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How Woodfall Films Changed British Cinema Forever

I want to pay tribute to a film company that helped to change the direction and look of British film forever. Sixty years ago in Britain a film production company called Woodfall Films was formed.

Between 1958 and 1984, Woodfall would produce several films which would not only go on to become classics, but which would also have a huge impact on the future of British cinema.

These films would also herald the arrival of several young actors who would go on to become major stars. Albert Finney, Rita Tushingham and Tom Courtney all became stars thanks to their performances in a Woodfall film. 

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Rita Tushingham. One of the new faces of British cinema. Screenshot by me from A Taste Of Honey.

The production company was co-founded by director Tony Richardson(husband of Vanessa Redgrave and father to Joely and Natasha Richardson), producer Harry Saltzman (producer of the Bond films)and playwright John Osborne(Look Back In Anger). Woodfall Films ushered in a new and exciting era for British cinema. The films were daring and groundbreaking in so many ways.

Woodfall films tackled real life issues such as life as a working class member of society, sex, abortion, people wanting to better themselves, female independence and sexuality, marital problems, race, and youth versus the older generation.

Tony Richardson wanted to make films in a new way, he wanted to make films that reflected life as he knew it. He certainly succeeded in both areas in my opinion. The films look different from a visual perspective, and they also have a much more realistic and gritty tone than many other British films. The directors shot on location which added to the overall realism. The actors look and behave like people you could run into in your own lives. There’s no glamour or escapism to be found in these films.

            The famous shot in Girl With Green Eyes where a door is opened onto a real street. Screenshots by me.   

The Woodfall directors, producers, cameramen and actors were all trailblazers in helping to bring more realistic, unique and grittier stories and characters to the screen.  Woodfall made films which focused on the British working class.

There had been earlier films such as It Always Rains On Sunday, This Happy Breed, Woman In A Dressing GownMillions Like Us and Waterloo Road which had been realistic and focused on working and lower middle class characters, but the Woodfall films made such characters and realism their primary focus. 

Not all of the Woodfall films would become classics, but eight of them did and are the reason why the name Woodfall is remembered today – Look Back In Anger, The Entertainer, Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, A Taste Of Honey, The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, Tom Jones(a cheeky and funny period romp), Girl With Green Eyes and Kes are all among the best of the so called Kitchen Sink films. 

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What’s all this? A couple sharing a bed? Shocking and daring stuff for this era. Screenshot by me from Saturday Night And Sunday Morning.

Ordinary people finally got the chance to see characters and events on screen that mirrored their own lives and experiences.Without Woodfall films, I  highly doubt that we would have gotten the likes of Ken Loach or Mike Leigh making films.

I also doubt that films like Room At The Top, This Sporting Life, A Kind Of Loving and The L Shaped Room would have ended up being made either. Woodfall films helped inspire future generations of directors and writers to make films that reflect their own lives and experiences. 

The first Woodfall film to be made was the 1959 adaptation of John Osborne’s play Look Back In Anger. Tony Richardson directed the film. 

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Richard Burton as Jimmy Porter, channeling all that rage into his jazz music. Screenshot by me from Look Back In Anger.

Look Back In Anger features Richard Burton delivering one of his most powerful performances as the first angry young man, Jimmy Porter. Passionate, complicated, angry and misunderstood, Jimmy must surely have been someone that many young men in the audience could identify with. This film focuses on a lower class man who is justifiably angry at the way his life has turned out, and also at how he is held back from bettering himself.

Both the film and the play shock due to the violent and complex relationship between Jimmy and his wife(played by Mary Ure in the film), and also because of the love hate relationship between Jimmy and Helena(Claire Bloom in the film). 

The third film, Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, would go on to become the most acclaimed and famous of all of the Woodfall films. A fresh faced Albert Finney delivers a remarkable performance in the lead role of the rebellious and angry Arthur Seaton. Arthur works in a factory and he hates it, he takes every opportunity he can to stick it to the establishment and the upper classes. Arthur also doesn’t care much for rules and traditions. The film is also rather daring in showing an affair between Arthur and a much older woman who is married (Rachel Roberts). 

