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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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:

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.

 

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:

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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George Arliss in Color in 3-D in HD (High Definition)

Whatever our global worries and concerns, living in the second decade of the 21st century has its advantages. The digitizing of motion pictures, to take just one example, has not only made vintage films from 80 to 100 years ago look new, in fact the process has made them look better than new. Of course, professional grade equipment and knowledgeable technicians will require hundreds of thousands of dollars to achieve these startling results. But happily, the consumer electronics market offers a number of user-friendly and affordable software so we ordinary folks – the fans – can achieve good results for our own enjoyment. Personally, I don’t think the home products equal the results obtained by the professionals, but they come close.

Consider the strides made in colorizing black-and-white photos. Ten years ago the resulting process was not especially good but today color transfers have improved to the point where some of the results are startlingly superb. While your blogmeister cannot claim to rank among the kings and queens colorizing, my work product is not disgracefully inferior either. Recently, software to convert standard two-dimensional images (2-D) into three dimensional (3-D) have likewise come a long way. These results are not the “hyper-reality” some of us rememeber from our Viewmaster slides, but they do suggest a bit of depth. Finally, the option to place images into very sharp focus, known as High Definition or simply “HD” is like the icing on the proverbial cake.

Your blogmeister has spent (or misspent) considerable time learning to master these new technologies and, herewith, I present the results for your approval (or otherwise). Actually, there is one more high tech step that you the viewer can take to enhance your viewing experience. And that is to watch the video below by attaching your cell phone to a VR (Virtual Reality) headgear. I can still get by using the old-fashioned “free viewing” method of training my right eye to focus only on the right image and the left eye on the left image. Our brain is tricked into seeing these in 3-D by merging the two images into a third one that gives the illusion of 3-D. I can’t think of a better subject to benefit from our 21st century ways than Mr. George Arliss. I hope you can enjoy the show!

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.

arliss-sign

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:

rothschild-premiere-zanuck_arliss_fells-color-final-2

hollywood-sign

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2016 from Mr. A

Arliss Christmas 1 copy jpg

Published in: on December 11, 2015 at 7:56 PM  Comments (1)  
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