Thursday, February 25, 2021

Against All Flags ( 1952 )

On the coast of Madagascar lies a pirate's hideaway - Diego Suarez - a fortress for thieves. A narrow harbor is the only entrance to the city and this is heavily defended by cannons. The British Royal Navy wants to destroy this base and capture every pirate on it but they cannot find a way to enter the harbor without damaging their fleet. Lieutenant Brian Hawke ( Errol Flynn ) has a plan: he poses as a deserter and hopes to gain entrance to the base by joining their band and gaining the trust of the pirates. Captain Roc Brasiliano ( Anthony Quinn ) is suspicious of this new recruit but "Spitfire" Stevens ( Maureen O'Hara ), another pirate leader, approves of him. She dislikes men in general but this handsome rogue intrigues her. She gives him the use of one of her ships and even agrees to marry him ( who wouldn't! ), but Hawke's plan backfires when he is discovered by Captain Roc signaling to the British fleet and is captured. As the British warships are just about to enter the bay, Hawke must find a way to free himself and save the fleet from destruction. 

Against All Flags is a grand little pirate flick. The story, by Aeneas MacKenzie and Joseph Hoffman, is easy to follow and packed with action and a dash of humor. George Sherman's direction is taut and the settings are colorful, looking gorgeous in Technicolor. The film also boasts a strong supporting cast that includes Mildred Natwick, Harry Cording, Phil Tully, and Lester Matthews. Robert Warwick has a great part as the infamous pirate Captain Kidd. However, it is the three leading stars that make this film special. 

Against All Flags was made seventeen years after Errol Flynn became famous as a swashbuckling hero in Captain Blood ( 1935 ). He wasn't as youthful but he certainly was just as dashing. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was originally slated to star in the film but when Universal Pictures purchased the rights to the script they managed to snag Errol Flynn for the lead instead. This turned out to be Flynn's last Hollywood swashbuckler. 

Anthony Quinn signed on early to play the villain. He was probably delighted to find out that Maureen O'Hara was going to star in it as well. This was the fourth time these two cronies would be united - and the third pirate-themed film they would make together. Quinn is wonderful as the jealous Captain Roc. He wanted to make Spitfire Stevens his woman but could never arouse romantic feelings from her, hence he becomes doubly jealous when the handsome Lt. Hawke not only earns her admiration but her love as well. 

Maureen O'Hara was initially hesitant to star opposite Errol Flynn after he made an amorous advance towards her years earlier, but "he had won me over. I respected him professionally and was quite fond of him personally. Father Time was slowly calming his wicked, wicked ways, and deep within that devilish rogue, I found a kind and fragile soul."*

Her character is aptly named Spitfire Stevens because she has a fiery temper and a jealous streak, too. O'Hara always had a knack for playing women who were very strong and independent and yet still feminine with not a trace of tomboyism. She looks particularly dazzling in this film. 

Against All Flags premiered on Christmas Eve in New York and was a great success at the box office. Variety wrote that it "takes a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the plotting at times without minimizing the story's chief concerns with swashbuckling movement." The plotline really took a comedic turn when it was later remade as The King's Pirate in 1967 ( starring Doug McClure and Jill St. John ). 

Hamlette's Soliloquy is hosting a pirate's party - We Love Pirates Week - running from February 22-26th. If you want to be reading more posts about pirates matey, then be sure to head over here and check out the entries! 

* 'Tis Herself - A Memoir by Maureen O'Hara. Thorndike Press ( 2004 )

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Rich Little's Impersonation of Cary Grant

Rich Little ranks as the best impersonator of Hollywood actors and deservedly so....he can not only mimick their voices but their body language and facial expressions, too. Mr. Little was a frequent guest star on evening programs like The Perry Como Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Tonight Show, The Dean Martin Roasts, etc. throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

In this clip from 1980, Rich Little was performing at a dinner show honoring Frank Sinatra. It aired as a television special called Frank Sinatra - The First 40 Years. He does imitations of Jimmy Stewart and Jack Nicholson and then Cary Grant....only to discover that Cary Grant was in the audience! Check it out! 

If you enjoy this clip, then be sure to see Rich Little's impersonations of Humphrey Bogart and Jack Benny. He also did a marvelous skit on The Lennon Sisters Hour that featured John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Kirk Douglas, and Walter Brennan singing around a western campfire. A real hoot! 

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Solitaire Man ( 1933 )

Herbert Marshall made his MGM debut in 1933 with a quickie called The Solitaire Man where he played the titular character, a jewel smuggler who decides to go straight. 

Oliver Lane aka "The Solitaire Man" wants to settle down and live the life of an honest nobleman. He just purchased a farm in England and proposed marriage to his long-time partner-in-crime Helen ( Elizabeth Allan ). Together with their thieving friends Mrs. Vail ( May Robson ) and Mr. Bascom ( Ralph Forbes ) they board a plane for London, but the flight is anything but smooth when they discover that a Scotland Yard investigator ( Lionel Atwill ) is on board ready to put the handcuffs on them all. 

The Solitaire Man, based on Samuel and Bella Spewack's play, is an entertaining mystery that packs in quite a bit of story in its 67-minute runtime. The first half is especially good; once the story moves into the airplane sequence it becomes more of a psychological drama. It would have been nice had it played out like Raffles and moved from its Monte Carlo setting to a country estate for more mystery and thievery. 

Herbert Marshall's star quality was apparant even in this minor production. He never had the striking appearance of a leading man but in every film he played he clearly took command. Another actor commanding attention was Mary Boland who played an outspoken American plane passenger. She, too, was making her debut at MGM and would go on to have a long career with the studio, notably garnering attention in The Women ( 1939 ). Also in the cast is Lucille Gleason ( James Gleason's wife ) and Robert McWade. 

The Solitaire Man is not yet available on DVD.  

Sunday, February 14, 2021

British Pathé: St. Valentine's Cards ( 1961 )

L'amore, l'amore....all the world is filled with love on Valentine's Day. Or, at least, it should be! If you have a difficult time expressing your love for that certain special someone in your life, then you'll probably use a Valentine's card to get your message across. For generations, the young and old alike have used cards to send messages of love. Even the beatniks sent Valentine's cards! 

This 2 minute British Pathé newsreel from 1961 gives us a glimpse of how these cards were designed and made. Some antique Valentines are also put on display and one is particularly clever - a note from the Bank of Love...signed by Cupid! 

Ready to watch St. Valentine's Cards? Simply click on the link below. 

St. Valentine's Cards ( 1961 ) - 2:27 minutes

Similiar British Pathé newsreels:

Greeting Cards Record ( 1955 ) - 2:31 minutes

Candy Cards ( 1956 ) - 1:15 minutes

Friday, February 5, 2021

From the Archives: Two Guys from Texas ( 1948 )

Jack Carson is cuddling up with an Indian maiden in this publicity photo for Warner Brother's Two Guys from Texas ( 1948 ) that featured the comedy duo of Carson and Dennis Morgan. The "Indian" pictured is Cleatus Caldwell, wife of actor Robert Hutton. 

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 :

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Within These Walls: The Animals Went in Two by Two ( 1975 )

Within These Walls was an award-winning British television series about life "within the walls" of HM Prison Stone Park, a woman's prison. It ran for five seasons between 1974-1978. The beautiful English actress Googie Withers starred as prison governor Faye Boswell in the first three seasons and was later replaced by Katharine Blake and Sarah Lawson.

The episodes were all excellent productions with well-written scripts. Each lasted an hour and, since the inmates changed every episode, the stories featured a new drama surrounding one or two of the recent admittees. They also focused on the problems and personal lives of the regular staff at the prison. These regulars included Faye Boswell, deputy governor Charles Radley, chief officer Mrs. Armitage, prison doctor Peter Mayes, Assistant Governor Martha Parrish, and Miss Clarke. 

The Animals Went in Two by Two was an especially well-made episode that featured a thought-provoking script by Susan Pleat, who often wrote for the series. It addresses the need people have for relationships. As Dr. Peter Mayes explains, "We can't all be self-contained, nor is it right that we should be. People pair off. They need to couple. Adam and Eve....Noah's Ark...the animals went in two by two." 

This need to couple is not often satisfied as simply as one would expect. Nurse Jean Trevelyn ( Patricia Garwood ) finds it particularly disquieting to discover that her need for love draws her to other women...women who in turn need her. Sharon ( Ann Holloway ) is a young woman whom Jean meets in the hospital ward while visiting Claire ( Angela Thorne ), her former cellmate. Jean begins tutoring Sharon in reading and writing and, when Sharon comes to the main prison wing, she asks to room with Jean, who takes her under her wing. 

