The big surprise, this week, is that we are not overwhelmed by films for Easter. Mind you, only Good Friday (and King of Kings) falls in the current week. So it is likely that Easter Parade, Ben-Hur and The Greatest Story Ever Told will be waiting in the wings . . .
DON’T BOTHER TO KNOCK (1952) Saturday 27 March 3.55-5.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Knock is an odd thriller that has definite curiosity value and receives a rare showing today. Richard Widmark is an airline pilot attracted to a babysitter who is having psychological problems. She is played by Marilyn Monroe; the actress, later legend, doesn’t quite have the range to carry it off, but you might like to give it the once over.
FOXTROT (2017) Saturday 27 March 11.40pm GMT-2.25am BST BBC 4 P
Do you remember the powerful film Lebanon, set mostly inside a tank, that we showed about ten years ago? Here, its director Samuel Maoz tells the story of a Tel Aviv couple who are told that their son has been killed in action. However, it is another son, not theirs, who has been killed . . .
DREAMBOAT (1952) Sunday 28 March 12.15-2.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Here is a nice little comedy for film buffs: in the early days of television, a silent-movie queen (Ginger Rogers) introduces her old films to viewers of the new medium – much to the chagrin of her former co-star (Clifton Webb).
SINK THE BISMARCK! (1960) Sunday 28 March 5.05-7.10pm Channel 41
The title is self-explanatory and it represents, arguably, the last traditional British war film – b/w, Kenneth More (or similar) in the lead, a safe pair of hands (Lewis Gilbert) directing and a story involving much heroism. There is a nice balance between incidents at sea and strategic planning at HQ and Dana Wynter is quietly effective.
FINDING JACK CHARLTON (2020) Monday 29 March 9.00-10.40pm BBC 2 P
Even if you do not like football, this is an absorbing documentary about one of the great characters in our national game. The focus is on his career as a manager and on his final 18 months before he succumbed to the effects of dementia.
COLLECTIVE (2019) Monday 29 March 9.00-10.45pm BBC 4 P
These occasional clashes can be very annoying – especially as both documentaries have had an exceptional response from critics and the public. This Storyville documentary was nominated for an Oscar. It concerns the diligent exposure of the health scandal that followed a nightclub fire in Bucharest in 2015.
THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES (1941) Tuesday 30 March 4.15-6.00pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
The Undercover Boss of its day, I suppose – a millionaire department store owner (Charles Coburn) goes undercover to investigate customer complaints. Jean Arthur is the sassy sales assistant he encounters and it is all droll and very watchable.
MARY MAGDALENE (2017) Tuesday 30 March 11.15pm-1.35am Film Four P
The Biblical epics of yore are long gone, of course, and we are into revisionist territory again. Having said that, the cinematography is excellent, and Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix make a very interesting pairing.
ABOVE US THE WAVES (1955) Wednesday 31 March 2.30-4.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
You might have a feeling of déjà vu: b/w, John Mills and John Gregson, and heroism of the first order as, this time, midget submarines set out to sink the Tirpitz. The handling is a little flat (it aims for a documentary feel rather than gung-ho posturing), but all emerge with some credit.
FEAR IS THE KEY (1972) Wednesday 31 March 9.05-11.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Adapting Alistair MacLean bestsellers seemed to be in vogue in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Barry Newman was never a major star (although I liked his TV series Petrocelli), but he does well enough as the action hero looking for vengeance and some stolen jewels.
THE THIRD MAN (1949) Thursday 1 April 9.00-10.40pm BBC 4
Here is another, very welcome, run out for a film that polls usually place in the British Top Ten. We have Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles as Harry Lime, evocative cinematography, the zither music and that speech about cuckoo clocks.
BRIGHTON ROCK (2010) Thursday 1 April 10.40pm-12.25am BBC 4
This is not the original, but the update with Sam Riley (as Pinkie Brown) and Andrea Riseborough (as Rose, the waitress). Whilst it cannot match the 1947 version, it remains a powerful story well told and had a good reception in British cinemas (including the Regent, of course).
CARRY ON COWBOY (1965) Friday 2 April 10.45am-12.45pm Channel 10
It was only a matter of time before the Carry On team headed Out West and it became a favourite of the director Gerald Thomas. Sid James is The Rumpo Kid, Kenneth Williams Judge Burke, Jim Dale Marshall P. Knutt – and Charles Hawtrey has a ball as Chief Big Heap.
COLETTE (2018) Friday 2 April 10.00-11.45pm BBC 2 P
When I saw Colette on release, I could not agree with the reviewer for the Financial Times that it is “inspiring and empowering” and I still cannot. What it is is a very good drama, well-suited to members, where the set design looks of the period (belle époque Paris). Keira Knightley is ideal casting as the writer who broke the glass ceiling for her contemporaries – for her increasingly confident sexuality, as much as for her novels.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
Last Sunday, Talking Pictures scheduled Episode 3 of The Champions (Stuart Damon, Alexandra Bastedo and William Gaunt), so it seemed an appropriate moment to shine a light on threesomes on television and in the cinema. Such a grouping is relatively rare – usually the hero works alone (James Bond); has a partner (Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in The Avengers); has a sidekick (Roy Rogers and George ‘Gabby’ Hayes) – or there is an ensemble cast (Hill Street Blues).
Most of the stories in the original Star Trek TV series pivot on three characters – Kirk, Spock and ‘Bones’ McCoy – although there were important subsidiary characters on the bridge as well. Red Dwarf operated on a similar dynamic even though one of the major characters was a hologram. Kookie, the car valet played by Edd Byrnes in 77 Sunset Strip, was so popular (especially with teenagers) that the two private detectives became three and a song entered the US charts: “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)”; the series lasted for over 200 episodes between 1958 and 1964. Hawaiian Eye, on the other hand, kept it at two detectives during its four year run although Connie Stevens, as a nightclub singer, also appeared in most of the episodes. This series, too, was from the Warner Brothers stable; the lead actor was Poncie Ponce whose main claim to fame this was, his film roles being virtually non-existent (he was, however, in Speedway with Elvis Presley).
Of the dozens of western TV series that frequented channels on both sides of the Atlantic between 1958 and 1968, only three (as it happens) would really qualify: Stagecoach West (1960-61), Laredo (1965-67) and a minor series called The Rough Riders (1958-59). Regarding the ITV series Department S (1969-1970), most of us would only remember Jason King (a flamboyant characterisation by Peter Wyngarde). In the 1970s proper, however, there was a popular sitcom Man About the House (and its American imitator Three’s Company), The New Avengers (with Joanna Lumley as Purdey) and, in the 1980s, the series C.A.T.S. Eyes about an all-woman detective agency working for the Home Office. The first 13 episodes, in particular, were of a high standard.
C.A.T.S. Eyes might not have existed without the hugely successful Charlie’s Angels which preceded it. It was fun, introduced Farrah Fawcett to the world, but was also pretty lame. More recently, in 2000, it transferred to the big screen, but the results (since including the sequel and the reboot) have again been very poor – except financially. In fact, having a team of three hasn’t been at all common in the cinema. The Three Stooges, who made some 200 shorts for Columbia, must surely be the best known. Other than that, the concept was only popular in B-westerns between 1935 and 1945. Hopalong Cassidy had two pardners (and there were 66 films in all). Second in both popularity and longevity would be The Three Mesquiteers series at Republic, based on characters created by William Colt MacDonald. There were 51 films between 1936 and 1943, with several changes of personnel; those starring John Wayne, Ray (“Crash”) Corrigan and Max Terhune are generally considered to be the best. A good idea rarely escaped the attention of the smaller Poverty Row studios, so Monogram had ‘The Rough Riders’ (the series was cut short when Buck Jones was killed in the Coconut Grove nightclub fire); ‘The Range Busters’ (theirs included the ‘classic’ Texas to Bataan – don’t ask!) and ‘The Trail Blazers’. The latter series starred old timers Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson and Bob Steele. Many sagebrush fans said that Steele was the best of the B-western stars and his later career as a character actor lasted into the 1970s (and included a part in the TV series F Troop as well as many small roles in major releases of the day).
The Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week. Had my local betting shop been open, I might just have gone for the following: Nomadland for Best Film (just ahead of Judas and the Black Messiah and Mank); Chadwick Boseman to receive a posthumous award for Best Actor; Chloé Zhao for Best Director; Glenn Close to finally receive an award for Best Supporting Actress.
Thursday evening at 10.00pm, I shall be watching Discovering Westerns on Film on Sky Arts! They are doing a countdown of 25 landmark films since Stagecoach in 1939. I am intrigued to see how they will manage with such a small number – I hope I can contain myself. Speaking of westerns, a little bird (it should be a vulture circling overhead as the thirsty hero attacks a barrel-head cactus with a pitifully small knife) tells me that TP will soon bring back Champion the Wonder Horse to our screens.
A BELL FOR ADANO (1945) Saturday 20 March 3.20-5.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
We welcome back to Freeview an unusual, sincere and rewarding wartime film. John Hodiak’s US Army unit has occupied an Italian village. Seeking to engage with the locals, he attempts to find a new bell for the villagers, as their old one had been recycled for Italy’s war effort. Gene Tierney and William Bendix are both very good, too.
CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948) Saturday 20 March 8.00-10.15pm TP (Channel 81)
Please see Monday’s notes.
LAND OF MINE (2015) Saturday 20 March 9.00-10.35pm BBC 4 P
The BBC continues with its excellent run of subtitled films that should appeal to film society members. The Second World War has just ended and young German POWs are being used to clear landmines from the Danish coast. For the audience this means a tense, and moving, drama unfolds.
THE SHOP AT SLY CORNER (1946) Sunday 21 March 12.05-2.00pm Channel 55
5 Select seems happy to use its Sunday lunchtime slot for interesting, little-known, post-war dramas with dependable character actors. Oscar Homolka is an antiques dealer and fugitive; Muriel Pavlow his daughter; Kenneth Griffiths a thoroughly slimy blackmailer; Derek Farr and Kathleen Harrison feature too.
THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND (2018) Sunday 21 March 10.00-11.45pm BBC 2 P
I was ever so keen to book this for LRFS, but the UK rights were snapped up by Netflix. Based on a true story, Will (Maxwell Simba) is a young boy who tries to help his family and community during a famine. Chiwetel Ejofor wrote the script, directs and stars – and does a fantastic job.
20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) Monday 22 March 1.00-3.00pm Channel 68
When a spaceship crashes on its return from Venus (!), a Venusian monster (‘the Ymir’) escapes, grows and grows – and begins to cause the Italian authorities a few problems. It all sounds silly, but it received favourable reviews (especially the climax in the Colosseum) and, like me, you might just want to enjoy the special effects work of Ray Harryhausen.
CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948) Monday 22 March 3.40-6.00pm TP (Channel 81)
Between 1945 and 1951, director Henry Hathaway averaged one documentary-style thriller a year for 20th-Century Fox; they were all good, but this was the pick of them. James Stewart is the reporter trying to prove a man, sitting on Death Row, is innocent. Fifty years later, Clint Eastwood updated the idea in True Crime, but was unable to match the original.
THE BLACK ARROW (1948) Tuesday 23 March 12.40-2.15pm Film Four
As neither Errol Flynn nor Tyrone Power is to be seen, The Black Arrow doesn’t often feature in discussions of superior swashbucklers. It is a shame because Louis Hayward cut quite a dash in costume dramas (The Son of Monte Cristo, 1940, is also good). George Macready always made a great villain and there is a fine climax. Director Gordon Douglas could be erratic, but he made a decent step up from B-movies with this one.
THE LAST COMMAND (1955) Tuesday 23 March 2.15-4.25pm Film Four
If you are settling down to watch this as well, did you remember lunch? It is likely that studio boss Herbert J Yates gave this historical drama the green light, in response to John Wayne leaving Republic after Yates refused to properly finance his cherished project The Alamo. He hired an Oscar-winning director (Frank Lloyd), a decent set of actors including Sterling Hayden, Ernest Borgnine and a passably authentic Arthur Hunnicutt as Davy Crockett, and authorised a bigger budget. The end result, whilst not as spectacular as The Alamo (1960), is a creditable one.
THE SECRET TUNNEL (1948) Wednesday 24 March 4.40-5.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Wednesday is quite a challenge this week! Actually, this is a rather entertaining children’s film, from a bygone era, that features enthusiastic child actors, hidden passageways and a final race to catch the crooks.
THE TERMINATOR (1984) Wednesday 24 March 9.00-11.15pm Channel 31
I have always felt that the 80s was a poor decade for cinema, but there were exceptions and The Terminator deserves its 5-star status. If you are unfamiliar with the story, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a cyborg who travels back in time to change history; Linda Hamilton is excellent as the mom out to protect her boy. It is well paced and very exciting although the concept isn’t entirely original – Michael Rennie had starred in Cyborg 2087 in 1966.
FLAME OF THE BARBARY COAST (1945) Thursday 25 March 2.55-4.45pm Film Four
This was Republic’s tenth anniversary production, so they used their top star (John Wayne), cast Ann Dvorak instead of Vera Ralston and . . . upped the budget! The Duke is a rancher fleeced by cardsharps in San Francisco who returns for more of same; unfortunately, it is 1906 and disaster is about to strike. Howard and Theodore Lydecker were the studio’s special effects gurus and, although they could not match MGM’s earthquake in San Francisco (1936), they did a fine job with far fewer resources.
BLACK POWER (2021) Thursday 25 March 9.00-10.30pm BBC 2 P
This excellent documentary takes a look at the rise of the Black Power movement in the UK rather than in the United States. New interviews are combined with archive footage and it is a fascinating – and timely – story.
CROSS-ROADS (1955) Friday 26 March 8.35-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
We have the opportunity to set up a different kind of Friday evening with a double bill. First up is a two-reel short: a ghost story with Christopher Lee out to avenge the death of his sister.
ENEMY MINE (1985) Friday 26 March 9.00-11.15pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Director Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Air Force One) was an apt choice for the subject matter here: a citizen of Planet Earth (Dennis Quaid) and an alien lizard (Louis Gossett Jr with superb make-up effects) crash-land on a barren world and have to co-operate. As with the excellent Alien Nation, you can enjoy the sci-fi element whilst contemplating the racial elements of the story. The fact that at least three Star Trek episodes in the franchise have trodden similar ground does not lessen its impact.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
THREE LESSER LIGHTS
From time to time, I use Chairman’s Corner to pay a modest tribute to an actor, director or technician whose praises might otherwise be left unsung. Here are three more:
Between 1937 and 1967, he made about forty films and almost half of them are worthy of our attention. Born in Halifax in 1901, he was particularly good at using accents and was sometimes asked to play a German officer, as in 49th Parallel (1941). We could divide his career, roughly, into three categories: war films (such as The Colditz Story); bringing something extra to roles in support of A-list stars (Gary Cooper, Sidney Poitier); taking the lead in a b/w film noir such as Wanted for Murder and Corridor of Mirrors. For my money it is the latter that represents his most interesting work.
TERENCE DE MARNEY (1908-1971)
Now his is a most interesting, and at times downright bizarre, life and career. He was writing plays from an early age; indeed, it was one of his plays upon which the film Wanted for Murder was based. He had a pivotal, and good, role in last week’s Dual Alibi; played the lead in the occasional B-film such as No Way Back (1949, as a boxer); then decamped to Hollywood. By the end of his career, he had amassed over 100 film and TV credits. These ranged from uncredited appearances in huge productions (The Ten Commandments and Spartacus), to low-budget fare such as Pharaoh’s Curse (1957). With regard to his TV work, one could be forgiven for thinking that he was working both sides of the Atlantic at the same time. He appeared in about a dozen western series including a recurring role in Johnny Ringo as Karen Sharpe’s father (he often played an older character). In the UK, his credits included Doctor Who, Maigret and Z Cars. Quite often, whilst he was clearly there physically on screen, his inner self seemed to be elsewhere and I think this is even noticeable in some still photographs. He died after falling under a train at a London tube station. Incidentally, his brother was Derrick de Marney who enjoyed modest success in British films of the 1940s.
FRED F. SEARS (1913-1957)
The Massachusetts-born Sears was only in Hollywood for about ten years, but in that time he directed over fifty films and acted in about seventy. Eventually, he succumbed to a heart attack, but not before earning the sobriquet ‘King of the B-movies’. So, excluding last week’s The Giant Claw, of course, and late entries in Charles Starrett’s Durango Kid series, were any of them any good? There were a handful of entertaining westerns that moved at a fast clip: Ambush at Tomahawk Gap (in colour), Massacre Canyon and Fury at Gunsight Pass (both with a splendid sandstorm sequence); Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, which had some good early effects work by Ray Harryhausen; prior to that one, most surprisingly, he had been asked to direct the ground-breaking Rock Around the Clock.
Occasionally, I neglect to include a film that, whilst it does not have much of a reputation, might be of more interest to us. One such film is the vintage drama Guilt Is My Shadow (1950) which had location filming in Devon. Some scenes were shot in Ashburton, others at a country fair and there are some nice coastal shots that seem to include the railway line at Teignmouth. I suspect that it is ripe for re-appraisal and will keep you informed! On the TV front, the latest series to pop up on TP is Interpol Calling (weekdays from 6pm Monday, 15 March). Charles Korvin starred in the 39 episodes and it was first shown in 1959.
BILLIE (2019) Saturday 13 March 9.45-11.20pm BBC 2 P
The BBC is unveiling another excellent documentary tonight. It gives us a full and fascinating look at the legendary singer – her addictions, sexuality, friends, co-workers and the gorgeous, seductive voice that has endured like few others.
PETERLOO (2018) Saturday 13 March 10.00pm-12.55am Channel 4 P
Peterloo is long and has a very late finish, so it might be the one to record if you can. Given a bigger budget than usual, Mike Leigh weaves deftly the massacre itself with the nascent political and social upheaval of the early 19th-century. Surprisingly, not all the reviews were rave ones, but I enjoyed it a lot when I saw it at the Radway.
WHIPLASH (2014) Saturday 13 March 11.20pm-1.00am BBC 2 P
Again, if you don’t want to stay up late, then it will be on BBC iPlayer for about a month. We showed Whiplash in our 2015-16 season; it did very well, with a reaction of 86%, but I thought it was even better than that. The story concerns a young jazz drummer who is pushed to the very brink by a mentor/tutor after perfection. The director, Damien Chazelle, followed it with La La Land, but give me this one any day of the week. Then again, I would choose Cabaret over The Sound of Music.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) Sunday 14 March 2.35-4.15pm BBC 2
We will stay with musicals a little longer, as this is still the best of them all. It’s not just the title number, the dances or Donald O’Connor’s stunning “Make ‘Em Laugh” showstopper, but the sublime depiction – with maximum comic value, too – of Hollywood’s transition from silent cinema to sound.
I GOT LIFE! (2017) Sunday 14 March 10.00-11.25pm BBC 4 P
Not an exceptional film, but this French comedy drama is certainly one of the more interesting offerings for Mother’s Day. Aurore is 50-years-old, a grandmother, divorced and about to lose her job. Will meeting an old flame bring some vigour into her life?
DUAL ALIBI (1946) Monday 15 March 7.50-9.30am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Courtesy of TP, we have another interesting, low-budget, British drama. It is good to see one of our favourite character actors, Herbert Lom, leading the cast. He plays twin brothers who win big on the lottery, only to see their prize, and future prosperity, threatened by lowlifes Terence de Marney and Phyllis Dixey (yes, that Phyllis Dixey).
THE GIANT CLAW (1957) Monday 15 March 1.00-2.30pm Channel 68
Right, here is a proper challenge for you – one of the poorest films I have ever seen even by bargain bin sci-fi standards. Watch a giant bird in conflict with fighter jets! Marvel at how much better Mara Corday was in Tarantula (1955)! Be astounded by the special effects! I dare you to return to viewing after the first ad break . . .
A MAN ALONE (1955) Tuesday 16 March 11.00am-12.55pm Film Four
One of the attractions of working at a minor studio such as Republic, for a major actor like Ray Milland, was that you could then direct as well. He proved to be more than capable in both capacities. Here, he is the gunman who actually knows who robbed the town’s bank. Ward Bond, Raymond Burr and Lee Van Cleef lend sterling support.
AT GUNPOINT (1955) Tuesday 16 March 5.05-6.50pm Film Four
This time the studio is Allied Artists. Fred MacMurray is very good as the peaceful storekeeper who kills a bank robber with a lucky shot and who is then shunned by the townspeople when the outlaw gang returns. Dorothy Malone and Walter Brennan (as the town doctor) also do well. On release, the film would have been a pleasing addition to a double bill. For, MacMurray adapted well to the genre when his best years were behind him and the five modest westerns that Alfred Werker directed at the end of his career (1953-56), have held up well over the years.
MISERY (1990) Wednesday 17 March 9.00-11.10pm Film Four
Well, yes, we dared to show Misery in our 1992-93 season – prefaced by a LRFS health warning, of course (the sledgehammer scene). It was one of those rare occasions where everyone gripped their seats and could not move – and the reaction slips came to 85%. An adaptation of a Stephen King story, James Caan is the writer held prisoner by his ‘Number One Fan’ – an absolutely terrifying Kathy Bates. Certificate 18.
ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) Wednesday 17 March 9.05-11.50pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Unfortunately clashing with the above, Eve remains one of the Hollywood greats and won six Oscars including Best Picture. Bette Davis is the ageing star on the way down, Anne Baxter is after her crown, Marilyn Monroe gets herself noticed and the script is razor sharp.
CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OLYMPICS (1937) Thursday 18 March 8.00-9.30am Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
I am thinking that Mr Chan will have dated a little, but is likely still to be enjoyable at the **1/2 level. Swedish-born Warner Oland was the first to make his mark as the Honolulu detective who solved crimes aided by his “Number One Son” and the occasional aphorism. This one was Oland’s penultimate venture (he died in 1938) before Sidney Toler continued the role. Here his son, who is on the American swimming team, is kidnapped by spies – and, yes, it incorporates footage from the Berlin Olympics.
MY FERAL HEART (2016) Thursday 18 March 9.00-10.15pm BBC 4 P
This is the simple, but very effective, story of Luke, an adult with Down’s syndrome who has to move into a care facility. Steven Brandon gives a very touching performance and the film would make a fine companion piece to The Peanut Butter Falcon from last season’s questionnaire.
THE BLACK SWAN (1942) Friday 19 March 1.35-3.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
I referenced this film when writing about Maureen O’Hara last year. It is a superior swashbuckler with Tyrone Power as a reformed pirate, gorgeous Technicolor and sets (footage was still being used ten years later) and a rousing score.
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL (2017) Friday 19 March 11.25pm-2.15am Film Four P
Damn! At the end of a working week, I won’t have the energy to stay up for Japanese director Takashi Miike’s 100th feature. His speciality is the samurai film – in this example, a young girl asks an immortal warrior to exact her revenge. He is a brilliant film-maker (the climax to 13 Assassins was an astounding 45-minute battle sequence), but be warned – the blood will flow. Certificate 18.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
A SELECTION OF EYEPATCHES
A couple of weeks ago, when writing about Valkyrie (2008), I mentioned the fact that Tom Cruise sported an eyepatch for his role. Ignoring the hundreds of pirate films where wearing one might be considered de rigueur, and recalling that Robert Duvall had also worn one when playing a German officer in The Eagle Has Landed (1976), I thought it might be a good test of the memory.
You might recall yourselves that Rosamund Pike needed to wear one for the role of Marie Colvin in A Private War which was our penultimate – and very successful - film in the 2019-2020 season (audience reaction: 92%). The patch covered her left eye, as it did with Bette Davis when she came to the UK to make The Anniversary (1968) for Hammer and with Richard Widmark in the Civil War western Alvarez Kelly (1966). George Montgomery had opted for the right eye in an earlier western Black Patch (1957); an interesting little film that was written by one of the supporting cast, Leo Gordon. There was an offbeat science-fiction film, No Blade of Grass, released in 1970; the actor in this case was Nigel Davenport. Ten years later and the actor was Kurt Russell in his celebrated role of Snake Plissken. The film was Escape from New York (1981) and he was persuaded to make a follow-up, Escape from L.A. (1996), although I couldn’t tell you if it was the same eyepatch.
The most famous character to have one has to be Rooster Cogburn. John Wayne played him twice in True Grit (1969) and Rooster Cogburn (1975); he opted for the left eye, as did Warren Oates in the TVM True Grit – a Further Adventure (1978). In the 2010 version, however, Jeff Bridges cunningly switched the patch to his right eye. There was an amusing scene in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), where Dean Martin contrived to wear it on neither eye – it was part of a con scheme to auction his ‘glass eye’. George Kennedy was not amused!
As for actors on television, that becomes a little trickier. Boris Karloff wore one over his left eye in Colonel March of Scotland Yard as the man in charge of the Department of Queer Complaints. I can also recall an episode of The Saint entitled ‘Queen’s Ransom’ (series 5, episode 1) in which the actor Peter Madden wore both an eyepatch and a fez. By the conventions of 1960s television, you knew immediately that he was unlikely to be around as the end credits rolled!
You wonder, too, how they all remembered to say their lines and hit their marks whilst wearing one. I suspect that there was a small hole in the patch that wouldn’t be picked up by the camera – so they had full vision, after all!
By David Johnson
Chairman of Lyme Regis Film Society
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