Friday, July 21, 2017

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Pile up! Pile up! This fellow is heading right into a mob of bicyclists that aren't looking down at the road like they should be. If you are a fan of one of the actors in this film, you'll recognize this scene right away.... otherwise it might be impossibly difficult to remember just what film you saw this pile up in! 

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Scaramouche ( 1952 )

"He was born with the gift of laughter and the sense that the world was mad"

Raphael Sabatini's classic 1921 novel "Scaramouche" was made into three film adaptations over the years, including a 1956 television series, but hands down this Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer version starring the engaging English actor Stewart Granger tops them all. Why? Because the film accomplished that rare feat of improving upon the novel it was based on. Scaramouche ranks as one of the best swashbuckling films of the 1950s, and even boasts the longest and most intricate fencing duel in Hollywood's history. 

Stewart Granger stars as our dashing hero Andre-Louis Moreau, a young lawyer who dedicates years of his life to avenge the death of his best friend ( Richard Anderson ) who was killed in a duel by the Marquis de la Tour d'Azyr ( Mel Ferrer ), a master swordsman. He joins a traveling theatre group where he dons the mask of Scaramouche, the star comedian, in order to hide from the Marquis' soldiers who have ordered Andre arrested as a revolutionary. Even with his dogged determination to pin down the Marquis, Andre takes time off from his fencing lessons to woo Lenore ( Eleanor Parker ), a flaming red-headed actress and Aline de Gavrillac ( Janet Leigh ), the pretty young ward of the Marquis. 

"But who is Scaramouche? And why does he hide his face behind a mask?"
Scaramouche plunges the audience right into the action from the on-start, packing a lot of story in its 115-minute run time. It features a marvelous cast, excellent cinematography, stunning costumes and sets ( credit Gile Steele and Cedric Gibbons, respectively ), and a lovely Victor Young score ( the end music is especially apropos ). In short, it's a rousing good swashbuckler! 

Veteran director George Sidney, who was especially adept at filming musicals ( Anchors Aweigh, The Harvey Girls, Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss Me Kate ), took the helm of this classic, staging all of the sword-fighting sequences as though they were dance numbers. These fencing "ballets" are a highlight of this colorful film and the climatic eight-minute duel sequence between Granger and Ferrer is justly famous for it took these actors eight weeks of training to get their fencing movements precise. 

"Scaramouche, you have just given your last performance!"

European fencing champion Jean Heremans provided Stewart Granger with fencing lessons and he delighted in doing all of his own stunts. Granger was ideally cast as the rakish lad born with the gift of laughter. He brought a playful exuberance to the character which was a key element in bringing Sabatini's novel to life. 

Granger had seen the original 1923 silent version ( starring Ramon Navarro and Lewis Stone ) as a child and when he was offered a contract by MGM, he signed it on the condition that Scaramouche would be developed as a project for him. 

The studio had toyed with remaking the film for years, first in 1938 with Fernand Gravet, and then as a possible musical version with Gene Kelly or Fernando Lamas in the starring role, so when Granger suggested the book as a vehicle for himself it was swiftly put into production. Since MGM studios always treated novel-based films with reverence, Scaramouche went to the top of their release schedule as an A-picture. 
Elizabeth Taylor was originally slated to play the part of Aline de Gavrillac, but had to turn down the role because she was already signed for another picture. Ava Gardner was also to have been in the film, in Eleanor Parker's role. However, this was a fortunate swap for Eleanor Parker is excellent as the feisty Lenore. 

Rounding out the cast was Henry Wilcoxon, Nina Foch ( as Marie Antoinette ), Lewis Stone, Robert Coote, and Elisabeth Risdon. 


This post is our contribution to The Swashathon being hosted by Movies Silently. Be sure to head on over to Movies Silently site to check out other great reviews of classic swashbuckling films. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Yellow Jack ( 1938 )

For hundreds of years people on the island of Cuba - and throughout other parts south of the equator - were dying of yellow fever, a disease that many doctors believed was unpreventable and, if not caught in time, incurable. What baffled these men of medicine the most was the fact that they were unable to determine what triggered yellow fever. Was it caused by germs in the air? Bad food? Sweat from dirty clothing? Was the disease something that spread from person to person? 

