5th July – SAPPHIRE
On the screen – for seven days – SAPPHIRE – a 1959 British crime drama from Rank. It focuses on racism in London toward immigrants from the West Indies and explores the “underlying insecurities and fears of ordinary people” that exist towards another race. The film was directed by Basil Dearden and stars Nigel Patrick, Earl Cameron and Yvonne Mitchell. It received the BAFTA Award for Best Film and screenwriter Janet Green won a 1960 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Foreign Film Screenplay. It was considered a progressive movie for its time.
The support was JACQUELINE, a 1959 German musical film about young and vibrant Jacqueline and her men and lifestyle.
12th July – SOME LIKE IT HOT
On the screen – for seven days – SOME LIKE IT HOT – a 1959 American black and white romantic comedy film from United Artists, set in 1929, directed and produced by Billy Wilder, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. The supporting cast includes George Raft, Pat O’Brien, Joe E. Brown, Joan Shawlee, and Nehemiah Persoff. The screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond is based on a screenplay by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan from the French film Fanfare of Love. The film is about two musicians who dress in drag in order to escape from mafia gangsters whom they witnessed commit a crime inspired by the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.
It opened to critical and commercial success and is today considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. The film received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was voted as the top comedy film by the American Film Institute on their list on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs poll in 2000, and was selected as the best comedy of all time in a poll of 253 film critics from 52 countries conducted by the BBC in 2017. In 2005, the British Film Institute included this film on its list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14.
The film was produced without approval from the Motion Picture Production Code because it plays with the idea of homosexuality and features cross dressing. The code had been gradually weakening in its scope during the early 1950s, due to greater social tolerance for previously taboo topics in film, but it was still officially enforced until the mid 1960s. The overwhelming success of Some Like It Hot is considered one of the final nails in the coffin for the Hays Code.
Support was FLOATING FORTRESS, a short documentary about life on board HMS Victorious, Britain’s most modern aircraft carrier.
19th July – FERRY TO HONG KONG
On the screen – for seven days – FERRY TO HONG KONG – a 1959 British melodrama/adventure film directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Curt Jürgens, Sylvia Syms, Orson Welles and Jeremy Spenser. The film was one of a number of movies made by Rank to appeal to the international market, involving colour and location filming. Rank had rationalised its film production arm, decreasing overall output but putting more money in a certain number of films. Rank chairman John Davis said, “It is vital that the greatest possible financial encouragement should be given to the making of important films: for these the public will gladly pay. The emphasis will be on the more expensive and important film.” The movie had one of the largest budgets in the history of Rank. Lewis Gilbert described Ferry to Hong Kong as “my nightmare film” and of Orson Welles, he said, “never cared about his fellow actors, never cared about the director”. Gilbert says “everything was wrong with the film – principally Orson Welles”.
The supporting programme contained one of the first editions of Rank’s new series of short documentaries, LOOK AT LIFE, a series that spanned over 10 years with 500 films produced. The films always preceded the main feature film that was being shown in the cinema that week. It replaced the circuit’s newsreel and played both Odeon and Gaumont cinemas, although in Southampton the two cinemas would screen a different edition.
26th July – THE SHAGGY DOG
On the screen – for seven days – THE SHAGGY DOG – a black-and-white 1959 Walt Disney film about Wilby Daniels, a teenage boy who by the power of an enchanted ring of the Borgias is transformed into the title character, a shaggy Old English Sheepdog. The film was based on the story The Hound of Florence by Felix Salten. It is directed by Charles Barton and stars Fred MacMurray, Tommy Kirk, Jean Hagen, Kevin Corcoran, Tim Considine, Roberta Shore, and Annette Funicello. This was Walt Disney’s first live-action comedy. The Shaggy Dog also performed very strongly on a 1967 re-release. The film was the most profitable film made by Disney at that time. The initial release of The Shaggy Dog was more profitable than Ben-Hur, released the same year.
Walt Disney Productions filmed a successful sequel in 1976 called The Shaggy D.A. which starred Dean Jones, Tim Conway, and Suzanne Pleshette. It was followed by a 1987 television sequel, a 1994 television remake and a 2006 live-action theatrical remake.
The programme was completed with SECRETS OF LIFE, a 1956 American documentary film written and directed by James Algar. The documentary follows the changing world of nature, the sky, the sea, the sun, planets, insects and volcanic action. The documentary was by Walt Disney.
2nd August – THE HEART OF A MAN
On the screen – for seven days – THE HEART OF A MAN – is a 1959 British drama film released by Rank, directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Frankie Vaughan, Anne Heywood, Tony Britton and Anthony Newley. Its plot concerns a millionaire in disguise who gives a young man money to help him pursue his singing career. Featured songs by Vaughan include “The Heart Of A Man”, “Sometime, Somewhere” and “Walking Tall”.
Veteran director Herbert Wilcox bowed out of films with this undistinguished and wholly unconvincing slice-of-life drama, which was produced by his actress wife Anna Neagle… Anthony Newley cashes in on a showy supporting role and Vaughan scored a chart hit with the title song.
Support was THE BIG ARENA a Russian film about The Moscow State Circus and featuring the world renown clown, Popov.
9th August – THE BRIDAL PATH
On the screen – for seven days – THE BRIDAL PATH – a 1959 British Lion comedy film, directed by Frank Launder and starring Bill Travers, George Cole and Bernadette O’Farrell. It is based on the 1952 novel of the same name by Nigel Tranter. A young man on a remote Scottish island travels to the mainland in search of a wife. Although another Highland story, the film failed to match the success of Launder and Gilliat’s earlier Geordie (1955). The New York Times wrote, “Bridal Path does not take any unexpected turns but a viewer can have a nice time and some giggles along the way.”
The opening scenes from the film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Mp5jmic-8c
The supporting feature was A WOMAN’S TEMPTATION, a low budget 1959 British crime ‘b’ picture from British Lion and directed by Godfrey Grayson, starring Patricia Driscoll and Robert Ayres.
16th August – THE BUCCANEER
On the screen – for seven days – THE BUCCANEER, a 1958 pirate film made by Paramount Pictures starring Yul Brynner as Jean Lafitte, Charles Boyer and Claire Bloom. Charlton Heston played a supporting role as Andrew Jackson, the second time that Heston played Jackson, having portrayed him earlier in the 1953 film The President’s Lady. The film was shot in Technicolor and VistaVision, the story takes place during the War of 1812, telling a heavily fictionalised version of how the privateer Lafitte helped in the Battle of New Orleans and how he had to choose between fighting for America or for the side most likely to win, the United Kingdom.
The film is a remake of the 1938 film of the same name produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, but he was seriously ill by the time the 1958 version was made, so he was only the executive producer leaving his then son-in-law, Anthony Quinn, to direct. It was the only film that Quinn ever directed. Henry Wilcoxon, DeMille’s longtime friend, who made frequent appearances in his films, was the actual producer, and DeMille received screen credit as “supervised by Cecil B. Demille”, though students of his films would probably find that his touch is obvious throughout the film. Nevertheless, DeMille was unhappy with the film and tried unsuccessfully to improve it; critical response was generally unfavorable, despite some impressive battle scenes.Possibly as a film tie-in, Johnny Horton had a big success at the time with his version of the song The Battle of New Orleans.
The supporting programme included a short documentary, RIVERS OF TIME.
23rd August – A HOLE IN THE HEAD
On the screen – for seven days – A HOLE IN THE HEAD, a 1959 comedy film, in CinemaScope, directed by Frank Capra, featuring Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, Eleanor Parker, Keenan Wynn, Carolyn Jones, Thelma Ritter, Dub Taylor, Ruby Dandridge, Eddie Hodges, and Joi Lansing, and released by United Artists. The film introduced the song “High Hopes” by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, a Sinatra standard used as a campaign song by John F. Kennedy during the presidential election the following year. Wynn plays a wealthy former friend of Sinatra’s character who expresses interest in his plan to build a Disneyland in Florida (the film predates Disney World) – until he notices that Sinatra seems too desperate as he cheers for a dog upon which he’d bet heavily. The movie ends with Tony, Eloise and Alley singing “High Hopes” on the beach. Sinatra sings “All My Tomorrows,” another Cahn/Van Heusen song, under the opening titles.
The screenplay was adapted by playwright Arnold Schulman, whose father was the operator of a Miami, Florida hotel. The protagonist of A Hole in the Head is a Miami hotel operator of “The Garden of Eden.” The actual hotel used for the exterior shots was the Cardozo Hotel, located on Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive. Shot over 40 days from 10 November 1958 to 9 January 1959, the film did not enjoy the smoothest of productions, especially during the location filming at Miami Beach. Sinatra’s relations with the press were problematic, the media seizing on every anti-Sinatra rumor they could find. Aided by William Daniels, Capra completed the film a full 80 days ahead of schedule, its final production cost of $1.89 million well under the allotted budget. Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “High Hopes”.
