Author Archives: Vienna

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Witness For The Prosecution

Marlene Dietrich

 

 

  • It’s 30 minutes into Billy Wilder’s WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957) and Marlene Dietrich makes her entrance with a line of dialogue which any actress would have been thrilled to deliver.

Marlene is Christine Vole,wife of Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power) who is accused of murdering  Mrs French (Norma  Varden).
Charles Laughton is Vole’s defence barrister,Sir Wilfrid Robarts  who, in preparing for his first meeting with Mrs. Vole, tells his junior counsel Brogan -Moore (John Williams):

Handle her gently, especially when you  break the news of the arrest. Bear in mind she’s a foreigner, so be prepared for hysterics or even a fainting spell.

Better have smelling salts ready or even a box  of tissues and a nip of brandy.”

 

Unknown to both lawyers, Mrs. Vole has been standing just outside the room they are in and has overheard Sir Wilfrid’s comments.

She strides in as Sir  Wilfrid finishes and takes both of them by surprise by saying cooly and unemotionally:

“I don’t think that will be necessary – I never faint because I’m not sure I will fall gracefully, and I never use smelling salts because they puff up my eyes.

I am Christine Vole.”

The murder plot of WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION is pure Agatha Christie ,but lines like that are pure Wilder ( and co-adaptor of Christie’s  stage play, Harry Kurnitz).)

This courtroom drama is not the kind of movie we expect from Billy Wilder. In fact Wilder chose to do it after his friend Marlene Dietrich asked him. He was also influenced by the chance of working with Charles Laughton.

in an interview, Wilder said,  Marlene gave it to me and said she ‘d only do it if I directed it.”……..”and if you have Laughton, you’re onto a winner.”

Charles Laughton

In the Christie play of 1953, Laughton’s character doesn’t have heart trouble and there is no Nurse Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester). Typical of Wilder, he injected humour into the plot and ended up having Laughton and Lanchester almost  stealing the film from Power and Dietrich.

Elsa Lanchester, Charles Laughton

The Laughton/Lancaster exchanges are reminiscent of Monty Woolley and Mary Wickes in “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”  Nurse Plimsoll treats Sir Wilfrid like a naughty boy – he hides his cigars in his cane and puts  brandy instead of cocoa in his flask.

 

Una O’Connor

Una O’Connor was the only member of the Broadway stage production to make into the film, playing the deaf housekeeper, with a suspect Scottish accent.

 

Norma Varden

Norma Varden,always good, as the murder victim.

 

Charles Laughton ,John Williams, Marlene Dietrich

 

Henry Daniell

John Williams and Henry Daniell have quite minor roles – Williams as Laughton’s junior barrister and Daniell as the defence solicitor. And that’s a pity – two very talented actors.

 

Charles Laughton, Ian Wolfe

Wonderful character actor Ian Wolfe (1896-1992) plays Sir Wilfrid’s office manager . What a career Ian Wolfe had – in films from 1934 to 1990. Steady work!

Billy Wilder, Charles Laughton, Ian Wolfe.

 

Torin Thatcher

Torin Thatcher,as the prosecutor, actually has a bigger role than either John  Williams or Henry Daniell.

I’ve always liked Torin  Thatcher and his distinctive precise and clipped tones.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD!

 

Did anyone believe Marlene’s ‘Cockney’ accent. Was it dubbed? The makeup artist deserved an Oscar! (IMDB credit  Charles Gemora and Wally Westmore.)

You  can hardly believe it’s Marlene!

 

And what of Tyrone Power. He initially didn’t want to do the film. Did he realise Charles Laughton had the lion’s share of screen time. Were he and Marlene a little too old for their roles. Tyrone was forty three , and heart trouble and heavy smoking had taken their toll . Marlene was over a decade older but still looked great.

Tyrone Power

Sadly, this would be Tyrone’s last completed film. He suffered a fatal heart attack while filming SOLOMON AND SHEBA a year later.

