JAMES STEWART LEADING MAN

I picked up this 1994 well illustrated book on James Stewart by Jonathan Coe for £3. A real bargain.

The author covers Stewart’s career in some detail in under 200 pages. And Jonathan Coe doesn’t hesitate to criticise as well as praise.

Every Stewart film is covered, the early career when he ‘began  to climb up the MGM star roster with surprising agility.”. 

How some admirers see in Stewart “the cinematic equivalent of Mom’s apple pie.”……. but pointing out how many of his key performances are subversive of his image…..working with directors Anthony Mann and Alfred Hitchcock.

The author has no problem stating his own likes and dislikes of James Stewart’s films. He doesn’t like YOU CANT TAKE IT WITH YOU; he thinks SHOP AROUND THE CORNER is  Stewart’s best pre-war film; he rates THE GLENN MILLER STORY above MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON  and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

And each view is explained very well, with examples of why the author feels the way he does, whether you agree with him or not.

 

”It’s a Wonderful Life” is described  as ‘having been elevated to a realm above and beyond the reach of criticism.’

Apparently when James took to the stage in 1947 in HARVEY, he got some of the worst reviews of his career – (I wish I could find some of these reviews.)

Some of the films are (rightly) described as “pot boilers” – MAGIC TOWN, MALAYA, YOU GOTTA STAY HAPPY.

BROKEN ARROW brought Stewart back to the western for the first time since DESTRY RIDES AGAIN. And there is a detailed look at the Mann and Hitchcock films.

It was interesting to read how James’s agent ,for WINCHESTER 73, negotiated  50% of the profits instead of a flat fee, making the actor $600,000! And that he had the same percentage deal on “The Glenn Miller Story.”

And I didn’t know that Beulah Bondi played James’s mother five times! ( OF HUMAN HEARTS, VIVACIOUS LADY, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and in an episode of The Jimmy Stewart Show in 1971.)

Well worth a read.   (Jonathan Coe has also written a biography of Humphrey Bogart, TAKE IT AND LIKE IT which I hope to get hold of.

 

 

On the set of NO HIGHWAY.

JACK PALANCE AT THE CIRCUS

Lucille Ball, Jack Palance. “The Greatest Show On Earth.”

 

News to me. JACK PALANCE (1919 – 2006) starred in 30 colour episodes of a 1963-64 TV series, “The Greatest Show On Earth” .

One of Hollywood’s best baddies finally got to be a good guy, as Johnny Slate, manager of a travelling Circus.

Inspired by the Paramount film of the same name, the series was made by Desily in conjunction with the famous Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Lucille Ball, maybe to boost ratings,  made a guest appearance in the episode, ‘Lady in Limbo’, and for the first time in many years, Lucille played a serious role. She’s a circus performer who has an equestrian act – though we never seen her on a horse!

Lucille’s episode (in B&W)  is the only one I could find on You Tube.

Palance is such a good actor, he is perfectly natural as the caring manager, always ready to help his troup with any problems they may have.

Having access to the famous circus obviously helped the production.

Such a pity that Palance  in movies was pretty well type cast, with a few exceptions.

 

Russ Tamblyn, Tuesday Weld, Jack Palance

 

Ruby Keeler, Ken Murray,  Jack Palance

 

Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown.

Would  love to see this episode with Keaton and Brown.

 

Jack Palance

 

Stuart Erwin

Stuart Irwin had a recurring role as Palance’s assistant.

 

Jack Palance, Julie Newmar.

 

 

Some of the other  stars in “The Greatest Show On Earth.” (Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde from the 1952 film guest starred.)

 

Jack with his 1957 Emmy for his live performance in “Requiem for a Heavyweight”. In the 1962 film version, Anthony Quinn took the lead.

 

Jack also starred in the series BRONK in 1975-76, playing a police detective.

 

With Billy Crystal in “City Slickers” for which Jack won an Oscar.

 

 

Also news to me, Jack released an album of country music songs ( some of which he wrote) in 1970. I’ve hear a few numbers and his voice suits the songs. I love how one of the songs he wrote is called ‘The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived.’ !

 

 

 

My favourite Palance performances.

‘Blackie’ in PANIC IN THE STREETS. Jack’s first film and what a debut.  Could never understand why there was no Oscar nod for him.

Jack had understudied Marlon Brando on Broadway in “A Streetcar Named Desire” which was directed by Elia Kazan. (Jack did get to go on for a few performances). So When Kazan did ‘Panic in the Streets’, he obviously knew Jack’s ability.

With Zero Mostel.

 

‘Wilson’ in SHANE.

Jack did get an Oscar nomination for “Shane” (and “Sudden Fear”).

Who  can forget the quiet,soft spoken killer in black who guns down little Elisha  Cook . To say Palance is menacing is an understatement- he devours the screen!

 

As ‘Lester Blaine’  with Joan Crawford in SUDDEN FEAR.

One of the things I like about “Sudden Fear” is the chance to hear Jack’ s beautiful speaking voice, as he quotes  poetry to Joan.

Of course, he and Gloria  Grahame make a dynamic  team as they plot and scheme against Joan.

 

 

 

 

PHOTO OF THE DAY: HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY

John Ford’s HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY(1941),  being filmed on an 80 acre set in the Santa Monica mountains near Malibu.

The area in California is now the Malibu Creek State Park.

I always remember the first time  I saw this scene with the miners filing down the road past the houses, I thought I was in Wales!

The shot in the film;  the miners, led by Donald Crisp, descend form the mine.

 

The design of the village set by art director Richard Day was based on actual Welsh villages in the Rhondda Valley.

The Morgan family, with Donald  Crisp, Sara Allgood, Roddy McDowall and Maureen O’Hara.

 

On the set photo, with Patric Knowles, Sara Allgood, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowell, Maureen O’Hara, Walter Pidgeon (not in costume) and John Loder.

 

Walter Pidgeon, as the minister, was borrowed from MGM and Donald Crisp was on loan from Warner Brothers.

 

A company photo, with cast and crew. John Ford, Roddy McDowell, Donald Crisp, Sara Allgood, Rhys Williams.

 

Great cast, great film. One that lives in the memory.

Should it have been in colour? Maybe.

Were the accents a mixture of Scottish, Irish and English? Yes, but it didn’t harm the film (unless you are Welsh!)

The film won five Oscars including Best Picture, Director, Supporting actor (Donald Crisp), Best Art direction and cinematography.

Was  it better than THE LITTLE FOXES, THE MALTESE FALCON or CITIZEN KANE. Ah, that’s the question!

 

Roddy McDowell

 

 

BOB ANDERSON: YOUNG GEORGE BAILEY

Bob Anderson (1933 – 2008), seen here in a 1946 publicity still from IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE at the age of 12.

Bob Anderson will forever  be remembered for playing the young James Stewart in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Bob’s father, Gene, was an assistant director and production manager in Hollywood .His uncles were directors William Beaudine and James Flood.

At the age of seven, Bob first appeared on screen in Shirley Temple’s YOUNG PEOPLE.  He had some uncredited roles in the early 1940’s  then won the role of young George Bailey in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

 

Young George always wanted to travel.

 

 

With H.B.Warner.

The famous scene where young George saves the druggist Mr.Gower from putting poison by mistake into a prescription. George refuses to deliver the prescription and Mr. Gower hits him.

( Mr.Gower has been drinking after getting the shattering news that his son has been killed in the war.)

 

With H.B.Warner as Mr. Bower.

Bob later said that H.B.Warner actually blooded Bob’s ear when he slapped him, though the elderly actor hugged him afterwards.

It is Mr.Gower who, at the end of the film, collects money to help George.

James Stewart, Donna Reed, Ward Bond, Todd Karns, Beulah Bondi, H.B.Warner, Gloria Grahame, Frank Faylen, Thomas Mitchell.

 

With Thomas Mitchell as ‘Uncle Billy’.

 

”I wish I had a million  dollars. Hot dog!”

 

James Stewart, H.B.Warner.

 

Despite  an excellent performance, the classic film did not lead to other leading roles. Bob had minor roles in THE BISHOP’S WIFE, KIDNAPPED and SAMSON AND DELILAH.

Bob, behind Cary Grant in THE BISHOP’S WIFE (1947).

 

Bob, as the young Zachary Scott in RUTHLESS (1948).

Bob’s character again saves someone from drowning – in this film, Ann Carter.

 

Raymond Burr appeared briefly in RUTHLESS, playing Bob’s father .

 

On two occasions, Bob was in films directed by his uncle, William  Beaudine – KIDNAPPED (1948) and BORN TO THE SADDLE (1953).

 

Bob, in 1995.

From the 1950s, Bob worked behind the scenes, as an assistant director and production manager, like his father. He worked up till 1993, including TV series, THE TIME TUNNEL, POLICE WOMAN and WONDER WOMAN.

Bob served in the Navy during the Korean War as a photographer on aircraft carriers.

 

Bob wrote the foreword for Stephen Cox’s book, “It’s A Wonderful Life, A Memory Book.”

Bob said,  “It was nice to know that after slugging it out with the studios as a production guy for more than 30 years, people remembered my on-camera work when I was young, and that they appreciated my performance.”

Bob made an appearance on NBC’s Today show in 1997. Would love to see it.

 

Seneca Falls

The small town of Seneca Falls, New York claims to be the inspiration for Frank Capra’s Bedford Falls and in 2010, local resident  Chris Podzuwelt started a museum devoted to the classic film.There is now an annual festival ( the next one is December 5th to the 9th).

Guests at the 2018 festival will include Karolyn Grimes who played ‘Zuzu’ and Jimmy Hawkins who played ‘Tommy Bailey’, plus Frank Capra’s granddaughter ,Monica  and Mary and Tony Owen, children of Donna Reed.

 

This truss bridge in Seneca Falls resembles the famous bridge in the film when George Bailey meets Clarence.

Although Frank Capra had been in Seneca Falls in the early 1940’s, he said that Bedford Falls was a collection of small towns.

(http://therealbedfordfalls.com)

 

 

I came across this lovely picture of H.B.Warner and his son in 1927.

H.B. Warner (1876 – 1958) was born in London.

 

Roscoe Karns (1891-1970) and his son Todd Karns (1921-2000) who played Harry Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Roscoe  Karns had a long career as a character actor in Hollywood , and Roscoe and Todd appeared together in the TV series, ROCKY KING, DETECTIVE (1950-1954) – with Roscoe as Rocky King. Must catch an episode on You Tube.

 

CELEBRATING VERA MILES

Congratulations to VERA MILES who was 89 on 23rd August, 2018.

Born Vera Ralston, for obvious reasons, Vera changed her name when she came to Hollywood. Her first husband was actor/stuntman Bob Miles and Vera kept that surname for the rest of her career.

 

Vera’s first major role in 1952, THE ROSE BOWL STORY, a Monogram film, with Natalie Wood and Marshall Thompson.

Prior to this film, she had minor roles in  WHEN WILLIE COMES MARCHING HOME (1950) and TWO TICKETS TO BROADWAY (1951).

Short lived contracts at RKO and Fox left Vera without a studio behind her and she quickly got into TV in 1954. She appeared in the 1955 pilot “Revenge” for “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”.

Vera played the traumatised wife of Ralph Meeker in ‘Revenge’ which had a typical Hitchcock twist at the end.

Vera Miles in ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. 1955.

 

In 1957, Vera was signed under personal contract by Alfred Hitchcock and was cast opposite Henry Fonda in THE WRONG MAN (1957), again playing a woman  who is traumatised by her husband’s wrongful arrest for burglary.

Vera Miles, Henry Fonda, Alfred Hitchcock on the set.THE WRONG  MAN.

 

Described above as his “new find”, was Hitchcock looking for a Grace Kelly replacement in Vera?

Unfortunately, other than “The Wrong Man” and “Psycho”, Vera’s contract with the great director didn’t produce a series of starring roles for Vera.

She was set to play opposite James Stewart in VERTIGO, but lost the role to Kim Novak . Vera was expecting a baby with her second husband, Gordon Scott. (They had costarred in “Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle” in 1955 and married in 1956.)

