Thursday, April 30, 2020

From the Archives: The Kentuckian ( 1955 )

Lovely Diana Lynn poses as Susie Spann in this publicity photo from the MGM western drama The Kentuckian ( 1955 ) starring Burt Lancaster. 

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 :

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Eddie Albert and Earth Day

Oliver Wendell Douglas, the hapless gentleman farmer of the television sitcom Green Acres ( 1965-1971 ), loved the Earth dearly and never grew tired of talking about the miracle of how little tiny seeds planted in the ground would begin to grow stretching their arms toward the sun, eventually shooting - or "shoosting into the sky" as his wife Lisa Douglas would say - into tall corn plants. This character was very much like the actor who portrayed him - Eddie Albert - a man who was deeply committed to the environment. 

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Earth Day, a day that Eddie Albert helped to inaugurate. And it is no coincidence that April 22nd also happens to be this actor's birthday. 

Eddie Albert had a long career acting in film ( Brother Rat, Roman Holiday ), theatre ( The Music Man ), and television that spanned nearly sixty years. In 1965, Albert accepted the role of Oliver Wendell Douglas for the new CBS sitcom Green Acres. He had previously turned down the leads in My Three Sons and Mister Ed, but when his agent told him of this new idea about a "city slicker who comes to the country to escape the frustrations of city living", Albert jumped at the role - "Swell, that's me. Everyone gets tired of the rat race. Everyone would like to chuck it all and grow some carrots. It's basic. Sign me."

It is difficult to define how much of Mr. Douglas was the written character and how much was Eddie Albert himself. Albert had studied organic farming methods long before it was fashionable, and the front yard of his Pacific Palisades home stood out from its neighbors with its cornstalks, tomato vines, and other vegetables flourishing in place of a manicured lawn. He also helped to bring gardens to inner cities throughout the United States when he founded the City Children's Farms. 
Outside of acting, Albert had a broad range of interests and accomplishments. An adventurer in his youth, he once bought a boat and sailed around California and Mexico, where he later joined a circus as a trapeze artist. After service in the Pacific during World War II ( he was awarded the Bronze Star for saving 70 Marines in the bloody battle of Tarawa ), he joined Dr. Albert Schweitzer in the Congo to help make educational films that brought awareness to the public about the conditions of malnutrition that existed in third-world countries. 

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, he actively fought agricultural and industrial pollution and shared his opinions on various talk shows about the disgraceful treatment of our planet's natural resources. TV Guide once described him as an "ecological Paul Revere," to which the actor responded, "Ecologist, hell! Too mild a word. Check the Department of Agriculture; 60% of the world is hungry already. With our soil impoverished, our air poisoned, our wildlife crippled by DDT, our rivers and lakes turning into giant cesspools, and mass starvation an apparent inevitability by 1976, I call myself a human survivalist!"

It became his lifelong crusade to raise awareness about pollution and pesticides and, through his endeavors, he helped to ban the use of the pesticide DDT. He lectured everywhere, from high schools to industrial conventions, and even produced films to aid in campaigns against pollution. He founded the Eddie Albert World Trees Foundation, chaired the Boy Scouts of America's conversation program, and was a world envoy for Meals for Millions. 

Of all his interests outside acting, Albert is best known for being a humanitarian and environmentalist and it is this work that led to Senator Gaylord Nelson's founding of Earth Day in 1970. As early as 1962, the senator had hoped to create a grassroots movement that would highlight the needs of the planet. In honor of Eddie Albert's work, he chose April 22nd, Albert's birthday, to be the day we celebrate the Earth. Eddie attended the inauguration ceremony for that first Earth Day and, for the remainder of his life, he always delighted in celebrating the Earth in place of his birthday. 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Price of Fear - BBC Radio Serial

In July 1973, BBC Radio aired "Remains to be Seen", the first episode of The Price of Fear, a newly written radio series that featured the voice of the master of macabre - Vincent Price. 

This late-night horror anthology serial featured 30-minute tales of spine-tingling drama penned by some of the most popular authors of the day. Each episode was introduced with a shrill violin theme followed by Price's euphonious voice welcoming listeners with "Hello, there..."

