“Adventures of Sir Galahad”
It’s been reported by actress Phyllis Coates, TV’s first Lois Lane, that on the first day of shooting the feature film “Superman and the Molemen”, the pilot film that paved the way for the highly successful long-running “Superman” TV series, George Reeves, inviting the actress to his trailer for a cocktail, sarcastically suggested the two of them toast to having reached the bottom of the barrel career-wise. With this in mind, one can only imagine what Reeves’ thoughts were when making Columbia’s clunker “The Adventures of Sir Galahad” just a short time earlier in ‘49.
While the classic story of medieval knights, jousting heroes, compromised heroines, swords and sorcerers could, under the right helmsmanship and generous budget, have possibly provided a successful backdrop for a serial, it served as nothing but an impediment to generating an entertaining serial as directed by Spencer Bennet and produced by notoriously skinflint filmmaker Sam Katzman.
The legendary characters of King Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Queen Guinevere, Morgan le Fay and Galahad aside, this 15 chapter serial is really nothing more than a B-Western—and a tired one at that—with a different coat of paint on it in the form of broadswords, armor and chain mail replacing six shooters and 10 gallon hats. Paul Palmentola’s art decoration and the sets of Sidney Clifford delivers us a Camelot that wouldn’t be out of place a few miles from Tombstone or Dodge. There’s even an obvious line shack in several episodes.
As if this connection is not sufficient enough, Reeves (as the lead Sir Galahad) is assisted by the studio’s curious choice of Charles King (sans his trademark mustache), one of B-Western’s most visible supporting players, as the knight’s chunky cohort Sir Bors. King has the unfortunate chore of trying to be funny, a kind of armor plated Gabby Hayes, but the script and direction fail him at every turn.
This serial was produced at the tail end of the days of the cliffhanger and the lack of care in all departments is brutally in evidence from first to closing shot. For the record, I’m a great fan of good swordfights. The beautifully choreographed clashes of steel between Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone in “Mark of Zorro” and Errol Flynn and Rathbone in “Adventures of Robin Hood” are high on my list of action moments in all of filmdom. The fights here, however, are more akin to backyard skirmishes with 10-year-olds using garbage can lids and hastily rigged wooden swords. They are not only boring and poorly staged, they are painfully static, interminable and in nearly every chapter. It was, I suppose, an easy way to fill up time.
Basically, the thread-barren story, written by David Mathew, Lewis Clay and George H. Plympton, revolves around Galahad being refused admission to King Arthur’s Round Table until he locates the famous sword Excalibur which has been stolen. This is no easy task for the young knight as he’s not only harassed and thwarted by a host of adversaries, from Merlin the Magician to Ulric the Saxon King and his minions who have invaded England, to the mysterious Black Knight, but is also suspected by Arthur and some of the noblemen’s loyal knights of being a traitor. There’s also a live tree (looking like a bargain basement cousin of the apple tossing version from “The Wizard of Oz”) that figures in several chapters and which at one point actually takes sword-in-branch in a scene that has to be seen to be believed.
Given this being the time of damsels in distress, dragons and legendary clashes between the forces of good and evil, this could have offered spirited action and entertaining drama but, as suggested earlier, the bargain basement production values and shoddy scene design with plodding and unimaginative direction pretty much seals its doom. In all honesty, it’s a pretty painful process to find something of worth in this serial although George Reeves’ natural charm and earnest performance—which made his Superman so popular with the fans—even when delivering some terrible dialog, still registers as a plus and has to be considered the main attraction. With almost any other actor in the lead it’s hard to imagine sitting through a single chapter. Other cast members include the aforementioned Charles King as Galahad’s plump crony, William Fawcett (later “Pete” on TV’s “Fury”), Don Harvey as Bartog, Nelson Leigh as King Arthur, Hugh Prosser as Sir Lancelot, John Merton as Ulric, Rick Vallin as Goring and Leonard Penn as Modred who disguises himself as the Black Knight (but who is actually portrayed by voice-master extraordinaire Paul Frees). Women are usually given short shrift in serials, but in this one their presence is almost non-existent although Pat Barton pops up occasionally as Morgan Le Fay, Lois Hall does a turn as the Lady of the Lake and Marjorie Stapp appears briefly as Queen Guinevere. Even for the Saturday morning kid’s crowd, this serial is a tough sell.
