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, 31 December 2013

Year's end

And we look back at the last of 2013, a year when eras passed: not only Nelson Mandela but Mrs Thatcher, the resignation of Pope Benedict and that interesting new pope Francis .... that titan among TV people David Frost; people dear to us that we grew up watching like Peter O'Toole and Julie Harris; Joan Fontaine, Eleanor Parker and Esther Williams from the Golden Age, among many others.

Certainly a towering year for cinema, we are looking forward to the Award Season as its should be the best for some time, as Blanchett, Dench, Bullock, Thompson, Winslet, Hanks, Redford, Ejiofor,  Cauron, McQueen and others slog it out. Seeing the new Woody Allen on the cinema screen and back on form was good too...

Discoveries of the year for me were finally getting Blu-ray for the reissues of THE SERVANT and BILLY LIAR; seeing THE SERVANT on a movie screen again at that screening I attended back in March when James Fox, Sarah Miles and Wendy Craig were present to talk about it 50 years later - how often does that happen? As I had seen Dirk Bogarde and Joseph Losey in discussion back in 1970, I just had to be at this one too. Then there's the Blu-ray of Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE, we will be discussing that in the new year. We also dug the Blu-ray of Clement's PLEIN SOLEIL, and loved it all over again. 
It was great too to go back to the British cinema of the late '40s and early '50s with titles I had not seen before like THE BLUE LAMP and HUNTED, with early Bogarde making an impression, as per recent reviews, and more Italian cinema of the early 60s with those Bolognini titles like LA NOTTE BRAVA, SENILITA, CORRUPTION, as well as France's LES GODELURAUX, that 1962 Chabrol rarity, and his even rarer 1965 MARIE CHANTAL VERSUS DR KHA with the adorable due of Marie Laforet and Stephane Audran (French label).
1959 was the year that kept on giving with those Russian classics like BALLAD OF A SOLDIER and THE LETTER THAT WAS NOT SENT, it was a year of discovering Russian cinema as we also loved 1957's THE CRANES ARE FLYING. Other new 1959 classics to add to the growing list were Camus's BLACK ORPHEUS and Chabrol's LES COUSINS and A DOUBLE TOUR, plus Brigitte Bardot's zany COME DANCE WITH ME, which must make 1959 my favourite movie year ever (along with 1960, 1962, 1963, 1966 ...).  See 1959 label for more on these. Then there were those Chabrol, Deneuve, Bardot  and Romy Schneider treats (French label) plus finding out about those missing Lee Remick BBC films. Now for 2014 and THE GREAT BEAUTY ...

Monday, 30 December 2013

Malibu party people, 1965

Roddy McDowall's Home Movies
On another wet, windy, squally bad weather end of the year day, how nice to look back at May 1965, early summer in Malibu, and all those beach people enjoying themselves, in their preppy clothes - white slacks, stripey tops, swimwear, as we join Julie Andrews on the beach with a child, Lee Remick is here several times, also James Fox and Jane Fonda (they were filming THE CHASE at the time), also Natalie Wood, Robert Redford, Ruth Gordon with Garson Kanin (they were filming INSIDE DAISY CLOVER then with co-star Roddy McDowell). Look, there's Simone Signoret and Lauren Bacall (fabulous in yellow), both holding court, also Susanne Pleshette twice, Hayley Mills, Samantha Eggar, Tony Perkins, Tammy Grimes and more. (Lauren Bacall at left, with Lee Remick, right, looking out to sea).

Yes, its Roddy McDowall's home movies (22 in all, all quite short), which are now on YouTube. The links at the side (on YouTube) bring up some more fascinating clips, as we watch Paul Newman, Ben Gazzara, Kirk Douglas, George Cukor, John Frankenheimer, George Axelrod, Domonic Dunne,  and others at play. Malibu looks nice and unspoilt then - almost 50 years ago. We knew Roddy was still busy and popular then and knew everybody - like Rock Hudson and Dirk Bogarde they knew everybody and their home movies are a blast. (Above left, Simone Signoret, right - Lee Remick).

This might have been a quiet day at the beach for these co-stars and colleagues, mixing with their own - and the Hollywood gay set - at what seems a private occasion; no internet or cell phone photos or paparazzi then - just Roddy shooting his home movies. But here they are on YouTube almost 50 years later, capturing that perfect mid 60s summer, with so many in their prime. Lee Remick (left) for instance looks marvellous here, pity there's no sound with those lingering closeups. The Malibu beach-house looks nice and informal, but must have cost millions even then - let alone now. (Right: James Fox, with Signoret in background). Its such a contrast to today's shallow celebrity culture where people have to tweet everything they do and post pictures to prove it.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Party people

A rare '60s shot of Antonioni with Vanessa Redgrave AND Monica Vitti, so rare I had not seen it before.. 
An end of year round-up of some of our favourite Showpeople, once again, for recent viewers. More on these at Showpeople label.   (Our favourite photo of Vivien Leigh, Kay Kendall and Lauren Bacall out on the town with their GBF (gay best friend) Noel Coward in 1959, is now at the right hand sidebar.)

Julie Christie, Catherine Deneuve and Ursula Andress, the hot girls around town in 1966, at that year's Royal Film Performance, where they are lined up to meet The Queen. Warren Beatty and Leslie Caron were also in the line-up (as per other photos here, Showpeople label) ....  are the girls comparing frocks or how to wear those long gloves ?

Our favourite pic of those 1962 Oscar winners Gregory Peck who got his from 1961's Sophia Loren, and Joan Crawford who graciously accepted for the missing Anne Bancroft (much to Bette Davis's chagrin, who had been nominated for their BABY JANE) with studly 1961 winner Maximilian Schell, who looks like Joan's hot date for the night. So there is Joan clutching an Oscar with the winners, while Bette fumes backstage ...

Rock with Gloria Swanson and Tallulah Bankhead at the premiere of PILLOW TALK ! Rock and Tallu must have had a gas .... and here again is Rock on location in Italy in 1957 as was Dirk Bogarde, I imagine the two heart-throbs are discussing the size of their respective closets ... between them Rock and Dirk must have known/met just about everybody.

Sophia Loren never met Marilyn Monroe, but Rock and Gina did, as Gina got to Hollywood before Loren. Here's Gina and MM in 1955 I imagine, maybe during the filming of THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH? Marlene also met Marilyn, as in this 1952 shot. In 1966 Marlene met Elizabeth Taylor, in this Bob Willoughby photograph, during WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF. one imagines Marlene must have known at least 4 of Taylor's husbands ...

Another odd Royal line-up: Barbra Streisand with James Caan (FUNNY LADY perhaps?) with James Stewart and Lee Remick (who had of course teamed in 1959's ANATOMY OF A MURDER) .... Barbra broke with protocol by asking the Queen why they had to wear gloves.

And a delicious shot of Romy Schneider and Horst Buchholz when they were young in MONPTI, way back in 1956. Love those swimming trunks ... 
 And again that car load of talent at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival: Loren, Delon, Schneider.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Dirk and Lee's Vision, 1987

On to 1988, when that January the BBC ran THE VISION,
- a then timely warning about the American takeover of Europe by satellite TV, with disturbing ulterior motives. The fascinating foursome here are Dirk Bogarde as the British TV anchor man recruited by the rich fundamentalists, headed by Lee Remick in what seems like Margaret Thatcher mode, to lend their crusade respectability; with Eileen Atkins as his wife and Helena Bonham-Carter as his daughter.
Dirk did another engaging interview, with Philip Oakes, to discuss it. It marked his return to the BBC after 40 years. At 66 with 60 films and 3 novels and 4 best-selling volumes of autobiography behind him, "Bogarde was emphatically still a star. He has a star's arrogance, a star's ego and deservedly so. When he left England 20 years ago it was because British audiences, who recalled him fondly as a Rank Organisaton charmer, shied away from the mature and serious Bogarde as revealed in films such as THE SERVANT and ACCIDENT, both directed by Joseph Losey. After the boring and predictable films he was offered, Bogarde packed his bags and moved first to Italy, then to France where he worked with some of the great names of European cinema: Visconti, Resnais, Fassbinder and Cavani.  

It would certainly be fascinating to get a box set now of these lost Lee Remick productions: SUMMER AND SMOKE, THE AMBASSADORS and THE VISION ... how about it BBC ?

The Ambassadors: Lee, Delphine & Gayle go to Paris

Another vintage BBC tv listings magazine from 1977, with a full report on that Henry James adaptation of THE AMBASSADORS, a BBC "Play of the Month", which we cannot see now, despite it starring Paul Scofield, Lee Remick, Delphine Seyrig and Gayle Hunnicutt.

