Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Temple Tuesday: Shirley, James Dean, and Gone with the Wind

I would not have imagined a post where there is a common thread for all three, but here it is! The backstory: when I acquired the first image from today’s post, I realized I also had another shot of Shirley from the same evening. At this point, I had zero context. No date of the shots or anything. So...I reached out to Melissa (aka “The Colonel”). Within minutes, she had figured out through Mr. Google that the photos were from August 10, 1954 when Shirley and husband Charles attended the re-premiere of “Gone with the Wind.” That was all I needed; I was off to the races and falling down a rabbit hole of six degrees of separation.

The photo below was found online with this vintage caption:

Shirley Temple was only 11 years old when she saw first premiere of "Gone With the Wind," 15 years ago. She is shown arriving with husband, Charles Black, for second premiere last night at the Egyptian Theatre. “I know I will enjoy and understand it a little better,” she said.

Although the press crossed Charles out from the published shot, I can assure you that Shirley NEVER crossed her beloved husband out of anything. Don’t they look stunning?

Here’s the backstory on the re-premiere: Selznick liquidated his company in 1942 for tax reasons, and sold his share in “Gone with the Wind” to his business partner, John “Jock” Whitney, for $500,000. In turn, Whitney sold it to MGM for $2.8 million. MGM re-released the film in 1942 and 1947. I THINK the shot below is from the night of the re-premiere; on the left is Kay Gable (Clark’s wife). In the middle I am fairly certain we have “Jock” Whitney, with Herman Hover the owner of Ciro’s on the right (thanks Beachgal for the ID!).

From the 1977 book Scarlett Fever by William Pratt:

In February 1954, fireworks had exploded after a televised tribute to MGM’s Thirtieth Anniversary. It seemed that on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” a film clip of GWTW had been shown along with some other MGM films produced over the previous three decades, and David O. Selznick was enraged by the studio’s taking credit for the production. By August—after apologies all around—the Hollywood “premiere” actually became a personal testimonial to the producer as Oscars representing the film’s Academy Award triumph were on display in the Egyptian’s lobby along with David’s own Thalberg Award for the August 10 grand gala event. MGM publicists informed the press that “the gala event marked the first time in history that any picture ever had been given a second Hollywood premiere.” The 125 stars who held reservations for that big night included most of MGM’s remaining contract players, a selection of the town’s Old Guard (Joan Bennett, Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, Merle Oberon, Tyrone Power, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Norma Shearer, Shirley Temple, and Spencer Tracy) and several surviving members of Gone with the Wind’s cast (Mary Anderson, Jane Darwell, Clark Gable, Cammie King, Thomas Mitchell, and Ona Munson, six months before her suicide). 

How did the film look after 15 years had gone by? The version shown in 1954 was the first time the film had been shown in widescreen. Since the film was not originally shot in that format, MGM cropped the top and bottom to an aspect ratio of 1.75:1. In doing so, a number of shots were optically re-framed. What do I think about that?

More from Scarlett Fever:

While viewers throughout America appreciated the film’s new panoramic scope that year, many wondered why the color had faded so drastically in certain segments. The cause was simple: in projecting the 1939 image onto a wide screen, crucial portions of some scenes were cut off and, to compensate, MGM had actually rephotographed those sequences with a black mask at screen bottom to raise the affected footage. In so doing, the original color was significantly drained from those moments and their new appearance was limited to a near tint-like quality.…The 1954 presentation also offered a novelty that was a distinct advantage for those theatres equipped with the latest sound systems. Despite is original one-channel, optical (or monaural) sound track, MGM technicians did a difficult and splendid job of dividing it onto a new multiple=channel magnetic tape which broadcast the film in “Perspecta stereophonic sound.” The effect was brilliant: conversations were actually divided line by line (only in certain scenes) and the voice of a character out of camera range could be heard over a viewer’s shoulder—from the back of the theatre. This was particularly well used for Ashley’s reminiscences at the lumber mill and in the finale. Stereophonic sound lost its popularity fairly quickly int he following years and this particular divided sound track was never employed again.

Based on the version available on blu ray, somehow the film has been restored back to its original glory. You can fiddle-dee-dee but don’t fiddle with the film, thank you.

As if all this weren’t exciting enough, guess who else was at the re-premiere event? JAMES DEAN! The thought of Shirley actually meeting my other favorite actor truly boggles my mind. Dean attended the event because he was dating actress Pier Angeli, who was under contract to MGM at the time. Note the Oscars behind them from “Gone with the Wind.”

Here they are with Jane Powell and then-husband Patrick Nerney. If Dean looks uncomfortable, you can bet he was. These types of events were not his type of thing, especially having to wear a tuxedo.

I have no idea if Shirley actually met James Dean. But, on the right side of the photo in the background, it looks like it could be Shirley. For the sake of this post, I’m going to say it is. Don’t burst my bubble, please.

Back to Shirley; this is HER post, after all. Let’s zoom in for a closer look at her in all her gala finery:

A closer look at the table tells us the after-party/dinner was held at Ciro’s nightclub on Sunset Boulevard.

In my collection, I just happen to have a shot of the exterior of the Club from 1954:

Franchot Tone and Zsa Zsa Gabor seem to be having a deep conversation at the party:

Parliament cigarettes were apparently the smoke of choice that evening:

Here are Betsy Blair (wife of Gene Kelly at the time) and “Gone with the Wind” star Evelyn Keyes (who played Scarlett’s sister Suellen):

I’m not sure who the gal on the right is, but she has a big old pack of Parliaments, too. Maybe they were a sponsor for the evening.

Other guests that evening included Debbie Reynolds:

…and MGM musical favorites Ann Miller and Vera-Ellen:

Phew…that was a long one! I hope you enjoyed all the six degrees of separation going on here!

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Another Marmont Monday with Myron/Myra

I have acquired another vintage slide from the 1970 camp classic “Myra Breckinridge.” Film critic Rex Reed played Myron, a man who dreams that he is a transgendered woman named Myra, played by Raquel Welch. The physical similarity between the two is incredible (insert sarcasm here). Rex is shown in one of the Chateau Marmont’s penthouse suite bedrooms. On the wall is a movie poster:

Thanks to the miracle of squinting and Google, I was able to figure out it was for “Between Heaven and Hell” (1956) with Robert Wagner, Terry Moore, and Broderick Crawford. Here’s what the original poster looked like:

I wonder if the poster was on the wall at the Chateau or just set dressing? There’s not enough of the room to tell if Rex was in the master bedroom:

or the guest bedroom:

Both are obviously more tasteful looking now. Just ask Willis.

See more vintage and contemporary Chateau Marmont photos at my main website.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Soaring Over The Sea

The Chicken of the Sea, that is. This July 1968 shot taken from a Skyway bucket shows so much! Look at all the guests exploring the deck, including the little varmint on the right who appears to be a tad too close to the edge of the ship. I wonder how many kids tried to climb up the ropes?

Here you can see all the Skyway buckets circulating through the nearby Fantasyland Skyway station, and a cast member walking through the hills of Storybook Land:

This May 1968 image shows the Chicken of the Sea Mermaid:

What a beauty; note the blond tresses cascading behind her:

Also from 1968 is this shot of the ship, with cannons ready to fire!

See more vintage Disneyland Chicken of the Sea Restaurant photos at my main website.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Happy Birthday, Willis!

This sweet little dog is celebrating his 10th birthday today. It all started with this email that Doug forwarded to me with the above photo:

Looking for a home for this sweet, scared little rescue puppy – his friend was hit by a car early this morning and he is now at the vet getting shots, etc....please let me know if you are able to give this precious boy a foster or forever home...we thought of naming him Bosworth or Bochy b/c he has one blue eye and one brown eye!!!!

