The time has come for us to all gather together in a dark, cobweb filled, lonely old house. Why? It’s the best location in which to discuss those films that scare us silly.
Before we begin though, I feel I must warn you about the coffin in the corner. A certain Count Dracula is sleeping in it at the moment, lets try not to disturb him, as things could turn ugly if he wakes!
This is my entry for my horror blogathon. I can’t wait to be able to read all of your spooky film reviews.
I’m going to be writing about one of my all time favourite horror films. That film is Dead Of Night. As many of you already know I personally much prefer creepy and psychological horror stories instead of the violent and gory ones.
This film is the perfect blend of the supernatural and scares for me. The film brings to mind the scary stories from books, you know the ones I mean, those creepy tales of terror which are best read by a blazing fire on a dark and stormy night.
A sequence near the end of the film does the best job I’ve ever seen of bringing to life nightmares. This sequence manages to capture the disorientation and outright terror you experience when you are having a nightmare. Images and faces are jumbled up, time has no meaning and there is no escape from what you’ve become part of.
At the time this film was released the horror genre was practically non existent in British cinema. America was churning out scary and spooky flicks on a regular basis, but we just were not doing the same. Then Dead Of Night was released, and this film quickly showed the world that the UK could also produce films that were able to chill the blood.
I would have so loved to have been in the audience when this film was first released. Not only was the content and style of the film something new but this film came out of Ealing Studios. Why is that important you may ask?
Well, the content of this film was about as far from Ealing’s regular output as it was possible to get. Ealing is best known for its comedies and picture postcard portrayals of British life, but during the 1940’s they did start to produce some grittier and darker films. This horror film was one of their darkest.
The content of this film was so different that it must have come completely out of the blue for audiences at the time. Other films worth watching from the studios grittier and darker years include: Went The Day Well?Pink String and Sealing Wax and It Always Rains On Sunday.
Dead Of Night is not only a good horror film, but it is also a very unique and cleverly put together film. It has four of Britain’s finest directors at the helm. These directors each directed the different segments of the film. Basil Dearden directs the linking narrative, and also directs the hearse driver story. Alberto Cavalcanti directs both the Christmas party and the ventriloquist dummy stories. Robert Hamer directs the haunted mirror story. Charles Crichton directs the golfing story.
Although this wasn’t the first anthology horror film to be made (the earliest that I’m aware of is Eerie Tales from 1919); Dead Of Night would however go on to become a film that was to become extremely influential on future horror anthology productions. The style of this film paved the way for films like The Amicus horror films, such as Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors and The Vault Of Horror. The hearse driver story surely has to have inspired the films Final Destination and The Night My Number Came Up. The Twilight Zone season 2 episode called Twenty Two also has strong similarities to this story too.
Dead Of Night consists of five individual horror stories, with each one being connected via a clever linking story. Ghosts, Deja vu, recurring nightmares, premonitions, haunted objects and a creepy ventriloquists dummy all feature here.
Unlike many other anthology films, the stories and the overall structure of the film combine together here to make a perfect whole. It’s not like there are only a couple of good parts and the rest is rubbish, each of these horror stories sucks you in. The horror stories are not the only high points of the film though; the linking story itself is also extremely chilling, and it is one that I always want to keep returning to as the film goes on.
I actually think that the film would have still worked and been creepy (although undoubtedly not as successful) if only the linking story was shown, and instead of us seeing the horror stories we just see the characters telling their respective stories.
The film begins with architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns)arriving at the country home of Elliot Foley (Roland Culver). Craig is there to consult on some renovations being undertaken in the house. Foley has some houseguests and Craig (despite never having met any of them before)knows them and claims he knows them due to seeing them in a recurring dream.
As the guests speak to him, Craig begins to start predicting things that they will do, and he becomes increasingly uneasy and is convinced something terrible will happen soon.
The other guests all try and convince Craig that there is no truth to his fears. As the day goes on the guests are inspired by Craig’s claims, and they start to share weird and scary stories of strange incidents they have witnessed themselves. We see these stories play out on screen.
The first story that we see is about a racing car driver (Anthony Baird)who is injured in a crash. As he recovers in hospital, he begins to have some frightening visions. He later comes to understand these were premonitions.This sequence is very unsettling indeed and it is one of my favourites from amongst the various stories.This sort of story is one that never gets old. It can be set in any situation really (public transport, meeting a dangerous person who will do you harm, an accident etc.)
The racing driver opens the curtains and sees a nightmare.Screenshot by me.
The second story takes place at a Christmas party in an old country house. A young girl (Sally Ann Howes) goes exploring the rooms during a game of hide and seek. She comes across a lonely little boy dressed in old clothes. Chills are guaranteed when she later discovers who he is.This sequence is both creepy and touching. It is inspired by a real British murder case. The actor who plays the boy is uncredited, I find that very strange as he has quite a large role within the sequence.
The third story concerns a couple who are plagued by a haunted antique mirror. The husband (Ralph Michael)sees a different room reflected back to him in the mirror, instead of the room in which he is standing. He soon becomes obsessed by this mirror and undergoes a personality change. His wife (Googie Withers)tries to help him and she soon comes to see that he is not going mad as she had first feared.
The fourth story is comic in tone and seems a bit of an odd one to have been included really. Having said that though there are some creepy moments to be found here (the man walking into the lake to drown himself for example). There’s also some clever camera trickery too. The story is about two obsessed golfers (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne)who are in love with the same woman. One of the men ends up as a ghost and haunts the other . This one strikes me as just an excuse to show Wayne and Radford in a film; these two appear regularly throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s as the comic characters Charter’s and Caldicott, their characters in this film might just as well have been those characters.
The fifth story is the one that is best remembered. A ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave)descends into incurable madness. What causes this? He is convinced that his dummy is actually alive. Is he correct, or is he just simply an ill man who is sadly losing his mind? Ventriloquist stories are always creepy and this is one of the most unforgettable and well made of these stories.Michael Redgrave gives one of the best performances of his entire career here, you really do believe he is becoming tired, unbalanced and downright terrified.
After the individual stories are over the horror continues on as we return to the linking story. I won’t reveal the ending in case people haven’t seen this, but if you have, then you will know the horror which awaits the viewer at the end of the film.
The film features many of Britain’s finest actors. Michael Redgrave and Googie Withers were two of the biggest British film stars of this era, and I’ve no doubt that their presence was a major reason for fans to check this film out. Mervyn Johns and Roland Culver were wonderful character actors and they are both excellent here. A very young Sally Ann Howes makes quite an impression in an early role.
The photography by Douglas Slocombe is incredible. The photography really helps to create an eerie mood which carries on from sequence to sequence. The film looks fantastic too.The music by Georges Auric is suitably chilling and it is the perfect accompaniment to the spooky visuals.
My favourites of the stories are the following. The linking story. The hearse driver. The ventriloquists dummy.
I think the best of the stories are the following. The linking story. The ventriloquists dummy. The haunted mirror. The hearse driver.
Be sure to see this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking at its best and to enjoy some interesting interviews about the film. Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below. If you’ve never seen this one, I highly recommend it to you.
The blogathon is being held in honour of what would have been Joan’s 100th birthday.Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.
I’m just so very happy that there is blogathon taking place all about Joan. She is an actress who I have long considered to be an extremely underrated one. I think her own superb talents were often overshadowed by the equally superb talents of her sister, Olivia.
Joan is best remembered today for her unforgettable performances in two Alfred Hitchcock films – Suspicion and Rebecca. Joan made a great many other films too besides those though.
I like Joan because I think that she had a real gift for portraying certain types of people, and I think that Joan was one of the most expressive actresses in film history. I think that she really excelled at portraying fragile, gentle and vulnerable women.
Joan always makes me feel her characters pain, happiness, or their insecurity. Her eyes speak volumes and convey so much more than words ever could. When she smiled or laughed she seemed to glow and beam from within. A truly radiant person indeed.
Joan was an actress who I think really could do it all. She could break your heart one moment, and have you scared for her the next. I like how she makes you connect emotionally to the varied array of characters she portrayed.
Joan and her older sister Olivia De Havilland were both born in Japan. Joan was a year younger than her sister. Both sisters would go on to join the acting profession. They were two of the most talented film actresses of their generation. Olivia went on to receive somewhat greater fame and attention than her sister did, and I think that is a real shame, as Joan really was every bit as talented as her sister was.
Two of my favourite films starring Joan are September Affair and Suspicion and I’m going to write a bit about each of them now.
September Affair is one I like quite a bit, as it shows Joan in a very different role to the fragile or tormented characters that she so often portrayed on screen. I love this film because it is romantic and sad, it also focuses on a growing relationship following a chance encounter. We have all met someone while travelling who we wish we could have known better, this film shows us what could happen if we spent more time with such a person in such a situation.
September Affair is a lovely film about Marianne and David (Joan Fontaine and Joseph Cotten) , a couple who befriend one another whilst on a trip to Italy. As they spend more time together they begin to care about each other very much and fall in love. David is married (unhappily so)and he is desperate for a divorce.
When a plane Marianne and David were supposed to be on crashes, they are afforded an opportunity to start their lives afresh with each other, as they are both reported as being dead. The trouble is they are deliberately allowing those they have left behind to believe they are dead. Joan’s character must also come to terms with the fact that Cotten’s character will never give up his work, even for the sake of their new life together.
I love Joan and Joseph in this so much. Joan is excellent as an ordinary woman falling in love with this man, and also with a new life, in a new country. She lets you see her character falling hard for this man, but also shows us how keenly aware she is that he should go back to his family. If you’ve only seen Joan play fragile or nervous characters then this is a film you should check out. Joan is so natural and convincing in this role.
Joseph captures the desperation and desire of his character so well. He hates his old life, falls in love with this woman and wants her. But will she let them be together or not? Joan conveys so much with her expressions in this one. I love her in the early scenes where you can see her characters feelings for David grow and grow as she spends more time with him.
My second favourite Joan Fontaine film is Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion. I think that Joan is at her very best here, as the innocent, love struck Lina. This girl falls in love with the seemingly perfect, and it must be said, very handsome Johnny (Cary Grant).
Not long after their marriage, Lina begins to suspect that Johnny is plotting to murder her. As her suspicions mount up, she becomes increasingly scared and anxious that he is trying to kill her. We in the audience believe her suspicions and fear for her. But is there any truth to her suspicions?
I like how Joan starts out in this performance as a fresh, innocent, and slightly naïve girl, and I like how she later transitions to a more worldly, paranoid and nervous woman. Truly this is a remarkable performance to watch. Joan deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance here (her win was to be the only acting Oscar ever given for a performance in a Hitchcock film.)
Joan Fontaine is an actress whose work I am very pleased to have been able to see. She sure was a talented actress and I only wish that she was as much an acclaimed actress today as her sister (quite rightly)is and was. R.I.P Joan. Happy 100th birthday to one of the best film actresses.
Here are my five favourite Joan Fontaine films.
1- September Affair
3- This Above All
4- Jane Eyre
Any other fans of the two films I’ve mentioned? What are your thoughts on Joan and on her skills as an actress?
Crystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood is hosting this blogathon all about Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Be sure to visit her site to read all the entries.I can’t wait to read them all myself.
What do I think when I hear the names Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn? Well, I’d say that the first word which comes to mind for me is magical. Why magical? Well, it is because I think they are film magic together; this couple were the sort of film partnership that was only dreamt of in the industry, such screen teams really didn’t come along very often, and when one did arrive it was unforgettable and often unmatchable. What you see on screen between Tracy and Hepburn was the real deal, be it sexual tension, affection, or passion.
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn truly were one of the greatest couples in film history. They had genuine chemistry, perfect timing, and they fitted perfectly together on screen as a couple.
They also are able to make you feel the sexual tension and affection that their various characters feel for one another. This pair gave us some of the most romantic and sexy scenes in film history.
Both Spencer and Katharine were very successful film actors in the years leading up to their first screen pairing, in Woman Of The Year. Once that film came out, the names of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn would be forever after linked in the minds of film audiences. The couple made nine films together. Many of these are considered high points in the romance and comedy genres.
The pair were in love in real life, and their off screen romance undoubtedly accounts for the warmth and intimacy that is so evident between them on screen. Unfortunately Spencer was married and he was also a Catholic, so despite his own unhappy marriage, there was just no way he was getting divorced. A shame really, he and Katharine were so meant to be together. Katharine helped him with his alcoholism and she also nursed him during his final years. They were the couple who should have been man and wife. Sadly they did not get a happy ending in real life.
Their characters in the films they made together faired much better when it came to a happy ever after. I’m writing about my favourite film that the pair made together. That film is Adam’s Rib (1949). Why this one over the others? Well for starters it is a very, very funny film indeed. There’s lots of physical (especially during some of the courtroom sequences)and verbal comedy to get you laughing.
The comedy is only half of the reason I love it so much though. I really love it so much for the films portrayal of marital happiness and for the affection between Spencer and Katharine’s characters.
Their characters in this are a couple who are soulmates, best friends and lovers. The way they look at each other in this one just totally melts my heart. In many scenes in this they are so intimate with one another, that it’s like someone left the cameras rolling after a take, and that we are actually watching Spencer and Katharine in genuine private moments together.
The affectionate scenes between them both in this are my favourite moments out of all the films they made together. There is such warmth and obvious love between Spencer and Katharine in this one. It is beautiful to watch and really helps get across how their characters feel about one another.
I especially love them in the scene where they are cuddling up on the sofa after work one evening. Spencer’s character sees that Katharine’s is subdued and gently asks her if she is alright, and says he wouldn’t ever want to think of her not being alright. I think that might just well be my all time favourite Kate and Spence moment on screen (oh alright then, so maybe it’s a tie with their very sexy first meeting in Woman Of The Year.) 🙂
Adam’s Rib was written by husband and wife screenwriting team Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon. Their inspiration for this story of married lawyers were William and Dorothy Whitney. The Whitney’s were a married couple who were both lawyers and they ended up getting divorced and marrying the clients they were each representing in a high profile case.
This screenwriting couple saw great potential in two characters who were married lawyers and who had to appear on opposite sides of the court in the same case. Thus Adam and Amanda Bonner were created.
Adam (Spencer Tracy)and Amanda (Katharine Hepburn)are two well respected and much sought after lawyers. They both love their job, and will both give a case their all. The pair also happen to be married to one another. In court they verbally spar, but then they come home to one another and leave all that outside.These two are such a devoted couple and adore each other.
Across town, Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) follows her husband Warren. Doris is convinced that her husband is having an affair. She catches him with another woman (Jean Hagen) and fires a gun at them, the woman isn’t hurt, but Warren is injured.
The Bonner’s read about the case and each of them has a different opinion on the case and about the people involved. They find it difficult to leave the case alone when Amanda is hired to defend Doris and Adam finds out he is prosecuting the case. Cue arguments, verbal sparring, flirtation, and an extremely spectacular battle of the sexes in the courtroom. Can the pair stop this case from impacting on their personal life?
The talented (and quite often overlooked in comparison to other actresses of the time)Jean Hagen and Judy Holliday both steal all the scenes they are in as the two very different women in Mr. Attinger’s life.
David Wayne is both amusing and annoying as Kip, he is a song writer who fancies Amanda and flirts with her to wind Adam up (he succeeds!). I want to slap Kip so many times, he is just so nosy and annoying.
As for Spencer and Katharine they are both terrific here, and they also look like they are having a great deal of fun in this one.
My favourite scenes are the following. Adam and Amanda talking to each other under the table in court. All the scenes where they debate in court. Amanda putting her head on Adam’s knee when she sees he looks angry and uncomfortable during the scene where they watch home movies. The liquorice gun scene. The massage and slap scene. Adam asking Amanda if she is alright, and saying that he would never want to think of her not being alright. The female weightlifter lifting Adam above her head. The footage from the home movies.
This is a funny and romantic film featuring memorable performances from the entire cast. There’s also plenty of witty dialogue to be enjoyed, and of course there is that undeniable Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn screen magic to enjoy.
The Bonner’s await you in court. Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.
As a bonus here are the five films in which I think Katharine and Spencer each give their best performances.
1- Long Day’s Journey Into Night
2- Woman Of The Year
4 – The Philadelphia Story
5- The Lion In Winter
1- Bad Day At Black Rock
2- Adam’s Rib
3- Boys Town
4- Woman Of The Year
5- Inherit The Wind
Here are my five all time favourite Tracy and Hepburn films.
Continuing on with the Halloween films theme, I’m now going to take a look at one of my all time favourite horror films. That film is The Fog. This is one that I will stick in the DVD player when I’m in the mood for something really eerie. This is a film that is shockingly, and very strangely seriously underrated in comparison with so many of the other films from horror legend John Carpenter.As far as I’m concerned this film should be up there with his classic films such as Halloween and The Thing.
It seems very strange to me that this ghostly tale of revenge and horror hardly ever seems to be mentioned now. It is a very good film and more than that, it is also a very good horror film too. I consider this to be one of John Carpenter’s best screen efforts.
The Fog is so atmospheric, it’s scary and it’s also very eerie. The scenes featuring the glowing fog are seriously creepy and are quite an unforgettable sight. John’s own score for the film is one of his very best, I think it adds so much to the film and is the perfect accompaniment. This is a film that sends shivers down your spine. It is also reminiscent of those ghost stories which are best read by a blazing fire on a dark night.
The year is 1980. The film opens on a beach, with the great John Houseman playing an old sailor. The sailor is telling the spooky story of the crew of the ship, The Elizabeth Dane to a group of children, as they all sit around a blazing fire. Houseman conveys such terror, and paints such images in your mind with his words alone. This sequence really sets the tone for the horror to come.
The residents of the beautiful seaside town of Antonio Bay, California, are looking forward to a celebration event being held to mark their towns 100th anniversary. The local Priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers a diary written by his grandfather, through which he learns the terrible truth of how their town was actually founded.
In 1880, six men who would go on to found the town killed Blake, a wealthy man with leprosy, and his crew, and then robbed his ship The Elizabeth Daneof its gold. This gold was then used to fund the building of Antonio Bay.
Blake and his murdered crew have returned from the dead in order to hunt down six residents whose lives they can take in revenge for their own murders. This group come ashore after midnight, shrouded in a mysterious, eerie glowing fog.
Strange events start happening. Three sailors are killed out at sea, and then other deaths start occurring. Nick Castle (Tom Atkins)and his girlfriend Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis)start to investigate and try and get to the bottom of the strange events. Who will survive? Can the undead be stopped?
This film manages to be the perfect combination of ghost story and slasher flick. The murder scenes are not overly graphic, but they come across as quite disturbing. The supernatural element makes your skin crawl, adding some real shivers to this horror tale.
I have to mention a few things I’ve picked up on. Has anyone else ever noticed these things? Twelve and six are key numbers in the story; the horror starts at midnight, there are twelve key characters in the film: Stevie, Andy, Father Malone, Nick, Elizabeth, Kathy, Sandy, Dan, Mrs. Kobritz and the three fisherman.Elizabeth tells Nick that he makes her twelfth time being picked up while hitchhiking. Stevie starts broadcasting at the radio at 6pm, there are six victims claimed by Blake and his dead crew.
I also noticed that Elizabeth(Jamie Lee Curtis)has the same first name as Blake’s ship.Also, at around the 53 minute mark in the film, there is a man in glasses wearing a blue coat, this guy looks like Steven Spielberg. Does anyone know if it actually was Spielberg?