John Dyas, the producer of the series, was good friends with Vincent Price and his wife Coral Browne and came up with the idea of having Price host a radio series that would echo the classic horror programs of the 1930s and 1940s. "Merely to cast Vincent as narrator would have been all too easy," says Dyas. "My intention was to make the series far more personalized, to involve Vincent in the action, to make him a participant, even a helpless onlooker of the dreadful events we would concoct for him."*

Vincent Price loved the concept and embraced the opportunity to work in radio again. Beginning in 1936, Price had a long career in the medium and was featured in nearly 1000 episodes ranging from suspense programs like Escape and Suspense, to dramas such as Lux Radio Theatre, to guest appearances in comedies such as The Jack Benny Show. Price is probably known for being the voice of The Saint between 1947-1949. 

BBC initially aired five episodes of The Price of Fear nightly in the summer of 1973 and these proved to be so popular that an additional five stories were ordered for the fall season. The series continued in 1974 and 1975 and then was brought back in 1983, this time with Price acting solely as a narrator. 

The first-episode cast gathering during a break: Mervyn Johns, William Ingram, Diana Bishop, Robin Browne, Avril Angers, Vincent Price, Clive Swift, and Michael Gwynne. 

The series was delightfully eerie and Price injected his own tongue-in-cheek humor into the narrative which made them doubly enjoyable. The stories were also unique because of the writing talent involved. Science-fiction and detective novelists like Robert Arthur, Charles Birken, William Ingram, and Stanley Ellin all helped contribute highly imaginative stories of phantom encounters, bizarre love triangles, and spooky tales of revenge. 

Listeners with keen ears will recognize the voices of some of the actors, many of whom were popular in British television. 

Below are three episodes from The Price of Fear. To listen to all 22 episodes and to read more behind-the-scenes info about this series, check out The Sound of Vincent Price website. 

Lot 132 ( 10/6/73 )

Price sells a portrait of Nathaniel Blackwell that he purchased at an auction to a friend who then ax-murders his family! Before he can regain the painting it is sold again and Vincent worries that he may not be able to track it down before another murder occurs. 

The Waxwork ( 10/13/73 )

Price recalls the time he met writer Raymond Hewson, who died under mysterious circumstances while spending the night in a Baker Street waxworks museum.

Specialty of the House ( 4/13/74 )

Vincent Price has a fondness for Lamb Amirstan, the "specialty of the house" at Sbirros, an exclusive New York restaurant. Is it just a coincidence that every time this dish is served one of the restaurant's regular customers disappears? 

* From an article by Peter Fuller, published on The Sound of Vincent Price.

This post is part of The Vincent Price Blogathon being hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews and Cinematic Catharsis. Click here to read more articles about Vincent Price - Enjoy! 

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Bat ( 1959 )

"When it flies, someone dies!" 

Mystery writer Cornelia Van Gorder ( Agnes Moorehead ) has just rented a secluded country estate known as "the Oaks" and finds herself involved in a real-life mystery when she learns that one million dollars has been stolen from the local bank and the loot is believed to be hidden somewhere in the Oaks. Cornelia and her houseguests decide to hunt for the money but need to act quickly because a masked killer known as "The Bat" desperately wants to find it himself and he prowls the house at night in search of the money!

"The Bat" was originally written in 1920 by America's foremost mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart. The novel was an enticing mixture of mystery, horror, and comedy. It was one of the first stories to feature an "old dark house" mystery with its creaky mansion, secret passageways, hidden money, and mysterious masked killer, and it spawned a whole genre of similarly themed stories and films, including The Cat and the Canary. 

"The Bat" was so popular it was made into a play by Avery Hopwood and Rinehart that same year and ran for 867 performances on Broadway. Roland West brought it to the screen in 1926 with Emily Fitzroy and Louise Fazenda playing the leads. This silent horror film caused quite a sensation in its time, so in 1930, with the advent of sound, Roland West decided to duplicate its success by filming another version, cleverly calling this remake The Bat Whispers. Grace Hampton starred as Ms. Van Gorder with Maude Eburne playing her maid Lizzie and Chester Morris as Lt. Anderson. 
The Bat Whispers was notable for inspiring Bob Kane to create his own masked character based on the Bat - Batman. His comic hero not only had a similar name but also dressed in black, wore a cape and used the Bat's famous batwing logo silhouetted against a circle of light. 

