Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, and Donal.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Class of '54 ....

Audrey in Paris: SABRINA
A quick look at those 1954 gals all going places ... Marlon (in DESIREE Napoleon costume) meets Marilyn (in one of her THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS frocks); Audrey scores in SABRINA - Wilder's valentine to her after the success of ROMAN HOLIDAY; a marvellous shot of Grace by Irving Penn - 1954 was her busy breakout year with those Hitchs + THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI and the GREEN FIRE programmer; 
Ava scored as THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, and Elizabeth looked sensational in that haircut for THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS, one of 4 she did that year. (here with young Roger Moore),
Marilyn consolidated her 1953 successes with the Fox musical and then off to Canada for RIVER OF NO RETURN.and created headlines marrying and divorcing Joe DiMaggio. 
Other busy gals included Shelley Winters, Virginia Mayo, Janet Leigh, Susan Hayward, Jean Simmons, Deborah Kerr, June Allyson - while over in Italy young Sophia Loren had her first teaming with Marcello in the delightful TOO BAD SHE'S BAD, one of 8 she did that year ... 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Class of '54: The Silver Chalice

It been fun re-seeing anther 1954 favourite which made an impression on me as a kid: THE SILVER CHALICE,  best known now as Paul Newman's first role which he was so embarrassed about that he apologised publicly .... well Paul need not have worried, he is the least interesting thing here, as the film is stolen by Jack Palance and Virginia Mayo as Simon the magician and his assistant Helena. Pier Angeli completes the lineup as the dutiful love interest of Newman, as Basil the sculptor.
A Greek artisan is commissioned to cast the cup of Christ in silver and sculpt around its rim the faces of the disciples and Jesus himself. He travels to Jerusalem and eventually to Rome to complete the task. Meanwhile, a nefarious interloper is trying to convince the crowds that he is the new Messiah by using nothing more than cheap parlor tricks.

Natalie Wood becomes Virginia Mayo
The 1950s was, for me, the great decade of musicals and westerns and epics/peplums or costume dramas, whether biblical or medieval, starting with QUO VADIS and THE ROBE and ULYSSES. 1954 was full of them: DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS, THE EGYPTIAN, KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS, THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH, ATTILA, TWO NIGHTS WITH CLEOPATRA, PRINCE VALIANT, SIGN OF THE PAGAN, PRINCESS OF THE NILE and yes, THE SILVER CHALICE
(1955 delivered THE PRODIGAL LAND OF THE PHAROAHS,  HELEN OF TROY, MOONFLEET and QUENTIN DURWARD while 1956 had Cecil's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (we had a school outing to see that...), ALEXANDER THE GREAT, WAR AND PEACE, then THE VIKINGS in 1958 and those biggies in 1959: BEN HUR and SOLOMON AND SHEBA, plus THE BIG FISHERMAN, THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES and those Steve Reeves movies, and the Sixties dawned with SPARTACUS followed by EL CID, BARABBASCLEOPATRA, FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, GENGHIS KHAN ... Visconti's 1963 THE LEOPARD is an epic too. Lots of these are covered at epics, peplums labels.
THE SILVER CHALICE is the oddest of the lot, with those surreal sets. Jack Palace is in his element as the mad magician who thinks he can fly with that great climax as he climbs the tower to fly off it .... as Helena tries in vain to stop him .... Mayo is great here with that odd eye make-up, young Natalie Wood in a blonde wig plays her when young with our hero Basil, Newman - very colourless here. This entertaining farrago is a riot now, directed by Victor Saville - a long way from those 1930s Jessie Matthews musicals. 
Palance also scored in '54 as Attila The Hun in Sirk's entertaining SIGN OF THE PAGAN (while Anthony Quinn in Italy was also a ferocious Attila in ATTILA with young Sophia Loren); Virginia Mayo also amused that year as the Plantagenet princess wooed by Saladin (Rex Harrison) in the enjoyable farrago that is KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Class of '54: Woman's World

