GARBO’S BACK!

Well, that’s what producer Walter Wanger  hoped when he signed the long retired Garbo to a one-picture deal  in 1949.

Their idea was to film the novel, “La Duchesse de Langeais” by Honore de  Balzac.  ( which had already been filmed in France in  1942 with Edwige Feuillere), and in a silent version.)

James Mason signed on as Garbo’s costar, and Max Ophuls was to direct the film in Italy ( where a lot of the financing was coming  from).

Although she hadn’t made a film since 1941, it sounds like Garbo wanted to get back to the period drama/tragedy she was famous for in the 1930s. The Duchess is a socialite in Parisian aristocracy,unhappily married and embarking on an affair which will bring her downfall.

Finances for the film began to unravel and eventually Garbo pulled out.

But in attempts to encourage organisations to invest in the project, Garbo did some screen tests in 1949, filmed by some of Hollywood’s best cinematographers – William Daniels, Joseph Valentine and James Wong Howe.
The footage of these tests disappeared until 1989 and excerpts can be seen below.
Garbo was 44 at the time and looks amazing, just a pity there is no sound.

They even had a ad campaign slogan – Garbo’s Back, (following on from Garbo Talks! Garbo Laughs!)

It was a comeback that was never to be and one wonders why Garbo even considered it. She had a good life, living in New York and travelling the world when she wanted to.

Also at this time Billy Wilder approached her for the role of Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”, but she declined that role leading to a sensational performance from Gloria Swanson. 

 

 

The French actress Edwige Feillere was unknown to me, though I recall an old friend  speaking admiringly of her. On You Tube I found a Rank Organisation film she did in Britain in 1948, “Woman Hater”, with Stewart Granger. She, like Garbo, was about 44 at the time and was charming in this light comedy.

 

 

 

 

GROUCHO vs WARNER BROTHERS

Groucho Marx

Reading “The Groucho Letters” (1967), it’s clear Groucho Marx was a prolific letter writer – to magazines, his doctor, T.S.Eliot, Howard Hughes, Irving Berlin, Presidents – and Warner Brothers.

When the Marx Brothers were about to film A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA, there were threats of legal action from the Warner Brothers studio.

Here is Groucho’s  1946  letter :

Dear Warner Brothers:

Up to the time that we contemplated making this picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers….I just don’t understand your attitude . Even if you plan on re-releasing your picture, I am sure the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

You claim you own Casablanca and that no one can use that name without your permission. What about “Warner Brothers”? Do you own that,too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about Brothers?  Professionally we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as The Marx Brothers when Vitaphone  was still a gleam in the inventor’s eye.

And even before us there had been other brothers – the Brothers Karamazov, Dan Brothers ( an outfielder with Detroit), and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime”…

Now,Jack, how about you ?  Do you maintain that yours is an original name? Well, it’s not. Offhand, I  can think of two Jacks – there was Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and Jack the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day.

As for you, Harry, you probably sign your checks, sure in the belief that you are the first Harry of all time and that all other Harry’s are imposters. I can think of two Harry’s that preceded you. There was Lighthouse Harry of Revolutionary fame, and a Harry Appelbaum who lived on the corner of 93rd Street and Lexington Avenue.

Now about the Burbank  studio. I believe this is what you brothers call your place. Old man Burbank is gone. He was a great man in the garden…..a wizard at crossing fruits and vegetables until he had the poor plants in such a confused and jittery condition that they could never decide whether to enter the dining room on the meat platter or the desert dish.

This is pure conjecture of course, but who knows – perhaps Burbank’s survivors aren’t too happy with the fact that a plant that grinds out pictures on a quota settled in their town, appropriated Burbank’s name and uses it as a front for their films. It is even possible that the Burbank  family is prouder of the potato produced by the old man than they are of the fact that from your studio emerged “Casablanca “ or even “Gold Diggers of 1931.”

…..I love Warner Brothers, some of my best friends are Warner Brothers……I have a hunch that this attempt to prevent us from using the title is the brain child of some ferret-faced shyster, serving a brief apprenticeship in your legal dept. Well he won’t get away with it! ….. we’ll fight him to the highest court…no pasty faced legal adventurer is going to cause bad blood between the Warners and the Marxes. We are all brothers under the skin and we’ll remain friends till the last reel of “A Night in Casablanca “ goes tumbling over the spool.

 

Actually, Warners didn’t threaten litigation. It was a  Groucho publicity stunt, and  his letter ( and two follow-up letters )were published in the Saturday Evening Post.

Apparently Warners merely enquired about the plot line in case there were any copyright infringements.

Another Groucho/ Warners joke was that Groucho said Warners’ NIGHT AND DAY” infringed on two Marx Brothers titles – “A NIGHT AT THE OPERA” and “A DAY AT THE RACES.”

 

 

The 1923 song, ‘Who’s Sorry Now’ ( by Ted Snyder, Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby) was sung in the film by Lisette Verea, in her only Hollywood film. Kalmar and Ruby had written songs for earlier Marx Brothers films).

The film was originally intended as a parody of “Casablanca”, and in an early draft, Groucho’s character was called ‘Humphrey Bogus’.

Set after the war, Groucho runs the Hotel  Casablanca , and Sig Ruman is a former Nazi who is after treasure hidden in the hotel.

Sig Ruman, Harpo Marx

One holdover from “Casablanca “ was Dan Seymour playing the Prefect of Police.

Dan Seymour

But seriously, Warner Brothers had nothing to worry about !

 

There was also a suggestion that Harpo might talk in the film. His response to a reporter was:

“ I’ve spent 25 years creating the illusion that I can’t talk. No matter what you write, they won’t believe it’s me talking. They’ll think you made it up.”

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Double Indemnity “

One of the classic lines from DOUBLE INDEMNITY:

Edward G. Robinson as Barton Keyes to Fred MacMurray ( Walter Neff):

“I picked you for the job, not because I think you’re so darn smart, but because I thought you were a shade less dumb than the rest of the outfit.

Guess I was wrong. You’re not smarter, Walter, you’re just a little taller.”

 

You can hear Edward G. Robinson’s resigned tone.Neff has been like a son to him, he mentored Neff, he expected  him to go far in the insurance business. Instead he finds that Neff is a killer.

Edward G. Robinson

 

Fred MacMurray

 

And the blonde who set the drama in motion.

Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray

STRAIGHT AT YOU!

Many  star photos  usually have the stars gazing off into the distance.But the following  find the actors looking straight at you.

 

Ann Sheridan

One of my favourite films, EDGE OF DARKNESS. Ann Sheridan helps lead the resistance to the Germans in Norway during WW2. Who is that little guy on the right.

 

Cary Grant

 

 

Jean Peters

Jean Peters (1926-2000) so good in PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET. A career cut short when she married Howard Hughes. By 1955 she had made 20 films but left films at the age of 29 and didn’t make another film till 1973.
Her final marriage to producer Stan Hough lasted from 1971 till his death in 1990.

 

George Raft

A threatening look from Mr. Raft.

 

 

Lizabeth Scott

 

Paul Douglas, Linda Darnell

My favourite couple in  A LETTER TO THREE WIVES.

 

Joel McCrea

Always the hero.

 

Cornel Wilde, Ida Lupino, Richard Widmark.ROAD HOUSE.

 

Barbara Stanwyck.

 

One of the few times when you see Robert Montgomery who was behind the camera in LADY IN THE LAKE. With Audrey Totter .

 

 

George Brent

 

 

Charles McGraw  in HIS KIND OF WOMAN.  Not a big role but he is always impressive.

 

Susan Hayward

Nice snap of Susan. Could have been a fan taking it.

 

Joseph Cotten

Always remembered in SHADOW OF A DOUBT.

 

Burt Lancaster, John  Hoyt, Jeff Corey.BRUTE FORCE. Nice to see John  Hoyt front and centre. 

 

 

Rita as Gilda.

 

 

Judith Anderson.REBECCA

A face you don’t want looking you in the eye! Not a welcoming look.Poor Joan Fontaine.

CARY GRANT: Name Dropping

The following article comes from FILMS IN REVIEW magazine , written by Michael Buckley:

I’ve added illustrations.


Judy, Judy, Judy”. He never said the line, but millions who imitated him did.

As Sergeant Cutter in GUNGA DIN, he blithely informed a cult of killers who filled a temple – “You’re all under arrest”…..

As C. K. Dexter Haven in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY”, he flattened Katharine Hepburn’s Tracy Lord for breaking his golf club…….

As Roger Adams in PENNY SERENADE , he pleaded with a judge to keep his adopted daughter.

GUNGA  DIN

With Irene Dunne. PENNY SERENADE

 

As David Huxley, a paleontologist searching for an intercostal  clavicle in BRINGING UP BABY, he played straight man to Hepburn and a leopard……..

And we remember him as Johnny Case  who wanted to retire young and take a HOLIDAY…….

he was George Kerby, the spirit-ed friend in TOPPER……

and editor Walter Burns, giving rapid fire instructions to ex-wife Rosalind Russell’s Hildy Johnson in HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

BRINGING UP BABY

 

 

With Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy.HIS GIRL FRIDAY

 

As Irene Dunne’s soon-to-divorced mate in THE AWFUL TRUTH and her about-to-be wed-again spouse in MY FAVOURITE  WIFE…….

as Mr.Lucky, Mr. Blandings, Cole Porter……and an Angel named Dudley and a male war bride…….Poppy Rose and Dr. Noah Praetorious.

 

MR LUCKY

 

With Ann Sheridan.I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE.

 

With Finlay Currie.PEOPLE WILL TALK

 

For his favourite director Hitchcock, he explored a wine cellar with Ingrid Bergman in NOTORIOUS, caused Joan Fontaine to have SUSPICION, dodged a crop-dusting plane and played hide-and-seek on Mount Rushmore in  NORTH BY NORTHWEST.

 

With Ingrid Bergman.NOTORIOUS

 

NORTH BY NORTHWEST

 

Audrey Hepburn, in CHARADE, asked him,

“Do you know what’s wrong with you?”.
“No, what?” he responded.

“Nothing!”

 


He wouldn’t choose a best performance, but stated that his worst was as Mortimer Brewster in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE.

 

And there were the parts he didn’t play: Norman Maine in A STAR IS BORN (salary demands were too high); William Holden’s role in THE BRIDGE ON THE KWAI ( he took too long to decide); THE MUSIC MAN ( he told Jack Warner that he wouldn’t even see the movie if Robert Preston didn’t recreate his stage role of Harold Hill ; MY FAIR LADY ( he didn’t think anyone could do better than Rex Harrison.)

 

 

THE ROONEY – PIDGEON – SKELTON Blues

Was pleased to find this ditty sung by Greer Garson, Judy Garland and Lucille Ball during a WW2 war bond rally, possibly in 1943. The lyrics were supposedly penned by the gals  themselves, and it was dubbed  “The Rooney-Pidgeon-Skelton Blues.”

A comedy plea against  typecasting.

Not  sure what tune was used, though the first line can go with “Three Little Maids” from “The Mikado.”

 

Judy Garland, (Fred Astaire?)Greer Garson, Betty Hutton, Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball, Spencer Tracy.

 

All: We’re three little maids from Hollywood ,
We want to do things we never should,

They never let us have our fling

We always do the same old thing.

JUDY:

      I’m Mickey Rooney’s girl friend.

GREER:

     I’m Walter Pidgeon’s wife.

LUCILLE:

      I’m Red Skelton’s sidekick.

All: And we’re stuck with them for life.

JUDY:

I sing to Mr Gable but he’s never really there

I’m longing to enchant him with sophisticated flair

But every time I turn I turn around , Andy Hardy’s in my hair.

GREER:

I’d like to go cavorting with some charming Mr. Deeds, and slink around in gowns with several modern well-placed beads.

But all I get is a bustles-flannel nighties- widows’s weeds!

All: There’s no escape – you’re  stuck with that for life.

LUCILLE:

I’d love to play dramatic roles with diction terse and clipped,

To chew the scenery into shreds with stark and sombre script,

But I’m always with Red Skelton, being flipped and tripped and stripped!

All: What good is versatility when we can’t show our ability, To do the sort of thing we would enjoy.

Greer: I’m stuck with domesticity.

Lucille: And I with burlesquicity.

Judy: And I’m so gosh darned busy being  coy.

All: Three girls who are tired of it all.we can’t get away from those three leading men. We finish up a picture, then we’re with them again.

Greer: In aprons!

Lucille: In spangles!

Judy: In socks!

  • I’m Garson
  • I’m Garland
  • I’m Ball.

 

If only it had been recorded. Maybe it was! Bloodhounds at the ready.

 

Lucille and Greer

 

(Bob commented below and also highlighted this photo  of all the stars on the war bond tour.)

 

 

JUDY GARLAND ANNIVERSARY

June,2022 is the hundredth anniversary of Judy Garland’s birth.

Judy’s career is a wealth of wonderful performances, in musicals, comedies, dramas. She could do it all.
And of course she sang so many memorable songs. My favourites include “The Man That Got Away”, “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”, “Better Luck Next Time”, “Gotta Have Me Go With You”.

 

A STAR IS BORN

 

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS

 

THE WIZARD OF OZ

 

And here’s Judy in action.

GIRL CRAZY 1943

 

With Mickey Rooney,WORDS AND MUSIC

 

The following photos are from the excellent Judy Garland website , thejudyroom.com

 

It’s 1937, I’LL TAKE ROMANCE with Grace Moore and Melvyn Douglas is on screen. And Judy,aged 15, is appearing in person. Would love to know what she did on stage back then.

The Astor Theatre on the left has IN OLD CHICAGO.

 

Coming in August,2022 from Sepia Records:

TRACK LIST:

 

Further to comments from Greg and Bob, I found this photo of Judy with Edith Piaf and Ginger Rogers . Judy, Ginger plus Sonia Henie and Faye Emerson  were attending Piaf’s opening at the Versailles night club in New York in Sept. 1950.

Also in attendance that night were Robert Montgomery,Yvonne de Carlo, Dan Dailey.

( details from judygarlandnews.com)

Edith Piaf, Judy, Ginger Rogers

VINTAGE LOS ANGELES

I came across this nostalgic video of Los Angeles. It appeared  on You Tube ten years ago by Alison Martino whose YT channel is called “Vintage Los Angeles”.

We can pin the time period down to 1948 as Bette Davis’s June Bride is showing at the Warners cinema; also “Born to Kill” from 1947 and “The Stranger”.

The Hollywood Hotel looks luxurious and we can see the entrance to Paramount Studios; the MGM sign;  RKO at Culver City;

Hollywood Boulevard doesn’t look busy, everyone is well dressed; a taxi driver waits for a fare outside the Hollywood Hotel.

The Knickerbocker Hotel , built in 1923, was popular with stars. It is now the Knickerbocker Apartments for retirees.

The Hollywood Hotel was built in 1902 and lasted till 1956.

There is a sign we only see a part of – PECK-LAUG….

Any ideas?

It’s three minutes capturing old Hollywood. And in color. Wonderful.

GARDEN OF ALLAH (1936)

………You’ll hear me say from time  to time what a shame a film ( usually a musical or a western) wasn’t in color. Technicolor was available in Hollywood in the 1930s, but only used sparingly.

I recently watched The Garden Of Allah   for the first time. What a feast for the eye.And showing that Technicolor in the early 1930s was already perfected. I’m not sure why it wasn’t used more – cost and lack of Technicolor cameras I’ve read.

I think this film would be even more admired , but it was let down by a script which really didn’t amount to much. Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer trying to ‘find themselves’ in the African desert. Marlene, an heiress who has led a sheltered life, Boyer, a Trappist monk with a crisis of faith.

A terrific supporting  cast including a sympathetic Basil Rathbone (that didn’t happen often!), the wonderful Joseph Schildkraut as an Arab guide,  John Carradine, Sir C. Aubrey Smith (and a young Marcia Mae Jones and Bonita Granville.)

Filmed partly in Yuma, Arizona by Selznick International Pictures, the visuals ( including an incredible costume range for Marlene) are everything- including many stunning close -ups of Marlene.

But in the end, I didn’t actually get to the end!  It was so grindingly slow with so little action.

The film won a special Oscar for color cinematography, and Max Steiner was nominated for his music score.

 

 

 

 

 

No, it’s not The Desert Song.

Not much smiling from the two stars in the film.

The film’s director was Richard Boleslawski (1899-1937) who sadly died of a heart attack during the filming of THE LAST OF MRS.CHEYNEY (1937). Born in Poland, he came to Hollywood in 1929 and directed THE PAINTED  VEIL, LES MISERABLES, CLIVE OF INDIA, THEODORA GOES WILD.

Richard Boleslawski

 

 

Melvyn Douglas, Irene Dunne, Richard Boleslawski.THEODORA GOES WILD.

 

 

THE GARDEN OF ALLAH HOTEL:

The famed hotel on Sunset Boulevard was originally a private residence bought by silent star Alla Nazimova (1879-1945)  in 1919 and converted it into a hotel in 1927 (the star  then  sold it in 1930 ).

Containing private bungalows, the hotel became very popular with Hollywood stars ,  but by 1959 the hotel was demolished.

 

 

Based on a 1904 novel by English writer Robert Hichens, there were two silent versions of the novel, in 1916 and 1927.

 

Robert Hichens also wrote The Paradine Case in 1933 .Hitchcock made the film version in 1947.

“The Garden of Allah”, according to IMDB , was the third feature made in color – after BECKY SHARP(1935) and DANCING PIRATE (1936).
During the 1930s several films, like THE CAT  AND THE FIDDLE, LA CUCARACHA had color sequences.

In 1939 there were 13 three-strip Technicolor films; 15 in 1940 and 19 in 1941 – very small percentages of all films released.

THE MYRNA LOY CENTER

Nice to know there is a tribute to Myrna Loy in her home town of Helena, Montana.

The Myrna Loy Center for the Performing Arts was the former Lewis and Clark County Jail which was built in 1894.

 

The granite jailhouse closed in the early 1980s and was transformed into an arts center. In 1990 Myrna Loy, who had kept ties with her home town, agreed to the naming of the arts Center and to the use of her image.

 

Myrna was born Myrna Adele Williams in 1905. After the death of her father, the family moved to Hollywood when she was 13.

She took the surname Loy for her career as it seemed to suit better the roles she started to get in movies, playing exotic women.

Myrna died in 1993 and her ashes were interred at the Forestvale Cemetery in Helena.

 

Not so keen on this image .

I also came across an article about the Arts Center which said it was named after “a starlet out of Helena.”!

The Center has concerts, films, art exhibits. Haven’t established if they have shown many of Myrna’s  films.

Helena, Montana was also the birthplace of Gary Cooper.

 

One of my favourites of Myrna’s  films, THE RAINS CAME.

 

And probably Myrna’s most famous role, as part of the husband and wife sleuthing team, Nick and Nora Charles.

With William Powell and Asta.THE THIN MAN

 

I discovered this photo of a building named after Myrna at Sony Pictures ( the former MGM studios). The photo was taken by the Clark Gable blogger  at dearmrgable.com.

(And just behind is the Clark Gable building.)