Sunday, 27 May 2012

Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962)

It was a dark, grey and muggy afternoon. A strong atmosphere of strange possibility hung in the air. The girl walked the long walk to one of her favourite places in the house - her parent's bedroom. This was the room that had a bed filled with soft linen and fluffy pillows and memories of her childhood. Her arms were filled with a solid rectangular shape. She set herself down on her bed and opened up the magical portal she was holding, and... Then she opened YouTube.

Seriously, that was my sunday! I was going to go and pick up some boat goodness from my Sailing Club with my family for my sister, but we were all to tired. The day before I'd been wanting to purchase Sidney Lumet's (12 Angry Men) 1962 film of Long Day's Journey Into Night, obviously based on Eugene O'Niel's play of the same name. I was really exited about buying it and watching it but alas and alack - the cost of this DVD wasn't Amazon's usual inviting £3 for a classic, but £27. There must be something wierd goin' on at the DVD factory or the copyright lawyers. Ugh. Luckily I found the entire thing on youtube that day and the quality was pretty good except for a little skip at one point. I have to say I was left intirely eaten up with inspiration for my Drama mock exam in which my group has devised a piece centred around Lady and Lord Capulet from "Romeo and Juliet". I got the part of Juliet in our school's entry to The Shakespeare School's Festival in October (SQUEE!!!!) so in this one I'm playing Lady Capulet. The character of Mary gave me some great ideas. This film was beyond anything I've seen recently.

The Tyrone family has never been a home. From the early years that Mary spent touring with actor husband James Tyrone there has never been a sense of togetherness. James drinks with his buddies  - all men, of course - at the bar in town. Mary has no friends. She soon births James Tyrone Jr and there is much joy in the land. Soon after however, she has another child who dies as a baby, she is convinced Jamie had something to do with it, even as a 7 year old. During her pregnancy with her third son Edmund, she was in great pain. To calm it the cheap doctor that James hired hooks her up to an infinite source of morphine. James is constantly stingy as a result of his hard, poverty-ridden childhood, yet it ruins everyone's lives around him.

Mary becomes addicted to the Morphine and uses it as an escape. A way to forget all about her marriage, her friendless existence and her unhappy life. She used to be at a convent with hopes of becoming a nun or a concert pianist, but that all changed when she met actor James. Her friends turned their back on her and the convent refused to recognise her. It gets worse and worse as the children grow up and she goes in and out of sanatoriums, cheap ones mind you, but she never gets better. As the children grow up James turns into an alcoholic actor and Edmund a seafaring alcoholic. The entire play/film takes place in 1912 on the day that Mary starts taking morphine again after trying to recover ater another sanatorium and they all find out Edmund's dying of consumption. Will the boys walking around in alcoholic stupur and Mary in another drug induced haze - what is their future?

The writing of this play and the storyline reminded me a great del of a Tennessee Williams play or something of that calibre and intensity. I'd seen clips of it on Katharine Hepburn documentaries ans was extremely intrigued by the things I'd seen. The script was wonderful (sorry in advance for spamming you with O'Niel y'all),
MARY:    It's a wedding gown.  It's very lovely, isn't it?  I remember now.  I found it in the attic hidden in a trunk.  But I don't know what I wanted it for.  I'm going to be a nun - that is, if I can only find -  What is it that I'm looking for?  I know it's something I've lost.  Something I miss terribly.  It can't be altogether lost.  Something I need terribly.  I remember when I had it I was never lonely or afraid.  I can't have lost it forever, I would die if I thought that.  Because then there would be no hope.  (Edmund, her son, impulsively grabs her arm)  No!  You must not try to touch me.  You must not try to hold me.  It isn't right, when I am hoping to be a nun.  I had a talk with Mother Elizabeth.  She is so sweet and good.  A saint on earth.  I love her dearly.  It may be sinful of me but I love her better than my own mother.  Because she always understands, even before you say a word.  Her kind blue eyes look right into your heart.  You can't keep any secrets from her.  You couldn't deceive her, even if you were mean enough to want to.  All the same, I don't think she was understanding this time.  I told her I wanted to be a nun.  I explained how sure I was of my vocation, that I had prayed to the Blessed Virgin to make me sure, and to find me worthy.  I told Mother I had a true vision when I was praying in the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, on the little island in the lake.  I said I knew, as surely as I knew I was kneeling there, that the Blessed Virgin had smiled and blessed me with her consent.  But Mother Elizabeth told me I must be more sure than that, even, that I must prove it wasn't simply my imagination.  She said, if I was so sure, then I wouldn't mind putting myself to the test by going home after I graduated, and living as other girls lived, going out to parties and dances and enjoying myself; and then if after a year or two I still felt sure, I could come back to see her and we would talk it over again.  I never dreamed Holy Mother would give me such advice!  I was really shocked!  I said, of course, I would do anything she suggested, but I knew it was simply a waste of time.  After I left, I felt all mixed up, so I went to the shrine and prayed to the Blessed Virgin and found peace again because I knew she had heard my prayer and would always love me and see no harm ever came to me as long as I never lost my faith in her.  That was in the winter of senior year.  Then in the spring something happened to me.  Yes, I remember.  I fell in love with James Tyrone and was so happy for a time.  (She stares before her in a sad dream).
'Nuff said.