We are looking at some favourites from one of my favourite years: 1954 - when I was 8 and discovered movies (starting with JOHNNY GUITAR and A STAR IS BORN), as per the 1954 label here.
Today its back to Jean Negulesco's comedy-drama WOMAN''S WORLD which finally is available in a good print, so I can chuck my ropey copy.  We have covered this here before, but its one movie that bears repeated views. As I said back in 2011: 

For me this 1954 Fox movie is the '50s in aspic. Its a fabulously entertaining variation on the '3 girls sharing an apartment and looking for love' genre that Fox and director Jean Negulesco did so well (HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE3 COINS IN THE FOUNTAINTHE BEST OF EVERYTHING, THE PLEASURE SEEKERS) - here the 3 girls are married and visiting New York - cue great views of '50s Manhattan - as Clifton Webb, the head of a motor company, has to choose a new general manager so the top 3 candidates and their wives are being vetted too to see if they are suitable material for company events.
The 3 couples are out-of-towners Cornel Wilde and ditzy (or is she?) June Allyson, sophisticates on the point of divorcing Lauren Bacall and Fred McMurray, and ambitious Van Heflin and Arlene Dahl who will go to any lengths to get her man the position. The gals get to wear to some marvellous frocks, Allyson and Bacall play their usual personas so the unknown quantity here is Dahl who steals the film - particuarly when she enters poured into that green clinging sheath with a divine little fur-trimmed bolero which she knowingly removes as she puts the make on Clifton and lets him see how grateful she will be if Van is the man. June spills coffee on her cocktail dress so she can get to be alone with Clifton's all-wise sister Margalo Gilmore (who is advising him), while Bacall gets the measure of Dahl: "have a cookie, cookie"! Those early Fifties automobiles look good too as Clifton gets the measure of his three candidates at the factory .... 

Finally, once the manager is announced (right man, wrong wife - but that is soon rectified) they can all eat dinner! Clifton is in his element here and even seems to be (can it be possible in '54) a coded gay as he is not married and seems devoted to his general managers. Whatever, its an absolute treat to see anytime, a nice contrast to that other '54 star-studded executive drama EXECUTIVE SUITE. Arlene Dahl is the only cast member still here in her late 80s. 

Its one of a dozen or so '50s movies I simply adore - not classics like EAST OF EDENSUNSET BOULEVARDALL ABOUT EVE or A STAR IS BORN (though of course I love them too), but simple splashy, star-studded entertainments where fabulous gals wear fabulous clothes and live the high life, or the most delirious costume epics [more on them at Glamour label]. 
Next 1954 revival: THE SILVER CHALICE.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The lady in the van

Who would have thought that a cantankerous old woman living in a van would provide such a rich seam for playwright Alan Bennett. One could say Miss Shepherd has turned out to be a nice little earner for him, what with the book. the play and now the film - recompense perhaps for his allowing her to park her van in his driveway for 15 years.

Nicholas Hytner once again directs from Bennett's script - as he did the theatre original, which also starred Maggie Smith. I did not see that production (though have seen Smith on stage several other times - see Smith label). The formidable Miss Shepherd has turned into another splendid Smith creation, the equal of her Miss Brodie, Judith Hearne, or cousin Charlotte in A ROOM WITH A VIEW
They seem to be promoting this as a comedy, but you may be tearful by the end, as it gets deeply affecting as Miss Shepherd ages and begins to look as dilapidated as her van. We see Smith's frailties too, the actress is 80 now and this may be her last major role, after those HARRY POTTER and DOWNTON ABBEY runs. Her last screen outing - MY OLD LADY - dropped beneath the radar, but they are pushing the boat out with this one, of course it has the added Bennett prestige. Smith has been granting interviews and returned to the chatshow circuit, as Awards Season gets underway. The competition will be stiff this time (Cate and Kate, Rooney? and Saoirse Ronan will be a major contender (see BROOKLYN review below) but I sense a final Oscar for Smith, a mere 45 years aftet her for first Best Actress Win (her second one was Supporting, for CALIFORNIA SUITE). But back to 1970s Camden in London ... this is a great London picture too.

It is all perfectly re-created here, with that leafy Camden enclave. Alex Jennings is sterling as the two Alan Bennetts: the one who watches and writes, and the one who lives his life (the real Alan turns up at the end to see the filming in the actual house he lived in then). An array of Bennett and Hytner regulars pop up, some briefly: Roger Allam and Deborah Findley as "posh" opera-going neighbours, along with Frances De La Tour - who comments regularly on the action.
Then theres's those HISTORY BOYS: James Corden has a moment as a barrow boy, Russell Tovey as one of Bennett's "guests", Dominic Cooper, Stephen Campbell Moore as the doctor attending Bennett's Mam (Gwen Taylor) up north, Selina Cadell, Jim Broadbent and more. At the centre though is Dame Maggie, resplendent, infuriating, rude, smelly, imperious, ungrateful and ultimately very touching as her secrets are revealed. One cannot take one's eyes off her. They may as well hand her the Oscar now. The final scenes will have you laughing and sobbing - you have to see her final moment for yourself.... This, BROOKLYN and CAROL coming up - cinema is fascinating again.    

Saturday, 14 November 2015


We love Paris here at The Projector - see label for previous posts. I have been there at least 20 times, mainly in the 70s, 80s and 90s - in 1970 when I was 24 my friend Stanley and I walked from one end of Paris to the other, my first trip there; then plenty more when my friend Mike lived there for ten years, and then with Eurostar and that time with Rory in 1995. How we like the Marais and Port de Clignancourt areas, plus Chatelet and Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Pere Lachaise etc. Our solidarity is with the city at this time. As I said here, back in January:
We try to stay above politics and current events here at The Projector, as we focus on trivial things like movies and music and books and magazines and good old fashioned glamour, as well as Trash delights and lots of People We Like and Showpeople. 
Today though we are focused on the events in Paris - another game-changer in the ongoing new world situations we try to deal with, as we did back in London in 2005. London will now be reviewing its security - when we were dealing with the IRA bombs back in the 1970s, at least they did not want to blow themselves up as well ..... 

More dancing treats

How about these fantastic numbers from last week's STRICTLY COME DANCING, the BBC's top UK dance show, running from now to Christmas. Peter and Janette do a sizzling charleston, Anita (she was an amazing Maleficent last week) and Gleb delight with their jive, Georgia and snake-hipped Giovanni do a stupendous samba, while Jay and Aliona do a smouldering Argentine Tango - as good as champions Vincent and Flavia?  What will they do this week - we will see this evening.  Any of them could win ...

RIP, continued

Colin Welland (1934-2015), aged 81. Lancashire-born actor and writer who wrote the Oscar-winning script for CHARIOTS OF FIRE in 1981. He is memorable too as the sympathetic teacher in Ken Loach's KES (right) whch won him a BAFTA award in 1967, and was a stalwart of the early '60s BBC police show Z CARS. Dennis Potter's BLUE REMEMBERED HILLS was another acting success for him. He also scripted John Schlesinger's YANKS.

Warren Mitchell (1926-2015), aged 89. Warren will always be bigoted Alf Garnett in the 1960s BBC series TILL DEATH DO US PART (right with "silly moo" Dandy Nichols), but he clocked up a staggering 173 credits on his IMDB profile, as well as a lot of theatre work, including successful runs in Arthur Miller's THE PRICE and DEATH OF A SALESMAN, he also tackled Shylock and King Lear.. Movie roles were in films as diverse as HELP! and CARRY ON CLEO.

Saeed Jaffrey (1929-2015), aged 86.  Another veteran of British film and television, with an extensive list of credits, including Z CARS, THE GURU, GHANDI, THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, THE CHESS PLAYERS, THE FAR PAVILIONS, JEWEL IN THE CROWN, A PASSAGE TO INDIA. and MY BEAUTFUL LAUNDRETTE. He was the first Asian to have received British and Canadian Academy Award nominations and the first ever to be awarded an OBE for his services to drama.

Keith Michell (1928-2015), aged 89. Australian Michell moved to London in 1950 and was soon employed by the Old Vic. He was of course best known for playing King Henry VIII several times, most notably in the BBC 1970s series THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII, and a follow-up film in 1972, and also in ELIZABETH R. I saw him play Henry in a 1966 play THE KING'S MARE (where Glynis Johns played Anne of Cleves - I met them both afterwards). Michell also had theatre successes with ROBERT AND ELIZABETHMAN OF LA MANCHA and ABELARD AND HELOISE (with Diana Rigg, which I also saw in 1970) and he was artistic director of the Chichester Theatre for several years. Like Dennis Quilley he could star in musicals as well as dramas. Films included DANGEROUS EXILETHE GYPSY AND THE GENTLEMANTHE HELLFIRE CLUBSEVEN SEAS TO CALAIS (he looked good in period clothes), ALL NIGHT LONGPRUDENCE AND THE PILL and television roles included several appearances in MURDER SHE WROTE. He was married to actress Jeanette Sterke. 

Melissa Matheson (1950-2015, aged 65. scripted Spielberg's E.T., among others. was married to Harrison Ford from 1983-2004.

Betsy Drake (1923-2015), aged 92. actress who was Cary Grant's third wife an co-starred with him twice. She scripted HOUSEBOAT for herself and Grant, but it was re-written when Sophia Loren came on board. She was amusing in 1957's WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?

Charles Herbert (1948-2015), aged 66. 1950s child actor, most notably Grant's youngest son (with that harmonica) in HOUSEBOAT (here, with Grant and Loren), he also did lots of television but was less successful as an adult actor.

Kevin Corcoran (1949-2015). aged 66. Disney child actor, best known for OLD YELLER and THE SHAGGY DOG, TOBY TYLER, POLLYANNA, SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, BABES IN TOYLAND, BON VOYAGE. He often played Tommy Kirk's young brother.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Weekend mellow grooves

How we liked these back in the day - Des'ree and that insanely catchy track, Basia from Poland, and Dina Carroll  ...

The long and winding road ...

What bliss to catch one of the music shows on tv: "THE NATION'S FAVOURITE BEATLES NUMBER 1's" -  a two hour treasure trove covering the 27 Beatles Number One records here in the UK, not just snippets as usual, but almost all of the records played (including that 7-minute "Hey Jude", which was the show's number one). Lots of unseen Beatles footage too and interesting comments. I really want to go back on a Beatles binge now and play the albums again. 

My favourite Beatles moment is probably this scene from HELP! - it was just seeing them for the first time in colour on the big screen. I was 19 and in those days of continuous performances I sat through it several times. It was almost a collection of Beatles pop promos. And I still have my 1964 Beatles Calender in perfect condition ! 

The programme did not even mention all those albums tracks we love: "Another Girl", "Drive My Car", "Norwegian Wood", "You Gotta Hide Your Love Away", "You're Gonna Lose That Girl", "I've Just Seen A Face", and the one that started it all: that first track on the first album "I Saw Her Standing There" ... the whole show took me back to my teen and early 20s years. 

The fascinating thing now is how quickly it all happened: There was Elvis in 1956 and 6 years later The Beatles were taking off in 1962 - and the band was over 8 years later in 1970. All those albums and hits compressed into 8 years!  We will always have the great video clips as the songs go on and on ... Anyone who does not like The Beatles or Elvis and cannot appreciate how they changed popular music, just don't talk to me! 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Eilis goes to Brooklyn

BROOKLYN would seem to have stolen a march on CAROL, that other literary adaptation about shopgirls in Fifties New York, by getting into cinemas first. We still have to wait two weeks more for Todd Haynes' long-awaited CAROL (it was only filmed last year). John Crowley's film, as scripted by Nick Hornby from Colm Toibin's marvellous and successful novel will leave you in a happy daze, with smiles and a few tears as one leaves the cinema. It is going to be very popular too. The early screening today was practically full. Perhaps Toibin's recent novel "Nora Webster" would also be a good movie?

