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  • Ken Murray came to Hollywood in the late 20's to be one of the many stage stars trying to make a go of it in the talkies. His acting career never took off as he never really made an impression on the big screen and costarred in only a handful of films. However, he did take the career lemons he was handed and make lemonade. He realized his talent lay as a host and emcee and archivist - getting those who did have the public eye to open up. This compilation of home movies televised nearly fifty years ago is an eye into early 60's TV and its audience as well as the stars shown.

    As for the film itself we have footage of Laurel and Hardy in the early sound era, Cary Grant poolside at home as well as on location filming Gunga Din, guests at William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon in its heyday, and footage from the 30's through the 50's of most of the major Hollywood lots. The footage ranges from a kiddie car race between the Marx Brothers on the Paramount lot to Lucille Ball both in the 30's and the 50's to Walt Disney taking Ken's own daughters on a tour of his studio. There is no sound on these home movies, so Mr. Murray narrates the footage himself and does a good job of it. Ken does get some things wrong, though, and I don't know why since he was a witness to all of this history. He shows Cecil B. DeMille on location shooting "Cleopatra" and says it was De Mille's first talkie. As this was 1934 that would have been way past the beginning of talking pictures. DeMille's first all-talking picture was 1929's "Dynamite".

    As for the values of the 50's and early 60's, there was one thing I noticed - Ken would "clean up" some of the narration for what was the squeaky clean landscape of TV 50 years ago, especially when he is at San Simeon. Where there was Hearst, Marion Davies was usually not far away, and such is the case in these home movies. Of course Ken never mentions that Marion was Hearst's mistress. He also talks about Marion Davies' niece, who also appears in the film. That young lady was actually Marion Davies' daughter by Hearst.

    Another thing to note about the TV audiences of 1960 - they actually knew and cared something about these stars who were, in some cases, from 35 years in the past. Although in many cases the movie stars of the 30's and 40's became the TV stars and hosts of the 50's and 60's such as with Groucho Marx, Dick Powell, and Lucille Ball.

    If you're at all interested in film history I'd recommend you give this one a look. I think you'll find it fascinating.
  • Even though it was released in 1950, Ken Murray offers a wonderful perspective on Hollywood. We're all used to the scandalous depictions so easily reported, but finally someone has done what has been truly needed from this wild town. Ken has assembled one-of-a-kind videos of some of Hollywood's elite, portraying fun-loving and even gracious stars in somewhat private settings, intimately revealing their more personal side. Your opinions of the old Hollywood will soften as Ken narrates his experiences with famous stars. Most memorable scenes are with Kirk Douglas and Walt Disney. Most notable and revealing is the presentation of the great mansion, the Hearst Castle. You'll enjoy watching the stuffy upper-crust goof-off in a way we all can relate with. If you can hear me, thank you Ken for sharing all those wonderful memories. Memories I too, now enjoy!
  • blanche-223 November 2005
    These are fun Hollywood home movies assembled by Ken Murray. Some of them are fascinating, such as film of stars at the Hearst castle, some are fun, like Kirk Douglas' appearance on television with Murray, and some for this viewer went on too long, such as the cowboy section. The clip of Murray introducing a young Marilyn Monroe is marvelous, however, and ends the film.

    Murray takes a drive down the old Hollywood Boulevard so we can see it as it was, and it sure has changed. There are clips of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Cary Grant swimming, Charlie Chaplin playing tennis, and an almost unrecognizable Norma Shearer at an outdoor gathering. And Walt Disney takes Murray's daughters on a tour of his magic kingdom.

    This is worth picking up if you see it on ebay.
  • Great fun for old movie fans. Seeing all those familiar names from the 30's and 40's at leisure, sometimes frolicking, sometimes mugging, is revealing. Murray's got an easy way about him that probably helped access. After all, clowning around can undercut screen image-- Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Irene Dunn, et.al. And get a load of the fabled San Simeon, William Randolph Hearst's palatial little get-away. Looks like a castle on a mountain top where his Hollywood friends luxuriated as guests. No wonder they appear happy and relaxed. Some of my favorites also appear—Bogart looking like Bogart, Mae West looking like Mae West, and Cary Grant acting like a torpedo fish. And furnishing a lot of eye candy, even minus studio make-up, are starlets like Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Donna Reed, et. al.

    True, you do have to look quickly as some celebrities flash by. Also, the subjects and sites succeed one another in no particular order. But then this is supposed to be a "home movie", so I guess we have to recognize the value of the spontaneous. All in all, if you're like me, you tend to forget these screen stars are talented people but basically like everyone else. It's happily this kind of home movie that can furnish an entertaining reminder. So sit back and enjoy real folks behind the big names, along with Ken's relaxed commentary.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For old time classic movie buffs, a film like this is a neat diversion. Where else can you catch so many celebrity faces of an era gone by? In this case it's a whole slew of actors, directors and production folks from the Thirties through the Fifties. The 'home movie' concept was the brainchild of Ken Murray, a would be actor who self deprecatingly calls himself 'a method actor with no method' while showing a quick scene he made with Greta Garbo.

    To get an idea of all the celebrities who appear here, one need only take a look at the extensive cast list offered on the IMDb title page for this picture. Sometimes you only get a quick glimpse of a famous star, but there are also longer segments like Dick Powell snagging a two hundred pound marlin and Cary Grant hosting a pool party at his Malibu beach house. Kirk Douglas is featured in a nifty segment from his very first TV appearance on, what else - 'The Ken Murray Show'.

    Personal favorites of mine appearing here included Bob Hope, Groucho and Harpo Marx, Cary Grant and in what has to be a rare film moment, Humphrey Bogart sharing a kiss with third wife Mayo Methot. Strangely enough, there's also a snippet featuring Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Africa, one of the handful of non-Hollywood folks who show up.

    Capping things off, there's a fairly long segment on famed newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst at his Xanadu-like estate, the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. His private zoo stocking all manner of wildlife from all over the planet was a highlight of the film, showcasing the largest private animal collection in the world. Hearst was also America's greatest art collector with a collection valued at over fifty million dollars. You get the idea that the man had a lot of money.

    So this is not the kind of picture one rates for story or cinematic quality; with the myriad of personalities and subjects gracing the fifty minute 'home movie', the value in seeing it lies in catching so many stars in one place at one time. I caught this on the Turner Classic Movie Channel recently, where I also ran across another Ken Murray feature titled "Hollywood My Home Town". If you get the chance, try to sample both.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    IN KREEPING WITH the self-importance and self-congratulatory attitudes that are Hollywood, we have this cinematic smorgasbord of Ken Murray's "home" movies all strung together and interspersed with clips from (then) current productions, musical accompaniment and some rather maudlin narration.

    IT'S NOT THAT we intend to ridicule either Mr. Murray or the general mood of this film, it just that it seems just a tad too l-o-n-g-e-r than it should be. Perhaps breaking this concept down to episodes would avoid any chance of overdose.

    ON THE POSITIVE side of the ledger, Ken Murray manages to give the audience a different, if not truly candid, view of so many of our screen idols. The informal settings do give the films an unusual overall appearance, sometimes almost surreal.

    BOTH UNUSUAL AS well as unexpected was the time devoted to both newspaper publisher and Yellow Journalist, William Randolph Hearst and his self-created modern palace, San Simeon. Long both revered and feared by the denizens of Hollywood, Hearst left this world August 14, 1951. Apparently those folks in the movie colony feared that he still could make 'em or break 'em, even from the Next World.