Mr. A Sails the High Seas

Back before the age of jet liners linked America and Europe in a matter of hours, transatlantic travel meant spending several days at sea and, hopefully, in good weather. Mere acquaintances on land would form onboard friendships during the voyage, though most of these tended to fizzle out once they were back on terra firma.

Mr. A was no exception to this social ritual as many candid photographs attest. Here’s a collection of moments from long ago voyages during the 1920s and 30s when Mr. and Mrs. A shuttled between Southampton, England, and New York City, then cross-country by train to Los Angeles.

Here the caption informs us that Florence and George have arrived in New York onboard the S.S. Mauretania in September 1922 after a visit home to England :

George Arliss is considered a “notable” onboard the S.S. Berengaria as he returns to New York after a two month vacation in Europe on November 22, 1924:

The Arlisses leave New York on the S.S.Leviathan on May 21,1927. The ship had been converted from a luxury liner to a troop ship during World War I and was then transformed back to a liner. The “slug” or photo caption adds some details:

The slug states that Mr. and Mrs. A are leaving New York on the S.S. Majestic on May 29, 1931, for a combined vacation and search for new film material. Color by Moi:

Mr. A chats with a fellow passenger in this undated photo, circa mid-1930s:

Another undated photo but Mr. A’s stiff collar suggests the late 20s or early 30s. By the mid-1930s, Florence’s eyesight had worsened and she rarely appeared on deck:

Mr. A seems happy to share the attentions of the paparazzi with a fellow thespian, Edith Evans, or so I believe. The back of this news photo indicates that it was taken onboard the R.M.S. Majestic in Southampton in 1934:

Having just completed CARDINAL RICHELIEU (1935) in Hollywood, Mr. A has his stateroom invaded as he and Flo leave from New York aboard the S.S. Olympic, sister ship of Titanic, on what I believe is the ship’s final voyage before it was retired:

After an absence of two years while making films in Britain, Mr. A returns to New York on November 9, 1937 via the S.S. Aquitania. He seems to be waiting to go through customs:

Another photo of Mr. A still waiting to go through customs on Nov. 9, 1937. He seems to be saying to the photographer,”Haven’t you taken enough?”

A familiar shipboard pose on the ship S.S. Aquitania as it arrives in Southampton from New York on April 26, 1938:

Finally, a view from the other side of the cameras aboard the S.S. Aquitania on Mr. A’s return to America on Nov.9, 1937:

Arliss Shipboardon board Nov 9 1937

A 152nd Birthday Greeting to George Arliss!


Today, April 10, is Good Friday. It was also Good Friday back in 1868 on that day when Mr. A was born in London. He came from a family of publishers going back to the 18th century and founded by his grandfather, John Arliss. His family lived and worked in the Bloomsbury district, which, of course, has long been celebrated as the literary center of the city.

As we all know too well, no matter where you live today this is a tense time in our lives with conditions not seen since the Second World War. Celebrities have been stepping up to boost our morale so I think it’s fitting on this particular Arliss birthday observance to recall his own efforts in speaking to the British people during WWII while he and Florence remained in London throughout the long war.

Mr. A talks to the crowd at Market House in 1942:

We know in letters that Mr. A wrote to friends during the war that he spoke to the public on several occasions. It was typical of him to question his effectiveness and he hoped he was not too boring. But even in his 70s, he apparently answered the call every time he was asked to give a morale-boosting talk.

Mr. A seems to attract some attention at Waterloo Station:

We are fortunate to have preserved an address he gave over the BBC at some point between the fall 1939 and the spring 1940. I believe his words are just as meaningful in dealing with today’s crisis as they were back then. His message is simple and direct: do something. Everybody can contribute in some way or other to the gigantic effort that is required of all of us to get through this crisis, whether a war or a pandemic. Here he is:

Happy Birthday, Mr. A. Your words continue to inspire!

