Blogathons, Romance

The Judy Garland Blogathon: The Clock (1945)

Judy Garland Blogathon

Crystal, over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, is hosting this blogathon all about Judy Garland. Be sure to visit her site to check out all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them myself.

Judy Garland was not only a hugely talented singer, but she was an excellent actress too. Although primarily known for her popular performances in musicals, Judy also made a few non musical films; in which she more than proved her talents as a dramatic actress.

I want to talk about one of these dramatic films – The Clock. This is a sadly much underrated film, that was known here in the UK upon release as Under The Clock. It is directed by Vincente Minnelli. This film was actually Judy’s first non musical role.

This is one of my favourite romantic films. It is so moving and Judy and Robert’s performances seem so natural to me. Their portrayal of their characters growing feelings for one another seems totally genuine.

The film is set during WW2. Joe (Robert Walker) is a young American soldier on leave in New York for two days. This is his first time in the big city. Joe has no idea where he should go or how to get there.

Joe meets Alice ( Judy Garland)at the train station, after she trips over his foot and damages her shoe in the process. Alice agrees to show Joe around the city for a while. As they spend more time together, Joe and Alice start to like each other very much and fall in love. The pair decide to marry, but in order to do so they must work their way through a mountain of paper work and red tape. Can they beat the system and marry before Joe has to leave to go back to base?

At the time it was made, this story must have been a very common one in real life for many a young serviceman and his beloved sweetheart. The story is poignant and it feels believable too. You get the sense that this is just one such story out of thousands like it that we are watching.

I love the scene where Joe and Alice are in the park at night, the couple are listening to all the sounds of the city; sounds such as ships horns, music, cars etc and are totally caught up this a magical moment. There comes a moment when they both end up looking at each other and you see that in that instant they both see only each other.

It’s like they both suddenly realise at the same time that they are meant to be together. Joe walks towards Alice, pulls her to him and they kiss. I love the shared look Judy and Robert have in this scene. They really make you see and feel the moment of realisation the couple are sharing.

My all time favourite scene in this film is the one in the church. Joe and Alice sit in a church late at night and exchange wedding vows by themselves, reciting from a bible they have found in the church. This scene is one of the most beautiful and touching I have seen in any film. Whether you are religious or not, it can’t be denied that the wedding vows are very powerful and meaningful words.

In this church scene, Judy and Robert convey to us that Joe and Alice fully realise and accept the words they are reciting and are aware of the importance of their vows. They are not entering into this lightly, their bond is one for life and they intend to keep these vows. This is the wedding ceremony they wanted and were denied in the rush of the previous scene. I love they way Judy and Robert look at each other in this, they are so tender together.

Judy plays Alice as bubbly and outgoing. She is confident in her life, but hesitant when it comes to relationships. Alice wants a relationship that will be special and will be the relationship of her life.

Robert plays Joe as a really good guy, who is both shy and awkward. Once you get to know him you won’t remember his shyness. He too wants someone special, he isn’t out for a brief fling he wants a lasting relationship. I love how tender and gentle Robert is in the romantic scenes with Judy. Both actors really make their characters feelings seem so real to us.

Both Judy and Robert work so well together here. They are totally convincing as the young couple slowly falling in love. I wish they had made more films where they were the lead couple. Both Judy and Robert had difficult lives and apparently they became good friends on set when they made this. Robert died far too young, aged just 32, in 1951.

My favourite scenes in this film are the following. Joe and Alice reciting their own wedding vows in the church. The scene where they watch the sea lions in the zoo. The morning after their wedding. The realisation scene in the park. Joe chasing Alice’s bus to ask her out on a date. The scene where they find each other again at the station after they get separated on a train.

This is a moving and very romantic film. I also always find myself wondering what happened to them once the film ends, and I always hope they got a happy ending. I wish more people out there knew about this little gem. I am hoping that this post will encourage some new viewers to seek this one out.

In my opinion both Judy and Robert give two of their finest performances in this film.

I like Judy quite a lot as an actress. Here are my top five Judy Garland film performances.

        1- A Star Is Born

2- The Clock

                      3- I Could Go On Singing

              4- The Wizard Of Oz

        5- Easter Parade

Thanks so much for reading. Are you also a fan of The Clock? If so, I’d love to read your comments on this lovely film and Judy’s performance.

