Noir

Taking A Walk Through The Dark Alley of Film Noir.

 

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If pressed to choose just one film genre as my favourite, I would certainly have to go with Film Noir. I love these films because they reflect the truth of humanity. We all have good and bad within us; we are all complicated in some way, and we all do what we have to do to survive and get by in life.

Following the horrors of WW2, 1940’s film audiences were bombarded with films that reflected the reality of the life they were living. Not since the 1930’s gangster flicks had films been so violent. The Noir villains were ice cold and nasty pieces of work, the women were independent, strong and even manipulative, and even the heroes were not clear cut good guys. The public lapped these films up and they continued being made throughout the 1940’s and 50’s.

It was the French film critics who came up with the name for these films; that word was Noir(meaning black or dark.) The word was their way to best describe these films being made in the States. The French themselves made many Noir films; films such as Jour Se Leve and Rififi.

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Noir films are also very interesting visually. The black and white photography captures long shadows and creates an atmosphere unlike anything seen before or since (with the exception of German expressionist films of the 20’s.) Darkness is all around in these films, clinging to all the characters like a suffocating fog.

Another memorable part to a Noir film is the femme fatale. As a woman I love that these films offered such juicy roles for women to play. The Noir era was really the first time since the 1920’s, and pre-code 30’s, that American actresses had been offered strong, and obvious bad girl roles. The femme fatales are overtly sexual, devious, independent and sexually aggressive women. These gals know what they want and they go after it. These women are not content to stay at home cooking in the kitchen and looking nice for their men. They use men and then toss them aside without a second thought. My favourites among these women are Kathie (Jane Greer)in Out Of The Past,  and Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck)in Double Indemnity.

I think it must have fun for the actresses to be able to play these women in this way. When you look at the roles of Noir actresses film credits, you’ll often find that their Noir characters are the most memorable and interesting roles of their career. Mention Stanwyck, Bacall, Peggy Cummins or Lana Turner, and what is the first film of theirs that usually gets mentioned? 9 times out of 10 it is their Noir films – Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, Gun Crazy and The Postman Always Rings Twice. These strong female roles remain as memorable and impressive today as they were upon release.

As well as the bad girls, Noir also features many memorable good girls too. These are also strong and independent gals, who will happily get mixed up in danger and who prove to the cynical men in their lives that not all women are femme fatales. My favourite of these characters is Kathleen (Lucille Ball)in Dark Corner (1946). Kathleen is the secretary to Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens)a tough Private Investigator who is being set up. Kathleen happily puts herself at risk to help him uncover the bad guys, and proves herself to be a woman worthy of his heart.

The men in these films (both good and bad)are usually cynical and world weary. They are tough and comfortable with dishing out and being around violence. Some are bad guys with no redeeming features; while others have tough exteriors in order to survive, but who underneath are total sweethearts. Sometimes a decent guy (like Walter Neff for example)gets caught up in a web weaved by a femme fatale, and becomes caught up in murder and crime and soon finds they have no way out and will end up dead or in jail.

Actors like Humphrey Bogart, Richard Widmark, Dick Powell and Robert Mitchum played some of the best remembered Noir male characters. These performances remain affective today. My favourites from the Noir guys are Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell)in Farewell My Lovely, Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens)in The Dark Corner, Walter Brown (Charles McGraw) in The Narrow Margin, Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) in Pickup On South Street and Frank Chambers (John Garfield) in The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Even in the era of the censor, these films contain images and dialogue that make me sit up and go “did I really just see or hear that?” These films are very violent without being overly so, most of what we see is implied but still packs a punch for the viewer. The films contain dialogue or shared glances between characters that leave you in no doubt as to meaning, be that implied meaning sexual or violent.

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Noir slowly wound down towards the end of the 50’s. It enjoyed a revival in the 80’s with the release of the more sexually explicit Body Heat. In this film, Kathleen Turner is Mattie, the femme fatale leading William Hurt into her trap. Sex is her weapon and she is in complete control of her situation. I consider this to be the best Noir film made outside of the 40’s and 50’s.

Since then, films such as Basic Instinct, Femme Fatale and LA Confidential have gained Film Noir new generations of fans. Hopefully people who liked these flicks, characters, and the look of the films will go and check out Noir titles from the 40’s and 50’s.

My top 10 Noir films are: Pickup On South Street, Farewell My Lovely (Dick Powell version),Double Indemnity, Le Jour Se Leve, The Dark Corner, The Big Heat, The Narrow Margin, Body Heat, LA Confidential and T-Men.

My favourite decade for Noir? Without a doubt the 1940’s. When I hear the word Noir, I immediately think of smoke filled rooms, the light catching the shadows on the blinds, which in turn cast long dark shadows. This decade has so many films that I think are the best of the genre. For me just the word Noir, conjures up images of world weary detectives, cynical people trying to make it from one day to the next and of women whose greatest weapon is themselves.

Do you love Noir? Please share your thoughts below. What are your favourite Noir films? Who are your favourite Noir characters?

Chinese Cinema, Martial Arts, Romance

House Of Flying Daggers (2004)

Chinese films are known for their sumptuous visuals, and this film is certainly no exception. This film truly is a work of art; from the stunning colour photography, to the beautiful costumes and locations used, to the gorgeous score by Shigeru Umebayashi (my favourite part of the score being the lovers theme.)

This is my favourite Chinese film. I’ve seen this one so many times, but even though I know what’s going to happen, the look of this film still leaves me open mouthed in awe. If you are after other visually impressive films like this, then I also highly recommend Curse of the Golden Flower (2006).

House of Flying Daggers is directed by Zhang Yimou, and it really touches my soul; it features two very moving love stories and an ending that will break you heart. I also like how it plays with the audience and keeps you believing one thing until a surprising truth is revealed that you didn’t expect.

The film is classed as a wuxia/romance. Wuxia is a Chinese genre that focuses on stories about characters who are skilled in the martial arts. This film features some spectacular, gravity defying martial arts fights. My personal favourite fight sequence in this is the one in the green bamboo forest.

The film is set in ninth century China. The House of Flying Daggers is a revolutionary group opposing the corrupt government. Two police officers; the highly experienced Leo (Andy Lau)and the younger, but equally capable Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are tasked with finding the leader of the Daggers and killing them. The trouble is nobody but those in the group know the current leaders identity. Leo arrests a young blind dancer called Mei(Ziyi Zhang), as she is suspected to be the daughter of the groups previous leader.

Once she is in jail, Mei is rescued by Jin (posing as a revolutionary, in a deception arranged by Leo),his rescue of her makes certain that he gains her trust. The couple flee across open country and forests to try and reach the Daggers headquarters. Unbeknown to either of them, Leo and his men are following them. There are also other people following and watching the pair. As they spend more time together, an undeniable bond begins to grow between Mei and Jin. The pair slowly realise they are falling in love.

I can’t say anymore about the plot without spoiling the three major twists that are revealed to us later in the film. These make you reassess everything you have watched and are totally unexpected.

Ziyi Zhang is one of my favourite actresses, and I think her performance here is out of this world. Ziyi makes Mei extremely vulnerable, yet strong and capable. She has adapted to her blindness and learnt to use her hearing in a way that ensures she is aware of what is going on around her. Mei has gained fame for her echo dance(one of the best remembered and most beautiful scenes in the film)in which the accuracy and precision of her hearing is put to the test. Later in the ambush in the field, we see how Mei’s hearing and martial arts skills allows her to be a formidable fighter despite her disability.

Andy Lau is excellent as the observant and patient police captain. He is clever and resourceful and will get what he wants. Lau is always a solid actor, but he is extremely good here.

I wasn’t familiar with Takeshi Kaneshiro before I first saw this film, and I still need to see more of his work, but I’m very impressed with his performance here. The way he conveys to us his growing love and affection for Mei is done so well and seems so genuine. He makes Jin observant and capable of taking care of himself.

My favourite scenes are the following. The fight in the bamboo forest. The echo game sequence, which ends with a gravity defying sword sequence. The scene at the forest bath. The reunion between the two former lovers at the Daggers headquarters. Jin picking flowers on horseback for Mei.

This is an exciting and moving film. If you love martial arts this is one for you. The film is romantic and tragic too. There is something for everyone in this one.

Are you a fan of this film? Please leave your thoughts below. Never seen it? I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

Thriller

Unsung Classics 6: Capricorn One (1978)

During the 1970’s there were a lot of thrillers made dealing with the publics mistrust of government, and also many films in which conspiracies played a key part in the plot. Capricorn One came along towards the end the decade, and in my opinion it is one of the best films in this genre.

Directed by Peter Hyams, this is a cracking film about cover ups, lies, murder and people risking their own lives to find and expose the truth. I think the entire cast are excellent. The film also features my favourite score by Jerry Goldsmith.

For those people out there with doubts about the 60’s and 70’s moon landings, this film certainly shows how such a hoax could have been achieved. Even if you don’t believe that, it has to be said this film will at least make you understand why some people think they were fake.

The world is waiting with baited breath for the launch of the first manned mission to Mars. The three Astronauts about to embark on this historic space flight are Charles Brubaker (James Brolin),John Walker (O.J. Simpson) and Peter Willis (Sam Waterston). As they are waiting for the launch countdown to begin, the capsule door is opened and a mysterious man leans in to tell them they have to get out. Once they have done so they learn that it’s just been discovered that there is a dangerous fault in the life support system. Flown to a remote base, the crew demand some answers. High ranking NASA official, Dr. James Kelloway (Hal Holbrook, who was so good at playing villains)comes and speaks to them.

The Astronauts are appalled when he tells them that the craft will still launch as the mission has to be seen to go ahead. Cancelling the mission would have given the government a perfect opportunity to end its funding of the space programme.

Kelloway threatens the lives of the Astronauts families to persuade the men to fake TV transmissions that will seem to be as if they were flying to Mars and landing on the planet. Using voice recordings of the crew (for regular scheduled flight check conversations with Mission Control) from the test simulations, Mission Control thinks the crew are aboard the spacecraft.

NASA Technician, Elliot Whitter(Robert Walden)suspects something is wrong when he notices strange technical readouts and he reports this to his superiors. Whitter also tells his friend Robert Caulfield(Elliott Gould)who is a news reporter. When Whitter disappears, Caulfield gets very worried and does some investigating of his own.

In a TV studio on the base, a fake Martian landscape is set up for the transmissions, the crew must step before the cameras trying to think of some way of communicating something is wrong. When the real craft is destroyed in space, the world obviously believes the astronauts are dead. This means the crew can’t be released because the hoax would then be exposed. Brubaker, Walker and Willis try and escape and run for their lives.

This is a real tense thriller. Goldsmith’s score fits so well with the film and really creates a sinister and tense atmosphere. He was a musical genius and came up with so many stunning scores, this is my personal favourite out of all his scores.

Telly Savalas is hysterical as a rude crop duster who helps Caulfield in his quest to uncover the truth. Brenda Vaccaro is very moving as Brubaker’s wife, Kay, the scene where she reads to her children while trying not to cry is very touching.

My favourite scenes are the following. The crew learning the truth from Kelloway. The entire sequence with the crop duster and Caulfield, from their hysterical first meeting to them following the mysterious black helicopters. The crew splitting up to try and give themselves more of a chance of getting rescued and surviving. Kay reading to her children and trying not to cry. Brubaker hiding in the deserted petrol station.

This is a film that hardly ever gets discussed nowadays and I think that is a real shame. This film is one of the most enjoyable from the 70’s, and its story is still very effective when viewed today.

This ranks up there with Three Days of the Condor and All The Presidents Men for me. If you’re a fan of this film please leave your comments below. Never seen it? I highly recommend it.

 

Thriller

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 8: North By Northwest (1959)

Hi all.Hope you are all well, and have a great weekend lined up. I have next week off work. I’m so happy because we are enjoying a heatwave here in the UK. Ice cream and sun cream are lined up!

For many people, North By Northwest is Hitch’s best film. It isn’t hard to see why it is so highly thought of; it contains all the essential elements of his films – suspense, thrills, mistaken identity, an innocent accused, comedy and a cool blonde. In short, this film is the perfect package.

I love this film so much. This is a film in which something is always happening. In this film the characters (and therefore us watching)are always on the move. From the opening titles, designed by Saul Bass and accompanied by one of Bernard Herrmann’s best scores; the characters are on the move and don’t really stop until the final scene.

Roger Thornhill  (Cary Grant)is a Madison Avenue advertising man, who likes to think he is complete control of his life. His ordered life is turned on it’s head when he is mistaken for a C.I.A agent, called George Kaplan.

Suave spy, Phillip Vandamm (a sinister James Mason) has been aware of Kaplan following him and his group for some time and wants him dead. Thornhill can’t persuade him that this is a genuine case of mistaken identity. So begins a non stop chase across the country. Thornhill tries to evade the authorities, after Vandamm frames him for murder. Thornhill also tries to get someone to believe him that Vandamm is trying to kill him.

Enter resourceful, mysterious and cool blonde, Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint)who helps Thornhill when he gets into difficulty aboard a train. But can Thornhill trust her or not?

A C.I.A official, known as the professor (Leo G. Carroll) finds out about Thornhill’s situation and tries to help him. The professor is also on the Vandamm case and he also has an agent working right under Vandamm’s nose.

I love how many things in this film defy logic, yet somehow you never realise that when you are watching. I’m thinking mainly of the scene where Thornhill is forcibly made drunk. If Vandamm wants him dead, why not just shoot him?

The same goes for the famous crop duster sequence, why not just get him out to that road and shoot him? Yet the illogic of it all somehow works when you watch. This is a testament to Hitch, that he can make you so invested in the story that certain things don’t strike you as odd until much later. I actually think the scene where Thornhill watches that glass of booze get poured out is quite chilling, he is going to be forced to drink such large amounts and can’t fight back against this.

Great performances throughout, an exciting Herrmann score, and featuring two of the most famous of all Hitchcock sequences – the crop duster chase and the finale up on Mount Rushmore. These two scenes have gone on to become two of the most famous in cinema history. The film also has two big twists concerning the identity of two characters and that keeps you trying to figure out who to trust, or who to take at face value.

The film is also very funny in places. Grant reels off many comic lines and does the funniest and one of the best drunk impressions I’ve ever seen. Jessie Royce Landis is a hoot as Thornhill’s mother. Mrs. Thornhill doesn’t believe her sons story and has quite a few laughs at his expense. Some supportive mother he has! 🙂

Mason is chilling and menacing throughout. He plays a character who won’t get his own hands dirty, but who has no qualms about ordering someone to be killed. You know he is a nasty piece of work.

Martin Landau provides solid support as Vandamm’s loyal henchman. He lurks in the background of many scenes and you can see him desperate to start hurting Thornhill and other characters. Landau plays this guy as a real sadist.

My favourite scenes are the following. Thornhill and Vandamm’s first meeting, I love where they circle around each other sizing each other up. The Mount Rushmore finale. The entire section aboard the train. Roger and Eve’s dinner talk. The auction. The drunk scene at the police station. Thornhill trying to rescue Eve. Eve and Roger’s goodbye at the train station. The crop duster attack. The scene in the Mount Rushmore restaurant.

I can happily watch pretty much all of Hitch’s films again and again, but this one in particular is one that I can enjoy over and over again. It is such a good film and so seamlessly put together. It looks amazing, from the photography, to the elegant clothes and Technicolor. Be sure to see this one on Blu-ray, to see it looking at its best.

Are you a fan of this film? Please share your comments below. Never seen it? What are you waiting for?

Blogathons, Page To Screen, True Story

Medicine in the Movies Blogathon: The Nun’s Story (1959)

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Charlene, over at Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews, is hosting this blogathon  about all things medical and how they are depicted on screen. Be sure to check out all the other entries over on her site. I can’t wait to read them myself.

I’ve chosen to write about The Nun’s Story for this blogathon. The film is directed by Fred Zinnemann and it is based on the life of a real nun called Sister Marie Louise Habets. In 1956, Kathryn Hulme wrote the novel The Nun’s Story based on the life of Habets, who she was friends with. The book was adapted for the screen by Robert Anderson, in 1959.

After I’d chosen to write about this film, I knew that I simply had to have Charlene’s banner (seen above) because it features a shot from this very film.

I love this film very much. It is a powerful and touching story focusing on a woman facing the biggest decision of her life. It has interesting characters. It shows the difficulties facing medical staff in remote areas/less developed countries. The film also features what I consider to be Audrey Hepburn’s best ever screen performance.

I have always had an interest in how medical services are provided out in less developed countries or in remote areas. This film gives you a good idea of what the reality of that provision is.

As this film shows us, there are a limited number of doctors and nurses available in such places; they will often encounter a language barrier, and this will obviously cause problems when trying to give and get information from patients. In many cases there is also no access to clean water or medicines. The medical staff working in such conditions do the best they can and they have to endure a great deal of hardship and danger themselves in order to help those in need.

Belgium, in the 1930’s; Gabrielle (Audrey Hepburn)is the daughter of the famous Doctor Van Der Mal (Dean Jagger). Gabrielle shares her fathers love for all things medical. Since she was young she has also felt drawn to the medical profession just like her father. She is conflicted though because she is deeply religious and also feels drawn to life as a nun. 

Gabrielle enters a Catholic convent and is given the name Sister Luke. She can’t wait to be able to start doing medical work as a nursing sister, but it is with a heavy heart that she accepts she will only be able to go out nursing when instructed to do so by her Mother Superior (Edith Evans). The majority of Sister Luke’s days are filled by prayer, practicing self denial and learning to cut all emotional ties to the life she led before entering the convent. It is soon clear to us that she is greatly struggling with this new way of life.

Sister Luke is eventually able to work in a local hospital and a mental asylum as a nurse helping patients. Although happy to be able to be doing this, she longs to be getting even more medically involved.

Sister Luke is later transferred out to a convent in the Congo. Under the supervision of Mother Mathilde(Peggy Ashcroft), Sister Luke begins work in a small hospital serving the local remote villages. Sister Luke becomes the surgical assistant to the cynical, headstrong, atheist surgeon, Dr. Fortunati(Peter Finch).

Fortunati and Sister Luke soon develop a strong bond and grow very fond of each other. It soon becomes clear to the doctor how unsuited Sister Luke is to being a nun; he recognises that her heart truly lies in her medical work and that she has the necessary skills for this career.

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Fortunati grows increasingly worried about her as she gets more and more worn out by the long hours spent in the hospital, and on top of that having to do work in the convent, attend regular prayers (day and night)and take communion. When she develops Tuberculosis, Sister Luke has no choice but to finally rest, as she does so she begins thinking about just where her future lies. 

I love when Fortunati tells Sister Luke, ” I’m going to tell you something about yourself, Sister. I’ve never worked with any other kind of nurse except nuns since I began. You’re not in the mould, Sister, you never will be. You’re what’s called a worldly nun, ideal for the public and ideal for the patients. You see things your own way, you’ll never be the kind of nun that your convent expects you to be.” He sees right away what her internal conflict is and tries to help her with it. Sister Luke is stubborn and refuses to admit she might not be cut out for this way of life.

The scenes between Sister Luke and Doctor Fortunati are my favourites in the entire film. I especially love the scene where she breaks down after accidentally breaking a beaker in the medical supply room; Fortunati finds her crying and tries to comfort her, but has to keep his distance from her (despite her distress)because it wouldn’t be considered proper for him to hold her. Hepburn and Finch give excellent performances throughout, but they are exceptional in their shared scenes together. I also love how Finch conveys to us with just a look how much he is beginning to care for Sister Luke and wants to keep her in his life.

It seems to me that this film shows us that the medical and religious way of life are quite similar in a way. Both require those in that life/career to help those in need and those who are less fortunate than themselves. The role of a doctor, a nun or priest is a lifelong commitment and you pledge yourself to it for life. Both lives are often difficult and emotionally demanding due to what has to be dealt with and experienced, but those living that life/career continue on to try and make a difference and have a positive impact. This film shows us this and it certainly made me realise how tough life as a doctor or nurse is out in places like the Congo.

Not all doctors operate from the safety of a well stocked hospital or doctors surgery. Many work in countries with limited resources. They risk contracting disease, being killed or injured while trying to help the injured or sick and face long hours due to limited staff. In this film we see Fortunati and Sister Luke pushed to their limits due to the long and draining hours they spend operating; they barely get any sleep and they know they have to be up early the next day to operate all over again. This is not an easy life, but it certainly is a worthwhile one.

My favourite scenes are the following. Sister Luke and her fellow novices being given their new names and having their hair cut. Fortunati diagnosing Sister Luke’s Tuberculosis. Fortunati’s speech where we see he knows exactly what her internal struggle is. Sister Luke reading a distressing letter concerning her father. Sister Luke speaking to a native woman and saying that she doesn’t understand the language, but is confident that by speaking to them daily she’ll pick it up. Fortunati kicking a medical instrument away from a native assistant who was going to hand it to him after dropping it on the floor(obviously this was now unsterile, but the assistant didn’t understand about instrument hygiene so hands it over anyway). Sister Luke crying after dropping the beaker.

The film makes us admire Sister Luke’s strength and determination. We may know long before she does that she is not suited for life in a convent; but watching her come to that realisation herself makes for very powerful viewing. She is a woman who doesn’t want to fail, she is deeply conflicted between two callings that she has and wants to try hard to succeed at both ways of life.

The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won none of them. Quite how Simone Signoret won the best actress award over Audrey is incomprehensible to me. Signoret was good, but Audrey’s performance is so raw and genuine. She makes you believe she really is tired, conflicted and ill. Audrey says so much emotionally with just expressions in this. I think this is the best performance of her career and it’s a shame it wasn’t recognised. Audrey did win the BAFTA award for best actress for her performance as Sister Luke, so that’s something at least.

This film makes me thankful that we have people who are willing to sacrifice their own happiness and lives in order to save and help others.

Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts on the film below. Never seen it? Then I highly recommend it to you.

 

 

Blogathons, Romance

It Happened One Night (1934)

Screwball comedy

Hi everyone. Hope you are all well.  It’s blogathon time again 🙂

Paul, over at Pfeiffer films and Meg Movies, is hosting this blogathon all about Screwball Comedy films. Be sure to go and check out all the other entries over on his site. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I want to talk about my all time favourite Screwball film. The title of that film? It is none other than It Happened One Night.

Directed by Frank Capra, this film shows opposites attracting, the rich realising what life is like for the poor and features one of the most fun bus trips ever shown on film(or experienced in real life.)

Capra is one of my favourite directors and this film is in my top five Capra flicks (along with The Bitter Tea of General Yen, It’s A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.)

I love this one because it is a very funny film. I also love it for it’s believable and likeable characters. This is a film that always leaves me with a smile on my face. It’s just such an uplifting and fun flick.

I am a huge fan of films, books and TV series that focus on friendships and romantic relationships between people who are complete opposites; either in terms of their personality or due to their different backgrounds or cultures.This film features a couple who are one of my favourite opposites attract couples. I love how Ellie and Peter’s relationship slowly develops and as they spend more time together they realise they can’t do without one another. Gable and Colbert work so well together, that I find it very strange that they were never teamed together again.

Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert)is the daughter of a millionaire( Walter Connelly) . Following a bitter argument about her relationship with King Westley(Jameson Thomas), Ellie jumps from the family yacht and swims ashore. Running away with only a few dollars in her possession, Ellie is forced to experience life without access to her daddy’s cheque book.

Boarding a bus, Ellie finds herself literally thrown together with down on his luck newspaper reporter Peter Warne(Clark Gable). Peter instantly knows who Ellie is, and he sets his sights on the news scoop of the season. He calls his boss at the first opportunity and tells him what’s going on and to stand by for more updates. However, as they spend more time together Peter finds himself falling for this pampered heiress, and she ends up developing feelings for him in return. When the bus has to stop due to a road closure Ellie, Peter and the other passengers spend the night at a motel; it is at this point that the pair actually start to like each other.

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Clark Gable is terrific as the warm hearted Peter. He is a guy with a tough and gruff exterior who is in reality a real sweetheart. I love how he conveys Peter’s annoyance and frustration with Ellie’s lack of understanding of how real life in depression era America works. Slowly though, we see him become amused by her antics, and we then see that he is starting to become very fond of her.

I love Gable in the scenes where Peter is getting protective of Ellie and looks at her with such affection. Gable has fun making Peter a man more than capable of defending himself. He is also believable as a man who knows (and enjoys)how to push peoples buttons and wind them up.

Claudette Colbert is hysterical as the aloof, wealthy lady learning how everyone else lives. She shows us that Ellie has no clue as to how ridiculous some of the things she says sound, such as expecting the bus driver to wait for her long past departure time at a scheduled stop, simply because she is going to take longer to come back to the bus than the others.

Colbert makes you laugh, but also makes you sympathise with Ellie because to be fair to her, she has never had to fend for herself before in any situation. Colbert makes Ellie a tough gal, but also someone who is actually quite vulnerable, kind and almost childlike in a way. I love how she makes Ellie seem as though she is control of her situation even when she is far from it. Ellie also has a few surprises up her sleeve (such as the unforgettable leg reveal scene during the hitchhike sequence.)

Roscoe Karns is hysterical as an annoying and overly talkative bus passenger, called Shapeley. Karns steals every scene he is in and gets to deliver my favourite line in the film: “when a cold mama gets hot – boy, how she sizzles!”  🙂  It cracks me up every time I hear him say it.

Shapeley tries to chat Ellie up and has lots of fun at her expense (until Peter steps in and rescues her.) Karns has long been one of my favourite character actors and he is someone who sadly doesn’t get talked about much these days. I highly recommend you all check Karns out in some other films, such as Twentieth Century.

My favourite scenes are the following. Ellie and Peter’s first meeting where he falls into her lap. Peter carrying Ellie across the river. Ellie ordering a box of chocolates on the bus and getting angry when Peter cancels the order. Peter pretending to give his boss a real talking to over the phone. Peter and Ellie pretending to be an arguing married couple, I love the accent Ellie puts on in this scene.The bus singalong. Shapeley talking to Ellie. Ellie giving the little boy her money. The “take me to your island” scene. Ellie stopping traffic by showing her legs. Ellie going for a shower at the motel, only to find she has to queue up!

Most unforgettable scene in the film? I’m going with the hitchhike scene. Peter tells Ellie he will stop a car. He fails every single time he waves his thumb. Ellie grows tired of this and tells him to watch how it’s done. She walks to the edge of the road, waits for a passing car and flashes her leg at the driver. The driver (naturally) comes to a screeching halt. It cracks me up every time I see it. I love the look Gable has in reaction to the leg reveal scene; he makes us see that to Peter, Ellie’s action is completely out of the blue and he didn’t think she’d ever do anything like that.

It Happened One Night truly is one of the finest Screwball comedies ever made. The comic bickering between Ellie and Peter is first class. I also bet that depression era audiences got a real kick seeing a rich character forced to endure what life was like for the majority of people at the time.

Here are a few facts and legends about the film that I love.

  • Colbert didn’t enjoy making this film, but her performance won her the best actress Oscar in 1935. The film also won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor(Clark Gable) and Best Screenplay.
  • Apparently, the scene where Gable takes off his shirt to reveal he is bare chested, led to a large decline in the sale of men’s undershirts.
  • The character of Shapeley was apparently the inspiration for Bugs Bunny.

Are you also a fan of this film? Then please leave your thoughts below.

Never seen this before? Buy your bus ticket, head for the station and get on board; you never know who you’ll meet on your trip and your life could be changed forever. Prepare for laughter, tears and a trip you won’t forget in a hurry.

 

 

 

 

Blogathons

Five Stars Blogathon

 

 

Five Stars Blogathon

Rick, over at the Classic Film and TV Café, is hosting this blogathon about five favourite classic era stars. I can’t wait to read all the other entries to see which actors people have chosen as their favourites.

I’ve picked five stars who each hold a special place in my heart. I’ve picked my favourite performance from each, and I have listed five films for them all that I highly recommend people see. I’m posting this a day early, as I won’t be able to post it tomorrow.

Maddy’s Five Favourite Classic Stars

1- Claude Rains

Born in London, in 1889, Claude went on to became one of the most talented of all the classic era screen actors. He starred in over 70 films. 

I love Claude for how he could steal any scene, often with just a look or by the way he delivered a line. He always came across as witty and classy. He made everything he did on screen look effortless.

Claude had one of the greatest voices in film history. He used this to great effect in all of his films. In The Invisible Man(1933)he particularly relies on his voice alone to convey the menace and feelings that his unseen face cannot convey. For me this is one of the greatest vocal performances in film history.

Claude died in 1967.

photo0045My Favourite Claude Rains Film Performance? Justin in The Passionate Friends (1949). Claude is excellent here as the husband who discovers his wife(Ann Todd) is having an affair with her ex(Trevor Howard). He still loves her, but can he find it in his heart to forgive her? Claude makes you really feel for Justin and gives you the impression that although not passionate, he is never the less a good man who loves his wife.

Five Must See Claude Rains films: Deception, The Passionate Friends, The Invisible Man,Casablanca, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

2-  Vivien Leigh

Born in India, in 1913, Vivien Leigh would go on to become one of Britain’s greatest stage actresses. Vivien was married to Laurence Olivier from 1940 to 1961 and the couple starred alongside each other in several plays and films.

Despite her great talent Vivien only ever ended up starring in 20 films. I think that is a great shame,she is someone I would dearly love to have seen more often on screen. Vivien won two Oscars for Best Actress (Gone With The Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire.)

Vivien easily rivals Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor for the title of most beautiful actress of all time in my opinion.

