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Past chats with our guests.

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Postby TopBilled » March 30th, 2014, 2:52 pm

Hello Brian,

Like the others, I am glad you have taken time to discuss Republic Studios with us this weekend. I had a chance to see a lot of Republic's films when they were available on Netflix streaming. Most of these titles are not yet available on disc.

I have a few quick questions: 1) How do you think Republic kept some stars' motion picture careers going-- like Alison Skipworth and Polly Moran in the late '30s, and Joan Leslie who made many films for Republic in the '50s after she left Warners...? 2) Also, how come nobody talks about the other two pictures that Orson Welles made for Republic-- TRENT'S LAST CASE and TROUBLE IN THE GLEN (which I like very much)...? 3) And what about Republic's comedies, many are woefully overlooked, like THE LADY WANTS MINK with Eve Arden and STEPPIN' IN SOCIETY with Edward Everett Horton and Gladys George...?

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Postby Brian McFadden » March 30th, 2014, 3:32 pm

The lovely Evelyn Ankers often appears as a cultured young woman struggling against villains and monsters...
Brian, can you tell us about Evelyn Ankers and her relationship with Republic and her costars?
What were some of her virtues as an actress? Her marriage to Richard Denning and her life in Hawaii seem so idyllic. Any comments about her feature roles like The Texan meets Calamity Jane?

You're right, Christy ... Evelyn Ankers was a cultured young lady in real life too. Unfortunately, Universal wasn't always the easiest place for someone like Evelyn, and I think it contributed to her leaving the studio to freelance at Republic and elsewhere.

I begin my chapter on her first Republic film, The Fatal Witness, by quoting this 1944 item from Hedda Hopper's column:

The stork's flying high at Universal, what with Evelyn Ankers and her stand-in Maxine Rondeau both quitting work to wait for their blessed events.....

I found a separate Hopper item indicating Ankers was getting tired of the roles Universal was handing her, and this was around the time she had just wrapped up yet another movie with Lon Chaney Jr.
Chaney could be abusive when he was drunk, and he was drunk a lot. He sometimes insulted Evelyn, and husband Richard Denning almost got into a fist fight with him. I've always been a big fan of Lon Jr. and I feel sorry for him, because it couldn't have been easy growing up.

But he had a serious problem. I remember running into Kirby Grant quite by accident one day. Grant became famous as TV's "Sky King," but he was once a contract player at Universal and he told me he used to help walk Chaney around in circles to sober him up anytime he managed to slip out to the bar across the street for a liquid lunch. Between Chaney and the Little Tough Guys who would get fresh, the atmosphere wasn't all that pleasant. More importantly, Evelyn really wanted to devote time to her newborn, and ... as Don Porter points out in the book ... there just wasn't any time as a Universal contract player.
She free-lanced for a couple of years, then pretty much retired. In fact Calamity was her last movie for ten years, before doing one last film because it gave her a chance to co-star with her husband.

Their daughter lived in Hawaii and Richard's job on Hawaii Five-O was a wonderful break. They both enjoyed life there. Evelyn's death, of course, devastated Denning, but they had both led a good and happy life. They were quite a couple!


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Postby Brian McFadden » March 30th, 2014, 4:24 pm

My husband works at the CBS lot on Radford which is the old Republic lot. Thanks to his job, I've seen various sound stages on the lot.
I was wondering if there were any stages in particular that the horror films were shot on and if those stages are still standing?

I'm so excited about hearing from you! Your husband has my dream job! I think Republic had one of the best facilities in the business and they were very inventive in how they used it. Your husband works on the original site of the legendary Mack Sennett studio. It was later leased to Mascot Pictures, and ... when Mascot was merged into Republic ... Herbert Yates purchased it for the new operation.

Republic didn't assign any specific stage for horror films. Each film got whatever stage was available at the time. But the studio's use of the back lot was very interesting. I love the way Republic revamped its Mexican street, used in so many westerns, into an African village for The Vampire's Ghost
vampire bakunda street silver screen.jpg
Straw on the roofs, fake palm trees - Africa!
vampire bakunda street silver screen.jpg (67.09 KiB) Viewed 2481 times

No straw, no palm trees - The Wild West
same street in western.jpg
same street in western.jpg (73.27 KiB) Viewed 2481 times

My understanding is that, up until not that many years ago, some portions of the back lot were still standing. I believe that now, however, just about everything is gone, replaced by studio bungalows and parking. I wonder if we could ask your husband to do a little detective work? Could he just scout around and see if there are any standing sets left? I don't think there are, but I'd sure like to know and there are plenty of pictures of the old lot that can be used for comparison.