(The above review does not entirely agree with ye editor's opinion of this strange..but still fun serial.)
Of the over 100 features Bradley Page worked in during his 12 year career in Hollywood, only one serial is included in his credits: “King of the Mounties” (‘42 Republic) with William Witney as director. Page played villain Charles Blake in this Zane Grey based story, surrounded by a cast including Allan Lane, Hal Taliaferro, Duncan Renaldo, Anthony Warde, Douglass Dumbrille, Nestor Paiva, Russell Hicks, and even Francis Ford, who had made a name for himself directing silent serials. “King…” came near the close of Bradley’s Hollywood career, as he left the following year.
Bradley was born September 8, 1901, during a rainstorm in Seattle, WA, son of Sherman Page Brown. His father had been born in 1840, in New York (for generations the family had been influential in the early life of the American Colonies) and was raised in Springfield, IL. “My father became well acquainted with Abraham Lincoln,” Bradley informed, “and when Lincoln became President, my father became a member of the Intelligence Department.” Bradley was named for his father, being christened Sherman Page Brown II. After high school he spent two years at the University of Washington.
His interest in acting, however, pre-dated his decision to leave college to become an actor. “From the time I was a kid, I used to come home and make myself up to play little scenes for my parents. They used to take me to matinees and whatever character impressed me most, why that was the one I tried to be. I started, while still in high school, singing in what we called cabarets until my parents found out about it. I was supposed to be over visiting another kid, but that didn’t work out.”
During a vacation at the university, Page went to work for a Seattle musical stock company as an assistant electrician. Brad wanted to learn the business from the footlights up, so he jumped at the chance of pushing buttons and throwing switches. This went on for a few weeks, during which time he succeeded in twice dousing the lights completely in dramatic moments through error.
After returning to school, the first professional job Bradley had was for a music show in Victoria, British Columbia. “It was an English troupe. I was the only American in the cast. They were playing a sort of repertory stand there, and I did the juveniles that summer. Then we went on the road through Canada playing one night stands.” His first play with the company was “Floradora”. Bradley was taught to incorporate the lines of Shakespeare, admonishing the actor to be a “portrayer of characters, a player of parts.” “This was in 1920,” Bradley noted, “and we came back through the coast and played some stock around Seattle. We would play one night a week and travel in a truck with other trucks to carry the baggage and scenery.”
Back in Washington, Bradley performed at the Brooks Theater with a stock company. A vaudeville act came to Seattle and played the Orpheum Theater. Looking for a replacement as their juvenile man had become ill and was sent back to New York for surgery, the manager approached the director of Brad’s stock company. “I had been playing bits in stock,” noted Page, “so he recommended me. I took off with them and that was my first splurge into what we laughingly refer to as the big time.”
Page enjoyed vaudeville very much. “It’s entirely different. It was a little sketch, because I’m not a vaudevillian—I used to sing, but I never do any dancing outside of just ordinary routines.” The sketch was called “Magic Glasses,” and they played from the west coast to Chicago, closing in Fort Wayne, IN. From vaudeville, Bradley went into stock playing various cities across the country.
When Bradley first became an actor he took on the name Sherold Page after a close family friend, Dr. Sherold Peterkin. “I took that name when I first went into the theater, then in ‘27 I was advised Sherold Page was a little musical comedy in name, so when I went back to New York, I changed it to Bradley Page and I’ve been Bradley Page ever since.”
There were slow times in New York in the beginning with some winter nights having no place to sleep but a subway bench and so many meals missed it seemed he’d never be able to catch up again, plus consistent regrets from theatrical agents.
