..working with directors Anthony Mann and Alfred Hitchcock.

The author has no problem stating his own likes and dislikes of James Stewart’s films. He doesn’t like YOU CANT TAKE IT WITH YOU; he thinks SHOP AROUND THE CORNER is  Stewart’s best pre-war film; he rates THE GLENN MILLER STORY above MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON  and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

And each view is explained very well, with examples of why the author feels the way he does, whether you agree with him or not.

 

”It’s a Wonderful Life” is described  as ‘having been elevated to a realm above and beyond the reach of criticism.’

Apparently when James took to the stage in 1947 in HARVEY, he got some of the worst reviews of his career – (I wish I could find some of these reviews.)

Some of the films are (rightly) described as “pot boilers” – MAGIC TOWN, MALAYA, YOU GOTTA STAY HAPPY.

BROKEN ARROW brought Stewart back to the western for the first time since DESTRY RIDES AGAIN. And there is a detailed look at the Mann and Hitchcock films.

It was interesting to read how James’s agent ,for WINCHESTER 73, negotiated  50% of the profits instead of a flat fee, making the actor $600,000! And that he had the same percentage deal on “The Glenn Miller Story.”

And I didn’t know that Beulah Bondi played James’s mother five times! ( OF HUMAN HEARTS, VIVACIOUS LADY, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and in an episode of The Jimmy Stewart Show in 1971.)

Well worth a read.   (Jonathan Coe has also written a biography of Humphrey Bogart, TAKE IT AND LIKE IT which I hope to get hold of.

 

 

On the set of NO HIGHWAY.

JACK PALANCE AT THE CIRCUS

Lucille Ball, Jack Palance. “The Greatest Show On Earth.”

 

News to me. JACK PALANCE (1919 – 2006) starred in 30 colour episodes of a 1963-64 TV series, “The Greatest Show On Earth” .

One of Hollywood’s best baddies finally got to be a good guy, as Johnny Slate, manager of a travelling Circus.

Inspired by the Paramount film of the same name, the series was made by Desily in conjunction with the famous Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Lucille Ball, maybe to boost ratings,  made a guest appearance in the episode, ‘Lady in Limbo’, and for the first time in many years, Lucille played a serious role. She’s a circus performer who has an equestrian act – though we never seen her on a horse!

Lucille’s episode (in B&W)  is the only one I could find on You Tube.

Palance is such a good actor, he is perfectly natural as the caring manager, always ready to help his troup with any problems they may have.

Having access to the famous circus obviously helped the production.

Such a pity that Palance  in movies was pretty well type cast, with a few exceptions.

 

Russ Tamblyn, Tuesday Weld, Jack Palance

 

Ruby Keeler, Ken Murray,  Jack Palance

 

Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown.

Would  love to see this episode with Keaton and Brown.

 

Jack Palance

 

Stuart Erwin

Stuart Irwin had a recurring role as Palance’s assistant.

 

Jack Palance, Julie Newmar.

 

 

Some of the other  stars in “The Greatest Show On Earth.” (Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde from the 1952 film guest starred.)

 

Jack with his 1957 Emmy for his live performance in “Requiem for a Heavyweight”. In the 1962 film version, Anthony Quinn took the lead.

 

Jack also starred in the series BRONK in 1975-76, playing a police detective.

 

With Billy Crystal in “City Slickers” for which Jack won an Oscar.

 

 

Also news to me, Jack released an album of country music songs ( some of which he wrote) in 1970. I’ve hear a few numbers and his voice suits the songs. I love how one of the songs he wrote is called ‘The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived.’ !

 

 

 

My favourite Palance performances.

‘Blackie’ in PANIC IN THE STREETS. Jack’s first film and what a debut.  Could never understand why there was no Oscar nod for him.

Jack had understudied Marlon Brando on Broadway in “A Streetcar Named Desire” which was directed by Elia Kazan. (Jack did get to go on for a few performances). So When Kazan did ‘Panic in the Streets’, he obviously knew Jack’s ability.

With Zero Mostel.

 

‘Wilson’ in SHANE.

Jack did get an Oscar nomination for “Shane” (and “Sudden Fear”).

Who  can forget the quiet,soft spoken killer in black who guns down little Elisha  Cook . To say Palance is menacing is an understatement- he devours the screen!

 

As ‘Lester Blaine’  with Joan Crawford in SUDDEN FEAR.

