• Described  as the template for screwball comedy, “TWENTIETH CENTURY”(1934) has  John Barrymore as Broadway director Oscar Jaffe who needs to get his former star,  Lily Garland (Carole  Lombard to work for him again) .
  • Lily is now a big Hollywood star and is travelling on the Twentieth Century Limited between Chicago and New York.


Carole Lombard, John Barrymore.

Dare I say I havent seen “Twentieth Century”. Looking it up on IMDB, is it ‘one of the funniest movies ever made’,  or ‘a snooze- inducing bore’?

You tell me!


Carole Lombard, Roscoe Karns, Walter Connolly.


Director Howard Hawks, Carole Lombard , John  Barrymore.


Lombard and Hawks on the set.

Carole Lombard and John  Barrymore both died in 1942. Carole was 33, John was 60.


Dipping into the history of “Twentieth Century”, I discovered it was originally a 1932 Broadway play which starred Scottish actor Moffat Johnston as ‘Oscar Jaffe’ , and a Russian  actress, Eugenie Leonotovich as ‘Lily Garland’.


Eugenie Leontovich was married to Gregory Ratoff . She originated the role Garbo played in GRAND HOTEL.


Robert Preston and Binnie  Barnes in a 1952 Broadway production, taking over from Jose Ferrer and Gloria Swanson.

Jose Ferrer, Gloria Swanson


Fredric March


Lilli Palmer

Fredric March and Lilli Palmer also did the play, while in 1966, Betty Grable and Orson Welles appeared on television.



In 1978, composer Cy Coleman and writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green turned the play into a musical which I saw – several times- in London in 1980, with stars Julia McKenzie and Keith Michell .
The original Broadway stars of the musical in  1978 were John Cullum  and Madeline Kahn.

This is one of my top five stage musicals and I think if I watched the 1934 film, I might be waiting for a song to begin!


Julia McKenzie, Keith Michell.


The new standard blu-Ray of TWENTIETH CENTURY , coming out on 24th April, 2023, is from Powerhouse Films, a U.K. company which only sells blu discs.
Their Indicator series bring out limited edition box sets and single discs. When these editions are sold out, standard editions are issued ( generally with less extras).
Although most releases are Region B, they do have some region free titles.

Here are some of the Indicator titles. ( their website is Powerhousefilms.co.U.K.)









Judy Garland’s birthday 1939 . On the set if “Babes in Arms.”

That is some knife.


Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Ingrid Bergman. “ Notorious”.
Cary’s birthday?


Clark Gable, Greer Garson, Joan Blondell . “ Adventure “.


Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Nicholas Ray. “ In a Lonely Place.”


Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald,  Ernst Lubitsch. “ Love Me Tonight.”


Nelson Eddy,   Jeanette MacDonald, James Stewart . “ Rose Marie.”



Hitchcock, Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman. “ Spellbound.”


William Wyler, Fredric March, Dana Andrews  . “ The Best Years of our Lives.”


Arthur Freed, Cyd Charisse, Fred Astaire. “ Silk Stockings.”


Joan Blondell, Lucille Ball.


Looks like there is always somebody having a birthday!  Everything stops for a slice.


Joan Bennett, George Raft.SHE COULDNT TAKE IT (1935)


Geraldine Fitzgerald, Alan Ladd. O.S.S


Dan Duryea


Alisa Valli, Joseph Cotten. The third Man.




Tyrone Power


Bobby Driscoll. The Window


Robert Taylor, Audrey Totter. The High Wall.


Ingrid Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock. Notorious.


Barbara Stanwyck. Sorry ,Wrong Number.


After seeing THE FABLEMANS, Steven Spielberg’s  only slightly fictional story of his early life, I was reminded that ,at the age of 22, Spielberg’s   professional debut as a director was at Universal Television and his star was Joan Crawford.


Steven Spielberg, Joan Crawford.

After his success with Twilight Zone, Rod Serling produced a new TV series called Night Gallery (1969-1973).

The show’s pilot consisted of three half hour stories, with “EYES”, the middle story which starred Joan Crawford, Barry Sullivan and Tom Bosley.


Joan Crawford

Steven Spielberg had become a Universal contract director in 1968. He had been signed by producer Sidney Sheinberg after making a short called AMBLIN’ (1968). AMBLIN became the name of Spielberg’s production company in later years.

It does seem rather extraordinary that Universal should choose a 22 year old novice director to direct the Oscar winning star, Joan Crawford , who was making movies 20 years before Spielberg was born.

The story goes that .initially , Joan objected to the choice of director but was persuaded to go ahead with the project.

Spielberg tells the story that he went to meet her at her home and found her with a blindfold on in order to get into the character of the blind woman she would be playing.

Spielberg also spoke of the show’s crew showing some resentment at this young man being in charge.

The director has said that Joan spoke to the crew and said:

”I’ve got great respect for this director and I want you to treat him as you would me – we are all professionals.”

Spielberg also said, “It was a great experience to be baptised that way.”

At the 2022 TCM  Classic Film Festival, Spielberg said:

“She was kind and understanding – and selling Pepsi-Cola left and right!”

Apparently Joan and Steven kept in touch after filming.

Tom Bosley was interviewed for Emmy legends.org, and said that the script was meant for Bette Davis and Martin Balsam.

He called his time on the show ( a 9 day shooting schedule), “ A wonderful experience.”


So what is EYES about. Joan plays a very wealthy woman who lives alone in a New York penthouse. Blind from birth, yet she is surrounded by paintings and special possessions which she has never seen.

She is single minded in wanting to see .even for a short time, at whatever cost.
Tom Bosley plays a gambler who is being pressured to pay his debts of $9,000 . He’s desperate , ( and ridiculous as it may seem),  agrees to Joan’s offer to pay his debt in exchange for his eyes!
Barry Sullivan is the doctor she blackmails into doing the operation. He does warn her she will only see for 12 hours.

There is of course a dramatic twist at the end.

Barry Sullivan, Joan Crawford.

(Joan and Barry Sullivan had costarred in 1955’s QUEEN BEE.)



I liked THE FABELMANS ,though it was overlong at two and a half hours. If it had been the real Spielberg story, I’d love the film to have continued to show us that historic filming of “Night Gallery.”

Steven Spielberg directed the very first COLUMBO episode , “MURDER BY THE BOOK” in 1971.
Only two years later he directed DUEL and in 1975 came JAWS. The rest,as they say, is history.

When the former head  of Universal ,Sidney Sheinberg died in 2019, Steven Spielberg said: “…..he gave  birth to my career – he gave me “Jaws” and “Schindlers List” – we were a team for 25 years.”

Steven Spielberg, Sidney Sheinberg.

”Eyes” can be seen on Season 1 of NIGHT GALLERY  on dvd.


Only happens in photo shoots. Normally the stars avoid looking at the camera when they are filming.


Cameron Mitchell


Maureen O’Hara


James Stewart


Vivien Leigh


Clark Gable


Ann Sheridan


Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall


Fred MacMurray


Cary Grant


Richard Widmark

GRAND ILLUSIONS: Art of the Hollywood Backdrop

Gene Kelly poses in “AN AMERICAN IN PARIS”, but he isn’t  really in Paris.  The backdrop has been painstakingly painted to look as real as possible.

Before green screens and C.G.I., Backdrops ( or ‘Backings’ as they are  called in the industry) played a vital role in Hollywood movies in the era where the studios very rarely left their sound stages.

The world of Oz in The Wizard of Oz was created by scenic artists over a period of three months.

The art and craft of Hollywood’s hand painted backdrops were documented in The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop (2016) by Richard M. Isackes and Karen  L. Maness.

And finally the names of the artists who painted these enormous back drops came into the light – Ben Carre, Verne, Ronald and Ed  Strang, Duncan Alanson Spencer.

Mountains, jungles, skyscrapers, all were the work of these men. They painted on canvas, calico, cloth – always with a view to how would they look through a camera lense.

The massive, wall size paintings were done with brush, roller, spray gun.

In a  way, like song dubbing, the use of backdrops was a guarded secret . Nowadays we are probably far more aware of backdrops in vintage films, but back in the day, if an audience recognised the backdrop as a painting, the scenic artists had failed.


Original backdrop from the 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain, MGM (1952). “Make ’Em Laugh,” Donald O’Connor and dummy. Digital still.

Born in Edinburgh, George Gibson joined MGM in 1934 and became head of MGM’s scenic dept. He did not retire until 1969. During his tenure at the studio he constructed a new building where all the backings could be painted on movable frames.
Gibson was never credited for his work and died in 2001 at the age of 96. His daughter said he was most proud of his work in BRIGADOON.


Part of the North by Northwest backdrop (40 feet by 100 feet) painted by MGM scenic artists, Ben Carre, Wayne Hill, Clark Provins, Harry Tepker and Duncan Spencer.

The Mount Rushmore backdrop was donated by JC Backings to the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and it was so large it required a two-story gallery.

And there hangs a tale.

Several generations of the Coakley family have been involved in scenic design.

John Harold Coakley Jr. (1918-1970) was trained by Ben Gibson and worked on backings at MGM and Fox.He formed his own backings rental company, J.C. Backings in 1962 . He bought 100s of unused backings from the studios.

Currently the company is run by Lynne Coakley.

Most of their business was now digital and photographic printing , and Lynne Coakley donated  many of 200 backdrops ( which hadn’t been rented out for years) to the Art Directors Guild , and the Guild Archive project ( under Tom Walsh)  unrolled, photographed and catalogued the 200 and set out to find homes for them.

(The Coakley family have been called “the Barrymores of Backdrops”.)

Lynne Coakley in front of the BEN HUR backing at the  Scenic Art building at Sony Pictures  studios, Culver City (MGM).

We can be grateful that so many backdrops from the classic era were saved from the dumpster.
The Art Directors Guild had long wanted to preserve the legacy of its film scenic arts. Over time the backdrops were donated to museums, film archives,universities.


Author and artist Karen L. Maness described the “North By Northwest” backdrop as “….the grandaddy , the Babe Ruth of all Hollywood backdrops.”


The ‘Fit as a Fiddle’ backdrop from SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN.


Donald O’Connor, Gene Kelly. ‘Fit as a Fiddle’. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN



A classic scene from NORTH BY NORTHWEST, as Eva Marie Saint walks in front of the massive backing outside the window of the recreated Mount Rushmore cafeteria – the illusion that the actors are not studio bound.


I was lucky enough to attend an event at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow in 2022. Called THE LOST ART OF HOLLYWOOD.

The Conservatoire have several backings donated by the Art Directors Guild and it was exciting to see them unfolded and on display : the backings are used on Production Arts and Design courses.

The three illustrations below are from the Conservatoire evening.












………..Volume Two of Alice Faye and Betty Grable recordings available in February 2023 from Sepia Records (www.sepia records.com)


This is Vol.2 of rare recordings from Alice Faye never commercially released. The collection of songs on the 2 CD’s are from her 1940s movies, remastered from studio discs, and including songs performed by her costars such as Don Ameche, Betty Grable, John Payne, Carmen Miranda.


  • Vol.2 of Betty Grable recordings are similarly from her 1940s musicals never commercially released before.
  • Includes songs by June Haver, John Payne, Dick Haymes,Dan Dailey.

………….Re-watching NOCTURNE, I noticed Mack Gray (1905-1981) in a few scenes with George Raft – both playing cops. Turns out Mack Gray was a stand in for Raft and also appeared in  about 17 Raft films between 1933 and 1949!

Gray’s roles were generally minor – a Variety review of BROADWAY (1942) called him, “companion – bodyguard – shadow” to Raft. ( both played themselves in “Broadway”.)


Mack Gray, George Raft, Joe Gray.

Mack’ s brother, JOE GRAY (1912-1971) was a boxer who came to Hollywood and was a technical advisor on boxing  movies.  Joe was friends with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and he was in 32 Dean Martin films (a stunt double for Martin) and 10 of Sinatra’s films!


