Blogathons, Romance

It Happened One Night (1934)

Screwball comedy

Hi everyone. Hope you are all well.  It’s blogathon time again 🙂

Paul, over at Pfeiffer films and Meg Movies, is hosting this blogathon all about Screwball Comedy films. Be sure to go and check out all the other entries over on his site. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I want to talk about my all time favourite Screwball film. The title of that film? It is none other than It Happened One Night.

Directed by Frank Capra, this film shows opposites attracting, the rich realising what life is like for the poor and features one of the most fun bus trips ever shown on film(or experienced in real life.)

Capra is one of my favourite directors and this film is in my top five Capra flicks (along with The Bitter Tea of General Yen, It’s A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.)

I love this one because it is a very funny film. I also love it for it’s believable and likeable characters. This is a film that always leaves me with a smile on my face. It’s just such an uplifting and fun flick.

I am a huge fan of films, books and TV series that focus on friendships and romantic relationships between people who are complete opposites; either in terms of their personality or due to their different backgrounds or cultures.This film features a couple who are one of my favourite opposites attract couples. I love how Ellie and Peter’s relationship slowly develops and as they spend more time together they realise they can’t do without one another. Gable and Colbert work so well together, that I find it very strange that they were never teamed together again.

Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert)is the daughter of a millionaire( Walter Connelly) . Following a bitter argument about her relationship with King Westley(Jameson Thomas), Ellie jumps from the family yacht and swims ashore. Running away with only a few dollars in her possession, Ellie is forced to experience life without access to her daddy’s cheque book.

Boarding a bus, Ellie finds herself literally thrown together with down on his luck newspaper reporter Peter Warne(Clark Gable). Peter instantly knows who Ellie is, and he sets his sights on the news scoop of the season. He calls his boss at the first opportunity and tells him what’s going on and to stand by for more updates. However, as they spend more time together Peter finds himself falling for this pampered heiress, and she ends up developing feelings for him in return. When the bus has to stop due to a road closure Ellie, Peter and the other passengers spend the night at a motel; it is at this point that the pair actually start to like each other.

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Clark Gable is terrific as the warm hearted Peter. He is a guy with a tough and gruff exterior who is in reality a real sweetheart. I love how he conveys Peter’s annoyance and frustration with Ellie’s lack of understanding of how real life in depression era America works. Slowly though, we see him become amused by her antics, and we then see that he is starting to become very fond of her.

I love Gable in the scenes where Peter is getting protective of Ellie and looks at her with such affection. Gable has fun making Peter a man more than capable of defending himself. He is also believable as a man who knows (and enjoys)how to push peoples buttons and wind them up.

Claudette Colbert is hysterical as the aloof, wealthy lady learning how everyone else lives. She shows us that Ellie has no clue as to how ridiculous some of the things she says sound, such as expecting the bus driver to wait for her long past departure time at a scheduled stop, simply because she is going to take longer to come back to the bus than the others.

Colbert makes you laugh, but also makes you sympathise with Ellie because to be fair to her, she has never had to fend for herself before in any situation. Colbert makes Ellie a tough gal, but also someone who is actually quite vulnerable, kind and almost childlike in a way. I love how she makes Ellie seem as though she is control of her situation even when she is far from it. Ellie also has a few surprises up her sleeve (such as the unforgettable leg reveal scene during the hitchhike sequence.)

Roscoe Karns is hysterical as an annoying and overly talkative bus passenger, called Shapeley. Karns steals every scene he is in and gets to deliver my favourite line in the film: “when a cold mama gets hot – boy, how she sizzles!”  🙂  It cracks me up every time I hear him say it.

Shapeley tries to chat Ellie up and has lots of fun at her expense (until Peter steps in and rescues her.) Karns has long been one of my favourite character actors and he is someone who sadly doesn’t get talked about much these days. I highly recommend you all check Karns out in some other films, such as Twentieth Century.

My favourite scenes are the following. Ellie and Peter’s first meeting where he falls into her lap. Peter carrying Ellie across the river. Ellie ordering a box of chocolates on the bus and getting angry when Peter cancels the order. Peter pretending to give his boss a real talking to over the phone. Peter and Ellie pretending to be an arguing married couple, I love the accent Ellie puts on in this scene.The bus singalong. Shapeley talking to Ellie. Ellie giving the little boy her money. The “take me to your island” scene. Ellie stopping traffic by showing her legs. Ellie going for a shower at the motel, only to find she has to queue up!

Most unforgettable scene in the film? I’m going with the hitchhike scene. Peter tells Ellie he will stop a car. He fails every single time he waves his thumb. Ellie grows tired of this and tells him to watch how it’s done. She walks to the edge of the road, waits for a passing car and flashes her leg at the driver. The driver (naturally) comes to a screeching halt. It cracks me up every time I see it. I love the look Gable has in reaction to the leg reveal scene; he makes us see that to Peter, Ellie’s action is completely out of the blue and he didn’t think she’d ever do anything like that.

It Happened One Night truly is one of the finest Screwball comedies ever made. The comic bickering between Ellie and Peter is first class. I also bet that depression era audiences got a real kick seeing a rich character forced to endure what life was like for the majority of people at the time.

Here are a few facts and legends about the film that I love.

  • Colbert didn’t enjoy making this film, but her performance won her the best actress Oscar in 1935. The film also won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor(Clark Gable) and Best Screenplay.
  • Apparently, the scene where Gable takes off his shirt to reveal he is bare chested, led to a large decline in the sale of men’s undershirts.
  • The character of Shapeley was apparently the inspiration for Bugs Bunny.

Are you also a fan of this film? Then please leave your thoughts below.

Never seen this before? Buy your bus ticket, head for the station and get on board; you never know who you’ll meet on your trip and your life could be changed forever. Prepare for laughter, tears and a trip you won’t forget in a hurry.

 

 

 

 

Blogathons

Five Stars Blogathon

 

 

Five Stars Blogathon

Rick, over at the Classic Film and TV Café, is hosting this blogathon about five favourite classic era stars. I can’t wait to read all the other entries to see which actors people have chosen as their favourites.

I’ve picked five stars who each hold a special place in my heart. I’ve picked my favourite performance from each, and I have listed five films for them all that I highly recommend people see. I’m posting this a day early, as I won’t be able to post it tomorrow.

Maddy’s Five Favourite Classic Stars

1- Claude Rains

Born in London, in 1889, Claude went on to became one of the most talented of all the classic era screen actors. He starred in over 70 films. 

I love Claude for how he could steal any scene, often with just a look or by the way he delivered a line. He always came across as witty and classy. He made everything he did on screen look effortless.

Claude had one of the greatest voices in film history. He used this to great effect in all of his films. In The Invisible Man(1933)he particularly relies on his voice alone to convey the menace and feelings that his unseen face cannot convey. For me this is one of the greatest vocal performances in film history.

Claude died in 1967.

photo0045My Favourite Claude Rains Film Performance? Justin in The Passionate Friends (1949). Claude is excellent here as the husband who discovers his wife(Ann Todd) is having an affair with her ex(Trevor Howard). He still loves her, but can he find it in his heart to forgive her? Claude makes you really feel for Justin and gives you the impression that although not passionate, he is never the less a good man who loves his wife.

Five Must See Claude Rains films: Deception, The Passionate Friends, The Invisible Man,Casablanca, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

2-  Vivien Leigh

Born in India, in 1913, Vivien Leigh would go on to become one of Britain’s greatest stage actresses. Vivien was married to Laurence Olivier from 1940 to 1961 and the couple starred alongside each other in several plays and films.

Despite her great talent Vivien only ever ended up starring in 20 films. I think that is a great shame,she is someone I would dearly love to have seen more often on screen. Vivien won two Oscars for Best Actress (Gone With The Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire.)

Vivien easily rivals Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor for the title of most beautiful actress of all time in my opinion.

I love Vivien for the strength, vulnerability and enchanting quality she gave to so many of her characters. Vivien is another actor who steals every scene she is in. I also admire Vivien because she continued working on stage and screen whilst struggling with her Bipolar Disorder, that cannot have been easy for her; especially in a time when mental illness had such a stigma attached to it.

Vivien died in 1967.

Photo0083My Favourite Vivien Leigh Film Performance? As the iron willed Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind (1939). Doing what she has to do to survive, even if those things make her unpopular. Scarlett is resourceful, beguiling, vulnerable and admirable. This was Vivien’s breakthrough film performance and it is the one that made her a worldwide star. Vivien makes you admire Scarlett, even when we may not agree with some of her actions.

Five Must See Vivien Leigh Films: A Streetcar Named Desire, That Hamilton Woman, Waterloo Bridge, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Gone With The Wind.

3- George Sanders

Born in Russia, in 1906, George Sanders would become the go to actor for playing cads and villains. Suave, effortlessly charming and possessing one of the most distinctive voices in film history. George could often be seen playing heartbreakers and oily villains. Between 1939 and 1941, he played the heroic Simon Templar in The Saint film series; these films proved he could play a good guy and he played a similar character in The Falcon series.

I love him because he made everything he did appear effortless. He had a special way of delivering his lines, making them witty and full of dry humour.

A couple of years ago I was delighted to discover that in 1958, Sanders recorded and released a song album called The George Sanders Touch: Songs For The Lovely Lady. Having heard a few of his songs I can report that his singing voice is lovely, and I’m surprised he didn’t release more songs. I was very pleasantly surprised when I first heard his singing.

George died in 1972.

Photo0084My Favourite George Sanders Film Performance? As Addison DeWitt in All About Eve (1950). As the theatre critic with the acid tongue, he steals every scene he is in(even from Bette Davis!). Sanders looks like he is having great fun throughout, he makes DeWitt a charming friend and a dangerous enemy.

Five Must See George Sanders Films: All About Eve, The Black Swan, The Saint In London, Foreign Correspondent, The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry.

4- Setsuko Hara

Setsuko was born in 1920, in Japan. She began working in films when she was a teenager. During the 1940’s and 50’s, Setsuko was one of the most popular stars of Japanese cinema.

Working frequently with director Yasujiro Ozu, Setsuko became synonymous with her frequent screen character Noriko. Her screen persona was often that of the dutiful and gentle daughter, putting her own desires aside for the sake of her family.

I love Setsuko because she is such an expressive actress, she really conveys the emotions of her characters in such a realistic and genuine way. Setsuko really makes you feel what her characters go through (be that happy or sad times.) She also had one of the most beautiful smiles ever to be captured on screen.

Setsuko retired from films in 1963(the same year that Yasujiro Ozu died) and she died in 2015.

Photo0085My Favourite Setsuko Hara Film Performance? As the dutiful Noriko in Late Spring(1949). Setsuko plays a daughter who is happiest at home with her father. Leaving home to get married breaks her heart. A moving portrayal of a daughter’s love for her father. Setsuko makes my heart break for her character and makes me wish her all the best for her future.

Five Must See Setsuko Hara Films: Early Summer, The Ball at the Anjo House, Late Spring, Tokyo Story, Late Autumn.

5- Cary Grant

Cary was born in Bristol, England in 1904.Cary joined a circus act in which he learnt to become a skilled acrobat and physical comic. Those skills would come in handy when they featured in several of his films. He headed to Hollywood and worked his way up from bit player to one of the most beloved stars of the classic era.

Cary was suave, charming, stylish and a highly skilled physical comic. Men wanted to be him, and women wanted to be with him.

I love him because I greatly admire how he worked his way up to become a star. Cary overcame a very sad, working class childhood and went on to become a wealthy success.

I love how he made so many of his roles fun. Cary can often be found amusingly breaking the fourth wall and looking directly at us on screen; this makes the comic situation he’s reacting too even funnier for me. 

Although best known for his romantic and comic roles, Cary was a very good dramatic actor too. I prefer him in his more serious roles, such as Notorious. I wish he had been given more dramatic roles in his career.

Cary died in 1986.

Photo0068My Favourite Cary Grant Film Performance? Peter Joshua in Charade (1963). Cary plays a spy, who may or may not be a man that Reggie(Audrey Hepburn)can trust. This role for me is the perfect combination of all his screen skills. Here Cary gets to be a man of action and be romantic, funny and serious.

Five Must See Cary Grant Films:  Only Angels Have Wings, North By Northwest, Charade, Notorious,The Awful Truth.

Well, it was tough narrowing down my favourite actors list to just five, but I managed to do it in the end. The five I chose are actors whose work I return to again and again, and who always seem natural to me in their on screen performances.

Here are ten runners up. More of my classic era favourites(five men and five women)with some must see films from them.

William Holden: Stalag 17, Breezy, Network, Paris When It Sizzles, Golden Boy.

Takashi Shimura: Stray Dog, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Scandal, Godzilla.

Michael Redgrave: The Browning Version, Time Without Pity, Dead Of Night, The Years Between, The Lady Vanishes.

John Mills: Ice Cold In Alex, The Long Memory, Tiger Bay, It’s Great To Be Young, Ryan’s Daughter.

Stanley Baker: Hell Is A City, Zulu, A Prize Of Arms, Hell Drivers, Campbell’s Kingdom.

Margret Lockwood: The Wicked Lady, Love Story, Jassy, The Lady Vanishes, Madness of the Heart.

Dorothy Dandridge: Moment Of Danger, Carmen Jones, Tamango, Bright Road,  Island In The Sun.

Deborah Kerr: The Innocents, The Chalk Garden, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, From Here To Eternity, The Sundowners.

Clara Bow: Call Her Savage, It, Wings, Hoop-La, Get Your Man.

Ingrid Bergman: Notorious, Stromboli, The Bells of St. Mary’s, A Woman Called Golda, Anastasia.

Thank you for reading. Be sure to check out all the other posts over on Rick’s site.

Please share your thoughts on any of the actors I’ve written about. Share your five favourites in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detective, Thriller

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 7: Rear Window (1954)

 

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This is one of Hitchcock’s cleverest films. The way he directs makes us voyeurs just like Jimmy Stewart’s character is. We almost become characters in the film because it’s like we are there alongside Stewart watching from that window too.

Rear Window tackles issues of obsession, curiosity, romance, murder and voyeurism. The film features glamourous clothes, black comedy, fascinating characters, plenty of suspense and one of the best sets in American film history.

Photographer L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (James Stewart)is wheelchair bound after he breaks his leg.Jeff lives in an apartment complex and starts looking out of his window at his neighbours simply because he needs something to do to pass the time. However what begins as a casual curiosity, soon develops into an obsession as he can’t stop looking at what’s going on in the neighbouring apartments.

Jeff’s glamourous girlfriend, Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly)loves him dearly, but the two are complete opposites in background, life and society. Lisa begins to get concerned about Jeff’s obsession with the neighbours and tries to get him to focus on her instead. Soon Lisa gets drawn into his obsession when the pair begin to suspect Lars Thorwald (a menacing Raymond Burr)of having murdered his wife. The pair begin their own investigation. They are helped in their investigations by Jeff’s nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter) and Jeff’s detective friend Doyle (Wendell Corey).

Hitchcock keeps us guessing as to whether Thorwald is innocent or guilty right up to the end. We begin to wonder at points in the film whether Jeff is correct in his suspicions or not.

I love the apartment complex set because it looks so real. How it’s set up works for the story as Jeff’s window has a clear view of all of the others. All the apartments were also designed inside, furniture etc added.

The one thing about this set up that always makes me laugh, is how everyone has their windows open with the lights on and nobody (apart from the newlyweds)ever has their curtains or blinds drawn. This seems to be a reccuring thing in American, Swedish and Danish films and series; here in the UK, once it’s evening, the curtains and blinds are shut, we’d never dream of having the lights on so everyone outside could see in.

I like how Jeff finally sees past Lisa’s glamour to see the woman beneath. They love each other, but have such different lives. He realises he loves her and sees that she is a resourceful and brave woman. Kelly is glamourous and beautiful(as ever)but shows there is more to her character than looks. Kelly shows us Lisa’s vulnerable side and her desperation for Jeff to fully accept her in his life.

Stewart portrays Jeff as a man set in his ways, but slowly realising there is room for Lisa in his life. He does such a good job of conveying Jeff’s growing fascination and obsession with looking out of the window.

Thelma Ritter provides comic support as the no nonsense Stella. She also thinks Jeff needs to stop watching, but then she and Lisa begin to think he may be right after all.

Raymond Burr is almost unrecognisable as the menacing Lars Thorwald. I love Burr when he plays good guys like Ironside, but he was superb when playing dubious characters and villains.

This is a thrilling film that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. It also makes you see how easy it is to slip into obsession. Excellent performances throughout and skilled direction from Hitch make this a must see.

Please share your thoughts on the film below.

 

Blogathons, Romance, True Story

The “No, You’re Crying Blogathon”: Shadowlands (1993)

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Debbie, over at Moon in Gemini, is hosting this blogathon all about films that make us cry. Be sure to check out her site to read all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I want to write about Richard Attenborough’s 1993 film, Shadowlands. This is a film that I find to be extremely moving. It is shot in a way that makes me feel as though I have stumbled across a deeply private moment and am watching it unfold before me. This film shows us how precious and painful love can be, and how cruel and unpredictable life can sometimes end up being.

The loss of a loved one is something we will all unfortunately have to face at some time in our lives. When we lose someone we love, we often rage, asking why this had to happen; we demand to know why did it have to happen a particular way or at a certain time. Loss can make you question the point of life itself, and question why we even allow ourselves to love, if the pain of losing a loved one is so great. Richard Attenborough’s film tackles this pain head on. Shadowlands makes me cry every time I watch it. Hopkins in particular is so moving as the man opening himself up emotionally; the trouble is by doing that he is leaving himself vulnerable to the upcoming pain of grief and loss.

The scene where Lewis is talking to a friend who is a vicar, and breaks down in the church and confesses his love for Joy moves me so much; it moves me because Hopkins makes you feel the agony and helplessness that Lewis is experiencing at that moment. This scene always seems to me like I’ve intruded on a real and very private moment.

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Shadowlands tells the true story of British author C.S Lewis(Anthony Hopkins), best known for creating that magical land of Narnia(please access through your nearest wardrobe.)Lewis was an Oxford lecturer and theologian, he suffered great grief in his early years when his mother died when he was just ten years old. Lewis became an atheist for many years, but later ended up returning to his Christian faith.

Oxford, in the mid 1950’s, the somewhat repressed author and Oxford lecturer, C.S.Lewis(Hopkins) lives with his brother Warnie (Edward Hardwicke).  Lewis is content with his well ordered life, that is until he meets a woman who will change his life forever.

Lewis meets the outgoing American poet Joy Gresham(Debra Winger). The pair became good friends, soon that friendship turned into something more and they are married. Tragedy lies just around the corner though when Joy is diagnosed with cancer. The film shows Lewis allowing himself to fall in love far too late; by the time he admits and acts upon his feelings, Joy is doomed to be taken away from him.
Hopkins is heartbreaking in the role of Lewis. He really lets you feel how much Lewis is being ripped apart inside and I think this is one of the best performances he has ever given on screen. Lewis can’t bear to lose Joy, wishes he had fallen in love with her sooner, and is helpless in the face of her pain. The crying scene between him and Joy’s young son Douglas(Joe Mazzello)is one that I will never forget and it makes me cry every time I watch this film.
Debra Winger is excellent as the funny, bubbly, outgoing woman who allows Lewis to open himself up to the joy of love. Winger makes you feel that you would like to have known Joy, that she would have been fun to be around. When we learn of Joy’s illness it’s even more cruel because she is someone who is so full of life and knows that she is slipping away. Debra is so convincing in the scenes where Joy is really in pain, that it is difficult to watch her as it’s like you are witnessing real suffering.
There is a great line in this spoken by Joy: ”the pain then is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.” Knowing we will one day lose the person/people we love certainly makes us value the time we spend together. Personally the fear of the pain from that inevitable loss makes the rest somewhat difficult for me; I guess it all comes down to are you willing to accept such pain in your life? It’s worth it for the happy times but can you take what happens next?

This film raises and tackles these questions so well. It’s moving, romantic and most important of all, you remember that this couple really went through all of this.
Superb performances, a beautiful score by George Fenton, and some beautiful location work(Oxford, the countryside)all make this a must see. Keep the tissues handy though, you will need them. For me this is one of Richard Attenborough’s greatest film achievements.

I find the following scenes to be very moving. The famous “the pain now is part of the happiness then” scene. Lewis admitting his love for Joy, the look on Hopkins face during that scene really moves me, he shows so much love and tenderness for her. The attic scene between Lewis and Douglas. Joy saying goodbye to Douglas. The final scene between Lewis and Joy. The “you look at me properly now” hospital scene.

If this film moved you, then I highly recommend you also check out the 1985 version starring Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom.

Please share your thoughts on the film below.

Coming Of Age, Page To Screen

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 6: Stand By Me (1986)

This is one of the best films out there about friendship. It is also a fantastic coming of age story. The film shows us how precious and sometimes how fleeting friendship can be. People come in and out of our lives over the years, some find a permanent place in our hearts and lives, while some sadly become nothing more than a memory.

When I watch this I’m always reminded of my own childhood. During the primary school years, and into my early teens; I was part of a trio of friends who were so close that we were just like sisters. When the High School and College years approached we sadly drifted apart and hardly saw each other. As the years passed we saw even less of each other, until eventually we were no longer in each others lives. I will never forget either of them, nor will I forget the many happy times we spent together.

I love Geordie’s final line in the film about never having had friends like the ones he had when he was twelve , because that is just so true;  your childhood friendships will always be special due to the fun you had and the innocent period of your lives this took place in. Friends will come in and out of your life, but those childhood friends will always be in your heart.

Stand By Me is directed by Rob Reiner, and is based on the book The Body by Stephen King. It is set in the small town of Castle Rock, Oregon during the 1950’s. A young boy goes out to pick berries and fails to return home. A search fails to find him and he is presumed dead.

A group of friends – gentle and recently bereaved Geordie(Wil Wheaton), excitable and adventurous Teddy(Corey Feldman), wise and tough Chris(River Phoenix)and nervous and talkative Vern(Jerry O’Connell)- decide to go looking for him, thinking they might get an award(or at least some publicity)if they find him. Over a two day hike the boys are forced to quickly come of age and face up to the harsh realities of life. Their bond grows stronger and they have an adventure they will never forget.

I love this film so much because the characters and what they are going through are so relatable. We all had something happen to us when we were young that made us realise what life is really like, it sadly can’t all be fun and innocence for ever.

During the film each of these boys becomes stronger in some way and goes through a life changing event.  The performances from Wheaton, Phoenix, O’Connell and Feldman are extraordinary, given how young (and relatively inexperienced)they were as actors at the time. They are so natural and come across as a group who really could be friends. They look like they are having loads of fun in the scenes like the water spitting, walking the train tracks and their comic arguments and discussions.

Phoenix in particular is excellent as he plays the father figure in the group, and he is someone who has already grew up in many ways unlike the others. I love how protective he is of the others and how he has to act responsibly all the time. The scene where he breaks down and reveals his sadness is so moving and Phoenix makes your heart break for him.

