Tom Brown’s School Days and his nemesis Harry Flashman – March 29, 2023

Tom Brown’s School Days (sometimes written Tom Brown’s Schooldays, also published under the titles Tom Brown at RugbySchool Days at Rugby, and Tom Brown’s School Days at Rugby) is an 1857 novel by Thomas Hughes. The story is set in the 1830s at Rugby School, an English public school. Hughes attended Rugby School from 1834 to 1842.

The novel was originally published as being “by an Old Boy of Rugby”, and much of it is based on the author’s experiences. Tom Brown is largely based on the author’s brother George Hughes. George Arthur, another of the book’s main characters, is generally believed to be based on Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (Dean Stanley). The fictional Tom’s life also resembles the author’s, in that the culminating event of his school career was a cricket match. The novel also features Dr Thomas Arnold (1795–1842), who was the actual headmaster of Rugby School from 1828 to 1841.

Tom Brown’s School Days has been the source for several film and television adaptations. It also influenced the genre of British school novels, which began in the nineteenth century, and led to fictional depictions of schools such as Mr Chips‘s Brookfield, (Goodbye Mr. Chips, Robert Donat, Academy Award Winner, Best Actor, 1939, and Greer Garson) and St Trinian’s. A sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford, was published in 1861.

Tom Brown is energetic, stubborn, kind-hearted and athletic, rather than intellectual. He follows his feelings and the unwritten rules of the boys.

The early chapters of the novel deal with his childhood at his home in the Vale of White Horse. Much of the scene setting in the first chapter is deeply revealing of Victorian Britain’s attitudes towards society and class, and contains a comparison of so-called Saxon and Norman influences on the country. This part of the book, when young Tom wanders the valleys freely on his pony, serves as a contrast with the hellish experiences in his first years at school.

His first school year is at a local school. His second year starts at a private school, but due to an epidemic of fever in the area, all the school’s boys are sent home, and Tom is transferred mid-term to Rugby School.

On his arrival, the eleven-year-old Tom Brown is looked after by a more experienced classmate, Harry “Scud” East. Tom’s nemesis at Rugby is the bully Flashman. The intensity of the bullying increases, and, after refusing to hand over a sweepstake ticket for the favourite in a horse race, Tom is deliberately burned in front of a fire. Tom and East defeat Flashman with the help of Diggs, a kind, comical, older boy. In their triumph they become unruly.

In the second half of the book, Dr Thomas Arnold (1795–1842), the historical headmaster of the school at the time, gives Tom the care of George Arthur, a frail, pious, academically brilliant, gauche, and sensitive new boy. A fight that Tom gets into to protect Arthur, and Arthur’s nearly dying of fever, are described in detail. Tom and Arthur help each other and the friends develop into young gentlemen who say their nightly prayers, do not cheat on homework, and play in a cricket match. An epilogue shows Tom’s return to Rugby and its chapel when he hears of Arnold’s death.

 Thomas Arnold (13 June 1795 – 12 June 1842) was an English educator and historian. He was an early supporter of the Broad Church Anglican movement. As headmaster of Rugby School from 1828 to 1841, he introduced several reforms that were widely copied by other noted public schools. His reforms redefined standards of masculinity and achievement.

Arnold’s appointment to the headship of Rugby School in 1828, after some years as a private tutor, turned the school’s fortunes around. His force of character and religious zeal enabled him to make it a model for other public schools and exercise a strong influence on the education system of England. Though he introduced history, mathematics and modern languages, he based his teaching on the classical languages. “I assume it as the foundation of all my view of the case, that boys at a public school never will learn to speak or pronounce French well, under any circumstances,” and so it would be enough if they could “learn it grammatically as a dead language.” Physical science was not taught because, in Arnold’s view, “it must either take the chief place in the school curriculum, or it must be left out altogether.” Arnold was also opposed to the materialistic tendency of physical science, a view deriving from his Christian idealism. He wrote that “rather than have physical science the principal thing in my son’s mind, I would gladly have him think that the sun went round the earth, and that the stars were so many spangles set in the bright blue firmament. Surely the one thing needful for a Christian and an Englishman to study is Christian and moral and political philosophy.”

Arnold developed the praepostor (prefect) system, in which sixth-form students were given powers over every part of the school (managed by himself) and kept order in the establishment. The 1857 novel by Thomas HughesTom Brown’s School Days, portrays a generation of boys “who feared the Doctor with all our hearts, and very little besides in heaven or earth; who thought more of our sets in the School than of the Church of Christ, and put the traditions of Rugby and the public opinion of boys in our daily life above the laws of God.”

Arnold was no great enthusiast for sport, which was permitted only as an alternative to poaching or fighting with local boys and did not become part of Rugby’s curriculum until 1850. He described his educational aims as being the cure of soul’s first, moral development second, and intellectual development third. However, this did not prevent Baron de Coubertin from considering him the father of the organized sport he admired when he visited English public schools, including Rugby in 1886. When looking at Arnold’s tomb in the school chapel he recalled that he felt suddenly as if he were looking on “the very cornerstone of the British empire”. Coubertin is thought to have exaggerated the importance of sport to Thomas Arnold, whom he viewed as “one of the founders of athletic chivalry”. The character-forming influence of sport, with which Coubertin was so impressed, is more likely to have originated in the novel Tom Brown’s School Days than exclusively in the ideas of Arnold himself. “Thomas Arnold, the leader and classic model of English educators,” wrote Coubertin, “gave the precise formula for the role of athletics in education. The cause was quickly won. Playing fields sprang up all over England

Tom Brown’s Schooldays was a 1971 television serial adaptation of the 1857 Thomas Hughes novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Consisting of five one hour long episodes, the series was directed by Gareth Davies and used a screenplay by Anthony Steven.

Tom Brown’s Schooldays originally screened on the BBC1 Sunday afternoon slot, which often showed serializations of classics aimed at a family audience. It made some free adaptations to Hughes’s novel, creating the role of Flashman’s father, and added new sub-plots about Flashman and Arnold. It also included scenes of bullying and corporal punishment which may have been too graphic for family viewing. “Clean-up TV” campaigner Mary Whitehouse claimed that the program broke the BBC’s guidelines on the depiction of sadistic violence.

After its 1971 premiere on the BBC, the series was later shown on Masterpiece Theatre in the United States in January and February 1973 through a grant from the Mobil Oil Corporation.[1] In his review in The New York Times, critic Howard Thompson wrote, “Two previous film versions of Tom Brown’s Schooldays (one from England) pale beside this home‐screen project, which so far (two chapters) seems almost too good to be true, even from Masterpiece Theater.” The program won the 1973 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series, and actor Anthony Murphy won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for his portrayal of Tom Brown.

Sir Harry Paget Flashman VCKCBKCIE is a fictional character created by Thomas Hughes (1822–1896) in the semi-autobiographical Tom Brown’s School Days (1857) and later developed by George MacDonald Fraser (1925–2008). Harry Flashman appears in a series of 12 of Fraser’s books, collectively known as The Flashman Papers, with covers illustrated by Arthur Barbosa and Gino D’Achille. Flashman was played by Malcolm McDowell in the Richard Lester 1975 film Royal Flash.

In Tom Brown’s School Days (1857), Flashman is portrayed as a notorious Rugby School bully who persecutes Tom Brown and is finally expelled for drunkenness, at which point he simply disappears. Fraser decided to write the story of Flashman’s later life, in which the school bully would be identified as an “illustrious Victorian soldier”, experiencing many of the 19th-century wars and adventures of the British Empire and rising to high rank in the British Army, to be acclaimed as a great warrior, while still remaining “a scoundrel, a liar, a cheat, a thief, a coward—and, oh yes, a toady.” In the papers – which are purported to have been written by Flashman and discovered only after his death – he describes his own dishonourable conduct with complete candour. Fraser’s Flashman is an antihero who often runs away from danger. Nevertheless, through a combination of luck and cunning, he usually ends each volume acclaimed as a hero.

Fraser gave Flashman a lifespan from 1822 to 1915 and a birth-date of 5 May. He also provided Flashman’s first and middle names, as Hughes’s novel had given Flashman only one, using the names to make an ironic allusion to Henry Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey. Paget was one of the heroes of Waterloo, who cuckolded the Duke of Wellington‘s brother Henry Wellesley and later—in one of the period’s more celebrated scandals—married Lady Anglesey, after Wellesley had divorced her for adultery.

In Flashman, Flashman says that his great-grandfather, Jack Flashman, made the family fortune in America, trading in rum, slaves and “piracy too, I shouldn’t wonder”. Despite their wealth, the Flashmans “were never the thing”; Flashman quotes the diarist Henry Greville’s comment that “the coarse streak showed through, generation after generation, like dung beneath a rosebush”. Harry Flashman’s equally fictional father, Henry Buckley Flashman, appears in Black Ajax (1997). Buckley, a bold young officer in the British cavalry, is said to have been wounded in action at Talavera in 1809, and then to have gained access to “society” by sponsoring bare-knuckle boxer Tom Molineaux (the first black man to contend for a championship). The character subsequently marries Flashman’s mother Lady Alicia Paget, a fictional relation of the real Marquess of Anglesey. Buckley, it is related, also served as a Member of Parliament (MP) but was “sent to the knacker’s yard at Reform“. Beside politics, the older Flashman character has interests including drinking, fox hunting (riding to hounds), and women.

Flashman is a large man, six feet two inches, about 180 pounds.. In Flashman and the Tiger, he mentions that one of his grandchildren has black hair and eyes, resembling him in his younger years. His dark colouring frequently enabled him to pass (in disguise) for a Pashtun. He claims only three natural talents: horsemanship, facility with foreign languages, and fornication. He becomes an expert cricket-bowler, but only through hard effort (he needed sporting credit at Rugby School, and feared to play rugby football). He can also display a winning personality when he wants to, and is very skilled at flattering those more important than himself without appearing servile.

As he admits in the Papers, Flashman is a coward, who will flee from danger if there is any way to do so, and has on some occasions collapsed in funk. He has one great advantage in concealing this weakness: when he is frightened, his face turns red, rather than white, so that observers think he is excited, enraged, or exuberant—as a hero ought to be.

After his expulsion from Rugby School for drunkenness, the young Flashman looks for an easy life. He has his wealthy father buy him an officer’s commission in the fashionable 11th Regiment of Light Dragoons. The 11th, commanded by Lord Cardigan, later involved in the Charge of the Light Brigade, has just returned from India and are not likely to be posted abroad soon. Flashman throws himself into the social life that the 11th offered and becomes a leading light of Canterbury society. In 1840 the regiment is converted to Hussars with an elegant blue and crimson uniform, which assists Flashman in attracting female attention for the remainder of his military career.

duel with another officer over a French courtesan leads to his being temporarily stationed in Paisley, Scotland. There he meets and deflowers Elspeth Morrison, daughter of a wealthy textile manufacturer, whom he has to marry in a “shotgun wedding” under threat of a horsewhipping by her uncle. But marriage to the daughter of a mere businessman forces his transferral from the snobbish 11th Hussars. He is sent to India to make a career in the army of the East India Company. Unfortunately, his language talent and his habit of flattery bring him to the attention of the Governor-General. The Governor does him the (very much unwanted) favour of assigning him as aide to General Elphinstone in Afghanistan. Flashman survives the ensuing retreat from Kabul (the worst British military debacle of Victoria’s reign) by a mixture of sheer luck and unstinting cowardice. He becomes an unwitting hero: the defender of Piper’s Fort, where he is the only surviving white man, and is found by the relieving troops clutching the flag and surrounded by enemy dead. Of course, Flashman had arrived at the fort by accident, collapsed in terror rather than fighting, been forced to stand and show fight by his subordinate, and is ‘rumbled’ for a complete coward. He had been trying to surrender the colors, not defend them. Happily for him, all inconvenient witnesses had been killed.

This incident sets the tone for Flashman’s life. Over the following 60 years or so, he is involved in many of the major military conflicts of the 19th century—always in spite of his best efforts to evade his duty. He is often selected for especially dangerous jobs because of his heroic reputation. He meets many famous people, and survives some of the worst military disasters of the period (the First Anglo-Afghan War, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Siege of Cawnpore, the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and the Battle of Isandlwana), always coming out with more heroic laurels. The date of his last adventures seems to have been around 1900. He dies in 1915.

Despite his admitted cowardice, Flashman is a dab hand at fighting when he has to. Though he dodges danger as much as he can, and runs away when no one is watching, after the Piper’s Fort incident, he usually controls his fear and often performs bravely. Almost every book contains one or more incidents where Flashman has to fight or perform some other daring action, and he holds up long enough to complete it. For instance, he is ordered to accompany the Light Brigade on its famous charge and rides all the way to the Russian guns. However, most of these acts of ‘bravery’ are performed only when he has absolutely no choice and to do anything else would result in his being exposed as a coward and losing his respected status in society, or being shot for desertion. When he can act like a coward with impunity, he invariably does.

Flashman surrenders to fear in front of witnesses only a few times, and is never caught out again. During the siege of Piper’s Fort, in the first novel, Flashman cowers weeping in his bed at the start of the final assault; the only witness to this dies before relief comes. He breaks down while accompanying Rajah Brooke during a battle with pirates, but the noise drowns out his blubbering, and he recovers enough to command a storming party of sailors (placing himself right in the middle of the party, to avoid stray bullets). After the Charge of the Light Brigade, he flees in panic from the fighting in the battery—but mistakenly charges into an entire Russian regiment, adding to his heroic image.

In spite of his numerous character flaws, Flashman is represented as being a perceptive observer of his times (“I saw further than most in some ways” In its obituary of George MacDonald Fraser, The Economist commented that realistic sharp-sightedness (“if not much else”) was an attribute Flashman shared with his creator.

Flashman, an insatiable lecher, has sex with many different women over the course of his fictional adventures. His size, good looks, winning manner, and especially his splendid cavalry-style whiskers win over women from low to high, and his dalliances include famous ladies along with numerous prostitutes. In Flashman and the Great Game, about halfway through his life, he counted up his sexual conquests while languishing in a dungeon at Gwalior, “not counting return engagements”, reaching a total of 478 up to that date (similar — albeit not equal — to the tally made by Mozart‘s Don Giovanni in the famous aria of Giovanni’s henchman, Leporello). Passages in Royal FlashFlashman and the Mountain of LightFlashman and the DragonFlashman and the Redskins, and Flashman and the Angel of the Lord suggest that Flashman was well endowed.

He was a vigorous and exciting (if sometimes selfish and rapacious) lover, and some of his partners became quite fond of him—though by his own admission, others tried to kill him afterwards. The most memorable of these was Cleonie, a prostitute Flashman sold into slavery in Flashman and the Redskins. He was not above forcing himself on a partner by blackmail (e.g., Pheobe Carpenter in Flashman and the Dragon), and at least twice raped women (Narreeman, an Afghan dancing girl in Flashman, and an unnamed harem girl in Flashman’s Lady).

Flashman’s stories are dominated by his numerous amorous encounters. Several of them are with prominent historical personages. These women are sometimes window dressing, sometimes pivotal characters in the unpredictable twists and turns of the books. Historical women Flashman bedded included: countless, too many to mention!

As well as bedding more or less any lass available, he married whenever it was politic to do so. During a posting to Scotland, he was forced to marry Elspeth to avoid “pistols for two with her fire-breathing uncle”. He is still married to her decades later when writing the memoirs, though that does not stop him pursuing others. Nor does it prevent marrying them when his safety seems to require it; he marries Duchess Irma in Royal Flash and in Flashman and the Redskins he marries Susie Willnick as they escape New Orleans, and Sonsee-Array a few months later.He was also once reminded of a woman that Elspeth claimed he flirted with named Kitty Stevens, though Flashman was unable to remember her.

He had a special penchant for royal ladies, and noted that his favourite amours (apart from his wife) were Lakshmibai, Ci Xi and Lola Montez: “a Queen, an Empress, and the foremost courtesan of her time: I dare say I’m just a snob.” He also noted that, while civilized women were more than ordinarily partial to him, his most ardent admirers were among the savage of the species: “Elspeth, of course, is Scottish.” And for all his raking, it was always Elspeth to whom he returned and who remained ultimately top of the list.

His lechery was so strong that it broke out even in the midst of rather hectic circumstances. While accompanying Thomas Henry Kavanagh on his daring escape from Lucknow, he paused for a quick rattle with a local prostitute, and during the battle of Patusan, he found himself galloping one of Sharif Sahib’s concubines without even realizing it but nonetheless continued to the climax of the battle and the tryst.

Flashman’s relations with the highest-ranking woman of his era, Queen Victoria, are warm but platonic. He first meets her in 1842 when he receives a medal for his gallantry in Afghanistan and reflects on what a honeymoon she and Prince Albert must have enjoyed. Subsequently, he and his wife received invitations to Balmoral Castle, to the delight of the snobbish Elspeth. For his services during the Indian Mutiny, Victoria not only approved awarding Flashy the Victoria Cross, but loaded the KCB on top of it.



The Swimmers! The Greats born in the 20th Century! – June 19, 2023

Today I reached 31,000 laps, 775,000 yards and 440.36 miles, in the past 23 months since I started counting. Swimming has been great exercise for me after my tennis days ended over eight years ago. It has helped with any arthritis pains I suffered with and other ailments. It keeps my weight down and I can eat quite normally and I sleep through the night. I suggest to all of you, get in a pool and start a regular regimen.

Listed below are some of the historical greats that the public became well aware of as they electrified the public with their exploits and careers

Duke Kahanamoku (was born on August 24, 1890 – and died January 22, 1968) was a Hawaiian competition swimmer, who learned and revolutionized the Australian crawl and the wall turns, and popularized the sport of surfing. A Native Hawaiian, he was born to a minor noble family less than three years before the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. He lived to see the territory’s statehood. He was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming, winning medals in 19121920 and 1924. Kahanamoku performed in Hollywood as a background actor and a character actor in several films. He made connections in this way with people who could further publicize the sport of surfing. Kahanamoku was involved with the Los Angeles Athletic Club, acting as a lifeguard and competing in both swimming and water polo teams. He was the first person to be inducted into both the Swimming Hall of Fame and the Surfing Hall of Fame. The Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championships in Hawaii, the first major professional surfing contest event ever held in the huge surf on the North Shore of Oahu, was named in his honor. He is a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

Johnny Weissmuller (was born in Hungary, on June 4, 1904 and died January 20, 1984) was an American Olympic swimmer, water polo player and actor. He was known for having one of the best competitive swimming records of the 20th century. He set numerous world records alongside winning five gold medals in the Olympics. He won the 100m freestyle and the 4 × 200 m relay. He is renowned for his impressive swimming career, which includes 52 US National Championship titles, and 67 world records. He competed at the Paris Games in 1924 and the Amsterdam Games in 1928 and won gold medals in the 100m freestyle and the 4 x 200m relay team events at both games. He also brought home gold in the 400m freestyle and a bronze medal in the water polo competition at the Paris Games. In 1927, Weissmuller set a new world record of 51.0 seconds in the 100-yard freestyle, which stood for 17 years. He improved it to 48.5 seconds at Billy Rose World’s Fair Aquacade in 1940, aged 36, but this result was discounted, as he was competing as a professional.  As a member of the U.S. men’s national water polo team, he won a bronze medal at the 1924 Summer Olympics. He also competed in the 1928 Olympics, where the U.S. team finished in seventh place. In 1950, he was selected by the Associated Press as the greatest swimmer of the first half of the 20th century. He was a well-known actor in Hollywood and television. Following his retirement from swimming, Weissmuller played Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ Tarzan in twelve feature films from 1932 to 1948. Weissmuller went on to star in sixteen Jungle Jim movies over an eight year period, then filmed 26 additional half-hour episodes of the Jungle Jim TV series.  Weissmuller saved many peoples’ lives throughout his own life. One very notable instance was in 1927: whilst training for the Chicago Marathon, Weissmuller saved 11 people from drowning after a boat accident. On July 28, 1927, sixteen children, ten women, and one man drowned, when the Favorite, a small excursion boat cruising from Lincoln Park to Municipal Pier (Navy Pier), capsized half a mile off North Avenue in a sudden, heavy squall. Seventy-five women and children and a half dozen men sank with the boat when it tipped over, but rescuers saved over fifty of them. Weissmuller was one of the Chicago lifeguards who saved many.

Gertrude Caroline Ederle (October 23, 1906 – November 30, 2003) was an American competition swimmer, Olympic champion, and world record-holder in five events. On August 6, 1926, she became the first woman to swim across the English Channel. Among other nicknames, the press sometimes called her “Queen.” Gertrude Ederle made history when she became the first female to cross the English Channel. Unfortunately, she lost her sense of hearing while achieving the feat and later devoted herself to coaching deaf swimmers. She also won 2 bronze medals and a relay gold medal at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Despite the foul conditions she was able to swim the Channel two hours faster than the five men who had accomplished it earlier.

Clarence Linden Crabbe II (was born February 7, 1908 – and died April 23, 1983), known professionally as Buster Crabbe, was an American two-time Olympic swimmer and film and television actor. He was USC’s first All-American swimmer (1931) and a 1931 NCAA freestyle titlist. He won the 1932 Olympic gold medal for 400-meter freestyle swimming event, which launched his career on the silver screen and later television. He starred in a variety of popular feature films and movie serials released between 1933 and the 1950s, portraying the top three syndicated comic-strip heroes of the 1930s: TarzanFlash Gordon, and Buck Rogers. I was an avid watcher of the three Flash Gordon serials.

Esther Williams (was born August 8, 1921 died June 6, 2013) was an American actress, competitive swimmer, and businesswoman. When she couldn’t realize her dream of participating in the 1940 Summer Olympics due to the outbreak of the Second World War, Williams went on to establish herself as an actress. She gained national recognition after playing Annette Kellerman in Million Dollar Mermaid and helped popularize swimming in the USA. She actually was in many GM films before they discovered she could swim!

Dawn Fraser (September 4, 1937- is an Australian freestyle champion swimmer. She won the Olympic individual event the women’s 100-meter freestyle three times in her career. She also won six Commonwealth Games gold medals. Much respected for her athletic abilities, she was also known for her controversial behavior. She became a swimming coach after her retirement. She is also a former politician. She was the first woman swimmer I was aware of as a teenager.

Donald Arthur Schollander (born April 30, 1946) is an American former competition swimmer, five-time Olympic champion, and former world record-holder in four events. He won a total of five gold medals and one silver medal at the 1964 and 1968 Summer Olympics. As a teenager in 1962, He moved to Santa Clara, California to train under swim coach George Haines of the Santa Clara Swim Club. Two years later at the age of 18, he won three freestyle events at the AAU national championships. He made the U.S. Olympic team in two individual events and two relays. Months later, he won four gold medals and set three world records at the 1964 Summer Olympics, at the time the most medals won by an American since Jesse Owens in 1936. His success helped earn him the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States, and the AP Athlete of the Year. He was also named ABC‘s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year. At the 1968 Summer Olympics, he won another gold medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, but finished second in the 200-meter freestyle, the event that he had considered to be his best. This was the first Olympics in which 200-meter swimming events were part of the competition. Following the 1968 Olympics, he retired from competitive swimming.

