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Set up in 1919 by Hollywood’s elite stars, UNITED ARTISTS movie studio originated many of the industry’s great individual films for decades. Its visionary corporate identity contracted self-financed, self-distributed independent production companies and gave them influence and freedom of artistic expression away from the major studios’ house styles and so invigorated the genre.

FEATURE image: United Artists founders in 1919, (Left to right) Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939), Mary Pickford (1892-1979). Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) and D.W. Griffith (1875-1948). 

By John P. Walsh

It is debated whose brainchild the United Artists Corporation (UA), founded in 1919, ultimately was. Was it Mary Pickford’s and Douglas Fairbanks’ theatrical lawyer and a later UA executive who advised them to found an artist-controlled movie company or UA’s first president, a former U.S Treasury Department official, who suggested Douglas Fairbanks start a distribution company for his films or was it a publicity man for one of the majors who suggested to UA’s first general manager to create a movie studio run by artists for artists – or, finally, was it, as Charlie Chaplin claimed, by way of his elder half-brother Sydney who had hired a pretty girl to spy on another studio’s imminent potential merger and whose culled information led directly to founding their own?1 Whatever or whoever was the conduit or original source, in 1919, four of Hollywood’s legendary film artists — actors Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939), Fairbanks’ future wife, Mary Pickford (1892-1979), Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977), and “the Father of Film Technique” director D.W. Griffith (1887-1948)- formed United Artists, one of Hollywood’s name-brand film studios.

In April 1918 Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin, traveled the country selling Liberty Loans (war bonds). The adulation these stars received everywhere during the tour worked to convince them and others that it was time for them to establish an artist-controlled movie studio which occurred months later in February 1919. Public Domain.

Distinct from other movie studios, UA was especially founded by artists for artists. From His Majesty, The American in 1919 starring Douglas Fairbanks that premiered in New York City at the newly-built Capitol through to The Underdoggs scheduled for 2024, a comedy starring Snoop Dog – and many hundreds of major motion pictures in between – United Artists’ impact on the entertainment industry and culture has been highly significant in that its range of film product envisioned and presaged the artist/ producer-driven film industry that is normal today. Yet United Artists was also more as it allowed independents to make their films free of heavy-handed interference from the higher ups which was often the case at the majors. Such freedom in the marketplace could be risky and United Artists’ survival through the decades is nothing other than extraordinary.

Alexandria Hotel in downtown Los Angeles where Pickford, Chaplin, Fairbanks and Griffith met in the dining room in January 1919 to finalize plans for the founding of their artist-controlled movie studio called United Artists. Built in 1906, the Alexandria Hotel was a relatively new hotel in 1919 sitting on the southwest corner at 501 South Spring Street.Alexandria Hotel (Los Angeles)” by Los Angeles is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The following artist corporate manifesto was released to the press on February 5, 1919. Over 100 years later it remains prescient for many reasons including a warning about the use of technology in filmmaking (“machine-made entertainment”) and freedom of choice for the consumer in terms of viewership (“not force[ing] upon him program films he does not desire”) – A new combination of motion picture stars and producers was formed yesterday, and we, the undersigned, in furtherance of the artistic welfare of the moving picture industry, believing we can better serve the great and growing industry of picture productions, have decided to unite our work into one association, and at the finish of existing contracts, which are now rapidly drawing to a close, to release our combined productions through our own organization. This new organization, to embrace the very best actors and producers in the motion picture business, is headed by the following well-known stars: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart, Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith productions, all of whom have proved their ability to make productions of value both artistically and financially. We believe this is necessary to protect the exhibitor and the industry itself, thus enabling the exhibitor to book only pictures that he wishes to play and not force upon him (when he is booking films to please his audience) other program films which he does not desire, believing that as servants of the people we can thus serve the people. We also think that this step is positively and absolutely necessary to protect the great motion picture public fromthreatening combinations and trusts that would force upon them mediocreproductions and machine-made entertainment.2

In a short 30 years, by the early 1950’s, with the demise of the studio system and the rise of broadcast television, UA would bring this visionary independent investor and producer driven film product to the world as the business template for how all films in and outside of Hollywood would be made. In 1919, United Artists was originally conceived as a prestige studio that distributed some of the industry’s best larger budget pictures. By the 1940’s it had evolved to add less expensive film products that met audience demands and kept the studio’s distribution networks humming. As capital and power tends towards concentration in a capitalist economy, the notion for a nimble, relatively low overhead movie-making patron facilitating production planning and distribution of films by independent producers proved a vital idea whose relevancy renewed itself through the years.3

In contrast to the major studios, such as MGM, Paramount, Fox, RKO, and Warner Bros., which had production, distribution and exhibition arms, United Artists focused solely on distribution. Unlike the majors, United Artists had no star stable, no studio facilities to speak of, no directors, no technicians, no chain of theaters, no house style, but, functioned as a distribution outlet for independently-made productions. In that way, UA was responsible for all phases of an independent production company’s film releases. This included the layers of market testing desired, the planning (including some financing) and booking of production releases, sundry marketing, and settlement matters following release. Distribution duties ranged from pre-production to marketing assistance as well as a bird’s-eye evaluation during production. Post-production distribution of motion pictures to the country 23,000 theatres in the 1930’s was an umbrella term for what was really a chain of complex business actions starting at the beginning of a film project to its being shown flickering on a local screen.

In the beginning: the 1920’s.

Throughout the silent era’s heyday and ultimate demise—the 1920’s—UA was clearly distributing films of its four founders which was a large reason for the company’s genesis. This soon included bankable silent film stars, such as Gloria Swanson (1889-1983). Lillian Gish (1893-1993), Buster Keaton (1895-1966) and Norma Talmadge (1894-1957). UA had no shortage of money-making hits in the roaring ‘20’s. There were melodramas such as Griffith’s Broken Blossoms (1919) to his Way Down East (1921) and comedies starring Mary Pickford, including Pollyanna (1920) and Little Annie Rooney (1925). Douglas Fairbanks starred in UA crowd-pleasers in roles that in the 1930’s sound era was played by Errol Flynn, such as The Mark of Zorro (1920), The Three Musketeers (1921), Robin Hood (1923) and The Thief of Bagdad (1924).

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. was a swashbuckling film hero of the 1920’s. Made for $2 million, The Thief of Bagdad in 1924 was the most expensive movie ever made up to that time. Douglas Fairbanks Pictures had simply outdone itself since his 1922 silent film, Robin Hood, made for $1.5 million had been the most expensive motion picture ever made (see – Tino Balio, Grand Design: Hollywood As A Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939, New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1993, p. 205). For The Thief of Bagdad, based on the Arabian Nights stories, there were monumental sets constructed – and a fantastic magic carpet ride- which set a new standard for Hollywood production values. In a United Artists’ picture directed by Raoul Walsh (1887-1980), Fairbanks played the lead role of Ahmed the Thief, an exotic athletic romantic role. In this leading man type, Fairbanks was joined by Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926), Ramon Novarro (1899-1968), John Barrymore (1882-1942), John Gilbert (1897-1936), Ronald Colman (1891-1951) and Gilbert Roland (1905-1994). Usually playing opposite sexy, mysterious heroines such as Greta Garbo (1905-1990) and Vilma Banky (1901-1991), Douglas Fairbanks played opposite Julanne Johnston (1900-1988) in this silent action film. Douglas Fairbanks Sr.” by twm1340 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
United Artists’ 1924 silent classic, The Thief of Bagdad, was written, produced and starring Douglas Fairbanks.
Mary Pickford in 1920 in Los Angeles. Pickford was “America’s Sweetheart” and one of the highest paid film stars of the silent era. Pickford made about 50 feature films over which she exercised complete control. As a cofounder of United Artists Pickford exercised direct influence over scores of Hollywood releases for more than 30 years. Portrait by Nelson Evans. Public Domain.
Master of film technique, D.W. Griffith, with Dorothy and Lillian Gish. In 1908 Griffith was paid $5 a day as a scene writer and actor. Seven year later, in 1915, with Griffith’s Birth of a Nation the film director was a millionaire. Made for $100,000, that film generated $18 million at the box office (see – Tino Balio, “Stars in Business: The Founding of United Artists” in The American Film Industry, ed. Tino Balio, University of Wisconsin Press, 1976, p.144).D.W.Griffith, Dorothy & Lilian Gish” by oneredsf1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Lillian Gish in 1922 by an unknown photographer. In D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms released by United Artists in 1919, Gish plays young girl, Lucy Burrows, who is abused by her alcoholic prizefighting father, and who meets Cheng Huan, a kind-hearted Chinese man who falls in love with her. In a film career that spanned from 1912 to 1987 – including a directorial debut in 1920 – Gish was called the “First Lady of American Cinema.”Lillian Gish by unknown photographer, ca. 1922” by trialsanderrors is licensed under CC BY 2.0.Public Domain.
Buster Keaton in The General, released by United Artists in 1927. The film was an example of a speculative bare bones film studio gone awry. UA president Joseph Schenck had lent Buster Keaton productions (his brother-in law) $750,000 for the silent action film that essentially broke even and prompting UA’s facilitating Buster Keaton’s move to a more watchful MGM for future projects. Screenshot of a film in the Public Domain.

Gloria Swanson, born in Chicago, was, at 26 years old, considered the most bankable silent film star of the time. In a successful career in film since 1918, she signed with United Artists in 1925 with UA chairman of the board Joseph Schenck who was brought in the year before. It was a six-picture distribution deal, and her production company was advanced financial loans through United Artists’ own Art Cinema Corporation subsidiary. Swanson also agreed to invest in UA by buying $100,000 of preferred stock. These financial terms proved difficult for Swanson to repay later and required the services of financier Joseph P. Kennedy (1888-1969) who reconfigured her business portfolio to meet her obligations and produced one of her films.4 Meanwhile, her UA debut, The Love of Sunya, basically broke even. Swanson made two other UA films that were critical and financial successes –Sadie Thompson in 1927 with director Raoul Walsh (1887-1980) and The Trespasser, one of Swanson’s few sound films. The latter was directed by Edmund Goulding (1891-1959) and produced by Kennedy in 1929. For both of these films, Gloria Swanson received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress.

Gloria Swanson, c. 1923. Swanson signed with UA for a six-picture deal. Though the actress adapted well to talkies, Swanson remained the consummate silent screen film star.smokin turban gloria swanson, c.1923” by carbonated is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Public Domain.
Kennedy family, c. 1923. Joseph P. Kennedy, an imaginative and successful businessman, was the  financial advisor to Gloria Swanson in 1927 and film producer for Queen Kelly, a United Artists release, in 1928. The future president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, is seated to the left. Public Domain
English film director Edmund Goulding (1891-1959) helping William Twiddy and “Bill” Easton kiss while making a film in 1927. Public Domain.

As its founders first looked to protect their public image and screen product, United Artists opened its doors to an array of outside suppliers expanding their business operations. In 1929 UA produced 18 pictures – a company record – and, in the next few years, was expanding to distribute films of Samuel Goldwyn, Howard Hughes, Joseph Schenck, Walt Disney, Alexander Korda, David O. Selznick, and Walter Wanger, among others. With the onset of talkies in 1927 and the Great Depression in 1929 the new pressures on the movie studios were enormous. While having built their reputation on silent film stars and watching their film output dwindle 25% in the early 1930’s, UA benefited from the management of Joseph Schenck (1876-1961) who facilitated the release of several popular money-making features by Samuel Goldwyn (Palmy Days), Howard Hughes (The Front Page – nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture), Charlie Chaplin (City Lights) and Alexander Korda (The Private Life of Henry VIII).5

Actor Toby Wing (1915-2001) was an actress and showgirl, once called “the most beautiful chorus girl in Hollwood.” In 1931 she became one of the first Goldwyn Girls and started her film career in Palmy Days (1931), a United Artists release starring Eddie Cantor. In 1933, she was the blonde in 42nd Street in the ‘Young and Healthy’ number with Dick Powell – a film that singlehandedly saved Warner Bros. in the throes of the Great Depression. Sam Goldwyn, imitating the Ziegfeld Follies, looked to create a chorus line for his films where the producer insisted each actress in the Goldwyn line-up “must look as though she had just stepped out of a bathtub. There must be a kind of a radiant scrubbed cleanliness about them which rules out all artificiality.” In a memorable if short film career – Toby Wing retired at 23 years old – her roles were small, often uncredited, and, before the introduction of the Production Code in 1934, frequently risqué. In 1934 she played Consuelo of Claghorne to Cary Grant’s Dr. Maurice Lamar in Paramount Pictures’ rom-com, Kiss and Make-Up and, in 1937, in True Confession, starring Carole Lombard. When, in 1938, at 22 years old, she married “Dick” Merrill, a dashing airmail pilot 20 years her senior, observers didn’t expect the union to last. Wing promptly retired from show business and the newlyweds moved to Florida where Merrill had a reliable Florida-to-New York City route. Wing had two children with Merrill, became a successful real estate agent and the couple stayed together for 44 years until Merrill’s death in 1982. While Toby Wing may have been one more zany platinum blonde that Hollywood and its audiences adored, she possessed an on-screen radiance that found her honored in 1960 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Toby Wing died in 2001 at 85 years old.Toby Wing; (1915 – 2001)” by Movie-Fan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Adolphe Menjou (1890-1963) starred as newspaper editor Walter Burns in The Front Page produced by Howard Hughes and distributed by United Artists in 1931. When the remake of the film by Howard Hawkes was released in 1940 by Columbia Pictures, it was renamed “His Girl Friday” with Cary Grant in the Walter Burns role. For his performance in 1931, Adolphe Menjou as Walter Burns received an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor.Adolphe Menjou” by twm1340 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights (1931) released by his United Artists –here with Virginia Cherrill (1908-1996) as the visioned-impaired flower girl – was a silent film though made in an era when talkies were most wildly popular. While a tender relationship blossomed between Chaplin’s tramp and the flower girl in the film, on the set, in real life, Chaplin almost fired Cherrill for not meeting his threshold for professionalism. Ultimately, Chaplin didn’t follow through on his threat because it would be prohibitively expensive to find and film a replacement. Independent film production companies, even when it is a famous star and movie studio owner, often had to follow a tighter budget than the majors. “City Lights,” one of Chaplin’s classic films, became one of that year’s blockbusters and helped UA make money during the Great Depression. City Lights” by Mgmax is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