George Raft, Mack Gray.NOCTURNE


Dean Martin, Mack Gray.

Mack Gray was a production associate on Dean Martin’s TV shows from  1974 to 1980.


………….A page from the San Diego Union,July,1947.

So much on one  page. I counted about 46 film titles.

It was the last day of THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS.

You could go to a double bill of THE SEA HAWK and THE SEA WOLF. or THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER and STALLION ROAD.

ODD MAN OUT  is held over  for a second week – and paired with Roy Rogers in HELDORADO.

Nice to see an ad for the opening of the La Jolla Playhouse production of “Night Must Fall”, with Dame May Whitty.


………….Jean Harlow ‘s 1933 Grauman’s hand and foot ceremony. Jean placed three new pennies as a good luck charm. They were pried out by souvenir hunters.

(From Harlowheaven on Instagram)


………….Great song by Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer. Huskily sung by Lauren Bacall,with Hoagy at the piano.


…………Drawings by Serbian artist, Aleksandar Radulovic (from his Instagram page.)

Sylvia Sidney, Spencer Tracy.FURY


Janet Gaynor


Margaret Hamilton.THE WIZARD OF OZ.



….……Due for release in June,2023, “Warner Bros.100 Years of Storytelling” by Mark A. Vieira celebrates the 100th anniversary of Warner Brothers. I don’t have much detail about the contents, but it runs to 368 pages and promises untold stories and rare images.

That’s enough for me!




Some dialogue zingers from “ALL ABOUT EVE”.


Gary Merrill, Thelma Ritter.

Bill ,who is on his way to Hollywood, says to Birdie:

“What should I tell Tyrone Power for you?”

Birdie: “Just give him my phone number. I’ll tell him myself.”


Celeste Holm, Bette Davis,Hugh Marlowe

 “Slow curtain, the end.”

(Margo talking to Karen and Lloyd about the trajectory of a woman’s career.)


It could be argued that George Sanders  has the best lines .

To Eve, he says:  “I’m Addison DeWitt. I’m nobody’s  fool, least of all yours.”


Bette Davis, George Sanders



Addison: “I have lived in the theatre as a Trappist monk lives in his faith. In it, I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator.

I am  essential to the theatre – as ants to a picnic.”



Delighted to discover this publicity shot of Anne Baxter.

Eve as she wants to be. A star like Margo – at any cost.



Ok, it’s the Hollywood premiere at Graumans, but are we supposed to believe all those stars will turn up! Is it possible??

I love how the neighbouring Roosevelt Hotel blacked out some of their hotel sign, to show just ‘EVE’.



First time I’ve seen this pose of Anne Baxter and Gary Merrill. Looks  like Bette is the interloper!

Not sure about that foreign title – EVE AGAINST EVE?


Rare on the set photo of Joseph Mankiewicz discussing a scene with Gary Merrill, Anne Baxter .

Any ideas on who is the young man sitting down, listening to Mankiewicz?


Another interesting shot of Anne Baxter and Joseph Mankiewicz. But why is  Anne holding a violin?  Have I misremembered a scene in the film.


Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm.

I’ve read the atmosphere on the set was far from friendly.


The main cast.


Happy ending. The four friends have survived Eve.


Bette Davis.

Of course, Bette gets the most famous line. Something about fastening your seat belts and a bumpy night! You know the line.
I remember when the lines became the start of a song ( ‘Fasten Your Seat Belts’ ) in the musical version ,APPLAUSE ( starring Lauren Bacall in 1970)

And 20 years after she played ‘Eve’, Anne Baxter took over the part of ‘Margo Channing’ in “Applause” in 1971 on Broadway.

Anne Baxter.

The lyrics , by Lee Adams ,include:

Fasten your seat belts

Say all your prayers

And hold on tight

Drink and be merry

For the Titanic sails tonight

All aboard 

It will be a bumpy night


Fasten your seat belts

It’s gonna be a bumpy night

Margo in action

Critics have called an awesome sight……



Virginia Bruce.

Looks windy .


A young Tony Curtis. Posing for a fan?