The other women in the prison whisper that Jean is a lesbian, but Jean herself hasn't come to terms with that label. When she found out that her former ( female ) employer wanted to run away with her she "hated her for it". Yet, she cares for Sharon. This is what makes Susan Pleat's script so good. Within These Walls often tackled issues that other series tended to shy away from. Lesbian relationships were common in all-women prisons and several other episodes of the show had lesbian characters, but The Animals Went in Two by Two is not about lesbianism, it is about relationship...and where and with whom people find it. The way people feel about others often cannot be described by a predefined label. 

One certainly cannot label Dr. Mayes' ( Denys Hawthorne ) desire. He wants to start a relationship with Miss Clarke ( Beth Harris ), the welfare officer. He's lonely, she's lonely, so why not pair off? But once again, matters are not that simple. Miss Clarke is middle-aged and has never been married. She looks at relationships in an intellectual way and does not feel she knows the doctor well enough to make love to him. "What does that mean, 'You don't know me well enough'?" asks Dr. Mayes, "Do I have to rack up points? A point a month, you reach twenty and you score?" He wants to find comfort in bed with her...and something more. When that doesn't work, he confesses, "I'm used to little trixi things, carefree, without a thought in their heads". This revelation causes Miss Clarke to pity him... It's good to see the vulnerable sides of the regular cast members. 

The Animals Went in Two by Two stands out not only for its script but for its fine direction by Tony Wharmby. He uses close-up shots almost entirely and this adds to the confined feeling of the prison. It also allows us to see how well the cast performs without the aid of additional dialogue. They use their eyes and subtle facial gestures to reveal their character's emotions. 

All of the principal players give impressive performances. Ann Holloway is excellent as the emotional Sharon; Angela Thorne subtly reveals the clinging nature of Claire, and Patricia Garwood gives a fine and tender performance as Jean. Denys Hawthorne is excellent as usual as Dr. Mayes, and Beth Harris is especially intriguing as the prim Miss Harris. Who would have guessed busy Miss Harris was such a lonely woman? Jean Holness also gives a good performance as Mrs. Evans, a nosy elderly prisoner. 

One need not be familiar with Within These Walls and its regular cast of characters to enjoy The Animals Went in Two by Two. It can easily stand on its own and could have aired as an individual play on Play for Today. The episode is available on DVD as part of the Within These Walls Collection ( Season 3, Episode 15 ) and also on Youtube

Friday, January 29, 2021

The Child of Glass ( 1978 )

"Murder, Mystery...and Ghosts!" So reads the VHS cover of The Child of Glass and the film did indeed feature murder, mystery, and ghosts. The story, based on the novel "The Ghost Belonged to Me" by Richard Peck, tells the tale of a young boy - Alexander Armsworth ( Steve Shaw ) - who befriends Inez, the ghost of a Creole girl, in an old barn on the property his family just moved into. It's a sprawling Louisiana colonial that was once owned by a riverboat captain and is rumored to have a hidden treasure on the property. The ghost of Inez is not interested in treasure. She just wants to be reunited with her parents and pleads with Alexander to help release her from a decades-old curse by solving this riddle: 

Sleeping lies the murdered lass.
Vainly cries the child of glass.
When the two shall be as one,
the spirit's journey will be done.

The riddle must be solved by the stroke of midnight on All Hallow's Eve. Alexander has no clue what it means, but since Inez tells him that he has only a few days to solve it before she disappears in limbo forever, he sets to work on it with the aid of his friend Blossom ( Katy Kurtzman ). 

Blossom Culp lives with her palm-reading Aunt Lavina ( Nina Foch ) who insists that Alexander is gifted "to perceive the spirits!". He doesn't believe in such nonsense but Blossom and her crazy aunt are the only two people he can turn to for help. His parents ( Biff McGuire and Barbara Barrie ) are busy preparing the house for an old-fashioned costume party and his older sister ( Denise Nickerson ) doesn't have much interest in Alexander's ramblings about ghosts and curses. 

The Child of Glass is not a scary ghost story in any way, nor is it particularly engrossing as a mystery, but - like most Disney films - it still remains very entertaining. This is in no small part due to the engaging performances of the child actors playing the two leads - Alexander and Blossom. Steve Shaw is adorable as the southern-talking mop-haired lad. Olivia Baresh also gives a good performance as little Inez, the blue-glowing ghost. Also in the cast is Anthony Zerbe as a drunken handyman, Jack Radar as the local sheriff, and character actress Irene Tedrow as the high-and-mighty Miss Merrywether. 

The Child of Glass premiered on television as part of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color on May 14, 1978 and was rebroadcast periodically on television throughout the 1980s. Today, you can find it on DVD as part of Disney's Generation Collection.