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

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!

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:

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!

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:

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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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:

rothschild-premiere_zanuck_grauman_final

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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New on DVD! THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD (1932) with Bette Davis

I’m a little late on this but Warner Archive recently issued the sixth official studio DVD release of Classic Arliss. This time it’s Mr. A’s blockbuster, THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD:
Man god Poster

Mr. A arranged for Warner Bros. to hire a young unknown actress named Bette Davis to play the role of his fiancee in the film. This proved to be Bette’s breakthrough film:
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George Arliss plays wealthy concert pianist Montgomery Royale who seems to have it all:
Man God1 copy_Final

Royale is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is injured by a bomb in a terrorist attack (yes, even then). The blast destroys his hearing and he can no longer hear his own music. His life ruined, he becomes so depressed that he attempts suicide:
Man God003

Royale learns lip-reading, which turns out to be a mixed blessing. He goes from believing that God has abandoned him to the realization that he has become God’s instrument to help the less fortunate:
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But through lip-reading he learns that his fiancee loves another man. Royale asks himself, “I wonder what God would do in a case like this?” This strangely inspiring film still moves viewers over 80 years later. A true classic:
Man God004a_Final

Mr A later performed a live radio broadcast of this story that was heard around the world. To hear this historic broadcast, please click on “Radio” in the right hand column, and then click on THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD.
Arliss God

CARDINAL RICHELIEU (1935) – First Time on DVD!

Twentieth Century-Fox has just released on DVD the classic George Arliss costume film, CARDINAL RICHELIEU. This makes the fifth Arliss film to receive an official studio home video release:
DVD Cover Front

These are screen captures of the main titles – quite a line up of talent both in front of and behind the cameras:
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Filming a scene with Maureen O’Sullivan:
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CARDINAL RICHELIEU plays in the Middle East:
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The back cover of the DVD snap case:
DVD Cover Back

For more photos, info, and to hear the radio version of this terrific film, please click on the CARDINAL RICHELIEU link on the right-hand column.

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