Tributes To Classic Stars

Top Five Paul Newman Performances

 

Photo0156What can I say about Paul Newman? He has been a great favourite of mine since I first saw him in The Sting. He was such a natural and gifted actor. He was fascinating to watch as he was a very physical actor and his eyes always spoke volumes too.

Paul was also a very handsome man which meant that it was certainly not a chore to gaze at him on screen for hours on end.  🙂  Off screen he was down to earth, classy and an all round real nice guy. He did a great deal for charity too.

I have never heard any stories of him treating people badly or going around acting like he was better than others. Paul Newman seemed to be the genuine article, what you saw with him was what you got. I respect that enormously. His marriage to Joanne Woodward is one for the history books, they were so close and remained devoted to the end.

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Paul made so many films in his career, some excellent, some good, and some not so good, but he always delivered even if he was in a terrible film. He was someone whose work I would always check out. I miss him so much.

The following five films are the ones I consider to feature Paul’s best performances.

1- Hud. Paul is excellent as the cynical, ambitious, and embittered son of a rancher. Hud is idolised by his young nephew and despaired of by his father. Hud is one of those men who destroys everything he touches (not intentionally but it just happens). A strong lead performance from Paul makes this one a must see. Patricia Neal is also excellent here as the object of Hud’s desire.

2- The Verdict. This gripping courtroom drama features one of Paul’s best performances. He is deeply moving as Frank, an alcoholic lawyer taking on a medical malpractice case. He fights hard on the case and regains some self esteem along the way. He has his heart broken when he opens it to a much younger woman who is not all she seems. I think Paul is so vulnerable in this, he also really lets you see this character warts and all.

3- The Hustler. You can’t take your eyes off Paul here, as the young hot shot pool player “Fast Eddie” Felson. He makes you feel this guys hunger to win, his pain at a personal loss later in the film and his incapability to quit trying to win and beat other pool players. Piper Laurie, George C. Scott and Jackie Gleason all offer excellent support.

4- The Sting. Paul has a lot of fun here as the clever and funny con-man, Henry Gondorff. He teaches a younger man (Robert Redford)the art of the con. The two become good friends and go up against a ruthless crime boss (Robert Shaw). Paul steals every scene he is in here with just a look. His character has always got something waiting up his sleeve, and Paul does a good job of capturing his changing moods and mannerisms as he goes around fooling gangsters.  

5- Road To Perdition. Paul dominates the screen in every single scene he is in, as a mob boss facing a moral conundrum. He must kill his surrogate son who is a good guy. This is necessary due to the actions of his own son who is despicable. The scene where he confronts his own son and gives him a piece of his mind is powerful stuff indeed. His final scene in the rain is unforgettable.

My favourite Paul Newman films are the following: The Sting. Winning. Message In A Bottle. Absence Of Malice. Hud. The Hustler. The Color Of Money. Mr and Mrs. Bridge. Twilight. The Verdict. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Which films do you consider to be Paul’s best? What are your favourite Paul Newman films?

 

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Blogathons

The Ingrid Bergman Blogathon: The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1945)

Ingrid bergman blogathonVirginie, over at Thewonderfulworldofcinema, is hosting this blogathon all about Ingrid Bergman. Be sure to check out all the other entries on her site. I can’t wait to read them all myself. I am so happy that we are discussing Ingrid because she was such a gifted actress, and she is one of my great favourites from the classic film era.

Where do I begin with Ingrid Bergman? Well, to me she is one of the(if not the) most expressive actresses in all of film history. Ingrid’s eyes spoke volumes and often she really didn’t need dialogue in a scene, as her face told us all we ever needed to know about what her character was feeling. When she smiled her whole face lit up, there was warmth and light in her eyes and she made you feel what she was feeling.

Ingrid appeared in many different genres over the years. I have always liked watching her act best in dramas, I think that is the genre which suited her talents best.

Ingrid was an actress who I can never catch acting, by that I mean she is totally natural in all of her screen roles. Ingrid brought such great depth to the many characters she played throughout her career.

I also think that Ingrid had a real knack for being able to convey emotion so convincingly that she makes you feel what her characters are experiencing at particular moments.

One of my favourite films of Ingrid’s is this lovely film from 1945, The Bells of St. Mary’s. This is the sequel to the very popular Bing Crosby film, Going My Way (1944). Bing reprises his role in this sequel as the kind, music loving, Catholic Priest, Father O’Malley.

These two films are feel good and they show us that there is goodness in humanity, even if you have to look more closely at times to find it. In these two films bad times can be made better by singing, or by sharing your troubles with others, and everything turns out well in the end. What’s not to like? 

Both of these films will be sure to leave you with a smile on your face. I like both films very much, but of the two, this sequel is my all time favourite. It is a comfort film for me, and it is one I turn to when I’m in need of some cheering up.

In this film we find Father O’Malley(Bing Crosby)taking up the position of priest at St. Mary’s convent/school. He soon finds himself at odds with the head nun, Sister Benedict(Ingrid Bergman) as they both have very different views on how the school should be run. As the months go by they grow to respect each other and gradually start to become friends. They both agree that the children need a bigger and more modern school building to work in.

The question of whether O’Malley can get their new building off the wealthy and selfish Horace P. Bogardus(Henry Travers) is the main storyline. A moving subplot sees O’Malley and Sister Benedict also both trying to help Patricia(Joan Carroll), a troubled teenager who has come to them because of family problems and who is very depressed. It’s nice seeing both Sister Benedict and Father O’Malley being there for Patricia and each trying to help her in different ways (essentially standing in as her parental figures.)

