Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ron Goodwin - Composer

Ron Goodwin ( Feb. 17, 1925 - January 8, 2003 ) 

Ron Goodwin was a prolific composer who scored over 60 feature films throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He got his start in the industry in the mid-1940s arranging music for popular British artists of the day such as Ted Heath, Geraldo, and the BBC orchestra, but within five years switched to conducting orchestras for recording companies such as Polygon Records. Later, he worked with George Martin at Parlophone Records where he was kept busy arranging and conducting music for over 300 recordings, including a series of Peter Sellers LPS and Goodwin's own music, released under the Ron Goodwin and His Concert Orchestra name. 

It was during the 1960s that Goodwin became the top-notch film composer that we know of today when he began work with MGM British film studios, scoring it big with the jaunty titular tune to Murder She Said ( 1961 ) and his excellent 633 Squadron ( 1964 ) theme. During the early 1970s Goodwin joined with the Walt Disney Studios and composed the themes to many of their British productions. 

For over thirty years, Ron Goodwin also toured the world performing film and popular music in concerts to vast crowds of enthusiastic listeners. 

Signature Style

Mr.Goodwin often arranged trumpets with string but his unique stamp is most probably his rousing war film themes, which utilized plenty of horns and his spunky "old English lady" music, which could be heard in the Miss Marple themes and The Alphabet Murders

The Noteworthy Five

Whirlpool ( 1958 ) - One of Goodwin's first film scores and such a lovely score this is.

The Trials of Oscar Wilde ( 1960 ) - A powerful and yet gentle theme wrapped into one. The clashing cymbals offset the beautiful strains of the strings.  

Murder, She Said ( 1961 ) - Simply unforgettable. A truly unique piece of music to fit a truly unique series of mystery films. 

633 Squadron ( 1964 ) - The famous six-beat three-beat theme, played on french horns. 

Where Eagles Dare ( 1968 ) - An epic score to match an epic adventure film. 

Highlights of his Discography

  • The Trials of Oscar Wilde ( 1960 )
  • Village of the Damned ( 1960 ) 
  • The Day of the Triffids ( 1963 )
  • Of Human Bondage ( 1964 ) 
  • Operation Crossbow ( 1965 ) 
  • The Alphabet Murders ( 1965 ) 
  • The Battle of Britain ( 1969 )
  • Frenzy ( 1970 )
  • One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing ( 1975 )
  • The Littlest Horse Thieves ( 1976 ) 
  • Candleshoe ( 1977 ) 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Blessed Thanksgiving!

Howie ol' boy, if you eat that whole turkey yourself you'll keel over!

We have a lot to be thankful for : a wonderful family, good health, a business we love working for, a swell kitty-kat, and a whole slew of great movies that we have a lifetime to enjoy and share with others. We hope that all of you, dear readers, have had a wonderful Thanksgiving too and are enjoying a blessed life to savor each and every day. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dennis Hoey - A Closer Inspection

"Why, if it isn't Mr. 'Olmes!"

You may know him by his real name, but more than likely you just call out "Lestrade!" when you see him on film. Although Dennis Hoey has become forever associated with his role as Inspector Lestrade in the Universal Sherlock Holmes series, he was a character actor like no other; a competent actor who appeared in nearly 75 films with that burly mug of his that is instantly recognizable.

Samuel David Hyams was born in London in 1892 to Russian immigrants who operated a bed and breakfast in Brighton. While attending Brighton College, the young lad considered entering the teaching profession but war intervened and, while fighting overseas for the home island, he found out what jolly fun it was singing for his fellow soldiers. This led to Hyams deciding that becoming a musical performer might be a very entertaining business. Once back on British soil, he joined up with an acting company and made his first stage appearance in 1919 at London's Drury Lane Theatre. He landed a plumb part as Ali Ben Ali in the London production of The Desert Song which ran for over 400 performances and for the next decade exercised his dramatic skills while touring with Godfrey Tearle’s Shakespearean repertory company.

Early in his stage career, Hyams changed his name to Hoey, most likely to link his name with that of Iris Hoey, a very popular musical comedy star at the turn of the century. He crossed the Atlantic to appear in a few stage productions in New York, notably Katja ( 1926 ), before heading back to England to wed and to dip his toes in that refreshing new pond of opportunity - talking pictures.


Hoey had a number of juicy film parts during the early 1930s, including Baroud ( a Rex Ingram film ), the unforgettably titled Chu-Chin-Chow with Anna May Wong, The Good Companions starring Jessie Matthews, I Spy with Sally Eilers, and Brewster's Millions featuring Jack Buchanan. Hoey also performed in several Stanley Lupino ( Ida Lupino's father ) comedy films  before taking time off to return to the stage and star in light operas. 

In 1937, Hoey moved his family ( which included son, Michael ) to the states and for the next five years kept active in the theatre performing in Pygmalion ( as Colonel Pickering ), Jane Eyre ( which he toured with Katharine Hepburn ), and Virginia along with Nigel Bruce. When war broke out in Europe, Hoey packed up his family once again and headed west to the land of movie stars in the hopes of finding regular film work. Which he did. 

Within three years Hoey appeared in eleven films for 20th Century Fox, demonstrating his flexibility in roles ranging from lords, intelligence officers, and detectives. The 6'2" actor exuded an authoritative presence which made him perfect for these kind of roles. It was most likely his performance as Colonel Woodhue, head of the British secret service, in the spy comedy Cairo that led to Hoey being cast as Inspector Lastrade in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon ( 1942 ). 

The series became so popular that Hoey was naturally called back to Universal studios, where he was under a non-exclusive contract, to revive his role in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death. He would go on to make four more Holmes films for the studio and was pigeon-holed in similar "inspector" roles in the horror classics Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and She-Wolf of London ( 1946 ).

Hoey was really marvelous as the affable Lestrade. He gave substance to a character that was barely sketched out by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and made him a favorite fixture of the series. He brought to the character a proper air of diplomacy in spite of his utter lack of efficiency and was truly a beloved bumbler. Hoey enjoyed portraying Lestrade and even wrote a script for a Sherlock Holmes installment, in which Holmes attempts to solve a mystery surrounding the famous ghost of the Drury Lane theatre. It is a shame this script never was produced, for it would have been a good addition to the series. 

Once back at 20th Century Fox he was able to portray a wide variety of characters in films throughout the mid-1940s. Some of the films he made during this period include National Velvet, A Thousand and One Nights, The Keys of the Kingdom, Kitty, The Crimson Key, Golden Earrings, and The Foxes of HarrowAnna and the King of Siam offered him the chance to play alongside his real-life friend, Rex Harrison. Here, he was cast as a nobleman but, unfortunately, most of his part wound up on the cutting room floor.

In the late 1940s, Hoey continued to stretch his acting muscles in minor roles in adventure and dramatic pictures such as If Winter Comes, Joan of Arc, The Wake of the Red Witch and The Secret Garden and also did a number of radio spots, including playing Lestrade alongside Rathbone and Bruce. 

By the early 1950s however, Hoey's career was on the wane and he turned his attention to the newest medium of wonder : television. Ironically, one of Hoey's last performances was that of Arthur Conan Doyle in an episode of Omnibus ( 1956 ). 

In his final years, Hoey remained in Tampa, Florida with his second wife, basking in the sun and enjoying retirement until his death in 1960. He was estranged from his son, Michael, who later went on to become a successful producer and director. 

One of our favorite annual events - the What a Character! blogathon - is taking place this week over at Aurora's Gin Joint. This is our small contribution to an event that celebrates all those wonderful character actors of the silver screen. Be sure to check out the roster of posts on all your favorites! 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

North West Frontier ( 1959 )

Flame Over India ( released in Britain as North West Frontier ) is a suspenseful epic about smuggling a boy prince out of India's northwestern province to safety in Kalapur after his father, the Rajah, is killed in a massive Islamic uprising. 

English army officer Captain Scott ( the marvelous Kenneth More ) is given last-minute orders to this effect and is left to use his own resources to bring the boy out in safety. Being a loyal soldier, Scott is willing to lay his life on the line before letting any harm come to the young prince and gets a few chances to prove his loyalty to the crown. Most of the English population of the area fled prior to the uprising and only the Governor ( Wilfred Hyde-White ), his wife ( Ursula Jeans ), the prince's American governess ( Lauren Bacall ), a Dutch/Indian news reporter ( Herbert Lom ) and a French gun dealer ( I.S. Johar ) remain, all of whom ask for Captain Scott's assistance in their flight for safety. 

Leaving by horse cannot be considered because of the numerous snipers hiding in the hills, and most of the trains have already left days ago ( filled to the brim and flowing over with Indians ), so unfortunately the only means of train transportation left at his disposal is a decrepit old steam locomotive - Victoria, the Empress of India. Gupta, the engineer of the locomotive has great faith in "his fine lady", and assures the Captain that Victoria will be suitable for the mission.

 "Alright, Victoria is old, I confess that. But she has experience, sahib. And when she has experience, what can go wrong?!" 

What can go wrong indeed! Our cast of characters venture forth on a 300-mile journey through rebel-held territory in the rickety old engine and to add to the danger, they find that an enemy agent is among them - one who is bent on purposely endangering the prince!!

What appealed to me most about this film the first time I saw it was its fine cast ( who can pass up a good Kenneth More film? ), its imperialism era setting and the wonderful plot. When the picture was released in the UK, More received top billing for his performance as the Captain. However, for the US release, he got bumped down to second billing in place of Lauren Bacall. 

At first, Bacall appears to be out of place as the governess, but her performance grows on you as the film progresses. She is excellent as usual and perfectly suited as the head-strong American woman who likes to speak her mind, and who slowly falls in love with the storybook correct Captain Scott. 

