Monday, September 30, 2013

Day One - The Great Imaginary Film Blogathon

Step Right Up! Step Right Up!  Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls...come one, come all to see the amazing, the mysterious, the fantasmagorical, and the most imaginative films that were never made! That's right folks, it is only here that you can 

                            SEE the casts of thousands, 

                                      SEE the greatest actors, 

                                           and SEE the greatest directors 

                                                     all joined together under one bloggy tent! 

Alright, alright...maybe you can't quite "see" these films on celluloid but if you put on your super-duper high-powered fantasy envisioning goggles you can get a really clear picture of what they may have looked like. 

Fantasies, adventures, mysteries, dramas, sultry romances, horrors and tales of suspense are all to be had for the price of a mere flick of the wrist and a click of the finger. Now is the day to take a journey into someone else's imagination and see the films that they wished could have been made, but never were! That's what the Great Imaginary Film blogathon is all about!

This isn't the circus of Dr. Lao ...

and you won't see any man eating tigers...

or pushme-pullyus...

but you will read about alot of great fantasy films!! 

So have fun all! Be sure to leave comments for these immensely imaginative bloggers. We also thought we would post a poll ( look to your right ) so you can VOTE for your favorite film idea. ( It was a last-minute idea! )

First up...

  • Patti will be sharing on her blog, They Don't Make 'Em Like They Use Toher version of what she would have liked the ending of "A Place in the Sun" to be like. This post is apart of her month-long celebration of Montgomery Clift. Click here to read all about it. 

  • Fritzi Kramer will gather up all the golden stars of the silent era and feature them in one United Artists movie extravaganza "The Golden Challenge". Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, John Barrymore and Pola Negri race after a fortune in gold that is hidden in the desert. Check out this exciting event at Movies Silently.

  • A Mythical Monkey has written up a scathingly brilliant interpretation of a film that just NEEDS to be made...Model Railroader Magazine : The Movie starring Buster Keaton. We're sure Walt Disney would have taken up this story to produce. 

For a complete schedule of posts, check out the The Great Imaginary Film Blogathon Master List. 

The Medieval Films

When the air fills with the sweet scent of crisp fallen leaves and the land is a-ripe for harvesting, thou knowest that autumn is come. Ay, and verily, upon the wings of this beautiful season comes the soft breeze of Reflection. We recall to mind days of yor, days of simpler times in the past. My mind, upon these merry days, wanders serenely amongst the ancient lands of Britain, when knights were bold and adventure was to be had merely by strolling through a shady glade. And so, methought it may be pleasant to seek for some jolly pictures that tell, in robust fashion, tales of adventure, merrymaking, love and the good times to be had these days of yor. Surely, many a picture hath been made.... Forsooth, tis true!

So, without more ado, here we present to share with thee the most popular moving pictures that were set in the merry times of the medieval era. But first, what years constitutes the medieval era, thee asketh? That be a fair question and well do we know that many a scholar has been confounded by what other folk may consider a proper answer, but it seemeth to us that the great battle of Hastings be a good mark as any as to when the medieval era began, and the birth of that right lusty fellow, Henry VIII, be as good a closing mark as any. In simpler words, 1066-1490 A.D. Yea, truly these be the prime middle ages... when the kingfolk were fat and unruly, the peasants merry and poor, the men stout and strong, and merry England was filled with the breathing spirit of a people... idle and content to be so.

Prythee read further, if thou be so inclined:

The Crusades ( 1935 ) - Cecil B. DeMille's film was one of the earliest epics to be set in the medieval ages. Aside from a few major silent film productions, most screenwriters stood clear of the Middle Ages because box-office sales for this genre had never been too well received. DeMille changed that status and created a medieval pageant of spectacle with The Crusades. Richard the Lionheart sets off on his holy wars and falls in love with the Princess of Navarre, Berengaria, en route. Loretta Young and Henry Wilcoxon star. 

A Connecticut Yankee ( 1931 ) - Will Rogers starred as the rambunctious yank in this adaption of Mark Twain's classic novel "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" about a mechanic who bumps his head and finds himself in Arthurian Britain. It was remade as a color musical with Bing Crosby in 1949. 

