GARY COOPER, Schoolboy in England

It’s amazing to think that  Gary Cooper went to school in England for a few years.

Both of Gary’s  parents were English immigrants; his father Charles was a member of a Bedfordshire farming family. When they moved to America – Helena, Montana, Charles, a lawyer bought a 600 acre ranch, the ‘Seven Bar Nine’ along the Missouri River.

Gary’s mother, Alice, decided that Gary (born Frank James  Cooper) and his older brother Arthur needed some ‘British discipline’ and took them to England in 1910. They lived  in Dunstable , with their cousin Emily Barton, and went to Dunstable Grammar school .

The brothers stayed in England for three years.

Gary kept in touch with his British relatives and visited them through to the 1950s.

Gary is circled in red.

In 2010, Dunstable had a Gary  Cooper festival. Hope there was a good turnout.

You are a legend when Irving Berlin names you in a song!

From “Puttin’ on the Ritz”:

”Dressed up like a million dollar trouper;

Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper – super-duper!”




In the years before television, Hollywood stars added to their substantial movie incomes by appearing on radio programs.

It’s interesting  to read in a 1935 Radio Mirror magazine what salaries various performers could command .


”Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone divided $5000 for a single air appearance.”


“Jeanette MacDonald went on the Atwater Kent program one night and banked $4000 the next day. Not so long ago, Miss MacDonald was content with $600 per broadcast.”

(Atwater Kent was a radio manufacturer).


” Clark Gable got $3500 for a solo performance. Katharine Hepburn and John Barrymore each nicked sponsors for $6500”


Charles Ruggles  and  Mary Boland oblige for $2500 for the team. You can hire Irene  Dunne, Adolphe Menjou and Leslie Howard at the same amount.”


”But you ain’t heard nothin’ yet – Greta Garbo has been offered $25000 for a 15-minute broadcast of a scene from one of her photo plays…”


Lesser lights like Lupe  Velez, Bebe Daniels, Colleen Moore, Cary Grant, Bruce Cabot, Ricardo Cortez and Douglas Montgomery may be lured to the microphone upon receipt of $1000”.


”Then there is still a larger group whose broadcast salaries run from a few hundred to just short of $1000 a showing – Ginger Rogers, Reginald Denny, June Knight, Ralph Bellamy, Paul Lukas, Gene Raymond, Heather Angel and a host of others.”


”Is it any wonder that the Hollywood  stars still believe in Santa Claus?!”

($1000 in 1935 is worth about $20,000 today.)

I don’t know how accurate it is, but I read that the average American weekly income in 1935 was $40.









News to me. For three years during World War 2, due to wartime metal shortage, the Hollywood Oscar was made of plaster.
Usually made of solid bronze and gold plated , during 1943, 1944 and 1945, all Oscars were cast in plaster and sprayed with a bronze lacquer.

The winners were able to swap the fake Oscars for the real thing after the war.

1944: Paul Lukas (“ Watch on the Rhine”;  Jennifer Jones (Song of Bernadette”) ; Katina Paxinou ( “For Whom The Bell  Tolls) ; Charles Coburn (“The More The  Merrier.”)

The statues definitely look lighter ( normally the Oscar  weighs 8 and a half pounds).


1945: Barry Fitzgerald (“Going My Way”) ;  Ingrid Bergman (“Gaslight”).; Bing Crosby (“Going My Way”)

During the war years, stars were expected to wear casual outfits at the Oscar  ceremonies .. ..In 1942, James Stewart wore his Air Force uniform.
In 1945, Jeanette MacDonald sang the National Anthem., and the ceremony had a backdrop of a banner with the number 27,677, representing the number of industry players serving in the war.

VARIETY had a headline:

“Nix Finery, Hoofing and Glitter!”


P.S.  Concerning how OSCAR got its name, even the Oscar Academy ( say there is no definitive answer . One explanation came from the Academy librarian Margaret Herrick who said it looked like her uncle Oscar. (Bette Davis and writer Sidney Skolsky also claimed the naming).


Regarding the design of the statuette, the original concept was by MGM’s art director Cedric Gibbons who envisioned a knight posed above a reel of film to represent a ‘ crusader’ of the industry.

In 1928, Gibbons employed young sculptor, George Stanley to bring it to life. Stanley removed the reel of film but retained the sword.

