Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Oh, now doesn't this scene look familiar! You may not know the name of this actress, but you know the film. Look at all that sheet music....and yet, she doesn't even look at it when she plays.

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Joan Fontaine - A Rising Star

JOAN FONTAINE comes close to her famous one-picture-to-stardom Rebecca role in her currently releasing Suspicion with Cary Grant. And so, the great question of whether Miss Fontaine - or Mrs. Brian Aherne, if you prefer - was a flash in the pan is definitely settled. She's not. 

She is an actress of the first water, crystal-clear, no flaws, and far outshadowing the sister who long cast a shadow over her, Olivia de Havilland. A moving, intensely human story lies behind this fait accompli. 

A blonde, Joan has more than her share of good looks and a bright and charming spirit that has made her a favorite with all Hollywood. However, as a child in Tokyo, Joan was ill a great deal of the time. She was a lonely little girl because she did not have the strength to play when her necessary schoolwork was done. After her family had moved to San Francisco, Joan regained her health in the dry, sunlit air of Saratoga. 

Five feet three inches tall, Joan weighs 108 pounds, favors outdoor sports for exercise, specifically swimming and tennis at which she is adept. Her favorite hobbies are reading history and indulging her life-long weakness for Japanese art. 

It probably was Olivia herself who first challenged Joan to be something besides Olivia's sister. Five years ago Joan was just a stock player, a girl for whom the screen producers held little promise. Olivia had arrived and great things were in store for her. She got many of them except the part of Rebecca which little sister Joan swiped right from under her nose. Joan also won or was won by the talented English actor Brian Aherne, and between them, their mutual romance worked wonders in giving Joan new self-assurance. So inspired, Joan delivered to director Alfred Hitchcock an amazing Rebecca, dissolved the shadow of Olivia, and all the time was having gruesome bouts with hay fever (which she still has in its meanest form every year). 
Suspicion, a picturization of "Before the Fact," with Alfred Hitchcock again wielding the megaphone, is the story, most difficult to convey, of what goes on in the mind of a young wife infatuated with her swashbuckling, loving husband, who in all respects but his marital fidelity is a no-good loafer with what apparently is a tendency toward homicide for funds. It is a thrilling, chilling and superbly acted drama by Grant and particularly Miss Fontaine ... despite her hay fever ... and Olivia. -Evans Plummer

Joan Fontaine never really outshadowed her sister Olivia, but she did have a unique presence onscreen and made a number of really fine films. The above portrait of her is one of the loveliest we've ever seen. This article originally appeared in Movie-Radio Guide ( Vol. 11, No. 7 ) dated the week of November 22-28th, 1941. 

Movie Magazine Articles, another one of our ongoing series, feature articles like this reprinted for our reader's entertainment. Links to the original sources are available within the body of the text. In the future, simply search "Movie Magazine Articles" to find more posts in this series or click on the tag below. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

British Pathé - Fabric Pictures by Eugenie Alexander ( 1958 )

Our latest entry in the British Pathé series spotlights a 1958 newsreel about an artist who worked with an unusual medium - fabric. Her name is Eugenie Alexander and her artwork was famous enough to warrant the publication of a book "Fabric Art" published just a year after this short 2-minute newsreel was filmed. 

These days this type of fabric artwork is often called "textile collage" and, while the announcer proclaims that it had existed since ancient Egyptian times, it was rare to find such an artist working with this medium in the 1950s and is still quite rare today ( most collage artists prefer working with paper and glue ). Still, it is a lovely and colorful form of art and Eugenie's designs bring to mind the work of Charles Wysocki who liked to evoke traditional American folk art style in his paintings. 

Eugenie's patterns also remind me of the opening title credits in Walt Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks ( 1968 ) which were created by David Jonas and made to look like the 12th-century Bayeaux of the most magnificent examples of ancient fabric art. Her figures are lanky and the facial features medieval. 
Eugenie's husband, Bennett Carter, holds up some of her works for the camera to see, one of which is this pretty turn-of-the-century tableau ( shown above ). Although Carter is introduced as an "artist and teacher" I was not able to discover any background history about him. 

Ready to watch Fabric Pictures? Simply click on the link below. 

British Pathé - Fabric Pictures.

Other similar British Pathé clips : 

Nature Designs in Fabric  ( 1957 ) - 3:09 min
Fabric Painting and Printing ( 1955 ) - 1:58 min

Monday, November 6, 2017

From the Archives : Miracle in the Rain ( 1956 )

Van Johnson and Jane Wyman tenderly embracing in a scene from Miracle in the Rain ( 1956 ), a touching World War II romance film. In this scene, Johnson's character was about to be called away overseas and he had a feeling it would be the last time he would see his sweetheart. 

