THE STORY OF ‘CUDDLES’

This rare 1954 memoir by S. Z. ‘Cuddles’ Sakall  (1883-1955) can be read online at Archive.org and I have put the link at the end of this post.

The bulk of the book covers Cuddles’s life  in Europe , but there are some good stories about his life in Hollywood.

His real name was Gero Jeno and he was also known as Szoke  Szakall. His wife called him Yani.

Born in Budapest, he was a stage actor/ writer/ producer in Austria and Germany , and he made many films in Hungary. He married in 1920. Sadly, during the war, his three sisters died in concentration camps.

 

Universal producer Joe Pasternak was a relative by marriage and he offered Cuddles a role in Deanna  Durbin’s It’s a Date ” in 1940 and so he and his wife moved to Hollywood.  He played a playwright visiting from Vienna.

That same year he was in another Deanna Durbin film, “Spring Parade” .  And shortly after he joined Warner Brothers and remained there for the rest of his career.

 

With Deanna Durbin in SPRING PARADE.

 

I love the comic scene with Humphrey Bogart in Thank Your Lucky Stars.

Cuddles comments on this film:

“The picture “Thank Your Lucky Stars” is one of my unforgettable experiences. It was in this film that I became acquainted with David Butler, one of the kindest men in the world, who is also an outstanding director.
We have made ten pictures together……Butler was very fond of me…..he crowded my roles with jokes and gags.

I met many interesting people while making “Thank Your Lucky Stars”: Dinah Shore, Edward Everett Horton, Dennis Morgan, Irene Manning and of course Eddie Cantor……I was enchanted with his versatility….a charming, unaffected man..

But the most fascinating person was the producer himself, the late Mark Hellinger of blessed memory……Everybody without exception loved him. “

 

 

 

Probably his most famous role, ‘Carl’ in CASABLANCA. The waiter who admires how his boss ‘Rick’ helps the young couple at the gambling tables.

 

 

Humphrey Bogart, Helmut Dantine,  Joy Page.

 

That lovely scene where Cuddles drinks with the couple who are leaving for America – Ilka Gruning, Ludwig Stossel.

 

Cuddles describes , in comedy terms how an actor gets a role:

“From its birth to completion, each picture goes through so many phases…….it all begins with the actor walking harmlessly ,without suspicion, on the studio lot.
A writer meets him and tells him that he is writing a wonderful part for him…..he even relates one or two scenes.

When the writer has finished describing the story, he places his index finger on his lips and looks at the actor with a serious, pleading expression. This means that the actor mustn’t say a word to anybody about the whole business…..WHY it’s supposed to be a secret, the writer doesn’t know, not does the executive who has told him to keep his mouth shut.

A few weeks later the actor is told by the producer that he is in the film, but this isn’t ‘official’ yet.

The next  mystery is the question  is when the shooting script will be finished and when actual production can start …….If I didn’t  know that these people were engaged in making pictures, I would think they were manufacturing counterfeit five-dollar bills….”

 

With Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut (1945).

 

Cuddles in the middle. Ball of Fire .

 

Cuddles:  “After the shooting of “The Time, The Place and the Girl”, I received a great honour. My boss bestowed on me the nickname of “Cuddles”. I was very happy, though people poked a lot of fun at me.

(Did he mean Jack Warner?)

 

Mr and Mrs. Sakall.

Mrs.Boszi Sakall often wrote home to her relatives , and one of her letters in 1941 is quoted:

  •       “I am so happy to tell you that Yani has signed a contract with Warner Brothers…..the studios are owned by three brothers. In the Burbank studio there  are only two of them. Perhaps there isn’t a third at all – perhaps he was invented for tax purposes only…..we still haven’t seen any one of them yet.
  •      As for the studio, I must tell you it is a dream city…..each studio is a separate little country. It has its own police, its own post office, its own hospital. It hasn’t got its own cementary, though.
  •      The studio has its own king too. Usually the vice-president is the king. The subjects of the little country are without exception royalists. If the king tells a joke, the whole studio laughs. The king is master over life and death.
    The film kings are on very cordial terms, and if one of them gets angry with somebody he can ruin his career even in the neighbouring ‘countries.’
  •       Both Yani and I have grown very fond of the studio. Everybody says that the boss Jack Warner is always joking and laughing. His brother Harry Warner is just the same. Both are very decent people and tops the lists of any charity appeal.
  • By the way, today we’ve seen Albert Warner, who’s not only a real person, but a colonel and a very nice guy.