I haven’t been able to find any picture of Gibbons’ original design. But I have read that there were similarities to pictures of the Egyptian  god, ‘Ptah’ – who was the patron of craftsmen.


By the way, Oscar Hammerstein was the only person named Oscar to win one ( or in Hammerstein’s case, two) – for Best song in 1942 (‘The LastTime I Saw Paris’ with Jerome Kern) and ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’ in 1946 with Richard Rodgers.

The nickname, Oscar was adopted by the Academy  in 1939  – its original title was “The Academy Award of Merit.”




Modest Stein (1871 – 1958) was a Russian born illustrator who came to America in 1888. His full name was Modest Aronstam.
He was a cover artist for Street & Smith pulp magazines – “Detective Stories, Crime Busters, Mystery Magazine.
Stein also did film magazines covers.
Wonderfully vivid colours ( in contrast to the black and white images filmgoers were seeing on screen.)

I wonder if any of these original paintings were saved. They would look so beautiful in frames.


Gary Cooper


Frances Dee


Myrna Loy

(Far removed from The Thin Man!)


Gloria Swanson


Jean Harlow

Love the way he paints hands.


Nancy Carroll


Kay Francis


Loretta Young


Norma Shearer


Richard Arlen


Another cover of a different looking Myrna Loy.




I couldn’t find any film magazine covers by Stein beyond the early 1930s. Many issues of the magazine can be read at which is a wonderful resource ).

Must check The Truth about Salaries!


One of the covers Stein did for The Shadow magazine.


Vera Zorina

I’d always assumed that Ingrid Bergman was the first choice for the role of ‘Maria’ opposite Gary Cooper in “For Whom The Bell Tolls”.

Not so. Paramount cast ballerina Vera Zorina and she  had her hair cropped and was on location with the film crew for  two weeks shooting on the film.
Various reports say that director Sam Wood, author Ernest Hemingway and David Selznick ( to whom Ingrid Bergman was under contract) all wanted Ingrid for the role.

I read that when they decided Ingrid  should get the role, they had to give Vera a cash settlement.

You might wonder why a musical performer with very little film experience would be cast in this top dramatic role. I’m wondering too and couldn’t really find an answer.

Perhaps Paramount didn’t like their negotiations  with Selznick for Ingrid’s services. Also, Ingrid may not have been immediately available as she was finishing “Casablanca.”

Or maybe they thought Gary Cooper’s name was enough star power for the big  production.
Vera Zorina (1917 – 2003) was Norwegian, born Eva Birgitta Hartwig in Berlin. She only made 7 films. (Her name change came about when she joined the Ballet Russe de Monte  Carlo.  The company only wanted Russian names and  gave her several to choose from – she chose Vera Zorina.)


Vera Zorina  and Gary Cooper,on the set.


Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper.



Billed as ZORINA, Vera starred in Broadway musicals like ON YOUR  TOES (1939) and I MARRIED AN ANGEL.

She made her film debut in “The Goldwyn Follies” after Sam Goldwyn saw her on stage and put her under contract.


Coincidence that Gary should meet Vera on the set of her film “Louisiana Purchase.” in 1941



With George Raft in FOLLOW THE BOYS.

Zorina and George Raft were husband and wife in Universal’s FOLLOW THE BOYS (1944). Practically every star on the Universal lot appeared in the all star review.

Even in I WAS AN ADVENTURESS”(1940), the plot allowed for Vera to have a dancing scene.

This Fox film was one I had never heard of and it was good to see it on You Tube.
Vera acquits herself well as part of a swindling trio led by Erich Von Stroheim, the third member being Peter Lorre.

Von Stroheim and Lorre make a great team. A pity they didn’t appear again together.
I Was An Adventuress” turned out to be a real find.  ( though I would ditch that cumbersome title).

There is a terrific scene in the film when Vera turns the tables on her co-conspirators. A neat twist.

I’ve just ordered it on Amazon.


Erich Von Stroheim, Peter Lorre, Vera Zorina, Richard Greene. I WAS AN ADVENTURESS.


These two steal the film.

In the film, having married rich Frenchman ( a very English and young Richard Greene), Vera dances a scene from Swan Lake at a charity concert.


Having  seen this 1940 film, I think Vera  could  have continued in films, musical or non- musical but I guess the roles didn’t come to her.

Vera’s last film was LOVER COME BACK (1946) which starred Lucille Ball and George Brent.


With George Balanchine.

Love the upside down newspaper headline, “ Zorina elopes. Jilts Doug Jr.”

Vera ‘s first husband was choreographer/ stage director George Balanchine . She then married Goddard Lieberson ,president of Columbia Records.

After leaving Hollywood, she returned to the stage. In the 1970s, she became director of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet , and when she moved to Santa Fe in 1990, she directed productions at the Santa Fe Opera Company.
Her autobiography was published in 1986.








Checking on IMDB, I found many more names of stars still with us.


Henry Silva, Don Murray


Mitzi Gaynor, Angie Dickinson


Rita Moreno, Piper Laurie


Felicia Farr, Audrey Dalton


Russ Tamblyn, Billy Gray


Tina Louise, Shirley Jones 


Diane Baker , Richard Eyer


James Darren, Susan Kohner

Shirley MacLaine, Karen Sharpe

Mamie Van Doren, Leslie Caron

L.Q.Jones,  Earl Holliman

Pat Crowley, Kim Novak 

Robert Wagner, Lois Smith

MARILYN KNOWLDEN: Little Girl in Big Pictures

Marilyn Knowlden

Marilyn Knowlden, a child actress in the 1930s, played the daughter of many famous stars  in that decade, and appeared in 6 Oscar nominated films. She was born in 1926.


With Claudette Colbert in “Imitation of Life “(1934).


With Katharine Hepburn in “A Woman Rebels” (1936). Marilyn also appeared in two other Hepburn films, Morning Glory and Little Women.


With Lewis Stone ( playing her father) and Freddie Bartholomew in “David Copperfield” (1935).



As the young ‘Cosette’ in “Les Miserables” (1935)


With Allan Jones  in SHOW BOAT. Allan and Irene Dunne were her parents.


With Scotty Beckett and  Norma Shearer in “Marie Antoinette” (1938).
Marilyn revealed that she has an autographed photo of Norma Shearer, with the inscription:

“To remind you of the good old days at Versailles.”


Marilyn’s first role , aged 4, was in “Women Love Once” and she played the daughter of Paul Lukas.

In “The Conquerors”(1932), Marilyn was yet again in the role of a daughter – this time Richard Dix and Ann Harding were her parents.

Benita Hume was her mother in “Rainbow on the River” (1936), but for once Marilyn wasn’t the sweet young girl but a spoiled brat!

In “Angels  with Dirty Faces”, Marilyn played Ann Sheridan as a child.

In 1940, she was one of Bette Davis’ s students in “All This and Heaven Too.”


With Joan Bennett.

Marilyn had a small role in “Little Women”


In “The Cisco Kid”, Marilyn was described as ‘one of screendom’s youngest heart breakers.’


Marilyn’s mother kept scrapbooks of her daughter’s career.

When Marilyn married in 1946, she left the screen permanently.

From her comments over the years, her years in Hollywood were happy ones for her.




Marilyn in the 1930s and in 2010

Marilyn, in 2010 at the annual Cinecon Classic Film Festival,was presented with an career achievement award by Marsha Hunt.


Marilyn’s 2011 autobiography  covers her life in Hollywood and afterwards. Her father , an attorney , looked after her career. She was never contracted to one studio and went to public school rather than a studio school.

Marilyn has her own website which is

Her daughter has taken all the clippings and pictures Marilyn’s mother saved and digitised  them for the website.


An amazing autographed page by the cast of “DAVID COPPERFIELD..Marilyn signs herself as ‘Little Agnes’.  Other autographs include Lewis Stone: Elizabeth Allen;  Jessie Ralph; Freddie Bartholomew; Edna May Oliver: Madge Evans; Jean Cadell; Lionel Barrymore; W.C.Fields; Roland Young; Basil Rathbone; Hugh Williams; Una O’Connor; Maureen O’ Sullivan.

What a cast!

Each star put their character name after their signature.

Other signatures – George Cukor, David Selznick, Cedric Gibbons , Douglas Shearer and names from make-up( Jack Dawn),camera (Oliver Marsh), Hal C. Kern ( not listed as the film’s editor but he was a supervising editor), Edwin B. Willis (Art Dept.) and   lights, props.

What a rarity! Wonder if it survived.
At the top it says, “For the Use of Hugh Walpole.” Walpole was a novelist who adapted David Copperfield for the screen. The film was his only acting credit, as the Vicar.



A photo on the set of  “The Iron Mistress”  with Alan Ladd  and Gary  Cooper .

