Friday, September 30, 2016

Marc Davis - Walt Disney Imagineer

Marc Davis was a veteran animator and storyteller whose career at the Walt Disney Studios spanned over 45 years. He is probably one of the most famous of the "Imagineers" at the studio and justly so, because he contributed greatly to Disney’s animation classics as well as to many of Disneyland’s themed attractions. Bambi, Cinderella, Tinker Bell, Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent, Cruella de Ville, Brier Rabbit and dear little skunk Flower were all characters created by Marc Davis.

Born on March 30, 1913 in Bakersfield, California, Marc traveled across most of America with his family before settling back in California where he attended various art institutes honing his love for drawing. During his years at college he would spend hours visiting the local zoo to sketch the animals and this practice came to good use later when he began work at Walt Disney Studios in 1935 as an apprentice animator for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and later for the exceptional character studies he created for Bambi.
During the 1940s he was busy doing more of the same work on such features as Song of the South, Fun and Fancy Free, So Dear to My Heart, and later on Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmations, as well as working on many of the animated shorts released through Disney during the 1950s and 60s.

Marc Davis also played a key part in the development of Disneyland’s most famous attractions. In 1961 he became an Imagineer after Walt realized that a man with his creative blend of humor and storytelling skill was greatly needed at Disneyland, even more so than at the Studio. This came about one day when Walt asked his top character designer to take a trip to the park and “take a good, hard, critical look” at the Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland ride to see what the ride was lacking and how it could be improved. Marc did just that, and came back thoroughly disappointed with not only that ride but with most of the other attractions at Disneyland too. He gave his report to Walt and then, with his approval, took his trusty little pencil and began to redesign all of the attractions to include what he thought they strongly lacked – a compelling story and humor. 
To this day his distinctive use of comical characterizations and visual “sight gags” can be seen throughout Disneyland and are the reason that many of the famous attractions are as beloved as they are now. The Jungle Cruise, The Enchanted Tiki Room, The Pirates of the Caribbean ride, The Haunted Mansion and many, many others all bear the stamp of the inventive genius of Marc Davis.
In 1978 he retired from the Walt Disney Studios and only occasionally returned to work as consultant on major projects the Imagineers were developing such as Epcot and Toyko Disneyland.  He was later honored, in 1989, with the Disney Legends award which is the highest achievement for a Disney artist. Marc Davis passed away in January 2000. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Children of the Stones ( 1977 )

In January 1977, the BBC aired the first episode of an engrossing seven-part children's miniseries entitled Children of the Stones. This program, destined to become one of the most highly regarded British television series ever made, gave its audience gigantic goose-pimples, and inspired decade-lasting nightmares in youngsters. Even its title sequence, a series of photographs featuring neolithic monuments shot at jarring angles with unsettling background choral vocalizations, scared away the faint-at-heart.
But those who turned off their television set would have missed a truly entertaining series, one that stands as a testament to the compelling power of a good script well-acted.

Its story centers around Milbury, a quaint English village, whose inhabitants are held in curious captivity by the psychic forces that appear to be generated by the huge circle of neolithic stones surrounding the village. One by one, newcomers to the "circle" fall victim to a state of hypnosis, awaking with an overwhelming sense of happiness.

Astrophysicist Professor Adam Brake ( Gareth Thomas ), and his young son Matthew ( Peter Denim ), a budding scientist himself, have come to secluded Milbury to study electromagnetivity on the surviving 53 stones of the ancient stone circle. Once inside its boundaries, Professor Brake and his son discover that the village is a center of power which proves much easier to enter than leave, and that they must use the strength of pure mathematics and modern science to battle the forces of age-old mysticism and rural legend in order to escape.

"I deny the existence of that which exists"

Margaret ( Veronica Strong ), curator of the local museum, is also a newcomer to the village along with her daughter Sandra ( Katherine Levy ). She warns the professor that he will soon feel very alone here as the residents are an odd bunch, seemingly divided into regular people and inhumanly docile "Happy Ones". Margaret and Sandra find allies in Adam and Matthew and decide to work together to discover the secret behind Milbury's mysterious power.

Similarly to Invasion of the Body Snatchers ( 1956 ) and the television series The Invaders ( 1967 ), it is difficult to distinguish those who have been transformed from those who have not except for the presence of a small sign. In Milbury, it is the peaceful spirit of happiness that is engulfing the villagers and those that once were outsiders greet one another with "Happy day!", boasting an extremely high intellect, the power to read minds, and the desire to live harmoniously. These are virtues in themselves, but our principal characters fear they will be sucked into a world where individuality and the freedom to inquire have been permanently dispelled.

This mysterious power of Milbury seems to be controlled by one of the village's most prominent citizens, Rafael Hendrick ( Ian Cuthbertson ), a former astronomer and the discoverer of an imploded star, a so-called "black hole", which lies at the heart of this complex mystery. Hendrick has since crossed the realm of egocentricity, becoming a high priest to an unknown celestial force with the task of "harvesting" the citizens of Milbury to dance around ancient ritual sites and become mindless worshipers to an unusual shaft of light. He instantly recognizes the questioning scientific minds of the Brakes as being a threat to the peaceful villager's existence. However, he is confident that his secret will remain undiscovered long enough for him to change them into "happy ones" as well.

Children of the Stones is an oddity among children programming because, while it was aimed towards an after-school audience, it featured some thought-provoking subject matter with themes of parallel time-warps and eternal return. The serial was made on location at Avebury, site of a 5,000 year old sun temple, and at Bristol Studios.

Peter Graham Scott, who had a long-history in television working on episodes of Danger Man and The Avengers during the 1960s, produced and directed Children of the Stones. Those who are familiar with the Quatermass series will recognize echoes of Nigel Kneale's work in Trevor Ray and Jeremy Burnham's script. These writers must be given credit for not oversimplifying their story for its juvenile audience. 

This serial was made at a time when ITV was turning out top-notch entertainment. Special effects and production design were next to nothing, but they are entirely unnecessary when a good script is created and excellent actors are on hand to perform it. Veronica Strong ( wife of co-author Jeremy Burnham ) and her daughter gave the story an extra romantic angle for the more mature teens to enjoy and it is their presence in the story that creates the emotional drama at the climax. Also in the cast is Freddie Jones, Ruth Dunning, and June Barry. 

American audiences did not experience the thrill of Children of the Stones until 1983, when the program aired on Nickelodeon's The Third Eye television series. It has since earned cult classic status as one of the most frightening children's series ever filmed...even though the story element, itself, is not very terrifying.

Children of the Stones is available on DVD, fully restored, through Network Distributing Limited. If you can't wait to watch the series it is available for viewing on Youtube via this link.  Want to check out more reviews of Network releases? Click here!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Whoa! That first seat is a doozy. This man evidently did not enjoy having his bottom hit bottom. But audiences enjoyed seeing him go the question is, who is he, and what film is this from? As usual, if you saw the movie you'll know the scene, otherwise....good luck guessing!

Don't know what this game is all about? Then check out the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game ( and the prize ) here!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

From the Archives - Joel McCrea and Frances Dee

This featured photo from the archives depicts that real-life cowboy Joel McCrea with his wife Frances Dee bedecked in rancher's apparel. McCrea and Dee were both box-office drawing actors when they met on the set of The Silver Cord ( 1933 ). The McCreas owned a 3,000 acre spread in Thousand Oaks, California, where they spent their time riding and raising their three boys. This photograph features a scene from the last western they co-starred together in - Four Faces West ( 1948 ).

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 :

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Caribbean Mystery ( 1983 )

"Mrs. Kendell had a knife??"

Why was Mrs. Kendell walking around with a knife? Mrs. Kendell herself certainly could not say. Indeed, the poor woman did not even realize that during one of her recent blackout spells a body had been discovered stabbed to death. This is just one of several murders that occur at the Golden Palm, a small resort in the West Indies that Miss Jane Marple checks into for a holiday.

Sunshine, fresh air, and plenty of rest are just what the doctor ordered for Miss Marple, and so she headed to the Caribbean only to discover mystery, mayhem, and murder awaiting her!

It all began with Major Palgrave.....

"Want to see a picture of a murderer?" he asks. While working on his memoirs, the Major offers to show an incriminating photograph to Miss Marple but then he suddenly recognizes one of the people at the resort as the face in the photo and quickly tucks it away. Shortly thereafter he dies of a "heart attack". Coincidence? Miss Marple thinks not, and the spinster from St. Mary Mead has solved enough crimes to recognize the signs of foul play. 

Among the many suspects are: Mr. and Mrs. Kendell, the proprietors of the resort ( Jameson Parker and Season Hubley ); "Lucky" and her husband ( Cassie Yates and Stephen Macht ), Mr. and Mrs. Hillingdon ( Beth Howland and George Innes ), Dr. Graham ( Brock Peters ), and that old tycoon Mr. Rafiel ( Barnard Hughes ). 
A Caribbean Mystery was a made-for-television production that aired on CBS on October 23, 1983. It was one of several Agatha Christie TV movies made by The Stan Margulies Company. It took Margulies three years to acquire the rights to convert Christie's novels into television features, and, once having obtained them, he was anxious to focus on the Miss Marple stories. After the success of the first Christie production Murder is Easy ( based on her 1939 mystery of the same name ), Margulies set to work on producing an adaptation of her 1964 novel "A Caribbean Mystery", which previously had not been filmed. 

Helen Hayes, the first lady of the American Theatre, took on the character of Miss Marple with her usual sweet command. She had a brief role in Murder is Easy but this was the first time she was cast as the famous senior sleuth. In spite of her spunky Americanization of the part, Agatha Christie fans adored her and she returned to the role two years later in Murder with Mirrors
Miss Marple is an elderly granny-type, who enjoys knitting and listening to bits of gossip when she can overhear it. Nobody suspects that she has a shrewd intellect and, therefore, she can go about her detecting unnoticed. Unlike Joan Hickson or Geraldine McEwan's interpretations of the character, Helen Hayes brilliantly nails this unsuspecting nature of Miss Marple. 

Christie's "A Caribbean Mystery" was praised when it was first published with crime-writer and reviewer Anthony Berkeley Cox exclaiming that the writer was back in her old form after a series of disappointing novels. "In 'A Caribbean Mystery' she tells the reader explicitly what is going to happen; and yet when it does, nine out of ten will be taken completely by surprise – as I was. How does she do it?"

Well, this television adaptation of the story receives praises among Agatha Christie fans too, and justly so. It stays true to her novel, meandering along at a gentle pace unraveling new layers of delightful puzzles as it progresses. The cast, while not particularly well known outside of their television work, are perfect in each part. Barnard Hughes is especially entertaining as the wheel-chair bound grouch Mr. Rafiel. The film added a hint of romance between him and Miss Marple which is another pleasant touch. 
For a respite from the approaching rainy autumn weather, sit back and enjoy the winning combination of sunshine and murder to be found in A Caribbean Mystery

This post is our contribution to the Agatha Christie Blogathon being hosted by Christina Wehner and Little Bits of Classics. Be sure to head on over to their sites to check out more posts about the famous mystery writer, her books, and the film adaptations of her work. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Murder is Easy ( 1982 )

The person in question is just the last person anyone would suspect. And so long as no one suspects you...murder is easy "

Who would dream that an English respite could lead to danger and romance? That is exactly what happened for Luke Williams in the television adaption of Agatha's Christies' 1939 novel, "Murder is Easy". Onboard a train en route to London, the visiting American computer analyst meets a little old lady who confesses to him her suspicions of a murderer in her village, along with the name of the next victim. "I feel certain Dr. Humbleby will be next!"  Soon after, she finds herself applied to the pavement in a most unladylike manner and, donning his deerskin hat, Luke sets off for Wychwood to warn Humbleby of his impending doom and unmask the culprit. 

Murder is Easy was originally released on January 2, 1982 on CBS. The television movie was one of several Agatha Christie productions ( A Caribbean MysterySparkling Cyanide ), that producer Stan Margulies released in the 1980s. Negotiations for the rights to convert Christies' novels into TV features took three years and, once approved, Margulies immediately set to work in bringing the stories up to date to appeal to American audiences. 
Murder is Easy is headed by a stellar cast, featuring Bill Bixby in the lead role along with a slew of British stalwarts such as: Helen Hayes as Miss Fullerton, the little old lady; Lesley Anne Down as Bridget, the requisite love interest; Timothy West as Lord Easterfield, a man who is certain that God is pronouncing vengeance on his enemies; Jonathan Pryce as Ellsworthy, an antique dealer who deals in more than antiques; Olivia DeHavilland as Miss Waynflete, the clever neighborhood spinster; and Shane Briant, as the young needle-jabbing Dr. Thomas. A host of familiar English actors also have brief parts, notably Patrick Allen, Freddie Jones, Leigh Lawson and Anthony Valentine. Now what is the probability of finding a mystery with such a great cast?
Helen Hayes is delightful, but has a much too brief role as Miss Fullerton, the intrepid old gal on her way to confess a crime to Scotland Yard. With the inclusion of this film in the Agatha Christie Miss Marple DVD collection, some fans have mistakenly believed Murder is Easy to be a Marple mystery and found themselves in for a disappointment. Fullerton and Miss Marple share a lot in common however : Fullerton may have appeared to be a dotty old spinster but she had a keen eye for human nature and quickly recognized "that look in the killer's eye before striking". You see, after three times one knows. Alas, Miss Fullerton did not realize that the killer knew what she knew and the poor dear quickly becomes victim number four. 
"This story is quite strange," explained director Claude Whatham in the original publicity notes, "There is no murder at the beginning, just a number of unexplained deaths, which as far as our computer expert is concerned defies the laws of probability. So we have an air of menace, but without anyone to solve a murder. What I'm trying to get is something which is ordinary, but which looks slightly threatening. As far as the visual looks go, I would say it has the brightness you get before a thunderstorm. Everything looks idyllic, but it has an unreal quality about it. For the actors, there are two interpretations for what they do - one is normal, the other is slightly suspect."
Indeed, Whatham did a stellar job in keeping all of the characters looking suspicious. Every one of them has a plausible motive for killing and the available means. Luke Williams finds himself as baffled as the audience and turns to his "bread and butter", his trusty computer, to see if it can uncover the identity of the killer for him....but he finds it takes more than ram power to crack open this case.

The filming of Murder is Easy went underway on July 15, 1981 with the tennis match being the first scene filmed. Lesley-Anne Down had not held a racket since her school days but managed to pull off looking like a respectably good player. Down also was new to driving. She obtained her driver's license only a week prior to filming and, for one scene, was given a $70,000 Aston Martin to drive in keeping with her role as the lady of the manor - the manor being Ashe Manor, which was really filmed at Binfield Manor in Berkshire. 
The picturesque village of Wychwood was in fact the tiny hamlet of Hamleden, an old Roman settlement, with a population of only 150 inhabitants. The town boasts a Norman church, a pub, general store and butcher's shop, and that's about what we get to see in the film. Hambleden also appeared briefly in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Candleshoe.

Bill Bixby was delighted to be in England for the first time and took off during an afternoon lunch break to visit the nearby village of Bix, hoping it might be his ancestral home. It turned out to be a Roman named village, with "B IX" standing for Plot B Nine. Unfortunately, he didn't get to see much else of England except for some location driving.
Olivia de Havilland, who stems from an illustrious English family, was also happy to be on British soil and playing the role of an English lady, which oddly enough she had not yet done. She was also delighted to be performing with Helen Hayes, whom she had met only once before.
Helen Hayes arrived in London in a Concorde, flying for the first time in one with her young god-daughter. She was excited to be in London for the upcoming royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana and decided to stay after filming wrapped, to stand with the other tourists outside St. Paul's cathedral and get a glimpse of the preparations. 

The acting of all of these members is far from award-winning. Some of the dialogue is delivered with exaggerated emphasis, but somehow that makes screenwriter Carmen Culver's lines all the more memorable because of it. Who can forget such remarks as "Amy, we're wanting tea!" or "I'm beginning to remember now why I don't get involved with people"?
Murder is Easy is a charming and absorbing whodunnit. It features lovely location filming, a grand cast, and a plot filled with twists and turns. Overall it is a perfect mid-summer mystery to be savored on a warm afternoon with your beloved Wonkey-Pooh and a cup of Earl Grey. 

This post is our contribution to the Agatha Christie Blogathon being hosted by Christina Wehner and Little Bits of Classics. It was published previously right here at Silver Scenes. Be sure to read more entries in the blogathon to learn about Dame Agatha Christie's life, her books, and the film adaptations of her books. Happy sleuthing!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The BBC TV Archive Online

The British Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as the BBC, is one of the oldest television stations in the world and, since their beginning in the 1930s, they have created some of the best television programs ever made.

What most Americans don't realize is there is not one BBC station...not two...not three....but four! BBC Four was launched in 2002 as an alternative channel to mainstream programming and offers some very interesting documentaries, arts and cultural programs, and re-runs, or "catch-ups" as the Brits call it, of classic programs. 

Like archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler here, we've unearthed a website that delves into these classic programs, providing an insight into Britain's television past. It's called the BBC iPlayer. 

