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Tuesday, 30th September 2008

Death Does not Fade them.

Hedy Lamarr 1913-2000

Kane, Film Stars [1955]

On the above card they manage to spell her name wrong, missing off that final r, ending up with Lamar. That is a shame because in my opinion her name was the most successful thing about her, at least Bob Hope managed to wring a few laughs out of it.

Her real name was Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler and was born in Vienna on November 9, 1913.

She pretty much abandoned education to join the films and after a couple shot to infamy in Extase [1932]. In this she was spied upon by an impotent old man whilst skinny dipping. She did what was only natural, leapt out of the water and ran about the wood nude. Sensational, it was banned in many a country in the mid-30's. On film and video this is still advertised as a 'shocker' and too right it is but not in the sense the advertising department means.

The film was also banned in Germany. Nudity was not the problem but rather who was nude. Hedwig Kiesler was a Jew and a mighty nubile one at the age of 18 and that was not on.

Shortly after making the film she married the first of 6 husbands. Fritz Mandl was an Austrian munitions tycoon who amassed a fortune from the trade. As a Hungarian Jew the oft repeated suggestion he supported Hitler seems unlikely (though there are no munitions without firing) but certainly it would seem German money sat happily in his pockets.

Fritz attempted to buy up every copy of Extase but unfortunately failed. She left him for unknown reasons and fetched up in London. At this time she met Louis B Mayer and he signed her up to a seven year contract on the understanding she only made decent films.

By keeping most of her clothes on Lamarr probably did what Mayer asked but you couldn't actually say she made decent films. In fact she was blinking awful in most of them.

Mayer loaned her out (for 200% of her salary) as presumably he was a better judge than most. Even in a period of often rather wooden acting the audience could well get splinters just watching some of Lamarr's efforts. Because of these limitations she often ended up playing the dusky temptress type with as few lines as possible.

I take this woman [1940] is a prime example. It became known as 'I re-take this woman'. Josef Von Sternberg was given the task of Director having made such a star of Dietrich. However this did not work and large parts of the film were junked, including the entire role of Walter Pidgeon. Directors came and went but only W.S Van Dyke II appears on the credits. He described the film as 'the funniest thing in Hollywood since Jean Harlow's funeral.' Grim.

In this film she played opposite Spencer Tracey. In another failure Lady of the Tropics she played a half-caste opposite Robert Taylor. She co-starred with Clark Gable in Boom Town [1940] (which also had Spencer Tracey and is a film for which I have a soft spot. Please don't ask me why it doesn't stand up to scrutiny)

So despite being played opposite an almost endless stream of leading Hollywood men and legends to boot, she was plain bad.

It has been suggested she just choose the wrong films having turned down Casablanca, Gaslight and Saratoga Trunk (although that could have done with recasting Hedy would not have improved matters). I only thank goodness she did, think how different film history would be.

Despite this bad start, if anything it got worse. She asked to be released early from her contract and I doubt the echo had died before this was agreed. The roles in her own production company were dire despite efforts by her third husband John Loder.

Then when all seemed at a loss Cecil B DeMille cast her as Delilah in Samson and Delilah playing opposite Victor Mature. The film was a smash hit, although you would have to tie me into a chair before I watched it.

It was too little too late though and all it managed to do was ensure audiences had to endure a few more dreadful performances before the plug was pulled on her career.

The late 1950's were basically the last film output and in 1966, effectively broke an autobiography appeared, 'Ectasy and Me'.

Like a lot of things about her life you cannot really tell what was real and what was not. It seems just like an effort to get herself back in the limelight it is in such bad taste. Later Hedy tried to sue the ghost writers for the imaginative sum of 21 million dollars. Perhaps a case of trying to have your cake and eat it, thankfully it was not a successful action.

Also in her final years she was arrested a number of times for shoplifting but the cases were dropped. That is the only time I have any sympathy for the woman at all.


 

HD 'Hopper' Read

Churchman, Cricketers

 

'Hopper' Read's first match for his county, Essex, was something of a who was who of cricket. 1934 and the opposition was Surrey. Frank Woolley had suggested to Jack Hobbs (then 51) that Essex bowling gave him a great opportunity to get one century closer to the magic number of 200 first class centuries. This was based on the fact that Essex's last opponents Kent had declared, 803 for 4.

