Author Archives: Vienna

JOHNNY GUITAR: Watch it again – and again

  • Very happy to welcome back one of my favourite bloggers, CineMaven who hosts this Blogathon about movies we love so much, we can watch them again at the drop of a hat.


In no particular order, some thoughts – and lots of pictures from one of my favourite westerns, JOHNNY GUITAR which I view every so often. So excuse me while I rave on.

……..It’s a film which modern critics love to write about, calling it ‘bizarre’;   ‘operatic’;  ‘subversive’;   ‘ a Freudian psycho drama’ ; ‘twisted’ ; ‘a very strange film’; ‘the weirdest western ever shot’!

What am I missing!

For me, it’s simply a favourite western of the 1950s ( which is my favourite decade for the genre). It’s beautifully filmed and directed by Nicholas Ray, with a strong  plot, great cast and a fabulous set.

And it isn’t the only western with strong female characters leading the plot ( though there weren’t many.)

Maybe an unusual choice for Joan Crawford,but she fits the character of Vienna as far as I am concerned – strong, single minded and willing to fight for what she wants.

If all the stories are to be believed, it was not a happy set, but for picturegoers, it’s a colourful,exciting western with plenty of action , though many of the leading characters bite the dust! – Tom, Turkey, Corey, The Kid and Emma.


………..My copy of Picture Show magazine from July 1954. I always liked how Picture Show would have a page featuring the story of the film in pictures.


……..It’s always interesting to see reviews when the film was released.

Joan Crawford’s first western ,”Montana Moon”(1930)  was referenced in one article about the film. And why not reveal the ending – ……the two women tangle in a unique gun battle, with Miss McCambridge the loser.”

Another article in ‘Harrison’s Reports’ of May,1954 also felt it was ok to give away the finale – “Miss McCambridge, after failing to have Miss Crawford lynched, loses her life in a gun duel with her.”

And another reviewer said, “It is overburdened with a number of talky passages.”

In contrast, a more positive comment  – “Crawford shines in a sock role. McCambridge as venomous as they come. Peggy Lee song a potent selling point.”

Still, despite mixed reviews, JOHNNY GUITAR did well at the box office.


……….Interesting notice about a song  title change. Patti Page had released a record called “Johnny Guitar” in February 1954 and the record company was threatened with litigation by Republic – their film was due to debut the following  month.

The song title was changed, but not the lyrics which contain frequent references to ‘Johnny Guitar’ – “Johnny Guitar, my restless lover ; Why is my Johnny Guitar a rolling stone….”

Very far removed from the haunting Victor Young /Peggy Lee song.


………..The Variety review didn’t pull any punches:

“Crawford should leave saddles and Levi’s to someone else and stick to city lights for a background. “Guitar” is only a fair piece of entertainment, seemingly headed for spotty returns,even with exploitations……it will be a major disappointment to loyal Crawford  fans.

Scripter Yordan and director Nicholas Ray become so involved with character nuances and neuroses all wrapped up in dialog, that Johnny Guitar never has enough chance to rear up in the saddle and ride at an acceptable outdoor pace.”


Sterling Hayden

The start of the film, Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden ) heading for Vienna’s  saloon . He’s been hired to play the guitar – and maybe use the gun in his saddle bag.


Vienna (Joan Crawford) seems to have sent for Johnny, though it’s not clear why she would, considering they haven’t seen each other for five years.  At one point she says to him, “I hired you for protection.”Though  she doesn’t look surprised when she first sees him in the saloon with a guitar slung over his shoulder. Has she been keeping tabs on him?


Vienna’ s private quarters are as different from the saloon downstairs as she can make it. In this scene with Mr. Andrews (Rhys Williams )there is a bust of Beethoven in the middle of the shot!

( The German born Beethoven stayed in Vienna for over 30 years.)

We never learn what Vienna’s real name is , (assuming it isn’t Vienna.)

One of the best lines in the film , after the train company executive, Mr. Andrews  asked Vienna how she knew the train route was coming through the land she owns:

“I ran into your surveyor and we – exchanged – confidences.”


Vienna to the mob:

    “Who are you? And you, and you, to break into my house, with your angry faces and evil minds.”

(McIvers (Ward Bondand Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge , both big ranchers  who more  or less run the nearby town. Emma hates Vienna – with a vengeance!  There’s obviously quite a backstory between the two women, but my impression is that Vienna doesn’t spend much time thinking about Emma.  It’s all on Emma’s side. She obviously resents another woman challenging her power in the community – and that Vienna attracts men as easily as Emma doesn’t!

……..Republic’s Tru Color isn’t Technicolor but I think it looks great. The costumes and contrasting colours add so much to the look of the film. ( And the recent U.K. blu-Ray release from Eureka is just a beautiful digital restoration , making it look as if it was just made, with even better technology than 1954 when it was released).

This is one western I would never want to see in black and white. And one I would love to see on the big screen.


……The Dancin’ Kid (Scott Brady) senses Vienna and Johnny have a history. Later he says to Vienna, ”What’s wrong with me. tell me. What don’t you like?”

She replies, “Nothing. I like you.”


I love this scene where we learn Johnny has left Vienna five years earlier. He asks her to pretend that things are as they were before.  He says: “Lie to me. …tell me that all these years you’ve waited….”

She repeats what he says , with no feeling until the very end of the scene when she admits she has  waited for him.

A very unusual and powerful love scene.


We know what Vienna’s been doing the last 5 years,but we never hear how Johnny has spent these years and what made him substitute a guitar for a gun.



John Carradine as Tom who works for Vienna.


Ben Cooper as ‘Turkey’.


Is this not one of the best sets in any western – a saloon with a back wall built against the red rock face of the cliffs.

I have no problem with the first half hour of the film being set in the cavernous saloon.

The long white dress is a dramatic change of costume for Vienna , but when would she ever wear it?
She plays the haunting title song.



Emma’s brother has been killed in a stagecoach  robbery and she blames the Dancin’ Kid– and Vienna – with no evidence. She just wants them dead.

The posse don’t even wait to change their funeral clothes ( after the bank is robbed by the ‘Dancin’ Kid’), before going after him.

At the bank robbery in town, Vienna just happens to be closing her account when the Dancin’ Kid and his men arrive.

Johnny is with her and makes it clear he won’t be interfering, saying , ”I’m a stranger here myself.”

( There’s a great song called ‘I’m a stranger here myself’ , written by Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash and sung by Mary Martin in the 1943 musical, “One Touch of  Venus”.)

No trial, it’s mob justice.Emma offered the men $100 to whip the horse from under Vienna but is told, “You’ll have to do it yourself, Emma.”

And she would have done it if Johnny hadn’t rescued Vienna.


Not quite the burning  of Atlanta, but still quite a dramatic scene when the saloon is in flames. Emma takes maniacal delight in destroying Vienna’ saloon.

Mercedes McCambridge stands  out in all her scenes.


Vienna and Johnny escape from the posse through the waterfall that leads to the Dancin’ Kid’s hideout.

Not a real waterfall, but who cares.


On the set during the waterfall scene.


The Dancin’ Kid’s hideout. Joan visible at the top.

Another impressive outdoor set.


And the final shoutout between Vienna and Emma.


Of course, Joan Crawford is still with us at the end of the film.



The frontage for the saloon, against the Arizona rocks. Republic Pictures , with  Joan Crawford as their star, spent more than they usually would on a western.


Johnny Guitar street in Sedona. Arizona. ( many streets in Sedona were named after movies filmed there.)




With director Nicholas Ray’s help, Joan prepares for that scene where she faces the posse assembled below.


One poster with Johnny Guitar himself on the cover and a devilish looking Ernest Borgnine in the background. No sign of Vienna. It’s called “Johnny Guitar” but of course it is Vienna’s  story.


Publicity shot.


Robert Osterloh, Royal Dano, Will Wright.

Rhys Williams, Ian MacDonald, Paul Fix.



Sterling Hayden’s name before Joan’s! ( Unusual to see the male actors listed on one side, and Joan and Mercedes on the other.)


Some good black and white stills which I found on the site



Only at the end of the film do we hear Peggy Lee sing the title song she wrote with prolific composer Victor Young. I simply love this haunting song. Relatively simple lyrics, but that beautiful arrangement by Young.





P.S. I just played it again.







This almost looks like a painting – Joan Crawford is disinterested, or is she. Jeff Chandler keeps trying. FEMALE ON THE BEACH.


Great artwork from  Alejandro Mogolla.

Bette Davis. ALL ABOUT  EVE.


Why not advertise your  latest movie (DRUM BEAT) while wearing the latest ( expensive) sportswear ; Alan Ladd  displays a suede sport coat, only $47.50 and a jacket going for $25.

($47 in 1954 would be equivalent to over $400 today!)

I don’t think the California Sport Wear Company of Los Angeles is still in business.



Spotting Hollywood’s best known extra, Bess Flowers,seen here  in the centre of the scene from DOUBLE INDMENITY.




Always happy to see these two stars from PICK UP ON SOUTH STREET – Richard Widmark, Jean Peters.



Another film I wish had been in colour. Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.



FRED AND GINGER . “CAREFREE”. A shame they weren’t in colour till ”The Barkleys  of Broadway.”



The three sergeants in “Gunga  Din”.  Cary Grant, Victor McGlaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.


GOODBYE MR. CHIPS brought Greer Garson to American audiences. Robert Donat won an Oscar.


Don’t know what Barbara Stanwyck is giving a thumbs down to, or what that picture in her dressing room is.


Big fan of Audrey Totter, here with Robert Taylor in THE HIGH WALL


So much has been said in the media about the sad news of Sidney Poitier’s passing, the following photos are my small tribute to this fine actor who blazed a trail for others.


Playing a High School student in BLACKBOARD JUNGLE.


With Tony Curtis.THE DEFIANT ONES.



I haven’t seen either “A Raisin In The Sun” or “Lilies of the Field”, but hope to catch up with them soon.



Best Actor  Oscar for LILIES  OF THE FIELD.


With Katharine Houghton.GUESS WHO’SE COMING TO DINNER.



The ending where the class have given their teacher a present.


They Call Me MR.TIBBS.”

On the set of ”IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT:

With Lee Grant and Rod Steiger.



The ending of “In The  Heat of the Night”.


With  his wife, Joanna Shimkus.( Married in 1976).




I enjoyed re-watching this classic 1935 Alfred Hitchcock thriller made by Gaumont British studio.

Aiming for an American audience, the studio hired Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. Donat had just starred in “The Count of Monte Cristo “ and Madeleine was about to go to Hollywood under contract to Paramount.


Robert Donat


Lucie Mannheim, Robert Donat

Lucie Mannheim as ‘Annabella Smith’, the spy who starts Hannay’s adventures. I love how ‘Annabella’ says she is a spy – for hire. And her memorable line, “May I come home with you?”
( Lucie Mannheim was a German actress who fled her own country. In England she married Marius Goring in 1941.)


The two bad guys make sure they are seen by everybody.


The map of the fictional Highland village of ‘Alt-na-Shellach’ which Hannay has to find.


One of the lighter  scenes, typical of Hitchcock, as Hannay escapes from his flat in the milkman’s coat and cap.

Robert Donat, Frederick Piper


The journey to Scotland from London on the Flying Scotsman.

Jerry  Verne, Gus McNaughton

Hitchcock brings the tension levels down in this funny exchange between the women’s underwear salesmen in the train carriage Hannay is in, with a clergyman also in the compartment looking increasingly flustered!


Madeleine Carroll

The first time we see Madeleine Carroll . Why she is on the train to Scotland  is never explained. As Pamela, she is absolutely no help to Hannay, not believing his bizarre story of spies and government secrets.

She constantly turns him into the authorities . Their relationship is decidedly frosty.


Hanging on, Hannay leaves the train as it is stopped on the Forth Rail Bridge (which is about 9 miles from Edinburgh).

I’m afraid neither Robert Donat or Madeleine Carroll  made it to Scotland. There was some second  unit shooting in the Scottish Highlands filmed around Glencoe  and on Rannoch Moor, with a double for Robert Donat in some  shots.

Nearly everything else was shot in London’s Lime Grove Studios and Welwyn Studios ( which had a standing street set which was used for the unnamed Scottish town where Hannay hides in the Salvation Army parade.)

The Forth Rail Bridge


And here’s the Forth Bridge, opened in 1889 and nearly 2 miles in length, it spans the Firth of Forth between the villages of North and South Queensferry. The world’s first major steel cantilever bridge.  It’s quite a sight.
( I mention this because I have a friend   who lives in South  Queensferry and when I visit, I picture Richard Hannay clinging on  as the Flying Scotsman train is stopped on the bridge!)


For this scene, a portion of the bridge was re-constructed on a section of railway line at Stapleford in Hertfordshire.


Another studio set with Robert Donat on the Flying Scotsman steam train. Love the kilted soldiers on the right.


The Professor’s bullet hits the bible in the crofter’s  coat which Hannay is wearing ( courtesy of the crofter’s wife.)

Sheriff Watson: “And this bullet stuck among the hymns,eh? Well, I’m not surprised. Some of these hymns are terrible hard to get through.”


Godfrey Tearle

The perfect Hitchcock villain, suave, sophisticated, quiet. Well played by Godfrey Tearle foreshadowing  Otto Kruger   in SABOTEUR and James Mason in NORTH BY NORTHWEST.


Great scene in the hotel where they are handcuffed together and have to spend the night.

Daring for the time, ‘Pamela’ removes her wet stockings.


The penny  finally drops.Pamela overhears the Professor’s  henchmen discussing their plans.


Wylie  Watson

Mr.Memory: “The 39 Steps is an organisation of spies collecting information on behalf of the foreign office of………”

The Mr. Memory character was based on William Bottle who performed in Music Halls as ‘Datas: The Memory Man’.

Hitchcock said to Francois Truffaut: “Mr. Memory is doomed by his sense  of duty – he is compelled to give the answer.”

So when Hannay shouts out “What are the 39 Steps!?”, Mr.Memory answers and is shot by the Professor.


Touching when Mr. Memory says to Hannay:

“Am I right, sir?” 

Hannay replies: “Quite right, old chap.”


I’ve used this photo recently, but it is the perfect ending, where words weren’t necessary, the implication being Hannay and Pamela may have a future together.

On the set:

It’s misty, there’s a wee bridge, and probably some heather. Must be Scotland.
A pity really that Gaumont British studio couldn’t afford more location shooting . The film’s budget was £60,000, with Donat’s salary at £8,000 and Madeleine Carroll’s at £5,000.

(The  rights to the  1915 John Buchan novel were bought for £800. )


The revelation that the respected ‘Professor Jordan’ is in fact the spy ring leader.




Foreign posters which should never have seen the light of day!



A review from the Burnley Express in 1936:

“Hitchcock succeeds in making you jump, scream and chuckle, and has presented a film which is virtually immune from criticism.”


Robert Donat (1905-1958) only made about 20 films. He was married twice and had three children. He suffered from asthma most of his life. He died in 1958 from an undiagnosed brain tumour.
His final scene in “Inn of the Sixth Happiness” (1958) , in which he plays a Chinese Mandarin, is always remembered.

To Ingrid Bergman , he says, “We shall not see each other again, I think. Farewell.”

Robert Donat was given a wonderful role and he was perfect – nonchalant, daring, roguish, handsome and that cut-glass accent. The audience is with Hannay all the way.

Overall, I like the film a lot, it is the template for future Hitchcock  films about the innocent man on the run. Hannay is Barry Kane in “Saboteur”, or Roger O. Thornhill in “North By Northwest” – accused of murder and heroically trying to smash a spy ring and get his life back again.

But I have  a few criticisms.
For example, the Hannay character is identified as a  Canadian  rancher in Britain for a few months.Anyone more removed from such a character is Robert Donat who makes no attempt at a Canadian accent.  He acts and sounds like a typical upper class Englishman.

The newspaper report of the murder of ‘Annabella Smith’ and includes a picture of Hannay wearing a Stetson!

In the original Buchan novel, Hannay is a South African engineer. By coincidence, John  Buchan was made the Governor General of Canada in 1935.

Madeleine Carroll’s ‘Pamela’ is woefully underwritten and, given her costar status, she is only in the film for about half the running time.

We are told hardly anything about her or why she is on a train to Scotland – or why she turns up at the Assembly Hall where Hannay makes his impromptu speech.

We learn she is in the London phone book, so must be living in London, but that’s it. The character is  not particularly likeable and really hasn’t much to do other than follow Hannay . A pity because I like Madeleine a lot and she was the first Hitchcock blonde ( working for him again the following year in “Secret Agent”).

After the dramatic scene where the Professor shoots  Hannay, we are taken instantly to the police station where Hannay explains his escape . Surely a missed opportunity for Hitchcock to show rather than tell.I can imagine the scene, no dialogue, as Hannay wakes up, finds himself alone – and still alive . We would watch as he makes his escape from the Professor’s house.

Why is the spy ring called “The 39 Steps” – makes more sense in the book, where there is a set of steps.

Another blogger,  Classic Film Freak, rightly says, “The loose ends don’t matter.”

Very true!


One of my favourite lines, in the music hall with Mr. Memory – someone calls out, “What causes pip in poultry!?”

A shout-out to scripters, Charles Bennett and Ian Hay.

Hitchcock’s cameo is so fleeting, I usually miss it – near the beginning when Hannay and Annabella leave the music hall.

There’s a 1937 Lux Radio Theater broadcast of the story with Robert Montgomery, Ida Lupino. Must give it a listen. Also, radio broadcast in  1948 with Glenn Ford and Mercedes McCambridge.

For Hitchcock fans, there is a great website ‘’.

And, for information on Robert Donat, ‘Robert-’


Two great trailers:















Very best wishes to everyone for 2022.

Translation provided if necessary !

(“Oor Wullie “ is a famous cartoon strip in Scotland, first published in Dundee in 1936. Wullie was a wee rascal who lived in the fictional town of Auchenshuggle.)



Hattie McDaniel

Sometimes we are reminded that the films we  love from the 1930s and 40s reflect the times in which they were made .
It still came as a wake-up call when I recently read about Hattie McDaniel’s exclusion from the grand world premiere of Gone With the Wind in Atlanta, Georgia on the 5th of December 1939.

With Vivien Leigh

I think it’s fair to say Hattie was one of the stars of the film and David O. Selznick did want her to be there. But, under pressure from white Southern leaders, it was decided Hattie would not join the other stars at the racially segregated Atlanta premiere.

