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The Deborah Kerr Blogathon: Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison(1957)

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I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I really love watching films focusing on two very different characters who get thrown together by chance.

I love watching such characters work to overcome their differences, and in the process of doing so slowly begin to like and trust one another.

The most famous example of this type of film has to be John Huston’s The African Queen (1951). I like that film quite a bit, but despite my fondness for it, the film has never been able to claim the place in my heart which is held by Huston’s later film Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. I find that I care far more about Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum’s characters, than I have ever cared about Bogie and Hepburn’s characters in The African Queen.

I also like Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison more because I think that it is the more serious and touching film of the two. The film is part war film and part romantic drama. The film also features a good mix of action, suspense, drama and comedy. 

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is based upon the 1952 novel of the same name by Charles Shaw. John Huston co-wrote the screenplay for this film with John Lee Mahin. The film was shot on location on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.  

The film is set in the Pacific during WW2. The story begins with an American Marine, Corporal Allison(Robert Mitchum)floating on the ocean in a life raft. He has become separated from his comrades during a naval battle. The corporal’s raft washes up on the beach of a remote island in the South Pacific. 

                      The first meeting between the Marine and the Nun. Screenshot by me.

While he is walking around exploring the island, he comes across a small building and he is astonished to discover that it is occupied by a Catholic nun called Sister Angela(Deborah Kerr). Only after he has been assured that she is well and in no danger, does the corporal lie down and take a well deserved sleep. What a gent he is! 🙂  

Sister Angela is alone on the island, she has only been living there for a few days herself. She has been alone since the death of the priest she was working with a few days earlier. The pair had been taken to the island by some natives to help evacuate another priest who lived on the island.

When Sister Angela and the priest had arrived on the island, they soon discovered that the other priest had already been removed by Japanese forces, and then they were stranded there when the natives who brought them over got frightened and abandoned them. 

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Sister Angela and Corporal Allison have a talk. Screenshot by me.

Sister Angela and Corporal Allison are hesitant of one another at first, but as they spend more time together they begin to start liking each other very much.

The Corporal’s feelings deepen into romantic love and he tells Sister Angela that he wants to marry her, so that he can take care of her forever.

We can see that the pair like one another very much, but Sister Angela, in a firm but very gentle way, makes it quite clear to Corporal Allison that she has devoted herself to serving God and that she will never marry or have physical relations.

Corporal Allison struggles to get his head around her decision to never allow herself romantic love. This leads him to deliver this funny and touching outburst: “If ya gotta be a nun, why ain’t ya old and ugly? Why do ya gotta have big blue eyes, a beautiful smile and freckles?”

I find Corporal Allison’s outburst to be very moving because we have seen him pluck up the courage to express his feelings to her, and he feels hurt and embarrassed that he has opened himself up like that only to be rejected. She is kind to him afterwards and they both try not to let things get awkward after that declaration of love and longing. 

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Corporal Allison carries Sister Angela after she falls ill. Screenshot by me.

Things are further complicated when Japanese forces land on the island. The Corporal must try and protect the two of them from the Japanese soldiers who are moving around the island.

Later in the film the Corporal must do all he can to save the life of Sister Angela when she becomes seriously ill with a fever. 

As the film goes on Sister Angela slowly begins to leave her rather naive belief that all humans are good far behind her. Sister Angela begins to understand and accept the darker and harsher realities of life. She may not approve of Corporal Allison killing people, but she understands that his actions are necessary for their survival.

With the Pacific war going on around her, Sister Angela is also becoming more aware of the evil acts that humans are capable of. She never loses her belief and hope that people can change their ways and become more decent, the time she spends with Corporal Allison proves to her that people are capable of changing for the better. 

Corporal Allison in turn tries to alter his behaviour and manners so that he doesn’t offend or upset Sister Angela. He starts out as a very gruff and blunt man, yet as the film goes on he becomes a much gentler and thoughtful man. Through spending time with Sister Angela he also begins to see that not all human beings are cruel and out for whatever they can get.

By the end of the film Corporal Allison has become a very different person than the one we saw at the beginning. He may well not be able to give up his life in the corp(which is all he has ever known), but I have a strong suspicion that he will be a very different person with a very different outlook on life when he returns home.

Sister Angela and Corporal Allison can go back into society at the end of the film, with each of them having acquired a far better understanding of the human condition than they had before they encountered one another. 

Interestingly the film also shows us that Corporal Allison and Sister Angela are both similarly devoted to the institutions they each belong to (Sister Angela to the Catholic Church, and Corporal Allison to the United States Marine Corps), and that both of these institutions are somewhat similar, both in terms of their rituals and traditions, and also because of how people involved with both institutions devote themselves to living that way of life.

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Deborah Kerr as Sister Angela. Screenshot by me.

The performance of Deborah in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is amazing. She totally convinces as Sister Angela. She radiates decency and warmth.

Deborah also has an innocence and sweetness about her in this which I think perfectly contrasts with the rugged, world-weary personality of Robert’s stranded Marine.

Deborah is particularly excellent in the scene where the island is being bombed and Sister Angela is very frightened by the loud noises. She also totally convinces us that her character is seriously ill during the fever sequences. 

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Robert Mitchum as Corporal Allison. Screenshot by me.

Robert Mitchum is equally as good as the worldly Marine. His performance here has all the toughness and don’t mess with me attitude present in so many of his Noir films, yet Robert is also at his most vulnerable here.

Robert’s performance lets you see how much the Corporal is struggling with his feelings for Sister Angela and struggling with himself as to whether he should bring his feelings out into the open. It’s one of my favourite performances from Robert. This film is said to have been his own personal favourite from his own work. 

Deborah and Robert would become good friends after working on this film. Robert had initially thought that Deborah would be very prim and proper like many of her screen characters had been. His assumptions were happily proven wrong after she swore at director John Huston during a take, this caused Robert to collapse laughing and after that the pair got on just fine. 🙂

Deborah and Robert would go on to star alongside each other in The Sundowners, The Grass Is Greener and Reunion At Fairborough(TV film). Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr are in my top five acting screen teams. I like them together so much because they always manage to convince us of the emotional bonds developing between their characters in their four films. 

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a lovely and moving film.I highly recommend it, not only to fans of Deborah and Robert, but to anyone who appreciates a well told story with a strong focus on the characters and actors. 

My favourite scenes are the following. The corporal’s confession about his feelings for Sister Angela. The scenes where he is nursing her when she has the fever. The scene where he comforts her in the cave during the bombing. Sister Angela watching Corporal Allison standing on the beach looking out to sea. Where he tells her it has been a privilege to know her, and she says he will always be her dear companion. The scene where he sings Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree and they dance on the beach. The scene where he is drunk.

As well as the great acting to enjoy, there are also some lovely locations to look at and there is a good score by Georges Auric to enjoy.  

Any other fans of this one? What are your thoughts on Deborah’s performance in this one?

 

 

 

 

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The Second Lauren Bacall Blogathon: To Have And Have Not (1944)

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Crystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood is hosting this second annual blogathon celebrating Lauren Bacall. Be sure to visit Crystal’s site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

For this blogathon I’ve decided to write about To Have and Have Not, which is my favourite Lauren Bacall film.

Whenever I watch this film, I always find it so hard to believe that Lauren’s performance in this was actually her film debut.  

Lauren is so natural and confident in this film, that I for one really can’t tell that she is a beginner actor. Lauren steals every single scene she is in, and it is her performance as the feisty Slim that I always remember the most when the film is over. 

Lauren was nineteen years old when she was cast by director Howard Hawks in this film. Up to this point in her life she had been working as a model. Lauren’s photo had been spotted on the front cover of a magazine by Nancy “Slim” Keith, who was the wife of Howard Hawks. Slim showed Lauren’s photo to her husband. Howard sought Lauren out and signed her up for his upcoming film To Have And Have Not

The film was based upon the 1937 novel of the same name, which had been written by Ernest Hemingway. Hawks changed the story location from Key West to Martinique during WW2. Hawks kept the main plot of the novel, but he focused most intently on the relationship that develops between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s characters. I’ve never seen it, but apparently the 1950 film The Breaking Point is a much more faithful screen adaptation of Hemingway’s novel. 

I don’t think that Lauren Bacall could have possibly envisaged how much this film would end up changing her life. Not only did this film help to make her a star, but working in this film also changed her personal life forever.

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Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart as Slim and Harry. Screenshot by me.

During the making of this film, Lauren and her co-star, Humphrey Bogart, fell in love with each other and began an affair. Their affair led to Bogie divorcing his wife, the actress Mayo Methot, and marrying Lauren in 1945. Bogie and Bacall’s marriage lasted until Bogie’s death from cancer in 1957. 

The chemistry between Bogie and Bacall is evident on screen in all four of the films they made together. In To Have and Have Not, I think that their chemistry is absolutely electric. Most of their scenes ooze with sexual tension and a genuine affection for one another.

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An intimate moment for Slim and Harry. Screenshot by me.

I love that we are not watching two actors pretending to be in love in this film, we are actually witnessing the actors real feelings and longing for one another. As the characters of Slim and Harry fall in love with one another in the film, so to do Bogie and Bacall. 

                 Harry and Slim set eyes on each other for the first time. Screenshot by me.

When we watch this film, we are literally watching the mutual real life attraction between Bogie and Bacall develop and grow before our very eyes. The fact that the attraction between them is real helps the film immensely in my opinion. Their chemistry helps us to believe the growing bond and attraction developing between Slim and Harry. 

Bogie and Bacall’s characters affectionately call one another by the nicknames of Steve and Slim, those nicknames were what Howard Hawks and his wife Nancy called one another. Bogart and Bacall would later name their own son Steve.  

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Harry and Slim. Friends and lovers. Screenshot by me.

The relationship between Slim and Harry is one of my favourites from all of the equal romantic partnerships found in Howard Hawks films.

Both characters are fiercely independent and strong. Both characters also find something in the other that has been missing from their lives up until their point of meeting.

In Harry’s case he finds in Slim a woman who can live with him as an equal, a woman who can accept him for how he is, and a woman who isn’t afraid of risk or of hard times.