Romeo and Juliet ( 1936 ) - William Shakespeare's immortal tale of young love was brought to the screen in this beautiful MGM production starring Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer. George Cukor as director, Cedric Gibbon set designs, and a supporting cast featuring Basil Rathbone, John Barrymore and Edna May Oliver all combine to make this a superb film. It was remade in color for Zeffirelli's stunning 1968 version of "Romeo and Juliet".

The Adventures of Robin Hood ( 1938 ) - There be no finer medieval film than this... A perfect cast, magnificent color cinematography and a scrumptious Max Steiner musical score highlight this entertaining swashbuckler featuring Errol Flynn ( sigh! ), the lovely Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Alan Hale, Basil Rathbone and Patric Knowles. The film went on to win three Academy Awards and was the second-highest grossing picture of the year. A sequel, "Robin of Locksey" was developed in the wake of its success but never went into production. 

The Bandit of Sherwood Forest ( 1946 ) - Columbia studios must have decided that eight years was a goodly span of time to wait before attempting their own retelling of the Robin Hood legend. They selected their most popular swashbuckling hero, Cornel Wilde, as the merry bandit and surrounded him with some right fair talent, such as Anita Louise and Edgar Buchanen, but alas, they did not come close to achieving the success of Warner Brothers' production almost a decade earlier. It remains an entertaining flick though.

The Flame and the Arrow ( 1950 ) - Burt Lancaster, at his tip-top fittest-finest acrobatic best, leaped and bounded in this rousing good yarn about a rebel leader, Bartoli, in medieval Italy during the time of Barbarossa. Virginia Mayo, Robert Douglas, and Aline MacMahon co-starred in this Jacques Tournear production. 

Ivanhoe ( 1952 ) - Sir Walter Scott's epic romance was brought to the screen in stunning Technicolor and headed with the dynamic Taylors, Elizabeth and Robert. If ever there was a man fit for heroic knighthood, it be Robert Taylor. The success of this feature spawned MGM to launch several other middle-aged adventure yarns within the next few years, starring robust Robert. Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Emlyn Williams, and Finlay Currie co-starred in this wonderful froth of derring-do.

The Knights of the Round Table ( 1953 ) - MGM followed up the success of Ivanhoe with this aptly titled blockbuster about the knights of King Arthur's legendary round table. It was the studios first film in the new Cinemascope process, and the result was spectacularly vibrant color cinematography. This time Ava Gardner played the heroine, Fair Guinevere of all women, with Robert Taylor as Sir Lancelot, noble and loyal to King Arthur ( Mel Ferrer ) up until her beauty gets the best of him.

King Richard and the Crusaders ( 1954 ) - Sir Walter Scott film adaptations were all the rage in the mid-1950s over at MGM and so Warner Brothers joined the bandwagon and released "King Richard and the Crusaders", this too being their first film with Cinemascope. George Sanders decided to play the good-guy for a change and took the role of Richard the Lionheart, but the real star of the show was Rex Harrison as the Sultan Saladin. The beautiful Virginia Mayo co-starred as Lady Edith Plantagenet.

Prince Valiant ( 1954 ) - Robert Wagner once said that this was the most embarrassing film he had ever made. We do not blame him. Poor Wagner had to don the upside-down-bowl 'do of the popular comic strip hero, Prince Valiant. The fact that he plays a young noble hero who joins the Knights of the Round Table does not help his appearance. James Mason, Janet Leigh, Debra Paget, Sterling Haydn and Brian Aherne ( as King Arthur ) also starred. 

The Black Knight ( 1954 ) - Alan Ladd in tights was a sight that drew many a fair lady to the motion picture theatre, but alas, attendance was not plentiful enough to save this picture from becoming a flop. Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who later rose to fame for producing the James Bond series, teamed up with Irving Allen, producer of sci-fi fantasy classics such as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, to produce this film..but they were not capable of saving it from being a flop. The supporting cast included Peter Cushing, Patricia Medina, Harry Andrews, Andre Morrell, and Laurence Naismith...but they were not talented enough to save it from becoming a flop! It was doomed from the start.

The Black Shield of Falworth ( 1954 ) - Torin Thatcher plays a delicious villain in this amiable men-in-tights romp. Tony Curtis stars as the son of a disgraced knight who - noble by birth, noble by nature - attempts to thwart this villain's attempts to the throne of King Henry IV. Janet Leigh plays our lovely damsel and distress and David Farrar, Barbara Rush and Herbert Marshall round out the stellar cast.

The Adventures of Quentin Durward ( 1955 ) - MGM followed up their "Ivanhoe" success with another Walter Scott based film, Quentin Durward. Once again Robert Taylor headed up the cast in this story about a penniless Scottish knight who becomes involved in court intrigue. Kay Kendell and Robert Morley co-starred. This was the third film in a trilogy of medieval adventure/romances directed by Richard Thorpe and produced by Pandro S. Berman. 

The Court Jester ( 1955 ) - Danny Kaye, a minstrel to the Black Fox, masquerades as a court jester to help aid in a plot to usurp an evil ruler who has overthrown the rightful king. The Court Jester was the most expensive comedy film produced at the time and bombed at the box-office but since then it has become one of the most beloved of Kaye's films and a television classic. Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone and Angela Lansbury also starred. 

"The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!"

The Dark Avenger ( 1955 ) - This film marked Errol Flynn's last sojourn in the historical adventure genre that he had rose to stardom in. It follows the adventures of Edward, the Black Prince, son of King Edward III and heir to the throne of England, as he tries to liberate the people of Aquitaine from the cruel grasp of France. Joanne Dru and Peter Finch provide steady support to Flynn in the film that the New York Times labeled as "corn...every step of the way". Oh well, its good to have a serving of corn every once in awhile.

The Vagabond King ( 1956 ) - Oreste and Kathryn Grayson starred in this eye-popping Technicolor musical about the life and loves of the 14th century French poet and rebel, Francois Villon. This is the fifth screen re-telling of the story. Ronald Colman starred in "If I Were King" ( 1938 ), the non-Frimlized version. 

The Magic Sword ( 1962 ) - All great actors were relegated to playing in cheap sci-fi/horror films during the final days of their Basil Rathbone's case, he got a few fantasy/adventure films thrown into the lot as well. This film, aimed more at the children's crowd, told the story of a sorceress' son and his quest to save a princess from the hands of an evil wizard ( Rathbone ). Anne Helm and Gary Lockwood portrayed the young princess and her savior.

Camelot ( 1967 ) - Beautiful cinematography highlighted this movie about the life of the legendary King Arthur, focusing mainly on his marriage to Guinevere and her affairs with his comrade, Sir Lancelot. Joshua Logan's lusty film adaption of the popular Lerner and Lowe Broadway stage musical starred Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrace, David Hemmings and Lionel Jeffries as the principal Camelotians. Alas, like many other musicals of the late 1960s, it was cast with actors who could not sing. Julie Andrews was sorely missed here. 

The Lion in Winter ( 1968 ) - Katharine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole stage a scrumptious feast of witty banter in this story about Henry II and his estranged wife, Queen Eleanor Acquitaine and their Christmas reunion. The two thespians chatted and drank their way through a film that earned six Academy Award nominations, and one win for Hepburn. A young Anthony Hopkins makes this screen debut as Prince Richard. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood ( 1967-2001 )

"Welcome Neighbor!"

The tinkling piano keys of a jazzy composition and this simple salutation greeted youngsters who tuned into Mister Rogers' Neighborhood every morning for over three decades. Mister Rogers would begin each episode of the beloved children's program entering from his front porch door into his living room, taking off his blazer and donning one of the zippered cardigans he kept neatly hanging in the hall closet. He would then change into his beloved sneakers and give you a heartfelt welcome into his little wood-paneled abode and the world of make-believe. 

Mister Rogers led a simple life but it was one that we all enjoyed sharing every day of our childhood. Where he came from when he entered his house we never do know, and where he leaves to we never wonder about either, but at home he takes the time to feed his goldfish, take us on visits with other friends and neighbors and give us a glimpse into the lives of a royal family of puppets and their subjects, all the while spreading seeds of wisdom for us to absorb into our daily lives and use to grow into better people. 

