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The 4th Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon: High Society(1956)

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Virginie from The Wonderful World Of Cinema, and Emily from The Flapper Dame, are co-hosting this 4th annual blogathon celebrating Grace Kelly. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.  

1956 was a key year in Grace Kelly’s life. She had become engaged to Prince Rainier of Monaco after the pair had met and fallen in love the previous year. Grace was about to embark on a new chapter in her life. Unfortunately her new path in life meant that she had to bid farewell to her film career.

In 1956, Grace Kelly appeared in what would become her final film. For her final screen performance she played a society heiress called Tracy Samantha Lord. The film was called High Society.

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Grace as Tracy. Screenshot by me.

The 1956 film was a musical remake of the 1940 classic, The Philadelphia Story, which was an adaptation of Philip Barry’s 1939 stage play of the same name. The original film had succeeded in resurrecting Katharine Hepburn’s film career.

Katharine Hepburn’s performance, coupled with the overall success of the film, succeeded in destroying the cruel label of “box office poison” which had been attached to her name for some time. The film had also seen James Stewart’s hilarious performance rewarded with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. 

It was never going to be an easy task to remake a film that was so highly regarded. Charles Walters, the man behind such classics as Easter Parade, Three Guys Named Mike, and The Tender Trap, took on the task of directing the remake. The legendary Cole Porter penned the songs used in the film.

Joining the cast as Tracy’s three love interests were Bing Crosby as Dexter, the ex husband of Tracy; Frank Sinatra as the mischievous reporter, Mike Connor; and John Lund as Tracy’s new fiance, George Kittredge. 

                  Bing, Frank and John as the three men in Tracy’s life. Screenshots by me.

I think that High Society manages to stand alone from the original film due to the different ways in which the actors perform their roles, and also due to the film being a musical. I like to call this film a reinterpretation of the original story rather than a remake.

        A few scenes from High Society. Screenshots by me.

Whenever I watch High Society, it feels as though I’ve joined friends at a fabulous party, one which is overflowing with fun and wit. The film is uplifting, touching, glamorous and funny. The songs and musical sequences are all fabulous and they are sure to have you singing right along with them.

I also love that we get Louis Armstrong acting as our guide to this society world. Louis also performs several songs in the film, and he and Bing Crosby perform a duet together. I also love how Louis breaks the fourth wall at various points in the film and speaks directly to us. 

As much as I like this film, I do concede that it lacks the character development of the original and some of it does feel a bit rushed.  I also wanted a little more joy and excitement during the ending. If you have seen the original film, then you won’t really be able to help but compare the two films as you watch this one.

Some viewers don’t like the pairing of Bing and Grace here due to their age difference, personally I have never had a problem with age gaps in relationships, so I don’t care about that issue at all. 

I do think that there should have been some more scenes between Bing and Grace, either as flashbacks to show the Haven’s marriage, or some more scenes when he comes back into her life as she prepares to marry. I wanted many more scenes between them and a bit more focus on their relationship. 

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Bing and Grace in the True Love sequence. Screenshot by me.

In the scenes they do share together, I have to say that Bing gazes at Grace with such tenderness and warmth, and she looks back at him with equal warmth and affection.

Bing’s performance at first doesn’t come across as really being that good, but if you watch his eyes and expressions you will see that the performance is subtle, but it is most definitely there to be seen. 

Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm are clearly having a lot of fun together as the reporters. I love their duet performance of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

Celeste is hilarious as Liz, and she steals all the scenes that she is in. Frank is very good in the role of Mike, and you miss him when he isn’t in a scene. But sadly Frank is no Jimmy Stewart. I’m afraid that Frank’s performance lacks that special spark that Jimmy’s has in the original. I do like Frank’s performance, but I think that he and Celeste could both have done with more character development to work with.

Louis Calhern provides the comic relief of the film as Tracy’s Uncle Willie. There is strong support from Sidney Blackmer as Tracy’s stern father. Margalo Gillmore is also very good as Tracy’s mother. Lydia Reed is adorable as Caroline(I much prefer her performance over Virginia Weilder’s in the original) and I love the Little One scene between her and Bing.

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Tracy gets quite a surprise. Screenshot by me.

Grace Kelly is the heart and soul of the film. She sparkles like a bright jewel whenever she is on screen in this film. I think that she delivers a very touching performance as a woman desperate to be loved for herself alone. There are several scenes where she expertly conveys how hurt or vulnerable Tracy is. Grace captures this woman’s pain and frustration so well. 

I often wonder if Grace saw some of her own life mirrored in this character and her story. Grace was often(and still is today)seen as merely a beautiful screen goddess, rather than the complex and warm woman she actually was off screen. I for one can certainly see parallels between her own life and Tracy’s. 

                                 Grace is vulnerable and sad as Tracy. Screenshots by me.

If you think that Grace always played cool and remote women, then you should check her out in this film, where you will get to see her play a funny, sweet and easily hurt woman. I always think it is such a shame that she never acted again after this film.

As the film begins, we find the wealthy citizens of Newport about to be shaken free from their stuffy traditions by a dose of true love, and by the arrival of the great Louis Armstrong and his band. Louis and his band are in town to perform at a jazz festival organised by his old friend Dexter Haven(Bing Crosby).

                  A few scenes featuring the legendary Louis Armstrong. Screenshots by me.

In Newport, preparations are not only underway for the jazz festival, but also for the society wedding of the year. Heiress Tracy Samantha Lord(Grace Kelly)is about to get married to the decent, but dreadfully dull, George Kittredge(John Lund).

Much to Tracy’s annoyance her wedding is being covered by pushy magazine reporter, Mike Conner(Frank Sinatra), and his photographer pal, Liz Imbrie(Celeste Holm). This intrusion leads Tracy and her little sister Caroline (Lydia Reed) to prank these visitors and have a little fun at their expense. 

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A happy moment for Tracy and Dexter. Screenshot by me.

Tracy’s ex-husband and neighbour, Dexter Haven stops by to wish her every happiness for the future. 

Tracy and Dexter may well have had problems in their marriage, but the pair still love one another and Dexter in particular can’t bring himself to sever all connections with his girl.

The rest of the film focuses on whether these two will get back together or not. Tracy and Mike also have a few moments where it seems that they may well be falling for one another too. 

At the heart of the film(even more than the romance)is Tracy’s desperation to be loved for who she is inside, not for her external beauty alone. George puts his fiance up on a pedestal and considers her a goddess, rather than seeing her for the flesh and blood woman that she really is. Mike admires her spirit and personality. Her own father even refers to her as being made of bronze. Only Dexter completely sees her and accepts her for who she is in every way. Can Tracy find the happiness she so desperately craves? Watch the film and find out.

This film may well not be as good as the original is, but it is certainly a lot of fun. The performances, costumes and songs are all fabulous. The duet between Bing and Louis, and the duet between Bing and Frank, are two highlights of the film. Cole Porter’s witty and catchy lyrics will stay in your mind long after the film has finished. Grace Kelly’s lovely performance will linger in the memory too. I think this was the perfect film for her career to end with. 

What are your thoughts on the film and Grace’s performance in it?

 

 

 

 

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The World War One On Film Blogathon Begins

When the clock strikes 11am on this Sunday morning, it will be 100 years since World War One finally came to an end. To mark this important centenary, I decided that I would host a blogathon about films which focus on this war.

I want to thank you all so much for joining me for this special blogathon. In addition to reading through all the posts in this blogathon, I would like us all to take a moment to remember all of the people and animals(their deaths and injuries all too often get overlooked) who lost their lives in this brutal and senseless war.

This war is an event that we should never forget. Sadly war is still present in our lives today, and it would seem that our species has learnt nothing from the horrors and pain of all those past wars. I hope that one day war can be a thing of the past, something that is found only in the pages of history books.

Check back to this post over the next two days to read all of the entries. I’ll update this post as often as I can over the weekend. Thanks again for joining me for this.

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Day 2 Entries

Pop Culture Reverie tells us about Wonder Woman and her time in the trenches.

 

Silver Screen Classics writes about Peter Weir’s classic war film Gallipoli.

 

The Wonderful World Of Cinema discusses See You Up There.

 

18 Cinema Lane shares her impressions of watching Lawrence Of Arabia 

 

Movie Rob discusses The Fighting 69th.

 

Critica Retro discusses the powerful film J’Accuse.

 

Movie Rob takes a look at the war fought in the air, in his review of The Blue Max.

 

Thoughts All Sorts writes about a biopic of the Red Baron.

 

Caftan Woman discusses the deeply moving Broken Lullaby

 

Dubism looks at the sports analogies hidden in the film Sergeant York.

 

Sat In Your Lap writes about the 1933 WW1 film Heroes For Sale.

 

 

Day 1 Entries

Silver Screenings tells us all about Charlie Chaplin’s WW1 set film Shoulder Arms.

 

Cinematic Scribblings discusses The Spy In Black, which was the first film jointly made by Powell and Pressburger.

 

Realweegiemidgetreviews writes about the deeply moving film My Boy Jack.

 

Down These Mean Streets discusses the romantic weepie Waterloo Bridge.

 

Movie Movie Blog Blog takes to the skies to tell us all about Wings

 

Silentology tells us all about Harry Langdon’s time in the trenches, in the film Soldier Man. 

 

Wads Words discusses The Big Parade.

 

Dubism tells us about the hidden sports analogies in Paths Of Glory.

 

The Stop Button tells us all about The Life And Death of Colonel Blimp.

 

I share my five favourite films about WW1.

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The WW1 On Film Blogathon: Maddy’s Five Favourite WW1 Films

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World War One has been depicted on screen so many times over the years, both on the big and on the small screen.

There have been many films on this subject that have horrified and moved us.

These films have been able to give us a little more understanding of the horror, the pain and the terror endured by the soldiers fighting on all sides in that senseless mass slaughter. 

The following five films focus on different aspects of the war; some focus on the fighting, while others take a look at what happens when soldiers return home. They have become my favourite films about this conflict. I’m not saying that these are the five best films about WW1, but they are all very good, and I recommend each and every one of them.

 

King And Country(1964)

This is one of the grimmest films about this war ever made. The trench sequences are so realistic and they are very difficult to forget. This film really gives you a good sense of the hellish conditions that the soldiers faced and endured throughout the war.

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The young soldier on trial. Screenshot by me.

The film focuses on a shell shocked soldier(Tom Courtney) who is on trial for cowardice after he leaves the battlefield. The soldier’s fate lies in the hands of the lawyer (Dirk Bogarde) defending him. 

 

Regeneration (1997)

Based on Pat Barker’s 1991 novel of the same name, this seriously underrated film focuses on a group of soldiers being treated for shell shock and psychological trauma at a private hospital in Britain. It is a grim and deeply moving look at the damage done to so many who fought.

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The doctor comforts one of his patients. Screenshot by me.

I don’t think those who survived this horror were the lucky ones, because they had to live on with the horror they had witnessed, and so many were psychologically damaged beyond repair. Jonathan Pryce is excellent as the doctor trying desperately to heal the damaged men, while he himself is struggling to deal with the horrendous stories and disclosures that he is hearing from his patients. Strong performances from the entire cast.

 

All Quiet On The Western Front(1930)

This is not only a must see for its realistic recreations of the fights and the battlefields of WW1, but also for its depiction of the brutal realities of war. The film begins with idealistic young German men being encouraged to fight for their country. They go off expecting to be embarking upon a great adventure that they will enjoy.

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The famous hand scene. Screenshot by me.

When the boys arrive at the front, they quickly discover that there is nothing exciting about war at all. War is ugly, war is terrifying, and war is the greatest horror imaginable. This is one of the best WW1 films ever made. I highly recommend it to anyone who has never seen it before. 

The film is based on the 1928 novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. The book, it’s sequel, and the film itself, were all banned by the Nazi’s when Hitler and his party came to power. Many of Remarque’s other books were banned and burnt. He fled Germany with his wife, but his younger sister was tried in German court for undermining morale after she stated that she believed the war was lost. His sister was found guilty and was beheaded in 1943. Remarque never knew of her fate until after the war, and his 1952 novel Spark Of Life is dedicated to his sister. 

 

A Month In The Country(1987)

This quiet film focuses on the emotional scars left on veterans of the war. Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh both deliver moving performances as two men scarred equally by their time in the trenches. Both men meet at a church in the countryside after the war has finished.

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Two former soldiers looking for peace. Screenshot by me.

Colin’s character is restoring a medieval mural on the church wall, while Kenneth’s character is an archaeologist searching for an old grave believed to be somewhere on the grounds. Both men put up a brave facade in public, but each of them hides terrible pain. This shows you how brave the soldiers were who tried to carry on with normal life, even though they were in hell on the inside.

 

Wings(1928)

Famed for its spectacular aerial battle sequences, Wings shows us the youthful innocence of young recruits being shattered by the grim realities of war. This film focuses on two friends who join the American airforce and go off to fight.

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A tense air battle. Screenshot by me.

One of the most striking images of the film(which I used in my blogathon banner)is of a plane landing on a field next to a hill, as far as the eye can see this land is covered in the graves of dead soldiers. This shows you the cost of war and is interesting because it focuses on the war in the air, rather than on the war being fought in the trenches. This film would also go on to become the first film to ever win the Best Picture Oscar. 

What do you think of these films? What are your favourite films about this war?

 

 

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Maddy Answers Your Classic Film Questions Part 2

Here are my answers to the rest of your classic film questions. Thank you so much to everyone who sent me questions. I hope that you will all enjoy reading my answers. I’ve really enjoyed writing my answers. It’s been a lot of fun.

4StarFilmFan asks me to share some classic era directors who I feel are underrated.

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Anton Walbrook in The Queen Of Spades. Screenshot by me.

