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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Kathy O ( 1958 )

Child-actress Patty McCormack became a household name after the enormous success of The Bad Seed ( 1956 ) where she portrayed Rhoda Penmark, a little girl with an evil bent. She had a difficult time following up this film with another dramatic picture and never did find a role to equal The Bad Seed in popularity. Instead, McCormack did a number of television guest appearances and made two Christmas-themed movies - All Mine to Give ( 1957 ) and the delightful Kathy O ( 1958 ). 

This hard-to-find little gem features McCormick as Kathy O'Rourke, a popular child actress who is beloved by millions of children onscreen but is loathsome to the adults who have to work with her on the set. She's a Shirley Temple when the cameras are rolling and a Rhoda Penmark when the scene cuts. Dan Duryea stars as Harry Johnson, a publicity agent who works at the studio that employs the bratty star.

Ms. Celeste Saunders ( Jan Sterling ), a writer for a major New York magazine, is coming to Hollywood to do a feature on O'Rourke and personally requests Harry to help her with the interview. Celeste is Harry's ex-wife and she is shrewd when it comes to discerning human nature, so - in fear of losing his job - Harry tries his darnest to keep her from discovering the "truth" about Kathy. But, to his surprise, the two become endeared to one another. It turns out little Kathy just wants to be a normal child and longs for the love she is not receiving from her Aunt Harriet ( Mary Jane Croft ). However, Harry finds himself in a scrape when Kathy decides to run away to be with Celeste, and he is accused on a kidnapping charge!
Dan Duryea, a legend of film-noirs, tries his hand at comedy for the part of Harry and... surprise, surprise....he is wonderful! I never particularly enjoyed his work before but he is marvelous in Kathy O and displays a true knack for humor. It certainly helps that the film features a witty script from Sy Gomberg ( Summer Stock ) and Jack Sher ( My Favorite Spy, Four Girls in Town, Move Over Darling ), who also directed the picture. 

Kathy O' takes place during Christmastime and is set in the suburbs of North Hollywood, California where Harry lives with his second wife and two children in a mid-century modern ranch. The picture moves along briskly and is never tiresome. Quite the contrary. It's a truly entertaining family film. Jan Sterling never looked prettier and Mary Fickett ( All My Children ), who plays Harry's current wife, is lovely. 
Patty McCormack was an extremely talented little girl and she pulls off the duel-nature of this part with ease, making the audience's compassion for her character grow with each subsequent scene. 

Kathy O' has not yet been released on DVD but if you happen to catch it playing on television some night, it's well worth watching. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

British Pathé - Christmas is for All ( 1963 )

This interesting 8:17 minute British Pat newsreel showcases the Christmas light displays throughout London and also gives us a glimpse of what the city folk did to celebrate during the season. 

A lovely rendition of "Away in a Manger" by the boy's choir of St. Michael's College in Worcestershire starts things off and then the cameraman moves to the shops of London where we see a gorgeous display of dolls and jewelry. Mike and the Merseymen are giving their youthful dancers a modern spin on some Christmas classics and then it is on to a most interesting location - a townhall where volunteers (?) are stuffing envelopes with money from the Bank of England. This is money belonging to members of a Christmas savings club. 

The cameraman then gives the audience a peek at Petticoat Lane and all the knick-knacks that could be purchased there before taking us behind-the-scenes at the Bertram Mills Circus. This large circus company used to put on a Christmas show at the Olympia in West London every year. This clip shows the troupe during one of their last performances ( the circus disbanded shortly thereafter ). 
The last stop is at St. Mary's hospital showing Santa delivering presents to children at a hospital. Some 15,000 presents were donated that year alone by The Variety Club and were given out to children at hospitals, schools, and the like. 

Ready to watch Christmas is for All? Simply click on the link below:

Christmas is for All ( 1963 )

Other similar British Pathé clips:

Thursday, December 20, 2018

From the Archives: Little Women ( 1949 )

June Allyson ( Jo ), Elizabeth Taylor ( Amy ), Mary Astor ( Marmee ) and Janet Leigh ( Meg ) gather around little Margaret O'Brien ( Beth ) who has just received a piano as a present from the kindly neighbor Mr. Lawrence in this still photo from MGM's Little Women ( 1949 ). 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Athene Seyler - A Commander of Comedy

The first time I saw character actress Athene Seyler she was examining a dead specimen of a man-eating plant from outer space under a microscope. She was doing this with her customary aplomb under the watchful eye of Mrs. Peel in "Man-Eater of Surrey Green", a classic episode of The Avengers.

The circumstance of this first encounter was unique in itself but what made it particularly memorable was how remarkably British Athene Seyler was. Across the spectrum of film and television, one comes across all varieties of Brits but certain people stand out as being quintessentially British. Athene is one of those people.

Just look at her face! It is so wonderfully English. Loose jowls, large round eyes with even larger bags underneath them, a rotund figure, and a perfectly circular head. She was often found wearing tweeds, stout shoes, and carrying a walking stick. Like most character actresses, she was a type and portraying delightfully dotty women was her specialty. Her characters were a marvelous median between the kind of roles that Margaret Rutherford or Dame May Whitty would play.
In "Man-Eater of Surrey Green", Athene's character, Dr. Sheldon, is fascinated with the plant specimen that John Steed and Mrs. Peel ask her to examine. The fact that it came in a space-ship from another planet doesn't seem to faze her in the least. She is more excited in discovering that the plant had a brain, an embryonic brain. "Such a shame it was axed!", she exclaims. Quintessentially British. 