In 1926, Joseph Schenck in a visionary move, set up the United Artists Theatre Circuit which selectively acquired certain first-run theatres in major markets to show their pictures. This also had the effect of the majors working more accomodatingly with an astute competitor and showed UA pictures in their venues. Yet, since United Artists, as part of its nimble, skeletal organization, did not have a portfolio of theatres like MGM, Paramount, Warner Bros., Fox, and RKO – collectively, these majors owned about 15% of the country’s total number – meant that when times were bad, such as in the Great Depression, UA was not impacted as negatively by the sudden decline in movie attendance or dipping real estate values. Moreover, UA’s low operating overhead included a smaller staff that resulted in less lay-offs in hard times. Under Joseph Schenck, UA started in the 1930’s to invest money in future productions with profit-sharing in addition to simply loaning money to producers to be paid back with interest in post-production (Gloria Swanson’s deal). After Joseph Schenck partnered with Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), formerly of Warner Bros., to form Twentieth Century Pictures in 1933, they produced most of UA’s films in 1933 and 1934. When Schenck left United Artists in 1935 after being rejected for partnership6 he merged with Fox Films to form Twentieth Century-Fox and became its chairman. The situation placed United Artists in a difficult position of having to replace their leading producer. The leadership issue was, arguably, not be addressed by UA until Krim and Benjamin in the 1950’s. After-Schenck’s departure, notable filmmakers slowly fled UA, though this was also the natural condition of the movie business, especially among the independent-minded, to find greener pastures. Disney exited in 1936 and Goldwyn in 1940, both moving to RKO, and William Wanger moved in 1941 to Universal Pictures. Not until in the post-war period did Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin look to recruit vibrant new leadership for UA following the demise of the studio system in the late 1940’s and the rise of television at the same time – and would swiftly result in their own departures from the company.

Joseph Schenck. Joseph M. Schenck Productions became Art Cinema Corporation in 1926. In addition to Buster Keaton, Norma Talmadge (Schenck’s wife) and Gloria Swanson, Schenck through United Artists Studio (Art Cinema using Pickford and Fairbanks’ studio) produced scores of pictures in the 1920’s by Rudolph Valentino (The Son of the Sheik in 1926), John Barrymore (The Beloved Rogue in 1927) and Dolores Del Rio (Evangeline in 1929). In 1927 Schenck had brought in Samuel Goldwyn to United Artists. In 1933 Schenck and Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), formerly of Warner Bros., formed Twentieth Century Pictures. In 1935 Schenck and Zanuck left United Artists to form Twentieth Century-Fox studio in 1935. It had been mainly Charlie Chaplin who resisted Schenck’s vision for a more comprehensive movie studio like the majors that hastened Schenck’s ultimate departure as owner-co-founder Chaplin looked to continue the vision of United Artists for pictures that reflected the specialized talents of its independent creators (see – Tino Balio, “Stars in Business: The Founding of United Artists.” in The American Film Industry, ed. Tino Balio, University of Wisconsin Press, 1976, p.151). Public Domain.

Meantime, in 1935 David O. Selznick (1902-1965) joined UA and released his pictures – in 1936, Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Garden of Allah; in 1937, A Star is Born, The Prisoner of Zenda, and Nothing Sacred; in 1938, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Young at Heart; and, in 1939, Made For Each Other and Intermezzo, starring Ingrid Bergman who Selznick introduced to American film audiences. These films were jewels for UA and made a fortune for the studio. Selznick International Pictures’ Gone With The Wind should have been released through UA but part of the condition of MGM lending Clark Gable to the project was that the film would be distributed by Gable’s home movie studio. In the 1940’s Selznick released Rebecca (1940), Since You Went Away (1944), I’ll Be Seeing You (1945) and Spellbound (1945) through UA.

Ingrid Bergman (1915 – 1982) was a 23-year-old Swedish actress when she was introduced to U.S. film audiences after she appeared in David O. Selznick’s 1939 film production, Intermezzo. co-starring Leslie Howard and released by United Artists. “Ingrid Bergman 1915 – 1982” by oneredsf1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Other notable films from the 1930s released by UA included Walter Wanger’s Trade Winds (1938), John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939), and Samuel Goldwyn’s Wuthering Heights (1939). Before Goldwyn’s departure in 1940 under circumstances not unlike Joseph Schneck in 1935 – a star producer wanting to buy in or buy out UA- he left to form his own movie enterprise after 50 critically acclaimed and money-making films in 14 years for United Artists.

Carole Lombard (1908-1942), well known screen actress shown on the courthouse steps in Carson City, Nevada, on August 18,1933 following her divorce from her husband, William Powell. A rising comedian originally from Indiana, Lombard appeared in the 1937 Technicolor screwball comedy feature film, Nothing Sacred. From Selznick International Pictures, the film was released by United Artists as part of an agreement Selznick made with the movie studio to release a dozen films in a 10-year period.Carole Lombard 1908 – 1942” by oneredsf1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The War Years.

Seeking diversion, news information, and community camaraderie, America continued to go to the movies in record numbers before and during World War II (1939-1945). In 1938 there were 80 million tickets sold every week.7 The U.S. population in 1940 was about 130 million people and in pre-Pearl Harbor 1941 about 55 million of them (about 40% ) attended the movies each week. 8 In three years, by 1944, weekly attendance numbers nearly doubled to 100 million people – or about 75% of the U.S. population.9 By comparison, starting in the early 1970’s and through to today, the trend is very different. About 10% of the population may attend the movies each week at movie theatres. The early 1940’s was booming times for the movie industry whose contemporaneous films often extolled democracy’s virtues as well as a sentimental Homefront along with providing the outright escapist fare such as Westerns, comedies and musicals. Despite this prosperity UA’s film product was mostly undistinguished in this period and their income fell slightly from the end of the pre-war period.10 After the war, movie attendance levels dropped as people returned to start families, and go back to school and work. In response, the movie industry released less product – and the decline spiraled so that by the end of the decade of the 1940’s UA was in debt and ripe for a takeover.

In 1949 Orson Welles starred in Black Magic, an 18th century costume drama, released by United Artists. Welles played Count Cagliostro, a legendary hypnotist, conjurer, showman and charlatan. The film co-starred Nancy Guild (1925-1999) as Marie Antoinette and her supposed double, Lorenza, whom the Count plots to replace at the Dauphin’s side and control France. The film received mixed reviews. The photograph of Welles in 1949 is from The Third Man.The Third Man (1949)” by twm1340 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Lucille Ball (1911-1989) in the mid 1940’s. Lucy appeared in the stylish atmospheric “Lured,” a United Artists release, in 1947. Directed by Douglas Sirk and co-starring George Sanders, the film noir is a murder mystery set in Victorian England where 8 young women have mysteriously disappeared after answering an advertisement. Lucy is recruited by Scotland Yard to act as bait for the killer who could be one of several suspects. In the 1940’s United Artists included many lower budget and B pictures to meet demand and keep its distribution business humming.Lucille Ball” by manito℡ is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Jane Russell (1921-2011) appeared in Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw, released by UA in 1946. From the start, the Western, with its sexual overtones, was mired in controversy so that it only gained a wide showing in 1950. Russell, playing Rio and wearing a Howard Hughes’ specially designed bra using his aeronautical engineering skill – all of which became part of the film’s controversy – ended up as an iconic Hollywood sex symbol in the process.Jane Russell (1)” by oneredsf1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Notably, at the end of the decade, beyond film noir with, as Michael F. Keaney points out, “its thematic criminal content” and “Emphasis on obsession, desperation, alienation, and paranoia” that is noted for its “dark visual style,“11 United Artists’ releases contributed to the new willingness after the war and ushering in of the Atomic Age to present serious social issues in films such as Home of The Brave (1949) exploring issues of race bigotry. Produced by Stanley Kramer, directed by Mark Robson, and written by Carl Foreman Kramer and others would continue to explore these social issues in the future.

Lloyd Bridges (1913-1998) played the buddy who was killed in Home of The Brave, a 1949 UA release, that results in a Black GI (James Edwards) returning in a state of shock from their mission in the South Pacific during World War II. Using psychoanalysis conducted by a sympathetic doctor (James Corey), the Black soldier’s reaction is revealed to be the result of racial abuse by one of the platoon leaders. This serious social issue of racial bigotry in American institutions and controversial subjects was part of a Hollywood’s new willingness to confront them in popular film in the late 1940’s.Lloyd Bridges” by YorkieBoy is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

The Post War Era: 1950’s to 1970’s. Krim and Benjamin.

In 1951, Arthur B. Krim (1910-1994) and Robert Benjamin (1909-1979), lawyers and producers, were given leadership at UA and, based on their immediate success, soon acquired the movie studio. The duo unabashedly practiced the capital-producer-driven model for making movies which has since defined the film industry business model. United Artists’ visionary low overhead approach from its inception proved prescient for film production outside the once all-encompassing major studio system. Continuance of a skeletal staff which caused independent producers, notably Samuel Goldwyn, to flee from its sometime sloppy operations and no studio space – such could be leased from Pickford and Chaplin – became the de facto method to critical and box office success. 12 When Krim and Benjamin took over United Artists, stockholders gave them three years to make a profit. They did it in six months.13 United Artists devised a strategy based on financing and distribution of independent production that quickly and sustainably transformed the company into an industry leader. The revamped 1950’s United Artists worked with producer Sam Spiegel (1901-1985) and director John Huston (1906-1987) to have two upfront hits – The African Queen in 1951 and Moulin Rouge in 1952. This was followed up by High Noon in 1952 which was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and won four. United Artists was soon working closely with Stanley Kramer, Otto Preminger, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Productions (actor Burt Lancaster’s production company) and other free-agent actors and others wanting to produce and direct. UA’s innovative and successful business model made the movie studio run by artists for artists the envy of the film industry so that, by the 1960’s, the majors were imitating them.

Humphrey Bogart won his only Oscar for the role of the scruffy captain who falls in love with a spinster missionary (Katharine Hepburn) as they take an old steamer down the Congo River during World War I in The African Queen (1951) released by United Artists under the new management of Krim and Benjamin. John Huston’s script wisely focused on the character development and performances of the two talented leads.
The African Queen (1951)” by Wasfi Akab is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Surviving Founders Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin Sell.

By 1956 both Chaplin and Pickford had divested their shares to Krim and Benjamin who came from Eagle-Lion Films. United Artists then made a motion picture, Marty in 1955, that won four Oscars, including Best Picture. In 1957, a social drama, 12 Angry Men, was Oscar-nominated multiple times. There was also The Bachelor Party, an Oscar-nominated follow-up to Marty, in 1957 and Stanley Kramer’s The Defiant Ones in 1958. UA also released some of the era’s great comedies, including Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot in 1959 and The Apartment in 1960 which won the Best Picture Oscar. In the 1960’s Wilder did some of his best work with United Artists including, all of them box office hits, One, Two, Three in 1961, Irma La Douce in 1963, Kiss Me, Stupid in 1964 and The Fortune Cookie in 1966.

Jack Lemmon (right) as Jerry/”Daphne” with admirer Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, released in 1959 by United Artists. Lemmon and Tony Curtis as Joe/”Josephine” gave the two best drag performances of their generation as Some Like It Hot marked the best in post-war comedy.Some Like it Hot, 1959” by thefoxling is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Theatre marquee with Billy Wilder (and United Artists) comedy double feature.
Some Like it Hot” by Thomas Hawk is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kowalczyk, a ukulele player and singer, talks to film director Billy Wilder during the filming of a scene in Some Like It Hot. There is no funnier and sexier performance by Monroe in her filmography.Marilyn Monroe Talking with Billy Wilder” by Movie-Fan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Arthur Krim with his wife  Mathilde Krim and President John F. Kennedy at the White House in 1962. Public Domain.

In 1957 Krim and Benjamin did something the founding owners didn’t do and if they had the studio’s history, likely starting in the mid-1930’s, would be very different: they took UA public. Before the 1950’s was finished, United Artists was the envy of the Hollywood motion picture industry, very profitably producing films, television shows, and records.14 Arthur Krim and Robert Banjamin remained with UA until 1978 when, with others, they created Orion Pictures. From 1978 to 1992, Krim attempted to mirror UA’s success with a company that, since 1997, is a subsidiary of MGM.

