Werewolf of London (1935)

“Neither man nor wolf…”

Stuart Walker’s Werewolf of London (1935) succeeds in terrifying sensitive souls. The movie tells the story of botanist, Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) who goes on an expedition to Tibet where the rare mariphasa lupina lupina can be found.  Also known as the moon flower, the mariphasa is said to take its life from the moon.

Werewolf of London 1935 theatrical poster

After many months and several warnings about the dangers that lurk in the Tibetan valley, Glendon finds the mariphasa, but not before he is attacked and bitten by a strange-looking half-man half-creature.  Glendon survives the attack and manages to bring home a live sample of the mariphasa.  Soon after his return home Glendon is visited by a Dr. Yogami, another botanist interested in the flower who also has strange tales to tell.  While the two discuss the properties of the flower Yogami mentions that it is also the only known antidote for lycanthropy.  Catching Glendon by surprise Yogami touches his arm, exactly where the beast had bitten him.  The werewolf, Yogami goes on to say, is “a satanic being that is neither man nor wolf, but possesses the worst qualities of both.”

Dr. Glendon discounts the werewolf tale altogether.  Or rather discounts it at first.  He starts to take it seriously when one of his hands gets hairy and grows claws under the moon lamp in his laboratory.  After a gruesome murder on the night of a full moon Glendon grows concerned that Yogami is right – he now suffers from the strange werewolf affliction.  Like his descendants would do in later werewolf movie incarnations, Glendon attempts to lock himself up so as to avoid another attack.  Unfortunately, the attempt proves ineffective.  Glendon escapes, succumbs to his urges and kills and by doing so puts those he loves in grave danger.

Henry Hull and Warner Oland in Werewolf of London 1935Henry Hull (as Glendon) and Warner Oland (as Yogami)

Werewolf of London is credited as the first mainstream werewolf movie, but the way it tells its story is not necessarily original.  By 1935 Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had already been adapted for film several times.  Werewolf of London has more in common with that story than it does with werewolf tales that follow.  For instance, when Dr. Glendon, already transformed into a werewolf, skulks London at night he is more reminiscent of an aristocratic creeper than a wild beast.  That’s a glaring truth if one compares Glendon’s werewolf to the one seen in George Waggner’s The Wolf Man (1941), which is Universal’s definitive lycanthropy movie.  One appreciates Lon Chaney, Jr’s tragic portrayal of Larry Talbot even more after watching Hull as Glendon.  Both Dr. Glendon and his beastly counterpart are too restrained.  They never lose control – not the cursed man or the beast.  In both cases the hat and overcoat are never forgotten, which detracts from the “uncontrollable urge” side of the monster.  As a result, we never empathize with the suffering of the werewolf of London as compared to how our hearts break for Talbot and his cursed alter ego.  Werewolf of London also makes a grave mistake in the telling of the story.  It lets it be known far too soon that werewolves attack the person they love, which means we know early on what the film’s climax will be.

Werewolf of London 1935Henry Hull transformed…

All that said, however, Werewolf of London is definitely worth a look.  The movie moves along at a great pace and although Henry Hull does not ascribe the heart of the wolf to his portrayal, he’s certainly menacing enough to give this viewer a few chills.  While we’re not likely to be terrified by the scenes during which Glendon skulks about as a werewolf, the first transformation scene is terrific with Glendon becoming more a werewolf as he passes a series of pillars.  And while the make-up by Jack Pierce in Werewolf of London is not as memorable as his work on other legendary monsters, the large fangs, ears and widow’s peak are quite effective.  I’ve read that Pierce’s plan for Hull’s make-up in this was what he’d end up using on Chaney in Waggner’s 1941 film.  The story goes that Pierce was livid with Hull’s refusal to use the extreme amount of make-up and chose the lighter version in order to emote better.  Whatever the reasons for the change in design this fan is happy about it.  We would have not gotten the 1941 Wolf Man or the contrast in the two versions had that not been the case.

Spring Byington and Valerie Hobson, Werewolf of London 1935Spring Byington and Valerie Hobson

There are several other reasons to watch Werewolf of London.  For instance, Warner Oland brings some of his enjoyable Charlie Chan wisdom to Yogami.  Valerie Hobson turns in a fine performance as Lisa Glendon despite being 17 years old, nearly three decades younger than Hull who plays her husband in the film.  Also worthy of note are Paul Ames who plays Lisa’s friend and Dr. Glendon’s possible rival and finally, the great Spring Byington – who is as reliable and entertaining a supporting player as there ever was.  The film’s art direction and music also help enhance the horror elements throughout.

If you’re looking for a classic alternative this Halloween, you’ll do just fine with Werewolf of London.  Audiences in 1935 didn’t turn out to see it, but it’s a worthy member of Universal’s horror legacy.

–Aurora Bugallo for Classic Movie Hub

Aurora Bugallo is a classic film-obsessed blogger, and co-founder and co-host of the Classic Movies and More Youtube show. You can read more of Aurora’s articles at Once Upon a Screen, or you can follow her on Twitter at @CitizenScreen.

Posted in Films, Guest Posts, Halloween, Horror | Tagged | 1 Comment

Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest TV Shows”: Standing the test of time?

“Our list is guaranteed to start plenty of loud arguments”

Tastes change.

When Entertainment Weekly ranked the “100 Greatest CDs” (remember those?) in 1993, the resulting list included an entry from the musical artist Slayer – - no doubt a worthy ensemble, but not one likely to populate many desert-island lists today.

