Sunday, September 24, 2017

Passionate Summer ( 1958 ) aka Storm Over Jamaica

An island paradise...where all human emotions are exposed under a tropic sun.

In spite of its engaging tagline, Passionate Summer, also known as Storm Over Jamaica, gave a light drizzle of drama compared to the raging storm promised. It focuses on the traditional one-man/two-women love triangle with a little time off to pursue some interesting side plots. 

Bill Travers stars as Douglas Lockwood, a gifted teacher at Leonard Pawley's experimental school situated in the outskirts of Jamaica. During one summer, a private plane crashes into the mountains a short distance from the school. Lockwood helps rescue passenger Judy Waring ( Virginia McKenna ) and quickly develops a romantic interest in her while she convalesces at the school, much to the chagrin of love-starved Mrs. Pawley ( Yvonne Mitchell ) who was openly pursuing Lockwood. 

One of Lockwood's students, Sylvia ( Ellen Barrie ) is a holy-terror, an unruly emotionally disturbed girl who only delights in testing Lockwood's patience. Since he is a well-bred English chap, he came equipped with plenty of patience and insists on trying to reform Sylvia without punishment, a practice that Mr. Pawley ( Alexander Knox ) supports. What Pawley doesn't realize is that Lockwood seems to have trouble getting his own life untangled, and wrestles with his love for Judy Waring, knowing very well that she may just be using him. 

Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, who married in real-life, were both talented actors even though their range was limited. They each bring a fair amount of passion to their parts, but never let their emotions get out of hand.....a quality that Hollywood would have eagerly exploited had they snatched the rights to Richard Mason's novel, which Passionate Summer was based upon. 
Yvonne Mitchell, on the other hand, did an excellent job of portraying the slightly neurotic wife of headmaster Pawley. Pawley's indifference towards her is plain and - during the titular storm - she shows no shame in flaunting her love for Lockwood. 

The film features some good set design and beautiful Jamaican location filming which was shot in Eastman colour, but fails to leave a memorable impression after viewing. Even the music, penned by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, is rather bland compared to his fine work on Conspiracy of Hearts ( 1960 ). 

Friday, September 22, 2017

James MacArthur and Janet Munro - A Disney Duo

Every once in a while when you are watching a film you probably find yourself proclaiming, "Hey! These two actors also played together in [fill in the blank]!" 
Well, like you, the bloggers behind The Flapper Dame and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies experienced this, too, and so they decided to launch The Duo Double Feature Blogathon giving us clever film buffs a chance to compare the different characters and films of a duo of our choice. I chose James MacArthur and Janet Munro. They were an adorable young couple who starred together in only two Walt Disney films: Third Man on the Mountain ( 1959 ) and Swiss Family Robinson ( 1960 ), and then went on their own separate acting paths, with MacArthur focusing on television work and Monro attempting to alter her wholesome image with spicier British dramas. 

James MacArthur, the son of screenwriter Charles MacArthur and actress Helen Hayes, made his Disney debut in Light in the Forest ( 1958 ), opposite Carol Lynley, and he proved himself to be a talented and very personable actor. Walt Disney liked his honest face and natural acting ability, and young girls liked his rugged good looks and shy demeanor. He was an ideal hero for Disney's live-action features. 

Third Man on the Mountain was his second feature for the studio and Janet Munro was selected to portray his sweetheart Lizbeth in the film. Munro caught the eye of Disney when she came to audition among 300 other actresses for the part of Katie O'Gill, the green-eyed winsome Irish lass in Darby O'Gill and the Little People ( 1959 ). She had an appealing spunky nature and was quickly signed to a five-picture contract for the studio.

Third Man on the Mountain tells the story of a boy who joins a famous mountaineer's climbing expedition in the hopes of discovering a route to reach the top of the Matterhorn, which was long deemed insurmountable. His mother and uncle aim to curtail the boy's desire to become a mountain guide but he is encouraged to pursue his passion by two dear friends, hotel owner Theo ( Laurence Naismith ) and Lizbeth ( Munro ). 

MacArthur's character, Rudi, is a bright lad who has a love for mountaineering ingrained in his heart. His father died attempting to find a path to the Matterhorn's pinnacle, and so he understands his family's fear for him when he takes off climbing but, at the same time, he knows that this is his passion and what he was meant to do in life. He is brave enough to stand up against the other mountain guides who ridicule him as a "mere boy" but he finds he must curb his impetuousness during his climbs, especially when it endangers the lives of those whom he is guiding. 
Munro's character, Lizbeth, is only happy when Rudi is happy. Together with Theo, she helps Rudi train for his climb up the Matterhorn, keeps him focused on climbing, and also strengthens his confidence. She is a sweet girl who always has a smile on her face. She is also frank and fearless. She tells Rudi exactly what she thinks of him if he fails in any way to live up to the hero she believes him to be. 

MacArthur and Monro's second film together came just a year later. Swiss Family Robinson was an adventurous re-working of Johann Wyss' famous 1812 novel about a family ( John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, Tommy Kirk, MacArthur, and Kevin Corcoran ) who get shipwrecked on an uncharted island. Janet Munro's character, Roberta, shows up unexpectedly when she and her father arrive on the island as prisoners of pirates.  

MacArthur's character, Fritz, is quite a different fellow compared to Rudi. He is practically a grown man; he displays admirable leadership qualities, is willing to work hard with his family to make the island a decent home, and demonstrates good judgment in difficult situations. Roberta admires these qualities, but at times he seems too proud and cock-sure of himself, and so she amuses herself with his younger brother Ernst ( Kirk ), sparking jealous feelings between the brothers. 

Roberta isn't the carefree country girl of Third Man in the Mountain. She is a well-bred young lady from London's society. To her the prospect of choosing to live in seclusion on a deserted island is preposterous. But Fritz's pioneering spirit and his hard-working ways eventually win her over and, at the end of the time, we are to suppose that they wed. 

A wedding between MacArthur and Monro is something that I for one would have liked to have seen happen in real life because they made such a lovely couple onscreen. Offscreen, there was no spark of romance between them ( Munro was actually married at the time of filming Third Man on the Mountain ), but had Munro or MacArthur pursued their careers with Walt Disney studios I'm sure they would have been teamed up again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

In Kaye's Kitchen : Danny Kaye Cooks More than Comedy

Danny Kaye loved to try new things and was always open to learning the necessary skills and then plunging right into an experience...with no fear of making a fool of himself. With this bravado he acquired proficiency in a number of different fields over the years: flying commercial aircraft, conducting world-famous orchestras ( without knowing a note of music ), dancing, juggling, playing baseball....and cooking. In fact, he became quite an accomplished chef. 

Chef Ruth Reichl, a good friend of Kaye's reminisced about the man shortly after his death and said "Danny Kaye didn't cook like a star. He didn't coddle you with caviar or smother you in truffles. He had no interest in complicated concoctions or exotic ingredients. His taste was absolutely true, and he was the least-pretentious cook I've ever encountered. The meals he made were little symphonies--balanced, perfectly timed, totally rounded. "

French chefs, including Paul Bocuse and Jacques Pepin, often said the best restaurant in California was Danny Kaye's house. Dana Kaye, Danny's daughter, recalled the kitchen in their wisteria-covered Beverly Hills home : 


"This room, with ruffled curtains and a huge island, was the pulse of our lives. My father, in par­ticular, loved the tiny break­fast nook with walls full of cookbooks and an old-fash­ioned wooden table covered in a red-and-white-checked tablecloth. Many mornings he’d sit in his terry cloth robe, make phone calls and offer a cup of coffee to whoever wan­dered in, like the plumber. "

Chinese cooking was his specialty. It all started when Kaye began frequenting Johnny Kan's Chinese restaurant in San Francisco in the late 1960s. He loved the cuisine, the simplicity of the ingredients, and the quick preparation of Chinese food and began a self-appointed apprenticeship to learn what he could about cooking these meals himself. 

Suddenly, Kaye's simple kitchen sprouted a new "Chinese Kitchen" wing that featured a 10-foot long three-wok restaurant stove, shelves which held his hand-made cleavers, a vertical roasting oven, Chinese lanterns, and a round table that accommodated eight. Guests who enjoyed his nine-course Chinese dinner were varied and during any night you may have seen Roddy McDowall, Rudolf Nureyev, Audrey Hepburn, or Zubin Mehta seated in Kaye's Kitchen. 
“The trouble with Danny's cooking,” Olive Behrendt, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, once said, “is it spoils you forever for going to restaurants. You could eat in this home every night for a month and never be served the same dish twice.” Luciano Pavarotti considered Kaye's fegato alla veneziana the best in the world.

His fame as a chef spread throughout Hollywood and those who doubted his mastery in the kitchen quickly sang a different tune after tasting one of his meals. In 1979, Kaye was honored with the ultimate compliment: when he guest-starred on The Muppet Show he was permitted to cook alongside the famous Swedish Chef! 

This entry is a part of our series entitled "Did You Know?".....sometimes we just feel like sharing interesting fragments of television and movie history and now we have a place to do just that. If you have a hot tip that you would like us to share on Silver Scenes, drop us a line!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Raising a Riot! ( 1955 )

What does a man do when his wife asks him to mind their three youngsters when she must leave the country for a few weeks to care for her aging mother? 

If you think he would raise a riot, you're quite mistaken, for the man in this situation is played by Kenneth More....and any character that More portrays would never balk at caring for children. In fact, this chap - Tony, a naval officer - begs for the opportunity to spend some quality time with his children: Anne, Peter, and Fusty. He's been away at sea for so long he fears they may come to think of him as a stranger. And so, in one frantic afternoon, he packs the brood into his convertible and whisks them off to Seaview, a windmill house in the country where his father "Grampy" lives. 

The children adore the place. Father thinks it needs a heap of work. Over the next few weeks, he attempts to put some order in the place while the children enjoy a good romp in the countryside.
Raising a Riot was filmed in Technicolor in 1955 and received moderate box-office success upon its release. The film is clearly based on a book for it lacks a driving plot and instead is built up of a series of amusing incidents centering on household disasters at the old windmill. It delivers gentle humor at a leisurely pace. British comedies like this were quite common in the 1950s-1960s but, unfortunately, they are no longer being made. Studio execs probably don't want to waste time and money on a picture that has no chance of being the "comedy hit of the year". Such a shame, for they are such entertaining films. 

The youngsters ( played by Mandy Miller, Gary Billings, and Fusty Bentine ) are all well-suited to their roles, as is Grampy ( Ronald Squire ), and Jan Miller is especially adorable as a young American neighbor with a crush on the handsome officer. Parts like Tony were tailor-made for Kenneth More, who had such a winning personality. It's no wonder he attracts young women in addition to winning the hearts of his own children! 
Alfred Toombs, who penned the titular book in 1949, had a number of children of his own, and this account was autobiographical. Toombs had been away in the Navy for three years and, upon his return home, had to care for his kiddies when his wife left the country. Housework, cooking, and child-rearing were all new experiences for him and he wrote about them in such a humorous fashion that the resulting book sold quite a number of copies. In the film, Tony is frequently seen typing about his day-to-day mishaps with the little ones, but oddly enough the audience is never told what becomes of Tony's writings. Instead, at the end of the film, he finds himself called back into service again and blesses his wife with the words: "I wouldn't be a woman if the entire United Nations got down on their knees and begged me! Do you know what a woman has to be? She has to be a cross between a saint and a drayhorse, a diplomat and an automatic washing machine, and a psychologist and a bulldozer!" 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game


"Inspection!!" Never look a gift horse in the mouth.....but this commanding officer doesn't like the looks of one the horses. Do you remember this scene? Unfortunately, it's yet another blurry screenshot. However, put your thinking cap on! There are enough clues in this scene to solve the puzzle. 

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Back to School! - Classic Films About Teachers

Labor Day has passed and the crisp air of September has set in, so that can only mean one thing - it's back to school time! Teachers across America who have enjoyed three months of blessed silence are now back to facing a brood of bright-eyed and mischievous youngsters.

Their task at hand is trying to instill into their heads a little bit of wisdom and a lifelong love of learning....within the span of one school year. Some do it, other fails...but almost all give it a good college try. 

In celebration of these teachers, we've assembled an assortment of pedagogic productions from the 1930s-1970s. Take your seats now and get ready for the lecture. The good, the bad, and the brilliant are hidden somewhere among these teacher-features :

Goodbye, Mr. Chips ( 1939 )

The best film adaptation of James Hilton's classic novel which reflects on the life of a timid British schoolmaster and the winsome ways he had with his pupils. Robert Donat won an Academy Award for his performance. Greer Garson, John Mills, and Paul Henreid also star. 
Cheers for Miss Bishop ( 1941 )

The life, loves, and incidental happenings of a Midwestern school mistress named Miss Bishop are portrayed by Martha Scott in one of her most recognized films. William Gargan and Edmund Gwenn also star. 

Remember the Day ( 1941 )

An old school teacher ( Claudette Colbert ) pays a visit to one of her former pupils ( Douglas Croft ) who is currently a presidential-nominee. While she awaits her appointment she thinks back on her teaching days in the 1910s and the man ( John Payne ) she wanted to marry. 

The Corn is Green ( 1945 )

A determined middle-aged schoolmarm ( Bette Davis ) converts her Welsh home into a school for coal miners and discovers a young man ( John Dall ) with an extraordinary appetite for learning hidden among the sooty faces. This beloved MGM classic was based on the true life story of screenwriter/actor Emlyn Williams. Nigel Bruce, Rhys Williams and Joan Lorring also star. 

The Village Teacher ( 1947 )

This Russian classic spans pre-revolutionary tsarist times to the 1940s through the eyes of a young teacher who leaves St. Petersburg to teach children in a country village. While Russia changes around her, her pupils do not, and she sees them grow into statesmen, military generals, and even professors like herself. It's a cross between Cheers for Miss Bishop and Twenty-Four Eyes. Vera Maretskaya and Daniil Sagal star. 

The Browning Version ( 1951 )

Michael Redgrave stars in this rather sad story of a schoolmaster who realizes that he failed in life not only as a teacher but as a husband, too. Terence Rattigan's novel was filmed numerous times over the years, but never was Crocker-Harris given such a sympathetic performance as Redgrave brought to the role. Jean Kent, Nigel Patrick, Wilfred-Hyde White, and Brian Smith also star. 

Olivia ( 1951 )

An English schoolgirl ( Marie-Claire Olivia ) falls in love with Mademoiselle Julie ( Edwige Feuillère ), the vivacious headmistress at the private girls' school she attends in France. This Jacqueline Audry production, based on the Dorothy Strachey novel, caused quite a stir when it was first released, but earned Feuillère a BAFTA nomination for her performance. It tackles a subject rarely discussed: what happens when admiration for one's teacher turns to idolatry and then passion?

Bright Road ( 1953 )

Dorothy Dandridge stars as Miss Richards, a fourth-grade school teacher who has her hands full with C. T. Young, a backward rebel....until she finds that he has an interest in nature. Bright Road was based on an award-winning short story that appeared in the "Ladies Home Journal" in 1951 and sheds the spotlight on how a sympathetic teacher can find ways to re-channel negative classroom behavior into positive action. Look for the screen debut of actor/singer Harry Belafonte.
Her Twelve Men ( 1954 )

Jan Stewart ( Greer Garson ) is hired as the first woman to teach at The Oaks Boarding School for Boys and, from her first day at the school, she clashes heads with fellow faculty member Joe Hargrave ( Robert Ryan ). With no prior teaching experience, Stewart struggles to learn the ropes and gain the respect of the children, until an unlikely fellow gives her a helping hand. Barry Sullivan, Richard Haydn, Rex Thompson and Tim Considine also star. 

Twenty-Four Eyes ( 1954 )

On a small Japanese island during the war, a young new kindergarten teacher ( Hideko Takamine ) reaches out to her twelve pupils. She remains in contact with them throughout their lives witnessing some make good in life, while others marry, die in war, or be stricken with poverty. It's a very touching film that earns its reputation as one of Japan's most endearing classics. 
Blackboard Jungle ( 1955 )

Sentimental tales of beloved teachers were out of vogue in the 1950s and Blackboard Jungle was one of the first to realistically portray the hooliganism that was becoming prevalent in high schools at the time. Glenn Ford stars as a WWII vet who takes on a teaching position at a rough NYC boys school and fights resistance from both his students and the faculty. Anne Francis and Louis Calhern co-star. 

Good Morning, Miss Dove ( 1955 )

Students in the small New England town of Liberty Falls reflect back on their school days and their favorite teacher Miss Dove ( Jennifer Jones ). This Fox Cinemascope production looked pretty but the story was overly mushy and Jones' performance fails to convince anyone that Miss Dove would be remembered so fondly on her sickbed. Also in the cast: Robert Stack, Chuck Connors, and Kipp Hamilton. 

