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, Jorge in Sao Paulo, Martin in Derry & Colin, and Donal.

Friday, 29 August 2014

For the weekend 1 - for Martin, who seems to have missed most of Glee ...

We still look in at GLEE, its more interesting now that some of the leads are trying to make it in New York. They did some Sondheim songs the other week, and I like this zany version of "Broadway Baby" by the sometimes annoying Rachel (Lea Michele) and the twinkling adorable Blaine (Darren Criss). Teacher Whoopi was not amused though, as she did not specify a duet. Kurt (who had been mugged) did a peculiar version of "I'm Still Here" (Its on YouTube)..... see  GLEE label for a vintage episode. 

For the weekend: 2: Peter, Romy, Audrey

Some nice shots of Peter and Romy during the filming of our cult favourite WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT? in 1965.

Then there's Peter and Audrey in 1966 HOW TO STEAL A MILLION, and then Audrey and Romy among the all-star line up in the '70s Trash Classic (which I really must have another look at one of these days) BLOODLINE ... (with Omar, Irene Papas, James Mason and Ben Gazzara). More on these at the labels ...

For the weekend 3 - Martin will like this, more his vintage ...

A blast from the past: 1960s CORONATION STREET, Britain's longest runnng soap (it began in that seminal year 1960), and its still going now with great characters and story lines. Here's veteran battle-axe Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) having a slight argument with the brassy Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix). Its those early '60s in aspic .... my pal Martin is still trying to catch up with more recent episodes ... (or as Bet Gilroy (nee Lynch) used to say: "Back room now, lady").

Thursday, 28 August 2014

A French double bill, with Blain & Deneuve ...

LES AMIS, 1971. Can one truly comprehend a talky movie in a foreign language, without sub-titles?. This fascinating oddity by French actor Gerard Blain is only available it seems on YouTube in French (there is also a French only dvd). It is a languid, moody piece which one can enjoy if one gets in the rhythm of it. Is it an undiscovered gay classic or another semi-autographical film by a popular actor?  Blain (1930-2000) was in those early Chabrol films like LE BEAU SERGE and LES COUSINS, and in other films like Hawks’ HATARI!

Gerard Blain
His first film as director, LES AMIS (The Friends) features an attractive young man, who looks rather like Blain himself, and his relationship with an older man. We see Philippe (Philippe March) at the start having his brown shoes polished, which match his yellow socks. Then he looks at clothes in a shop window – this is a young man who appreciates the finer things in life. Then he is in an expensive restaurant with his older friend, a wealthy businessman, who is also happily married. Nicholas (Jean-Claude Dauphin) returns to his country estate, with a present for his wife ….. It seems the two men have a secret relationship which benefits them both. Philippe lives with his busy mother who is always sewing or cleaning, while Nicholas finances their holiday away at the seaside, and leaves him enough money for his horse-riding lessons and hanging out with the local rich kids, when he has to return to the office. 
From what I gather Blain himself was bisexual in his youth and also had an older protector, so maybe this is his roman a clef about that. Philippe is actually heterosexual, and Nicholas does not object or put barriers on his pursuit of an attractive blonde. This relationship is obviously benefiting Philippe, as the older man teaches him and guides him and helps him to get ahead. Some scenes though go on rather too long, like Philippe and the blonde in that car,  then next scene, he is back sharing a hotel double bedroom with Nicholas (there is nothing explicit, it is all very tasteful), and then seemingly making a good impresson on the blonde’s family, until she finds someone else ….

SPOILER AHEAD: Truffaut liked the film and gave it a good review in his THE FILMS IN MY LIFE (I must see if  I still have my copy), and maybe hommaged it in his 1973 LA NUIT AMERICAINE (DAY FOR NIGHT) with what happens to his older man, Jean-Pierre Aumont, who also turns out to have a handsome young man in tow, Aumont though is killed in a car crash, a similar fate for Nicholas here ….. Is that how the French saw gay relationships in the ‘70s? – wealthy older men keeping younger ones, but not allowed to have a happy ending ….. Whatever, Blain’s film charms and keeps our interest, and is another fascinating European oddity from the ‘70s. Having now read Truffaut's review he says the older man gives the younger "the security, comfort and tender affection he craves"! It certainly helps to be rich ...

APRES LUI, 2007. One of those solid, well-crafted French family dramas. This time Catherine Deneuve is Camille, the mother of a teenager who is killed in a car crash – his best friend Franck was driving the car and the mother now focuses all her energy and attention on him wanting him to finish his exams, and offering him a job in her bookshop. Her daughter and ex-husband are baffled by her behaviour as are her late son’s other friends, as she tries to hang out with them, going to rock shows, drinking beer etc. Anyone who has been bereaved will understand this - she wants to do what he did to keep him close to her, to almost be him. The boy (Thomas Dumerchez) seems uncommunicative and baffled by it all. Finally events go too far as they burn down the tree he crashed into and they are taken into police custody. 
Its perhaps a meditation on how people cope with grief, rather like the Italian THE SON’S ROOM by Nanno Moretti. Deneuve is a sterling presence here in another good late role for her and it is ably directed by Gael Morel, who played the lead in Techine’s LES ROSEAUX SAUVAGE (WILD REEDS) (reviewed here at gay interest label) and has directed other films too, I am looking at his THREE DANCING SLAVES soon. Morel co-wrote the script here. Its absorbing though the ending is rather inconclusive. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

RIP, continued

Richard Attenborough (1923-2014) aged 90, later Lord Attenborough. Who would have thought that the young actor playing his first role as the scared sailor in Lean and Coward's IN WHICH WE SERVE in 1942 would go on to have such an enduring career as actor, director, producer and represent the British film industry. Busy throughout the '40s and '40s - he is also one of the airmen in my favourite A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATHBRIGHTON ROCK is an enduring classic where his Pinky still chills - he and his wife Sheila Sim were established by the early '50s (both were in the first cast of THE MOUSETRAP, still runnng now) and he was one of those BOYS IN BROWN along with Dirk Bogarde, it was fun to catch up with that last year.. I liked his late '50s movies like SOS PACIFIC, JET STORM, I'M ALRIGHT JACK, THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN. He went into production with pal Bryan Forbes as they formed Beaver Films setting up their own projects like THE ANGRY SILENCE (a good discovery this year), WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND, SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON (where he delivered another powerful peformance. He was in THE GREAT ESCAPE, GUNS AT BATASITHE SAND PEBBLES and later 60s roles included DR DOLITTLE and two with Lee Remick (Inspector Trustcott in the dreadful film of Orton's LOOT, and A SEVERED HEAD from the Iris Murdoch hit), he was another chilling murderer in 10 RILLINGTON PLACE and in Satyajit Ray's THE CHESS PLAYERS
He then directed his first film OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR (one to re-visit) with that astonishing cast (Maggie Smith and Vanessa Redgrave were standouts) and powerful images - in those pre-computer graphic years all those white crosses at the end had to be placed by hand). GANDHI of course in 1982 brought him the Best Director Oscar and was best film, I am looking forward to seeing it on Blu-ray soon, and CRY FREEDOM, A BRIDGE TOO FAR, YOUNG WINSTON, MAGIC, SHADOWLANDS, were all successful - less so were his A CHORUS LINE and his film on Chaplin. Lord Attenborough was also very busy behind the scenes, being on the boards of many organisations like Channel 4, the BFI, and Chelsea Football Club, as well as lots of charitable organisations. He returned to acting for Spielberg in JURASSIC PARK. His enduring popularity ensured that he had, for over half a century, played an integral part in British cultural life. 
I found myself standing next to him and his wife at the BFI in 1970, as we waited for the Dirk Bogarde lecture, and he chatted away to me and signed my programme. In declining health in recent years, and having lost his daughter and grand-daughter in the 2004 tsunami, he and Sheila had moved to a retirement home. The BBC had prepared an hour long tribute which they screened this week, highlighting his varied careers and the affection and high regard in which he will continue to be held.  

Sandy Wilson, another 90 year old - English composter and lyricist, best known for his THE BOY FRIEND, that 1920s pastiche which has been very successful over the years (and which gave the young Julie Andrews her first success), and Ken Russell filmed it in 1971, though Wilson hated that version! Set in Mme Dubonnet’s finishing school on the French Riviera, The Boy Friend concerns a group of Bright Young Things intent on snaring “that certain thing called the boyfriend” — a lightweight plot which served mainly as aframework for a series of catchy songs, including It’s Never Too Late To Fall In Love, Won’t You Charleston With Me and I Could Be Happy With You.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

End of summer repeats: Millie, Pulp Fiction, Aviator ...

"In the Ritz elevator you just go up and down"
It seems like the end of summer here in the UK, as we face our second day of incessant rain, washing out a bank holiday yesterday, and much cooler weather - we were moaning about the heatwave the other week, but the nice thing about UK weather is that it changes all the time .... it may be a warm September and late autumn ... meanwhile, those tv repeats keep coming. It was bliss to chillax once again yesterday, with THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE
a favourite musical ever since my best friend Stanley and I saw it during its first run, at the old (then new) Odeon in St Martins Lane, London, in 1967 - as per my other reports on it here .... its certainly my favourite Julie Andrews film, I love the look of it, the great pastiche of the 1920s, Julie, Mary Tyler Moore, Bea Lillie as Mrs Meers with all those great lines we loved and repeated all the time ("Just a restless girl", "sad to be all along in the world", "please go, enjoy yourself", "I bet its juicy" etc). and then there is Carol Channing as jazz-baby Muzzy etc. The guys are fun too - John Gavin as Trevor Graydon guying himself and cute young James Fox's Jimmy (now a senior actor here, good to see him last year at the 50th anniversary screening of THE SERVANT - as per my posts on that - Fox label) as he launches the friendship dance into doing "The Tapioca" or in drag to trap white slaver Mrs Meers who thinks he will be alright for "a dark corner of the late shift" ..... George Roy Hill directs it all with a sure touch, its produced by Ross Hunter, and lensed by the great Russell Metty (THE MISFITS etc) and then theres Elmer Bernstein and Andre Previn sorting out the score and the songs ... whats not to love?
All I need to say about PULP FICTION is: was it really 20 years ago it blew us away - still does now, as does INGLORIOUS BASTERDS and KILL BILL .... they repay frequent (or at least annual) re-visits. 
THE AVIATOR, 2004. I liked Scorsese’s Howard Hughes film a lot more now than I did back in 2004. One is bowled over by so many things, not least Cate Blanchett’s vivid cartoon portrayal of Katharine Hepburn – its audacious, but it works (Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner certainly doesn’t). Add in Jude Law for a minute or two as Errol Flynn and the film soars, just like Hughes does in his plane as takes Hepburn airborne in his plane and lets her fly it. Scorsese only shows us Hughes from the 1920s to the 1940s, with all that HELLS ANGELS movie-making, with Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani). Leonardo Di Caprio captures the spendthrift madness of Hughes in his early prime, as he spends, spends and spends more to get his vision on screen. 
Nobody it seems can say no to him, as we watch his staff and companions like Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly), and later his deadly foes like Alec Baldwin as Juan Trippe, CEO of Pan-American Airways, and Alan Alda as that very devious, corrupt politician. 
The basic facts about Hughes are present and correct, his unstoppable will and inner demons, including that Spruce Goose saga, and having starlets squirreled away all over town, as we see his growing obsession and OCD about health and germs and how he cannot open that washroom door … It is all vivid film-making, as the running time flies by, with Scorsese in his element, and all those fantastic planes and amazing set-pieces, and it has set me up to finally put on THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. It makes one wonder what Scorsese’s proposed Sinatra biopic would be like. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

A cache of new old movie magazines !

I came across a fantastic website selling all kinds of vintage magazines, including lots of film mags, like "Films & Filming", "Sight & Sound", "Films Illustrated", "Film Comment" etc. As a magazine junkie from way back, this was too good to miss. My first consignment of 10 "Films & Filming" from the late '50s arrived a few days ago, in great condition, so its money well spent. I have the magazine's issues from 1960 onwards, but those '50s ones are marvellous too (it began in 1954, but of course all magazines have their day, and it  was finished by 1980 - I worked there for a year in the '70s and knew the owner and staff, and did some reviews for them myself, as per my other posts at F&F label).
I am getting another lot this week, a few more "F&F"s, two "Plays & Players" one with Bacall in APPLAUSE and the other with Jonathan Pryce as HAMLET in 1980, both of which I saw, on the covers), and 5 early "Sight & Sounds" also from the early 60s, with Belmondo, Christie, Lee Remick etc on the covers, .... so, lots of nostalgic catching up.

There is another Italian issue here too, with features by Fellini on his forthcoming LA DOLCE VITA, and by Antonioni also ...

Another fascinating feature is a three-page piece on Ingrid Bergman (back in big movies again in 1958) by no less than Kenneth Tynan.

It also ran a monthly feature 'Person of Promise' and these particular magazines feature Lee Remick, James Garner, Gena Rowlands and Renato Salvatori among other up and coming players. Other Persons of Promise I remember were Tony Perkins and Jane Fonda. Some of the Persons (Dolores Michaels, Patricia Owens) though did not last very long ...
This is their rather nice feature on Lee Remick, in August 1958:
.
"Lee Remick looks like a nice girl, yet she has the most sex-appeal I've ever seen turned loose on the screen" says THE LONG HOT SUMMER's producer, Jerry Wald. Director of SUMMER, Martin Ritt, adds: "She is the most exciting new personality I've seen; she jumps at you from the screen". And to round off the quotes on the bright Miss Remick, Orson Welles quite simply says: "... she's the greatest".
Lee Remick made her film debut eighteen months ago as the drum-majorette bride of Lonesome Rhodes in Kazan's A FACE IN THE CROWD. Her second film THE LONG HOT SUMMER is at present making the rounds in Britain. Her work in Kazan's CROWD won her critical recognition, although she was seen for only ten minutes on screen. In SUMMER, after studio executives had seen the rushes, she was given star billing. Lee Remick is a name to conjure with.
Born in Boston, she and her brother, Bruce, were the two children of a successful department store owner, Frank Remick. When his only daughter decided on a stage career, papa did not object - in fact he went as far as financing her dramatic and dancing lessons. After schooling at Thayerland College, she went to Miss Hewitt's fashionable institute of learning. The plays that Miss Hewitt chose for her students to exercise their dramatic abilities on were also fashionable, but little else. Lee longed to have a stab at the real thing.
She graduated to Barnard College, and theatricals took on a more professional tone. After months of training she went into the American equivalent of repertory: summer stock. On tour, she appeared with Rudy Vallee in JENNY KISSES ME, with Art Carney in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH, and singing and dancing in PAINT YOUR WAGON. 
On her sixteenth birthday, in December 1953, Lee arrived on Broadway as Lois, in BE YOUR AGE. To put it mildly, the play was a colossal flop. Then she went into TOP MAN, which also folded in double quick time. Forsaking the stage for television, she appeared in many of the top dramatic shows. 
20th Century Fox have ambitious plans for the new girl on the lot. Her name has been mentioned for the lead role in THE JEAN HARLOW STORY, which Fox plans to make later this year. And she is set for THESE THOUSAND HILLS, and for astute producer Wald in THE BEST OF EVERYTHING. 

Well, thank goodness Lee did not get tarnished with those Harlow films, and of course those big roles kept coming with ANATOMY OF A MURDER, WILD RIVER, DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES etc. - as per other posts here, at Remick labels. After her parents divorced, she became a Park Avenue girl, as her mother moved to New York. Another Remick interview I quoted from had her telling of her first meeting with Hepburn and Tracy, when she was up for a small part in DESK SET; 6 years later she and Hepburn were both competing for the Best Actress Oscar in 1962 (the year Anne Bancroft won), while a decade later they played mother and daughter in the 1973 A DELICATE BALANCE, also reviewed here.
And the magazine website: 
http://www.tilleysvintagemagazines.com/source/gallery.php?
gallery=FILMS%20AND%20FILMING&menuchoice=magazines&menuletter=F.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A favourite '40s scene: A Letter to 3 Wives

I have written here before about A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (see Darnell, Mankiewicz labels), maybe my favourite Joseph L. Mankiewicz film, even more so than ALL ABOUT EVE, and an enduring 1940s classic (which Mank wrote and made in 1949, a year before EVE - winning Oscars both years for directing and writing, his 1950 NO WAY OUT is also a terrific discovery). 
A LETTER TO THREE WIVES is of course the story of the three society ladies, cut off from the telephone for the day as they are away on that boat on a school trip, each wondering which of their husbands has run off with town vamp Addie Ross, who has kindly sent them a letter just as they were leaving ... 
cue flashbacks on each marrage, done in Mank's best style as we savour all that dialogue and witty situations, and of course its that 1940s dreamworld personified, where they are all comfortably off with large, roomy houses, those big estate cars and domestic help for when entertaining - cue Thelma Ritter as Sadie in the maid's outfit.

So we have new girl Jeanne Crain back from the forces, and coping with small town society and the local country club - this is the least interesting story, but the main one is a doozy, as Lora Mae (Lnda Darnell) from the wrong side of town (dig the family house next to the rail-line where everything rattles when trains go by) sets her sights at local rich guy 
Porter Hollingsway (Paul Douglas) and marvel at how she reels him in, with that ladder in her stockings and holding out until that New Year's Eve when he gives in, and calls and asks her to marry him. Her mother Connie Gilchrist indeed cries "Bingo"! But she and Porter end up resenting each other, until Addie Ross comes along and chooses a husband ..

Thelma's Sadie
The scene I want to focus on is when the other wife, smart radio writer Ann Sothern, who earns more than her teacher husband Kirk Douglas, has a dinner party to which she invites her radio boss Mrs Manleigh (Florence Bates - as deliciously nasty as her Mrs Van Hopper in REBECCA), an ignorant, bossy snob, with her docile husband. Sadie - a friend of Lora Mae's mother - is hired to help, cue much amusement as Sadie announces dinner is ready, and Mrs Manleigh picks up on Lora Mae's chat with the hired help ..... Mankiewicz's script hones in on the power of radio - it would be television in a few years - and how people listen to it. Sadie has the radio on all the time, so Mrs Manleigh thinks she is being "saturated" and "penetrated" by the advertisements. Lora Mae dryly retorts that she has seen Sadie saturated quite a lot .... (Thelma Ritter scores here, as she does next year as Birdie in Mank's ALL ABOUT EVE.)
Then everything has to stop for Mrs Manleigh's radio show, which goes on and on, after she breaking the classical record which Addie had sent to Kirk, who finally sees red and lets Mrs Manleigh have it. Ann too has had enough and refuses to do Mrs Manleigh's edits until Monday.  She too worries on that day out, if is it her husband who has run off with mantrap Addie Ross. 
We never see Addie, but she is voiced by Celeste Holm.

Events are resolved as they all gather again at the country club, and Porter reveals that it was him who ran off with Addie, but changed his mind. Lora Mae can now divorce him and take him to the cleaners. "You big gorilla" she says as they now know they love each other ..... Bliss, sheer bliss .... Its a treat one can watch any time.  There was a later tv remake, but who would bother with that.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

An '80s comedy frightmare: Partners

Another 'We see them so you don't have to" social service report:
PARTNERS, 1982. Sergeant Benson is the biggest ladies man on the force. Kerwin is a closeted gay man, works a desk job and keeps quiet about his personal life. When a double murder lands on Benson's desk he is forced to go undercover into the gay community in order to bring the killer to justice. Its a tough job for a macho cop - but fortunately he has got a partner. Benson and Kerwin team up to solve the crimes and find themselves doing things that were never included in their job description. Written by Francis Verber (LA CAGE AUX FOLLES), this hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy delivers equal parts thrills and laughs ..
as the blurb hopefully suggests. 

I had totally forgotten this 1982  so-called comedy ever existed, nobody - gay or straight - bothered with it at the time, and it quickly sank without trace; when I saw it was on dvd, I just had to check it out for myself. John Hurt later said he had no recollection of making it at all, which does not seem surprising, as he goes through it blankly on autopilot as the mousey gay Kerwin, maybe the dreariest gay who ever gayed. On a roll after defining roles in THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT, I CLAUDIUS, ALIEN, THE ELEPHANT MAN etc surely he, one of the busiest actors going, even now, could have declined this one - after capturing Quentin Crisp and that campy Caligula playing gay should not be a problem for him - perhaps he was shell-shocked at being in such piffle after all that high-quality stuff which was not making fun of gays, but he and Ryan O'Neal go through this like they are both suffering from extreme constipation - O'Neal does not just act being uncomfortable among the swishy gays, he seems very uncomfortable. He was fine for Bogdanovich (and is quite amusing in WHAT'S UP DOC? a decade earlier in 1971) and ideal for what Kubrick wanted in BARRY LYNDON, and I love Walter Hill's THE DRIVER, but he is a pill (and frankly seems past his prime) here - in fact they both seem too old for their roles.
Maybe it was intended as a comic version of CRUISING two years earlier, where Al Pacino also had to dress up in leathers and infiltrate "the gay community" who are treated like a race of aliens here .... of course they are all called "faggots" and made fun of - like the caftan wearing landlord (THE ROBE's screaming queen Jay Robinson - a very different Caligula from Hurt's), and the villain turns out to be Rick Jason! who is killing those male models on the magazine covers, as Ryan of course has to get his butt out and pose for the camera too, and Kenneth McMillan is their superior who puts them on the case. There is no real mystery in the plot, just how they thought this farrago was amusing or funny in the first place. The situation is milked for laughs as the two cops settle down in the boystown "gay community" with Kerwin happily cooking, wearing pink tracksuits and ironing Benson's underwear - and did I mention their cute pink little car? while Benson, looking for clues, has to date madly camp bar attendants, one of whom throws himself naked on him after a dip in the ocean ... how the audience (if there was one) must have screamed.
Do they wince now at how they refer to all the faggots and wonder at how gay life is different today? with its out and proud equality, which must have seemed unimaginable back in 1982 - just as Aids was starting to make inroads .... A tragic farce then, the Lower Trash with a vengance (up - or down - there with THE OSCAR, HARLOW, THE LOVE MACHINE, etc - as per Trash label reviews). I just had to see for myself how awful standards were then. THE BIRDCAGE for instance is genuinely funny about the gays, and I did not find it offensive at all, even if based on the same writer, Verber's LA CAGE AUX FOLLES ... Thankfully, PARTNERS limps to an end at 90 minutes, the ending though seems re-written as if hastily changed, we do not even see the injured Kerwin, who imagines he and Benson are going to set up home together ... what a laugh! 

Soon: back to the '70s and the very funny THE RITZ, a Richard Lester spectacular featuring the wonderful Googie Gomez, with Rita Moreno and Treat Williams.
Also Soon: Lauren Bacall, James Garner & Maureen Stapleton in the 1981 slasher thriller THE FAN - another 80s Trash Classic? 

Friday, 22 August 2014

A '70s hit TV series: Lee Remick as Jennie

JENNIE, LADY RANDOLPH CHURCHILL, 1974. We have just watched all seven episodes of this well-regarded British TV series where Lee Remick plays Jennie Jerome, the mother of Winston Churchill (as did Anne Bancroft in YOUNG WINSTON). Remick won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for her performance ranging from the young Jennie dancing at Cowes Sailing Week, where she first meets Lord Randolph Churchill (Ronald Pickup) as he and Jennie hit it off right away. Jennie has always been the most headstrong of father Dan O’Herlihy’s daughters as she makes it clear she won’t be stopped from marrying Churchill. The episodes are engrossing, but it all has that curiously flat look of ‘70s television, still this was made 40 years ago, thankfully television productions look better these days.

Locations include the opulent Blenheim Palace, and supporting cast includes Rachel Kempson, Barbara Parkins, Thorley Walters, Cyril Luckham, Sian Phillips as s very devious Mrs Patrick Campbell, plus Jeremy Brett and Christopher Cazenove as further beaus as Jennie's colorful life unfolds. It could have done with a more forceful Lord Randolph (Attenborough’s was Robert Shaw) and Warren Clarke is not a very charismatic young Winston, but this is Remick’s show and she carries it all as she ages from 19 to old age. - poignant seeing their version of her as an old lady as of course Lee died aged 55, and its certainly a tour de force for her to hold the whole series together. The later episodes are amusing as the older Jennie marries twice more, sets up and manages a hospital ship, writes a play and continues to have admirers. Written by Julian Mitchell and direted by James Cellan Jones (who also directed Remick's BBC 'Play of the Month' THE AMBASSADORS)
The DVD blurb states: Famed for her beauty and intelligence, the vivacious, American-born Jennie was a driving force in the lives of her husbands and sons; it was at her dining table and in her salon that the young Winston met and conversed with the most brilliant political figures of the age. Jennie recognised her son's genius for politics and was able to nurture and foster it, and Sir Winston would repeatedly pay homage to her energy, courage and dedication. In portraying Jennie, acclaimed American actress Lee Remick fulfilled an enduring and dearly-held wish. First screened in 1974 a part of celebrating Churchill's centenary year, this stunning biographical drama charts all the major events in Jennie's life. Award-winning costumes and location scenes that include the splendour of Blenheim Palace, lend a striking authenticity. Among other awards James Cellan Jones won a Directors' Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement, and in 1991, in one of her last public appearances, Lee Remick's achievement was honoured by the presentation of the International Churchill Society's twelfth Blenheim Award.
Soon: another '70s British costume drama boxset marathon with Francesca Annis as Lily Langtry, the Jersey Lily, in LILLIE, with Peter Egan as a splendid Oscar Wilde ... 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Forgotten '60s films: Rapture

RAPTURE, 1965. This long forgotten ‘60s drama – we never got much of a chance to see it at the time -  has re-surfaced to some great reviews, on its Eureka dual-format dvd+blu-ray release, along with  20 page booklet, but I wouldn’t quite rate it a missing masterpiece. It seems it had a brief run here in London in 1967, which must have passed me by, though I remember "Films & Filming" magazine had a location report and photographs on it, back in 1965.
One of those marvellous 20th Century Fox Cinemascope productions this one has stunning black and white photography, and is directed by John Guillermin, scripted by Stanley Mann with an atmospheric score by Georges Delerue. It feels almost like a French film in English, set as it is on that wild Brittany coast. Cue lots of waves crashing on rocks and desolate landscapes as we get to know Agnes (Patricia Gozzi) who lives in that rambling farmhouse with her remote, strict father Melvyn Douglas, a retired judge, and their housekeeper Karen – Swedish actress Gunnel Lindblom. Is Agnes just a lonely child, with a fantasy world of her own, or perhaps retarded? She does not seem to go to school or have friends. We first see them at the wedding of her older sister. It’s a coming of age story, as we share the Gothic world of this troubled teenage girl.  She is finally allowed to create a scarecrow for the garden, with one of her father’s old suits, and this becomes another fantasy figure for her.

Enter man on the run Dean Stockwell as Joseph who escapes from police custody, who takes the scarecrow’s clothes and he becomes her new fantasy figure, she feels she created him …. He and Karen though get intimate to Agnes’ fury, causing Karen to leave after Agnes almost kills her, and finally he and Agnes also leave and end up in a noisy and busy Paris, which she cannot cope with ….
The earlier moment where the impatient father throws her doll over the cliff and it lies broken on the rocks is repeated at the end as the police close in on Joseph.  The moments of rapture are mainly at the start, particularly those overhead shots looking down on Agnes on the beach, from the perspective of those seagulls. Guillermin had done nothing like this before, he of course went on to THE TOWERING INFERNO and DEATH ON THE NILE among others, I like his 1959 sweaty, sadistic TARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE. Its fascinating seeing the attractive Lindblom in an English-speaking role, she is surely the most earthy and sensual of the Ingmar Bergman actresses (THE SILENCE, THE SEVENTH SEAL) though Ullmann and Thulin got all the kudos …

1930s leading man Melvyn Douglas returned to movies in his old age with roles in BLLY BUDD, HUD, and more, he is equally used here, while child actor Dean Stockwell after roles in COMPULSION, SONS AND LOVERS, LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT essays another complex young man, he often seems an odd mix of James Dean and Monty Clift. We later got used to the older Stockwell in TWIN PEAKS and the like as the busy actor keeps working. The astonishing performance here is from Patricia Gozzi, (the equal of the young Jean-Pierre Leaud in THE 400 BLOWS). 
I have not seen her first acclaimed role, for Serge Bourguinon in 1962’s SUNDAYS AND CYBELLE (one I missed from that great year), she is certainly compelling here and would surely have been one of the main actresses of her time, had she not retired from acting. So in all, it is a fascinating discovery now, even if the plot melodramatics get rather tedious before the end. There are echoes of WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND another lyrical film of children aiding a man on the run, and even HUD where Douglas was also that strict father with an attractive housekeeper who also ups and leaves. With Sylvia Kay, Peter Sallis, Christopher Sandford, Leslie Sands.