Saturday, 8 December 2012

This Was Love, This Was The Real Thing: My Laurence Olivier Obsession

I don't know how well I've succeeded at keeping my huge Laurence Olivier obsession a secret on this blog but anyway, IT'S ALL COMING OUT NOW.

Since about August I've been just a bit obsessed with Laurence Olivier. I've watched a few more of his movies and generally been dedicated to worshipping his face. The situation actually became so serious a few weeks ago that I made a collage dedicated to appreciating the wonderment that is Larry Olivier.

There you go guys.
I just love him. He's such a romantic, charismatic - and let's just face it now - TALENTED actor. He also has an amazing mass of hair and he is extremely handsome. I can never work out which film of his is my favourite. UGH THERE ARE SO MANY. I adore Rebecca because he's so totally tortured and I just want to hug him the whole time, but then theres his adorably awkward performance in The Divorce Of Lady X (one of my favourite movies) but of course, there's Heathcliff in William Wyler's Wuthering  Heights... Kill me now!

The strangest movie I've watched for Larry was probably 49th Parallel - since he had near top billing I was expecting this to be a Powell and Pressburger war film with Larry starring as the heroic lead. Boy was I wrong. I watched Larry be a crazy French-Canadian, moustachioed fisherman in a lumberjack shirt for the fifteen minutes of the film and then he was killed off and I still had 2 hours left... THE THINGS I DO FOR YOU.

Of course I've covered 2/3 of the Viv and Larry (Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier) films, That Hamilton Woman, Fire Over England and I have 21 Days Together bookmarked. I totally ship them and think their story is tragic and romantic. Of course they probably were the most talented and prolific acting couple of the 20th century. But then again, the fact that Laurence Olivier was married to Vivien Leigh somehow decreases my chances even further of going back in a past life to marry Laurence Olivier (me and Victoria have tried to logically justify this but we failed) unless I actually WAS Vivien Leigh...

His directorial and adaptational skills are insanely good. I watched his Hamlet which was a really interesting interpretation and it was a beautiful experience to watch.

I meed more people to fangirl over him with!!!! The wonderful Franka and I can over-excitedly scream and talk for hours about Laurence Olivier, Rachel is also getting to like him and my real life BEST FRIEND and classic-movie-aholic, Ia is also a little in love with him. But let's spread the Larry love!!!! Obviously there's Kendra from the incredible Viv and, but WE NEED MORE GUYS!

I just can't explain it omg I love that man so much you may have guessed I'm a bit obsessed just NOOOOO I can't anymore with life because he doesn't exist and he doesn't go to my school and he just AHHHHHHH.

This has been an intelectual update from the extremely coherent brain of yours truly. Hahaha no. I'm sorry for the amount of capital letters and lack of punctuation...


P.S. Tell me if you love Laurence Olivier, too :-D

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Fallen Idol (1948)

A little while back a lovely friend sent us a copy of her favourite film, Carol Reed's (The Third Man) film noir/thriller The Fallen Idol starring Ralph Richardson, Bobby Henry and Michèle Morgan. I'm always so intrigued by this sort of classic British cinema like Powell and Pressburger and David Lean, so I was thrilled to watch this movie!

The film centres around a young french boy, Phillipe (Bobby Henry) living in the french embassy in London. His ambassador parents are most often out of the house on official duties so he is raised almost entirely by the butler and the housekeeper, Bains (Ralph Richardson) and Mrs Bains (Sonia Dresdel). He idolises Bains and spends most of his time following him around the house helping him with work - that is when he isn't tending to the snake he's been hiding in a brick outside his bedroom.

After an argument at the lunch table with the cruel Mrs Bains, Phillipe disobeys Mrs Bains and follows Bains into London where he finds him in an emotional conversation with a pretty young girl, Julie (Michèle Morgan), whom Bains tells Phillipe is his niece. Phillipe doesn't understand what's going on but they are deciding to end their affair (a la Brief Encounter).

Mrs Bains finds out about the affair from Phillipe, and she pretends to be gone from the house for a few days so that Bains will bring Julie to the house and she can confront them. Bains finds her and there is a huge argument during which Mrs Bains falls to her death from a staicase. Phillipe only sees that she has fallen and that Bains is looking down at her. After remembering the epic tales of Bains's adventures in Africa (which he made up to entertain Phillipe) he decides that Bains is the only one who could've done it. Did he or didn't he?

I thought this film was extremely clever and very beautifully shot and crafted. Ralph Richardson (who I  wrote about when he played James Tryone in Long Day's Journey Into Night) was fantastic, and he's obviously one third of the holy trinity of British Actors, Laurence Olivier and John Guilgud being the two others. He really perfected all the delicate mannerisms of his character. This was a perfect example of a performance that didn't have to rely on melodramatic facial elastics to create a strong impression. It was the very fact that he was so understated that made it so interesting.

