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 :

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 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!