Friday, April 20, 2018

Louisa ( 1950 ) - When Grandma Starts Neckin'

What do you do with a meddling mother-in-law? That's a subject that has been addressed in many comedies over the years, one of which was Louisa ( 1950 ) which starred Spring Byington as the titular nuisance. Actor and former president Ronald Reagan, who always had a knack for playing comedy, portrayed the leading man in this amusing Universal Pictures comedy that has sadly fallen into the realm of obscurity. 
Hal Norton ( Reagan ) is a well-to-do architect whose life turns upside-down when he discovers that his widowed mother, Louisa, who lives at home with his wife and children, has fallen in love again and plans to re-marry. He had recently encouraged her to stop interfering in the lives of his family and to get out of the house and take part in social activities, but he did not expect her to woo the first man she met! This man happens to be the local grocer, Mr. Hammond ( Edmund Gwenn ), who doesn't resemble Hal's father in the least. Hal's children ( Piper Laurie, Jimmy Hunt ) find grandma's romantic behavior comical, while Hal simply thinks it is absurd. His dislike for Mr. Hammond changes when he invites his boss, Mr. Burnside ( Charles Coburn ), over for dinner and finds that he, too, has become smitten with his mother! Comic mayhem then ensues when the two beaus go head-to-head vying for the attention of the charming Mrs. Norton. 

The script, penned by Stanley Roberts, milks the over-65 romance angle to its fullest, cleverly hinting at how adults in love, at any age, behave like teenagers. Hal and his family learn a valuable lesson from the episode, too: they were interfering in Louisa's life as much as she interfered in theirs when she was certainly at an age to live her own life and make up her mind on whom she wished to marry. 

"There is no fury like a discarded lover of 65"

It's rare to see a December-December romance with older actors in the lead roles, getting all of the juicy dialogue to banter around; and it is even rarer to see one with such capable actors such as Charles Coburn, Spring Byington, and Edmund Gwenn taking on these parts. It is these actors who make Louisa such a delightful little comedy. Coburn especially steals every scene that he is in, in a role a bit reminiscent of his Uncle Stanley character in George Washington, Slept Here ( 1942 ). Also in the cast was Connie Gilchrist ( once again as a smart-alecky maid ), and Martin Milner. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

From the Archives: The Restless Years ( 1958 )


In this scene from The Restless Years, Miss Robeson ( Virginia Grey ) is announcing to her drama students that she is looking for lead performers for the upcoming school production of "Our Town". Miss Robeson is hoping Sandra Dee ( in the second row ) will sign up for the part, but the girl  is hesitant. It takes a little coaxing from her boyfriend John Saxon ( front row ) to convince her she is good enough. 

From the Archives is a 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 15, 2018

The Warriors ( 1955 )

By 1955, Errol Flynn, that rakish swashbuckling actor of the 1930s, was no longer the young and frisky new kid on the block. He was a veteran of some fifteen adventure films, and all that vine-swinging, sword fighting, heavy drinking, and wooing of women took its toll on the physical appearance of the handsome lad. In The Warriors, Errol is slightly plumper around the waist and his step is not quite as spry as it once was, but the glint is still in his eyes and he remains as handsome as ever....at least, for this viewer. 

Walter Mirisch, who was production head of Allied Artists, the studio that was releasing The Warriors ( the most prestigious production in the history of the company ) wrote that: "[Flynn] did not look well in the picture. His face was puffy and he was clearly too old for the role, but I hoped careful photography might offset that. It didn't. Before we started to shoot, I asked him to diet and hopefully lose some weight, which he didn't do. There were only traces left of the face, physique and charm that he had brought to The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk and all those other great adventure films of his youth."
The Warriors, released in England as The Dark Avenger, tells the story of the 14th-century ruler, Edward the Black Prince, portrayed by Flynn, who quells an uprising plot devised by the French nobleman Comte Robert De Ville ( Peter Finch ). Joanne Dru is cast as the young and comely widow Lady Joan Holland, who takes shelter with her two sons within the walls of the Prince's castle.

Daniel B. Ullman penned the script which, while hardly outstanding, is entertaining enough and easy to follow ( always a plus with "historical" films ). It moves along at a brisk pace and gives you little chance to yawn. The capable Henry Levin ( Journey to the Center of the Earth ) took the directorial helm and the beautiful background scenery was captured on location in England on the grounds of Elstree Studios where they utilized the castle that MGM had erected for Ivanhoe ( 1952 ). 
Rounding out the cast is Yvonne Furneaux, Patrick Holt, Michael Hordern, and Robert Urquhart....but, alas, no Alan Hale. He passed away five years earlier.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game


Hmmm....now who could this violinist be? I'm sure most will instantly recognize the film this scene is from, but since I'm feeling generous today I'll contribute a hint to help: this grey-haired fiddler had a son who was quite famous as a television actor for many years and who also played the oboe. 


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


GAME OVER. 

Congratulations to The Tactful Typist who correctly guessed "The Last Holiday" ( 1950 ) starring Alec Guinness and Kay Walsh. This fiddler is none other than David McCallum Sr., principal violinist of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and father to the actor David McCallum. In the film, this fiddler was a symbol to Mr. Bird of impending death.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Old Man Khottabych ( 1957 )

Lenfilm Studios, one of Russia's most famous film production companies, made a number of great children's films in the 1940s and 1950s, one of which was Old Man Khottabych ( Старик Хоттабыч ). This 1957 classic was based on the 1938 children's book of the same name by author Lazar Lagin, who also penned the screenplay for this picture. 

It tells the story of a little boy named Volka, who discovers an ancient clay vessel that contains a 3,000-year-old genie named Khottabych. Like most depictions of genies in film, this fellow isn't what you would expect from the noble line of jinn and his acts of benevolence often result in trouble for Volka...especially since the old man is completely out of touch with modern times. However, no matter how much mischief he causes you can't help but love him as Volka does. He's a gentle old man with narrow eyes, a long white beard, a wily sense of humor, and a sweet-tooth for Eskimo pies. Much of his magical powers are contained in his beard which he needs to pluck a strand of hair from in order to weave his spells. 

Like Jeannie in the 1960s television series I Dream of Jeannie, old Khottabych is beholden to his "master" for freeing him from his bottled captivity and desires to honor his savior in extravagant ways. But little Volka is a Young Pioneer ( the Soviet version of the Scouting movement ) and, like a loyal Communist, does not consider it right or just to accept riches or favors without sharing them with others. Old Khottabych doesn't understand this way of thinking and by the end of the movie, he finds that the only way he can please Volka is by sharing his tricks with everyone at the circus...which he happily joins since they serve Eskimo pies there in abundance. 
Old Man Khottabych is one of Russia's most beloved family film classics and justly so. The story is an engaging mix of fantasy, adventure, and humor with great acting and some impressive special effects of flying carpets, disappearing people, and floating objects. Nikolai Volkov gives an especially good performance as Khottabych. His relationship to Volka is like a tender grandfather and you can clearly see why in his eyes he considers the lad "the illustrious Volshya, honored of all boys". Alyosha Litvinov ( Volka ) and Genya Khudyskov, who portrays Volka's schoolmate Zhenya, are also ideally cast. 
What is most interesting to see in the film is the images of city life in Moscow and the Communistic mindset of its citizens, even the children. When Khottabych desires to bestow upon Volka a palace with his name engraved on a plaque outside the gate, Volka adamantly refuses such a gift unless it is donated to his school and shared among his fellow students. An odd but admirable statement for a child to make. When Khottabych is upset with Volka's teacher, Olga, he desires to curse her but this, too, Volka puts an end to. He goes to great lengths to persuade the old man that he loves and admires his teacher. If this were an American film, Volka would be clapping his hands at the thought of his teacher having a curse put on her! Ah yes...the differences in cultures. 

Old Man Khottabych won the Moscow International Film Festival Award and the Vancouver International Film Festival Award upon its release in 1957. It was released in the States three years later under the title The Flying Carpet and is currently available on DVD, dubbed in three different languages with subtitles in thirteen different languages. Unfortunately, this is a Russia-issued DVD, so unless you have a region-free player you are better off viewing the film here on Youtube. It is not only in HD but also features English subtitles. Even old man Khottabych could not conjure up a copy of the film so easily as this! 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

On the Set of The Ten Commandments ( 1956 )

Tonight, as part of television tradition, ABC will be airing The Ten Commandments in honor of Passover week. For those who are unfamiliar with the film ( were you wandering in the desert wilderness with Moses? ), this 4-hour production tells the story from the Old Testament of Moses, the prince of Egypt ( portrayed by Charlton Heston ), who discovered that he was the true son of a Hebrew slave woman and renounced the throne to join his people. Years later, on Mount Sinai working as a shepherd, he hears the voice of the Lord speak to him, selecting him to lead these Hebrews out of slavery and out of Egypt into the Promised Land.

2018 marks the 55th year that this epic Cecil B. DeMille production has been televised on ABC ( except for 1999, the only year they dropped it )...and so, to honor and join in the celebration of this favorite annual occasion, we have compiled a little gallery of snapshots featuring behind-the-scenes photos taken on the set of The Ten Commandments

Happy Passover and a Blessed Easter to all of our readers! 

John Carradine, Martha Scott, Charlton Heston, Olive Deering, and Anne Baxter discuss the script with director Cecil B. DeMille. 
Charlton Heston, dressed as Prince Moses, stands in front of one of the many massive sets seen in the film. 
"Hello, valet service? Would you bring my chariot around to the front gate in ten minutes? Thank you!"
Filming the spectacular scene featuring Moses' return from his journey to Ethiopia. 
Yul, with his ever-present camera, capturing a snapshot of a gritty looking Moses in chains. 
Heston gets his chains tightened for Moses' dramatic entrance.
Cecil B. DeMille getting a light-reading for the opening sequence featuring Miriam and Baby Moses in the reeds. 
The construction of Bithiah's bathing pavilion, complete with palm trees. 
Yvonne DeCarlo seeing what the behind-the-camera viewpoint is like. 
Anne Baxter, as Nefertari, smiles at the camera while Cecil B. DeMille gives some last-minute direction to Yul Brynner.
Extras waiting in the blazing California sun to make their brief appearance in the movie.
Donald O'Connor visits the set during the filming of the brick-making scene. 
Charlton Heston gives Yul Brynner a good-luck handshake before filming commences. 
Charlton Heston and extras standing before the "blue screen". Heston still strikes a powerful figure, even without the parting sea behind him.

COSTUMES, COSTUMES

Yvonne De Carlo, as Sephora, modeling her shepherd's gown for a wardrobe test. 
Edith Head discusses a wardrobe matter with DeMille about one of Sephora's costumes, while Yvonne DeCarlo adjusts her earring.
A John Jenson sketch of one of the costumes worn by Dathan ( Edward G. Robinson ). Perhaps another actor was considered for the role of Dathan because this man hardly resembles Robinson!
Heston, as Moses, poses for this costume test. This is the shaggy shepherd suit he wears before he heads up to Mt. Sinai to be transfigured.
Nina Foch, as Bithiah, lounging in one of the many beautiful Edith Head costumes seen in The Ten Commandments.
Not only did costumes undergo color tests but eye color, too! Here, Debra Paget, poses for a photo with her "own eyes" compared to using contact lens.... 
....as seen here. Can you guess which option they went with for the final film?
Anne Baxter and Yul Brynner had the best looking costumes in The Ten Commandments and this garment was especially impressive. The white and red colors on the hedjet/crown atop Ramses' head represents the unity of Upper ( white ) and Lower ( red ) Egypt.
Moses, looking splendid in his leather tunic. 
One of the many beautiful gowns that Anne Baxter gets to wear as Nefertari. This one may possibly have been designed by Edith Head but Dorothy Jeakins also worked on the film.
Another Nefertari costume sketch.
When it comes to the fashion industry, sometimes the sketches look better than the costumes in reality, but not in this case. Anne Baxter knows how to fill out this sheer garment!
Debra Paget as Lilia, complete with leather slippers and her water cask.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Mystery of Pirate's Cove - The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries ( 1977 )

Strange lights are seen coming from an abandoned lighthouse at Pirate's Cove. When Nancy Drew and her friends investigate, they discover the lighthouse completely locked with no visible means of anyone having entered there in the past five years. But activity of a ghostly nature is soon to be stirred up by Professor Wall, a ghost hunter who has just purchased the "haunted" lighthouse from Old Man Jenson. 

A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting the 4th Annual Favorite TV Episode Blogathon and "The Mystery at Pirate's Cove" certainly rates as one of my favorite television episodes. 

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries were an entertaining primetime series that premiered in the winter of 1977. The show was aimed at a juvenile-teenage audience and, in its first season, alternated each week between episodes featuring the brother-sleuths of Frank and Joe Hardy of Rockport, and the intrepid "part-time investigator" Nancy Drew of River Heights. 

The Hardy Boys episodes never appealed to me because they tended to focus on promoting squeaky-clean Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy as teen idols and featured scripts that were a tad more serious and less amusing. Mysteries were also frequently interrupted by segments featuring Cassidy singing his bubblegum tunes. 

Nancy Drew, on the other hand, featured some really good mysteries and great scripts with witty banter between the main characters, which included Carson Drew ( Nancy's father, one of the best lawyers in River Heights ), Ned Nickerson, and George Fayne. And "The Mystery of Pirate's Cove" is an especially delightful episode. It was the premiere episode to the series and introduced audiences to Nancy, her companions, and her wizard detecting skills. 
Unlike most premiere episodes, all of the actors portraying the main characters are perfectly at ease from the get-go. Nancy and George ( played by Pamela Sue Martin and Jean Rasey ) truly seem like cronies from high school and the bespectacled Ned Nickerson ( George O'Hanlon Jr. ) like Nancy's old friend who is tired of being viewed as a brother and not as a love-interest. 

Monte Markham, the only face on television in the 1970s, has the starring guest role in this episode as Professor Wall, a professor of parapsychology. One flash of his boyish grin at George and she proclaims him "an Adonis!" whereas Nancy suspects his charming demeanor to be merely a front and is determined to discover what his real motive is behind purchasing the lighthouse. Clever gal she be. 
The plot to "The Mystery of Pirate's Cove" is a marvelous blend of everything you would want in a mystery: buried treasure, legends of pirates and bootleggers, secret maps, shadows in the night, thunderstorms, hidden caves, a haunted lighthouse, mysterious dead fish, and even the prerequisite obstinate Irish policeman. Surprisingly, the story was written directly for television with only a nod to Carolyn Keene for the use of her characters. 

Instead of divulging the episode in depth, I'd rather let you discover its charms for yourself. The complete Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries series is available to purchase on DVD or to rent through DVD.com. 

It's great fun and a perfect episode to watch on a cool autumn afternoon with a cup of hot cocoa. Sadly, only seven episodes of Nancy Drew were released with the threesome of Martin, O'Hanlon Jr. and Rasey. Darn, I wish more episodes were made! 

This post is my contribution to the 4th annual Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon being hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts. Be sure to head on over to Terence's land of pop culture commentary to read more entries for this fun event. 
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