Carole Landis. FOUR JILLS AND A JEEP (1944).

Like the brooch.


Looking serious . Robert  Taylor, Robert Mitchum, Vincente Minnelli.   UNDERCURRENT.



Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt relax between scenes. LOST HORIZON.



I think William Wellman is enjoying dousing  Carole Lombard and Fredric March. NOTHING SACRED.


Sidney Blackmer and Dana Andrews go over the photographic proof. BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.

Dana holds the stocking.


 Gregory La Cava , Eve Arden look over the script  while  ‘Henry’ is bored.  STAGE DOOR.


In conference for the next scene.   Jean Arthur,  Wesley Ruggles, Melvyn Douglas, Fred MacMurray. TOO MANY HUSBANDS. 



Bette Davis, George Brent , William Wyler. JEZEBEL. 

Got to get the distance right. Cheer up, Bette. Second Oscar awaits you.


Lauren Bacall with Walter Brennan and Hoagy Carmichael on the set of “To Have and Have Not”
Photo by Mac Julian


Glenn Ford, Rita Hayworth. AFFAIR IN TRINIDAD.

Alexander Scourby in the background. I thought he was very good as the head villain .

JANE POWELL (1929-2021)

Forever remembered for “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”, Jane Powell has died at the age of 92. Known for her beautiful soprano voice, Jane shared the ‘girl next door’ image at MGM with Debbie Reynolds.

In a quote from USA Today, the petite blonde  said, “I was at MGM for 11 years and nobody ever let me play anything but teenagers.”

Born Suzanne Lorraine Burce, Jane was singing and dancing from a very young age and her parents moved  from Oregon to Los Angeles.

An MGM contract in  1943 started a series of musicals for Jane, though her first film was on loan-out to United Artists for Song  of the Open Road in which she played a girl called Jane Powell. Without consulting her, MGM informed her that this would be her stage name.

With Louis Calhern, Scotty Beckett and Ann Sothern. NANCY GOES TO RIO.

Jane played Wallace Beery’s daughter in “A Date With Judy”; Jeanette MacDonald’s daughter in “Three Daring Daughters”; and Ann Sothern’s daughter in “Nancy Goes to Rio.” (‘Rio’ was made in 1950 by which time Jane was 23 and married, but still playing teenagers.)


With Jeanette MacDonald. Three Daring Daughters


With Peter  Lawford, Fred Astaire and Sarah Churchill. ROYAL WEDDING.

When it came to ROYAL WEDDING, Jane could have easily played Fred Astaire’s daughter, but the role was that of Fred’s sister – she was 21, Fred was 50! But it worked. Their number, “How Could You Believe Me…..” is wonderful.

Not first choice for the role ( she replaced June Allyson, then Judy Garland.), Jane had a beautiful song, “Too Late Now”  which became a hit.  (Jane can be seen on You Tube singing this song at the Hollywood  Bowl in 2010.)


With director Stanley Donen. Royal Wedding.

In a 2017 interview in the Connecticut Post with Frank  Rizzo, Jane talked about working with Astaire:

”He was wonderful to me. I rehearsed with a stand in and didn’t do anything with him until everything was fine. But he was a very private man. I was terrified dancing with him, but I was terrified all the time anyway.”


With Fred Astaire.


With Farley Granger and Bobby Van.



Jane played the Judy Garland role in a TV version of “Meet Me in St.Louis “, with Tab Hunter (1959).


With Dickie Moore, whom Jane married in 1988 (her fifth marriage). They were together until his death in 2015.

In 1961, Jane filmed a TV pilot (“The Jane Powell Show”) which wasn’t picked up. It can be seen on You Tube and looks good, with Jane as a performer who leaves show business when she marries a college professor played by Russell Johnson.)

Jane reinvented her career when the film roles ( in particular musicals) dried up. She only made about 20 films. Thereafter she sang in nightclubs and did many stage appearances in My Fair Lady, The Boy Friend, Brigadoon, Carousel.

She re-united with Howard Keel in South Pacific, Seven Brides for Seven  Brothers and I Do, I Do (which I saw in Los Angeles.) And Jane took over from Debbie Reynolds in “Irene “ on Broadway.

