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Announcing The Noirathon

Regular readers of this blog know that I LOVE Film Noir. I’ve decided it’s high time I held a blogathon celebrating all things Noir.  

I invite you all to join me to walk through the dark alleys of Film Noir. For this blogathon you can write about any Noir film. You can write about your favourite characters and couples in Film Noir. You can write about the look and style of Noir films. You can write about the history of Film Noir and the impact these films had on cinema.

You can write more than one post for this if you wish to do so. I’m asking that there be No duplicate posts of films for this particular blogathon. There are so many Noir films out there that we shouldn’t need to all write about the same ones. That having been said though, if someone writes a full post about Double Indemnity, it is fine for someone else to write a bit about that film in a list/article which discusses various Noir films. It’s also fine to write about a remake of a Noir film of the same title. 

The blogathon will be held from the 27th – 29th of July, 2019. Please try to have your posts ready on or before those dates. Take one of the banners from below to put on your sites to help advertise this event. Check below to see who is writing about what. 

Have fun writing! Enjoy watching those Noir films!

The Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Cry Of The City, Dark Passage, Murder, My Sweet(1944)

Pale Writer: Dead Reckoning,  Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake

Screen Dreams: Barbara Stanwyck’s Noir Films

Films On The Box: Fear In The Night

Down These Mean Streets: Strangers On A Train

Movie Movie Blog Blog II: Laura

Cinematic Scribblings: Brighton Rock(1948)

Caftan Woman: Thieves Highway

Poppity Talks Classic Film: They Live By Night

Realweegiemidgetreviews: Body Heat 

Overture Books And Film: The Killing 

Silver Screen Classics: The Asphalt Jungle

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Joan Bennett And Film Noir

The Stop Button: In A Lonely Place

Portraits By Jenni: Pickup On South Street

The Old Hollywood Garden: Friendships In Film Noir

Critica Retro: Tension

Silver Screenings: Kansas City Confidential 

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Learning To Love Silent Films

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love me some Silent cinema. I’m very sad to have to confess to you all that it was not always the case. I saw my very first Silent film when I was in my mid teens, it was shown in a film class when I was studying at college. The film was Metropolis. I was intrigued to see the film because it was directed by the great Fritz Lang.

Lang was a director who was already well known to me because I was a fan of Film Noir. He directed such classic Noir films as The Big Heat and Scarlet Street. I liked his work, but I had yet to venture into his expressionistic Silent films. Little did I know that the German Expressionism found in some Silent films, was also a major influence on the Noir films that I loved so much. The use of shadows and lighting in Noir is straight out of those German films. I was amazed when I first learnt about that. All Noir fans out there should show some love to those German Silents; without their direct influence, the look of Film Noir would have most likely turned out very differently indeed.  

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Poster for Metropolis. Image source IMDb.

Before seeing Metropolis, I was already a huge fan of classic era films. I had never before had the slightest interest in seeing a Silent film though. I thought they would be boring and weird to watch. When this film started playing, there I was, still stubbornly convinced that there was no way this was going to be for me.

Then something happened that I can’t really describe. I just became fascinated by the images I was seeing on the screen. I was so impressed with the scale of the sets, the overall look of the film, and by Lang’s unforgettable depiction of the future. Before I knew what was happening, there I was, actually sitting there and enjoying a Silent film. 

I have to say that while Metropolis has never become a favourite of mine to the extent that I regularly watch it, I do love and admire it a great deal. The image of the future that it presents to us is an image which is impossible to get out of your head. It’s one of the greatest films that Fritz Lang ever made. Metropolis will always have a special place in my heart for being the film that made me a fan of Silent cinema.

From that point on I started to watch more Silent films. Then I started to laugh at myself for having held such stupid views about Silent films in the first place. Why had I been so hesitant about checking these out sooner? I  think it mainly had to do with the actors not speaking. It was such an alien concept to me after being raised on sound films. I think the lack of speech is still the main problem for people who are hesitant to watch these films today.

While hearing audiences may have difficulty with these films, I would imagine (would love to see some studies done on this)that Silent films can perhaps appeal more to deaf audiences. So often today the subtitles are not always that good on DVD releases, and this can make it difficult for deaf viewers to follow the dialogue. Some TV channels and programmes do not always offer subtitles either, which sadly means that deaf audiences are excluded from some content. Silent films don’t have those problems. In Silent films  you often don’t really need dialogue in many scenes, the actors convey all we need to know. I think it’s also very easy to follow what people are saying in Silent films because we have the title cards popping up displaying the dialogue. Personally I think that Silent films provide quite an inclusive experience to viewers who have hearing difficulties, or who perhaps don’t speak any languages other than their mother tongue and want to watch films from other countries(yes, I know DVDs of sound films have language dubbing :-)).

Now I am happy to say that I’m a huge fan of Silent cinema. I think that Silent films are incredible. Hard to dislike films where all the stunts are done for real; where all the special effects were done by hand(no CGI here, folks), and where even the editing was done by hand. Making these films was a real labour of love and it shows. I also think that many of these films are like paintings brought to life due to a combination of beautiful costumes, colour tinting, uniquely designed title cards, lavish sets etc. You really don’t see films so visually beautiful anymore. I am a huge fan of tinting and especially love the use of blue in the Silent documentary The Epic Of Everest (1924). The blue tinting in that documentary makes me feel the cold of the location somehow. 

When you see these films today and know that what you see was all done by hand, it just blows you away. The stunning, jaw dropping visuals in these films, are leaps and bounds beyond anything that CGI gives us today. The directors and film crew working at this time were so innovative, and I find their fearlessness in exploring new and exciting ways of making films and creating film effects quite admirable.

Without these films we would most likely not even have films today. Film fans should be watching these films because it is where the medium began. We owe these films, and the filmmakers of this era, a massive debt of gratitude. I think it is vital that we get younger generations interested in these films. We need to preserve and honour these magnificent films. 

The more Silent films I watch, the more that I come to love and appreciate the different acting style. Some of the acting when viewed by us today looks quite theatrical, and I concede that this can be strange to get used to if you’re new to it. Having said that though, it’s important to note that so many performances in Silent films come across as very modern and fresh when viewed today.

I think that the acting in these films is all about the actors conveying emotions to us, and in doing so they really make us feel their pain or joy. These actors do not need dialogue because they have the ability to convey to us what’s going on through expression alone.

In my opinion no actor of the era was better at conveying emotion than Lon Chaney Sr. Lon was a very unique actor. He created and applied his own make-up to play disfigured characters. I really can’t recommend his films highly enough. I write about him and his career in detail here.  He was such a fascinating man. 

Another thing I love about Silent films is the music. Music is very important in these films. You see despite there being no audible dialogue, these films are not actually totally silent(another myth busted). There is music playing throughout these films, and the music is very important for helping to establish and convey the mood and emotions of characters. I would love to go to one of those silent screenings which have a live orchestra accompanying the film. Has anyone ever attended one of these? What was it like? Silent films also have title cards, which appear at various points in the film, to display to us the dialogue being spoken by the characters. 

New To Silent Cinema?

Have you yet to dip your toe into the ocean of Silent cinema? What are you waiting for? There are dramas, historical epics, experimental films, short and long films, romances, comedies, horror,documentary, crime etc. Forget the damsel in distress cliche as well, because the Silent films provided very strong roles for women. They also had many women working behind the cameras as directors, producers, editors and writers in the Silent era.

Please don’t be afraid of these films. Pick one to watch and give this different film style a chance. Don’t simply dismiss these films as being old, outdated, or weird when you have never actually watched one.

If you don’t try these films, then not only will you miss out on some stunning visuals, powerful stories and memorable characters, but you’ll also miss out on some truly remarkable actors. People like Lon Chaney Sr, Douglas Fairbanks Sr, Lillian Gish, Louise Brooks, Ruan Lingyu, Rudolph Valentino, Buster Keaton, Clara Bow and so many others. You’ll also miss out on directors like F.W Murnau, Charles Chaplin, Fritz Lang, Buster Keaton, Cecil B. De Mille. 

Where To Begin With Silent Cinema?

You are going to watch your first Silent film, but you don’t know which film you should watch first. I would say forget all those famous titles; just go right ahead and pick a Silent film that is from your favourite genre. Don’t immediately try one of the very long feature films like Metropolis for example. You may get lucky as I did and end up really enjoying your first Silent, even if it is a long feature, but on the other hand you may well end up getting bored if your first film turns out to be a drag. So I’d say that you should maybe try something that appeals to your tastes before checking out the acclaimed epics.

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Buster Keaton films are a good place to start for Silent newbies. Screenshot by me from Sherlock Jr.

A good place to start is to try and watch a comedy short. If you’re going to do that, then I would heartily recommend the films of the legend that is Buster Keaton. This comic genius made both comedy film shorts and feature films.

Buster was the master of physical comedy, and he had such perfect timing. He also performed some of the most jaw dropping film stunts ever captured on film. If you like comedy you can’t go wrong with Buster’s work. Charles Chaplin, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Harold Lloyd’s films also come highly recommended by me.

If you are interested in seeing the famous stunning visuals, epic running time and visual trickery of Silent films, then these films are ones that I would highly recommend that you watch for various reasons: The Phantom Carriage (1921), Battleship Potemkin (1925), Der Mude Tode(1921), Intolerance (1916), The Thief Of Bagdad(1924), Orphans Of The Storm (1921),Ghosts Before Breakfast (1928), A Trip To The Moon (1902), The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920), Metropolis (1927),The General (1926),Nosferatu(1922) , Sherlock Jr (1924) , The Epic Of Everest (documentary from 1924), The Man With The Movie Camera (documentary from 1929).

A Silent Film That I Would Recommend To A Newbie?

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Shooting Stars. Screenshot by me.

1- Shooting Stars (1928) This British Silent is a behind the scenes look at filmmaking. It follows three actors who are caught up in a love triangle. The film is funny, suspenseful and very moving. It looks at the fleeting nature of fame and how we should never take what we have for granted. 

This film was one of the first(possibly the first)films to show audiences what goes on behind the scenes of films, and of how shots are achieved in film. We see how the screen fiction is achieved and made believable to an audience who buys into the illusion of film. You can read my full review of this film here. 

I would also recommend The Artist(2011). This charming film is a homage to the Silent era.It also brings to mind sound films such as Singin’ In The Rain and A Star Is Born. It also features the cutest and most scene stealing dog you’ll ever see. 

I could go on and on about Silent cinema, but I don’t want to bore you all.  🙂  I hope that I have piqued your interest in these films if you have yet to check out any Silent films. Let me know how you get on if you do decide to check out Silent films for the first time.

If you are already a fan I would love to hear from you. How did you become a fan? What are your favourite Silent films? Did you put off seeing them for ages?(like me). I sometimes feel like an oddity because I’m 30 and don’t know anyone else my age (outside of people online) who loves these wonderful films. 

May I also suggest you head on over and see Fritzi at Movies Silently.  Fritzi knows all there is to know about Silent cinema. 

 

 

 

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The Jean Harlow Blogathon: A Tribute To Jean

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Virginie at The Wonderful World Of Cinema and Samantha at Musings Of A Classic Film Addict are teaming up! They are co-hosting this blogathon dedicated to the actress Jean Harlow. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries. I’m so happy that Virginie and Samantha are honouring Jean with this blogathon.

What do you think is the first thing that comes to mind when most people hear the name of Jean Harlow? I bet that many immediately think of her as being the original blonde bombshell, a beautiful woman with hair so blonde that it almost looked white. When I hear or see the name Jean Harlow, I think first of how funny she was, and of how much her screen antics have caused me to laugh or to cheer on her characters.

I love Jean Harlow so much. I love her badass and sassy screen persona. I love her style and her looks. I love how funny she was. She was so vibrant and full of life, and it is such a great shame that she died so young.

What draws me to Jean Harlow the most is that mixture of vulnerability, innocence, and toughness that she had about her. I also love how she embodied the go-getting attitude of so many women during the 1930’s.Her characters are often clever, tough- talking, feisty and independent. I’m sure that many a young woman living in the 1930’s could relate to Jean and the attitudes of her characters. Her performances and many of her characters seem quite modern when we watch her films today.

