Blogathons, Comedy, Romance

The Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon : Adam’s Rib (1949)

Hepburn and Tracy

Crystal, over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood is hosting this blogathon all about Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Be sure to visit her site to read all the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

What do I think when I hear the names Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn? Well, I’d say that the first word which comes to mind for me is magical. Why magical? Well, it is because I think they are film magic together; this couple were the sort of film partnership that was only dreamt of in the industry, such screen teams really didn’t come along very often, and when one did arrive it was unforgettable and often unmatchable. What you see on screen between Tracy and Hepburn was the real deal, be it sexual tension, affection, or passion. 

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn truly were one of the greatest couples in film history. They had genuine chemistry, perfect timing, and they fitted perfectly together on screen as a couple. They make you feel the sexual tension and affection that their various characters feel for one another. This pair gave us some of the most romantic and sexy scenes in film history.

Both Spencer and Katharine were very successful film actors in the years leading up to their first screen pairing, in Woman Of The Year. Once that film came out, the names of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn would be forever after linked in the minds of film audiences. The couple made nine films together. Many of these are considered high points in the romance and comedy genres. 

The pair were in love in real life, and their off screen romance undoubtedly accounts for the warmth and intimacy that is so evident between them on screen. Unfortunately Spencer was married and he was also a Catholic, so despite his own unhappy marriage, there was just no way he was getting divorced. A shame really, he and Katharine were so meant to be together. Katharine helped him with his alcoholism and she also nursed him during his final years. They were the couple who should have been man and wife. Sadly they did not get a happy ending in real life.

Their characters in the films they made together faired much better when it came to a happy ever after. I’m writing about my favourite film that the pair made together. That film is Adam’s Rib (1949).

Why this one over the others? Well for starters it is a very, very funny film indeed. There’s lots of physical (especially during some of the courtroom sequences)and verbal comedy to get you laughing. The comedy is only half of the reason I love it so much though. I really love it so much for the films portrayal of marital happiness and for the affection between Spencer and Katharine’s characters.

Their characters in this are a couple who are soulmates, best friends and lovers. The way they look at each other in this one just totally melts my heart. In many scenes they are so intimate with one another, that it’s like someone left the cameras rolling after a take, and that we are actually watching Spencer and Katharine in a genuine private moment together.

The affectionate scenes between them both in this are my favourite moments out of all the films they made together. There is such warmth and obvious love between Spencer and Katharine in this one. It is beautiful to watch and really helps get across how their characters feel about one another.

I especially love them in the scene where they are cuddling up on the sofa after work one evening. Spencer’s character sees that Katharine’s is subdued and gently asks her if she is alright, and says he wouldn’t ever want to think of her not being alright. I think that might just well be my all time favourite Kate and Spence moment on screen (oh alright then, so maybe it’s a tie with their very sexy first meeting in Woman Of The Year.)  🙂

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Adam’s Rib was written by husband and wife screenwriting team Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon. Their inspiration for this story of married lawyers were William and   Dorothy Whitney. The Whitney’s were a married couple who were both lawyers, they ended up getting divorced and marrying the clients they were each representing in a high profile case. The screenwriting couple saw great potential in two characters who were married lawyers and who had to appear on opposite sides of the court in the same case. Thus Adam and Amanda Bonner were created.

Adam (Spencer Tracy)and Amanda (Katharine Hepburn)are two well respected and much sought after lawyers. They both love their job, and will both give a case their all. The pair also happen to be married to one another. In court they verbally spar, but then they come home to one another and leave all that outside. These two are such a devoted couple and adore each other.

Across town, Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) follows her husband Warren. Doris is convinced that her husband is having an affair. She catches him with another woman (Jean Hagen) and fires a gun at them, the woman isn’t hurt, but Warren is injured.

The Bonner’s read about the case, and each of them has a different opinion on the case and about the people involved. They find it difficult to leave the case alone when Amanda is hired to defend Doris and Adam finds out he is prosecuting the case. Cue arguments, verbal sparring, flirtation, and an extremely spectacular battle of the sexes in the courtroom. Can the pair stop this case from impacting on their personal life?

The talented (and quite often overlooked in comparison to other actresses of the time)Jean Hagen and Judy Holliday both steal all the scenes they are in as the two very different women in Mr. Attinger’s life.

David Wayne is both amusing and annoying as Kip, he is a song writer who fancies Amanda and flirts with her to wind Adam up (he succeeds!). I want to slap Kip so many times, he is just so nosy and annoying.

As for Spencer and Katharine they are both terrific here, and they also look like they are having a great deal of fun in this one.

My favourite scenes are the following. Adam and Amanda talking to each other under the table in court. All the scenes where they debate in court. Amanda putting her head on Adam’s knee when she sees he looks angry and uncomfortable during the scene where they watch home movies. The liquorice gun scene. The massage and slap scene. Adam asking Amanda if she is alright, and saying that he would never want to think of her not being alright. The female weightlifter lifting Adam above her head. The footage from the home movies.

This is a funny and romantic film featuring memorable performances from the entire cast. There’s also plenty of witty dialogue to be enjoyed, and of course there is that undeniable Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn screen magic to enjoy.

The Bonner’s await you in court. Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

As a bonus here are the five films in which I think Katharine and Spencer each give their best performances.

 

Katharine Hepburn

1- Long Day’s Journey Into Night

2- Woman Of The Year

3- Summertime

4 – The Philadelphia Story

5- The Lion In Winter

 

Spencer Tracy

1- Bad Day At Black Rock

2- Adam’s Rib

3- Boys Town

4- Woman Of The Year

5- Inherit The Wind

 

          Here are my five all time favourite Tracy and Hepburn films.

