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A 20th Century Fox Retrospective Scrapbook: 1956


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1956 was a troubled year for Fox, as it was during this year that Darryl Zanuck, a fixture since the 30s at the company, left. He would return in 1962, but by that time Fox would have gone through many hard times.....

Tom Ewell and Sheree North had marital issues after she enlisted in The Lieutenant Wore Skirts.

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Van Johnson was an escaped convict in The Bottom of the Bottle.

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Carousel, based on the perrenial Broadway favorite, was the first of only ttwo films made in 55 MM CinemaScope.

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On the Threshhold of Space was an early dramatization of the Race for Space. It was also the end of the line for John Hodiak, who died shortly thereafter.

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Mohawk was forbidden romance and western battle combined in a B movie package.

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Clifton Webb fooled the Nazis in The Man Who Never Was....

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Robert Ryan, Virginia Mayo, and Jeffrey Hunter returned to the West in The Proud Ones.

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Gregory Peck made for the discontented lead in the austere, long, but ultimately gripping The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. Jennifer Jones was his wife, Fredric March co-starred, and it was the final film for Ann Harding.

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Jean Simmons was the titlular character in the melodrama Hilda Crane.

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Jane Russell became a pin-up in The Revolt of Mamie Stover.

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Van Johnson was never better then he was in 23 Paces to Baker Street. As a blind writer investigating a mystery, he was brilliant, and the film was a crackling good time as well.

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Robert Taylor was top billed in D-Day The Sixth of June. Fox would walk this way again in 1962 in a bigger way....

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Dane Clark was the lead in the western Massacre.

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Smiley might not have been too big a film in the US, but in England and Australia, the family comedy was big business..

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Abdullah the Great was an Egyptian burlesque with Gregory Ratoff and Kay Kendall

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The King and I is one of the best Broadway to film translation in musical history.

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Bigger Than Life, involving addiction, was hugely controversial in its day and is much praised today.

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Rhonda Fleming was the Queen of Babylon

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Marilyn Monroe was much praised in Bus Stop, but it was Don Murray who was Oscar nominated.

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Richard Widmark was among the pioneers in The Last Wagon.

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Gordon MacRae and Dan Dailey were in musical form in The Best Things in Life are Free.

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Robert Wagner was off to war in Between Heaven and Hell.

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The Desperados Are in Town was another B western.

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Ginger Rogers had a problem daughter in Teenage Rebel.

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Elvis headed to the big screen in Love Me Tender.

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War was in fashion in Three Brave Men

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The Women at Pitcarn Island was another B.

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The Girl Can't Help It starred Jayne Mansfield

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Another western

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And the year closed with Ingrid Begman's Oscar winning return

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Despite the behind-the-scenes turmoil with Zanuck leaving, I think there were still some very solid offerings. Probably because most of the projects had been started by Zanuck.

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Here's my top 10:

1. ANASTASIA. Bergman, Brynner and Hayes are all in splendid form. DNA tests later proved that the real Anastasia was killed, which makes this version of the story (with an impostor in her place) all the more true.

2. THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT. It's slow moving, trying a little too hard to be epic with a story that could have been told in 100 minutes. But the performances are uniformly superb. I especially love March & Harding as a beleaguered corporate couple.

3. THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS. An intriguing story, based on a real-life incident. One of Clifton Webb's better dramatic performances. Gloria Grahame steals it with her limited screen time, and Stephen Boyd (in his first film for the studio) is one to watch.

4. BIGGER THAN LIFE. Big doesn't begin to describe it. One of Nicholas Ray's more fascinating films. James Mason gives a strong performance.

5. THE KING AND I. I prefer the non-musical version with Dunne & Harrison. But this one is great too.

6. THE LAST WAGON. I think it's Richard Widmark's best western. The cinematography is gorgeous.

7. CAROUSEL. Parts of it don't work for me. But I do enjoy the Jones-MacRae pairing, which makes this a must-see after OKLAHOMA!

8. LOVE ME TENDER. Early Elvis. The story's good. But it kind of feels like a TV western.

9. THE BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE. I watched this one not long ago. It's quite good. Ruth Roman gives another one of her customary strong performances, as a woman torn between two brothers-- one that's straight as an arrow, and one that's a raging alcoholic. The ending sequence, which involves passage across a turbulent river, is very powerful.

10. TEENAGE REBEL. A charming coming-of-age film. It's nice to see Ginger Rogers play the mother of a more grown up child. I especially love the scene where Ginger dances with costar Michael Rennie. 

