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HOWARD DIETZ: DANCING IN THE DARK

 

 

Howard Dietz

Published in 1974, “Dancing in the Dark, Words By Howard Dietz” is the autobiography of the man who was head of publicity at MGM from its inception in 1924 till well into the 1950s.

However, if I read this book expecting to get inside stories  about MGM during the golden years, I was mistaken. The contents are episodic and related more to Howard Dietz’s songwriting career – which is fine with me, but it was very disappointing that there was so little emphasis on his work for MGM.

Howard Dietz (1896-1983) came from an advertising background. The agency he worked for had Samuel Goldwyn as a client. Goldwyn needed a trademark for his company and according to Dietz,

“Leo the Lion with the Latin “Ars Gratia Artis” (art for art’s sake) was my idea.”

Dietz then worked for Goldwyn who later sold the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation. A new studio was created when Marcus Loew of the Metro Company and Louis B. Mayer amalgamated, forming Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

(I never understood why Goldwyn’s  named was retained in the title of the new company.) Goldwyn of course went on to a very successful career as an independent producer.

Of Goldwyn, Dietz  said, “A large percentage of the many jokes attributed to Goldwyn was true. His secretary came to him and asked if she could destroy files from ten years back. Goldwyn said, “yes, but keep copies.”

 

Dietz joined MGM as director of advertising and publicity. One of his major successes was coining the phrase that MGM had “More stars than there are in heaven.”

 

Dietz said that he learned a lot from producer Hunt Stromberg about film exploitation, with advice to theatre owners on promoting a picture eg

“Hire an elephant from a nearby circus and have him parade through the town….!”

He ran a competition to rename Lucille le Sueur in Motion Picture Magazine. The winning name was ’Jane Crawford’, but they settled on JOAN.

He is also famous for the slogan which re-introduced audiences to a back from the war Clark Gable in ”Adventure” –

 Gable’s back and Garson’s got him!”

His dept. wrote synopsis of every current movie , and biographies of the stars under contract.

Dietz was a New Yorker and he was based in his home town as MGM had a big office there .
So he was able to pursue his other talent – lyric writing. Teamed with former lawyer, Arthur Schwartz , they wrote some memorable songs such as ‘Dancing in the Dark‘, ‘I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan’.

From 1922 to 1963, he wrote 16 Broadway shows, mostly with Schwartz, though in 1922, the great Jerome Kern asked him to write with him on a show called Kind Sir. 

Alan Jay Lerner called him “The Astaire, the Chevalier, the Molnar, the Lubitsch of lyric writers.”

Dietz and Schwartz wrote The Band Wagon songs for Fred and Adele Astaire in the 1920s.
Great songs like ’Triplets’, ‘Dancing in the Dark’, ‘Louisiana Hayride’.

Thirty years later when the  The Band Wagon film was made , the two song writers got together again and came up with ‘That’s Entertainment’.

The quality of Dietz’ s lyrics speak for themselves :

”It might be a fight like you see on the screen,

A swain getting slain for the love of a queen,

Some great Shakespearean scene,

Where a ghost and a prince meet,

And everyone ends in mincemeat!……..”

 

Several of the songs in the Astaire Band Wagon were interpolated from other Dietz and Schwartz shows. ‘Triplets’ and ‘By Myself’ were from a show called “Between The Devil” .
When 
Dietz was involved in the Band Wagon film, I like  how he inserted a reference not in the original lyric – “MGM has got its Leo, but mama has got her trio…..”

Most musical fans love Astaire and Jack Buchanan doing ‘I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan‘ – this song was written for Clifton Webb in the 1929 revue, “The Little Show”.  And yes, Clifton Webb could sing!

 

 

Howard Dietz, Arthur Schwartz.

 

‘That’s Entertainment’. THE  BAND WAGON

Oscar Levant, Cyd Charisse, Jack Buchanan, Fred Astaire, Nanette Fabray.

 

’I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan.‘. Jack Buchanan and Fred Astaire.

 

Fred Astaire did a quiet, reflective version of Dietz/Schwartz’s ‘By Myself’. And Judy Garland gave it a completely different interpretation in “I Could Go On Singing.”