PS – Yesterday we went to a cinema where you could drive in with your  car. Yani liked it very much. In Europe he drove only once into a cinema with his car, and they took away his driver’s licence.”

(Mrs. Sakall displays quite a sense of humour !)

 

Cuddles! “When  I made the picture “Sugarfoot”, I fell down a flight of stairs. It was a painful experience. I hurt myself badly. Later, when I saw the picture, I realised that I had deserved the punishment  – in advance!”

His last film was THE STUDENT PRINCE in 1954.

One of Hollywood’s best remembered character actors.

 

Link to the book:

https://archive.org/details/dli.ernet.527200

“DEAD END” and THE EAST END KIDS

Allen Jenkins

 

In ”Dead End “ (1937), Allen Jenkins as ‘Hunk’, delivers  a classic line to his boss ‘Baby Face Martin’ (Humphrey Bogart):

“We all make mistakes,Boss. That’s why they put the rubber on the  ends of pencils.”

Allen Jenkins (1900- 1974), a Warners contract player,  made 158 films according to IMDB. A scene-stealer of the highest order, likeable, down to earth , a gruff  Brooklynese accent.  Usually a henchman, with names like Mugsy – Lefty – Spudsy -Pinky – Gyp – Dodo – Fishcake – Okay.

Allen was in the original stage production of THE FRONT PAGE in 1928. ( and in a tribute to him, Billy Wilder had Allen in his 1974 version of The Front Page. It was Allen’s  last appearance.)

His voice was perfect for ‘Officer Dibble’ in “Top Cat.”

 

“DEAD END” has quite a history. A Broadway hit play which ran for nearly two years. ( In the cast, making his Broadway debut,  was Dan Duryea as a G-Man., also Marjorie Main.)

Sam Goldwyn bought the film rights and hired William Wyler  to direct.

 

The title says it all. A rundown neighbourhood in New York’s lower east side next to the East river.Alongside the slums are the ritzy apartments of the well-to-do who want a river view.

There  is even a sign at the water’s edge that literally  says DEAD END.

Humphrey Bogart  is ‘Baby Face Martin’, a killer the police are on the look out for. He has had plastic surgery to change his appearance. He’s taking a chance , returning to his old neighbourhood to see his mother and his old girlfriend.

 

The boys from the Broadway cast:

Gabriel Dell, Leo Gorcey, Billy Halop, Bernard Punsly.

Front row: Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall.

These boys are the stars of the film for me, so natural and comfortable with each other. They are so real. They support each other in the environment they live in  where they can’t rely on anyone but themselves.
Although never mentioned, I presume school is out. It’s a hot summer’s day and the action takes place over a 24 hour period.

 

  • The boy’s leader is Billy Halop whose sister is played by Sylvia Sidney who worries about her brother being in a  gang and wants to take him out of the neighbourhood. She’s a factory worker who is on strike.

 

Having decided not to film on location in New York, Sam Goldwyn had Richard Day design a massive set based on the stage set by Norman Bel Geddes.

To the left of this photo is the rear entrance to the apartment building where the rich folk live.

Of course an indoors studio set allows the director to be in complete control. Unfortunately it has never really been possible to convey the feeling of being outdoors .  It also adds to the claustrophobic stage bound appearance , but is a terrific set.

 

William Wyler, seated bottom right, looks up at the action taking place.

 

Another shot showing the pier where the boys dive in for a swim.

 

Ward Bond in a small role as the doorman for the swanky apartment block. He’s at the service entrance which the tenants are being forced to use at the moment, causing close interaction between rich and poor which wouldn’t normally happen. 

