Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

"The magnificence of the Ambersons began in 1873. Their splendor lasted throughout all the years that saw their midland town spread and darken into a city. In that town, in those days, all the women who wore silk or velvet knew all the other women who wore silk or velvet, and everybody knew everybody else's family horse and carriage."

I loved this film. I ordered it on Friday for the half term holiday and - thanks to Amazon Prime's super duper fantazmagorical next day delivery - it arrived on Saturday morning and sat near the DVD player beckoning, "watch me... watch me..." all the time while I was trying to do a Grade 5 music theory mock paper (a very frustrating activity, I assure you). So finally, my family and I sat down and watched it after dinner. Wow.

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) "I wrote the picture and directed it. My name is Orson Welles."

The Ambersons were a powerful Indianapolis family from 1873 and it seemed that they would be so forever - or so everyone thought. "Their splendor lasted throughout all the years that saw their midland town spread and darken into a city," but its decline started as soon as the new nightmare addition to the family was let loose on the town. George Minifer (the name that his mother had acquired when she married Wilber Minifer) was a spoilt brat of a child ever since his mother Isabel and his father Wilber realised that they could do just as they liked with the infant, giving him a small horse and carriage to tear through the city with. However, his bold and rude attitude coupled with his girly locks garnered him criticism and teasing from other children. As he grew up he developed a cynical and negative view of the world and the non-Amberson inhabitants of it. All the town members prayed that they would live to see the day that the arrogant bully, George Amberson, would get his come-upance.

One night at a ball held at the house a mysterious, handsome looking man comes and it seems that he had known George's mother before. His name was Eugene Morgan, and he had once been Isabel's beau, but the Ambersons found him altogether too much of an enthusiastic and outgoing character to be part of the Amberson family. Disturbed by the prospect of having such a strange man in the house and as a friend, George started to look around at the other guests at the party when he met Lucy. He instantly took a bit of a liking to Lucy, in the most pleasant way imaginable for George to take a liking to anyone, and expressed his woes about the odd man to her, but is mortified to realise that she is his daughter.

After the party, George questions his Aunt Fanny about Eugene but she refuses to admit that there could be anything between Isabel and him. But when Wilbur dies, it leaves Isabel available and Eugene and Lucy start to see lots of the Ambersons. Eugene's newfangled contraption "the horseless carriage" seems to be catching on and he starts to earn almost as much money from making them as George's family has. While Lucy and George are still fond of each other, their relationship doesn't take top priority for George as Eugene makes up his mind to propose to to Isabel. George is sure that if he simply doesn't let Eugene into the house, all will be fine, but the reputation of the Ambersons is suffering badly...

Now, when you watch this you have to be aware that it isn't an Orson Welles masterpiece in the sense that Citizen Kane is, in fact most of the film as directed by Orson was cut before its proper release, but it is still a brilliant film. The boy who plays George I felt, should have been Orson Welles but wasn't. He was fine but not quite as great as the other actors. I thought that Anne Baxter was also very good, and I hadn't seen her in anything else except All About Eve so it was very nice to get a different feel of what kind of an acting she did. Dolores Costello was also pretty good. Oh yeah, and she was only married to John Barrymore hence being Drew Barrymore's grandmother. 'Cause that's not completely and utterly amazingly awesome.

Joseph Cotten was amazing as usual. I liked his moustache in this film, even if it wasn't quite as moustachey as the one he has in Citizen Kane. And can I just say, Agnes Moorehead? She was so good! I've only ever seen her in the beginning of Citizen Kane and in her comedic mode as Endora in "Bewitched" (best TV series ever by the way) but she was so good in this. So dramatic! I can imagine that she would be quite hard to cast though.

Not sure this shot ended up in the final cut.

Last but not least, I think that some of the cast in this and Citizen Kane are members of his theatre group, the Mercury Theatre Company founded by Orson Welles. Pretty cool, no?

I thoroughly enjoyed this film and the sets were amazing and worked wonders when teamed with Orson's great wide angle shots. Definitely recommended.


Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Quiet Man (1952)

Oh, bonny Ireland. I've never actually been, but I love the whole idea of Ireland. Green luscious landscapes, leprechauns, green-ness. The closest I have ever got to Ireland has been watching The Quiet Man. This film is just a classic in all respects of the word.

The Quiet Man (1952) Dir. John Ford


  • John Wayne as Sean Thornton

  • Maureen O'Hara as Mary Kate Danaher

  • Barry Fitzgerald as Michaleen Og Flynn

  • Victor McLaglen as Squire "Red" Will Danaher

  • Ward Bond as Father Peter Lonergan

  • Mildred Natwick as The Widow Sarah Tillane

  • Francis Ford as Dan Tobin

  • Arthur Shields as Rev. Cyril Playfair

  • Plot:
    Famous American boxer Sean Thornton decides to trace back his Irish roots to the little town of Innisfree. He buys back his old family cottage, much to the dismay and anger of "Red" Will Danaher who has been trying to buy the property for ages. Walking in the town one morning, Sean meets Danaher's beautiful spinster sister, Mary Kate. They fall for each other, but can't get married without her brother's consent (who still bears a grudge against Sean). But with the help of Father Peter Lonergan and Sean's friend and "matchmaker" Michaleen Og Flynn they convince Danaher that the only reason the wealthy widow Sarah Tillane (whom he loves) won't marry him is because there is another woman in the house.

    Meanwhile, Sean is finding it hard to conceal his tragic past as a boxer who accidentally killed his opponent. He thinks that if anyone finds out that he will feel just as bad as he did when in America. The only soul who knows is the Protestant Rev. Playfair (who is great friends with the Catholic preist Father Lonergan, which is strange considering the time period in Ireland...)

    Danaher agrees to letting Mary Kate and Sean marry, but after the wedding he finds out that the story about Sarah wanting to marry him once his sister has left his house was a lie, and denies Mary Kate her dowry. Sean cares nothing for the furniture and money that she won't be able to have, but Mary Kate is convinced that without the traditional dowry, she is no married woman. After some friends deliver her furniture the next morning they tell Mary Kate that her brother has let her have them, but not the money. Happy that she has her own things, but still enraged at the prospect of not getting the money, she tries to persuade Sean to go and get it for her. He laughs it off, but the next morning he hears that Mary Kate has left for Dublin because she is ashamed that he won't get the dowry for her and decides he must leave to get her and that they should both confront Danaher. They get the money but throw it into a furnace to show they didn't care. They did it just to prove a point, but not all is happy between Sean and Danaher yet...

    This is how I want Ireland to be. If I get there and Barry Fitzgerald isn't waiting at the station for me and John Wayne doesn't live in a little cottage down the way with Mildred Natwick as a neighbour, I shall be deeply disappointed. I don't even care that it's a kind of mash up of England, Ireland and Scotland. It just looks awesome.

    Barry Fitzgerald is completely beyond amazing. I just love him to bits in this film! And can I just say, Mildred Natwick is so good! I love her in Barefoot In The Park and she is about the only thing aside from Shirley MacLaine that is watchable in The Trouble With Harry (sorry Harry fans!). John wayne is great as always and he and Maureen O'Hara go really well together. It reminded me that I have Rooster Cogburn in our Katharine Hepburn box-set and I haven't yet seen it! That'll be one for us to watch over the half term (the British schooling system is so completely complicated compared to the American one that I will just tell you all that a half term is a week-long holiday which started yesterday)! Victor McLaglen was also fantastic as Danaher.

    Now I know why there are so many random people in this film! I looked on Wikipedia and found out that the two brothers in the pub who meet John Wayne first are Maureen O'Hara's bothers! Also the children at the horserace who seem to appear out of thin air are John Wayne's children.

    Don't smile... we know you smuggled your brothers into the movie. They actually weren't that bad!

    *This next part of the review could quite possibly spoil the end for you if you haven't seen it yet, so read at your own peril!*

    The fight scene at the end is one of the highlights of the whole movie. I love it that Michaleen starts collecting bets on Danaher and Sean, and when they cut to the police station one of the Policemen asks the other who has just been on the phone, "What did he say?" and the other policeman replies, "he said to put five pounds on Danaher!" It is all so wonderfully choreographed that it just looks natural (well, as natural as some men rolling around in hay and pushing each other into rivers can). There is a great little cameo for the old man who is on his deathbed with the preist's son there and when he hears the fight he jumps out of bed and runs to watch the fight!

    The other great scene is the famous scene with Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne at the beginning which is so romantic. Spot the reference in E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial!

    John Ford directs it very well, too. Apparently there is some speculation about what Maureen O'Hara says to John Wayne at the end to make him look so surprised, legend has it that John Ford told her something shocking to say to John Wayne and that is why he looks so genuinely shocked! At first she said that she "couldn't possibly say that to Duke (John Wayne)!" but afterwards she told the two Johns who were the only other people to know the line, that they must never tell anyone else what it was.

    I would strongly recommend this movie to anyone. It will be great for all of you that just broke up for holidays to watch while your on vacation!


    Saturday, 28 May 2011

    What's My Line: Louis Jourdan

    I followed this link from Millie's Tumblr blog and laughed SO hard! I have only seen Louis Jourdan in the VIPs, but It's so funny. He usually has such a french accent! I just adore "What's My Line". It's such fun to watch old celebrities try and disguise themselves. I have only seen one where they couldn't guess who it was, and that was Greer Garson. She sounded like a russian man!


    Tuesday, 17 May 2011

    CMBA Films of 1939 Blogathon: Wuthering Heights

    Hello all, time has come for me to post my review for the great Films of 1939 blogathon held by Page and Becky! My review is on William Wyler's production of Wuthering Heights.

    Wuthering Heights

    Directed By: William Wyler (based on Emily Bronte's famed classic)
    Starring: Lawrence Olivier, Merle Oberon, David Niven, Donald Crisp, Flora Robson and Geraldine Fitzgerald.

    Now, I'm sure that many of you are familiar with the plot of Wuthering Heights, but just in case you aren't, her is a summary that won't probably won't ruin too much of the story.

    Catharine and Hindley Earnshaw have lived in peace with their father at their home, Wuthering Heights, in the middle of the beautiful Yorkshire moors all their lives, until one day, when their father brings them back a surprise from London. He had found a homeless boy on the streets of London and had taken pity on him and brought him home. As soon as the boy arrives he and Cathy (as Catharine was nicknamed) gell well together and spend a great deal of their time playing King and Queen on the moors, pretending that their castle was a special tall rocky slope called Penistone Crag. But Hindley treats Heathcliff like a stable boy, being violent and horrible to him.

    Years later, and even after their father's death, Hindley is still treating Heathcliff like filth, but Cathy and Heathcliff still have a very affectionate relationship. But when they are caught spying on a party at the wealthy Lintons' nearby house, The Grange, their friendship changes. Cathy is caught by a guard dog and bitten badly on the ankle. After staying for a while at The Grange to recover from her injuries, Cathy comes back to the Heights a much changed person. She also starts to treat Heathcliff badly until she realises that she does love him.

    But that night she receives Edgar Linton, who she had come to know very well while she was staying at his family's house, and he asks her to marry him. Heathcliff is concerned about Cathy's feelings for him and overhears her talking to the housekeeper (and narrator of the story), Ellen, about her situation. When he hears her say that it would degrade her to marry Heathcliff he leaves on his horse not to return for years. What he didn't hear was that she said that she loves Heathcliff more than she loves anyone.

    Some years later, after the wedding of Edgar and Cathy, Heathcliff returns a new man. Quite the gentleman, he starts to go after Edgar's sister Isabella, in order to try and make Cathy jealous...

    One of the first things that I noticed about this film was the change from the book (that I read recently). Only half of the book is used at all! The film completely cuts off after *serious spoiler!* Cathy dies and tells nothing of the next generation of Lintons and Earnshaws which takes up about 14 of the 34 chapters in the book.

    Watching this film again reminded me about how much I love the costume design. I was seriously coveting the beautiful outfit of flowing skirt, stripy shirt and scarf worn by Cathy before she becomes "Linton-ified". All of everyones outfits throughout the movie were beautiful, though the whole film is set when the novel was published, rather than the earlier period the book is actually set in.

    All performances were great and Merle Oberon is good as Cathy. I always really enjoy Geraldine Fitzgerald's performance as Isabella Linton, and, surprisingly, I like David Niven! Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate his talent and all, but I find that he is a little dodgy or strange in many movies - though I really like his performances in both this and A Matter Of Life And Death (1946, Powell and Pressburger of The Red Shoes fame). Flora Robson and Donald Crisp are both very good too.

    And now on to Lawrence Olivier who I feel deserves a paragraph of his own. I just love him as Heathcliff and sympathise so much more with him in the film than I do with Heathcliff in the book! I don't know if this is just because I seriously like him, but every time I see him in a book-movie production, I like his character so much better than I do in the book. Take "Rebecca".

    In the book: Maxim - Obviously a very romantic figure but sounds like a bit of a psycho murderer towards the end; The New Mrs De Winter - Poor girl who marries a murderer (even if this murderer is of Maxim amazingness, it's not that great a choice.) and is tormented by his deceased wife.
    In the film: Maxim - *swoon* Handsome man who was treated seriously badly by his dead wife and is just looking for happiness; The New Mrs. De Winter - Annoying. Does love Maxim. More annoying. (nothing to do with Joan Fontaine's performance...)
    Yes. He is a great Heathcliff :-) He makes me so upset whenever Cathy rejects him!

