Monthly Archives: April 2020

The Love Goes On Blogathon: Truly, Madly, Deeply(1990)

Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlogII is hosting this blogathon about contiuing to love someone after they die. Be sure to visit his site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.

Love goes on blogathon bannerSteve has been inspired to host this blogathon after the death of his wife. Once again I pass on my condolences and love to Steve and his family as they try and come to terms with their loss. 

Grief is a strange thing. It is something which affects us all in so many different ways. Some cry a lot after they suffer a bereavement. Others retreat from life around them and become numb, unable to carry on after the death of someone so close to them. Others appear to be carrying on as normal, but inside they are bottling up their grief and despair, which at some point will all burst out in a great torrent of anguish. 

After we lose someone we love we want them back with us, and we would do anything to make that possible. We want to talk and laugh with our loved ones again. Watch favourite TV series and films together.We want to hold them and be held by them in return. We want to confide our worries and fears to them. We want to hear their stories and views on current situations.  We are reminded of the deceased wherever we turn in our homes and memories, and therefore they are always there with us in some way like ghosts, all be it ghosts of the human memory, rather than as physical manifestations. 

Some part of us knows that our loved one wouldn’t want us to be weighed down by grief and be in great distress, but unfortunately we cannot help our totally normal response to loss, and it is not possible for a long time to move past our loss and try to rebuild our lives.

All of the above is depicted in Anthony Minghella’s debut feature film Truly, Madly, Deeply. Minghella not only directed the film, but he also wrote the screenplay too. The film title comes from a game played by the main couple in the film, in which the pair repeat and add words to describe how much they are in love with one another.

Minghella wrote the film specifically for actress Juliet Stevenson in order to showcase her acting abilities. I’m glad he did, because I can imagine no one other than Juliet in this film. Nobody does crying scenes quite the way Juliet does, and boy does she convince you that she is deeply grieving in this film. 

Truly Madly Deeply

Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson as the couple separated by death. Image source IMDb.

Truly,Madly,Deeply has often been compared to the American film Ghost, which has a somewhat similar storyline. Many viewers feel this British film offers a far more grown up and affecting look at grief. While I do like both films very much, I would agree that Truly,Madly, Deeply provides the better experience of grief and of trying to reconnect with life after bereavement.

The film was made for the BBC’s Screen Two anthology series and came about after TV writer and theatre director Anthony Minghella was offered the chance to direct a BBC film. The film bypassed being shown on TV and received a cinema release instead. At the time of receiving the film offer, Minghella was also considering an offer to direct an episode of the hit TV series Inspector Morse, for which he would write several episodes, including the pilot. The series was one of the biggest things in the UK at the time and it would have been a huge career boost for him, but he chose to make the film after being worried that if he had accepted the TV job and got the Morse episode wrong,then he would never hear the end of it. 

Truly,Madly,Deeply tells the story of Nina(Juliet Stevenson), an interpreter who is trying to cope with the sudden death of her musician boyfriend,Jamie(Alan Rickman). Nina is seeing a therapist who provides her with a cosy office in which she can vent her grief and rage.

Nina is managing to go out to work,where she is teaching the pregnant Maura(Stella Maris)to learn how to speak English. However Nina is pushing people away who try and get to close and express concern about how she is doing- such as her kind boss, Sandy(the great Bill Paterson)and lovestruck plumber, Titus(Christopher Rozycki)- and on top of that she just can’t let the memory of Jamie go.

Nina feels like Jamie is with her and this gives her some small amount of comfort. One day, Jamie’s ghost actually appears to her, and in a very emotional scene the tearful couple are reunited. They quickly pick up where they left off before his death – discussing things, having fun together, sharing a bed, cuddles and kisses, the occasional row. Nina really perks up and all seems right again in the world.

Truly Madly Deeply 2

Jamie and some ghostly pals. Image source IMDb.