 

  • Sylvia Sidney as ‘Drina’ who worries about her brother ‘Tommy’ and  longs to take him away.

 

Joel McCrea, Wendy Barrie.

Joel McCrea  as ‘Dave’ has tried to better himself  and has qualified as an architect , but is looking  for work. It doesn’t help that the girl he likes (Wendy Barrie) is a rich man’s mistress who lives in the luxury apartments.

(Can’t imagine how they met).

 

Marjorie Main, Humphrey Bogart.

Seeing Marjorie Main  , as Bogart’s mother ( though only ten years older than him) , makes you wonder whether she might have had more varied  roles in her career after this performance.
She is so good as the care-worn woman who despises her son whom she hasn’t seen for ten years. He thinks he’ll be welcomed ( though it appears he has done nothing for her).

The mobster says, “Aint you glad to see me?”

 She shocks him by slapping his face and replying ,

”That’s how glad I am – you  ain’t no son of mine.”

it’s interesting that Claire Trevor was Oscar nominated for the 5 minute scene she was in. As much as I like Claire, in this film, it’s Marjorie Main whom I remember in her brief scene.

The following year Marjorie was back on Broadway in “THE WOMEN  “, in the career defining role of ‘Lucy’, the Reno dude ranch owner. She went on to do the film version.

And her film persona was set – comedic, raucous, opinionated . Completely typecast when she was obviously capable of serious roles.

 

Marjorie Main, Humphrey Bogart.

Mrs. Martin and her son ‘Baby Face’ Martin. He’s well dressed . She’s in rags.

I understand George Raft turned down the Bogart role.

 

Claire Trevor

Claire Trevor as ‘Francey’. The ten years since ‘Baby Face’ has seen her haven’t been kind to her. She’s a prostitute ( though in 1937, it couldn’t be said out loud). But the look of horror on Bogie’s face is obvious. Their meeting doesn’t last long, he gives her some money to get rid of her.

 

 

One and only time Allen Jenkins got the same size billing as Bogart?

Funny how billing on posters change as years go by. In 1937, Sylvia Sidney was top billed.

From being third billed, Bogart’s star status means his name comes first in re-issues of the film.

 

”THE DEAD END STREET.” ( this poster isn’t even an accurate picture of Humphrey Bogart in the film – it looks like a photo from a later era.)

 

DEAD POINT.

 

Huntz Hall, Billy Halop, Bernard Punsley, Bobby Jordan, Leo Gorcey.

The boys became known as the Dead End Kids after the film was released.

At the film’s premiere, all spruced up.

 

And this is them in the  1950s, appearing  on a TV show hosted by Ben Alexander,

Bernard (now Dr.Punsley), Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Ben Alexander, Huntz Hall, Billy Halop.

 

A family photo: Leo Gorcey, his brother David and his father Bernard. David and Bernard were in later Bowery Boys films.

 

David Gorcey  who didn’t look much like his brother Leo, and was always in Leo’s shadow. He often used the name David Condon.  David became a clergyman.

Interchanging groups of the boys worked for Warners, Monogram  and Universal . They became the East Side Kids from 1940 to 1945.

 

 

 

In 1946, Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall formed a company with their agent and took the name “The Bowery Boys”. Leo owned 40% of the company. He produced and contributed to scripts.Bobby Jordan and Gabriel Dell were in them, plus Billy Benedict, David Gorcey.

There was a shift to slapstick  comedy. Monogram distributed the films.

Leo Gorcey quit the series  in 1956 and Stanley Clements took his place in the remaining films of the series.

Having seen more and read about Hutnz Hall, I think he deserves a lot of credit for the character he played on screen – a Chaplinesque dimwit., full of action and facial expressions.

Huntz Hall

But, like nearly all of  the fine young actors in DEAD END, Huntz couldn’t escape type casting. He and the others made a living out of the series , from the Dead End Kids to The Bowery Boys.

Huntz got one opportunity away from slapstick and that was in A WALK IN THE SUN, a wartime film made in 1945 and starring Dana Andrews. I haven’t seen it but it has a good reputation.