The Unguarded Moment ( 1956 )

Esther Williams attempted to evolve from being the million dollar mermaid into a dramatic actress for The Unguarded Moment. Here she stars as a beautiful high school teacher who is victimized by a student ( John Saxon ) in and out of school. After he assaults her she seeks the aid of the police, which comes in the form of handsome Lt. Harry Graham ( George Nader ).
Because They're Young ( 1960 )

New teacher Neil Hendry ( Dick Clark ) locks horns with the stodgy principal ( Wendell Holmes ) of his high school over his teaching methods but manages to win the heart of the pretty school secretary ( Victoria Shaw ). Tuesday Weld, Michael Callan, and Doug McClure also star. 

The Miracle Worker ( 1962 )

William Gibson's engrossing stage play about Helen Keller's first year with her lifelong teacher Anne Sullivan was made into an equally enthralling 1962 film starring Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, both plucked from the original stage version. Seeing Miss Sullivan struggle with Helen, who could neither see, speak, nor hear, is difficult to watch at times, but Anne knew what the girl was capable of and you have to admire her for sticking to her task and bringing out the best in Helen. 

To Sir, With Love ( 1967 )

Sidney Poitier, who had a prominent role as a student in Blackboard Jungle ( 1955 ), took on the part of the teacher, now instructing rambunctious high school students in London's East End. Lulu, Judy Geeson, and Suzy Kendell portray some of his students. 
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie ( 1969 )

A free-spirited Scottish schoolteacher unknowingly leads her "gairls" astray, instructing them in becoming non-conformists, Fascists, and giving their love freely...until one student reports her to the headmistress. Ronald Neame's powerful production gave added depth to Muriel Spark's 1961 novella and earned Maggie Smith a Best Actress Oscar. Pamela Franklin, Robert Stephens, Gordon Jackson, and Celia Johnson also star. 

La Maestra Inolvidable (1969)

Maria Rivas stars as an idealistic young woman who takes a position as a schoolteacher in a small backwoods town. She encounters more than a bit of trouble when she meets the students of the area's two feuding families and finds herself in the middle of their war. Enrique Lizalde and Fanny Schiller also star.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Dort Oben, Wo Die Alpen Glühen ( 1956 )

"Up There Where the Alps Glow"....a rough translation of the title of this 1956 German production starring Vienna-born Albert Rueprecht. Like most Heimatfilms, it features its fair share of mountain scenery, romance, and drama, and in this case, the drama is spread on as thick as butter.

Rueprecht stars as Bertl Bruneder, a young woodcarver who guides tourists up mountains as a sideline job. When a pretty young woman named Andrea ( Ingmar Zeisberg ) arrives in the village with her uncle ( Erik Frey ), she becomes intrigued with the "mountain with no name", a mountain that can only be climbed by way of a dangerous wall. She asks for a guide to take her up there but all the local guides refuse....except Bruneder. He had climbed the wall once before to win a wager against the local innkeeper Jakob ( Hardo Hesse ).

This morning saunter eventually turns into an overnight adventure when heavy cloud coverage prevents the couple from returning down the mountain. It is while they are up in "the heavens" that Andrea finds herself falling in love with Bertl. Her feelings aren't mutual, however.
There is a legend that when a man plucks edelweiss - the white star-shaped flower that grows precipitately on the side of a mountain - it signifies that he has been true and faithful to his lover. When Bertl relates this story to Andrea, she asks if he will risk gathering some edelweiss for her, but he simply shakes his head. 

He's a handsome fellow and back in the village he already has two blondes pining for him: Anna ( Lotte Ledl ) whom he fancies he loves, and Linda ( Gerlinde Locker ), the younger sister of Jakob. She is a lovely girl who is perfectly suited to Bertl, but he doesn't realize this. 
After his adventure on the mountain, Anna teases him over his unfaithfulness towards her with Andrea and Bertl climbs up the "Gottesfinger" mountain to bring edelweiss to her to prove his devotion. It's a foolish undertaking for a foolish woman and Bertl nearly dies in his attempt to retrieve the elusive edelweiss.

Unlike most American productions, where the film studios were fearful of endangering the lives of their stars, the principal players of Dort Oben Wo Die Alpen Glühen all performed their own stunts, and so you can clearly see them tackling the side of a mountain while clouds drift by a mile below them. It's a wonder how they managed to get the camera crew up there, too. Location scenery was shot in Kals, a mountain village in Tirol, Austria. 
Dort Oben, Wo Die Alpen Glühen is an engrossing drama and it features some good performances from Rueprecht and Zeisberg. However, the film lacks humor - and heart - which would have greatly added to its appeal. Also in the cast is Rudolf Carl and Peter Gruber.

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