This is the first post in a new blog series that I’m starting. I’ll be picking film actors and actresses and selecting what I consider to be their top five performances on film. The top five films will be picked solely for the quality of the individuals acting performances in those particular films.
To kick things off let’s start with Katharine Hepburn. This lady is one of the most talented actresses of the entire classic film era. As of this date she still holds the record of being the only leading lady to win four Academy Awards. She had a long and varied film career. She’s best remembered for the films she made with Spencer Tracy. Let’s take a look at her top five performances.
Katharine plays a very vulnerable and shy woman in this touching romantic drama from director David Lean. Set in Venice(and filmed on location)the story focuses on American tourist, Jane Hudson(Hepburn)as she visits Italy for the first time. She falls in love with the beauty and history of Venice, and also finds romance with Renato(Rossano Brazzi),the charming owner of a local glass store.
Katharine was famous for playing sassy, confident and strong characters, but here she plays the exact opposite. Jane is awkward, shy, inexperienced in love, and very vulnerable. Katharine tells us so much about this woman through the smallest gestures, her posture, or by the look in her eyes. Through Katharine’s performance, we can feel both Jane’s loneliness, and also her joy and excitement at her romantic awakening. This film is pretty underrated and it’s a shame that Katharine’s superb performance in this doesn’t get discussed more often.
Woman Of The Year (1942)
Katharine shines as the confident and capable journalist and feminist Tess Harding. Right away we see through Katharine’s performance that Tess is strong, independent and very feisty.
Not only does this film feature Katharine Hepburn at her very best, but it is also an important film as it marked the first collaboration between her and Spencer Tracy. The sparks fly between her and Spencer, especially during their first meeting in the office, which is one of the hottest scenes on film. Talk about instant attraction!🔥 Katharine is clearly having fun with this role and it shows in her performance. She’s so at ease as Tess and inhabits the character beautifully.
The Lion In Winter (1968)
Katharine and Peter O’Toole tear strips off each other, both verbally and emotionally, in this gripping royal domestic drama. Katharine steals every scene she is in as the strong and fearless Queen Eleanor.
What I like most about her performance in this one is that not only is she very funny and moving in many scenes, but she also allows us a peek beneath the mask to see the hidden woman behind the Queen’s iron facade. One of the best performances she ever gave. Her efforts on this film were rewarded with an Oscar.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The film that saved and resurrected Katharine Hepburn’s film career. Katharine’s performance here is pitch perfect. Her screen image completely changed with this film. As Tracy Lord she is sassy, glamorous, sexy, confident and easily hurt too. She gets quite a few speeches in the film and she handles those beautifully. When she’s not on screen you miss her because she dominates every second of film she appears in.
Katharine is excellent as the wealthy society heiress who longs to be valued for her personality, rather than for her beauty and status in society. Tracy is a flawed and somewhat difficult person, but she means well and longs for some happiness, and you can’t help but admire her. Katharine really makes us feel for Tracy and admire her strength. Katharine is supported wonderfully by James Stewart(who took home an Oscar for his performance) and Cary Grant. Katharine was nominated for an Oscar but lost to Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962)
Katharine’s performance as the drug addicted Mary Tyrone absolutely blew me away when I first saw it. She’s otherworldly and girl like one minute, then out of control and tragic the next.
Her performance here is all in the eyes, in the tone and level of her voice, and in her body language. You feel the emotional pain and get a good sense of how troubled and damaged this woman is. Katharine gives a remarkable performance here. Her work was Oscar nominated, but she lost to Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker.
Christmas will soon be here before we know it. The Christmas songs have already started to play non stop on the radio, decorations and lights can now be found in many homes and public spaces, and if we’re lucky some of us may even get some snow this year!
Every Christmas I always try and set aside time to watch my four favourite Christmas films. These four are not only lovely films, but they also really get me in the mood for Christmas. It will come as no surprise to you that all but one of these films is from the classic film era. I highly recommend all of these if you’ve never seen them before.
The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
This heartwarming story is the perfect blend of comedy and poignancy. Bishop Henry Brougham(David Niven) is extremely stressed and his personal life is suffering as a result. He is struggling to get funding for a new Cathedral and prays to heaven for some help. Help arrives in the form of the suave and kind angel, Dudley(Cary Grant). Dudley tries his best to help Henry during this difficult time, and he also tries to get Henry to reconnect with his family.
Dudley unexpectedly finds himself falling in love with Henry’s loving wife, Julia(Loretta Young). He (and us)know that there’s no way they can ever be together, so this makes their growing bond deeply moving to watch unfold.
Cary Grant was initially set to play the Bishop and David Niven was going to play Dudley the angel, but that was changed and instead we got Cary as the angel and David as the long suffering Bishop. It’s hard to imagine David and Cary in the opposite roles now. They are perfectly cast. This is such a lovely and uplifting film and makes for perfect Christmas viewing. I love the skating scene and the scene where Henry is stuck to a chair.🤣
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
I adore Frank Capra’s beautiful and deeply moving tale of second chances, love and heartbreak. James Stewart delivers one of the best performances of his entire career as George Bailey. We see this man brought to the darkest and lowest point that any of us can reach, and in his utter despair he attempts to kill himself. Saved by the loveable angel, Clarence(Henry Travers), George wishes he had never been born. Clarence shows him what would happen to those he loves, and to the town he grew up in, if he had never lived. What George sees sure ain’t pretty!
Now this certainly is pretty bleak content, and anyone who has never seen this before could well be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t exactly sound like the lovely Christmas film they’ve heard so much about. Think again. This film is uplifting, romantic and extremely touching. The film shows us that we have each had some sort of impact on someone in life. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of the most moving and powerful films of all time. My heart melts every time at the beautiful telephone scene, in which George and Mary realise they are in love. James Stewart proved with his performance in this what a strong dramatic actor he was capable of being, and his career went from strength to strength after this.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Brian Henson’s take on Charles Dickens tale of redemption and Christmas makes perfect Christmas viewing for adults and children alike. This was actually my introduction to Charles Dickens and to A Christmas Carol. This film holds a special place in my heart because of that.
Michael Caine gives one of his best performances as the grouchy Scrooge. The Muppet gang play most of the other characters. Kermit and Miss Piggy are adorable and funny as Bob and Emily Cratchit. What I love most about this film, is that it has all the emotion and darkness of the novel, while also being very accessible and fun for the little ones watching. It has a great soundtrack and many catchy songs. I especially love the first scene where we meet Scrooge and all the Muppets sing about him as he passes by.
White Christmas (1954)
This is my favourite Christmas film. I love the slowly developing relationships between the four main characters, and I love the dance sequences, songs and stunning costumes. This is a feast for the eyes and ears. The Mandy dance sequence is absolutely spectacular and showcases the dance skills of Vera-Ellen. I love The Sisters performance(those blue dresses are gorgeous)and it’s hilarious when Bing and Danny do their own version of that song later. Bing crooning White Christmas to homesick and traumatised soldiers is a very touching moment.
This heartwarming tale sees WW2 entertainers Bob(Bing Crosby)and Phil(Danny Kaye) putting on a show at a cosy inn in Vermont. The show is being put on to raise money for their formal commanding officer, General Waverley(Dean Jagger), who is having financial problems. The lads are aided by dancing and singing sisters, Judy(Vera-Ellen)and Betty(Rosemary Clooney). As they work to bring some Christmas magic into the General’s life, Bob falls for Betty, and Judy and Phil fall deeply in love. Poignant, uplifting and so much fun. This lovely film is the perfect way to begin Christmas. The great Mary Wickes steals all the scenes she’s in, as the General’s no-nonsense and loyal housekeeper, Emma.
I just want to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. I hope you have a lovely time. My heart goes out to anyone whose Christmas table will be missing someone this year x. I am very grateful for all of you and want to say thanks for your support and friendship. x 🎄🎅 Merry Christmas!
Do you love these films? Share your own favourite Christmas films below.
Paula at Paula’s Cinema Club, Aurora at Once Upon A Screen, and Kellee at Outspoken And Freckled, are bringing back the What A Character Blogathon for it’s 8th year! This blogathon is devoted to the character actors of film. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. This time I’ve decided to shine the spotlight on the actor Henry Daniell.
When I see Henry’s name appear in the opening credits of a film, I always know that I’m about to be in for a real treat performance wise. That’s because Henry Daniell was one of those rare actors whose performances never disappointed. He was a master of his craft and he is always wonderful to watch.
Although he played many different characters throughout his career, he was especially adept at playing villains and authority figures. He could sneer and play cold or disdainful to perfection. He makes such a convincing villain that he makes you want to reach through the screen and slap him.
Henry is best remembered today for his excellent performance as the sneering, hardhearted, and very cruel headmaster, Mr. Brocklehurst, in Jane Eyre (1943). The character is utterly monstrous on paper, but in Henry’s hands, Brocklehurst becomes even crueller and more hateful than the man we may imagine when we read the book. Henry makes this man so odious and cold that you wonder if he is even human at all.
Henry in Jane Eyre. Screenshots by me.
Henry could dominate and steal even the smallest scene that he appeared in. He always brought his A game to every single performance. He was also one of those actors like George Sanders, Richard Burton, or Claude Rains, who had been blessed with a truly magnificent and distinctive voice. That voice was always used to great effect.
Henry Daniell was born in Barnes, London, on the 5th of March 1894. He made his UK stage debut in 1913. The following year he joined up to fight in WW1. Henry joined the 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment in 1914, and he fought with them until he was invalided out in 1915 after being severely wounded.
Henry made his Broadway stage debut in 1921, playing Prince Charles in Clair De Lune. He worked on stage throughout the 1920’s. Henry made his film debut in the 1929 version of The Awful Truth. In this film Henry plays Norman Warriner, the role which would later turn Cary Grant into a star in the 1937 remake. Sadly Henry’s version of this romantic comedy classic is now lost. I don’t know about anyone else, but I for one would have loved to have seen how he approached this role.
Over the next decade he appeared in many more films, most notably as the sleazy cad, Baron de Varville, in Camille(1936). This was the first film that I ever saw him in, and it is his performance in this film which made me want to see much more of his work.
Throughout the 1940’s he was in high demand as a villain, appearing in Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, The Sea Hawk, Jane Eyre,The Suspect, The Body Snatcher, and three of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films, in one of which he played Professor Moriarty. He was also in The Philadelphia Story as Sidney Kidd, the publisher of the magazine that Mike and Liz work for.
Here’s Henry in action opposite Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk(1940).
Throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s, Henry appeared often on television in guest roles. Some notable films and performances from the later part of his career include Witness For The Prosecution, in which he worked again with his co-star in The Suspect, Charles Laughton, Mister Cory(the film that he called one of his favourites from his own work), Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, and The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit.
His final film role was as the British Ambassador, in George Cukor’s 1964 film adaptation of My Fair Lady. His scenes alongside Audrey Hepburn at the Embassy Ball would sadly be the last he would ever shoot. Henry Daniell died of a sudden heart attack on October 31st, 1964. He was 69 years old.
He left behind him an incredible film legacy. He is one of my favourite character actors. I also consider him to have been one of the best character actors in the business. I hope he would be touched by how much love and respect there still is for his performances and films today. Never seen a Henry Daniell film? A cinematic treasure trove awaits your discovery, and I hope you enjoy exploring his screen work.
Beth at Spellbound By Movies and Le from Critica Retro are co-hosting this Blogathon dedicated to members of the film community with Lusophone heritage. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
I’m writing about the singer, actress, and civil rights activist, Lena Horne. I’ve been a big fan of Lena’s for many years now.She was a brave,strong, fearless and very talented woman, who just went right ahead and did her own thing. Lena Horne didn’t live or behave as some people thought she should do.
It is only because of this Blogathon that I’ve learnt something new about this great lady. I’ve learnt that Lena was of Lusophone heritage. Many thanks to Beth and Le for enabling me to learn something new about Lena.
I greatly admire Lena for having had the courage and strength to stand up for the rights of black people through her civil rights activism. She and the other activists quite rightly didn’t see why one group of people should be oppressed, killed, tormented and treated differently because of the colour of their skin, and they tried to do something to right those great wrongs. In addition to the other civil rights activities she was involved with, Lena also attended the famous March On Washington, in August 1963.
As well as admiring Lena as a person, I also utterly adore her as a singer. I love her very soft, yet strong singing voice.I especially love her versions of When I Fall In Love and Someone To Watch Over Me. Her version of The Lady Is A Tramp is cracking too.
Lena Horne was an American by birth. She arrived in this world on June 30th, 1917. Lena was born and raised in Brooklyn,New York, by her parents, Edwin Fletcher Horne Jr, and Edna Louise Scottron. Lena’s grandfather was the African American inventor Samuel R. Scottron. Lena was raised for several years by her grandmother, Cora Calhoun Horne, who was a campaigner for black rights and was also a suffragette. Lena had Lusophone heritage on both sides of her family, this was due to her ancestors being a mix of Native American, African American and European American people.
Lena’s rise to fame began in the 1930’s when she joined the chorus line of the New York Cotton Club in 1933. In 1934 Lena joined up with the African American Jazz composer/band leader Noble Sissle and his orchestra. Lena toured with Noble and his orchestra and also recorded her first records with them, these records were then released by Decca Records.
Lena married Louis Jordan Jones in 1937. The couple had two children, Edwin, who sadly died of kidney disease in 1970, and Gail, who would go on to marry the film director Sidney Lumet. Gail and Sidney’s daughter Jenny works as a screenwriter and actress. Lena and Louis divorced in 1944.
Lena moved on to work in the film industry in the late 1930’s. In 1938 she made her screen debut in a film called The Duke Is Tops. Lena plays Ethel, a popular singer who refuses to go and seek out the big time out of loyalty to the man who gave her her first career break. Even at this early stage of her career Lena oozed star quality. She’s got that magic glow and special something about her in this film.
Roger Edens, who was part of the Arthur Freed unit at MGM, spotted Lena performing at a nightclub and arranged for her to get a screen test. In 1942 she was signed to MGM for a seven year contract. Lena refused to play the stereotypical character types so often provided for black performers by the film industry, and that unfortunately caused some problems for her in the long run. Some black actors even took issue with her because the parts she objected to were ones which although not ideal, at least ensured they were able to get employment in the film industry.
Because Lena had a lighter shade of black skin, the studio tried to get her to pass herself off as a Latina, but Lena refused and embraced the fact that she was a black woman. It seems that nobody in the film industry really knew what to do with Lena, and I think that her film career reflects that, as her films/roles are really all over the place. But in defence of the studio for a minute, it can’t be denied that they did sign her for a long term contract, gave her some financial security for a time, and they also gave her the best costumes, cameramen, directors, hairstylists etc to work with when she did appear on screen. If only they could have been braver and helped make her into a star actress.
Lena’s first film for MGM was the musical Panama Hattie, which was made in 1942.The following year Lena’s real big break came when she was cast as the seductive and outgoing Georgia, in the all black cast film Cabin In The Sky. On the strength of her performance in this film I get so mad on her behalf that she didn’t receive more dramatic roles after her work in this one. She’s absolutely brilliant in this film and steals all the scenes she appears in. This film should have made her into a major film star. Her performance here reminds me somewhat of Dorothy Dandridge’s in Carmen Jones.
Also in 1943 Lena starred in the 20th Century Fox musical Stormy Weather. This film was a thinly veiled biopic of the great Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, who also starred alongside Lena in the film. Most of Lena’s film roles after these two films consisted of nothing else but her performing in stand alone song routines. Sadly due to the disgusting, ridiculous and incredibly infuriating racial laws around at the time, Lena’s musical sequences were often cut out when the films were shown down south. Crazy and shocking or what?!
In 1947 Lena upset the apple cart again (go on girl!) when she married Lennie Hayton, a white musical director at MGM. The couple were married until Lennie’s death in 1971.
Lena lobbied hard for the role of Julie LaVerne in the MGM film adaptation of the musical Show Boat. Lena had played the role of Julie in a musical sequence in the film Till The Clouds Roll By. She would have been perfect in the film, but she unfortunately lost out on the role to her friend Ava Gardner.
This casting choice perfectly sums up the idiocy of the times. A character who is a mixed race woman was played by a white woman, rather than give a black or mixed race actress the role. Lena stated that Ava was told to study Lena’s song recordings for the role, something which upset both women, and ultimately that came to nothing anyway because Ava’s singing voice ended up being dubbed by Annette Warren. Ava did record versions of some of the songs herself, but these were never used in the film, you can find those recordings online.
Here’s Lena’s beautiful and quite moving version of Can’t Help Loving That Man.This clip gives us a taste of what she could have been like in the film Show Boat.
Lena went on tour with the U.S.O to entertain American troops during WW2. She was appalled that seating for these shows was either segregated by the Army, or that seating arrangements placed German POWs in front of black US Army personnel. Lena staged her shows for mixed audiences. She often walked off stage to where the black servicemen were seated, and then sang directly to them with her back to the white audience members.
By the 1950’s Lena had become disenchanted with Hollywood and she chose to focus instead on her nightclub career. She would appear regularly on TV from the late 1950’s through to 1970’s, performing in many variety shows and TV specials. She was blacklisted during the Communist Witch Hunts, this was because of her activism and her friendship with actor and singer Paul Robeson, who actually did have Communist sympathies and was himself blacklisted.
In 1981 Lena was the star of a Broadway musical revue created specially for her – Lena Horne: The Lady And Her Music, which ran for 333 performances from May 12th 1981, to June 30th(Lena’s Birthday)1982. Lena also toured with the show abroad. Lena won several awards because of her performance in the show, including a Tony and a Grammy, Quincy Jones who produced the cast album for the show also received a Grammy.
In 1969, Lena once again took a dramatic role in a film, this time playing the girlfriend of Richard Widmark’s sherriff, in Death Of A Gunfighter. In 1978 she played Glinda in The Wiz, an all black cast version of The Wizard Of Oz.
Lena Horne died in 2010, aged 92. This incredible woman left behind one hell of a musical and film legacy for us to enjoy. She also helped break barriers for future generations of black actors and singers. She is a fascinating woman who stood up for what was right, and who was fiercely proud of who she was and of her heritage. Do yourself a favour and listen to her songs, watch her films, and read about her life. You won’t regret spending time in the company of the remarkable Miss Lena Horne.
If she was still here with us, classic film actress and real life Princess, Grace Kelly, would be celebrating her 90th Birthday this year. To mark this special occasion, Ginnie at The Wonderful World Of Cinema, Emily at The Flapper Dame, and Samantha at Musings Of A Classic Film Addict, are co-hosting the 5th Grace Kelly Blogathon. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
As this blogathon is the fifth one devoted to Grace and her work, I’ve decided to highlight five Grace Kelly films that I think everyone should see. Some of these films helped to make her into a cinematic icon, while others contain some of her best work as an actress. I feel that these five films also show her range as an actress.
To Catch A Thief (1955)
In her third and final collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock, Grace plays a cool and adventurous heiress called Francie Stevens. This character is clever, observant and fearless. She is also very sexually forward. Francie knows what she wants and she goes right after it. Grace keeps us intrigued by her character and keeps us guessing about what her motives are. This is one of Grace’s most interesting screen performances in my opinion.
Francie has her suspicions that a former thief called John Robie(Cary Grant) is behind a series of recent thefts. She may be right or wrong, but she seems to enjoy the possibility of putting herself in danger and playing games with him.
Not only does Grace deliver a great performance, but she is also at her most beautiful and elegant in this film. She looks truly stunning wearing many gorgeous outfits designed by Edith Head. Those blue and white chiffon evening gowns are my favourite outfits that she ever wore on screen. You can read my full review of this film here.
High Noon (1952)
The film which started it all for Grace. While this wasn’t her debut role for either film or television, it was however the film which gave her the first really significant role of her career. High Noon was also the performance which made people really sit up and take notice of her.
Grace is excellent as Amy, the young and innocent Quaker bride of Gary Cooper’s brave town Marshal, Will Kane. I like how Grace conveys to us how much she is struggling to comprehend the world of violence with her pacifist beliefs. She starts off delivering a very quiet performance, but then later she becomes so passionate and emotional and lets us see how determined and strong she is capable of being. Grace famously didn’t think very highly of her own performance in this, but I think she was much better than she obviously seemed to think she was.
Rear Window (1954)
This is the film which really showed audiences just what Grace could do as an actress. Hitchcock had a real knack for changing an actors perceived screen image when they worked with him, and he changed Grace’s screen image from restrained good girl, to that of a sexy, strong and interesting woman of many talents.
Just as Jeff’s opinion and perceived image of Lisa changes as he finally sees the real woman beneath the beauty and glamour, so too do the audiences perception of Grace change. Her performance as Lisa Fremont has become Grace’s most famous role. This film is also the one which, in my opinion at least, turned Grace into a star and an icon of film and fashion. You can read my full review here.