 

In 2018, IMDB listed a documentary in production called BOWERY RHAPSODY, THE RISE AND REDEMPTION OF HOLLYWOOD’S ORIGINAL BRAT PACK.
The producer was listed as Leo Gorcey Jr. who also wrote a 2003 biography of his father, “Me and the Dead End Kid.”

Leo Gorcey’s autobiography came out in  1967 and is now listed for sale on Amazon at £176!

I’ve just ordered “The Films of the Bowery Boys” and I look forward to reading  more about them. 

 

Leo Gorcey Jr.

 

Those 6 young men whose lives were changed forever  when Samuel Goldwyn brought them to Hollywood.

 

 

 

SMILE FOR THE CAMERA

A young Cary Grant.

 

Tony Martin and Alice Faye.

 

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard

 

Norma Shearer and her husband Marty Arrouge.

 

Alan Ladd

 

William Powell and Myrna Loy and Asta.

 

Audrey Totter.

 

 

Didnt happen often. Randolph Scott.

 

Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford.

 

You can’t make me.

PHOTO MIX 40

It’s Fred MacMurray pretending to be Barbara Stanwyck’ s husband in DOUBLE INDEMNITY. The duo are in the middle of their elaborate murder plot. But beware Edward G.

 

Ginger Rogers and Basil Rathbone in HEARTBEAT (1946).

One I haven’t seen so I don’t know why Ginger looks so quizzical. Mixed reviews on IMDB. Some  positive but others query Ginger playing an 18 year old and that it was a scene for scene remake of the 1939 French film “Battement de Coeur”, starring Danielle Darrieux.

Rathbone plays a Fagin like pickpocket.

 

 

Nice of the tiny PRC  studio to congratulate Warner Brothers on their 20th anniversary. PRC wouldn’t last that long.

 

 

Bette Davis in THE STAR. Reminds me of the start of THE BAND WAGON and the sale of the personal  effects of Fred Astaire’s character, ‘Tony Hunter.’

Reviews of “The Star” compared Bette’s character to her ‘Margo’ in “All About  Eve”.

 

 

Joan Crawford and Dana Andrews in DAISY KENYON.

 

 

Known primarily for comedy, Jean Arthur played Saint Joan in the National stage tour in 1954. She left the play abruptly after suffering  from a nervous condition before the Chicago opening.
Interesting to see that the Saint Joan cast included George Macready and Sam Jaffe.

Jean had been very keen to play Saint Joan and was contracted  for 30 weeks, coast to coast, ending on Broadway. She did not get on well with the play’s  director, Harold Clurman.

 

 

Mount Rushmore before construction, 1905.

 

Construction underway, with Jeffferson to the left of Washington before unstable rock necessitated a change in design.

Construction lasted from 1927 to 1941.

 

From left to right, Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln.Roosevelt. The faces were 60 feet high.

( My mistake. The order is Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln.)

Mount Rushmore was named after New York lawyer, Charles E. Rushmore who travelled to the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1885.

 

 


Hitchcock knew how well Mount Rushmore would look in “North By Northwest”.

FRIENDS OF MR SWEENEY

Ann Dvorak, Charlie Ruggles

What  an enjoyable little comedy from Warners in 1934. Charlie Ruggles is the star, playing ‘Asaph’, a mild mannered writer on a political magazine,’The Balance’.

Ann Dvorak is ‘Beulah’, his secretary who has a secret crush on him. Despite the fact that Charlie  Ruggles is aged 48 at the time of the film,  Charlie always looked far older. Here he looks as if he could be Ann Dvorak’s father.
That aside, I’ve always liked Mr. Ruggles and he is ideally cast as someone whom life seems to have passed him by.

Near the beginning of the film, Asaph goes to a lunch counter which is busy. His order is completely ignored by the waiter who shouts at him . Asaph finally gets up and leaves.

His boss (played by Berton  Churchill) badgers Asaph into writing  a favourable piece  on a corrupt politician.

