NANCY GATES (1926- 2019)

 

Sad to hear that Nancy Gates has passed away. Although under  contract to RKO from the tender age of 15, Nancy’s career in Hollywood was not extensive but she will be remembered by western  fans for her role in COMMANCHE STATION (1960).

Nancy was screen tested in 1942 for “The Magnificent Ambersons”, but lost out to Anne Baxter. RKO didn’t do her any favours, loaning  her out for supporting roles in films like “Cheyenne Takes Over.”

 

Nancy played Sterling Hayden’s wife in SUDDENLY.

With Frank Sinatra. SUDDENLY.

 

Back to supporting roles in MEMBER OF THE WEDDING and AT SWORD’S POINT.

 

With Cornel Wilde and Maureen O’Hara In AT SWORD’S POINT.

 

In GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY, Nancy costarred with  Joel McCrea and Julie Adams.

With Joel MCrea and Harry Lauter.

 

Nancy played Arthur Kennedy’s  girlfriend in SOME   CAME RUNNING.

 

 

In a radio production of SUNSET BOULEVARD, Nancy played the role that Nancy Olsen played in the film.

 

Two films of Nancy’s films I havent seen are THE ATOMIC CITY and WORLD WITHOUT END.

She married in 1948 a prominent Hollywood attorney, J. William Haye and eventually retired from acting in 1969 after making over 50 TV appearances in all the well known tv shows of the 60s.

 

With Randolph Scott In COMMANCHE STATION.

Her quiet stoicism as the woman rescued from the Indians  in “Commanche Station “ will be remembered.

 

 

 

Rolf Armstrong

 

I came across this portrait of James Cagney and was curious about its origins.

It was the work of artist, ROLF ARMSTRONG (1889-1960) who was a friend of Cagney, and it dates from 1954. It was done on Hawaii where Armstrong lived.

 

Rolf Armstrong and James Cagney.

 

Armstrong  works on his portrait of Boris Karloff from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

 

Boris Karloff, Rolf Armstrong.

 

 

Rolf Armstrong also worked on  several film magazine covers.

 

Bebe Daniels

 

Rolf Armstrong.

 

Rolf Armstrong’s nephew was  Robert  Armstrong of King Kong fame. Robert handled the funeral arrangements of his uncle in 1960.

 

Michigan born Armstrong did illustrations for magazines,  sheet music and calendars. His vibrant colours were very popular.

 

NEHI was a flavoured soft drink in America from 1924. Rolf Armstrong did this illustration in beautiful pastel colours.

SWINGTIME

Coming on June 11th,2019 from Criterion , SWING TIME on blu-ray. And with lots of extras: archival interviews with Fred and Ginger;

a new interview with George Stevens Jr.;

“In Full Swing”, a program on the film’s choreography and soundtrack.

 

Just a pity the scripts of the Astaire/Rogers films weren’t nearly of the same quality as the inspired musical numbers. In this one, I find Victor Moore particularly annoying and unfunny. But Helen Broderick in support is always good value.

 

”Listen, no one could teach you to dance in a million years. Take my advice and save your money!”

Earlier Fred says to Victor Moore, “Hoofing is alright, but there’s no future in it.”

Fred and Ginger in “Pick Yourself Up”, a terrific number and one of the great songs written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields.

 

Pick Yourself Up.

 

Fred sings “The Way You Look Tonight” and Ginger forgets she’s just washed her hair. Whipped cream produced the required affect on Ginger’s hair.

 

 

Another fabulous number, “Never Gonna  Dance”, and a great Art Deco set of the ‘Silver Sandal’ nightclub. But that orchestra pit in the centre behind  Fred is tiny!

 

My favourite number in the film,  the “Bojangles of Harlem” salute to Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson.

I just  love  the tune  and lyrics and brilliant choreography. The special effects above, with Fred competing with three giant shadows of himself, are amazing.

I read Fred was also saluting another great dancer, John W. Bubbles who played ‘Sportin’ Life’ In PORGY AND BESS on Broadway.

 

George Stevens and Ginger Rogers.

George Stevens was 32 when he directed Swing Time. His father, Lander Stevens, played Betty Furness’s father in the film.

 

Fred on the set. Look at these enormous lights and wiring  behind  him.

Apparently another Kern/Fields song, “It’s not in the Cards” was cut from the film – which suggests  it was filmed. Wonder if we will ever see it.

 

Fred and Ginger with director George  Stevens discussing their number, “A Fine Romance.”

 

Hermes Pan, Fred Astaire, George Stevens

Hermes Pan was Oscar -nominated for his choreography in the film.

 

“It Follows  the Fleet  and tops Top Hat!”

 

 

THE DEATH KISS (1932)

THE DEATH KISS was made  at Tiffany Pictures, a small production company in business from 1921-32, with its studio on Sunset Boulevard.

Following on from  “The Invisible Woman” which I reviewed recently, The Death Kiss was a lovely surprise and I must thank Mike’s Take on the Movies for introducing me to it. http://www.mikestakeonthemovies.com/the-death-kiss

 

Star credits on a film can vary and the above picture shows what is an accurate reflection of the film. David Manners is in practically every scene and his character drives the narrative forward. In fact it should read “David Manners in The Death Kiss”.

But of course, studios have to decide what will sell tickets. Bela  Lugosi had been a big hit in DRACULA in 1931 and all advertising for The Death Kiss indicated that Lugosi was the star of the film.

In fact, Bela Lugosi has quite a minor role as the studio manager and was in just a few scenes.

Even Kino  Lorber , the dvd distributor, on their website boosts Lugosi’ s role: “Bela Lugosi stars as the head of a struggling studio.”

 

“The Death Kiss” is an enjoyable murder mystery and the scene below starts the film. We think we are watching a scene where a evening-gowned woman walks up to a man coming out of a night club and kisses him. She has previously stepped out of a car, telling the two men inside she will identify the target by kissing him!

That’s the Death Kiss!

Gunshots ring out and the man drops dead.

Adrienne Ames, Edmund Burns.

Then, the camera pulls back and it becomes clear we are on a film set. The director (Edward Van Sloan) calls “Cut!” and shouts  to the actor who has just been shot, “When you die this time, let’s have less gymnastics, and don’t spin when you fall.”

The movie being made is called “The Death Kiss”.

Turns out the actor is really dead and the film follows the efforts of studio scenario writer Franklyn Drew (David Manners) to find out who the murderer is. The murdered man wasn’t liked by anyone in the studio so there are plenty of suspects.

 

 

Alexander Carr, Bela Lugosi, John Wray

The studio head (Alexander Carr),  the studio manager (Bela Lugosi) and the detective investigating the murder (John Wray.)

Who substituted a real gun for  the prop one, where is the murder gun – nobody is allowed to leave the set.

 

David Manners with Adrienne Ames as the star of the ‘film’.  Ames was married to the murdered man and becomes a prime suspect.

Adrienne Ames had little to do in the film.

David Manners, Adrienne Ames.

 

Tonart Studio , the fictional studio in the film.

Conveniently for Death Kiss, most of the story is told on the sound stages of Tiffany Pictures which means we get to see quite a lot of the  studio.

 

John Wray, David Manners, Adrienne Ames.

 

John Wray, David Manners.

The murder gun is found by Manners, hidden in one of the arc lights.

Manners, as the writer Franklyn Drew,  is always one step ahead of the police, with the help of the studio security guard – played for laughs by Vince Barnett.

 

There was some tinting near the end of the film of gun shots and flashlights. Seemed a bit odd.

I love how one review in 1933 said,”Bela Lugosi of “Dracula” fame appears in a murder mystery and is not the guilty man…….no more than this will be revealed in these columns! “

When the murderer is revealed (I guessed!), the studio head says, “Let’s avoid film titles with ‘Death’ in them!”

 

David Manners

I wonder why Canadian  David Manners (1900-1998) wasn’t snapped up by a major studio.He was handsome, sophisticated, just so darn likeable!

He made 38 films from 1930 to 1936. He reminded me of a young Cary Grant or Joel McCrea. I look forward to catching up on his films, like “Torch Singer” with Claudette Colbert.