The Country Girl(1954)
Many of Grace’s fans consider this film to feature her best performance. She won her only Oscar here for her portrayal of Georgie, the long suffering wife of Bing Crosby’s alcoholic singer, Frank Elgin. The Elgin’s formally happy life has been shattered by the death of their son. Frank has taken to the bottle to deal with his pain, while Georgie is left to deal with a double grief.
Grace brings a lot of heart and depth to her character. She truly makes us feel this woman’s grief and pain, while also getting us to admire her for her inner strength. Grace convinces us she is weary,desperate and at the end of her tether. She’s very moving in this and it’s hard to forget her performance once you’ve seen the film. This one is tough to watch but well worth it for the great performances.
This was Grace’s final film before she left America to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco. This one is my favourite Grace Kelly film. In this film she gets to play a character who is complicated and mixed up emotionally, and this means she gets to show her range as an actress all in the one performance. Grace’s character Tracy Lord is vulnerable, seductive, vivacious, funny, mean, sweet, often all in one scene!
On the strength of her performance in this film alone, I find it a crying shame that Grace never made another film again. In the few years that she had been in the spotlight, Grace Kelly had really grown as an actress. If you watch her films in chronological order, I think you can see her ability and confidence as a performer increase/improve with every performance.
High Society is the perfect swan song to Grace’s all too brief career. She delivers one of her best performances as Tracy Lord, a wealthy heiress struggling to decide which of the men in her life she really loves and wants to be with. I often wonder if Grace saw any parallels between herself and Tracy. For example both are women admired more for their external beauty and status than for the woman beneath – in Grace’s case her talents as an actress were often overlooked in favour of her beauty and fashion style. You can read my full review here.
I hope you will all join me in remembering a lovely lady, who was also a far better actress than many give her credit for. Happy Birthday, Grace. Thank you for leaving us with so many magical movie moments to enjoy. You and your work are still very much loved.
Are you a Grace Kelly fan? Leave your thoughts on her and her work below.
Yes it’s that time of year again, the time to celebrate all things Film Noir. Put on your trench coats and hats, pour yourself a glass of bourbon, and sit back and revel in a cinematic world of shadows, thrills, Femme and Homme Fatales and plenty of darkness and danger.
If pressed to choose just one film genre as my all time favourite, I would certainly have to go with Film Noir. Why is this genre such a favourite of mine? Because it’s so awesome. These films pushed against the restraints of the film censors and were extremely daring for the time in which they were made.
I also love these films because they reflect the truth of humanity back to those of us sitting in the audience. We all have good and bad within us, we are all complicated in some way, and we all do what we have to do to survive and get by in life. Noir films reflect this reality back at us. Noir also features some of the most interesting and complex characters in film history.
Following on from the horrors of WW2, 1940’s film audiences began to be bombarded with films which reflected the reality of the life they were living at the time. Not since the 1930’s gangster flicks had films been so gritty or violent. Noir films dished out a slice of real life for many viewers, and they captured the cynical and bleak mood of the times. People now were much more aware of the dark side of humanity, and everyone in some way had been affected by the darkness of the war. Noir films picked up on the mood of the times.
The Noir villains were ice cold and very nasty pieces of work, the women were independent, strong, and even manipulative; even the heroes themselves were not clear cut good guys. The public lapped these films up and they continued being made throughout the 1940’s and 50’s. Where 1940’s Noir was all about cynicism and the dark side of man, the Noir films of the 1950’s focused on the paranoia and fear about things like communism and Nuclear weapons.
Noir films weren’t just all crime thrillers set in the big city either, there were also a small series of films which have become known as Western Noir. These films at first glance were your typical Western, but on closer inspection you can see that they have characters and plots which fit the established tropes found in regular Noir. These films have femme fatales, outright bad guys who revel in violence, and the good guys who are more gray than white. My favourites of these are Ramrod(featuring Veronica Lake giving one of her best performances), The Furies(featuring Noir Queen Barbara Stanwyck) and Station West(featuring Dick Powell and Jane Greer).
It was the French film critics who first came up with a name for these dark crime films that we now know as Film Noir. The word they chose was Noir(meaning black or dark.) The French themselves also made many excellent Noir films; films such as LeJour Se Leve and Rififi for example. These moody and atmospheric films are among the very best in the genre. My favourite French Noir is Le Jour Se Leve, featuring an unforgettable lead performance by the great Jean Gabin.
Noir films are often very interesting visually. The black and white photography captures long, dark shadows,and creates an atmosphere unlike anything else, with the exception of the German expressionist films of the 1920’s. Darkness is everywhere in Noir films, it clings to all the characters like a suffocating fog. The photography and lighting are such important parts of these films, with so much of that Noir atmosphere and look down to the skill of the camera and lighting crews.
Another major and memorable part to a Noir film is the femme fatale. As a woman I love that these films offered such juicy roles for women to play. The Noir era was really the first time since the 1920’s, and pre-code 1930’s, that actresses had been offered such strong, complex and obvious bad girl roles. The femme fatales are overtly sexual, independent and sexually aggressive women. These gals know what they want and they go after it. Anyone today who says actresses didn’t start getting good roles until now, really need to go back and watch Noir, Pre-Code and Silent films to see that just isn’t the case at all.
Noir women are not content to stay at home cooking in the kitchen and looking nice for their men. They do their own thing. Some use men and then toss them aside without a second thought. My favourites amongst these women are Kathie (Jane Greer)in Out Of The Past, Vera(Ann Savage) in Detour,Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck)in Double Indemnity, Cora(Lana Turner) in The Postman Always Rings Twice and Elsa(Rita Hayworth) in The Lady From Shangahi, Peggy Cummins as Laurie(truly one of the most sexual and strong Noir women)in Gun Crazy.
A few femme fatales of Film Noir. Screenshots by me.
I think it must have been a lot of fun for the actresses to be able to play these women in this way. When you look at the roles of Noir actresses film credits, you’ll often find that their Noir characters are the most memorable and interesting roles of their career.
Mention Stanwyck, Bacall, Marie Windsor, Peggy Cummins or Lana Turner and what is the first film of theirs that usually gets mentioned? Nine times out of ten it is their Noir films such as Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, The Narrow Margin, Gun Crazy and The Postman Always Rings Twice respectively.These strong female roles remain as memorable and impressive today as they were when these films were first released.
As well as the bad girls, Noir also features many memorable good girls too. These are also strong and independent gals, who will happily get mixed up in danger and who prove to the cynical men in their lives that not all women are femme fatales. These gals don’t get their kicks in using and hurting men. My favourites of these characters are Kathleen (Lucille Ball)in Dark Corner(1946). Kathleen is the loyal secretary to Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens)a tough Private Investigator who is being set up. Kathleen happily puts herself at risk to help him uncover the bad guys, and proves herself to be a woman worthy of his heart.
My other favourite is Candy (Jean Peters)in Pickup On South Street. Candy is a tough gal who puts up a I can take care of myself front, when in reality she can be easily hurt. Candy puts herself in great danger helping Skip (Richard Widmark)uncover a communist gang.
The men in Noir films (both good and bad)are usually cynical and world weary chaps. They are tough and comfortable with dishing out (and being around) violence. Some are bad guys with no redeeming features, while others have tough exteriors in order to survive this world, but underneath that toughness they are actually total sweethearts. Sometimes a decent guy (like Walter Neff for example)gets caught up in a web weaved by a femme fatale,becomes caught up in murder and crime, and soon finds that they have no way out and will end up dead or in jail.
A few of the Noir guys. Images on left screenshots by me. Right image from IMDb.
Actors like Humphrey Bogart, Richard Widmark, Dick Powell and Robert Mitchum played some of the best remembered Noir male characters. These performances remain powerful when viewed today. My favourites from the Noir guys are Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell)in Farewell My Lovely, Raven(Alan Ladd) from This Gun For Hire, Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens)in The Dark Corner, Jim(Robert Ryan) in On Dangerous Ground, Sam(Van Heflin) in The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers, Walter Brown (Charles McGraw) in The Narrow Margin, Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) in The Big Heat, Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) in Pickup On South Street and Frank Chambers (John Garfield) in The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Despite being made in an era when films were heavily censored, Noir films contain images and dialogue that make me sit up and go “did I really just see or hear that?” These films are often very violent without graphically depicting violent acts, as most of what we see is implied, but the violence still packs a punch for the viewer. These films also contain dialogue or shared glances between characters that leave you in no doubt as to the meaning, be that implied meaning sexual or violent. These films were about as risque and daring as you could get in mainstream cinema at the time. The fact that they retain their shock value and impact is a credit to all involved in putting these films together.
When you mention Noir, I will bet that most people automatically associate that word with American cinema, and while it’s true that the majority of Noir films were predominantly American, there were also many fantastic Noir films made outside of the USA as well. I’ve already mentioned that the French made many fantastic Noir flicks. Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese Noir Stray Dog (1949) is one of the best in the genre. The first screen adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice was the brilliant Italian Noir Ossessione(1943).
There are also many Noir treasures to be found in British cinema. Films including: The Long Memory, Pool Of London, Hell Is A City, The October Man, Night And The City, Odd Man Out, Cast A Dark Shadow and Brighton Rock. My favourite of these is The Long Memory, which sees John Mills playing against type as a tough, embittered man wrongly accused of murder. I also love Daybreak, Pool Of London, Pink String and Sealing Wax, It Always Rains On Sunday, and Hell Is A City.
Noir slowly began to wind down towards the end of the 1950’s. But it enjoyed a revival in the 1980’s, with the release of the much more sexually explicit Body Heat. In this film, Kathleen Turner plays Mattie, the sultry femme fatale leading the lovestruck William Hurt into her trap. Sex is Mattie’s weapon, and she is in complete control of her situation. I consider this to be the best Noir film made outside of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Kathleen is up there with Lana, Barbara, Jane and Rita for me.
In more recent years Noir films such as Basic Instinct, The Last Seduction, Femme Fatale,Sin City: A Dame To Kill For and LA Confidential have come along. Hopefully people who like these particular flicks, characters, and the look of these films will now go and check out Noir titles from the 1940’s and 1950’s. It would be a real shame if they didn’t, because they will be missing out on so many superb films and performances.
10 of my favourite Noir films are: Murder, My Sweet (Dick Powell version),Double Indemnity, Pickup On South Street, Le Jour Se Leve, The Dark Corner, The Big Heat, The Narrow Margin, Detour, Kiss Me Deadly and The Long Memory.