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Albert Finney as Arthur Seaton. Screenshot by me from Saturday Night And Sunday Morning.

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning is also perhaps the ultimate working class film, as it so accurately manages to capture the life endured by millions here in the UK at this time and for a long time before.

It’s also through this film in particular that I am able to get a better sense of the way of life my parents and grandparents had before I was born. Both my mum and dad grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and they have both commented on the accuracy of the characters, the streets, homes, attitudes etc seen in this film and others.  

The fourth Woodfall film is A Taste Of Honey, and it is this film which I think is the most daring of the lot. This film focuses on Jo(Rita Tushingham) a teenage schoolgirl who is in a relationship with a black sailor(Paul Danquah)by whom she becomes pregnant. The rest of the film focuses on her dealing with the pregnancy with the help of her gay friend Geoffrey(Murray Melvin).

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Jo arguing with her mum’s latest man(Robert Stephens)in A Taste Of Honey. Screenshot by me.

This film also shows us that the younger generation(so often depicted in this time as bad or lacking responsibility)have more sense and decency than the older ones. Jo’s mum(Dora Bryan)is someone who should know better and should be being a good mum, but instead she leaves her daughter to her own devices and is sleeping around and thinking of herself. In many ways Jo is the adult and her mother is the teenager. 

This film shows us that adults are not perfect and don’t always do the right or moral thing(the opposite of what we are so often told is the case when we are kids). The film also depicts a homosexual character who becomes in many ways the hero of the story and a very likeable character, this was quite daring due to homosexuals being largely vilified in society at the time. I like how this film depicts Geoffrey as simply being the normal man that he is, and that it just so happens that his sexual orientation is different to other peoples. His personality rather than his sexuality is what is focused upon in the film. 

My favourite of the Woodfall films is Girl With Green Eyes. Based on the trilogy of novels by Edna O’Brien, this film focuses on the love affair between the young Kate(Rita Tushingham)and the middle aged Eugene(Peter Finch).

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Eugene and Kate have a talk. Screenshot by me.

It’s a daring film, based on a daring book, set in Ireland and focusing on a girl who is having sex outside of marriage and who is going against convention and the dictates of religion in so many ways. I like it because it focuses on sex and relationships from a female perspective. The film is also very moving and features terrific lead performances from Rita and Peter. A young Lynn Redgrave lends solid support as Baba, the outgoing friend and flatmate of Kate. 

Many of the Woodfall films have become very well known here in the UK. I’m very aware that they may not be all that famous in other parts of the world. I highly recommend them all to you, not only because they are good films, but because they visually capture a time,place and a way of life that is just starting to disappear over here.

I hope anyone who has never seen any of these films will seek them out. Remember as well that these films ushered in a new way of filmmaking, Woodfall helped to make it acceptable to make more films like the ones they were making. 

Have you seen any of the Woodfall films? What do you think of the films? 

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The Ava Gardner Blogathon Arrives

The big event has finally arrived! Over the next two days several wonderful bloggers are joining me to celebrate Ava Gardner. I decided to host this blogathon due to Ava being a great favourite of mine. The blogathon is also being held on these particular dates because the 24th of December is Ava’s birthday. 

Check back to this post over the next two days to read all of the entries. I’ll update this post as often as I can do. I am now on Twitter @maddylovesherclassicfilms. I will be promoting all the entries for this blogathon over on Twitter too.

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Day 2 Entries

Poppity writes about Ava’s 1960 film The Angel Wore Red.

 

Diary Of A Movie Maniac tells us all about 55 Days At Peking.

 

Overture Books And Film writes about another lesser known Ava film called The Great Sinner.

 

Pale Writer writes about a little known Ava Gardner film called Riding For Glory.

 

Movie Rob writes about Mogambo. He also writes about The Night Of The Iguana

 

Vinnieh shares his thoughts on Pandora And The Flying Dutchman.

 

Critica Retro writes about the delightful film One Touch Of Venus.

 

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict tells us about her visit to the Ava Gardner museum.

 

Day 1 Entries

Silver Screenings gets the blogathon off to a terrific start, with this excellent post about Ava’s character in the film Mogambo

 

Down These Mean Streets tells us about the time Ava played an unforgettable Femme Fatale in The Killers

 

Caftan Woman takes a look at Ava’s 1946 Noir Whistle Stop

 

Dubsism writes about the sports analogies hidden in Ava’s disaster film Earthquake.

 

Realweegiemidgetreviews discusses The Cassandra Crossing.

 

The Stop Button writes about Ava’s performance in Seven Days In May.

 

I talk about the romantic fantasy Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

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The Ava Gardner Blogathon: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman(1951)

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This is my entry for my Ava Gardner blogathon being held on the 23rd and 24th of December, 2018. 

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Pandora And The Dutchman kissing on the beach. With the yacht in the background. Screenshot by me.

Watching this film is like entering a vivid dream. The only film that I can really compare it to is Portrait Of Jennie, as both of these films have this dreamlike quality and poetic and haunting atmosphere.

Pandora And The Flying Dutchman is a film that I think you have to completely surrender yourself to for it to work the way it should.

The film is a slow build and it is one that is all about emotion and mood. The film is surreal, artistic and truly beautiful to look at. The story is a mix of romance, mystery, tragedy, the supernatural and fantasy.

I also like how the film can be viewed in two ways. It is pretty clear that the mysterious Captain is the real Dutchman, and that all that happens later is due to some supernatural power or some fantastical element. Yet you can also view all that happens as mere coincidence only, and you can think that the characters believe the legend and somehow make it seem like it has come true.

The film is inspired by the legend of the doomed Flying Dutchman, a man who is cursed to sail the world for all eternity. In this film the Dutchman has been cursed after he murders the woman he loves. The cursed man sails the globe alone for centuries. His curse can be lifted if he falls in love with a woman who loves him so much that she will die for him(imagine having that conversation on a first date!)

The film was directed and written by Albert Lewin(The Picture Of Dorian Gray, The Moon And Sixpence). The film features beautiful colour photography by the legendary Jack Cardiff(Ava never looked more beautiful than she does in this film, thanks partly to the cinematography of Jack Cardiff). Albert and Jack’s vision helps to make this film a real treat, but the undisputed main draw for us in the audience is Ava Gardner and James Mason as the doomed lovers.

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Ava is at her most beautiful and bewitching as Pandora. Screenshot by me.

Both James and Ava totally convince as a couple who are drawn to one another for reasons that they can’t quite understand. When they look at each other they really do manage to capture that something inside them both is connecting to one another.

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Henrick and Pandora. Screenshot by me.

James has a weariness and otherworldly air about him that makes you believe he is someone who has lived through time. Ava captures the reckless nature of her character perfectly, and she makes it seem like Pandora knows she has been waiting for the Dutchman all her life. 

Pandora And The Flying Dutchman begins on the coast of Esperanza, Spain, in the early 1930’s. Two dead bodies are caught in the nets of local fisherman and are brought back to the beach. Some who gather on the beach know who the dead people are and they are very upset.

In flashback we see what led to this sad event. Our guide and narrator throughout the film is Geoffrey Fielding(Harold Warrender)an archaeologist and historian who knew the two dead people. 

                  Pandora with each of the three other men who love her. Screenshots by me.

Pandora Reynolds(Ava Gardner) is an American woman living in Esperanza. She is  a reckless woman, beautiful, adventurous, fun, destructive, seductive and passionate. Many men are drawn to Pandora. One of her admirers(Marius Goring)commits suicide when he realises he will never really have her love. A fearless and passionate bullfighter(Mario Cabre) becomes crazed with jealousy once he falls for Pandora. Pandora doesn’t really love any of these men. Deep down inside herself, Pandora somehow knows that the man who she is destined to give her heart to is not in her life yet.

Pandora becomes engaged to racing car driver, Stephen Cameron(Nigel Patrick), Stephen has her attention and affection until she becomes intrigued by the owner of a yacht anchored off shore. One night she swims out and climbs onboard. There she meets the mysterious Henrick van der Zee(James Mason). She is a little freaked out when she sees that he has painted a woman who looks just like her. As the film goes on we also see that Pandora looks exactly like the long dead woman Henrick loved and killed(who we later catch sight of  in a portrait). 