For the magazine feature writer Paul Theroux took the three ladies to lunch in Paris and they explored the sights. "Driving from the Opera into the Place Vendome, past the Ritz, and the ministry that looks like a hotel, the beautiful floodlit acres with the bright obelisk, columns, balconies and ramparts, the warm illumination removing the severity from the stone, Miss Remick peered, held her breath, then said - it was her highest praise -  "Its like a set"."

Delphine in Paris, photos by Clive Arrowsmith
THE AMBASSADORS is Henry James' subtle novel about the changes wrought in the lives of some Americans by a sojourn in Paris in the 1880s. As the BBC film is not available I have ordered the book and should be able to visualise it. Scofield is the ambassador sent to Paris to bring back (shades of THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY?) a young man who has fallen under the influence of Marie de Vionnet (Seyrig); 
Remick is Maria Gostrey who has a flirtation with him, and Hunnicutt is Sarah Pocock, another ambassador sent to bring back Scofield should be as fascinating as those other James novels about Americans in Europe. Hunnicutt also featured in a BBC version of James' THE GOLDEN BOWL and Lee had done the Merchant/Ivory THE EUROPEANS in 1979.. This was the era when the BBC were investing a lot in these classical productions with fascinating casts, all the more odd that these were shown just once, and never seen again and not available now, when most of the leads are no longer with us, as per my previous posts below ... Tbe play was produced by Cedric Messina and directed by James Cellan Jones. Lucky Mr Theroux to be in Paris with the three ladies ... though at the restaurant Miss Seyrig recommended a fish called Lot, which they all enjoyed, which turned out to be conger eel!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas with the stars ...

A very Bette Christmas? I had forgotten that some years ago I bought a pack of 6 movie star figures, presumably to hang on Christmas trees. I came across them the other day, so of course they had to join the festive decorations. Theres Bette, Carmen Miranda, Alice Faye, Claudette Colbert, Hedy Lamarr and Sonja Henie! Odd choice .... I would have kept Bette and Carmen, but would have added Lana and Rita, Carole Lombard and maybe Marlene. Still, they add a touch of glamour.

WISHING EVERYONE A FESTIVE HAPPY PEACEFUL CHRISTMAS as we create some magic for ourselves and our loved ones - and think about and help those less well off.  Then there's New Year to think about and all we want to achieve for 2014 ....
Back, with an intriguing double bill: ONLY GOD FORGIVES plus BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, that new Blu-ray of Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE, Deneuve in APRES LUI and LOVE SONGS; back to those delirious '40s/'50s British movies with HOLIDAY CAMP and DANCE HALL, some more Romy and Anouk, LOVE IS THE DEVIL, some more glorious B-movies (Ruth Roman! Anne Baxter!, SLAVES, SHIP OF CONDEMNED WOMEN), that very odd 1971 British comedy GIRL STROKE BOY, Orton on screen: ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE and LOOT and much more .... meanwhile Marilyn is still selling Chanel Nr 5 as per all those full page adverts in the papers and on tv.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Christmas treats: a new Moonfleet plus ...

MOONFLEET. Growing up in the quiet coastal town of Moonfleet in eighteenth century Dorset, fifteen year-old orphan, John Trenchard, dreams of the infamous Blackbeard's treasure - little does he know what is in store for him.

I was pleased to see a new version of MOONFLEET on television here after Christmas, another enterprising Sky production in two parts, which should do justice to the book, that marvellous tale of 18th century smugglers, a childhood classic, by J. Meade Faulkner, originally published in 1898, its a great tale of shipwrecks, a hidden diamond, crypts and churchyards hiding their secrets ...

Elements of it were used for the 1955 Fritz Lang film, MOONFLEET, for me a childhood matinee delight, and I like seeing it whenever it is on (I have the dvd too of course), though made in California it conjures up those secret coves and seaside adventurers, with some great Cinemascope images.The hero here is Jeremy Fox - Stewart Granger - and its a whole different story to the book, with Jon Whiteley (HUNTED, THE SPANISH GARDENER) as the boy coming in search of him. George Sanders and Joan Greenwood are the villains here, Joan in particular with only two scenes, stealing the film.

Last Christmas, Ray Winstone was a good Magwich in that new BBC version of GREAT EXPECTATIONS (the one where Pip was prettier than Estella), and also Quintus Arrius in that unnecessary new BEN HUR, this year he is Elzevir Block, leader of the smugglers down Dorset way, (a minor character in the 1955 version) leading our young hero into all kinds of escapes as they avoid the magistrates and the soldiers, and hunt down that elusive diamond.  Thrills and spills all round then ...

More television gold in THE THIRTEENTH TALE, also on before New Year, a creepy horror tale adapted by Christopher Hampton, the casting is the thing here as we follow aging novelist Vida Winter, who enlists a young writer to finally tell the story of her life including her mysterious childhood spent in Angelfield House, which burned to the ground when she was a teenager. It features Vanessa Redgrave as Vida in a long red wig, and our actress of the year Olivia Colman (below) (BROADCHURCH, REV etc) as the writer to comes to hear her story ..... 
DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY should be good too, a three-parter from the successful novel by P.D. James imagining a murder mystery at Pemberley six years after the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth in PRIDE & PREJUDICE. More watchable costume drama then .... it may be super or send us back to the classic BBC 1995 version ...then of course there is the Christmas DOWNTON ABBEY special, with new guests including James Fox. Ok, Christmas television is quite good then with lots of plums among the glitter and tinsel. 

Treat 1: Joanna Lumley as the dancing Queen in GANGSTA GRANNY, David Walliam's new christmas film (even better than last year's MR STINK) with dear Julia McKenzie as the granny who is an international jewel thief. and Treat 2: that hilarious moment from MRS BROWN'S BOYS when Agnes tells bitchy Hilary (Susie Blake) what happened to the chocolate that was on the peanuts she has been eating ...

STRICTLY COME DANCING also finished on a high, with a great win by Abbey Clancy, who with partner Aljaz, dazzled on the dance floor. She is not only a model but a super, lovely girl with a natural charm, almost a new Brigitte Bardot!, as Bruno noted. We adore her. Here's that sizzling samba:

 Award season should be interesting too, maybe the best in years. Several titles like 12 YEARS A SLAVE have not opened here yet (thats due 10th January!), nor has ALL IS LOST .... but I am already visualising a tie between Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench as best actress, with Cuaron as best director and maybe GRAVITY as best film ...

Saturday, 21 December 2013

My Christmas treat: My Sister Eileen

Thats the 1955 Columbia version, not the 1942 original with Roz Russell, who also played it on Broadway as the show WONDERFUL TOWN, with a score by Leonard Bernstein and book by Comden and Green. This 1955 film though has a different score by Jule Style (GYPSY, FUNNY GIRL) and Leo Robin, and has choreography by young Bob Fosse who also plays the guy working in the diner smitten with Janet Leigh (Eileen). That other great dancer Tommy Rall plays the other brasher guy, also with the hots for Eileen, while Betty Garrett is the older sister, Betty of course was Brunhilde Esterhazy in ON THE TOWN. The material is based on Ruth McKenney's "New Yorker" stories about her pretty sister Eileen.
This MY SISTER EILEEN is another great 'New York in the Fifties' movie, with that Cinemascope screen unfolding a vibrant city as the Sherwood sisters - Ruth and Eileen - arrive from Ohio and rent that basement from Kurt Kasznar, with Dick York as the other tenant who keeps an eye on them. Ruth is a writer and tries to sell her stories to publisher Jack Lemmon - good here in one of his early roles - while Janet has to fight off the guys as she looks for work.
Director Richard Quine is a dab hand at using the widescreen (as was Anthony Mann, Nicholas Ray) even in that tiny basement apartment. Quine was a rising star at Columbia, and had just done that studio-bound SO THIS IS PARIS that year, where Janet's husband Tony Curtis learns to sing and dance, and wasn't too bad - review at Curtis label). Quine went on to those Kim Novak films and various comedies like PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES and SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL before his suicide in 1989, aged 68, by gunshot).
Back to EILEEN - it is a treat from start to finish, Janet is adorable as usual, and Betty knows how to wring a laugh out of a line. Bob and Tommy (one of the SEVEN BROTHERS and ideal in KISS ME KATE, as was Fosse and Bobby Van, with Ann Miller) dance up a storm, Fosse was 28 at the time. The delirious climax includes a line of conga-dancing Portuguese sailors dressed in white. MY SISTER EILEEN often got overlooked among all those great '50s musicals, but thankfully is now restored on dvd to delight us all over again.