Plus many television appearances.


Jane’s interviews indicate that she felt she missed out on a normal childhood ( reminds me of Dean Stockwell saying similar things.)

I must read her autobiography, “The Girl Next Door, and How She Grew.” (1988). She had such a lovely voice, it’s not clear what vocal training she had, and I wonder if she ever considered operatic roles.

She had ,over the years, appeared many times on TCM and was an excellent interviewee – one story she told was how she and Elizabeth Taylor were bridesmaids at each of their first weddings – Jane suggested it was better to stop then, in view of all their subsequent weddings!








Anselmo Ballester (1897-1974) was an Italian poster artist who created some of the best European film posters for RKO, Fox,Paramount and Columbia.

Ballester studied in Rome ,specialising in poster design. He began painting posters at the age of 17 in 1914 and worked through till the 1950s, creating posters for both European  and American  film companies.

What  I’ve seen of his posters are very impressive, dramatic, full of colour and creating an intensity that draws you to it.  ( One he did of Salome sold for $19,000 in 2008.)

He has been called THE poster designer for Italian film posters and his work is much sought after.


A few examples.

”My Name Is Julia Ross”


The Man From Laramie.  That hand with the blood on it! (Was it Alex Nicol who fired the shot?)


The Jolson Story.  The Jolson pose, on his knee and the spotlight he loved.



Man in the Dark. (Man in the Shadow) .Made for 3-D distribution.


A Matter of Life  and Death (“Stairway to Paradise”).Marius Goring centre stage.


Harriet Craig. (“Alone with her Remorse”).  The shadow, the staircase, the red and yellow.


A swirl of dark and light.



The stars framed in that Indian silhouette.


I nearly bought this poster book but said no to a £6 price tag with postage of £17 added!



In 2018, Hillsdale College , a liberal arts college in Michigan, hosted a lecture series celebrating Billy Wilder . Over four days, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, SUNSET BOULEVARD, SOME LIKE IT HOT and THE APARTMENT were screened.

Included for audiences were talks about Wilder by Anthony Slide, Alain Silver, Daniel M. Kimmel and Leonard Maltin.


And the college have made the talks available to view . https://www.hillsdale.edu/educational-outreach/center-for-constructive-alternatives/2017-2018-cca-iv-films-Billy-wilder

Best for me was Leonard Maltin who spoke for nearly an hour, without notes. An excellent and knowledgeable speaker, he spoke at length about Billy Wilder’s career.

Points highlighted from his talk:

  • Wilder sought out raw material he could mold and shape. Other than “The Apartment”, all his films were based on other material –  short stories, plays, silent films, books.


  • No one had ever done a serious study of alcoholism- seemingly uncommercial, but “The Lost  Weekend” won Oscars.



  • Ace in the Hole” was inspired by the true story of a man trapped in a mine which became a media circus.The film flopped when it was released in 1951 and Paramount re-titled it “The Big Carnival” in a blatant attempt to mislead the public – it didn’t help. Now it’s held up as one of his best films.


  • Fred MacMurray had never played a heel, he was a light comedy lead, yet perfect in “Double Indemnity” – and 16 years later, Wilder cast him again in “The Apartment” , also as a heel.



  •             ”The Apartment” took criticism for its story line about attempted suicide – the film is comedy, social satire – it runs the gamut of emotions.

Other general comments by Mr. Maltin:

The studio system was “a jail with  velvet iron bars”.

Films were made for an audience. To see them in any lesser form (TV etc) is to lessen their impact.”

A member of the audience called out, Mr. Maltin, I consider you a national treasure “

Leonard reposted: “Flattery will get you everywhere!”

A big thank you to Hillsdale  College for making  these lectures available to view.


Leonard Maltin

I am reminded that I used to love reading “Film Fan Monthly” which Leonard edited and published from 1966 to 1975. A great magazine for fans of vintage Hollywood.

Over the years, in the blog, I’ve reviewed three of Leonard Maltin’s books- Hooked on Hollywood, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy and The Real Stars.




