Exclusive Interview with Claude Jarman Jr. Part Three: Roughshod

Claude Jarman Jr. Child Star of The Yearling
Talks about his First Western, Roughshod (1949)

In our 3rd interview with Charles Jarman Jr, he talks about starring in his first western, Roughshod (1949), opposite Robert Sterling and Gloria Grahame. Claude talks about working with up-and-coming actresses Martha Hyer, Jeff Donnell, Gloria Grahame, and Myrna Dell, and meeting Natalie Wood at the RKO school while he was on loan to RKO from MGM.


A Big Thank You to Claude for his time — and for sharing his wonderful memories with us!

If you’d like to watch our other classic movie interviews with Claude Jarman Jr. — about The Yearling, High Barbaree and more — click here.


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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“Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen” – Children’s Book Giveaway (now through May 23)

Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen Children’s Book Giveaway
For ages 8-12, grades 3-7
We have 14 Books to Giveaway Now through May 23!

Lights! Camera! Kidnapping?
When a publicity stunt goes terribly wrong, twelve-year-old Darleen Darling, star of the silent film era, must defeat villains both on screen and off in this edge-of-your-seat adventure.

And now for something special… Over the next seven weeks, we’ll giving away 14 COPIES of the children’s book “Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen” to give away, courtesy of Candlewick Press!

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, May 23 at 9PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick two winners on seven different days within the contest period, via random drawings, as listed below… So if you don’t win the first week that you enter, you will still be eligible to win during the following weeks until the contest is over.

  • April 11: Two Winners
  • April 18: Two Winners
  • April 25: Two Winners
  • May 2: Two Winners
  • May 9: Two Winners
  • May 16: Two Winners
  • May 23: Two Winners

We will announce each week’s winner on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub, the day after each winner is picked at 9PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winner on Sunday April 12 at 9PM EST on Twitter. And, please note that you don’t have to have a Twitter account to enter; just see below for the details…


And now on to the contest!

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, May 23 at 9PM EST — BUT remember, the sooner you enter, the more chances you have to win…

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

2) Then TWEET (not DM) the following message*:

Just entered to win the “Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen” #Childrens #BookGiveaway courtesy of @Candlewick & @ClassicMovieHub #CMHContest link: http://ow.ly/shJx50z7aqD

Why do you want to win this book?

*If you do not have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

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.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…


An excellent suggestion for precocious readers and film history buffs alike.
—School Library Connection

About the Book:  It’s 1914, and Darleen Darling’s film adventures collide with reality when a fake kidnapping set up by her studio becomes all too real. Suddenly Darleen finds herself in the hands of dastardly criminals who have just nabbed Miss Victorine Berryman, the poor-little-rich-girl heiress of one of America’s largest fortunes. Soon real life starts to seem like a bona fide adventure serial, complete with dramatic escapes, murderous plots, and a runaway air balloon. Will Darleen and Victorine be able to engineer their own happily-ever-after, or will the villains be victorious?


Please note that only United States (excluding the territory of Puerto Rico) AND Canada entrants are eligible. No P.O. Boxes please.

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

Good Luck!

And if you can’t wait to win the book, you can purchase the on amazon by clicking here:


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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Classic Movie Travels: Cliff Edwards

Classic Movie Travels: Cliff Edwards

Cliff Edwards
Cliff Edwards

Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards was one of the most distinct voices in early film. As a musician, Edwards showcased his easygoing vocal style along with his talent for playing the ukulele to the delight of many audiences. His performances would soon transition to the screen, leading Edwards to be a part of several iconic films. In fact, his voice may very well be his strongest legacy to this day.

Clifton Avon Edwards was born to farmers Frank R. Edwards and Clara C. Edwards on June 14, 1895, in Hannibal, Missouri. According to the 1910 census, the couple had four children. Clifton was the oldest, followed by Annie, Herbert, and Gladys.

Edwards left school at the age of 14 and followed his family during moves to other Missouri cities, including St. Louis and St. Charles. There, he worked as a singer and performed in various saloons. Due to the fact that many of the saloons were run-down and had pianos that were also in a similar state, Edwards purchased the cheapest instrument he could find – a ukulele – in a nearby music shop and taught himself to play. As a result, he could accompany himself while he performed.

Over time, he secured the nickname “Ukulele Ike,” originating from a saloon owner who could not remember Edwards’s name.

By the 1910s, Edwards had relocated to Chicago. He married his first wife, Gertrude Benson, in 1917 in Chicago and resided at 1000 Dakin St. In the following year, he secured his first big break when he performed a song called “Ja-Da” at the Arsonia Cafe in Chicago. The tune was written by the cafe’s pianist, Bob Carleton. The duo toured as a vaudeville act with the song, which became a hit, and Edwards was featured at the Palace Theatre in New York City. Later, he would go one to perform as part of the Ziegfeld Follies.

Cliff Edwards & Bessie Love Ukulele
Cliff Edwards & Bessie Love

Edwards went on to record many songs, including early examples of scat singing. He signed a contract with Pathé Records in 1923 and became a popular singer, in addition to frequently appearing on Broadway. He performed in George and Ira Gershwin’s first Broadway musical, Lady Be Good, in 1924, alongside Fred and Adele Astaire. He would later go on to introduce the song “Singin’ in the Rain,” in addition to creating some of his own compositions. 

Thanks to Edwards, the ukulele grew in popularity. Tin Pan Alley publishers added ukulele chords to standard sheet music, as millions of ukuleles were sold throughout the decade. Edwards himself favored the soprano ukulele, even releasing his own brand of instructional books on how to play the instrument. 

Cliff Edwards Singing
Edwards and his ukulele

By 1929, Edwards was performing at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, California, where he was noticed by producer Irving Thalberg. As a result, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) hired Edwards to appear in their early sound shorts and films. He was one of the stars in Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929), which included him bringing the song “Singin’ in the Rain” to the screen for the first time. 

In addition to hosting a national radio show on CBS, he enjoyed a career in films. In total, he appeared in 33 films for MGM through 1933. During that period, he became friends with Buster Keaton, who featured Edwards in three of his films. Between takes, the two would sing and harmonize together. One of their musical sessions was captured and used in the film Doughboys (1930). 

Eventually, the public’s interest shifted to crooners and Edwards’s popularity as a musician faded. Edwards went on to appear as an occasional supporting player in films and shorts for Warner Brothers and RKO. He carried out the role of Endicott in His Girl Friday (1940) and can also be heard voicing the off-screen wounded soldier in Gone With the Wind (1939). 

In 1940, Edwards voiced his most famous role as Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney’s PinocchioHis rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star” is his best-known recording and remains a theme for the Disney company to this day. He would work for Disney again as the head crow in Dumbo (1941), singing “When I See an Elephant Fly.” Edwards also appeared on television, starring in The Cliff Edwards Show, making appearances on The Mickey Mouse Club, and lending his voice – usually to portray Jiminy Cricket – for a variety of Disney shorts.

Cliff Edwards Jiminy Cricket Pinocchio (1940)
“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you

Sadly, Edwards mismanaged his finances and failed to sustain his expensive lifestyle. A majority of his income went to alimony for his three former wives and numerous debts. Edwards declared bankruptcy four times during the 1930s and 1940s. He had no children. 

To complicate the matter, Edwards struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and smoked heavily. Near the end of his life, he was living in a home for indigent actors and spent his time at Walt Disney Studios to be present should any voice work become available. There, he found friends in animators who remembered him and took him to lunch, during which he often spoke about his vaudeville career.   

Penniless, Edwards was a charity patient at the Virgil Convalescent Hospital in Hollywood, where he died from cardiac arrest on July 17, 1971. He was 76 years old. His body went unclaimed and was donated to the University of California – Los Angeles medical school.

Walt Disney Productions, quietly paying off his medical expenses, learned of this and offered to purchase his remains and pay for the burial. In the end, the Actors’ Fund of America – which also assisted Edwards – and the Motion Picture and Television Relief Fund took care of securing his remains and covering the burial. Walt Disney Productions paid for his marker. He is at rest in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery. 

Today, there are a handful of residences associated with Edwards that remain. According to a news segment from Hannibal, Missouri, Edwards is not memorialized or remembered well in his hometown. 

In the 1920s, Edwards resided at 215 51st street in Manhattan. The home no longer stands.

However, the home Edwards shared with his first wife remains at 1000 Dakin St. in Chicago, Illinois.

1000 Dakin St. in Chicago, Illinois, Cliff Edwards
1000 Dakin St. in Chicago, Illinois

Edwards’s home in the 1930s was at 8221 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Here is what the property looks like today:

8221 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, Cliff Edwards
8221 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood

By the 1940s, he was living at 1394 Miller Dr., Los Angeles, California, pictured here.

1394 Miller Dr., Los Angeles, California, Cliff Edwards
1394 Miller Dr., Los Angeles, California

In 2000, Edwards was memorialized as a Disney Legend for his vocal work. The plaques are placed on display in Legends Plaza at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, across from the Michael D. Eisner Building.

In 2002, Edwards’s 1940 recording of “When You Wish Upon a Star” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. 

Today, while many may not remember Edwards by name, film fans of all ages may recognize his voice. In a sense, he achieved a fine form of immortality by providing the vocal talent behind Disney’s characterization of Jiminy Cricket, who still entertains viewers to this day. 

–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

Annette Bochenek pens our monthly Classic Movie Travels column. You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.

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Cooking with the Stars: Debbie Reynolds’ Eggplant Casserole

Cooking with the Stars: Debbie Reynolds’ Eggplant Casserole

As we all navigate this strange new reality, I like to find comfort in the things that make me the happiest and the things that I find familiar. I had already intended to spotlight Debbie Reynolds in this April edition of Cooking with the Stars, not only because she has been and always will be one of the actresses I cherish the most, but also because she would have turned 88 on April 1st. I think it’s fate that I was able to make her recipe and take the time to keep her in my thoughts this month out of all months though because Debbie and her work has always felt like a reassuring security blanket to me. No other actress has possessed her unique ability to make me smile and laugh, even on my cloudiest days, and I couldn’t be more glad that I chose to honor her during dark times like these. I was privileged enough to be able to write her a letter three months before her passing in 2016, and she sent me her autograph in return. Her message contained one simple word that has stuck with me through the years and makes me feel like I can get through anything: ‘happiness’. I hope all of you get the chance to try Debbie’s comforting recipe and I hope you all let a little bit of happiness into your lives while we attempt to get through this together.

Debbie Reynolds pictured during the Miss Burbank competition in 1948
Debbie Reynolds pictured during the Miss Burbank competition in 1948.

Debbie Reynolds was born Mary Frances Reynolds on April 1, 1932, in El Paso, TX to mother Maxene “Minnie” Harman, a laundress and homemaker, and Raymond Francis “Ray” Reynolds, a railroad carpenter. Mary and her older brother grew up in poverty, and she would later admit this fact openly, stating in a 1963 interview: “We may have been poor, but we always had something to eat, even if Dad had to go out on the desert and shoot jackrabbits.” Her family moved to Burbank, CA in 1939, and her friends who knew her throughout school claimed that she was nothing like the glamorous and popular movie star that she would later become. One remarked, “They never found her attractive in school. She was cute, but sort of tomboyish, and her family never had any money to speak of. She never dressed well or drove a car. And, I think, during all the years in school, she was invited to only one dance.

In 1948, Mary entered the Miss Burbank Contest, not expecting to win. In fact, she entered purely because she desired the blouse and free lunch that was offered to the contestants. Shockingly, Mary won first prize and suddenly found herself being fought over by two of Hollywood’s biggest studios: Warner Bros and MGM, who decided to flip a coin to decide which of the two would offer her a contract.

Debbie Reynolds in a publicity photo alongside Gene Kelly for Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds stand under an umbrella in publicity portrait for the fil ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, 1952. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Warner Bros won out, and it was Jack Warner who gave Mary the moniker of Debbie, but she ended up only making two films, June Bride (1948) and The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady (1950), over a period of two years with the studio before their dismissal of musicals led her to MGM. By contrast, MGM treated Debbie Reynolds like a star almost as soon as she entered its ranks, giving her the chance to spread her wings in smaller parts in Two Weeks with Love (1950) and Mr. Imperium (1951) before casting her in the biggest role of her career: aspiring ingenue Kathy Selden in perhaps the greatest musical of all time, Singin’ in the Rain (1952). Despite how effortless Debbie appeared onscreen, she would consider this the most difficult film of her career. She later remarked, “Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life.” The film wasn’t a critical success at the time of its release, but it did serve well as a breakout picture for Debbie, allowing her to smoothly transition into other delightful, youth-oriented musicals of the mid-1950s such as I Love Melvin (1953), The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953), and the underrated Give a Girl a Break (1953). She even starred as the world’s most tame juvenile delinquent opposite Dick Powell in Susan Slept Here (1954) and claimed to develop an offscreen crush on the married star, who was twenty-eight years her senior.

Debbie Reynolds pictured on the set of The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964).
Debbie Reynolds pictured on the set of The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964).

In the latter half of the 1950s, Debbie Reynolds continued to stretch her talents in musicals, but her characters grew more mature and marriage-oriented with each feature as she romanced Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1956), planned a wedding opposite newcomer Rod Taylor in The Catered Affair (1956), and juggled the responsibilities of motherhood in Bundle of Joy (1956) alongside her new real-life husband, crooner Eddie Fisher. At this point in her career, Debbie was also a prolific recording artist, as her recording of the song “Tammy” from the film Tammy and the Bachelor (1957) earned her a gold record and was the best-selling single by a female vocalist that year.

She continued to transition from a co-ed cutie to a full-fledged leading lady with films like The Mating Game (1959), The Rat Race (1960), which is perhaps her strongest dramatic performance, and the epic all-star spectacle How the West Was Won (1962). Two years later, Debbie would fight for one of the most critically acclaimed roles of her career: that of Molly Brown in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). At first director Charles Walters did not believe that Reynolds could handle the role, wanting Shirley MacLaine to play the part instead, but Debbie proved her worth through her dedication and long hours during filming, eventually changing Walters’ mind. Her performance led to her only Oscar nomination.

Debbie Reynolds with her children, Carrie and Todd Fisher, on the set of The Mating Game (1959).
Debbie Reynolds with her children, Carrie and Todd Fisher, on the set of The Mating Game (1959).

The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) turned out to be one of Reynolds’ final golden age films, and she followed the achievement with only four more features during the remainder of the decade: Goodbye, Charlie (1964), The Singing Nun (1966), Divorce American Style (1967), and How Sweet it Is! (1968). From there, Debbie continued appearing on television and on stage in various theater and cabaret productions. Some of her most memorable later works include voicing Charlotte the spider in Charlotte’s Web (1973), her Emmy-nominated role as Grace’s mother on Will & Grace (1999-2006), and her delightful portrayal of Aggie Cromwell in the Halloweentown series of films on Disney Channel.

She also co-starred opposite two former rivals in These Old Broads (2001), which was written for television by her daughter Carrie Fisher. In 2016, she began work on the documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (2016), which gave viewers an in-depth look at the intertwined lives of Debbie and her daughter. Tragically, on December 27, 2016, in the later stages of production, Carrie Fisher passed away after spending four days in intensive care following a medical emergency that she endured during a commercial flight. The weight of her daughter’s passing proved to be too much for Debbie to bear, and her final words to her son Todd Fisher the following day were, “I miss her so much, I want to be with Carrie.” She suffered a massive stroke and passed away shortly afterward on December 28, 2016, just one day after her daughter. They are buried together at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood Hills, CA.

Debbie Reynolds’ Eggplant Casserole

  • 1 (1 ¼ pound) eggplant
  • 4 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • ¼ cup butter, diced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Peel eggplant and slice in ¼-inch thick rounds. Place in a bowl with about 2 tablespoons salt and enough water to cover. Let stand 20 minutes, then drain. (Please see my thoughts below on why you should NOT do this step.)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
  • Mix cheeses in a bowl. Remove and reserve one-third of the cheese mixture.
  • Layer a third of the eggplant and half of the tomato slices in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Top with half of the remaining cheese mixture. Repeat layers once.
  • Top with remaining eggplant and dot with butter.
  • Pour tomato sauce over top, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, then the reserved cheese mixture.
  • Cover with foil. and bake for 1 hour.
  • Uncover and bake 15 minutes longer or until eggplant is tender. Serves 8.
Debbie Reynolds' Eggplant Casserole
My second attempt at Debbie Reynolds’ Eggplant Casserole. It still doesn’t earn points for presentation, but it looks far better than my first attempt!

Usually, when I write up these reviews, I attempt to recreate a recipe that I have never made before. This is one of the few exceptions. Back when I was simply testing Old Hollywood recipes at home, before I began writing about them, this recipe became one of the least successful dishes I ever tried to make. The entire issue lied in the first step, which encourages the cook to soak eggplant slices in salted water before adding them to the casserole. If you’ve ever worked with eggplant before, you may know that it’s probably the most absorbent vegetable out there and that the goal when you’re cooking with it is to remove any moisture from the eggplant, and definitely not add any. Why Debbie recommends soaking the eggplant in water before cooking it is anyone’s guess, but I’ve always been a stickler for accuracy when it comes to recreating Old Hollywood recipes, so the first time that I attempted this dish, I soaked the eggplant in water and it predictably turned into a soggy, watery mess that I couldn’t even bring myself to photograph. That recipe has been in the back of my mind for a couple of years now, and when I decided that I would honor Debbie Reynolds this month, I knew that I had a few different (possibly more likely to be successful) recipes to choose from. Still, something in me really made me want to give this casserole another go knowing what I know now.

This time around, I sliced the eggplant, salted the slices on both sides, and pressed them between two layers of paper towels for twenty minutes so the slices would get rid of any excess moisture. Then I continued the recipe as normal, though I do admit that I used a lot more tomato sauce than the recipe stated because I was already altering the recipe and I just couldn’t help myself. I think perhaps I added too much sauce, as the casserole was still rather messy upon serving, but it was still worlds better than my previous try. It was quite delicious, almost like a simpler and quicker attempt at eggplant parmesan. If I were given the option between this casserole and real eggplant parmesan, I would still go with the latter, but I think this one might just win out because of how fast and easy it was to assemble. It’s a dish that you can get into the oven in less than half an hour, and while it still takes an hour to cook, it’s more than worth it in the end and you really spend most of the time just waiting it out rather than slaving over a hot stove. For that reason, I’d definitely recommend this recipe with my alterations and give this one four Vincents! If I’m ever craving eggplant, this will likely be my go-to from now on. If you’re still stuck at home and you find yourself having to cook, try this easy recipe and pair it with one of Debbie’s uplifting films! I promise that combination will chase the blues away in no time!

Vincent Price rating 4
4/5 Vincents for Debbie’s Casserole!

–Samantha Ellis for Classic Movie Hub

Samantha resides in West Chester, Pennsylvania and is the author of Musings of a Classic Film Addict, a blog that sheds light on Hollywood films and filmmakers from the 1930s through the 1960s. Her favorite column that she pens for her blog is Cooking with the Stars, for which she tests and reviews the personal recipes of stars from Hollywood’s golden age. When she isn’t in the kitchen, Samantha also lends her voice and classic film knowledge as cohost of the Ticklish Business podcast alongside Kristen Lopez and Drea Clark, and proudly serves as President of TCM Backlot’s Philadelphia Chapter. You can catch up with her work by following her @classicfilmgeek on Twitter.

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Western RoundUp: Streaming Westerns at Home

Western RoundUp: Streaming Westerns at Home

This month many of us find ourselves unexpectedly forced to stay home for an indefinite period, so I thought this would be the right time to take a look at some excellent Westerns which are available for streaming. A good Western is always a welcome diversion!

The films discussed here are all available from a single streaming service, Amazon. Although there are numerous other streaming services, I feel that Amazon has the best selection of classic-era Westerns; what’s more, all of these titles are currently available at no extra charge for Amazon Prime subscribers.

Please keep in mind that licensing agreements and availability change over the course of time; if at some point in the future these films can no longer be streamed at Amazon, two of the three are currently also available on DVD and are worth seeking out.

Gunfighters (George Waggner, 1947)

Gunfighters (1947)
Gunfighters (1947)

This Columbia Pictures film, based on a novel by Zane Grey, is one of my favorite Randolph Scott Westerns. It has a top-drawer cast, an excellent screenplay by Alan LeMay (The Searchers), and eye-catching Cinecolor photography by Fred Jackman Jr.

The film begins with an unusual, colorful opening sequence that skips part of the usual opening credits, a style seen more frequently in modern-day films. The viewer is immediately swept into the action as fast-drawing Brazos Kane (Scott) is forced to deal with yet another man who wants to try to outdraw him.

Kane arrives at a friend’s home only to discover he’s just been killed, after which he finds himself the target of a lynch mob. Kane is saved by the savvy sheriff (Charles Kemper); although the sheriff encourages Kane to hit the trail, Kane wants to stick around and solve the murder.

Barbara Britton, Randolph Scott, Dorothy Hart in Gunfighters (1947)
Barbara Britton, Randolph Scott, Dorothy Hart

Soon Kane is involved with lookalike sisters, the good Jane (Dorothy Hart) and the manipulative Bess (Barbara Britton), who loves her father’s shady foreman (Bruce Cabot). Kane also has to deal with an evil ranchhand (Forrest Tucker).

This film packs a lot of story into under an hour and a half, and it has some terrific dialogue, especially for Kemper’s sheriff. It also has some scenes which are startling for the brutality shown in a film of this era, especially a sequence where Kane repeatedly shoots an evil deputy (Grant Withers) until he tells what he knows about the murder.

This is a very entertaining and well-made Western which deserves to find new audiences. I remain hopeful that one day it will have a release on DVD.

Rio Grande (John Ford, 1950)

Rio Grande (1950)
Rio Grande (1950)

Rio Grande is not simply one of my favorite Westerns, but one of my all-time favorite films.

It’s the last of the director’s “Cavalry Trilogy,” following Fort Apache (1948) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). It was made as part of a deal with Republic Pictures; studio head Herbert Yates agreed to produce The Quiet Man (1952) if the director and his lead actors, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, made a Western first. The rest was two very different films which are both gems.

Rio Grande may be the least regarded of the Cavalry trio, but any Ford Western is still a classic, and I find it a very special film in its own right. It takes place on a remote Rio Grande outpost after the Civil War, where Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke (Wayne) is unexpectedly reunited with the wife (O’Hara) and young adult son Jeff (Claude Jarman Jr.) he has not seen since he ordered his wife’s house burned during the war.

Jeff is befriended by fellow troopers, Travis (Ben Johnson) and Sandy (Harry Carey Jr.) as he works to prove himself in the cavalry. Meanwhile, as Jeff’s parents gradually inch closer to understanding and reconciliation, the children of the fort are kidnapped by Indians.

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara

This film has many great moments, starting early on with the “Roman riding” done by Johnson, Carey, and Jarman; the three actors did the sequence themselves, without stuntmen, and it’s quite exciting. Johnson was a master horseman and former stuntman, but the fact that Carey and Jarman did it as well makes it even more impressive.

I also especially love the beautiful music performed by the Sons of the Pioneers, who at that time included Ken Curtis, later of TV’s Gunsmoke; “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” is lovely, but even better is “My Gal is Purple.” John Wayne standing alongside the river at sundown while that song plays is one of my favorite movie scenes ever. Pure beauty.

I encourage anyone who hasn’t yet made the acquaintance of this special film to take the time to watch it. I’ve seen it countless times over the years, and I find each viewing more rewarding than the last.

The Proud Rebel (Michael Curtiz, 1958)

The Proud Rebel (1958)
The Proud Rebel (1958)

This is another post Civil War film, with Alan Ladd playing John Chandler, a widowed Confederate veteran. Chandler is searching for a cure for his son David (played by Alan Ladd’s real-life son David), who has been mute since he witnessed his mother’s murder during the war.

Through no fault of his own John ends up in a brawl in a small Western town, after which he’s paroled to work on the farm of Linnett Moore (Olivia de Havilland). Linnett grows attached to David and offers to take him to visit a specialist, and John in return works to save her farm from Harry Burleigh (Dean Jagger).

Olivia de Havilliand, David Ladd & Alan Ladd
Olivia de Havilliand, David Ladd & Alan Ladd

The Western setting is an integral part of the film, as Linnett struggles to eke out a living on the frontier; that said, the main theme of the movie is a pair of lonely people cautiously forming a new family unit, as hardworking Linnett becomes fond of little David — and his father.

The film reunited de Havilland with Curtiz, who had directed her in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and other films. She and Ladd are as good as one would expect, and young David Ladd is excellent in a challenging role as the silent boy who blossoms with a home and the care of a mother figure.

The Proud Rebel is a sensitively acted and directed film which touched me very much when I first saw it a few years ago at the TCM Classic Film Festival.

I have more streaming recommendations which I’ll save for a future post, though hopefully there will no longer be an urgent need for them a few weeks from now. Stay well, everyone!

— Laura Grieve for Classic Movie Hub

Laura can be found at her blog, Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, where she’s been writing about movies since 2005, and on Twitter at @LaurasMiscMovie. A lifelong film fan, Laura loves the classics including Disney, Film Noir, Musicals, and Westerns.  She regularly covers Southern California classic film festivals.  Laura will scribe on all things western at the ‘Western RoundUp’ for CMH.

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Cooking With the Stars: Doris Day’s Green and Gold Salad

Cooking With the Stars: Doris Day’s Green and Gold Salad

Doris Day
Doris Day

Top of the morning, classic movie fans! It’s March, I wanted to bring out another Old Hollywood recipe for you all to try. Last year I paid tribute to Maureen O’Hara with my overview of her life and career and my review of her strange tuna salad recipe. While I loved discussing this Irish beauty for you all, I realize that her salad wasn’t the best classic film star recipe that I’ve tried, so I wanted another chance at bat to hopefully show you all something fun and delicious that you can whip up this month. I was torn between a couple of different dishes, but I finally settled on another salad whose name and ingredients gave off some true Saint Paddy’s vibes: none other than Doris Day‘s Green and Gold Salad! This recipe comes from one of my vintage “cookbooks”, aka the December 1964 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, which contains a Christmas-themed celebrity recipe book in the back. Who knew that I’d find the perfect March dish from such a source? Read on to learn all about Doris Day’s life and work, and to find out how you can make her festive salad at home!

Doris Day as a baby
Doris Day as a baby, c. 1920s.

Doris Day was born under the name of Doris Mary Anne Kappelhoff on April 3, 1922, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father, William Joseph Kappelhoff, was a music teacher and choirmaster while her mother, Alma Sophia Welz, was a homemaker. From a young age, Doris took an interest in dance, and she grabbed local attention when she formed a dancing team with Jerry Doherty. In fact, it was her skills as a dancer that led her to receive a Hollywood contract at age fifteen, but disaster struck when her right leg was seriously injured in a car accident on October 13, 1937, just two weeks before she was set to leave for Hollywood. While she was recuperating, Doris began to sing along to her favorite performers on the radio and discovered a new potential talent of hers: singing. As she later quoted to biographer A. E. Hotchner, “During this long, boring period, I used to while away a lot of time listening to the radio, sometimes singing along with the likes of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller, but the one radio voice I listened to above others belonged to Ella Fitzgerald. There was a quality to her voice that fascinated me, and I’d sing along with her, trying to catch the subtle ways she shaded her voice, the casual yet clean way she sang the words.”

Doris Day pictured in the late 1940s
Doris Day pictured in the late 1940s following a performance, taken soon before she entered pictures.

This encouraged her mother Alma, who immediately hired vocal coach Grace Raine to help Doris develop her skills. Grace was so captivated by Doris’ “tremendous potential” that she gave Miss Kappelhoff three lessons a week for the price of one, and Day later credited Raine as having the largest effect on her vocal style and subsequent career. After she began getting work on the radio, Doris attracted the attention of bandleader Barney Rapp, who chose her as his vocalist over 200 other singers. He was also credited with giving Doris her stage surname Day, as he loved her rendition of the song “Day After Day”. In the following years, she worked with several other bandleaders including Les Brown, with whom she sang her first hit in 1945, “Sentimental Journey”. The tune, which is still regarded as a gem of Day’s songbook, was especially meaningful to those still serving in World War II yearning to return home. She toured the country with Brown’s orchestra and appeared for two years on Bob Hope‘s radio program. Her version of the song “Embraceable You” impressed songwriting duo Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, who urged Warner Bros. to cast Day in their upcoming musical Romance on the High Seas (1948). Director Michael Curtiz would later take the credit for discovering Doris, claiming that she was his proudest find, but it was her soon-to-be-costar Jack Carson who called Day and offered her the part. She later claimed that she was in such disbelief that she nearly hung up on the actor!

Doris Day and Rock Hudson on the set of Pillow Talk (1959), the film for which Doris received her first and only Oscar nomination.
Doris Day and Rock Hudson on the set of Pillow Talk (1959), the film for which Doris received her first and only Oscar nomination.

The film quickly led to movie stardom for Doris Day, who continued to top the charts as a singer while also making a name for herself as an energetic, All-American ingenue in films such as It’s a Great Feeling (1949), My Dream is Yours (1949), On Moonlight Bay (1950) and its sequel By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953). She quickly established a niche as an innocent, feminine songstress in period musicals which she just as soon desired to break by appearing in the title role of Calamity Jane (1953). Her performance in the role was multifaceted and physically demanding, but she handled the role with ease and professionalism. During this period, Day also dabbled in dramatic roles in movies like Young Man with a Horn (1950) and Storm Warning (1951), but she wasn’t taken seriously as a dramatic actress until she starred opposite James Cagney in what many consider to be her greatest film, Love Me or Leave Me (1955). Her success from that picture allowed her more opportunities to stretch the limits of her acting talents, and she frequently appeared in dramas like The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Julie (1956), and Midnight Lace (1960) almost as frequently as she starred in musicals and lighthearted comedies. However, it was Pillow Talk (1959), the first of three films that she would star in with her most famous collaborator and dearest friend Rock Hudson, that would earn Day her first and only Academy Award nomination.

Doris Day with a furry friend, c. 1968. Doris Day worked tirelessly for animal welfare during the latter part of her life, and the Doris Day Animal Foundation is still in operation today.
Doris Day with a furry friend, c. 1968. Doris Day worked tirelessly for animal welfare during the latter part of her life, and the Doris Day Animal Foundation is still in operation today.

Doris’ smooth transition into the delightful sex comedies of the sixties allowed her to remain a constant presence throughout the decade. While she continued to record albums, her memorable films, which included That Touch of Mink (1962), The Thrill of it All (1964), and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), allowed her to rank among the Annual Top Ten Box Office Stars from 1959 through 1966, topping the list in 1960, 1962, 1963, and 1964.

By the end of the decade, Day was eager to retire from the screen, but upon the death of her longtime husband and producer Martin Melcher, she learned that not only had he left her bankrupt, he had also signed her up for an entire television series and several television specials without her consent. She reluctantly agreed to star on The Doris Day Show (1968-73) to pay off her debts, and in her off time, she began her most meaningful venture, becoming an animal activist and posing for her own anti-fur campaign with many of her celebrity friends. In 1978 she created The Doris Day Animal Foundation, which continues to accept donations in an effort to rescue and assist animals of all kinds. In 2004, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush for her achievements in the entertainment industry and for her work on behalf of animals. She also received three Grammy Hall of Fame awards and continued to work tirelessly for her beloved “four-leggers” until her passing from pneumonia on May 13, 2019, at the age of 97.

Doris Day’s Green and Gold Salad

For the dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons bottled capers, chopped
  • ¼ chopped onion
  • ½ clove garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 ½ cups salad oil (I used olive oil)
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the salad:

  • Salad greens, enough to make 4 quarts (I used a colorful spring mix)
  • 4 ounces crumbled Danish blue cheese
  • 1 pared carrot, finely grated

A week or so ahead:

  1. Place all dressing ingredients in a large jar. Cover dressing, shake well and refrigerate.

Just before serving time:

  1. Sprinkle greens with blue cheese and grated carrot.
  2. Shake dressing well and drizzle 1/2 cup of it over greens, tossing gently until every leaf glistens. Refrigerate the leftover dressing.
  3. Serve at once with or following the main course.
  4. Makes about 12 servings.
Doris Day’s Green and Gold Salad.
My version of Doris Day’s Green and Gold Salad.

This is the time that I confess one of my awful food habits to you all. While I do really love making and eating salads, and I care quite a bit about what I put in them, I usually end up bathing my salads in ranch dressing no matter what. I’ve had many people who witness me eating a salad ask me if I would like some salad with my ranch! It’s because of this habit that I’ll admit that I was afraid of Doris Day’s salad at first. With a very specific, non-ranch dressing involved, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the end result, but I’m delighted to reveal that this is probably my favorite ranchless salad that I’ve made myself! The amount of dressing is more than enough, even for a humongous salad like this one. That 12-person serving size is no joke! This was super easy to make as well, as all of the real efforts lied in measuring out the dressing ingredients. I ended up making the dressing only three days ahead instead of the full seven, but I doubt that the waiting time affected the taste at all, as all of the flavors still melded beautifully together.

I suspect this salad is dubbed the “green and gold” salad because the salad leaves are meant to be green and the dressing turns out to have a pretty gold color. While I didn’t use the entire jar of dressing as I was instructed, I did use about two-thirds of it, as more would have really drenched and weighed down the lettuce. If I had any other notes to make about this dish, I would mention that the salad needed a lot more carrot than it stated. I admit that I used pre-grated carrot, but the amount that I ended up using in order to balance with the other ingredients equaled about three large carrots. All in all, I would give Doris’ salad recipe three out of five Vincents. If you like salads half as much as you like Doris Day, I urge you to give it a try!

Three Vincent rating
Doris Day’s salad gets 3 Vincents!

[Please insert three ‘Vincent’ heads for my rating at the end of the article. Thank you!]

–Samantha Ellis for Classic Movie Hub

Samantha resides in West Chester, Pennsylvania and is the author of Musings of a Classic Film Addict, a blog that sheds light on Hollywood films and filmmakers from the 1930s through the 1960s. Her favorite column that she pens for her blog is Cooking with the Stars, for which she tests and reviews the personal recipes of stars from Hollywood’s golden age. When she isn’t in the kitchen, Samantha also lends her voice and classic film knowledge as cohost of the Ticklish Business podcast alongside Kristen Lopez and Drea Clark, and proudly serves as President of TCM Backlot’s Philadelphia Chapter. You can catch up with her work by following her @classicfilmgeek on Twitter.

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Don Knotts and the Bullet (Exclusive Guest Post by Author Daniel de Vise)

Did a Little Boy’s Toy Bullet Inspire the Most Famous Photograph of Barney Fife?

Anyone familiar with the great Don Knotts and his best-known character, the over-caffeinated deputy to Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show, will recognize the photo. It pictures Barney, head cocked, eyes narrowed in his best Clint Eastwood impression, loading a bullet into his gun. The image graces walls, websites and t-shirts beyond number.

Farris Rookstool III, a former FBI analyst and current JFK historian who lives, appropriately, in Dallas, believes Don Knotts had the picture taken just for him.

Our story begins in January 1967, when six-year-old Farris learned from his father, Farris Rookstool, Jr., that the great Don Knotts was coming to Dallas. Don was touring Texas for the premiere of his new movie, The Reluctant Astronaut. Naturally, Farris wanted to meet him.

The Reluctant Astronaut

Farris, like most of America, knew Don as Barney Fife. But Don had left The Andy Griffith Show two years earlier, after five memorable seasons, for a film career with Universal. His first film, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, had been a winsome haunted-house feature. Astronaut, the second, explored the comedic adventures of an astronaut who feared heights.

The Rookstools had read in the paper that Don would pass through Dallas on January 27, part of a marathon press tour to launch the film, which paid mirthful homage to NASA and the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. Father and son talked it over. A lot of little boys wanted to meet Barney Fife. They decided Farris should write Barney a letter and leave it at the Statler hotel in downtown Dallas for him to find when he arrived.

Farris wrote Barney a note. He told the deputy how bad he felt that Sheriff Andy allowed him only one bullet. He tucked an extra bullet inside the envelope with his note: Not a real bullet, but a plastic one from one of his toys. It looked real enough.

Don Knotts, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

Father and son drove downtown and left the bulging envelope at the front desk of the Statler, addressed to Don but meant for Barney.

We can piece together what happened next from news clippings, Farris’s memory and my book Andy & Don, a dual biography of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts that traces both men’s careers.

Don toured NASA in Houston on Tuesday, January 24. He attended the Houston premiere on Wednesday and goofed for the cameras with boxing superstar Muhammad Ali. On Thursday, January 26, he arrived with great fanfare in the Texas capital of Austin, accompanied by the winner of Auston’s Miss Astro-nette contest, a University of Texas student named Farrah Fawcett.

On Friday, January 27, Don was heading to Dallas “when I got a call from my advance man,” he recalled in his memoir. Fire had consumed the Apollo command module at Cape Kennedy, killing the three astronauts who were preparing a February space flight.

Suddenly, a filmed NASA spoof seemed inappropriate. “Universal thought it best to pull the picture,” Don recalled, “and rerelease it at a future date.” The film was already playing in Texas, but it wouldn’t appear on other American screens for several weeks.

Remaining press events were quietly scuttled, including the stop in Dallas: Barney wouldn’t see Farris’s note. Someone told Farris’s father Don was ill, which was probably an unfortunate but unavoidable fib. I searched news reports from that month and the next and found no account of Universal pulling The Reluctant Astronaut because of the Apollo fire. That wasn’t the sort of news you told the press.  

andy griffith and don knotts
Andy and Don

“My father knew how disappointed I was not seeing Don and not being able to give him my bullet,” Farris recalled. But Farris’s father had a plan. He found a representative for Don in Hollywood, and he made arrangements with her to mail the package west. I’m not sure whom, exactly, Farris Rookstool, Jr., reached in Hollywood, and neither is his son. My best guess is that he connected with Don’s secretary, a woman named B.J. (Oddly enough, I never did learn the woman’s full name.)

Weeks passed without a word. Farris’s father finally telephoned his contact, possibly B.J. She told him Mr. Knotts had received the package but was tied up promoting his astronaut movie, which was finally coming out. If the Rookstools could be patient, she said, Mr. Knotts would do “something extra special” for Farris.

Farris checked the mailbox daily. And then, one day, an envelope arrived. Inside, Farris found the photograph of Barney loading a bullet, maybe his bullet, into his gun. Don had signed the photo, “to Farris from his friend Barney – Don Knotts.”

Now, Farris’s father revealed the full story Don’s aide had told him: Don had gone into a studio with his old Barney Fife outfit and had a professional photo taken of him with the boy’s toy bullet.

The elder Farris telephoned his contact and told her how happy the photo had made his son. He asked if Don planned another visit to Dallas. He didn’t, but he would be flying through Dallas in May. If Farris could travel to Love Field, Don would meet him between planes.

One day in May, Farris’s father drove him to the airport. An American Airlines representative escorted them to a gate, where the boy, now seven, watched his hero deplane. The group walked to the airline’s Celebrity Room (a real place, judging by the subsequent photo), and someone snapped a photo of the two, Don in a grey suit, Farris in a busy plaid jacket that would not have looked out of place on Opie Taylor in Mayberry.

“Farris,” Don said, “that was the nicest thing you did, giving me your bullet.”

“Barney,” Farris replied, “or do I call you Mr. Knotts?”

“You can call me either one,” Don said. “I will treasure that bullet forever. Thank you.”

Don Knotts and young Farris (photo courtesy of Farris Rookstool III)

To return to the question I posed at the start of this account: Was Farris Rookstool truly responsible for the photograph Don had sent him? It’s a good question, because that photo would become perhaps the single most famous image ever shot of Barney or Don.

Barney fans could have their pick among dozens of images of the iconic deputy. But everyone always wanted the bullet shot, the one where Barney looked like the Man with No Name from the spaghetti westerns.

“The photo is important because it captures the bravado quality of the character,” says Neal Brower, author of the excellent Mayberry 101, an exploration of Andy Griffith Show story lines. “The humor of the photo is created because Barney is a very unlikely hero. The photo has also been used many times over the years (I have a coffee cup with the photo on it) and thus is a quickly recognizable image that TAGS fans associate with the series.”

TAGS, to the uninitiated, is Mayberry shorthand for The Andy Griffith Show.

 Oh, how Don grew to loathe that photo. He signed it thousands of times. Because of how the photo was framed, with Barney’s long, dark tie hanging down the center, there was nowhere to sign it except across Barney’s crotch. Don winced with embarrassment every time he lifted a Sharpie.

don knotts as barney fife
Deputy Barney Fife

I asked Neal Brower and a few other Mayberry insiders if they thought it possible Don had arranged the photo especially for a six-year-old boy. Opinions varied. On the one hand, Don was a genuinely nice man, and he loved children, and nothing would have made him happier than to surprise a little boy with a meaningful present.

On the other hand, young Farris was hardly the first boy to send a bullet to Barney. Don received bullets by the drawer-load. Hundreds of them. It is entirely possible that Don’s agent or manager or assistant was on the phone with a little boy every day, telling him Barney was going to do something “extra special,” and then mailing out another copy of the hilarious photo with Don’s name scribbled across the crotch.

I can’t even say for sure if that photo was actually taken in 1967, although I have no proof to the contrary. Common sense suggests it’s more likely the picture was shot around 1964 or 1965, while Don remained on the show. Then again, Don’s own publicity engine really heated up in the following years, after he’d left the iconic show.

I haven’t found anyone who knows for certain. If anyone reading this has a subscription to an old-newspaper database and some free time, by all means, launch a search of your own. If you can find a copy of the famous photo older than spring of 1967, leave a comment or drop me a line through my author website, www.danieldevise.com. Maybe I’ll send you an autographed copy of Andy & Don.

As for Farris Rookstool, his adoration for Barney Fife more or less led him into a long and celebrated career with the FBI. Farris is one of a vanishing breed of peace officers who grew up watching Barney on The Andy Griffith Show.

“When people would ask me what made me want to work in law enforcement,” he recalls, “I often told them it was my love of Barney Fife, and what a positive role model he was for me.”  


–Daniel de Visé for Classic Movie Hub

Daniel de Visé is Don Knott’s brother-in-law and author of Andy and Dona 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. De Visé shares a wealth of new information about what really went on behind the scenes, including personal struggles and quarrels.

If you can’t wait to win the book, you can click below to purchase it on amazon:

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The Directors’ Chair: Psycho

The Directors’ Chair: Psycho (1960)

Some directors specialize in comedy, others in suspense. Still others delve in horror, romance or westerns. There are directors known for many films and some known only for one. Directors can put their stamp all over their films, while others get the heck out of the way. Let’s face it, we can use a fancy schmancy phrase like “auteur theory” but let’s get down to brass tacks ~ the Director is the Captain of the Ship. She (or he) guides the actor, the action, the tone…and us. They’re responsible for getting us there. In my new little corner of the Classic Movie Hub, I’d like to (metaphorically) sit in The Directors’ Chair and look at the works of some great directors. Before I start, let me first thank Annmarie and Kellee for inviting me to join their roster of writers here at ‘the Hub.’ I’m in such good company.

When I think of classic films, I think of Hawks-Hitchcock-Huston / Wyler- Wilder-Wellman / Lang-Lean-Lewton / Sirk-Stevens-Sturges. I’ll look at this alliterative bunch and many many more and hopefully my series has a healthy mix of personal favorites and directors whose work YOU…MUST… SEE. I’ll start now with my absolute favorite director. He is British. He cut his teeth in Silents. His filmography is unmatched and unequalled in success, popularity and masterpieces. He is the most famous director in Hollywood history. He is a master filmmaker. He IS the Master of Suspense. Of course, I’m speaking of Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitchcock’s visual style lends itself to story telling and he mastered the art of filmmaking in a suspenseful way. He takes hold of a theme: family, courtroom, infidelity, voyeurism, mistaken identity and a bunch of other etceteras, and pretzels these themes until you scream. I can only think professional jealousy due to his popularity with the public prevented Hitchcock from winning a well-deserved Academy Award for direction in any one of several movies. In a career filled with masterpieces, what do you call the masterpiece of masterpieces. I call it…PSYCHO.


Psycho eye
The male gaze…

Hitchcock throws everything including the kitchen sink (…and the bathroom shower) into creating this unsettling, unnerving and unseen before 1960 journey into the macabre. (You can make your own case for “Peeping Tom” released in England the month before.)

Psycho John Gavin and Janet Leigh
Afternoon delight
Psycho Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh
The welcoming committee

Hitchcock twists and turns the plot with a magician’s flair for distraction. In the film, Janet Leigh is having an affair with John Gavin. Though he’s in considerable debt due to alimony payments and paying off his father’s debts, Leigh still wants to marry him. She impulsively steals $40,000 from her employer to go meet her lover. She checks into a motel late one night and after talking to the young proprietor Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins, she has a change of heart and decides to go back home and face the music.

Anthony Perkins Psycho a grisly discovery
A grisly discovery

She never makes it out of the motel.

Hitchcock does the unthinkable with this film, changing the entire trajectory of the movie in one fell swoop. For all that goes on in Psycho it is a small and quiet film. There’s not a cacophony of sound. There’s not a ‘cast of thousands.’

John Gavin, Vera Miles, Lurene, Tuttle and John McIntire
Gavin, Miles, Tuttle and McIntire
Martin Balsam as Ar-bo-gast in Psycho
Martin Balsam as Ar-bo-gast
"I can handle a sick old woman" Vera Miles Psycho
“I can handle a sick old woman”

It’s peopled with great character actors including Martin Balsam, Simon Oakland, John Anderson, John McIntire and my favorite, Lurene Tuttle (“…Periwinkle blue”) all shown to good effect. Characters get more than they bargain for when they run into young Norman Bates. Vera Miles is especially strong as the no-nonsense, determined woman who wants answers about her missing sister. I sometimes think about Anthony Perkins reading this script for the first time. What a hat trick by Hitchcock to simultaneously cement and entomb Perkins’ place in movie history.

The cherry on top of all of Psycho is Bernard Hermann’s absolutely brilliant score. Crisp, sharp, stabbing staccato notes. To quote Hermann from the soundtrack album: The Great Movie Thrillers: Music Composed by Bernard Hermann for Motion Pictures by Alfred Hitchcock where he conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra:

“In using only strings, I felt I was able to complement the black and white photography of the film with a black and white sound. I believe this is the only time in films that a purely string orchestra has been used.”

