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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 faves....in 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 : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

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.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game


Hot Diggity! Onion soup on Friday! My favorite! And you can be sure that this fellow will give you a generous portion. Don't mind the flies in the soup, they only add to the flavor. 

If you can guess which film this screenshot is from, you have a prize coming your way. If you have no idea what movie this is from, guess a title anyway! There is no penalty for a wrong answer. Check out the full rules to the game here. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Charlie Chan in Panama ( 1940 )

Detective Charlie Chan finds himself once again in the midst of treachery and danger when he heads down to Panama in this 22nd installment of 20th Century Fox's Charlie Chan film series.

A sinister criminal by the name of Reiner is intent on destroying the U.S naval fleet as it passes through the Panama Canal. Chan, who is working undercover in Panama City, has only one clue to Reiner's identity - he or she was one of the nine passengers aboard the Trans-Panama Airways clipper ship that arrived in Panama City the morning of the death of Chan's contact agent Mr. Godley. Within 48 hours, Chan - with the aid of his Number 2 son - must unmask Reiner and discover how this mastermind will attempt to destroy the fleet.

There were 28 Charlie Chan films made for Fox studios and Charlie Chan in Panama ranks high as a fan favorite. It was based on the 1934 film Marie Gallante starring Ketti Gallian and Spencer Tracy. Screenwriters Lester Ziffren and John Larkin heightened its entertainment value immensely by adding numerous suspicious characters and clever red herrings.
Among the suspects are novelist Clivedon Compton ( Lionel Atwill ), scientist Dr. Grosser ( Lionel Royce ) who is experimenting with infecting rats with the bubonic plague, engineer Richard Cabot ( Kane Richmond ), schoolteacher Miss Finch ( Mary Nash ), tobacconist Achmad Halide ( Frank Puglia ) and a cabaret singer by the fanciful name of Kathi von Czardas ( Jean Rogers ). 

"Bad alibi like dead fish, cannot stand test of time."

Sidney Toler is always wonderful to watch. After Warner Oland's untimely demise, Toler took over the role of the world-famous Honolulu detective and added his own unique touches to the character. Victor Sen Yung makes his fourth appearance as Jimmy Chan, Charlie's Number Two son, and he is a delight as well. Later, he would become famous on television as the chef Hop-Sing in Bonanza
As in most of the Chan films, the atmospheric settings are excellent, with credit going to art director Richard Day ( How Green Was My Valley ) for his beautiful sets. Charlie Chan in Panama was tautly directed by Norman Foster who helmed most of the Mr. Moto series of films. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Wings of Mystery ( 1963 )

The Children's Film Foundation made a number of good little mysteries in the 1960s, one of which was Wings of Mystery, released in 1963. This British film tells the story of a brother and sister ( Hennie Scott and a young Judy Geeson ) who try to help their brother Ted ( Richard Carpenter ) when he is accused of stealing a new secret alloy from the iron plant where he works. The children suspect McCarthy, another employee, who will be taking a trip to Belgium to race pigeons. They believe he snuck the alloy sample out of the plant by tying it to the feet of a pigeon and will be selling it to foreign agents. Since the children are also avid pigeons racers, they follow him to Belgium in an attempt to apprehend him. 
Pigeon racing films are quite rare and this is one of the best in the genre. Audiences get to witness some splendid action shots of the pigeons in flight, especially that of Sir Lancelot who was the lead pigeon in Wings of Mystery

Unfortunately, the performances of the human actors are rather stiff, but CFF films were never known for featuring quality acting ( most of them cast new young actors or children from the villages where the pictures were being filmed ). Wings of Mystery does have one talented youngster - Judy Geeson, who was only 15 years old at the time. Geeson would go on to have quite a long career in both film and television starring opposite Sidney Poitier in To Sir, with Love ( 1967 ), Joan Crawford in Berserk ( 1968 ), and John Wayne in Brannigan ( 1975 ). 
Also in the cast is Patrick Jordan, Arnold Ridley, and Anthony Jacobs. The movie is only 55-minutes long so it is worth checking out, and if you enjoy it, take a peek at Sky Pirates ( 1977 ), another CFF release, this time with children who use their model airplanes to battle diamond smugglers. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

From the Archives: Twilight for the Gods ( 1958 )

Rock Hudson and Cyd Charisse in a scene from Twilight for the Gods ( 1958 ). Don't let the black-and-white photograph fool you, this Universal picture was filmed in eye-popping Eastman Colour. Hudson plays a boozy sea captain who must take his passengers ( including a call girl ) "out of the raging fury of wind and water" to safety. It was based on a book by Ernest K. Gann, who also wrote "The High and the Mighty" and "Fate is the Hunter", both of which were made into motion pictures. 

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, April 7, 2019

The Gnome-Mobile ( 1967 )

"Hunting for gnomes in the Gnome-Mobile...."

Jaspar ( Tom Lowell ) and his grandfather Knobby ( Walter Brennan ) fear that they may be the last of the gnomes residing in the giant redwoods of California. As many of us know, gnomes live forever, but Knobby is so disheartened at the thought of his grandson never marrying that he loses his will to live. This causes him to become "see-throughish". As he fades away more each day, Jaspar, in desperation, seeks the aid of a doo-deen ( human ) that happens to come to the forest on a picnic one day - little Elizabeth ( Karen Dotrice ). 

Knobby, who is at first skeptical of trusting humans, agrees to accompany Elizabeth, her brother Rodney ( Matthew Garber ), and their grandfather ( Walter Brennan, again ) in their antique Rolls-Royce to be transported to a virgin forest where they hope to find more gnomes. But imagine Knobby's surprise when he discovers that the old man who is escorting him is none other than D.J. Mulrooney, the owner of Mulrooney Timber Company which cut down most of the woods in his home forest!

"Timber! Timber!" 

The giant redwoods of California provide the backdrop for one of Walt Disney's most delightful fantasy films of the 1960s. This was one of the last films that Walt Disney was able to personally oversee. He passed away shortly after the picture's release. 

The Gnome-Mobile is packed to the brim with fun moments and is never tiresome. Eustace Lycett, Disney studio's resident magic-maker, created the convincing special effects, utilizing the same method he did in Darby O'Gill and the Little People ( 1959 ) to make the gnomes look like they were only two-feet tall.

Our father was an auto mechanic so, growing up, we watched a lot of films that featured cars or chase scenes and this was a childhood favorite of ours. The Shaggy Dog was one of the first films Walt Disney made that featured a car chase as a climax and it would become a trademark of the Disney comedy films throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The Gnome-Mobile features a particularly exciting chase sequence through the forest with Richard Deacon in a Cadillac pursuing Grandpa Mulrooney and the children in their Rolls Royce. Bouncing along the dirt road, the Cadillac sheds its hood, fender, bumper, wheels, and doors as the race gets faster until it finally lands on the top of a pile of wrecked cars at a junkyard. A similar chase sequence would later be used in The Love Bug

"In the Gnome-Mobile, the Gnome-Mobile, hunting for gnomes in the Gnome-Mobile, Sooner or later we feel that we'll find where they are in the Gnome-Mobile."
The Gnome-Mobile also features great color styling and art direction by Carroll Clark ( Mulrooney's hotel is especially fetching to the eye ) and Bill Thomas created the colorful costumes which included the bright pixie-like dresses of the lady gnomes at the end of the film.

