Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Nils Asther and Kay Francis: in the dressing room

Nils Asther and Kay Francis acted together in two films, Storm at Daybreak (1933) and The Man Who Lost Himself (1941).

From Kay Francis: a passionate life and career by By Lynn Kear, John Rossman, McFarland, 2006
Career difficulties, in addition to marital problems, loomed over Kay in the summer... That same month [June 1933], Kay wrote about visiting Nils Asther in his MGM studio dressing room and having a kissing session. 

Kay had previously kissed Asther at a party about two weeks before. Quite handsome, Nils was gay, and though he was no doubt flattered, there was no chance of a full-blown romance. They had worked together on Storm at Daybreak, which was filmed in the spring of 1933.

Nils Asther and Kay Francis in The Man Who Lost Himself, 1941 
Waiting for a scene to be filmed, 1941

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Bluebeard 1944: film in full

I just found Bluebeard in full on youtube. Hooray!

It's also available dubbed in Spanish

Other Nils Asther films in full on YouTube:

Nils Asther films, entirely copyright free, on the Internet Archive:
Flying Blind 1941
Bluebeard 1944 
Submarine Alert 1941 

Picture of the day: The Right to Romance

 Nils Asther as Dr 'Heppie' Heppling (they sure how to name their characters in those days) The Right to Romance, 1933

This has got to be the most miscast Asther ever was - he's supposed to be a sweet, timid medical researcher. And although his dialogue is geeky and shy, his body language is all wrong. He's practically all over the leading lady (Ann Harding), you nearly need a spatula to get him off her. Ever heard of personal space, sir?

In this scene he's watching the woman of his dreams get married to someone else - and he's agreed to give her away in place of a father figure. Woe and angst.

You can watch this film - here and - here.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Review: Graham Greene, 1936

 Hugh Sinclair and Nils Asther in The Marriage of Corbal, 1936
Graham Greene writing in The Spectator 5 June 1936:
What is an English film? There are times when one cannot help brooding with acute distress on the cheap silly international pictures exported under that label. The Marriage of Corbal is a fairly harmless example. It is incredibly silly and incredibly badly written but there is a kind of wide-eyed innocence about this story of the French revolution which is almost endearing. But an English film? Is that a fair description of a picture derived from a novel by Rafael Sabatini, directed by Karl Grune and F Brunn, photographed by Otto Kanturek, and edited by E Stokvis [sic] with a cast which includes Nils Asther, Ernst Deutsch and the American, Noah Berry? The result is appalling... England, of course, has always been the home of the exiled; but one may at least express a wich that émigrés would set up trades in which their ignorance of our language and our culture was less of a handicap; it would not grieve me to see Mr Alexander Korda seated before a cottage loom in an Eastern country, following an older and a better tradition. The Quota Act has played into foreign hands, and as far as I know, there is nothing to prevent an English film unit being completely staffed by technicians of foreign blood. We have saved the British film industry from American competition only to surrender it to a far more alien control.

Nils Asther: to Graham Greene's eyes in 1936, a distressing alien in the British film industry

The Cinematograph Films Act (1927) was introduced to stem the flood of American films into British cinemas. This protective legislation obliged exhibitors to programme a certain percentage of home-produced film. Intended to encourage quality filmmaking, the actual result of the Act was a plethora of short, cheap, quickly shot supporting features - 'quota quickies' - derided by critics at the time as a disgrace to British cinema. In retrospect, it can be seen that the 'quickies' provided a valuable training ground for filmmakers, technicians and actors who would later go on to greater things in 'quality' British cinema (including such notable figures as Michael Powell and David Lean). New legislation was introduced in 1938.

Nils Asther sponsors this omelet

Nils Asther
'Bachelor Omelet'
Favorite Recipes of the Movie Stars, 1931

'The sponsor of this omelet is no longer a bachelor. But his wife, Vivian Duncan, decided that this recipe was too good to be lost so she passes it on to you.'

Sunday, 28 August 2011

picture of the day: amazing

Nils Asther by Clarence Sinclair Bull for MGM studios, probably c1927
I think I've posted this picture before but I don't care. It's amazing and timeless.

Picture of the day: suave 1940s

Nils Asther, signed photograph, probably from the 1940s 
when he returned to Hollywood after working in England for a few years

click the image to see it bigger

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Picture of the day: pinstripe

Nils Asther
Orami series movie star card, photo Ernst Schneider studio
probably taken in 1926 when Asther made several movies in Berlin

clicking on images makes them bigger

Nils Asther: coffee advertisement

Nils Asther coffee advertisement, May 1930

Just 'plain folks' at home... these glamorous successes find dated coffee luxuriously satisfying.

"No Swedish dinner is complete without a cup of good coffee," says NILS ASTHER, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer star. "That's why I use Chase & Sandborn's. I know that it is as fresh as it is pleasing to the taste and one never grows tired of it."

Friday, 26 August 2011

Nils Asther and dogs

I noticed that there are quite a few pictures of Nils Asther with dogs.

German cigarette card, Ross Verlag

MGM publicity shot by Ruth Harriet Louise, probably 1927.
This appears to be the same dog, but older, so perhaps it was his own.

Asther's first American film, Topsy and Eva, 1927. Asther is top left.
The St Bernard at the front took part in the film and belonged to Vivian Duncan, later Asther's wife, middle left.

Storm at Daybreak, 1933
'Nils Asther takes time out to play with his new pet, eight month old Great Dane, Eric.'
 Son of Lassie, 1945
Laddie (son of Lassie), Nils Asther, Peter Lawford

Asther spent most of his scenes in this film playing against the lead canine star, supposedly rescuing Laddie from the Nazis, and then tending to the dog, spoon feeding him and generally lolling around on the floor of their Norwegian hut together (actually filmed in Banff National Park, Canada). Asther seemed right at home.

Picture of the day: this one's huge

Nils Asther, English card.
Unknown photographer, I'd guess a promotional studio shot taken in the late 1920s. (On further research the photo is by Irving Chidnoff, New York.)

Click on the photos and you'll see them a lot bigger and more beautiful.

This card is similar and marked United Artists.

In 1927, Asther left Europe for America. 
He was in London when his 1926 German film, Der Goldene Schmetterling, was seen in Hollywood and he was offered contracts.

At first he made Sorrell and Son in England for United Artists. Then they invited him to come over. It seems he stopped off in New York to have these photos taken before he arrived.

United Artists were not the first studio with which Asther had signed. At first he accepted a contract with Paramount. "A few days later came an offer from United Artists," he told Katherine Albert in Photoplay, 1929. "I explained that I was already signed and they bought the first contract. Other studios offered me contracts, as well."

blog rot! and favourite Asther films

Last night there was an attack of page rot on this blog, for no apparent reason. I lost information from the end of my blog pages in a very random way. That means the pictures, links and information I had gathered about all of Nils Asther's films from about 1932 onwards were deleted. It seems to be unrecovereable.

I backed up everything that is left relating to his early films left on the pages, but it was a bit of a shock. 

Anyway, I'm taking it as an excuse to reorganise the pages and hopefully they'll be better than ever when I'm finished.

As a cheer-me-up, I've been making a list in my head and deciding on my 5 favourite Nils Asther films of all time:

1. The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
WHY: It's beautiful, complex and sexy. And it takes me on a thoughtful journey every time. At the start, it genuinely seems to be borderline racist, with the missionaries in their own little self-enclosed, superior world, not to mention with Asther playing Chinese. Then it twists and turns and becomes intensely philosophical with a plea for mutual understanding.

2. The Single Standard, 1929
WHY: Okay, it's not the most complex of stories. Young attractive woman has love affair. But Arden's  (Garbo's) decision to go for freedom and equality in love uplifts me every time, especially when you consider that was the 20s. And Garbo is breathtaking, and she sizzles onscreen with Asther.

3. The Cardboard Lover, 1928
WHY: Okay, I've not actually seen this one yet. But it's still my third favourite because it looks so funny and amazing, and Marion Davies is a hoot. Plus I totally have a thing for men who can do comedy, and Asther totally can.

4. Laugh, Clown, Laugh, 1928
WHY: The tragic ending of this moves me every time. Frankly, Asther is acted off the screen by Loretta Young and Lon Chaney, but that's why it's so good. There is that one shocking pre-code moment where Asther goes in for a bit of a fumble with Loretta Young... totally in character, but still. Wowzers. I think he was a bit of a bad boy.

5. By Candlelight, 1934
WHY: This is a polished little gem of a comedy from director James Whale, and it's guaranteed to make me feel better on any dismal soggy afternoon. I do tend to skip the rest and only watch Asther's scenes... just being honest. He's the best thing in it. So suave and adept at farce.

Other films of his I've seen so far (or part seen, with rough appreciation ratings)
Starring Roles
Make-Up **
The Man in Half Moon Street ***
Submarine Alert **
The Marriage of Corbal **
The Right to Romance **
Supporting Roles
Son of Lassie *** 
Behold we Live **
The Cossacks ***
Topsy and Eva *
Himmelskibbet ****
Samson and Delilah **** (he's only on screen for 30 sec)

Do I want to see them all? You bet.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Poll - what would you like to see?

I noticed that I've had nearly 900 page views since I've started 'NilsAsther'.

Breaking that down by country (fascinating, but don't worry I don't know any more about you than that), most readers who end up here are from the US, unsurprisingly. I've also had ones from Japan, Australia, Indonesia, France, Latvia, Sweden, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy and more.

So I added a poll to the right of the page >>>>>

What would you like to see? If there's a particular film I haven't covered, actor/actress that starred with Nils Asther, or aspect of early film making that you'd like me to write about, please go ahead and ask.

I'll try to leave my own comment on this post now to make sure all is skipitydoo with that function and how easy it is to sign in without an account.

La Grande Muraille (General Yen) 1933

 Cine Miroir Magazine, 8 June 1934

Nils Asther and Barbara Stanwyck in The Bitter Tea of General Yen