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, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Weekend matinee choices

The perfect rainy Saturday afternoon movie

QUENTIN DURWARD, from 1955 - for me the high point of the MGM costume drama of the '50s, (as is Fritz Lang's MOONFLEET, also '55). I saw this as a child and loved it, it was perfect on the big screen - that climax on the bell ropes of the burning tower, the lady being stripped to her undergarments by the dastardly villains, all that derring-do among the chateaus of France, and that great supporting cast of Robert Morley as the devious Louis, George Cole, Wilfrid Hyde White etc. but the two stars are Robert Taylor, then perhaps in decline, and Kay Kendall, on the ascent after her English roles - she would go on to do 3 perfect comedy roles for Cukor, Minnelli and Donen in LES GIRLS, THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE and ONCE MORE WITH FEELING before her untimely death from leukemia in 1959. She is perfect here in the medieval setting clutching her jewel box and fending off the bandits, while Taylor has great dignity and plays his ageing knight ruefully aware of his own mortality. Its all just a sheer delight I never tire of, at least I have a Cinemascope print, its usually panned and scanned on television. Director: Richard Thorpe, produced by Pandro S Berman, who produced Kendall's other MGM films.

The perfect Sunday afternoon movie

THE WAY TO THE STARS, 1945. I love English movies of the '40s, and this is a prime example. Its up there with IN WHICH WE SERVE or THIS HAPPY BREED showing the fortitude of life in wartime with stiff upper lips covering depths of emotion. This one is by Terence Rattigan and directed by Asquith, and captures the war era perfectly, set as it is on an airfield and the adjoining hotel run by Toddy - Rosamund John as the quintessential English gentlewoman (rather like Celia Johnson). Toddy marries airman Michael Redgrave and they have a baby - but he is a casualty of war and Toddy bravely carries on, observed by friend John Mills - but he does not wish the same fate on Renee Asherson so their romance flounders until Toddy puts him right. Then there are the americans, including Bonar Colleano and Douglass Montgomery who becomes friendly with Toddy. This movie must surely have influenced Schlesinger's YANKS, whose Richard Gere even resembles Montgomery! Add in Joyce Carey as the snobbish hotel resident who gets her just comeuppence, and a young Jean Simmons (16) who sings that song "let him go let him tarry". It all adds up to stirring deeply emotional stuff, ending as Toddy closes the hotel for the night, looking up at those stars. THIS HAPPY BREED, 2000 WOMEN, THE GENTLE SEX, I LIVE IN GROSVENOR SQUARE and Lean's BRIEF ENCOUNTER and THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS are more of the same.... then there are those Michael Powells like I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING, BLACK NARCISSUS, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, Carol Reeds, David Leans and Basil Dearden's sumptuous SARABAND FOR DEAD LOVERS with that dream pair of Stewart Granger and Joan Greenwood and the malevolent performance of Flora Robson, of which more later.

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