LESLIE HOWARD: THE MAN WHO GAVE A DAMN

 

What a dramatic start to the documentary , “LESLIE HOWARD, THE MAN WHO GAVE A DAMN” :

A voice-over tells us:

“June 1st, 1943.  A Dakota D.C. 3 awaits take off on a routine wartime passenger flight. Among its passengers, a small boy named Derek, excited, looking forward to his first flight.

Suddenly, Derek and his companion are asked to vacate their seats.Two British V.I.P’s need to travel urgently.

The boy and his companion leave the plane while the two V.I.P.’s take their place. At 9.35 am ,flight 777 takes off with its new passengers.”

 

BBC radio announcement :  ” The British Overseas Airways Corporation regrets to announce that a civil aircraft on passage between Lisbon and the United Kingdom is overdue and must be presumed lost.”

 

Back to voice-over :

” The boy never forgot the man who took his seat and saved his life that day.    I was that boy. This is the story of that man.”

 

The velvet -voiced narrator of the documentary about Leslie Howard is that boy, Derek Partridge.

What  a wonderful bonus for Scottish writer/director Thomas Hamilton  to find   the boy whose life was saved by Leslie Howard, and to find that the adult Derek was a  broadcaster with a rich speaking voice perfect for the documentary’s  narration.

 

Derek Partridge on Flight 777 before Leslie Howard took his place.

 

Derek Partridge

The  plane that Leslie Howard took that day in June 1943 was shot down over the Bay of Biscay by the German Luftwaffe , killing all 17 passengers and crew on board. Flight 777 was not a military plane and was not armed.

The documentary quotes from the tragic last messages from the plane:

We are being followed by enemy aircraft.”…….”We are now being attacked.”

 

The making of this film about the life and career of Leslie Howard proved a long and difficult journey for Thomas Hamilton, not least in the funding of the project.

But the result is a fascinating piece of cinema history about actor/director Leslie Howard who is probably best known as Ashley Wilkes  in “Gone With The Wind”, but whose career on stage and screen was varied and complex.

This is the man who turned down the chance to costar with Garbo in “Queen Christina” and who insisted on Humphrey Bogart being in the film version of “The Petrified Forest”. ( Leslie had starred in the Broadway production with Bogart).

Howard cabled  Jack Warner : “Insist Bogart play Mantee. No Bogart, no deal.”

( Warner was considering Edward G. Robinson for the role of Mantee.)

 

Leslie Howard was one of the biggest stars of the 1930s without ever having a long term contract with any studio. He costarred three times with Norma Shearer (who asked for him to be with her in “Smilin’ Through”), Myrna Loy, Bette Davis ( also three times) , Marion Davies, Mary Pickford, Kay Francis and Merle Oberon.

With Ann Harding. THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

 

 

At the  1939 Atlanta premiere of “Gone With The Wind”, one face was missing. Leslie Howard  was facing a different kind of audience back in the U.K. – broadcasting for the BBC.

 

At the start of the sound era, Hollywood looked to Broadway for plays and performers who could learn quickly how to adapt from stage to screen. Leslie Howard starred on stage in “The Animal Kingdom”, “Berkeley Square” and “Outward Bound”, all of which were snapped up by Hollywood and filmed with Leslie.

Leslie had enough clout so that when RKO bought “The Animal Kingdom” ( which Leslie had directed and starred in), he insisted that William Gargan and Ilka Chase from the stage cast be in the film version.

In OF HUMAN BONDAGE, Leslie was at first shocked by the casting of young American actress Bette Davis in the Cockney part. But when Bette showed her tremendous talent, he did everything he could to help her.

 

The documentary’s director Thomas  Hamilton had extensive interviews with Leslie’s daughter, Leslie Ruth Howard who provided him with some rare home movies – Leslie carried a movie camera with him from the 1920s on.

There is some rare footage behind the scenes of “Animal Kingdom”, “Secrets” and “Romeo and Juliet”. Also, Leslie and his family staying at San Simeon.

 

 

With Kay Francis

 

With Bette Davis. THE PETRIFIED FOREST

 

With Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis.THE PETEIFIED FOREST

 

With Olivia de Havilland.IT’S LOVE I’M AFTER

 

With Norma Shearer on the set of SMILIN’ THROUGH

 

 

With Merle Oberon.THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL

 

With George Cukor.ROMEO AND JULIET

 

 

Leslie co-directed PYGMALION, with Anthony Asquith.