Sister Benedict falls ill and she won’t accept that her condition could be extremely serious. Father O’Malley tries and helps her see the truth of her situation, but finds it difficult as she often pushes him away.

Ingrid practically glows in this film, she radiates an inner light (and does in so many of her other film performances.) She captures the kindness and self sacrificial quality of Sister Benedict so well, there is a real naturalness about her in this performance that makes you totally believe in the character she is playing.

Ingrid makes Sister Benedict strong and determined, and she also makes her someone who can be easily moved and hurt. There are many times in this film when Ingrid makes your heart break for her character as she just looks so sad and vulnerable.

This is a film I would recommend to someone who had never seen Ingrid in a film before. I would recommend it because I think it lets her show how varied her acting skills were and would be a good introduction to her film work. It’s also one I’d recommend as being a good family film.

My favourite scenes from the film are the following. The nuns laughing when Father O’Malley is introducing himself to them, only to realise he is being upstaged by a playful kitten on a shelf behind him. Sister Benedict watching Mr. Bogardus praying in church and noticing the stray dog sitting behind him, this scene is both touching and funny as the dog makes cute/random noises that are funny, this scene also shows us that Bogardus is not all bad. The final scene between Sister Benedict and Father O’Malley (this moves me every time I watch it.) Patricia reading her report about senses out loud. Sister Benedict praying to God and crying as she begs to be able to understand the decision that has been made regarding her future. Patricia trying to look older and Father O’Malley being deeply amused by how she looks.

This is a beautiful and touching film about friendship, and about finding good where you least expect it. Ingrid is at her best in this film, and her performance is excellent.

Here are five Ingrid Bergman films that I really love.

1 – Notorious

2 – The Bells Of St. Mary’s

3 – For Whom The Bell Tolls

4 – Stromboli

5 –Anastasia

I also love Ingrid in the following: Indiscreet. A Woman Called Golda. Intermezzo. Journey To Italy.

Any other fans of this film and of Ingrid’s performance in it? Please leave your comments below.

Uncategorized

My Blog Milestone

100 followers

When I started this blog back in February of this year, I never in a million years expected to actually gain many (if indeed any) followers. I started this blog simply as a place just to archive my thoughts on various films etc that I’ve watched.

I was delighted when I started to gain a handful of followers, and when I started receiving comments. I was really chuffed with this, but I certainly never expected to get 100 followers. Checking my blog this morning and seeing this figure there really touched me. To some bloggers this number is insignificant as they have so many followers, but to me it is quite an achievement, and it is something  which I did not expect at all.

I want to thank each and every one of you for following me. Thank you for leaving comments and likes. I’ve been delighted to run into so many fellow classic film fans here, and over the last few months I’ve made many blog friends too. Thank you all for dropping by to read my film ramblings. Many of you say you are pleased that I have introduced you to a film that you hadn’t heard of before, so I am very grateful to hear that and it is my pleasure. I hope you all enjoy watching those films.

More importantly, I want to thank you all so much for your support and encouragement. When I started out blogging I lacked confidence, but now I’m feeling like I am a old hand at blogging. My thanks go again to my good friend Caftan Woman for encouraging me to take up blogging in the first place.  

I invite you all to share a slice (or two) of chocolate cake in celebration of 100 follows.  🙂

Maddy x

Blogathons, Thriller

The Van Johnson Blogathon: 23 Paces To Baker Street (1956)

Va Johnson blogathon

Michaela over at Loveletterstooldhollywood is hosting this blogathon all about the actor Van Johnson. Be sure to visit her site to read all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself. Today would also have been Van’s birthday, so happy birthday and R.I.P to him.

Van Johnson was a very popular film actor during the 40’s and 50’s. He was always reliable, and if I see his name in a films credits then I will be sure to give that film a look.

For this blogathon I’m writing about my all time favourite Van Johnson film performance. It’s my favourite for two reasons. Firstly, I really like how he plays his character. Secondly, as I think he gets a chance here to really show off his dramatic acting ability. His role in this film is one which he can really sink his teeth into.

The film I’m writing about is Van’s 1956 thriller, 23 Paces To Baker Street. This is a cracking little mystery thriller, and it is a film that I really wish was much better known and discussed today. Not only is it a very good film, but it also features one of Johnson’s best film performances. The film is also quite unique for the time period in having a handicapped lead character.

I really like how the film shows Johnson’s character Hannon, as being able to be independent and live a productive life despite him being blind, and despite his own personal reaction to his blindness and all the problems which that entails.

Van does a very good job here of playing a man eaten up with despair, anger and fear;  yet he also shows us that Hannon is also someone who won’t let his disability stop him from doing things. Van also lets us see as the film goes on, that Hannon is becoming obsessed with this case and will push himself harder and harder to solve it.

The plot device of a blind witness adds to the suspense of the story greatly as we are as much in the dark as Johnson’s character is. Hannon’s blindness also makes him very vulnerable when the villains end up turning their attentions on him.

I always think that this story (or at least the blind witness aspect of it)would have made terrific material for Hitchcock. 

The film is directed by Henry Hathaway, and it is set in London during the 1950’s. Phillip Hannon(Van Johnson)is a successful American playwright who is extremely bitter having recently become permanently blind. Hannon lives in London, in a Thames side apartment with his loyal manservant Bob(Cecil Parker). Hannon is angry at the world and is fast becoming an embittered soul.

Hannon’s current bad temper isn’t helped when his former fiancé Jean(Vera Miles)stops by to see him. Hannon doesn’t want her to feel sorry for him, but he cannot understand that she doesn’t, nor that he can still have romance and be happy despite his loss of sight.

