Saturday, May 27, 2017

From the Archives : Dolores Hart and Carl Boehm


Carl Boehm and Dolores Hart take a break from filming Come Fly With Me ( 1963 ) to have some lovely publicity photos taken....one of which is this shot. They are posing in front of a beautiful schloss in Vienna, Austria. 

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sir Roger Moore - An Endearing Bond

Today we witnessed the passing of Sir Roger Moore, at the ripe age of 89 years. As the media notes, this marks the first death of a Bond actor.....but, for me, Roger Moore was so much more than 007. He was one of the most manly and charismatic personalities since Errol Flynn leaped onto the big screen. Not to mention he was devilishly handsome. 

I think what appealed to me most about Roger was his stately bearing. He was a gentleman in an age of very few gentlemen. Tailored suits, the finest cuff-links, impeccable hair...he always dressed for the occasion. Sometimes that occasion was yachting on the Riviera, other times hosting a race in London. If one was to look up the word debonair in the Webster's dictionary "Sir Roger Moore" should be the definition. It was like a real baron, no - a prince - took time off from his royal duties to try acting for a lark, to have the pleasure of entertaining the masses. And what pleasure he gave us! 

From his awkward first films in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer swashbucklers ( oh, but was he dreamy in spite of his acting! ) to his television success playing heroes such as Simon Templar aka The Saint, the roguish cowboy Maverick, or the English aristocrat Lord Sinclair ( The Persuaders ), Roger Moore always slipped into his characters like they were custom-fitted gloves and generously shared his true personality with his audience. He was marvelously witty ( his books will tickle you to death ) and quite modest considering he had absolutely nothing to be modest about. Self-deprecating wit was what he was famous for, with quotes such as this : "If I kept all my bad notices, I'd need two houses."
And then there was Bond. Roger Moore was my favorite James Bond. Always was....at least, ever since I was a youngster and watched A View to a Kill ( 1985 ) with my father and my sister every summer. It was, and still is, a family favorite. Years later, I discovered that Moore was 58-years old when he played in that film, his last performance as Bond. I never knew a 58-year old could be so exciting. 

But in spite of all these wonderful traits, the most impressive quality of all about Sir Roger Moore was his large heart and his zest for living. 

"Teach love, generosity, good manners and some of that will drift from the classroom to the home and who knows, the children will be educating the parents."


Moore succeeded Audrey Hepburn as the goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, a position which earned him his knighthood. Moore considered his work with UNICEF to be the most rewarding thing he ever did, and for nineteen years he used his celebrity status to open doors for the betterment of children's lives. 
Indeed, this man was a true gentleman...humorous, compassionate, modest, dashing, and - dare I repeat myself? - so devilishly handsome! 

I miss you already, Roger. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

There's nothing quite so memorable as an evening of dinner and dancing...especially in such a beautiful location as this. A few of these characters remembered this evening well, but how sharp are your memory skills? Does this scene look familiar? If it does, tell us the title of the film you think it is from and you'll win a prize! 

( Click on the image to view it larger...but alas, it won't be any clearer.)

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Majority of One ( 1961 )

“Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one”

Leonard Spigelgass’ poignant story of racial prejudice, A Majority of One, focuses on emphasizing the truth of the above quotation as well as teaching a gentle and humorous lesson on the folly of judging others by their ethnicity and not by their hearts. It is a story of a cross-cultural romance between two widows – Mrs. Jacoby, a Jewish Brooklynite ( superbly played by Rosiland Russell ) and Mr. Asano ( Alec Guinness ), a Japanese industrialist.  

Mrs. Jacoby spent most of her life in Flatbush and loves the neighborhood and her apartment dearly. Her daughter Alice ( Madlyn Rhue ) and diplomat son-in-law Jerry ( Ray Danton ) worry about “Mama” living on her own while they spend years at a time in foreign nations moving wherever Jerry’s position takes them. Mrs. Jacoby is not getting any younger and, as her neighbor Mrs. Ruben blatantly points out, the neighborhood is changing and “that element is moving in”....a statement which brings up a conversation that sets the tone for the film: 

“What element, Mrs. Ruben?” ( Jerry )
“You know..colored, Puerto Ricans...”
“Really? I seem to remember in this very neighborhood not so long ago they didn’t allow Jews.”
“What does one have to do with the other?”
“Everything. The only way to stop prejudice is to stop it in yourself”.
When Jerry receives his new assignment Alice pleads with Mama to come with them. “But you haven’t said where”...“Japan, Mama.” Japan! Mrs. Jacoby lost her only son in combat in Japan during WWII and the memory – the hatred – is still painfully fresh. However, for love of her children, she reluctantly agrees to follow, and so they’re off across the sea to the Land of the Rising Sun. En route on the voyage they meet Mr. Asano, a Japanese millionaire industrialist who will not only play a pivotal role in an upcoming international trade conference that Jerry will take part in, but will change Mrs. Jacoby’s feelings toward the Japanese in a remarkable way.
A Majority of One was penned by Spigelgass in 1958 and debuted on Broadway on February 16, 1959, starring Gertrude Berg and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. It played for 556 performances and was a critical and box-office success. It was nominated for four Tony awards ( Berg won for Best Actress ). 

Jack Warner at Warner Bros. purchased the film rights to the comedy in 1960 for the princely sum of $500,000 and approached Rosalind Russell for the starring role. Russell was aghast. “You’ve been drinking,” she told Warner according to her 1977 autobiography Life is a Banquet. “What would I be doing playing a Jewish lady from Brooklyn? I’m a little Irish girl from Waterbury, Connecticut. Use Gertrude Berg, it’s her part.” Warner insisted however, refusing to cast Berg since she made a disastrous film at Paramount years earlier. It was not until he suggested that Alec Guinness could be her co-star that Russell reconsidered. “Well, that’s another cup of chicken soup,” she told him. “I’ll think about that little item.”

When she approached Alec Guinness with the idea he said, “I want the dollars, so if you’ll do it, I’ll do it.” To which Russell replied,  “I want to work with you, so if you’ll do it, I’ll do it.”

So they did it. And they couldn’t have been a more delightful combination. Russell shines in her role as the Jewish widow, Bertha Jacoby. With just the right about of mamish chochmeh she dispenses bits of neighborly advice – and Smith Brothers cough drops - to all she comes in contact with. She handles herself and her children with respect, but upon occasion, when they overstep their boundaries, she can be firm and immovable.
Guinness was touching and endearing and portrayed Mr. Asano with a graceful maturity befitting a Japanese gentleman of illustrious birth. However, in spite of the heavy makeup and authenticity he gave to his role ( he spent ten days in Japan prior to filming taking a crash course in Japanese culture ), many viewers felt a Japanese actor was called for. Perhaps because a Caucasian portrayed the role on Broadway ( interracial romance was a scandalous subject at the time and was dealt with by using English actors in the roles of Asians ), or because the studio wanted top drawing names, Japanese actors such as Sessue Hayakawa were overlooked. 

Marc Marno and Mae Questel were plucked from the Broadway production for supporting roles to round out a cast which also included Frank Wilcox, Francis De Sales and Alan Mowbray.
A Majority of One is a humorous blending of schmaltz and saki and went on to win three Golden Globes for Best Picture, Best Actress ( Russell ) and Best Film Promoting International Understanding. How did it win that last award? Because all cultures are different, the movie tells us, but those differences are just superficial. As they become acquainted, Mr. Asano and Mrs. Jacoby mention aspects of their respective cultures that, at first, seem different but after comparison are revealed to be relatively the same.  
For example, Japanese people worship in shrines; Jewish people worship by blessing Sabbath candles – ultimately, "God's house is God's house," as Mrs. Jacoby says after being invited to a Japanese shrine. Japanese people eat raw fish; Jewish people eat gefilte fish. Japanese people toast with "Kanpai" and Jews say "L'Chaim." 

Jews put up with a lot: "Whatever comes into your life, you take." So do Japanese: "You transcend. It's the philosophy of the Zen Buddhists." ..."You mean, if you have tsouris – trouble – you come out of it a better person for having lived through it." ...."Obviously you have studied Zen Buddhism, Mrs. Jacoby!”


In addition to emphasizing the importance of embracing other nationalities “whether they are white, black, pink or purple” the more subtle lessons of forgiveness and tolerance are taught, lessons which Mrs. Jacoby - and her children - needed to be taught. When he first makes her acquaintance, Mr. Asano approaches Mrs. Jacoby to inquire why she is so cold towards him. After telling him that her son was killed in action by the Japanese, he explains that he, personally, did not want war nor did anyone he knew, and that he lost both his son and daughter in Hiroshima. Mrs. Jacoby then realizes that he’s had a cupful in life too and hatred quickly dispels into kinsmanship. As the voyage progresses they find each other to be the most pleasant of companions, with Mr. Asano particularly drawn to Mrs. Jacoby’s warmth and friendship.

Later, as Mama considers the proposition of “crossing over the bridge” with Mr. Asano, she finds she must first deal with the prejudism right in her own family. In the first half of the drama we perceive Mrs. Jacoby to be old-fashioned and set in her customs while her children are shown to be adaptable and open to new viewpoints and new changes. However, the tables turn midway through and we find that it is Mrs. Jacoby’s daughter and husband who are narrow-minded. The words Jerry spoke in Brooklyn echo back to him when he faces the prospect of Mama and Mr. Asano’s impending courtship... “If you want to stop prejudice you must first stop it in yourself”. He must come to learn that being friendly and welcoming should not be a diplomatic “front of face” but stem from a sincere consideration for others.
A Majority of One is as relevant today as it was when it was first released in 1961. The film is a hidden gem, a truly entertaining foreign affair, completely unique and as lovely as cherry blossoms in spring; it is sure to bring shtick naches to those who take the time to watch the film.  

This post is our contribution to CMBA's Underseen and Underrated Blogathon being hosted by the Classic Movie Blog Association. To check out more reviews of unsung classics, simply click here

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Five Stars Blogathon - National Classic Movie Day

In celebration of National Classic Movie Day, The Classic Film and TV Cafe is hosting the Five Stars Blogathon, an event that lets bloggers share their top five favorite actors and actresses.....undoubtedly a tough decision for any avid film fan to make, but I'm giving it the old college try.  

Much like the Miss America pageants, these favorites had to satisfy a few rules before they were even considered. 

Rule 1 : My heart has to skip a beat when I see their name on the back of a DVD case or appearing anywhere online. 

Rule 2 : No matter how bad some of their movies are I must still conclude that the film was enjoyable simply because that favorite actor/actress was present. 

Rule 3 : There has to be an eager desire to watch ALL of their movies, even the ones that normally I wouldn't consider watching due to its plot content, release year, or supporting cast. 

Rule 4 : When I see a photo of this actor/actress I have to find myself smiling, because it is like recognizing an old and dear friend. 

Simple stuff, but would you believe that few actors meet this criteria? So many actors whom I thought were my favorites were labeled that simply because I enjoyed their performances in a handful of select films. So here are the ones that lived up to these points : 

Don Ameche

Look at that smile. Oh man, just look at that smile! Hands down, this dapper Dan ( ahem, Don ) ranks at the top of my favorite actors list. I love him so much his photo is framed and has a prominent place on our living room mantle. He isn't the best actor ( although better than many ), and he made a number of dud films, but Don is my dreamboat....so I'll hear no arguments about him. There aren't many actors who can play a cad so well as he and yet leave you pining for him as badly as his leading lady. I enjoy every movie he ever made. Mr. Ameche has the most winsome personality that ever hit Hollywood and even boasted a fine singing voice. If you're not convinced of his appeal, take a gander at Midnight ( 1939 ). 

Favorite Films : Down Argentine Way, Confirm or Deny, Midnight, Ladies in Love. 

