BURT KWOUK (1930 – 2016)

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The actor BURT KWOUK has died at the age of  85.

My first and abiding memory of Burt Kwouk is from INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS which was filmed in Wales in 1958. His role was as a guide , leading missionary Ingrid Bergman and 100 children who were fleeing from the Chinese.

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Born in England of Chinese parents, Burt spent his childhood in Shanghai before studying in America. He made his home  in England in 1954 and developed a career in films and television, though rarely given roles which challenged him.

One part which had more substance was in the TV series TENKO, in which he played a Japanese prison camp commandant.

Known for playing Cato to Peter Sellars’ Inspector Clouseau in SHOT IN THE DARK, I’ll also remember him for LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE, the long running BBC comedy series which he joined in season 24 and stayed till it ended in 2010. His character name was Entwistle.

( When questioned about his surname, Entwistle said that his original  surname was McIntyre and he changed it so that people wouldn’t think that he was Scottish.)

When Burt  was asked about his favorite role, he said it would be the first time he “had a featured role in a good movie. It was The Inn of the Sixth Happiness which starred a great lady called Ingrid Bergman. I remember her very fondly.”

And I saw Burt in person when he played Ginger Rogers’ servant in MAME at London’s Drury Lane theatre in 1969.

 

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Brian Murphy,Burt Kwouk,Russ Abbot. Last Of The Summer Wine.

THE ICE FOLLIES OF 1939

 

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Having recently seen James  Stewart  in Pot O’ Gold, I came across ICE FOLLIES OF 1939 and again felt sorry for Mr. Stewart !

What were MGM thinking about when they cast three of their stars – James, Joan Crawford and Lew Ayres in this mish-mash,train wreck of a movie.

 

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What can you say about a screenplay  that has the three leads as professional ice skaters, though you  never see them skating. In fact the only time the stars get their skates on are for the film’s publicity .

 

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Didn’t it occur to MGM  that moviegoers might be misled by the above picture! I guess not.

I love the quote on the TCm website;

“None of the three main stars could skate; the screenplay was written with this in mind!”

 

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The plot is so thin and the characters so cardboard, it’s obvious MGM thought that all that mattered were the ice skating sequences involving lavish staging of the International Ice Follies – with a view to cashing in on the public’s liking for Sonja  Henie at Fox.

The ice skating scenes are impressive , if you like ice skating , but are clearly filmed entirely separately . There is no Henie or Belita ( or even Vera Ralston) to identify with. It’s like shooting a swimming sequence without having Esther Williams as the central attraction!

What plot there is involves long time skating partners ,Stewart and Ayres who have been joined by singer/skater Crawford who is romantically attached to Stewart. But we never see their act!!

Joan becomes a movie star overnight and James becomes a skating impresario. Poor Lew disappears for a while before rejoining them.

(For some unknown reason, the fictitious studio  dyes Joan’s hair black,making her look like Hedy Lamarr. Fortunately they let it go back to her usual color before the end of the film.)

 

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Joan in glorious technicolor. But the film ‘s finale ( with Joan as Cinderella!) didn’t deserve 15 minutes of precious color footage. The whole sequence is to showcase the Ice Follies troupe .

Joan looks terrific in color, but she has absolutely nothing to do but sit back on a throne and watch the spectacle.

This was one of five films James Stewart made in 1939. Fortunately two of them were DESTRY RIDES AGAIN and MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.

Joan had THE WOMEN.

Lew Ayres  had two DR KILDARE movies that year.

So all three  survived the Follies. MGM didn’t make a nickel.

 

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Joan and her frequent escort, Cesar Romero – maybe at a party for the opening of the film?

 

 

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James Stewart,Lew Ayres

The photo James and Lew would prefer to deny any knowledge of. Pure publicity. There is no such scene in the film except as a poster on a wall.

ON THE SET 25

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Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth. GILDA

 

 

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Grace Kelly,Cary Grant. TO CATCH A THIEF

 

 

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Ida Lupino.THE HITCH HIKER ? That could be William Talman sitting at the table on the right.

 

 

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Joel McCrea,Herbert Marshall,Alfred Hitchcock. FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT.

Herbert Marshall looks as if he is singing, with Hitch conducting!

 

 

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Cary Grant.NOTORIOUS

 

 

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Madeleine Carroll,Robert Donat,Alfred Hitchcock.THE 39 STEPS.

It’s supposed to be the highlands of Scotland.

 

 

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Clark Gable. Gene  Tierney on location in England for NEVER LET ME GO.

 

 

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Grant Williams holding onto a pencil.THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN.

