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.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Seasonal treats

Last Christmas it was macaroons from Paris, this year they (a 'tree' of 36) were from Marks & Spencer, more prosaic perhaps but they tasted just as good. We have not even got to the stollen, panettone or christmas pudding yet. Rich pickings too on television. One of those new movies about Hitchcock THE GIRL, subject of a separate review shortly, proved an odd experience.

It is no surprise that the big epics are trunded out again - BEN HUR, CLEOPATRA and THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD this time - more suitable for Easter perhaps, but here they are again.
I had not seen George Stevens's mammoth biblical since its release  in 1965 - one can see the reasons for criticism, but it looks marvellous, shot in Utah and Arizona (I think there is even the Grand Canyon) which conjure up biblical vistas. Max Von Sydow is perfect in this retelling of biblical tales and there is an amazing cast, some of them risible (Wayne, Winters, Pat Boone) but others like Jose Ferrer and Claude Rains in his final role as Herod (above, his eyes glittering in the dark was an abiding memory from 1965) and Dorothy McGuire, Gary Raymond, Michael Anderson Jr, Sal Mineo, Van Heflin, Charlton Heston, and Donald Pleasance as a very devious satan.

What I particularly liked was another screening of HOUSEBOAT, a particular pleasure from 1958 when I was 12. Perhaps the best of Sophia's early American films it remains a real charmer, as directed by Melville Shavelson. I love the creaky old houseboat particularly when re-decorated, the 3 children are ideal and Cary has a great scene with his son which explains our place in the universe - the children's mother has died so runaway heiress Sophia is the new maid, hence complications as Martha Hyer perfects her country club girl routine. This is really a movie one could see every year ... as per my previous reviews on it here.

Old timers Holden & Hayward in '72
THE REVENGERS - interesting to look at this late western from 1972, in fact Susan Hayward's last feature film, apart from those 2 final tv movies she made. A brutal post-WILD BUNCH revenge western by Daniel Mann with an ageing Holden and Borgnine, Susan is only in it for about 10 minutes but impresses as an Irish unmarried doctor who nurses Holden back to health, and to whom he presumably returns at the end .... 

MR STINK and DOWNTON ABBEY were homegrown holiday treats, the first from David Walliams' book for children with Hugh Bonneville as the titular tramp Mr Stink and how he changes lives .... his adorable dog is Pudsey, the famous dancing dog from BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT. We can see this being an annual treat like THE SNOWMAN 
DOWNTON trundles on, but difficult to discuss as may not have aired elsewhere. The latest Christmas Special takes place during the family's summer holiday to a Scottish castle presided over by Peter Egan and Phoebe Nicholls (good to see her again, playing nasty once more), while the staff stay behind at Downton to clean the silver and visit the local fair. Mrs Patmore has a lucky escape from the village store-keeper who wanted her for her cooking skills, while poor Thomas the unlucky in love gay footman rescues the object of his desire from a beating by the village roughs and gets beaten up himself, but at the least the footman he saved deigns to become friends with him .... Just one comment to add: Dan Stevens definitely won't be returning in Series 4 - one only has to see him driving his car after the birth of his son to realise what is going to happen next ....

ARENA: SCREEN GODDESSES was a delicious box of chocolates from the BBC, a collection of clips on movie goddesses: As the BBC plugged it:
“There just aren’t any faces like that any more,” lamented Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd — a movie made as long ago as 1950. Of course, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor were yet to enjoy their heyday, but the point still stands. From saintly Lillian Gish to sassy Mae West, exotic Marlene Dietrich to enigmatic Greta Garbo, via tough cookies Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and viperish Barbara Stanwyck, Hollywood produced a pantheon of divine women, whose “immortality” is only confirmed by the passage of time.
If you’re a film buff, none of the clips will be a surprise, and I could have done with detail on the luminous cinematography, but this glorious doc will have you reaching for DVDs.  Music from Vertigo and narration by Downton’s Elizabeth McGovern will also keep you hypnotised.
The documentary focuses on the female stars of the Hollywood studio era, from its beginnings around 1910 through to its collapse in the early 1960s. Screen icons chronologically recalled include Theda Bara, Lillian Gish, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, plus a nod to European goddesses like Bardot and Loren, and Julie Christie. Great to see Marilyn splashing in that pool in SOMETING'S GOTTA GIVE, Garbo at her most seductive in MATA HARI and FLESH AND THE DEVIL and Marlene on that SHANGHAI EXPRESS with Anna May Wong. 

No comments:

Post a Comment