 

 

I’d like to see a 1953 version of the play on CBS Lux Video Theatre, with Edward G. Robinson, Andrea King, Tom Drake. This was a live broadcast which aired before the first stage play in London, and Edward G. Robinson’s first television appearance .

Edward G. Robinson, Andrea King

 

 

Just a thought . Marlene wears the classic grey suit on her first entrance. I guess Hitchcock liked that look too.

Alfred Hitchcock,Doris Day. THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH.

 

Kim Novak.VERTIGO

 

It’s wonderful to see this letter from Agatha Christie to Billy Wilder in which the author makes it clear she is very happy with Wilder’s film. She also indicates most film adaptations of her books don’t please her.

 

STARRING JAMES MASON

  • I don’t know who designed this poster but it is definitely different from any other North By Northwest     poster I have seen.  Done for the TCM ‘Summer Under  The Stars”, as James Mason was the featured star.

And here are a few more NBNW pictures.

 

I love these newspaper headlines. Must have been fun writing and printing them.

 

CLASSIC MOVIE PROPS 3

If you had your  choice of props from your favourite films, what would you choose ?

There’s always the Falcon  or the Ruby Slippers on many fans’ lists, but what would you love to have.

 

That cheque signed by ‘Rick’… CASABLANCA.

 

Or the Letters of Transit?

 

I’d take the clock or the sheriff’s badge.HIGH NOON.

 

From THE LETTER, the letter of course. Held by the widow of the murdered man, the wonderful Gale Sondergaard. It incriminates Bette Davis and she attempts to buy it.

Gale Sondergaard holds the letter.

 

Herbert Marshall, Bette Davis.

 

 

Sterling Hayden.

From Johnny Guitar, I’d take Johnny’s  guitar, or Vienna’s red kerchief .

Joan Crawford .JOHNNY GUITAR

 

Eve’s Sarah Siddons award. ALL ABOUT EVE.

 

And from NOTORIOUS , how about the key to the wine cellar.

Ingrid Bergman.NOTORIOUS.

 

HITCHCOCK AND THE CENSORS

First published in 2019, I’ve been reading the 2021 paperback edition of Hitchcock and the Censors by John Billheimer. And what an interesting  read it is. How Alfred Hitchcock dealt with the Production Code , circumventing yet placating the censors to whom all screenplays had to be submitted before filming could begin.

The Motion Picture Production Code was an industry set of guidelines for self censorship of content. It lasted from 1934 through to 1968. It was partly begun to avoid government imposed censorship and was preferred by the studios in preference to individual states censoring movies.

Prior to 1934, Will Hays ,president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America , had formed a committee of studio heads to collaborate on a list of ‘Dont’s’ and ‘Be Carefuls’  reflecting items typically challenged by local censorship boards.
Among the ‘dont’s’ were white slavery, childbirth, nudity,profanity, ridicule of the clergy, make gambling and drunkenness attractive, ridicule of public officials.

The Production Code administration ( led by Joseph Breen from 1934 ) kept meticulous records   which are now held at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Motion Picture Association of America.
The author has been able to access these files and presents a detailed picture of how a Hollywood director like Hitchcock  managed to deal with these people who determined what the public would be allowed to see on screen.

From a modern perspective, it is fascinating to see how film censorship worked in the classic era, and the time and effort required to maintain what a writer or director wished to show on the screen and yet comply with the Code.

The banks who lent money to the studios required a letter from the Code administration saying scripts were acceptable before filming could be financed.

The British Board of Film Censors pre-dated the Hollywood  code by ten years, so Hitchcock had experience of British censorship before he moved to Hollywood.

In the 1930s, the British censors had political considerations as well as social, so The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes had villains of unspecified (rather than Third  Reich) nationalities.

( In 1933, the BBFC refuses to pass any films that might upset the Nazi regime in Berlin.)

 

Under the Code, Hitchcock made 27 films, from REBECCA in 1940 to TORN CURTAIN in 1966.

