Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Paradise for Three ( 1938 )

MGM had a knack for making great comedies and, during the 1930s especially, the studio was churning them out a dime a dozen. Paradise for Three aka Romance for Three was a particularly fun MGM comedy that featured the always delightful duo of Robert Young and Florence Rice. Its Alpine setting and the presence of, no less than, seven great character actors make it stand out among all the other top features MGM released in 1938. 

The sparkling George Oppenheimer-Harry Ruskin script ( based upon Erich Kastner's novel "Three Men in the Snow" ) follows the escapades of a wealthy industrialist named Tobar ( Frank Morgan ) who decides to go slumming by taking a vacation in the Alps in the guise of a poor villager. While on holiday he becomes smitten with a gold-digging divorcee ( Mary Astor ) and befriends a poor but intelligent young man ( Robert Young ) who just so happens to be in love with his daughter ( Florence Rice ). Ah yes, romance has a way of blossoming even in the snowdrifts. 

"Yodeling around with that hussy!"

Every decade gave birth to its own unique style of films and Paradise for Three is certainly a product of its time. Like the music of the era, it is bouncing, bubbly entertainment that leaves you with a marvelous carefree feeling. 
Young and Rice received top-billing on the credits but Frank Morgan is the true star of the picture. Morgan was excellent in just about every film he made, but none showcases his fine comedic flair as well as Paradise for Three. Tobar is the perfect role for Morgan, a bumbling and sometimes silly, but lovable and respectable, businessman. 

This was the fifth film which united Young and Rice, who made a lovely screen-couple. Supporting them were Edna May Oliver ( always a hoot ), Sig Rumann, Reginald Owen, Herman Bing, and Henry Hull. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

British Pathé - Beat the Bandit ( 1961 )

Talk about the long arm of the law! These crime-fighters know how to handle bag-snatchers in London with their new invention. This 1-minute long 1961 British Pathé newsreel entitled Beat the Bandit showcases an amazing security case that literally sprouts arms the moment a bandit takes hold of it.... and it crushes the culprit's fingers in the process, too. Case closed! 

This would certainly make even today's criminals think twice about snitching a bag left at a bus terminal or airport. There are not many places one can escape to with a three-armed bag attached to the hand! 

It seems like an invention Scotland Yard may have stolen from C.O.N.T.R.O.L, but hey...it obviously works so I won't knock it. 

Hands off, Buster!

Ready to see it in action? Simply click on the link below : 

British Pathé - Amazing Anti-Theft Security Case! 

Other similar British Pathé clips : 

Carry Safe ( 1951 ) - 0:53 minutes

Stop Thief! ( 1938 ) - 0:48 minutes

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Darling, How Could You! ( 1951 )

Scottish novelist James M. Barrie is today best remembered for penning the children's classic "Peter Pan" ( 1905 ), but during the turn-of-the-century he was one of the most popular playwrights in England writing such plays as "The Little Minister", "Quality Street", and "The Admirable Crichton". He had a flair for comedy and one of his best comedic plays "Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire" ( 1905 ) - a story of a couple's reunion with their children after several years absence - was brought to the screen in 1951 as the charming Darling, How Could You! which starred John Lund and Joan Fontaine.

Dr. Mark Gray ( Lund ) and his wife Alice ( Fontaine ) return home to Boston after having spent five years in Panama aiding in the yellow fever epidemic during the construction of the Panama canal in 1900. Their three children, Amy ( Mona Freeman ), Cosmo ( David Stollery ), and baby Molly ( Maureen Lynn Reimer ) had remained in Boston and were being cared for by Mark's mother and a nursemaid ( Angela Clarke ).

Both Mark and Alice are impatient to be reunited with their children, but while Mark builds a rapport with the children in a snap, Alice is overly-anxious for instant love and finds the initial greetings awkward. She also has to contend with jealousy from the nursemaid who grew attached to baby Molly while they were away. Meanwhile, their imaginative daughter Amy is convinced their mother is having an affair with a friend of the family ( Peter Hansen ) after having accidentally seen a theatrical play that portrayed the "seamy side of life". 

Darling, How Could You! is a little-remembered comedy today and yet it boasts a great cast of pros that handle their parts with ease and features some very humorous moments ...two qualities which should make it more memorable. John Lund is especially charming as the understanding Victorian father of the family, Dr. Gray. He cuts a dashing figure and is an admirably loving husband to Alice. Joan Fontaine didn't often get a chance to play comedy parts so she tackled her part with gusto and looked particularly beautiful while doing so. And the children were perfectly cast : David Stollery, later a veteran of Walt Disney television series such as Spin and Marty, is adorable as Cosmo, their little tough-talking son, while the underrated Mona Freeman displays perfect comedic timing as their winsome teenage daughter Amy. 

It may seem strange today that any young couple would choose to be separated from their children, but James Barrie's original play was set in London with the Grays returning home from British India. It was quite common at the time for couples who were residing in India to send their children back to England to be cared for by family members or nannies due to the risk of disease or uprisings. For the film, the setting was changed to Boston to appeal to American audiences, and so the yellow fever epidemic in Panama was given as the reason for the Grays absence for such a long period. Pretty clever. 
While the film starts off rather slow it builds up considerably when Lund and Fontaine enter the scene and ends with a tickling good comedic sequence involving Alice's misunderstood romantic entanglement.

Darling, How Could You! is currently not available on DVD but can be rented and viewed online through Amazon. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

From the Archives : George and his Gal in Bullet Code ( 1940 )

George O'Brien and Virginia Vale make a handsome rootin'-tootin' couple in this still from the 1940 RKO western Bullet Code. 

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

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

It's time to ring in the new year - and time to party!....just like this couple is doing. Those great pink balloons would make a festive midnight "ball drop" at your own party. Just it's too bad people don't dress up in tuxedoes anymore when they do a night on the town. 

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

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Trapp Family ( 1956 ) - The Original Sound of Music

Every Christmas season for the past ten years, ABC has been airing The Sound of Music ( 1965 ) which has sparked a new holiday-viewing tradition for many. Well, nine years before Julie Andrews portrayed the real-life nun-turned-governess Maria von Trapp in the famous musical, Ruth Leuwerik took on this role in Die Trapp-Familie aka The Trapp Family ( 1956 ). 

Anyone who has not seen this German classic would be surprised at just how similar it is to the 1965 Robert Wise remake... and how quickly the story chugs along without the musical interludes. Yes, the original The Sound of Music was not a musical! There are, of course, a few numbers that the children perform for their audiences ( and one lovely piece that Ruth Leuwerik sings to the children ), but instead, the film focuses more on Maria befriending the Trapp household and how they made their start in America as a family. 

Die Trapp-Familie begins in Salzburg in the early 1930s. Maria, a happy energetic novice who teaches children at a convent, learns from her superior that she will be sent to the home of Captain von Trapp ( Hans Holt ) to tutor his seven children. The task is not an easy one, for the children have driven away 26 governesses within the past four years, but Maria quickly gains their admiration and their love. She also wins the affection of their father, and within a short period they wed. As the children's governess, Maria had taught the children to laugh and play - and to sing - which is something they had not done with the disciplinarian naval captain. 
When the local priest, Dr. Wasner ( Josef Meinrad ) hears the children singing together, he helps to train them so that they may perform for charity benefits. It is during one of these benefits that a talent scout for an American song agency notices them and offers the family a contract to perform in the States. This proves to be a fortunate invitation because Captain von Trapp had lost much of his wealth during the Depression and the Nazis emergence made Maria and the Captain realize it was time to leave Austria which was becoming a totalitarian regime. However, their arrival in the States isn't all roses and fanfare, especially when the talent scout informs them that their act is no longer wanted and they find themselves Trapp-ed at Ellis Island! 

Die Trapp Familie is a beautiful film with a lot of heart. It bears many similarities to The Sound of Music, from the lovely cinematography down to the almost identical costume designs, and it differs only in its emphasis on certain aspects of the von Trapps' life. For example, the drama of the rise of the Nazi power and how this influenced the Captain to flee Austria is very much downplayed. Also, the children are not as predominately featured and are younger than they were cast in The Sound of Music. 
What I enjoyed most about the original film is its realistic portrayal of the von Trapps coming to America. In typical Hollywood fashion, The Sound of Music closes sensationally with Christopher Plummer, Julie Andrews, and the children climbing the Alps into Switzerland carrying all of their belongings on their backs. In Die Trapp Familie we see them at the overcrowded immigration gateway of Ellis Island huddled together with other immigrants awaiting entrance into the States. When they are told that it would be weeks before they are permitted to work, Maria cries, blaming herself for bringing the family into this situation. Somehow this seems much more credible! 

The film also boasts an impressive cast comprised of some of Germany's most famous stars. Ruth Leuwerik, who is often cited as the First Lady of German Cinema, is an enchanting Maria von Trapp. She deftly portrays Maria in all her stages of growth: as a youthful zealous nun, to a clever governess, to a protective mother of seven. Hans Holt is a much more appealing Captain von Trapp than Christopher Plummer, while the children are excellently cast, too. 
Upon its release, Die Trapp Familie was such a box-office sensation in Europe that a sequel - Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika - shortly followed which depicted the family's continuing adventures in Vermont. Unfortunately, the US release of The Trapp Family in 1956 did not fare well. It was not until The Sound of Music hit theaters in 1965 that audiences fell in love with the story of the von Trapps, undoubtedly due to the appeal of the beautiful Rodgers & Hammerstein melodies. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Connie Gilchrist - A Hard-Working Woman

Some character actors have such larger-than-life personalities that they literally seem to step out of the screen and walk among you. To me, Connie Gilchrist has always been that type of an actress. She is instantly recognizable and, even for the briefest uncredited appearance, she would give it her all....never making herself conspicuous, however. The mark of a truly great character actor is their ability to blend unobtrusively into the story.

Connie Gilchrist's specialty was portraying strong working-class women, often domestics with a New York or Irish accent. Gilchrist's thick Brooklyn accent was not a part of her act but her birthright. Rose Constance Gilchrist was born on February 2, 1901, in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother, Martha Daniels, was a stage actress and so Connie decided to follow in her footsteps, making her stage debut at the age of 16 in London. She toured with a repertory company throughout France and then appeared in various US stage companies before she made her Broadway debut in 1935. It was in 1940 that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios offered her a ten-year contract and she then found constant work playing in such classics as A Woman's Face ( 1941 ), Johnny Eager ( 1941 ), Tortilla Flat ( 1942 ), Presenting Lily Mars ( 1943 ),  The Thin Man Goes Home ( 1945 ) and The Hucksters ( 1947 ). 

If that classic jig "The Irish Washerwoman" was based on a true-life woman, Gilchrist would have played her. You could also easily picture her walking the streets of Dublin peddling cockles and mussels. She had a loud voice and a big personality to match. Onscreen, Gilchrist was often seen with her shirtsleeves rolled up washing dishes or scrubbing a floor. She portrayed domestics in such films as The Valley of Decision ( 1945 ), Good News ( 1947 ), Big City ( 1948 ), and Luxury Liner ( 1948 ). 
No matter how tough the work she never despaired over it....neither was she ever ashamed of her position. Gilchrist always portrayed honest women who kept their heads held high. If she happened to be poor and had to scrub floors for a living, then she would set to the task with two strong hands and not complain - nor would she put up with hearing complaints from anyone else! Her motto could be: you simply do your best in life and never waste time wishing circumstances were different. 
Her characters were always level-headed and resourceful, very often spunky. She liked playing women who were troopers. When Sister Mary ( Claudette Colbert ) begins to lose hope in proving the innocence of Valerie Carnes ( Ann Blyth ) in Thunder on the Hill ( 1951 ), it is Sister Josephine ( Gilchrist ), one of the nuns who toils in the convent kitchen, who renews Sister Mary's faith. 

Gilchrist's characters made themselves at home wherever they happened to be. If she played a maid then the household that hired her would soon find that they gained a new member of the family. In Junior Miss ( 1945 ), she was memorable as Hilda, the apartment maid who helped to raise Harry Grave's two rambunctious daughters. Gilchrist had a special knack with children ( in real-life she had a daughter who became an actress, too ) and in many ways she was like Louise Beavers, playing huggable "mammies" who knew how to give a youngster a good scolding when needed. 
Sometimes Gilchrist made a departure from her usual characters and would portray slovenly women who enjoyed sticking their nose in a bottle of whiskey. In these situations, she had no shame in donning fuzzy slippers, a threadbare night robe, and messing up her hair to make herself look like a sleazy landlord or housewife. 

Gilchrist made occasional appearances in westerns, playing Hominy in the James Stewart classic The Far Country ( 1954 ), and later, on television, in The Adventures of Jim Bowie ( 1957 ) and The Restless Gun ( 1958 ), but her Brooklyn accent made her unsuitable for too many western roles, even though she had the face of a tough western woman. Instead, she enjoyed a recurring role in The Adventures of Long John Silver ( 1956 ) as Purity Pinker, a tavern owner who is intent on wedding Captain Long John. 
She returned to films in the late 1950s playing in Auntie Mame ( as Mame's maid Norah Muldoon ) and Some Came Running and, in the 1960s, interspersed constant television work ( Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Our Man Higgins, The Twilight Zone ) with film appearances in Walt Disney comedies ( The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, The Monkey's Uncle ). Gilchrist retired from acting in 1969 and settled down in New Mexico where she passed away at the age of 84 on March 3, 1985. 

Today, Connie Gilchrist is best remembered for portraying Linda Darnell's wise-cracking mother in A Letter to Three Wives ( 1949 ), a role that captured just about all the qualities that I love best in Gilchrist: her tough-talking mannerisms, her down-to-earth practicality, her maternal care, and her positive outlook. She was a tough but lovable broad. 

This post is our contribution to the What a Character! Blogathon being hosted by Once Upon a Screen, Paula's Cinema Club, and Outspoken and Freckled. Be sure to check out the main roster of posts because there are a lot of great profiles on some fabulous character actors of the 1930s-1970s! 
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