Published in: on April 10, 2020 at 2:05 PM  Leave a Comment  

Arliss ALERT! Double Feature: THE GREEN GODDESS and DISRAELI – Tuesday, February 18 at 6 AM EST

TCM aka Turner Classic Movies – is showing Mr. A’s first two talkies this Tuesday, February 18th, starting at 6 AM eastern time (THE GREEN GODDESS) and then at 7:15 AM his Academy Award winning performance in DISRAELI (1929).
Not to be missed!

Published in: on February 16, 2020 at 5:14 PM  Comments (2)  
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The Official 2020 George Arliss Calendar

Here it is – our official 2020 George Arliss Calendar. This year we offer Mr. A with a distinctly “cowboy” look. The colorization is, as usual, by myself. Get your calendar today, and that’s easy. Just print it out. Looks great in 8×10!

A Brief “Morphing” Video with Mr. A as Disraeli from the 1921 Silent Film

Here’s a short “morphing” video I just created using a portrait of Mr. A as Benjamin Disraeli from the 1921 silent version of DISRAELI, a film that is now apparently lost. The musical accompaniment I added is especially complimentary (I think):

Published in: on December 15, 2019 at 6:52 PM  Comments (1)  
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A Video Tour of the Original Souvenir Program from DISRAELI (1929) with original color lobby cards


Souvenir programs from vintage films are highly collectible and one in mint condition can be quite expensive to acquire. Let’s take a video tour of this 1929 DISRAELI program from my collection. I’ve interspersed the set of color lobby cards released by the studio to enhance the tour.

Here we have a complete copy of another Arliss-DISRAELI souvenir program. But this one is from the stage version and dates from 1912!

Arliss Alert! THE MILLIONAIRE airs this Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, on TCM (US) at 7:30 AM eastern time.


We are enjoying an embarrassment of riches so to speak following up on today’s telecast of THE WORKING MAN (1933) as part of a tribute to Bette Davis. This Thursday, November 7, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. will air THE MILLIONAIRE (1931), which was Mr. A’s first modern dress talkie and the first comedy of his talkie career. The story was provided by Earl Derr Biggers, the author of the Charlie Chan novels, with dialogue by the legendary Booth Tarkington.


Mr. A originally filmed this story in 1922 during the silent era under the title, THE RULING PASSION. That film is apparently lost although there are reports that one or more European archives may hold a print. The talkie version boasts a strong supporting cast including Noah Beery, Tully Marshall, David Manners (the hero in DRACULA 1931), and most happily, Florence Arliss plays Mr. A’s screen wife, and the essential Ivan Simpson is on hand as Mr.A’s ever helpful valet.


TCM is presenting THE MILLIONAIRE as part of its tribute to James Cagney. His appearance is brief but essential to the plot – one of those “small part but key role” type of things. Mr. A was at some pains to find the right young actor to play the part. He wanted someone to project a “take it or leave it” attitude. Cagney came in to be interviewed by Mr. A and immediately impressed him with his “take it or leave it” attitude. As Mr. A later wrote in his memoirs, Cagney’s attitude was “Are you going to hire me or not? Make up your mind and hurry up.” Mr. A decided that the unknown young actor was perfect for the role.

Published in: on November 5, 2019 at 9:53 PM  Comments (1)  

Arliss Alert! Double Feature Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 Beginning at 12:30 PM EDT

Turner Classic Movies US (TCM) is showing TWO George Arliss films this Thursday, Sept. 19, beginning at 12:30 PM eastern daylight time with A SUCCESSFUL CALAMITY (1932). This is the second time TCM is running this film in less than a month!

Then also on Thursday at 3:15 PM is my vote for the best of the Arliss comedies – and the best film to recommend to a first-time Arliss viewer. The film is THE WORKING MAN (1933) that also co-stars a very young Bette Davis.

Published in: on September 17, 2019 at 6:20 PM  Comments (2)  

A Letter from George Arliss – and one from Florence too!