"You always make each day a special day. You know how? By just being yourself. There's only one person in the whole world that's like you, and that's you. And people can like you just the way you are"

The elements that children and parents alike have come to love about Mister Rogers' Neighborhood  were not created at once, but have evolved throughout the years. Let's take a trolley ride into the past to see how these events connected with one another. 

The Beginnings

In order to learn about the history of the show we must first explore its creator...Mister Rogers. Fred McFeely Rogers was born on March 20, 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, 40 miles east of Pittsburgh. After he graduated from Rollins College with a degree in music composition he was hired by NBC to work as an assistant producer for The Voice of Firestone ( 195? ) and later, as a floor director, for other popular programs such as The Lucky Strike Hit Parade, The Kate Smith Hour and the NBC Opera Theatre.

WQED Pittsburgh, the nation's first community-sponsored educational television station, hired Mr. Rogers as a producer and as their program director. One of the first programs he produced was The Children's Corner, hosted by Josie Carey. The show aired live and featured Carey taking children on a visit to a land of make-believe peopled with puppets. Many of the characters that would be featured later on Mister Rogers Neighborhood first appeared at the Children's Corner, including Daniel Striped Tiger, X the Owl, King Friday XIII, Henrietta Pussycat, and Lady Elaine Fairchilde. Rogers served as puppeteer, composer and organist of the program which went on to win the Slyvania Award for best local children's program in the nation.

"You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are."

During the late 1950s Rogers attended a theological seminary during his off-hours and became ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963. It was around this time that he was invited to create a children's program for CBC station in Canada based on The Children's Corner. The head of Children's Programming at CBC saw how well Mr. Rogers interacted with children and asked if he could appear in front of the camera as host, rather than just as a puppeteer. He then renamed the show Misterogers and it continued successfully for three years.

In 1966 Fred Rogers purchased the rights to the show and moved it back to his hometown station WQED and created Misterogers Neighborhood. It was broadcast throughout many Eastern stations but lack of funding led to the show being cancelled after a year. However, public response to its cancellation was so overwhelming that the Sears Roebuck Foundation decided to fund the show and it then aired nationally on NET, National Educational Television...the predecessor to PBS. It was then that it's name changed to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The series lasted from February 1968 up until February 1976, when it went off the air for three years and then continued on again up until August 2001.

The Neighborhood of Make-Believe

Near the closing of each program Mr. Rogers would sit beside the trolley tracks near his window seat and watch as the Neighborhood Trolley came into the room to make its stop. He would refresh our memory on the events occurring in Make-Believe and then with the clang-clang ringing of the trolley bell we would be taken into the land of the royal puppets. 

" If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave with every meeting with another person. " 

Mister Rogers always kept the realms of Make-Believe and reality separate from one another and never permitted children to think that the imaginary world of puppets was interlinked with real life..even in the Neighborhood. But once there, imagination was free to run wild. Oddly enough though, the stories in Make-Believe were often more stressful than in Mr. Rogers life. King Friday, Queen Sara, or Prince Tuesday always had a problem on their hands, whether it be preparations for a party or complications arising over a guest that didn't behave nicely towards them. These were the situations that allowed the show to teach lessons to children on life, relationships, behavior, morals and responsibilities. 

Aside from royal family, there was also X the owl, Henrietta Pussycat, Daniel Striped Tiger, and the ( Dr.Smith look-alike ) Lady Elaine Fairchilde, voiced by Fred Rogers. 

At Home

When we weren't following Trolley to the neighborhood of Make-Believe, Mister Rogers would let us tag along with him as he ran errands or went to pay calls on friends. Some of those friends included musicians, artists, builders, designers, writers and famous people. Even politicians. Mr. Rogers wasn't choosy as to whom he associated with. Other times we stayed at home and watched him do a craft project in his kitchen, working alongside his beloved goldfish. 

Another favorite part of the show was when Mr. Rogers would pop a videotape into Picture-Picture and take us on a tour of a factory, or a food plant to see the "behind-the-scenes" making of a certain something-special. One day he showed us how pianos were made, another day how chocolates were dipped, and another day how rubbers balls were painted in all their swirly-colors.*

There was even an insightful look into how Mr. Rogers' house was "assembled" prior to production of the show. This clip can be seen here

Mr. Rogers' house really consisted of only three areas - the front porch, the living room and the kitchen. It's simple decor and suburban country charm was not changed during the show's 30 year span. The kitchen was the most exciting place to be for this was the room where Mr. Rogers would feed his goldfish, or open his retro 1950s refrigerator, or sit at the table to begin a craft project. 

The Cast 

The cast of Mr. Rogers evoled over the years in some small ways, but the main characters remained the same. Below we have highlighted just a few of the most memorable faces : 

Mr. McFeely ( David Newell ) - the Speedy Delivery man, was one of the most frequent guests to Rogers house. He would often bring letters from old friends and on special days, those awesome videotapes for Picture-Picture. Sometimes he would make time to stop by for a chat before once again embarking on his speedy run. Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night would keep Mr. McFeely from his appointed rounds. 

David Newell began his career with the show as associate producer back in 1968 but two years later he took on the role of Mr. McFeely and remained the memorable Speedy Delivery man for over thirty years. Incidentally, Mr.McFeely's character was named after Fred Rogers grandfather. Today, Newell continues to make guest appearances as Mr. McFeely, and even appeared in a 2008 documentary film about the character. Some characters take on a life of their own....

Lady Aberlin ( Betty Aberlin ) - Lady Aberlin was the sweetest lady in the land of Make-Believe. When she wasn't being herself, Aberlin often took on the parts of other characters, such as Mrs. Mefford. 

Betty Aberlin was 26 years old when she began her career with Mister Rogers in 1968 and was one of many members who stayed until its final episode in 2011. 

Handyman Negri ( Joe Negri ) - Joe Negri started as a jazz musician and then as musical director for a Pittsburgh television station during the 1950s. During the time he worked on 67 Melody Lane he met Johnny Costa. Costa later became musical director of Mister Rogers Neighborhood and it was probably through Costa that he met Fred Rogers and joined the series, staying for its entire run. Here is a great video of Negri and Costa in 1955.

Mister Rogers Neighborhood's cast and behind-the-scenes staff included many extremely talented musicians, and it is no wonder - music was an integral part of each episode. Fred Rogers, an accomplished pianist himself, composed over 200 songs for the series. Some of his songs remain the most memorable children's tunes. Who can forget "It's Such a Good Feeling"? 

" It's such a good feeling to know you're alive. It's such a happy feeling, you're growing inside. And when you wake up ready to say, 'I'll think I'll make a snappy new day', It's such a good feeling "

Lyrics like these capture the essence of what the entire series was all about - caring for others, being a helper in life, always staying positive, and appreciating others and yourself. It was a feel-good program filled with song, knowledge, wisdom and the joy that can be found in simple pleasures. 

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood lasted for over 33 years because generations of children drew to Fred Rogers' honest approach to life. Ah yes, such simple programs are so rare to find these days.

Mr.Rogers, you were special. 

* This post has a great collection of clips from ten of the best How It's Made segments of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. 

For further info and an astounding amount of behind-the-scenes trivia, check out The Neighborhood Archive  and The Fred Rogers Company website.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Libeled Lady ( 1936 ) - A Behind-the-Scenes Look

Every ace reporter wants a good story, one that is ripe with human interest and a fair amount of juice. But a really good reporter avoids the pulp. Sometimes, in the haste of chasing a scoop they squeeze a lemon and then they find the aftertaste to be quite bitter. Warren Haggerty ( Spencer Tracy ) did just that. As editor of the New York Evening Star, he printed a statement that heiress Connie Allenbury ( Myrna Loy ) was a marriage-breaker, cause enough for her to sue him for libel - $5,000,000 worth! 

Frantic, Haggerty schemes up a plan to prove his statement true. He nabs an out-of-work reporter ( William Powell ) to marry his own fiancee Gladys ( Jean Harlow ), and then orders him to compromise Ms. Allenbury. Enter an indignant Gladys who will then publicly sue Connie Allenbury for husband-stealing. Good plan, providing all runs well. 

All does NOT go well, however. Hence, the film takes a rollicking good turn into the realm of comedic mayhem. 

Libeled Lady is based on an original story by William Sullivan, a former newspaper reporter himself. Its premise revolves around a newspaper editor's worse nightmare - a libel suit. But, like most editors will attest, ingenuity comes to the rescue in moments of crisis, and Warren Haggerty will do anything to avoid that suit and save his job. 

The film is a briskly paced and highly amusing comedy which gives each of its stars plenty of room to sparkle and shine. It features some of MGM's top talent in their best form. Jean Harlow began her rise to stardom through screwball comedies and her return to the genre, after some more diverse roles in Riffraff ( 1935 ), Wife vs. Secretary ( 1936 ), and Suzy ( 1936 ), was welcomed with open arms by the public. Libeled Lady secured her standing as one of MGM's top female stars. She went on to make two more films before her untimely death at the age of 26.

Interestingly enough, Harlow originally balked at playing the part of Gladys. She wanted the role of Connie Allenbury in order to have scenes with her off-screen fiancee, William Powell. The MGM boss, Louis B. Mayer, shook his head at the suggestion ( he insisted the Powell/Loy teaming was what the public wanted ), and by the end of the film Harlow admitted that she enjoyed playing Gladys and the role was perfect for her. Even though she didn't get to spend many scenes together with Powell, they did spend time with each other in between scenes. As Frank Miller* writes, 

" She often visited the set when he was filming his scenes with Loy. One of those times, while she was waiting for Powell to finish a scene so they could go to dinner, director Jack Conway realized that he was one extra short for a big scene. Rather than let them postpone shooting - the casting office was already closed for the night - Harlow put on a black wig and joined the rest of the extras, a return to the work she had done when she first arrived in Hollywood ". 

Rosalind Russell was originally selected for the role of the heiress, but after the success of Powell and Loy's teaming in The Great Ziegfeld, it was decided that Myrna Loy would be more suitable. Libeled Lady marked the fifth of their fourteen films together. 

Another star that was replaced prior to the film's shooting was Lionel Barrymore for the part of Mr. Allenbury. Walter Connolly took over and played it with flair.

Location scenes for the famous fishing sequence were filmed in the high Sierras of California. The beautiful set design of the Allenbury's fishing cottage was another wonderful creation from MGM's supervising art director, Cedric Gibbons, who was busy that year working on Romeo and Juliet and The Great Ziegfeld for the studio as well. 

Libeled Lady was advertised as being MGM's first all-star film since Dinner at Eight ( 1933 ). It was directed by one of MGM's most dependable directors, Jack Conway, and was an immense hit at the box-office, earning $2.7 million in sales and even picked up an Oscar nod for Best Picture. 

Unlike most romantic comedies today, Libeled Lady had a perfect balance of star punch. It subtly refused to shine the spotlight on any one person and let it rest on all of them instead. It is truly a sophisticated slapstick par excellence. We have not seen the movie in over ten years and yet the one feature we do recall about the movie is it was funny...for that to remain memorable is a testament to how amusing the film must really be.

Some may say that a libel suit is no laughing matter...but Libeled Lady proves that statement wrong. It can be a laughing matter indeed! 

This post is our contribution to the Journalism in Classic Film blogathon covering newspaper men and women in classic films, hosted by Comet Over Hollywood and Lindsay's Movie Musings. Be sure to check out all the other great posts in this blogathon! 

* for TCMdb

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Missing Miss Marple Film

When Agatha Christie first wrote "The Tuesday Night Club", a short story which had appeared in The Sketch magazine in 1926, she had little idea that her protagonist - a small-framed, bespeckled, gossiping little old lady - would charm the public as much as it had. What made this spinster from the sleepy hamlet of St. Mary Mead so endearing? Beneath her seemingly dotty facade she kept hidden a master intellect capable of accurately judging character and shrewdly sifting truth from fiction....attributes that helped her immensely in her hobby - solving mysteries.

Her name was Jane Marple, more commonly known simply as "Miss Marple". 

Miss Marple appeared in over thirty different novels and short stories from her introduction in the mid-1920s. However, in spite of her popularity it was not until 1961 that she made her first screen appearance in Murder She Said, an adaption of one of Christie's most popular Marple mysteries, "4:50 from Paddington". 

