Principal Singer at London’s Windmill Theater During WW II Relocates From Hollywood to Heaven

By

Alan von Kalckreuth

As the bombs rained down on London during the terrifying nights of the Battle of Britain a young singer came on stage and transported the mostly military servicemen attending the Windmill Theater to a more enchanting world.  The singer, PATRICIA MORNE was young, beautiful and sang with a voice that later secured her a contract with the BBC.

“I never took it off!” Miss Morne declaredImage 3 as she later recalled those remarkable days.  She was referring to the unique exemption the Windmill Theater had secured from the British Censor Board that allowed nude girls to pose as “set design”.  “I didn’t have to,” she said proudly.  Vivian Van Damm, the theater director, had given her three weeks when she applied for a job as a singer.  “I was there for three years,” she revealed proudly.  “Cecil Madden from the BBC came to a show, he saw me and booked me for the BBC.”  From then on the BBC would state in their program, “Presenting Patricia Morne, by Kind Permission of the Windmill Theater.”

Van Damm loved the high-browed plug.

Reading through her fan mail it was clear that the young soldiers who caught a Windmill Theater show before they returned to duty were there for Miss Morne’s grace and beautiful singing voice as much as for the racy stage props.   The film, “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” released in 2005, tells the story of the Windmill Theater during that time, the theater that refused to be subdued by Hitler’s rain of bombs in his relentless attempt to conquer Britain.

“At the Windmill we used to say “We’re Never Closed,” explained Miss Morne in one of her last interviews.  “As well as five shows a day, six days a week, the cast would spend their day-off at military bases entertaining the troops.”

Miss Morne got her start in show business when she was nine years old; sheImage 1 took her music sheet and followed her older sister Pearl to a talent show.  Pearl had told her to stay at home as she was too young to enter the show.  Miss Morne took no notice of her big sister, climbed up on the stage after giving the pianist the sheet music to “Ma, He’s Making Eyes at ME”…. and won first prize and earned her fist dollar as a performing star.

A few years later Miss Morne auditioned for a chorus line position with Cecil B Cochran’s showgirls in a 1932, Noel Coward revue.  Buddy Bradley was brought over from America to choreograph Cochran’s shows.  “He taught us the “Snake-Hips” Miss Morne recalled.  “We girls giggled at the moves.”  Cochran’s girls and Bradley’s exotic dance moves lit up the London stage and Cochran’s revues became the talk of the town.   After several successful shows with Cochran Miss Morne asked him why he had hired her and why he kept her in the shows, “technically, you’re not so good… but you LOOK good!” he told her.

On one occasion during a photo-op Miss Morne found herself standing behind Buddy Bradley, “I couldn’t help reaching out and touching his hair,’ she admitted later.  Buddy Bradley was happy to let the curious British dancing girl fiddle with his wiry hair.  Later when the cast gave her a spaniel for her birthday she named it Buddy.

As war loomed in Europe Miss Morne found herself “Hippodrome Out,” the inside term used by performers between gig.  Her younger sister, Irene, was a showgirl at a theater on Windmill Lane, the Windmill Theater.  Irene suggested she go and see if there was a job to be had.  After telling Van Damm that she wouldn’t take it off she was hired “provisionally” as the lead singer.  Three years later she was still there, now performing five shows a day.

After the war MissImage Morne continued in theater and met her husband the song and dance performer turned producer, Tommy Tomson of the Tomson Twins.  Tommy was casting a show at the West End, “He asked me out for tea,” explained Miss Morne fully aware that the casting-couch interpretation would quickly spring to mind.   Tommy’s true feelings for the glamorous singer however became obvious when he asked Miss Morne to elope with him.  She did.  They got married at Caxton Hall in Westminster.  After the civil ceremony a nervous Miss Morne phoned her mother.  “Bring him home for lunch, dear,” was all her mother said.  Tommy worked his charm on Miss Morne’s show business family and was a part of the family until his death in Hollywood in 1971.

Tommy had picked the right girl, and according to Miss Morne, he also knew when the girl wasn’t right.   Some time later Tommy was casting a West End show; one of the young lady’s auditioning was Sahara Churchill, daughter of the Prime Minister Winston Churchill.   Sahara was not the caliber of performer Tommy was looking for and he passed on her.  “Do you know who’s daughter that is,” asked aImage 2 stunned production assistant.  “I don’t care whose daughter she is, she’s not in my show.”