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Jean in Dinner At Eight. Image Source IMDb.

I first became a fan of Jean’s after seeing her in the comedy Dinner At Eight. At this point in my life I had heard of Jean Harlow. I knew what she looked like, and I was aware that she had sadly died at a young age, but I had never seen one of her films before.

I thought she was absolutely hilarious in Dinner At Eight. I was very taken by how her character was a woman who just did her own thing. I also loved how her character stood up to her rather brutish husband(Wallace Beery). 

Jean was one of the first actors I came across who had the ability to make you unable to really focus on anyone other than them when they are on screen. This is especially true of her performance in Dinner At Eight

I don’t think anyone has become a fan of anyone as fast I became a fan of Jean Harlow. I  loved everything about her in that film, and I also knew that I really wanted to see more of her work after seeing this film. I checked out Red Dust next. That film left me in no doubt that I was a Jean Harlow fan.In this film she co-stars with her friend Clark Gable. Jean and Clark would go on to make six films together in total. The pair have such incredible chemistry in this film.

When Jean and Clark are on screen together you believe they are a couple, and you can see a genuine affection and warmth between them. Their chemistry in Red Dust is wild! Jean steals every scene in the film. She makes you miss her fun and feisty character Vantine so much when she isn’t in a scene.

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Jean and Clark in Red Dust. Image Source IMDb.

Jean also makes Vantine so full of life and so likeable, that you sit there shaking your head in disbelief when it seems like Clark’s character will choose Mary Astor’s rather dull character over Vantine. 

There is a funny story about the making of Red Dust that I always get a good laugh from. At the end of the scene where Vantine takes an outdoor bath, a topless Jean is supposed to have stood up and faced the camera while it was still running. She cheekily called out to the crew members on the set “This is one for the boys back at the lab”. If that story is true, then it certainly shows that Jean had a great sense of humour and that she was no prude. 🙂

Red Headed-Woman, Reckless, Platinum Blonde, Wife vs. Secretary, Libeled Lady are just a few of the films which have made audiences fall in love with Jean Harlow over the years. Jean’s film career first began back in 1930, when she was cast in Howard Hughes WW1 aviation epic, Hell’s Angels. While her performance in that film isn’t one of her best in my opinion, it is certainly a very memorable film debut for her. What is also clear from that film, is that she had that special star quality about her right from the very beginning of her career. It would take a few more years for Jean’s popularity to increase, but when it did so she would become one of the most beloved stars of the classic film era.

Jean Harlow (known affectionately as Baby) worked steadily in films over the next two years. Her fame and popularity gradually began to increase. In Red Dust and Red Headed-Woman, both released in 1932, she found her two most iconic film roles. Her characters in both of these films are fun-loving, tough-talking, forward, and strong willed gals who know exactly what they want and won’t stop till they have it. Jean would become forever linked with these two films and characters. I love both of these films very much. I consider Red Headed-Woman to be one of Jean’s best film performances. 

As the 1930’s continued, Jean Harlow quickly became one of the most popular and beloved American stars of the era. Audiences and colleagues adored her. She was talented, bubbly, outgoing, and she knew just how to make people laugh. She shines on screen in those 1930’s films and really gives life to all of her characters.

I always wonder about what roles she would have received had she lived into the 1940’s and beyond. I can totally see Jean in Noir films. I would have loved to have seen her as a Femme Fatale or as a Noir heroine in films like The Dark Corner or Lured.  I also think that she would have been good in some more serious roles too. She excelled in comic roles, but she was a very good dramatic actress too. I for one would have loved to have seen her in more dramatic leading roles. 

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Publicity photo of Jean. Image Source Wikimedia Commons.

On the 7th of June, 1937, a shining light left this world. Jean Harlow died. She was just 26 years old. She had been suffering from kidney failure.

She had fallen ill with flu the previous month, and at first it was suspected that her ill health during the making of her final film Saratoga was linked to that illness.

Tragically by the time that the exact nature of her illness was realised, it was far too late to treat and save her.Her death left her loved ones and fans equally shocked and upset. Her fiance, the actor William Powell, was left completely devastated by her death.

Jean’s funeral became an extravaganza of grief. MGM studios closed on the day of her funeral. William Powell paid for her crypt, at a cost of $25,000. Her funeral was attended by a multitude of actors. Clark Gable served as one of her pallbearers. A personal note from William Powell was placed with Jean in her coffin. The Blues singer Leadbelly eulogised Jean in his song Jean Harlow.  The inscription on Jean’s crypt in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, simply reads ” Our Baby”.

I feel sorry for Jean because she was robbed of life at such a young age. As a film fan I also feel sad that we never got more performances from her. Decades after her death, Jean Harlow is still one of the most famous, iconic, fascinating, and beloved actresses of all time. Her performances come across as very modern when they are viewed today.

I mourn for the performances we could have had from Jean, while cherishing the ones she left us with. Jean is still making audiences laugh and cheer in 2019. I like to think that she would be touched to know she has not been forgotten.  

Thanks Jean for all the joy you have given to this classic film fan. 

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The 2nd Anniversary Of Maddy Loves Her Classic Films

I have just seen that it is the second anniversary of my blog. It feels like only yesterday that I started this blog as a place to write down my thoughts on classic films. I never expected any followers if I am honest, but somehow you all found me.

I am so happy (and more than a little surprised)that so many of you have stuck with me over the last two years. Words cannot express how grateful I am to everyone who reads and comments on my posts. Your support and encouragement means a great deal to me. THANK YOU! x 

To mark the two year anniversary, here are some screenshots of some of my favourite couples in classic romance films. Screenshots by me. 

In the last two years I have connected with some amazing classic film fans. I am so happy to have found you all. I now also no longer feel like an oddity being a young person with a great love of classic era films. Through the blog I have found many fellow classic film fans who are in my age group or younger. I also feel that my confidence as a writer has grown a great deal over the last two years. 

Thanks for taking part in my classic film blogathons as I try and celebrate the actors and directors of the classic era, without your fine articles and reviews these blogathons would be meaningless. I hope you all have as much fun taking part in the blogathons as I do reading all your posts for them. 

Without your support this blog would just be a collection of my thoughts on films. I love how your comments can generate some good discussions about the film or actor in question, and I love reading your thoughts and views on the films that I write about. 

You’re all invited to join me in a big slice of chocolate cake to celebrate this anniversary. 🙂

Thanks for sticking with this classic film obsessed gal. Maddy x 

 

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The Fifth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon: Sherlock Jr(1924)

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For the fifth year running, Lea at Silent-ology is hosting her annual blogathon dedicated to our beloved stone-faced comedian, Buster Keaton. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

I’m writing about Sherlock Jr, which is one of Buster Keaton’s greatest film achievements, as both an actor, and also as a film director.  The film only lasts for 45 minutes, and yet it somehow manages to be more stunning, more inventive, and much more memorable than many other films which last hours longer than this one does.  

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Buster wants to know how to be a detective. Screenshot by me.

Sherlock Jr is a film that shows just what can be achieved on screen by those who make films. It contains sequences and camera tricks that had audiences and fellow filmmakers of the time eager to know how those things were achieved. Watching this film in 2019 has me feeling the exact same way. I like to think that Buster would be proud to know that his stunts, camera tricks, and comedy are still wowing audiences all these decades later.

                      A memorable moment where Sherlock Jr opens a safe and it opens into a street. Screenshot by me.  

This film contains some of Buster’s funniest moments on screen. I especially love the banana gag, which sees Buster setting a banana gag up to make the projectionist’s rival slip, but then Buster falls victim to it himself instead. This slipping gag never fails to make me giggle, and I really love how the gag plays with our expectations about who will slip. I also love the scene where our hero crashes through a window, slides along a table on his back, and kicks the guy sitting at the end of the table straight out the other side of the wooden building. 🙂 The looking for a dollar sequence is hilarious too. 

There’s also a wide range of very impressive stunts in this film. The sequence where he is on his runaway motorbike is a real highlight. I also love the scene in the sinking car. Another sequence,where Buster is hit by a large amount of water on the train tracks, resulted in Buster falling and unknowingly fracturing his neck. He didn’t find out about the injury until many years later when he was examined by a doctor who then discovered the injury. 

                               Buster and his runaway motorbike narrowly avoid a train. Screenshots by me. 

The film also features some truly amazing camera trickery and shots. There are several stunts/camera tricks in this that are so remarkable and flawlessly put together, that I am still scratching my head trying to figure out exactly how they were so seamlessly achieved and put together on film.

There is one trick in particular in this that had me rewinding the DVD several times when I first saw it trying to work out how it was even possible. The scene I’m referring to is the one where Buster leaps into a suitcase held by another person and disappears. This shot was achieved by using an old vaudeville trick which Buster’s dad, Joe Keaton, had apparently invented during his days on stage. There was a trap door behind the suitcase and the actor holding the case lay horizontally with some long clothes hiding the fact that there is no body there. It is such an amazing trick and the scene never fails to have me open mouthed and pointing at the TV trying to figure out how such a thing is even possible. 

The film first began life in 1923, under the working title of The Misfit. The title was later changed to Sherlock Jr, and the film was released in April of 1924. Buster had initially hired his close friend Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle to help him co- direct the film. Roscoe had been Buster’s friend and co-star for many years, and the pair had made a number of short films together.

Roscoe had been falsely accused of the rape and manslaughter of the actress Virginia Rappe in 1921.  After three trials Roscoe was exonerated of the crime, but sadly by that time he had become something of a broken man. Buster stood by his friend throughout the scandal and trials, and he also tried to offer him work on his films. Apparently Roscoe was very difficult on the set of Sherlock Jr, which then led Buster to completely take over directing duties. It is unclear which footage(if any)in the film is the work of Roscoe Arbuckle. Roscoe would finally get to direct some films again under the name of William Goodrich, he died in 1933. 

Upon its release Sherlock Jr would unfortunately become one of the least popular films that Buster had made so far. The film also did very poorly at the box office. It may not have been widely appreciated and loved at the time it was released, but in recent decades it has become one of the most beloved and admired of any of Buster’s films.

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Out for a drive, or is a boat ride? Screenshot by me.

I think the film works as well as it does not only because of the stunt work and visuals, but also because it is at heart a film about an unlucky, ordinary guy, who we in the audience just want to be happy.

Buster’s performance in this film is also a huge part of its charm in my opinion. Buster’s performance in this is one that I love a great deal. Buster makes his character a really sweet, shy and down on his luck guy; we root for him, we like him, and we feel sorry for him as he suffers injustice and heartbreak. When Buster becomes the detective later in the film his performance changes. I really like how Buster becomes a suave man of confidence when he is in the film within the film.

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A sweet moment between our awkward hero and his lady love. Screenshot by me.

Buster Keaton plays a gentle and shy cinema projectionist/cinema cleaner. He is in love with a girl(Kathryn McGuire)who is from a well off family. He also yearns to be a professional detective. The projectionist has a serious rival (Ward Crane)for the heart of his one true love.

The rival steals the watch of the girl’s father(played by Buster’s dad, Joe Keaton) pawns it at a local shop, and then plants evidence on our poor hero to make out that he is the thief. The father banishes our hero, but the girl doesn’t believe his guilt and she sets out to prove his innocence. 

                                    The leaving the body scene. Screenshot by me. 

One night, while running a mystery film at the cinema, our hero falls asleep. We next see his soul come out of his body (a remarkable sequence achieved by using double exposure) and walk off into the big screen to become a part of the film. In his dreams our hero now transforms into the confident and famous detective Sherlock Jr. The actors playing the girlfriend and the rival replace the actors of the film our hero has entered.

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Sherlock Jr is on the case. Screenshot by me.

What I love about the dream/film within a film scene is how random and mixed up it all, just as dreams are while we are experiencing them.  Once Buster’s film dream gets underway we then have a series of stunts and sight gags to enjoy. Buster somehow controls a runaway motorbike by sitting on the handlebars and driving through heavy traffic. Buster jumps through things, off of things, and into things. Buster also narrowly avoids getting hit by a train in a scene that was apparently shot in reverse, but which doesn’t look like it to me. The film is non-stop action once Buster enters the film within the film. 

I also love that the happy ending of the film basically shows us the projectionist gaining tips from the movies on how to be romantic. The ending also shows us that some things can’t be learnt from films, instead they must be discovered for ourselves off screen in reality. The projectionist has adventures and happiness of his own waiting just around the corner in reality. 

The film is so much fun. I do wish that it had been a bit longer though. I also wanted some more scenes at the beginning between the projectionist and his girlfriend. What is present in the film is very good though.

This is a film which lets us all just sit back and marvel at what we are watching. In my opinion this film stands as a tribute to film making. It also stands as a tribute to the magic of the cinema, and to the timeless appeal of Buster Keaton. I highly recommend this film to anyone who hasn’t seen it. 

What do you think of this film?

 

 

 

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The Angela Lansbury Blogathon: Bedknobs And Broomsticks(1971)

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Gill over at Realweegiemidgetreviews is hosting this blogathon celebrating Angela Lansbury. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

I’m a huge fan of Angela Lansbury. I’m delighted that Gill is holding this blogathon in honour of this classic film legend. Angela is an actress who I love a great deal. She was a big part of my childhood when I was growing up. I enjoyed watching reruns of Murder She Wrote, and I absolutely adored Beauty And The Beast, in which Angela provides the voice of the enchanted teapot.

This blogathon has given me the encouragement to finally get round to reviewing my favourite film starring Angela Lansbury. That film is the Disney classic Bedknobs And Broomsticks

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The magic bed takes our heroes to an animated world. Screenshot by me.

The film is based upon two children’s novels, The Magic Bedknob and Bonfires And Broomsticks, which were both written by Mary Norton(most famous for writing The Borrowers books).

The film was directed by Robert Stevenson, who had directed Mary Poppins just a few years earlier.  

The film features songs written by the legendary Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert. The stunning visual work and effects seen in the film were rewarded with an Oscar. I especially love the special effects in the grand finale, where suits of armour, ancient military outfits etc are brought to life by magic. The mix of live action and beautiful Disney animation is also terrific. 

The film was cut quite a bit upon release, with several songs and scenes cut or trimmed down significantly. These scenes can now be seen on the Blu-ray. I was delighted when I finally got to see these scenes. One scene featuring Mr Browne and Charlie going to the post office should be put back into the film in my opinion, although the actors voices were all re-dubbed in the scene which is a shame because you can tell the difference in voices. 

I was absolutely obsessed with this film when I was growing up. I about wore the tape out due to the amount of times I watched it. It’s such a fun film and I have never lost my love for it as I’ve grown up. I love the film for many reasons, chief among them being its message that anyone can be a hero. In this film it is those you least expect it to be who become the heroes.

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Angela as Miss Price. Screenshot by me.

In this film the weak and awkward find strength and courage, and these people become heroes and leaders. I also love the film because of how quirky Angela’s character Miss Price is. I love how she does her own thing. I also love how she never gives up, even when things are difficult and not going her way. This was the performance of Angela’s that really made me a fan, I just love the way she plays Miss Price.

I also love the mix of live action and animation in the film. I love the songs and always sing along with them when I watch the film. I also love how the lonely find love and companionship in this film, I love the characters, and most of all I love the performances of Angela Lansbury and the lovely David Tomlinson.

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Mr Browne and Miss Price. Screenshot by me.

It is the lovely relationship which develops between Angela and David’s characters that has become the highlight of the film for me as I’ve grown older.

Here are two lonely people. Miss Price is serious and bookish, whereas Mr Browne is goofy and far more laid back. They don’t hit it off right away, but when they do they certainly make a lovely pair. Angela and David have such a lovely and natural chemistry in this. I really wish that the  pair of them had worked together again. 

The film is set in Britain during WW2. Chaos and destruction abounds in the cities due to the horrors of The Blitz. Three young siblings, Carrie(Cindy O’Callaghan) Charlie(Ian Weighill), and Paul(Roy Snart), are evacuated to a quiet village on the English coast.

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Carrie, Paul and Charlie. Screenshot by me.

They are sent to live with Miss Eglantine Price(Angela Lansbury), a quirky woman whose only companion is her cat, Cosmic Creepers(best pet name ever!)and who isn’t best pleased to have the children dumped with her.

Miss Price has even more reason not to want three strangers in her house, she is actually an apprentice witch and is very worried that the children will discover her secret. The children do discover that she is a witch and this discovery leads to lots of adventures, fun, and many unexpected developments.

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Miss Price gets a new broom. Screenshot by me.

Teaming up with the failed magician Professor Emelius Browne(David Tomlinson), Miss Price and the children search for a mysterious book which contains ancient spells, one of which Miss Price desperately wants to learn so she can use it to try and help defeat the Nazis if they try and invade England.

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Mr Browne has words with a bear. Screenshot by me.

Throw in some dastardly Nazis, toe tapping songs, spectacular combinations of live action and animation, and a slowly developing relationship between Miss Price and Mr Browne, and you have yourself a very enjoyable film indeed. I also love how our main characters slowly start to become a surrogate family and don’t want to be parted.

Although Angela and David are the undoubted stars of this film, the three children are all superb too.

Ian, Carrie and Roy deliver exceptional child performances. Roy is as innocent and fun loving as his character is. Carrie does well as the girl who has had to grow up before her time and become a mother figure to her brothers. Ian is the best of the lot as the angry and cynical Charlie. 

The film also features small appearances by Roddy McDowall (as the local priest who gets a shock when he visits Miss Price’s home), Sam Jaffe as the bookman, and a very young Bruce Forsyth(long before his “Brucie Bonus” days) as the heavy who works for the bookman.

I have to mention my favourite song and set piece in the whole film now. The Portobello Road sequence is absolutely fabulous. Not only is the song terrific, but I love the picture of London that it offers to us. We see that the London community isn’t solely comprised of white Londoners. We see Black, Sikh, Indian and Scottish people in the Portobello market place too.

   Some of the Portobello Road sequence. Screenshots by me. 

I especially love the moment where the Caribbean group start singing and dancing and really liven the place up. It’s such a fun sequence and just shows ordinary people just trying the make the best of what they have. I always get a right laugh when a man grabs Miss Price and makes her start dancing, when all she really wants to do is sit reading through the books for sale in the market! 🙂

This a film I highly recommend showing to your little ones. It’s funny, it’s uplifting, it’s got lots of action and adventure, and I’m sure they’ll get a kick out of the mix of live action and animation too. I hope your children will enjoy this one as much as I did, and still do for that matter. I also highly recommend this for anyone out there who hasn’t seen an Angela Lansbury film before, she’s so funny in this film and does wonders with the character. 

This will always be my favourite film of Angela’s. Never seen this one? What are you waiting for? Any other fans of this one?

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Farewell, Albert. Albert Finney (1936-2019)

I never met Albert Finney. I never corresponded with him either. Yet he is someone who I have always felt connected to, and he is someone I respect a great deal, despite not actually knowing him. I think part of that is because although he was someone who became rich and famous, he never once gave himself airs when he hit the big time. He always came across as down to earth and natural in interviews. He was simply a working class lad who made good and never forgot where he came from. I like that.

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Albert in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning. Screenshot by me.

Albert Finney was one of the best actors of all time. His films have been a big part of my life as I have grown up over the past thirty years. I developed the biggest crush on him in Two For The Road and Saturday Night, Sunday Morning. I adore him in Erin Brockovich and Annie.

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Albert in A Man Of No Importance. Screenshot by me.

I cheer at how badass he is in Miller’s Crossing.I cheered loudly the first time I saw him appear in Skyfall, as the shotgun toting gamekeeper and friend of Bond’s. I feel great pity and affection for him in A Man Of No Importance and the remake of The Browning Version

He was one of those actors who convinced in whatever role they took. He was always good at playing tough guys. He had a don’t mess with me attitude about him always. He always delivered an excellent performance. 

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Albert in Two For The Road. Screenshot by me.

He has been a favourite of mine for years. I first saw him in Erin Brockovich, and I instantly became a fan and wanted to check out more of his work. I have been a fan ever since. My heart is broken right now. Sending sympathies to his family and friends. 

Farewell, Albert. R.I.P. Thank you for so many wonderful film performances. 

Here are some films and series of his that you should watch. Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Miller’s Crossing, The Dresser, Two For The Road, The Green Man(TV), The Gathering Storm(TV), A Man Of No Importance, Erin Brockovich, Scrooge, Gumshoe, Under The Volcano, The Playboys, Shoot The Moon, Loophole, The Browning Version, Murder On The Orient Express.

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The Third Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon Arrives

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The big day is finally here! Over the next two days a large number of truly wonderful bloggers will be writing about all things Alfred Hitchcock. I want to welcome back those of you who’ve joined me before, and offer a warm welcome to the new bloggers joining us. 

Please join me for a buffet laid out on top of Mount Rushmore. Beware of low flying crop dusters and flocks of birds that you may see approaching us. Bernard Herrmann will be providing a suitable score for our Hitchcock themed event. 

Day 2 Entries

Silver Screen Classics takes a look at the dark love story Vertigo

The Wonderful World Of Cinema shares her favourite Hitchcock film scenes

Overturebooksandfilms writes about the much underrated Saboteur

Diary Of A Movie Maniac writes about Jamaica Inn and The Lady Vanishes

The Poppity writes about the much maligned Marnie

Critica Retro tells us about the unmade Hitchcock Silent films

Thoughtsallsorts heads to the riviera to discuss the very romantic To Catch A Thief

Crackedrearviewer discusses Frenzy, which is one of Hitch’s darkest films

Portraitsbyjenni talks all about The Lady Vanishes

Movie Rob shares his top 10 Hitchcock films

Taking Up Room tells us all about The 39 Steps

Pale Writer joins us with a second post. This time discussing Anthony Perkins performance in Psycho

Katy Kostakis writes about some of her favourite episodes of Hitchcock’s TV series

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Day 1 Entries

Pale Writer discusses Hitchcock Blondes

The Humpo Show shares his thoughts on Suspicion

I tell you about my four favourite Hitchcock couples

Cinema Essentials compares the Kenneth More version of The 39 Steps to Hitch’s classic

The Midnite Drive-In discusses Strangers On A Train and Throw Momma From The  Train

The Old Hollywood Garden talks about the Macguffin

Stars And Letters shares correspondence about the making of Rebecca

Realweegiemidgetreviews takes a look at a Lamb To The Slaughter, an episode of Hitch’s TV series

The Stop Button discusses Hitch’s black comedy The Trouble With Harry

Sparksfromacombustiblemind discusses The Birds

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The Third Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: My Four Favourite Hitchcock Couples

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This is my entry for my Alfred Hitchcock blogathon being held in a few days. Instead of reviewing one of Hitch’s films this year, I have decided instead to write about my favourite couples in his films.

When we think of the films of Alfred Hitchcock our minds usually spring to images of suspense and danger. I do think of those things, but I also think of the many unforgettable romantic couples in his films.

Who can forget John and Francie in To Catch A Thief, Lisa and Jeff in Rear Window, Maxim and his second wife in Rebecca, or Gilbert and Iris in The Lady VanishesI love so many of the couples seen in his films. Four couples in particular have become great favourites of mine. It is those four couples that I want to talk about. 

 

First up are Mitch and Melanie in The Birds. These two are my absolute favourite couple out of all of Hitch’s films. I just can’t get enough of them. 

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Our lovebirds meet for the first time. Screenshot by me.

I love them so much because their relationship is both playful and sexy. The sexual tension between them is evident in so many of their scenes. You can tell how much they love one another simply by the way they look at one another.

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Mitch and Melanie share a drink and get to know each other. Screenshot by me.

Mitch and Melanie’s relationship starts off quite badly, they annoy and really frustrate one another.  As time goes on though neither one can deny that they are falling for the other. 

The way that Mitch(Rod Taylor)looks at Melanie(Tippi Hedren)melts my heart. He looks at her with such warmth, affection and desire. You can see the spark passing between them as they look into each others eyes. I always long for their scenes to appear when I’m watching the film. Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren have such amazing chemistry. 