    The whole picture is directed excellently. My love for William Wyler movies knows no bounds. Just think about it. Mrs. Miniver, The Letter, Ben Hur, Jezebel, Roman Holiday, Funny Girl, is there anything this man can't do? The interesting way that he choses to close up on Heathcliff's hands and other features which are a main part of the description of him in the book is very effective. Producer of the film, Samuel Goldwyn was quoted as saying "I made Wuthering Heights, Wyler only directed it." THIS MAKES ME SOOOOO MAD!!!!!!! It is so obvious that William Wyler made the film what it is - and if there had been any other things added the film may have been quite different.

    See. Geraldine Fitzgerald is also angry :-)

    The script is also great - maintaining some of the lines from the book. Cathy's scene with Ellen when she tells her she loves Heathcliff is written very well... "Ellen, I am Heathcliff!" And the line that Cathy says to Ellen while preparing for Edgar Linton, "There's nothing to be gained by just looking pretty, like Isabella. Every beauty mark must conceal a thought, and every curl be full of humour," is also very cool.

    I also just have to say, doesn't Merle Oberon look so much like Meryl Streep? I think so!

    I would honestly recommend this film to anyone. If you have read the book and not seen this film (my parents don't think so highly of the newest ones...) do go and watch it now! One other thing that I have to say is that it isn't nearly as "gothic" as the book. The most gothic it gets is at the end (which Wyler hated and was a suggestion from Goldwyn) and at the begging where Heathcliff runs into the storm and is all crying: "CATHY!!! CATHY!!!"

    I hope you enjoyed my review, and you can see the list of all participants here!


    Sunday, 15 May 2011

    Films of 1939 Blogathon!

    Just wanted to remind or tell all you out there that there is a great blogathon coming up at the Classic Movie Blog Association. All the members who wanted to compete have chosen a film from 1939 and are going to review it. It's no secret that that year is one of the best for producing classics. Think about it: Gone With The Wind, The Wizard Of Oz, Dark Victory, Goodbye Mr. Chips... The list is endless.

    So The film that I have chosen is (DUN, DUN, DUUUNN!!!!)...

    Wuthering Heights!
    Directed by William Wyler, starring Lawrence Olivier, Merle Oberon and David Niven

    The review is going to be posted on Tuesday the 17th (my birthday, YAY!) and I am so looking forward to reading all the other reviews that have just started being posted from today until Tuesday. You can find the list of films and bloggers here.

    P.S. Glad we all survived the Blogger crash on Friday 13th (coincidence? I think not.)! I had my Bringing Up Baby post all set and written as if it was written on Thursday evening and then... CRASH! It died on me :-(. Oh well. Just shows even blogger can make mistakes. Just means it's human... Maybe...

    Friday, 13 May 2011

    Bringing Up Baby (1938)

    It was Katharine Hepburn's birthday yesterday, so I thought it might be the perfect day to do the review of Bringing Up Baby which I have been meaning to get published for ages. I really, really like Katharine Hepburn. I've seen her and really liked her in quite a few movies.

    My posts about Katharine Hepburn:

    Bringing Up Baby Dir. Howard Hawks

    Quiet and composed paleontologist David Huxley is desperate to complete his brontosaurus bone collection and even his fiancee/secretary is willing to have a purely "professional" relationship so he can concentrate (much to his disappointment). On a trip to try and convince a lawyer to get his client to donate $1m to his museum he meets clumsy young lady Susan Vance while she is trying to drive away in his car.

    In an attempt to patch things up with the lawyer, Mr. Peabody, David goes to a restaurant to have another chat but yet again bumps into Susan. They both end up ripping each other's clothes and have to leave immediately. When Susan finds out that Mr. Peabody is in fact her aunt's lawyer, she goes and tries to wake up Mr. Peabody later in the night with David -  however, unsuccessfully. The next morning she calls up David at the office asking him if he wants her tame leopard, Baby, who has a love for the tune "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby" (as you do).

    He realizes that she has mistaken him for a zoologist and laughs off the suggestion until she becomes so desperate that she pretends the leopard is attacking her to get him to come over. She forces the leopard on them and they end up going on a crazy car journey to her aunt's farm to keep him in a barn.

    Now filthy on his wedding day, David takes a shower but Susan sneakily takes his clothes and hides them somewhere out of sight. Stuck in her bathrobe he runs downstairs only to find Susan's aunt questioning Susan about himself and their dog, George has stolen and buried David's final bone for his brontosaurus. They spend the evening trying to find the bone and Baby who has now escaped. This leads them to all sorts of strange situations...
    I really, really liked this film. Cary Grant with thick, geeky specs is the best thing I have ever seen. Love.

    So weird... and totally amazing :-)

    Unfortunately, some of the things Susan did reminded me of some awfully clumsy moments of my own :S but she was so sweet you didn't really care she was so strange and clumsy. Both Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant are great in their roles. I love them together!

    Can I just say... ASTA IS IN THIS MOVIE!!!! Why did no one tell me this amazing fact? I really want to get a dog like him to be company for for my dog Snoopy! (Image of Asta found at And... Scene!)

    One the best feel-good screwball comedies ever.


    Wednesday, 4 May 2011

    A Midsummer Night's Dream (As Cast By Me)

    {Also known as the post where Bette gets to ramble on and on about Shakespeare in relation to classic movies :-D}

    My english teacher set me a great task the other day. We are studying "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare in class and she told us all to cast the play with actors we wanted and then write a letter to one of the key actors asking them to be in your adaptation. Now, this seemed to me like a great blog post to do, and it will give me the chance to write a letter involving random behind the scenes movie knowledge that might scare the rest of my classmates.

    After mi amigo (who braved The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie with me the other day *shudder*, see the P.S. at the bottom of the post) asked the teacher if the actors could be dead, I set about my work. I knew that I didn't want the cast to be the same as previous movie adaptations. And after a little conversation with my mother (serious craziness went on during this conversation!) this was my final main cast list:

    • Queen Titania: Ingrid Bergman
    • King Oberon: Cary Grant
    • Hermia: Elizabeth Taylor
    • Lysander: Tony Curtis
    • Helena: Katharine Hepburn
    • Demetrius: James Stewart
    • Puck: Henry Travers (Clarence the angel in It's A Wonderful Life)
    • Nick Bottom: Steve Martin
    • King Egeus: Lawrence Olivier (older years)
    As you can see, there is one outlier in the cast, but Steve Martin cracks me up so much :-)

    Here is the letter I wrote to Elizabeth Taylor asking her to play the part of Hermia. Just to tell you, this version is slightly more full of classic movie references than the one I handed in at school, but this is how I would have liked it.

    Dear Elizabeth Taylor, 
    I am writing to you to ask you to play the part of Hermia in my upcoming screen adaptation of "A Midsummer Nights Dream". My casting director and I think you are perfect for the role. Your way of portraying such heartbreak in so many of your films (in a good way) leads us to beleive that you would be more than capable of acting Hermia. Of course, as the director I will have to look into the character with you and help you really empathise with her. 
    You may know me more as a supporting player in major motion pictures than as a director, in fact, this will be my debut in the directorial department. You may also have seen me in family portraits in fan magazines as I come from a long line of actors. The two movies you will know me best for are probably "The Women" and "Citizen Kane" in which I played a yoga instructor and Orson Welles's third cousin respectively. Although I am deeply proud of these achievements, I feel I will be more satisfied when behind the camera. 
    Your fellow cast includes such big names as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart and Ingrid Bergman. I had wanted to cast Richard Burton opposite you as Lysander, but knowing that relations between the two of you have not been brilliant over the past few months, I thought it best to cast someone else. I have decided to cast Tony Curtis as Lysander instead. This role should hopefully give him a great start in "serious movies". 
    There should be no problem getting the others in the intended cast to play their roles. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman have already agreed to play their characters and Jimmy Stewart is also in on the picture. I have tried to contact Kate Hepburn, but she is holidaying with Spencer Tracy on some unknown island and goodness knows when she will be back. But if she fails us, we will always have Rosalind Russel to call on. 
    Just in case you where wondering, the picture is to be filmed in black and white. I had hoped for Technicoclour, but the the budget the studio has given me does not have enough left to cover that. As you can see, the cast will set the studio back a little... 
    Please think seriously about this film, we are going to stick to all of Shakespeare's dialogue, and the period. The sets will consist of intricate palace backdrops and beautiful on-location scenes in moonlit forests. 
    Bette Barrymore of Warner Brother's Studios

    I hope you liked it!


    P.S. I did watch The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie with my friend the other day... It was rated a 12 so we both thought it would be fine to watch as we are both over twelve. Maggie Smith was great in it and it was overall a good film, but both my friend and I will have a phobia of art teachers forever after watching this film.