Thursday, January 29, 2015

Land of the Pharaohs – Episode 2

When he was asked why he made Land Of The Pharaohs Howard Hawks replied “I made this film for one simple reason: Cinemascope”. He wanted to try making an epic somewhat like Cecil DeMille. He didn’t care for the way DeMille made his films, but he had to admit they worked.

Land Of The Pharaohs is rather interesting. However, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if Dimitri Tiomkin hadn’t written a rousing score. Its DVD cover calls it a “cult camp classic”. But I think the film would have been deadly dull without the music provided by Tiomkin.

How the film came to be

Howard Hawks was an armchair engineer. Ever since he was a young lad he had been fascinated by how things worked, or how they came to be. When he had completed Gentlemen Prefer Blonds he vacationed in Europe and pondered what his next film would be about. Already knowing it was going to be in Cinemascope he set about trying trying to create a story idea “about manpower”. He first thought about depicting the construction of an airfield in wartime China. The idea sounded a bit too much like the John Wayne film The Fighting See-bees directed by Edward Ludwig. Plus the political situation in post revolutionary China made filming there totally impossible not to mention rather unhealthy – being shot and killed for being a capitalist was an ever present concern. With that story idea quickly out of consideration he looked for a story idea that would “prove an ideal subject for Cinemascope”. During his vacation he encountered a young Egyptian archeologist who filled his head with tales of the time of Khufu. Hawks was entranced with the story of how the pharaoh had one hundred thousand men build his tomb – a task that took twenty or so years to accomplish. Hawks tracked down Jack Warner, told him about Khufu, and the great pyramid, and with the blessing of the studio proceeded to start casting the film. Knowing where he wanted to film and what he wanted to film made the scouting of locations almost unnecessary. The question was to who to cast in the film.

Whose playing whom ?

Hawks was a man with an idea for a film, but not much else. He tapped Sydney Chaplin for the role of the pharaoh Khufu, but waffled when Jack Hawkins drew vast acclaim for his performance in The Cruel Sea which Hawks saw soon after its release. Hawkins had a commanding presence on screen, something Chaplin didn’t, and would a much more believable pharaoh.

When it came to casting the role of Princess Nellifer Hawks knew exactly who he wanted. He wanted the Swiss actress Ursula Andress to play Nellifer and provide the sex appeal. But another studio, Paramount in this case, signed her before Warner did and she became unavailable. Hawks next choice was to screen test British actress/model Ivy Nicholson. Things went somewhat well till she came to the scene where she had to bite Jack Hawkins hand. She chomped down on his hand just a little too enthusiastically and unfortunately made a lasting impression. After that incident Hawkins refused to have anything else to do with her. Ivy was sent packing and Hawks looked to Britain again to supply him with his Princess Nellifer. After a series of actresses were tested and found wanting he tested Joan Collins. She had the training supplied by RADA, the physical attributes supplied by nature, and looked good in a bikini. This was her first major Hollywood production, but it almost came to a premature end when American censors objected, citing her navel as the reason for the objection. When a paste jewel was glued over the offending navel Princess Nellifer had been found.

Hawks knew who he wanted for the role of Senta. He had worked with him some years before in the movie The Thing From Another World. Dewey Martin was available and immediately cast as Senta.

The music isn’t music at all

When the film score was released on compact disc in late 2007 actor and screenwriter Milton Luban reviewed the film for The Hollywood Reporter. It called the film “Land of the Pharaohs a Stupendous Spectacle”. It went on to say 1017Booklet.indd that he thought the music was one of the stars. It went on to say “In fact, it is doubtful if this Warner Bros. CinemaScope epic would be nearly as exciting without the tremendous symphonic background created by Tiomkin. As in Lost Horizons, it is almost impossible to separate the story from the music.”. Much has been said and written about this film, that it’s a failed attempt at an epic. That may be true. But Dimitri Tiomkin scored and conducted the music in such a way that the music rescues this film. Hawks didn’t try to hide the fact that he thought he “failed”. The film may eventually become a guide of what not to do when making an epic. But take the music alone and you have the music of a true epic. Tiomkin even employed a tactic he used when he wrote the music for the film Lost Horizon. When he wrote the lyrics for the High Lamas funeral a great many people thought it was some obscure Tibetan dialect. But in truth they were utter gibberish. In the sequence when the Egyptian people start to build the pyramid they are singing – but utter gibberish that Tiomkin wrote to evoke the period and the sound.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Land Of The Pharaohs–Episode 1

901. title


All text in brown are quotations from the script which can located at the following address -

The Director/Producer

908. howard hawksHoward Hawks was the man credited as the producer and director of the film. He is also contributed to the writing but chose not to give himself a writing credit.

The Writers (Credited)

907. Harold Jack Bloom Harold Jack Bloom is one the writers. His first major hit was the screenplay he wrote for the Anthony Mann western The Naked Spur. He wrote a screenplay for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. While the screenplay was ultimately never used several ideas from it were used in the movie. Bloom is credited with providing “additional story material”. Bloom wrote for the movies, but he spent most of his career writing for television. He worked on the Twelve O’Clock High television series and wrote for Adam-12, Bonanza, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Emergency.

Harry Kurnitz Harry Kurnitz wrote a mystery called Fast Company in 1937. After he wrote the screenplay he penned over forty other scripts for Hollywood. Among them were some of the more notable titles were Witness For The Prosecution and How To Steal A Million. He wrote swashbucklers for Errol Flynn and comedies for Danny Kaye.

faulkner William Faulkner contributed to many Howard Hawks’ films. He was an American by birth and became a writer who won the Nobel Prize. He was from from Oxford, Mississippi.

He is almost always known for his novels, and short stories which were frequently set in the fictional county of Yoknapatawpha. His 1929 novel, The Sound And The Fury, is listed as as number six on a list of the best novels of the twentieth century. The list is comprised of one hundred different novels by different authors. He was a screenwriter for a time at MGM studios  in 1932 and became good friends with director Howard Hawks as they both enjoyed drinking and hunting. Not a fan of the film media his screenplays were written in the thirties and forties. He frequently helped Hawks in the writing of his films.

The Stars of the film

909. Jack Hawkins Jack Hawkins portrayed the Pharaoh Khufu in Land Of The Pharaohs. He was born on September 14 1910 and died on July 18 1973. He starred on stage and in film. After World War II his career took off when he starred in three films – Angels One Five, The Planter’s Wife, and Mandy. His place in the cinema was cemented when appeared in The Cruel Sea. From then on till his death he was one of the most popular actors on the screen. He is noted for appearing The Bridge On The River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Lord Jim. A three pack a day smoker it was smoking that killed his distinctive voice and ultimately him.

911. Joan Collins(1) Joan Collins played Princess Nellifer in the film. Joan made debut on stage in the production of A Dolls House at the tender age of nine. After appearing on stage she was schooled at the Royal Academy for Dramatic Art, sometimes known simply as RADA. Soon after she was signed to an exclusive contract with The Rank Organization. After being signed she seen constantly on the British screen. But her true desire was to go to Hollywood which she did at 22. She appeared in The Girl On The Red Velvet Swing and Rally ‘Round The Flag Boys. Land Of The Pharaohs was one of her first major Hollywood films.

906. Dewey Martin Dewey Martin played Senta in Land Of The Pharaohs. Dewey had a relatively short career in film – only thirty years. He became an actor in 1948, but his work in his first two films went uncredited. When the film The Thing From Another World was released he was noticed. Unfortunately the majority of his film work is very forgettable. He starred with Dean Martin in the first film Martin did after the Lewis/Martin breakup-Ten Thousand Bedrooms. Dewey went from the large screen to the small screen hoping he find better luck there. He didn’t, and retired in 1978.

