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)  

The King’s Speech: An Immediate Look at the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935

With all the attention given to the Royal Wedding just a couple of weeks ago, I happened to find a 78 rpm record (12-inch) of King George V’s Silver Jubilee celebration on May 6, 1935 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. HRM was being celebrated for his 25 years as the British monarch and I like to think that George Arliss was present somewhere in the cathedral. We know that Mr. A was present at the coronation of George VI in 1937.

His majesty’s wife was Queen Mary and they were the grandparents of the current Queen Elizabeth II. Alas, George V died the following January 1936 at the age of 70. The record is in mint condition and the label states that the proceeds from its sale go to charity. The King makes a speech on side B of the record and seems to hint at the coming second world war, which was only four years away.

 

Published in: on June 5, 2018 at 9:40 PM  Leave a Comment  

Morphing the Many Moods of George Arliss

Can you identify the characters that Mr. A is playing in these images? The list appears at the end:

A Video Celebration of the 150th Birthday Celebration for George Arliss: April 10, 1868 – April 10, 2018

Published in: on May 10, 2018 at 7:40 PM  Comments (2)  

You Did It! Thanks to Your Support Our Kickstarter Project to Fund Maintenance of the George Arliss Grave Successfully Met Its Goal!

Congratulations and a heartfelt Thank You to our backers! We have met our goal to provide funding for the ongoing maintenance of the Arliss gravesite over the years ahead. Now the fun part – I will start mailing to our backers our premium Thank You gift of eight unique oversized George Arliss Trading Cards in full color. I call them unique because I designed them and had them printed at my own expense.

As you may know, two years ago we managed to secure funding from a corporate donor to restore the terribly neglected grave of George Arliss and his wife Florence outside of London. Now Phase Two has been successfully completed to fund annual maintenance expenses to keep the grave site from falling back into disrepair.

Arliss Trading Cards

Thanks again – we couldn’t have done this without you!

Published in: on April 2, 2018 at 3:35 PM  Leave a Comment  

BBC News Radio 4 Salutes George Arliss

On the morning of February 28, 2018,London commuters enjoyed a rare treat as they listened to the BBC News Radio 4 broadcasting a wonderful tribute to George Arliss. The occasion was the Sunday, March 4 telecast of the 90th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles where Gary Oldham is widely viewed as the likely winner of the Best Actor Award for playing Winston Churchill in DARKEST HOUR. If so, then Oldham would become only the second British actor to win the Oscar for playing a prime minister. The first, of course, is George Arliss for DISRAELI in 1929.

Listen to the four-minute BBC appreciation with comments by a number of observers including your blogmeister:

Published in: on February 28, 2018 at 7:45 PM  Leave a Comment  

Arliss Alert! TCM shows DISRAELI (1929) and ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931) on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 @ 8 AM and Noon Eastern time

Arliss Alert! DISRAELI (1929) and ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931) on TCM January 2 @ 8 AM and Noon Eastern time:

Turner Classic Films gets 2018 off to a good start by showing two of George Arliss’ best films on Tuesday, January 2nd. First at 8 AM eastern time is Mr.A’s Academy Award-winning performance in DISRAELI (1929) with Joan Bennett, Florence Arliss, David Torrence, Ivan Simpson, Doris Lloyd, and Anthony Bushell. The plot: British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli wants to buy the strategic Suez Canal but his government won’t fund it. Since he had no Trump to ask for help he asks the Rothschilds.

Next at Noon on 1/2/18 is ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931) which uses the same story as the recent Broadway musical. The film has Doris Kenyon, June Collier, Montagu Love (as Jefferson) and Alan Mowbray (as Washington). The plot: Hamilton as the first U.S.Treasury Secretary seeks to establish a uniform national currency and a central banking system. When his adversaries see him nearing success they destroy his reputation by a sex scandal.

Published in: on December 29, 2017 at 8:31 AM  Comments (2)  

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) – A Review of Mr. A’s Final Film

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!

Published in: on July 10, 2017 at 10:04 PM  Comments (1)  
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