North West Frontier is a highly under-rated adventure film and this may be due to it rarely being aired on television. If it had a broader audience it would surely become a favorite with many. Its duel titles does not help matters ( the alternately spelled Northwest Frontier becomes a third title in the mess ).

Filmed in Technicolor on location in India and Spain, the movie plunges into the fray of danger and excitement from the start and although the "enemy" is pretty obvious to discover, Northwest Frontier is filled with many other suspenseful moments throughout its 129 minute run time. 

For those with that inner spirit of adventure, come aboard the Empress of India on a daring ( and dangerous ) journey through the Northwest Frontier and you can be sure you'll not to be disappointed! It's a Boys Own adventure come to glorious life in film. 

This post is our contribution to The British Empire in Film Blogathon being hosted by Phantom Empires and The Stalking Moon. Be sure to check out their sites for a jolly good list of imperial posts! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kim ( 1950 )

1885 Lahore, India: 

Colonel Creighton, head of the British-India Secret Service receives a report that the Russians are planning an attack on India via the Khyber Pass…where and when they plan on attacking is unknown. With the help of “Red Beard” Mahbub Ali, their top agent who disguises himself as a horse trader; the “Fat Man”; and an orphan English boy named Kim, they try to uncover the Russian’s plan before it is too late. 

Rudyard Kipling’s thrilling adventure novel “Kim” was brought to the screen in 1950 in brilliant eye-popping Technicolor and boasted a splendid cast with Errol Flynn as the magnificent Red Beard, Cecil Kellaway as the Fat Man, Paul Lukas as the Holy Man ( a Tibetan monk with an unusually strong Austrian accent ), and Dean Stockwell as our boy-hero Kim - a young English lad who learns how difficult it can be to play to spy for the Great Game, especially when he learns that he must forsake his scavenging ways and don the manners of his own people.

"You belong with your own people. A true man, like a true horse, runs with his own breed"

Kipling's novel was based on real-life spying methods during the era of the Great Game. This was the familiar term for the rivalry the British Empire had with Russia for gaining territory ( and supremacy ) in Central Asia. The "game" began in 1813 and continued on for nearly 100 years. In 1885, the year that Kim was set in, the two powers nearly declared war on each other when Russia seized Afghan territory near Panjdeh.

Filmed on location in Rajasthan and Utter Pradash, India ( as well as Lone Pines, California ), the movie gives us a grand tour of India and how it may have looked during the Age of Imperialism, when British troops paraded on grounds outside city walls and wily dangerous characters lurked in dark corners of crowded sadaks. 

The rights to Rudyard Kipling's popular adventure novel were purchased by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the mid-1930s with the intention of casting Freddie Bartholomew in the title role. For unknown reasons, this project was abandoned and not taken up again until the late 1940s.

During this time, Errol Flynn was loaned to MGM from Warner Brothers for two pictures. The first one was That Forsyte Woman where, opposite Greer Garson, he was cast as the unloved Soames Forsythe. His second feature was a choice between King Soloman's Mines or Kim. Both were to be filmed on location. Errol opted for India over Africa and the lead role of Allan Quartermain in King Solomon's Mines was turned over to English actor Stewart a very enjoyable version of the story too, if I say so meself. 

Kim is a wonderful adventure film as well – enjoyable for all ages – but alas, it fails to be a truly memorable film, mainly due to its heavy reliance on voice-over narration rather than pictures and dialogue. However, when there is dialogue, it is spoken right from the pages of Kipling’s novel and pleasantly plays on the ears in lyrical fashion.

" You should believe only your eyes…and not the voices of others."

" This is a child’s game, Mr. Luzor "

" It is part of a Great Game ". 

Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the famous British Army scout and founder of the Boy Scout movement, would of fully approved of the lessons this film teaches…..key lessons on observation and judging character; always being aware of one's surroundings and being prepared.

Dean Stockwell is particularly noteworthy as the English sahib living life as an Indian boy. Devoted to his Holy Man, Kim acts as his chelah ( a servant to a monk ) while travelling across India with him in quest of the sacred River of the Arrow. Begging on the streets, climbing across rooftops, cursing passerby's, and donning a dark tan, he is an unlikely suspect to his enemies and hence...becomes a master player of the Great Game.

This post is our contribution to The British Empire in Film Blogathon being hosted by The Stalking Moon and Phantom Empires. It's a ripping good event covering all the grand and glorious films set in the age of Imperialism. Be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Quiz

Hi Yo Silver....Awaaaaaay! Oh wait, that doesn't look like the Lone Ranger. That doesn't look like a wild west scene either. And is that even Silver pictured?? We'll let you decide that when you correctly guess this scene from a popular film ( popular with a certain fan base, that is ).

As always, if you are unfamiliar with the rules to the game or the prize, click here


Congratulations to Ginger Rogers who correctly guessed "First Love" ( 1939 ) starring Deanna Durbin. That young man holding the reins of the white stallion is none other than Robert Stack, who gave Durbin her first screen kiss in this film.