Your blogmeister occasionally has the opportunity to acquire an original letter either handwritten or typed by Mr. A. Throughout his career he apparently answered everybody who wrote to him so there are letters surfacing fairly frequently and from both sides of the “pond.” Recently, we had the benefit of a double-header not only by acquiring a handwritten letter by Mr. A from World War II (what we call his “hidden years” when he was in effect retired), but a letter from Florence Arliss written in her own hand. Mrs. A’s letter is undated but internal references suggest late 1938-early 1939 when they were in the US, specifically Los Angeles.

First, here is Mrs. A’s letter:

“Dear Druce…we have often wondered about you, & where you were… Our permanent address is … London, England. We have been there since 1912. Over a quarter of a century, but we don’t feel it! We came out here as George cannot comfortably write in England, we tried the S. France but didn’t particularly care for it, this place is so much warmer & we know a good many old theatre people here with whom we foregather & play contract, so here we stay till the [?] have left England”

“Our friends say we are going back in time for Hitlers plan again. Well we left our trenches ready at St. Margaret’s-at-Cliffe … so we may crawl into them if need be — it was a most anxious & harrying time, & we are neither of us as young & spry as we were. Are you still interested in animals, I don’t mean the human variety as I feel we are beyond redemption, but the four legged, & feathered & furred varieties. We shall be here till the last of March, then go to N.Y. on our way back. Our affectionate remembrance dear Druce. Flo Arliss”

The “writing” Flo refers to is most likely the second autobiography by Mr. A recounting his film making in Hollywood and London. Letters from him at the time indicate that he thought the book was boring and was having difficulty with it. It was published in 1940, titled MY TEN YEARS IN THE STUDIOS in the US, and GEORGE ARLISS BY HIMSELF in the UK. The book was well-received and was judged every bit as charming as his first volume, UP THE YEARS FROM BLOOMSBURY, published in 1927.

The “trenches” that Flo mentions at St. Margaret’s (near Dover) refers to their cottage and World War I. Sadly, the cottage would be destroyed in 1942 from a direct hit by a German shell. Nobody was in the cottage at the time. Neither George nor Florence would return to the US after this trip although it is believed that US Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz offered them passage to America for the duration of the war. However, the Arlisses declined the offer and braved the brunt of the war in London and nearby surroundings.

Original Technicolor Frame from THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD (1934):

Mr. A’s letter is written to the same person, Mrs. Drusilla Pierce, and is dated January 11, 1943, on his personal stationery.

“Dear Mrs. Pierce, We were very happy to get a word from you with your Christmas card; it is most kind of you to remember us. Flo would write to you herself but her Eyes are now so bad that she can neither read nor write. But she sends you her best love. She is far from well in other ways but I think all her trouble comes from worry about her Eyes. We are looking forward to…”

“…the time when we shall be able to come over and join up with our friends again. Yours always sincerely, Geo Arliss”

Flo’s blindness began in the 1930s but, as Mr. A states in his letter, had totally destroyed her eyesight by the 1940s. He became her main caregiver although they had housekeepers. Between the German bombing raids on London right up to the end of the war in 1945 and Flo’s health issues, this could not have been a happy time for them.

Published in: on September 11, 2019 at 2:03 PM  Comments (1)  

Arliss Alert! A SUCCESSFUL CALAMITY (1932) is being aired in the US on Monday, August 26, 2019, at 12:30 PM EDT on TCM (Turner Classic Movies)


Mr. A’s family comedy, I call it a proto-type of “Father Knows Best,” is being broadcast tomorrow as part of TCM’s salute to Mary Astor. Long before Mary co-starred with Humphrey Bogart or Walter Huston, she played Mr. A’s wife in this May-September relationship. The age difference was not glossed over and, indeed, becomes an important story point as the plot develops.

Mr. A wondered in his autobiography, MY TEN YEARS IN THE STUDIOS, whether A SUCCESSFUL CALAMITY made any money for Warner Bros. but he needn’t have worried. Studio records show that this little film made a tidy profit during the depths of the Great Depression. Get your DVRs ready for this one although your blogmeister is happy to report that Warner Archive has offered this film on DVD for several years now!

Published in: on August 25, 2019 at 11:41 AM  Comments (2)  
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