Jane Russell  only made 25 films in a career lasting many decades, yet she is a name every classic film fan knows. Perhaps because of her long association with Howard Hughes, or her legendary partnering with Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Personally, I’m a fan because there are four of her films I can watch anytime and always enjoy – His Kind of Woman, Macao, The Las Vegas Story and Gentlemen  Prefer Blondes – all made in the period of the early 50s.


With Jack Buetel. THE OUTLAW.

Christina Rice’s biography is thorough and detailed about Jane’s life – her three marriages, her adopted children and her long personal contract with Howard Hughes.

Hughes wanted unknowns for Billy the Kid and the Mexican girl ‘Rio’ in “The Outlaw”. Jane’s contract started at $50 per week, going up to $400 at the end of five years. He took over direction of the film from Howard Hawks  ( The book’ s title – ‘Mean….Moody ….Magnificent’ comes from “The Outlaw” tagline . ).

Typical of Howard Hughes, “The Outlaw” started filming in December 1940 and only got a limited release in 1946! ( the worldwide release wasn’t until 1950).

I’ve included some pictures below, not from the book , which has hardly any stills, but mainly on the set photos.

Jane  certainly deserves this history of her life and career . I’d have liked more detail about her movies ( which makes me think of the  “Films of…” publications , with some biographical facts, but no one seems to be doing that format any more.)

Jane wrote her autobiography in 1985, ‘Jane Russell, My Paths  and  Detours’.( which is still available on Amazon).

Christina Rice is a librarian and  archivist at Los Angeles Public Library. She previously wrote “Ann Dvorak, Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel.”which I reviewed in  2013.


With Robert Mitchum






With Clark Gable in THE TALL MEN.



Jane with her gospel singing group.





The author of “Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood (2004, University Press of Kentucky), Robert S. Birchard, had seen every available film made by the king of spectacle. (Mr. Birchard died in 2016.)

The majority of DeMille’s 52 silent films and all his 18 sound  films survive. ( I was amazed to realise that the famed director had only made 18 films in the sound era.)

The book’s format discusses each DeMille film  from a production point of view, with Paramount allowing the director to be an independent in- house producer/director.

So, for each film, from The Squaw Man to The Ten Commandments, we get some fascinating insights into the film making process, DeMille style.

A young Cecil Blount DeMille

I confess to skipping over the silent film chapters and will quote exclusively from the sound film comments.


  • SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932)

 ……Fredric March was on loan to MGM for SMILIN’ THROUGH and shooting was delayed for a week.
……..Claudette Colbert was paid $15,000 for her role of ‘Poppaea’.

………    Art director Mitchell Leisen built a full sized replica of the Coliseum for $45,000.

The film had 15 sets and locations and thousands of extras. The total cost for the epic was $700,000.

In contrast, Ernst Lubitsch spent over a million dollars on the four character ONE HOUR  WITH YOU.

Samuel Goldwyn bet DeMille $100 that his THE KID FROM SPAIN would outgross “Sign of the Cross” by at least 30%  – DeMille wrote a cheque!   ( though “Sign of the Cross” made a profit of half a million dollars).




  • CLEOPATRA (1934)

……..DeMille said to a colleague: “Don’t faint. Do you think Adolph Menjou could play Julius Caesar?” (He settled on Warren William).

……..It’s always interesting to hear who was considered for different roles in a film.
For the part of ‘Marc Anthony’, DeMille considered Richard Dix, Charles Bickford. He offered William Gargan a test. But he liked Henry Wilcoxon.

DeMille had a habit of getting his secretaries to take notes of ideas he had and then remind him later. One note said,  “C.B., you want to talk to Wilcoxon about ‘abandon’ – so he will lose some of that British reserve .”

The minute detail of daily production costs and delays – “84 minutes lost owing to Miss Colbert not answering her calls on time.”

Claudette Colbert, Henry Wilcoxon.