"There's a storm comin' up and it's gonna be a snorter!"

Allied Artists 1959 release of The Bat was the third remake and, as the old saying goes, "third time's a charm". This budget production is a fun adaptation chock-full of red-herrings, inventive story twists, and clues that you can puzzle out for yourself. It's perfect entertainment for a dark and stormy night and, like a corny drive-in film, you can watch it over and over and never tire of it. This is in no small part due to the presence of its two leading actors - Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead. These legends always gave 100% to all of their performances and they lend this minor production a touch of class. 

Agnes Moorehead was an exceptional actress. She had a long career in radio where her distinct and highly educated voice was put to good use in thrillers such as "Sorry, Wrong Number" ( Suspense, May 25, 1943 ). She made many films in Hollywood as a supporting player but was rarely given a lead, so it is good to see her in a starring role and Cornelia Van Gorder was a tailor-made part for Moorehead. Ms. Van Gorder is a middle-aged mystery writer with a pithy sense of humor. She's intelligent, strong-willed, and not easily scared by the Bat. "I have a gun - and I know how to use it!", she declares. It would have been nice to see a series of mystery films developed around this character. 

Vincent Price was given top billing even though he plays a secondary role in The Bat, that of the suave and suspicious Dr. Malcolm Wells. Price added a Shakespearian touch to all of his parts that made his characters seem admirable no matter how vile they may be. This quality made him one of the most beloved villains of the silver screen and, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Price was cast primarily in horror films such as The House of Usher, Tales of Terror and The Mask of Red Death. Dr. Malcolm Wells is not a sinister character but he is cunning. He is also one of the prime suspects in the story, hence, Price's facial expressions and the deliverance of his lines suggest that his character has wicked intentions. 
As far as villains go, the Bat is quite a character himself. He not only terrorizes women but uses a clawed glove to rip their throats. And, like most movie killers, he only strikes at night. 

"Some say the Bat leaves no fingerprints!" - Lizzie
"Well, that's understandable. Having no face he probably has no fingers either." - Cornelia

The Oaks is the perfect setting for a mystery writer and, shortly after the murders begin, Ms. Van Gorder decides to write a story about this "fantastic criminal" and the events that happened over the past week.

Along with Ms. Van Gorder in the house is her faithful maid Lizzie, portrayed by Lenita Lane ( Castle in the Desert ), her reliable chauffeur-turned-butler Warner ( John Sutton ), and a stern housekeeper ( Riza Royce ). Also in the cast is Gavin Gordon as the hard-nosed Lt. Anderson, Harvey Stephens as bank president John Fleming, John Bryant as his nephew Mark, and Darla Hood ( Little Rascals ) and Elaine Edwards as the weekend houseguests. 

Crane Wilbur ( House of Wax ) wrote the screenplay for The Bat and also directed the film. Wilbur was the cousin of Tyrone Power. Directing was not his forte so there are some inconsistencies in the story but he created a tense mysterious atmosphere and the film moves at a swift pace with plenty of excitement in every scene. He also injected the script with a number of twists and many that you are left wondering if the man revealed as the "Bat" at the end of the movie was indeed the same man masquerading as the killer throughout the film. That's one mystery that Crane Wilbur just leaves dangling. 

This post is our contribution to The Vincent Price Blogathon being hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews. It's a three-day celebration of Price so be sure to check out all of the film reviews and posts here.

Want to see more of Vincent Price? The trailer for The Bat features Vincent Price as a host daring the audience to come and see the film. It's a great teaser!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

An old pinball machine, a store setting, the full-face of a man, and the back of another man....lots of hints that will give you absolutely no clue to what this movie is about. But you're clever and I trust you'll be able to figure out the title of this film regardless. :-) 

Unfamiliar with the game? Check out the rules here.