The Tomson Twins had been a stage phenomenon in the Twenties and had established nightclubs in Paris and New York.  To promote an upcoming show in their New York club in 1921 Tommy flew a bi-plane over the city and dropped tickets to the show.  His novel approach to marketing got him additional attention in the New York Times.  Tommy was a World War I fighter pilot with the RAF, the Royal Air Force.  He was shot down and severely injured – a bullet passing through his back a fraction of an inch from his spin.  The injury kept him in bed, lying on his front for many months, but it did not stop him getting back on the boards and hoofing it up with his twin Jack.

In the late forties Miss Morne performed on stage in theater and revue appearing with top acts and performers including Benny Hill.  One revue was a Royal Command Performance attended by the Queen of England.  “The night before the performance the producer called us all on stage and told us to give it our best when her Majesty was in the audience, and when he had finished he turned to Benny and said… ‘and Benny, keep it clean!’”

Benny kept it clean and after the show Miss Morne was presented to the Queen.  “I had to go down the stage steps.  I was wearing a long ball gown and I was terrified I was going to trip and fall flat on my face in front of the Queen of England!”  Miss Image 4Morne recalled.  She made it down in one piece and bobbed elegantly to the Queen.  “Very nice, my Dear,” said the Queen.  “Thank you Ma’am,” Miss Morne replied, not quite sure if the Queen was referring to her performance on the stage or her skill in negotiating the steps in a ball gown without toppling over.

In 1952 Miss Morne and Tommy moved to Hollywood.  They continued their careers in show business, Tommy producing theater and Miss Morne acting and modeling.  Miss Morne was a member of the BACC and BAFTA-LA.  After Tommy passed away Miss Morne came upon an employment agency in Beverly Hills that needed an executive administrator.  The lady owner hired her sight unseen after a phone call.   “With a voice like that you got the job,” her new boss declared.

Some years later the owner married a wealthy man and gave Miss Morne the business.  “I was very good at placing the right people in the right job,” Miss Morne recalled.  Her years in show business gave her the knack of casting the right person for the role, and as Tommy might have said, “NOT casting the wrong person”.  Miss Morne passed away peacefully in Los Angeles in February, three days after the Oscars.

For more information contact: Tel: 213 446 4448

Alan@HollywoodMotionPicture.com

Where’s The Money

By Alan von Kalckreuth

Stick a few finance savvy attorneys on a panel and ask Joey Tamer, President of S.O.S. Inc. to moderate a discussion about “real” money and what attracts, or repels, it in the digital entertainment world and you are going to come away wiser and more confident that some one is going to get the money, even if it’s not you.  The panel was part of the Digital Hollywood summit held in Los Angeles last week.

It appears that the venture capital and strategic investment community, or VCs as these guys call these sub-species, are happy to put their money where their mouth is… BUT, Tamer warns, they have a game plan and if you take their money you’re now dancing to their tune.  They have an out strategy that they will stick to and that’s the timeline you are going to have to meet. 

The panel was well chosen to represent a range of VC engagers and not surprisingly they spoke with one voice.

The “next” check, a term tossed around like kindergarteners recite B is for ball, seems to be where your focus should be even before raising incubation funds.   David Albert Pierce of Pierce Law Group LLP revealed in his dry, knowledgeable way that when you get money to develop your great idea and you do a great job showing how your great idea is going to make a load of duckets for everyone involved, you then have to romance the next level VCers.  And this level is inhabited by VCites far shrewder and less forgiving that a ninth grade principle during a full moon.

The venture capitalist “don’t want to see a patchwork quilt,” as Ms. Tamer put it.  “They want to see neat and tidy capital share.”  What Ms. T is driving at is you don’t want to have given percentages to your gardener because he let you use his pick-up and the guy who printed your business cards because he took a post-dated check.

Mike McGlade former Chief Revenue Office for FastPay, a wheat-grass drinking sort of dude who has raised mega millions for digital enterprises, announced that he is firing up his own start-up and tells the room of eager learners that they should forget “the smoke and mirrors and the vapor-ware,” and get out and make sales.

“Know what the market is,” explained Pierce.  McGraw agreed and being the touchy-feely sort wants to imprint on everyone’s mind that the proof of concept should be evident from the reality that someone is prepared to pay for what you are setting out to deliver.

“Go to someone already in your business area,” advised Tamer.  You get to save yourself an awful lot of time explaining how your product or idea works, or why your version is the “must have” version.