 

 

With Olivia De Havilland.GONE WITH THE WIND

In order to return to the U.K. at the outset of World War 2, Leslie gave up his share in GWTW box office – he couldn’t return to Britain while holding foreign interests . I wonder what that might have amounted to over the years. (He sold his shares to David Selznick for £20,000.)

 

With Vivien Leigh

 

 

 

With Ingrid Bergman.

Love this casual photo of the two stars. This would be Leslie’s last Hollywood film. He returned to the UK and directed PIMPERNEL SMITH (1941) in which he played an archaeology professor travelling in Europe and rescuing refugees from the Gestapo. Hitler banned the film in Europe.

His other wartime work included broadcasts for the BBC and acting and directing THE FIRST OF THE FEW, the story of R.J.Mitchell, the inventor of the Spitfire.

On that fateful day in 1943, Leslie had been a guest of the British  Council in Lisbon. The Home Office regarded him as an unofficial cultural ambassador and had invited him to tour Portugal and Spain on speaking engagements.

Leslie was supposed to travel back to Britain on June 2nd, but he was anxious to see his family and insisted on being booked on Flight 777 on June 1st.  He was 50 years old at the time of his death.

Derek Partridge, that boy whose life was saved when Leslie Howard took his place on Flight 777, is 82 later this year and is still working. He will feature in and co-narrate the companion piece that Thomas Hamilton is making about the enigma of that flight.

 

There is so much to enjoy in this excellent film which has been screened twice already on the U.K. Talking Pictures channel . ( and will be shown again).

TCM in America will be screening it in June,2018 when Leslie will be the Star of the Month. Don’t miss it!

 

 

Leslie with his daughter Ruth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEVER SAY GOODBYE 1956

The romantic melodrama, NEVER SAY GOODBYE, starring  Rock Hudson, Cornell Borchers and George Sanders, is a favourite of mine.

So I was surprised to come across a DVD of the film describing it as part of the Clint Eastwood Collection.

Considering  Clint Eastwood is uncredited and in only one scene , it’s a stretch to include it in this collection. though I guess, if you are a fan and a completist, you’d want it..

 

M

 

Clint  Eastwood on the right, next to Rock Hudson.

 

Other uncredited performers in Never Say Goodbye include Bess Flowers, Gia Scala and Kurt Katch.

 

Douglas Sirk

Director Douglas Sirk is credited with bringing Swedish actress Cornell Borchers to Hollywood for this film, though Jerry Hopper directed the film.

IMDB also states that Sirk re- shot  some scenes which George Sanders was in.

The film definitely has a Sirk quality to it. The story of an army surgeon in Berlin after the war,  who meets and marries a German girl, only to be separated by the Iron Curtain.

Never Say Goodbye was a remake of the 1945 THIS LOVE OF OURS .

I haven’t seen this version and don’t know how the two films compare.

 

Charles Korvin, Merle Oberon

In the 1956 version, Rock Hudson and Cornell Borchers played the Korvin and Oberon roles.

 

The 1956 film has the same title as an Errol Flynn film from 1946, though the Flynn film has a completely different plot.

Another one I have yet to see.

 

Errol Flynn, Eleanor Parker

ON THE SET 37

Joan Crawford, Otto Preminger Daisy KENYON

 

Ida Lupino directs Richard Boone in an episode of HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL.

 

Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum .UNDERCURRENT.

 

Alfred Hitchcock, Gregory Peck.THE PARADINE CASE.

 

Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Colman, George Stevens. TALK OF THE TOWN.

 

Susan Hayward.  BACK STREET

 

Doris Day, Alfred Hitchcock. THE MAN WHO  KNEW TOO MUCH .

 

Robert Aldrich, Joseph Cotten , Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland. HUSH, HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE.

Once Joan Crawford left the film,Pepsi is no longer being served on the set!

 

 

Fred Astaire, Cole Porter, Eleanor Powell. BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940.

 

Barbara Stanwyck, Dan Duryea.BALL OF FIRE.

JOHN GAVIN. 1931 – 2018

John Gavin

The death of JOHN GAVIN on 9th February 2018.  at the age of 86, has been announced.

Born in Los Angeles, Juan Vincent Apablasa had a Chilean father and Mexican  mother, John’s name changed to John Anthony Golenor when his mother married again.  And he became John Gavin in Hollywood.

After studying at Stanford University and getting a degree in economics and Latin American affairs, John served in the Navy during the Korean War.

