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 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!" 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

"Inspection!!" Never look a gift horse in the mouth.....but this commanding officer doesn't like the looks of one the horses. Do you remember this scene? Unfortunately, it's yet another blurry screenshot. However, put your thinking cap on! There are enough clues in this scene to solve the puzzle. 

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

Back to School! - Classic Films About Teachers

Labor Day has passed and the crisp air of September has set in, so that can only mean one thing - it's back to school time! Teachers across America who have enjoyed three months of blessed silence are now back to facing a brood of bright-eyed and mischievous youngsters.

Their task at hand is trying to instill into their heads a little bit of wisdom and a lifelong love of learning....within the span of one school year. Some do it, other fails...but almost all give it a good college try. 

In celebration of these teachers, we've assembled an assortment of pedagogic productions from the 1930s-1970s. Take your seats now and get ready for the lecture. The good, the bad, and the brilliant are hidden somewhere among these teacher-features :

Goodbye, Mr. Chips ( 1939 )

The best film adaptation of James Hilton's classic novel which reflects on the life of a timid British schoolmaster and the winsome ways he had with his pupils. Robert Donat won an Academy Award for his performance. Greer Garson, John Mills, and Paul Henreid also star. 
Cheers for Miss Bishop ( 1941 )

The life, loves, and incidental happenings of a Midwestern school mistress named Miss Bishop are portrayed by Martha Scott in one of her most recognized films. William Gargan and Edmund Gwenn also star. 

Remember the Day ( 1941 )

An old school teacher ( Claudette Colbert ) pays a visit to one of her former pupils ( Douglas Croft ) who is currently a presidential-nominee. While she awaits her appointment she thinks back on her teaching days in the 1910s and the man ( John Payne ) she wanted to marry. 

The Corn is Green ( 1945 )

A determined middle-aged schoolmarm ( Bette Davis ) converts her Welsh home into a school for coal miners and discovers a young man ( John Dall ) with an extraordinary appetite for learning hidden among the sooty faces. This beloved MGM classic was based on the true life story of screenwriter/actor Emlyn Williams. Nigel Bruce, Rhys Williams and Joan Lorring also star. 

The Village Teacher ( 1947 )

This Russian classic spans pre-revolutionary tsarist times to the 1940s through the eyes of a young teacher who leaves St. Petersburg to teach children in a country village. While Russia changes around her, her pupils do not, and she sees them grow into statesmen, military generals, and even professors like herself. It's a cross between Cheers for Miss Bishop and Twenty-Four Eyes. Vera Maretskaya and Daniil Sagal star. 

The Browning Version ( 1951 )

Michael Redgrave stars in this rather sad story of a schoolmaster who realizes that he failed in life not only as a teacher but as a husband, too. Terence Rattigan's novel was filmed numerous times over the years, but never was Crocker-Harris given such a sympathetic performance as Redgrave brought to the role. Jean Kent, Nigel Patrick, Wilfred-Hyde White, and Brian Smith also star. 

Olivia ( 1951 )

An English schoolgirl ( Marie-Claire Olivia ) falls in love with Mademoiselle Julie ( Edwige Feuillère ), the vivacious headmistress at the private girls' school she attends in France. This Jacqueline Audry production, based on the Dorothy Strachey novel, caused quite a stir when it was first released, but earned Feuillère a BAFTA nomination for her performance. It tackles a subject rarely discussed: what happens when admiration for one's teacher turns to idolatry and then passion?

Bright Road ( 1953 )

Dorothy Dandridge stars as Miss Richards, a fourth-grade school teacher who has her hands full with C. T. Young, a backward rebel....until she finds that he has an interest in nature. Bright Road was based on an award-winning short story that appeared in the "Ladies Home Journal" in 1951 and sheds the spotlight on how a sympathetic teacher can find ways to re-channel negative classroom behavior into positive action. Look for the screen debut of actor/singer Harry Belafonte.
Her Twelve Men ( 1954 )

Jan Stewart ( Greer Garson ) is hired as the first woman to teach at The Oaks Boarding School for Boys and, from her first day at the school, she clashes heads with fellow faculty member Joe Hargrave ( Robert Ryan ). With no prior teaching experience, Stewart struggles to learn the ropes and gain the respect of the children, until an unlikely fellow gives her a helping hand. Barry Sullivan, Richard Haydn, Rex Thompson and Tim Considine also star. 