Deborah Kerr

I'm not quite sure what it is about this prim English rose that makes her so appealing, but I cannot resist any of her films. Her characters are always beautiful, elegant, and oftentimes courageous even though she brings a shyness and vulnerability to every part. Kerr had the gumption to tackle a variety of different roles and the meatier the better, but she was truly in her element playing sophisticated modern society women. I would have liked to have befriended her in real life. 


Favorite Films : The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The End of the Affair, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, Separate Tables, The Sundowners, The Grass is Greener, The Chalk Garden.

Gene Kelly

Errol Flynn has long been one of my all-time favorite actors and, even though I grew up with Kelly's films, I was never particularly fond of him....but within the last few years he swept me away with his charm. Poor Errol got bumped off of this list because of him. Gene Kelly was equally adapt at playing comedic or dramatic parts but he was best when he was prancing around the screen or flashing his smile in a light-hearted role. Ah yes, a winsome Irish lad he was! Incidentally, my friend Cynthia just published the definitive Gene Kelly biography, He's Got Rhythm, which is the first biography published since his death. I'll be reviewing it in depth later this month, but I'll say now it is well worth reading. 

Favorite Films : Thousands Cheer, The Three Musketeers, On the Town, Summer Stock, The Happy Road, Les Girls.

Claudette Colbert

Colbert brought a vivacious Continental flair to all of her films. Her characters take the hardships of life with a cheery smile and a sticktoitiveness that is extremely admirable. I like that trait in movie characters. Plus, she was beautiful, never proud or arrogant, and just so captivating. Colbert never won an Oscar but she put her whole heart into every role she played, even the minor films. What a woman. 

Favorite Films : I Met Him in Paris, Midnight, Since You Went Away, Family Honeymoon, Let's Make it Legal.

Anne Baxter

Anne Baxter is an actress I never even considered as my favorite until this blogathon*, when I realized just how excited I always feel when I know our next film to watch has Anne Baxter in it. Thinking of it now, there were a number of movies where I was wishing she was among the cast ( especially if the leading lady failed to capture the essence of the part she was playing ). Anne is one of the most underrated actresses in Hollywood's history and deserves to be ranked among Bette Davis and Helen Hayes as one of America's great talents. 

Favorite Films : The Magnificent Ambersons, Five Graves to Cairo, Sunday Dinner for a Soldier, The Razor's Edge, The Luck of the Irish, O'Henry's Full House, The Ten Commandments

A few other favorites I have to acknowledge : 

Errol Flynn, Robert Young, Ann Sothern, Hayley Mills, Frances Dee, Debbie Reynolds, Norma Shearer, Agnes Moorehead, Charles Coburn, Bob Hope, and Deanna Durbin.

* I think if this event were called the Fifty Stars Blogathon it would still be a tough decision to make. 
Head on over to The Classic Film and TV Cafe to find out which stars other film bloggers have selected as their favorites!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ten Favorite Classic Movie Mothers

For this Mother's Day we felt a tribute to some of those wonderful on-screen movie mothers was in order. They are such a joy to watch and their warmth and tenderness seem to reach out to the audience, making you appreciate and, hopefully, aspire to be like these women. Below we have gathered together just a few of our favorite movie mothers, listed in no particular order......Enjoy! 

Diana's Favorites : 

Little Women ( 1949 ) - Mary Astor

I consider Mary Astor's role of Mrs. March one of my favorites. Mrs. March raised four lovely daughters, volunteered her time with the Red Cross during the Civil War, and she was a beacon of strength in their home while her husband was away at war. She was content with her life and she never asked more from her children than what they could give.
National Velvet ( 1944 ) - Anne Revere

Anne Revere exhibited many fine qualities as Mrs. Brown in this 1944 classic. She was hardworking, sensible, and supportive. She believed in her children's dreams and she would quietly make any sacrifice necessary to help them achieve those dreams. 
The Andy Hardy Series - Fay Holden

I believe Emily Hardy was a wonderful wife and mother in the Hardy family film series. She was kind, caring, decent, and understanding. She was concerned about her children's welfare and her husband James could always turn to her for sound advice if he needed a second opinion with regards to one of his court cases.
How Green Was My Valley ( 1941 ) - Sara Allgood

Watching Sara Allgood in How Green Was My Valley reminds me so much of our late Oma, so that's a big reason why I love to see Sara as Mrs. Morgan in this beloved story. Mrs. Morgan raised six sons ( our Oma had three ); she kept a clean home; was a great cook who had to make enough food to feed her hungry family; and she supported her family no matter what choice they felt they had to make. She looks warm and cuddly and I would love to give her a great big bear hug!

Please Don't Eat the Daisies ( 1960 )

Spring Byington's cheery disposition and sensible nature made her an ideal mother to Doris Day in Please Don't Eat the Daisies. She kept herself busy as the owner of a cute little pet shop; offered to babysit her grandsons when her daughter Doris needed some free time from the kids; and she was able to give Doris and her son-in-law David Niven wise counsel when their marriage took a bumpy turn in the film. I love Spring and she was a breath of spring, herself, as Mrs. Robinson. 

Constance's Favorites : 

The Parent Trap ( 1961 ) - Maureen O'Hara

Maureen O'Hara made such a good on-screen mother. She was not only beautiful but very tender and compassionate. In The Parent Trap she was definitely a mother any girl would be proud to show off. The dressing room scenes between her and Hayley Mills were especially good. O'Hara also played a great mother in Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation ( 1962 ).
The Pleasure of His Company ( 1961 ) - Lilli Palmer

In this film, Lilli deftly balanced an earthy down-home maternal nature with an elegant sophisticated air, creating a mother character that was lovely, warm, and approachable. She has had her share of worldly experience and you can imagine her daughter feels a comfort in knowing she can turn to her for advice in any situation. 
Giant ( 1956 ) - Elizabeth Taylor 

Elizabeth Taylor doesn't often come to mind as the ideal mother image, but I always thought she was very maternal. In Giant, her character - Leslie - spans the years from being a newlywed to an aging grandmother. She could be tough at times, but you would never doubt the love she has for her children. 
Mrs. Mike ( 1949 ) - Angela Clarke 

Angela Clarke played the ultimate pioneer mother in Mrs. Mike. She is grateful for the opportunity of giving life to her children and spending her days raising her young, even though she knows they have little chance of surviving to adolescence in the harsh and dangerous environment of Canada's Northwest territory. Note : this is a scene of Angela in Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima since I was unable to find any photos from Mrs. Mike. 

Life with Father ( 1947 ) - Irene Dunne 

Irene Dunne is one of those actresses who often portrayed mothers on screen even though in real-life she had no children of her own. Ironically, the actresses who demonstrated maternal love the best on camera did not have children ( e.g. Claudette Colbert, Mary Astor, and Anna Neagle ). I Remember Mama is probably Dunne's best performance, but she was such a delightful mother in Life with Father I couldn't help but put the spotlight on this role instead. 

Happy Mother's Day to all! 

We'll conclude with sharing a sweet clip from Youtube that we stumbled across : 




What are some of your favorite classic movie mothers? 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

TV/Movie Set - When Ladies Meet ( 1941 )

Back in the studio-system days of Hollywood, if a film turned out to be successful at the box-office, within a decade you can be sure that a remake would be filmed. Why chance a new script when you have a winner on hand? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer loved digging out old scripts and re-working them for their current stars. One such production was When Ladies Meet ( 1941 ), a re-telling of the 1933 comedy starring Ann Harding. 

MGM gathered together a few of their biggest talents, surrounded them with a top-notch production crew, and updated the script a bit to add some modern pizzazz to the old war-horse. What resulted was good box-office. Hey, it's a formula! 

Having not seen the original I can only comment on this remake and say that it is quite an entertaining bit of fluff. But even more impressive then the wonderful cast ( Greer Garson, Joan Crawford, Robert Taylor, Herbert Marshall, and Spring Byington ) was the set design....particularly the house of Bridget Drake, portrayed by Byington. Like most of her roles, she plays a rather dizzy woman ( but obviously not dumb since she is living in such a beautiful home ). Her boyfriend Walter converted an old water-wheel into the extravagant country retreat and, on one afternoon, she finds herself saddled with some old friends staying for the night : author Mary Howard ( Crawford ) who hopes to have a rendezvous there with her publisher/lover Mr. Woodruff ( Herbert Marshall ); Jimmy ( Taylor ) who comes to follow Mary; and Mrs. Woodruff ( Garson ) who arrives not knowing that she will be meeting her husband's mistress. 

The things that go on in seemingly respectable country homes!.....Tsk, tsk, tsk. 

This lovely timber-framed Connecticut-style farmhouse boasted hardwood floors, beamed ceilings, thick white stone walls, and plenty of fireplaces to keep the guests cozy on rainy nights. It just so happened to be a rainy night when Robert Taylor and Greer Garson arrive unexpectedly. 

THE EXTERIOR

The Backyard - Or is it the front? Believe it or not that "pond" is the swimming pool, which Joan Crawford just splashed into from her perch atop a rustic swing. 
The Front Drive - The driveway skirts around the pool. We are never shown the garage but there certainly is one, and it is probably where the servants quarters are, too. 

THE INTERIOR

Dizzy Bridget was so proud of Walter's handiwork she gave the characters a tour of her house and, since she conducted it so well, we will just follow in her footsteps and make some remarks as we pass by these beautiful rooms. 
The Living Room - One of the best features of a traditional "Connecticut" style home is the sunken-living room. While it is open to the bar/kitchen and the staircases, the off-setting depth of the living space gives the room a warmer cozier feel and adds contrast.
The wrap-around sofa reminds me of the interior of a ski lodge. That's a model ship hanging on the wall. There are a number of them throughout the house. Walter must have shared a common interest in yachting with Claire Woodruff. 
When it's raining cats and dogs outside, sit beside the piano and sing a duet. At least, that is what Claire and Mary decide to do. After they find out they share a love for the same man, they no longer have much to sing about. 
Time for Drinks! - The merry foursome now head off towards the bar, which is actually the conversation room of the house, for this is where the inside of the "wheel" is kept. The water-wheel, that is. Look how thick the supporting beams are! This house is built to withstand a Blitz. 
The Bar - Another sloppy screenshot pastiche. If you want to see a larger image simply click on the photo...but be warned, the images only get blurrier the larger they are viewed. 
To the Dining Room! - After Walter's signature cocktails have been downed, he precedes to show them the dining room, tastefully furnished in Early American style. 
The Dining Room - Straight out of the 1941 Ethan Allen catalog. 

UPSTAIRS INTERIOR

The Upstairs Hall - Bridget now ushers her female guests to the upstairs guest rooms. There are four bedrooms in the main-room and supposedly two additional rooms above the barn. Bridget and Walter have separate bedrooms....she claims. 
Guest Bedroom #1 - Mrs. Woodruff is shown her cozy corners. Bridget plays the perfect hostess and even offers her a new toothbrush and nightgown ( why can't we be invited to Bridgie's place? )
Guest Bedroom #2 - Mary's chamber is much larger and there seems to be a flower theme going on here. 
Look how wide the doors are! Marvelous. 
The Barn Loft Guestroom - Finally, the barn loft, where Jimmy gets to bed for the night. He wonders why he can't stay in the main room, insisting that he has been "housebroken". 

THE TALENTS BEHIND THE SCREEN

The art direction of When Ladies Meet can be attributed to that artistic genius of MGM - Cedric Gibbons - whom you will find on the credits of over 1000 films. Almost all of his sets were decorated by Edwin Willis, who naturally did this film as well. When you have two talented individuals like these fellows working together you are bound to see some great house designs up on the silver screen, and, for me, Bridget's house in When Ladies Meet ranks as one of the best "country retreats" to be seen. 


This post is our contribution to The Favorite Film and TV Homes Blogathon being hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and Love Letters to Old Hollywood. Simply click on the links above to read more posts about fabulous house sets from the golden age of Hollywood. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Belle Fountaine - "The Chalk Garden" House

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and Love Letters to Old Hollywood have teamed up to host The Favorite Film and TV Homes Blogathon ( great idea Phyllis! ) which is taking place today and tomorrow. This brilliant event gives architecture enthusiasts a chance to gush about their favorite sets. Hopefully this will turn into an annual event because there are too many great film and TV homes to cover in one blogathon. 