I have two directors from my own country of Britain who I want to spotlight. The first one is Thorold Dickinson. It is unreal how seriously underrated this guy is.

He made very few films during his career. He has become someone who is not very well known by film fans  today.

He did make two films which were destined to become his masterpieces though. The first of his two masterpieces is the fantasy-horror film Queen Of Spades(1949), this is a film which came so very close to being lost forever, and it features one of Anton Walbrook’s most powerful film performances.

The second film is the original British version of Gaslight(1940). I like the remake, but this earlier version has more menace and a much more unsettling atmosphere. Anton Walbrook oozes malevolence as the husband who subtly sends his wife mad. The photography, mood, period detail, and the magnificent performances found in both of these two films are outstanding. Dickinson is a director whose name deserves to be on the lips of classic film fans of today. 

The second underrated director is Robert Hamer. Classic film fans will probably all have seen(or at least heard of)his most well known film, the black comedy Kind Hearts And Coronets, which is notable for having Alec Guinness play multiple characters. Hamer did so much more than just direct this film though.

Hamer often moved between film genres. During his career he dabbled in comedy, horror, drama and Noir. I like him because every film/genre he was involved with felt as though that was all he had ever been working on. I never find myself wondering why he picked a certain project, this is because the overall quality of his films was always so good, and I always get the sense that he was comfortable and confident with whatever he was working on at the time. 

                     Dead Of Night, It Always Rains On Sunday and Pink String And Sealing Wax.Screenshots by me. 

He directed three real gems. The first one is Dead Of Night(1945), which is one of the best horror anthology films of all time. The second one is Pink String And Sealing Wax(1946) , which is a very underrated period piece featuring one of Googie Withers greatest performances. The third is the gripping British Noir It Always Rains On Sunday( 1947).  

 

Palewriter asks what my favourite classic film biographies and autobiographies are. 

Furious Love: The Love Affair Of Elizabeth And Richard by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger.

Ever, Dirk: The Bogarde Letters edited by John Coldstream.

Ava Gardner by Lee Server.

Spencer Tracy by James Curtis.

I’m not much of a fan of autobiographies, but I do like Loitering With Intent by Peter O’Toole and What’s It All About? by Michael Caine. I also love Bring On The Empty Horses by David Niven.

 

Canterbury Tale asks my opinion of British cinema in the 1930’s.

I don’t consider it to be our strongest decade for film. I think that we didn’t really get going as a film industry until the 1940’s. However, having said that, there are a few gems to be found in the 1930’s.

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The Spy In Black. Screenshot by me.

A few British films from this decade that I recommend watching are The Spy In Black(1939), The Lady Vanishes(1938), Borderline(1930), Death At Broadcasting House(1934), Pygmalion(1938), The 39 Steps(1935) and Fire Over England(1937).

 

Thoughts All Sorts asks what classic era Westerns I like. 

I love so many Westerns, but I love the psychological westerns directed by Anthony Mann the most. These films show the emotional/psychological toll that life out West took on the people who lived there.

These films are also among some of the darkest and most brutal Westerns ever filmed. Films such as Man Of The West, The Naked Spur and The Man From Laramie. I also love many of the Randolph Scott films including Ride Lonesome, Commanche Station and Seven Men From Now.

True Grit, The Searchers, The Man With No Name Trilogy, Once Upon A Time In The West, Yellow Sky, The Train Robbers and El Dorado are all favourites. 

 

DB Movies Blog asks me what my favourite foreign language film is. 

It’s way too hard to just narrow it down to one. So here are my top five favourites from the classic era. Ikiru, CharulataLa Belle Et Le Bete, Rashomon and La Strada.

Charulata, Ikiru, La Strada, Rashomon and La Belle Et Le Bete. Screenshots by me.

My favourites from the modern era are House Of Flying DaggersPriceless, My Best Friend and The Devil’s Backbone

 

Alex Raphael asks me to name my favourite performance by Robert Mitchum.

That would have to be a tie between Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison and Cape Fear.

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Robert in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. Screenshot by me.

In Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Robert is sincere, awkward, decent, tender and honest. He plays a man who we like and sympathise with. His performance here is the complete opposite of the cynical, cool and tough characters who he became so well known for playing. 

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Robert in Cape Fear. Screenshot by me.

In Cape Fear he is completely terrifying. I think he is even scarier than Robert DeNiro in the remake, because he often seems so normal and his performance isn’t over the top like DeNiro’s is. Robert Mitchum’s version of Max Cady knows just how far he can harass and push Gregory Peck’s character before the law can get involved. Robert captures all the things that make people like Cady(there are plenty of people like him out there)so frightening and unsettling. 

 

Silver Screen Classics asks which classic actor I would interview if given the chance. He asks me to list five questions that I would ask them.

Buster Keaton.  He is someone who fascinates me. I would love to have met him and spoken to him about film and his approach to it. I would have asked him the following questions.

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Buster Keaton in The Goat. Screenshot by me.

1.Do you prefer arranging, setting up, and performing your stunts? Or do you prefer setting up and performing your comedy sequences? Which do you prefer and why?

2. What do you think about the fact that film will allow you and your work to be watched, enjoyed and discussed decades,possibly centuries, after you have made your films?

3. Which of your feature films and shorts are you most proud of and why?

4. What do you feel when you watch yourself up there on that big screen?

5. What is the riskiest stunt that you yourself have ever been involved in? What is the riskiest stunt that you have helped to set up? 

 

Vinnieh asks which classic actresses I really like.

I have so many favourites. There are two who I not only like, but who I admire a great deal too. Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn.Both Ava and Audrey were not afraid to be themselves. 

                                                     Ava and Audrey. Screenshots by me. 

What you saw was what you got with both of these ladies. Ava told it like it was, she was down to earth, generous, fun, open and a real free spirit. Audrey was kind, gracious, down to earth and so classy. Both women lived life on their own terms. Neither one behaved or dressed how others thought they should.

I also think that neither of them was changed much by being famous, they would both still happily associate with ordinary people, crewmembers etc. They didn’t become divas who thought they were better than others because they were famous.  They both stayed true to themselves, and I for one love them both for it.

 

Vinnieh asks whether or not I think classic films were classier in their depiction of certain things than modern films are. 

That’s an interesting question. I think many were, but there are so many Silent, Pre-Code and Noir films that contain content which still has the ability to shock or raise eyebrows when viewed today.  I think that classic era directors were much better at insinuating violence or sexual content than modern directors are. Many Noir films from the 1940’s have suggestive dialogue and sexy scenes which are somehow more shocking than a fully nude sex scene would be.

There are also many violent scenes to be found in classic era films, these scenes are capable of shocking you and making you squirm, but these scenes don’t become nearly as graphic and drawn out as similar scenes would be in modern films. I think that’s a good thing because there comes a point where such scenes become sadistic, and they reach a point where it seems like the director is just wallowing in the disgusting and horrible imagery they are filming. 

I think that graphic depictions of violence and injury have their place in modern war films because that content helps the story be more realistic in my opinion. Most scenes of graphic violence and sex really don’t add anything to the majority of films and series of the modern era. Sometimes I think that it is best to leave these things to the imagination of the audience, or to depict these scenes on screen in a less graphic way.

 

Movie Rob asks my opinion on The Oscars and Best Picture winners. 

I’m not a fan of the Oscars at all. I have never seen the point of the ceremony to be honest. Taste in film is subjective, as all art is, the trouble is that when the Academy or the critics call something excellent or terrible, those labels seem to stick to the films or performances in question forever and I think that is so wrong. Audiences will like and hate what they want to, all the rest is just nonsense.

There are so many films made each year around the world, how can you even begin to narrow those down to a handful and then proclaim one to be the best? It’s ridiculous.

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It’s hard to argue with Lawrence taking home the Best Picture award. Screenshot by me.

Occasionally the Academy Awards will praise a particular film or performance and I will agree with them, but mostly I don’t agree with the awards given out. Some Best Picture Award Winners that I don’t have a problem with winning are Gone With The Wind, All Quiet On The Western Front, Lawrence Of Arabia, All About Eve, Gandhi and The Godfather(part 1 and 2). 

 

Mike’s Take On The Movies asks me what my favourite classic Western film is. 

The Searchers(1956). It is a film that never fails to leave an impact and make me eager to see it again. It has so many layers, you can interpret characters and events within it in so many different ways.It is one of the most complex and dark westerns ever made.

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The famous doorway scene in The Searchers. Screenshot by me.

It still intrigues me, even though I have watched it so many times. An endless cycle of love, hate, revenge, violence and hope. It looks stunning and beautiful visually, and it features unforgettable performances from the whole cast.  You can read my full review here. 

 

Alex Raphael asks me if there is any classic film that I wish had gotten a sequel. 

The Wizard Of Oz. It didn’t really require it, but there are so many other adventures and stories that could have been experienced by Dorothy in the land of Oz.

This could easily have become a film series(or at least a second film)with Dorothy returning to that land(be it by dream or by another way)to have further adventures with The Tin Man, The Scarecrow, and The Lion. 

 

Thanks again for your questions. 🙂 

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The Claude Rains Blogathon: A Tribute To Claude

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Tiffany and Rebekah from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, are hosting this blogathon to celebrate the life and career of the actor Claude Rains. Be sure to visit their site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

When I saw that Tiffany and Rebekah were celebrating Claude, I just knew that I had to take part. Claude is my favourite actor. He was a master of his craft and he is always a real treat to watch and listen.

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Claude in Deception. Screenshot by me.

Claude was a chameleon actor who could switch effortlessly between playing villains who you love to hate, to playing loveable and decent men who you adore and pity.

Claude had the ability to be able to steal a scene in a film, often by doing nothing more than merely sitting in a corner of a room watching others, while saying and doing nothing himself.

His performance is all in the eyes and in the little expressions. I also love how a single arch of his eyebrow conveys amusement, disdain and annoyance. Aspiring actors could learn a thing or two about acting by studying his performances in my opinion. 

His performances are subtle, and yet he often ends up delivering the most powerful and memorable performance in whatever film he is appearing in. I have never seen Claude deliver a screen performance which was disappointing or bad.

As well as liking him because he was a excellent actor, I must also admit to having a huge crush on Claude Rains. He is so sexy, so funny, so full of charm and wit. The song I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred could well have been written for our Claude. 😉 Whenever a character of his is treated badly by a leading lady, I always get so angry on his behalf, whilst also shaking my head and saying “wake up now, girl. Are you seriously treating Claude bad?!” 

Claude is also someone who I admire a great deal. Claude came from nothing and went on to really make something of himself. He also suffered in World War One, but he didn’t let his injury stop him from pursuing his career. 

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Claude in his army uniform. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

Claude Rains was born in Camberwell, London on November 10th, 1889. His story is truly an inspirational one. He grew up in the poverty riddled slums of London. His father was a stage actor, and Claude wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Claude overcame a speech impediment which had always caused him to stutter. He also took elocution lessons to try and shed his thick Cockney accent. These lessons resulted in that very unique voice that we all know and love.

The famous Claude Rains voice is both silken and seductive, while also being strong and commanding too. That distinctive voice of his became one of his greatest assets as an actor. 

Claude served in the London Scottish Regiment during World War One. A few other classic actors who served in this regiment include Herbert Marshall(who lost a leg during the war), Ronald Colman, and the great Basil Rathbone.

During the First World War, Claude Rains rose from the rank of Private to become a Captain. He was injured in a gas attack, which caused almost complete sight loss in his right eye, the attack also paralyzed his vocal cords for a time. After the war had ended, Claude returned home to London and embarked upon his acting career. He primarily worked on the stage and he also worked as an acting teacher at RADA, one of his acting students was a young Sir John Gielgud. 

Claude appeared in a British Silent film called Build Thy House(1920), but his big break in films really came when he was cast in James Whale’s horror classic, The Invisible Man in 1933. His performance in this film brought him the fame that he so deserved. 

  Claude as The Invisible Man. Screenshots by me.

We never see his face until the final minutes of The Invisible Man, but he carries the entire film through his remarkable vocal performance and body language alone. His vocal performance here is outstanding, he perfectly conveys the intellect, the rage, and also the increasing insanity of his character to us.

He signed a contract with Warner Brothers Studios, and he went on to become one of the greatest actors of his day. Over the next thirty years, Claude Rains would go on to appear in some of the greatest films ever made. Some of the classics he appeared in include The Adventures Of Robin Hood(1938), Mr. Smith Goes To Washington(1939), Casablanca(1942), Now, Voyager(1942), Deception(1946), Notorious(1946), Lawrence Of Arabia(1962) and my personal favourite film of his, The Passionate Friends(1949). He was held in high esteem by colleagues. His frequent leading lady Bette Davis adored him. Bette considered him to be her favourite co-star.

I thought that the best way to celebrate Claude was to share some of my favourite films and performances of his. First up are a couple of my favourite performances.

The Passionate Friends(1949)

This film features my favourite performance from Claude. He is outstanding as the decent husband who discovers his much younger wife (Ann Todd) is having an affair. He conveys so well the distress and pain his character feels when he discovers the affair. He has our sympathies throughout.

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Claude with Ann Todd in The Passionate Friends. Screenshot by me.

I especially love the scene where he finally cracks and verbally unleashes his pent up grief and rage at what has happened. I also love the hilarious scene where he subtly lets on to his wife that he knows she is having an affair.

 

Casablanca(1943)

Claude steals every single scene he appears in here. For me he is the heart and highlight of the film. He is hilarious as the scheming Captain Renault.

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Claude in Casablanca. Screenshot by me.

His character may well do some unpleasant things, but we can’t help but love the guy. Claude’s reactions and expressions in this are hilarious. I love his shared scenes with Bogie and how Renault can always figure him out.

