Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Black Rider ( 1954 )

In the village of Swanhaven, a recent newspaper story about the mysterious Black Rider is sending a chill down the backs of the local townsfolk. After leaving the town pub one moonlit night, a drunk reported seeing the cloaked figure of the Black Rider while he was taking a shortcut through the old ruins of Brockham Castle. Legend has it that he is none other than the devil himself and anyone who looks upon his apparition is cast into the fires of hell. 

The drunk considers himself lucky to have escaped alive. Little does anyone realize that a gang of smugglers is using the old legend of The Black Rider to scare away people from Brockham Castle while they undertake to smuggle atomic sabotage equipment across the Channel. It takes some quick thinking from young reporter Jerry Marsh to capture the band of crooks. 

The Black Rider is a fun little British B-film from the newly formed Balbair Productions Co. Its Scooby-Doo-like plot is devoid of mystery ( there is only one suspect so it must be him ), but nevertheless, it is highly entertaining and runs just a little over an hour. Jerry Marsh, played by Jimmy Hanley, makes a jolly hero and it would have been nice to see him appear in several other films. Jerry's fiancee Mary ( Rona Anderson ) is the village librarian and her father Mr. Plack ( Leslie Dwyer ) is the editor of the newspaper Jerry writes for. 

Jerry just purchased a motorbike and this becomes a sub-plot in the film, with members of his motorcycling club helping him hunt for the smugglers in the final scenes. Motorcycling was becoming a popular hobby sport for many people in the 1950s and motorcycle clubs were sprouting up all across England at the time. Mr. Plack disapproves of Jerry's new mode of transportation but, by the end of the film, he comes to like the "machines". 

Fans of British B-films will easily recognize many of the actors in the film. Jimmy Handley was popular in the Huggetts film series. Leslie Dwyer played in a number of films of the 1940s and 1950s, usually as a grouchy middle-class shopowner. Rona Anderson made several good mystery films and looks particularly lovely in this picture with her hair dyed blonde...and last, but certainly not least, the great character actor Lionel Jeffries, who plays the debonair villain in The Black Rider

Director Wolf Rilla ( Village of the Damned ) did a fine job of keeping the film moving along at a brisk pace and the script, by A.R. Rawlinson, has a number of humorous touches. All in all, a great little mystery to enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Listen and Guess Game - Actors Who Sing!

There are a lot of actors who are equally well known as singers ( e.g. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich ), but there are also a surprising number of actors who it would astonish you to find out recorded an album... or at least a single ( e.g. Rock Hudson, Cheryl Ladd ). Over the years, my sister and I have come to discover ten or fifteen actors that are not known as singers but have a really nice singing voice regardless. While doing some research for a blog post on this topic, the number we discovered grew to over fifty actors! 

In a couple of weeks, we will share this post with you but, in the meantime, we thought it would be fun to make a game of identifying the actor who is singing. Below you will find ten sound clips featuring famous actors singing. Test your knowledge of voice recognition and see if you can name the star who is singing!

The first five sound clips feature the voices of actors/actresses who are best known for making films. They may have appeared on television, too, but they are primarily film stars. The last five sound clips feature the voices of actors/actresses who are best known for their television work. 

If you can guess 5 out of 10, pat yourself on the back, because these are tricky!

P.S: Hover your mouse slightly to the right of the play button in order to click on it ( the same goes with pausing ). Play button not working? Then click on the pop-out tab to download. Need a hint? Scroll down a bit and on the right column of this blog you will see two picture gadgets with the faces of all ten actors on it. 

Actors/Actresses from Movies

Mystery Singer Number 1
Mystery Singer Number 2
Mystery Singer Number 3
Mystery Singer Number 4
Mystery Singer Number 5

Actors/Actresses from Television

Mystery Singer Number 6
Mystery Singer Number 7
Mystery Singer Number 8
Mystery Singer Number 9
Mystery Singer Number 10

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Spring Reunion ( 1957 )

Maggie Brewster ( Betty Hutton ) has been looking forward to the fifteenth reunion of her high school class for weeks. It is the day of the big event and Maggie has a full schedule of things to do, one of which is going to the beauty parlor with her best friend Barnie ( Jean Hagen ), but before she does, she has to see a prospective client who is interested in buying a property her real estate firm has been trying to unload for years. It belongs to Fred Davis ( Dana Andrews ), once considered "The Boy Most Likely to Succeed" in Maggie's class. 

When she arrives at the property she is surprised to find Fred there. He tells her that a wave of nostalgia overcame him and he wants to cancel the sale. Her disappointment is short-lived when she realizes that Fred is as handsome as ever, single, and has an eye for her. Maggie's school friends are all married with children and, with her reunion coming up, she is beginning to wonder what she has made of her life. Fred is pondering the same question and the night of the spring reunion sparks off a romance between them. 

Spring Reunion is a delightful 1950s melodrama ideal that addresses the concerns most people have when a school reunion approaches. We all tend to see reunions as a mid-life assessment report - What Have You Done With Your Life? 

"Maybe I'm the one who never measured up, Dad." - Maggie

Fellow classmate Jack Frazer ( Gordon Jones ) begins to realize that he may no longer be the physically fit football hero he was. Her girlfriend Barnie thinks there may be more exciting things in life than being a mother to four children. Fred is tired of traveling across America, always searching for a better job. He wants to settle down and putter with his sailboat again. Maggie is tired of hearing her father say she is still "the prettiest, smartest, and most popular girl" when she feels herself quickly heading toward spinsterhood. She wonders what became of the "Girl Most Likely". Both her and Fred's motives for a relationship are based on fear of future loneliness rather than love, but they seem to have a fighting chance for lasting happiness. 

Betty Hutton was well-established as a dramatic actress by the time she made Spring Reunion, but even though she matured she still adds a touch of that old light-hearted playfulness to her character. Gordon Jones and Jean Hagen provide more of the comedy relief, as do the character actors which include Irene Ryan, Florence Sundstrom, and Herbert Anderson. Also in the cast are James Gleason, Robert F. Simon, and Laura La Plante. 

The movie has a sparkling script by Elick Moll and Robert Pirosh ( A Day at the RacesI Married a Witch ) and is just overall entertaining to watch. Unlike a high school reunion, it is something that you can enjoy every spring. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

This fellow looks like he is dancing an Irish jig on the pavement but he is actually hurrying to catch a yellow cab. Who he is and where he is going is your job to remember!

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules of the game or the prize, simply click here.

Mary Brian - It's Hard to Grow Up in Hollywood

Mary Brian was one of the most beautiful actresses of the 1930s. She often played charming ingenues in college-themed romances, but it seems these roles were not her cup of tea. Evelyn Warmoll shares with us in this 1938 article from Hollywood magazine, that Mary Brian was looking for more dramatic "grown-up" roles while Hollywood while trying to keep her young and innocent: 

While most movie stars are sadly bemoaning the fact that they are growing old all too fast on the screen, Mary Brian, fresh from a season of personal appearances, is back in Hollywood to try again to gain recognition as a grown up, mature, young woman. 

Mary has been Hollywood's perpetual "little girl" for ten years. She's frankly tired of it. She wants to prove to producers and a loyal following of movie fans that she has outgrown co-eds and fairy princesses and younger sisters. She wants to play dramatic feminine leads. She wants to emote. She wants to be recognized as a dramatic actress. She is tired of playing pretty young things who flit hither and thither and seldom have a dominant scene in the story which goes on around them. 

It doesn't seem so very long ago that Paramount announced that it was starting a worldwide search for a novice to play the title role of its silent production, Peter Pan. Mary Brian, just out from Texas, was at the Los Angeles Paramount theatre — dancing in the chorus — when Albert Kaufman, brother-in-law of Adolphe Zukor, saw her, talked with her and sent her out to the Paramount lot for a test for Peter Pan. Mary trembled as she made the test for it was her first movie experience, but the next day director Herbert Brenon phoned to say that a contract awaited her — not for Peter Pan but for "Wendy." When she stepped out of the dancing lineup and became Wendy, she began a series of young girl parts which lasted throughout her six and a half years as a Paramount contract player. 

She was pretty much the successor to Mary Pickford and Mary Miles Minter as Hollywood's sweetheart. No film debutante was more sought after for party lists than Mary. "The sweetest kid in Hollywood" she was called off-screen as well as on. No college picture was quite complete without Mary Brian as the fair young co-ed who turned the heads of the gridiron heroes, and finally arrived at her big romantic scene either in the booth of some campus ice cream parlor or under the ever-present sheltering oak in front of the girls' dormitory. 

When she wasn't decorating college pictures, romantic dramas of Civil war days claimed her for doll-like crinoline girls who made exquisite pictures of Mason-Dixon beauty, but never had much opportunity to lead the parade when the dramatic scenes began. 

When the talkies came in Mary Brian began intensive training for more dramatic and dominant roles. She tucked her collection of sunbonnets and middie blouses gently but firmly in the garage trunk, pinned up the curls that once hung on the back of her neck, and tried every way she knew to "grow up" in a hurry. Other diminutive girls had been given dramatic roles — Helen Hayes, Sylvia Sydney, Elizabeth Bergner, dozens of small girls had dominated dramatic pictures. While Mary made no comparisons, she yearned for just one chance to show what she could do. But to Hollywood she was still the "young sister type." 

Finally, Walter Huston's The Virginian gave her a deviation from her usual cast assignment and The Front Page offered broader opportunities as did The Royal Family but whenever a college picture was being cast the first name on every casting director's tongue was "Mary Brian." 

As often as she could afford to, Mary shook her pretty head and announced that she had her mind set on more dramatic parts. During one of the waits between pictures, Ken Murray induced her to resume stage work and to return to her dancing (which Hollywood never thought of at all). For a year Mary alternated between Broadway, road shows and pictures that offered her at least some hope of outgrowing the "little sister" roles. 

Her personal appearances were huge successes and she found that her fans were just as eager for her to grow up as she was. When fans saw her dance in local theatres they wrote letters by the score to variolas Hollywood producers asking them to make Mary Brian a dancing screen star. 

When the co-ed and little sister offers continued unbroken Mary Brian went to London for a British picture and one day Hollywood was startled to hear that "little Mary" was the star of the 1935 Chariot's Revue and "going over like a house afire." 

After an extended London season Mary returned to Hollywood and played a "heavy" in Spendthrift merely to get away from the girlish type of role previously given her. This was followed by two independent pictures which offered more or less straight dramatic leads and other personal appearances in which she was supported by a dancing trio, Gordon, Read and King and also by Arena and Hines. 

A few months ago Mary came back to Hollywood again in search of mature roles and was fairly successful in Three Married Men and Killer at Large but the recent summer season found her at the head of the casting office lists for co-ed roles in a half dozen football pictures and she began to wonder what she could do to create a new "1938 model Mary Brian." 

"I'm afraid you just can't grow up in Hollywood," says Mary. "I enjoy playing girlish parts but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that the day soon comes when I can play a dominant, dramatic part and show them that Wendy has grown up. I don't care whether I play a vamp, a society girl or a French apache; I just want a chance to assume a role that has some depth and determination." 

Mary Brian lives with her mother near Toluca Lake, a few miles north of the Hollywood studio where she began her screen career. At least once each year she is reported "this-a and that-a" about some currently popular young screen Lochinvar but isn't taking romance too seriously. After playing more than 50 girlish featured leads in as many feature films Mary seems far more anxious to play a dramatic role on the screen than take a demure walk to the altar in a real life romance.

This article was taken from a February 1938 issue of Hollywood magazine. You can view the scans of this article, as well as the entire issue, via the Internet Archive hereTo find more stories like this, check out the other posts in our series - Movie Magazine Articles. Enjoy!

Friday, April 9, 2021

From the Archives: April Love ( 1957 )

Shirley Jones is about to enjoy a kiss from Pat Boone in this scene from April Love ( 1957 ), a delightful musical remake of the 1944 film Home in Indiana. It was a big hit at the box office and the title song was nominated for an Academy Award. It is also one of Pat Boone's personal favorites, "the kind of movie I wish I could have made 20 more of".

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