Twenty-Four Eyes ( 1954 )

On a small Japanese island during the war, a young new kindergarten teacher ( Hideko Takamine ) reaches out to her twelve pupils. She remains in contact with them throughout their lives witnessing some make good in life, while others marry, die in war, or be stricken with poverty. It's a very touching film that earns its reputation as one of Japan's most endearing classics. 
Blackboard Jungle ( 1955 )

Sentimental tales of beloved teachers were out of vogue in the 1950s and Blackboard Jungle was one of the first to realistically portray the hooliganism that was becoming prevalent in high schools at the time. Glenn Ford stars as a WWII vet who takes on a teaching position at a rough NYC boys school and fights resistance from both his students and the faculty. Anne Francis and Louis Calhern co-star. 

Good Morning, Miss Dove ( 1955 )

Students in the small New England town of Liberty Falls reflect back on their school days and their favorite teacher Miss Dove ( Jennifer Jones ). This Fox Cinemascope production looked pretty but the story was overly mushy and Jones' performance fails to convince anyone that Miss Dove would be remembered so fondly on her sickbed. Also in the cast: Robert Stack, Chuck Connors, and Kipp Hamilton. 

The Unguarded Moment ( 1956 )

Esther Williams attempted to evolve from being the million dollar mermaid into a dramatic actress for The Unguarded Moment. Here she stars as a beautiful high school teacher who is victimized by a student ( John Saxon ) in and out of school. After he assaults her she seeks the aid of the police, which comes in the form of handsome Lt. Harry Graham ( George Nader ).
Because They're Young ( 1960 )

New teacher Neil Hendry ( Dick Clark ) locks horns with the stodgy principal ( Wendell Holmes ) of his high school over his teaching methods but manages to win the heart of the pretty school secretary ( Victoria Shaw ). Tuesday Weld, Michael Callan, and Doug McClure also star. 

The Miracle Worker ( 1962 )

William Gibson's engrossing stage play about Helen Keller's first year with her lifelong teacher Anne Sullivan was made into an equally enthralling 1962 film starring Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, both plucked from the original stage version. Seeing Miss Sullivan struggle with Helen, who could neither see, speak, nor hear, is difficult to watch at times, but Anne knew what the girl was capable of and you have to admire her for sticking to her task and bringing out the best in Helen. 

To Sir, With Love ( 1967 )

Sidney Poitier, who had a prominent role as a student in Blackboard Jungle ( 1955 ), took on the part of the teacher, now instructing rambunctious high school students in London's East End. Lulu, Judy Geeson, and Suzy Kendell portray some of his students. 
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie ( 1969 )

A free-spirited Scottish schoolteacher unknowingly leads her "gairls" astray, instructing them in becoming non-conformists, Fascists, and giving their love freely...until one student reports her to the headmistress. Ronald Neame's powerful production gave added depth to Muriel Spark's 1961 novella and earned Maggie Smith a Best Actress Oscar. Pamela Franklin, Robert Stephens, Gordon Jackson, and Celia Johnson also star. 

La Maestra Inolvidable (1969)

Maria Rivas stars as an idealistic young woman who takes a position as a schoolteacher in a small backwoods town. She encounters more than a bit of trouble when she meets the students of the area's two feuding families and finds herself in the middle of their war. Enrique Lizalde and Fanny Schiller also star.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Dort Oben, Wo Die Alpen Glühen ( 1956 )

"Up There Where the Alps Glow"....a rough translation of the title of this 1956 German production starring Vienna-born Albert Rueprecht. Like most Heimatfilms, it features its fair share of mountain scenery, romance, and drama, and in this case, the drama is spread on as thick as butter.

Rueprecht stars as Bertl Bruneder, a young woodcarver who guides tourists up mountains as a sideline job. When a pretty young woman named Andrea ( Ingmar Zeisberg ) arrives in the village with her uncle ( Erik Frey ), she becomes intrigued with the "mountain with no name", a mountain that can only be climbed by way of a dangerous wall. She asks for a guide to take her up there but all the local guides refuse....except Bruneder. He had climbed the wall once before to win a wager against the local innkeeper Jakob ( Hardo Hesse ).

This morning saunter eventually turns into an overnight adventure when heavy cloud coverage prevents the couple from returning down the mountain. It is while they are up in "the heavens" that Andrea finds herself falling in love with Bertl. Her feelings aren't mutual, however.
There is a legend that when a man plucks edelweiss - the white star-shaped flower that grows precipitately on the side of a mountain - it signifies that he has been true and faithful to his lover. When Bertl relates this story to Andrea, she asks if he will risk gathering some edelweiss for her, but he simply shakes his head. 

He's a handsome fellow and back in the village he already has two blondes pining for him: Anna ( Lotte Ledl ) whom he fancies he loves, and Linda ( Gerlinde Locker ), the younger sister of Jakob. She is a lovely girl who is perfectly suited to Bertl, but he doesn't realize this. 
After his adventure on the mountain, Anna teases him over his unfaithfulness towards her with Andrea and Bertl climbs up the "Gottesfinger" mountain to bring edelweiss to her to prove his devotion. It's a foolish undertaking for a foolish woman and Bertl nearly dies in his attempt to retrieve the elusive edelweiss.

Unlike most American productions, where the film studios were fearful of endangering the lives of their stars, the principal players of Dort Oben Wo Die Alpen Glühen all performed their own stunts, and so you can clearly see them tackling the side of a mountain while clouds drift by a mile below them. It's a wonder how they managed to get the camera crew up there, too. Location scenery was shot in Kals, a mountain village in Tirol, Austria. 
Dort Oben, Wo Die Alpen Glühen is an engrossing drama and it features some good performances from Rueprecht and Zeisberg. However, the film lacks humor - and heart - which would have greatly added to its appeal. Also in the cast is Rudolf Carl and Peter Gruber.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

From the Archives : The Women ( 1939 )

Two cats ready to show their claws......Rosalind Russell and Norma Shearer in a scene from MGM's classic comedy The Women ( 1939 ). In this scene, they are on friendly terms, but they'll begin their fight shortly!

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store:

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Parent Trap ( 1961 )

All of us have favorite films that are a little extra special to us because we grew up with them. The Parent Trap, featuring Hayley Millsis one of those films for my sister and I. It was a favorite to watch on Saturdays when we were wee ones and it is still a beloved Saturday film that conjures up good feelings and happy memories of childhood. 

Not surprisingly, The Parent Trap has been, and still is, a family favorite for many worldwide. It encapsulates everything that family entertainment should be, appealing to both parents and children. It features a wonderful cast, great music ( courtesy of Richard and Robert Sherman ), gorgeous sets ( thanks to Carroll Clark and Emile Kuri ), and a witty script. What more could you ask for?

Hayley Mills was one of the Disney Studio's prime assets and, after proving her worth in Pollyanna a year earlier, Walt Disney cast her in a double role for The Parent Trap ( 1961 ), playing twin sisters Susan and Sharon. If there is anything better than watching a Hayley Mills performance, it's watching two Hayley Mills performances! 

"The nerve of that girl, coming here with your face!"

The Parent Trap tells the simple tale of identical twin sisters who were separated at birth by their divorced parents and who accidentally meet up at a posh summer camp. When the girls discover they are sisters each rave about the parent who raised them and decide to get together to reunite father and mother "for now, for always". What is their brilliant scheme to accomplish this? Swap places. California-native Susan attempts a Boston accent while Bostonian Sharon gets her hair clipped and chews her nails so Dad won't have any suspicions about her. Strangely enough, both parents are so busy with ranch duties and charity work they don't realize the change in their daughters. It is Grandpa McKendrick ( Charlie Ruggles ) who first notices the difference in "Sharon" and faithful housekeeper Verbena ( Una Merkel ) who sees through "Susan". 
The twin's plan to spend some quality time with their parents gets foiled when Sharon discovers that her dad is about to wed a catty young gold-digger named Vicki ( Joanna Barnes ). As "nicely put-together" as Vicki is, it's all just a front and she oozes venom in her speech. It takes a surprise visit from mother and a camping trip in the woods to send this cunning fiancée home packing. 

"Get me outta this stinkin' fresh air!"

This outdoor camping sequence, as well as the opening one, act as bookends to The Parent Trap and reinforce the California summer atmosphere of the film. Camping, hiking, horseback riding, and canoeing are the ideal recreational activities that most young girls fantasize about when they look forward to a summer vacation. 
The Parent Trap was based on Erich Kastner's 1949 best-selling novel "Das doppelte Lottchen" about twins who reunite at a Lake Bohren summer camp. It was brought to the silver screen twice before Disney purchased the rights to the novel.... first in Germany in 1950 as Das doppelte Lottchen, and then again in 1953 in the UK as Twice Upon a Time with Hugh Williams and Elizabeth Allen playing the parents ( and Emeric Pressburger directing ). 
Some critics claim that the Disney film is much too long and, while it's true that certain sequences are stretched, The Parent Trap is never tiresome. The comedy deftly hops between broad humor and subtle satire. Brian Keith is especially amusing in his interchanges with Sharon, whom he believes to be Susan. For instance, in one scene when Sharon inquires about her mother, Keith misunderstands the drift of the question and awkwardly attempts to relate to her the "facts of life". It's one of many scenes where'll you find your chuckle develop into a belly laugh. Walt Disney certainly deserves credit for recognizing Brian Keith's comedy and romantic lead potential. Prior to The Parent Trap, Keith was primarily a serious action/western actor. 

Maureen O'Hara was always adept at comedy but never was she more lovely than she is here playing Susan and Sharon's mother. She makes middle-aged maturity an enviable stage in life, and the romantic scenes between her and Keith are especially touching. Bill Thomas, who was the costume designer for the majority of Walt Disney's live-action films, decked O'Hara out in one beautiful ensemble after another. Even the cooking outfit she had on to make stew was eye-catching!

Supporting the principal players were a bevy of talented character actors including Charlie Ruggles, Leo G. Carroll ( as the priest who finds Keith's marriage situation "fraught with humor" ), Una Merkel, Cathleen Nesbitt, Nancy Kulp, and Linda Watkins. 

"It's none of my business....if he wants to make a ninny of himself with all those women. I don't say a word!"

Upon its release The Parent Trap was a smashing box-office success, raking in over $25 million in the U.S. alone. It received a number of fine reviews from critics as well, most of whom singled out Hayley Mills persuasive duel performance. Indeed, we'd rank Hayley as the best child actress of the 1960s. Not only did she convincingly portray two separate characters in this film but she also captured the "American spirit" and made you believe one girl was truly Californian and the other Bostonian, while Hayley herself was British! 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Look at this woman! For shame! And she's parading around like this on a public least she has the decency to do it at twilight when no one will notice how much her underwear pattern clashes with her dress. Do you remember this scene? Sure you do. Once you remember what film you saw it in, drop the title of the movie in the comment box below and then collect a prize! Easy peasy. 

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


Congratulations to P. Wyatt who correctly identified this screenshot as coming from "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" ( 1951 ).  This party-goer felt a sudden giddiness come over her and started walking down the beach to let out some steam!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Das Herz Einer Frau ( 1951 )

This past month my sister and I have been exploring German films of the 1950s, and in doing so we came across a popular genre that we were unaware of called Heimatfilms. These films were set in the mountainous areas of southern Germany, Switzerland, or Austria and often featured sentimental stories of love and friendship that centered on the traditional "heimat" ( homeland ) rural way of life. Many of them focused on the difference between this old German way of living and more modern progressive ways.

Since we have been enjoying these films so much we will review them as part of a new series - Heimatfilme and other Deutsche Films of the 1940s-1960s. If you ever feel in the mood for some sweet romance and yodeling than simply click on the banner on the right sidebar and you will find plenty of German films to enjoy for yourself. 

To begin... Das Herz Einer Frau. This is not a Heimatfilm, rather a sehr schön family musical from Nova-Film, which was an Austrian production company that lasted only a few years in the early 1950s. It features Marianne Schönauer, that beautiful Viennese actress/singer, in the role of a musical stage star who befriends Konrad ( Kurti Baumgartner ), a little boy who is looking for a mother. 
One day this boy happens to see an advertisement that has a picture of a mother with her child and, dissatisfied with his stern governess, he decides to find a woman just like the one in the ad. He does a little window shopping, comes across Theo Moreno ( Schönauer ) having a cup of coffee, and asks her to come home with him and be his mother. She finds him irresistible ( he is! ) and agrees to take him home, whence she meets Konrad's papa ( Stefan Stodler ), a widowed engineer. She continues to visit them on a daily basis, until papa finds out that she is a popular stage star and he gets the notion in his head that she may have been visiting his son merely for publicity purposes. 

Das Herz Einer Frau has a number of lovely Nico Dostal tunes, all performed by Marianne Schönauer, including "Fur Jedes Herz Scheint ein Stern in der Welt" and "Das Schönste an der Liebe". I was more interested in the story plot than the musical numbers, so some of the songs Theo Moreno is performing on stage seem a little long, but then the audiences probably came to hear her sing so that's what the director focused on. And she does indeed have a beautiful singing voice. 
Kurti Baumgartner is wonderful as little Konrad and he doesn't display any of that self-conscious cuteness that many modern child actors do. He only made three films, one of which was made right after this picture featuring Marianne Schönauer again - Maria Theresia.

Also in the cast is Walter Müller as Theo's publicity agent, Hella Ferstl, and Rudolph Brix. 

Want to watch Das Herz Einer Frau right now? It's available on Youtube...just click here. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

From the Archives : The Go-Between ( 1971 )

Julie Christie is here pictured on the set of The Go-Between ( 1971 ). Some people have their "prime" as Miss Brodie would say and, for Julie Christie, I think the early 1970s was her prime. She never looked lovelier than in this film. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Good News ( 1947 )

"I wish that someone loved me as much as you love you!"

All the gals are crazy about Tait University's cocky football hero Tommy Marlowe ( Peter Lawford ), but Tommy only has eyes for the new student, beautiful society vamp Pat McClellan ( Patricia Marshall ). When Pat plays too hard to get he turns his attentions to the school's assistant librarian, Connie Lane ( June Allyson ), who quickly succumbs to his charms, only to find out that what he wants from her is merely a brief lesson in French in order to impress Pat! 

College never was so fun as it is in Good News, one of the most jubilant films to ever come out of the Arthur Freed unit at MGM....and also, one of the most underrated post-war musicals. This unpretentious little musical is a delightful mixture of 1920s snappy humor and 1940s sassiness. Never mind that the flapper and sheikh fashions of the 1920s is non-existent. The film's simple story-line provides a few excellent excuses for some exuberant song-and-dance numbers, including "Pass that Peace Pipe" and "The Varsity Drag", and lots of fun-filled collegiate hi-jinks. 
Good News was based upon the popular 1927 Henderson/DeSylva stage musical of the same name. It was brought to the screen for the first time in 1930 in an Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer pre-code adaptation starring Bessie Love and Cliff Edwards. However, that film removed most of the songs that made the stage musical such a big hit. Naturally, when producer Arthur Freed decided to bring the film back in a Technicolor version, he wanted the songs re-instated and, so, five numbers from the stage production were kept intact ( albeit shuffled around a bit ) for this frothy remake and two more added - "The French Lesson" and "Pass that Peace Pipe" - courtesy of Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. 

For Good News, the songwriting team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green put their heads together for the first time to pen its screenplay, and they discovered that they had quite a knack for it! The duo would go on to script some of the best MGM musicals of the 1950s, including Singin' in the Rain and The Band Wagon, and also share seven Tony Awards over the years for their work on Broadway. 

Peter Lawford and June Allyson made a wonderful team in Two Sisters from Boston ( 1946 ) and are equally good in this film ( they would play together again in Little Women two years later ), while their characters were joined by a great bunch of friends who include Joan McCracken as Babe, Ray McDonald as Bobby, and a young Mel Torme as Danny.

Joan McCracken was a fabulous dancer/singer who should have went on to have a great musical film career but didn't. She is especially sensational in the "Pass that Peace Pipe" number and her scenes with Ray McDonald provide much of the humor in Good News
All-in-all, Good News is a breezy film that leaves you with a light-hearted joyful feeling.....after all, if college students could chuck away all their cares, why can't you? The Best Things in Life are indeed Free.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Girl Who Takes Jean Harlow's Place

When I was assigned to interview Marjorie Woodworth, the girl Hal Roach has tabbed to take Jean Harlow's place--and the girl Harvard undergrads recently used as a target for a soft orange---I thought, "Just another hopeful. I'll bet she doesn't look any more like Harlow than my redheaded granddaughter does." 

Then I sat down to luncheon with her (chaperoned by publicity chief Jules Seltzer of the Hal Roach Studios, where's she's starring in "Broadway Limited"). I took one look, opened my mouth-and ate my words! 

Marjorie is a natural blonde with heliotrope eyes, long lashes and features not exactly like Harlow's, but close enough-and plenty good! Her figure is a little larger, proportionately, but just as trim as was La Belle Jean before her untimely death. Marjorie measures five feet five inches tall (in stocking feet); hips, thirty-four inches; bust, thirty-four; waist, twenty-four; shoe, 5-B; hat, twenty-one and one-half; weight, 117 pounds. I didn't get her phone number because Seltzer was eavesdropping and besides, her dad, Clyde Woodworth, is the city attorney of Inglewood, Calif.! That's where Marjorie was born, June 5, 1921, and reared. Funny thing about that June 5 date. It was on her nineteenth birthday last year she was signed by Roach. 

Margie Starts Harvard Riot 

About her trip east on a bid from the president of the Harvard Lampoon, she was jubilant-in spite of the orange blitz, which happened when a rival Harvard Crimson faction tried unsuccessfully to kidnap Margie from the Lampoon executives. "They were just college boys having a little fun," said the honored guest and victim. "I'm a college girl and I understand them." She had two years at the University of Southern California. 

Is the Athletic Type 

Margie's favorite sports are ice-skating, swimming and horseback riding. She eats almost anything but dotes on prime roast beef rare. After a year of preliminary training, she's still studying dramatics and voice modulation at Max Reinhardt's school between picture calls. Asked if she had ever been told before Roach discovered her that she resembled Jean Harlow, she said, "Yes, many times in high school and college. But I don't know. I only saw her once---in 'Saratoga,' I believe." That was Harlow's last film. As for Marjorie's future success, she says, "I'm having fun!" and leaves the rest to movie-goers.- E. P.

Marjorie never came near the level of success that Jean Harlow had in Hollywood. She did a number of films in the 1940s but didn't catch enough attention from the movie-goers to become a star. This article originally appeared in the June 28th, 1942 issue of Movie Radio Guide. 

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!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Russian Ballet Films of the 1940s-1960s

Some of the most beautiful films ever made came out of Russia during the 1940s-1960s, so it is not surprising that a number of these films also featured that exquisite form of dance that has become associated with Mother Russia herself - ballet.

Even though ballet has long been considered a lovely export of Russian culture, it actually originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century where it later developed into a concert dance in France. During the late 17th century, Peter the Great, in an effort to create a new Russia which rivaled the society of the West allowed classical ballet to enter Russia....not as a form of dance, however, but to showcase the standard of physical comportment that the emperor hoped his people would emulate. Ballet was taught to the sons of nobility in military academies up until the early 19th century when state-supported theatres began to open offering tickets that the public could afford.

Prestigious ballet troupes sprung up from various cities across Russia, the oldest and most famous being the Bolshoi Ballet company, founded in Moscow in 1776. In the early 1900s, Russia's unique style of the ballet was introduced to the Parisian society where it was called Ballet Russe

For those who were unable to obtain a ticket to see a live Ballet Russe performance during the 20th century, there were several Russian film studios that brought this passionate form of dance to the silver screen. These films were distributed throughout Europe but were rarely seen in the United States. Fortunately, due to today's convenience of online streaming ( and thanks to some considerate uploaders ), ballet enthusiasts are able to watch such legends as Nureyev, Ulanova, and Dudinskaya performing in their most renowned roles while they were at the peak of their careers. 

Below we have gathered a selection of some of the most famous Russian films of the 1940s-1960s, along with links to where you can view these films online for yourself. Tickets are free, so enjoy! 
Russian Ballerina (1947)

This is a sweet story of a young singer ( Viktor Kazanovich ) who meets and falls in love with a student dancer ( Mira Redina ) at a music conservatory. It was directed by Aleksandr Ivanovsky for Lenfilm Studios, the studio that outputted some of the Soviet Union's best films. Redina was at the time a solo ballerina with the Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre, where she remained until 1965.

View the film here.

Swan Lake ( 1953 ) -

Galina Ulanova's most famous performance is undoubtedly that of Odette in Swan Lake, which she performs here alongside Konstantin Sergeyev as Prince Siegfried and Natalia Dudinskaya as Odile. This Kirov Ballet production is magnificently set and features some amazing special effects ( especially considering this was made in 1953 ). It is well worth watching! 

View the film here

Stars of the Russian Ballet ( 1954 )

In any compendium of Russian ballet performances, you are bound to see Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake in the program. In this classic color production from 1954, it is none other than Galina Ulanova who performs as the White Swan Odette. Ulanova also appears in the second sequence with that other legend Maya Plisetskaya in a performance of B.V. Asafiev's ballet, The Fountain Of Bakhchisarai. This was the only time these two ballerinas shared the stage. And finally, B.V. Asafiev's The Flames Of Paris makes up the third sequence with Vakhtang Chabukiani flexing his muscles in some glorious dance moves. It's a visual feast for the eyes and ears.

