Arliss Alert! VOLTAIRE (1933) to air on TCM (US) on July 12 at 4:45 PM EDT


For US viewers, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will air Mr. A’s hit biopic VOLTAIRE on Thursday, July 12, as part of the channel’s celebration leading up to Bastille Day on the 14th. This terrific film will be shown at 4:45 PM eastern daylight time. VOLTAIRE had been a story that Mr. A had wanted to play since 1919 but was never able to find sufficient financial support for it. Perhaps producers feared that the subject was too “high brow” for movie-goers. But to Warner Bros.’s credit, the studio decided to move forward with project. They need not have worried – Mr. A turned in a canny and hilarious performance as the French philosopher and wit – proving again the historical biographies could be very humorous and very profitable, at least in Mr. A’s hands.

VOLTAIRE provided Mr. A with his most unique character unlike his other historical roles where he plays great gentlemen. His Voltaire is a scamp who gets himself in trouble with the king and faces imprisonment. Mr. A is supported by a great cast including Doris Kenyon, Alan Mowbray, Reginald Owen, and the members of the “Arliss stock company,” Ivan Simpson, Doris Lloyd, Murray Kinnell, among other familiar faces.

Don’t miss it!

Now on DVD! George Arliss in ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931)

Perhaps inspired by the mammoth hit musical HAMILTON, Warner Archive recently announced the DVD release of Mr. A’s stage and screen success, ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931). It is interesting to note that the hip-hop musical used the same plot as the Arliss historical drama. Co-written by Mr. A and Mary Hamlin, a then-amateur playwright – they would both claim that the other did most of the writing – the play debuted in 1917 during the time of America’s entry into World War I. Later in 1931, Warner Bros. decided to film it although Mr. A said that he did not push the idea because it was too self-serving. In any event today, Independence Day aka the 4th of July in the states, seems to be the perfect time to announce this news:

This is also a good opportunity to post some original color lobby cards from the film:

Doris Kenyon played Hamilton’s wife, Betsy. She had retired following the sudden death of her husband, actor Milton Sills, in September 1930. But Mr. A encouraged her to return to work and offered her the role. They had appeared together in silent films a decade earlier:

Dudlely Digges had been Mr. A’s stage manager for many years before becoming an actor. Mr. A invited him to repeat his stage role as the villain:

Sweet June Collyer stepped out of her familiar screen persona to play the seductive Mrs. Reynolds who lures Hamilton into a trap that threatens to ruin his reputation and his career:

Lionel Belmore plays Hamilton’s father-in-law, General Schuyler. Hard to believe but Mr. A is only a year younger than Mr. Belmore!

When it was learned that this unknown actor’s wife lay dying in a local hospital, he was allowed to leave the studio. But he refused saying that he needed the money. After filming this scene, a studio car drove him directly to the hospital:

Alan Mowbray played George Washington but was almost unrecognizable under the makeup. However, his distinctive voice made him easily recognized:

Finally, your blogmeister can’t resist the temptation to post this Photoshopped picture of himself shaking hands with the great Mr. A:

Published in: on July 4, 2018 at 2:54 PM  Comments (6)  

BFI Posts a “New” George Arliss Film! IMPRESSIONS OF DISRAELI (1931) Speeches

The British Film Institute has posted this one-reel sound film of George Arliss delivering speeches by Benjamin Disraeli. This film, his first made in Britain, has likely not been seen since 1931 and is comprised of original material that Mr. A never performed before or since. He is introduced by Tory leader Stanley Baldwin, who himself served as Britain’s prime minister on three occasions between 1923 and 1937.

 

EAST MEETS WEST (1936) – A Surprisingly Rare Film these Days!

We understand that a pristine 35mm print of EAST MEETS WEST is held by the British Film Institute. Unfortunately for us, the only source material in circulation at the moment is derived from an old VHS tape, but as they say, ’tis better than nothing:

EAST MEETS WEST is Mr. A’s third British-made film that was produced in London from January to April 1936. Its production was halted for Mr. A to attend the funeral of King George V in January. A humorous tale of international intrigue, Mr. A seems to be channeling his Rajah of Rukh from THE GREEN GODDESS, although his Sultan here is whimsical, not lecherous.

Cover of Press Book for EAST MEETS WEST:

Full Page Woodcut Design from Press Book:

Press Book Pages showing advertising materials available to theaters:

Mr. A’s brother, Fred Andrews, was in the British diplomatic corps and was hired by the studio as a technical advisor for the film:

The film had a strong supporting cast including (left to right) Norma Varden, Ballard Berkekley (later of “Faulty Towers” fame), Mr. A of course, and Godfrey Tearle:

In the center Godfrey Tearle and Lucie Mannheim:

DR. SYN (1937) – The Complete Film in a Fine Print

DR. SYN is the final British film and the last film made by Mr. A – we prefer to think of it as Mr. A’s most recent film. Indeed, it is among his best. The reviewer for the New York Times praised it by saying the he found it superior to the MGM blockbuster TREASURE ISLAND (1934), a film with a similar story involving smuggling in the late 18th century.

The chief thing your blogmeister noticed about this particular Arliss film is that Mr. A heads an ensemble cast rather than carrying the entire story on his back as he had with so many of his earlier films. He had little to say in his memoirs about making Dr. SYN other than noting that the story took place in his beloved Kent. He said it had no “plus value,” that is, an element that people would think about after the movie was over. Mr. A singled out for praise the director, Roy William Neill, who would later work in Hollywood directing a number of the Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Mr. A also praised producer Edward Black much more enthusiastically than the faint praise he gave Michael Balcon, the producer of his previous four UK films.

The London premiere of DR. SYN was graced by no less a person than Queen Mary herself. Margaret Lockwood recalled in her memoirs how nervous she was as she was waited for Her Royal Majesty with co-stars Mr. A and John Loder.

George Arliss made a grand total of eighteen sound feature films from 1929 to 1937, an enormous output (plus an elusive short UK film he made in 1931 where he recites Disraeli’s speeches), and another six silent films from 1921 to 1924. Whereas Mr. A’s hit plays ran between two and five years, his most successful films would run in movie theaters for only a week or two. Had Mr. A’s movies ran on the average as long as his plays before he appeared in a new one, it would have taken him over forty years to complete his eighteen films!

At any rate, enjoy Mr. A in DR SYN:

Published in: on July 10, 2017 at 10:04 PM  Comments (1)  
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Arliss Alert! OLD ENGLISH (1930) Thurs Dec 15 @ 6:30 PM EST

TCM is running Mr. A’s great stage hit OLD ENGLISH, written by John Galsworthy, this Thursday, December 15, 2016, at 6:30 PM EST. Admittedly an odd story, Mr. A is memorable as Old Heythorp, an octogenerian who plans his own special exit from this world, outsmarting his adversaries in the process.
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This film was almost not made because Galsworthy refused to sell the film rights to his plays and novels. But Warner Bros. was persistent and Galsworthy finally agreed but with one important stipulation: George Arliss must have total control of the production. Any changes, additions or deletions to the script had to be personally approved by Mr. A. This condition was fine with Warners since Mr. A already had two successful talkies to his credit with DISRAELI and THE GREEN GODDESS.
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Arliss “regulars” in the cast included Doris Lloyd…
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…and of course Ivan Simpson:
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A page from the souvenir program:
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More pages:
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This is a rare showing so don’t miss it!
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Published in: on December 12, 2016 at 8:57 PM  Comments (2)  

THE IRON DUKE (1934) – Mr. A’s First UK Film


Britain regarded her native son as “an American actor” because all of his successes in the theater and films were based in America. But motion pictures made him an international star and Mr. A increasingly received offers from British film companies. He initially balked at such offers because he felt that the early English sound films were technologically inferior to their American counterparts. With the success Alexander Korda’s THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII in 1933, the British film industry assumed its rightful place next to Hollywood. Mr. A signed with the venerable Gaumont-British Pictures in Shepherds Bush, London. Since he somewhat specialized in portraying historical figures, it was mutually agreed that his first UK film would cast him as the Duke of Wellington.

Gladys Cooper and Mr. A in an IRON DUKE original color lobby card:
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The film did not ignore Wellington’s reputation with women:
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Mr. A takes a lunch break on an adjoining set with cast members:
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Mr. A and friends enjoy a private screening of THE IRON DUKE:
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Now you can enjoy a private screening of your own! I suspect that a pristine 35mm print exists at the British Film Institute so let’s hope that one day it receives a DVD/Blu-ray release.

Published in: on November 4, 2016 at 7:23 PM  Comments (2)  

Gala Hollywood Premiere for THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD – March 14, 1934

Grauman’s Chinese Theater was the place to be on the night of March 14, 1934. The occasion was the Grand Premiere of THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD and the Hollywood celebrities of the day turned out. Studios moguls Darryl Zanuck, Louis B. Mayer, Sam Goldwyn, and even old Carl Laemmele of Universal Pictures were among those attending. Lots of movie stars too, some of whom I can’t quite identify but maybe you can. They are treated like royalty regardless.

Of course, the center of attention was the film’s star – George Arliss. Here is Mr. A being flanked by Darryl Zanuck on the left and Sid Grauman on the right. The color is by Moi:

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The scenes you are about to see is “raw” footage and in some cases catch the same action from two different camera angles. There is no sound but you can clearly see attendees speaking into a microphone, strongly suggesting a live radio broadcast. The white-haired gentleman who seems to be the radio host is veteran actor Lawrence Grant, who was apparently “moonlighting” when he wasn’t making films. Mr. A gives him a big handshake. I have added captions to note various individuals that I could recognize. I added a music track starting with the opening music of the film itself.

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A conceit of your blogmeister: through the magic of Photoshop I am taking the place of Sid Grauman in the photo from above. A little bit of time travel:

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Arliss Alert! THE KING’S VACATION (1933) Tuesday, Sept. 27 on TCM at 6:30 AM EDT

Arliss Alert! THE KING’S VACATION (1933)
– starring George Arliss, Patricia Ellis, Dick Powell, Florence Arliss, Marjorie Gateson and Dudley Digges.

TCM (US) Tuesday, September 27 @ 6:30 AM EDT
An Ernest Paschal story written especially for Mr. A showing that you can’t go home again, or can you?

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Published in: on September 23, 2016 at 8:29 PM  Comments (2)  

Arliss Alert! – ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931) on TCM (US) Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 8:30 AM EDT

ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931) – George Arliss, Doris Kenyon, Montagu Love, June Collyer, Dudley Digges, Lionel Bellmore.

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has nicely timed this showing to coincide with the current hit Broadway musical, HAMILTON that is rapidly collecting every award known to humanity. But Mr. A covered this territory a century ago (1917) in his Broadway hit (co-authored with Mary Hamlin) also called HAMILTON. The film’s title was lengthened to ALEXANDER HAMILTON. This film is not shown very often so don’t miss it!

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ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931)

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Published in: on June 7, 2016 at 12:41 PM  Comments (1)  
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