My favourite decade for Noir? Without a doubt it has to be the 1940’s. When I hear the word Noir, I immediately think of black and white images, of smoke filled rooms where the light catches the shadows on the blinds, which in turn cast long dark shadows. This decade has so many films that I think are amongst the best of the genre. For me just the word Noir is enough to conjure up images of world weary detectives, cynical people trying to make it from one day to the next, and of women whose greatest weapon is themselves. The 1940’s Noir films capture all of this to a tee.
My favourite Noir actor? It’s got to be Dick Powell. I think he suited these films perfectly. His appearance in these films also ensured he got a nice career change.
My favourite Noir actress? A tie between Jean Peters and Barbara Stanwyck. They were both perfect as tough and sultry dames. I also love Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Do you love Noir too? Please share your thoughts below. What are your favourite Noir films? Who are your favourite Noir characters?
This is my first entry for my friend Gabriela’s latest blogathon, which is dedicated to all things Gothic Horror. Be sure to visit her site later this month to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
The history of Gothic Horror and Gothic Romance stretches all the way back to 1764, the year in which author Horace Walpole had his novel The Castle Of Otranto published, this novel is generally considered to be the first Gothic novel ever written. Many authors including Ann Radcliffe, Edgar Allen Poe, Matthew Lewis, Daphne Du Maurier, Mary Shelley, Clara Reeve, Emily and Charlotte Bronte all followed in Warpole’s footsteps penning dark and chilling Gothic tales over the coming centuries.
The main tropes usually present in Gothic literature and films are mansions or castles which have dark secrets and mysteries waiting to be uncovered within their walls; a Byronic male love interest who is not what he seems, or who harbours dark or tragic secrets; and a curious and strong willed heroine who seeks to uncover the secrets and to help her troubled man. Many of the greatest Gothic stories seem to work best when their setting is the 1700’s or 1800’s, but there are later stories and films, such as Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, which work just as well with a more modern setting.
The Tomb Of Ligeia is one of my favourite Gothic Horror films. While it is certainly a creepy horror film, it is at heart a beautiful and tragic love story. I especially love how this film manages to capture the eerie atmosphere, darkness, tragedy and beauty of Edgar Allen Poe’s work, while also being a very touching love story. This has become my favourite film from the Poe cycle of films directed by Roger Corman.
In 1964, the American horror director Roger Corman was here in the UK to begin work on what would be his eighth and final screen adaptation of a story by Edgar Allen Poe. The film was The Tomb Of Ligeia, which was based upon Poe’s 1838 short story Ligeia. This story may well have been written and published before Poe’s far more famous other literary works came along, but it remains one of his darkest and most tragic tales.
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Vincent as Verden Fell. Screenshot by me.
Roger would once again be reunited with Vincent Price on this film. Vincent had become Roger’s regular leading man in the previous Poe films he had made. Although much older than the character in Poe’s story, Vincent never the less suits the role of Verden Fell perfectly, and it is very difficult to imagine anyone else other than him in the role. It was very nearly the case though that Vincent wasn’t cast in the lead role.
Both Roger Corman and screenwriter Robert Towne(later to find fame as the writer of Chinatown)were actually against Vincent taking the role due to his age. Roger Corman wanted Richard Chamberlain to take the role instead. Vincent’s casting ended up becoming a condition of the films production company AIP(American-International Pictures) in investing in the film, and so he was cast as the lead. Vincent was of course such a big name at the time, and he had become so linked to the horror genre and to these Poe films, that he was massive draw for audiences when these films were released. He also fit this material perfectly and had done so ever since he was cast in the 1946 Gothic drama Dragonwyck. He brings an emotional depth to the role of Verden Fell that I don’t think would have been there if another actor had been cast.
British actress Elizabeth Shepherd was cast alongside Vincent, in the duel role of the bright and passionate Rowena, and the sinister and dark Ligeia. Elizabeth absolutely steals the film with her brilliant performance. The film was made on location in Britain, with a large portion of it being shot at the Castle Acre Priory in Norfolk. This film feels and looks quite different from so many of the other Corman/Poe adaptations and the location work is a big reason why in my opinion. So many of the other films in the Poe cycle were very studio bound, whereas this one gains a realism due to the location work. The film also looks different due to a great many scenes taking place outside in daylight and sunshine, but its content is no less dark and strange because of it.
“She will not rest, because she is not dead….to me. And she will not die because she willed not to die.” Verden Fell
The film tells the tragic love story of the vivacious and fearless Lady Rowena(Elizabeth Shepherd)and the brooding and mysterious Verden Fell(Vincent Price). The pair meet after Rowena breaks away from a local hunt and rides into the ruins of the abbey where Verden lives. She comes across a graveyard in the ruins, and there she finds the grave of the Lady Ligeia(also played by Elizabeth), who was Verden’s wife.
Rowena and Verden first set eyes on each other. Screenshot by me.
Ligeia’s grave is guarded by her pet black cat, who lashes out at Elizabeth startling her horse and causing her to fall off and hurt herself. Verden(clad all in black and rocking a pair of sunglasses which look like the ones from the 1933 Invisible Man film) then suddenly appears and tends to the injured Rowena. We can see that as soon as they meet one another they are each drawn to the other. Rowena bears a uncanny resemblance to Ligeia, which is an added attraction for Verden.
Verden seems absolutely grief stricken by the death of his wife. At first he reminds me somewhat of Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights with how he cannot let his wife leave his side to go to the land of the dead. Verden is constantly at Ligeia’s graveside and is convinced that she will come back to life and be with him again. As the film progresses we learn that there is a dark and terrible reason why he is acting like that, and it isn’t because of grief and love either. Sometimes Verden seems to hate Rowena and becomes afraid of her presence one minute, and then becomes deeply remorseful for his behaviour and becomes gentle and kind to her the next.
That time Vincent Price borrowed The Invisible Man’s shades. Screenshot by me.
As the film goes on, Verden and Rowena fall in love and get married. Rowena soon discovers that in Verden’s home the dead do not stay dead, and that due to some strange supernatural power, the Lady Ligeia is exerting her will on Verden from beyond the grave. Rowena must find the strength to save her husband and herself, while also trying to fight against forces which are beyond both her understanding and her control.
Rowena is one of the strongest Gothic heroines in my opinion. Interestingly the film version of Rowena is very different to the character in Poe’s story, in which she really has no personality and is merely there as a plot device. In the film however, Rowena is brave, strong, self-sufficient, and she has a very strong will indeed. When describing Rowena to Christopher(John Westbrook), a young man of her own class who wants to marry her, Rowena’s father(Derek Francis) says this of her: “Wilful little b***h, ain’t she? Hell to be married to I should think. Her mother certainly was… God rest her soul”.
Rowena doesn’t conform to the docile female persona that men of the time felt their women should have. Rowena knows what she wants and goes after it. She likes to make her own decisions and she isn’t afraid of darkness and danger. She also has no interest in marrying for money or in marrying the safe and approved type of men she is so often thrown together with. Rowena sees that Verden is brooding, broken and even a little dangerous and frightening, and yet she wants to be with him because she loves him. He in turn genuinely falls in love with her too, and even though he cannot get Ligeia out of his mind, he does try his best with his new wife.
Vincent is excellent as Verden. The character is at first glance the typical Byronic leading man of a Gothic tale, a man of mystery. I love how Vincent draws us in with his performance and makes us at first think he is a heartbroken and damaged man, somewhat akin to Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, a man longing to meet a fresher, purer woman to be his great love. While some of that description is true, the more we see of Verden, the more that Vincent alters how he plays the character. Vincent’s performance gets much darker and stranger, and he lets us see that there is something more going on here than the typical Gothic character trope we first imagine and assume. Verden also interestingly turns out to be the real victim of the piece rather than Rowena. He is also a victim twice over; once due to what we learn has been happening to him, and secondly because of what happens to him at the end of the film. I really like Verden and Rowena and I’m always sad that they don’t get the happiness they deserve, but then it wouldn’t really be a Gothic Horror if that were to happen. 😁
In addition to its intriguing and eerie story, excellent lead and supporting performances, and beautiful costume design, I also want to praise the lovely and suitably atmospheric score by Kenneth V. Jones. The gorgeous cinematography by Hammer regular Arthur Grant is also terrific.
I’m of the opinion that The Tomb Of Ligeia is one of the best Gothic Horror/Gothic Romances ever put on screen. It’s also a great deal of spooky fun and a real character piece. You could do much worse than spend an hour and a half with Vincent, Elizabeth and company.
The Classic Movie Blog Association turns ten years old this year. In celebration of this anniversary, our groups latest blogathon is one which celebrates films, or particular years in film history, which are also celebrating a significant anniversary in 2019. Be sure to drop by the CMBA site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
I’ve decided to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of the year 1939. Why the focus on this year and not another you may well ask? I picked this year because it is such a remarkable and impressive year for film. 1939 is a year considered by many film fans and film critics to be “Hollywood’s greatest year”, this is due to the large amount of magnificent films released in America that year, many of which have become some of the most beloved, impressive and acclaimed classics of all time.
Left to right: The Wizard Of Oz, Gone With The Wind and Only Angels Have Wings. Screenshots by me.
I don’t know about other film fans, but I know that I return again and again to so many of the films which were made in 1939. There’s just something about these films which makes them special, plus they are all such high quality films. Think also of all the beloved film characters this year’s films provided us with – Dorothy Gale, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, The Wicked Witch Of The West, Rhett Butler, Scarlett O’Hara, Mamie, Melanie Wilkes,Cathy and Heathcliff,Judith Traherne etc. While it’s certainly true that every year and decade in film history contains some real gems and classics, 1939 in particular saw the release of such a staggering amount of high quality films which have ended up becoming classics.
To have had these films appear throughout one or two decades would have been incredible enough, but the fact that all of these films came out in one year is truly mind blowing! If 1939 had only been the year of say Gone With The Wind(one of the all time great epics), The Wizard Of Oz, Stagecoach, or Only Angels Have Wings, then I have no doubt that it would have most certainly have gone down as a great film year, but this year had all of those films and so many more besides.
Just a few of the remarkable films released during this year include: Mr. Smith Goes To Washington( a film which remains incredibly relevant and affecting, given how many governments/politicians around the world are self serving or corrupt, and who don’t seem to be on the side of the ordinary people at all), WutheringHeights(moody and moving in equal measure), Goodbye Mr. Chips(possibly the saddest and most poignant film ever made), The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle, Golden Boy, The Women(this hilarious film sees some of the best actresses of the day fight it out on screen),Dark Victory, Ninotchka, Of Mice And Men, The Saint Strikes Back(the first time that George Sanders played the role of Simon Templar)Dodge City, The Hound Of The Baskervilles.