One of the things I like about “Sudden Fear” is the chance to hear Jack’ s beautiful speaking voice, as he quotes  poetry to Joan.

Of course, he and Gloria  Grahame make a dynamic  team as they plot and scheme against Joan.

 

 

 

 

PHOTO OF THE DAY: HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY

John Ford’s HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY(1941),  being filmed on an 80 acre set in the Santa Monica mountains near Malibu.

The area in California is now the Malibu Creek State Park.

I always remember the first time  I saw this scene with the miners filing down the road past the houses, I thought I was in Wales!

The shot in the film;  the miners, led by Donald Crisp, descend form the mine.

 

The design of the village set by art director Richard Day was based on actual Welsh villages in the Rhondda Valley.

The Morgan family, with Donald  Crisp, Sara Allgood, Roddy McDowall and Maureen O’Hara.

 

On the set photo, with Patric Knowles, Sara Allgood, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowell, Maureen O’Hara, Walter Pidgeon (not in costume) and John Loder.

 

Walter Pidgeon, as the minister, was borrowed from MGM and Donald Crisp was on loan from Warner Brothers.

 

A company photo, with cast and crew. John Ford, Roddy McDowell, Donald Crisp, Sara Allgood, Rhys Williams.

 

Great cast, great film. One that lives in the memory.

Should it have been in colour? Maybe.

Were the accents a mixture of Scottish, Irish and English? Yes, but it didn’t harm the film (unless you are Welsh!)

The film won five Oscars including Best Picture, Director, Supporting actor (Donald Crisp), Best Art direction and cinematography.

Was  it better than THE LITTLE FOXES, THE MALTESE FALCON or CITIZEN KANE. Ah, that’s the question!

 

Roddy McDowell

 

 

BOB ANDERSON: YOUNG GEORGE BAILEY

Bob Anderson (1933 – 2008), seen here in a 1946 publicity still from IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE at the age of 12.

Bob Anderson will forever  be remembered for playing the young James Stewart in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Bob’s father, Gene, was an assistant director and production manager in Hollywood .His uncles were directors William Beaudine and James Flood.

At the age of seven, Bob first appeared on screen in Shirley Temple’s YOUNG PEOPLE.  He had some uncredited roles in the early 1940’s  then won the role of young George Bailey in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

 

Young George always wanted to travel.

 

 

With H.B.Warner.

The famous scene where young George saves the druggist Mr.Gower from putting poison by mistake into a prescription. George refuses to deliver the prescription and Mr. Gower hits him.

( Mr.Gower has been drinking after getting the shattering news that his son has been killed in the war.)

 

With H.B.Warner as Mr. Bower.

Bob later said that H.B.Warner actually blooded Bob’s ear when he slapped him, though the elderly actor hugged him afterwards.

It is Mr.Gower who, at the end of the film, collects money to help George.

James Stewart, Donna Reed, Ward Bond, Todd Karns, Beulah Bondi, H.B.Warner, Gloria Grahame, Frank Faylen, Thomas Mitchell.

 

With Thomas Mitchell as ‘Uncle Billy’.

 

”I wish I had a million  dollars. Hot dog!”

 

James Stewart, H.B.Warner.

 

Despite  an excellent performance, the classic film did not lead to other leading roles. Bob had minor roles in THE BISHOP’S WIFE, KIDNAPPED and SAMSON AND DELILAH.

Bob, behind Cary Grant in THE BISHOP’S WIFE (1947).

 

Bob, as the young Zachary Scott in RUTHLESS (1948).

Bob’s character again saves someone from drowning – in this film, Ann Carter.

 

Raymond Burr appeared briefly in RUTHLESS, playing Bob’s father .

 

On two occasions, Bob was in films directed by his uncle, William  Beaudine – KIDNAPPED (1948) and BORN TO THE SADDLE (1953).

 

Bob, in 1995.

From the 1950s, Bob worked behind the scenes, as an assistant director and production manager, like his father. He worked up till 1993, including TV series, THE TIME TUNNEL, POLICE WOMAN and WONDER WOMAN.

Bob served in the Navy during the Korean War as a photographer on aircraft carriers.

 

Bob wrote the foreword for Stephen Cox’s book, “It’s A Wonderful Life, A Memory Book.”

Bob said,  “It was nice to know that after slugging it out with the studios as a production guy for more than 30 years, people remembered my on-camera work when I was young, and that they appreciated my performance.”