When an old college friend ( Eugene Pallette as ‘Wynn) arrives in town, he reminds Asaph what their lives used to be like. Asaph finally asks Ruth out and they go on the town.

Getting braver by the minute, Asaph (now ‘Ace) gets them into a private casino by saying they are ‘friends of Mr. Sweeney’. Nobody knows who Mr. Sweeney is but it is reckoned he must be Somebody!

’Ace’ stands up to his boss and gets the girl too.

 

Robert Barrat

Robert Barrat is funny as a Russian friend of  Beulah’s.

 

Eugene Pallette

 

Final scene of the film.  ‘Ace’ gets his own back on the counter assistant who was rude to him at the start of the film.

 

Ann Dvorak shows yet again that she should have been a bigger star.

I’d love a dvd of this film. My copy had poor sound unfortunately.

MIDNIGHT ALIBI

I only know Richard Barthelmess from “Only Angels Have Wings”  in which he played Rita Hayworth’s husband. It wasn’t an easy role to play and I thought he did very well.

Barthelmess was born in 1895 and was a big star in silent films. He made 75 films from 1916 to 1936, and after that he only made another 6 films up to 1942 when he retired, aged 47. A wealthy man from his long career, he passed away in 1963 – yet another star whom you could wish had done extensive interviews in his later years.

Midnight Alibi (1936) was Richard’s last film under his Warner Brothers contract.
Based on Damon Runyon’s 1933 short story,”The Old Doll’s House”, Richard plays a gangster,’Lance McGowan’ who meets and falls for ‘Joan’( Ann Dvorak ) who just happens to be the kid sister of one of his competitors, ‘Angie the Ox’ (Robert Barrat).

 

Robert Barrat, Ann Dvorak, Richard Barthelmess

‘Angie’ tries to bump ‘Lance ’ off, but  Lance jumps over the wall of a large old mansion where a rich old lady lives. She thinks Lance looks like her long lost love and there is a longish flashback describing how her fiancé died.
I have to admit I didn’t realise that Barthelmess played the fiancé too!

 

Helen  Lowell

(That little dog is ‘Asta’). As the reclusive old lady, Helen Lowell’ s character has stopped all the clocks in her house to the time when her fiancé died.

 

In an ensuing fight. one of Lance’s men ‘Babe the Butcher’ ( Paul Hurst) shoots in self defence , but Lance takes the gun and is arrested  – he is so sure his lawyer will get him off.

But it only when the ‘Old Doll’ testifies that Lance was with her (the ‘Midnight Alibi’) that he is released and reunited with Joan.

A running time of 60 minutes seems about right.

I generally like any film based on a Damon Runyon story and this is no exception. Barthelmess leads a good cast and I wish he had made more films in the 1930s and 40s.

I’m a big fan of Ann Dvorak and wish her role had been bigger. Robert Barrat is always impressive and is very good here as the gum-chewing gambler who is very protective of his sister.

In a small  role is future director Vincent Sherman.

Helen Chandler plays the ‘Old  Doll’ in the flashback.

Vincent Sherman

 

(Dvorak and Barthelmess.) Presumably an advertising still or cut scene. . It is not  in the film.

 

GARY COOPER, Schoolboy in England

It’s amazing to think that  Gary Cooper went to school in England for a few years.

Both of Gary’s  parents were English immigrants; his father Charles was a member of a Bedfordshire farming family. When they moved to America – Helena, Montana, Charles, a lawyer bought a 600 acre ranch, the ‘Seven Bar Nine’ along the Missouri River.

Gary’s mother, Alice, decided that Gary (born Frank James  Cooper) and his older brother Arthur needed some ‘British discipline’ and took them to England in 1910. They lived  in Dunstable , with their cousin Emily Barton, and went to Dunstable Grammar school .

The brothers stayed in England for three years.

Gary kept in touch with his British relatives and visited them through to the 1950s.

Gary is circled in red.

In 2010, Dunstable had a Gary  Cooper festival. Hope there was a good turnout.

You are a legend when Irving Berlin names you in a song!

From “Puttin’ on the Ritz”:

”Dressed up like a million dollar trouper;

Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper – super-duper!”

 

HIGH NOON

LURED TO THE MICROPHONE

In the years before television, Hollywood stars added to their substantial movie incomes by appearing on radio programs.

It’s interesting  to read in a 1935 Radio Mirror magazine what salaries various performers could command .

 

”Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone divided $5000 for a single air appearance.”

 

“Jeanette MacDonald went on the Atwater Kent program one night and banked $4000 the next day. Not so long ago, Miss MacDonald was content with $600 per broadcast.”

(Atwater Kent was a radio manufacturer).

 

” Clark Gable got $3500 for a solo performance. Katharine Hepburn and John Barrymore each nicked sponsors for $6500”

 

Charles Ruggles  and  Mary Boland oblige for $2500 for the team. You can hire Irene  Dunne, Adolphe Menjou and Leslie Howard at the same amount.”

 

”But you ain’t heard nothin’ yet – Greta Garbo has been offered $25000 for a 15-minute broadcast of a scene from one of her photo plays…”

 

Lesser lights like Lupe  Velez, Bebe Daniels, Colleen Moore, Cary Grant, Bruce Cabot, Ricardo Cortez and Douglas Montgomery may be lured to the microphone upon receipt of $1000”.

 

”Then there is still a larger group whose broadcast salaries run from a few hundred to just short of $1000 a showing – Ginger Rogers, Reginald Denny, June Knight, Ralph Bellamy, Paul Lukas, Gene Raymond, Heather Angel and a host of others.”

 

”Is it any wonder that the Hollywood  stars still believe in Santa Claus?!”

($1000 in 1935 is worth about $20,000 today.)

I don’t know how accurate it is, but I read that the average American weekly income in 1935 was $40.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OSCARS IN PLASTER?

News to me. For three years during World War 2, due to wartime metal shortage, the Hollywood Oscar was made of plaster.
Usually made of solid bronze and gold plated , during 1943, 1944 and 1945, all Oscars were cast in plaster and sprayed with a bronze lacquer.

The winners were able to swap the fake Oscars for the real thing after the war.

1944: Paul Lukas (“ Watch on the Rhine”;  Jennifer Jones (Song of Bernadette”) ; Katina Paxinou ( “For Whom The Bell  Tolls) ; Charles Coburn (“The More The  Merrier.”)

The statues definitely look lighter ( normally the Oscar  weighs 8 and a half pounds).

 

1945: Barry Fitzgerald (“Going My Way”) ;  Ingrid Bergman (“Gaslight”).; Bing Crosby (“Going My Way”)

During the war years, stars were expected to wear casual outfits at the Oscar  ceremonies .. ..In 1942, James Stewart wore his Air Force uniform.
In 1945, Jeanette MacDonald sang the National Anthem., and the ceremony had a backdrop of a banner with the number 27,677, representing the number of industry players serving in the war.

VARIETY had a headline:

“Nix Finery, Hoofing and Glitter!”

 

P.S.  Concerning how OSCAR got its name, even the Oscar Academy (www.Oscars.org) say there is no definitive answer . One explanation came from the Academy librarian Margaret Herrick who said it looked like her uncle Oscar. (Bette Davis and writer Sidney Skolsky also claimed the naming).

 

Regarding the design of the statuette, the original concept was by MGM’s art director Cedric Gibbons who envisioned a knight posed above a reel of film to represent a ‘ crusader’ of the industry.

In 1928, Gibbons employed young sculptor, George Stanley to bring it to life. Stanley removed the reel of film but retained the sword.

I haven’t been able to find any picture of Gibbons’ original design. But I have read that there were similarities to pictures of the Egyptian  god, ‘Ptah’ – who was the patron of craftsmen.

 

By the way, Oscar Hammerstein was the only person named Oscar to win one ( or in Hammerstein’s case, two) – for Best song in 1942 (‘The LastTime I Saw Paris’ with Jerome Kern) and ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’ in 1946 with Richard Rodgers.

The nickname, Oscar was adopted by the Academy  in 1939  – its original title was “The Academy Award of Merit.”