Uncategorized

Announcing The James Mason Blogathon

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

Photo0413
James Mason in The Wicked Lady. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Three Favourite James Mason Performances

Caftan Woman: Five Fingers

Dubism: Odd Man Out

Realweegiemidgetreviews: Heaven Can Wait

Diary Of A Movie Maniac: Salem’s Lot

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: The Seventh Veil

Pale Writer2: The Wicked Lady

Wide Screen World: Heaven Can Wait

Poppity: Lolita

The Stop Button: Bigger Than Life

Silver Screenings: The Reckless Moment

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

MovieRob: The Desert FoxThe Desert Rats

The Wonderful World Of Cinema: James Mason and Margaret Lockwood

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies: The Story Of Three Loves

Critica Retro: Caught

Retro Movie Buff: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

The Midnite Drive-In: The Boys From Brazil

Silver Scenes: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

James Mason 3

James Mason 1

 

James Mason 2

Advertisements
Blogathons, True Story

The Fourth Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon: Anastasia (1956)

Ingrid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

File:AnnaAnderson1922.jpg
Anna Anderson. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo1211
Bounine confronts Anna. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo1212
Ingrid says so much with her expressions. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

Photo1213
Bounine speaks to the Dowager Empress about Anna. Screenshot by me.

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

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

Photo1217
Anna tries to convince the Dowager that she is her granddaughter. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo1221
Bounine serenades Anna. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

Photo1215
Helen Hayes as The Dowager Empress. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Uncategorized

The Top Ten Alfred Hitchcock Films

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

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

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

 

10. The Birds (1963)

Photo0686
Melanie, Cathy and Mitch hide from the birds. Screenshot by me.

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

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

 

 

9. Sabotage (1936)

Photo1239
Sylvia Sidney as the horrified wife. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

I think this is Hitch’s best British film. 

 

8.Notorious (1946)

Photo1302
Devlin and Alicia. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

7. Rope (1948)

Photo1304
Phillip, Rupert and Brandon. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

 

6. Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)

Photo0685
Uncle Charlie and his niece. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

 

5. Vertigo (1958)

Photo0765
Madeleine reborn. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

 

4. North By Northwest (1959)

 

Photo0869
Eve and Roger hang on to Mount Rushmore. Screenshot by me.

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

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

3. Rebecca (1940)

Photo1139
Mrs. Danvers distresses the new bride. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

2. Psycho (1960)

Photo1303
Lila gets a fright. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

 

 

1. Rear Window (1954)

Photo1074
Lisa and Jeff witness something strange. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

 

Blogathons, Uncategorized

The Fourth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon: A Bill Of Divorcement(1932)

John BarrymoreCrystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood is hosting this fourth annual celebration of the Barrymore family. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

I am a big fan of the three Barrymore siblings Ethel, Lionel and John. I think these three are among the finest American actors to ever have appeared on screen.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to take part in any of the Barrymore blogathons until now. It was a tough choice for me to decide which of the siblings, and which of their many films I wanted to write about.  

I’ve decided to write about A Bill Of Divorcement because it contains one of my favourite film performances by John Barrymore, who was the youngest of the three Barrymore siblings. A Bill Of Divorcement was directed by George Cukor, it was based upon the 1921 play of the same name by Clemence Dane. A British silent film adaptation of the play had been made in 1922.

In addition to featuring one of John Barrymore’s best performances, the 1932 film is also notable for featuring the debut performance of Katharine Hepburn, who plays the daughter of John’s character.  

The film opens on Christmas Eve. A party is being held at the home of the Fairfield family. Everyone at the party is very happy and are in a festive mood. Very soon the mood changes and the Fairfield family will have to make some big and difficult decisions.

Photo1267
John Barrymore as Hilary. Screenshot by me.

Hilary Fairfield(John Barrymore) has spent a number years in an asylum, this is due to him suffering from hereditary madness, the symptoms of which first manifested themselves soon after the First World War ended.

His family had him committed and they blamed his illness on shell shock from his time serving in the war.

Decades after he was put into an asylum, Hilary gets better, but he is not yet cleared for release by doctors. He escapes one night and returns home to his family, only to find that many things have changed in his absence.

He returns home to find he has a now grown up daughter Sydney(Katharine Hepburn), who is engaged to Kit(David Manners). Hilary also finds that his long suffering wife Margaret(Billie Burke)has divorced him and is now engaged to a man called Gray(Paul Meredith) .

