15 November 2018

The King of Kings (1927)

American silent epic The King of Kings (1927) was produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille. It was the second in DeMille's biblical trilogy, preceded by The Ten Commandments (1923) and followed by The Sign of the Cross (1932). The King of Kings depicts the last weeks of Jesus before his crucifixion and stars H. B. Warner in the lead role. This classic DeMille shows his storytelling talent and his showmanship by delivering a spectacle like no other. The film has two Technicolor sequences, the beginning and the resurrection scene, which use the two-strip process invented by Herbert Kalmus. The King of Kings was the first film that premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles on 18 May 1927. The postcards in this post were made in Germany, France and Austria, and the stills were made by William Mortensen with a hand-held camera.

The King of Kings
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/1. Photo: National Film. Dorothy Cumming as the Virgin Mary in Cecil B. deMille's The King of Kings (1927). Caption: Mary and the blind girl.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/3. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Mary Magdalene. The charioteer was played by Noble Johnson, while Jacqueline Logan played Mary Magdalene.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/3. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) resurrects Lazarus from the Dead.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/4. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan) dries Jesus' feet.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/5. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Caiaphas the High Priest of Israel (Rudolph Schildkraut).

Victor Varconi, H.B. Warner and Rudolph Schildkraut in King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/6. Photo: National-Film. Publicity still for King of Kings (Cecil B. De Mille, 1927). Caption: Caiphas accuses Jesus before Pontius Pilate. Victor Varconi as Pontius Pilate the Governor of Judea, H.B. Warner as Jesus and Rudolph Schildkraut as Caiaphas.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/8. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: The Last Supper.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/9. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) and his Mother (Dorothy Cumming).

Equal amounts of showmanship and reverence


Hal Erickson at AllMovie: "Having scored big-time box office with his first Biblical epic, The Ten Commandments (1923), Cecil B. DeMille hoped to top this success with his 1927 The King of Kings.

Inasmuch as he was now dealing with the life of Christ, DeMille had to be careful to serve up equal amounts of showmanship and reverence.

The first creative challenge: how to "introduce" Christ in a tasteful manner? The answer: as a blind child is cured through Jesus' intervention, DeMille cuts to the child's point-of-view, slowly fading in on the kindly countenance of H.B. Warner as the Son of Man.

Still, DeMille remained DeMille, especially in his handling of the character of Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan). No longer a tattered streetwalker, Mary Magdalene is now a glamorous courtesan, replete with legions of gorgeous slave girls."

"Once he's gotten his box-office considerations out of the way, DeMille adheres faithfully to the particulars of Jesus' life, betrayal, trial, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. (Again, however, the director improves a bit upon his source material: the storm that follows the Crucifixion is of the same spectacular dimensions as the parting of the Red Sea in Ten Commandments, while the Resurrection is filmed in vibrant Technicolor).

To back up the authenticity of his images, DeMille -- with an assist from scenarist Jeannie Macpherson -- utilizes Scriptural quotes in his subtitles."

The King of Kings is the first film for which the still were made by a hand-held camera. Photographer William Mortenson made four hundred negatives that capture scenes as they were being shot, not posed afterwards.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/10. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) and the Captain of the Temple Guards (Theodore Kosloff).

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/11. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) on the way to Golgotha. The man helping to carry the cross could be William Boyd, who played Simon of Cyrene.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/12. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Under the Cross.

The King of Kings Ross
German postcard by Ross Verlag, unnumbered. Photo: DPG (Deutsche Photographische Gesellschaft). Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Pontius Pilate and his wife. Pilate was played by Victor Varconi, his wife Proculla by Majel Coleman.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, unnumbered. Photo: DPG (Deutsche Photographische Gesellschaft). Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927) with H.B. Warner as Jesus.

Victor Varconi in The King of Kings (1927)
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5062. Photo: Cecil B. de Mille-Studio. Publicity still for The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Victor Varconi as Pontus Pilate.

The King of Kings (1927)
French postcard, no. 492. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Jesus (H.B. Warner) between the Virgin Mary (Dorothy Cumming) and Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan).

Sources: David Fahey and Linda Rich (Masters of Starlight), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

14 November 2018

Wheeler & Woolsey

Wheeler & Woolsey were an American comedy double act. They performed together in slapstick comedy films for RKO from the late 1920s until Robert Woolsey's death in 1938. Curly-haired Bert Wheeler (1895–1968) played an ever-smiling innocent, who was easily led and not very bright, but who would also sometimes display a stubborn streak of conscience. Bespectacled Robert 'Bob' Woolsey (1888–1938) played a genially leering, cigar-smoking, fast-talking idea man who often got the pair in trouble. Wheeler & Woolsey made 21 films together, a series that often pushed the boundaries of taste and logic.

Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey in So This is Africa (1933)
British postcard in the Filmshots series by Film Weekly. Photo: Radio. Publicity still for So This Is Africa (Edward F. Cline, 1933). The Columbia Pictures release So This Is Africa was made during a contract dispute of Wheeler and Woolsey with RKO.

Bert Wheeler and Raquel Torres in So This is Africa (1933)
British postcard in the Filmshots series by Film Weekly. Photo: Radio. Publicity still for So This Is Africa (Edward F. Cline, 1933) with Bert Wheeler and Raquel Torres.

Bert Wheeler


Albert Jerome Wheeler was born in 1895 in Paterson, New Jersey, USA. His mother died at the age of 17, when Bert was a baby. After becoming an orphan, he was raised by his father and aunt, and later by a step-mother.

Wheeler went to New York, where he tried to break into showbiz. He got his first break with Gus Edwards. Later, he worked as an actor in several shows, including The Gingerbread Man and When Dreams Come True.

During When Dreams Come True, he met his first wife, Margaret Grae, with whom he formed up a successful vaudeville team. Although being asked several times to make films, Wheeler stayed with vaudeville. In 1926 the couple divorced and Grae soon married another actor.

In 1927 Wheeler was signed by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. for his show Rio Rita, where he was teamed with Robert Woolsey. They clicked and when Ziegfeld sold the screen rights of Rio Rita to the newly formed RKO studio as their official debut, they were the only actors in the cast who repeated their stage roles in the film version.

Rio Rita (Luther Reed, 1929) starring Bebe Daniels, was a success and this convinced them to become a permanent team. From 1930 until 1937, they made a series of 20 very popular comedy feature films, all for RKO Radio Pictures - with the exception of the Columbia production So This Is Africa (Edward F. Cline, 1933).

Bob Woolsey was often the huckster, his big cigar and waggling eyebrows wafting him into the direction of a gigantic but adoring woman. Bert Wheeler was a bit more conventional, but specialised in a special line of willful innocence that sometimes went to extremes; his specialty was singing and eating at the same time.

David Boxwell in the film journal Bright Lights: "Exhaustively citing all the sexual innuendo in Wheeler and Woolsey’s best films would be virtually impossible, but here are a few choice examples. In Diplomaniacs, the sexually aggressive Fifi tries to assassinate Woolsey’s character by kissing him to death, but he survives and causes the vamp to drop to the ground, her body smoking. Wheeler asks him: “Hey, where’s your cigar?” Woolsey confidently claims: “She swallowed it.” Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but never in a Wheeler and Woolsey film."

Bert Wheeler
Bert Wheeler. British postcard in the Film Weekly series, London.

Wheeler and Woolsey
British cigarette card in the Stars of Screen & Stage series by Park Drive Cigarettes, Gallaher Ltd., London & Belfast, no. 6. Photo: Radio. Collection: Geoffrey Donaldson Institute.

24 Mary Carlisle & Wheeler and Woolsey (Triple Trouble)_Gallaher (Famous Film Scenes; 24)
British cigarette card in the Famous Film Scenes series by Park Drive Cigarettes, Gallaher Ltd., London & Belfast, no. 24. Photo: Radio. Publicity still for Triple Trouble/Kentucky Kernels (George Stevens, 1934) with Mary Carlisle. Collection: Manuel Palomino Arjona @ Flickr.

Robert Woolsey


Robert Rolla Woolsey was born in 1888 in Oakland, California, USA. At the age of 7, his father died, leaving his mother and their six children in poverty. Four of the children died in their early years. To earn some money to support the family, Bob took odd jobs, before becoming a jockey. This career ended when the horse, Pink Star, the future Kentucky Derby winner of 1907, fell and broke Bob's leg.

Woolsey then went to work as a bellboy at the Hotel Sinton in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he came in contact with actors who saw possibilities for him as a comic in the theatre. He joined several vaudeville companies, and toured not only North America, but also the British Empire. In 1917, he married an eccentric dancer, Mignone Park Reed. The couple stayed together till his death.

In 1922, Woolsey appeared with W.C. Fields in The Blue Kitten, and he also wrote some plays. He hit it big, when he was signed for Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.'s Rio Rita in 1927, where he teamed up with Bert Wheeler. Due to their success, they were teamed up again in The Cuckoos (Paul Sloane, 1930), based on the Broadway show The Ramblers. It was another box office hit. Double-entendre gags were a hallmark of their comedies, although they were severely curtailed after the reconstitution of the Production Code in 1934. Dressing in drag and other forms of gender inversion were also staples of their films.

David Boxwell in Bright Lights: "Wheeler and Woolsey didn’t invent drag, but more than any other early sound comedy stars they cross-dressed with complete aplomb, and to hilarious effect. Wheeler often, but not always, plays femme to Woolsey’s butch, so he’s in drag more than the guy with the cigar, but Woolsey is dressed as a 'native girl' in a fetching leopard skin two-piece at the end of So This Is Africa — as he is abducted by a beefy “Tarzan” and taken into a hut for what will be a bout of unseen sex."

By 1931, Wheeler & Woolsey were so popular that RKO attempted to generate twice the Wheeler & Woolsey income by making two solo pictures - Too Many Crooks (William A. Seiter, 1931) with Wheeler, and Everything's Rosie (Clyde Bruckman, 1931) with Woolsey. This experiment failed, and they returned to films as a team. Among the pair's following features are Caught Plastered (William A. Seiter, 1931), Peach O'Reno (William A. Seiter, 1931), and Diplomaniacs (William A. Seiter, 1933).

Mark Sandrich directed them in Hips Hips Hooray (1934) and Cockeyed Cavaliers (1934), both co-starring Thelma Todd and Dorothy Lee. After Sandrich was promoted to the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, he was replaced by George Stevens. Stevens directed them in Kentucky Kernels (1934) with Mary Carlisle, and The Nitwits (1935) with Betty Grable. After Stevens left the series, the quality of Wheeler & Woolsey's output dwindled. In some of these later films, Wheeler and Woolsey didn't even appear as a team, but as strangers who encounter each other by chance.

Robert Woolsey's health deteriorated in 1936, and after struggling to complete High Flyers (Edward Cline, 1937) with Lupe Velez, he was no longer able to work. Bob Woolsey died on 31 October 1938 of kidney disease. After his death, Bert Wheeler continued to work off and on through the 1960s, mostly on the stage, but sometimes also on television. In later years he formed a team with a new, young partner, Tommy Dillon, with whom he worked in Las Vegas and Manhattan's Latin Quarter.

Bert Wheeler's last years were darkened with financial difficulties and failing health. Furthermore, two weeks before his own death in 1968 his only daughter Patricia Anne Wheeler died of cancer. Wheeler was 72. He married five times: to Margaret Grae (1915-1926), Bernice Wheeler (1928-1936), Sally Haines (1937-1939), Patsy Orr (1952-1956) and Olga Desmondae 'Des' Rieman (1961-1966 - her death).

Despite their great popularity in the 1930s, Wheeler & Woolsey are little known today. IMDb: "One of the reasons likely is the fact that their films were not packaged and sold to television in the 1950s, unlike The Three Stooges and Laurel & Hardy, who then went on to entertain new generations of fans. (...) Their shorts were geared towards adults, and even in the 1930s, they were considered vulgar, and thus would have been inappropriate on television in the 1950s as the comedy shorts of the Stooges and Laurel & Hardy were programmed for children."

Robert Woolsey
Robert Woolsey. British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. 514.

Robert Woolsey and Esther Muir in So This Is Africa (1933)
British postcard in the Filmshots series by Film Weekly. Photo: Radio. Publicity still for So This Is Africa (Edward F. Cline, 1933) with Esther Muir and Robert Woolsey.

Sources: David Boxwell (Bright Lights film journal), Stephan Eichenberg (IMDb), Pre-code.comWikipedia and IMDb.

13 November 2018

Clint Walker

Heavy set, athletic Clint Walker (1927- 2018) was an American actor and singer. In the 1950s, Walker with his broad shoulders and slim waist almost single-handedly started the Western craze on TV in his role as Cheyenne Bodie in Cheyenne (1955-1962).

Clint Walker in Cheyenne (1955-1962)
Spanish postcard by Raker, no. 1155, 1965. Photo: publicity still for Cheyenne (1955-1962).

Good looks and imposing physique


Clint Walker was born Norman Eugene Walker in 1927 in Hartford, Illinois. He was the son of Gladys Huldah (née Schwanda) and Paul Arnold Walker. He had a twin sister named Lucy.

At 16, Walker left high school to work at a factory and on a river boat, then joined the United States Merchant Marine at the age of 17 in the last months of World War II. After the war he worked his way cross country, including working in the oil fields in Brownwood, Texas, and wound up in California, where he worked as an undercover agent for a private detective agency on the Long Beach waterfront. After a while he took a job as a security officer at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.

It was there that he met quite a few Hollywood people who told him that his size, physique and good looks would serve him well in Hollywood and that he should go to Los Angeles and give it a try. Walker became a client of Henry Willson, who renamed him Jett Norman and cast him to appear in the Bowery Boys film Jungle Gents (Edward Bernds, 1955) as a Tarzan-type character.

He was then hired by Cecil B. DeMille to appear in The Ten Commandments (1956). Someone from Warner Bros. saw the film, found out that Walker was under contract to producer Hal B. Wallis, and auditioned him for a new Western TV series.

Clint Walker's good looks and imposing physique helped him win the lead role in the TV series Cheyenne (1955). He was cast as Cheyenne Bodie, a roaming cowboy hero in the post-American Civil War era. Cheyenne originally appeared as part of Warner Bros Presents rotating with adaptations of Kings Row and Casablanca.

Cheyenne turned out to be the break out hit for Walker. While the series regularly capitalised on Walker's rugged frame with frequent bare-chested scenes, it was also well written and acted. It proved hugely popular for eight seasons. Walker's pleasant baritone singing voice was also occasionally utilised on the series and led Warner Brothers to produce an album of Walker doing traditional songs and ballads.

Clint Walker in Cheyenne (1955-1962)
Spanish postcard by Raker, no. 1111. Photo: publicity still for the TV series Cheyenne (1955-1962).

Clint Walker (1927-2018)
Spanish postcard by Toro de Bronce, no. 77. Photo: Warner Bros. Publicity still for Yellowstone Kelly (Gordon Douglas, 1959).

The Dirty Dozen


Warner also cast Clint Walker in the lead of a Western feature film, Fort Dobbs (Gordon Douglas, 1958), but box office returns were modest. Warner tried him in another Douglas-directed Western, Yellowstone Kelly (Gordon Douglas, 1959), co-starring Ed Byrnes from another Warner TV show, 77 Sunset Strip. It was a minor success.

A number of Cheyenne episodes were cut into feature films and released theatrically in some markets and Walker guest-starred as Bodie in an episode of the TV show Maverick. Warner tried Walker in a third Western feature directed by Douglas, Gold of the Seven Saints (Gordon Dougals, 1961), this time co-starring Roger Moore, who was also under contract to Warner. Cheyenne ended in 1962.

Post-Cheyenne, Clint Walker had a supporting part in the Rock Hudson-Doris Day comedy, Send Me No Flowers (Norman Jewison, 1964). Frank Sinatra cast him in the war time drama None but the Brave (1965), the only film Sinatra directed. After doing some guest appearances in The Lucy Show he fought a grizzly bear in Paramount's Western, The Night of the Grizzly (Joseph Pevney, 1966) with Martha Hyer. He starred in a family adventure movie shot in India, Maya (John Berry, 1966).

Walker had his biggest hit to date when the played the meek convict Samson Posey in the war drama The Dirty Dozen (Robert Aldrich, 1967), starring Lee Marvin. Walker returned to Westerns with More Dead Than Alive (Robert Sparr, 1969) with Vincent Price, and had supporting roles in two comic Westerns, Sam Whiskey (Arnold Laven, 1969) and The Great Bank Robbery (Hy Averback, 1969). Walker was one of many names in The Phynx (Lee H. Katzin, 1970).

In May 1971, he was involved in a freak accident at Mammoth Mountain, CA, when the tip of a ski pole pierced his heart. He made an amazing recovery and was back at work filming in Spain two months later. He supported Telly Savalas there in the British-Spanish-American biopic Pancho Villa (Robert Sparr, 1972) and starred in the short-lived TV series Kodiak (1974), playing an Alaskan patrolman. He also starred in the made-for-television cult film Killdozer! (Jerry London, 1974).

His later films included The White Buffalo (J. Lee Thompson, 1977) starring Charles Bronson, Deadly Harvest (Timothy Bond, 1977) and Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women (Joseph Pevney, 1979). His later roles were mostly minor, but in 1998, he voiced Nick Nitro in the animation film Small Soldiers (Joe Dante, 1998).

Then he retired. Clint Walker was married to Verna Garver (1948-1968), Giselle Hennesy (1974-1994) and Susan Cavallari (1997-now). He has one daughter Valerie (1950) with Verna Garver.

Clint Walker died of congestive heart failure in Grass Valley, California, on 21 May 2018, nine days before his 91st birthday.

Clint Walker
Vintage postcard, no. SP568.

Clint Walker in Cheyenne (1955-1962)
American postcard by The American Postcard Co. Inc., no. 767, 1983. Photo: publicity still for Cheyenne (1955-1962).

Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.