Outside of Hollywood, 1939 also saw the release of many excellent films from around the world as well. The brilliant French Noir Le Jour Se Leve, the powerful Japanese drama The Story Of The Last Chrysanthemums, the French satire The Rules Of The Game, and the early Powell and Pressburger spy drama The Spy In Black, were just four classics made outside of America during this very significant year.
1939 also saw Technicolor used to its most stunning and impressive effect in many films, including The Wizard Of Oz, Dodge City, Gone With The Wind, Drums Along The Mohawk. There had been some nice looking colour films around since the Silent film era, but nothing that compared to the beautiful use of colour seen in many of the films released in 1939. I think that films featuring Technicolor, outside of the Powell and Pressburger 1940’s films, have never before or since looked as stunning and striking as these 1939 Technicolor films do.
1939 was also a very good year for actors. Many of the films in this year featured very strong roles for women and had very female centric stories. Many of the 1939 films also provided actresses with some of the best screen roles they would ever have.
Some fellow British ladies would find that this year would end up changing their fortunes for the better. Vivien Leigh moved from being an up and coming British stage and screen actress, to become an acclaimed international star following her work in Gone With The Wind.Greer Garson enchanted audiences in her screen debut in Goodbye Mr. Chips, and she quickly went on to become one of the most popular actresses of the entire classic film era.
The American actress Jean Arthur would star in Only Angels Have Wings and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,two films which would help cement her screen persona of tough, sassy and fiercely loyal female sidekick.
It wasn’t just the ladies who were enjoying great acting success in this year either. James Stewart proved he could do much more than comedy and sweet romantic roles, thanks to his excellent dramatic performance in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, Jean Gabin and Robert Donat all delivered some of the best performances of their entire careers in this year. Cary Grant would also prove that he could do more than comedy, with his great performance as the cynical, tough and complicated pilot, Geoff Carter, in Howard Hawk’s Only Angels Have Wings. A young lad called John Wayne would find that his performance in Stagecoach would end up becoming his breakthrough role, and over the next few years he would go on to become one of the most famous and iconic actors in the world.
1939 was also a glorious year for film composers and their scores. A few of my favourites from this year are Max Steiner’s sweeping score for Gone With The Wind; Eric Korngold’s rousing theme to Elizabeth And Essex; Alfred Newman’s beautiful and moving score for Wuthering Heights; Alfred Newman’s score for The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. The music and songs in The Wizard Of Oz also have a very special place in my heart.
It seems to me that every aspect of filmmaking was the very best that it possibly could be during this year. From acting and cinematography, to costumes, music, scripts and direction. This year highlights the quality and magic of the classic film era for me.
We are sadly living in an era now where Western film audiences seem to be being bombarded by nothing but an endless stream of remakes, reboots, sequels and prequels. We’ve got an overwhelming amount of CGI filled superhero films and computer animated films out there too. It seems that if you want originality, quality, good human drama and characterisation, then you need to be checking out Foreign Language films, Indie films, or turning to television.
Watching classic era films reminds us that there once was a time when there were seemingly endless amounts of fresh and original film ideas, and that there was a strong focus on the characters and the actors to tell the story, rather than letting special effects dominate proceedings and overwhelming every other aspect of the film. These classic films, especially many of those from 1939, serve to show the current generation the quality that filmmakers can achieve if they put their minds to it. There’s a reason these classic era films have stood the test of time and stand head and shoulders above so many other films.
I hope that you will all join me in raising a glass in honour of this very special year in film history. The greatest year in film history? While I find it hard to narrow so much great cinema down to one single year and call that year the best ever,I would however have to say that I think 1939 has more claim than most to hold that particular title. It truly was a golden year for film.
I’d also like to raise a glass to the CMBA in honour of its own special anniversary. I’m still so touched to have been accepted as a member of this group and to have found myself amongst some truly great classic film bloggers. This group is so supportive and encouraging, and I think my fellow CMBA bloggers are all doing a wonderful job of spreading the word about classic films far and wide. Happy 10th Anniversary to this wonderful group. Special thanks to Rick at Classic Film And TV Cafe who founded our group.
I’d love to hear what you think of 1939. Share your thoughts on this great year below.
Last year I hosted a blogathon dedicated to the lovely Deborah Kerr. The blogathon went really well, and there were so many wonderful articles received about this great actress and her work. At the request of Gill from Realweegiemidgetreviews, I have decided to bring the blogathon back for a second year.
For this blogathon you can write about any of Deborah’s films or TV appearances. You can write tributes to her. You can write about her career and life. You can write about her screen partnership with Robert Mitchum. You can focus on specific performances. I will accept two duplicates per screen title and a maximum of 3 posts per person.
The Blogathon will be held on the 10th of January, 2020. Please have your posts ready on or before that date. Check the list below to see who is writing about what. Take one of the banners from below and put it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Have fun writing about Deborah and watching her work!
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: The End Of The Affair
Pale Writer: The Innocents & Dream Wife
Champagne For Lunch: Please Believe Me
Realweegiemidgetreviews: The Arrangement
Poppity Talks Classic Film: Young Bess
Cinematic Scribblings: I See A Dark Stranger
Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: Deborah Kerr and Fashion
Critica Retro: The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp
Dubsism: The Sundowners
The Classic Movie Muse: The King And I
18 Cinema Lane: Marriage On The Rocks
I’d also love for some more of you to join myAnna Neagle Blogathon being held on the 1st and 2nd of January, 2020 too.
As we start to approach the end of 2019, I would like to invite you all to join my next blogathon.
This one will be held in the New Year and it is going to be dedicated to the great British actress, Dame Anna Neagle. Anna was one of the most talented British actresses working during the classic film era. She is best remembered today for the many films in which she portrayed well known historical figures, including Edith Cavell and Queen Victoria. She married director and producer Herbert Wilcox, and the pair made many films together. Anna was also a producer herself.
For this blogathon you can write about any of Anna’s films. You can write tributes to Anna. You can write about her partnership with her husband. You can write about her entire career. If you’re not familiar with Anna and her work, why not take this as the perfect opportunity to rectify that and seek out her films? I will allow 2 duplicates per screen title, and a maximum of 3 posts per person.
The blogathon will be held on the 1st and 2nd of January, 2020. Please have your entries ready on or before those dates. Check the entry list below to see who is writing about what. Take one of the banners below and put them on your site to help promote the event. Have fun writing about Anna and her work!
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Odette, A Comparison Of Victoria The Great & Sixty Glorious Years
Two of my favourite bloggers, Erica at Poppity Talks Classic Film, and Gill at Realweegiemidgetreviews, are co-hosting this blogathon in honour of the actress Shelley Winters. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
Shelley Winters was a strong woman, and she was a real force of nature too. On screen she was a chameleon actress. She could play strong, tough, or mean one minute, and then play timid and gentle the next. She was one of those actresses who I always believe as whatever character she happens to be playing on screen.
Shelley is also an actress whose performances have never really left me disappointed. While Shelley has never become a great favourite of mine, I have however always liked her and admired her acting ability. She was a very talented lady indeed. Instead of focusing on one particular film or performance for this blogathon, I want to highlight four Shelley Winters performances that I think everyone should see. These four performances/films also highlight what range she had as an actress.
The Night Of The Hunter(1955)
While it’s true that her character isn’t in the film for very long, Shelley never the less makes the most of her supporting role in this classic. Shelley utterly convinces here as the meek and naive Willa, the abused wife of the stone cold and manipulative preacher(Robert Mitchum).
If you’ve only seen Shelley play strong women on screen, then you’re sure to be in for quite a surprise, due to her character being the complete opposite . Shelley’s performance here is one which is all in the eyes, body language and small gestures.
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
Shelley shines alongside Robert Ryan, playing Lorry, the much younger girlfriend of his character, Earl. Despite their age gap, Lorry and Earl really do love each other very much.
Earl sometimes says hurtful things to Lorry because he is afraid that she will either leave him, or cheat on him, because she is much younger than him. Shelley makes us see how much Lorry loves this man and wants to help him.
The scenes between Shelley and Robert are very tender, and I only wish there had been more of them. I also love how Shelley convinces us that Lorry is someone who can stand up for herself, and that she can knock some sense into Earl through her reactions to his outbursts. Shelley does a great job of making Lorry come across as a very real, working class gal, who is trying to do the best she can in life and in love.
Shelley is both hilarious and moving as the loud and awkward Charlotte Haze, the slinky and lovestruck mother of the title character of this Kubrick classic.
We can’t help laughing at Charlotte because she is such a ridiculous and over the top character. We’re not laughing all the time though, because Shelley also makes us sympathise and cringe for her character.
Charlotte is so awkward and desperate and doesn’t realise that people around her merely put up with her company, rather than actually be around her because they truly enjoy her company. Charlotte is a very tragic figure really, because she genuinely loves Humbert(James Mason) and she tries so hard to get him to love her in return, despite the fact that he is not remotely interested in her sexually or romantically. Shelley absolutely gets the different aspects of this woman and inhabits the role so well. I can imagine no one else playing Charlotte the way Shelley did.
A Patch Of Blue (1965)
Shelley is both despicable and ferocious as the abusive and racist mother of Elizabeth Hartman’s kind and dominated Selina.
Shelley’s character, Rose-Ann, is one of the most horrible screen mothers I’ve ever seen. She treats her daughter like crap and only ever thinks of herself. This dame has a razor sharp tongue and spews hatred and harsh words every time she opens her mouth.
Shelley dominates every scene she is appears in in this one. Through Shelley’s excellent performance, we can see that Rose-Ann is a survivor, one whose tough persona ensures that she doesn’t become one of life’s victim. Shelley’s performance is so powerful that it is one of those which lingers on in the mind long after the film is over. Shelley is a real nasty piece of work in this flick.
I would love to know your thoughts on Shelley’s performances in these films.
Can I say a massive thank you to everyone who contributed to the WW2 blogathon. Jay and I were impressed by how many of you took part! You all wrote wonderful articles and reviews. Thank you for joining us to mark this important anniversary.
My apologies for not having been around much and not having commented on all your posts yet. As some of you already know, I have an ongoing health issue, and unfortunately I was really struggling with symptoms in the run up to this blogathon and still am now. I hope you’ll bear with me while I try and catch up on posts I’ve not been able to read yet. I’ve not forgotten you!
When I saw that Lady Eve’s Reel Life and Silver Screen Modes were hosting a blogathon about French cinema, I just knew that I had to sign up and take part. Make sure you visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
I love French cinema. I especially love classic era French films. I think that what I love most about the films from this particular era, is the fact that they often tended to be far more realistic and gritty in comparison with the glamour of many of the classic era Hollywood films. I also adore the incredible cinematography and atmosphere found in the French films from this era.