Like most Disney films, the casting is spot-on. Michael Garber and Karen Dotrice ( billed as "The Mary Poppins Children" ) are excellent and their acting is so expressive for their ages. Walter Brennan is convincing in his dual-role and the rest of the cast is made up of veteran character actors: Sean McClory as Horatio Quaxton, a disreputable owner of a traveling freak show; Ed Wynn as Rufus the gnome, Richard Deacon, Jerome Cowan, Charles Lane, Maudie Prickett, Ellen Corby, and Frank Cady and Alvy Moore ( both regulars from Green Acres ). 
The Gnome-Mobile shows us just how much fun a picnic in the woods can turn out to be, especially if you meet a gnome along the way. And if you want to take a ride in the Gnome-Mobile itself, head on over to the Gilmore Car Museum at Hickory Corners, Michigan where the Rolls-Royce Phantom II that was used in the film, as well as the larger-than-life interior replica, are on display. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Railway Vicar ( 1967 ) - Reverend Teddy Boston

Alexander Pope so aptly wrote, "One master passion in the breast like Aaron's serpent swallows up the rest." Evidently, Reverand Edwin Richard "Teddy" Boston had a passion for model trains that could have threatened to swallow up his religious calling, however, this clever man utilized his love for these little trams into a way to "win the hearts of youngsters in his parish". 
On the grounds of his rectory at Cadeby, Leicestershire, England, this man built a 2-ft narrow gauge railway named the Cadeby Light Railway which carried passengers around the garden. He had several large railway displays including an OO gauge model depicting the Great Western Railway and a 4mm N-scale re-creation of the Isle of Man railway. 

But Teddy is perhaps best known as being the inspiration of "The Fat Clergyman" in Reverand W. Awdry's popular children's book series "The Railway Series" which was the basis of the television series Thomas and Friends. Awdry had met Boston back in 1949, when Teddy showed up unannounced at his rectory eager to look at Awdry's miniature railway display. The two had a mutual passion for trains which fueled a lifelong friendship.
Railway Vicar, a 2-minute British Pathé newsreel from 1967 only offers a teaser of the vicar's miniature-making capabilities. To learn more about Teddy, be sure to watch The Steam-Powered Vicar, a 30-minute documentary released by BBC in the 1960s. 

Boston passed away in 1986, but his wife Audrey, kept the Cadeby Light Railway open to the public up until 2005. She, too, had a love for trains and traction engines, and together they founded the annual Market Bosworth Steam Engine Rally in 1964. For those who are not familiar with steam engine rallies, take a peek at the British comedy film The Iron Maiden ( 1962 ), starring Michael Craig and Alan Hale. 

Ready to watch Railway Vicar? Simply click here!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

From the Archives: Night Without Stars ( 1951 )

David Farrar and Nadia Gray are pictured in this dramatic publicity photo from the British thriller Night Without Stars released in 1951. This engaging picture tells the story of a blind man who regains his sight but decides to carry on a little charade while unmasking a smuggling ring in the Riviera. Winston Graham, who is best known for "Poldark", his series of historical novels, also penned this story. 

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, March 17, 2019

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Happy St. Patrick's Day, dear readers! 'Tis a grand day to be celebrating your Irish heritage, even if ye blood not be running green. 

This screenshot may be a wee bit difficult for some, but for fans of this film, it will be striking a familiar chord. As always, if ye be knowing nothing of what this game is about, simply click here to find out! 

GAME OVER. 

Congratulations to Damsbo for correctly identifying this scene from "The Luck of the Irish" ( 1948 ) starring Tyrone Power and Anne Baxter. These children appear within 15 minutes of the film when Power first arrives in the little village in Ireland where he meets the leprechaun ( Cecil Kellaway ). 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Three Cheers for the Irish ( 1940 )

Peter Casey ( Thomas Mitchell ) is proud to have served 25 years with Chicago's police force. He loves his job so much he never gave retirement a thought, but his superiors did,  and, on the day of his 25th anniversary no less, they tell him to collect his pension. Retirement would be bearable for Casey if it were not for knowing that the new cop ( Dennis Morgan ) taking over his beat is a Scotchman! 

"Scotsman! Scotsman! There be no such thing as a Scotchman!"

To make matters worse, this fetching young rookie has his eyes on Casey's darling daughter Maureen "the apple of me eye". 

Warner Brother's Three Cheers for the Irish begins as a pleasant light-hearted variation of Four Daughters but midway through the film shifts its focus to the growing animosity Casey has for his would-be son-in-law and his political pursuit for the office of city alderman ( councilman ). It would have benefited from having the domestic comedy sequences extended and the other two sisters' parts ( played by Virginia Grey and Irene Hervey ) expanded upon, but the picture nevertheless entertains. 

Priscilla Lane is simply peachy as Maureen, and Irish-American Dennis Morgan does a marvelous job of rolling his Rrrrs in a Scottish brogue. He only sings one song in the film but audiences do get to see his winsome bonny smile in many a scene. Alan Hale has a great part as an over-exuberant practical joker and Frank Jenks, Henry Armetta, and that veteran of Irish-themed pictures J.M Kerrigan are also in the cast. But it is Thomas Mitchell's film entirely, and this excellent actor milks the role for all its worth. 
Like Charles Winniger's character in Little Nellie Kelly, Peter Casey is a stubborn Irishman, and it is particularly sad to see that these two fathers were willing to be separated from their daughters rather than bend their pride and admit that they were being pig-headed. 

Richard Macaulay helped write the screenplay along with Jerry Wald. These two men collaborated on over twenty scripts for Warner Brothers during the 1930s and 1940s including Ready, Willing, and Able, The Roaring Twenties, They Drive By Night, Torrid Zone, Million Dollar Baby, Brother Rat, and Flight Angels. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Down Argentine Way ( 1940 )

Betty Grable and Don Ameche head south of the border in one of the most delightful Fox musicals of the 1940s - Down Argentine Way. Sparkling Technicolor, musical melodies to tickle your fancy, an amusing script, and Carmen Miranda chica-chica-booming in her tutti-frutti way are just a few of the pleasures it offers.

"Where there are rhumbas and tangos
To tickle your spine
Moonlight and music and orchids and wine
You'll want to stay down Argentina Way"

Don plays Ricardo, an Argentinian who comes to New York to sell some horses. Glenda Crawford ( Betty Grable ) wants to buy one and they make a deal, but the moment Ricardo discovers her last name is Crawford, he calls the sale off! His padre ( Henry Stephenson ) has a long-standing feud with the Crawfords and will not sell horses to them at any cost. So, in a huff, Glenda takes a trip to Argentina with her Aunt Binnie ( Charlotte Greenwood ) to settle the score...under the guise of purchasing some fresh studs for their stable. Naturally, she finds sweet romance under the Pampas moon with Mr. Ameche instead.

Bedecked in eye-popping Travis Banton costumes, Betty Grable is a veritable feast for the eyes in this picture. She jiggles her way through the samba-inspired "Down Argentine Way" dance number wearing a gorgeous two-piece ensemble adorned with blue beads and looked equally radiant in a sheer puffy-sleeved white dress singing "Two Dreams Met" with Don Ameche.

Betty Grable had made nearly 50 films before she was cast as bubbly Glenda Crawford. Not knowing what to do with her, Fox had just decided to try Grable out as a dramatic actress with a lead opposite Tyrone Power in A Yank in the R.A.F when they discovered that Down Argentine Way, which was released one year prior, was raking in profits. Thank heavens! Betty may never have been a musical star if it wasn't for the success of this film. And Hollywood would have missed out on such a vibrant and adorable personality!

As critic Stephanie Zacharek so aptly described her, "Grable's appeal in Down Argentine Way...radiates from a place that has nothing to do with strict acting chops. She's a persistently warm, accessible presence; there's something kind and forthright about her." It is undoubtedly this quality - and her million dollar legs - that made Grable the pin-up gal favorite with the soldiers overseas during the war years.
The top attraction of the film, for me, was the presence of Don Ameche. Dapper Don, with his bright beady eyes, has such an infectiously happy personality and he even gets to sing two numbers in his pleasant tenor voice. Betty and Don were so well-suited to each other in Down Argentine Way that Fox studio teamed them up again the following year in Moon Over Miami. 

Down Argentine Way features a cast of excellent character players including Leonid Kinskey ( in a role originally intended for Cesar Romero ), Charlotte Greenwood, J. Carroll Naish, and Henry Stephenson. There is also an appearance by Carmen Miranda who was making her first US feature film. She got a chance to perform three upbeat tunes ( "Mamãe Yo Quero", "Bambu Bambu", and "South American Way" ). The movie is chock-full of musical and dance numbers and alongside Miranda, the Nicholas Brothers entertain with their tap-dance routines, Six Hits and a Miss perform the delightful "Two Dreams Met", and the Flores Brothers Trio gently croon "Nenita".
The film raked in nearly $2 million in profits, becoming 20th Century Fox's biggest hit of the year. It was originally made in response to President Franklin Roosevelt's request for Hollywood to make films to encourage the "Good Neighbor Policy" towards Latin America. Unfortunately, Argentina banned the picture during its initial release for its misrepresentation of the real culture of the country: inaccurate traditional costume designs and mixing rhumba and Spanish flamenco with the tango was a no-no. Even Miranda's presence was considered insulting because she was Brazilian, not Argentinian! 

Most Americans didn't recognize any of these errors and just enjoyed the film for what it offered - plenty of sunshine and merriment. And that alone probably boosted South American tourism and Good Neighbor relations!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Eugene Loring - Choreographer

It has been quite a while since we have profiled someone for our Behind-the-Screen: The Hidden Masters of the Golden Age of Filmmaking series, so as a special treat the spotlight will be put on an occupation not usually covered in this series - that of the choreographer. 

Eugene Loring was never a household name and yet his unique style of dance was recognizable in many musicals of the 1940s and 1950s. His best-known works are Silk Stockings ( 1955 ) and Funny Face ( 1957 ), but it was through the peppy "La Bamba" number in Fiesta ( 1947 ) that first made me take notice of him. Loring blended jazz with ballet and contemporary dance to create innovative moments that were exciting to watch onscreen.

Eugene Loring, born in 1911 in Milwaukee, fell in love with music and dance at a young age. His father ran a saloon and dance hall and Loring would always join in for the Friday night dances. He was also a self-taught pianist. One day, he saw Uday Shankar, a talented Indian dancer, perform and Eugene knew that he wanted to become a professional dancer. 

He went to New York City to study with George Balanchine at the School of American Ballet in 1934, beginning at the ripe old age of 24. Loring had a powerful physique and chiseled facial features that made him look like an ancient Grecian dancer. He joined with Michel Fokine's dance troupe only two months later and quickly moved from being a character dancer to a soloist in his productions. By 1936, Loring was already creating his own ballets for the Ballet Caravan, a touring company specializing in an all-American repertoire. These ballets included Harlequin for President ( 1936 ), Yankee Clipper (1937), and Billy the Kid ( 1938 ), which featured a score by Aaron Copland and is still often performed today.

Based on his work in these productions, he was offered a lucrative six-month MGM contract in 1943. But, in typical Hollywood fashion, the studio did not know what to do with Loring after they signed him and so his first work in film was actually an acting job as jockey Taski in National Velvet ( 1944 ). It was not until 1945 that Loring was tasked with choreography work, helping to create some of the dances in Ziegfeld Follies. It was during the making of this film that he met Fred Astaire, whom he would work together with on four films, including his next production Yolanda and the Thief, which gave Loring his first onscreen credit as choreographer.
Loring staged a number of interesting dances for productions throughout the 1940s including The Thrill of Brazil ( 1946 ), Fiesta ( 1947 ) which showcased Ricardo Montalban's fine dancing ability; Abbott and Costello's Mexican Hayride ( 1948 ) and even The Inspector General ( 1949 ). Most of these films featured only a few dance numbers and so Loring had plenty of time to continue his work in ballet, his true love. He choreographed the marvelous "Carmen Jones" on Broadway and in 1948 founded the American School of Dance in Hollywood. 
Loring felt strongly about how American dancers ought to be trained. He always believed that dance was dance and no dancer should learn simply one style but instead embrace a wide variety of forms and movement.

“Americans are a composite lot and American dancers must be as many-faceted as the melting pot” Loring said in an interview conducted for Dance Magazine in 1956. The American School of Dance was open to anyone interested in dance and featured all forms - tap, ballet, jazz, modern dance - blended in a unique well-rounded curriculum. 

In the early 1950s, Loring worked on several MGM productions that featured Mario Lanza including the fun "Tina-Lina" from The Toast of New Orleans ( 1950 ), and "One Alone" and "It" from Deep in My Heart ( 1954 ) that beautifully showcased Cyd Charisse's ballet ability and Ann Miller's fantastic tapping skills. 

But Loring is best known for his work with Fred Astaire in two MGM musical classics - Funny Face ( 1957 ), which gave Audrey Hepburn a chance to jazz to an eclectic beat in "Bohemian Dance", and Silk Stockings ( 1957 ) which again featured the lovely Cyd Charisse in the exciting "The Red Blues" and "All of You" dance numbers. 

Eugene then took time off from Hollywood productions and, aside from a few television productions ( including Cinderella in 1965 ), he focused his attention on teaching. He founded the dance department at the University of California at Irvine where he taught up until his death in the early 1980s.
Eugene Loring may be one of the lesser-known choreographers, but during his lifetime he created a fine body of work. He invented marvelous dance numbers for all of the films he worked on and left "Billy the Kid" as his legacy to the world of dance. Please click on the links hidden within the text to enjoy and appreciate Loring's work, the man deserves more recognition for his contribution to film choreography than he has received. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

On the Set of "Fantastic Voyage" ( 1966 )


"Four men and one woman on the most fantastic, spectacular and terrifying journey of their lives!" 

Director Richard Fleischer helmed this classic 1966 sci-fi film about five intrepid individuals who undertake the most fantastic voyage of their lives - a journey through the bloodstream of an ailing scientist. Shrunk to microscopic size, they battle the body's incredible defenses to make a desperate attempt to save his life. 

Stephen Boyd, Edmund O'Brien, Donald Pleasance, Arthur O'Connell and Arthur Kennedy all have feature parts but the film became popular primarily due to the presence of the curvaceous Raquel Welch. This exciting adventure features a clever premise of microscopic medical research.... years before nano-technology was even developed! 

Let's take a peek at some behind-the-scenes images of the cast and crew during the making of Fantastic Voyage


A contact sheet featuring behind-the-scenes images of Stephen Boyd, Donald Pleasance, and Raquel Welch

A view of the Proteus Submarine before being miniaturized.

Interior view of the Proteus
Constructing the "intestines"
Ick...the human body can be difficult to travel through!

Dale Hennesy and Jack Martin Smith were responsible for the art direction of Fantastic Voyage while Stuart A. Reiss and Walter M. Scott handled set decor. Hennesy was also the production designer for Young Frankenstein ( 1974 ) and King Kong ( 1976 ). 

Raquel Welch, taking a breather during filming

Raquel Welch pictured in that famous tight-fitting diver suit
"Fantastic Voyage" utilized the "blue screen" which was later replaced with graphics of the insides of a human body

Ms. Welch posing in front of the screen

Another contact sheet, this time with Raquel striking some glamour poses for the photographer

A scene with the blue-screen visible in the background....

...and a similar scene with the graphics inserted.

Publicity photo of Stephen Boyd and Raquel Welch

A contact sheet of the publicity shots that were taken

A costume test photo showing that the film was in production in April 1965

An original ABC television publicity photo