Monty Banks in A BELL FOR ADANO (1945)

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Richard M Roberts
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Monty Banks in A BELL FOR ADANO (1945)

Postby Richard M Roberts » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:03 am

I just recently got a print of A BELL FOR ADANO (1945) which is a nice Henry King-directed movie starring Gene Tierney and John Hodiak that also happen to have the last performance of Monty Banks in it. I hadn't seen the film for years, but it was nice to see Monty in a major supporting role in which he is delightful. The plot is about the American Army occupying a small italian town towards the ends of WW2 and the problems in rebuilding the town and the faith and security of the people who live in it after the Fascists were driven out. Banks plays sort of a shifty fellow of questionable history who befriends the Major (Hodiak) who is in charge of the Occupation of the town. Banks gets a lot of footage to do what are essentially silent bits, and a bit of scene-stealing in a pretty strong race for that (every Italian comic actor from Luis Alberni, to Charles Judels to to Henry Armetta to Fortunio Bononova are in this thing, except amazingly, J. Carroll Naish who must have been busy elsewhere), but Banks holds his own in a crowded field. It's was worth it to watch his face change expression each time Fortunio Bononova whacked him on the head during an altercation featuring multiple whacks, and he does a nice bit trying to chase a nosy crowd away that is following Hodiak around the town. He's through the entire movie, and really is a highlight of it.

It's a pity that Banks only did two supporting roles (the other is in the 1942 BLOOD AND SAND) when he and Gracie Fields were in America during WW2, but apart from directing GREAT GUNS with Laurel and Hardy, this was all his work at 20th Century-Fox when he and Fields were under contract there. He is really good in both of thsoe films, and he could have carved a niche' out for himself in doing this sort of stuff. Whether he is to blame for the quality of GREAT GUNS I frankly question, especially as i see more of his british directorial work like YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU (1933) with Stanley Lupino, or QUEEN OF HEARTS (1936) with Gracie Fields, whom he makes almost tolerable to me in that nicely put together picture that is easily her best, he really seems to have been a pretty good comedy director.


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Re: Monty Banks in A BELL FOR ADANO (1945)

Postby Gary Johnson » Fri Apr 29, 2011 10:55 am

I think Laurel was shell-shocked during the making of GREAT GUNS when he
realized that he would have even less autonomy than when he was at Roach.
He had such hopes going independent, only to have the rug pulled out from him.
You can't blame Banks. Leo McCarey could of helmed that production and not
been able to get a performance out Laurel at that time. He was in a real funk.
It shows on the screen.

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Re: Monty Banks in A BELL FOR ADANO (1945)

Postby Richard M Roberts » Fri Apr 29, 2011 3:35 pm

Gary Johnson wrote:I think Laurel was shell-shocked during the making of GREAT GUNS when he
realized that he would have even less autonomy than when he was at Roach.
He had such hopes going independent, only to have the rug pulled out from him.
You can't blame Banks. Leo McCarey could of helmed that production and not
been able to get a performance out Laurel at that time. He was in a real funk.
It shows on the screen.



I don;t know that Laurel is in any more funk than he was in most of his Fox pictures, but to lay the blame at Banks feet is definitely assuming way too much in terms of what power and control he might have had as a first-time director at Fox. Banks had actually been quite successful handling comedy star vehicles in England with the likes of Stanley Lupino, George Formby, and Gracie Fields, in not only bringing out and presenting the best in the comics, but in also trimming off some of the more annoying aspects of all three. I imagine that if he had been given free rein, he would have just as wisely given free rein to Laurel and Hardy as well, he had been a star comedian himself after all. Most likely he was told to shoot the script as written and did so.

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Re: Monty Banks in A BELL FOR ADANO (1945)

Postby Gary Johnson » Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:24 pm

In the same vein of Mont Banks' career trajectory I got to thinking of Lupino Lane. THE LOVE PARADE recently aired
and he made such a splash in his supporting role that one would think he would certainly of had a continued career in
Hollywood talkies. And yet after appearing in a few more Warner Bros. musicals he fled back across the pond. I said
fled because his last movie for them was in GOLDEN DAWN.

What was his work like in his British productions? Did he bring a silent comedy feel to any of them?

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Re: Monty Banks in A BELL FOR ADANO (1945)

Postby Richard M Roberts » Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:36 pm

Gary Johnson wrote:In the same vein of Mont Banks' career trajectory I got to thinking of Lupino Lane. THE LOVE PARADE recently aired
and he made such a splash in his supporting role that one would think he would certainly of had a continued career in
Hollywood talkies. And yet after appearing in a few more Warner Bros. musicals he fled back across the pond. I said
fled because his last movie for them was in GOLDEN DAWN.

What was his work like in his British productions? Did he bring a silent comedy feel to any of them?


I think Lane returned to England because he preferred to be a star there rather than a supporting player in America. He continued to be a stage and screen headliner there for several more decades.

I think you could definitely say that he brought a silent comedy feel to his later work, apart from also singing and dancing. I have kinescope footage of him performing ME AND MY GIRL at the Victoria Palace in 1952 and he's still doing all of the tumbling and pratfalls, even when he was frankly too crippled up to be doing so. The most spectacular stunt I've ever seen him do is in the 1935 film THE DEPUTY DRUMMER where he headlong somersaults at the top of a flight of stairs, hits a middle step with his foot on the turn, and lands at the bottom of the stairs, and he apparently did this nightly on stage in TWENTY TO ONE for years.


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Re: Monty Banks in A BELL FOR ADANO (1945)

Postby Louie Despres » Fri Apr 29, 2011 6:25 pm

Richard M Roberts wrote:The most spectacular stunt I've ever seen him do is in the 1935 film THE DEPUTY DRUMMER where he headlong somersaults at the top of a flight of stairs, hits a middle step with his foot on the turn, and lands at the bottom of the stairs, and he apparently did this nightly on stage in TWENTY TO ONE for years.


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WOW! I'd LOVE to see that!

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Re: Monty Banks in A BELL FOR ADANO (1945)

Postby Steve Massa » Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:28 pm

I've seen another of Lane's British films, NO LADY ('31), where he reworks in sound a number of gag sequences from his Jack White shorts. They use music and natural sound on the soundtrack but nobody speaks, so they're like little silent pockets in the film. And his brother Wally and valet Little George are on hand as regular foils.

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Re: Monty Banks in A BELL FOR ADANO (1945)

Postby Gary Johnson » Sat Apr 30, 2011 2:01 am

Has anyone (meaning: all of you collectors) caught up with Lanes last starring shorts for Educational?
It looks like the last 4 or so were made as talkies before the series was discontinued.

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Re: Monty Banks in A BELL FOR ADANO (1945)

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sat Apr 30, 2011 5:12 am

Gary Johnson wrote:Has anyone (meaning: all of you collectors) caught up with Lanes last starring shorts for Educational?
It looks like the last 4 or so were made as talkies before the series was discontinued.


I've seen three, and sadly, the print of FIREPROOF we were going to show at SLAPSTICON 2010 went up in flames (just kidding) and wasn't shown. I wasn't impressed, they're rather slow moving. PURELY CIRCUMSTANCIAL is the most common one available, and it's the worst. Wallace Lupino is downright annoying in it.

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Re: Monty Banks in A BELL FOR ADANO (1945)

Postby Steve Massa » Sat Apr 30, 2011 9:41 am

Like Richard I've also seen three - SHIP MATES, BUYING A GUN, and PURELY CIRCUMSTANTIAL. The version of SHIP MATES that I've seen at MoMA is a silent version so it's hard to judge fairly. BUYING A GUN is an extended sketch with his brother Wallace, and is mostly dialogue and word play. As Richard says PURELY CIRCUMSTANTIAL isn't good, althought it does have a few nice physical gags. Like NO LADY these sequences are shot as silent moments. I've heard good things about FIRE PROOF from a few friends who have seen it.


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