I also have a theory that is a possibility that the film is all a nightmare experienced by Andy (Ty Mitchell)after he hears the story on the beach. I’ve started to think that because the film opens with that scene, and just before that there is this quote from Edgar Allen Poe: “All that we see or seem is but a dream. A dream within a dream.” There must be a reason this was included. Could it be that this is supposed to be a nightmare after all? The film also has many moments where something suddenly happens, or changes suddenly to something scary just as nightmares have a tendency to do.
Adrienne Barbeau is excellent as Stevie, the sultry voiced DJ who gets caught up in the strange events. Stevie is a strong and resourceful woman, and Adrienne makes her one of the most memorable characters from the film.
My favourite scenes are the following. The windows mysteriously breaking on Nick’s car as he is driving. Stevie making her way down the steep steps to get to the radio station (located within a former lighthouse on top of a cliff). Blake and his men killing the fisherman. The finale in the church. Nick and Elizabeth finding the missing fishing boat.The children listening to the ghost story on the beach.Andy being rescued from the house.
The film was made on location out in Point Reyes, California. The beautiful location provides a stunning backdrop for many events in the film.
Spooky and a lot of fun, The Fog really is a film that makes for perfect viewing at this time of the year. Any other fans of this one?
The Devil Rides Out is a British horror film which offered the horror film legend Christopher Lee a rare chance to play the hero on screen. The film is based upon the novel of the same name which was written by Dennis Wheatley, and which was published in 1934.
Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, I think that it simply cannot be denied that the Devil and Satanism are two things guaranteed to chill the blood of any sane person. This film taps into the fear, the horror, and the revulsion that both of these things make people feel.
I consider The Devil Rides Out to be one of the best horror films to ever come out of Hammer Studios. Unlike many of the studios other films, this one doesn’t rely on blood and shocks to be scary; this film is much more intent on slowly building up the tension and is more concerned with making you feel uneasy as the film goes on. This film is also one guaranteed to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
I love the film for how creepy it is. There are many scary moments throughout the film, with the unforgettable protective circle sequence being a real standout. The sequence where the cult call up the Devil himself is also very frightening and quite unnerving to watch.
I also really love the film for Christopher Lee’s superb performance as the badass Duc de Richleau; this character really screams out for a sequel or film series just like a certain Professor Quatermass received. Christopher totally makes you believe that the Duc knows all about good and evil, and that he is also able to understand, challenge, fight and defeat evil.The role of the Duc was also one of Christopher Lee’s personal favourites from amongst his own work. I don’t know about anyone else, but I for one would have loved to have seen the Duc and his friends fight the forces of evil again in future films, or maybe in a TV series.
Christopher is an intense presence throughout the film and he makes you (and the Duc’s companions in the film)feel safe and secure when the Duc is on screen.
The Duc is a real badass throughout the film; whether he is standing up to evil and fighting it with the powers of good, or whether he is punching bad guys whenever they get in his way. The Duc sure knows how to handle himself and he will do whatever it takes to protect his friends and family.
The film opens in England in 1929. The suave Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) is very concerned about his young friend, Simon Aron (Patrick Mower). Simon has fallen in with a bad crowd and he has been persuaded by the sinister Mocata (Charles Gray) to join a Satanic cult.
With the help of his other friend, Rex (Leon Greene), the Duc races against time to save Simon. Soon this trio are being pursued by the forces of darkness.
The three friends must also fight to save the soul of the fragile Tanith (Nike Arrighi), a young woman who is also about to lose her soul to the Devil thanks to Mocata’s influence over her.
The cast are all solid with Christopher Lee delivering the standout performance. Christopher, Patrick Mowe and Leon Greene all make you believe and feel the bond of friendship that exists between their three characters(they fought in WW1 together and have been friends ever since, and the Duc has been a father figure to Simon ever since their time fighting in the war.)
Leon does a good job of conveying his characters growing belief and acceptance of the otherworldly forces he keeps encountering. Patrick does a good job of making Simon likeable and showing his struggle against the evil he is being forced into being a part of.
Charles Gray is downright scary as the main villain of the film. Gray plays a Devil worshipper and Satanic cult leader who can bend people to his will. This man is not someone to let your guard down around.
Nike Arrighi is an actress who I was unfamiliar with before seeing her performance here. I think that she does a fantastic job of portraying the fragile and easily manipulated Tanith. This character is very vulnerable and she makes you feel quite protective towards her.
Paul Eddington and Sarah Lawson provide solid support as the Duc’s niece and her husband respectively. They are two ordinary people who get caught up in utter horror. My only issue with the casting of Sarah Lawson is that she looks a bit old to be playing Christopher Lee’s niece.
My favourite scenes are the following. The Duc and Rex discovering the truth about the telescope room. The Duc hypnotising Simon to wean him off the influence of Mocata. Rex chasing Tannith, only to have his windscreen become mysteriously obscured.The protective circle sequence.
A creepy film filled with many memorable moments. Who can forget the Angel of Death riding through the house? Or seeing the Devil called up in the woods?
This is perfect Halloween viewing. Just don’t watch it alone! Any other fans of this film? I highly recommend this film if you’ve never seen it.
Simoa over at Champagne For Lunch is hosting this blogathon about June Allyson.This year is the centenary of June’s birth, and I think it’s lovely to be marking this event with this blogathon.Be sure to visit Simoa’s site to read all the entries. I can’t wait to read all the entries myself.
June Allyson was a very radiant actress. She had one of the brightest smiles of anyone that I’ve ever seen. June was also a very bright and bubbly person. She had a very distinctive voice and she is an actress who always makes me check out films if I see that she is in them. Although I don’t consider myself to be a major fan of June’s, I do like her very much and I greatly admire her acting talent.
My favourite of her film performances is as Jo March, in the 1949 film adaptation of the novel Little Women. This version and the one from 1994 are my favourite screen versions of this lovely coming of age story. These two versions capture the warmth and intimacy of the novel for me. I don’t like the 1933 film version, as I think the actors in it(especially Katharine Hepburn)overact their roles something fierce and this spoils watching that one (for me anyway).
In the 1949 film, June brings the character of the tomboyish Jo to life so well. June completely becomes this frustrated, warmhearted, outgoing, adventurous and passionate young woman. She also captures Jo’s passion for writing and the joy that it brings her.
As the film goes on, Jo matures and grows into quite the young lady, and June really captures that change so well (watch her body language, emotions and mannerisms.) Compare how she acts in the first half of the film to how she is in the second half of the film.
June shows us that as Jo gets older she finally becomes more comfortable with being a woman and acting as her sisters do (properly, as was expected for the time period). Jo also finally accepts that it is okay to actually want to fall in love and be a wife, and she doesn’t mind that change entering in to her own life as much as she did when she was younger.
Jo is still very much herself in the second half of the film, but she doesn’t seek to shock or raise eyebrows with her behaviour as before. Jo still speaks her mind, but she becomes more tactful and respectful of tradition/custom when doing so. June conveys all of this to us through emotion, body language and expressions alone. It truly is a remarkable performance and is one that I never get tired of watching. I firmly believe that she gives one of her best performances as Jo March.
The 1949 film was directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The film features strong performances from all the younger members of the main cast: June, Janet Leigh, Margaret O’Brien, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Lawford and Richard Stapley. Rossano Brazzi, Mary Astor, Lucile Watson and C. Aubrey Smith all provide solid support as the various adults in the sisters lives.
The story follows the lives of four sisters, from their childhood to their adult years. The film is set in New England. The March family consists of four sisters; there’s the practical and beautiful Meg (Janet Leigh), the tomboyish and big hearted writer, Jo(June Allyson), the shy and gentle Beth (Margaret O’Brien) and the vain and funny Amy (Elizabeth Taylor).
The girls live with their mother (Mary Astor) and their loyal housekeeper Hannah (Elizabeth Patterson)while their father (Leon Aymes)is away fighting in the Civil War. Their only other relative is the wealthy and crotchety Aunt March (Lucile Watson).
The sisters are befriended by the lonely Laurie (Peter Lawford)their young neighbour who hates the restrictive life he leads with his grandfather (C. Aubrey Smith).
Laurie becomes a great friend and source of comfort to the March family. As they grow up, Laurie falls in love with Jo, but she doesn’t return his feelings.
Jo is against change, she hates it with every fibre of her being and she just cannot see why things can’t stay as they are. Meg finds love with Laurie’s tutor, John Brooke (Richard Stapley) and the two get married. I love watching their relationship develop, they also go on to have a very loving marriage where they are equals (which was rare I think for the time period).
Jo’s refusal of Laurie’s proposal later in the film breaks his heart. Jo goes to work as a governess in New York. While she is there, she finds herself falling in love, but with someone totally unexpected, the much older Professor Bhaer (Rossano Brazzi). When Jo and the Professor fall in love, Jo realises that this change in her life is not as unpleasant as she thought it once would be.
A personal tragedy leads Jo to write a novel about her life with her sisters. It is published to great acclaim and Jo’s hard work as an author finally pays off.
While Jo is undoubtedly the star role here, I think that the actresses playing the other March sisters all get their chance to shine throughout the film. To me Leigh, Allyson, Taylor and O’Brien all feel like an ensemble, and I don’t think that they ever outshine one another too much.
Janet Leigh is terrific as the eldest sister, Meg. She makes you see that Meg would love to be pampered just once in her life. She has had to grow up before her time though in order to help her mother around the house.
Elizabeth Taylor is absolutely hysterical as Amy, the self centred, food lover of the family. Amy may be self centred but she loves her family deeply. She would do anything for her family and friends. Taylor steals every scene she is in.
Margaret O’Brien (one of the best and most natural of the classic era child stars)is heartbreaking as the fragile Beth. She is the sister beloved by all who meet her. She may be young, but she is very wise too.
Peter Lawford is very good as Laurie. He shows us how Laurie comes to life through his friendship with the March family and becomes as outgoing as they are. Lawford is heartbreaking in the scene where be admits his feelings for Jo, only to have his hopes dashed.
Rossano Brazzi (swoon!) 🙂 is utterly loveable as the patient, gentle and kind Professor. Watching him slowly falling for Jo is so sweet. Brazzi lets us see how much this man cares for Jo and how he also respects her as a woman and as a writer.
Mary Astor is almost saintly as the loving mother of the sisters. Astor plays her as the mother everyone deserves to have. She is kind, honest and wants her girls to be true to themselves above all else.
The great character actor C. Aubrey Smith steals every scene he is in, as Laurie’s gruff, old fashioned and stern grandfather. Mr. Lawrence is actually quite a softie underneath that hard exterior. The scene where Beth thanks him for giving her the piano moves me to tears every time I watch this. Smith died shortly after filming his role in this and this was to be his final film.
I love the set design in this film especially for the interiors of the March home; that house really has the look of a lived in space, filled with personal items and it has a very warm and cosy look about it.The costumes are also beautiful, especially the ladies gowns. I especially love the yellow dress Amy wears when she visits Jo in New York.The films music by Adolph Deutsch is the prefect accompaniment to the story we are watching.
A lovely coming of age story, filled with strong and memorable performances. June is the films heart, and her performance in this is unforgettable.
My favourite scenes are the following. The girls buying Christmas gifts for themselves and then taking them back to exchange for gifts for their mum.The Professor singing in German and explaining the meaning of the words to Jo. Amy comforting Beth after they hear some horrible gossip about their family. Mr. March returning from the war and hugging each of his family. Laurie’s proposal to Jo. Mr. Brooke proposing to Meg. Beth thanking Mr. Laurence for his gift to her of a piano. Jo and Laurie dancing. Jo revealing she has cut her hair short and sold it.Amy letting Beth have her last cake. Meg telling Jo off for her improper behaviour in public. Amy and Aunt March visiting Jo in New York.
This is a beautiful film about family, love and about being true to yourself. This is a comfort film/story for me and it is one I return to again and again. In terms of personality I see myself as a mix of Jo and Beth, and I can certainly relate to some of the choices these two sisters make and to their respective personalities.
I’d love to get your thoughts on this film. What do you think of June’s performance as Jo? Please leave your comments below.