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Saturday, 17th May 2008
A star is born

A s corny a title as you are going to see, unless you are a fan of some of the movies this bunch churned out.

Below is a slice through the film industry, celluloid archeology I like to call it but then again I expect a recycling manager to remove the household rubbish once a week. So away with all the pretension and boil it down. Below are a few movie stars which appear on cigarette cards who also happened to be been born in the month of Febuary. I leave you to guess what March will bring you.

Clark Gable
Born on Feb 1 1901, he was dead by 1960. There is still an aura about the fellow. He is movie magic. Has to be, false teeth, overly large hands, clumsy and a drunk driver; a lapse which killed an innocent woman and sent an equally innocent man to jail.

This was the time MGM loan him out to Colombia whilst they sorted the mess out and find someone to blame (they did and he was the one to go to jjail). Gable made, It Happened One Night (is that a knowing title?), with Colbert when on loan. He won his only Academy Award for the performace and spelt doom for the American undershirt industry.

Even his films make you wonder quite what it was all about. I suppose there are a couple where he does not hit his women (and they very much are his women) as often as he kisses them. Of course I am a man so perhaps cannot quite see all the charms this fellow has to offer a female audience.

Actually for me the only feature I like about the fellow was the deep affection he seemed to have for his wife, Carole Lombard, who died young in a plane crash in 1942, a few years after they were married. At which point a good deal of light seem to go from Gable's counterance.

Still lets not get overly sentimental about the fellow and marriage as whilst married to Josephine Dillon and later Ria Langhan, he had a long running affair with Joan Crawford. Dillon and Lagham were the older women, who were also wealthy and able to help Gable with his film career.

He had not been keen to do It Happened One Night and the fellows lack of judgement didn't fail him when he did not really want to do Gone with the Wind. Mind you, credit where it is due, not wanting to do them in the first place did not stop him putting in fine performances when he found he was in the role.

He joined up for the Second World War and won medals for the bombing missions. Some say his war effort was more show than go but I cannot believe that of a Hollywood actor worth millions in box office.

Gable's decline had begun before the Second World War but given the height from which he was descending it took a good deal of time.

Then there was The Misfits [1961]. It was to be his last film, dying of a heart-attack shortly after (he never saw the film) and suddenly you wish there was someone that could take his place. It was also to be Monroe's last film and Montgomery Clift (probably the best performance of the film) was not too late in leaving the party either, dying in 1966 having managed only a couple more films.

Gable
Players Film Stars (1934) 1st

Ardath Famous Film Stars (1934)

Ardath Film Stage and Radio Stars (1935)

Ardath Film Stage & Radio Stars (large) 1935

Ida Lupino
4 Feb, 1918, Brixton, London. Died Aug 1995.
Almost a story of what might have been if the roles she got extended her range a little more. Time and again films underplayed her talents. That is not to say she did not play the roles well, just there is the hint of something a lot better than the film deserves struggling to get out. The 1940, They Drive by Night has a moment when her character just lets go, over the top certainly but done well within the framework of Hollywood movies of the period.
Daughter of vaudville comic, Stanley Lupino, she signed for Paramount at about the age of 15 having already been on the fringes of the British Film Industry (mind you was there anything other than a fringe to the British film industry). The idea had been for her to play Alice in Alice in Wonderland but that never happened.

Acting is only less than half the tale as her career encompassed the role of director (she also wrote scripts, short stories and composed music). Female directors are pretty rare today (between mid1992-mid1993, Hollywood released 176 films, 9 had female directors), they were rarer then and for no good reason. Lupino directed and starred in The Bigamist [1953] and demonstrates what a female perspective can give to films.

Lupino virtually turned her back on the film industry in later years, she did work on TV but in the last 15 years pretty much kept herself to herself. Nice to see someone managed to avoid the lure of US soap opera's.

It would seem someone at Carreras rather liked the woman, although she is not solely the domain of Carreras cigarette cards.

Carreras Famous Film Stars (1935)

Carreras Film Favourites (1938)

Carreras Film Stars B&W (A Series)

Carreras Film Stars B&W (2nd Series)

Carreras Film Stars (Oval) (1934)

Carreras Turf Cigarettes Film Stars (1947)

Lana Turner
8 Feb 1920 - June 1995
For some reason I associate this woman with films more than just about anyone woman of the period. Probably too many cheap Saturday Matinees for me. Certainly Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner, was a name best shortened.

Her father was killed in a robbery when she was nine. In 1937 she appeared in her first movie, A Star is Born.

Her acting was not as interesting as her life. Potentially the scandal of The Postman Always Rings Twice [1947] keeps her going beyond the forget-by-date most of her movies would promote. That and the box office draw which was Imitation of Life [1959] which was Douglas Sirk's last Hollywood movie.

The film is good but there is an element of rubber-necking a crash victim in that Turner plays the part of a woman struggling with difficult children. It was a time of public scandal as Turner's 15 year old daughter, Cheryl Crane, had stabbed Johnny Stompanato, small time gangster and Lana's lover. The killing had been sparked by Cheryl seeing Johnny hitting her mother. It was deemed justifiable homicide (did not stop her eventually sliding into a mental institution).

He was only one of many lovers between and during her seven marraiges.

Like a good many, her later years were filled with soap opera, in this case Falcon Crest, it paid the bills and nobody forced me to watch it.

Bridgewater series 7 1939
DeBeukelaer Film Stars KF900 1937
Dinkie MGM Films (Series 3) (1948) X20
Carreras Turf Cigarettes Film Favourites (1948)

Ronald Colman
9 Feb 1891-1958
Here is a fellow that bridged the gulf between the silent and talking era. Indeed he extended his range when the words were heard and not seen. English, born in Richmond, he was invalided out of World War One. There are a few British films in which he appeared but Hollywood was where this fellow was heading and going to be succesful. His film output was not as prolific as some of the era but that was more his decision than anyone else. This also meant he kept within his range and so extended his shelf life while others burnt their reputations churning out dross.
His first big talking hit was Bulldog Drummond in 1929, a roll he would reprise in 1934, Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back. Late in his acting career he won Best Actor Oscar for A Double Life.

Ardath British Born Film Stars (1934)
Ardath Famous Film Stars (1934)
Ardath Who is this (1936)
Gallaher Stars of Screen & Stage (Green back) (1935)
Godfrey Phillips Characters come to life (1938)
Godfrey Phillips Famous Love Scenes
Godfrey Phillips Shots from the films (1934)

John Barrymore
15 Feb 1882 - 1942
An early example of an acting dynsasty. Younger brother of Ethel and Lionel. The three of them appeared in Rasputin and the Empress [1932], the only film in which they did. All were offspring of the English actor Maurice Barrymore and American actress Georgina Drew. There is a tragedy of what might have been which pervades many a drunks life (neatly summed up by Barney in The Simpsons) but such feelings are reserved for those that can examine such faults from a distance. Once you have known a drunk long enough, the only tragedy is you ever had to know them. He slid into B Movies and turned self-parody into his finest talent. His early career showed the sort of promise which makes the career path he took even more distressing.

Don Juan [1926] a silent movie but should be remembered as the first to have a music score and soundeffects.

By the early 1930's drink was helping an advancing ageing process. By 1936 it was B Movie stuff and it leaves you just wishing Barrymore had managed to produce more vintage stuff than he consumed

Ardath Scenes from big films
Sinclair Film Stars (1937)1st Series F54
Societe Job Cinema Stars (unnum 48) (1926)