Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sheila Ryan goes A-Haunting

Last night was the spring banquet for the local Sons of the Desert group, and I was there.  It's good to see old friends again.  Hopefully you remember that the SoD is the Laurel and Hardy appreciation club. and we have "tents" all over the world.  The Philadelphia, PA chapter is the Two Tars Tent, each city having a tent named after one of the films.

This time we had a magic theme to the evening.  We started out with a documentary on the later films, made at 20th Century Fox and MGM.  Then we toasted the boys and some friends and sang the SoD theme song.  Next came a wonderful buffet dinner, with a showing of a Three Stooges film that had nothing to do with magic.

A live magician was next, and he gave us a great show, astounding us with card tricks.  To end the meeting, we screened A-Haunting We Will Go (1942).  While not one of the boy's best film's, it was quite enjoyable.  The camera tricks were a bit over the top and took away from Laurel and Hardy to an extent, but the film still works.

Laurel and Hardy were still a big draw at the box office, some 21 years after they first appeared in The Lucky Dog (1921), although not as a team back then.  The film also featured Dante the Magician, as I mentioned a few days ago.  He was quite good and obviously felt at home on the stage or screen.

In smaller parts Elisha Cook Jr. (1903 - 1995) played a crook, as usual.  His career spanned 1930 to 1988, and this was only six films after The Maltese Falcon, which was released a year earlier.

Looking pretty as always was Sheila Ryan (1921 - 1975).  Ryan was married from 1951 to 1975 to Pat Buttram (1915 - 1994) who played his most famous part (to modern audiences) as Mr. Haney on "Green Acres."  To most of us older folk, he was Gene Autry's sidekick.

Sheila has 62 acting credits on IMDb, starting in 1939.  She was in The Gay Caballero (1940) with Cesar Romero, Dressed to Kill (1941) with Lloyd Nolan, and Sun Valley Serenade (1941) with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.  Her first work with Laurel and Hardy came in Great Guns (1941) and then A-Haunting We Will Go.

She made four movies with Gene Autry, I wonder if that's where she met Pat, and also appeared multiple times on his TV show.  Looking at the titles in her later movie career, she was mostly in B-movies.  Her last film was Street of Darkness (1958), starring Robert Keys (1921 - 2004).  (Who?)

As Dante's assistant in A-Haunting, she was perfect, and could not be any prettier.  You can be part of the Sons of the Desert.  Just send me a private e-mail and I'll get you in touch with your local Grand Sheik.  It is a load of fun and very educational about these older films, and the Bit Actors as well as the stars.

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