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 :

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Devilry and Magic in Miracles for Sale ( 1939 )

Mike Morgan ( Robert Young ) is a skeptic. He was a former magician who now makes his living selling his magic tricks to other New York City magicians. "Miracles for Sale" is his tagline, and creating illusions is his racket. So, when he comes across a real-life mystery he naturally attempts to pick it apart to discover just what the "trick" is behind what he is seeing. 

Judy Barclay ( Florence Rice ) seeks Morgan's aid in unmasking a fraudulent medium and invites him to attend a seance at the apartment of Dr. Sabbatt ( Frederick Warlock ), a renowned magician. When the body of Dr. Sabbatt turns up dead in his own apartment and then disappears just minutes after being examined by the coroner, Morgan tries to unveil the trickery behind the disappearance but finds himself truly stumped. 

"Don't kid yourself....For several thousand years the human race has attempted to cross the threshold into the darkness of the unknown - call it the other world, if you like - because there is something there. And once in awhile, somebody gets pretty close to it."
Director Tod Browning, who made a name for himself with the pre-Code horror classics Dracula ( 1931 ) and Freaks ( 1932 ), directed this taut and tantalizing mystery that cleverly mixes devilry and witchcraft with modern-day magic acts. 

Miracles for Sale unites Young and Rice in the last of seven feature films they made together in the 1930s and boasts a wonderful supporting cast which includes Henry Hull, Lee Bowman, Cliff Clark, Gloria Holden, and William Demarest. Frank Craven also stars as Morgan's dad, a well-grounded man from the country who detests the hustle and bustle of New York City. 
While the gimmicks behind Miracles for Sale are quite clever ( especially the self-typing typewriter and the ghostly apparition next to Madame Rapport ), the real killer is easy to guess if you keep your eyes open wide. Diana, who has a knack for recognizing voices and faces, solved this caper within 20-minutes. 

Still, if you're looking to watch a good old-fashioned spine-tingling mystery for Halloween, you can do no better than Miracles for Sale. Tauro's snake-like eyes alone will give you the willies! 

Happy Halloween! 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Quiet as a Nun ( 1978 ) - Armchair Thriller

Armchair Thriller, a short-lived British television horror series of the 1970s, featured a number of genuinely creepy serials guaranteed to cover your skin with goosebumps. One of their best was Quiet as a Nun, a six-part serial that aired between April 18th and April 27th, 1978.

This episode centered around investigative TV reporter Jemima Shore, portrayed by the lovely Maria Aitken. Shore is an independent career woman who is having an affair with a married member of Parliament. She claims to be an agnostic and yet glimpses into her heart reveal that she still carries strong feelings for the convent school where she was educated as a girl. When she reads in the newspaper that Sister Miriam, a close friend from these school years, has passed away, she heads back to Blessed Eleanor's Convent in Sussex to attend the funeral. The nun's death was shrouded in mystery, her body being found in the secluded tower of the convent just days after she had announced her plan to change her will. Sister Miriam was an heiress who was to inherit one of the largest fortunes in Britain. 

"As a tower points towards heaven, so shall a man build his life in the direction of God. Yet even the highest tower can never reach the sky. Nevertheless, Man, by the grace of God and his own faith, may expect to reach heaven one day."
Mother Ancilla ( Renée Asherson ) is disturbed by her death, as is Jemima, and she asks the reporter to spend a few weeks holiday at the convent while quietly looking into the matter. After a second nun is mysteriously murdered, Jemima finds that not only has she been swept into a dark and sinister storm of fear but that other lives, as well as her own, may be in danger.

Quiet as a Nun was based upon the 1977 Antonia Fraser novel of the same name, a novel which P.D. James called "a judicious mixture of puzzle, excitement, and terror." The book played out like an adult version of one of Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew series, but Julia Jones' engrossing screen dramatization instead paralleled Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede which featured a similar business-minded female protagonist who broke off an adulterous relationship after a visit to a convent. 

Both the Quiet as a Nun book and the television series circled around the mysterious faceless "Black Nun" who haunts the hidden passages underneath the convent, a story plot which was well adapted for both children and adult tastes, even down to the Scooby-Doo-like conclusion. 

The serial was revived for British and US audiences in 1982 as a PBS Mystery! television presentation. The popularity of this episode led ITV to produce a spin-off series in 1983 entitled Jemima Shore Investigates, which starred the equally appealing Patricia Hodge as the slender sleuth. Unfortunately, the scripts were not nearly as well written nor was the filming as expressive as in Quiet as a Nun
The serial is ideal viewing for a rainy autumn afternoon, particularly during this week approaching Halloween. It encaptures all the features you would hope to find in a ripping good mystery: secret passages, shadowy figures, cobweb invested crypts, disappearances, kidnappings, and even the prerequisite reading of a will. 

Also in the cast is Brenda Bruce as Sister Elizabeth, Sylvia Coleridge as Sister Boniface, Susan Engel as Sister Agnes, Doran Goodwin, Patsy Kensit, David Burke, and James Laurenson.

Ready to view Quiet as a Nun? Simply click here to watch it on Youtube. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

British Pathé - Masks

There is such a wealth of visual material to be found online and delving into it on a daily basis is as refreshing as taking a swim in a cool pool. One of the most interesting fountains in the Youtube stream of entertainment is the British Pathé Collection, an archive of 85,000 newsreel and documentary clips dating from the 1910s to the 1970s. 

Since we enjoy sharing the film/TV treasures we are continually discovering, we are going to launch a new series highlighting some of the gems to be found in the British Pathé collection. These short posts will be released on a monthly basis, but please don't let this schedule stop you from perusing these clips in your own free time. They're inexhaustible. And quite entertaining. 

With Halloween fast approaching, we're going to start the series off with Masks, an approximately 4-minute collection of three separate newsreels dating from the mid-1930s. The first briefly shows the famous Polish artist Władysław T. Benda and his wife with some of the beautiful life-like masks that he made for costume parties and theatrical shows. Benda also created the original mask for the 1932 film The Mask of Fu Manchu. In the photo above, Jean Arthur is holding up one of Benda's creations. 
The next is a short clip of Swiss people in costume for their annual springtime celebration, and lastly, we see Duncan Melvin displaying some traditional ancient masks of African, Indian, and Australian cultures for initiations, witch-doctoring, and devilry. 

Mr. Melvin was the host of a 1937 television documentary series called Masks of the World ( yes, by golly, television was around back then ). For this series, he not only showed his audiences various masks from around the world but he would also demonstrate different mask-making techniques from artists such as Oliver Messel, Angus MacBean, and Henry Moore. 
For the British Pathé series, we'll be showcasing clips that cover a wide variety of rare and unusual subjects: the history of beards, miniature model-makers, cowboy artists, legends of Scotland, convent life, English royalty, sheep-herding, wallpaper production, etc. We hope you'll follow along and enjoy the series! 

Ready to watch Masks?

British Pathé  - Masks 

Friday, October 20, 2017

From the Archives : The Uninvited ( 1944 )

Alan Napier, Ray Milland, Gail Russell, and Ruth Hussey communicating with the dead in the classic ghost film The Uninvited ( 1944 ). 

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 :

Monday, October 16, 2017

Der Schönste Tag Meines Lebens ( 1957 )

This is such a sweet film. Most of the Deutsche Heimatfilms are sweet as apple strudel, but Der Schönste Tag Meines Lebens is especially wholesome and delicious. It centers around a little orphan Hungarian boy named Toni, portrayed by that talented youngster Michael Ande ( The Trapp Family ). He befriends old Herr Blümel ( Joseph Eggar ) when he arrives in Austria with a boatload of other Hungarian refugees. Herr Blümel and Toni become instant friends and Toni comes to live with this lovable fellow in his house by the river. One Sunday, while attending church, Toni sees the Vienna choir boys ( die Wiener Sängerknaben ) singing in the choir loft and desires to become a "Sängerknabe", too. So, off to Wien Herr Blümel and Toni trek and the boy gets the privilege of being admitted to the choir because he has such a fine singing voice. 

The true Vienna choir boys not only sing but study and live together at the palatial Palais Augarten in Vienna. It becomes their school and their home for as long as they are members of the choir. One day per week their family and friends are permitted to visit them. 
Our Toni gets along well at the school until the first visiting day. He eagerly awaits a visit from Herr Blümel but does not realize that the poor old man had motorcycle trouble en route and could not come. All the other boys have their families with them, except for naturally, he feels unloved and unwanted. 

Schwester Maria, the den-mother/nurse at the school takes compassion on the boy and agrees to be his mother while he is there. Toni loves her so much that, later, when Schwester Maria gets blamed for losing 1,000 Deutsche marks from the choir's funds, Toni lies to save her job and wrongfully confesses that he stole the money. 
Der Schönste Tag Meines Lebens is a well-balanced mixture of melodrama, light-hearted comedy, and music. It gives us a glimpse of the work-and-play life of the Vienna choir boys in much the same way that Walt Disney Studios would later showcase these boys in their 1962 film Almost Angels. This Austrian production was filmed on location in Vienna and in Hinterbichl in the Lasorling mountain range in East Tirol where the Vienna boys choir used to stay during the summers. 

