Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

"The game is afoot!" 

It is the summer of 1887 and Sherlock Holmes is lamenting the lack of any decent crime that might stimulate his brilliant mind. "There are no great crimes anymore, Watson! The criminal class has lost all enterprise and originality." In his morning mail, he receives a telegram asking for his help in locating six missing midgets from a circus, which he promptly dismisses. It is not until a cabby brings a bedraggled-looking woman to the doorstep of 221B Baker Street that Sherlock turns away from his seven-per-cent solution of cocaine to take interest in a case that will become one of his rare failures and ultimately be written down in Dr. Watson's private memoirs of the great detective. 

Gabrielle Valladon is the mysterious woman who arrives on his doorstep one evening. She was rescued from the river after someone attempted to drown her and has a minor lapse of memory. Watson suggests she stay the night and by morning she is recovered and accounts to Holmes her predicament. It seems that her husband, a mining engineer by the name of Emile, has disappeared. For the past year, she has been writing to and receiving letters from an address that she has just discovered is an empty building. 

This intrigues the private detective enough to warrant a visit to the building. Together with Mrs. Valladon and his faithful companion Dr. Watson, Holmes discovers some baffling clues at the site...namely, an old woman in a wheelchair who collects the mail and a cage of canaries. These insignificant but intriguing findings only hint at the adventure ahead for the trio, a case that will lead them into the heart of Scotland and to an encounter with Queen Victoria herself! 

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is a marvelous film by director Billy Wilder. It captures all of the excitement of Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories and yet it is an entirely new adventure penned by Wilder himself and screenwriter A.L. Diamond, who also produced the film. The story incorporates all of the elements one would hope to find in a Sherlock Holmes film adaptation, plus some added surprises...such as midgets and the Loch Ness monster.

Our titular hero is played by Robert Stephens (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) who does an excellent job of portraying the arrogant yet highly appealing detective. Stephens played an amateur detective in an episode of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes one year later, but never returned to don the deerstalker again which is a shame since he plays Holmes so well. 

Colin Blakely costars as the loyal Dr. Watson. His characterization of Watson differs from any of the actors who played Watson before (Nigel Bruce, Howard Marion-Crawford, Nigel Stock, etc.). Blakely's Watson is impetuous and slightly comical and he often gets frustrated that Sherlock does not confide in him as much as he would like. The relationship between Holmes and Watson in this film reminds me of Danger Mouse and his faithful friend Penfold in the Danger Mouse series. Poor Penfold was often left in the dark about the cases they were working on, too. 

The lovely but mysterious Mrs. Valladon is played by French actress Genevieve Page. Holmes is quoted by Watson as having said that "women are never to be entirely trusted, not the best of them", an observation based on previous experiences. Yet he trusts Mrs. Valladon - and once again regrets it. 

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes also includes the characters of Mrs. Hudson (played by the inimitable character actress Irene Handl) and Sherlock's brother Mycroft, played by Christopher Lee. Years later, Lee himself would star as Sherlock in a series of television films.

Billy Wilder had a tendency to stretch out his productions till they were overly long and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is no exception. The film features a sequence at the Royal Ballet in London where Holmes meets a Russian prima-donna who wants to marry him so that she can have "brilliant babies". It probably was meant to amuse and address Watson's feelings towards Holmes and their living arrangement, but the entire sequence was unnecessary and bore no relation to the mystery that Holmes eventually embarks on. The scene could have been cut entirely and replaced with a bit of dialogue referring to the incident instead. 

However, aside from this minor flaw, the film is excellent in so many ways. Miklos Rozsa composed a beautiful score for the picture which was based on a 1953 concerto of his that Billy Wilder favored - Violin Concerto Opus. 24. Tony Iglis' art direction is simply stunning, the costumes (by Julie Harris) are wonderful, and the cinematography by Christopher Challis (The Small Back Room, Arabesque) is lovely, as is the color tone of the entire film, which was shot in Cinemascope. Billy Wilder rarely made films in color so this is a treat for him and for the audience and one that he should have indulged in decades earlier. 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Film Albums: Lawrence Welk's Baby Elephant Walk (1962)

Bandleader Lawrence Welk was always keeping in musical step with the current generation and he loved to play music from the latest films on his weekly television show The Lawrence Welk Show. Many of these tunes appeared on the 1962 album "Lawrence Welk's Baby Elephant Walk". 

