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Friday, July 12, 2019

Charlie Chan in Egypt ( 1935 )

In this eighth installment of the 20th Century Fox Charlie Chan series, the famous Hawaiian detective sets off for Egypt to investigate the theft of archeological treasures....and unwraps a case of murder instead!

Detective Chan ( Warner Oland ) dons his sun hat and journeys to Egypt on behalf of the French Archeological Society to investigate the whereabouts of errant artifacts purloined from Professor Arnold's recent excavation of Ameti's tomb. Once he arrives, he discovers that Professor Arnold has left on an archeological dig weeks ago and sent only one mysterious letter in his absence. His son ( James Eagles ) and daughter ( Pat Paterson ) are both worried about him and for good reason... the following evening Charlie, along with Professor Thurston ( Frank Conroy ) and Arnold's young assistant Tom ( Thomas Beck ), discover his body concealed within the sarcophagus from Ameti's tomb!

"Varnish on 3000-year-old mummy case not completely dry." - Chan 

Screenwriters Robert Ellis and Helen Logan were making their series debut ( they would go on to pen nine Chan films ) and weaved an exotic mystery that combined all the elements audiences would hope to see in a Chan film set in Egypt: hot desert sands, an ancient Egyptian curse, a secret chamber in a tomb, and of course, mummies. 
Warner Oland is always delightful to watch as the honorable Charlie, but he seems lonesome here without the presence of his Number One son Lee to distract him in his investigation. Instead, to add humor, there is Snowshoes ( Stepin Fetchit ), a hired hand at the dig site who hopes to find his ancestors among the mummies. Also in the cast is a young Rita Hayworth ( billed Rita Cansino ) who has a small part as a maid at the Arnold residence. 

While Charlie Chan in Egypt boasts a great setting and is an entertaining entry in the series, it lacks the zip of some of the other Chan films. Most of the picture is set within the Arnold estate and grounds which gives it the confined feeling of a stage play and the suspects are not plentiful. The presence of Lionel Atwill or George Zucco as a shady antiquities dealer would have given the film the boost of an additional sinister suspect. But as Chan would say, "It takes very rainy day to drown duck". 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

From the Archives: The Valley of Gwangi ( 1969 )

This month's From the Archive photo isn't really from our archives but it was such a great shot we could not resist sharing it: James Franciscus and Gila Golan were captured in this candid snapshot on the set of The Valley of Gwangi ( 1969 ). This adventure film is most famous for its special effects which were created by Ray Harryhausen. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The American Spirit - 25 Films that Capture Our Love for America

Today is America's birthday, the day we celebrate our great nation's declaration of independence. We have so many reasons to be proud of America and one of the greatest treasures is growing up with such a rich history and culture, a culture so unique in itself and yet made up of so many other cultures and their traditions. 

So, to celebrate our love for our country, we put together a list of 25 favorite classics that encapsulate some of the things that we cherish the most about America - the beautiful parks, the vast size of our country, its rich history, the creative entrepreneurial go-getting spirit of its people, the rich variety of citizens, our freedom, and of course, the small towns that are the backbone of America. 

The films are listed in order of their plot's time setting...or at least, the closest decade we could squeeze them into. 

Plymouth Adventure ( 1952 )
Spencer Tracy, Gene Tierney, Leo Genn, Van Johnson

The story of the Mayflower and the first settlers at Plymouth, Massachusetts. Hollywood likes to embellish history so this film was quite a mix of fantasy and fact - supposedly the captain of the Mayflower was in love with one of the passengers and was initially willing to dump his shipload of passengers in a port where they had little chance of survival. But look, all turned out well anyway!

Johnny Tremain ( 1957 )
Hal Stalmaster, Richard Beymer, Luana Patten, Walter Sande, Sebastian Cabot

Walt Disney's engaging retelling of a classic Esther Forbes children's novel about a young silversmith who witnesses events that, although apparently insignificant, will become the seeds to spark the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 

How the West Was Won ( 1962 )
James Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Carroll Baker, Gregory Peck, Robert Preston, Henry Fonda, Agnes Moorehead, Carolyn Jones

This nearly three-hour-long epic spans decades in the history of Westward expansion and features just about every big-name actor in Hollywood ( "24 Great Stars" the posters declare ). Three directors ( John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall ) shared the responsibility of covering such vast terrain and the result is magnificent. The wagon trains heading west, the railroad empire of the 1860s, the Civil War, the rise of the Mississippi riverboat gamblers and the early days of San Francisco are all glorious 70mm Cinerama!

Gone with the Wind ( 1939 ) 

Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, Hattie McDaniel, Thomas Mitchell

And speaking of epics.....Margaret Mitchell's excellent novel about the glory days of the South and the destruction of it through the Civil War was emblazoned on the screen in an adaptation that will never be equaled. You do not have to be a Southerner or even take one foot in the South to appreciate its unique atmosphere and the lifestyle of its people.  America's history would not be as special as it is if it were not for the great territorial divides in our country: the North, the South, the East, the West, all of which have a long history in themselves.
The Harvey Girls ( 1946 ) 
Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, John Hodiak, Virginia O'Brien, Preston Foster, Marjorie Main

After the Civil War, everyone was in a rage to head west either to claim land to settle or to strike it rich in gold. Fred Harvey was the smart man who knew that all these people would need a place to eat when they got there and so he started the famous Harvey chain of restaurants. This fun MGM musical tells the story of a band of intrepid waitresses at one of these restaurants back in the day. The carefree spirit of the film makes you want to board the Atchison, Topeka, and the Sante Fe and enjoy the wonders of the West yourself. 

