Friday, October 22, 2021

The Addams Family Mugs - The Mystery of Charles Addams' Halloween Mugmates

Back in 1964, the Pan-American Coffee Bureau released an ad that featured some eye-catching custom-designed mugs by Charles Addams. As most television fans are well aware of, Charles Addams was a cartoonist whose bizarre and yet amusing characters "The Addams" became the basis for a popular 1964 television series, The Addams Family, starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones. 

I first saw this ad in a graphic design book about 15 years ago and liked the mugs immediately. Every year when Halloween came around, I remembered the mugs and thought how nice it would be to find them at a second-hand store or rummage sale....but no such luck. So I finally searched for them on eBay and, again, came up with no results. That's when I decided to look at that graphic design book again and read the ad more closely. It appears that Mugmates were blank mugs that you could draw on. The ad was not promoting a set of Charles Addams mugs to purchase but rather giving you inspiration if you wanted to create your own matching coffee cups. "How interesting!" I thought. "I wonder what other famous artists created Mugmate designs?" That was another thought that led to a dead-end because I was not able to find other custom-designed Mugmates. But what I did discover was a very interesting radio broadcast from another curiousity-seeker that shared of the story of these Mugmates. Believe it or not, there was even a song written about them! 

Check it out here! 

The Mystery of Mugmates - https://www.pri.org/stories/2019-12-19/mystery-mugmates

It remains a mystery as to where these particular Charles Addams mugs reside today, but if I had to bet money I would say the Tee & Charles Addams Foundation have the set tucked away in a box in their archives. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

From the Archives: The Wolf Man ( 1942 )


Poor Larry Talbot, all he wanted was to enjoy himself at the gypsy fair with his newfound sweetheart.  Instead, he got himself cursed and covered from head to toe with hair.....wolf's hair! In this publicity photo from The Wolf Man ( 1942 ), Lon Chaney Jr. dons the makeup of the wolfman and strikes this great pose with a bare tree. 

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

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Clifton Webb's Bachelor Abode

In the 1950s there was a great film magazine called Film Show that released an annual book filled with articles written by the stars themselves or as they so aptly subtitled it "The Stars Tell Their Own Stories". Whether or not the actors really did write these articles does not matter because they are very entertaining to read regardless. One which we will share with you below is by Clifton Webb who decided to tell his fans a little bit about his "bachelor abode". This one does indeed seem to be written with the haughtiness/snobbery you would expect from Mr. Belvedere or Waldo Lydecker. 

____________________________________

When I first arrived in Hollywood to make Laura all I had was a solitary suitcase in my hand. With me were my mother and Earnest, my French poodle. 20th Century-Fox had persuaded me to sign a contract. They liked a test they had made of me for a part in Laura. Otto Preminger, who had seen me in "Blithe Spirit" when it played in Los Angeles, had suggested the test. While he was finishing the script of Laura I was still on the road tour of "Blithe Spirit". Word reached me that I was needed at 20th to begin work on Laura

Spring floods sweeping the Middle West disarranged all train schedules, and in the upset my six trunkfuls of wardrobe were lost en route. They caught up with me later, but in the meantime we settled in the house I had leased from Constance Bennett. It had twenty-two rooms, a tennis court, and a swimming pool. 

When I decided to settle in Hollywood, I bought my own place - a Spanish-style home [ Author's note: This house was located at 1005 Rexford Drive and was once owned by Grace Moore. Webb claimed it was haunted by her but we'll cover that story in another post ]. Eventually, instead of building a new house, I set about changing the architecture and some of the interior. What I have achieved is rather a mystery as far as style goes - perhaps it has some relation to Georgian, but it is just what I wanted as bachelor quarters. A new house could hardly have cost more. However, I think I have managed to make my home the setting for a civilized life. 