What Nina doesn’t know is that Jamie has come back not only to comfort her, but also to annoy her so she will want him to leave. He knows she has to get on with her life. So to get his plan underway, he subtly starts to do things that get on her nerves. Jamie also gets some fellow ghost pals to move into Nina’s, where they all sit watching and discussing classic films(an absolutely hilarious scene).

Things are complicated because neither Jamie or Nina wants to leave the other again, and they are further complicated when Nina meets the fun-loving, Mark(Michael Maloney), who falls in love with her. Nina likes Mark very much, but can she let go of Jamie and take the big step of moving on with her life?

What I love most about this film is how it turns our traditional expectations and understanding of ghosts and their depictions on screen right on their head. Jamie can be seen, heard and felt, as opposed to being seen but not touched or properly communicated with. Jamie also feels the temperature and can even catch a cold. In this film ghosts play music, complain about politics, and hang out together watching  classic films late into the night(love the bit where they watch Brief Encounter). It really is quite unlike anything else and that’s why I love it so. 

Truly Madly Deeply 1

Will she choose life or death? Nina, Jamie and Mark. Image source IMDb.

I especially love the key role music plays in this film – from the classical music Jamie plays on his cello, to Nina and Jamie’s hilarious and joyous rendition of The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore. Often it is a song or piece of music that can most quickly trigger memories of moments spent with our lost loved ones. Hearing those special tunes can either bring forth smiles, or bring forth floods of tears, and so it goes in Truly, Madly, Deeply

The entire cast are superb with special praise going to Juliet and Alan. This is one of Alan’s most subtle performances, it’s all there in the face and the little expressions.I love all the scenes between him and Juliet and think they make a great pair. When you watch the film now, it takes on an extra level of poignancy due to the role Alan plays, and the fact that both he and Anthony Minghella have since sadly died.

While Alan is terrific as Jamie, the film undoubtedly belongs to Juliet. You can’t take your eyes off her. She breaks your heart one minute, and is being passionate and hilarious the next.She’s so good in the part that you want to reach through the screen and give her a hug. 

Truly,Madly,Deeply was the little film that became a surprise hit,both here in the UK, and over in America. It was a critical success and was nominated for several awards, and would win a BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay. The film catapulted Anthony Minghella to international fame and he would go on to direct The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley, which were two of the biggest films of the 90’s. 

This film is one of the best films about love and the agony and unpredictability of grief that I’ve ever seen. It’s so much more than a story about love and grief though. It’s not all tears and depression, there is a lot of humour and so many touching and romantic moments to enjoy. There’s also a great scene in a cafe which contains a dig directed towards those in our society who are rude and unpleasant to immigrants, with this vile attitude and treatment being countered with the warm and welcoming attitudes of Nina and her colleagues, as they happily support these new additions to Britain. 

Truly, Madly,Deeply reminds us of the joys of sharing our lives with someone, but also of the unbearable pain we feel when we lose them. The film proves that it is possible for us to slowly emerge from the fog of grief and tentatively rejoin the world going on around us. We will always love the one we’ve lost, but it is possible to rebuild our own lives and have fun again, without ever having to give up the memory of our loved one and our happy times together. 

A trip to Nina and Jamie’s is highly recommended. 

 

Farewell, Honor. Remembering Honor Blackman(1925-2020)

The sad news came through on the 5th of April that another classic film legend had left us. Honor Blackman had passed away at the age of 94. This honey-voiced, tough and stylish lady was known around the world thanks to her unforgettable performance as the no- nonsense Bond girl Pussy Galore, in the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger.

I liked Honor because she told it like it was and came across as a lovely and funny lady. She was also very vocal about the lack of decent roles for older women in the film industry, as opposed to their older male colleagues still receiving great roles in their later years. 

Honor Blackman

Honor Blackman. Image source IMDb.

Honor was also a household name here in the UK for playing another tough and iconic screen heroine – Cathy Gale, the first female partner of Patrick Macnee’s suave John Steed in The Avengers TV series. Cathy was highly skilled in Judo, witty and clad all in leather. You didn’t want to mess with either Miss Gale or Miss Galore. Honor and her co-star Patrick Macnee recorded the song Kinky Boots together in 1964, the song would later become a surprise hit in the 1990’s. 

I first became aware of Honor after seeing the film A Night To Remember, in which she played a first class passenger who must board a lifeboat with her children and leave her husband behind on the sinking Titanic. I loved her performance in that and checked out more of her work after. 

Honor was born in Plaistow, Essex, on the 22nd of August, 1925. She trained at the Guildhall School Of Music And Drama beginning there in 1940. During WW2 she studied her craft part time while working as a motorcycle dispatch rider and holding a clerical job at the Home Office. After her graduation from the Guildhall in 1947, she went on to become an understudy in the play The Guinea PigHer first film role was a non speaking part in the 1947 film Fame Is The Spur. Over the years she would star in many more films including: Diamond City, Quartet, So Long At The Fair, Life At The Top, Jason And The Argonauts and Bridget Jones’s Diary. She also delivered a memorable performance in the Columbo TV episode Dagger Of The Mind.

Honor Blackman 2

Honor in a publicity photo for Goldfinger. Image source IMDb.

Honor’s performance as pilot Pussy Galore in Goldfinger is what really made her a star and a screen icon. At 38 Honor was the oldest actress to play a Bond girl. Honor was cast in the role due to her performance as Cathy Gale in The Avengers. Where a great many of the Bond girls have been tough and a real match for Bond, Pussy was even more so. She oozes confidence and really stands up to Bond. She can also take care of herself and isn’t intimidated by anyone. She’s also very independent and doesn’t need a man’s protection in life. Honor captures and conveys this woman’s nature so well, that it’s hard to imagine anyone else other than her in that role. 

Goldfinger 1

Honor and Sean Connery. Image source IMDb.

R.I.P, Honor. All sympathies to her family and friends. Share your thoughts and memories about Honor below.

The 2020 Classic Literature On Film Blogathon: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1945)

Literature blogathonPaul at Silver Screen Classics is hosting his first ever blogathon(congratulations my friend), and he has chosen to focus on film adaptations of classic literature. Be sure to visit his site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is a deeply moving coming of age story, one in which a child comes to view the adults in her life in different ways to how she has perceived them previously. It is also a tale in which the cruelness of reality encroaches upon the dreams and aspirations of individuals and crushes them in the process.

The title not only refers to the tree which grows in the courtyard of the tenement building which most of the film takes place in, but also refers to young Francie, the girl around whom the story is centred. The tree of the title metaphorically refers to Francie’s desire to get a good education and grow beyond her working class/poverty stricken roots, in much the same way trees grow until they tower above us out of reach of their ground roots.

Photo1991

Francie and her latest Library book. Screenshot by me.

Francie is hungry for knowledge and wants a better life than the one she has. She is an avid reader and goes crazy for library books the way other children of her age go crazy for sweets. Her ever loving papa does everything he can to support and encourage her dreams and wishes, but his battle with the bottle and inability to get a well paying regular job mean the family remains poor and Francie’s situation remains the same it has been up to now. 

Photo1986

Francie and her dad. Screenshot by me.

This film is one which holds a very special place in my heart. The characters come across as being so real and you can’t help but be caught up in the story of their lives and share their sorrows and joy. The film serves to remind us that those of my generation(child of the 90’s here) and younger are so lucky to have been born in the modern era, as we have opportunities and options that just weren’t on the table for the working class youth of the previous centuries. When you watch the Nolan’s story, I think it hits home so much because it shows us what our ancestors went through in real life. Think how many children didn’t get an education in the past, or had to give up school in order to start work at an early age to help their families get money. Think how many millions of people had their aspirations and dreams crushed by the reality of their lives. 

                        Francie with the Librarian and with her Teacher. Screenshots by me. 

I also love how positively Librarians and Teachers are portrayed in this film. When Francie announces she is working her way through the library books in alphabetical order and takes out a book with heavy content more easily understood by adults, the Librarian is bemused but never the less lets her take the book, despite knowing its content will most likely go way over her head. The Librarian also selects a purely escapist novel for Francie to take home to enjoy too, in order for her to have a backup book should she struggle with the other one as the Librarian suspects she will. Library staff are gatekeepers of knowledge and should never put up barriers to someone wanting to borrow and explore the books in their care, so that scene always makes me smile. I also love the scene where Francie’s teacher is extremely kind and non-judgemental of her when she asks to take a pie home from school to ease her families hunger. There is no judgement or interference on the teacher’s part, instead she responds to Francie gently and doesn’t make her feel awkward. Many who work in education will sadly have had experience of youngsters who rely on their educational establishment to provide them with their sole access to food, and this scene hits home because it is sadly still something of a reality for many in modern society. It’s just heartbreaking to know that sadly some things haven’t changed. 

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is an adaptation of the semi-autobiographical debut novel of the same name, which was written by Betty Smith(born Elisabeth Lillian Wehner), and was published in 1943. The novel focuses on the life of Francie Nolan,a poor girl living with her family in the New York tenements during the early part of the 20th century. The novel is split into five sections, with each section focusing on a different period of the characters lives.The novel was hugely successful upon release selling over 300,000 copies in its first six weeks alone. It was a particular hit with soldiers serving in the Second World War and the book was even released in a special Armed Services Edition, which meant that books shipped out to Armed Forces personal were specially designed to fit into the pockets of Armed Forces uniforms.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn poster

With its extremely moving story of family and the desire for better options in life, it’s little wonder that the film studios were quick to get their hands on the book rights. The bidding war for the rights began even before the novel was actually published, with 20th Century Fox successfully acquiring the rights for $55,000. The film would focus on a specific period in the Nolan’s lives, this in contrast to the book which covers several years. The screenplay for the film adaptation was written by married couple Tess Slesinger and Frank Davis, whose efforts on the script would be rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay.

Elia Kazan

Elia Kazan. Image source IMDb.

The film would mark the feature film directorial debut of Elia Kazan, who up to this point in time had mainly worked as a stage actor and theatre director, he had also co-directed the 1937 documentary People Of The Cumberland. Kazan is of course now very famous for founding the Actors Studio workshop and for the cinematic realism he strived for and achieved in so many of his films.

On A Tree Grows In Brooklyn he did several things to ensure he had a lot of realism present in the performances, including encouraging Peggy Ann Garner and James Dunn to bond so that they developed a genuine emotional attachment to one another – the result of which is one of the most touching father/daughter relationships ever depicted on screen. The director also used Peggy Ann’s fears and worries about her dad – who was serving in the Second World War at the time Peggy made the film – to make her become genuinely upset when shooting a scene.

The film would not only introduce a new film director to the world, but it would also resurrect the career of the actor James Dunn, whose fame had sadly waned over the years due to his ongoing battle with the bottle.James was cast as the tragic Johnny, the patriarch of the Nolan family, and he would win his only Oscar for his heartbreaking and utterly convincing performance here. James knew better than most what this character was going through and who he was. 

Twelve year old Peggy Ann Garner was cast in the lead role of Francie. Initially the studio had wanted an older actress to play Francie, but Elia Kazan held firm and insisted a child was cast. It was the right call. I think Peggy Ann’s performance as Francie is possibly her finest hour on screen, and she was rewarded for her work in the film with a special juvenile Oscar.

                 Top left to right:Dorothy McGuire as Katie, Ted Donaldson as Neeley, Joan Blondell as Sissy.  Bottom left to right: James Dunn as Johnny and Lloyd Nolan as McShane. Screenshots by me. 