Jesse James ( 1939 ) 
Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Nancy Kelly, Randolph Scott, Henry Hull.

This movie - filmed in beautiful Technicolor - really white-washed the life of the famous outlaw and made him out to be a Robin Hood-like hero who just didn't know where to draw the line. It was filmed on location in Missouri and the scenes that take place in the woodlands really capture the beauty of our nation's parks. Henry Hull, as a newspaper publisher, enjoyed his right of "freedom of the press" and would speak about any issue that came to his mind, liberally peppering it with "dang it!"s.

Show Boat ( 1951 )
Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ava Gardner, Joe E. Brown

Another colorful MGM musical, this time celebrating the Mississippi riverboats of the South and the people who entertained onboard them....showboat folk. When William Warfield bellows "Ol' Man River" you cannot help but feel a great swell in your heart for the mighty Mississippi that keeps on "rollin' along". 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ( 1939 )
Mickey Rooney, Rex Ingram, Walter Connolly

There is something about the films of the 1930s that are so satisfying to watch and the ones that were set in small-town America are particularly engaging. This classic - based on Mark Twain's famous novel - was a remake of an earlier film starring Jackie Coogan. Mickey Rooney was perfectly cast as the mischievous Huck Finn. 

Annie Get Your Gun ( 1950 )
Betty Hutton, Howard Keel, Louis Calhern, Keenan Wynn

Buffalo Bill's Wild West show toured the world for nearly 30 years ( 1883-1917 ) showcasing feats of sharpshooting skill and horsemanship. It was like a circus celebrating the West and one of its biggest celebrities was Annie Oakley. This MGM musical ( based upon the Broadway show ) gives us a taste of what it would have been like to have been in the audience witnessing such a show - the thrill of the Wild West combined with the pageantry of a circus. Mark Twain once commented, "It is often said on the other side of the water that none of the exhibitions which we send to England are purely and distinctly American. If you will take the Wild West show over there you can remove that reproach." There is certainly nothing so American as a Wild West show!

Meet Me in St. Louis ( 1944 )
Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor, Tom Drake, Lucille Bremer

But a fair, whether it be a state fair or a world's fair, oozes with American charm, too. In Meet Me in St. Louis it isn't so much the fair ( we barely get a glimpse of it ) that gives this film its stamp of Americana but the setting - St. Louis at the turn-of-the-century. It was the age of trolleys, player pianos, corsets, white pinafores, and dandies wearing straw hats. What a wonderful era! 
Ah, Wilderness! ( 1933 )
Eric Linden, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, 

Eugene O'Neill's classic play about a young man and his coming-of-age in turn-of-the-century America was brought to the screen in this marvelous MGM adaptation directed by Clarence Brown. It's a sentimental tale that is set in a small midwestern town complete with a bandstand, a lover's bridge, pool hall, church, and town hall. It is Andy Hardy at the turn-of-the-century ( with practically the same cast )....I think that's why we like it so much. It is so wholesome. 

Pollyanna ( 1960 )
Hayley Mills, Richard Egan, Jane Wyman, Karl Malden, Agnes Moorehead

Speaking of won't find a more goody-two-shoes character than Pollyanna or a more perfect town than Beldingsville, Vermont. This classic, based on the 1913 novel of the same name, takes place during the course of one summer. The town picnic scene was always our favorite because - in spite of the great homecoming we have in our neighborhood - it pales in comparison to the Beldingsville park setting with its Japanese lanterns on display, the great "old lady" community band, and the giant piles of corn-on-the-cob and watermelon being served. Walt Disney made so many wonderful films that celebrated his love for America. 

The Late George Apley ( 1947 )
Ronald Colman, Edna Best, Richard Haydn, Peggy Cummins, Richard Ney

The Bostonians. They are as a nation onto themselves and this movie - set during the 1910s and based on the novel by John Marquand - wittily makes absurdities over the feeling of pride some of these people have in being born Bostonian and bred Bostonian. It is another great film that captures a slice of America lost in time. 

The Music Man ( 1960 )
Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Ronald Howard, Paul Ford

The small town of Madison, Iowa is the setting of one of the most famous American musicals ever made. The play's writer and composer, Meredith Wilson, lovingly made fun of the small town that he grew up in and he struck a chord with his audience because so many of us could relate to the people and incidents in the story - the comical mayor and his wife, the town shyster, the pretty librarian, and townfolk of all shapes and sizes. 

Yankee Doodle Dandy ( 1942 )
James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, Rosemary DeCamp, Jeanne Cagney

All of those famous songs that we associate with America were written Irishman! But as the lyrics to Robert and Richard Sherman's "I'll Always be Irish" so aptly put it, "I'll always be Irish, 'cause that's how I began. I'll always be Irish, I'll say that to any man. And when I'm an American, I'll be a good one, too.I'll be truly as American as Irish stew!" That's what makes America so great. So long as they love this nation, the moment an immigrant steps foot in America they are as truly American as anyone else in the land. George M. Cohen was one of the greatest songwriters our country ever had and James Cagney ( an Irish-American himself ) brilliantly played him in this musical classic. 