It usually took nearly two months to resolve issues and get final script approval. The  Code letter of approval would end with : “You understand of course that our final judgement will be based on the finished picture.”

Thanks to the Code office’s record keeping, we can see the demands imposed on each of Hitchcock’s films and his responses.

Here are some examples of the censorship Hitchcock had to contend with:

 

We know that working with David O. Selznick was not easy for Hitchcock. Selznick was vocal in his dislike for the Code – “this insane, inane and outmoded code.” 
Quoting the author, “Hitchcock was more circumspect, avoiding direct confrontation,proceeding by misdirection, and in the end, manipulating the censors as slyly as he manipulated moviegoers.”

 

Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson. REBECCA.

With Rebecca, Joe Breen (head of the Production  Code office), even before Selznick purchased the right to “Rebecca “, said, “This man murders his wife, covers up the evidence, identifies another body as his wife’s, remarries, and finally gets off Scot-free. It is a story of high lighted, unpunished murder…..and cannot be approved.”

So Hitchcock and the writers were forced to change the story – ‘Rebecca’ now dies as a result of an accident .

 

Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine. SUSPICION.

Suspicion  was another example of a novel (“Before The Fact”) having to be changed to suit the Code. In the book, the Cary Grant character is a philanderer and embezzler as well as a murderer.
Successful murderers were a Production Code no-no, and RKO were also reluctant to portray Cary Grant as a killer.

The shot of the illuminated  fatal glass of milk which Cary takes upstairs to Joan remained in the film but it no longer contained poison .
Hitchcock had hoped to get round the censors by having ‘Lina’ ( Joan Fontaine) drink the poison after giving ‘Johnny’ (Cary Grant) a letter to post to her mother explaining  he is a killer.
But the objection to having Cary as a murderer won the day , and Hitchcock’s highly dramatic ending to the film was taken away.

 

Carole Lombard, Robert Montgomery. MR AND MRS SMITH

Mr. And Mrs. Smith was a surprising change for Hitchcock, a romantic comedy, but still the censors found objections:

“The gag with the plumbing must NOT suggest  the flushing of the toilet.”

Other objections included the words stinks, old bat, bedroom slippers and a derogatory reference to the Girl Scouts!

 

Joseph Cotton, Teresa Wright. SHADOW OF A DOUBT.

The Production Code  office asked that the word cyanide be replaced by the generic word poison – ”to avoid giving specific aid to any would-be poisoners in the audience.”

 

 

Marlene Dietrich. STAGE FRIGHT.

Cole Porter had written ‘The Laziest Gal in Town’ in 1927. Hitchcock suggested it be used as a showcase for Marlene Dietrich in STAGE FRIGHT.

This song became the primary concern of the censors . “The Breen office, finding both the song and the performance offensive, had the chutzpah to edit the lyrics of one of the most accomplished songwriters of the day.”

The words ‘Let’s Misbehave’ would have to be re-written ,and the word ‘Lord’ ,which occurs twice in the refrain, also needed changing. Cole Porter banished the word ‘Lord’ , so Marlene, instead of singing, ‘And Lord knows, it’s not ‘cause I couldn’t’ , sang ‘And You know, it’s not ‘cause I couldn’t.’

 

Farley Granger, Robert Walker. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN.

Another example of a script change from the original novel source. In the Patricia Highsmith book, the Granger  character does commit the second murder.  Hitchcock anticipated production Code objections and made the change.

 

Grace Kelly, Cary Grant. TO CATCH A THIEF

Following the Code review of the first draft of the script, Joe Breen  logged several objections:

Excessive bottom pinching…….The casino scene in which Robie drops a chip down the cleavage of a woman gambler……bikini beachwear and ‘undue breast  exposure’….just about everything connected with the fireworks scene including all suggestions of an illicit sex relationship.