I’ve read that Hattie wrote to Selznick and said she would not be available for the engagement, but I find that hard to believe.

Also, hard to understand today is the fact that Selznick agreed to omit the faces of all the black GWTW actors from advertising through the South.

Black Atlantans had to wait four months before they could see the film.


Vivien Leigh, Clark  Gable, David Selznick, Margaret Mitchell,Olivia de Havilland at the premiere.


The premiere at Atlanta’s Loew’s Grand Theater.


At least Hattie was able to attend the 1940 Oscars ceremony, held at the  Ambassador’s Cocoanut Grove Hotel. However she was not allowed to sit with the G.WT.W cast. The hotel had a strict no-blacks policy but allowed Hattie in , as a favour.

Sadly, Hattie’s Oscar, which she willed to Washington’s Howard University, has been lost. Considering its importance, one wonders how this happened.

The Academy declined the University’s request to replace the Oscar.

Even Hattie’s wish to be buried in Hollywood Memorial  Park was not fulfilled, as the cemetery would not allow a black woman to be buried there.


In her emotional acceptance speech, Hattie said:

“I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry.”



With Fay Bainter

In case anyone’s wondering about the Oscar size in these two pictures, it was 1943 before supporting performers got the full size Oscar. Prior to that, they received a plaque  mounted on a small  base bearing a description of the award plus a molded image of a miniature Oscar.

After the ceremony, every winner was photographed with an Oscar , regardless of the type of Oscar won.

After 1943, Supporting winners could exchange the plaque for a full size statuette, but Hattie never applied for one.
If the Oscar is ever found, it has been valued at half a million dollars.


Hattie with her Oscar


Hattie’s presentation copy of the GWTW script was auctioned and sold for $18,300.

It was personally inscribed by David Selznick:

“ For Hattie McDaniel who contributed so greatly, with Gratitude and  admiration.

David O. Selznick. Xmas 1939.”

Hattie said of her ‘Mammy’ character that she hoped to rise above the stereotype and make her a living, breathing character.

I think we agree she did just that.



Hattie had toured in  a stage production of SHOW BOAT in the 1920s. She was a wonderful ‘Queenie’ in the 1936 film version alongside Paul Robeson.


Hattie appeared in lots of films in the 30s – JUDGE PRIEST (in which she dueted  with Will Rogers, BLONDE VENUS, THE  LITTLE COLONEL, ALICE ADAMS, THE MAD MISS MANTON  . Always the maid or cook, but never subservient. 


The actresses in the above photo, aside from Hattie, appeared in a variety of roles. Hattie, despite displaying her considerable acting ability and winning an Oscar, continued to play maids , servants throughout her career.
While there was criticism from the black community that Hattie perpetuated the stereotype of black characters in Hollywood films, it could be argued that, like every other actor in Hollywood, Hattie could only play roles she was offered. Typecasting was always prevalent , perhaps even more so for black performers.

There is  an excellent 2012 article “Finding the Oscar” by W. Burlette  Carter of the George Washington University Law School. Some of his comments:

“Gone With The Wind is the story of a fictional white family of slave owners during the Civil  War. It presented the black slaves as unswervingly loyal to the white family they served.”

“It remained true throughout her life that, because she was a negro, she could not live anywhere she wanted, stay in any hotel she wished, be served in any restaurant or store, or sit or perform in any theater – nor could she marry outside of her race.”


It’s amazing to read that the comedy radio show,BEULAH, about a black maid  was voiced by a white  male actor pretending to be a black woman!

Hattie became ‘Beulah’ on the radio in 1947 and the show ran for three years and was very successful . I read that Hattie  earned $2,000 a week in the role.

Her last TV appearance was on The Ed Wynn Show in which she sang ‘Some of these Days’ ( on You Tube)

When “Beulah” transferred to television in 1951, Hattie was only able to make a few episodes before succumbing to breast cancer. She died at the Motion Picture Country Home in  1952.

Few of her white colleagues attended her funeral, instead sending flowers and cards as their proxies. Notable exceptions were Edward Arnold and James Cagney who did attend.

Hattie’s estate was a mere $10,000.


Hattie has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for radio and film.


Carlton Jackson’s 1990 biography gives a good overview of Hattie’s life and career.

There is also a good documentary about Hattie on YouTube, BEYOND TARA, THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF HATTIE MCDANIEL, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg.


Hattie’s parents were born into slavery on a Virginia plantation. Her father was a soldier during the Civil  War.

She started as a singer and toured in vaudeville, then switched to radio. In 1930, she followed her sister Etta and brother Sam to Hollywood.
A fascinating life and so reflective of the times Hattie  McDaniel lived in.




Bear with me today as I indulge in some of my favourite films and stars .

A wonderful scene at the end of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. All the principal characters are there.


The Shop Around The Corner

I was so looking forward to seeing SHOP AROUND THE CORNER on the big screen but I cancelled due to safety concerns.
Still, I watched  my blu Ray copy, wonderful print. And with a friend who had never seen it before. Can’t say she loved it as I do but she did enjoy it.( I think!)


Wonderful art from Alejandro Mogollo. Perfect dialogue, perfectly delivered by the one and only Thelma Ritter. Still haven’t forgiven Joseph Mankiewicz for letting ‘Birdie’ disappear half way through ALL ABOUT EVE.



I guess the world premiere of The Las Vegas Story had to be in Las Vegas.  Odd to see Victor Mature’s name in the marquee as VIC MATURE.



Love Eve Arden. Here she advises  Zachary Scott in The Unfaithful.


Love this cast picture of The Flight of the Phoenix.


Always fascinating to see on the set scenes. Angie Dickinson, Dean Martin, John Wayne, Howard Hawks (don’t know who the other girl is.) RIO BRAVO.


Patricia Neal holds hands with Gort. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.


  • Sorry, boys, you  cant keep him out! THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD.



Always a pity that colour wasn’t more in use in the 30s.


Leonard Maltin

Watching Leonard with his daughter Jessie online, I noticed this cushion behind him. You’ll know what it’s from.


  • How could I not feature my favourite westerner, Randolph Scott.

This is absolutely fascinating.
To save time, the Essanay Film Co. produced this list of replies they could send to would-be writers.  Number 16 seems the harshest!

Essanay started in  1907. It had Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin,Francis C. Bushman among its stars.

The name ‘Essanay’ comes from the surnames of its founders, George K.Spoor and Gilbert M. Anderson  (‘S and A’).


Ingrid Bergman , smiling at the cameraman. Holding that key! NOTORIOUS.



Would love to visit this historic cinema in Los Angeles.


Fred and Eleanor ,’Begin The Beguine’. BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940. I’ll always remember meeting Eleanor Powell in Hollywood – many moons ago!


And happy endings:

  • Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll. THE 39 STEPS.


Humphrey Bogart. DARK PASSAGE.


  • All the usual suspects on the U.K. free to view tv channels today – White Christmas, Adventures of Robin Hood, Meet Me in St.Louis, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Casablanca, Notorious, Scrooge (Alistair Sim) – and The Tall T.


And now ,thinking about my next post.


And finally, all the very best to everyone. Doing this blog has certainly kept me going during the pandemic.
Stay safe and healthy. And do keep in touch.



MAX STEINER: Maestro of Movie Music

A pleasure to see the new documentary,”Max Steiner:Maestro of Movie Music” thanks to The American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers.

Shown in a live stream, with discussion afterwards with the program’s maker, Diana Friedberg plus  Stephen C. Smith, John Morgan , William Stromberg – and an opportunity for fans to ask questions.

Max Steiner (1888-1971) worked on over 300 films and literally became the sound of Hollywood in its early years.

Leonard Maltin made the point that it was Steiner who convinced Hollywood about using music in non- musicals, as underscoring and character…

Max Steiner was brought up in Vienna and had the finest education  and mingled in the best of Viennese society. His father, Gabor ran entertainment venues and Max’s musical talents were encouraged.
At the outbreak of WW1, Max was in London and decided to leave for America. He began directing Broadway orchestras in 1916. He orchestrated and conducted the music of Victor Herbert, Vincent Youmans, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin 

With the birth of sound in Hollywood, Steiner was the perfect candidate to come to Hollywood and bring  his Broadway know-how.

Before the sound era, there was music accompanying films, whether just a piano , organ or ,in the case of movie palaces in the silent era, a full orchestra. Music was selected to fit the film – the classics were raided. There was very little original music.

At the age of 41, he came to RKO in 1929. He worked on the Astaire/Rogers musicals, arranging and conducting the studio orchestra. He was head of music at RKO for from 1930 to 1936.

Max Steiner.

Max saw the potential of supplementing an actor’s  performance with musical underscoring. With the advent of the talkies, producers initially didn’t think the public would accept music without seeing its source.

When RKO hired 29 year old David O. Selznick , Max found a kindred spirit who was willing to experiment.

David Selznick,Max Steiner

”Cimarron’ had a limited amount of music – the opening and closing titles, plus the final scene only.

Stephen Smith commented: ”Symphony for Six Million” (1932) had a full underscoring , with Steiner carefully writing music under the dialogue.

With KING KONG, Steiner created such a haunting theme for Kong that the music alone drew the audience’s sympathy to the animal.  The film’s music only begins when the fantasy begins – when they reach Skull Island.
Sound engineer Murray Spivak worked closely with the composer, creating a wonderfully dramatic soundtrack.

KING KONG was a huge success.

Steiner conducting the RKO orchestra of over 40 musicians.


Max on the RKO lot with Mark Sandrich, Fred Astaire


Director Michael Curtiz was full of praise for Max’s “Casablanca “score:

”Dear Max, We previewed “Casablanca” last night. Congratulations to you for marvellous music perfectly  catching all moods and drama. This is your  best and most brilliantly conceived work. Thanks. Mike Curtiz.”



Head of Warner Brothers,  Jack  Warner appreciated Steiner’s work and would often send him a telegram as shown above in which he says:

Dear Max, The rescoring  of “Key Largo” was magnificent , and certainly did a lot for the picture. I want you  to know I appreciate it.”


Daniel Selznick

So interesting to see an interview with David Selznick’ s son Daniel who told a lovely story about visiting the house Max has lived in , then owned by Glenn Ford.
Daniel stood inside and thought about the times he had visited Max, and he speculated on the music that may have been written there.


Max and his fourth wife Lee; and with his son Ronny ( who sadly committed suicide.)


David Selznick asked Max to score GONE WITH THE WIND. As Max was under contract to  Jack Warner, he wrote a letter to Warner explaining how important it was to him to do this film:

“……I’m perfectly willing to do Gone With The Wind on leave of absence or under my contract. But it is necessary for me, my pride,my standing and my future activity to do Gone With The Wind, as it is necessary for an actor to get a break once in while….”

Thankfully, Warner agreed.

Max and Selznick parted when Max joined Warner Brothers   in 1937.  But Selznick knew Steiner was the man to do GONE WITH THE WIND two years later.
Amazingly, G.WT.W.was only one of a number of films Max wrote the music for in 1939.

Amidst all the Oscars showered on “Gone With The Wind”, the only omission was Steiner’s classic  score.
Still, he made up for it with Since You Went Away which had  nine nominations and only one win – for Steiner!

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett.


Dooley Wilson, Ingrid Bergman.CASABLANCA

Max was reluctant to use the 1931 song, As Time  Goes By’ for CASABLANCA, but David Selznick insisted.

The historic song was written by Herman Hupfeld for the Broadway show, “ Everybody’s Welcome” and was,originally sung by Frances Williams. It was recorded in 1931 by Rudy Vallee, and at the time of “Casablanca “, Warners released the Vallee recording again, as a musicians strike meant they could not record Dooley Wilson.

Frances Williams


Max leaves a playful note for his arranger,  Hugo Friedhofer.

Dear Hugo, Thanks for everything. I am very pleased with you!   From Herman Hupfeld.”

Warner Brothers would subsequently use ‘As Time Goes By’ as a signature tune  for many advertising campaigns.

The original lyrics had a  verse which  was  not used in Casablanca:

“This day and age we’re living in, Gives cause for apprehension,

With speed and new invention, And things like third dimension,

Yet we get a trifle weary, With Mister  Einstein’s theory,

So we must get down to Earth, At times relax, relieve the tension……..

No matter what the progress, Or what may yet be proved.

The similar facts of life are such, They cannot be removed.”

Chorus: “You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss…….



Edward G. Robinson

Max took no screen credit for his music for “Confessions of a Nazi Spy” in case relatives and friends in Europe would be targeted.


In a rare 1965 television interview shown in the documentary, Max himself talks about his working  methods:

“When a picture is finished, I watch it and ‘spot’  my music and time  it….. I run the picture reel by reel again.”

“Music can help a picture but it cannot save it.”


The sheer variety of films which Max wrote for. I particularly like the theme from Ann Sheridan’s THE UNFAITHFUL.
According to records, he wrote the music for 18 Bette Davis films, 14 for Errol Flynn, and 14 for  Humphrey Bogart. His output really was phenomenal. Small wonder Bette Davis called him her favourite composer.

In his first decade at Warner Brothers, he averaged about 8 scores a year. Music just poured out of him.



Max’s song , ‘It can’t  Be Wrong’ makes it into the Hit Parade.

Barbara Stanwyck makes the cover in “Lady Of Burlesque.”

The documentary has Michael Feinstein singing “It Can’t Be Wrong”.

At the age of 71, Max had a massive hit with the title song for “A Summer Place”, with lyrics by Mack  Discant and recorded by Percy Faith.

Max’s  royalties  ended his financial struggles ( caused by gambling and alimony payments.) Max and fellow composers had fought and won the battle for royalties when their music was played.

A shame he never conducted his music on the concert platform, aside from one concert with the New York Philharmonic which didn’t go well- Max felt the musicians didn’t appreciate his music.

(I’ll always remember seeing Elmer Bernstein  conduct his own music with the Scottish National Orchestra.


Not sure what the occasion is but I like this casual photo of Max with Claudette Colbert.


Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah has the Max Steiner Archives, donated by his wife Lee in  1981. The archive includes 250 of his film scores, plus his Oscars ( THE INFORMER, NOW VOYAGER, SINCE YOU WENT AWAY), plus original studio recordings and other memorabilia.

Max kept studio acetate recordings of around half of his films and ,together with his original musical scores, have enabled John Morgan and William Stromberg to recreate and record many of the Steiner scores.

Tribute Film Classics is a record label dedicated to preserving classic film scores.



Steven  C. Smith’s biography of Steiner is excellent.


A wonderful documentary and a labour of love by Diana Friedberg. Her husband Lionel does the commentary and an actor (Ray Faiola)voices Max Steiner’s comments from his unpublished autobiographical notes.

I hope it gets a wide showing. There is a dvd recording –


P.S. I found a radio interview Max did with the late writer Tony Thomas, and the following are some quotes from the maestro:

“In those days you did not use any music as underscoring – unless you  saw the source – an orchestra, piano – people will say, where ‘s the music coming from…”

“The hardest thing  for a motion picture scorer is to know where to start and where to stop….”

King Kong. It was a picture made for  music ……I think it put  music on the map….”

“It took me three months to write Gone With The Wind – in between I did another picture, Intermezzo. I loved Gone  With The Wind – my kind of story.”


CARA WILLIAMS (1925-2021)

The death of Cara Williams has been announced. She was 96.

An actress who was Oscar and Emmy nominated and yet had a patchy film career, appearing in around twenty films from 1941, with a more varied career on television.

In a radio interview, Cara talked about her early years in Hollywood:

I had a five year contract with Fox. They use you whenever they can. I was paid weekly whether I worked or not….they threw me into ‘Laura’.

I can’t say I recall Cara in LAURA, but apparently she played a secretary in Laura’s office.

Cara attended a screening of the film some years ago.

Also in that interview, Cara talked about working with James Cagney in “Never Steal Anything Small” (1959):

“I had a wonderful dance scene with James Cagney.”


Cara played Cagney’s girlfriend in “Never Steal Anything Small”. (1959). I haven’t seen this film in years and don’t recall this number , ‘I’m sorry, I want a Ferrari’  which was well received. Roger Smith and Shirley Jones costarred. 



Cara had a small but telling part in BOOMERANG. She played a waitress who is willing to perjure herself on the stand to get back at hapless Arthur Kennedy. But she’s up against District Attorney Dana Andrews .

With Dana Andrews.BOOMERANG.


With Audrey Hepburn in MONTE CARLO BABY.

One film I have never heard of had Cara starring with Audrey Hepburn , “Monte Carlo Baby” (1953) which was shot in English and French, with Audrey doing both versions.
Has anyone seen it? No reviews on IMDB.


With Tony Curtis. THE DEFIANT ONES

In only a few scenes in THE DEFIANT ONES, Cara impressed as a lonely woman who helps the two prison escapees, Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier. Her performance was nominated for a Best Suporting Oscar .but it didn’t lead to more substantial film roles .


In the 1950s, Cara made many TV appearances , including four episodes of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. In the 1956 episode, “Decoy”, she plays a woman planning her husband’s murder.

With Robert Horton in “Decoy”


With Sydney Chaplin, Lauren Bacall. GOODBYE CHARLIE. 1959.

Cara isn’t listed for the Broadway cast of “Goodbye Charlie”. I think she left the cast before the opening.

She had also played ‘Billie Dawn’ in a stage production of BORN YESTERDAY in 1947 ( with Richard Rober in the Broderick Crawford role.)


With Harry Morgan. PETE AND GLADYS.

Cara had success in the comedy series, PETE  AND GLADYS, with Henry Morgan as her husband.  The show ran from 1960 to 1962.

Cara got her own television series, THE CARA WILLIAMS SHOW (1964) but it only lasted one season. In the comedy she played a married clerical worker whose husband worked for the same company which didn’t allow married employees to work together.

Cara , a redhead like Lucille Ball , was publicised as Tv’s new Lucy .


Cara was married to John Drew Barrymore from 1952 to 1959. Their son is John Blyth Barrymore.
In 1964, Cara married a Beverly Hills realtor and having retired from acting in the 1980s, she became a successful interior designer.

An talented actress who never quite got the breaks .




From The Hollywood Reporter this week:

Kirk Douglas’s house at 805 N. Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills is on the market for $7.5 million.

The late actor and his wife Anne hosted many dinner parties and asked their friends to sign their names in a series of concrete stepping stones on a garden path beside their home.

Their own Walk of Fame.


There are 22 stones and many famous names – Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Burt Lancaster, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Cyd Charisse, Tony Martin , Ronald Reagan, James Mason, Lucille Ball.