It may not be entirely a "film album" but there are a number of great movie tunes on this album so we thought it worth sharing anyway. "Baby Elephant Walk" (from the John Wayne film Hatari!) was one of Lawrence Welk's big hits of 1962. In fact, this album debuted on Billboard magazine's popular album chart in September of 1962, reached No. 9, and remained on the chart for 10 weeks. 

Track Listing: 

Baby Elephant Walk (from Hatari!)
Are You Lonesome Tonight 
Love Me Tender 
It's All In The Game 
Theme From The Brothers Grimm 
Three Coins In The Fountain 
Mona Lisa  (from Captain Carey U.S.A)
It's Not For Me To Say 
Vaya Con Dios 
Because Of You

Top Music Picks:  Baby Elephant Walk, Gigi (this has a great Ray Conniff-ish choral backing), It's All in the Game, Theme from The Brothers Grimm, Because of You

Click here to listen to the album on Youtube.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Announcing the 100 Years of Warner Brothers Blogathon!

One hundred years ago, in 1923, Warner Brothers Pictures was founded by the four Warner Brothers: Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack. They started in the silent picture business but, by the 1930s, WB Studios became one of the giants of the industry. 

Silver Scenes is celebrating the legacy of this fantastic film studio by hosting the 100 Years of Warner Brothers Blogathon running from December 15th to 17th. It will be a three-day event honoring the great stars, character actors, films, and behind-the-scenes personnel from the golden years of Warner Brothers: 1923-1985. 

If you want to join in on the fun: just click on the comment box below and leave your name, blog site, and the topic you would like to write about. You can also email us at silverbankspictures at gmail ( you know the rest ).

"Here's looking at you, kid"

Are there any rules for the blogathon? Heck no! You can write a review of a film, a profile of an actor, a history of the studio (or one aspect of the studio), cover your favorite Looney Tunes cartoon, post a picture gallery of Errol Flynn, rave about your favorite Max Steiner score, or even review a Warner Brothers television series (did you know that Maverick, F Troop, Wonder Woman and The Dukes of Hazzard were all WB productions?). You can submit as many posts as you like so the more the merrier! 

Warner Brothers Studios excelled at making adventure films, gangster films, women's weepies, war dramas, and cartoons so there are hundreds of great films to pick from. Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, and Doris Day were just a few of the talented contract players from the studio during their heyday. Plus, they had some of the most entertaining character actors and skilled behind-the-scenes personnel in the industry.....but just in case you can't think of any ideas at the moment, here are some suggestions:

Stars: Errol Flynn, Ronald Reagan, Bette Davis, Doris Day, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, Alan Hale, Claude Rains, Edward G. Robinson, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, Paul Muni, Lauren Bacall, John Garfield, George Brent, Patricia Neal, Eleanor Parker, Dane Clark, Alexis Smith, James Dean, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Gig Young.

Films: Doctor X, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, Anthony Adverse, Jezebel, The Adventures of Robin Hood, High Sierra, The Strawberry Blonde, Sergeant York, The Maltese Falcon, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Desperate Journey, Christmas in Connecticut, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, House of Wax, Calamity Jane, Dial M for Murder, East of Eden, The Spirit of St. Louis, Auntie Mame, A Summer Place, The Music Man, Days of Wine and Roses, My Fair Lady, Bonnie and Clyde, Bullitt, The Omega Man, The Last of Sheila, The Towering Inferno, Superman.

Behind-the-Scenes: Busby Berkeley, Max Steiner, Michael Curtiz, Anton Grot, Carl Stalling, Harry Warren, Hal B. Wallis, Mervyn LeRoy, Raoul Walsh, John Huston, Orry-Kelly, Edith Head, Franz Waxman

Click here for a complete list of Warner Brothers films throughout the years. 

Banners are available below, so please post them on your site and help spread some brotherly love for WB on their 100th anniversary!



Favorite Looney Tunes Cartoons - Whimsically Classic
Casablanca (1942) - Make Mine Film Noir
Mayday at 40,000 Feet! (1976) - Realweegiemidget Reviews
Behind the Scenes at Warner Brothers - Silver Scenes
Fort Dobbs (1958) - Hamlette's Soliloquy
A Star is Born (1954) - Taking Up Room
The Music Man (1962) - Critica Retro
My Fair Lady (1964) - Box Office Poisons

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Here's an interesting-looking group of people... and they seem to be staring at something. If you have seen the film that this screenshot came from you may remember what it is. It's not a bird, or a plane, or even Superman but something much more commonplace. 

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


Congratulations to Kayla for correctly identifying this screenshot as being from The Notorious Landlady (1962) starring Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak. In this scene near the beginning of the film, a family stops to look at a flat for rent but once they inquire about it they recognize the owner and quickly walk away. 