Steve Masur, Managing Director of MasurLaw, and who looks like he drives an expensive Audi, said that there is a load of incubator resources in Silicon Valley to move projects to a level that the VC will expect it to be at before they run their numbers.  He advises that you keep something under your hat as you shuffle through this necessary savanna region.  Everyone agreed that it is easier now to set up a viable project because of the lower cost of technology and resources.

If you get through the incubation period and have a chance at this second level, which is pretty much the start of the game to these guys, you must now be as shrewd as a Trump, as focused as a cobra, and as positive as toll-booth attendant. 

“VCs have time-table and it’s easier to divorce your wife than your VC partners,” warns Tamer.  “A lot of entrepreneurs lose control of their company through sloppy capital deals.”  Her warning resonates from the chambers of experience.

McGlade put it this way; you’re in trouble if “the horse is bleeding.”  His concern is that the snappy decisions often made during the incubation stage may create “more liability for you in the future.”  “Leverage your receivables so you can keep you business running,” he advises.  Another strategy he suggests is obtaining a revolving line of credit, BUT “don’t give a personal guarantee, instead raise equity.  And if you can’t then go do something else –this might be a good indicator,” he warns wryly.

Pierce explains that if you have momentum and you are struggling because you are cash strapped it is not a bad idea to offer a “last-in, first-out” deal to you incubation investors for the money you need.  If they pass on the offer then open it up to whom every you can.

“Debt is not a bad thing”, Pierces proposes.  “Take Apple this week!”  Tamer strongly agrees.  “Take out a small loan… and pay it back,” she proposes, “that shows you have a history.”  I learned that when I was a child,” she adds.  I wondered about her upbringing!

“Work with smart people,” is key according to McGlade.  On this point Masur advises the audience, “you get what you pay for, so pay for value.”

Pierce summed up the struggle for money to make your dream a reality with the axiom; “If the money is coming to you it’s coming to you.  You can get fast and funny with it, but if the money is coming to you it’s coming to you.”

 

Hollywood High Honors Carol Burnett

By Alan von KalckreuthOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carol Burnett and the Hollywood High School have a shared history.  And at a glittering event held at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood on 10th of January Hollywood High honored its most famous alumni.  “This is my old stomping ground, I lived just around the corner on Selma.”  Carol told the stars of Hollywood and the students of Hollywood High as she received the CAROL BURNETT HONOR OF DISTINCTION AWARD.

Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels, amongst others, took to the stage to share their love of one of Hollywood’s most beloved funny ladies.  AndOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the students of Hollywood High School filled out the show with great music and dance.

Each year The Carol Burnett Honor of Distinction Award will be presented to a accomplished Hollywood High alum.  And forever a corner of Hollywood will bear the name Carol Burnett Square declared Councilman Tom LaBonge of The City of Los Angeles as he skipped on to the stage with the air of a Councilman used to footlights and sparkle.  LaBonge also proclaimed Jan 10th as CAROL BURNETT DAY IN LOS ANGELES.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carol Burnett has a place in the heart of Hollywood High, and now she has a place in the heart of Hollywood.

Gun Control… Hollywood Control

By Alan von Kalckreuth

“I just think, you know, there’s violence in the world, tragedies happen, blame the playmakers.  It’s a western.  Give me a break.” That’s Tarantino’s view about his new film, “Django Unchained” and the role violence on the screen, and in his films, has on society.

A friend said recently, Tarantino looks like Tarantino because he is Tarantino, and as the proverb says: until forty God is responsible for you face, after forty you are.

The Weinstein Company, the producers and long-term collaborators with Tarantino, canceled the red-carpet premiere of “Django Unchained” because of Friday’s shootings in Newtown, Conn.  Paramount reacted similarly and postponed a premiere for “Jack Reacher,” sensitive to the national horror the school shooting has invoked.  “Reacher” revolves around an apparent senseless and random gunning down of innocent pedestrians.

Fox network cancelled scheduled episodes of “Family Guy” and “American Dad”.  Back in July, Warner Bros. canceled the Paris, Mexico City and Tokyo premieres of its film “Dark Knight Rises” after twelve people were gunned down and fifty-eight injured in Aurora, Colorado.

What Tarantino seems blind to is culture –though he is a cross-beam and rebar pillar of the ‘‘culture of violence’’ the entertainment industry’s embrace in movies, television shows and video games.

‘‘The violence in the entertainment culture — particularly with the extraordinary realism to video games, movies now, et cetera — does cause vulnerable young men to be more violent,’’ Senator Joe Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut, said.

‘‘There might well be some direct connection between people who have some mental instability and when they go over the edge, they transport themselves, they become part of one of those video games,’’ said Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, where 12 people were killed in a movie theater shooting in July.

White House adviser David Axelrod tweeted, ‘‘But shouldn’t we also quit marketing murder as a game?’’

Future of Film Summit: An Overview

by Alan von Kalckreuth

Ben Forkner of Film 360 has it all, a studio first look deal and a stable of actors and writers that would give TMZ a good week of back-to-back material. So how good is it for him? That’s one of the questions raised at the Future of Film Summit held at the trendy Sofitel Hotel in Los Angeles this week.

First thing Ben should remind himself of every morning before brushing his teeth is that he’s in a small and elite club. Most producers do not have the luxury of a studio picking up a share of their overhead and get behind their project – assuming they don’t pass on it! Since 2000 the number of these deals has diminished alarmingly and the terms are not as sweet as they once were.

So what do studios want in return? Story driven, tent-pole movies that have strong international and domestic appeal… and if possible are the stuff of franchise. And that’s good news for writers. “The value of top writers has skyrocketed,” Ben declares. “Writers are now able to create a brand for themselves,” agreed J C Spink, “they were so passed over for a hundred years out here!”

So how’s the new digital landscape changing things? “As emerging platforms take shape you’ll see some changes”, Paul Green suggests. “But for the moment it’s steady as she goes,” he adds, but, “If digital distribution takes off, and Hulu and NetFlix start having first-look deals then things are going to change.”

J C Spink sees studios as being more savvy in the projects they go after. “Studios have a much better game plan, more sure of themselves,” he explained. As an example he pointed out that the dwindling return on DVD sales has hit the comedy market badly. Smaller budgets are now the norm for a genre that once demanded near action movie like coin.

Paul Green believes that the material and architecture of all movies, inside and outside the studio system is fundamentally the same, bankable players, soft money, foreign sales… oh! And a good story!

Where do you get that good story? J C Spink explained that that’s the hardest of all. “I read one hundred Nicholl’s scripts over a six week period and I found fifteen that might be worth a second look.” When asked what those fifteen looked like he said, “ten were good writers and five were good concepts.” But I guess zero were good writers with good concepts!

 

3D or Not 3D

By Alan von Kalckreuth

Los Angeles, September 26, 2011.

Hollywood has just hosted the 4th Annual 3D Summit. The three-day event clustered techno-gurus, mega-producers, global game-developers and hardware manufactures into the prestigious Hollywood and Highland Center, all dedicated to reassuring their eco-system fellows that 3D is here to stay.

What are the benefits of seeing a movie, a show or a game in 3D? Will the audience pay a premium for the experience? Is there good 3D and bad 3D? James Cameron is clear on answer to these questions, and he tells the attendees that 3D adds in a meaningful way to the craft of storytelling in the visual medium. Cameron, like Bob Dowling, the conference Chairperson, acknowledges that 3D is going through technical growing pains, and he proclaims, like other insiders, that the economics of the whole thing are much more favorable than HD was at a comparable stage in its emergence as new technology.

There was a consensus of opinion that the general audience is not yet sold on the 3D experience and the weak performance of 3D over recent months is the result of several factors. Once these qualifiers are adequately addressed, the Masters of the New Dimension believe, the Hundred Monkey phenomenon will quickly flip the audience/viewer/gamer into a 21st Century poly-dimensionalist.

A big factor holding back the inclusion of the 3D experience in homes is the absence of autosteroscopic monitors –that means you’ve still got to find those pesky glasses down the back of the sofa if you’re going to watch ESPN’s Monday Night Football in 3D. And if Big Sis has nabbed the last pair before you got to the den then you are out of luck and back in the bedroom watching the 2D version on you’re old HD flat screen! The glasses are a major complication, “We’re five year away from true autosteroscopic home monitors,” declares Tim Alessi, Director of New Product Development at LG Electronics, as he demonstrates LG’s newest line-up of 3D monitors. LG’s just-to-market units can be enjoyed with the less expensive “Passive” glasses. “We give the buyer four pairs with the purchase of each set,” he explains. But he still wanting us to put on “Blinkers”! Even James Cameron did not seem to be sufficiently in touch with the world of “real families” to register that all the multi-millions of dollars spent on making his movies can be reduced to little better than a VHS experience by a simple pizza! Sticky finger are prone to smear even the most “active” glasses!

