THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL 1951

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Was President Ronald Reagan thinking of this film when he addressed the United Nations in 1987:  I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.”

 

 

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The film’s producer ,Julian Blaustein :

One day one of the assistants in the story dept. came to me and said,’There’s a core here of an idea I’d like you to read’  – Harry Bates’ FAREWELL TO THE MASTER, a 42 page short story.

The main idea in the story is that peace in the Universe had been achieved by sacrificing some sovereignty to a central agency, but irrevocably.”

I’ve read this 1940  story by Harry Bates (1900 – 1981) which was published in ‘Astounding Science Fiction’. The story does indeed provide a framework for the film, but so much was added. The story revolves around a photojournalist  who covers the appearance of a flying saucer which lands in Washington. As in the film, there is Klaatu but the robot is called Gnut.

Klaatu is killed . The robot and the saucer remain stationary and a museum and research laboratory are built round them. The reporter discovers that the robot enters the ship each night. He is trying to create a copy of Klaatu.

Eventually Gnut is ready to leave and the reporter tells him that he must tell his masters that Klaatu’s death was an accident.

The kicker to the story is when Gnut finally speaks and says,

“You misunderstand –  I am the master.”

I loved the story. It was sold for $1,000 and Harry Bates got $500.

It was adapted by Edmund H. North ( whose other screenplays include Colorado Territory, Cowboy,The Proud Ones). He also co-wrote the 2008 remake ( of which the less said the better).

North is credited with the famous line,

“KLAATU BARADA NICKTO”

There is no official translation for the three words, but Klaatu (Michael Rennie) had told Helen (Patrica Neal) :

There is no limit to what Gort can do. He could destroy the Earth……..if anything happens to me, you must go to Gort, you must say these words…..”

The words have been described as a fail safe feature, perhaps meaning “Do not retaliate.”

The script can be seen at scifiscripts.com.

 

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The alien ship about to land in Washington.

 

 

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Gort appears for the first time.

 

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Klaatu descends from the ship. With his helmet on, he does look alien.

 

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Harry Lauter,Michael Rennie

Klaatu is injured by one of the soldiers.

 

Klaatu tries to find out what life on Earth is like. He stays at a boarding house where Bobby ( Billy Gray )and his mother Helen (Patricia  Neal )live.

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Billy Gray, Michael Rennie

 

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The casting of Klaatu took some time.

Julian Blaustein,(producer of the film) :

“Zanuck and I were  talking cast – I always felt Klaatu should be somebody the audience had never seen…..Zanuck said, ‘I gave the script to Spencer Tracy – he’s crazy about it.’

I said, ‘Darryl, it’s all wrong. If that spaceship opens up and this character steps off and walks down the ramp and it’s Spencer Tracy, there’s no credibility.”

Robert Wise (director) fancied Claude Rains and said,

Fortunately for us he was tied up in a play in New York……we got a memo from Darryl Zanuck – ‘I just back from London and saw a play with an interesting looking young man in it – I’ve signed him to a contract with Fox – I think you should look at him as a possibility.’

And so Michael Rennie became Klaatu. And how perfect he was.

 

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Gort’s laser like weapon is projected from beneath the head visor and vaporises anything in its path. Accompanied by the eerie sound of the theremin music of Bernard Hermann, when the  visor opens, danger is palpable.

 

 

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Gort was played by LOCK  MARTIN, an usher at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. He was seven feet tall but producer Julian Blaustein didn’t think he looked massive enough, so lifts were put  inside the feet of the suit.

 

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Gort’s foam rubber suit was built by ADDISON HEHR. Actually two suits were made, one opening at the front, and one opening at the back, so that the robot would appear seamless.

Also, a fibreglass statue was used when Gort was not required to move.

 

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Great use of lighting when Klaatu is first seen by the residents of the boarding house.

The first title of the film was THE DAY THE EARTH STOPS.

 

Sam Jaffe,Michael Rennie

Sam Jaffe,Michael Rennie

Sam Jaffe plays Professor Barnhardt whom Klaatu  goes to see with a view to arranging a meeting of world leaders.

After Sam Jaffe was cast the producer was asked by the casting director to replace him – Sam was considered a risk because he had been listed in the infamous Red Channels. This was his last film for several years.

To get the world’s attention quickly, Klaatu arranges for everything electronic to come to a halt ( except for emergency services and planes) for half an hour.

London

London

 

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Klaatu communicates with Gort using a flashlight.

 

Billy Gray

Billy Gray

And young Bobby sees what Klaatu is doing.

Robert Wise said, “Billy Gray was one of the best child actors I have ever worked with.”

 

Patricia Neal

Patricia Neal

 

 

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Another marvellous black and white shot inside the space ship.

Lock Martin’s height didn’t translate into strength.

Director ROBERT WISE:

He was not a very strong man and that suit was heavy. He couldn’t pick up Pat Neal. For the shot where she falls against the chairs and he’s coming towards her, I planned to let him go behind a door, stopped filming and held on the door.

With the help of a crane, we picked Pat  up, turned him around and put her in his arms.

So when we started the camera again, he walked out of the frame with Pat being carried all the way by a wire. Then on the reverse shot, we put a lightweight dummy in his arms.”

 

 

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Gort treats Klaatu who has been shot and killed. . Joseph Breen of the Production Code office objected to Klaatu’s ‘resurrection ‘ and Gort’s limitless power. So a line  was added that  the power of life and death was reserved to the almighty spirit.

 

 

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Klaatu, before he leaves, gives his final message to the world’s leaders who have assembled :

“Your choice is simple. Join us and live in peace or pursue your present course and face obliteration . We shall be waiting for your answer.”

And a final farewell salute from Klaatu to Helen.

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Variety liked the  film with a few reservations –

“…….only seldom does its moralistic wordiness get in the way.”

The New York Times thought “Gort is oddly unmenacing.”

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association gave the film a special Golden Globe  for promoting international understanding.

 

ON THE SET

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Michael Rennie and Robert Wise in the centre.

The scene of crowds fleeing after Gort appears from the ship does not look good . Robert Wise said that  the extras wouldn’t move away quickly enough and didn’t looked panicked enough,  so he allowed the scene to be speeded up in post production.

It didnt  work.

 

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Michael Rennie  gets his helmet for Klaatu’s first appearance on Earth.

 

 

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Gort at the EMP Museum,Seattle.

 

 

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I was amazed to come across a film on You Tube , STRANGER FROM VENUS(1954)  Called “Immediate Disaster” in the States, it starred Patricia Neal, with Helmut Dantine as an alien from Venus who has come to meet representatives of Earth.

Made in the UK, it’s  a real rip-off with  no space ship, no special effects and no Gort!

(Patricia Neal was then living in the UK, having married Roald Dahl.)

 

I’m not showing the poster which has Gort holding a female with long blonde hair who looks nothing like Patricia  Neal, and a hand gripping the globe.

The following are much better.

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I love  this film. Can you tell!

 

 

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HOME TO HOLLYWOOD

A recent discovery for me is an excellent blog http://home2hollywood.wordpress.com run by Annette Bochenek.

One aspect of Annette ‘s writing covers fascinating posts about the hometowns of famous stars. Annette visits the towns and cities and does wonderful research, with excellent and rare  photos, And lots of archival material. She has  also met relatives who have shared photos and mementoes with her.

Most recently Annette has written about AUDREY TOTTER who was born in  Joliet,Illinois. Amazingly, Annette was in touch with Audrey’s  granddaughter,Eden who provided a wonderful story about LADY IN THE LAKE.

Audrey Totter

Audrey Totter

In the film, Audrey wears a brooch with her character’s initials, A.F ( for Adrienne Fromsett). In real life, Audrey’s married name was Audrey  Fred, and so Audrey kept that brooch and her granddaughter now has it.

What a keepsake!

Annette has featured so many stars – including Fredric March, Irene Dunne, Myrna Loy,James Stewart, Tyrone Power ( Annette met Tyrone’s daughter,Taryn), Carole Lombard. All with rare photos.

I’m so glad I have found this blog and recommend it very much.

Robert Montgomery,Audrey Totter

Robert Montgomery,Audrey Totter

Must watch Lady In The Lake yet again!

 

 

 

 

PUBLICITY SHOTS 13

 

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Ida Lupino, Jack Palance.THE BIG KNIFE.

 

 

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James Stewart,Janet Leigh.THE NAKED SPUR.

 

 

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Ida Lupino, Dana Andrews,Rhonda Fleming. WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS.

 

 

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Jean Arthur,John Lund, Marlene Dietrich. A FOREIGN AFFAIR

 

 

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Rita Hayworth,Glenn Ford. GILDA.

 

Joel McCrea

Joel McCrea

 

Cary Grant,Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum,Jean Simmons.THE GRASS IS GREENER

Cary Grant,Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum,Jean Simmons.THE GRASS IS GREENER

 

Jeffrey Hunter.THE PROUD ONES.

Jeffrey Hunter.THE PROUD ONES.

 

William Holden,George Raft, ,Humphrey Bogart.

William Holden,George Raft, ,Humphrey Bogart. INVISIBLE STRIPES.

 

Virginia a Mayo,Alan Ladd,Phyllis Thaxter.

Virginia Mayo,Alan Ladd,Phyllis Thaxter.THE IRON MISTRESS.

 

 

I AM INGRID

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Last year I wrote about a new film about Ingrid Bergman, and I am glad to say I have now seen it.

If you  are an INGRID BERGMAN fan, run,skip or jump to the nearest cinema showing the new Swedish documentary ,INGRID BERGMAN, IN HER OWN WORDS. ( Original Swedish title is I AM INGRID)

The two  hour film is also out on DVD.

i saw it in a packed cinema ( well, a 70 seater!)