BROOKLYN is an old fashioned period piece that offers fine acting, beautiful cinematography, charming writing grounded in reality, and thought provoking direction. As I said about the book here in 2010: It is set in the Ireland of the '50s when smart local girl Eilis works in a shop but gets an opportunity to move to Brooklyn and study and improve herself. Small town life of the time is nicely captured and Eilis finds life in Brooklyn much the same among the Irish community there, but before too long she finds her feet - and an Italian boyfriend, also seeking to improve his lot. Then a death calls her back to Ireland where she has to make some hard choices about what to do next.

The Fifties background looks quite right for once, and not trowelled on, the colour schemes are soothing and the production design perfect. As this is 1952 passing mention is made of THE QUIET MAN and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, a nice touch.The casting is marvellous too, even to the smallest parts - the people we see in the streets or at the store where Eilis works, or the faces of the men at the homeless shelter, and the girls at the Brooklyn boarding house. Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters are as sterling as ever, Brid Brennan is marvellously nasty, and Fiona Glascott is touching as Eilish's sister Rose. 

At the centre though are two stunning performances that hold the attention and enthrall us. Saoirse Ronan, mesmerising as Eilis, she matures before our eyes, and Emory Cohen as Tony, the Italian plumber she falls for in New York. 
He is a marvellous presence and they have great chemistry together, and some very touching scenes. I simply loved every minute of it. Saoirse will be an Oscar contender along with Cate, Rooney, Kate Winslet and Maggie Smith .... going to be an interesting award season. BROOKLYN will be a Best Picture contender too - CAROL will have a lot to live up to. Now for THE LADY IN THE VAN and Winslet's THE DRESSMAKER looks a lot of fun too.

Ireland looks good here too, though Enniscorthy looks rather drab. Emigration from Ireland to America was common in the fifties. I remember a schoolfriend's family moving to San Diego which seemed impossibly exotic to us (his father was a bank manager) and a girl who worked for my mother also going to America - we saw her off from Shannon Airport and the photos she sent looked exactly like Coney Island here.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

London boys and spies ...

LONDON SPY is a new BBC series (5 parts - the first aired last night) about spies in London, and the selling point is they are all gay - even Jim Broadbent as our hero Danny's sort of sugar-daddy. There has been a lot of buzz about this one, and it may be too early to review it yet, lets see how the drama unfolds, as last night's opener had a terrific first half hour, and then a baffling, oblique second half, with a brooding sense of dread. Just who led Danny to the keys to Alex's apartment, the keys he was led to in that creepy warehouse where he works, and then that weird sequence as he finds the secrets in the loft of Alex's apartment .... It is all very similar to the 'body in the bag' case which was a sensation here in the UK in recent years, that also dealt with spies and possibly gays.

LONDON SPY is the story of a chance romance between two people from very different worlds, one from the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service, the other from a world of clubbing and youthful excess. Whishaw plays Danny – gregarious, hedonistic, romantic and adrift, who falls for the anti-social enigmatic and brilliant Alex, played by Edward Holcroft. Just as the two of them realise that they’re perfect for each other, Alex is found dead. Danny, utterly ill-equipped to take on the complex and codified world of British espionage, must decide whether he’s prepared to fight for the truth.

LONDON SPY has attracted a top notch cast: Ben Whishaw plays Danny, a lonely hedonist who bumps into a handsome jogger the morning after another night in clubland, and experiences something of a coup de foudre. (I too remember those Vauxhall dawns as one, sometimes worse for wear, left the clubs and made one's way along the river back to Victoria - good to see the London one knows depicted accurately).The series is billed as an espionage thriller, but most of this first episode is about the unfolding, in heartbreakingly slow and tender fashion, of their love story. Alex is a mystery man, he says he works for an investment bank and his parents are dead and he has never had a relationhip of any kind before ... for a while the two are blissfully happy but then Alex suddenly disappears and when someone mysteriously furnishes him with the keys to Alex’s flat Danny finds in the loft an array of S&M equipment, a laptop and a trunk, the last of which contains a dead body which may or may not be Alex. He smuggles a key hidden in the laptop out after calling the police (by swallowing it, cue scene at toilet ...) who discover that Alex is not Alex but a man called Alistair whose parents are definitely not dead and who is definitely not an investment banker.