Sidney Lumet directs this film in a delicate way that makes you feel not like you are being attacked by this macabre tale of a broken home, but that you are in it and growing in intensity along with the characters, a hard thing to do with a text this complex and heart-wrenching. The play was rehearsed for a long time and then shot scene after scene like a long play. I can only imagine what a tough ordeal this must have been for the actors, but in a way I think it contributed to the film's brilliance. This was a play. Then why not behave like it's one? Preparing like it was a play probably made the actors feel very comfortable with the text and easier with summoning such intense emotion on the spot.

Ralph Richardson does a great job as James Tyrone, not an easy part. It could become totally irritating and heartless but he adds an edge to it. I feel for him honestly in the scene where he confesses the reason for his monetary obsessions. I also now feel like I've witnessed the work of another of what I call the holy trio of British actors; John Gielgud, Lawrence Olivier and Ralph Richardson. That's something I can tick off my to-do list. He wasn't a disappointment, either which was a relief, I loved his acting.

Can we just take a paragraph to appreciate Katharine Hepburn's genius (I hear your cries, "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR BLOG IS?") because after watching another performance which I'm thinking is on the level of hers in The Lion In Winter. She plays Mary with such tenderness and emotion that you are constantly on the brink of tears over her sorrowful lot in life. She really truly loves James, but there's always that little bit of resentment in her eyes that he made her an outcast from her home - the convent. Her scenes that the beginning, trying desperately to hold in her tears and craving for morphine, are just as moving to me as the ones where she is so far gone that she can hardly support herself and collapses on the floor and gets stuck in her own past. 


She said of this performance "You can never better the part." but I think she at the very least equalled it. That performance was out of this world. She never ceases to amaze me - just when you think you've got her style or "mannerisms" pinned, she comes out with something like this. Incredible.

The supporting cast of the two brothers are played very well by Dean Stockwell and Jason Robards. I thought that Dean Stockwell was great, his monologue about loving the fog and feeling like he should be the sea were perfect. I did, however, have a little trouble with Jason Robards. He didn't quite get the emotion. He was one toe short of a foot (is that an expression? What was that?) if you know what I mean. That was just a little disappointing but it didn't ruin anything for me.


Monday, 21 May 2012

Pick Yourself Up


There's been a whole load of rubbish viruses around at the moment and everyone seems more than a little bit down in the dumps! I've also read of people over-seas that are hungering for some sunshine or just TO STOP FEELING LIKE A LARGE DINOSAUR HAS TAKEN HOLD OF THEIR SINUSES!?!?! Jeez. Viruses have a little respect, we have lives! Sorry if you don't, go hang with some bacteria. Or maybe you've been feeling a bit on the edge. Literally, I think this is the GIF that best sums up my life ever.
So I thought I'd compile a little list of things that might cheer up you classic movie lovers :-D. Follow all these steps and have a party! Prepare to be uplifted - but contrary to popular belief I am not Barbara Stanwyck's Miracle Woman or Miracle Max of The Princess Bride fame so don't expect miracles but expect your cold to be cured, but your soul might feel better lol.

