End Credits

Posted in Uncategorized on June 2, 2013 by mchoffman

Crossed Swords has become our highest-attended film program ever at the Park Ridge Public Library.

The total attendance for the 13-film festival: 1,663

A sea of patrons waiting to get in on Thursday night…
 photo 894d2178-8fd1-41de-8d1c-7c50aae4bf10_zps6597c8e1.jpg

But a line of happy faces…
 photo 7c0dfaa2-261b-4d77-8a5f-2d4f04da9572_zpsd7a90b81.jpg

There are many people I would like to thank. Some of them I’ve mentioned before, but a good cast is worth repeating.

Thank you to Laura Scott (Adult Program Coordinator), Maggie Thomann (Reader Services Dept. Manager), and Janet Van De Carr (Library Director) for allowing me the opportunity to present a film history program. To Mike Hominick for being my #1 assistant on Thursday nights. Additionally, I would like to thank our staff artist, Jill (for making the program look good), our PR lady, Mary (for getting the word out), Brandee (for her tech support), and Alex (for setting the room up). Thank you to the entire staff of the Park Ridge Public Library because every department had a hand in assisting me these past three months.

A heartfelt thank you to Allie (our official camera girl), Laura M. (our Pickwick Theatre ticket taker and baker), and Katie (email signup volunteer). I would also like to thank my special contributors, Annette Bochenek (for helping with the Taryn Power-Greendeer presentation), and Christine B. (for helping with our drawing).

Ready for our prize giveaway on May 30…
 photo 1b3d8e6d-45b9-41b8-8206-d392aa980321_zps61d5b625.jpg

Bringing movie magic to Park Ridge…
 photo 899dd1de-642f-4cbe-99da-3ffc13fa0264_zps031dfb91.jpg

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Pickwick Theatre management– they know how to serve the community!– as well as to the Silent Film Society of Chicago. Thank you to organist Jay Warren for performing during our second show at the Pickwick–The Black Pirate. The audience response was amazing!

Thank you to Those Were the Days radio host Steve Darnall for promoting both of our Pickwick shows. He also published my “Crossed Swords” article in the spring issue of the Nostalgia Digest. As if that wasn’t enough, he even narrated our official Crossed Swords promo video which you can find on Youtube by clicking here.

To Bruce Ingram at Pioneer Press for covering the film program and putting a spotlight on the most informed library film series in the northwest suburbs. Audience feedback will attest to that.

To my friends at the Northwest Chicago Film Society for letting me promote my shows there. As early as last summer I was selling Crossed Swords at the Portage Theatre. Please check out their film series which is the best theatrical experience in Chicago. My target audience are the kids and grownups in Park Ridge who haven’t seen a swashbuckler earlier than Pirates of the Caribbean, who have never heard the name “Tyrone Power”– nor heard the music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. But the hardcore film people who really appreciate film itself need to check out the NCFS. Everything they show is on 16/35mm.

To the Chicago Art Deco Society for their continued support. Unfortunately, I had to turn down a speaking engagement I was generously offered because I was too caught up with my own series. Nevertheless, they were kind enough to get the word out about our second Pickwick Theatre screening.

Thank you to film historian Jeffrey Vance for his friendship and advice, to Rudy Behlmer for inspiring me, and to my movie friends, Jackie Jones and Laura Wagner.

And I would like to give a special thanks to our wonderful guests, Taryn Power-Greendeer and her daughter, Valentina. We were so honored to have the daughter (and granddaughter) of actor Tyrone Power with us in May. Spending time with them was the highlight of the entire series for me.

I would like to thank all the loyal regulars who were standing in long lines every Thursday night waiting to get in. Thank you to Karen, Caroline, John, Bobbie & Jimmii (I found a use for your 35mm film can afterall!), Fred, Andy, Dorothy & Max, Heather & Larry, the Derers, the Kilroys, the Sturinos, Qaisar, Jim, Judy, Hilary, Art, Brian, Cindy, Ken, Mark, Melody, Little Faye… and so on. You guys are wonderful. You’re not just patrons– you’re my friends. And your friendship and loyalty to our cause is an inspiration. You make me feel like Robin Hood at Gallows Oak in Sherwood. “Are you with me?” There can be no doubt as to the answer.

And to my parents, who were there at every show.

This program is dedicated to all of you– and to a few other friends who could not join us in person: Douglas, Errol, Tyrone, Ronald, Fredric, Robert, Louis, and Stewart.

We’ll do this again at the Library when The Classic Film Series returns in March, 2014. Until then, you can check us out at the Pickwick Theatre when we launch the new Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series on September 26, 2013. For more information about these programs, be sure to visit our new website:

http://parkridgeclassicfilm.com/

Matthew C. Hoffman

Program Host

With Tyrone Power’s wonderful daughter, Taryn…
 photo 009077cb-6670-4194-b0d3-cdb80617f899_zpsfa0dd5ce.jpg

Power Family Visits Park Ridge Classic Film Series: Part II by matthew c. hoffman

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1, 2013 by mchoffman

 photo 778a744b-94f2-4b61-88af-1d702763aeb7_zps04d65b3c.jpg

On Thursday night, May 16, the Park Ridge Public Library screened The Black Swan (1942) starring Tyrone Power. Beforehand, I mentioned that we had something special planned for this particular evening, but I didn’t say what specifically. Despite the fact that I did not advertise this show or contact the media, we had our highest turnout of the series at the Library. I began by introducing my assistant, Annette Bochenek, who was going to help with the presentation. I then told my audience: “This is normally where I would talk about the star of tonight’s film, Tyrone Power, but there’s someone in the audience who knows him a lot better than I do– and that would be his youngest daughter, Taryn Power-Greendeer.”

After a very enthusiastic applause from a surprised audience, the three of us took our places and then we welcomed Taryn’s daughter, Valentina (daughter of musician Tony Sales), who was sitting in the crowd as our guest. I asked Taryn if she could share with our patrons an interesting fact concerning the other famous celebrity Valentina is related to. “I always think of it as the masks of the tragedy and comedy. Her other grandfather is Soupy Sales.” That got a nice response from our patrons as most of us remember the famous television comedian. Taryn began by telling us that she didn’t know any of the questions we were going to ask but that she was fine with improv!

We began by asking Taryn to tell us a little about herself and what life was like growing up. She told us that only in hindsight is she able to truly reflect on how life was back then. She had been raised by a lot of people other than her parents, having spent a lot of time with nannies and in boarding schools. Her life had been shaped in a very matriarchal setting. Her father had died when she was only five years old, so we asked her what were some of the earliest memories she had of him. Taryn distinctly recalled going to Tyrone’s grave shortly after they buried him. “I have the memory of standing with my sister, and there was an elderly lady not much taller than I was sobbing uncontrollably alongside us. I never saw that before in that situation and started giggling at the sight of this older lady crying.”

“It didn’t really hit me much until I was probably about fifteen and we were living in Italy at the time,” she continued. “I had been living there since I was seven. All the films I had seen of his were dubbed, but when I was fifteen I finally heard a recording of his voice on a record. It was him reading poems by Byron, and there was one talking to his daughter, and that’s when I started to miss him. And that’s when I made a big connection to his voice.”

Tyrone Power, a class act…
 photo 09556484-d23e-4903-a120-476c5ab313eb_zps1de24402.jpg

Taryn was amused by the idea of writing an autobiography—but the title would’ve certainly had something to do with her adventures with her mother (actress Linda Christian)– Travels with Mummy would’ve been a likely title. But wherever they traveled in the world, her mother was always viewed as Tyrone Power’s wife. That always went along with her. “People would open their homes to us immediately because they loved my dad. It was uncanny the amount of hospitality and generosity that I experienced only because I was my dad’s daughter.”

Hers was an interesting life because she grew up with an image of him that had been immortalized. At that time, most people had heard of Tyrone Power. It was an image that was always with her. As a result, she herself felt as though she were being scrutinized because of that heritage. There was a sense that she had to live up to these high expectations when she was pursuing acting professionally. Since both of her parents were movie stars, it made for a very colorful life.

Taryn has spent the last twenty years living in Wisconsin. “My dream as a kid was to live on a farm.” That was her life’s goal, so she wound up moving near Amish country. Without question, she is less known here where Hollywood is a very foreign place in the eyes of the Amish community. Taryn is very happy in Wisconsin and spends a lot of time working in schools with kids. Her daughter, Valentina, has attended school in Wisconsin and in fact has a degree in music theatre. This Midwestern environment is very much part of their makeup now. Walking in the Wisconsin woods for Taryn is a far cry from the flashes of Paparazzi bulbs that she had always known while traveling through airports with her mother. Taryn told us that it was “not your normal type of life.” But she came away with a strong belief that anything was possible in life. “Don’t let money determine your choices.”

