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The Seventh Annual What A Character Blogathon: Marius Goring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Conductor meets Peter. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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Marius as Mr. Perrin. Screenshot by me.

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

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

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

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

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

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Blogathons, Fantasy

The Colours Blogathon: The Red Shoes (1948)

Colours Blogathon

Catherine over at Thoughts All Sorts is hosting this blogathon all about films that feature colours in their titles. Be sure to visit her site to read all the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.

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Vicky and Ivan dancing in The Red Shoes Ballet. Screenshot by me.

I’m writing about one of my all time favourite films. That film is the 1948 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger classic, The Red Shoes. This is one of the most visually stunning and beautiful films ever made in my opinion.

Artistic, imaginative, romantic, absorbing, and quite moving; this film truly has something in it for everyone to enjoy.

 I would like to talk a little bit now about Powell and Pressburger themselves. The pair began working together in 1939, on the WW2 spy thriller, The Spy In Black.

The pair founded their own production company called The Archers in 1943. Their distinctive film logo (an arrow being fired into an archery target)became as famous as the films it appeared at the beginning of.

The majority of Powell and Pressburger’s films were quite different from any other films being made at the time. Their films were visually imaginative and very impressive. These films were more like works of moving art than traditional films. The uniqueness and artistic look of their work is a major factor for me in liking their films so much.

Powell and Pressburger were completely different from other filmmakers of the time, and they created films that really took you out of your own life (in a major way)for a few hours. Their films are beautiful to look at and really draw the audience in. 

From time to time though they could also make the sort of films that the public were more used to seeing; films such as The Small Back Room, The Spy In Black and 49th Parallel. Their collaboration came to an amicable end in 1957, and they remained friends for the rest of their lives. Their films were not instantly acclaimed as classics upon release and it took several decades for them to receive praise and appreciation.

Director Martin Scorsese is a big fan of their work and he has done so much to bring their films to the attention of audiences today. Powell was also married for the last few years of his life to Scorsese’s regular editor, Thelma Schoonmaker.

Powell and Pressburger became famous for the use of Technicolor in their films. In The Red Shoes they once again use Technicolor to its best possible effect. They, along with their regular cinematographer Jack Cardiff, created magic and moving art on screen. Their use of colour was a big part of the unique look of so many of their films. Their colour films are so rich and vibrant, and it is the look of this particular film that lingers in the mind long after it has finished.

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Vicky and a dance partner made out of newspaper. Screenshot by me.

This filmmaking managed to use Technicolor in a way that had never been done before, nor has it been achieved in films since. This team prove what filmmakers are capable of achieving should they put their minds to it. Their films are pure art and they are rightly praised and admired by film fans and filmmakers today.

Moving on to the film itself. In The Red Shoes (long before Black Swan) we are shown the sacrifices that have to be made by ballerinas for their art. They push themselves extremely hard, and for some there can be nothing else apart from the ballet in their life, they give all they are to their art. We also see that their dedication to their art can make them ill if they push themselves too hard either physically or mentally. 

The Red Shoes is based upon the fairytale by Hans Christian Anderson. It is all about a young girl who puts on a pair of red shoes. Once she does she soon finds that she cannot take them off. She also finds that they make her dance everywhere she goes. She cannot make herself even stop for a rest. In her despair she turns to a woodcutter for help, he chops off her feet to ease her suffering. As she lies in his arms,the shoes dance off still containing her feet within them. Off those shoes go, forever continuing their eternal dance around the land. Can you believe that was a children’s story? It made a big impact on me when I first read it. This story and the images it conjures up have stayed with me to this day. Some dark stuff for sure.

The film (thankfully)does not focus too much on that story. We instead focus on a young ballerina who must choose between her career with the ballet, or her own personal life and having love in that life.

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Moira Shearer as Vicky. Screenshot by me.

Vicky Page (Moira Shearer)is a young ballet dancer who attracts the attention of Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). He is the head of world famous ballet company, The Ballet Lermontov. He sees great potential in Vicky.

When his lead dancer, the adored Irina (Ludmilla Tcherina), leaves his company to get married, Lermontov gives Vicky Irina’s position in the company. Vicky finds lasting fame in the ballet community as the lead in a ballet written especially for her. That ballet is the Red Shoes, and it is based on the tale by Hans Christian Anderson.

As her success and talent grows, Boris falls in love with Vicky and he is determined to keep her with him at all costs. Vicky likes and respects him but she doesn’t return his feelings, instead she falls in love with young musician Julian Craster (Marius Goring). He offers her a life away from the pressures of the ballet.

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Marius Goring as Julian Craster. Screenshot by me.

Lermontov becomes jealous of the young couple, and soon Vicky finds herself forced to choose between her career and her life with Julian. It is extremely difficult for her as she loves both equally and becomes emotionally torn between them. Soon she starts to become ill from all this pressure.

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Anton Walbrook as Lermontov. Screenshot by me.

Four of the films leading actors were ballet dancers at the time of the films release. Moira Shearer (playing Vicky), Robert Helpmann (playing Ivan, the much respected lead dancer of the Lermontov ballet), Ludmilla Tcherina (playing Irina) and Leonide Massine (playing Grisha, the temperamental company choreographer). Each of these get their own chance to shine in various dance sequences throughout the film. 

The standout sequence in the film is the ballet of the Red Shoes. The sequence in its entirety lasts around fifteen minutes of screen time. The sequence is one of the most artistic and creepy things ever put on screen. I think it captures the beauty and artistry of ballet perfectly.

There are also several scenes in that sequence that feature bizarre and creepy images which for me bring to mind a nightmare. I’m specifically thinking of the scene where begins Vicky hallucinating things from her own life during the performance (such as the shoemaker transforming into Lermontov and Julian), and of the shots of men turning into paper figures and slowly falling to the ground, as Vicky’s uncontrollable, red clad feet dance amongst their fallen, limp figures. I’ve often wondered if the fallen figures represent people in the fairytale who die, while the girl in the red shoes lives forever dancing on, and on, and on?

Vicky dancing The Red Shoes Ballet. Screenshot by me.

It’s a dazzling sequence for sure and is a perfect blend of the art of ballet and of the art of film. There is also some clever camera trickery at work in it for the moment Vicky jumps into the red shoes and they lace themselves up. This shot still impresses when viewed today.

Anton Walbrook gives the standout performance of the film for me. He is a man driven by his dedication to his work who finds himself falling unexpectedly in love. Then he starts hating himself for getting drawn away from his work by his desire for Vicky, and also for the desire for a personal life away from his work.

To Lermontov the ballet is a calling, and he despises any of his dancers who choose personal life over their ballet work. He starts to hate himself as much as he hates anyone in his company who gets distracted. Walbrook steals every scene he is in with just a look. In many scenes he can be seen seething with jealousy and a barely repressed desire for Vicky. He makes you both pity and despise Lermontov at the same time.

Moira Shearer is excellent as the young woman given the career opportunity of her life. Her initial excitement soon transitions to weariness and short temper when she is under pressure. She really brings home the struggle that Vicky is enduring concerning the choice between her private and professional life.

Marius Goring is energetic as the dedicated and outgoing composer who cannot understand Vicky and Lermontov’s obsession with the ballet. He can offer Vicky happiness, but is she willing or able to accept it? Goring was one of the best character actors in all of British cinema, here he gets quite a bit of screen time and gets a real chance to shine. It’s nice to see him in a more major role for a change.

My favourite scenes are the following. Vicky climbing the stairs to Lermontov’s villa (this sequence looks like something straight out of a fairytale, and Vicky is like a Princess in that outfit she wears and it looks like she is exploring the grounds of a deserted castle.) The ballet of The Red Shoes. Vicky and Lermontov meeting for the first time at the party and he asks her “why do you want to dance?”, she replies “why do you want to live?”  Julian and Vicky arguing during rehearsal about how she should dance during a particular music segment. The montage of Vicky and Ivan dancing in several ballet productions. Lermontov sitting in his apartment, alone, depressed and angry.

Like the fairytale upon which it’s based, this film has quite a dark edge to it and the ending is very bleak. Don’t let that put you off though, as it is truly worth watching. This film never fails to impress me and has become a real favourite over the years. It’s in my top five favourite Powell and Pressburger films too.

Be sure to watch either the special restoration DVD release of this, or check out the Blu-Ray version to see the film looking at its best.

What are your thoughts on this film? Please leave your comments below.