Tag Archives: Blogathons

The Robert Donat Blogathon Begins

The time to honour the great Robert Donat has arrived. Check back to this post over the next three days to read all of the reviews and articles on Robert and his films. Thanks to everyone who is taking part.

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Ruth gets the blogathon started by telling us all about that time Robert took on a duel role in The Ghost Goes West

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society discuss the heartbreaking Goodbye Mr. Chips

Dubsism takes a look at Captain Boycott

Paddy tells us about Robert Donat and The 39 Steps. 

Sister Celluloid tells us all about the sparks flying between Robert and Marlene Dietrich in Knight Without Armour

18 Cinema Lane takes a look at the tearjerker Goodbye Mr. Chips

RobertDonat.com discusses Robert’s final film The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness

I write about one of Robert’s best performances in The Winslow Boy

Taking Up Room tells us about The Adventures Of Tartu.

Critica Retro discusses Knight Without Amour. 

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society returns to discuss The count Of Monte Cristo

Silver Screen Classics takes a look at when Robert played a doctor in The Citadel

Announcing The 4th Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon

Hi everyone. I hope you are all well and safe. It’s been well over a year since I last held my yearly blogathon dedicated to all things Hitch. Without further ado you are all invited to take part in the 4th Hitchcock Blogathon. I do hope that you can all join me in  celebrating the Master Of Suspense. 

                          Two very different Hitchcock couples. Image source IMDb. 

You can write about any of his films or TV episodes for this blogathon. You can write about Hitch himself. You can write about his whole career. You can write about his TV series. You can write about the themes present in his work. You can write about the different types of couples in his films. I’ll take anything as long as it’s respectful. Articles, reviews and tributes are all very welcome.

If you’ve written about specific Hitchcock films or topics before, can you please pick a film or topic which you haven’t previously written about. I will only be accepting two duplicate reviews per screen title. No limit though on tributes and articles.  You can submit up to three posts each.

The blogathon will be held on the 8th and 9th of August, 2020.Please have your entries ready on or before those dates.If you can no longer take part, or you are going to be late, please do let me know as soon as possible. If you would like to take part, simply leave me a comment below telling me what you will be writing about, along with the name of your blog if I don’t already know it.

Take one of the banners from below and pop it somewhere on your site to help promote the event. Check below to see who is writing about what. Happy viewing and writing!

                                         Films now claimed twice: Foreign Correspondent, Rebecca

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films – Rope & Foreign Correspondent 

                                                           HappyFace – Torn Curtain 

Wide Screen World – 3 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents 

 Dubsism – Foreign Correspondent 

  Silver Screen Classics – Rear Window

                                                        Silver Screenings – Rebecca 

Critica Retro – Stage Fright

         Realweegiemidgetreviews – Episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents(1985)

                       Caftan Woman – Banquos Chair episode from Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The Lady Eve’s Reel Life – The Great Hitchcock Villains

Down These Mean Streets – Strangers On A Train 

                                 Silver Screen Modes – Myth And Symbolism In Vertigo 

                                       Rick’s Real Reel Life – North By Northwest 

                                                            Pale Writer – Frenzy 

                         Hometowns To Hollywood – Life & Hometown Of Alfred Hitchcock 

                                 In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood – The Birds 

                                                       Screen Dreams – The Lodger 

                                               Fantasy Map Blog – Shadow Of A Doubt 

                                                  WhimsicallyClassic – The Lady Vanishes

                                                   Box Office Poisons – To Catch A Thief 

                                                Poppity Talks Classic Film – I Confess & Topaz

                                                             18 Cinema Lane – Marnie 

                                                          Taking Up Room – Champagne 

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society – Comparing the two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much

                                                            Vitaphonedreamer – Rebecca

Hitch Blogathon 2020

Hitch Blogathon 2020 2

Hitch Blogathon 2020 1

 

 

The Basil Rathbone Blogathon: A Tribute To Basil

Gabriela at Pale Writer is hosting this blogathon dedicated to the actor Basil Rathbone. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

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Basil Rathbone was one of the greatest character actors of the classic film era. During the 1930’s and 40’s he gained worldwide fame and appreciation, not only for his superb portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, but also for all of those memorable screen villains that he played. 

There are not enough words for me to be able to use to tell you how much I love Basil Rathbone. He was such a brilliant actor. I’ve always admired how he made everything he did on screen appear completely effortless.

I will never understand how Basil didn’t end up as a romantic leading man and star in the vein of actors such as John Barrymore or Fredric March. He more than had the acting talent and the sex appeal to have been star material as far as I’m concerned. Not only do I love him as an actor, but I also admire him so much for what he went through in WW1, and how he somehow managed to continue on in life after suffering great personal loss and tragedy. I also like that he appeared to be a humble and sensitive man in real life. 

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Basil as that most dashing of villains, Sir Guy Of Gisbourne. Screenshot by me.

My introduction to Basil came about in the early 2000’s, when I first watched The Adventures Of Robin Hood(1938), in which Basil plays the dastardly and extremely dashing, Sir Guy Of Gisbourne. What presence he has in that film!

I was left both impressed and intrigued by Basil after seeing this film, and I set about checking out as many of his other films as I could find from then on. I’ve been a fan of his ever since. 

As much as I love The Adventures Of Robin Hood for the exciting story and Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland as Robin and Marion, what I love most about it is how Basil, along with co-star Claude Rains, effortlessly steals the film from everyone else in the cast. Whether he’s duelling with Errol Fynn’s heroic Robin, or shooting a withering glance at someone, Basil has your attention throughout that film and commands your attention even when he’s actually doing very little.

The nail-biting and thrilling duel at the end between Robin and Sir Guy, is a moment that you don’t forget in a hurry. If, after watching that suspenseful duelling sequence, you are left with the impression that Basil handles a sword pretty well, then you’d be right. Our boy Basil was twice the British Army fencing champion and was a natural at swordfighting. While Sir Guy loses his duel with Robin, I would put good money on Basil having been the winner if that had been an off-screen duel being fought for real. 

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Basil and Errol prepare to duel. Image source IMDb.

Ironically given his skill as a swordsman he only ever got to win 2 onscreen duels, the first against John Barrymore in Romeo And Juliet(1936), and the second against Eugene Pallette in The Mark Of Zorro(1940). 

Basil Rathbone was born Philip St. John Basil Rathbone, in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the 13th of June, 1892. His parents, Edgar and Anna Barbara, were British. Anna Barbara was a violinist. Edgar was a mining engineer and a member of the Liverpool Rathbone family, who were merchants and shipowners famous for their philanthropic work. 

Basil was the third of five children. He had two older half-brothers, Harold and Horace, and two younger siblings, Beatrice and John.Basil was very close with his younger brother and sister. The Rathbone’s fled South Africa when Basil was three years old, after Edgar was accused by the Boers of being a British spy.

Back in England, Basil attended the Repton School in Derbyshire from 1906 to 1910. After leaving school he briefly worked as an insurance clerk. Basil first trod the boards in April, 1911, at the Theatre Royal in Ipswitch. The play was The Taming Of The Shrew and Basil played the role of Hortensio. Between 1912 and 1915, Basil played various Shakespearean characters on stage.

When the First World War broke out Basil wouldn’t join up until 1916. Basil joined the British army London Scottish Regiment, a regiment which also included amongst its ranks three more future acting legends, Claude Rains, Ronald Colman and Herbert Marshall. Basil was awarded a commission as a Second Lieutenant.

Basil’s younger brother John was also caught up in the war, serving in the 3rd Battalion, the Dorset Regiment. John had left school in 1915 and had volunteered to join up that same year. In February, 1917, the Rathbone brothers were reunited in London where they convalesced together. Basil was recovering from the measles and John was recovering from chest wounds sustained in the Battle Of The Somme. 

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One of my favourite photos of Basil. Image source IMDb.

As soon as Basil was well enough he rejoined his unit and was sent out to the trenches. John would not be well enough to return to the front until 1918. That year John’s regiment ended up being stationed close to Basil’s out in France, and the two brothers were once again reunited.

Basil remembered their reunion in his memoir. “John and I spent a glorious day together. He had an infectious sense of humor and a personality that made friends for him wherever he went. In our mess on that night he made himself as well-liked as in his own regiment. We retired late, full of good food and Scotch whiskey. We shared my bed and were soon sound asleep. It was still dark when I awakened from a nightmare. I had just seen John killed. I lit the candle beside my bed and held it to my brother’s face—for some moments I could not persuade myself that he was not indeed dead. At last I heard his regular gentle breathing. I kissed him and blew out the candle and lay back on my pillow again. But further sleep was impossible. A tremulous premonition haunted me – a premonition which even the dawn failed to dispel.” 

A few weeks later Basil had another premonition, one which came to pass with eerie accuracy. “At one o’clock on June 4, 1918, I was sitting in my dugout in the front line. Suddenly I thought of John, and for some inexplicable reason I wanted to cry, and did. In due course I received the news of his death in action at exactly one o’clock on June the fourth.” Basil was absolutely distraught by his brother’s death, and in addition to dealing with that huge loss, he was also mourning his mum, who had sadly died the previous year.

In this extract from a letter that Basil wrote to his dad, it’s very clear not only how broken he was by John’s death, but also that he may have become convinced that he himself might die soon. I have all of Johnny’s letters parcelled up together and I will either bring them home on my next leave or arrange for someone to deliver them in person. I would send them as you asked but I would be afraid of them being lost. The communication trenches can take a beating and nothing can be relied on. If I can’t bring them myself for any reason there is a good sort here, another Lieutenant in our company who is under oath to deliver them, and who I have never known to shirk or break his word. So, you will get them, come what may. I’m sorry not to have written much the past weeks. It was unfair and you are very kind not to be angry. You ask how I have been since we heard, well, if I am honest with you, and I may as well be, I have been seething. I was so certain it would be me first of either of us. I’m even sure it was supposed to be me and he somehow contrived in his wretched Johnny-fashion to get in my way just as he always would when he was small. I want to tell him to mind his place. I think of his ridiculous belief that everything would always be well, his ever-hopeful smile, and I want to cuff him for a little fool. He had no business to let it happen and it maddens me that I shall never be able to tell him so, or change it or bring him back. I can’t think of him without being consumed with anger at him for being dead and beyond anything I can do to him.

Basil was the intelligence officer for his battalion and had been leading night patrols into No Man’s Land for some time in order to gather info on the German’s. Basil persuaded his commanding officer to allow day patrols too, as it would be easier to gather vital information in the day than at night. These missions were extremely dangerous, and from how I see it, it’s really not hard to view Basil’s actions as possibly being some sort of death wish in response to John’s death. One of these daytime patrols saw Basil and his men disguise themselves as trees.Here’s a clip I came across from a 1957 interview, in which Basil describes that mission. The image jumps a bit I’m afraid.

Although he makes light of what he did and acts like it was no biggie, the reality was that it was extremely dangerous work for him to undertake. In recognition of the daylight patrols he undertook, Basil was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. After the war ended, Basil returned to acting on the stage in the UK. His marriage to his wife Marion sadly broke down and the pair separated in 1919, although they didn’t divorce and Basil still financially supported both his wife, and his young son, Rodion. 

In 1923, Basil travelled to America, where he starred in the play The Swan at the Cort Theatre in New York. That same year he met scriptwriter Ouida Bergere, and the pair fell in love. Basil obtained a divorce from Marion and he and Ouida married on the 18th of April,1926. 

Ouida and Basil sadly suffered the loss of their baby in 1928, and in 1939 the pair adopted a baby girl, who they named Cynthia. Cynthia sadly died in 1969 aged just 30.  Unfortunately Ouida had a weak spot for throwing lavish Hollywood parties and she spent Basil’s money like it was going out of style. Sadly this led to Basil taking on screen work far beneath his talents in later years in order to pay off the huge bills piling up.  Despite her issues with money, it seems that Basil never stopped loving his wife and was utterly devoted to her.

Basil’s son, Rodion moved to America and lived with his dad and stepmother for a time, and he even acted in a couple of his dad’s films. In 1938, Ouida organised a lavish wedding reception for Rodion and his bride Caroline Fisher. It all got out of hand with press and celebrities turning up. Poor Rodion and Caroline felt as though Ouida took over and that their special day wasn’t their day any longer. This unfortunately led to words being exchanged between the couple and Ouida. Basil sided with his wife and from that moment on father and son became estranged. Very sad indeed. 

In 1926, Basil and the rest of the cast of the play The Captive were famously arrested for offending public morals -although these charges were later dropped- and the play was permanently closed down. The play sees the wife of Basil’s character fall in love with another woman. Feathers were ruffled and many pearls clutched due to the subject matter. Basil was furious at this censorship, as he and the rest of the cast felt the subject matter was something which was important to talk about in the open.

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Basil as Detective Vance. Image source IMDb.

Basil had transitioned into film work in the Silent era, appearing in his first film in 1921. I think it’s fair to say that it wasn’t until the 1930’s rolled around that he really hit his stride on screen. In 1929 he played Detective Philo Vance in The Bishop Murder Case(released in 1930). While the acting isn’t that great on the whole, it’s nice to see Basil in the lead role. The film amusingly contains a scene where a character refers to Basil’s Philo Vance and his companion as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Ten years later of course Basil would famously don that deerstalker hat and play Conan Doyle’s master detective. 

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Basil takes a seat on the beach in Captain Blood. Image source IMDb.

During the 1930’s Basil impressed in a wide variety of films including Anna Karenina(1935), David Copperfield(1935), Romeo & Juliet(1936), Make A Wish(1937), A Tale Of Two Cities( in which he plays a real swine, 1935), The Adventures Of Robin Hood(1938), If I Were King(1938), Son Of Frankenstein(1939).

One of my favourite performances from him during the 30’s is as the dashing pirate, Levasseur, in Captain Blood(1935), a film which saw him co-star with Errol Flynn for the first time. I love Basil’s performance in this film. He’s full of so much energy and plays a great rogue with a deadly edge to him. The gritty beach fight between Basil and Errol is edge of your seat stuff.

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Basil and Errol in The Dawn Patrol. Image source IMDb.

In 1938, Basil starred in The Dawn Patrol,a film which I think features one of his best performances. Basil plays Major Brand, a Royal Flying Corps squadron commander during WW1, who is edging ever closer to a nervous breakdown following the loss of so many of his men. You can see the heartache and weariness of this character written all over Basil’s face.

It’s a very poignant performance and I’m certain that Basil reached deep into his own traumatic memories of WW1 to help him capture Brand’s emotional state. The film would see him work with Errol Flynn for the third and final time, and I think Errol also does some of his best work here. 

The year 1939 was an important one for Basil. WW2 began and Basil wanted to serve in the war, but he was turned down from active service due to his age. He helped the war effort as best he could though through fundraising, entertaining troops and volunteering at the Hollywood Canteen. 

Apparently author Margaret Mitchell’s preferred choice to play Captain Rhett Butler in the 1939 film adaptation of her novel Gone With The Wind was Basil Rathbone. I like Clark Gable as Rhett, but I have to admit to wondering many a time how Basil would have played that character. I for one think he would have been brilliant as Rhett. 1939 was to become the key year in Basil’s film career. It was the year in which he first played the character with whom he has become forever linked, a chap by the name of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

                                   Basil dons the Deerstalker. Image source IMDb.

With his thin facial features and uncanny resemblance to the Sidney Paget illustrations of Holmes in the Strand Magazine, it’s little wonder that Basil was cast in the role of Sherlock Holmes. For many he has become the ultimate screen Holmes and it’s really not hard to see why so many feel that way. He perfectly captured the intellect and many facets of Sherlock Holmes. Personally I think that Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke are the greatest screen Holmes and Watson, but coming in a close second for me is Basil Rathbone’s superb portrayal.  

If Basil’s films had been more authentic adaptations of the stories, and if his Watson had been more like the character in the stories, then I think his 14 film run would be able to be called the best with no contest. As much as I love his film series, what stops them from being the ultimate Holmes screen adaptations in my opinion, is that most of the plots bear little resemblance to any of Doyle’s stories. The other issue for me is dear Nigel Bruce as Doctor Watson. Basil and Nigel were good friends and Basil sent the following message to Nigel when he was offered the role of Holmes, “Willie dear, do play Dr. Watson to my Sherlock Holmes, we’ll have such fun.” 

Nigel accepted the role and thus a beloved screen team was born. On screen Basil and Nigel’s real life affection for one another is evident and this helps us buy into the friendship and bond between Holmes and Watson. Unfortunately the way in which Watson is portrayed in these films is frankly just awful.

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Holmes and Watson. Image source IMDb.

While Nigel’s Watson is certainly lovable and tries hard, he is also extremely slow minded and bumbling. He is more of a source of comedy than anything else. This portrayal is at odds with the intelligent and capable medical man and army veteran that Watson is in the books. Frankly this screen portrayal of Watson grates on me, even though I do adore the old dude for his love and loyalty to Holmes and his desperate desire to do all he can to help out where he can. 

Basil and Nigel first took up residence at 221B Baker Street in an adaptation of the most famous Holmes story of them all – The Hound Of The Baskervilles. It’s one of the best adaptations of the story and has a brilliant gothic atmosphere. Weirdly though Basil is listed second on the cast list beneath Richard Greene as Sir Henry Baskerville. The success of this film quickly led Twentieth Century Fox studios to make a second film entitled The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, which was released later the same year. In the sequel the great Ida Lupino joins the lads as Ann Brandon, a young woman who finds herself in desperate need of Holmes’s help.

These two films would be the only ones of the Rathbone/Bruce films to be set in the Victorian era and they would also be the last films of the series to be made at Fox. Alongside the films, Basil and Nigel also played Holmes and Watson in the radio series The New Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, which began airing in 1939. Basil remained on the radio series until 1946 when he was replaced by Tom Conway. Nigel continued to play Watson until 1947.

                             Holmes is on the case. Image source IMDb. 

The other 12 films in the Rathbone/Bruce series would be made at Universal Studios between 1941 and 1944. These later films were interestingly set in the modern day(1940’s), and this of course all long before the Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller modern day set Holmes series came along with their supposedly new spin on the character. The remaining 12 films also have a lot of WW2 propaganda in them. My favourites of the 14 films are The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Terror By Night, The Hound Of The Baskervilles, The Scarlet Claw, The Pearl Of Death, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, The House Of Fear. 

While Basil was at first very enthusiastic about playing Holmes, the enthusiasm quickly wore off and he gave up the role. The role was something of a double edged sword for Basil. On the one hand it brought worldwide fame and popularity, but on the other it led to him being typecast and forever after associated with Holmes. It’s easy to understand his frustration at the situation he found himself in. 

Basil refused to renew his film and radio contracts in 1946,  and he returned instead to working in the theatre. I get the impression that the theatre was always his first love and that it was on the stage where he felt most comfortable. In 1947 he played the odious Dr. Sloper in the stage production of The Heiress(a performance which saw him rewarded with a Tony Award). When the film adaptation of The Heiress was made in 1949, Ralph Richardson was cast as Dr. Sloper. Once again, as much as I enjoy Ralph Richardson’s performance, I do find myself imagining what Basil would have been like in that screen role instead.

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Basil crosses swords with Tyrone Power in a great film from 1940 called Mark Of Zorro. Image source IMDb.

Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, Basil was sadly appearing in some real rubbish on screen, and he appeared on screen less and less. I think his last great film role was as Sir Ravenhurst in The Court Jester(1955).

In the 1960’s Basil went on tour with his one man show entitled In And Out Of Character(also the name of his memoir). In these shows he spoke about his life and career, as well as reciting Shakespeare and poetry. 

Basil died suddenly after suffering a heart attack in his study at home, on the 21st July,1967. He was 75 years old.

Basil’s death was a huge loss for the theatre and film industry. I’d like to think that he would be touched by how much love and respect there is for him today, both as an actor, and also for the real man behind the suave screen image. 

As he lived and died long before I was even born, it is a great regret of mine that I never had the chance to see him act on stage. I adore his films and think he left quite the impressive legacy behind him for future generations to enjoy. Basil Rathbone truly was one of the best. A few films that I really love Basil in are the Sherlock Holmes series, Captain Blood, The Dawn Patrol, The Adventures Of Robin Hood, Make A Wish, Sin Takes A Holiday. 

Here’s some interesting trivia to end with. Basil’s distant cousin was Henry Rathbone, who was sitting next to President and Mrs. Lincoln the night that Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s theatre in Washington. Rathbone tried to stop the assassin John Wilkes Booth and was stabbed by him. He would never get over not being able to prevent Lincoln’s murder and tragically went insane.  

Are you a Basil Rathbone fan? I’d love to hear from you. 

 

The Classics For Comfort Blogathon

The Classic Movie Blog Association is hosting this blogathon about classic era films which bring us comfort. We have been asked to share 5 of our favourite comforting classics. Be sure to visit the CMBA site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.  Classics For Comfort blogathonWe all have those special films and TV series that we reach for on the shelves when we’re going through upsetting or difficult times. While there are many lovely films to be found in all decades of cinema, the classic film era has an abundance of feelgood and gentle films.

Watching a black and white romantic drama or a dazzling Technicolor musical, can often be just what the doctor ordered during tough times. There’s also nothing better than spending time with all those acting legends and memorable characters either. Watching classic era films is like spending time with old friends as far as I’m concerned. 

           Just a few of the many classics that provide comfort for me. Image source IMDb. 

In the terrifying and uncertain times which we’re living in at the moment, I think that classic era films are more important for our emotional wellbeing than they’ve ever been before. Here are five of my favourite comfort classics. I highly recommend them all to anyone who is struggling.

                                                     Paris When It Sizzles(1964)

William Holden and Audrey Hepburn reunite for the second and final time on screen to play Hollywood scriptwriter Richard Benson, and his secretary Gabrielle, who are trying to come up with potential storylines and characters for a new film. Along the way the pair fall in love. I often turn to this one when times are tough because it’s just so much fun. It’s also very romantic and is pure escapism. I love how it pokes fun at the film industry and at all those film cliches we’ve all become so familiar with. 

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Audrey and William. Image source IMDb.

My favourite part of the film is seeing Audrey and William also playing the various characters and acting out the potential storylines of Richard’s script – from a rich girl being wined and dined by a vampire, to a young woman who gets caught up with a smooth spy.  Audrey and William have amazing chemistry and the way the pair look at each other just melts my heart. This one never fails to leave me smiling after I’ve watched it. You can’t fail to be charmed by this delightful film. You can read my full review here. 

                                                    Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

One of the most joyous films ever made. If there is anyone out there who dislikes this or isn’t left feeling happy after watching it, then I for one don’t ever want to know them. I fell in love with this from the first time I ever saw it. This film is so much more than just a musical and has something in it for everyone to enjoy. I particularly love the film within a film, the songs and elaborate dance routines, the beautiful costumes, and the stunning use of Technicolor. Most of all I love the characters and the comedy.

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Gene and Debbie dress for the weather. Image source IMDb.

The whole cast are sensational, with special praise going to Gene Kelly, Jean Hagen(who steals the show as far as I’m concerned), Donald O’Connor. Cyd Charisse proves once again that she’s one of the best dancers of all time and gets one of the most unforgettable screen entrances of all time. Singin’ In The Rain not only leaves me with a big smile on my face every time I watch it, but it also makes me feel like things will get better and my days will get brighter.

                                            The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947)

A lonely and underappreciated widow melts the gruff and grumpy heart of a former sea Captain, and he in return gives her the love and companionship she has never received. Sure it sounds like one of those really well known and predictable romantic story plotlines, but this is a love story with a difference due to the Captain being a ghost. The growing bond and attraction between Captain Gregg and Mrs. Lucy Muir is my main reason for loving this one so much. 

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Captain Gregg and Mrs. Muir. Image source IMDb.

Bernard Herrmann’s beautiful and atmospheric score is the perfect accompaniment to the film. Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison are both terrific, and there’s the added bonus of my boy George Sanders in full charming cad mode. You can read my full review here. 

                                                     It’s Great To Be Young (1956)

I first came across this little gem while flicking through the channels on TV sometime in the early 2000’s. I had missed the beginning and had no idea what the title was or what it was about, but despite that I got so caught up in the film and absolutely loved the characters and story. The film stayed with me and it was only a few years ago that I finally discovered the title.

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Mr. Dingle and some of his students. Screenshot by me.

This is one of my favourite inspirational teacher films and a large part of why that is, is due to John Mills’s fantastic performance as History and Music teacher Mr. Dingle.

He is so passionate about teaching music and about nurturing and encouraging the students in his care. He cares about his students and takes the time to hear their troubles and try and help them. They love him and admire him greatly in return. I think Mr. Dingle is the sort of teacher all children deserve. The film is one of the earliest British teen musicals and was one of the most popular films at the British box office in 1956. It’s Great To Be Young is so much fun and always leaves me feeling as though all is right in the world, as well as putting a spring in my step.

                                                            Random Harvest(1942)

Some may think that this weepie won’t make for the most comforting of films but they would be wrong. Random Harvest is so much more than a tearjerker, it’s a film about lovely and kind people, true love, and about the lengths we will go to in order to help a loved one. It’s also one of the greatest romantic dramas of all time. I find this one comforting due to all the lovely characters, especially Paula and Smithy(Greer Garson and Roland Colman). 

Random Harvest

Greer and Ronald. Image source IMDb.

Paula reaches out to the shell shocked and amnesic Smithy, and in doing so shows him there is still kindness and gentleness in the world. She sees past the trauma and damage to the lonely and hurting soul beneath. She helps him to heal. He in turn is the most loving and gentle man she could ever hope to have as either a friend or a lover. Random Harvest is a film about compassion and enduring love, healing, hope and second chances. While it causes many tears to be shed, it also leaves you with a feeling of hope – hope that the lonely and ill can find love and acceptance, and that somewhere out there is the soulmate we are meant to walk through life with. 

National Classic Movie Day Blogathon: 6 Favourites From The 1960’s

Rick over at the Classic Film And TV Cafe is once again hosting his annual National Classic Movie Day Blogathon. This year the focus is on classic films from the grooviest decade in history. Be sure to stop by his site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

60's blogathon

Here are six of my favourite films from the 1960’s.

Charulata(1964)

This deeply moving story of a woman who is frustrated by her lonely life, made quite the impact on me when I first saw it, and I have loved it ever since. The central love triangle in the film reminds me of the one in David Lean’s The Passionate Friends. The performance by lead actress Madhabi Mukherjee is one of the greatest in all cinema. 

Charulata

Charu. Image source IMDb.

Set in Nineteenth Century Calcutta, Charulata(The Lonely Wife) tells the story of Charu(Madhabi Mukherjee),who is the neglected wife of newspaper publisher, Bhupati(Sailen Mukherjee). She and her husband love one another, but are living a life now where they are more friends than man and wife. Charu falls in love with her husband’s cousin, Amal(Soumitra Chatterjee), but does he return her feelings?

This love story is one of tentative gestures and small moments which speak volumes. It unfolds slowly and packs quite an emotional punch. Such a touching and beautiful film, and one which I return to again and again.  You can read my full review here. 

How To Steal A Million(1966)

The film that not only made me develop a huge crush on Peter O’Toole, but which also manages to make being trapped in a cupboard for hours on end not remotely as awful as you would imagine it to be. Sparks fly between Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, there’s more Givenchy fashion than you can shake a stick at, and there are laughs and fun aplenty. What’s not to love? 

How To Steal A Million

Peter O’Toole as Simon.❤ Image source IMDb.

Simon Dermott(Peter O’Toole)is a suave thief hired by Nicole Bonnet(Audrey Hepburn), who is the daughter of art forger Charles Bonnet(Hugh Griffith), to steal one of her father’s pieces before it can be discovered as a fake while on display at a major art exhibition. An attraction develops between Nicole and Simon and many secrets are uncovered as well. Great performances by Peter and Audrey and fine support from Eli Wallach and Hugh Griffith. John William’s music is fab and is one of his most underrated scores.

Anne Of The Thousand Days (1969)

I love history and have always been particularly fascinated by the Tudor era. This film is right up there with the miniseries Elizabeth R and The Six Wives Of Henry VIII as the most accurate screen portrayal of Tudor England that we will ever see. Genevieve Bujold steals every second of film she appears in in this, as the passionate and strong-willed Queen Anne Boleyn, the doomed second wife of King Henry VIII. Genevieve fully deserved her Oscar Nomination for Best Actress for her performance here. Special praise to Margaret Furse for her beautiful costumes. 

Anne of a the thousand days

Anne surveys her kingdom. Image source IMDb.

King Henry(Richard Burton)seeks divorce from his wife Queen Cathrine(Irene Papas), an event which not only tears apart his kingdom, but which causes international outrage as well. He wants the divorce in order to marry the much younger Lady Anne Boleyn(Genevieve Bujold). Anne is certain she can bear a son for Henry, but she will sadly find herself unable to do so, a realisation which will later make her as expendable to her husband as his first wife was. 

The performances are all superb and the film makes us admire Anne’s character and her inner strength. The scene where Henry visits Anne in the Tower Of London and she delivers a powerful speech which serves as a slap in the face to him, is a moment that I have never been able to forget since the first time I watched the film. 

The Sound Of Music(1965)

I was absolutely addicted to this film when I was a little girl, I knew all the songs by heart and fell in love with the story and characters. I still love the film to pieces today. I think what I’ve always loved most about this is the father reconnecting with his children and with himself. I also love that the film shows us that women who don’t have the good fortune to look as beautiful as someone like Ava Gardner, can never the less find love and be desired. As this film proves, love isn’t just about sex and physical attraction – real love is about souls connecting and emotions being shared. 

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Maria and her Captain. Image source IMDb.

Young postulant Maria(Julie Andrews)moves into the home of widowed Naval Captain Von Trapp(Christopher Plummer)to become governess to his seven children. At first meeting with opposition from the children, Maria gains their love and respect. Gradually Maria helps this family heal, and in the process finds herself falling in love with the Captain. Complications arise in the form of the glamorous Baroness(Eleanor Parker)who has her heart set on marrying the Captain. 

To Kill A Mockingbird(1962)

I love this film so much. Not only is this film one of the best coming of age stories you will ever see, but it is also one of the best films out there about standing up to evil and injustice. Based on the beloved novel of the same name by Harper Lee, the story is partially based upon the life of Harper herself and her father Amasa Coleman Lee, upon whom the character of Atticus Finch is based.  The entire cast are absolutely superb and the characters and story unforgettable. Elmer Bernstein’s score is one of the best he ever did. I love how the opening theme goes from a childlike lullaby,and then transitions into something far more sweeping and deeper. 

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Gregory Peck and Brock Peters as Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson. Image source IMDb.

Southern lawyer Atticus Finch(Gregory Peck)is a widower raising his children Jem and Scout(Philip Alford and Mary Badham) in the 1930’s. Atticus shakes up his town when he defends Tom Robinson(Brock Peters), a local black farmer accused of raping a white woman(Collin Wilcox). Given the racist times the film is set in, the trial verdict is sadly already a foregone conclusion, but Atticus puts his heart and soul into defending Tom and standing up for him. This is one I return to again and again and never cease to be moved and drawn in by the characters and their stories. To Kill A Mockingbird serves as a reminder that there are many good and decent people out there – people who will stand up to bullies, teach children right from wrong and fight evil to their last breath – a fact that is comforting to know. You can read my full review here. 

The Innocents (1961)

This is my all time favourite horror film. I’ll even go as far to say I also consider it to be the best haunted house/ghost film ever made. It’s a masterpiece. The 1960’s was really the decade when ghosts and the supernatural finally became scary on screen, following decades of ghosts being used solely for comic effect or very brief scares. 

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Don’t turn around, Miss Giddens. Image source IMDb.

Deborah Kerr delivers one of her best performances as Miss Giddens, the governess slowly unravelling after being convinced the children in her care(Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens) are possessed by the malevolent spirits of former servants(Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessop).  You can read my full review here. 

The 2020 Classic Literature On Film Blogathon: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1945)

Literature blogathonPaul at Silver Screen Classics is hosting his first ever blogathon(congratulations my friend), and he has chosen to focus on film adaptations of classic literature. Be sure to visit his site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is a deeply moving coming of age story, one in which a child comes to view the adults in her life in different ways to how she has perceived them previously. It is also a tale in which the cruelness of reality encroaches upon the dreams and aspirations of individuals and crushes them in the process.

The title not only refers to the tree which grows in the courtyard of the tenement building which most of the film takes place in, but also refers to young Francie, the girl around whom the story is centred. The tree of the title metaphorically refers to Francie’s desire to get a good education and grow beyond her working class/poverty stricken roots, in much the same way trees grow until they tower above us out of reach of their ground roots.

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Francie and her latest Library book. Screenshot by me.

Francie is hungry for knowledge and wants a better life than the one she has. She is an avid reader and goes crazy for library books the way other children of her age go crazy for sweets. Her ever loving papa does everything he can to support and encourage her dreams and wishes, but his battle with the bottle and inability to get a well paying regular job mean the family remains poor and Francie’s situation remains the same it has been up to now. 

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Francie and her dad. Screenshot by me.

This film is one which holds a very special place in my heart. The characters come across as being so real and you can’t help but be caught up in the story of their lives and share their sorrows and joy. The film serves to remind us that those of my generation(child of the 90’s here) and younger are so lucky to have been born in the modern era, as we have opportunities and options that just weren’t on the table for the working class youth of the previous centuries. When you watch the Nolan’s story, I think it hits home so much because it shows us what our ancestors went through in real life. Think how many children didn’t get an education in the past, or had to give up school in order to start work at an early age to help their families get money. Think how many millions of people had their aspirations and dreams crushed by the reality of their lives. 

                        Francie with the Librarian and with her Teacher. Screenshots by me. 

I also love how positively Librarians and Teachers are portrayed in this film. When Francie announces she is working her way through the library books in alphabetical order and takes out a book with heavy content more easily understood by adults, the Librarian is bemused but never the less lets her take the book, despite knowing its content will most likely go way over her head. The Librarian also selects a purely escapist novel for Francie to take home to enjoy too, in order for her to have a backup book should she struggle with the other one as the Librarian suspects she will. Library staff are gatekeepers of knowledge and should never put up barriers to someone wanting to borrow and explore the books in their care, so that scene always makes me smile. I also love the scene where Francie’s teacher is extremely kind and non-judgemental of her when she asks to take a pie home from school to ease her families hunger. There is no judgement or interference on the teacher’s part, instead she responds to Francie gently and doesn’t make her feel awkward. Many who work in education will sadly have had experience of youngsters who rely on their educational establishment to provide them with their sole access to food, and this scene hits home because it is sadly still something of a reality for many in modern society. It’s just heartbreaking to know that sadly some things haven’t changed. 

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is an adaptation of the semi-autobiographical debut novel of the same name, which was written by Betty Smith(born Elisabeth Lillian Wehner), and was published in 1943. The novel focuses on the life of Francie Nolan,a poor girl living with her family in the New York tenements during the early part of the 20th century. The novel is split into five sections, with each section focusing on a different period of the characters lives.The novel was hugely successful upon release selling over 300,000 copies in its first six weeks alone. It was a particular hit with soldiers serving in the Second World War and the book was even released in a special Armed Services Edition, which meant that books shipped out to Armed Forces personal were specially designed to fit into the pockets of Armed Forces uniforms.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn poster

With its extremely moving story of family and the desire for better options in life, it’s little wonder that the film studios were quick to get their hands on the book rights. The bidding war for the rights began even before the novel was actually published, with 20th Century Fox successfully acquiring the rights for $55,000. The film would focus on a specific period in the Nolan’s lives, this in contrast to the book which covers several years. The screenplay for the film adaptation was written by married couple Tess Slesinger and Frank Davis, whose efforts on the script would be rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay.

Elia Kazan

Elia Kazan. Image source IMDb.

The film would mark the feature film directorial debut of Elia Kazan, who up to this point in time had mainly worked as a stage actor and theatre director, he had also co-directed the 1937 documentary People Of The Cumberland. Kazan is of course now very famous for founding the Actors Studio workshop and for the cinematic realism he strived for and achieved in so many of his films.

On A Tree Grows In Brooklyn he did several things to ensure he had a lot of realism present in the performances, including encouraging Peggy Ann Garner and James Dunn to bond so that they developed a genuine emotional attachment to one another – the result of which is one of the most touching father/daughter relationships ever depicted on screen. The director also used Peggy Ann’s fears and worries about her dad – who was serving in the Second World War at the time Peggy made the film – to make her become genuinely upset when shooting a scene.

The film would not only introduce a new film director to the world, but it would also resurrect the career of the actor James Dunn, whose fame had sadly waned over the years due to his ongoing battle with the bottle.James was cast as the tragic Johnny, the patriarch of the Nolan family, and he would win his only Oscar for his heartbreaking and utterly convincing performance here. James knew better than most what this character was going through and who he was. 

Twelve year old Peggy Ann Garner was cast in the lead role of Francie. Initially the studio had wanted an older actress to play Francie, but Elia Kazan held firm and insisted a child was cast. It was the right call. I think Peggy Ann’s performance as Francie is possibly her finest hour on screen, and she was rewarded for her work in the film with a special juvenile Oscar.

                 Top left to right:Dorothy McGuire as Katie, Ted Donaldson as Neeley, Joan Blondell as Sissy.  Bottom left to right: James Dunn as Johnny and Lloyd Nolan as McShane. Screenshots by me. 

The studio originally wanted Alice Faye to play Francie’s mother Katie, but Alice was unavailable, so the search was on to find another actress for the role. Gene Tierney was brought in to do a screentest for the role of Katie, but in the end Dorothy McGuire was cast. Dorothy is superb as the long suffering wife and mother, who isn’t as really tough and harsh as she makes out. Joan Blondell shines in the role of Katie’s outgoing sister, Sissy. Ted Donaldson was cast as Francie’s younger brother, Neeley and he steals every scene he’s in. Lloyd Nolan was cast as police officer McShane, the local beat cop who falls hard for Katie and helps the Nolan family when he can.

The film was shot on the 20th Century Fox lot, with a full stage being taken up by a four story replica of a tenement building. At the time it was constructed this set was one of the most elaborate to be assembled. Veteran Cinematographer Leon Shamroy worked on the film and provides us with some beautiful photography and use of light. 

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Francie takes care of her dad when he is drunk. Screenshot by me.

The film begins during summer. Francie Nolan(Peggy Ann Garner)is a thirteen year old girl who lives with her mum, Kate(Dorothy MacGuire); her food obsessed younger brother, Neeley(Ted Donaldson); and their kind but alcoholic father, Johnny(James Dunn). They are a poor family and rely on the money Johnny brings in from any work he can get as a musician. Unfortunately Johnny is an alcoholic and sometimes squanders the small wages and tips he makes on booze instead. Katie and Johnny are desperately in love, but Katie is becoming weary of what he does. Katie can sometimes be harsher to her kids than she means to be, while Johnny in contrast is always gentle and fun.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Francie and Aunt Sissy. Image source IMDb.

Katie’s younger and more fun loving sister, Sissy(Joan Blondell)and has been married several times, something which has caused quite the scandal(oh, the horror!). Sissy drops in when she can to brighten Neeley and Francie’s days. Sissy is the healer in this story. She supports her sister, brother in-law, and her niece and nephew, and she tries to ease upset and tension.  

Francie is a bright child who loves reading and desperately wants to become a writer. She encourages her father to write a letter to the headteacher of a better school in their area to request a transfer for Francie. To Francie’s delight the request is accepted and Francie is enrolled. 

Photo1987

The Nolan family. Screenshot by me.

When Christmas comes around Katie finds herself pregnant again. The little money they have is getting tighter, so she arranges for the family to move into a cheaper and even smaller apartment than they were in before. She suggests that Francie drops out of school and gets a job to help out. Knowing how shattered his baby will be if she has to give up her dreams, Johnny goes out in the cold and snow to look for any type of work he can get. Tragically he falls ill in the process and dies.

Upon his death the family receive such kindness and hear from so many local people how beloved and special Johnny was. Johnny always tried to help people and cheer them up. Francie and Neeley get after school jobs to help out and Katie prepares to bring her third child into the world. Since her father’s death Francie has retreated into herself and hasn’t grieved properly. She blames her mum for her dads’s death and doesn’t think Katie loves her as much as she loves Neeley. This isn’t true of course. And soon Francie will see her mum differently. She will also come to accept that her beloved papa wasn’t this perfect figure she so believed him to be(interestingly something which Neeley had already come to realise while their dad was still alive). At her graduation ceremony, Francie will discover just how much her dad believed in her ability to make her dreams come true and succeed. If you don’t cry at this moment there is something wrong with you. 

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Francie in a happy moment. Screenshot by me.

The film reminds us that yes we have to face reality, but there is nothing wrong with us being imaginative and having dreams and aspirations at the same time. Never let anyone or anything stop you from following your heart. I think the film also serves to remind parents that their situation in life should never stop them from actively encouraging their children to follow the path THEY want to in life. Don’t force your children to take the job or profession that YOU think they should be doing, instead listen to what your child is telling you about the profession they want to go into and support their choice. 

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is a beautiful and heartwarming tale of family, love, hope and overcoming the odds in life. 

Announcing The Robert Donat Blogathon

Robert Donat is one of my favourite actors. I also consider him to be one of the greatest actors of the classic film era. He was one of those actors who could say so much with merely a glance or a gesture.He is sadly not very often discussed today, even among those of us in the classic film community. I think it’s high time that Robert had a blogathon held in his honour. 

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Robert and Madeleine Carroll in The 39 Steps. Image source IMDb.

For this Blogathon you can write about any of his films, any of his performances, and you can also write about Robert himself. Tribute posts are welcome. Favourite films/performances/characters lists and articles are very welcome too. 

I will only be allowing 2 duplicates per film title,and a maximum of two posts each. The Blogathon will be held on the 3rd,4th and 5th of July,2020. Please have your entries ready on or before those dates. If something happens and you know you’re going to be late publishing,or you won’t be able to take part at all, please do let me know as soon as you can.

Take one of the banners from below and pop it on your site somewhere to promote the event.Let me know what you want to write about. Check the list below to see who is writing about what. Let’s honour this lovely man and great actor. Happy writing and Robert Donat film watching!

Participation List

Films now claimed twice – The Winslow Boy, Knight Without Armour, Goodbye, Mr. Chips

MaddyLovesHerClassicFilms – The Winslow Boy

RobertDonat.com – The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness

Pale Writer – The Winslow Boy

              FilmsOnTheBox- The Private Life Of Henry VIII

 Silver Screenings – The Ghost Goes West

SilverScreenClassics – The Citadel

The Poppity – Vacation From Marriage

Sister Celluloid – Knight Without Armour

                                                Dubsism – Captain Boycott

                                              Caftan Woman – The 39 Steps

                                           18 Cinema Lane – Goodbye, Mr.Chips

                                  The Midnite Drive – In – The Adventures Of Tartu

                                            Taking Up Room – The Adventures Of Tartu

                           Phyllis Loves Classic Movies –  The Count Of Monte Cristo

                                          Critic Retro – Knight Without Armour 

                            Pure Entertainment Preservation Society – Goodbye Mr. Chips 

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The Butlers And Maids Blogathon: If You Could Only Cook(1935)

Butler blogathon

Two of my favourite bloggers, Paddy at Caftan Woman, and Rich at Wide Screen World, are teaming up to co-host this blogathon dedicated to screen butlers and maids. Be sure to visit their sites to read all the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

If You Could Only Cook is a little gem which holds a very special place in my heart. Not only is it a lovely and little known film filled with humour and great characters, but it is also the film which first introduced me to the actors Jean Arthur and Herbert Marshall.While I know that my opinion of some films could well change over the years, I know that this one will always remain beloved by yours truly. 

Jean Arthur and Herbert Marshall both shine here and their performances in this have become favourites of mine. Herbert is all charm and world weariness as the wealthy man turned servant, while Jean is bubbly and determined as a down on her luck woman who will keep trying to better herself in spite of her current circumstances. This was Herbert’s twenty-first film. Unlike many other actors, it hadn’t really taken Herbert very long to become a popular star, with roles in films such as Blonde Venus and Trouble In Paradise earning him leading man status.

                                              Jean and Herbert. Image source IMDb.

Jean Arthur had been working in films since 1923, but until 1935 hadn’t really given a performance that would change things for her. In this year however she shone, not only in this film, but also in The Whole Town’s Talking. The following year came Mr. Deeds Came To Town. She would quickly become forever immortalised on screen as the no nonsense, tough, and bubbly girl next door type. 

If You Could Only Cook is directed by William A. Seiter, who is unfortunately a rather unknown and seldom discussed director these days. He worked steadily all throughout the classic film era, from the Silent era right up until 1954. If he’s remembered at all today then it’s for directing the Astaire and Rogers musical Roberta(1935), and the Shirley Temple version of The Little Princess(1939).

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Publicity photo for the film featuring Herbert Marshall, Jean Arthur and Leo Carillo. Image source IMDb.

If You Could Only Cook contains many characters who would be right at home in a Frank Capra film, and that is interesting due to how this film was released here in the UK by Columbia Pictures. Capra films were very popular here and it was felt his name would be a box office draw for audiences, so the film was marketed as being a Frank Capra production. Frank Capra however had nothing at all to do with the film and he was furious when he found out what was going on. Capra sued Columbia Studios, and a bitter dispute developed between him and Columbia studio head Harry Cohen. The following year, Frank Capra made his classic Mr. Deeds Goes To Town.His leading lady in that film? Ironically it was none other than Jean Arthur. 

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Jim and Joan meet in the park and look for work. Screenshot by me.

If You Could Only Cook is set against the backdrop of the American Depression. Jim Buchanan(Herbert Marshall)is the wealthy head of a large Automobile Company. He is deeply frustrated when his board of directors refuse to accept his latest designs for a new type of car to be built and sold. Leaving his office after an angry meeting with the board which resulted in him deciding to take time off work, Jim takes himself off to the local park.

At the park Jim finds himself sharing a bench with out of work Joan(Jean Arthur), who is looking through job adverts in the paper. Assuming that Jim is also an ordinary person out of work, Joan passes him the job ads. They get talking and Joan persuades him into applying for a Butler and Cook job open to married couples only. Jim plays along with her, agrees to her proposal, and the pair decide to pretend to be married and apply for the vacancy.

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Preparing a dish as part of the interview. Screenshot by me.

The employer is a Mr. Rossini(an hilarious Leo Carrillo)who unbeknown to the couple is the head of a bootlegging gang. Rossini loves his  food, and is desperate to hire a cook who knows their job. In a very amusing scene he dismisses a potential applicant because of how she prepares the sauce he asks her to – “Not in my house you don’t put the garlic in the sauce!” To his great delight when it comes to Joan’s interview/test, Joan prepares the sauce the correct way, by wafting the garlic six inches above the surface of the sauce. Joan and Jim are hired. Jim sneaks out at night to take some side lessons on how to pass as a butler from his own butler, Jennings(Romaine Callender, reminding me very much of Eric Blore). Jim is a quick study and makes a very good butler indeed.

So begins a lot of funny moments as Joan and Jim begin work around the house. As they spend more time together it’s clear they are starting to like one another quite a bit. When they get hired they are placed in a double room over the garage, which of course poses problems as regards to the sleeping arrangements. They move a sofa out onto the balcony to serve as a second bed. This aspect of the film reminds me somewhat of the “Walls of Jericho” part of It Happened One Night(1934). 

                 Joan and Jim get to work around the house and get cosy later. Screenshot by me.

While it’s fair to say the film is no masterpiece and only clocks in at 1 hour 11 minutes long, it is however one of the most enjoyable and fun films from the classic era for me. It’s become a comfort film and it’s one I love to return to again and again. I also like that none of the characters are perfect. For all their faults, and for the fact that many lies are told by some of them, you can’t really hate any of the main characters in this. Even after it’s revealed what Rossini does for a living, and even after he comes onto Joan at one point, you still like the guy. The character of Jim serves to show that the rich don’t have happy and perfect lives just because they are rolling in money. Joan serves to show that the unemployed are looking for work and want to work, rather than receive handouts and not gain employment. Rossini serves to remind us that sometimes even someone who does great wrong, can weirdly be a very nice person at the same time.

While Jean and Herbert are undeniably the main attraction of this film, they have fine support from the rest of the cast, Len Carillo stands out as the tough and loud Rossini, who is a real sweetheart, despite the fact he is a thug and orders killings for a living. I love the affection that develops between Rossini and Joan later in the film and how he brings about Joan and Jim’s eventual happy ending.

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Lionel Stander. Screenshot by me.

A young Lionel Stander is absolutely hilarious as Rossini’s baffled pal,Flash. He steals all the scenes he’s in. Years later of course Lionel would get to show off some butler skills of his own, when he was cast as Max in the TV series Hart To Hart

Let’s hear it for If You Could Only Cook!

The Second Deborah Kerr Blogathon: The End Of The Affair(1955)

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Deborah Kerr gave so many excellent performances throughout her film career, but one of her very best performances can be found in the British film The End Of The Affair. This film is notable for showing the same event from two different perspectives. It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Graham Greene, which was published in 1951. The novel is partly based on Greene’s own love affair with Catherine Walston and the novel is dedicated to her.  

The film is directed by one of my favourite Noir directors Edward Dmytryk. You could say that the film itself actually looks like a Film Noir in some scenes, thanks to the lighting and use of shadows. The film is very well written by Lenore Coffee(Footsteps In The Fog). At first glance the film appears to unfold as a pretty standard romantic drama, but you soon realise there is so much more going on in this film than just passion and a love affair. This isn’t your average love story. The film tackles the deep and complex issues of faith, atheism,the none existence or existence of God, guilt, desire, jealousy and loss. The film is also pretty daring for the time in how it pushes as far as it can against the film Production Code of the time. A good example of this is the scene where Maurice and Sarah star kissing after leaving a restaurant. This scene leaves little to the imagination as to what is about to happen between the two next. Gazing at each with great desire, Miles huskily whispers to Sarah ” I can’t take you home yet”. “No” she softly replies. Miles hails a taxi and tells the driver to take them to a hotel. You know what they are going to go and do now. I get goosebumps during that scene due to the sexual tension flying between the two.

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Sarah and Miles. Screenshot by me.

Many consider the earlier British film Brief Encounter as the definitive love affair film, but this one is certainly up there with it too. This film has all the emotion and complexity of the relationship depicted in David Lean’s film,but The End Of The Affair goes further by showing the couple actually giving into their love and desire and allowing themselves to become sexually involved as well. We also quickly realise that they are genuinely in love with one another and that their relationship is not just one based on sex and lust. They want to be together and be happy, and we want them to be happy too. 

The End Of The Affair is set in London at the height of the Blitz of WW2. Lonely American writer Maurice Bendrix(Van Johnson)is living in London. He has been discharged from the army after being injured in the leg. Maurice is considering writing a book about a civil servant, so he makes the acquaintance of a civil servant by the name of Henry Miles(Peter Cushing) in order to do research for the book.

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Maurice and Sarah kiss. Screenshot by me.

Maurice falls in love with Henry’s wife, Sarah(Deborah Kerr)and the two embark upon a passionate affair. Their attraction may start off as one of sexual desire, but it quickly becomes clear that there is also a real emotional attachment there too. Maurice finally feels complete and wanted when he is with Sarah. She feels brought to life in a way she hasn’t been before. Neither can bear to let the other go. During an evening when Maurice and Sarah are together, Maurice goes downstairs and is injured in a bomb attack which nearly kills him. Maurice is distressed when Sarah puts an end to their relationship and cuts off all ties with him on the same night. He becomes convinced that she didn’t really love him and that she may even have taken up with someone else. When the film later shows us this same event from Sarah’s perspective, we quickly learn how wrong Maurice is in his assumptions. 

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Sarah says farewell to Maurice. Screenshot by me.

After Maurice was caught up in the explosion, he was trapped beneath a door, and when Sarah goes down to check on him she’s convinced he was dead. In her despair she offers up a prayer to the God who she doesn’t even believe in to spare the man she loves, but the catch is she says that if he is spared she will no longer see him. A few minutes after that prayer/promise has been uttered, Maurice regains consciousness and comes upstairs to Sarah, who is shocked and devastated to say the least. What confuses her even more is when he says he feels as if he has just been pulled back from a long trip he can’t remember. Does this mean he really did die for a few minutes and was brought back by God? Or is it a coincidence and he was just unconscious and just feels weird when he regains consciousness? Sarah cleans Maurice up and then leaves.

This is where the film gets really interesting. Sarah is then crippled by guilt and despair about what she has done to Maurice, but she is also struggling with whether or not she believes in God after all. She is in crisis and becomes deeply shaken and confused. The morning after the explosion she comes across a Catholic Priest(the excellent Stephen Murray) helping people in a bombed out street not too far from his church. She follows him back to his church and seeks his help and guidance. 

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Sarah seeks the counsel of a Catholic priest. Screenshot by me.

Deborah is excellent in the church scene. She utterly convinces as the numb, confused, exhausted and distressed woman grappling with something far beyond her understanding. Your heart goes out to her because of how tormented she is. She uttered her prayer/wish because she loves Maurice, but now she feels bound to honour her promise to give him up if he lived. That’s enough to tear anyone apart and mess them up.The Priest can see how troubled Sarah is and one of the things he says to her is “I don’t see that you have any problem. If you made a vow to someone you don’t believe in”. He’s quite right and the truth of his words certainly give her an out. The trouble is she is being drawn more and more to feeling that she believes there is a God and therefore she fears breaking her word.

Next she seeks out Richard Smythe(the very underrated Michael Goodliffe), a known atheist who regularly speaks in public in the city about God. Smythe tells her “You mean above all the bombing and cries of men in battle, some supreme being heard your little cry of help?” That line always hits home because it raises the issue of if such a being does exist, why doesn’t it help everyone? Why does it demand that we love it unconditionally? Why does it allow so much suffering, hate and misery? Why doesn’t it show itself to everyone so there is proof it exists? Why does it demand people follow its rules or risk eternal punishment for not doing so? Why must some people face life long unhappiness and even a risk of death because they endure hate and exclusion by certain religious groups because of what sexuality or gender they happen to be?

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Smythe and Sarah have a talk. Screenshot by me.

The atheist views of Smythe also make me think of all the people in the world who have given up or fought against something they want, something which brings them great happiness and joy, all because in the Bible it says that thing is a sin, or that it isn’t deemed acceptable. How many unhappy and abused wives have been forced over the centuries to stay with a cruel husband because the marriage vows were deemed sacred and unbreakable?  While Sarah isn’t abused, she is in a loveless marriage and she finds a brief escape with the man she has an affair with before Maurice. In the form of Maurice however, Sarah finds more than physical pleasure, she finds the first man she is truly in love with, and he is in love with her in return. Don’t they deserve to be happy together? Isn’t it more dishonest for her to stay with Henry and make out she loves him for the rest of her life when she doesn’t? True he is a decent man and cares for her, but they are not in love and he is rather distant. 

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Faith is tearing them apart. Screenshot by me.

I like how the film also shows that one can become religious at any point in life, even if for most of your life you haven’t been a person of faith. The only thing that I don’t think is fair is the inference that Smythe(representing the atheists amongst us)only holds the views he does because he is a bitter and damaged man who has suffered because of the terrible birthmark on his face. It makes out that an atheist can only possibly be an atheist because they’ve been hurt/asked/prayed for help, and found no help came to them so they don’t believe in God out of spite. I don’t think that’s true or fair at all, and quite frankly that seems like a way to just dismiss the opinions of those who don’t believe what the religious masses choose to believe. I’m an agnostic. It is a fact that the truth of the matter is none of us will know whether there is or isn’t life after death until the second we actually die.Either we will go into a sleep from which we never wake, or something else will happen and we will go to another place. Quite how people can claim that they know for a fact there is or isn’t an afterlife or a God has always made me laugh. None of us will know until we take that one way trip which we are all destined to take at some point. Just try and be a nice and decent person throughout your life. The character of Henry seems to be of a similar way of thinking on this to myself. When asked by Sarah what he believes in, he says “It’s all quite simple really. One just does one’s best”. What more can you do?

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Deborah shines in this film. Screenshot by me.

Deborah is excellent as Sarah and really does some of her very best work in this film. She steals every scene with just a look. I’m always impressed the most by her physical transformation from an elegant, happy, outgoing young woman, to a troubled and ill looking woman who is ironically now living a hellish existence because of her new found belief in God. She looks beaten down and worn out. Remarkable acting by Deborah. 

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Van Johnson. Screenshot by me.

Van Johnson is equally good and it’s a credit to him that he doesn’t seem pushed aside on screen once the focus turns to Sarah’s internal struggles. Maurice undergoes almost as much change as Sarah does. Van is tender and passionate one minute, jealous and angry the next, confused and devastated the next. The scene where he reads Sarah’s journal and finally understands her story and what she has been going through, absolutely destroys me. Van’s acting in that scene is all in the eyes, and he absolutely nails how heartbroken and moved Maurice is at what he is reading. Van and Deborah make a great pair and I wish they had worked together again after this. 

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Peter Cushing. Screenshot by me.

Peter Cushing isn’t in the film very much, but he is terrific when he does show up. He makes Henry come across as a nice man who finds it really difficult to open up and really share how he is feeling. You can see why Sarah likes him but isn’t in love with him. 

John Mills is good as the private detective hired by Maurice to trail Sarah. His presence and personality certainly lighten the film up a bit when he appears. It’s always struck me as a bit odd that he was cast in this role though. John was a major star at this point and the role wasn’t very big, so one wonders why he was cast and why he took the role.

Both Stephen Murrary and Michael Goodliffe are excellent in their small, but very key roles. Both me are two of the finest character actors our country has ever produced. I’m always most struck by Stephen’s subtle performance.

This is a film that I love a great deal. Not only is it a touching love story, but it’s also far more thought provoking and interesting than a lot of other films have managed to be.I also like that it offers viewers with different views on God scenes which will speak to them and them alone. Highly recommended to fans of anyone in the cast, but especially to fans of Deborah and Van.

This is my entry for my second Deborah Kerr Blogathon being held today here.

 

The 2nd Deborah Kerr Blogathon Begins

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The big day is finally here. I decided to honour the lovely Deborah Kerr for a second time with a Blogathon, and was delighted when so many of you signed up to talk about her films. Thank you. Keep checking this page to read all of the entries.  

Entries

The Classic Movie Muse takes a look at The King And I

Le at Critica Retro tells us about the time Deborah played three roles in The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp

Sally at 18 Cinema Lane writes about Marriage On The Rocks.

Eric at Diary Of A Movie Maniac discusses Edward My Son

Gabriela gets the blogathon started with her review of Dream Wife

Dubsism discusses The Sundowners, which is the second film Deborah made with her friend Robert Mitchum. 

I talk about The End Of The Affair

The Anna Neagle Blogathon Is Here!

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Happy New Year everyone. Hope everyone is well. What better way to begin 2020 than with a Blogathon. 😁 Over the next 2 days be sure to check back to this post to read all of the reviews and articles about Anna Neagle and her work.  

 

                                                             Entries

Le at Critica Retro explores Anna’s work as a film producer

I talk about Victoria The Great & Sixty Glorious Years, in which Anna portrayed Queen Victoria. 

The Second Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers Blogathon: A Tribute To Fred And Ginger

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Michaela at Love Letters To Old Hollywood, and Crystal at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, are co-hosting their second blogathon devoted to all things Fred and Ginger. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.  

Laurel and Hardy; Bogie and Bacall; Morecambe and Wise; Hope and Crosby; Pryor and Wilder; Tracy and Hepburn. There are some people who are just meant to be together. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are another one of these special screen duos. I cannot imagine a world where these two had never been paired together and made all those wonderful musicals together. Fred and Ginger fit together perfectly and are quite rightly considered to be one of the most beloved and iconic film duos of all time. I also like how their screen partnership was equal, with neither one of them outshining the other in any way, or doing anything which could lead one of them to be considered as the “better” star of the two. 

Whenever I hear the names Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the first words that immediately come into my mind are elegance, effortlessness, perfect timing, fun and style. Fred and Ginger had all of those things in spades. I especially love how they made everything they did on screen appear natural and effortless, even though you know full well that they rehearsed and practiced constantly to get their dance routines to look so spontaneous and effortless.

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Fred and Ginger in Top Hat. Image source IMDb.

I also love how Fred and Ginger always make you completely believe that their characters are falling for one another. I think their pairing works so well because of the way they both usually play their characters – Fred is all charm, playfulness and silliness, while Ginger is a fiercely independent type of gal who is more serious before she eventually falls for Fred’s charms.

Fred and Ginger’s films have become comfort films for me. If I’m not well or am going through a tough time, I know that putting on a Fred and Ginger film will always make me smile. I adore all ten of their films, but my favourites are Top Hat(the best of their films in my opinion), The Gay Divorcee(featuring the very romantic Night and Day sequence), The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle(telling the moving story of the real life husband and wife dance team Vernon and Irene Castle), Carefree(featuring a lovely fantasy dance sequence on a giant Lillie pad) and Swing Time(featuring some of the best dancing ever put on film.) 

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Fred and Ginger having fun in Carefree. Image source IMDb.

I think Fred and Ginger’s films are the perfect blend of romance, comedy, drama and spectacle. Their films are also enchanting slices of pure escapism which offer us some truly wonderful sights to behold. They are also all films which the whole family can watch regardless of how young or old they may be. Everyone can find something to enjoy in a Fred and Ginger film. The heart and soul of these films are Fred and Ginger themselves. They are such an amazing team and you can totally see them bringing out the best in one another in each and every scene. Not only are they a great match as dancers, but I think they work wonderfully well together in the dramatic scenes as well. It also helped that they had the type of chemistry that just can’t be faked. 

My first introduction to Fred and Ginger came when I was around the age of 8 or 9, when I watched the musical documentary That’s Dancing. Some clips of the pair dancing together in The Gay Divorcee and Swing Time are included in the documentary and I absolutely loved what I saw of them in those clips. I knew that I wanted to see Fred and Ginger’s films and see more from them after this.  So you can imagine how over the moon I was when not long after this my parents bought me the video of Top Hat. I loved every minute of the film and it has gone on to become my favourite of all the Fred and Ginger films. You can read my Top Hat review here. 

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Fred and his sister Adele. Image source IMDb.

We have the marriage of Fred’s sister Adele to thank for Fred and Ginger ending up being paired together as screen partners. Fred Astaire was born Frederick Austerlitz on the 10th of May, 1899, in Omaha, Nebraska. His elder sister Adele, born on the 10th of September, 1896, showed a talent for dance from an early age and her parents enrolled her at local dance school to improve her skills. Fred was sent there too, in the hopes that dancing might help build up his strength, as he was quite a frail child. It soon became clear that Fred had the makings of a dancer too.

Fred, Adele, and their mother, Ann, moved to New York, where Fred and Adele were enrolled at the Alviene Master School Of The Theatre And Academy Of Cultural Arts. The siblings and their mother adopted the more American sounding surname of Astaire. In late 1905, the siblings dance instructor Charles Alvienne helped Adele and Fred develop a professional vaudeville act. Over the next 27 years Adele and Fred would work the vaudeville circuit, perform on Broadway, and would also travel over here to the UK to perform in London. The siblings fame and popularity grew throughout the 1920’s, and while it may seem a bit surprising to us today given how legendary Fred is, it was actually Adele who became the bigger star of the two when they were working together. Adele was charming and had great comic timing, she was also a far more outgoing person than her shy and workaholic brother was. Adele affectionately nicknamed Fred “Moaning Minnie” due to how worried he would get over everything. 

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Brother and sister hit the dance floor. Image source IMDb.

In 1932, Adele officially retired from the stage. She had met Lord Charles Cavendish, the second son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire, in 1927 and the pair had fallen in love. Adele had broken with tradition and proposed marriage to him! The couple married in May 1932, at the Cavendish family estate of Chatsworth. Sadly their marriage would become an unhappy one. Charles was an alcoholic who would sadly die in 1944 aged just 38. Adele became pregnant three times, but all of her pregnancies ended tragically. She gave birth to a premature daughter, who didn’t survive; then came twin boys who were stillborn; while her third and final pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. Adele married for a second time in 1947, this time to Colonel Kingman Douglass, the American chief of US Air Force Intelligence. The couple were married until his death in 1971. Adele remained close to her brother throughout their lives until her death in 1981. 

After Adele left their act, Fred went on to achieve great success on his own on stage in both London and America, in Cole Porter’s play The Gay Divorcee(which Fred would also later go on to star in the film version of). He then travelled to Hollywood in 1933 to make a screen test for the newest of the Hollywood Studios, RKO Studios, which had been founded in 1928. Fred was signed to RKO by David O’ Selznick.

The legend goes that on the basis of Fred’s test someone in Hollywood is supposed to have remarked “Can’t act; slightly bald; can dance a little”. This quote has always made me laugh given how ridiculous and untrue it is. If the quote really was said, then I hope that whoever uttered those words quickly regretted it once Fred and Ginger took Hollywood by storm and proved those words so wrong. Fred was a VERY multi-talented man indeed. Not only was he a fantastic dancer, singer and actor, but he had a real eye for choreography and he revolutionised the way dance was filmed. Fred made sure that the camera held dancers in full view at all times, and that dance sequences had as few a number of cuts as possible. 

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Fred and Ginger dance together for the first time in Flying Down To Rio. Image source IMDb.

Fred’s first film role saw him loaned out to MGM by Selznick, not to play someone fictional, but to play himself alongside Joan Crawford in Dancing Lady(1933). Fred’s second film would be the one that changed everything, and not only for him, but also for a young actress, singer and dancer called Ginger Rogers.

“I loved Fred so, and I mean that in the nicest, warmest way. I had such affection for him artistically. I think that experience with Fred was a divine blessing.”                                                          Ginger Rogers talking about Fred Astaire.

Fred was cast next in Flying Down To Rio to play one half of a dance act featured in the film. His partner was played by Ginger Rogers, who was replacing Dorothy Jordan in the role after Dorothy got married to famed director/producer/screenwriter, Merian C. Cooper. Ginger was a Hollywood veteran compared to Fred, with around 20 films under her belt at the time of starting work on this film. The film would also bring Fred and Choreographer/dancer Hermes Pan together for the first time. The pair would go on to work together on many of Fred’s musicals and all of the future Fred and Ginger films. Hermes and Fred would not only become professional collaborators, but would also become good friends too.

“I just want to pay tribute to Ginger,because we did so many pictures together and believe me it was a value to have that gal. Woo, she had it. She was just great.”                                                         Fred Astaire talking about Ginger Rogers.

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A lovely photo of Ginger. Image source IMDb.

Ginger Rogers was born on the 16th of July, 1911, in Missouri. Her birth name was Virginia Katherine McMath. Ginger was an only child and had quite an unsettling childhood to say the least. Her parents separated shortly after she was born, and her dad kidnapped her twice. Ginger was very close to her mum(who later starred alongside her daughter in the film The Major And The Minor)and her grandparents.

Winning a Charleston dance competition was Ginger’s first step on the road to fame. Her marriage to vaudevillian and singer Jack Pepper in 1929, saw the pair set up a vaudeville act of their own called Ginger and Pepper. The couple divorced in 1931. Being selected by George and Ira Gershwin to play Molly in the 1930 stage musical Girl Crazy, was what really turned Ginger into a star. She signed a contract with Paramount Pictures the same year.

Over the next few years Ginger made films for various studios before moving over to RKO Studios and eventually being cast in Flying Down To Rio. Like Fred, Ginger was also a very multi-talented performer, with a knack for comedy, drama and dance. She would become one of the most popular of the classic era actresses. Ginger would also go on to become an Oscar winner in 1941 for her performance in Kitty Foyle

Ginger and Fred’s roles were small in Flying Down To Rio and they were billed fourth and fifth respectively in the credits, with Ginger’s name appearing above Fred’s. The film was really a vehicle for actress Dolores Del Rio and her co-star Gene Raymond. When the film was released audiences went wild for Fred and Ginger dancing the Carioca. RKO could see that they had something in this dance partnership so they paired Ginger and Fred up again, this time in a screen version of Fred’s hit play The Gay Divorcee(1934). Fred had enjoyed working with Ginger and said he wouldn’t mind making another film with her, but he was initially very reluctant to begin working in a long term dance partnership again, but he soon changed his mind and the rest as they say is history. 

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The Night and Day sequence from The Gay Divorcee. Look at that dress! Image source IMDb.

I consider The Gay Divorcee to be the most important film of the ten which Fred and Ginger made together. It is the first film in which Fred and Ginger’s names receive star billing. It is also the film which really sets in stone the outline of so many of their future films. The film has the mistaken identity subplot; dance used as a form of wooing and to convey the growing romantic attraction and desire between the two; and it’s also the first to have the comic relief provided by the double act of Eric Blore and Edward Everett Horton, two gentlemen who both contributed massively to the Fred and Ginger films they appeared in. The film is also one of the best looking of the ten. The Gay Divorcee was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, and it took home one for Best Song. Ginger was always lucky and got some beautiful clothes to wear in their films, but I really envy her for the extremely gorgeous dress she gets to wear in this film during the Night and Day sequence.

Between 1934 and 1949, Fred and Ginger would go on to make eight more films together – Roberta, Top Hat, Follow The Fleet, Swing Time, Shall We Dance?, Carefree, The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle, The Barkleys Of Broadway(this final film was made at MGM rather than at RKO, and it was also the only colour film in the series. Fred and Ginger hadn’t worked together for ten years at this point and Ginger was only cast as a replacement for Judy Garland.) Fred and Ginger’s ten films together would be extremely profitable for the most part and were very popular indeed with audiences.

Left to right from top: Roberta, Swing Time, The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle, Shall We Dance?, Follow The Fleet and The Barkleys Of Broadway. Image source IMDb.

Both stars wanted to move onto other things after they had made The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle in 1939, and so the partnership came to an amicable end. Ginger would take on a lot more dramatic roles from then on, while Fred mainly stuck with musicals and became known as one of the greatest dancers of the 20th century. Fred also proved his talents as a dramatic actor when he played scientist Julian Osborn in the 1959 film On The Beach. I think that film features some of his best work as an actor, and I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it before. 

I think that Ginger and Fred contributed so much to the Golden era of Hollywood in their individual careers, but nothing they did ever quite came close to their special film partnership. There is something so beautiful about their partnership and the ten films they made together. The quality of these films and the level of talent that Fred and Ginger bring to them is unsurpassed in my opinion. There has never been a partnership or film series quite like theirs. The Fred and Ginger film series is a real high point, not only of the Classic Film era, but of all cinema. 

While I think it’s fair to say that the two never became the best of friends, Fred and Ginger did enjoy working together and they always spoke fondly and respectfully of each other until the end of their lives. Ginger presented Fred with a special Oscar in 1950, and the two co-presented together at the 1967 Oscar ceremony. Fred died on the 22nd of June, 1987, and Ginger died on the 25th of April, 1995. They left behind them an incredible legacy. 

Are you a fan of Fred and Ginger? Share your thoughts on this couple and their films. 

 

What A Character Blogathon 2019: Henry Daniell

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Paula at Paula’s Cinema Club, Aurora at Once Upon A Screen, and Kellee at Outspoken And Freckled, are bringing back the What A Character Blogathon for it’s 8th year! This blogathon is devoted to the character actors of film. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. This time I’ve decided to shine the spotlight on the actor Henry Daniell.

When I see Henry’s name appear in the opening credits of a film, I always know that I’m about to be in for a real treat performance wise. That’s because Henry Daniell was one of those rare actors whose performances never disappointed. He was a master of his craft and he is always wonderful to watch. 

Although he played many different characters throughout his career, he was especially  adept at playing villains and authority figures. He could sneer and play cold or disdainful to perfection. He makes such a convincing villain that he makes you want to reach through the screen and slap him.  

Henry is best remembered today for his excellent performance as the sneering, hardhearted, and very cruel headmaster, Mr. Brocklehurst, in Jane Eyre (1943). The character is utterly monstrous on paper, but in Henry’s hands, Brocklehurst becomes even crueller and more hateful than the man we may imagine when we read the book. Henry makes this man so odious and cold that you wonder if he is even human at all. 

       Henry in Jane Eyre. Screenshots by me. 

Henry could dominate and steal even the smallest scene that he appeared in. He always brought his A game to every single performance. He was also one of those actors like George Sanders, Richard Burton, or Claude Rains, who had been blessed with a truly magnificent and distinctive voice.  That voice was always used to great effect. 

Henry Daniell was born in Barnes, London, on the 5th of March 1894. He made his UK stage debut in 1913. The following year he joined up to fight in WW1. Henry joined the 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment in 1914, and he fought with them until he was invalided out in 1915 after being severely wounded. 

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Henry and his co-star Ina Claire in the original lost version of The Awful Truth. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

Henry made his Broadway stage debut in 1921, playing Prince Charles in Clair De Lune. He worked on stage throughout the 1920’s. Henry made his film debut in the 1929 version of The Awful Truth. In this film Henry plays Norman Warriner, the role which would later turn Cary Grant into a star in the 1937 remake. Sadly Henry’s version of this romantic comedy classic is now lost. I don’t know about anyone else, but I for one would have loved to have seen how he approached this role. 

Over the next decade he appeared in many more films, most notably as the sleazy cad, Baron de Varville, in Camille(1936). This was the first film that I ever saw him in, and it is his performance in this film which made me want to see much more of his work.  

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Henry and Charles Laughton in The Suspect. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

Throughout the 1940’s he was in high demand as a villain, appearing in Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, The Sea Hawk, Jane Eyre,The Suspect, The Body Snatcher, and three of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films, in one of which he played Professor Moriarty. He was also in The Philadelphia Story as Sidney Kidd, the publisher of the magazine that Mike and Liz work for. 

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Henry (seated centre)in The Body Snatcher. Image source IMDb.

               Here’s Henry in action opposite Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk(1940).

Throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s, Henry appeared often on television in guest roles. Some notable films and performances from the later part of his career include Witness For The Prosecution, in which he worked again with his co-star in The Suspect, Charles Laughton, Mister Cory(the film that he called one of his favourites from his own work), Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, and The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit

His final film role was as the British Ambassador, in George Cukor’s 1964 film adaptation of My Fair Lady. His scenes alongside Audrey Hepburn at the Embassy Ball would sadly be the last he would ever shoot. Henry Daniell died of a sudden heart attack  on October 31st, 1964.  He was 69 years old. 

He left behind him an incredible film legacy. He is one of my favourite character actors. I also consider him to have been one of the best character actors in the business. I hope he would be touched by how much love and respect there still is for his performances and films today. Never seen a Henry Daniell film? A cinematic treasure trove awaits your discovery, and I hope you enjoy exploring his screen work. 

Any other Henry Daniell fans here? 

Luso World Cinema blogathon: Lena Horne

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Beth at Spellbound By Movies and Le from Critica Retro are co-hosting this Blogathon dedicated to members of the film community with Lusophone heritage. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

I’m writing about the singer, actress, and civil rights activist, Lena Horne. I’ve been a big fan of Lena’s for many years now.She was a brave,strong, fearless and very talented woman, who just went right ahead and did her own thing. Lena Horne didn’t live or behave as some people thought she should do.

It is only because of this Blogathon that I’ve learnt something new about this great lady. I’ve learnt that Lena was of Lusophone heritage. Many thanks to Beth and Le for enabling me to learn something new about Lena.

I greatly admire Lena for having had the courage and strength to stand up for the rights of black people through her civil rights activism. She and the other activists quite rightly didn’t see why one group of people should be oppressed, killed, tormented and treated differently because of the colour of their skin, and they tried to do something to right those great wrongs. In addition to the other civil rights activities she was involved with, Lena also attended the famous March On Washington, in August 1963. 

As well as admiring Lena as a person, I also utterly adore her as a singer. I love her very soft, yet strong singing voice.I especially love her versions of When I Fall In Love and Someone To Watch Over Me. Her version of The Lady Is A Tramp is cracking too. 