Hilary has never stopped loving his wife, he has longed to be back with her for a very long time, she on the other hand cannot stand to be in the same room as Hilary anymore. He tries to win his wife back, but slowly comes to realise that she doesn’t want to be with him anymore. She still cares for him, but she can never go back to being his wife again.

Photo1269
Hilary pleads with Margaret. Screenshot by me.

Hilary tries desperately to win his wife’s heart again. We also learn that Sydney may well have inherited her father’s madness.

Sydney has a very manic personality and begins to fear that if she has children with Kit, that there is a possibility that she could pass her madness on to them. Sydney must decide if she will go ahead and get married or not. 

This film rather movingly depicts the various difficulties involved when you are living with someone with mental health issues. I like that the film has a balanced approach to its subject matter and shows us things from the perspective of Hilary as the patient, and from the perspective of his family coping with him and his illness. 

The film gives us a sense of how a mentally ill patient often gets frightened and angry(quite understandably so) when they are taken from their home and placed in care, and also when people around them don’t understand or comprehend what they are going through.

John Barrymore does a terrific job of portraying a mentally ill man who has never lost his love for his family, and who wishes so desperately to be able to come home to them. I like how John conveys how hard Hilary is trying to fit back into his old life, and also how he is mortified to be the cause of pain and embarrassment for his family.

At the time this film was made there was still such a stigma around the mentally ill. I can well imagine that this film(showing a mentally ill person as an individual with feelings who is trying to get better)must have shocked some people who viewed the mentally ill as individuals to be avoided at all costs and to always be wary around.

I think the film also makes you think about whether it would be best to leave the mentally ill in their own homes where they at least feel safe and comfortable. I think that being locked away in a strange and frightening building would make someone more ill than they were on admittance there and would only add to their distress. Surely its better to medicate them(if necessary),and let them try to live their own lives, instead of locking them up and sedating them? 

The film also shows us how draining and upsetting living with a mentally ill person can be for their family. People can only cope with so much illness and care requirements before they reach their own breaking point and cannot stand it any longer.

Photo1268
Billie Burke as Margaret. Screenshot by me.

The film makes us pity both Hilary and Margaret. We feel for Hilary because he was psychotic and unreachable for so long, yet he tried so hard to fight his symptoms and get back home. We feel for Margaret because she loved Hilary so much, but she really had no quality of life with him, so she was granted a divorce from him. She has just started to move on with her life when he comes back into hers.

We see how affected she was by her experiences of his illness, and also by how much she desperately wants to find some happiness and peace with her new fiance. The film makes you ask yourself is it fair to make a spouse stay married to someone like Hilary if they are severely ill/disturbed for so long? 

The only thing I don’t like about the film is that the ending gives the impression that it is thought best that those with mental illness should isolate themselves from other people. Most people with mental illness are able to live quite normal lives and can live at home. Sadly there are still some mentally ill people who have to be in a hospital or home, but many mental health conditions can now be managed through medication and therapy.

For a film that is quite fair and non- judgmental in its depiction of the difficulties surrounding mental illness, I think it is such a shame that the film ends the way that it does. Perhaps a modern adaption of the story would end on a more hopeful and positive note.

John Barrymore and Billie Burke are both excellent in this and each delivers a performance which ensures they have your sympathy at different times of the film. The scene where Hilary gets on his knees, breaks down in front of Margaret, and begs her to show him some kindness, gets me every single time. I consider it to be the most moving scene in the entire film.

It’s fair to say that John steals the film from everyone else in it. I consider this to be one of his best and most subtle performances. John could often be quite the scenery chewer on screen, but here he is the complete opposite and his performance is just as powerful as some of his more showy ones are.

John’s performance here is all in his expressions and eyes. You look at him and you see a vulnerable, gentle, desperate, decent, frightened and tender man seeking happiness and light at the end of the dark tunnel which he has been trapped in for so long. There are several moments in this where I want to reach through the screen and hug this broken man trying desperately to fit back into a so called normal existence again. I urge you see this film so you can see his very touching performance.

Photo1265
Katharine Hepburn in her debut role. Screenshot by me.

The rest of the cast are all quite good, but at times some of the acting in this is very theatrical, but if you can overlook that aspect I think that you should enjoy this film quite a bit.

Katharine Hepburn delivers a really natural performance here and she doesn’t come across as being wooden and grating like she is (in my view)in most of her 1930’s performances(with Holiday and Bringing Up Baby being two exceptions). I happen to think that Katharine got better as an actress once the 1940’s came along. I was pleasantly surprised by her debut performance here. 