Feldman makes Teddy’s anger totally believable. You really believe this is a troubled kid, he still loves his dad despite what he did to him. He is strong but of them all, he is probably the most vulnerable, although he’d never admit it.

O’Connell is the films comic relief, as the talkative and to the point Vern. I love how proud he is because he has brought a comb with him, so they can look good for the cameras. Vern is the one who says or does what most of us would do in some of these situations we see in the film.

Wheaton is the shy, sensitive and underappreciated kid who finds an inner strength he didn’t even know he had.  He undergoes the most change in the film, and Wheaton portrays it so well.

Kiefer Sutherland is menacing as Ace Merrill, the local bully and fearless/unbalanced leader of the gang called The Cobras.  Ace and his gang are also on their way to look for the boys body. Ace and his gang are the terrifying possible future that awaits Geordie and his friends; young men whose innocence is long gone, hardened due to life experiences and bad behaviour.

John Cusack is Geordie’s older brother, Denny. I love their relationship as it is one of the sweetest and most moving I’ve ever seen.  Denny is a football star and is popular in the neighborhood, he is the apple of his parents eye.

When the film opens, Denny has been dead for a few months. His death was unexpected and destroyed his parents. Geordie is grief stricken too, but doesn’t know how to deal with his grief, he hasn’t even cried for his brother yet. Denny’s death is made even sadder when we learn that he and Geordie were so close, and that Denny made their parents pay attention to Geordie instead of focusing on him all of the time. With Denny gone, Geordie is barely noticed at home and only has his friends to turn to for support and to talk to.

Richard Dreyfuss plays the elder Geordie, looking back on his bittersweet childhood memories. He also serves as the films narrator.

My favourite scenes are the following. The water spitting scene, especially the bit where Teddy spits his at Vern(it’s one of those moments that you can see coming and can’t help laughing at.) Chris saving Teddy from his suicidal train dodge. Geordie seeing the deer. Geordie’s story about the pie eating contest. Chris telling Geordie to take the college classes. The boys running from the train. All the flashback scenes between Geordie and Denny. Ace holding his nerve driving straight at an on coming truck. Vern debating with Teddy about whether a cartoon character could beat up Superman. Chris telling Geordie about the milk money.  The end where we learn what happened between the boys.

A moving and funny film about friendship, love, adventure and children coming of age. There is some gorgeous scenery in this and the on location work really adds to the authenticity of the story. There’s also a cracking soundtrack, featuring the title song by Ben E. King.

I always feel like I’ve walked the tracks with these boys and that I’ve experienced some sort of life changing event myself whilst watching. This is a great favourite and one of the best pieces of work from both Reiner and King.

Please share your thoughts on the film below.

Actors Birthdays

Remembering Audrey Hepburn

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On this day in 1929, Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium. Audrey would go on to become one of the most beloved of all the classic era film stars. Audrey would also become famous as a fashion icon, and for the great deal of charity work she undertook.

I like Audrey as an actress, but I like her more for who she was in real life; by all accounts(I have never heard or read a bad word about her)she was a kind, gentle and classy woman who treated everyone the same. There was nothing phoney about Audrey and it showed, she truly was someone who was beautiful inside and out.

If you want to know more about Audrey’s life, I highly recommend that you read this biography: Audrey Her Real Story by Alexander Walker. It is a thorough and moving account of her life and career, and features some beautiful personal and studio photos of Audrey.Photo0092

Despite her talent and fame, Audrey actually made very few films during her career, and I do find that a shame because she was a very good actress.

Here are my top five Audrey Hepburn film performances.

                              1- Sister Luke in The Nun’s Story.

                                 2- Holly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s .

                                 3-Princess Ann in Roman Holiday.

                   4- Suzy in Wait Until Dark.

          5- Sabrina in Sabrina.

Audrey passed away in 1993, following a battle with cancer. Happy Birthday, and R.I.P Audrey. Thank you for so many wonderful film memories.

Please share your thoughts on Audrey and her films below.

Musicals

Hello Dolly! (1969)

This is one of the first musicals I ever saw, and it is one that has held a special place in my heart ever since. This features so many memorable and toe tapping songs, stunning costumes, and an unforgettable performance by Barbra Streisand.

I’ve never been much of a fan of Streisand as an actress, I love her as a singer though; however in Hello Dolly! I really love her performance and think she was the perfect choice as actress and singer for the role.Streisand makes Dolly, outgoing, amused by the reactions to her matchmaking/interference by some people, and makes her vulnerable and fragile at times.

Dolly is grieving, following the death of her husband, but when the time is right she realises that she can move on and allow another man to claim her heart. Dolly’s serious/emotional side is revealed in the park scene; her sad reaction to watching all the young couples enjoy the day brings home to us what she has lost from her own life, she then pulls herself out of her sadness and joins in the happiness of the day, by singing Before The Parade Passes By.

Gene Kelly directed this and filmed much of it out on location. The film is set in the late 1800’s and tells the story of New York matchmaker, Dolly Levi(Barbra Streisand).

Dolly ends up falling in love with the man she is currently trying to match with a suitable wife. That man is wealthy Yonkers store owner, Horace Vandergelder(Walter Matthau). Horace likes Dolly, but is annoyed by her interference and how she seldom takes life seriously. Horace takes life too seriously and is a very grumpy man.

Cornelius (Michael Crawford)and Barnaby(Danny Lockin)are two clerks who work for Horace. When Horace is away in New York, wooing the elegant Irene Molloy(Marianne McAndrew), Cornelius and Barnaby head to New York for a well earned small break.

Chaos and comedy ensue when Cornelius ends up falling for Irene, and a series of misunderstandings lead the two men to be mistaken for millionaires. Barnaby enjoys his own flourishing romance with Irene’s bubbly assistant, Minnie(E.J. Peaker).

This all leads to a dinner at the lavish Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, this is a dinner that you won’t forget in a hurry. This dinner spectacle is overseen by head waiter Rudy(David Hurst).

Irene Sharaff designed the films beautiful costumes and they are lovely to look at. My favourites are Dolly’s gold beaded evening gown, Dolly’s purple dress and feather hat she wears during the parade, Irene and Minnie’s blue and red evening gowns, and Dolly’s pale pink dress and hat she wears during the proposal scene.

My favourite songs are the following: Put On Your Sunday Clothes, Hello Dolly, Elegance and Before The Parade Passes By.

Louis Armstrong makes a fun cameo, as the bandleader at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant who sings Hello Dolly with Barbra. That sequence is my favourite in the whole film, I love the song and the way Barbra and Louis perform that scene. It is also in this scene where we see Barbra in that unforgettable gold dress. Does anyone know what ever happened to that? It really is something to behold and I’d like to think someone out there has it safe.

I love Michael Crawford as the hapless Cornelius. His role is very comic, but also quite touching and he plays this superbly. We love his character and want him to get a happy ending and the respect of his boss. Michael does a lot of physical comedy in this and shows his skill at this as he would do later in the TV series Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.

Everything about this film is big, from the vast crowd scenes, to the songs, to the visual spectacle(costumes, sets etc). One of the last great musicals to come out of Hollywood, and overseen by a musical legend(Gene Kelly).

My favourite scenes are the following. Cornelius and Barnaby hiding in Irene’s hat shop when Dolly and Horace come calling. The entire Harmonia Gardens sequence. The park dance and the parade that follows. Dolly’s conversation with her dead husband. The Put On Your Sunday Clothes sequence. Horace’s hysterical dinner date with Ernestina Semple(Judy Knaiz). The opening sequence.

Never seen this before? What are you waiting for? Put on your Sunday clothes, buy a train ticket for New York, and stop off for a meal at the Harmonia Gardens with Dolly and her friends.

Please leave your thoughts on the film below.

 

 

Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 5: Family Plot (1976)

What’s that? A Hitchcock film considered an unsung classic? Believe it or not the answer is yes.

On this day back in 1980, we lost one of the best film directors there has ever been in the world. Alfred Hitchcock died aged 80.

For decades Hitch had scared audiences silly and shown us how a suspense film should be made. Hitchcock’s films allowed actors to play roles quite different to what they usually accepted, and that is interesting for me to watch this change as a viewer. His films explored themes like obsession, the innocent wrongly accused, jealousy and mother issues. The majority of his work is highly praised and much discussed.

After reaching a career highpoint with Psycho and The Birds; Hitchcock’s last few films sadly declined in popularity and they are rarely praised the same way his earlier ones are. I agree wholeheartedly that Torn Curtain is pretty bad (apart from that excellent farm sequence) but I don’t agree with all the criticism of the others. I’m not saying all of them are perfect, but I firmly believe they are far from the weak films many consider them to be.

Marnie, Frenzy, Topaz and Family Plot are all films that I feel are worthy of more attention and reassessment.

I want to talk today about one of my favourite Hitchcock films. That film is Family Plot.

It ended up becoming Hitch’s final film and I consider it to be a really grand finale. The film features many of his key component; such as the beautiful blonde woman, thrills, suspense, humour, and a slight supernatural element too. In a way it is a tribute to all that came before. I love it because it is just so much fun.

Blanche Tyler(Barbara Harris)is a con artist posing as a medium. Blanche is hired by the wealthy Julia Rainbird(Cathleen Nesbitt)to help find the son of her dead sister. Julia will give Blanche $10,000 in reward. Blanche and her taxi driver boyfriend, George Lumley(Bruce Dern)jump at the chance to get some cash, so they start investigating and soon uncover something they will wish they hadn’t.

Meanwhile, across town, suave jeweller Arthur Adamson(William Devane) and his girlfriend Fran (Karen Black)are kidnapping wealthy people and asking for valuable diamonds as ransom. These two will soon cross paths with Blanche and George.

Harris is perfect as the kooky Blanche, she is a fake, but she acts like her abilities are real much to the amusement of George. Blanche is so loveable so we don’t hate despite the fact that she is conning people in her role as medium. Blanche comes across as someone it would be fun to know, she’s sweet, funny and life with her around wouldn’t be dull.

Bruce Dern is excellent as the cranky taxi driver who is happiest at home with Blanche, enjoying a bottle of beer in front of the TV. He is the Hitch everyman for the 1970’s, stressed from working hard and looking forward to his time off. As their investigation progresses, George pretends to be a Private Detective and he seems to have fun in this role/job change.  This is one of my favourite performances from Dern, and it’s a rare time where he gets to play a character who isn’t a villain or crazy.

William Devane is oily and overly charming. He makes Arthur a very two faced character and a real nasty piece of work. You know this is a guy who only cares about himself.

Karen Black has fun playing two roles. As Adamson’s girlfriend, she is bubbly and is only going along with his schemes to please him, she isn’t doing it because she is a bad person. As the black clad, blonde mystery woman who collects the ransom she is cool and determined.  In a way Fran reminds me of Madeleine/Judy in Vertigo; she is  a woman desperate to be loved, and who makes herself up to look like someone else because her man forces her to. Both Scottie and Arthur seem to have a thing about mystery blondes and ignore the real girl they are forcing to dress up.

Ed Lauter delivers strong support as garage owner Joseph Maloney. He may hold the key to the missing Rainbird heir.

Cathleen Nesbitt is moving as the elderly woman consumed with regret and remorse for her actions all those years ago.

The film also features a sadly much overlooked score by John Williams. The music works so well in the film, and for me is one of the most memorable scores for a Hitchcock film.