 

The tacked- on ending to VERTIGO can be  seen as a bonus feature on the remastered dvd. Fortunately it was scrubbed from the domestic release – but it was the ending seen on foreign screens.
(Hitchcock and writer Samuel  Taylor had added a scene to the end of the film to satisfy the censors and show that ‘Gavin Elster’ didn’t get away with his wife’s murder.)
Of course, that ending desecrates the perfect downbeat ending of ‘Scottie’ staring down helplessly from the bell tower.

James Stewart. VERTIGO

Incidentally, I have to agree with the following comments of the author about the plot of VERTIGO:

“The idea that a rich man would hire a friend with a fear of heights to follow a double of the man’s wealthy wife so that the double can drop hints of suicidal tendencies and ultimately lead the friend to a location where his fear of heights will cause him to misread the wife’s murder as suicide, is difficult to comprehend, tricky to recount, and painfully high in the implausibility scale…..”

 

 

Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint. NORTH BY NORTHWEST.

The production Code office had concerns ( of course ):

1. The possible homosexuality of Leonard played by Martin Landau.

2. Roger Thornhill’s status as a twice divorced man. We urge that the dialogue about previous marriages and divorces be eliminated.

3. Any hint that Eve Kendall might be a woman of loose morals…..the girl’s line, “I never Make  love on an empty stomach” should be omitted . ( Hitchcock overdubbed the line  to , “I never Discuss love on an empty stomach.”

 

 

Wolfgang Kieling,    Paul Newman. TORN CURTAIN.

Surprisingly, or maybe because the power of the Production Code was waning, the gruesome murder of ‘Gromek’ in TORN CURTAIN remained intact – he is stabbed, hit with a shovel and asphyxiated – very slowly.

The Production Code was replaced in 1968 with a rating system that classified films as G ( for general audiences), M ( for mature audiences) and R ( restricted) and X ( no one under 16 admitted).

These are just some of the examples in the book of what may appear ludicrous to us today.
As the author says, “the harm done by the Production Code was incalculable. Although the censors’ prodding stimulated the director’s creativity in a  few instances, on balance his movies were damaged by their interference.”

Mr. Billheimer also makes a important point about what might have been:

We know what the censors kept out of Hitchcock’s films, but we’ll never know what an unfettered Hitchcock might have accomplished, or what the missing pieces cost the moviegoing public.”

Some of the Code censorious words and ideas seem crazy  to us today. The very idea that a group of people should decide what the public should see or not see – the one that stands out for me is from SHADOW OF A DOUBT – the word ‘ cyanide’ couldn’t be used because “it might give specific aid to would-be poisoners in the audience.”!

If you are a Hitchcock fan, or just interested in Hollywood history, this book is a must-read, with a chapter on each film.
John Billheimer can be seen discussing his book in March, 2020 at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore on You Tube.

But I hope any re-issues of the book will find a better cover illustration. (Psycho shower scene I suppose).
Can I also recommend, for all things Hitchcock, the website The Hitchcock Zone .

 

HENRY SILVA

Birthday wishes to Henry Silva who was 93 last month.
Born in New York, Henry attended the Actors Studio and started on television in 1950 and was active for the next 50 years, finally retiring after the “Ocean’s 11” remake in 2001.

  • Generally playing a heavy, his career was primarily on TV, but he made several westerns including The Tall T, The Bravados, The Law and Jake Wade, The Jayhawkers

 

Totally ruthless as one of the killers in The Tall T.

 

Henry Silva, Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey.

Having appeared in the Sinatra starrer, “Ocean’s 11”, Henry also had a part in “The Manchurian Candidate” and Sinatra’s “Sergeants 3”.

 

Henry starred in Johnny Cool in 1963.

Has anyone seen this one?

 

With Elizabeth Montgomery. “Johnny Cool.”

 

Henry as ‘Mr.Moto’ in “The Return of Mr.Moto”,  made in England by Lippert Films.

Henry ( who spoke Italian and Spanish) got starring roles  in Europe in the 60s and 70s.

He played Doc Holliday in a “Wagon Train” episode in 1965.

As ‘Doc Holliday’

 

The films of Henry Silva that I particularly like are THE TALL T , THE BRAVADOS ( as the only  outlaw to survive Gregory Peck’s vendetta) , and THE MANCHURIAN  CANDIDATE.

He had a brooding presence and personality and even in small roles, you remembered him.

 

 

CLASSIC QUOTES

REAR WINDOW (1954):

Stella (Thelma Ritter): “Let’s go down to the garden and find out what’s buried there.”

Lisa (Grace Kelly):  “Why not. I always wanted to meet Mrs. Thorwald.”

 

 

THE MAN WHO  CAME TO DINNER (1942):

Sheridan Whiteside ( Monty Woolley) to Nurse Preen ( Mary Wickes):      “Go in and read the life of Florence Nightingale and learn how unfitted you  are for your chosen profession.”

 

 

JOHNNY GUITAR (1954):

Vienna (Joan Crawford): “If you remember, Mr. McIvers gave me twenty four hours to close.
I drew out my own money, paid off my boys and I’m closed. You can’t buy a drink or turn a card.

I’m sitting in my own house, minding my own business,playing my own piano. I don’t think you can make a crime of that.”

 

THE HEIRESS:

Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland)

“He’s grown greedier over the years. Before he only wanted my money, now he wants my love as well.

Well, he came to the wrong house – and he came twice. I shall see that he does not come a third time.”

 

Montgomery Clift.

 

Monthomery Clift watches a scene from the film.

 

CAIRO:

Robert Young: Have you ever been in San Francisco?”

Jeanette MacDonald: “Yes, once with Gable and Tracy, and the joint fell apart.”

Robert Young, Jeanette MacDonald

 

GARDEN OF EVIL:

Fiske (Richard Widmark):  She took four men like us to a mountain of gold.

Hooker (Gary Cooper):  She took what there was.”

Fiske:  Yeah, that’s true. The barrel was empty. She scraped the bottom.”

Gary Cooper,Richard Widmark

 

NINOTCHKA:

Ninotchka (Greta Garbo):  We don’t have men like you in my country.”

Leon (Melvyn Douglas): Thank you.”

Ninotchka:  That’s why I believe in the future of my country.”

 

PEOPLE WILL TALK:

Shunderson (Finlay Currie):

Professor Elwell, you’re a little man. It’s not that you are short. You’re little in the mind and in the heart.

Tonight you tried to make a man little whose boots you couldn’t touch if you stood on tiptoe on the top of the highest mountain in the world.

And as it turned out, you’re even littler than you were before.”

Finlay Currie, Hume Cronyn

 

 

 

 

And surely one of the most misleading and clever opening scenes in a movie- LAURA (1944):

Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb):  “I shall never forget the weekend Laura died…….with Laura’s horrible death, I was alone….”

Clifton Webb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COLOUR PHOTO MIX 4

  • Great illustration for TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE by Tony Stella.

Tim Holt, Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston.

http://www.tony-stella.com

 

Mary Astor chooses a record. Wonder what it is.

 

  • Kirk Douglas confronts  Jo Van Fleet and John Ireland. GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K.CORRAL.

 

 

Gregory Peck, Virginia  Mayo. CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER.

 

  • Colorised still of NOTORIOUS. The end of the drama. Cary Grant,Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains.

 

 

Autographed image of Irene Dunne.

 

  • A pensive Ann Sheridan. 

 

An autumnal look for Barbara Stanwyck.

 

 

Ginger Rogers relaxes at home.1939 .

 

  •  Cheer up! Nothing Sacred,with Carole Lombard ,  Walter Connolly, Fredric March

DAVID NIVEN: Soldier turned Movie Star

Another interesting webinar this month from Kensington and Chelsea library. A talk on the career of David Niven by Simone Adams.

 

David Niven (1910-1983) sometimes claimed he was born in Scotland, but his place of birth was London and he came from an aristocratic family.
After training as an army officer, he joined the Highland Light  Infantry but still managed to socialise with the rich and famous. I’m not clear how it came about, but apparently David met Barbara Hutton at a social  event and she paid for a trip to the United States for him.

A young officer.

David left the army in 1933 and goes to America  where he is welcomed by the English colony in Hollywood. As far as we know, acting was learned ‘on the job’. He wasn’t an instant  star, starting off as an extra in Cleopatra, Mutiny On The Bounty.

Landing  a contract with Sam Goldwyn (with a starting  salary of $100 a week), David started to get good supporting ,then leading roles in films like CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, DAWN PATROL, THE PRISONER OF ZENDA , WUTHERING HEIGHTS.

When war broke out in 1939, he immediately returned to England and joined the army again.

In 1940 he married Primula Rollo and they had two children, David Jr. And Jamie.

In Britain he made several films including The First of the Few, The Way Ahead, A Matter of Life and Death.

 

 

With Kim Hunter. A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

 

 

Primmie and David

Tragically, Primmie died in an accident whilst at a party at Tyrone Power’s house in 1946.
Two years later, David married again, a Swedish model named Hjordis and they were together till his death.

With Hjordis

 

With the war’s end, David went back to Hollywood and continued working for Sam Goldwyn. However, he wasn’t happy with some of the roles assigned to him. He didn’t like either  Bonnie Prince Charlie or The Elusive Pimpernel.

 

In 1950 David left Goldwyn and had a brief fallow period before hitting his stride again. By the mid 50s he was on top again, winning an Oscar for Separate Tables in 1958.

With Wendy Hiller.SEPARATE TABLES.

 

He got into television, forming Four Star Productions with Dick Powell, Ida Lupino, Charles Boyer. And he wrote two very successful memoirs, “The Moon’s a Balloon” and “Bring on the Empty Horses”. And he proved a funny raconteur on TV talk shows.

 

 

Sadly, in 1981, David developed motor neurone disease  and died in Switzerland in 1983.

My thanks to Niven expert, Simone Adams for her excellent talk and the film clips she showed, including that scene in the cave in THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, where David explodes against Gregory Peck as to how they deal with spy, Gia Scala.

The Guns of NAVARONE

 

I didn’t know David had played Bertie Wooster in the Fox ‘B’, Thank You,Jeeves”. Sounds fun.

 

My favourite Niven films are probably “A Matter of Life  and Death”, “Carrington V. C.”, “Ask Any Girl, “Please Dont Eat the Daisies” and “The Guns of NAVARONE.”

 

I look forward to the next Classic Hollywood themed webinar from the library. Thanks to all, and an enjoyable question and answer at the end of the webinar.

 

 

 

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: The Maltese Falcon

The famous low angle shot of Greenstreet

The Maltese Falcon is so memorable, none more so than the fabulous Sydney  Greenstreet (1879-1954) as Kaspar Gutman .

Gutman’s search for the Falcon is all consuming and Greenstreet delivers some great lines of dialogue:

“The best goodbyes are short.   Adieu.”

“I’m a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk.”

To which Sam Spade replies: “Swell, will we talk about the black bird.”

Gutman  philosophises :

“I do like a man who tells you right out he’s looking out for himself. Don’t we all.”

 

Amazing to realise this was Sydney Greenstreet’s movie debut at the age of 62. Small wonder he was Oscar nominated. He is simply superb as the obsessed seeker of the Falcon.  Kent born Greenstreet  had a long stage career (he debuted on Broadway in 1907)  and his acting talents translated surprisingly easily to the film camera. He seems completely at home and commands the screen whenever he appears.

 

Sydney subsequently made  24 films between 1940 and 1949 , when he retired . He had been married since 1918 and had one son.

 

Gutman is a villain , but a villain who is jovial and eloquent. Even at the end of the film, his cool demeanour only disappears briefly while he is unwrapping what he believes is the bejewelled Falcon. But it’s a fake.

He’s been searching for the Falcon for 17 years, and indicates he’ll start again ( he seems to be well funded!) – except of course Sam Spade turns him in to the police.

By gad, he is a character. You  almost wish he could continue his search for the black bird.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RUTH HARRIET LOUISE: Photographer to the Stars

Ruth Harriet Louise ( self portrait 1928)

Ruth Harriet Louise (1903-1940) photographed some of the biggest stars in Hollywood in the 1920s. She joined MGM at the age of 22 and became the only woman working  as a portrait photographer at a Hollywood studio.

Born Ruth Goldstein in New York, Ruth followed her brother Mark ( director Mark Sandrich) to Hollywood and set up her own portrait studio.

Ruth’s cousin, Carmel Myers, asked Ruth to photograph her whilst Carmel was making  BEN HUR in 1925. Louis B. Mayer was impressed and Ruth went to work at MGM.

Carmel Myers

Ruth ran MGM’s portrait studio from 1925 to 1930. Garbo selected her as her exclusive portrait photographer. Clarence Sinclair Bull ran the Stills dept ( taking photographs on the film sets), while Ruth reported directly to Howard Strickling, head of MGM publicity.

In the 1920s, Hollywood was still generally hospitable to woman professionals – and many studio employees and executives were young, like Ruth.

However, in 1930 George Hurrell became the chief MGM portrait photographer and Ruth’s contract was not renewed.

I don’t know the exact circumstances as to why, suddenly,Ruth’s work was devalued to the extent she lost her job. I’ve read top MGM star ,Norma Shearer,preferred Hurrell’s photos.
She was only 25 and yet there is little evidence of her working in the 1930s. Could it be she chose family life after the tough routine at MGM. Her husband was director Leigh Jason (his films include “The Mad Miss Manton “, “The Bride  Walks Out” and “Out of the Blue”.)

Ruth had a son who died aged 6 in 1938, and only two years later Ruth died a few days after giving birth to a second son who also died. She was 37 years old.

 

Garbo

 

Myrna Loy

 

William Haines

 

Bessie Love

 

John Gilbert

Ramon Novarro 

 

Ruth with Joan Crawford

 

Mark Sandrich, Ruth Harriet Louise, Leigh Jason. 1928.

 

 

Joan Crawford posing as ‘Hamlet’!

Dressed in homage to John Barrymore, 6 stills of Joan Crawford by Ruth appeared in a 1929 edition of Motion Picture  magazine under the caption, To wed, or not to wed!  ( just before Joan’s marriage to Douglas Fairbanks Jr.)

(John Barrymore had played Hamlet on stage in the early 1920s. In 1933, two short  scenes from “Hamlet” were shot in Technicolor for a possible film version . Barrymore was 51 and the proposal for a film was not taken forward.
In the few clips on You Tube, Barrymore is seen with Donald Crisp, Reginald Denny, Irving Pichel.)

 

 

The short announcement of Ruth’s departure from MGM.

 

Nice to see that Ruth’s career is documented in this book, RUTH HARRIET LOUISE AND HOLLYWOOD GLAMOUR  PHOTOGRAPHY (2002).

The book makes the point – “…..the extraordinary fact is that she was the most reproduced photographer in America during her tenure at MGM.”

  • Ruth herself is quoted: “With actors, of course, having their pictures taken is part of their business and they are more or less in my hands…..I don’t mind bossing them around one bit……I realise some of their success depends on me.”

 

 

Ruth’s brother ,Mark Sandrich ( the original family name was Sendreich), with Irving Berlin, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire on the set of CAREFREE.
Mark had directed 5 of the Astaire/ Rogers films and had started work on BLUE SKIES in 1946 when he died suddenly.

(Mark’s son, Jay Sandrich, died this month aged 89. Jay won many Emmies for his television direction. )

Mark Sandrich

Sandrich’s fedora hat was a constant on his sets.

 

Mark Sandrich, George Gershwin