Thursday, 30 August 2012

A Woman's Face (1938) Starring Ingrid Bergman

I recently acquired the Swedish film collection of Ingrid Bergman's Swedish films. To commemorate her Birthday the other day, I watched her dramatic departure from "girl-next-door" roles, A Woman's Face (1938). Remade in hollywood in 1940 with Joan Crawford, A Woman's Face was a huge success and established Ingrid Bergman as a member of a group of only a few elite actors.

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Brutally disfigured in a fire as a child, Anna Holm (Ingrid Bergman) has nothing to live for. No family, no money, and - she thinks - with a face like hers, no friends. She works at a blackmail "firm" with two men who hunt out blackmail opportunities. It is on one of her trips to secure a deal that she meets plastic surgeon, Dr Wegert. He offers to correct her facial disfigurement and to help restore her past joy and positive outlook on life.

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With her new face and her new identity (Miss Anna Paulsson), Anna sets out to take the job of Governess as part of a new blackmail scheme without informing her firm. She gets to the far away Swedish countryside and meets her new family. They like her, and with a bit of effort they make her happy again. She adores the boy she is to look after, Lars-Erik, and she is falling in love with his uncle, Harald Berg.

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One day, Torsten Barring (the man who masterminded a scheme for Anna so that she can kill Lars-Erik who is standing between him and a large inheritance) appears and they get trapped in a vicious circle of blackmail. This makes Anna worried and depressed again.

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Soon after, in a sleigh accident, Anna confesses all to Harald. Can they make their relationship around forgotten lies?

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This film was absolutely fantastic. Since this came in a box set only publicised for having "A Young Ingrid Bergman" in it, I wasn't expecting a masterpiece. I was pleasantly surprised. The script was well written with many diversions into the identities of members of the family and their relationships with each other. It was well paced and interesting to watch.

Being blackmailed there much, dearie?
Gustaf Molander, the director and "mastermind" behind the whole 30s Swedish film industry, is a genius. He picked out Ingrid at a young age to appear in his films on his instinct that she was - or could become - a great actress. His use of light is film-noir before there even was film-noir. The way he sets up the film so that for the first few scenes we don't even see Anna's face. It is always covered by her hair, a hat, or a shadow. I particularly liked a scene when Lars-Erik asks Anna to kiss him goodnight and it's probably the first time she's ever had affectionate contact with someone and she is so changed. The lighting is beautiful here.

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And of course, what can we even say about Ingrid Bergman? It made me see her in yet another new light hearing her in Swedish. Her body movements and physical characterisations of Anna were incredible. She uses the gesture to cover her face perfectly. Always at the right time and with the right intensity. Her emotional build-up is great, you can see her gradually becoming a new person. In the scene at the beginning where she smashes the mirror, you feel all her bitterness and sadness over the years has gathered up and had to be released in only that way.

One thing that struck me, I don't think any other actress would have done it - maybe it sounds silly - but when the bandage is on she keeps feeling it sensitively, almost as a replacement for the covering of her face she used to do. Anyway, it's a wonderful performance. She also looks beautiful in this, before she was even slightly altered by the Hollywood Studios.

The whole of the supporting cast have interesting parts to play, and for that you can see Molander has chosen interesting actors. I loved the relationship between Lars-Erik's grandfather and his maid. The child actor who played Lars-Erik was adorable. So sweet! The man who played Harald was also good - his character was somewhat spineless so you couldn't expect a bravado performance from him.

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I would totally recommend this film to anyone, especially an Ingrid Bergman fan. She gives a great performance, and the film as a whole is fabulous. The only way to get hold of it, however, is through the "Ingrid Bergman In Sweden" boxed set.


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

"I Didn't Choose Acting, It Chose Me." Happy Birthday Ingrid Bergman

Dear Book. Ever since I was a child I loved the theatre but I never thought that maybe I could become an actress. It was in the fall of 1929 that I realised that I wanted to give myself absolutely to the theatre. Uncle Gunnar said I should be an actress; there was no question about it. He told me to learn more poems, and it was then that I decided to the muses I must go, to Thalia, one of the goddesses of the theatre.
I dreamed how one day I would stand at the Oscar Theatre and the public would sit there and see this new Sarah Berndhart. I never talked to anyone much about my plans. I kept them to myself. I know I dreamed that perhaps one day I might be able to play against Gösta Ekman, who was my ideal.
Papa wanted me to go in for Opera because he liked music so much. But I don't think there is so much difference between opera and theatre. I am sure he would not have forbidden me to venture along the thorny road to the heaven of stars.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY INGRID BERGMAN (29th August 1915-29th August 1982)
Winner of three Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award. She defied the type-cast system of Hollywood. She acted in Swedish (her native language), German, English, Italian and French. She frequently topped most-popular-star polls, not even a "scandal" with Roberto Rossellini could dim her star. Her career spanned fifty years and she is still an inspiration and role model to modern audiences. Happy birthday, Ingrid Bergman.

Today is both the birthday and the death day of - in my opinion - possibly the most talented actress ever, Ingrid Bergman. She started as a lead in small-time Swedish films and worked her way up to the pinacle of success as a Hollywood idol. So today as a tribute to her I just wanted to say how much she means to me and why she's so special.

The first Ingrid Bergman film I watched was of course - Casablanca. My mum and dad waited a while to show it to me because they wanted to be sure that I'd really understand it and be able to get everything it was about. That must have been about two years ago now, and I haven't looked back since. Unfortunately, in England it isn't very easy to acquire Ingy films outside of the regular Casablanca, Notorious and Casablanca. Granted you can get some of her later films, but unlike Katharine Hepburn, there isn't a great deal of her filmography available. I've tried to get as many as possible, and I'm still collecting. Recently I got the American import of Ingrid Bergman's Swedish film collection. Including three of her early 1930s Swedish films. I haven't watched any yet - but as a celebratory act today - I'm going to watch one.

I'm sure I've said this before on here, but as an actress, Ingrid Bergman is my inspiration. She has a subtle kind of vulnerability and naturalness but still manages to combine this with "hamming it up" as som might call it. I admire her versatility and eagerness to look for roles outside of her box. Reading her biography has made me feel like I know her even more. 

I admire her not only as an actress but as a person. She was kind, considerate, loving, empathetic but still had a (if you'll excuse the expression) "low bullshit tolerance". When the scandal about her affair with Roberto Rossellini came out, she felt guilty and upset but she was sure at the time that this was right for her. She didn't deserve the flack that she got for that. But she still rode it out well. She had much unhappiness in her life. She lost her mother at two, and her father at thirteen. Part of the reason I think she made a few bad choices in men was because she had no family guidance. She needed a father figure.

I don't know whether I've been able to put my admiration for her into words but anyway.
So there you go! Here is my recommendation for a great Ingrid Bergman day schedule. (I hear TCM has a full day of her for Summer Under The Stars but I don't have TCM *cries* so here's what I'd do to emulate)
  1. For Whom The Bell Tolls (1939)
  2. Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde (1942)
  3. Casablanca (1943)
  4. Spellbound (1945)
  5. Notorious (1946)
  6. The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness (1958)
  7. Goodbye Again (1962)
  8. Gaslight (1944)
  9. Journey To Italy (1957)
  10. Indiscreet (1958)


Saturday, 18 August 2012

Rebecca (1940) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock

It was Hitchcock's birthday the other day so to honour him I watched Rebecca again with my family and we loved it just as much as ever! Hitchcock is a total genius. I believe I've posted about this before but it was a very brief post and I wanted to expand on it. Also, I'm more than a little obsessed with Laurence Olivier (I'm sure posts on this subject will ensue)... Most other 14 year old girls are crushing on Robert Pattinson and I'm sitting in the corner with my iPod watching Laurence Olivier's Hamlet.

I'm an awkward youth. I read the actual book by Daphne Du Maurier a few months ago and I loved it! The film adaptation is very different to the book in some ways but also very in keeping with the theme as well. {All GIFs in this post link back to their source if you click them}.

In case you don't know the plot, Rebecca is the story of Maxim De Winter (Laurence Olivier)- owner of the famous Cornwall estate, Manderley. He was married to the beautiful, intelligent and classy Rebecca. Everyone called their marriage a great success. They were married for a few years when Rebecca and her sailboat went down off the coast of Manderley. Supposedly trying to get over the loss of his wife - Maxim goes to Monte Carlo where he meets a young, naive pretty girl (Joan Fontaine), working as a paid companion to Edythe Van Hopper. They get to know each other and their trip ends with Maxim proposing marriage to the girl, she soon becomes "The New Mrs De Winter" (she remains nameless throughout the film, this is all we know her as.)

But when the staff and Maxim's family greet his new wife - they are less than optimistic about their chances as a couple. The houskeeper and previous personal maid to Rebecca, Mrs Danvers tortures Maxim's wife with the fact that everyone loved rebecca, she loved rebecca, all men loved rebecca, Maxim adored Rebecca... Can she stand this torture any longer? And are there secrets that haunted Maxim and Rebecca's marriage?

Alfred Hitchcock often claimed that this film wasn't his own. It belonged to Daphne Du Maurier because she had created such vivid characters and such a complex and exciting story. I disagree. I think that even if Hitchcock was doing a film adaptation of Little Bo Peep it would belong to Hitchcock and be Hitchcock's. You can't deny his hallmark in all areas of this expertly crafted film. {SPOILER ALERT} The shot at the end that shows the deranged Mrs Danvers dancing in the flames of Manderley that she has created has Hitchcock written all over it. Of course he is often the creator of his own storylines and characters - but let's not forget that he also adapted Jamaica Inn a year earlier - another Du Maurier novel. He must have liked working on her stories.

Joan Fontaine's protrayal of Mrs Dewinter is whinier and a little weaker than the girl in the novel. In the novel she seems more confused than whiny, but this may be a problem with the script and not with Joan's acting. I'm always very moved when she comes down that staircase in her special dress that she'd been working on or a long time (she'd been advised on what dress to make by Mrs Danvers who knew Rebecca had worn exactly the same dress) and he face is full of excitement and willingness to please Maxim and all the guests look as though they've seen a ghost. They all whisper "Rebecca!" She is also pretty good when she finally gets some more power in her role as the mistress of the house. The servant Frith says, "But Mrs De Winter always kept her letters stamped and adressed...", and she replies, "I am Mrs De Winter now." I think she did really well creating a role in her own way that readers had imagined in their own way for years.

Laurence Olivier is again completely and utterly brilliant - I would expect no less! He is such a romantic actor. he and Fontaine work and look very good together.

{Bit worried there Joanie?}

I've decided that having Laurence Olivier in an adaptation of any English literature makes it perfect (Wuthering Heights, Pride And Prejudice...). He makes Maxim someone you can relate to, not just a tortured man that no-one can even try and get to as I imagine he may become in some adaptations. You are constantly wanting to help him and give him support the whole way through. At emotional scenes you are inclined to yell "MAXIM!" at the TV. (Or is that just me...)

They are backed up by a perfect supporting cast. Dame Judith Anderson is wonderful in her crazed role as Mrs Danvers. It's one of the scariest performances in a Hitchcock in my opinion. SO SCARY OMG NO DON'T KEEP SHRINES TO DEAD PEOPLE IN THEIR ROOMS AND WASH THEIR UNDERWEAR AFTER THEY DIED IT'S WIERD.

Also, George Sanders (George-Sanders-Who-Worked-In-An-Advertising-Firm-With-Greer-Garson-George-Sanders?)!!! Why hasn't he got more love on the internet? He's fantastic! All in favour of starting a George Sanders fan club say "I".

Can we discuss Gladys Cooper? She was genius in Now Voyager and now my mum realised she plays Maxim's sister in this and Mrs Higgins in My Fair Lady!

My mum got quite obsessed so be bought an old copy of her biography written by her Grandson... She played the leads in Somerset Maugham plays and then managed her own theatre, AND was a WWI Pin Up Girl! Very intrigued to read that now.

This is certainly one of my favourite Hitchcocks, but then again I love then all so how can I choose (though my favourite is Notorious ;-D)


Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Ship That Never Left The Dock mII

Ok, so maybe this isn't a whole post as long or in depth as the last "Ship That Never Left The Dock" instalment, but I saw this picture and I just thought everything about it was beautiful. The lighting, their expressions and the naturalness with which they seem to be able to pose together - they always seem so connected. Ugh. Cary and Ingrid, y u such a perfect couple?

This will forever be the tragedy of my life.


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Alfred Hitchcock Is Better Than You

Alfred Hitchcock is posing with a koala. He and said koala share the same profile. I think enough has been said on this subject.


Friday, 3 August 2012

Favourite Quotes - Sabrina

I can never quite express in words how wonderful Sabrina is. Audrey Hepburn is perfect as Sabrina fairchild and Billy Wilder's script is genius - not to even start to talk about Humphrey Bogart's sensitive and against-type performance as Linus Larrabee.


Liebster Blog Award (That Is How You Spell It...)

Hey guys! I'm coming out of my Internet absence to tell you I was tagged by the wonderful Rianna of Frankly My Dear whom I'm sure you all know (I'd link back but I'm on blogger mobile which is probably the most strange thing I've ever used in my life...). So I think I have to give you 11 facts about myself and then answer Rianna's either or questions. Well anyway that's what you're gonna get so I hope that's right. Here you go guys!

Facts About Me:
1. I'm playing the role of Juliet in a production of Romeo And Juliet in October and I'm very, very exited :-D
2. I watched Wuthering Heights (1939) again the other day and remembered how much I love it! PENISTONE CRAG!
3. I have green eyes...
4. I have really narrow feet and whenever I buy sandals I have to make extra holes in the straps to make sure they stay on. (You may note this as one of the most useless pieces of information you will hear in your life.)
5. I study Latin for my GCSEs. It's a dead language. Yeah. Etslay opstay alkingtay about histay. Istay is a assiclay oviemay ogblay.
6. Upon reccomendation from my drama teacher I've recently started taking jazz dance masterclass/fitness classes. I've never danced before. It's helped free up my movement for physical theatre but seriously... I'm dead by the end and then they start propelling themselves into the air like rabbits and I'm like, "JAZZ HANDS!"
7. I've seen 26 Katharine Hepburn films.
8. I REALLY want the Ingrid Bergman Swedish film boxed set! Alas, my last penny was spent on her autobiography... Anyone out there who loves me, I'll pay for it in cookies.
9. I love F Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite books. I also like the 70s Robert Redford adaptation and I'm already angry with Baz Luhrrman's new adaptation. Kanye West soundtrack. Good god.
10. I love Lemon flavoured deserts like tart au citron and lemon pie... Yum.
11. I'm currently in the process of pestering my English teacher to chose To Kill A Mockingbird as our year 11 study book. I love it :-D

Rianna's 11 Questions (Also titled: Rianna you are evil):
1. Ingrid Bergman or Greta Garbo? Da Bergman obvs.
2. Humphrey Bogart or James Cagney? James Cagney by a millimetre.
3. Julie Andrews or Judy Garland? no comment.
4. Cary Grant or Clark Gable? Cary Grant! No competition.
5. Deborah Kerr or Greer Garson? Greer Garson mainly because I've seen more of her films, I love Deborah, too!
6. Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire? FRED ASTAIRE!
7. Ava Gardner or Lana Turner? I don't think I've seen enough of either to answer this one.
8. Errol Flynn or Tyrone Power? Errol Flynn.
9. Myrna Loy or Carole Lombard? Minnie of course!
10. Montgomery Clift or James Dean? Ugh. At a push I'd pick James Dean, not a fan of either to be honest (even if they were gorgeous.)
11. Katharine Hepburn or Bette Davis? Rianna, this question was made specifically to torture me wasn't it? Damn you. Well, K Hep is one of my true role models and I love her acting so even though I adore Bette Davis, because Kate is so amazing and exceptional as a person as well as an actress I have to go Kate.

My 11 Tagees:
I don't want to tag 11 people, I couldn't choose who to tag! So anyone who wants to do this, do it! It's fun and I love all the people I follow and who follow me, too. So have fun with it :-D

My 11 Questions:
1. Have you ever come into contact with a classic movie star/one of their relatives?
2. Favourite Hollywood on/off screen couple?
3. Do you ever find yourself thinking in a swedish accent after watching an Ingrid Bergman or Greta Garbo film? (this is more to make sure I'm not crazy)
4. Do you play an instrument?
5. How many Old Hollywood books do you own?
6. How many films have you seen your favourite actor/actress in?
7. Favourite Hitchcock?
8. Favourite old Hollywood friendship?
9. Now for the real hard one... Best pair of old Hollywood eyebrows?
10. Person you aspire to be like?
11. What is your favourite ice-cream flavour?

So yeah, my questions sound like questions you'd take in a personality test when you were 8. Anyway, there you go! Thanks for tagging Rianna, you're a real pal (if you got that Singing In The Rain reference I love you... "thanks Zelda you're a real pal.")

P.S. hope you're all having a great time and are enjoying the clips and photos I set up :-D