SARATOGA. 1937

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Only my opinion of course, but it’s sad that Jean Harlow’s final film, SARATOGA was such a disappointment. Jean and Clark Gable are completely let down by a weak and boring script. Or maybe any film about horse racing is never going to work for me.
There is so little plot anyway, something about Jean’s grandfather (Lionel Barrymore) who owns a horse breeding farm. Gable is a bookmaker who gets the deeds to the farm to settle a gambling debt from Lionel.
Of course there is conflict between Jean and Clark. She calls him, ‘a petty gambler’ and is planning to marry rich playboy,Walter Pidgeon (in his first MGM film).
This film will be remembered because Jean Harlow collapsed on the set and died a week later.

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More than two thirds of the film had been completed and MGM had to decide what to do. There was talk of re-shooting Jean’s scenes, with Virginia Bruce or Jean Arthur. But the film was finished using voice and body doubles. Mary Dees was Jean’s stand-in and can be seen in several scenes. Paula Winslowe provided the voice.

It is obvious where the double is used. In one scene,the character is wearing a huge hat which conceals her face . And there is a brief shot on the race course where she is looking through binoculars and again, it is obviously not Jean.
And the second last shot in the film is of two pairs of hands, supposedly Jean and Clark.
The final shot is from an earlier scene in the film, with Jean and Clark.

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MGM was also pressured by fans who wanted to see Jean’s very last film.
Such a shock for everyone at the time. Jean would surely have gone on being a big MGM star into the 1940s. She was only 26 when she died.

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LEONARD MALTIN’S MOVIE CRAZY (2008)

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Another great book I’ve caught up with,LEONARD MALTIN’S MOVIE CRAZY is full of interesting Hollywood news and interviews Leonard Maltin did with Hollywoodites.

Mr Maltin’s insightful  questions to stars and film makers reflect his life long love of movies. He constantly asks what life was like in Hollywood and under the studio system. The book is quite simply invaluable as a contribution to the history of Hollywood.

There is a wonderful interview from 1986 with Robert Young and his wife Betty. It’s clear that, despite what  we might think of as a successful and long career,Robert Young constantly felt insecure. It was funny to hear him refer to Alfred Hitchcock as ‘Hitchy’. He told Leonard some wonderful stories of what it was like working with people like Spencer Tracy – “He was marvellous. I liked him so much.”

Robert Young

Robert Young

 

Another great interviewee was Joan Leslie who said, “I had one line in CAMILLE which was cut out. I played Robert Taylor’s little sister and it was in the scene where he comes home to see his father,Lionel Barrymore – I had this one line and I had two coaches to tell me how to say it – I had to say ‘Armand,so you did come all the way from Paris.”

Joan Leslie

Joan Leslie

 

Noah Beery Jr was interviewed in 1983. He praised Howard Hawks and Leonard asked him which Hawks film he liked most.  “The one that meant the most to me,I think,was ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, because it was a completely different part than I had ever done.And I was working with Jean Arthur and Rita Hayworth, and although I was only tagging along behind,it was such a thrill.”

Noah Beery Jr.

Noah Beery Jr.

 

Delving through the Warner Bros Archive at the University of Southern California, the author discovered correspondence between Jack Warner and Orson Welles concerning THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, the plan being for Welles to star as ‘Sheridan Whiteside’ and also  direct the film. But it wasn’t to be – RKO wouldn’t release Welles who had just finished CITIZEN KANE. Monty Woolley was allowed to re-create the role.

Welles finally played Whiteside in a TV version in 1972, with Mary Wickes still by Whiteside’s side as his nurse.

Bette Davis,Monty Woolley

Bette Davis,Monty Woolley

 

This book is 400 pages of movie gold.

THE MAN IN THE ROAD. 1956

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THE MAN IN THE ROAD was Ella Raines’ last film,made in England in 1956. Sadly, it’s not a great ending to her film career. She doesn’t appear till 30 minutes into the film and really hasn’t much to do.

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Derek Farr, Donald Wolfit

 

This is a Cold War thriller with Derek Farr as a scientist whom Russian spy Donald Wolfit wants to get to Moscow.

Farr is involved in a car accident and wakes up in a nursing home run by Wolfit. Farr has lost his memory and Wolfit tells him that he is half Russian and than his mother is in Moscow!

 

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Cyril Cusack Derek Farr

Cyril Cusack plays a doctor at the home who raises Farr’s suspicions. Farr escapes and lands up at the country cottage of writer Ella Raines who agrees to help him.

 

 

 

 

 

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Derek Farr,Ella Raines

 

An ok little thriller but Ella’s presence seemed unnecessary .

I didn’t know Ella had made a TV viewers series JANET DEAN,REGISTERED NURSE in 1954. Produced by Joan Harrison, the series had 34 episodes and was filmed in New York.

Two  of Ella’s films I’d like to see are THE SWINDLERS (1946) and THE SECOND FACE (1950).

Ella’s third film when she was only 24 was probably her best -PHANTOM LADY.