The modern gay scene is nicely depicted without sensationalism, and it will be interesting to see where the story goes, particuarly as Charlotte Rampling turns up in the next episode, along with Harriet Walter, Adrian Lester, Mark Gatiss and James Fox, and the ever-terrific Broadbent. This could be a slow-burn thriller, like the hit BROADCHURCH, but with extra gay added. Written by Tom Rob Smith and directed by Jakob Verbruggen (THE FALL). Could this be a British HOMELAND? We will see ...

Here is the trailer:  

Another Bette double ...

We have spent a few lazy afternoons re-watching some Bette Davis classics. Is there a more weirdly enjoyable '40s melodrama than THE GREAT LIE?  which teamed with Wyler's THE LETTER made a marvellous double-bill. Of course NOW VOYAGER and OLD ACQUAINTANCE are delicious fun too, and may be the next double bill. (You can keep MR SKEFFINGTON). 

Bette worked well with a strong female co-star (Miriam Hopkins, Olivia, Joan Crawford, Geraldine Fitzgerald) and so it is with Mary Astor here. THE GREAT LIE is really Mary's film, the role of concert pianist Sandra Kovac was built up for her and she deservedly won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, in that good year for her. (By 1944 she was playing the mother in MEET ME IN ST LOUIS). Sandra is one of the great bitch-on-wheels roles and Astor delivers in spades - she was re-united with Bette for that cameo in HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE as Jewel Mayhew in 1965, where she is sadly aged - but she ramps up the glamour here as her impossible Sandra.
THE GREAT LIE is plush - Orry-Kelly did the costumes, Max Steiner the music and gay Edmund Goulding directs. This is one of the great smoking films - they smoke all the time, Sandra even smokes non-stop throughout her pregnancy.  Bette is nice Maggie who lives in Maryland - but her home seems like a Deep South plantation with all those trees and moss, where the white folk are ministered to by the happy singing coloured folk, led by Hattie McDaniel (outdoing her Mammy in GWTW!). Here, one dresses for dinner and rings for the black manservant to make some more mint juleps. 

Sandra and Pete elope but their marriage is invalid since she's not yet divorced. Sandra is, however, pregnant by Pete. Pete marries his former fiancée Maggie, then flies to South America where his plane crashes. Maggie pays Sandra to let her adopt Pete's baby. Pete returns "from the dead". Sandra and Maggie contend for Pete and the baby.

It begins with the aftermath of Sandra's marriage to Pete (George Brent - what did women see in him?), as they recover from a 3-day party, but Sandra got her dates wrong, her divorce from her first husband is not yet final, so they are not legally married. She has her concert tour and will not change the date for them to marry again and Pete is having doubts ..... he goes off to Maryland to see Maggie, the woman he really loves. Maggie wants him to pursue his aviation interests and soon they are indeed married for real. The on-going rivalry between Sandra and Maggie escalates and then Sandra finds she is pregnant with Pete's child, just as Pete goes missing on some mysterious government work, in Brazil.  
Maggie comes up with the idea of she taking Sandra's child which she can bring up as Pete's, so he could have Pete's name and money, while Sandra can continue her music career. Sandra agrees - she is not the maternal type - and the centre of the film shows the two of them holed up in Arizona waiting for the birth, as Sandra fumes and smokes, and Maggie strides around in jodhpurs waiting for the delivery .... 
then Pete is rescued and comes back, and thinks the child is his and Maggie's.  Sandra then decides she wants the baby back and Pete too, as his being alive changes everything. The scene is set for the climax as the two women battle over the child and Pete, who finally learns the truth - which will he choose? 

THE LETTER by comparison is serious drama, previously done by Jeanne Eagles in 1929 and I like Lee Remick' 1982 version where Leslie Crosbie is a right tease. Bette's version is much more duplicitous as she schemes to evade justice for shooting her lover, but this being the 1940s justice is waiting for her in that garden in the moonlight.   
The wife of a rubber plantation administrator shoots a man to death and claims it was self-defense. Her poise, graciousness and stoicism impress nearly everyone who meets her. Her husband is certainly without doubt; so is the district officer; while her lawyer's doubts may be a natural skepticism. But this is Singapore and the resentful natives will have no compunction about undermining this accused murderess. A letter in her hand turns up and may prove her undoing. 
Maugham's version of life in those steamy tropics still engrosses now. It may be Bette's defining role, along with Margo Channing of course  Those 'Bette Davis eyes' are dominant here, 
Soon: A Claudette Colbert double\; MIDNIGHT and THE PALM BEACH STORY.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Star, 80

The latest addition to the 80s club - Alain Delon - 80 yesterday, joining Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot and the rest. We have used this photo of Alain before - from Clement's 1963 LES FELINS. It may be time to see PLEIN SOLEIL again .... lots more Alain at label. 
I might have to invest in the new Blu-ray of L'ECLISSE for those perfect black and white images and Antonioni landscapes ... Methinks 80 is the new 70 ...

Nuremburg lineup ...

What star wattage for 1961: Tracy, Lancaster, Widmark, Dietrich, Schell, Garland and Clift. The film  JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBURG -  I should dig the dvd out sometime - was rather a plod as I remember, very Stanley Kramer, but Garland and Clift electrified during their cameo appearances.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

5 weeks in a balloon

Back to one of our favourite years 1962 for this enjoyable romp. We liked those Jules Verne extravaganzas at the time - JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, THE LOST WORLD (thats Conan Doyle actually), MYSTERIOUS ISLAND and this. It was a formula that worked - take some senior thespians: James Mason, Claude Rains, Sir Cedric Hardwicke - give them a young sidekick, usually a pop singer: Pat Boone, Michael Callan, Fabian here, some love interest and amusing cameos by reliable old-timers (Peter Lorre and Henry Daniell here, as well as Richard Haydn perfecting his camp fusspot act (as in SITTING PRETTY). We also need some exotic locations and special effects, hopefully by Ray Harryhausen.  FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON by Irwin Allen (before his blockbusters like THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE) fits the  bill nicely. Its as enjoyable a his 1957 THE STORY OF MANKIND! Jules Verne was filmed as often then as Edgar Allen Poe ....

London, the 1800's. Victoria rules her Empire. But overseas, the forces of oppression & evil nibble at the edges. Meanwhile, a gruff old Scots professor takes his latest invention, a huge hot-air balloon, for a trial flight over Moslem Africa, picking up assorted companions along the way. They will meet many kinds of danger, but they must not be stopped, for they are on a secret mission from the Prime Minister: to raise the British flag in a remote part of the Dark Continent before slavers can claim that territory for themselves. In order to succeed, however, they must first spend FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON.
Based on a Jules Verne novel, the story is admittedly silly, but it is colorful and full of action and should appeal to kids. Older viewers will appreciate the unusually rich cast: Sir Cedric Hardwicke & Fabián as the Professor & his assistant; Red Buttons as a playboy reporter; Barbara Eden & Barbara Luna as rescued slaves; Richard Haydn as a stuffy old explorer; and Peter Lorre as a slave trader.
The guest stars & bit players are equally impressive: Henry Daniell, Mike Mazurki, Herbert Marshall & Reginald Owen. All told, they turn this bit of fluff into enjoyable family viewing.

Robin Bean, the editor of "Films and Filming" liked it too. His January 1963 review says: "It is a wholesomely entertaining, gaily ridiculous version of one of Verne's earlier works. Most of the humour is derived from the characterisatons, but there is sufficient wit and sharp observation to stop them becoming caricatures. 
Herbert Marshall makes a brief appearance as the Prime Minister, Peter Lorre amuses as a slave trader, while Henry Daniell is a very suave sheik blandly informing his infidel captives they are to die at dusk, while Richard Haydn clutches his china teapot. Briskly directed by Irwin Allen, thoughtfully  designed and photographed, it is quite a tonic for the drab days of winter. In all, a jolly good show." 

The DVD though has the opening credits in CinemaScope, but then reverts to standard format, but its still enjoyable.