In Slim’s case she finds in Harry someone who she feels safe with, she also finds him to be someone who gives her a reason to finally stop drifting. When Slim and Harry are together they can have fun together, they can let their guard down, and they can be intimate and vulnerable with one another. 

Slim is one of the best of the Hawksian women in my opinion. She is strong, confident, sassy, sexy, tough, and very intelligentSlim has clearly been hurt in the past and is quite vulnerable, but she covers her pain with a tough and confident veneer. 

Slim is also very forward in conveying her attraction to Harry. He loves how forward she is and he loves how confident she is around him. Their relationship is a mix of emotional connection, friendship and sexual attraction. They really are the perfect fit for one another. 

The film takes place on the French island of Martinique during WW2. Martinique is under the control of the Vichy government, who are working with the Nazis.  Harry Morgan(Humphrey Bogart)is a sardonic American fisherman. Harry makes a fairly good living chartering his boat out to tourists. He is helped by his alcoholic and loveable friend Eddie(Walter Brennan).

Eddie is the films comic relief and is always randomly asking people if they were ever stung by a dead bee. Many people laugh at Eddie and dismiss him as a drunk, but Harry looks after Eddie, gives him a job, and doesn’t take kindly to any nasty talk about him.

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Frenchy. Screenshot by me.

Harry is approached by Frenchy(Marcel Dalio)who is a member of the growing resistance movement. Frenchy asks Harry to use his boat to smuggle people off the island. Harry initially refuses(perhaps his refusal represents the neutrality of America during the early years of WW2?) to help out because he fears the consequences if he does.

Harry meets a young pickpocket called Marie Browning(Lauren Bacall). He nicknames her Slim, and she nicknames him Steve. The pair develop an instant attraction and like each other very much. Harry changes his mind and agrees to help the resistance out. 

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Harry treating an injured resistance member. Screenshot by me.

Slim also gets involved with Harry and the resistance and helps them out however she can. Harry and his friends must try and evade the notice of the watchful officials.

The film highlights the dangers that the members of the resistance were always in. The film also reminds us how much the brave men and women who were a part of that risked their lives.

I like that Harry changes his mind and lends the resistance a helping hand. As the film goes on he also becomes less sardonic and stops thinking of his own self interest. The film highlights the moral need in times such as WW2 for us all to pull together,overcome differences, stop thinking solely of ourselves, and bravely stand up and fight the enemy.

The film has lots of thrills, action and suspense. As is always the case in a Howard Hawks film, there is also a great deal of character development and focus, this makes the characters come across to us as being real people. 

While the resistance story is very good, I would have liked to have seen more of that storyline and a bit more of the risks the characters involved are taking. I think it is fair to say that what makes this film so memorable is the relationship between Harry and Slim, rather than the resistance storyline. I’m quite sure that this film would not be as much of a classic today if Bogie and Bacall had not been cast in the roles of Harry and Slim. 

My favourite scenes are the following. The opening sequences on Harry’s boat with the tourist fisherman. The “you do know how to whistle”? scene. Slim and Harry being questioned by the authorities. Harry protecting Slim in the shootout, and in the middle of all that she totally keeps her cool and jokes that she has sat on a cigarette.   

All the cast are very good here, but Lauren steals every single scene she is in. It was quite an achievement for Lauren to manage to hold her own opposite all the experienced actors she was working with in this. A new classic film star twinkled into existence in this film. The name of that star was Lauren Bacall.   

I recently discovered a radio series on YouTube which stars Bogie and Bacall. I’m really enjoying working my way through it. The series is called Bold Venture. It aired between 1951 and 1952. The series is clearly influenced by To Have And Have Not. It’s all about the adventures of Shannon(Bogie)and his sidekick/love interest nicknamed Sailor(Lauren). It’s well worth a listen to if you’ve never heard it before. Perhaps we could imagine the radio series to be the continuing adventures of Slim and Steve?

What do you think of this film? What do you think of Lauren’s debut performance here?

 

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The Joseph Cotten Blogathon Concludes + Another Post

Joseph 2On behalf of myself and Crystal, I would just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has joined us to celebrate Joseph Cotten. 

You’ve all written excellent articles and reviews, and these have all shown me that Joseph is still very much a beloved star today. 

I’m still trying to get round everyone and comment on your entries, but I’m afraid that I’m not well at the moment, and I have so much stuff going on right now. I will try and get to your blogs as soon as I can. x

Please be sure to check out Poppity’s post for the blogathon, which was published yesterday. She discusses Joseph’s performance in Under Capricorn

Thanks again to you all. 

 

 

 

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The Joseph Cotten Blogathon: Day 1

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The big day has finally arrived! 🙂 It’s time for us to all gather together to celebrate the life and career of Joseph Cotten.

I will be your hostess accepting the entries for today. The lovely Crystal will be your hostess for the next two days over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood.

We are both really looking forward to reading all of your reviews and articles over the next three days. Thanks again for joining us in this celebration of Joseph Cotten and his films. Check back to this post throughout today to see the entries.

                                                                   Day 1 Entries

Cinematic Scribblings discusses Lo Scopone Scientifico, which is a lesser known film starring Joseph Cotten and Bette Davis.

Moon In Gemini tells us about the time that Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright reunited on screen in The Steel Trap.

Mike’s Take On The Movies reviews Two Flags West, a film set during the American Civil War.

The Midnite Drive-In discusses Joseph’s performance in The Hearse

Caftan Woman discusses Joseph’s performance as a man with a shady past in Walk Softly, Stranger.

Movie Rob discusses the chilling Soylent Green.

Wide Screen World watches The Farmer’s Daughter for the first time.

Popcorn and Flickers writes about Joseph’s debut performance in Too Much Johnson.

The Stop Button discusses the 1944 version of Gaslight.

Down These Mean Streets takes a trip into the shadows to review The Third Man.

Dubism discusses the sports analogies hidden in Tora!Tora!Tora!

I share my three favourite Joseph Cotten film performances.

Blogathons

The Joseph Cotten Blogathon: My Three Favourite Joseph Cotten Film Performances

Joseph 3This is my entry for the Joseph Cotten blogathon being co-hosted by myself and Crystal in a few days time. I can’t wait to read all of your entries. 

Joseph Cotten is a great favourite of mine. I like how he could easily switch between playing very likeable and easy going characters, and characters who were more darker and difficult to understand. 

Joseph was one of the most reliable and popular American classic era actors.  He was very good friends with Orson Welles, and it is Orson who we have to thank for Joseph becoming a film actor in the first place.It was also Orson Welles who gave Joseph his start in films. 

Joseph started out working alongside Orson in the Mercury Theatre. The Mercury Theatre was Orson’s independent theatre, radio, and film company, which he had co-founded with John Houseman in 1937. 

Joseph first appeared on screen when he starred in Too Much Johnson(1938), this was a film directed by Orson Wells. This was a film that was considered to be lost for decades, until it was discovered in 2013. Joseph’s next performance was as the best friend in Orson’s classic Citizen Kane. Then he went on to appear in The Magnificent Ambersons and Journey Into Fear. He would go on to become a popular and reliable actor in both film and television.

I’d like to share my three favourite Joseph Cotten film performances with you.

 

Since You Went Away (1944)

This WW2 drama is my first choice for a favourite Joseph Cotten performance. I love the film a great deal for its story and characters, but Joseph’s performance and the character he plays is what brings me back to this film again and again.

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Joseph as Tony. Screenshot by me.

Joseph plays the decent, fun loving, dependable, charming and loveable Tony Willet. He really steals every scene he is in. Joseph plays Tony in such a way that for me he becomes the life and soul of the film. 

Tony is the best friend of Anne Hilton(Claudette Colbert)and her husband, who is away fighting in the war.

Tony is in America waiting on his orders from the Navy, when he meets up with Anne and her family and makes it his mission to cheer them all up. 

It is clear to us that Tony is in love with Anne, and that she knows it but that neither will act on it. Their relationship could so easily have turned into an affair, but I think their relationship has much more meaning and poignancy precisely because it doesn’t develop into an affair.  

Joseph conveys Tony’s love and desire for Anne so well, but he also conveys his love for his friend(Anne’s husband)too and we know that he would never damage their marriage by starting an affair with Anne. We feel sorry for Tony because he can’t get the happy ending he desires in his heart, but we love him all the more for not breaking up his friends marriage. You know he would do anything for Anne and her family and he wouldn’t ask for anything in return. What a guy! What a performance from Joseph!

 

A Shadow Of A Doubt(1943)

This was the film that forever changed Joseph’s screen image. With this role he went from playing very likeable characters, to playing a cold, manipulative and very scary serial killer.

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Joseph as Uncle Charlie. Screenshot by me.

Joseph plays Charlie, a smooth and charming man visiting his family in a small American town. Charlie’s exterior is a mask hiding his dark true self.

He is actually a serial killer, and he is a cruel, cold and very dangerous man. When his young niece (Teresa Wright) discovers his secret, he plots to kill her too to protect his secret. 

Joseph is excellent as the dark and charming Charlie. I like how he effortlessly switches between likeable charmer and deranged and scary monster. His performance is all in his eyes and expressions and he does a terrific job. In my opinion this is Joseph Cotten’s best screen performance. 

 

I’ll Be Seeing You(1944) 

Another film set during WW2. I’ll Be Seeing You isn’t just your average romance story, this love story has some stings in the tale. In this film Joseph plays Zachary Morgan, a shell shocked soldier, who has just been released from a military hospital.

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Joseph as Zachary. Screenshot by me.

Zachary is having a tough time dealing with his symptoms and readjusting to life on the outside. All that changes when he meets the kind Mary (Ginger Rogers).

Zachary is unaware of Mary’s secret that she is a prisoner convicted of manslaughter. Mary has been allowed out of prison for a short time to spend time with her family. 

Joseph totally convinces as a traumatised soldier struggling with his symptoms and finding a small degree of peace with the woman he is falling for. Joseph’s performance in this film is both subtle and poignant.