I love Vivien for the strength, vulnerability and enchanting quality she gave to so many of her characters. Vivien is another actor who steals every scene she is in. I also admire Vivien because she continued working on stage and screen whilst struggling with her Bipolar Disorder, that cannot have been easy for her; especially in a time when mental illness had such a stigma attached to it.

Vivien died in 1967.

Photo0083My Favourite Vivien Leigh Film Performance? As the iron willed Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind (1939). Doing what she has to do to survive, even if those things make her unpopular. Scarlett is resourceful, beguiling, vulnerable and admirable. This was Vivien’s breakthrough film performance and it is the one that made her a worldwide star. Vivien makes you admire Scarlett, even when we may not agree with some of her actions.

Five Must See Vivien Leigh Films: A Streetcar Named Desire, That Hamilton Woman, Waterloo Bridge, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Gone With The Wind.

3- George Sanders

Born in Russia, in 1906, George Sanders would become the go to actor for playing cads and villains. Suave, effortlessly charming and possessing one of the most distinctive voices in film history. George could often be seen playing heartbreakers and oily villains. Between 1939 and 1941, he played the heroic Simon Templar in The Saint film series; these films proved he could play a good guy and he played a similar character in The Falcon series.

I love him because he made everything he did appear effortless. He had a special way of delivering his lines, making them witty and full of dry humour.

A couple of years ago I was delighted to discover that in 1958, Sanders recorded and released a song album called The George Sanders Touch: Songs For The Lovely Lady. Having heard a few of his songs I can report that his singing voice is lovely, and I’m surprised he didn’t release more songs. I was very pleasantly surprised when I first heard his singing.

George died in 1972.

Photo0084My Favourite George Sanders Film Performance? As Addison DeWitt in All About Eve (1950). As the theatre critic with the acid tongue, he steals every scene he is in(even from Bette Davis!). Sanders looks like he is having great fun throughout, he makes DeWitt a charming friend and a dangerous enemy.

Five Must See George Sanders Films: All About Eve, The Black Swan, The Saint In London, Foreign Correspondent, The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry.

4- Setsuko Hara

Setsuko was born in 1920, in Japan. She began working in films when she was a teenager. During the 1940’s and 50’s, Setsuko was one of the most popular stars of Japanese cinema.

Working frequently with director Yasujiro Ozu, Setsuko became synonymous with her frequent screen character Noriko. Her screen persona was often that of the dutiful and gentle daughter, putting her own desires aside for the sake of her family.

I love Setsuko because she is such an expressive actress, she really conveys the emotions of her characters in such a realistic and genuine way. Setsuko really makes you feel what her characters go through (be that happy or sad times.) She also had one of the most beautiful smiles ever to be captured on screen.

Setsuko retired from films in 1963(the same year that Yasujiro Ozu died) and she died in 2015.

Photo0085My Favourite Setsuko Hara Film Performance? As the dutiful Noriko in Late Spring(1949). Setsuko plays a daughter who is happiest at home with her father. Leaving home to get married breaks her heart. A moving portrayal of a daughter’s love for her father. Setsuko makes my heart break for her character and makes me wish her all the best for her future.

Five Must See Setsuko Hara Films: Early Summer, The Ball at the Anjo House, Late Spring, Tokyo Story, Late Autumn.

5- Cary Grant

Cary was born in Bristol, England in 1904.Cary joined a circus act in which he learnt to become a skilled acrobat and physical comic. Those skills would come in handy when they featured in several of his films. He headed to Hollywood and worked his way up from bit player to one of the most beloved stars of the classic era.

Cary was suave, charming, stylish and a highly skilled physical comic. Men wanted to be him, and women wanted to be with him.

I love him because I greatly admire how he worked his way up to become a star. Cary overcame a very sad, working class childhood and went on to become a wealthy success.

I love how he made so many of his roles fun. Cary can often be found amusingly breaking the fourth wall and looking directly at us on screen; this makes the comic situation he’s reacting too even funnier for me. 

Although best known for his romantic and comic roles, Cary was a very good dramatic actor too. I prefer him in his more serious roles, such as Notorious. I wish he had been given more dramatic roles in his career.

Cary died in 1986.

Photo0068My Favourite Cary Grant Film Performance? Peter Joshua in Charade (1963). Cary plays a spy, who may or may not be a man that Reggie(Audrey Hepburn)can trust. This role for me is the perfect combination of all his screen skills. Here Cary gets to be a man of action and be romantic, funny and serious.

Five Must See Cary Grant Films:  Only Angels Have Wings, North By Northwest, Charade, Notorious,The Awful Truth.

Well, it was tough narrowing down my favourite actors list to just five, but I managed to do it in the end. The five I chose are actors whose work I return to again and again, and who always seem natural to me in their on screen performances.

Here are ten runners up. More of my classic era favourites(five men and five women)with some must see films from them.

William Holden: Stalag 17, Breezy, Network, Paris When It Sizzles, Golden Boy.

Takashi Shimura: Stray Dog, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Scandal, Godzilla.

Michael Redgrave: The Browning Version, Time Without Pity, Dead Of Night, The Years Between, The Lady Vanishes.

John Mills: Ice Cold In Alex, The Long Memory, Tiger Bay, It’s Great To Be Young, Ryan’s Daughter.

Stanley Baker: Hell Is A City, Zulu, A Prize Of Arms, Hell Drivers, Campbell’s Kingdom.

Margret Lockwood: The Wicked Lady, Love Story, Jassy, The Lady Vanishes, Madness of the Heart.

Dorothy Dandridge: Moment Of Danger, Carmen Jones, Tamango, Bright Road,  Island In The Sun.

Deborah Kerr: The Innocents, The Chalk Garden, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, From Here To Eternity, The Sundowners.

Clara Bow: Call Her Savage, It, Wings, Hoop-La, Get Your Man.

Ingrid Bergman: Notorious, Stromboli, The Bells of St. Mary’s, A Woman Called Golda, Anastasia.

Thank you for reading. Be sure to check out all the other posts over on Rick’s site.