In 1999, Rolling Stone magazine listed the quirky Albert Brooks comedy Lost in America as one of the 100 greatest films of the prior 100 years. These days, Lost in America garners a rating of 7.1 out of 10 at the Internet Movie Database, not even the highest mark for an Albert Brooks film.

Now, in its latest issue, Rolling Stone has given us the “100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.”

Rolling Stone Magazine Greatest TV Shows of All Time

Okay: No one regards Rolling Stone as the periodical of record on American television, or film. It is the periodical of record on records. Music is its bailiwick, although some recent judgments – - such as awarding four stars to every Rolling Stones album since 1990 – - have prompted even record fans to search elsewhere for counsel.

Yet, the new list has drawn substantial press coverage, partly because the publication apparently invited television critics from other mainstream publications to cast votes. (A canny move, come to think of it.)

“Our list is guaranteed to start plenty of loud arguments,” writes Rob Sheffield, the magazine’s popular-culture concertmaster, in a short introduction to the list.

It has. And I would seem to play into Rolling Stone’s hands if I started another one. Yet, I am the author of a book that posits The Andy Griffith Show as – - arguably - – the most enduring television program of its era. My book also claims that Andy Griffith has never reaped the respect it deserves from either the Hollywood industry or its salaried critics. The fact that poor Andy has been omitted from Rolling Stone’s list, and from another recent list compiled by the Hollywood Reporter, would seem to prove my point.

The Andy Griffith ShowThe Andy Griffith Show

In truth, I love lists. When I was twelve, a poster hung in my room. It pictured not Farrah Fawcett, or the cast of Star Wars, but a fine-print list of the 500 greatest rock ‘n roll songs of all time, as assembled by one of the Top 40 stations in my home town of Chicago. My favorite bands were the Beatles and the Stones. A song by Queen was listed at No. 1 on this poster. I knew, even then, that the list was wrong, and that history would vindicate me. (I mean, the song wasn’t even “Bohemian Rhapsody.”)

Anyone who has spent as much time with as many “all-time” lists as I have can tell you their fatal flaw: The more recent the work, the less reliable the list. The passage of time yields hindsight, weeding out the ephemeral from the enduring, the derivative from the original.

On my desk sits a book released a decade ago by the beloved British music magazine Mojo, listing several hundred records that, according to its writers, everyone should own. The entries for the 1960s and 1970s may not be unassailable, but they are at least defensible; critical opinion on the merits of Deep Purple’s Machine Head or Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book is, at this point, relatively fixed. But as I approach the back end of the book, where judgments are made on works just one or two years old, I read with growing trepidation. Yes, I know Nick Cave is a major artist, but is Nocturama really his magnum opus? I love Aimee Mann, but surely she has done better than Lost in Space.  

If “greatest” lists are least trustworthy when they consider recent works, then Rolling Stone’s list of Greatest TV Shows is one risky endeavor. The list is top-heavy with contemporary programs, including productions that are still on the air, some just reaching their apex, others about to jump the shark.

The first sentence of the piece seems to explain the temporal bias: “There’s never been a creative boom for TV like the one we are living through right now,” Sheffield writes.

Well, perhaps not. But are all the programs listed beneath those words a part of that boom? Is Portlandia a show for the ages? Is Broad City? I’ve read a lot about The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, but that program aired this very year. Is it already time to declare it timeless?

Seventeen years ago, Entertainment Weekly ranked the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. Scanning the list now for unlikely titles, I see that it includes The Last of the Mohicans, a fine action film that has slipped off the radar over the passing years, just like Lost in America.

I have to admit, though, that the rest of the list looks pretty solid.

Seventeen years from now, let’s check back on Rolling Stone’s TV list and see if it, too, has stood the test of time.


–Daniel de Vise for Classic Movie Hub

Daniel is Don Knotts’ brother-in-law.  Andy and Don is a lively and revealing biography and the definitive work on the legacy of The Andy Griffith Show and two of America’s most enduring stars. The book features extensive unpublished interviews with those closest to both men and a wealth of new information about what really went on behind the scenes. Click below to purchase Andy and Don on Amazon.

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A Classic Quiz: Test Your Knowledge of Hollywood’s Golden Age Stars

Test Your Knowledge of Hollywood’s Golden Age Stars

A Big Thank You to authors James Bawden and Ron Miller of Conversations with Classic Film Stars for putting together this fun little quiz for us! Test your ‘Classic Knowledge’ by answering these fun questions in the comment section below! We’ll share the answers next Monday, right here on this Blog. Some of these are tough, so Good Luck!

  1. Name the actor who won two Academy Awards for playing the same character in the same film in the same year.
  2. The actress who played the title role in the Broadway play Claudia also made her screen debut playing the same role in the 1943 film version of the play. Who was she?
  3. Archibald Leach changed his name when he began to appear in movies. What was his new name?
  4. Fred Astaire’s dancing partner in A Damsel in Distress went on to win the Best Actress Academy Award a few years later, who was she?
  5. She was romanced by John Wayne in Flying Tigers, then was locked up in an insane asylum by Boris Karloff in Bedlam. Who was she?
  6. Bob Hope sang the Oscar-winning song “Thanks for the Memory” in The Big Broadcast of 1938. Name the other Oscar-winning song that Hope sang on screen.
  7. In Miss Sadie Thompson [1953], Rita Hayworth played the same character that Joan Crawford played in Rain [1932]. But who played the same character before them in the 1928 Sadie Thompson?
  8. Mia Farrow played Allison Mackenzie in the TV series Peyton Place, but who earned an Oscar nomination for playing the same role in the 1955 movie Peyton Place?
  9. Name the actress who sang “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” in the musical Roberta.
  10. Which actor began his movie career as one of the leading stars of Citizen Kane, the 1941 film many critics believe to be the best-ever American film, but eventually ended up starring in a 1971 Italian film called Lady Frankenstein.