Congratulations to Damsbo for correctly identifying this screenshot from The Gay Falcon ( 1941, George Sanders ), the first in the long and popular Falcon mystery series. That's Allen Jenkins giving the pinball machine a whirl while the drugstore owner looks on. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Black Sheep ( 1935 )

During the 1930s, there were a number of "quickie" films made that had runtimes of anywhere from 50-75 minutes. These pictures were made by all the studios and were dubbed quickies because they were quick to make ( they're also quick to watch ). Some studios, like MGM and Fox, allocated larger budgets to the production of these films than their competitors. They used feature players and some of their top writers and directors, making these movies much more entertaining than the "B" fare that RKO and Columbia produced.

Black Sheep ( 1935 ) was one such quickie, released through Fox studios. It is only 75-minutes long but is surprisingly entertaining.....much like many of the Charlie Chan films, also released through Fox.

Black Sheep stars Edmund Lowe as a professional gambler who befriends a young man ( Tom Brown ) onboard an ocean liner and saves him from the snare of a fashionable jewel thief ( Adrienne Ames ) who is attempting to blackmail him into smuggling her theft through customs. 
He also meets Janette Foster ( Claire Trevor ), a spunky young woman who is bent on having a good time. They enjoy a shipboard romance and join forces in winning back money from two playful poker champs ( Eugene Pallette, Jed Prouty ). Herbert Mundin and Billy Bevans are also onboard but only in brief comedic parts. 

Edmund Lowe was just past the peak in his long career but was still earning top billing in lesser Fox films like this one. He was such a debonair actor and added prestige to any film he appeared in. In 1935 alone he starred in nine pictures, including two other entertaining mysteries: Thunder in the Night and The Great Hotel Murder. If you want a change from watching Charlie Chan or Sherlock Holmes on a Friday night, then any Edmund Lowe mystery like this one is well worth checking out. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Story of Ruth ( 1960 )

"Entreat me not to leave thee or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God."

These are some of the most famous lines in all of the Old Testament and they were uttered by Ruth, the young Moabitess, to her mother-in-law Naomi after the death of Ruth's husband. Naomi planned to return to her native land of Bethlehem and Ruth begged her to let her follow. The Book of Ruth is one of the shortest books in the Old Testament, yet it features one of the most memorable stories in the Bible - that of Ruth and the events that led to her marriage to the rich man Boaz. Ruth eventually became the great-grandmother of King David. 

Norman Corwin ( Lust for Life ), a radio dramatist, took this little book and reworked it into a 132-minute screenplay for an epic film adaptation of the story. With such a bare framework to begin with, Corwin took some imaginative liberties with the characters to create an entertaining story. 

Ruth, the widow of Mahlon, is given a detailed backstory that shows her being raised to serve as a high priestess in the temple of the Moabite deity Chemosh. One of her duties as a priestess is to prepare young girls for sacrifice to Chemosh. One day, Ruth meets the handsome Mahlon ( Tom Tryon ), a goldsmith, who tells her of a different god, an invisible God who tells his people "Thou shalt not kill". She begins to doubt Chemosh and the sacrificial practice and eventually runs away to marry Mahlon. Alas, he is killed and left on her own, she decides to return to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi. 
The first half of The Story of Ruth does not play out like the religious epic you would expect and seems more like an Italian sword-and-sandal film. However, once Ruth and Naomi embark on their journey to Bethlehem, Ruth develops a closer relationship with God and the film takes a more religious tone. This contrast between the first half and the second half of the film is so different that it seems like you are watching two different films, which actually emphasizes how markedly different Ruth's life was as a Moabitess and as a Jew. In the Book of Ruth, Mahlon, his brother, and father all perish for an unknown reason ( probably famine ), but Corwin chose to make Ruth the cause of all of their deaths, possibly to make her conversion to Judaism more dramatically effective. 
Our leading man, Stuart Whitman, makes his first appearance as Boaz when Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem. At first, Ruth thinks he is heartless but then she grows to love him as she witnesses the kindness he hides beneath his crusty demeanor. Stephen Boyd was initially cast as Boaz but turned down the role....perhaps he didn't want to be typecast in religious films after his recent success in Ben-Hur. Boyd may have added more prestige to the film, but Whitman was an ideal substitute. The following year he went on to make another religious film, Francis of Assisi

