Farewell to a friend

A dear friend ,Ken Sephton died in March this year. Our friendship lasted over 40 years, despite living 400 miles apart.

In the days before the Internet and emails, we exchanged letters weekly. He wasn’t interested in computers and we continued corresponding through the mail.

We always met up on my many London visits and he loved reminiscing  about his early years in London – and he had a great memory. Ken often sketched stars when he met them ( and had them signed.) He would often show them to me and tell me of the circumstances of the meetings.

Ken lived in London from the late 1940s and he saw and met so many stars, I hope you will enjoy, as I did, some of his wonderful experiences.

Ken once jotted  down for me details of one of his first trips to London in 1947 (He was about 20 at the time.)

…..At Noel Coward’s last night of “Present Laughter” at the Haymarket – Noel made a speech.

…….Saw “Oklahoma” with Howard Keel at Drury  Lane.

……..Spoke to Picturegoer’s Hollywood correspondent,W.H.Mooring at the Strand – matinee of”Ever Since Paradise”, with Roger  Livesey.

………Saw Rita Hayworth leave the Savoy hotel.

……….Matinee of “Voice  of the Turtle”, with Margaret Sullavan and Wendell Corey. In the evening, Dolores Gray in “Annie Get Your Gun.”

 

Ken met and talked to Marlene Dietrich many times:

Once, at the stage door,  she laughed and joked, even sitting on the roof of her car, cheerfully showering postcards of herself at the adoring fans.”

 

When Frank Sinatra’s career was at a low ebb in 1951, Ken went to see him in Clapham at a concert he gave in a half empty cinema:

I felt so sorry for him at this period.”

 

Ken attended many London film premieres. He saw Greer Garson and Errol Flynn arriving at the Odeon Marble Arch for “The Forsyte Saga”. Ann Sothern and Rosalind Russell arrived together. ( It was  a Royal Film Performance.)

Rosalind Russell, Ann Sothern

 

For the Royal premiere of THE MUDLARK, at the Empire,Leicester Square, Ken had a ticket:

I entered behind June Haver , with flash bulbs popping. I stood in the foyer to watch others arrive – Vera Ellen, Tyrone Power ( with his wife Linda Christian), Montgomery Clift with Gloria Swanson, Marlene Dietrich with Michael Wilding, Bebe and Ben Lyon.

I watched Irene Dunne and Claudette  Colbert descend the elegant staircase, arm in arm, after their presentation to the royal party.”

I am grateful to the Irene Dunne website for this rare photo (http://irenedunnesite.com).  From left to right.

Glynis Johns, Valerie Hobson , Jean Kent, Michael Wilding, Patricia Dainton, Irene Dunne,Richard Todd, Margaret Lockwood.  Seated, Gloria Swanson, Claudette Colbert.

(There was an onstage performance of a song from ‘Floradora”).

Michael Wilding, Marlene Dietrich, Linda Christian, Montgomery Clift.

 

Ken saw Audrey Hepburn when she was in the chorus of “Sauce  Tartare”, at the Cambridge theatre in 1949.

You can just about spot Audrey’s  name at bottom left.

 

In 1956, Joan Crawford attended the premiere of AUTUMN LEAVES at the Plaza cinema.  Ken said:

There were not the usual crowds. As she stepped from her car,she spotted the small group of fans and came over to us, signing autographs and chatting, even though the Lord Mayor was waiting in the foyer to greet her.”

 

In 1960, Ken chatted to Jeanette MacDonald after she and Gene Raymond had attended a play at the Comedy theatre:

“She was simply dressed, her short fine auburn hair sprinkled with grey….as they walked away, arm in arm,they both donned spectacles!”

Gene Raymond, Jeanette MacDonald

 

Ken was a long time member of THE JUDY GARLAND CLUB, and for many years he edited the club magazine, ‘The Rainbow Review.’

(I remember once being at Ken’s house when a group of Club members got together to assemble the pages of the magazine – it was quite a job as most issues had about 70 pages.)

He met Judy many times. A highlight was in 1964 when Judy attended a club meeting at the Russell Hotel.

So unassuming and amusing….she sang her thanks to the club members to the accompaniment of a tinny, out of tune hotel piano, with “I Wish You Love” and “Make Someone Happy.”

Ken loved Judy’s films and said of her version of ‘By Myself’ in I COULD GO ON SINGING:

It always sends tingles up and down my spine – it is quite electric and I love how she strides off stage at the end of it, flicking the curtains.”

 

Ken loved going to the National  Film Theatre which often showed Hollywood classics.

In one letter in 2004, he said: “I went out on a dark damp night to the NFT for the rare HER CARDBOARD LOVER. Norma (Shearer) was exquisite in looks, voice and elegance.”