 

 

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Cary Grant,Alfred Hitchcock. TO CATCH A THIEF.

Is this Hitch at his slimmest? Those lucky folk, watching the filming.

 

 

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William Holden,Billy Wilder, Humphrey Bogart, SABRINA

It’s OK,Bogie. You get the girl.

FRED AND ADELE

 

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For 25 years, from  the age of five, FRED ASTAIRE sang and danced with his sister ADELE. They were the toast of Broadway and London, starring together in ten Broadway musical comedies from 1917 to 1931.

Their career is covered in Kathleen Riley’s 2012 book,” THE ASTAIRES,FRED AND ADELE.” It’s an excellent book and a much needed history of this unique twosome.

 

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The young Astaires

Quotes from the book are in italics.

“Had he never entered films, Fred would still have a secure place in entertainment history as one half of a legendary partnership.”

Adele was born in 1897 and Fred in 1899. By 1905 they had moved to New York with their mother, and were soon performing in vaudeville.

“By the time Fred was 16, he assumed much of the managerial burden of the partnership…..including the selection of songs and other material.

 

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Adele happily let her brother make the decisions for them.

“By all accounts, Adele was a natural clown, a wonderful madcap,outrageous and dazzling.”

Sadly, all that we have on film of Adele is a snatch of  a mock rehearsal for the 1930 show SMILES. Producer FLORENZ ZIEGFELD is on stage  and calls for the dancers to come on stage. Marilyn Miller, Fred and Adele do a little side step from the wings ,then stand in front of Ziegfeld. He tells them, “I didn’t mean my $10,000 a week dancers.”

Sheepily, they shuffle off stage again.

Unfortunately,Adele is obscured by Marilyn. We just get a glimpse of her.The footage runs less than a minute and can be seen on You tube.

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Still, there are lots of wonderful pictures of Fred and Adele, and we are fortunate that they were involved in early recordings in the 1920s.

To hear them in 1926 singing ‘Fascinating Rhythm’, with George Gershwin at the piano ( from LADY BE GOOD) is wonderful.

Another cute song, with Fred cautioning his sister about her love of dancing. Her answer to everything is ‘I’d Rather Charleston”. They sing so well together.

Songs  can also be heard from their last show together,THE BAND WAGON in 1931. The 1953 film The Band Wagon used only some of the songs but a completely different story.

 

 

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The Band Wagon

 

“The Babbitt and the Bromide’,sung by Fred and Gene Kelly in ZIEGFELD FOLLIES OF 1946, was originally done by Fred and Adele in Lady Be Good.

 

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Adele Astaire

In their show,THE BUNCH AND JUDY, Adele played a dancer who gave up the stage to marry an English lord.

And that’s exactly what happened in real life.Adele left the cast of The Band Wagon in Chicago. “The last dance she and her brother performed on stage was ‘White Heat’ “

Adele married Lord Cavendish in 1932 and moved to Lismore Castle in Ireland. Fred visited them many times. Adele was widowed in 1944 and she married again to Kingman Douglas ,an American businessman.

 

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Adele had left show business at the pinnacle of her career. Perhaps,like Fred, she would have succeeded in Hollywood too.

 

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Fred was sometimes regarded as the junior partner . When he did his first show without Adele – The Gay Divorce – one unkind reviewer said, “One thing is certain….two ASTAIRES are better than one.”

But, of course, Fred went on to even greater success in Hollywood . He and Adele remained close throughout their lives.

 

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Tilly Losch,Fred,Adele,Frank Morgan,Helen Broderick.THE BAND WAGON

 

 

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Doesnt this look spectacular . Fred and Adele in the middle. From Band Wagon.

 

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Fred and Adele

 

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POT O’ GOLD (1941)

How many times can you issue or re-issue a film on DVD. As often as you like if the movie is in the public domain.

POT O’ GOLD has had quite a few different disc covers over the years.

It stars James Stewart and Paulette Goddard , yet it feels like a small, cheaply made second feature.

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Fresh from winning an Oscar for The Philadelphia Story, in 1941, James Stewart made two more films for MGM, Come Live With Me and Ziegfeld Girl.

In between these two films came Pot O’ Gold, which hardly anyone ever mentions when discussing Jimmy Stewart’s career.

I’d love to know what the thinking was behind his appearance in this film,  which was produced independently by James Roosevelt, the eldest son of President   Roosevelt.

After these three films in 1941, James left Hollywood for five years during the war.

Pot O’ Gold ( also known as Jimmy Steps Out) was based on an NBC radio program in which $1000 was given away every week. The radio show featured Horace Heidt and his orchestra and they are also in the film.

James plays the owner of his family’s music store. His hobby is playing the harmonica.

Charles Winninger is his rich uncle who wants his nephew to join him  in his business. He sponsors a radio program.

Paulette is part of a happy family who love music too – she sings ( well, Vera Vann sings for her). Mary Gordon is her Irish mother who runs a boarding house which seems to be full of musicians.

The plot is very slight and although there are some nice musical sequences, it just seems odd that either Stewart or Goddard should choose to do it.

Paulette Goddard

Paulette Goddard

There is one lavish  number called ‘Broadway Caballaro”  , featuring Paulette, and I kept thinking of  Marion Davies in her musical numbers. Paulette is neither a singer or a trained dancer, so giving her this big number didn’t do it justice.

I’m trying to catch up with more of Paulette’s films. I finally saw Modern Times (terrific!) and The Cat and The Canary. Next on my viewing list is Second Chorus, The Crystal Ball and Diary of a Chambermaid.

Although  fans of Mr.Stewart often refer to him as ‘Jimmy’, it’s surprising that two of the DVD covers show his name as ‘Jimmy Stewart’.

 

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NATIONAL CLASSIC MOVIE DAY!

What a great idea! In 2015, the blog, http://www.classicfilmtvcafe.com inaugurated the National Classic Movie Day – May 16 being the day all classic movie lovers should join together in our common love for classic film.

This year, on May 16 over 40 bloggers will be participating in “The Five Movies on an Island”  Blogathon, hosted by ClassicFilmTvCafe.

You’re stranded on a desert island with a projector and five films. Which ones would you choose?

I did an earlier post,choosing five favorite films I can watch anytime, but I’d love to hear what you would view.

And I look forward to checking out all the Blogathon entries too.

One of my favorite bloggers,Cinemaven (http://www.cinemavensessaysfromthecouch.wordpress.com) has commented last year,

“… pretty much every day is a classic movie day.”

So true!

And,oh well, I can’t resist picking another five for that desert island. Two musicals, two westerns and a melodrama.

HIGH NOON.(Gary Cooper at his loneliest, and that final scene when he takes off his badge and throws it on the ground).

Gary Cooper,Grace Kelly.HIGH NOON

Gary Cooper,Grace Kelly.HIGH NOON

 

JOHNNY GUITAR.( Crawford running a saloon and deciding between Scott Brady and Sterling Hayden; and  Peggy Lee’s brilliant title song;

Joan Crawford. JOHNNY GUITAR

Joan Crawford. JOHNNY GUITAR

 

BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940. ( I’d forget where I was when Fred and Eleanor  Begin the Beguine. I’d just play it over and over.

Fred Astaire,Eleanor Powell..BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940

Fred Astaire,Eleanor Powell..BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940.

 

THE BAND WAGON ( Fred again, this time stepping out with Cyd Charisse, and a cavalcade of fabulous songs.)

Fred Astaire,Cyd Charisse.THE BAND WAGON.

Fred Astaire,Cyd Charisse.THE BAND WAGON.

 

HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT. ( Jean Arthur  as we hardly ever see her, in a drama , as a wife of an obsessive husband. She falls for Charles Boyer and who can blame her.)

Charles Boyer, Jean Arthur.HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT.

Charles Boyer, Jean Arthur.HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT.

 

FOREIGN POSTERS. 17

 

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THE SCAR

I sometimes get The Scar(1948) mixed up with STOLEN  FACE (1952).

Both starred Paul Henreid and both involve plastic surgery!

I must watch Stolen Face again – we get two Lizabeth Scotts, one with a Cockney accent!)

 

 

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EACH DAWN I DIE

 

 

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CAGED.       (NO REMISSION)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PURSUED       (VALLEY OF FEAR)

 

 

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FIVE  STEPS TO DANGER       (RED INVISIBLE)

A neat little thriller I hope to review soon.

 

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GENTLEMEN’S AGREEMENT     (THE INVISIBLE WALL)

 

 

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ONE WAY PASSAGE   (JOURNEY OF NO RETURN)

Handcuffs?  Oh yes, William Powell is a murderer. Never!

 

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ROAD  HOUSE   (THE PARADOR ROAD)

Parador? Not sure what this is.

 

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WHITE HEAT     (RED HOT)

 

 

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SOULS AT SEA.   (THE DEMISE OF THE “WILLIAM BROWN”)

Frances Dee doesn’t get her name on the poster  even though she is featured with Cooper and Raft.