Author Archives: Vienna

JANIS PAIGE

It’s nice to know that Janis Paige is still with us, at the age of 97.

We all have performers we like and whom  we feel should have been bigger stars, and Janis Paige falls into that category for me.
She was at MGM briefly in the early 40s before working for Warner Brothers who never saw her as a potential headliner despite a bright personality and a great singing voice.

Having appeared In films like Romance On The High Seas,  One Sunday Afternoon, The Time The Place and the Girl, Janis departed  Hollywood in 1951 and started treading the boards.

In 1954, she starred in the Broadway smash hit, The Pajama  Game, opposite John Raitt, but in the film version,  the role of ‘Babe Williams’ went to Doris Day.

John Raitt, Janis Paige. THE PAJAMA GAME

 

Alternating between nightclubs and musicals, Janis also had her own TV series, “It’s Always Jan” in 1955, an episode of which is on You Tube. She plays a single mother trying to make a success in show business. It looked fun.

In 1957, MGM finally took notice and gave her a good role in Silk Stockings ( seems a shame they never used her before this, though maybe Dolores Gray got the parts Janis would have been up for.)

She showed she could handle comedy and joined Fred Astaire in the great production number, “Stereophonic  Sound”.

 

 

Janis had another smallish role in the MGM 1960 film, Please Don’t Eat The Daisies, as a Broadway Star tempting David Niven.

 

Jack Carson, Janis, Martha Vickers, Dennis Morgan. THE TIME, THE PLACE AND THE GIRL (1946.)

 

 

With Wayne Morris in “The House Across the Street.”

Would like to see this film. I know it’s out on a dvd double bill.

 

Janis took over from Angela Lansbury in MAME on Broadway in 1968.

Janis made many TV appearances, up to 2001 – shows like Wagon Train, Columbo, The Fugitive, The Dick Powell Show, – and was still doing cabaret in 2010 when she was 88.

Janis was married  to Disney composer, Ray Gilbert who died in 1976 and left Janis his Ipanema Music Company.

 

And as of 2020, one can read about Janis’s life and career in a new book, “Reading Between  the Lines.” ( details on her Facebook page.)

 

 

 

I love this number Janis  does in  “Cheyenne”, ( Dennis Morgan looking on.)

 

 

BIRTHDAY WISHES TO OLIVIA

A very happy first of July birthday greeting to double Oscar winner, Olivia de Havilland who reaches the esteemed age of 104 today.

 

With James Cagney . “The strawberry Blonde.”

 

With her Oscar for The Heiress, accompanied by James Stewart.

 

With Charles Boyer. “Hold Back The Dawn.”

 

With Montgomery Clift.”The Heiress.”

 

With Lew Ayres.The Dark Mirror.

THE LION’S ROAR

In the 1940s, it was usual for Hollywood Studios to issue a publication towards the end of each year to show cinema owners what they could expect in the following year.

MGM went one better and produced The Lion’s Roar magazine every two months (sometimes monthly) for exhibitors and studio employees.
Supervised by Howard Dietz, head of  publicity, it had at least 100 pages (11”x 14”), with color cover Art and often color pictures inside.

The artist Jacques Kapralik often did the covers.

There were 32 issues and three supplements. One sold on EBay for $140.
Does anyone own one? They are pretty rare.

Regular publication was discontinued in 1947.

 

Inside pages of the MGM 20th Anniversary issue.

 

 

Van Johnson.

 

A feature on Madame Curie.

 

 

Undercurrent, with Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor.

 

 

 

This was labelled as Lucille Ball  in ZIEGFELD FOLLIES.

 

 

A collection of MGM players serving in the forces.

 

 

William Powell, Hedy Lamarr.

 

BOOM TOWN.

 

A WEEKEND AT THE WALDORF.

 

Inside color splash for BATHING BEAUTY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOLLYWOOD AUCTION

Another big Hollywood Memorabilia auction at Bonhams Los Angeles on 29 June,2020 –

TCM . LITTLE TREASURES.
I’d call it Big Treasures. Here are some samples:

 

A copy of GONE WITH THE WIND novel, cast and crew signed for Fred Crane to give to his mother.  $4000 – $6000.
Some of the signatures are faded but I can make out Walter Plunkett, Evelyn Keyes, Lyle Wheeler, Hattie McDaniel, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Clark Gable, Butterfly McQueen,Cammie King, Rand Brooks.

 

Fifteen stills from GONE WITH THE WIND. $800 – $1200

 

 

 

 

This costume was worn by Irene Dunne in LIFE WITH FATHER in 1947 and by Helena Carter in 1951 in FORT WORTH.

Edmund Gwen, William Powell. Irene Dunne. LIFE WITH FATHER.

 

Helena Carter, Randolph Scott. FORT WORTH.