                        Pandora and Henrick first set eyes on each other. Screenshots by me.

The pair slowly develop a friendship which quickly turns into love for both of them. Pandora’s love for Henrick also changes her as a person, she becomes kinder, more tender and sensitive. For the first time in her life, Pandora Reynolds experiences the mix of joy and agony that love can bring.

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Henrick and Pandora share a kiss. Screenshot by me.

We later learn that Henrick is the Flying Dutchman. The Dutchman realises that the woman who can break his curse is Pandora, and despite his desperation to be free, he just can’t bear to think of her having to give up her life to break the curse. You will have to watch the film to find out what happens next. 

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Ava Gardner as Pandora. Screenshot by me.

I can imagine no other actress in the role of Pandora Reynolds. Ava does so much with this character. She is so ethereal in the role. Ava makes us think that this woman has somehow known all her life that this romance and fate is the reason for her birth.

Ava also makes us both love and hate Pandora, maybe hate is too strong a word because I never fully dislike her. The way that she dismisses those who love her so is very cruel to watch though. Ava performs her role from the heart, she lays bare her soul and emotions in this film, more so than in any other performance she ever gave in my opinion. It’s one of her best roles. 

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James Mason as the anguished Henrick. Screenshot by me.

James Mason conveys a sorrow and desire that makes you want to reach out and give Henrick a big hug. He totally makes you believe that he is this tired and ancient man.

I love the scene on the beach where Pandora confesses her love for Henrick. In that moment James does such a good job of making us see that Henrick so wants to accept her love, but instead he chooses to push her away to try and save her from possibly being able to break the curse.

Henrick loves Pandora so much that he cannot bear to lose her, even if her loss could set him free from the curse. James and Ava have a lovely chemistry and I would have loved to have seen them together in more films. James was never more intense or full of pain and sorrow than he is in this film. His monologue and performance during the flashback sequence contains some of the best acting he ever did, very moving and powerful indeed.

Nigel Patrick(such an underrated actor), Shelia Sim, Mario Cabre, Marius Goring and Harold Warrender all provide excellent support. I love the side plot of the one sided love that Shelia Sim’s character has for Nigel Patrick’s Stephen, we know that she is the woman who really deserves his love. I always long to see a bit more of that couple later in the film. 

I highly recommend this film to any fan of Ava Gardner. She is the heart of this film. Any other fans of this film out there? What do you think of the film and Ava’s performance?

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Merry Christmas Everyone

I just want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I hope you all have a lovely time over the festive break. Take care and enjoy whatever you have planned. I hope that 2019 brings you nothing but happiness.

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I will be watching this Christmas classic over the festive break. Will you be watching it too? Screenshot by me from the film White Christmas.

Thank you for sticking with me over the last two years, has it really been that long already? Your support and comments mean so much to me. It’s lovely to have run into so many fellow classic film fans through this blog. I’ll see you back here on the 23rd and 24th of December for the Ava Gardner blogathon. 

Merry Christmas. Love and best wishes from Maddy x

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The Seventh Annual What A Character Blogathon: Marius Goring

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For the seventh year running, Aurora from Citizen Screen, Kellee from Outspoken& Freckled, and Paula from Paula’s Cinema Club, are joining together to host this blogathon. It celebrates the great character actors. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

For my second entry in this blogathon, I’m writing about a character actor who was an acting chameleon. The name of this man? It’s Marius Goring.

Marius had me fooled for years! Why did he have me fooled? It was only a couple of years ago that I discovered that this man, who speaks with such a convincing foreign accent in so many of his films, and who had me convinced he was of German descent, was in fact British born and bred! He is that convincing in his roles.One of the best actors in the business as far as I’m concerned.

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Marius with Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa. Screenshot by me.

Marius played so many roles throughout his career, but he became best known for playing German or French speaking characters.

He is best known today for his performances in two Powell and Pressburger classics, the first film is A Matter Of Life And Death, and the second film is The Red Shoes

He was often cast as German officers, men who were unlucky in love, or as bitter men who are eaten up with jealousy and desire. 

Marius starred in so many classic films over the years: The Barefoot Contessa, The Red Shoes, The Spy In Black, Pandora And The Flying Dutchman, Odette, Circle Of Danger, The Magic Box. He also took the lead role in the 1956 TV adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, this little known adaptation is a real gem and it is currently on YouTube if you have never seen it. Marius delivers one of his best performances in that TV adaptation.

Marius was born on the Isle Of Wight, on the 23rd of May, 1912. He was the son of Dr. Charles Goring, who was a pioneer in Criminology. Throughout his life and career, Marius Goring worked on the stage, appeared in many films and also worked in television. In 1929, Marius became a founding member of the actors union,British Equity, and he served as its president between 1963 and 1965 and 1975 and 1982.

Marius Goring is one of those actors who commands your whole attention whenever he appears on screen. He also had a knack for really making us feel the emotions and needs of his various characters.

              Marius as the Conductor in A Matter Of Life And Death. Screenshots by me.

The character he is best remembered for today is the Conductor in A Matter Of Life And Death. I love that film so much and Marius Goring’s performance is a big reason why I love the film so much. He is hilarious, playful, mysterious and charming as the Conductor.

When he is in a scene in this film he dominates it, and when he is not in a scene, I for one really miss his presence. With that mischievous grin and those twinkling eyes it’s hard not to like this character and long to see more of him. 

I don’t know about anyone else, but I would have happily watched a film series starring Marius(something like Here Comes Mr. Jordan)focusing on the Conductor and his adventures in heaven and down on Earth. 

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The Conductor meets Peter. Screenshot by me.

The scene where the Conductor stops time is a real highlight of this film and Marius really helps to make it so. He is so convincing that you totally buy into him being a man from the past who is also a playful ghost. He and David Niven play that scene perfectly.

One of my favourite film performances from him can be found in the seriously underrated/little known film, Mr. Perrin And Mr. Traill. Marius plays Mr. Perrin, an fussy and awkward older teacher who has to contend with a younger rival – a rival not only in the classroom – but also for the heart of the younger woman who Perrin loves from afar. I think it is one of his best performances and it is both subtle and powerful.

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Marius as Mr. Perrin. Screenshot by me.

I highly recommend the film, not only because of Marius’s performance, but also because it has a very good story, and because it plays out as a dark combining of The Browning Version and Goodbye Mr. Chips.

Marius manages to give us a good sense of his characters inner turmoil, and he also ensures that we both pity and hate him as the film goes on.  

Marius was a regular face on stage and screen for over fifty years. He died on the 30th of September, 1998. His presence in a film or series is always a welcome sight for this classic film fan.

I hope that this post will encourage any viewers out there who are unfamiliar with Marius Goring to go and seek out his work. He was one of the best character actors of the classic film era, and he is always a treat to watch.

Any other fans of Marius Goring here? What are your favourite films and performances? 

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The Seventh Annual What A Character Blogathon: Sara Allgood

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For the seventh year running, Aurora from Citizen Screen, Kellee from Outspoken & Freckled, and Paula from Paula’s Cinema Club, are joining together to co-host this blogathon. Their blogathon celebrates the great character actors found in films. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

This is my first time taking part in this. I am really looking forward to finally being able to be a part of this wonderful event. I’ve decided to write two posts for this.

My first post celebrates one of the all time great character actresses. The name of this lady? It’s Sara Allgood. I think that Sara’s surname manages to perfectly describe the quality of all of her film performances. Sara was simply incapable of delivering a bad or dull performance.

Sara’s name may well be unfamiliar to some people today, but once you catch a glimpse of her warm and open face in a film, you won’t forget her in a hurry and I’m sure you’ll be eager to see more of her work.Sara Allgood is always a regular and welcome presence on the big screen for this classic film fan.

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Formal photo of Sara Allgood. Image Source IMDb.

Sara appeared in so many classics over the years – The Spiral Staircase(the first film that I ever saw her in), The Lodger(stealing all the scenes she is in as the landlady), The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry, Blackmail, How Green Was My Valley(deeply moving) and That Hamilton Woman(hilarious as the pushy mother of Vivien Leigh’s Emma Hamilton). 

Sara was one of those performers who you can never catch acting. She always gave such natural and convincing performances. She will command your utmost attention when she appears in a scene, even if she is doing nothing more than sitting quietly in the background. Sara is one of the best characters actors of all time in my opinion.  She often played mothers and housekeepers on screen. 

Sara was born in Dublin, Ireland on the 29th of November, 1879.  She was one of eight children. Sara joined The Daughters Of Ireland and studied drama. She worked predominately on the stage for much of her career. Sara toured on stage in America many times and would eventually move out to the States in the 1940’s. Sara Allgood died in America on the 13th of September,1950, after suffering a fatal heart attack. Sara was seventy years old when she died.  

Her personal life had much tragedy in it. Her father died when she was very young and one of her brothers was killed in WW1. Sara married her leading man on the stage, Gerald Henson, in 1916, sadly both her husband and their daughter died in the flu epidemic of 1918. Somehow she managed to carry on with her life after those terrible losses. Her sister Mary(stage name Maire O’Neill) also became a well known stage actress and appeared in some films, sadly the two sisters became estranged in later life.  

Sara’s film career began in 1929. Throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s, Sara ended up working with some of the greatest directors of the classic film era including John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Siodmak.

Sara is best remembered today for her performance as the strong Welsh mother in How Green Was My Valley

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Sara and Roddy McDowall in How Green Was My Valley. Screenshot by me.

Sara is so convincing in her role in How Green Was My Valley, that you would swear blind that you were watching a real woman from the 1800’s. She has that radiating warmth, that unbreakable strength, and that inner kindness thing down so perfectly. She makes you love and admire her character and you believe that she is the glue that binds her mining family together. Whenever I watch this film, I never fail to be moved by the stoicism of her character, and I always marvel at how Sara so completely inhabits that character. 

I highly recommend Sara Allgood to anyone who has never seen her in a film before. She truly was one of the most gifted and natural actresses of the classic film era.I hope that my post will help to spread her name far and wide to those unfamiliar with her. 

Any other Sara Allgood fans here? What are your thoughts on Sara and her performances?

If anyone has ever seen the whole of the film Between Two Worlds, could you please tell me what it is like? I have only been able to see a couple of clips on YouTube one of which features a big speech scene for Sara. I long to see the full film due to Sara being in it, and also because the story intrigues me so much. 

 

 

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Announcing The Third Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon

This blogathon was not only a big success, but it was also so much fun this year and last, that I have decided to make it a yearly event. I will host this blogathon again next year. I do hope that you can all join me in celebrating Alfred Hitchcock and his films.

You can write about any of Hitchcock’s films. You can write about his TV series. You can write about Hitchcock himself, or about the actors and characters featured in his films and series.

You can write more than one entry if you wish to do so. I will accept two duplicates per film title. The blogathon will be held for two days on the 8th and 9th of February, 2019. Please post your entries on or before those dates. 

Just let me know what you would like to write about in the comments section below. Check the participation list to see who is writing about what. Take one of the banners from below and pop it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Have fun watching Hitchcock’s films and writing about them!

Films now claimed twice: To Catch A Thief, The Lady Vanishes 

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Favourite Hitchcock Couples 

Pale Writer: Hitchcock Blondes & Anthony Perkins Performance in Psycho

Poppity: Marnie

Silver Screen Classics: Vertigo

Cracked Rear Viewer: Frenzy

Movie Movie Blog Blog: High Anxiety

Portraits By Jenni: The Lady Vanishes

The Midnite Drive-In: Comparison of Strangers On A Train To Throw Momma From The Train

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Rear Window

Sparks From A Combustible Mind: The Birds

Movie Rob: Rope and The Man Who Knew Too Much

Overture Books And Films: Saboteur

Realweegiemidgetreviews: Torn Curtain

Thoughts All Sorts: To Catch A Thief

The Humpo Show: Suspicion

The Stop Button: The Trouble With Harry

The Old Hollywood Garden: Hitchcock’s Macguffins

Diary Of A Movie Maniac: Jamaica Inn and The Lady Vanishes

Stars And Letters: Correspondence About Rebecca

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