This is a must see film for fans of John Barrymore.What are your thoughts on the film and John’s performance?  

Uncategorized

Announcing The Deborah Kerr Blogathon

Deborah banner 3

Deborah Kerr is one of my favourite actresses from the classic film era, and I want to hold this blogathon to celebrate Deborah and her films. I do hope that you can all join me to pay tribute to this very talented lady.

Deborah Kerr was born Deborah Jane Kerr- Trimmer, in Glasgow, on the 30th of September, 1921. She would go on to become one of the most beloved and famous actresses of her day, and she worked in both English and American films. On screen she was the epitome of an English rose. 

For this blogathon you can write about any of the films and TV series that she appeared in. You can write about her entire career. You can write a tribute to her. You can write about your favourite Deborah Kerr characters and performances. If you ever met or corresponded with her, then you can write about that experience too.

You can write more than one post if you want to. Previously published posts are very welcome. I will accept two duplicate posts per screen title. 

The blogathon will be held on the 30th of September, 2018. Please post your entries on or before this date. 

Let me know below what you want to write about. Please take one of the banners and put it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Check the participation list below to see who is writing about what. 

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films:  Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison & Four Essential Deborah Kerr Performances

Poppity: Black Narcissus

Caftan Woman: Reunion At Fairborough

Anybody Got A Match: The Hucksters

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: Tea and Sympathy

The Stop Button: Separate Tables

Old Hollywood Films: The Grass Is Greener

                                         Silver Screen Classics: The Night Of The Iguana

Whimsically Classic: From Here To Eternity

Pop Culture Reverie: Tea And Sympathy

The Wonderful World Of Cinema: Separate Tables

Palewriter2: An Affair To Remember & The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp

MovieRob: Edward My Son

Critica Retro: Vacation From Marriage

Diary Of A Movie Maniac: The End Of The Affair & Beloved Infidel

 Lady Eve’s Reel Life: The Innocents

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies: The films of Deborah Kerr

Deborah banner 1

Deborah banner 3

Deborah banner 2

Uncategorized

The Innocents (1961)

For me this is the greatest ghost film. Whenever I think of films featuring haunted houses, it is this film which always springs first into my mind.  The cinematography and lighting both add so much to the film, with each one helping to provide an extremely  unsettling and eerie look in every scene. The period set design is the icing on this horror cake because the house interiors look like a real home of the period in which the film is set.   

I don’t know about you, but I happen to think that spooky old houses are really the best locations to set horror stories in. An old haunted house gives you creaking floorboards, flickering candles and plenty of dark corners; add in the possibilities of spirits messing with your mind, and you really have got yourself one very frightening experience indeed.  

The Innocents is based upon the novel The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. It is a very frightening and claustrophobic film. I think that it makes for perfect viewing on a dark night or on a dark and stormy afternoon. 

The film is directed by Jack Clayton, it has stunning black and white photography by Freddie Francis, a brilliant screenplay by William Archibald and Truman Capote, and it has a truly eerie and atmospheric score by Georges Auric. The film is very much a slow build and it is well worth sticking with to see the horror and tension build as the film goes along.

Photo1248
Miss Giddens hears something go bump in the night. Screenshot by me.

From the very beginning this film intrigues the viewer and is highly unsettling at the same time. The opening film logos and credits are accompanied by an eerie song that sounds like its straight out of the Victorian era. Birds can be heard chirping on the soundtrack and we also hear the whimpers of a woman.

We then see a distraught woman (who we later learn to be Miss Giddens), her hands clasped together in prayer, we see that she is deeply distressed, but we have no idea why she is, nor do we have any idea about what is going on. I think this is such a good way to open the film as it sets up the tone and atmosphere of the film right away,  and it also really makes you wonder about what you are seeing unfold before your eyes.

The unsettling atmosphere continues as Jack Clayton goes against horror traditions and has many of the scary moments in the film take place in the daytime. Traditionally the day is a safe time in horror films, but in this film there is little respite from the horror and suspense we are witnessing on screen. 

The young and repressed Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr)becomes the new governess of two adorable siblings, Flora and Miles (Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens). As time goes on she begins to suspect that the two children are possessed by the spirits of two dead former servants, the violent Quint, and the besotted and fragile Miss Jessel(Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessop.) 

Miss Giddens notices that the siblings behave very oddly and that they seem to be aware of things that nobody else is aware of. Miles also acts very much like an adult in the way he speaks and behaves. There is just something not right about him at all and he is so unsettling to be around.

For one so young, I think that the actor Martin Stephens very adeptly conveys a wisdom and worldliness way beyond his years here. In my opinion Martin delivers the most unsettling child performances in film history (the little boy from the original Omen film comes in a close second).

Martin is especially excellent in the scenes where Miles talks to Miss Giddens in the way that a man who was her lover would do. These scenes between Miles and Miss Giddens are very strange, and they certainly make for quite uncomfortable viewing too. Martin really makes you believe that he is an older and very worldly man in these scenes. Freaky stuff!

          Miles and Flora. Screenshot by me.

The other weird thing about Miles, is that he and Flora seem to be almost telepathically linked. The siblings seem to communicate with one another through a series of glances and expressions which convey to us that there are secrets between them known only to them. Their weird behaviour only adds even more creepiness to the proceedings. Miss Giddens then begins to see ghosts around the house. Or does she?

It is precisely this ambiguity regarding the ghosts that makes this film so effective in my opinion. Either Miss Giddens really does see the ghosts, and the children really are possessed, or Miss Giddens is suffering a mental breakdown and is imaging the whole thing. Either scenario is terrifying and whichever you believe(I actually believe that it is a combination of both)is scary and makes the ending both shocking and sad.

Photo0333
The ghost in the lake. Screenshot by me.

I think that the children were psychologically corrupted by the things they saw Quint and Miss Jessel do together, and that what they witnessed them do together has affected their behaviour.

It should also be remembered that Quint and Miss Jessel were the only people who the children had ever been close too. The children loved and admired these two very much, and when they died, the children were completely devastated and didn’t know what to do with themselves.

I think that both children now try and imitate Quint and Miss Jessel after their death so that they can keep them alive in a way.  

I don’t think that the children have any idea that the behavior they mimic is considered morally wrong. The children grew up with Quint and Miss Jessel, they were exposed to nothing but their violent and sexual behaviour for many years, so for them this behaviour is considered normal.  

The children’s imitation of the deceased means that they are bringing these two people back to life, isn’t this another form of possession? So maybe Miss Giddens is correct when she says the children are possessed, it is just that they are not literally being controlled by spirits as she believes. 

Miss Giddens hears about the dead servants and begins to fear them and their supernatural influence. She then begins to see them, either for real or in her mind due to their presence lingering on strongly even after their deaths. I think Miss Giddens really does see these horrors. The question is are they actually real ghosts? Or are they hallucinations brought on by her rapidly increasing paranoia and fear? To her though there is no doubt that what she sees are very real apparitions. 

This is the type of horror film I like best. It is one where you’re not sure if you just glimpsed something in the corner of your eye, or if something just brushed past a character causing a candle to flicker in the process.

I much prefer psychological horror to gore and this film is certainly one which makes you think. It is also one that really creeps me out every time I watch it. I also like that it allows you to draw your own conclusions about what is actually happening to Miss Giddens as the film goes along.

Photo1249
Miss Giddens looks across the lake. Screenshot by me.

I think that Deborah gives one of the very best performances of her entire career here. She captures this woman’s growing fear and paranoia. She starts off portraying her as an eager, shy and happy woman. By the end of the film we see her as a broken, terrified and extremely unstable woman. 

I think it is a real shame that Deborah never again got another role like this. She does such a terrific job of conveying Miss Giddens growing fear and obsessions. As the film goes on, Deborah starts to look more and more paranoid, worn out, ill and nervous. She really does deliver a magnificent performance. 

The children are excellent too and deliver performances far beyond what most child actors of this age could manage to deliver. The fact that they manage to be creepy, unsettling,innocent and adorable all at the same time says a great deal about their acting abilities in my opinion. Pamela Franklin would go on to do more great horror work over a decade later, when she played a gifted young medium in The Legend Of Hell House

Megs Jenkins is very good as the kindly housekeeper. Megs conveys her characters great difficulty in believing any of what Miss Giddens says, but also how she is totally powerless to undermine her authority within the house and get the children away from her. 

My favourite scenes in the film are the following. The ghost appearing in the reeds in the lake. Miss Giddens first walk around the beautiful gardens. The conversation between Miss Giddens and Miles, where she first becomes convinced that he is possessed. The scene where Miss Giddens walks around the corridors with a candle hearing laughter. Quint’s appearance in the windows.

I have seen this film so many times, I know what’s going to happen and yet I am still fascinated and frightened by it each time I watch. This truly is one of the best horror films ever made. 

I would love to get your thoughts on this film.