 

 

Poster from DARK PASSAGE.  $1200 – $1500.

 

Two window cards from CHINA SEAS, SUZY.  $600 – $800.

 

Lovely poster from CAREFREE.  $400 – $600.

 

34 stills from SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN.  $1200 – $1500.

 

Another gorgeous poster from SPELLBOUND.  $500 – $700.

 

An unusual Polish advert for SPELLBOUND.  (Looks like ‘Strangers on a Train). $300 – $500.

Translation  of the title – “CAPTIVATED“.

 

Belgian Hitchcock posters.  $700 – $900.

 

 

Nice selection of Jean Harlow stills – 41 in total.  $1000 – $1500?

 

And finally, a 14x 22 inch window card for KING KONG.  $1800 – $2000.

Just a sample of the great auction. You can view the entire catalogue on the Bonhams website.

 

 

HOLLYWOOD PORTRAITS

I recently came across some lovely star portraits by American artist John DiBiase.

Although most of John’s work is of modern performers, I found the following ones which are beautifully done in graphite pencil, size 8.5” by 11”.
The prices are around £16, but delivery to the U.K. is very pricey at £9.16 on Etsy.

 

 

 

 

RADAR SECRET SERVICE.

Radar Secret Service, lobbycard, from left, Myrna Dell, John Howard, 1950. (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)

I found this film on You Tube and took a chance on it because of the cast. It only ran an hour but it was badly needing a decent script.

Advertised as “G-Men!  T-Men! Now R-Men! “

John Howard and Ralph Byrd work for a special  unit which can help any branch of Government because of their radar skills!

A truck load of radioactive material is stolen and  they are  on the case.

Tom Neal, Tristram Coffin, Adele Jergens.

The ‘baddies’. Adele’s role reminds me of her part in Armored Car Robbery – she ditches Tom Neal for Tris Coffin.

 

Ralph Byrd, John Howard

Ralph Byrd plays Howard’s partner – he gets to mention Dick Tracy at one point – the role he was known for.
This is their ‘radar’ car which acts more like a metal detector .

Nice to see Myrna Dell, though her part is small. She could easily have played Adele Jergens’ role, but has a nice change from her usual characters, and helps the radar team.

The film runs more like a two-episode serial!

A good cast in search of a half  decent script. A real shame.

One Lippert production to forget.

 

 

 

………….I enjoyed The Runaround (1946,Universal), with Ella Raines and Rod Cameron. With a plot line bearing similarities to It Happened One Night,  Cameron is a private detective employed by wealthy Samuel S.Hinds to find his daughter (Ella Raines) who has run off to marry her boyfriend.

Also looking for the missing heiress is Broderick Crawford . With Frank McHugh in a small role as Cameron’s partner.

I ‘ve seen very few Rod Cameron films and always associated him with westerns, but he and Ella Raines made a great team, tossing insults back and forth while he tries to collect the $15,000 reward for her return.

And there’s  a good twist at the end.
I’m catching up on two other Cameron titles, Double Jeopardy and Ride The Man Down (also with Ella Raines.) Both films on You Tube. And another Ella Raines film to cross off my list.

 

 

ON THE SET 46

Low angle shot on the set of A TALE OF TWO CITIES, with Isobel Jewell and Ronald Colman. Isobel is sitting in director  Jack Conway’s  chair.

 

Angie Dickinson and  John Wayne sharing  a joke. Angie stands on her mark.
RIO BRAVO.

 

 

Stanley Kramer, Spencer Tracy, Richard Widmark. JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG. (1961.)

 

Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling  in a lighter moment on the set of ACE IN THE HOLE.

 

Good casting They look like sisters. Gene Tierney, Jeanne Crain. LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN.

 

 

Van Johnson,Robert Z. Leonard, Judy Garland. IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME. 

Judy studying the script.

 

Cast photo, THE BIG KNIFE.

Wendell Corey, Ida Lupino,Jean Hagen, Jack Palance,Ilka  Chase , Everett Sloane, Rod Steiger.

 

 

Say the lines ,Bogie. Stop yawning.”

Humphrey Bogart, Lionel Barrymore. KEY LARGO.

 

Would love to know what  George Cukor  is saying to Judy Garland . A STAR IS BORN.

 

This would be a great photo in color.
Joanne Dru, Howard Hawks. RED RIVER.

Should have led to a top tier career for Joanne Dru – in my opinion.

 

 

A rare photo of the trial scene in THE LETTER.

Bette Davis far left, William Wyler in the middle.

A terrific film.

 

Husband and wife, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor. 

THIS IS MY AFFAIR.

I haven’t seen it , but reading the review on mystery file.com, it looks interesting though Barbara’s singing  voice isn’t the greatest!
There’s a good print on You Tube.

POISON AT THE BOX OFFICE

A full page advert in  the Hollywood Reporter of May 1938 became nationwide news.

The Independent Theater Owners Association of New York, led by Harry Brandt  suggested that recent films of Joan Crawford, Garbo,Marlene Dietrich, Kay Francis,Katharine Hepburn, Mae West  and  Edward Arnold had “negligible public appeal”.

The term ,  ”Box Office Poison” was not actually used in the ad . There was a comment that “Dietrich is poison at the box office.”

But when newspapers discussed the issue, the headlines were always the fact that certain big stars had been labelled Box Office Poison.

The ad also indicates that many other other stars fell into the same category – no box office draw. Fortunately, no other names were put forward!

The argument seemed to be that these stars didn’t merit their big salaries when their films had poor ticket sales.

 

 

The exhibitors praised the acting ability of these stars but at the same time pointed out although “Katharine Hepburn turned in excellent performances in STAGE DOOR and BRINGING UP BABY, both pictures died.”

Speaking directly to the studio producers, the ad says they all know which stars bring in the shekels. The exhibitors wanted more of Judge Hardy films, Charlie Chan, Mr. Moto. 

It’s a puzzle as to why the only male star mentioned is Edward Arnold,  who doesn’t seem to fall into the same star category as the others.

The ad produced lots of comment. Louella Parsons said, ”There’s
nothing the matter with these stars that a good picture won’t cure.”

Columnist Chester B. Bahn summed it up:

When a star does a nose-dive at the box office, the cause is the presentation of the actor or actress in the wrong vehicle.”

 

Mae West added her two cents:

Harry Brandt has done  the movie industry a wrong. Every time his box office business dropped off, he re-ran “She Done Him Wrong” – they call me the ‘mortgage – lifter’.

The only  picture to make money in the past four months was “Snow White”, and that might have done better if I’d played the lead!”

There’s a good article in Picturegoer magazine at the time by E.G.Cousins . He said, “35 years ago, the “Biograph Girl” was named and thus that gargantuan monster, the Star System, was born……..
Would you push your hard earned silver and coppers through the pay-box window just to see Garbo, irrespective of what picture she is in? And the same with Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Mae West, Joan Crawford?

Are such stars worth your  one-and-threepence ?
If you turn down your thumbs, they become good old has-beens.”

Movie fans protested and Columbia’s Harry Cohn said he’d take all the stars named in the advertisement. The Independent Theater Owners of California defended the stars,saying that the box office slump was due to other causes eg curtailment of foreign markets.

 

Looking back at films that were released in 1938, I think, today, we’d agree it was a pretty good year!

Angels With Dirty Faces ……The Adventures of Robin Hood…….Alexander’s Ragtime Band …..Carefree……..Jezebel…….The Sisters……..Test Pilot……You Can’t Take It With You……If I Were King……..Room Service…..Dawn Patrol………Boys Town……Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife…….Three Comrades.

 

So what happened to the stars ‘named and shamed’!

Marlene Dietrich had Destry Rides Again and several other successes in the 1940s.

James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich.

Joan Crawford  continued at MGM and subsequently had two big successes in The Women and A Woman’s Face.

Joan Crawford. THE WOMEN.

 

Katharine Hepburn took herself off to Broadway for THE PHILADELPHIA STORY before returning to Hollywood with many films to follow.

Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn.HOLIDAY.

 

Garbo had NINOTCHKA and TWO FACED WOMAN before retiring from the screen.

Garbo.NINOTCHKA.

 

Mae West made only two more films in 1940 and 1943.

 

Kay Francis’s contract at Warners expired in 1938 and although she showed her talent in films like IN NAME ONLY, her top flight stardom was over.

Kay Francis

 

Edward Arnold, who was a surprise addition to the ‘poison’ list, seemed unaffected and went on to appear in many films of the 1940s.

Edward Arnold.

 

STRIKE UP THE BAND

Coming out on Blu-ray on 23/6/20, Strike up the Band (1940) was the second star teaming of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.

After the success of Babes in Arms (1939), MGM paired Judy and Mickey up again in this tale of a high school band going in for a competItion  and the chance to meet orchestra leader Paul Whiteman.

With direction by Busby Berkeley and songs by Arthur Freed  and Roger Edens , there are some great production numbers like La Conga,Drummer Boy and ballads for Judy – Our Love Affair and I Ain’t Got Nobody. And of course the rousing title number by the Gershwins.

Babes on Broadway and Girl Crazy followed in 1942 and 1943.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 1940 film had the title Strike Up The Band, but had nothing to do with the original Broadway musical, Strike Up The Band by the Gershwins in 1927, which was a political satire  – America declaring war on Switzerland over the price of cheese tariffs. It was not a success initially, but a revamped production in 1930 did have a successful run.

It had the glorious title number plus The Man I Love and I’ve  Got a Crush On  You.

There is a marvellous, rare 4 minutes of footage on You Tube of a 1929 rehearsal for the show at the Times Square Theatre in New York, with George Gershwin at the piano and exchanging some talk with two stars of the show, comedians Clark and McCullough.

Amazing too that in the pit orchestra for the show was the Red Nichols band, featuring Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Gene Krupa!!!!

 

Looking forward to post-coronavirus:

“Let the drums roll out!

Let the trumpet call……..! “

 

 

On a sad note and unrelated to Strike Up The Band, I came across this rare on the set photo of Judy Garland and Frank Morgan relaxing between scenes on Annie Get Your Gun.

Judy was fired from the film in May 1949 and Frank Morgan died suddenly in September of the same year and was replaced as Buffalo Bill by Louis Calhern.

Filming recommenced in Sept.1949 with Betty Hutton  in the lead.

 

Some shots of Judy as Annie Oakley. At least we have her recordings of the Irving Berlin songs.

 

For all things Judy, the place to go to is the Judy room.com

This website devoted to Judy has some interesting information on the period of time from March to May 1949 when Judy worked on the film. I presume the records are from MGM production notes.
The detail is amazing.
For example, on 7/4/49, the record shows :

11.11am to 11.35am   Shoot 8 takes.

11.35 to 11.42, Camera reload.

11.44am to 12.10am. Rehearse set boom action.

12.10 to 13.10pm .Lunch.

And so on till 5.45pm. Including 4.59pm to 5.01pm. ‘Wait for director.‘

So very easy for the producers to see what is accomplished each day without having  to visit the set. Unfortunately, the 27 year old Judy Garland wasn’t a well woman . She was out sick several days. One day she had a call at 10am and didn’t appear on the set till 11.25am. Another day she was too ill to work.

Eventually it was deemed that she was responsible for substantial delay in the expensive production and was dismissed and put on suspension.

The film shut down till September of 1949, when Betty Hutton took over the lead.

MGM paid for  hospital treatment for Judy including her prescription medication dependence.
She returned to the studio in October 1949 for Summer Stock, and made only one more film at MGM – In The Good Old Summertime.

The role of Annie Oakley seemed perfect for Judy , though Betty Hutton proved  to be a good fit for the role.

 

 

THE EX – MRS. BRADFORD (1936)

I usually don’t write about films I haven’t liked, but watching The Ex-Mrs. Bradford with two favourite stars, William Powell and Jean Arthur made me realise that if ever proof was needed that a good script is everything, this film is it.

It really is weird and wonderful how we all see films differently.
To some folk on IMDB, this film is “a sheer delight”,  “has witty and sharp dialogue”.

For me, I found the flimsy plot boring and the comedy dialogue not very funny.  And a real waste of the talent of the two stars who were at the height of their popularity.The plot, by James  Edward Grant and Anthony Veiller, concerns the death of a jockey at the racetrack, with Powell and Arthur as an amicably divorced couple who investigate.
Powell is ‘Brad’ Bradford a surgeon and Jean is Paula Bradford, a wealthy mystery writer.
The supporting cast had little to do – Eric Blore as Brad’s butler, James Gleason as  a police inspector ( James ‘s wife Lucille Gleason had a small role), Robert Armstrong as a bookie.
And a young Paul Fix in his early career when he was usually a gangster.

 

William Powell, Jean Arthur.

I was interested to read about the film’s director , Stephen Roberts who died at the age of 41 not long after the film’s release.

In 1935, Roberts had directed William Powell and Ginger Rogers in “Star of Midnight“ and Romance in Manhattan, with Ginger Rogers.

Roberts’ career had been mainly directing shorts in the 1920s. His first full length film ,Sky Bride was  only 4 years earlier in 1932.

 

Among the ‘funny’ jokes; Jean trying to knock out the bad guy and ,on two occasions ( as if once wasn’t enough) , hitting William instead.

And here is some of the witty dialogue:

“I didn’t know you went in for opening safes, Doc.”

Oh, we surgeons open anything.“

 

Paula: Did you inoculate  him?

Brad: “With a little difficulty.”

Paula: ”Oh, I thought you used a hypodermic”.

 

According to IMDB, the film was very popular and very profitable for RKO. I was surprised that MGM lent William Powell to RKO and Columbia lent Jean Arthur.

Personally, I just felt cheated because I love both the stars and this film just wasted them. If anyone wants to disagree, please do!

Jean and William had previously appeared together in three films in 1929 and 1930.
Such a shame they didn’t get back together.
No doubt comparisons are made with this film and The Thin Man films because of the sleuthing comedy couple. Jean isn’t Myrna Loy ( and Myrna isn’t Jean Arthur). Both wonderful in their own way but The Ex Mrs. Bradford did Jean no favours – in my opinion of course!