Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Film Stars 1934 1935

I mentioned the other day that I had bought an old book of stars of cinema from a second-hand book shop. I've been having a look through it and here's a reminder of a few stars of yesterday. Well, 82-83 years ago to be a little more accurate.

Let's first put the book into some context. Cinemas at this time projected films that were almost entirely shot in black and white. There had been some experiments with early colour even in the silent era, but black and white would remain dominant until the early 1950s with Technicolor and Eastmancolor film stock.

The book has a number of full page portraits of stars of the period and also some pictorial reviews of selected films with several photographs to a page. Mostly these are not of sufficient quality to provide a scan suitable for inclusion here. Finally there are some fairly mundane or at best less flattering photographs of some stars and I've taken the opportunity to include some of my favourites from other sources. Inevitably I have to say I don't own copyright of any of these photos, though their age and subject matter makes them of public interest. All of the photographs I have included from other sources are already well represented on the Internet and in the public domain.

Let's start - as does the book - with a shot of actress Merle Oberon. She was born on 19 February 1911 in India where she lived before moving to England when she was 17. Her father was English, her mother from Ceylon. She had a hit and miss start in movies until she was cast as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). She was seen in that film by Hollywood star Douglas Fairbanks who joined forces with both Merle and the director Alexander Korda and made The Private Life of Don Juan. Merle Oberon plays the part of a tempestuous dancer.

A still from The Private Life of Don Juan showing a tempestuous dancer trogging off up the stairs...

Douglas Fairbanks was one of those who managed the transition of his career from the silent to the sound era of movies. He was one of the four stars (with D.W. Griffiths, Mary Pickford and Charles Chaplin) to form the company United Artists in 1919. He was acrobatic and graceful - the latter helped by his having stage props such as staircases or spaces he had to leap especially measured to distances he could manage most gracefully! He is also the father of Douglas Fairbanks Jnr. Erm... who else could have been...?

Another actor from the silent era was Harold Lloyd. A comedian, his silents and many talkie films included an element of incredible danger, though as much of this as possible was careful illusion. Featured in the book for the film The Cat's Paw, his most famous film and the one that he will forever be remembered for is Safety Last (1923).

This is the film in which this famous scene appears. Harold dangles from the hands of a clock seemingly high on the side of a skyscraper over a busy street. In fact the clock and this bit of wall are on the near side of the street so he actually has the clock and wall between himself and the street here. The clever use of camera angles makes it appear that the danger is much greater. He was in fact over a flat roof - still high enough to break bones if he fell. Several years later he played a similar role, climbing up the side of skyscrapers in the film Feet First. He performed many of his stunts himself, these feats made all the more daring by the fact that in 1919 he had mistaken a small bomb for a prop on a movie set and blew off the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. He had a special glove made to disguise this fact, though it is sometimes apparent that it is false when you know and look for it.

The Cat's Paw co-starred Una Merkel with Harold. She was currently making a name for herself as a dancer and comedienne in musicals such as 42nd Street and Gold Diggers (both 1933) and she would win great acclaim in Destry Rides Again when she and star Marlene Dietrich personally acted out a catfight, demanding stunt money that the two gave to their stunt doubles who would otherwise have lost out on the payment.

Again, this isn't the best photograph of this actress, so here's a better one!

Ah... the lovely Fay Wray. Many people are surprised when they see her as a brunette but she wore a blonde wig for King Kong (1933), for which film she was told she would be starring with "the tallest darkest leading man in Hollywood"... She is included in the book for "The Affairs of Cellini in which she plays an artist's model who attracts the eye of a duke whilst the artist himself is pursued by the duchess. By heck, it's all go...

Oh, go on then... here's the classic image of Fay Wray. Kong didn't give her the luxury of a cushioned couch to lean on so this is a publicity still rather than a still from the film itself.

And here is my own Fay Wray connection. In this first issue of the American magazine Mondo Cult is Fay's last ever interview before she died in August 2004. On page 47 of 48 (actually taking up space on both pages 47 and 48!) is a review of my band Creeping Bentgrass's first album Keeping On...!

Franchot Tone stars in The World Moves On, an epic spanning 100 years from the close of the Napoleonic Wars and dealing with two families, English and American, with business interests in France and Prussia who swear that nothing, not even another Napoleon, could break up their business with its roots in all four countries. The film takes us then through the events of the next 100 years including World War One. Franchot is not necessarily a name familiar to everyone these days. He appeared in such films as Mutiny on The Bounty and The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (both 1935) and has 111 credits on the Internet Movie Database. They include TV western series Bonanza, Wagon Train and The Virginian. He was married four times, his first wife being Joan Crawford.

Also starring in The World Moves On is actress Madeleine Carroll. She became the highest paid actress in the world by 1938 earning a quarter of a million dollars in that year. She is best remembered as Robert Donat's unwilling helper in Hitchcock's original version of The 39 Steps.

The gorgeous Loretta Young seen in The House of Rothschild. She made her first film in 1917 at the age of three. At the age of 17 she eloped to marry actor Grant Withers. She starred in two films with him. The second, Too Young To Marry came out a year later ...just as the marriage was annulled. Loretta is not done full justice by this photograph - so here's another two!

A fabulous shot of The Hispaniola from the film Treasure Island (1934)

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