Please share your thoughts on any of the actors I’ve written about. Share your five favourites in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detective, Thriller

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 7: Rear Window (1954)

 

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This is one of Hitchcock’s cleverest films. The way he directs makes us voyeurs just like Jimmy Stewart’s character is. We almost become characters in the film because it’s like we are there alongside Stewart watching from that window too.

Rear Window tackles issues of obsession, curiosity, romance, murder and voyeurism. The film features glamourous clothes, black comedy, fascinating characters, plenty of suspense and one of the best sets in American film history.

Photographer L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (James Stewart)is wheelchair bound after he breaks his leg.Jeff lives in an apartment complex and starts looking out of his window at his neighbours simply because he needs something to do to pass the time. However what begins as a casual curiosity, soon develops into an obsession as he can’t stop looking at what’s going on in the neighbouring apartments.

Jeff’s glamourous girlfriend, Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly)loves him dearly, but the two are complete opposites in background, life and society. Lisa begins to get concerned about Jeff’s obsession with the neighbours and tries to get him to focus on her instead. Soon Lisa gets drawn into his obsession when the pair begin to suspect Lars Thorwald (a menacing Raymond Burr)of having murdered his wife. The pair begin their own investigation. They are helped in their investigations by Jeff’s nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter) and Jeff’s detective friend Doyle (Wendell Corey).

Hitchcock keeps us guessing as to whether Thorwald is innocent or guilty right up to the end. We begin to wonder at points in the film whether Jeff is correct in his suspicions or not.

I love the apartment complex set because it looks so real. How it’s set up works for the story as Jeff’s window has a clear view of all of the others. All the apartments were also designed inside, furniture etc added.

The one thing about this set up that always makes me laugh, is how everyone has their windows open with the lights on and nobody (apart from the newlyweds)ever has their curtains or blinds drawn. This seems to be a reccuring thing in American, Swedish and Danish films and series; here in the UK, once it’s evening, the curtains and blinds are shut, we’d never dream of having the lights on so everyone outside could see in.

I like how Jeff finally sees past Lisa’s glamour to see the woman beneath. They love each other, but have such different lives. He realises he loves her and sees that she is a resourceful and brave woman. Kelly is glamourous and beautiful(as ever)but shows there is more to her character than looks. Kelly shows us Lisa’s vulnerable side and her desperation for Jeff to fully accept her in his life.

Stewart portrays Jeff as a man set in his ways, but slowly realising there is room for Lisa in his life. He does such a good job of conveying Jeff’s growing fascination and obsession with looking out of the window.

Thelma Ritter provides comic support as the no nonsense Stella. She also thinks Jeff needs to stop watching, but then she and Lisa begin to think he may be right after all.

Raymond Burr is almost unrecognisable as the menacing Lars Thorwald. I love Burr when he plays good guys like Ironside, but he was superb when playing dubious characters and villains.

This is a thrilling film that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. It also makes you see how easy it is to slip into obsession. Excellent performances throughout and skilled direction from Hitch make this a must see.

Please share your thoughts on the film below.

 

Blogathons, Romance, True Story

The “No, You’re Crying Blogathon”: Shadowlands (1993)

Crying Blogathon.png

Debbie, over at Moon in Gemini, is hosting this blogathon all about films that make us cry. Be sure to check out her site to read all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I want to write about Richard Attenborough’s 1993 film, Shadowlands. This is a film that I find to be extremely moving. It is shot in a way that makes me feel as though I have stumbled across a deeply private moment and am watching it unfold before me. This film shows us how precious and painful love can be, and how cruel and unpredictable life can sometimes end up being.

The loss of a loved one is something we will all unfortunately have to face at some time in our lives. When we lose someone we love, we often rage, asking why this had to happen; we demand to know why did it have to happen a particular way or at a certain time. Loss can make you question the point of life itself, and question why we even allow ourselves to love, if the pain of losing a loved one is so great. Richard Attenborough’s film tackles this pain head on. Shadowlands makes me cry every time I watch it. Hopkins in particular is so moving as the man opening himself up emotionally; the trouble is by doing that he is leaving himself vulnerable to the upcoming pain of grief and loss.

The scene where Lewis is talking to a friend who is a vicar, and breaks down in the church and confesses his love for Joy moves me so much; it moves me because Hopkins makes you feel the agony and helplessness that Lewis is experiencing at that moment. This scene always seems to me like I’ve intruded on a real and very private moment.

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Shadowlands tells the true story of British author C.S Lewis(Anthony Hopkins), best known for creating that magical land of Narnia(please access through your nearest wardrobe.)Lewis was an Oxford lecturer and theologian, he suffered great grief in his early years when his mother died when he was just ten years old. Lewis became an atheist for many years, but later ended up returning to his Christian faith.

Oxford, in the mid 1950’s, the somewhat repressed author and Oxford lecturer, C.S.Lewis(Hopkins) lives with his brother Warnie (Edward Hardwicke).  Lewis is content with his well ordered life, that is until he meets a woman who will change his life forever.

Lewis meets the outgoing American poet Joy Gresham(Debra Winger). The pair became good friends, soon that friendship turned into something more and they are married. Tragedy lies just around the corner though when Joy is diagnosed with cancer. The film shows Lewis allowing himself to fall in love far too late; by the time he admits and acts upon his feelings, Joy is doomed to be taken away from him.
Hopkins is heartbreaking in the role of Lewis. He really lets you feel how much Lewis is being ripped apart inside and I think this is one of the best performances he has ever given on screen. Lewis can’t bear to lose Joy, wishes he had fallen in love with her sooner, and is helpless in the face of her pain. The crying scene between him and Joy’s young son Douglas(Joe Mazzello)is one that I will never forget and it makes me cry every time I watch this film.
Debra Winger is excellent as the funny, bubbly, outgoing woman who allows Lewis to open himself up to the joy of love. Winger makes you feel that you would like to have known Joy, that she would have been fun to be around. When we learn of Joy’s illness it’s even more cruel because she is someone who is so full of life and knows that she is slipping away. Debra is so convincing in the scenes where Joy is really in pain, that it is difficult to watch her as it’s like you are witnessing real suffering.
There is a great line in this spoken by Joy: ”the pain then is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.” Knowing we will one day lose the person/people we love certainly makes us value the time we spend together. Personally the fear of the pain from that inevitable loss makes the rest somewhat difficult for me; I guess it all comes down to are you willing to accept such pain in your life? It’s worth it for the happy times but can you take what happens next?

This film raises and tackles these questions so well. It’s moving, romantic and most important of all, you remember that this couple really went through all of this.
Superb performances, a beautiful score by George Fenton, and some beautiful location work(Oxford, the countryside)all make this a must see. Keep the tissues handy though, you will need them. For me this is one of Richard Attenborough’s greatest film achievements.

I find the following scenes to be very moving. The famous “the pain now is part of the happiness then” scene. Lewis admitting his love for Joy, the look on Hopkins face during that scene really moves me, he shows so much love and tenderness for her. The attic scene between Lewis and Douglas. Joy saying goodbye to Douglas. The final scene between Lewis and Joy. The “you look at me properly now” hospital scene.

If this film moved you, then I highly recommend you also check out the 1985 version starring Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom.

Please share your thoughts on the film below.

Coming Of Age, Page To Screen

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 6: Stand By Me (1986)

This is one of the best films out there about friendship. It is also a fantastic coming of age story. The film shows us how precious and sometimes how fleeting friendship can be. People come in and out of our lives over the years, some find a permanent place in our hearts and lives, while some sadly become nothing more than a memory.

When I watch this I’m always reminded of my own childhood. During the primary school years, and into my early teens; I was part of a trio of friends who were so close that we were just like sisters. When the High School and College years approached we sadly drifted apart and hardly saw each other. As the years passed we saw even less of each other, until eventually we were no longer in each others lives. I will never forget either of them, nor will I forget the many happy times we spent together.

I love Geordie’s final line in the film about never having had friends like the ones he had when he was twelve , because that is just so true;  your childhood friendships will always be special due to the fun you had and the innocent period of your lives this took place in. Friends will come in and out of your life, but those childhood friends will always be in your heart.

Stand By Me is directed by Rob Reiner, and is based on the book The Body by Stephen King. It is set in the small town of Castle Rock, Oregon during the 1950’s. A young boy goes out to pick berries and fails to return home. A search fails to find him and he is presumed dead.

A group of friends – gentle and recently bereaved Geordie(Wil Wheaton), excitable and adventurous Teddy(Corey Feldman), wise and tough Chris(River Phoenix)and nervous and talkative Vern(Jerry O’Connell)- decide to go looking for him, thinking they might get an award(or at least some publicity)if they find him. Over a two day hike the boys are forced to quickly come of age and face up to the harsh realities of life. Their bond grows stronger and they have an adventure they will never forget.

I love this film so much because the characters and what they are going through are so relatable. We all had something happen to us when we were young that made us realise what life is really like, it sadly can’t all be fun and innocence for ever.

During the film each of these boys becomes stronger in some way and goes through a life changing event.  The performances from Wheaton, Phoenix, O’Connell and Feldman are extraordinary, given how young (and relatively inexperienced)they were as actors at the time. They are so natural and come across as a group who really could be friends. They look like they are having loads of fun in the scenes like the water spitting, walking the train tracks and their comic arguments and discussions.

Phoenix in particular is excellent as he plays the father figure in the group, and he is someone who has already grew up in many ways unlike the others. I love how protective he is of the others and how he has to act responsibly all the time. The scene where he breaks down and reveals his sadness is so moving and Phoenix makes your heart break for him.

Feldman makes Teddy’s anger totally believable. You really believe this is a troubled kid, he still loves his dad despite what he did to him. He is strong but of them all, he is probably the most vulnerable, although he’d never admit it.

O’Connell is the films comic relief, as the talkative and to the point Vern. I love how proud he is because he has brought a comb with him, so they can look good for the cameras. Vern is the one who says or does what most of us would do in some of these situations we see in the film.

Wheaton is the shy, sensitive and underappreciated kid who finds an inner strength he didn’t even know he had.  He undergoes the most change in the film, and Wheaton portrays it so well.

Kiefer Sutherland is menacing as Ace Merrill, the local bully and fearless/unbalanced leader of the gang called The Cobras.  Ace and his gang are also on their way to look for the boys body. Ace and his gang are the terrifying possible future that awaits Geordie and his friends; young men whose innocence is long gone, hardened due to life experiences and bad behaviour.

John Cusack is Geordie’s older brother, Denny. I love their relationship as it is one of the sweetest and most moving I’ve ever seen.  Denny is a football star and is popular in the neighborhood, he is the apple of his parents eye.

When the film opens, Denny has been dead for a few months. His death was unexpected and destroyed his parents. Geordie is grief stricken too, but doesn’t know how to deal with his grief, he hasn’t even cried for his brother yet. Denny’s death is made even sadder when we learn that he and Geordie were so close, and that Denny made their parents pay attention to Geordie instead of focusing on him all of the time. With Denny gone, Geordie is barely noticed at home and only has his friends to turn to for support and to talk to.

Richard Dreyfuss plays the elder Geordie, looking back on his bittersweet childhood memories. He also serves as the films narrator.

My favourite scenes are the following. The water spitting scene, especially the bit where Teddy spits his at Vern(it’s one of those moments that you can see coming and can’t help laughing at.) Chris saving Teddy from his suicidal train dodge. Geordie seeing the deer. Geordie’s story about the pie eating contest. Chris telling Geordie to take the college classes. The boys running from the train. All the flashback scenes between Geordie and Denny. Ace holding his nerve driving straight at an on coming truck. Vern debating with Teddy about whether a cartoon character could beat up Superman. Chris telling Geordie about the milk money.  The end where we learn what happened between the boys.

A moving and funny film about friendship, love, adventure and children coming of age. There is some gorgeous scenery in this and the on location work really adds to the authenticity of the story. There’s also a cracking soundtrack, featuring the title song by Ben E. King.

I always feel like I’ve walked the tracks with these boys and that I’ve experienced some sort of life changing event myself whilst watching. This is a great favourite and one of the best pieces of work from both Reiner and King.

Please share your thoughts on the film below.