I especially love how Joseph conveys to us Zachary’s anxiety and awkwardness being around people and loud noises. Joseph also really makes you believe that his character is suffering and trying so very hard to get some control over his condition. 

 

What are your views on Joseph’s performances in these three films? What are your favourite Joseph Cotten performances? 

 

 

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Announcing The James Mason Blogathon

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

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James Mason in The Wicked Lady. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

The blogathon will be held on the 6th and 7th of October, 2018. Please publish your entries on or before those dates. 

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

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman 

Caftan Woman: Five Fingers

Dubism: Odd Man Out

Realweegiemidgetreviews: Heaven Can Wait

Diary Of A Movie Maniac: Salem’s Lot

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: The Seventh Veil

Pale Writer2: The Wicked Lady

Wide Screen World: Heaven Can Wait

Poppity: Lolita

The Stop Button: Bigger Than Life

Silver Screenings: The Reckless Moment

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

MovieRob: The Desert FoxThe Desert Rats

The Wonderful World Of Cinema: James Mason and Margaret Lockwood

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies: James Mason’s Films

Critica Retro: Caught

Retro Movie Buff: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

The Midnite Drive-In: The Boys From Brazil

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James Mason 1

 

James Mason 2

Blogathons, True Story

The Fourth Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon: Anastasia (1956)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anna Anderson. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bounine confronts Anna. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bounine serenades Anna. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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Helen Hayes as The Dowager Empress. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Uncategorized

The Top Ten Alfred Hitchcock Films

Today is Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday. He was born in 1899 in London. I thought I would put together a ranked list of the ten films that I consider to be his best. As you all know, I am a major fan of Hitch’s films, so it has proven to be quite a challenge for me to only pick ten films of his to rank. 

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

 

10. The Birds (1963)

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

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

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

 

 

 

9. Sabotage (1936)

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Sylvia Sidney as the horrified wife. Screenshot by me.

Featuring a bus ride which becomes one of the most shocking and suspenseful sequences in any of Hitchcock’s films. The other standout sequence in the film is the dinner scene where the wife gives her evil husband quite the fright. 

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

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

I think this is Hitch’s best British film. 

 

 

 

8.Notorious (1946)

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Devlin and Alicia. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

 

 

7. Rope (1948)

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Phillip, Rupert and Brandon. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

6. Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)

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Uncle Charlie and his niece. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

 

 

 

5. Vertigo (1958)

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Madeleine reborn. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

 

 

 

4. North By Northwest (1959)

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

3. Rebecca (1940)

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

2. Psycho (1960)

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Lila gets a fright. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

 

 

 

1. Rear Window (1954)

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Lisa and Jeff witness something strange. Screenshot by me.

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

I think it easily qualifies to be the best Hitchcock film as it so perfectly encapsulates what Hitchcock’s films are all about. The plot of the film and the way everything is all set up, means that this film is still effective and doesn’t feel dated when viewed today. 

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

 

Blogathons, Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John Barrymore as Hilary. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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Hilary pleads with Margaret. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Billie Burke as Margaret. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Katharine Hepburn in her debut role. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

Uncategorized

Announcing The Deborah Kerr Blogathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Participation List

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

Poppity: Black Narcissus

Caftan Woman: Reunion At Fairborough

Anybody Got A Match: The Hucksters

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: Tea and Sympathy

Realweegiemidgetreviews: The Arrangement

The Stop Button: Separate Tables

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Oscar Nominated Performances

Old Hollywood Films: The Grass Is Greener

                               Love Letters To Old Hollywood: Vacation From Marriage

Silver Screenings: The Sundowners

Silver Screen Classics: The Night Of The Iguana

Whimsically Classic: From Here To Eternity

Pop Culture Reverie: Tea And Sympathy

The Wonderful World Of Cinema: Separate Tables

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

MovieRob: Edward My Son

Critica Retro: Vacation From Marriage

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

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Uncategorized

The Innocents (1961)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Miles and Flora. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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The ghost in the lake. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miss Giddens looks across the lake. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I would love to get your thoughts on this film.

 

Blogathons, Films I Love, Japanese Cinema

The Non English Language Blogathon: Sisters Of The Gion(1936)

cthd_languageblogathon2Catherine over at Thoughts All Sorts is hosting this blogathon about Foreign Language films. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I had to take part in this blogathon because I adore foreign language films. I love many of them not only for being excellent films, but also because they provide me with a glimpse into other cultures and different ways of living life. 

I think that anyone who only watches films and series from their native country is seriously missing out, there are so many film and TV gems to be found from around the world. My favourite country for foreign language films is Japan.

There are three great masters of Japanese cinema in my opinion. The first one is Akira Kurosawa. He made some truly epic masterpieces. He was also responsible for helping to bring Japanese films to the attention of Western audiences. 

The second one is Yasujiro Ozu. His films were all about characters and emotions, he told very human stories which appeal to audiences the world over. His films also gave us the enchanting Setsuko Hara, the actress who was Ozu’s screen muse. 

The third one is Kenji Mizoguchi. Kenji Mizoguchi’s films uniquely often focused upon the struggles and hardships that women faced in society at the time his films were made.   

For this blogathon I’ve decided to write about the 1936 Japanese film Sisters Of The Gion. This film is directed by one of my favourite film directors of all time, Kenji Mizoguchi. I love Kenji Mizoguchi’s work because his films are very realistic, gritty, and because they also focus much more on the characters rather than on the visuals and the mood of the film.

I also love Kenji’s films so much because they deal very frankly with subjects and issues that most other films of this period didn’t focus on all that much. I love that his films focus primarily on women and on the way they are treated. His films focus on the things that women have to do to survive, and they also show the strength and determination of women who are enduring tough and bad times in their life. 

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Umekichi and Omocha take a walk together. Screenshot by me.

Sisters Of The Gion is one of Kenji Mizoguchi’s finest films in my opinion. It is a real character piece and it feels very modern when viewed today because of the strong feminist attitudes present in the film.

The film tells the story of two very different sisters. There is the outgoing, modern and rebellious Omocha(Isuzu Yamada), and the older, much more traditional and submissive Umekichi(Yoko Umemura). 

The sisters both work as geishas in a district of Kyoto. They do the same job, but each woman holds  very different opinions about what they do and how they are viewed and treated. 

Omocha hates men and she just views them as means to get money and nice things. She feels that men use women (especially geishas)for their own desires and then abandon them when they are through. She is also better educated and far more wordly than her older sister is.

Omocha is also very modern in her views and she mostly wears modern Western clothes, instead of always wearing more traditional Japanese attire. Omocha also has no hesitation about playing with the feelings of her male clients in order to get something that she wants from them. The way she sees it, if the men can use the women, then why can’t the women play them at their own game?

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Omocha sweet-talks her patron. Screenshot by me.

Umekichi on the other hand is dutiful and passive, she also seems to genuinely enjoy her role as a companion and source of pleasure for male clients. She also feels that things are not as black and white as her younger sister makes them out to be.

Umekichi knows that there are some men who are not all bad and are not out to use the geishas and abandon them when they are finished with them.

Despite their many differences, the two sisters love each other very much and they always look out for each other no matter what. Umekichi is deeply in love with her patron Shimbei Furusawa (Benkei Shiganoya)and she offers him help when he goes bankrupt. Omocha plays with the hearts of two men in order to get gifts and money from them; the first man she toys with is a young store clerk who loves her, the second man is his much older boss who is persuaded to become her new patron.

I think that the two sisters represent the two different types of women who have always existed throughout history. One represents women who accept their lot in life, and who are accepting and uncomplaining when their man treats them badly. The other represents women who fight for equality, for protection from abuse and for the ability to be away from the control of men.

 I also like that the film shows how strong women can be in times of hardship and pain, the spirit of these women may break, they may be beaten and tossed aside, but they endure and struggle on and they never give up and wilt away.  Mizoguchi’s films often show the appalling ways women of this time were treated, but they also clearly highlight their courage and internal strength to make the best of what life throws at them.

The film also shows us that society often lets men get away with sleeping around, being abusive and using women for no other reason than that they are men. If a woman did the same things as men, then she would find herself being punished and judged for sleeping around. Double standards much?

In this film all the male characters we see have control over women, and they also have a controlling position in their own life in some way, such as their job or their wealth for example. It seems like the women in this time only have three options in life; the first choice is to marry and bear children, the second is to become a geisha or prostitute, the third is to try and live an independent life which will earn them disapproval and alienation from a very traditional society. 

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The two sisters represent two very different types of women. Screenshot by me.

If women of this time didn’t conform to traditions they suffered. If they did conform to traditions, many would suffer emotionally because they didn’t love the man they were married to, or because deep down they hated themselves for selling their bodies for money. 

By the end of this film, both Omocha and Umekichi will discover just how they are actually perceived and valued by men. The ending is quite bleak and I really like that it doesn’t sugar coat the life endured by many women the world over at this point in history. 

The performances are all very good and the film really draws you in. The only downsides to the film are that it is very short, it clocks in at just one hour and nine minutes long. I would also have liked more scenes between the two sisters. While the film gives us a good sense of their respective personalities and views, I don’t really get a good enough sense of what their sisterly relationship was like, a few more scenes of them interacting on a day to day basis would have been welcome.  

This is an early gem from Kenji Mizoguchi and it feels very modern due to the feminist views found within, and also because of its visual depiction and condemnation of the way women were treated by some men.

I highly recommend it. I think that this film could also serve as a good gateway film to Kenji Mizoguchi’s work and to Japanese cinema in general. If you haven’t ventured outside your country for films and series before, then I would say to you be brave, go and check some foreign language films out. Once you get accustomed to subtitles these films and series are very easy to get into.

What do you think of this film?

Uncategorized

The David Lean Blogathon Begins

David Lean 3.PNGThe big day has finally arrived! Over the next two days, several truly wonderful bloggers are going to be submitting their reviews and articles about David Lean’s films.

A big thank you to all of you for joining me for this blogathon.I can’t wait to read all of the entries celebrating the life and career of this gifted director.

Check back to this post over the next two days as I update it to link back to all of the entries. 