Apparently he lost interest in Hollywood and left films in 1936. There is a website, Davidmanners.com and the blogger, John Norris corresponded with David for many years.

On The Death Kiss, David said, “That was one of the things I did strictly for the cash and promptly forgot!”

 

 

The blatantly false advertising. Bela Lugosi menacing Adrienne Ames – But it never happened in the film. Though Bela’s stare is enough to make you think he’s the murderer!

Why Bela went from Dracula the year before  to the small role in Death Kiss is anyone’s guess.

The Death Kiss can be seen on You Tube. The dvd release on Kino Lorber Classics is ‘a 35mm archival restoration.’ Perhaps it was a poor source print because the audio quality was not great.

Still, good  to have it on dvd – just don’t expect a horror movie!

 

David Manners, Claudette Colbert. TORCH SINGER.

 

ON THE SET 41

 

Ida Lupino and Alan Hale. THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT.

 

Humphrey Bogart, Raoul Walsh. HIGH SIERRA.

 

David Niven, Dame May Whitty, Olivia De Havilland.RAFFLES (1939}.

“Girls, are you listening to me?!”

 

First read-through. ROMEO AND JULIET. With Edna May Oliver, George Cukor, Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, John Barrymore.

 

James Stewart. CARBINE WILLIAMS

 

Gene Kelly and his brother Fred. They did a great dance number in DEEP IN MY HEART.

 

Kirk Douglas, Peter Lorre, James Mason. “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.”

 

Mark Stevens, Olivia De Havilland. The Snake Pit.

 

James Stewart in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. Jean Arthur and Frank Capra on the balcony.

 

Walter Brennan, Doris Davenport, Gary Cooper. . THE WESTERNER.

STAND-OUT SCENES: ROAD HOUSE

ROADHOUSE…………THE FOUR RIVALS.

 

The  iconic, never to be forgotten lines which are part of Hollywood legend; I don’t need to quote them in full. You know them.

Beulah peeling a grape,

Sam playing it again,

I AM big……;

Not giving a damn

Made it,Ma….

Prove it.

And , for me, another two  words  line of dialogue should be in the pantheon of great quotes.

What a put-down for Cornel Wilde when Ida Lupino caustically says to him at the end of this scene,

“Silly boy.”

 

Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde.

Of course, it’s not just the line, it’s Ida Lupino delivering it, giving it so much meaning. It’s only two words but they say so much. She’s dismissive , contemptuous, mocking , as if to say, ‘Do you really think you can get rid of me that easily.’

 

The lead up to the line:

Pete (Cornel Wilde) is trying to protect his friend Jefty (Richard Widmark) by quickly shuffling Lily (Ida Lupino) on the next train out of town, but she’s having none of it.

 “I think that’ll square us for your trouble.” 

She takes the money he offers.

“There, that’s better. You see, every time Jefty leaves town, he gets drunk and brings somebody back.”

Lily: “Does he know you’re  going to all this trouble?”

Pete: He’ll find out it’s for the best. So will you.”

Lily: “Supposing I don’t want to go?”

Pete: Yeh, but you will. You see, Jefty gets tired easily and it’s up to me to do the dumping. I don’t like it but if I have  to, I  can get rough.”

Lily: “oh, you can. This should really buy me off.”  She puts the money in her purse. “Listen, when I wanna leave, I’ll let you know. I  came out here with a contract . I needed the dough and I’m going to collect every nasty little cent  of it.”

Lily: “Who knows, before I’m through maybe you might be running for the depot.”

“Pete: “Now look, baby, I’m not trying to rush you.”  

He puts his hand on her shoulder. She slaps him. And then comes that line.

“Silly boy “. As she takes her bags and walks back to the hotel.

It’s a  a short scene but oh so well written . At the end of it, Pete   is left wondering  who this woman is and we know she won’t be pushed around by anybody.

ROAD HOUSE is one of my favourite films and the two outstanding performances are from Ida Lupino and Richard  Widmark. A pity they didn’t work together again.