Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nancy Nash

I have contributed three posts where I challenged visitors to identify a "mystery guest". Each actress was identified within a few days - proof of a very knowledgeable readership. Today's post introduces Nancy Nash, whose scanned image from one of our postcards is presented below.

Aside from the card and one image I found on the web, I can find absolutely no information except for the filmography listed on IMDB. It seems that Nancy appeared first in 1926 in Fox's The City, playing the lead. In 1927 she was the lead in two more Fox features, Upstream, directed by John Ford, and Rich But Honest. That same year saw her as the second female lead after Dolores Del Rio in The Loves of Carmen, directed by Raoul Walsh. Nancy next appeared in 1928 in a western, The Ballyhoo Buster. Her final two appearances are as an uncredited Goldwyn Girl in the Eddie Cantor vehicles, Palmy Days (1931) and The Kid From Spain (1932).

What happened? Three lead roles, two second tier roles and finally an uncredited show girl. I have looked all over the web, in magazines from the period, the NYT archives, and in books on silents, and I can't even find out when or where she was born. So, perhaps someone out there can help provide additional information. The fact that I have the postcard shows that Fox put some publicity effort behind her, but it sure didn't seem to survive.

Click in the images for a larger view.

Postcard from 1926-1928

Publicity still

Nancy Nash - What do you think - Allure?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Movies About Movies Blog-a-thon

The Falcon In Hollywood (1944)

This post is my contribution to Goatdog's Blog-a-thon, Movies about Movies. Be sure to click on the Movies about Movies banner above to be taken to the Movies about Movies page where you can jump to all the great posts from other contributors. Since this blog is usually about actresses of the twenties and thirties, I hold to that premise to the degree that in addition to information about the film, I am featuring the two principal actresses, Veda Ann Borg and Barbara Hale. They are really "forties women", just check the hair styles, but when I received an invitation to participate in this Blog-a-thon, The Falcon in Hollywood was the first movie that came to mind, and that was because I remember so enjoying Veda Ann Borg's performance.

Before we look at The Falcon In Hollywood, just a bit about the origin of the Falcon. Depending on who is narrating the Falcon's history, he was either Michael Waring, created and novelized by Drexel Drake in 1936, or he was Gay Stanhope Falcon, created by Michael Arlen in a 1940 short story. Both authors created a crime fighter who worked without the involvement of the police. On film, he followed the appearance of similar characters The Saint in 1938, and Boston Blackie, who first appeared in silent's as early as 1919.

The Falcon in Hollywood was the tenth film in the series that was first brought to the screen in a 1941 RKO film, The Gay Falcon. Initially the role was played by George Sanders (who had previously played The Saint) in the lead, and then by Sanders' real-life brother, Tom Conway, who took over the role in The Falcon's Brother (1942).

Click in the images for a larger view.

Tom Conway doesn't scowl nearly to the degree pictured here.
Usually he keeps that debonair Falcon-like countenance.

Veda removes that cap once throughout the entire film and then for only a few seconds.

The Falcon in Hollywood was filmed on the RKO back lot and studios, using the same stages where Fred and Ginger danced 10 years earlier and Fred and Ethel harassed each other 10 years later when Desilu used the studio for a time to shoot I Love Lucy. However, when the Falcon hails a cab to follow a car to return a mistakenly or purposely misplaced handbag, he is picked up by cabbie Billie (Veda Ann Borg). During a somewhat hair raising ride, she reveals she is also a movie studio stunt driver, a lucky coincidence since the car they are following pulls into Sunset Studios, a studio Billie tells the Falcon she knows like the back of her hand. Indeed she becomes his sidekick for the balance of the film and when the Falcon discovers a dead body of the lead actor of a film currently filming, they both start sleuthing. I am not about spoilers, so I won't give away any more of the plot, but suffice to say, all the usual suspects are present. There is a good send-up of the temperamental and demeaning type European director, a playboy, a producer quoting Shakespeare, a gangster played by Sheldon Leonard, and an actress hopeful who believes all the studio mishaps can be predicted through numerology. We also get to see a gaggle of starlet types walking through the back lot at all times, and at the RKO swimming pool. I would like to have seen more of the studio's inner workings, but after all this is a mystery, not a tour of a studio. That being said, we do see a few scenes being shot, with full crew and equipment on hand.

You may find Veda's performance a bit over the top as the wise-cracking, man aware, and sassy Billie. I personally think it was what kept the film moving, recognizing the fact that it was another B-programmer mystery. And I must say I think all the performances were credible.

This film and most of the films in the Falcon series do appear on TCM from time to time. I hope you get a chance to see this unpretentious programmer that provides a few laughs, a nicely turned set of characters and of course, my favorite in this film, Veda Ann Borg.

Veda is not at all happy the The Falcon received a kiss from Rita Corday

Frame captures from The Falcon in Hollywood

Veda Ann Borg
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Veda Ann Borg became a model in 1936 before signing a contract at Paramount. She made only one picture at Paramount and then moved over to Warner Brothers. Veda appeared in 16 films for Warner's, including a pivotal role in San Quentin (1937). That year she also appeared, not in the role of Della Street, in The Case of The Stuttering Bishop, a Perry Mason mystery, pre-dating Barbara Hale's involvement with Perry by twenty years. In 1939 she went to Columbia and it was that year she was nearly killed in a serious automobile accident. Veda had her face completely reconstructed through plastic surgery, and she took on a more chiseled look that served her well for the tough, sassy dame roles that defined her career. B pictures were Veda's lot, but she did land small roles in A-films, such as Mildred Pierce (1945) Guys and Dolls (1955). Her last appearance was in The Alamo (1960) after a career in over 100 films. Her son Josh McLaglen and daughter Mary McLaglen are both very active in film direction and production. Veda is quoted as saying "I felt I had come back from the grave." (On her first major role after plastic surgery). Veda died in 1973 in Hollywood .

Veda in 1937 - during the filming of San Quentin

Frame captures from San Quentin

Publicity still from Blonde Savage (1947)

Publicity still

Barbara Hale
Barbara Hale was born in DeKalb, Illinois, in 1922. She started to take lessons in ballet and tap at the age of twelve and also started to participate in local theater. Barbara also discovered her natural artistic ability and enrolled in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. She found making a living as an artist no easy road, but coincidentally met the head of a Chicago Modeling agency, who her sent photos to RKO Studios. An audition was arranged and shortly after that, Barbara signed a contract and went off to Hollywood.

Barbara's first significant role was in Higher and Higher (1943) opposite Frank Sinatra. Throughout the forties and early fifties Barbara was in a number of films including First Yank Into Tokyo (1945), the westerns West of the Pecos opposite Robert Mitchum (1945), Lone Hand (1951) and Last of the Commanches (1952). She worked with Robert Young in Lady Luck (1946), and with James Stewart in The Jackpot (1950). And... in 1957 she landed the role of Della Street in the Perry Mason series with Raymond Burr. It ran from 1957 to 1966 and she was nominated for an Emmy twice, in 1959 and 1961, winning in 1959. She continued the role in television movies and mini-series. Barbara has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She currently resides in Palm Desert, California and Los Angeles, California.

Publicity still from Higher and Higher.

Barbara and Robert Young in Lady Luck

Publicity still

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Frances Lee

Frances Lee was born Myrna Tibbetts in Iowa in 1906. Schooling in dance ultimately led her to Broadway, where she became a Ziegfeld Follies performer in 1923. Ziegfeld liked her and gave her a solo spot in the show as a toe dancer. She was then spotted by a talent scout from Al Christie Comedies and offered a contract. Frances became the top female lead at Christie Comedies, making over three dozen two-reelers with Bobby Vernon. The comedies were screened coast to coast. Al Christie claimed, "Christie comedies are bound for a highway of laughs across America." Virtually all of these films are lost or unavailable.

An outgoing personality, Frances was often a guest at the home of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, and developed a close relationship with Rudolph Valentino. In 1927, she had roles in five films, including the comedy Tie That Bull and the western Good As Gold opposite Buck Jones. Frances was also named a 1927 WAMPAS Baby Star.

1928 saw her in nine films, including the popular Sweeties with Bobby Vernon. Frances sang in Warner Brothers 1929 The Show of Shows, and that year married Alexander Bennett, brother to actress Enid Bennett. Their wedding was attended by Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, Rod La Rocque and John Gilbert among others.

Her first real talkie was Down with Husbands (1930), followed by The Stronger Sex, both again comedy shorts. She auditioned for the female lead role in King Kong, and was in the last two, losing the role to Faye Wray, who the director said had a better scream. Being a star in two-reel comedies and westerns is probably not the best path to stardom and Frances made only a few pictures, including Phantom Thunderbolt (1933) between 1931 and her retirement in 1935 after 44 films.

Frances and her husband eventually moved to the Washington DC area. Interestingly, she instructed Tricia Nixon in societal demeanor and etiquette during her father's presidency. In the mid-1970's, she moved back to California, devoting most of her time to charity work. Frances died on November 5, 2000.

Click on the pictures for a larger image.

Postcard from her Paramount days (1928-30)

Frame captures from Phantom Thunderbolt

Frances Lee - What do you think - Allure?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Asides - The A's Have It

After watching The Old Dark House the other day, I realized that after seeing Gloria Stuart I had forgotten to make mention of her 98th birthday this past July 4th. Then I also blew it by not mentioning Lupita Tovar's 97th birthday on July 27th. And, to top it off, I missed Anita Page's 98th birthday this past August 4th.

So, without further ado, to those three remarkable actresses and ladies, all whose first names end with A, a very happy belated birthday!

Gloria Stuart - Happy Birthday!

Lupita Tovar - Happy Birthday!

Anita Page - Happy Birthday!
And Anita, good luck with your newest film, now in post production.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lilian Bond

Lilian (also credited as Lillian) Bond was born in London in 1908. After winning a beauty contest in England in 1926, she headed for Hollywood and began her acting career in No More Children (1929), produced by little known Cliff Broughton Productions. Her fourth picture however, the 1931 western Rider of the Plains, opposite Tom Tyler, was the film that really launched her film career. Lilian, voted a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1932, made over 30 pictures in the decade, rarely in a leading role, but working for Paramount, Universal, First National (Warner Brothers) and MGM during the period.

Her thirties films include the Joe E. Brown vehicle, Fireman Save My Child (1932), the first of his three baseball themed comedies, The Old Dark House (1932), where Lilian is teamed with a wonderful cast, including Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart (who looks marvelous throughout the entire spooky goings on), Charles Laughton, and Melvyn Douglas, Pick-Up (1933) with George Raft and Sylvia Sidney, Double Harness (1933), and Affairs of a Gentleman (1934).

While not the female lead, probably her best known performance was in Gary Cooper's The Westerner (1940). Lilian played legendary stage actress Lillie Langtry. By the fifties her film career was over, with some fifty performances to her credit. Lilian died on January 25th 1991, in Reseda, California.

Click in the images for a larger view.

Picture Play magazine - September 1931

Cinelandia magazine - May 1931

New Movie Magazine - December 1932
A monocle, who was her manager?

Publicity still from Pick- Up

Frame grabs from Double Harness and The Old Dark House

The picture that always come up when
you "goggle" Lilian Bond - and for good reason.

Lilian Bond - What do you think - Allure?