One night in a pub, Hannon overhears a conversation that troubles him very much, two people are talking about kidnapping a child. Reporting what he heard to the police he is annoyed when they say they don’t have enough evidence to do anything. Hannon, Bob and Jean do some investigating of their own. On the streets of a very foggy London, this trio try and find the couple from the pub and try and prevent the kidnapping from taking place. Soon the film becomes a tale of mistaken identity, murder and suspicion.

I really love the relationship between Hannon and Jean. It’s obvious right from the first time they come back into each others lives that they still have feelings for one another. Hannon deliberately pushes Jean away from him because he doesn’t want to seem vulnerable or pitiable to her. Jean would never see him like that and she just wants to be with him any way she can. She happily accepts the role of assistant to him,  just so that she can be with him, and be in his life in some way. She will take anything she can get if it allows her to be with him.

Van and Vera both do a terrific job of conveying their characters complicated relationship. Often they convey us information about their feelings not through words, but through the way they look at each other, or by the way one responds to what the other says or does. Their relationship is poignant, frustrating and believable.

Van is the vital glue that makes this film work. I’m not sure anyone else could have played the role of Hannon quite the way he does. This is my favourite film that Van made and it is one which shows off his dramatic acting talents very well indeed.

Cecil Parker steals every scene he is in as the protective Bob. He wants to help Hannon, but will never force his help upon him. I also like how Parker becomes sort of like Dr. Watson to Johnson’s Holmes. Bob really enjoys becoming an amateur detective as the film goes on.

Vera is very good as Jean, she really makes you feel for her character, and we know Jean wants the best for Philip and that she still loves him.

My favourite scenes are the following. Hannon and Jean’s first meeting. Hannon and Bob on the riverboat, when they talk about describing what they are seeing around them. The sequence at the derelict house. Hannon and Jean interviewing the nurse maid. Hannon overhearing the conversation in the pub. Jean sitting at Hannon’s feet making him tea after the derelict house sequence. The end on the balcony.

I highly recommend this one to fans of Van Johnson and to anyone out there who likes a good mystery thriller. I’d love to read your thoughts on this film. Any other fans? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

British Cinema

Unsung Classics 7: Mandy (1952)

Mandy was directed by Alexander MacKendrick, and the film was produced by Ealing Studios.This one is a real gem, in addition to being a very good film, it also serves as an extremely educational experience for people who don’t know that much about deafness.

The sequences set at the deaf school were filmed on location at the Royal Schools For The Deaf in Manchester (now called The Seashell Trust).

The film features strong performances from all in the cast, and it is a beautiful film showing people that there is hope out there during tough times.

 

Photo0154The film also features one of the best performances by a child actor (Mandy Miller) that I have ever seen. Mandy is such a natural young actress and she conveys so much in this film with her expressions and eyes alone. The fact that she is so young and can convey so much emotion in such a natural way is impressive. Mandy wasn’t in very many films and I think that is a real shame and a loss really, she was a very gifted young lady.

The film also does so much to highlight that people who are deaf are just like the rest of us. If taught and helped properly, they can communicate, cope and live perfectly normal lives. At the time of the films release, illness and disability still had much stigma attached to them. Issues such as deafness were swept under the carpet so to speak. People didn’t want to know about such things. Shame on them I say, disability is not catching!

I also really hope that people who saw this film back at the time of release came to understand that deaf people(and anyone else with a disability for that matter)are just as normal as anyone else. I also hope this film helped educate people more about the condition of deafness.

The film focuses on a family who are affected by deafness. At first glance Mandy(Mandy Miller)seems like any other child her own age. Mandy has one slight difference though, she was born deaf.

Mandy’s parents Christine and Harry(Phyllis Calvert and Terence Morgan)raise her at home. Because she can’t speak to them, she is mute and can’t communicate with her family or anyone else, as she has no concept of language. As she gets older, she becomes hard to control and becomes a danger to herself. Mandy withdraws into herself and doesn’t understand the dangers surrounding her in everyday life.

Eventually Mandy is taken to a residential deaf school, which is run by the progressive teacher, Dick Searle (Jack Hawkins). Here, Mandy can at last make friends and she can learn how to communicate in a hearing world. The growing friendship between Christine and Searle, that so easily could have developed into a romance, is touching and well conveyed by Hawkins and Calvert.

The film also does a good job of showing the strain that can exist in the lives of family members of people with disabilities. The parents in the film are loving and devoted, but they know that Mandy needs professional help. Dealing with her condition and with her going away to school places a strain on the marriage.  

All the adults do a good job here, but are essentially supporting roles. Mandy is the real star of this one.

Jack Hawkins is excellent as the gruff teacher who doesn’t act in a conventional way. He doesn’t care about manners etc, he just wants to help the children and do a good job as a teacher. This attitude makes him disliked by the schools governing board. He’s the man for the job, and he will help no matter what they say.

An uplifting, moving and very interesting film that raises awareness about deafness.

Please leave your comments on the film below.

 

 

Classic TV, Page To Screen, Romance

Jane Eyre Discussion Part 2: My Favourite Screen Adaptation

With the novel Jane Eyre being so beloved, it is not hard to see why so many screen adaptations for this one exist. There have been many big and small screen adaptations made over the years. I like many of them, and despise a good many more of them.

My biggest complaint by far about this story on screen, is that most of the adaptations cut far too much of the novel out. The development of Jane and Rochester’s romance is often rushed, and there is too much cut out from the rest of the story. Much of the beautiful original language of the novel is also missing, making the dialogue more akin to modern language.

I think that the worst adaptations are the 1934 and 2011 film versions. I think the best of the big screen versions is the 1943 film starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.