Friday, November 10, 2023

Irene Dubrovna in "Cat People" (1942)

The Classic Movie Blog Association is hosting the Blogathon and the Beast blog event this week. This theme gives us bloggers a chance to write about a film character who has a beast within themselves. 

All of us have a sleeping beast within who, hopefully, never awakens in our lifetime. As the old saying goes, "Let sleeping dogs lie." I always had the notion that my sleeping dog was the Beast of Jealousy which, thankfully, has never had cause to open its eyes. 

Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) in Cat People (1942) was not so fortunate. She had what I believe was the Beast of Jealousy within her and, one afternoon, an unexpected encounter at the zoo began a chain of events that caused this sleeping dog (or rather, cat) to wake. 

Irena was a sketch artist for a fashion design company. She had an apartment that was a short walk away from the New York City Zoo, and she enjoyed spending her afternoons there sketching the animals...namely, the resident panther. 

One day at the zoo, she meets Oliver (Kent Smith), a marine engineer, and within a few hours, they become romantic friends. 

Unlike most of us who are unaware of our inner beasts, Irena knows very well what hidden danger may be inside her. She tells Oliver a story about a certain group of evil people from the village in Serbia where she came from. They were known as "cat people" and were, supposedly, pushed back from her village by King John quite a long time ago. However, Irena always feared she may have been an ancestor of these people, and her suspicion is later confirmed when, on her and Oliver's wedding night, a mysterious woman greets her as one of the "cat people".

The cat people destroy the ones they love. Like real felines, they are averse to strong displays of affection, especially if it creates an unwanted bond of dependency. Irena believes that if she were to kiss Oliver, she would have to kill him, and so months pass with their marriage unconsummated. Meanwhile, Oliver grows more and more apart from Irena and her obsession with this belief in "old folklore". He turns to Alice, a longtime friend and coworker, for advice and, later, for comfort. 

This arouses Irena's feelings of her "inner cat" even more and one evening she follows Alice home. She begins by walking a good distance behind Alice but shortly she takes on the physical appearance of a cat - a panther - and actually stalks Alice like prey. 

"There is, in some cases, a psychic need to loose evil upon the world. And we all of us carry within us a desire for death. You fear the panther; yet you are drawn to him again and again. Could you not turn to him as an instrument of death?"

Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man (1941) went into a mental fog when he transformed into the wolf and he was afraid he would harm someone unknowingly while he was a wolf. Irena's transformation is quite different. She seems to be well aware of whom she is stalking and attacking as a panther. 

Irena is quite a shy and gentle woman by nature and dreads having a duel-personality, especially one that is an animal. She willingly agrees to undergo psychiatric treatment to be cured of this belief, but at the same time seems to take pleasure in her predicament and clings to it. Typical feline complexity. 

In one eerie scene, she follows Alice to the indoor pool of her apartment complex at night and prowls and growls in the shadows around the pool. After Alice screams and others come into the pool room, Irena transforms back into her human self and innocently remarks "
I'm sorry I disturbed you, Alice. I missed you and Oliver. I thought you might know where he is." Clearly, she was enjoying herself. 

Irena's cat personality may not have been entirely a beast of jealousy but this emotion was a strong trigger for it to come forth into the physical realm. Thank goodness the evil nature we sometimes suppress, be it ever so small, does not take the physical form of an animal. Although... dating back to ancient times, people's inner personalities were referenced in relation to animals. In Western and Chinese astrology, human character traits are linked with animal counterparts. And all of us, at some time or another, refer to others as animals.... "He's like a timid mouse"... "She's like a frightened rabbit". But how strange it would be to see these animal natures take form! 

Irena had no control over her unusual situation. Whether she wanted to be a cat or not, she became one. She was just an innocent victim of presumably an ancient gypsy curse in her village. Sadly, her husband Oliver thought her fear of being transformed into a cat was only a problem of her issue he later got bored with when it made him unhappy. At one point, Irena was willing to cast aside her fears and superstitions and concentrate on being a good wife to Oliver, but by that time it was too late. Oliver now loved Alice and Irene was then more than willing to unleash her inner beast....knowing very well it meant her death. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

From the Archives: The Buccaneer (1958)

Claire Bloom, Charles Boyer, Yul Byrnner, and Inger Stevens are featured in this color lobby card from The Buccaneer (1958), Cecil B. DeMille's lavish production about the privateer/buccaneer Jean Lafitte. 

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: