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The Daphne Du Maurier Blogathon: My Favourite Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My treasured Daphne Du Maurier collection.

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

The characters, situations, landscapes, furnishings, clothes etc all spring so clearly into my mind when I read her descriptions of them. No other author conjures up such clear images for me when I read their work. Daphne had that rare gift to be able to drag you into the times, places and situations that she was writing about, and she could make them all come alive so vividly for her readers. I also love how well developed and real her characters are. 

I especially love her strong heroines; ladies like Mary Yellan in Jamaica Inn; Lady Dona in Frenchman’s Creek; the nameless second Mrs. DeWinter and the dead Rebecca in Rebecca. Mary and Dona in particular are very interesting female characters because they don’t conform to the gender norms of their respective time periods.

Mary Yellan isn’t meek, and nor is she content to just sit quietly in the corner sewing. Mary is brave and fearless, and she also puts up with unhappiness and violence to stay with her timid and bullied Aunt Patience. Mary endures much, but she doesn’t allow herself to be broken by cruelty and darkness. She also has no illusions that love and relationships are always all sweetness and light either. Mary takes the rough with the smooth and isn’t cowed by anyone or anything.

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

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

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

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

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Jamaica Inn(1939). Image source IMDb.
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Video cover for Frenchman’s Creek(1998). Image source IMDb.

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

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Poster for Hungry Hill(1948). Image source IMDb.
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Rebecca(1940). Image source IMDb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Five Favourite Films Of The 1950’s Blogathon

50's Blogathon

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

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

 

5. Ice Cold In Alex (1958)

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

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

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

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

 

4. North By Northwest (1959)

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Cary Grant as Roger. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

 

3. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

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Sister Angela and Corporal Allison. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

 

2. A Night To Remember (1958)

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The Titanic sinks. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Joan Crawford blogathon

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

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Joan as Myra Hudson. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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Lester and Myra. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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Irene and Lester. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

                                  Myra overhears the murder plot. Screenshots by me. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Myra in fear for her life. Screenshot by me.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Audrey as Holly Golightly. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 – Sunset Blvd (1950)

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William Holden in Sunset Blvd. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

4- Sabrina (1954) 

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

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

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

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

3 – Breezy (1973)

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William as Frank Harmon. Screenshot by me.

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

The reason for his transformation is Breezy, an older teenager who falls in love with him. Despite their age gap, the pair develop genuine romantic and emotional feelings for each other. Frank struggles with what other people will think of their relationship, while Breezy doesn’t care and doesn’t understand why there has to be such a fuss made about age in relationships. I agree with her; if a relationship is consensual on both sides and the couple are happy, then why should anyone else care if there is an age gap between a couple?

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

2 – Stalag 17 (1953)

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William as J.J Sefton. Screenshot by me.

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

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

1 – Paris When It Sizzles (1963)

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favourite William Holden performances?

 

 

 

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

CMBA Blogathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                     Rita’s new screen image. Screenshots by me. 

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

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

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Elsa and Michael. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Stewart Granger Blogathon Begins

Stewart Granger Blogathon 3

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

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

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

 

Day 2 Entries

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

 

Critica Retro talks about Salome.

 

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

 

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

 

Day 1 Entries 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Stop Button writes about Moonfleet.

 

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

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The Stewart Granger Blogathon: Caravan(1946)

Stewart Granger blogathon 1

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

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Stewart as Richard Darrell. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jean Kent as Rosal. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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Anne Crawford as Oriana. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dennis Price as Francis. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

                                                 Rosal’s dance. Screenshots by me. 

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

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Rosal saves the badly injured Richard. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think of this film?

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

                                   The two faces of Charlotte Vale. Screenshots by me. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The damaged Charlotte. Screenshot by me.

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

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The cruel Mrs. Vale. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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The new Charlotte. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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Jerry and Charlotte. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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Charlotte and Jerry share a kiss. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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A happy moment for our couple. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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Charlotte comforts Tina. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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Charlotte and Jaquith. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think of this film? 