Elana Eden, a lovely 19-year-old actress from Palestine, was given the title role after producer Samuel Engel recalled her screen test for The Diary of Anne Frank and selected her. Millie Perkins, Susan Strasberg, Tina Louise and Diane Baker also tested for the part, but, as Engel announced in the preview of the film, "Elana Eden comes to us from the Holy Land following a worldwide search in which literally over a score of young, talented actresses were tested. Elana is a graduate from the renowned Habima Theatre. She was chosen by us because we feel she possesses the necessary qualifications for this exacting role and because of her natural qualities, which most faithfully exemplify this beloved biblical heroine."
She was indeed a perfect choice for the role. Like Haya Harareet in Ben-Hur ( 1959 ), she exuded a gracefulness that was beyond her years and was able to convey so much emotion through subtle facial expressions. 

Peggy Wood ( The Sound of Music ), who was cast as Naomi, also does a good job but it would have been pleasant to see Irene Dunne, who was offered the part, in this role instead. Also in the cast was Jeff Morrow ( as Tob ), John Banner, Thayer David, Viveca Lindfors, Basil Ruysdael, Eduard Franz and Leo Fuchs. 
"It must have been God's goodness that brought me to your field that day. Perhaps He's been directing me to you all my life." - Ruth

The Story of Ruth is not as famous as other religious films of the 1950s and 1960s, but it is a lovely film to watch and very entertaining. Franz Waxman penned a sweeping score to the picture and it features excellent set designs by Lyle Wheeler and beautiful cinematography by Arthur Arling ( Gone With the Wind ) Cinemascope, of course. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

From the Archives: Quo Vadis ( 1951 )

Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr in the MGM epic Quo Vadis ( 1951 ). The film was based upon the 1895 Polish novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz and was a huge blockbuster hit for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

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, April 4, 2020

Shipmates Forever ( 1935 )

Singing sensation Dick Powell and dancer Ruby Keeler were a match made in musical heaven and they had great success in the early 1930s as an on-screen duo. In 1934, Warner Brothers teamed them up in Flirtation Walk, a light-hearted musical set at the West Point Military Academy. The studio reeled in a large profit on the picture and so they reteamed them to star in a similarly themed production - Shipmates Forever - this time set at the Annapolis Naval Academy. The publicity department even promoted the film with the line "Hats off to the Navy's Flirtation Walk!".

Dick Powell stars as Richard "Dick" Melville III, a popular New York nightclub singer who has no intention of joining the Navy and following in the footsteps of his father Admiral Melville (Lewis Stone). He is determined to lead his own life and singing is the career he chose. However, his father's claim that his only son is a coward, leads Richard to enter the Annapolis Naval Academy solely to prove to him that he has the brains to become an officer. Of course, while he is there he learns just what it means to be a "Navy man" and has a change of heart. 

During the 1930s, there were a lot of movies made that dealt with life in military academies (it was as if the studios knew a war was looming in the distance). Along with Navy, Blue and Gold, Shipmates Forever stands out as one of the best and, thanks to Frank Borzage's fine direction, the film has a lot of heart to it. For those who are especially fond of the Navy, you'll need to keep some handkerchiefs nearby for the closing scenes. 

Shipmates Forever gives audiences a great behind-the-gates look at Annapolis with plenty of on-location footage. The movie also features a sweet romance between Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell and some catchy Harry Warren/Al Dubin numbers including the "Don't Give Up the Ship", "I'd Love to Take Orders from You", and "I'd Rather Listen to Your Eyes", but the best part of the film is Dick Powell's fine acting performance. 

Powell was never given credit for being the talented actor that he was until he appeared in the noir Murder, My Sweet (1944) but, even in his early films, he was such a natural actor and always gave a winning performance. He is truly convincing as Dick Melville, a young man who seems torn between loyalty to his father, his best gal, and following his own dream. Even though he shuns his roommates at the Academy, they still look up to him as a classmate and eventually draw him into the comradery that was so much a part of life at Annapolis. These classmates are played by Ross Alexander and John Arledge (both from Flirtation Walk), Eddie Acuff, and Robert Light. Also in the cast is Dick Foran as a snooty upperclassman, Mary Treen and James Flavin. 
Shipmates Forever was released in October 1935 and did very well at the box-office, cementing Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler's standing as one of the top on-screen couples at Warner Brothers studio at the time.