Like most Heimatfilms, there is plenty of mountain scenery and some beautiful songs, sung by the Vienna choir boys, of course. But what makes this film really stand out is the performances from its principal players....Joseph Eggar in particular. He reminds me and my sister so much of our "Opa" ( our grandfather ), in his mannerisms and his genuine love for the little boy. 
Ellinor Jensen is also adorable as the tender-hearted Maria whom Toni comes to adopt as his surrogate mother. Paul Bösiger has a small part as Maria's love interest, and that legend in the German film industry - Paul Hörbiger - portrays the director of the choir, a kindly man. Rounding out the cast is Thomas Hörbiger ( Paul's son ) as one of the kapellmeisters and Richard Eybner, who is present for comedy relief.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Shields and Yarnell - Living Toys

Is it possible to make a career of playing a mime? Robert Shields and Linda Yarnell proved that it is not only possible but quite a lucrative business. 

Without a spoken word, Shields and Yarnell made a name for themselves displaying mime acts of "controlled insanity" in over 400 television appearances throughout the 1970s and 1980s. One of their most famous portrayals was as "The Clinkers", a married robot couple who attempt to lead a regular human life but do so with uproarious results. Everyday tasks like doing the wash, reading a newspaper, or going to the office for work prove to be difficult for robots. 

"....let's go and meet the Clinkers and see what they don't have to say!"

Lorene Yarnell, an off-Broadway variety performer and dancer, had met Robert Shields, a mime artist, during the making of Fol-de-Rol a 1972 Sid and Marty Krofft television special. The two hit it off immediately and married that same year. Yarnell taught Shields dance, while Shields taught Yarnell mime, and together they formed an act that would knock the artistic art of miming off its lofty pedestal and make it entertaining for the masses. 

For several years they performed on the streets of San Francisco, occasionally making guest appearances on television. It was not until 1976, when they became regulars on The Sonny and Cher Show, that the American public fully embraced their unique - and highly amusing - routines. These appearances were so well received that CBS signed them to their own comedy-variety show The Shields and Yarnell Show ( 1977-1978 ). 
"As a team. Shields & Yarnell are magical, innovative and pure entertainment - Yarnell's tap dancing is flawless." - Gene Kelly

When their show ended, they continued to perform in Las Vegas, on Broadway, on numerous television variety shows, with orchestras across the country, and around the world. Robert Shields gave two presidential performances as well as a command performance for Queen Elizabeth. 

Their improvisational form of miming lent itself well to talk shows, too, and Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin especially enjoyed having them as guest stars. One of their most memorable appearances was on The Muppet Show ( 1979 ) where they performed a segment featuring The Clinkers having breakfast. 

"Robert Shields is the greatest mime in America" - Marcel Marceau

During the mid-1980s, Shields and Yarnell broke up their act and divorced ( perhaps there was a lack of communication? ).....Yarnell later remarried and moved to Norway, where she died at the age of 66 in 2010. Robert Shields made a name for himself as an artist, working in ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, and painting, which he still does in his studio in Arizona. He is currently working on a documentary Robert Shields : My Life as a Robot. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Unidentified Flying Oddball ( 1979 )

The title says it all. This 1979 Walt Disney comedy is certainly an oddball. While the Disney films of the 1970s are generally considered sub-par to the films the studio outputted in the 1950s and 1960s, most of them were still very amusing. The Unidentified Flying Oddball ( UFO ) simply fails to lift off into the realm of laugh-out-loud comedy. It could have been a fun picture, the story element is certainly clever enough, but the script falls flat. And, oddly enough, it was written by Don Tait, who penned Snowball Express, The Apple Dumpling Gang, and Treasure of Matacumbe among others for the studio. 

Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" forms the basis of the film's plot with the lead character being replaced by young astronaut Tom Trimble ( Dennis Dugan ) who, during a moment of "chaos in the cosmos", accidentally pulls a lever on his spaceship causing it to careen into the past, to Camelot in the year 508. His arrival is opportune for he discovers that the wicked Sir Mordred ( Jim Dale ) and Merlin ( Ron Moody ) plot to usurp King Arthur ( Kenneth More ) from his throne. With the aid of some modern electronic gadgets and his look-a-like android Hermes, Trimble manages to foil this attempt, get himself a comely girl ( Sheila White ), and travel back to the present age. Not too bad for an accidental trip into the past. 

Tom Trimble takes a selfie with some of his Arthurian-age friends

In spite of its weak script, UFO does contain some amusing moments, such as when the android, Hermes, jousts with Sir Mordred and loses not only an arm but his head, too! And the professionalism of the cast does a great deal in redeeming the picture. Jim Dale is always a delight to watch - especially when he plays villains - and he is a particularly good Sir Mordred.

The Unidentified Flying Oddball just about broke even at the box-office, but that did not deter producer Ron Miller from investing 20 million dollars into making The Black Hole, Walt Disney's epic production made to capitalize on the space fever that Steven Spielberg's Star Wars had triggered two years earlier. It was a great gamble, for The Black Hole became one of the highest-grossing films of 1979. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

A scientist examining a substance in a he a mad scientist?? Possibly. Possibly not. If you know the film this screenshot is from you would know how sane this man is.

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The High Commissioner ( 1968 )

Espionage films were all the rage in the mid-1960s, a fever that had been ignited by Ian Fleming's James Bond spy series. George Segal investigated neo-Nazis in The Quiller Memorandum ( 1966 ), Michael Caine had starred in the Harry Carter films ( Funeral in Berlin, The Ipcress File ), Rock Hudson was caught up with terrorists in Blindfold ( 1965 ), Paul Newman had to unmask an imposter in The Prize ( 1963 ), Gregory Peck got mixed up in an assassination plot in Arabesque ( 1966 ), and Rod Taylor found himself caught in a web of international intrigue in The High Commissioner. 

This mildly entertaining 1968 thriller was also released as Nobody Runs Forever, a Bond-ish pastiche title. Taylor stars as Scobie Malone, an Australian police sergeant who is sent to London to arrest a wanted criminal who escaped years earlier and is now using an assumed name. With his new name, this murderer climbed the political ladder to become Sir James Quentin, high commissioner for peace for Australia. 

Scobie's simple task of fetching Quentin back for a trial gets complicated immediately upon his arrival in London. Sir Quentin happens to be in the middle of peace negotiations with several countries and requests a few days delay so he can attend the conferences. Sir James is a charismatic man whom many people speak highly of. Within one day Scobie begins to question whether he is even capable of murder. Scobie saves Sir James' life in an assassination attempt and Sir James, taking him into his confidence then, tells Scobie that someone close to him is leaking information to his enemies, and "would you be willing to look into the situation"? It's a request that Scobie cannot deny. 
The High Commissioner boasts a wonderful cast with Lilli Palmer as Sir James Quentin's wife; Camilla Sparv ( The Trouble with Angels ) as his private secretary; Franchot Tone ( in his last film role ) as an American ambassador; and Dalilah Lavi ( Ten Little Indians ), Calvin Lockhart, Clive Revill, and Derren Nesbitt as some of our suspects. 

Unfortunately, like many of the 1960s spy thrillers, the pacing of The High Commissioner is uneven. It begins quite brisk, screeches to a halt midway through, and then begins to climb in suspense once again near the finale. Ultimately, what redeems the film is Plummer's spot-on performance, its colorful cinematography, and Georges Delerue's fantastic opening theme.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Les Anges Du Peche ( 1943 ) aka Angels of Sin

"If you hear God's word joining you to another, listen to no other words - they are merely its echo." - St. Catherine of Siena

Director Robert Bresson's first feature film, the underrated gem Les Anges du Peche aka Angels of Sin, explores the indistinguishable line between will and chance and the effect people have in determining each other's destinies, a theme that resonated throughout Bresson's later works ( The Diary of a Country Priest, A Man Escaped ). 

The story follows Sœur Anne-Marie ( Renée Faure ) a young bourgeois-born novice at a Dominican convent who is convinced that she was sent by God to save the soul of Sœur Thérèse ( Jany Holt ), an impenitent murderess who joins the order to seek shelter from the police. 

Father Bruckberger, an acquaintance of Bresson's, had suggested he read "The Dominicans of the Prisons" by Father Lelong and proposed a film about the Sisters of Bethany in France, an order of nuns devoted to working with female ex-convicts. The order, founded in 1866, gives these women the opportunity to overcome the sins that led them to become criminals. Some choose to remain at the convent and become nuns while others venture on to begin a new life. 

Although Bresson was ignorant of Bethany, he was intrigued by the premise and developed an engrossing scenario around it that weaves in key elements that Bresson would return to in every subsequent film he made. He was particularly fascinated with the theme of two lives coming together and forging a preordained course, one which ends in redemption for both. 
While Sœur Anne-Marie is the main character in Les Anges du Peche and dominates the majority of the scenes, her presence is merely a clever red-herring from Bresson for the film is truly about Sœur Thérèse. It is her soul's redemption that is the driving force of the picture, and all the events that take place at the abbey from the day of her arrival act as stepping stones of grace leading up to her redemption. 

In one scene, the nuns gather for a ceremony where each sister receives a maxim, a randomly chosen quote, that will become their motto for the year. These maxims miraculously suit the personality of each sister. St. Catherine's quote about hearing "God's word joining you to another" is handed to Anne-Marie and has a particularly awe-inspiring effect upon her because she felt an invisible Hand drawing her towards the prison, specifically towards Thérèse, ever since she arrived at the convent. 
Evidently, Sœur Anne-Marie's heavenly calling to save such a lost lamb as Thérèse was conceived before she even meets her, but she ultimately succeeds in her task only when she comes to recognize her own failures and humble herself. Her optimistic determination to accomplishing what she considers God's will, and her pride in her divine vocation, others perceive merely as sinful arrogance. She recognizes this when she subjects herself to "sisterly correction", and goes cell to cell asking each sister "How do you value me?". She finds that they see her as being selfish, ambitious, and showing no understanding of others. The nuns do not recognize her irrepressible fervor as being a sign of deeper spirituality. Only Thérèse refuses to rebuke her. 

Thérèse considers herself dead to sin. She is unrepentant. She has accomplished her murderous act of revenge towards the man who let her be wrongfully incarcerated and is now the most obedient nun at the convent, finding life there preferable - if not dissimilar - to life imprisonment. Yet, she is impatient with Anne-Marie's chastenings and is relieved when the prioress sends Anne-Marie away from the convent, not realizing that even that act is simply another step leading her towards her preordained destiny - the path of redemption.

Robert Bresson would later favor a sparse naturalistic approach to filming, using a minimum amount of background music, little dialogue, and completely renouncing professional actors. Les Anges du Peche and Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne ( 1945 ) were the only two films he made with professional actors, a choice which he strangely regretted. Bresson, who in his Notes cautioned himself against drawing "tears from the public with the tears of your models" failed to realize that naturalism can only entertain to a point. Its novelty wears off and the audience yearns for entertainment that can be appreciated repeatedly. 

The performances of Renée Faure, Jany Holt, and Louise Sylvie ( as La Prieure ) are expressive and beautiful and add depth to the characters in such a subtle way that non-professional actors could not have accomplished. Holt, in particular, gives a touching understated performance while Faure is convincingly innocent and saintlike.
A strong supporting cast ( Mila Parély, Silvia Monfort, Louis Seigner ), gorgeous cinematography by Philippe Agostini, and a powerful score by Jean-Jacques Grünenwald add up to making this an impressive directorial debut from Bresson and a true French cinema classic. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

From the Archives : Camelot ( 1967 )

"In short, there's simply not a more congenial spot for happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot." 

This original program cover from the 1967 movie musical Camelot features gorgeous artwork from Bob Peak, a legendary commercial illustrator whose art graced the covers of TV Guide, Time Magazine, and hundreds of movie posters. 

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 :

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Passionate Summer ( 1958 ) aka Storm Over Jamaica

An island paradise...where all human emotions are exposed under a tropic sun.

In spite of its engaging tagline, Passionate Summer, also known as Storm Over Jamaica, gives its audience a light drizzle of drama compared to the raging storm promised. It focuses on the traditional one-man/two-women love triangle with a little time off to pursue some interesting side plots. 

Bill Travers stars as Douglas Lockwood, a gifted teacher at Leonard Pawley's experimental school situated in the outskirts of Jamaica. During one summer, a private plane crashes into the mountains a short distance from the school. Lockwood helps rescue passenger Judy Waring ( Virginia McKenna ) and quickly develops a romantic interest in her while she convalesces at the school, much to the chagrin of love-starved Mrs. Pawley ( Yvonne Mitchell ) who was openly pursuing Lockwood. 

One of Lockwood's students, Sylvia ( Ellen Barrie ) is a holy-terror, an unruly emotionally disturbed girl who only delights in testing Lockwood's patience. Since he is a well-bred English chap, he came equipped with plenty of patience and insists on trying to reform Sylvia without punishment, a practice that Mr. Pawley ( Alexander Knox ) supports. What Pawley doesn't realize is that Lockwood seems to have trouble getting his own life untangled, and wrestles with his love for Judy Waring, knowing very well that she may just be using him. 

Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, who married in real-life, were both talented actors even though their range was limited. They each bring a fair amount of passion to their parts, but never let their emotions get out of hand.....a quality that Hollywood would have eagerly exploited had they snatched the rights to Richard Mason's novel, which Passionate Summer was based upon. 
Yvonne Mitchell, on the other hand, did an excellent job of portraying the slightly neurotic wife of headmaster Pawley. Pawley's indifference towards her is plain and - during the titular storm - she shows no shame in flaunting her love for Lockwood. 

The film features some good set design and beautiful Jamaican location filming which was shot in Eastman colour, but fails to leave a memorable impression after viewing. Even the music, penned by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, is rather bland compared to his fine work on Conspiracy of Hearts ( 1960 ). 

Friday, September 22, 2017

James MacArthur and Janet Munro - A Disney Duo

Every once in a while when you are watching a film you probably find yourself proclaiming, "Hey! These two actors also played together in [fill in the blank]!" 
Well, like you, the bloggers behind The Flapper Dame and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies experienced this, too, and so they decided to launch The Duo Double Feature Blogathon giving us clever film buffs a chance to compare the different characters and films of a duo of our choice. I chose James MacArthur and Janet Munro. They were an adorable young couple who starred together in only two Walt Disney films: Third Man on the Mountain ( 1959 ) and Swiss Family Robinson ( 1960 ), and then went on their own separate acting paths, with MacArthur focusing on television work and Monro attempting to alter her wholesome image with spicier British dramas. 

James MacArthur, the son of screenwriter Charles MacArthur and actress Helen Hayes, made his Disney debut in Light in the Forest ( 1958 ), opposite Carol Lynley, and he proved himself to be a talented and very personable actor. Walt Disney liked his honest face and natural acting ability, and young girls liked his rugged good looks and shy demeanor. He was an ideal hero for Disney's live-action features. 

Third Man on the Mountain was his second feature for the studio and Janet Munro was selected to portray his sweetheart Lizbeth in the film. Munro caught the eye of Disney when she came to audition among 300 other actresses for the part of Katie O'Gill, the green-eyed winsome Irish lass in Darby O'Gill and the Little People ( 1959 ). She had an appealing spunky nature and was quickly signed to a five-picture contract for the studio.

Third Man on the Mountain tells the story of a boy who joins a famous mountaineer's climbing expedition in the hopes of discovering a route to reach the top of the Matterhorn, which was long deemed insurmountable. His mother and uncle aim to curtail the boy's desire to become a mountain guide but he is encouraged to pursue his passion by two dear friends, hotel owner Theo ( Laurence Naismith ) and Lizbeth ( Munro ). 

MacArthur's character, Rudi, is a bright lad who has a love for mountaineering ingrained in his heart. His father died attempting to find a path to the Matterhorn's pinnacle, and so he understands his family's fear for him when he takes off climbing but, at the same time, he knows that this is his passion and what he was meant to do in life. He is brave enough to stand up against the other mountain guides who ridicule him as a "mere boy" but he finds he must curb his impetuousness during his climbs, especially when it endangers the lives of those whom he is guiding. 
Munro's character, Lizbeth, is only happy when Rudi is happy. Together with Theo, she helps Rudi train for his climb up the Matterhorn, keeps him focused on climbing, and also strengthens his confidence. She is a sweet girl who always has a smile on her face. She is also frank and fearless. She tells Rudi exactly what she thinks of him if he fails in any way to live up to the hero she believes him to be. 

MacArthur and Monro's second film together came just a year later. Swiss Family Robinson was an adventurous re-working of Johann Wyss' famous 1812 novel about a family ( John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, Tommy Kirk, MacArthur, and Kevin Corcoran ) who get shipwrecked on an uncharted island. Janet Munro's character, Roberta, shows up unexpectedly when she and her father arrive on the island as prisoners of pirates.  

MacArthur's character, Fritz, is quite a different fellow compared to Rudi. He is practically a grown man; he displays admirable leadership qualities, is willing to work hard with his family to make the island a decent home, and demonstrates good judgment in difficult situations. Roberta admires these qualities, but at times he seems too proud and cock-sure of himself, and so she amuses herself with his younger brother Ernst ( Kirk ), sparking jealous feelings between the brothers. 

Roberta isn't the carefree country girl of Third Man in the Mountain. She is a well-bred young lady from London's society. To her the prospect of choosing to live in seclusion on a deserted island is preposterous. But Fritz's pioneering spirit and his hard-working ways eventually win her over and, at the end of the time, we are to suppose that they wed. 

A wedding between MacArthur and Monro is something that I for one would have liked to have seen happen in real life because they made such a lovely couple onscreen. Offscreen, there was no spark of romance between them ( Munro was actually married at the time of filming Third Man on the Mountain ), but had Munro or MacArthur pursued their careers with Walt Disney studios I'm sure they would have been teamed up again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

In Kaye's Kitchen : Danny Kaye Cooks More than Comedy

Danny Kaye loved to try new things and was always open to learning the necessary skills and then plunging right into an experience...with no fear of making a fool of himself. With this bravado he acquired proficiency in a number of different fields over the years: flying commercial aircraft, conducting world-famous orchestras ( without knowing a note of music ), dancing, juggling, playing baseball....and cooking. In fact, he became quite an accomplished chef. 

Chef Ruth Reichl, a good friend of Kaye's reminisced about the man shortly after his death and said "Danny Kaye didn't cook like a star. He didn't coddle you with caviar or smother you in truffles. He had no interest in complicated concoctions or exotic ingredients. His taste was absolutely true, and he was the least-pretentious cook I've ever encountered. The meals he made were little symphonies--balanced, perfectly timed, totally rounded. "

French chefs, including Paul Bocuse and Jacques Pepin, often said the best restaurant in California was Danny Kaye's house. Dana Kaye, Danny's daughter, recalled the kitchen in their wisteria-covered Beverly Hills home : 

"This room, with ruffled curtains and a huge island, was the pulse of our lives. My father, in par­ticular, loved the tiny break­fast nook with walls full of cookbooks and an old-fash­ioned wooden table covered in a red-and-white-checked tablecloth. Many mornings he’d sit in his terry cloth robe, make phone calls and offer a cup of coffee to whoever wan­dered in, like the plumber. "

Chinese cooking was his specialty. It all started when Kaye began frequenting Johnny Kan's Chinese restaurant in San Francisco in the late 1960s. He loved the cuisine, the simplicity of the ingredients, and the quick preparation of Chinese food and began a self-appointed apprenticeship to learn what he could about cooking these meals himself. 

Suddenly, Kaye's simple kitchen sprouted a new "Chinese Kitchen" wing that featured a 10-foot long three-wok restaurant stove, shelves which held his hand-made cleavers, a vertical roasting oven, Chinese lanterns, and a round table that accommodated eight. Guests who enjoyed his nine-course Chinese dinner were varied and during any night you may have seen Roddy McDowall, Rudolf Nureyev, Audrey Hepburn, or Zubin Mehta seated in Kaye's Kitchen. 
“The trouble with Danny's cooking,” Olive Behrendt, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, once said, “is it spoils you forever for going to restaurants. You could eat in this home every night for a month and never be served the same dish twice.” Luciano Pavarotti considered Kaye's fegato alla veneziana the best in the world.

His fame as a chef spread throughout Hollywood and those who doubted his mastery in the kitchen quickly sang a different tune after tasting one of his meals. In 1979, Kaye was honored with the ultimate compliment: when he guest-starred on The Muppet Show he was permitted to cook alongside the famous Swedish Chef! 

This entry is a part of our series entitled "Did You Know?".....sometimes we just feel like sharing interesting fragments of television and movie history and now we have a place to do just that. If you have a hot tip that you would like us to share on Silver Scenes, drop us a line!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Raising a Riot! ( 1955 )

What does a man do when his wife asks him to mind their three youngsters when she must leave the country for a few weeks to care for her aging mother? 

If you think he would raise a riot, you're quite mistaken, for the man in this situation is played by Kenneth More....and any character that More portrays would never balk at caring for children. In fact, this chap - Tony, a naval officer - begs for the opportunity to spend some quality time with his children: Anne, Peter, and Fusty. He's been away at sea for so long he fears they may come to think of him as a stranger. And so, in one frantic afternoon, he packs the brood into his convertible and whisks them off to Seaview, a windmill house in the country where his father "Grampy" lives. 

The children adore the place. Father thinks it needs a heap of work. Over the next few weeks, he attempts to put some order in the place while the children enjoy a good romp in the countryside.
Raising a Riot was filmed in Technicolor in 1955 and received moderate box-office success upon its release. The film is clearly based on a book for it lacks a driving plot and instead is built up of a series of amusing incidents centering on household disasters at the old windmill. It delivers gentle humor at a leisurely pace. British comedies like this were quite common in the 1950s-1960s but, unfortunately, they are no longer being made. Studio execs probably don't want to waste time and money on a picture that has no chance of being the "comedy hit of the year". Such a shame, for they are such entertaining films. 

The youngsters ( played by Mandy Miller, Gary Billings, and Fusty Bentine ) are all well-suited to their roles, as is Grampy ( Ronald Squire ), and Jan Miller is especially adorable as a young American neighbor with a crush on the handsome officer. Parts like Tony were tailor-made for Kenneth More, who had such a winning personality. It's no wonder he attracts young women in addition to winning the hearts of his own children! 
Alfred Toombs, who penned the titular book in 1949, had a number of children of his own, and this account was autobiographical. Toombs had been away in the Navy for three years and, upon his return home, had to care for his kiddies when his wife left the country. Housework, cooking, and child-rearing were all new experiences for him and he wrote about them in such a humorous fashion that the resulting book sold quite a number of copies. In the film, Tony is frequently seen typing about his day-to-day mishaps with the little ones, but oddly enough the audience is never told what becomes of Tony's writings. Instead, at the end of the film, he finds himself called back into service again and blesses his wife with the words: "I wouldn't be a woman if the entire United Nations got down on their knees and begged me! Do you know what a woman has to be? She has to be a cross between a saint and a drayhorse, a diplomat and an automatic washing machine, and a psychologist and a bulldozer!" 
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