But this photo looks like a lobby card which would normally feature scenes from the film. Unusual.

The year is 1952 and Gary made two films that year –  HIGH NOON and SPRINGFIELD  RIFLE.


Alan practices with fencing expert Fred Cavens.


On the set with Virginia Mayo.

This was Alan’s first film at Warner Brothers after his long tenure at Paramount.



Like so many other historical characters, Jim Bowie has appeared in several films over the years.


In “Heroes of the Alamo” (1937), Jim Bowie was played by Roger Williams.  And many years before John Wayne  played Davy Crockett, in he same film, Crockett was played by Lane Chandler.


Lane Chandler as Davy Crockett.


In “The Last Command” (1955),  Sterling Hayden was Bowie.

The above photo has most of the principal players :

Sterling Hayden, Richard Carlson, Ben Cooper, Jim Davis, Slim Pickens, John Russell, and Arthur Hunnicutt as Davy  Crockett.


Sterling Hayden as Jim Bowie.


In “Commanche Territory”,  MacDonald Carey took on the role of Bowie.


Jeff Morrow

In “The First Texan”, Jeff Morrow gave us another Jim Bowie. ( The film starred Joel McCrea as ‘Sam Houston.’)

( Jeff will be remembered for the role of ‘Exeter’ in THIS ISLAND EARTH.)

Faith Domergue, Rex Reason, Jeff Morrow.


And the biggest film to feature Jim Bowie was The Alamo , with Richard Widmark as Bowie.


From 1956 to 1958, Scott Forbes became the famous Bowie.


All the portrayals of Jim Bowie probably had little to do with the real character, but that’s  Hollywood!


It’s the last scene in Tight Spot (1955) and District Attorney Edward G. Robinson has just asked witness Ginger Rogers 

“What is your occupation?”

”At present?   Gang buster!”

It’s a great ending to a film which had all the ingredients to be a top-notch thriller, but, for me, doesn’t quite make it. Not enough Edward G. Robinson, not enough action ,and too long by about 20 minutes.

Ginger plays a jailbird called in to testify against mobster Lorne Greene by the D.A Edward G Robinson. ( She’s in prison for aiding a payroll robbery.)

She’s brought to a swanky hotel, accompanied by prison guard Katherine Anderson and cop Brian Keith. They hope to overcome her legitimate reluctance to testify, even if it means a reduced sentence for her. Several attempts are made on her life.

The film shows its theatrical origins (based on a play “Dead Pigeon”) -there are too many long dialogue scenes where Ginger just talks – and talks!
And yet, the action when it comes is very well done. Plus a good twist near the end.

(The original play, in 1953, only had three cast members – Joan Lorring, Lloyd Bridges, James Gregory. It ran for 21 performances.)

Ginger tries hard to come over as brassy with a tough exterior, but I was always conscious of her ‘acting’. I just don’t think the part suited her, though she worked hard to be convincing.

Just before the final scene, Ginger makes it clear she isn’t afraid of gangster, Lorne Greene. ( I’d have liked more scenes with Greene.)


There just not enough of Edward G. Robinson in the film.  Most of the scenes take place in the hotel room with Ginger  and Brian Keith .

Robinson was just getting his career back on track after the McCarthy era and had made 5 films in 1955 including Hell on Frisco Bay and Illegal.



Brian Keith

Brian Keith’s career was mainly in television, but he showed here  that he was perfect for film noir – laid back, professional and hard- boiled.

I was sorry to read that Brian committed suicide in 1997 after a long illness and the death (also suicide) a few months before of his daughter.


Katherine Anderson

Katharine Anderson came over very well as the quiet prison guard who takes a bullet for Ginger. There is very little on IMDB about Katherine, only two films listed , the other being Queen Bee. 


The budding romance between the prisoner and the policeman.



Publicity shot for the film, with Brian Keith holding  the dress Ginger has admired in a shop window.

So, who would I see in the Ginger Rogers role? Well, I’d think of Ida Lupino, Jean Peters, Jan Sterling – or on a ‘B’ movie level, I  can picture Myrna Dell or Mary Beth Hughes , all of whom would be more convincing to me – and wouldn’t need to  put on an accent – I was conscious of Ginger trying to sound like a working class dame who never had much schooling.

Having just watched NOCTURNE again, I’d go for Myrna Dell who knows how to throw a verbal stinger with ease!

Myrna Dell