So effective is Hermann’s music with or without the movie, purely listening to the score alone will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end with melancholy and dread.

“Then who’s that woman buried out in Greenlawn Cemetery?”

You can find the answer in Psycho.


— Theresa Brown for Classic Movie Hub

Theresa Brown is a native New Yorker, a Capricorn and a biker chick (rider as well as passenger). When she’s not on her motorcycle, you can find her on her couch blogging about classic films for CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch. Classic films are her passion. You can find her on Twitter at @CineMava.

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Silents are Golden: The Mysterious Disappearance of Louis Le Prince

Silents are Golden: The Mysterious Disappearance of Louis Le Prince

If I asked you to name the first person who ever shot moving images on film, what would your guess be? Thomas Edison? The Lumière brothers? Someone more familiar to film buffs, like William K.-L. Dickson? Maybe you would try to be smart and shout “Eadweard Muybridge!” Not a bad guess, my friend, but I did say “on film.”

While it’s often debated who we should credit for inventing “moving pictures” per se–which would include Muybridge and the inventors of various optical illusion toys–the first man to shoot images on film strips, the way it would be done for decades to follow, was the distinguished-looking Louis Le Prince. A true pioneer of the cinema, his story is extraordinary not just for how he contributed to a brand-new art form, but for how it ends–in a tragic mystery that’s still unsolved to this day.

Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince Headshot
Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince

Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince was born in France in 1841, to a military family. His father was a major of artillery in the French army and had received the Légion d’honneur. While growing up he spent time in the studio of family friend Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, who taught him about photography. (Yes, he was that Daguerre, inventor of the famed daguerreotype.) As a young man the talented Le Prince studied art in Paris and chemistry in Leipzig, Germany. These different fields of study would all play their part in his future work.

In 1866 he moved to England to work for his friend John Whitley, who’d started a brass foundry. He would wed John’s sister Elizabeth, an artist, in 1869. The couple would found a school for the applied arts–that is, the art of making everyday objects both functional and beautiful. They attracted some fame for their work in making photographs on metal and pottery, and were commissioned to create portraits of Queen Victoria and Prime Minister William Gladstone. These portraits, interestingly enough, were included in an 1878 time capsule that was installed under Cleopatra’s Needle in London (where it is to this day).

Louis Le Prince posing with his father
Le Prince posing with his father.

In 1881 Le Prince went to the U.S. as a Whitley Partners agent. Eventually he became a manager for a group of artists who made panoramas, which were exhibited throughout the country. It was around this time that he took the leap from working with still photographs to tinkering with the idea of moving photographs. Thanks to Muybridge, this was a big topic of interest to inventors at the time. His first experiment resulted in a camera with no less than 16 lenses. This certainly captured movement (so to speak), but by taking tons of photos at slightly different angles–images looked pretty wobbly.

Louis Le Prince 16-lens camera
The mighty 16-lens machine.

Heading back to England in 1887, Le Prince began designing a more straightforward single-lens camera in a workshop in Leeds. Resembling a stubby wooden box, this camera used paper negatives and took around 12 to 20 photos per second. On October 14, 1888, he went to the Whitleys’ home Oakwood Grange and shot his first film with the new machine–footage of Joseph and Sarah Whitley, his son Adolphe, and family friend Annie Hartley walking in circles around their garden (with some amusement). At only a few seconds long, it’s the world’s oldest true, “shot on film” motion picture.

His equally-brief films Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge and Accordion Player (again featuring Adolphe) were filmed soon afterward, and he began work on a projector he was planning on patenting soon. Family would claim that he successfully projected still images in his Leeds workshop, but the public would never see the results of his hard work.

A glass copy negative of Roundhay Garden Scene, Louis Le Prince
A glass copy negative of Roundhay Garden Scene.

In 1890, with his wife and children already in New York in a newly-renovated mansion, Le Prince packed up his inventions and prepared to move. He planned on holding public demonstrations of his machines when he was back in the U.S., much like Edison and the Lumière brothers would do years later. Before officially moving, in September he went to visit family and friends in France. On September 16, his brother Albert saw him board the train in Dijon, heading to Paris–the first leg of his journey to New York. When the train arrived in Paris, however, Le Prince was not on it.

His bags had never arrived, there was no trace of him or his bags on board, and no bodies had been discovered along the train’s route. No strange behavior had been reported in either the Dijon station or on the train. Le Prince had simply vanished without a trace.

Louis Le Prince "The Father of Cinema"
Le Prince “The Father of Cinema”

And that’s all we really know to this day. Naturally, numerous theories about what happened to Le Prince have been put forward over the years, some more plausible than others. The more common theories include:

Suicide — Supposedly Le Prince was facing bankruptcy and feeling trapped; however, this seems implausible considering his devotion to his family and all the plans to move to New York and demonstrate his exciting new inventions.

Fratricide — Since his brother Albert was the last person to see Le Prince alive, this has aroused some suspicion. However, there’s no evidence of any animosity between the brothers–quite the opposite, in fact.

Assassination — This theory’s gained the most steam since it involves the frenetic 19th-century patent wars. The story goes that Edison, hoping to control as much of the moving picture industry as he could, wanted to make Le Prince “disappear” before the Frenchman spoiled matters by filing new patents. Le Prince’s widow apparently favored this theory, but there’s never been any evidence to back it up–not to mention that it paints Edison as too much of a cartoon villain.

Le Prince’s descendants today apparently lean toward a simpler explanation. Le Prince apparently took a later train from Dijon than his Paris friends expected, hence why he didn’t arrive when they thought he would. It’s possible that he arrived late in Paris and was victimized by robbers, hence why his bags disappeared and no trace of him was found. In 2003, a photo from the Paris police archives surfaced showing an 1890 drowning victim who strongly resembles Le Prince. Could he have been robbed, knocked out and thrown into the Seine? It’s possible.

We will likely never know for sure. In any case, despite his tragic end, Louis Le Prince had just enough time to make a massive and lasting contribution to film history. And this author feels that he certainly deserves the title of “The Father of Cinema.”

Louis Le Prince Photo still

–Lea Stans for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Lea’s Silents are Golden articles here.

Lea Stans is a born-and-raised Minnesotan with a degree in English and an obsessive interest in the silent film era (which she largely blames on Buster Keaton). In addition to blogging about her passion at her site Silent-ology, she is a columnist for the Silent Film Quarterly and has also written for The Keaton Chronicle.

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Monsters and Matinees: A British Village is Pulled into Space and Everyone Drinks Tea

Once in a New Moon

What makes us watch a movie for the first time?

Often it’s because of our favorite stars. Perhaps a notable director. It can be from the recommendation of a friend. But sometimes all I need is an interesting plot description.

That was the case for Once in a New Moon, a 1935 British sci-fi film that was unfamiliar in every way. There wasn’t one recognizable name in the cast that included Eliot Makeham, Rene Ray, Morton Seiten, and Mary Hinton. I didn’t know the director/writer Anthony Kimmins even after I looked at his lengthy filmography.

But the synopsis – oh, that was irresistible:

“When the small town of Shrimpton-on-Sea is dragged out into space by the force of a ‘dead star’ passing Earth, the populace try to organise a local government based on equal rights for all, but conflicts arise between the local aristocracy and the villagers.”

What? A village is pulled into outer space? Fantastic! My mind was reeling with the possibilities of what I would see. Here’s where I admit I was so excited over the “dragged into space” bit that I glossed over “organise a government” which turned out to be a big part of the movie. I had too many questions.

Did it leave a hole in the Earth?

Could you fall off?

How could the villagers survive the lack of gravity or oxygen? What would happen to the animals? Would everyone float out in space?

We “see” the dead star and another small object on a collision course near Earth.

So many questions. Yet, the charmingly odd little film doesn’t even pretend to answer them.

Once in a New Moon is exactly as described. There is a small town with the very British name of Shrimpton-on-Sea and a “dead star” that broke off a meteorite and is hurtling toward Earth. (Every time they said “dead star”, my mind changed it to “Death Star” which added to my viewing pleasure and confusion.) And there will be a fight over the organization of a new government. That’s the description and that’s the movie. There isn’t filler.

I discovered the quirky film streaming on Amazon Prime Video from a British distributor called Renown Pictures which is devoted to classic British cinema. The films are mostly low-budget, B-movies and it can show. Many, like Once in a New Moon, are roughly an hour-long so they are worth the time even when lacking cool special effects to pull off their ambitious stories.

The Earth in danger has become a conventional plot in sci-fi movies (When Worlds Collide, Meteor, Deep Impact). It always goes like this: A lone scientist discovers an impending danger of never-before-seen proportions; he/she goes to great lengths to warn people and is greeted by disbelief and laughter; danger strikes and the disbelievers go to the scientist for help.

Mr. Drake, the postmaster, (played by Eliot Makeham) and his daughter Stella (Rene Ray) read about an impending danger to the Earth in Once in a New Moon.

In this film, it’s not a scientist but the village’s postmaster (!) Harold Drake (played by Eliot Makeham) who discovers the problem via headlines in papers from around the world. (He also has a telescope on his roof, so that helps.) Of course, his warnings are ignored.

Then a storm arrives. Waves are crashing. A dog hides in his little house. Darkness falls. Two circular objects in space pass each other. What does it mean?

The dawn rises, but phones are down and roads are washed out. The rich folk, eager to get “to town” (London), are upset. On a church rooftop they see the impossible: “Heavens, England’s gone!,” one yells.

They think a tidal wave has wiped away everything and left them isolated. There’s not even a ship to be seen. So the rich folks do what rich folks do: they form a committee. But in the middle of the meeting the sun sets – at 10 a.m.! Stars come out. Confusion sets in.

In London there’s panic. Newspaper headlines shout that Shrimpton is gone without a trace. Earth is befuddled. This is getting fun.

Meanwhile, back at Shrimpton . . . they form a subcommittee. (There is a humorous bent to the film.) Finally they ask Mr. Drake for help. A stargazer, he has been making calculations and asks them: “Where is the moon?” It has disappeared and he posits the idea that the moon and dead star have collided, crushing the moon and splitting the Earth in half. He has his calculations and proves his hypothesis.

Mr. Drake explains what has happened to Shrimpton-on-Sea via his chalkboard diagram.

And that is that. Shrimpton has been hurled into the “celestial void” that is circumnavigating the globe. Somehow this 6-mile long, 4-mile wide island has been ripped into space with just a few crashing waves and heavy winds. Yet everyone is fine. They’re still drinking tea out of china cup.

Up to now, the film has been fun to watch as they told us it would be in the opening crawl. We’ve got our terrified proclamations (“It’s the end of the world!”). There is a panic and the requisite scientific mumbo-jumbo (albeit from a postmaster). Storms set the atmosphere.

But then a class struggles breaks out when the rich people nominate themselves to head the new government. (To be fair, they are nice people – except for the haughty Her Ladyship who has been called a “hard-bitten conservative” by her son. That son, by the way, is in love with the postmaster’s daughter, adding to the tension and giving the film a romantic subplot.) Without getting too much into modern politics, the characters in this 1935 film are saying things familiar today. When the poor ask for their share of rations, it’s called “rank socialism”; they want a general election (a president, not a dictator) and equal rights. By the time the two sides talk of war, I’m thinking “I want my sci-fi film back.” But I understand this clash between classes was important to the filmmakers in 1935.

So we don’t get aliens – like I was hoping. And it’s not terrifying. So why am I writing about this in a column called Monsters and Matinees? Because when it comes to sci-fi and B-movies, this is one of the most awesome plots ever and I needed to share. Plus it’s important that when we find a new source of classic movies, like Renown, to let others know. So let your imagination run wild as the waves are crashing about, signifying that Shrimpton-on-Sea is now Shrimpton-in-Universe.

3 more to watch

Here are short looks at horror films distributed by Renown.

Castle Sinister (1948)

The first film I watched via Renown was this “old house movie,” a favorite genre of mine. Honestly, it looked like I expected: low production values with uneven sound, lighting, and acting. But there was something about it. It was clearly shot on location near the water and the black and white photography added a grim look. Though it started slow, I really got into it. The family that inhabits Glynnie Castle in Scotland has been haunted by reports of the murderous ghost of a former lord. An officer is sent to the castle when there are sightings of a masked figure who may be responsible for a new series of murders. This masked figure isn’t shy about being seen and it’s immediately apparent it’s not a ghost. Still, it’s eerie when his head looms out from the shadows over the shoulder of an unsuspecting person. I never came close to figuring out who it was and what was going on, which adds bonus points for this horror mystery.

The poltergeist disrupts papers so Jean (Patricia Dainton) finds a letter that proves her husband is having an affair in The House in Marsh Road.

The House in Marsh Road (1960)

If a house is in the title, we know something bad is inside. Struggling author David and his wife, Jean, are going from town to town scamming landlords with fake money. When Jean inherits money and the country house of her aunt, she’s eager to start a new chapter. Hubby only sees dollar signs, but Jean falls in love with the house, despite it being haunted. The aunt and long-time housekeeper (who has named the poltergeist Patrick after her hubby) “understood” Patrick and lived in peace with “him.” But, he can “be very nasty to people who don’t take him seriously.” (Guess who falls under that last category?) They repeatedly refer to Patrick as a poltergeist, but he’s quite playful with Jean (moving chairs around). He’s not so nice to David, however, who spends most of his time at the village bar, has an affair with a soon-to-be-divorcee and steals his wife’s money. When they plot to kill Jean, Patrick is watching and ready to protect her. There’s a great scene where loud alarms go off every time Jean starts to sip a poisoned drink. Slowly the realization of what is happening dawns across her terrified face and it is chilling. This is where the film turns from mild ghost story to suspenseful horror-thriller and Patrick goes full-on poltergeist. Note: Known in the U.S. as Invisible Creature.

It’s the “terrible monkey’s paw” which curses the person who wishes upon it.

The Monkey’s Paw (1948)

Based on a 1902 short story by W.W. Jacobs, this is a deceptive little movie with a Twilight Zone-ish ending. It opens with a shadowy scene in a curiosity shop where the owner weaves the tale of a monkey’s paw that will grant 3 wishes but then brings bad luck and tragedy. The man hearing the story – an antique dealer – can’t resist and buys the paw. Cut to sunshine in an Irish village where the Trelawne family runs a small store: Mr. Trelawne (Milton Rosmer) who is in debt because of horse racing, his wife (Megs. Jenkins) and their son who wants to buy a motorbike to race. There’s also the fast-talking Kelly (a scene-stealing Michael Martin Harvey) who seems to do odd jobs. (Watch this guy carefully.) There’s talk of superstitions and whether things are coincidence or fate (also important). I couldn’t figure out where this was going until that dealer shows up with the monkey’s paw. It sends Kelly into a panic as he cries “the terrible monkey’s paw,” and tells of witnessing the tragedy the paw can inflict. Still, without his family knowing, Mr. Trelawne buys the paw setting a series of events into motion. What comes next is an unexpected edge-of-your-seat finale that’s very intense. I was impressed.

Toni Ruberto for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Toni’s Monsters and Matinees articles here.

Toni Ruberto, born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., is an editor and writer at The Buffalo News. She shares her love for classic movies in her blog, Watching Forever. Toni was the president of the former Buffalo chapter of TCM Backlot and now leads the offshoot group, Buffalo Classic Movie Buffs. She is proud to have put Buffalo and its glorious old movie palaces in the spotlight as the inaugural winner of the TCM in Your Hometown contest. You can find Toni on Twitter at @toniruberto.

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