Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

August 21, 2020

Tom Conway as The Saint on radio (3 episodes, 1951)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:36 am
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conway saint

It all makes perfect sense somehow: Tom Conway’s brother, George Sanders, played the Saint in a number of popular feature films at RKO; later, when RKO started another series with a similar suave and witty detective character, The Falcon, they brought back Sanders, but he left the series to be replaced by his brother Tom Conway, and Conway became most associated with The Falcon, with his own unique style and flair for comedy. That series made Conway a star in his own right, and after the Falcon series concluded, he played a number of other suave but witty detective roles based on his Falcon fame.

Thus, when the star of the radio version of THE SAINT, Vincent Price, needed some time off the series for some other commitments in the more prestigious and better-paying world of feature films, who better to take over the role for a while than Tom Conway, who’d never played The Saint, but who was known and loved by millions as the very similar character, The Falcon. And yes, Conway was tailor-made for The Saint. Many people today know The Saint via the successful 60’s TV series starring Roger Moore—-and Moore certainly made the role his own, the same way he did ten years later with James Bond—-but the character goes back a long way, to 1928, from author Leslie Charteris.

While Vincent Price was a magnificent Saint on radio (and you can easily find many of the Price shows online….and you should), I’ve always had a soft spot for the short run with Tom Conway in the role of Simon Templar, aka The Saint.

Below are links to three episodes of the Conway Saint, each running approximately 29 minutes. Enjoy!

saint conway

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THREE SAINT RADIO EPISODES WITH TOM CONWAY:

–THE GIRL WITH THE LOWER BERTH (June 3, 1951)

https://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/crime/saint-the/saint-the-51-06-03-173the-girl-with-the-lower-berth

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–PETER THE GREAT (June 24, 1951)

https://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/crime/saint-the/saint-the-51-06-24-176peter-the-great

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–MY DARLING DAUGHTER (July 15, 1951)

https://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/crime/saint-the/saint-the-51-07-15-179no-my-darling-daughter

 

By the way, it’s comforting to know, as we’re informed at the closing of each show, that “The Saint comic book is available at all newsstands.” I have a number of issues myself, and I can do a post about the various comic book incarnations of the character at some future date.

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August 13, 2020

behind the scenes with Tom Conway on the set of THE LAST MAN TO HANG (UK, 1956)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 2:19 pm
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last man to hang 2

Mary Anne and I are planning to watch the 1956 UK courtroom thriller THE LAST MAN TO HANG, starring TOM CONWAY, tonight (directed by the great Terence Fisher) and in doing a little online sleuthing about the film in advance, I see that there is footage online from a 1956 Pathe Newsreel (Film Fanfare) of some lady and a friend getting a tour of Nettlefold Studios, where the film was being shot, and meeting its stars, Tom Conway and Eunice Gayson, as well as director Fisher and other unnamed persons employed at the studio. Director Conway is the shortish man with glasses on the set wearing a rumpled coat.

This kind of footage, even though it is just silent with a canned music track, is a priceless window into a working 1950’s UK low-budget film studio, something we probably would not have been able to see in person even if we’d been in Britain in 1956.

Conway appears again near the closing when the lady and her friend are finished at the studio and waving goodbye, in a quick but charming bit of physical comedy, starting at 4:08. Unlike Conway’s many detective films, THE LAST MAN TO HANG is not a film that offers him comic situations, so it’s nice to see that side of him represented here.

Below you’ll find a brief (and recent) trailer for the film and then the Pathe newsreel footage. I have a blog post on Tom Conway’s radio work as Sherlock Holmes (replacing Basil Rathbone for the 46-47 season) coming up soon….stay tuned!

last man to hang

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trailer for a 2018 TV showing of THE LAST MAN TO HANG

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1956 British Pathe newsreel footage, backstage during the filming of THE LAST MAN TO HANG, runs approximately 4:40

Film Fanfare #5, 1956 (British Pathe newsreel footage)