Dame Margaret Rutherford played the lead role in this film and, despite Christie's misgivings about her suitability to the role, she captured the essence of our quintessential snoopy-sleuth to perfection. The film was quite popular at the box-office and three other Marple mysteries were released within the next two years, Murder at the Gallop, Murder Most Foul and Murder Ahoy. With all the changing winds of the mid-sixties blowing in, the series was - sadly - brought to an abrupt end. 

We'd like to share a review of the fifth Miss Marple mystery that Margaret Rutherford would have made, had the series continued on. Enjoy! 


Studio : Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Prod.
Directed by : Ronald Neame 
Cast : Margaret Rutherford ( Miss Jane Marple ), Gladys Cooper ( Duchess Wynfleet ), Leslie Philips ( Reginald Wynfleet ), Sue Lloyd ( Dana Malstrom ) Stringer Davis ( Mr. Stringer ), Charles Tingwell ( Inspector Craddock ), Keiron Moore ( fisherman Rodgers ), Joyce Grenfell ( Buntley librarian ), Norman Bowler ( David Wynfleet ), Valerie Van Ost ( Binnie ).

The film opens with a fisherman hauling in his catch one early morning and lo! what is amongst his aquatic load? A body...of the two-legged variety. 

Meanwhile in Miss Marple's village of Milchester, everything is peaceful as usual. Mr. Stringer, the village librarian, is spending a Saturday afternoon at Miss Marple's cottage enjoying her company and her excellent tea and biscuits. Her conversational repartee isn't up to par on this day however, for, while perusing the obituaries, she was startled to read this article : 


The body of Mr. Giles Townsend, of London, was found early this morning by a fisherman about a mile out from the coast at Buntley-by-the-sea. The police are investigating his death which appears to be from suicide caused by drowning. Mr. Townsend was one of London's most prominent genealogists. 

"Miss Marple, your interest in the obituaries is distressingly morbid. Have you ever thought about taking up a gentle hobby?" 

Little does Mr. Stringer know that Miss Marple is indeed very active in her community. In fact, it was because of her involvement in the Ladies of Milchester Society that made her recognize Mr. Townsend's name. She had written a letter to him only days earlier asking if he would give a lecture at the society's next meeting on Thursday. Why had he committed suicide? Or was it suicide?

That evening she is even more disturbed when she receives a rather cryptic letter from Mr. Townsend, postmarked two days earlier from Ye Old Ship's Inn, Buntley-by-the-sea. He states that he will be more than happy to make a speech for the ladies group but will not be able to arrive until Friday, as he is deep in research tracing a most prominent family's lineage. "England's future may just rest on the information I find!" he writes. These are not the words of a man who is about to kill himself. 

She takes her letter to Inspector Craddock but he dismisses her evidence as unsubstantial. And so Miss Marple packs up her bags and declares she is going "on holiday" the seaside. Buntley-by-the-sea. 

Inquiries at Ye Old Ships Inn and the local library reveal to Miss Marple that Mr. Townsend arrived in Buntley solely for the purpose of doing genealogy research on the Duke and Duchess Wynfleet. He had uncovered the fact that the current Wynfleets were not rightful heirs to the title nor the Wynfleet fortune. Perhaps this was the reason he was murdered?? 

With Mr. Stringers assistance ( he does a wonderful portrayal of an absent minded genealogist ) Miss Marple goes undercover to investigate at the Wynfleet estate and finds a house full of possible suspects... including the Duchess herself. 

Murder is Announced was a gem in the Rutherford series of Miss Marple films. It included one of the best casts with the inimitable Dame Gladys Cooper as the crusty Duchess Wynfleet. Gladys Cooper had been in films since the 1920s and had a made a name for herself in Hollywood for playing upper-crust, and often overbearing, English matrons. She had starred on Broadway as Mrs. St. Maugham in the 1956 stage adaption of Enid Bagnold's "The Chalk Garden" so the role of Duchess Wynfleet came very easily for her since they were quite similar characters. 

The film also boasts some wonderful supporting players such as Leslie Philips ( a delightful change from his usual comedy roles ), Joyce Grenfell, Keiron Moore, and Marple regulars Charles Tingwell ( as Inspector Craddock ) and Stringer Davis..who was in fact, Margaret Rutherford's husband. 

Ron Goodwin's jaunty theme music trips along throughout the film and helps enhance some of the more lackluster sequences. 

It is a shame that the series had to end after so few pictures because they are perfect films to watch on chilly autumn nights..which we will be having plenty of soon in the northern states!

This post is apart of The Great Imaginary Film Blogathon which will be running from Oct. 1-3, 2013. To read more about the event click here. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Great Imaginary Film Blogathon is on its Way!

Get your thinking caps on....The Great Imaginary Film Blogathon is on its way!!  In less than two weeks it will be time to brainstorm, experiment, create, and share your ideas for all the wonderfully stupendous films that you wish were made - but never were.  

Merlin Jones knows the importance of preparation and he's reading up so he can store extra knowledge in his super-duper high-powered thinking cap. 

Well, you don't need that folks. All you need is what you got - a lot of creativity. So get those juices flowing! 

If you already have an idea for what you would like to contribute shoot us an email or leave a comment in the box below between now and October 1 and we'll add your topic to the Master List. Remember, you are not limited to one film idea. If you would like to create a musical, a drama, a mystery, a horror film AND an ultra cheesy B film, go right ahead! 

Can you change your mind? Certainly. Write about whatever you want, we're not fussy people.

Interested in joining? 

All are welcome right up until the day the blogathon starts... if you want to join after it begins, you can do so too. If you want to join us after it ends - sorry, tough luck there. Unlike other blogathons you don't have to be concerned about the film of your choice being "taken" because there are no films to be took! 

Still puzzled on what this is all about? Check out our sample posts : 

The Original Harry Potter ( 1938 ) 

The Missing Miss Marple Film 

You can read more about what the blogathon is about from our original post.  

"Just a little more Bogart and this will be the perfect noir formula!"



They Don't Make 'Em Like They Use To - "A Place in the Sun" ( with a revised ending ) 

Hamlette's Soliloquy  - "Murder Most Foul" ( 1943 ) a film noir version of Hamlet 

The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog - The 1966 Hammer/Toho Production "Godzilla Vs. England".

Movies Silently - A 1926 all-star silent extravaganza entitled "The Golden Challenge"

Embarrassing Treasures  - Georgette Heyer's "The Corinthian" ( 1943 )

A Mythical Monkey - "Model Railroader Magazine : The Movie" 


The Motion Pictures  - Classic re-castings of six favorite post-1970 films - Part I 

The Great Katharine Hepburn - The best Hepburn films that were never made

Caftan Woman  - "Charlie Chan in Hollywood" 

Films From Beyond the Time Barrier  - Universal's "Chamber of Horrors" ( 1943 ) 

Critica Retro - A 1934 gangster/musical

Silver Scenes  - The Top Ten Literary Film Adaptions Never Made


Karavansara - John Huston's "The Man Who Would Be King" ( possibly )

The Lady Eve's Reel Life - "Just my Imagination ( Running Away with Me )" a look at Willa Cather's novella "My Mortal Enemy".

Scribblings - a silent film adaption of Josephine Preston Peabody's play "Marlowe". 

Classic Forever - to be announced. 

Wide Screen World - A 1971 film about the Brooklyn Dodgers

Furious Cinema - The Wizard ( 1974 ) starring Peter Boyle

Classic Film and TV Cafe - "Goldfinger" ( 1964 ) starring Cary Grant as James Bond

The Motion Pictures  -  Classic re-castings of six favorite post-1970 films - Part II

Nitrate Diva - A look at Louise Brooks in a 1940s film noir

Hamlette's Soliloquy - The Avengers re-cast for a super 1956 film.

We just jumbled everyone up into these days, but if you have a preference on when you would like to post, let us know. 

We are so pleased with the turnout so far and can't wait to read about all the fantastic film ideas everyone can conceive!

On the day of the blogathon keep a lookout for the "People's Choice Poll" on our sidebar. Here is where you can vote for your favorite Imaginary Film idea based on the entries we have received. 

Okay, that's all for now....bring out your movie-making machine, turn a knob here and there, add that extra special ingredient if need be, throw in some lightning, and a dash of discovery - play the mad scientist and create your dream film. But please, don't go overboard....what would the neighbors think?