 

He had Howard Strickling as his assistant at MGM and however much time he was spending on his Broadway shows, his bosses at the studio must have been happy with his output because he was made Vice President in charge of publicity in 1942.
He also hosted MGM Theater of the Air from 1949 to 1951. 60 minute versions of MGM films were broadcast and archive.org has about a dozen of them.

Howard Dietz saved copies of every public  campaign for every MGM film he worked on. Now if I could only access the New York Public library where his papers are archived.

And the second hand copy I got of this book is signed by Mr. Dietz!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PUBLICITY SHOTS 20

Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster. SORRY,WRONG NUMBER.

Very noirish!

 

 

Cary rightly distrusts that handshake!
Carole Lombard, Cary Grant, Kay Francis. IN NAME ONLY.

A pity it didn’t lead to better roles for Kay  in the 40s. And a great shame Carole and Cary didn’t do a screwball together.

 

 

Joan Tetzel, Alan Ladd. HELL BELOW ZERO.

New Yorker, Joan Tetzel (1921-1977)was a stage actress whom David Selznick put into The Paradine Case where she was somewhat overshadowed by Alida Valli. ( Selznick wanted to rename Joan ,’Elizabeth Ives’.)

Joan only made a few films and I  liked her in Hell Below Zero. I guess Selznick lost interest, or she decided to stick to the Theatre – she was in the original cast of I Remember Mama in 1944 but lost the film role to Barbara Bel Geddes. 

Joan married Oscar Homolka in 1949 and they were together till her death in 1977 – they had lived in England since the early 60s and she appeared on the London stage.

Oscar Homolka died three months after his wife. He too was in the original I Remember Mama and was very good in the film version.

 

Randolph Scott, Anne Jeffreys, Robert Ryan. TRAIL STREET.

Not a great part for Robert Ryan, but he had Crossfire the same year.

 

 

Joel McCrea. THE GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY.

Preston Foster, Angela Lansbury, Judy Garland, John Hodiak. THE HARVEY GIRLS.

 

Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Betty Garrett. MY SISTER EILEEN.

 

Clark Gable, Deborah Kerr, Sydney Greenstreet, Adolph Menjou, Ava Gardner. THE HUCKSTERS.

 

Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, Orson Welles. THE STRANGER.

 

Gilbert Roland, Barbara Stanwyck. THE FURIES.

 

OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND (1916 – 2020)

 

 

Only weeks after her 104th birthday on 1st July, Olivia de Havilland  has passed away today, July 26th, 2020 at her home in Paris where she was a resident for more than 50 years.

We’ll remember Olivia for all the films she made in the golden age of Hollywood. From her first film in 1935, A Midsummer Night’s Dream to her Oscar winning performances in To Each His Own and The Heiress.

I’ve chosen two video clips to show Olivia’s versatility , one from The Strawberry Blonde and the other from Thank You Lucky Stars.(with Ida Lupino and George Tobias.)

 

With Leslie Howard. GONE WOTH THE WIND.

 

With Montgomery Clift. THE HEIRESS.

 

With Errol  Flynn in CAPTAIN BLOOD

 

 

 

Olivia ‘s court case against Warner Brothers freed performers from having their 7 year studio contracts extended if they refused roles. The De Havilland decision was an important part of Hollywood history.

 

With Paulette Goddard and Charles Boyer in HOLD BACK THE DAWN.

 

With Alan and David Ladd.THE PROUD REBEL

 

With her sister Joan Fontaine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THIS ‘N THAT 15

I’ve got my order in for the Blu-Ray of Rouben Mamoulian’s LOVE ME TONIGHT, due at the end of September from Kino Lorber.

This was an early talkie (1932) but the camera work is so smooth flowing and the musical numbers show great originality in their staging.

Maurice Chevalier is a Parisian tailor owed money by Charlie Ruggles whom  he pursues to a castle where lovely Princess Jeanette lives ( that’s Jeanette MacDonald.)

Of course romance blossoms and we are treated to some memorable songs  by Richard Rodgers/LorenzHart – “Lover”, “Mimi”,  Love Me Tonight” and “Isn’t It Romantic” ( which is wonderfully staged and sang  in various locations by a montage of singers, from Chevalier to a taxi driver , an army troupe and a lonely Princess.)

 

Charlie Ruggles, Myrna Loy, C.Aubrey Smith.

Lovely to see Myrna Loy before her transformation when she joined MGM. Here she plays Countess Valentine with vampish relish!

MacDonald and Chevalier made four films together at Paramount – The Love Parade, One Hour  With You, The Merry Widow and Love Me Tonight. After that, Jeanette MacDonald ,like Myrna, joined MGM and found a new singing partner in Nelson Eddy, while Maurice left Hollywood in 1935 and returned to France. Though he did return in triumph to Hollywood for Gigi in 1958 when he was 70.

 

 

 

 

………….In 1992, Fred Astaire’s widow, Robyn, refused to allow the Kennedy  Center Honors in Washington to use clips of Fred in their televised tribute to Ginger Rogers .

Fred Astaire had negotiated and retained the rights to film clips of his dances.Any reference in documentaries or tributes using a clip from one of the Astaire  films require  the permission of the Astaire estate which is administered by his widow.

(I’d love to know how Fred managed to get such a deal ).

Although the live event In 1992 did show Fred and Ginger , when it was televised by CBS, there wasn’t a single clip of Ginger and Fred dancing. (Can anyone remember seeing the show and wondering why there were no film clips of Fred and Ginger ?)

Robyn Astaire had insisted that the segments with Fred be edited out   George Stevens jr., organiser of the event, told People magazine that Mrs. Astaire wanted $70,000 for the use of 4 clips.

All previous rights-holders had donated broadcast rights for the event for free.

Ironic that Fred Astaire was one of the first Kennedy Center Honor recipients in 1978.  A shame that Ginger had to wait nearly another 20 years to be honoured.

The annual Kennedy Center Honors choose five people from all areas  of the arts in America for their contributions over a lifetime. The President of the United States is usually present at the awards ceremony which is taped for future TV transmission.

Previous recipients include Claudette Colbert, James Cagney, Bette Davis, Gene Kelly, James Stewart, Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, Cary Grant, the Nicholas Brothers.

 

In contrast, in 1997, permission was granted for the use of images of Fred dancing in commercials for the Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner. Several of their ads used clips from various Astaire films. The dance scenes were computerised and the coat rack from Royal Wedding and the cane from Easter Parade were substituted with a vacuum cleaner.

Even the Ceiling dance in Royal Wedding was used.

As illustrated below.

 

ROYAL WEDDING.

 

 

EASTER PARADE (Stepping Out With My Baby).

EASTER PARADE.

 

”You’re All the World To Me”.  ROYAL WEDDING.

 

According to Mrs.Astaire, the  ads were “Artistically suitable”.

The reaction of Fred’s daughter, Ava?
To the Royal Appliance Manufacturing Company, she said,

“Your paltry, unconscionable commercials are the antithesis of everything  my lovely gentle father represented.”

The late Robert Osborne said, “When Fred’s in a commercial electronically fixed so he’s dancing with  a vacuum cleaner, I’m not sure that’s protecting his image. It does strike me that it’s money making.”

Film critic Roger Ebert added, “To sell an image ,ie the likeness and name, might be within the legitimate rights of an estate. But to recycle an actor’s actual work, their acting, is shameful.”

My opinion, in one word, Crass.

 

 

 

………Paul Henreid directed 6 episodes of The Big Valley TV series which starred Barbara Stanwyck.

 

 

………….I haven’t seen Star Of Midnight (1935). Worth a viewing?

Ginger Rogers /William Powell sound a good teaming.

 

Portrait by Ted Ireland.( signing as Vincentini.)

…………….An MGM artist new to me is Ted ‘Vincentini’ Ireland  who worked at MGM in the 1920s and 30s.
Some  of his work:

Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor . HIS BROTHER’S KEEPER.

 

 

 

 

 

THE FALCON IN SAN FRANCISCO

 

 

How about this. On Burritt street in San Francisco is a plaque which will only mean something  to fans of The Maltese Falcon, commemorating as it does the spot where  Miles Archer was ‘Done In’ by Brigid O’Shaughnessy.
No Spoiler Alert here!  
Mary Astor did the deed, killing Jerome Cowan.

The Falcon’s writer, Dashiell Hammett, lived in San Francisco for most of the 1920s, and wrote several novels during that time. He referenced a lot of San Francisco locations in The Maltese Falcon, including the spot where Sam Spade’s partner met his demise.

In 1974, a group of Hammett enthusiasts had the plaque put on display, a few blocks from where Hammett lived at 891 Post Street.

Sam Spade’s apartment in the book/film is modelled on Hammett’s .

 

The second plaque, outside 891 Post St.  where Dashiell Hammett lived.

Dashiell Hammett

Hammett expert, Don Herron, has since 1977 done the Dashiell Hammett walking tour.  He can be contacted at http://www.donherron.com.

Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) was described as “the dean of the hard boiled school of detective fiction.”  He served in both world wars, suffered from the 1918 flu epidemic, worked for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency, and wrote short stories for crime  magazines plus The  Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key and The Thin Man (which was his final novel in 1934.)

He suffered from ill health for most of his life but was very active politically and served time in prison after refusing to cooperate with the Communist investigations of the late 1940s.

 

Walter Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Lee Patrick, John  Huston.

A nice touch, Walter Huston  delivers the Falcon to Sam Spade.

 

 

 

 

Always considered the best film version, John Huston directed Humphrey Bogart In the tale of the mysterious black bird which was a golden Falcon encrusted with jewels and painted black to conceal its value.
One of two known cast lead statuettes made for the 1941 film sold for $4 million at Bonhams Auction House in 2013.

Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) said, “I am prepared to pay $5,000 for the figure’s return.”

The prologue of the film:

“In 1534, the Knight Templars  of Malta paid tribute to Charles V of Spain, by sending him a golden falcon encrusted  from beak to claw with the rarest jewels…….

But pirates seized the galley carrying the priceless token, and the fate of the  Maltese Falcon remains a mystery to this day……….”

And so begins the classic movie.
John Huston‘s directorial debut;

61 year old Sydney Greenstreet’s film debut;

Humphrey Bogart’s second film of 1941 ( after High Sierra)  and the year in which he transitioned from playing supporting gangster roles into becoming a major star;
And a great  cast – Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jerome Cowan, Gladys George, Lee Patrick, Ward Bond, Barton McClane.

WILLIAM WELLMAN Double Bill.

Can you imagine a double bill of The Ox-Bow Incident and Lady Of Burlesque ?   Probably not, because the juxtaposition of the stark drama of Ox-Bow Incident and the light humour of Lady Of Burlesque just wouldn’t work.
Especially if you  saw them in the order they were made – Ox-Bow in 1942 and the Barbara Stanwyck starrer in 1943.

You couldn’t switch off from  the  injustice of the western , and be prepared for the lighthearted company  of Barbara and co.  in the  latter film.

William Wellman  directed The Ox-Bow Incident  in 1942, and his very next film was Lady Of Burlesque in 1943. Two films which could not be  more different.

One I can watch anytime and know I’ll be smiling all the way through- that’s Lady Of Burlesque . But when it comes to The Ox-Bow Incident, this is serious  cinema and harrowing,  as three men are hanged for a murder that, not only they didn’t commit , but which  didn’t happen .

 

 

Dana Andrews, Anthony Quinn, Henry Fonda.

 

Henry Fonda and Harry Morgan drift into a small town and get entangled with the townsfolk who form a posse when they are told a well liked local rancher has been killed and his cattle stolen.

Frank Conroy, Marc Lawrence.

I just realised that Frank Conroy played important roles in both films – Spoiler alert! – he was ‘Stacchi’ , the unlikely killer in Lady Of Burlesque, and the ruthless Colonel who leads the posse  in The Ox-Bow Incident.

 

Anthony Quinn, Francis Ford,  Dana Andrews, Henry Fonda, Frank Conroy, Jane Darwell.

The three accused are Anthony Quinn, Dana Andrews, Francis Ford. Innocent men in the wrong place at the wrong time.

(The title reference – the three men are found in Ox-Bow Canyon.)

Quite a change for  Jane Darwell  from her “ Grapes of Wrath” character – she reminded me of the wrathful Mercedes McCambridge in “ Johnny Guitar”.

 

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There’s a convenient tree. Why wait for a trial. There’s circumstantial evidence – the three men have the dead man’s cattle without a bill of sale, and the Quinn character has the dead man’s gun. Certainly enough reason to bring them back to town.
But as they find when they get back to town, the rancher they thought was murdered is in fact alive.

 

As the posse/lynch mob ride away, all we see is the shadows of the three hanged men. All that is needed to convey the horror.

 

Henry Fonda, Harry Morgan.