This is not a career retrospective. There are brief clips from Casablanca, Notorious,Anastasia and a few others, but this is Ingrid’s personal story. It is directed by Stig Bjorkman and has some subtitling but has many interviews in English. Ingrid herself was proficient in at least 4 languages.

Ingrid was the daughter of a photographer, Justus Bergman, who filmed her as a child . To see the footage is amazing. She inherited this love of photography and throughout her life was constantly filming her family and friends. And from an early age, became very comfortable in front of a camera.

She also was a diarist and letter writer, and actress Alicia Vikander reads from them. It becomes clear that Ingrid had to act. Too long in one place , even with her children, was too much for her.

Her four children made it clear there would never be a ‘Mommie Dearest’ but also indicated how many times they didn’t have their mother with them and that it did hurt.

There are also TV interview clips and of course the media coverage of Ingrid leaving her husband and eldest daughter,Pia, in America when she went to Italy to film with Roberto Rossellini .

And then her triumphant return to the U.S. And Cary Grant accepting Ingrid’s Oscar for ANASTASIA.

This enthralling  film is a fascinating insight into this great actress who had lost both her parents by the time she was 13, and whose subsequent choices in life were defined by her need to be acting.

 

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Ingrid’s film test in Hollywood, after she had been given a contract by David O. Selznick.

 

Ingrid Bergman, Photographer Unknown. Courtesy: RialtPictures/Mantaray Film/Wesleyan Cinema Archives

Ingrid Bergman, Photographer Unknown. Courtesy: RialtPictures/Mantaray Film/Wesleyan Cinema Archives

With Roberto and twins Isabella and Ingrid.

 

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Camera in hand.

 

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With Charles Boyer in her Oscar winning GASLIGHT .

EXPERIMENT HITCHCOCK

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To go from the quintessential Hitchcock of  NORTH BY NORTHWEST to the shock/horror of PSYCHO must have been quite a surprise to filmgoers of 1960. The two films couldnt be more different.

The fact is that film fans, with a few exceptions, knew what to expect from an Alfred Hitchcock film – thrills, romance, spies, stunning visuals, witty dialogue and big stars.

 

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Cary Grant,Eva Maire Saint.NORTH BY NORTHWEST.

So you wonder what left field Psycho came from. Murder and madness without the usual light touch. Pure horror.

It is said that Hitchcock was aware of changing audiences. A high proportion were young adults who liked low budget horror films. Also, he had become used to doing a variety of plots on his long running TV series, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. And he was now familiar with TV directors and technicians.

 

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Hitchcock bought the rights to Robert Bloch’s novel, Psycho in 1959 for only $9,000. I guess that doing something completely and totally different appealed to him.

Paramount weren’t interested so Hitch put up the money and got 60% ownership of the film, with Paramount distributing it. He used his TV studio and crew .

I guess the success of North By Northwest allowed him to take a chance and boy, did it pay off. Not many directors would kill off their star (Janet Leigh) a third of the way through the picture – and in such a gruesome manner.

 

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Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau.NORTH BY NORTHWEST

The publicity machine for Psycho got into top gear, with Hitch himself preparing his audiences ( especially his older fans) for the violence and shock levels. And what a piece of genius to stop anyone being admitted for a screening after the film started.

A lot of fans were surprised and disappointed, but the younger fans went back to see it again and again. Word of mouth more than the critics sold it. It became a runaway success.

 

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I’ll be honest and say I saw Psycho once and never wanted to see it again. I could appreciate all of the great director’s skills and still not like it.

Give me North by Northwest every time!

But you have to admire him for taking such a leap of faith and showing that his unique talent could shine in whatever story  he tackled.

TOO MUCH CARY?

Can you get too much CARY GRANT?  If you are a fan, of course not!

This pictorial salute is for Cary fans everywhere!

 

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The young Cary.

 

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He may be in the right uniform but that face isn’t from 1939!

 

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With Katharine Hepburn. .BRINGING  UP BABY

 

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BRINGING  UP BABY

Keep that box away from dogs.

 

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With Katharine Hepburn.BRINGING UP BABY

Now,listen, Susan…..

 

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NOTORIOUS with Ingrid Bergman

 

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NOTORIOUS

 

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NOTORIOUS

 

 

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With Grace Kelly.TO CATCH A THIEF

 

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With Deborah Kerr.AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER

Personally, I prefer it to LOVE AFFAIR!

 

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With Irene Dunne.PENNY SERENADE

With Irene Dunne.PENNY SERENADE

 

PEOPLE WILL TALK

PEOPLE WILL TALK

 

With Ingrid Bergman.INDISCREET

With Ingrid Bergman.INDISCREET

 

That suit! NORTH BY NORTH WEST

That suit! NORTH BY NORTH WEST

 

 

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That tan!

 

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Growing old ever so gracefully.

Comedy, drama, romance. He could do it all to perfection – and sing too!