The Year Was 1938 – May 29th

Bob Hope in 1938
  • Bob Hope turned 35 on this day. The vaudeville, radio and screen star was then finishing his latest film at Paramount ‘Give Me a Sailor’ with Martha Raye and Betty Grable. [Hope would be teaming with Grable’s husband Jackie Coogan for a tour of live appearances over the summer. He would be back at Paramount for ‘Thanks for the Memory’ to finish out 1938 (four films total on the year). The comedian has three pictures ahead for 1939, including ‘The Cat and the Canary.’ The year after he finally gets teamed with his friend Bing Crosby for the first of the Road pictures – ‘Road to Singapore’].
  • Witty comedienne Beatrice Lillie shares a birthday with Hope and crosses over to 44. She was also in a film from Paramount this year supporting Bing Crosby – ‘Doctor Rhythm,’ a comedy musical, based on an O Henry story. [This was one of the few films she was in. She was the toast of the stage on both sides of the Atlantic, and the darling of the likes of Noel Coward and Cole Porter. The year 1939 finds her back on Broadway in a musical review put together by Coward].
  • Genius director Joseph von Sternberg also turned 44 on this day. He would be called back to the US in the fall by MGM to complete ‘The Great Waltz’ then shooting under the direction of Julien Duvivier. To entice him they offered a one picture deal. [After he turned his nose up at a project attached to Hedy Lamarr, he would direct ‘Sergeant Madden’ with Wallace Beery in a story about crime and cops and family, his only offering for 1939. In fact from here on out his works were rather sporadic].
  • Cinematographer Gregg Toland passed the 34 year mark this day. His most recent film had just opened and was playing at Grauman’s Chinese – 20th Century Fox’s ‘Kidnapped’ based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel. [Next for his exacting eye – ‘The Cowboy and the Lady’ for Goldwyn, starring Gary Cooper and Merle Oberon. Toland photographed four films in 1939, and the first to kick off the year was ‘Wuthering Heights’ for which he won the Oscar for cinematography].

The Year Was 1938 – May 23rd

Roy Disney in 1938
  • Roy Disney returned to NY from a 2 month trip to Europe where he set distribution for ‘Snow White.’ While in England he acquired the Tenniel illustrations on Cinderella which Walt will use for his next animated film. [It would take awhile for Walt to get around to this feature].
  • Former US Secret Service head William H Moran to begin work today with writer Albert De Mond on a series to be based on his stories. [De Mond may have been reassigned for he does not show in the credits for the three Secret Service films in 1939]. (See May 16th).
  • Warner Brothers announces a sequel to the highly successful ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood.’ And they are targeting next spring for its release. They even have a script, an original by Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I Miller, entitled ‘Sir Robin of Locksley.’ Flynn and DeHavilland are tapped to repeat their roles. [Another idea that did not see the light of an arc light, despite this being a natural, and sure bet. Raine and Miller were behind the original. Raine kept busy in 1939 with four titles, including ‘The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.’ Miller met disappointment when a script he’d completed was given to someone else to do over. He left WB].
  • The casting of Jane Clayton (Jan) in the latest Hopalong Cassidy film (‘The Return of the Fox’) at Paramount has been announced. The Miss Southwest from Tularosa, New Mexico already knows how to ride. Her father owns a 100,000 acre ranch there. She and Hoppy’s sidekick Lucky, Russell Hayden, plan to marry soon. [Come time to release the film, its title changed to ‘In Old Mexico.’ You might recognize her as Tommy Rettig’s mother from the early episodes of the TV series Lassie].
  • Per Ed Sullivan, Katharine Hepburn is headed for New York, and opines that it is probably on Howard Hughes’ plane. (See May 11th and May 18th).
  • Director Mervyn LeRoy in talking about his future film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ promises to have “cartoon tricks” in it, like trees talking to one another. [One of the biggies for 1939].

STARTING PRODUCTION

  • ‘Paris Honeymoon,’ starts shooting at Paramount – director Frank Tuttle, starring Bing Crosby, Franciska Gaal, Shirley Ross and Akim Tamiroff.
  • Arthur Lubin starts production at Universal today on ‘State Prison,’ starring Barton MacLane and Glenda Farrell.  [The title was changed upon release to the more actionable ‘Prison Break.’] This same day MacLane and Farrell struck a deal with WB to reclaim the roles they played prior in the Torchy Blane series. [Paul Kelly and Lola Lane took the roles in the fifth installment, but were not well received by the fans, hence the return of the original pair to the cop and reporter duo].

The Year Was 1938 – May 20th

Cecilia Parker in 1937
  • Just finishing ‘Love Finds Andy Hardy,’ a  long term contract at MGM is awarded to Cecilia Parker for her work in the family series. She began the role of Mickey Rooney older sister in 1937. [She has one more ahead for 1938, then three more Hardy features and one short for 1939].
  • A meeting was held at the home of Sam Goldwyn to discuss the deal they will receive for releasing via United Artists for the 1938-39 season (the distributor will sell only on percentage, not flat). Also present were David O Selznick, Dr A H Gianninni, Walter Wanger, Edward Small, Hal Roach.
  • Shake up at Universal, with VP in charge of production, Charles R Rogers, on the way out, Cliff Work will take his place under President Nat Blumberg and VP Matthew Fox. [Active since the silent days, Rogers had been head of production at RKO in 1931, switching to Universal in 1935. He had some notable successes with them – ‘My Man Godfrey’ for instance, and for signing the teen singing sensation Deanna Durbin. He would wind up at Paramount in 1939, and produce The Star Maker with Bing Crosby, a fictionalized version of the life of Gus Edwards].
  • At WB, ‘For Lovers Only’ begins filming, with Dick Powell in the lead and with Olivia DeHavilland playing opposite him. [The romantic comedy is released under the title – ‘Hard to Get’].
  • Margaret Sullivan is discussed as the lead for Hal Roach’s new romantic comedy ‘There Goes My Heart.’ The part had been turned down by Irene Dunne. [Sullivan must have turned it down too, as Virginia Bruce is credited in the part].
  • Ed Sullivan points out that Gene Reynolds is playing a lot of roles when the lead character needs to be shown as a child – for James Stewart in ‘Of Human Hearts’; for Tyrone Power in ‘In Old Chicago’; for Ricardo Cortez in ‘The Californian’; and for John Beal in ‘Madame X.’ [Gene Reynolds has four films for 1939. He had a long career in entertainment, and later was a TV producer for MASH and Lou Grant].
  • Jackie Coogan is in San Francisco working on a personal stage appearance, making jokes about his impoverished situation. And hoping to earn enough until August when the suit with his parents will be tried. Bob Hope has written his routine, between takes on his current film ‘Give Me a Sailor.’ Hope and Coogan will have a vaudeville tour together in the East beginning in June. (See May 13th)

ON THE MOVE

  • Pat O’Brien will be taking off for a three week vacation, and will start ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’ upon his return. [Per Ed Sullivan he plans to take in the War Admiral – Seabiscuit match race. The race scheduled for May at Belmont did not come off with Seabiscuit. The race finally took place on November 1st].
  • Joel McCrea heads off to Montana for a fishing trip, accompanied by his stand in, Carl Andre. His station wagon is fully equipped for the expedition. Upon their return they will report to Universal along with other Goldwyn contracted people – Andrea Leeds and director Archie Mayo. Some think it strange that so many from the Goldwyn stable would be going to a rival studio. Shooting to begin June 4.
  • The 20th Century Fox film ‘Five of a Kind’ with the Dionne quintuplets will see its company leave for Canada tonight, but without Joan Davis. She is now home from the hospital after her back injury, sustained will rehearsing with Buddy Ebsen. She plans to join them next week. [Davis must not have made it, for she is not listed in the credits]. (See May 9th).

OPENED IN THEATERS THAT DAY

  • Swiss Miss with Laurel & Hardy (directed by John Blystone) from MGM.
  • Mystery House with Humphrey Bogart from WB.

Tales from my Father Pt 1

Tales from My Father Pt 1

When my Father enlisted in the US Air Force in 1951, he reported to basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio TX. It was a rough time. The Korean conflict had just broken on the scene and over 100,000 men were crammed into a camp meant for 20,000.

Their uniforms were all WW2 issue – Army Air Corps khaki. The new blue uniforms for the recently separated service arm were not yet available.

In addition food was scarce and the men were always hungry. So after basic Dad was not unhappy to be assigned to the cooking school. All those similarly appointed made their way to Fort Devens in Massachusetts. There all the hungry enlisted men who had suffered through basic in San Antone were pleasantly surprised to see a mess hall flowing with “milk and honey.” Six weeks of training in their specialty ensued.

His first orders were for Larson AFB in Moses Lake WA which he reached via Payne Field, north of Seattle.  Dad in his capacity as cook was assigned to an AC&W squadron (Aircraft Control & Warning). These were special radar units were a part of the Air Defense Command (ADC), set up to give early warning about the approach of enemy airplanes. These Washington State sites were tasked to be on the lookout for Bearcat Bombers expected to be coming over the pole from Russia (the USSR). A squadron each was placed at a series of a half dozen bases that ringed the atomic facilities at the Hanford nuclear reserve in the tri-cities area of the state.

Other ACW squadrons were mobilized for service in Korea to do the same function at the air bases there.

From Larson he was seconded to another base, but only spent one day there. He was told that someone had read his orders wrong and that he should have been sent to Colville WA instead. They turned him around, however, and sent him back to Larson, as the new base outside of Colville was still under construction.

Having time on his hands and being curious, my Dad got a hold of some maps and checked out where the town of Colville was located.

When the orders came through for the squadron to proceed to Colville. The Master Sargeant asked the men assembled if anyone knew where Colville was. Dad spoke right up and said he knew the way, the fruit of satisfying his curiosity earlier.  So the Master Sergeant had the PFC join him in the lead car of the convoy as they headed for their new duty station.

They arrived in Colville hungry and pulled up in a line on Main Street. Having scoped out a place to eat, Dad again volunteered, this time to guard the cars and trucks. A lot of locals and looky loos stared in wonder as they passed the parked convoy, pondering what had come to their fair community. (There was very little in the local press about what the military was doing up on the mountain. Their equipment and mission was top secret).

They took the Tiger Road out of town, and over Squaw Creek up to the mountain where the base, at least as far as personnel goes, was ready. The radar installation had not yet been completed, but it would be soon.

Knowing that Colville would be the only place nearby to meet girls, my Dad came up with the following stratagem his first furlough there. Walking down the street he ran into some children, he opened his ploy by asking one of the boys if he had any big sisters at home. When the answer came back in the negative, he switched gears. Did he have a babysitter. Yes, he indeed did have one, and he led my father straight to the house where she lived.

My Mom answered his knock at the door. This being a small town out west in the early 50’s, if a man in uniform appeared on your doorstep, hospitality required that you invite him in. So she did.

She was home from school that day, looking after her younger siblings. Their mother had just passed away the week before. She entertained the young airman by playing the latest 45s on her record player. So the music of Eddy Arnold, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Patti Page and Bing Crosby’s version of Harbor Lights formed the sound track for their courtship.

They were joined in wedlock six months later. And for the shivaree (a quaint custom that takes various forms along the frontier in the US) he was made to push his new bride down Main Street in a wheel barrow.

The Music Scene in the Nation 1928

San Francisco 1928

While browsing the search results in the holdings of the Internet Archive when I was looking for anything about San Francisco for the year 1928, there were some audio files in the mix. After checking the books for pertinent details, I navigated to the first audio file that caught my eye – “Make Believe” by the Paul Whiteman band, featuring a very young Bing Crosby.

I then went to the audio section and called up their holdings for my search target. Several pages of results rewarded my effort. Among the music artists active at that time were:

Louis Armstrong and his jazz trumpet

The Carter Family with their Appalachian sound – Wildwood Flower 

Fanny Brice (whom I had learned was appearing at one of the music halls in San Francisco during this time period).

Helen Kane – “boop boop a doop” and Sophie Tucker

Ted Lewis and his jazz orchestra

Benny Goodman’s Wolverine – with Glen Miller on the trombone. 

And a ton of others which I am exploring, for I am using them as the background soundtrack while I do my writing.