According to MGM's Yellow Jack, all these questions were answered in 1898 when, at a United States Marine camp in Cuba, three doctors ( Lewis Stone, Henry Hull, Stanley Ridges ), along with the aid of five brave guinea pigs....ahem, volunteer soldiers....tested out the theory of Dr. Finlay, a Scotsman who believed that yellow fever came from the bite of an infected mosquito. Other scientists felt this was the likely cause, too, but with over 700 species of mosquitoes on the island, they didn't even know where to begin their investigations as to which species was the culprit. Thankfully, Dr. Finlay ( Charles Coburn ) made the study of those bugs his life's work and had solved that mystery years prior. Now, with five plucky soldiers on hand ( Robert Montgomery, Alan Curtis, Sam Levene, Buddy Ebsen, and William Henry ) he was given the opportunity to put his theories into action. 
Yellow Jack was based upon the 1934 Sidney Howard-Paul de Kruif play of the same name, which starred James Stewart in the lead role as the Irish sergeant John O'Hara. It was his performance in this play that led to him coming out to Hollywood and signing an MGM contract. He could have done an excellent job with this part, but Robert Montgomery was given the lead instead and unknowing film audiences didn't mind the change for Yellow Jack did fairly well at the box-office. Robert Montgomery and Henry Hull ( certainly an underrated actor ) both give good performances and George B. Seitz directs the action with a steady hand. Both Seitz and Louis Stone were probably enjoying this trek in the jungle as a change of pace from the Andy Hardy films. 
Pretty Virginia Bruce, the only female lead in the film, portrays the nurse whom Robert Montgomery's heart thumps for. He's not as concerned about finding a cure for yellow fever, as much as finding a cure for the love-bug. He fails to realize that the interest she pays to him is merely out of her itching desire to find a soldier willing to stake his life for the cause of science and humankind. But ultimately, she falls for the winsome ways of the sergeant and comes to admire his selflessness as much as the audience does. 

For a decade after the release of The Story of Louis Pasteur in 1935, "medical discovery" pictures were a popular genre. These films usually featured stellar casts, engrossing scripts, and a touch of romance. Yellow Jack embraces all these aspects, too, with an added bit o' Irish humor. It is well worth watching on a hot and sticky day....just be sure to have your mosquito netting handy. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

From the Archives : Old Yeller ( 1957 )


Dorothy McGuire is spending a little bonding time off the set of Old Yeller with her leading player, Spike, in this rare candid photo. Spike portrayed "Old Yeller" in the 1957 Walt Disney classic. He later moved on to television work, appearing as a regular in The Westerner and a few episodes of Lassie

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Nugget Reviews - 23

Johannisnacht ( 1956 )  14k 


An opera singer divorces her husband shortly after an extended performing tour in America. Years later, she returns to Germany to see her daughter whom her husband hid away in a chalet in the valley. Willy Birgel, Hertha Feiler, Erik Schumann, Sonja Sutter, Wolfgang Grunner. MGM Pictures. Directed by Harald Reinl.

A sweet romance from Delos-Film studios. Austrian-born Hertha Feiler, who often starred in comedies with her husband Heinz Ruhmann, is given a decent dramatic part here and the location filming of this "Heimatfilm" is beautiful. There is also a nice sub-romance going on between Erik Schumann and Sonja Sutter. 

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A Royal Scandal ( 1945 ) Elect.


A young idealistic lieutenant warns Catherine the Great of treachery within her court. She finds his loyalty and good looks very appealing and makes him her boy-toy, much to the chagrin of his true love, Queen Catherine's lady-in-waiting, Anna. Tallulah Bankhead, Charles Coburn, Anne Baxter, William Eythe, Vincent Price, Mischa Auer. 20th Century Fox Pictures. Directed by Otto Preminger and Ernst Lubitsch.

Ernst Lubitsch was a master at creating frothy comedies. He reached his prime in the early 1930s with such classics as Monte Carlo, The Smiling Lieutenant, One Hour with You and Ninotchka, but even he couldn't save this film from Preminger's heavy-handed direction. While there were a few amusing sequences in A Royal Scandal, overall the comedy seemed force. Tallulah Bankhead gave a grand performance as Catherine the Great, with some excellent support from character actors Charles Coburn and Sig Ruman, in spite of the circumstances.

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King Richard and the Crusaders ( 1954 ) 14k.


While encamped in the Holy Land, two noblemen plot to murder Richard the Lionheart and make his death appear to be from a Saracen attack, but his loyal knight Sir Kenneth discovers the plan. Rex Harrison, Laurence Harvey, George Sanders, Virginia Mayo, Robert Douglas. Warner Brothers. Directed by David Butler. 

Rex Harrison and Laurence Harvey give engrossing performances in this otherwise run-of-the-mill Crusades adventure, based upon Sir Walter Scott's novel "The Talisman". George Sanders makes an unconvincing King Richard, and Virginia Mayo's presence serves merely as eye-candy, but the Technicolor is beautiful and it's fun watching Rex Harrison tackle an Arab role.

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Scaramouche ( 1923 ) Elect.


A quiet French lawyer becomes a revolutionary after a nobleman kills his friend in a duel. Ramon Navarro, Alice Terry, Lewis Stone, Julia Swayne Gordon. Metro Pictures. Directed by Rex Ingram.

Production standards were high in this Rex Ingram silent classic, but the film fails to capture the excitement of Rafael Sabatini's novel and lingers on a bit too long. The zest that Stewart Granger brought to the part of Andre Moreau in the 1952 remake was non-existent in Novarro's portrayal. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford would have been ideal casting choices instead. However, the French Revolution sequences at the climax were truly hair-raising.

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The Toy Wife ( 1938 ) 14k


A flirtatious and frivolous Southern belle marries her sister's serious-minded fiancee. He later comes to regret not having found himself a more sensible wife. Luise Rainer, Melvyn Douglas, Barbara O'Neil, Robert Young, Alma Kruger. MGM Pictures. Directed by Richard Thorpe.

Luise Rainer was fresh from her Oscar-winning performance in The Good Earth when she starred in The Toy Wife, MGM's consolation project after losing the book rights to Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind". This southern belle story put the spotlight on Rainer, allowing her - as "Frou-Frou" - to swoosh her hoop skirts around New Orleans and playfully toy with the heart-strings of not one, but two, gentlemen. It makes for engrossing soap. Barbara O'Neil earned the role of Ellen ( Scarlett's mother ) in Gone with the Wind, thanks to her performance in this film as Frou-Frou's sister. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation

Back in 1958, Hugh O'Brian, the handsome star of the popular western television series Wyatt Earp received a cable from Dr. Albert Schweitzer, a renowned humanitarian who was currently working in a hospital he built on the banks of the Ogooue River in French Equatorial Africa. The message simply read that Schweitzer would welcome O'Brian at any time for a visit. So Hugh packed his bags and was off to Africa, by bush plane and then canoe, where he spent nine days observing first hand volunteer doctors and nurses caring for patients and working without electricity or running water. 

Dr. Schweitzer was impressed that the young television star took the trouble to visit him and Hugh was impressed with the doctor's work. Every evening he shared stories and life lessons with him, stirring within him the importance of having young people think for themselves. Schweitzer believed that the United States should take a leadership role in achieving peace and that there was an urgency for change. "Hugh, what are you going to do with this?" he asked the cowboy star as he departed. Well, Hugh was a man of action and within two weeks he had outlined a prototype seminar for young leaders and formed the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership ( HOBY ), a non-profit organization. 

HOBY's format for acheiving this mission was relatively simple : bring a select group of high school sophomores with demonstrated leadership abilities together along with a group of distinguished leaders in business, education, government, and other professions, and let the two interact. It gave these students a realistic look at what it takes to be a true leader, thus better enabling them “to think for themselves.”

"I believe every person is created as the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose: to share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love." - Hugh O'Brian

The organization is still active today and has even spread to Canada, Asia, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and the Philippines. Had Hugh O'Brian not taken the initiative to fly to Africa and meet with Dr. Schweitzer in 1958 he may never have begun HOBY, and yet, because he did take action, his organization has helped more than 400,000 students find the confidence they needed to become leaders.  

To learn more about HOBY, check out their website : www.hoby.org

This post is a part of our latest series entitled "Did You Know?".....sometimes we just feel like sharing interesting fragments of television and movie history and now we have a place to do just that. If you have a hot tip that you would like us to share on Silver Scenes, drop us a line!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summer Magic ( 1963 )

Kate Douglas Wiggin's popular 1911 novel "Mother Carey's Chickens" was an ideal bit of literary property for Walt Disney Studios. It featured genteel characters, old-fashioned humor, a sweet story line, and a healthy dose of gaps in the plot ideal for musical intervals.

The story centered around a widowed mother ( Dorothy McGuire ) from Boston who moves her brood out of the city and into a long-vacant farmhouse in Maine. With the generous help of the local general store owner/postman/justice-of-the-peace Osh Popham ( Burl Ives ), they renovate the house unbeknownst to its owner, Tom Hamilton ( Peter Brown ), who is away in China. When Mr. Hamilton returns, he certainly is surprised to find his house being occupied by a family ( and rent free, at that! ).....but he soon comes to be smitten with the eldest daughter and everything turns out honky-dory. 

When Walt Disney decided to film the story in 1963 as Summer Magic, he gathered together some of his favorite leading players ( Hayley Mills, Dorothy McGuire, and Deborah Walley ) and a crackerjack pair of homespun character actors ( Burl Ives and Una Merkel ), dressed them up in colorful Bill Thomas period costumes, and surrounded them with bright and cheerful Carroll Clark sets. But he felt the story still needed some extra pizzazz, and so he asked the Sherman Brothers to pen some nostalgic-sounding tunes.... they came up with seven songs ( you could always trust the Sherman brothers to give more than what was needed ). What resulted was a pleasing, albeit fluffy, version of "Mother Carey's Chickens".
Summer Magic is a leisurely paced film that meanders along like sleepy folk heading home from an evening picnic. It captures that gentle lazy spirit of summer but not in so entertaining a way as Disney's own Pollyanna ( 1960 ) or MGM's Two Weeks with Love ( 1950 ). 

While the songs are fabulous ( especially noteworthy are "On the Front Porch", "The Ugly-Bug Ball", and "Femininity" ), the clever little touches of humor that are present in most Disney films was lacking, and both Hayley Mills and Deborah Walley's talents were wasted in parts that could have had more punch. The few scenes they played together were fun - especially the summer party croquet sequence - but there simply weren't enough of them. Screenwriter Sally Benson is at fault here, which is unusual considering she was the talented writer behind Meet Me in St. Louis ( 1944 ), Junior Miss ( 1946 ), and Come to the Stable ( 1949 ). 
Still, Hayley is a delight to watch and, even with the absence of the traditional Disney sparkle, sitting back with Summer Magic makes a pleasant way to spend a hot summer evening. Also cast in the film were Eddie Hodges, Michael J. Pollard, James Stacey, Peter Brown, and Jimmy Mathers ( younger brother to Jerry "Beaver" Mathers ). 
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