 

Wardrobe test for Vertigo.

We’ll never know if Vera could have surpassed Kim Novak’s mesmerising performance in Vertigo. Or whether it would have led to further Hitchcock films such as North By Northwest or The Birds or Marnie.

 

Vera Miles, John Gavin, Anthony Perkins.PSYCHO.

 

John Gavin, Vera Miles. PSYCHO

As Janet Leigh’s sister in “Psycho.”

 

There’s a brief interview with Vera on You Tube from 1983 when she was doing  PSYCHO 2. She said she had got to know and like Anthony Perkins on the set of this sequel, stating that on the original 1960 “Psycho”……”the nature of Hitchcock’s set does not lend itself to people becoming acquainted.”

(Wish we had heard more of her thoughts on Hitchcock!)

 

In 1955, Vera appeared in Joel McCrea’s WICHITA, But she had little to do and was only in a few scenes.

The film itself, the story of Wyatt Earp becoming a lawman, is rather dull, only enlivened by spotting all the great supporting actors in it – Walter Sande, Harry Lauter,Wallace Ford,Jack Elam, Edgar Buchanan, Robert Wilke,I.Standord Jolley, Carl Benton Reid.

In addition to McCrea and Miles,  the film also had Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves and John Smith.

Now that’s a cast. A pity the script was disappointing.

The only scene in the film that caught my attention was the scene in the saloon when the black-clad Graves and Smith appear, seemingly ready to gun  down Earp. Turns out they’re his brothers come to help him.

With Joel McCrea.WICHITA.

 

Joel McCrea, Vera Miles, Lloyd Bridges.

 

Keith Larsen played ‘Bat Masterson’ in “Wichita “ and became Vera’s third husband.

 

1956 was a busy  year for Vera – she was in  THE SEARCHERS, AUTUMN LEAVES and 23 PACES TO BAKER STREET.

Her part in “Autumn Leaves” , as Cliff Robertson’s ex-wife,wasn’t big but she did get to be nasty to Joan Crawford!

She had a substantial role in the thriller , “23 Paces to Baker Street”, opposite Van Johnson.

 

With Joan Crawford in AUTUMN LEAVES.

 

 

With Jeffrey Hunter. THE SEARCHERS.

 

BEAU JAMES (1957) , set in 1920s New York, tells the story of NY mayor Jimmie Walker (played by Bob Hope).

Vera plays singer/dancer Betty Compton who became Walker’s second wife. Dubbed by Imogene Lynn, she sings ‘Someone to Watch over me’ and does some nifty dancing!

Incidentally, having seen this film for the first time recently, it was interesting to see Bob Hope in a non-comedic role. Unfortunately I didn’t think it worked for him. I can understand why he wanted to do it but he didn’t seem comfortable in the character, even though he was able to do some musical numbers.

 

Vera Miles, Bob Hope. BEAU JAMES

 

In 1958 a magazine quote about Vera said that she “seems to be replacing June Allyson as everybody’s favourite wife.”

And that was definitely a part she played as  James Stewart’s  wife in THE FBI STORY.

With James Stewart.THE FBI STORY.

 

Vera shaved off her hair and went to Italy for FIVE BRANDED WOMEN (1960), set during  the Second World War.  Haven’t seen this one.

5 Branded Women.

 

 

I enjoyed catching up on A TOUCH OF LARCENY (1960) which has Vera, James Mason and George Sanders. I suppose the film , set in London, would be described as a romantic comedy , as  desk-bound naval commander James Mason tries to steal Vera away from  Sanders by concocting a scheme to make money.

 

With John Gavin.BACK STREET.

I bet Vera relished the change of character in BACK STREET in which she played the heavy drinking wife of John Gavin who wants a divorce so he can marry Susan Hayward.

 

Tammy Marihugh, Susan Hayward, Director David Miller, John Gavin, Vera Miles. BACK STREET.

In the scene above, Vera is about to stumble up the stairs and show Susan Hayward what John Gavin has to deal with!

 

 

With Fred MacMurray. FOLLOW ME BOYS

Vera made a few films for Walt Disney ,including FOLLOW ME BOYS (1966) which I like a lot.

 

With John Wayne. THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.

Vera reunited with John Ford for “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” in 1962. A good role for Vera who has to choose between Wayne and James Stewart.

 

With John Wayne. HELLFIGHTERS.

Vera played John Wayne’s  estranged wife in “HELLFIGHTERS” (1968)

 

With Gordon Scott.

 

Over the years ,from 1954, Vera may have created some kind of record for the number of her appearances in TV shows. And it could be argued she received more varied roles on TV.

With Raymond Burr in IRONSIDE.

 

One TV appearance I’d like to see is ‘The Forms of Things Unknown’, an 1964 episode  of “The Outer Limits”.

With Barbara Rush in “The Outer Limits”.

 

In the COLUMBO episode, “Lovely but Lethal.”

 

With David Janssen.THE FUGITIVE

 

The Twilight Zone.

Vera starred in a classic “Twilight Zone” episode called ‘Mirror Image’ in 1960.

 

In all my searches online, the above photo is the only evidence I could find  of Vera doing stage work. “The Country Girl” was an off- Broadway production in 1960.

I would love to hear what other plays she did.

 

Vera appeared three times in “Murder She Wrote”. I like the quote from ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Encyclopedia” –

“Vera booked several stays at that television retirement village for old Hollywood stars – ‘Murder  She Wrote.’

With Angela Lansbury in the episode, ‘Jessica Behind  Bars.’ (This episode also featured Yvonne de Carlo.)

 

From the time  Vera Miles retired in 1995, she made no public appearances and gave no interviews. But we have so many examples of her talent on film in her four decade career.

 

“ALL ABOUT EVE” ON STAGE

A stage adaptation of ALL ABOUT EVE will have a limited run at the Noel Coward Theatre in London from 2nd February,2019 to 11th May, 2019.

The leading roles of Margo and Eve will be played by Gillian Anderson and Lily James. Birdie will be played by Sheila Reid and Karen by Monica Dolan.

Direction is by Tony and Olivier winning  director, Ivo van Hove. This avant-garde director’s style has been described as “ultra-modern minimalism”.

I guess anyone who is a fan of the 1950 classic will be curious to see how it will be presented on stage. It is nearly 70 years since the film was released and probably many theatregoers may not even know the film.

 

Lily James, Gillian Anderson

 

I came across the above photo which shows the cast of a 2003 Broadway benefit for the Actors Fund of America, featuring a stage reading of ALL ABOUT EVE.

What a cast.

Stockard Channing as Margo, Callisto Flockhart as Eve, Angela Lansbury as Birdie, Blythe Danner and Victor Garner as Karen and Lloyd, John Ritter as Bill . Tim Curry as Addison, Carl Reiner as Max Fabian. And Kirk Douglas as the ‘aged actor’.

And Celeste Holm chaired the evening at the Ahmanson Music Center in Los Angeles.

This reading of the original Joseph Mankiewicz screenplay raised over  quarter of a million dollars for the Fund.

 

Calista Flockhart, Stockard Channing, Tim Curry.

 

 

 

In 2004, the second screenplay reading, again for the Actors Fund, was SUNSET BOULEVARD at The Pantages Theatre in L.A.

With Angelica Huston as Norma, Ben Kingsley as Max and Patrick Wilson as Joe Gillis.  Director Stanley Donen played Cecil B De Mille.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – APRIL 4: (L to R) Actors Wilma Valderrama, Sir Ben Kingsley, Patrick Wilson, Anjelica Huston and Robert Morse perform during the all star reading of the play “Sunset Boulevard” at the Pantages Theater on April 4, 2004 in Hollywood, California. The event benefits the Actor’s Fund of America. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

 

And in 2005, the same format was used for CASABLANCA, with Anne Heche and Christian Slater as Ilsa and Rick.

 

 

All three adaptations of the original screenplays were done by David Rambo.

I havent been able to find if any other legendary films were staged for these fund raising evenings.