Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Another batch of '50s rarities ...

O HENRY’S FULL HOUSE – This 1952 20th Century Fox compendium of 5 O Henry stories has never surfaced anywhere during my 40 years here in England, so when I saw it on Amazon I just had to get it, and its quite nice if nothing very special. Odd for a film about one writer’s work it is introduced by another: the much better known John Steinbeck (whom I had not seen on film before) who links the stories. It has that early ‘50s Fox look and a lot of those young Fox players of the time, but the most interesting sequence is a practically wordless one of hobo Charles Laughton trying to get back into jail for the winter – Marilyn Monroe appears for maybe a minute as the streetwalker he insults, and its just great seeing them together. Oddly enough the story directed by Howard Hawks works least of all and is rather bizarre - but Fox stalwarts Henry Hathaway, Jean Negulseco, Henrys Koster and King direct the other episodes: cop Dale Robertson having to arrest old school pal Richard Widmark (guying his tough guy image) is a lively diversion; poor newly weds Jeanne Crain and Farley Granger trying to afford Christmas presents is nicely touching; and sisters Anne Baxter and Jean Peters play in an amusing anecdote with Gregory Ratoff.

CARNIVAL STORY – This was a dim childhood memory but I really enjoyed seeing it again now. Anne Baxter is terrific as the poor girl joining a carnival touring Germany and rising from washing dishes to being the headline act with a daring trapeze stunt, as she falls for no-good hunk Steve Cochran and marries trapeze star Lyle Bettger (usually a western heavy, but nicely effective here). George Nader also gets involved and good old Jay C Flippen runs the show. Anne runs the gamut and the stuntwork is effectively done and it all comes to an enjoyable climax. Nice period feel and colour, as directed by a Kurt Neumann for RKO. A perfect programmer for 1954 then. Glynis Johns did a similar trapeze act in a British compendium of Somerset Maugham stories (ENCORE) which may well have influenced this one.

THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER – This was a real delight, a ’56 programmer which I thought would be a cheapo effort but it’s a Scope and color Fox production from producer Buddy Adler and directed by Raoul Walsh and headlines Jane Russell in one of her bad girls trying to go good mode. Mamie is a hard-boiled but good-humoured dame being run out of San Francisco and put on a cargo ship to Hawaii – the only other passenger is writer Richard Egan. They both know the score but get involved anyway. He already has a fiancée waiting for him, and Mamie heads for the local dancehall with hostesses or is it really a brothel? It is run though by no nonsense madam Agnes Moorehead who has had a makeover and is blonde and quite glamorous here, as aided by henchman Michael Pate she keeps the girls in order and maximises the takings. It does not take Mamie long to see how the operation works as she becomes the star attraction and desperate Aggie has to increase her take to 60% to keep her, as Mamie begins to profit from the war buyng up cheap properties. Oh did I mention it is 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbour begins… It has a nicely dry ending and Jane is terrific here and those ‘50s costumes are delirious treats now. Below: blonde madam Agnes Moorehead lines up her gals (Jane on the left) before opening time....

INTERLUDE – another dim childhood memory, also long unseen. It’s a '57 Douglas Sirk from Universal and a Ross Hunter production – but its not even included in that recent Sirk boxset. It is set back in Sirk’s Germany in nice Munich and Salzburg locations and drenched in classical music as library assistant June Allyson at the American Embassy gets involved with broody but handsome conductor Rosanno Brazzi – but of course, he has a mentally ill wife (Marianne Koch) tended by old but wise Francoise Rosay, while doctor Keith Andes wants June to return home with him as his wife. Again its nicely resolved but there is no real chemistry between the leads. June Allyson is a curious case in that she is usually forgotten in any discussions on ‘50s leading ladies but there she was throughout the decade, all ladylike in those buttoned up blouses and white gloves, in those popular James Stewart vehicles, remakes of Carole Lombard and Norma Shearer movies (MY MAN GODFREY, THE OPPOSITE SEX (ie THE WOMEN), right up to ‘59’s Ross Hunter sudser STRANGER IN MY ARMS with Jeff Chandler, Mary Astor and Sandra Dee. Allyson is perfect though in WOMAN'S WORLD and THE OPPOSITE SEX. INTERLUDE has a yuckky theme song by the McGuire Sisters which sets the tone here ...
This was also remade in 1968 with Oscar Werner and should be worth a look.

THE TRUTH ABOUT WOMEN – and yet another childhood memory and one not seen since as again it never surfaced anywhere, until a friend got a copy recently. This is a 1957 Muriel Box film crammed with British thespians, as an aged Laurence Harvey looks back over the women in his life. Cue some of the actresses and starlets of the day: Diane Cilento, Mai Zetterling, Eva Gabor, Jackie Lane, Lisa Gastoni in amusing little playlets and gowned by Cecil Beaton, Christopher Lee is also as effective as ever. The heart of the film though is the episode with Julie Harris playing with her usual total sincerity the nice girl Harvey gets trapped with in the lift who becomes his wife and the mother to their children, but … Its all nicely put together even if Larry seems to be just playing his usual self with grey whiskers, and its certainly a period piece now, but good to see Harvey and Harris re-united after their I AM A CAMERA in ’55. English viewers of a certain vintage will be amused to see the final lady is tv Eurovision presenter Katie Boyle in a mink stole!


  1. Michael,

    Where are you finding some of these films for viewing?! Are they being shown on television, over on your side of the pond?

  2. hi Todd, a pal from IMDb and I have been trawling the internet for dvd-r disks of rare movies (some are cheap, average about $10) - we meet up every few months to swop and I got a few on Amazon too. I spent a fortune last year but got a lot of stuff I have not even looked at yet ! I also have two IMDb pals in New York who send me disks of choice items they record over there ...