But, there came a day when all his hard times were paid back. Page landed a role in “Mister Romeo” with J. C. Nugent, and it became a success. From here on, Page’s career was on an upward climb. For the next four years Bradley had one play follow another, alternating between Broadway productions and road shows, appearing as guest stars in stock companies in Albany, NY, and Providence, RI. “In ‘31 I was on the road with ‘House of Fear,’ a mystery play. We closed in Detroit and I decided that was the time to come out to the coast. Very interesting thing,” he continued, “the show I did for A. H. Woods in New York was called ‘Love, Honor and Betrayed’ with Clark Gable. We became very good friends and I said to him, ‘You ought to go out to Hollywood.’ He said, ‘No Brad. I’ve tried that. I’ve been out there and all I could get was extra work.’” He showed Bradley where one of his teeth was black and explained they couldn’t photograph it. But Brad told him, “I think you should give it a whirl.” He didn’t think about it anymore until “House of Fear” closed in Detroit and Brad decided to go to a movie. “I went to see a matinee and got in on the tail-end of ‘Blue Angel’ and this Western came on—and who did I see large as life and twice as natural? Clark Gable playing a heavy.”
The reason for leaving the stage was because “the picture producers took leases on road attraction houses throughout the U.S. and if they couldn’t fill them with pictures all the time they’d just put a lock on the door, close them up and prevent whatever competition they thought would be generated by the plays. So it killed the road and darn near killed New York.”
Deciding to go to Hollywood and give pictures a try, Brad said, “My first picture at MGM was again with Clark, ‘Sporting Blood’. It’s strange how your roads cross.”
On arriving in Hollywood Bradley didn’t have a hard time breaking into movies. “I had Arthur Landau recommended to me,” he mentioned, “and I went over to see him.” Landau was one of the top agents in town, whose clients included Jean Harlow. “Yes, I’d like to handle you,” he told Page and sent him almost immediately to MGM to take a test. Upon arrival at the studio he was handed a script, told he had several hours to study the lines, and given a vacant stage to rehearse on. Bradley thought he was going to read for a juvenile lead but the script was something different. “They liked me,” he noted, but the script he read from was not for the juvenile lead—it was for a heavy. Seven years later the DETROIT NEWS wrote of him: “Seven years ago someone made the mistake, so for seven years Bradley Page has been beating up children, blowing up trains, setting fires to orphanages, betraying pioneers to the Indians, bombing defenseless cities, robbing banks and shooting at movie G-Men.” This article summed up the type of parts Bradley was cast in, but he would say, “One fine day I shall get out from the onus of these parts and be a chummy sort of human again.”
Bradley freelanced all the years he spent in Hollywood with the exception of two years when he was under contract to RKO. He obtained that contract because of the role of the likeable outlaw Sonoma in “Outcasts of Poker Flat” (‘37). That was followed by many features at RKO including several of his favorites in the Annabel series he did with Lucille Ball and Jack Oakie.
While in Hollywood, Bradley had the distinction of being one of the original 17 actors who started Screen Actors Guild. During breaks in his filming schedule he would take off to the High Sierras, until they became too crowded. He then sought solitude in the mountains and forests of northern California and southern Oregon, buying a ranch on the lower Rogue River in ‘40. “I had commitments until ‘43,” Bradley said, “so I just shuttled back and forth between the ranch and Hollywood until that time. But I remember the date very well—May 12, 1943. I left Hollywood and didn’t come back. I had wound everything up that was to be wound up and went to the ranch.” He did some ranching until ‘47, then came to Brookings, OR, and went into real estate, later serving as manager of the Crescent City, CA, Chamber of Commerce for almost 10 years. Bradley passed away December 18, 1985.
Feisty Frances Robinson was born April 26, 1916, in Ft. Wadsworth, NY, as Marion Frances Ladd.
She entered films as a child in 1921 in the film “Orphans of the Storm”. She went on to appear in over 100 movies and TV episodes through 1970 including “Tim Tyler’s Luck” (‘37 Universal), “Red Barry” (‘38 Universal).
In the early ‘50s she was the television spokeswoman for Arrid Deodorant.
She died at 55 on August 16, 1971, in L.A.