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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Just Found Photos --- A New Feature

The GPS Scrapbook is where I'll post still curios from time to time. These tend to be oddities I like, but wouldn't necessarily fit into topics addressed at Greenbriar. The idea, as always, is to lay down stuff that's unfamiliar ... all these were unseen, at least by me, until recently ... and the search goes on for more along similar lines.

Like all of us, George Arliss was young once. It's just difficult to picture him that way. Actually, until this image surfaced in a Brit fan periodical, I'd never seen Arliss in pre-monocle mode. That's him on the left, recognizable in a way, though I wouldn't necessarily expect this young man to mature into the singular visage that would eventually be Arliss'. Was there ever a face like his? --- and yet, this youth looks comparatively normal, eyes set close, a serious mien, ready even then to assume his place on a world's stage. I'll need to revisit Bob Fells' excellent George Arliss: The Man Who Played God to read further on boy years re GA. It goes without saying that any of this actor's films are worth another look-in. Remember when Arliss was just a picture in books? --- his pics had fled tubes and it wasn't until TCM that we could see them again ... that being the case at least where I was. There's more Arliss at Greenbriar here.

The caption says Biggest Contract Of His Career, and gathered is as potent an aggregation of MGM power as one could locate in February, 1951. I think they're in Mayer's office, judging by a framed portrait of L.B. pal Herbert Hoover. No doubt it was inscribed in terms of forever friendship. Could Mayer have imagined he'd be off the lot within months of here? On the left stands Eddie Mannix. I wish someone would write a book about him, as Eddie day-to-day managed the place and was well regarded by talent (Clark Gable said a Mannix handshake was good as any contract). Dore Schary, Mayer's successor, has been much maligned, unfairly I think. Signatory Pete Smith's the one I gag on. His voice always activates my mute button. Exhib polls are said to have placed Smith shorts at Number One for seven years. His ten minutes in a show would be ones I'd have spent shopping concessions. At right stands Fred Quimby, of cartoon recognition if not much creative participation. Fred was chief of the shorts department, thus his credit on single reels shipping out of Culver.

Good fellowship abides here --- does this group photo reflects truth of studio life during the early thirties? We'd like to think so. There's an interview where Buddy Rogers talked about voice testing he and contract pals took to determine their Paramount futures. The trio (I think Gary Cooper and Dick Arlen were the others) agreed to an all-for-one, one-for-all whatever its outcome, whoever washed out to be supported by ones making the cut. True pals these, and I don't doubt their sincerity, panic being what it was during transition to sound. This photo may be the only occasion you'll have to see Bing Crosby sitting on Ricardo Cortez's lap. Jack Oakie looks to be as fun off-set as on, even as serious Charles Laughton comes across less willing. At next to right Harry Green could be painful in comic kibitzer support --- does he have fans among our generation? The women I'm not certain about, so won't hazard guesses. Can anyone offer definite ID of these?

Speaking of positive identification, this saucy image was caption tendered as Merna Kennedy's, lead lady to Charlie Chaplin in The Circus. I've not seen her in portraiture approaching hotcha level of this, and wonder when and to what purpose the sitting took place. She had a career of sorts post-CC. Mostly smallish, some B westerns. You'd think Merna was jinxed for appearing with Chaplin. Didn't pretty much a same thing happen with Georgia Hale? She finished in westerns too, plus Rin-Tin-Tin's serial bow-wow-out, The Lightning Warrior. Merna Kennedy remains a mystery for dying young, age 36 in 1944, amidst obscurity. She'd been married once to Busby Berkeley, which couldn't have been easy. Times must have been tough toward the end (Berkeley's pay-off was minimal). Do you suppose she went to Charlie for a touch, as did Jackie Coogan?

Offscreen George Nader was anything but "The Women's Date For '58," but was, as evidenced here, good enough sport for going along to get along (and collect UI paychecks). I can't begin peeling off all the layers of artifice here. There weren't many years left for Hollywood to issue such likeable baloney. We'd soon get too knowing and ironic to digest publicity so open-faced. Still, I'll trade a bucket of sophistication for wide-eyed fun like this. Note particularly the signs. They surely came on the plane with George from Uni City's art shop, or maybe the local exchange had them printed. It's a cinch these gals didn't bring placards so pro-prepared from home. This signage remind me of ones Bill Castle used to carry around to just-as-staged fan receptions. I'm doubtful even of fan letters in that bicycle basket, likelier the handiwork of U-I's own Max the butler (I wouldn't examine the postmarks too closely).