My favourite scenes are the following. George and Blanche bickering in the taxi on the way back from Julia Rainbird’s house. The entire sequence in the cemetery where George is looking at headstones. The first shot of Fran as she walks into the Police station dressed in black and wearing sunglasses. The brakes failing on George and Blanche’s car, leading to terrifying car journey. That wink at the end.

A playful and thrilling film. I consider this one a fitting tribute to all that came before in Hitch’s career.

I also always get a real craving for a burger after watching this. Why? Due to the scene where George and Blanche eat homemade burgers. Yum!

I wish with all my heart that more people would show some love to this film. Any other fans here?

 

Detective, Horror, Page To Screen

The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

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Odds are that even if you’ve never see this one, you’ll almost certainly be aware of Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Agent Clarice Starling. These two characters are what set this film apart from all the other serial killer films out there.

A film focusing just on the conversations between these two characters would be just as good as this film; their exchanges are so fascinating to watch, from the way lines are delivered, to witnessing the undeniable growing bond of trust between these two polar opposites.

The film is a favourite of mine not just because of the story, but because of the well written characters of Starling and Lecter. Foster and Hopkins give unforgettable performances(both won an Oscar for their performances in this film)that stay with you long after the film has finished.

Gene Hackman and Michelle Pfeiffer were originally going to play Lecter and Starling, but both ended up turning down these roles. As much as I would have loved to have seen how they would approached these roles, I am very glad that we got Hopkins and Foster in the end.

Hopkins plays Lecter as seemingly unthreatening, he is polite and charming and speaks calmly and quietly. However, characters soon learn not to let their guard down around him as his mind, words and observation skills are his weapons, and he uses them to devastating effect. He is like a snake, just waiting to strike out and when he does his attack will be swift and deadly.

The first meeting between him and Starling shows us how much information(both concerning what the FBI want from him, and personal details about Starling)he has got from her without her even being aware she has given him this. He is a manipulator and will only tell someone what he want’s to, you can’t force anything out of him.

Foster is the young FBI trainee, keen, dedicated and more than capable of coping fine in a very male dominated profession. Clarice Starling joins Ellen Ripley as one of my favourite tough female characters. Starling is a tough, strong and capable woman, who is admirable and brave enough to face horror and evil head on.

Starling finds herself drawn to Lecter and can’t deny that a genuine bond has developed between them despite what he has done and is capable of. Day after day this woman puts herself through hell to try and get vital information to help save a new victim of the serial killer known as Buffalo Bill.

The horror and violence she sees on this case affects her deeply, but she doesn’t shrink away from it because she needs to face it in order to defeat it. I have always considered Starling to be brave because of this, there were times when she could (and we might say should)have just quit and moved onto a less emotionally destructive case, but she didn’t and to do that takes courage.

Behavioural Science Unit Chief, Agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) assigns Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Lector is a cannibalistic serial killer, who is one of the most high profile killers behind bars.

Crawford believes Lecter can help the FBI build a profile of Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), a terrifying killer who is murdering and skinning women. Lecter slowly agrees to share his observations and knowledge with Clarice, but only if she in return tells him deeply personal things about her childhood. Clarice must make a choice between saving Bill’s current victim, Catherine Martin (Brooke Smith)and letting Lecter inside her head. Clarice must also deal with the interference of the smarmy Dr. Chilton(Anthony Heald), the head of the secure prison/hospital where Lecter is imprisoned.

This is a suspenseful film that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. It plays with the audience because at times we find ourselves liking Lecter, in spite of what we know him to be and to be capable of doing. Clarice is also in many ways acting as our eyes throughout as we are thrown headfirst into a rabbit hole of horror, manipulation and fear.

I love the scene in the hospital/prison when Clarice first visits. There is a terrific point of view shot when she walks into the guards office leading to the cells of the most dangerous inmates. We are seeing this new environment for the first time as she sees it.

The film is directed by Jonathan Demme, and he does such a good job of bringing the horror and realism of the novel by Thomas Harris to life. The film sticks very closely to the book and I believe the book and film were the first to look inside the mind of a killer, instead of just portraying them as monsters, this story gives us reasons why some people do such horrendous and disturbing things.

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Harris wrote four novels featuring Lecter. The first of these was Red Dragon, which is the prequel to Silence of the Lambs and features the psychologically tortured Agent Will Graham forced to confront Lecter. I love Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs the most. Hannibal is a good story but I didn’t like what happened to Clarice at the end, I much prefer the ending scene in Ridley Scott’s film adaptation.

Back to the film. I loved Howard Shore’s atmospheric score. I love the performances of Hopkins, Foster, Smith and Levine. I love the realistic look to the film and how it shows us what Police and agents have to see and go through to find killers and investigate their horrendous crimes.

I wish the film had included more of Crawford though. In the book he is very much a key character, and has a subplot involving his terminally ill wife. Glenn is very good as the driven unit leader, who has seen so much of this horror that he has learnt to be more unaffected by what he sees in comparison to Starling. On the Blu-ray there are some good deleted scenes involving Crawford that I wish had been kept in.

I like how we also see what is going on with Catherine (the latest victim) and how despite her fear she tries to stay strong and tries to get control of her situation when she can.

My favourite scenes are the following. All the scenes between Lecter and Clarice, but especially the one where he gives her a towel. Crawford putting a protective and comforting arm around an injured Starling. Catherine trying to get control of her situation by capturing Bill’s dog. The FBI training montages featuring Starling. The finale in the basement. Lecter speaking with Senator Martin (Diane Baker)and telling her “love ya suit”. Clarice telling Lecter about the lambs.

Most unforgettable scenes? The cage breakout and the officers being killed in the process. The cleverly edited doorbell scenes, where we are not sure whether Crawford or Starling have found Bill’s house. Starling cocking her gun when she starts to realise a man she is talking to is more than likely Bill. The finale in the basement where Starling is trying to find her way around in the dark.

Quite a disturbing film in places, but one that is a must see. Strong performances, fascinating characters and a gripping and scary story.