Annette asked Taryn what her favorite memories were of her father. Taryn told us that the story at the gravesite was her first conscious one. She also said she had a vague memory of sitting on the back of a man in a swimming pool—a man who may or may not have been her father. It was more a sensory thing she felt of being in the water since Tyrone often swam with the children. A lot of what she remembers is in relation to what people have told her.

“There have been times when young women have said, ‘Oh, my mother was in love with your dad.’ I go, ‘yeah, my mom too.'”
 photo 71abed08-3d09-4677-bf6b-00e544970055_zps6c86359e.jpg

“When I first came to Hollywood pursuing an acting career, I remember driving up through the gates of 20th Century Fox for an interview, and the guard at the gate shared a story when he saw who I was. There was a time where  he had a daughter with some serious health condition. He didn’t have the money to take care of her and my dad had actually paid for it.” It wasn’t a particularly glamorous story, but it’s the kind of human story that Taryn admires about her father. She also recalled the story of Tyrone growing up in Cincinnati where he worked as an usher at a movie theatre. At this time in his life, he was not very well off financially and had to resort to stuffing newspaper in his shoes to keep his feet warm. Again, these are not the types of stories one associates with famous movie stars, but they are the kind that Taryn appreciates.

I mentioned to Taryn that I remember reading about how she had set up screenings of her father’s films at 20th Century Fox because she wanted to become more familiar with him. I asked if any films in particular resonate. Taryn said she had seen some growing up, but it was much different seeing him on a large screen with his voice. No matter if she was viewing him as a daughter or as a movie fan, “He looked gorgeous no matter how I looked at him.” She recalled witnessing his on-screen ruggedness for the first time in Jesse James. Lloyds of London and Witness For the Prosecution were other films that stood out for her. But there was one she mentioned which I myself hadn’t seen– Diplomatic Courier, which she had seen in a little movie theatre in west Los Angeles back in the 1970s. “That was a movie I hadn’t even heard of, but I thought it was really good.”

At this point, I brought up how difficult it was for Tyrone to show how good an actor he was within the studio system. Due to box office demand, he was often cast in ‘pretty boy’ roles. However, his talent was clearly evident in films like Nightmare Alley. It wasn’t until years later, when he was appearing in films like Abandon Ship and Witness for the Prosecution, that he revealed himself as a great actor like his father before him. He always wanted to stretch himself as an actor and show that he was something more than just a handsome face. In his later years he even returned to the stage. One of his greatest successes in the theatre was his performance of John Brown’s Body.

Annette asked Taryn if there were any misconceptions about her father that she wanted to clear up. We raised this subject because we knew of only two books written about Tyrone Power. Each had far different perspectives and agendas. One of which is on the trashy side with no sources to back up its claims, yet its the speculation that seems to resonate with certain segments of the public. Taryn told us that one of the authors had approached her and he was going to focus on his supposed bisexuality. Regarding her thoughts on this, “I didn’t really care. He’s not even here to say anything. It’s all heresay, whatever. It didn’t matter to me.” If anything, those claims only made him more human in her eyes and not so “squeaky clean perfect.” Taryn told us that her sister, Romina, has in fact written a book in Italian about Tyrone. Its English translation would be Looking for My Father. Romina had spent ten years plus interviewing people. Taryn had been included as the photographer in this project and collected photos of many actors like Henry Fonda and Rock Hudson. Unfortunately, much of this material was lost in a fire which the family suffered about six years ago.

“I have to say, coming into the library tonight, I thought my dad would really like this because he had three passions in life: acting, flying as a pilot, and books; he was a first edition collector.” Taryn has inherited this desire to collect books, but she confessed to never having much time to read when she was younger. She was always traveling then and learning the languages of other countries. It wasn’t until she was ten years old and in a boarding school that she finally got a chance to read her first book cover to cover: Bobbsey Twins in Rainbow Valley! She added that Tyrone would have been thrilled that this event is happening in the library and that his art is appreciated still and his memory is kept alive this way.

Tyrone Power as Jesse James
 photo 7091cd64-055d-4a25-b232-7fac0e81c383_zpsb688eeb2.jpg

After our interview, we took some questions from the audience. She was asked about her siblings. Taryn is the middle child of three. She did not meet her brother, Tyrone Power, Jr., until she was in her late 30s. Her sister had pursued a relationship with him, having tried to reach out to Tyrone. Their half-brother had been born after their father’s death in 1958. Tyrone, Jr., was an actor in New York at the time when he finally saw Romina performing on TV with her husband. He realized that that was his sister he was seeing. Soon after he got in touch with her. Afterward, they performed together on stage since Tyrone was an accomplished keyboardist. They sang and toured as a group. Romina is entirely self-taught and is a talented musician and artist. Taryn has a very high opinion of her sister’s creative impulses. By contrast, our guest explained that she is someone who needs something to work towards. In this regard, she’s very different from Romina.

Another patron asked what qualities in her mother did she love? “Her generosity,” Taryn said. “She was unattached to physical things… and was always thinking of others and what they might like. I remember this one room in the house that was her closet with these beautiful Dior gowns, and she would give them away to friends. She was always giving things away—including our stuff while we were at school! She taught me to have a relative attachment to physical things.”

Linda and Ty with daughters Taryn (born 1953) & Romina (born 1951)
 photo 93535466-edd9-433e-8510-bcfb0ca39033_zpsf0e0bba7.jpg

Does she have any personal items that belonged to her father? Taryn told us that her sister is the collector. Romina has even found things online that had once belonged to their father. Unfortunately, Taryn has lost some of the items she had over the years due to floods, fires, and thefts. “For instance, I had my parents’ bedroom lamps until the fire. They were alabaster; they turned into chalk in the fire. And I remember thinking, if those lamps could talk! … I have an old journal of his with his initials on it.” Mostly, though, Taryn only has what’s in her head. She’s a collector of memories rather than things.

Did she have any kind of a relationship with her father’s family? Taryn mentioned she had photos with her paternal grandmother, Patia, when she was a baby. Patia died shortly afterward, and her grandfather (the famous Tyrone Power, Sr.) had already died. Her father had a sister, Anne, living in Florida. “We didn’t really grow up with any of my dad’s side of the family. My sister went after our aunt and I did get to meet her. She was an artist. All the walls in the house were filled with paintings…” Taryn had asked her aunt why she painted so much. “I can’t help it,” Anne said. “I have to.”

I spoke a little about the film we were about to see, The Black Swan, which features an audio commentary on the dvd by Maureen O’Hara. I mentioned to Taryn that Maureen thought Tyrone was a sweetheart of a man, and that I never heard of one bad word said about him. Everyone in Hollywood seemed to get along with him– as opposed to, say, Errol Flynn, who was charming in a more superficial way. At the mention of Flynn, Taryn added,

“I have to throw in a little anecdote at this point. It was Errol Flynn who met my mom first and picked her up in Acapulco, Mexico, and took her on his boat to Hollywood. She was studying to be an assistant for a plastic surgeon. She was doing medicine and he saw her. He thought she was ravishing and whisked her away to Hollywood. So when you talk about Errol Flynn and my dad being the two swordsmen, I think, yeah!”

 photo 0d6f90f5-7a5c-4be9-85db-94e6b3311e53_zpsc420b779.jpg

Valentina and Taryn speak with patrons after the show…
 photo d2512fee-b4f5-457d-8c05-0c5b37dc039e_zps2e25dd3b.jpg

NOTE: The preceding was a close approximation of our Q&A with Taryn. (The humor, spontaneity, and some of the personal details will be lost to everyone not in that meeting room that night, but we hope we have been able to convey the general history and appreciation that was witnessed that evening.) We are extremely grateful to Taryn & Valentina for their generosity to the Park Ridge community. On a personal level, I am thrilled to have had them as guests. Like the famous Barrymores, the Powers represent a long-standing tradition in acting. For them, it’s a heritage that goes back hundreds of years. We sincerely hope this tradition of performance will continue in the family for generations to come. Additionally, I am also grateful to Taryn for the conversations we had before the Library event. Whether it was discussing the book Nightmare Alley, her grandfather, or simply how her life might’ve been different with her father in it, my understanding of Tyrone and appreciation for the family was enriched. Though he has been gone a long time now, we like to think he is still watching over the family.

New Classic Film Website!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 31, 2013 by mchoffman

We now have a new website!

http://parkridgeclassicfilm.com/

Be sure to add it as a “Favorite” so that you can keep track of all the classic film screenings in Park Ridge, IL.

We will list the upcoming classic films at the Pickwick Theatre (beginning this September) as well as updates on the March 2014 film series at the Park Ridge Public Library.

We’ve moved into the 21st century and built ourselves a website! Check it out by clicking here!

 photo eebce110-ec3a-418c-b446-dde682646a21_zps0979dc42.jpg

A Look Ahead (at the Library Film Series) by matthew c. hoffman

Posted in Uncategorized on May 31, 2013 by mchoffman

2013 was intended as a year for mainstream, family-oriented films.

2014 will be the opposite. It will be a program unlike anything I’ve ever done before… anywhere.

 photo 6fe8ce54-6d35-4e74-b1fa-d50eb0dd9c01_zps2bd86507.jpg

It will be a darker passage for us, but…

There will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Things can always change, of course, but in 2015 I see our first program sequel: LOL II (Legends of Laughter II). Two years ago we profiled the great silent comedians. Two years from now, I’d like to do a retrospective on the great comedy teams…

 photo 62ecd9e8-4148-4323-b479-3f31678359dc_zps7a821b52.jpg

Scaramouche (1952) by matthew c. hoffman

Posted in Uncategorized on May 31, 2013 by mchoffman

 photo ecd6de58-273f-4acd-95a7-3d010f84eaee_zpsd426b37b.jpg

When you hear the name Jimmy Stewart you don’t associate it with the adventure film genre, and yet, Jimmy Stewart was MGM’s biggest swashbuckling hero in the 1950s. Of course, he didn’t use his real name in the movies. There was already a star we all know and love with that same name. Instead, he went by the name Stewart Granger. We haven’t talked much about Granger in this series, and yet, he is the one taking us down the homestretch—running the last leg in the men’s relay team of swashbucklers. We’ve seen the best in this series: Fairbanks, Flynn, Power… So now we end with Granger. It’s a fitting tribute since earlier this month Stewart Granger would’ve turned 100. It was on May 6—the day after Tyrone Power’s 99th birthday.

Granger had come over from England, where he had been making films, and signed a contract with MGM in 1949. He stipulated that one of the projects he wanted developed for himself was Scaramouche. He was emotionally invested in this story, having been inspired by a silent version of it as a young boy. Scaramouche, in my opinion, is one of the two best films he would ever make– the other being 1950’s King Solomon’s Mines. If Granger hadn’t lobbied for the role, MGM would’ve made this as a Gene Kelly musical with Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor.

 photo 94fbddab-e104-4532-b2c1-9c18c5e1af33_zpsabe3fb08.jpg

The stars in the sky over MGM must’ve been in their proper alignment because everything worked out the way it was meant. It’s hard to imagine tonight’s film as anything other than what it turned out to be. It’s one of the finest swashbucklers ever made, and certainly one of the best of the 1950s. The film offers the wonders of Technicolor, vibrant cinematography by Charles Rosher, stunning costumes and sets, a sweeping film score by Victor Young, and a perfect cast. The film was under the direction of George Sidney, who is mostly known as a director of musicals such as Anchors Away, Showboat, and Kiss Me Kate. And yet, he made two well-loved swashbucklers. Nineteen forty-eight’s The Three Musketeers with Gene Kelly was the other one. In a way, Scaramouche is choreographed as a musical. Mel Ferrer, who plays the Marquis, was a dancer, so he learned his movements as though it were a dance.

Scaramouche is based on the 1921 Rafael Sabatini novel of the same name. It’s considered the author’s finest work and it begins with perhaps his most famous line: “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” There was a 1923 silent film directed by Rex Ingram that faithfully adapted the story. Many character elements as well as the setting were changed in the 1952 version, but the story is essentially the same. Set in the time immediately before the French Revolution, Stewart Granger is Andre Moreau, a free spirit who doesn’t take too many things seriously. This carefree view quickly changes after he witnesses the fate of his idealistic best friend, Philippe (played by Richard Anderson). A defender of the common people, Philippe de Valmorin is accused of treason and is murdered at the hands of the Marquis de Maynes (Mel Ferrer)—the finest swordsman in France who takes a delight in killing off the Queen’s nobles on the field of honor. At this point, Moreau only has one thing on his mind: revenge. He must learn how to be as quick with a sword as he is with his tongue.

There is a wonderful theatricality throughout the film, such as the stylized slapstick sequences involving the acting troupe. It is the commedia dell’arte where our hero, Andre Moreau, finds refuge when hiding from the Marquis’ soldiers. Here, he assumes the role of the masked clown, Scaramouche. Note the relevance of the theatre in this film, first how it is used to separate the classes and then how it literally intrudes upon the aristocrats in the climax. It seems as though Moreau is always on stage in one form or the other. Whether it’s playing the role of a representative in the National Assembly or riding through the crowded street on his wedding day, the theatre and its conventions are always a part of his environment and his character. His story literally ends with a joke straight from the theatre world.

Eleanor Parker
 photo f6ff5297-27b2-450c-83db-f62e5c278215_zps02da8e3a.jpg

The two love interests in the story include Eleanor Parker as the ravishing redhead, Lenore, and Janet Leigh as the more lady-like aristocrat, Aline de Gavrillac. Eleanor Parker is still with us in 2013. She’s 90 years old and living in California. In her heyday, she was known for the diversity of her roles in films like Caged, Detective Story, and The Sound of Music, in which she had the second-lead. Sadly, Parker is a mostly forgotten star these days. However, take one guess who the “Star of the Month” is in June on Turner Classic Movies? Her performance tonight is an eye-opener, and her love-hate relationship with Moreau is one of the joys in watching the film. We haven’t seen this much physical abuse since Maureen O’Hara hit Tyrone Power in the head with a rock in The Black Swan. Parker must’ve enjoyed hitting back with a saucepan in hand because she hated working with Stewart Granger. She thought he was a real SOB. Lenore’s rival for Andre’s attentions is Aline. This was one of Janet Leigh’s early roles as an ingénue, but she had been with MGM since 1947. She has a more conventional part in this film. (This was eight years before she started taking showers in the movies.) Though she had no need for a sword, she did have to learn how to ride sidesaddle on a horse.

Mel Ferrer is a very suave villain in the manner of those great James Bond villains audiences would see ten years later. Ferrer had been a Broadway actor and dancer who later became a modest filmmaker. As an actor, he appeared in such films as the musical Lili, Knights of the Round Table, the 1956 version of War And Peace, and The Sun Also Rises with Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn. Also in the cast of Scaramouche is Lewis Stone as Andre’s foster father. Stone had appeared as the villain opposite Ramon Novarro in the original silent version. He was also known as Judge Hardy in the popular Andy Hardy movies with Mickey Rooney. Scaramouche would be the first of his final three movies before his death in 1953. All three films were with Stewart Granger. The Prisoner of Zenda and All the Brothers Were Valiant were the other two.

Scaramouche could’ve easily been Stewart Granger’s last film. I found some IMDB trivia concerning the sequence that involves a chandelier. During Andre’s second fight with the Marquis, it’s supposed to fall towards Granger while he is on the floor. “As originally scripted, the heavy chandelier would halt inches from Granger’s face. The director encouraged Granger to do it ‘first take’ and not rehearse the scene or test the safety rope, which was considered sound. Granger balked and said he wanted to see a test first. On the first test, the rope snapped and the iron chandelier crashed through the floor of the set. The scene was reshot with Granger rolling out from under the chandelier as it fell towards him.” I’m not sure if that story is true because you’d think the director would’ve tested it first. If you look closely, you’ll see the stuntman start to roll away as the chandelier falls and then there’s a shot of Andre on his back looking up—and then he rolls away. Even Granger’s own wife, actress Jean Simmons, was not immune to these on-set dangers. According to one account, she was visiting the set one day and nearly got hit in the face with a sword thrust.

Lewis Stone and Stewart Granger
 photo 20c1a9f0-2592-42a1-b4dd-ff7f10f6ea08_zpsd1834d0c.jpg

All the swordplay sequences were staged by fight choreographer Jean Heremans. He was a European fencing champion hired by MGM in 1948 to supervise the swordfighting on The Three Musketeers. According to author Jeffrey Richards, Heremans, “directed duels utilizing every kind of sword: sabre (The Prisoner of Zenda—1952 version), rapier (Swordsman of Siena), scimitar (Princess of the Nile), broadsword (Prince Valiant).” His experience and background helped make Scaramouche one of the finest films about the art of fencing.

The highlight of the film is the third confrontation between Andre Moreau and the Marquis in the Parisian Theatre. The final swordfight, which is like an action ballet, is nearly seven minutes in length and may still be the longest duel in movie history. It takes the (movie) audience from the theatre balcony to the lobby below, and then over the seats and to the stage itself. Stewart Granger knew how to fence and did many of his own stunts in the film.  For this sequence, he and Ferrer had to memorize eighty-seven sword passes and twenty-eight stunts. It was a grueling eight weeks of training, but it pays off on the screen. We never lose interest because of how director George Sidney cuts the sequence together. All the movements are carefully worked out and intelligently designed. It’s such a grand, over-the-top climax that fits the film like a glove. It’s a beautiful and graceful way to end Crossed Swords.

 photo 4e125705-3eff-428e-890c-f7d3e88856eb_zpsec3dec5b.jpg

Fred Cavens: Swordsman Behind the Screen by matthew c. hoffman

Posted in Uncategorized on May 27, 2013 by mchoffman

“All movements– instead of being as small as possible, as in competitive fencing– must be large, but nevertheless correct. Magnified is the word. The routine should contain the most spectacular attacks and parries it is possible to execute while remaining logical to the situation. In other words, the duel should be a fight and not a fencing exhibition, and should disregard at times classically correct guards and lunges. The attitudes arising naturally out of fighting instinct should predominate. When this occurs the whole performance will leave an impression of strength, skill and manly grace.” ~ Fred Cavens (1882-1962)

Before Crossed Swords winds down, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge one of the most important people on a movie set. The fight choreographer is the one who brings to life those pivotal actions of a great swashbuckler. He designs the routines and creates the style and the magic. When we think of all the sword fights in these films we must keep in mind that, in most instances, they were choreographed not by the director but by the fencing master. In many of these swordfights, he also served as the stuntman. We’ve mentioned some of these names throughout the series, but Fred Cavens was the master during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Throughout the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, he worked with the best: Douglas Fairbanks (The Black Pirate), Errol Flynn (The Adventures of Robin Hood), Tyrone Power (The Mark of Zorro), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (The Exile), Louis Hayward (The Man in the Iron Mask), and many others including Cornel Wilde (At Sword’s Point) and Jean Peters (Anne of the Indies). Like the all-important makeup man, he made the stars look good! With his son, Albert, as an assistant, Fred contributed significantly to most of the films in this series, and his credits include the best swashbucklers in the genre. His career extended well into the 1950s when he trained Guy Williams in his television role of Zorro.

There is not a lot written about Fred Cavens, although I did find an interesting news item I would like to share from the October 21, 1945, issue of the Herald-Journal (in Spartanburg, S.C.). Click on the link below:

Fred Cavens: A Handy Man to Have Around With Swords

Belgian fencing master Fred Cavens (left) with Basil Rathbone.
 photo a6048_zpsd8724ec0.jpg

NOTE: For more information about Cavens and the other Hollywood fencing masters, refer to Swordsmen of the Screen (1977) by Jeffrey Richards.

Crossed Swords: The Sequel

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2013 by mchoffman

No, there will be no immediate sequel to Crossed Swords at the Park Ridge Public Library, but we recommend the following titles to those of you who need more swash and want to continue the tradition at home. All of the following films are available on dvd:

The Mark of Zorro (1920) with Douglas Fairbanks

The Three Musketeers (1921) with Douglas Fairbanks

Robin Hood (1922) with Douglas Fairbanks

Don Q, Son of Zorro (1925) with Douglas Fairbanks

Don Juan (1926) with John Barrymore

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1935) with Leslie Howard

The Corsican Brothers (1941) with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

The Crimson Pirate (1952) with Burt Lancaster

Ivanhoe (1952) with Robert Taylor

The Master of Ballantrae (1953) with Errol Flynn

The Swordsman of Sienna (1961) with Stewart Granger

 photo 944caa16-3e81-496d-8843-653d76692698_zps8c095cad.jpg

*            *            *            *            *            *

For more great images to classic swashbucklers, click here!

*             *             *             *             *             *