Things were not going to go to plan. The groundsman had resorted to prepare the pitches by applying liquid manure and for the second match the drying process had not completed (those were the days).

Read came thundering in on this pitch with a following wind. His first delivery removed the cap from Hobb's head. Hobbs gamely remained until the sixth ball had him, no doubt relieved, heading for the pavillion.

Read finished the match with 7 wickets for 35 runs (seldom seen outside of England international innings nowadays).

This was just the right time for a fearsomely quick fast bowler to appear as by the mid-30's Larwood's days were over. In 1935 Read was rated the fastest bowler in England.

This was the same year Essex attained what was then a rare victory over an all-conquering Yorkshire side. Yorkshire were bowled out for 35 in the first and 99 in the second innings thus ensuring the first Essex victory since 1911.

The HD stood for Holcombe Douglas a name he was given when born in Woodford Green, Jan 28, 1910. His father was another HD Read who occasionally played for Essex 1904-1910. His grandfather had also been an Essex county cricketer. perhaps it should not have been a surprise he ended up playing cricket but certainly it looked unlikely for many a year.

Read must be considered something of a late developer and rather fast finisher. He was soon playing for England despite the fact he had not been good enough to play for this school team. He was choosen to play the 5th test against South Africa. Despite bowling well England could only draw the match and therefore the series.

He then went on an MCC touring side of Australia and New Zealand but this effectively was the end of his cricket career. On his return he went back to his career as an accountant.

For many years he played weekend cricket as well as appearances for wandering clubs such as I Zingari and Butterflies.

In his brief first class career he took 219 wickets for an average of 22 runs.

Succesful with the ball his efforts with the bat were amazingly feeble. He actually has the unusual distinction of having taken more wickets than he made runs. Despite making a 25 not out he still only managed 158 runs in total in first class cricket. He once managed 8 ducks in succession.


 

EW Swanton 1907-2000

I have bent the rules a bit to include this fellow, I am not convinced he would have approved but I do it with honorable intent. Although I cannot locate a card with his face on it I am sure there is such a card out there. So forgive my ignorance on this one and let me claim you can see the back of his head in the cricket commentary box within the Ogdens, Broadcasting series, he deserves to be there. He was the first person to commentate live from an overseas match at South Africa in 1938.

With his death a vast first hand knowledge of 20th century cricket departs. Fortunately he has left much behind in his writing. He was The Daily Telegraphs cricket correspondent from 1946 to 1975 but before that he had published a second volume of Harry Altham's History of Cricket [1938] which he maintained to fourth edition in 1962 and was definitive.

The World of Cricket (1966) which he edited was revised in 1950 as Barclays World of Cricket - becoming standard reference.

In the 1930's he was a pioneer of cricket broadcasts and was the voice of cricket before John Arlott borrowed the title.

In 1935 Swanton founded his own club, the Arabs. Membership was by his invite. After World War Two his was able to put together three touring sides (1956 / 61, West Indies and 1964 the Far East).

In 1975 he was elected the first journalist to serve on the full committee of the MCC which he did until 1984.

He did not just storm the cricketing broadcasting scene, he worked harder than that. Straight from school at the age of 17 he joined the Amalgamated Press as teaboy, graduating to a paper called All Sports. In his spare time he reported freelance on cricket and rugby when in 1927 he joined The Evening Standard.

You have to admire Swanton's timing as the first match he reported on was the 1930 England Australia match at Lords. Bradman was to achieve 254, which Bradman regards as probably his best innings.

There was one regretable event in his journalistic career which occured in 1932. It was a game at Leyton between Essex and Yorkshire and was the day Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe put on 555 runs for the first wicket, a new world record.

Unfortunately Swanton was unable to secure the only telephone on the ground and so missed the deadline for filing his report.

His editor took the view that a fellow who could not file a report from Leyton when it came to world records was not the chap to send to cover the forthcoming tour of Australia. It was in that way Swanton missed the Bodyline series.

He was soon back in the good books and travelled the length and breadth of England reporting for the Evening Standard on country cricket in conjunction with CB Fry.

RWV Robins, the captain of Middlesex noticed that Swanton had turned into something of a solid bat and played for the county three times in 1937 and 1938, twice against Oxford and once against Cambridge. He also turned out for the Middlesex Second XI and batted with Denis Compton in 1936 just before Compton was elevated to the first eleven.

The war years were grim for Swanton as they were for some many. He spent three and one half years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp working on the Burma-Siam railway, although as an officer Swanton was not subjected to every horror of the experience.

Of a group of 202 men 66 were lost during this period. Swanton had a copy of the 1939 Wisden to keep his spirits up during that period.

Although the modern game was beginning to leave him behind in the later years, coloured clothing, sledging and any hint of unsporting behaviour (Gary Sobers he considered the greatest of all cricketers not least of which because of his sportsmanship) was considered poor form, he retained a love for the game throughout his long life.

His wife Ann Carbutt, widow of George Carbutt, died Nov 1998, after 40 years of marraige together.


Don Budge1915-2000

Players, Tennis

Born June 13, 1915 Don Budge the US tennis player has to be considered one of the greats. One of only two men to over capture the Grand Slam by winning the Australian, French, Wimbeldon and US Championships all in one year. It is an achievement he shares with only one other male tennis player, Rod Laver, who managed this twice. It has been achieved three times by women, Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf.

His father had played for Glasgow Rangers in earlier days but had emigrated to the US and sport played a considerable role in Don's early life. It was not to be until he was 17 that Don began to play tennis in a serious manner, persuaded by his older brother Lloyd.

A year later he won the national juniors, beating Gene Mako in the final. At 20 he was winning in his Davis Cup debut.

His tennis style and approach was posibly influenced by his early love of baseball in that he used a might heavy racket, had a great backhand and would not have a leather grip on the racket prefering to hold the bare wood.

His way to the Grand Slam was paved by Fred Perry's decision to turn professional. Perry had won all 4 tournaments but not in the same year. This is not to say Budge was suddenly elevated to greatness because the opposition was weak. Budge had been beaten by Perry in the Wimbeldon and US finals that year.

November 1937 was the beginning of his journey. Indeed it was a 23 day sea voyage to Australia. Gene Mako his friend and doubles partner was also there. The attempt did not start well as Budge managed to get a throat infection a few days before the championship. However by the final he had recovered and won in 47 minutes losing only 7 games against the local man, John Bromwich.

In Paris he faced the Czech, Roderich Menzel in the final. It only took 58 minutes to be victorious in this final.

At Wimbeldon Budge returned to the place he had won the final the previous year.

Previously Budge had met Gottfried von Cramm in the 1937 final and won. A few days later the pair were to met again on Wimbeldon centre court for the Davis Cup match, German vs America.

Just before the match begun von Cramm was called to the telephone. Budge recalls all of the conversation he heard was 'Ja mein Fuhrer' The German came away from the phone pale and rather shaken.

Gottfried von Cramm was the underdog of the match but won the first two sets and saved 5 match point in the fifth. In poor light at 8.45pm Budge won 6-8, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 8-6.

By the time the 1938 Wimbeldon matches came around Gottfried von Cramm had been arrested by the Gestapo. Budge and 24 other top players sent a petition pleading for the fellows release but they got no reply.

Budge was to met the Englishman Bunny Austin in the 1938 Wimbeldon final. Clearly a crowd favourite Bunny played out of his skin but it was too no avail as Budge basically did for him, 6-1, 6-0, 6-3. It was closer than it looks honest. This meant he had not only won the singles in successive years but also the doubles and the mixed doubles and remains the only player to have done that trick twice.

Budge had not been well before the French or the Wimbeldon tournaments either so hadly a surprise to discover he had to have an abscesed tooth removed before the US Championship.

However he got through to the final where he was to face Gene Mako. The final was postponed for 5 days whilst a tornado hit Long Island (and you complain when it rains at Wimbeldon). Budge was to prevail over his friend, doubles partner and long term opponent, 6-3, 6-8, 6-2, 6-1.

Budge turned professional at the end of 1938. In 1968 Budge returned to Wimbeldon with the advent of the Open era and was a popular figure in the Veteran's doubles which he won in 1973 with Frank Sedgeman at the age of 58.