 

Day 2 Entries

Silver Screen Classics writes about the epic romance Doctor Zhivago

 

Cinematic Scribblings takes a look at Lean’s family saga This Happy Breed.

 

Retromoviebuff discusses Lean’s spooky and funny film Blithe Spirit.

 

Movierob heads to Venice with David Lean’s Summertime.

 

Vinnieh talks about his love for the epic David Lean film Doctor Zhivago.

 

Cinema Essentials writes about the man himself in Director Profile: David Lean.

 

Poppity shares her love for the underrated Ryan’s Daughter. She also writes about one of David Lean’s lesser known films Madeleine.

 

Day 1 Entries

Realweegiemidgetreviews takes a look at the trailer for Lean’s epic film Doctor Zhivago. She also looks at Lean’s WW2 set classic The Bridge On The River Kwai.

 

Movierob shares his thoughts after a first time viewing of The Passionate Friends.

 

Poppity takes a look at Lean’s charming film Hobson’s Choice.

 

Caftan Woman discusses one of the greatest of David Lean’s films Great Expectations.

 

The Stop Button shares his thoughts on Lean’s aviation drama The Sound Barrier.

 

The Wonderful World Of Cinema discusses Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence Of Arabia.

 

I discuss David Lean’s stunning adaptation of Charles Dickens classic story Oliver Twist.

Blogathons, Films I Love, Musicals

The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon: Top Hat (1935)

fred-and-gingerCrystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, and Michaela over at Love Letters To Old Hollywood are co-hosting this blogathon about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

Top Hat is my favourite Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film. I also really love The Gay Divorcee, Swing Time and The Story Of Vernon and Irene Castle. Despite my great love for the majority of the films that Fred and Ginger starred in together, it is Top Hat which has found a very special place in my heart. 

I love Top Hat so much and I never get tired of watching it. The film is one of my go to comfort films due to it always being able to leave me in such a good mood. 

The film is also special to me because it is the first Fred and Ginger film that I ever saw, and it is the film which ended up making me a fan of their work and led me to check out their other films.

Top Hat is also the first black and white film that I ever saw. I’ve been a fan a black and white films ever since.

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An intimate moment for Jerry(Fred Astaire) and Dale(Ginger Rogers). Screenshot by me.

Top Hat is a joyous, uplifting and very romantic film. I think the film features Fred and Ginger at their very best, both in terms of their acting performances and their dancing. The film also has some of the best and most memorable dance routines in Fred and Ginger’s entire screen partnership. 

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Dale and Jerry having fun at a dinner party. Screenshot by me.

Top Hat was Fred and Ginger’s fourth film together. By this time they had developed a very good screen chemistry and they both seemed very comfortable being in these films. 

I think that Top Hat is the film which made audiences finally start to sit up and take some real notice of these two.

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Dale and Jerry take a boat ride and have a talk. Screenshot by me.

 Top Hat is also an incredibly funny film. The comic parts and the mistaken identity storyline ensure that the film has a timeless quality about it. The funny reactions, silly situations and funny romantic games really haven’t dated at all in my opinion.

The other fabulous thing about this film is the set design and costumes, both of which are stunning and beautiful. The Venice set in particular is a truly spectacular sight to behold. You can see the hours of hard work which had been put into designing, building, and making the sets and costumes in every single scene of the film. 

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Part of the Venice set. Screenshot by me.

This impressive set was three levels high. the Venice set consisted of canals, bridges, terraces and balconies. The Venice set was so big that it was spread across two adjoining sound stages.

The art director for the film was Carroll Clark, he oversaw all of the magnificent set and furniture design which we see in the film. The art direction for the film was nominated for an Academy Award. It was a well deserved nomination in my opinion.

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Part of the dance finale on the Venice set. Screenshot by me.

As well as the fabulous visuals to gaze at, and Fred and Ginger to enjoy, we also get the wonderful supporting performances of Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore.

                 Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Erik Rhodes and Eric Blore.  Screenshot by me.

These four actors were among the greatest American character actors of the classic film era. They are all comedy gold in this film. They steal all the scenes they are all in, and the comic bickering between them all is priceless. I think that they all add so much to this film. 

I consider Top Hat to be the best of Fred and Ginger’s films because everyone and everything in it is the very best they can possibly be. Top Hat became one of the most popular and profitable films of the 1930’s, and it has also since become the most successful and best remembered of all the Fred and Ginger films. 

The film is directed by Marc Sandrich, who was the director of several of the Fred and Ginger films. Acclaimed American tap dancer, Jerry Travers(Fred Astaire) has arrived in London to take the lead in a stage show being produced by his friend, Horace Hardwick(Edward Everett Horton).

                                  Jerry dancing and waking up Dale. Screenshot by me.

Jerry is demonstrating a tap routine to Horace in his hotel suite one night, when his loud tap dancing disturbs the sleep of Dale Tremont(Ginger Rogers), who is staying in the suite below. Dale complains about the noise and Jerry says sorry to her. It’s clear to us that there is an instant attraction developing between the two.

Dale and Jerry fall in love but she has mistaken Jerry for Horace, as the film goes on this case of mistaken identity gets even funnier and more complicated. This mistaken identity also prevents Dale and Jerry from being able to get together as quickly as they should be able to.

When Dale discovers that Horace is married to her friend Madge(Helen Broderick), Dale is shocked that he is romancing her and attempting to begin an affair with her which would mean he would be cheating on Madge. Dale is even more shocked when Madge seems to not to mind, shows she has a very open mind about love and flirting, and seems very amused by Dale telling her that Horace got romantic with her.

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Horace, Jerry and Madge discuss Dale mistaking Jerry for Horace. Screenshot by me.

Dale goes on holiday to Venice with Madge. Dale is romanced there by dress designer Alberto Beddini(Erik Rhodes), things get complicated when both Jerry and Horace show up, along with Horace’s hysterical and meddling valet, Bates (a scene stealing Eric Blore). Can Dale and Jerry set things straight and get the happy romantic ending they deserve?

In addition to the characters and the romance story, there are also lots of dance sequences for us to enjoy. The highlight of the film for me is Fred and Ginger’s Cheek To Cheek dance sequence. The dance caused many problems at first, due to what happened with the feathers on Ginger’s ostrich feather gown. 

                               Part of the Cheek To Cheek dance. Screenshot by me.

The feathers sewn onto the dress flew off in clouds whenever Ginger and Fred started dancing during early takes. Filming was stopped, the dress was altered slightly, and dancing resumed. Although feathers can still be seen falling off during the completed sequence, the shedding of feathers is not as noticeable as it had been initially. 

                                More of the Cheek To Cheek Sequence. Screenshot by me. 

The Cheek To Cheek sequence is so beautiful to watch. The dance is very graceful and expertly choreographed. This elegant, graceful and effortless sequence is the epitome to me of what Fred and Ginger were all about. 

The other standout dance sequence in the film is the Top Hat stage routine. This scene is part of Jerry’s stage show.

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Jerry and his backing dancers in the Top Hat sequence. Screenshot by me.

Fred gets to do some terrific solo tapping in this sequence, and he gets superb support from a large group of backing dancers. The dancing, the stage design and that brilliant song and music by Irving Berlin all help to make this a stunning sequence.

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Jerry does some solo tap. Screenshot by me.

I think there is something here for everyone to enjoy in this film. You will also be sure to be tapping your toes right along with Fred and Ginger. I also love that for a film which is clearly all about fantasy and which is set in a very artificial world, the plot and characters somehow manage to feel very authentic and believable.

The film makes you care about Dale and Jerry and you want them to be together by the end. Top Hat is an uplifting and delightful fantasy that can cheer you up if you are feeling down. I always feel happy after spending some time watching this one.

Fred is at his most charming and loveable in this film. Ginger is equally lovable and she also gets to prove to us how much comic talent she had too. I love Ginger’s shocked and bemused expressions during the scenes where she is telling Madge about Horace flirting with her. I also think she and Fred are so funny in the scene where she pretends to be someone else and acts as though they used to be lovers.

For a film made during the time of the infamous Production Code, I think that this film is also rather risque in its subject matter. Madge’s reaction to the news that Horace (we know it’s really Jerry that Dale is talking about but Madge doesn’t)has been flirting with Dale and wants to have a relationship with her, is not a response that you may expect to find in a 1930’s Code film.

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Madge and Dale talk about men. Screenshot by me.

Madge makes it very clear that she doesn’t care if he cheats on her or not. Madge’s response also seems to imply that the couple may well have an open relationship. I’m surprised the Code people passed this scene discussing affairs involving a married person, when they famously didn’t even allow characters who were married couples to be shown sleeping together in the same bed!

Madge is another reason why I love this film so much. She is a middle aged woman who you expect to be very reluctant to discuss her marriage and her husband’s fidelity, but Madge is just the opposite, she is very open and she comes across as being a very modern woman in her attitudes towards marriage, and she is also a very fun person too.

Madge is very open when she talks about Horace’s flirting and fooling around, she also tells Dale that you can never really stop men looking at other women and desiring them. The banter between Madge and Horace is also first class and I think that both Helen Broderick and Edward Everett Horton work together so well in this film.

My favourite scenes are the following. Jerry tap dancing to shock the boring old men at Horace’s club. The Cheek To Cheek dance. Dale trying to tell Madge about Horace being in love with her. The scene where Dale pranks Jerry and acts as though she thinks they had an affair in France years ago. The Piccolino dance finale. Jerry waking Dale up with his dancing. 

Anyone else here love Top Hat as much as I do?

Blogathons, British Cinema, Films I Love, Page To Screen

The David Lean Blogathon: Oliver Twist(1948)

David Lean 1This is my entry for my David Lean blogathon being held next Friday and Saturday. I can’t wait to read all of your entries. There is still time to sign up and join the fun if you haven’t already done so.

For this blogathon I have decided to write about Oliver Twist. This is a film that I consider to be David Lean’s best directorial effort after Lawrence Of Arabia. Everything about this film is stunning. You can really see David Lean’s attention to the smallest of details in every single shot in this film.

