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.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

2 more '30s curios ...

THESE THREE – the 1936 version of Lillian Hellman’s play THE CHILDREN’S HOUR makes a fascinating comparison with Wyler’s 1962 version (which has been shown a lot lately here on TCM UK). Like THEODORA GOES WILD (1930s label) it is really the 1930s in aspic as those two teachers set up their girls school and have to cope with the awful Mary Tilford and small town gossip. Wyler’s first version makes the malicious girl's lie a heterosexual one, that the doctor (Joel McCrea) is also having a relationship with Martha Dobie (Miriam Hopkins), who is the main character here. It is Martha who finds out about the stolen bracelet and goes back to confront Mrs Tilford, and of course Martha is also in love with McCrea, but stands aside so Merle Oberon (Karen Wright) and the doc Joe can be together. This just does not make any sense. The children though are much better than in the later version – Bonita Granville as Mary is the real deal. The climax here is provided by the Wicked Witch of the West as Margaret Hamilton [right] plays Mrs Tilford’s maid Agatha and when Mary starts acting up again Agatha gives her a resounding slap that must have brought cheers from the cinema audiences. Oh, and Martha does not have to hang herself, but strides off into the distance as Karen and Joe, now in Germany, can finally be together (though Germany in 1936 would hardly be a safe place…) . The 1962 version though benefits from that magisterial performance by Fay Bainter as the imperious Mrs Tilford, and Miriam playing the silly aunt. The current stage version is a hot ticket here in London, with Keira Knightley, Elisabeth Moss, Ellyn Burstyn as Mrs Tilford and Carol Kane as the aunt. It's Broadway bound too. (right: Shirley McLaine and Audrey Hepburn in Wyler's 1962 version)
This 1939 John Ford film is a comparative rarity, not a "western" as such, it depicts the settlers in the new land, fighting those hostile natives in Upstate New York around the time of the War of Independence. What makes this so striking is the vivid early Technicolor - I had imagined it would be in black and white. Henry Fonda is the young rancher with his new wife Claudette Colbert - out of her comfort zone here but she blends in nicely as the young couple settle down and then after their homestead is burned down have to go into service for widow Edna May Oliver (scene stealing as usual). Frontier life is depicted in all its harshness as those marauding indians return, and the fort is beseiged. Ford adds his usual touches of sentiment with births and deaths, and several of his stock players are present, one fears for Oliver as she lies in bed as indians enter determined to set the place on fire ... another interesting movie from that great year 1939 then.

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