And if you have the time, you may want to check out their book on amazon :)


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TCM Trailblazing Women: Anna May Wong


Turner Classic Movies Trailblazing Women in Film
Breaking Barriers: Anna May Wong

Continuing on the success of last year’s programming, Turner Classic Movies will once again host the series Trailblazing Women of Hollywood, celebrating the actresses who have made a difference. Airing every Thursday and Saturday night in October, TCM will touch upon the actresses who, not only helped change the landscape of Hollywood, but also helped change the landscape of America, politics, activism, and even the world itself.  Each day of the series offers a focus on one of these areas. And, although the entire series seems incredibly engaging, I would like to focus on the programming for October 18th, Breaking Barriers, and shine a spotlight on one star in particular: Anna May Wong.

Anna May Wong-1938Bang game on point

Anna May Wong lived during an interesting time in history for people of Asian origins. It was a time of both intense discrimination and intense fetishization. While poems, paintings, literature, food and other forms of recreation and entertainment from “the Orient” (aka hundreds of vastly different cultures throughout the Middle East and Asia) were welcomed by white America, a deeper, more meaningful appreciation of these cultures was not. The West craved all of the “exotic” goods and surface aesthetics that came from the East without an actual understanding of the plethora of peoples or histories that created them. An entire continent of differing civilizations was simply reduced to a concept of “the Orient” – a foreign, seemingly backwards land of mysticism, heathens, cruelty, aromatic spices, weak-willed men and devilish women.

Basically, the West wanted an easily digestible stereotype that would reinforce the notion that “they” were from different “us.” According to Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism, this dichotomy of West vs East, or “The Occident” vs “The Orient,” was used to maintain the idea that the West was a superior cultural force, especially in the Age of Imperialism. This dichotomy would also shape Wong’s career as she was constantly deemed either “too American” or “too Chinese” — without people considering that she could be both.

the-toll-of-the-sea-images-7315be57-39e5-458e-ab44-9651e08277dAnna May Wong in The Toll of the Sea (1922, Charles M. Franklin director)

Wong entered Hollywood as a teenager, appearing as an extra in films shot in and around Chinatown. In 1922, the 17-year old Wong was cast as the lead in the early Technicolor feature The Toll of the Sea, a non-operatic adaption of Madame Butterfly. The film made bank, and while the fact that it was the second Technicolor movie ever made had something to do with it, pretty much everyone could agree that the other reason for its success was Wong’s beautiful performance as Lotus Flower. Her portrayal of a pregnant Chinese woman abandoned by her white lover was a revelation in screen acting. While the wild and theatrical movements of the stage had shaped the trend of film acting at the time, Wong bucked the norm to create a more subtle and precise performance; one that far better suited the intimacy of the screen than distance of the stage. She quickly caught the eye of Douglas Fairbanks, who cast her as the cunning and fiendish Mongol Slave in The Thief of Baghdad (1924) . Although both The Toll of the Sea and The Thief of Baghdad where massive hits, they marked the defining feature of Wong’s career. For the rest of her Hollywood career, she would be typecast as either the meek, hopeless victim or, more frequently, the villainous dragon lady – aka the two most prominent and incredibly demeaning stereotypes of Asian women.

Time and time again, Wong was stuck playing these two-dimensional roles that had nothing to do with her talent, and everything to do with her heritage. While her white peers were given the chance to explore their characters’ depth and development, Wong played victims or villains because, apparently, Chinese women couldn’t be accepted as anything else. It didn’t matter that she grew up in America and assimilated into the culture at a young age; Wong simply could not be seen as just an America on the screen. She was the Chinese victim or a Chinese villain and that was that. It’s no wonder that her career became a point of contention with her family, who viewed her roles as demeaning and shameful to the Chinese people.

Although Wong was constantly relegated to the most basic stereotypes on the screen, she did enjoy popularity among the American public. I mean, she was beautiful, talented, and incredibly stylish. What’s not to love? Her appearances in fan magazines such as Motion Picture and Photoplay were especially important because, at the time, she was often the only non-white face to grace their pages. This was most certainly a huge step for women of color in Hollywood, although the articles still seemed to focus on what she was instead who she was. The ole’ West vs East dichotomy always seemed to be at the forefront of the stories about her, constantly trying to pin her as “more Chinese” or “more American.” Because obviously she just couldn’t be both.

anna-may-wong_look-magazineEyebrow game on point

So, despite her talent and despite her popularity with American audiences, Wong still couldn’t get the leading roles she knew she deserved. In 1928 when she played the supporting player to Myrna Loy in The Crimson City, Wong finally decided she had enough of Hollywood and decided to try her luck in Europe.

When Wong arrived in Europe, she became a sensation. In 1928 she starred in a series of German films and quickly made friends with the film industry elite including Leni Riefenstahl and Marlene Dietrich.  Soon she began learning multiple languages and quickly adopted a European sense of the world. She became well liked among the European artistic/intellectual elite, surrounding herself with princes, playwrights and photographers. She became the toast of the town (or, ya know, continent) where she remained until 1930.