     Spencer Tracy

        1- Woman Of The Year

2- San Francisco

3- Boys Town

4- Adam’s Rib

             5- Men Of Boys Town

 

        Katharine Hepburn

1- Summertime

2- Holiday

3- The Lion in Winter

4- Woman Of The Year

5- Adam’s Rib

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Horror, Unsung Classics

The Fog (1980)

Continuing on with the Halloween films theme, I’m now going to take a look at one of my all time favourite horror films. That film is The Fog. This is one that I will stick in the DVD player when I’m in the mood for something really eerie.

This is a film that is shockingly, and very strangely, underrated in comparison with so many of the other films from horror legend John Carpenter. As far as I’m concerned this film should be up there with his classic films like Halloween and The Thing.

It seems very strange to me that this ghostly tale of revenge and horror hardly ever seems to be mentioned now. It is a very good film and more than that, it is also a very good horror film too. I consider this to be one of John Carpenter’s best screen efforts.

The Fog is so atmospheric, it’s scary and it’s very eerie. The scenes featuring the glowing fog are seriously creepy and are quite an unforgettable sight. John’s own score for the film is one of his very best, I think it adds so much to the film and is the perfect accompaniment. This is a film that sends shivers down your spine. It is also reminiscent of those ghost stories which are best read by a blazing fire on a dark night.

Photo0144The year is 1980. The film opens on a beach, with the great John Houseman playing an old sailor. The sailor is telling the spooky story of the crew of the ship, The Elizabeth Dane to a group of children, as they all sit around a blazing fire. Houseman conveys such terror, and paints such images in your mind with his words alone. This sequence really sets the tone for the horror to come.

The residents of the beautiful seaside town of Antonio Bay, California, are looking forward to a celebration event being held to mark their towns 100th anniversary. The local Priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers a diary written by his grandfather, through which he learns the terrible truth of how their town was actually founded.

In 1880, six men who would go on to found the town killed Blake, a wealthy man with leprosy, and his crew, and then robbed his ship The Elizabeth Dane of its gold. This gold was then used to fund the building of Antonio Bay.  

Blake and his murdered crew have returned from the dead in order to hunt down six residents whose lives they can take in revenge for their own murders. This group come ashore after midnight, shrouded in a mysterious, eerie glowing fog. Strange events start happening, three sailors are killed out at sea, and then other deaths start occurring. Nick Castle (Tom Atkins)and his girlfriend Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis)start to investigate and try and get to the bottom of the strange events. Who will survive? Can the undead be stopped?

This film manages to be the perfect combination of ghost story and slasher flick. The murder scenes are not overly graphic, but they come across as quite disturbing. The supernatural element makes your skin crawl, adding some real shivers to this horror tale.

I have to mention a few things I’ve picked up on . Has anyone else ever noticed these things? Twelve and six are key numbers in the story; the horror starts at midnight, there are twelve key characters in the film: Stevie, Andy, Father Malone, Nick, Elizabeth, Kathy, Sandy, Dan, Mrs. Kobritz and the three fisherman. Elizabeth tells Nick that he makes her twelfth time being picked up while hitchhiking. Stevie starts broadcasting at the radio at 6pm, there are six victims claimed by Blake.  

I also noticed that Elizabeth(Jamie Lee Curtis)has the same first name as Blake’s ship. Also, at around the 53 minute mark in the film, there is a man in glasses wearing a blue coat, this guy looks like Steven Spielberg. Does anyone know if it actually was Spielberg?

I also have a theory that is a possibility that the film is all a nightmare experienced by Andy (Ty Mitchell)after he hears the story on the beach. I’ve started to think that because the film opens with that scene, and just before that there is this quote from Edgar Allen Poe: “All that we see or seem is but a dream. A dream within a dream.” There must be a reason this was included. Could it be that this is supposed to be a nightmare after all? The film also has many moments where something suddenly happens, or changes suddenly to something scary just as nightmares have a tendency to do.

Adrienne Barbeau is excellent as Stevie, the sultry voiced DJ who gets caught up in the strange events. Stevie is a strong and resourceful woman, and Adrienne makes her one of the most memorable characters from the film.

My favourite scenes are the following. The windows mysteriously breaking on Nick’s car as he is driving. Stevie making her way down the steep steps to get to the radio station (located within a former lighthouse on top of a cliff). Blake and his men killing the fisherman. The finale in the church. Nick and Elizabeth finding the missing fishing boat. The children listening to the ghost story on the beach. Andy being rescued from the house.

The film was made on location out in Point Reyes, California. The beautiful location provides a stunning backdrop for many events in the film.

Spooky and a lot of fun, The Fog really is a film that makes for perfect viewing at this time of the year. Any other fans of this one?

 

Classic TV, Horror

Maddy’s 5 Scariest Twilight Zone Episodes

Continuing on with my Halloween theme, here are five episodes of this classic TV series that I consider to be very scary indeed. If you’ve seen the series you will know that it was a blend of Science Fiction and Horror, and was very famous for its twist and shock endings. I love the Science Fiction episodes, but I really love the creepy episodes the best.

I also think that these five episodes would have each made a good horror film.

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1- The Grave (Season 3, episode 7 )

This episode is set in a rundown town in the old west. This is a superb, creepy ghost story and it looks at how our superstitions can lead us to fear. Pinto Sykes is a notorious killer. When Pinto is shot dead by gunman Conny Miller (Lee Marvin), he puts a curse on Conny and says that if he ever sets foot on his grave, then he will die there. Conny at first pays no heed to these words.

When a group of Conny’s friends (including Lee Van Cleef) dare him for a bet to go there, things turn seriously creepy and weird. Great acting throughout, a really creepy story, and a terrifically spooky ending all combine to make this one scary episode indeed. I love the atmosphere created with most of the story taking place at night, and in a stormy,windswept location. I think it’s also one of the best episodes of the entire series. Lee Marvin is terrific. Special mention must go to the excellent Elen Willard as Pinto’s seriously otherworldly sister, Ione.

 

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2- The Hitch-Hiker (Season 1, episode 16)

This is one of the best remembered of the series many episodes. This is also the first episode that I ever saw, and it is one that made a lasting impression on me due to its creepy story. It is this episode which also made me a fan of the series.

Nan (Inger Stevens)is driving and keeps seeing a mysterious hitchhiker at various stages of her journey. She begins to get more and more frightened as he keeps appearing. A revelation later in the episode will scare her even more. The way this one is shot means we become as scared as she is, as we take this unsettling journey with her. Creepy stuff indeed.

 

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3- The Howling Man (Season 2, episode 5)

This episode looks at the cost of the human instinct of going and doing the exact opposite of what we are told or advised to do. David Ellington (H.M. Wynant) is on a hiking tour, he gets lost and arrives at a monastery, seeking shelter in the middle of a stormy night. The monks there agree to give him shelter. He is warned by Brother Jerome (David Carradine) to have no contact with the man in a locked room who howls and yells. Curiosity gets the better of Ellington however, and disregarding the warnings he has received he speaks to the stranger, and then he lets him out of the cell…

When you learn the identity of the howling man the episode become seriously scary. When you also come to understand the cost of Ellington’s actions the episode becomes very powerful. You also respect the monks who made it their mission to keep that man locked away. The episode is all about the dangers of curiosity and not heeding warnings. Very spooky indeed, and it has a creepy atmosphere and setting.

 

4- Deaths-head Revisited (Season 3, episode 9)

The Holocaust is a seriously disturbing subject as it is. Realising that the monsters who brought about this event were not monsters at all, but were actually only just men and women makes it even more disturbing. This episode looks at both of these things and is one of the most disturbing dramas I’ve ever seen.

Former SS officer, Captain Lutz (Oscar Beregi) returns to Dachau Concentration Camp, which he was once in charge of. At first he seems overjoyed to be revisiting this site from his past, and he seems proud to remember the horror he oversaw there. Then all that changes. Why the change? He sees the ghost of former inmate, Alfred Becker(Joseph Schildkraut), a man who Lutz knows for certain died in the camp. Lutz is soon put on trial by all the former inmates of the camp for his crimes against humanity.

There are many disturbing images in this episode, and Lutz’s attitude towards his crimes is truly sickening to watch. The justice he gets from those he killed and tortured fits his crimes, but it is also disturbing. After all, what could be more disturbing to realise that someone you thought was a monster was actually human after all? Lutz learns there is no greater horror than ones own conscience making you see and feel the truth of what you have done.

 

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5- The Thirty-Fathom Grave (Season 4, episode 2)

The crew of a navy ship become seriously freaked out when they hear tapping coming  from inside the hull of a sunken submarine. Eerie apparitions are seen by some crew members and hysteria soon abounds aboard ship. This episode has a realistic look about it thanks to using real ships and not being studio bound. Simon Oakland is superb in this as the captain of the navy ship.

This is one of the best episodes from the much maligned season 4. Many fans complain about this season for its longer episodes, which saw the 30 minute format they grew used to changed to an hour instead. This season has many fine episodes including: Miniature, Printer’s Devil, On Thursday We Leave For Home, The Parallel and The New Exhibit.  

I’m in the minority of fans who like this season and think season 5 is actually the weakest. I think 5 is weak because many episodes feel like they are similar to earlier episodes, and there are sadly many rubbish episodes and only a handful of good ones.

Here are some honorable mentions to other episodes in the series which are also scary: Twenty Two (surely the inspiration for the Final Destination films?),Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, The Dummy, It’s A Good Life, Night Call and Living Doll.

What are your views on the five episodes I’ve discussed? Which episodes from this series do you find the scariest?

 

Films I Love, Horror

Maddy’s Five Favourite Horror Films

The following films are my five all time favourite Horror films. They will always get watched at Halloween, and these films always manage to scare and impress me each time I watch. I’d love to know your own favourite scary films to watch at this time of year.

 

Photo0078   1- The Innocents (1961)

The creepy story and spooky atmosphere seen here just can’t be bettered in my opinion. A superb adaptation of the classic story The Turn Of The Screw. There is an ambiguity throughout the film as to whether we are witnessing real possession and real ghosts, or whether the horror that occurs is all due to the breakdown of the main character (Deborah Kerr). 

Each of those scenarios is scary, and each works perfectly for the film, with evidence for each to be found within the film. Superb performances from all in the cast, especially Deborah Kerr as the tormented governess. Perfect viewing for a dark night, or for a stormy afternoon. This is my go to ghost film every single time. You can read my review of the film here.

 

 

 

Photo0144   2- The Fog (1980)

One of the creepiest horror films of all time for me. This is a much unfairly underappreciated gem from John Carpenter. It features one of the best, and one of the spookiest openings to any film; with the great John Houseman chilling you to the bone with his words alone.  The fog effects are eerie, the cast are all great, there is some stunning location work, and the film has one of Carpenter’s best scores. An American coastal town is terrorised by a group of dead sailors out for revenge. The dead sailors come ashore shrouded in a mysterious fog. Can they be stopped?

 

 

 

Photo0123   3- The Others (2001)

A ghost film that’s up there with The Innocents for me in terms of spooky atmosphere and scares. This film is both scary and moving. The ending to this acts as a punch to the stomach; the aftermath of the reveal at the end always makes me tear up a bit each time I watch. Nicole Kidman delivers one of her best ever performances as a terrified and grieving mother.  A family slowly begin to realise that they are being haunted. When three mysterious strangers show up at the house, the terror and mystery in the house increase.

 

 

Photo0169   4- Quatermass And The Pit (1967)

A Hammer production which perfectly blends Science Fiction and Horror into one terrifying film. This is the best remembered of the Quatermass films/stories, and is certainly the scariest. This was my first introduction to the character of Quatermass and he and this film have been favourites ever since. Up to a certain point in the film there is the possibility that all the strange events are due to the forces of evil.

When the real cause of the frightening events are revealed, it is still equally scary, and it also shows that what is not understood is often feared and put down to the supernatural. Barbara Shelley delivers one of her best performances as a young woman who becomes very affected by a centuries old, mysterious object found buried down in a London Underground station.

 

 

Photo0145   5- Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)

I love the 1956 original very much, and I consider that a creepy film and a highpoint in 1950’s horror. I consider this remake to be that rare thing in that it surpasses the original. This tale of alien invasion is utterly terrifying. What could be more scary than being taken over by someone else? Seeing those you love killed? Imagine not knowing who to trust, not being able to control your own emotions to save yourself. This film tackles all those fears and is truly scary and disturbing. The pod people’s scream is also one of the most chilling and strange things I’ve ever heard, it chills me to the bone each time I hear it.

Aliens are taking over the people of earth. Humans are being killed and their bodies are replicated, but all the pod people lack emotion and they are intent on finding any real humans left alive. Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright and Jeff Goldblum are all superb, as the small group of friends who are forced to run for their lives from the alien invasion.

 

What are your thoughts on these five horror films? Please share your own favourites below.

 

 

British Cinema, Horror

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

October has now arrived. The nights are getting darker earlier, autumn leaves are falling all around us, and for those film fans amongst us there will be many hours of viewing taken up with watching horror films. I’m hoping to be able (work permitting)to review a few of my favourite spooky films for you.

I’m starting off with a British horror film which offered the horror icon Christopher Lee a rare chance to play the hero on screen. That film is The Devil Rides Out. The film is based upon the novel of the same name by Dennis Wheatley.

Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, I think that it simply can’t be denied that the Devil and Satanism are two things guaranteed to chill the blood of any sane person. This film taps into the fear, the horror, and the revulsion that both of these things make you feel.

I consider The Devil Rides Out to be one of the best horror films to ever come out of Hammer Studios. Unlike many of their other films, this one doesn’t rely on blood and shocks to be scary. This film is more intent on slowly building up tension and in making you feel uneasy. This film is one to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end and it is a horror that I find really messes with your head.

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I love the film for how creepy it is. There are many creepy moments throughout the film with the protective circle sequence being a standout. The sequence where the cult call up the Devil himself is very frightening and unnerving to watch.

I also really love the film for Christopher Lee’s superb performance as the badass Duc de Richleau; this character really screams out for a sequel or film series like a certain Professor Quatermass received. Lee totally makes you believe this man knows all about good and evil, and that he is also able to understand, challenge, fight and hopefully defeat evil. I for one would have loved to have seen the Duc and his friends fight the forces of evil again in future films. The role of the Duc was also one of Christopher Lee’s personal favourites from amongst his own work.

Lee is an intense presence throughout the film and he makes you (and his companions in the film)feel safe and secure when the Duc is around. The Duc is a real badass throughout the film; whether he is standing up to evil and fighting it with the powers of good, or whether he is punching bad guys whenever they get in his way. The Duc sure  knows how to handle himself and he will do whatever it takes to protect his friends and family.

The suave Duc de Richleau (Christopher Lee) is very concerned about his friend, Simon Aron (Patrick Mower). Simon has fallen in with a bad crowd and he has been persuaded by the sinister Mocata (Charles Gray) to join a Satanic cult.  With the help of his other friend, Rex (Leon Greene) the Duc races against time to save Simon. Soon this trio are being pursued by the forces of darkness. They must also fight to save the soul of the fragile Tanith (Nike Arrighi), a young woman who is also about to lose her soul to the Devil thanks to Mocata’s influence.

The cast are all solid, with Christopher Lee delivering the standout performance. Lee, Patrick Mowe and Leon Greene all make you believe and feel the bond of friendship between their trio (they fought in WW1 together and have been friends ever since. The Duc has been a father figure to Simon ever since their time fighting in the war.)

Greene does a good job of conveying his characters growing belief and acceptance of the otherworldly forces he keeps encountering. Mowe does a good job of making Simon likeable and showing his struggle against the evil he is being forced into being a part of.

Charles Gray is downright scary as the main villain of the film. Gray plays a Devil worshipper and Satanic cult leader who can bend people to his will. This man is not someone to let your guard down around. 

Nike Arrighi is an actress who I was unfamiliar with before seeing her performance here. I think she does a fantastic job of portraying the fragile and easily manipulated Tanith. This character is very vulnerable and she makes you feel protective towards her.

Paul Eddington and Sarah Lawson provide solid support as the Duc’s niece and her husband respectively. They are two ordinary people who get caught up in utter horror. My only issue with the casting of Lawson is that she looks a bit old to be playing Lee’s niece.

My favourite scenes are the following. The Duc and Rex discovering the truth about the telescope room.  The Duc hypnotising Simon to wean him off the influence of Mocata. Rex chasing Tannith, only to have his windscreen become mysteriously obscured. The protective circle sequence.