1. Watch A Comedy

You know, some wordy cynical comedy in which the leads go from downhearted people to happy people (The Goodbye Girl anyone?) Or maybe just something so funny you fall off your chair (The Odd Couple) or... A SCREWBALL COMEDY?! I would always go for The Philadelphia Story or The Thin Man but Bringing Up Baby's a pretty good choice, too. Comedies always cheer you up and they can just make you feel that little bit better about feeling down, just a tip, pick one you know and like! Comedies are personal, you don't want to end up with one you didn't really want to watch.

2. Listen to some power songs!

My personal two favourite songs for this are "I'm The Greatest Star" sung by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl and (although this won't work for men), "I Hate Men" from Kiss Me Kate. They're two great ones. You know that just turning up the speakers or the headphones and blasting one of your favourites out i gonna cheer you up at least a little :-D Funny story, I go on a schoolbus each morning and when I sit with my year 9 posse - they're all making racist/homophobic/sexist jokes and I'm just like - "Putting on some Fred Astaire." and start playing "I'm Fancy Free" on my ipod. I took it a step further today though when I played the 1940 broadcast of The Philadelphia Story and instead of any music I just had Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn's voices echoing in my ears. Luvley <3

3. Read About Your Favourite Star

If I'm; Down, Ill, Losing Faith In Humanity, or All Of The Above - then I have to admit, reading Katharine Hepburn's "Me: Stories Of My Life" is quite the pick me up. It's something about reading writing from someone who I identify with so much and admire that actually manages to restore my will to live after some physics or 13 year old boys on my bus saying that a motorbike riding woman is wrong. I did completely own one of said boys a while ago -
*Reading Romeo and Juliet audition script*
Him: What you reading?
Me: My Romeo and Juliet audition script.
Him: Romeo and Juliet's gay.
Me: Actually, just to clarify, it's about a man and a woman who fall in love so in case you were confused it's not gay.
Him: Yeah, but Shakespeare just writes about blood and sex and violence and stuff.
Me: I thought you would have liked that.
Him: Yeah, but he uses too many long words.
Me: *kills self*
Anyway, yes. READ! It's really nice to find out a little about your fave, it's like you're getting to know them :-D I'm actually thinking of using an amazon voucher to get a paperbook copy of "Me" so I can take it places...

4. Watch a Romantic/Beautiful film.

I'm thinking I'd go for something like Notorious, Roman Holiday or Funny Face. It'll just make you feel better. You: "Pretty... CARY GRANT MARRY ME." Legit. This will happen.

5. Watch a movie from your favourite actor/actress.
Or, if you'e favourite actor was ninja, watch one with both! I'm going for The Philadelphia Story on that front. Second choice might be Charade or Libeled Lady. That's a good end to the party.




Friday, 18 May 2012

Shall We Dance (1937)

I happened to see out of the corner of my eye the other that Shall We Dance, the 7th of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers pairings was on BBC 2, so I recorded it and then me and my sister watched it. We've seen Top Hat and Swing Time and love them both so it was a treat!

I hope that by showing such a fantastic 30s movie on a mainstream watched-by-everyone channel, people will find out more about these awesome films. I try and spread the word but often my recommendation is lost in a sea of Glee and Eastenders  (and I have a pretty loud voice, so this is something new! By the way, Eastenders is a melodramatic naff soap opera, for non Brits). Sometimes I just do this after about five times at trying to get a classic-movie-word in:

Shall We Dance (1937) Directed by Mark Sandrich


{This plot is interspersed with amazing musical numbers and slapstick sketches}

Peter P. Peters is a famous, famous ballet dancer (renamed Petrov by his manager to sound more glamourous) signed with a Russian ballet company, being managed by Jeffrey Baird. Peter also loves to tap-dance and has great fun trying to mix his ballet and his tap routines together, however Jeffrey is furious that he has been using his private rehearsal room to practice tap routines. Peter tells Jeffrey about an "amazing dancer" he's heard about called Linda Keene. Jeffrey immediately suspects a secret relationship but Peter says, "I told you I haven't even met her! I'd kind of like to marry her though... I think I will."

So he goes off to find Linda, but unfortunately catches her in a rage after her co-star tried to kiss her after the curtain came down on her show, and when he is announced before he goes in, she exclaims how she never wants to meet another hand-kissing gentleman dancer again, especially not a Russian ballerina. Hearing this, Peter becomes enraged and marches in shouting "Ochichonia! Linda Keene!" And proceeds to prance about and talk in a thick Russian accent.

Linda's manager and "discoverer" says, "is your name just Petrov?" to which he replies, "Just Caesar, just Napoleon, only Garbo... Just Petrov!"

He leaves in the end and his company leaves on the boat to America the next day, where he meets an old girlfriend who asks him where his wife is. Naturally he is surprised to be being asked about the whereabouts of a non-existant wife, but she reveals that Jeffrey told her, so he goes along with it, but makes his way to the boat as fast as possible. On the boat he has some publicity photos taken, and Linda (also on the boat) hears him talking in an American accent. Peter spends the whole boat-trip trying to catch Linda, but he finally manages to and they get along well. Then suddenly a rumour starts circulating that "The Great Petrov" has been secretly married to Linda Keene for four years, and there is a baby on the way. Peter didn't start the rumour, but he asks Jeffery to go and explain everything to Linda. Jeffrey explains something, but not the truth. He tells her that Peter made up the rumour to get rid of a girlfriend.

Furious, Linda leaves the boat on a plane to go and marry a boring man she once knew in New York. But the rumour persists so much that Peter and Linda find that the only way to stop the rumour is to get married and then quickly divorce, but they kind of like being married, but there are complications...

The Verdict:

Fred and Ginger with their on-screen dogs.

Me and my sister were slightly amazed by the end of this film. We've always loved Fred Astaire (I don't know if there is such a thing, but I used to be team Kelly, now I'm team Astaire :-D) and thought he was amazing, but he and Ginger Rogers dance and sing so wonderfully together... It was quite magical. I adored the "They All Laughed" number, but if I had to pick, my favourite was the "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" number which he and Ginger Rogers did on roller-skates. It was fantasmagorical.

I always laugh when I read the comments on Fred Astaire's first screentest: "Can't sing, can't act, balding... Can dance a little." Not only can he dance like no-one else, but he is a really good actor and singer! You get so much when you watch Fred Astaire. Loads of my favourite musicals have him in them. Easter Parade, Funny Face and although the plot is more than a little creepy, I kind of like Daddy Long Legs... But he is overall probably my favourite musical star who does the whole dance-act-sing thing equally well.

Can I just say, that Fred Astaire doing a Russian accent is the best thing in the entire universe. He came on and started talking in that thick Russian accent and I was just thinking (with my eyes wide open staring at the TV screen), "My life = complete" Best thing ever to date.

Ginger Rogers is so funny. I really like her and want to see more of her films! I've seen Stage Door, Swing Time, Top Hat and this and that seems all! THIS HAS TO BE RECTIFIED!!! I've actually seen the last third or Flying Down To Rio (1933) and managed to catch the amazing airplane scene. Wow! All those dancers on that plane... WHAT IF ONE FELL OFF??? *Hyperventilates even though it's just effects* I knew Ginger Rogers was a great actress and dancer, but she can sing too! And she really isn't half bad! I loved her rendition of "They All Laughed".

The supporting cast did well too. I love Edward Everett Horton. He is quite amazingly lovely and funny. You just have to laugh out loud at the scene when he goes onto the top deck of the boat in only a shirt, a lifejacket and some boxer shorts carrying his most treasured possessions getting ready to jump into a life-boat. It's ridiculous, but kind of funny at the same time ;-D

The direction isn't half bad, and the musical numbers are staged to perfection, and Hermes Pan (musical stager of my favourite musical, Kiss Me Kate) does amazingly with the ballet numbers. All of the numbers seem to just fit in with the story like they had to be there. It was quite magical, like I said, and they dance so beautifully. Yeah, the plots a little crazy, but who cares? It has some of the most amazing songs: "They All Laughed", "They Can't Take That Away From me" and "Lets Call The Whole Thing Off".

I realise that most of you have probably already seen the Astaire/Rogers movies, but I seem to have caught on very late. Anyway, if you haven't seen this one, do! It's great fun and has fantastic songs and dance numbers.


Saturday, 12 May 2012


"Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don’t do that by sitting around."
Happy Birthday, Katharine Houghton Hepburn!

I made these gifs and stuff for the very special should-be-public-holiday that is Katharine Hepburn's birthday. You all probably know how much I love her, but I felt like she needed this post and the gifs, she has become a major role model for me and is definitely one of my inspirations. If you wanna whole lotta Kate, here's my posts about her on this blog, and if you want even more Kate, here's my posts tagged with her on my tumblr. But you can never have too much K. Hep. knowwhatimsayin?

She was so cool there are probably no words - even if you don't like her you have to admit that she was her own person. I'm sure that that's all she would've wanted. Whether she was sliding down the mantelpiece as Jo March or cussing Peter O'Toole in a medieval jumpsuit like a boss, she always owned the screen. SO HAVE A HAPPY KATE DAY! Go watch one of her movies. That's what I'm off to do... Also might be prancing around the house talking like her... 'Cause that's the way I roll people.


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

My Favouritest And My Best: Historical/Period Flicks, Part 1

I love History. If I had to name three favourite subjects, then I would choose Drama, English and History. Probably in that order. History is fantastic. You get to learn about people and times gone by (sounds like a classic film blog description!) and I actually understand it! Actually, I understand most of my lessons, then just drop me into a Latin or Chemistry class and I just go:

It ain't good, people... It ain't good... But yes, Historical movies. LOVE THEM! I've seen quite a few, but here are my favourites, of course in no particular order! {By the way, I class this genre as anything set in a "time gone by", so classic literature adaptations count too!}

The Lion In Winter (1968)

I love The Lion In Winter. It's very dramatic and still manages to be quite funny at the same time:
Eleanor of Aquitaine: How kind of you to let me out of jail.
King Henry II: It's only for the holidays.
It's a great film and has loads of great performances in it, especially from Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn. When anyone mentions Historical films, this one immediately springs to mind. The script is amazing, the location is amazing and so is the direction. Plus this film officially has all of the best put-downs in history ever. Definitely one that you need to watch.

Gone With The Wind (1939)

It's true that I really haven't seen Gone With The Wind as many times as I would like to, but the time I did see it, I remember being quite blown away. Clark Gable as Rhett Butler? Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara? Come on! It had to be awesome! And I actually got really super upset when they Bonnie died. Anyway, I can't really say anything about GWTW that anyone hasn't already said, so I'll just say that I really liked it :-)

Jezebel (1938)

Jezebel is a really fantastic movie. I love Bette Davis always anyway, and when you put her in a southern town with Fay Bainter, Donald Crisp and Henry Fonda then it's just double the fantasmagoricalness isn't it? YES! And she keeps going "Pres, Pres!" But really it sounds like "Preeays? Preeays?" I don't care how interesting her southern accent is, she gives a great performance. I'm not exactly sure how historically accurate it is, but there is a lot about the "Yellow Fever" and they don't really hold back on anything, it's quite melodramatic and sad. It was so awful how they just completely negelected the people with deseases and sent them to the lepers island.

Pride And Prejudice (1940)

Pride And Prejudice is one of my favourite films. It's just one of those films you can watch over and over again and never get bored of. Greer Garson is wonderful as Elizabeth Bennet, and Lawrence Olivier is completely fantastic as Mr. Darcy. The costumes are all gorgeous, and the script is really cute. This was the first Greer Garson film I ever saw and it really got me into her films more. Plus, you gotta love some classic literature when it's adapted into a classic film. I have to say that the modern ones are a great deal more hit and miss.

Wuthering Heights (1939)

Wuthering Heights is probably my favourite gothic film and one of my favourite films from Hollywood's "best year", 1939. Lawrence Olivier fits Heathcliff like a glove. I can't find a thing wrong with his portrayal of him. Contrary to what seems to be the general consensus, I really like Merle Oberon as Cathy too. Of course there were probably other actresses who could have played her better, but I can't think of one off the top of my head. At first I thought that Greer Garson would have played her, but then I remembered how completely prim and proper she was in almost all her films and I couldn't imagine her playing someone as wild as Cathy. The direction from William Wyler is also genius, even if they only used the first half of the book.