Clifton Webb's House - Image Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
During my travels I acquired paintings that have interested several museum directors who have seen them. One, a painting of me as a youngster of thirteen, always attracts attention - not because I was the subject matter; it happens to be signed by the late George Bellows whose work is now coveted by collectors. In my collection, I have the works of artists who were more or less obscure when I bought their paintings. For instance there are examples of Fabrizzio Caricci, Buffet, Stumpfig, Pagliacci. I value highly several paintings by Bakst. Don't think I'm posing as a man of rare judgment, but I do feel there is real satisfaction in recognizing merit in the work of an unknown. I will admit, too, it is cheaper - much; to acquire the work of a popular and established artist takes money - lots of it. 

Portrait of Clifton Webb by George Bellows
My bachelor adobe is presided over by Maybelle - with charm; she's my invaluable friend - my mother. Around us are pieces of furniture and treasures gathered from various trips to Europe. Many things too, have come from friends. Some have interesting histories or recall pleasurable associations. For instance, beneath the Bellows painting of me is a marble-topped bench which I brought from my New York apartment which the late Lady Mendly, when she was Elsie de Wolf, helped me furnish. In those days she was a well-known interior decorator. 

On the bench are three vases, treasured because they were once the property of my very good friend Syre Maugham, a woman of great taste who was at one time the wife of Somerset Maugham. 

Many friends ask about a rather odd little chair with short legs that stands in the hall outside the living room. It's a Sixteenth-Century prie-dieu. It came from Hier, France, and those who have a knowledge of antiques have often tried to get it away from me. 

My most treasured possessions are the dining room table and chairs which I first had in a home in London while playing in the theatre there. The dining room is Georgian with a chandelier of crystal - it is elaborate and I like it. 

In the living room are overstuffed chairs covered with chintz to give an informal air, and a green sofa. I'm not dedicated to antiques or period furniture -in this room, there is a touch of California; in front of the sofa stands a long teak coffee table I designed myself. 

At times I wonder why I should have such a large house for just the two of us - or I should say four, Razor and Baci share it with us  - they are two lovable French poodles ( Earnest has departed ). But, through my years in the theatre and films, I have gathered many things and I like to have them around. Many are housed in the playroom which opens onto the swimming pool. There is a fire chief's helmet given to me by Philadelphia's Poor Richard's Club. The Lamb's Club in New York sent me a baton used by the late John Philip Sousa. The walls are hung with autographed photos of many stage and screen stars. 

Those who know me only by the type of role I play might not recit me with having much sentiment. I'm willing to admit I'm not a hundred percent the sophisticate. I'm a fellow who loves a home and garden - I am especially fond of camellias. I enjoy digging, pruning, and the hundred and one things that have to be done. It might be disappointing to some who visualize me only as a dapper man-about-town as my pictures would have you believe. At home, I'm just someone who has fallen for the dolce far niente life of Hollywood. 

The above article was reprinted from the 1952 issue of The New Film Show Annual.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Loves of Joanna Godden ( 1947 )

"I'll run the farm myself....A farm can't have two masters"

Joanna Godden ( Googie Withers ) is a determined woman. After the death of her father, the townsfolk of Romney Marsh assumed that she would marry her childhood friend and neighbor-farmer Arthur ( John McCallum ), and join her father's farm with his to make it one of the largest in the county. Instead, she boldly declares that she does not wish to marry Arthur and, defying the conventions of the time, wants to run the farm by herself. Her farmhands are none too pleased with the notion of a single woman taking charge of the farm and Arthur is certainly disappointed to hear that she does not wish to marry him. If this wasn't news enough, she announces that she will take her father's pedigree sheep and crossbreed them. "She's a filly that's never been properly broke in, that's what she is!" the farmers exclaim. 

The Loves of Joanna Godden may seem like just another British film about farming and shepherding but it is much more than that. It is the profile of a headstrong young Edwardian woman and the decisions - mainly regrettable ones - that she makes within a several-year span that leads to her growth as a woman. Joanna does indeed take control of the farm as she wanted, but she stubbornly refuses to listen to the admonitions of her neighbor farmers who warn her against crossbreeding sheep and soon regrets not heeding their warning. The new breed of sheep has a coat much too thin to brave the cold wind that blows on the marsh and many of them die. When she does choose to marry a man ( Derek Bond ) that turns out tragic as well. 

Director Charles Frend does an admirable job of creating a unique Edwardian English-country atmosphere for The Loves of Joanna Godden. The only other film that comes close to capturing this setting is 20th Century Fox's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which was released the same year. Both films are similarly themed and focus on a two-year period in the life of a strong-willed Edwardian woman. Widow Mrs. Muir ( Gene Tierney ) wishes to be independent of her in-laws and make her own life in the seaside town of Whitecliff-by-the-sea. 

Joanna Godden is content to stay at her childhood home but wants the freedom to run it as she pleases without taking orders from a man. Eventually, both characters regret not having a husband to "take the helm". If these films were made today, their directors would probably take a more feminist approach and show audiences that a woman can be independent and happy as well, but these old classics reflected Edwardian sentiments and personally, I like that. 

H.E. Bates' screenplay condenses Sheila Kaye-Smith's 1921 novel into a concise 90-minute film without losing any of the major plot points or its biting dialogue. The Loves of Joanna Godden also features a sweeping score by Ralph Vaughn Williams and beautiful cinematography. Oscar-nominated cinematographer Douglas Slocombe ( Dead of Night, The Great Gatsby ) is often considered to be one of the best in the industry. Through his lens, we get to travel to Kent and see the beauty of Romney Marsh throughout the seasons. 

Googie Withers gives a wonderful performance as the headstrong Joanna. She's a stubborn character and she could easily have been a dislikable woman but Googie lets the audience know that beneath Joanna's hard exterior is a soft and vulnerable woman. Arthur knows this already and that makes it painful for him to stand by and witness Joanna shun all help in her attempt to stand on her own feet when he would willingly work beside her. 

John McCallum was a popular and extremely capable actor who made many British films in the 1940s. He and Googie wed shortly after filming was completed on this picture. McCallum later turned to producing ( the Australian children's series Skippy was one of his productions ) and Googie went on to have a long career on stage and television, notably as Governess Fay Boswell in Within These Walls.  

Jean Kent, another popular leading lady in British films, has a supporting role as Joanna's sister Ellen. At first, Ellen is quite a charming young lady but she quickly becomes a conniving and spoiled brat and the cause of ruination for Arthur. Derek Bond gives a good performance as the young aristocrat Martin who sweeps Joanna off her feet, and Australian legend Chips Raffery has a small part as Joanna's looker ( shepherd ). Also in the cast are character actors Henry Mollison and Edward Rigby. 

The Loves of Joanna Godden is available on DVD as one of four films on Network's "Ealing Studios Rarities Collection, Volume 4".

This post is our contribution to the 8th Annual Rule, Britannia blogathon being hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts. This is a jolly good event that allows bloggers to review British films from all eras, so if you want to explore some new-to-you titles, be sure to head on over to the event for a full listing of entries. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Sinister Man ( 1961 ) - An Edgar Wallace Mystery

The body of an Oxford professor is found floating in the Thames and Scotland Yard investigator Superindentant Wells ( John Bentley ) is on the job to solve the mystery. The professor was an archeologist assigned to translate a set of three ancient tablet fragments known as the Kytang Wafers. The professor - and the tablets - disappeared from Oxford weeks previously. Wells deduces that whoever murdered the professor stole the tablets and all the evidence points to one of his colleagues. Could it be his assistant, the young Miss Marlowe ( Jacqueline Ellis )? The nosy Dr. Tarn ( John Glyn-Jones )? His rival Dr. Pollard ( Patrick Allen )? Students Mitch Hallem or Johnny Choto? Or was it an outsider? Wells uses good old-fashioned British investigative techniques to uncover the murderer and locate the missing Wafers. 

The Sinister Man was the 14th film in the Edgar Wallace Mystery film series. This series of British mysteries were produced by Merton Park Studios between 1960 and 1965, with an output of almost one per month. A total of 47 mystery films were made, all of which were loosely based on stories by Edgar Wallace and all running just a little under one hour. This made them suitable B-features and also great films for re-release on television, where they began airing on ITV in 1968 under the title "Tales of Edgar Wallace".

The film is an engaging little whodunnit even though the audience is given very few clues to solve the mystery by themselves. The location scenes around Oxford and the Thames river are nice to look at and, like most of the Edgar Wallace Mysteries, there is a bevy of familiar British character actors to be seen. 

The handsome John Bentley stars as the Scotland Yard investigator Wells. He is probably best known for a supporting role in The Happiest Days of Your Life but I enjoyed him best in another British mystery - Double Exposure ( 1954 ). Patrick Allen was a very familiar face on British television, as was William Gaunt who played one of the crimebusters in The Champions ( 1968-1969 ). And then there are character actors Wilfred Brambell, John Horsley, and Edward Atienza. 

While the mystery itself is not overly mind-engaging, The Sinister Man is still worth a look at if you have an hour to spare. It will pique your interest in exploring the other Edgar Wallace titles, if nothing else. 

This post is our contribution to the 8th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon being hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts. Be sure to head on over to the site to explore more essays and reviews of films from across the pond. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

 

Soldiers playing toy soldiers...or, as it is officially termed, "strategic planning". Can you recognize these beautiful uniforms and thereby identify the film this screenshot is from? It's a tricky one!

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules of the game or the prize, simply click here.

GAME OVER. 

Congratulations to Damsbo for correctly identifying this scene featuring some officers of Napolean from MGM's "The Firefly" ( 1937 ) starring Jeannette MacDonald and Alan Jones. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Let's Fall in Love ( 1933 )

Edmund Lowe is a name that is instantly recognizable and yet, even among classic film fans, he is often overlooked as an actor. This gentleman was a leading player in numerous silent films and, after having successfully transitioned to talking pictures, continued to be a big player up until the mid-1930s, when he began to take on more supporting roles. He is best remembered for playing Sergeant Quirt in the 1926 drama What Price Glory? and for his role as Dr. Talbot in Dinner at Eight ( 1933 ). Lowe had great range as an actor and could play romantic parts, dramatic roles, or comedic roles equally well. 

I enjoy him best when he plays a romantic role and one such movie that highlights his light but deft touch as an actor is Let's Fall in Love, a wisp of a musical from Columbia Pictures studio. This film has a simple script that was probably written just to highlight and promote its theme song by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. The tune is quite memorable and very lovely to listen to, especially when it is performed by singer/actress Ann Sothern who had a fine soprano voice ( she sang with Artie Shaw and his Orchestra before becoming an actress ). 

Edmund Lowe plays Kenneth Lane, a director who is anxious to make a film with the Swedish sensation that he had helped mold as a Hollywood star ( sound familiar? ). Unfortunately, stardom went to her head and she becomes so demanding that he fires her from the film. Now, in search of a fresh new face, he puts ads in national papers calling for any and all Swedes to make a screen test. His search comes to an abrupt end when he goes to a traveling carnival and discovers Jean ( Ann Sothern ), a fetching young woman who isn't Swedish at all. He likes her and wants her to be the leading lady in his latest film. But since everyone, including his boss Max ( Gregory Ratoff ) knows he is searching for a Swede he decides to masquerade her as a visiting Swedish model, a plan that backfires on him when his jealous fiancee Lisa ( Betty Furness ) blurts out the truth. 

Let's Fall in Love is just a little over an hour-long but manages to pack in a number of entertaining scenes including some musical numbers. Lowe is wonderful as usual with his expressive features ( carried over from his silent-era days ), Sothern is sweet making googly eyes at him, and Gregory Ratoff is excellent as Max, head of Premier Studios. He later famously played another producer named Max in All About Eve ( 1950 ).  


Also in the cast is Greta Meyer as a jolly Swedish woman, Miriam Jordan, and tenor Arthur Jarrett. The film was remade in 1949 as Slightly French with Don Ameche and Dorothy Lamour playing the leads.