913. John Robertson Justice  James Robertson Justice who played Vastar was born James Norval Harald Justice. He was a popular character actor of the forties, fifties and sixties. He had a rather nasty habit of drifting from one university to another, frequently giving the universities little more than more than one year. He quickly became bored and tried his hand teaching. And when that didn’t work out he tried unsuccessfully at being a lumberjack in Canada.

He began his acting career when he appeared in the film For Those In Peril. He proceeded to appear in almost every “Doctor” film – Doctor in the House, Doctor At Sea, as well as some notable ones such as Scott of the Antarctic, Moby Dick, The Guns Of Navarone, and  Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

PD*27365888 Sydney Earl Chaplin played the role of Treneh. He was the second son of Charlie Chaplin, and was named after his half uncle Sydney John Chaplin. Land Of The Pharaohs was only his second film. His twenty-five year career as an actor earned him a Tony award for his role in Bells Are Ringing opposite Judy Holiday. He also appeared opposite Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. He appeared in two of his fathers productions, with the first being Limelight, and the other being A Countess from Hong Kong.

Luisella Boni Luisa Boni as Kyra (photo taken 1961)

Alexis Minotis Alexis Minotis as Hamar. He was born in Crete and died in Greece. He was a distinguished actor and director who first appeared on stage in the land of his birth. He appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious with Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains. In 1957 he appeared in the film Boy On A Dolphin with Sophia Loren. In 1955 he directed in as well as starred in a production of Oedipus Rex.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Vintage Video–A Gem of a Store

Store name

 I had the most enjoyable time in a video store the other day, and I’d like to share my experience with you.

The Hunt Begins

I had a birthday recently and was given some money as a present. There was a medical crisis in my family at the same time so acquiring DVDs took a back seat for a time. After the crisis passed I began my search. The internet played a gigantic role in my search. I checked out the sites belonging to HMV, Sunrise Records, Hollywood Canteen, and Vintage Video. HMV didn’t carry the DVD I was interested in, and didn’t seem very inclined to even try to find it for me. Sunrise Records just went out of business which really turned me off because they were easy to get to. Hollywood Canteen moved from its Danforth location to Markham Street which made the trip longer. Besides, their web site said they didn’t carry what I was looking for. However, when I went to the Vintage Video web site all that changed. They had what I was looking for, plus forty-eight other titles that I had great interest in.


DVD Nirvana

When I actually went in the store I thought I had died and gone to DVD heaven. There were DVDs everywhere. They had silent movies, and DVDs of cartoons I grew up with. Complete series were available as were titles I saw only on the television. Little boxed sets of mini-series were available and reasonably priced.

As I wandered about the store I found they carried a great many DVDs. During my time in the store I found they carried over three thousand different titles. Titles that fell into the following genres could be found.

  1. American Civil War
  2. Biblical
  3. British imports
  4. Cars and racing
  5. Costume & Swashbuckling
  6. Disney
  7. Drama
  8. Gangster, Crime and Noir
  9. Gift and Boxed sets
  10. Historical
  11. Sports
  12. Horror and Science Fiction
  13. Musicals
  14. Romance and Comedy
  15. Serials
  16. Shakespeare
  17. Silent Movies
  18. Television – Retro TV – usually boxed sets
  19. Titanic
  20. Westerns
  21. World War I and World War II
  22. Military Books
  23. Warner Bros. Archive & other Vault Titles
  24. Die-Cast Aircraft
  25. Documentaries

They also carried ceramics such as cookie jars, mugs, blankets, throws, and some limited glassware. Some figures that are apparently very hard to come by, and

Monster Stuff

once they’re gone, they usually gone for good. For military buffs they stock military DVDs from all over the world. If you loved the film The Dam Busters and you’ve just got to have a model of an A.V. Roe Lancaster to add to your collection they carry die-cast Corgi models. These come 1/32, 1/35,1/48, 1/72 scales. They also carry Corgi models of tanks, army vehicles, and WW II aircraft. These are all meticulously hand painted.

Military stuff


If you have a favorite film, and you would like a copy of the poster to show off to your friends, but you’re in a cramped apartment you need not worry. They probably have a copy that’s just right for your needs.