Bob made an appearance on NBC’s Today show in 1997. Would love to see it.

 

Seneca Falls

The small town of Seneca Falls, New York claims to be the inspiration for Frank Capra’s Bedford Falls and in 2010, local resident  Chris Podzuwelt started a museum devoted to the classic film.There is now an annual festival ( the next one is December 5th to the 9th).

Guests at the 2018 festival will include Karolyn Grimes who played ‘Zuzu’ and Jimmy Hawkins who played ‘Tommy Bailey’, plus Frank Capra’s granddaughter ,Monica  and Mary and Tony Owen, children of Donna Reed.

 

This truss bridge in Seneca Falls resembles the famous bridge in the film when George Bailey meets Clarence.

Although Frank Capra had been in Seneca Falls in the early 1940’s, he said that Bedford Falls was a collection of small towns.

(http://therealbedfordfalls.com)

 

 

I came across this lovely picture of H.B.Warner and his son in 1927.

H.B. Warner (1876 – 1958) was born in London.

 

Roscoe Karns (1891-1970) and his son Todd Karns (1921-2000) who played Harry Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Roscoe  Karns had a long career as a character actor in Hollywood , and Roscoe and Todd appeared together in the TV series, ROCKY KING, DETECTIVE (1950-1954) – with Roscoe as Rocky King. Must catch an episode on You Tube.

 

CELEBRATING VERA MILES

Congratulations to VERA MILES who was 89 on 23rd August, 2018.

Born Vera Ralston, for obvious reasons, Vera changed her name when she came to Hollywood. Her first husband was actor/stuntman Bob Miles and Vera kept that surname for the rest of her career.

 

Vera’s first major role in 1952, THE ROSE BOWL STORY, a Monogram film, with Natalie Wood and Marshall Thompson.

Prior to this film, she had minor roles in  WHEN WILLIE COMES MARCHING HOME (1950) and TWO TICKETS TO BROADWAY (1951).

Short lived contracts at RKO and Fox left Vera without a studio behind her and she quickly got into TV in 1954. She appeared in the 1955 pilot “Revenge” for “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”.

Vera played the traumatised wife of Ralph Meeker in ‘Revenge’ which had a typical Hitchcock twist at the end.

Vera Miles in ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. 1955.

 

In 1957, Vera was signed under personal contract by Alfred Hitchcock and was cast opposite Henry Fonda in THE WRONG MAN (1957), again playing a woman  who is traumatised by her husband’s wrongful arrest for burglary.

Vera Miles, Henry Fonda, Alfred Hitchcock on the set.THE WRONG  MAN.

 

Described above as his “new find”, was Hitchcock looking for a Grace Kelly replacement in Vera?

Unfortunately, other than “The Wrong Man” and “Psycho”, Vera’s contract with the great director didn’t produce a series of starring roles for Vera.

She was set to play opposite James Stewart in VERTIGO, but lost the role to Kim Novak . Vera was expecting a baby with her second husband, Gordon Scott. (They had costarred in “Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle” in 1955 and married in 1956.)

 

Wardrobe test for Vertigo.

We’ll never know if Vera could have surpassed Kim Novak’s mesmerising performance in Vertigo. Or whether it would have led to further Hitchcock films such as North By Northwest or The Birds or Marnie.

 

Vera Miles, John Gavin, Anthony Perkins.PSYCHO.

 

John Gavin, Vera Miles. PSYCHO

As Janet Leigh’s sister in “Psycho.”

 

There’s a brief interview with Vera on You Tube from 1983 when she was doing  PSYCHO 2. She said she had got to know and like Anthony Perkins on the set of this sequel, stating that on the original 1960 “Psycho”……”the nature of Hitchcock’s set does not lend itself to people becoming acquainted.”

(Wish we had heard more of her thoughts on Hitchcock!)

 

In 1955, Vera appeared in Joel McCrea’s WICHITA, But she had little to do and was only in a few scenes.

The film itself, the story of Wyatt Earp becoming a lawman, is rather dull, only enlivened by spotting all the great supporting actors in it – Walter Sande, Harry Lauter,Wallace Ford,Jack Elam, Edgar Buchanan, Robert Wilke,I.Standord Jolley, Carl Benton Reid.

In addition to McCrea and Miles,  the film also had Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves and John Smith.

Now that’s a cast. A pity the script was disappointing.