I recommend watching the following Claude Rains films. Deception, The Passionate Friends, Mr. Skeffington, Angel On My Shoulder(hilarious as the Devil), Casablanca, The Clairvoyant, Mr.Smith Goes To Washington, The Invisible Man, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Now,Voyager. Those films are just a few of his finest performances, but I would recommend that you check out all of his screen work, he never gave a bad or dull performance. 

Claude Rains was truly one of the all time greats. Are you a fan of Claude Rains? Share your thoughts below. 

 

 

 

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Maddy Answers Your Classic Film Questions Part 1

Recently I asked you all to send me any classic film related questions that you wanted me to answer. I have been overwhelmed by questions. I really didn’t expect to receive so many! I have had so much fun answering these. Because I have received quite a few questions, I am going to respond to the questions across two posts. I hope you all enjoy reading the questions and my answers to them.

I want to begin by telling you a little bit about how I became a classic film fan in the first place. Films were one of my earliest passions. Films were right up there with reading for me, I have never been happier than when I am reading or watching films. When I was much younger I went through a phase where I obsessed with musicals and dancing. If a film had singing or dancing in it, then you could guarantee that I would be watching it.

As my love for musicals grew, I soon found myself watching more and more classic era musicals.I loved the acting, the costumes, the songs and the dance sequences found in these old films. I was swept away into a time that I had not been a part of until now. Top Hat, Singin’ In The Rain and White Christmas were three musicals that I just couldn’t get enough of. My love for these films then led me to check out classic era films from other genres.

                 Left to right: Singin’ In The Rain, Top Hat and White Christmas. Screenshots by me.

I really loved the modern films I was watching at the time too(A Little Princess and The Secret Garden were two great favourites), but I kept finding myself being drawn back much more to the classic era films that I was watching.

                  A few of the films responsible for me falling in love with classic era cinema. Top left to right: Late Spring, A Night To Remember and The Ten Commandments. Bottom left to right: Forbidden Planet, The Red Shoes, Rear Window and Brief Encounter. Screenshots by me.

I soon started to check out more work from the actors in the classic films that I was loving so much. This then led me to discover new names, new films, new eras etc. It also never seemed odd to me in the slightest that I was watching films made decades before I was even born. These films were new to me and because of that their age didn’t matter to me at all.

                     A few more classics that got me hooked. Left top to bottom: The Passionate Friends, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison and Pickup On South Street. Right: Rashomon. Screenshots by me.

I started to get into Foreign Language and Silent films in my late teens and early twenties, it really annoys me that so many classic film fans tend to focus primarily on American classic era films, rather than those which were made outside of Hollywood. There are so many classics that came from other countries: Rashomon, The Apu Trilogy, Les Diabolique, Brighton Rock, The Virgin Spring, The Seventh Seal, Late Spring, La Belle et le Bete, The Life Of Oharu, Rome: Open City, Ice Cold In Alex, Le Jour se Leve, Charulata, The Red Shoes, Battleship Potemkin, A Matter Of Life And Death etc. 

I got into classic cinema because of my curiosity and taste. I wasn’t encouraged in my viewing by anyone. I wasn’t even aware of things like film recommendation lists or film reviews at the time I began my classic film journey. I was simply watching these films and their stars because I was drawn to them.  I am still loving my journey into the classic film era. I still have so many new discoveries to make and I can’t wait to watch even more classics.

Moving onto your questions now.

 

                     MovieMovieBlogBlog asks me what I like about Film Noir. 

Everything! Most of my regular followers know of my love and admiration for all things Film Noir. I think I am drawn to these films for several reasons.

Firstly, I love that these films offered such strong and memorable roles for actresses of the time. There are many other strong female performances and characters in other films/genres in the classic era, but there is something different about the female characters in Noir films. Noir women are not afraid to say and show what they want, they are often dominating and independent individuals. 

                       Three strong and memorable Noir women. Phyllis in Double Indemnity(left) Candy(top right) in Pickup On South Street and Mrs. Neall (bottom right)in The Narrow Margin. Screenshots by me. 

Noir women don’t sit around waiting to be rescued by the male hero, and they also really don’t care what society thinks about them for making certain choices, or for behaving in a certain way. In some ways Noir women(you can say definitely say the same about many female characters in 1930’s Pre-Code films too)are the forerunners of the modern screen woman.

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One of the Noir greats. Double Indemnity. Screenshot by me.

I also love Noir films for their visual look. The cinematography, lighting and mood in these films are incredible(influenced somewhat by German Expressionism). I also love that these films reflect the truth of humanity back at us. We are all filled with darkness and light, the world is a dark and harsh place,and very few things and people are actually what they seem. Noir films offer no escapism from reality because they show reality to us. 

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Dick Powell and Claire Trevor in Murder My Sweet. Screenshot by me.

Noir films may well also be the best type of films to show to a classic film newbie. Noir films have a very modern feel to them. Noir films are gritty and serious, they also often contain lots of thrills, suspense and action. Modern audiences who have never watched these films before, will often be very surprised at how suggestive these films are, especially when it comes to their depictions of sex and violence. It always surprises me just what Noir directors managed to get away with on screen during the infamous film Code era. 

 

              Brandon Talks Movies asks me about my favourite classic horror film.

I love The Black Cat. I love Dead Of Night. I love the 1940’s horror films of Val Lewton. I love Hammer Horror films. I love the Universal Monster films. However, there has long been only one classic horror film that I consider to be my all time favourite from this genre. 

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Deborah Kerr in The Innocents.

That film is The Innocents(1961). This gothic horror has an unmatched eerie atmosphere. It features some very creepy and unsettling moments. In my opinion this is the best ghost story and the best haunted house film ever made. It also features a career best performance from Deborah Kerr. Perfect viewing for a dark night, or on a stormy afternoon. You can read my thoughts on this one in more detail here. 

 

             Movie Rob asks me to name my favourite year or favourite film era for classic film.

My favourite decades for film are the 1940’s, 1930’s and the 1920’s. I think that some of the best, most imaginative, most stunning and most memorable films ever made can be found in those particular decades. 

                     Shooting Stars(1928), The Wizard Of Oz(1939)and The Ghost And Mrs.Muir(1947). Three films to represent my three favourite film decades. Screenshots by me.

If I had to pick one single year of film as my favourite, then I think that I would have to go with either 1940 or 1939. Both of these years have some incredible films and performances in them. So many of these films and performances are still enjoyed and discussed today by fans of classic cinema. 

 

The Old Hollywood Garden asks what I think of Detour(1945)

I love its realism and grit. It may very well be just a low budget Noir, but it is one of the best films in the entire Noir genre!

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Ann Savage in Detour. Screenshot by me.

I also think that the casting of relatively unknown actors adds a great deal of authenticity to the film. Ann Savage in particular steals every scene she is in with just a look. Ann also more than convinces as a tough woman who you wouldn’t want to mess with. When I watch Detour, I feel as though I’m right there with these people and am witnessing real events unfold before my eyes. 

 

The Humpo Show asks me to name some classic films that I have never seen. 

There are definitely still quite a few on my to watch list. Some notable films that I need to see include Duck Soup, Napoleon(1927),Vampyr, Birth Of A NationChildren Of Paradise and Little Caesar

 

Movies Ala Mark asks me to share some acclaimed classic films that I don’t love. He also asks me to share some disliked/underappreciated films that I do love. 

I am a massive fan of David Lean, but his acclaimed 1960’s classic Doctor Zhivago leaves me cold(pun intended). The film is visually very beautiful and stunning, the score by Maurice Jarre is one for the ages.

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Doctor Zhivago. Screenshot by me.

The performances on the other hand always strike me as being incredibly wooden, this is so strange considering the actors who are starring in this. The other issue for me is that I don’t for one minute care about any of the characters. I have never understood what all the fuss about this one was.

A film I love that nobody else seems to is Paris When It Sizzles. This film didn’t do very well at the time of its release. Nobody thought much of it at it the time and it has become an extremely underrated and little known film. Such a shame as it is very good. I love it so much because it is a fun film and because it gives you a peek at how the screenwriting process works.

      Paris When It Sizzles. Screenshots by me.

The imaginary scenes where William Holden and Audrey Hepburn act out the various storylines for the film are terrific. William Holden and Audrey Hepburn are adorable together. There is an hilarious cameo by Tony Curtis as a narcissistic method actor. 

 

Movie Rob asks whether or not I consider Citizen Kane to be the

greatest film ever made.

No. I have never understood how one film can be considered as the greatest of all time. People who say that have clearly never seen many films in my opinion. Film is also so subjective, one persons masterpiece is another’s rubbish. This is my problem with the Academy Awards, how can you pick one performance or film and claim that as the best of the year? It’s all very silly in my opinion.

Citizen Kane is certainly one of the greatest films ever made, but I do not consider it to be the greatest film ever made. It is a very well crafted film. It is also certainly one to study on a technical level if you want to get into filmmaking. It is a film that I like and admire a great deal. Orson Welles knew what he was doing and this film stands as a testament to his skills as a filmmaker.  

 

Palewriter asks me to name my favourite Noir films. 

Murder My Sweet(1944), Daybreak(1948),Pickup On South Street, Cry Of The City, The Long Memory, Kiss Me Deadly, The Narrow Margin, Double Indemnity, Stray Dog, The T-Men, The Big Heat, Out Of The Past, The Postman Always Rings Twice(1946), Brighton Rock, The Big Sleep, On Dangerous Ground,The Lady From Shanghai, Vertigo, The Dark Corner, Laura, Body Heat, Riffi, The Big Combo, This Gun For Hire. 

 

No Nonsense With Nuwansen asks me to pick my favourite film from his list of five favourite films. His films are Roman Holiday, Call Me By Your Name, Rebecca,Gone With The Wind and Casablanca.

I think it will have to be a tie between Gone With The Wind and Roman Holiday!

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Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind. Screenshot by me.

Gone With The Wind is one of the greatest screen epics with so much to enjoy in it. Vivien Leigh’s performance as the determined Scarlett is one for the ages. It’s a film that I love to watch for the characters, I find that the film really captures the change they go through due to the events that happen to them. The costumes, the scope of the film, the use of Technicolor and the music are all stunning.

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Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. Screenshot by me.

Roman Holiday is an enchanting and uplifting romantic comedy. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s natural and moving performances help me to really connect with their characters. We can feel their growing emotional bond and desire for one another as the film goes on. If I am in need of cheering up this is often a film that I will watch. 

 

                 Movie Rob asks me to name my all time favourite Frank Capra film.

As much as I love the rest of Frank Capra’s work, my all time favourite film of his will always be It Happened One Night. I love it so much because it is so funny and romantic. The film has some hilarious dialogue, many memorable characters and so many unforgettable moments.

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Ellie and Peter snuggle up. Screenshot by me.

I’ve always been a sucker for a well told opposites attract story, and It Happened One Night is one of the very best films telling that sort of love story. This has become a real comfort film for me and it is one I watch when I need to escape to a happy place for a couple of hours. 

 

            Pfeiffer Films And Meg Movies asks how I define what a classic film is.

To me a film is a classic if it can be enjoyed and admired throughout the generations. There is a reason that so many of the films made in the classic era are described as being classics. These films have stood the test of time, they are still accessible, admirable, and so expertly made.

              Three timeless classics: Gone With The Wind, Sunset Blvd and Rebecca. Screenshots by me.

I think that classic films are films which transcend the time and place that they were made in. A film which continues to delight, scare, surprise and impress audiences decades after it was first released is a classic in my book. Although the majority of classic films are to be found in the classic film era(1920’s-1970’s in my opinion)there are classic films to be found in every decade. 

 

Canterbury Tale asks me to name some of the films and books found on my shelves.

Some of the films which can be found on my shelves include: Singin’ In The Rain, In The Heat Of The Night, North By Northwest, Brief Encounter, Rashomon, Ikiru, All About Eve, The Blues Brothers, Only Angels Have Wings, The Philadelphia Story, Carmen Jones, Pickup On South Street, Woman On The Run, Double Indemnity, Kiss Me Deadly, The Passionate Friends, Lawrence Of Arabia, La Belle et le Bete, Went The Day Well, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, A Matter Of Life And Death, How Green Was My Valley, Shooting Stars, Bridget Jones’s Diary, To Kill A Mockingbird, Citizen Kane, True Grit, Sabotage, Man Of The West, Charade, The Ghost And Mrs. Muir,House Of Flying Daggers, The Hustler, The Music Room, Dead Of Night, The Innocents, Quatermass And The Pit, Buster Keaton boxset, The Human Condition Trilogy, The Godfather Trilogy, The Back To The Future Trilogy, Little Women(1994), Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Jurassic Park, Zodiac, Some Like It Hot, Niagara, M, South Pacific, The Sound Of Music, Hello Dolly!, White Christmas, Finding Neverland, Chocolat, The Right Stuff, The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy.

Some of the film books found on my shelves include: Ever, Dirk: The Bogarde Letters, Ava: A Life In Movies, Barry Norman’s Movie Greats,  Audrey: Her Real Story, Loitering With Intent. 

 

Thank you so much for all these thought provoking questions. I have had lots of fun answering you. I hope you have enjoyed reading my responses.  Stay tuned for part 2 of my answers!

Uncategorized

Ask Maddy Anything Classic Film Related

Hello everyone. I’ve thought of something that I think will be quite fun.  I’ve decided to write a post where I respond to your classic film questions.

Ever wondered what I think about a certain classic? Wondering what my favourite films are in different genres? Are you a classic film newbie who is looking for recommendations of classic era films, directors and actors?

Whatever the classic film question is, you go right ahead and ask me!

I will put together another post answering all your questions. I thought this would be a fun way for you all to get to know a bit more about my classic film tastes and opinions. 

Looking forward to reading those questions. 

 

 

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The Remains Of The Day Reimagined As A Classic Era Film

A few months ago I did a post where I reimagined Blade Runner as a 1940’s Noir film. One of my readers said that they would love to see me reimagine some other films. 

One of my favourite films is The Remains Of The Day (1993). I have always thought this would have made a terrific 1940’s/1950’s romantic drama. I have decided to pick this film to reimagine next. 

The film takes place in a British mansion. We follow the lives of the servants and master living in that house. The film focuses mainly on the unspoken love and attraction developing between the repressed butler, Mr. Stevens, and the younger housekeeper, Miss Kenton. It is a deeply moving and frustrating portrayal of love, longing, repression, class division and the horrors of war. 

The Director 

I would choose Anthony Asquith as the director. He was one of the most gifted British directors working during the classic film era.  He directed several British classics including The Browning Version, The Winslow Boy and Pygmalion. His debut film was Shooting Stars, which is my favourite Silent film. 

I picked Asquith because he really knew how to focus on the characters. His films also just let the actors do their thing on screen, which is precisely what is needed with this particular story. 

The Cast

I thought of Michael Redgrave for the role of Mr. Stevens. In The Browning Version he more than proved that he could do emotional repression so well. I think he would have been perfect as the repressed man who desperately wants to acknowledge his love, but who doesn’t know how to even begin to do so.

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Michael Redgrave. Screenshot by me.

Michael Redgrave was a commanding screen presence, and I’ve no doubt that he would have convinced as the butler in charge of his staff, and would also have convinced as a dignified and distant man struggling with his emotions and desires. 

 

Greer Garson was my first and only choice for the role of the housekeeper, Miss Sarah Kenton. I think that Greer would have been perfect in this role because she could play outgoing, strong, capable and bubbly characters so well. I can imagine no other actress from this era in this role. 

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Greer Garson. Screenshot by me.

I think she would have been terrific in scenes just featuring Miss Kenton and Mr. Stevens (such as the book scene, the scene where she is crying, or the scene in the garden where she teases him about his guilty smile). 

 

I thought of the seriously underrated Eric Portman for the role of Mr. Benn, a former colleague of Miss Kenton’s, who falls in love with her when he meets her again some years after they worked together.

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Eric Portman. Screenshot by me.

Eric always convinced as down to earth, worldly, and blunt screen characters. I think he would have been terrific in the role of the man who is able to express his feelings and desires to the woman he loves. 

 

I thought of Felix Aylmer for the role of Mr. Steven’s father. Felix did stern and dignified so well.

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Felix Aylmer. Screenshot by me.

I think he would have been perfect as the old butler, whose devotion to his duty means that he doesn’t think of himself at all, even when he is seriously ill. I also think he and Michael would have worked very well together in the scenes where Stevens and his father talk with each other, and in the moments where we see how complicated and strained their relationship is.

 

I thought of Robert Donat for the role of Lord Darlington. I think he would have been able to convey that his character is a decent man who does what he does to try and prevent another war, but who is also terribly naive and misled in believing that the Nazis can be trusted.

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Robert Donat. Screenshot by me.

Robert was someone who oozed decency, and I think that could have been used to good effect here. I think he would also have been good in the scenes where Lord Darlington becomes introspective and filled with regret and doubt. 

 

What do you think of these casting choices? Which actors would you have loved to have seen play these characters?

Blogathons, Tributes To Classic Stars

The Rita Hayworth Centenary Blogathon: My Tribute To Rita

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Michaela over at Love Letters To Old Hollywood is hosting this blogathon to mark the centenary of Rita Hayworth’s birth. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

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Rita in You Were Never Lovelier. Screenshot by me.

I was so happy when I saw Michaela announce this blogathon. I am such a huge fan of Rita Hayworth, and I was absolutely delighted to see her being honoured by a blogathon.

I am in awe at how talented Rita was. I think it’s great that she was able to get the opportunity to show off her acting and dancing skills in her films.  

Seeing Rita on screen makes me smile and feel happy. She has such a positive aura about her and you can detect it. She always seemed so bubbly, energetic and happy.    

I first became a fan of Rita when I saw her in the film Gilda. Her performance in that totally blew me away. She stole every single second of the film that she appeared in. I loved how she played the character and made her so much more than a mere object of male desire. Gilda is a complicated and multi-faceted woman and Rita conveys that personality so well to us. 

Rita was such a talented, vibrant, beautiful and funny woman. She was also someone who was full of life and that clearly shows on screen. When Rita comes on that screen she draws you in, this means that you can’t take your eyes off her for even a second when she is in a scene. Rita had that mystical and enchanting glow about her, the very same glow that the likes of Clara Bow, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Louise Brooks also all had. 

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Rita dancing with Fred in You’ll Never Get Rich. Screenshot by me.

Not only was Rita a very talented film actress, but she was also one of the most amazing dancers too.

In my opinion she is also the only female dance partner who was ever able to match the speed and dance ability of the great Fred Astaire on screen.

Fred worked alongside many talented female dancers throughout his career, but I firmly believe that in Rita Hayworth he found his perfect dancing partner. Rita would star alongside Fred in You’ll Never Get Rich, and in You Were Never Lovelier. I think it’s a real shame that the pair didn’t make more films together. 

I also feel a connection to Rita for a personal reason. Rita was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in the 1980’s, with the disease eventually taking her life in 1987. A few years ago my gran was diagnosed with mixed Dementia, which is a combination of Alzheimer’s and another type of Dementia. My gran has since died from this disease.  

This is very difficult and upsetting for me to talk about. I know only too well from my personal experience how scared and confused Rita would have been when she was sadly struck down by this evil disease. I also know how distressing and frightening it would have been for her family and friends to see her suffer with that horror. It breaks my heart to know how Rita’s life ended. Some good came of Rita’s terrible diagnosis though due to the huge level of publicity around her diagnosis. Rita’s high profile case drew a great deal of international attention to the disease, her case also led to a huge increase in funding for Alzheimer’s research. 

In 1985, Rita’s daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, set up The Rita Hayworth Gala, this is an Alzheimer’s benefit which is still held annually to this day. I like to think that Rita would have been very proud and moved to see how much good has been done in her name to try and help others suffering from this horrific disease.

Rita Hayworth was born in New York, on October 17th, 1918. Rita was of Spanish-American descent and she was the oldest of three children. Her birth name was Margarita Carmen Cansino. Her parents were the dancer Eduardo Cansino, and his wife, Volga Hayworth.

Rita’s parents had met when they were both working in the Ziegfeld Follies. Dancing and acting were in Rita’s blood, so it is really no surprise that she went right out and followed in her parents footsteps. Rita had equal amounts of talent as both an actress and a dancer, and she got to show us all just how talented she was in the many films that she made. 

I think that the best way to honour Rita on her centenary is for us to discuss and recommend her film performances. I’ve picked a few films which I think highlight Rita’s talents as an actress and dancer. The following films are also all great favourites of mine, and I highly recommend them to anyone who hasn’t seen Rita in a film before.

 

Gilda (1946)

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Rita in Gilda. Screenshot by me.

Once I had seen Rita in this film, I just knew that I would have to try and see as many of her other films as I possibly could.

From her first scene (where she does that famous hair flip)to her last, Rita steals every second of film that she appears in. I think that she is sorely missed when she isn’t in a scene in this film.

Rita makes Gilda sexy, confident, strong, vulnerable, passionate and tender. I cannot imagine another actress having been able to have played this character the way that Rita did. It isn’t hard to see why this one has become the iconic Rita Hayworth film and performance.

 

Down To Earth (1947)

This extremely underrated gem is my favourite Rita Hayworth film. This is such a fun and dazzling musical.  I also like this film because Rita looks like she having so much fun in it. Rita also gets to show off her dancing skills here.

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Rita in Down To Earth. Screenshot by me.

The film is a sequel to Here Comes Mr. JordanRita plays Terpsichore, the Greek Goddess of music and dance.

Terpsichore is appalled when she learns about a new stage musical depicting herself and the other Greek muses as man hungry women, who are all vying for the attention of two American pilots. 

Terpsichore gets the permission of heavenly messenger Mr. Jordan to go down to earth and sort out the musical. She works hard to make its depiction of the muses more accurate, and to also improve the song and dance routines. 

Rita seems ethereal in this film, so much so that you totally buy her as a goddess descended from the heavens. I also really love how energetic she is in her dance scenes in this. This is a lovely and entertaining film, of which Rita is the heart and soul. You can’t go wrong with this one if you are in the mood for an uplifting and entertaining film. It’s also great to see Rita filmed in colour for a change too.

 

The Lady From Shanghai (1947)

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Rita in Lady From Shanghai. Screenshot by me.

Playing against type(and with her famous red hair dyed blonde and cut short)Rita enters Film Noir territory. She is very much at home in this world of dark shadows, betrayal, and schemes.

Rita plays Elsa, a cold-hearted woman with a clever plan up her sleeve. Elsa’s mistake is believing that the man she uses for her own ends(played by Orson Welles) will love her no matter what she does. 

Her new image in this film makes her seem harder, cooler and sexier than she ever had been before on the screen. I don’t know about anyone else, but I get some serious Lana Turner and Claire Trevor vibes from Rita’s performance and look in this film. Her excellent performance here also makes me wonder why she was never again cast as a femme fatale like the one she plays here

 

Not all that familiar with Rita and her films? In that case then I highly recommend that you check her out in the following films: Lady From Shanghai, Miss Sadie Thompson, Down To Earth, Cover Girl, You Were Never Lovelier, Gilda, Affair In Trinidad, They Came To Cordura, Separate Tables and You’ll Never Get Rich.  

It is now one hundred years since Rita’s birth. This hugely talented woman is still bringing joy to classic film fans around the world. Rita was one of the brightest stars in the classic film night sky, and I think that her star still shines as brightly today as it did back in the classic film era.  

Happy 100th to you Rita. Thanks for sharing your talent with us. R.I.P.

Are you a fan of Rita Hayworth? Which of Rita’s films are your favourites?

 

 

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The Neil Simon Blogathon: California Suite (1978)

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Paddy over at Caftan Woman, and Rich over at Wide Screen World, have teamed up to co-host this blogathon celebrating Neil Simon. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

Neil Simon was a master of comic dialogue. He was also involved with so many great films over the years, that it took me a while to decide which film to cover for this blogathon. After giving it much thought, I’ve decided to write about California Suite.

The film is directed by Herbert Ross. The film is based upon Neil Simon’s 1976 stage play of the same name. The film has four separate storylines. Each story focuses on different characters who are all staying at the same luxury hotel in Beverly Hills. Some of Neil’s funniest and sharpest dialogue can be found in this film.

The first story focuses on two couples from Chicago. The four are all close friends and they are on a long planned holiday to Los Angeles, where they are booked in to stay at the luxury hotel which is featured in all four stories.

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The four friends arrive at the hotel. Screenshot by me.

The group consists of Dr. Chauncey Gump(Richard Pryor) and his wife, Lola (Gloria Gifford), Dr. Willis Panama(Bill Cosby) and his wife, Bettina(Sheila Frazier). 

This story is very funny because everything that could possibly go wrong on a holiday does so for this group. On their special trip the friends end up enduring car trouble, major arguments over silly things, food poisoning, bad room locations and much more. 

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Richard Pryor as Chauncey. Screenshot by me.

Cosby, Gifford and Frazier are good enough, but I don’t think that there is anything they do that makes their performances particularly memorable.

It is Richard Pryor’s dead pan delivery and reactions to the various things his character endures which really make this story work as well as it does in my opinion.

I really don’t think that this story would work as well as it does if another actor had been cast in Richard’s role.

This story veers into slapstick comedy territory, and to me it often feels like I am watching scenes from a completely different film. This particular story seems to me to be quite similar to the film National Lampoon’s Vacation. 

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Diana and Sidney prepare for the Oscars. Screenshot by me.

The second story focuses on the famous British actress, Diana Barry(Maggie Smith)who is in Los Angeles to attend the Academy Awards. Diana is a first time nominee for the Best Actress Oscar.

Diana is joined by her loving husband, Sidney Cochrane(Michael Caine). Diana is highly anxious about the Academy Awards, and she is also very worried about her marriage.

While Diana and Sidney love each other very much, Sidney happens to be Bisexual. Although Diana accepts that fact about him, she can’t stand that he keeps having affairs instead of just being with her. Diana and Sidney must take a long hard look at their marriage and decide whether to stay together or not. 

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Sidney and Diana mid argument. Screenshot by me.

This is my personal favourite out of the four stories. Maggie and Michael work so well together and they get many of the funniest and best scenes and lines in the entire film. 

I love how they are warm and tender one minute, and then seriously bitchy with each other the next. Their bickering and arguments are hilarious.

I especially love the fight they have after returning to their hotel room after the Academy Awards.

This story also cracks me up because it highlights the hypocrisy of the awards where the nominees all get fawned over on the way in, but if they lose out, nobody wants to know them when they leave the awards ceremony. I love Sidney’s rant about how everyone else got their cars before Diana and Sidney got theirs at the end of awards ceremony.

I think that all four of the stories had the potential to be a feature length film in their own right, but in my opinion the story of Diana and Sidney could definitely have been made into a feature film. 

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Marvin tries to wake Bunny. Screenshot by me.

The third story focuses on middle-aged businessman, Marvin Michaels(Walter Matthau), who has to try and conceal a prostitute called Bunny (Denise Galick)who his brother(Herb Edelman)smuggled into his hotel suite as an early birthday present.

Things get complicated when Marvin’s wife, Millie(Elaine May)arrives at the hotel to join him when the prostitute is still in his room. 

While this does have some funny moments in it, I think this is the weakest of the four stories. None of the characters in this one come across as being remotely likable.

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Walter Matthau as Marvin. Screenshot by me.

