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
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.
Deborah Kerr delivered so many excellent performances during her long film career. She was always such a natural film actress, and she always oozed such class.
I’ve chosen four of her films which I think all highlight what a gifted actress she was.
I think that all four of these films make for essential viewing if you want to see Deborah’s range as an actress.
The Innocents (1961)
I think this may well be Deborah’s best screen performance. She is so convincing here as the governess on the brink of a breakdown. She more than convinces as a terrified, paranoid and anxious Governess who believes that the two children she is looking after are possessed by the ghosts of two dead former servants.
Is she really seeing ghosts and uncovering a case of possession? Or is she going mad and imagining the frightening things she starts to see?
Deborah really lets us in to this woman’s psyche. Thanks to her very convincing performance, we really feel her characters fear build up throughout the film. This film offered Deborah a chance to play someone very different from the kind, glamorous, elegant and confident characters that she so often played on screen.
The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943)
In this Powell and Pressburger classic, Deborah doesn’t just play one character, she plays THREE characters. Although we are well aware that it is Deborah playing each character, her terrific performances convince us that these characters are three very different women in terms of their personalities and mannerisms.
Deborah as Edith, Barbara and Johnny. Screenshot by me.
Deborah plays Edith, Barbara and Johnny. Edith is a British woman living in Germany. Major Clive Candy(Roger Livesey)falls in love with her. Edith marries his German friend, Theo(Anton Walbrook). Clive never stops loving her.
A few years later, Clive meets a WW1 nurse called Barbara, a woman who bears an uncanny resemblence to his lost love. The pair get married. In a way their marriage means that Clive has Edith back in his life. Clive’s chauffeur during WW2 is a young woman known as Johnny, she also reminds him of Edith. Johnny is someone who is much more open and easier to get to know than either Edith or Barbara.
I think that Deborah’s three performances in this are essential viewing if you are a fan of her work.
From Here To Eternity (1953)
Although it is best remembered for that risque roll in the surf, this film is also notable for featuring Deborah playing very much against type. Up to this point in her career she had mostly been playing prim, innocent and respectable women on the screen.
In this film, her famous red hair is dyed blonde, and her character, Karen Holmes, is a very sexualised and strong-willed woman. Karen is also very forward and isn’t shy about making her desires and needs known to others.
Deborah owns every second of film she appears in here. Her performance and look in the film remind me so much of Rita Hayworth’s in The Lady From Shanghai.
There’s so much more to Deborah’s performance in this one than merely being sexy though. She also very adeptly conveys Karen’s deep vulnerability, her toughness and her strength. It really is a remarkable performance.
Another Powell and Pressburger masterpiece. This film sees Deborah playing Sister Clodagh, the newly promoted head nun in a convent. The nuns move out to a new convent in the Himalayas. Not long after they arrive at their new home, they all quickly start to crack under stress, and begin to give in to different desires and wishes which have long been repressed.
Deborah does such a wonderful job of conveying to us her characters very difficult emotional struggle and her waning strength. Her performance here is subtle and all in the eyes. Deborah’s face is a kaleidoscope of emotion here.
What are your thoughts on Deborah’s performances in these four films?
I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I really love watching films focusing on two very different characters who get thrown together by chance. I love watching such characters work to overcome their differences, and in the process of doing so slowly begin to like and trust one another.
The most famous example of this type of film has to be John Huston’s The African Queen (1951). I like that film quite a bit, but despite my fondness for it, the film has never been able to claim the place in my heart which is held by Huston’s later film Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. I find that I care far more about Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum’s characters, than I have ever cared about Bogie and Hepburn’s characters in The African Queen.
I also like Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison more because I think that it is the more serious and touching film of the two. The film is part war film and part romantic drama. The film also features a good mix of action, suspense, drama and comedy.
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is based upon the 1952 novel of the same name by Charles Shaw. John Huston co-wrote the screenplay for this film with John Lee Mahin. The film was shot on location on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
The film is set in the Pacific during WW2. The story begins with an American Marine, Corporal Allison(Robert Mitchum)floating on the ocean in a life raft. He has become separated from his comrades during a naval battle. The corporal’s raft washes up on the beach of a remote island in the South Pacific.
The first meeting between the Marine and the Nun. Screenshot by me.
While he is walking around exploring the island, he comes across a small building and he is astonished to discover that it is occupied by a Catholic nun called Sister Angela(Deborah Kerr). Only after he has been assured that she is well and in no danger, does the corporal lie down and take a well deserved sleep. What a gent he is! 🙂
Sister Angela is alone on the island, she has only been living there for a few days herself. She has been alone since the death of the priest she was working with a few days earlier. The pair had been taken to the island by some natives to help evacuate another priest who lived on the island.
When Sister Angela and the priest had arrived on the island, they soon discovered that the other priest had already been removed by Japanese forces, and then they were stranded there when the natives who brought them over got frightened and abandoned them.
Sister Angela and Corporal Allison are hesitant of one another at first, but as they spend more time together they begin to start liking each other very much.
The Corporal’s feelings deepen into romantic love and he tells Sister Angela that he wants to marry her, so that he can take care of her forever.
We can see that the pair like one another very much, but Sister Angela, in a firm but very gentle way, makes it quite clear to Corporal Allison that she has devoted herself to serving God and that she will never marry or have physical relations.
Corporal Allison struggles to get his head around her decision to never allow herself romantic love. This leads him to deliver this funny and touching outburst: “If ya gotta be a nun, why ain’t ya old and ugly? Why do ya gotta have big blue eyes, a beautiful smile and freckles?”
I find Corporal Allison’s outburst to be very moving because we have seen him pluck up the courage to express his feelings to her, and he feels hurt and embarrassed that he has opened himself up like that only to be rejected. She is kind to him afterwards and they both try not to let things get awkward after that declaration of love and longing.
Things are further complicated when Japanese forces land on the island. The Corporal must try and protect the two of them from the Japanese soldiers who are moving around the island.
Later in the film the Corporal must do all he can to save the life of Sister Angela when she becomes seriously ill with a fever.
As the film goes on Sister Angela slowly begins to leave her rather naive belief that all humans are good far behind her. Sister Angela begins to understand and accept the darker and harsher realities of life. She may not approve of Corporal Allison killing people, but she understands that his actions are necessary for their survival.
With the Pacific war going on around her, Sister Angela is also becoming more aware of the evil acts that humans are capable of. She never loses her belief and hope that people can change their ways and become more decent, the time she spends with Corporal Allison proves to her that people are capable of changing for the better.
Corporal Allison in turn tries to alter his behaviour and manners so that he doesn’t offend or upset Sister Angela. He starts out as a very gruff and blunt man, yet as the film goes on he becomes a much gentler and thoughtful man. Through spending time with Sister Angela he also begins to see that not all human beings are cruel and out for whatever they can get.
By the end of the film Corporal Allison has become a very different person than the one we saw at the beginning. He may well not be able to give up his life in the corp(which is all he has ever known), but I have a strong suspicion that he will be a very different person with a very different outlook on life when he returns home.
Sister Angela and Corporal Allison can go back into society at the end of the film, with each of them having acquired a far better understanding of the human condition than they had before they encountered one another.
Interestingly the film also shows us that Corporal Allison and Sister Angela are both similarly devoted to the institutions they each belong to (Sister Angela to the Catholic Church, and Corporal Allison to the United States Marine Corps), and that both of these institutions are somewhat similar, both in terms of their rituals and traditions, and also because of how people involved with both institutions devote themselves to living that way of life.
The performance of Deborah in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is amazing. She totally convinces as Sister Angela. She radiates decency and warmth.
Deborah also has an innocence and sweetness about her in this which I think perfectly contrasts with the rugged, world-weary personality of Robert’s stranded Marine.
Deborah is particularly excellent in the scene where the island is being bombed and Sister Angela is very frightened by the loud noises. She also totally convinces us that her character is seriously ill during the fever sequences.
Robert Mitchum is equally as good as the worldly Marine. His performance here has all the toughness and don’t mess with me attitude present in so many of his Noir films, yet Robert is also at his most vulnerable here.
Robert’s performance lets you see how much the Corporal is struggling with his feelings for Sister Angela and struggling with himself as to whether he should bring his feelings out into the open. It’s one of my favourite performances from Robert. This film is said to have been his own personal favourite from his own work.
Deborah and Robert would become good friends after working on this film. Robert had initially thought that Deborah would be very prim and proper like many of her screen characters had been. His assumptions were happily proven wrong after she swore at director John Huston during a take, this caused Robert to collapse laughing and after that the pair got on just fine. 🙂
Deborah and Robert would go on to star alongside each other in The Sundowners, The Grass Is Greener and Reunion At Fairborough(TV film). Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr are in my top five acting screen teams. I like them together so much because they always manage to convince us of the emotional bonds developing between their characters in their four films.
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a lovely and moving film.I highly recommend it, not only to fans of Deborah and Robert, but to anyone who appreciates a well told story with a strong focus on the characters and actors.
My favourite scenes are the following. The corporal’s confession about his feelings for Sister Angela. The scenes where he is nursing her when she has the fever. The scene where he comforts her in the cave during the bombing. Sister Angela watching Corporal Allison standing on the beach looking out to sea. Where he tells her it has been a privilege to know her, and she says he will always be her dear companion. The scene where he sings Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree and they dance on the beach. The scene where he is drunk.
As well as the great acting to enjoy, there are also some lovely locations to look at and there is a good score by Georges Auric to enjoy.
Any other fans of this one? What are your thoughts on Deborah’s performance in this one?
Deborah Kerr is one of my favourite actresses from the classic film era, and I want to hold this blogathon to celebrate Deborah and her films. I do hope that you can all join me to pay tribute to this very talented lady.
Deborah Kerr was born Deborah Jane Kerr- Trimmer, in Glasgow, on the 30th of September, 1921. She would go on to become one of the most beloved and famous actresses of her day, and she worked in both English and American films. On screen she was the epitome of an English rose.
For this blogathon you can write about any of the films and TV series that she appeared in. You can write about her entire career. You can write a tribute to her. You can write about your favourite Deborah Kerr characters and performances. If you ever met or corresponded with her, then you can write about that experience too.
You can write more than one post if you want to. Previously published posts are very welcome. I will accept two duplicate posts per screen title.
The blogathon will be held on the 30th of September, 2018. Please post your entries on or before this date.
Let me know below what you want to write about. Please take one of the banners and put it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Check the participation list below to see who is writing about what.
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison & Four Essential Deborah Kerr Performances
Poppity: Black Narcissus
Caftan Woman: Reunion At Fairborough
Anybody Got A Match: The Hucksters
Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: Tea and Sympathy
The Stop Button: Separate Tables
Old Hollywood Films: The Grass Is Greener
Silver Screen Classics: The Night Of The Iguana
Whimsically Classic: From Here To Eternity
Pop Culture Reverie: Tea And Sympathy
The Wonderful World Of Cinema: Separate Tables
Palewriter2: An Affair To Remember & The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp
MovieRob: Edward My Son
Critica Retro: Vacation From Marriage
Diary Of A Movie Maniac: The End Of The Affair & Beloved Infidel
Lady Eve’s Reel Life: The Innocents
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies: The films of Deborah Kerr
For me, this is the greatest ghost film which has ever been made. Whenever I think of films featuring haunted houses, it is this film which always springs first into my mind. The cinematography and lighting both add so much to the film, with each one helping to provide an extremely unsettling and eerie look in every scene. The period set design is the icing on this horror cake because the house interiors look like a real home of the period in which the film is set.
I don’t know about you, but I happen to think that spooky old houses are really the best locations to set horror stories in. An old haunted house gives you creaking floorboards, flickering candles and plenty of dark corners; add in the possibilities of spirits messing with your mind, and you really have got yourself one very frightening experience indeed. The Innocents is based upon the novel The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. It is a very frightening and claustrophobic film. I think that it makes for perfect viewing on a dark night or on a dark and stormy afternoon.
The film is directed by Jack Clayton, it has stunning black and white photography by Freddie Francis, a brilliant screenplay by William Archibald and Truman Capote, and it has a truly eerie and atmospheric score by Georges Auric. The film is very much a slow build and it is well worth sticking with to see the horror and tension build as the film goes along.
From the very beginning this film intrigues the viewer and is highly unsettling at the same time. The opening film logos and credits are accompanied by an eerie song that sounds like its straight out of the Victorian era. Birds can be heard chirping on the soundtrack and we also hear the whimpers of a woman.
We then see a distraught woman (who we later learn to be Miss Giddens), her hands clasped together in prayer, we see that she is deeply distressed, but we have no idea why she is, nor do we have any idea about what is going on. I think this is such a good way to open the film as it sets up the tone and atmosphere of the film right away, and it also really makes you wonder about what you are seeing unfold before your eyes.
The unsettling atmosphere continues as Jack Clayton goes against horror traditions and has many of the scary moments in the film take place in the daytime. Traditionally the day is a safe time in horror films, but in this film there is little respite from the horror and suspense we are witnessing on screen.
The young and repressed Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr)becomes the new governess of two adorable siblings, Flora and Miles (Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens). As time goes on she begins to suspect that the two children are possessed by the spirits of two dead former servants, the violent Quint, and the besotted and fragile Miss Jessel(Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessop.) Miss Giddens notices that the siblings behave very oddly and that they seem to be aware of things that nobody else is aware of. Miles also acts very much like an adult in the way he speaks and behaves. There is just something not right about him at all and he is so unsettling to be around.
For one so young, I think that the actor Martin Stephens very adeptly conveys a wisdom and worldliness way beyond his years here. In my opinion Martin delivers the most unsettling child performances in film history (the little boy from the original Omen film comes in a close second).
Martin is especially excellent in the scenes where Miles talks to Miss Giddens in the way that a man who was her lover would do. These scenes between Miles and Miss Giddens are very strange, and they certainly make for quite uncomfortable viewing too. Martin really makes you believe that he is an older and very worldly man in these scenes. Freaky stuff!
Miles and Flora. Screenshot by me.
The other weird thing about Miles, is that he and Flora seem to be almost telepathically linked. The siblings seem to communicate with one another through a series of glances and expressions which convey to us that there are secrets between them known only to them. Their weird behaviour only adds even more creepiness to the proceedings. Miss Giddens then begins to see ghosts around the house. Or does she?
It is precisely this ambiguity regarding the ghosts that makes this film so effective in my opinion. Either Miss Giddens really does see the ghosts, and the children really are possessed, or Miss Giddens is suffering a mental breakdown and is imaging the whole thing. Either scenario is terrifying and whichever you believe(I actually believe that it is a combination of both)is scary and makes the ending both shocking and sad.
I think that the children were psychologically corrupted by the things they saw Quint and Miss Jessel do together, and that what they witnessed them do together has affected their behaviour.
It should also be remembered that Quint and Miss Jessel were the only people who the children had ever been close too. The children loved and admired these two very much, and when they died, the children were completely devastated and didn’t know what to do with themselves.
I think that both children now try and imitate Quint and Miss Jessel after their death so that they can keep them alive in a way.
I don’t think that the children have any idea that the behavior they mimic is considered morally wrong. The children grew up with Quint and Miss Jessel, they were exposed to nothing but their violent and sexual behaviour for many years, so for them this behaviour is considered normal.
The children’s imitation of the deceased means that they are bringing these two people back to life, isn’t this another form of possession? So maybe Miss Giddens is correct when she says the children are possessed, it is just that they are not literally being controlled by spirits as she believes.
Miss Giddens hears about the dead servants and begins to fear them and their supernatural influence. She then begins to see them, either for real or in her mind due to their presence lingering on strongly even after their deaths. I think Miss Giddens really does see these horrors. The question is are they actually real ghosts? Or are they hallucinations brought on by her rapidly increasing paranoia and fear? To her though there is no doubt that what she sees are very real apparitions.
This is the type of horror film I like best. It is one where you’re not sure if you just glimpsed something in the corner of your eye, or if something just brushed past a character causing a candle to flicker in the process.
I much prefer psychological horror to gore and this film iscertainly one which makes you think. It is also one that really creeps me out every time I watch it. I also like that it allows you to draw your own conclusions about what is actually happening to Miss Giddens as the film goes along.
I think that Deborah gives one of the very best performances of her entire career here. She captures this woman’s growing fear and paranoia. She starts off portraying her as an eager, shy and happy woman. By the end of the film we see her as a broken, terrified and extremely unstable woman.
I think it is a real shame that Deborah never again got another role like this. She does such a terrific job of conveying Miss Giddens growing fear and obsessions. As the film goes on, Deborah starts to look more and more paranoid, worn out, ill and nervous. She really does deliver a magnificent performance.
The children are excellent too and deliver performances far beyond what most child actors of this age could manage to deliver. The fact that they manage to be creepy, unsettling,innocent and adorable all at the same time says a great deal about their acting abilities in my opinion. Pamela Franklin would go on to do more great horror work over a decade later, when she played a gifted young medium in The Legend Of Hell House.
Megs Jenkins is very good as the kindly housekeeper. Megs conveys her characters great difficulty in believing any of what Miss Giddens says, but also how she is totally powerless to undermine her authority within the house and get the children away from her.
My favourite scenes in the film are the following. The ghost appearing in the reeds in the lake. Miss Giddens first walk around the beautiful gardens. The conversation between Miss Giddens and Miles, where she first becomes convinced that he is possessed. The scene where Miss Giddens walks around the corridors with a candle hearing laughter. Quint’s appearance in the windows.
I have seen this film so many times, I know what’s going to happen and yet I am still fascinated and frightened by it each time I watch. This truly is one of the best horror films ever made.
It’s time to take a look at another unsung classic film. This is one that I love a great deal. It really annoys me that so few people ever discuss, or even seem to know about this one today.
King Solomon’s Mines has a perfect blend of adventure, action, romance and mystery. It was mostly filmed on location. It also features Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr, who were two of the classic film eras biggest stars. There is plenty to enjoy about this film.
I will never forget the first time that I saw this film. I was in High School and in history class we were studying the Suffragettes.
We had an exam coming up in a few weeks, and our teacher said that if any of us wanted to do so, we could borrow a video tape from her to take home for a night to watch.
On thetape there was a documentary about the Suffragette movement. The documentary would help us as a part of our exam revision. I was one of those who borrowed the tape.
I finished watching the documentary and was about to turn the tape off, when the tape cut back to what had originally been recorded on it. It cut to this film. The film was a few minutes in, starting at the scene where Elizabeth first meets Allan at his house. Seeing Deborah Kerr was in it, I carried right on watching. I was very glad that I did. I loved this film. As I had missed the title, I then spent some time checking out Deborah’s film information until I found out that the film I had just seen was King Solomon’s Mines.
I couldn’t tell you a thing about that Suffragette documentary now, but I can tell you that I was very happy indeed to have found this film on that tape.
I wasn’t familiar with Stewart Granger at this time and he certainly made quite an impression on me in this film. I have been a fan of his ever since and this is one of my favourite films that he ever made.
I love Stewart’s performance in this as the fearless, experienced, and smouldering adventurer, Allan Quatermain. It was a role he was well suited to playing I think. He’s got the tough guy of very few words persona down perfectly in this. It also doesn’t hurt that Stewart was one of the manliest and sexiest men who ever did live. 😉
Deborah Kerr does a fantastic job of playing a woman unaccustomed to the struggle and danger of going on their expedition. Allan is convinced that Elizabeth will not last long and will beg him to turn back. She finds the journey difficult to endure, but she stubbornly refuses to give in and put an end to her misery and exhaustion.
Deborah does her best with a role that is essentially nothing more than a damsel in distress, she really tries to put across her characters determination and emotional distress. I think she succeeds quite well at this.
For a large part of the film Deborah sadly doesn’t get much to do apart from scream as animals scare her or try to attack her. These sequences lead to lots of moments of Allan rescuing Elizabeth, and at the moment of rescue the pair gaze into each others eyes and their growing bond and desire is ever more evident to us.
Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr have some incredible chemistry going on in this film. The sexual tension between them is the thing I remember the most about this film. It is so evident and adds something extra to the film.
From the way Stewart and Deborah both look at each other (swoon)to their body language, they very clearly convey to us their characters growing feelings for one another.
Richard Carlson (who I love in The Creature From The Black Lagoon)lends good support as Elizabeth’s brother. He can see before his sister can, that she and Allan are falling in love. He also knows the real reason (which we don’t learn until later on)why she is pushing herself so hard to find her husband. Carlson is an actor who I think given the right material could have become a much bigger star, sadly that wasn’t to be.
The film is directed by Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton. It is based upon the 1885 novel of the same name written by H. Rider Haggard.
This was not the first adaptation of the novel, the story had been filmed before in 1937. That earlier adaptation starred Cedric Hardwicke as Quatermain. Several other adaptions would follow over the decades.
The 1950 film is not an accurate adaption of the novel. In the novel Deborah Kerr’s character doesn’t exist, and the missing man being searched for is the brother of a man in Quatermain’s expedition party.
Personally I think that adding the character of Elizabeth helped the film as the growing relationship between Elizabeth and Allen is possibly the most memorable part of the film. I also liked seeing how Elizabeth coped in a hostile environment and how she doesn’t want to be seen as weak or helpless by Quatermain and the others.
Elizabeth Curtis (Deborah Kerr)and her brother, John (Richard Carlson)hire the experienced hunter and guide, Allan Quatermain (Stewart Granger). They hire him to take them in search of Elizabeth’s missing husband, Mr. Curtis,who was searching for the legendary King Solomon’s Mines, and who hasn’t been seen since setting out on his adventure.
Allan accepts the job, but he warns the siblings that it will be dangerous, difficult, and it will be unlikely that they will find Mr. Curtis. The trio set out, along with a number of native guides and bearers. Along the way they are joined by the exiled (and very tall)native king Umbopa(Siriaque).
The group encounter danger from tribesmen, from oppressive heatwaves and from some wildlife. Allan and Elizabeth start off disliking each other, but over the weeks that follow they both realise they are developing feelings for one another.
The film also features one of the best examples of an only in the movies moment that I can think of. Elizabeth’s long hair proves to be a real bother to her during the trek, so she takes the scissors to it and cuts it off. After a quick wash in a rock pool by a waterfall, she emerges to sunbathe on the rocks. The next time we see her, she now has a perfectly styled (and blow dried) new hairdo. See my screenshots below to enjoy this transformation. Ah, the magic of film. 😉
The film is great fun and I highly recommend it. My only issue is that there are several scenes where animals are killed for no reason other than they scared Elizabeth. I can’t stand to see animals killed or hurt, and I really hate people who hunt animals. To see these animals killed (even though the animals may not actually have been harmed for real)really annoys me.
Also the whole thing with Elizabeth screaming every single time she comes across an animal is very annoying. Does she not know that she in these creatures natural habitats, and that she will be very likely to encounter them at some point?
Anyway, I hope I’ve convinced you to give this film a watch if you’ve never seen it before. If you watch it for no other reason, then at least watch it to see Stewart and Deborah’s chemistry.
Are there any other fans of this one out there? Somebody please tell me I am not alone in my love for this film!
This is a film that I never get tired of seeing, it is filled with excellent performances from everyone in the cast, and features some very memorable characters. This film is all about human emotions, damaged people and the secrets we harbour. This is one to check out if you enjoy watching fine acting.
It was a few years ago when I first saw this film, I was completely blown away at the time by the performance of Hayley Mills. She still impresses me each time I watch this one.
Hayley at this point in her career had been acting for several years, and she had always been very natural on screen. I think she truly outdid herself in this film though.
Hayley perfectly captured just how emotionally messed up and defensive her character, Laurel is. Hayley steals every scene she is in, often with just a look or by her body language in scenes. Laurel explodes with long contained pain and anger several times during the film, and Hayley makes you feel every tear shed, every scream and every angry word.
Hayley lets us see that deep down though Laurel is just a little girl desperate to be loved. Laurel puts up a defensive front to protect herself. I’m also fascinated by the behaviour of her character, and how this girl finds weakness in others and hurts others so that she can feel like she is in control of some aspect of her life.
The Chalk Garden tells the story of Laurel (Hayley Mills), who is a deeply troubled teenager. Laurel has scared away a succession of governesses, after she drove them to their wits end. Laurel does things to shock and scare people, she also makes up stories (sometimes half truths)and has a nasty habit of prying into the lives of those around her.
The latest governess to take charge of Laurel is Miss Madrigal (Deborah Kerr) she is an enigmatic, no nonsense woman, and she sees straight through Laurel’s troubled exterior to the damaged girl beneath.
Laurel’s father is dead, and she is estranged from her mother (Elizabeth Sellars)who she blames for her fathers death. Laurel lives with her elderly grandmother (Edith Evans) and the loyal and compassionate family butler, Maitland (John Mills).
Maitland cares for Laurel and her grandmother very much, and he can also see straight through Laurel’s actions and behaviour to the fragile girl inside. Laurel’s bad behaviour and needling don’t affect Maitland anymore as he has grown used to her. He offers Miss Madrigal support and guidance in how to deal with Laurel.
Miss Madrigal also takes charge of the garden of the home (the chalk garden of the title)to see if she can bring it to life (much the same as she must do with Laurel). Laurel begins to suspect Miss Madrigal is not all she seems. Soon a damaging revelation will emerge which makes Laurel see the consequences of her own actions and behaviour.
I love watching the slowly developing bond and trust grow between Hayley and Deborah’s characters, the growth and change in their relationship is beautifully portrayed by both actresses.At first Laurel is openly hostile towards her, then she begins to like her, then she becomes fascinated by her. Madrigal knows the only way to reach Laurel is to be honest with her, and she knows better than to try and forcibly change the girl.
I also love the growing bond between Maitland and Madrigal. It is inferred that he admires and likes her, and that he is possibly falling in love with her. Madrigal certainly likes him but it’s not clear if she would ever open her heart to him. I love all the scenes between John and Deborah and I think they worked very well together.
My favourite pairing in the film is Laurel and Maitland. Hayley and her father John Mills made several films together in which they co-starred alongside one another, this is my favourite of their screen pairings. I love the bickering between Maitland and Laurel. I also like how Maitland knows Laurel’s secret. What is her secret? She is just a lonely and sad little girl, she acts older than her years, and she acts mean and tough, but she is really anything but. Maitland knows this fact long before others do and he sticks with the girl and supports her as he can.
I love the scene where Maitland catches Laurel talking to her doll. She is so disgusted that he sees her in a (in her view)vulnerable and weak moment; Maitland knows all too well that she thinks that, you can tell by the way he looks at her throughout this scene.It is a touching moment when you see Laurel (for the first time)as just a lonely child.
While it is Hayley who steals all the scenes, the adults in the cast are equally brilliant too.
Deborah gives one of her best performances here, as a woman harbouring great pain and troubles of her own. Deborah’s performance is all in the eyes and in what is not said aloud, as much as in what is said.She makes Madrigal strong and really piques your interest about this woman and her secrets.
Edith Evans is very good as the strong woman who is at odds with her own daughter and granddaughter. In Madrigal she finds someone who challenges her and tells her a few home truths.
John Mills is marvellous as the quiet and wise Maitland. No fool and no pushover, this guy doesn’t take Laurel’s mean temper lightly, but he lets her get at him because he knows she needs to vent and take things out on someone.He puts up with what she does to him, but he won’t stand idly by and see her do the same to Madrigal.
Elizabeth Sellars doesn’t have much to do as Laurel’s elegant, absentee mother, but she lets you feel her characters frustration and anger with her own mother in a key scene.
The great Felix Aylmer appears briefly as a man who knows the truth about Madrigal. Aylmer was one of the great British character actors and it really is a treat to see him here.
My favourite scenes are the following. The doll scene. Laurel and Madrigal painting up on the cliffs. Maitland and Madrigal’s talk in the Library. Laurel breaking down on the beach. All the scenes between Maitland and Laurel. Madrigal and Laurel playing tennis and playing the question and answer game. Laurel stuck in the tree. Maitland buying Madrigal a bolt for the door. The revelation about Madrigal.
I consider this to be one of the best British films, and it’s certainly a real gem in the careers of all of the cast members. Any other fans of this one? I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it.