Blossoms In The Dust (1941)

I watched Blossoms In The Dust for the first time the other day and was completely amazed. It was so good. I could hardly pick any faults with it. The entire plot is about a self-sacrificing woman whose child  died when it was only a child who was then told she could have no more children. She decides to start an orphanage and fights for the word "illegitimate" to be stricken from the birth records. I love Walter Pedgeon, too. He doesn't just "support" Greer Garson as I imagine many other weaker actors of the time might have done (George Brent with Bette Davis anyone?), he is actually a great actor all by himself. Well, not all by himself, that makes him sound lonely, I mean, in his own right.

So there you go! My favourite Historical/Period movies and why I love them!


Friday, 4 May 2012

Mata Hari (1931)

I got the Greta Garbo signature collection for Christmas this year as my mum was astounded that none of us had ever seen a Garbo film. So I've watched all but two in the collection and loved them all (Ninotchka was hilarious!) but the one that really struck me aesthetically as well as intellectually was the exotic pre-code, Mata Hari. Starring Greta in the title role and Ramon Novarro as her lover (with a jealous and treasonous Lionel Barrymore thrown in for good measure) directed by George Fitzmaurice, this film is credited with popularizing the legend of Mata Hari - the famed exotic dancer who was executed by firing squad in WWI for espionage. This story tells of a mission she was sent on to retrieve information from a pilot (played by Ramon Novarro, who looks about twelve in this movie) by seducing him and stealing it from him to hand over to the german government. Lionel Barrymore's character is Mata's French General on-off lover who has been tempted into treason by Mata Hari's charms.

I thought that visually, this was the most beautiful pre-code film that I've ever seen. I generally like the early thirties as a time period for films as there were no real set genres or "ways of doing things". The lighting in this is dramatic and abstract. At the beginning of the movie, Mata Hari's jewelled costumes are accentuated by the lighting that seems to make her lit from within. It sets up a very striking protrait of the kind of woman we are lead to believe Mata Hari is. I need all these costumes now.

Greta Garbo also often wears an asymmetric cap that is close to being tight enough for a swimming cap. One part of me wants to wish that she has a funny ear that she wants to hide (a la moi) but it's probably just for fashion's sake. Damn! She and Ramon Novarro (doesn't that just want to make you say it in an extreme russian accent?) look stunning together, and he gave a better performance than I was expecting after the first ten minutes. He seemed a bit wimpy to me and compared to Garbo's seductive and grown-up look he seemed to be much too young for her but in the end his innocence played a part in why I thought the film worked so well.

Greta Garbo is one of the most talented actresses I've ever seen. My list of favourite actresses covers a wide area but only sometimes are there people that are really something rare and special (the likes of Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis and both Hepburns) and Greta Garbo is one of them. She's totally magnetic without being only herself. From all the hype around her I was concerned she would just act herself in every film but she doesn't. Each portrayal is different and brilliant. HER PERFECTION I CAN'T EVEN...

My favourite scenes were in the death cells after she has been sentenced to death (I recently went on a trip to see the WWI battlefields and saw some of the real death cells) and she is wearing a simple black outfit and her hair is slicked back into non-existence. Ramon Novarro has been blinded in an accident and he is made to believe that he is visiting Mata Hari in a sanitarium where she is recovering from a breakdown and is about to go into surgery. It's totally heartbreaking.

Lionel Barrymore is great as always. I've seen him in so many films recently! This happens to me when I start watching a certain type of film from a certain type of era. How did you make that many films guys? Are you omnipresent?

My verdict on this film is that it's a beautiful and thought provoking film from a very intriguing era. You are constantly left to ponder about Mata's intentions and it is very upsetting at times. Even if you just watched the film for the clothes you wouldn't be disappointed. It has some of the most interesting and strikingly ethereal outfits I've seen in a movie. And of course Greta Garbo is magnificent.