Sunday, September 29, 2019

Character Jugs ( 1955 )

If you love arts and crafts, then today's British Pathe newsreel is truly fascinating.....we are given a quick tour of the Royal Doulton factory to watch how Toby character jugs are being made. The earliest of these Toby jugs date back to the mid-1700s and the process of how they are made has changed little since then. 

At first, the artist creates the clay mold and then it is fired in a kiln. Artists paint the colors on the busts and they are then coated in a white glaze. This part is interesting because, even though they look like they have been coated in white paint, once they go through the second trip in the kiln they come out in brilliant color. In the short, you can see the busts of Dick Turpin and General Bernard Montgomery coming out of the oven along with Long John Silver, who was a new addition to the Doulton collection.

Today, you can buy these jugs for $5-50 on eBay, Etsy, or at antique shops across the country. One American collector loved these little jugs so much that he collected 8,000 of them and created the American Toby Jug Museum to showcase the tiny treasures. They also can be seen in the background in numerous films, usually sitting on fireplace mantles, desks, or on a shelf in a pub.

Ready to watch Character Jugs ( 1955 )? Just click here! 

Similarly themed British Pathe shorts:

Toy Fair ( 1958 ) - 3:01 sec

The Making of Wedgewood ( 1958 ) - 19:19 sec

Miniature Ceramics ( 1961 ) - 2:38 sec

Monday, September 23, 2019

Catacombs ( 1965 )

"Their plan was murder.....their reward was terror!"

Ellen Garth ( Georgiana Cookson ) is a wealthy and astute British businesswoman whose money and power have been used to buy herself a husband to help care for her. Raymond ( Gary Merrill ) is charming and devoted to helping her but has no love for the domineering woman. When her teenage niece Alice ( Jane Merrow ) arrives in London, Raymond falls in love with her and begins to plot to murder his wife. 

Catacombs is a good little thriller with a clever twist at the end. It was released in the United States as The Woman Who Wouldn't Die which is probably a better title for the picture because that's exactly what seems to be happening to Raymond's wife....she keeps popping up in his life even after he thinks she is dead and buried. 

Gordon Hessler, who was the story editor and later associate producer of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, made his feature film directorial debut with Catacombs and, not surprisingly, it plays out like an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Most of the action is confined to two main areas, Ellen's London apartment and the honeymoon cottage that she shared with Raymond. Since it was a budget film, there are only 5-6 actors in the entire picture, but this does not hinder its entertainment value in any way. On the contrary, some of the best films had casts of less than eight people.
Gary Merrill gives a strong performance as the middle-aged Raymond. He obviously married Ellen for her money but you have to give him credit for being such a devoted husband in spite of that solitary reason. Georgina Cookson also gives a good - and frightening - performance as Ellen. Her character suffers from muscular pain and, when it especially hurts, she uses hypnosis to put herself into a trance to be free of the pain. Later, this becomes a key point in the plot because Raymond has doubts about whether he actually did kill Ellen or whether she was in one of her trances and he simply thought he killed her. Also in the cast is Neil McCallum ( Vendetta ) who plays Ellen's business secretary. 
Catacombs is available on DVD through Network Distributing who did an excellent transfer from "original film elements". If you like The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, William Castle movies, and budget horror films, then you will certainly want to check out this entertaining thriller. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Keep a sharp lookout, mate! Do you think something may fall from the sky or are you examining the clouds? 

This screenshot comes from a movie that you may have seen. If you can name the film it is from, you've won this round of the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game....but you'll never know unless you guess, so give us your best shot down below in the comment box. 

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

From the Archives: The House of Seven Hawks ( 1959 )

"Just what does this paper mean?" Robert Taylor seems to be asking. It is obviously written in Dutch and he thinks the Frenchwoman Nicole Mauray would know Dutch....and he is correct, in "The House of Seven Hawks" ( 1959 ) she does! This film was one of Robert Taylor's lesser-known pictures, but it is a good mystery with some nice on-location filming in Holland. 

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

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Prince and the Pauper ( 1962 )

Mark Twain had a knack for writing stories that appealed to the common people, especially to children. Most everyone has at one time imagined what it would be like to switch places with someone else. The grass is always greener on the other side. And, in this case, the grass just happens to be in the court of the King's palace, so why wouldn't it be greener? 

Even in 1532, little pauper boys pondered this question. Tom Canty wants to catch a glimpse of the king in London. He doesn't see the king but instead, he finds himself invited into the palace by none other than the young Prince Edward! Since the boys share an uncanny resemblance, they decide to switch places for a few hours...only those few hours turn into several days and they both find it difficult to convince anyone that they are not whom they seem to be. 

Walt Disney made a number of great made-for-television movies in the 1960s for his series "The Wonderful World of Disney" and, like most of his feature film productions, the movies had generous budgets. The Prince and the Pauper has a top-notch cast, great costumes, and some really impressive sets. Artist Peter Ellenshaw created some beautiful matte shots to expand the sets and evoke the 16th-century setting.
Sean Scully is marvelous as our leading lad and gives a convincing portrayal of both the prince and the pauper. Scully, the son of Australian actress Margaret Christensen, caught the eye of Walt Disney Studios after he appeared in the CCF ( Children's Film Foundation ) production Hunted in Holland ( 1961 ). Following his appearance in The Prince and the Pauper, he was cast in two more Disney productions: Almost Angels ( 1962 ) and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh ( 1963 ). 
Guy Williams ( Zorro ) also stars as Miles Henson, a nobleman who befriends the prince while he is in disguise as a beggar. Even though he does not believe the boy's story to be true, he plays along addressing the prince as "your majesty" and helps rescue him on more than one occasion. Donald Houston has a meaty part as Tom's abusive alcoholic father who, after he murders the local priest ( Niall MacGinnis ), joins up with "The Ruffler" ( Nigel Green ), a man who commands a band of thieves. Also in the cast is Laurence Naismith, Paul Rogers, Geoffrey Keen, and a young Jane Asher. 
The Prince and the Pauper was not one of the Disney classics that I grew up with and it does not seem like it would be your typical childhood favorite even though it packs in its share of excitement. There's swordplay, a good Twain story, and fine acting, yet there may be just a tad too much "talk" to capture a child's interest. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Private Life of Henry VIII ( 1933 )

The name of Charles Laughton has become synonymous with that of King Henry VIII, a role that he portrayed both onscreen and on stage. Laughton was 34-years old when he played the part of this beer-gulping, head-chopping monarch, and his delightfully raucous portrayal remains a highlight in a career of top-notch performances. 

British film-maker Alexander Korda had his first international success with this peek into the "private life" of the oft-married monarch King Henry VIII. The picture should have been titled The Private Loves of Henry VIII for the focus of much of the film is on Henry's wives. 

As the introductory written statement proclaims, "Henry VIII had six wives. Catherine of Aragon was the first; but her story is of no particular interest--she was a respectable woman. So Henry divorced her."

The film opens with Anne Boleyn (Merle Oberon), who is making preparations for her execution.
"Will the net hold my hair together when my head falls?" she asks.

Queens must think of the appearance they make to their subjects, even after death. 

Anne Boleyn knows her fate well enough. She recognizes the glances of affection that King Henry VIII (Charles Laughton) gives to Jane Seymour (Wendy Barrie) and realizes that his only course of action will be to have her put to death.... which he promptly does. 

Poor Jane Seymour has a short tenure as the king's wife as well, but she at least dies a natural death. Then Henry spies the beautiful Katherine Howard (Binnie Barnes), a lady of the court. She is the object of affection for Squire Thomas (Robert Donat) but when she realizes that the king is smitten with her, she gladly sets her eyes upon the crown instead. Love is freely sacrificed to the god of ambition.

"Love eternal...since yesterday afternoon, until tomorrow morning?" - Katherine Howard
"When I say love, I mean love." - King Henry VIII
It is Katherine whom we are led to believe that the king loved the most among his many wives, but when he discovers her relationship with Squire Thomas, he nevertheless sets her head rolling. Anne of Cleves (Elsa Lancaster) and Katherine Parr (Everley Gregg) take turns wearing the band before Henry disgustedly exclaims in his old age, "Six wives - and the best of them was the worst of them."

The Private Life of Henry VIII is filled to the brim with delicious dialogue by Lajos Biro. The picture leans more toward satire than drama and it is this winning combination of humor amidst such serious British history that makes The Private Life of Henry VIII so novel and so very entertaining. It was one of the first films from England to become successful in America and throughout Europe. With his earnings from the production, Alexander Korda went on to launch London Films, one of England's most prestigious film studios. 
In spite of the plot's focus on the wives of the enormous monarch, it is King Henry himself who takes center-stage throughout the film due to the magnificent presence of Charles Laughton. The actor bears a striking resemblance to the real Henry and his mannerisms most certainly must have matched that of the king. Nearly twenty years later, he would play King Henry VIII again in Young Bess (1953).

In fact, the entire casting for The Private Life of Henry VIII was excellent. Binnie Barnes gives an alluring performance as Katherine Howard and Merle Oberon, too, makes an impression even with such a brief appearance. Elsa Lancaster has a wonderful part as one of the few wives that Henry did not bed. Her clever method of remaining a virgin is one of the most amusing scenes in the film. And lastly, dear Robert Donat gives a rare supporting role and offers a hint to the audience on what a great leading man he will soon become. 

Also in the cast is John Loder, Miles Mander, William Austin and Lady Tree. 
The Private Life of Henry VIII has been beautifully restored through the Criterion Collection and is currently available on DVD and through online streaming via their channel. 

This post is our contribution to The Costume Drama Blogathon being hosted by Debbie Vega of Moon in Gemini.  It will be running till the 8th of September so be sure to check out all the other great reviews of favorite costume drama films.