Wong was eventually lured back to American by Paramount Pictures, who promised her starring roles in major pictures. Now, although Paramount stayed true to their word and cast her as the leading actress in Daughter of the Dragon, guess what type of role she played? If you guessed villainous dragon lady, sadly, you are very correct. It didn’t take long for Wong to become more vocal about her dissatisfaction with the trite stereotypical roles being offered to Chinese-Americans and start advocating for more dynamic and challenging parts. Her pleas, however, seemed to fall upon deaf ears and Wong’s career began to fall back into its old patterns.

the_son-daughter_posterOh, look. Two white people. If only there was a good Chinese actress they could hire…

Due to the fervent racism permeating Hollywood and anti-miscegenation rules put forth by the Hays Code, MGM refused to cast Wong in the film The Son-Daughter because she would have to share an on-screen kiss with Ramon Novarro. The studio also stated, and I’m not lying here, that Wong was “too Chinese to play Chinese.” I don’t even know what that means. So, instead of casting a “too Chinese” woman to play a Chinese character, MGM cast white-as-snow Helen Hayes, dressing her up in the finest yellow-face Hollywood could buy. After playing a small supporting role in A Study in Scarlet, the dejected Wong once again left Hollywood and toured Europe for a few years.

Wong’s final attempt in Hollywood would prove painful. Upon hearing that the novel The Good Earth was to be adapted to film, Wong began campaigning heavily for the lead role of O-Lan. The character was heroic, flawed, complex, and Chinese – a dream role for someone like Wong. Once again, she was passed over in favor of a white actress in yellow-face, and was once again offered the supporting role of a devious Chinese temptress. Wong refused the part, saying, “If you let me play O-Lan, I will be very glad. But you’re asking me – with Chinese blood – to do the only unsympathetic role in the picture featuring an all-American cast portraying Chinese characters.” Rather than face such indignity, Wong packed her bags and left for China.


Wong began to study Chinese culture and theater, hoping to build a career in the place she was always associated with but barley visited: China. She was praised and welcomed by the most western and cosmopolitan cities of Shanghai and Beijing, but found herself unwelcome by the villages and workers of the country, who saw her as “too American.” A sad turn of events, considering that those in America thought her “too Chinese.” And with the rise of Chinese nationalism during WWII, Wong was soon denounced by many Chinese and Chinese-American nationalists as an embarrassment due to the demeaning roles offered to her by Hollywood. Which, might I remind you, where the only roles offered to her and roles she eventually refused because of their stereotypical nature.

I, for one, would like to raise my glass to Anna May Wong. Despite the insurmountable challenges Wong faced, she fought not only for her career but also for the careers of other marginalized Chinese-American actors stuck in the most basic and degrading stereotypical roles. She fought against the practice of yellow-face, eventually refusing to appear in films that used the technique, sometimes to the determent of her own career. So this one is for you, Anna, the great barrier breaker and an incredible trailblazing woman.


Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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Conversations with Classic Film Stars: about Bing Crosby and John Wayne – Exclusive Post by Authors James Bawden and Ron Miller

What Legendary Movie Stars Said about Each Other
Part Four of a Four-Part Series

The dominant musical movie star of the “golden age” surely was Bing Crosby, but not all his co-stars were big fans, most especially Dorothy Lamour, his leading lady in the highly popular series of “Road” pictures they made with Bob Hope. Lamour complained it was Crosby who wanted her out of the “Road” pictures when she started to put on weight and show her age and grumbled that Bing never used her in any of his TV specials while Hope always did.

Bing CrosbyBing Crosby

“He never was carefree like his image,” Lamour said. “He was tightly curled. His poor wife, Dixie Lee, slipped into alcoholism because of his indifference. I never found Bing anything but tightly controlled. He was nice, but distant.”

Joan Blondell, who starred with Crosby in East Side of Heaven [1939], had a similar opinion, saying, “I found Bing cool, standoffish, but completely professional.”

And Jane Wyman, who sang the Oscar-winning tune “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” with Crosby in Frank Capra’s Here Comes the Groom [1951], remembered him fondly, with some reservations, as “the supreme professional, always accommodating, but he’s the big star, so you watch and listen when he’s speaking. When I got to sing with Bing, it was a dream come true.”

John WayneJohn Wayne

One star almost nobody had any bad memories about was John Wayne, who befriended actress Anna Lee when they first worked together in Seven Sinners [1940] and remained her friend for the rest of his life. When she was playing his leading lady in Flying Tigers [1942], Lee learned Wayne was very depressed about not being able to serve in the military during World War II.

“(He) was making peanuts compared to Coop [Gary Cooper] or [Clark] Gable. He really wanted to be considered a good actor. To me Big John was terrific. I mean, did you ever see Larry Olivier in a western? He was, at thirty-five, one of the best-looking men in movies, and he knew it. John Wayne was such a nice man, but he was always a little shy with women, particularly blondes.”

Perhaps no other leading lady was as perfect for John Wayne as his frequent co-star Maureen O ‘Hara, who adored Wayne, even when they often wound up in rough and tumble scenes together on screen and she ended up with bruises.

O ‘Hara quoted Wayne‘s children as telling her, “‘You can stand toe to toe with our dad!’ And I did, too, and had the bruises to prove it. In The Quiet Man [1952], when I socked him in the scene in the kitchen, the pain that went up my arm was incredible. I hid it in my petticoat, but Duke came over to me and asked to see my hand because, ‘You nearly broke my jaw!’ When he looked at my hand, every finger was like a sausage, so I was sent to the hospital because I’d broken a bone in my wrist. But I’d meant to kill him, I was so mad at him that day”

John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in The Quiet ManJohn Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man

Marie Windsor, who worked with Wayne in Cahill, U.S. Marshal [1973], remembered him as an actor who had “extraordinary timing and was a great listener. He was the kind of actor who shared with the other actor.”

Even actors who bristled at Wayne’s politically right-wing attitudes seemed to have a great appreciation for him as an acting partner. Kirk Douglas, who made several films with Wayne, is a good example because his political attitudes are the reverse of Wayne’s.

“Wayne and I made four movies together,” said Douglas. “Politically, we were completely apart. We might have dinner together once during the making of a picture. Yet he’d call me and suggest we make a picture together. We had a respect for each other.”

Douglas likes to tell the story about the time Wayne came to a dinner party where they screened a print of Lust For Life [1956], which had not yet been released. Wayne was troubled by the unheroic behavior of Douglas as painter Vincent Van Gogh and, after a few drinks, asked Douglas to go out onto the veranda with him.

“He berated me!” Douglas recalled. “He said, ‘How the hell could you play a goddamn character like that? We should never play those kind of weak, sniveling characters. I don’t ever want to see you in a part like that again! They have no dignity!”

Douglas explained to Wayne that he thought Van Gogh was a fascinating character, much more interesting than playing a good guy, adding, “I’d rather play Doc Holliday than Wyatt Earp.”

While Hollywood’s “golden age” was still in full flower, it was rare for any actor to say anything negative about a fellow actor. The studios ran things in those days and wouldn’t permit it. Now, of course, bad vibes between fellow actors are commonly reported in the tabloid press or in their online blogs.

That’s why you might be surprised at some of the things they had to say about their co-stars many years after the “golden age” came to an end.


This is Part Four of a four-part series…

–James Bawden and Ron Miller for Classic Movie Hub

Retired journalists James Bawden and Ron Miller are the authors of Conversations with Classic Film Starsan astonishing collection of rare interviews with the greatest celebrities of Hollywood’s golden age. Conducted over the course of more than fifty years, they recount intimate conversations with some of the most famous leading men and women of the era, including Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joseph Cotten, Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, Joan Fontaine, Loretta Young, Kirk Douglas, and many more.

You can purchase the book on amazon by clicking here:


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Film Noir Review: The Big Steal (1949)

“It’ll be getting dark soon. I hate the thought of spending the night with an empty revolver.”

Robert Mitchum, the owner of the sleepiest eyes in Hollywood, was arrested for smoking marijuana in 1948. The scandal shocked few within the industry, but for the reefer-fearing public, the Academy Award nominee’s career was over. Things became even more dire with front page news coverage and a pitiful photo of Mitchum mopping the floor in his county blues — a seemingly apropos swan song for the noir regular. Fortunately for Mitchum, who had the sense to pen an apology to Photoplay Magazine, studio boss Howard Hughes cared far less about dope than he did lucrative crime dramas.

Mitchum was one of RKO’s biggest stars at the time, and Hughes simply saw the arrest as an affirmation of his actor’s bad boy allure. Even without the PR boost, however, the famous recluse considered Mitchum a “close friend,” (despite rarely ever meeting) and frequently cast him opposite starlets like Jean Simmons and Faith Domergue. Affectionately dubbing him the “crazy old man” in return, Mitchum took to the favoritism, fully aware he was an onscreen surrogate for Hughes’ (many) offscreen muses. It was a funny relationship to say the least, but one that benefited both men tenfold. Less than a year after his initial arrest, the “reformed” actor was back to the business of fictional bad behavior.

Robert Mitchum behind barsMitchum sporting a Hollywood smile behind bars.

Which brings us to The Big Steal. Released in July 1949, the film cast Mitchum as Lt. Duke Halliday, a disgraced veteran on the run from the law. It was a clever way to welcome the jailbird back to the big screen, and director Don Siegel even went as far as to open things up with Halliday’s capture! Audiences must’ve been tickled. The man holding him at gunpoint, Capt. Vincent Blake (William Bendix), has Halladay pegged for a robbery he didn’t commit, but within moments the commanding officer is beaten silly and left behind. Halladay is way too busy tailing real perpetrator Jim Fiske (Patric Knowles) to play Blake’s patsy. A conflict, a cash MacGuffin, and a close quarters fistfight — all played out in the time it takes to fry an egg.

This breakneck pace becomes the bread and butter of Steal. The film refuses to waste a second of its 71 minute runtime, consumed by a series of chases that swap vehicles and alliances every few scenes. Halliday and fellow dupe Joan Graham (Jane Greer) are chasing Fiske, Blake is chasing Halliday and Graham, while local police Lt. Ruiz (Don Alvarado) and Inspector General Ortega (Ramón Navarro) chase all four of them. The reasons why are scattered amidst a screenplay that uses thrills like most slapsticks use pies. Daniel Mainwaring flips the script from his previous noir effort, Out of the Past (1947), and pens a B-flick that blends crime, screwball, and adventure yarns into a single advantageous cocktail. Long gone are the sharpened flashbacks, and in their place is a sunny farce that’s way too relaxed to worry about backstory.

The Big Steal movie posterThe film’s fittingly bright poster.