The BBC iPlayer features a selection of some of the best archival programs from BBC 4, dating back to the 1950s. The programs are available for streaming online ( which you can view through your tele, too ) from the BBC website

Here is a brief overview of some of the programs they offer : 

The Sky at Night - Seven episodes from one of the longest-running television shows in history. Each month, beginning in 1957, host Patrick Moore took marvels from the far reaches of outer space and described them to us earthlings in fairly simple terminology. These episodes range from 1969-2005. 
Bohemian Icons A selection of ten programs exploring the lives of artists and writers who were bohemians in their time. A few episodes of Omnibus, an excellent documentary series, are included. 

Back to BASIC - Six 25-minute programs dating from the 1980s, when BBC launched BBC Micro to help people get acquainted with their computers. I'm sure some seniors are wishing there were programs like this today to help them navigate their smartphones. 

Legends of British Comedy Film - Nine programs about famous British comedians including Kenneth Williams, Norman Wisdom and Dirk Bogarde. Also, there is a great documentary about Ealing Studios thrown in. It dates from 1970. 
Post-War Architecture - London was bombed heavily during WWII and, instead of replicating their buildings of the past, the Brits took the opportunity to experiment with modern architectural designs of the future...or at least they seemed modern at the time. These 23 programs, dating from the 1980s and 1990s, take a look at those post-war designs. 

Archaeology at the BBC - Dating back from the 1950s, these 23 programs cover some of the major discoveries in the world of archaeology...including Stonehenge, Monhenjo-daro, and the story of the Ape Man discovered near Sussex that turned out to be a hoax. 

Classic Game Shows - Nine classic game shows ( unfortunately, only one episode per show ) including Ask the Family ( a variation of Family Feud? ), Animal Vegetable or Mineral ( panelists guess what unusual objects are ), and my favorite What's My Line?. Yes, the long-running US game show went across the pond and lasted several decades too. 
The Space Race - Brits had a bad case of Space Age fever during the 1960s and, even though they didn't make it to the moon, they launched some pretty stellar programs about the men who did. Eight of them, from Horizon, the Sky at Night and Panoramas, are in the archive.

Horizon - Speaking of Horizon, there is a selection of sixteen episodes from the long-running science documentary series included as well. 

Sir David Attenborough - This series of 31 programs takes a look back at the career of Sir David Attenborough and showcases his early work, primarily his adventures through Australia.
Talk - Daphne De Maurier, David Niven, Victoria Principal, Muhammad Ali, and Orson Welles are just a few of the people to receive in-depth interviews on series such as Panorama, Arena, and Parkinson.

The Great War Interviews - Sir Max Hastings introduces this selection of thirteen episodes from The Great War, where civilians and soldiers discuss how WWI affected their lives. 

Home Sweet Home - This series of 15 modern documentaries takes a look back at how the Brits lived in the 1940s-1980s. The All Mod Cons episodes are especially entertaining. 
Now, before you go heading over to the BBC archive to view these programs, there is something we neglected to tell can't view them online. At least not technically. But technologically you can!

The BBC iPlayer is for UK audiences only, so once the website detects your American "IP" address it will display a signpost announcing that these programs are unavailable overseas. However, there are websites that offer VPN services, allowing you to change your IP address to one from any other country, thereby masking your physical location. ExpressVPN, NordVPNUnlocator, and Unblockus are just a few companies that offer this service, usually offering a 7-14 day free trial, and thereafter at a cost of $4.99 per month. 

But wait...there's more! We just do not realize how lucky we are here. Did you know that in the UK you have to pay to watch television? This isn't your usual cable bill, it's a government license that entitles you the privilege of being bombarded with commercials...for the mere price of (£) 145 per year. It's known as the TV License. Whether you watch television live, on your laptop, your phone, or through recorded media ( DVRs ), you need a TV license. 

So, even after you mask your IP address you'll see a pop-up box asking you if you have a TV license. However, since we're not Brits ( in this case, thank heaven! ), just click on the "Yes, I have one" button and watch the programs. At $4.99 they are well worth the cost. 

A word of advice : It would be best to enjoy these programs soon. The BBC can - and probably will - remove them at any time, and it looks like some of the series "expire" within a year regardless. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Double Dose of Liebster Awards

A few weeks ago, Quiggy, of The Midnite Drive-In, kindly nominated Silver Scenes for a Liebster Award. For those not familiar with the Liebsters, they are awards given in the form of a chain letter. One blogger nominates 5-11 other bloggers for the award who, in turn, nominate 5-11 more. What's the purpose of all this nominating business? Well, the idea behind the Liebsters is to discover more about your favorite bloggers, and for the nominating blogger to share a little information about themselves to their readers. You see, in order to accept the invitation you must answer 11 questions posed by the nominating blogger, as well as share 10 other tidbits about yourself.

Silver Scenes was extra special this summer because we received yet another nomination just a few days ago from Virginie of The Wonderful World of Cinema. Thanks Virginie! 

Since there are two of us behind Silver Scenes, myself ( Constance ) and my sister ( and editor ) Diana, we decided to answer the questions together. So there are 22 questions, with over 30-some responses.....yikes! ( By all means use the scroll bar if you get bored ). Diana's answers are in blue, mine are in black. 

Here goes! 

Quiggy posed some very interesting film related questions : 

1. What is your favorite genre of movie? 

Comedy films involving crooks/spies/gangsters. This was a genre that appeared mainly in the 1940s-1950s.   

The romantic-comedies of the 1930s-1960s. 

2. And what movie do you consider to be the paragon of that genre?

The Ghost Breakers ( 1940 )....or pretty much, any of the Three Stooges shorts. 

Father Goose ( 1964 )
3. With which actor or actress, living or dead, would you most like to have a one-on-one (strictly platonic) dinner and conversation date?

If I had to pick an actress, then Deborah Kerr or Ann Sothern. They wouldn't be judgmental and I can imagine them both having a lot of interesting things to say. As for an actor, hands down I would pick Don Ameche....just so I could sit across from him at a table all evening and watch his facial expressions. Sigh!

Fozzie Bear. I want to ask him where he gets the material for his gags. Waka, waka! Love those ties. 

4. If you were an actor or actress, which movie character would you most like to have played?

Miss Brodie from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie ( 1969 ). I know I could tackle the part of Sandy much better than Miss Brodie, but nevertheless, that's the character I would like to play. 

Miss Marple!

5. What is your favorite movie opening sequence, and, on the other side of the coin what is your favorite movie ending?

That's a tough one. There are a lot of really fantastic openings, especially among musicals and epics, but since this Liebster Awards is about sharing what's near and dear to bloggers, then I'll pick two of my favorites - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ( 1968 ) with that marvelous engine sound and cheering coming from the black screen and Murder Ahoy ( 1964 )....actually all of the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple films had great openings. I'm sure I could think of 20-30 favorite endings if I put my mind to it, but the only title that pops out now is The Best Years of Our Lives ( 1946 ) and that great wedding scene with Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews. 

Charade ( 1963 )....I love the spiraling credits and the fact that it opens at Mageve ski resort with that great banter between Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.

6. Which movie was the worst remake ever, and which one was the best?

In spite of what some critics say, You're Never Too Young ( 1955 ) was a fantastic remake of Wilder's The Major and the Minor, sometimes I think its even better than the original. the worst? There were too many bad remakes made. How about Goodbye Mr. Chips? The Peter O'Toole version was a dog all around. 

The worst was The Truth About Charlie, a recent remake of Charade. The best was Little Women ( 1948 ), a remake of the 1933 classic. I love them both equally but the 1948 had beautiful Technicolor, an excellent cast, and a charm all its own. 

7. If you were a director, which movie would you like to direct? It can be one that hasn't been made yet or it could be a classic in which you replaced the actual director. 

The Chalk Garden. The 1963 version is very dear to me, but I saw a lot of potential in the story that was untapped. I would have liked to take the film in a different direction while retaining the cheerful color tone.

I have no idea. 

8. On average, how many new movies ("new" to you, not necessarily new theatrical releases) do you watch in a month?

This question is easy because we keep track of all of the new titles we see during the year. It averages out to about 7-8 per month with an additional 14-16 of repeat film viewings during a month. 

9. List at least one actor, actress or director you thought SHOULD have been given the Oscar as opposed to the one who did. Specify which movie they should have gotten said Oscar.

Eleanor Parker for Interrupted Melody ( 1955 ), in place of Anna Magnini for The Rose Tattoo
10. Which movie has the best dialogue (meaning most eminently quotable)?

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World! ( 1963 )

11.Which of your movie blog posts is the one of which you are most proud?

For television posts, it would probably be our review of Nanny and the Professor, but for film posts - The Chalk Garden and Picnic....two favorite films. 


Now for Virginie's questions...she has some really good non-film related questions : 

1. What is your favourite blogathon?

I've always enjoyed participating, and reading the entries for, the Me-TV Summer of Me Blogathon, but unfortunately The Classic TV Blog Association did not host it this year. Pooh! 

The Great Imaginary Film provides endless opportunity for bloggers to provide film plots to movies that should have been made. 

2. What subject do you like the most to write about on your blog?

Movies...especially those I love ( Time is too precious to waste on writing about bad films )

3. What is your current movie character crush (not movie actor, movie character)? 

Joe D. Ross ( Gene Kelly ) in Summer Stock was pretty dreamy.  

Hugh Halsworth ( Macdonald Carey ) in Let's Make it Legal ( 1951 ).

4. Do you wear perfume? If yes, which one?

Of course. My two favorites are Mistrel Reve D'Or and Paris Hilton's Can-Can. Although I would love to try that oldie-but-goodie Charlie. 

Yes. My favorite is Liz Claiborne's Curve

5. Can you sing? (I mean, can you sing well lol)?

Yes, I can sing...Diana and I are both sopranos in our local church choir. We don't sing well, but that doesn't stop us from singing!  

6. Do you play a musical instrument?

Yes, six of them. The accordion and piano are my favorite instruments to play, but I also dabble with the guitar ( acoustic and electric ), clarinet, and violin. Jack Benny's violin playing sounds like Andre Rieu compared to mine!

No. Does humming count?

7.  What is your favourite cinematographic moment. It can be something that lasted just 3 seconds in a film.

There are hundreds of those. Off the top of my head....the horse riding sequences through Sherwood Forest in The Adventures of Robin Hood ( 1938 ) and the scene where Mrs. Muir meets Captain Gregg on the road after her encounter at the beach with Miles in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir ( 1947 ). Both of those scenes were filmed very well. Actually, any scene that captures shafts of light with shadows from nearby trees are cinematographic favorites. 
8. Have you ever written fan mail? Did you receive any answers?

Yes, several years ago I wrote a letter to Dame Vera Lynn thanking her for her contributions to Britain and the influence her music had on my life. She responded - with airmail! - and also included an autographed photo. That was proof positive of what a classy lady she is. Incidentally, Dame Lynn will be turning 100 years old next March. 

No, I never did. Too shy. 

9. When you started your blog, do you remember what was the first blog you followed and what was the first blog to follow you?

Yes, I believe I followed The Classic Film and TV Cafe first because I was acquainted with Rick through the TCM classic film union ( sadly, it's no longer in existence ) and also because I love his taste in film/television. We share very similar tastes in film, even if we don't blog about the same movies. Doctor Sabelotodo was the first person sweet enough to follow Silver Scenes.....again, he was another acquaintance from the CFU.

10. What is the last book you read?

"Danny Dunn and the Voice from Space" by Jay Williams. Last night I started "The Hairy Horror Trick" by Scott Corbett. You can see what a refined taste in literature I have. 

"101 Secrets for your Twenties" by Paul Angone. Non-fiction, obviously. 

11. What would be your dream house?

Oh heck, I could write for days on this subject. We grew up and still live in a 1950s ranch, so ranches are my way of life. I especially liked Janet Lagerlof's house in Good Neighbor Sam ( 1964 ), only I would like it to be on at least an acre of property with room for a woodland garden and some Monterey pines. 

Either a 1960s seaside-style ranch or a bungalow, preferably near a large body of water. 

Ten random facts about us : 

1. We're sisters, two years apart in age...and getting older everyday. 

2. We've been watching classic films since we were 6-7 years old, beginning with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Disney classics, and the James Bond films. 

3. Speaking of James Bond, we're both big Bond fans and have seen all the Bond movies several times over. 

4. When we're not goofing off at home we sell original movie stills online through our business Silverbanks Pictures. Check out our side banner to see our store! ( Might as well give a plug )

5. My ( Connie ) goal in life is to write/sell educational books for homeschoolers. Diana wants to have a job where she sits behind a counter in a small shop and uses a cash register. Something like in A Shop Around the Corner

6. Our grandmother use to work as a usher at a movie theater in Serbia back in the 1930s. She grew up loving movies and passed that love onto our dad and uncle who, in turn, passed it onto us. 

7. We're both learning languages this year....Diana is learning German ( our family tongue ) and I'm learning French ( our dad was born in France ). 

8. One day we hope to own a 1970s car, either an old Volvo or a small sedan like a Chevy Nova/Olds Omega. 

9. Saturday is our favorite day of the week. Hookey day!

10. We hope to take a cruise this autumn. It's been ten years since our last cruise and it's high time we hit the high seas again. 


Finally, here are 11 questions for our nominees to answer : 

1. If you could travel back in time, which year would you travel back to? And why?

2. Who is your favorite underrated actor/actress?

3. What movie/television show do you enjoy as a guilty pleasure? ( It is the program that you would never admit to anyone that you really like )

4. Do you listen to old-time radio? If so, which is your favorite program?

5. How many hours do you spend staring at screens ( computer/television/phone )? 

6. If you could be mayor of your town what would be the first change you would make? 

7. What is one subject/skill you feel all students should learn before they turn 20-years-old?

8. What would you like your obituary to read? ( Aside from "he/she died too soon" )

9. Which movie character do you feel the strongest bond with? To clarify, list which character you think is the most similar to yourself in nature and appearance. 

10. What is your favorite classic television show? 

11. Do you watch classic British films? If not, ( shame on you! ) state why. 


And now for the nominees ( if you read this far, you deserve your nomination! ) : 

Matte Shot ( )

Hamlette's Soliloquy ( )

Caftan Woman (

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood )

Michael's TV Tray ( )

Made for TV Mayhem )

Classic Forever )

Stars and Letters )

Once again, thank you, thank you, thank you to Quiggy and Virginnie for nominating us as Liebsters! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies ( 1973 )

The Story of Ace Eli...when planes were young and the world was innocent....except for Ace's son Rodger. 

Eli ( Cliff Robertson ) was a WWI flying ace who now flies around the countryside as a barnstormer. After his wife passes away, Eli takes his young son Rodger ( Eric Shea ) under his wing and they journey from town to town across America finding love, and some life lessons, along the way. 

The story of Ace Eli, penned by a young Steven Spielberg, has tremendous promise and from the opening scenes it appears evident that the audience is in for a really wonderful picture. However, once the first lines of Claudia Salter's script are uttered, the film takes a nose-dive and spirals towards an early bust-up. 

What many modern screenwriters, and directors, fail to comprehend is that a film, in order to stand the test of repeated viewings, needs a lovable hero. Ace Eli, portrayed by Cliff Robertson, is a failure of a man, and worse yet, he is a foul-mouthed countrified idiot. Eli sleeps with his sister-in-law just a few weeks after his wife perishes in a plane crash....which he caused. That's a testament to his character ( and his sister-in-law's ). His son follows him like a devoted dog and, in all likelihood, will grow up to be just like his "old man", without brains or morals. In one scene, Rodger is anxious to go barnstorming with his pa, but seeing that Eli is going to procrastinate about taking the trip, Rodger decides to pour gasoline all over the family home and set it ablaze. Now they have to go. It's one way to coerce a parent into taking you someplace, but I'd certainly question the boy's sanity if I witnessed that. Perhaps Eli was just too drunk to care..........
Characters like these have no spark of interest because they themselves have no fire to light within others. The principal actors are talented individuals, so the fault lies entirely with the screenwriter ( Salter must have been ashamed to be associated with the film and used the pseudonym "Chips Rosen". Interestingly, even director John Erman was credited with the alias Bill Sampson. )

Oh, but what potential the film had! If this was played as a dramatic-comedy and filmed with care by an able director, a wayward father and his devoted son would have made an endearing team. Director Frank Capra and screenwriter Arnold Schulman took a losing father and son combination and turned it into a winning film - A Hole in the Head ( 1959 ). It was one of Capra's best films. 
If it was played strictly for laughs it could have been wonderful too. Bill Bixby or Jim Dale would have been stellar as Ace Eli, a man trying his best to become America's greatest barnstormer and failing in his clumsiness. Walt Disney Studios, often ridiculed throughout the 1970s for their sentimental family fare, would have made this a memorable film viewable many times over. 

Since Ace Eli was a drama with no comedy evident, then the screenwriter should have made Eli a lovable failure. Sure, he takes a nip of whiskey here and there and never can accomplish his goals, but his son and he are the best of pals and in Rodger's eyes his dad is the king of the skies. Written that way it would have had heart. 

The way it is, the only redeeming features of the film are the title song ( written and performed by Jim Grady ), the cinematography, and the presence of Pamela Franklin, who was looking particularly lovely during this time. Also in the cast is Bernadette Peters and Alice Ghostley. 
For years Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies has been unavailable, both on VHS tape and on DVD. After recently watching it on Youtube, I can now understand why. When you look forward to seeing a hard-to-find film after many years, it is such a shame when it turns out to be a dud. But hey, in the course of hunting for rarities, you come across a lot of those duds.....that's why they are hard to find.