I can't thank you enough for raising this topic.


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Postby Lzcutter » March 30th, 2014, 5:52 pm


Thank you so much! My friend Mary Mallory who posts here and on our SSO Facebook page, did a program a few months ago at the Studio City library on the history of the lot. She is also a member of Hollywood Heritage and has taken a keen interest in the studio's history and is very knowledgeable about its past and its present day.

I could put you in touch with her if you like. I think she would probably be able to answer your questions easier than my husband. He's not quite the movie buff (yet) that the rest of us are!
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Postby Brian McFadden » March 30th, 2014, 6:07 pm

My apologies, TopBilled! In one of my all time great moves, I had just finished replying to your wonderful comments when I somehow managed to entirely wipe out my comments rather than send them to you!

Alison Skipworth and Polly Moran appeared together in a couple of Republic's. 1938's Ladies in Distress is a good example. It also had the lovely Virginia Grey making her first Republic appearance on loan-out from MGM. Also in the cast, Robert Livingston and Max Terhune from Republic's Three Mesquiteers western series. And Moran and Skipworth were paired in Two Wise Maids, amid efforts to make a kind of later day Moran/Dressler team. Moran also shows up in a couple of Republic's Higgens Family entries.

These films and these stars may have seemed outdated in certain quarters by the late thirties and early forties, but they were still loved by the American Heartland then (And are still loved by SSO members today!) Republic Targeted a very loyal audience and those viewers weren't going to abandon their favorites.
As for Joan Leslie ... I had a crush on her the first time I saw Yankee Doodle Dandy. I can't imagine I was the only young boy who thought seeing her in COLOR westerns from Republic wasn't a double treat!

The only reason I can think of for Trent and Trouble not getting the attention they deserve is that some people feel they aren't really Republic films because they were shot overseas by Herbert Wilcox. But if that's the case, what do they call The Quiet Man?

I couldn't agree with you more about the comedies. There's no reason these films aren't being shown on TV and I think every Edward Everett Horton and Eve Arden fan will tune in the minute these long-neglected Republic films show up.

Thanks again for the great questions and I'm so sorry that my less-than-inspiring technical skilled delayed my response.




Postby TopBilled » March 30th, 2014, 7:09 pm

Thank you for the reply, Brian. I also wanted to ask you about Lew Ayres who made his directing debut at Republic. It seems to me that Republic provided opportunities that the larger studios did not always provide established stars who wanted to stretch themselves creatively.

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Postby Brian McFadden » March 30th, 2014, 8:43 pm

Well here I am owing you another apology, TopBilled .... I'm afraid I took a break for dinner. But, as usual, you've observed something that Republic used to build relationships with top names that otherwise might not have worked at the studio.

Lew Ayers is an excellent example. Although All Quiet on the Western Front was well behind him when he directed Hearts in Bondage at Republic and his huge popularity at MGM was yet to come, he was a man who wanted to expand his horizons and Republic gave him that opportunity. That, in turn, cemented a relationship that would result in Ayers starring for Republic in King of the Newsboys two years later.

John Wayne was another interesting example, although in his case Republic didn't exactly follow through on the promise. Republic led Wayne to believe that he would eventually be able to do his Alamo project at the studio, but Wayne and Yates finally had a parting of the ways when the actor got tired of the carrot and stick approach.

Thanks again for bringing up such an interesting topic!


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Postby Sue Sue Applegate » March 30th, 2014, 10:00 pm

Brian, I would like to thank you for spending your weekend here at The Silver Screen Oasis. We are most grateful and hope that you will continue to visit us and share your comments and expertise. :D
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Postby Brian McFadden » March 30th, 2014, 10:23 pm

I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed being with all of you this weekend. It’s been so great to talk with so many knowledgeable fans and have a chance to get the word out about the book. As you know, Republic Horrors and the upcoming Republic Mysteries book are labors of love that I hope will get the studio’s long neglected B-features back on TV.

A very special thanks to Christy who was my guide and mentor, making it possible for this very special event. I also want to thank everyone who took part. Your thoughtful questions made for a wonderful weekend.

Again, many thanks,

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