Performer Ken Murray first arrived in Hollywood in 1927 a relative unknown from his then hometown of Kingston, New York. Instead of sending postcards of Hollywood back to his family, he ... See full summary »
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Ken Murray came to Hollywood in the late 20's to be one of the many stage stars trying to make a go of it in the talkies. His acting career never took off as he never really made an impression on the big screen and costarred in only a handful of films. However, he did take the career lemons he was handed and make lemonade. He realized his talent lay as a host and emcee and archivist - getting those who did have the public eye to open up. This compilation of home movies televised nearly fifty years ago is an eye into early 60's TV and its audience as well as the stars shown.
As for the film itself we have footage of Laurel and Hardy in the early sound era, Cary Grant poolside at home as well as on location filming Gunga Din, guests at William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon in its heyday, and footage from the 30's through the 50's of most of the major Hollywood lots. The footage ranges from a kiddie car race between the Marx Brothers on the Paramount lot to Lucille Ball both in the 30's and the 50's to Walt Disney taking Ken's own daughters on a tour of his studio. There is no sound on these home movies, so Mr. Murray narrates the footage himself and does a good job of it. Ken does get some things wrong, though, and I don't know why since he was a witness to all of this history. He shows Cecil B. DeMille on location shooting "Cleopatra" and says it was De Mille's first talkie. As this was 1934 that would have been way past the beginning of talking pictures. DeMille's first all-talking picture was 1929's "Dynamite".
As for the values of the 50's and early 60's, there was one thing I noticed - Ken would "clean up" some of the narration for what was the squeaky clean landscape of TV 50 years ago, especially when he is at San Simeon. Where there was Hearst, Marion Davies was usually not far away, and such is the case in these home movies. Of course Ken never mentions that Marion was Hearst's mistress. He also talks about Marion Davies' niece, who also appears in the film. That young lady was actually Marion Davies' daughter by Hearst.
Another thing to note about the TV audiences of 1960 - they actually knew and cared something about these stars who were, in some cases, from 35 years in the past. Although in many cases the movie stars of the 30's and 40's became the TV stars and hosts of the 50's and 60's such as with Groucho Marx, Dick Powell, and Lucille Ball.
If you're at all interested in film history I'd recommend you give this one a look. I think you'll find it fascinating.
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