“Science Fiction – Double Feature”

There’s a song in THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW which has classic sci-fi connections, but I’ve never until recently seen all the lyrics of the Richard  O’Brien song, “Science Fiction Double  Feature.”


As sung in the 1973 stage version  by ‘Roxy’, the usherette:

Michael Rennie  was ill the day the earth stood still,

But he told us where we stand,

And Flash Gordon  was there in silver underwear,

Claude Rains  was The Invisible Man,

Then something went wrong for Fay Wray  and King Kong,

They all got caught in a celluloid jam,

Then at a deadly pace It Came From Outer Space

And this is how the message ran,


Science fiction double feature, Dr X will build a creature,

See androids fighting Brad and Janet,

Anne Francis  stars in Forbidden Planet,

Woah oh, oh, oh

At the late night double feature picture show,


I knew Leo G.Carroll  was over a barrel, when  Tarantula took to the hills,

And I really got hot when I saw Janette Scott fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills,

Dana Andrews  said prunes gave him the runes,

And passing them used lots of skills,

But When Worlds Collide said George Pal   to his bride,

I’m  gonna give you some terrible thrills……..

Like a science fiction double feature……


I wanna go oh oh oh

To the late night double feature picture show

By RKO oh oh

To the late night double feature picture show

In the back row oh oh oh

To the late night double feature picture show.


The RKO tower can also been seen in the show.

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW is really a homage to old horror and sci-fi films. It has a mad scientist,,aliens, an old dark house, a Frankenstein creature, characters called ‘Riff Raff’ and ‘Columbia’.

The 1975 film version has become a cult classic, with  midnight screenings all over the world and audiences dressing up as the characters and dancing/singing  along!

Let’s do the Time  Warp again!





Walking through the Scottish Design Exchange, I was stopped in my tracks when I saw this stunning cushion featuring Joan Crawford.

It was made by a Glasgow textile designer, Louise Henderson , and on checking her website http://louiseisobeldesigns.com , I found the following classic Hollywood images.

Louise uses a combination of vintage images and original drawings which are digitally printed on a range of fabrics and wallpapers.

All  are available to order . I look forward to seeing Louise’s future designs.


It’s Bette in her blonde days.


A vintage chorus line.


The pattern in Kate Hepburn’s top reproduced by Louise.


Joe E. Brown.


Anita Page

Is that not a great lamp!













Linda Darnell as ‘Lora Mae’ in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES.


James Dean as ‘Jett’.  GIANT.



Rosemary Clooney and  Vera-Ellen in WHITE  CHRISTMAS.


Eva Marie Saint as ‘Eve’ , dressed for the art gallery scene in NORTH BY NORTHWEST.


Joan Crawford in two costumes for FEMALE ON THE BEACH.

Note the ‘MISS’ Joan Crawford.


Richard Widmark. THE LAW AND JACK WADE.

”Wardrobe not yet aged.”


Ginger Rogers in MONKEY BUSINESS.




Bette Davis as Charlotte in NOW VOYAGER.



Bette Davis in THE SISTERS.


In the  ruins of post war Berlin,  the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) tries to reunite children from all over Europe separated from their parents , or find them new homes.

Aline MacMahon is ‘Mrs. Murray’, one of the UN officials who leads a team looking after the child refugees who, when they arrive at the Agency,  are often in rags and bare feet.

One little boy, ‘Karl Malik’ ( Ivan Jandl) has been in a concentration camp and is so traumatised that he does not speak except to say he does not know anything. His mind has shut  down, he only has primitive reactions.


Ivan Jandl

After running away from the agency,  Karl meets an American army engineer, Steve ( Montgomery Clift) who cares for the boy after gaining his trust. Steve slowly teaches him English (Karl is  Czechoslovakian).

Karl’s mother , ‘Mrs. Malik ‘ (Jamila Novotna) has escaped from the concentration camp and has spent months trudging around the zones of occupied Germany searching  for Karl.


There are so many moving scenes in this film, and mainly because of the superb performance of Ivan Jandl who had never acted before.

As Karl becomes more human with the care and kindness he receives from Steve , his memory starts to function. When he hears the word ‘mother’, he says, “Steve, what does it mean – mother?”

And suddenly he remembers he had a mother. He cries out to Steve, “where is my mother? I have a mother. Where is she?

He has a vague memory of a camp and leaves Steve’s apartment, running towards a factory that is nearby. There is a fence which is also a memory to him.A group of factory women at the end of a shift stream by him in silence while he looks at their faces, searching for his mother.

A powerful scene.


Ivan Jandl, On left.

The children are fed at the UN agency. All are silent.


Wendell Corey,  Montgomery Clift.

Wendell  Corey has a supporting role as Clift’s army buddy.


Montgomery Clift, Ivan Jandl, Wendell Corey.


Some lighter scenes in the film when Steve is figuring  out how to teach English to Karl.


Montgomery Clift,  Aline MacMahon


Ivan Jandl

Karl and the factory workers.


Ivan Jandl far left. Fred Zinnemann On right.


Montgomery Clift, Ivan Jandl, Fred Zinnemann.


And ,spoiler, there is a happy ending.

Ivan Jandl, Jarmila Novotna.


Ivan with his Oscar and Golden Globe.

It’s  amazing to read that Ivan Jandl (1937-1987) had never acted before and spoke no English. That of course says much for the direction of Fred Zinnemann.

This is one of the best child performances I have ever seen.

Ivan was awarded a juvenile Oscar but the Czech government would not let him got to Hollywood to collect the award. Fred Zinnemann accepted the Oscar (and a Golden Globe) for Ivan. The Oscar was then  passed on to the Czech ambassador .



Ivan Jandl.

Ivan appeared in a few Czech films in 1949/50 and then found work on radio. He died in Prague, aged 50, in 1987 from diabetes complications.

The film was shot in the ruins of Munich and Nuremberg, with interiors in a studio in Munich.

This was Montgomery Clift’s second film, but released before “Red River”.

Jarmila Novotna (1907-1994) was a renowned opera singer who made a few films in Europe. In a 1988 interview, she said: “We made it in Germany in 1947 and it was a grim reminder of the war.”

A  Czechoslovakian patriot, Jarmila was exiled from her homeland by the Nazis and then the Soviets. She sang in Europe and America and appeared in THE GREAT CARUSO. Her memoir, “My Life In Song” was published in 2018.

“The  Search” is a remarkable film and is available on dvd  in the Warner Brothers Archive Collection.





The innocent casualties of war.

A poster by MGM for film exhibitors , indicating how they should exploit the film. This was a serious film with no stars (Montgomery  Clift was unknown) and I doubt  MGM expected to make a profit.


Ivan Jandl









“WONDERFUL LIFE” : Hit or Miss

Is it true that  when IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE was first released in January 1947, it was a box office dud, a flop, it bombed ? That it only became the iconic film it is when it showed up on television in the 1970s?

Well, it certainly made a loss for RKO who released it , and it did herald the end of the short lived company Liberty Films which had been set up by Frank Capra, William Wyler and George Stevens after the Second  World War.

But it was 26th (out  of 400 films) in box office revenues for 1947. And had five Oscar nominations.

So what were the reviews like when it was first released. Well, the Hollywood Reporter called it “wonderful entertainment “. 

Variety said “It’s A Wonderful Life “ will enjoy just that at the box office.”

Bosley Crowther for The New York Times  called it “a figment of simple Pollyanna platitudes”.  (But Mr. Crowther didn’t like many films.)

Time magazine praised Capra’s  inventiveness and humour.

But the film had the misfortune to open a few weeks after the wildly successful THE BEST DAYS OF OUR LIVES.

At the Oscars, It’s A Wonderful Life was up against William Wyler’s blockbuster which took most of the main awards.

It was of course television showings of the out of copyright film which made it a national treasure, but it was well received on first release. Unfortunately it was an expensive film to make and did lose money at the box office.

Frank Capra only made 5 more films after this. The great hope for independent film making, Liberty Films, was sold off to Paramount.

The film became public domain in 1974 when copyright was not renewed . But in 1993, Republic ,who still owned the rights to the original story the film was based on (“The Greatest Gift”) managed to acquire the TV rights and only NBC could screen the classic film.

And then ,in 1998, Paramount bought Republic!

Big  business is complicated!


Lionel Barrymore, in his best ‘Scrooge’ character, as ‘Mr.Potter’.

I was amazed to read that the film was considered by the FBI to have communist propaganda by its portrayal of miserly banker Mr.Potter – discrediting bankers and American values such as wealth and free enterprise.

(And what  was just around the corner.? – you guessed it – the McCarthy witch hunt.)


Lionel Barrymore

And here’s another young photo of Lionel Barrymore. A Best Actor Oscar winner for A FREE SOUL in 1931, Lionel sustained  two broken hips in 1936 and 1937 (the latter during the filming of SARATOGA).

Suffering also from severe arthritis, he started using crutches and a wheelchair and by 1938, in his films, he was either seen sitting, or in a wheelchair. An MGM player since 1926, the studio stood by him and he had great success as Dr.Gillespie in the DOCTOR KILDARE films.


Lionel Barrymore, Lew Ayres.


Humphrey Bogart, Lionel Barrymore, Lauren Bacall.

Rather a sad scene from KEY LARGO.


And using crutches in DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS:

Dean Stockwell, Lionel Barrymore. DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS



. By Lionel Barrymore

Lionel was a reluctant actor. He had studied art in Paris and was also a composer. In 1935 he was praised for one of his works by the American Society of Sketchers.

For information on Lionel, a very good site is Lionelbarrymore.blogspot.com.

The Famed Barrymores, John, Ethel and Lionel.


Back to It’s a Wonderful Life.

Scenes of the new house for the Martinis in ‘Bailey Park’ was in fact a housing development in the city of La Canada Flintridge, CA.

I was curious about that name ,La Canada  Flintridge.

Canada ( with an umlaut above the first ‘A’)  is the Spanish word for canyon or ravine.

La Canada and Flintridge were two adjoining communities in Los Angeles county which combined into one city.

Donna Reed, James Stewart


Now a private residence.


Ward Bond, Frank Faylen.

Was the newspaper headline an in-joke, reference to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?


Looks like Lionel’s birthday on the set, with Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart. (Jimmy wearing the black arm band in character as ‘George’ whose father has died.)


Frank Capra with his cast.







Francis Barraud


Sad news at Christmas that Britain’s last specialist film and music shop chain, HMV , is in administration, with the future of the 130 stores in jeopardy. The internet, streaming and the prohibitive costs of running large shops have affected HMV’s profitability.


The history of HIS MASTER’S VOICE goes back over 100 years. It’s roots go back as far as the 1890’s and the Gramophone Company, one of the earliest recording companies.

In 1899, an English painter, Francis Barraud completed an oil painting which he called “His Master’s Voice”, portraying his dog Nipper which had died three years earlier.

Nipper had belonged to Francis’s late brother Mark who had lived  in Bristol.

Barraud didn’t have much luck selling the painting  until someone connected to the Gramophone Company  purchased it and adopted it as a trademark. All the painter got, for what was to become an iconic object , was £100.

As originally painted, the dog is quizzically looking into the horn and wondering how sounds come from the cylinder phonograph – an Edison cylinder machine with a black horn.

Barraud then, at the request of the Gramophone Company, did another painting, featuring a wind up gramophone.

I read that the original oil painting hung in the EMI boardroom in Hayes, Middlesex. Also, it was displayed at EMI Music’s Gloucester Place HQ in London.

Barraud also painted  over 20 copies of the painting for various Gramophone  Company offices.


In 1931, the Gramophone Company and its HMV record label merged with the Columbia Gramophone Company to form EMI (Electric and Musical Industries.)



The following three photos show Nipper on the Bristol University building. Nipper’s owner, Mark Barraud lived in Bristol.


Nipper Alley, Kingston Upon Thames.


This oversize version was built in 1954 atop the RCA building in  Albany,New York. Because if its size  (25 feet) and position on the roof, an aircraft beacon was put into Nipper’s right ear.


The former RCA building  in  Baltimore ,Maryland had this 18 feet statue. It now rests at the Maryland Historical Society.


Nipper in stain glass at the former RCA building in Camden,New Jersey.


From 1902 most Victor records in America  had the dog and gramophone  image on its labels. Magazine ads urged record buyers to ‘Look for the Dog!’.




Jose Iturbi.


My thanks to Siriami for news of this 1990s book which I’ve just ordered.


The first HMV shop opened in London in 1921, selling sheet music and gramophone  records.  I hope the new year  doesn’t bring  to an end this national institution.


And finally, my own HMV/Nipper mascot.


And from my friend,Alistair, his Nipper collection:

Fate forced a “DETOUR”. Blu-Ray release

Coming March 19th from The Criterion Collection. Get your order in now! The  Criterion website (Criterion.com) has a short preview of the restored film and it looks great.

The extras include a 2004 documentary on the film’s director, Edgar G. Ulmer ( which includes an interview with Ann Savage); an interview with Ulmer’s biographer,Noah Isenberg and a  documentary on the film’s restoration.

I like the new cover by Jennifer Dionisio.


Tom Neal


Ann Savage, Tom Neal.


Tom Neal