A creepy film filled with many memorable moments (who can forget the Angel of Death? Or seeing the Devil called up in the woods?)

This is perfect Halloween viewing. Just don’t watch it alone! Any other fans of this film? If you’ve ever read the novel (which I have yet to do)how does  it compare with the film? I highly recommend this film if you’ve never seen it.

 

 

 

 

 

Blogathons, Coming Of Age, Page To Screen, Romance

The June Allyson Blogathon: Little Women (1949)

june-banner-1Simoa, over at Champagne For Lunch is hosting this blogathon about June Allyson. This year is the centenary of June’s birth, and I think it’s lovely to be marking this event with this blogathon. Be sure to visit Simoa’s site to read all the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.

June Allyson was a very radiant actress. She had one of the brightest smiles of anyone I’ve ever seen. June was also a very bright and bubbly person. She had a very distinctive voice and she is an actress who always makes me check out films if I see that she is in them. Although I don’t consider myself to be a major fan of June’s, I do like her very much and I greatly admire her acting talent.

My favourite of her film performances is as Jo March, in the 1949 film adaptation of the novel Little Women. This version and the one from 1994 are my favourite screen versions of this lovely coming of age story. These two versions capture the warmth and intimacy of the novel for me. I don’t like the 1933 film version, as I think the actors in it(especially Katharine Hepburn)overact their roles something fierce and this spoils watching that one (for me anyway). 

In the 1949 film, June brings the character of the tomboyish Jo to life so well. June completely becomes this frustrated, warmhearted, outgoing, adventurous and passionate young woman. She also captures Jo’s passion for writing and the joy that it brings her.

As the film goes on, Jo matures and grows into quite the young lady, and June really captures that change so well (watch her body language, emotions and mannerisms.) Compare how she acts in the first half of the film to how she is in the second half of the film.

June shows us that as Jo gets older she finally becomes more comfortable with being a woman and acting as her sisters do (properly, as was expected for the time period). Jo also finally accepts that it is okay to actually want to fall in love and be a wife, and she doesn’t mind that change entering in to her own life as much as she did when she was younger.

Jo is still very much herself in the second half of the film, but she doesn’t seek to shock or raise eyebrows with her behaviour as before. Jo still speaks her mind, but she becomes more tactful and respectful of tradition/custom when doing so. June conveys all of this to us through emotion, body language and expressions alone. It truly is a remarkable performance and is one that I never get tired of watching. I firmly believe that she gives one of her best performances as Jo March.

The 1949 film was directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The film features strong performances from all the younger members of the main cast: June, Janet Leigh, Margaret O’Brien, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Lawford and Richard Stapley.

Rossano Brazzi, Mary Astor, Lucile Watson and C. Aubrey Smith all provide solid support as the various adults in the sisters lives.

The story follows the lives of four sisters, from their childhood to their adult years. The film is set in New England. The March family consists of four sisters; there’s the practical and beautiful Meg (Janet Leigh), the tomboyish and big hearted writer, Jo(June Allyson), the shy and gentle Beth (Margaret O’Brien) and the vain and funny Amy (Elizabeth Taylor).

The girls live with their mother (Mary Astor) and their loyal housekeeper Hannah (Elizabeth Patterson)while their father (Leon Aymes)is away fighting in the Civil War. Their only other relative is the wealthy and crotchety Aunt March (Lucile Watson).

The sisters are befriended by the lonely Laurie (Peter Lawford)their young neighbour who hates the restrictive life he leads with his grandfather (C. Aubrey Smith). Laurie becomes a great friend and source of comfort to the March family. As they grow up, Laurie falls in love with Jo, but she doesn’t return his feelings. Jo is against change, she hates it with every fibre of her being and she just cannot see why things can’t stay as they are. Meg finds love with Laurie’s tutor, John Brooke (Richard Stapley) and the two get married. I love watching their relationship develop, they also go on to have a very loving marriage where they are equals (which was rare I think for the time period).

Jo’s refusal of Laurie’s proposal later in the film breaks his heart. Jo goes to work as a governess in New York. While she is there she finds herself falling in love, but with someone totally unexpected, the much older Professor Bhaer (Rossano Brazzi). When Jo and the Professor fall in love, Jo realises that this change in her life is not as unpleasant as she thought it once would be.

A personal tragedy leads Jo to write a novel about her life with her sisters. It is published to great acclaim and Jo’s hard work as an author finally pays off.

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While Jo is undoubtedly the star role here, I think that the actresses playing the other March sisters all get their chance to shine throughout the film. To me Leigh, Allyson, Taylor and O’Brien all feel like an ensemble, and I don’t think that they ever outshine one another too much.

Janet Leigh is terrific as the eldest sister, Meg. She makes you see that Meg would love to be pampered just once in her life. She has had to grow up before her time though in order to help her mother around the house.

Elizabeth Taylor is absolutely hysterical as Amy, the self centred, food lover of the family. Amy may be self centred but she loves her family deeply. She would do anything for her family and friends. Taylor steals every scene she is in.

Margaret O’Brien (one of the best and most natural of the classic era child stars)is heartbreaking as the fragile Beth. She is the sister beloved by all who meet her. She may be young, but she is very wise too.

Peter Lawford is very good as Laurie. He shows us how Laurie comes to life through his friendship with the March family and becomes as outgoing as they are. Lawford is heartbreaking in the scene where be admits his feelings for Jo, only to have his hopes dashed.

Rossano Brazzi (swoon!)  🙂  is utterly loveable as the patient, gentle and kind Professor. Watching him slowly falling for Jo is so sweet. Brazzi lets us see how much this man cares for Jo and how he also respects her as a woman and as a writer.

Mary Astor is almost saintly as the loving mother of the sisters. Astor plays her as the mother everyone deserves to have. She is kind, honest and wants her girls to be true to  themselves above all else.

The great character actor C. Aubrey Smith steals every scene he is in, as Laurie’s gruff, old fashioned and stern grandfather. Mr. Lawrence is actually quite a softie underneath that hard exterior. The scene where Beth thanks him for giving her the piano moves me to tears every time I watch this. Smith died shortly after filming his role in this and this was to be his final film.

I love the set design in this film especially for the interiors of the March home; that house really has the look of a lived in space, filled with personal items and it has a very warm and cosy look about it. The costumes are also beautiful, especially the ladies gowns. I especially love the yellow dress Amy wears when she visits Jo in New York. The films music by Adolph Deutsch is the prefect accompaniment to the story we are watching.  

A lovely coming of age story, filled with strong and memorable performances. June is the films heart, and her performance in this is unforgettable.

My favourite scenes are the following. The girls buying Christmas gifts for themselves and then taking them back to exchange for gifts for their mum. The Professor singing in German and explaining the meaning of the words to Jo. Amy comforting Beth after they hear some horrible gossip about their family. Mr. March returning from the war and hugging each of his family. Laurie’s proposal to Jo. Mr. Brooke proposing to Meg. Beth thanking Mr. Laurence for his gift to her of a piano. Jo and Laurie dancing. Jo revealing she has cut her hair short and sold it. Amy letting Beth have her last cake. Meg telling Jo off for her improper behaviour in public. Amy and Aunt March visiting Jo in New York.

This is a beautiful film about family, love and about being true to yourself. This is a comfort film/story for me and it is one I return to again and again. In terms of personality I see myself as a mix of Jo and Beth, and I can certainly relate to some of the choices these two sisters make and to their respective personalities.

I’d love to get your thoughts on this film. What do you think of June’s performance as Jo? Please leave your comments below.

 

British Cinema, Drama

The Chalk Garden (1964)

This is a film that I never get tired of seeing, it is filled with excellent performances from everyone in the cast, and features some very memorable characters. This film is all about human emotions,  damaged people and the secrets we harbour. This is one to check out if you enjoy watching fine acting.

It was a few years ago when I first saw this film, I was completely blown away at the time by the performance of Hayley Mills. She still impresses me each time I watch this one.

Hayley at this point in her career had been acting for several years, and she had always been very natural on screen. I think she truly outdid herself in this film though. Hayley perfectly captured just how emotionally messed up and defensive her character, Laurel is. Hayley steals every scene she is in, often with just a look or by her body language in scenes. Laurel explodes with long contained pain and anger several times during the film, and Hayley makes you feel every tear shed, every scream and every angry word.

Hayley lets us see that deep down though Laurel is just a little girl desperate to be loved. Laurel puts up a defensive front to protect herself. I’m also fascinated by the behaviour of her character, and how this girl finds weakness in others and hurts others so that she can feel like she is in control of some aspect of her life.

Photo0167The Chalk Garden tells the story of Laurel (Hayley Mills), who is a deeply troubled teenager. Laurel has scared away a succession of governesses, after she drove them to their wits end. Laurel does things to shock and scare people, she also makes up stories (sometimes half truths)and has a nasty habit of prying into the lives of those around her.

The latest governess to take charge of Laurel is Miss Madrigal (Deborah Kerr) she is an enigmatic, no nonsense woman, and she sees straight through Laurel’s troubled exterior to the damaged girl beneath. Laurel’s father is dead, and she is estranged from her mother (Elizabeth Sellars)who she blames for her fathers death. Laurel lives with her elderly grandmother (Edith Evans) and the loyal and compassionate family butler, Maitland (John Mills).

Maitland cares for Laurel and her grandmother very much, and he can also see straight through Laurel’s actions and behaviour to the fragile girl inside. Laurel’s bad behaviour and needling don’t affect Maitland anymore as he has grown used to her. He offers Miss Madrigal support and guidance in how to deal with Laurel.

Miss Madrigal also takes charge of the garden of the home (the chalk garden of the title)to see if she can bring it to life (much the same as she must do with Laurel).

Laurel begins to suspect Miss Madrigal is not all she seems. Soon a damaging revelation will emerge which makes Laurel see the consequences of her own actions and behaviour.

I love watching the slowly developing bond and trust grow between Hayley and Deborah’s characters, the growth and change in their relationship is beautifully portrayed by both actresses. At first Laurel is openly hostile towards her, then she begins to like her, then she becomes fascinated by her. Madrigal knows the only way to reach Laurel is to be honest with her, and she knows better than to try and forcibly change the girl.

I also love the growing bond between Maitland and Madrigal. It is inferred that he admires and likes her, and that he is possibly falling in love with her. Madrigal certainly likes him but it’s not clear if she would ever open her heart to him. I love all the scenes between John and Deborah and I think they worked very well together.

My favourite pairing in the film is Laurel and Maitland. Hayley and her father John Mills made several films together in which they co-starred alongside one another, this is my favourite of their screen pairings. I love the bickering between Maitland and Laurel. I also like how Maitland knows Laurel’s secret. What is her secret? She is just a lonely and sad little girl, she acts older than her years, and she acts mean and tough, but she is really anything but. Maitland knows this fact long before others do and he sticks with the girl and supports her as he can.

I love the scene where Maitland catches Laurel talking to her doll. She is so disgusted that he sees her in a (in her view)vulnerable and weak moment; Maitland knows all too well that she thinks that, you can tell by the way he looks at her throughout this scene. It is a touching moment when you see Laurel (for the first time)as just a lonely child.

While it is Hayley who steals all the scenes, the adults in the cast are equally brilliant too.

Deborah gives one of her best performances here, as a woman harbouring great pain and troubles of her own. Deborah’s performance is all in the eyes and in what is not said aloud, as much as in what is said. She makes Madrigal strong and really piques your interest about this woman and her secrets.

Edith Evans is very good as the strong woman who is at odds with her own daughter  and granddaughter. In Madrigal she finds someone who challenges her and tells her a few home truths.

John Mills is marvellous as the quiet and wise Maitland. No fool and no pushover, this guy doesn’t take Laurel’s mean temper lightly, but he lets her get at him because he knows she needs to vent and take things out on someone. He puts up with what she does to him, but he won’t stand idly by and see her do the same to Madrigal.

Elizabeth Sellars doesn’t have much to do as Laurel’s elegant, absentee mother, but she lets you feel her characters frustration and anger with her own mother in a key scene.

The great Felix Aylmer appears briefly as a man who knows the truth about Madrigal. Aylmer was one of the great British character actors and it really is a treat to see him here.

My favourite scenes are the following. The doll scene. Laurel and Madrigal painting up on the cliffs. Maitland and Madrigal’s talk in the Library. Laurel breaking down on the beach. All the scenes between Maitland and  Laurel. Madrigal and Laurel playing tennis and playing the question and answer game. Laurel stuck in the tree. Maitland buying Madrigal a bolt for the door. The revelation about Madrigal.

I consider this to be one of the best British films, and it’s certainly a real gem in the careers of  all of the cast members. Any other fans of this one? I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it.

 

Book Chat

Maddy’s Favourite Books About Classic Era Film Stars: Part 1

Not sure if any of you out there have read any of these books or not. If not I highly recommend them.

These are books that I have grown to love a great deal. I love knowing more about classic stars and their lives. These books certainly let you in to these peoples lives and give you a more rounded view of them.

 

Photo0164 Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing by Lee Server

I love this one because this book lets you see the real woman behind the sex symbol. Ava is an actress who I really like because she didn’t hide herself. Ava was honest, down to earth, fun, passionate and generous; what you saw with Ava was what you got. She was kind to people, and would happily hang out with crew and public; instead of just solely associating with her fellow actors. Ava was a free spirt who would be who she wanted to be, not who others thought she should be. I admire that about her.

This is a fascinating read. Server has clearly done some thorough research to make for a very detailed and interesting read indeed. These pages bring Ava to life. This is one that it is difficult to put down once you start reading. There are some lovely photos of Ava too.

 

Photo0166Bring On The Empty Horses by David Niven

This one is a sheer delight from start to finish. David Niven (always loveable on and off screen)had a real gift for telling witty stories. In this collection of stories we hear about life in Hollywood during the 30’s and later.

David Niven shares stories of his life with fellow acting friends, and actors who he knew socially. We learn a  great deal about the classic stars, and we certainly have a lot of fun whilst doing so. Reading the pages it’s like David is talking directly to you sharing his memories and opinions of his time in Hollywood. A must read. I never get tired of rereading this one.

 

Photo0165The Movie Greats by Barry Norman

The late British film critic, Barry Norman, writes passionately here about various classic stars including Marilyn Monroe, Peter Finch and Edward G. Robinson. He gives us an insight into the private lives and issues of these people. After reading this I feel like I know the people he is writing about. Another must read for classic era film fans. Again, this is another book that you can tell was well researched beforehand. A pleasure to read.

I have many more favourites which I’ll share with you soon. Have you read any of these? What do you think of them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

The Duo Double Feature Blogathon: William Holden and Audrey Hepburn

Movie Duo blogathonThe Flapper Dame and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are hosting this blogathon all about screen duos who only ever made two films together. Be sure to visit their sites to read all the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I’m writing about one of my favourite screen couples. Who are they? That couple are William Holden and Audrey Hepburn. They were two of the most popular American film stars of the 1950’s and 60’s, and they sure did have some amazing chemistry with one another. You would have thought that they would have been paired together more regularly, sadly that was just not to be. 

They only ended up working together twice in their entire careers. I like them so much because they have such incredible chemistry, they really make you feel and believe their respective characters growing feelings for one another.

There are some romantic screen teams out there that fit together like hands in gloves; Myrna Loy and William Powell, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson etc. I consider William and Audrey to be one of those types of screen couples.

The couple were first paired together in Sabrina (1954). This charming romantic comedy tells the story of a chauffer’s daughter (Audrey Hepburn) who is in love with two wealthy brothers (William Holden and Humphrey Bogart). They both love her in return, but which of the two will end up capturing her heart forever? If you haven’t seen the film I won’t spoil the final outcome for you.

Audrey and William shine in their shared scenes together here. There is a real warmth and tenderness between them that really helps in their romantic scenes. During the making of this film the pair fell in love and had a brief affair, so their chemistry is the real thing and it really does show on screen.

Sadly their real life relationship didn’t have a happy ending. Audrey was desperate for children and William having had a vasectomy couldn’t give her that which she desired above all else. Plus William was also married at the time which put an obstacle in their path of happiness, but he certainly fell hard for Audrey no doubt about it.

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In this film I love them the most in the dance scene out on the terrace, they fit together perfectly and look so at ease in each others arms. I think that it is more than simply acting between them in that scene, there is a real connection between them that you can see.

The way William looks at her I think it’s like he’s looking into her soul, and she looks at him with such adoration and joy in her face. I could watch these two dance and flirt forever and still feel that magical connection and still be enchanted by them.

I also really love them in the scene outside the train station where Holden’s car screeches to a halt when he sees Audrey waiting for a taxi. Their comic back and forth banter in the sequence is a real joy, and once again their reactions to one another are so genuine.

The couple were reunited on screen ten years later. This time to star in the extremely underrated Paris When It Sizzles, a romantic comedy that is also one big in joke about filmmaking. The film pokes fun at many different film related things, from method acting, to how scriptwriters come up with their stories. 

A secretary (Audrey Hepburn)is sent to Paris to type up the latest script from a famous film screenwriter (William Holden). She gets drawn into his imagination and the two also find themselves falling in love. We also see all the possible plots he comes up with acted out by William and Audrey playing the different characters from the screenplay.

It was difficult for William to make this film as he still had feelings for Audrey, and at this time he was also drinking rather heavily. There are moments in this film when he looks at her and you can tell that it is not his character looking at her with longing, it is William himself looking at the woman he loves.

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It’s quite painful to watch them at times actually in this one because you feel his longing, and when you know what was going on behind the scenes your heart goes out to him. It must have been agony for him to have been so close to her and knowing he couldn’t have her. That agony and longing in a weird way actually works for the film. William’s character finds himself more and more attracted to Audrey’s secretary, but he finds it difficult to pursue his feelings when they have work to do and he’s also not sure if she returns his feelings.

There is still that genuine warmth and magic between Audrey and William on screen here, and they both look like they are enjoying the opportunity to have lots of fun in the scenes such as the vampire at the grotto, and the scene when they order room service (I love the way Audrey makes that order and the look on William’s face when he hears her place the order.)  🙂

I love them the most in all the scenes in this where they kiss, those kisses are so tender and passionate. I also love them in the scene where they are playing the rich couple who both mention having had giraffes as children, the way they act in that and deliver the lines cracks me up every time I watch that film.

Perfect timing, natural chemistry and genuine affection for each other help these two become a perfect screen team. I was so disappointed when I first found out that they only made two films, I was so looking forward to seeing them in more films. Oh well, at least their screen magic can be enjoyed over and over again in these two films.

Well those are just a few of the reasons why I love these two so much. If you have never seen William and Audrey act together, I suggest that you take a look at the films I mentioned and watch them together for yourselves. I hope you like this screen duo as much as I do. Happy viewing.  🙂 

Any other fans of William and Audrey? Please leave your comments below.

Thriller

Jet Storm (1959)

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I saw this for the first time a few months back. I had wanted to see this one for a very long time after hearing lots of good things about it. I was really looking forward to checking this one out .

I think that perhaps I may have expected too much from it. The film turned out to be quite a mixed bag for me. While I don’t hate the film, I don’t exactly love it either. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a terrible film, it is actually quite good, but I just got the feeling that this was something of a wasted opportunity.

On paper I’m sure that this one must have sounded like a first rate suspense/thriller. I don’t think it turned out quite like that though. It has its moments for sure, but I for one was left with the feeling that this could and should have been so much better. There should have been much more suspense and tension.

I have to mention that the film is notable for having a plot which must surely have been the inspiration for Airport.

The cast are one of the films strengths. Richard Attenborough delivers one of his best performances here as a distraught father whose desire for revenge has made him lose his grip on reality. Stanley Baker is solid (as always)as the cool under pressure pilot of the plane. It’s also very nice to see so many familiar faces from British film and TV; Paul Eddington, Hermoine Baddeley, Harry Secombe, Elizabeth Sellars, Sybil Thorndyke, Megs Jenkins and Marty Wilde(who also sings the title song.)

Ernest Tilley(Richard Attenborough) is a bereaved father, who takes a bomb on a passenger plane. Why? Because he plans to detonate it to kill another passenger who killed his daughter. The pilot(Stanley Baker)has to discover where the bomb is and find a way to possibly talk Tilley out of his plan.

With a plot like that you’d think there would be loads of nail biting, edge of your seat moments. It may surprise you to learn that there are actually very few. We do however get treated to a very good character study of the various passengers and crew though, which I enjoyed watching very much, this focus gives all the actors their chance to shine.

I also like how Tilley has our sympathy despite his horrific plan. The grief at losing a loved one the way he did can certainly lead those left behind to act very much out of character. Tilley’s situation makes you think how you would react towards the person who killed your child.

I found the majority of the film to be quite laughable though to be honest. For instance, there is a couple who play cards and make quips throughout the whole thing, even when they know their lives are at risk. I know we Brits are famous for our stiff upper lip/calm under pressure mentality, but those two were taking that attitude to a whole other level. If I was on that plane I would have been terrified for sure. The film also shows how frighteningly lax airport security was back in the day.

I was also left wondering as to exactly how Tilley knew that the man he was after would be on that particular flight, and more to the point on that particular day?

Attenborough gives a very good performance, the scene between him and the boy near the end was quite moving. I also liked the banter between Secombe and Thorndyke’s characters. There is also a very impressive and dramatic scene(you will know it when you see it) that was really the only highlight of the film.

If you go into this one not expecting anything more than an escape from reality for an hour and half, then you will probably enjoy this one quite a bit. Personally though, I think I just expected more from a film directed and written by C. Raker Enfield and featuring this group of British stars. As I said though, it does have its moments and the cast certainly don’t disappoint.

I particularly recommend this one for fans of Baker and Attenborough. I’d also recommend it for anyone who is a fan of the Airport films.

I wouldn’t mind watching this one again, but it’s not one that I will be adding to my favourites list any time soon.

Anyone else seen this one? I’d love to know what you made of this one. Never seen it? Give it a go, you may well enjoy it much more than I did.