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This seems to be the year Sheree North established herself in Fox films, reportedly as a second-string Monroe should their major contract player get too uppity. I never really understood that because I see a pleasant personality there but not a lot of charisma. Nothing even close to Marilyn.

The Revolt of Mamie Stover is my ultimate guilty pleasure and it's great to see good prints of it after all these years.

To this day The Girl Can't Help It remains in a class by itself.

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6 minutes ago, DougieB said:

This seems to be the year Sheree North started to pop up in Fox films, reportedly as a second-string Monroe should their major contract player get too uppity. I never really understood that because I see a pleasant personality there but not a lot of charisma. Nothing even close to Marilyn.

The Revolt of Mamie Stover is my ultimate guilty pleasure and it's great to see good prints of it after all these years.

To this day The Girl Can't Help It remains in a class by itself.

North's first film at Fox was back in 1955-- HOW TO BE VERY VERY POPULAR. She caught on with the execs who decided to turn her into a star. 

She was originally a dancer, not really an actress. But she became a disciple of the Method...and by the late 60s and 70s, she was turning up in prestigious fare as a strong supporting actress. She  would really make her mark in juicy guest starring roles on TV crime dramas in the 70s and 80s.

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1 minute ago, TopBilled said:

North's first film at Fox was back in 1955-- HOW TO BE VERY VERY POPULAR. She caught on with the execs who decided to turn her into a star. 

She was originally a dancer, not really an actress. But she became a disciple of the Method...and by the late 60s and 70s, she was turning up in prestigious fare as a strong supporting actress. But she really made her mark in juicy guest starring roles on TV crime dramas in the 70s and 80s.

I always liked her; I just thought Fox was on the wrong track for a Monroe doppelganger. I'm glad her career had such longevity and I do remember some of her TV work.

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1 minute ago, DougieB said:

I always liked her; I just thought Fox was on the wrong track for a Monroe doppelganger. I'm glad her career had such longevity and I do remember some of her TV work.

Sheree North is brilliant as a mobster's neglected cheating wife in a two-part episode of Kojak. She also has a good turn as a nightclub singer in an episode of Cannon. She's really funny as a lovelorn secretary in an episode of Magnum P.I. And she does an incredible job as an incestuous mother protecting a criminal son in an episode of Hunter. She developed quite a range as an actress. 

By the way I always thought her first name was pronounced like the French sounding Cheri. But it's really pronounced like Sherry. At least that's how it is spoken in the voice-over credits on Cannon.

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3 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Sheree North is brilliant as a mobster's neglected cheating wife in a two-part episode of Kojak. She also has a good turn as a nightclub singer in an episode of Cannon. She's really funny as a lovelorn secretary in an episode of Magnum P.I. And she does an incredible job as an incestuous mother protecting a criminal son in an episode of Hunter. She developed quite a range as an actress. 

By the way I always thought her first name was pronounced like the French sounding Cheri. But it's really pronounced like Sherry. At least that's how it is spoken in the voice-over credits on Cannon.

You really have to admire people who simply went where the work was and didn't dwell on past status or glories. I'm sure she lived comfortably because of that and that makes me happy.

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3 minutes ago, DougieB said:

You really have to admire people who simply went where the work was and didn't dwell on past status or glories. I'm sure she lived comfortably because of that and that makes me happy.

Yes. You have to wonder about actresses like Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe. Had they lived, would they have been able to transition? Or would they have become washed-up has-beens? 

Women like Sheree North, Anne Francis and Jean Simmons embraced guest-starring roles on hit TV series and they were able to continue for many years.

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11 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Yes. You have to wonder about actresses like Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe. Had they lived, would they have been able to transition? Or would they have become washed-up has-beens? 

Women like Sheree North, Anne Francis and Jean Simmons embraced guest-starring roles on hit TV series and they were able to continue for many years.

It would have been exponentially harder for stars like Harlow and Monroe who at one time were ultimate A-Listers. Marilyn was reportedly in negotiations for a TV version of Rain at the time of her death, but I can't see her as a journeyman actress doing guest shots.

Jean Simmons did a TV film in the 1990's called Daisies in December about a romance between seniors and she was every bit as luminous and charming as she ever was.

I was extremely pleasantly surprised to find Leslie Caron in a recurring role in The Durrells in Corfu on PBS and she was also charming as ever.

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Sometimes actors continue to work because they need the money. This was true of Claire Bloom, for instance, who took parts in the Stallone movie Daybreak and on As the World Turns because her divorce settlement with Philip Roth was on unfavorable terms to her. For us fans, however, it's great to see our favorites continuing to use their talents.

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