I knew the minute I read his story and saw his photos that this was the dog we were meant to have. The vet said he was about two months old when we got him in October 2011, so we made August 26th his birthday. Here’s his first portrait at home:

His first birthday cake:

The man who rescued Willis from the street and his wife, Leni, who fostered him. I will forever be grateful for them in putting us together.

Willis’ first portrait at the Chateau Marmont:

…and his first hike up Runyon Canyon:

Willis made his society debut at the San Diego Humane Society’s Fur Ball:

Doesn’t he look dapper in his tux tie?

I have learned so much from this little guy and have been provided so much happiness thanks to him. Animals are wonderful, especially if we listen to them. Happy Birthday, Willis - I hope we share many more happy years together!

See more photos at my main website.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Matterhorn: It’s Wunnerful Wunnerful!

For eighteen years, Fred Burri entertained guests at Disneyland by playing the swiss-accordion and yodeling. It would appear that at least one other gent performed those duties, based on this recently acquired July 1969 image.

Looks like the same guy from the Matterhorn band in my previously posted not-so-sharp image from July 1968, taken outside the Sleeping Beauty Castle diorama:

Here are a few of Fred, starting with July 1960:

November 1963:

…and undated:

Now, get out a bottle of champagne and enjoy some Wunnerful, Wunnerful accordion music from Lawrence Welk!

See more Disneyland Matterhorn photos at my main website.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Temple Tuesday: The Art of Storytelling

Depending upon how it is told, a story can be riveting when delivered artfully or an absolute snoozer if presented as a series of dry facts. Darryl Zanuck realized due to box office returns that the public was getting tired of the standard Shirley Temple film, and if the aging child was to continue her career on a positive trajectory, more care would have to be taken with future films. “The Little Princess” is still one of Shirley’s most beloved films, thanks to its lavish (and well-spent) budget and the extra care that was taken in telling the story. Within the first ten minutes, all of the important plot points have been introduced. The main driver of the story is that little Sara Crewe (Shirley Temple) and her father have a very close bond and have rarely spent time apart, yet are about to be separated because of the Boer War. We are also introduced to the villainess, Miss Minchin (Mary Nash), who immediately shows herself to be two-faced, with an unhealthy regard for financial gain and social status. Her brother (Arthur Treacher) proves to be a jovial sort who is bullied by his snobbish sister.

Within the next few minutes, the romantic subplot between Miss Rose (Anita Louise) and the dashing Mr. Geoffrey (Richard Greene) appears, along with the knowledge that Miss Minchin does not approve of their alliance.

Additional supporting characters who will assist Sara in her journey include Ram Dass (Cesar Romero), the kindly servant of Mr. Geoffrey’s grandfather who keeps tabs on the little girl:

and Becky (Sybil Jason), the young scullery maid, who is Sara’s closest confidante:

Zanuck was known for moving his stories along quickly, removing any scenes that would be extraneous to the plot, thus holding the interest of the audience. Everything that occurs after the first portion of the film relates back to these characters and plot points.

All of these initial scenes build up the emotions of the audience to the first jolt of the film: Sarah’s father is in danger because of the war and won’t be able to make it back for her birthday party. This heightens our anxiety, brings up a number of questions (will Captain Crewe survive the war?), and also sets up future complications (he tells her to spend as much as she wants on her birthday party).

Just as we are teetering on the brink of sadness for Sara’s uncertain future, we breathe a sigh of relief when it is announced that the soldiers at Mafeking have been relieved:

…and the joyous birthday celebration is able to unfold exactly as planned, albeit without Sara’s father.

Don’t let your guard down too quickly, though. As it is with most riveting films, a moment of intense happiness is followed by one of utter despair.

It would be easy to make a chart of the peaks and valleys of emotions that this well-told story provides, slowly building to the exciting final crescendo. To see the fate of little Sarah you’ll have to watch “The Little Princess” for yourself.

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.