But don't let her assumed dottiness fool you. Seyler was an accomplished actress on the stage as well as in film and television. It was in the theatre that she began her career, making her debut as early as 1909. Throughout the years, she had a number of fine roles in such classics as "Harvey", "Watch on the Rhine", "The Importance of Being Earnest" ( as Lady Bracknell ), "Romeo and Juliet", "The Cherry Orchard", "Bell, Book, and Candle" with Rex Harrison, and "Arsenic and Old Lace", where she starred alongside her dear friend Dame Sybil Thorndike as one of the murderous spinster sisters.

In film, she was often seen in Charles Dicken's adaptations, probably because her physical appearance was pure Dickensonian. She was Rachel Wardle in The Adventures of Mr. Pickwick ( 1921 ), Scrooge's charwoman in Scrooge ( 1935 ), Miss La Crevy in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby ( 1947 ), Miss Witherfield in The Pickwick Papers ( 1952 ) and Miss Emily Pross in A Tale of Two Cities ( 1958 ).

Seyler was equally adept at portraying cockney-washerwomen and prison inmates as members of royalty...in fact, she passed herself off as Queen Elizabeth twice (Royal Cavalcade, Drake of England )! She often played ladies, dukes, and duchesses, but her most frequent role was that of an aunt or a curious spinster. She was Aunt Harriet in Happy is the Bride ( 1958 ), Aunt Buona in Francis of Assisi ( 1961 ), and Aunt Heather in I Thank a Fool ( 1962 ). 
Two of my personal favorite films of Athene Seyler are Yield to the Night ( 1956 ) and Curse of the Demon ( 1957 ). In the former, she portrayed Miss Bligh, a kindly old woman who makes regular rounds at prisons visiting with the inmates. She is one of the few visitors that Mary Hilton ( Diana Dors ), who is sentenced to hang for murder, takes pleasure in seeing. In Curse of the Demon, Seyler memorably portrayed Dr. Karswell's mother. She not only knows of her son's demonic associations but, as a spiritualist, aids him in his pursuits. 

Off-screen, Seyler was quite an independent and determined woman. In her youth, she campaigned against blood sports and was active in an ethical society. She learnt early on that she was "different from the other girls. I was much plainer" and so she made up for her lack of beauty through comedic talent. ‘I think to make people laugh is a lovely thing to do...When I was a little girl, my first performance, I went to make my exit, my drawers fell down. And the audience roared with laughter. I had to pick them up, you know. And I thought from that moment on I would do for a comic role.’’

After her first marriage fizzled in 1922, she met and fell in love with actor Nicholas Hannen. His wife had denied him a divorce but Seyler changed her legal name to Hannen regardless and she patiently waited until 1960, when Hannen's wife passed away, to marry him ( she lived with him in the years between! ). 
Indomitable is another aptly descriptive word for Athene. She penned a book entitled "The Craft of Comedy" in 1943 and was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire ( CBE ) in 1959. She claimed to have never taken a holiday, enjoying her work so much, and, at the venerable age of 101, she appeared onstage at the Royal National Theatre.

When one thinks of fine character actresses Seyler's name rarely comes to mind, and yet this marvelous woman deserves to be ranked alongside those other fine character actresses, Dame Margaret Rutherford and Elsa Lanchester. 

This post is my contribution to the 7th Annual "What a Character! Blogathon" being hosted by Once Upon a Screen, Paula's Cinema Club, and Outspoken and Freckled. Be sure to visit any of these sites to read more articles about your favorite character actors of film and television. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Geoffrey Keen - The Minister from England

Most avid James Bond fans, like my sister and I, can instantly recognize Bond actors when they appear in other films, no matter how brief their role may be. It's a knack that comes from having seen the movies so many times. For newbies interested in becoming Bond character-actor-spotters, there are three character actors associated with the 007 franchise that are uber easy to recognize: Lois Maxwell who played Bond's loyal secretary Miss Moneypenny, Desmond Llewelyn, the inimitable mechanical genius "Q", and Geoffrey Keen who portrayed Sir Fredrick Gray, head of the Ministry of Defense.

This week, Paula's Cinema Club is hosting the seventh annual What a Character! blogathon, where popular and lesser-known character actors are given the spotlight of attention. Geoffrey Keen is one of those actors whose name may not be familiar to many but his presence certainly is, and that's why we selected him.

My sister and I first saw Keen in the James Bond films and for years, not knowing his name, we simply referred to him as the "minister". As we watched more and more British films throughout the years we found that this nickname suited him well for, like most character actors, he had his little pigeon-hole: that of playing men in high government positions.

He began his career in the 1940s portraying either detectives or sergeants and later inspectors of police forces, but by the mid-1950s he was settling into roles that called for increasing responsibility: supervisors, deans, captains, and superintendents. As early as 1960 he was assistant chief of Naval Staff ( Sink the Bismarck ) and just one year later rose to the highest position he would play in film, that of the Prime Minister ( No Love for Johnnie ).

What was it about Geoffrey Keen that made him so well suited to play magistrates, commissioners, colonels, and the like? His appearance for one thing. He cut an imposing figure, was always well-groomed and cultured ( you'd never catch Keen among lowly people ), and walked in an air of authority. He often carried a stern countenance that told his inferiors that his commands were to be taken with the utmost seriousness.
But this does not mean that he was a hard taskmaster. Quite the contrary. The minister knew how to smile and he always issued his orders with kindness. His roles as magistrates suited him particularly well because Keen seemed to be a man with a keen sense of justice. As a prisoner on trial, I would feel comfort in knowing that he was judging my case. He would weigh the case very carefully and not let the flourishing words of the barristers sway his judgment.

He had a humorous side, too, and while James Bond's assumed flippancy would appear to irritate him, his eyes would twinkle nonetheless. It was this understanding and compassionate side of his nature that earned him the respect of the men and women who served under him.

Keen was born in Berkshire, England in 1916 to Malcolm Keen, a popular stage actor of the 1930s. Malcolm entered films as early as 1917, making his last film appearance in Life for Ruth ( 1962 ). Father and son appeared in three films together: Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue ( 1953 ), She Played with Fire ( 1957 ), and The Birthday Present ( 1957 )...and, like Geoffrey, Malcolm was often given roles of authority: lords, presidents, bishops, and the like. It must have been a family trait.

The younger Keen made his stage debut in 1932 and entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts the following year. He had just joined the Royal Shakespeare Company when war broke out in 1939, and Keen enlisted with the Royal Army Medical Corps.

During the war, he appeared in an Army instructional film directed by Carol Reed, and this small part led to him being cast in several Reed films after the war ended: Odd Man Out ( 1947 ), The Fallen Idol ( 1948 ), and The Third Man ( 1949 ).

Keen's filmography throughout the 1950s was quite impressive. He had appearances in some top-notch US and British productions including Walt Disney's Treasure Island ( playing Isreal Hands ); he was a police inspector in The Clouded Yellow ( 1950 ), Hunted ( 1952 ), and the comedy Genevieve ( 1952 ). A brief role as a businessman in Turn the Key, Softly ( 1953 ), was followed by some excellent military roles such as General Nye in The Man Who Never Was ( 1956 ), Sink the Bismarck ( 1960 ), Torpedo Bay ( 1963 ) and The Heroes of Telemark ( 1965 ).

Keen often portrayed men in the medical and religious profession, too, as in Storm over the Nile ( 1955 ), Yield to the Night ( 1956 ), Sailor Beware ( 1956 ), and The Spanish Gardner ( 1957 ) where he played the kindly Dr. Harvey.

During this time, Keen also made a number of appearances in television in series such as The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, The Wonderful World of Disney ( in the classic mini-series "Dr. Syn, the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" ), The Saint, Secret Agent, The Persuaders, Mogul, The Venturers, and Crown Court. 

In 1977, Geoffrey Keen made his first appearance as Sir Fredrick Gray, the Minister of Defense, in the 007 film The Spy Who Loved Me. In most of the 007 pictures, Gray could be seen during the initial briefing of Bond's missions, occasionally mid-mission ( where he'd often ejaculate "Bond, what do you think you're doing?!" ) and during any crisis involving the nation's defense, of course.
Shortly after the release of The Spy Who Loved Me, Keen appeared in the Bond spoofs No. 1 of the Secret Service, starring Nicky Henson and Licensed to Love and Kill starring Gareth Hunt. His presence made these imitation Bond films a little bit more authoritative. At this time, Keen eased up on appearing in other films and made only occasional appearances on television and on stage. Instead, he focused solely on the James Bond movies, which included Moonraker ( 1979 ), For Your Eyes Only ( 1981 ), Octopussy ( 1983 ), A View to a Kill ( 1985 ) and The Living Daylights ( 1987 ).

Keen passed away in 2005 at the age of 89 leaving behind two daughters from his three marriages and a legion of Bond fans who adore spotting "The Minister" in the many films he made throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

This post is our contribution to the What a Character! Blogathon being hosted by Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken and Freckled and Paula's Cinema Club. Be sure to click on this link to read more great posts about your favorite character actors of film and television! 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Ten Richest Women in Movies in 1938

Hollywood's ten richest women aren't as rich as they might be, but they are probably richer than they're going to be. Uncle Sam's income-tax arm is getting no shorter, and by the time next March roars in the Government's "take" will deflate huge salaries of movie queens like a pinprick deflates a rubber balloon.

So with our "We have a war to win—" program gaining acceleration, our tax-collection agencies are going "all out" in efforts to keep the Government's sinking fund from disappearing. Hollywood and the movie industry. synonymous with six-figured pay-checks, is the garden spot for the enlarged appetite of the income-tax giant.

And no line is drawn on sex. A beautiful, talented actress when stopped by a traffic officer might let loose of her "charm" and wind up with a pair of ducats to the policemen's ball instead of a date in court. But when the income-tax bugaboo hovers about, the beauty, the talent, and the celluloid wiles of the actress only give her the willies! She thinks her ship has come in, and it has, only the Government holds first, second and third mortgages on it.
Hollywood's ten richest women, all of whom can describe Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (in many ways), know the spelling of the Secretary of the Treasury's name quite well. In return, Morgenthau knows that, based on salaries earned in 1938. Hollywood's "top ten" actresses would be: Claudette Colbert, who grossed nearly $427,000 that year; Irene Dunne, receiver of about $405,000; Joan Crawford, about $305,000; Norma Shearer, a cool, even $300,000; Greta Garbo, alone with $270,000; Ginger Rogers, nearly $208,000; Loretta Young, about $181,000; Deanna Durbin, an even $174,000; Bette Davis, over $143,000; and Myrna Loy. slightly over $140,000.

These salaries all sound like a pretty fair load of country bucks, but even then Uncle Sam's arm was reaching deep into the actresses coffers. Now, with a new income-tax scale about to become a law, digging is going to be deeper.

Assuming the new tax contemplated becomes a law and assuming the salaried person in each case is married, the following are tax totals on high-bracket figures as computed by the Joint Committee of Internal Revenue of the Congress. (These figures are only approximate, but they present a clear picture of what Hollywood's ten richest women are up against under this new tax set-up.)

Tax on a $100,000 income, joint return, would be $53,000, on a separate return, $41,700. On a $250,000 income, joint return would be $159,000, separate, $143,000. On a $300,000 income, joint return would be $202,250, separate $180,000.

Missing from this dollar parade are Shirley Temple, recently absent from pictures, but who still will pay plenty under the new deal tax; Marlene Dietrich for her $130,000; Merle Oberon at $139,000, Jean Arthur, Alice Faye, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Bennett, others. Despite their less pretentious salaries, the Government will get a lot of "national defense" out of their contributions. Remember! On $100,000, under usual exemptions, the Government will get close to fifty percent of a star's salary! — L. R.
Gadzooks! Nearly 50% of a star's salary....and this at the $100,000 tier.  According to the Federal Income Tax brackets of 1941, it was 76% due for taxes on earnings over $400,000.

Just to put in perspective what these actresses were raking in: $1 in 1938 was about the equivalent of $18 today. So you'll have to multiply each salary by 18 to find out what their incomes were that year....I'll do the first one for you: Colbert made $7,644,784 that year and probably paid over to $3,600,000 in taxes alone. Yikes! Current rates state that for earnings over $426,700.00, you'll pay 39.6% plus $123,916.25, so had Colbert earned her $7 mill today she would be paying $3,100,000. 


Movie Magazine Articles, another one of our ongoing series, feature articles like this reprinted for our reader's entertainment. Click here to view the original article online, which is dated Sept. 26, 1941. In the future, simply search "Movie Magazine Articles" to find more posts in this series or click on the tag below. Enjoy!

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Getting of Wisdom ( 1977 )

"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding." - Proverbs 4:7

Laura Tweedle Rambotham, a delightfully awkward country girl, quickly discovers that at the exclusive Presbyterian Ladies' College in Melbourne, the getting of wisdom entails learning to conform to the behavior of your classmates, regardless of how stuffy and repressive their attitudes may be. It also means following the rules of socializing which she, unfortunately, has not fathomed. Nor will she by the conclusion of the film. 

The Getting of Wisdom, a 1977 Australian production, follows the plight of the plain, unconventional Laura from her first day at school to her graduation from the college four years later. She arrives as a talented, imaginative, outspoken, and overly-confident thirteen-year-old and leaves as a pompous, irritable, and all the more insecure young woman. 

One assumes that as the story unfolds the gradual transformation of an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan full of womanly graces will become apparant...but this does not happen. It is this aspect that made Henry Handel Richardson's classic 1910 novel "The Getting of Wisdom" so amusing. Director Bruce Beresford ( Driving Miss Daisy, Fried Green Tomatoes ), who had delighted in reading the novel as a teenager, wanted to keep this feature of the book when he adapted it to film. 

So often our schoolgirl heroines are shy lovable lambs who are thrown amongst a pack of worldly-wise teenagers eager to toy with their innocence. But Laura is nothing of the kind. She is utterly assured of her own genius and anticipates settling into the school with relative ease. She hopes to impress her way to success both academically and socially but finds that no one appreciates a show-off. After her disappointing arrival - and her first cry - she begins to build an emotional armor constructed of suspicion, fear, and self-doubt. 

As producer Philip Alford commented, "this ugly duckling never becomes a swan, not in the film, but she is taken under the wing of a swan". This swan, the elegant Evelyn Suitor, is one of the few people to have confidence in Laura and like her for who she is - a thoroughly selfish and crusty little girl. She gives Laura the opportunity to soften her heart and be more open and tender but Laura is blind to this. We can only hope that she loses her irritability and obstinacy later in life. 

The Getting of Wisdom, a coming-of-age drama set in the early 1900s, touches on themes of romance, friendship, possessiveness, and acceptance. It was a film project very dear to Bruce Beresford's heart. He felt that there were many qualities in Laura's character that adolescents could relate to, which is quite true. The Ladies College, like most schools, is a microcosm of society where one can study and learn the rules of social intercourse. Unfortunately, the college's inmates are primarily shallow individuals.

"Everyone knows my mother is just a postmistress and does embroidery. I know what it is like not to have pocket money and beautiful clothes."
When Laura first arrives, she discovers that having a mother who works for a living is considered by her prestigious peers to be deeply shameful. Hence, she comes to downplay her homelife and searches instead for other means of gaining acceptance among her classmates. One method is through lies. 

During her second year at the school, she concocts an illicit affair between herself and the handsome new minister Reverend Shepard ( John Waters ), a fantasy that she almost comes to believe herself. She basks in the fame this lie creates for her, but only for a short while. Once her deception is exposed, she is ostracized by all her classmates....except Evelyn. This lovely senior takes a shine to the imaginative youngster. They share a common bond in Schubert and a skepticism towards authority figures, especially the kind that the college is comprised of: uncompassionate self-righteous dictatorial teachers. These include the draconian headmistress Mrs. Gurley, the Reverend Strachey, and Miss Zielinski ( Candy Raymond ). Only Miss Chapman ( Patricia Kennedy ) shows an inkling of interest in the girls, but she does not garner their respect, hence they take no notice of her. 
Like the book, The Getting of Wisdom is a mockery of class, a skillful study of human behavior brimming with shrewd humor, although this humor is much more subdued onscreen. The film is quite faithful to the novel except that Beresford chose to shift Laura's literary ambition to a musical one. Interestingly, he also added a strong sapphic undercurrent, making Laura not only emotionally but sexually attracted to Evelyn. 

"What have those little monsters been telling you? Probably a pack of lies."

Evelyn represents the ideal that Laura is seeking ( Beresford even hints that she represents Wisdom herself ) and while there is satisfaction in being near to and loved by one so graceful it is not enough. Laura's worship of Evelyn and her infatuation with the exoticism that such a sophisticated older student would choose her as a companion eventually turns into obsession and possessiveness with Laura declaring, "I'll never share you with anybody!". In the novel, Evelyn takes this in her usual good humor and the two remain friends after their school years are over. However, in the film, Laura's jealousy turns to bitterness which is played out realistically in one of the many biting scenes in the picture.
16-year-old Susannah Fowle, a Melbourne schoolgirl, was selected from among 6,000 applicants to play the part of Laura. She had no prior acting experience and yet gives a passionate performance primarily through subtle gestures and facial expressions. Fowle makes the character as dislikable as possible; in fact, much harsher than the book leads us to believe her to be. Only at times does Fowle permit us a glimpse at Laura's heart. 

Hillary Ryan, who plays the part of Evelyn Suitor, was an American-born beauty whom Beresford had discovered in London. She should have gone on to have a long career in film but, instead, only made a handful of appearances in television. 
John Waters is marvelous as the dashing but thoroughly boorish new minister and the rest of the cast is equally well-selected, particularly the schoolgirls. All of the teachers are merely caricatures overshadowed by the girls whom they teach. Barry Humphries aka Dame Edna, was an interesting if not daring choice for the role of the puritanical Reverand Strachey, and Sheila Helpmann ( as fearsome looking as her brother Robert ) is suitably impregnable as Mrs.Gurley. 

The cinematography by Don McAlpine is beautiful and innovative. He featured an interesting selection of shots, mixing high and low angle compositions and wide-angles in place of close-ups. 
The Getting of Wisdom is built up of short numerous episodic sequences. While the film unfolds slowly enough these individual scenes are played out too quickly. They are also filled with subtle touches which unfortunately are not emphasized enough to make the audience take notice of them. For example, in the finale, Laura's last-minute decision to play Schubert's Impromptu ( a piece which she had played twice with Evelyn ) at her piano recital instead of the announced Beethoven's Sonata No. 21 is a final touch of defiance to the school she is leaving and an acknowledgment that she is still besotted with Evelyn. The camera pans several teachers and students as Laura begins the piece, but it fails to show the reaction of Mrs. Hicks, the music teacher, whose expression would have clued the audience that Laura was not playing the intended composition. It takes repetitive viewings to fully appreciate scenes like this but if the audience is not hooked on the initial viewing then it is unlikely they will return to give the film a more thorough look. 

Eleanor Whitcomb's screenplay fails to resolve Laura's character and this results in a loss of coherence of the entire film. At the conclusion of the picture we are left waiting for Laura to release the pent-up emotions of the past school year and toss her hat in the air as the poster suggests, but even this she does not do. 
The sum of its parts simply does not equal a whole but overall, the pleasure derived from these individual scenes more than compensate for its inadequacies and The Getting of Wisdom is still worth a viewing. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

From the Archives: A Little Romance ( 1979 )


Laurence Olivier is looking rather serious, but dapper nevertheless, in this scene from A Little Romance ( 1979 ). This charming coming-of-age film is about two youngsters who steal away to Venice with the aid of an old pickpocket - Olivier. They wish to kiss on the Bridge of Sighs which, according to legend, means they will stay together forever. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Half a Sixpence ( 1967 )

"But when I'm with you, one and one make two...." 

Prior to leaving for London for his apprenticeship at a tailor shop, Arthur gives his childhood sweetheart Ann a token of his eternal love - a sixpence cut in half. "And though that half a sixpence can only mean half a romance, remember that half a romance is better than none. But when I'm with you, one and one make two, and likewise, two half sixpence joined together make one."

It is a sweet sign of a little boy's affection for his girl and, throughout their adolescence, they correspond with each other daily via letters. One day, Ann ( Julia Foster ) comes up to London to begin her new job in the big city and they arrange to meet in the park, seeing each other for the first time in years. They are two of a kind and are obviously meant for each other, but an unexpected inheritance from Arthur's grandfather leaves the lad suddenly rich and this enormous windfall changes his character making him look for happiness outside of his own backyard. He begins to put on airs and takes a fancy to the fetching socialite Miss Helen ( Penelope Horner ), disowning the company of not only his mates at work but Ann as well.
Half a Sixpence was based on the 1905 novel "Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul" by science-fiction author H.G. Wells. It was first brought to the screen in 1941 as Kipps starring Michael Redgrave and Diana Wynyard. This was a beautiful adaptation but purely dramatic, with no musical numbers. It was not until 1963 that David Heneker wrote 15 songs for the musical adaptation which premiered in London's West End theatre district. 

Tommy Steele, a British singing sensation, starred in this stage production. He was a glove-fit for the role of Arthur Kipps. When the stage show was brought to film in 1967, Steele was already establishing a screen-presence for himself through films such as Tommy the Toreador, The Dream Maker, and The Happiest Millionaire. Steele had a joie de vivre that made him a delight to watch on stage and onscreen. His toothy grin would light up any scene that he was in. In Half a Sixpence, he practically carries the entire film on his own bony shoulders. While the rest of the cast is pleasant enough to watch, they are all really supporting roles to Kipps. 

Julia Foster ( Alfie ) dyed her hair from blonde to brown to play Ann and is charming as Kipps sweetheart. Also in the cast is Pamela Brown, a favorite of director Michael Powell; Cyril Ritchard, a legendary ham; Penelope Horner, always looking lovely in soft-focus; James Villiers, and Jean Anderson. 

Half a Sixpence was aimed toward a more youthful audience and includes a few typical swingin' 60s show scenes and zany moments. Heneker's tunes are easy on the ears with "Half a Sixpence" and "If the Rains Gonna Fall" being the most memorable of all the songs. 

What stands out most in the film is the beautiful cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth. This man was responsible for the gorgeous filming of British classics such as Scott of the Antarctic, Trio, Turn the Key Softly, and A Night to Remember. Most of Half of Sixpence takes place in the autumn and Unsworth brought out the beauty of the golden hues of England during that time of year. 
Director George Sidney, an excellent director from the golden age of MGM musicals ( The Harvey Girls, Annie Get Your Gun, Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate ) did great work with Half a Sixpence. The only disappointing aspect of the film is its length. Some scenes - mainly the musical numbers - are unnecessary or drawn-out excessively. But this seems to have been a fad with musicals in the late 1960s - Hello, Dolly!, Doctor Dolittle, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips are all over two hours in runtime. Overall, Half a Sixpence is not half that bad and if the rains gonna fall then its a great film to sit back and enjoy. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Listen to this man speak! Obviously, one of these fellows needs a hearing horn to aid him in this task while the other is looking on a bit incredulously. You probably know all of these character actors, so all you have to do now is name the film that they appeared in together. Simple? Perhaps...perhaps not. But why don't you give it a try anyway... All guesses are free! 

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

GAME OVER. 

Congratulations to The Tactful Typist for correctly guessing "That Forsyte Woman" ( 1949 ) starring Greer Garson, Errol Flynn, and Robert Young!! In this scene, near the beginning of the film, all of the members of the Forsyte clan are gathered for a family reunion. Behind Halliwell Hobbes is an oil painting of the eldest Forsyte, portrayed by Harry Davenport, who is just off the screen to the right. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

British Pathé: Twig Jewellery by Andrew Grima ( 1964 )

This week I went through a jewelry-making craze and this particular video from the British Pathé collection caught my eye because it discusses one of the jewelry-making processes of Andrew Grima. 
This Italian-born designer was known as the "Man with the Midas Touch". His creations, in those days, were fetching up to £10,000...and he did not reach his peak of popularity at that time! It was during the 1970s that celebrities and members of royalty began purchasing his unique nature-inspired pieces of fine jewelry and that is when he truly made his name as a designer. 

This 3:12 minute clip is fascinating because it gives us a glimpse of his jewelry-making process, which appears to have been assembled by a staff of craftsman and by Andrew Grima himself. I suppose that is the privilege of being a designer, one can hire others to squint through their spectacles at the tiny gemstones. Here, the process of how Grima creates his "twig" recreations in gold is revealed. What I found especially fascinating was the scene of Grima driving his Aston-Martin through the foggy English countryside to gather twigs in the forest. Most people can find twigs in their own backyard but I suppose he was looking for special gnarly twigs. The final result he achieves from his gold casting is beautiful, so it was obviously worth a trek in the woods. 
Today, Grima's children carry on his jewelry business in London. You can see some of the current Grima pieces as well as Andrew's work on their website: https://grimajewellery.com/

Ready to see twig jewelry being made? Simply click on the link below: 

Twig Jewellery

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Pete's Dragon ( 1977 )

"Boo-Bop-BopBop-Bop, I love you, too!" 

Good ol' Elliott. He is exactly the kind of companion any child would wish to have. Strong, clever, amusing, cuddly, fun to be with, and he has the ability to make himself invisible when asked ( how many friends do you know who will disappear for you? ). Elliott's best quality is undoubtedly who he is - a dragon. Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and Elliott is just about the best shape and size of any dragon you can imagine. He is of the jolly-green-giant variety. 

How does one get a friend such as Elliott? Well, as his pal Pete explains, "nobody owns Elliott, he just sort of goes to those who need him". Truly need him. Pete ( Sean Marshall ) was such a boy. He was an orphan who was purchased by the nasty Gogan family to be used as an extra hand on their farm. He ran away one night and came to the town of Passamaquoddy where he met Nora ( Helen Reddy ) and her father Lampie ( Mickey Rooney ), who operate the lighthouse in the seaside village. Pete wants to belong to someone - and someplace - and he feels like Nora and Passamaquoddy are where he belongs. Only, the Gogans are anxious to get the full value of the $50 they paid for Pete and have come to bring him home. 

"That boy is our legal property, same as the family cow!"
Pete's Dragon was based on an original short-story by Seton I. Miller, who was famous for penning the screenplays to some of Errol Flynn's best films of the 1930s and 1940s ( The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Dawn Patrol, The Sea Hawk ). Walt Disney had purchased the rights to his unpublished work in the 1950s with the intention of adapting it for television. It sat on a shelf until S.S Field fleshed out the idea and Malcolm Marmorstein ( Dark Shadows ) typed out the screenplay in 1977. 