Eddie Mannix again. This time with the wife. I'd like a book on Toni too. Wait ... there's already several ... only it's George Reeves on the covers. Mrs. Mannix (still very much a Mrs.) was Superman's off-set cohort, even when this pic was snapped in 1951. Toni had a few years on George and, by most accounts, played sort of mother in addition to mistress for him. He should have stayed with her, I think. She seems to have been a stabilizing influence, and Mama often kicked in when her Man Of Steel ran cash short. Toni had been a showgirl, so knew lean times, and possessed more worldly ways than Reeves. As to the husband, I doubt he cared by this juncture. To say Eddie killed George (or had it done) is nonsense. Toni got to spend old age harassed by Superman nuts wanting revelation she couldn't give, Eddie lucking out with a '63 exit well short of fans maturing (?) to inquisitive age.


Blogger Mike Cline said...

Looks like Una Merkle reading the newspaper in your photo.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Cladrite Radio said...

She and Una might have been up for the same roles -- they're definitely similar types -- but I feel confident that's not her.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW!!! Where did you find that still of "Dr. Evil" featured on the GPS masthead? I've never seen anything from the backstage of "Horror Theater" that compares to this. Did you know that Mr. Morris and his Charlotte-based business was recently the subject of a documentary on the "Travel Channel", some series (whose name escapes me) that is devoted to "monster make-up" and special fx? The host interviewed the whole Morris clan and not once was there mention made of either "Horror Theater" or "Dr. Evil".
Please note the shelves on Stage Left of the photo. See all the bundled packets of fan mail? I guarantee that one of those letters was from my own ten-year-old self, entreating Dr. Evil to reprise "Son of Frankenstein" or "The Invisible Man" ASAP. I also made the editorial comment that "The Giant Gila Monster" was not a very good "pitcher" and that it was unnecessary to show it ever again.

3:01 AM  
Anonymous Paul Duca said...

That top picture...he looks more like Mustafa, the agent Dr. Evil couldn't quite kill in the first AUSTIN POWERS film.

"I'm not dead yet!"

10:22 AM  
Anonymous MarcH said...

I think the lady at the end of the bench might be Gwen Lee. She played Groucho's dinner companion at the beginning of Night At The Opera. She had slightly larger roles in the early 30s. if you google her image it looks a lot like the lady in the photo.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Kevin K. said...

George Arliss looked a lot more normal as a teenager -- serious, perhaps, but not the slightly freakish-looking man he would become. But, as you say, always worth watching.

That "candid" shot on the Paramount lot is classic -- other than Cortez and Oakie, can anybody look more bored out of their skulls?

9:22 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Kevin Kusinitz e-mails some pithy thoughts ----

That photo at the top of your page today makes me want to hunt down an old radio microphone, then take a friend to a nightclub and pretending we're doing a radio interview. When the waiter asks us what we're doing, I'd just say, "Call Mr. Paley at CBS, then bring us another round of martinis."

And regarding Pete Smith: Boy, I couldn't agree with you more. I have to question the taste of moviegoers who made him one of the longest-running short-subject stars of his time. I mean, the guy is remarkably unfunny, and annoying the extreme. He died jumping off the roof a hospital -- and he has the same effect on me.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Didn't know Merna Kennedy was a former Mrs. Buzz...although this would account for her role as a "good-time girl" in WONDER BAR. She and (I think) Fifi d'Orsay were the two gals hitting on Guy Kibbee and Hugh Herbert.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

The "Valentino Vamp" website has the identical Paramount group shot and identifies the actors: Bing Crosby, Ricardo Cortez, Jack Oakie, Shirley Grey, Charles Laughton, Kitty Kelly, Harry Green, and Lilyan Tashman.

I'm standing in line behind those who enjoy Pete Smith.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Jim Lane said...

I'm with you on Pete Smith; never could understand the appeal (though his shorts were gone by the time I started going to movies; maybe they played better with a crowd, but I doubt it). The only shorts of his I really enjoy are Movie Pests, proof positive that the same annoying jackasses in theaters today have been with us always; and the one (title escapes me) that included Lena Horne singing "Ain't It the Truth" and the glass-table demonstration of the old shell game (but even that came with the usual quota of stale jokes).

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paramount group photo I'd guess from around 1933? Ric wasn't at Paramount often and it fits with Oakie's girth and the presence of the others.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Great photos and captions and, yes, the comments on Pete Smith make me smile (and smile a little more than I usually do while watching a Pete Smith short.) I admit to a certain adverse interest in the MGM series, definitely a fascination in observing something that was so universally popular in its time that just doesn't make it with hardly anybody... even the staunchest old movie geeks... today. The crowd at our local Sons of the Desert tent show remarkable tolerance for some pretty off track guest comedies. El Brendel, Vera Vague, Poodles Hanneford and Carol Tevis have all garnered surprisingly solid audience response(!) But whenever Pete's sing-song delivery starts in droning the gang rises up with a collective 'What the hell!'Still. the guy had a pretty long run, so he must have something going in his day.

12:34 PM  

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