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Announcing The Noirathon

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

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

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

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

Have fun writing! Enjoy watching those Noir films!

The Participation List

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

Pale Writer: Dead Reckoning,  Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake

Screen Dreams: Barbara Stanwyck’s Noir Films

Films On The Box: Fear In The Night

Movie Movie Blog Blog II: Laura

Cinematic Scribblings: Brighton Rock(1948)

Caftan Woman: Thieves Highway

Poppity Talks Classic Film: They Live By Night

Realweegiemidgetreviews: Body Heat 

Overture Books And Film: The Killing 

Silver Screen Classics: The Asphalt Jungle

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

The Stop Button: In A Lonely Place

Portraits By Jenni: Pickup On South Street

The Old Hollywood Garden: Friendships In Film Noir

Critica Retro: Tension

Silver Screenings: Kansas City Confidential 

Pop Culture Reverie: Somewhere In The Night

The Midnite Drive -In: Noir Elements in Abbott And Costello

Stars And Letters: A Letter About The Killers

Realweegiemidgetreviews: John Wick 2 and 3

dbmoviesblog: Out Of The Past

Thoughts All Sorts: Sin City

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: The Dark Mirror

Shadowsandsatin: Try And Get Me

The Lonely Critic: High And Low

MovieRob: Scene Of The Crime, Sorry Wrong Number, Woman In The Window

MovieNightGroup: The Blue Gardenia

Noirish: The True Story Of Lynn Stuart

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Learning To Love Silent Films

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

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

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Poster for Metropolis. Image source IMDb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The great Lon Chaney Sr. Image source IMDb.

I think that the acting in these films is all about the actors conveying emotions to us, and in doing so they really make us feel their pain or joy. These actors do not need dialogue because they have the ability to convey to us what’s going on through expression alone. In my opinion no actor of the era was better at conveying emotion than Lon Chaney Sr. Lon was a very unique actor. He created and applied his own make-up to play disfigured characters. I really can’t recommend his films highly enough. I write about him and his career in detail here.  He was such a fascinating man. 

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

New To Silent Cinema?

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

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

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

Where To Begin With Silent Cinema?

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

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

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

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

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

A Silent Film That I Would Recommend To A Newbie?

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Shooting Stars. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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The Jean Harlow Blogathon: A Tribute To Jean

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

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

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

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

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Jean in Dinner At Eight. Image Source IMDb.

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

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

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

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

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

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Jean and Clark in Red Dust. Image Source IMDb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Publicity photo of Jean. Image Source Wikimedia Commons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                    The leaving the body scene. Screenshot by me. 

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

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Sherlock Jr is on the case. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

What do you think of this film?

 

 

 

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Farewell, Albert. Albert Finney (1936-2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Albert in Two For The Road. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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The Third Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon Arrives

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

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

Day 2 Entries

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

The Wonderful World Of Cinema shares her favourite Hitchcock film scenes

Overturebooksandfilms writes about the much underrated Saboteur

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

The Poppity writes about the much maligned Marnie

Critica Retro tells us about the unmade Hitchcock Silent films

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

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

Portraitsbyjenni talks all about The Lady Vanishes

Movie Rob shares his top 10 Hitchcock films

Taking Up Room tells us all about The 39 Steps

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

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

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Day 1 Entries

Pale Writer discusses Hitchcock Blondes

The Humpo Show shares his thoughts on Suspicion

I tell you about my four favourite Hitchcock couples

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

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

The Old Hollywood Garden talks about the Macguffin

Stars And Letters shares correspondence about the making of Rebecca

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

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

Sparksfromacombustiblemind discusses The Birds

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The Second Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon: Day One

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

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

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

Day One Entries

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Stop Button writes about The Purchase Price. 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Barbara as Naomi. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Naomi and Dutch Screenshot by me.

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

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

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Lori and Lotte. Screenshots by me.

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

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

 

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Announcing The Stewart Granger Blogathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Caravan

Pale Writer: Love Story and Footsteps In The Fog

Pleasant Street: The Man In Grey

Realweegiemidgetreviews: The Wild Geese

The Stop Button: Moonfleet

Mikestakeonthemovies: The Secret Invasion

Dubsism: King Solomon’s Mines

Catftan Woman: The Last Hunt

MovieRob: Sodom And Gomorrah and The Secret Invasion

The Midnite Drive-In: North To Alaska

Poppity: Scaramouche and Fanny By Gaslight

Critica Retro: Salome

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

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Stewart Granger Blogathon 2

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How Woodfall Films Changed British Cinema Forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eugene and Kate have a talk. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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The Seventh Annual What A Character Blogathon: Marius Goring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Conductor meets Peter. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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Marius as Mr. Perrin. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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The Seventh Annual What A Character Blogathon: Sara Allgood

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

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

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

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

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Formal photo of Sara Allgood. Image Source IMDb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Announcing The Second Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon

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

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Barbara in All I Desire. Screenshot by me.

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

The subject of our blogathon is the legendary Barbara Stanwyck. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Particpation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: All I Desire

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

                       Pale Writer: Christmas In Connecticut  and The Thorn Birds

A Shroud Of Thoughts: The Lady Eve

Love Letters To Old Hollywood: Ball Of Fire

Wide Screen World: Three episodes of the Barbara Stanwyck Show

Down These Mean Streets: Double Indemnity

Vinnieh: No Man Of Her Own

Caftan Woman: Banjo On My Knee

Poppity Talks Classic Film: The Two Mrs. Carrolls

Silver Screen Classics: Sorry,Wrong Number

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

Top 10 Film Lists: Barbara Stanwyck And Film Noir

The Story Enthusiast: Lady Of Burlesque

Realweegiemidgetreviews: The Colbys

The Stop Button: The Purchase Price

Movie Rob: Stella Dallas and Ball Of Fire

Dubsism: The Big Valley

Taking Up Room: Titanic

Critica Retro: The Mad Miss Manton

The Dream Book Blog: The Locked Door

The Midnight-Drive In: Forty Guns

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The World War One On Film Blogathon Begins

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

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

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

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

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Day 2 Entries

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

 

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

 

The Wonderful World Of Cinema discusses See You Up There.

 

18 Cinema Lane shares her impressions of watching Lawrence Of Arabia 

 

Movie Rob discusses The Fighting 69th.

 

Critica Retro discusses the powerful film J’Accuse.

 

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

 

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

 

Caftan Woman discusses the deeply moving Broken Lullaby

 

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

 

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

 

 

Day 1 Entries

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

 

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

 

Realweegiemidgetreviews writes about the deeply moving film My Boy Jack.

 

Down These Mean Streets discusses the romantic weepie Waterloo Bridge.

 

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

 

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

 

Wads Words discusses The Big Parade.

 

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

 

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

 

I share my five favourite films about WW1.

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The James Mason Blogathon: My Three Favourite James Mason Performances

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James Mason was one of the finest actors of his generation. He could play chilling villains, decent and gentle heroes, and complex and intriguing characters. His brooding and intense expressions coupled with that voice of his made him quite the screen presence indeed. 

I would like to share my three favourite screen performances from James Mason. The films are all excellent too, and I recommend them all to anyone who hasn’t seen them before. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Pandora And The Flying Dutchman are two of my favourite films of all time. 

 

Pandora And The Flying Dutchman(1951)

In this haunting and poetic love story, James plays Hendrick van der Zee, a cursed man who is doomed to live in the world for all eternity. He must live onboard the vessel known as the Flying Dutchman. He can break free of his curse, but only if he finds a woman who loves him so much that she will willingly die for him.

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James as Hendrick. Screenshot by me.

James is terrific in this role. He conveys the tenderness and longing his character feels for the woman he loves, and also the fear of getting too close to her, as he doesn’t want her to die if she is the woman who could break his curse. He also convinces in the scene where we see the moment of jealousy and madness that led him to be cursed in the first place.

James has this otherworldly air about him in this, and this aura really helps us buy into him being a man who has walked the earth for centuries. He and Ava Gardner manage to convince us that their characters souls are calling out to one another. 

The monologue James delivers during the flashback sequence is truly a performance for the ages. This is a film that I return to again, and again, and again. James Mason’s performance plays a major part in my love for this one.

 

 

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954)

This was the first film that I ever saw James Mason in. Every single time I watch this film, I am always struck most by how complex and intriguing James managed to make Captain Nemo.

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James as Captain Nemo. Screenshot by me.

At times James makes Nemo frightening and intense. At other moments he allows us to see this man’s inner torment and hopes, and we really sympathise with him and admire him .

I have never seen any other actor play this character quite like James Mason did. James really managed to capture the varied facets of Nemo’s tormented soul. It is a remarkable performance, and it is one that is still highly fascinating and powerful when viewed today. The film is cracking too!

 

 

Bigger Than Life (1956)

James plays Ed Avery, a middle aged teacher who becomes addicted to some prescribed medication. His entire personality changes due to the effects of the drug. He goes from being a loving, warm and gentle husband and father, to becoming a tyrannical brute. His family become afraid of him and he won’t listen to the advice from anyone around him. 

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James as Ed. Screenshot by me.

If you want to see what a good actor James Mason was, then this film is one that you should check out. His performance here really is extraordinary. At times he makes us  despise Ed for his actions brought on by the medication, and yet at other times he makes our hearts break with his plight.

James does a terrific job of conveying Ed’s pain, fear and uncontrollable behaviour to us. It’s one of his best screen performances as far as I’m concerned. I never get tired of watching this film and enjoying James Mason’s magnificent performance in it.

 

What do you think of James Mason’s performances in these films? What are your favourite performances from him?

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The Deborah Kerr Blogathon Begins

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The big day has finally arrived! Today is the day that we all come together to discuss the life and career of the great Deborah Kerr.

Today is also special, because if she had still been with us, Deborah would have been celebrating her birthday today. Happy Birthday, Deborah. You are missed by classic film fans the world over.

A number of truly wonderful bloggers have penned reviews and articles about Deborah and her films. Thank you so much for joining me to celebrate Deborah Kerr.

Check back to this post throughout the day. I will be linking back to all the articles as they come in. Happy reading. 

 

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The Entries

Palewriter2 starts the Deborah Kerr celebrations off. She shares her love for the romantic weepie An Affair To Remember. She also discusses Deborah’s three remarkable performances in The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp.

 

The Lady Eve’s Reel Life takes us on a frightening journey, as she discusses Deborah’s performance in the terrifying horror film The Innocents

 

Critica Retro writes about the time that Deborah starred alongside Robert Donat, in the romantic War drama Perfect Strangers.

 

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict visits Deborah for some Tea And Sympathy

 

The Stop Button discusses the hotel set drama Separate Tables.

 

Caftan Woman tells us all about Reunion At Fairborough, which was the final film that Deborah and Robert Mitchum worked on together. 

 

Movie Rob discusses Deborah’s performance in Edward My Son.

 

Poppity Talks Classic Film shares her opinions about Black Narcissus

 

Diary Of A Movie Maniac shares his thoughts on The End Of The Affair and Beloved Infidel.

 

Anybody Got A Match discusses The Hucksters, which was one of Deborah’s earlier films.

 

The Story Enthusiast tells us about the time Deborah joined Ava Gardner and Richard Burton for The Night Of The Iguana

 

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies discusses a selection of Deborah Kerr’s films.

 

I write about the Four Essential Deborah Kerr Performances . I also join Deborah and Robert Mitchum on a Pacific island in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.