That perfectly framed shot as Fonda reads the letter Dana  Andrews wrote to his wife, which the two men will now deliver.

FATAL DAWN

There was a TV version in 1955, made for the The Twentieth Century Fox Hour, with Robert Wagner and Cameron Mitchell.

 

 

Based on Gypsy Rose Lee’s, “G String Murders”, Lady Of Burlesque is set in the Old Opera House which is now a burlesque theatre, with Barbara Stanwyck as ‘Dixie Daisy’,  the star attraction.
Her pal is ‘Gee Gee’, (Iris Adrian), and in his first film role, Michael O’Shea is  comic ‘Biff Brannigan’ who’d like to be more than friends with Dixie.

Someone has a grudge against the burlesque troupe and before long, a couple of the dancers turn up dead, murdered with their own G String.

 

 

A great supporting cast includes Iris Adrian, J. Edward Bromberg, Pinky Lee, Janis Carter, Lou Lubin ( pictured above). Plus Marion Martin, Gerald Mohr, Charles Dingle, Stephanie Batchelor.

 

Marion Martin and Iris Adrian , so funny .

 

Frank Conroy

 

Barbara bumps and grinds and does the splits! And jitterbugs with Pinky Lee.

It’s sanitised burlesque but Barbara seems to be having a great time as she talk/sings Sammy Kahn’s lyrics:

“Brother I’m making’ my eggs and bacon, Earning my pay, just by  shaking this way , Four  shows a day….”

As Dixie says, “It isn’t my beautiful diction that gets me by in burlesque.”

Such a pity Lady of Burlesque has not been restored and copyright was not maintained.
Barbara had played  a similar role two years earlier in Ball Of Fire, and she had worked several times with William Wellman – Night Nurse, So Big, The Purchase Price, The Great Man’s Lady.

By coincidence, both films were released in May 1943, The Ox-Bow Incident  having been held back. The look of  both films suggest they were  made on a tight budget – probably the Fonda and Stanwyck salaries were the big money costs.

 

Director William A. Wellman (1896- 1975) had a life which would make an exciting motion picture. He was an ice hockey player , a World War One fighter pilot in France , and his film Wings won the very first Best Picture Oscar.
When Wellman returned from the war, he remembered a meeting with Douglas Fairbanks who had seen Wellman playing ice  hockey and offered to help him in the future .

Fairbanks gave Wellman a part in one of his films, but Wellman decided he’d rather be behind the camera. He was a mail boy at Goldwyn studios and Sam Goldwyn made him an assistant director. He then directed 11 silents between 1923 and 1926, Buck Jones features.

It’s William Wellman who directed that famous scene in Public Enemy when Mae Clarke gets the grapefruit in the face from James Cagney.

Other famous Wellman films are The Public Enemy, A Star Is Born, Nothing Sacred, Beau Geste.

His film, WINGS won the very first Best Picture Oscar in 1927. Wellman was only 29 when he directed this $2 million film.

Mae Clarke, James Cagney.THE PUBLIC ENEMY

James Cagney said he’d always be grateful to William Wellman for his first break.

 

 

A young Gary Cooper in Wings. The public loved him.

Wellman didn’t get along with studios executives, he left Paramount in 1930 and worked at Warner Bros. for a while.

One of his films for Warners was Wild Boys  Of The Road(1933) in which he cast his soon to be 4th wife, Dorothy Coonan (1913-2009) who was a dancer in Busby Berkeley musicals. (She was in Forty Second  Street, Whoopee, Gold Diggers of 1933).

 

The film depicted three teenagers during the Depression, leaving home to find work by hopping freight trains with other kids.

Dorothy Coonan Wellman

 

Dorothy Coonan, Frankie Darro.

Dorothy and William married in 1934 and she retired from the screen, raising 7 children ( one of whom I hope to interview!). Dorothy was interviewed in an excellent 1995 documentary about her husband. ( “Wild Bill, Hollywood Maverick” can be seen on You Tube and lots of stars are interviewed.)

 

Irene Dunne, Richard Dix. STINGAREE.

Rather an oddity, STINGAREE (1934) starred Richard Dix as an Australian music loving outlaw,’Stingaree’ who helps the career of singer Irene Dunne. Re-uniting Dunne and Dix from Cimarron, the script was poor and did neither star any favours.

