The big event has finally arrived! Over the next two days several wonderful bloggers are joining me to celebrate Ava Gardner. I decided to host this blogathon due to Ava being a great favourite of mine. The blogathon is also being held on these particular dates because the 24th of December is Ava’s birthday.
Check back to this post over the next two days to read all of the entries. I’ll update this post as often as I can do. I am now on Twitter @maddylovesherclassicfilms. I will be promoting all the entries for this blogathon over on Twitter too.
This is my entry for my Ava Gardner blogathon being held on the 23rd and 24th of December, 2018.
Watching this film is like entering a vivid dream. The only film that I can really compare it to is Portrait Of Jennie, as both of these films have this dreamlike quality and poetic and haunting atmosphere.
Pandora And The Flying Dutchman is a film that I think you have to completely surrender yourself to for it to work the way it should.
The film is a slow build and it is one that is all about emotion and mood. The film is surreal, artistic and truly beautiful to look at. The story is a mix of romance, mystery, tragedy, the supernatural and fantasy.
I also like how the film can be viewed in two ways. It is pretty clear that the mysterious Captain is the real Dutchman, and that all that happens later is due to some supernatural power or some fantastical element. Yet you can also view all that happens as mere coincidence only, and you can think that the characters believe the legend and somehow make it seem like it has come true.
The film is inspired by the legend of the doomed Flying Dutchman, a man who is cursed to sail the world for all eternity. In this film the Dutchman has been cursed after he murders the woman he loves. The cursed man sails the globe alone for centuries. His curse can be lifted if he falls in love with a woman who loves him so much that she will die for him(imagine having that conversation on a first date!)
The film was directed and written by Albert Lewin(The Picture Of Dorian Gray, The Moon And Sixpence). The film features beautiful colour photography by the legendary Jack Cardiff(Ava never looked more beautiful than she does in this film, thanks partly to the cinematography of Jack Cardiff). Albert and Jack’s vision helps to make this film a real treat, but the undisputed main draw for us in the audience is Ava Gardner and James Mason as the doomed lovers.
Both James and Ava totally convince as a couple who are drawn to one another for reasons that they can’t quite understand. When they look at each other they really do manage to capture that something inside them both is connecting to one another.
James has a weariness and otherworldly air about him that makes you believe he is someone who has lived through time. Ava captures the reckless nature of her character perfectly, and she makes it seem like Pandora knows she has been waiting for the Dutchman all her life.
Pandora And The Flying Dutchman begins on the coast of Esperanza, Spain, in the early 1930’s. Two dead bodies are caught in the nets of local fisherman and are brought back to the beach. Some who gather on the beach know who the dead people are and they are very upset.
In flashback we see what led to this sad event. Our guide and narrator throughout the film is Geoffrey Fielding(Harold Warrender)an archaeologist and historian who knew the two dead people.
Pandora with each of the three other men who love her. Screenshots by me.
Pandora Reynolds(Ava Gardner) is an American woman living in Esperanza. She is a reckless woman, beautiful, adventurous, fun, destructive, seductive and passionate. Many men are drawn to Pandora. One of her admirers(Marius Goring)commits suicide when he realises he will never really have her love. A fearless and passionate bullfighter(Mario Cabre) becomes crazed with jealousy once he falls for Pandora. Pandora doesn’t really love any of these men. Deep down inside herself, Pandora somehow knows that the man who she is destined to give her heart to is not in her life yet.
Pandora becomes engaged to racing car driver, Stephen Cameron(Nigel Patrick), Stephen has her attention and affection until she becomes intrigued by the owner of a yacht anchored off shore. One night she swims out and climbs onboard. There she meets the mysterious Henrick van der Zee(James Mason). She is a little freaked out when she sees that he has painted a woman who looks just like her. As the film goes on we also see that Pandora looks exactly like the long dead woman Henrick loved and killed(who we later catch sight of in a portrait).
Pandora and Henrick first set eyes on each other. Screenshots by me.
The pair slowly develop a friendship which quickly turns into love for both of them. Pandora’s love for Henrick also changes her as a person, she becomes kinder, more tender and sensitive. For the first time in her life, Pandora Reynolds experiences the mix of joy and agony that love can bring.
We later learn that Henrick is the Flying Dutchman. The Dutchman realises that the woman who can break his curse is Pandora, and despite his desperation to be free, he just can’t bear to think of her having to give up her life to break the curse. You will have to watch the film to find out what happens next.
I can imagine no other actress in the role of Pandora Reynolds. Ava does so much with this character. She is so ethereal in the role. Ava makes us think that this woman has somehow known all her life that this romance and fate is the reason for her birth.
Ava also makes us both love and hate Pandora, maybe hate is too strong a word because I never fully dislike her. The way that she dismisses those who love her so is very cruel to watch though. Ava performs her role from the heart, she lays bare her soul and emotions in this film, more so than in any other performance she ever gave in my opinion. It’s one of her best roles.
James Mason conveys a sorrow and desire that makes you want to reach out and give Henrick a big hug. He totally makes you believe that he is this tired and ancient man.
I love the scene on the beach where Pandora confesses her love for Henrick. In that moment James does such a good job of making us see that Henrick so wants to accept her love, but instead he chooses to push her away to try and save her from possibly being able to break the curse.
Henrick loves Pandora so much that he cannot bear to lose her, even if her loss could set him free from the curse. James and Ava have a lovely chemistry and I would have loved to have seen them together in more films. James was never more intense or full of pain and sorrow than he is in this film. His monologue and performance during the flashback sequence contains some of the best acting he ever did, very moving and powerful indeed.
Nigel Patrick(such an underrated actor), Shelia Sim, Mario Cabre, Marius Goring and Harold Warrender all provide excellent support. I love the side plot of the one sided love that Shelia Sim’s character has for Nigel Patrick’s Stephen, we know that she is the woman who really deserves his love. I always long to see a bit more of that couple later in the film.
I highly recommend this film to any fan of Ava Gardner. She is the heart of this film. Any other fans of this film out there? What do you think of the film and Ava’s performance?
I just want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I hope you all have a lovely time over the festive break. Take care and enjoy whatever you have planned. I hope that 2019 brings you nothing but happiness.
Thank you for sticking with me over the last two years, has it really been that long already? Your support and comments mean so much to me. It’s lovely to have run into so many fellow classic film fans through this blog. I’ll see you back here on the 23rd and 24th of December for the Ava Gardner blogathon.
Merry Christmas. Love and best wishes from Maddy x
This blogathon was not only a big success, but it was also so much fun this year and last, that I have decided to make it a yearly event. I will host this blogathon again next year. I do hope that you can all join me in celebrating Alfred Hitchcock and his films.
You can write about any of Hitchcock’s films. You can write about his TV series. You can write about Hitchcock himself, or about the actors and characters featured in his films and series.
You can write more than one entry if you wish to do so. I will accept two duplicates per film title. The blogathon will be held for two days on the 8th and 9th of February, 2019. Please post your entries on or before those dates.
Just let me know what you would like to write about in the comments section below. Check the participation list to see who is writing about what. Take one of the banners from below and pop it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Have fun watching Hitchcock’s films and writing about them!
Films now claimed twice: To Catch A Thief, The Lady Vanishes
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Favourite Hitchcock Couples
Pale Writer: Hitchcock Blondes & Anthony Perkins Performance in Psycho
Silver Screen Classics: Vertigo
Cracked Rear Viewer: Frenzy
Movie Movie Blog Blog: High Anxiety
Portraits By Jenni: The Lady Vanishes
The Midnite Drive-In: Comparison of Strangers On A Train To Throw Momma From The Train
In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Rear Window
Sparks From A Combustible Mind: The Birds
Movie Rob: Rope and The Man Who Knew Too Much
Overture Books And Films: Saboteur
Realweegiemidgetreviews: Torn Curtain
Thoughts All Sorts: To Catch A Thief
The Humpo Show: Suspicion
The Stop Button: The Trouble With Harry
The Old Hollywood Garden: Hitchcock’s Macguffins
Diary Of A Movie Maniac: Jamaica Inn and The Lady Vanishes
After toying with the idea for a while now, I have decided that I want to try and host one more blogathon this year. The subject for the last 2018 blogathon will be Ava Gardner.
Ava would have been 96 years old this year. I decided that I would hold this blogathon over two days, one of which is her birthday. I do hope that you will all join me to celebrate the life and career of this screen legend. Ava is someone who I admire a great deal. What you saw with Ava was what you got. Ava was open, generous, kind, fun and honest. She always seemed so down to earth too.
For this blogathon you can write about any of Ava’s films. You can write about your favourite Ava Gardner performances. You can write a tribute to her. You can write about her life and career. I will accept two duplicates per screen title. You may write more than one post if you wish, but no more than three posts per person please.
The blogathon will be held on the 23rd and 24th of December, 2018. If Ava was still with us today, she would be celebrating her 96th birthday on the 24th of December this year.
If you would like to join in the fun, simply let me know what you want to write about below. Take one of the banners from below and put it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Have fun writing about Ava and watching her films.
Films that have now already been chosen twice are The Killers, Pandora And The Flying Dutchman and Mogambo.
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman
Poppity: The Angel Wore Red
Movie Rob: Mogambo and Night Of The Iguana
Down These Mean Streets: The Killers
Caftan Woman: Whistle Stop
Palewriter2: Lone Star
Silver Screen Classics: The Killers
Realweegiemidgetreviews: The Cassandra Crossing
Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: Write up about her visit to the Ava Gardner Museum
The Stop Button: Seven Days In May
Silver Screenings: Mogambo
Vinnieh: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman
Diary Of A Movie Maniac: 55 Days At Peking
Overture Books And Films: The Great Sinner
Critica Retro: One Touch Of Venus
In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: East Side, West Side
Virginie from The Wonderful World Of Cinema, and Emily from The Flapper Dame, are co-hosting this 4th annual blogathon celebrating Grace Kelly. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
1956 was a key year in Grace Kelly’s life. She had become engaged to Prince Rainier of Monaco after the pair had met and fallen in love the previous year. Grace was about to embark on a new chapter in her life. Unfortunately her new path in life meant that she had to bid farewell to her film career.
In 1956, Grace Kelly appeared in what would become her final film. For her final screen performance she played a society heiress called Tracy Samantha Lord. The film was called High Society.
The 1956 film was a musical remake of the 1940 classic, The Philadelphia Story, which was an adaptation of Philip Barry’s 1939 stage play of the same name. The original film had succeeded in resurrecting Katharine Hepburn’s film career.
Katharine Hepburn’s performance, coupled with the overall success of the film, succeeded in destroying the cruel label of “box office poison” which had been attached to her name for some time. The film had also seen James Stewart’s hilarious performance rewarded with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
It was never going to be an easy task to remake a film that was so highly regarded. Charles Walters, the man behind such classics as Easter Parade, Three Guys Named Mike, and The Tender Trap, took on the task of directing the remake. The legendary Cole Porter penned the songs used in the film.
Joining the cast as Tracy’s three love interests were Bing Crosby as Dexter, the ex husband of Tracy; Frank Sinatra as the mischievous reporter, Mike Connor; and John Lund as Tracy’s new fiance, George Kittredge.
Bing, Frank and John as the three men in Tracy’s life. Screenshots by me.
I think that High Society manages to stand alone from the original film due to the different ways in which the actors perform their roles, and also due to the film being a musical. I like to call this film a reinterpretation of the original story rather than a remake.
A few scenes from High Society. Screenshots by me.
Whenever I watch High Society, it feels as though I’ve joined friends at a fabulous party, one which is overflowing with fun and wit. The film is uplifting, touching, glamorous and funny. The songs and musical sequences are all fabulous and they are sure to have you singing right along with them.
I also love that we get Louis Armstrong acting as our guide to this society world. Louis also performs several songs in the film, and he and Bing Crosby perform a duet together. I also love how Louis breaks the fourth wall at various points in the film and speaks directly to us.
As much as I like this film, I do concede that it lacks the character development of the original and some of it does feel a bit rushed. I also wanted a little more joy and excitement during the ending. If you have seen the original film, then you won’t really be able to help but compare the two films as you watch this one.
Some viewers don’t like the pairing of Bing and Grace here due to their age difference, personally I have never had a problem with age gaps in relationships, so I don’t care about that issue at all.
I do think that there should have been some more scenes between Bing and Grace, either as flashbacks to show the Haven’s marriage, or some more scenes when he comes back into her life as she prepares to marry. I wanted many more scenes between them and a bit more focus on their relationship.
In the scenes they do share together, I have to say that Bing gazes at Grace with such tenderness and warmth, and she looks back at him with equal warmth and affection.
Bing’s performance at first doesn’t come across as really being that good, but if you watch his eyes and expressions you will see that the performance is subtle, but it is most definitely there to be seen.
Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm are clearly having a lot of fun together as the reporters. I love their duet performance of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
Celeste is hilarious as Liz, and she steals all the scenes that she is in. Frank is very good in the role of Mike, and you miss him when he isn’t in a scene. But sadly Frank is no Jimmy Stewart. I’m afraid that Frank’s performance lacks that special spark that Jimmy’s has in the original. I do like Frank’s performance, but I think that he and Celeste could both have done with more character development to work with.
Louis Calhern provides the comic relief of the film as Tracy’s Uncle Willie. There is strong support from Sidney Blackmer as Tracy’s stern father. Margalo Gillmore is also very good as Tracy’s mother. Lydia Reed is adorable as Caroline(I much prefer her performance over Virginia Weilder’s in the original) and I love the Little One scene between her and Bing.
Grace Kelly is the heart and soul of the film. She sparkles like a bright jewel whenever she is on screen in this film. I think that she delivers a very touching performance as a woman desperate to be loved for herself alone. There are several scenes where she expertly conveys how hurt or vulnerable Tracy is. Grace captures this woman’s pain and frustration so well.
I often wonder if Grace saw some of her own life mirrored in this character and her story. Grace was often(and still is today)seen as merely a beautiful screen goddess, rather than the complex and warm woman she actually was off screen. I for one can certainly see parallels between her own life and Tracy’s.
Grace is vulnerable and sad as Tracy. Screenshots by me.
If you think that Grace always played cool and remote women, then you should check her out in this film, where you will get to see her play a funny, sweet and easily hurt woman. I always think it is such a shame that she never acted again after this film.
As the film begins, we find the wealthy citizens of Newport about to be shaken free from their stuffy traditions by a dose of true love, and by the arrival of the great Louis Armstrong and his band. Louis and his band are in town to perform at a jazz festival organised by his old friend Dexter Haven(Bing Crosby).
A few scenes featuring the legendary Louis Armstrong. Screenshots by me.
In Newport, preparations are not only underway for the jazz festival, but also for the society wedding of the year. Heiress Tracy Samantha Lord(Grace Kelly)is about to get married to the decent, but dreadfully dull, George Kittredge(John Lund).
Much to Tracy’s annoyance her wedding is being covered by pushy magazine reporter, Mike Conner(Frank Sinatra), and his photographer pal, Liz Imbrie(Celeste Holm). This intrusion leads Tracy and her little sister Caroline (Lydia Reed) to prank these visitors and have a little fun at their expense.
Tracy’s ex-husband and neighbour, Dexter Haven stops by to wish her every happiness for the future.
Tracy and Dexter may well have had problems in their marriage, but the pair still love one another and Dexter in particular can’t bring himself to sever all connections with his girl.
The rest of the film focuses on whether these two will get back together or not. Tracy and Mike also have a few moments where it seems that they may well be falling for one another too.
At the heart of the film(even more than the romance)is Tracy’s desperation to be loved for who she is inside, not for her external beauty alone. George puts his fiance up on a pedestal and considers her a goddess, rather than seeing her for the flesh and blood woman that she really is. Mike admires her spirit and personality. Her own father even refers to her as being made of bronze. Only Dexter completely sees her and accepts her for who she is in every way. Can Tracy find the happiness she so desperately craves? Watch the film and find out.
This film may well not be as good as the original is, but it is certainly a lot of fun. The performances, costumes and songs are all fabulous. The duet between Bing and Louis, and the duet between Bing and Frank, are two highlights of the film. Cole Porter’s witty and catchy lyrics will stay in your mind long after the film has finished. Grace Kelly’s lovely performance will linger in the memory too. I think this was the perfect film for her career to end with.
What are your thoughts on the film and Grace’s performance in it?
World War One has been depicted on screen so many times over the years, both on the big and on the small screen.
There have been many films on this subject that have horrified and moved us.
These films have been able to give us a little more understanding of the horror, the pain and the terror endured by the soldiers fighting on all sides in that senseless mass slaughter.
The following five films focus on different aspects of the war; some focus on the fighting, while others take a look at what happens when soldiers return home. They have become my favourite films about this conflict. I’m not saying that these are the five best films about WW1, but they are all very good, and I recommend each and every one of them.
King And Country(1964)
This is one of the grimmest films about this war ever made. The trench sequences are so realistic and they are very difficult to forget. This film really gives you a good sense of the hellish conditions that the soldiers faced and endured throughout the war.
The film focuses on a shell shocked soldier(Tom Courtney) who is on trial for cowardice after he leaves the battlefield. The soldier’s fate lies in the hands of the lawyer (Dirk Bogarde) defending him.
Based on Pat Barker’s 1991 novel of the same name, this seriously underrated film focuses on a group of soldiers being treated for shell shock and psychological trauma at a private hospital in Britain. It is a grim and deeply moving look at the damage done to so many who fought.
I don’t think those who survived this horror were the lucky ones, because they had to live on with the horror they had witnessed, and so many were psychologically damaged beyond repair. Jonathan Pryce is excellent as the doctor trying desperately to heal the damaged men, while he himself is struggling to deal with the horrendous stories and disclosures that he is hearing from his patients. Strong performances from the entire cast.
All Quiet On The Western Front(1930)
This is not only a must see for its realistic recreations of the fights and the battlefields of WW1, but also for its depiction of the brutal realities of war. The film begins with idealistic young German men being encouraged to fight for their country. They go off expecting to be embarking upon a great adventure that they will enjoy.
When the boys arrive at the front, they quickly discover that there is nothing exciting about war at all. War is ugly, war is terrifying, and war is the greatest horror imaginable. This is one of the best WW1 films ever made. I highly recommend it to anyone who has never seen it before.
The film is based on the 1928 novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. The book, it’s sequel, and the film itself, were all banned by the Nazi’s when Hitler and his party came to power. Many of Remarque’s other books were banned and burnt. He fled Germany with his wife, but his younger sister was tried in German court for undermining morale after she stated that she believed the war was lost. His sister was found guilty and was beheaded in 1943. Remarque never knew of her fate until after the war, and his 1952 novel Spark Of Life is dedicated to his sister.
A Month In The Country(1987)
This quiet film focuses on the emotional scars left on veterans of the war. Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh both deliver moving performances as two men scarred equally by their time in the trenches. Both men meet at a church in the countryside after the war has finished.
Colin’s character is restoring a medieval mural on the church wall, while Kenneth’s character is an archaeologist searching for an old grave believed to be somewhere on the grounds. Both men put up a brave facade in public, but each of them hides terrible pain. This shows you how brave the soldiers were who tried to carry on with normal life, even though they were in hell on the inside.
Famed for its spectacular aerial battle sequences, Wings shows us the youthful innocence of young recruits being shattered by the grim realities of war. This film focuses on two friends who join the American airforce and go off to fight.
One of the most striking images of the film(which I used in my blogathon banner)is of a plane landing on a field next to a hill, as far as the eye can see this land is covered in the graves of dead soldiers. This shows you the cost of war and is interesting because it focuses on the war in the air, rather than on the war being fought in the trenches. This film would also go on to become the first film to ever win the Best Picture Oscar.
What do you think of these films? What are your favourite films about this war?
Here are my answers to the rest of your classic film questions. Thank you so much to everyone who sent me questions. I hope that you will all enjoy reading my answers. I’ve really enjoyed writing my answers. It’s been a lot of fun.
4StarFilmFan asks me to share some classic era directors who I feel are underrated.
I have two directors from my own country of Britain who I want to spotlight. The first one is Thorold Dickinson. It is unreal how seriously underrated this guy is.
He made very few films during his career. He has become someone who is not very well known by film fans today.
He did make two films which were destined to become his masterpieces though. The first of his two masterpieces is the fantasy-horror film Queen Of Spades(1949), this is a film which came so very close to being lost forever, and it features one of Anton Walbrook’s most powerful film performances.
The second film is the original British version of Gaslight(1940). I like the remake, but this earlier version has more menace and a much more unsettling atmosphere. Anton Walbrook oozes malevolence as the husband who subtly sends his wife mad. The photography, mood, period detail, and the magnificent performances found in both of these two films are outstanding. Dickinson is a director whose name deserves to be on the lips of classic film fans of today.
The second underrated director is Robert Hamer. Classic film fans will probably all have seen(or at least heard of)his most well known film, the black comedy Kind Hearts And Coronets, which is notable for having Alec Guinness play multiple characters. Hamer did so much more than just direct this film though.
Hamer often moved between film genres. During his career he dabbled in comedy, horror, drama and Noir. I like him because every film/genre he was involved with felt as though that was all he had ever been working on. I never find myself wondering why he picked a certain project, this is because the overall quality of his films was always so good, and I always get the sense that he was comfortable and confident with whatever he was working on at the time.
Dead Of Night, It Always Rains On Sunday and Pink String And Sealing Wax.Screenshots by me.
He directed three real gems. The first one is Dead Of Night(1945), which is one of the best horror anthology films of all time. The second one is Pink String And Sealing Wax(1946) , which is a very underrated period piece featuring one of Googie Withers greatest performances. The third is the gripping British Noir It Always Rains On Sunday( 1947).
Palewriter asks what my favourite classic film biographies and autobiographies are.
Furious Love: The Love Affair Of Elizabeth And Richard by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger.
Ever, Dirk: The Bogarde Letters edited by John Coldstream.
Ava Gardner by Lee Server.
Spencer Tracy by James Curtis.
I’m not much of a fan of autobiographies, but I do like Loitering With Intent by Peter O’Toole and What’s It All About? by Michael Caine. I also love Bring On The Empty Horses by David Niven.
Canterbury Tale asks my opinion of British cinema in the 1930’s.
I don’t consider it to be our strongest decade for film. I think that we didn’t really get going as a film industry until the 1940’s. However, having said that, there are a few gems to be found in the 1930’s.
A few British films from this decade that I recommend watching are The Spy In Black(1939), The Lady Vanishes(1938), Borderline(1930), Death At Broadcasting House(1934), Pygmalion(1938), The 39 Steps(1935) and Fire Over England(1937).
Thoughts All Sorts asks what classic era Westerns I like.
I love so many Westerns, but I love the psychological westerns directed by Anthony Mann the most. These films show the emotional/psychological toll that life out West took on the people who lived there.
These films are also among some of the darkest and most brutal Westerns ever filmed. Films such as Man Of The West, The Naked Spur and The Man From Laramie. I also love many of the Randolph Scott films including Ride Lonesome, Commanche Station and Seven Men From Now.
True Grit, The Searchers, The Man With No Name Trilogy, Once Upon A Time In The West, Yellow Sky, The Train Robbers and El Dorado are all favourites.
DB Movies Blog asks me what my favourite foreign language film is.
It’s way too hard to just narrow it down to one. So here are my top five favourites from the classic era. Ikiru, Charulata, La Belle Et Le Bete,Rashomon and La Strada.
Charulata, Ikiru, La Strada, Rashomon and La Belle Et Le Bete. Screenshots by me.
My favourites from the modern era are House Of Flying Daggers, Priceless, My Best Friend and The Devil’s Backbone.
Alex Raphael asks me to name my favourite performance by Robert Mitchum.
That would have to be a tie between Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison and Cape Fear.
In Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Robert is sincere, awkward, decent, tender and honest. He plays a man who we like and sympathise with. His performance here is the complete opposite of the cynical, cool and tough characters who he became so well known for playing.
In Cape Fear he is completely terrifying. I think he is even scarier than Robert DeNiro in the remake, because he often seems so normal and his performance isn’t over the top like DeNiro’s is. Robert Mitchum’s version of Max Cady knows just how far he can harass and push Gregory Peck’s character before the law can get involved. Robert captures all the things that make people like Cady(there are plenty of people like him out there)so frightening and unsettling.
Silver Screen Classics asks which classic actor I would interview if given the chance. He asks me to list five questions that I would ask them.
Buster Keaton. He is someone who fascinates me. I would love to have met him and spoken to him about film and his approach to it. I would have asked him the following questions.
1.Do you prefer arranging, setting up, and performing your stunts? Or do you prefer setting up and performing your comedy sequences? Which do you prefer and why?
2. What do you think about the fact that film will allow you and your work to be watched, enjoyed and discussed decades,possibly centuries, after you have made your films?
3. Which of your feature films and shorts are you most proud of and why?
4. What do you feel when you watch yourself up there on that big screen?
5. What is the riskiest stunt that you yourself have ever been involved in? What is the riskiest stunt that you have helped to set up?
Vinnieh asks which classic actresses I really like.
I have so many favourites. There are two who I not only like, but who I admire a great deal too. Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn.Both Ava and Audrey were not afraid to be themselves.
Ava and Audrey. Screenshots by me.
What you saw was what you got with both of these ladies. Ava told it like it was, she was down to earth, generous, fun, open and a real free spirit. Audrey was kind, gracious, down to earth and so classy. Both women lived life on their own terms. Neither one behaved or dressed how others thought they should.
I also think that neither of them was changed much by being famous, they would both still happily associate with ordinary people, crewmembers etc. They didn’t become divas who thought they were better than others because they were famous. They both stayed true to themselves, and I for one love them both forit.
Vinnieh asks whether or not I think classic films were classier in their depiction of certain things than modern films are.
That’s an interesting question. I think many were, but there are so many Silent, Pre-Code and Noir films that contain content which still has the ability to shock or raise eyebrows when viewed today. I think that classic era directors were much better at insinuating violence or sexual content than modern directors are. Many Noir films from the 1940’s have suggestive dialogue and sexy scenes which are somehow more shocking than a fully nude sex scene would be.
There are also many violent scenes to be found in classic era films, these scenes are capable of shocking you and making you squirm, but these scenes don’t become nearly as graphic and drawn out as similar scenes would be in modern films. I think that’s a good thing because there comes a point where such scenes become sadistic, and they reach a point where it seems like the director is just wallowing in the disgusting and horrible imagery they are filming.
I think that graphic depictions of violence and injury have their place in modern war films because that content helps the story be more realistic in my opinion. Most scenes of graphic violence and sex really don’t add anything to the majority of films and series of the modern era. Sometimes I think that it is best to leave these things to the imagination of the audience, or to depict these scenes on screen in a less graphic way.
Movie Rob asks my opinion on The Oscars and Best Picture winners.
I’m not a fan of the Oscars at all. I have never seen the point of the ceremony to be honest. Taste in film is subjective, as all art is, the trouble is that when the Academy or the critics call something excellent or terrible, those labels seem to stick to the films or performances in question forever and I think that is so wrong. Audiences will like and hate what they want to, all the rest is just nonsense.
There are so many films made each year around the world, how can you even begin to narrow those down to a handful and then proclaim one to be the best? It’s ridiculous.
Occasionally the Academy Awards will praise a particular film or performance and I will agree with them, but mostly I don’t agree with the awards given out. Some Best Picture Award Winners that I don’t have a problem with winning are Gone With The Wind, All Quiet On The Western Front, Lawrence Of Arabia, All About Eve, Gandhi and The Godfather(part 1 and 2).
Mike’s Take On The Movies asks me what my favourite classic Western film is.
The Searchers(1956). It is a film that never fails to leave an impact and make me eager to see it again. It has so many layers, you can interpret characters and events within it in so many different ways.It is one of the most complex and dark westerns ever made.
It still intrigues me, even though I have watched it so many times. An endless cycle of love, hate, revenge, violence and hope. It looks stunning and beautiful visually, and it features unforgettable performances from the whole cast. You can read my full review here.
Alex Raphael asks me if there is any classic film that I wish had gotten a sequel.
The Wizard Of Oz. It didn’t really require it, but there are so many other adventures and stories that could have been experienced by Dorothy in the land of Oz.
This could easily have become a film series(or at least a second film)with Dorothy returning to that land(be it by dream or by another way)to have further adventures with The Tin Man, The Scarecrow, and The Lion.
Tiffany and Rebekah from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, are hosting this blogathon to celebrate the life and career of the actor Claude Rains. Be sure to visit their site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
When I saw that Tiffany and Rebekah were celebrating Claude, I just knew that I had to take part. Claude is my favourite actor. He was a master of his craft and he is always a real treat to watch and listen.
Claude was a chameleon actor who could switch effortlessly between playing villains who you love to hate, to playing loveable and decent men who you adore and pity.
Claude had the ability to be able to steal a scene in a film, often by doing nothing more than merely sitting in a corner of a room watching others, while saying and doing nothing himself.
His performance is all in the eyes and in the little expressions. I also love how a single arch of his eyebrow conveys amusement, disdain and annoyance. Aspiring actors could learn a thing or two about acting by studying his performances in my opinion.
His performances are subtle, and yet he often ends up delivering the most powerful and memorable performance in whatever film he is appearing in. I have never seen Claude deliver a screen performance which was disappointing or bad.