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese Cinema, Martial Arts, Romance

House Of Flying Daggers (2004)

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Chinese films are known for their sumptuous visuals, and this film is certainly no exception. This film truly is a work of art; from the stunning colour photography, to the beautiful costumes and locations used, to the gorgeous score by Shigeru Umebayashi (my favourite part of the score being the lovers theme.)

This is my favourite Chinese film. I’ve seen this one so many times, but even though I know what’s going to happen, the look of this film still leaves me open mouthed in awe. If you are after other visually impressive films like this, then I also highly recommend Curse of the Golden Flower (2006).

House of Flying Daggers is directed by Zhang Yimou, and it really touches my soul; it features two very moving love stories and an ending that will break you heart. I also like how it plays with the audience and keeps you believing one thing until a surprising truth is revealed that you didn’t expect.

The film is classed as a wuxia/romance. Wuxia is a Chinese genre that focuses on stories about characters who are skilled in the martial arts. This film features some spectacular, gravity defying martial arts fights. My personal favourite fight sequence in this is the one in the green bamboo forest.

The film is set in ninth century China. The House of Flying Daggers is a revolutionary group opposing the corrupt government. Two police officers; the highly experienced Leo (Andy Lau)and the younger, but equally capable Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are tasked with finding the leader of the Daggers and killing them. The trouble is nobody but those in the group know the current leaders identity. Leo arrests a young blind dancer called Mei(Ziyi Zhang), as she is suspected to be the daughter of the groups previous leader.

Once she is in jail, Mei is rescued by Jin (posing as a revolutionary, in a deception arranged by Leo),his rescue of her makes certain that he gains her trust. The couple flee across open country and forests to try and reach the Daggers headquarters. Unbeknown to either of them, Leo and his men are following them. There are also other people following and watching the pair. As they spend more time together, an undeniable bond begins to grow between Mei and Jin. The pair slowly realise they are falling in love.

I can’t say anymore about the plot without spoiling the three major twists that are revealed to us later in the film. These make you reassess everything you have watched and are totally unexpected.

Ziyi Zhang is one of my favourite actresses, and I think her performance here is out of this world. Ziyi makes Mei extremely vulnerable, yet strong and capable. She has adapted to her blindness and learnt to use her hearing in a way that ensures she is aware of what is going on around her. Mei has gained fame for her echo dance(one of the best remembered and most beautiful scenes in the film)in which the accuracy and precision of her hearing is put to the test. Later in the ambush in the field, we see how Mei’s hearing and martial arts skills allows her to be a formidable fighter despite her disability.

Andy Lau is excellent as the observant and patient police captain. He is clever and resourceful and will get what he wants. Lau is always a solid actor, but he is extremely good here.

I wasn’t familiar with Takeshi Kaneshiro before I first saw this film, and I still need to see more of his work, but I’m very impressed with his performance here. The way he conveys to us his growing love and affection for Mei is done so well and seems so genuine. He makes Jin observant and capable of taking care of himself.

My favourite scenes are the following. The fight in the bamboo forest. The echo game sequence, which ends with a gravity defying sword sequence. The scene at the forest bath. The reunion between the two former lovers at the Daggers headquarters. Jin picking flowers on horseback for Mei.

This is an exciting and moving film. If you love martial arts this is one for you. The film is romantic and tragic too. There is something for everyone in this one.

Are you a fan of this film? Please leave your thoughts below. Never seen it? I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

Blogathons, Romance

It Happened One Night (1934)

Screwball comedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Blogathons, Romance, True Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please share your thoughts on the film below.

Musicals, Romance, True Story

The Sound Of Music(1965)

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One of the most beloved musicals ever made. Likeable characters, gorgeous scenery,  beautiful costumes and unforgettable songs. This is one I never get tired of watching and doubt that I ever will. It’s funny, moving, romantic and contains so much energy and joy(much like Maria herself).

The film is based on the true story of the Austrian Von Trapp family. The widowed naval captain who fell in love with his children’s governess, Maria. The governess was a Nun who brought joy back into his life(and the lives of his children.) Fleeing the Nazi rule during the Second World War, the family moved to Vermont in America and became famous for their singing.