The documentary THIS IS MALTA completed the week’s programme.
30th August – THE STEEL BAYONET
On the screen – for ONE day only – THE STEEL BAYONET, a 1957 British war film from Hammer Pictures, directed by Michael Carreras and starring Leo Genn, Kieron Moore and Michael Medwin. Michael Caine also had a small role in the film, early in his career. It is set during the Second World War, in the Tunisian desert when a small British observation force are surrounded in a farm by overwhelming forces of the German Afrika Korps. Filming took place on Salisbury Plain, which doubled for North Africa.
The programme was completed by MACHINE GUN KELLY, a 1958 film noir directed by Roger Corman, chronicling the criminal activities of the real-life George “Machine Gun” Kelly. The film was considered low budget, but received good critical reviews. It was the first lead role for actor Charles Bronson. American International Pictures released the film to be part of a double feature.
31st August – D’OYLY CARTE OPERA COMPANY
On the stage – for six days – D’OYLY CARTE OPERA, a professional light opera company that staged Gilbert and Sullivan’s Savoy operas nearly year-round in the UK and sometimes toured in Europe, North America and elsewhere, from the 1870s until 1982. This was the first performance of the company at the Gaumont and the first at the theatre since the early thirties when it was the Empire. Since the end of the second world war the company toured for 35 weeks each year, issue new recordings and play London seasons of Gilbert and Sullivan.
In 1959 for the Southampton visit, the company brought three of their popular works on Monday, Wednesday and Friday they performed The Mikado a comic opera in two acts, the ninth of fourteen operatic collaborations. The Mikado remains the most frequently performed Savoy Opera, and is especially popular with amateur and school productions. The work has been translated into numerous languages and is one of the most frequently played musical theatre pieces in history. Setting the opera in Japan, an exotic locale far away from Britain, allowed Gilbert to satirise British politics and institutions more freely by disguising them as Japanese.
On Tuesday The Yeoman Of The Guard occupied the stage. Set in the Tower of London, during the 16th century, it is the darkest, and perhaps most emotionally engaging, of the Savoy Operas, ending with a broken-hearted main character and two very reluctant engagements, rather than the usual numerous marriages. The libretto does contain considerable humour, including a lot of pun-laden one-liners, but Gilbert’s trademark satire and topsy-turvy plot complications are subdued in comparison with the other Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Critics considered the score to be Sullivan’s finest. This was the first Savoy Opera to use Sullivan’s larger orchestra. Most of Sullivan’s subsequent operas, including those not composed with Gilbert as librettist, use this larger orchestra.
On Thursday and Saturday The Gondoliers was performed. This was the twelfth comic opera collaboration of fourteen between Gilbert and Sullivan. The story of the opera concerns the young bride of the heir to the throne of the fictional kingdom of Barataria who arrives in Venice to join her husband. It turns out, however, that he cannot be identified, since he was entrusted to the care of a drunken gondolier who mixed up the prince with his own son. The Gondoliers was Gilbert and Sullivan’s last great success. In this opera, Gilbert returns to the satire of class distinctions figuring in many of his earlier librettos. The libretto also reflects Gilbert’s fascination with the “Stock Company Act”, highlighting the absurd convergence of natural persons and legal entities, which plays an even larger part in the next opera, Utopia Limited. As in several of their earlier operas, by setting the work comfortably far away from England, Gilbert was emboldened to direct sharper criticism at the nobility and the institution of the monarchy itself.
6th September – MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
On the screen – for seven days – Middle Of The Night is a 1959 American drama film directed by Delbert Mann, and released by Columbia Pictures. It was entered into the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. It stars Fredric March and Kim Novak. The screenplay was adapted by Paddy Chayefsky from his Broadway play of the same name starring Edward G. Robinson. Some of the stage cast were also in the film alongside future Oscar winners Martin Balsam (A Thousand Clowns, 1965) and Lee Grant (Shampoo, 1975).
In support was Columbia Pictures’ RIDE LONESOME a 1959 CinemaScope Western film directed by Budd Boetticher starring Randolph Scott, Karen Steele, Pernell Roberts, Lee Van Cleef, and James Coburn in his film debut. This Eastmancolor film is one of Boetticher’s so-called “Ranown cycle” of westerns, made with Randolph Scott, executive producer Harry Joe Brown and screenwriter Burt Kennedy, beginning with Seven Men from Now.
13th September – SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL
On the screen – for seven days – SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL, a 1959 film from United Artists, produced and directed by Michael Anderson. The picture was filmed in Dublin, and at Ardmore Studios in Bray, Ireland. It was based on the 1933 novel of the same name by Rearden Conner, the son of a Royal Irish Constabulary policeman. The film is set in 1921 Dublin, where the Irish Republican Army battles the Black and Tans, ex-British soldiers sent to suppress the rebels. It stars James Cagney and Don Murray. Also featured are Dana Wynter, Glynis Johns, Sybil Thorndike and Michael Redgrave.
In support was HIGH JUMP, a United Artists 60 minute low budget British crime film about a former trapeze artist who becomes involved in a jewel robbery.
20th September – THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK
On the screen – for seven days – The Diary Of Anne Frank, is a 1959 film from 20TH Century Fox, taken from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. It was directed by George Stevens, with a screenplay by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. It is the first film version of both the play and the original story, and features three members of the original Broadway cast.
The film was based on the personal diary of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who lived in hiding with her family during World War II. All her writings to her diary were addressed as “Dear Kitty”. It was published after the end of the war by her father, Otto Frank (played in the film by Joseph Schildkraut, also Jewish). All of his family members had been killed by the Nazis. The film was shot on a sound stage duplicate of the factory in Los Angeles, while exteriors were filmed at the actual building in Amsterdam.
The film won three Academy Awards in 1960, including Best Supporting Actress for Shelley Winters. Shelley later donated her Oscar to the Anne Frank Museum. In 2006, it was honored as the eighteenth most inspiring American film on the list AFI’s 100 Years…100 Cheers.
The feature ran for almost three hours and was supported with an edition of Look At Life.
27th September – FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER
September 27, 1959 – on the screen – for one day only – FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER – a 1954 American Technicolor Western film from Universal-International, directed by Richard Carlson starring Rory Calhoun, Colleen Miller, George Nader, Walter Brennan and Nina Foch. It tells the story of an outlaw gang on the run, that encounters former associate Simon Bhumer and his gorgeous daughter, who’s drawn to their leader Cully.
The supporting feature was ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KEYSTONE KOPS, a 1955 film starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello. After the film was completed, Universal-International wanted to rename it Abbott and Costello in the Stunt Men, because they did not consider the “Keystone Kops” to be relevant anymore. However, in October 1954, the studio relented and agreed to use the “Keystone Kops” name.
28th September – SADLER’S WELLS OPERA
on the stage – for six days – SADLER’S WELLS OPERA – one of Britain’s principal opera companies – so named as it was based at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre (it would become English National Opera). The company’s origins began with the opera performances given at Lilian Baylis’ Old Vic theatre during the First World War. By 1920 the opera company was giving five performances a fortnight. Following the opening of Sadler’s Wells Theatre in 1931, performances alternated between the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells. This alternation of opera, ballet and drama between the two theatres ended in 1934, and Sadler’s Wells became the permanent home of the opera and ballet companies.
During the Second World War, the company spent much of its time on tour as a result of the wartime closure of Sadler’s Wells Theatre. Temporarily the theatre and the company were based at the Victoria Theatre, Burnley and then, from 1942, at the New Theatre, St Martin’s Lane in London. It performed at 69 different towns all around Britain. This enabled Sadler’s Wells Opera to become much more widely known throughout the country.In 1945, the company returned to Sadler’s Wells with the world premiere of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes – it was a great success for the company.
Sadler’s Wells Opera expanded after the war but Sadler’s Wells Theatre was now considered inadequate in size and facilities for the growing company. Plans were developed during the 1950s for the company to move to a new national theatre and opera house which was being planned for the South Bank, London. But while this was being considered the company continued to tour. This was the company’s first visit to the Gaumont and they brought a very diverse programme to the town. On Monday, Thursday and Saturday they performed Die Fledermaus, an operetta composed by Johann Strauss II to a German libretto by Karl Haffner and Richard Genée. On Tuesday it was Mozart’s Don Giovanni and then on Wednesday, Andre Chenier, a verismo opera in four acts by Umberto Giordano, set to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica, and based loosely on the life of the French poet André Chénier, who was executed during the French Revolution. On Friday Puccini’s Madam Butterfly took to the Gaumont’s stage and was a sell-out. On Saturday a special family matinee was held with a performance of Humperdinck’s Hansel And Gretel, which he wrote for his sister’s two children for Christmas. After several revisions, the musical sketches and the songs were turned into this full-scale opera.