Producer Bryan Foy was a family friend  and arranged an audition for John at Universal-International. John had no acting experience but Universal saw him as another Rock Hudson – tall, dark and handsome described him perfectly .

He was in several films including QUANTEZ and FOUR  GIRLS IN TOWN before being given the lead in A TIME TO LOVE AND A TIME TO DIE in 1958.

 

John landed another starring  role, opposite Lana Turner in IMITATION OF LIFE. And then appeared in BACK STREET with Susan Hayward.

His performances never overshadowed the stars . He was a  shoulder to lean on, earnest, even dull, but oh so handsome!

 

With Susan Hayward.BACK STREET

 

With Vera Miles. PSYCHO

 

As Julius Caesar in  SPARTACUS

 

When the film roles dried up, John tried TV, with DESTRY and CONVOY, both in 1964. Neither show succeeded ,each running only  13 episodes .

 

A BREATH OF SCANDAL

 

MIDNIGHT LACE

 

THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE.

back row: John Gavin, James Fox.

front row: Mary Tyler Moore, Julie Andrews, Carol Channing,  Beatrice Lillie.

 

 

With Constance  Towers.

John’s  first marriage to Cicely  Evans lasted from  1957 to 1965. He then married actress/singer Constance Towers in 1974.

In 1973 he toured in the musical, “See Saw ” with Lucie Arnaz.

In 1980, he played Cary Grant in the TV movie, “Sophia Loren,Her Own Story.”

So Universal didn’t get the next Rock Hudson, but John Gavin, in under a decade, managed to appear in films directed by Hitchcock, Stanley  Kubrick and Douglas Sirk. And to costar with Lana Turner,Susan  Hayward, Sophia  Loren and Doris  Day.

And he was signed to be James Bond in “Diamonds Are Forever” until Sean Connery was persuaded to return as Bond. I read that John received his full salary of $100,00!

Of all his films, my personal favourite is “Back Street” (1961).

Not a bad innings in a career of just over 20 films.

He was president of the Screen Actors Guild 1971-1973 . Under Ronald Reagan’s administration, John became the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in 1981 and remained in that position till 1986.

A business career followed.

 

 

DIANNE FOSTER

DIANNE FOSTER was born in 1928 in Edmonton, Alberta. Her birth name was Olga Helen Laruska.

After two years of radio work in Canada, Dianne moved to London and  acted with Orson Welles on radio in “The Lives of Harry Lime”.

Subsequently , on the London  stage, she was in Welles’ “Othello” and Agatha Christie’s “The Hollow.”

While in the U.K. Dianne made two films, The Quiet Woman (1951) and The Lost Hours (1952 with Mark Stevens ).

Moving to Hollywood, her first role was playing a British character in TV’s “Four  Star Playhouse”. Her film debut was in BAD FOR EACH OTHER.

Within a four year period, Dianne had costarred with Charlton Heston,Dana Andrews, Glenn Ford, Alan Ladd and James Stewart.

Not a bad record. I  always liked  Dianne . She had a rich, warm speaking voice and held her own  opposite the big stars.

She did some  TV in the 60s, with an appearance in “The Wild Wild West” her last role in 1966. She retired to look after her three children.

With Burt Lancaster in THE KENTUCKIAN

 

As a blonde , with Glenn Ford. THE VIOLENT MEN

 

With Dana Andrews and Donna Reed. THREE HOURS TO KILL

 

With Dan Duryea.

 

 

With James Stewart. NIGHT PASSAGE

 

THE DEEP SIX

Funny to  see Dianne getting her name before Alan Ladd’s!

 

THE LAST HURRAH, Dianne Foster, Spencer Tracy, Jeffrey Hunter, 1958

 

 

Dianne’s second marriage to Joel Murgott.

She later married dentist Dr. Harold Rowe in 1961 and they were together till his death in 1994.

 

The latest “O CANADA !” Blogathon entries  can be viewed from February 9th till 11th at Kristina of Speakeasy (http://hqofk.wordpress.com) or Ruth of Silver Screenings (http://silverscreenings.org)

 

LIZZIE (1957)

An ELEANOR PARKER film new to me, LIZZIE was made independently by Kirk Douglas’s Bryna  Productions and released by MGM.

“Lizzie” might have been better known if it hadn’t opened in the same year as a film with the exact same theme of a woman with multiple personalities

“The Three Faces of Eve” ,  made by Twentieth Century Fox, had a much bigger budget, was heavily promoted and Joanne Woodward won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance.

