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)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

THE RULING PASSION – A Review of Mr. A’s 1922 Silent Film Comedy

Typically listed as a “lost” film, Mr. A’s 1922 silent film comedy, THE RULING PASSION, may exist after all. Hope is kindled by news that one or more foreign film archives may own a print. These include the Russian Gosfilmofond, the Cinémathèque Française, and the Belgian CINEMATEK. Also on your blogmeister’s “hopeful list” is the Dutch EYE Film Institute that has led the way by posting so many of its vintage holdings online.

THE RULING PASSION was based on a short story by Earl Derr Biggers, who later became famous as the creator of the “Charlie Chan” novels. Mr. A plays John Alden, an automobile tycoon who is forced into retirement by his doctor’s orders. Bored, he decides to invest in a business deal – a gas station – in partnership with a young man, Bill Merrick. Of course, Alden uses an alias so his young partner doesn’t know his colleague is practically Henry Ford. Alden and Merrick are swindled in the sale by the seller, Peterson, who competes against them with his new gas station.

Complications develop when Alden’s daughter, Angie, drives in and discovers her father pumping gas. She and Merrick meet and romance blossoms. Angie agrees to keep her Dad’s secret life from her mother but Mrs. Alden eventually stops by for a fill-up and discovers the truth. Alden and Merrick plan a successful marketing campaign, taking so much business away from their rival that Peterson offers to buy them out at a huge profit on their original purchase.

Bill asks Angie to marry him and he goes to her home seeking her father’s permission, unaware that his partner is Angie’s father. The ruse is happily revealed and Alden’s doctor has to admit that the adventure was healthful for Alden who can now return to work again.

The film had its New York City premiere on January 22, 1922, and received mostly excellent reviews. Released through United Artists, THE RULING PASSION was independently produced through a company, Distinctive Pictures, that was formed specifically to make George Arliss films. PASSION became the third Arliss film, following THE DEVIL (1920) and DISRAELI (1921). The success of the earlier two led to making the third, which in turn led to three more films being made.

A trade press story of the day:

Another story for the exhibitors:

Box Office tells the tale:

Doris Kenyon plays the role of Mr. A’s daughter, Angie. A popular screen actress she would play Mr. A’s wife nine years later in ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931):

While THE RULING PASSION is still considered among the missing Arliss films, we are fortunate that he decided to remake the story as a talkie in 1931 renamed THE MILLIONAIRE. However, lettering on studio photos indicate that the talkie version’s working title continued to be THE RULING PASSION.

An original color half-sheet (22×28 inches) for THE RULING PASSION:

Happy 151st Birthday, Mr. A!

Last year on April 10 was the 150th anniversary of George Arliss’s Birth. I created a video to mark the occasion so in case you missed it, here it is!

Published in: on April 9, 2019 at 10:31 PM  Comments (2)  

A Costume from THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD (1934)

The Arliss Archives recently acquired a unique item: one of the costumes worn by Mr. A as Nathan Rothschild in his blockbuster, THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD (1934). The ensemble consists of trousers and a vest. Alas, the jacket is missing but the acquisition is exciting nevertheless.

Arliss Rothschild Costume 1_edited-1This is how the costume was displayed by the auction house. Based on the length of the trousers or breeches it confirms that Mr. A seems to have been about 5’8″.

Arliss Rothschild Costume 2The costume company tag in the lining of the trousers.

Arliss Rothschild Costume 3A rear view that moviegoers would have never seen.

Rothschild Costume SetThe Costume arrives at the Arliss Archives

Rothschild pants_edited-1The waistline is enlarged to accommodate the padding that Mr. A wore to suggest the historical Nathan’s corpulence.

Rothschild Vest_edited-1The vest was likewise let out around the waist to suggest Nathan’s girth. The small diamond pattern led me to search our collection of 8×10 ROTHSCHILD photos to match the scene(s) the costume was worn in.

Arliss Rothschild Cut Scene

By enlarging the stills to see the pattern on the vests I became aware of how many costume changes that Mr. A had in the various scenes. I found vests with large diamond patterns but I almost despaired of finding an exact match until I found this photo showing a scene that was cut from the film.

Arliss Rothschild Cut Sc001 vest

This enlargement of the photo above provides an exact match with our vest. This level of detail is impressive considering that none of these design patterns would have been visible to audiences even when watching on the “big screen” in 35mm.

Arliss Rothschild Cut Sc001 ed

A close-up of the ensemble including the now-missing jacket.

Costume from ROTHSCHILD 1

Happily, I found a photo from the climatic scene where Rothschild receives news of the Battle of Waterloo. Our costume is beautifully viewed here.

Costume from ROTHSCHILD CU

Our vest in close-up!

Arliss Star on Walk of Fame LA

Mr. A’s Star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.

 

Get Your 2019 George Arliss Calendar!

As we close out another year it’s time to unveil our new GA calendar to carry us through the New Year. I’m frequently asked, “How can I get one?” That’s easy enough – simply print it out for a nice 8.5 x 11-inch image. If you prefer something larger, just take the file to your nearest copying store and they can handle that. Enjoy and may you have good health and many blessings in 2019!

Published in: on December 31, 2018 at 2:15 PM  Leave a Comment  

Arliss Alert! THE KING’S VACATION (1933) on TCM Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018 @ 5:15 PM ET

The people of a country rise up to oust their leader and he goes into exile. This may sound a little like today’s news but actually it’s the plot of THE KING’S VACATION, which is being shown by Turner Classic Movies (US) this Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 5:15 PM eastern time.


One of the most charming films that Mr. A ever made, the story has the distinction of being the only one that Warner Bros. specifically commissioned for George Arliss. His nine other Warners films were either based on his stage successes or were remakes of his silent films.

GA with Dudley Digges, who was once Mr. A’s stage manager:

Ernest Pascal provided the story and spent time with Mr. A at St. Margaret’s Bay near Dover working on it. Later, Mr. A wrote that he was happy to find that much of the charm of St. Margaret’s was reflected in the film. A humorous and poignant story, Mr. A plays a reluctant king who years earlier was forced into a marriage of state and whose marriage at the time was annulled.

GA with O.P. Heggie. Notice the microphone above Mr. A’s head:
The jacket today:

Abdicating in the face of revolution, the king tries to pick up where he left off 20 years earlier with his former wife and his now-grown daughter. An adult story in the true sense of the term, THE KING’S VACATION deserves to be much better known so please grab this opportunity to see it or record it. You won’t be disappointed!

Published in: on December 2, 2018 at 2:39 PM  Comments (2)  

ARLISS Alert! THE MILLIONAIRE (1931) on TCM Monday, October 15, 2018 at 6:30 PM ET

ARLISS Alert! TCM is showing THE MILLIONAIRE (1931) on Monday, October 15 at 6:30 PM ET. This comedy stars George and Florence Arliss, Ivan Simpson, Evalyn Knapp, and a very young James Cagney in a scene-stealing appearance!

Published in: on October 12, 2018 at 11:40 AM  Comments (2)  
%d bloggers like this: