Author Archives: Vienna


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, 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.




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.



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. 


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


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.



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.



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

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.




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!



Not to be confused with Ann Sheridan’s “Woman on the Run”, Ida Lupino  stars in Universal’s Woman in Hiding (1950) as the woman who finds out ,rather dramatically, that her husband is trying to kill her.

Ida Lupino

A compelling opening has Ida, as Deborah Chandler Clark, in voice over, observing a scene below her of  a river bank and people searching for something.

“That’s my body they’re looking for.”

(Her ‘devoted’ husband has tampered with her car breaks.)

You are immediately drawn into Deborah’s story as she goes on the run to escape her husband Selden Clark (Stephen McNally) who tried to kill her.
(I know, McNally doesn’t look like a ‘Selden’).

In the subsequent flashback, we learn Deborah is the daughter of a rich mill owner (John Litel ) in the small town of Clarksville – which is named after Selden Clark’ s great grandfather. Selden is the plant manager who plans to marry Deborah. He is utterly ruthless in his ambition to make Clarksville great again.

When Deborah’s father becomes an obstacle to Selden’s plans, he kills the older man and makes out it is an accident in the factory.

  • A grief stricken Deborah turns to him and they are soon married. So now he runs the mill and continues seeing his girlfriend Patricia (Peggy Dow in her first film).

Stephen McNally

That dangerous McNally look!

While Deborah escapes ,Selden realises she isnt dead and sets about tracking her down.

Trying to keep out of his clutches, Deborah changes her name and arrives in another town and meets Keith Ramsey (Howard Duff) and Pops (Irving Bacon) at the bus depot news stand.


Howard Duff, Irving Bacon,  Ida Lupino.



Howard Duff, Ida Lupino


Deborah is lured back to the factory by Selden’s girlfriend and in a scene similar to the end of Sudden Fear, Selden kills the wrong girl.



Ida Lupino, Peggy Dow.


With similarities to WOMAN ON THE RUN, the Ann Sheridan thriller edges it for me.

( By the way, shouldn’t Woman on the Run be Man on the Run?)

We are so used to Ida in wise-cracking, hard-boiled mode and I missed that. The rather passive character she plays is in contrast to Ann Sheridan in Woman on The Run.

Howard Duff is along for the ride (he and Lupino were married in 1951), but Stephen McNally does what he does best – be very menacing!

In the supporting cast, Don Beddoe and I. Stanford Jolley ( I love that name and am proud to say I can now name Mr. Jolley when I see him in a picture.)

A good thriller but not really a great role for Ida.








Sorry to hear that Dvd/blu-Ray distributor Twilight Time is closing after 9 years .

Twilight Time released limited run titles – 3,000 units per film, from Fox, MGM, Universal, Columbia. (The licensing agreement only authorised  the company to sell that  number of copies.)

At present they have a sale, with many titles at $11.95, more than half the original price.  The sale lasts till 30th June,2020 when the remaining inventory will be at Screen

i would have bought The Whole Town’s Talking but postage to the U.K. was a bit steep at $17. This title is in the recent John Ford  Box set so maybe it will come out individually.

I love all these covers.









I enjoyed this 2014 biography of producer Robert L. LIPPERT by Mark Thomas McGee. It’s a detailed, extremely well researched look at the career of a man who loved making deals – and money!

Robert Lippert (1909 – 1976) was a businessman who never tried to compete with the big studios. He knew he could make low budget movies , sell them and make a profit. His motto was “I don’t worry what the critics say, I make pictures people want to see.”

  • He never came to the set, he didn’t watch rushes. But, as the author says, “a lot of filmakers got started with Lippert because he knew first timers were willing to work cheap!”

Going over budget was taboo! He was able to get producers, directors, writers and actors for minimal pay and tight schedules.He was able to sign major studio talent when their studios released them.

For instance, he signed George Raft   to a two-picture deal in 1952, paying Raft $25,000 per picture and 25% of profits. ( the films were Loan Shark and I’ll Get You.) 

In 1960, Raft got $31,000 as part of his profit participation!


He made around 200 films ( while still running his Theater chain) but didn’t rate a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But it is in Lippert   films  you’ll find many well known faces – Veronica Lake, Sabu, George Reeves, Preston Foster, Zachary Scott, Cesar Romero, Richard Arlen, Ellen Drew, Dan Duryea,Tom Neal, Lloyd Bridges, Vincent Price, Audrey Totter, Alan Curtis, Evelyn Ankers .  To name a few.


Robert L. Lippert.

Lippert , in the 1940s, owned a chain of  cinemas . According to legend  he said, “Every Theater owner thinks he can make better pictures than the ones they sent him – so back in 1943 I tried it.”

Cinemagoers felt cheated if they didn’t get two pictures. All the big studios had B picture units, but there was still space for small Independents. B movies had to be kept alive.

He likes westerns and the old saying, “If you wanna make money, make a western!”

In 1945, Lippert set up two companies with a fellow Theater owner, John J. Jones : Action Pictures for production and Screen Guild for releasing . (Jones later left the company.)



WILDFIRE (1945) was his first release, made in Color. It cost $36,000 and made $350,000. Lippert used rental stages and the Corrigan movie ranch.

( I love the sentence below the title in the poster- The Story of a Horse.)



Rip Roaring  Action!  That’s what the folks wanted and that’s what they got from a Lippert film. Mostly running not much more than an hour, and  a whole lot cheaper for exhibitors to rent.

Lippert had almost a repertory company of actors who appeared in his films – Richard Arlen , Robert Lowery, Cesar Romero, Mary Beth Hughes,Reed Hadley,Richard Travis,Marie Windsor – all found work at Lippert Pictures..


Director Sam Fuller got his chance with Lippert . To write and direct I Shot Jesse James, Fuller got $5,000 plus a percentage of the profits. It did well at the box office and Fuller went on to do two more for Lippert – The Baron of Arizona and The Steel Helmet.

And , ideal for a director, Lippert left Fuller alone to make the movies his  way.

The Steel Helmet, about an army unit in the Korean war, went on to make $2 million at the box office  at a time when most of Lippert’s productions cost between $100,000 and $200,000.

Gene Evans probably had the best role of his career in Steel Helmet, as the tough as nails sergeant who has to take charge when his group has a weak officer (Steve Brodie).

Incidentally, Lippert wanted Larry Parks to play the Sergeant but Fuller got his way and insisted Gene Evans was right for the part.

Fuller’s talent was recognised. As one IMDB reviewer said, “it is shot  with a conviction and passion few A-list movies can muster.”


Rimfire, poster, US poster, James Millican (left), right from top: Mary Beth Hughes, Reed Hadley, Henry Hull, Victor Kilian, Fuzzy Knight, 1949. (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)

Must catch up on this one.




Another Lippert Film I have yet to see, Rocketship X-M had a big cast , with a script by Kurt Neumann and involvement by Dalton Trumbo. It made a tidy profit of $500,000.

And it was another example of Lippert know-how. He managed to get his film out a few weeks before Destination Moon. Both films started the sci-fi Film boom of the 1950s.


Hugh O’Brien, Osa Massen, Lloyd Bridges, John Emery, Noah Beery.


Rocketship X-M.

Face masks on.


Lippert made a deal with Hammer Films in England, to co-produce, lend American actors, writers, directors  and distribute the films in America. The first co-production was The Last Page (Man Bait in the U.S.) in 1952, with George Brent and Diana Dors.

Hammer made about 14 films with Lippert including Spaceways, Terror Street, Paid To Kill, Break in the Circle, A Stolen  Face.




Lippert also struck a deal with Twentieth Century Fox in 1955 to produce B films under his Regal Films banner.

Lippert had sold a package of his films to television in the early 50s, and entered into a dispute with the Screen  Actors Guild over residual payments. As a result , his name did not appear on any of the 100 or so films he made for Fox  from 1955 to 1964.

The Fox films included The Big Show, Cattle Empire, The Fly  Forty Guns. 

Lippert finally left Hollywood and returned to San Francisco. In the course of the next ten years he doubled his cinema chain. He died peacefully at home  in 1976.



With Paulette Goddard. SINS OF JEZEBEL (1953)


Cesar Romero, George Brent. FBI GIRL (1951)


Audrey Totter in FBI GIRL.



Dorothy Hart, George Raft. LOAN SHARK.


One of the portions of the book I loved was the frank and sometimes contradictory views of exhibitors about Lippert films.


No holding back!
I think we’d have been better off if we had left it lost.”


Three Desperate Men, US lobbycard, from left: Jim Davis, Preston Foster, Virginia Grey, Ross Latimer, 1951. (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)

Tell it like it is!

  The three desperate men were my assistant, my operator and myself. Desperate about what to do to try to bring them in for this mediocre western.”


Damning verdicts :

“The only good thing about this was the print….”        

 “The general comment was that Mary Beth Hughes should have played the lead.”


Contrasting views:

“Nobody gives a hoot what happened to Bob Ford. They thought they’d see some Jesse James action  And we’re disappointed.”

“Buy this picture while it is hot.”

“Thanks, Lippert, for a bread and butter picture.”


Even the Hollywood Reporter took a swipe:

“Flight To Nowhere is just that!”


JUNGLE GODDESS:I hardly paid the electricity  bill.”
“ Some of the supposedly tense and serious scenes were actually humorous due to the ineffectiveness of the meek looking cast of native cannibals.”



Kit Parker Films  own the rights and distribute over 100 Lippert films.





Time Magazine  called him “The Quickie  King.”

Robert L.Lippert is part of Hollywood history and there are a few of his films I need to catch up. As we have discovered before, there may be a little gem among them.




Lippert’s family set  up a permanent display in the  museum in Alamada , his home town in California.



JOHN ERICSON  has died at the age of 93.
Known for his appearance in Bad Day At Black Rock, John’s career started very promisingly at the age of 25 when he got the role of ‘Sefton’ (played by William Holden in the film version) in the Broadway hit, Stalag 17. 

Born Joseph Meibes in Germany,John’s  parents moved to America and John studied acting, along side Grace Kelly and Jack Palance in New York.

An MGM contract took John to Hollywood and he was quickly cast in several films, his first being Teresa in 1951.


With Elizabeth Taylor in Rhapsody (1954).

John played a classical pianist , along with Vittorio Gassman as a violinist – both competing for the beautiful Elizabeth.


In Green Fire, John played Grace Kelly’s brother.


A rather different looking John in The Student Prince with Ann Blyth. (Edmund Purdom does a great job lip synching the glorious voice of Mario Lanza.)


Not usually cast in villainous roles, John did well as the nasty younger brother of Barbara Stanwyck in Forty Guns.


But it is for being part of the ensemble cast of Bad Day at Black Rock, that John will be remembered by film buffs.

This time he plays the brother of Anne Francis and although he is part of the conspiracy led by Robert Ryan, his character is much less threatening than Lee Marvin or Ernest Borgnine.


Robert Ryan, John Ericson. BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK.


John’s film career was sporadic after the 50s and he turned to television, appearing in many shows.

He was reunited with Anne Francis in her series, Honey West.

With Anne Francis

I’m surprised he never got a series of his own.

One film of his I am curious about is The Cruel Tower (1956) which costarred Mari Blanchard and Charles McGraw?  Has anyone seen it.

John continued acting till 2008.