Although  receiving  some good reviews, “Lizzie” virtually disappeared without trace until the Warner Archive released it on DVD.

I havent seen “The Three Faces of Eve” so can’t compare the two films. I thought “Lizzie” was well made and Eleanor Parker impressive  . And the film provided a good role for JOAN BLONDELL as the tipsy aunt.

 

Eleanor Parker

The reason I wanted to see “Lizzie” was because I’m interested in the career of filmmaker HUGO HAAS who directed “Lizzie” and also appeared in it.

Haas  had made his own B movies  which he often wrote, directed and starred in. Titles like Pickup, The Girl on The Bridge, Bait, The Other Woman, Hold Back Tomorrow. All made in the 1950s.

In 1957, Eleanor Parker was an established Hollywood star – her last film prior to “Lizzie” was The King and Four Queens opposite Clark Gable.

One can only assume she took a chance on the small budget  “Lizzie” and director Hugo Haas because she recognised  the challenge of Mel Dinelli’s adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel, The Bird’s Nest.’

(Dinelli ‘s previous screenplays included “The Spiral Staircase”, The Window” and “Jeopardy.”)

 

Eleanor Parker, Joan Blondell

Eleanor,as Elizabeth , is a shy, plain Jane,soft spoke museum worker . ( The film has some impressive scenes in the L.A.County Natural History museum.)

Elizabeth lives with her aunt Morgan ( Joan Blondell) who drinks too much and isn’t paying attention to her unhappy niece. Hugo Haas is their writer neighbour Walter who takes a friendly interest in both of them.

When Elizabeth becomes Lizzie, the change is done subtly, with an application of some heavy makeup, a harsher voice and a brazen confidence that Elizabeth doesn’t possess.

Elizabeth has no memory  of anything Lizzie does.

Eventually the neighbour Walter persuades Elizabeth to see a psychologist Neal Wright  ( RICHARD BOONE) .

Under hypnosis, Lizzie speaks to Neal, “My name is Lizzie….I’ll destroy Elizabeth….I’m getting stronger and stronger and someday soon I’m taking over.”

 

Eleanor Parker

The hypnosis also reveals a third personality, Beth who feels sorry for Elizabeth but won’t acknowledge Lizzie.

In one dramatic scene, Elizabeth  sits in her bedroom in front of a mirror which has three panes.The three personalities talk to each other and finally Lizzie says, I’m taking over now” as she shuts  the mirror.

 

A short startling scene that stands out in the film has Elizabeth walking upstairs.  Without stopping or turning round, she suddenly becomes Lizzie and calls out in a harsh voice, “You drunken old  slut!”, referring to her aunt who looks up in astonishment, not quite sure she has heard correctly.

 

 

Elizabeth and Lizzie.

I thought Eleanor Parker , in a complex , demanding role, did extremely well. Joan Blondell added good contrast as the boozy aunt who finally realises how  traumatised her niece is because of past events which we see in flashback.

Richard Boone plays well as the sympathetic doctor and Hugo Haas makes the most of his role as the neighbour. Also in the cast, Marion Ross as Elizabeth’s  co-worker and friend ,and Ric Roman who gets confused when the woman he knows as Elizabeth suddenly becomes Lizzie!

A strong story which in any other year would probably have received more plaudits and at least an Oscar nomination for Eleanor Parker.

 

 

 

 

PHOTO MIX 32

 

Who  knew . Jack Elam is the star of KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL.

 

 

Studios suggest advertising campaigns for cinemas. Love how the letter has Norma saying her film, SMILIN’ THROUGH is a masterpiece!

Thousands of requests for a return engagement of the film! Oh, sure.

 

SMILIN ‘ THROUGH can help you  lose weight! The message is :

“You’ll go ‘Smilin’ Through’ the years without unsightly and ungrateful poundage.!”

 

So tall.

James Cagney and Bette Davis. The Bride  Came C.O. D.

 

Without the mask . Clayton Moore. The LONE RANGER.

 

The end of SLIP SECOND, but will they all survive. Stephen McNally and Alexis  Smith didn’t make it.

Keith Andes, Jan Sterling, Richard Egan, Arthur Hunnicutt.

 

Oops. Have left out Garbo’s name at top.

 

Ricky Nelson, John Wayne, Dean Martin listen to music with a message in RIO BRAVO.

 

 

Wish they’d made more than one film together.

Cary Grant, Ann Sheridan.

 

Mary Astor, George Brent.THE GREAT LIE.