The only scene in the film that caught my attention was the scene in the saloon when the black-clad Graves and Smith appear, seemingly ready to gun  down Earp. Turns out they’re his brothers come to help him.

With Joel McCrea.WICHITA.

 

Joel McCrea, Vera Miles, Lloyd Bridges.

 

Keith Larsen played ‘Bat Masterson’ in “Wichita “ and became Vera’s third husband.

 

1956 was a busy  year for Vera – she was in  THE SEARCHERS, AUTUMN LEAVES and 23 PACES TO BAKER STREET.

Her part in “Autumn Leaves” , as Cliff Robertson’s ex-wife,wasn’t big but she did get to be nasty to Joan Crawford!

She had a substantial role in the thriller , “23 Paces to Baker Street”, opposite Van Johnson.

 

With Joan Crawford in AUTUMN LEAVES.

 

 

With Jeffrey Hunter. THE SEARCHERS.

 

BEAU JAMES (1957) , set in 1920s New York, tells the story of NY mayor Jimmie Walker (played by Bob Hope).

Vera plays singer/dancer Betty Compton who became Walker’s second wife. Dubbed by Imogene Lynn, she sings ‘Someone to Watch over me’ and does some nifty dancing!

Incidentally, having seen this film for the first time recently, it was interesting to see Bob Hope in a non-comedic role. Unfortunately I didn’t think it worked for him. I can understand why he wanted to do it but he didn’t seem comfortable in the character, even though he was able to do some musical numbers.

 

Vera Miles, Bob Hope. BEAU JAMES

 

In 1958 a magazine quote about Vera said that she “seems to be replacing June Allyson as everybody’s favourite wife.”

And that was definitely a part she played as  James Stewart’s  wife in THE FBI STORY.

With James Stewart.THE FBI STORY.

 

Vera shaved off her hair and went to Italy for FIVE BRANDED WOMEN (1960), set during  the Second World War.  Haven’t seen this one.

5 Branded Women.

 

 

I enjoyed catching up on A TOUCH OF LARCENY (1960) which has Vera, James Mason and George Sanders. I suppose the film , set in London, would be described as a romantic comedy , as  desk-bound naval commander James Mason tries to steal Vera away from  Sanders by concocting a scheme to make money.

 

With John Gavin.BACK STREET.

I bet Vera relished the change of character in BACK STREET in which she played the heavy drinking wife of John Gavin who wants a divorce so he can marry Susan Hayward.

 

Tammy Marihugh, Susan Hayward, Director David Miller, John Gavin, Vera Miles. BACK STREET.

In the scene above, Vera is about to stumble up the stairs and show Susan Hayward what John Gavin has to deal with!

 

 

With Fred MacMurray. FOLLOW ME BOYS

Vera made a few films for Walt Disney ,including FOLLOW ME BOYS (1966) which I like a lot.

 

With John Wayne. THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.

Vera reunited with John Ford for “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” in 1962. A good role for Vera who has to choose between Wayne and James Stewart.

 

With John Wayne. HELLFIGHTERS.

Vera played John Wayne’s  estranged wife in “HELLFIGHTERS” (1968)

 

With Gordon Scott.

 

Over the years ,from 1954, Vera may have created some kind of record for the number of her appearances in TV shows. And it could be argued she received more varied roles on TV.

With Raymond Burr in IRONSIDE.

 

One TV appearance I’d like to see is ‘The Forms of Things Unknown’, an 1964 episode  of “The Outer Limits”.

With Barbara Rush in “The Outer Limits”.

 

In the COLUMBO episode, “Lovely but Lethal.”

 

With David Janssen.THE FUGITIVE

 

The Twilight Zone.

Vera starred in a classic “Twilight Zone” episode called ‘Mirror Image’ in 1960.

 

In all my searches online, the above photo is the only evidence I could find  of Vera doing stage work. “The Country Girl” was an off- Broadway production in 1960.

I would love to hear what other plays she did.

 

Vera appeared three times in “Murder She Wrote”. I like the quote from ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Encyclopedia” –

“Vera booked several stays at that television retirement village for old Hollywood stars – ‘Murder  She Wrote.’

With Angela Lansbury in the episode, ‘Jessica Behind  Bars.’ (This episode also featured Yvonne de Carlo.)

 

From the time  Vera Miles retired in 1995, she made no public appearances and gave no interviews. But we have so many examples of her talent on film in her four decade career.