Cameron is aiming at the silver screen as the best place to see his new 3D version of Titanic. A 3D conversion that he acknowledges is not going to be the splendid experience it would have been if he had shot the original in 3D, but he’s confident he can get it to ninety-plus percent. Content is in short supply, yet for the theater goewers there is another problem that ripples back to the filmmakers and producers. “We need more 3D screens.” Cameron explains that the limited number of screens means that a film plays for a week or so before it is bumped for the next 3D film. More screens will result in more people getting a chance to experience the 3D marvel as movies will play longer at the theater.

The number of movies shot in 2D and converted to 3D is another factor that both hurts and helps the 3D evolution. Conversion is a subjective process; it requires selecting a depth map from images that has no depth data recorded. If it is skillfully done with the director involved it stands the chance of getting close to what might have been achieved if the project was shot in 3D, but it can also be “cheesy” and painful on the eyeball. On the upside it does provide more of the much-needed 3D content that justifies the purchase of home 3D monitors.

Cameron and his partner Vince Pace are keen to guide and nudge the viewer into the world of 3D by striving to ensure that the viewing-experience is beyond that of HD-2D. “We support the crafting of good film by providing the right tools,” Pace explains. His Cameron / Pace Group is establishing an industry standard, the CPG Certified stamp, that will be attached to projects that meet their high standards, a sort of “DOLBY” of depth! Cameron is not egotistical about his high standards, “We’re competing against ourselves,” he confesses. “We’re like back-yard drag-races who work on their own engines.” Cameron Pace do not sell their rigs and other technologies to film makers, they only lease them. This ensures that the filmmaker has the up-to-the-minute upgrades available to them even as they are in production or post.

Low luminosity was raised as a concern by a number of the panels, “Good lighting leads to a halo effect on the entire movie,” proclaims Michael Lewis of RealD. And it appears after much discussion that it is not difficult to resolve this issue. Running the current projectors better will help, and upgrading to units that can handle the light requirement is only a matter of spending money… by the theater owners, that is. “We spend multi-millions making the movie the way we want it to be seen and then we give it to a guy who gets fifteen bucks an hour to run it!” laments Cameron.

Another projector tweak that will add to the splendor of the 3D experience is upping the frame rate from the standard 24 per minute to 48 or even 60 per minute. “Our current projectors can handle that rate and our digital cameras can shoot at this rate,” explains Cameron. The result is smoothing out the strobe effect caused by the lower frame rate, an effect that is more apparent when the image is in 3D.

Might all these refinements lead to an experience that is too real? “Filmmakers are artists,” Cameron reminds his listeners. “Don’t worry if we make it too real, we can deal with it. It’s your choice, you can add grain, or scratches if you want.”

In the gaming world 3D is a dynamic advance in gaming experience according to Shane Satterfield, “…3D adds a huge difference to the gamer.” Satterfield is one of the game-makers who has seen improvement in the gamer’s skill level when playing in 3D. And in gaming, as Simon Benson observed, glasses are no problem, “In games you are engaged, you can even expand the function to audio or whatever.”

ESPN, the self-professed sports-centric 3D network, declares that just about any sport is stunning in 3D. Their recent coverage of the Masters Tournament and its great audience response is proof enough.

The collective opinion of the panelists and attendees is that 3D is a 21st Century necessity. And with TEVO you’ve almost got the 4th dimension!

Irish Festival in Tinsel Town

By Alan von Kalckreuth

Los Angeles, September 29, 2011.

Hollywood has rolled out the red carpet, the Bushmills and the Guinness at the opening night of the 4th Annual Irish Film Festival. Guests flew in from Ireland and rolled down the Hollywood Hills to the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater to acknowledge the exceptional contribution the Irish have made to the magic of the silver screen.

Topping the billing was the Tribute to Fionnula Flanagan. Fionnula stars along side Brendan Gleeson in The Guard. Her performance is certainly to get serious nods for Best Supporting role in the upcoming award season.

The international line-up of guests touted their Irishness with the baloney of Blarney. Pavlina Moskalykova, a Czech filmmaker, was clear what draws her to the Irish, “…their sense of humor!”

The festival runs through to Sunday October 2nd.