 

Ken was even an extra on SATURDAY ISLAND (1951) and IVANHOE(1952).

A mutual friend, Alistair Kerr summed up Ken :

“Ken was a vital and fascinating character, full of great showbusiness tales, and a huge source of information on all things film  and theatre related. I was proud to have been an acquaintance of his for many years as we both had a great affection for Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland.”

 

So, here’s to you, Ken. it was my great pleasure to know you.

 

Ken Sephton

OLD MOVIE JOKE

A producer and a Pharaoh find a baby on a raft on the River Nile.

The Pharaoh says, “What an ugly kid.”

The producer says, “That’s funny. He looked great in the rushes.”

 

Fred Astaire, looking at Ginger Rogers in TOP HAT:

“If I had forgotten myself with that girl, I’d remember it.”

 

Which actress went mad, blind and bald.

Which actor lost his memory, his mind and his head.

Name the two performers and the 6 film titles.

 

 

 

CLASSIC NEWS 6

For everything FRANCHOT TONE, check out http://franchottone.blogspot.co.uk

There are lots of articles about Franchot and his career in the Blogathon from 21-23 April,2017. Film reviews include DANGEROUS, PHANTOM LADY , THREE COMRADES.

 

Robert Montgomery

I’ve always enjoyed LADY IN THE LAKE even though Robert  Montgomery’s subjective camera technique wasn’t entirely successful.

One of the funniest film reviews I have ever read is of this film, by D. Cairns of Shadow Play blog (http://dcairns.wordpress.com)

Some of the comments in the post had me laughing out loud and I hope the blogger won’t mind me quoting a few – though I hope everyone will check out the entire post.

…….”Montgomery plays Marlowe as  a man who has a slow and ungainly manner of opening doors!”

…….”The cops try to give the camera the third degree, and Nolan, already having suffered the indignity of being punched by a movie camera, now gets kicked by it!”

……..”Marlowe gets into his car,easing himself behind the wheel with all the nimbleness of a 35mm camera!”

The article is called THE PRIVATE EYE,LIKE SOME STRANGE BALLOON…  Full link opposite under ‘Posts I like.’

 

Oh to have been at the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood.

Still, a full report with lots of photos of the Festival can be seen at Laura’s blog (http://laurasmiscmusings.blogspot.co.uk)

My envy level was high when Laura described seeing THEODORA GOES WILD, introduced by Melvyn Douglas’s granddaughter, Illeana Douglas.

A great blog. Laura is such a prolific writer.

Irene Dunne, Melvyn Douglas

 

North By Northwest

Another Blogathon I’ll be checking out is  THE GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON. 2017. Details of entries at Speakeasy (http://hqofk.wordpress.com)

Villains will include  Anne Baxter in “All About Eve”, Richard Widmark in”Road House” and Gladys Cooper in”Now Voyager.”

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT!

1974 was the 50th anniversary of MGM Studios and the year that Jack Haley Jr. produced  THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT .

For the premiere at the Beverly Wiltshire hotel in Los Angeles, there was  a gathering of stars, the like of which hadn’t been seen since MGM’s 25th anniversary legendary luncheon in 1949.

 

The amazing assembly of stars can be seen on You Tube, each introduced by Sammy Davis Jr. or Liza Minnelli. I counted 49, ranging from June Allyson to Keenan Wynn.

As the first of the three That’s Entertainment films concentrated on MGM musicals, most of the performers were from that genre. It was marvellous to see Adele Astaire followed by her brother Fred (though Adele never made a movie). Plus the Nicholas Brothers and Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly.

A surprise too to see Merle Oberon, Myrna Loy and Gloria Swanson.

Sadly, only 6 are still alive today – Russ Tamblyn, Margaret O’Brien, Marge Champion, Nanette Fabray ,Shirley MacLaine and George Hamilton.

But so many MGM stars were not there. Reasons could include illness, being out of the country, working elsewhere, unwilling to attend- or not invited!

A shame Joan Crawford was missing, and Lucille Ball and Eleanor Powell. So many who could  have made the line-up even larger – Ann Miller,Esther Williams,Leslie Caron,Kathryn Grayson,Vera-Ellen, Allan Jones.

Jane Powell was in New York on Broadway in IRENE.

Considering Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Bing Crosby  and Mickey Rooney were presenters in the film, I guess there must have been pressing reasons why they didn’t attend.

 

THE ABSENTEES:

I guess THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT will always be special to me because I saw it the year of its release in the cinema. It was a magical two hours which I’ve never forgotten. Repeated viewings are great, but that first time……wow!!!!

 

The 1949 rota.

GARBO AT HOME

GRETA GARBO bought a home in New York in 1953 and lived in it until her death,at the age of 84, in 1990.

The seven room apartment in the Campanile Building overlooked the East River with spectacular views from a private balcony and windows all round .

Garbo’s only relative, Mrs. Gray Reisfield,  was the sole beneficiary of Garbo’s estate, including the deluxe 5th floor residence at 450 East 52nd Street.

 

The Campanile Building

Garbo’s niece lived in the apartment from 1992 to  2013. No one else has lived there, but now, in March 2017, the apartment ( which takes up the whole 5th floor) is on the market for $5.9 million.

The Campanile was built in 1927. It is 14 storeys high, but with only 16 apartments in the building. Former residents included Rex Harrison and Ethel  Barrymore.

A video of the apartment can be seen at http://www.halstead.com

And the website, http://garboforever.com is a treasure trove of anything to do with the legendary star.

Despite leaving the screen in 1941, part of Garbo’s estate (paintings,antiques and furnishings) sold for $19 million at auction in 1990. The total value of her estate was put at $32 million, which included art  work worth  $20 million.

And despite all the press reports to the contrary, Garbo had an active social life in New York.  She also visited  Europe several times a year.

It is shame that in her later years, a photographer followed her around, always trying to catch her off guard and take photos without her permission.

And if you are thinking of putting in a bid for Garbo’s home, forget it! Payment must be in cash only!

A campanile  is a bell tower.

On 1st  April, 2017, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that there was a lawsuit between Garbo’s two great-nephews ,Craig and Derek Reisfield, regarding the whereabouts of the honorary Oscar awarded to Garbo in 1954.

 

 

With  George Cukor, CAMILLE.

 

1949 screen test

What a shame that there was no come back.

 

Greta Garbo in Paris. July 1958.

 

 

PHOTO OF THE DAY: ALASKA SEAS

Anything for  publicity , but this threesome look as if they are screaming some opera chorus! Or is it locked jaw!

It’s Brian Keith, Jan Sterling and Robert Ryan in ALASKA  SEAS (1954), a Paramount release .  I haven’t seen it but would like to. Gene Barry is also in it. Keith and Ryan are fishermen.

TALL DARK AND HANDSOME (1941)

I’m grateful to Laura for introducing me to this Fox comedy of 1941. It’s out on DVD.

I’m a not-so-secret fan of Cesar Romero, and he gets one of his few starring roles in TALL DARK AND HANDSOME, in a story that is very Damon Runyonesque in character and names.

Cesar Romero, Milton Berle

Romero is gangster Shep Morrison. His henchman, Frosty (Milton Berle) tells would-be singer Judy (Virginia Gilmore); ” Shep’s got a record of 10 killings  and no blood spilt.”  As a result Shep has a fierce reputation .

But, instead of killing anybody, Shep keeps them locked up in a hidden area of his mansion! And he looks after them. It’s so daft, but very funny.

On the other hand, Pretty Willie (Sheldon Leonard) is the real thing – a hood who is ready to wipe out Shep’s operations .

Cesar Romero, Sheldon Leonard

When Shep meets Judy in the childrens’ dept of a store, he pretends to be a banker and a father. He engages her as a nanny, and then has to find a child to call him daddy.

Frosty obliges and produces Detroit Harry Morrison jr. (Stanley Clements) who’s an orphan after Detroit Harry Sr was shot.

Clements, who was 14 at the time but looks younger, is hilarious as the hard as nails,little tough guy who admires Shep once he knows who he is. (and he has some mop of hair!).

Stanley Clements, Cesar Romero

Shep has a night club where Winnie Sage (Charlotte Greenwood) works. Winnie has dome some acting and Shep asks her, “How are you at straight dramatic parts.?”  Winnie then pretends to be Shep’s housekeeper. But before that, Charlotte delivers a song and dance to Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin’s ‘I’m Alive and Kicking.’ Great number which made me want more songs from the marvellous Ms. Greenwood.

Of course, she does her famous high kick.

Charlotte Greenwood

We do get two more Rainger/Robin songs, when Judy is given a job by Shep at his club.( Dubbed by Harriet Kaye). I love how Judy delivers her first song with absolutely no rehearsal!

Barnett Parker, Cesar Romero

Shep’s very proper butler (played by English actor Barnett Parker) packs a shoulder holster in case of trouble. He also looks after the prisoners in the basement!

Barnett Parker got very typecast in these sort of roles. He died, aged 54, the year this film was released.

The supporting cast is just first class.

Addison Richards……Anthony Caruso…….Frank Jenks

Marion Martin…….James Flavin…….Marc Lawrence