I also have a real soft spot for the much underrated 1970 TV film, starring George C. Scott and Susannah York; this version still cuts much out, but Scott is the actor who is pretty much like the Rochester of the novel in terms of looks and mood.

My favourite screen adaptation however will always be the 1983 miniseries, starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke.  This one has held a special place in my heart since I borrowed the video boxset from my local Library. This was made by the BBC and directed by Julian Amyes. It was adapted for the screen by Alexander Baron. Why do I love this adaptation so much? How much time do you have? 

I think the performances by Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke are superb. They both make you care for their characters of Rochester and Jane. Zelah captures Jane’s quiet and gentle nature, and also her inner self yearning to break free. In the later part of the series when she flees Thornfield, Zelah makes Jane so vulnerable and devastated you just want to wrap her up in your arms. Timothy captures the enigmatic nature, despair, tenderness and frustration of Rochester perfectly. I also think the height difference between Timothy and Zelah works for the series because they just look so adorable together.

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The series is also pretty much word for word like the book. It even contains the vast majority of the original language that other adaptations change. It also features the gypsy fortune teller sequence. It also focuses heavily on Jane’s childhood, and upon her time later with Rivers and his sisters, something which other adaptations barely focus upon. The series lets the actors act, and lets them bring these characters to life. The series isn’t rushed in any way.

This is also the only adaptation where I as a viewer feel what Jane and Rochester are going through. The proposal sequence is a good example of this, Zelah makes your heart break when she delivers the famous speech about Jane having heart. The way she and Timothy look at each other in this is incredible. I can’t find the words to describe what those looks convey, they just have such strong chemistry and make you believe the emotional bond between the characters. You believe that they really are falling in love before you.

This adaptation also focuses on the fact that Jane and Rochester each serve as a rescuer for the other. Jane saves Rochester from depression and horror, and he saves her from cruelty and a life of blending into the background, instead of standing out in the crowd. Zelah and Timothy convey all that perfectly, particularly in the scene where Rochester tells Jane he has found the pure and innocent being he wishes to be with in life.

This series features strong performances from the entire cast, and it really is the adaptation which is the closest to the book. There are many adaptations out there, but it is to this one that I return again, and again and again.

The series itself is also a good example of the sort of series that we in Britain used to excel at producing. Series that took their time and were not rushed. Series that allow the actors to convey all we need (no need for fancy editing, or for intrusive music in every scene).

My favourite scenes are the following. The “so, you’ve come out at last” scene where Jane becomes ill and faints. The proposal scene. The scene on the stairs where Rochester says he thinks Jane looks depressed. Young Jane standing up to Mrs. Reed. All the scenes with Grace Poole. Jane saving Rochester from the fire, and their conversation afterwards. Jane asking for permission to go and visit her aunt. Rochester looking at Jane’s paintings. The aftermath of Mason getting attacked by Bertha. The gypsy fortune scene. All the scenes where Jane is staying with the Rivers siblings. The “is this my mustard seed?” scene. Rochester greeting Jane in the grounds when she returns from her aunts house. Rochester begging Jane to stay with him. The final scenes.

If there is a downside to the series I would say it lies in the casting of Zelah. Whilst she is superb as Jane, she looks much older than Jane’s eighteen years. This seems to always be a problem in all of the adaptations. Timothy is also more handsome than the Rochester of the novel (who to my mind resembles how George C. Scott looked in the 1970 film)but he really is the best actor to capture the personality and torment of the man.

Beautiful costumes and music all add something to the series. My favourites from amongst the supporting cast are Mary Tamm, as the beautiful and self centred Blanche. Robert James, as the cold and cruel Mr. Brocklehurst. Jean Harvey as the loveable and loyal Mrs. Fairfax.

I’d love to hear from you what you think of this series? What are your favourite screen adaptations of this story? Leave your comments below.

 

 

 

Book Chat, Romance

Jane Eyre Discussion Part 1: The Novel

It’s time for some book chat. I’ve wanted to write about Jane Eyre for such a long time now. I love this novel so much, so I do hope you will indulge me as I first discuss the novel, and then in a future post as I write about my favourite screen adaptation of this classic.

For anyone out there who doesn’t know the story, here is a brief plot description. Jane Eyre is an orphan who is raised by her cruel aunt. Jane is sent to a boarding school that is so bad it is more like a prison. Jane overcomes her childhood horrors and becomes a governess. She is appointed governess to Adele, the young ward of Mr. Edward Rochester, the mysterious master of Thornfield Hall. Rochester falls in love with Jane and does all in his power to make her fall for him in return. Secrets and heartbreak await within the next pages.

Jane Eyre  (hereafter written as JE) was written by Charlotte Bronte, and was published in 1847. Charlotte and her sisters Anne and Emily wrote novels which continue to enthrall readers over a century after they were published.  JE in particular remains a beloved and much discussed classic novel. Why though does this story continue to delight readers today? Why is there still such an interest in this novel?

I think it remains so popular because it is about finding your soulmate. Jane and Rochester each find that special someone and are so close it’s like they are one. Even today we are still desperate to have a person like that in our lives, all desperate to be loved and accepted for who we are.

I’m sure it is so frequently discussed because there so much within it that is still worthy of discussion and debate. It deals with child abuse, with treatment of the mentally ill, with loneliness and despair, and it has good detail about what life at the time the novel was written was like. The relationship between Rochester and Jane is interesting too. Rochester plays with her emotions, he goes after what he wants (her as his love)and awakens her heart, desire and passion. Their connection is genuine, and even though it’s partly brought about through his control of the situation the connection isn’t there just because of that.

JE also shows us that true love is not about looks and sex, but about two souls and minds connecting. It lets us see that people should marry for love, not for money, or so they can bring two estates together. I think that so many of the themes and issues in this novel are still relevant in todays world.

I first read JE in my early teens and instantly fell in love with it. It has become a firm favourite, and it is a novel I can read again, and again and never get bored with. I connect with the lonely, damaged and passionate Jane. I pity and adore the brooding and desperate Rochester. I pity the extremely ill Bertha. I love the time taken to develop the relationship between Jane and Rochester. I smile at the antics of the adorable Adele, and of the loyal Mrs. Fairfax. I hate the selfish Blanche. I want to slap the evil and hypocritical Mr. Brocklehurst(what a loathsome creature he is!)I really feel the growing affection, friendship and romantic attachment between Jane and Rochester.

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I also love this book for the old language. There are many words, objects and phrases etc that I was unfamiliar with before reading the novel. There inclusion in the novel lead me to go and research what they meant. There are some great words in it that you never hear used anymore, words such as physiognomy for example.

In so many screen adaptations of JE, these old words and way of speaking is not present, I think that’s a real shame as it’s not being true to the novel, or to the time period it is set in. My favourite screen adaptation retains the novels historical language though, something for which I will always be grateful.

If you have never read or watched Jane Eyre, please don’t read any further. Spoilers afoot!

Through her novel, Bronte gives us a window into her time, and also gives us a heroine who stays true to her principles, who is a strong, passionate and independent woman. Jane suffered unspeakable cruelty and injustice in her childhood, she did not let that break or define her though. Jane is admirable for being able to move above and past the horrors of her childhood. She is a shy, gentle and passionate woman who wants to be accepted for her mind and soul, not for money or appearance. Society (even today)places too much importance on looks and status, it is the person inside and our actions that should count most in this world. This novel tackles these issues at a time when they were of paramount importance to all who lived.

The character best remembered from this story by most people, is the brooding master of Thornfield Hall, one Mr. Rochester. Like Jane, Rochester had a deeply unhappy childhood, he wants true love and contentment more than anything else in this world. Despite his marriage to Bertha, Rochester wants Jane, he needs her and wants (and deserves)his own happiness too. Some will judge him harshly for wanting to marry a woman despite already being married.

I don’t hate Rochester for that, on the contrary, I pity him and respect him. We see he was not cruel to Bertha, he looked after her. He could have just shipped her off to the nearest asylum and dumped her there, but he didn’t. Between him and Grace caring for her she was well looked after, and was treated with compassion and as much dignity as possible.

At the asylum Bertha no doubt would have been badly treated and been scared. So he gets all my respect for keeping her at home. Secondly Bertha was raving mad, Rochester was told nothing of this when his marriage to her was arranged. How would you react and feel if you were him? He lives a pretty depressing life for years, until the kind, pure and fresh Jane comes into his life. Here is the wife he should have had.

I see no problem with him taking Jane as his wife because why should he remain married to someone who wasn’t even aware of his existence? At least he didn’t try and take Jane as his mistress, he was all set to marry her until Mason showed up. I’m pretty shocked that you couldn’t divorce due to mental illness in those days. I understand the “in sickness and in health”vow, but I think that should only apply if something develops during the marriage, Bertha had a pre-existing condition that was kept from Rochester who quickly discovered the truth shortly after the marriage. Why should he have to stay married in that instance?

I’m in two minds about Jane’s reaction when she learns the truth. I get that her religious/moral convictions made her think she had no choice but to leave and not stay and marry him. On the other hand why couldn’t she see what I said earlier? It’s not like he was cheating on his wife, she was his wife in name only anyway, they were not intimate either emotionally or physically. So where is the harm in staying with him?

I’ve read this again recently and picked up on something I never noticed before. It seems like Jane only gives herself one hundred percent to Rochester when he is no longer in control of their situation. At the end he is a blind cripple, he no longer has any dominance in their relationship. He had experience in physical love and matters of the heart and he played with her early in the story due to her inexperience in these things. Now he cannot see her reactions to (say a kiss they share, or how she reacts on their wedding night.) To me it’s like she didn’t like to be seen (at times) and now he can’t see her she comes to him. He can no longer be in control of their intimate moments the way he is at the end ( I know later he regains eyesight.) This doesn’t take anything away from this romantic story, but it does add an aspect to think about. Has anyone else noticed this?

In short, JE is a novel that I never get bored of returning to. It’s well written, descriptive, vivid and moves me so much. Bronte’s characters are as interesting and alive today, as they were when they first appeared in 1847.

In my next post I will share my favourite screen adaptation of the novel.

What are your thoughts on the novel? I welcome you comments and thoughts on my observations and views of Bronte’s story. Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

British Cinema, Detective, Thriller, True Story

Robbery (1967)

In August, 1963, the British public could talk about only one thing over their bacon, eggs,toast and orange juice. The topic of the day was a robbery, not just any robbery though. Oh no, this robbery was considered to be the robbery to end all robberies.

Early in the morning of the 8th of August, 1963, sixteen men had held up a Royal Mail train on its way down from Glasgow to London. They boarded the train while it was stopped on a bridge, severely injured the trains driver, Jack Mills by hitting him with a metal bar, and made off with all the cash on board. The grand total they got away with? £2.6 million. At the time, this was the largest money robbery in British history.

Several of the gang were eventually caught and a trial was held in 1964. Two of the gang, Ronnie Biggs and Charlie Wilson escaped prison in daring prison breaks, and they and many others lived abroad for decades. The case is well known here in the UK, but if you’re not familiar with it you can find more about the case, trial, and the gang members themselves online.

The robbery and what happened afterwards sounds like it’s a plot straight out of a film. Fact can be stranger than fiction though, and that is certainly true in this case.

It proved too much of an opportunity to pass up on, and so in 1967, production began in the UK on a film based upon the robbery. It was a rather fictionalised account and peoples names were changed etc, and it didn’t end quite how the real life event did.

The film was directed by Peter Yates (who would go on to great fame as the director of Bullitt), and it was produced by Stanley Baker and Michael Deeley. Baker would also star as the leader of the gang aiming to rob the Royal Mail train of its cash. The films electrifying score was by Johnny Keating, and his music adds so much atmosphere to the film.

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Robbery is a tense, gripping and gritty flick. It has you on the edge of your seat throughout and I think it has a very realistic look to it. I also like how the Police are not shown as idiots or the enemy here as is so often the case in films mainly focusing on the criminals. Also we don’t really (well I didn’t anyway)feel like we should be fully on the side of either the cops, or of the criminals, the depiction of what both sides did and went through is well balanced I think.  We can envy at the audacity of the plan, and the fact that it works, but we don’t forget these are criminals, nor that the Police have to (and should) do their job to get them.

The first fifteen minutes are some of the most tense I’ve ever seen in a film. The film opens with four criminals setting up a robbery in broad daylight. They set up a gas canister in the car of a man who has a briefcase handcuffed to him. The gas is set to go off at a certain time, it does so knocking out the driver and the man with the case, and causes the car to crash. Three of the gang in a stolen ambulance take the two men out of the car and drive off. In the ambulance they remove the case and some diamonds.

They abandon the ambulance and get into a getaway vehicle, they are spotted by coppers in a passing car who are on the look out for the stolen ambulance, thus begins one of the best car chases in film history. The Police pursue the robbers car at high speed, as the gang try and evade capture. Filmed out on location in and around London streets, this chase had me on the edge of my seat, peeking through my fingers. In some ways this can easily be seen as the warm up for Yates film Bullitt(which features another brilliant car chase.) The bit where the gang get nearer to a London school crossing is edge of your seat stuff.

The film sees Paul Clifton(Stanley Baker)get a crew together to help him rob a Royal Mail train. Clifton has thought every possibility through, and is leaving nothing to chance. He doesn’t bet on the determined Scotland Yard Detective George Langdon (James Booth). Langdon gets to hear interesting info from some of his informers which alerts him to the fact that a big job is about to go down. Langdon and fellow colleagues set about trying to uncover what the job is, and do their best to capture the criminals.  

Solid performances can be found throughout by some of the best character actors in British film history.

Stanley Baker is excellent as the tough criminal mastermind who you wouldn’t want to mess with. James Booth (Baker’s co-star in the classic war flick Zulu)steals every scene he is in, as the copper determined to get the gang. Barry Foster, Clinton Greyn, Frank Finlay, George Sewell and William Marlowe all impress as members of Clifton’s crew. Joanna Pettet has a small role as Clifton’s stylish wife, she doesn’t get much to do here, but she does make an impression when she is on the screen.

My favourite scenes are the following. The opening car chase. Frank Finlay’s character being rescued from the prison yard. The line up, where the schoolteacher identifies the man who was driving the speeding car. Clifton’s wife asking him why he has a gun. The train robbery sequence. The discussion at the football match. I also really love the opening title sequence, where the names and credits go backwards, giving us the impression that the train is passing them by.

This is a realistic and thrilling crime film inspired by a incredible true story. I’d also like to say that fans of vintage British cars will be in for a real treat, this film is full of old cars that are sure to bring back happy memories for car lovers.

I highly recommend you see this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking at its best. The Network Blu-Ray release also has lots of very good extras to enjoy, including an interesting interview with Stanley Baker.

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detective, Noir

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 10:The Big Heat (1953)

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What a film this is! A gripping story of violence, corruption, hate, revenge, and a strong determination to fight back against evil. It also quite interestingly shows us that the line between people who are good and bad can sometimes get quite blurred.

The film is based upon the Saturday Evening Post Serial by William P. McGivern. I have never read this but would love to do so. If you have read it, I would love to get your take on the differences  and similarities between the text and the film. 

For a film from the 50’s, this one is very violent and brutal. Some of the violence we actually see on screen, some is inferred, but all of it makes quite an impact on us. The film still shocks and grips when viewed today. The clothes and cars may have dated, but the story, shock of the violence, and  the types of people seen in the film certainly haven’t changed.

The film is directed by Fritz Lang. He made so many masterpieces throughout his career(especially his German Silent films, such as Metropolis), that it is very hard to single out any one of his films as being better than others. The Big Heat is one of his that I would certainly single out though, and for me it is his best American film.

Lang focuses on the darkness of humanity and really rubs our noses in that darkness and dirt. He also lets us see that there can sometimes be good, decency and courage found in the sewer of humanity. This is a film that is all about humanity, and Lang focuses upon the characters and their actions instead of making the film one that is all about visuals or action. 

This is an actors film, the camera is focused on them throughout and lets them convey to us what’s going on. The entire cast all deliver superb performances, and for some I think it’s fair to say they deliver career best performances. Glenn Ford in particular is excellent as the good detective who ends up going around filled with barely concealed rage and hatred.

The vast majority of the films power comes via the interactions between characters and their reaction to the violence that occurs throughout the film. I also love how the film is split into little sections which almost come across as mini films in their own right. Apart from one scene, the film all takes place inside. The interior locations and the close way the camera is focused on the actors really gives the film a claustrophobic feel. Much of the film also has an almost documentary style feel about it, there is a strong sense of realism in this film.

Women play a major role in this film. The female characters we see are very strong women and once they get mixed up with Bannion’s investigation they suffer unspeakable cruelty. Much of the violence in this film is directed towards women. Women are the main victims in this film, they either end up getting killed, physically scarred, emotionally damaged, or have their lives put at risk. Even Detective Bannion’s own daughter suffers too; in as much as her childhood innocence gets shattered and lost by what happens to her mum.

It is also the women in this film who take most of the risks, and in the end it is a woman who gets revenge on two of the main villains of the film. Bannion, who is the films hero actually doesn’t get his hands dirty often, but through his investigation and persuasion others face danger or lose their lives by helping him get revenge. Bannion also does or say things that make him not unlike the people he is seeking revenge against. There’s that old saying which I think applies to him and his situation; violence begets violence. Revenge is just a never ending cycle of pain and violence.

The film begins with Bertha Duncan (Jeanette Nolan)hearing a gunshot. She comes downstairs and finds her husband (a police detective)dead in an apparent suicide. She reads a letter he has written, but we don’t see what is in it. Throughout all of this she never looks shocked or upset in any way, she looks cold and seems unbothered by the grim sight before her. She makes a call to dapper crime boss Lagana (Alexander Scourby)to inform him of the death, he seems to have mixed feelings to her news, and he says he will see her soon.

Detective Dave Bannion(Glenn Ford)is put on the case and at first seems convinced it is a simple suicide. His suspicions are aroused when he speaks to Lucy Chapman(Dorothy Green)a woman who was Duncan’s mistress and who claims there is no way he killed himself. Bannion sees there is more to this when Lucy is found brutally murdered shortly after telling him what she did.

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Across town, the thuggish Vince Stone (Lee Marvin)is one of Lagana’s men and he is put in charge of getting rid of Bannion. A car bomb meant to take out the curious detective accidentally kills Bannion’s wife Katie (Jocelyn Brando) instead. Bannion driven crazy by grief is determined to get revenge and uncover the truth about the case. He also puts his young daughter into the protective custody of former army pals of his to keep her safe. 

Stone’s flirtatious, and fun loving girl Debby(Gloria Grahame)is rebellious and takes a liking to Bannion. This affection gets her a pot of boiling coffee in the face, scarring her for life. Debby teams up with Bannion in his quest and dishes out some revenge of her own.

Glenn Ford is excellent as a decent, ordinary man plunged headfirst into violence, grief and pain. He is excellent at conveying little gestures or looks showing Bannion becoming enraged and no longer playing by the rules. His performance is all in the eyes, pay close attention to him in every scene. Glenn often looked quite baby faced in many roles, but here he looks more mature and proves what a good dramatic actor he could be.

Lee Marvin steals every scene he is in as the despicable heavy, who has no feelings for anyone, not even for a woman who is supposed to be his girlfriend. Marvin had such an expressive and fascinating face and here he says so much with that face.

Gloria Grahame (who to me has always been quite an underrated actress)is at her best as the fun loving, strong and independent Debby. In the last part of the film Debby becomes the main focus of the film instead of Bannion. Gloria relishes these scenes where she shows us Debby overcoming her pain to become a strong woman determined to get some justice for herself and Bannion.

Jocelyn Brando (older sister of Marlon) is very good as Bannion’s loving wife. She gives him a normal, happy and stable existence away from the darkness of his job. Jocelyn and Glenn work well together making us feel this couples connection and devotion.

Jeannette Nolan steals every scene she is in as the ice cold woman who thinks only of her self. Her character is one of the most interesting and controlling in the whole film. Jeannette was a superb actress, but I think this may be one of the best performances she ever gave.

Alexander Scourby oozes evil as the big boss who thinks he is king of the city. He has people very afraid indeed, but of course he won’t dirty his own hands by killing or injuring, he hires heavies to do that for him. Lagana uses words and body language to scare and intimidate, he finds this doesn’t work on Bannion. Scourby is excellent and gives you a good sense of what his character is all about.

This film features many fine supporting performances from the following: Dan Seymour, Willis Bouchey, Edith Evanson and a young Carolyn Jones.

My favourite scenes are the following. Debby answering the phonecall from Lagana for Vince. Bannion and Katie sharing a steak, a drink and a cigarette. Debby going to Bannion after she has been injured. The carbomb sequence. The “sisters under the mink” sequence. Bannion speaking to the old woman through the fence. The finale in the penthouse. Bannion’s Lt speaking to him after Katie’s funeral.

A taut film that packs quite a bit into just 89 minutes. There is not one wasted second in this. There are also scenes where you don’t find yourselves wondering why two characters are suddenly together, as they will say a few words that explain all (we don’t need to see them come together to do what they are about to when we catch up to them.)

I also have to praise the photography by Charles Lang, he keeps the camera close to the actors at all times and makes us feel a part of the scenes. The film is interesting visually, without the look of the film being the sole focus of attention (like many of the visuals in Fritz Lang’s Silent films.)

Be sure to see this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking its best. This format also has some great extras for you to enjoy.

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

Dystopian, Page To Screen, Science Fiction

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

Francois Truffaut’s 1966 film is an excellent adaptation of the acclaimed 1953 novel of the same name. The novel was written by American Sci-Fi author, Ray Bradbury.

Both the book and the film highlight that the desire to open yourself up to new ideas will never (hopefully not)die. Books give us access to new cultures, worlds, ideas, and perspectives. Both the film and the novel also highlight that when something is forbidden to us, that ban only increases our curiosity about, and a strong desire to seek out the banned thing.

Fictional novels also allow us to relax and to take a break from reality. How is that break different to watching a drama on TV? Reading exercises your brain and imagination, you see in your head the characters, the locations, the clothes etc.

Reading is an experience unlike any other as it is your mind which brings the words to life. Written words are among some of the most powerful things to be found on this earth, some people don’t like that fact, and they want to silence some of those words and control access to them.

This is a film that made a very strong impression on me when I first watched it a few years ago. As a book lover it makes me so mad to see books being destroyed in this film. It makes me even more angry to see the gaining of knowledge, and the use of ones own imagination being denied and controlled by the state. The film also depicts people addicted to drugs, and when they run out, more drugs are given to them by the state. Many people have to take stimulants, most likely to stave off the frustration and dullness of what the reality of this life is. 

It is not hard to see the eerie similarities in the film to the notorious book burnings in Nazi Germany. That state also controlled what was taught, what people did and didn’t do. It also ensured that all citizens followed a strict and controlled life. As we know, if anyone didn’t conform, or anyone took a stand against the Nazi’s they were killed or imprisoned.

This film is also very interesting to look at from a visual perspective. The futuristic buildings look sleek and very Art Deco, yet they also look cold, and there is nothing unique about them (reflecting the confirmative society the film is set in.)

The suspended monorail on which people travel to and from work is also very interesting visually. I think that reflects the futuristic leaps made in engineering/transport in the future. This sequence was filmed at the SAFEGE monorail test track in France.

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When I watch this film it makes me think of what books mean to me. Books are a vital part of life for me, just like breathing in the air is vital for me to survive. I simply cannot imagine being without books. It sickens and scares me when access to books is denied, or when they are destroyed. I’m not a fan of E-books, or of Kindles either, they hurt my eyes, and I find them very impersonal. While this technology may encourage some people to read (which is a fantastic thing)I do not want them to ever replace real books.As far as I’m concerned nothing will ever be able to replace the special feeling of holding a book, or of borrowing a book from a Library, knowing that many readers before me have turned these same pages.  

Francois Truffaut’s superb film is set in a future where books (and the reading of them)are banned by law. Some citizens still read in secret though, if they are discovered they are reported to the authorities. Firemen are then sent after these people. The firemen seek out and burn the books in their possession.

With public libraries being closed all around us (or threatened with closure), with younger people being hooked on their phones, TVs, and computers instead of reading physical books or engaging face to face with other people; I would say that this film is terrifyingly relevant for our society today. Too many people are nowadays content to sit back and binge on the rubbish being churned out online or on TV.

Many in society are now just like the zombie like, TV addicted people who are depicted in this film. Many young people now don’t read at all, and have zero interest in ever doing so! Their loss I say, but doesn’t it worry anyone else how dumbed down things are becoming in society at large? How fewer and fewer people are avid readers, and how technology is taking over our lives. If this is the future, then it is not one I’m looking forward to being a part of it.

In the future society seen in the film, books and the reading of them are banned. The state controls the lives of its citizens, and all are expected to watch TV for all (or for most of the )day. Some people still read books in secret, if they are discovered the authorities send firemen after them. These men, clad all in black, search for books, and when they find them they burn them. The title of the book and film refers to the temperature at which book paper burns at.

Montag (Oskar Werner) is one of the firemen, he is a yes man (like the majority of his society)and sees nothing wrong in destroying books. When he meets schoolteacher Clarissa (Julie Christie)he starts to question his entire way of life. He himself becomes a hunted fugitive after he is caught reading. Montag must also make a choice between the two women in his life. Should he make a new life with Clarissa, or remain with his TV addicted, glamorous, drug dependent wife, Linda (also played by Julie Christie. ) This man must make a choice between living a restrictive life, or living in seclusion and being allowed to have intellectual freedom.

Oskar is superb as the man who slowly begins to have his eyes opened to the cruelty and evil being committed daily around him. He starts of as a very closed off character emotionally, and then turns passionate, angry and horrified. His performance is all in the eyes, keep watching him closely throughout.  This is one of my favourite performances by him.

Julie shines in a duel performance. She is a vibrant, passionate, outgoing free spirit as Clarissa. As Montag’s wife Linda, she is self centred, brainwashed, chic, and so dull.

Cyril Cusack is marvellous as the loathsome and cruel Captain who is Montag’s superior officer. This man takes sadistic pleasure out of burning books, and in causing great distress to the people who read them. Cusack is excellent and he steals every scene he is in.

Bernard Herrmann composed the music for the film and it adds greatly to the film. It is a mystical, beautiful and very ominous soundtrack, and its presence is a big part of the overall film experience.

Excellent performances, and striking images abound in this terrifying vision of a possible future for mankind. This is my favourite Truffaut film, and it is one that contains a story that will impact viewers very strongly. The way in which Montag discovers books can be shared without getting caught is very powerful as yet (thankfully)nobody can read your thoughts, and they also can’t eradicate your memories or emotions.

My favourite scenes are the following. The first time we see the firemen. The opening title sequence (this shows us that this is a TV controlled and conformist society.)Montag reading his first ever book. The old woman burning herself alive so she can die with her books. Clarissa asking Montag if it was true that firemen used to put out fires, instead of starting fires. The finale in the woods. Clarissa and Montag’s discussion in the cafe. Montag being pursued by the flying policemen. Montag’s wife participating in the nationwide TV programme. The Captain getting what he deserves.

Interestingly the film also depicts something that has become a reality for us today. TV is now such a major part of life, and many are sadly glued to a screen more than they take part in real life. As in the film, many people now have flat screen TVs. Many also now have multiple TVs in their home (one isn’t enough obviously)and some even watch tiny TVs (now phones)at times too. Knowing all of this was predicted by Bradbury and depicted by Truffaut decades before it came true is quite spooky.

Be sure to catch this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking at its best. There’s some good extras on the Blu-Ray too, including an interview with Ray Bradbury.

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.