Walt Disney Studios always had a flair for creating entertaining musicals suitable for children of all ages and Pete's Dragon certainly combines all the elements you would hope to find in a family fantasy film: a touch of magic, a dastardly yet highly amusing villain by the name of Doctor Terminus ( Jim Dale ), quaint settings, a beautiful feminine lead, and a dash of romance - in the form of a long-lost sea captain.

Surprisingly, Pete's Dragon was made at a time when the studio was floundering. Animated films, which Walt Disney had always been known for, were no longer popular in the theatres and even family-based entertainment such as this story, was viewed as being passé. The studio was going through its dark ages for sure, so it is a wonder that Pete's Dragon was such a success at the box-office, raking in nearly four times its $10 million budget. 

"Life is lollipops and raindrops with the one you love, Someone you can always be with, Argue and agree with....climb the highest tree with..."

The film benefits from a great cast which includes the old legend of Hollywood, Mickey Rooney, along with Red Buttons and Shelley Winters ( as Mrs. Gogan ). Helen Reddy, who hailed from Australia, was a singer who had made an international hit with the Grammy award-winning song "I Am Woman". She had a brief appearance in Airport 1975 ( as Sister Ruth ) before she was offered the lead in Pete's Dragon. Reddy had a natural talent for acting and this should have been the start of a long acting career but, unfortunately, that never came about. 
Sean Marshall, who portrayed Pete, had a few roles in films and television shows prior to Pete's Dragon. After this film, he was a regular on two short-lived television series, The Fitzpatricks, and The MacKenzies of Paradise Cove, and then retired from film. Jim Dale was marvelous as Dr. Terminus. He began acting in the British Carry-On film series from the 1960s and made a few more Disney films after Pete before focusing his talent on voice-recordings, being especially famous for reading the Harry Potter books for audio release. Also in the cast was Jim Backus, Gary Morgan, Charlie Callas, Charles Tyner, and Jane Kean. 

Pete's Dragon boasts an engaging Oscar-nominated musical score, conducted by Disney great Irwin Kostal. For once, the famous Sherman Brothers could not be credited with writing the music to this film, even though Joel Hirschhorn and Al Kasha's songs featured some equally clever lyrics. "Candle on the Water" and "It's Not Easy" are two of the most memorable tunes. 
Pete's Dragon does run rather long and could have benefited from a few well-placed editing cuts, but on the whole, it's a colorful film with some very entertaining brazzle-dazzle moments. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Ivanhoe ( 1952 )

Sir Walter Scott's 1819 epic medieval novel "Ivanhoe" was brought to the big screen in 1952 as a gorgeous Technicolor adaptation released through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. Like many medieval films of the era, it combined romance, drama, and a good deal of swordplay into an adventure-packed 100-minute runtime. 

Ivanhoe was first brought to the screen in 1913, as a silent film starring King Baggot and Leah Baird. Surprisingly, it was not filmed again in the 1920s ( Ronald Colman missed out on a great opportunity here ), nor in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Finally, in 1952, when Pandro S. Berman undertook to produce it, he hired that old pro at MGM, Richard Thorpe, to direct the film. Thorpe whipped together a scrumptious feast of derring-do and the success of this film lead him to helm several other similarly themed pictures, including The Prisoner of Zenda ( 1952 ), Knights of the Round Table ( 1953 ), and The Adventures of Quentin Durward ( 1955 ), two of which starred Robert Taylor, the titular hero of Ivanhoe. 
Robert Taylor was "Taylor-made" for roles such as Sir William of Ivanhoe, convincing audiences that he was the embodiment of noble virtues such as bravery, honesty, gentleness, and honor. In this film, he is the famous chivalrous Anglo-Saxon knight who is on a mission to return the imprisoned king, Sir Richard the Lionheart, to his throne which has been usurped by his nefarious brother Prince John ( Guy Rolfe ). With the aid of Isaac ( Felix Aylmer ), the old leader of a Jewish community, he collects the necessary ransom amount to free the king but must first clash swords with the knight De Bois-Guilbert ( George Sanders ) before he sees Richard seated in his rightful place again. 

Unlike some studios, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer never made films in a half-hearted fashion, and Ivanhoe was no exception. It had a budget of nearly $4,000,000 which permitted the cast to be sent to England for interior and exterior shooting at the MGM British Studios in Borehamwood and Ashby de-la Zouch, villages steeped in English history. Alfred Junge designed the interiors of all of the sets, with Roger Furse ( Henry V ) providing the scrumptious costumes for the knights and ladies, which included Joan Fontaine as Rowena and Elizabeth Taylor as Rebecca.

Elizabeth Taylor was only nineteen-years-old at the time, but so expressive in her acting and certainly the most beautiful actress to ever portray Rebecca. Also in the excellent cast was Emlyn Williams as Wamba, Robert Douglas, Finlay Currie, Basil Sydney, Megs Jenkins, Francis de Wolff, and Harold Warrender as Robin Hood. 

Some have claimed that Ivanhoe is not entirely faithful to the book, but surely some allowances had to be made for the sake of condensation. The thrill of seeing the story that unfolds onscreen inspires one to read the novel. This should be the aim of any great literary-to-film adaptation, and Ivanhoe accomplishes this. 
Upon its release, Ivanhoe was a huge earner at the box-office, both in the States and in England, grossing over $10,000,000 in sales. It also triggered the birth of a medieval genre of films that had not been popular since Errol Flynn starred in The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

From the Archives: Footsteps in the Fog ( 1955 )

Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger are featured in this publicity photo for the London-set drama/thriller "Footsteps in the Fog" released by Columbia Pictures in 1955. This was the fourth and last film that Simmons and Granger, who were a wedded couple, made together. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Victorian Thrillers of the 1930s & 1940s

Victorian London, steeped in a dark and romantic aura, has always been the ideal setting for murders and mysteries in films of the 1930s and 40s. Lurking beneath the white facade of stately manors inhabited by fashionable ladies and gentlemen with high morals and social sensibilities lay seedy districts reeking with crime and misery....districts where foul deeds were not uncommon. Opium-addicts, prostitutes, music hall wenches, and rum-guzzling sailors were wildly cavorting with Destiny on a nightly basis.

It was this contrast between wealthy society and dredging poverty that gave birth to so many tantalizing stories of horror in the "Penny Dreadful”'s of the day; stories with characters like Sweeny Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Jack Sheppard. All of them were loosely based on news accounts these authors were reading about on a daily basis of the serial killer Jack-the-Ripper.

In these gentle times even whispers of innuendo were received by ladies with a good dose of smelling salts, nevertheless, these tales of true-life terror were repeated throughout the city and developed into short stories of legendary fame. They featured crimes that super-sleuths like Sherlock Holmes could solve on a weekly basis or settings that gentlemen thieves such as Raffles could prowl around in. Once motion pictures gained popularity, these stories were brought to life in visual splendor. One of the earliest films to depict this atmospheric era to perfection was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ( 1931 ) starring Frederic March, Mariam Hopkins, and Rose Hobart. Director Rouben Mamoulian's pre-code horror classic transported audiences to a dark and dangerous London of the late 1800s, where they were able to witness first-hand the transformation of the reserved Dr. Jekyll into the hideous Mr. Hyde. 
Here are a few more well-known Victorian London thrillers brought to the silver screen :

The Mystery of Mr. X ( 1935 ) - This decisively Jack-the-Ripperish story features Robert Montgomery as our light-fingered gentleman hero who is being implicated as the killer of nine grisly London murders done by a murderer who always strikes in a different neighborhood and leaves his mark next to his victims…the signature of Mr. X! Peter Lawford starred in a color remake of this tale in MGM’s The Hour of 13 ( 1952 ). 
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ( 1939 ) - A grisly midnight murder in a secluded city park, mysterious South American funeral dirges, suspiciously heavy footprints, missing crown jewels from the Tower of London and a puzzling drawing of an albatross add up to making this one of Sherlock Holmes’ most intriguing cases. Ida Lupino and Alan Marshall star with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in this second Sherlock Holmes feature from the 20th Century Fox studios. A visual Victorian feast for the eyes it be.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ( 1941 ) - MGM pulled out all the stops in this ultra-glossy gaslit masterpiece based on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of a man's double nature - the law-abiding Dr. Jekyll and the positively hairy sexual sadist Mr. Hyde, the creature within himself that he created whilst experimenting to scientifically suppress the evil nature residing within mankind. The all-star cast includes Spencer Tracy in the title role, Ingrid Bergman as buxom barmaid Ivy, Lana Turner, Donald Crisp and Ian Hunter. Directed by Victor Fleming. 
The Lodger ( 1943 ) - Laird Crager, a great burly hulk of an actor, portrayed the very essence of a creepy social recluse in The Lodger where, as Slade - a quiet pathology student residing at the home of the Burtons ( Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Sara Allgood ) - he is suspected of being none other than Jack the Ripper. Gasp! The gorgeous moody photography of John Brahm transports us into the cobblestoned mire of Whitechapel through its heavy fog-encased settings, period detail, and its disturbing visual vignettes. George Sanders and Merle Oberon also star.

Gaslight ( 1944 ) – Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotton star in this intrepid MGM remake of the 1940 British classic Gaslight featuring Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard. Twenty years after a wealthy woman was murdered in her home in Thorton Square her niece moves into the London dwelling with her husband….a suave and sinister gentleman who plots to drive his wife mad because he has a dark secret to hide. MGM attempted to destroy all available prints of the English version of this psychological thriller but fortunately a few remained and today we can enjoy both editions on DVD. 
The Picture of Dorian Gray ( 1944 ) - Oscar Wilde's fantasy about the inner state of the soul of one Dorian Gray was given A-class treatment in director Albert Lewin's pet project The Picture of Dorian Gray, released through MGM. Silky smooth 26-year-old Hurd Hatfield played the title character ( a role which made him very unpopular in Hollywood ) along with an impressive cast including George Sanders, Donna Reed, Angela Lansbury, Peter Lawford and Sherlock Holmes veteran actor Miles Mander. Incidentally, Sherlock Holmes himself ( Basil Rathbone ) wanted the role of Lord Henry but was overlooked because he was already being too closely identified with the legendary detective of Baker Street. Stunning cinematography, a strong narrative, and eye-popping Technicolor sequences make this a most memorable film.
Hangover Square ( 1945 ) - Laird Cregar returned to the screen as another downright suspicious madman, this time as a pianist who had to struggle with mental turmoil - and the compulsion to wreak destruction - whenever he hears the ping! of a certain note. Eee Gads! what a way to go through life. John Brahm’s filming is atmospheric and eerie in its dreamlike sequences and the picture has a great cast including George Sanders and Linda Darnell.