Diana Nyad (born August 22, 1949) is an American journalist, author, long-distance swimmer, and motivational speaker. She achieved national recognition when she swam around Manhattan in 1975. Nyad made headlines again in 1979 when she swam from Bimini to Juno Beach. In 1986, Diana Nyad was inducted into of the US National Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. On the morning of August 31, 2013, at age 64,, Nyad began her fifth bid to swim from Havana, Cuba to Florida, a distance of about 110 miles (180 km), accompanied by a 35-person support team, swimming without a shark cage,  but protected from jellyfish by a silicone mask, a full bodysuit, gloves and booties. At approximately 1:55 pm EDT on September 2, 2013, Nyad reached the beach in Key West, about 53 hours after she began her journey. Though there were questions about her effort, it was never disproved. The New York Times public editor observed on September 19, that the focus had shifted from serious questions about possibly resting aboard a boat, to more technical issues relating to whether her crews’ touching her while helping with her protective suit formally rendered the swim an “assisted” swim.

Mark Andrew Spitz (born February 10, 1950) is an American former competitive swimmer and nine-time Olympic champion. He was the most successful competitor at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, winning seven gold medals, each in world-record time. This achievement set a record that lasted for 36 years until it was taken by fellow American Michael Phelps when he won eight gold medals in Beijing at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Mark Spitz won a plethora of medals and titles during his time, including nine Olympic golds, a silver, and a bronze; 31 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles; five Pan American gold medals, and eight National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles. He also held 35 world records between 1968 and 1972 and his international swimming awards include World Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 1971, and 1972. Spitz went to work for ABC Sports in 1976 and worked on many sports presentations, including coverage of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles figure except perhaps as a commentator for swimming events like the 2004 Summer Olympics. Spitz mow focuses on his real estate company in Beverly Hills and hobbies such as sailing.

Shane Gould (was born on November 4, 1956) Three-time Olympic gold medalist Shane Gould was 15 when she participated in the Munich Olympics. She stunned everyone with her early retirement at 16 and stayed away from the limelight for 25 years, eventually re-emerging after raising her four kids on an Australian farm and then breaking records at the 2000 Sydney Games.

 Matt Biondi  (was born on October 8, 1965) is a former American swimmer and eleven-time Olympic medalist. Biondi competed in three Olympic Games (1984, 1988, and 1992) and won a total of 11 medals, including eight gold, two silver, and one bronze medals. He was a world record-holder in five events and set three individual world records in the 50-meter freestyle and four in the 100-meter freestyle at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

Janet Evans (was born on August 28, 1971) Janet Evans is an American retired competitive swimmer who won three gold medals at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. A former world record-holder, Evans went on to win another gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The winner of the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award, Evans was adjudged Female World Swimmer of the Year in 1987, 1989, and 1990.

Jenny Thompson (was born on February 26, 1973) Known for winning more Olympic medals than any other female in the swimming category, Jenny Thompson had started swimming at age 7. She grew up to win swimming medals for Stanford University. She is also a qualified doctor and has practiced as an anesthesiologist and surgeon.

Natalie Coughlin (born Aug 23, 1982) is an American retired competitive swimmer. A 12-time Olympic medalist, Coughlin became the first American female athlete in the history of the modern Olympics to win six medals in one Olympics event at the 2008 Summer Olympics. She also became the first woman to win gold medals in two successive Olympics, she won the medals in the 100-meter backstroke event.

Ian Thorpe (was born on October 13, 1982) At the age of 14, Thorpe became the youngest male ever to represent Australia, and his victory in the 400 meter freestyle at the 1998 Perth World Championships made him the youngest-ever individual male World Champion. After that victory, Thorpe dominated the 400 m freestyle, winning the event at every Olympic, World, Commonwealth and Pan Pacific Swimming Championships until his break after the 2004 Olympics in Athens. At the 2001 World Aquatics Championships, he became the first person to win six gold medals in one World Championship. Aside from 13 individual long-course world records, Thorpe anchored the Australian relay teams, numbering the victories in the 4 × 100 m and the 4 × 200 m freestyle relays in Sydney among his five relay world records. His wins in the 200 m and 400 m and his bronze in the 100 m freestyle at the 2004 Summer Olympics made him the only male to have won medals in the 100–200–400combination.  He acquired the nickname “Thorpedo” because of his speed in swimming. Thorpe announced his retirement from competitive swimming in November 2006, citing waning motivation, he made a brief comeback in 2011 and 2012. In total, Thorpe has won eleven World Championship gold medals; this is the fifth-highest number of gold medals won by any male swimmer. Thorpe was the first person to have been named Swimming World Swimmer of the Year four times, and was the Australian Swimmer of the Year from 1999 to 2003. His athletic achievements made him one of Australia’s most popular athletes, and he was recognized as the Young Australian of the Year in 2000

Michael Fred Phelps II (born June 30, 1985) is an American former competitive swimmer. He is the most successful and most decorated Olympian of all time with a total of 28 medals. Phelps also holds the all-time records for Olympic gold medals (23), Olympic gold medals in individual events (13) Phelps is undoubtedly the world’s greatest swimmer of all time. Nicknamed “The Baltimore Bullet” Phelps is the most successful and most decorated Olympian of all time with a grand total of 28 medals. He holds the records for most Olympic gold medals won in individual events; most Olympic medals won in individual events; and most Olympic medals overall. He won six gold and two bronze medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, tying the record for eight medals in total at a single Olympic Games. When he won eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, he broke American swimmer Mark Spitz’s long-standing record of winning seven events in a single Olympic Games, which he achieved at the Munich Games in 1972.He won four gold and two silver medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and five gold medals and one silver medal at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 where he was also the flag bearer of the United States at the Parade of Nations. This win made him the most successful athlete in the Olympic Games for the fourth time in a row.

Dana Volmer (was born on November 13, 1987) Apart from winning 5 Olympic gold medals, swimmer Dana Vollmer also created history when she became the first female to swim under 56 seconds in the 100m butterfly event. Diagnosed with a heart condition at age 15, she went through surgery and later carried a defibrillator around with her.

Katina Hosszu (was born on May 3, in 1989) is a Hungarian swimmer, three-time Olympic champion, and nine-time long-course world champion. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady,” Hosszú specializes in individual medley events and is the current world record holder in the 100m individual medley, 200m individual medley (long course and short course), 400m individual medley (long course), and the 200m backstroke (short course).She has competed at four Olympic Games (2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016) and is the first swimmer in history to hold world records in all five individual medley events at the same time. She also holds two-thirds of the Hungarian national records and has been considered the most valuable Hungarian athlete for the past five years.

Miss Franklin (was born May 10, 1995) is an American former competition swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist. She formerly held the world record in the 200-meter backstroke (long course).[3][4] As a member of the U.S. national swim team, she also held the world records in the 4×100-meter medley relay (short course and long course).  In her Olympic debut at the 2012 Summer Olympics at age 17, Franklin won a total of five medals, four of which were gold. She swept the women’s backstroke events, winning gold in both the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke. Franklin’s successes have earned her Swimming Worlds World Swimmer of the Year and the American Swimmer of the Year award in 2012 as well as the FINA Swimmer of the Year Award in 2011 and 2012. In total, she has won twenty-eight medals in international competition: seventeen gold, six silver, and five bronze, spanning the Olympics, the World Championships, the short course World Championships, and the Pan Pacific Championships. Franklin’s eleven gold medals at the World Aquatics Championships was a record in women’s swimming before Katie Ledecky broke it in 2017.

Kelly Ledecky (born March 17, 1997) Seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky has also won 15 world championship gold medals, creating a record. At 15, she was the youngest American Olympic swimming team member at the 2012 London Olympics. The 6-foot-tall athlete is also a Stanford graduate and was the youngest Time 100 member in 2016.

There were a few others that come to mine, but I thought these 20 were the best the past 120 years.

ARCHIE LEACH AND NORMA JEAN BAKER Who played their main character better? Oct. 16,2022

Marilyn Monroe remains a film and American con, not unlike others that died young, starting with Jeanne Eagles, a star of the 1920s, who died of drugs and alcoholism at age 39. Others, like Jean Harlow, the first blond bombshell, Judy Garland, and James Dean followed that same path to fan immortality. Aside from Monroe, there were many other great women stars, and the critics knew talent when they saw it: Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, Mary Astor, Greer Garson, Meryl Streep, Claudette Colbert, Vivian Leigh, Barbara Stanwyck, Katherine Hepburn, Jean Arthur, Susan Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, Audrey Hepburn and Ginger Rogers among many others. By the way, they were all attractive. If not, they could never have made it in the Golden Age of Hollywood.

As for blond bombshells there have been many that followed Jean Harlow, like, Virginia Mayo and Carol Landis. But no one could capture to her electricity. Others, like; Lana Turner, Betty Grable and ultimately Marilyn Monroe were the heirs to Harlow. Monroe certainly created a new look that brought on her own imitators, like Jayne Mansfield, Diana Dors, Joi Lansing, and Carol Wayne, who was an almost a regular on the Johnny Carson Show.

Cary Grant also had tremendous sex appeal to both genders and is possibly the most popular star of the Golden Age of Movies. He was part of a whole generation of British stars who came across the pond and made their fame and fortune in Hollywood. Among the many, the two most appreciated were Leslie Howard and Ronald Colman. Others like David Niven, James Mason and Noel Coward were very talented, but never big box office.

As for Marilyn, no one could deny her sex appeal and film charisma. But, In fact, I would judge Jean Harlow to be miles ahead of Monroe in talent. She also had her problems with her mother and her home life, like Mary Astor and many others. Throughout Hollywood history a number of husbands exploited their working wives, but in fact, neither Jim Daugherty, baseball super star, Joe DiMaggio nor famed playwright Arthur Miller exploited her. She dumped first husband Jim Daugherty, DiMaggio was a misogynist and had no clue regarding social graces, and Miller dumped his first wife for her. What else is new? Nothing can be deprecated regarding her strong sex-appeal. But this is nothing new in the world of Hollywood. In fact, the original “It Girl,” was Clara Bow. There were many, many others like, Lauren Bacall, Ava Gardner, Hedy LaMarr and Rita Hayworth, who many fans often call great actresses. They were far from it. Some have had more talent than others, but they would hardly be compared with other stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood: Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, Greer Garson, Joan Crawford, Ida Lupino, Claudette Colbert, Rosalind Russell, Vivien Leigh, Irene Dunne, and Barbara Stanwyck

For sure, not every evaluation is based on sex or sexism. Not every man is a male chauvinist, and there have been countless women who have taken advantage of their good looks to climb up the ladder of fame, success and fortune. I believe, and know, that Monroe had enough talent to come off the pages of the fan magazine, pass a screen text, and be shaped by the body and face sculptors of Hollywood. After that re-make effort, one must really judge her body of work, not just her body! Frankly, I have always liked her in pretty much whatever she did. But, whom am I, but another red-blooded American boy!

Obviously there are film buffs, critics, casual fans and others who buy into “the cult of the personality.” In reading various comments on Marilyn Monroe, one finds two overwhelming dynamics: one an over-analysis of all of her films as some critics and fans try to find the secret to her electricity, allure, and as Billy Wilder said, “flesh appeal” and the other, a more detailed look at what she really accomplished, the depth of her roles, her actual skills and how they evolved. She, unlike Cary Grant (Archie Leach), was most often the character the studio poobahs cast he as in film after film. Hollywood loves to milk success to the last drop.

Obviously, the great actor can play almost any role and that doesn’t include playing themselves. From my perspective, both Jean Baker/Monroe and leach/Grant developed certain personas that the studios and the fans could easily buy into! They certainly both remained decent box office almost to the end.

Of course, in the male-dominated world of Hollywood, where “meatier” roles for women were often as rare as hen’s teeth. It was where powerful males, before WWII, who dominated: Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, Tyrone Power, James Cagney, etc. Later on more sensitive roles developed for a new generation of male stars, like Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart and even Humphrey Bogart. Archie Leach/Cary Grant, especially before the war, was able to maintain his strong masculine appeal while basically playing light comedy, for which he was well-suited and quite unique.

As with Cary Grant, I liked him for decades. I thought he was sort of funny, irreverent and charming, in sort of an insincere way. He certainly was entertaining in Gunga Din, Our Gal Friday and Arsenic and Old Lace. But, in his more realistic roles with Notorious and Suspicion, two Hitchcock films, I found him playing himself, but this time, of course, in a more serious vein. His jealousy over Bergman/Huberman’s marriage to former N*zi Claude Rains/Huberman in Argentina was hard to swallow. Was he good in it? Others could have played it better. We are led into a tangled web of love, marriage, alienation, spying and international politics. In this treatment, the heroine, Ingrid Bergman/Alicia Huberman is basically forced to marry and spy on a man she does not love. Her safety and well-being becomes almost immediately compromised and her real lover, Cary Grant/TR Devlin must decide where his loyalties lie, with her, or her mission. Of course, he didn’t write the script, but was he realistic? I didn’t think so!

Other films that should be mentioned!

Sylvia Scarlett


The Awful Truth


The Philadelphia Story

The Talk of the Town

As for Suspicion, the film was so distorted at the end, that it was unbelievable. Does he kill his wife or not? That wasn’t his fault. The film was all about Hitchcockian suspense, but its ending was as pathetic as North by Northwest. Why does Hitchcock create this duplicitous, almost transparent bounder, and in the last scene turn him back to some misunderstood lover? My guess is that the studio didn’t want to see Cary Grant as a wife killer!  Maybe he should have cast Joseph Cotton or Dan Duryea for the part, but they weren’t “boffo” or big box-office.

.In fact, was there anything realistic about North by Northwest? If there was, it escapes me. In the crop duster spraying Roger (Grant) his hair was hardly mussed, then the crop duster crashes into an oil truck! Huh! He pulls a knife from the back of someone stabbed at the UN, the house where he is nearly drowned by liquor suddenly being cleaned out in 5 minutes, and then the idiotic ending at Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock threw everything into that finish, reminiscent of Saboteurs ending at the Statue of Liberty. The whole film was so ridiculous and could it been better without Grant, who knows? Again is it Cary Grant playing Cary Grant or is it Archie Leach, the cockney from Bristol, England?

Of course, getting back to North by Northwest, which seems, by all the ratings and many critics, to be a very popular and entertaining film, is typical Hitchcockian!  Cary Grant aka Roger Thornhill, becomes the typical Hitchcock foil or fool, the man who gets sucked into the vortex of miss-identification  not unlike, the main characters in Saboteur, Strangers on a Train, or The Wrong Man.

Aside from his obvious sex appeal to both men and women, Leach/Grant’s sexuality was always rumored about, especially from the time he shared a beach house with Randolph Scott in Malibu, through his five marriages. Of course, there have been rumors about every Hollywood personage since day one. One notorious incident was seen on television back in 1980.

On Tom Snyder’s talk show Tomorrow, Chevy Chase was asked, “People say you’re going to be the next Cary Grant,” and I said, “That’s crazy, there’s nobody like Cary Grant and there will never be another Cary Grant and I understand he was a homo,” In that 1980 appearance, Chase had followed up with, “He was brilliant. What a gal!” in reference to Grant.

The day after Chase’s NBC talk show appearance, Grant filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against the comedian for his comments. The case was reportedly settled in court and, though neither actor commented on the settlement, it is reported Chase paid $1 million in damages. A lesson to the wise, watch what you say in public.

But, he wasn’t the first one to speculate on Grant, or Monroe, or many others. Whatever they were, their performances are still around for all of us to see. As time has moved on, it seems their fans seem to continue to grow and no one really remembers the rumors, their backgrounds or what really motivated them.

The following were mostly Grant’s WWII era and Post war films:

 Once Upon a Honeymoon

Mr. Lucky (all right)

Night and Day (Grant as Cole Porter- incredibly miscast and the film a total fabrication)

The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer

Every Girl Should be Married

Destination Tokyo (typical war film, American captain with a British accent)

I was a War Bride


People Will Talk 

Room for One More

Monkey Business

To Catch a Thief (silly)

An Affair to Remember

Pride and the Passion (horrible)

Kiss Them for Me


House Boat

North by Northwest

Operation Petticoat

That Touch of Mink                              


Father Goose

Walk Don’t Run

 What can one say for that body of work? Aside from None but the Lonely Heart., few had real critical acclaim or are memorable. These films aren’t completely his fault. He was paid to be an actor, given roles and fulfilled them. But, generally speaking, I couldn’t sit through any of them today, and most are forgettable. Again is Leach playing Cary Grant in another venue. As for To Catch a Thief and Charade, they are again almost frivolous, light comedy, basically ridiculous, and unbelievable, I assume they were quite entertaining at the time. Whenever I see them, I laugh!

Of course, here is a list of ALL of Monroe’s films. The last, Something’s Got to Give was never made. Of all the 31 others, she did not become a headliner until #22 Gentleman Prefer Blondes. As for the rest, maybe 5 or 6 were worthy of critical comment! By the way, they were both in Monkey Business.

  1. Dangerous Years(1947)
  2. The Shocking Miss Pilgrim(1947)
  3. Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!(1948)
  4. Green Grass of Wyoming(1948)
  5. Ladies of the Chorus(1948)
  6. Love Happy(1949)
  7. A Ticket to Tomahawk(1950)
  8. The Asphalt Jungle(1950)
  9. Right Cross(1950)
  10. The Fireball(1950)
  11. All About Eve(1950)
  12. Home Town Story(1951)
  13. As Young as You Feel(1951)
  14. Love Nest(1951)
  15. Let’s Make It Legal(1951)
  16. Clash by Night(1952)
  17. We’re Not Married!(1952)
  18. Don’t Bother to Knock(1952)
  19. O. Henry’s Full House(1952)
  20. Monkey Business(1952)
  21. Niagara(1953)
  22. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes(1953)
  23. How to Marry a Millionaire(1953)
  24. River of No Return(1954)
  25. There’s No Business Like Show Business(1954)
  26. The Seven Year Itch(1955)
  27. Bus Stop(1956)
  28. The Prince and the Showgirl(1957)
  29. Some Like It Hot(1959)
  30. Let’s Make Love(1960)
  31. The Misfits(1961)
  32. Something’s Got to Give(1962)

 For sure, not every evaluation is based on sex or sexism. Not every man is a male chauvinist, and there have been countless women who have taken advantage of their good looks to climb up the ladder of fame, success and fortune. I believe, and know, that Monroe had enough talent to come off the pages of the fan magazine, pass a screen text, and be shaped by the body and face sculptors of Hollywood. After that re-make effort, one must really judge her body of work, not just her body! Frankly, I have always liked her in pretty much whatever she did. But, whom am I, but another red-blooded American boy!

Obviously there are film buffs, critics, casual fans and others who buy into “the cult of the personality.” In reading various comments on Marilyn Monroe, one finds two overwhelming dynamics: one an over-analysis of all of her films as some critics and fans try to find the secret to her electricity, allure, and as Billy Wilder said, “flesh appeal” and the other, a more detailed look at what she really accomplished, the depth of her roles, her actual skills and how they evolved. She, unlike Cary Grant (Archie Leach), was most often the character the studio poobahs cast he as in film after film. Hollywood loves to milk success to the last drop.


Some other views of the film Giant! April-22 2022

I always thought Giant was a big, pretentious, overly-long bore. I watched it not so long ago. Aside that people seem to like those long epics in the 1950s, as shallow as they were, many still do! What always amazed me was the scene in the diner, where the owner, a bigot (Sarge), refused to serve some customers who weren’t white (Mexicans)! What else was new in Texas in those days? Rock (I am always amazed at that name) Hudson (Bick) gets in a brawl with this huge guy! They must hit each other enough to either break their hands (I have been in a few fist fights and did some boxing) or kill each other with hits to the head. The next scene has the lovers at home with Rock/Bick’s head in Liz’s lap. There isn’t a bruise on his face. Wow another miracle of modern medicine.

Personally, I never bought into the brilliance of Dean, who had too short of a career to really judge, and Hudson was never much of an actor. He may have been worse than Robert Taylor, but not as pretty. As for Elizabeth Taylor, very attractive, short and I always thought her life was summed up in the film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? It seems Burton was perfect for her, a drunk, who pissed away his life. Liz, with all her frailties survived Burton to find more men.

Speaking of other opinions, less complimentary was director and critic Francois Truffaut, who in an early review called Giant a  “silly, solemn, sly, paternalistic, demagogic movie without any boldness, rich in all sorts of concessions, pettiness, and contemptible actions.”

A stinker. Seriously. The Hollywood studio icons (Taylor, Hudson) don’t mesh well here with the new methodistas (Dean, Hopper)—and there is film evidence that they can work well together (see anything with Taylor and Clift). The script is a mess; there is no plot to speak of; the bigotry is rampant and unrepentant. Texas looks kind of pretty, but mostly this is an overlong mess. Stevens directed better films. The only real interest here is watching James Dean steal scene after scene with the studio stars he shared screen time with, through slouching, mumbling and general assholery.

Surprisingly avoids any real lulls for a 3 1/2 hour film but lacks cohesion and thematic resonance because of its sloppy and unfocused script. An overarching motif to tie all the threads together would have helped give the film power and emphasis. Instead, I am left wondering what exactly I witnessed.

Given that the film leaves on a note of defying prejudices, one would think this was a social commentary film a la Gentleman’s Agreement or To Kill a Mockingbird, however, it is shoehorned and unwarranted. Rather than sprinkling in such distracting notions, the film perhaps would have been better off focusing on and developing more, the interesting aspects it superficially delved into.

There are other facets to the film as well, such as those involving supporting characters, but they are also lacking in execution. For instance we see an interesting set up with James Dean’s character Jett, who is exemplified as a frustrated failure, exhibiting a sort of pathetic jealousy of the success of his employer Mr. Benedict, yet the payoff is less than satisfactory. Rather than a subplot showcasing the Texas-way of grit and determination in one-upmanship, Jett, after schlubbing away on his newly acquired land, ends up having “success find him” when he inadvertently strikes riches in lottery-like fashion. This, in addition to the Benedicts inheriting their wealth, shows us success as being more a matter of privilege than perseverance, struggle, and hard work. There is nothing on par here with say the O’Hara’s of Gone With the Wind overcoming the pillaging of their beloved Tara or the tragic gas blowout and insanity inducing oil fire experienced by Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Here, success comes rather easy, despite earlier scenes of a blue-collar work ethic giving us a brief glimpse at the contrary.

We are also given other notions which are hinted at: corruption of power or dehumanization from vain materialism and corporatism? This is perhaps shown by Jett’s embarrassing meltdown of misery and preceding fisticuffs with the eldest Benedict son. The scene certainly seemed unmerited and lacked genuine escalation to that point however.

Big soap. Biiiiiiig soap. It’s the kind of movie you’ll be glad you watched once and will nevertheless cringe at the prospect of watching ever again. Interesting that this movie was released the same year as The Searchers, since both films clearly want to empathize with and simultaneously dwarf the struggles of Texas families among the staggering landscapes surrounding them. The film is incredibly handsome, not even so much for the landscapes but for the interiors that are emphasized against the grand landscapes. In retrospect, this must’ve been a pretty easy movie to shoot considering the money that was probably thrown at it: just build a huge opulent mansion in the middle of nowhere and shoot with wide lenses. It’s hard to screw that natural beauty up. And yet it’s also interesting how the characters seem dwarfed inside the house(s), too: they’re swallowed or smothered in shadow (contrasted by the fact that everything’s bright outside, even fire or the kicked-up dust or the dining on what looks like tuliped liver). For a while the movie seems like it’s not even particularly interested in people at all, not that there’s anything wrong with that. (The courtship setup in the first 20 minutes is handles so quickly, eager to get the preliminaries out of the way, that it’s hard to catch your bearings for a while.)

Giant is basically two movies. There’s the interesting movie that involves the upstart oil baron played by Dean and the overwrought melodrama involving Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. When Dean is on screen, the film cooks. When we’re left with just Taylor and Hudson, the picture is stuffy and long in the tooth. George Stevens gives us a lot of interesting things to look at, particularly the massive house belonging to Taylor and Hudson. It sits alone on the land, a monument to an ideal that Hudson’s character believes in, an ideal that drives a wedge between him and his wife. It serves a similar role as Kane’s Xanadu in Citizen Kane. Unfortunately, the interesting visual aspects aren’t enough to meld the two disparate story lines into a cohesive whole.

Personally speaking, I could take the original, 1931 film Cimarron with Richard Dix and Irene Dunne any day of the week over Giant!. It’s about the west, almost the same time period, about oil, but with a much more interesting story of the State of Oklahoma, hypocrisy, money and justice.


Like the title says, it’s a whopper: 201 minutes of a Texas family’s rise to fame and fortune, based on an Edna Ferber novel. Much of it is awful, but it’s almost impossible not to be taken in by the narrative sprawl: like many big, bad movies, Giant is an enveloping experience, with a crazy life and logic of its own. George Stevens directed, at the height of his bloated epic period (1956), but unlike his A Place in the Sun, this one isn’t entirely sober and sanctimonious; it takes some pleasure in melodrama for its own sake. The mansion on the plain, designed by art director Boris Levin, remains one of the most memorable graphic images of the 50s. With Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean—in his last and strangest role. David Kehr, The Reader

But at least a very top-notch critic like Richard Schickel liked it!

I found myself — all twitchy intellectualism aside — liking it enormously. There’s more to Stevens’s exteriors than those great shots of the looming ranch house. He had learned John Ford’s trick of keeping the horizon low in the frame, and there are literally dozens of long, wide shots that are more than merely awesome. They suggest an emptiness that stumbling, ill-educated, materialistic people will somehow fill with something — oil derricks, bragging Texas talk, reactionary politics. [Reprinted in the NY Times



Speaking of Suspicion: Another strange ending to a very well-constructed film! March 24, 2023

RKO didn’t have the courage of its convictions. Having bought the rights to Francis Iles’ novel, and despite Hitchcock’s insistence on sticking with the original ending, neither preview audiences nor the studio were ready to accept Cary Grant as a murderer. So its present ending was hastily written and shot. It completely subverts all the fine work that’s gone before. Johnny is seen throughout the film as the bounder he is. No one watching him could believe anything else.

Joan Fontaine was a brilliant actress and valiantly, passionately, breathlessly tries to make the shockingly amateurish dialogue in the final scene work — “Oh, Johnny! You were going to kill yourself instead of me, like the audience and I have thought for the last 90 minutes! Oh, Johnny! It’s as much my fault as it is yours! Oh, Johnny! I was only thinking of myself . . . ,” etc.

Cary Grant does his best with this final abomination of a climax. “Lina! Lina! How much can one man bear! When you and the audience thought I was in Paris murdering Beaky I was really in Liverpool!” Etc. Huh!

In other words, this beautifully produced, directed, acted and written psychological suspense thriller turns out to be about a charming lazy n’er-do-well who’s sponged and embezzled his way through life, who marries a beautiful but neurotic aristocrat who, from day one, increasingly assumes the worst about her husband — convincing herself (and us) that he’s killed before and now is about to kill her?

“Just kidding,” the tacked-on final scene says. “It was all innocent. You eating popcorn out there in the dark, and Lina, should be ashamed for even THINKING such things! Go home now.”

It helps, out of self-defense, to watch “Suspicion” with the original ending in mind. Yes, the milk is poisoned. Yes Johnny killed Beaky in Paris. Yes, he’s a psychopath who lies, cheats, steals and kills. Yes, Lina believed him and loved him deeply — the only man she’s ever loved. Yes, her life is no longer worth living, now that she knows the truth about Johnny. Yes, she rightly suspects that milk is poisoned. So she writes a letter to her mother, telling the truth about Johnny’s exploits, and that he is poisoning her as she writes — and that she intends to die. She seals the letter and gives it to Johnny to mail. She drinks the milk. Johnny leaves and unknowingly drops Lina’s letter into a mailbox, thus sealing his fate.

THAT’S a rewarding ending.

It also makes everything that’s gone before (including writing, directing, performances and cinematography) plausible. It gives “Suspicion” a reason to exist.

But that’s the novel’s ending.

Goldfinger-Sneak Preview 1964 = May 24, 2023

Goldfinger, thought of by the critics as the “Gold Standard” of Bond Films opened at the DeMille Theater in NYC, in December of 1964, and soon after all over America. But there was a sneak preview in Boston at their massive Music Hall Theater on Washington Street.

Goldfinger was heralded as the film in the franchise where James Bond “comes into focus”. Its release led to a number of promotional licensed tie-in items, including a toy Aston Martin from Corgi Toys which became the biggest selling toy of 1964. The promotion also included an image of gold-painted Eaton on the cover of Life.

Many of the elements introduced in the film appeared in many of the later James Bond films, such as the extensive use of technology and gadgets by Bond, an extensive pre-credits sequence that stood largely alone from the main storyline, multiple foreign locales and tongue in cheek humor and double entendre humor. Goldfinger was the first Bond film to win an Oscar (for best Sound Editing) and opened to largely favorable critical reception. The film was a financial success, recouping its budget in two weeks and grossing over $120 million worldwide.

In Boston, it was advertised as a sneak preview of a British spy movie. It was to be shown in the afternoon at the Music Hall. The theater which was originally opened in the 19th Century was converted for use as a vaudeville theater in 1900 and operated under a number of different names, including the Music Hall and the Empire Theatre. In 1906, it was renamed the Orpheum Theater. In 1915, the theater was acquired by the Loew’s chain and reopened again in 1916, rebuilt with a completely new interior. At the time of the viewing it was estimated that it held 5000 seats and had many, many balconies.

Well students all over Boston read the ads in the Boston Globe and Herald Examiner and the word spread like wild fire. The theater was jammed. The cost was $5.00, or the value of $50-60 today! When I got there with a sate (that was crazy) we got in the last two seats in the top balcony, only 3-4 rows from the back. We had to climb over everyone. Well it was a spectacular opening, as all of us know, But the real clamor and noise came when James Bond/Sean Connery met the pilot of Goldfinger’s fleet of planes, Miss Galore/Honor Blackman. When she introduced herself as P*ssy Galore, the throng went insane.

Her name on the advertising poster and flyers was “Miss” Galore. It was a remarkable event!

On 1-21-21, we the new Bond film- “No Time to Die.” As a long-time Bond fan, who drove my sister to see the first Bond film in Stamford in 1963, It was great! I was hooked from then on like zillions of others. As for the newest Bond flick, I was quite disappointed. Of course, it was a long wait and the reports were never fabulous about the film. Personally, I found it too long, convoluted, confusing and at times quite ridiculous. All Bond films suspend reality to one degree or another. But, this one seemed to re-invent disbelief.  Daniel Craig seemed almost bored with the effort. No Bond music, no quips, no real interaction, just a man who seemed resigned to his fate. What happened to the bold, sardonic, suave, sophisticated world player?

With that in mind I decided to check out all the different opinions on which Bond films were the best to the worst. I was not surprised at the cumulative findings of the top three. But, I was surprised how many reviewers liked, “On His Majesty’s Service” with one-time Bond, George Lazenby. Generally speaking both “Dr. No” and “Thunderball” were rated highly, but there were a few who skewed both films. Those outlier reviews pushed those films out of the top five.

Also, remember some of the polls never rated “Never Say Never Again,” and other polls were published before the release of latest Bond film. “Live and Let Die” also reflected some wildly diverse opinion, from a #1, 5 and 9 among many generally poor reviews. I was also very surprised by the strong showing of “Goldeneye!”  Personally, I loved “Casino Royale,” and was mostly disappointed by the other Craig efforts. I liked him, but I found “Spectre” and Quantum of Solace” wanting. “Skyfall” was hard to swallow, but many seemed to like it. Personally, I thought that Timothy Dalton was underrated as Bond, but for sure the best was Sean Connery, with Craig exceptional in “Casino Royale!” By the way, few liked “View to a Kill,” but I thought it was a very interesting premise and entertaining. Almost all the Bond films were entertaining and that is why they all have done so well. It will be a challenge to fill Craig’s shoes!  Richard




“High Noon” the Making of a Classic and the Red Scare of the 1950’s Based on a book by Glenn Frankel March 10, 2023

In the immediate post war period, right after FDR’s death, the 1946, Mid-Term elections brought back Republican control of Congress for the first time since 1928. By the time the new Congress was formed in 1947, the reactionary, right wing was already on the warpath in its hunt for radicals, communists, liberals, former New Dealers, and anyone who wasn’t a pure American by their definition.

But, in the post war period, there were two realities: the old Hollywood system was fading quickly as court rulings effected their control over their employees, profits had dropped dramatically, they were forced to give up control of their theaters, and television was attracting millions of viewers  who used to go to the movies. The other factor was that the public demanded more realistic films, often dealing with the social issues of the day, like: Crossfire, Gentleman’s Agreement, Home of the Brave, The Men, The Best years of Our Lives, Sunset Boulevard, Northside 777, The Killers, Street Car Named Desire and Boomerang, just to name a few, which dealt with veterans, crime, bigotry, anti-Semitism and race.

This era would later be known as “Film Noir,” a genre of films that use the visual style and themes of classic film noir (French: “dark film”) but add a modern sensibility. They also usually contain more graphic depictions of violence and sexuality. Classic film noir thrived in the 1940s and ’50s. The genre was characterized by dark stylized cinematography and a pessimistic mood, perhaps reflecting the uncertainty of the postwar era. Plots typically featured troubled cynical  characters often involved in the underworld. One could say that the “father” of this new era was the film, The Maltese Falcon, with its cynical private eye, Sam Spade.

The postwar era was changing dramatically. In the case of United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc.,(1948) (also known as the Hollywood Antitrust Case of 1948,) a landmark United States anti-trust case decided the fate of film studios owning their own theatres and holding exclusivity rights on which theatres would show their movies. It would also change the way Hollywood movies were produced, distributed and exhibited. The Supreme Court affirmed (a District Court’s ruling) in this case that the existing distribution scheme was in violation of the United States Sherman and Clayton anti-trust law, which prohibit certain exclusive dealing arrangements. In plain language, the studios were force to sell the theaters. Also in this era unions were flexing the muscles given to them by the New Deal and the Wagner Act. Also, without white-washing reality, there were many communists in the union movement, along with criminals.

The case is important both with U.S. antitrust law and film history. In the former, it remains a landmark decision in vertical integration cases; in the latter, it is responsible for putting an end to the old Hollywood studio system. Another earlier ruling, effectively altered the contractual system used universally in Hollywood. Industry lawyers in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s took the position that an exclusive personal services contract should be treated as suspended during the periods when the artist was not actually working. Since no artist could be working every single day (that is, including holidays and weekends), this interpretation meant that two, or later seven, years of actual service would be spread over a much longer calendar period, thus extending the time during which the studio system had complete control of a young artist’s career.

Hollywood was experiencing changes since the late 30’s especially with unionization and the creation of guilds, which gave the writers, the set designers, the film crews and the all the other lower- level employees new leverage and bargaining power.

As this new realism boiled over in the post war period the “The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals” (MPAPAI, also MPA), which had been created in 1944, became very active against both the writers and this new wave of artistic realism. This organization was made up of high-profile, politically conservative members of the Hollywood film industry. It had been formed for the stated purpose of defending the film industry, and the country as a whole, against what its founders claimed was communist and fascist infiltration.

The organization was described by its opponents as fascist sympathizing, isolationist, nativist, anti-union, mostly anti-Semitic, red-baiting and supporting of Jim Crow Laws. One Jewish member, the writer Morrie Ryskind denied these allegations of his fellow members. Prominent members of the Alliance included: Robert ArthurMartin BerkeleyWard BondWalter BrennanRoy BrewerClarence BrownCharles CoburnGary CooperLaraine DayCecil B. DeMilleWalt DisneyIrene DunneVictor FlemingJohn FordClark GableCedric GibbonsHedda HopperLeo McCareyJames Kevin McGuinnessAdolph MenjouRobert MontgomeryGeorge MurphyFred NibloDick PowellAyn RandRonald ReaganGinger RogersMorrie RyskindBarbara StanwyckNorman TaurogRobert TaylorKing VidorHal B. WallisJohn WayneFrank Wead and Sam Wood. Of these actors, directors, executives and writers; Walt Disney, Adolph Menjou. Aside from these people generally accused of anti-Semitism; Walt Disney and Adolph Menjou, there were rabid right-wingers; John Wayne, Robert Taylor, and Cecil B. DeMille, who were quite vocal about their views.  In truth, most of the Hollywood moguls were conservative Republicans. Most, including Louis B. Mayer, the operational head of MGM hated FDR and the New Deal. Only one studio head, Jack Warner, of Warner Brothers, was a supporter of Roosevelt.

As for their philosophical head, it may have been the rabid, anti-communist, Ayn Rand, (born Alisa Z. Rosenbaum) who wrote in 1947 a pamphlet for the Alliance, entitled Screen Guide for Americans, based on her personal impressions of the American film industry. It read, in excerpt:

The purpose of the Communists in Hollywood is not the production of political movies openly advocating Communism. Their purpose is to corrupt our moral premises by corrupting non-political movies — by introducing small, casual bits of propaganda into innocent stories — thus making people absorb the basic principles of Collectivism by indirection and implication.

The principle of free speech requires that we do not use police force to forbid the Communists the expression of their ideas — which means that we do not pass laws forbidding them to speak. But the principle of free speech does not require that we furnish the Communists with the means to preach their ideas, and does not imply that we owe them jobs and support to advocate our own destruction at our own expense.

Rand cited examples of popular and critically acclaimed films that in her view contained hidden Communist or Collectivist messages that had not been recognized as such, even by conservatives. Examples included  The Best Years of Our Lives, (because it portrayed businessmen negatively, and suggested that bankers should give veterans collateral-free loans), and A Song to Remember (because it implied without historical evidence that Chopin sacrificed himself for a patriotic cause rather than devoting himself to his music). Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge; she rejected faith and religion. She supported rational

and ethical egoism as opposed to altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed collectivismstatism, and anarchism. Instead, she supported laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based on recognizing individual rights, including private property rights.

Of course, in this climate and with the political changes in Congress, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), was an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives, which was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having either fascist or communist ties. It became a standing (permanent) committee in 1945. In 1938, Hallie Flanagan, the head of the Federal Theatre Project, was subpoenaed to appear before the committee to answer the charge the project was overrun with communists. Flanagan was called to testify for only a part of one day, while an administrative clerk from the project was called in for two entire days. It was during this investigation that one of the committee members, Joe Starnes (D-Ala.), famously asked Flanagan whether the English Elizabethan era playwright Christopher Marlowe was a member of the Communist Party, and mused that ancient Greek tragedian “Mr. Euripides” preached class warfare. Of course, during the latter part of the New Deal, there were all sorts of attempts to discredit the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In 1939, the committee investigated people involved with pro-Nazi organizations such as Oscar C. Pfaus and George Van Horn Moseley. Moseley testified before the committee for five hours about a “Jewish Communist conspiracy” to take control of the US government. Moseley was supported by Donald Shea of the American Gentile League, whose statement was deleted from the public record as the committee found it so objectionable.


In 1946, the committee considered opening investigations into the Ku Klux Klan, but decided against doing so, prompting white supremacist committee member John E. Rankin (D-Miss.) to remark, “After all, the KKK is an old American institution.” Instead of the Klan, HUAC concentrated on investigating the possibility that the American Communist Party had infiltrated the Works Progress Administration, including the Federal Theatre Project and the Federal Writers’ Project. Twenty years later, in 1965–1966, however, the committee did conduct an investigation into Klan activities under Chairman Edwin Willis (D-La.).

Of course, this sets the stage for the eventual making of the classic film, High Noon, and how it came about. This most interesting story is related by Glenn Frankel is his book on High Noon and the Blacklist, which almost destroyed its creator Carl Foreman and others who worked in this very dangerous period in our history.

Of course, in this post war climate, there was the rise of independent producers like Stanley Kramer. After the war, Kramer, who was born in the Bronx, and was Jewish, (he attended DeWitt Clinton HS and graduated at age 15, and graduated at 19 from NYU and eventually served in WWII) soon discovered that there were no available jobs in Hollywood in 1947, so he created an independent production company, Screen Plays Inc. He partnered with writer Herbie Baker, publicist George Glass and producer Carl Foreman, an army friend from the film unit. Foreman justified the production company by noting that the big studios had become “dinosaurs,” which, being shocked by the onrush of television, “jettisoned virtually everything to survive.” But they failed to develop cadres of younger creative talent in their wake.

Kramer’s new company was able to take advantage of unused production facilities by renting time, allowing him to create independent films for a fraction of the cost the larger studios had required, and he did so without studio control. Kramer also saw this as an opportunity to produce films dealing with subjects the studios previously avoided, especially those about controversial topics.

However, Kramer soon learned that financing such independent films was a major obstacle, as he was forced to approach banks or else take on private investors. He did both when necessary. But with studios no longer involved, rival independent companies were created which all competed for those limited funds. At that time, it was quoted that “there were no fewer than ninety-six” other companies in competition during that period, and included some of Hollywood’s biggest names: Frank CapraJohn FordWilliam WylerHoward HawksLeo McCarey, and George Stevens. Kramer explained how he tried to differentiate his new company from the others, explaining he was less interested in the money than having the ability to make a statement through his films.

His first real feature Champion (1949), another Lardner story, this one about an ambitious and unscrupulous boxer. Written by Foreman, it was tailored to the talents of Kirk Douglas, a former amateur wrestler who was now an actor. Filmed in only 23 days with a relatively small budget, it became an immense box-office success. It won an Academy Award for Best Editing, with four other nominations, including Douglas for best actor and Foreman as screenwriter.

Kramer next produced Home of the Brave (also 1949), again directed by Mark Robson, which became an even bigger success than Champion. The story was adapted from a play by Arthur Laurents, originally about anti-Semitism in the army, but revised and made into a film about the persecution of a black soldier. it was the “first sound film about anti-black racism.” The victim in the film was played by the Black Actor James Edwards, who was also featured in the original Manchurian Candidate, with Frank Sinatra, and as General George S. Patton’s valet in Patton.  The subject matter was so sensitive at the time, that Kramer shot the film in “total secrecy” to avoid protests by various organizations. Critics generally liked the film, which, notes Nora Sayre, “had a flavoring of courage.”

His renamed Stanley Kramer Company produced The Men (1950), which featured Marlon Brando‘s screen debut, in a drama about paraplegic war veterans. It was the first time Kramer and Foreman worked with director Fred Zinnemann, who had been directing for twenty years and had won an Oscar. The film was another success for Kramer, who took on a unique subject dealing with a world few knew about. Critic Bosley Crowther noted that its “striking and authentic documentary quality has been imported to the whole film in every detail, attitude and word.”

In a parallel universe, in 1947, the HUAC committee held nine days of hearings into alleged communist propaganda and influence in the Hollywood motion picture industry. After conviction on contempt of Congress charges for refusal to answer some questions posed by committee members, “The Hollywood Ten” were blacklisted by the industry. Beginning with these ten screenwriters who were sent to prison for up to a year, because they refused to answer HUAC’s inquisition-like questions under the supposed protection of the First Amendment, the blacklist quickly took root in 1947. And after HUAC redoubled its efforts in 1951 to not so much fact-find but act as jury, judge, and executioner to any subpoenaed witness they deemed “unfriendly” (who wouldn’t name names), hundreds of careers were destroyed or sidelined for years and decades. In many cases forever. The studios had decided back in ’47 that anyone who HUAC deemed “unfriendly,” or was simply accused by a friendly witness, should never be hired again.

Eventually, more than 300 artists – including directors, radio commentators, actors, and particularly screenwriters – were boycotted by the studios. Some, like Charlie ChaplinOrson WellesAlan LomaxPaul Robeson, and Yip Harburg, left the U.S or went underground to find work. Others like Dalton Trumbo wrote under pseudonyms or the names of colleagues. Only about ten percent succeeded in rebuilding careers within the entertainment industry.

In 1947, studio executives told the committee that wartime films—such as Mission to MoscowThe North Star, and Song of Russia—could be considered pro-Soviet propaganda, but claimed that the films were valuable in the context of the Allied war effort, and that they were made (in the case of Mission to Moscow) at the request of White House officials. In response to the House investigations, most studios produced a number of anti-communist and anti-Soviet propaganda films such as The Red Menace (August 1949), The Red Danube (October 1949), The Woman on Pier 13 (October 1949), Guilty of Treason (May 1950, about the ordeal and trial of Cardinal József Mindszenty), I Was a Communist for the FBI (May 1951, Academy Award nominated for best documentary 1951, also serialized for radio), Red Planet Mars (May 1952), and John Wayne‘s Big Jim McLain (August 1952). Universal-International Pictures was the only major studio that did not purposefully produce such a film.

In the wake of all the HUAC probes into Hollywood and its message, after the end of WWII and now during to the Korean Conflict, Kramer’s last independent production was High Noon (1952), a Western drama directed by Fred Zinnemann. The movie was well received, winning four Oscars, as well as three other nominations. Unfortunately, High Noon‘s production and release intersected with McCarthyism. Writer, producer and partner Carl Foreman was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee while he was writing the film. Foreman had been a member of the Communist Party ten years earlier, but declined to “name names” and was branded an “un-cooperative witness” by HUAC, and then blacklisted by the Hollywood companies, after which he sold his interest in the company. Kramer, a long-time friend and business partner of Carl Foreman removed Foreman’s name from the credits as co-producer.

High Noon, which starred an aging Gary Cooper, centers on a town marshal whose sense of duty is tested when he must decide to either face a gang of killers alone, or leave town with his new wife. Though mired in controversy at the time of its release due to its political themes, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four (Actor, Editing, Score and Song) as well as four Golden Globe Awards (Actor, Supporting Actress, Score, and Black and White Cinematography). The award-winning score was written by Russian-born composer Dimitri Tiomkin (he was also one who was looked at by the HUAC investigators.

Eventually, High Noon was selected by the Library of Congress as one of the first 25 films for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in 1989, the NFR’s first year of existence. An iconic film whose story has been partly or completely repeated in later film productions, its ending in particular has inspired numerous later films, including but not just limited to westerns.

The film takes place in the fictional Hadleyville, a small town in New Mexico Territory, in 1898, Marshal Will Kane, newly married to Amy Fowler, a Quaker, played by the young and nervous Grace Kelly, prepares to retire. The happy couple will soon depart for a new life to raise a family and run a store in another town. However, word arrives that Frank Miller, a vicious outlaw whom Kane sent to prison, has been released and will arrive at the noon train. Miller’s gang—his younger brother Ben, Jack Colby, and Jim Pierce—await his arrival at the train station.

Of course, the townspeople really want no part of this fight and have a genuine fear for the life of Kane. His deputies and all the town’s leaders and elders eventually are no help to him. But, he is risking his life and limb to serve justice.

When faced with the threat of the Frank Miller Gang coming back to town, Kane feels that even though he’s already turned in his star (badge), he must face this challenge. And yet, no one will stand by his side. One by one, his friends, his co-workers in the form of Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges) lone deputy, turn their backs and shirk their responsibility to do the right thing. They tell him to run away. So in the end, Cooper’s (Will Kane) scared, but assured stands alone, save for his Quaker wife who must forsake her religion to stand by a man whose community has disowned him.

Shot in black-and-white and with an intended modesty that was counterintuitive to the most popular grand Old West epics of that decade, many of them starring Wayne, High Noon was a jolt to the system for audiences inundated with Westerns that had little to say. And, depending who you ask, High Noon had quite a bit on its mind regarding the era in which it was made.

Of course, the right-wing, fiction writers, and modern day witch hunters took one look at who had produced High Noon; Kramer, Zinnemann and Foreman, all Jews, and thought the story was a metaphor for collectivism and communist subversion.

Like Gary Cooper, who was born in Montana, a Republican and a conservative, John Wayne was an active and vocal member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (MPA). Which was the sanitized way of saying, “Hollywood’s Conservative Redbaiters.” Founded in MGM executive James K. McGuinness’ Beverly Hills home—Gone with the Wind producer David O. Selznick would later describe McGuinness as “the biggest anti-Semite in Hollywood”—the Motion Picture Alliance had its first public meeting in February 1944 with Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, Cecil B. DeMille, and John Ford in attendance. Gary Cooper’s frequent director, Sam Woods, was elected president of the organization and Walt Disney vice president. (Wayne himself would become president of the organization in 1949, and was its leader during the height of the Hollywood blacklist and the release of High Noon.) Gary Cooper joined later that year.

As a conservative counterbalance to the perceived communist threat in Hollywood movies, particularly during the wartime years when Hollywood was eagerly making films sympathetic to Soviet Union in lieu of a united war effort, the Motion Picture Alliance publicly and proudly campaigned for the need to hunt down and fire any secret communists in the studio system. They also essentially invited Congress’ now notorious House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to begin investigating their industry.

In Glenn Frankel’s nonfiction study of Hollywood’s Golden Age, it is as much about American history as it is the motion picture history. Like the title says, Frankel’s High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic it is about how one of the most enduring Western to ever be put on celluloid came to be, as well as the story line became a political football, about communism versus Americanism, to be kicked around by John Wayne, a draft-dodger and a self-proclaimed super-patriot.  John Wayne, who time and again recurs in the High Noon mythology as an antagonist more successful than the picture’s onscreen and cowardly townspeople, who fail consistently in running Gary Cooper’s marshal out of town. By comparison, the real life Wayne boasted with pride in his part of sabotaging the career of High Noon’s screenwriter, Carl Foreman and (ultimately) uncredited associate producer.

Ironically, what made Cooper and Foreman’s friendship so remarkable, despite Cooper being a well-known Hollywood conservative who even testified as a friendly witness before HUAC in 1947—Cooper saw a creative partner in Foreman, who was indeed a former member of the Communist Party.

At least it wasn’t until screenwriter Martin Berkeley enthusiastically mentioned Foreman’s name to HUAC in ’51 while Foreman was on the set with Cooper and Zinnemann. But, were any of these people really communists? Hardly!

Quite like his protagonist Will Kane, Foreman had already long known his fate was to deal with the apocalyptic force that scared the hell out of his community. Prior to Berkeley’s namedropping of hundreds of supposed communists, including some like Foreman who actually were once members of that party, Foreman already received a subpoena to appear before the committee in September 1951, which was about the midway point of shooting High Noon.        In the lead-up to his big day, Foreman’s script,, during pre-production, became sharper and more pessimistic, with the writer later claiming he even lifted dialogue for the craven and betraying friends of Will Kane from the pressures being placed on him by Stanley Kramer and fellow business partners in their independent company, Sam Katz, George Glass, and Sam Zagon, to cooperate with HUAC. If true, this would further explain Kramer’s ambivalence for the film’s dailies, which allegedly had echoes of his own bending to HUAC’s power before Foreman even testified.

After Foreman was accused of being a communist and then testified before HUAC, where he went through verbal contortions to say he was not a communist in the last year but would not confirm or deny if he’d ever been one (a questionable “limited Fifth Amendment” legal strategy), his relationship with Stanley Kramer was over, and he was initially even barred from finishing his position as “associate producer” until Cooper and Zinnemann stuck up for the writer. As soon as the principal photography on High Noon concluded, however, so did Foreman’s association with Kramer. As part of his lucrative buyout, he agreed to have his “associate producer” credit expunged from High Noon. (He’s still credited as writer.)

John Wayne, then president of the Motion Picture Alliance, decides to get deeply involved in the battle over High Noon and its legacy! Historian Gary Wills later described John Wayne’s role in this era as “to emerge after the battle and to shoot the wounded.” While he could show more sympathy for former communists than many of his contemporaries, including famed columnist Hedda Hopper ( a notorious right-winger and red-baiter), so long as they cooperated with HUAC and essentially went along with the witch hunt, he had no mercy for anyone like Foreman who attempted to stand alone against an overwhelming force. He resented the Will Kanes of Hollywood and he took a special, personal aim at derailing Carl Foreman’s career.

Foreman was likely naïve or too furious to see the big picture, but he used his unprecedented buyout for a new member of the blacklist to attempt forming an independent production company—and he had a most unusual partner: Gary Cooper. Wayne’s conservative friend and fellow charter member of the Motion Picture Alliance enthusiastically backed Carl Foreman’s production company, insisting it was a good bet and requesting Foreman announce his part in the venture. A press release came via Daily Variety, reporting that Cooper, Robert L. Lippert, and PR man Henry Rogers were going into business with a screenwriter who just refused to answer before Congress whether he was ever a communist. By all accounts, Wayne went ballistic.

As per Frankel’s book, Gary Cooper received personal pressure from Wayne, with Maria Cooper Janis remembering her father saying, “Wayne’s bit was if you did this [with Foreman], you’ll never work in this town again.” To be fair, Foreman’s attempt to break the blacklist in 1951 was likely always doomed, and Cooper received just as much pressure from columnist and friend Hedda Hopper as well as Jack Warner, a liberal studio mogul, who was the first to name names to HUAC and threatened to tear up a middle-aged Cooper’s contract at Warner Brothers.

Nevertheless, it is the special touch of attention that Wayne gave to Foreman’s association with Cooper, even after Cooper eventually and reluctantly stepped out of the deal. Like Thomas Mitchell’s mayor in High Noon, he not only didn’t want to help Foreman/Kane, but he took a practical pleasure in dissuading other townspeople, or movie stars, from lifting a finger.

One of Foreman’s last days in Hollywood involved the would-be producer meeting with John Wayne in Beverly Hills. Even with Cooper gone, Wayne was now pushing Henry Rogers to also abandon Foreman. He hoped to reason with Wayne, but he’d have better luck knocking over a mountain. Wayne was apparently furious that Foreman had embarrassed Cooper by having him betray the Motion Picture Alliance, and Wayne in turn wanted Foreman to betray his principles by crawling back to HUAC, admit he was once a communist, and name names.

When Foreman said maybe he’d just find work in Europe, Wayne responded by asking what makes him think he’ll be able to leave the country? Foreman took that as a threat, and by all appearances, even in his old age, Wayne probably wouldn’t have minded the inference. Foreman eventually did leave America, essentially exiled to the United Kingdom in search of work. It was the end of his marriage and the destabilization of his career, which he was able to rebuild after some years in Britain (and after the State Department revoked his passport so he couldn’t travel beyond the UK).

The Conclusion:

The film was made and it was a great success. High Noon has been cited as a favorite by several U.S. presidentsDwight Eisenhower screened the film at the White House and Bill Clinton hosted a record 17 White House screenings of it. “It’s no accident that politicians see themselves as Gary Cooper in High Noon,” Clinton said. “Not just politicians, but anyone who’s forced to go against the popular will. Any time you’re alone and you feel you’re not getting the support you need, Cooper’s Will Kane becomes the perfect metaphor. Ronald Reagan cited High Noon as his favorite film, due to the protagonist’s strong commitment to duty and the law. It was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, it won 4, Gary Cooper, Cooper for Best Actor, and Film Editing, Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture and Best Song.

Yes, there were communists in Hollywood! There were also liberals, socialists, and pro-union workers. Were they marching to the order of Moscow or Stalin? Hardly! Did many of them join the Communist Party in the 30’s to seek and work for social and economic justice in a country where predator capitalism destroyed the economy with the Crash and the Depression? Yes. Thus, what did the witch hunt accomplish? Very little, but it did raise the ante on persecution in the name of Americanism.

  • Gary Cooper– (1901-1961) Cooper’s most important film during the postwar years was Fred Zinnemann‘s Western drama High Noon(1952) with Grace Kelly and Katy Jurado. During the filming, Cooper was in poor health and in considerable pain from stomach ulcers. His ravaged face and discomfort in some scenes “photographed as self-doubt”, according to biographer Hector Arce, and contributed to the effectiveness of his performance. Considered one of the first “adult” Westerns for its theme of moral courage, High Noon received enthusiastic reviews for its artistry, On April 14, 1960, Cooper underwent surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for an aggressive form of prostate cancer that had metastasized to his colon. He fell ill again on May 31 and underwent further surgery at Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles in early June to remove a malignant tumor from his large intestine. After recuperating over the summer, On December 27, his wife learned from their family doctor that Cooper’s cancer had spread to his lungs and bones and was inoperable. His family decided not to tell him immediately. On January 9, 1961,

Cooper attended a dinner given in his honor and hosted by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin at the Friars Club The dinner was attended by many of his industry friends and concluded with a brief speech by Cooper, who said, “The only achievement I’m proud of is the friends I’ve made in this community.” In his last public statement on May 4, 1961, Cooper said, “I know that what is happening is God’s will. I am not afraid of the future.” He received the last rites on Friday, May 12, and died quietly the next day

  • Stanley Kramer-(1913-2001) Director Steven Spielberg described him as an “incredibly talented visionary” and “one of our great filmmakers, not just for the art and passion he put on screen, but for the impact he has made on the conscience of the world.” Kramer was recognized for his fierce independence as a producer-director, with author Victor Navasky writing that “among the independents…none seemed more vocal, more liberal, and more pugnacious than young Stanley Kramer.”

His friend Kevin Spacey, during his acceptance speech at the 2015 Golden Globes, honored Kramer’s work, calling him “one of the great filmmakers of all time. He died on February 19, 2001, in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, aged 87, after contracting pneumonia. 

  • Carl Forman-(1914-1984) According to Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents—a 2002 documentary based in part on a lengthy 1952 letter from Foreman to film critic Bosley Crowther—Foreman’s role in the creation and production of High Noonhas been unfairly downplayed over the years in favor of Kramer’s. Foreman told Crowther that the film originated from a four-page plot outline he wrote that turned out to be very similar to a short story by John W. Cunningham called “The Tin Star.” Foreman purchased the film rights to Cunningham’s story and wrote the screenplay. By the time the documentary aired, most of the principals were dead, including Kramer, Foreman, Zinnemann, and Cooper. Victor Navasky, author of Naming Names, a definitive account of the Hollywood blacklist, told a reporter that, based on his interviews with Kramer’s widow and others, the documentary seemed “one-sided, and the problem is it makes a villain out of Stanley Kramer, when it was more complicated than that”.

Richard Fleischer later claimed he helped Carl Foreman develop the story of High Noon over the course of eight weeks while driving to and from the set of The Clay Pigeon (1949) which they were making together. Foreman went to Britain to live and work. He developed a successful career. In 1975, Foreman returned to the US, and signed a three-picture contract with Universal. He co-wrote and helped produce a sequel to NavaroneForce 10 from Navarone (1978). It did not match the success of its predecessor. Carl Foreman was back home in the United States when he died of a brain tumor in 1984 in Beverly Hills, California. The day before he died he was told he would receive the long overdue Oscar credit for writing Bridge on the River Kwai.

  • Fred Zinnemann (1907-1997) Austrian born Jewish immigrant, escaping Nazi persecution. He won four Academy Awardsfor directing and producing films in various genres, including thrillerswesternsfilm noir and play He made 25 feature films during his 50-year career. Perhaps Zinnemann’s best-known work is High Noon (1952), one of the first 25 American films chosen in 1989 for the National Film Registry. With its psychological and moral examinations of its lawman hero Marshall Will Kane, played by Gary Cooper and its innovative chronology whereby screen time approximated the 80-minute countdown to the confrontational hour, the film broke the mold of the formulaic western. Working closely with cinematographer and longtime friend Floyd Crosby, he shot without filters, giving the landscape a harsh “newsreel” quality that clashed with the more painterly cinematography of John Ford’s westerns. During production he established a strong rapport with Gary Cooper, photographing the aging actor in many tight close-ups which showed him sweating, and at one point, even crying on screen..

Screenwriter Carl Foreman apparently intended High Noon to be an allegory of Senator Joseph McCarthy‘s vendetta against alleged Communists. However, Zinnemann disagreed, insisting, late in life, that the issues in the film, for him, were broader, and were more about conscience and independent, uncompromising fearlessness. He says, “High Noon is “not a Western, as far as I’m concerned; it just happens to be set in the Old West.” Zinnemann died of a heart attack in London, England on March 14, 1997. He was 89 years old.

  • John Wayne-(1907-1979) By contrast, John Wayne told an interviewer that he considered High Noon“the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” and later teamed with director Howard Hawks to make Rio Bravo in response. “I made Rio Bravo because I didn’t like High Noon,” Hawks explained. “Neither did Duke [Wayne]. I didn’t think a good town marshal was going to run around town like a chicken with his head cut off asking everyone to help. And who saves him? His Quaker wife. That isn’t my idea of a good Western.”  John Wayne died of cancer, some said it was attributed to his starring in the 1965 film, The Conquerors. Of the 220 film crew members, 91 (comprising 41% of the crew) developed cancer during their lifetime, while 46 (or 21%) died from it. When this was learned, many suspected that filming in Utah and surrounding locations, near nuclear test sites, was to blame. Although the number of cancer cases among the cast and crew is in line with the average for adults in the US at the time, the perception of a link between the film’s location and subsequent illness remains, not least because many of those involved in the film developed cancer at a younger age than average.  Wayne, in particular, was a heavy smoker, and Wayne himself believed his stomach cancer to have been a result of his six-pack-a-day cigarette habit. How ironic that America’s self-anointed Super Hero, was a draft-dodger, who claimed draft-exemption, because of support of his family, after he left them, may have died from the results of the Atomic tests in Utah.
  • John Parnell Thomas(1895 -1970) As a S. Congressman, and Republican Chairman of HUAC in 1947. Thomas was a staunch conservative opponent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal, claiming the President’s legislative agenda had “sabotaged the capitalist system.” Thomas opposed government support for the Federal Theatre Project declaring that “practically every play presented under the auspices of the Project is sheer propaganda for Communism or the New Deal.” In 1949 Thomas called the U.S. Secretary of DefenseJames Forrestal, “the most dangerous man in America” and claimed that if Forrestal were not removed from office he would “cause another world war. Rumors about corrupt practices on the part of Thomas were confirmed when his secretary, Helen Campbell, sent documents to Drew Pearson, which he used to expose Thomas’ corruption in an August 4, 1948, newspaper article. As a result, Thomas and Campbell were summoned to answer to charges of salary fraud before a grand jury.

Thomas refused to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment rights, the most common stance for which he had criticized accused Communists. Indicted, Thomas was tried and convicted of fraud, fined and given an 18-month prison sentence. He resigned from Congress on January 2, 1950. (A very recent, former president stated that by taking the 5th Amendment it was tantamount to guilt and that it was used by mobsters. He took it almost 450 times!)

In an ironic twist, he was imprisoned in Danbury Prison where Lester Cole and Ring Lardner Jr., both members of the “Hollywood Ten” were serving time because of Thomas’ inquiries into the film industry.







Fred Astaire, a Life with Dance and His Partners -May 20, 2023

Fred Astaire was born Frederick Austerlitz on May 10, 1899, in Omaha, Nebraska the son of Johanna “Ann” (née Geilus; 1878–1975) and Friedrich “Fritz” Emanuel Austerlitz (1868–1923), known in the US as Frederic Austerlitz. Astaire’s mother was born in the US to Lutheran German immigrants. Astaire’s father was born in Austria, to Catholic parents who had converted from Judaism.

Astaire’s father, Fritz Austerlitz, arrived in New York City at the age of 25 on October 26, 1893, Fritz was seeking work in the brewing trade and moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he was employed by the Storz Brewing Company. Astaire’s mother dreamed of escaping Omaha through her children’s talents. Astaire’s older sister, Adele, was an instinctive dancer and singer early in her childhood. Johanna planned a “brother and sister act”, common in vaudeville at the time, for her two children. Although Fred refused dance lessons at first, he easily mimicked his older sister’s steps and took up the piano and other instrument.

During his long lifetime in every venue of entertainment he received accolades, great revues and plaudits from his peers, the critics and the audiences. He is widely regarded as the “greatest popular-music dancer of all time”. He received an Honorary Academy Award three Primetime Emmy Awards, a BAFTA Award, two Golden Globes and a Grammy Award.  He was honored with the Film Society of Lincoln Center tribute in 1973, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978 and the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1980. He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the American Theater Hall of Fame and the Television Hall of Fame.

His career in film, stage and television spanned 76 years. He starred in more than ten Broadway and West End (London) productions and thirty-one musical films. His great film performances included his long partnership with Ginger Rogers. Among his notable films are Top Hat, Swing Time, Shall We Dance, Holiday Inn, Easter Parade, The Band Wagon Funny Face and Silk Stockings. He was named the 5th greatest male star in the 100 years of Hollywood Cinema by the American Film Institute. But, all in all, he certainly was the greatest star of the 20th Century and no greater authority on the dance, Gene Kelly, said that in 100 years after his era, he will be the only one remembered.

His first partner was his sister Adele (born Adele Marie 1896-1981). They were taught dance, speaking, and singing in preparation for developing an act. Their first act was called Juvenile Artists Presenting an Electric Musical Toe-Dancing Novelty. They took lessons at Claude Alveinne’s dancing school on 8th Avenue in NYC. Fred wore a top hat and tails in the first half and a lobster outfit in the second. In an interview, Astaire’s daughter, Ava Astaire McKenzie, observed that they often put Fred in a top hat to make him look taller. In November 1905, the comic act debuted in Keyport, New Jersey at a “tryout theater”. The local paper wrote, “The Astaires are the greatest child act in vaudeville.” One of the critics labeled them the greatest act in vaudeville.

As a result of their father’s salesmanship, Fred and Adele landed a major contract and played the Orpheum Circuit in the Midwest, Western and some Southern cities in the US. They were paid $150 per week and transportation. Soon Adele grew to at least three inches taller than Fred, and the pair began to look incongruous. The family decided to take a two-year break from show business to let time take its course and to avoid trouble with the child labor laws of the time. The career of the Astaire siblings resumed with mixed fortunes, though with increasing skill and polish, as they began to incorporate tap dancing into their routines. Astaire’s dancing was inspired by Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. (A hero he honored in a routine in “Swing Time”) and John “Bubbles” Sublett.

From the vaudeville dancer Aurelio Coccia, they learned the tango, waltz, and other ballroom dances popularized by Vernon and Irene Castle Some sources that the Astaire siblings appeared in an early 1915 film titled Fanchon the Cricket. They both denied appearing in that film.

By age 14, Fred had taken on the musical responsibilities for their act. He first met the great George Gershwin, who was working as a song plugger for Remick’s Music publishing company, in 1916, located on 28th Street (Tin Pan Alley) in Manhattan. This would be three years before Gershwin’s great hit Swanee.  Gershwin joined Remick’s in 1914 and composed many songs, but he left the firm in 1917. Fred had already been hunting for new music and dance ideas. Their chance meeting was to affect the careers of both artists profoundly. Astaire was always on the lookout for new steps on the circuit and was starting to demonstrate his ceaseless quest for novelty and perfection. Gershwin always believed that Fred Astaire sang his songs the best.

The Astaires broke into Broadway in 1917 with Over the Top, a patriotic revue, and performed for U.S. and Allied troops at this time as well. The critic of the NY Globe wrote, “One of prettiest features of the show is the Dancing Astaires.”

They followed up with several more shows. Of their work in The Passing Show of 1918. Heywood Broun (father of TV personality and critic Heywood Hale Broun) wrote: “In an evening in which there was an abundance of good dancing, Fred Astaire stood out … he and his partner, Adele Astaire, made the show pause early in the evening with a beautiful loose-limbed dance.” During the production of The Passing Show, which ran for 125 performances at the Winter Garden Theater (made famous by Al Jolson), they sang songs by Sigmund Romberg and Jean Schwartz.

Adele’s sparkle and humor drew much of the attention, owing in part to Fred’s careful preparation and sharp supporting choreography. She still set the tone of their act. But by this time, Astaire’s dancing skill was beginning to outshine his sister’s.

During the 1920s, Fred and Adele appeared on Broadway and in the West End theater district in London.  They won popular acclaim with the theater crowd on both sides of the Atlantic in shows such as Jerome Kern’s The Punch and Judy (1922). Their first hit, For Goodness Sake was also in 1922. In London, they were embraced by the aristocracy and the royalty. They quickly came to epitomize the elegance and grace.

George and Ira Gershwin’s Lady Be Good (1924), and Funny Face (1927) and The Band Wagon (1931) were all hits for the Astaires. Funny Face (1957) would later be a successful film musical with Audrey Hepburn and Kay Thompson (1909-1998 born Katherine Fink, author of I am Eloise). The Band Wagon (1953) with Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabrey also became a classic. They would introduce S’Wonderful and He Loves and She Loves. When Funny Face opened at the Alvin Theater, with the book by Fred Thompson and Robert Benchley they were a big draw.

Astaire’s tap dancing was recognized by then as among the best. For example, the great wit, humorist, movie personality and writer Robert Benchley (1889-1945, Chips off the Benchley) wrote in 1930, “I don’t think that I will plunge the nation into war by stating that Fred is the greatest tap-dancer in the world.” While in London, Fred studied piano at the Guildhall School of Music alongside his friend and colleague the great Noel Coward (1899-1973, Private Lives). In 1926, he was one of the judges at the Charleston Dance Championship of the World competition at the Royal Albert Hall, where Lew Grade (later impresario and movie producer) was declared the winner.

After the close of Funny Face, the Astaires went to Hollywood for a screen test (now lost) at Paramount Pictures, but Paramount deemed them unsuitable for films. They split in 1932, when Adele married her first husband, Lord Charles Cavendish, the second son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire.

He adored his sister and had never really danced with anyone else. The end of the partnership was traumatic for Astaire, but stimulated him to expand his range, as he considered offers from Hollywood.

His next partner was Claire Luce, (1903-1989). Free of the brother-sister constraints of the former pairing and working with new partner, they danced together in Cole Porter’s The Gay Divorce. (Later made into the film with Ginger Rogers, The Gay Divorcee in 1934 with Edward Everett Horton and Alice Brady).  Fred created a romantic partnered dance to Porter’s haunting, Night and Day. He stated that she (Claire Luce) had to encourage him to take a more romantic approach: “Come on, Fred, I’m not your sister, you know.” The success of the stage play was credited to this number, and when recreated in The Gay Divorcee (1934), the film version of the play, it ushered in a new era in filmed dance. Recently, film footage taken by Fred Stone of Astaire performing in Gay Divorce with Luce’s successor, Dorothy Stone, in New York, in 1933, was uncovered by dancer and historian Betsy Baytos and now represents the earliest known performance footage of Astaire. As for the beautiful Claire Luce, during the show she tripped over a piece of furniture they were dancing over. She dragged him down also. They finished the scene, the show and the run, despite being in pain over her injured hip. From that fall her dance career ended. He once again flew off to Hollywood, on a 26 hour flight.

According to Hollywood folklore, a screen test report on Astaire for RKO Radio Pictures now lost along with the test, is reported to have read: “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.” The producer of the Astaire–Rogers pictures, Pandro S. Berman claimed he had never heard the story in the 1930s and that it only emerged years afterward. Astaire later clarified, insisting that the report had read: “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Also dances.” In any case, the test was clearly disappointing, and David O. Selznick who had signed Astaire to RKO and commissioned the test, stated in a memo, “I am uncertain about the man, but I feel, in spite of his enormous ears and bad chin line, that his charm is so tremendous that it comes through even on this wretched test.”

However, this did not affect RKO’s plans for Astaire. They lent him for a few days to MGM in 1933.Thus, his significant Hollywood debut, was in the successful musical film with Clark Gable, Dancing Lady. In the movie, he appeared as himself, dancing with Joan Crawford. On his return to RKO, he got fifth billing, after the fourth-billed Ginger Rogers, in the 1933 Dolores Del Rio and Gene Raymond vehicle Flying Down to Rio.  In a review, Variety magazine attributed its massive success to Astaire’s presence. In the film, he was only on screen for 4 minutes and 50 seconds. Originally Astaire expected to dance with Dorothy Jordan but she married producer Merian C. Cooper (King Kong, etc). RKO shipped in the young Ginger Rogers, who at 21 years old had already made 23 pictures. (Probably the best known was Stage Door, with Katherine Hepburn).

One critic wrote, “The main point of Flying Down to Rio is the screen promise of Fred Astaire … He’s assuredly a bet after this one, for he’s distinctly likable on the screen, the mike is kind to his voice and as a dancer, he remains in a class by himself. The latter observation will be no news to the profession, which has long admitted that Astaire starts dancing where the others stop hoofing.” Thus, by 1932, he had never really danced with another partner, except on occasion with Marilyn Miller and Tillie Tosch. During this period he met at the racetrack a pretty 23 year old socialite, who was recently divorced, name Phyllis Potter. He was always a lover of horses and the track. They date, he convinced her to see him perform at the New Amsterdam Theater and she married him in July of 1933.

Astaire stated, “Ginger had never danced with a partner before Flying Down to Rio. She faked it an awful lot. She couldn’t tap and she couldn’t do this and that … but Ginger had style and talent and improved as she went along.”

She got so that after a while everyone else who danced with me looked wrong.” In his book Ginger: Salute to a Star, author Dick Richards quotes Astaire saying to Raymond Rohauer, curator of the New York Gallery of Modern Art, “Ginger was brilliantly effective. She made everything work for her. Actually, she made things very fine for both of us and she deserves most of the credit for our success.” Of course, during much of the rehearsals, Astaire practiced with Hermes Pan, his sort of alter ego. They would work out all the innovations. They would work often from 10 am for 12 hours. They would then present it to Ginger and teach her the steps and the routine.

Having already been linked to his sister Adele on stage, Astaire was initially very reluctant to become part of another dance team. He wrote his agent, “I don’t mind making another picture with her (Rogers), but as for this ‘team’ idea, it’s ‘out!’ I’ve just managed to live down one partnership and I don’t want to be bothered with any more.” However, he was persuaded by the apparent public appeal of the Astaire–Rogers pairing. The partnership, and the choreography of Astaire and Hermes Pan helped make dancing an important element of the Hollywood film musical.

Astaire and Rogers made nine films together at RKO: Flying Down to Rio  (1933), The Gay Divorcee  (1934), Roberta  (1935, in which Astaire also demonstrates his oft-overlooked piano skills with a spirited solo on I Won’t Dance), Top Hat  (1935), Follow the Fleet  (1936, also with Harriet Hilliard of Ozzie and Harriet and Randolph Scott), Swing Time  (1936), Shall We Dance  (1937), Carefree (1938), and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle  (1939). Six out of the nine Astaire–Rogers musicals became the biggest moneymakers for RKO; all of the films brought a certain prestige and artistry that all studios coveted at the time. Their partnership elevated them both to stardom; as Katherine Hepburn reportedly said, “He gives her class and she gives him sex appeal Astaire received a percentage of the films’ profits, something scarce in actors’ contracts at that time. The film Carefree was to many a failure, but still brought in revenue. With The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, Astaire had learned a lot from the Castle’s style in his early days dancing with his sister. Vernon Castle volunteered for the US AEF during WWI and was killed testing a plane. Of those six films, most critics rate Swing Time as the best!

Astaire was a perfectionist and every routine was an effort in endurance and the utmost concentration. In Top Hat, the classic Top Hat number was quite frustrating. He broke his cane 12 times and the number 13 was lucky, because after 40 takes and the 13th cane the scene was done. The Irving Berlin score was great, the set designs by Van Nest Polgase and Carroll Clark were terrific, but not cheap. The film opened at Radio City, in NYC, and it was the most lucrative in the history of the RKO Radio Pictures. In fact, it was the first time RKO had made a profit.

In the meantime, Astaire was quite happy, his wife had given birth to a son, Fred Astaire, Jr. He celebrated by doing a radio show. The next effort, Follow the Fleet, was not liked by the critics, but it made money. It involved a dual romance with Hilliard and Scott and Astaire and Rogers. They all worked hard on the movie, with many re-takes. The song and dance sequence, Let’s Face the Music and Dance took 14 separate takes.

The next film, which many believe was their best, was Swing Time (also with stage veterans, Victor Moore and Helen Broderick). They spent 350 hours rehearsing their numbers. After one very long rehearsal, there was blood on the stage from Roger’s broken foot blisters that had soaked through her shoes.

After Swing Time he headed for England with Phyllis. On the way, they stopped in NYC and he was able to do six 15 minute radio shows at $4,000 each. After their return from England he contracted to do 39 shows for the Packard Motorcar Show. Eventually, after his singing and dancing for radio started to wear on him, his wife felt he was spreading himself too thin. Also his efforts were starting to intrude on the rehearsals for his next film Shall We Dance.

This film (with top character actors, Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore) received better reviews, but made less money. It seems the novelty of this great dance pair was wearing down. But, their next venture was still planned. As usual, perfection was the order of the day for Astaire. The roller-skating sequence in the park took four days to shoot and 150 takes for a 2 minute and 40 second routine.

The film Carefree suffered from a very confused script, with their typical social mix-ups. The cast included Jack Carson and Ralph Bellamy. The golf ball hitting, scene where Astaire, a psychiatrist, is attempting to impress his patient, one Ginger Rogers, used over 600 golf balls.

The end of their unique and very profitable run came in 1939 with another loss with the film, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle.  Astaire had learned from the famous dance team of the Castles, who great success was in the years before WWI. The cast was bolstered by the great character actor, Walter Brennan and dealt with their rise to fame. Vernon Castle was enamored with flying and joined the British RAF during WWI. After serving with distinction as a pilot in the war, Vernon died in a plane crash on a flight training base near Fort Worth, Texas, in 1918. Irene continued to perform solo in Broadway, vaudeville and motion picture productions over the next decade.

In between his work with Ginger Rogers, he made a decent film, Damsel in Distress (1937) without his partner and with the non-dancing Joan Fontaine. RKO added George Burns and Gracie Allen to the picture and it was well received.

After the celebrated collaboration with Ginger Rogers, Astaire was listed as one of the richest men in America. As for the cost of his pictures in film alone, it was estimated that during the 1930s, over 125,000 feet of dancing film had been recorded, and only 25,000 feet had actually been used in their movies. It was also determined that the filming of the dance sequences had worked out to 500 hours per film.

Astaire left RKO in 1939 to freelance and pursue new film opportunities, with mixed though generally successful outcomes. Throughout this period, Astaire continued to value the input of choreographic collaborators. Unlike the 1930s when he worked almost exclusively with Hermes Pan, he tapped the talents of other choreographers to innovate continually. He was also labeled “box office poison” after Carefree by the Independent Theatre Owners of America.

His first post-Ginger dance partner was the redoubtable Eleanor Powell, considered the most exceptional female tap-dancer of her generation. They starred in Broadway Melody of 1940, in which they performed a celebrated, extended dance routine to Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine. In his autobiography, Steps in Time, Astaire remarked, “She ‘put ’em down’ like a man, no ricky-ticky-sissy stuff with Ellie. She really knocked out a tap dance in a class by herself.” In the film, he and George Murphy (later a one-term US Senator from California) were cast as broken down hoofers. According, to the studio, she lacked personality and femininity. She refused any work on her face. She was a superb dancer, a so-so actor, and a long way from being a typical MGM glamour girl. The reviews were very good and the NY Times found the film superior to his earlier films and said “his numbers seemed even more fascinating than ever!”

In, 1940, he signed with Paramount, which was probably a mistake, to make a musical called, Second Chorus. If Broadway Melody had been a high in his career, Second Chorus was certainly a low point. Paulette Goddard was his dancing partner. She certainly was attractive, had long, thin legs, but she was no dancer. It co-starred Burgess Meredith in a similar role that Murphy had played. They were both unpleasant characters. The film was a mess. Bosley Crowther, the great and very well respected movie critic of the NY Times, said, “Astaire was badly in need of a new dancing partner, and judging by Second Chorus, he is desperately in need of a producer, a writer, and a director, who again offer something smart, slick and joyful for him to do.”

Astaire was at the lowest ebb of his career in 1940. His former partner, Ginger Rogers, won the Academy Award for her work in the forgettable tear-jerker film, Kitty Foyle! With all that in mind, he left Paramount and signed a new contract with Columbia Pictures to make a couple of films with the young actress Rita Hayworth. She was a trained dancer, from a dancing family, who had not been placed in a musical for years while under contract. Hayworth, years later at the San Francisco Film Festival remembered her two films with Astaire with great affection.

She said that when he came to Columbia, he asked for me. “Fred knew I was a dancer, not those dumb-dumbs at Columbia!”  She had always believed that it was Astaire who had wanted her in his films. Astaire had known her father, Eduardo Cansino from 30 years earlier in Vaudeville. This, of course, was totally inaccurate. As gruff and vulgar was Harry Cohn, the boss at Columbia, he was no fool, and he knew what. and who. he wanted to be partnered with Astaire. Rita was thrilled and terrified at the prospect of dancing with Astaire. She was so shy she couldn’t even say his name. Meanwhile, as she talked to Astaire, he said, “Let’s try these little steps.” So she did and tried to follow him and figure it out. He said to Hayworth, “How can you do that so fast?” The he said, “I know why it is because of your training with your father!” Of course, she had been dancing since age three or four. The reviews of You’ll Never get Rich, (1941) were very good,

This was the first of two films he made with Rita Hayworth, and the film catapulted her to stardom. In the movie, Astaire integrated for the third time Latin American dance idioms into his style (the first being with Ginger Rogers in “The Carioca” number from Flying Down to Rio (1933) and the second, again with Rogers, was the “Dengozo” dance from The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939)).

His second film with Hayworth, You Were Never Lovelier (1942), was equally successful. It featured a duet to Kern’s I’m Old Fashioned which became the centerpiece of Jerome Robbins’s 1983 New York City Ballet tribute to Astaire. Rita Hayworth had one big advantage over Ginger Rogers, she actually looked like she was enjoying herself. Rogers, although she danced beautifully and smiled a lot during those numbers, sometimes gave the impression that the smile was a trifle fixed.

In between the two Hayworth films, he signed once again with Paramount and played alongside Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn (1942) and later Blue Skies (1946). But, in spite of the enormous financial success of both, he was reportedly dissatisfied with roles where he lost the girl to Crosby. The former film is memorable for his virtuoso solo dance to Let’s Say it with Firecrackers. The film was a big success, the top grossing film of 1942, very nostalgic, and he had six dance numbers with Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale. He was very happy with the Irving Berlin score, which featured the mega hit, White Christmas and he was reunited with his former director from the RKO days, Mark Sandrich (who unfortunately died at age 45 during the shooting).

The latter film featured Puttin on the Ritz an innovative song-and-dance routine indelibly associated with him. Always insecure and believing his career was beginning to falter, Astaire surprised his audiences by announcing his retirement during the production of his next film, Blue Skies (1946). After announcing his retirement in 1946, Astaire concentrated on his horse-racing interests and in 1947 founded the Fred Astaire Dance Studios, which he subsequently sold in 1966.

Of course, before Blue Skies and after Holiday Inn he next appeared opposite the seventeen-year-old Joan Leslie in the wartime comedy, The Skies the Limit (1943). In it he introduced Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s One For My Baby while dancing on a bar counter in a dark and troubled routine. Astaire choreographed this film alone and achieved modest box office success. It represented a notable departure for Astaire from his usual charming, happy-go-lucky screen persona, and confused contemporary critics.

His next partner, Lucille Bremer was featured in two lavish vehicles, both directed by Vincente Minnelli, the fantasy, Yolanda and the Thief 1945) which featured an avant-garde surrealistic ballet. In the musical revue Ziegfeld Follies (1945), Astaire danced with Gene Kelly to the Gershwin song The Babbit and the Bromide, a song Astaire had introduced with his sister Adele back in 1927. While the over-blown, extravaganza, Follies was a hit, Yolanda bombed at the box office.

Meanwhile, Astaire’s retirement did not last long. He returned to the big screen to replace an injured Gene Kelly in Easter Parade. (1948) opposite Judy Garland and Ann Miller. Easter Parade was a movie of great charm, but true to form that the story had little consequence. Irving Berlin wrote the score. Of course, for MGM, it was a big story, Astaire’s comeback. The picture received most of MGM’s publicity budget, obviously more than any other picture being “shot” on the MGM lot. Judy Garland was his co-star, but she was in a fragile emotional state, after a reported suicide attempt. Irving Berlin’s choice of the song, Let’s Take an Old-Fashioned Walk was rebuffed, so he came up with A Couple of Swells, which the critics and the public loved. The film returned a very healthy profit to MGM.

The next film scheduled with Judy Garland was first entitled, You Made Me Love You, (maybe a reference to the great Al Jolson hit, which Garland turned into her own hit.”)  But, after three weeks Garland broke down emotionally. The film was renamed The Barkley’s of Broadway (1949) and Garland was replaced with Ginger Rogers. This final reunion with Rogers meant a number of the songs had to be changed. Astaire was not thrilled with Rogers. No one really knew the reason. Some speculated it was her height or her fame. Basically the picture didn’t have the pace or success of Easter Parade. They reprised They Can’t Take that Away from Me, from Shall We Dance, which was done twelve years earlier. But the big hit was Astaire’s solo, Shoes With Wings! Bosley Crowther of the NY Times loved the fil. It was a marginally successful, but a disappointment for MGM. Thus, another film with Ginger Rogers was not considered.

Both of these films revived Astaire’s popularity. In 1950, he starred in two musicals, Three Little Words with Vera-Ellen and Red Skelton for MGM. Let’s Dance with Betty Hutton who was on loan-out to Paramount. While Three Little Words did quite well at the box office, Let’s Dance was a financial disappointment. To a degree, both films were mediocre and forgetful.  Royal Wedding (1951) with Jane Powell and Peter Lawford proved to be very successful. Astaire and producer Arthur Freed came up with Powell as his third choice. June Allyson, the first choice, was pregnant and Judy Garland broke down again. Her contract with MGM was terminated on June 19, 1950.

As for the next film, The Belle of New York (1952) with Vera-Ellen, it was a critical and box-office disaster. The Band Wagon (1953) received rave reviews from critics and drew huge crowds. Astaire loved the Band Wagon and was quite happy to dance with Cyd Charisse. Their number, Dancing in the Dark (from Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz -1931) was a sensation and was well received. Director Vincente Minelli (Garland’s husband) was back with Astaire, but he had immense problems with Oscar Levant, eventually they were ironed out. Archer Winston of the NY Post (then owned by the liberal Dorothy Schiff) thought the film was better than An American in Paris. Bosley Crowther thought it was one of the best musicals ever. Up to that time, the consensus was that it was one of the Big Three, along with Singing in the Rain and An American in Paris. Unfortunately, after its original release, it did not make money. Later on, it would do very well for MGM.

Soon after, Astaire, like the other remaining stars at MGM, was let go from his contract because of the advent of television and the downsizing of film production. In 1954, Astaire was about to start work on a new musical, Daddy Long Legs (1955) with Leslie Caron at 20th Century Fox. Then, his wife Phyllis became ill and suddenly died of lung cancer. Astaire was so bereaved that he wanted to shut down the picture and offered to pay the production costs out of his pocket. However, Johnny Mercer, the film’s composer, and Fox studio executives convinced him that work would be the best thing for him. Daddy Long Legs did only moderately well at the box office. His next film for Paramount, Funny Face (1957), teamed him with Audrey Hepburn and Kay Thompson.  Despite the sumptuousness of the production and the good reviews from critics, it failed to make back its cost. ( it was thought that Astaire’s role as a photographer was based on Richard Avedon.)

Astaire’s next project – his final musical at MGM, was Silk Stockings. (1957), in which he co-starred with Cyd Charisse. It was taken from the Broadway hit, which was adapted from the great Greta Garbo smash film, Ninotchka,. The score was embellished with the new song The Ritz Roll and Rock, a parody of then-emerging rock and roll. The number ends with Astaire symbolically smashing his top hat, considered one of his trademarks, signaling his retirement from movie musicals, which he announced following the film’s release, also lost money at the box office.

Afterward, Astaire announced that he was retiring from dancing in films. His legacy at this point was 30 musical films in 25 years. Astaire did not retire from dancing altogether. He made a series of four highly rated Emmy Award-winning musical specials for television in 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1968. Each featured with Barrie Chase whom Astaire enjoyed a renewed period of dance creativity. The first of these programs, 1958’s, An Evening with Fred Astaire won nine Emmy Awards, including “Best Single Performance by an Actor” and “Most Outstanding Single Program of the Year”. It was also noteworthy for being the first major broadcast to be prerecorded on color videotape. Astaire won the Emmy for Best Single Performance by an Actor. The choice had a controversial backlash because many believed his dancing in the special was not the type of “acting” for which the award was designed. At one point, Astaire offered to return the award, but the Television Academy refused to consider it. A restoration of the program won a technical Emmy in 1988 for Ed Reitan, Don Kent, and Dan Einstein. They restored the original videotape, transferring its contents to a modern format and filling in gaps where the tape had deteriorated with kinescope footage.

Astaire revolutionized dance on film by having complete autonomy over its presentation. He is credited with two important innovations in early film musicals. First, he insisted that a closely tracking dolly camera film a dance routine in as few shots as possible, typically with just four to eight cuts, while holding the dancers in full view at all times. This gave the illusion of an almost stationary camera filming an entire dance in a single shot. Astaire famously quipped: “Either the camera will dance, or I will.” Astaire maintained this policy from The Gay Divorcee in 1934 until his last film musical, Finian’s Rainbow in 1968, when director Francis Ford Coppola overruled him.

Astaire’s last major musical film was Finian’s Rainbow (1968), and he shed his white tie and tails to play an Irish rogue who believes that if he buries a crock of gold in the shadows of Fort Knox the gold will multiply. Astaire’s dance partner was Petula Clark, who played his character’s skeptical daughter. He described himself as nervous about singing with her, while she said she was worried about dancing with him. The film was a modest success both at the box office and among critics.

Astaire’s style of dance sequences allowed the viewer to follow the dancers and choreography in their entirety. This style differed strikingly from those in the Busby Berkeley musicals. Those musical sequences were filled with extravagant aerial shots, dozens of cuts for quick takes, and zooms on areas of the body such as a chorus row of arms or legs.

Astaire’s second innovation involved the context of the dance; he was adamant that all song and dance routines be integral to the plotlines of the film. Instead of using dance as a spectacle as Busby Berkeley did, Astaire used it to move the plot along. Typically, an Astaire picture would include at least three standard dances.

One would be a solo performance by Astaire, which he termed his “sock solo”. Another would be a partnered comedy dance routine. Finally, he would include a partnered romantic dance routine.

Dance commentators Arlene Croce, Hannah Hyam, and John Mueller consider Rogers to have been Astaire’s greatest dance partner, a view shared by Hermes Pan and Stanley Donen  Film critic  Pauline Kael adopts a more neutral stance, while Time Magazine film critic Richard Schickel writes “The nostalgia surrounding Rogers–Astaire tends to bleach out other partners.”

Mueller sums up Rogers’s abilities as follows: Rogers was outstanding among Astaire’s partners not because she was superior to others as a dancer, but because, as a skilled, intuitive actress, she was cagey enough to realize that acting did not stop when dancing began … the reason so many women have fantasized about dancing with Fred Astaire is that Ginger Rogers conveyed the impression that dancing with him is the most thrilling experience imaginable.

In 1976, British talk-show host. Sir Michael Parkinson asked Astaire who his favorite dancing partner was on his show.  At first, Astaire refused to answer. But, ultimately, he said “Excuse me, I must say Ginger was certainly, [uh, uh,] the one. You know, the most effective partner I ever had. Everyone knows.”

Ginger Rogers described Astaire’s uncompromising standards extending to the whole production: “Sometimes he’ll think of a new line of dialogue or a new angle for the story … they never know what time of night he’ll call up and start ranting enthusiastically about a fresh idea … No loafing on the job on an Astaire picture, and no cutting corners.”

Hermes Pan met Fred Astaire on the set of Flying Down to Rio (1933), in which he worked as an assistant to dance director Dave Gould. While Astaire was trying to work out a series of steps for “The Carioca”, someone told him that Pan had a few ideas, and the dancer was invited over. Pan demonstrated a brief break he had picked up from his street days in New York.

From then on the two began a lifelong professional collaboration and friendship. Pan worked on all the RKO Astaire pictures. He was nominated for Academy Awards for the Top Hat and The Piccolino numbers from Top Hat (1935) and for the Bojangles of Harlem number from Swing Time (1936). In 1937, he received the Academy for Best Dance Direction for A Damsel in Distress (1937), in which Joan Fontaine starred with Astaire.

Reviews: His tension between movie magic and an ugly reality was echoed in the gap between Astaire’s public facade and private self. After Astaire’s death in June 1987, John Mueller wrote in a tribute for Dance Magazine that he was “not only one of the greatest choreographers of all time, but also one of history’s master illusionists. Astaire’s screen persona convincingly suggested that he was carefree, easygoing, unruffled, resourceful, effortlessly successful, and supremely confident.

“In reality, Astaire was consumed by doubt and insecurity…. he often flew into violent rages in a quest for perfection that was relentless, obsessive, and, by his standards, futile: At the end of his musical career, he complained, ‘I’ve never yet got anything one hundred percent right.’… Because his performances are often so contagiously joyous, Astaire also generated the illusion that he enjoyed what he was doing. But it is not clear he ever really liked performing…. For him, an advantage of film work is that it had so little sense of theater—it’s more like rehearsing than performing, he observed, and ‘you don’t have to go to your own opening night.’…

Look at the final moment of their number “Isn’t It a Lovely Day?” in Top Hat (1935). It begins with her mocking him, following him around a bandstand with her hands in her pockets. It escalates into a passionately physical dance in counterpoint to thunder and lightning, and then slows down into a sequence where they imitate each other’s styles and moves. Finally, satisfied, they plop down on the edge of the bandstand and shake hands.

Sammy Cahn, the great song writer, when asked who he thought was the most incredible “song salesman” g\he had met. Everyone thought the answer would be Sinatra, but, he said it was Astaire. It was because of his enunciation, with him the word stands in front of the note.

John O’Hara, the well-known writer and novelist said that he “the living symbol of all that is best in show business.”

Astaire’s Dance Partners:

Adele Astaire- 1896-1981

Adele Astaire Douglass (born Adele Marie Austerlitz, later known as Lady Charles Cavendish; was an American dancer, stage actress, and singer. After beginning work as a dancer and vaudeville performer at the age of nine, Astaire built a successful performance career with her younger brother, Fred Astaire who she teamed up with for 27 years and many hit shows.

Claire Luce 1903-1989

Luce starred in many Broadway plays from 1923 until 1952, including costarring with Astaire in the original musical Gay Divorce  (1932). Astaire tried to get Luce for the film version of Gay Divorce, but was overruled by the studio, RKO Radio Pictures, which preferred to use their contract player, Ginger Rogers.

Ginger Rogers (born Virginia McMath) 1911-1995

She was an American actress, dancer and singer during the Golden Age of Hollywood. She won an Academy Award  for Best Actress  for her starring role in Kitty Foyle  (1940), and performed during the 1930s in RKO’s musical films with Fred Astaire Her career continued on stage, radio and television throughout much of the 20th century.

Flying Down to Rio (1933)

Gay Divorcee (1934)

Roberta (1935)

Top Hat (1935)

Swing Time (1936)

Shall We Dance (1937)

Carefree (1938)

The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939)

The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)

Eleanor Powell 1912-1982

Was an American dancer and actress. Best remembered for her tap dance numbers in musical films in the 1930s and 1940s, she was one of MGMs top dancing stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Powell appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway, and most prominently, in a series of movie musical vehicles tailored especially to showcase her dance talents, Recognized as the greatest woman dancer in the 20th Century.

Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940)

George Murphy 1902-1992

He was an American dancer, actor, and politician. Murphy was a song-and-dance leading man in many big-budget Hollywood musicals from 1930 to 1952. He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1944 to 1946, and was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1951. He was a one term US Senator from California.

Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940)

Paulette Goddard (born Marion Levy) 1910-1990

She was an American actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Goddard initially began her career as a child fashion model and performer in several Broadway productions as a Ziegfeld Girl In the early 1930s, she moved to Hollywood and gained notice as the romantic partner of actor of Charlie Chaplin. Best known for Modern Times.

Second Chorus (1940)

 Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Cansino) 1918-1987

She was an American actress, dancer and producer. She achieved fame during the 1940s as one of the era’s top stars, appearing in 61 films over 37 years. The press coined the term “The Love Goddess” to describe Hayworth after she had become the most glamorous screen idol of the 1940s. She was the top pin up girl for GIs in WWII.

You’ll Never Get Rich (1941)

You Were Never Lovelier (1942)

Joan Leslie (Born Joan Agnes Brodel) 1925—2015

She was an American actress and vaudevillian  who during the Hollywood Golden Age  appeared in such films as  High Sierra( 1941), Sergeant York  (1941), and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).She starred in a number of the top films of the 20th Century!

Sky’s The Limit (1943)

Lucille Bremer 1917-1996

She was an American film actress and dancer.

Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

Yolanda and the Thief (1945)

Gene Kelly 1912-1996

He was an American dancer, actor, singer, director, and choreographer. He was known for his energetic and athletic dancing style and sought to create a new form of American dance accessible to the general public, which he called “dance for the common man” .He starred in, choreographed, and co-directed with Stanley Donen some of the most well-regarded  musical films of the 1940s and 1950s. He is considered one of the greatest dancers in entertainment history.

Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

That’s Entertainment (1976)

Hermes Pan (born Hermes Panagiotopoulos) 1909-1990

He was an American dancer and choreographer, principally remembered as Fred Astaire’s choreographic collaborator on the famous 1930s movie musicals starring Astaire and Ginger Rogers. He worked on nearly two dozen films and TV shows with Astaire. He won both an Oscar and an Emmy for his dance direction.

Olga San Juan 1927-2009

She was an American actress and comedian. Born in Brooklyn, she began her brief film career with Paramount after being scouted at the Copacabana. She performed in several Hollywood musicals in the 1940s and on Broadway in Paint Your Wagon (1951).

Blue Skies (1946)

Marjorie Reynolds (born Marjorie Goodspeed) 1917-1997)

She was an American film/television actress and dancer, who appeared in more than 50 films, including the 1942 musical Holiday Inn in which she and Bing Crosby introduced the song “White Christmas” in a duet, albeit with her singing dubbed.

Holiday Inn (1942)

Virginia Dale (born Virginia Paxton) 1917-1994

She appeared in a number of movies in the late 1930s and 1940s, including Holiday Inn (1942), in which she dances and sings with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, and she became particularly associated with musicals. Holiday Inn (1942)

Ann Miller (born Johnnie Lucille Collier) 1923-2004

She was an American actress, dancer and singer. She is remembered for her work in the Classical Hollywood cinema musicals of the 1940s and 1950s. Her early work included roles in Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It with You (1938) and the Marx Bros. film Room Service 1938). She later starred in the movie musical classics Easter Parade (1948), Stanley Donen’s On the Town (1949) and Kiss Me Kate (1953). Drive (2001).

Easter Parade (1948)

Judy Garland (born Frances Gumm) 1922-1969

She was an American actress and singer. While critically acclaimed for many different roles throughout her career, she is widely known for playing the part of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz  (1939) She attained international stardom as an actress in both musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist and on the concert stage. Renowned for her versatility, she received an Academy Juvenile Award, a Golden Globe Award  and a Special Tony Award . Garland was the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, which she won for her 1961 live recording titled Judy at Carnegie Hall. She is considered one of the greatest performers of the 20th Century/

Easter Parade (1948)

Vera-Ellen (Born Vera-Ellen Rohe) 1921-1981

She was an American dancer and actress. She is remembered for her solo performances as well as her work with partners Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, and Donald O’Connor. She is best known for her starring roles in On the Town (1949) with Gene Kelly and White Christmas (1954) with Danny Kaye.

Three Little Words (1950)

The Belle of New York (1952)

Betty Hutton (born Elizabeth June Thornburg) 1921-2007

She was an American stage, film, and television actress, comedian, dancer, and singer. She rose to fame in the 1940s as a contract player for Paramount Pictures, appearing primarily in musicals, and became one of the studio’s most valuable stars of that decade. She was noted for her energetic and sometimes manic performance style

Let’s Dance (1950)

Jane Powell (born Suzanne Lorraine Bruce) 1929-2021

She was an American actress, singer, and dancer who first appeared in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals in the 1940s and 50s. With her soprano voice and girl-next-door image, Powell appeared in films, television and on the stage.

Royal Wedding (1951)

Cyd Charisse (born Tuka Finlea) 1922-2008

She was an actress and a dancer in films in the 1940s. Her roles usually featured her abilities as a dancer, and she was paired with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly; her films include Singin’ in the Rain (1952), The Band Wagon  (1953), Brigadoon with Gene Kelly  and Van Johnson  (1954) and Silk Stockings (1957)

The Band Wagon (1953)

Silk Stockings (1957)

Nanette Fabray (born Ruby Theresa Faberes) 1920-2018

She was an American actress, singer, and dancer. She began her career performing in vaudeville as a child and became a musical-theatre actress during the 1940s and 1950s, acclaimed for her role in High Button Shoes (1947) and winning a Tony Award in 1949 for her performance in Love Life, In the mid-1950s she served as Sid Caesar’s comedic partner on Caesar’s Hour for which she won three Emmy Awards.

The Band Wagon (1953)

Leslie Caron 1931-

She is a French and American actress and dancer. She is the recipient of a Golden Globe Award, two BAFTA Awards and a Primetime Emmy Award, in addition to nominations for two Academy Awards. She is one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema. Caron began her career as a ballerina. She made her film debut in the musical An American in Paris (1951)

Daddy Long Legs (1955)

Audrey Hepburn (born Audrey Kathleen Ruston) 1929-1993

She was a British actress and humanitarian. Recognized as a film and fashion icon, she was ranked by the American Film Institute as the third-greatest female screen legend from the Classical Hollywood cinema and was inducted into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.

Funny Face (1957)

 Janis Paige (born Donna Mae Tjaden) 1922-

Is an American retired actress and singer. She began singing in local amateur shows at the age of five. After high school, she moved to Los Angeles, where she became a singer at the Hollywood Canteen  during WWII, as well as posing as a pin up model.

Silk Stockings (1957)

Barrie Chase 1933-

She was a dancer on live television programs such as The Colgate Comedy Hour and The Chrysler Shower of Stars. While working as Jack Cole’s assistant choreographer at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, she was asked by Fred Astaire to be his dancing partner on An Evening with Fred Astaire She made four appearances as Astaire’s partner in his television specials between 1958 and 1968. The two danced on Hollywood Palace in 1966.

An Evening with Fred Astaire (1958,9,60) (TV)

Hollywood Palace (1966)

Fred Astaire Show (1968)

Barbara Hancock 1949-

Is an American actress and dancer. While she was a dancer with the Harkness Ballet, she appeared as a dancing character in five productions in television and film. She was nominated for the 1968 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her role as Susan the Silent in Finian’s Rainbow.

Finian’s Rainbow (1968)

Bing Crosby (born Harry Lillis Crosby) 1903-1977

Was an American singer and actor. The first multimedia star, he was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century worldwide He was a leader in record sales, radio ratings, and motion picture grosses from 1926 to 1977. He was one of the first global cultural icons. He made over 70 feature films and recorded more than 1,600 songs.

Blue Skies (1946)

Holiday Inn (1942

Selected Great Songs from the Astaire films:

A Foggy Day– 1937- The Gershwins

A Coupe of Swells-1948-Irving Berlin

A Fine Romance– 1936- Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields

Cheek to Cheek– 1935- Irving Berlin

Fascinating Rhythm– 1924- The Gershwins

Funny Face-1927- The Gershwins

I’ll Build a Staircase to Heaven -1922- The Gershwins and Buiddy DeSylva

I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck-1937- The Gershwins

Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off-1937- The Gershwins

Let’s Kiss and Make Up – 1927- The Gershwins

My One and Only– 1927- The Gershwins

Nice Work If You Can Get It– 1937- The Gershwins

No Strings– 1935-Irving Berlin

One For My Baby-1943- Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer

The Way You Look Tonight-1936- Jerome Kern –Dorothy Fields

They Can’t Take That Away From Me-1937- The Gershwins

Top Hat, White Tie and Tails- 1935- Irving Berlin

You Were Never Lovelier-1942- Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer




Humphrey Bogart, A life in Films and the Stage – May 2, 2023

Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born on Christmas Day 1899 in New York City, the eldest child of Dr. Belmont DeForest Bogart and Maud Humphrey. Hollywood changed his birthdate in their “studio” bios to January 1900. They thought anyone born on Christmas could not be seen as a “bad guy!”

Belmont was the only child of the unhappy marriage of Adam Welty Bogart) and Julia Augusta Stiles, a wealthy heiress. The name “Bogart” derives from the Dutch surname, “Bogaert” Belmont and Maud married in June 1898. He was a Presbyterian, of English and Dutch descent, and a descendant of Sarah Rapelje (the first female European Christian child born in New Netherland). Maud was an Episcopalian of English heritage, and a descendant of Mayflower passenger John Howland. Humphrey was raised Episcopalian, but was non-practicing for most of his adult life.

Belmont, Bogart’s father, was a heart specialist and surgeon. Maud was a commercial illustrator who received her art training in New York and France, including study with James Whistler. She later became art director of the fashion magazine and was a militant supporter of suffrage, the right for women to vote. Maud used a drawing of baby Humphrey in an advertising campaign for Mellins Baby Food. She earned over $50,000 a year at the peak of her career – a very large sum of money at the time, (in 1915 dollars, approximately $1.5 million.) and considerably more than her husband’s $20,000. The Bogarts lived in an Upper West Side, Manhattan apartment, and had a cottage on a 55-acre estate on in upstate New York. When he was young, Bogart’s group of friends at the lake would put on plays.

He had two younger sisters: Frances and Catherine Elizabeth Bogart’s parents were busy in their careers, and often were quite contentious. Very formal, they showed little emotion towards their children. Maud told her offspring to call her “Maud” instead of “Mother”, and showed little, if any, physical affection for them. When she was pleased, she “[c]lapped you on the shoulder, almost the way a man does”, Bogart recalled. I was brought up very unsentimentally but very straightforwardly. A kiss, in our family, was an event. Our mother and father didn’t glug over my two sisters and me.

Bogart attended the private Delancey School until the fifth grade and then attended the prestigious Trinity School. He was an indifferent, sullen student who showed no interest in after-school activities. Bogart later attended Phillips Academy, a boarding school to which he was admitted based on family connections. Founded in 1778, and is located on the Main Street in Andover, MA. It is one of the oldest incorporated secondary schools in the United States. It has educated a long list of notable alumni through its history, including American presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, foreign heads of state, numerous members of Congress, five Nobel laureates and six Medal of Honor recipients. It has been referred to by many contemporary sources as the most elite boarding school in America. It has a remarkable art collection open to the public. By the way, several figures from the revolutionary period are associated with the school. Our first president George Washington visited the school during his presidency in 1789 and Washington’s nephews later attended the school. John Hancock signed the school’s articles of incorporation and the great seal of the school was designed by Paul Revere.

Although his parents hoped that he would go on to Yale University, Bogart left Phillips in 1918 after one semester (although the Phillips Academy website claims he was in the graduating class of 1920) He failed four out of six classes. Several reasons have been given; according to one, he was expelled for throwing the headmaster (or a groundskeeper) into Rabbit Pond on campus. Another cited smoking, drinking, poor academic performance, and (possibly) inappropriate comments made to the staff. In a third scenario, Bogart was withdrawn by his father for failing to improve his grades. His parents were deeply disappointed in their failed plans for his future.

With no viable career options, Bogart enlisted in the United States Navy in the spring of 1918 (during World War I), and served as a coxswain. He recalled later, “At eighteen, war was great stuff. Paris! Sexy French girls! Hot damn!” Bogart was recorded as a model sailor, who spent most of his sea time after the armistice ferrying troops back from Europe. Bogart left the service on June 18, 1919 at the rank of boatswain’s mate third class. During the Second World War, Bogart attempted to re-enlist in the Navy but was rejected due to his age. He then volunteered for the Coast Guard Temporary Reserve in 1944, patrolling the California coastline in his yacht, the Santana.

He may have received his trademark scar and developed his characteristic lisp during his naval stint. There are several conflicting stories. In one, his lip was cut by shrapnel when his ship (the USS Leviathan) was shelled. The ship was never shelled, however, and Bogart may not have been at sea before the armistice. Another story, held by longtime friend Nathaniel Benchley (son of the famed Robert Benchley, author, wit and important member of the Algonquin Round Table group of literary and theater giant) was that Bogart was injured while taking a prisoner to Portsmouth Naval Prison in Kittery, Maine. While changing trains in Boston, the handcuffed prisoner reportedly asked Bogart for a cigarette. When Bogart looked for a match, the prisoner smashed him across the mouth with the cuffs (cutting Bogart’s lip) and fled before being recaptured and imprisoned. In an alternative version, Bogart was struck in the mouth by a handcuff loosened while freeing his charge; the other handcuff was still around the prisoner’s wrist.

When actress Louise Brooks (1906-1985), an icon of the Jazz Age) met Bogart in 1924, he had scar tissue on his upper lip which Brooks said Bogart may have had partially repaired before entering the film industry in 1930. Brooks said that his “lip wound gave him no speech impediment, either before or after it was mended.

Bogart returned home to find his father in poor health, his medical practice faltering, and much of the family’s wealth lost in bad timber investments. It was always rumored that his father became addicted to opium which was readily available through his practice. .His character and values developed separately from his family during his navy days, and he began to rebel. Bogart became a liberal who disliked pretension, phonies and snobs, sometimes defying conventional behavior and authority; he was also well-mannered, articulate, punctual, self-effacing and stand-offish. After his naval service, he worked as a shipper and a bond salesman, joining the Coast Guard Reserve.

Bogart “dove headfirst into the Jazz Age lifestyle, always up for late night revels… When his meager wages were exhausted, he’d play chess against all comers in arcades for a dollar a match (he was a brilliant player) to fund his outings.” Bogart resumed his friendship with Bill Brady Jr. (whose father had show-business connections), and obtained an office job with the new World Films company. Although he wanted to try his hand at screenwriting, directing, and production, he excelled at none. Bogart was stage manager for Brady’s daughter Alice’s play A Ruined Lady. He made his stage debut a few months later as a Japanese butler in Alice’s 1921 play Drifting (nervously delivering one line of dialogue), and appeared in several of her subsequent plays

Although Bogart had been raised to believe that acting was a lowly profession, he liked the late hours actors kept and the attention they received: “I was born to be indolent and this was the softest of rackets.” He spent much of his free time in speakeasies, drinking heavily. A bar-room brawl at this time was also a purported cause of Bogart’s lip damage, dovetailing with Louise Brooks’ account.

Preferring to learn by doing, he never took acting lessons. Bogart was persistent and worked steadily at his craft, appearing in at least 18 Broadway productions between 1922 and 1935, 11 of which were comedies. He played juveniles or romantic supporting roles in drawing-room comedies and is reportedly the first actor to say, “Tennis, anyone?” on stage According to Alexander Woollcott, another famous critic, wit, and the rotund titular leader of the Algonquin Round Table, later immortalized in the George S. Kauffman play and later movie, The Man Who Came to Dinner. Heywood Broun, another legendary NYC member of the literati, wrote reviewing the play Nerves, “Humphrey Bogart gives the most effective performance … both dry and fresh, if that be possible”. He played a juvenile lead (reporter Gregory Brown) in the comedy Meet the Wife, which had a successful 232-performance run at the Klaw Theater (built in 1921, renamed the Avon in 1929, and turned into a parking lot in 1953) from November 1923 through July 1924. Bogart disliked his trivial, effeminate early-career parts, calling them “White Pants Willie” roles.

While playing a double role in Drifting at the Playhouse Theatre in 1922, he met actress Helen Menken (1901-1966); they were married on May 20, 1926, at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City. Divorced on November 18, 1927, they remained friends. Menken said in her divorce filing that Bogart valued his career more than marriage, citing neglect and abuse. She later married Dr. Henry T. Smith on July 12, 1932, and divorced him in 1947, then in October 1948 she married George N. Richard, who survived her. She had no children from these marriages.

He married actress Mary Philips (1901-1975) on April 3, 1928, at her mother’s apartment in Hartford, Connecticut; Bogart and Philips had worked together in the play Nerves during its brief run at the Comedy Theatre in 1924. This was Philips’ first marriage and Bogart’s second. He was then a little-known stage actor, and she was an established actress in the New York theatre. When Bogart began to gain film roles in Hollywood, Philips declined to move with him to California, as her stage career was firmly established in New York. Philips and Bogart divorced in 1938 after ten years. The couple had no children, but remained on good terms. Philips and her second husband attended Bogart’s memorial in California following his death in 1957.

Bogart’s second career began almost by accident. Theatrical production dropped off sharply after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and many of the more-photogenic actors headed for Hollywood. Bogart debuted on film with the legendary actress Helen Hayes Helen Hayes in the 1928 two-realer, The Dancing Town, a complete copy of which has not been found. He also appeared with Joan Blondell (who would be a mainstay of pre-code musicals and gangster films)  and Ruth Etting (the great singer) in a Vitaphone short, Broadway’s Like That (1930), which was rediscovered in 1963.

Bogart signed a contract with the Fox Film Corporation for $750 a week. There he met Spencer Tracy, a Broadway actor whom Bogart liked and admired, and the two men became close friends and drinking companions. In 1930, Tracy first called him “Bogie”. Tracy made his feature film debut in his only movie with Bogart, John Ford’s very early sound film, Up the River, (1930), in which their leading roles were as inmates. Tracy received top billing, but Bogart’s picture appeared on the film’s posters. He was billed behind Tracy, Claire Luce (1903-1989), but his role was almost as large as Tracy’s and much larger than Luce’s. As for the career of Luce, she starred in many Broadway plays from 1923 until 1952, including costarring with Fred Astaire in the original musical Gay Divorce (1932). Astaire tried to get Luce for the film version of Gay DivorceThe Gay Divorcee (1934) but was overruled by the studio, RKO Radio Pictures, which preferred to use their contract player, Ginger Rogers. Luce was a marvelous dancer who worried about Astaire’s insecurity and need for constant practices and rehearsals. A quarter of a century later, Bogart and Tracy planned to make The Desperate Hours together. Both insisted upon top billing, however; Tracy dropped out, and was replaced by Fredric March.

Bogart then had a supporting role in Bad Sister (1931) with Bette Davis. Bogart shuttled back and forth between Hollywood and the New York stage from 1930 to 1935, out of work for long periods. His parents had separated; his father died in 1934 in debt, which Bogart eventually paid off. He inherited his father’s gold ring, which he wore in many of his films. At his father’s deathbed, Bogart finally told him how much he loved him. Bogart’s second marriage was rocky; dissatisfied with his acting career, depressed and irritable, he drank heavily.

It was on Broadway, after his Hollywood career seemed at its low ebb that Bogart rebounded remarkably and started his 2nd or 3rd phase of his acting life. In 1934, Bogart starred in the Broadway play Invitation to a Murder at the Theatre Masque (renamed the John Golden Theatre in 1937). Its producer, Arthur Hopkins, heard the play from offstage; he sent for Bogart and offered him the role of escaped murderer Duke Mantee in Robert E. Sherwood‘s forthcoming play, The Petrified Forest. Hopkins later recalled:

“When I saw the actor I was somewhat taken aback, for [I realized] he was the one I never much admired. He was an antiquated juvenile who spent most of his stage life in white pants swinging a tennis racquet. He seemed as far from a cold-blooded killer as one could get, but the voice persisted, and the voice was Mantee’s.”

The play had 197 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York in 1935. Although Leslie Howard was the star, The New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson said that the play was “a peach … a roaring Western melodrama … Humphrey Bogart does the best work of his career as an actor.” Bogart said that the play “marked my deliverance from the ranks of the sleek, sybaritic, stiff-shirted, swallow-tailed ‘smoothies’ to which I seemed condemned to life.” However, he still felt insecure. Warner Bros. bought the screen rights to The Petrified Forest in 1935. The play seemed ideal for the studio, which was known for its socially-realistic pictures for a public entranced by real-life criminals such as John Dillinger and Dutch Schultz. Bette Davis and Leslie Howard were cast. Howard, who held the production rights, made it clear that he wanted Bogart to star with him. Also, Dick Foran was in the cast and he was interested in Davis, and quite jealous of her interest in stranger Howard.

The studio tested several Hollywood veterans for the Duke Mantee role and chose Edward G. Robinson, who had star appeal and was due to make a film to fulfill his contract. Bogart cabled news of this development to Howard in Scotland, who replied: “Att: Jack Warner Insist Bogart Play Mantee No Bogart No Deal L.H.”. When Warner Bros. saw that Howard would not budge, they gave in and cast Bogart. Jack Warner wanted Bogart to use a stage name but Bogart declined, having built a reputation with his name in Broadway Theater. The film version of The Petrified Forest was released in 1936. According to Variety, “Bogart’s menace leaves nothing wanting”. Frank S. Nugent wrote for The New York Times that the actor “can be a psychopathic gangster more like Dillinger than the outlaw himself.”  The film was successful at the box office, earning $500,000 in rentals, and made Bogart a star. He never forgot Howard’s favor and named his only daughter, Leslie Howard Bogart, after him in 1952.

This great success in both the legitimate theater and Hollywood would lead to the 3rd Bogart Era, the one where he was type-cast as basically a gangster, the antagonist, and the 2nd lead behind Warner Brother stalwarts like Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973), George Raft and James Cagney. All four were New Yorkers. Robinson, (born Menashe Goldenberg) unlike the other three, was born in Romania. Robinson arrived in New York City on February 21, 1904. “At Ellis Island I was born again,” he wrote. “Life for me began when I was 10 years old.”  He grew up on the Lower East Side, and had his Bar Mitzvah at First Romanian-American Congregation. He attended Townsend Harris High School and then the City College of New York, planning to become a criminal attorney. An interest in acting and performing in front of people led to him winning an American Academy of Dramatic Arts scholarship, after which he changed his name to Edward G. Robinson (the G. standing for his original surname). He served in the United States Navy during World War I, but was never sent overseas.

Bogart would make fivefilms with Robinson: Bullets or Ballots (1936), Kid Galahad (1937) with Bette Davis, The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938), Brother Orchid (1940) and the last, Key Largo (1948) with Lauren Bacall, Claire Trevor and Lionel Barrymore. All were quite entertaining and can be revisited often. As for Cagney, he and Humphrey Bogart starred in three films together: Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), directed by Michael Curtiz, The Oklahoma Kid (1939), directed by Lloyd Bacon, Roaring Twenties (1939), directed by Raoul Walsh. Angels with Dirty Faces, would also star Pat O’Brien, the Warner Brothers regular Ann Sheridan and introduced, the Dead End Kids, or as they were later known the Bowery Boys. He would also make another Western film, Virginia City (1940) starring Errol Flynn and Randolph Scott. The film is very entertaining, Bogart’s role is secondary. He’s just another “bad guy!”                                                                                   

The Roaring Twenties, was quite entertaining and one of the leads was Gladys George, who would have a bit role in The Maltese Falcon, as Iva Archer, the widow of Bogart/Sam Spade’s partner, Miles Archer. In the film, she and Bogart/Spade supposedly had a love affair. As for The Oklahoma Kid, it is best forgotten. Bogart made two films with Raft, Invisible Stripes (1939) directed by Lloyd Bacon and They Drive by Night (1940), directed by Raoul Walsh, also with Ann Sheridan and Ida Lupino. It is actually a well-done film and the passive Bogart would hardly be recognized.. Raft turned down many roles, didn’t get along with Bogart and said about himself, “I can’t act… I’m afraid to look, because I am probably awful. I am afraid I must be myself, do things that seem natural to me.” Raft was basically a dancer, hung out with gangsters and was a buddy of Owny Madden, an associate of Dutch Schultz. Madden was probably best known for owning the famous Cotton Club in Harlem, a mecca for New York City nightlife in the 1930s. The club originally belonged to famed black prizefighter Jack Johnson, but Madden forced Johnson to sell him the club and then instituted a strict “whites only” policy (all blacks, whether employees or performers, were forbidden to enter by the front door, and no blacks whatsoever were allowed into the club as patrons.)

George Raft turned down so many film roles that ended up going to Humphrey Bogart, who catapulted to stardom from these roles? It seems that Raft had to have been one of the least savvy actors in Hollywood! It was in Invisible Stripes, where Bogart met William Holden. They did not get along and “bad blood” would last for years. When they starred in Sabrina, (1954), directed by Billy Wilder, they actually got in a fist fight. Bogart was unhappy with how close Holden was with Audrey Hepburn. During production of the film, Hepburn and Holden entered into a brief but passionate and much-publicized love affair. Bogart had originally wanted his wife Lauren Bacall to be cast as Sabrina. He complained that Hepburn required too many takes to get her dialogue right and pointed out her inexperience.

Bogart was unhappy during the filming, convinced that he was totally wrong for this kind of film, mad at not being Wilder’s first choice, and not liking Holden or Wilder. But Wilder’s offbeat casting produced a performance that critics generally considered successful. Bogart later apologized to Wilder for his behavior on set, citing problems in his personal life. By the way, the film was reviewed quite enthusiastically, especially by Bosley Crowther of the NY Times and holds up today.

In spite of his success, Warner Bros. had no interest in raising Bogart’s profile. His roles were repetitive and physically demanding; studios were not yet air-conditioned and his tightly scheduled job at Warner’s was anything but the indolent and “peachy” actor’s life he hoped for. Although Bogart disliked the roles chosen for him, he worked steadily.          “In the first 34 pictures” for Warner’s, “I was shot in 12, electrocuted or hanged in 8, and was a jailbird in 9.” He averaged a film every two months between 1936 and 1940, sometimes working on two films at the same time. Bogart used these years to begin developing his film persona: a wounded, stoical, cynical, charming, vulnerable, self-mocking loner with a code of honor.

Amenities at Warner’s were few, compared to the prestigious Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Bogart thought that the Warner’s wardrobe department was cheap, and often wore his own suits in his films. He chose his own dog named Zero, to play Pard (his character’s dog) in High Sierra. His disputes with Warner Bros. over roles and money were similar to those waged by the studio with more established and less malleable stars such as Bette Davis and James Cagney. In between High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon was Wagons Roll at Night (1941) a forgettable circus story, with the fetching Sylvia Sidney (who was also in Dead End with Bogart. She was born in the Bronx, and was a friend of my father’s a number of years before he was married in 1935) the WWII hero, Eddie Albert, who had a run in with the HUAC witch hunters and the young, and the 16 year old Joan Leslie, better known for Sgt. York, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Rhapsody in Blue.. She was also in High Sierra.

Most of the studio’s better scripts went to them or others, leaving Bogart with what was left: films like San Quentin (1937), Racket Busters (1938), and You Can’t Get Away with Murder (1939). His only leading role during this period was in Dead End (1937) also with the Dead End Kids aka the Bowery Boys., on loan to Samuel Goldwyn, as a gangster modeled after Baby Face Nelson.

Bogart played violent roles so often that in Nevil Shute’s 1939 novel, What Happened to the Corbetts, the protagonist replies “I’ve seen Humphrey Bogart with one often enough” when asked if he knows how to operate an automatic weapon. Although he played a variety of supporting roles in films such as Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), Bogart’s roles were either rivals of characters played by Cagney and Robinson or a secondary member of their gang. In Black Legion (1937), a movie Graham Greene described as “intelligent and exciting, if rather earnest”, he played a good man who was caught up with (and destroyed by) a racist organization. The studio cast Bogart as a wrestling promoter in Swing Your Lady (1938), a “hillbilly musical” which he reportedly considered his worst film performance. He played a rejuvenated, formerly-dead scientist in The Return of Doctor X (1939), his only horror film: “If it’d been Jack Warner’s blood … I wouldn’t have minded so much. The trouble was they were drinking mine and I was making this stinking movie.” His wife, Mary Phillips, had a stage hit in A Touch of Brimstone and refused to abandon her Broadway career for Hollywood. After the play closed, Mary relented; but, she insisted on continuing her career, however, and they divorced in 1937.

After his divorce, he married his 3rd wife, the volatile and alcoholic actress Mayo Methot (1904-1951). She was an extremely unstable and jealous partner. Bogart would be in for trouble over the next number of years fraught with drinking and very public fights with Methot.

His big breakthrough came in 1941, almost by accident. High Sierra (1941, directed by Raoul Walsh) featured a screenplay written by John Huston, Bogart’s friend and drinking partner, adapted from a novel by W. R. Burnett, author of the novel on which Little Caesar was based. Paul Muni, George Raft, Cagney and Robinson turned down the lead role, giving Bogart the opportunity to play a character with some depth. Walsh initially opposed Bogart’s casting, preferring Raft for the part. It was Bogart’s last major film as a gangster; a supporting role followed in The Big Shot, released in 1942. He worked well with Ida Lupino, sparking jealousy from Mayo Methot.

The film cemented a strong personal and professional connection between Bogart and Huston. Bogart admired (and somewhat envied) Huston for his skill as a writer; a poor student, Bogart was a lifelong reader. He could quote Plato, Alexander Pope, Ralph Waldo Emerson and over a thousand lines of Shakespeare, and subscribed to the Harvard Law Review. Bogart admired writers; some of his best friends were screenwriters, including, Louis Bromfield, Nathaniel Benchley, and Nunnally Johnson.  Now regarded as a classic film noir, The Maltese Falcon (1941) was John Huston’s directorial debut. Based on the Dashiell Hammett novel, it was first serialized in the pulp magazine Black Mask in 1929 and was the basis of two earlier film versions; the second was Satan Met a Lady (1936), starring Bette Davis. Producer Hal B. Wallis initially offered to cast George Raft as leading man, but Raft (then better known than Bogart) had a contract stipulating he was not required to appear in remakes. Fearing that it would be nothing more than a sanitized version of the pre-Production Code The Maltese Falcon (1931), Raft turned down the role to make Manpower with director Raoul Walsh, with whom he had worked on The Bowery in 1933. Huston then eagerly accepted Bogart as “his” Sam Spade.

Complementing Bogart were co-stars: Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook Jr., and Mary Astor as the treacherous female foil. Bogart’s sharp timing and facial expressions were praised by the cast and director as vital to the film’s quick action and rapid-fire dialogue. It was a commercial hit, and a major triumph for Huston. Bogart was unusually happy with the film: “It is practically a masterpiece. I don’t have many things I’m proud of … but that’s one.”                                                  

As a follow up to the success The Maltese Falcon, Warner’s put together Across the Pacific  a 1942 American spy thriller set on the eve of the entry of the United States into World War II. It was directed first by John Huston, then by Vincent Sherman after Huston joined the United States Army Signal Corps. It featured Humphrey Bogart as the lead, with some of the cast from the Maltese Falcon Mary Astor along with Sydney Greenstreet. Despite the title, the action never progresses across the Pacific, concluding in Panama. The original script portrayed an attempt to avert a Japanese plan to invade Pearl Harbor. When the real-life attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, production was shut down for three months, resuming on March 2, 1942 with a revised script changing the target to Panama. It is a very entertaining film and it reunites Bogart with the great pre-code and controversial, beauty Mary Astor.                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Bogart played his first romantic lead in Casablanca (1942): Rick Blaine, an expatriate nightclub owner hiding from a suspicious past and negotiating a fine line among Nazis, the French underground, the Vichy prefect and unresolved feelings for his ex-girlfriend. Bosley Crowther wrote in his November 1942 New York Times review that Bogart’s character was used “to inject a cold point of tough resistance to evil forces afoot in Europe today” The film, directed by Michael Curtiz and produced by Hal Wallis, featured Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Paul Henreid, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre and Dooley Wilson. As everyone knows today, almost every line is famous. Again, Bogart was cast as the anti-hero and defined by Claude Rains, the Chief of Police. Captain Louie Renault. Renault, asked Rick (Bogart) why he came to Casablanca. He answered, “I came for the waters!” Renault/Rains responded, “But we are in the desert!” Without batting an eye, Rick/Bogart responds, “I was misinformed!” There are so many memorable lines, that some critics in the early years after its original success accused it of being filled with clichés. –“The Germans wore gray, you wore blue!”  “What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.” Rick/Bogart to Reanualt/ Rains, “How can you close me up? On what grounds? “I’m shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.” Of course the scene ends with the classic, “Your winnings, sir.” Major Strasser /Conrad Veidt “What is your nationality? Rock/ Bogart “I’m a drunkard.” Renault/Rains, “That makes Rick a citizen of the world.” Rock/ Bogart to Ilsa, “And you never will. But, I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of, Ilsa. I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.” Rick/Bogart, “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”  Renault/Rains, “Rick, Major Strasser is one of the reasons the 3rd Reich enjoys the reputation it has today!”

Bogart and Bergman’s on-screen relationship was based on professionalism rather than actual rapport, although Mayo Methot assumed otherwise. Off the set, the co-stars hardly spoke. Bergman (who had a reputation for affairs with her leading men) later said about Bogart, “I kissed him but I never knew him.”  Because she was tall, Bogart had 3” blocks on his shoes.                                                                                                              

                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Bogart is reported to have been responsible for the notion that Rick Blaine should be portrayed              as a chess player, a metaphor for the relationships he maintained with friends, enemies, and allies. He played tournament-level chess (one division below master) in real life, often enjoying games with crew members and cast but finding his better in Paul Henreid.  He also made the excellent and very realistic war film, Action in the North Atlantic (1942) with Raymond Massey and many other regulars from the Warner’s lot, including; Alan Hale Jr., Sam Levine and the up and coming Dane Clark, who the studio was grooming to be an eventual replacement for Bogart.

Meanwhile, Casablanca won the Academy Award, for Best Picture, at the 16th Academy Awards for 1943. Bogart was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but lost to Paul Lukas for his performance in Watch on the Rhine. The film vaulted Bogart from fourth place to first in the studio’s roster, however, finally over-taking James Cagney. He more than doubled his annual salary to over $460,000 by 1946, making him the world’s highest-paid actor. Bogart would make two more films with Greenstreet, Passage to Marseille, (1944) and Conflict (1945). Bogart would also make a few films with Peter Lorre, aside from the Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and Passage to Marseille he made the spy/comedy,  All Through the Night (1942) playing a NYC character named “Gloves” Donahue and Beat the Devil (1953), a clever little film about swindlers and uranium mines.                                                                                                                                               

                   Bogart went on United Service Organizations (USO) and War Bond tours with Methot in 1943 and 1944, making arduous trips to Italy and North Africa (including Casablanca). He was still required to perform in films with weak scripts, leading to conflicts with the front office. He starred in Conflict (1945) again with Greenstreet), but turned down God is My Co-Pilot that year.

                                                                                                                                                                           Howard Hawks introduced Bogart and Lauren Bacall (1924–2014, born Betty Perske and known to her friends as Betty) while Bogart was filming Passage to Marseille (1944). The three subsequently collaborated on To Have and Have Not (1944), a loose adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel, and Bacall’s film debut. It has several similarities to Casablanca: the same kind of hero and enemies, and a piano player (portrayed this time by Hoagy Carmichael) as a supporting character. When they met, Bacall was 19 and Bogart 44; he nicknamed her “Baby.” A model since age 16, she had appeared in two failed plays. Bogart was attracted by Bacall’s high cheekbones, green eyes, tawny blond hair, lean body, maturity, poise and earthy, outspoken honesty; he reportedly said, “I just saw your test. We’ll have a lot of fun together”

                                                                                                                                                                      However, Hawks began to disapprove of the relationship. He considered himself Bacall’s protector and mentor, and Bogart was usurping that role. Not usually drawn to his starlets, the married director also fell for Bacall; he told her that she meant nothing to Bogart and threatened to send her to the poverty-row studio Monogram Pictures. Bogart calmed her down, and then went after Hawks; Jack Warner settled the dispute, and filming resumed. Hawks said about Bacall, “Bogie fell in love wth the character she played, so she had to keep playing it the rest of her life.”

                                                                                                                                                            Months after wrapping up To Have and Have Not, Bogart and Bacall were reunited for an encore: the film noir The Big Sleep (1946), based on the novel by Raymond Chandler with script help from William Faulkner. This film was always quite confusing, and over the years even the author couldn’t explain all the parts. Frankly, it was a big success and has been shown constantly on television.

The dialogue, especially in the added scenes supplied by Hawks, was full of sexual innuendo. The film was successful, although some critics found its plot confusing and overly complicated. According to Chandler, Hawks and Bogart argued about who killed the chauffeur; when Chandler received an inquiry by telegram, he could not provide an answer.

                                                                                                                                                                Bogart filed for divorce from Mayo Methot in February 1945. Her drinking, jealousy and public spectacles had worn out her welcome. He and Bacall married in a small ceremony at the country home of Bogart’s close friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, at Malabar Farm (near Lucas, Ohio) on May 21, 1945. They moved into a $160,000 ($2,410,000 in 2021) white brick mansion in an exclusive neighborhood of Los Angeles’ Holmby Hills. Bogart and Bacall both had affairs but they never stopped loving each other; a fact Bacall mentions throughout her memoir “By Myself,” Bacall, in a 1997 Parade Magazine cover story told reporter Dotson Rader that Bogart said ‘If you want a career more than anything, I will do everything I can to help you, and I will send you on your way, but I will not marry you.” As Bogart said, “I’ve been through it and I know it doesn’t                                                                     work.” He was right. “He loved me and wanted me with him. I made the deal, and I stuck to it, and I’m damn glad that I did.”

                                                                                                                                                        Bogart bought the Santana, a 55-foot sailing yacht, from actor Dick Powell in 1945. He found the sea a sanctuary and spent about thirty weekends a year on the water, with a particular fondness for sailing around Catalina Island: “An actor needs something to stabilize his personality, something to nail down what he really is, not what he is currently pretending to be.” Bogart joined the Coast Guard Temporary Reserve (a forerunner of the modern Coast Guard Auxiliary), offering the Coast Guard use of the Santana. He reportedly attempted to enlist, but was turned down due to his age.

The suspenseful Dark Passage (1947) was Bogart and Bacall’s next collaboration. Vincent Parry/Bogart is intent on finding the real murderer for a crime of which he was convicted and sentenced to prison. According to Bogart’s biographer, Stefan Kanfer, it was “a production line film noir with no particular distinction.” I thought the film set in San Francisco, centered on and around famed Lombard Street was quite intriguing and entertaining. There were some suppositions that tested credulity, but that’s Hollywood. Two other interesting films of 1947, were Dead Reckoning and The Two Mrs. Carrolls, with Lizabeth Scott in the former and the latter with Barbara Stanwyck and Alexis Smith, two very skilled and veteran Hollywood stars.

                                                                                                                                                                              Bogart and Bacall’s last pairing in a film was in Key Largo (1948). Directed by John Huston, Edward G. Robinson was billed second (behind Bogart) as gangster Johnny Rocco: a seething, older synthesis of many of his early bad-guy roles. The billing question was hard-fought and at the end of at least one of the trailers, Robinson is listed above Bogart in a list of the actors’ names in the last frame; and in the film itself, Robinson’s name, appearing between Bogart’s and Bacall’s, is pictured slightly higher onscreen than the other two. Robinson had top billing over Bogart in their four previous films together. By the way, veteran actress, Clair Trevor received an Academy Award for her supporting role.

                                                                                                                                                               Riding high in 1947, with a new contract which provided limited script refusal and the right to form his own production company, Bogart rejoined with John Huston for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: a stark tale of greed among three gold prospectors in Mexico. Lacking a love interest or a happy ending, it was considered a risky project. Bogart later said about co-star (and John Huston’s father) Walter Huston, “He’s probably the only performer in Hollywood to whom I’d gladly lose a scene.” Walter Huston was the father of directed John Huston and he had a small role in The Maltese Falcon, as Captain Jacoby, the master of the La Poloma. Though shot with bullets, he carries the Falcon to Sam Spade’s office.

                                                                                                                                                             The film was shot in the heat of summer for greater realism and atmosphere and was grueling to make. James Agee wrote, “Bogart does a wonderful job with this character … miles ahead of the very good work he has done before.” Although John Huston won the Academy Award for Best Director and screenplay and his father won the Best Supporting Actor award, the film had mediocre box-office results. Bogart complained, “An intelligent script, beautifully directed—something different—and the public turned a cold shoulder on it.” Bruce Bennet, who was a former Olympic Silver Medalist for the shot put, (1928) whose name was Herman Brix, was also in the excellent cast. Bennett, who was a husband of the character of Mildred Piece/Joan Crawford, in the film of the same name, was also in another terrific Bogart film of the 1940’s, Sahara (1943). This American action war film directed by Zoltán Korda and starred Humphrey Bogart as an American tank commander in Libya who, along with a handful of Allied soldiers, tries to defend an isolated well with a limited supply of water from a German Afrika Korps battalion during the Western Desert campaign of World War II. It took place around the time of the great British victory at the 2nd Battle of El Alamein. It had a fantastic international cast, and reflected the Allied armies make up. Critics praised the film for its blend of action, suspense and poignancy. J. Carrol Naish earned an Oscar nomination Best Supporting Actor for his role as an Italian prisoner; Rudolph Maté was nominated for Best Cinematography (Black-and-White); and John Livadary was nominated for Best Sound. Bogart created his film company, Santana Productions (named after his yacht and the cabin cruiser in Key Largo), in 1948. The right to create his own company had left Jack Warner furious, fearful that other stars would do the same and further erode the major studios’ power. In addition to pressure from freelancing actors such as Bogart, James Stewart, and Henry Fonda, they were beginning to buckle from the impact of television and the enforcement of antitrust laws which broke up theater chains. Bogart appeared in his final films for Warner’s, Chain Lightning (1950) and The Enforcer (1951). He would make In A Lonely Place (1950), Beat the Devil (1953), Knock on Any Door (1949), Sirocco (1951), Tokyo Joe (1949). Although most lost money at the box office (ultimately forcing Santana’s sale), at least two retain a reputation; In a Lonely Place is considered a film-noir high point. Bogart plays Dixon Steele, an embittered writer with a violent reputation who is the primary suspect in the murder of a young woman and falls in love with failed actress Laurel (Gloria Graham.)

                                                                                                                                                           After these lower budge films, two outstanding ones would follow; The African Queen (1951) with Katherine Hepburn, also directed by John Houston and The Caine Mutiny (1954).directed by Edward Dmytryk. He won the Academy Award, for The African Queen after three nominations! His performance as cantankerous skipper Charlie Allnutt he considered it the best of his film career. Promising friends that if he won his speech would break the convention of thanking everyone in sight, Bogart advised Claire Trevor when she was nominated for Key Largo to “just say you did it all yourself and don’t thank anyone”. When Bogart won, however, he said: “It’s a long way from the Belgian Congo to the stage of this theatre. It’s nicer to be here. Thank you very much … No one does it alone!”

                                                                                                                                                             Bogart dropped his asking price to obtain the role of Captain Queeg in Edward Dmytryk’s drama, The Caine Mutiny (1954). Though he retained some of his old bitterness about having to do so, he delivered a strong performance in the lead; he received his final Oscar nomination and was the subject of a June 7, 1954 Time Magazine cover story. Despite his success, Bogart was still melancholy; he grumbled to (and feuded with) the studio, while his health began to deteriorate. Like his portrayal of Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Bogart’s Queeg is a paranoid, self-pitying character whose small-mindedness eventually destroys him. Henry Fonda played a different role in the Broadway version of The Caine Mutiny, generating publicity for the film.

                                                                                                                                                           Later films would include the aforementioned Sabrina, The Barefoot Contessa (1954) directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, The Harder They Fall (1956), Were No Angels, and The Left Hand of God.

After signing a long-term deal with Warner Bros., Bogart predicted with glee that his teeth and hair would fall out before the contract ended. In 1955, however, his health was failing. In the wake of Santana, Bogart had formed a new company and had plans for a film (Melville Goodwin, U.S.A.) in which he would play a general and Bacall a press magnate. His persistent cough and difficulty eating became too serious to ignore, though, and he dropped the project.

                                                                                                                                                                A heavy smoker and drinker, Bogart had developed esophageal cancer. He did not talk about his health and visited a doctor in January 1956 after considerable persuasion from Bacall. The disease worsened and several weeks later, on March 1, Bogart had surgery to remove his esophagus, two lymph nodes and a rib. The surgery was unsuccessful, and chemotherapy followed. He had additional surgery in November 1956, when the cancer had metastasized. Although he became too weak to walk up and down stairs, he joked despite the pain: “Put me in the dumbwaiter and I’ll ride down to the first floor in style.” It was then altered to accommodate his wheelchair. Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy visited him on January 13, 1957. In an interview, Hepburn said: Spence patted him on the shoulder and said, “Goodnight, Bogie.” Bogie turned his eyes to Spence very quietly and with a sweet smile covered Spence’s hand with his own and said, “Goodbye, Spence.” Spence’s heart stood still. He understood.

                                                                                                                                                          Bogart lapsed into a coma and died the following day, 20 days after his 57th birthday; at the time of his death he weighed only 80 A simple funeral was held at All Saints Episcopal Church, with music by Bogart’s favorite composers, Bach and Debussy.











The Golden Age of Hollywood, What and Who Will be Remembered! June, 2023

From 1920 through 1940 was probably considered Hollywood’s Golden Age. In the early part of this era, Hollywood had come of age with the change from dominance of the Director, to that of the Star. The early films were dominated by directors from DW Griffith to stage directors from the theater to foreigners, like Erich von Stroheim (in actuality, his name was Erich Oswald Stroheim, and he was Jewish and not a Junker), who’s masterpiece was Greed and others as Joseph von Sternberg to the great comic directors Max Sennett and Charlie Chaplin.

The Hollywood Moguls, who ran the major studios: MGM, Paramount, Columbia, and Warner Brothers, went through a consolidation period and by the mid to late 20’s their ownership was securely in place. People like Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, Adolph Zuckor, and Harry Cohn, became household names. Other competitors would come into the business like United Artists, as stars Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, the lighting personnel and all the others. Of course, beyond Chaplin, Pickford and Fairbanks there was the concerted effort to import Europeans to Hollywood, The greatest of those, Charlie Chaplin, along with film producer and director, DW Griffith decided to make their own movies. Smaller firms would eventually emerge like RKO, Universal, International along with independent producers; the most notable being Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer’s son in law, David O. Selznick of “Gone With the Wind” fame. Eventually the last big player to emerge was 20th Century-Fox.

Thus, the Golden Age went from the dominance of the Director to the rise of the Hollywood Star. The studios decided to make stars of actors, sign them to long-term contracts and use them as they wished. In this way, they had much greater control of their industry. The Director became a hired hand, just like the writers, and all the other components of making films, from the camera operators, to the film editors,  was Rudolf Valentino, and others like Vilma Banky, and Ramon Navarro. In the same vein, other American stars of that era were Buster Keaton, John Barrymore, Lon Chaney, and Lilian Gish. Eventually, one star would preempt and eclipse all the others, foreign and native born, Greta Garbo. She would be a major star in both eras of the Golden Age.

As the Silent Era basically ended in 1927 with The Jazz Singer, and its dynamic star Al Jolson. The Sound Era, of Talking Pictures would kill off almost all the great stars of the silent era, including the Gish sisters, Mary Pickford, Fairbanks, Navarro (Valentino had died in 1926 at age 31), John Gilbert, Lon Chaney and many, many others, who were unable to have the proper speaking voice, unable to read lines, or had heavy foreign accents. The ones who remained were mostly stage actors, with great voices like Ronald Colman, John Barrymore, Leslie Howard, and others who were able to speak well and deliver their lines, like Claudette Colbert, Myrna Loy, Mary Astor, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Carol Lombard, William Powell, and Boris Karloff.

Thus, the Golden Era of twenty years could be divided into two distinct eras; 1920 to 1929 and 1930 to 1940, when WWII started to change the whole dynamic of Hollywood. In the latter era scores of Jewish and other European refugees flocked to both America and Hollywood.

The beginning of the New Age and thus the eventual decline of Hollywood and the studio system would probably have begun with Casablanca which featured mostly foreign actors, aside from the main star, Humphrey Bogart, which included; Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Sidney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains, and European refugees: most notably, Madeleine Lebeau, Leonid Kinsley, Curt Bois, SZ Sakall, Marcel Dalio, Ludwig Stossel, Wolfgang Zilzer and their Director, Michael Curtiz ( a Hungarian Jew, born Mano Kaminer).

Historically, the most profitable era of Hollywood’s Golden Age expanded exponentially as the talking movies emerged in the period from 1928 through 1930. The Hollywood studios also began to build and buy up the existing inventory of movie theaters. This allowed hundreds, if not thousands, of “in-house” outlets for immediate distribution of films. But, in the postwar era that would change dramatically. Eventually United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc.,(1948) (also known as the Hollywood Antitrust Case of 1948,) a landmark United States Supreme Court antitrust case decided the fate of film studios owning their own theatres and holding exclusivity rights on which theatres would show their movies. It would also change the way Hollywood movies were produced, distributed, and exhibited. The Supreme Court affirmed (a District Court’s ruling) in this case that the existing distribution scheme was in violation of the United States antitrust law, which prohibit certain exclusive dealing arrangements. In plain language, the studios were force to sell the theaters.

The case is important both in U.S. antitrust law and film history. In the former, it remains a landmark decision in vertical integration cases; in the latter, it is responsible for putting an end to the old Hollywood studio system. Another earlier ruling, emerged from the contractual system used universally in Hollywood. Industry lawyers in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s took the position that an exclusive personal services contract should be treated as suspended during the periods when the artist was not actually working. Since no artist could be working every single day (that is, including holidays and weekends), this interpretation meant that two, or later seven, years of actual service would be spread over a much longer calendar period, thus extending the time during which the studio system had complete control of a young artist’s career.

In response, actress Olivia de Havilland filed a lawsuit on August 23, 1943 against Warner Bros. which was backed by the Screen Actors Guild. The lawsuit resulted in a landmark decision of the California Court of Appeal for the Second District in De Havilland’s favor on December 8, 1944. In a unanimous opinion signed by Justice Clement Lawrence Shinn, the three-justice panel adopted the common sense view that seven years from the commencement of service means seven calendar years. Since De Havilland had started performance under her Warner annual contract on May 5, 1936 (which had been renewed six times pursuant to its terms since then), and seven calendar years had elapsed from that date, the contract was no longer enforceable and she was free to seek projects with other studios.

Another earlier case served to erode the almighty power of the studios. Bette Davis, a major star under contract to Warner Brothers, was unhappy with the type of pictures she was forced to make by the studio. She also felt that to advance in her career meant being offered good scripts with talented directors. However, in the studio era of Hollywood, actors had very little control about what films they were offered. In 1936, she left in protest and went to England on a two film deal. The studio, however, procured an injunction against her for having left the States to do films in England. She fought back by taking them to court. Unfortunately, she lost the battle — yet, all the more remarkably, rather than being blackballed by the studio, from then on she started getting the kind of parts she felt she deserved. The power of the studios wasn’t broken, but the ability of major stars to balk at what they were assigned, go into voluntary retirement, for a time, or create adverse headlines, started the erosion of studio power.

As this Golden Age continues to fade into the past, movies made before WWII are now over 80 years old. The original audiences for those films are mostly gone, and the generation of their children is aging quickly. Most of the Baby Boomers who were born right after WWII and grew up with those movies and the star system, are in their 70s. Their grandchildren will mature almost 100 years after the start of WWII. With that in mind, will this generation care about these movies?

What then will be the memorable films that this new generation watches? Will they ignore almost all the black and white films? Will they reject the films that showed American Blacks, Italians and other ethnics in deprecating roles? What will their feelings be about the films which ignored the reality of the rise of fascism in Europe? Almost all the studios ignored the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany and the abuse of their Jewish population, except Warner Brothers. Even the mere mention of Jews being victims in Germany were removed from films like, Mr Skeffington. Great films like, Gone With the Wind along with others about the antebellum era like, Jezebel, The Little Foxes, The Little Rebel, Young Abe Lincoln, Showboat seem to have denigrated the incredible abuse and brutality of slavery. In fact, it basically ignored one of the greatest crimes in history. Almost all the roles in Hollywood offered to Black Americans were in subservient roles, as: maids, servants, street cleaners, porters, etc. In truth, those were the jobs that most Blacks were allowed to have. They weren’t the only groups who were stereotyped.

Of course, there were many great films in that era, which culminated in their most memorable year, 1939, with pictures like the afore mentioned Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dark Victory, Gunga Din, Ninotchka, and Goodbye Mr. Chips. Many of these same films are still quite enjoyable, certainly well made, and to a degree, relevant.  As for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, it was an enjoyable film that was hardly realistic, but it certainly sent a message. Let us not forget that in 1938, and other years there were some wonderful films, but are they really relevant to audiences 80 to100 years distant, in the 21st Century? Are they mostly a stylized, unrealistic, and romantic view of life in America, which distorted the world as it really existed?  As WWII changed the reality of thinking around the world, one very stark, and realistic Hollywood film, The Grapes of Wrath, released in in 1940, comes to mind.  No other film of that period so graphically illustrated the desperation of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl that devastated Oklahoma and the heartland of America.

There have been countless books on that era and the major films from the beginning of the modern era of movies until our entry into WWII.  Of course, not long after this Era started to wane, two films came forward that are widely accepted as the best of the best, Citizen Kane (1941) and Casablanca (1942). Both films were quite different from each other. One, Citizen Kane, came from a complete upstart and newcomer to Hollywood, the Boy Genius, Orson Welles. The other, Casablanca, was a pure creature of the studio system from Warner Brothers. No two films of that Era could be so completely different. As for Casablanca, it was dominated by stars with a remarkable cast, bolstered by scores of European refugees. It created a character in Humphrey Bogart, which had been evolving from the Maltese Falcon and High Sierra, both released in 1941. He became the prototype of an anti-hero, the cynical, tough, vulnerable, world-weary, character whose honesty and personal motives were ones to be questioned. After Casablanca, and with over twenty years’ experience as an actor, he would become, at age forty-three, the most enduring star of the postwar era and the 2nd half of the 20th Century. As for the Citizen Kane, its creator and major star, Orson Welles, at age 25, was truly a wunderkind. But, no matter how interesting and brilliant he was, he would never reach that same level of artistic and dramatic achievement and notoriety. By the way, Citizen Kane was made outside the major studios on the lots of RKO Pictures.

As for the stars of the 2nd half of the Golden Era, the ones who come to mind, who I think will be remembered are; Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Fred Astaire. There are some other marvelous stars, which include, Paul Muni, Frederic March, Ronald Colman, Leslie Howard, Gary Cooper, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, William Powell, Carol Lombard, Claudette Colbert, Gary Grant, Jimmy Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Olivia De Havilland, Joan Crawford, and John Barrymore. Interestingly, a star of the later 1940s and the 1950’s, Gene Kelly, has stated, that in the future, only Fred Astaire will be remembered. He may have a point.

 Hitchcock, “The Dark Side of Genius,” by Donald Ploto

A Perspective By

Richard J. Garfunkel

1-25-2015/update 5-15-20

I just re-read, after a period of many, many years, Donald Spoto’s excellent and unprecedented biography of Alfred Hitchcock, one of the greatest film directors of the 20th Century.

I had always been interested in Hitchcock, and from my young days, in the middle 1950s my parents took me to the movies and I saw many of Hitchcock’s films as they came to the big screen. They were avid fans of his works, and we all watched weekly his television series. He didn’t have much to do with its creativity, but, the themes of each show were always inspired by his vision and droll sense of irony. The special treats were his introductory remarks and his moralistic concluding statement on what had happened. Most of the time, they were the highlight of the production.

As I grew a bit older, I caught up with all of his early works from the Lodger to WWII and then on to Strangers on a Train, which spanned a period from the early 30s to the early 1950s. Hitchcock had a flair for suspense and in his visit to the Center of Advanced Studies at the American Film Institute in Beverly Hills, CA, he discussed at length the difference between the classic “whodunit,” or the difference between mystery and suspense.

I took this direct quotation from one of the last chapters of Spoto’s biography.

There is a great confusion between the words, “mystery” and “suspense.” The two things are absolutely miles apart. Mystery is an intellectual process, like in a “whodunit.” But suspense is essentially an emotional process. You can only get the suspense element going by giving the audience information. I daresay you have seen many films which have mysterious goings-on. You don’t know what is going on, why the man is doing this or that. You are about a third of the way through the film before your realize what it is all about. To me that is absolutely wasted footage, because there is no emotion to it…There is no emotion from the audience… the mystery form has no particular appeal to me, because it is merely a fact of mystifying an audience, which I don’t think is enough.

Hitchcock, unlike other directors, was able to eventually control his “product” and “process” with great originality and uniqueness. This talent and ingenuity harked back to the early days of cinema, when silent film producers and creators like DW Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and a few others were able to control every aspect of their work, from selecting the material, finding the players, writing and re-writing the script, finding the money, of course, and directing the film in the direction and with the message they wanted. As the studio system evolved in the middle to late 1920s, much of this was controlled by the studio heads (Louis B. Mayer, Harry Cohn, Adolph Zukor, and the Warner Brothers) who had actors, writers and technicians under contract, or could borrow or rent contract players from others, buy material, assign producers to guide the business end of the process and hire, and also fire, directors, if they were dissatisfied by the work in progress. As one can learn by this thorough biography, Hitchcock was able to grow dramatically in power and influence when he left London in 1939, for his future career in Hollywood. He was able to sell his name and talent to various producers starting with David O. Selznick, and his success foreshadowed the decline of the Hollywood studios and the rise of the independent producer/director.


Of course, time becomes the great judge and determinate of what lasts. The faddish tastes of the moment often whither as more retrospective is given to any subject or work of art.  What thrilled audiences 75 years ago may have zero impact today?

All one has to do is look at the three makings of King Kong or the two versions of Ben Hur, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Manchurian Candidate or even Psycho and see the advances in technology, the short cuts or the differences in casting, style editing and direction.

Interestingly, Hitchcock, like many others, did change. But that change was well within his early notions of the average man/woman caught in often an intractable bind. That bind often was one caused by the legal system, the government, or others who were trying to achieve some goal with the innocent victim in the way.

Aside from the struggle of the average man against injustice, Hitchcock liked to put people in awkward circumstances. Two of the films that come to mind, was his highly rated picture Vertigo and his more controversial WWII film, Lifeboat. In both cases, which are incredibly different individuals have to deal with. In Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart aka Scottie Ferguson has his fear and physical problems with high places exploited. This exploitation leads to murder and retribution. In Lifeboat, a number of survivors of a U-Boat attack are forced to cope with being at sea in a drifting lifeboat, without adequate provisions, and with the prospect of being lost. Hitchcock loved to create suspense with stress.  The survivors must learn how to deal we each other and with the reality that their future depends on a Nazi within their midst.

In Rebecca, Notorious and Suspicion individual relationships are at the heart of ongoing stress, fear, and hyper-anxiety. These films, which take place in the mid-1940s and all create difficulties for the women with their lovers/husbands. In both Rebecca and Suspicion the audience is never sure until the end of the film what will happen to the suffering wife. In both films, Hitchcock is forced to compromise the original author’s intent, and soften the conclusions. In Notorious, we are led into a tangled web of love, marriage, alienation, spying and international politics. In this treatment, the heroine, Ingrid Bergman/Alicia Huberman is basically forced to marry and spy on a man she does not love. Her safety and well-being becomes almost immediately compromised and her real lover, Cary Grant/TR Devlin must decide where his loyalties lie, with her or her mission.

Of course, Hitchcock liked to deal with intrigue and The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Foreign Correspondent, North by Northwest, The Saboteur and Sabotage all deal with intrigue, spies, espionage and intrigue. In each one, other than Sabotage, the victim is a man or a women, who must convince their casual acquaintance of their sanity and innocence. In each situation, not only is their mental well-being questioned but, their “strange” tale must also be eventually accepted. Aside from that problem, there is always greater threat to life and limb which has to be confronted and eliminated.

Hitchcock, who is married to Alma Reville, a woman he met in his early days as a film maker, has long indulged in fantasy world revolving around many of his leading ladies from; Madeline Carroll, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Fontaine, Doris Day, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, to Tippi Hedren. This so-called obsession, seen as a pseudo-sexual longing, often strained their long marriage and working relationship. How profound it really was, is never really understood or even articulated. For sure, Hitchcock himself always seem to believe that eating and often gluttony, was a wonderful counter balance to the lack of sexual activity and experimentation.

After a long, unique and incredible career, Hitchcock, who goes through many psychological changes, reaches his peak of success with Psycho, the suspense thriller dealing with split-personality and misogynist violence. This film, which was released in 1960, seemed to mark a strong artistic and financial rebound for Hitchcock.

Ironically two of his films from 1958 to 1960, became highly rated by the critics. Vertigo, with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, and North by Northwest. In 2012, the British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound magazine polled 846 critics and distributors, and their conclusion was that by 34 votes it was the greatest film of all-time, edging Citizen Kane.  Ten years earlier it trailed Citizen Kane by five votes. My sense is that with both votes, their conclusions were a mighty stretch and a bridge to far. Personally I find their collective opinions either patently ridiculous or inane. Of course, Hitchcock was British and there was a bit of home town and nationalistic pride in their choice.  But, there is no doubt that Vertigo is a good picture, filled with suspense, which over the years grew on many people. Of course, the premise that Kim Novak didn’t know what he was doing was and is farcical. What was she was thinking? In the 1998 American Film Institute’s Top Hundred films of All-Time it was ranked #61. In their next and last published ranking it moved up to #9. Obviously the British, as of 2012,, liked it best!


As for the North by Northwest, it was ranked in 1998 as #40 and by, 2007 it slipped to #55. Both films were considered very entertaining, but at least Vertigo had a somewhat believable plot.  As for North by Northwest, which seems, by all ratings, to a very popular and entertaining film, there is nothing believable about any part of it. In fact, every premise from the house (where he has liquor poured down his throat) in Long Island which, was stripped of everything in no time, the stabbing scene in the UN, to the crop duster scene, and its finale on Mount Rushmore, borders on being ludicrous. Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint are beautiful, James Mason and Martin Landau are evil, and the plot is beyond moronic. At the unbelievable conclusion, they are slipping all over Mount Rushmore while the Feds (whoever they are, they are never identified) in the body of Leo G. Carroll (Topper on TV) are standing around with their thumbs up their rear ends, to put it mildly. In fact, I saw the film today, and it is laughable. Cary Grant aka Roger Thornhill, becomes the typical Hitchcock foil or fool, the man who gets sucked into the vortex of miss-identification,  not unlike the main characters in Saboteur, Strangers on a Train, or The Wrong Man.


But, over the last twenty years of his life, he would fail to reach the success of Psycho, no less his earlier work.  The Birds, Torn Curtain, Marnie, Frenzy, Topaz and others, never were able to resonate strongly with more modern audiences, but to the end of his life, Hitchcock was always seeking that new blockbuster. In the movie bio-pic, with Anthony Hopkins, one gets the impression that Hitchcock risked all for the making of Psycho, but in reality he was quite rich from his decades of successful work, and despite his luxurious tastes, his investments were incredibly successful. At his death, in 1980, he left a considerable fortune of over $20 millions.