View the film here.

Romeo & Juliet ( 1955 ) - 

Another very beautiful adaptation of Romeo and Juliet ( those Russians certainly know how to make lovely films! ). This was a typical big-budget epic production featuring Yuri Zhdanov as a very handsome Romeo and Galina Ulanova as Juliet. While Ulanova probably ranks as the most celebrated ballerina in the history of dance, at the age of 45 she looks a little old for the young lover. But who can critique the performance she gives? It's fabulous. 

View the film here

Giselle ( 1956 ) -

Once again Galina Ulanova takes center stage to impress audiences with her graceful dancing in this production of Giselle, filmed in 1956. This was one of Galina's most famous roles, and indeed, her performance is peerless. In 1974 Natalya Bessmertnova also did a beautiful performance of Giselle in a production that features some breathtaking sets. 

View the original film here.

Swan Lake ( 1957 ) -

Maya Plisetskaya is one of the most exquisite ballerinas of the 20th century and in 1957, at her artistic and technical peak, she was filmed in a color production of the Bolshoi Ballet's four-act Swan Lake in the dual roles of Odette and Odile.
The ballet also starred Nicolai Fadeyechev and Yuri Fayer. While this was released as a film it is more like a television documentary interspersing the balletic performances with shots of the audience applauding. 

View the film here

Cinderella ( 1961 ) -

Prokofiev's Cinderella, first performed as a ballet in 1945, is a production that has been staged as many time as Sleeping Beauty, and yet never seems to tire audiences. In this 1961 classic, Raisa Struchkova takes on the leading role of the tender-hearted maiden who finds her Prince Charming ( Gennadi Lediakh ) with the aid of a fairy godmother. Lediakh had a late start in his career as a dancer, beginning at the ripe old age of 20, and yet what talent he possessed!

View the film here. 

The Little Humpbacked Horse ( 1962 )

Maya Plisetskaya stars as the Queen Maiden in this made-for-TV children's production of Shchedrin's The Little Humpbacked Horse presented by the Bolshoi Ballet. This lovely coming-of-age fairy tale includes animation sequences for the wee ones, and features some stunning performances by Plisetskaya ( whose movements were always extremely fluid ), Vladimir Vasilev and Alla Shcherbinina, as the little horse.

View the film here

Bolshoi Ballet '67 ( 1965 )

This 75-minute film features an astounding array of beautiful performances along with many behind-the-scenes sequences of the dancers practicing prior to the shows, but not in an all-together structured way. In place of a plot, there is a narrator who is a dancer reflecting back on her decade spent with the Bolshoi Ballet, allowing for a showcase of talent. Some of the dancers you will see are Natalia Bessmertnova, Sergei Radchenko, Natalia Kasatkina, Yekaterina Maksimova, Mikhail Lavrovsky, Yelena Kholina, Anatoly Simachev, and Raisa Struchkova. Performances include Ravel Waltzes ( Maximova ) and Bolero, Giselle, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, The Stone Flower ( Kasatkina ), and Paganini ( Bessmertnova ).

View the film here

Sleeping Beauty ( 1965 ) -

Alla Sizoya stars in this classic color film adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty performed by the Kirov Ballet. The New York Times considered this production to boast "some of the finest choreography ever produced", referring to the work of choreographer Marius Petipa. It was the role of Aurora that made Sizoya a legend among dancers. Yuri Solovyow and Natalie Dudinskaya are also in the company. 

View the film here
Swan Lake ( 1966 ) -

Rudolf Nureyev is probably the only ballet dancer whose name is familiar to American audiences ( at least, to those who are unacquainted with the world of ballet ). He performed, at one time or another, in productions of some of the most famous ballets ever written, including Swan Lake in 1966. Nureyev choreographed this ballet himself - naturally, giving his character ample opportunity to dance - while also showcasing the prima ballerina - Margot Fonteyn.

View the film here.

Swan Lake ( 1968 ) - 

If you weren't impressed with Nureyev's performance ( ! ) you can always compare it to this 1968 Kirov Ballet production that featured John Markovsky, Yelena Yevteyeva, and Valery Panov in the principal roles. And believe it or not, you'll probably walk away thinking this was a better version ( which it is! ). 

View the film here.

This post is our contribution to the En Pointe Blogathon, a three-day event hosted by Christina Wehner which celebrates ballet on film. Be sure to head on over to the master page to read more articles about ballet films!
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