Bobby Henry was adorable as Phillipe and he also had the trouble of acting bilingually - French, and English with a strong posh French accent - and he pulled off the little boy thing without making him whiney or annoying. He didn't have as prolific a career as a child actor as you would've expected but even this one film was a huge achievement. Similarly, Michèle Morgan was lovely as Julie. She played the part with the sensitivity and warmth that you felt the film needed from a female character, as you got more and more depressed by the hideousness of Mrs Bates, who was also played very well by Sonia Dresdel.

Carol Reed really had a chance to show off his photographic talents, especially with the darkly lit shadowy hide and seek sequence in the deserted quarters of the French Embassy. But aside from that there was a great feeling of friendship and real trust between Bains and Phillipe that was hard to force and made the film that much more upsetting when their trust was broken and he was no longer the role model he thought he was (hence the "Fallen Idol"). It was a pleasure to watch and made me really want to rewatch The Third Man! Also, David Lean got his start in movies by working as Carol Reed's cameraman!


Sunday, 7 October 2012

Romeo And Juliet on Broadway, 1940 - The Oliviers

I've probably said this before on the blog, but I'm playing Juliet in an abridged production of Romeo and Juliet (on monday so today I have my last rehearsal - 10am-5pm!) which we're taking to a Shakespeare School's Festival. So you can probably understand how completely thrilled I was when I saw that my favourites, Vivien Leigh and Larry Olivier played the title roles in that same play in 1940! I was even MORE exited when I found a bunch of stunningly high quality and interesting pictures from the production. Here are some thoughts and background info on the production. Enjoy!

In 1940 Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh decided to put on a production of shakespeare's classic, Romeo and Juliet. Vivien had just had massive success as Scarlett O'Hara in David O. Selznick's epic, Gone With The Wind, and Larry had experienced his first Hollywood film production (William Wyler's Wuthering Heights). Laurence Olivier found it harder to adjust to working in this new medium than his other half, Vivien did.

He was probably more than ready for a change, and the public status of the two lovers was growing rapidly (they married this year) so what better play to do than Shakespeare's legendary romance, Romeo and Juliet. The heartbreaking tale of two star-crossed lovers. At the time, the two of them had been involved in a scandalous affair while they were each married to others at the time, so the plot was not a parallel but had a similar theme to their lives.

Obviously Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier played the title roles, on top of this, Laurence Olivier - in true Larry fashion - decided that he would also direct, compose the music and design the production. Overachiever much? Dame Edna May Witty (you may know her as the character actress from 1940s films such as Mrs Miniver and Gaslight) also joined the cast as The Nurse - Juliet's confidant and mother figure. With this impressive cast, I can imagine how incredible this performance would have been. They both fit their parts incredibly well. WHY CAN I NOT GO BACK AND WATCH THIS???

Let's not forget that Larry and Vivien also did Macbeth, Hamlet, Twelth Night, Richard III, Anthony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night and Titus Andronicus. Albiet not starring romantically in them all - they pretty much covered all the Shakespeare greats! Sir Laurence Olivier and Lady Vivien Olivier were really the consumate theatrical couple, and were certainly the most talented and prolific theatre actors in their era.



Saturday, 29 September 2012

"You've Such A Way Of Looking At People!" Happy Birthday Greer Garson!

This post is a tribute to Greer Garson but I'm saving some of my recent Greer Garson writing for my entry to the Letters To The Stars blogathon where I'm writing a letter to Greer Garson.

"I`ve been offered nymphomaniacs, kleptomaniacs, pyromaniacs, homicidal maniacs and just plain maniacs. I think producers felt that after playing a long series of noble and admirable characters there would be quite a lot of shock value in seeing me play something altogether different. But I prefer upbeat stories that send people out of the theater feeling better than they did coming in. It`s my cup of tea."
Happy Birthday, Greer Garson!

Today would have been the 108th birthday of the gorgeous, lovely and intelligent red headed actress, Greer Garson. Born in London to British parents in 1904, she grew up to study French and 17th Century literature at Kings College London, take various other courses in subjects such as botany, but eventually end up on London's West End stage - which lead her to Hollywood and fame as a movie actress. She makes me proud to be British. Since her movie debut in Goodbye Mr Chips (1939) she's been gracing our screens and warming our hearts with her lovely presence. She was also famous for her 8-movie partnership with actor Walter Pidgeon, leading Tumblr fans to dub them "The Pidgeons" even though they never were together or married... Whether in black and white, highlighting her pale skin, or vibrant technicolor - letting rip her firey red hair, she glowed on the screen.