Robert Wise directed The Sound Of Music. It was filmed out on location in Austria.

Maria(Julie Andrews)is a free spirited young woman, she is happiest walking through the mountains and enjoying life. After joining a convent she finds it difficult to conform to the rules of the disciplined life there. Maria is sent by the Reverend Mother(Peggy Mount)to be the governess to the seven children of widowed naval hero, Captain Georg Von Trapp(Christopher Plummer).

The Captain and Maria don’t get on when they first meet, she is appalled by the rules and strictness of his household, and at how his children don’t have fun. The Captain is annoyed at how she doesn’t obey his instructions. As time goes on he finds himself falling in love with her, and with the way she treats his children and approaches life.

Maria falls in love with the Captain too, but she is confused by her feelings(having never been in a relationship before.) Matters are complicated by the arrival of the elegant and beautiful Baroness (Eleanor Parker)who is also in love with the Captain.

This film is so much fun. It’s one of those where you join in with all the songs, and you’ve watched it so many times you more than likely know all the dialogue too.

Julie Andrews is effervescent on screen, she makes Maria’s positive outlook on life infectious. She is also very good in the scenes where she is confused by her growing feelings for the Captain. You can feel her awkwardness, her embarrassment and the internal agony she is enduring every time she is near him. There is a vulnerability and innocence about her that perfectly fits the role.

Christopher Plummer famously didn’t enjoy making this film, but that certainly doesn’t show in his performance. Developing from strict and controlling Captain, to gentle and fun loving father. The scene where he sings with his children for the first time in years is one of my favourite scenes in the film. After the song has finished he hugs them all, and it is like he is finally seeing his children for the first time in years. I also have to admit to the Captain being my first ever film crush when I was growing up, he is truly one gorgeous man.  🙂

The romantic scenes between Maria and Georg are so tender. My favourite is their dance where they look at each other and both know(whether Maria wants to admit it or not is another matter)that they have fallen in love with each other. It is so well done and convincing, it is almost like we as the viewer have stumbled across a private moment and are intruding upon it. I also love the gazebo scene.

Eleanor Parker has the hard task of essentially playing a wicked stepmother, yet also making you sympathise with her character at times. The Baroness genuinely loves Georg, she is awkward around the children but loves him. Parker steals every scene she is in and gets to wear some of the most beautiful and glamorous gowns in the entire film. I want that gold and white evening dress she wears so much.

Richard Haydn provides comic relief as Max Detweiler. Max is one of the Captain’s closest friends and is referred to by the children as “uncle Max”. It is Max who sees the potential and talent this gifted family has for singing. Although at times he is self centred he redeems himself by helping the family escape. We never learn his fate, but I’m sure it wasn’t good.

The seven child actors were mostly unknown apart from Angela Cartwright (who had starred in the TV series Make Room For Daddy and Lost In Space.) They all work very well together and are funny and adorable in equal measure. My favourites are Charmian Carr(who we sadly lost earlier this year)as Liesl, the eldest of the Von Trapp children. I also love Kim Karath as Gretl, who is the youngest child.

My favourite scenes are the following. A soaking Liesel being discovered climbing into the house at night by Maria. The entire party sequence, especially the scene where Georg makes a verbal stand against the Nazi’s and Maria and Georg dance. Liesl and Rolfe(Daniel Truhitte)dancing in the gazebo. The nuns removing parts from the Nazi’s cars to prevent them from chasing the Von Trapp’s, and confessing this theft to their Reverend Mother. Maria and Georg arguing by the lake about the children. Georg’s reaction to seeing Maria has returned from the convent. The Nuns singing about Maria and how confusing she is to them. Maria and the Reverend Mother discussing Maria’s feelings for the Captain. Maria taking the children out into the town and hills. Liesl and Georg’s duet. The wedding scene.

The Sound of Music is a film that has long held a place in my heart. It’s uplifting, it gives hope that the right romantic partner is out there somewhere for you, and (like in Jane Eyre)proves that true love isn’t about the physical appearance, but about two souls and hearts connecting.

Writing all of this has made me want to go out and dance in my garden, then get some jam and bread, and then settle down and watch this again.

Do you love this one as much as I do? As ever, share your thoughts below.

