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A WONDERFUL CAST

It’s that time of the year. Television and cinemas get out their copies of Frank Capra’s “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE”  and hope and expect audiences see this film as the Xmas event we can happily watch -again!

A post I wrote over four years ago, “BOB ANDERSON:YOUNG GEORGE BAILEY” has had a thousand views in  December. ( thanks to everyone ).

It’s A Wonderful Life” is surely is one of the finest examples of the depth of the talent pool in Hollywood in the classic era.

Even an independent company ( Liberty Films), outside of the bubble of  the big studios , could cast so many well known faces.

 

 

 

Frank Capra

 

Frank Capra, William Wyler, George Stevens, Samuel Briskin

Liberty Films was the independent film producing company set up by three of Hollywood’s most well known directors and the former head of production at Columbia. They had production offices at RKO and a contract for Capra, Wyler and Stevens to do 9 features for RKO distribution.

.Unfortunately, “It’s a Wonderful Life’ didn’t recoup its high costs and Liberty Films was purchased by Paramount after  producing only one other film, “STATE OF THE UNION.”

It seems incredible  now that Paramount didn’t retain the rights to ‘Wonderful Life’, but the television rights were sold to National TeleFilm Associates -and they too did not renew the rights to the film in 1974.

Republic Pictures claimed  the rights in 1993 – something to do with them owning the short story (‘The Greatest Gift’) on which the film was based, and having the music score –  plus an original negative of the movie.

Republic sold the exclusive TV rights to the  Xmas Classic to NBC in  1994.

And almost full circle – Paramount acquired Republic Pictures in 1998!

 

And according  to the American Film Institute, the film had mostly positive reviews on its release and got several Oscar nominations.
Ironically it was up against William Wyler’s THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES  which swept the board.

By the way, the FBI thought the film was a Communist trick to discredit bankers!

 

 

Here  goes with a picture gallery of  most  of the performers in the film, in no particular order. . If you can name them all, well done!

 Can you spot who played  – Violet – Freddie Othello – Mr. Martini – Nick – Potter’s bodyguard – Ernie – Ruth – Eustace – Annie – Sam – Billy – Mr. Carter – the real estate salesman – Mrs. Martini – Clarence – Pa Bailey…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE 25TH ACADEMY AWARDS 1953

An exciting time. The first time the Academy Awards were televised and shown live on 19th March 1953.

The National Broadcasting Company had paid $100,000 for the television and radio rights.
(A live broadcast to Europe was not possible . The BBC showed a recording of the ceremonies two days later.)

With Hollywood three hours behind New York, the show screened from 7.30pm to 9pm in Hollywood at the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard;  and at 10.30pm in New York , from the NBC International Theatre.

It meant revenues in N.Y for films and Broadway shows weren’t too affected.
It also meant stars like Shirley Booth could be rushed from the Broadway theatre where she was appearing in time for the Best Actress nominations.

 

 

“Ticket holders,please follow the route above to the RKO  Pantages theatre. You must arrive before 7pm……”

 

Bob Hope took charge, as he did many times in later years.. Bob was the perfect host and seemingly the only relaxed person on stage! He even took time to sing one of the Oscar nominated Best Songs  – “Am I in Love” ( with Marilyn Maxwell)

Bob had first hosted the Oscars in 1940 when GONE WITH THE WIND won 8 Oscars. Bob said,     “What a wonderful thing, this benefit for David Selznick!”

The stage display included a huge Oscar atop a cake surrounded by the Oscars to be awarded.

Co-hosts in New York, Conrad Nagel, Fredric March. Broadcasting from the NBC International Theater .

We didn’t see much of either of the New York hosts – Conrad Nagel had also co-presented back in 1930 and 1932.

Bob looks up at the  screen showing Shirley Booth in New York.

 

Shirley Booth, Fredric March.

Fredric March presents Shirley Booth with her Best Actress Award for COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA.

(Despite the ballyhoo for the bi-coastal telecast, I counted about 15 minutes at the most from the New York theatre. )

I don’t know what other nominees, other than Shirley Booth, were actually in New York.

 

 

Cecil B. DeMille, Gloria Swanson, Bob Hope, Mary Pickford.

  • A nice touch was to have Oscar presenters who were all previous winners, from Mary Pickford,Janet Gaynor, Anne Baxter, Ray Milland, Frank Capra,Greer Garson, Ginger Rogers, Luise  Rainer, Ronald Colman, Joan Fontaine, Olivia De Havilland, Edmund Gwenn.

Gloria Grahame ( THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL)

One of Bob Hope’s jokes ( all of which he delivers so expertly). The TV cameras didn’t show the losing nominees in the audience:

“You’ll see great understanding, great sportsmanship, great acting!”

There were  few shots of the audiences so I don’t know if nominees Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Julie Harris, Susan Hayward, Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas,Jose Ferrer , Jean Hagen, Jack Palance were there in person.

 

In 1953, there were separate Oscars for black and white and color cinematography, art direction and costumes.

 

Despite critic Bosley Crowther calling it, “a routine and pointless affair”, NBC drew an audience of over 30 million!

HIGH NOON  had seven nominations but lost  to “The Greatest Show on Earth” as Best Picture.
I love the comment by Thomas Doherty in the Hollywood Reporter article of March,2022. Having discussed the drama of HIGH NOON, he added:

The Greatest Show on Earth” wasn’t much of a metaphor for anything except the grandiosity of the name above the title.”  (Cecil B. DeMille).

 

One of Bob Hope’s ongoing jokes was the fact he had never won the Oscar. Early in the evening, he joked: ”There was a rumour last year that I might win an Oscar, but nobody paid attention so I stopped spreading  it.”

He also said, “I like to be here just in case – you never can tell – one year there might be one left over!”

But this year he did get one – an Honorary Oscar for his contribution to the laughter of the world and his service to the motion picture industry.

He quipped, “I know this is a joke. You’ll take it back after a while!”

One thing that seems strange now was the fact that every winner rushed up to the stage, grabbed their Oscar and quickly said “Thank you” before rushing back off the stage.

Were they told just to say, ‘Thank you’, I wonder.

Only Shirley Booth in New York made a short speech, saying how grateful she was.

John Wayne collected two Oscars, one for John Ford (“The Quiet Man”) and one for Gary Cooper.
As I have previously written, Wayne joked that he’ d have to speak to his management team – ….”to find out why I didn’t get High Noon.”

Mary Pickford presented the Best Picture Oscar to Cecil B. DeMille for THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH.

 

It was also a great touch to have shots of previous Oscar winners holding their awards –Loretta Young, Broderick Crawford, Claire Trevor, Jane Wyman, Edmund Gwenn.

 

I was very pleased to find the whole television presentation (including ads for RCA T.V.’s and radios) was available to watch on You Tube. Not great quality but a nice bonus and it enabled me to see Tex Ritter in person, singing “Do Not Forsake Me “.

It was a pleasure to see so many stars in their prime, just a shame it was too early for colour.

Bob Hope was the Oscars host on at least 9 occasions, the last being in 1978. His easy style and comedy delivery  were excellent.  Of course he had great writers for his routines, but,boy, could he deliver!

Apparently George Montgomery was the host in 1949, and Fred Astaire did the honours in 1951.

For all Oscar information,  www.oscars.org

 

 

 

 

ON THE SET 53

Billy Wilder discusses a scene in “A Foreign Affair”  with Jean Arthur, John Lund.

 

Hitchcock observes. Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck try to ignore the cameras and lights. ”Spellbound”.

 

Is George Cukor boring Katharine Hepburn,Lew Ayres, Henry Kolker, Doris Nolan, Cary Grant?  “HOLIDAY”.

 

Great picture of cast of “My Sister Eileen.”

  • From left: Tommy Rall,  Dick York, Kurt Kaszner, Jack Lemmon, Betty Garrett, Bob Fosse, Janet Leigh.

 

All very serious. Katharine Hepburn,Robert Taylor, George Cukor.  “Undercurrent”.
How do we save this movie.

 

 

Looks like Barbara Stanwyck is visiting William Holden on the set of “Stalag 17.”

 

Robert Montgomery  focuses on Audrey Totter in “The Lady in the Lake.”

 

 

Myrna Loy, Cary Grant  smile for the camera . “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.”

 

Got to get that key just at the right angle. Dont move, Ingrid.

Ingrid Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock. “Notorious “.

 

Another angle.Not sure why Hitch is cupping his hand. Is he sneezing?…whispering?

 

 

THE NICK AND NORA COCKTAIL

Nick and Nora Charles in THE THIN MAN  were known for their frequent imbibing of cocktails. Made shortly  after the end of Prohibition , “The Thin Man” made it clear that alcohol, all shapes and sizes, was on the legal market again after thirteen dry years.

William Powell, Myrna Loy

 

 

In the 1980s, Dale DeGroff was the bar manager at the Rainbow Room restaurant in New York’s Rockefeller Center. He decided to put together  a list of Classic and forgotten cocktails.

Searching a 1930s catalogue of a glass and silver house,Minners Design ( on Manhattan’s  East Side), DeGroff found a small glass called ‘the little martini’. It was about a third of the size of the typical glass.

The company told DeGroff that molds  would have to be made as the glasses were long out of production.

The Rainbow  Room went ahead and brought in these smaller cocktail glasses and Dale DeGroff coined the name ”The Nick And Nora Glass” and that became the official name – and it is still sold today!

I wonder if today’s buyers of these glasses know why they are so called.

Cheers!

 

I caught up on You Tube with an early William Powell film, Warners’ PRIVATE DETECTIVE 62.(1933).  Powell’s costar was Margaret Lindsay who came over well as a society lady who loves gambling – and usually wins.
The film has an odd ( and even unnecessary)beginning, with William Powell, in the diplomatic  service, being deported from France and diving off a ship as it comes into New York.

After that he is in full private detective mode, hired to frame the lovely Ms Lindsay who is winning too much money from a gambling club.

The film’s  director is Michael Curtiz, but it’s a fairly routine picture, only just over an hour in length. It wouldn’t  be long before Powell joined MGM and  became the famous ‘Nick Charles’.

The significance of the number 62 escapes me. Powell charms as always.

 

RADIO TIMES in Review

 First published in the 1920s, the Radio Times chose , quaintly, not to change its name when television arrived.

Initially only showing the BBC programming, it was 1991 before Radio Times included the commercial TV weekly listings.

 

I  check the films on the various channels each week in R.T.

The anonymous film reviewer for the magazine is somewhat limited in the space he/she has to comment.

Below are some of the brief (very brief) reviews I’ve seen recently. Mainly westerns.

”Warm Western.”

 

 

Listed in Radio Times as PERSONAL COLUMN:

“Preposterous thriller.”

 

 

“Female werewolf horror devoid of scares or even a transformation.”

 

 

“Rudimentary “.

 

 

,

“Cult Western.”

(Cult?)

 

 

”Western.”   (Honestly, that’s all that was said.)

 

Budd Boetticher’ verbose Western.

Stop right there!  Randolph Scott is a man of few words.

 

 

“Standard Issue Western.”

 

 

Below par.    Really?

 

 

“Tiresome.”

 

Actually the mystery reviewer doesn’t seem to like most westerns.
They aren’t really reviews, just a couple of generally meaningless lines in the small space permitted for each film.

 

All I can say to the Radio Times is, why bother! Give us the details and we’ll make up our own mind.

SHADOWS 2

Fredric March. ANTHONY ADVERSE

 

 

Fred MacMurray, Madeleine Carroll. CAFE SOCIETY

 

 

Bette Davis

 

 

 

Leon Ames, Audrey Totter, Robert Montgomery, Tom Tully, Lloyd Nolan. LADY IN THE LAKE

 

 

Joseph Cotten. Teresa Wright, MacDonald Carey. SHADOW OF A DOUBT

 

Bill ‘ Bojangles’ Robinson

 

Bette Davis, Errol Flynn. THE SISTERS

 

 

Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton. THE STRANGE DOOR. 1951

 

Lee J Cobb , Evelyn Keyes, Dick  Powell. JOHNNY O’CLOCK

 

 

Charles Boyer . ALGIERS

 

Joan Crawford. MILDRED PIERCE

 

Errol Flynn Title?

DESERT ISLAND DISCS: Part Two

 

Joseph Cotten was 76 when he took part in DESERT ISLAND DISCS in 1981.
His music choices included a brass band playing “Dixie”; Walter Huston’s “September Song”; and Ethel Merman’s “Anything Goes”. He commented: Some of the cleverest American lyrics must have come from Cole Porter’s ‘Anything Goes.’”

 

Patricia Medina, Joseph Cotten

Joseph said, “I’m married to a beautiful English girl, Patricia Medina who has lots of family in England.”

Again, in such a short program (30 mins.) there wasn’t enough time to talk about his career.

  • on Orson Welles; “I met him first on radio – I was a charter member of the Mercury Theatre.”

Welles , who had a three picture contract with RKO, invited him to Hollywood with other Mercury players – for CITIZEN KANE.”

Joseph signed a seven year contract with David Selznick:

My first job was being loaned out to Universal to work with Hitchcock on “Shadow of a Doubt”.

(Unfortunately there was absolutely no follow up questions about that experience, possibly Cotten’s best role.)

Shadow of a Doubt.

Joseph’s luxury item was a gardening manual and he requested a boat building book.

 

Gregory Peck was cast away in 1980. His eight discs were mainly classical but he also chose Frank Sinatra’s ‘ New York, New York’ and Duke Ellington’s ‘Satin Doll’.

Peck said he loved music and had taken singing lessons for four months so that he could be considered for MAN OF LA MANCHA. ( The part that went to Peter O’Toole.)

He said that at the start of his career he had absolutely no interest in pictures.  But while on Broadway, he had done a film test – “L.B.Mayer wanted me to join his ‘family of stars’ – I didn’t  want to be exclusively signed to anyone – I was fortunate enough to witness L.B.’s great crying act which he put on for my behalf.”

Gregory was Oscar -nominated  for his second film, KEYS OF THE KINGDOM. He was critical of his acting – ”I played that story with such utter overwhelming sincerity, and with very little skill I must say – I had not much film technique but I did believe in the character.”

KEYS OF THE KINGDOM

 

“I began to drop my prejudice against film and became  less interested in theatre.”

Leland Hayward (famous Hollywood agent) signed me up for fourteen films with four different studios, then left town!”

“THE YEARLING ran over time and DUEL IN THE SUN was ready to begin….for weeks I found myself bicycling from one studio to another.”

“I got along very well with Hitchcock – people say he browbeats actors …..he was always considerate and gentle with his ‘cattle’. I never heard him humiliate an actor –  ever.”

On turning down HIGH NOON,  ….”a mistake in judgement on my part. I had made “The Gunfighter” and Stanley Kramer sent me the script of “High Noon” and I recognised it was a fine script.

But I thought I didn’t want to repeat – it had to do with the traditional loner who faces the whole town alone – I thought they were too much alike and I would like to be versatile.

It was a great mistake – I doubt I would have been nearly as good as Gary Cooper..”

 

John Swope?   Dorothy McGuire, Gregory Peck.

Once established in Hollywood, Gregory returned to his hometown, La Jolla in California and started a summer repertory theatre company with Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer.

For six years we produced all the plays ourselves and appeared in at least one each summer.”

The opening bill in 1947 was NIGHT MUST FALL, with Dame May Whitty.

Many Hollywood stars appeared at the La Jolla Playhouse. Imagine seeing Robert Ryan in BORN YESTERDAY!

 

 

Lauren Bacall  joined Roy Plomley in 1979. Her music choices included Ella Fitzgerald singing “Isn’t It a Pity” ( by the Gershwins), Nat King Cole, Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in a scene from Coward’s “Red Peppers.”

Lauren’s luxury was also sun tan lotion – a large bottle.

Lauren talked about her early goals:

I first wanted to be a dancer – a ballerina…..the first play I ever saw was John Gielgud   in “Hamlet” – I was so moved by it.

I realised that at a very young age I really didn’t have the feet for ballet – I was in constant pain on point – no Margot Fontaine ,I ! “

Lauren started modelling – “Ten  bucks an hour – that is not ,what they say in America, hay!”

Slim Hawks, wife of Howard Hawks, saw Lauren’s photos in “Harper’s Bazaar” magazine and told her husband.

“I was seventeen when I went to Hollywood.” (Signed to a personal contract  by Hawks.)

“I loved “How To Marry a Millionaire “ and enjoyed “A Woman’s World” very much. I adored “Designing  Woman” – that is probably my favourite film”.

Lauren starred in CACTUS FLOWER on Broadway – “I did “Cactus Flower” two years non-stop, with one week’s holiday.”

(As much as I love Ingrid Bergman in the film version of “Cactus Flower”, I wonder  why Lauren missed out on the role she created.)

 

Lauren Bacall in APPLAUSE ( ‘All About  Eve’)

“Bette Davis was my great heroine -to be playing a musical version of the part she created was very curious – “Applause” took up five years of my life – I played the part too long.”

 

 

Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart. THE BIG SLEEP.

Lauren talked about a funny Hollywood legend – “Who pushed Owen Taylor off the pier.?”

The story goes , according to Lauren, that during the filming of “The Big Sleep”Humphrey Bogart asked that question.

(’Owen Taylor’ was the Sternwood chauffeur ( played by Dan Wallace).

Howard Hawks apparently quizzed the writer of “The Big Sleep”,  Raymond Chandler whose reply became Hollywood legend – “Damned  if I know.”

DESERT ISLAND DISCS: Part One

Devised by Roy Plomley in 1942, the BBC’s “Desert Island Discs” may well  be the longest running radio series in the world. And it is still running today after over 3,000 episodes. An institution.

The format was relatively simple, the theme being how would one cope if cast away on a desert island. Each guest would be asked to choose 8 favourite records to take with them. And they can choose a book and a luxury item.

Initially it was a half hour format, then extended to 45 minutes, with only a section of each record played.
Roy Plomley was the host till his death in 1985.
An invitation to appear in the show was a sure sign of success.

The well known signature tune was “Sleepy Lagoon”, written in 1930 by Eric Coates.

The BBC has released over 500 episodes on BBC Sounds  ( https://bbc.co.uk/sounds) and I trawled through to find any Hollywood connections.

The earliest recording is from 1950 and featured Margaret Lockwood.

Rex Harrison chose seven Benny Goodman tracks, saying “I just love jazz.”

Joan Bennett  appeared in 1963. Unfortunately it is not one that is available to hear.

Joan’s luxury item was suntan lotion!

Joan Bennett

 

Barbara, Ben ,Bebe and Richard Lyon.

The first one I listened to recently was from 1956 and the star was Bebe Daniels.

In the half hour format, there seemed little time for in depth questioning . In fact Plomley spent most time asking Bebe how she would cope on a desert island. Her extensive career in silent films was glossed over.

She did say Rudolph Valentino was easy to get on with , had great charm and a sense of humour. ( they were in “MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE (1924).

Bebe commented: “My father was born in Edinburgh….I was carried on stage at ten weeks…..I was seven when I made my first film……did lots of westerns.

 

Bebe named Bing Crosby as her favourite vocalist, and she chose Bing singing “Granada.”  She had known Bing  since 1931. She also chose her daughter Barbara singing ‘Stowaway’.

Bebe’s final music choice was one of my favourites- ‘The Coronation Scot’ which I always associate with the PAUL TEMPLE radio series.

Bebe’s luxury item was a typewriter and paper – “I’d like to write a mystery.” 

 

 

Fred Zinnemann was 83 when he was the castaway in 1991.

Fred Zinnemann

The director’s music choice was mainly classical – Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler and Bach. He also chose Cab Calloway and George Gershwin.

Fred Zinnemann (1907-1997) had studied law but said , “Instead of going to lectures, I went to movies.”

He had suffered anti-semitism in Vienna  and thought that was why he was drawn to the outsider who doesn’t quite belong.

His family wound up in Auschwitz – he did not want to talk about that subject.

In 1927, aged 20, he studied film in Paris and came to America  in 1929 with an introduction to Carl Laemmle,head of Universal.

He spent the 1930s making shorts.It was 1942 before he got to direct his first feature – KID GLOVE KILLER.

Of THE SEARCH ( which I rate highly), he said, “it was not suitable for a star – we needed someone unknown…I met young stage actor Montgomery  Clift and found him absolutely marvellous.”

Music was his first love and was happy to do OKLAHOMA after “From Here To Eternity.”

On colorisation: “A sign of the times – squeeze the last penny out of everything.”

His luxury item was a very large, self renewing luxury bottle of Scotch!

Winner of five Oscars, Zinnemann made less than thirty films – only eight each in the 30s and 40s and only three in the 60s and two in the 70s.

When asked if he looked at any of his films ,he said, “I sometimes look out of curiosity. I don’t spend too much time  reminiscing .”

 

Marlon Brando, Fred Zinnemann, Montgomery Clift.

 

 

 

Marlene Dietrich

Interviewed in her dressing room in a West End theatre in 1965, Marlene Dietrich declared she did not fear living in isolation on the desert island.