Archive for January, 2012
THE MOST MAGNIFICENT & THRILLING SEA ADVENTURE EVER FILMED
(original print ad for “Captain Blood” – 1935)
“Captain Blood” is a 1935 swashbuckling film made by First National Pictures and Warner Brothers. It was directed by Michael Curtiz and produced by Harry Joe Brown and Gordon Hollingshead with Hal B. Wallis as executive producer. The screenplay, written by Casey Robinson, is based on the novel of the same name by Rafael Sabatini. It features a stirring musical score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. (“Captain Blood” was first film to feature a musical score by Korngold who went on to become one of Hollywood’s greatest composers.) The movie stars Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland with Lionel Atwill, Basil Rathbone, Ross Alexander, Guy Kibbee, and Henry Stephenson,. Some of the impressive sea-battle footage was taken from the silent classic “The Sea Hawk” (1924). “Captain Blood” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and, despite not being nominated, director Michael Curtiz received the second-greatest number of votes for Best Director, solely as a write-in candidate. The film also recieved Academy Award nominations for Music (Scoring), Sound Recording (Nathan Levinson) and Writing (Screenplay).
In seventeenth century England, Irish Dr. Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) is arrested during the Monmouth Rebellion and falsely convicted of treason. He is banished to the West Indies and sold into slavery. In Port Royal, Jamaica the Governor’s daughter Arabella Bishop (Olivia De Havilland) buys him to spite her uncle, Col. Bishop (Lionel Atwill) who owns a major plantation. Life is hard for the men and for Blood as well. By chance he treats the Governor’s gout and is soon part of the medical service. He dreams of freedom and when the opportunity arrises, he and his friends rebel, taking over a Spanish ship that has attacked the city. Soon, they are the most feared pirates on the seas, men without a country attacking all ships. When Arabella and royal emissary Lord Willoughby (Henry Stephenson) are captured by Blood’s treacherous partner Captain Levasseur (Basil Rathbone), Blood rescues them. He decides to return her to Port Royal only to find that it is under the control of England’s new enemy, France. All of them must decide if they are to fight for their new King.
“Captain Blood” was a big gamble for Warner Brothers in 1935. It was an expensive production, costing one million without any household names as both Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland became stars only after the film’s release. It was the first of eight films co-starring De Havilland and Flynn. In his biography, “My Wicked, Wicked Ways” Errol Flynn (an infamous prankster) states that he played many pranks on Olivia de Havilland during the filming of the movie. One of them was leaving a dead snake in her underwear drawer, which she found when she went to put them on. After that she lived in terror of what prank he would pull on her next.
Errol Flynn was so nervous during the initial shooting that director Michael Curtiz had to re-shoot his early scenes much later into the production, by which time Flynn had gained a level of confidence. Although they worked together a total of twelve times, Errol Flynn and Michael Curtiz disliked each other intensely.
“Captain Blood” Trailer
Joan Leslie was born Joan Agnes Theresa Sadie Brodel on January 26, 1925 in Detroit, Michigan. She began performing as a singer at the age of nine as part of a vaudeville act with her two sisters, Betty and Mae Brodel. She later began her Hollywood acting career while still a child, performing under her real name in several movies, beginning with her debut in the MGM movie “Camille” (1936) with Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor. Leslie signed a contract with Warner Bros. and at age 16 got her first major role in “High Sierra” (1941) with Humphrey Bogart, playing a crippled girl under her new billing as “Joan Leslie”. In 1941 Leslie also starred in “Sergeant York” with Gary Cooper and “The Wagons Roll at Night” with Humphrey Bogart. In 1942 she appeared as James Cagney’s wife in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and in “The Male Animal” with Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland. In 1943 Leslie danced and co-starred with Fred Astaire in “The Sky’s the Limit”. During WWII Leslie was a regular volunteer at the Hollywood Canteen where she danced with the servicemen and granted hundreds of autographs. In 1944, she starred with Robert Hutton in the Warner Bros. film, “Hollywood Canteen”. Over the next dozen years Leslie had roles in several movies such as “Two Guys From Milwaukee” (1946), “Born To Be Bad” (1950), “Man In The Saddle” (1951) and “Jubilee Trail” (1954). Her last movie role was in “The Revolt of Mamie Stover” in 1956.
Joan Leslie married Dr. William Caldwell on March 17, 1950. Leslie and Caldwell remained married for fifty years until his death in 2000. They had two children together, identical twin daughters Patrice and Ellen. Leslie retired from Hollywood in 1956 to raise her daughters. Over the years she has appeared in several television commercials and has made guest appearances on television in shows such as “Murder, She Wrote”, “Branded”, and “Charlie’s Angels” to name just a few. She has also provided commentary as extras on the “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Sergeant York”, and “High Sierra” DVDs.
Joan Leslie has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street.
Sally Starr was a little remembered movie actress from the 1930’s. She was born Sarah Kathryn Sturm on January 23, 1909 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Starr was a Broadway actress before making her debut in motion pictures. She performed on stage from the age of fourteen. Starr debuted in Frolics featuring Ted Lewis as a teenager and later appeared in George White’s Scandals. She played with Eleanor Powell and George Hassell in “The Optimists” at the Century Roof Theater in January 1928. The same year she was cast with Elliott Nugent, Robert Montgomery, and Phyllis Crane in the theatrical production of “College Life”. When Starr came to Hollywood she signed a contract with MGM. She was promoted by MGM as a peppy girl who apparently caught the bus to and from the studio every day. Her dark brown hair and eyes, and five feet and 104 pounds stature led to her being dubbed by Photoplay as “a vest pocket edition of Clara Bow”. She played leading roles in “So This Is College” (1929), “The Woman Racket” (1930), “Not So Dumb” (1930), “Personality” (1930), and “For The Love o’ Lil” (1930). In 1930 Starr was among the cast of “Swing High” for Pathe Pictures. Her final films were “Meet The Bride” (1937), “Getting An Eyeful” (1938), “Love and Onions” (1938), and “Money on Your Life” (1938). Little is known and/or has been published about her personal life or what she did after her last film in 1938. Sally Starr died from heart disease on May 5, 1996 in South Park Township, Pennsylvania. She was 87 years of age at the time of her death.
“Sometimes I’ll watch an old movie on television and once in a while, one of mine such as April Showers (1948) will come on and I’ll watch it. And you know something? I`m always amazed at what a lousy actress I was. I guess in the old days we just got by on glamor.” ~ Ann Sothern
Ann Sothern was an American film and television actress with over 100 big screen and television titles to her credit in a career that spanned six decades. Sothern was born Harriette Arlene Lake on January 22, 1909 in Valley City, North Dakota. She was raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she graduated from Minneapolis Central High School in 1926. Sothern left home and began her film career as an extra in the 1927 film “Broadway Nights” at the age of 18. During 1929 and 1930, she appeared as a chorus girl in such films as “The Show of Shows” (1929) and “Whoopee!” (1930). On Broadway in 1931, Sothern had leading roles in “America’s Sweetheart” with 135 performances in which she sang ‘I’ve Got Five Dollars’ and ‘We’ll Be The Same’, and in “Everybody’s Welcome” with 139 performances. Sothern signed with Columbia Pictures and starred in “Let’s Fall in Love” (1933). The next year she would work with Eddie Cantor in his hit “Kid Millions” (1934). For the next two years though, Ann would only appear in a number of “B” movies and was let go by Columbia in 1936. She then signed with RKO pictures and for a couple years appeared in several forgettable movies such as “Dangerous Number” (1937) and “She’s Got Everything” (1937). With her career going nowhere Ann left RKO and played Jean Livingstone in “Trade Winds” (1938) which was released by United Artists. The movie was a success and led to a Sothern being offered a contract with MGM.
At MGM Sothern was cast in the film “Maisie” (1939), as brassy Brooklyn burlesque dancer Mary Anastasia O’Connor who also goes by the stage name Maisie Ravier. The movie was a big hit and Sothern had her first major success. A string of several “Maisie” comedy sequels followed, beginning with “Congo Maisie” (1940), and ending with “Undercover Maisie” (1947). In between the “Maise” movies Sothern starred in well recieved movies such as “Dulcy” (1940), “Brother Orchid” (1940), Thousands Cheer (1943), “Cry ‘Havoc'” (1943) and “Three Hearts for Julia” (1943). Her last big movie during that time in her career was “A Letter to Three Wives” in 1949 and during the 1950’s she only appeared in four movies.
Southern would then turn to television, where she would attract legions of new fans. In 1953, she played the role of Susie in “Private Secretary” (1953) a hit series that ran until 1957. In 1958, she starred in “The Ann Sothern Show” (1958) which ran until 1961. She co-starred with Henry Fonda in a 1964 dramatic film, “The Best Man”. In 1965, she was heard as the voice of Gladys Crabtree (the car) in the short-lived series “My Mother the Car”, which co-starred Jerry Van Dyke. That year she also appeared in the title role of “The Widow Fay” episode of ABC’s western series “The Legend of Jesse James”, starring Christopher Jones in the title role of the outlaw Jesse James. The 1970’s and 80’s were slow for Sothern with only spradic work on television being offered. In 1987, she co-starred with Bette Davis and Lillian Gish in “The Whales of August” (1987) for which she nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the movie.
Ann Sothern was married to actor Roger Pryor from 1936 until they were divorced on May 17, 1943. Less than a week after the divorce, Sothern married actor Robert Sterling. The couple had one daughter, actress Tisha Sterling, before divorcing six years later in 1949.
In 1987, Sothern retired from acting and moved to Ketchum, Idaho, where she would spend her remaining years. On March 15, 2001, Sothern died from heart failure at the age of 92 in Ketchum, Idaho.
Sothern has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for motion pictures at 1612 Vine Street and for television at 1634 Vine Street.