Giant ( 1956 )
Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Mercedes McCambridge

Like the Bostonians, Texans like to celebrate their own history, too. Their "country", as they put it, is as great as any nation. George Stevens epic, based on Edna Ferber's novel, spans 40 years and inspires a love for Texas in all of us.  

Some Like it Hot ( 1959 )
Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, Joe E. Brown

The era of the bootleggers was not one of fun and games, yet Billy Wilder took such a setting and made it a belly-laughing comedy. Some Like it Hot not only celebrates the era of gangsters but also the birth of the Florida tourist boom and the days of the sprawling Floridian hotels ( even though the one featured in the movie happens to be located in southern California ). 

The Andy Hardy Series
Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, Fay Holden, Cecilia Parker

Andy Hardy is as all-American as homemade apple pie and this delightful series, which spanned sixteen films, features everything we love about small-town America. The corner drugstore, the town picnic, the school prom, you'll find it all in Andy Hardy. Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, adored the series and used it as a launchpad for many starlets including Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Donna Reed, and Esther Williams. 

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek ( 1944 )
Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, William Demarest, Diana Lynn

Preston Sturges made some of the most delightful comedies of the 1930s and 1940s and most of them were very patriotic in his own way. This one was one of Sturge's best and is a Fourth of July favorite of ours. It tells the story of a young woman who wants to "kiss the boys goodbye" on their way to the front and finds herself pregnant after a wild night in town! Being kind to the soldiers has its limits. 

Since You Went Away ( 1944 )
Claudette Colbert, Joseph Cotten, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Robert Walker

There were so many excellent war films made right in the midst of the war that focused on the homefront ( e.g. The Best Years of Our Lives, The Human Comedy ) but Since You Went Away was one of the best to capture the emotions that spouses and children felt for the soldiers who went away to Europe. If you want to watch a tear-inducing drama that will inspire you to stand up and recite the pledge of allegiance than this is the picture to see. 

State Fair ( 1945 ) 
Dana Andrews, Jeanne Crain, Dick Haymes, Vivian Blaine.

A state fair! County fairs have their thrills but state fairs are so much grander. This classic Fox musical captures the thrill of going to a fair, the excitement of the mid-way and the people one meets there and the disillusions that may come the day after. 

The Greatest Show on Earth ( 1956 )
Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Carolyn Jones

And circuses! Who can pass up a circus! Unfortunately, due to Ringling Brothers' Barnum and Bailey Circus closing, many children now are not able to look back on fond memories of going to see a circus, so they'll just have to be satisfied watching films like this one and trying to imagine what the experience was like. Cecil B. DeMille does everything on a big scale and The Greatest Show on Earth is no exception. It's a magnificent film and he captured on film a slice of an era in America's history that will never come around again. 

Bye Bye Birdie ( 1963 )
Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, Ann-Margaret, Bobby Rydell, Paul Lynde

Another great musical comedy that paints a pretty picture of small-town America. The era is now the 1960s and the theme is about rock-and-roll heartthrobs and the effect they have on "innocent" teenage gals, but the characters in the film are timeless. 
The Reluctant Astronaut ( 1967 ) 
Don Knotts, Joan Freeman, Leslie Nielson, Arthur O'Connell

The Andy Griffith Show captured small-town America on the small screen and, on the big screen, the Don Knotts comedies did the least, we've always thought so. The Universal backlot, home to the Munsters, the Hardy's, and so many television families, was Sweetwater, Kansas, the fictional town in The Reluctant Astronaut. Knotts, as Royal Fleming, becomes the local hero when he is shot up into outer space. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Candleshoe ( 1977 )

Michael Innes, who is best known for his novels featuring detective Sir John Appleby, was a prolific author for over fifty years ( 1930s-1980s ). In 1953, he penned a little book entitled "Christmas at Candleshoe" which Walt Disney Studios subsequently produced as a family motion picture in 1977. Like many book-to-film adaptations, the film barely resembles its source; but, judging from Goodreads reader's comments about the original book, this is to its credit. 
Candleshoe is the name of a beautiful Elizabethan estate in England. Its owner, Lady St. Edmund ( Helen Hayes ), has been searching for her long-lost granddaughter Margaret for many years and has had a number of imposters come forward claiming to be this girl, the heir to Candleshoe. 

Con-artist Harry Bundage ( Leo McKern ) discovers Casey ( Jodie Foster ), a tough-talking wayward teenager in Los Angeles who has all of Margaret's birthmarks in their proper places and sees in her his ticket to a fortune. Unlike other cons, his primary intention is not to collect any reward for "finding" Margaret, but rather to use Casey as an agent inside Candleshoe to hunt for the real treasure - Captain Joshua St. Edmund's buried pirate treasure. 
Candleshoe is a fun family film that combines a Disney-esque Jolly Ol' England charm with Hollywood's fascination for a good treasure yarn. Helen Hayes is delightful as the prim and proper Lady St. almost forgets that she is an American playing an Englishwoman. Yet, it is Sir David Niven who is given the juiciest role, that of Priory, the faithful butler. He has known for many years of Candleshoe's thread-bare financial situation and, being the loyal sort that he is, decides to keep this information from Lady St. Edmund and takes over all of the duties of the house singlehandedly. Using multiple disguises, he becomes the chauffeur, cook, gardener, and Lady St. Edmund's dear friend "the major" as well. 