The studio originally wanted Alice Faye to play Francie’s mother Katie, but Alice was unavailable, so the search was on to find another actress for the role. Gene Tierney was brought in to do a screentest for the role of Katie, but in the end Dorothy McGuire was cast. Dorothy is superb as the long suffering wife and mother, who isn’t as really tough and harsh as she makes out. Joan Blondell shines in the role of Katie’s outgoing sister, Sissy. Ted Donaldson was cast as Francie’s younger brother, Neeley and he steals every scene he’s in. Lloyd Nolan was cast as police officer McShane, the local beat cop who falls hard for Katie and helps the Nolan family when he can.

The film was shot on the 20th Century Fox lot, with a full stage being taken up by a four story replica of a tenement building. At the time it was constructed this set was one of the most elaborate to be assembled. Veteran Cinematographer Leon Shamroy worked on the film and provides us with some beautiful photography and use of light. 

Photo1979

Francie takes care of her dad when he is drunk. Screenshot by me.

The film begins during summer. Francie Nolan(Peggy Ann Garner)is a thirteen year old girl who lives with her mum, Kate(Dorothy MacGuire); her food obsessed younger brother, Neeley(Ted Donaldson); and their kind but alcoholic father, Johnny(James Dunn). They are a poor family and rely on the money Johnny brings in from any work he can get as a musician. Unfortunately Johnny is an alcoholic and sometimes squanders the small wages and tips he makes on booze instead. Katie and Johnny are desperately in love, but Katie is becoming weary of what he does. Katie can sometimes be harsher to her kids than she means to be, while Johnny in contrast is always gentle and fun.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Francie and Aunt Sissy. Image source IMDb.

Katie’s younger and more fun loving sister, Sissy(Joan Blondell)and has been married several times, something which has caused quite the scandal(oh, the horror!). Sissy drops in when she can to brighten Neeley and Francie’s days. Sissy is the healer in this story. She supports her sister, brother in-law, and her niece and nephew, and she tries to ease upset and tension.  

Francie is a bright child who loves reading and desperately wants to become a writer. She encourages her father to write a letter to the headteacher of a better school in their area to request a transfer for Francie. To Francie’s delight the request is accepted and Francie is enrolled. 

Photo1987

The Nolan family. Screenshot by me.

When Christmas comes around Katie finds herself pregnant again. The little money they have is getting tighter, so she arranges for the family to move into a cheaper and even smaller apartment than they were in before. She suggests that Francie drops out of school and gets a job to help out. Knowing how shattered his baby will be if she has to give up her dreams, Johnny goes out in the cold and snow to look for any type of work he can get. Tragically he falls ill in the process and dies.

Upon his death the family receive such kindness and hear from so many local people how beloved and special Johnny was. Johnny always tried to help people and cheer them up. Francie and Neeley get after school jobs to help out and Katie prepares to bring her third child into the world. Since her father’s death Francie has retreated into herself and hasn’t grieved properly. She blames her mum for her dads’s death and doesn’t think Katie loves her as much as she loves Neeley. This isn’t true of course. And soon Francie will see her mum differently. She will also come to accept that her beloved papa wasn’t this perfect figure she so believed him to be(interestingly something which Neeley had already come to realise while their dad was still alive). At her graduation ceremony, Francie will discover just how much her dad believed in her ability to make her dreams come true and succeed. If you don’t cry at this moment there is something wrong with you. 

Photo1976

Francie in a happy moment. Screenshot by me.

The film reminds us that yes we have to face reality, but there is nothing wrong with us being imaginative and having dreams and aspirations at the same time. Never let anyone or anything stop you from following your heart. I think the film also serves to remind parents that their situation in life should never stop them from actively encouraging their children to follow the path THEY want to in life. Don’t force your children to take the job or profession that YOU think they should be doing, instead listen to what your child is telling you about the profession they want to go into and support their choice. 

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is a beautiful and heartwarming tale of family, love, hope and overcoming the odds in life.