At a glance, Mitchum plays things in typically laconic fashion. He tackles the fugitive role with such calm that if not for the countless close calls, we wouldn’t even know he was in peril. As the film progresses, however, it is Mitchum’s comedic timing that keeps his performance fresh and unique. Who knew the baritone brawler could be such a cut-up? Mainwaring gives the character a ton of playful lines to recite, especially in the company of Graham, whom he affectionately dubs “Chiquita.” The duo are delightful to watch, whether playing flirtatious, deceitful, or some scenery-chewing pocket in between. Here’s a quick sampler of the sparks that occur whenever these two verbally spar:

Halliday: Where’s Fiske?
Graham: Taking the parrot for a walk.
Halliday: You wouldn’t be his wife, would you?
Graham: No, I wouldn’t!
Halliday: Mmm-hmm!
Graham: I don’t like the ‘Mmm-hmm.’ I’m not his wife!
Halliday: If you were, I wouldn’t be saying ‘Mmm-hmm!’

While the banter would bleed into Mitchum’s future noirs (His Kind of Woman, Macao), it is actually his co-star, Jane Greer, who steals The Big Steal. Having been immortalized as Kathie Moffat in Out of the Past, the doe-eyed actress didn’t get much to play besides impassive evilness. But here, given an assertive role and the chance to hold her own against Mitchum, Greer delivers the liveliest performance of her career. Whether reeling Fiske in or spurning Halliday’s sexual advances, she crackles like a screwball comedy player who walked onto the wrong movie set. Truth be told, it was a set Greer very nearly missed due to, of all things, her dating history.

Jane Greer in The Big StealGreer’s performance is dead on target.

The actress had a relationship with Howard Hughes in the mid 40s, but upon breaking things off to marry pop singer Rudy Vallée, the studio boss derailed her career. By the time The Big Steal came around, Greer was at the bottom of the RKO barrel — and it was only after Lizabeth Scott, Jane Russell, and every other actress at the studio turned the film down that Hughes cast her. Greer was also pregnant during shooting, but kept the news secretive as she knew it would cost her the part.

The only person that didn’t bring their personal baggage to The Big Steal seemed to be the film’s director, Don Siegel. In spite of difficult locations and a tight shooting schedule (due to Mitchum’s legal leash), Siegel still managed to stay focused and take a massive step towards the traits that would define his later work. Besides the comedic bend, Halliday establishes the prototypical Siegel hero: strapping, capable, and actively defiant of the establishment. Instead of teaming up with the cops or chatting with the bad guys, the Lt. does things the hard way and answers any roadblocks with car bumpers and swollen fists.

The Big Steal 1949 film“I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t like to turn around, Chiquita. Besides, that there’s a guy behind me with a gun.”

Granted, Halliday is far more cuddly than successors like Dirty Harry or The Lineup’s Dancer, but moments of lingering violence ensure that he’s definitely the director’s ground zero. In this regard, Steal can safely make the claim of being the first official action-noir – predating kinetic classics from Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly), Samuel Fuller (The Naked Kiss), and of course, Siegel himself (The Killers).

As a thoroughbred film noir, The Big Steal does leave a few boxes unchecked. It’s relentlessly silly in mood, and archetypes like the fatale or the crooked cop are replaced with a clever heroine and a capable foreign officer. That being said, there’s still plenty of double-crossing, death, and destruction to satisfy most hardcore noir desires. It isn’t to the level of the other Mitchum-Greer-Mainwaring collab, Out of the Past, but frankly, what is? Drop the big expectations, let Siegel’s sensational vision lead the way, and The Big Steal will be too damn fun to dismiss. Mitchum couldn’t have picked a more pleasing comeback if he tried. B

RKO Pictures
Directed by Don Siegel
Produced by Jack J. Gross
Screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring (as Geoffrey Holmes)
Based on the story by Richard Wormser
Starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, William Bendix, Patric Knowles, Ramón Navarro
Cinematography by Harry J. Wild, A.S.C.
Music by Leigh Harline
71 Minutes

TRIVIA: Greer took pills onset to combat her morning sickness, and co-star William Bendix asked what they were for. After she told him they fought off “Montezuma’s Revenge,” he asked her for some. Later on, he thanked her because he didn’t get sick.


–Danilo Castro for Classic Movie Hub

Danilo Castro is a film noir enthusiast and Contributing Writer for Classic Movie Hub. You can read more of Danilo’s articles and reviews at the Film Noir Archive, or you can follow Danilo on Twitter @DaniloSCastro.

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Top 100 Classic Horror Movies as Rated by CMH Fans!

Celebrating Classic Horror with our Fan Favorites Chart! 

As many of you already know, Classic Movie Hub publishes over 200 Classic Movie Charts  — all generated by fans. From genres to topics, and even decades, these charts are a fun way for us to share fan favorites and recommendations for must-see classic films. That said, we thought we’d share our Top 100 Classic Horror Movies List in celebration of Halloween later this month. And, remember, if you don’t like what you see, you can change things by rating your favorite films! And if you don’t see one of your fave classic-era films on our site, please let us know so that we can add it.

Abbott and Costello Meet FrankensteinAbbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, maybe not the scariest of horror flicks :) but a real gem none-the-less

Many THANKS to all of you who are constantly rating films to keep our charts fresh and true. You can click through here to see the entire Top 100 List. And, here are the Top Ten:

  1. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
  2. The Birds (1963)
  3. Psycho (1960)
  4. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  5. Frankenstein (1931)
  6. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
  7. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
  8. The Black Cat (1934)
  9. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
  10. House on Haunted Hill (1959)

I have a feeling they’ll be a little controversy among die-hard horror fans with some of the above, LOL, but that’s part of the fun!


–Annmarie for Classic Movie Hub


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Conversations with Classic Film Stars: about Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe – Exclusive Post by Authors James Bawden and Ron Miller

What Legendary Movie Stars Said about Each Other
Part Three of a Four-Part Series

Melvyn Douglas, who first co-starred with Greta Garbo in As You Desire Me [1932], remembered her as “icy and distant.” He also said she had no flair for comedy and believes it was her “humorlessness” that made her so funny in their 1939 film Ninotchka, which was sold with the advertising line, “Garbo laughs!”

Greta GarboGreta Garbo

“They had to dub in her laugh later,” said Douglas. “How about that for special effects?”

As for her coldness, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. recalled with glee the ad lib Melvyn Douglas made while he, Fairbanks, Fred Astaire, and John Houseman were freezing on the sub-zero set of Ghost Story [1981]: “Haven’t shivered so much since I kissed Garbo,” said Douglas.

And supporting actor Keye Luke, who made his screen debut in Garbo’s The Painted Veil [1934], even had some reservations about her legendary beauty.

“She was a true beauty from the neck up,” Luke observed. “But her body was stocky, her feet long.”

Still, Luke found that Garbo was “very kind to me” at a time in Hollywood history when many stars treated Asian actors very poorly, having little to do with them.

Marilyn Monroe How to Marry a MillionaireMarilyn Monroe, How to Marry a Millionaire

Many rumors abound about the difficulty many actors had working with Marilyn Monroe, but Rory Calhoun, who co-starred with her in How to Marry A Millionaire [1953] and River of No Return [1954] remembered her this way: “She was a phenomenon that I doubt like hell this town will ever see the likes of again. There have been a lot of people trying to copy her one way or another—and to me they’re third stringers.”

That opinion was shared by Bob Hope, who said Monroe was “very kittenish and cute and pretty. She was very nice off-stage.”

Yet Joseph Cotten, who played her husband in Niagara [1953], characterized her differently.

“I never met a girl as introverted as Marilyn,” he said. “The whole fame explosion had just set in and whenever we filmed on location at Niagara Falls, great crowds gathered to see her. She couldn’t cope, retreated into her shell.”

Cotten said their director, Henry Hathaway, became so irritated with Marilyn for having her acting coach with her at all times that he finally banned the woman from the set. He said Hathaway eventually started filming their rehearsals as backup and discovered Monroe was “less mannered there and actually used some of the footage.”

Marilyn Monroe, NiagaraMarilyn Monroe, Niagara

Cotten still was fond of Monroe, despite the delays she often caused in filming, saying, “I’m glad I knew her before the troubles enveloped her and destroyed her. I want to remember that superb girlish laughter when I told her an off-color joke.”

Cary Grant also relished the fact that he had worked with Monroe in Monkey Business [1952] before the pressures of superstardom began to damage her emotionally.

He remembered her as “winning and adorable”.

Said Grant, “When I drink that youth serum and I’m acting like a teenager, Marilyn really got into it. I’m diving off the high board and she’s giggling and waving me on.”

Anne Baxter worked with Monroe even earlier, in 1950s A Ticket to Tomahawk, in which Marilyn played a chorus girl. She remembered the young Marilyn as having “dirty fingernails and always seemed so unkempt,” and was surprised when the fledgling star suddenly exploded into fame after small, but showy roles that same year in The Asphalt Jungle and their next picture together, All About Eve. In fact, Baxter said, Monroe’s sudden boom in popularity got her the role in How To Marry A Millionaire [1953] that Baxter was supposed to play.


This is Part Three of a four-part series…

–James Bawden and Ron Miller for Classic Movie Hub

Retired journalists James Bawden and Ron Miller are the authors of Conversations with Classic Film Starsan astonishing collection of rare interviews with the greatest celebrities of Hollywood’s golden age. Conducted over the course of more than fifty years, they recount intimate conversations with some of the most famous leading men and women of the era, including Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joseph Cotten, Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, Joan Fontaine, Loretta Young, Kirk Douglas, and many more.

You can purchase the book on amazon by clicking here:

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TCM Star of the Month October: Christopher Lee

Turner Classic Movies: Star of the Month
Renaissance Man Sir Christopher Lee

Singing. Dancing. Acting. When a person has mastered all three skills it’s known as a Triple Threat. Some people even go beyond that and master the art of directing, producing, writing, etc. But what do you call a person who, not only acts, but is also an accomplished opera singer, World War II hero, intelligence office for the British, heavy metal musician and master of six different languages? Well, you would call that person Turner Classic Movie’s Star of the Month: Sir Christopher Lee.

christopher-leeThe Modern Renaissance Man

Yes, Christopher Lee. Although at this point he is best remembered for his role as Saruman in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, his resume extends far beyond the white wizard. Lee began his first career not as an actor but as a military man, enlisting with the Finnish Army during the Winter Wars and then, when that mission was over, going to work for the United States lines. He eventually decided to join the Royal Air Force and was well on his way towards becoming a dog fighter, but before his training was completed, Lee experienced dizziness and blurred sight. He was diagnosed with optic nerve failure and was deemed unfit to fly.

A man of perpetual motion, Lee then decided to join the Intelligence division of the Royal Air Force in 1941. He took part in the North African Campaign, helping Allied powers to defeat the Nazis throughout Northern Africa. After the Axis powers surrendered North Africa in 1943, Lee’s squadron was then tasked with the Allied Invasion of Sicily. After the campaign was completed and Sicily was in Allied hands, Lee was hospitalized with his 6th case of malaria. He survived, of course, because surviving and being a badass seems to be the Christopher Lee way of life.

During his final stint in the Second Great War, Lee joined the wartime intelligence agency known as the Special Operations Executive. The informal name of the division was called The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.  To this very day, all of their missions are still classified but we do know they were  “conducting espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe against the Axis powers.” And all of this happened, might I add, before Lee even reached the age of 25.

After the war ended and Lee was a bonafide war hero, he decided to give his former childhood hobby a go and enter the world of acting.

christopher-lee-dracula-llChristopher Lee in one of his legendary roles, Count Dracula

And it is here we have the Christopher Lee most people are familiar with: the actor. Upon entering the world of acting in 1947, he was met with a rocky start.  Some of the first casting agents he met stated that the former secret service spy was simply “too tall” to be a successful actor. Although he was eventually signed to the British entertainment conglomerate, The Rank Organization, Lee spent most of his time there learning camera acting techniques via osmosis: simply watching and listening. When he did have a chance to actually act, he was given mostly uncredited and small background roles. In 1957 Lee signed on with Hammer Film Productions where he would build his reputation of a horror film legend by playing the character of Count Dracula 10 times over a roughly 20 year period.  Lee eventually left England, out of fear of becoming typecast in horror films like his good friends Peter Cushing and Vincent Price.

francisco_scaramanga_christopher_leeChristopher Lee as The Man with the Golden Gun

From the late 1970s all the way to the turn of the century and beyond, Lee continued to have an incredibly prolific career. In 2007 he entered the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most screen credits for a living actor, having appeared in over 240 film and TV movies. Two years later he received the Knighthood not only for his acting, but for his charity work as well. And while most actors would have slipped into the background in the twilight of their careers, content with taking it easy with minor roles or cameo appearances, the height of Lee’s fame came towards the end his life.

In the early 2000’s Lee played the second major antagonist in two blockbuster franchises: The Lord of The Rings and Star Wars. His roles as the corrupt Wizard Saruman and the jaded Jedi-Knight turned Sith Leader, Count Dooku, introduced the octogenarian to an entirely new generation of film fanatics. And if that wasn’t cool enough, at the age of 88 he added yet another title to his long list of occupations: Heavy Metal singer.

the_omens_of_deathFor real, though, he’s a metal singer

Yes, that’s right. Heavy Metal singer. In 2010 Lee released the symphonic metal concept album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. The record tells the story of Charlemagne, the First Holy Roman Emperor, who, by the way, Lee is descended from…because of course he is. He released another Charlemagne concept album in 2013 titled Charlemagne: The Omens of Death at the of 91.

So, let us celebrate this most modern of Renaissance men, a man who lived everyday to its fullest up until his death at age 93, by tuning into Turner Classic Movies every Monday night in October. Whether you want to see horror, fantasy, mystery, drama, comedy, or even some heavy metal, there no doubt that Sir Christopher Lee will have something to offer because, well, it seems that he just does everything, and does it like a boss.


Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub


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Kino Lorber “Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917-1923” DVD and Blu-Ray Giveaway (Facebook and Blog)

Buster Keaton Birthday Celebration DVD/Blu-Ray Giveaway!
Qualifying Entry Task for Facebook/Blog

Okay, now it’s time for the Facebook/Blog version of our  “Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917-1923″ giveaway contest courtesy of Kino Lorber in which we’ll be giving away one copy of this historic and fun set. And, don’t forget, we’re also giving away FIVE MORE copies via Twitter this month as well, so please feel free to enter that contest too…

In order to qualify to win this collection via this Facebook/Blog contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, October 29 at 10PM ESTWe will pick one winner via a random drawing and announce the winner on Facebook and on this Blog the day after the contest ends (Sunday October 30).

If you’re also on Twitter, please feel free to visit us at  @ClassicMovieHub for additional giveaways — because we’ll be giving away FIVE MORE sets there as well! (Click here for twitter contest details as well as more information about the collection.)

Buster Keaton The Shorts Collection 1917-1923


ENTRY TASK to be completed by Saturday, October 29 at 10PM EST…

Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

What is it about Buster Keaton and/or his films that you enjoy or respect most? And if you’ve never seen a Buster Keaton film, why do you want to win this collection?

NOTE: if for any reason you encounter a problem commenting here on this blog, please feel free to tweet or DM us, or send an email to clas...@gmail.com and we will be happy to create the entry for you.


Buster Keaton One Week, Robert Arkus CollectionBuster Keaton “One Week” (Robert Arkus Collection)

About the DVD: As new generations discover the magic of silent cinema, Buster Keaton has emerged as one of the era’s most admired and respected artists. Behind the deadpan expression and trademark porkpie hat was a filmmaking genius who conceived and engineered some of the most breathtaking stunts and feats of visual trickery, while never losing sight of slapstick cinema’s primary objective: laughter. Produced by Lobster Films, BUSTER KEATON: THE SHORTS COLLECTION includes all 32 of Keaton’s extant silent shorts (thirteen of which were produced under the tutelage of comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle). These 2k restorations were performed utilizing archival film elements from around the world, and promises to be the definitive representation of Keaton’s early career. Watching these films in succession, one witnesses the evolution of an artist — from broad knockabout comedian into a filmmaker of remarkable visual sophistication.

For more information, visit the Kino Lorber Website here.


Click here for the full contest rules and more details. 

You can visit Kino Lorber on their website, on Twitter at @KinoLorber or on Facebook.

Please note that only Continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico) entrants are eligible.

And — BlogHub members ARE eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

If you don’t want to wait to win, you can purchase the DVD or Blu-Ray on amazon by clicking here OR you can use the below 20% off coupon code to purchase it at the Kino Lorber online store:

Buster Keaton Shorts 1917-1923 Coupon Code

Good Luck!


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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