Director Norman Tokar ( Leave it to Beaver ) had thirteen other Disney feature films under his belt by the time he made Candleshoe. He was excellent working with children and brought out great performances from Jodie Foster and the other child actors ( Veronica Quilligan, Ian Sharrock, Sarah Tamakuni, David Samuels ). The character of Casey was tomboyish and thoroughly selfish, and yet Jodie Foster still managed to make her quite likable. Through her experience at Candleshoe, Casey learns that by being self-reliant and skeptical of others during her youth, she missed out on the nurturing environment of a stable home life. She sees in Lady St. Edmund a surrogate grandmother and, in a tear-inducing finale, confesses that having others to love and care for is indeed better than looking out solely for oneself. 
Candleshoe was filmed on location in England in the beautiful town of Hambleden in Buckinghamshire where two personal favorites, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ( 1968 ) and Murder Is Easy ( 1981 ) were also filmed. It is such a charming village and its proximity to Pinewood studios - where many Disney films were shot - made it ideal for location filming. 

Also in the cast is Vivian Pickles, John Alderson, Michael Balfour, and Sydney Bromley. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Impossibly Difficult Name That Movie Game

It's time to make an announcement! Or so it seems.....this comely duo look like they are happy to say something, but what could it be? If you know what film this screenshot is from, then drop a comment down below and see if you are the winner of this month's Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game. 

Not familiar with the game? Check out the rules here.


Congratulations to Damsbo for correctly identifying this screenshot from Walt Disney's The Barefoot Executive ( 1971 ). If you look in the background, you will see the famous Emmy emblem. This was taken from the Emmy awards scene when Steven Post ( Kurt Russell ) is announced "Man of the Year". 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Les Deux Anglaises et Le Continent ( 1971 )

While recovering at home from a leg injury, Claude ( Jean-Pierre Léaud ) meets Anne Brown ( Kika Markham ), the daughter of his mother's old friend, who has come to France to study art. She invites Claude to spend the summer with her sister Muriel ( Stacey Tendeter ) and her mother at their seaside cottage in Wales, an invitation that he accepts. Once there, Anne conspires to play matchmaker between Claude and Muriel and, over the course of the summer, succeeds. Claude wishes to marry Muriel but she feels that this is only a passing infatuation and declines his offer but later changes her mind. Their parents come to the decision that it is best if they were to separate for a year and then, if they still feel the desire to marry, they may do so. But once back in Paris, Claude has affairs with other women and does indeed realize that his love for Muriel was temporary. Anne, who is once again in Paris studying art, begins to see Claude more often and the two embark on an affair themselves. 

Les Deux Anglaises et Le Continent aka Two English Girls was based on the 1956 novel of the same name by Henri-Pierre Roché who also wrote "Jules et Jim". That novel told the story of a young woman who was in love with two men. "Les Deux Anglaises" inverts this premise. The book and the film center on Claude's indecision between his feelings for both sisters whom he met while yet a teenager. It is set during the early 1900s and spans nearly twenty years of Claude's life. It is a sad story but one which the audience can easily relate to. Claude obviously enjoyed his summer with both sisters and, as he got older, found it difficult to love one without the possibility of exploring his feelings for the other sister as well. Once having done so, he was all the more confused about whom he really loved the most. 

It is harder for the audience to sympathize with Muriel. She feels as though she is unworthy of Claude even though she knows him to be untrue to her, and so she continues to spurn him...which only serves to drive him away. 
The film is filled with many beautiful images symbolic of what the characters are feeling, but it is also very crude, very frank, and quite erotic. Director Francois Truffaut ( who also directed Jules et Jim ) acknowledged that "the film was so romantic, possibly even melodramatic, that it had to be balanced by some very physical scenes." This did not go over well with audiences. In France, the reception to the film was so bad that Truffaut pulled it from the theatres and re-edited it. Years later, he succeeded in adding back twenty minutes that he had originally cut. 

"Rather than a film about physical love, I have tried to make a physical film about love." - Truffaut

The harsh reception that the picture received disappointed Truffaut who considered it to be his best film up to that time. It has only been in recent decades that Les Deux Anglaises et Le Continent has been acknowledged to be the fine film that it is. 

Les Deux Anglaises is not a happy picture and it is devoid of humor, but it is beautiful, both in its cinematography ( by Nestor Almendros ) and in its soulful expression of despair. The film plays out like a novel. It is filled with numerous vignettes that resemble short rich chapters that you want to re-read again and again. Almendros avoids close-ups and, instead, stunning long shots of the Welsh landscape are mixed with medium shots and various techniques from Truffaut's bag of tricks which include superimpositions, lightning-fast cuts, fade-ins and the iris effect ( reminiscent of The Music Man ). 
"Between them was a dead girl whom they would not name. Only a child would restore the trio that they once were."

Kika Markham is excellent as level-headed Anne, as is Stacey Tendeter as Muriel, who appears to be more sensible than she acts. However, Jean-Pierre Léaud makes a rather childlike main character. His thin frame emphasizes his boyish features. Perhaps this was what Truffaut intended, but a stronger leading man would have made the film even more compelling. Claude, who puts on the airs of being a mature adult, seems to be only a boy who cannot make up his mind to what - or whom - he desires. 

Throughout the film, there is the voice of the narrator who acts as an omniscient presence to relate to us the feelings of the characters, primarily Claude. Without the authoritative voice of this narration ( the voice of Truffaut himself ), the film may have suffered from relying upon only Léaud's presence. 
While the characters in the novel were based on Henri-Pierre Roché's own feelings, Truffaut felt that the novel also reflected the situation that the Bronte sisters were in, with both of them longing for the love of their half-brother Branwell. Throughout the film, Claude and Muriel relate to going back to their "brother-sister" relationship, realizing they could never be lovers when they feel such a close sibling-like bond to each other. 

Truffaut also suffused the film with a sadness which he was experiencing at the time. Shortly before filming began, Truffaut had been treated for severe depression. Like Claude, he too was in love with two sisters - the actresses Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac - one of whom had died only three years before he began work on the film. 

Two English Girls is currently available on DVD in an excellent Criterion Collection release and through the Criterion Channel. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

From the Archives: Charade ( 1963 )

Mrs. Lambert ( Audrey Hepburn ) just received the news of her husband's death from the French police inspector ( Jacques Marin ) in this scene from Stanley Donen's comedy-thriller Charade ( 1963 ). Marin, a native of Paris, was a popular character actor both in Europe and in America. In 1966, he was reunited with Hepburn in How to Steal a Million...another film set in Paris. 

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 :

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Happy Road ( 1957 )

Gene Kelly was at the peak of his career in the early 1950s, making such memorable musicals as Summer Stock, An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain and Brigadoon. One side adventure he took away from musicals was a delightful family film called The Happy Road ( 1957 ). It had no singing or dance sequences. Kelly directed the picture himself and you can see his little touches throughout the film, especially in the mannerisms of the two leading child actors Bobby Clark and Brigitte Fossey.  

The story revolves around these two children - Danny and Janine - who escape from a private school in Switzerland in order to be with their parents in Paris. Danny's father Mike ( Gene Kelly ) is a widower who is in France on business. He is frustrated with the inefficiency of the French workers and just wants to finish up his work in order to return to the States, where he believes people are much more sensible. Janine's mother Suzanne ( Barbara Laage ) is a divorcee who is about to be remarried in Monte Carlo. 

After these two parents discover that their children have run away together they decide, with the aid of the police, to head the children off before they get too far along the journey to Paris. Much to their chagrin, these youngsters travel at a faster pace then they imagined and are always one town ahead of them on the chase. It is this chase through France that makes up much of the picture. 
Filmed entirely in France, The Happy Road takes its audience throughout the petites villes enroute to Paris. Danny and Janine find aid from other children and people they meet along the way, including a mute giant, a picnicking family, and members of a bicycle road race. They travel by foot, truck, and canal boat whereas Mike and Suzanne go via the main roads by motorcycle and scooter. 

While the story itself revolves around the children, the main characters are the parents, who realize that perhaps they were putting their own interests and desires before their children. Mike comes to learn that the French people are indeed living the better way; they consider life itself more important than the busyness of life that Mike takes part in. 

The Happy Road is a charming film and it earned the UN award as well as the 1958 Golden Globe for best film in Promoting International Understanding. Also in the cast is Michael Redgrave as a thoroughly British military general and Roger Treville. Maurice Chevalier sings the sparkling title song. 
The Happy Road is available on DVD from the Warner Archive Collection. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Le Voyage en ballon ( 1960 ) aka Stowaway in the Sky

After the success of the award-winning short film The Red Balloon ( Le Ballon Rouge, 1956 ), French director Albert Lamorisse embarked on creating a feature-length film with a similar visual emphasis to the narrative.

Le Voyage en Ballon follows the journey of an inventor/balloonist ( André Gille ) and his stowaway grandson Pascal ( Pascal Larmorisse ) as they circle high above the skies around France. The boy is delighted to join his grandfather on his adventure and we, the audience, are able to share in this young balloonist's view of France, soaring high above Brittany, sailing along the southern coast, and traversing the Alps. 

This scenic tour of the country is reminiscent of PBS's travel series "Visions of..." which featured helicopter aerial footage of France, Italy, Germany, England, etc. accompanied by classical and regional music. 

Le Voyage en Ballon has a storyline but it is the view of France itself that takes center stage. Jean Prodromides composed a magnificent soundtrack to accompany the tour with each piece tailored to the featured location of the scenes. The segment featuring "Les grands voiliers - Goëmons" ( "The Tall Ships" ) is especially grand and the music seems to capture in its melody the rich history of the men at sea as well as the thrill that Pascal feels of seeing sailing vessels racing on the open waters. 
This little boy was director Albert Lamorisse's son Pascal. He had previously starred in Le Ballon Rouge and later, when his father was killed in a helicopter crash while filming the documentary Le Vent des amoureux ( The Lover's Wind ), Pascal and his mother completed the picture. Today, he oversees his father's film company and the restoration of his short films. 

Le Voyage en ballon also featured Maurice Baquet as Tout-Tout the mechanic, a character similar to Passepartout from Around the World in 80 Days. He is a loyal companion to the balloonists but has a tendency to get himself into mischief. 

In the United States, Le Voyage en ballon was issued as Stowaway in the Sky two years later with Jack Lemmon as narrator. Lemmon loved the picture so much that he purchased the American release rights to it. The film was beautifully filmed in Eastman color and was nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1960. 

Currently, it is not available on DVD but the English-narrated version can be found online. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Memorial Day Weekend is here and for many children it marks the completion ( or near completion ) of the school year. "No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks..." If there was ever a teacher that could give a dirty look it is this fellow right here! You know you have seen him before and this particular scene is not-so-impossible compared to others we've posted - in fact, it is downright easy...especially if you have seen the film! This teacher is going to continue to look at his watch until you guess a title, so go ahead and give it a try. 

Not familiar with the game? Check out the rules here. 


Congratulations to Laura B. for correctly identifying this scene from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer ( 1938 ) starring Tommy Kelly and May Robson. The schoolmaster pictured here is Olin Howland who also appeared a stick-wielding schoolteacher in both the 1933 and 1948 versions of Little Women

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Five Favorite Films of the 1950s

Today is National Classic Movie Day and to celebrate Rick of The Classic Film and TV Cafe is hosting the Five Favorite Films of the 1950s Blogathon, an event that is sure to perplex all of its participants for how can any movie lover narrow down their 1950s favorites to five?! 

What makes it so difficult is determining the criteria that constitute calling a film a favorite. The first thing I eliminated was thinking in terms of Best Pictures or Most Important Films of the 1950s and, instead, I picked only the ones that really made me happy. If just the title of a film makes you happy than it is worth more than ten Best Picture winners. But, even then, it was hard to narrow down because so many of those happy-favorites are seasonal and day/time dependent, such as Favorite Film on a Friday Night ( The Bat, Here Come the Nelsons ), Favorite Film to Watch When the Magnolias Bloom ( Picnic, Giant ), Favorite Saturday Morning Breakfast-in-Bed Musical ( Kiss Me Kate, Annie Get Your Gun ), Favorite Week-Before-Halloween Must-See ( Harvey, The Trouble with Harry ) or Favorite Meaty Drama ( A Catered Affair, A Place in the Sun ). 

Ultimately, it boiled down to the pictures that I enjoy the most because I have fond memories of all the times when I viewed it....those titles that hold a so-dear-to-my-heart place. And, not surprisingly, only two could be considered important films of the 1950s. 

Here are the top no particular order ( Goodness gracious, ordering them would have been impossible! ).

Gigi ( 1958 ) 

The Arthur Freed MGM classic. One of the last great musicals that MGM made. It was based on the book "Gigi" by Colette that tells the story of a young girl named Gigi ( Leslie Caron ) who - upon her blossoming into a woman - becomes the love interest of an old and dear family friend, Gaston ( Louis Jourdan ). As was the custom in Paris, she was instructed in the ways of becoming a good mistress to him for marriage was rare among the rich and influential bachelors of the city. But she does not want to be his mistress and plainly tells him so!

Gigi is not only a personal favorite but a three-generation favorite in our family. My dear Oma Rozi lived for many years in France and always talked fondly of Paris, so this film was especially dear to her and we loved watching it with her. All of us have our favorite scenes. For my father, it is Gaston's walk in the park when he turns from being upset to being in love. For my sister, it is the scenes in Trouville and, for myself, Gaston's visit to Mamita's for camomille tea and a game of cards. 

Journey to the Center of the Earth ( 1959 )

Jules Verne's classic tale of exploration was beautifully adapted to film in 1959 featuring James Mason heading the expedition to the center of the earth. Along for the journey is Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl, Peter Ronson, and Gertrude the Duck. This is one of those adventure films you can never tire of. From the opening at Edinburgh University to their kidnapping in Iceland and their descent into the volcano, each and every scene is a favorite. The film has a beautiful color scheme, great music by Bernard Herrmann and Mason and Dahl's slowly growing romance throughout the expedition also make this film extra charming. 

You're Never Too Young ( 1955 )

Like Abbott and Costello, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis are a comedy duo that you either love or hate. Personally, I love them, even though they did make a number of film duds. You're Never Too Young is a musical remake of The Major and the Minor ( 1947 ) which starred Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland. That film was about a young woman who has to spend a week at a boy's military academy and - in order not to put one particular major in a jeopardizing position - pretends she is a little girl. For the Martin/Lewis film, the gender was changed and the setting is now a girl's private school in Washington state. To make things a little more interesting, the screenwriters tossed in a jewel robbery incident with Raymond Burr playing the thug on the hunt for Lewis. 

The film has its moments of silliness, but overall it is never tiresome. Dean Martin croons some wonderful tunes, the colorful pinewoods/lake setting is fantastic, the gangster addition adds to the merriment, and Diana Lynn ( the leading lady ) is cute as a button. 

The Bat ( 1959 )

Cornelia Van Gorder ( Agnes Moorehead ), a famous mystery writer, rents a secluded mansion in the country in order that she can work in peace on her next novel. But a mysterious killer known as The Bat is on the loose in the neighborhood. His face is cloaked in a black mask and he wears gloves with metal claws to slay his victim's throats! Along with her faithful maid Lizzie ( Lenita Lane ), she attempts to unmask this culprit before he murders them both. 

The first time I saw The Bat was a good 17 years ago when it aired on Cleveland's popular "The Big Chuck and Little John Show" on a Saturday morning. It's a cheaply made film ( from Allied Artists ) but Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price's presence make it so entertaining. Price was a master in the horror/sci-fi genre but I always thought he was particularly good at mysteries, too. This film, often mistakenly classified as horror, gives him a chance to show just how good he is at keeping the audience baffled as to whether he is a murderer or not. And to tell you the truth, after 20+ viewings, I still don't know the answer to who really was "the Bat" in each scene! 