Shortly after Vintage Video opened its doors in 1988, I descended upon it to purchase a very specific VHS tape – it was a British made tape. It was a comfy place, staffed with people who really wanted to help you. DVDs had yet to make an appearance, and the only thing resembling a DVD was the video disc - a fourteen inch wide behemoth. 

I still have some VHS tapes, not many, but some. But with the aid of Vintage Video I’m slowly making the progression towards a video collection I can be really proud of.

Some of you may very well wonder just where this miraculous store is. It’s here in Toronto on Markham Street. Here is the full address-

Vintage Video

604 Markham Street, Toronto, ON, M6G 2L8

Tel –416-538-9927  - Toll Free 1-866-538-9927  Fax: 416-538-9916


Phone numbers

website address

Just in case you were wondering I don’t work for the store, but I sure wouldn’t mind it. You could be in the store an entire day and not see the same item twice.

Thank you Mr. Barthel for allowing me to use the two photos from the store catalog.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Miracle On 34th Street (1947)–episode 13

All text in brown are quotations from the script which can located at the following address -

Tommy Mara Jr. has just come to the stand, and after some questions from Judge Harper is allowed to testify. Tommy’s innocent answers causes the public gallery to dissolve into a mild state of hysteria. His answers also do a very good job of torpedoing his father case.

Fred first asks if he believes in Santa Claus.  Tommy answers the question in a manner befitting a boy of his tender years “Sure I do”. Fred then asks him if he knows what Santa looks like. Tommy leans out of the witness box and points at Kris. Fred now asks why he’s so sure that Kris is Santa Claus. His response is priceless. “Because my daddy told me so. Didn’t you, Daddy?”.137. my daddy told me so

                                         “ Because my daddy told me so

Mr. Mara is proud that his son is so honest, but he’s not very pleased at what his sons honesty is doing to his case. Fred asks Tommy if he believes his father, commenting that “he is a very honest man”. “Of course he is. My daddy wouldn’t tell me anything that wasn’t so. Would you, Daddy?”. The people in the public gallery can’t take it any longer and burst out laughing. Tommy has been very honest and at the same time has caused an unusual amount of laughter. But his father isn’t feeling too well.

138a. I need a vacation

Mr. Mara does something most unexpected “Your Honor, the state of New York concedes the existence of Santa Claus. I request that Mr. Gailey now submit authoritative proof that Mr. Kringle is the one-and-only Santa Claus”. Judge Harper is forced to agree with Mr. Mara. When Fred can’t the produce the evidence the court requests he asks for an adjournment. Judge Harper grants the request till the following day.

139. But I've got a feeling he is Santa Claus mother

When Doris arrives home she tries to explain to Susan what is going on. “They’re having a trial about him. It’s just because he says he’s Santa Claus”. Susan is not so matter of fact anymore. She’s changed. “I’ve got a feeling he is Santa Claus”. Susan adds “he’s so kind and nice and jolly. He’s not like anyone else. He must be Santa”. Doris mentions that the case is not going as well as it could, and he’s unhappy. Susan decides to write him a letter to cheer him up. In it she says she believes in Kris is Santa. Doris adds “I believe in you too”.

140. Susans letter which Doris also signs

After Doris mails the letter it ends up in front of a mail sorter named Al. He mentions to another mail sorter named Lou that this letter is different from some most of them. “I seen them write to Santa Claus...North Pole, South Pole, and every other place. This kid writes “Kris Kringle, New York County Courthouse.” Lou explains things to Al “They got him on trial there. He claims he’s Santa Claus, and the D.A. claims he’s nuts. Read it for yourself. Right on the front page”. Al reads the newspaper Lou left then asks about all the letters addressed to Santa that are in the dead letter office. “Hey, Lou, how many Santa Claus letters we got at the dead-letter office?”. Lou estimates there are thousands of letters in hundreds of bags. “Hey, Lou. It’d be nice to get rid of them, huh?”. Lou wonders what Al is thinking then clues in “Hey, that’s a wonderful idea!”. Al tells Lou what to do “Why should we be bothered with all that stuff? Why not get some trucks? Big ones right away. Load them with Santa Claus mail and deliver it to Mr. Kringle at the courthouse. Let somebody else worry about it, huh?”. Al is so proud of himself he starts singing “Jingle Bells”.  “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way...”.142. Hey Lou how many letters do we have in the dead letter office

(Tom’s Trivia- Jack Albertson (Chico and The Man, The Poseidon Adventure) play Al (This was only his third film). Jack is on the right in this screen capture)

As Kris reads the letter from Susan and Doris his spirits soar. As Kris reads a court Bailiff approaches Fred and informs him of the mail bags now in the hall. Fred goes to inspect and discovers twenty-one bags of mail all addressed to Kris. Fred takes three letters and puts them inside his jacket. Mr. Mara requests that Judge Harper sign the commitment papers so everybody will be with their families on Christmas Eve. Fred strides to the front of the courtroom and starts reciting information about the United States Postal Service. Mr. Mara is getting a little impatient to get some last minute shopping done “We’re all gratified to know the Post Office is doing nicely, but it hardly has any bearing on this case”. The judge allows Fred to continue much to his opponents chagrin. “United States postal laws and regulations make it a criminal offense to willfully misdirect mail or intentionally deliver it
to the wrong party. Consequently, the Department uses every possible precaution
”. Mr. Mara is now getting really impatient. So much so he makes a rather substantial error. He agrees with Fred for the record. Fred then pulls the three letters from his jacket and offers them as evidence. Mr. Mara is far from amused. “Uh, three letters are hardly positive proof. I understand the Post Office receives thousands of these”. Fred says he has more exhibits but is somewhat reluctant to show them. Judge Harper now gets a bit impatient. He wants to get this case dealt with. He tells Fred to put the exhibits on his desk. Fred tries to tell the judge what’s involved, but the judge will have none of it. “Put them here on the desk. Put them here”. Fred turns toward the bailiff and signals him with his hand.

148. Bring in the mail bags

At the back of the courtroom the doors open and court officers carry, drag, haul in twenty-one gigantic canvas bags – each one containing hundreds of letters addressed to Santa Claus. According to the judges orders each bag is emptied on top of Judge Harpers desk, and consequently on top of the judge. As the judge wades through the avalanche of mail on his desk Fred makes his point. “Your Honor, every one of these letters is addressed to Santa Claus. The Post Office has delivered them. Therefore, the Post Office, a branch of the federal government, recognizes this man, Kris Kringle,to be the one-and-only Santa Claus!”. The judge eyes Charlie Halloran who gives an approving look. With thousands of letters on top of him the judge says “Since the United States government declares this man to be Santa Claus, this court will not dispute it. Case dismissed!”. With those words the courtroom bursts into an uproar.

152. Case Dismissed

 Case dismissed!

Kris hugs Fred. And when the pats on the back subside he wishes Judge Harper a merry Christmas who wishes Kris a merry Christmas. Kris waits outside the courthouse to thank Doris for her letter, and that it made him very happy. Kris invites Doris and Susan to Brooks Memorial “We’re having a big Christmas party at the Brooks Home tomorrow morning. Breakfast, a beautiful tree. I’d like to have you and Susan”. Doris invites Kris to dinner but he declines as it is Christmas Eve.

The following day is Christmas Day. Kris is dressed in his Santa suit. He’s greeting people as they arrive at the Brooks home. Fred, Doris, Susan, a lot of people from Macys, and Mr. Macy are at the home for Christmas party. When he arrives Kris introduces Alfred as his assistant. When Mr. Macy shakes Alfred’s hand he is astonished Mr. Macy even acknowledged his existence. When Dr. Pierce arrives he sees the new x-ray equipment and walks over to it. Kris is beside him. “Kris, all I can say is the state supreme court declared you to be Santa Claus, and personally and professionally I agree with them”. As soon as

155. Dr. Pierce inspects the new x-ray equipment

Susan gets in the room and runs for the tree, inspecting every present under it. Not finding what she was looking for she moves close to her mother. “But there are lots of presents there for you”. But Susan says the present she wanted isn’t there. Doris asks her what she hoped to find. “It doesn’t matter. I didn’t get it. I knew it wouldn’t be here, but I thought there’d be a letter”. Kris sees the disappointment on her face and moves close to her. “I don’t suppose

157. I don't suppose you want to talk to me

 you even want to talk to me” he says. Kris tries to explain but is interrupted by Susan “You couldn’t get it because you’re not Santa. You’re just a nice old man with whiskers like my mother said, and I shouldn’t have believed you”. Hearing this Doris turns Susan around and looks her right in the eye “I was wrong when I told you that. You must believe in Mr. Kringle and keep right on doing it. You must have faith in him”. Not quite sure what her mother is talking about Susan expresses her confusion. Doris tries to explain it in different terms. “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to”. Susan still isn’t sure what her mother is talking about. She tries again “Just because things don’t turn out the way you want them to the first time, you’ve still got to believe in people. I found that out”. Susan compares it to “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”.

When the party ends Fred approaches Doris and offers to drive her and Susan home. Overhearing this Kris hands Fred a noting with directions written on it.

159. Kris gives Fred directions

Kris say Merry Christmas to Doris and Fred and they respond in kind. However when Kris says Merry Christmas to Susan she doesn’t say anything back. With Fred driving Doris acts as the navigator. Susan is the back seat saying quietly to herself “I believe. I believe. It’s silly, but I believe”. All of a sudden she sees her Christmas present.

160. I believe...I believe

                                                  I believe. I believe

161. Suzie sees the house

  Suzie sees the house

Susan yells for “uncle Fred” to stop the car. Before the car comes to a full stop the door flies open and Susan charges up the hill with her house on it.

162. Suzie charges up the hill163. and into the house she wanted

Doris is at the foot of the front steps when Susan reaches the front door. Doris is yelling for Susan to come back. Susan is already in the house and is thundering up the stairs. Soon Doris and Fred enter the house. Doris calls out for her daughter “Susan, where are you?”. Susan yells that she’s upstairs. Doris tries to admonish her daughter “You shouldn’t run around in other people’s houses. You know better than that”. Susan thunders down stairs to confront her mother. “But this is my house, the one I asked Mr. Kringle for. It is! I know it is! My room upstairs is like I knew it would be! You were right, Mommy”. But she’s far from finished as she turns toward Fred. “Mommy said if things don’t turn out right at first, you’ve still got to believe.”. She turns towards her mother again “You were right, Mommy! Mr. Kringle is Santa Claus!”.

Tom’s Trivia – The house Susan wishes for is real and is not a studio built model. It still exists. The house is Nassau County Tax Records, located at 24 Derby Road in Port Washington, New York.

164. my room upstairs is just like I knew it would

      “My room upstairs is just like I knew it would

While Susan tears off to find out if her backyard has a swing Fred is astonished and bewildered at the same time. “You told her that?” and when Doris’ eyes say yes he kisses her. “The sign outside said it’s for sale. We can’t let her down”. Doris gazes at Fred knowing that her doubt really hurt Fred “I never really doubted you. It was just my silly common sense”. Her feelings make sense to Fred “I must be a pretty good lawyer. I take a little old man and legally prove that he’s Santa Claus. Now, you know that...”.That’s when he sees it. Leaning up against a wall is a cane, just like the one Kris has, or had. Doris sees it and remarks that must have belonged to the previous owner. They both look at the cane with awe and trepidation. Fred says “And maybe I didn’t do such a wonderful thing after all”.

168. a cane



Most of November was a hard time for me and my entire family. We had a medical emergency – we found out my dad has fast developing dementia and spent most of November till last week in the hospital. So I’m going to take some time off to re-charge my batteries. I hope to be back in mid January. While I’m gone stay safe, and have a great Christmas.