Lena Horne was an American by birth. She arrived in this world on June 30th, 1917. Lena was born and raised in Brooklyn,New York, by her parents, Edwin Fletcher Horne Jr, and Edna Louise Scottron. Lena’s grandfather was the African American inventor Samuel R. Scottron. Lena was raised for several years by her grandmother, Cora Calhoun Horne, who was a campaigner for black rights and was also a suffragette. Lena had Lusophone heritage on both sides of her family, this was due to her ancestors being a mix of Native American, African American and European American people.

Lena’s rise to fame began in the 1930’s when she joined the chorus line of the New York Cotton Club in 1933. In 1934 Lena joined up with the African American Jazz composer/band leader Noble Sissle and his orchestra. Lena toured with Noble and his orchestra and also recorded her first records with them, these records were then released by Decca Records.

Lena married Louis Jordan Jones in 1937. The couple had two children, Edwin, who sadly died of kidney disease in 1970, and Gail, who would go on to marry the film director Sidney Lumet. Gail and Sidney’s daughter Jenny works as a screenwriter and actress. Lena and Louis divorced in 1944. 

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A lovely shot of a very glamorous Lena. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

Lena moved on to work in the film industry in the late 1930’s. In 1938 she made her screen debut in a film called The Duke Is Tops. Lena plays Ethel, a popular singer who refuses to go and seek out the big time out of loyalty to the man who gave her her first career break. Even at this early stage of her career Lena oozed star quality. She’s got that magic glow and special something about her in this film.

Roger Edens, who was part of the Arthur Freed unit at MGM, spotted Lena performing at a nightclub and arranged for her to get a screen test. In 1942 she was signed to MGM for a seven year contract. Lena refused to play the stereotypical character types so often provided for black performers by the film industry, and that unfortunately caused some problems for her in the long run. Some black actors even took issue with her because the parts she objected to were ones which although not ideal, at least ensured they were able to get employment in the film industry. 

Because Lena had a lighter shade of black skin, the studio tried to get her to pass herself off as a Latina, but Lena refused and embraced the fact that she was a black woman. It seems that nobody in the film industry really knew what to do with Lena, and I think that her film career reflects that, as her films/roles are really all over the place. But in defence of the studio for a minute, it can’t be denied that they did sign her for a long term contract, gave her some financial security for a time, and they also gave her the best costumes, cameramen, directors, hairstylists etc to work with when she did appear on screen. If only they could have been braver and helped make her into a star actress.  

 Lena’s first film for MGM was the musical Panama Hattie, which was made in 1942.The following year Lena’s real big break came when she was cast as the seductive and outgoing Georgia, in the all black cast film Cabin In The Sky. On the strength of her performance in this film I get so mad on her behalf that she didn’t receive more dramatic roles after her work in this one. She’s absolutely brilliant in this film and steals all the scenes she appears in. This film should have made her into a major film star. Her performance here reminds me somewhat of Dorothy Dandridge’s in Carmen Jones

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Lena with some fellow cast members of Cabin In The Sky. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

Also in 1943 Lena starred in the 20th Century Fox musical Stormy Weather. This film was a thinly veiled biopic of the great Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, who also starred alongside Lena in the film. Most of Lena’s film roles after these two films consisted of nothing else but her performing in stand alone song routines. Sadly due to the disgusting, ridiculous and incredibly infuriating racial laws around at the time, Lena’s musical sequences were often cut out when the films were shown down south. Crazy and shocking or what?!

In 1947 Lena upset the apple cart again (go on girl!) when she married Lennie Hayton, a white musical director at MGM. The couple were married until Lennie’s death in 1971.

Lena lobbied hard for the role of Julie LaVerne in the MGM film adaptation of the musical Show Boat. Lena had played the role of Julie in a musical sequence in the film Till The Clouds Roll By. She would have been perfect in the film, but she unfortunately lost out on the role to her friend Ava Gardner.

This casting choice perfectly sums up the idiocy of the times. A character who is a mixed race woman was played by a white woman, rather than give a black or mixed race actress the role. Lena stated that Ava was told to study Lena’s song recordings for the role, something which upset both women, and ultimately that came to nothing anyway because Ava’s singing voice ended up being dubbed by Annette Warren. Ava did record versions of some of the songs herself, but these were never used in the film, you can find those recordings online. 

Here’s Lena’s beautiful and quite moving version of Can’t Help Loving That Man.This clip gives us a taste of what she could have been like in the film Show Boat

Lena went on tour with the U.S.O to entertain American troops during WW2. She was appalled that seating for these shows was either segregated by the Army, or that seating arrangements placed German POWs in front of black US Army personnel. Lena staged her shows for mixed audiences. She often walked off stage to where the black servicemen were seated, and then sang directly to them with her back to the white audience members. 

By the 1950’s Lena had become disenchanted with Hollywood and she chose to focus instead on her nightclub career. She would appear regularly on TV from the late 1950’s through to 1970’s, performing in many variety shows and TV specials. She was blacklisted during the Communist Witch Hunts, this was because of her activism and her friendship with actor and singer Paul Robeson, who actually did have Communist sympathies and was himself blacklisted. 

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Lena pictured 3rd from left meeting President Kennedy. This photo was taken two days before he was murdered in Dallas. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

In 1981 Lena was the star of a Broadway musical revue created specially for her – Lena Horne: The Lady And Her Music, which ran for 333 performances from May 12th 1981, to June 30th(Lena’s Birthday)1982. Lena also toured with the show abroad. Lena won several awards because of her performance in the show, including a Tony and a Grammy, Quincy Jones who produced the cast album for the show also received a Grammy. 

In 1969, Lena once again took a dramatic role in a film, this time playing the girlfriend of Richard Widmark’s sherriff, in Death Of A Gunfighter. In 1978 she played Glinda in The Wiz, an all black cast version of The Wizard Of Oz. 

Lena Horne died in 2010, aged 92. This incredible woman left behind one hell of a musical and film legacy for us to enjoy. She also helped break barriers for future generations of black actors and singers. She is a fascinating woman who stood up for what was right, and who was fiercely proud of who she was and of her heritage. Do yourself a favour and listen to her songs, watch her films, and read about her life. You won’t regret spending time in the company of the remarkable Miss Lena Horne. 

The 5th Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon: Five Grace Kelly Films You Should Watch

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If she was still here with us, classic film actress and real life Princess, Grace Kelly, would be celebrating her 90th Birthday this year. To mark this special occasion, Ginnie at The Wonderful World Of Cinema, Emily at The Flapper Dame, and Samantha at Musings Of A Classic Film Addict, are co-hosting the 5th Grace Kelly Blogathon. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.  

As this blogathon is the fifth one devoted to Grace and her work, I’ve decided to highlight five Grace Kelly films that I think everyone should see. Some of these films helped to make her into a cinematic icon, while others contain some of her best work as an actress. I feel that these five films also show her range as an actress. 

To Catch A Thief (1955)

In her third and final collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock, Grace plays a cool and adventurous heiress called Francie Stevens. This character is clever, observant and fearless. She is also very sexually forward. Francie knows what she wants and she goes right after it. Grace keeps us intrigued by her character and keeps us guessing about what her motives are. This is one of Grace’s most interesting screen performances in my opinion. 

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Grace in To Catch A Thief. Image source IMDb.

Francie has her suspicions that a former thief called John Robie(Cary Grant) is behind a series of recent thefts. She may be right or wrong, but she seems to enjoy the possibility of putting herself in danger and playing games with him.

Not only does Grace deliver a great performance, but she is also at her most beautiful and elegant in this film. She looks truly stunning wearing many gorgeous outfits designed by Edith Head. Those blue and white chiffon evening gowns are my favourite outfits that she ever wore on screen. You can read my full review of this film here. 

 

High Noon (1952)

The film which started it all for Grace. While this wasn’t her debut role for either film or television, it was however the film which gave her the first really significant role of her career. High Noon was also the performance which made people really sit up and take notice of her. 

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Grace with Gary Cooper in High Noon. Image source IMDb.

Grace is excellent as Amy, the young and innocent Quaker bride of Gary Cooper’s brave town Marshal, Will Kane. I like how Grace conveys to us how much she is struggling to comprehend the world of violence with her pacifist beliefs. She starts off delivering a very quiet performance, but then later she becomes so passionate and emotional and lets us see how determined and strong she is capable of being. Grace famously didn’t think very highly of her own performance in this, but I think she was much better than she obviously seemed to think she was.

 

Rear Window (1954)

This is the film which really showed audiences just what Grace could do as an actress. Hitchcock had a real knack for changing an actors perceived screen image when they worked with him, and he changed Grace’s screen image from restrained good girl, to that of a sexy, strong and interesting woman of many talents.

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Grace with James Stewart in Rear Window. Screenshot by me.

Just as Jeff’s opinion and perceived image of Lisa changes as he finally sees the real woman beneath the beauty and glamour, so too do the audiences perception of Grace  change. Her performance as Lisa Fremont has become Grace’s most famous role. This film is also the one which, in my opinion at least, turned Grace into a star and an icon of film and fashion.  You can read my full review here. 

 

The Country Girl(1954)

Many of Grace’s fans consider this film to feature her best performance. She won her only Oscar here for her portrayal of Georgie, the long suffering wife of Bing Crosby’s alcoholic singer, Frank Elgin. The Elgin’s formally happy life has been shattered by the death of their son. Frank has taken to the bottle to deal with his pain, while Georgie is left to deal with a double grief. 

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Grace in The Country Girl. Image source IMDb.

Grace brings a lot of heart and depth to her character. She truly makes us feel this woman’s grief and pain, while also getting us to admire her for her inner strength. Grace convinces us she is weary,desperate and at the end of her tether. She’s very moving in this and it’s hard to forget her performance once you’ve seen the film. This one is tough to watch but well worth it for the great performances. 

 

High Society(1956)

This was Grace’s final film before she left America to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco. This one is my favourite Grace Kelly film. In this film she gets to play a character who is complicated and mixed up emotionally, and this means she gets to show her range as an actress all in the one performance. Grace’s character Tracy Lord is vulnerable, seductive, vivacious, funny, mean, sweet, often all in one scene!

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Grace as Tracy. Screenshot by me.

On the strength of her performance in this film alone, I find it a crying shame that Grace never made another film again. In the few years that she had been in the spotlight, Grace Kelly had really grown as an actress. If you watch her films in chronological order, I think you can see her ability and confidence as a performer increase/improve with every performance.

High Society is the perfect swan song to Grace’s all too brief career. She delivers one of her best performances as Tracy Lord, a wealthy heiress struggling to decide which of the men in her life she really loves and wants to be with. I often wonder if Grace saw any parallels between herself and Tracy. For example both are women admired more for their external beauty and status than for the woman beneath – in Grace’s case her talents as an actress were often overlooked in favour of her beauty and fashion style. You can read my full review here

I hope you will all join me in remembering a lovely lady, who was also a far better actress than many give her credit for. Happy Birthday, Grace. Thank you for leaving us with so many magical movie moments to enjoy. You and your work are still very much loved. 

Are you a Grace Kelly fan? Leave your thoughts on her and her work below. 

 

The Gothic Horror Blogathon: Crimson Peak (2015)

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This is my second post for Gabriela’s Gothic Horror Blogathon. Be sure to stop by her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.

The more I’ve watched it, the more I have fallen in love with director Guillermo Del Toro’s film Crimson Peak. What I love most about this film is how it plays out like a meticulously crafted love letter to the gothic genre and to classic era horror cinema. There are not only homages to The Innocents(the scene where Edith explores the house with her candlestick holder), The Changeling(the wheelchair and the ball scene) and Jane Eyre(Edith and Thomas’s relationship and the scene where Thomas says their hearts are linked) to be found in the film, but the film also features all of the established Gothic tropes but presents them to us in new and interesting ways. There’s also homages to Hitchcock’s Notorious to spot too(the poisoning, the importance of keys etc). 

Although primarily described by many as being a horror film, you will find that there is so much more going on in Crimson Peak than jump scares, gore and ghosts.Perhaps this explains why the film unfortunately did so poorly at the box office upon release. It was marketed as a traditional horror film, when in actuality it really isn’t a horror film at all. In fact I view this as more of a Gothic mystery/romance with moments of horror, rather than an outright horror flick.

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Edith exploring the house with her candle stick holder is reminiscent of Deborah Kerr in The Innocents. Image source IMDb.

I also like how the horror elements in the film are a mix of supernatural scares, slasher horror and Giallo horror. When violent and shocking moments occur in this film they don’t half impact the viewer, much more so than such scenes might if similar scenes were occurring throughout the film every few minutes. 

I’ve seen people describe this film as being boring, too talky, or just not scary enough. Their loss I say. This is a very rewarding and deep film if you give yourself over to it and it is even more so if you are a lover of all things Gothic. Crimson Peak is a beautifully crafted, dark, and eerie Gothic masterpiece. Aside from the darker aspects of the plot, this is also a film about the strength and determination of women, and of the past passing into a more technological future. It is also a film which cautions us about making assumptions about someone based on their appearance(someone seemingly delicate and fragile may not be so for example), or of underestimating someone because of their background or gender.  It also shows us the dark and light sides of humanity. 

The two strongest and most intriguing characters in this film are women. Edith and Lucille are polar opposites of one another, and yet they are perhaps more alike than either one of them would care to acknowledge. Each woman serves to show the different paths a woman’s life can take. Both women are strong willed and determined, and neither one conforms fully to societies rules and expectations. Both prefer to live on their own terms and do what makes them happy. Edith for example would much prefer to attempt to get the stories she writes published, rather than getting married or being praised for wearing the latest fashionable gown. Both women have known pain and sorrow in their lives. Neither one is weak or helpless. Where they part ways is that Lucille is a child of the dark, whereas Edith is a child of the light. Edith enjoyed a warm and loving home/upbringing, whereas Lucille’s childhood was one of cruelty and horror.

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Lucille. Image source IMDb.

Butterflies and moths feature heavily in the film and both serve as a symbolic link to Edith and Lucille, especially in the park scene where Lucille and Edith discuss butterflies, moths and the cruelty of nature. Lucille describes moths as being “formidable creatures to be sure, but they lack beauty. They thrive on the cold and the dark”. Edith asks her “what do they feed on?”and Lucille replies “Butterflies, I’m afraid”. In that exchange it is clear Lucille is describing herself as being like a moth and that Edith is like a butterfly who is her prey. Symbolism for these two is everywhere throughout the film.

Even the costumes of both women are symbolic, with Edith’s gowns being brightly coloured with floral designs showing her to be a giver of life, someone who is blooming like a flower.Lucille’s dresses on the other hand are black or darkly coloured and have a similar design to the walls and ceilings of her Gothic style home, these costumes show Lucille to be cold and gloomy.  It’s also worth noting that Edith’s bright clothes make her look out of place in Thomas and Lucille’s world, while Thomas and Lucille’s darker clothes make them the odd ones out in Edith’s world.

I also love how for most of the film Lucille’s clothes give us the impression that she is closed up and restrained like a chrysalis, but at the end of the film, as all the secrets are slowly revealed to us, her clothing becomes looser and more revealing as the real Lucille is at last set free and the secrets within her home are brought out into the open.  

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Edith.Image source IMDb.

The film opens in Buffalo, New York, during the 1800’s. A young girl is visited by the ghost of her mother, who warns her to beware of something called Crimson Peak. Skipping forward to the 1880’s, we find Mia Wasikowska playing the now grown up girl, the aspiring novelist Edith Cushing(surely a nod to novelist Edith Wharton and actor Peter Cushing). Edith falls in love with the mysterious engineer/inventor Thomas Sharpe(Tom Hiddleston), but her father Carter(Jim Beaver) suspects something is not quite right with Thomas and his sister Lady Lucille(Jessica Chastain), and he tasks a private detective to investigate Thomas. The detective uncovers information about Thomas(which we don’t see)which confirms he is not to be trusted. Mr. Cushing pays Thomas to break off his relationship with Edith and to leave Buffalo. 

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Thomas. Image source IMDb.

Before Thomas can leave town, Mr. Cushing is brutally murdered, and in her grief, Edith turns to Thomas for comfort. The pair eventually get married and she travels to England to live with him at the Sharpe family home of Allerdale Hall. The hall is falling apart and the red clay on which it is built seeps out of the ground like blood.

Major spoilers ahead about plot and characters!!!!

Edith soon falls ill at the hall. On top of her mysterious illness, she also has to deal with the dominating and stern Lucille. Edith is also plagued by visitations from several deformed ghosts(played by Del Toro’s regular collaborator Doug Jones, with some CGI added). Edith soon stumbles upon the same truth her late father did, but she learns the full horror of that truth(something that he did not). Edith’s only chance of rescue from the hell she finds herself in, lies in the form of Dr. McMichael(Charlie Hunnam), an old friend of her and her father. I like that Edith rescues herself to a great extent, rather than relying entirely on McMichael’s aid. 

Edith discovers that Thomas has been married to three women before her and that all three of them were murdered. The ghosts are these murdered ladies and they are trying to warn Edith that she too is in danger. Thomas married all of these women to get their fortunes signed over to him. Thomas and Lucille’s father squandered the Sharpe fortune and he and Lucille are nearly penniless.

Thomas and Lucille have been in an incestuous relationship since their early teens and Lucille murdered all the other wives, and Edith’s father, after he learnt of the other marriages, and she now has the same plans for Edith. We also learn that Lucille killed her own mother. Thomas knew of the fate of his previous wives, but he did not kill them and what happened did not sit well with him at all. He didn’t love the other women, but he has now developed genuine feelings for Edith and is torn between his sister and his wife. 

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The Sharpe siblings. Image source IMDb.

Thomas may well be weak in comparison to his sister, but we soon learn that unlike her he is also quite childlike and innocent. Thomas Sharpe has only been consumed by so much of the darkness, he has not become a part of it entirely. We do admire him for later eventually finding the courage to confront Lucille and try and put a stop to what they are doing. Edith has opened his eyes to a new kind of love, and she has also shown him that he can be a different person if he wants to be. I love the relationship between Thomas and Edith, because they are so tender and gentle with one another, and each finds great delight in just being near the other. Their love allows them to blot out their pain and worries for a time.

In many ways Edith is like the traditional male white knight figure who rescues the Princess in peril in fairytales. Edith becomes Thomas’s saviour. She is the pure and fresh woman who Thomas can love both emotionally and physically, without constantly being reminded of a terrible and dark past. Edith’s actions end up putting a stop to the terrible existence he has come to loathe, all be it not in the traditional happy ending some may expect when they watch the film.

I also love how Edith has her eyes opened wide to the realities of life for those who aren’t surrounded by love and lovely things, and in the process she becomes wise to the darker sides of life. She wasn’t completely naive of such things to begin with, but she could never have imagined people could endure and be a part of such awful things until she marries Thomas. At the end of the film she has a become a more worldly woman, one whom now also knows her limits of endurance and how emotionally/psychologically strong she can be. Symbolism also kicks in again at the end of the film, with Edith vanquishing darkness and the possibility of becoming twisted and evil herself. Edith’s survival reminds us that not everyone who has suffered at the hands of others will turn out to be cruel and evil themselves. 

We also learn that the Sharpe children suffered a terrible childhood of abuse and pain. Their father left the family and his reckless behaviour destroyed their wealth. Their mother was cruel and abused both her children. Lucille as the eldest child tried to protect Thomas from the worst of their mother’s attacks. As they grew older they found that their only source of love and joy was to be found in each other. Their bond grew so strong that it turned into incest. Now when we learn this, it is of course sickening and disturbing, but you can understand why it happened given their situation and relationship. 

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Lucille is a formidable villain. Image source IMDb.

I find the character of Lucille to be the most fascinating and complex of the whole film. She is very clever, dominant, strong and powerful. It is she, rather than her brother, who does the planning and the killing. She has taken the pain of her past and grown strong and untouchable because of it, she cannot be cowed or frightened any longer. She is fiercely protective of Thomas, almost to the point of being perceived as a lioness protecting her cub. She is clearly insane and dangerous too, all of which makes her quite a memorable and formidable villain.

Yet for all her darkness, and for all the pain and destruction she is responsible for, Lucille is also a victim too. She was turned into a figure of cruelty and darkness by what was done to her as a child. She also does what she does out of love for her brother. Her love and the terrible past she endure makes her more human, and I think it’s very easy to sympathise with her to some extent and to feel pity for her. Lucille also makes a very human mistake when she underestimates Edith’s abilities, seeing her as nothing more than a fragile and weak creature, rather than as her equal in strength and determination.

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The stunning foyer of the Sharpe home. Image source IMDb.

Crimson Peak may well be a dark film, but it is also a stunning and gorgeous feast for the eyes and ears too – from the cinematography and lighting, to the beautiful costumes, impressive set design and gorgeous and atmospheric score. I also like how the symbolism for Edith and Lucille carries over into the homes they live in. Edith’s home has plush, cosy, warm and bright interiors, with soft and expensive furnishings. Lucille and Thomas meanwhile live in a dark and crumbling mansion, a home which is a shadow of its former self. I also like how Allerdale Hall brings to mind the enchanted and mysterious castles in fairytales, with the snow and leaves falling in, the clay seeping into the house like blood, and the moths fluttering around.  The attention to detail in this film is remarkable and you can see the love, time and effort all involved put into this one. 

The performances are superb from the whole cast. It was nice to see the great Jonathan Hyde appear in a cameo as an arrogant book publisher. I think that Mia, Jessica, Tom and Jim Beaver deliver the best performances in the film. Mia’s performance in particular is incredible, she has to convey so much with her eyes alone and she really makes you feel what Edith is experiencing.  

In my opinion this is Del Toro’s masterpiece. The film can also be seen as not only a Gothic homage, but also a homage to his own work and the themes of death, grief, fantasy, courage and horror found within his other films. This is easily one of the greatest Gothic films out there. Highly recommended to all my fellow Gothic fans. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Crimson Peak

 

 

CMBA Anniversary Blogathon: 1939 Turns Eighty

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The Classic Movie Blog Association turns ten years old this year. In celebration of this anniversary, our groups latest blogathon is one which celebrates films, or particular years in film history, which are also celebrating a significant anniversary in 2019. Be sure to drop by the CMBA site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I’ve decided to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of the year 1939. Why the focus on this year and not another you may well ask? I picked this year because it is such a remarkable and impressive year for film. 1939 is a year considered by many film fans and film critics to be “Hollywood’s greatest year”, this is due to the large amount of magnificent films released in America that year, many of which have become some of the most beloved, impressive and acclaimed classics of all time.  

             Left to right: The Wizard Of Oz, Gone With The Wind and Only Angels Have Wings. Screenshots by me. 

I don’t know about other film fans, but I know that I return again and again to so many of the films which were made in 1939. There’s just something about these films which makes them special, plus they are all such high quality films. Think also of all the beloved film characters this year’s films provided us with – Dorothy Gale, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, The Wicked Witch Of The West, Rhett Butler, Scarlett O’Hara, Mamie, Melanie Wilkes,Cathy and Heathcliff,Judith Traherne etc. While it’s certainly true that every year and decade in film history contains some real gems and classics, 1939 in particular saw the release of such a staggering amount of high quality films which have ended up becoming classics.

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To have had these films appear throughout one or two decades would have been incredible enough, but the fact that all of these films came out in one year is truly mind blowing! If 1939 had only been the year of say Gone With The Wind(one of the all time great epics), The Wizard Of Oz, Stagecoach, or Only Angels Have Wings, then I have no doubt that it would have most certainly have gone down as a great film year, but this year had all of those films and so many more besides.Wuthering Heights

Just a few of the remarkable films released during this year include: Mr. Smith Goes To Washington( a film which remains incredibly relevant and affecting, given how many governments/politicians around the world are self serving or corrupt, and who don’t seem to be on the side of the ordinary people at all), Wuthering Heights(moody and moving in equal measure), Goodbye Mr. Chips(possibly the saddest and most poignant film ever made), The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle, Golden Boy, The Women(this hilarious film sees some of the best actresses of the day fight it out on screen), Dark Victory, Ninotchka, Of Mice And Men, The Saint Strikes Back(the first time that George Sanders played the role of Simon Templar)Dodge City, The Hound Of The Baskervilles.

Outside of Hollywood, 1939 also saw the release of many excellent films from around the world as well. The brilliant French Noir Le Jour Se Leve, the powerful Japanese drama The Story Of The Last Chrysanthemums, the French satire The Rules Of The Game, and the early Powell and Pressburger spy drama The Spy In Black, were just four classics made outside of America during this very significant year. 

Le Jour Se Leve

1939 also saw Technicolor used to its most stunning and impressive effect in many films, including The Wizard Of Oz, Dodge City, Gone With The Wind, Drums Along The Mohawk. There had been some nice looking colour films around since the Silent film era, but nothing that compared to the beautiful use of colour seen in many of the films released in 1939. I think that films featuring Technicolor, outside of the Powell and Pressburger 1940’s films, have never before or since looked as stunning and striking as these 1939 Technicolor films do.

1939 was also a very good year for actors. Many of the films in this year featured very strong roles for women and had very female centric stories. Many of the 1939 films also provided actresses with some of the best screen roles they would ever have.

Some fellow British ladies would find that this year would end up changing their fortunes for the better. Vivien Leigh moved from being an up and coming British stage and screen actress, to become an acclaimed international star following her work in Gone With The Wind.Greer Garson enchanted audiences in her screen debut in Goodbye Mr. Chips, and she quickly went on to become one of the most popular actresses of the entire classic film era.

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1939 saw the film debut of Greer Garson. Seen here with co-star Robert Donat in a publicity photo for Goodbye Mr. Chips. Image source IMDb.

 The American actress Jean Arthur would star in Only Angels Have Wings and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,two films which would help cement her screen persona of tough, sassy and fiercely loyal female sidekick. 

It wasn’t just the ladies who were enjoying great acting success in this year either. James Stewart proved he could do much more than comedy and sweet romantic roles, thanks to his excellent dramatic performance in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, Jean Gabin and Robert Donat all delivered some of the best performances of their entire careers in this year. Cary Grant would also prove that he could do more than comedy, with his great performance as the cynical, tough and complicated pilot, Geoff Carter, in Howard Hawk’s Only Angels Have Wings. A young lad called John Wayne would find that his performance in Stagecoach would end up becoming his breakthrough role, and over the next few years he would go on to become one of the most famous and iconic actors in the world. 

1939 was also a glorious year for film composers and their scores. A few of my favourites from this year are Max Steiner’s sweeping score for Gone With The Wind; Eric Korngold’s rousing theme to Elizabeth And Essex; Alfred Newman’s beautiful and moving score for Wuthering Heights; Alfred Newman’s score for The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. The music and songs in The Wizard Of Oz also have a very special place in my heart.

It seems to me that every aspect of filmmaking was the very best that it possibly could be during this year. From acting and cinematography, to costumes, music, scripts and direction. This year highlights the quality and magic of the classic film era for me. 

We are sadly living in an era now where Western film audiences seem to be being bombarded by nothing but an endless stream of remakes, reboots, sequels and prequels. We’ve got an overwhelming amount of CGI filled superhero films and computer animated films out there too. It seems that if you want originality, quality, good human drama and characterisation, then you need to be checking out Foreign Language films, Indie films, or turning to television. 

Watching classic era films reminds us that there once was a time when there were seemingly endless amounts of fresh and original film ideas, and that there was a strong focus on the characters and the actors to tell the story, rather than letting special effects dominate proceedings and overwhelming every other aspect of the film. These classic films, especially many of those from 1939, serve to show the current generation the quality that filmmakers can achieve if they put their minds to it. There’s a reason these classic era films have stood the test of time and stand head and shoulders above so many other films.

Story Of Vernon and Irene Castle

I hope that you will all join me in raising a glass in honour of this very special year in film history. The greatest year in film history? While I find it hard to narrow so much great cinema down to one single year and call that year the best ever,I would however have to say that I think 1939 has more claim than most to hold that particular title. It truly was a golden year for film.  

I’d also like to raise a glass to the CMBA in honour of its own special anniversary. I’m still so touched to have been accepted as a member of this group and to have found myself amongst some truly great classic film bloggers. This group is so supportive and encouraging, and I think my fellow CMBA bloggers are all doing a wonderful job of spreading the word about classic films far and wide. Happy 10th Anniversary to this wonderful group. Special thanks to Rick at Classic Film And TV Cafe who founded our group. 

I’d love to hear what you think of 1939. Share your thoughts on this great year below. 

 

Announcing The 2nd Deborah Kerr Blogathon

Last year I hosted a blogathon dedicated to the lovely Deborah Kerr. The blogathon went really well, and there were so many wonderful articles received about this great actress and her work. At the request of Gill from Realweegiemidgetreviews, I have decided to bring the blogathon back for a second year. 

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Deborah in The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp. Screenshot by me.

For this blogathon you can write about any of Deborah’s films or TV appearances. You can write tributes to her. You can write about her career and life. You can write about her screen partnership with Robert Mitchum. You can focus on specific performances. I will accept two duplicates per screen title and a maximum of 3 posts per person. 

The Blogathon will be held on the 10th of January, 2020. Please have your posts ready on or before that date. Check the list below to see who is writing about what. Take one of the banners from below and put it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Have fun writing about Deborah and watching her work! 

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: The End Of The Affair

Pale Writer: The Innocents & Dream Wife

Poppity Talks Classic Film: Young Bess

Cinematic Scribblings: Black Narcissus

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: Deborah Kerr and Fashion

Critica Retro: The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp

Dubsism: The Sundowners

The Classic Movie Muse: The King And I

18 Cinema Lane: Marriage On The Rocks

Diary Of A Movie Maniac: Edward My Son

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I’d also love for some more of you to join my Anna Neagle Blogathon being held on the 1st and 2nd of January, 2020 too. 

Announcing The Anna Neagle Blogathon

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Anna in Spring In Park Lane. Screenshot by me.

As we start to approach the end of 2019, I would like to invite you all to join my next blogathon. 

This one will be held in the New Year and it is going to be dedicated to the great British actress, Dame Anna Neagle. Anna was one of the most talented British actresses working during the classic film era. She is best remembered today for the many films in which she portrayed well known historical figures, including Edith Cavell and Queen Victoria.  She married director and producer Herbert Wilcox, and the pair made many films together. Anna was also a producer herself.

For this blogathon you can write about any of Anna’s films. You can write tributes to Anna. You can write about her partnership with her husband. You can write about her entire career. If you’re not familiar with Anna and her work, why not take this as the perfect opportunity to rectify that and seek out her films? I will allow 2 duplicates per screen title, and a maximum of 3 posts per person. 

The blogathon will be held on the 1st and 2nd of January, 2020. Please have your entries ready on or before those dates. Check the entry list below to see who is writing about what. Take one of the banners below and put them on your site to help promote the event. Have fun writing about Anna and her work!

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films:  A Comparison Of Victoria The Great & Sixty Glorious Years

Pale Writer: Maytime In Mayfair

Poppity Talks Classic Film: Irene

Critica Retro: Anna’s Work As A Producer

Screendreams: Nell Gwyn

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The Shelley Winters Blogathon: 4 Shelley Winters Performances You Should See

Shelley Winters blogathon bannerTwo of my favourite bloggers, Erica at Poppity Talks Classic Film, and Gill at Realweegiemidgetreviews, are co-hosting this blogathon in honour of the actress Shelley Winters. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.  

Shelley Winters was a strong woman, and she was a real force of nature too. On screen she was a chameleon actress. She could play strong, tough, or mean one minute, and then play timid and gentle the next. She was one of those actresses who I always believe as whatever character she happens to be playing on screen.

Shelley is also an actress whose performances have never really left me disappointed. While Shelley has never become a great favourite of mine, I have however always liked her and admired her acting ability. She was a very talented lady indeed. Instead of focusing on one particular film or performance for this blogathon, I want to highlight four Shelley Winters performances that I think everyone should see. These four performances/films also highlight what range she had as an actress. 

The Night Of The Hunter(1955)

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Shelley as Willa. Screenshot by me.

While it’s true that her character isn’t in the film for very long, Shelley never the less makes the most of her supporting role in this classic. Shelley utterly convinces here as the meek and naive Willa, the abused wife of the stone cold and manipulative preacher(Robert Mitchum).

If you’ve only seen Shelley play strong women on screen, then you’re sure to be in for quite a surprise, due to her character being the complete opposite . Shelley’s performance here is one which is all in the eyes, body language and small gestures. 

Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)

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Shelley as Lorry. Screenshot by me.

Shelley shines alongside Robert Ryan, playing Lorry, the much younger girlfriend of his character, Earl. Despite their age gap, Lorry and Earl really do love each other very much.

Earl sometimes says hurtful things to Lorry because he is afraid that she will either leave him, or cheat on him, because she is much younger than him. Shelley makes us see how much Lorry loves this man and wants to help him.

The scenes between Shelley and Robert are very tender, and I only wish there had been more of them. I also love how Shelley convinces us that Lorry is someone who can stand up for herself, and that she can knock some sense into Earl through her reactions to his outbursts. Shelley does a great job of making Lorry come across as a very real, working class gal, who is trying to do the best she can in life and in love. 

Lolita (1962)

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Shelley as Charlotte. Screenshot by me.

Shelley is both hilarious and moving as the loud and awkward Charlotte Haze, the slinky and lovestruck mother of the title character of this Kubrick classic.

We can’t help laughing at Charlotte because she is such a ridiculous and over the top character. We’re not laughing all the time though, because Shelley also makes us sympathise and cringe for her character.

Charlotte is so awkward and desperate and doesn’t realise that people around her merely put up with her company, rather than actually be around her because they truly enjoy her company. Charlotte is a very tragic figure really, because she genuinely loves Humbert(James Mason) and she tries so hard to get him to love her in return, despite the fact that he is not remotely interested in her sexually or romantically. Shelley absolutely gets the different aspects of this woman and inhabits the role so well. I can imagine no one else playing Charlotte the way Shelley did. 

                                                   A Patch Of Blue (1965)

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Shelley as Rose-Ann. Image source IMDB.

Shelley is both despicable and ferocious as the abusive and racist mother of Elizabeth Hartman’s kind and dominated Selina. 

Shelley’s character, Rose-Ann, is one of the most horrible screen mothers I’ve ever seen. She treats her daughter like crap and only ever thinks of herself. This dame has a razor sharp tongue and spews hatred and harsh words every time she opens her mouth.

Shelley dominates every scene she is appears in in this one. Through Shelley’s excellent performance, we can see that Rose-Ann is a survivor, one whose tough persona ensures that she doesn’t become one of life’s victim. Shelley’s performance is so powerful that it is one of those which lingers on in the mind long after the film is over. Shelley is a real nasty piece of work in this flick.

I would love to know your thoughts on Shelley’s performances in these films. 

 

Thank you for joining the WW2 Blogathon

WW24Can I say a massive thank you to everyone who contributed to the WW2 blogathon. Jay and I were impressed by how many of you took part! You all wrote wonderful articles and reviews. Thank you for joining us to mark this important anniversary.  

My apologies for not having been around much and not having commented on all your posts yet. As some of you already know, I have an ongoing health issue, and unfortunately I was really struggling with symptoms in the run up to this blogathon and still am now. I hope you’ll bear with me while I try and catch up on posts I’ve not been able to read yet. I’ve not forgotten you!

Maddy x ❤

The World War II Blogathon: Day 1

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The big event has finally arrived. Over the next three days, myself and Jay from Cinema Essentials, will be accepting your reviews and articles on films, series and people connected to WW2. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the start of WW2, and we both thought that hosting a blogathon on this subject would be a fitting way to mark this important anniversary.

I will be your hostess for today only. Please submit posts going live on Monday and Tuesday to Jay.  Thank you so much for joining us. 

Day 1 entries

Love Letters To Old Hollywood writes about the deeply moving The Best Years Of Our Lives.

Ruth at Silver Screenings discusses Tora!Tora!Tora, which depicts the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Dubsism finds the sports analogies hidden in Fighter Squadron.

Gill from Realweegiemidgetreviews tells us about the time Burton and Eastwood went Where Eagles Dare.

Quiggy at the Midnite Drive-In boards Von Ryan’s Express.

Mikey at Wolfman’s Cult Film Club shares his thoughts on The Way Ahead.

Andrew from The Stop Button shares his views on The Big Red One.

Just A Cineast discusses the British gem Millions Like Us.

Debbie at Moon In Gemini shares her thoughts on The Mortal Storm.

Vinnieh discusses Carve Her Name With Pride.

Clarissa from Stars And Letters shares a poignant letter from a soldier to Donna Reed.

MovieMovieBlogBlogII writes about the harrowing Schindler’s List.

Critica Retro shares her thoughts on The Seventh Cross.

I discuss the British TV series Danger UXB

Jay discuses  Hurricane and The Eagle Has Landed.

The World War II Blogathon: Danger UXB (1979)

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Any person who serves in the armed forces has my utmost respect, gratitude and admiration. It takes a brave person indeed to deliberately risk injury and death fighting to save and help other people. People who serve in Bomb Disposal Units have a bravery which is on a whole other level entirely. It takes nerves of complete steel to deliberately stand next to a live bomb and attempt to diffuse it or check if it is live or not. 

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An attempted diffusion ends in tragedy. Screenshot by me.

In 1979, a British television series called Danger UXB was created. The series would focus upon a Bomb Disposal team working in London during the Second World War.

As the German Luftwaffe carry out their seemingly unending bombing raids across Britain, we would follow this brave disposal team tasked with diffusing and destroying the thousands of bombs that had been dropped from German aircraft, but which had failed to detonate on impact. The series would follow the team from the start of the war, right up until the war ended in September of 1945.

The completed series would become one of the most realistic, suspenseful, authentic and gripping TV series ever made. The series was created by writer/producer John Hawkesworth(the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series, Upstairs, Downstairs)and John Whitney. John Hawkesworth took the series idea to producers Verity Lambert(then head of Drama at Thames Television) and Johnny Goodman. The pair were on the lookout for a new series and they both loved his idea. The series was inspired by the book Unexploded Bomb – The Story Of Bomb Disposal, which had been written by Major A.B Hartley. 

The series would also help to change the face of British television forever. Up to this point, British television series/episodes had been shot on tape and were mostly filmed in the studio, with just a few brief scenes sometimes shot out on location. Danger UXB however was filmed entirely on location. The quality of the stories, coupled with the visual quality of the episodes, meant that in effect this series looked like a collection of thirteen films. This series proved what it was possible to do when making a TV series. It begs the question as to whether or not we would have got all those glorious 1980’s miniseries shot on location, without this one having paved the way first?  

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Brian Ash attempts to diffuse a bomb which has become embedded in the side of a building. Screenshot by me.

Another new and unusual aspect of the series was that the writers were unafraid to kill off main/significant characters. Long before series such as The Bill or Game Of Thrones broke audiences hearts with shock character deaths, Danger UXB was doing just that. In doing so, I think it helped to bring home the brutal realities of life as a Bomb Disposal officer to audiences. Death or life changing injuries could claim these men at any second.  This decision also ensured that all the bomb disposal sequences in the series became doubly tense, due to audiences knowing full well that main characters weren’t free of harm and that anything could happen to them. What made it all the more powerful was the knowledge that although the characters are fictional, real men had actually gone through what these characters were enduring. It gave the series a reality and a great deal of emotional weight. 

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Anthony Andrews as Brian Ash. Screenshot by me.

The series was filmed in 1978. It would be broadcast on ITV between the 8th of January, 1979, and the 2nd of April the same year. The series follows new Royal Engineering Officer, Brian Ash(Anthony Andrews), as he takes command of a Bomb Disposal unit in London, after the current commander has been killed while attempting to diffuse a bomb. Brian is nervous at first, but he soon settles into the role and gains confidence as a commander. The men soon grow to respect him and they form a good team.

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Maurice Roeves as Sergeant James. Screenshot by me.

Brian’s ever dependable right hand man, is the steady Sergeant James(Maurice Roeves), who is the father figure to the team and really does his best to keep an eye on how everyone is coping emotionally and psychologically. The main members of the team are Sapper Wilkins(George Innes), who is the joker of the team, a chainsmoker, and also a petty thief; Lance Corporal Salt(Kenneth Cranham), a married man who is always terrified for the safety of his wife and children and who later becomes haunted by events in the series; Sapper Powell(Robert Pugh),who is sometimes loud and a bit of a bully, but who has our sympathy when he becomes truly terrified and traumatised on a couple of occasions due to bombings.

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The aftermath of an explosion. Screenshot by me.

The team are up against the five different types of German bombs which were usually encountered in Britain during the war. All of the bombs vary in size and damage capability. As the series goes on, Brian and his colleagues discover that German engineers are booby trapping bombs or altering the way in which they can be diffused, this of course makes diffusing even more dangerous than before. Butterfly Winter, the 10th episode of the series, introduces the team to a new type of bomb – the unusual and extremely nasty Butterfly Bomb –  a device which was very small and didn’t look like a bomb at all. Whoever designed this device was especially wicked. 

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Brian and Susan meet for the first time. Screenshot by me.

In addition to following the team on their job, the series also focuses on civilians and shows us what life was like on the homefront. Brian lodges with a middle aged woman and befriends her outgoing and sexy daughter, Norma(former Doctor Who companion Deborah Watling). Brian also falls in love with Susan Mount(Judy Geeson), who is the gentle daughter of scientist Doctor Gillespie(the terrific Ian Cuthbertson), who is helping the government find new ways to defeat German bomb fuses. 

Brian and Susan love each other so much and each one brings the other to life in a way neither have been before. This relationship is complicated though by the facts that Susan is married – unhappily so it has to be said, but she is still married none the less – and that her husband is slowly cracking up while working as a codebreaker. Brian and Susan’s relationship also means that Brian has to steel his nerves even more when he goes out on a job because he doesn’t want to be killed and leave her all alone. 

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A happy moment for Susan and Brian. Screenshot by me.

I love this series so much because it has something in it for everyone. I also love that despite mainly being focused on the war and upon male characters, we do also get some strong and interesting female characters and we see how they got through the war.Susan in particular is interesting because she is a very intelligent and determined woman, one who gets involved with her father’s scientific work and isn’t content to merely stay at home and be the dutiful little wife. I also love watching how she blooms in Brian’s company and begins to feel properly loved and fulfilled romantically and sexually for the first time in her life.

        Norma and Susan. Screenshots by me. 

The character of Norma is also shown to be different to the expected female norm. She is a rulebreaker, a woman who loves to have sex, despite not being married(oh, the scandal!😉). We see through these two women that the old way of life for women of this time was changing. Women worked during the war in jobs which had always been done before by men, and they quickly realised they loved to work and were just as capable as their men were. Women were realising that they could be so much more than just wives and mothers, that they could do what they wanted to, not what society and tradition forced them to do. These characters and their actions make for just as much interesting viewing as the lads do. 

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Some of the team are caught up in an explosion. Screenshot by me.

I also like how the series shows us the psychological impact that this job had on the men who were a part of it. Their horrific and frightening experiences can’t just be forgotten and swept under the carpet, they will always carry the disturbing images and feelings of fear with them. We see the brave faces they put on in public, but we also see how much what they must do affects them. 

All of the episodes are excellent, but I think it’s fair to say that Butterfly Winter, The Pier, Digging Out and Cast Iron Killer are the best of the best. The Pier and Butterfly Winter in particular are two of the most shocking and suspenseful episodes of the whole lot. I also like how The Pier shows us that there was great danger to be faced from British explosives, as well as from the German ones, as the team are ordered near the end of the war to help dismantle British mines lining the coast. Beaches had been mined by our troops as a last line of defence should the Germans have ever attempted to invade the mainland. 

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Some of the team attend the funeral of a fallen friend. Screenshot by me.

The whole cast deliver absolutely superb performances, but it is Ian Cuthbertson, Anthony Andrews, Maurice Roeves, Kenneth Cranham, Robert Pugh and George Innes who all standout the most for me. A large number of soon to be famous faces appear throughout the series and it’s a real treat to see them. Anthony Andrews, Judy Geeson, Robert Pugh and Kenneth Cranham would go on to become very well known actors over the years that followed. Anthony would become a household name after his performance in another classic British series, Brideshead Revisited, just two years after he appeared in this. Anthony’s performance in Danger UXB is one of the best he’s ever given. 

Danger UXB is not only a brilliant television series, but watching it makes me respect and admire my grandparents and their generation even more than I already do. The amount of horror and difficult choices that generation had to face during WW2 was just staggering. I think this series does a very good job of helping those of us from younger generations connect with that time and with the emotional and physical impact of the war.

This is undoubtedly one of the best series about WW2 ever made. If you enjoy series which let characters, events and stories unfold slowly, which don’t have annoyingly fast editing every few seconds, and which don’t insult the intelligence or attention span of the audience, then this is most certainly the series for you. 

This is my entry for the WW2 blogathon being hosted by myself and Jay in a few days time. I can’t wait to read all of your entries. 

Vive La France Blogathon: Five French Classics You Should See

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When I saw that Lady Eve’s Reel Life and Silver Screen Modes were hosting a blogathon about French cinema, I just knew that I had to sign up and take part. Make sure you visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

I love French cinema. I especially love classic era French films. I think that what I love most about the films from this particular era, is the fact that they often tended to be far more realistic and gritty in comparison with the glamour of many of the classic era Hollywood films. I also adore the incredible cinematography and atmosphere found in the French films from this era. 

Here are five classic era French films that I think every film fan should see at least once in their life.  The films are listed here in order of the year in which they were released. Not only do I consider these five films to be among some of the finest films ever made in France, but I also picked these because they represent different decades and styles of French cinema. 

Menilmontant (1926)

This Silent avant-garde film is one of the most moving and visually interesting films I’ve ever seen. Clocking in at just under 38 minutes long, this is a film which packs quite the emotional punch. It’s hard to forget this one once you’ve seen it. Right from its very first shot- depicting the brutal and frenzied axe murder of a couple – this film dares to be different. The film is directed by experimental filmmaker Dimitri Kirsanoff. The film has no subtitles, and while some viewers may find that to be an issue, I personally don’t because you can follow what’s going on and who the characters are and what they’re doing. 

Menilmontant

The film follows two sisters who are the children of the murdered couple. The rest of the film focuses on their plight. This is a film which draws you in and makes you connect emotionally with the characters. It has a documentary look about it and was filmed on location in Menilmontant. Best remembered for the very moving scene where an old man shares his bread with one of the sisters(played by Kirsanoff’s wife Nadia Sibirskaia) who is starving. This scene could all too easily have become sentimental or cliched, but it is a testament to all involved that it doesn’t play like that and manages to be both realistic and touching. 

Le Jour Se Leve (1939)

This gripping film focuses on a working class man who is barricaded in an apartment surrounded by police. He has killed someone and the police are trying to move in to arrest him.  As he waits for the police to make their move, we begin to see in flashback the events which led him to be in this predicament.Le Jour Se Leve

This early Noir film was famously banned by the Vichy government in 1940. The film stands as a powerful allegory for the individual and the few standing up to the many. Not hard to see why the scum in charge during the war took issue with it. Jean Gabin delivers one of his finest performances as Francois. Arletty and Jacqueline Laurent provide solid support as the two very different women who Francois becomes romantically involved with. Featuring some stunning cinematography and wonderful use of shadow and light. Many people consider director Marcel Carne’s later film Children Of Paradise to be his best, but I think there is a strong case to be made for Le Jour Se Leve to hold that title. This is an absolutely cracking flick. 

La Belle Et La Bete(1946)

Watching this film is like stepping into a vivid dream. In my opinion no other screen adaptation of the novel Beauty And The Beast even comes remotely close to this one. Director Jean Cocteau’s second film is poetic, haunting, romantic, and truly stunning to behold. Who can forget the living candelabra on the walls of the beast’s enchanted castle? Who can forget the magic mirror? Who can forget the beast carrying Belle to her bed?

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Beauty and her Beast. Screenshot by me.

This beautiful film is perhaps the ultimate love story. The enchanted, cruel beast undergoes a personality change as he falls for the gentle and kind Belle. In this film love is so strong that it can destroy curses and darkness. Josette Day is excellent as Belle and gives the character great strength and heart, but she and everyone else in the film are eclipsed by Jean Maris as the Beast. Despite being hidden beneath great amounts of makeup, Jean manages to convey so much emotion to us and steals every scene he is in. Truly one of all time great film performances. This is a film that every film fan and film student should watch. It makes for truly magical viewing. 

Forbidden Games(1952)

Forbidden Games is one of the best coming of age films ever made. The film depicts the horrors of war and a loss of innocence seen through the eyes of two young children. Director Rene Clement’s haunting, beautiful, and deeply moving coming of age story captures the period of idyllic childhood innocence perfectly.

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The children get their first glimpse of death. Screenshot by me.

This film captures this time of childhood innocence being shattered. It does a good job of depicting a moment – one which unfortunately must come to us all at some point – in which children lose their innocence and finally become aware of and enter into the adult world. The film reminds me quite a bit of Whistle Down The Wind, and I think that if you enjoyed that film, then you’ll enjoy this one too. Forbidden Games memorably features two of the most natural and remarkable child performances in film history. You can read my review of this moving and powerful film here. 

Les Diaboliques(1955)

Few films shock as much as this one does. Famous for misleading audiences right up to its truly shocking and unexpected twist ending. This one is a perfect mix of horror and psychological suspense. The film was a big influence on Hitchcock when he made Psycho, and I also believe Les Diaboliques must surely have influenced the makers of the Hammer classic Scream Of Fear too.  

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She couldn’t believe what was in the tub. Screenshot by me.

Based upon a novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, Les Diaboliques tells the story of the wife and the mistress of a sadistic headmaster. The two women plot to murder this cruel man and dump his body in a swimming pool, but when the pool is drained the body is not there. The film features three superb performances from Vera Clouzot, Simone Signoret and Paul Meurisse. Who can forget that eerie and shocking bathtub scene? One of the best films ever made in this genre. In my view this is director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s masterpiece. 

I’d love to know what you think of these films if you’ve seen them. I highly recommend them all if you’ve yet to see them.  

The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

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1939 truly was Hollywood’s Golden Year. There were so many cinematic masterpieces released in America that year. Two films stood head and shoulders above all the other gems from this year though. One was a little picture called Gone With The Wind, and the other was a musical called The Wizard Of Oz. Both of these films were technical marvels at the time that they were made. Both films have also gone on to become beloved by generation after generation of film viewers.  

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I think that both films are actually quite similar in terms of their stories and overall themes. Both films have a strong and determined heroine, both films show the importance of love, family and home, and both films depict ordinary people being caught up in extraordinary events – the horrors of war in GWTW, and trying to survive in an unfamiliar land and fight evil in The Wizard Of Oz. 

The Wizard Of Oz is a film I love so much. As an Autistic person, I particularly  appreciate how the four main characters accept each other completely for who and what they are. There is no judgement between them, no awkwardness or unpleasantness because they each do things differently or have some problems. I also love how quickly the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion all start to care for Dorothy and try their best to help Dorothy and protect her. I also love how Dorothy stands up to bullies, cruelty and evil. Dorothy is someone who always fights against injustice and tries to do the right thing. The film shows us that ordinary people are capable of making a stand against evil and those with more power, you just have to find the courage within yourself to be able to do this.

This film absolutely blew my mind the first time I ever saw it. I first saw it back in the 1990’s and I remember that this was the first film to really open my eyes to what film was capable of presenting to us. This film also got me interested in learning about how films were made and what went on behind the camera.

                               Dorothy opens the door to Oz. Screenshot by me. 

I have never quite gotten over my shock at the truly jaw dropping moment when Dorothy opens the door of the house, and both she, and us in the audience, moves out of a sepia coloured world and into a stunning Technicolor one. It is a moment which still has the power to make audiences gasp in awe when they see it. I can only imagine how audiences of the 1930’s must have reacted when they saw that stunning scene for the first time. 

The film is based upon L. Frank Baum’s book, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, which was published in 1900. The book would become one of the most popular and acclaimed children’s books in history. Baum would go on to write 13 sequels about Dorothy’s time in Oz. After Baum died in 1919, the author Ruth Plumly Thompson was tasked by Baum’s publishers to write more books set in the land of Oz. 

Baum’s original story was turned into a very successful stage musical in 1902. This ran in theatres until 1904. MGM Studios bought the rights to the book in 1938. Producer Mervyn LeRoy, who had been handpicked by Louis B. Mayer as the successor to the great Irving Thalberg, wanted to direct the studios musical film adaptation of the novel, but Mayer made him the producer of it instead. He worked alongside uncredited associate producer Arthur Freed, who would soon become best known for his work on all those fabulous musicals. The films score would be composed by Herbert Stothart, with music and lyrics for the songs by Edgar Harberg and Harold Arlen.

The film would end up winning two Academy Awards, one would go to Stothart for Best Original Score, and the other would go to Harberg and Arlen for Somewhere Over The Rainbow as Best Original Song. As happy as I am that the music and songs won awards, I do wish that the film had won for its special effects. The tornado sequence is remarkable and still looks real today. I also love the witch’s image ball and the scene where the ruby slippers burn the witch’s hands. 

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This film had some great special effects. Screenshot by me.

The big question was who to cast and who to get to direct the film? The world famous Shirley Temple was the first choice for the role of Dorothy Gale, but it was felt that Shirley’s singing voice wasn’t good enough for what was required in the film. So 16 year old Judy Garland was cast instead. I’m so glad Judy got cast because she is perfect in the role. I also doubt that the film’s hit song Somewhere Over The Rainbow would have made such an impact if she hadn’t been the one to sing it. The emotion and sense of yearning in her voice is what makes that song in my opinion. 

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Dorothy dreams of a happy place. Screenshot by me.

The glamorous Gale Sondergaard was initially cast as the wicked witch, and Gale made two screentests in costume and makeup. Originally the idea was to make the witch slinky and beautiful, like the evil queen seen in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs the previous year, but then it was decided to make her look ugly instead. Gale Sondergaard was reluctant to make the film wearing the disfiguring makeup so she left the project. Character actress Margaret Hamilton was then cast in the role of the witch. I can imagine nobody other than Margaret in this role now. The witch is one of the most evil and memorable screen villains and Margaret plays the role to perfection. 

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Publicity photo for the film. Image source IMDb.

Actor and dancer Ray Bolger was originally cast as the Tin Man,  but eventually Ray got his long desired wish to play the Scarecrow instead. Actor and dancer Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Scarecrow, but then he ended up playing The Tin Man instead. Comedian and actor Burt Lahr was cast as The Cowardly Lion. Comic actress Billie Burke was cast as Glinda, the beautiful good witch who helps Dorothy and her friends. Character actor Frank Morgan was cast in the multiple roles of The Wizard, Professor Marvel, The coach driver at the Emerald City, The gatekeeper of the Emerald City and The Emerald City guard. Character actors Clara Blandick and Charlie Grapewin were cast as Dorthy’s loving Aunty Em and Uncle Henry. Over one hundred little people were cast to play The Munchkins, the adorable and fun loving people persecuted by the wicked witch. The costume department, under the direction of costume designer Adrian, designed individual costumes for each Munchkin actor to wear.

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Some of the Munchkin actors prepare to shoot a scene with Judy Garland. Image source IMDb.

In the directors chair was Richard Thorpe. He wouldn’t be sitting there for long though. Filming began in October 1938. Unfortunately so many problems quickly arose once filming was underway. Buddy Ebsen developed a near fatal reaction to the aluminium powder makeup he had to wear as part of the Tin Man costume. Margaret Hamilton suffered serious facial burns, after something went wrong during the sequence where the witch disappears into a cloud of smoke and flame after meeting Dorothy for the first time. Terry the dog was trodden on and suffered a broken paw. 

Buddy Ebsen as The Tin Man

Photo of Buddy Ebsen as The Tin Man. Image source IMDb.

Actor Jack Haley was brought in to replace the seriously ill Buddy Ebsen in the role of The Tin Man, and the silver makeup necessary for the costume was altered to aluminium paste, rather than the troublesome aluminium powder. Richard Thorpe was fired by Mervyn LeRoy after only two weeks on the job. It was felt that the footage shot so far by Thorpe didn’t have the right air of fantasy necessary for the story, and there were also concerns that the wig and makeup he’d had Judy wear made her look far older than the character should look. 

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Judy tries on that blonde wig. Image source IMDb.

The legendary George Cukor briefly stepped in to replace Richard Thorpe and thankfully got rid of the blonde wig and makeup. Cukor didn’t shoot any footage for the film, instead acting more as a creative advisor on set. Cukor left the shoot to go and work on Gone With The Wind. He was replaced by Victor Fleming, who would be the one to direct the vast majority of The Wizard Of OzIn February, 1939, Victor Fleming was told to go and replace George Cukor as director of Gone With The Wind. King Vidor was brought in to finish the filming on Oz. King refused to take a directing credit for his part in the film until after Victor Fleming had died. 

The Wizard Of Oz tells the story of Dorothy Gale(Judy Garland), a lonely Kansas farm girl who wishes for a happier tomorrow and for something more than she has. Dorothy is loved very much by her elderly uncle and aunt(Clara Blandick and Charlie Grapewin), but due to how hard they work on the farm, the pair sadly don’t have lots of time to focus on her.

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Dorothy and her friends share a happy moment. Screenshot by me.

Dorothy’s only friends are three men who help her aunt and uncle on the farm(also played by Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr), and her beloved dog, Toto(played by female terrier, Terry). Toto gets into the garden of Dorthy’s cruel neighbour, Miss Gulch(Margaret Hamilton), and accidentally bites her when she scares him. 

Miss Gulch wants the dog taken away and destroyed. Dorothy is distraught and runs away with Toto. While on their journey, Dorothy and Toto meet a travelling magician called Professor Marvel(Frank Morgan), this kind old man takes a liking to Dorothy and ends up encouraging her to return home to her family. On their way home a twister strikes Kansas. The Gales and the farmhands get to safety in their storm shelter, but Dorothy and Toto can’t get in and hide instead in the farmhouse. The twister rips out a window, which strikes Dorothy on the head and causes her to pass out. When she awakens, she and Toto find that their house has landed in a brightly coloured and unusual looking world. They soon discover that they are in a land called Oz.

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Dorothy meets The Scarecrow. Screenshot by me.

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Dorothy and the Scarecrow meet the Tin Man. Screenshot by me.

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The Scarecrow, Tin Man and Dorothy meet The Cowardly Lion. Screenshot by me.

Dorothy learns that to get home, she must seek out the mighty wizard of Oz who lives in The Emerald City. Along the way she is given a pair of ruby slippers by the good witch, Glinda(Billie Burke), which contain magical powers and are coveted by the Wicked Witch Of The West(Margaret Hamilton). Dorothy will also meet The Scarecrow(Ray Bolger), The Tin Man(Jack Haley)and The Cowardly Lion(Bert Lahr); three individuals who will become Dorothy’s dearest friends and protectors and who will help her to get home. The foursome will face great danger and heartbreak along the way, but they will find the courage to be brave and stand up to evil. 

                             Our heroes make it to the Emerald City. Screenshot by me. 

Over the years fans have had great fun debating whether Oz is supposed to be a real fantasy land which Dorothy visits, or if it is merely a very strange dream/nightmare experienced by Dorothy after being struck on the head.  The more I’ve watched the film, the more I’m convinced it is all a dream. So many of the characters represent and resemble people she knows and loves. The yellow brick road is shaped like the dirt roads going past her farm, even the hills and fields in Oz have the same shape/layout as those at her home. The swirling pattern of the beginning of the coloured roads represent the swirls of the twister. The witch’s image ball and Glenda’s ball of light represent Professor Marvel’s crystal ball. The Munchkins represent ordinary people powerless against those in positions of power who abuse and control them. The witch’s monkeys represent those who blindly follow orders from evil leaders, and don’t have the strength and courage to take a stand against them.

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Does Glenda represent Dorothy’s mother? Screenshot by me.

I’ve often wondered who Glenda is supposed to be to Dorothy. I think that she may be her mum. Glenda protects Dorothy and is a warm and loving person, which are all very motherly qualities. It is Glenda who tells Dorothy there is no place like home and helps her get home. Glenda is sending her back to family and love. Both Dorothy and Glenda have the same shade of red hair, Glenda looks the right age to be her mum, and I’ve always assumed that Dorothy is being raised by her aunt and uncle because her mum died when she was very young. Dorothy could have some vague memories of her mum or a photo, which could be why Glenda appears as she does to Dorothy. 

The whole cast deliver terrific performances. Margaret Hamilton’s duel performance as the wicked witch and Miss Gulch, has gone down as one of the greatest villains in film history. Both characters are so cruel and Margaret makes you loath them both. The witch is an interesting character though due to how Margaret plays her; you actually miss the witch when she’s not in a scene because she dominates everything, and Margaret’s wonderful performance makes the character such a strong presence. I love her green makeup too. 

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The wicked witch is one of the most memorable screen villains. Screenshot by me.

Jack Haley, Bert Lahr and Ray Bolger are all wonderful and steal all the scenes they are in. The three all have real chemistry with Judy and do a good job of balancing the humour and poignant moments/aspects of their characters. These three men were established actors when they made this, and yet they don’t overshadow Judy with their performances, rather they all appear to happily take a back seat and just be there to support her. Like every other actor in this film, I really cannot imagine anyone else playing these characters. Of the three, it is the charming Tin Man who has always been my favourite, and I absolutely love the way Jack Haley plays him. 

Judy gives one of her best performances. The amount of emotion she brings to the role is remarkable for one so young. She poured her heart and soul into this character and it shows. I always feel afraid for her and want to reach out and comfort her when she is held prisoner by the witch, she makes me so convinced of her desperation, grief and fear in those scenes.

                                Judy is phenomenal in this film. Screenshot by me. 

I also love the way Judy sings Somewhere Over The Rainbow. It’s so hard to believe that after the second preview of the film it was felt this song should be cut! Thankfully that stupid decision was prevented from going ahead. Can you imagine this film without that song and scene? Neither can I. 

The Wizard Of Oz is the perfect family film because it’s so joyous and has something in it for everyone to enjoy. It’s also a film all about family, friendship, being separated from those you love, adventure, courage and hopes and dreams. The film gives hope to anyone who is unhappy and lonely, with its message that love and acceptance can often be waiting for you just around the next bend in the road.

The film also tells us in effect to be careful what we wish for. Dorothy may well long to go somewhere over the rainbow and escape her real life, but how does she know that that far and away place she longs for will be better than where she is right now? As that final line says so well – “There’s no place like home.” What do you think of this beloved classic?

 

This is being posted early as part of the blogathon being hosted later this month by Rebecca from Taking Up Room.  When I saw that she was hosting a blogathon devoted entirely to the film The Wizard Of Oz, I just knew that I had to take part and finally get around to reviewing this classic. Be sure to visit Rebecca’s site from the 23rd of August to read all of entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

The Daphne Du Maurier Blogathon: My Favourite Author

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Gabriela from Pale Writer is hosting this blogathon honouring the author Daphne Du Maurier. Be sure to visit Gabriela’s site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

When I saw the announcement for this blogathon, I just knew that I had to take part. Daphne Du Maurier is my favourite author. I am so happy that both she and her work are being honoured with this blogathon.

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The star of our Blogathon. Daphne Du Maurier. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

I have been a fan of Daphne Du Maurier since my early teens.I have always been an avid reader. Most weekends would find me going into my local library and borrowing a big pile of books.

Whilst browsing the library shelves one day, I came across their Daphne Du Maurier section, and I decided that I would pick a couple of her novels to try.

I knew the name Daphne Du Maurier at this point because I had already seen Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Rebecca, but I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t familiar with Daphne or her work beyond that.

After reading and thoroughly enjoying both Rebecca and Jamaica Inn I became hooked. I knew that I wanted to immerse myself in more of Daphne’s books.

What drew me most to her work was her strong female characters, and also her focus on the more complex side of life and humanity. Her novels also often deal with some very unusual subject matter. Many of her novels are set in her beloved Cornwall and I love how she writes about this place that she knew so well.

I also loved and appreciated how complicated and different her characters were to those found in so many of the other novels I’d been reading up until I discovered her work. I made sure that I got my hands on as many of her books as I could from that point on. I have been a fan ever since. 

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My treasured Daphne Du Maurier collection.

When I read Daphne’s novels, I’m always struck most by how her words and descriptions manage to paint such vivid images for me. This is the main reason that she has become my favourite author.  

The characters, situations, landscapes, furnishings, clothes etc all spring so clearly into my mind when I read her descriptions of them. No other author conjures up such clear images for me when I read their work.

Daphne had that rare gift to be able to drag you into the times, places and situations that she was writing about, and she could make them all come alive so vividly for her readers. I also love how well developed and real her characters are. I especially love her strong heroines – ladies like Mary Yellan in Jamaica Inn, Lady Dona in Frenchman’s Creek, the nameless second Mrs. DeWinter and the dead Rebecca in Rebecca.

Mary and Dona in particular are very interesting female characters because they don’t conform to the gender norms of their respective time periods. Mary Yellan isn’t meek, and nor is she content to just sit quietly in the corner sewing. Mary is brave and fearless, and she also puts up with unhappiness and violence to stay with her timid and bullied Aunt Patience. Mary endures much, but she doesn’t allow herself to be broken by cruelty and darkness. She also has no illusions that love and relationships are always all sweetness and light either. Mary takes the rough with the smooth and isn’t cowed by anyone or anything.

Photo1752Lady Dona is a headstrong and passionate woman who is trapped in a loveless marriage. Dona longs for adventure and she finds that in the form of a dashing pirate. Dona leaves her life as a wife, mother and secondary citizen of her own country, to take charge of her own life. She becomes liberated to do the things that she wants to do, not the things that society and her husband think she should be doing and enjoying. 

The second Mrs. DeWinter starts off as shy and fragile, and as someone who is at first completely eclipsed by the memory of the dead Rebecca. She gradually comes out of her shell and becomes a strong woman, one who takes control of her home, embraces her power as mistress of that home, and ultimately becomes much more confident and worldly. 

Then there is the dead Rebecca, a woman whose past deeds, sexuality, much admired beauty and indomitable spirit, continue to impact the lives of the living long after she herself has departed the earth. Rebecca was controlled and dominated by nobody. She was also a strong and determined woman. Rebecca may have been cruel and done things that we don’t agree with, but it’s hard not to admire her for doing her own thing and being so strong in the time period that the novel is set in. It’s hard to forget the women in Daphne’s novels because they are so strong and full of life. I love how Daphne gave us female characters who could not only be strong like men, but who could also have just as much adventure and excitement as any man. 

Daphne’s work has been adapted for the big and small screen several times over the years, but no director apart from Alfred Hitchcock has ever been able to truly capture the atmosphere and power of her novels in my opinion. I find that other screen adaptations of her work either omit or alter far too much of Daphne’s source material.

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Jamaica Inn(1939). Image source IMDb.

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Video cover for Frenchman’s Creek(1998). Image source IMDb.

 I have enjoyed the various screen adaptations on their own merits, but I think that none of them, apart from Hitchcock’s adaptation of Rebecca, have been as good as the novels upon which they are based. Hungry Hill is a perfect example of this. The film is certainly an enjoyable enough period drama, but it is also an appalling adaptation of Daphne’s novel because it rushes and truncates a 500 plus page novel which is set over several generations. The film version of Hungry Hill has lost so much of the detail from the novel, that I for one never feel as if I’ve connected with these characters, or endured their struggles and tragedies with them the way that I do when reading the novel. 

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Poster for Hungry Hill(1948). Image source IMDb.

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Rebecca(1940). Image source IMDb.

Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Rebecca, while slightly altering the circumstances in which Rebecca met her death, is a near perfect adaptation of Daphne’s novel. Hitchcock captured the atmosphere and power of the novel so well. It’s therefore baffling to me that Hitchcock could give us that masterpiece, and yet he also gave us the terrible screen adaptation of Jamaica Inn, a film which shifts the focus off of our heroine Mary Yellan and instead makes Charles Laughton’s Sir Humphrey the primary character and focus. This is one of Daphne’s most exciting and detailed novels, but I feel that the film sadly lacks the grittiness, the adventure and the mystery which are all so strongly present in the novel.

Hitchcock also adapted Daphne’s short story The Birds, and while that film also bears little resemblance to her book, at least The Birds is a very good and scary film. Jamaica Inn on the other hand just leaves me shaking my head wondering what the heck went wrong there. 😒It seems to me that Daphne’s novels are so detailed that they prove difficult for screenwriters and directors to adapt properly for the screen. Indeed many of her stories have never been adapted at all.

I for one would love to see screen adaptations of The House On The Strand, Julius or The Loving Spirit, but I think they would present many challenges for whoever took on that task due to the length and depth of the novels.  I can well appreciate how difficult it is to adapt novels for film and television. The trouble is that by cutting or rushing the source material for the transition to the screen, the story and overall film/series suffers because too much of what made the source novel so powerful and affecting to begin with is lost in the process. 

Some screen adaptations of her work that I do think are pretty good are Rebecca (1940), Rebecca (1979, British miniseries starring Joanna David and Jeremy Brett), Jamaica Inn (2014, although even this miniseries pales in comparison to the novel for me). 

I’d like to mention three of Daphne’s novels that I think everybody should read. If you have read any of these before, then I would love to know what you think of them. 

Photo1749Daphne’s third novel, Julius, which was published in 1933, is her most ambitious and absorbing novel in my opinion. The novel focuses on one of the most complex, cold, cruel and fascinating characters ever written.

The main character is Julius Levy, a man who puts business and his own self interest before emotion, family and the people caught up in his life.

The only person he cares about his daughter, Gabriel, and their relationship with one another is very strange having an almost incestuous overtone to it.

Julius adores his daughter to the point that he is obsessed with her, I would say that he is also clearly in love with her and desires her. The irony is that she has inherited his emotional distance, as well as his despicable attitude to other people, so that no matter how he may love her,he in return means nothing to her. The way that this relationship ends is shocking and tragic. I love how Daphne makes us become equally fascinated and appalled by Julius and his actions. We may loath him and be frustrated by him, but this book is impossible to put down because it is such a gripping and enthralling tale which sucks you in. 

Photo1751Hungry Hill is one of my most favourite Du Maurier novels. It is an interesting and tragic tale focusing on several generations of the same family. ‘Copper’ John Broderick is the builder of a mine in 1820’s Ireland. The mine is inherited by his son and passed down to future generations.

A curse is placed on that mine on the hill by John’s sworn enemy, Morty Donovan. The mine is beset by many difficulties and future generations of John’s male heirs suffer early deaths, tragedy and despair. Is it the curse or just a bizarre twist of fate?

I find the novel interesting because it makes us bear witness to an entire families life, desires, tragedies, loves, secrets and legacy across the generations. We are made to understand and sympathise with why certain characters have become who they are. I also like how the Broderick home of Clonmere becomes a key character itself. I also like how Daphne shows us that it can be difficult for the next generation to live up to reputation and deeds of their ancestors, especially when they are expected to take up their mantle. Interestingly, Daphne claimed that the Brodericks were based upon ancestors of her friend Christopher Puxley. 

Photo1750Rebecca was Daphne’s fifth novel, and it is the one which has become the most popular and famous of her work, and it has earned that honour for very good reason.

This atmospheric novel is a beautiful love story, something much akin to Jane Eyre, and like that earlier classic, it is one which manages to mix romance and joy with mystery, secrets, psychological thrills and a sense of darkness and doom. 

A nameless young woman falls in love with the middle aged Maxim De Winter. Maxim is a man seemingly haunted by the death of his beautiful and vibrant wife, Rebecca. His new wife brings Maxim the peace and joy he has long searched for, and he provides his new wife with the love and kindness she has so longed for. The memory of the former Mrs. De Winter sadly begins to overpower their relationship, and very soon dark secrets become uncovered and everything changes.  

This is the novel that made me a fan of Daphne’s. I think this is her most vivid novel and it is the one which I can read again and again and never get tired of. There is so much going on in this novel, far more than may at first be realised by reading a very brief plot description.  I especially love how dominant Rebecca is. This character, who we never meet, becomes the key to the whole story and we are made to feel as though we do know her and we can picture her in our minds – I always picture her as looking like a blend of Vivien Leigh and Margaret Lockwood. Rebecca is a force of nature and it isn’t difficult to see why her memory casts such a shadow on those who knew her. This novel is a classic for a reason. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed!

I consider The Parasites and Mary Anne(a fictionalised novel of the life of Daphne’s  great-grandmother, Mary Anne Clarke)to be her most underrated novels. My favourite Daphne Du Maurier novels are Hungry Hill, Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, The House On The Strand, Frenchman’s Creek. I still need to read The Glass Blowers and Rule Britannia. 

Thanks to Gabriela for presenting me with an opportunity to write about the work of my favourite author. I’d love to hear from all of you. What are your favourite Daphne Du Maurier novels? 

Five Favourite Films Of The 1950’s Blogathon

50's Blogathon

Rick over at the Classic Film & TV Cafe is hosting this blogathon dedicated to our favourite 1950’s films. This blogathon is being held to mark National Classic Movie Day. Be sure to visit his site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

I have so many favourite films from each decade of cinema, so it has been very difficult trying to pick just five films to focus on for this particular blogathon. The five films I’ve chosen are ones that I return to again and again. I love these films so much.

 

5. Ice Cold In Alex (1958)

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The four main characters in Ice Cold In Alex. Screenshot by me.

This is a tense, gritty and suspenseful drama, set during the Western Desert Campaign of WW2. The film focuses on a group of British soldiers, and two British nurses, who are travelling together in an ambulance heading for Alexandria. They must evade German patrols, while also trying to cope with the intense desert heat.

I love this film for its character focus and for the superb performances. I love the bond that develops between the characters and how they work together to survive. 

The film sucks you in and makes you feel as though you are right there struggling alongside these people. The film is also quite groundbreaking in showing John Mills’s character struggling with PTSD and alcoholism. Read my full review here. 

 

4. North By Northwest (1959)

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Cary Grant as Roger. Screenshot by me.

This Alfred Hitchcock classic never fails to have me on the edge of my seat in suspense one minute, and then laughing my head off the next. This stylish thriller is one of Hitch’s best and most enjoyable films. 

Cary Grant is at his most suave and loveable as Roger Thornhill, a man wrongly identified as someone else. This mistaken identity has him running for his life across America.

Roger gets mixed up with spies, gets chased by crop dusters, falls in love with a mysterious blonde, and dangles from the edge of Mount Rushmore. 

A great cast, interesting characters, and plenty of suspense and thrills. There is so much going on in this film. I can’t get enough of it. Shout out to Cary Grant for doing one of the funniest drunk impressions I’ve ever seen. Read my full review here. 

 

3. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

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Sister Angela and Corporal Allison. Screenshot by me.

Words cannot fully express how much I actually love this one. This is such a lovely and poignant film.

American Marine, Corporal Allison (Robert Mitchum), and Catholic Nun, Sister Angela(Deborah Kerr) are trapped together on a pacific island.

WW2 rages all around them and they are in danger from the Japanese forces. As they spend more time together, Corporal Allison falls in love with Sister Angela. She likes him very much too, but she will not break her vows in order to be with him romantically. When Japanese forces land on the island, Allison must do all that he can to prevent the pair being discovered. The film is a mixture of drama, romance, war, action and comedy. 

Deborah and Robert have such wonderful chemistry, they make you really care for their characters and for the difficult emotional situation they find themselves in. Robert and Deborah would go on to make three more films together and would also become good friends. The film is another wonderful character piece and does such a wonderful job of making us connect with Sister Angela and Corporal Allison. Read my full review here. 

 

2. A Night To Remember (1958)

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The Titanic sinks. Screenshot by me.

This is one of my favourite films of all time. It’s such a moving film. Hands down this is also the best film out there about the Titanic disaster. The sinking sequences are stunning and look so realistic. I think that the sequences impress just as much today as they did back in 1958.  

This film is based on Walter Lord’s non-fiction book of the same name, in which he spoke to Titanic survivors and wrote down their accounts of what happened. There is an almost documentary feel to this film. It sticks to the facts of what happened that night and how people behaved. We follow the ship from her launch, to when she struck the iceberg, and finally when she sank in the Atlantic. 

The entire cast are excellent. It’s fun to see so many familiar faces in among the cast. Kenneth More and Michael Goodliffe deliver the standout performances of the film for me. Kenneth is the Titanic’s second officer, Charles Lightoller, and Michael is the devastated shipbuilder, Thomas Andrews. Many of the scenes featuring these two are the ones that linger in my mind the most. I think that Michael in particular delivers one of the best(possibly the best)performance of his career. I have never forgotten the scene where Andrews is standing in the lounge preparing to meet his death. In that scene, Michael’s expression conveys to us that Andrews has emotionally/mentally long since left the present, and we can see that he is no longer really aware of what is going on around him. 

I never fail to cry at the scene on the stern as the ship sinks. In this scene, an old steward tries to comfort the little boy he has rescued, and the other passengers and crew try and prepare themselves for what is to come. Some people pray (a moving moment where prayers are heard being uttered in different languages)and others are struck dumb with terror and disbelief. It is one of the most powerful and unforgettable scenes in film history. Read my full review here. 

And now I am pleased to reveal my most favourite film of the 1950’s…. 

 

 

 

  1. Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
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Cyd and Gene’s famous dance. Screenshot by me.

I have no doubt that this one will be appearing on many lists today. This is one of the most(if not the most)joyous films ever made. I don’t see how it’s possible to not love this film.

Singin’ In The Rain is funny, romantic, beautiful to look at, and it features some of the best song and dance sequences ever filmed. It is also a love letter to the beauty and spectacle of Technicolor.

The film focuses on the arrival of sound at the end of the Silent era. We follow a film studio’s attempt to make a feature film as a ‘Talkie’. We also follow the beloved film actor, Don Lockwood(Gene Kelly), as he falls in love with chorus girl, Kathy Selden(Debbie Reynolds), much to the annoyance of his besotted co-star, Lina Lamont(a scene stealing Jean Hagen). Chaos ensues as a result of this relationship. 

The cast are all terrific, with Jean Hagen delivering the standout performance as the shrill Lina. It’s easy to paint Lina as the villain of the film(and to be fair she is quite mean), but I view her as a victim too. Everybody either makes fun of Lina, or controls what she can say and to whom, and she reaches a point where she has enough of that and asserts her authority as a screen Queen. I find it interesting to see Lina become stronger and more dominant as the film goes along. 

One of my favourite scenes in this film, is the rather risque dance between Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. It’s impossible to forget this sequence once you have watched the film. It is without a doubt one of the sexiest scenes ever put on film. 

Singin’ In The Rain is a film I turn to whenever I need some cheering up. The film never fails to do the trick. I also love the film because it encapsulates all that was good and unrivalled about the Golden Age of Hollywood filmmaking. They don’t make films like this anymore, and that is a real shame.

Please let me know your thoughts on the five films I’ve chosen. I can’t wait to take a peek at everyone else’s film selections. 

 

Joan Crawford: Queen Of The Silver Screen Blogathon: Sudden Fear(1952)

Joan Crawford blogathon

My friends Gabriela from Pale Writer, and Erica from Poppity Talks Classic Film, are teaming up together to host their first ever blogathon! They are honouring the life and career of Joan Crawford. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.    

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Joan as Myra Hudson. Screenshot by me.

I’m writing about Sudden Fear. It took me a while to get around to watching this film. Part of the reason it took so long to finally watch this, is that I have always much preferred Joan’s 1930’s and 1940’s films and performances to her later work. 

I have always felt that Joan’s performances in her earlier films are far more natural than her performances in many of her later films. I’ve also always found the characters she plays in her earlier work to be much more interesting than many in her later work. 

When I finally sat down and watched Sudden Fear, I didn’t know what to expect from either the story or from Joan. I was completely blown away by Joan’s performance as Myra Hudson. Joan effortlessly moves between playing a character who is a sweet and lovestruck woman, to one who is devastated, shocked and vengeful. Without a doubt Joan delivers one of her best performances in this film. Her performance here has ended up becoming one of my favourites from amongst her work.

I also like how Joan conveys to us exactly how lonely Myra is. Through her performance we see that despite being a successful, popular and wealthy woman, Myra is lonely and yearns for romantic companionship and happiness. It’s doubly cruel that she finds this long desired happiness, only for it to be snatched away in the most hideous and unexpected of ways. Joan more than deserved her third(and ultimately final)Oscar nomination for her phenomenal performance in this film. 

Sudden Fear is directed by David Miller(Midnight Lace, Lonely Are The Brave). The film is based on the 1948 novel of the same name, which was written by Edna Sherry. The screenplay is by Lenore Coffee(who would go on to write the screenplay for the gothic suspense film, Footsteps In The Fog, just a few years later) and Robert Smith. The film would be Joan’s first job for RKO Studios, this was after she had asked to be released from her Warner Bros contract earlier in the year.  

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Lester and Myra. Screenshot by me.

This film really surprised me with how it does an about face halfway through and becomes a completely different type of film. 

Sudden Fear starts off as a romantic drama and then it veers off into Noir territory. I love how the film switches genres and plays with our expectations of how the story is going to continue. 

Myra Hudson is a Broadway playwright who is watching rehearsals for her new plays. She rejects actor Lester Blaine(Jack Palance) for the lead role in the play after watching him rehearse. Lester is very hurt by her decision.

Some time later, Myra and Lester meet up again and find that they are drawn to one another. They get closer and end up marrying. Seemingly their marriage is idyllic and he has long since forgotten about the unpleasant way they first met. 

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Irene and Lester. Screenshot by me.

Unbeknown to Myra, Lester and his girlfriend, Irene(Gloria Grahame) are planning her murder so that they can get the money left in her will. Myra discovers their horrible plans, after the pair are accidentally recorded on one of the records Myra uses to record her script ideas on.

Myra is horrified, scared and devastated by what she hears them saying. She accidentally ends up breaking the record with the recording on it, and therefore she loses her proof that this plot against her is a reality. In order to protect herself from this point onwards, Myra begins to plan a murder plot of her own against Lester and Irene. Myra has great doubts about what she is planning to do though. It is uncertain who will strike first. 

Once we see the moment where Myra learns of the murder plot against her, Joan really makes us fear for Myra’s safety as much as Myra fears for it herself. Joan looks terrified, desperate, shocked, vulnerable and confused all at once. The discovery scene contains some of the best acting of Joan Crawford’s entire career in my opinion.

                                  Myra overhears the murder plot. Screenshots by me. 

In the space of just a few minutes, Joan Crawford convinces us that Myra’s world has come crashing down around her. The person closest to her has deceived her and doesn’t actually have a single shred of love or affection for her. Imagine how you would feel if you learnt this about someone you love. Myra loses her bearings upon hearing what Lester plans. Myra is completely adrift and alone at this moment. Myra doesn’t know what to do. She stumbles around the room, jumps at the slightest noise and looks as though she is about to suffer a breakdown. I love how Joan goes from displaying expressions of shock and confusion, to showing pain, grief, terror and fear. Joan really makes us feel the emotional impact of what this woman has just learnt. This scene is a real highlight of the film. 

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A shot from the sequence where Myra imagines her revenge. Screenshot by me

The other highlight of the film is the unforgettable sequence where Myra imagines her own murder plot becoming a reality.

This sequence is nightmarish and is filled with some very interesting imagery. The sequence reminds me quite a bit of Marlowe’s drug fuelled hallucinations in Murder, My Sweet (1944). 

I also love how we see Myra become more and more conflicted about what she is planning to do, but that we in the audience feel that we won’t blame her if she does go through with it. In a way her plot is a form of self-defence. The way this all plays out is very interesting and it doesn’t end the way you think it might. 

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Jack Palance. Too obvious a villain? Screenshot by me.

If there is a weak point to be found in the film, then I feel that it lies with the casting of Jack Palance. Please don’t get me wrong, he is a good actor and I can’t fault his performance here. It’s just that he is so well known for playing villains, that I for one have trouble accepting and trusting him as a supposedly decent guy.

This was actually only the second film he had ever appeared in, so at this point in his career he was pretty much still an unknown. I have no doubt that audiences at the time didn’t suspect him to be up to no good. If you are watching this now after being very familiar with his career as a villain, then it is much more likely that you too will consider him shifty from the beginning. 

I think that the role of Lester Blaine really required an actor who was very well known for playing good guys. If they had cast such an actor in the role, then I’ve no doubt that we would be just as shocked and confused as Myra is when she discovers the truth about him. As it is, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when Lester was revealed as the villain of the piece. Jack just seems super shifty from the beginning, which I’m sure isn’t what was intended by either the writer or director.

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Myra in fear for her life. Screenshot by me.

That casting issue aside, Sudden Fear is an excellent film, and is one which is filled with terrific performances. Joan Crawford steals all the scenes and is undoubtedly the main attraction. I can imagine no other actress playing Myra. I love how Joan captures how gentle, innocent and vulnerable Myra is. This role is very different from the many strong and confident women she had played before, and this role really highlights what a versatile actress Joan was. Gloria Grahame is also very good as Irene.

If you’re after a thrilling Noir film, then I highly recommend that you check this one out. It’s a film full of surprises and plenty of suspense. Have you seen the film? What did you think of Joan’s performance?

 

The Salute To Audrey Hepburn Blogathon: What Audrey Means To Me

hepburn-blogathon-banner-1Janet over at Sister Celluloid is hosting this blogathon in memory of Audrey Hepburn. If she was still with us, Audrey Hepburn would be celebrating her 90th birthday today. 

Be sure to visit Janet’s site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. Instead of writing about one of Audrey’s films, I’ve decided instead to write about what Audrey Hepburn means to me. 

When I was growing up in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, I was something of a major outcast at school. I loved watching classic films and reading, and I much preferred to be doing either of those two things than to be involved with any of the latest trends or mass interests. That singled me out.   

I was also different from others due to disability. I’m Autistic and I suffered quite a lot of bullying during my high school years due to this. School was a very lonely and upsetting place for much of the time. My parents told me to just ignore the idiots picking on me, and believe me when I say that I tried very hard to do just that. But it’s very difficult sometimes when you have to be around bullies five days a week! You’re probably thinking, what on earth has all this got to do with our birthday girl, Audrey Hepburn. Well, I’ll tell you. 

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Audrey as Holly Golightly. Screenshot by me.

One day(somewhere around 2000 or 2001) I saw a film whose lead character, and the actress playing the lead character, really took my interest and had a big impact on me.

The film was Breakfast At Tiffany’s. The actress was Audrey Hepburn. The character was Holly Golightly. Here was a character who was quirky and unique; someone who went against social norms and expectations and just did her own thing. 

Holly is also someone who puts on a brave and happy face to hide inner pain.I could relate to her so much. I loved the film because it was about a misfit. I saw something of myself in Holly. This was the first time that I had ever had such a reaction to a film character. This is going to sound really weird, but I didn’t feel so alone being who I was after seeing this film.  

I was also left feeling very intrigued by Audrey Hepburn herself. At this point in my life(my early teens) I had already been a classic film fan for some years. I was already familiar with Audrey, having seen her in My Fair Lady, but it wasn’t until seeing Breakfast At Tiffany’s that I found myself wanting to see more of her work and to learn more about her as a person.

                      Two of my favourite shots of Audrey in this film. Screenshots by me.

I loved the way that Audrey played Holly. I especially loved the vulnerability and the humour that she brought to that character. Audrey made me emotionally connect with Holly in a way that I hadn’t really done before with any other character on screen. I became a fan of Audrey Hepburn, not only because she was a terrific actress, but also because she was a genuine and decent human being off screen. Audrey was a kind and compassionate soul. She did so much for charity and she treated everyone(ordinary and famous people alike)with equal amounts of kindness and politeness. 

Audrey also went against trends and what was expected of her by society at large. Audrey dressed in her own way and just did whatever was comfortable to her. Audrey also ended up becoming a style icon for her unique looks and dress sense. Ironically she never actually thought very highly of her own looks(girl, you were gorgeous!) and often said she felt that her feet were way too big. She was someone who I could identify with because she was a unique individual who didn’t try to be like other people. I love that Audrey stayed true to herself throughout her entire life.

Image source IMDb. 

After seeing Breakfast At Tiffany’s, I then sought out more of Audrey’s work. She soon became one of my favourite actresses. She glowed on screen and stole every scene she appeared in. When Audrey is on screen it’s impossible to focus that much on the other actors. She is such a good actress and I love how natural and effortless her performances seem.

I love her transformation from unhappy Princess to happy and independent woman in Roman Holiday. I love her performance as the troubled young Nun in The Nun’s Story(I think she delivers her best performance in this film). I love her sweetness and elegance in the romantic classic Sabrina. I love her hilarious multiple performances in the underrated filmmaking spoof Paris When It Sizzles. I love her comic performance opposite Cary Grant in Charade(why did these two never get paired together again?). 

                      Faces of Audrey. Screenshots by me of Audrey in Sabrina, My Fair Lady, The Nun’s Story and Roman Holiday. 

My favourite Audrey Hepburn films are Roman Holiday, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, The Nun’s Story, Sabrina, Paris When It Sizzles, How To Steal A Million, Two For The Road, Charade, My Fair Lady.

I love how Audrey oozed decency, humility and kindness. She brought so much joy to so many people over the years. For someone who gave joy to so many, Audrey herself sadly endured much pain and sorrow in her personal life. She had difficulties having children and tragically suffered a number of miscarriages over the years, before finally being able to give birth to her two sons, Sean and Luca. Audrey also had quite a sad and difficult childhood. Audrey’s father left her family in 1935. Young Audrey also suffered from malnutrition during WW2 and saw many traumatic things linked to the war. Audrey also bravely helped the Dutch resistance by carrying and delivering messages, and also by performing dance routines to raise money for them. Audrey’s personal experiences go to show that you never know what pain and difficult life experiences are hiding behind a smiling face. 

Audrey Hepburn was one of the best actress of the classic film era. I love how she really makes you feel what her characters are going through emotionally. She was a very emotive actress who brought a great deal of depth to her characters,and did so in a way that not all actors can manage to do. Audrey Hepburn continues to bring joy to classic film fans around the world. Her film performances and her fashion style remain timeless. She also remains beloved for who she was as a person off screen too. 

I like to think that Audrey would be touched by how much love there still is for her today. She is someone I would dearly have loved to have met. Audrey never knew it, but her uniqueness has helped me to find the strength to be myself. I thank her for that. She will always have a special place in my heart. 

Are you a fan of Audrey and her films? Please share your thoughts on this great lady.

Announcing the WW2 Blogathon

This year is the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War. To mark this important anniversary, myself and my friend, Jay from Cinema Essentials, are teaming up together to host a WW2 themed blogathon.    

ww2 2For this blogathon you can write about any film or TV series set during WW2. You can also write about any WW2 documentaries. You can also write about the experiences of actors or filmmakers who served during the war. You can write more than one entry if you wish to do so.

We are not going to allow any duplicates. However, if a film or series has already been claimed for a full review, there is nothing to stop someone else writing briefly about it in a list/article of favourite/best WW2 films or series. 

The blogathon will run between the 1st and the 3rd of September, 2019. I will be your hostess on the 1st. Jay will be your host on the 2nd and 3rd. Please have your posts ready on or before those dates. 

Please take one of Jay’s awesome banners from below to put on your site to help advertise the event. Check the participation list to see who is writing about what. 

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Danger UXB (TV series) 

Cinema Essentials: The Eagle Has Landed, Hurricane, Bridge On The River Kwai

Palewriter: Mrs. Miniver and O.S.S

Vinnieh: Carve Her Name With Pride

Thoughts All Sorts: Kelly’s Heroes

Back Story Classic: Demi-Paradise

The Stop Button: The Big Red One

Poppity Talks Classic Film: La Grande Vadrouille

MovieMovieBlogII: Schindler’s List

Realweegiemidgetreviews: Where Eagles Dare

Cinematic Scribblings: Army Of Shadows

Down These Mean Streets: Hangmen Also Die

Back To Golden Days: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo and The Great Escape

dbmoviesblog: Letters From Iwo Jima

Make Mine Film Noir: Cornered

Caftan Woman: Corvette K-225

Silver Screenings: Tora Tora Tora!

Critica Retro: The Seventh Cross 

The Midnite Drive-In: Patton, Von Ryan’s Express & Five Came Back: A Story Of Hollywood And The Second World War

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Without Love

Mike’s Take On The Movies: Counterpoint

Dubsism: Fighter Squadron

Pop Culture Reverie: The Dirty Dozen

Taking Up Room: So Proudly We Hail, In Which We Serve & Wake Island

Overturebooksandfilms: The Hollywood Canteen

Love Letters To Old Hollywood: The Best Years Of Our Lives

Silver Screen Classics: Stalag 17

RetroMovieBuff: A Canterbury Tale

Just A Cineast: Millions Like Us

Moon In Gemini: The Mortal Storm

The lonely Critic: The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp

Wolfman’s Cult Film Club: The Way Ahead

18 Cinema Lane: In Love And War

Sean Munger: Downfall

Movie Rob: The Sea Wolves and Anne Frank Remembered

Oscars And I: 49th Parallel 

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: Destination Tokyo 

Stars And Letters: A letter about WW2 

Diary Of A Movie Maniac: The Secret Of Santa Vittoria

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WW2 1

WW25

WW2 3

 

The Fourth Golden Boy Blogathon: My Five Favourite William Holden Films

William HoldenFor the fourth year running, Virginie at The Wonderful World Of Cinema is honouring the actor William Holden. She is joined this year by co-hosts Emily at The Flapper Dame, and Michaela at Love Letters To Old Hollywood. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

I LOVE William Holden. He is one of my favourite American actors from the classic film era. He’s such a likeable actor and makes his acting look effortless. He is also someone who I will watch in any kind of film. I like how he could so easily switch between dramatic and comic roles and convince in those varied roles. He could be suave, smooth and funny in one film, and then in the next he could become someone much darker and far more complex. 

I’m going to talk about my five favourite William Holden films. Not only do I love these films and his performances in them so much, but I also think that these five films highlight his range as an actor. 

5 – Sunset Blvd (1950)

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William Holden in Sunset Blvd. Screenshot by me.

This masterpiece is really where William’s career took off big time in my opinion. He is superb as Joe Gillis, the struggling screenwriter desperate for money. I love how he conveys to us how conflicted and desperate Joe is.

William makes sure that Joe has our sympathy for much of the film, but when Joe becomes just another user of the damaged Norma, he loses much of my sympathy.

All of the characters in this film are complex and fascinating. Joe Gillis is one of the most fascinating characters of them all. Does he feel something for Norma? Is he filled with some self loathing at what he is doing to her? Does he hate the profession through which he earns his living? These are the questions that William makes us ponder as we watch him in this film. He more than holds his own against the mighty Gloria Swanson, who it is fair to say is the real highlight of the film as the deranged and damaged Norma Desmond. William delivers one of his best performances in this film.

4- Sabrina (1954) 

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William as the charming David in Sabrina. Screenshot by me.

This is the film that made me a fan of William Holden’s for life. He is perfect as the suave and dashing David Larrabee, the charming playboy who is the object of Sabrina’s affections.

I like how David starts off as this fun figure, but then later in the film becomes much more mature. This change allows us see that there is so much more to him than first meets the eye. 

William makes David quite an irresistible character. It is not hard to see why so many women fall for this guy. He is charming, he is classy, he is fun, and he has that ability to make each of the women he dates feel special and as though they are the only woman in his life. We may not approve of how he moves on from woman to woman, but we can’t hate him because he is not a callous or cruel man. I’m sure that is the way David was written to be, but William makes it very clear to us that David is a nice guy despite his faults and flaws. I can’t imagine anyone other than him in this role.

3 – Breezy (1973)

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William as Frank Harmon. Screenshot by me.

I think that William shows a vulnerability here that audiences had never seen in him before. He is terrific as the middle aged Frank Harmon, a man very much set in his ways, who learns to love life and be more chilled out.

The reason for his transformation is Breezy, an older teenager who falls in love with him. I know that age gap sounds icky and creepy, but when you watch the film you see that there is nothing sordid or dark about this relationship.Despite their age gap, Breezy and Frank develop genuine romantic and emotional feelings for each other.  Frank struggles with what other people will think of their relationship, while Breezy doesn’t care and doesn’t understand why there has to be such a fuss made about age in relationships. I agree with her. If a relationship is completely consensual on both sides and the couple are happy, then why should anyone else care if there is an age gap between a couple?

William plays Frank as being quite tentative and not the one in control during the course of the developing relationship. This tentative and vulnerable quality is the complete opposite of many of the romantic characters William had played before this, men who were charming ladies men and who knew just what they were doing, both romantically and sexually. I think it was quite a brave role for him to take really, because he’s showing us an inner vulnerability and really changing his screen image quite a bit in the process. 

2 – Stalag 17 (1953)

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William as J.J Sefton. Screenshot by me.

In the film that won him his first and only Acdemy Award, William Holden delivers one of his very best performances. He is terrific as the cynical and watchful J.J. Sefton. You can’t take your eyes off him when he is in a scene. He has your attention even when he is doing nothing more than lying down or looking at someone.

Set in a German POW camp during WW2, Sefton is an American prisoner who barters openly with the guards for things like food. His fellow prisoners are suspicious of him,  and become even more suspicious when they believe he told the guards there was an escape attempt being carried out, an attempt which resulted in the murder of the two escapees. Sefton however certainly isn’t the traitor and he has no love for the Germans. I love how William plays this role. His performance is subtle(watch his eyes when he’s watching other people)and it’s interesting to see him playing a much tougher and colder character than he had ever played before. 

1 – Paris When It Sizzles (1963)

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William and Audrey in Paris When It Sizzles. Screenshot by me.

We finally come to my favourite William Holden performance. In this hilarious, and seriously underrated spoof about making films, William gets to play quite a wide variety of different characters. 

William plays a weary and cynical screenwriter, a spy, a criminal and even a vampire! He gets to be romantic, tender, serious, a man of action, cynical, weary, funny and very mysterious too.

I think it’s great to see him get the chance to show so much acting range, and to do so all in one film too! I love that this film allows him to show how funny he could be. I think it’s a shame that he didn’t get offered more comic roles. 

I also like that there is an added poignancy in the scenes where his main character, Richard Benson, longs for Audrey Hepburn’s character. William and Audrey had an affair when they made the film Sabrina. Bill never stopped loving her. It must have been agony for him to be around her again during this film. I believe that his sorrowful and tender expressions/gestures in their romantic scenes are his real feelings for her showing through to us. 

What are your favourite William Holden performances?

 

 

 

2019 CMBA Spring Blogathon: Femme/Homme Fatales: Elsa Bannister From The Lady From Shanghai(1947)

CMBA Blogathon

The Classic Movie Blog Association is hosting this blogathon all about Femme and Homme Fatales in Film Noir. Be sure to visit the CMBA site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. I’ve decided to write about Elsa Bannister from The Lady From Shanghai. There are spoilers ahead about what happens to this character.

I am such a big fan of Film Noir. I think I would even go so far as to call myself a Noir addict. Noir films are absolutely amazing!One of my favourite things about Noir films is the strong and memorable roles that these films offered to actresses during the classic film era. Many actresses did some of their best work in Noir films. 

Few characters are more memorable in Noir films than the Femme Fatales. Femme Fatales are very clever and strong women. They are also dangerous, dominating, intriguing, sexy, and most important of all, they are very alluring. Femme Fatales are women who draw men to them like flames draw moths.

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Rita Hayworth as Elsa Bannister. Is she a victim or a villainess? Screenshot by me.

One of my favourite Femme Fatales is Elsa Bannister(Rita Hayworth)in The Lady From Shanghai. Elsa is a very interesting Femme Fatale, because while she is certainly a ruthless and clever manipulator, she also ends up destroying herself and leading herself to her own fate.

One look at Elsa Bannister and you have no difficulty understanding why Michael(Orson Welles)falls under her spell. Elsa is a prime example of a woman who men should stay well away from. Elsa is one of the most unforgettable Femme Fatales in the history of Noir films. She has the ability to make herself seem vulnerable and unhappy one moment, and then she becomes a cold and calculating b***h the next moment. Elsa is a good actress and knows exactly how to get and keep her audiences (in this case Michael)attention. 

Rita Hayworth’s trademark thick red hair was cropped and dyed blonde for this role. This was done on the instruction of director Orson Welles(also Rita’s husband at the time of filming), this decision angered the Columbia studio head, Harry Cohen. In my view Mr. Cohen should have chilled out. Orson Welles was right to transform Rita for this role. Rita’s new look works wonders for the character.

                                     Rita’s new screen image. Screenshots by me. 

The effect of her new image makes Rita look like Deborah Kerr’s Karen in From Here To Eternity. Much as it did for Deborah Kerr in that film, Rita’s new screen image as Elsa makes her look sexier, harder and cooler than she had ever done before. Rita oozes sex and seduction whenever you see her on screen in this film. 

This role was quite a change for Rita. She usually played quite bubbly characters who were basically good girls.Even her iconic character in Gilda is really a good and decent woman. The role of Elsa enabled Rita to play a darker and crueller character than audiences were used to seeing her play. 

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Elsa and Michael. Screenshot by me.

When Michael first meets Elsa he can’t keep his distance from her. It really isn’t difficult to see why he is so drawn to her. He wants her, he thinks endlessly about her, and he is wrongly led to believe that she needs him and likes him.

Elsa (just like all Femme Fatales) is like one of those deadly sirens from the old Greek legends. She is an irresistible and alluring being who leads men to a most unpleasant doom indeed.   

Elsa Bannister may well be beautiful and desirable on the outside, but inside she is cold, selfish and heartless. We may at first feel some pity for her at having such an unhappy marriage, but we soon learn that Elsa doesn’t really deserve our sympathy at all. Elsa may well want to break free from her marriage prison, but setting up Michael and leading him on isn’t the way to break free to happiness.

Elsa is clever, but she is also a poor judge of character and is way too sure of herself. When she lures Michael into her web she is also inadvertently sealing her own fate. When he learns that she planned to set him up for murder, Michael is quickly done with her forever. Michael walks away from her after she is shot in the fun house finale. Michael will never be able to forget her though. He will also never lose his genuine feelings for her, but he is at least now free to live in the light and try and have some sort of a happy life.

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Elsa is every inch a Femme Fatale. Screenshot by me.

When Michael gets wise to Elsa, she learns(all too late)the cost of using people and treating them like dirt.

Elsa is still so sure till the last moment of her life that she is irresistible to Michael. She is still so sure that things will go her way. 

She soon realises that she isn’t as irresistible as she thinks. The irony is that Michael genuinely cared about her. Michael could have made her happy if she had gone away with him and not used him. Unfortunately the only person Elsa has ever loved is herself.  

Elsa Bannister dies alone, crying and screaming for help. While her fate may sound rather cold and cruel, her death is actually the fate that she deserved. As deserved as it is, it certainly can’t be denied that Elsa’s death is a lonely and harsh one. Her death sees her lying on the floor of the dark hall of mirrors, discarded like a piece of rubbish that has been dropped on the floor.

Elsa’s behaviour and fate stand as a warning to all the characters who we see throughout Film Noir. Getting too wrapped up in revenge, temptation, lust, murder, and hate can only end in unhappiness and death. You can only use and push people so far before they push back. You can only step so far into the darkness before you are consumed entirely by it. 

I find it very difficult to imagine any other actress in the role of Elsa Bannister. Rita inhabits and plays the role of Elsa Bannister to perfection. Rita’s performance is seductive and mesmerising. It’s one of Rita’s best performances in my opinion. With Rita playing Elsa, the character could also be viewed as showing us what could have happened to Rita’s other famous character in Gilda. Imagine what Gilda would have been like if she had lost her warmth and instead become soulless and cold? I think we have the answer to that in the form of Elsa Bannister. 

Elsa Bannister leaves a lasting impression on anyone who watches Lady From Shanghai. She has become one of the most iconic of the Noir Femme Fatales. What are your thoughts on Elsa?

Do you love Film Noir? If you do, I would love to invite you to join my Noirathon.

The Stewart Granger Blogathon Begins

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The big day has finally arrived! Over this weekend, we will be paying tribute to the films and performances of the actor Stewart Granger. 

I will keep updating this post to link to all the articles as they are published.

I can’t wait to read all your posts. Thank you so much for joining me to celebrate this great actor. 

 

Day 2 Entries

Pale Writer discusses the Gothic thriller Footsteps In The Fog. She also shares her first time impressions of Love Story.

 

Critica Retro talks about Salome.

 

Movie Rob also takes a look at The Secret Invasion. He also discusses Sodom And Gomorrah.

 

Mike’s Take On The Movies tells us all about the WW2 adventure The Secret Invasion.

 

Day 1 Entries 

Poppity Talks Classic Film kicks things off, with her review of the Gainsborough classic Fanny By Gaslight

 

Quiggy takes us North To Alaska with his review for the blogathon.

 

Caftan Woman discusses The Last Hunt, a Western starring Stewart and Robert Taylor.

 

Dubsism talks about King Solomon’s Mines, a 1950’s adventure film.

 

Realweegiemidgetreviews takes a look at the classic action film The Wild Geese.

 

The Stop Button writes about Moonfleet.

 

I write about Caravan, which is one of my favourite Stewart Granger films. 

The Stewart Granger Blogathon: Caravan(1946)

Stewart Granger blogathon 1

This is my own entry for my Stewart Granger blogathon. I can’t wait to read all of your entries in a few days time.

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Stewart as Richard Darrell. Screenshot by me.

I’m writing about Caravan, which is one of my favourite Stewart Granger films. Caravan is another fabulous romantic melodrama from British film studio Gainsborough Pictures.

Stewart’s performances in the Gainsborough films of the 1940’s were what first made him a star here in the UK. He is wonderful to watch in these films as the romantic hero. He also has the added benefit of having a bearing and face that makes him look like he is someone who lived in the 18th or 19th century. He never looks out of place in these period films.

I have always liked Stewart Granger. I became a fan of his from the first time that I ever saw him in a film. My introduction to him was the film King Solomon’s Mines. I like Stewart because he has an intensity and a charm about him. He also has that ability to dominate a scene when he is in it. I  especially love how effortlessly he was able to switch between playing the romantic leading man and playing more roguish and tough characters.

                            Stewart convinces as the sweet romantic hero and as a far tougher and darker man too. Screenshots by me. 

Caravan provides him with a character who is a perfect blend of both of those character types. His character Richard Darrell is certainly a sweet natured man most of the time, but he is also incredibly tough, and can become violent when necessary. You wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Richard if you could help it, and he is someone who you would certainly want as a friend. 

What is very noticeable about the Gainsborough films is that they were usually very female focused. These films offered extremely strong roles for the actresses of the classic film era. Caravan slightly departs from this tradition of female focus by focusing more upon on Stewart’s character, but the film still gives us two very memorable lead female characters to enjoy as well.

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Jean Kent as Rosal. Screenshot by me.

Jean Kent delivers the standout female performance in my opinion. She steals every scene she appears in as the feisty and fiercely loyal Gypsy dancer, Rosal.

Jean and Stewart have lovely chemistry and sparks clearly fly between them when they share a scene.

Jean makes it clear to us how independent and passionate Rosalis, we can’t help but like her as much as Richard does. Rosal is a strong willed, kind and fearless lady. 

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Anne Crawford as Oriana. Screenshot by me.

Anne Crawford (a much underrated actress, whose life was cut tragically short when she died of Leukaemia, aged just 35)has the seemingly somewhat dull role of the heartbroken woman who pines for her man.

Anne however manages to make the character very sympathetic and far more fleshed out than she at first seems to be. Anne’s character Oriana is really the heart of the film. She is so gentle and kind that you can’t help but like her.

I also like watching Oriana discover an inner strength as the film goes on. Oriana is such a lovely person, and because of that, I for one always feel torn about which lady Richard should end up with at the end of the film.

Caravan is at heart a film about a love triangle. The thing is though that we cannot take sides in this triangle, because we like all three of the people caught up in it. The fact that both ladies genuinely love Richard, and that he genuinely loves them both in return, makes it very difficult to prefer one couple over the other when you watch this one. Well it does for me anyway.  

  Richard with the two loves of his life. Screenshots by me. 

The film is directed by Arthur Crabtree, who had worked as the cinematographer on several Gainsborough films, and who would also direct Madonna Of The Seven Moons, another one starring Stewart Granger. The film is based on the 1943 novel of the same name by Lady Eleanor Smith. Lady Smith had also written The Man In Grey, which had also been adapted for the screen by Gainsborough in 1943 and had become one of their most successful and famous films. The screenplay for Caravan was by Roland Pertwee(The Spy In Black, Pimpernel Smith), who was the father of Jon Pertwee and the grandfather of Sean Pertwee. 

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Dennis Price as Francis. Screenshot by me.

The film begins in late 19th century London. An elderly gentleman is attacked and robbed in the street. He is rescued by the passing Richard Darrell(Stewart Granger).

After Richard helps this man back to his home, he accidentally leaves the manuscript for his novel behind at the man’s home. He returns for it the next day and is encouraged by the gentleman to talk about himself. The gentleman also says he will help publish the novel for Richard. 

We learn in flashback that Richard has long been in love with his childhood friend Oriana(Ann Crawford). The pair are now engaged and are planning to marry, much to the anger and jealousy of the slimy Francis (Dennis Price), who has long hated Richard, and long desired Oriana. Francis is the sort of bully who would dissolve into tears if you gave them a dose of their own medicine in return. 

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Wycroft and Richard meet aboard the ship to Spain. Screenshot by me.

Francis is a cruel and vengeful man and he arranges for Richard to be killed while he is travelling in Spain on business. Francis orders Wycroft (a scene stealing Robert Helpmann)to follow Richard and kill him. This leads to an hilarious scene on the boat trip to Spain where nothing goes right for Wycroft in his attempts to be rid of Richard. 

                                                 Rosal’s dance. Screenshots by me. 

On arrival in Spain, Richard catches the eye of local gypsy dancer, Rosal(Jean Kent), while she performs her dance act at a local tavern. Richard is later brutally assaulted by a group of men under Wycroft’s command and left for dead due to the horrendous nature of his injuries.

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Rosal saves the badly injured Richard. Screenshot by me.

Rosal saves him and slowly nurses him back to health. When he wakes he is suffering from amnesia. He and Rosal fall in love. Very slowly his memory of the past starts to return to him.

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Oriana becomes trapped in a loveless marriage. Screenshot by me.

Back in England Oriana has been told by Francis that Richard has been killed. In a deep despair over the loss of Richard, and also the recent death of her father, she reluctantly agrees to marry Francis for financial security. Francis treats her abominably and she never forgets Richard.

Will Richard get justice for what has happened to him? Will he remember Oriana? Which lady will he end up with? You will have to watch and find out.

All the actors do a terrific job here. The costumes and sets are all very beautiful too. I especially love Anne Crawford’s dresses, and I envy her for getting to wear such lovely outfits.

The two romances at the heart of the film are both very different; one is a relationship based on passion and shared experiences; the other is the love of soulmates. I love that both of the romantic relationships are equally affecting.This isn’t just a romance film though, there is also quite a bit of action and many dark and violent moments in this too. The finale in the swamp is very violent and brutal.

The awful marriage between Francis and Oriana isn’t sugar coated for us either. Francis is clearly mentally and physically abusive towards his wife and she is often powerless against him. There is a scene where Francis forcibly carries her up to their room and forces himself upon her, and this brings to my mind the scene of Rhett carrying Scarlett in Gone With The Wind. We are left in no doubt as to how unpleasant this marriage is. 

The plot is highly melodramatic and it does involve more than a few coincidences occurring to make certain things happen, but the film is so much fun that most viewers should be able to forgive that and just enjoy the film. If you love a good costume drama and are a fan of Stewart Granger, then this is one that I highly recommend to you. 

What do you think of this film?

 

 

 

The Fourth Annual Bette Davis Blogathon: Now, Voyager(1942)

Bette.jpgCrystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood is holding this blogathon to honour the legendary Bette Davis. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.

For this blogathon I’ve decided to write about Bette’s most iconic film, the 1942 classic Now, Voyager. Her remarkable performance in this film would go on to earn Bette her sixth nomination for the Best Actress Oscar. 

Bette starts off totally convincing us that her character, Charlotte Vale, is a deeply damaged and introverted woman. Bette makes us feel great sympathy towards Charlotte. She makes us want to stand up to Charlotte’s mother on her behalf and tell her to leave her daughter alone. Bette looks so vulnerable, so on edge, so worn out, and so worn down at the start of this film. We feel for this character because of how well Bette conveys her pain to us.

In the next half of the film, Bette slowly begins to change before our very eyes into a far more strong and confident woman. She makes us believe that Charlotte is now comfortable being herself, and that she is also finally breaking free of her mother’s control. We know that Charlotte is going to be okay as her life goes on. Bette put a lot of effort into this performance and it shows. Bette also worked quite closely with the makeup artist and costume designer to decide what Charlotte should look like in the first half of the film. 

                                   The two faces of Charlotte Vale. Screenshots by me. 

The film is described as a romantic drama and is best remembered today for the love story at the very heart of its plot. This film is so much more than just a love story though. It is quite an unusual and bold film in many ways, and that is a major reason why I love this one so much. The film focuses upon the rights of the individual; on mental illness; on mental health; and upon dominating and abusive parents. The ending of the film is also about as far away from the typical romantic ending as it is possible to get. The film is really about Charlotte learning to love herself, as well as being about her realising that not every human being out there is cruel and bad. 

I especially love how this film depicts mental illness. In an era when mental health had a great stigma attached to it, this film and its attitudes towards mental health come across as being quite enlightened and modern in my opinion. Mentally ill people are all too often depicted as being incurable and frightening individuals who have to be thrown into asylums to keep them away from the rest of society. So many mental health patients have been treated appallingly in asylums and hospitals throughout the centuries. Is it any wonder then that mental illness became something frightening that people hated to admit they were suffering from?

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Charlotte and Dr. Jaquith talk during her treatment. Screenshot by me.

Now, Voyager shows us that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of or afraid of; it’s just that sometimes our minds need a little rest and some help.

Receiving help with your mental health doesn’t mean you are weak or dangerous. The film also shows us that there are kind and compassionate staff out there supporting those who are mentally ill.  

Charlotte isn’t locked away and subjected to shock therapy or drugs. Charlotte is placed into a relaxing and quiet environment, an environment where she isn’t treated like a leper by those looking after her.

Just a few years after this film came out The Snake Pit was released. This later film has become one of the most famous films about mental illness, but it is also a film which once again depicts mental illness as a terrifying and alarming thing. The lead character in The Snake Pit is treated very distressingly. If you were struggling with your mental health and saw that film, then I doubt it would make you very eager to go and seek help for what you were going through. It’s a far cry from the more enlightened treatments and attitudes we see in Now, Voyager. Thankfully attitudes toward mental illness have become much more positive. Treatments for mental illness have become much more humane too. 

Now, Voyager is based upon the 1941 novel of the same name, which was written by the American author Olive Higgins Prouty. Now, Voyager is the third in a series of five novels written by Prouty, all of which focus upon the Vale family. The events of the third novel are inspired by Prouty’s experiences of therapy following her own breakdown. The film adaptation of the novel was originally going to be directed by Edmund Goulding(Dark Victory, Nightmare Alley). Goulding had the actress Irene Dunne in mind for the role of Charlotte Vale, but unfortunately Goulding fell ill and had to withdraw from the project.

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Bette Davis and Paul Henreid take direction from Irving Rapper (seated in the middle) on the set of Now, Voyager. Image source IMDb.

Michael Curtiz(The Adventures Of Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce) was then assigned to the film as the new director. Curtiz considered both Norma Shearer and Ginger Rogers for the role of Charlotte Vale. Bette Davis really wanted the role, and she managed to persuade producer Hal B. Wallis that she should be the one to play Charlotte. Bette was eventually given the role. Michael Curtiz and Bette sadly didn’t get along that well, and so he soon left the project. Michael Curtiz was out of the directors chair and Irving Rapper(Deception, Marjorie Morningstar) was quickly sitting in his place as the new (and final) director of the film. 

Joining Bette in the cast were the Austrian born Paul Henreid (absolutely superb in his first major Hollywood film role) as Jerry; the ever brilliant Claude Rains as Jaquith(accepting the role after the part had been rewritten); Gladys Cooper(ice cold and despicable) as Mrs. Vale, the ultimate mother from Hell. 

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The damaged Charlotte. Screenshot by me.

Now, Voyager is all about Charlotte Vale(Bette Davis), a repressed, overweight and deeply unhappy heiress who is emotionally abused and dominated by her cold mother(Gladys Cooper). Her mother’s bullying and excessive control leads Charlotte to edge ever closer to a nervous breakdown.

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The cruel Mrs. Vale. Screenshot by me.

Charlotte is teased and neglected by all her family, all except her kind sister-in-law Lisa( Ilka Chase).Lisa is really worried about Charlotte and can see that she is becoming quite ill. Lisa asks her psychiatrist friend Dr. Jaquith(Claude Rains)to come and see Charlotte and make a judgement about her state of mental health.

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Jaquith is delighted by Charlotte’s hobby of making ivory boxes. Screenshot by me.

Jaquith meets with Charlotte and is very worried about her. He tells Mrs.Vale that her daughter is having a nervous breakdown. We also see that Jaquith is appalled by Mrs. Vales treatment of her daughter. I love the scene where he has a go at Mrs. Vale for her terrible treatment of Charlotte. I find that scene to be very unusual for the time, because Jaquith is calling out and acknowledging parental abuse/excessive control. In a time when parents word was law, here is Jaquith telling audiences that children shouldn’t be controlled because they have rights and are individuals. Jaquith makes it very clear that Charlotte has been damaged so much by her mother’s treatment of her. Jaquith arranges for Charlotte to come and stay at his sanitarium called Cascade. Under his care, and away from her mother, Charlotte slowly gets well and begins to come out of her shell and gain new confidence.  

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Jaquith tells Mrs. Vale that she is to blame for Charlotte’s illness. Screenshot by me.

When she is well enough to leave Cascade, Charlotte goes off on a cruise. She is still a little fragile, but Jaquith and Lisa both hope that Charlotte can enjoy her independence on the cruise and that her confidence will increase while she travels. 

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The new Charlotte. Screenshot by me.

When we next see Charlotte Vale, she is emerging from a doorway on the cruise ship. Charlotte looks beautiful and glamorous. Thanks to her new found self confidence, and a significant makeover, Charlotte looks like a completely different woman when we see her on the ship.

Charlotte has a lovely time on the cruise. She makes loads of friends on board the ship. Charlotte is still quite shy and hesitant at times, but she slowly comes out of her shell even more than she has done before. Charlotte enjoys a passionate love affair with the charming architect, Jerry Durrance(Paul Henreid), a fellow passenger who she befriends when they go ashore on a day trip together.

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Jerry and Charlotte. Screenshot by me.

Jerry is a very kind man who is genuinely interested in Charlotte. The pair emotionally connect and quickly develop a strong romantic desire for one another too. I love how Paul Henreid plays the role of Jerry. He makes the character so gentle, so fun, so attentive and kind. Paul also lets us see that Jerry is slowly starting to fall in love with Charlotte due to the way he is looking at her when they are together; it’s clear to me that he falls for Charlotte before she falls for him. Paul and Bette have a lovely chemistry together and really make me believe in their growing bond. Off the screen, Paul would soon join co-star Claude Rains in becoming one of Bette’s closest male friends. 

I like how the character of Jerry starts off being this sort of fantasy romantic figure, someone who (to me anyway)seems slightly too good to be true at first. But the more we get to know him, the more we see that he genuinely does care for Charlotte, and that he is what he seems to be. I especially love how Jerry still wants to be with her after she has told him about her illness and past. 

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Charlotte and Jerry share a kiss. Screenshot by me.

The pair are very happy together. Jerry gives her the romantic love and kindness that she has so longed for all her life. She finally feels wanted and happy. Charlotte and Jerry’s happiness is short lived though once Charlotte discovers he is married. Jerry explains that he has an unhappy marriage.

Jerry also tells Charlotte that his youngest daughter Tina is a very troubled child. When Jerry shows Charlotte a photo of his daughter Tina, she can see something of herself in that depressed and awkward looking little girl. The pair decide not to meet again when they leave the ship at the end of the cruise, but neither can stop loving the other or forget about their happy times on the ship.

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A happy moment for our couple. Screenshot by me.

Charlotte returns home to see her family and Dr. Jaquith. Her mother is visibly shocked and appalled when she sees her daughter is now strong and can stand up for herself. Charlotte takes charge at home and stands up to her mother, while never stooping to her mother’s low level of cruelty or maliciousness, something which irks her mother a great deal.

After her mother dies of a heart attack(something of an irony as she never appears to possess a heart), Charlotte returns to Cascade feeling that her mother’s death is her fault. While she is staying there she discovers that Jerry has sent his daughter Tina there as a patient. Charlotte befriends Tina; once she does so, she soon finds that looking after this little girl takes her mind off her own issues. Charlotte finally feels a sense of purpose.

Jerry is so grateful to Charlotte for all the help she has given his daughter. He still loves Charlotte very much, but is romance what Charlotte still wants though? She still cares about Jerry, but at the end of the film she wants to leave things the way they are between them. “Jerry, don’t lets ask for the moon. We have the stars”.

I have always felt this ending is similar to the one in The Apartment; both films end with their romantic couples not getting together in the typical romantic ending of a kiss and a fade out. Charlotte is happy with the way things are between them at present. Charlotte and Jerry may well get back together romantically at some point, but for now she wants them to enjoy what they have and not to try and change anything. Even if they don’t get back together as a romantic couple, they will always remain friends who have an incredibly strong emotional bond. By the end of the film Charlotte has finally found her purpose in life; her purpose is to help others who have gone through the traumas that she has endured. For now she is enjoying her newfound independence and desire to help and be useful. That’s how I read this famous film ending. 

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Charlotte comforts Tina. Screenshot by me.

As much as I love this film, I do however have quite a big issue with it. My issue concerns what happens to Charlotte after her makeover. With that makeover the film basically tells us that physical beauty bring happiness and grant our deepest wishes. It’s like we’re being told that we won’t find happiness, friendship, or love, unless we look gorgeous and are stick thin. In a time when so many struggle with low self esteem and pressure to look a certain way, this film sends out a very bad message in my opinion.

Charlotte doesn’t have any friends until she sets foot on that cruise ship after her makeover. All of sudden her wish to be loved and accepted comes true. People want to know her because she suddenly fits in and looks lovely. Her other family members who teased her before suddenly decide to treat her nicely, what does that say about all of these people? Would any of Charlotte’s new friends have looked twice at her if they had met her before? Would Jerry have wanted to be her lover if he had met her before? Sadly we all know that the answer to those two questions is no.

Our first glimpse of Charlotte after her makeover. Screenshots by me. 

Charlotte’s new found happiness after the makeover gives the impression that beauty and glamour are what you need to be accepted and happy. It’s just not true. You can find friends and love no matter what you look like on the outside. Sadly we are still so very obsessed with looks and body image today. Young girls especially feel the pressure to look a certain way. Why should it matter what we look like on the outside? It’s what is on the inside that counts. Plenty of beautiful people are ugly on the inside, and plenty of people who are deemed ugly are the most beautiful souls you could ever wish to meet. 

There’s another thing that bothers me about this film. As much as I love Jerry and Charlotte’s relationship, I have to confess to having never quite cared about their relationship as much as the one between Charlotte and Jaquith. I have always felt that Charlotte and Jaquith should have got together romantically. I really dig them as friends and think it’s great to see a close, non sexual, male and female screen pairing. But I can’t help it, I ship them so much. 🙂 Also Jaquith is the one who sees her at her most low and it doesn’t phase him. He is the first person to be truly kind and helpful to her. He treats her as an equal, and they both care about each other so much. 

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Charlotte and Jaquith. Screenshot by me.

I thought I was really odd in wanting Charlotte and Jaquith to get together, that is until I saw that Bette herself had thought the same way! Bette said in a TV interview with Dick Cavett that she thought those two characters ended up together, and that Charlotte went on to work with Jaquith. If Bette ships it, then I ship it proudly too! 🙂 

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Who wouldn’t want this man? Screenshot by me.

Who cares if a relationship between them would most likely break the rules of what can and can’t happen between patient and doctor? The way that Claude plays Jaquith, it becomes very clear to us that he cares about Charlotte and considers her to be more than a patient once she leaves Cascade for the first time. He is overjoyed to receive letters from her and lights up when he is around her. She lights up around him and cares about him very much too. I love the playful banter and conversations between them. I only wish there were more scenes between Charlotte and Jaquith in the film!

Bette Davis is without a doubt the star of this film. Her performance is extraordinary and remains one of her best and most iconic. Bette has fine support from Paul Henreid, Gladys Cooper, Claude Rains, Mary Wickes(hilarious and scene stealing as ever) and the rest of the cast. For me it is Gladys Cooper who stands out the most from the rest of the cast. Gladys makes Mrs. Vale so hateful and cruel, that you want to reach the screen and slap her. I think this is one of the best performances Gladys ever gave on screen.

Four years after making this film, Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, and director Irving Rapper, would all reunite together to make Deception. This later film has Claude and Paul as two very different men, who each have one thing in common, their love and desire for Bette’s character.   

For years after this film was released, Paul Henreid would constantly be asked by his fans to light two cigarettes at once for them. This was because in this film he famously lights two cigarettes in his mouth at once and hands one to Bette. The photo on the cover of Paul’s autobiography even features him with two cigarettes in his mouth. Those famous cigarette scenes have become unforgettable to anyone who has ever watched this film. 

Now, Voyager is every inch a classic. Its characters, issues and themes are still extremely relevant and affecting today. Charlotte Vale is a character who I think offers hope and comfort to people who are going through tough times. Charlotte’s transformation into a happier person shows us that dark times can pass by, that we can find happiness and the freedom to be ourselves. 

What do you think of this film? 

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 EightI 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.

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One of my favourite photos of Jean. Image source IMDb. 

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, Jean found her two most iconic film roles. Her characters in both of these films are fun-loving and tough-talking dames, both very forward and strong willed gals who know exactly what they want, and who 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 without a doubt, 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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Jean has remained an icon of cinema. Image source IMDb. 

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. Her friend and co-star 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. She has become an icon of cinema. 

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. 

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 it 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?

 

 

 

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?

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

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 because they annoy and frustrate one another.  As time goes on 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! LOL.  😦

 

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 two relationships 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? 

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. The film is also notable for having been shot in Technicolor, rather than in 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 more,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 they either 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 she knows 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.