Monday, April 20, 2009

My Grandfather's Autograph Book


Following on from my previous post, Kate at Silents and Talkies suggested that I publish some of the autographs that my grandfather acquired while working at London Films.
So here they are...

For some reason, the only autograph he seems to have obtained from the set of Things To Come (1936) was this one. The actor is Edward Chapman, better known as Mr Grimsdale in the Norman Wisdom films.
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Not many people remember Annabella these days. She was a French actress who made her debut in Gance's Napoléon and went on to appear in Le Million and many other French films (including one enticingly named Trois jeunes filles nues/Three Naked Flappers in 1929) before being courted by Hollywood and Britain in the late thirties. The English-language films she made over the next ten years were mainly undistinguished, however, and she was more famous for marrying Tyrone Power than for any of her movies. The autograph probably dates from the production of Dinner at the Ritz (1937), a New World Pictures production filmed at Denham.
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A neat and very attractive signature from one of my favourite actresses, the neat and very attractive Elsa Lanchester. This was while making Rembrandt (1936), directed by Korda himself.
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And a grand and eccentric one from Rembrandt's star, Elsa's husband and my favourite actor, the grand and eccentric Mr Charles Laughton.
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If you've never seen Men Are Not Gods (1937) I recommend it wholeheartedly: a charming and unusual British comedy drama with lovely period atmsophere, and Miriam Hopkins giving a delightfully relaxed and buoyant performance alongside a very young but already balding Rex Harrison. My grandfather astutely avoided Rex and went straight for Miriam.
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My grandmother's favourite: Robert Taylor, on the set of A Yank at Oxford (1938), an MGM film shot at Denham. I would have been happier with Maureen O'Sullivan's autograph myself. Or Vivien Leigh's, Lionel Barrymore's or the great Tully Marshall's, all of whom appeared in the film. Still, that's women for you.

Despite being a chronic asthmatic, Robert Donat managed to write his full name and the date on the set of Knight Without Armour (1937)...

... unlike his more enigmatic co-star!