As well as liking him because he was a excellent actor, I must also admit to having a huge crush on Claude Rains. He is so sexy, so funny, so full of charm and wit. The song I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred could well have been written for our Claude. 😉 Whenever a character of his is treated badly by a leading lady, I always get so angry on his behalf, whilst also shaking my head and saying “wake up now, girl. Are you seriously treating Claude bad?!”
Claude is also someone who I admire a great deal. Claude came from nothing and went on to really make something of himself. He also suffered in World War One, but he didn’t let his injury stop him from pursuing his career.
Claude Rains was born in Camberwell, London on November 10th, 1889. His story is truly an inspirational one. He grew up in the poverty riddled slums of London. His father was a stage actor, and Claude wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Claude overcame a speech impediment which had always caused him to stutter. He also took elocution lessons to try and shed his thick Cockney accent. These lessons resulted in that very unique voice that we all know and love.
The famous Claude Rains voice is both silken and seductive, while also being strong and commanding too. That distinctive voice of his became one of his greatest assets as an actor.
Claude served in the London Scottish Regiment during World War One. A few other classic actors who served in this regiment include Herbert Marshall(who lost a leg during the war), Ronald Colman, and the great Basil Rathbone.
During the First World War, Claude Rains rose from the rank of Private to become a Captain. He was injured in a gas attack, which caused almost complete sight loss in his right eye, the attack also paralyzed his vocal cords for a time. After the war had ended, Claude returned home to London and embarked upon his acting career. He primarily worked on the stage and he was also an acting teacher at RADA, where one of his acting students was a young Sir John Gielgud.
Claude appeared in a British Silent film called Build Thy House(1920), but his big break in films really came when he was cast in James Whale’s horror classic, The Invisible Man in 1933. His performance in this film brought him the fame that he so deserved.
Claude as The Invisible Man. Screenshots by me.
We never see his face until the final minutes of The Invisible Man, but he carries the entire film through his remarkable vocal performance and body language alone. His vocal performance here is outstanding, he perfectly conveys the intellect, the rage, and also the increasing insanity of his character to us.
He signed a contract with Warner Brothers Studios, and he went on to become one of the greatest actors of his day. Over the next thirty years, Claude Rains would go on to appear in some of the greatest films ever made. Some of the classics he appeared in include The Adventures Of Robin Hood(1938), Mr. Smith Goes To Washington(1939), Casablanca(1942), Now, Voyager(1942), Deception(1946), Notorious(1946), Lawrence Of Arabia(1962) and my personal favourite film of his, The Passionate Friends(1949). He was held in high esteem by colleagues. His frequent leading lady Bette Davis adored him. Bette considered him to be her favourite co-star.
I thought that the best way to celebrate Claude was to share some of my favourite films and performances of his. First up are a couple of my favourite performances.
The Passionate Friends(1949)
This film features my favourite performance from Claude. He is outstanding as the decent husband who discovers his much younger wife (Ann Todd) is having an affair. He conveys so well the distress and pain his character feels when he discovers the affair. He has our sympathies throughout.
I especially love the scene where he finally cracks and verbally unleashes his pent up grief and rage at what has happened. I also love the hilarious scene where he subtly lets on to his wife that he knows she is having an affair.
Claude steals every single scene he appears in here. For me he is the heart and highlight of the film. He is hilarious as the scheming Captain Renault.
His character may well do some unpleasant things, but we can’t help but love the guy. Claude’s reactions and expressions in this are hilarious. I love his shared scenes with Bogie and how Renault can always figure him out.
I recommend watching the following Claude Rains films. Deception, The Passionate Friends, Mr. Skeffington, Angel On My Shoulder(hilarious as the Devil), Casablanca, The Clairvoyant, Mr.Smith Goes To Washington, The Invisible Man, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Now,Voyager. Those films are just a few of his finest performances, but I would recommend that you check out all of his screen work, he never gave a bad or dull performance.
Claude Rains was truly one of the all time greats. Are you a fan of Claude Rains? Share your thoughts below.
Recently I asked you all to send me any classic film related questions that you wanted me to answer. I have been overwhelmed by questions. I really didn’t expect to receive so many! I have had so much fun answering these. Because I have received quite a few questions, I am going to respond to the questions across two posts. I hope you all enjoy reading the questions and my answers to them.
I want to begin by telling you a little bit about how I became a classic film fan in the first place. Films were one of my earliest passions. Films were right up there with reading for me, I have never been happier than when I am reading or watching films. When I was much younger I went through a phase where I obsessed with musicals and dancing. If a film had singing or dancing in it, then you could guarantee that I would be watching it.
As my love for musicals grew, I soon found myself watching more and more classic era musicals.I loved the acting, the costumes, the songs and the dance sequences found in these old films. I was swept away into a time that I had not been a part of until now. Top Hat, Singin’ In The Rain and White Christmas were three musicals that I just couldn’t get enough of. My love for these films then led me to check out classic era films from other genres.
Left to right: Singin’ In The Rain, Top Hat and White Christmas. Screenshots by me.
I really loved the modern films I was watching at the time too(A Little Princess and The Secret Garden were two great favourites), but I kept finding myself being drawn back much more to the classic era films that I was watching.
A few of the films responsible for me falling in love with classic era cinema. Top left to right: Late Spring, A Night To Remember and The Ten Commandments. Bottom left to right: Forbidden Planet, The Red Shoes, Rear Window and Brief Encounter. Screenshots by me.
I soon started to check out more work from the actors in the classic films that I was loving so much. This then led me to discover new names, new films, new eras etc. It also never seemed odd to me in the slightest that I was watching films made decades before I was even born. These films were new to me and because of that their age didn’t matter to me at all.
A few more classics that got me hooked. Left top to bottom: The Passionate Friends, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison and Pickup On South Street. Right: Rashomon. Screenshots by me.
I started to get into Foreign Language and Silent films in my late teens and early twenties, it really annoys me that so many classic film fans tend to focus primarily on American classic era films, rather than those which were made outside of Hollywood. There are so many classics that came from other countries: Rashomon, The Apu Trilogy, Les Diabolique, Brighton Rock, The Virgin Spring, The Seventh Seal, Late Spring, La Belle et le Bete, The Life Of Oharu, Rome: Open City, Ice Cold In Alex, Le Jour se Leve, Charulata, The Red Shoes, Battleship Potemkin, A Matter Of Life And Death etc.
I got into classic cinema because of my curiosity and taste. I wasn’t encouraged in my viewing by anyone. I wasn’t even aware of things like film recommendation lists or film reviews at the time I began my classic film journey. I was simply watching these films and their stars because I was drawn to them. I am still loving my journey into the classic film era. I still have so many new discoveries to make and I can’t wait to watch even more classics.
Moving onto your questions now.
MovieMovieBlogBlog asks me what I like about Film Noir.
Everything! Most of my regular followers know of my love and admiration for all things Film Noir. I think I am drawn to these films for several reasons.
Firstly, I love that these films offered such strong and memorable roles for actresses of the time. There are many other strong female performances and characters in other films/genres in the classic era, but there is something different about the female characters in Noir films. Noir women are not afraid to say and show what they want, they are often dominating and independent individuals.
Three strong and memorable Noir women. Phyllis in Double Indemnity(left) Candy(top right) in Pickup On South Street and Mrs. Neall (bottom right)in The Narrow Margin. Screenshots by me.
Noir women don’t sit around waiting to be rescued by the male hero, and they also really don’t care what society thinks about them for making certain choices, or for behaving in a certain way. In some ways Noir women(you can say definitely say the same about many female characters in 1930’s Pre-Code films too)are the forerunners of the modern screen woman.
I also love Noir films for their visual look. The cinematography, lighting and mood in these films are incredible(influenced somewhat by German Expressionism). I also love that these films reflect the truth of humanity back at us. We are all filled with darkness and light, the world is a dark and harsh place,and very few things and people are actually what they seem. Noir films offer no escapism from reality because they show reality to us.
Noir films may well also be the best type of films to show to a classic film newbie. Noir films have a very modern feel to them. Noir films are gritty and serious, they also often contain lots of thrills, suspense and action. Modern audiences who have never watched these films before, will often be very surprised at how suggestive these films are, especially when it comes to their depictions of sex and violence. It always surprises me just what Noir directors managed to get away with on screen during the infamous film Code era.
Brandon Talks Movies asks me about my favourite classic horror film.
I love The Black Cat. I love Dead Of Night. I love the 1940’s horror films of Val Lewton. I love Hammer Horror films. I love the Universal Monster films. However, there has long been only one classic horror film that I consider to be my all time favourite from this genre.
That film is The Innocents(1961). This gothic horror has an unmatched eerie atmosphere. It features some very creepy and unsettling moments. In my opinion this is the best ghost story and the best haunted house film ever made. It also features a career best performance from Deborah Kerr. Perfect viewing for a dark night, or on a stormy afternoon. You can read my thoughts on this one in more detail here.
Movie Rob asks me to name my favourite year or favourite film era for classic film.
My favourite decades for film are the 1940’s, 1930’s and the 1920’s. I think that some of the best, most imaginative, most stunning and most memorable films ever made can be found in those particular decades.
Shooting Stars(1928), The Wizard Of Oz(1939)and The Ghost And Mrs.Muir(1947). Three films to represent my three favourite film decades. Screenshots by me.
If I had to pick one single year of film as my favourite, then I think that I would have to go with either 1940 or 1939. Both of these years have some incredible films and performances in them. So many of these films and performances are still enjoyed and discussed today by fans of classic cinema.
The Old Hollywood Garden asks what I think of Detour(1945)
I love its realism and grit. It may very well be just a low budget Noir, but it is one of the best films in the entire Noir genre!
I also think that the casting of relatively unknown actors adds a great deal of authenticity to the film. Ann Savage in particular steals every scene she is in with just a look. Ann also more than convinces as a tough woman who you wouldn’t want to mess with. When I watch Detour, I feel as though I’m right there with these people and am witnessing real events unfold before my eyes.
The Humpo Show asks me to name some classic films that I have never seen.
There are definitely still quite a few on my to watch list. Some notable films that I need to see include Duck Soup, Napoleon(1927),Vampyr, Birth Of A Nation, Children Of Paradise and Little Caesar.
Movies Ala Mark asks me to share some acclaimed classic films that I don’t love. He also asks me to share some disliked/underappreciated films that I do love.
I am a massive fan of David Lean, but his acclaimed 1960’s classic Doctor Zhivago leaves me cold(pun intended). The film is visually very beautiful and stunning, the score by Maurice Jarre is one for the ages.
The performances on the other hand always strike me as being incredibly wooden, this is so strange considering the actors who are starring in this. The other issue for me is that I don’t for one minute care about any of the characters. I have never understood what all the fuss about this one was.
A film I love that nobody else seems to is Paris When It Sizzles. This film didn’t do very well at the time of its release. Nobody thought much of it at it the time and it has become an extremely underrated and little known film. Such a shame as it is very good. I love it so much because it is a fun film and because it gives you a peek at how the screenwriting process works.
Paris When It Sizzles. Screenshots by me.
The imaginary scenes where William Holden and Audrey Hepburn act out the various storylines for the film are terrific. William Holden and Audrey Hepburn are adorable together. There is an hilarious cameo by Tony Curtis as a narcissistic method actor.
Movie Rob asks whether or not I consider Citizen Kane to be the
greatest film ever made.
No. I have never understood how one film can be considered as the greatest of all time. People who say that have clearly never seen many films in my opinion. Film is also so subjective, one persons masterpiece is another’s rubbish. This is my problem with the Academy Awards, how can you pick one performance or film and claim that as the best of the year? It’s all very silly in my opinion.
Citizen Kane is certainly one of the greatest films ever made, but I do not consider it to be the greatest film ever made. It is a very well crafted film. It is also certainly one to study on a technical level if you want to get into filmmaking. It is a film that I like and admire a great deal. Orson Welles knew what he was doing and this film stands as a testament to his skills as a filmmaker.
Palewriter asks me to name my favourite Noir films.
Murder My Sweet(1944), Daybreak(1948),Pickup On South Street, Cry Of The City, The Long Memory, Kiss Me Deadly, The Narrow Margin, Double Indemnity, Stray Dog, The T-Men, The Big Heat, Out Of The Past, The Postman Always Rings Twice(1946), Brighton Rock, The Big Sleep, On Dangerous Ground,The Lady From Shanghai, Vertigo, The Dark Corner, Laura, Body Heat, Riffi, The Big Combo, This Gun For Hire.
No Nonsense With Nuwansen asks me to pick my favourite film from his list of five favourite films. His films are Roman Holiday, Call Me By Your Name, Rebecca,Gone With The Wind and Casablanca.
I think it will have to be a tie between Gone With The Wind and Roman Holiday!
Gone With The Wind is one of the greatest screen epics with so much to enjoy in it. Vivien Leigh’s performance as the determined Scarlett is one for the ages. It’s a film that I love to watch for the characters, I find that the film really captures the change they go through due to the events that happen to them. The costumes, the scope of the film, the use of Technicolor and the music are all stunning.
Roman Holiday is an enchanting and uplifting romantic comedy. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s natural and moving performances help me to really connect with their characters. We can feel their growing emotional bond and desire for one another as the film goes on. If I am in need of cheering up this is often a film that I will watch.
Movie Rob asks me to name my all time favourite Frank Capra film.
As much as I love the rest of Frank Capra’s work, my all time favourite film of his will always be It Happened One Night. I love it so much because it is so funny and romantic. The film has some hilarious dialogue, many memorable characters and so many unforgettable moments.
I’ve always been a sucker for a well told opposites attract story, and It Happened One Night is one of the very best films telling that sort of love story. This has become a real comfort film for me and it is one I watch when I need to escape to a happy place for a couple of hours.
Pfeiffer Films And Meg Movies asks how I define what a classic film is.
To me a film is a classic if it can be enjoyed and admired throughout the generations. There is a reason that so many of the films made in the classic era are described as being classics. These films have stood the test of time, they are still accessible, admirable, and so expertly made.
Three timeless classics: Gone With The Wind, Sunset Blvd and Rebecca. Screenshots by me.
I think that classic films are films which transcend the time and place that they were made in. A film which continues to delight, scare, surprise and impress audiences decades after it was first released is a classic in my book. Although the majority of classic films are to be found in the classic film era(1920’s-1970’s in my opinion)there are classic films to be found in every decade.
Canterbury Tale asks me to name some of the films and books found on my shelves.
Some of the films which can be found on my shelves include: Singin’ In The Rain, In The Heat Of The Night, North By Northwest, Brief Encounter, Rashomon, Ikiru, All About Eve, The Blues Brothers, Only Angels Have Wings, The Philadelphia Story, Carmen Jones, Pickup On South Street, Woman On The Run, Double Indemnity, Kiss Me Deadly, The Passionate Friends, Lawrence Of Arabia, La Belle et le Bete, Went The Day Well, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, A Matter Of Life And Death, How Green Was My Valley, Shooting Stars, Bridget Jones’s Diary, To Kill A Mockingbird, Citizen Kane, True Grit, Sabotage, Man Of The West, Charade, The Ghost And Mrs. Muir,House Of Flying Daggers, The Hustler, The Music Room, Dead Of Night, The Innocents, Quatermass And The Pit, Buster Keaton boxset, The Human Condition Trilogy, The Godfather Trilogy, The Back To The Future Trilogy, Little Women(1994), Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Jurassic Park, Zodiac, Some Like It Hot, Niagara, M, South Pacific, The Sound Of Music, Hello Dolly!, White Christmas, Finding Neverland, Chocolat, The Right Stuff, The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy.
Some of the film books found on my shelves include: Ever, Dirk: The Bogarde Letters, Ava: A Life In Movies, Barry Norman’s Movie Greats, Audrey: Her Real Story, Loitering With Intent.
Thank you so much for all these thought provoking questions. I have had lots of fun answering you. I hope you have enjoyed reading my responses. Stay tuned for part 2 of my answers!
One of my favourite films is The Remains Of The Day (1993). I have always thought this would have made a terrific 1940’s/1950’s romantic drama. I have decided to pick this film to reimagine next.
The film takes place in a British mansion. We follow the lives of the servants and master living in that house. The film focuses mainly on the unspoken love and attraction developing between the repressed butler, Mr. Stevens, and the younger housekeeper, Miss Kenton. It is a deeply moving and frustrating portrayal of love, longing, repression, class division and the horrors of war.
I would choose Anthony Asquith as the director. He was one of the most gifted British directors working during the classic film era. He directed several British classics including The Browning Version, The Winslow Boy and Pygmalion. His debut film was Shooting Stars, which is my favourite Silent film.
I picked Asquith because he really knew how to focus on the characters. His films also just let the actors do their thing on screen, which is precisely what is needed with this particular story.
I thought of Michael Redgrave for the role of Mr. Stevens. In The Browning Version he more than proved that he could do emotional repression so well. I think he would have been perfect as the repressed man who desperately wants to acknowledge his love, but who doesn’t know how to even begin to do so.
Michael Redgrave was a commanding screen presence, and I’ve no doubt that he would have convinced as the butler in charge of his staff, and would also have convinced as a dignified and distant man struggling with his emotions and desires.
Greer Garson was my first and only choice for the role of the housekeeper, Miss Sarah Kenton. I think that Greer would have been perfect in this role because she could play outgoing, strong, capable and bubbly characters so well. I can imagine no other actress from this era in this role.
I think she would have been terrific in scenes just featuring Miss Kenton and Mr. Stevens (such as the book scene, the scene where she is crying, or the scene in the garden where she teases him about his guilty smile).
I thought of the seriously underrated Eric Portman for the role of Mr. Benn, a former colleague of Miss Kenton’s, who falls in love with her when he meets her again some years after they worked together.
Eric always convinced as down to earth, worldly, and blunt screen characters. I think he would have been terrific in the role of the man who is able to express his feelings and desires to the woman he loves.
I thought of Felix Aylmer for the role of Mr. Steven’s father. Felix did stern and dignified so well.
I think he would have been perfect as the old butler, whose devotion to his duty means that he doesn’t think of himself at all, even when he is seriously ill. I also think he and Michael would have worked very well together in the scenes where Stevens and his father talk with each other, and in the moments where we see how complicated and strained their relationship is.
I thought of Robert Donat for the role of Lord Darlington. I think he would have been able to convey that his character is a decent man who does what he does to try and prevent another war, but who is also terribly naive and misled in believing that the Nazis can be trusted.
Robert was someone who oozed decency, and I think that could have been used to good effect here. I think he would also have been good in the scenes where Lord Darlington becomes introspective and filled with regret and doubt.
What do you think of these casting choices? Which actors would you have loved to have seen play these characters?
Paddy over at Caftan Woman, and Rich over at Wide Screen World, have teamed up to co-host this blogathon celebrating Neil Simon. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
Neil Simon was a master of comic dialogue. He was also involved with so many great films over the years, that it took me a while to decide which film to cover for this blogathon. After giving it much thought, I’ve decided to write about California Suite.
The film is directed by Herbert Ross. The film is based upon Neil Simon’s 1976 stage play of the same name. The film has four separate storylines. Each story focuses on different characters who are all staying at the same luxury hotel in Beverly Hills. Some of Neil’s funniest and sharpest dialogue can be found in this film.
The first story focuses on two couples from Chicago. The four are all close friends and they are on a long planned holiday to Los Angeles, where they are booked in to stay at the luxury hotel which is featured in all four stories.
The group consists of Dr. Chauncey Gump(Richard Pryor) and his wife, Lola (Gloria Gifford), Dr. Willis Panama(Bill Cosby) and his wife, Bettina(Sheila Frazier).
This story is very funny because everything that could possibly go wrong on a holiday does so for this group. On their special trip the friends end up enduring car trouble, major arguments over silly things, food poisoning, bad room locations and much more.
Cosby, Gifford and Frazier are good enough, but I don’t think that there is anything they do that makes their performances particularly memorable.
It is Richard Pryor’s dead pan delivery and reactions to the various things his character endures which really make this story work as well as it does in my opinion.
I really don’t think that this story would work as well as it does if another actor had been cast in Richard’s role.
This story veers into slapstick comedy territory, and to me it often feels like I am watching scenes from a completely different film. This particular story seems to me to be quite similar to the film National Lampoon’s Vacation.
The second story focuses on the famous British actress, Diana Barry(Maggie Smith)who is in Los Angeles to attend the Academy Awards. Diana is a first time nominee for the Best Actress Oscar.
Diana is joined by her loving husband, Sidney Cochrane(Michael Caine). Diana is highly anxious about the Academy Awards, and she is also very worried about her marriage.
While Diana and Sidney love each other very much, Sidney happens to be Bisexual. Although Diana accepts that fact about him, she can’t stand that he keeps having affairs instead of just being with her. Diana and Sidney must take a long hard look at their marriage and decide whether to stay together or not.
This is my personal favourite out of the four stories. Maggie and Michael work so well together and they get many of the funniest and best scenes and lines in the entire film.
I love how they are warm and tender one minute, and then seriously bitchy with each other the next. Their bickering and arguments are hilarious.
I especially love the fight they have after returning to their hotel room after the Academy Awards.
This story also cracks me up because it highlights the hypocrisy of the awards where the nominees all get fawned over on the way in, but if they lose out, nobody wants to know them when they leave the awards ceremony. I love Sidney’s rant about how everyone else got their cars before Diana and Sidney got theirs at the end of awards ceremony.
I think that all four of the stories had the potential to be a feature length film in their own right, but in my opinion the story of Diana and Sidney could definitely have been made into a feature film.
The third story focuses on middle-aged businessman, Marvin Michaels(Walter Matthau), who has to try and conceal a prostitute called Bunny (Denise Galick)who his brother(Herb Edelman)smuggled into his hotel suite as an early birthday present.
Things get complicated when Marvin’s wife, Millie(Elaine May)arrives at the hotel to join him when the prostitute is still in his room.
While this does have some funny moments in it, I think this is the weakest of the four stories. None of the characters in this one come across as being remotely likable.
I also don’t like how Marvin doesn’t seem the least bit concerned for the health of Bunny in the scene where she won’t wake up, he could have at least phoned down for some help. He is just concerned for himself if she is discovered in his room.
If he didn’t want anyone to know she had been his room, then surely he could have taken her out into the corridor, pretended that he found her out there and got some help?
The only positive thing in this segment is Walter Matthau, he was always a very good physical comic and he gets to really do his thing here. I always fast forward through scenes from this story when I watch the film.
The fourth story focuses on Hannah Warren(Jane Fonda) who is staying at the hotel for one day to meet with her ex husband, Bill(Alan Alda).
They are meeting to discuss which of them their teenage daughter, Jenny(played by the troubled child actress, Dana Plato) will stay with for the majority of the year.
As they discuss their daughter, the pair quickly fall back into their old arguments and sniping. I think that Jane Fonda delivers one of her best performances here, as the strong woman trying desperately hard to hide how scared and worried she really is.
Watch her face during the arguments with Alan Alda, she says so much with her expressions alone and conveys to us how she can’t afford to let her tough mask slip for a second.
I think this story is the most poignant and relatable out of the four. I can imagine anyone who has been through a divorce where children have been involved will be able to relate to at least some moments in this one.
The dialogue in this story is very funny and sharp. The trouble is though that much of the dialogue is the sort that you just never hear in real life. I think that the use of such dialogue ends up taking you out of the film, because it comes across as contrived, even if it is very funny and clever.
The good performances by Alan Alda and Jane Fonda keep me interested and invested in this story. There are also some beautiful locations featured in this story that I really enjoy looking at.
While I do like the film quite a bit, I do think that it is one which is a bit hit and miss. Neil Simon’s dialogue is hilarious throughout, but some of the dialogue does come across as being very contrived. Most of the characters aren’t very well developed either, which means that we don’t really care about them that much. The performances in all of the four stories more than make up for these issues though.
A few fun facts about the film.
Maggie Smith would ironically end up winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance here as an insecure actress. While I do like her performance here, it is far from one of her very best screen performances. Is her performance really Oscar worthy? It’s good, but I don’t think it was Oscar worthy at all.
Eagle eyed viewers will spot James Coburn. He is playing Diana’s co-star in the film she is up for an Oscar for. A clip featuring James and Maggie plays in the scene on the plane at the beginning of the film.
The scene where Diana and Sidney arrive at the Oscars was actually filmed at the real 50th Oscars ceremony, which was held in April,1978.
The hotel featured in the film is the Beverly Hills Hotel. Large numbers of celebrities have stayed at the hotel over the years. The actor Peter Finch suffered a fatal heart attack in the lobby of the hotel, in January, 1977.
What do you think of the film? Which of the stories is your favourite?
The big event has finally arrived! Over the next two days, some truly wonderful classic film bloggers will be submitting their articles and reviews about the life and career of James Mason.
Keep checking back to this post over the next couple of days. I’ll be updating this post as the entries come in.
Message dated 06.10.2018. Hello everyone. Please forgive me for not stopping by and leaving you any comments on your sites at the moment. I am not well( a chronic health condition), and I don’t have the strength to be on here much at the moment. I promise that I’ll visit all your sites as soon as I can.
Day 2 Entries
Critica Retro tells us about the time James starred alongside Barbara Bel Geddes in Caught.
Musings Of A Classic Film Addict writes about a little known film called The Seventh Veil.
I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I really love watching films focusing on two very different characters who get thrown together by chance. I love watching such characters work to overcome their differences, and in the process of doing so slowly begin to like and trust one another.
The most famous example of this type of film has to be John Huston’s The African Queen (1951). I like that film quite a bit, but despite my fondness for it, the film has never been able to claim the place in my heart which is held by Huston’s later film Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. I find that I care far more about Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum’s characters, than I have ever cared about Bogie and Hepburn’s characters in The African Queen.
I also like Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison more because I think that it is the more serious and touching film of the two. The film is part war film and part romantic drama. The film also features a good mix of action, suspense, drama and comedy.
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is based upon the 1952 novel of the same name by Charles Shaw. John Huston co-wrote the screenplay for this film with John Lee Mahin. The film was shot on location on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
The film is set in the Pacific during WW2. The story begins with an American Marine, Corporal Allison(Robert Mitchum)floating on the ocean in a life raft. He has become separated from his comrades during a naval battle. The corporal’s raft washes up on the beach of a remote island in the South Pacific.
The first meeting between the Marine and the Nun. Screenshot by me.
While he is walking around exploring the island, he comes across a small building and he is astonished to discover that it is occupied by a Catholic nun called Sister Angela(Deborah Kerr). Only after he has been assured that she is well and in no danger, does the corporal lie down and take a well deserved sleep. What a gent he is! 🙂
Sister Angela is alone on the island, she has only been living there for a few days herself. She has been alone since the death of the priest she was working with a few days earlier. The pair had been taken to the island by some natives to help evacuate another priest who lived on the island.
When Sister Angela and the priest had arrived on the island, they soon discovered that the other priest had already been removed by Japanese forces, and then they were stranded there when the natives who brought them over got frightened and abandoned them.
Sister Angela and Corporal Allison are hesitant of one another at first, but as they spend more time together they begin to start liking each other very much.
The Corporal’s feelings deepen into romantic love and he tells Sister Angela that he wants to marry her, so that he can take care of her forever.
We can see that the pair like one another very much, but Sister Angela, in a firm but very gentle way, makes it quite clear to Corporal Allison that she has devoted herself to serving God and that she will never marry or have physical relations.
Corporal Allison struggles to get his head around her decision to never allow herself romantic love. This leads him to deliver this funny and touching outburst: “If ya gotta be a nun, why ain’t ya old and ugly? Why do ya gotta have big blue eyes, a beautiful smile and freckles?”
I find Corporal Allison’s outburst to be very moving because we have seen him pluck up the courage to express his feelings to her, and he feels hurt and embarrassed that he has opened himself up like that only to be rejected. She is kind to him afterwards and they both try not to let things get awkward after that declaration of love and longing.
Things are further complicated when Japanese forces land on the island. The Corporal must try and protect the two of them from the Japanese soldiers who are moving around the island.
Later in the film the Corporal must do all he can to save the life of Sister Angela when she becomes seriously ill with a fever.
As the film goes on Sister Angela slowly begins to leave her rather naive belief that all humans are good far behind her. Sister Angela begins to understand and accept the darker and harsher realities of life. She may not approve of Corporal Allison killing people, but she understands that his actions are necessary for their survival.
With the Pacific war going on around her, Sister Angela is also becoming more aware of the evil acts that humans are capable of. She never loses her belief and hope that people can change their ways and become more decent, the time she spends with Corporal Allison proves to her that people are capable of changing for the better.
Corporal Allison in turn tries to alter his behaviour and manners so that he doesn’t offend or upset Sister Angela. He starts out as a very gruff and blunt man, yet as the film goes on he becomes a much gentler and thoughtful man. Through spending time with Sister Angela he also begins to see that not all human beings are cruel and out for whatever they can get.
By the end of the film Corporal Allison has become a very different person than the one we saw at the beginning. He may well not be able to give up his life in the corp(which is all he has ever known), but I have a strong suspicion that he will be a very different person with a very different outlook on life when he returns home.
Sister Angela and Corporal Allison can go back into society at the end of the film, with each of them having acquired a far better understanding of the human condition than they had before they encountered one another.
Interestingly the film also shows us that Corporal Allison and Sister Angela are both similarly devoted to the institutions they each belong to (Sister Angela to the Catholic Church, and Corporal Allison to the United States Marine Corps), and that both of these institutions are somewhat similar, both in terms of their rituals and traditions, and also because of how people involved with both institutions devote themselves to living that way of life.
The performance of Deborah in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is amazing. She totally convinces as Sister Angela. She radiates decency and warmth.
Deborah also has an innocence and sweetness about her in this which I think perfectly contrasts with the rugged, world-weary personality of Robert’s stranded Marine.
Deborah is particularly excellent in the scene where the island is being bombed and Sister Angela is very frightened by the loud noises. She also totally convinces us that her character is seriously ill during the fever sequences.
Robert Mitchum is equally as good as the worldly Marine. His performance here has all the toughness and don’t mess with me attitude present in so many of his Noir films, yet Robert is also at his most vulnerable here.
Robert’s performance lets you see how much the Corporal is struggling with his feelings for Sister Angela and struggling with himself as to whether he should bring his feelings out into the open. It’s one of my favourite performances from Robert. This film is said to have been his own personal favourite from his own work.
Deborah and Robert would become good friends after working on this film. Robert had initially thought that Deborah would be very prim and proper like many of her screen characters had been. His assumptions were happily proven wrong after she swore at director John Huston during a take, this caused Robert to collapse laughing and after that the pair got on just fine. 🙂
Deborah and Robert would go on to star alongside each other in The Sundowners, The Grass Is Greener and Reunion At Fairborough(TV film). Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr are in my top five acting screen teams. I like them together so much because they always manage to convince us of the emotional bonds developing between their characters in their four films.
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a lovely and moving film.I highly recommend it, not only to fans of Deborah and Robert, but to anyone who appreciates a well told story with a strong focus on the characters and actors.
My favourite scenes are the following. The corporal’s confession about his feelings for Sister Angela. The scenes where he is nursing her when she has the fever. The scene where he comforts her in the cave during the bombing. Sister Angela watching Corporal Allison standing on the beach looking out to sea. Where he tells her it has been a privilege to know her, and she says he will always be her dear companion. The scene where he sings Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree and they dance on the beach. The scene where he is drunk.
As well as the great acting to enjoy, there are also some lovely locations to look at and there is a good score by Georges Auric to enjoy.
Any other fans of this one? What are your thoughts on Deborah’s performance in this one?
Crystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood is hosting this second annual blogathon celebrating Lauren Bacall. Be sure to visit Crystal’s site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
For this blogathon I’ve decided to write about To Have and Have Not, which is my favourite Lauren Bacall film.
Whenever I watch this film, I always find it so hard to believe that Lauren’s performance in this was actually her film debut.
Lauren is so natural and confident in this film, that I for one really can’t tell that she is a beginner actor. Lauren steals every single scene she is in, and it is her performance as the feisty Slim that I always remember the most when the film is over.
Lauren was nineteen years old when she was cast by director Howard Hawks in this film. Up to this point in her life she had been working as a model. Lauren’s photo had been spotted on the front cover of a magazine by Nancy “Slim” Keith, who was the wife of Howard Hawks. Slim showed Lauren’s photo to her husband. Howard sought Lauren out and signed her up for his upcoming film To Have And Have Not.
The film was based upon the 1937 novel of the same name, which had been written by Ernest Hemingway. Hawks changed the story location from Key West to Martinique during WW2. Hawks kept the main plot of the novel, but he focused most intently on the relationship that develops between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s characters. I’ve never seen it, but apparently the 1950 film The Breaking Point is a much more faithful screen adaptation of Hemingway’s novel.
I don’t think that Lauren Bacall could have possibly envisaged how much this film would end up changing her life. Not only did this film help to make her a star, but working in this film also changed her personal life forever.
During the making of this film, Lauren and her co-star, Humphrey Bogart, fell in love with each other and began an affair. Their affair led to Bogie divorcing his wife, the actress Mayo Methot, and marrying Lauren in 1945. Bogie and Bacall’s marriage lasted until Bogie’s death from cancer in 1957.
The chemistry between Bogie and Bacall is evident on screen in all four of the films they made together. In To Have and Have Not, I think that their chemistry is absolutely electric. Most of their scenes ooze with sexual tension and a genuine affection for one another.
I love that we are not watching two actors pretending to be in love in this film, we are actually witnessing the actors real feelings and longing for one another. As the characters of Slim and Harry fall in love with one another in the film, so to do Bogie and Bacall.
Harry and Slim set eyes on each other for the first time. Screenshot by me.
When we watch this film, we are literally watching the mutual real life attraction between Bogie and Bacall develop and grow before our very eyes. The fact that the attraction between them is real helps the film immensely in my opinion. Their chemistry helps us to believe the growing bond and attraction developing between Slim and Harry.
Bogie and Bacall’s characters affectionately call one another by the nicknames of Steve and Slim, those nicknames were what Howard Hawks and his wife Nancy called one another. Bogart and Bacall would later name their own son Steve.
The relationship between Slim and Harry is one of my favourites from all of the equal romantic partnerships found in Howard Hawks films.
Both characters are fiercely independent and strong. Both characters also find something in the other that has been missing from their lives up until their point of meeting.
In Harry’s case he finds in Slim a woman who can live with him as an equal, a woman who can accept him for how he is, and a woman who isn’t afraid of risk or of hard times.
In Slim’s case she finds in Harry someone who she feels safe with, she also finds him to be someone who gives her a reason to finally stop drifting. When Slim and Harry are together they can have fun together, they can let their guard down, and they can be intimate and vulnerable with one another.
Slim is one of the best of the Hawksian women in my opinion. She is strong, confident, sassy, sexy, tough, and very intelligent. Slim has clearly been hurt in the past and is quite vulnerable, but she covers her pain with a tough and confident veneer.
Slim is also very forward in conveying her attraction to Harry. He loves how forward she is and he loves how confident she is around him. Their relationship is a mix of emotional connection, friendship and sexual attraction. They really are the perfect fit for one another.
The film takes place on the French island of Martinique during WW2. Martinique is under the control of the Vichy government, who are working with the Nazis. Harry Morgan(Humphrey Bogart)is a sardonic American fisherman. Harry makes a fairly good living chartering his boat out to tourists. He is helped by his alcoholic and loveable friend Eddie(Walter Brennan).
Eddie is the films comic relief and is always randomly asking people if they were ever stung by a dead bee. Many people laugh at Eddie and dismiss him as a drunk, but Harry looks after Eddie, gives him a job, and doesn’t take kindly to any nasty talk about him.
Harry is approached by Frenchy(Marcel Dalio)who is a member of the growing resistance movement. Frenchy asks Harry to use his boat to smuggle people off the island. Harry initially refuses(perhaps his refusal represents the neutrality of America during the early years of WW2?) to help out because he fears the consequences if he does.
Harry meets a young pickpocket called Marie Browning(Lauren Bacall). He nicknames her Slim, and she nicknames him Steve. The pair develop an instant attraction and like each other very much. Harry changes his mind and agrees to help the resistance out.
Slim also gets involved with Harry and the resistance and helps them out however she can. Harry and his friends must try and evade the notice of the watchful officials.
The film highlights the dangers that the members of the resistance were always in. The film also reminds us how much the brave men and women who were a part of that risked their lives.
I like that Harry changes his mind and lends the resistance a helping hand. As the film goes on he also becomes less sardonic and stops thinking of his own self interest. The film highlights the moral need in times such as WW2 for us all to pull together,overcome differences, stop thinking solely of ourselves, and bravely stand up and fight the enemy.
The film has lots of thrills, action and suspense. As is always the case in a Howard Hawks film, there is also a great deal of character development and focus, this makes the characters come across to us as being real people.
While the resistance story is very good, I would have liked to have seen more of that storyline and a bit more of the risks the characters involved are taking. I think it is fair to say that what makes this film so memorable is the relationship between Harry and Slim, rather than the resistance storyline. I’m quite sure that this film would not be as much of a classic today if Bogie and Bacall had not been cast in the roles of Harry and Slim.
My favourite scenes are the following. The opening sequences on Harry’s boat with the tourist fisherman. The “you do know how to whistle”? scene. Slim and Harry being questioned by the authorities. Harry protecting Slim in the shootout, and in the middle of all that she totally keeps her cool and jokes that she has sat on a cigarette.
All the cast are very good here, but Lauren steals every single scene she is in. It was quite an achievement for Lauren to manage to hold her own opposite all the experienced actors she was working with in this. A new classic film star twinkled into existence in this film. The name of that star was Lauren Bacall.
I recently discovered a radio series on YouTube which stars Bogie and Bacall. I’m really enjoying working my way through it. The series is called Bold Venture. It aired between 1951 and 1952. The series is clearly influenced by To Have And Have Not. It’s all about the adventures of Shannon(Bogie)and his sidekick/love interest nicknamed Sailor(Lauren). It’s well worth a listen to if you’ve never heard it before. Perhaps we could imagine the radio series to be the continuing adventures of Slim and Steve?
What do you think of this film? What do you think of Lauren’s debut performance here?
On behalf of myself and Crystal, I would just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has joined us to celebrate Joseph Cotten.
You’ve all written excellent articles and reviews, and these have all shown me that Joseph is still very much a beloved star today.
I’m still trying to get round everyone and comment on your entries, but I’m afraid that I’m not well at the moment, and I have so much stuff going on right now. I will try and get to your blogs as soon as I can. x
Please be sure to check out Poppity’s post for the blogathon, which was published yesterday. She discusses Joseph’s performance in Under Capricorn.
We are both really looking forward to reading all of your reviews and articles over the next three days. Thanks again for joining us in this celebration of Joseph Cotten and his films. Check back to this post throughout today to see the entries.
Day 1 Entries
Cinematic Scribblings discusses Lo Scopone Scientifico, which is a lesser known film starring Joseph Cotten and Bette Davis.
Moon In Gemini tells us about the time that Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright reunited on screen in The Steel Trap.
Mike’s Take On The Movies reviews Two Flags West, a film set during the American Civil War.
The Midnite Drive-In discusses Joseph’s performance in The Hearse.
My most treasured gift this Christmas has been this beautiful book about Ava Gardner. It is a glossy book focusing on her film career. It also discusses her early years (which I found most interesting)and her private life.
Some information featured in it I already knew about, but there was much revealed here that I wasn’t aware of. I also learnt a great deal more about her early years, and how she started out as an MGM starlet.
The book includes so many beautiful photos of Ava, many of which are new to me. The book is worth buying for the photos alone.
Ava’s personality comes through strongly in this book. I have always liked Ava because she was her own person. She was kind, fun, outgoing and she did her own thing. Ava was a free spirit and was someone who was very down to earth, despite her worldwide fame and position in life.
She treated everyone the same; be they cast or crew, adoring fans, or simply an ordinary person who she met by chance. I also like how Ava treated black and white people equally and had many black friends in a time when racism was rife. This book made me like her even more than I already did.
The book also conveys how deeply insecure and shy Ava was. She didn’t think much of her acting talents, and she was also a very private woman who didn’t like media attention.
Kendra and Anthony have clearly done their research and it really shows. The book is not only beautiful to look at, but is also a very interesting and entertaining read. The book captures the woman behind the beautiful and glamourous screen image and helps bring her to life. I also really like how they focused more on her film performances and acting ability than on her personal life. They show us that there was more to this woman than just her good looks and highly publicised personal life.
This would make a perfect gift for fans of Ava, or for someone who loves classic era films. The way this book has been put together means it’s ideal to read in a group. You can gather together and flick through the book, lay it out on a table and look through it.
Physically it is a very glossy and high quality book. I highly recommend this one to fans of Ava.
Oh, and be sure to go and stop by Kendra’s beautiful blog Viv and Larry.com to learn more about Vivien Leigh and her husband Laurence Olivier.
Catherine over at Thoughts All Sorts is hosting this blogathon all about films that feature colours in their titles. Be sure to visit her site to read all the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
I’m writing about one of my all time favourite films. That film is the 1948 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger classic, The Red Shoes.This is one of the most visually stunning and beautiful films ever made in my opinion.
Artistic, imaginative, romantic, absorbing, and quite moving; this film truly has something in it for everyone to enjoy.
I would like to talk a little bit now about Powell and Pressburger themselves. The pair began working together in 1939, on the WW2 spy thriller, The Spy In Black.
The pair founded their own production company called The Archers in 1943. Their distinctive film logo (an arrow being fired into an archery target)becameas famous as the films it appeared at the beginning of.
The majority of Powell and Pressburger’s films were quite different from any other films being made at the time. Their films were visually imaginative and very impressive. These films were more like works of moving art than traditional films. The uniqueness and artistic look of their work is a major factor for me in liking their films so much.
Powell and Pressburger were completely different from other filmmakers of the time, and they created films that really took you out of your own life (in a major way)for a few hours. Their films are beautiful to look at and really draw the audience in.
From time to time though they could also make the sort of films that the public were more used to seeing; films such as The Small Back Room, The Spy In Black and 49th Parallel. Their collaboration came to an amicable end in 1957, and they remained friends for the rest of their lives. Their films were not instantly acclaimed as classics upon release and it took several decades for them to receive praise and appreciation.
Director Martin Scorsese is a big fan of their work and he has done so much to bring their films to the attention of audiences today. Powell was also married for the last few years of his life to Scorsese’s regular editor, Thelma Schoonmaker.
Powell and Pressburger became famous for the use of Technicolor in their films. In The Red Shoes they once again use Technicolor to its best possible effect. They, along with their regular cinematographer Jack Cardiff, created magic and moving art on screen. Their use of colour was a big part of the unique look of so many of their films. Their colour films are so rich and vibrant, and it is the look of this particular film that lingers in the mind long after it has finished.
This filmmaking managed to use Technicolor in a way that had never been done before, nor has it been achieved in films since. This team prove what filmmakers are capable of achieving should they put their minds to it. Their films are pure art and they are rightly praised and admired by film fans and filmmakers today.
Moving on to the film itself. In The Red Shoes (long before Black Swan) we are shown the sacrifices that have to be made by ballerinas for their art. They push themselves extremely hard, and for some there can be nothing else apart from the ballet in their life, they give all they are to their art. We also see that their dedication to their art can make them ill if they push themselves too hard either physically or mentally.
The Red Shoes is based upon the fairytale by Hans Christian Anderson. It is all about a young girl who puts on a pair of red shoes. Once she does she soon finds that she cannot take them off. She also finds that they make her dance everywhere she goes. She cannot make herself even stop for a rest. In her despair she turns to a woodcutter for help, he chops off her feet to ease her suffering. As she lies in his arms,the shoes dance off still containing her feet within them. Off those shoes go, forever continuing their eternal dance around the land. Can you believe that was a children’s story? It made a big impact on me when I first read it. This story and the images it conjures up have stayed with me to this day.Some dark stuff for sure.
The film (thankfully)does not focus too much on that story. We instead focus on a young ballerina who must choose between her career with the ballet, or her own personal life and having love in that life.
Vicky Page (Moira Shearer)is a young ballet dancer who attracts the attention of Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). He is the head of world famous ballet company, The Ballet Lermontov. He sees great potential in Vicky.
When his lead dancer, the adored Irina (Ludmilla Tcherina), leaves his company to get married, Lermontov gives Vicky Irina’s position in the company. Vicky finds lasting fame in the ballet community as the lead in a ballet written especially for her. That ballet is the Red Shoes, and it is based on the tale by Hans Christian Anderson.
As her success and talent grows, Boris falls in love with Vicky and he is determined to keep her with him at all costs. Vicky likes and respects him but she doesn’t return his feelings, instead she falls in love with young musician Julian Craster (Marius Goring). He offers her a life away from the pressures of the ballet.
Lermontov becomes jealous of the young couple, and soon Vicky finds herself forced to choose between her career and her life with Julian.It is extremely difficult for her as she loves both equally and becomes emotionally torn between them. Soon she starts to become ill from all this pressure.
Fourof the films leading actors were ballet dancers at the time of the films release. Moira Shearer (playing Vicky), Robert Helpmann (playing Ivan, the much respected lead dancer of the Lermontov ballet), Ludmilla Tcherina (playing Irina) and Leonide Massine (playing Grisha, the temperamental company choreographer).Each of these get their own chance to shine in various dance sequences throughout the film.
The standout sequence in the film is the ballet of the Red Shoes. The sequence in its entirety lasts around fifteen minutes of screen time. The sequence is one of the most artistic and creepy things ever put on screen. I think it captures the beauty and artistry of ballet perfectly.
There are also several scenes in that sequence that feature bizarre and creepy images which for me bring to mind a nightmare. I’m specifically thinking of the scene where begins Vicky hallucinating things from her own life during the performance (such as the shoemaker transforming into Lermontov and Julian), and of the shots of men turning into paper figures and slowly falling to the ground, as Vicky’s uncontrollable, red clad feet dance amongst their fallen, limp figures. I’ve often wondered if the fallen figures represent people in the fairytale who die, while the girl in the red shoes lives forever dancing on, and on, and on?
Vicky dancing The Red Shoes Ballet. Screenshot by me.
It’s a dazzling sequence for sure and is a perfect blend of the art of ballet and of the art of film. There is also some clever camera trickery at work in it for the moment Vicky jumps into the red shoes and they lace themselves up. This shot still impresses when viewed today.
Anton Walbrook gives the standout performance of the film for me. He is a man driven by his dedication to his work who finds himself falling unexpectedly in love. Then he starts hating himself for getting drawn away from his work by his desire for Vicky, and also for the desire for a personal life away from his work.
To Lermontov the ballet is a calling, and he despises any of his dancers who choose personal life over their ballet work. He starts to hate himself as much as he hates anyone in his company who gets distracted. Walbrook steals every scene he is in with just a look. In many scenes he can be seen seething withjealousy and a barely repressed desire for Vicky. He makes you both pity and despise Lermontov at the same time.
Moira Shearer is excellent as the young woman given the career opportunity of her life. Her initial excitement soon transitions to weariness and short temper when she is under pressure. She really brings home the struggle that Vicky is enduring concerning the choice between her private and professional life.
Marius Goring is energetic as the dedicated and outgoing composer who cannot understand Vicky and Lermontov’s obsession with the ballet. He can offer Vicky happiness, but is she willing or able to accept it? Goring was one of the best character actors in all of British cinema, here he gets quite a bit of screen time and gets a real chance to shine. It’s nice to see him in a more major role for a change.
My favourite scenes are the following. Vicky climbing the stairs to Lermontov’s villa (this sequence looks like something straight out of a fairytale, and Vicky is like a Princess in that outfit she wears and it looks like she is exploring the grounds of a deserted castle.) The ballet of The Red Shoes. Vicky and Lermontov meeting for the first time at the party and he asks her “why do you want to dance?”, she replies “why do you want to live?” Julian and Vicky arguing during rehearsal about how she should dance during a particular music segment. The montage of Vicky and Ivan dancing in several ballet productions. Lermontov sitting in his apartment, alone, depressed and angry.
Like the fairytale upon which it’s based, this film has quite a dark edge to it and the ending is very bleak. Don’t let that put you off though, as it is truly worth watching. This film never fails to impress me and has become a real favourite over the years. It’s in my top five favourite Powell and Pressburger films too.
Be sure to watch either the special restoration DVD release of this, or check out the Blu-Ray version to see the film looking at its best.
What are your thoughts on this film? Please leave your comments below.