Picnic ( 1955 )

Picnic is one of those movies that you watch once and then feel a need to re-visit. It is when you go back to it the second time that you find an even deeper meaning in the film, messages of hopes, dreams, failures and successes, change and constancy. It is all about a drifter ( William Holden ) who comes to a small town in Kansas looking for a job. He falls in love with Madge ( Kim Novak ), the most popular girl in town, much to the chagrin of her mother ( Betty Field ) who hopes to see her married to Alan ( Cliff Robertson ). Interwoven in their struggle is the life of a lonesome schoolteacher ( Rosalind Russell ). During the annual Labor Day picnic, each of them feels a sense of desperation to open a new chapter in their life. 

William Holden claimed that he was too old for the part and turned it down initially, but thankfully he was convinced otherwise. His role was supposed to be that of a youth in his mid-20s, but because Holden was indeed older ( 37 years old ) he made the character seem all the more pitiable. 

This is one of my favorite films to watch in May/early June and for years I always thought the picnic was a Memorial Day event because it looked so much like May in the film. If you watch the picnic sequence you'll notice the beautiful cottonwood seeds falling - a clear giveaway that Picnic was indeed filmed in May. 

Want to see more picks of Five Favorite Films of the 1950s? Click here to check out the full roster of classic film bloggers who participated in the event! 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Me and the Colonel ( 1958 )

"In life, there are always two possibilities...."

It is quite common to find a film that begins terrifically, loses a bit of its appeal midway through and then flounders at the end. But it is rare to find a film that begins slowly and then gets better and better until it reaches its climax. This is because screenwriters desire to "hook" their audience within ten minutes through a compelling script. Me and the Colonel is one of those rare films that fall into the latter category of having a slow beginning - and yet, one cannot say that it does not feature a compelling script. Quite the contrary; Me and the Colonel is wonderful entertainment.

Danny Kaye stars as Jacobowsky, a Polish Jew who flees from town to town throughout France trying to avoid the Nazis - as this takes place at the beginning of WWII. He is a clever and extremely resourceful man, a practical survivor. He uses people and situations to help provide him with the tools and opportunities to make his escapes. It is during his attempt to flee Paris that he meets Colonel Prokoszny ( Curt Jurgens ), a proud and stubborn Polish officer, and his aide Szabuniewicz ( Akim Tamiroff ). 

Jacobowsky is reluctant to use the colonel in his escape plan since he is unapologetically anti-semitic and extremely unhelpful. However, as the colonel is Jacobowsky's only chance, he uses him to drive the car that will take them to southern France and to safety in Spain. Their flight from the Nazis is immediately complicated when the colonel "goes the wrong direction" and heads north into German-occupied territory to rescue his mistress Suzanne ( Nicole Maurey ). The colonel has a penchant for getting them into trouble and it is left to Jacobowsky to continually use his inherent wiles to rescue them from one scrape after another along their journey.  It is through Jacobowsky and the colonel's ordeal together that they manage to form a bond of friendship that transcends their differences. 
"You have one of the finest minds of the 12th-century"

Danny Kaye was a marvelous actor. His skill at drama was often hidden behind the humorous masks of the characters he played. Me and the Colonel leans more towards drama than comedy and Kaye does not play Jacobosky for laughs. The publicity department at Columbia Studios attempted to warn Danny Kaye fans who were expecting zany comedy and tongue twisters that "Kaye pulls a switch". It was an uncharacteristic role which he played with impressive ease....and won a Golden Globe for his endeavor.

Jacobowsky has such a beautiful soul and it is so appealing to watch him unfold the various layers of his character throughout the film. Suzanne recognizes what a rare individual Jacobowsky is and is lovingly drawn to him. He - and the audience - are left to wonder whether she feels a romantic attachment to him or simply honors him for his noble character. 

I have always been amazed at how well Danny Kaye was able to play the romantic. Perhaps it is because we expect him to be the clown that his moments of displaying genuine warmth are all the more touching. Me and the Colonel features one of the sweetest love scenes he ever did. Tucked away in a French palace during a thunderstorm, he confesses his love to Suzanne and the predicament he feels he is in due to his loyalty to the Colonel. Not revealing what she feels, she simply asks him if he would like to dance and there, on the beautiful marble floor of the palace, they waltz. 
"More and more I like this Jacobowsky"

Me and the Colonel was nominated for Best Motion Picture at the 1959 Golden Globes and at the Mar del Plata Film Festival. It was based on a play by Franz Werfel ( "The Song of Bernadette" ) and S.N Behrman ( "The Pirate" ) that played for 417 performances on Broadway in 1944 with Louis Calhern, Annabella, Oskar Karlweis and Edward Bromberg as the four intrepid escapees. 

It is a light-hearted but thought-provoking drama generously sprinkled with humorous dialogue. Touches of espionage and the serious undertone of its setting make it reminiscent of Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be ( 1942 ) and Howard Hawks' I Was a Male War Bride ( 1949 ). 
Curt Jurgens, who almost always give a top-notch performance, overdid it in this role and his performance of Prokoszny borders on buffoonery. Yet, he redeems himself at the end of the film and we catch a glimpse of a more tender-natured colonel. Prokoszny is stiff-necked and ego-maniacal but nonetheless endearing. Jacobowsky is willing to give up his life for this man and understandably so. He is courageous and fiercely loyal. The colonel's aide shows equal loyalty to him, as does Suzanne, even though she knows very well that he had affairs with women in every city he stopped at.

"In the cathedral of my heart, a candle will always burn for you!"

The lovely French actress, Nicole Maurey, is always a delight to watch. She is perhaps best known for appearing opposite Bing Crosby in the post-war drama Little Boy Lost ( 1953 ) and for her part in The Day of the Triffids ( 1963 ) where she was once again fleeing France for the Spanish border. 

Me and the Colonel features beautiful location filming throughout France and a great supporting cast which includes Alexander Scourby, Françoise Rosay and the marvelous Martita Hunt in a brief part as a nun who aids our heroes in their escape. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

From the Archives: The Chalk Garden ( 1964 )

At the dinner table, "Puppy" ( Felix Alymer ) relates a juicy tale to Laurel ( Hayley Mills ) about one of the criminal cases he had to judge years ago. Maitland ( John Mills ) looks on in this lobby card scene from the delightful mystery/drama The Chalk Garden ( 1964 ). 

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 :

Friday, May 3, 2019

Adrienne Corri and The Search for Gainsborough

It is always interesting to discover the hobbies that actors have outside of their film and theatrical work. Adrienne Corri, who is perhaps best known for portraying the sensuous red-haired Valerie in Jean Renoir's The River ( 1953 ), had a most interesting passion: Thomas Gainsborough.

The Scottish-born actress had a life-long love of art and in the early 1980s she made a remarkable find: in a dilapidated Birmingham theatre, she spotted an early portrait of the actor/playwright David Garrick hanging upon the wall. She was convinced that it was the work of the English portrait and landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough, whose paintings she was very familiar with.  However, art experts whom she showed the painting to, disagreed with her. So, with admirable persistence, she set out to prove them wrong. Her investigations led to getting access to Bank of England ledgers where she found a record of the payment that Gainsborough had received for painting Garrick's portrait. This discovery revealed that Gainsborough had been commissioned to paint yet another portrait which Corri uncovered in 1982. A stroke of good fortune indeed! 

Adrienne Corri in the delightful "Make Me an Offer" ( 1954 )

In 1984, she published an account of this treasure hunt in an entertaining diary-formatted book entitled "The Search for Gainsborough" published by Jonathan Cape Ltd. 

This entry is a part of our latest series entitled "Did You Know?".....sometimes we just feel like sharing interesting fragments of television and movie history and now we have a place to do just that. If you have a hot tip that you would like us to share on Silver Scenes, drop us a line!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Heimweh....dort wo die Blumen Blüh'n ( 1957 )

Somewhere I read that if you watch one Heimatfilm you've seen them all. That is a bit of a stretch, but it is true that after seeing twenty or so, they begin to blur together. 

In Hollywood pictures you would find character actors who appeared more frequently in one type of genre than in others...e.g Harry Carey Jr. or Edgar Buchanan liked westerns while Marjorie Main and Mary Wickes preferred comedies. In Germany, this was also the case, and many of the main actors and supporting players who starred in Heimatfilms enjoyed that genre and made a number of them. So you cannot rely on the actor's faces to bring to mind the title. Then, the similarities of the titles do not help matters much either. This film, Heimweh....dort wo die Blumen Blüh'n ( 1957 ), is not to be confused with Heimatlos ( 1958 ), Wenn die Alpenrosen blüh'n ( 1955 ), Solange noch die Rosen blüh'n ( 1956 ), or Dort oben, wo die Alpen glühen (1956). Lots of bloomin' titles! 

In this film, you will find a little more drama than usual in a Heimatfilm. A young woman ( Sabine Bethman ) attempts to commit suicide by throwing herself into a river but is saved by a priest  ( Hans Holt ) who is traveling with a busload of sängerknaben ( choir boys ). The priest takes her to the monastery and the boys and the parish staff all try to cheer her, but to no avail. It is not until she enters confession with Father Benedict and tells him the story of her lost romance that she feels her depression begin to subside. Of course, this flashback sequence is for the benefit of the audience who get to witness a little romance between her and her engineer supervisor ( Rudolf Prack ). 

Heimweh has some pleasant moments but on the whole, it is very forgettable. The only memorable part of the film is its theme song "Heimweh" performed by Freddy Quinn and played throughout the movie. Freddy was an extremely popular entertainer from Austria and "Heimweh" ( the German version of Dean Martin's "Memories are Made of This" ) was his first million-selling hit single. So it seems as though Heimweh...dort wo die Blumen Bluh'n was the result of some screenwriters who hurriedly typed out a script to cash in on the popularity of the song. 

The film also features a great supporting cast but unfortunately, their talents are all wasted in parts that are too insignificant. The lovable Joseph Egger could have been a comforting character to the poor young woman but instead, he is in only a few scenes tinkering with a radio or bickering with Annie Rosar, another great actress who has too small a part. 

Hans Holt may be familiar to The Sound of Music fans because he played Captain von Trapp in the original Die Trapp Familie ( 1956 ). Rudolf Prack is always a pleasure to watch, and also in the cast is Paul Horbiger, a legend in German cinema. 

Heimweh....dort wo die Blumen Blüh'n is not yet available on DVD but if you are willing to see where "the flowers bloom" then you can view it on Youtube.