TCM REMEMBERS LEO MCKERN, 1920-2002
The recent death of Leo McKern, 82, marked the passing of one of Britain's finest and most respected character actors. He was suffering from ill health in recent years and was moved to a nursing home a few weeks before his death on July 23 2002 in Bath, England. An actor of commanding presence with a deep-throated voice, the portly, bulbous-nosed McKern had a long, distinguished career spanning more than half a century, earning numerous plaudits along the way in all major mediums: theatre, film and television.
Born Reginald McKern on March 16, 1920 in Sydney, Australia; he served with the Australian Army during World War II and worked in regional theatre in his native Sydney before immigrating to England in 1946. It was a slow start, but after a three-year apprenticeship of painting scenery, stage-managing and acting, McKern eventually joined the celebrated Old Vic theatrical company in 1949 and proved one of the more versatile actors in the troupe tackling diverse roles in comedy, the classics and serious contemporary parts.
His film debut came in Murder in the Cathedral (1952) but it took a few years before he made his mark in cinema. Some of his best film work included roles as Peter Sellers' comic henchman in the classic satire The Mouse That Roared (1959); a bungling train robber in the charming Disney film The Horse Without a Head (1963); a nefarious professor who kills off his colleagues for amusement in the brilliant black comedy A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964); Clang, a cartoonish villain in the Beatles' pop film Help! (1965); Cromwell, the persecutor of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966) and as Thomas Ryan in the David Lean drama, Ryan's Daughter (1970).
Yet despite all the accolades McKern earned in theatre and films, it was television where he foundinternational fame as the wily, irascible barrister Horace P. Rumpole in John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey in 1975. Infusing the character with beguiling skill and energy, McKern made the acerbic, wine swilling, Tennyson-quoting Rumpole a much loved figure that was adored by critics, audiences and even its creator Mortimer. Perhaps Mortimer offered the most fitting tribute when he once referred to McKern - "His acting exists where I always hope my writing will be: about two feet above the ground, a little larger than life, but always taking off from reality." Enough said.
By Michael T. Toole
KATY JURADO, 1924 - 2002
Katy Jurado, an Oscar nominee and major actress in Westerns, died July 5th at the age of 78. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 16th 1924 as Maria Cristina Estella Marcela Jurado Garcia, daughter of a cattle rancher and an opera singer. Jurado started to appear in Mexican films in 1943. After 15 films in her native country, director Budd Boetticher saw Jurado attending a bullfight (Jurado wrote about the subject for Mexican newspapers) and cast her in his Bullfighter and the Lady (1952), her Hollywood debut. For much of her career Jurado alternated between the two film industries. In the US, she was memorable for the sensual energy she brought to roles in High Noon (1952), One-Eyed Jacks (1961) which was directed by Marlon Brando, Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984). She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for Broken Lance (1954). Jurado's Mexican films were in a broader range of genres and included Luis Bunuel's El Bruto (1952), Ismael Rodriguez's We the Poor and Miguel Littin's The Widow Montiel (1979). She won three Ariel Awards (Mexican equivalent to the Oscars) and one special award. She was married to Ernest Borgnine from the end of 1959 to summer 1963. One of her final films was The Hi-Lo Country (1998), a contemporary Western directed by Stephen Frears and co-starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Penelope Cruz.
by Lang Thompson
DOLORES GRAY, 1924 - 2002
Broadway and nightclub star Dolores Gray died June 26th at the age of 78. Her movie career was brief but consisted of high-profile MGM musicals which guaranteed her a place in film history. Gray was born in Chicago on June 7th, 1924 (and where, according to a common story, she was accidentally shot by a gangster as a child and had a bullet in her lung her entire life). As a teenager she began singing in California until Rudy Vallee featured her on his radio show. Gray moved to Broadway in 1944 and then to the London stage in 1947, solidifying her reputation as a singer/actress while constantly giving the gossip columnists plenty to write about. She had two small singing roles in Lady for a Night (1941) and Mr. Skeffington (1944) but didn't really light up the big screen until It's Always Fair Weather (1955) even though Gray reportedly didn't much care for the role. Her rendition of "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks," which has her gunning down a slew of male dancers on-stage and kicking them through trap doors, is a genuine showstopper. Three more unforgettable musical roles quickly followed: Kismet (1955), The Opposite Sex (1956, which Gray turned down Funny Face to do) and Designing Women (1957). That was it for Gray's film career. She kept busy with TV appearances (mostly singing though she did one 1988 episode of the cult show Dr. Who) and a busy recording and nightclub schedule. In 1987, she appeared in a British production of Follies at Stephen Sondheim's request.
by Lang Thompson
Cast & Crew
Spider Kelly, the leader of a gang of young thugs, enters a London jazz club with his underlings The Jinx, The Dancer and Holy Mike. After ordering Jinx to stay behind to guard Spider's girl friend, The Doll, Spider and the others slip out to rob a warehouse storing cigarettes. On the dance floor, Bert Harris, a young electrician who fancies himself as a dashing criminal, eyes Doll, who dismisses Jinx so that she can dance with Bert. When Spider returns from the robbery and sees his girl friend with Bert, a fight erupts, and Bert escapes in the ensuing melée. The next day, Jinx, an old friend of Bert's, comes to his flat to show him a newspaper story about the cigarette theft. Scoffing that cigarettes are "small time," Bert directs Jinx's attention to the front-page story about a cat burglar who stole a cache of jewels the previous evening. Implying that he is the "cat," Bert nonchalantly fingers a string of pearls. After swearing Jinx to silence, Bert leaves for M. J. Macey jewelers, where he is to repair the store's alarm. Jinx proceeds to the gang's hangout where he shows Spider the story about the cat burglar. When Jinx boasts that he knows the identity of the "cat," Spider orders him to bring the thief to their hangout that night. Later, police Det. Sgt. Thompson, who suspects that Spider and his boys robbed the warehouse, queries them about the theft, but they give the alibi that they were at the jazz club during the time of the robbery. When Thompson vows that he will arrest them one day, Spider challenges him with a knife, and Thompson responds with a broken bottle. At police headquarters later, the inspector chastises Thompson for resorting to violence. Meanwhile, at the jewelry store, Macey hands Bert a key so that he can adjust the door alarm properly. While working, Bert finds a ring that a salesman has carelessly dropped on the floor and returns it to Macey, who praises the youth for his honesty. After Bert returns home from work, Jinx visits and tells him Spider wants to see him. Adopting a cocky swagger, Bert accompanies Jinx to the hangout and boasts of robbing a bank and a jewelry shop. When the gang scoffs at him, Bert shows them the wiring plan for the alarm box at Macey's store. Impressed, Spider orders Bert to meet them at midnight that night to rob the store. That evening, Bert takes his girl friend, Rene, to a jazz club owned by his friend Jean, and gives Rene the pearls as a birthday gift while Jean gives her a pair of tickets to the jazz boat cruise the following day. As midnight approaches, Bert, hoping to avoid Spider, insists on leaving, but is greeted by Spider, who is waiting outside in his car. Driving off with Bert, the gang proceeds to the jewelry store where Spider tries to pry open the door with a crowbar. To prevent him from damaging the door, Bert produces the key. Hoping to thwart the robbery, Bert fumbles with the safe's combination lock, then proclaims that it cannot be opened. Much to Bert's surprise, however, the door swings open and Spider promptly empties the jewels into a case. To win possession of the jewels, Bert tells Spider that he knows a fence and directs him to Rene's apartment building. Spider sends Holy Mike and Dancer to accompany Bert, who climbs the stairs to Rene's apartment and knocks on her door. When she opens the door, Bert pretends that Rene is the fence's wife and leaves Holy Mike and Dancer waiting in the hallway. Once inside the apartment, Bert jumps out the back window into the alley, intending to go to the store and return the jewels, but once he reaches Macey's, he learns that the police have already discovered the robbery. Bert takes refuge along the banks of the Thames, and when Jinx finds him there, admits that he is not the cat. When they see Spider and the gang patrolling the area, Bert and Jinx join a procession of merrymakers boarding the jazz boat bound for Margate. They are followed by Spider and his gang, as well as Thompson, who is trailing the gang. After the boat pulls away from the dock, Bert gives Rene the box of jewels to hide in her purse. Spider and his friends then apprehend Bert, and after failing to find the jewels on him, leave Dancer behind to guard Bert while they go after Rene. Once they leave, Jinx knocks Dancer out with a guitar and frees Bert. When Jinx spots Thompson in the bar, he warns Bert that he is a police officer, so Bert decides to capture the gang and turn them over to Thompson. Soon after, Doll finds Bert below deck and proposes that they run away together. When he asks what they will use for money, she hands him the jewel case that Spider has reclaimed from Rene. Just then, Spider appears, and Doll pulls a knife from her purse and slashes him in the face with it. Carrying the jewels, Bert runs into the bar with Holy Mike and Dancer in pursuit. As Bert tosses the case to Rene, who then tosses it to Jinx to prevent the gang from getting it, the revelers pick up Dancer and Holy Mike and throw them overboard. Bert gives the jewels to Thompson, but once the boat docks at Margate, Spider runs ashore, followed by Bert and Thompson, who directs the ticket taker to summon the police. Spider darts into a seaside amusement park and disappears into the House of Ghouls. Amid funhouse mirrors and menacing monsters, Bert and Thompson pursue him. When Spider threatens Thompson with a knife, Bert grabs the weapon from his hand and in the ensuing fight, Thompson knocks Spider out. With Spider and his gang safely stowed aboard the boat in chains, Thompson informs Jinx, Bert and Rene that they are free to go.
Albert R. Broccoli
Kenneth V. Jones
TCM Remembers - Leo McKern
TCM REMEMBERS LEO MCKERN, 1920-2002
TCM Remembers - Leo McKern
In the cabin scene, Anne Aubrey climbs on top of Anthony Newley. During the first take, she jumped up and rushed off the set complaining to Albert R. Broccoli that Anthony was being disgusting. It turns out that, as a joke, he had a Coca Cola bottle in his pants pocket and she had leant on it.
The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. According to studio publicity in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, location filming was done aboard the Royal Sovereign pleasure cruiser on a trip from London to Margate, and exteriors were shot in London. Jazz Boat May have been the only screen appearance for singer Jean Philippe. Although the onscreen credits list state the film was based on an original story by Rex Rienits, a modern source calls Rienits' story an unpublished novel.