                                        The restaurant scene. Screenshots by me. 

I especially love the scene between them in the restaurant, after Melanie has been attacked by the gull and Mitch takes her there to clean her head wound. I really love their flirting in that scene, I also love how we can see in the way they look at one another that they are developing feelings for each other. I always get annoyed when Lydia enters the restaurant and puts an end to that particular moment! 😦

 

Next up are Alicia(Ingrid Bergman) and Devlin(Cary Grant) in Notorious. These two love each other very much, but their path to everlasting happiness does not run smooth. Their relationship is such a complicated one. If ever a couple needed their heads banging together it’s these two. Watching Alicia and Devlin sure does make for fun viewing though. 

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Alicia and Devlin meet. Screenshot by me.

These two also don’t get off to the best start. Very soon though sexual tension and sparks are flying between them. They are mutually passionate and drawn to one another. They give into their feelings, and for a time they are both very happy. Then Alicia is set to work as a spy, and their mutual happiness and affection quickly dissolves into a mess of jealousy and cynicism riddled banter. 

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Our passionate couple. Screenshot by me.

Devlin becomes jealous and petty. He puts up a tough and cynical facade, pretending not to care about Alicia, when the reality is he still loves her desperately and is worried about her safety. Alicia can’t change the type of person she is and her devil may care attitude worries Devlin. She loves him as much as he loves her, but neither can actually express their feelings and forgive past arguments until Alicia becomes endangered by her spy work. 

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Devlin protecting his girl. Screenshot by me.

Cary and Ingrid are terrific together in this. Both actors make you feel the tensions and tenderness present in this relationship. I love how Devlin and Alicia both struggle against the emotional and sexual desires being stirred up between them. I love how happy and adorable they are when they give in and start their relationship. I love the banter and verbal sparring they exchange. I never get tired of watching this couple and wishing them every happiness. 

 

Finally we get to Vertigo. The relationships and characters in this are sadly not happy ones, but they are fascinating to me.  Scottie (James Stewart)has two women who love him. The first is Madeleine/Judy(Kim Novak), and the other one is Midge(Barbara Bel Geddes). I wrote a piece last year about Vertigo and discussed these relationships and the overall tragedy of the film in detail. You can read that here.

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Scottie and Madeleine/Judy. Ill fated lovers. Screenshot by me.

Scottie and Madeleine/Judy’s relationship is both moving and disturbing. The relationship starts off based upon lies and deception, and it is rekindled by grief and obsession. What makes this relationship a favourite of mine is that it is so tragic. These two genuinely love each other and don’t want to hurt one another.

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Our first couple enjoy a brief happy moment. Screenshot by me.

Fate sadly conspires against this couple and makes their love painful and difficult. It breaks my heart how much Madeleine/Judy doesn’t want to hurt Scotty and feels guilt about what happened. It breaks my heart even more how much Scotty loves her, seeing him so broken apart by grief and obsession by the death and deception punches me in the gut every time I watch.

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Midge comforts Scottie. Screenshot by me.

Then we move on to the slightly (not by much)happier relationship. Scotty and Midge are the best of friends, she adores him, he adores her and can just be himself around her. She helps him with his vertigo and breakdown. She has seen him at his lowest and most vulnerable, seeing him this low only makes her love him even more than she did before.  Midge is kind, funny and can read Scottie like a book. She is the woman for him.

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Midge tries to help Scottie with his investigation into Madeleine/Judy. Screenshot by me.

My heart breaks for Midge throughout this film, as it’s very clear to us, and certainly to her, that she and Scottie should be together romantically. She never leaves him though and never gives up hope that he will find his way home to her. We too can hold out hope that he slowly forgets Madeleine/Judy and goes to Midge. In the (rather unnecessary in my opinion) alternate ending to the film we do see Scottie go back with Midge. I like to imagine that they get together and both find some happiness with each other. 

James Stewart, Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes are all excellent as these tragic lovers. Each actor really makes you feel for their character and their plight. I find it hard to imagine any other actors in these roles as they all play their parts perfectly. 

What are your thoughts on these couples? Who are your favourite Hitchcock couples? 

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The Jean Simmons Blogathon: Footsteps In The Fog(1955)

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Virginie over at The Wonderful World Of Cinema and Phyllis over at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are co-hosting this blogathon celebrating Jean Simmons. Be sure to visit their blogs to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

I’m writing about Footsteps In the Fog. This is quite an underrated film and contains one of my favourite Jean Simmons performances. This is the film that actually ended up making me a fan of Jean Simmons. I love the film very much. I hope that this post will encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it yet to check it out.

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Jean Simmons as Lily. Screenshot by me.

The film is based upon the short story The Interruption by William Wymark Jacobs, which was published in 1925. The story focuses on a cook, who blackmails her master after she discovers that he has killed his wife. 

The film was directed by Arthur Lubin(best known as an Abbott and Costello director and as director of the Francis The Talking Mule films).

The film initially had a screenplay by Arthur Pierson, which was then rewritten by Lenore Coffee (a noted screenwriter who was twice nominated for an Academy Award) and Dorothy Reid(screenwriter,director and actress. Dorothy had also been the wife of the actor Wallace Reid, who had died in 1923 after becoming addicted to the morphine prescribed to him when he was injured in a train accident).

The final film script stays quite close to Jacobs story. New storylines added for the film include a second murder, the romantic element between Lily and Stephen, a second love triangle which involves Stephen, Elizabeth and David, and much more emphasis on Lily’s character. Originally titled Deadlock and then later on Rebound, the film would finally receive the title of Footsteps In The Fog.  

Footsteps In the Fog is an absolutely fascinating film for so many different reasons. For starters it was one of the last of the Gothic drama films to be made, and it was released at at time when these sorts of films were no longer really in fashion.

It is also notable for having been filmed in Technicolor, rather than Black and White, as was usually the case with films of this genre.I personally think that Black and White photography works best for Gothic films. I think that Black and White photography heightens the atmosphere,and that it somehow makes you feel the eerie and oppressive atmosphere present in so many of these Gothic films. I have to say though that the colour photography works very well for this film. I for one love being able to actually see the colours of the period furnishings and clothes featured in the film.

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Lily loves danger. Screenshot by me.

The film is also notable and unusual due to the behaviour of Lily, who is played superbly by Jean Simmons.

In other Gothic films the female characters are often the ones in peril and become victims, or they become emotionally manipulated and tricked by men.

In this film the female lead is no victim. It is actually Lily who manipulates and controls her situation. Lily is a very strong and determined character, and she also seems to get a weird thrill in staying with the man who wants her dead. 

The film is also interesting because of the complicated characters played by Jean and Stewart Granger. Stephen and Lily are both extremely complex and intriguing people. Both characters have two very different sides to their respective personalities, and both do some very surprising things as the film goes on. Many scenes between Stephen and Lily are quite sexually charged, the pair hate each other with a passion, but they also greatly desire one another too. Lily in particular seems to thrive on this twisted relationship, as well as on the risk that comes along with it. 

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Stewart Granger as Stephen. Screenshot by me.

We see that Stephen is a cold and callous killer, and yet he also has our pity at certain moments of the film. Stephen can also be tender,warm,devoted and he is capable of great remorse. Our impressions and opinions of this man change several times throughout the film.  

At the start of the film we see that Lily is a shy, innocent, vulnerable and bullied young woman. Lily dreams of becoming more than just a maid and kitchen assistant.

When Lily discovers Stephen’s dark secret she chooses not to run to the Police and report it, but instead to use that secret to her advantage. Lily blackmails Stephen and in return for her silence gets something she wants from him.

As the film goes on Lily becomes strong and dominant, she gains a position of authority, and she also gains power over Stephen. Lily is a tragic figure though because she starts to develop genuine romantic feelings for this killer. Jean does such a good job of conveying Lily’s changing emotional state and her feelings and desires. 

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Lily confesses what she knows to Stephen. Screenshot by me.

The film is set in Edwardian London. The story focuses on Lily(Jean Simmons)a young maid and kitchen assistant working in the home of Stephen Lowry(Stewart Granger).

Stephen’s wife tragically dies from Gastroenteritis, or at least that’s what the doctor believed when he gave a cause of death.

Lily however knows that her mistress didn’t die of natural causes.Mrs. Lowry was actually poisoned by her husband. Lily saw Stephen do the deed and hide the bottle of poison he used. Lily goes to Stephen and tells him that she knows what he did.

In return for her silence, Lily tells Stephen to make her housekeeper and to allow her to keep Mrs Lowry’s jewels. Stephen agrees to her demands, but starts to form a plan of his own to kill Lily. 

Lily meanwhile is actually starting to fall in love with Stephen, in some scenes it seems to us as though he may be starting to care for her too, but the reality is that he wants her dead so that he can pursue Elizabeth(Belinda Lee)the daughter of his friend. Stephen’s plans to kill Lily go terribly wrong during a suspenseful sequence set outside in the thick, creeping fog that is drifting through the London streets. I’m afraid that I can’t say any more about the plot without spoiling the twists and turns that the plot takes from this scene on.

Jean and Stewart both deliver terrific performances and have a good chemistry. Their shared scenes are exciting and suspenseful. I like how some moments between them are played quite tenderly as the characters begin to develop some genuine affection for one another at times. 

                         Left to right: Belinda Lee and Bill Travers as Elizabeth and David. Belinda Lee as Eizabeth and Stewart Granger as Stephen. 

Both Jean and Stewart are lent solid support by Marjorie Rhodes as the bullying cook. William Hartnell as Lily’s brother in-law. Bill Travers as the solicitor, David, who is also in love with Elizabeth. Belinda Lee(an up and coming British actress, who would tragically be killed in a car crash in 1961, aged just 25 years old)as the beautiful and gentle Elizabeth who is the real object of Stephen’s affections.

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Lily is caught wearing Mrs. Lowry’s clothes and jewels. Screenshot by me.

The costumes and sets are all beautiful, the cinematography is stunning, and the atmosphere and tone of the film are suitably dark.

In a decade when Gothic drama wasn’t really the sort of film drawing in the big crowds, Footsteps In The Fog may well have seemed like something of an odd film to release. This film proved that such films had lost none of their power to shock and grip audiences. 

I think this film is one of the best films in the entire Gothic  film genre. It is atmospheric and very suspenseful. The sequence at night in the fog is very hard to forget because it is done so well, it makes you feel as though you are right there with Stephen on those dark, fog filled streets. The film brings to my mind the likes of The Man In The Attic, The Spiral Staircase, The Lodger and Gaslight(1940). 

I highly recommend this film to any fan of Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger and Gothic films. Have you seen this film? What did you think of the film and Jean’s performance?

 

 

 

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The Second Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon: Day One

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The big day has finally arrived! Over the next three days, a large number of truly wonderful bloggers will be writing about Barbara and her films. I will be your hostess today. Crystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood will be your hostess on Monday and Tuesday.

We are so looking forward to reading all of the entries. Thank you for joining us to celebrate this remarkable actress.

I will update this page as often as I can today as the entries come in. 

Day One Entries

Palewriter gets things off to a great start with her reviews of The Thorn Birds and Christmas In Connecticut .

 

Poppity tells us about the time Barbara starred alongside Bogie in The Two Mrs.Carrolls.

 

Dubism writes about Barbara’s TV series The Big Valley.

 

The Midnite Drive-In takes a look at Forty Guns, another Western featuring our Barbara.

 

Caftan Woman joins the party with her review of Banjo On My Knee, the second of six films starring Barbara and Joel McCrea.

 

The Stop Button writes about The Purchase Price. 

 

Critica Retro writes about the little gem that is The Mad Miss Manton.

 

RealWeegieMidgetReviews writes about Barbara’s time on the TV soap The Colbys.

 

I write about one of Barbara’s most underrated films All I Desire. 

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The Second Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon: All I Desire(1953)

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This is my entry for the Stanwyck blogathon being co-hosted by myself and Crystal next weekend. Can’t wait to read all the other entries.

For this blogathon I’ve decided to write about one of Barbara Stanwyck’s less well known and less discussed films. It is a film about love, family, second chances and following your heart, wherever it may lead you.It’s a very underrated film and features an excellent lead performance by Barbara. 

All I Desire is a film from that master of soap and melodrama, the legendary classic era director Douglas Sirk. When most people think of Sirk’s work they usually associate his name with vibrant Technicolor films such as Magnificent Obsession or Written On The Wind, but he also made some films in Black and White and this film is one of them. 

This film isn’t one that instantly springs to mind when people discuss Douglas Sirk’s films, I think that is a real shame because it is a good film that deserves to be better known and discussed.

All I Desire may well be quite a predictable film, but it is never the less a very enjoyable film. Barbara Stanwyck’s performance is a big reason for this film working as well as it does in my opinion.

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Barbara as Naomi. Screenshot by me.

Barbara does a terrific job of conveying to us how much of a conflicted personality her character Naomi has.

Although Naomi craves excitement and danger, she also longs for a normal life as a mother and wife.

Dialogue isn’t really required in many of Barbara’s scenes in this film, her face tells us exactly what her character is feeling or longing for every moment she is on screen.

I especially love Barbara’s acting in the scene when her character watches her daughter act on stage, it is such a beautiful moment. Barbara was a very expressive actress, she inhabited her characters completely and this film is a good example of her ability to do that.  

The film is set in Edwardian era America. Naomi Murdoch(Barbara Stanwyck)longs to be an actress more than anything else. She abandons her husband and three children to tread the boards. Some years later she receives a letter from her second daughter Lily(Lori Nelson)asking her to come home to see her graduate and perform in the school play.

    Naomi returns to her family and receives different reactions. Screenshots by me.

Naomi agrees and is welcomed home with open arms by Lily. She also receives a warm welcome from Lena(Lotte Stein)who is the Murdoch’s loyal cook and cherished friend. Naomi receives the cold shoulder from her eldest daughter Joyce(Marcia Henderson)and from her estranged husband Henry(Richard Carlson).

Naomi also meets her young son Ted(Billy Gray) who can’t remember her very much. Joyce has had to become the mother figure to her two younger siblings, and she is very angry and upset that her mother thinks she can just come back into their lives and that everything will go back to how it used to be.

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Naomi and Henry find they still have feelings for each other. Screenshot by me.

Henry still cares for Naomi but has just about put his life back together again following her departure, he now has to try and work out just how he feels about her. Things are complicated by the presence of Sara Harper(Maureen O’Sullivan)who is a local teacher who loves Henry. Naomi must also cope with running into her former lover Dutch(Lyle Bettger) who wants to take up with her again. 

                       Naomi, Henry and Sara all look at each other during a party, and they can all tell how they feel about one another just by looking. Love this scene so much. Screenshots by me. 

As Naomi settles back in to her former life, she begins to see the emotional damage she has caused by leaving. Naomi realises that she wants this family life, but will her family want her to stay with them? Will she herself actually be able to settle down to small town life again after so long away? Can she resist the charms of her former lover?

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Naomi and Dutch Screenshot by me.

There is so much going on in this film that it is pretty remarkable that the film only clocks in at 1 hour 16 minutes long. The film doesn’t feel rushed, but I would have liked it to have lasted a bit longer. I always want more scenes between Henry and Naomi when I watch this. I also want to see more of what happens after that ending, as I don’t think this situation would be tidied up so neatly and quickly in reality. 

Barbara delivers the best performance in the film. The rest of the cast all deliver solid performances. Lori Nelson stands out the most from the supporting cast, she lights up every scene she is in. Lotte Stein is terrific as Lena and I love the mother daughter bond between her and Naomi. 

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Lori and Lotte. Screenshots by me.

I think the film does a pretty good job of allowing us to sympathise with all the main characters at times. The film also allows us to dislike the characters or disagree with them at times. Due to this the characters come across as very real, they are all flawed, all full of hopes, dreams and issues. Love is messy and complicated, as are people, and this film shows us these facts.

I highly recommend this film to fans of Barbara and Douglas Sirk. What do you think of the film? What do  you think of Barbara Stanwyck’s performance?

 

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Announcing The Stewart Granger Blogathon

Happy New Year to you all. I would like to invite you all to join me this April to celebrate Stewart Granger. Stewart Granger was born James Lablache Stewart, in Kensington, London, on the 6th of May 1913.Changing his name(we can’t have two Jimmy Stewart’s)to Stewart Granger, he would go on to become one of the biggest film stars of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. 

Stewart was one of the most intense and handsome leading men of the classic film era. With that distinctive voice of his, coupled with his smouldering good looks and intense presence, Stewart Granger is someone who you don’t forget in a hurry. 

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Stewart Granger in Footsteps In The Fog. Screenshot by me.

Stewart worked in his native Britain for much of his career. Gainsborough melodramas were the films in which he first gained fame. 

He would go on to become a big star in America too. He could play gentle and romantic men, as well as brooding and dark villains or troubled men. He was married to Jean Simmons for ten years. 

For this blogathon you can write about any of Stewart’s films or TV appearances. You can write about the films he made with Jean Simmons. You can focus on his British or his American film career. You can write a tribute to him. If you ever met or corresponded with him you can write about that experience too. If you have never seen one of his films before, why not take this opportunity to finally do so?

The blogathon will be held on the 13th and 14th of April, 2019. Please post your entries on or before those dates. I will accept just the two duplicates per screen title. You may post up to three entries each if you wish to do so. 

Take one of the banners below to place on your site to help promote the event. Let me know what you want to write about below. Check the participation list below to see which titles have been claimed. Have fun writing about Stewart and watching his films. 

The Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Caravan

Pale Writer: Love Story and Footsteps In The Fog

Pleasant Street: The Man In Grey

Realweegiemidgetreviews: The Wild Geese

The Stop Button: Moonfleet

Mikestakeonthemovies: The Secret Invasion

Dubsism: King Solomon’s Mines

Catftan Woman: The Last Hunt

MovieRob: Sodom And Gomorrah and The Secret Invasion

The Midnite Drive-In: North To Alaska

Poppity: Scaramouche and Fanny By Gaslight

Critica Retro: Salome

Retro Movie Buff: Scaramouche

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: The Little Hut

Stewart Granger Blogathon 3

 

Stewart Granger Blogathon 2

Stewart Granger blogathon 1

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How Woodfall Films Changed British Cinema Forever

I want to pay tribute to a film company that helped to change the direction and look of British film forever. Sixty years ago in Britain a film production company called Woodfall Films was formed.

Between 1958 and 1984, Woodfall would produce several films which would not only go on to become classics, but which would also have a huge impact on the future of British cinema.

The Woodfall films would also herald the arrival of several young actors who would go on to become major stars. Albert Finney, Rita Tushingham, and Tom Courtney all became household names thanks to their performances in a Woodfall film. 

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Rita Tushingham. One of the new faces of British cinema. Screenshot by me from A Taste Of Honey.

The production company was co-founded by director Tony Richardson(husband of Vanessa Redgrave, and father to Joely and Natasha Richardson), producer Harry Saltzman (producer of the Bond films)and playwright John Osborne(Look Back In Anger). Woodfall Films ushered in a new and exciting era for British cinema. The films were daring and groundbreaking in so many ways.

Woodfall films tackled real life issues such as life as a working class member of society, sex, abortion, people wanting to better themselves, female independence and sexuality, marital problems, race, and youth versus the older generation.

Tony Richardson wanted to make films in a new way, he wanted to make films that reflected life as he knew it. He certainly succeeded in both areas in my opinion. The films look different from a visual perspective, and they also have a much more realistic and gritty tone than many other British films. The directors shot on location which added to the overall realism. The actors look and behave like people you could run into in your own lives. There’s no glamour or escapism to be found in these films.

            The famous shot in Girl With Green Eyes where a door is opened onto a real street. Screenshots by me.   

The Woodfall directors, producers, cameramen and actors were all trailblazers in helping to bring more realistic, unique and grittier stories and characters to the screen.  Woodfall made films which focused on the British working class.

There had been earlier films such as It Always Rains On Sunday, This Happy Breed, Woman In A Dressing GownMillions Like Us and Waterloo Road which had been realistic and focused on working and lower middle class characters, but the Woodfall films made such characters and realism their primary focus. 

Not all of the Woodfall films would become classics, but eight of them did and are the reason why the name Woodfall is remembered today – Look Back In Anger, The Entertainer, Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, A Taste Of Honey, The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, Tom Jones(a cheeky and funny period romp), Girl With Green Eyes and Kes are all among the best of the so called Kitchen Sink films. 

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What’s all this? A couple sharing a bed? Shocking and daring stuff for this era. Screenshot by me from Saturday Night And Sunday Morning.

Ordinary people finally got the chance to see characters and events on screen that mirrored their own lives and experiences.Without Woodfall films, I  highly doubt that we would have gotten the likes of Ken Loach or Mike Leigh making films.

I also doubt that films like Room At The Top, This Sporting Life, A Kind Of Loving and The L Shaped Room would have ended up being made either. Woodfall films helped inspire future generations of directors and writers to make films that reflect their own lives and experiences. 

The first Woodfall film to be made was the 1959 adaptation of John Osborne’s play Look Back In Anger. Tony Richardson directed the film. 

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Richard Burton as Jimmy Porter, channeling all that rage into his jazz music. Screenshot by me from Look Back In Anger.

Look Back In Anger features Richard Burton delivering one of his most powerful performances as the first angry young man, Jimmy Porter. Passionate, complicated, angry and misunderstood, Jimmy must surely have been someone that many young men in the audience could identify with. This film focuses on a lower class man who is justifiably angry at the way his life has turned out, and also at how he is held back from bettering himself.

Both the film and the play shock due to the violent and complex relationship between Jimmy and his wife(played by Mary Ure in the film), and also because of the love hate relationship between Jimmy and Helena(Claire Bloom in the film). 

The third film, Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, would go on to become the most acclaimed and famous of all of the Woodfall films. A fresh faced Albert Finney delivers a remarkable performance in the lead role of the rebellious and angry Arthur Seaton. Arthur works in a factory and he hates it, he takes every opportunity he can to stick it to the establishment and the upper classes. Arthur also doesn’t care much for rules and traditions. The film is also rather daring in showing an affair between Arthur and a much older woman who is married (Rachel Roberts). 

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Albert Finney as Arthur Seaton. Screenshot by me from Saturday Night And Sunday Morning.

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning is also perhaps the ultimate working class film, as it so accurately manages to capture the life endured by millions here in the UK at this time and for a long time before.

It’s also through this film in particular that I am able to get a better sense of the way of life my parents and grandparents had before I was born. Both my mum and dad grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and they have both commented on the accuracy of the characters, the streets, homes, attitudes etc seen in this film and others.  

The fourth Woodfall film is A Taste Of Honey, and it is this film which I think is the most daring of the lot. This film focuses on Jo(Rita Tushingham) a teenage schoolgirl who is in a relationship with a black sailor(Paul Danquah)by whom she becomes pregnant. The rest of the film focuses on her dealing with the pregnancy with the help of her gay friend Geoffrey(Murray Melvin).

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Jo arguing with her mum’s latest man(Robert Stephens)in A Taste Of Honey. Screenshot by me.

This film also shows us that the younger generation(so often depicted in this time as bad or lacking responsibility)have more sense and decency than the older ones. Jo’s mum(Dora Bryan)is someone who should know better and should be being a good mum, but instead she leaves her daughter to her own devices and is sleeping around and thinking of herself. In many ways Jo is the adult and her mother is the teenager. 

This film shows us that adults are not perfect and don’t always do the right or moral thing(the opposite of what we are so often told is the case when we are kids). The film also depicts a homosexual character who becomes in many ways the hero of the story and a very likeable character, this was quite daring due to homosexuals being largely vilified in society at the time. I like how this film depicts Geoffrey as simply being the normal man that he is, and that it just so happens that his sexual orientation is different to other peoples. His personality rather than his sexuality is what is focused upon in the film. 

My favourite of the Woodfall films is Girl With Green Eyes. Based on the trilogy of novels by Edna O’Brien, this film focuses on the love affair between the young Kate(Rita Tushingham)and the middle aged Eugene(Peter Finch).

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Eugene and Kate have a talk. Screenshot by me.

It’s a daring film, based on a daring book, set in Ireland and focusing on a girl who is having sex outside of marriage and who is going against convention and the dictates of religion in so many ways. I like it because it focuses on sex and relationships from a female perspective. The film is also very moving and features terrific lead performances from Rita and Peter. A young Lynn Redgrave lends solid support as Baba, the outgoing friend and flatmate of Kate. 

Many of the Woodfall films have become very well known here in the UK. I’m very aware that they may not be all that famous in other parts of the world. I highly recommend them all to you, not only because they are good films, but because they visually capture a time,place and a way of life that is just starting to disappear over here.

I hope anyone who has never seen any of these films will seek them out. Remember as well that these films ushered in a new way of filmmaking, Woodfall helped to make it acceptable to make more films like the ones they were making. 

Have you seen any of the Woodfall films? What do you think of the films? 

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The Ava Gardner Blogathon Arrives

The big event has finally arrived! Over the next two days several wonderful bloggers are joining me to celebrate Ava Gardner. I decided to host this blogathon due to Ava being a great favourite of mine. The blogathon is also being held on these particular dates because the 24th of December is Ava’s birthday. 

Check back to this post over the next two days to read all of the entries. I’ll update this post as often as I can do. I am now on Twitter @maddylovesherclassicfilms. I will be promoting all the entries for this blogathon over on Twitter too.

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Day 2 Entries

Poppity writes about Ava’s 1960 film The Angel Wore Red.

 

Diary Of A Movie Maniac tells us all about 55 Days At Peking.

 

Overture Books And Film writes about another lesser known Ava film called The Great Sinner.

 

Pale Writer writes about a little known Ava Gardner film called Riding For Glory.

 

Movie Rob writes about Mogambo. He also writes about The Night Of The Iguana

 

Vinnieh shares his thoughts on Pandora And The Flying Dutchman.

 

Critica Retro writes about the delightful film One Touch Of Venus.

 

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict tells us about her visit to the Ava Gardner museum.

 

Day 1 Entries

Silver Screenings gets the blogathon off to a terrific start, with this excellent post about Ava’s character in the film Mogambo

 

Down These Mean Streets tells us about the time Ava played an unforgettable Femme Fatale in The Killers

 

Caftan Woman takes a look at Ava’s 1946 Noir Whistle Stop

 

Dubsism writes about the sports analogies hidden in Ava’s disaster film Earthquake.

 

Realweegiemidgetreviews discusses The Cassandra Crossing.

 

The Stop Button writes about Ava’s performance in Seven Days In May.

 

I talk about the romantic fantasy Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

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The Ava Gardner Blogathon: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman(1951)

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This is my entry for my Ava Gardner blogathon being held on the 23rd and 24th of December, 2018. 

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Pandora And The Dutchman kissing on the beach. With the yacht in the background. Screenshot by me.

Watching this film is like entering a vivid dream. The only film that I can really compare it to is Portrait Of Jennie, as both of these films have this dreamlike quality and poetic and haunting atmosphere.

Pandora And The Flying Dutchman is a film that I think you have to completely surrender yourself to for it to work the way it should.

The film is a slow build and it is one that is all about emotion and mood. The film is surreal, artistic and truly beautiful to look at. The story is a mix of romance, mystery, tragedy, the supernatural and fantasy.

I also like how the film can be viewed in two ways. It is pretty clear that the mysterious Captain is the real Dutchman, and that all that happens later is due to some supernatural power or some fantastical element. Yet you can also view all that happens as mere coincidence only, and you can think that the characters believe the legend and somehow make it seem like it has come true.

The film is inspired by the legend of the doomed Flying Dutchman, a man who is cursed to sail the world for all eternity. In this film the Dutchman has been cursed after he murders the woman he loves. The cursed man sails the globe alone for centuries. His curse can be lifted if he falls in love with a woman who loves him so much that she will die for him(imagine having that conversation on a first date!)

The film was directed and written by Albert Lewin(The Picture Of Dorian Gray, The Moon And Sixpence). The film features beautiful colour photography by the legendary Jack Cardiff(Ava never looked more beautiful than she does in this film, thanks partly to the cinematography of Jack Cardiff). Albert and Jack’s vision helps to make this film a real treat, but the undisputed main draw for us in the audience is Ava Gardner and James Mason as the doomed lovers.

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Ava is at her most beautiful and bewitching as Pandora. Screenshot by me.

Both James and Ava totally convince as a couple who are drawn to one another for reasons that they can’t quite understand. When they look at each other they really do manage to capture that something inside them both is connecting to one another.

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Henrick and Pandora. Screenshot by me.

James has a weariness and otherworldly air about him that makes you believe he is someone who has lived through time. Ava captures the reckless nature of her character perfectly, and she makes it seem like Pandora knows she has been waiting for the Dutchman all her life. 

Pandora And The Flying Dutchman begins on the coast of Esperanza, Spain, in the early 1930’s. Two dead bodies are caught in the nets of local fisherman and are brought back to the beach. Some who gather on the beach know who the dead people are and they are very upset.

In flashback we see what led to this sad event. Our guide and narrator throughout the film is Geoffrey Fielding(Harold Warrender)an archaeologist and historian who knew the two dead people. 

                  Pandora with each of the three other men who love her. Screenshots by me.

Pandora Reynolds(Ava Gardner) is an American woman living in Esperanza. She is  a reckless woman, beautiful, adventurous, fun, destructive, seductive and passionate. Many men are drawn to Pandora. One of her admirers(Marius Goring)commits suicide when he realises he will never really have her love. A fearless and passionate bullfighter(Mario Cabre) becomes crazed with jealousy once he falls for Pandora. Pandora doesn’t really love any of these men. Deep down inside herself, Pandora somehow knows that the man who she is destined to give her heart to is not in her life yet.

Pandora becomes engaged to racing car driver, Stephen Cameron(Nigel Patrick), Stephen has her attention and affection until she becomes intrigued by the owner of a yacht anchored off shore. One night she swims out and climbs onboard. There she meets the mysterious Henrick van der Zee(James Mason). She is a little freaked out when she sees that he has painted a woman who looks just like her. As the film goes on we also see that Pandora looks exactly like the long dead woman Henrick loved and killed(who we later catch sight of  in a portrait). 

                        Pandora and Henrick first set eyes on each other. Screenshots by me.

The pair slowly develop a friendship which quickly turns into love for both of them. Pandora’s love for Henrick also changes her as a person, she becomes kinder, more tender and sensitive. For the first time in her life, Pandora Reynolds experiences the mix of joy and agony that love can bring.

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Henrick and Pandora share a kiss. Screenshot by me.

We later learn that Henrick is the Flying Dutchman. The Dutchman realises that the woman who can break his curse is Pandora, and despite his desperation to be free, he just can’t bear to think of her having to give up her life to break the curse. You will have to watch the film to find out what happens next. 

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Ava Gardner as Pandora. Screenshot by me.

I can imagine no other actress in the role of Pandora Reynolds. Ava does so much with this character. She is so ethereal in the role. Ava makes us think that this woman has somehow known all her life that this romance and fate is the reason for her birth.

Ava also makes us both love and hate Pandora, maybe hate is too strong a word because I never fully dislike her. The way that she dismisses those who love her so is very cruel to watch though. Ava performs her role from the heart, she lays bare her soul and emotions in this film, more so than in any other performance she ever gave in my opinion. It’s one of her best roles. 

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James Mason as the anguished Henrick. Screenshot by me.

James Mason conveys a sorrow and desire that makes you want to reach out and give Henrick a big hug. He totally makes you believe that he is this tired and ancient man.

I love the scene on the beach where Pandora confesses her love for Henrick. In that moment James does such a good job of making us see that Henrick so wants to accept her love, but instead he chooses to push her away to try and save her from possibly being able to break the curse.

Henrick loves Pandora so much that he cannot bear to lose her, even if her loss could set him free from the curse. James and Ava have a lovely chemistry and I would have loved to have seen them together in more films. James was never more intense or full of pain and sorrow than he is in this film. His monologue and performance during the flashback sequence contains some of the best acting he ever did, very moving and powerful indeed.

Nigel Patrick(such an underrated actor), Shelia Sim, Mario Cabre, Marius Goring and Harold Warrender all provide excellent support. I love the side plot of the one sided love that Shelia Sim’s character has for Nigel Patrick’s Stephen, we know that she is the woman who really deserves his love. I always long to see a bit more of that couple later in the film. 

I highly recommend this film to any fan of Ava Gardner. She is the heart of this film. Any other fans of this film out there? What do you think of the film and Ava’s performance?

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Merry Christmas Everyone

I just want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I hope you all have a lovely time over the festive break. Take care and enjoy whatever you have planned. I hope that 2019 brings you nothing but happiness.

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I will be watching this Christmas classic over the festive break. Will you be watching it too? Screenshot by me from the film White Christmas.

Thank you for sticking with me over the last two years, has it really been that long already? Your support and comments mean so much to me. It’s lovely to have run into so many fellow classic film fans through this blog. I’ll see you back here on the 23rd and 24th of December for the Ava Gardner blogathon. 

Merry Christmas. Love and best wishes from Maddy x

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The Seventh Annual What A Character Blogathon: Marius Goring

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For the seventh year running, Aurora from Citizen Screen, Kellee from Outspoken& Freckled, and Paula from Paula’s Cinema Club, are joining together to host this blogathon. It celebrates the great character actors. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

For my second entry in this blogathon, I’m writing about a character actor who was an acting chameleon. The name of this man? It’s Marius Goring.

Marius had me fooled for years! Why did he have me fooled? It was only a couple of years ago that I discovered that this man, who speaks with such a convincing foreign accent in so many of his films, and who had me convinced he was of German descent, was in fact British born and bred! He is that convincing in his roles.One of the best actors in the business as far as I’m concerned.

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Marius with Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa. Screenshot by me.

Marius played so many roles throughout his career, but he became best known for playing German or French speaking characters.

He is best known today for his performances in two Powell and Pressburger classics, the first film is A Matter Of Life And Death, and the second film is The Red Shoes

He was often cast as German officers, men who were unlucky in love, or as bitter men who are eaten up with jealousy and desire. 

Marius starred in so many classic films over the years: The Barefoot Contessa, The Red Shoes, The Spy In Black, Pandora And The Flying Dutchman, Odette, Circle Of Danger, The Magic Box. He also took the lead role in the 1956 TV adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, this little known adaptation is a real gem and it is currently on YouTube if you have never seen it. Marius delivers one of his best performances in that TV adaptation.

Marius was born on the Isle Of Wight, on the 23rd of May, 1912. He was the son of Dr. Charles Goring, who was a pioneer in Criminology. Throughout his life and career, Marius Goring worked on the stage, appeared in many films and also worked in television. In 1929, Marius became a founding member of the actors union,British Equity, and he served as its president between 1963 and 1965 and 1975 and 1982.

Marius Goring is one of those actors who commands your whole attention whenever he appears on screen. He also had a knack for really making us feel the emotions and needs of his various characters.

              Marius as the Conductor in A Matter Of Life And Death. Screenshots by me.

The character he is best remembered for today is the Conductor in A Matter Of Life And Death. I love that film so much and Marius Goring’s performance is a big reason why I love the film so much. He is hilarious, playful, mysterious and charming as the Conductor.

When he is in a scene in this film he dominates it, and when he is not in a scene, I for one really miss his presence. With that mischievous grin and those twinkling eyes it’s hard not to like this character and long to see more of him. 

I don’t know about anyone else, but I would have happily watched a film series starring Marius(something like Here Comes Mr. Jordan)focusing on the Conductor and his adventures in heaven and down on Earth. 

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The Conductor meets Peter. Screenshot by me.

The scene where the Conductor stops time is a real highlight of this film and Marius really helps to make it so. He is so convincing that you totally buy into him being a man from the past who is also a playful ghost. He and David Niven play that scene perfectly.

One of my favourite film performances from him can be found in the seriously underrated/little known film, Mr. Perrin And Mr. Traill. Marius plays Mr. Perrin, an fussy and awkward older teacher who has to contend with a younger rival – a rival not only in the classroom – but also for the heart of the younger woman who Perrin loves from afar. I think it is one of his best performances and it is both subtle and powerful.

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Marius as Mr. Perrin. Screenshot by me.

I highly recommend the film, not only because of Marius’s performance, but also because it has a very good story, and because it plays out as a dark combining of The Browning Version and Goodbye Mr. Chips.

Marius manages to give us a good sense of his characters inner turmoil, and he also ensures that we both pity and hate him as the film goes on.  

Marius was a regular face on stage and screen for over fifty years. He died on the 30th of September, 1998. His presence in a film or series is always a welcome sight for this classic film fan.

I hope that this post will encourage any viewers out there who are unfamiliar with Marius Goring to go and seek out his work. He was one of the best character actors of the classic film era, and he is always a treat to watch.

Any other fans of Marius Goring here? What are your favourite films and performances? 

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The Seventh Annual What A Character Blogathon: Sara Allgood

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For the seventh year running, Aurora from Citizen Screen, Kellee from Outspoken & Freckled, and Paula from Paula’s Cinema Club, are joining together to co-host this blogathon. Their blogathon celebrates the great character actors found in films. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

This is my first time taking part in this. I am really looking forward to finally being able to be a part of this wonderful event. I’ve decided to write two posts for this.

My first post celebrates one of the all time great character actresses. The name of this lady? It’s Sara Allgood. I think that Sara’s surname manages to perfectly describe the quality of all of her film performances. Sara was simply incapable of delivering a bad or dull performance.

Sara’s name may well be unfamiliar to some people today, but once you catch a glimpse of her warm and open face in a film, you won’t forget her in a hurry and I’m sure you’ll be eager to see more of her work.Sara Allgood is always a regular and welcome presence on the big screen for this classic film fan.

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Formal photo of Sara Allgood. Image Source IMDb.

Sara appeared in so many classics over the years – The Spiral Staircase(the first film that I ever saw her in), The Lodger(stealing all the scenes she is in as the landlady), The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry, Blackmail, How Green Was My Valley(deeply moving) and That Hamilton Woman(hilarious as the pushy mother of Vivien Leigh’s Emma Hamilton). 

Sara was one of those performers who you can never catch acting. She always gave such natural and convincing performances. She will command your utmost attention when she appears in a scene, even if she is doing nothing more than sitting quietly in the background. Sara is one of the best characters actors of all time in my opinion.  She often played mothers and housekeepers on screen. 

Sara was born in Dublin, Ireland on the 29th of November, 1879.  She was one of eight children. Sara joined The Daughters Of Ireland and studied drama. She worked predominately on the stage for much of her career. Sara toured on stage in America many times and would eventually move out to the States in the 1940’s. Sara Allgood died in America on the 13th of September,1950, after suffering a fatal heart attack. Sara was seventy years old when she died.  

Her personal life had much tragedy in it. Her father died when she was very young and one of her brothers was killed in WW1. Sara married her leading man on the stage, Gerald Henson, in 1916, sadly both her husband and their daughter died in the flu epidemic of 1918. Somehow she managed to carry on with her life after those terrible losses. Her sister Mary(stage name Maire O’Neill) also became a well known stage actress and appeared in some films, sadly the two sisters became estranged in later life.  

Sara’s film career began in 1929. Throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s, Sara ended up working with some of the greatest directors of the classic film era including John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Siodmak.

Sara is best remembered today for her performance as the strong Welsh mother in How Green Was My Valley

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Sara and Roddy McDowall in How Green Was My Valley. Screenshot by me.

Sara is so convincing in her role in How Green Was My Valley, that you would swear blind that you were watching a real woman from the 1800’s. She has that radiating warmth, that unbreakable strength, and that inner kindness thing down so perfectly. She makes you love and admire her character and you believe that she is the glue that binds her mining family together. Whenever I watch this film, I never fail to be moved by the stoicism of her character, and I always marvel at how Sara so completely inhabits that character. 

I highly recommend Sara Allgood to anyone who has never seen her in a film before. She truly was one of the most gifted and natural actresses of the classic film era.I hope that my post will help to spread her name far and wide to those unfamiliar with her. 

Any other Sara Allgood fans here? What are your thoughts on Sara and her performances?

If anyone has ever seen the whole of the film Between Two Worlds, could you please tell me what it is like? I have only been able to see a couple of clips on YouTube one of which features a big speech scene for Sara. I long to see the full film due to Sara being in it, and also because the story intrigues me so much. 

 

 

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Announcing The Third Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon

This blogathon was not only a big success, but it was also so much fun this year and last, that I have decided to make it a yearly event. I will host this blogathon again next year. I do hope that you can all join me in celebrating Alfred Hitchcock and his films.

You can write about any of Hitchcock’s films. You can write about his TV series. You can write about Hitchcock himself, or about the actors and characters featured in his films and series.

You can write more than one entry if you wish to do so. I will accept two duplicates per film title. The blogathon will be held for two days on the 8th and 9th of February, 2019. Please post your entries on or before those dates. 

Just let me know what you would like to write about in the comments section below. Check the participation list to see who is writing about what. Take one of the banners from below and pop it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Have fun watching Hitchcock’s films and writing about them!

Films now claimed twice: To Catch A Thief, The Lady Vanishes 

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Favourite Hitchcock Couples 

Pale Writer: Hitchcock Blondes & Anthony Perkins Performance in Psycho

Poppity: Marnie

Silver Screen Classics: Vertigo

Cracked Rear Viewer: Frenzy

Portraits By Jenni: The Lady Vanishes

The Midnite Drive-In: Comparison of Strangers On A Train To Throw Momma From The Train

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Shadow Of A Doubt

Sparks From A Combustible Mind: The Birds

Movie Rob: Hitchcock Top 10

Overture Books And Films: Saboteur

Realweegiemidgetreviews: Lamb To The Slaughter

Thoughts All Sorts: To Catch A Thief

The Humpo Show: Suspicion

The Stop Button: The Trouble With Harry

The Old Hollywood Garden: Hitchcock’s Macguffins

Diary Of A Movie Maniac: Jamaica Inn and The Lady Vanishes

Stars And Letters: Correspondence About Rebecca

Pop Culture Reverie: Family Plot

The Wonderful World Of Cinema: Favourite scenes in Hitchcock films

Katy Kostakis: Hitchcock TV episodes

Taking Up Room: The 39 Steps

Critica Retro: Hitchcock’s Unfinished Projects

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Announcing The Second Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon

Myself and Crystal from In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood are teaming up together to bring you our next blogathon.  

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Barbara in All I Desire. Screenshot by me.

We have decided to honour a lady who was one of the most talented and popular actresses of the classic film era.

The subject of our blogathon is the legendary Barbara Stanwyck. 

Known affectionately by those who knew her as “Missy”, Barbara became famous for her natural acting style. She also became well known for playing strong, independent and intelligent characters in her films. 

Barbara Stanwyck dominated the screen in every single scene that she appeared in. She is one of those actors who could say so much with just a look or expression. 

For this blogathon you can write about any of Barbara’s films,TV series, or TV episodes. You can write tributes to her. You can write about her acting ability. You can write about her whole life and career. You can write about her lovely friendship with William Holden. You can write about your favourite Barbara Stanwyck performances. Perhaps you met or corresponded with her and want to tell us about that?

We will accept two duplicates per screen title. You can write more than one post if you wish to, but we ask that you please don’t write more than three.

The blogathon will be held on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of January, 2019. I will be your hostess on the 20th. Crystal will be your hostess on the 21st and 22nd. Please send us your entries on or before those dates.  

Let us know what you want to write about below. Take one of Crystal’s lovely banners to put on your site to help promote the event. Have fun writing about Barbara and watching her films.

Films claimed twice: Ball Of Fire and Sorry,Wrong Number 

The Particpation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: All I Desire

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Topic to be decided

                       Pale Writer: Christmas In Connecticut  and The Thorn Birds

A Shroud Of Thoughts: The Lady Eve

Love Letters To Old Hollywood: Ball Of Fire

Wide Screen World: Three episodes of the Barbara Stanwyck Show

Down These Mean Streets: Double Indemnity

Vinnieh: No Man Of Her Own

Caftan Woman: Banjo On My Knee

Poppity Talks Classic Film: The Two Mrs. Carrolls

Silver Screen Classics: Sorry,Wrong Number

Lisa Alkana: Guest post on In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Crime Of Passion 

Top 10 Film Lists: Barbara Stanwyck And Film Noir

The Story Enthusiast: Lady Of Burlesque

Realweegiemidgetreviews: The Colbys

The Stop Button: The Purchase Price

Movie Rob: Stella Dallas and Ball Of Fire

Dubsism: The Big Valley

Taking Up Room: Titanic

Critica Retro: The Mad Miss Manton

The Dream Book Blog: The Locked Door

The Midnight-Drive In: Forty Guns

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Announcing The Ava Gardner Blogathon

After toying with the idea for a while now, I have decided that I want to try and host one more blogathon this year. The subject for the last 2018 blogathon will be Ava Gardner.

Ava would have been 96 years old this year. I decided that I would hold this blogathon over two days, one of which is her birthday. I do hope that you will all join me to celebrate the life and career of this screen legend. Ava is someone who I admire a great deal. What you saw with Ava was what you got. Ava was open, generous, kind, fun and honest. She always seemed so down to earth too. 

For this blogathon you can write about any of Ava’s films. You can write about your favourite Ava Gardner performances. You can write a tribute to her. You can write about her life and career. I will accept two duplicates per screen title. You may write more than one post if you wish, but no more than three posts per person please. 

The blogathon will be held on the 23rd and 24th of December, 2018. If Ava was still with us today, she would be celebrating her 96th birthday on the 24th of December this year. 

If you would like to join in the fun, simply let me know what you want to write about below. Take one of the banners from below and put it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Have fun writing about Ava and watching her films.

 

Films that have now already been chosen twice are The Killers, Pandora And The Flying Dutchman and Mogambo.

 

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

Poppity: The Angel Wore Red

Dubsism: Earthquake

Movie Rob: Mogambo and Night Of The Iguana

Down These Mean Streets: The Killers

Caftan Woman: Whistle Stop

Palewriter2: Lone Star

Silver Screen Classics: The Killers

Realweegiemidgetreviews: The Cassandra Crossing

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: Write up about her visit to the Ava Gardner Museum

The Stop Button: Seven Days In May

Silver Screenings: Mogambo

Vinnieh: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

Diary Of A Movie Maniac: 55 Days At Peking

                                        Overture Books And Films: The Great Sinner

Critica Retro: One Touch Of Venus

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: East Side, West Side

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The 4th Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon: High Society(1956)

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Virginie from The Wonderful World Of Cinema, and Emily from The Flapper Dame, are co-hosting this 4th annual blogathon celebrating Grace Kelly. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.  

1956 was a key year in Grace Kelly’s life. She had become engaged to Prince Rainier of Monaco after the pair had met and fallen in love the previous year. Grace was about to embark on a new chapter in her life. Unfortunately her new path in life meant that she had to bid farewell to her film career.

In 1956, Grace Kelly appeared in what would become her final film. For her final screen performance she played a society heiress called Tracy Samantha Lord. The film was called High Society.

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Grace as Tracy. Screenshot by me.

The 1956 film was a musical remake of the 1940 classic, The Philadelphia Story, which was an adaptation of Philip Barry’s 1939 stage play of the same name. The original film had succeeded in resurrecting Katharine Hepburn’s film career.

Katharine Hepburn’s performance, coupled with the overall success of the film, succeeded in destroying the cruel label of “box office poison” which had been attached to her name for some time. The film had also seen James Stewart’s hilarious performance rewarded with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. 

It was never going to be an easy task to remake a film that was so highly regarded. Charles Walters, the man behind such classics as Easter Parade, Three Guys Named Mike, and The Tender Trap, took on the task of directing the remake. The legendary Cole Porter penned the songs used in the film.

Joining the cast as Tracy’s three love interests were Bing Crosby as Dexter, the ex husband of Tracy; Frank Sinatra as the mischievous reporter, Mike Connor; and John Lund as Tracy’s new fiance, George Kittredge. 

                  Bing, Frank and John as the three men in Tracy’s life. Screenshots by me.

I think that High Society manages to stand alone from the original film due to the different ways in which the actors perform their roles, and also due to the film being a musical. I like to call this film a reinterpretation of the original story rather than a remake.

        A few scenes from High Society. Screenshots by me.

Whenever I watch High Society, it feels as though I’ve joined friends at a fabulous party, one which is overflowing with fun and wit. The film is uplifting, touching, glamorous and funny. The songs and musical sequences are all fabulous and they are sure to have you singing right along with them.

I also love that we get Louis Armstrong acting as our guide to this society world. Louis also performs several songs in the film, and he and Bing Crosby perform a duet together. I also love how Louis breaks the fourth wall at various points in the film and speaks directly to us. 

As much as I like this film, I do concede that it lacks the character development of the original and some of it does feel a bit rushed.  I also wanted a little more joy and excitement during the ending. If you have seen the original film, then you won’t really be able to help but compare the two films as you watch this one.

Some viewers don’t like the pairing of Bing and Grace here due to their age difference, personally I have never had a problem with age gaps in relationships, so I don’t care about that issue at all. 

I do think that there should have been some more scenes between Bing and Grace, either as flashbacks to show the Haven’s marriage, or some more scenes when he comes back into her life as she prepares to marry. I wanted many more scenes between them and a bit more focus on their relationship. 

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Bing and Grace in the True Love sequence. Screenshot by me.

In the scenes they do share together, I have to say that Bing gazes at Grace with such tenderness and warmth, and she looks back at him with equal warmth and affection.

Bing’s performance at first doesn’t come across as really being that good, but if you watch his eyes and expressions you will see that the performance is subtle, but it is most definitely there to be seen. 

Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm are clearly having a lot of fun together as the reporters. I love their duet performance of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

Celeste is hilarious as Liz, and she steals all the scenes that she is in. Frank is very good in the role of Mike, and you miss him when he isn’t in a scene. But sadly Frank is no Jimmy Stewart. I’m afraid that Frank’s performance lacks that special spark that Jimmy’s has in the original. I do like Frank’s performance, but I think that he and Celeste could both have done with more character development to work with.

Louis Calhern provides the comic relief of the film as Tracy’s Uncle Willie. There is strong support from Sidney Blackmer as Tracy’s stern father. Margalo Gillmore is also very good as Tracy’s mother. Lydia Reed is adorable as Caroline(I much prefer her performance over Virginia Weilder’s in the original) and I love the Little One scene between her and Bing.

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Tracy gets quite a surprise. Screenshot by me.

Grace Kelly is the heart and soul of the film. She sparkles like a bright jewel whenever she is on screen in this film. I think that she delivers a very touching performance as a woman desperate to be loved for herself alone. There are several scenes where she expertly conveys how hurt or vulnerable Tracy is. Grace captures this woman’s pain and frustration so well. 

I often wonder if Grace saw some of her own life mirrored in this character and her story. Grace was often(and still is today)seen as merely a beautiful screen goddess, rather than the complex and warm woman she actually was off screen. I for one can certainly see parallels between her own life and Tracy’s. 

                                 Grace is vulnerable and sad as Tracy. Screenshots by me.

If you think that Grace always played cool and remote women, then you should check her out in this film, where you will get to see her play a funny, sweet and easily hurt woman. I always think it is such a shame that she never acted again after this film.

As the film begins, we find the wealthy citizens of Newport about to be shaken free from their stuffy traditions by a dose of true love, and by the arrival of the great Louis Armstrong and his band. Louis and his band are in town to perform at a jazz festival organised by his old friend Dexter Haven(Bing Crosby).

                  A few scenes featuring the legendary Louis Armstrong. Screenshots by me.

In Newport, preparations are not only underway for the jazz festival, but also for the society wedding of the year. Heiress Tracy Samantha Lord(Grace Kelly)is about to get married to the decent, but dreadfully dull, George Kittredge(John Lund).

Much to Tracy’s annoyance her wedding is being covered by pushy magazine reporter, Mike Conner(Frank Sinatra), and his photographer pal, Liz Imbrie(Celeste Holm). This intrusion leads Tracy and her little sister Caroline (Lydia Reed) to prank these visitors and have a little fun at their expense. 

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A happy moment for Tracy and Dexter. Screenshot by me.

Tracy’s ex-husband and neighbour, Dexter Haven stops by to wish her every happiness for the future. 

Tracy and Dexter may well have had problems in their marriage, but the pair still love one another and Dexter in particular can’t bring himself to sever all connections with his girl.

The rest of the film focuses on whether these two will get back together or not. Tracy and Mike also have a few moments where it seems that they may well be falling for one another too. 

At the heart of the film(even more than the romance)is Tracy’s desperation to be loved for who she is inside, not for her external beauty alone. George puts his fiance up on a pedestal and considers her a goddess, rather than seeing her for the flesh and blood woman that she really is. Mike admires her spirit and personality. Her own father even refers to her as being made of bronze. Only Dexter completely sees her and accepts her for who she is in every way. Can Tracy find the happiness she so desperately craves? Watch the film and find out.

This film may well not be as good as the original is, but it is certainly a lot of fun. The performances, costumes and songs are all fabulous. The duet between Bing and Louis, and the duet between Bing and Frank, are two highlights of the film. Cole Porter’s witty and catchy lyrics will stay in your mind long after the film has finished. Grace Kelly’s lovely performance will linger in the memory too. I think this was the perfect film for her career to end with. 

What are your thoughts on the film and Grace’s performance in it?

 

 

 

 

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The World War One On Film Blogathon Begins

When the clock strikes 11am on this Sunday morning, it will be 100 years since World War One finally came to an end. To mark this important centenary, I decided that I would host a blogathon about films which focus on this war.

I want to thank you all so much for joining me for this special blogathon. In addition to reading through all the posts in this blogathon, I would like us all to take a moment to remember all of the people and animals(their deaths and injuries all too often get overlooked) who lost their lives in this brutal and senseless war.

This war is an event that we should never forget. Sadly war is still present in our lives today, and it would seem that our species has learnt nothing from the horrors and pain of all those past wars. I hope that one day war can be a thing of the past, something that is found only in the pages of history books.

Check back to this post over the next two days to read all of the entries. I’ll update this post as often as I can over the weekend. Thanks again for joining me for this.

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Day 2 Entries

Pop Culture Reverie tells us about Wonder Woman and her time in the trenches.

 

Silver Screen Classics writes about Peter Weir’s classic war film Gallipoli.

 

The Wonderful World Of Cinema discusses See You Up There.

 

18 Cinema Lane shares her impressions of watching Lawrence Of Arabia 

 

Movie Rob discusses The Fighting 69th.

 

Critica Retro discusses the powerful film J’Accuse.

 

Movie Rob takes a look at the war fought in the air, in his review of The Blue Max.

 

Thoughts All Sorts writes about a biopic of the Red Baron.

 

Caftan Woman discusses the deeply moving Broken Lullaby

 

Dubism looks at the sports analogies hidden in the film Sergeant York.

 

Sat In Your Lap writes about the 1933 WW1 film Heroes For Sale.

 

 

Day 1 Entries

Silver Screenings tells us all about Charlie Chaplin’s WW1 set film Shoulder Arms.

 

Cinematic Scribblings discusses The Spy In Black, which was the first film jointly made by Powell and Pressburger.

 

Realweegiemidgetreviews writes about the deeply moving film My Boy Jack.

 

Down These Mean Streets discusses the romantic weepie Waterloo Bridge.

 

Movie Movie Blog Blog takes to the skies to tell us all about Wings

 

Silentology tells us all about Harry Langdon’s time in the trenches, in the film Soldier Man. 

 

Wads Words discusses The Big Parade.

 

Dubism tells us about the hidden sports analogies in Paths Of Glory.

 

The Stop Button tells us all about The Life And Death of Colonel Blimp.

 

I share my five favourite films about WW1.

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The WW1 On Film Blogathon: Maddy’s Five Favourite WW1 Films

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World War One has been depicted on screen so many times over the years, both on the big and on the small screen.

There have been many films on this subject that have horrified and moved us.

These films have been able to give us a little more understanding of the horror, the pain and the terror endured by the soldiers fighting on all sides in that senseless mass slaughter. 

The following five films focus on different aspects of the war; some focus on the fighting, while others take a look at what happens when soldiers return home. They have become my favourite films about this conflict. I’m not saying that these are the five best films about WW1, but they are all very good, and I recommend each and every one of them.

 

King And Country(1964)

This is one of the grimmest films about this war ever made. The trench sequences are so realistic and they are very difficult to forget. This film really gives you a good sense of the hellish conditions that the soldiers faced and endured throughout the war.

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The young soldier on trial. Screenshot by me.

The film focuses on a shell shocked soldier(Tom Courtney) who is on trial for cowardice after he leaves the battlefield. The soldier’s fate lies in the hands of the lawyer (Dirk Bogarde) defending him. 

 

Regeneration (1997)

Based on Pat Barker’s 1991 novel of the same name, this seriously underrated film focuses on a group of soldiers being treated for shell shock and psychological trauma at a private hospital in Britain. It is a grim and deeply moving look at the damage done to so many who fought.

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The doctor comforts one of his patients. Screenshot by me.

I don’t think those who survived this horror were the lucky ones, because they had to live on with the horror they had witnessed, and so many were psychologically damaged beyond repair. Jonathan Pryce is excellent as the doctor trying desperately to heal the damaged men, while he himself is struggling to deal with the horrendous stories and disclosures that he is hearing from his patients. Strong performances from the entire cast.

 

All Quiet On The Western Front(1930)

This is not only a must see for its realistic recreations of the fights and the battlefields of WW1, but also for its depiction of the brutal realities of war. The film begins with idealistic young German men being encouraged to fight for their country. They go off expecting to be embarking upon a great adventure that they will enjoy.

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The famous hand scene. Screenshot by me.

When the boys arrive at the front, they quickly discover that there is nothing exciting about war at all. War is ugly, war is terrifying, and war is the greatest horror imaginable. This is one of the best WW1 films ever made. I highly recommend it to anyone who has never seen it before. 

The film is based on the 1928 novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. The book, it’s sequel, and the film itself, were all banned by the Nazi’s when Hitler and his party came to power. Many of Remarque’s other books were banned and burnt. He fled Germany with his wife, but his younger sister was tried in German court for undermining morale after she stated that she believed the war was lost. His sister was found guilty and was beheaded in 1943. Remarque never knew of her fate until after the war, and his 1952 novel Spark Of Life is dedicated to his sister. 

 

A Month In The Country(1987)

This quiet film focuses on the emotional scars left on veterans of the war. Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh both deliver moving performances as two men scarred equally by their time in the trenches. Both men meet at a church in the countryside after the war has finished.

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Two former soldiers looking for peace. Screenshot by me.

Colin’s character is restoring a medieval mural on the church wall, while Kenneth’s character is an archaeologist searching for an old grave believed to be somewhere on the grounds. Both men put up a brave facade in public, but each of them hides terrible pain. This shows you how brave the soldiers were who tried to carry on with normal life, even though they were in hell on the inside.

 

Wings(1928)

Famed for its spectacular aerial battle sequences, Wings shows us the youthful innocence of young recruits being shattered by the grim realities of war. This film focuses on two friends who join the American airforce and go off to fight.

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A tense air battle. Screenshot by me.

One of the most striking images of the film(which I used in my blogathon banner)is of a plane landing on a field next to a hill, as far as the eye can see this land is covered in the graves of dead soldiers. This shows you the cost of war and is interesting because it focuses on the war in the air, rather than on the war being fought in the trenches. This film would also go on to become the first film to ever win the Best Picture Oscar. 

What do you think of these films? What are your favourite films about this war?