There are hundreds of hours of fascinating vintage newsreel footage available for free viewing at the British Pathe website. I remember that it was considered quite an event when this material went online a number of years ago. Footage spans from 1910-1984! Check it our here:    https://www.britishpathe.com/

bp_logo_13.7

postscript: after watching THE LAST MAN TO HANG tonight, I must say that it was excellent, intelligent, thoughtfully written, and well-acted by all….until the last 3 minutes. I’m not going to give a spoiler, but let’s just say that it has to be among the top 10 most absurd and illogical tacked-on endings I’ve ever seen to a film…in 50 years of watching crime/mystery/legal-thriller features. No wonder the film has never been reissued on DVD and is not discussed much, even though it was released in the US by a major studio, Columbia. Still, Tom Conway was his usual masterful self, and the young Anthony Newley (as one of the jurors) possessed magnetism even in 1956. Also, the film’s structure (let’s forget the last three minutes) is quite novel, as before we really get to know Conway’s character at all, we see the home-lives of all the jury members (who will sit in judgment on him), and to call their home lives unpleasant would be an understatement. While THE LAST MAN TO HANG is nothing like the 2003 film THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE, viewers will have the same WTF reaction at the end of LAST MAN as they did with the DAVID GALE film, and probably get angry at the film’s writers. However, in 1956, this was just a throwaway programmer, in circulation for a few months and then mothballed. And the first 68 minutes of it are excellent, so 95.7% of THE LAST MAN TO HANG is excellent–that’s not a bad percentage, and most people coming out of the theater in 1956 could remember that “on the whole, it’s pretty good” and move on. The film is based on a novel, and if that has the same trick ending, it must surely be set up better than it is in the film, where a few small details in a very early scene (that most viewers will not pay attention to) vaguely suggest a possibility that is never developed or explained at any point in the film, and the odd and illogical conclusion takes for granted without explanation. In fact, I’d guess half of a typical audience of above-average intelligence viewers would not even make the connection, if it indeed IS a connection. I didn’t intend to discuss this at such length, but to say the last few minutes were bizarre and unsatisfying would be putting it mildly….

August 6, 2020

MURDER ON APPROVAL (UK, 1955), starring Tom Conway

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:53 am
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MURDER ON APPROVAL (UK, 1955), released in Britain as BARBADOS QUEST

starring Tom Conway as Tom “Duke” Martin, a role he played after this in the 1956 feature BREAKAWAY

directed by Bernard Knowles, produced by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman

murder on approval

Though Tom Conway played a variety of roles in his career, he is probably best known as THE FALCON at RKO in the 1940’s, and the various detective roles he played after that which traded on his Falcon fame and persona. He also played detective Mark Saber on television and was a superb Sherlock Holmes on radio, taking over for Basil Rathbone for the 1946-47 season, paired with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Conway is the equal of Rathbone, which is high praise indeed coming from someone who considers the Rathbone/Bruce team as one of the all-time great screen detective/sidekick pairings.

The two films Conway made in the UK in 1955 as detective Tom “Duke” Martin were the actor’s final go-round as an above-the-title star turn riding on the wave of his work as The Falcon. Interestingly, the Baker-Berman production team here later were behind THE SAINT television series, starring Roger Moore. Perhaps if Tom Conway had been 15-20 years earlier, he could have landed that part. Clearly, the choice of Conway was Saint-related…. he was the brother of the best-known Saint film actor, George Sanders;  he played the Falcon, who was not unlike The Saint, in many popular and well-loved films; he played The Saint on radio, replacing Vincent Price in a number of episodes. He still radiates that same Saint/Falcon class and wit, though in more mature form here.

MURDER ON APPROVAL is a tight (67 minutes) and entertaining British crime programmer, which moves quickly, has a unique plot situation involving rare stamps and stamp counterfeiting….it’s not a murder mystery really, though there are people killed in the final third. Most of all, it benefits from the seemingly effortless wit and charm and elegance of star TOM CONWAY, who is teamed with a comedic ex-con sidekick Barney, played wonderfully by Michael Balfour, who fortunately returned in the second film in this series.

If you enjoyed any of Conway’s post-Falcon detective films or television work and you enjoy classic B&W British crime programmers, then you are sure to enjoy MURDER ON APPROVAL.

The good news is that it’s available in a beautiful print (under its UK title); the bad news is that it is divided into five parts, though that is not much of a hurdle to overcome.

Enjoy!

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murder on approval 2

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If you are a Tom Conway fan (and who isn’t!), there is a review of his NORMAN CONQUEST (1953) UK detective film elsewhere on this blog. Just use the search box to find it.

Also, the serious Beatles fan will know that the director of MURDER ON APPROVAL, Bernard Knowles, was involved with the making of MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Perhaps he was the “professional” kept on the set to somehow bring the surreal stoner ideas of the boys to fruition on film. I’ll have to research that more….I do have a book on the making on MMT in the garage somewhere, which I have not looked at for 20 years. I’ll have to refresh my memory.

 

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