VIRGINIA LEITH (1925-2019)

Sorry to hear of the death of VIRGINIA LEITH at the age of 94.

Although she only made about a dozen movies, I’ll remember Virginia  in  VIOLENT SATURDAY and A KISS BEFORE DYING. Two of her films I haven’t seen are ON THE THRESHOLD OF SPACE (with Guy Madison) and  TOWARDS THE UNKNOWN with William Holden.

Virginia made her film debut in the first film made by a 25 year old Stanley Kubrick – FEAR AND DESIRE(1953). Apparently Kubrick tried to destroy all copies of the 62 minute film which was made on a shoestring.
A Fox contract in 1954 looked promising for Virginia and she had a small part in THE BLACK WIDOW(1954), as the artist roommate of Peggy Ann Garner, with Skip Homeier as her brother.

Another small role in WHITE FEATHER(1955), and then in her 4th film, VIOLENT SATURDAY she had a bigger role and she doesn’t get lost in the big cast.

In 1956, she costarred in On The Threshold of Space and Towards The Unknown, but A Kiss Before Dying, also in 1956 was probably her biggest part as she tries to find out how her sister (Joanne Woodward )died.

It looked as if Twentieth Century were happy with Virginia, but suddenly after Towards The Unknown, she made no more films for Fox.
Virginia married in 1960 and left acting, though she did return briefly in 1962 in THE BRAIN THAT WOULDNT DIE – which sounds pretty awful!

Virginia also made a few TV appearances in the 60s.

 

 

It looks like Fox had  plans for Virginia. I wonder what happened.
Kipp Hamilton didn’t last long either.

 

With Guy Madison

 

John Hodiak’ s last film.

With Mary Astor and Robert Wagner. A KISS BEFORE DYING.

 

With Robert Wagner.

 

With George Raft, Gene Tierney,Van Heflin.THE BLACK WIDOW.

 

With Peggy Ann Garner. THE BLACK WIDOW

 

With Robert Wagner. WHITE FEATHER

 

With Richard Egan.

 

 

 

THE GREGORYS!

Cockney rhyming slang is always fun, but this one was new to me :

“I’ve lost my gregorys ”

Gregory Pecks  –  Specs!

 

 

And a designer eyewear firm, Oliver Peoples, brought out the Gregory Peck inspired retro collection in 2011 ,on the 50th anniversary of  the Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird novel and film.

Made in Italy, the Peck inspired spectacles were described as “best paired with a three-piece suit, giving that typical Gregory Peck look from the 1960s.”!

Gregory Peck, Harper Lee

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NORMAN LLOYD

Variety called him “Hollywood’s Living Memory”.

Today NORMAN LLOYD, born on the 8th of November, 1914, is 105 years old. He will forever be remembered for his very first film, SABOTEUR (1942) . Think Statue of Liberty, jacket shoulder seams…..!

Robert Cummings, Norman Lloyd.

A brilliant raconteur, with a wonderful memory, Norman has been interviewed many times about his life and career. I listened to him describe that final scene in “Saboteur” from an interview he did 20 years ago on EmmyTVlegends.org

“As the villain, I am being chased down to the bottom of Manhattan island which in those days was called the Battery…….he goes into the Statue and up to the top where he has a scene with Priscilla Lane and then he sees the police and FBI…..he sees them coming in from the crown of the Statue…….he gets onto the torch which has a railing around it, and Bob Cummings comes out – Bob makes a gesture at me with his gun, frightens me and I go backwards over the railing.

“This was a stunt by Davie Sharp – he did this fall, free falling through the air and caught between the hand’s thumb and forefinger – and done without a net.

         The hand and torch were built to scale – exactly like the real Statue. Bob Cummings comes along the finger and grabs my sleeve…..Hitchcock keeps cutting to the shoulder seams -you see the seam begin to go. Bob Cummings is left with nothing but a sleeve!

At the premiere, writer Ben Hecht remarked, ‘He should have had a better tailor!”

They run that scene every day on the Universal tours. It was a memorable shot.”

Norman also appeared in Hitchcock’s SPELLBOUND (1945), as one of Ingrid Bergman’s  patients. Norman recalled that he got the finest piece of direction ever in a scene where Hitchcock tells him, “In this scene you’re supposed to sweat.  Start sweating!”

 

Alfred Hitchcock, Priscilla Lane, Norman Lloyd. SABOTEUR.

 

 

Norman was a charter member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre and it was producer John Houseman who recommended Norman to Alfred Hitchcock for the part of the spy in “Saboteur”.

Active on the stage and television as well as films, Norman became a director/ producer on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” in 1957.

 

Norman loved playing tennis and was still playing up until 2015. His tennis partners included Charlie Chaplin.

His wife Peggy passed away in 2011. They had been married since 1936.

On his 100th birthday, Los Angeles City Council named it “Norman Lloyd Day.”

I still recall watching the tv series “St. Elsewhere” which he starred in from 1982 to 1988.

You Tube is a wonderful source of interviews with this fine performer.

The last one I watched was from 2017 when he attended a showing of Hitchcock’s JAMAICA INN. Even then he spoke well, saying “I have never seen Jamaica Inn. I know it was the last picture Mr. Hitchcock made before leaving England…..I think Charles Laughton had genius.”

What can I say. This man remembers seeing the original Broadway production of SHOW BOAT in  1927.

Thank heavens his wonderful memories are preserved for future film historians.

 

 

 

 

 

THE SET UP (1949)

Good to see Robert  Wise’s THE SET UP on blu-ray.

 

Audret

Audrey Totter, Robert Ryan.

Of course, Robert Ryan (as Stoker) and Audrey Totter ( as his wife Julie) are terrific ( and it is so nice to have Audrey in one of her few sympathetic roles, on loan from MGM).
And the studio set of Paradise City is excellent. Great too to have the plot play out in the time frame of the film – 72 minutes, from the first time  we see the clock showing 9.05pm and the final shot showing 10.15pm.

 

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Audrey

Audrey Totter.

From their motel room, ‘Julie’ can see, across the street, where the fight will take place. We can tell she has been through it many times before. Stoker likes to know she’ll be at the fight, but this time she just can’t put herself through it, knowing he will probably lose and get hurt.

 

Main Street at night, neon lights, shady, seamy. Great set by RKO production designer Albert D’Agostino. It would be fascinating to see how this set was constructed, presumably on the backlot.

 

Robert Ryan

The names are not too subtle, underscoring Stoker Thompson’s sad life – Paradise City…..Dreamland……Hotel Cozy.

Stoker can’t see he needs to stop fighting. He’s washed up but doesn’t know it.He’s 35 and he hears one of the crowd shouting, “Where’s your wheelchair,old man!”

He still thinks he has a chance at the big time and can take the young fighter he is up against. But not knowing he’s being set up to throw the fight .

Robert Ryan

The actual arena used for the fight sequences was the Hollywood  Legion Stadium. Robert Ryan was a skilled amateur boxer.

 

Robert Ryan, Hal Baylor.

The actual fight takes up 20 minutes of screen time, a bit too long for me. I don’t think we needed to see the entire fight. And would boxers in a real match trade so many punches I wonder. But the entire 20 minutes is a perfect example of terrific editing by Roland Gross ( who also edited Deadline and Dawn and On Dangerous Ground.)

I’d have preferred a few more scenes with Ryan and Totter.

Wise captures the bloodthirsty crowd, from the blind man whose pal is describing the fight ( and calls out “Close the other one” when Stoker’s eye is damaged ); the woman who is shouting “Kill him!” while her husband looks embarrassed;  to the chap who is listening to a baseball game on his radio – and the younger man  who seems to feel every blow!

I like scripts that are so well written, you can literally read between the lines. One can see Stoker and Julie moving from small town to small town, never having a settled home, Stoker unaware ( or not willing to face) the toll their life is having on his wife – and himself.

The script is by Art Cohn and according to IMDB, this was his first in Hollywood. He also scripted The Tall Target and about a dozen other films. He died in the same 1958 plane crash that killed Mike  Todd, whose biography he was writing.

 

A

Tommy Noonan, Audrey Totter.

Nice to see Tommy Noonan In an early role ( with a moustache) , as he tries to pick up Audrey who is wandering around Main Street while waiting for Robert Ryan to return to their hotel room after the fight.

 

Percy Helton, George Tobias.

The  twosome who supposedly work for Stoker, whilst taking money for the fight fix without telling the fighter until it’s too late.

 

Robert Ryan, Alan Baxter, Edwin Max.

Alan Baxter as racketeer ‘Little Boy’ only  has a few lines  but is suitably menacing as he says, ”I paid for something  tonight and I didn’t get it.”

 

Stoker wouldn’t throw the fight and pays the price.

Is the ending too pat.? Stoker immediately recognising that he won’t fight again after Little Boy’s men stomp on his hand, saying to a tearful Julie, “They busted it for good, Julie. I can’t fight no more….I won tonight, I won.”

And Julie responds, “We both won tonight.”

 

Some publicity shots.

 

 

Great advertising for the film.

 

“WE WON TONIGHT”.

 

 

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THE MOB (1951)

I enjoyed Columbia’s THE MOB starring Broderick Crawford as an undercover cop trying  to find out who is the kingpin of crime at the New York docks. The cast is strong with mob members Ernest Borgnine and Neville Brand (plus a brief glimpse of Charles Bronson).

Neville Brand, Broderick Crawford.

Also in the cast are Richard Kiley and an actress called Betty Buehler .The film is action packed and well worth a viewing.

One mystery is not in the script but in the casting. Who is Betty Buehler ?(who plays Crawford’s girlfriend). She has only two films listed on IMDB, the other being an uncredited role in “Taxi”(1953}. I’ve checked and found a reference that she returned to the stage and costarred with Jose Ferrer in  ‘Othello’ , but she is not listed in the Broadway casts. And that she did some television.

Her performance in The Mob is not bad for a first film. Was she given a tryout but not a contract by Columbia?

I’d love to know what happened to her.

And why did she get second billing in The Mob when she is missing for the majority of the film.

 

”IN THE MOUTH OF THE WOLF.”

 

Neville Brand

 

Betty Buehler, Broderick Crawford.

 

Broderick Crawford.

 

Ernest Borgnine, Neville Brand, Broderick Crawford.

 

Betty Buehler

 

I love some of the foreign titles for The Mob.

”IN THE MOUTH OF THE WOLF.”

 

”COPS FAIL.”

 

”THE TRAIL LEADS TO THE HARBOR.”

 

”THE TRAIL LEADS TO THE HARBOR.”

 

 

”ASPHALT LIGHTS.”

 

”THE POLICE COMMUNITY.”

 

”A TRAIL IN THE HARBOR.”

 

”THE INVISIBLE POWER.”

VINTAGE COSTUME COLLECTOR

We are fortunate that Australian lawyer Nicholas Inglis has managed to amass a collection of over 300 vintage Hollywood costumes and memorabilia.

Nicholas has spent the last 20 year building up his collection and had an exhibition in Brisbane in 2015. There were over 100,000 visitors to the exhibition.

He has also helped Debbie Reynolds identify some pieces from her films, and as a gift, Nicholas was given one of Debbie’s costumes.

He contacted Rhonda Fleming to say he had a costume of hers from A CONNECTICUT YANKEE, and Rhonda sent him a signed still.

Nicholas said, “In boxes and tissue paper, they are just clothes. It’s not until you put them on a mannequin under lights, they come back to life.”

Perhaps the new museum being opened in Hollywood will invite Nicholas to mount  an exhibition there!
If the exhibition ever comes to London, I’ll be there!

Nicholas’ website is http://www.nicholasinglis.com

 

Judy Garland’s outfit from EASTER PARADE,   and her boots from ANNIE GET YOUR GUN.

 

 

Joan Bennett’s costume

THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK.

 

 

“Costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood” exhibition.

 

Claudette Colbert’s  costume from CLEOPATRA

 

 

Garbo’s tunic from QUEEN CHRISTINA.

 

 

Katharine Hepburn’s costume from LITTLE WOMEN.

 

With Douglas Montgomery.

 

Robert Taylor’s tunic from THE GORGEOUS  HUSSY

 

 

Dame May Whitty in GASLIGHT.

With Joseph Cotten.