  • The Crusades (1935)

…………Considered for the female lead were Madeleine Carroll, Merle Oberon, Ann Harding. There’s a wonderful memo from the Paramount casting  director  discussing Olivia De Havilland:  “She is a San Francisco society girl – has never done any picture work or made any screen tests.”
           Loretta Young was borrowed from Fox at $2500 per week for 8 weeks.
……….Censors in Egypt, Syria and Palestine rejected “The Crusades.”


  • The Plainsman ( 1937)

……….Paramount insisted on Gary Cooper playing the lead.

Regarding the film’s  ending, DeMille said to his wife, “When  thinking it over, I conclude that if Wild Bill was not killed, ‘The Plainsman’ would just be another cowboy picture and the public would forget the whole thing almost immediately.”


  • Union Pacific (1939)

………..Joel McCrea was DeMille’s first choice for the lead. Claudette Colbert turned down the role of ‘Mollie Monahan’.

………..  DeMille described Barbara Stanwyck as “the most cooperative and least temperamental.”

………….Filming started in November 1938 and the film was in cinemas in April 1939.

…………   DeMille was hospitalised for an operation  and then directed for five days of shooting from a stretcher – to the delight of the publicity dept.


  • Reap The Wild Wind (1942)

…………DeMille wanted Vivien Leigh for the lead.

An anonymous moviegoer wrote to DeMille: “Dear Mr. DeMille, The parade passed you by years ago. Your pictures are TRIPE. Why don’t you give up. Your ‘Reap The Wild Wind’ stunk.
You’re smart to drag in everything but the kitchen sink, and yet it died.”

Wow! Not much different from trolls on the internet today.

(The film made a nice profit).



DeMille with Anne Bauchens (1882-1967) who edited all of his films. She was the first woman to win an editing Oscar (for NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE in 1940)

DeMille died in 1959.

An excellent book and reminds me again that many museums and universities in America have the archives of  Hollywood studios and artists. Hopefully some day, the invaluable records will be digitised.



In her autobiography, Lauren Bacall said:

1956 was to be the year that Bogie and I were to make our first film together since KEY LARGO eight years before.”

But it wasn’t to be. Warner Brothers had bought the novel “Melville Goodwin USA”  by John P. Marquand.   Bogart and Bacall were cast and in February 1956 they were at the stage of doing costume tests.

Bogie had been diagnosed with cancer and had been in hospital. He had to pull out of the film and Lauren also left the production. Bogie died less than a year later.
The film was filmed with Kirk Douglas and Susan Hayward and released in 1957.

It’s sad but also interesting to see this extended video of costume tests for Bogie and his wife. There’s a lot of turning round. Unfortunately,no sound. I wonder what Bogie was saying as he twirled. He makes a joke about Lauren’s height which makes me think of a line in The Big Sleep. (“You’re not very tall, are you? – Martha Vickers.)

Nice closeup at the end.



TOP SECRET AFFAIR was made by Susan Hayward’ s own company, Carrollton Inc ( named after her adopted home town in Georgia.)

I don’t recall having seen this film. Ms. Hayward said of it, “the film was very good, but nobody went to see it.”



It would have been great to see Bogart and Bacall together again.




It was a pleasure to participate in a three-part webinar in August, thanks to the Kensington and Chelsea library and their guest speaker from California, Steven C. Smith.

Moderated by the  library’s Nicky Smith (no relation as far as I know!), author Steven Smith was a real discovery for me. I knew he had written two books – on Bernard Herrmann and Max Steiner , but didn’t  know he is a great Hollywood historian – and a very engaging and warm speaker.

For three Mondays  in a row, Steven spoke for an hour at a time, interspersed with film clips from Noir classics. Followed by a Q&A session for another 15\20 minutes.

  • The first theme was From Femme Fatales to Smiling Psychopaths, focusing on Ida Lupino, Gene Tierney and Richard Widmark.

Steven made it clear there is no exact definition of Film Noir, or when it began – he talked about the influence of German expressionist cinema, and the turmoil in America during and after the Second World War, and the fact that Noir can take a lot of forms. eg can a noir film be in color? ( yes, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN), or take place outside the States? ( yes, NIGHT AND THE CITY).