I don’t use the word masterpiece very often, but I think that this film undoubtedly qualifies as being one. The film is very dark and bleak and Lean sensibly doesn’t shy away from showing us just how brutal and terrible the time period the film is set in was.

Despite its immense level of bleakness, there are however some wonderful moments of humour to be found in this film. There are also some terrific Dickensian character names to enjoy. 

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Oliver asks for more food. Screenshot by me.

David Lean is my favourite British film director. He was a master of his craft and I like that he put such care and attention into even the smallest details and scenes appearing in his films. If I ever had to list a handful of directors who I consider to be the greatest to have ever worked, then David Lean would be right near the top. 

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One of many stunning shots seen in the film. Screenshot by me.

I like David Lean so much because he was able to perfectly balance intimate human stories, against epic and visually stunning backdrops. In Lean’s films the characters always come first and he doesn’t rely on effects or use intrusive editing. 

David Lean made many fine films in his career. Some of his best work was completed in the 1940’s. In this decade he made two films which were adaptations of Charles Dickens novels; the first film was Great Expectations(1946), and the other was Oliver Twist(1948). Lean was able to recreate the Victorian era so well in both of these films. 

I love how in Oliver Twist, Lean manages to capture the great hardships faced by the poor and working classes in Victorian era Britain. This film perfectly captures the grime, the poverty and the outright misery of the time. It also conveys to us the gaping class divide of the time; with the poor starving and living in utter squalor, while the rich ignore their plight and gorge themselves on delicious food and live in luxury. 

                          Hungry boys watch the workhouse staff eating. Screenshot by me.

This gaping divide and lifestyle of the different classes is perfectly captured in a scene at the workhouse. Some of the boys are watching the staff of the workhouse tuck into a huge roast dinner. Those who live in the workhouse only get a small bowl of gruel and a piece of bread each day.

If the poor steal to enable them to get food they are severely punished and looked down upon by the rich and by the law. No matter what they did, the poor living in this era just couldn’t get a break. Dickens novel and this film give a face to poverty, to suffering and to injustice. 

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Oliver giving a face to the nameless children living in poverty. Screenshot by me.

I think it was a genius idea for Dickens to make Oliver a child.

Even though the story is set in a time when children tended to grow up psychologically more quickly than they do now, the amount of horrible and unjust things Oliver endures make the reader and viewer angry about these things happening to Oliver.

As readers, Dickens makes us fear for Oliver and become protective of him as the story goes along. In turn this then makes us think about the real children who lived this life during the Victorian era.  Oliver may well be a fictional character, but he represents all the real children of this time who lived in poverty, who were forced into child labour, and who often died long before their time of disease or injury. David Lean’s film manages to have the same effect on the viewer in my opinion.

I consider this film to be the best adaptation of Oliver Twist that has ever been made. It is so good precisely because it makes you feel that you are there in that miserable time period suffering right alongside Oliver.

David Lean also makes sure his film sticks very closely to the book, and while it doesn’t manage to capture everything found in the book, it certainly does a better job of it than most other adaptations have managed to do. My only big issue with this film is that I don’t think that the character of Nancy is given as much screen time as in other adaptations, but Kay Walsh who plays her does her best to make Nancy’s appearances memorable. Kay also conveys Nancy’s strength and determination quite well. 

I also love this film so much because it contains some of the most striking and unforgettable images in film history. Many of David Lean’s films contain such moments, but in this film, almost every single shot is like a work of art and so many of the scenes are hard to forget. The cinematography in this film is by Guy Green, who had won an Oscar for his work in Lean’s Great Expectations.

Guy would later go on to become a film director himself; two of the most notable films that he directed are A Patch Of Blue and The Angry SilenceGuy worked wonders on the cinematography side of things on Oliver Twist.  

The opening scene of this film is a total work of art. Oliver’s heavily pregnant mother is struggling across the rain swept moors at night to get to a workhouse. During her journey she goes into labour. Right away this scene shows us how difficult and harsh this time period is. 

Each time she gets a contraction the pain coincides with a flash of lighting, or with a thorny branch swaying and shaking in the fierce wind. I think that these images of the storm and branches symbolise the agony of her labour pains.

Part of the opening scene. Screenshot by me. 

The lighting in this sequence is incredible throughout. The sequence ends with this woman collapsing at the workhouse gate and being brought inside to give birth. The camera then cuts outside to show us later that night, a time when clearly the storm has ended but it is still dark outside.

A cloud slowly moves across the sky and splits in two. When it does this it looks to me like a pair of open legs; the moon then slowly emerges from between the split cloud, and when it does so, we hear the cries of the woman’s baby as he emerges into the world. I love this moment so much because of how the cloud imagery symbolises Oliver’s birth. 

Oliver Twist (John Howard Davies)is the baby who is born that night. His mother dies not long after she gives birth. Oliver is raised in the workhouse and endures a miserable life under the control of the pompous Mr. Bumble(played by a scene stealing Francis L. Sullivan), and the short tempered Matron (Mary Clare).

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Oliver meets Dodger. Screenshot by me.

One day, after having had the cheek to ask for more food, Oliver is sold to a local undertaker to work in his shop.

After being treated appallingly there, young Oliver decides he has had enough of this life and so he runs away to London. 

When he gets to London, he meets the skilled young pickpocket, The Artful Dodger (Anthony Newley). Dodger takes him to Fagin (Alec Guinness), an old thief who trains young boys in the art of theft, and gets them to bring him things they have stolen in return for a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Soon Oliver feels welcome and happy with this group. He quickly settles in and is accepted as one of the gang. On his first time out on a pickpocket job with Dodger, Oliver is wrongly accused of stealing a wallet. The wallet is actually taken by Dodger who manages to run away and not get caught. 

The owner of the wallet is the kindly, wealthy gentleman, Mr. Brownlow(Henry Stephenson). He takes pity on Oliver and after a witness to the theft clears Oliver of any wrongdoing, Brownlow takes Oliver home and looks after him. For the first time in his life Oliver knows real love and kindness.

I’m sure most of you reading have seen this film or read the book, but if you haven’t done so, please turn back now because there are some major spoilers ahead!

Sadly Oliver’s new found happiness doesn’t last and he is kidnapped by Fagin’s dangerous associate, Bill Sykes(Robert Newton)and Bill’s kind-hearted, prostitute girlfriend, Nancy(Kay Walsh, who was married to David Lean at the time this film was made)due to them and Fagin being anxious that Oliver will give them all up to the Police.

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The fearless Nancy. Screenshot by me.

Nancy is wracked with guilt over bringing Oliver back, and she bravely risks her own life to try and set Oliver free from this life of misery and crime. Nancy tries to get Oliver back to Mr. Brownlow and she pays for this with her life when she is discovered by Bill and he murders her. 

The murder of Nancy is one of most powerful scenes in the whole film, and it manages to be horrific and chilling without us ever seeing the murder graphically depicted. The yelping and shaking dog trying frantically to escape the room as Nancy is murdered is unforgettable. The dogs noises are mixed together with Nancy’s screams, and combined together those noises make for a sound that chills you to the bone.

                               The aftermath of Nancy’s murder. Screenshot by me.

I like that Lean shows us Bill’s slowly dawning realisation to what he has just done. His eyes dart around the room when he realises he has killed Nancy. Bill’s eyes focus on Nancy’s possessions, and they land upon things that remind him of their shared life together; such as their double bed and her dressing table. As he looks around the room, we see that Bill is absolutely horrified at what he has gone and destroyed.

The great tragedy is that Bill certainly was a violent and nasty piece of work but he genuinely loved Nancy and she loved him. When Bill kills her he also murders any possibility of himself ever being able to be redeemed. He instantly regrets his actions and he realises that he can’t alter what he has done. This sends him mad with grief and remorse. 

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The kind Mr.Brownlow and Oliver. Screenshot by me.

Despite how bleak the film is there are some kind and decent characters to be found in it.  Mr. Brownlow shows us that not everyone in the upper classes was indifferent to the suffering of the poor, and he is a genuinely kind and gentle man.

Nancy retains her sense of morality despite living among thieves and criminals, and despite having done some bad things herself. Nancy can’t stand to see the innocent Oliver get drawn into this life, and so she tries to save him from having to live this way.

The old woman at the workhouse who stole Oliver’s mum’s necklace has a conscience, and she tries to make things right before she dies(only to be betrayed afterwards by the matron).  The film also shows us that some people get drawn into a life of theft because they have no other choice. When someone is homeless, jobless and starving, if nobody will help them when they ask for help politely, what choice is left to that person other than to steal to get some money for food etc?

The actors all deliver solid performances. I like that even the actors who appear very briefly get their chance to really shine.  There are also many standout performances from the main cast.

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Robert Newton as Bill Sykes. Screenshot by me.

Robert Newton delivers one of his finest performances as the terrifying master thief, Bill Sykes. I’m always torn between Robert and Oliver Reed when it comes to considering who played the best Bill Sykes on film. I think Oliver plays the scariest and most sinister, but Robert managed to be scary and still convey how sharp and observant Bill was, and he also convinces us that his Bill genuinely loves Nancy.

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Alec Guinness as Fagin. Screenshot by me.

Lean regular Alec Guinness pulls a Lon Chaney Sr and is unrecognisable beneath heavy makeup as Fagin. Alec’s portrayal is not as fun and loveable as Ron Moody’s in the musical Oliver. Alec makes Fagin sordid and cunning. There was some controversy over Alec’s performance and over the Fagin makeup (especially the large nose) because some people thought the portrayal of this character was anti-semitic. 

John Howard Davies is all sad eyes and innocence as Oliver Twist. John delivers an excellent debut performance here and he would continue acting during the 1940’s and 50’s. He later became a producer and was the man behind the British TV comedy hits Fawlty Towers and The Good Life.

Oliver Twist is one of Lean’s finest films, and I think it could serve as a perfect example to young filmmakers on how to balance story, characters, performances, and visuals to create a film which will stand the test of time and wow audiences from any era.

What do you think of the film?

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Check Out#CleanMovieMonth Over At Pure Entertainment Preservation Society

Check out this classic film event being held over at Pure Entertainment Preservation Society blog. Pop over and check out this very informative site, which is a must read if you are interested in the Hollywood Production Code. 

 

 

Announcing #CleanMovieMonth! PEPS is officially announcing that July is #CleanMovieMonth! Many months are dedicated to celebrating history or bringing awareness. #CleanMovieMonth is dedicated to both. It’s a month-long celebration of Code films, specifically cinema sealed during the Breen era (1934-1954). Frequent PEPS readers know that PEPS is always dedicated to Breen era films. However, during […]

via July is #CleanMovieMonth! — pure entertainment preservation society

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The Greatest Audrey Hepburn Performances

I am a big fan of Audrey Hepburn. I have often thought about which of Audrey’s film performances should be considered to be her best work. After thinking about this for quite some time, I have finally chosen a few performances that I think are her best.

I would love to get your views on Audrey’s performances in these films. 

 

The Nun’s Story (1959)

Audrey stars as a nun called Sister Luke. This film is a biopic of a real life woman who became a nun and worked out in the Congo. Audrey is beyond amazing in this film. There are scenes in this where you really do believe that she is on the point of having a breakdown. You really feel that Audrey’s character is struggling emotionally and that she has conflicted feelings about the life she has chosen to lead.

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Audrey as Sister Luke. Screenshot by me.

She perfectly conveys the emotional and physical struggle this woman endures as she overworks herself, becomes physically ill and tries to adhere to the strict rules of convent life.

I’m not the biggest fan of the Academy Awards, but I think that Audrey deserved an award for her performance in this. You can read my full review of this film here.

This is a film that doesn’t get discussed often enough, and it really should be much better known because Audrey is phenomenal in it. 

 

 

 Roman Holiday (1953)

Audrey delivers one of the most natural and remarkable debut lead film performances in film history. She totally convinces as the reserved and unhappy Princess. She also convinces as the carefree, happy, curious and adorable woman enjoying a welcome taste of real life. 

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Audrey as Princess Ann. Screenshot by me.

I love how she easily switches between innocence, intense happiness, deep sadness and being torn between her duties and her desires. It really is a poignant and powerful performance. It is easy to see how she managed to capture the public’s hearts when this one was released. 

 

 

Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)

Audrey wasn’t the actress who was initially the first choice for the role of Holly but defying expectations, she more than proved that she was indeed the right choice for the role. Audrey perfectly captures the various emotions and quirks of Holly so well. One moment she is happy and quirky, the next she is vulnerable and melancholy, and the next she is daring, sexy, passionate, mean and strong. 

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Audrey as Holly. Screenshot by me.

I like how Audrey makes you feel for Holly and enjoy spending time with her. Holly is such a unique character and Audrey captures her many different facets so well. You can tell when you watch this that Audrey put so much effort into this role. It is so difficult to imagine any other actress in this role now other than Audrey. It isn’t difficult to see why this has become her iconic role and film.

 

My Fair Lady (1964)

Although she doesn’t really convince as a cockney flower girl living in poverty, Audrey certainly does convince as an awkward and nervous woman who transforms into a society lady.

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Audrey as Eliza. Screenshot by me.

Audrey always had a natural class and dignity about her that aided her in her performance here. She also does such a good job of conveying Eliza’s despair, frustration and anger over her dismissal by Higgins after the ball. She makes you feel how much hard work and effort Eliza has put in, and also feel how hurt and used she feels by Higgins dismissal of her success. 

Overlooked at the time by the Academy, her performance speaks for itself and it remains moving and memorable today. You can read my full review of the film here. 

Some other fine performances include Wait Until Dark, Sabrina, CharadeThe Children’s Hour, Two For The Road and Robin and Marian. 

Which performances do you consider to be Audrey’s greatest screen work?

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The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon Concludes

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Sadly our time spent with the master of suspense has drawn to a close. I want to say a huge thank you to you all for taking part. Your articles and reviews were all interesting and a lot of fun to read. I really appreciate so many people taking part. It has been so much fun.

My apologies to those of you with none WordPress blogs, I have been having trouble for a long time now leaving comments on none WordPress sites. If these sites have their comments section set to accept name and URL I have found I can comment, but I have trouble commenting when signed in directly from WordPress. I have replied to your messages letting me know you’ve posted, and I have shared my thoughts on your entries that way. 

You can find all of the terrific entries right here

If things are well with me next year, I will certainly try my best to host this for a third year running. I do hope you will all be able to join me again for another celebration of all things Hitch. 

You are all invited to take part in my next blogathon(I know, I’m addicted to blogathons 🙂 )being held in two weeks time. It is a celebration of the films of director David Lean. You can learn more and sign up here

Thanks again.

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The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon Begins

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The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon has finally arrived!

Over the next two days, a large number of truly wonderful bloggers will be submitting their articles on all things Hitch.  Check back to this post today and tomorrow, I will be updating it as regularly as I can linking to all of the entries.

I can’t wait to read all of your posts. Thank you so much for taking part.

The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon participants gather together in the hotel lounge. The strains of Bernard Herrmann’s music can be heard floating through the air.

Someone kindly informs us that lunch is now ready. We all tuck into a delicious buffet, this is laid out for us on top of a suspicious looking chest belonging to some guy called Brandon.

Hitchcock blogathon 4 

Day 2 Entries

The Wonderful World Of Cinema goes out to sea in order to discuss Hitchcock’s ocean set thriller Lifeboat

 

Poppity flees from crop dusters as she reviews the Hitchcock classic North By Northwest.

 

Silver Screen Classics goes on a journey with Richard Hannay to uncover the mystery of The 39 Steps.

 

Vinnieh tells us what happened when Uncle Charlie came to town in Shadow Of A Doubt.

 

Taking Up Room discusses an early film which would become the only film of Hitchcock’s that he would ever remake. The film is  The Man Who Knew Too Much

 

Cracked Rear Viewer discusses the suspenseful 3D Hitchcock film Dial M For Murder.

 

Sat In Your Lap discusses the powerful Hitchcock film The Wrong Man

 

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society discusses the haunting and suspenseful film Rebecca

 

Retro Movie Buff encounters spies and windmills in her review of Foreign Correspondent.

 

 

Day 1 Entries

Down These Mean Streets spent some time with Devlin, Alicia and Alexander, and she writes about that experience in her review of Notorious

 

Cinema Essentials discusses Hitchcock’s suspenseful 3D film Dial M For Murder.

 

The Midnite-Drive In discusses the terrifying 60’s shocker Psycho and also the biopic Hitchcock. 

 

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest joins Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly to look out at the Rear Window

 

Realweegiemidgetreviews discusses Four O’ Clock, a Hitchcock directed episode of the TV series Suspicion.

 

Silver Screenings joins a party hiding a grisly secret in Rope.   

 

Bonnywood Manor gets caught up in the thrilling spy story Topaz.

 

Caftan Woman invites us all to join her at the theatre to discuss Stage Fright.

 

The Stop Button takes a look at one of Hitchcock’s early British films Young And Innocent.

 

dbmoviesblog takes a trip to Bodega Bay and witnesses nature striking back in The Birds.

 

Taking Up Room tells us all about Hitchcock’s first ever sound film Blackmail.

 

Cary Grant Won’t Eat You talks about the disappointing Hitchcock film Torn Curtain.

 

Sparks From A Combustible Mind discusses the time when Hitchcock went comic in The Trouble With Harry.

 

I take a trip to Manderley to meet Rebecca.  I also write about the 60th anniversary of the release of  Vertigo

Blogathons, Films I Love, Romance

The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Rebecca (1940)

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This is my entry for my Alfred Hitchcock blogathon being held in a few days time. I can’t wait to read all of your entries. If you would like to join in there is still plenty of time for you to do so. Learn more and sign up here. See you all on the 6th and 7th of July. 

There are not enough words available for me to be able to use to accurately describe how much I love the film RebeccaI consider it to be one of the best Gothic films ever made, and I consider it to also be one of the most engrossing and visually interesting Alfred Hitchcock films. 

Rebecca is a haunting, gripping, suspenseful and creepy film. It is also a film that lingers on in the memory long after you’ve finished watching it.   

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Mrs. Danvers upsets the new bride. Screenshot by me.

The film features Joan Fontaine delivering one of her best screen performances, that of the shy, tormented and emotionally fragile young woman who attempts to take the dead Rebecca’s place as mistress of the Manderley estate(based on Daphne Du Maurier’s house in Cornwall, which was called Menabilly). Judith Anderson delivers the other standout performance in the film as the sinister and obsessed housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. 

Rebecca was Alfred Hitchcock’s first American film, and it was also his first film made under contract to the producer David O’ Selznick. The film was based upon the novel of the same name written by the great Daphne Du Maurier in 1938. The novel is one of my favourites and I especially love how vivid and intriguing it is.

Rebecca is a book that really draws you in. I think that Hitchcock’s film does the same thing. He also did a terrific job of capturing the eerie atmosphere of the novel. He makes us actually feel the oppressive presence of the dead Rebecca de Winter, and he does so without ever showing us her face.

We don’t need to see Rebecca in flashbacks or photos to know what she was like, instead we learn what we need to know about her just as the new Mrs. de Winter learns it. We  also only become aware of Rebecca’s lingering presence and influence just as the new wife becomes aware when she takes up residence in Manderley.   

Besides being extremely atmospheric and intriguing, this film is also a real character piece. It is the unseen Rebecca who is the most memorable of all the characters in the film. The memory of Rebecca haunts most of the main characters who we follow throughout the film.

We also learn more about Rebecca’ s personality as we see why the various main characters loved her or hated her. We also learn that while she may have beautiful on the outside, on the inside she was anything but, and she also did a great deal of damage to people.

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Rebecca is always present in some way. Screenshot by me.

The second Mrs. de Winter is shown constantly comparing herself to Rebecca. She fears that she can never become the type of woman that Rebecca was, a woman who is beautiful, accomplished, fearless, confident and strong. She is intimidated by Rebecca and by the beautiful, large and well run home which Rebecca organised and arranged.