 

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ON THE SET. 15

Paulette Goddard visits James Mason on ODD MAN OUT

Paulette Goddard visits James Mason on ODD MAN OUT

 

 

Irene Dunne,Clive Brook,director Elliott Nugent.IF I WERE FREE

Irene Dunne,Clive Brook,director Elliott Nugent.IF I WERE FREE

 

 

Carole Lombard.,Cary Grant.IN NAME ONLY

Carole Lombard.,Cary Grant.IN NAME ONLY

 

 

Susan Oeters,Ronald Colman, Leo McCarey, ,Greer Garson

Susan Peters,Ronald Colman, Director Mervyn LeRoy ,Greer Garson.RANDOM HARVEST

 

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Gene Tierney , Jacques Bergerac (Ginger's husband) , Ginger Rogers.THE BLACK WIDOW

Gene Tierney , Jacques Bergerac (Ginger’s husband) , Ginger Rogers.THE BLACK WIDOW

 

 

Astaire and Rogers.THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY

Astaire and Rogers.THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY

 

 

James Cagney,Bette Davis.

James Cagney,Bette Davis. THE CORPSE (aka THE BRIDE) CAME C.O.D.

 

 

John Huston,Humphrey Bogart,Lauren Bacall.KEY LARGO

John Huston,Humphrey Bogart,Lauren Bacall.KEY LARGO

 

 

Humphrey Bogart,Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall,Spencer Tracy

Humphrey Bogart,Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall,Spencer Tracy. PAT AND MIKE?

 

 

WIZARD OF OZ

WIZARD OF OZ

Check  out the Wicked Witch  on the roof top. Judy,Jack and Ray on the path.

SEVEN DOORS TO DEATH 1944

 

 

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My hero, Chick Chandler, plays an architect in SEVEN DOORS TO DEATH. And why not ( though he doesn’t do any architecting,more sleuthing).

A typical PRC  ‘B’ from 1944, made on a shoestring yet perfectly enjoyable. It opens with a gunshot and a scream ( that’ll grab your attention right away).

Chick is driving along in his little jalopy he calls ‘Genevieve’ . He comes to a halt when he hears the shot and a woman jumps into the back of his car,pulls what he thinks is a gun ( it’s a flashlight) and tells him to go faster.

He tells the mystery woman the truth, I can’t push Genevieve any faster. She’ll unravel.”

She tells him to stop further on and she disappears. Chick goes back to where she stopped him, sees a dead body and calls the police. He describes the body as short and stocky but when the police arrive, they find that the dead man is tall and thin!

June Clyde is Mary ,the mystery woman whose late aunt owned a piece of property ,a courtyard containing  7 shops – of which Mary has one,a hat shop.  Mary is her aunt’s sole heir and the aunt’s will is missing.

Thee are a few more murders along the way and the police detective tells Chick, Behind one of those doors is a murderer.”

The other shop owners include a furrier,a silversmith, a photographer and a girl called Mabel (Rebel Randall)  who runs a jewellery shop. All are suspects.

So a neat set-up in an enclosed space   for Chick to unravel the truth.

I saw the film on You Tube and the quality was poor. In some of the night scenes I wasn’t even sure what was going on but it was enjoyable, and the courtyard setting looks good.

I don’t suppose it would ever get a dvd release.

I’m still a Chandler fan!

 

Chick Chandler

Chick Chandler

 

 

 

VIVIEN LEIGH ARCHIVE

Not exactly news, but I only read recently that in 2013 the Victoria and Albert museum in London acquired the archives of VIVIEN LEIGH (1913-1967) from Vivien’s grandchildren.

There are 10,000 items in the collection,including diaries,letters,scripts,awards,photos. Vivien kept a personal diary for 38 years.

The archive is available for research . Just a shame that it cannot be viewed online. Fans all over the world would welcome that. Though I don’t know what it would cost to get everything online.

(website at http://vam.ac.uk )

 

In April 2015 , Heritage Auctions in California had Gone With  The Wind memorabilia on sale including a letter from Hattie McDaniel in which she says she will be playing a role very similar to GWTW in REAP THE WILD WIND and that Merle Oberon would be the star.

In fact Paulette Goddard starred in Reap The Wild Wind (1942) and Hattie wasn’t in it.( Louise Beavers had the role that Hattie may have been going to play.)

Hattie was kept busy after Gone With the Wind, and appeared in 7 films in 1941 and 1942, including THE GREAT LIE  as Bette Davis’ maid.

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The following two items  are from a GONE WITH THE WIND exhibition at the University of Texas at Austin. The first is a preview card.

 

 

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I love how this lady says she had read the book three times and always pictured Bette Davis as Scarlett. She thinks Vivien Leigh “lacks dynamite”!

 

 

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Mr Selznick was getting a  weekly report on all the correspondence received about the casting of Gone With The Wind. Looks like this week in January 1939 Miriam Hopkins and  Bette  Davis were the front runners for the part of Scarlett.

Of the nearly 200 letters received that week, nearly all didn’t want Vivien  Leigh ( or Olivia De Havilland for Melanie or Leslie Howard for Ashley).

I guess there was consensus about Clark Gable!

 

 

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