Steven quoted the Oxford dictionary definition of Film Noir – ‘a genre of crime film’.


James M Cain

It was writers like James M. Cain , Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler who provided the stories made into films in the 1940s.

Cain authored “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, “Double Indemnity”  and “Mildred Pierce “;  Chandler gave us “The Blue Dahlia “, “Murder My Sweet”, “The Big Sleep”; and Hammett gave us Sam Spade and The Maltese Falcon.


Raymond Chandler


Dashiell Hammett


We saw scenes from “The Hitchhiker”, “Leave Her  to Heaven”,”Laura”, “Kiss Of Death”, “Moontide.”

Ida Lupino’s song,”Again” from “Road House” got to Number 2 in the 1949  Hit Parade.

Ida as ‘Lily Stevens’ in ROAD HOUSE


William Tallman in Ida Lupino’s THE HITCHHIKER

Steven discussed the tragedy Gene Tierney experienced when she contracted German measles ( probably through a fan)and her daughter was born disabled . (Agatha Christie’s “The Mirror Cracked” used this theme for a murder plot.)

Gene Tierney

That famous scene where Gene watches Darryl Hickman drowning, without a flicker of emotion.

Richard Widmark, remembered for his murderous ‘Tommy Udo’ in “Kiss Of Death”, was described as having “a staccato, mirthless laugh” – Karl  Malden  called it a ‘cackle’.


In a Widmark interview, the actor told the story of being in a restaurant and a guy belting him – this was after “Kiss Of Death” and that shocking scene where he throws a woman in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs.

Steven explained that Widmark was the antithesis of his screen character . He avoided the Hollywood party scene and was married for 55 years.

  • The second webinar was entitled, Murder For Sale, James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler:From Novel to Film.

MGM had bought the rights to Cain’s novel, “THE POSTMAN RINGS TWICE” in 1934, bit it couldn’t be made because of the new  Production  Code – the novel ends with a double suicide.

ThePostman Always Rings Twice

MGM finally made it in 1946 and we saw a clip of Lana Turner’s classic entrance in the film.


Cain’s novel, DOUBLE INDEMNITY was filmed by Billy Wilder. Wilder’s long time collaborator, Charles Brackett , didn’t like the story and Wilder  couldn’t get Cain, so he chose Raymond Chandler. Wilder loved Chandler’s writing , but not the man. Chandler had always written at home on his own. He and the younger Wilder did not mell,  but they did come up with a great script.

(Cain, incidentally, loved the film adaptation.)

Steven suggested the name ‘Dietrichson’ might have been a homage to Wilder’s  friend, Marlene Dietrich.

We saw the classic end scene when Neff confesses to Keyes,  “I killed Dietrichson, me Walter Neff. I killed him for money and for a woman. I didn’t get the money or the woman.”



Barbara Stanwyck. DOUBLE INDEMNITY



That scene in “Double Indemnity “ when Fred MacMurray  passes a seated Raymond Chandler.



Billy Wilder


Dick Powell reinvents his screen image with Chandler’s “Farewell My Lovely” – filmed as “Murder My Sweet.” And Chandler liked Powell as his famed detective,Philip Marlowe.


Chandler had written “The Big Sleep” in 1939 ( when he was 51). When it came to the screen with Humphrey Bogart , director Howard Hawks wanted  Chandler involved in the script but Chandler was tied to Paramount.
Not an easy book to adapt, the plot was so dense, even Chandler couldn’t remember every plot line he had written 5 years earlier.

The Big Sleep


Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake. THE BLUE DAHLIA.

”The Blue Dahlia” was written directly for the screen by Raymond Chandler.


Raymond Chandler worked on a draft of his novel, “The Lady in the Lake”, but it was rejected and eventually he didn’t want his name on the film.
It was another Philip Marlowe story, with the twist of the story being told from, literally,Marlowe’s point  of view. ie he becomes the camera.

Robert Montgomery as Philip Marlowe



“Mildred  Pierce” ,written in 1941, was filmed in 1946 and won Joan Crawford an Oscar.


Ann Blyth, Joan Crawford. MILDRED PIERCE.