Snazzy scarf.



Norma Shearer.

Never really casual.


Gregory Peck  1947.


Jane Greer.


Bette Davis

Not easy to find a photo of Bette without a cigarette in her hand.


Mary Astor and Humphrey Bogart take a stroll between scenes of “The Maltese Falcon”.


Susan Hayward.

Would look great in color . The flaming redhead.


Snapshot of Ginger Rogers.

Always keep your camera ready!


Ida Lupino.

Would love to know where and when this was taken.


Cary Grant poses with fans while filming “The Howards of Virginia “.

Lucky ladies.

Those branches behind him look as though they are sticking out of his hat!

A Cary Grant film I’ve never seen. Is it any good?



A young Joan Bennett .  1931



Born John Hoysradt, John Hoyt (1905-1991) had a long career on stage and screen.

John was 40 before he made his first screen appearance in “OSS”, with Alan Ladd.

Alan Ladd, Richard Webb, Geraldine Fitzgerald, John Hoyt, Patric Knowles.


With Geraldine Fitzgerald. OSS.

His stern demeanour and clipped tones led to typecasting in supporting roles, but, as John  said, “Well, you have to accept typecasting to a point, because it’s your daily bread.”

And yet he appeared in many different  roles – a sympathetic policeman in THE UNFAITHFUL; an undercover Treasury agent in TRAPPED; a prison inmate in BRUTE FORCE; an Apache Indian in DUAL AT DIABLO; a school principal in BLACKBOARD JUNGLE.



Jeff Corey, Burt Lancaster, John Hoyt. BRUTE FORCE.


In WINTER MEETING, John is the society friend  of Bette Davis – his performance was reminiscent of Clifton Webb as ‘Waldo Lydecker’ in LAURA.


With Florence Marly. SEALED VERDICT

As a German general on death row in SEALED VERDICT, John  had third billing after Ray Milland and Florence Marly.



In his long stage career, John  had been a member of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre company and had played in “JULIUS  CAESAR” in 1937.

16 years later, he would reprise the very same role of ‘Decius Brutus’ in the 1953 film of “Julius Caesar”.
He played the Roman general who leads Caesar into the hands of the conspirators.


Edmund O’Brien,  Michael Pate, John Hoyt, John Gielgud, James Mason, Marlon Brando.

John fitted well into costume drama and also appeared in THE DESERT FOX, SPARTACUS and CLEOPATRA.



With Ann Sheridan, Zachary Scott, Lew Ayres.  THE UNFAITHFUL.

In the 1940s, he was averaging three or four films a year.


With Barbara Payton. TRAPPED.


With Paul Stewart.LOAN SHARK.

John got to display some comic touches in LOAN SHARK, as the gangster up against George Raft.






With Jeffrey Hunter. STAR TREK.

John was in the pilot episode of STAR TREK (‘The Cage’) – as ‘Dr. Boyce’.


In an episode of TWILIGHT ZONE entitled, “Will The Real Martian Stand  Up”, John humorously played a 3-armed alien!

In his pre-Hollywood days, John was known as “The Master of Satire” . His nightclub act was popular , with his impersonations of celebrities.

In 1946,  Variety called him: “the Broadway legiter and nightclub entertainer.”

His impression of Noel Coward led to his casting in Broadway’s THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER (1939) , playing ‘Beverley Carlton’.

But  he lost out when Hollywood came to film “The Man Who Came to Dinner”  in 1942 (,Reginald Gardiner took over the role).

In 1969, John had a one-man show – if only we could find some reviews.

John Hoyt died of lung cancer – he had been part of the cast of THE CONQUEROR in 1956.

He was a skilled actor whose career covered five decades, both in cinema and television. Like so many of the other dependable supporting actors, he was never out of work.

And to think he was in the cast of the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, alongside Fanny Brice, Bob Hope, Gypsy Rose Lee,Eve Arden!
Quite a career. Quite a character.


Be sure to check out all the other entries on January 8th. in the WHAT A CHARACTER BLOGATHON . https://aurorasginjoint.com