Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

May 23, 2020, Swiss Family Robinson
This week’s mystery movie was the 1940 RKO film “Swiss Family Robinson,” with Thomas Mitchell, Edna Best, Freddie Bartholomew, Terry Kilburn, Tim Holt and Baby (Barbara) Bobby Quillan.

Screenplay by Walter Ferris, Gene Towne and Graham Baker, from the novel by Johann David Wyss.

Musical setting conducted by Anthony Collins based on Franz Schubert’s Quartet in A Minor, Opus 29.

Associate producer Donald J Ehlers, photography by Nicholas Musuraca, special effects by Vernon L. Walker, montage by Douglas Travers.

Art direction by Van Nest Polglase and Perry Ferguson. Set decorations by Darrell Silvera, costumes by Edward Stevenson.

Recorded by John E. Tribby, edited by George Crone, assistant director Sam Ruman, technical advisor Maj. C.S. Ramsay-Hill.

Produced by Gene Towne and Graham Baker.

Directed by Edward Ludwig.

“Swiss Family Robinson” has never been commercially released on VHS or DVD. It is available for streaming on Disney Plus.

This week’s mystery movie is an unseen gem. Disney bought the film to avoid competition with its 1960 release with John Mills and Dorothy McGuire and buried it in a vault. The film surfaced occasionally on local TV but was otherwise unavailable. As the contemporary reviews noted, it is a movie without major names, but has a strong story and good acting. Well worth seeing, even in the somewhat murky dupe airing on Disney Plus.

(Bonus discovery: A 1958 version of “Swiss Family Robinson” with Walter Pidgeon, Laraine Day, Dennis Hopper and Patty Duke – wow).

This was the first effort by writers-turned-producers Gene Towne and Graham Baker and it was an expensive, lavish production for the time because of the elaborate setting needed for the island and a large number of animals (an ostrich, at least one Galapagos tortoise, etc.) Lillian Gish and Kay Francis were originally considered for the role eventually given to Edna Best.

Trivia notes: Terry Kilburn was borrowed from MGM for the film.

Gene Towne wanted to put the credits at the end of the film and received everyone’s permission to do so. But the Directors Guild insisted that Edward Ludwig’s name had to come below the producers’ names at the beginning of the movie.

Orson Welles was paid $25 for the narration, receiving his first screen credit. He donated the money to Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital. Ever the prankster, Welles recorded an unauthorized narration for a private showing of the film, saying that Gene Towne was a fool for abandoning a profitable writing career to become a producer.

I picked the movie based on the review in Harrison’s Reports (Feb. 17, 1940):

Pretty good entertainment: it is an adventure story that should appeal particularly to youngsters. Adults, too, may enjoy it, especially those who have read the novel on which the picture is based, for it has been adapted with imagination and produced with skill. The musical score is excellent; it helps, for it heightens the dramatic effect, putting the spectator in the proper mood. Of course, the picture lacks strong box office names; the exhibitors will, therefore, have to depend mostly on the fame of the novel to attract patrons. The action takes place during Napoleon’s reign, but the story has been changed considerably.

Showmen’s Trade Review (Feb. 3, 1940) said:

A spectacular screen version of a story that has endured as a juvenile classic, this ambitious production is well off the beaten track and its novelty is one of its greatest assets. Gene Towne and Graham Baker, making their bows as producers, have not stinted in their praiseworthy endeavor to employ the resources of the camera in producing illusion and the setting for the action on the desert isle, with its huge trees, tropical foliage, its inlet to a turbulent sea, is certain to become a much talked-of feature of the film.

…. It must be sold as wholesome entertainment for the whole family; as a stunning screen revelation of one of the books which have fascinated readers. Here is opportunity to make the most of school cooperation as well as that of libraries and the book sellers. Atmospheric displays on the marquee and in lobby are a must. with the right selling along this atmospheric and novelty line, “Swiss Family Robinson” will prove a big attraction.

Writing in the New York Times Feb. 9, 1940), Frank S. Nugent said:

Having paraphrased Shakespeare in forming The Play’s the Thing Productions inc., Gene Towne and Graham Baker, two of Hollywood’s more irrepressible scriptwriters turned producers, naturally had no hesitation about rephrasing Johann David Wyss’ “Swiss Family Robinson.” It now appears, at the Music Hall, that Father Robinson (Thomas Mitchell, not Edward G.) hadn’t been happy at home. His sons weren’t turning out as he had hoped; his wife, Edna Best, was too busy being a social success; a soldier called Napoleon was threatening Europe with war. All that explains why Mr. Wyss’ Swiss took ship for the colonies, only to be marooned on a fully equipped desert island where the struggle for existence was of far less import than Father Robinson’s struggle to bring the family into a harmonious unit again.

….When it stays with the book, which was adventure plus instruction, the film is considerably better. The storm sequences — there are three of them — are properly noisy, drenching and spectacular…. They and the uniformly competent performance of the cast make it a moderately entertaining, if rather somnolently paced, storybook film.

May 18, 2020, Mystery Photo

For Monday, we have a mysterious young lady in a mystery library.

Update: This mystery actress is unidentified. I’m guessing that the opening titles were grafted onto the film when the Directors Guild insisted on putting the director’s and producers’ names before the movie.

May 19, 2020, Mystery Photo

For Tuesday, we have this mystery fellow.

Update: This fellow may be John Wray, but I’m not positive. There are a number of actors who appear in brief close-ups and this actor is one of them.

May 19, 2020, Mystery Photo

And also this mystery fellow.

Update: This is Herbert Rawlinson.

May 20, 2020, Mystery Photo

For “Hm Wednesday,” we have this mystery chap, who is puzzled about such goings-on.

Update: This is Christian Rub.

May 20, 2020, Mystery Photo

And we have a mystery toddler with mystery doggos.

Update: This is Barbara “Bobby” Quillan.

Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery guests).

May 21, 2020, Mystery Photo

For “Aha Thursday,” we have this mystery lad with a certain degree of “Aha.”

Update: This is Terry Kilburn.

May 21, 2020, Mystery Photo
And these two “Aha” mysterious young men.

Update: This is Tim Holt, left, and Freddie Bartholomew.

Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (Wednesday’s mystery butler and mystery lad), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery captain, Wednesday’s mystery butler and mystery lad) and Sheila (Wednesday’s mystery butler).

May 22, 2020, Mystery Photo
For Friday, we have our mystery leading lady…

Update: This is Edna Best.

May 22, 2020, Mystery Photo

…And our mystery leading man.

Update: This is Thomas Mitchell.

Brain Trust roll call: Floyd Thursby (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guests), Mary Mallory (Thursday’s mystery guests), Michael Ryerson (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guests), Goombah (Thursday’s mystery brother No. 3), Sheila (Thursday’s mystery brother No. 1), Blackwingjenny (mystery movie, Wednesday’s mystery servant and Thursday’s mystery guests), Benito (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery brothers No. 2 and 3), L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast), Gary (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery brother No. 2), Thom and Megan (mystery movie and Wednesday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests) and Sylvia E. (mystery movie, and Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests).

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1940, Film, Hollywood, Mystery Photo and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + +)

  1. Peggy Ann Garner?


  2. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Peggy McIntyre in I REMEMBER MAMA (1948)


  3. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Patti Brady in ADVENTURE IN BALTIMORE (1949)


  4. Mary Mallory says:

    SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON. John Wray and Herbert Rawlinson today. I will research the girl.


  5. Sheila says:

    Sidney Blackmer on Tuesday?


  6. Sylvia E. says:

    The girl looks like she’s from the 1940s and maybe she’s checked out a book about Lord Nelson when he was in Naples….Just for the heck of it, I’m guessing That Hamilton Woman 1941.

    I’m positive that this is an incorrect guess on the movie title, but maybe the story era is right???


  7. Sylvia E. says:

    Guess #2 is “Forever and a Day” because of the ‘time travel aspect’ of the images
    Mon. – I think may be a young Amzie Strickland

    Another ‘just a shot in the dark’ though. On with the hunt.


  8. Mary Mallory says:

    Christian Rub and Bobbie Quillan today. Poor Herbert, no one remembers him from his big silent days.


  9. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    I thought the Disney organization buried it. As with THE BISCUIT EATER, I don’t believe they preserved the original negative.
    Tuesday: Herbert Rawlinson
    Wednesday: Christian Rubb; Bobbie Quillan.


  10. Sheila says:

    Christian Rub for Wednesday’s old guy.


  11. Floyd Thursby says:

    For Thursday we have Terry Kilburn, Tim Holt, and Freddie Bartholomew in “Swiss Family Robinson.”


  12. Mary Mallory says:

    Terry Kilburn, a young Tim Holt, and a growing Freddie Bartholomew.


  13. Well, of course Monday’s girl throws us off, but now Freddie Bartholomew and Tim Holt leads me to think Swiss Family Robinson (1940)


  14. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Terry Kilburn; Tim Holt, Freddie Bartholomew.


  15. GOOMBAH says:

    Freddie Bartholemew for AHA Thursday?


  16. Sheila says:

    Terry Kilburn for Thursday’s first dude.


  17. The first one I got Christian Rub(how could I not?), and Freddie Bartholomew and Tim Holt…and Terry Kilburn. Only with Freddie & Tim could I come up with Swiss Family Robinson. No clue who the happy reader at the library is!


  18. Benito says:

    Tim Holt and Fred Bartholomew in SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON 1940. Haven’t seen this version, but I walked thru their treehouse in Disneyland


  19. LC says:

    Swiss Family Robinson (1940) w/Thomas Mitchell, Edna Best, Freddie Bartholomew, Terry Kilburn, Bobbie Quillan, Tim Holt, narrated by Orson Welles, don’t know girl who handed Welles the book.


  20. Gary says:

    How about Tim Holt in Swiss Family Robinson.


  21. Thom and Megan says:

    Swiss Family Robinson with Tim Holt, Freddie Bartholomew and Terry Kilburn for today, and Bobbie Quillan and Christian Rub for yesterday.


  22. Sylvia E. says:

    Aha Thursday brings answers…thank goodness for Freddie.

    Sooo, rewriting my initial submission…the girl in the library is indeed from the 1940s and instead, she’s picked out a book (to have read to her) and it’s…Swiss Family Robinson!!!

    Monday – Do you know who our girl is? I can’t find anything. Do you know if the OS person in the chair reading to her is Orson Welles, since he’s the narrator?

    Tuesday – The captain is Herbert Rawlinson according to IMdB. I guess the other guy is John Wray (but it sure sounds like the captain is yelling “Boatswain!” and not “Ramsey!” during the hurricane scene, but okay)

    Weds. – image 1 is Christian Rub as the butler. Image 2 – shows Baby Bobbie Quillan along with Turk and Rover (I’ve noticed that every film version of this story changes at least one of the dogs’ names. I’m going to have a look at the novel.)

    Thurs. – Terry Kilburn in image 1. And a baby-faced Tim Holt with Freddie Bartholomew in image 2.

    Friday has to have Edna Best and Thomas Mitchell.

    This was fun. Thanks.
    Looking forward to Saturday’s breakdown.


  23. Mary Mallory says:

    Edna Best and Thomas Mitchell.


  24. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Edna Best; Thomas Mitchell.


  25. Edna Best and Thomas Mitchell, of course.


  26. Sylvia E. says:

    Edna Best and Thomas Mitchell for Friday.


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