I’d love to get your thoughts on the film and the characters. Any other fans of the novels? Please leave comments about the novels too.

 

Horror, Page To Screen

Jaws (1975)

This film has been a favourite since I first saw it in my early teens. I love the characters, the story and the locations. John Williams chilling score greatly adds to the film.

I love how the two parts of the film are so different from each other. The first half is pretty much a horror film, the characters are established and the unseen creature from the deep keeps the viewer terrified. The second is all about the growing bond between Quint, Brody and Hooper.

When I first saw this, I was surprised by just how much humour is to be found in the second half; Quint’s outrageous sea songs, Quint and Hooper’s banter and constantly trying to outdo one another, etc. A scene that always cracks me up is Brody’s reaction to Hooper, when he asks him to go right out to edge of the boat so he can get Brody in the foreground for scale as he snaps a picture of the shark; Brody refuses, looks at Hooper as if he is crazy and climbs down to side of the boat(to go back up to the bridge)only to be met with the sight of Quint coming towards him carrying a speargun, this forces the Chief to return to where he just came from.

The trio are so different from each other and watching them overcome their differences to find common ground is as fascinating for me to watch now, as it was when I first watched it years ago. All the characters(but particularly the main trio)are so well written and come across as real people that you can connect to.

Jaws was the film that really started Steven Spielberg on the road to film success. He had impressed with his debut film, Duel, but it was Jaws that made him a household name. The film is based on the novel by Peter Benchley. The film sticks pretty close to the book, but there are some differences to be found. I don’t find the characters as likeable in the book as I do on screen, also there is a subplot between Hooper and Mrs. Brody that I’m glad wasn’t included in the film.

Ironically, Benchley spent the rest of his life trying to undo the bad reputation his novel(and the film)had given Great White Sharks. Benchley became a marine conservationist and wrote books about sharks and the sea, helping people to understand these creatures and their habitat.

Shark attacks are horrific, but they are  extremely rare events. Yet, thanks to the novel and the film, people are sadly wary of the sea and of the creatures that live there.

The film is set in the American coastal town of Amity. The film opens with a young woman going for a moonlight swim in the ocean, what starts off as a beautiful scene(I love the moonlight shining on the water and how peaceful that moment looks)soon turns horrific. The woman is grabbed from beneath the waves by something unseen, she screams as she is pulled and dragged around, finally she is pulled beneath the waves.

The next day her remains are washed up on the beach and the police are alerted. Chief Martin Brody(Roy Scheider)discovers her death was due to a shark attack. He has to try and persuade the mayor(Murray Hamilton)to close the beaches to prevent any further attacks. Vaughn refuses and a young boy is killed very close to the beach in a truly disturbing scene.

As the shark attacks mount up(and become more disturbing and graphic each time)Brody and Vaughn hire experienced local fisherman Quint(Robert Shaw)to hunt and kill the shark. Brody and Quint set out aboard Quint’s ship, The Orca, to search for the shark. They are joined by young shark expert Matt Hooper(Richard Dreyfuss)who comes equipped with technology to help them find the shark. Quint and Hooper rub each other the wrong way right from their first meeting, this leads to many funny scenes as they argue and try and outdo one another.

The trio soon find the shark they seek(or rather the shark finds them)leading to a terrifying finale.

There are so many memorable moments in this film, here are some of my favourites. Quint’s Indianapolis story. The estuary attack. Quint scraping the chalkboard in the meeting to get some attention. Hooper and Quint’s tattoo stories(love the way Dreyfuss laughs in this scene, it cracks me up every time.)Hooper and Brody discovering Ben Gardner’s boat. Hooper’s argument with the mayor and his shocked reaction to what the mayor says. The scene with the two fisherman who almost get attacked by the shark and the “Your going to need a bigger boat” scene.

Scheider, Shaw and Dreyfuss are all at their best in this film. Scheider is the hero of the film, he is an everyman thrown into an unusual situation made worse for him by his fear of the sea. As the film goes on we see him conquer that fear. Brody is my favourite character in this and I love the way Scheider plays him. He is a quiet hero and Scheider does such a good job of portraying him working hard to overcome his fear to be of help in the second half of the film.

Shaw steals every scene he’s in as the hot tempered Quint. He provides many of the films biggest laughs, but he also gets to deliver the most moving and powerful scene in the film, the famous Indianapolis speech. Shaw’s performance in that scene should be used in an acting master class, the way he delivers those lines, the look on his face and in his eyes is what makes that moment so powerful to the viewer.

I also like how it is the laughing Hooper who first gets his laughter under control and realises the significance of the story Quint is about to tell, and after this you can see he has a newfound respect for Quint. It’s also interesting to note that the second half of the film almost plays out like a version of Moby Dick, with Quint in the role of  Captain Ahab.

Dreyfuss is essentially the comic relief role in this film, his laugh always cracks me up because it’s so infectious. There is more to Matt Hooper  than comedy though, he is also a dedicated shark expert, he loves these creatures and is fascinated by them, but he knows what they are capable of and doesn’t underestimate them. He and Quint both know what sharks can do and both know much about them and their habitat.

The film has three sequels. Jaws 2 is ok. It has its moments and some of the original cast return. Avoid 3 and 4, they are in the so bad they are laughable category(joining Exorcist 2 and The Swarm, on the “what were they thinking when they made this?” shelf). 3 has some special effects that look they were lifted straight from an 80’s computer game. 4 features sharks that can roar, target specific humans and do so for revenge(I’m not making this up.)

Going back to the original film. I’m curious to know if this is just me, or if anyone else has ever noticed this? The opening scene to me has many similarities to Creature From The Black Lagoon(1954). Particularly the shot filmed from under the water as the women in both films swim across the surface. Could this film have had an influence on Spielberg and that shot was put in as a homage?

 

I’d love to get your thoughts on this film. Never seen it? Get the DVD right now and watch it.