Blogathons

Five Stars Blogathon

 

 

Five Stars Blogathon

Rick, over at the Classic Film and TV Café, is hosting this blogathon about five favourite classic era stars. I can’t wait to read all the other entries to see which actors people have chosen as their favourites.

I’ve picked five stars who each hold a special place in my heart. I’ve picked my favourite performance from each, and I have listed five films for them all that I highly recommend people see. I’m posting this a day early, as I won’t be able to post it tomorrow.

Maddy’s Five Favourite Classic Stars

1- Claude Rains

Born in London, in 1889, Claude went on to became one of the most talented of all the classic era screen actors. He starred in over 70 films. 

I love Claude for how he could steal any scene, often with just a look or by the way he delivered a line. He always came across as witty and classy. He made everything he did on screen look effortless.

Claude had one of the greatest voices in film history. He used this to great effect in all of his films. In The Invisible Man(1933)he particularly relies on his voice alone to convey the menace and feelings that his unseen face cannot convey. For me this is one of the greatest vocal performances in film history.

Claude died in 1967.

photo0045My Favourite Claude Rains Film Performance? Justin in The Passionate Friends (1949). Claude is excellent here as the husband who discovers his wife(Ann Todd) is having an affair with her ex(Trevor Howard). He still loves her, but can he find it in his heart to forgive her? Claude makes you really feel for Justin and gives you the impression that although not passionate, he is never the less a good man who loves his wife.

Five Must See Claude Rains films: Deception, The Passionate Friends, The Invisible Man,Casablanca, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

2-  Vivien Leigh

Born in India, in 1913, Vivien Leigh would go on to become one of Britain’s greatest stage actresses. Vivien was married to Laurence Olivier from 1940 to 1961 and the couple starred alongside each other in several plays and films.

Despite her great talent Vivien only ever ended up starring in 20 films. I think that is a great shame,she is someone I would dearly love to have seen more often on screen. Vivien won two Oscars for Best Actress (Gone With The Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire.)

Vivien easily rivals Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor for the title of most beautiful actress of all time in my opinion.

I love Vivien for the strength, vulnerability and enchanting quality she gave to so many of her characters. Vivien is another actor who steals every scene she is in. I also admire Vivien because she continued working on stage and screen whilst struggling with her Bipolar Disorder, that cannot have been easy for her; especially in a time when mental illness had such a stigma attached to it.

Vivien died in 1967.

Photo0083My Favourite Vivien Leigh Film Performance? As the iron willed Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind (1939). Doing what she has to do to survive, even if those things make her unpopular. Scarlett is resourceful, beguiling, vulnerable and admirable. This was Vivien’s breakthrough film performance and it is the one that made her a worldwide star. Vivien makes you admire Scarlett, even when we may not agree with some of her actions.

Five Must See Vivien Leigh Films: A Streetcar Named Desire, That Hamilton Woman, Waterloo Bridge, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Gone With The Wind.

3- George Sanders

Born in Russia, in 1906, George Sanders would become the go to actor for playing cads and villains. Suave, effortlessly charming and possessing one of the most distinctive voices in film history. George could often be seen playing heartbreakers and oily villains. Between 1939 and 1941, he played the heroic Simon Templar in The Saint film series; these films proved he could play a good guy and he played a similar character in The Falcon series.

I love him because he made everything he did appear effortless. He had a special way of delivering his lines, making them witty and full of dry humour.

A couple of years ago I was delighted to discover that in 1958, Sanders recorded and released a song album called The George Sanders Touch: Songs For The Lovely Lady. Having heard a few of his songs I can report that his singing voice is lovely, and I’m surprised he didn’t release more songs. I was very pleasantly surprised when I first heard his singing.

George died in 1972.

Photo0084My Favourite George Sanders Film Performance? As Addison DeWitt in All About Eve (1950). As the theatre critic with the acid tongue, he steals every scene he is in(even from Bette Davis!). Sanders looks like he is having great fun throughout, he makes DeWitt a charming friend and a dangerous enemy.

Five Must See George Sanders Films: All About Eve, The Black Swan, The Saint In London, Foreign Correspondent, The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry.

4- Setsuko Hara

Setsuko was born in 1920, in Japan. She began working in films when she was a teenager. During the 1940’s and 50’s, Setsuko was one of the most popular stars of Japanese cinema.

Working frequently with director Yasujiro Ozu, Setsuko became synonymous with her frequent screen character Noriko. Her screen persona was often that of the dutiful and gentle daughter, putting her own desires aside for the sake of her family.

I love Setsuko because she is such an expressive actress, she really conveys the emotions of her characters in such a realistic and genuine way. Setsuko really makes you feel what her characters go through (be that happy or sad times.) She also had one of the most beautiful smiles ever to be captured on screen.

Setsuko retired from films in 1963(the same year that Yasujiro Ozu died) and she died in 2015.

Photo0085My Favourite Setsuko Hara Film Performance? As the dutiful Noriko in Late Spring(1949). Setsuko plays a daughter who is happiest at home with her father. Leaving home to get married breaks her heart. A moving portrayal of a daughter’s love for her father. Setsuko makes my heart break for her character and makes me wish her all the best for her future.

Five Must See Setsuko Hara Films: Early Summer, The Ball at the Anjo House, Late Spring, Tokyo Story, Late Autumn.

5- Cary Grant

Cary was born in Bristol, England in 1904.Cary joined a circus act in which he learnt to become a skilled acrobat and physical comic. Those skills would come in handy when they featured in several of his films. He headed to Hollywood and worked his way up from bit player to one of the most beloved stars of the classic era.

Cary was suave, charming, stylish and a highly skilled physical comic. Men wanted to be him, and women wanted to be with him.

I love him because I greatly admire how he worked his way up to become a star. Cary overcame a very sad, working class childhood and went on to become a wealthy success.

I love how he made so many of his roles fun. Cary can often be found amusingly breaking the fourth wall and looking directly at us on screen; this makes the comic situation he’s reacting too even funnier for me. 

Although best known for his romantic and comic roles, Cary was a very good dramatic actor too. I prefer him in his more serious roles, such as Notorious. I wish he had been given more dramatic roles in his career.

Cary died in 1986.

Photo0068My Favourite Cary Grant Film Performance? Peter Joshua in Charade (1963). Cary plays a spy, who may or may not be a man that Reggie(Audrey Hepburn)can trust. This role for me is the perfect combination of all his screen skills. Here Cary gets to be a man of action and be romantic, funny and serious.

Five Must See Cary Grant Films:  Only Angels Have Wings, North By Northwest, Charade, Notorious,The Awful Truth.

Well, it was tough narrowing down my favourite actors list to just five, but I managed to do it in the end. The five I chose are actors whose work I return to again and again, and who always seem natural to me in their on screen performances.

Here are ten runners up. More of my classic era favourites(five men and five women)with some must see films from them.

William Holden: Stalag 17, Breezy, Network, Paris When It Sizzles, Golden Boy.

Takashi Shimura: Stray Dog, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Scandal, Godzilla.

Michael Redgrave: The Browning Version, Time Without Pity, Dead Of Night, The Years Between, The Lady Vanishes.

John Mills: Ice Cold In Alex, The Long Memory, Tiger Bay, It’s Great To Be Young, Ryan’s Daughter.

Stanley Baker: Hell Is A City, Zulu, A Prize Of Arms, Hell Drivers, Campbell’s Kingdom.

Margret Lockwood: The Wicked Lady, Love Story, Jassy, The Lady Vanishes, Madness of the Heart.

Dorothy Dandridge: Moment Of Danger, Carmen Jones, Tamango, Bright Road,  Island In The Sun.

Deborah Kerr: The Innocents, The Chalk Garden, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, From Here To Eternity, The Sundowners.

Clara Bow: Call Her Savage, It, Wings, Hoop-La, Get Your Man.

Ingrid Bergman: Notorious, Stromboli, The Bells of St. Mary’s, A Woman Called Golda, Anastasia.

Thank you for reading. Be sure to check out all the other posts over on Rick’s site.

Please share your thoughts on any of the actors I’ve written about. Share your five favourites in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blogathons, Romance, Tributes To Classic Stars

The Bette Davis Blogathon: Mr. Skeffington (1944)

 

 

bette-davis-blogathon

Crystal, over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, is hosting this blogathon all about Bette Davis. I’m looking forward to reading all the other posts by those taking part. This is the first time I have ever taken part in a Blogathon, so I’m very excited to be taking part in this.

I’ve decided to write about a great favourite of mine, the 1944 romantic drama, Mr. Skeffington.

Based on the novel by Elizabeth von Arnim; Mr. Skeffington focuses on the beautiful, young socialite, Fanny Trellis(Bette Davis). Fanny can twist men around her little finger, they dote on her, are entranced by her, and she both knows and loves it! From her first scene to her last, Bette makes Fanny the centre of attention as she floats around like a brightly coloured butterfly amongst all those love struck men drawn to her like bees to honey, moths to a…well, by now you should be getting the picture.

Bette was never better than when she was playing bad girls, and her performance here is another good example of this. What I find fascinating about this particular role though is that although Fanny is a selfish heartbreaker, I do find myself wondering if she is always consciously aware of the effect her actions will have?

Sometimes Fanny seems to be pretty naïve, there is a real girlish quality to her, yet at other times it seems she knows exactly what will happen after she says certain things, or goes out with a certain man and uses her apparent innocence as a cover/excuse for her behaviour.

This is precisely why I love Bette so much though, she can let you see the inner workings of her characters; she makes them more complex/human than they may have appeared on paper or possibly when played by another actress.

Fanny marries the kindly Job Skeffington(Claude Rains, delivering one of his most heartbreaking performances)after her brother Trippy(Richard Waring)embezzles money from him. Fanny hopes that her new marriage will allow her access to money which he can pass to her brother. When Trippy (who hates Job)learns what she has done, he leaves home in disgust and is killed in the First World War. Grief stricken by his death, Fanny withholds any affection she once had for Job from him.

Fanny devotes herself to parties and spending time with a number of other men. Job and their daughter rarely see her anymore. Throughout all of this Job’s love for Fanny has never wavered, and seeing him so hurt by her only makes us hate what she is doing. Fanny will come to learn(at great personal cost)that looks are not everything, it is the person inside who counts most. Love isn’t about the physical, it is really all about two souls connecting.

My favourite scenes are the following:

1- Job and Fanny on their honeymoon boat trip, the pair are on deck and see a passionate young couple get serenaded; Fanny is utterly convinced they too will be serenaded by this band who are rumoured to always be able to pick out newlyweds and play for them onboard. The band approach, Fanny looks expectant, satisfied even and then the band members look at one another, shake their heads and walk past leaving a perplexed Fanny in their wake; she didn’t realise(but Job did)that they are not acting like a couple in love.

2- Job sitting by Fanny’s bed when they learn she is pregnant. He is overjoyed and wants to be with her, she is distressed at the thought pregnancy may affect her appearance and she also doesn’t want to have the baby at home. Job is dismissed and we can see the heartbreak it causes.

3-Fanny visiting Job at his company. When news of The First World War being declared comes through, his office is swamped with employees asking what stocks they should buy up etc. For once Fanny is of interest to no one and it throws her somewhat. Bette is very good in this scene, going from in control and flirting, to being completely overwhelmed by something out of her control. I love how she ends up standing on a chair to get out of the way of people barging in and tries to regain Job’s attention.

4- Fanny drinking in a club with a man she is having an affair with. A drunk man keeps telling her she is gorgeous, he invites more drunks over to gaze at her, who all in turn say she is the most beautiful woman they’ve ever seen. Fanny is utterly delighted at this attention and has a right laugh at it all.

Bette is excellent in this film as the flirtatious, fun loving, seductive and enchanting Fanny. One moment she is all childlike innocence, vulnerability, and excitement and the next, she is despicable, cruel, vain and extremely selfish. Throughout all of this though, Bette keeps you interested in the character and even makes her sympathetic during certain scenes, she is not all bad and is more complicated than she may appear to be at first.

I always get the impression that Fanny needs attention and compliments because it makes her feel special; if she accepts her marriage with Job she will no longer feel as unique, desired as she does when she parades around with all the other men. That I can be so intrigued by Fanny is, I think, a real testament to Bette’s abilities as an actress, it is because of her performance and not the writing that makes me so fascinated. I can’t imagine another actress playing this role quite the way Bette does.

Without a doubt this is Bette’s film, but I’d also like to give a shout out to Claude Rains.He is superb here(endless shots of puppy dog eyes), and a sense his character harbours a quiet hope that one day something might change between him and Fanny. This film could so easily have ended up belonging to either of these brilliant actors at the cost of the other, but actually neither of them ends up overshadowing the other. Bette often said that Claude was her favourite co-star and I think they were a perfect screen fit. I really like them together in this, Deception and Now Voyager. I really wish they had made many more films together.

This is a real tearjerker and that ending gets me every time I see it.

Expertly directed by Vincent Sherman. Terrific performances all round, beautiful costumes courtesy of Orry-Kelly and some gorgeous set design courtesy of Fred M. MacLean.  On top of all that, we get Bette at the height of her fame and talent, always a treat to watch. Bette, thank you so much for so many fine performances over the years, you are greatly missed.

I highly recommend this if you haven’t seen it. If you have, please share your thoughts on the film and on Bette’s performance.

 

British Cinema, Romance, Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 2: The Passionate Friends(1949)

photo0045Continuing on with the unsung series. Today, I’m focusing on this British romantic drama, starring Trevor Howard, Claude Rains and Ann Todd. I find it hard to choose one film as my all time favourite, but if I had to choose just one, I really do think this might be it.

If you think H.G Wells only wrote science fiction,  you really need to think again. In 1913 his novel about adultery, called The Passionate Friends was published. This film written by Eric Ambler and directed by David Lean is based on that novel(I’ve never read the novel, but from the write up I’ve found online, I think I’d be better off sticking with the screen adaptation as the original story doesn’t actually sound like my cup of tea. I may check it out at some point if I ever come across it.)

Mary Justin(Ann Todd)is married to Howard Justin(Claude Rains), a much older man who is very wealthy. At a New Years Eve party Mary runs into her former lover Steven Stratton(Trevor Howard)and discovers that she still has feelings for him. The pair strike up a friendship but neither can deny their romantic attraction. Howard discovers their affair and puts an end to it; or so he thinks, as nine years later in a Swiss hotel, Mary and Steven meet again and once again can’t deny their feelings. Mary has to choose which man she will stay with.

Not only is Mary torn between two different men, but she must choose between two different types of love, the physical and the emotional. Steven is passionate, tender and expressive; whereas Howard is more reserved, gentle, and set in his ways. Both men love her very much, but with which man (type of love) does she find herself happiest?

In many ways this film mirrors Lean’s earlier classic Brief Encounter.You could almost view this film as the sequel to that, with Howard appearing in both(and as a doctor in both), the dull but loving husband, and a woman torn between one life and another.

Ann Todd is superb as the young woman struggling against her own feelings and not really wanting to hurt either of these men, but knowing whichever choice she makes will end up hurting one of them. Todd was married to David Lean and appeared in several of his films, she is an actress who deserved many more film roles. She is a very expressive actress and in this film she doesn’t need words in most scenes as her face tells us all we need to know(particularly during the tube station finale.)

This features my favourite Claude Rains performance, as the man who knows what is going on under his nose, doesn’t like it but no matter what can’t give up the woman he loves. He makes us really feel for Justin and makes him likeable, which makes the situation even more poignant all round. I especially love him in the scene where he confronts Mary and Steven and they realise he knows about them; Claude owns that scene and makes it quite funny.

Howard is very good as the outgoing, earnest younger man desperately trying to start again with the woman he loves. I love him in the scene where Steven and Howard have a confrontation at Howard’s home, and in the scenes in the Switzerland.

There is some gorgeous and interesting photography in this and beautiful scenes of the Swiss lakes and mountains.

The ending isn’t one you forget in a hurry and is very moving.

A film that deserves a great deal more attention. Highly recommended. If you happen to be a fan of this one, please do share your thoughts.