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.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Black Narcissus, again

Perfect for an Easter afternoon: a repeat of that excellent documentary on ace cameraman Jack Cardiff - it includes lots of his portraits too of the likes of Monroe, Loren, both Hepburns, Ava Gardner, Anita Ekberg etc not seen elsewhere, plus home movies on the set of films like LEGEND OF THE LOST, WAR AND PEACE, PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN etc. following by repeats of BLACK NARCISSUS and THE AFRICAN QUEEN (though I think that one should be given a rest for a while, one may have seen it too often...).

BLACK NARCISSUS though from Rumer Godden's novel in 1947 is one one never tires of, and is a film one can live with and see quite often - every frame and scene are just spellbinding, as the heated melodrama of the nuns living in the abandoned harem high in the Himalayas - and it was all done at Pinewood after the war! then that cast: 26 year old Deborah Kerr as Sister Clodagh (a decade later in '57 she would be a much simpler nun in Huston's HEAVEN KNOWS MR ALLISON - at least she got to go to Tobago for that!); Kathleen Byron, an unjustly neglected actress, as Sister Ruth; teenage Jean Simmons, Sabu, Flora Robson, David Farrar as the agent Mr Dean ... somehow I always love that final scene at the end between him and Sr Clodagh and then the rain falls on those giant leaves, as the convent is obscured by clouds. The scenes too of Sr Ruth now demented as sunset falls on the chapel and Sr Clodagh goes to ring the bell are endlessly fascinating. Sr Clodagh (like Audrey Hepburn's Sister Luke in THE NUN'S STORY) may also be over-reaching her authority as she has to maintain order and discipline in this hostile environment, with the winds blowing, as feelings of jealousy, anger and madness surface ... and the presence of Mr Dean in his short shorts does not help...

Then there are those 4 luscious flashbacks to Sr Clodagh's life in Ireland, in Cardiff's perfectly '40s Technicolor: fishing on the lake, hunting, the gift of the emeralds and the carol singing where Kerr looks radiant. It may well soon be my favourite movie of all time!


  1. I loved the still in the Jack Cardiff film of the real 'cliff-top' bell on the film set!
    The images from Black Narcissus were perhaps the most striking of all, such as the sight of Kathleen Byron appearing at the door, with that incredible dark eye make-up, like some evil Indian goddess.
    I'm surpised we didn't get the story that Cardiff was deliberately not nominated for The Red Shoes because the ASC didn't want a Brit to win twice in a row (told in 'Magic Hour')!

  2. I've seen this movie twice now. It is mesmerizing so that the time goes by very fast. I went to Catholic school and nuns giving in to these sorts of temptations is not something I've ever thought. Kathleen Byron's evil breakdown is stunning. I'll have dreams about that sight of her appearing at the door