 

Indian Cinema, Romance

Charulata(1964)

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This is a film I love so much, mainly due to the heartbreaking lead performance of Madhabi Mukherjee. She is one of my favourite actresses from Indian cinema, she is so expressive and in this film her eyes convey everything her lonely character is feeling.

Directed and written by Satyajit Ray, Charulata(the lonely wife)is set in Victorian-era Calcutta.

Bhupati(Sailen Mukherjee)is a newspaper journalist whose long work hours, and dedication to his job mean he ends up neglecting his young wife, Charu(Madhabi Mukherjee). The pair still love each other, but have become more like best friends sharing a house, than a man and wife.

Charu is lonely, she wants more in her life than organising her household, and reading the books and magazines in her home library. Sensing her loneliness, Bhupati invites his sister and outgoing brother-in-law, Amal(Soumitra Chatterjee)to keep her company. Amal shares Charu’s passion for literature and discussing reading.

As the two spend time discussing literature and writing, they become close and enjoy spending time together. Charu finds herself falling in love with Amal. Does he return her feelings? Will anything come of this growing love?A heartbreaking story of love that at first appears to be unrequited(truly one of the most difficult things to deal with in life), regret and enjoying life.

This is a film that is a slow build, it takes its time with developing the characters. We end up feeling like we are there with them sharing their lives. If you like films focusing on the characters, and that let the actors carry the film, then this will be for you.

Madhabi is superb in the scenes where we see Charu is falling for Amal but he is blind to her behaviour towards him. We see her visibly brighten when he enters a room, or when they read and write in the garden. Her disappointment and longing is evident on her face and in her body language. Both Amal and Bhupati notice Charu’s change of behaviour but neither tries to find out what is bothering her.

My favourite scenes are the following. Amal pushing Charu on the garden swing, Bhupati crying in the carriage when he realises what has happened and that he is partly to blame, Amal writing the letter to Charu, Amal trying to explain his story to Bhupati, Charu and Bhupati on the beach, Amal’s reaction to reading Charu’s story, Charu reading Amal’s letter to her and the storm rushing through the house signalling the arrival of Amal(and symbolising the chaos his stay will cause in this house.)

Strong performances from the lead trio, a moving story and characters you can feel for. I also like how Bhupati is not presented as the villain of the piece, you feel for him and like him as you do Amal and Charu. In this respect it reminds me of David Lean’s The Passionate Friends.

This one is in my top five Ray films, the other four being – The Big City,  Nayak:The Hero, The Music Room and The Stranger.

Any other fans of this one? If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it.

Romance

Charade (1963)

Charade is one of the most enjoyable films of the 1960’s. This film has everything. There’s two of the classic eras greatest stars at their best, thrills, romance, twists, deception, interesting and likeable characters, a cracking score and plenty of comedy.

Charade is directed by Stanley Donen, the man who brought us what is possibly the greatest musical, Singin’ In The Rain.)If you only know Donen from that film, then I think you will be in for quite a surprise with this one.

A perfect blend of romance, thrills, suspense and comedy, Charade has some dark moments too(two of the murders are pretty disturbing, despite not being overly graphic)and a suspenseful rooftop fight sequence. It also keeps you guessing until the last few minutes as to the identity/allegiance of two key characters.

Reggie Lambert(Audrey Hepburn)is in the process of divorcing her husband Charles. Reggie is dismayed to learn he has been killed and all their money is gone. Five men soon enter her life who all want something that Charles had in his possession when he died. They all claim it is worth a lot of money and it is vital that it is found. Reggie also learns quite a few things about her husband that she had previously not known.

George Kennedy, Ned Glass and James Coburn play Scobie, Tex and Gideion, three former friends of Charles, who are all convinced Reggie has what they are after. Walter Matthau is Bartholomew, an American agent who is also after the mysterious item claiming it is vital that the US government gets it before the other three men(who only want it for the money it will bring.)

Cary Grant is Peter Joshua, a mysterious man of many aliases who appears to be Reggie’s only friend and hope in all of this, but is he who he claims to be? Just who is telling the truth, and can Reggie trust any of them?Peter and Reggie find themselves falling in love which further complicates matters.

I wish Grant and Hepburn had made more films together after this, they make such a terrific screen team. Their romantic scenes are tender, funny and believable, they make you feel for their characters and look like they are having a great deal of fun. They also make their characters quite emotionally vulnerable at times, especially during scenes where their mutual attraction is developing.

This is one of my favourite films and is one I return to quite often. It cheers me up if I’m feeling down. The twists and turns are still effective even though I know what’s coming. There is some great location work too. Does anyone know the location of the ski resort?

My favourite scenes are the following. Peter taking a shower fully dressed, the scene on the boat between Peter and Reggie after she gets suspicious of him, the opening at the ski resort, the orange game at the club, Reggie and Bartholomew discussing her skill as a potential spy, Reggie trying to follow Peter and not get noticed and pretty much every scene featuring Cary and Audrey together.

Grant is at his most suave and funny here, and despite the age gap between him and Audrey you don’t really notice it as you do with Audrey and Gary Cooper(in Love In The Afternoon). Audrey gets a mix of comic and serious moments in this and excels at each, she really makes you feel for her character.

The rest of the cast are all superb, George Kennedy is extremely menacing, Glass is seemingly unthreatening, when his character is anything but, and Coburn is like a deadly snake waiting to strike. We get to see Matthau in a rare serious role and he has a brilliant serious expression during comic scenes.

Henry Mancini’s music is the perfect accompaniment to the action and romance on screen.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I think the park(with the market and Punch and Judy show)looks like the one featured in How To Steal A Million, has anyone noticed the similarity? Does anyone know the real location used?

Any other fans? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it.

Blogathons, Romance, Tributes To Classic Stars

The Bette Davis Blogathon: Mr. Skeffington (1944)

 

 

bette-davis-blogathon

Crystal, over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, is hosting this blogathon all about Bette Davis. I’m looking forward to reading all the other posts by those taking part. This is the first time I have ever taken part in a Blogathon, so I’m very excited to be taking part in this.

I’ve decided to write about a great favourite of mine, the 1944 romantic drama, Mr. Skeffington.

Based on the novel by Elizabeth von Arnim; Mr. Skeffington focuses on the beautiful, young socialite, Fanny Trellis(Bette Davis). Fanny can twist men around her little finger, they dote on her, are entranced by her, and she both knows and loves it! From her first scene to her last, Bette makes Fanny the centre of attention as she floats around like a brightly coloured butterfly amongst all those love struck men drawn to her like bees to honey, moths to a…well, by now you should be getting the picture.

Bette was never better than when she was playing bad girls, and her performance here is another good example of this. What I find fascinating about this particular role though is that although Fanny is a selfish heartbreaker, I do find myself wondering if she is always consciously aware of the effect her actions will have?

Sometimes Fanny seems to be pretty naïve, there is a real girlish quality to her, yet at other times it seems she knows exactly what will happen after she says certain things, or goes out with a certain man and uses her apparent innocence as a cover/excuse for her behaviour.

This is precisely why I love Bette so much though, she can let you see the inner workings of her characters; she makes them more complex/human than they may have appeared on paper or possibly when played by another actress.

Fanny marries the kindly Job Skeffington(Claude Rains, delivering one of his most heartbreaking performances)after her brother Trippy(Richard Waring)embezzles money from him. Fanny hopes that her new marriage will allow her access to money which he can pass to her brother. When Trippy (who hates Job)learns what she has done, he leaves home in disgust and is killed in the First World War. Grief stricken by his death, Fanny withholds any affection she once had for Job from him.

Fanny devotes herself to parties and spending time with a number of other men. Job and their daughter rarely see her anymore. Throughout all of this Job’s love for Fanny has never wavered, and seeing him so hurt by her only makes us hate what she is doing. Fanny will come to learn(at great personal cost)that looks are not everything, it is the person inside who counts most. Love isn’t about the physical, it is really all about two souls connecting.

My favourite scenes are the following:

1- Job and Fanny on their honeymoon boat trip, the pair are on deck and see a passionate young couple get serenaded; Fanny is utterly convinced they too will be serenaded by this band who are rumoured to always be able to pick out newlyweds and play for them onboard. The band approach, Fanny looks expectant, satisfied even and then the band members look at one another, shake their heads and walk past leaving a perplexed Fanny in their wake; she didn’t realise(but Job did)that they are not acting like a couple in love.

2- Job sitting by Fanny’s bed when they learn she is pregnant. He is overjoyed and wants to be with her, she is distressed at the thought pregnancy may affect her appearance and she also doesn’t want to have the baby at home. Job is dismissed and we can see the heartbreak it causes.

3-Fanny visiting Job at his company. When news of The First World War being declared comes through, his office is swamped with employees asking what stocks they should buy up etc. For once Fanny is of interest to no one and it throws her somewhat. Bette is very good in this scene, going from in control and flirting, to being completely overwhelmed by something out of her control. I love how she ends up standing on a chair to get out of the way of people barging in and tries to regain Job’s attention.

4- Fanny drinking in a club with a man she is having an affair with. A drunk man keeps telling her she is gorgeous, he invites more drunks over to gaze at her, who all in turn say she is the most beautiful woman they’ve ever seen. Fanny is utterly delighted at this attention and has a right laugh at it all.

Bette is excellent in this film as the flirtatious, fun loving, seductive and enchanting Fanny. One moment she is all childlike innocence, vulnerability, and excitement and the next, she is despicable, cruel, vain and extremely selfish. Throughout all of this though, Bette keeps you interested in the character and even makes her sympathetic during certain scenes, she is not all bad and is more complicated than she may appear to be at first.

I always get the impression that Fanny needs attention and compliments because it makes her feel special; if she accepts her marriage with Job she will no longer feel as unique, desired as she does when she parades around with all the other men. That I can be so intrigued by Fanny is, I think, a real testament to Bette’s abilities as an actress, it is because of her performance and not the writing that makes me so fascinated. I can’t imagine another actress playing this role quite the way Bette does.

Without a doubt this is Bette’s film, but I’d also like to give a shout out to Claude Rains.He is superb here(endless shots of puppy dog eyes), and a sense his character harbours a quiet hope that one day something might change between him and Fanny. This film could so easily have ended up belonging to either of these brilliant actors at the cost of the other, but actually neither of them ends up overshadowing the other. Bette often said that Claude was her favourite co-star and I think they were a perfect screen fit. I really like them together in this, Deception and Now Voyager. I really wish they had made many more films together.

This is a real tearjerker and that ending gets me every time I see it.

Expertly directed by Vincent Sherman. Terrific performances all round, beautiful costumes courtesy of Orry-Kelly and some gorgeous set design courtesy of Fred M. MacLean.  On top of all that, we get Bette at the height of her fame and talent, always a treat to watch. Bette, thank you so much for so many fine performances over the years, you are greatly missed.

I highly recommend this if you haven’t seen it. If you have, please share your thoughts on the film and on Bette’s performance.

 

Romance

Roman Holiday (1953) My Favourite Audrey Hepburn Film

This romantic comedy is one I return to again,again, and (oh, yes)again. Funny, poignant, romantic and very moving, this film is one of those rare ones that has something in it for everyone.

Princess Ann(Audrey Hepburn)is the heir to her (never named) countries throne. During a state visit to Italy, Ann stops off in Rome, and one night she sneaks out of the embassy she is staying in, desperate for a few hours of freedom. She is discovered by American reporter Joe Bradley(Gregory Peck)sleeping on a street bench, he takes her back to his apartment and it begins to dawn on him just who she is. Will he use her to create the story of his career or not?

Gregory Peck is terrific as Joe Bradley, the reporter out for a story when he finds the runaway Princess Ann. At first he is only interested in her because of the story her presence would generate, but as he spends more time with her he finds himself wanting to protect her; the pair slowly realise they are falling in love, but can either of them give up the lives they at currently living(the answer to this may well surprise new viewers who think they know how it will end)Peck is at his most handsome and likeable here, and his performance is one of my favourites of his.

Not only an enjoyable film, Roman Holiday is also responsible for making Audrey Hepburn a big film star. Audrey had featured in a small number of film roles when she was cast in the lead role of Princess Ann(a role originally intended for British actress Jean Simmons). Audiences took Audrey to their hearts and she became an instant star. The Academy gave her the Best Actress Oscar for her enchanting performance. I still find it hard to believe that she had done so little acting before this, as Audrey is so natural on screen and is superb in a very emotional scene(that farewell hug in the car). She perfectly conveys the strength, charm, innocence, vulnerability and enthusiasm of her character.

William Wyler’s film does a good job of conveying how constricted and lonely a royals life must be. Yes they live in luxury, travel far and wide and have great wealth, but they are expected to devote their lives in service of others and often can’t marry who they choose, and are under constant scrutiny. An extremely unenviable lifestyle, and it is from this life that Ann wishes to find some respite from.

Filmed in and around Rome, the film always makes me long to visit Italy, but in a way makes me feel like I have done so. I also always get a craving for ice cream after the scene of Ann and Joe meeting on the steps.

Eddie Albert provides solid support as Irving, Joe’s friend and cameraman. Irving takes many photos of Ann on her Roman Holiday, any one of which would be perfect for the front page, but will he ever let them see the light of day?

I love this film so much, it can move me and make me laugh like no other, the characters are likeable and the ending is far from predictable. I think it is the ending that helped make it so special, it wasn’t another regular fairytale, the realism throughout helps make it believable.

My favourite scenes are that farewell hug in the car(gets me every single time, and I firmly believe it always will), the mouth of truth sequence(improvised by Gregory to get a genuine reaction from Audrey), the “sorry honey, but I haven’t worn a nightgown in years” scene, and the scene where Ann reminds her staff that she is more than aware of her duty.

I want to give a shout out to screenwriter Dalton Trumbo for his beautiful story. Sadly due to the fact that he was blacklisted in the 50’s, he was never credited on the opening titles of this for many more years.

Another shoutout goes to Edith Head for her stunning costumes. Ann’s royal evening gown deserves particular praise.

I also like that Gregory and Audrey became lifelong friends during the making of this, they made me believe so much that they cared for one another on screen, and it’s nice to think that they became special to each other off screen. Gregory also met his future wife Veronique during the making of this, the couple remained married until his death in 2003.

As ever, if you’re a fan please share your thoughts below. If you’ve never seen this, then I hope you’ll check it out soon.

 

Romance

The 60th Anniversary Of An Affair To Remember (1957)

Order your glass of pink champagne, slip into your most elegant evening wear, and meet atop the Empire State Building, to help me celebrate the 60th anniversary of this classic romantic film. Whether you saw this film first, or you came to love it after you sought it out because it featured in Sleepless In Seattle(that’s how I first became aware of it); please share your thoughts on this one below.

Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr are at their best here as the couple who meet aboard a passenger ship. Famous playboy Nickie(Cary Grant)finds himself falling in love for the first time, with the elegant singer Terry(Deborah Kerr). As their friendship grows deeper, they discover they are developing romantic feelings for one another. Unfortunately, both are engaged to someone else, in both cases that someone else is waiting for them to dock in New York.

The pair make a promise to each other, if in six months time they still love each other they will meet on top of the Empire State Building. Both go to keep the date, but tragedy strikes, and Nicky is left believing that Terry had decided not to come to him. He learns (in one of the saddest and beautiful finales in film history)the bitter truth at a much later stage, but only after he has grown bitter towards Terry.

This is directed by Leo McCarey, and is a remake of his own 1939 film, Love Affair, which starred Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne. I’m not really a fan of remakes, and I love the original of this story, but this remake is actually my favourite of the two. I think it is because of Grant and Kerr, they make me feel for them so much and are good at playing hesitant, and tender scenes.

My favourite scenes are where they go into the ships restaurant, pretend not to be together and get seated back to back, much to the amusement of the other guests. Nicky introducing Terry to his beloved grandmother(Cathleen Nesbitt), and the scene where Nicky finds Terry crying on the ship, the pair then share a hidden kiss on a staircase. The finale gets me every time I see it.

Charles Le Meir’s gorgeous costumes are a joy to see, Deborah gets some beautiful and elegant evening gowns; I particularly love the orange/white one she wears, I don’t think she has ever looked lovelier on screen than she does here. Grant is at his most effortlessly charming, stylish and well dressed. Beautiful people, beautifully dressed living a beautiful life, what’s not to love?

Happy 60th anniversary, to one of the best romance films ever made.