Savant Column

Tuesday January 9, 2018


This time I caught something link-worthy, all on my own. The CBS Evening News aired a sentimental sign-off piece a few days ago about a grand lady named Tao Porchon-Lynch, who at 99 years is still dancing ballet and conducting yoga classes. No complaints about the story, as she’s no less worthy than the cute animals and heroic veterans we’re given as human interest on the network news.

About halfway through “100-Year-Old Yoga Instructor, Ballroom Dancer on Life Well Lived” the image cuts to a still from the 1940 Thief of Bagdad, showing that film’s impressive multi-armed clockwork statue. The voiceover identifies it it as a sample of Ms. Porchon’s film work: “… her roles included the Golden Idol (?) in the 1940 remake of Thief of Bagdad.”

Here’s Tao Porchon’s IMDB page, and that of Mary Morris, the actress actually credited as playing the classic mechanical femme fatale. Note that Ms. Morris’ portrait is a dead ringer for the six-armed statue — it’s nice that Korda allowed her to use her own face, not an anonymous mask. Morris played a substantial role in Pimpernel Smith, as well as the later Brit Sci-fi TV serial A For Andromeda (1961), which incidentally introduced audiences to Julie Christie.

I don’t blame Ms. Porchon for the mistake — maybe there was a ‘golden idol’ in the film that I missed, and she wasn’t billed. Maybe she was one of the dancing harem girls. Or could she have been one of the extra sets of arms behind Mary Morris? Porchon was indeed working in London at the time parts of Bagdad were filmed. But hey, CBS needs to be a little more careful with its research . . . don’t forget what happened to Dan Rather.

Colleague and fellow reviewer Charlie Largent forwarded this Hollywood photo from the TV show My Mother the Car, starring the late Jerry Van Dyke. The 1965 camera view looks East across the intersection of Melrose and Larchmont, three blocks from my house. I’ve added a detail inset to point out the ‘Desilu’ logo written on the old RKO globe. The corner lot was originally RKO, then became Arnaz and Ball’s Desilu Productions, and eventually was gobbled up by the next-door Paramount lot. When I arrived in 1970 the ‘Desilu’ logo was already gone, leaving just the blank globe.

They’ve been talking lately about tearing down part of Paramount including this iconic corner building, and replacing it with huge buildings. Every few years they try to cross Melrose and buy up some of Larchmont, my local neighborhood. Resisting developers isn’t as easy around here as it once was; Larchmont’s ace in the hole has always been the ritzy Hancock Park neighborhood just to the South of us, that surely sees us as a needed buffer zone between them and commercial anarchy (not to mention the less desirable neighborhoods to the North). I’d say they ought to re-erect the RKO tower and globe as a historical landmark and leave the rest alone. If they really want to impress the tourists, they should bury the forest of power and telephone poles underground so this stretch of Melrose won’t be so &%#@ ugly.

If you have a desire to visit Hollywood, sooner would definitely be better than later. The telltale redevelopment cranes are everywhere, and high-rise buildings are demolishing all the places I once worked, when film work was like a cottage industry scattered around town.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson