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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
The film is a sequel to Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Rita 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)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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! 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Deborah 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 intelligent. Slim 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.
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.
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?
On 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.
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.
This 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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 Fox & The Desert Rats
The Wonderful World Of Cinema: James Mason and Margaret Lockwood
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies: The Story Of Three Loves
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
Crystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood is hosting this fourth annual celebration of the Barrymore family. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
I am a big fan of the three Barrymore siblings Ethel, Lionel and John. I think these three are among the finest American actors to ever have appeared on screen.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to take part in any of the Barrymore blogathons until now. It was a tough choice for me to decide which of the siblings, and which of their many films I wanted to write about.
I’ve decided to write about A Bill Of Divorcement because it contains one of my favourite film performances by John Barrymore, who was the youngest of the three Barrymore siblings. A Bill Of Divorcement was directed by George Cukor, it was based upon the 1921 play of the same name by Clemence Dane. A British silent film adaptation of the play had been made in 1922.
In addition to featuring one of John Barrymore’s best performances, the 1932 film is also notable for featuring the debut performance of Katharine Hepburn, who plays the daughter of John’s character.
The film opens on Christmas Eve. A party is being held at the home of the Fairfield family. Everyone at the party is very happy and are in a festive mood. Very soon the mood changes and the Fairfield family will have to make some big and difficult decisions.
Hilary Fairfield(John Barrymore) has spent a number years in an asylum, this is due to him suffering from hereditary madness, the symptoms of which first manifested themselves soon after the First World War ended.
His family had him committed and they blamed his illness on shell shock from his time serving in the war.
Decades after he was put into an asylum, Hilary gets better, but he is not yet cleared for release by doctors. He escapes one night and returns home to his family, only to find that many things have changed in his absence.
He returns home to find he has a now grown up daughter Sydney(Katharine Hepburn), who is engaged to Kit(David Manners). Hilary also finds that his long suffering wife Margaret(Billie Burke)has divorced him and is now engaged to a man called Gray(Paul Meredith) .
Hilary has never stopped loving his wife, he has longed to be back with her for a very long time, she on the other hand cannot stand to be in the same room as Hilary anymore. He tries to win his wife back, but slowly comes to realise that she doesn’t want to be with him anymore. She still cares for him, but she can never go back to being his wife again.
Hilary tries desperately to win his wife’s heart again. We also learn that Sydney may well have inherited her father’s madness.
Sydney has a very manic personality and begins to fear that if she has children with Kit, that there is a possibility that she could pass her madness on to them. Sydney must decide if she will go ahead and get married or not.
This film rather movingly depicts the various difficulties involved when you are living with someone with mental health issues. I like that the film has a balanced approach to its subject matter and shows us things from the perspective of Hilary as the patient, and from the perspective of his family coping with him and his illness.
The film gives us a sense of how a mentally ill patient often gets frightened and angry(quite understandably so) when they are taken from their home and placed in care, and also when people around them don’t understand or comprehend what they are going through.
John Barrymore does a terrific job of portraying a mentally ill man who has never lost his love for his family, and who wishes so desperately to be able to come home to them. I like how John conveys how hard Hilary is trying to fit back into his old life, and also how he is mortified to be the cause of pain and embarrassment for his family.
At the time this film was made there was still such a stigma around the mentally ill. I can well imagine that this film(showing a mentally ill person as an individual with feelings who is trying to get better)must have shocked some people who viewed the mentally ill as individuals to be avoided at all costs and to always be wary around.
I think the film also makes you think about whether it would be best to leave the mentally ill in their own homes where they at least feel safe and comfortable. I think that being locked away in a strange and frightening building would make someone more ill than they were on admittance there and would only add to their distress. Surely its better to medicate them(if necessary),and let them try to live their own lives, instead of locking them up and sedating them?
The film also shows us how draining and upsetting living with a mentally ill person can be for their family. People can only cope with so much illness and care requirements before they reach their own breaking point and cannot stand it any longer.
The film makes us pity both Hilary and Margaret. We feel for Hilary because he was psychotic and unreachable for so long, yet he tried so hard to fight his symptoms and get back home. We feel for Margaret because she loved Hilary so much, but she really had no quality of life with him, so she was granted a divorce from him. She has just started to move on with her life when he comes back into hers.
We see how affected she was by her experiences of his illness, and also by how much she desperately wants to find some happiness and peace with her new fiance. The film makes you ask yourself is it fair to make a spouse stay married to someone like Hilary if they are severely ill/disturbed for so long?
The only thing I don’t like about the film is that the ending gives the impression that it is thought best that those with mental illness should isolate themselves from other people. Most people with mental illness are able to live quite normal lives and can live at home. Sadly there are still some mentally ill people who have to be in a hospital or home, but many mental health conditions can now be managed through medication and therapy.
For a film that is quite fair and non- judgmental in its depiction of the difficulties surrounding mental illness, I think it is such a shame that the film ends the way that it does. Perhaps a modern adaption of the story would end on a more hopeful and positive note.
John Barrymore and Billie Burke are both excellent in this and each delivers a performance which ensures they have your sympathy at different times of the film. The scene where Hilary gets on his knees, breaks down in front of Margaret, and begs her to show him some kindness, gets me every single time. I consider it to be the most moving scene in the entire film.
It’s fair to say that John steals the film from everyone else in it. I consider this to be one of his best and most subtle performances. John could often be quite the scenery chewer on screen, but here he is the complete opposite and his performance is just as powerful as some of his more showy ones are.
John’s performance here is all in his expressions and eyes. You look at him and you see a vulnerable, gentle, desperate, decent, frightened and tender man seeking happiness and light at the end of the dark tunnel which he has been trapped in for so long. There are several moments in this where I want to reach through the screen and hug this broken man trying desperately to fit back into a so called normal existence again. I urge you see this film so you can see his very touching performance.
The rest of the cast are all quite good, but at times some of the acting in this is very theatrical, but if you can overlook that aspect I think that you should enjoy this film quite a bit.
Katharine Hepburn delivers a really natural performance here and she doesn’t come across as being wooden and grating like she is (in my view)in most of her 1930’s performances(with Holiday and Bringing Up Baby being two exceptions). I happen to think that Katharine got better as an actress once the 1940’s came along. I was pleasantly surprised by her debut performance here.
This is a must see film for fans of John Barrymore.What are your thoughts on the film and John’s performance?
Deborah Kerr is one of my favourite actresses from the classic film era, and I want to hold this blogathon to celebrate Deborah and her films. I do hope that you can all join me to pay tribute to this very talented lady.
Deborah Kerr was born Deborah Jane Kerr- Trimmer, in Glasgow, on the 30th of September, 1921. She would go on to become one of the most beloved and famous actresses of her day, and she worked in both English and American films. On screen she was the epitome of an English rose.
For this blogathon you can write about any of the films and TV series that she appeared in. You can write about her entire career. You can write a tribute to her. You can write about your favourite Deborah Kerr characters and performances. If you ever met or corresponded with her, then you can write about that experience too.
You can write more than one post if you want to. Previously published posts are very welcome. I will accept two duplicate posts per screen title.
The blogathon will be held on the 30th of September, 2018. Please post your entries on or before this date.
Let me know below what you want to write about. Please take one of the banners and put it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Check the participation list below to see who is writing about what.
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison & Four Essential Deborah Kerr Performances
Poppity: Black Narcissus
Caftan Woman: Reunion At Fairborough
Anybody Got A Match: The Hucksters
Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: Tea and Sympathy
The Stop Button: Separate Tables
Old Hollywood Films: The Grass Is Greener
Silver Screen Classics: The Night Of The Iguana
Whimsically Classic: From Here To Eternity
Pop Culture Reverie: Tea And Sympathy
The Wonderful World Of Cinema: Separate Tables
Palewriter2: An Affair To Remember & The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp
MovieRob: Edward My Son
Critica Retro: Vacation From Marriage
Diary Of A Movie Maniac: The End Of The Affair & Beloved Infidel
Lady Eve’s Reel Life: The Innocents
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies: The films of Deborah Kerr
For me this is the greatest ghost film. Whenever I think of films featuring haunted houses, it is this film which always springs first into my mind. The cinematography and lighting both add so much to the film, with each one helping to provide an extremely unsettling and eerie look in every scene. The period set design is the icing on this horror cake because the house interiors look like a real home of the period in which the film is set.
I don’t know about you, but I happen to think that spooky old houses are really the best locations to set horror stories in. An old haunted house gives you creaking floorboards, flickering candles and plenty of dark corners; add in the possibilities of spirits messing with your mind, and you really have got yourself one very frightening experience indeed.
The Innocents is based upon the novel The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. It is a very frightening and claustrophobic film. I think that it makes for perfect viewing on a dark night or on a dark and stormy afternoon.
The film is directed by Jack Clayton, it has stunning black and white photography by Freddie Francis, a brilliant screenplay by William Archibald and Truman Capote, and it has a truly eerie and atmospheric score by Georges Auric. The film is very much a slow build and it is well worth sticking with to see the horror and tension build as the film goes along.
From the very beginning this film intrigues the viewer and is highly unsettling at the same time. The opening film logos and credits are accompanied by an eerie song that sounds like its straight out of the Victorian era. Birds can be heard chirping on the soundtrack and we also hear the whimpers of a woman.
We then see a distraught woman (who we later learn to be Miss Giddens), her hands clasped together in prayer, we see that she is deeply distressed, but we have no idea why she is, nor do we have any idea about what is going on. I think this is such a good way to open the film as it sets up the tone and atmosphere of the film right away, and it also really makes you wonder about what you are seeing unfold before your eyes.
The unsettling atmosphere continues as Jack Clayton goes against horror traditions and has many of the scary moments in the film take place in the daytime. Traditionally the day is a safe time in horror films, but in this film there is little respite from the horror and suspense we are witnessing on screen.
The young and repressed Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr)becomes the new governess of two adorable siblings, Flora and Miles (Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens). As time goes on she begins to suspect that the two children are possessed by the spirits of two dead former servants, the violent Quint, and the besotted and fragile Miss Jessel(Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessop.)
Miss Giddens notices that the siblings behave very oddly and that they seem to be aware of things that nobody else is aware of. Miles also acts very much like an adult in the way he speaks and behaves. There is just something not right about him at all and he is so unsettling to be around.
For one so young, I think that the actor Martin Stephens very adeptly conveys a wisdom and worldliness way beyond his years here. In my opinion Martin delivers the most unsettling child performances in film history (the little boy from the original Omen film comes in a close second).
Martin is especially excellent in the scenes where Miles talks to Miss Giddens in the way that a man who was her lover would do. These scenes between Miles and Miss Giddens are very strange, and they certainly make for quite uncomfortable viewing too. Martin really makes you believe that he is an older and very worldly man in these scenes. Freaky stuff!
Miles and Flora. Screenshot by me.
The other weird thing about Miles, is that he and Flora seem to be almost telepathically linked. The siblings seem to communicate with one another through a series of glances and expressions which convey to us that there are secrets between them known only to them. Their weird behaviour only adds even more creepiness to the proceedings. Miss Giddens then begins to see ghosts around the house. Or does she?
It is precisely this ambiguity regarding the ghosts that makes this film so effective in my opinion. Either Miss Giddens really does see the ghosts, and the children really are possessed, or Miss Giddens is suffering a mental breakdown and is imaging the whole thing. Either scenario is terrifying and whichever you believe(I actually believe that it is a combination of both)is scary and makes the ending both shocking and sad.
I think that the children were psychologically corrupted by the things they saw Quint and Miss Jessel do together, and that what they witnessed them do together has affected their behaviour.
It should also be remembered that Quint and Miss Jessel were the only people who the children had ever been close too. The children loved and admired these two very much, and when they died, the children were completely devastated and didn’t know what to do with themselves.
I think that both children now try and imitate Quint and Miss Jessel after their death so that they can keep them alive in a way.
I don’t think that the children have any idea that the behavior they mimic is considered morally wrong. The children grew up with Quint and Miss Jessel, they were exposed to nothing but their violent and sexual behaviour for many years, so for them this behaviour is considered normal.
The children’s imitation of the deceased means that they are bringing these two people back to life, isn’t this another form of possession? So maybe Miss Giddens is correct when she says the children are possessed, it is just that they are not literally being controlled by spirits as she believes.
Miss Giddens hears about the dead servants and begins to fear them and their supernatural influence. She then begins to see them, either for real or in her mind due to their presence lingering on strongly even after their deaths. I think Miss Giddens really does see these horrors. The question is are they actually real ghosts? Or are they hallucinations brought on by her rapidly increasing paranoia and fear? To her though there is no doubt that what she sees are very real apparitions.
This is the type of horror film I like best. It is one where you’re not sure if you just glimpsed something in the corner of your eye, or if something just brushed past a character causing a candle to flicker in the process.
I much prefer psychological horror to gore and this film iscertainly one which makes you think. It is also one that really creeps me out every time I watch it. I also like that it allows you to draw your own conclusions about what is actually happening to Miss Giddens as the film goes along.
I think that Deborah gives one of the very best performances of her entire career here. She captures this woman’s growing fear and paranoia. She starts off portraying her as an eager, shy and happy woman. By the end of the film we see her as a broken, terrified and extremely unstable woman.
I think it is a real shame that Deborah never again got another role like this. She does such a terrific job of conveying Miss Giddens growing fear and obsessions. As the film goes on, Deborah starts to look more and more paranoid, worn out, ill and nervous. She really does deliver a magnificent performance.
The children are excellent too and deliver performances far beyond what most child actors of this age could manage to deliver. The fact that they manage to be creepy, unsettling,innocent and adorable all at the same time says a great deal about their acting abilities in my opinion. Pamela Franklin would go on to do more great horror work over a decade later, when she played a gifted young medium in The Legend Of Hell House.
Megs Jenkins is very good as the kindly housekeeper. Megs conveys her characters great difficulty in believing any of what Miss Giddens says, but also how she is totally powerless to undermine her authority within the house and get the children away from her.
My favourite scenes in the film are the following. The ghost appearing in the reeds in the lake. Miss Giddens first walk around the beautiful gardens. The conversation between Miss Giddens and Miles, where she first becomes convinced that he is possessed. The scene where Miss Giddens walks around the corridors with a candle hearing laughter. Quint’s appearance in the windows.
I have seen this film so many times, I know what’s going to happen and yet I am still fascinated and frightened by it each time I watch. This truly is one of the best horror films ever made.
Catherine over at Thoughts All Sorts is hosting this blogathon about Foreign Language films. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
I had to take part in this blogathon because I adore foreign language films. I love many of them not only for being excellent films, but also because they provide me with a glimpse into other cultures and different ways of living life.
I think that anyone who only watches films and series from their native country is seriously missing out, there are so many film and TV gems to be found from around the world. My favourite country for foreign language films is Japan.
There are three great masters of Japanese cinema in my opinion. The first one is Akira Kurosawa. He made some truly epic masterpieces. He was also responsible for helping to bring Japanese films to the attention of Western audiences.
The second one is Yasujiro Ozu. His films were all about characters and emotions, he told very human stories which appeal to audiences the world over. His films also gave us the enchanting Setsuko Hara, the actress who was Ozu’s screen muse.
The third one is Kenji Mizoguchi. Kenji Mizoguchi’s films uniquely often focused upon the struggles and hardships that women faced in society at the time his films were made.
For this blogathon I’ve decided to write about the 1936 Japanese film Sisters Of The Gion. This film is directed by one of my favourite film directors of all time, Kenji Mizoguchi. I love Kenji Mizoguchi’s work because his films are very realistic, gritty, and because they also focus much more on the characters rather than on the visuals and the mood of the film.
I also love Kenji’s films so much because they deal very frankly with subjects and issues that most other films of this period didn’t focus on all that much. I love that his films focus primarily on women and on the way they are treated. His films focus on the things that women have to do to survive, and they also show the strength and determination of women who are enduring tough and bad times in their life.
Sisters Of The Gion is one of Kenji Mizoguchi’s finest films in my opinion. It is a real character piece and it feels very modern when viewed today because of the strong feminist attitudes present in the film.
The film tells the story of two very different sisters. There is the outgoing, modern and rebellious Omocha(Isuzu Yamada), and the older, much more traditional and submissive Umekichi(Yoko Umemura).
The sisters both work as geishas in a district of Kyoto. They do the same job, but each woman holds very different opinions about what they do and how they are viewed and treated.
Omocha hates men and she just views them as means to get money and nice things. She feels that men use women (especially geishas)for their own desires and then abandon them when they are through. She is also better educated and far more wordly than her older sister is.
Omocha is also very modern in her views and she mostly wears modern Western clothes, instead of always wearing more traditional Japanese attire. Omocha also has no hesitation about playing with the feelings of her male clients in order to get something that she wants from them. The way she sees it, if the men can use the women, then why can’t the women play them at their own game?
Umekichi on the other hand is dutiful and passive, she also seems to genuinely enjoy her role as a companion and source of pleasure for male clients. She also feels that things are not as black and white as her younger sister makes them out to be.
Umekichi knows that there are some men who are not all bad and are not out to use the geishas and abandon them when they are finished with them.
Despite their many differences, the two sisters love each other very much and they always look out for each other no matter what. Umekichi is deeply in love with her patron Shimbei Furusawa (Benkei Shiganoya)and she offers him help when he goes bankrupt. Omocha plays with the hearts of two men in order to get gifts and money from them; the first man she toys with is a young store clerk who loves her, the second man is his much older boss who is persuaded to become her new patron.
I think that the two sisters represent the two different types of women who have always existed throughout history. One represents women who accept their lot in life, and who are accepting and uncomplaining when their man treats them badly. The other represents women who fight for equality, for protection from abuse and for the ability to be away from the control of men.
I also like that the film shows how strong women can be in times of hardship and pain, the spirit of these women may break, they may be beaten and tossed aside, but they endure and struggle on and they never give up and wilt away. Mizoguchi’s films often show the appalling ways women of this time were treated, but they also clearly highlight their courage and internal strength to make the best of what life throws at them.
The film also shows us that society often lets men get away with sleeping around, being abusive and using women for no other reason than that they are men. If a woman did the same things as men, then she would find herself being punished and judged for sleeping around. Double standards much?
In this film all the male characters we see have control over women, and they also have a controlling position in their own life in some way, such as their job or their wealth for example. It seems like the women in this time only have three options in life; the first choice is to marry and bear children, the second is to become a geisha or prostitute, the third is to try and live an independent life which will earn them disapproval and alienation from a very traditional society.
If women of this time didn’t conform to traditions they suffered. If they did conform to traditions, many would suffer emotionally because they didn’t love the man they were married to, or because deep down they hated themselves for selling their bodies for money.
By the end of this film, both Omocha and Umekichi will discover just how they are actually perceived and valued by men. The ending is quite bleak and I really like that it doesn’t sugar coat the life endured by many women the world over at this point in history.
The performances are all very good and the film really draws you in. The only downsides to the film are that it is very short, it clocks in at just one hour and nine minutes long. I would also have liked more scenes between the two sisters. While the film gives us a good sense of their respective personalities and views, I don’t really get a good enough sense of what their sisterly relationship was like, a few more scenes of them interacting on a day to day basis would have been welcome.
This is an early gem from Kenji Mizoguchi and it feels very modern due to the feminist views found within, and also because of its visual depiction and condemnation of the way women were treated by some men.
I highly recommend it. I think that this film could also serve as a good gateway film to Kenji Mizoguchi’s work and to Japanese cinema in general. If you haven’t ventured outside your country for films and series before, then I would say to you be brave, go and check some foreign language films out. Once you get accustomed to subtitles these films and series are very easy to get into.