12 Angry Man” by benjami is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

In 1961, United Artists released West Side Story which won a record 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture. Producer-Director Stanley Kramer with whom United Artists first started working in 1958, released Judgement At Nuremburg in 1961 and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World which, in its homage to slapstick, featured a Who’s Who ensemble cast of stage and screen comedians and became a box office smash.

One of the best animated opening credits in film history is Saul Bass’s effort for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World in 1963 from United Artists.
Director John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven released by United Artists in 1960 – it was an adaptation of the 1954 Japanese film classic, The Seven Samurai – and a major blockbuster. It featured (pictured above) Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. “The Magnificent Seven” by MacQ is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Brochure for ‘West Side Story’ (brochure)” is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
In 1962 United Artists released The Miracle Worker, starring Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan, the partially blind teacher of deaf, mute and blind Helen Keller played by Patty Duke, both in Oscar-winning performances. William Gibson’s inspiring theatrical play was altered slightly by the author for the screen that was directed by Arthur Penn.Miracle Worker” by Mike Monteiro is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Sidney Poitier (1927-2022) in 1963. Two years later, in 1965, Sidney Poitier became the first Black performer since Hattie McDaniel in Gone With The Wind (MGM. 1939) to win an Oscar for his role as Schmidt, a workman who helps a small group of German nuns build a chapel in Arizona in the United Artists release of Lilies of The Field.1-a-patch-of-blue-sidney-poitier-1965-everett” by jamesjoel is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

It was also in 1963 that United Artists backed the first film in the James Bond 007 franchise – Dr. No. Starting in 1964, they also backed The Pink Panther films directed by Blake Edwards and Bud Yorkin. Starting in 1964, Clint Eastwood was well on his way to becoming a star by way of his UA-backed spaghetti westerns. These and other films looked to satisfy the younger movie-going demographic that increasingly desired depictions of sex and violence at the cinema.

The first James Bond ride was this 1961 Sunbeam Alpine Mk1 in Dr. No. In 1961, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman purchased the filming rights to Ian Fleming’s spy novels. The pair founded Eon Productions and, with financial backing by United Artists, produced Dr. No that was directed by Terence Young and featured Sean Connery as 007.The First James Bond Ride: 1961 Sunbeam Alpine Mk1” by Automotive Rhythms is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
UA-backed spaghetti westerns in the mid-1960’s made Clint Eastwood a star. They included A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966).Clint Eastwood” by yagisu is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.

In 1964 and 1965 United Artists got on board to introduce the Beatles to U.S. film audiences with A Hard Day’s Night and Help. Both films were phenomenal money makers. In 1965 UA had the means to finance, at $20 million, the most expensive film ever made up to that time: George Stevens’ production of The Greatest Story Ever Told. Starring Max von Sydow as Jesus Christ with an ensemble cast of actor favorites, the film was critically acclaimed and received five Academy Award nominations in 1965. However, the film recouped most though not all of its historic initial investment.

The Beatles with Richard Lester, film director of A Hard Day’s Night (1964). The film was released by United Artists in the U.S. on August 11, 1964. It accompanied the Beatles’ hit song of the same name and became a phenomenal hit with U.S film audiences, particularly teenagers around the country who lined up to see it with their friends, often multiple times. The film starred the Fab Four – John, Paul, George, and Ringo – in a rather mundane story whose better purpose was to feature the band mates and about a dozen of their most popular songs.Sept hard-days-night-a-1964-011-beatles-richard-lester-clapperboard-00o-cjr” by bridgevillepennsylvania is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

LATER DEVELOPMENTS and the end of an era.

United Artists was ascendant in the 1960’s. It won 5 best Picture Oscars in the decade – more than any other single movie studio, a remarkable accomplishment. In addition to The Apartment in 1960 and West Side Story in 1961, there was Tom Jones directed by Tony Richardson in 1963, In the Heat of the Night in 1967, and Midnight Cowboy in 1969. United Artists was working with an array of directors such as Norman Jewison (In The Heat of the Night in 1967 and The Thomas Crown Affair in 1968), John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven in 1960), Robert Wise and Blake Edwards.15 In the 1960’s this diverse array of directors and actors and their films from United Artists found their audience although, as production exploded with independent projects, not every movie made its mark.16 Purchased in 1967 by Transamerica Corp. based on its film and television success, Krim and Benjamin were pushed aside for new management as UA continued to manufacture film hits such as The Graduate (Best Picture nominee) and In The Heat of the Night (Best Actor and Best Picture winner). In 1968 UA’s income reached $250 million with a $20 million in profit. Yet, in 1970, the studio lost $35 million. Krim and Benjamin were restored while staff and overhead expenses drastically cut.17

On the set of Midnight Cowboy, a United Artists production, in 1969. Directed by Britisher John Schlesinger, and starring Jon Voight as small-town stud Joe Buck and Dustin Hoffman as down-and-out local hustler Ratso Rizzo, Midnight Cowboy, follows the pair’s unlikely relationship through the seedy, sordid streets of New York City and beyond. Midnight Cowboy won that year’s Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Academy Awards and both Voight’s and Hoffman’s performances were Oscar-nominated for Best Actor, though it was John Wayne who took home Oscar for his role in True Grit that year. Midnight Cowboy was made on a shoestring budget of $3 million and though criticized for being luminous but not accurately observed, with a haunting theme by John Barry and hit rock songs on the soundtrack (“Everybody’s Talkin’” by Nilsson), the film scored over $44 million at the box office. Still, the movie studio’s new owner, insurance giant Transamerica, was not particularly pleased with this UA release and, later, its Last Tango In Paris, because of the X-rated content. It led to the insurance corporation taking action to distance itself from certain of its own films. This fissure ultimately led to an irreparable fracture with the movie studio’s longtime successful management team who were also its former owners and who left United Artists in 1978 to form a competing movie studio. Transamerica put United Artists up for sale two years later.18On the set – Midnight Cowboy – United Artists production, 1969” by dou_ble_you is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The decade of the 1960’s saw a precipitous decline in movie attendance. What began in 1960 with 44 million Americans, or 25% of the population, going to cinema each week was 15 million in 1970 – or less than 10%. Most of these numbers were concentrated in a few films while the rest languished. The movie studios’ search for the surefire blockbuster intensified. One or two misses could – and did – sink a studio’s fortunes. Though UA was no longer the Oscar leader, the 1970’s was a mostly remarkable decade for United Artists. It made hits such as Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and the James Bond series with Roger Moore and had three Best Picture films in a row – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Rocky (1976) and Annie Hall (1977).19 Significantly, in 1977 and 1979, respectively, Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford both passed away – and, with them, some of the last vestiges of old Hollywood.

In 1978, following Chaplin’s death, Krim and Benjamin left UA to form Orion Pictures, looking to make it a worthy heir to what United Artists had been. Their exit evolved with clashes with Transamerica since the insurance giant took over the movie studio in 1967. In 1973, as United Artists took over U.S. sales and distribution of MGM films and its music publishing business, in 1981 Transamerica sold United Artists and its film library to Tracinda Corp. Since Tracinda Corp. owned MGM, these two iconic film studio brands merged to become MGM/UA Entertainment Company with a host of subsidiaries.20

Mid-1970’s – Three Best Picture Oscars in a Row.

Jack Nicholson in 1976. Nicholson won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of grinning anti-hero McMurphy fighting the system personified by Nurse Ratched played by Louis Fletcher in the United Artists’ 1975 release, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Based on a 1960’s novel and stage play, the film swept the Oscars winning Best Picture, Best Director (Miloš Forman), Best Actor (Nicholson), and Best Actress (Fletcher). File:Jack Nicholson in 1976 crop retouch.jpg” by AP Wire press photo – from eBay auction ebay (auction archive) is marked with CC0 1.0.
Sylvester Stallone in Rocky (1976). Stallone was offered $300,000 for his original script but declined and counter-offered for $75,000, a percentage of the box office and the lead role. It was a shrewd move. The film made $54 million at release and won Best Picture, Best Director (John G. Avildsen) and Best Film Editing Oscars. Stallone was nominated for Best Actor. Made for $1 million, “Rocky” has grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide and spawned 8 sequels so far.Rocky (1976)” by 7th Street Theatre is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, 1977. “A Nervous Romance” co-written and directed by Woody Allen won 4 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (Allen), Best Actress (Keaton) and Best Original Screenplay. It was the first comedy film in Oscar history to win for Best Picture. Diane Keaton’s quality costumes of baggy pants, knotted black tie, felt hat, stylish eyewear and liberated hairstyles set a fashion going forward into the 1980’s.Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, 1977” by Beauties in Glasses (Movies) is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.

The end of the 1970s was profitable for UA. Though Krim and Benjamin were gone, UA was headed by Andy Albeck, Krim’s longtime assistant and the studio’s investments were reaping themselves handsomely at the box office – Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979), Bond installment Moonraker (1979) and Rocky II were all hits, Although Westerns had fallen out of favor, in 1978 UA fronted almost $8 million for Heaven’s Gate. Starting in the 1960’s the film market was gearing to younger audiences. This trend intensified so that in the late 1970s and early 1980s most films were targeted to teenagers.21 Heaven’s Gate became way over budget and then opened to devastatingly reviews. Albeck saw the train wreck that was coming. The film was released then pulled and re-released after severe editing but was a box office bomb, Albeck resigned and UA, despite its money-making releases, including For Your Eyes Only (1981), Rocky III (1982) and Yentl (1983) was sold to MGM and became MGM/UA Entertainment Corp.

Roger Moore in Moonraker. The film was made precisely to cash in on audience demand for space adventure films that 20th Century-Fox’s Star Wars started in 1977. The most expensive Bond film ever made and its biggest money maker, the film nonetheless received mixed to negative reviews. The era of the adolescent, formulaic blockbuster had clearly taken hold at the movies.
moonraker” by cdrummbks is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Late 20th century to today.

By 1983, MGM started selling UA assets such as its New York City headquarters as part of the consolidation process while in terms of film and television production the two jointly-owned studios under Kirk Kerlorian’s Tracinda Corp. were put in direct competition with one another. In March 1985 both studios went under one studio head, Alan Ladd, Jr.22 In March 1986,Ted Turner bought MGM/UA and renamed it MGM Entertainment Co. selling back the United Artists’ assets (about one third of the deal) to Tracinda Corp. Though it shared the same or similar assets, it was, from a transactional viewpoint, the end of the original United Artists and start of a new company.23

Later in 1986 Turner sold back MGM’s production and distribution assets to United Artists, retaining ownership of film libraries. United Artists was renamed MGM/UA Communications Company.24 In the 1990s United Artists (MGM/UA) traded hands from and back to Tracinda Corp and in the 2000s MGM folded UA into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures though certain distributorship, branding, and copyrights could bear the United Artists name. In 2005, Comcast, Sony and partner banks bought United Artists and, its parent, MGM, and folded those operations into Sony. The era of mega-consolidation was well underway.25 In 2006, in a return to its roots as an artists’ film studio, actor Tom Cruise, producer Paula Wagner and MGM Studios created United Artists Entertainment LLC. In 2011 it was revealed that MGM bought United Artists whose brand name remains though the last films made under the United Artists banner was in 2009. 26

Since the 1980’s until today, certain UA films have been geared to mature audiences -such as, François Truffaut’s The Last Metro (1981), Karel Reisz’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), Walter Hill’s Wild Bill (1995) and other less successful ventures. But, starting with War Games (1983), the majority of feature films released in the last 40 years are geared to the youth market demographic.

War Games started as a film for mature audiences on the risks of nuclear war. Market research, however, revealed that such a serious-minded film would not be a blockbuster in the box office sense. Director John Badham (“Saturday Night Fever,” Paramount Pictures, 1977) was brought in and working with newcomer Matthew Broderick and witty script by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes appealed to a youth market with a film about games. A teenage computer wiz uses his home computer to connect to the Pentagon and with teenage girlfriend Ally Sheedy go about saving the world from the next Armageddon. Made for $12 million, WarGames earned $124 million at the box office and, like United Artists itself, provided a formula for successful movie making that has endured through the decades.WarGames (1983)” by Wasfi Akab is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


1. Bergan, Ronald, The United Artists Story, Crown, 1986, p. 8.

2. Ibid., p.8.

3. Ibid., p.6; see – https://www.movieinsider.com/m20828/the-underdoggs – retrieved August 8, 2023.).

4.  see- Balio, Tino, United Artists, Volume 1, 1919–1950: The Company Built by the Stars, 2009 and Welsch, Tricia, Gloria Swanson: Ready for Her Close-Up, University Press of Mississippi, 2013.

5. The UA Story, p.41; https://web.archive.org/web/20220213144356/http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/metro-goldwyn-mayer-inc-history/ – retrieved 8.17.23.

6. The UA Story, p.41.

7. A Short History of The Movies, Gerald Mast, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. Indianapolis, 1977, p.263.

8. https://news.gallup.com/poll/388538/movie-theater-attendance-far-below-historical-norms.aspx – retrieved August 11, 2023.

9. The UA Story, p. 87.

10. Mast, p. 263 and https://news.gallup.com/poll/388538/movie-theater-attendance-far-below-historical-norms.aspx – retrieved August 11, 2023.

11. Film Noir Guide, Michael F. Keaney,  McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2003. p. 3.

12. https://web.archive.org/web/20220213144356/http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/metro-goldwyn-mayer-inc-history/ – retrieved 8.17.23.

13. https://www.jewoftheweek.net/2019/04/10/jews-of-the-week-mathilde-and-arthur-krim/ – retrieved 8.17.23.

14. Mayer, Arthur L., “UA at 40,” Variety, June 24, 1959, p. 42; Balio, Tino (March 2, 2009). United Artists: The Company that Changed the Film Industry (1st ed.). Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 226–227.

15. The UA Story, p. 195.

16. Ibid., p. 231.

17. Ibid., p. 251.

18. You’re Only as Good as Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films, and 100 for Which I Should Be Shot, Mike Medavoy and Josh Young, New York: Pocket Books, 2002.  pp. 85–86.

19. The UA Story, p. 251.

20. https://web.archive.org/web/20220213144356/http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/metro-goldwyn-mayer-inc-history/ – retrieved 8.17.23. “Big 3 Sold to UA; Plus 1/2 Can. Co”. Billboard Magazine. October 27, 1973. p. 3.  – retrieved August 8, 2023; Cole, Robert J. (May 16, 1981). “M-G-M is Reported Purchasing United Artists for $350 Million”. The New York Times, p.1 – retrieved August 8, 2023.

21. The UA Story, p. 293.

22. https://web.archive.org/web/20220213144356/http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/metro-goldwyn-mayer-inc-history/ – retrieved 8.17.23.

23. Balio, Tino (March 2, 2009). United Artists, Volume 2, 1951–1978: The Company That Changed the Film Industry. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 343.

24. Gendel, Morgan (June 7, 1986). “Turner Sells The Studio, Holds on to the Dream”. Los Angeles Times – retrieved August 8, 2023; “Turner, United Artists Close Deal”. Orlando Sentinel. United Press International. August 27, 1986 – retrieved August 8, 2023.

25. Leming, Mike Jr; Busch, Anita (September 22, 2014). “MGM Buys 55% Of Roma Downey And Mark Burnett’s Empire; Relaunches United Artists”. Deadline Hollywood; “United Artists restructuring by MGM”. CNNMoney. June 7, 1999.

26. Fritz, Ben, “MGM regains full control of United Artists”. Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2012.


A Short History of The Movies, Gerald Mast, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. Indianapolis, 1977.

Film Noir Guide, Michael F. Keaney, McFarland & Co., Inc. Jefferson North Carolina, 2003.

History of the American Cinema, Volume 5, 1930-1939, Charles Harpole, General Editor, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1993.

Hollywood The Glamour Years (1919-1941), Robin Langley Sommer, Gallery Books: New York, 1987.

License To Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films, James Chapman, 2009.

My Autobiography, Charlie Chaplin, Melville House Publishing, Brooklyn and London, 2012 (originally published in 1964).

The American Film Industry, ed. Tino Balio, University of Wisconsin Press, 1976.

The United Artists Story, Ronald Bergan, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1986.

United Artists, Volume 1, 1919–1950: The Company Built by the Stars, Tino Balio,  University of Wisconsin Press, 2009

United Artists, Volume 2, 1951–1978: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, Tino Balio, University of Wisconsin Press, 2009.

You’re Only as Good as Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films, and 100 for Which I Should Be Shot, Mike Medavoy and Josh Young, New York: Pocket Books, 2002.  

I Confess, a 1953 film noir by Alfred Hitchcock features Montgomery Clift as Fr. Logan who is framed for a murder committed by another man whose confession the Catholic priest heard and cannot reveal.

FEATURE image: Alfred Hitchcock Presents” by twm1340 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

In I Confess, a 1953 film noir by Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) from Warner Bros., a Catholic priest, Fr. Logan (played by Montgomery Clift) hears the confession of a man who works in the rectory and just killed another man.

That killer had been dressed as a priest and, among other circumstances, points to Fr. Logan as the primary suspect for the police Inspector (Karl Malden) and prosecutor (Brian Aherne) for the murder of Villette, a prominent lawyer.

Because of the seal of confession – that is, when a person confesses his sins to a priest in Confession, the priest must maintain absolute secrecy about anything that the person confesses – Fr. Logan does not and cannot under any circumstances divulge the identity of the confessed killer though he (and the audience) knows it.

Even after Fr. Logan is arrested for the crime and put on trial for murder for it, the priest does not reveal the identity of the killer but only protests for his own innocence.

I, Confess animation” by doc_tor_matt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Hitchcock’s black-and-white film was shot by cinematographer Robert Burks (1909-1968) who would later shoot Hitchcock’s The Birds in 1964. It is edited by German-born Rudi Fehr (1911-1999) who in 1954 edited Hitchcock’s triumphant color feature, Dial M For Murder.

The story in I Confess was based on a 1902 play by Paul Anthelme Bourde (1851-1914), a French journalist who coined the term “decadent” for the avant-garde when he called indecipherable poets such as Symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) one in the late 19th century.

The film follows the play which is about a killer who confesses to a priest knowing his crime cannot be betrayed. To complicate matters further, the killer blackmails the priest for a long-ago love affair he had with Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter), the wife of a leading citizen, and who still loves him. For the priest, the love affair is in the past though for Mrs. Grandfort it is not.

This work is in the public domain in the U.S. because it was published in the U.S. between 1927 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright notice.

Clearly, for Hitchcock in I Confess, the priest in this situation is a highly curious figure. By the end of the film, it becomes clear that the seal of confession is a cross for the priest because of his priesthood – and though sins do not always deal with high crime – demonstrates the personified sacramental nature of self-sacrifice that is involved for the priest with each confession he hears. Throughout the film, Fr. Logan is a tragi-comic figure as he simply does not state the obvious of who the murderer is on behalf of social justice and his own innocence, but equally personifying the religious nature of living with and taking on another’s sin particularly when a person refuses their own responsibility and makes amends for it. In I Confess, the murderer has no intention of turning himself in and is content to let the priest under seal of confession take the rap in the courtroom of the law and public opinion.

I, Confess animation” by doc_tor_matt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Fr. Logan never impedes law enforcement’s investigation. He continually states his own innocence for which a jury of his peers is brought in to decide what to believe.

The sin of omission – and in I Confess it is for the gravity of murder – remains with the impenitent Otto Keller (O.E. Hasse) although his loving wife, Alma (Dolly Hass), to whom Keller confessed the crime outside confession’s seal, cannot abide by his secret.

If, despite the seal of confession, crimes can be revealed to government investigators then the sanctuary of the law of the cross is extricated to get at evil – which is not contradiction nor improvement to the confessional box (the priest may ask the penitent for a release from the sacramental seal to discuss the confession) but its obligatory public replacement. As there is often no transparency and plenty of state secrets in and around various government agencies, this becomes no less problematical than breaking down a Catholic (and Lutheran) church’s confessional door.

I, Confess animation” by doc_tor_matt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Although found “not guilty” for lack of evidence to convict, the presiding judge expresses his disbelief in Fr. Logan’s innocence. When Fr. Logan exits the court building, he is followed and faced by a hostile crowd – “Preach us a sermon, Logan!” The prosecutor, as he watches the ugly scene from his office above, is forced to lament his actions: ”Do you think I enjoyed it?” he says, washing his hands. After Fr. Logan is crashed into a car window in the crowd, Alma, Keller’s wife, (her name means “soul”) rushes in towards the priest to tell what she knows – and which an accompanying police guard relates to the Inspector – “She said he was innocent.”

I, Confess animation” by doc_tor_matt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


Considered Hitchcock’s once most Catholic of films, I Confess is a tight drama with a truly despicable villain, whose murderous rampages continue. The film is ahead of its time in terms of direction – presaging some of the camera angles, editing, pacing and themes of international crime and psychological dramas that would come to fruition in the decades ahead.

An online search by title at the US copyright office yielded no copyright renewal. In the absence of renewal of the US copyright, this poster art entered the public domain 28 years after its US publication date.

text & layout –

The single MARILYN written, recorded, and released by Ray Anthony’s orchestra in 1952 had just one rising Hollywood star in mind: Marilyn Monroe.

FEATURE Image: Marilyn Monroe, 1952 by Philippe Halsman for LIFE. “Marilyn Monroe – 1952 / fotografiada por Philippe Halsman para LIFE” by Antonio Marín Segovia is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Marilyn Monroe in 1951 was a rising feature film star of whom the critics observed is “the new blonde bombshell.” “Marilyn Monroe, por Ernest Bachrach, 1951” by Antonio Marín Segovia is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) showed up in a bright pink dress for the release party of the song, Marilyn, in 1952. Though invited, she was the “surprise” stand-out guest who swooped in and out of the celebration fashionably in a wonky helicopter.

Bandleader Ray Anthony released the two-minute single Marilyn in 1952 with rising film star Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) definitely in mind.

By the end of 1951 Marilyn Monroe had completed 13 films, mostly for 20th Century-Fox, and was on the cusp of major stardom.

In 1952, Marilyn made five additional movies – including Clash By Night (RKO) where she was identified as “the new blonde bombshell” by Kate Cameron in New York News. Marilyn also made in 1952 We’re Not Married for 20th Century-Fox where, according to Alton Cook of the New York World Telegram, “Marilyn supplies beauty. She is Hollywood’s foremost expert.” Also for Fox that year Marilyn made Monkey Business where Paul C. Beckley hints at the major transition that Marilyn was making to open the nation’s eyes to her rising star in 1952: “Not seen her before,” Beckley wrote in the New York Herald Tribune, “I now know what’s that about.” Marilyn rounded out 1952 with the Fox anthology film, O. Henry’s Full House where the critics stood up and noticed Marilyn’s “stunning proportions” (Archer Winston, New York Post).

Marilyn Monroe in 1952.
Marilyn Monroe – 1952, Niagara” by Movie-Fan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

In 1953, Marilyn Monroe’s star did not miss. Her next three films for Twentieth Century- Fox – Niagara (“seductive”), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (“alluring”) and How to Marry a Millionaire (“magnificent proportions”) walked the walk to solidify her film acting career and her status as America’s enduringly iconic sex goddess or symbol.

Marilyn Monroe’s performance and appearance in Niagara in 1953 from 20th Century-Fox were highly praised. One critic observed: “Seen from any angle…Marilyn Monroe leaves little to be desired.” (A.H. Weiler, New York Times).

Ray Anthony (b. 1922) is one of the few surviving members of the post-war period of Old Hollywood (TV producer Norman Lear is another) that came to an end arguably with Marilyn’s death in 1962. Four years older than Marilyn Monroe, Anthony turned 100 years old in California on January 20, 2022.

Most of that exciting generation born in 1922 – including Ava Gardner, Jason Robards, Betty White, Judy Garland, Doris Day, Cyd Charisse, Kim Hunter, Eleanor Parker, Veronica Lake, and others – are today gone.

Marilyn Monroe by Jock Carroll, June, 1952.
Marilyn Monroe by Jock Carroll, June, 1952” by thefoxling is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Starting in the early 1950’s, Ray Anthony led a very popular ensemble that put out dance record after dance record. Many became instantly part of the culture – such as The Hokey Pokey and The Bunny Hop which seemed to make their musical appearance at nearly every wedding reception throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s.

With Anthony’s single Marilyn, the world’s most famous sex symbol was unattached though being courted by New York Yankees baseball great Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. They married two years later in 1954.

Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio. The movie star and former major league baseball player married in 1954. “Evan Esar” by Peter K. Levy is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.

In 1952 Marilyn Monroe was declared the “It Girl” by Hollywood gossip columnists. Though not a major star yet, Marilyn’s career was fluttering at the verge which made the Marilyn release party particularly exciting.

Marilyn Monroe started 1953 as Hollywood’s “It” girl. “Marilyn Monroe 1953” by Movie-Fan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Ray Anthony adored beautiful and sexy Hollywood blondes. He married one in 1955. Anthony met Mamie Van Doren (b. 1931) in 1955, they had a son, and divorced in 1961. In 1956, Anthony appeared with another popular Hollywood blonde bombshell, Jayne Mansfield, in the musical comedy, The Girl Can’t Help It.

Surrounded by all this beauty and great music it is no wonder that Ray Anthony received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the midst of this period in 1957.

Marilyn Monroe, June 1952 by Jock Carroll.
Marilyn Monroe by Jock Carroll, June, 1952” by thefoxling is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
All That Remains” by MelCamp77 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Celebrating 100 years of The Three Stooges (1922-2022).

FEATURE IMAGE: Jerry (Curley) Howard, Moe Howard and Larry Fine are The Three Stooges. “The Three Stooges” by twm1340 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The year 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of The Three Stooges in show business.

The Stooges began in 1922 as part of a vaudeville act called “Ted Healy and his Stooges.” It started with two stooges originally – brothers Moe and Shemp Howard. Larry Fine joined the act in 1925 or shortly thereafter. Their first Hollywood feature (with Ted Healy) was called Soup to Nuts in 1930. The Stooges worked with Healy until 1934. In that time Shemp broke off on his own to work for Warner Bros. Vitaphone and Jerry Howard, Moe’s younger brother, joined the act as Curley.

The Big Idea (1934)” by twm1340 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Between 1934 and 1958 The Three Stooges made over 90 two-reel shorts featuring their ribald comedy. Starting in 1934 and until the end of the 1950s, The Three Stooges had 26 different opening credits.

In chronological order, all The Stooges’ opening credits from 1934 to 1958.

Moe and Larry appeared in all of them. Curley appeared in 19; Shemp, 6; and Joe, one.

In 1934 there were 4 updates; 6 in 1935; 1 each in 1936, 1937, and 1939; 2 in 1940; 1 in 1943; and 2 in 1945. The 9th (1935), 12th (1937), and 13th (1939) versions were significant brand updates for the Stooges’ opening credits.

In 1946 there were 2 updates – Curley’s last and Shemp’s first. In the postwar years there were less updates – one each in 1947, 1950, 1952, and 1953.

Moe’s brother, Curley, died in 1952 after a long illness. Shemp died suddenly from a heart attack in 1955. Though Curley and Shemp’s comedy styles are very different from one another, they are both equally very funny. Though similar in body type to Curley, Joe Besser brought his own unique comic personality to the act from 1956 to 1958. Joe Besser passed away in 1988.

Shemp. “The Official Stooges Flickr Photographer In Action” by Larry He’s So Fine is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
Joe Besser as Stinky Davis – Abbott and Costello TV show 9367” by Brechtbug is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

In 1959 Columbia Pictures released Three Stooges shorts for the first time on television. TV broadcasts in the 1960’s brought a new generation of fans to the Stooges. In 1970 the Stooges were scheduled for a new TV sitcom series but Larry Fine had a paralyzing stroke.

Both Larry and Moe died in 1975. Eight years later, in 1983, The Three Stooges were inducted onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Star Trek James Doohan, William Campbell squire of gothos, stooges Moe Howard Larry Fine” by Sal Ami is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

List of opening credits (with major brand updates in bold):

1934 1 2 3 4

1935 5 6 7 8 9 10

1936 11

1937 12

1939 13

1940 14 15

1943 16

1945 17 18

1946 19 (last Curley) 20 (Shemp)

1947 21

1950 22

1952 23

1953 24 25

1958 26 (Joe Besser)

Hand prints in Leicester Square, London – Columbia Pictures – Torch Lady” by ell brown is licensed under CC BY 2.0.



CARY GRANT in the 1960’s: That Touch of Mink (1962), Charade (1963), Father Goose (1964) and Walk, Don’t Run (1966) and his Courtship, Marriage, and Baby with Dyan Cannon.

FEATURE image: “Cary Grant” by classic film scans is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

By John P. Walsh

Cary Grant made 72 films in a 34-year Hollywood career. Grant made his last six films in the 1960’s. After a successful acting career spanning four decades—Grant’s film debut was in 1932 for the Paramount Pictures’ comedy This is the Night and he received an honorary Oscar in 1970– he chose to retire from the silver screen in 1966. In that time, Cary Grant had become a household name synonymous with suavity, comedy, drama, romance, and his perpetually tanned-and-pressed good looks.

“Ours is a collaborative medium—we all need each other,” Cary Grant said as he accepted his honorary Oscar from presenter and friend Frank Sinatra at the 42nd Annual Academy Awards ceremony on April 7, 1970 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. 

The 66-year-old leading man and comic actor, whose film career ranged from 1932 to 1966, never won an Oscar. In 1970 he thanked the Academy whose audience that night gave him a standing ovation. Grant, who made over 80 films, including a long list of classic titles, expressed gratitude for “being privileged to be part of Hollywood’s most glorious era.”

Grant’s final film came in 1966 with the summer release of the comedy, Walk, Don’t Run. It was one more film made by one of Grant’s newly-formed production companies and distributed by Columbia Pictures. Not coincidentally, in February of that same year, the 62-year-old Grant, who had married his fourth wife, 29-year-old Dyan Cannon in June 1965, became a father for the first time. Grant called his baby daughter his “best production” and looked to give her the best of his attention and time. Grant opined: “My life changed the day Jennifer was born. I’ve come to think that the reason we’re put on this earth is to procreate. To leave something behind. Not films, because you know that I don’t think my films will last very long once I’m gone. But another human being. That’s what’s important.”

Cary Grant and wife Dyan Cannon with their baby daughter who was born on February 26, 1966.

Grant starting wooing Dyan Cannon in 1962. Within a three-year whirlwind courtship, as well as becoming eventually pregnant with Grant’s baby, a 28-year-old Dyan Cannon in 1965 sought once more a marriage proposal from one of cinema’s best, perhaps the best, and most important actors. But, once married, Dyan Cannon soon discovered that their marital relationship was more polite and frosty than she had expected to face with Hollywood’s quintessential leading man. On March 20, 1968, less than three years after tying the knot in a secret wedding ceremony in Las Vegas, Nevada, followed by flying to England in a private jet supplied by Grant’s longtime friend, magnate Howard Hughes, Cannon sought and was granted a divorce. As Cary Grant’s former wife and mother of his only child, Cannon did receive alimony from Grant to raise their daughter but the up-and-coming actress had to sort things out more completely after their break-up. Theirs had been a love affair with many memorable romantic moments. But Grant’s earlier confidence to Cannon when they were dating could have been seen as a warning of sorts if things happened to get more serious. “I don’t know what it is, but something happens to love when you formalize it,” Grant told her. “It cuts off the oxygen.”

Grant appears in character as an angel named Dudley in this promotional photograph for the 1947 fantasy romance film, The Bishop’s Wife. By seductively playing a certain song on the harp, Dudley convinces a rich woman to support the bishop’s cathedral building project. In real life, Grant was an ardent piano player.

When Grant asked to meet Dyan, she assumed it was for an acting part. Grant began his romance with then 25-year-old Dyan Cannon in 1962. By fall of 1962 the couple flew from California to New York where Cannon began rehearsing for The Fun Couple, a Broadway comedy play starring Jane Fonda and directed by Andreas Voutsinas. Grant meanwhile worked with film director Stanley Donen on Charade, an upcoming romantic comedy, pseudo-Hitchcock mystery thriller that Grant would co-star in with Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn had been filming another romantic comedy, Paris When it Sizzles, with William Holden.

Promotional poster for Stanley Donen’s Hitchcockian suspense thriller, Charade. The hit 1963 film was made in Paris in 1962 and 1963 and released at Christmas 1963. It starred Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

The Main Title for Charade with its punchy animated titles by Maurice Binder (1918-1991) was composed by Henry Mancini (1924-1994). At 39 years old Mancini was an Academy Award-winning composer — Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961 and Days of Wine and Roses in 1962. Charade would begin a number of successful collaborations for Mancini with Stanley Donen in the 1960’s, including Arabesque in 1966 starring Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck and Two For the Road in 1967 with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney.

Henry Mancini, c. 1970. The Main Theme from Charade was the first of a number of successful film score collaborations Mancini had with director Stanley Donen in the 1960’s.

On the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart a slightly longer vocal version of Charade reached no. 36 and was one of two top-40 pop hits for Mancini in 1963. It peaked at no. 15 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Charade produced one of Mancini’s eighteen Academy Awards nominations (he won four) for Best Original Song. The Oscar that year went to Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn for “Call Me Irresponsible” from Papa’s Delicate Condition, a comedy starring Jackie Gleason and Glynis Johns.

Maurice Binder did film title designs for dozens of films but is particularly known for ones he did for Stanley Donen such as Charade, as well as Indiscreet in 1958, The Grass Is Greener in 1960, and Bedazzled in 1967. Maurice Binder is also famous for 16 James Bond film titles he designed starting with the first Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962. In 1991 Binder explained the genesis of his main titles for Bond: “That was something I did in a hurry, because I had to get to a meeting with the producers in twenty minutes. I just happened to have little white, price tag stickers and I thought I’d use them as gun shots across the screen. We’d have James Bond walk through fire, at which point blood comes down onscreen. That was about a twenty-minute storyboard I did, and they said, this looks great!”

Bond Films Openings. Maurice Binder created the series’ first “Gun Barrel Sequence” for Dr. No in 1962.

Charade’s animated Main Title and music follows a wide screen shot of a quiet pre-dawn countryside in Europe as a speeding train eventually approaches and screeches past. A body is dumped out of the moving train, plunges down the ravine and stops in a ditch, the camera providing a close-up of the dead victim’s face. Colorful animation follows of pinwheels as the relentless wood-block-driven music heighten tension for what will be two charming lovers caught in a mysterious web of criminals after money.

Stills montage of Maurice Binder’s Main Title for Charade that accompanies Henry Mancini’s music.

Grant reluctantly left Cannon and the comforts of his suite at the Plaza in New York to make his way to Paris to shoot Charade (Hepburn’s home was near Paris). Walking along the left bank of the River Seine near Notre Dame is the Pont au Double bridge, just below the Quai de Montebello. During the filming of Charade, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn walk along the riverbank below this bridge as they discuss who the killer is. Just outside of Parc Monceau is the Musée Cernuschi on the Avenue Velasquez. The museum is featured in Charade, where it is used as Reggie’s apartment which she finds ransacked after returning from a holiday ski trip. Located near the Louvre is the Palais Royal which was originally the residence of Cardinal Richelieu, and later the property of the King of France housing apartments, offices, shops and restaurants. The Palais Royal appears in Charade in its final scenes when the real Carson Dyle is revealed and shooting begins.

Shooting scenes for Charade involved many locations in Paris.

When Dyan Cannon had her first holiday break from Broadway rehearsals at Christmas, she hopped on a flight to Paris. Arriving on Boxer Day in 1962, Grant and Cannon spent the next several days together in his hotel. On New Year’s Eve, Grant and Cannon were the special guests of Audrey Hepburn and her husband Mel Ferrer at their castle. There was a sumptuous dinner and many flights of crisp and creamy French champagne. Cannon flew back to the States on January 2, 1963, after a most pleasant holiday. She resumed her theater work in New York City while Grant and friends stayed on in Paris to continue filming Charade.

Cary Grant, making his 70th film, was reluctant to leave the U.S. for Paris for the several months in late 1962 and early 1963 it took to film Charade. It premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Christmas Day 1963.

Radio City Music Hall in 2008.

The film Charade is well-known for its Hitchcock-style inspiration and screenplay by the original story’s author Peter Stone (1930-2003). From Stone’s 1961 short story, The Unsuspecting Wife, the film Charade offers witty lines and a head-knocking, heart-pounding whodunit. In Charade, Regina “Reggie” Lampert (Hepburn) is on winter holiday in the French Alps. Returning to her home in Paris, she is shocked to find that it has been ransacked of everything of value. The mysterious victim in the Main Title and the mysterious man Reggie just met on holiday in Grenoble– Peter Joshua, alias Alexander Dyle, alias Adam Canfield, alias Brian Cruikshank (Cary Grant) –merge into her life to help her solve the mystery of why these crimes have occurred and what they mean. Charade is about hidden money, spies and larcenists, double-crossing and being on the run. Besides that, it’s a love story. Charade was one of the last of a long line of suspense-screwball comedy films –a staple Hollywood film genre since the 1930’s–that faded out during the tumultuous 1960’s and not to reappear until the 1980’s.

Charade opened on December 25, 1963 at Radio City Music Hall. The film made six million dollars while the reviews, though mixed, were mostly positive. Critics did remark on the age difference between the romantic leads –a 59-year-old Cary Grant and 34-year-old Audrey Hepburn. By early 1964 the perfectly suave and likeable leading man for over 30 years was beginning to think about retirement. But there were still some things he hoped to accomplish first.

Charade in the rear view mirror, Grant came home just as Cannon became mostly absent. Throughout 1964 and much of 1965 Cannon had done no film work yet but continued her theater career as she was touring the country in the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Looking for something to do with his time, Grant formed a production company and made Father Goose.

Photographs above: Cary Grant in Operation Petticoat.

Grant’s character, Walter Eckland, played against Grant’s film type. Ecklund was a bedraggled loner in the South Pacific during World War II who reluctantly takes under his protection an unmarried French school teacher (Leslie Caron) and her seven grade school students. They were suddenly made refugees from the war during a Japanese bombing raid. The heart-warming Father Goose was a mega-hit at its release during Christmas 1964 and made millions of dollars. Receipts, however, were significantly less than in each of Grant’s three previous films — Operation Petticoat in 1959 with Tony Curtis, That Touch of Mink in 1962 with Doris Day, and Charade. Despite a lot of pre-Oscar buzz, Grant wasn’t even nominated for his performance. It was one more disappointment for Grant as he worked to possibly be given an Academy Award before he might retire.

Cary Grant and Doris Day in the hit romantic comedy, That Touch of Mink. Grant was dismayed that his 1964 romantic comedy adventure film Father Goose made less money than Charade and almost $6 million less than That Touch of Mink in 1962 and Operation Petticoat in 1959 combined.

That Touch of Mink co-starred Doris Day and Cary Grant. It was the hit movie of summer of 1962 though outshined in the movie world later that year by Lawrence of Arabia and The Longest Day. The romantic-comedy is great fun—it won, in this different age, a Golden Globe award for Best Comedy Picture-—and became a popular rerun on TV for the next decade.

Cary Grant was cast as wealthy businessman Philip Shane, a role originally meant for Rock Hudson. That Touch of Mink was, above all, intended to be a Doris Day vehicle. From 1962 to 1964 Doris Day was THE top box office star in Hollywood. Her presence definitely contributed to Universal Pictures’ bottom line since That Touch of Mink was the fourth biggest money maker of that year.

Playing working girl Cathy Timberlake, the movie is basically a stylish “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back”—and given a chance to learn his lesson, they get married. American audiences loved the concept as well as Day and Grant together on the big screen. The film was the fastest million-dollar earner of the year- and set a record at the time for the highest gross earnings in an initial theatrical release.

For Grant it was his second highest grossing film of his 30-year career, which was especially prosperous for the 58-year-old actor since he was a co-producer. Grant personally made $4 million for That Touch of Mink (around $35 million in today’s money). Three weeks after its opening, Betsy Drake, Grant’s third wife, found it an opportune time to file for divorce.

The court proceedings of the high-profile couple after more than a decade of marriage were followed intimately by the press. The settlement for Drake, who told the papers, “I was always in love with him and I still am….but…he left me long ago,” included over one million dollars in cash and a profit share in every Cary Grant film ever made up to 1962.

Meanwhile, That Touch of Mink, a film thick with early 1960’s conventional sensibilities, was nominated for 3 Academy Awards. Both Grant and Doris Day never won an Academy Award. In 1970, after Grant retired from film, he won an Honorary Academy Award. The story goes that after her exit from films, Doris Day (born Doris Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1922) was offered the Honorary Oscar multiple times but always turned it down. In 1962 That Touch of Mink was nominated for Best Sound, Best Art Direction and Best Screenplay. For the first two categories Oscar went to Lawrence of Arabia and, for the third category, to Divorce Italian Style.

Newly married in June 1965 to Dyan Cannon who was expecting their baby, Grant announced he was flying to Japan to make another movie. Grant returned to California permanently just in time to drive his wife to the hospital to deliver their first child, a baby daughter, born on February 26, 1966.

In June 1965, with Father Goose and the Oscars behind him and Dyan Cannon’s national tour ended—Grant and Cannon, who was now pregnant, got married. After a secret marriage ceremony in Las Vegas and a honeymoon, their news was eventually publicized. As the excitement began to settle down, Grant informed Cannon he would be making another film—and was traveling to Japan by himself for the next many months.

Grant had formed another production company and with producer Sol C. Siegel, signed with Columbia Pictures to distribute his new film. Buying the rights to The More the Merrier, a World War II-era comedy, Grant took the role that had been nominated in the early 1940’s for an Academy Award. Grant’s 1966 remake was called Walk, Don’t Run in which he played a British industrialist, Sir William Rutland,

The music is by Quincy Jones including its main title, “Happy Feet.”

The story concerns three strangers—Sir William (Grant), American Olympic competitor Steve Davis (Jim Hutton), and a young single British expat Christine Easton (Samantha Eggar). Leading different lives they suddenly come together to share a cramped apartment in Tokyo during the busy 1964 Olympics. Grant personally selected Hutton and Eggar for their roles.

In the film, Christine, whose tiny apartment it is, would prefer a female roommate. She sublets to Sir William because he is pushy, charming and a fellow Brit in need. But he immediately sublets half of his portion to Hutton, making for three.

Comedy results from three outsized adults sharing an acutely small living space as they pursue as normally as possible their lives’ conflicting schedules. In Grant’s last film he intentionally worked it so he did not get the girl. Rather Sir William tries to get Christine, who is engaged to a boring British diplomat, to hook up with Hutton.

Walk, Don’t Run was one of Quincy Jones’s first big breaks. The 33-year-old Chicago-born Jones came to score the film after its star and Executive Producer, Cary Grant, recommended him for the job. Grant met him briefly through their mutual friend, singer Peggy Lee. From that meeting Grant felt Jones’ style would be perfect for the film and he made sure he was hired. Jones went on to enormous success as the composer of numerous film scores such as In the Heat of the Night in 1967 and The Color Purple in 1985 as well as the producer of successful pop rock recordings such as Michael Jackson’s bestselling albums, Off the Wall in 1979, Thriller in 1982, and Bad in 1987. Jones was executive producer of the 1985 global recording phenomenon, We Are The World. That collaborative recording project raised funds for victims in Ethiopia when one million people died in that country’s 1983–1985 famine. In 2013, Quincy Jones was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

After Grant returned from Asia and the baby was born, in private and public he was adament that Walk, Don’t Run—released in June 1966—was his last film. It proved to be true. Grant stated he would not make a film with his wife, Dyan Cannon, a talented actress whose career had just begun. Instead, Grant insisted Cannon should retire from acting and be a stay-at-home mother. Grant’s ideas were not welcome news to Dyan Cannon, 33 years her husband’s junior. Already in 1966 Cannon began to wonder if—following an exciting courtship and an age difference they barely mentioned—her marriage to Cary Grant was in trouble.


Best production— “Hollywood loses a legend”. Montreal Gazette. December 1, 1986. p. 1. 

That’s what’s important— McCann, Graham (1997). Cary Grant: A Class Apart. Columbia University Press, 1998.

Cuts off the oxygen— http://worldnewsblogx.blogspot.com/2011/10/my-husband-cary-grant-force-fed-me-lsd.html

Charade film locations—https://www.wessexscene.co.uk/travel/2017/02/21/audrey-hepburn-in-paris/

Fastest million-dollar earner of the year and record for highest gross earnings in an initial theatrical release – “Million-$ Gross In 5 Weeks; ‘Mink’ A Radio City Wow”. Variety, July 18, 1962. p.1. and “B’way as Spotty as Weather; ‘Town’ Big $41,000, ‘Guns’ Only Okay $20,000, ‘Grimm’ Giant 59G, ‘Mink’ 151G, 10th” Variety, August 22, 1962. p.9.

Betsy Drake settlement – Eliot, Marc, Cary Grant A Biography, Harmony Books, NY 2004, p 337.

Last film and would not make a film with his wife— Ibid., p. 352.

Might be in trouble—Cannon, Dyan, Dear Cary: My Life with Cary Grant, 2011, p. 217 ff.


FEATURE image-Cary Grant by classic film scans is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

2-Cary Grant by classic film scans is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

3-Fair use.

4-Cary Grant by twm1340 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

5-CHARADE by Laurel L. Russwurm is marked with CC0 1.0.

6-Public domain published in a collective work i.e. periodical in the US between 1925 and 1977 and no Copyright.

7-Bond Films Openings Montage (Amalgamation) by avhell is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

8-Charade titles by Maurice Bender by Stewf is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

9-Charade_1963_Audrey_Hepburn_and_Cary_Grant public domain because it was published in the United States between 1925 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed.

10- Cary Grant, in Charade 1963 by Movie-Fan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

11- Let’s continue this little Charade by Thiophene_Guy is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

12-Radio City Music Hall (2008) by jpellgen (@1179_jp) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

13-Cary Grant by classic film scans is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

14-MM008600-39 by Florida Keys–Public Libraries is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

15- Cary Grant and Doris Day by classic film scans is licensed under CC BY 2.0,

16-1947 Bristol-born Hollywood film star Cary Grant alighting from Bristol Freighter G-AGVC at Los Angeles, 13 Jan 1947. by Gary Danvers is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

17- Walk, Don’t Run poster. Fair use.

18-Fair use.



That Touch of Mink
Cary Grant as Philip Shayne
Directed by Delbert Mann
Released June 14, 1962
Universal Pictures


Peter Joshua / Alexander Dyle / Adam Canfield / Brian Cruikshank
Directed by Stanley Donen
Released December 5,1963
Universal Pictures


Father Goose
Walter Christopher Eckland
Directed by Ralph Nelson
Released December 10, 1964
Universal Pictures


Walk, Don’t Run
Sir William Rutland
Charles Walters
Released June 29, 1966
Columbia Pictures

*The photograph copyright may be believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist. The copy is of sufficient resolution for commentary and identification but lower resolution than the original photograph. Copies made from it will be of inferior quality, unsuitable as counterfeit artwork, pirate versions or for uses that would compete with the commercial purpose of the original artwork. The image is used for identification in the context of critical commentary of the work, product or service for which it serves as poster art. It makes a significant contribution to the user’s understanding of the article, which could not practically be conveyed by words alone. As this is a publicity photo (star headshot) taken to promote an actress, these have traditionally not been copyrighted. Since they are disseminated to the public, they are generally considered public domain, and therefore clearance by the studio that produced them is not necessary. (See- Eve Light Honthaner, film production expert, in The Complete Film Production Handbook, Focal Press, 2001 p. 211.) Gerald Mast, further, film industry author, in Film Study and the Copyright Law (1989) p. 87, writes: “According to the old copyright act, such production stills were not automatically copyrighted as part of the film and required separate copyrights as photographic stills. The new copyright act similarly excludes the production still from automatic copyright but gives the film’s copyright owner a five-year period in which to copyright the stills. Most studios have never bothered to copyright these stills because they were happy to see them pass into the public domain, to be used by as many people in as many publications as possible.” Kristin Thompson, committee chairperson of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies writes in the conclusion of a 1993 conference with cinema scholars and editors, that they “expressed the opinion that it is not necessary for authors to request permission to reproduce frame enlargements … [and] some trade presses that publish educational and scholarly film books also take the position that permission is not necessary for reproducing frame enlargements and publicity photographs.”(“Fair Usage Publication of Film Stills,” Kristin Thompson, Society for Cinema and Media Studies.)

Marilyn Monroe, Robert Mitchum, and Otto Preminger: RIVER OF NO RETURN, 20th Century Fox (1954).


FEATURE image: “Marilyn Monroe con Robert Mitchum en el rodaje de River of No Return, 1953.” by Antonio Marín Segovia is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Otto Preminger, 1976. Photograph by Allan Warren.

File:Otto Preminger Allan Warren.jpg” by Allan warren is marked with CC BY-SA 3.0.

The World’s Most Beautiful Woman, HEDY LAMARR, featuring her Glamour Portrait by László Willinger for M-G-M’s adventure film, Boom Town (1940).

FEATURE image: Hedy Lamarr, M-G-M, 1940. Photograph by László Willinger (1909-1989).

PHOTO credit: Fair use.*

Hedy Lamarr, M-G-M, 1940. Photograph by László Willinger (1909-1989).

Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) posed for the glamour portrait (above) in 1940. The legendary Austrian beauty in Hollywood was 27 years old. Since her first American film in 1938, Algiers from United Artists, Lamarr was believed to be the most beautiful women in the movies, if not the world. Her beauty was so great that when she entered a room all activity in it stopped so to admire her.

The publicity photograph of Lamaar was for the 1940 American adventure film Boom Town from Metro-Godwyn-Mayer. It co-stars Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Claudette Colbert. Boom Town was the highest grossing film of 1940.

Hedy Lamarr, 1939, László Willinger.

PHOTO credit: Fair use.*

The beautiful color portrait of its co-star was taken by László Willinger (1909-1989). Willinger was a German-born emigré who made many glamour photographs of celebrities starting in the later 1930’s.

Sigrid Gurie, Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr, publicity still for Algiers. American 1938 film in Public Domain.

In Boom Town, Austrian-born Lamarr plays Karen VanMeer, a sophisticated and elegant corporate spy. She is recruited by Clark Gable who plays “Big John” McMasters, an oil speculator.

M-G-M splurged on its star power to turn a routine oil-well story into a four-time Academy Award-nominated money gusher called Boom Town. The field was crowded with new films in 1940 just from M-G-M studio, including 18 pictures in Technicolor. Escapism was still the most rewarding M-G-M product.

Producer Sam Zimbalist brought big names to the screen in Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert, and Hedy Lamarr backed up by an “A” list screenplay and Jack Conway’s forceful direction. The movie was the first Gable made under a new seven-year contract with MGM.

Hedy Lamarr, 1938. Photograph by Clarence Sinclair Bull (1896-1979).

PHOTO credit: “Hedy Lamarr” by floorvan is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Lana Turner, Hedy Lamaar, Judy Garland. Publicity photo for M-G-M’s Zeigfield Girls, 1941. Public Domain**
Hedy Lamarr, publicity photo for “The Heavenly Body,” M-G-M, 1944. Public Domain**

(colorized) PHOTO credit: “Hedy Lamarr 1914 – 2000” by oneredsf1 is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

*The photograph copyright may be believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist. The copy is of sufficient resolution for commentary and identification but lower resolution than the original photograph. Copies made from it will be of inferior quality, unsuitable as counterfeit artwork, pirate versions or for uses that would compete with the commercial purpose of the original artwork. The image is used for identification in the context of critical commentary of the work, product or service for which it serves as poster art. It makes a significant contribution to the user’s understanding of the article, which could not practically be conveyed by words alone. As this is a publicity photo (star headshot) taken to promote an actress, these have traditionally not been copyrighted. Since they are disseminated to the public, they are generally considered public domain, and therefore clearance by the studio that produced them is not necessary. (See- Eve Light Honthaner, film production expert, in The Complete Film Production Handbook, Focal Press, 2001 p. 211.) Gerald Mast, further, film industry author, in Film Study and the Copyright Law (1989) p. 87, writes: “According to the old copyright act, such production stills were not automatically copyrighted as part of the film and required separate copyrights as photographic stills. The new copyright act similarly excludes the production still from automatic copyright but gives the film’s copyright owner a five-year period in which to copyright the stills. Most studios have never bothered to copyright these stills because they were happy to see them pass into the public domain, to be used by as many people in as many publications as possible.” Kristin Thompson, committee chairperson of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies writes in the conclusion of a 1993 conference with cinema scholars and editors, that they “expressed the opinion that it is not necessary for authors to request permission to reproduce frame enlargements … [and] some trade presses that publish educational and scholarly film books also take the position that permission is not necessary for reproducing frame enlargements and publicity photographs.”(“Fair Usage Publication of Film Stills,” Kristin Thompson, Society for Cinema and Media Studies.)

**This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1927 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright notice. Note that it may still be copyrighted in other countries.

A Critical Look at M-G-M’s MADAME BOVARY (1949) directed by Vincente Minnelli: the Waltz Scene featuring Jennifer Jones and Louis Jourdan.

FEATURE image: Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) and Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) waltz at the ball in a still from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1949 film Madame Bovary directed by Vincente Minnelli. Fair Use.

In the 1949 film Madame Bovary directed by Vincente Minnelli, a beautiful and charming Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) meets wealthy Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) at a ball where he literally sweeps her off her feet. Selfishly aggravated by her husband Charles Bovary (Van Heflin) for not fitting into high society, Madame Bovary begins a love affair with Rodolphe. Though the pair scheme to elope to Italy, Rodolphe does not love Madame Bovary. 

The Waltz Scene was Filmed to the Music 

One of the film’s most carefully wrought and delightful scenes is this ballroom sequence. It was one of the last segments to be shot. The film footage was tailored to Miklós Rózsa’s music. Minnelli explained to the composer in advance the camera movements so he could write the music in an arrangement for two pianos. The scene was then filmed to match it. Their artistic collaboration produced one of cinema’s most original scenes uniting robust music with weaving and gliding images on film.

Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) and Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) waltz at the ball. It is one of the film’s most delightful scenes and one of the last to be shot. Director Vincente Minnelli made certain its choreography carefully matched the music of Miklós Rózsa. Madame Bovary was nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.

“Break the Windows” dramatizes a heroine’s transition into madness

As Rodolphe swirls her, Emma Bovary’s head spins until she becomes dizzy. The viewer sees her disorientation as the camera takes her viewpoint. She keeps dancing but asks for fresh air. Her request leads to an extraordinary and incredible reaction by the stewards. They start to smash the ballroom’s windows with chairs to help her cool down. This fantastically destructive action of broken glass aligns with the destruction of Emma’s romantic illusions throughout the film. 

In reaction to Madame Bovary becoming dizzy while waltzing with a new lover, the stewards smash the ballroom windows to give her air. The extraordinary action ultimately becomes symbolic of the destruction of Madame Bovary’s romantic illusions with handsome, wealthy Rodolphe and her own descent into madness.

Night of Repressed Passion

Along with her husband’s boorish behavior at the ball and everywhere else, Madame Bovary’s romantic disappointment leaves her feeling publicly humiliated. Instead of love and excitement, Madame Bovary runs out of the ball in shame. Though she yearns for happiness and excitement, her pursuit of selfish pleasures ends in scandal and ruin.

Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful. It is equally insightful to the selfish and nervous personality of Flaubert’s fictional character.

A film poster for Vincente Minnelli’s Madame Bovary. Several different versions of the film poster were produced for the marketing of the 1949 film.

This publicity photo for Madame Bovary showed the love triangle of Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones), her handsome lover Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan), and her hapless and cuckolded husband Charles Bovary, a medical doctor (Van Heflin).

Thirty-year-old Jennifer Jones plays Gustave Flaubert’s doomed title character, Madame Bovary, from his 1856 serial novel.

Vincente Minnelli’s film of the same name offered two costume and wardrobe managers: Walter Plunkett for women and Valles for men.

Walter Plunkett (1902-1982) was a prolific costume designer who worked on more than 150 projects in his Hollywood career, including Gone With The Wind. In 1951, Plunkett shared an Oscar with Orry-Kelly and Irene Sharaff for An American in Paris.

Valles (1886-1970) specialized in men’s costumes at M-G-M. Valles received two Academy Award nominations, including Spartacus in 1960.

Van Heflin is Charles Bovary, whom Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) had loved and hoped to build a respectable life, but in whom she grew disillusioned.

A unique example of the Valles’ costume design for Louis Jourdan and Walter Plunkett’s costume design for Jennifer Jones for the 1949 film Madame Bovary. The next year, in 1950, both Valles and Walter Plunkett were nominated for the Academy Award for Compton Bennett’s That Forsyte Woman/Saga.

Madame Bovary danced wildly with Rodolphe at the ball and loves him. The illicit couple plan to elope to Italy. But Rodolphe leaves for Italy without her and shatters Madame Bovary’s spirit and dreams.

Costumes were by award-winning Valles and Walter Plunkett, both award-winning Hollywood costume designers.

Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) is indulged by an unscrupulous shop-keeper as she lives beyond her means in the pursuit of happiness. She takes on a heavy debt that is impossible to pay back.

The film plot is told from the point of view of the author, Gustave Flaubert (James Mason). A legal proceedings takes place where Flaubert is accused of corrupting morals by writing Madame Bovary. It is an historical fact that, in 1858, Flaubert and his publisher had faced government charges of immorality for Madame Bovary. But the outcome of the trial was that Flaubert was completely acquitted.

Charles, who never stopped loving his wife, begs her to wait for a doctor to arrive. Madame Bovary sighs, “Oh, Charles, why are you always trying to save me?”

From the waltz scene through to her death scene Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful. It also provides insight into the contradictions offered by a selfish and nervous personality.

In the end Madame Bovary finds that her own death is more attractive to her than living with her shattered dreams.

A 1949 film poster for Madame Bovary that includes a publicity head shot of James Mason as Gustave Flaubert, the novel’s French author.

Minnelli’s film is told in flashback through the character of Flaubert who is on trial for charges of immorality for writing the novel. After Flaubert’s work was serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1856, the government charged and tried the author and his publisher for immorality. Both were acquitted in 1859. After Madame Bovary appeared in book form in France, it became an instant classic.

Vincente Minnelli directs Jennifer Jones and Louis Jourdan in a scene from Madame Bovary.

Reviews from film critics had been mixed and Madame Bovary lost money at the box office. Whether it is the fault of the film-makers or the unhappy story becomes a debatable point.

*The photograph copyright may be believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist. The copy is of sufficient resolution for commentary and identification but lower resolution than the original photograph. Copies made from it will be of inferior quality, unsuitable as counterfeit artwork, pirate versions or for uses that would compete with the commercial purpose of the original artwork. The image is used for identification in the context of critical commentary of the work, product or service for which it serves as poster art. It makes a significant contribution to the user’s understanding of the article, which could not practically be conveyed by words alone. As this is a publicity photo (star headshot) taken to promote an actress, these have traditionally not been copyrighted. Since they are disseminated to the public, they are generally considered public domain, and therefore clearance by the studio that produced them is not necessary. (See- Eve Light Honthaner, film production expert, in The Complete Film Production Handbook, Focal Press, 2001 p. 211.) Gerald Mast, further, film industry author, in Film Study and the Copyright Law (1989) p. 87, writes: “According to the old copyright act, such production stills were not automatically copyrighted as part of the film and required separate copyrights as photographic stills. The new copyright act similarly excludes the production still from automatic copyright but gives the film’s copyright owner a five-year period in which to copyright the stills. Most studios have never bothered to copyright these stills because they were happy to see them pass into the public domain, to be used by as many people in as many publications as possible.” Kristin Thompson, committee chairperson of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies writes in the conclusion of a 1993 conference with cinema scholars and editors, that they “expressed the opinion that it is not necessary for authors to request permission to reproduce frame enlargements … [and] some trade presses that publish educational and scholarly film books also take the position that permission is not necessary for reproducing frame enlargements and publicity photographs.”(“Fair Usage Publication of Film Stills,” Kristin Thompson, Society for Cinema and Media Studies.)

MICHÈLE MERCIER: French-Italian Screen Goddess Known As Angélique. A review of her legendary 5-film role that stretched from 1964 to 1968.

FEATURE image: “File:Michelemercier02b.jpg” by Roland Godefroy is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Michèle Mercier (born New Year’s Day 1939) is a French actress perhaps best known for playing the lead role of Angélique in the mid1960s film series of the same name based on the 1956 sensational novel Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels by husband and wife writing team of Anne and Serge Golon.  Their mid-17th century character was based on a real life Suzanne du Plessis-Bellière who was one of France’s most famous women from the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The historical Suzanne first appeared in a French novel in the mid-nineteenth century, one by Alexandre Dumas, père, called Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, ou Dix ans plus tard. Similar to these 5 films inspired by the Golons’ novel of (by 1961) six books — Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels which is the first book published in 1957 (the novel expanded to 13 books after the 1964 film’s release) — Dumas’s novel, the third of his d’Artagnan trilogy, was also serialized in popular media from 1847 to 1850.

Michèle Mercier4

Michèle Mercier as Angélique is a French Italian beauty who has entered the pantheon of screen goddesses based largely on the legendary five-film role that stretched from 1964 to 1968.

For the part of Angélique, many other beautiful and more famous actresses were approached before Michèle Mercier who was little known in the French cinema at the time. Seasoned French film producer Francis Cosne (1916-1984) wanted sex symbol Brigitte Bardot to play the part, but she rejected the offer. Young Catherine Deneuve was considered perhaps too naive for the lusty role. American Jane Fonda spoke French but could an American play fully a quintessentially French role? Italian beauty Virna Lisi was too busy doing Hollywood films. Not being already famous eliminated statuesque Danish actress Annette Stroyberg from the running until ultimately Michèle Mercier was decided upon after almost losing the part to French actress Marina Vlady who at the last minute didn’t sign the contract.


Michèle Mercier as Angélique.

When the opportunity of Angélique presented itself to Michèle Mercier, she was a relative newcomer to the French cinema – but this was not the case for her either in French theatre arts or Italian films where before 1964 she had acted in over 20 of them. With a father who was French and mother who was Italian,  Michèle Mercier from her early teens growing up in Nice, France, was determined to be a professional ballet dancer. In 1957, at 17 years old, she moved to Paris which was a decision that changed her life. By 1960, when she was just 20 years old, she was acting in French New Wave film director François Truffaut’s second film, Shoot The Piano Player. 

After Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels was released — an unlikely heroine’s role where Angélique’s singular flaming red-haired beauty is acknowledged throughout — the role became a blessing and a curse for the budding actress Michèle Mercier. It catapulted her to instant stardom so that her fame rivaled sex symbol Brigitte Bardot in celebrity and popularity, but the role in 5 popular films typecast her and effectively ended her film career almost as soon as it started. Following the first Angélique film in 1964 Michèle Mercier starred in four sequels that includes Merveilleuse Angélique in 1965, Angélique et le Roy in 1966, Indomptable Angélique in 1967 and Angélique et le Sultan in 1968. All these films in the series were directed by French film director Bernard Borderie (1924-1978) and starred Michèle Mercier which bestowed upon the stories a consistent filmic world but also encased the beautiful star in a popular role that was virtually impossible to escape from.

Following the fifth and final film of the Angélique series in 1968 the French Italian beauty went on to make six more films before her career ended in 1972. Although Michèle Mercier had always appeared in a variety of film genres – the actress played dozens of other women besides Angélique – it was for this 17th century fictional character in five memorable films in 1960’s France that has affixed her into the pantheon of screen goddesses for which she receives enduring adoration today.

Michèle Mercier4

Michèle Mercier in 1965.

Michèle Mercier on the cover of the April 20-26, 1968 French weekly magazine, Télé 7 Jours with Jacques Chazot. In these months, Michèle Mercier was riding high in the Angélique film series. Indomptable Angélique had been released in October 1967 and was a world-wide smash hit. In the film, Angélique discovers that her first husband is alive and she Angélique travels to the South of France not realizing he is now an infamous pirate. Angélique is captured by slave traders and taken far away to Crete where they intend to sell her. In March 1968, Angélique et le Sultan had just been released. It became the fifth and unintended final entry in the Angélique series based on the novels of Anne and Serge Golon. A planned sixth film called Angelique the Rebel was announced but never made.

hotpants-1970-michele-mercier” by Gerard Van der Leun is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


Angélique, Marquise des Anges 
Michèle Mercier as Angélique
Directed by Bernard Borderie
Released December 8, 1964
Distributed by S.N. Prodi; Gloria Film; Butcher’s Film Distributors

Marvelous Angelique  (Merveilleuse Angélique)
Michèle Mercier as Angélique
Directed by Bernard Borderie
Released July 7, 1965
Distributed by S.N. Prodi; Gloria Film

Angelique and the King (Angélique et le Roy)
Michèle Mercier as Angélique
Directed by Bernard Borderie
Released February 4, 1966
Distributed by Gloria Film

Untamable Angelique (Indomptable Angélique)
Michèle Mercier as Angélique
Directed by Bernard Borderie
Released October 27, 1967
Distributed by S.N. Prodi; Gloria Film

Angelique and the Sultan (Angélique et le Sultan)
Michèle Mercier as Angélique
Directed by Bernard Borderie
Released March 13, 1968
Distributed by S.N. Prodi; Gloria Film

History of the BEE GEES’ How Deep is Your Love. A First Hit for the 1977 film, “Saturday Night Fever,” still defines the Disco Age.

FEATURE image: “Bee Gees Monument unveiled tomorrow-1=” by Sheba_Also 43,000 photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

By John P. Walsh

How Deep Is Your Love (1977) by the Bee Gees ranks number 375 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.1 It sits between White Room (1968) by Cream and Unchained Melody (1965) by The Righteous Brothers. Barry Gibb, the lone surviving Bee Gee today, reportedly said that How Deep Is Your Love is his favorite Bee Gees song. 2 In 2011 it was voted in a TV poll as the UK’s favorite.3 Recorded in the spring of 1977 in anticipation of the album and film Saturday Night Fever to be released later that year— How Deep Is Your Love was released in the U.S. as a single in September 1977. Three months later, after the smash-hit film Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta was released, How Deep Is Your Love became the number one song in the U.S. on Christmas Eve 1977 and stayed in the top spot for three weeks. Although the song had started on the charts in October 1977, when it reached number one it stayed in the top 10 for four months until April 1978 which, at that time, set a longevity record. There are two official music videos for How Deep Is Your Love featuring the Bee Gees.4

Fig. 1. There are two official music videos performed by the Bee Gees of How Deep is Your Love. The music of the Bee Gees (left to right: Robin, Barry, and Maurice Gibb) and the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta breathed fire into the disco music craze and helped define the disco era in the late 1970’s.
Fig 2. A huge international pop music hit starting in late 1977, How Deep is Your Love written and performed by the Bee Gees made its way into the Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track album that went Platinum on January 3, 1978 and was certified 16x Multi-Platinum on November 16, 2017.  It remains one of the top ten-selling albums of all time.

When the Bee Gees were asked by film producer Robert Stigwood to provide five songs for a film tentatively titled Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night based on the 1975 New York magazine fiction article about the urban disco scene, they didn’t want to compose music specifically for a film (although Barry did write the title song for Stigwood’s follow-up picture, Grease). It didn’t help that the Bee Gees were given neither a script nor hardly told what the movie plot was about. They offered Stigwood, their longtime manager, songs that they were already working on, namely, Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever, If I Can’t Have You (later sung by Yvonne Elliman), More Than A Woman, and How Deep is Your Love.5 At one early screening with John Travolta and director John Badham, among others, the Bee Gees were pleased though a little surprised when they saw for the first time scenes of the re-titled Saturday Night Fever with their music and lyrics to back it up. Although the music soundtrack at this juncture was demo cuts, the songs they wrote and performed meshed perfectly with the film’s scenes about which they had never been told very much. To be added to their astonishment—as much as anyone else’s there attending that rough cut – is that the Bee Gees had no idea they had embarked on a motion picture that would soon prove to be a milestone in film history.  Saturday Night Fever would perfectly capture a moment in time and forever define the disco age.

Fig. 3. John Travolta attended the London premiere of Saturday Night Fever on March 22, 1978 with Kay Edwards.

Following its world premiere in Hollywood on December 7, 1977, Saturday Night Fever became an enormous success. It became Chicago film critic Gene Siskel’s favorite film—soon after, Siskel famously bought Tony Manero’s white suit at a charity auction in 1978 for $2,000. Colleague and friend Roger Ebert writing shortly after Siskel’s death in 1999, believed that Saturday Night Fever had struck Siskel mainly on an emotional level but also for its themes that had impressed him. Other influential film critics were similarly praiseworthy of the film’s subject matter. At the 50th Academy Awards on April 3, 1978 Saturday Night Fever had received only one nomination (John Travolta for Best Actor) in a year where Annie Hall and Star Wars dominated the competition. Robin Gibb later observed that Saturday Night Fever was made on a very low budget, released very late in the year and had no expensive promotion. The film’s word of mouth was good, however, which even included its star, John Travolta, who at its world premiere at then-Mann’s Chinese Theatre admitted watching the musical film on the big screen as if seeing a fantasy or dream for the first time.6

Fig. 4. Tony Manero’s shiny white polyester suit — bought off the rack in Brooklyn for the making of the film Saturday Night Fever— has been compared to a symbol of aspiration and hope in what is otherwise a dark movie.

Conceptually the song How Deep Is Your Love materialized when, working with collaborator Blue Weaver, Barry Gibb’s instigating question to him in beginning to compose it was: “What is the most beautiful chord that you know?”7 It was the first song the Bee Gees composed that ended up in the film Saturday Night Fever. After a creative hit-and-miss process at the piano – and further collaboration with Robin and Maurice – the song was put together in the middle of night in about four hours at the Château d’Hérouville studios in France.8 This was part of the Bee Gees’ usual working process – arriving into the studio around three o’clock in the afternoon and ending their workday near or after midnight – resulting in all of the film’s songs written quickly, with the lyrics finished later and the disco music taking longer.9 The Bee Gees’ falsetto singing had always been emotional, and it was often by way of collaborating with industry talent— other musicians, producers, and the like—that their music developed in new directions. By the time How Deep is Your Love came about, the Bee Gees had a reputation for being open to suggestions, including the personally emotional piano chords Blue Weaver offered the Brothers Gibb that night.10 The creation of How Deep Is Your Love followed a course already prevalent in the Bee Gees musical career – an attitude of collaboration and creativity in the studio that allowed ideas to be suggested, and beautiful melodies to quickly emerge as the result. Though How Deep is Your Love was composed in one sitting, its arrangement and production took longer which changed some of the song’s original structure. The title was based on what the Bee Gees simply maintained was the variety of connections listeners could make with the phrase How Deep is Your Love – and so providing the song with further universal appeal.11 Following the film’s U.S. release by Paramount Pictures on December 14, 1977 Maurice Gibb believed its ultimate success was the combination of its phenomenal 23-year-old star John Travolta and the music soundtrack whose album had already been certified Gold on November 22, 1977 and certified Platinum on January 3, 1978. The combination of  star power and music –  along with stunning word of mouth and critical acclaim – created a record-shattering synergy for both film and soundtrack album featuring Bee Gees songs making the cultural impact of Saturday Night Fever swift and enduring. How Deep is Your Love remains one of the most anthologized love songs of the modern era. As recently as November 16, 2017, the soundtrack album was certified 16x Multi-Platinum.12

Fig. 5. John Travolta in the 1970’s. Playing 19-year-old Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever about a teen with a good job at the local hardware store in Brooklyn who is trying to dance his way to a better life. His performance earned the 23-year-old Travolta an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role that year.

Fig. 6. Brooklyn-born Donna Pescow was a newcomer and played Annette in Saturday Night Fever. Annette is Tony’s former dance partner and would-be girlfriend.

Karen Lynn Gorney and John Travolta.

Fig 7. Like Donna Pescow and others in the cast of Saturday Night Fever, co-star Karen Lynn Gorney, John Travolta’s love interest in the film,  was a newcomer. Even Travolta who had a swelling fan base because of his ongoing role as Vinnie Barbarino in the popular late 1970’s TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, was not seen as a dance man. Hungry to take his acting career to the next level, Travolta’s energetic dance scenes had critics praising his performance as among the best ever filmed.

Fig. 8. A two-minute scene of disco dancing by John Travolta thrust his energetic performance and the new star into the annals of film history. (This is a portrayal of Travolta as Danny Zuko in Grease.)

Fig. 9. “Robert Stigwood explained to the Bee Gees about this young guy, who every weekend blows his wages at a disco in Brooklyn. He’s got a really truly Catholic family, and he’s got a good job, but he blows his wages every Saturday night. He has his mates with him. Then he comes back and starts the week again, and this goes on every Saturday night. But it’s just this one Saturday night that’s filmed. So that’s what we knew (about a film we were writing music for) except it was John Travolta playing the part…” Maurice Gibb in Bee Gees: The Authorized Biography.

How Deep Is Your Love quickly reached number one internationally in countries such as Canada, Brazil, Finland, Chile, and France. In the Bee Gees’ native England it reached number three which delighted the newly–resurgent pop music group in that they had a top five hit in a country that by the mid-to-late 1970’s saw Punk and New wave rock in the ascendant.13 The Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen, also released in 1977, was banned on the airwaves by the BBC for its “gross bad taste” though today it ranks number 175 on the Rolling Stone’s Greatest Hits list – 200 slots higher than the Bee Gees’ disco ballad, How Deep Is Your Love. How Deep Is Your Love and the Saturday Night Fever album provided superstar momentum for the Bee Gees’ next projects, but like their careers up to that point, the English-Australian pop-rock band simply continued their readiness to create music. In The Ultimate Biography of the Bee Gees, Blue Weaver understood the Bee Gees’ success during this period was not due to their “virtuosity,” although their falsetto vocals were “brilliant,” but their collaborative working method which they pursued until reaching the final product that satisfied them – and clearly satisfied some part of the rest of the world.14

Fig. 10. In 1978 Barry Gibb observed about Robin and Maurice and himself: “When we were kids, we’d sit on each other’s beds all night and plan our careers. We decided that when we got to the top, we’d have our own office. We wanted to get to a point where we wouldn’t have to ever work again so we could sit back and enjoy everything we had accomplished. A few years ago that seemed forever out of reach. Sometimes I think I’m living that dream now. We’ve never really made it before. If this is indeed the top, then it’s better than what we imagined. It’s a lot of fun.” Bee Gees: The Authorized Biography. As the Bee Gees, Barry and twins Maurice and Robin became one of the world’s biggest bands ever selling more than 220 million records. In 1997 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Maurice died in 2003 and Robin in 2012. In 2017 Barry told CBS News: “So when I lost them all, I didn’t know whether I wanted to go on. ”

Fig. 11. 70-year-old Barry Gibb was honored during Stayin’ Alive: A Grammy Salute to the Music of the Bee Gees in April 2017 where he got up on stage to close out the show to perform a few hit songs.

During one visit to the hospital while Robin was in a coma, Barry sang a song that he had written for him called The End Of The Rainbow.

Fig. 12.


  1. Rolling Stones List – https://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-500-greatest-songs-of-all-time-20110407 – Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  2. Barry Gibb’s favorite song – The Bee Gees: 35 Years of Music, Billboard: 27. March 24, 2001.  – Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  3. TV poll – https://web.archive.org/web/20121019120053/http://www.itv.com/beegees/ – Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  4. Song’s recording and release dates – Bee Gees Anthology (songbook) by the Bee Gees, Hal Leonard (1991) and Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.116.
  5. Didn’t want to compose music for a film – The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, pp. 411; Hardly told the film plot – Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.110.
  6. Surprised music with unseen film meshed – Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.111; Ebert on Siskel’s favorite film – https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-saturday-night-fever-1977 – Retrieved January 24, 2018; other critics’ praise of film- see Pauline Kael, “Nirvana,” The New Yorker, December 26, 1977, pp. 59-60; film low budget, released late- The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, pp. 411. Regarding the white suit that had been bought off the rack in Brooklyn for the film, its symbolism in Saturday Night Fever has been postulated. Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis, a designer and historian of film costume stated that the white suit was a symbol of aspiration and hope in an otherwise “dark little movie” – see https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/aug/06/john-travolta-white-suit-v-and-a – retrieved January 25, 2018.
  7. Song’s musical concept – The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, pp. 411-412.
  8. First song composed for Saturday Night Fever, Château d’Hérouville – Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.109.
  9. Songs written quickly – Ibid., p.109; lyrics later – The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, p. 415.
  10. Open to suggestions – Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.107. emotional piano chords – The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, p. 411-12.
  11. song composing, arrangement, and production – The Ultimate Biography Of The Bee Gees: Tales Of The Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, pp. 409 and 412. Title chose Ibid. p. 412.
  12. Movie’s ultimate success – Bee Gees The Authorized Biography, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (as told to David Leaf), Delilah Communications/A Delta special, 1979, p.112. Costing $3.5 million to make, Saturday Night Fever earned an impressive $237.1 million –see “Saturday Night Fever, Box Office Information”Box Office Mojo – retrieved May 26, 2014. Soundtrack album certified God and Platinum -http://www.beegees-world.com/bio_gplat.html -Retrieved February 1 , 2018. certified 16x Multi-Platinum on November 16, 2017 – see https://www.riaa.com/gold-platinum/- retrieved January 24, 2018.
  13. Number one hit internationally – “Songs Written by the Gibb Family on the International Charts – Part 3”(PDF). http://www.brothersgibb.org/download/page-3.pdf – Retrieved January 24, 2018; number 3 in Britain – The Ultimate Biography of the Bee Gees: Tales of the Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, p. 421.
  14. Continued with their readiness to work – The Ultimate Biography of the Bee Gees: Tales of the Brothers Gibb, By Melinda Bilyeu, Hector Cook, Andrew Môn Hughes, 2001, Omnibus Press, London, pp. 467.©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Fig. 1- “Bee Gees Monument unveiled tomorrow-1=” by Sheba_Also 43,000 photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Fig. 2- “Saturday Night Fever Record Sleeve Coptic Journal” by Pressbound is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Fig. 3- “Los Angeles 2010” by Martin Wippel is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Fig. 4 – “#mcm 70’s John Travolta! “tell me about it, stud.”” by Stephen O is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Fig. 5 – “fonts from the flea market” by Buro Destruct is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Fig. 6 – “TV Guide #1367” by trainman74 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Fig. 7 – personal collection.

Fig. 8 – “John Travolta (as Danny Zuko of “Grease”) figure at Madame Tussauds Hollywood” by Luke Rauscher is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Fig. 9 – “Redcliffe Bee Gees Way after opening-39=” by Sheba_Also 43,000 photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Fig. 10 – “Redcliffe Bee Gees Way after opening-09=” by Sheba_Also 44,000+ photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Fig. 11 – “Barry Gibb (1)” by tomasbinanti is licensed under CC0 1.0 

Fig. 12 – “Los Angeles 2010” by Martin Wippel is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Text©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.