I also don’t like how Marvin doesn’t seem the least bit concerned for the health of Bunny in the scene where she won’t wake up, he could have at least phoned down for some help. He is just concerned for himself if she is discovered in his room.

If he didn’t want anyone to know she had been his room, then surely he could have taken her out into the corridor, pretended that he found her out there and got some help?

The only positive thing in this segment is Walter Matthau, he was always a very good physical comic and he gets to really do his thing here. I always fast forward through scenes from this story when I watch the film. 

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Hannah and Bill have a talk at the beach. Screenshot by me.

The fourth story focuses on Hannah Warren(Jane Fonda) who is staying at the hotel for one day to meet with her ex husband, Bill(Alan Alda).

They are meeting to discuss which of them their teenage daughter, Jenny(played by the troubled child actress, Dana Plato) will stay with for the majority of the year.

As they discuss their daughter, the pair quickly fall back into their old arguments and sniping. I think that Jane Fonda delivers one of her best performances here, as the strong woman trying desperately hard to hide how scared and worried she really is.

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Jane Fonda as Hannah. Screenshot by me.

Watch her face during the arguments with Alan Alda, she says so much with her expressions alone and conveys to us how she can’t afford to let her tough mask slip for a second.

I think this story is the most poignant and relatable out of the four. I can imagine anyone who has been through a divorce where children have been involved will be able to relate to at least some moments in this one. 

The dialogue in this story is very funny and sharp. The trouble is though that much of the dialogue is the sort that you just never hear in real life. I think that the use of such dialogue ends up taking you out of the film, because it comes across as contrived, even if it is very funny and clever.

The good performances by Alan Alda and Jane Fonda keep me interested and invested in this story. There are also some beautiful locations featured in this story that I really enjoy looking at.  

While I do like the film quite a bit, I do think that it is one which is a bit hit and miss. Neil Simon’s dialogue is hilarious throughout, but some of the dialogue does come across as being very contrived. Most of the characters aren’t very well developed either, which means that we don’t really care about them that much. The performances in all of the four stories more than make up for these issues though.

A few fun facts about the film. 

  • Maggie Smith would ironically end up winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance here as an insecure actress. While I do like her performance here, it is far from one of her very best screen performances. Is her performance really Oscar worthy? It’s good, but I don’t think it was Oscar worthy at all.

 

  • Eagle eyed viewers will spot James Coburn. He is playing Diana’s co-star in the film she is up for an Oscar for. A clip featuring James and Maggie plays in the scene on the plane at the beginning of the film. 

 

  • The scene where Diana and Sidney arrive at the Oscars was actually filmed at the real 50th Oscars ceremony, which was held in April,1978. 

 

  • The hotel featured in the film is the Beverly Hills Hotel. Large numbers of celebrities have stayed at the hotel over the years. The actor Peter Finch suffered a fatal heart attack in the lobby of the hotel, in January, 1977.

 

What do you think of the film? Which of the stories is your favourite?

 

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Maddy Gets Nominated

I have been greeted upon my return to the blog by such a lovely surprise. Two of my posts have been nominated in the Classic Movie Blog Association Annual Awards.

My profile post on Lon Chaney Sr, and my Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon, have both been nominated for the awards of Best Profile and Best Event respectively. 

After having a difficult last few weeks, this news has cheered me up no end. I am touched that people think so much of something that I have written. Congratulations to all my fellow CMBA nominees too!

Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me. Thank you to all my readers for your continued support and friendship. You are all the best! 🙂

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The James Mason Blogathon Concludes

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A massive belated thank you to everyone who took part in this blogathon last weekend. It is lovely to see so much love for James Mason and his films.

Apologies for not being very present on the blogathon days, and for not having been able to comment on your posts yet. I have a chronic health condition, and unfortunately I have been quite ill because of it over the last few weeks.

I am looking forward to reading all your articles and commenting on them. I hope you all had fun on the blogathon days and enjoyed writing and reading articles.

Thanks again.

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The James Mason Blogathon Begins

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The big event has finally arrived! Over the next two days, some truly wonderful classic film bloggers will be submitting their articles and reviews about the life and career of James Mason.

Keep checking back to this post over the next couple of days. I’ll be updating this post as the entries come in.

Message dated 06.10.2018. Hello everyone. Please forgive me for not stopping by and leaving you any comments on your sites at the moment. I am not well( a chronic health condition), and I don’t have the strength to be on here much at the moment. I promise that I’ll visit all your sites as soon as I can. 

 

Day 2 Entries

 

Critica Retro tells us about the time James starred alongside Barbara Bel Geddes in Caught.

 

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict writes about a little known film called The Seventh Veil.

 

Retro Movie Buff writes about the beautiful film Pandora And The Flying Dutchman.

 

Diary Of A Movie Maniac discusses James’s creepy performance in the miniseries Salem’s Lot.

 

MovieRob tells us about the second time that James played Rommel on screen, in the film The Desert Rats.

 

Dubism shares his thoughts on Odd Man Out.

 

Poppity Talks Classic Films discusses the controversial film Lolita.

 

Reelweegiemidgetreviews shares her thoughts on James’s performance in Heaven Can Wait.

 

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Day 1 Entries

Silver Screenings is the first to the party, and she shares her review of The Reckless Moment with us all.

 

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies tells us about the time that James starred alongside Moira Shearer in A Story Of Three Loves.

 

The Stop Button shares his thoughts on the James Mason film Bigger Than Life.

 

Caftan Woman tells us all about Five Fingers, a film inspired by real events.

 

The Midnite Drive -In discusses The Boys From Brazil.

 

Dubism shares the hidden sports analogies of A Star Is Born with us. 

 

Palewriter2 tells us about the time James played a Highwayman in The Wicked Lady.

 

MovieRob takes a look at James’s portrayal of Field Marshal Rommel in The Desert Fox: The Story Of Rommel.

 

Wide Screen World reviews Heaven Can Wait.

 

Silver Scenes writes about the beautiful and haunting film Pandora And The Flying Dutchman.

 

I write about my three favourite James Mason film performances.

 

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The James Mason Blogathon: My Three Favourite James Mason Performances

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James Mason was one of the finest actors of his generation. He could play chilling villains, decent and gentle heroes, and complex and intriguing characters. His brooding and intense expressions coupled with that voice of his made him quite the screen presence indeed. 

I would like to share my three favourite screen performances from James Mason. The films are all excellent too, and I recommend them all to anyone who hasn’t seen them before. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Pandora And The Flying Dutchman are two of my favourite films of all time. 

 

Pandora And The Flying Dutchman(1951)

In this haunting and poetic love story, James plays Hendrick van der Zee, a cursed man who is doomed to live in the world for all eternity. He must live onboard the vessel known as the Flying Dutchman. He can break free of his curse, but only if he finds a woman who loves him so much that she will willingly die for him.

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James as Hendrick. Screenshot by me.

James is terrific in this role. He conveys the tenderness and longing his character feels for the woman he loves, and also the fear of getting too close to her, as he doesn’t want her to die if she is the woman who could break his curse. He also convinces in the scene where we see the moment of jealousy and madness that led him to be cursed in the first place.

James has this otherworldly air about him in this, and this aura really helps us buy into him being a man who has walked the earth for centuries. He and Ava Gardner manage to convince us that their characters souls are calling out to one another. 

The monologue James delivers during the flashback sequence is truly a performance for the ages. This is a film that I return to again, and again, and again. James Mason’s performance plays a major part in my love for this one.

 

 

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954)

This was the first film that I ever saw James Mason in. Every single time I watch this film, I am always struck most by how complex and intriguing James managed to make Captain Nemo.

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James as Captain Nemo. Screenshot by me.

At times James makes Nemo frightening and intense. At other moments he allows us to see this man’s inner torment and hopes, and we really sympathise with him and admire him .

I have never seen any other actor play this character quite like James Mason did. James really managed to capture the varied facets of Nemo’s tormented soul. It is a remarkable performance, and it is one that is still highly fascinating and powerful when viewed today. The film is cracking too!

 

 

Bigger Than Life (1956)

James plays Ed Avery, a middle aged teacher who becomes addicted to some prescribed medication. His entire personality changes due to the effects of the drug. He goes from being a loving, warm and gentle husband and father, to becoming a tyrannical brute. His family become afraid of him and he won’t listen to the advice from anyone around him. 

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James as Ed. Screenshot by me.

If you want to see what a good actor James Mason was, then this film is one that you should check out. His performance here really is extraordinary. At times he makes us  despise Ed for his actions brought on by the medication, and yet at other times he makes our hearts break with his plight.

James does a terrific job of conveying Ed’s pain, fear and uncontrollable behaviour to us. It’s one of his best screen performances as far as I’m concerned. I never get tired of watching this film and enjoying James Mason’s magnificent performance in it.

 

What do you think of James Mason’s performances in these films? What are your favourite performances from him?

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The Deborah Kerr Blogathon Concludes + Another Post

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Thank you so much for joining me to celebrate this fabulous actress. Your reviews and articles have made it very clear just how much Deborah is still loved and admired today.

Please stop by and read Pop Culture Reverie’s post on Tea And Sympathy. This post was published just a few hours ago.

Thank you to everyone who took part. 

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I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible this Friday and Saturday, as I host my next blogathon to celebrate James Mason.

You can learn more and sign up here.

 

 

 

 

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The Deborah Kerr Blogathon Begins

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The big day has finally arrived! Today is the day that we all come together to discuss the life and career of the great Deborah Kerr.

Today is also special, because if she had still been with us, Deborah would have been celebrating her birthday today. Happy Birthday, Deborah. You are missed by classic film fans the world over.

A number of truly wonderful bloggers have penned reviews and articles about Deborah and her films. Thank you so much for joining me to celebrate Deborah Kerr.

Check back to this post throughout the day. I will be linking back to all the articles as they come in. Happy reading. 

 

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The Entries

Palewriter2 starts the Deborah Kerr celebrations off. She shares her love for the romantic weepie An Affair To Remember. She also discusses Deborah’s three remarkable performances in The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp.

 

The Lady Eve’s Reel Life takes us on a frightening journey, as she discusses Deborah’s performance in the terrifying horror film The Innocents

 

Critica Retro writes about the time that Deborah starred alongside Robert Donat, in the romantic War drama Perfect Strangers.

 

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict visits Deborah for some Tea And Sympathy

 

The Stop Button discusses the hotel set drama Separate Tables.

 

Caftan Woman tells us all about Reunion At Fairborough, which was the final film that Deborah and Robert Mitchum worked on together. 

 

Movie Rob discusses Deborah’s performance in Edward My Son.

 

Poppity Talks Classic Film shares her opinions about Black Narcissus

 

Diary Of A Movie Maniac shares his thoughts on The End Of The Affair and Beloved Infidel.

 

Anybody Got A Match discusses The Hucksters, which was one of Deborah’s earlier films.

 

The Story Enthusiast tells us about the time Deborah joined Ava Gardner and Richard Burton for The Night Of The Iguana

 

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies discusses a selection of Deborah Kerr’s films.

 

I write about the Four Essential Deborah Kerr Performances . I also join Deborah and Robert Mitchum on a Pacific island in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.

 

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The Deborah Kerr Blogathon: Four Essential Deborah Kerr Performances

 

Deborah banner 2Deborah Kerr delivered so many excellent performances during her long film career. She was always such a natural film actress, and she always oozed such class.

I’ve chosen four of her films which I think all highlight what a gifted actress she was. 

I think that all four of these films make for essential viewing if you want to see Deborah’s range as an actress. 

 

                                                             

The Innocents (1961)

I think this may well be Deborah’s best screen performance. She is so convincing here as the governess on the brink of a breakdown. She more than convinces as a terrified, paranoid and anxious Governess who believes that the two children she is looking after are possessed by the ghosts of two dead former servants. 

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Deborah in The Innocents. Screenshot by me.

Is she really seeing ghosts and uncovering a case of possession? Or is she going mad and imagining the frightening things she starts to see?   

Deborah really lets us in to this woman’s psyche. Thanks to her very convincing performance, we really feel her characters fear build up throughout the film.  This film offered Deborah a chance to play someone very different from the kind, glamorous, elegant and confident characters that she so often played on screen.

 

The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943)

In this Powell and Pressburger classic, Deborah doesn’t just play one character, she plays THREE characters. Although we are well aware that it is Deborah playing each character, her terrific performances convince us that these characters are three very different women in terms of their personalities and mannerisms.  

                            Deborah as Edith, Barbara and Johnny. Screenshot by me.

Deborah plays Edith, Barbara and Johnny. Edith is a British woman living in Germany. Major Clive Candy(Roger Livesey)falls in love with her. Edith marries his German friend, Theo(Anton Walbrook). Clive never stops loving her.

A few years later, Clive meets a WW1 nurse called Barbara, a woman who bears an uncanny resemblence to his lost love. The pair get married. In a way their marriage means that Clive has Edith back in his life. Clive’s chauffeur during WW2  is a young woman known as Johnny, she also reminds him of Edith. Johnny is someone who is much more open and easier to get to know than either Edith or Barbara.

I think that Deborah’s three performances in this are essential viewing if you are a fan of her work.  

                                              

 From Here To Eternity (1953)

Although it is best remembered for that risque roll in the surf, this film is also notable for featuring Deborah playing very much against type. Up to this point in her career she had mostly been playing prim, innocent and respectable women on the screen. 

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Deborah as Karen. Screenshot by me.

In this film, her famous red hair is dyed blonde, and her character, Karen Holmes, is a very sexualised and strong-willed woman. Karen is also very forward and isn’t shy about making her desires and needs known to others. 

Deborah owns every second of film she appears in here. Her performance and look in the film remind me so much of Rita Hayworth’s in The Lady From Shanghai.  

There’s so much more to Deborah’s performance in this one than merely being sexy though. She also very adeptly conveys Karen’s deep vulnerability, her toughness and her strength. It really is a remarkable performance.

 

Black Narcisuss(1947)

Another Powell and Pressburger masterpiece. This film sees Deborah playing Sister Clodagh, the newly promoted head nun in a convent. The nuns move out to a new convent in the Himalayas. Not long after they arrive at their new home, they all quickly start to crack under stress, and begin to give in to different desires and wishes which have long been repressed. 

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Deborah as Sister Clodagh. Screenshot by me.

Deborah does such a wonderful job of conveying to us her characters very difficult emotional struggle and her waning strength. Her performance here is subtle and all in the eyes.  Deborah’s face is a kaleidoscope of emotion here. 

 

What are your thoughts on Deborah’s performances in these four films?

 

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The Deborah Kerr Blogathon: Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison(1957)

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I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I really love watching films focusing on two very different characters who get thrown together by chance. I love watching such characters work to overcome their differences, and in the process of doing so slowly begin to like and trust one another.

The most famous example of this type of film has to be John Huston’s The African Queen (1951). I like that film quite a bit, but despite my fondness for it, the film has never been able to claim the place in my heart which is held by Huston’s later film Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. I find that I care far more about Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum’s characters, than I have ever cared about Bogie and Hepburn’s characters in The African Queen.

I also like Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison more because I think that it is the more serious and touching film of the two. The film is part war film and part romantic drama. The film also features a good mix of action, suspense, drama and comedy. 

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is based upon the 1952 novel of the same name by Charles Shaw. John Huston co-wrote the screenplay for this film with John Lee Mahin. The film was shot on location on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.  

The film is set in the Pacific during WW2. The story begins with an American Marine, Corporal Allison(Robert Mitchum)floating on the ocean in a life raft. He has become separated from his comrades during a naval battle. The corporal’s raft washes up on the beach of a remote island in the South Pacific. 

                      The first meeting between the Marine and the Nun. Screenshot by me.

While he is walking around exploring the island, he comes across a small building and he is astonished to discover that it is occupied by a Catholic nun called Sister Angela(Deborah Kerr). Only after he has been assured that she is well and in no danger, does the corporal lie down and take a well deserved sleep. What a gent he is! 🙂  

Sister Angela is alone on the island, she has only been living there for a few days herself. She has been alone since the death of the priest she was working with a few days earlier. The pair had been taken to the island by some natives to help evacuate another priest who lived on the island.

When Sister Angela and the priest had arrived on the island, they soon discovered that the other priest had already been removed by Japanese forces, and then they were stranded there when the natives who brought them over got frightened and abandoned them. 

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Sister Angela and Corporal Allison have a talk. Screenshot by me.

Sister Angela and Corporal Allison are hesitant of one another at first, but as they spend more time together they begin to start liking each other very much.

The Corporal’s feelings deepen into romantic love and he tells Sister Angela that he wants to marry her, so that he can take care of her forever.

We can see that the pair like one another very much, but Sister Angela, in a firm but very gentle way, makes it quite clear to Corporal Allison that she has devoted herself to serving God and that she will never marry or have physical relations.

Corporal Allison struggles to get his head around her decision to never allow herself romantic love. This leads him to deliver this funny and touching outburst: “If ya gotta be a nun, why ain’t ya old and ugly? Why do ya gotta have big blue eyes, a beautiful smile and freckles?”

I find Corporal Allison’s outburst to be very moving because we have seen him pluck up the courage to express his feelings to her, and he feels hurt and embarrassed that he has opened himself up like that only to be rejected. She is kind to him afterwards and they both try not to let things get awkward after that declaration of love and longing. 

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Corporal Allison carries Sister Angela after she falls ill. Screenshot by me.

Things are further complicated when Japanese forces land on the island. The Corporal must try and protect the two of them from the Japanese soldiers who are moving around the island.

Later in the film the Corporal must do all he can to save the life of Sister Angela when she becomes seriously ill with a fever. 

As the film goes on Sister Angela slowly begins to leave her rather naive belief that all humans are good far behind her. Sister Angela begins to understand and accept the darker and harsher realities of life. She may not approve of Corporal Allison killing people, but she understands that his actions are necessary for their survival.

With the Pacific war going on around her, Sister Angela is also becoming more aware of the evil acts that humans are capable of. She never loses her belief and hope that people can change their ways and become more decent, the time she spends with Corporal Allison proves to her that people are capable of changing for the better. 

Corporal Allison in turn tries to alter his behaviour and manners so that he doesn’t offend or upset Sister Angela. He starts out as a very gruff and blunt man, yet as the film goes on he becomes a much gentler and thoughtful man. Through spending time with Sister Angela he also begins to see that not all human beings are cruel and out for whatever they can get.

By the end of the film Corporal Allison has become a very different person than the one we saw at the beginning. He may well not be able to give up his life in the corp(which is all he has ever known), but I have a strong suspicion that he will be a very different person with a very different outlook on life when he returns home.

Sister Angela and Corporal Allison can go back into society at the end of the film, with each of them having acquired a far better understanding of the human condition than they had before they encountered one another. 

Interestingly the film also shows us that Corporal Allison and Sister Angela are both similarly devoted to the institutions they each belong to (Sister Angela to the Catholic Church, and Corporal Allison to the United States Marine Corps), and that both of these institutions are somewhat similar, both in terms of their rituals and traditions, and also because of how people involved with both institutions devote themselves to living that way of life.

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Deborah Kerr as Sister Angela. Screenshot by me.

The performance of Deborah in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is amazing. She totally convinces as Sister Angela. She radiates decency and warmth.

Deborah also has an innocence and sweetness about her in this which I think perfectly contrasts with the rugged, world-weary personality of Robert’s stranded Marine.

Deborah is particularly excellent in the scene where the island is being bombed and Sister Angela is very frightened by the loud noises. She also totally convinces us that her character is seriously ill during the fever sequences. 

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Robert Mitchum as Corporal Allison. Screenshot by me.

Robert Mitchum is equally as good as the worldly Marine. His performance here has all the toughness and don’t mess with me attitude present in so many of his Noir films, yet Robert is also at his most vulnerable here.

Robert’s performance lets you see how much the Corporal is struggling with his feelings for Sister Angela and struggling with himself as to whether he should bring his feelings out into the open. It’s one of my favourite performances from Robert. This film is said to have been his own personal favourite from his own work. 

Deborah and Robert would become good friends after working on this film. Robert had initially thought that Deborah would be very prim and proper like many of her screen characters had been. His assumptions were happily proven wrong after she swore at director John Huston during a take, this caused Robert to collapse laughing and after that the pair got on just fine. 🙂

Deborah and Robert would go on to star alongside each other in The Sundowners, The Grass Is Greener and Reunion At Fairborough(TV film). Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr are in my top five acting screen teams. I like them together so much because they always manage to convince us of the emotional bonds developing between their characters in their four films. 

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a lovely and moving film.I highly recommend it, not only to fans of Deborah and Robert, but to anyone who appreciates a well told story with a strong focus on the characters and actors. 

My favourite scenes are the following. The corporal’s confession about his feelings for Sister Angela. The scenes where he is nursing her when she has the fever. The scene where he comforts her in the cave during the bombing. Sister Angela watching Corporal Allison standing on the beach looking out to sea. Where he tells her it has been a privilege to know her, and she says he will always be her dear companion. The scene where he sings Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree and they dance on the beach. The scene where he is drunk.

As well as the great acting to enjoy, there are also some lovely locations to look at and there is a good score by Georges Auric to enjoy.  

Any other fans of this one? What are your thoughts on Deborah’s performance in this one?

 

 

 

 

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The Second Lauren Bacall Blogathon: To Have And Have Not (1944)

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Crystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood is hosting this second annual blogathon celebrating Lauren Bacall. Be sure to visit Crystal’s site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

For this blogathon I’ve decided to write about To Have and Have Not, which is my favourite Lauren Bacall film.

Whenever I watch this film, I always find it so hard to believe that Lauren’s performance in this was actually her film debut.  

Lauren is so natural and confident in this film, that I for one really can’t tell that she is a beginner actor. Lauren steals every single scene she is in, and it is her performance as the feisty Slim that I always remember the most when the film is over. 

Lauren was nineteen years old when she was cast by director Howard Hawks in this film. Up to this point in her life she had been working as a model. Lauren’s photo had been spotted on the front cover of a magazine by Nancy “Slim” Keith, who was the wife of Howard Hawks. Slim showed Lauren’s photo to her husband. Howard sought Lauren out and signed her up for his upcoming film To Have And Have Not

The film was based upon the 1937 novel of the same name, which had been written by Ernest Hemingway. Hawks changed the story location from Key West to Martinique during WW2. Hawks kept the main plot of the novel, but he focused most intently on the relationship that develops between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s characters. I’ve never seen it, but apparently the 1950 film The Breaking Point is a much more faithful screen adaptation of Hemingway’s novel. 

I don’t think that Lauren Bacall could have possibly envisaged how much this film would end up changing her life. Not only did this film help to make her a star, but working in this film also changed her personal life forever.

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Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart as Slim and Harry. Screenshot by me.

During the making of this film, Lauren and her co-star, Humphrey Bogart, fell in love with each other and began an affair. Their affair led to Bogie divorcing his wife, the actress Mayo Methot, and marrying Lauren in 1945. Bogie and Bacall’s marriage lasted until Bogie’s death from cancer in 1957. 

The chemistry between Bogie and Bacall is evident on screen in all four of the films they made together. In To Have and Have Not, I think that their chemistry is absolutely electric. Most of their scenes ooze with sexual tension and a genuine affection for one another.

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An intimate moment for Slim and Harry. Screenshot by me.

I love that we are not watching two actors pretending to be in love in this film, we are actually witnessing the actors real feelings and longing for one another. As the characters of Slim and Harry fall in love with one another in the film, so to do Bogie and Bacall. 

                 Harry and Slim set eyes on each other for the first time. Screenshot by me.

When we watch this film, we are literally watching the mutual real life attraction between Bogie and Bacall develop and grow before our very eyes. The fact that the attraction between them is real helps the film immensely in my opinion. Their chemistry helps us to believe the growing bond and attraction developing between Slim and Harry. 

Bogie and Bacall’s characters affectionately call one another by the nicknames of Steve and Slim, those nicknames were what Howard Hawks and his wife Nancy called one another. Bogart and Bacall would later name their own son Steve.  

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Harry and Slim. Equal partners. Screenshot by me.

The relationship between Slim and Harry is one of my favourites from all of the equal romantic partnerships found in Howard Hawks films.

Both characters are fiercely independent and strong. Both characters also find something in the other that has been missing from their lives up until their point of meeting.

In Harry’s case he finds in Slim a woman who can live with him as an equal, a woman who can accept him for how he is, and a woman who isn’t afraid of risk or of hard times.

In Slim’s case she finds in Harry someone who she feels safe with, she also finds him to be someone who gives her a reason to finally stop drifting. When Slim and Harry are together they can have fun together, they can let their guard down, and they can be intimate and vulnerable with one another. 

Slim is one of the best of the Hawksian women in my opinion. She is strong, confident, sassy, sexy, tough, and very intelligentSlim has clearly been hurt in the past and is quite vulnerable, but she covers her pain with a tough and confident veneer. 

Slim is also very forward in conveying her attraction to Harry. He loves how forward she is and he loves how confident she is around him. Their relationship is a mix of emotional connection, friendship and sexual attraction. They really are the perfect fit for one another. 

The film takes place on the French island of Martinique during WW2. Martinique is under the control of the Vichy government, who are working with the Nazis.  Harry Morgan(Humphrey Bogart)is a sardonic American fisherman. Harry makes a fairly good living chartering his boat out to tourists. He is helped by his alcoholic and loveable friend Eddie(Walter Brennan).

Eddie is the films comic relief and is always randomly asking people if they were ever stung by a dead bee. Many people laugh at Eddie and dismiss him as a drunk, but Harry looks after Eddie, gives him a job, and doesn’t take kindly to any nasty talk about him.

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Frenchy. Screenshot by me.

Harry is approached by Frenchy(Marcel Dalio)who is a member of the growing resistance movement. Frenchy asks Harry to use his boat to smuggle people off the island. Harry initially refuses(perhaps his refusal represents the neutrality of America during the early years of WW2?) to help out because he fears the consequences if he does.

Harry meets a young pickpocket called Marie Browning(Lauren Bacall). He nicknames her Slim, and she nicknames him Steve. The pair develop an instant attraction and like each other very much. Harry changes his mind and agrees to help the resistance out. 

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Harry treating an injured resistance member. Screenshot by me.

Slim also gets involved with Harry and the resistance and helps them out however she can. Harry and his friends must try and evade the notice of the watchful officials.

The film highlights the dangers that the members of the resistance were always in. The film also reminds us how much the brave men and women who were a part of that risked their lives.

I like that Harry changes his mind and lends the resistance a helping hand. As the film goes on he also becomes less sardonic and stops thinking of his own self interest. The film highlights the moral need in times such as WW2 for us all to pull together,overcome differences, stop thinking solely of ourselves, and bravely stand up and fight the enemy.

The film has lots of thrills, action and suspense. As is always the case in a Howard Hawks film, there is also a great deal of character development and focus, this makes the characters come across to us as being real people. 

While the resistance story is very good, I would have liked to have seen more of that storyline and a bit more of the risks the characters involved are taking. I think it is fair to say that what makes this film so memorable is the relationship between Harry and Slim, rather than the resistance storyline. I’m quite sure that this film would not be as much of a classic today if Bogie and Bacall had not been cast in the roles of Harry and Slim. 