"I think the mirror should be tilted slightly upward when it`s reflecting life -- toward the cheerful, the tender, the compassionate, the brave, the funny, the encouraging, all those things -- and not tilted down to the gutter part of the time, into the troubled vistas of conflict."
Unfortunately, in the 21st Century we seem to have forgotten Greer in the lexicon of Hollywood Glamour Girls. Where people idolise Lauren Bacall and everyone seems to know about Marilyn Monroe, hardly anyone still remembers Greer Garson for much except her unrivalled performance in wartime classic, Mrs Miniver. It's a great shame and I hope that by all of the appreciation she gets on Tumblr and Blogger, that we're spreading the Greer love. It doesn't help that her films are nigh impossible to get hold of. TCM release more of her films!!!

If you want some more Greer information, then I highly recommend Michael Troyan's biography, "A Rose For Mrs Miniver: The Life Of Greer Garson". But if you've never watched any Greer Garson before - this problem must now be rectified. I'm going to have another Greer double bill today - I'm starting off with Random Harvest (1942) and ending with the Valley Of Decision (1945). They're not the best paired double bill, but they're ones I haven't seen in a while or that I need to rewatch. I would recommend a triple bill to start you off, with Mrs Miniver (1942), then Random Harvest (1942) and then as a pick me up, Julia Misbehaves (1949). If you're really dedicated then you could tack on Blossoms In The Dust (1941) for the tears factor and Greer's flawless hair as well! Have a happy Greer day!


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Private Lives (1942) Starring Cary Grant and Greer Garson!

[This poster was made by me, this film never actually happened, the picture is from the rehearsals for a radio show they did together. As much as it breaks my heart, they never made a film together. Just in case I was unclear :-D]

It's always been a complete mystery to me how Greer Garson and Cary Grant never worked together. Two of the best voices in Hollywood - both British and both gorgeous. How did this never happen? As you can see they were in a radio play together (alas, just "Bed-Time Stories") but they never made a film. They would have been perfectly suited to Noel Coward's Private Lives. I'm thinking we could have George Cukor directing it. Yes, good.

How wonderful would Greer Garson have been as the fiery and lively Amanda? I can see her smashing records over Cary Grant's head. She would breeze through her dialogue with all the right intenation and everything. Not to mention the fact that Greer Garson was in a play directed by Noel Coward when she was young, and he adored her, so no problems with casting there! Well, actually in the initial audition he said she was "Too mannered, too tall and over-annunciates her words," but he then said, "But that HAIR will set fire to every one of my lines!" Also - we could have her singing "Someday I'll Find You (Moonlight Behind You)". THERE ARE NO DOWNSIDES TO THIS PLAN.

Of course Cary Grant is perfection as Elliot. He can be the right mixture of a little nervous, romantic and over-sensitive. I can see him now saying the lines "Oh stop it, you know you adore being made love to!" and screaming "SOLOCHS!"

Can you imagine what he and Greer Garson would have looked like on screen together? They would have lit up the screen. I was debating whether to have this filmed in Technicolour or black and white, but in the end I thought it would be best in colour (yes, this decision was reached mainly because I wanted to show off Greer's hair).

They would have honestly been the best pairing ever. I was actually getting extremely frustrated about the fact that this perfect film never existed. There is simply one solution - I have to go make friends with The Doctor and hitch a ride in his TARDIS. Problem is, I'd probably just want to be in the film with Cary Grant myself - sorry, Greer!


Saturday, 8 September 2012

Julia Misbehaves (1948)

I had a mini Greer Garson marathon the other day - we started with Jack Conway's loveably insane Julia Misbehaves (also starring Walter Pidgeon, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Lawford) and then followed up with the heart-wrenchingly sad yet a little uplifting Blossoms In The Dust. I wouldn't recommend you do it that way around, but it was a great movie night. It made me realise that I've never written about this film on here before, so I said "This problem shall be rectified!" And, errr, yes. This is the rectification.

"When Greer Garson starts a picture in a bubble bath, that's news!" Such was the publicity issued from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on January 16, 1948, as Greer prepared for the opening scene of Julia Misbehaves. As she sat, chatting gaily with the crew before a warm bathtub filled with Ardena Fluff Milk Bath while her hairdresser, Edith Hubner, swept her hair up into a curly mass, she seemed like her old self. She was pleased that despite a "No admittance" sign on the sound stage door, a steady line of friendly well-wishers crowded their way into the eight-foot-square replica of an English bathroom. While Jack Conway and Joe Ruttenburg prepared prepared to film the scene, prop man Tony Ordoqui kept filling the tub with bubbles. Irene was there to check on Greer's skin-coloured bathing suit. Al Block, the studio censor, moved about nervously, anxiously second-guessing the Production Code's view on modesty. Finally Conway shooed everyone out except Walter Pidgeon. "After all," Pidgeon argued, "as an actor who has been married to Greer Garson four times, I should have some privileges."- A Rose For Mrs Miniver: The Life Of Greer Garson by Michael Troyan. [via]

Julia Packet (Greer Garson) is a ditzy, passionate, beautiful, loveable chorus girl living in London. Married to William Packet, they have been estranged since the end of WWI. She lives on the edge, pretending suicide so that her good friend Benjie will lend her money. Suddenly out of the blue she receives a telegram asking her to her daughter Susan's (Elizabeth Taylor) wedding. William's mother sent Julia away when her daughter was a baby worrying that she would be an bad influence on Susan. Despite this, she goes to France, determined that she will see Susan's wedding. She goes by ship and on that ship she meets Freddie Ghenoccio (Cesar Romero), and The Flying Ghenoccio Brothers acrobatics Vaudeville team. She misses William in Paris who has come to tell her it was all a mistake because she suddenly had to replace Freddie's mother in their act (insert Greer dancing and singing amazingness). 

Freddie announces that he loves Julia and wants to marry her, but Julia doesn't reply. Julia gets to the Packet house and is told by William's mother that she is not wanted at the wedding. After she meets Susan who admits she sent the invitation in secret (in an emotional scene - only Greer Garson could make me cry in a screwball comedy) Julia decides that she simply cannot leave her. So she decides to stay for the wedding and is intrigued by Susan's relationship with the family painter (Peter Lawford), all sorts of crazy antics ensue including a Greer Garson certified warning about Cyclamen Pink and a tale about sea lions, but can Julia realise that she really loves William?

It seems there are three groups concerning this movie. The first is the people who've never seen it (shame on you), the people who love it (me, Sophie, Rianna, FrankaFairbanksjr and Sara) and the people who hate it. So obviously this film is better than Citizen Kane (it isn't, that was sarcasm.) Ok, so it isn't the best film in the entire world, although my 10 year old sister would dispute you on that matter, but it's sweet, fun and lovely. Jack Conway (Libeled Lady) and his comedic timing as a director is great. Greer Garson has fantastic comedic timing and I wish she'd made more comedies and hadn't been type cast as housewives as much (something that caused her much woe in her professional life).

Greer Garson is wonderful of course - as always. Her dance numbers are great as well. She just gives her all no matter what she's doing. She actually is a great singer and a fairly good dancer but even though she's no Judy Garland it doesn't take away from the greatness of the numbers. Also, there have been many a chat about "Greerlegs" on tumblr. Watch this and random harvest and you'll know why. As I said before she makes me cry when she first meets Elizabeth Taylor... ;____; SADNESS! Also, that scene where she nearly is drowned by Walter Pidgeon and his ill-advised boating trips and she wears a tablecloth? 

DAMN GURL YA LOOK GOOD EVEN IN A TABLECLOTH! Also, the dialogue in that scene after she and Walter Pidgeon sank their old rowing boat...

Greer Garson: If I'd known you were so anxious to get me in here [Walter Pidgeon's wood cabin] I could have saved my self a long cold swim!
Walter Pidgeon: Well you're here and it's results that count!
Greer Garson: I'm in no position to say your method isn't effective.
Walter Pidgeon: Well it should be, I've devoted many years to perfecting it.
Greer Garson: Oh, I suppose the method always worked!
Walter Pidgeon: Uh, had one failure, she drowned, stubborn wench.
Hahahaha. Yes. I love Greer Garson in this and everything. She's particularly lovely and vibrant in this film because in real life she had just met her final husband, Buddy Fogelson, whom she was with until he died (38 years). By the way, star of The Help, Jessica Chastain's favourite actress is Greer Garson :-D

Walter Pidgeon is hilarious and sweet as always and he and Greer work so well together. So well that my mother said at one point "WHY WERE THEY NEVER MARRIED, THEY WERE! I WON'T BELIEVE THEY WEREN'T!" Mother, welcome to my ways *evil laugh*.

Elizabeth Taylor is all young and nice and Peter Lawford is pretty creepy as he always is. I mean why would you paint Liz Taylor's head on a Lady Godiva being chased by race-horses? He's always a little weird but we'll deal with it for this movie because actually it works quite well. Elizabeth Taylor looks so youthful in this film. It was her first real romance on screen, a good four years before A Place In The Sun. She and Greer Garson work well together (Best Family: Greer Garson is your mother, Walter Pidgeon is your father and you're Elizabeth Taylor).

[My Gif]
Overall, this film is fun and enjoyable to watch