Here are five classic era French films that I think every film fan should see at least once in their life. The films are listed here in order of the year in which they were released. Not only do I consider these five films to be among some of the finest films ever made in France, but I also picked these because they represent different decades and styles of French cinema.
This Silent avant-garde film is one of the most moving and visually interesting films I’ve ever seen. Clocking in at just under 38 minutes long, this is a film which packs quite the emotional punch. It’s hard to forget this one once you’ve seen it. Right from its very first shot- depicting the brutal and frenzied axe murder of a couple – this film dares to be different. The film is directed by experimental filmmaker Dimitri Kirsanoff. The film has no subtitles, and while some viewers may find that to be an issue, I personally don’t because you can follow what’s going on and who the characters are and what they’re doing.
The film follows two sisters who are the children of the murdered couple. The rest of the film focuses on their plight. This is a film which draws you in and makes you connect emotionally with the characters. It has a documentary look about it and was filmed on location in Menilmontant. Best remembered for the very moving scene where an old man shares his bread with one of the sisters(played by Kirsanoff’s wife Nadia Sibirskaia) who is starving. This scene could all too easily have become sentimental or cliched, but it is a testament to all involved that it doesn’t play like that and manages to be both realistic and touching.
Le Jour Se Leve (1939)
This gripping film focuses on a working class man who is barricaded in an apartment surrounded by police. He has killed someone and the police are trying to move in to arrest him. As he waits for the police to make their move, we begin to see in flashback the events which led him to be in this predicament.
This early Noir film was famously banned by the Vichy government in 1940. The film stands as a powerful allegory for the individual and the few standing up to the many. Not hard to see why the scum in charge during the war took issue with it. Jean Gabin delivers one of his finest performances as Francois. Arletty and Jacqueline Laurent provide solid support as the two very different women who Francois becomes romantically involved with. Featuring some stunning cinematography and wonderful use of shadow and light. Many people consider director Marcel Carne’s later film Children Of Paradise to be his best, but I think there is a strong case to be made for Le Jour Se Leve to hold that title. This is an absolutely cracking flick.
La Belle Et La Bete(1946)
Watching this film is like stepping into a vivid dream. In my opinion no other screen adaptation of the novel Beauty And The Beast even comes remotely close to this one. Director Jean Cocteau’s second film is poetic, haunting, romantic, and truly stunning to behold. Who can forget the living candelabra on the walls of the beast’s enchanted castle? Who can forget the magic mirror? Who can forget the beast carrying Belle to her bed?
This beautiful film is perhaps the ultimate love story. The enchanted, cruel beast undergoes a personality change as he falls for the gentle and kind Belle. In this film love is so strong that it can destroy curses and darkness. Josette Day is excellent as Belle and gives the character great strength and heart, but she and everyone else in the film are eclipsed by Jean Maris as the Beast. Despite being hidden beneath great amounts of makeup, Jean manages to convey so much emotion to us and steals every scene he is in. Truly one of all time great film performances. This is a film that every film fan and film student should watch. It makes for truly magical viewing.
Forbidden Games is one of the best coming of age films ever made. The film depicts the horrors of war and a loss of innocence seen through the eyes of two young children. Director Rene Clement’s haunting, beautiful, and deeply moving coming of age story captures the period of idyllic childhood innocence perfectly.
This film captures this time of childhood innocence being shattered. It does a good job of depicting a moment – one which unfortunately must come to us all at some point – in which children lose their innocence and finally become aware of and enter into the adult world. The film reminds me quite a bit of Whistle Down The Wind, and I think that if you enjoyed that film, then you’ll enjoy this one too. Forbidden Games memorably features two of the most natural and remarkable child performances in film history. You can read my review of this moving and powerful film here.
Few films shock as much as this one does. Famous for misleading audiences right up to its truly shocking and unexpected twist ending. This one is a perfect mix of horror and psychological suspense. The film was a big influence on Hitchcock when he made Psycho, and I also believe Les Diaboliques must surely have influenced the makers of the Hammer classic Scream Of Fear too.
Based upon a novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, Les Diaboliques tells the story of the wife and the mistress of a sadistic headmaster. The two women plot to murder this cruel man and dump his body in a swimming pool, but when the pool is drained the body is not there. The film features three superb performances from Vera Clouzot, Simone Signoret and Paul Meurisse. Who can forget that eerie and shocking bathtub scene? One of the best films ever made in this genre. In my view this is director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s masterpiece.
I’d love to know what you think of these films if you’ve seen them. I highly recommend them all if you’ve yet to see them.
1939 truly was Hollywood’s Golden Year. There were so many cinematic masterpieces released in America that year. Two films stood head and shoulders above all the other gems from this year though. One was a little picture called Gone With The Wind, and the other was a musical called The Wizard Of Oz. Both of these films were technical marvels at the time that they were made. Both films have also gone on to become beloved by generation after generation of film viewers.
I think that both films are actually quite similar in terms of their stories and overall themes. Both films have a strong and determined heroine, both films show the importance of love, family and home, and both films depict ordinary people being caught up in extraordinary events – the horrors of war in GWTW, and trying to survive in an unfamiliar land and fight evil in The Wizard Of Oz.
The Wizard Of Oz is a film I love so much. As an Autistic person, I particularly appreciate how the four main characters accept each other completely for who and what they are. There is no judgement between them, no awkwardness or unpleasantness because they each do things differently or have some problems. I also love how quickly the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion all start to care for Dorothy and try their best to help Dorothy and protect her. I also love how Dorothy stands up to bullies, cruelty and evil. Dorothy is someone who always fights against injustice and tries to do the right thing. The film shows us that ordinary people are capable of making a stand against evil and those with more power, you just have to find the courage within yourself to be able to do this.
This film absolutely blew my mind the first time I ever saw it. I first saw it back in the 1990’s and I remember that this was the first film to really open my eyes to what film was capable of presenting to us. This film also got me interested in learning about how films were made and what went on behind the camera.
Dorothy opens the door to Oz. Screenshot by me.
I have never quite gotten over my shock at the truly jaw dropping moment when Dorothy opens the door of the house, and both she, and us in the audience, moves out of a sepia coloured world and into a stunning Technicolor one. It is a moment which still has the power to make audiences gasp in awe when they see it. I can only imagine how audiences of the 1930’s must have reacted when they saw that stunning scene for the first time.
The film is based upon L. Frank Baum’s book, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, which was published in 1900. The book would become one of the most popular and acclaimed children’s books in history. Baum would go on to write 13 sequels about Dorothy’s time in Oz. After Baum died in 1919, the author Ruth Plumly Thompson was tasked by Baum’s publishers to write more books set in the land of Oz.
Baum’s original story was turned into a very successful stage musical in 1902. This ran in theatres until 1904. MGM Studios bought the rights to the book in 1938. Producer Mervyn LeRoy, who had been handpicked by Louis B. Mayer as the successor to the great Irving Thalberg, wanted to direct the studios musical film adaptation of the novel, but Mayer made him the producer of it instead. He worked alongside uncredited associate producer Arthur Freed, who would soon become best known for his work on all those fabulous musicals. The films score would be composed by Herbert Stothart, with music and lyrics for the songs by Edgar Harberg and Harold Arlen.
The film would end up winning two Academy Awards, one would go to Stothart for Best Original Score, and the other would go to Harberg and Arlen for Somewhere Over The Rainbow as Best Original Song. As happy as I am that the music and songs won awards, I do wish that the film had won for its special effects. The tornado sequence is remarkable and still looks real today. I also love the witch’s image ball and the scene where the ruby slippers burn the witch’s hands.
The big question was who to cast and who to get to direct the film? The world famous Shirley Temple was the first choice for the role of Dorothy Gale, but it was felt that Shirley’s singing voice wasn’t good enough for what was required in the film. So 16 year old Judy Garland was cast instead. I’m so glad Judy got cast because she is perfect in the role. I also doubt that the film’s hit song Somewhere Over The Rainbow would have made such an impact if she hadn’t been the one to sing it. The emotion and sense of yearning in her voice is what makes that song in my opinion.
The glamorous Gale Sondergaard was initially cast as the wicked witch, and Gale made two screentests in costume and makeup. Originally the idea was to make the witch slinky and beautiful, like the evil queen seen in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs the previous year, but then it was decided to make her look ugly instead. Gale Sondergaard was reluctant to make the film wearing the disfiguring makeup so she left the project. Character actress Margaret Hamilton was then cast in the role of the witch. I can imagine nobody other than Margaret in this role now. The witch is one of the most evil and memorable screen villains and Margaret plays the role to perfection.
Actor and dancer Ray Bolger was originally cast as the Tin Man, but eventually Ray got his long desired wish to play the Scarecrow instead. Actor and dancer Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Scarecrow, but then he ended up playing The Tin Man instead. Comedian and actor Burt Lahr was cast as The Cowardly Lion. Comic actress Billie Burke was cast as Glinda, the beautiful good witch who helps Dorothy and her friends. Character actor Frank Morgan was cast in the multiple roles of The Wizard, Professor Marvel, The coach driver at the Emerald City, The gatekeeper of the Emerald City and The Emerald City guard. Character actors Clara Blandick and Charlie Grapewin were cast as Dorthy’s loving Aunty Em and Uncle Henry. Over one hundred little people were cast to play The Munchkins, the adorable and fun loving people persecuted by the wicked witch. The costume department, under the direction of costume designer Adrian, designed individual costumes for each Munchkin actor to wear.
In the directors chair was Richard Thorpe. He wouldn’t be sitting there for long though. Filming began in October 1938. Unfortunately so many problems quickly arose once filming was underway. Buddy Ebsen developed a near fatal reaction to the aluminium powder makeup he had to wear as part of the Tin Man costume. Margaret Hamilton suffered serious facial burns, after something went wrong during the sequence where the witch disappears into a cloud of smoke and flame after meeting Dorothy for the first time. Terry the dog was trodden on and suffered a broken paw.
Actor Jack Haley was brought in to replace the seriously ill Buddy Ebsen in the role of The Tin Man, and the silver makeup necessary for the costume was altered to aluminium paste, rather than the troublesome aluminium powder. Richard Thorpe was fired by Mervyn LeRoy after only two weeks on the job. It was felt that the footage shot so far by Thorpe didn’t have the right air of fantasy necessary for the story, and there were also concerns that the wig and makeup he’d had Judy wear made her look far older than the character should look.
The legendary George Cukor briefly stepped in to replace Richard Thorpe and thankfully got rid of the blonde wig and makeup. Cukor didn’t shoot any footage for the film, instead acting more as a creative advisor on set. Cukor left the shoot to go and work on Gone With The Wind. He was replaced by Victor Fleming, who would be the one to direct the vast majority of The Wizard Of Oz. In February, 1939, Victor Fleming was told to go and replace George Cukor as director of Gone With The Wind. King Vidor was brought in to finish the filming on Oz. King refused to take a directing credit for his part in the film until after Victor Fleming had died.
The Wizard Of Oz tells the story of Dorothy Gale(Judy Garland), a lonely Kansas farm girl who wishes for a happier tomorrow and for something more than she has. Dorothy is loved very much by her elderly uncle and aunt(Clara Blandick and Charlie Grapewin), but due to how hard they work on the farm, the pair sadly don’t have lots of time to focus on her.
Dorothy’s only friends are three men who help her aunt and uncle on the farm(also played by Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr), and her beloved dog, Toto(played by female terrier, Terry). Toto gets into the garden of Dorthy’s cruel neighbour, Miss Gulch(Margaret Hamilton), and accidentally bites her when she scares him.
Miss Gulch wants the dog taken away and destroyed. Dorothy is distraught and runs away with Toto. While on their journey, Dorothy and Toto meet a travelling magician called Professor Marvel(Frank Morgan), this kind old man takes a liking to Dorothy and ends up encouraging her to return home to her family. On their way home a twister strikes Kansas. The Gales and the farmhands get to safety in their storm shelter, but Dorothy and Toto can’t get in and hide instead in the farmhouse. The twister rips out a window, which strikes Dorothy on the head and causes her to pass out. When she awakens, she and Toto find that their house has landed in a brightly coloured and unusual looking world. They soon discover that they are in a land called Oz.
Dorothy learns that to get home, she must seek out the mighty wizard of Oz who lives in The Emerald City. Along the way she is given a pair of ruby slippers by the good witch, Glinda(Billie Burke), which contain magical powers and are coveted by the Wicked Witch Of The West(Margaret Hamilton). Dorothy will also meet The Scarecrow(Ray Bolger), The Tin Man(Jack Haley)and The Cowardly Lion(Bert Lahr); three individuals who will become Dorothy’s dearest friends and protectors and who will help her to get home. The foursome will face great danger and heartbreak along the way, but they will find the courage to be brave and stand up to evil.
Our heroes make it to the Emerald City. Screenshot by me.
Over the years fans have had great fun debating whether Oz is supposed to be a real fantasy land which Dorothy visits, or if it is merely a very strange dream/nightmare experienced by Dorothy after being struck on the head. The more I’ve watched the film, the more I’m convinced it is all a dream. So many of the characters represent and resemble people she knows and loves. The yellow brick road is shaped like the dirt roads going past her farm, even the hills and fields in Oz have the same shape/layout as those at her home. The swirling pattern of the beginning of the coloured roads represent the swirls of the twister. The witch’s image ball and Glenda’s ball of light represent Professor Marvel’s crystal ball. The Munchkins represent ordinary people powerless against those in positions of power who abuse and control them. The witch’s monkeys represent those who blindly follow orders from evil leaders, and don’t have the strength and courage to take a stand against them.
I’ve often wondered who Glenda is supposed to be to Dorothy. I think that she may be her mum. Glenda protects Dorothy and is a warm and loving person, which are all very motherly qualities. It is Glenda who tells Dorothy there is no place like home and helps her get home. Glenda is sending her back to family and love. Both Dorothy and Glenda have the same shade of red hair, Glenda looks the right age to be her mum, and I’ve always assumed that Dorothy is being raised by her aunt and uncle because her mum died when she was very young. Dorothy could have some vague memories of her mum or a photo, which could be why Glenda appears as she does to Dorothy.
The whole cast deliver terrific performances. Margaret Hamilton’s duel performance as the wicked witch and Miss Gulch, has gone down as one of the greatest villains in film history. Both characters are so cruel and Margaret makes you loath them both. The witch is an interesting character though due to how Margaret plays her; you actually miss the witch when she’s not in a scene because she dominates everything, and Margaret’s wonderful performance makes the character such a strong presence. I love her green makeup too.
Jack Haley, Bert Lahr and Ray Bolger are all wonderful and steal all the scenes they are in. The three all have real chemistry with Judy and do a good job of balancing the humour and poignant moments/aspects of their characters. These three men were established actors when they made this, and yet they don’t overshadow Judy with their performances, rather they all appear to happily take a back seat and just be there to support her. Like every other actor in this film, I really cannot imagine anyone else playing these characters. Of the three, it is the charming Tin Man who has always been my favourite, and I absolutely love the way Jack Haley plays him.
Judy gives one of her best performances. The amount of emotion she brings to the role is remarkable for one so young. She poured her heart and soul into this character and it shows. I always feel afraid for her and want to reach out and comfort her when she is held prisoner by the witch, she makes me so convinced of her desperation, grief and fear in those scenes.
Judy is phenomenal in this film. Screenshot by me.
I also love the way Judy sings Somewhere Over The Rainbow. It’s so hard to believe that after the second preview of the film it was felt this song should be cut! Thankfully that stupid decision was prevented from going ahead. Can you imagine this film without that song and scene? Neither can I.
The Wizard Of Oz is the perfect family film because it’s so joyous and has something in it for everyone to enjoy. It’s also a film all about family, friendship, being separated from those you love, adventure, courage and hopes and dreams. The film gives hope to anyone who is unhappy and lonely, with its message that love and acceptance can often be waiting for you just around the next bend in the road.
The film also tells us in effect to be careful what we wish for. Dorothy may well long to go somewhere over the rainbow and escape her real life, but how does she know that that far and away place she longs for will be better than where she is right now? As that final line says so well – “There’s no place like home.” What do you think of this beloved classic?
This is being posted early as part of the blogathon being hosted later this month by Rebecca from Taking Up Room. When I saw that she was hosting a blogathon devoted entirely to the film The Wizard Of Oz, I just knew that I had to take part and finally get around to reviewing this classic. Be sure to visit Rebecca’s site from the 23rd of August to read all of entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
Anyone who has ever endured the horrors and embarrassment of being a bullying victim, will be able to relate to the tragic and vulnerable Carrie White. I was badly bullied during my high school years and have never forgotten how frightened and alone those tormentors made me feel. I’ve also never forgotten the hate and disgust I felt towards those individuals who loved to bully me.
Poor Carrie feels all that too. The trouble is that she is so scared, shy and awkward that she can’t speak out about what she is enduring, instead she turns her pain and victimisation inwards. She keeps how she is feeling bottled up inside and wishes she could be invisible at school.
Anyone who says that bullying isn’t an issue and doesn’t do harm, or that victims can easily forget and move on from their experiences, is an absolute idiot and is a big part of the problem. The memories of bullying stay with the victims for life. It’s the bully who forgets and moves on because they don’t care about others and don’t see that they have done wrong. The victim is emotionally scarred for life.
Carrie has it doubly worse than most bullying victims though. She has no happy and loving home to go home to, nor does she have kind and loving parents/guardians/ family to comfort her as she tells them about the bullying. You see, poor Carrie also suffers abuse and cruelty from her mother as well. Margaret White is one of the scariest screen characters I’ve ever seen. She is a religious nutter who seems to embody more evil than anything she may read about in the religious texts that she holds so dear.
Mrs. White sees her own daughter as an abomination. She tells Carrie all the time that she is evil. She hits Carrie, locks her in a cupboard if she (in her mother’s opinion)does something supposedly sinful, neglects to tell her about the natural changes a woman’s body goes through during puberty(getting their periods etc), and shows her daughter no love whatsoever.
The tragic thing is that Carrie actually does have love in her heart for her mum, and she desperately wants her mum to love her in return. Mrs. White on the other hand does untold psychological damage to her daughter, and worse still, she does it all in the guise of supposedly being a decent follower of God/Jesus. Carrie is not only tormented and hurt at school, but she is also abused and scared in the one place that she should be safe and happy all the time. Carrie has no safe space or supporters to help her endure what’s happening to her.
Religious symbolism at Carrie’s home. Screenshot by me.
Interestingly I noticed how religiously symbolic Carrie’s home is. The interior of the White’s home is almost church like in its design. There are doorways and shelves inside that look like church windows. The walls are strewn with religious icons, and there’s even a roadmarking in the shape of a cross which be seen on the road outside their home. The fate of Carrie’s mum also mirrors the Crucifixion of Jesus, with her body at the end of the film bearing a striking resemblance to his body.
Carrie may well be a supernatural horror film, but it is also so much more than that. This is a very human story. It is a film about how cruel and despicable humans are capable of becoming, but also shows us that we have the capacity for kindness and change. It is a film about bullying, parental abuse, human cruelty, peer pressure and human fragility. It is also a tragedy. I think that due to all of these themes, rather than just the supernatural horror content, this film has become the classic that it is today. This film feels very real, way too real for those of us who have been bullying victims.
The film is also rather unusual for the horror genre in that it was one of the few horror films to be nominated for Academy Awards. Sissy and Piper were both nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. It’s nice that the Academy could overcome their random snobbery towards horror films and acknowledge one. Shame they don’t do that more often. Some of the most emotive and powerful screen performances can be found in horror films.
Carrie’s bullying is actually so bad that I think if her story were a reality happening today and nobody helped her, then it would end in one of two ways. Either Carrie would take her own life because she couldn’t stand what was happening at school and home, or she would become one of those teenagers who takes a gun or a knife into school and causes a massacre because they have snapped. In so many ways Carrie’s story plays out as the ultimate anti-bullying campaign. We are shown the psychological damage that bullying causes, and we are also shown what can happen when a victim snaps and retaliates against the bullies.
Carrie is based upon the 1974 Stephen King novel of the same name. Stephen’s creepy tale of a bullied teenager who wreaks a fiery, supernatural revenge upon her tormentors, has become one of King’s most popular novels. As good as the novel is, I personally find it much harder to sympathise with Carrie and other characters in the book the way I do in the film. This film is one of the rare exceptions where its content improves upon the source material. Director Brian De Palma cleverly mixed horror, tragedy, comedy and social commentary into the film. Brian’s more vulnerable and sympathetic take on the character of Carrie White also ensured that the audience was in sympathy with her throughout, and because of that we feel morally conflicted by the time that horrific prom-night fire occurs.
Sissy Spacek deserves so much credit for helping to bring about that reaction from audiences. Through her remarkable performance, she makes Carrie so sweet, scared, innocent, pure, vulnerable and awkward. She makes our hearts go out to her and makes us want to protect her. When she transforms and uses her telekinetic powers later in the film, Sissy’s Carrie becomes utterly terrifying.
The way Sissy widens her eyes, does that cold, dead stare, and changes her body posture in the later part of the film, is so disturbing to witness. She turns into a monster before our eyes, and yet we can’t help but feel sympathy for her still. Sissy wasn’t the directors first choice for the role, but she won him over by turning up to her audition with Vaseline in her hair, and looking as dishevelled and unkempt as Carrie is supposed to.
Carrie White(Sissy Spacek)is a teenager who is badly bullied at school, and also at her home by her religious mother, Margaret(Piper Laurie). While showering after a school gym class one day, Carrie suddenly sees blood running from between her legs. Terrified by this, she runs to her schoolmates in the changing rooms screaming for help. They laugh at her, frighten her and all stand around throwing tampons and pads at her.
Gym teacher Miss Collins(Betty Buckley)intervenes and gets the girls to stop. Miss Collins punishes the girls involved in the changing room incident with a series of harsh detentions on the sports pitch, at which she takes great delight in pushing them to their physical limits in gruelling exercise routines. Miss Collins is the only person who seems to care about Carrie, and the way Betty plays the role it’s hinted that she may have been a bullying victim herself and sees something of herself in Carrie.
The leader of the bullies are Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), one of those girls who thinks they are the be all and end all wherever they go, and the giggling Norma( P.J. Soles).When Chris gets confrontational with Miss Collins, the teacher expels her, and also bans her from attending the upcoming prom which she had been so looking forward to.
Sue Snell(Amy Irving)is another of the bullies, but she seems to become genuinely sorry for what she and the others have done to Carrie. She asks her boyfriend, Tommy Ross(William Katt), to take Carrie to the prom instead of her. At first Tommy, who is one of the most popular and cool lads in school, is aghast at this idea, but as he spends time with Carrie he genuinely starts to like her.
Tommy and Carrie gradually develop a connection. Unbeknown to Sue and Tommy, Chris and some of the others are plotting revenge on Carrie for Chris being expelled. The vote for prom king and queen will be rigged, with Tommy and Carrie being named the winners. When the pair come on stage, a huge bucket of pigs blood will be dropped on them; this will then cause Carrie to be humiliated in front of her fellow students and the staff.
What nobody apart from Carrie knows, is that once she got her period, she has been developing telekinesis. We see her unable to control this power and we see that it causes weird things to happen to objects and people around her if she gets angry or scared. On the night of the prom, Carrie’s power will lead the damaged girl to wreak a fiery revenge on those who pull the cruellest of pranks.
The ending of Carrie is both horrific and shocking. Carrie snaps and unleashes her power to kill everyone at the prom.Carrie doesn’t even seem to be in control of herself anymore, her power takes over and she mentally removes herself from what is going on around her. People that Carrie didn’t even really know are killed too, along with the bullies who made her life hell. The tragedy is that she thinks everyone there was laughing at her after the blood drops. Only Norma and one other person are shown laughing amongst the crowd, everybody else there actually looks horrified and sad. Carrie latches onto the laughter and then in her mind thinks everyone(even her beloved Miss Collins)is laughing at her. She traps everyone in the gym where the prom is being held and seals them in to burn. It’s difficult to watch, yet at the same time we remember that many who die were utter scum to this poor girl before this event, so our hearts don’t exactly break for them.
Sissy and Piper deliver the standout performances of the film. Piper is utterly convincing as a deranged and devout woman who not only hates her own child, but who also hates herself for having enjoyed the sex which resulted in Carrie being born.
The rest of the cast are all superb too. Nancy Allen plays Chris as a real super bitch, someone so mean that you can’t help but cheer when she gets what’s coming to her. Betty Buckley is excellent as the kind Miss Collins, her performance is subtle but affecting. Betty also dubbed the voice of the kid on the bike who taunts Carrie, only to be thrown off his bike by her power. Amy Irving is good as Sue, and she makes us wonder about her motivation and how much regret she feels about her actions towards Carrie. William Katt does a great job of the cool heartthrob who is at first unsure about getting together with Carrie, but then genuinely starts to like her and likes not having to have his guard up around her all the time. Through William’s excellent performance, we also see that he doesn’t have it easy at school either. Look out for a young John Travolta, in an early role as Chris’s booze and sex obsessed boyfriend.
The music by Pino Donaggio is absolutely beautiful. His music adds so much to the overall tone and atmosphere of the film. Moving from emotional and dreamlike, to suspenseful and eerie. The gorgeous cinematography and use of colours by Mario Tosi is also worthy of much praise too. The film looks beautiful.
I have to mention the infamous period scene. The scene is very difficult to watch and yet also very interesting due to what it has to say about women’s bodies. Periods are certainly messy and unpleasant, and your first one can certainly be alarming when it arrives, as shown in Carrie’s reaction in the film. But having a period is a natural process and shouldn’t be feared. I like the moment where Miss Collins gently tells Carrie to calm down and that she will tell her all about what has just happened to her. I always laugh at the scene where Miss Collins then goes to speak to the deputy head of the school about the period incident, he gets visibly uncomfortable with the subject matter being discussed, and becomes even more so when he sees blood on Miss Collins clothing from where Carrie grabbed her. The deputy head seems revolted by this natural bodily function.
Sadly even today there is still quite a stigma attached to the female menstrual cycle where men are concerned. Men, and even bizarrely some women, get incredibly awkward speaking about periods. It’s also been discovered that many women/girls are living in period poverty, and don’t have access to pads or tampons, something which is absolutely shocking. We should be much more open as a society about periods and ensure that all women get access to sanitary products. Don’t be ashamed or afraid of periods. We must also make sure that girls are properly informed about periods when they’re younger so they know that they will happen to them.
Interestingly it is the onset of her period which also sees the start of Carrie’s powers developing. Is this coincidence? Has becoming a woman set this all off, or was the power always there but the stress of this traumatic event set it off in her? Carrie’s mum very worryingly sees her daughter getting her first period as being a sinful occurrence. In her warped view she sees her daughter as no longer being innocent or the same because her periods have started. Blood and the colour red play a key role in the film and feature heavily throughout. I think this could well be the most period centric film I’ve ever seen in my life.
The film was very successful at the box office, taking in $33.8 million dollars. Over the years the film has become one of the most popular and famous horror films of all time. Its famous shock ending/dream sequence inspired multiple similar sequences in both film and television. Cool bit of trivia is that the hand in that sequence actually belonged to Sissy Spacek, who was buried for real beneath that dirt in order to perform in that sequence. This film has lost none of its power to shock, move or scare audiences. A 2013 remake lacked the emotion and horror of the original, although I did like the way that film showed social media and mobile phones being used in Carrie’s bullying.
The time has come for all us guys and dames who love Film Noir to assemble here at Maddy’s Club. Over the next three days, a large number of Noir fans will share their reviews and articles on all things Film Noir. Keep checking back to this post over the next three days to read all the entries.
Massive thanks to those of you who are taking part. I can’t wait to read all those entries.
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.
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.
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.
Lady 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.
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.
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.
Daphne’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.
Hungry 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.
Rebecca 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?
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)
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)
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)
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)
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….
Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Janet over at Sister Celluloid is hosting this blogathon in memory of Audrey Hepburn. If she was still with us, Audrey Hepburn would be celebrating her 90th birthday today.
Be sure to visit Janet’s site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. Instead of writing about one of Audrey’s films, I’ve decided instead to write about what Audrey Hepburn means to me.
When I was growing up in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, I was something of a major outcast at school. I loved watching classic films and reading, and I much preferred to be doing either of those two things than to be involved with any of the latest trends or mass interests. That singled me out.
I was also different from others due to disability. I’m Autistic and I suffered quite a lot of bullying during my high school years due to this. School was a very lonely and upsetting place for much of the time. My parents told me to just ignore the idiots picking on me, and believe me when I say that I tried very hard to do just that. But it’s very difficult sometimes when you have to be around bullies five days a week! You’re probably thinking, what on earth has all this got to do with our birthday girl, Audrey Hepburn. Well, I’ll tell you.
One day(somewhere around 2000 or 2001) I saw a film whose lead character, and the actress playing the lead character, really took my interest and had a big impact on me.
The film was Breakfast At Tiffany’s. The actress was Audrey Hepburn. The character was Holly Golightly. Here was a character who was quirky and unique; someone who went against social norms and expectations and just did her own thing.
Holly is also someone who puts on a brave and happy face to hide inner pain.I could relate to her so much. I loved the film because it was about a misfit. I saw something of myself in Holly. This was the first time that I had ever had such a reaction to a film character. This is going to sound really weird, but I didn’t feel so alone being who I was after seeing this film.
I was also left feeling very intrigued by Audrey Hepburn herself. At this point in my life(my early teens) I had already been a classic film fan for some years. I was already familiar with Audrey, having seen her in My Fair Lady, but it wasn’t until seeing Breakfast At Tiffany’s that I found myself wanting to see more of her work and to learn more about her as a person.
Two of my favourite shots of Audrey in this film. Screenshots by me.
I loved the way that Audrey played Holly. I especially loved the vulnerability and the humour that she brought to that character. Audrey made me emotionally connect with Holly in a way that I hadn’t really done before with any other character on screen. I became a fan of Audrey Hepburn, not only because she was a terrific actress, but also because she was a genuine and decent human being off screen. Audrey was a kind and compassionate soul. She did so much for charity and she treated everyone(ordinary and famous people alike)with equal amounts of kindness and politeness.
Audrey also went against trends and what was expected of her by society at large. Audrey dressed in her own way and just did whatever was comfortable to her. Audrey also ended up becoming a style icon for her unique looks and dress sense. Ironically she never actually thought very highly of her own looks(girl, you were gorgeous!) and often said she felt that her feet were way too big. She was someone who I could identify with because she was a unique individual who didn’t try to be like other people. I love that Audrey stayed true to herself throughout her entire life.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Crystal 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂
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.
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: Katharine Hepburn 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
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.
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. It’s unquestionably one of the greatest films ever made. The image of the future that it presents to us is one which is impossible to get out of your head once you’ve seen it. 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, as they don’t always include every word being spoken, and I think this can make it difficult for deaf viewers to follow the dialogue properly. Some TV channels 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.
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, Oscar Micheaux, 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 just because you feel you should.
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), Within Our Gates (1920), 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?
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 we would be here forever. 🙂 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From cinematic classics, to goofy guilty pleasures, and everything in between, join me as I review the best and worst of Hollywood. Grab a slice of pizza, pour some wine, and meet me in the living room: We have movies to discuss.