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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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:

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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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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:
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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.

Arliss Alert! DISRAELI is Back!!! TCM on Sunday Feb 16 @ 4:00 AM ET

It’s the start of Academy Award Season so naturally Mr. A’s 1929 Oscar winner is one of the first films honored by Turner Classic Movies (TCM). DISRAELI is not yet available on DVD so be sure to set your tivo, vcr, or whatever you use for time-shifting so you don’t miss it. See George Arliss and the famous Arliss Stock Company including 19th century players such as Florence Arliss, Ivan Simpson, David Torrence, and Charles Evans. Youngsters include a 19 year old Joan Bennett.
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Actor-sculptor Ivan Simpson puts the finishing touches on his bust of Mr. A as Disraeli. Mr. Simpson plays the financier Hugh Myers in the movie:
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The Official 2014 George Arliss Wall Calendar

Get your Official 2014 George Arliss Wall Calendar before supplies run out —
don’t wait until the last minute – or until 2015!

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In the image above, Dudley Digges, who was Mr. A’s stage manger in earlier days, plays the Royal Chamberlain to King Phillip (who else but Mr. A?) in the comedy, THE KING’S VACATION (1933)

Ordering your own Official 2014 George Arliss Wall Calendar is easy – just download and print. This artwork is really the Arliss Archives’ Christmas Gift to the world – you need only provide the printing.

If you prefer a larger size or higher quality than home printers can provide, let me suggest that you copy the calendar to a thumb drive and take it to Kinko’s or a similar digital printing retailer for more options.

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George Arliss in 3D

The current interest in 3D movies has a long history dating back to the 19th century use of stereograms whereby two seemingly identical photos were placed side-by-side. When seen through a viewer, called a Stereoscope, these 2D images sprang to life by blending into one three-dimensional image that was more vivid than life itself. The secret to creating this 3D illusion was to take one of the two “identical” photos from a slightly different perspective than the other, about equal to the distance between our eyes.

The Age of Stereograms spanned the 1880s through the 1920s and offered mainly the sights of far-away places. Celebrity 3D photos were limited to political leaders and important military officers. For whatever reason, neither Broadway nor Hollywood celebrities seemed to have posed for these pictures. However, 21st century computer software can help us render a “simulated 3D” image that suggests what our favorites of yesteryear might have looked like in the third dimension. If you have access to an old Stereoscope or perhaps to a modern version made of cardboard found in books about old stereo cards, then you’re all set to enjoy seeing Mr. A as Shylock as he appeared on the stage in 1928 in Shakespeare’s THE MERCHANT OF VENICE:
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Don’t despair if you lack access to a viewer because you really don’t need one. With a bit of patience you can easily train your eyes in the knack of “free viewing,” where you can see the 3D effect without a viewer. If your Blogmeister can learn it, so can you. It helps at first if you hold your hand or a piece of cardboard in front of your face on edge so your right eye cannot see the picture on the left side and your left eye can’t see the picture on the right. Stare straight ahead as if you are are looking “through” the photos and soon you’ll notice the two photos move towards each other to become one. Try it with this image of Ivan Simpson and Mr. A from DISRAELI (1929):
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I find that smaller size photos work better than larger ones. Also, experiment with moving the images closer or further away from your eyes. A distance between 10 and 12 inches or so usually works but you’ll just have to use trial and error. Once you’ve experienced the 3D effect you will know what to look for and subsequent free viewing will be easy. Here is Ivan Simpson again without his makeup for DISRAELI, but practicing his skill as a sculptor by immortalizing Mr. A as Mr. Disraeli:
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You can enjoy the 3D effect right on your computer screen so there’s no need to print out the images. I’ve even managed to see the 3D effect with these photos on my iphone but I won’t recommend it for beginners. Not every photo is a candidate for 3D. This photo of Mr. A and June Collyer from ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931) works well because it has a clearly defined foreground and background:
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If you’ve gotten this far with seeing the above photos in 3D, then you’re ready for the post-graduate course. Try this exquisite portrait of Mr. A, Loretta Young, and Robert Young from THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD (1934). Not only is the foreground/background clearly distinguished, but the lighting effects seem to suggest a 3D effect as well:
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This photo is from the closing scene of THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD that was originally photographed in color so I took my coloring cues directly from the film itself. I slightly altered the color of the carpet between the two images so you may notice a vivid quality as the colors combine. Florence Arliss, Mr. A, and Reginald Owen:
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Finally, here is a genuine 3D photo that your Blogmeister just made using an ordinary digital camera. The bust was sculpted by Ivan Simpson around 1923 and captures Mr. A as the Rajah of Rukh in THE GREEN GODDESS, a hit play that he made both as a silent film and later in sound in 1929 (release in 1930). Mr. A refers to this bust in the first volume of his memoirs:
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Mr. A on the Air Live in THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD

By 1938, George Arliss had distinguished himself in three very successful careers of the performing arts: on the stage, in silent films, and in sound films winning the Best Actor Academy Award for DISRAELI. Now at the age of 70, which in 1938 was regarded as the equivalent of 80 or even 90, Mr. A decided to tackle live network radio broadcasting. In those years before television, just about everybody listened to the radio and given the effects of the Great Depression, this form of free home entertainment was most popular. Although the U.S. population was smaller then, more people tuned in to a popular broadcast than people today who watch TV. One of the most popular radio shows in the late 1930s was the Lux Radio Theater, hosted by no less a film eminence than Cecil B. DeMille. A typical Monday night broadcast of Lux was heard by 30 million to 50 million people, and that was not counting shortwave broadcasting that was beamed around the world and to all ships at sea.

Performing under these circumstances tended to be more of a nerve-wracking ordeal to younger film actors, but to thespians of Mr. A’s vintage performing before live audiences was business as usual. Even the fact that more people would hear him perform on one broadcast than ever saw him during his half-century career was a mere detail. Please click below to travel back in time to Monday, March 21, 1938, to hear C.B. DeMille, Mr. and Mrs A, Ivan Simpson, and Dolores Costello in the radio adaptation of Mr. A’s Warner Bros. hit film of 1932, THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD:

While we’re listening, let’s check out some photos and artwork from the movie version. An unknown Bette Davis played the feminine lead, Grace, solely on Mr. A’s recommendation. It proved to be her breakout film and the public wanted to see more Bette Davis in movies:

On radio the role of Grace was played by Dolores Costello who ironically had been a big star at Warners before either Mr. A or Bette Davis arrived at the studio. Dolores was married to John Barrymore for a few years (they are shown below in WHEN A MAN LOVES from 1927) and by 1938 she was restarting her career. Today Ms. Costello is known mainly as the paternal grandmother of Drew Barrymore:

THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD tells the story of wealthy concert pianist Montgomery Royle who, at the age of 50, is at the pinnacle of his career. Monty also has a beautiful young protege Grace, who convinces Royle to marry her in six months:

But while he is in Paris, Monty gives an impromptu recital for a visiting monarch that abruptly ends in an assassination attempt against the king. No one is injured except Royle – the bomb blast has destroyed his hearing:

Violet Heming, Bette Davis, Mr. A, Louise Closser Hale, and Andre Luguet as the king

Back in New York City, Monty learns lipreading but becomes increasingly despondent and despises the piano. His longtime servant, Battle (played by longtime Arliss player Ivan Simpson in both the movie and radio broadcast), senses that Royle may attempt to harm himself:

Monty’s sister Florence (played in the film by Louise Closser Hale) is unable to console him or deal with his increasing outbursts:

Sending Battle out of the room on a pretext, Monty attempts to leap to his death:

Monty tries out his lipreading abilities with a pair of binoculars, and “eavesdrops” on the people across the street in Central Park. He cynically observes a young man’s plight of lacking a $1,000 for a medical treatment that would save his life. Since God doesn’t seem to want to help the young man, Royle decides that he will by anonymously sending Battle down to give him the needed money. But Monty soon realizes that God may be having the last laugh because without his affliction, Monty would not have been in a position to save the man’s life.

An original color lobby card from the lost 1922 version that Mr. A made during the silent film era:

This sudden burst of cynical philanthropy soon develops into a “business” as Royle searches for new “customers” in need so that he can continue to “play God.” But one day he spys his fiance Grace in the park telling a young man that she feels duty-bound to go through with her marriage to Royle and so they must never see each other again. Monty is stunned and quietly asks himself, “I wonder what God would do in a case like this.”

The story’s resolution is both touching and believable as Royle learns that it’s not so easy to behave like God. Having abandoned performing because he can no longer enjoy the music, he decides to play again because other people can enjoy it, including The King:

Montgomery Royle rages against God – a glass slide from the 1922 silent version:

Poster art for the 1932 talkie version:

A night out at the local movie house:

Jack Benny Spoof of THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD – 1934 Live!

A sure sign of a film’s popularity is when comedians start spoofing it. Jack Benny devoted many of his weekly radio broadcasts to satirizing hit films right from his earliest shows in 1932. Among the films to get the Benny treatment were I AM A FUGITIVE FROM THE CHAIN GANG, Mae West’s SHE DONE HIM WRONG, which Benny turned into “She Done Him Right,” LITTLE WOMEN recast as “Miniature Women,” and even the Charlie Chan films became “Charlie Chan in Radio City.”

One hot summer night long ago in August 1934, the Benny troupe (Mary Livingstone, announcer Don Wilson, Sam Hearn and singer Frank Parker) were broadcasting from New York City and tackled Mr. A’s hit film of the season, THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD. Renamed “The House of Rawchild” for reasons never made clear, the skit is more corny than clever but Jack Benny’s trademark dry humor is well in evidence. At that time, recordings of live radio broadcasts were not usually made and this is why few shows from that era have survived. Fortunately, Jack Benny arranged with a private company to record this AM transmission off the air on to discs lasting about five minutes each. The side joins of each disc lost a bit of dialogue and static noise from the AM reception also can be heard. We have restored the sound by minimizing the surface noise from the discs as much as possible and improving the tonal quality somewhat, but allowances should be made considering that this broadcast should not even exist under the circumstances. Due to the sound quality, we have omitted Jack’s opening routine where he relates his trip to Atlantic City to cool off in those pre-air-conditioner days.

That said, just click on the arrow below and return to Friday night, August 24, 1934, just past 10:30 pm eastern time for apparently the only known spoof of a George Arliss film:

Jack Benny as he appeared at the time of this broadcast:

Jack Benny zeroed in on the family patriarch, Meyer Rothschild, for most of the humor. This is the first time that the following images have been published here on the Arliss Archives. Mr. A and Helen Westley in the film’s prologue where they raise their five sons in the Frankfurt ghetto:

Benny spoofs the “death bed” scene where Meyer instructs his sons to settle in various capitals of the world to establish their financial network:

Boris Karloff is mentioned by Benny but his character is not represented in the spoof:

Note the hat that Karloff is holding – about five years ago that hat was offered through an online auction with bidding starting at $50. The winning bid was $450 and, alas, it was not by the Arliss Archives.

THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD was the new studio’s flagship production to show that after one year’s existence the company was firmly established and growing – an impressive accomplishment considering that other major studios such as Paramount had gone into bankruptcy due to the Depression’s effect on movie attendance. That’s Darryl Zanuck on the left:

A closeup of the signatures that span all the Hollywood studios of that time. Can you spot autographs by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable, Delores Del Rio, Cary Grant, Ann Harding, Ronald Colman, Loretta Young – hey, she was in the film!

Mr. A’s Final Performance – World War II Radio Address

As far as we can determine, Mr. A’s final professional appearance was in a brief radio address urging his fellow citizens in Britain to volunteer to assist the war effort near the beginning of World War II. The address was presumably broadcast over the BBC, and judging from some references by Mr. A, it was made at some point between September 1939 when hostilities between Britain and Germany were declared, and prior to May 1940 when the bombing began. This period of the Second World War has been dubbed “the twilight war” or “the phony war” because although war had been declared, there were no clashes between the two countries. This calm before the storm ended with the Battle of Britain in May 1940.

An autographed photo of Mr. A taken at about the same time as his war address, circa 1940:

Please click on the arrow below to hear George Arliss’s appeal for the war effort:

Despite the war, in May 1940 Mr. A’s second volume of autobiography was published on both sides of the Atlantic. Here is the original dust jacket with color enhancement. Notice that it was not necessary to identify the author on the cover. In the UK, this delightful volume was called GEORGE ARLISS BY HIMSELF:

Since we’re in a military frame of mind, at right below is Mr. A in military uniform for THE KING’S VACATION (1933), and at left is a recent photo of the same tunic on auction. The fate of movie costumes is one of the more neglected areas of film study:

Here are more new images that have never been posted before on the Arliss Archives. First, an original color lobby card from THE LAST GENTLEMAN (1934). Left to right are Janet Beecher, Edna May Oliver, Mr. A, and Ralph Morgan:

The following two images are original color photos (we don’t know the process used) that document Mr. A’s one-year run in London starring in THE GREEN GODDESS from September 1923 to September 1924. In this photo the lady in distress is Isobel Elsom:

The cover of a British movie magazine that novelized current films and was illustrated with photos, here from THE WORKING MAN (1933). Apparently, these novelizations were based on the shooting scripts instead of the films themselves, and sharp eyed readers can spot scenes in the novel that were cut from the finished film:

Mr. A spent the winter months in California making films throughout much of the 1930s. He returned to his native Britain in the Spring of each year. This photo, circa 1929, shows his renting a western style home. Note Mr. A’s autograph near the bottom:

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