…………..The amount of smoking that went on in vintage movies, the cigarette manufacturers must have sent boxes of free samples to studios. Of course it was an easy ‘bit of business’ for actors. Take out the pack ,or the cigarette case, and light up. The scene is set!

Finding a photo of Bette Davis without a cigarette in her hand is almost impossible.

Yet, there were some stars who rarely smoked on film – mainly women – Doris Day, Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur , Irene Dunne, Kate Hepburn, Myrna Loy. And some men – Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Melvyn Douglas.

I wonder if that was their  choice?



………..I saw “Suspense” (1946) for the first time recently. It was interesting to see gravel-voiced Eugene Pallette in a non- comic role. Eugene is remembered for “My Man Godfrey” (the put-upon father of Carole Lombard) , and “The Adventures  of Robin Hood” ( as ‘Friar Tuck’).
Active  in films from 1913 according to IMDB, ”Suspense” was his  last film – and a nice touch was that Eugene got the last line in the drama. And SUSPENSE certainly showed he was quite capable of roles out-with comedy. 

Eugene Pallette

SUSPENSE starred Belita, Barry Sullivan and Albert Dekker. Made by Monogram but with a grander budget than usual, I liked Belita who showed was a great skater she was. She made one more with Barry Sullivan – “The Gangster”, and my favourite , “The Hunted”, with Preston Foster.

I wonder that Belita wasn’t snapped up by any of the other studios. She showed she was quite capable of succeeding in films aside from her skating prowess. And for an English girl, her American accent sounded fine to me.

Belita, Barry Sullivan.


…………Good quote from Alfred Hitchcock:

“I am a typed director. If I made Cinderella, the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach.”

Alfred Hitchcock


………….Initial casting for The Yearling was to have Spencer Tracy starring alongside Anne Revere in 1941. Gene Eckman was cast as young ‘Jody’, Victor Fleming directing.

MGM had bought the rights to the Marjorie Kennan Rawlings novel of 1938. Filming has started in Florida and half a million dollars had been spent on the production. But for various reasons – bad weather, creative disputes ,  –  the production was shelved. Tracy did WOMAN OF THE YEAR instead and started his association with Katharine Hepburn.

There was an announcement from MGM in 1942 that filming would re commence, still with Tracy, but Roddy McDowell would play ‘Jody’. The film would be shot entirely at the studio.

That didn’t happen, and finally in 1945, Clarence Brown took over as director; Claude Jarman Jr. was ‘Jody’;  Gregory Peck  was the father; Jacqueline White was the mother and did some scenes in the early summer.

But again, for a month or so, shooting was stopped and then Jane Wyman took over the lead. Many of the location shots done by the second unit crew in Florida in 1942 were used.

The film finally premiered in December 1946 and turned out to be a big success, though not making a big profit in view of the production costs.

Who knows, maybe some of the footage with Tracy, Revere or even Jacqueline White will surface some day.

I haven’t  been able to find anything on the young boy, Gene Eckman except that he  was born in Atlanta and didn’t make any movies.


Claude Jarman, Jr., at age 11, holding a fawn on the set of The Yearling in 1946.


12 responses »

  1. Glad you like Belita. Her unpublished biography is on line and makes fascinating reading. She really died not enjoy being in Hollywood and fought constantly with Monogram as she wanted to be taken seriously as an actress, which she was when joining Charles Laughtons theatre group. They had met on the film Man On The Eiffel Tour. I had tea with her at her home in Fulham which backed on to the Thames. She and her actor husband operated a Garden Centre at the rear of the property. In the fifties she starred in ice shows and aquacades and played Lola in the London production of Damn Yankees.

  2. Small article on Gene Eckman.

    Couple of articles on “The Yearling”.

  3. Re Belita, she had GORGEOUS form and her skating looks timeless, very different from Sonja Henie, whose skating style has, in my opinion, dated very badly: she often looks rather clutzy. Belita also shows up as a dancer in one of the episodes of Gene Kelly’s “An Invitation to the Dance.”

  4. Isn’t it fascinating to find the history of how a film is made and how casts can change. MGM had spent so much money on this project, they had to continue. I had never heard Jacqueline White’s name in connection with The Yearling until recently .

  5. Smoking was essential because it was such a superb metaphor for sex. If you doubt me, re-watch Flesh and the Devil with Greta Garbo. Zowie!

  6. I found this through google, and Gene Eckman was my grandfather! He did not attempt to re enter show business again after this. He lived the rest of his life in Georgia with his wife, had two children, and passed away in 2008

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