The second wife isn’t alone in being unable to escape Rebecca. Other people who knew her cannot escape her either. Maxim is unable to stop experiencing his mixed feelings for Rebecca(he both loathed and loved her)and he is also haunted by what happened in her final moments of life. Maxim has become a tortured soul desperately seeking peace and salvation(which he finds in the form of his new wife).

Mrs. Danvers is devastated by the loss of Rebecca, and she is haunted by the memory of this young woman who was so full of life and whom Mrs. Danvers loved, adored and doted upon. Jack Favell is haunted by the memory of the passionate and vibrant Rebecca; a woman who shared his temperament and tastes, and with whom he had a long running love affair. 

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Maxim and his new wife talk about Rebecca. Screenshot by me.

Rebecca may well be dead, but she lives on in the memories of all who knew her. The memory of her reaches out from beyond the grave to crush the happiness of those left alive. The living may find some amount of happiness, but try as they might, they can never truly escape the memory of this woman,they also cannot forget the things she said and did while she lived. 

We don’t need to see a photo or portrait of Rebecca to be able to form a picture of her in our minds as we watch the film. We know she was beautiful, we know she was a woman who commanded and received constant attention and admiration by all who knew her, and we know that she was a teasing and manipulative woman too. When I read the book or watch the film, I always picture Rebecca as looking like a cross between the actresses Vivien Leigh and Margaret Lockwood. 

Interestingly Vivien Leigh desperately wanted to play the second Mrs. de Winter in this film, alongside her husband Laurence Olivier as Maxim. Vivien even made a screentest for the part. I have to say that having seen the screentest I’m afraid that she is all wrong for the character.

Vivien displays none of the shyness, the fragility, or the naive quality that the second Mrs. de Winter needed to have about her. I think that Joan Fontaine was undoubtedly the right woman for this particular role. Had they gone down the flashback route with the film, then I think Vivien would have been perfect for the role of Rebecca.

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A rare happy moment for the couple.Screenshot by me.

The film begins in Monte Carlo. The brooding, middle aged, wealthy widower, Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier)is about to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. Maxim is stopped from jumping by a young woman(Joan Fontaine, playing a character who is never named in the book or film)who sees him and is concerned about what he is about to do. 

He later discovers that she is staying at the same hotel that he is. He finds that she is working as a paid companion to the odious Mrs. Van Hopper (a scene stealing Florence Bates). Maxim and this young woman gradually begin to befriend one another and fall in love. 

She loves him because he is kind to her and genuinely takes an interest in her, and because he allows her an escape from her current life and social station. He loves her because she is pure, fresh, kind and innocent; with those personality traits she is the polar opposite of his dead first wife, a woman who haunts his memories.

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The couple arrive home to be greeted by all the staff. Screenshot by me.

They marry and return to England, to stay in Maxim’s family estate of Manderley. Once in her new home, the second Mrs. de Winter must try and fit in with her husband’s upper class lifestyle, and also try and compete with the lingering memory of his dead first wife, Rebecca. The first Mrs.de Winter drowned in the sea, but there is actually much more to her death than we first believe.

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Rebecca’s monogrammed stationery. Screenshot by me.

Traces of Rebecca linger in every part of the house. Rebecca’s bedroom is kept exactly as it was when she lived. Her clothes are still hanging in the wardrobe, the furnishings, menus and the flower arrangements in the house are all still hers.

The study is still filled with her monogrammed stationery and address books. Staff and friends also talk about Rebecca quite often, and their words remind the second Mrs. de Winter of the great differences between herself and Rebecca.

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Rebecca’s monogrammed pillowcase. Screenshot by me.

The housekeeper of Manderley is Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) and she is a sinister, creepy and highly manipulative woman who is obsessed with Rebecca, and she feels very threatened by the presence of the new Mrs. de Winter.

The young woman is scared of the housekeeper and she also becomes more and more nervous as her worries and feelings of inadequacy grow. She keeps comparing herself to Rebecca and she starts to think she is no good for Maxim. At one point Mrs. Danvers even tries to take advantage of the young woman’s fragile state of mind by attempting to persuade her to commit suicide.

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Jack drops by and causes trouble. Screenshot by me.

A visit to Manderley by the suave and smarmy Jack Favell(George Sanders), who was Rebecca’s cousin and lover, makes it very clear to us that Rebecca had some major secrets. These secrets piques the interest of the second Mrs. de Winter. As the film goes on, hearts get broken, dark secrets are revealed, and nothing will ever be the same again. 

Joan Fontaine is superb as the fragile and tragic young woman trying so hard to stay strong, but who feels her control of her life slipping away.

I love how she also manages to convincingly convey the massive change that her character goes through, as she gradually transitions from the shy and fragile innocent and becomes a much stronger and dominant woman standing up to Mrs. Danvers and to the memory of Rebecca. The moment where she finally asserts her authority and makes a stand against the memory of Rebecca is unforgettable.

Joan really makes you feel for this woman and she is totally convincing as a woman on the verge of a breakdown. Joan was Oscar nominated for her work here but she lost out to Ginger Rogers for Kitty Foyle.

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Joan Fontaine. Screenshot by me.

Joan would take home the award the following year for her performance in another Hitchcock film, Suspicion; in that film Joan plays a similar character to Mrs. de Winter with both characters being in great emotional distress, both of them are also fragile and consumed by fear and worry. Rebecca would go on to become the only Hitchcock film to win the director a Best Picture Oscar. 

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Laurence Olivier. Screenshot by me.

Laurence Olivier is excellent as the tormented Maxim. He convincingly conveys this man’s changing nature, being relaxed and happy with his new bride one moment, and becoming short tempered, distant and sad when he is made to think of Rebecca.

I quite like Laurence and I think that he is a good actor, but he’s never been a favourite of mine. I have also never understood all the hype surrounding his acting skills. I think he is very good in this role though and he subtly conveys so much to us with his eyes and expressions. 

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Judith Anderson. Screenshot by me.

Judith Anderson steals every scene she is in as Mrs. Danvers. Watch her eyes and her body language, she says so much without uttering dialogue. This is one of her best performances for sure.

I like how Mrs. Danvers is a complex villain. She may well be scary and cruel, but she was made that way after becoming unhinged by the grief of losing Rebecca. Grief can do strange things to people, and it has really damaged this woman. 

George Sanders also steals all the scenes he is in. He also provides a tiny bit of comic relief as the sarcastic and interfering Jack Favell. This was the first film that I ever saw George in and I became an instant fan of his.  He plays Jack as a man for whom words are weapons. He has great fun in the role and gets to deliver some brilliant lines. 

The film is shot in black and white and this really adds to the gothic atmosphere. The cinematography by George Barnes is beautiful and memorable. I especially love the cinematography in the scene where we see Rebecca’s bedroom for the first time, and also the scene where Mrs. Danvers tries to make Mrs. de Winter jump to her death.

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Exploring Rebecca’s beautiful bedroom. Screenshot by me.

The film also features some stunning lighting and some interesting camera movement. There are scenes where the camera pulls back from Joan Fontaine and I think that was done to make it seem like Rebecca is in the same room with her, watching her, moving around her and sharing her space. Joan Fontaine is also filmed in a way that makes her appear small in comparison to her surroundings and other characters.

I also love the score by Franz Waxman. I think that the score captures the romance, the dread, the mystery and the eerie aspects of the story perfectly. 

If there is one thing about both the novel and the film that really annoys me, it is that the second wife is never named. I get why this was done (to make her seem insignificant in comparison to Rebecca), but I really think that could have still been achieved if the character had been given a name. 

My favourite scenes are the following. Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter meeting for the first time on the clifftop. The “I am Mrs. de Winter now!”scene.  Maxim’s marriage proposal. The scene where the second Mrs. de Winter goes downstairs wearing the same dress that Rebecca once wore. The scene where Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter watch their honeymoon video. Chasing Jasper on the beach and finding the cottage. The confession scene. Exploring Rebecca’s bedroom. Jack trying to blackmail Maxim in the car. 

It has often been noted that the story of Rebecca bears many similarities to Jane Eyre. I think this is true. Maxim and his second wife are so similar to Jane Eyre and Rochester. Maxim is desperate to escape a hellish past and find peace and happiness with a pure and decent woman (just as Rochester is). The second Mrs de Winter is quiet and shy, and she has been bullied and used by many people, in Maxim she finds someone who loves her and will be kind to her (just like Jane). Both the second Mrs de Winter and Jane also become very strong and determined women as their stories go on. It’s fun to study the film and spot the similarities and to compare characters and situations. 

This is one of my favourite Hitchcock films. It is also a film that I never get tired of watching. If you enjoyed this film and the book, then I would also recommend an excellent miniseries adaptation of Rebecca. The series is from 1979, and it stars the great Jeremy Brett as Maxim and Joanna David as the second wife. The series is very close to the book and is allowed more time to develop the characters. I also quite like the 1997 miniseries starring Charles Dance as Maxim. 

What are your thoughts on this Hitchcock film?

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Announcing The Joseph Cotten Blogathon

Crystal from In the Good Old Days Of Classic Movies has asked me to co-host this blogathon with her. I was delighted to accept her invitation to be co-host. I really hope that you will all be able to join us both as we celebrate the life and career of the hugely talented classic film era actor, Joseph Cotten.

For this blogathon you can write about any of Joseph’s films. You can write about him as an actor. You can write about your favourite Joseph Cotten performances and screen characters. You can write more than one entry if you want to.

We will be accepting two duplicates per screen title, but no more than this as he made so many films, so there is lots for you to choose from.

The blogathon will be held on the  5th, 6th and 7th of September, 2018. There will also be a wrap up post held on the 8th. We picked these dates because September 5th marks the 77th anniversary of the release of Citizen Kane, which is one of Joseph’s most famous films.

I will be hosting on the 5th, and Crystal will be hosting on the 6th and 7th. Let one or both of us know what you would like to write about. 

Please check the particiaption list below to see who is writing about what. Please take one of the banners and pop it on your site somewhere to help to promote the event.

Participation List

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Portrait Of Jennie

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: My three favourite Joseph Cotten performances

Lifesdailylessonsblog: The Killer Is Loose

Love Letters To Old Hollywood: Love Letters

Cinematic Scribblings: Lo Scopone Scientifico 

Caftan Woman: Walk Softly Stranger

Are You Thrilled: Niagara

Realweegiemidgetreviews:  Dead Weight(episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents)

The Wonderful World Of Cinema: An ABC Of Joseph Cotten

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: Lydia

Down These Mean Streets: The Third Man

Taking Up Room: Citizen Kane and Joseph and the Mercury Theatre

Anybody Got A Match?: Shadow Of A Doubt

The Midnite Drive-In: The Hearse

The Dream Book Blog: A Delicate Balance

Popcorn and Flickers: Too Much Johnson

Dubism: Tora, Tora, Tora: The Attack On Pearl Harbor

The Stop Button: Gaslight

Karavansara: Journey Into Fear

Wide Screen World: The Farmer’s Daughter

I Found It At The Movies: Topic to be decided

A Shroud Of Thoughts: Shadow Of A Doubt

MovieRobBlueprint For Murder, The Oscar and Soylent Green

Mike’s Take On The Movies: Two Flags West

Back To Golden Days: Since You Went Away

Critica Retro: I’ll Be Seeing You

Old Hollywood Films: Duel In The Sun

Moon In Gemini: The Steel Trap

Blogie and Bacall: Joseph Cotten as an actor

Poppity: Under Capricorn

Hamlette The Dame: Gaslight

 

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Joseph 3

Joseph 3

 

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My Small Personal Connection To Classic Films

Something a little different today. I have a small personal link to classic film that I’d like to share with you all. It’s kind of a six degrees of separation thing.

I have a very dear friend called Mike. He knows of and shares my great love for all things classic film related. He recently spoke to me about his own family link to classic era films. I thought I’d share with you all what he told me, because I think that it happens to be pretty awesome. 🙂

Mike’s dad’s cousin was married to Tony Sforzini. Now you may well be asking yourselves right now, who on earth is Tony Sforzini?  Allow me to tell you who he was. Tony was a make-up artist and was also a make-up supervisor, and he worked on a large number of British classic era films. He worked on films from the early 1940’s until the mid 1970’s.

Tony worked quite often on the British films of the actor and director Laurence Olivier. Mike doesn’t know if they were friends or just colleagues, but what is certain is that Tony did work on a large number of Olivier’s films over the years including Hamlet, Henry V, The Prince and the Showgirl and The Entertainer

I know that some actors and directors like to work with the same crew a lot, so maybe Laurence Olivier loved his work and kept on requesting that Tony work with him.

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A photo that Mike sent to me. This shows Tony applying some make-up to the actor Michael Redgrave. This could be for the film Shake Hands With The Devil, in which Michael Redgrave starred.

When he was younger, Mike visited Tony at work over in Ireland, this visit was to the set of the film Shake Hands With The Devil (1959). On the set Mike watched Tony work his make-up magic, and if that wasn’t exciting enough, Mike also got to meet James Cagney! (you can imagine how envious I was when he told me this) James was there because he was the main star of this film. 

Mike was aware of who James Cagney was, but he wasn’t really aware at that age of just how big a star this man actually was. Mike told me that James spoke to him and that he was very friendly. Mike said that if he had been a bit older at the time he met James then he would have most likely asked him lots of questions, and he would have tried to talk to him for a bit longer than he actually did.   

Mike shared with me the following recollections of his visit to the set. 

“The film was Shake Hands with the Devil and on the day that I was there, apart from James Cagney, there was a scene being filmed with Christopher Rhodes questioning Don Murray who was supposed to be lying on a prison bed (it was actually a camera man rolling around as he was being punched).
 
The only ‘stars’ I saw apart from James Cagney who did a scene where he breaks into the prison to rescue Don Murray, were Don Murray and Donal Donnelly.
 
They were talking as Don Murray was being made up to look as though his character had been beaten up by the British. There may have been other actors in the studio on the day, but I didn’t recognise them. The only other thing I remember is that co-star Glynis Johns dressing room was full of Teddy Bears.”

So that is my small link to classic films. I just wanted to share this with you. Hopefully this post will also help to raise awareness of Tony Sforzini. Keep an eye out for his name in the credits the next time you watch a classic era British film!

Do you have a personal connection to classic film? Share your story. 

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Announcing The World War One On Film Blogathon

This year is the centenary of the end of WW1. The horror and immense slaughter of the trenches has been the focus of many films and TV series over the years. I wanted to mark the real life anniversary of the end of this war by getting us all to write about the many depictions of WW1 found on screen. 

For this blogathon you can write about any feature film, TV film, TV episode, or documentary which focuses on WW1. Films, series and documentaries from any era are very welcome.

You can write about films or series set on the battlefield. You can write about films and series focusing on soldiers,sailors, pilots and medics. You can write about films and series focusing on soldiers coming home from the war and dealing with their injuries and shell shock. You can write about films and series taking place on the homefront during this time.

The blogathon will be held on the 10th and 11th of November, 2018. Please post your entries on either of those two days. You are very welcome to post your entries early too. I will accept two duplicate posts per screen title.

You can write more than one post if you want to. Previously published articles and reviews are welcome too.

Please check the participation list below to see who is writing about what. Please take the banner below and pop it on your site somewhere to help advertise the event.

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: King and Country and All Quiet On The Western Front(1930)

Lifesdailylessonsblog: Gallipoli

Realweegiemidgetreviews: My Boy Jack

Cinematic Scribblings: The Spy In Black and The Green Room

Down These Mean Streets: Waterloo Bridge(1940)

Movie Movie Blog Blog: Block-Heads

Caftan Woman: Broken Lullaby

The Stop Button: The Life and Death Of Colonel Blimp

Silver Screen Classics: Gallipoli

Dubism: Sergeant York and Paths Of Glory

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Wings

The Wonderful World Of Cinema: Au revoir la-haut

Silver Screenings: The Grand Illusion 

The Midnite-Drive In: The Christmas Truce Of 1914(documentary) and Joyeux Noel(film)

Thoughts All Sorts: Der Rote Baron

Movierob: The Blue Max and The Fighting 69th

Movie Crash Course: The Big Parade

Silent-ology:  Soldier Man

Sat In Your Lap: The Last Flight & Heroes For Sale

Pop Culture Reverie: Wonder Woman

18 Cinema Lane: Sgt Stubby: An American Hero

Back To Golden Days: All Quiet On The Western Front & The Dawn Patrol

Critica Retro: J’Accuse

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Noir, Uncategorized

Blade Runner Reimagined as a Classic Era Noir Film

I really love Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Science Fiction Noir film Blade Runner. I watched the film again recently, and I found myself wondering what this film would have been like if it had been made as a Noir film in the 1940’s or 1950’s.

So I sat and had a long think about who to direct and who to cast in this classic Noir version of the film.

The Director

I would have had Fritz Lang and Edward Dmytryk co-direct this film. I thought of Fritz Lang because of his stellar work in creating a futuristic city and society in his film Metropolis. That expertise would have been much needed to create the futuristic looking city the film is set in.

Lang also directed one of the darkest and most brutal Noir films, The Big Heat, so I’m pretty sure that he would have had no trouble bringing a Sci-Fi Noir film to the screen. 

I thought of Edward Dmytryk because he directed the best Noir film (in my opinion)Murder My Sweet(1944); this is a film which oozes Noir from every single frame. He would have done wonders with the characters, the lighting, and with the overall look and mood of the film I think. 

The Cast

I thought of Charles McGraw for the role of Detective Rick Deckard.

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Charles McGraw. Screenshot by me.

I think that Charles could give Deckard the tough quality he needs as a replicant hunter(known as Blade Runners). I also think that he could show the softer side of the man when necessary in certain scenes.

 

I thought of Gene Tierney for the role of Rachel, a woman who may or may not be a replicant. Gene always did a good job of playing haughty, reserved women with a hint of mystery about them.

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Gene Tierney. Screenshot by me.

I also think that she could easily capture the unreadable and troubled aspects of the character, while also being able to make her vulnerable and innocent during certain scenes.

 

I thought of Robert Ryan for the role of Roy Batty, the intelligent and violent leader of the escaped replicants.

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Robert Ryan. Screenshot by me.

I think that he could easily convey the intensity, the strength and the rage of Roy, yet also perfectly capture his emotional struggle and also convey his gentle and tender side too. 

 

I thought of Clifton Webb for the role of Dr. Tyrell, the intellectual and scientific genius who created the replicants.

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Clifton Webb. Screenshot by me.

Clifton always convinced as intelligent characters who were self assured, dignified, smug and confident. I think he would be perfect in this role. 

 

I thought of Gloria Grahame for the role of Pris, who is one of the escaped replicants. I think Gloria would be a good choice because she always had a mix of childlike innocence about her and conveyed intelligence and sultriness at the same time.

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Gloria Grahame. Screenshot by me.

Pris is a character who looks innocent, is curious, is childlike at times, and is also a very smart and manipulative woman. I think Gloria would have been awesome in this role.

 

I thought of Marie Windsor for the role of Zhora, another of the escaped replicants who won’t give up without a fight. Marie always had a toughness about her that I think would make her perfect for this role.

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Marie Windsor. Screenshot by me.

I also think that Marie would have been great in the club scenes. I think she would have been terrific in the scene in the dressing room where Zhora shows no inhibitions around Deckard. 

 

I thought of Edward G. Robinson for the role of J.F Sebastian, the genetic designer who works alongside Dr. Tyrell. Sebastian is kind to Roy and Pris and he takes them to see Tyrell.

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Edward G. Robinson. Screenshot by me.

I thought of Eddie G because he had a knack for playing kind and well meaning characters who get themselves in a situation that they can’t easily get back out of. I think he would been able to convey the intelligence of his character, also his good nature, and also his fear of Roy. 

 

Would you have watched this film? What do you think of the cast I selected? I’d love to know who you would cast as directors or actors in this. Who would you cast if it had been made outside of America?

Are there any other films which you can imagine as a classic era film? Start a post and share it with us.