 

Working with David O. Selznick, Wellman was at the helm of one of the best screwball comedies of the 1930s, Nothing Sacred, and he co-wrote and directed A Star Is Born ( which he won his only Oscar for, but for writing, not directing.)
Again, two back to back films which were completely different.

Regarding the Oscars, it seems strange that “WINGS” should win Best Film but had no other nominations.

Wellman, like Hitchcock, couldn’t take Selznick’s constant interference and they never worked together again.

 

Charles Winninger, Fredric March, Carole Lombard, William Wellman.

 

 

 

Robert Mitchum, Burgess Meredith.THE STORY OF G.I. JOE.

One of the realistic war films Wellman made, The Story of G.I. Joe (1945) told the story of real life war correspondent, Ernie Pyle (played by Burgess Meredith). Pyle joins an infantry unit in Italy, with Robert Mitchum as the unit’s leader. (This was Mitchum’s only Oscar nomination.)

 

Anne Baxter, Gregory Peck. YELLOW SKY.

One of my favorite westerns, YELLOW SKY  starred Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter and Richard Widmark. Gritty black and white.

 

 

Another excellent Wellman film, Beau Geste .

 

With similarities to Wellman’s Nothing Sacred and Lady of Burlesque, Roxie Hart (1942) provides the blueprint for the musical  CHICAGO, but  it doesn’t match the zaniness or speed of Nothing Sacred , or  the ensemble work of Lady Of Burlesque.
A star vehicle for Ginger Rogers who worked very hard, but was almost overshadowed by Adolphe  Menjou  as the lawyer ‘Billy Flynn’ who will defend anyone if they can pay him $5,000.

Maybe I just missed  the Kander  & Ebb songs.
Ginger does two good dance numbers, a mean black bottom and a Bill Robinson style tap dance on a staircase.

 

Adolph Menjou, Ginger Rogers. ROXIE HART.

 

 

A young Iris Adrian as ‘Two Gun Gertie’ who takes Roxie’s place in the news headlines. Unfortunately,Iris is only in one scene .

Phil Silvers was also wasted as a newshound cameraman. And almost a walk-on for Nigel Bruce. 

Leading man George Montgomery had zero chemistry with  Ginger.

So I guess I’m saying it was a disappointment and I couldn’t see any Wellman touches.

 

Great to see the saintly Sara Allgood as ‘Mama Morton’ who runs the woman’s jail. When Roxie gets in a brawl with another prisoner, Mama bangs their heads together, then goes on reading her magazine!

 

 

William Wellman, Van Johnson. BATTLEGROUND.

Wellman was back to wartime  with MGM’s Battleground (1949). Top billed were Van Johnson,John  Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban, James Whitmore, Leon Ames, Douglas Fowley.

Set during WW2, the story follows a an army unit during the Battle of the Bulge. Wellman brings to life an excellent script by Robert A. Pirosh ( for which Pirosh won an Oscar.)

A realistic look at the horrors of war, the winter  scenes in the forests of Bastogne made me wonder of the makers of the excellent Band of Brothers had seen this film.

 

In the 1950s, the director had an alliance with  John Wayne and writer Ernest Gann.

Wayne starred in two of the five films they worked on, The High and the Mighty and Island in the Sky.

John Wayne, Jan Sterling.

In his 60s, Wellman quit films and retired to family life.

Called a maverick, William A. Wellman’s films covered every genre possible and is up there with the other Hollywood greats, Ford, Hawks, Hitchcock.

In 2015, William Wellman Jr. wrote a biography of his father and I look forward to reading it.

The cover above shows the director and his wife Dorothy on the set of Wild Boys of the Road.

 

Here’s a very special book I’d love to get hold of, Nothing Sacred, The Cinema of William Wellman. Authors Frank Thompson and John Andrew Gallagher spent many years working on it. It’s 700 pages, 12”x 9”, with 1,000 images.

And the publishing  history is like no other I’ve ever heard of. The book was on pre-order sale for three months to December 5th,2017 and then the number of books printed depended on the number ordered. And that was it. (Men with Wings Press).

If you had ordered it, the cost was $150, numbered and signed by the authors.

The following pages show the great research and detail In the book.

I saw one copy for sale at $900! I’ll keep looking.
I wonder how many copies were printed.

 

 

 

 

 

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.