”The Maltese Falcon” was written by Dashiell Hammett in 1929 and serialised in “Black Mask” magazine before being published in novel form.

Warner Brothers bought the rights and astonishingly filmed the story three times in a ten year period. First in 1931 with Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels, then in 1936 as “Satan Met a Lady”, with Warren William and Bette  Davis .


Bette Davis, Warren William. SATAN MET A LADY.

Steven describes “Satan met a Lady”  as a knock-off of “The Thin Man”. 


Finally, John Huston persuaded Warners to try again, and this time the novel was transferred faithfully, and the cast was first class.

As Steven Smith says, ‘The Huston version is head and shoulders above the others.’


Humphrey Bogart as ‘Sam Spade’.


Sydney  Greenstreet as Kaspar Gutman


Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo. THE MALTESE FALCON.


  • The third segment was entitled San Francisco Noir.


Dennis O’Keefe, Ann Sheridan.WOMAN ON THE RUN.

Some great shots of San  Francisco in “Woman on the Run”, and in “Dark Passage” and “The Man Who Cheated Himself.”



For D.O.A (Edmond O’Brien), we see O’Brien running along Market Street – the street was not closed off for filming and it was members of the public he runs past.

It’s a stunning film, with O’Brien having been poisoned and only hours to live . When he visits a doctor, he’s told, “You’ve been murdered!” and he says, “You’re telling me I’m dead!”     ( Well not yet, not until the poison does its  work and he finds out who killed  him.)

VERTIGO” would need a discussion on its own, Steven said, when asked about it. Exteriors were done in San Francisco.


Steven Smith’s website is http://www.mediasteven.com. He is an Emmy nominated documentary producer, author and speaker. He produced over 50 episodes of A&E Biography, plus audio commentaries for blu-rays of Garden of Evil, Vertigo, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

He also did documentaries for the Film Noir Foundation’s releases of The Prowler, Woman on the Run, Too Late For Tears and Trapped.

So, kudos to Kensington and Chelsea library for giving us this excellent speaker for over three hours. Let’s hope he returns soon.

(I’ve just booked for another webinar hosted by the library in September on David Niven – 22 September.6.30pm in Britain. )




There are three decades in between Steven’s  biography of Bernard Herrmann and his book on Max Steiner. Both are highly acclaimed. I’d love to interview Mr. Smith. Who knows!


In a Variety interview in 2020, Steven spoke about Max Steiner: “Steiner’s the one who first put it all together at the dawn of the talkies, this idea of how to write orchestral music under and around dialogue…….”





Steven C. Smith




Does Anyone Still Wear a Hat 3



Marlene Dietrich .

That’s a Big  rose.



Claudette Colbert.

Always chique.


Eleanor Parker.

Veils  always  popular.


Linda Darnell.

Winter warmth.



Esther Williams



Yvonne De Carlo.

A wee bit heavy.



Ginger Rogers 

Don’t know how to describe this.



Dorothy Lamour

In Bloom.


James Cagney, Ginger Rogers

Ginger’s hat was described by @HazelFlagg on Twitter as “A frying pan hemmed with a curtain.”


Betty Grable

Who needs a hat.





FUNNY MOMENTS with Boris and Lon

”I can’t explain it,” Margaruite  Churchill peers despairingly into Ricardo Cortez’s face. “Yet my father seems…..he seems….”
Cortez suggests.  “Different” Churchill affirms.

Cortez whips off his glasses and says, “Darling, when a man as sensitive as your father has been hung by the neck, pronounced officially dead and brought miraculously back to life, he’s bound to be affected by the experience.”



Lon Chaney Jr. shivers  in his sleep. “No,no,no!”  he moans, staring at the light of the full moon. He sprouts fangs and fur  and starts a bestial bellowing.
In a frenzy to mangle a throat or two, he tears apart his bed, topples tables, pulls down a chandelier and sends it crashing into an immense mirror.

His father (Claude Rains), who has been all the time standing in the hall, raps softly at his door and says,

“Larry ,Larry, my boy, is something  troubling you?”