Belle Fountaine, the cliff-side mansion of Mrs. St. Maugham in Universal's The Chalk Garden ( 1964 ) is my selection for this event for several reasons. First off, it is not a house that I would particularly wish to move into, but it has a number of great architectural and interior design features that I would love to adapt to my own home....when I eventually get one. This includes plenty of greenery, thick hardwood floors, bright walls, an open inviting floor plan, and lots of sunlight. The second reason is the location of this estate - the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs on the southern coast of England, near Brighton. Even today, the area surrounding these pearly white cliffs is devoid of housing communities ( thank goodness! ) and so, perhaps because this is an "ancestral" home, it is perched quite near the cliff. From within, one can see a view of the channel and the cliffs. 

Belle Fountaine, as seen from the back side

For those not familiar with the film, The Chalk Garden was a Technicolor production produced by Ross Hunter in 1964. Like most Ross Hunter films ( such as All that Heaven Allows and Portrait in Black ) it features lush settings and a cheerful color palette to offset all the emotional drama going on in the script. 


The film is based upon a marvelously clever Enid Bagnold play that tells the story of a bratty love-starved teenage girl, Laurel ( Hayley Mills ), who takes pleasure in "exposing" the governesses that her grandmother, Mrs. St. Maugham ( Dame Edith Evans ), selects for her. She does this to get rid of them. Her and the manservant Maitland ( John Mills ) are British crime enthusiasts and Laurel delights in exposing people's faults. However, when the new governess Miss Madrigal ( Deborah Kerr ) arrives, she finds her greatest challenge yet. This woman is enshrouded in mystery, and what Laurel does uncover about her turns out to be more sinister than she imagined. As Laurel penetrates deeper into Miss Madrigal's past she unintentionally opens a wound that should have been left to heal, and comes to regret hurting the one person who truly cared for her. 

Like many stage dramas, the actions of The Chalk Garden were confined to several rooms in the original play. For the film, much of the story is still confined to the house ( to keep the claustrophobic tension intact ) but audiences get to glimpse some lovely location scenes as well, including the village of Beachy Head where most of the film was made. 
The front of Belle Fountaine, as seen from the walkway

Thanks to this confinement, studying Belle Fountaine is fairly easy and I took numerous blurry screenshots from my well-worn DVD copy, so you can take the house tour as well. 

The Chalk Garden could have easily been made into a somber black-and-white melodrama, but thanks to Ross Hunter's elegant taste, it is surprisingly colorful. Now that you have caught a glimpse of the exterior of Belle Fountaine, let's take a closer look at the inside. We follow Miss Madrigal as she arrives and one of the first scenes is of Maitland descending the staircase to answer the front door. The color scheme of this beautiful foyer reminds me of Mary Poppins ( 1964 ) with light-toned walls and light-colored furniture offset by dark wood-paneled doors and lots of greenery. ( Simply click on the images to view them larger. )

The Foyer
Maitland ushers the first applicant for the governess position, as well as Miss Madrigal, into the conservatory, which is connected to the living room and acts as a sun-room and breakfast room for the St. Maughams. 

Having breakfast in the conservatory

Miss Madrigal arrives with a indifferent demeanor and no references and Mrs. St. Maugham initially intends to decline her application, until she mentions that she was once put in charge of a garden. Mrs. St. Maugham's delight is her garden, but she does not have a green thumb and her plants are suffocating in the overly chalky soil that they were planted in. This proves to be reference enough and Miss Madrigal is hired for the job, of not only caring for Laurel but the garden as well which are "similar in many ways" ( both are malnourished ).
Unfortunately, we do not get to see much of this garden but, as Miss Madrigal puts it, the garden itself and the grounds of the estate could be made into a place so full of life that "people would come from everywhere to see it". A worthy ambition. With its old ivy-covered brick walls it certainly resembles one of those house/gardens that are opened to the public. 

Miss Madrigal's bedroom
Miss Madrigal is given the "governess" room which is a beautiful bedroom painted in light blue with white accents. In addition to two standard dressers there is also a large armoire ( evidently the St. Maughams thought their governesses dressed for balls ). 

Laurel's bedroom is directly across the hall from Miss Madrigal's making it convenient for Laurel to spy on her. Miss Madrigal even helps her in this endeavor by leaving her door open and Laurel sees her pace the floor every night "like a caged animal". Laurel's room is primarily white and is not decorated at all like you would expect a teenage girl's room to be. The pictures on the wall and decorations are mainly botanical related and her few feminine possessions ( her fairy-tale books and doll ) are kept hidden away in the closet, for she is ashamed to admit that she likes them. 


Carmen Dillon was the art director of The Chalk Garden. This talented woman trained for six years as an architect before she joined Fox Studios in England. Female art directors were a rarity but Ms. Dillon slowly built up a solid reputation of setting the scenes for British films, notably Hamlet ( 1948 ), The Browning Version ( 1951 ), The Importance of Being Earnest ( 1952 ), Richard III ( 1955 ), The Go-Between ( 1971 ), and The Omen ( 1976 ).

The upstairs hall outside Laurel & Miss Madrigal's bedrooms
While credit can be given to Ms. Dillon for the interior design of Belle Fountaine, I think more praise is due to John Jarvis, the set decorator, for Mrs. St. Maugham's character is revealed in the furnishings of her house. Oil paintings adorn the wall, sculptures can be found in just about every corner, and the entire house reveals a woman of class. The house is formal but not overly so. In fact, it is quite comfortable and "lived in". One could imagine a Helen Hayes grandmother-type character living here as well. 

The doors are covered with layers of thick glossy paint ( a British tradition ), the hardwood floors have a rich dark brown shellac, but the walls are light-toned throughout, giving emphasis to the decorative furnishings. 

The Dining Room ( note the large wall tapestry )
John Jarvis knew well how to decorate a house. He dressed a number of films uncredited ( The Wicked Lady, Quartet, The Miniver Story, The Hour of 13 ) and only made a handful of films where he was given full credit as set decorator. But the few sets he dressed were memorable : The Haunting ( 1963 ), The Yellow-Rolls Royce ( 1964 ), Sleuth ( 1972 ) and The Last of Sheila ( 1973 ). 

Views of the Kitchen
Fortunately, we can catch a glimpse of just about every room in the house in The Chalk Garden. In several scenes we are given a view of the kitchen, a fairly large kitchen that has at least three ovens as you can see in this shot ( don't mind the Mills' in the foreground ). Notice the blue and white tiling on the wall behind the stove. This decorative motif also appears around the kitchen sink. 

The Study

Another room we are shown briefly is the study which Maitland claims as his own when Mrs. St. Maugham has gone to bed. It has a well-stocked library ( including a complete set of the True British Crime series ) and a blazing fire in the fireplace. Plenty of bourbon and sherry are stored near by, too. It is here that Mrs. St. Maugham also keeps her photo collection of old beaus ( with "Puppy" earning the center spot ). 
Another room, which is shown only briefly, is the living room. Glass doors lead out from the living room into the conservatory letting in plenty of light. There is a grand piano, a large fireplace, several couches, and a number of armchairs, too. 

The Living Room ( hiding behind the characters )

The exterior of Belle Fountaine is actually Clapham House, located in Litlington, East Sussex. This 18th century estate is situated on 24 acres and was once the residence of Lady Fitzherbert, mistress to King George IV. Only a few playful ghosts remained. In 1978, the son of Elizabeth Brassart, the directrice of the famous cooking school Cordon Bleu de Paris purchased the property and, with his wife, converted it into a French cooking school - L'Ecole de Cuisine Francaise


Clapham House in the 1800s

Today it is a private residence and, like many film locations, few realize that it was featured in The Chalk Garden

This post is our contribution to The Favorite Film and TV Homes Blogathon. Simply click on this link to read more posts about beloved film and TV homes. 

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