My favourite scenes are the following. The opening sequences on Harry’s boat with the tourist fisherman. The “you do know how to whistle”? scene. Slim and Harry being questioned by the authorities. Harry protecting Slim in the shootout, and in the middle of all that she totally keeps her cool and jokes that she has sat on a cigarette.   

All the cast are very good here, but Lauren steals every single scene she is in. It was quite an achievement for Lauren to manage to hold her own opposite all the experienced actors she was working with in this. A new classic film star twinkled into existence in this film. The name of that star was Lauren Bacall.   

I recently discovered a radio series on YouTube which stars Bogie and Bacall. I’m really enjoying working my way through it. The series is called Bold Venture. It aired between 1951 and 1952. The series is clearly influenced by To Have And Have Not. It’s all about the adventures of Shannon(Bogie)and his sidekick/love interest nicknamed Sailor(Lauren). It’s well worth a listen to if you’ve never heard it before. Perhaps we could imagine the radio series to be the continuing adventures of Slim and Steve?

What do you think of this film? What do you think of Lauren’s debut performance here?

 

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The Joseph Cotten Blogathon Concludes + Another Post

Joseph 2On behalf of myself and Crystal, I would just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has joined us to celebrate Joseph Cotten. 

You’ve all written excellent articles and reviews, and these have all shown me that Joseph is still very much a beloved star today. 

I’m still trying to get round everyone and comment on your entries, but I’m afraid that I’m not well at the moment, and I have so much stuff going on right now. I will try and get to your blogs as soon as I can. x

Please be sure to check out Poppity’s post for the blogathon, which was published yesterday. She discusses Joseph’s performance in Under Capricorn

Thanks again to you all. 

 

 

 

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The Joseph Cotten Blogathon: Day 1

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The big day has finally arrived! 🙂 It’s time for us to all gather together to celebrate the life and career of Joseph Cotten.

I will be your hostess accepting the entries for today. The lovely Crystal will be your hostess for the next two days over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood.

We are both really looking forward to reading all of your reviews and articles over the next three days. Thanks again for joining us in this celebration of Joseph Cotten and his films. Check back to this post throughout today to see the entries.

                                                                   Day 1 Entries

Cinematic Scribblings discusses Lo Scopone Scientifico, which is a lesser known film starring Joseph Cotten and Bette Davis.

Moon In Gemini tells us about the time that Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright reunited on screen in The Steel Trap.

Mike’s Take On The Movies reviews Two Flags West, a film set during the American Civil War.

The Midnite Drive-In discusses Joseph’s performance in The Hearse

Caftan Woman discusses Joseph’s performance as a man with a shady past in Walk Softly, Stranger.

Movie Rob discusses the chilling Soylent Green.

Wide Screen World watches The Farmer’s Daughter for the first time.

Popcorn and Flickers writes about Joseph’s debut performance in Too Much Johnson.

The Stop Button discusses the 1944 version of Gaslight.

Down These Mean Streets takes a trip into the shadows to review The Third Man.

Dubism discusses the sports analogies hidden in Tora!Tora!Tora!

I share my three favourite Joseph Cotten film performances.

Blogathons

The Joseph Cotten Blogathon: My Three Favourite Joseph Cotten Film Performances

Joseph 3This is my entry for the Joseph Cotten blogathon being co-hosted by myself and Crystal in a few days time. I can’t wait to read all of your entries. 

Joseph Cotten is a great favourite of mine. I like how he could easily switch between playing very likeable and easy going characters, and characters who were more darker and difficult to understand. 

Joseph was one of the most reliable and popular American classic era actors.  He was very good friends with Orson Welles, and it is Orson who we have to thank for Joseph becoming a film actor in the first place.It was also Orson Welles who gave Joseph his start in films. 

Joseph started out working alongside Orson in the Mercury Theatre. The Mercury Theatre was Orson’s independent theatre, radio, and film company, which he had co-founded with John Houseman in 1937. 

Joseph first appeared on screen when he starred in Too Much Johnson(1938), this was a film directed by Orson Wells. This was a film that was considered to be lost for decades, until it was discovered in 2013. Joseph’s next performance was as the best friend in Orson’s classic Citizen Kane. Then he went on to appear in The Magnificent Ambersons and Journey Into Fear. He would go on to become a popular and reliable actor in both film and television.

I’d like to share my three favourite Joseph Cotten film performances with you.

 

Since You Went Away (1944)

This WW2 drama is my first choice for a favourite Joseph Cotten performance. I love the film a great deal for its story and characters, but Joseph’s performance and the character he plays is what brings me back to this film again and again.

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Joseph as Tony. Screenshot by me.

Joseph plays the decent, fun loving, dependable, charming and loveable Tony Willet. He really steals every scene he is in. Joseph plays Tony in such a way that for me he becomes the life and soul of the film. 

Tony is the best friend of Anne Hilton(Claudette Colbert)and her husband, who is away fighting in the war.

Tony is in America waiting on his orders from the Navy, when he meets up with Anne and her family and makes it his mission to cheer them all up. 

It is clear to us that Tony is in love with Anne, and that she knows it but that neither will act on it. Their relationship could so easily have turned into an affair, but I think their relationship has much more meaning and poignancy precisely because it doesn’t develop into an affair.  

Joseph conveys Tony’s love and desire for Anne so well, but he also conveys his love for his friend(Anne’s husband)too and we know that he would never damage their marriage by starting an affair with Anne. We feel sorry for Tony because he can’t get the happy ending he desires in his heart, but we love him all the more for not breaking up his friends marriage. You know he would do anything for Anne and her family and he wouldn’t ask for anything in return. What a guy! What a performance from Joseph!

 

A Shadow Of A Doubt(1943)

This was the film that forever changed Joseph’s screen image. With this role he went from playing very likeable characters, to playing a cold, manipulative and very scary serial killer.

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Joseph as Uncle Charlie. Screenshot by me.

Joseph plays Charlie, a smooth and charming man visiting his family in a small American town. Charlie’s exterior is a mask hiding his dark true self.

He is actually a serial killer, and he is a cruel, cold and very dangerous man. When his young niece (Teresa Wright) discovers his secret, he plots to kill her too to protect his secret. 

Joseph is excellent as the dark and charming Charlie. I like how he effortlessly switches between likeable charmer and deranged and scary monster. His performance is all in his eyes and expressions and he does a terrific job. In my opinion this is Joseph Cotten’s best screen performance. 

 

I’ll Be Seeing You(1944) 

Another film set during WW2. I’ll Be Seeing You isn’t just your average romance story, this love story has some stings in the tale. In this film Joseph plays Zachary Morgan, a shell shocked soldier, who has just been released from a military hospital.

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Joseph as Zachary. Screenshot by me.

Zachary is having a tough time dealing with his symptoms and readjusting to life on the outside. All that changes when he meets the kind Mary (Ginger Rogers).

Zachary is unaware of Mary’s secret that she is a prisoner convicted of manslaughter. Mary has been allowed out of prison for a short time to spend time with her family. 

Joseph totally convinces as a traumatised soldier struggling with his symptoms and finding a small degree of peace with the woman he is falling for. Joseph’s performance in this film is both subtle and poignant.

I especially love how Joseph conveys to us Zachary’s anxiety and awkwardness being around people and loud noises. Joseph also really makes you believe that his character is suffering and trying so very hard to get some control over his condition. 

 

What are your views on Joseph’s performances in these three films? What are your favourite Joseph Cotten performances? 

 

 

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Announcing The James Mason Blogathon

I’ve wanted to hold a blogathon celebrating James Mason for a while now. So I thought it was high time that I got on and put one together. He is a great favourite of mine, and as a fellow Brit, I am very proud of him for having been able to achieve international stardom.

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James Mason in The Wicked Lady. Screenshot by me.

James Mason was one of the greatest classic era actors. He had one of the most distinctive and memorable voices in history. He was suave, brooding, intense and charming.

James Mason excelled at playing both villains and good guys. He was born in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, on the 15th of May, 1909. He would go on to enjoy a fifty year career in film and Television. He died in 1984.

For this blogathon you can write about any of James Mason’s films and TV performances. You can write about your favourite James Mason characters. You can write a tribute to him. You can write about his career as a whole. You can write about either his British or American film career. 

You can write more than one post if you would like to do so. I will allow two duplicates per screen title. Previously published articles and reviews are very welcome.

The blogathon will be held on the 5th and 6th of October, 2018. Please publish your entries on or before those dates. 

Let me know what you want to write about in the comments section below. Check the participation list below to see who is writing about what. Take one of the banners and put them somewhere on your site to help promote the event.

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Three Favourite James Mason Performances

Caftan Woman: Five Fingers

Dubism: Odd Man Out

Realweegiemidgetreviews: Heaven Can Wait

Diary Of A Movie Maniac: Salem’s Lot

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: The Seventh Veil

Pale Writer2: The Wicked Lady

Wide Screen World: Heaven Can Wait

Poppity: Lolita

The Stop Button: Bigger Than Life

Silver Screenings: The Reckless Moment

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: North By Northwest

MovieRob: The Desert FoxThe Desert Rats

The Wonderful World Of Cinema: James Mason and Margaret Lockwood

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies: The Story Of Three Loves

Critica Retro: Caught

Retro Movie Buff: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

The Midnite Drive-In: The Boys From Brazil

Silver Scenes: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

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James Mason 1

 

James Mason 2

Blogathons, True Story

The Fourth Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon: Anastasia (1956)

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Virginie over at The Wonderful World Of Cinema is hosting this fourth annual blogathon celebrating Ingrid Bergman and her films. Be sure to visit Virginie’s site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I’m writing about Ingrid’s performance as a woman who believes she is the daughter of the last Russian Tsar. Before discussing Ingrid’s performance in this film, I want to first take a look at the real people and events that inspired this film.   

In the early hours of the 17th of July, 1918, a brutal massacre took place in the basement of the Ipatiev House, which was located in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, the Empress Alexandra, were shot to death by the Bolshevik guards holding them prisoner at the house. 

Also murdered with Nicholas and Alexandra were their five children: compassionate Olga (aged 22), dutiful Tatiana (aged 21), gentle Maria (aged 19), fun-loving Anastasia (aged 17) and affectionate Alexei (aged 13).  

Four loyal members of the Romanov household staff were also murdered alongside the family that night: Anna Demidova (Alexandra’s maid), Eugene Botkin (the family doctor), Alexei Trupp (footman)and Ivan Kharitonov (cook).  Klementy Nagorny, who was the bodyguard of the hemophiliac Tsarevich Alexei, had been removed from the house a few days earlier and shot to death. The family and remaining staff were never told that Nagorny had been killed.  

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The Romanov Family. Standing left to right: Maria and Alexandra. Seated left to right: Olga, Nicholas, Anastasia, Alexei and Tatiana. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

Nicholas, Alexandra and the three male members of staff all died fairly quickly. The children and Anna Demidova were unfortunately not so lucky, they all survived the initial round of shooting and were bayoneted and shot to death.

The bodies were removed from the house, placed in a truck, and they were then taken to be buried in a nearby forest. Most of the remains were discovered and exhumed in 1991. Two bodies were missing from the gravesite though, and it would not be until 2007 that the bodies of Alexei and one of his sisters (believed to be Maria) were discovered in a pit not that far from the main gravesite.     

For most of the 20th century there were persistent rumours that one or more of the Romanov children had escaped the massacre that night. I believe that these rumours were inspired by reports from the executioners that one of the daughters suddenly moved and started screaming as the bodies were being put in the truck. She was killed when they realised she was still alive.

The name that kept coming up most often as a possible Romanov survivor was Anastasia.  

Grand Duchess Anastasia was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on the 18th of June, 1901. She was the youngest daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra. She was the wild child of the imperial family. Anastasia was an adventurous, fearless, stubborn and mischievous girl. She also had a natural gift for mimicry and comedy; her family, friends and the household staff couldn’t help but be amused by her antics. Anastasia was also a skilled photographer and she was always snapping pictures of her family and their activities.

While there were a few people over the years who claimed they were some of Anastasia’s siblings, it is the story of the Anastasia claims that became the most famous and captured the public imagination.  

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Anna Anderson. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

There were several women who claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Of these imposters only Eugenia Smith and Anna Anderson ever gained large numbers of supporters.

Anna Anderson remains the most famous of all the Romanov imposters. It was also her case that inspired this 1956 film. 

Anna Anderson attempted suicide in 1920. She was taken to a mental hospital in Berlin. Anna told the staff working there that she was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II.

Anna’s story went public and led to some surviving members of the Romanov entourage, including the Romanov children’s beloved French tutor, Pierre Gilliard, coming to visit Anna in hospital. Anastasia’s aunt, Grand Duchess Olga, who was the youngest sister of Tsar Nicholas II, also visited Anna. 

Some people believed Anna’s story, but many who had actually known the real Grand Duchess and been in regular contact with her for much of her life, didn’t believe her claims at all. Never the less, without the dead bodies of the Romanov family to prove otherwise, and with Anna sticking to her story, there was always the possibility that her claims might well be true.

Anna died in 1984. Her DNA was later matched against samples taken from living royalty who were related to the Romanov family. The test results proved that Anna Anderson was not the Grand Duchess.

Anna was really a Polish factory worker with a long history of mental illness. Her name wasn’t even Anna Anderson, it was actually Franziska Schanzkowska. Her story was a sad one.

Franziska worked in a munitions factory. Her fiance was killed during WW1. Not that long after her fiance had died, a grenade fell out of her hand at the factory, it exploded and killed the factory foreman in front of her. She was seriously injured in the explosion and was taken to a sanitarium. 

This stranger than fiction story proved too good for stage and screen writers to ignore. In 1952, French playwright Marcelle Maurette wrote a stage play based on the Anna Anderson story. The play became a big hit. 20th Century Fox bought the rights to the play and turned it into this film starring Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner and Helen Hayes. The film was directed by Anatole Litvak. 

The film would be a comeback for Ingrid Bergman, as it was the first film that she had made for Hollywood for some years. She had become a figure of scandal due to her divorce from her husband Petter Lindstrom, and her affair with the Italian film director Roberto Rossellini, who she married soon after her divorce. 

Ingrid’s very moving and powerful performance in Anastasia saw Hollywood welcoming her back with open arms. She was rewarded with a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in this film. 

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Bounine confronts Anna. Screenshot by me.

This film is all about resurrection. I think that it is very appropriate that the film begins on a dark Easter night.

The film opens in Paris, it is 1928, ten years after the Russian revolution and the murder of the Romanov family. 

Members of the Russian community, who now live in exile in France, are attending various church services being held in the city to mark the start of Easter.

An amnesic, physically ill, suicidal young woman, called Anna Koreff(Ingrid Bergman)is being followed through the city streets on this night. She is being followed by former Russian General, Bounine(Yul Brynner). 

Bounine has set up a scheme to pass off a woman as being the real Grand Duchess Anastasia, who according to circulating rumours, actually survived the massacre that killed the rest of her family. Bounine intends to convince the surviving members of the royal family and their staff of the validity of his claim. He then intends to get his hands on some of the ten million pound inheritance left by the Tsar for his daughter in a British bank.

As he studies Anna, he actually becomes convinced that she is the real Grand Duchess Anastasia. She is the same height as Anastasia, is the same age as she would be now, looks like her and has some of her characteristics. Anna also has a fear of cellars(the royal family were killed in a cellar)and bears injuries that could be bullet wounds. Anna also says things and has memories about the royal family that she could only know about if she had been with them at some point. We later learn that there is a strong possibility that Anna’s injuries were actually received in an explosion aboard a train that she was a passenger on.  

Bounine takes her in and helps her to regain her memory. He teaches her royal etiquette, royal traditions and facts about the royal family. Anna is confused, upset and frustrated because she has no clear memories of her past, she has been in and out of asylums for years(it is while she was in one asylum that she claimed to be the Grand Duchess, and this is how Bounine first heard of her) and she has horrible nightmares about death and violence.

Ingrid does such an excellent job of conveying to us just how vulnerable, traumatised and angry Anna is. It’s not hard to see why Ingrid won an Academy Award for her performance here. She is so convincing and moving as this damaged woman searching for answers.

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Ingrid says so much with her expressions. Screenshot by me.

Ingrid plays Anna as childlike and vulnerable for much of the film, and she also gives us glimpses of this woman’s inner strength and passionate nature.

 Ingrid also does a wonderful job of convincing us that Anna is becoming emotionally stronger, more regal, more confident, and that she is regaining some happiness and control over herself and her life as the film goes on. 

Eventually Anna is ready to face some former royal staff and members of Russian society who knew the royal family. Bounine arranges a reception to introduce her to them, and many attending this event believe she is the Grand Duchess.

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Bounine speaks to the Dowager Empress about Anna. Screenshot by me.

The real test will now be to see if Anna can convince Anastasia’s grandmother(mother of Tsar Nicholas), the Dowager Empress Marie(Helen Hayes)of her identity. The reclusive Dowager Empress of Russia now lives in Denmark (her birth place). The Dowager refuses to see anyone claiming to be one of grandchildren, this is because she has seen some imposters before and been left devastated by their deception.

Bounine enlists the help of the Dowager’s flirtatious lady in waiting(a scene stealing Martita Hunt) to get them in to see the Empress. Eventually the Dowager agrees to meet with Anna.

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Anna tries to convince the Dowager that she is her granddaughter. Screenshot by me.

Whenever I watch this film I always feel so sorry for the Dowager Empress. I can’t begin to imagine the pain that the real Dowager must have suffered. Not only did she lose Nicholas and her grandchildren, but she also lost her youngest son Michael too. 

Michael was also murdered during the revolution, he was killed along with his secretary, Nicholas Johnson. The only survivors of the immediate royal family were Marie and her two daughters, Xenia and Olga.

Will the Dowager accept this woman as her grandchild? Will we learn for certain if Anna is Anastasia or not? Watch the film and find out. Obviously if you watch this now you know full well that the Anastasia claims are complete fiction, but the film still manages to work very well despite the truth now being known.

I think the strength of the film is that it plays on the hope that one or more of the children could have survived that night. We want Ingrid’s character to be the real Anastasia, we want a happy ending and so we keep watching because of that. The film also works because it offers the viewer balanced amounts of evidence to both prove and disprove Anna’s claim to be Anastasia. We can make up our own minds as to the truth of her identity.  

As much as I love the film for the its story and performances, I have to say that my absolute favourite thing about this film is the slowly changing and developing relationship between Bounine and Anna.

I love how Bounine begins to find himself falling in love with Anna, and how he also becomes more convinced that she is the real Grand Duchess after all. I like how Anna starts off not trusting him, feeling resentful for his pushing her in lessons, and yet she slowly begins to like and trust him. 

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Bounine serenades Anna. Screenshot by me.

Bounine also undergoes a real character change and he becomes less stern, and turns more tender and gentle. Bounine also starts to care more about looking after Anna and helping her instead of using her to get money. 

Yul does such a good job of conveying that change and his growing bond with Anna. He also manages to convince as both commanding and strong military man, and as the softer and kinder man he becomes as the film goes on. Yul has lovely chemistry with Ingrid and I think it’s a real shame that they never worked together again. 

Ingrid delivers the standout performance of the film in my opinion. Her performance here is one of my favourites from out of all her screen work. She really manages to get across how confused and damaged Anna is, and also conveys to us just how desperate for happiness and answers she is. Ingrid glows in the scenes where Anna is having a good time, and she makes you want to put your arms around her whenever Anna is sad and scared.  

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Helen Hayes as The Dowager Empress. Screenshot by me.

Helen Hayes is excellent as the dignified and strong woman who is trying so hard to keep her grief in check, while she also tentatively dares to hope that Anna may well be her granddaughter.

I think that Helen does a terrific job in the scenes where you can see the Dowager really struggling to hold back her tears. Helen and Ingrid work very well together too. 

The performances, costumes, sets and cinematography are all very good. I think that Alfred Newman’s beautiful score adds a great deal of emotion and atmosphere to the proceedings. I consider his score for this to be among his most underrated work. 

My favourite scenes are the following. Bounine questioning and studying Anna for the first time. Bounine serenading Anna. Anna looking across the theatre to try and see the Dowager. Anna waking up from a nightmare and Bounine trying to comfort her. Anna meeting the Dowager. Anna meeting a cousin of Anastasia’s at the theatre. Anna learning how to dance with Bounine. 

The 1997 animated film Anastasia borrowed much from this 1956 film, the two films have near identical plots and characters. The animated film is not remotely accurate in its depiction of the revolution or of the Anna Anderson story, but for all its flaws it might be a better one to watch with younger children. Do show older children the 1956 film though. 

The animated film was my introduction to the Anastasia legend and it was watching that film that also got me interested in the real Romanov family, so I will always have a soft spot for that film because of that. I then discovered the film Nicholas and Alexandra,then I came across this 1956 film. I am so happy that I found this film because it features Ingrid delivering one of her finest performances.

This is a very enjoyable and moving film inspired by a fascinating and sad true story. Highly recommended for fans of Ingrid Bergman. What are your thoughts on this film and Ingrid’s performance? 

 

 

 

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The Top Ten Alfred Hitchcock Films

Today is Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday. He was born in 1899 in London. I thought I would put together a ranked list of the ten films that I consider to be his best.

As you all know, I am a major fan of Hitch’s films, so it has proven to be quite a challenge indeed for me to only pick ten films of his to rank. 

I’d love to get your thoughts on these ten films. I’d also love to know what your own top ten Hitchcock list looks like. Please do leave your own choices in the comments below. 

 

10. The Birds (1963)

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Melanie, Cathy and Mitch hide from the birds. Screenshot by me.

Hitchcock proves he has a talent as a horror director with this film about birds attacking humans. A clever mix of real birds, fake birds and matte shots convince us that the bird attacks and mass gatherings are real.

Featuring a strong debut performance by Tippi Hedren. I also love this one a great deal because of the relationship which develops between Mitch and Melanie.  

 

 

9. Sabotage (1936)

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Sylvia Sidney as the horrified wife. Screenshot by me.

Sabotage is a suspenseful drama about the British police trying to prevent a terrorist attack in London.

The best remembered scene in this involves a London bus. This bus sequence is one of the most shocking and suspenseful sequences in any of Hitchcock’s films.

The other standout sequence in the film is the dinner table scene, where the wife gives her evil husband quite the fright. 

Sylvia Sidney is excellent as the young wife who slowly comes to realise that her husband is a cold and deranged murderer, and that he doesn’t care who gets hurt by his actions.

I think this is Hitch’s best British film. 

 

8.Notorious (1946)

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Devlin and Alicia. Screenshot by me.

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman play against type in this thrilling film about spies, romance and murder. The daughter of a Nazi(who doesn’t share her father’s views) is asked to spy on a Nazi group who live in America.

She accepts the task and soon finds herself in great danger. She is also romantically torn between two very different men (Cary Grant and Claude Rains).

Cary is all toughness and cynicism as the American agent unwilling to admit he is in love with the woman he is sending into danger.  Ingrid plays a disreputable, fun-loving woman, whose heroic actions redeem her self destructive behaviour. Superb support from the great Claude Rains and Leopoldine Konstantin. 

7. Rope (1948)

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Phillip, Rupert and Brandon. Screenshot by me.

I’d say this has to be the most macabre Hitchcock film. Two men murder one of their friends, put his body into a trunk, and then use the top of the trunk as a buffet table.

They invite a group of their friends(including the victims father and fiance)to dinner in the apartment to eat off the trunk. The suspense lies in whether or not the dead body will be discovered.

John Dall is chilling as the evil, cold and possibly psychopathic, Brandon. Farley Granger is equally excellent as the twitchy Phillip, who unlike Brandon, is actually unhappy about what they have done and is nervous about getting caught.

Rope is notable for seemingly having been shot all in one take, and also for the homosexual undertones to the relationship between Brandon, Phillip and their friend and former teacher, Rupert(James Stewart). The film was inspired by the real Leopold and Loeb murder case.  

 

6. Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)

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Uncle Charlie and his niece. Screenshot by me.

Hitch shows us that all is not as it seems in small town America. Joseph Cotten delivers a career best performance here playing Uncle Charlie, a charming serial killer who is being pursued by the police.

The film becomes a thrilling cat and mouse game once Charlie’s niece finds out his dark secret. 

This film is all about shattered innocence, misperception and danger. The fascinating relationship between Charlie and his niece is something that has been much discussed and interpreted(the pair are almost like twins in some ways, and there is also a hint of a strange tension between them which could be sexual), and it is one of the most memorable aspects of the film. Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright both deliver excellent performances.  

 

5. Vertigo (1958)

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Madeleine reborn. Screenshot by me.

In my opinion this is Hitchock’s darkest and most fascinating film. The film also features the best Hitchcock score (in my opinion) composed by Bernard Herrmann. This haunting Noir is part suspenseful mystery, part twisted and tragic love story, and part eerie ghost story.

This is one that can be interpreted in so many different ways, which means that it is one that you can have a great deal of fun watching and analysing. 

James Stewart and Kim Novak are both at their best as the ill-fated lovers, Scottie and Madeleine. This is one of the darkest and complex performances that James Stewart ever gave. Kim Novak convinces in a duel role as two very different women. 

 

4. North By Northwest (1959)

 

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Eve and Roger hang on to Mount Rushmore. Screenshot by me.

This one is a real thrill ride from start to finish. The best of Hitch’s wrong man on the run films in my opinion. This film is part thriller, part comedy, part romance and part spy story. It looks gorgeous visually and the cast all look so stylish and glamorous.

The film features two of the most iconic moments in film history(the crop duster attack and the Mount Rushmore sequence). Cary Grant is at his best,and he is ably supported by Eva Marie Saint, James Mason and Martin Landau. 

3. Rebecca (1940)

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Mrs. Danvers distresses the new bride. Screenshot by me.

This gothic ghost story is expertly directed by Hitch. The film begins with a sweet love story, the film is also very brightly lit at the beginning and everything looks idyllic. 

The mood and lighting of the film quickly become much darker once Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier’s characters return home to England.

All shadows and billowing curtains, this atmospheric and suspenseful drama features career best performances from Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson. I love how Hitch makes us sense the oppressive presence of the dead Rebecca.

2. Psycho (1960)

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Lila gets a fright. Screenshot by me.

The film that changed everything. Starting off as a film about a woman on the run, the film takes an unexpected detour into horror territory and makes film history in the process.

Featuring the scariest shower sequence ever filmed, one of the creepiest houses in film history, and a brilliant twist at the end which makes you reassess everything that you have just watched.

Scary, suspenseful and featuring a remarkable performance by Anthony Perkins. Strong support from Vera Miles, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam and John Gavin.

 

 

1. Rear Window (1954)

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Lisa and Jeff witness something strange. Screenshot by me.

I struggled for a very long time over which film should be in first place. In the end I decided that this film should be number one.

I think it easily qualifies to be the best Hitchcock film as it so perfectly encapsulates what Hitchcock’s films are all about.

The plot of the film and the way everything is all set up, means that this film is still effective and doesn’t feel dated when viewed today. 

Rear Window is filled with suspense, murder, relationships, obsession, mystery, danger and thrills. Hitch also cleverly makes the audience obsessed voyeurs, just like Jimmy Stewart’s character is, by making us see everything from that characters perspective. Featuring terrific performances from James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr.