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, 26 September 2015

6 lesser-known '60s dramas + a treat ...

Following on from the lesser-known '50s dramas (see below), lets turn to the '60s: 

SONS AND LOVERS. D.H. Lawrence seems back in vogue again, with that new underwhelming BBC version of LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER screened recently, and the BFI are screening a restored WOMEN IN LOVE at the forthcoming London Film Festival, but the only version I know of his monumental novel SONS AND LOVERS is this 1960 version directed by Jack Cardiff, with great CinemaScope black and white images of those Nottingham coal pit communities by Freddie Francis, and co-scripted by Gavin Lambert. 
Young American actor Dean Stockwell plays Paul Morel the sensitive lead trying to become a writer, but the film is dominated by two great performances from Wendy Hiller and his fiercely protective if domineering mother and Trevor Howard as her embittered husband, a coal miner. Their battles form the backbone of the film, as Paul tries to establish his independence and his relationships with with pious Miriam (Heather Sears) and the worldly older married woman Clara Dawes (Mary Ure). It may be rather forgotten now, but was a ‘prestige’ picture (one of 20th Century Fox’s literary classics little seen now) and was nominated for seven Academy Awards including best film and best director.

ALL FALL DOWN. Another pair of embattled parents (Karl Malden and Angela Lansbury as Ralph and Annabel) feature in John Frankenheimer’s lyrical 1962 drama scripted by William Inge from a book I loved at the time; James’s Leo Herlihy’s novel about 16 year old Clint (Brandon De Wilde) who idolises his wastrel older brother Berry-Berry (Warren Beatty in one of his early eye-catching roles) . I was 16 myself and identified totally with Clint, as we see him initially in Key West in Florida tracking down his brother, who finally comes home for Christmas. This is an amusing sequence as Ralph brings home three tramps for the festive season, to spite Annabel's plans, but she soon manoeuvres them out of the house, aided by some dollar bills. 
The arrival of Echo O’Brien, the “old maid from Toledo” (Eva Marie Saint in another stunning performance) upsets the balance of the house, Clint becomes infatuated with her but she and Berry-Berry embark on a doomed romance and she gets pregnant, but he cannot handle the responsibility and reverts of his mean nature beating up women, as Clint finally sees how shallow and empty and hate-filled he is. I have written about this here before, as per the labels. It remains a pleasure from that good year for Frankenheimer – he also turned out THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ that year. De Wilde also had a good role in HUD the following year, but died in a traffic accident when 30 in 1972. Gay writer Herlihy went on to write "Midnight Cowboy" and did some acting too, he appears with Jean Seberg (see below) in the 1963 IN THE FRENCH STYLE, another favourite.

REACH FOR GLORY. Another book I loved back then when 16 in 1962 was “The Custard Boys” by John Rae, which was a highly-regarded novel about British teenagers in wartime. This is what I wrote back in 2011:
Hardly ever seen now, Philip Leacock's 1962 film REACH FOR GLORY is the film version of a highly praised 1960 novel "The Custard Boys" by John Rae, a headteacher at Westminster College. The blurb said: "During World War II, teenage boys in a small English town are consumed with jingoism and brutal war games, hoping dearly that the war won't end before they can fight in it. John, one of the younger members, is increasingly torn between these peer group values and his deepening homoerotic friendship with Mark, a gentle Jewish refugee whom his gang has ostracized as a sissy and a coward." It is rather suggestive of LORD OF THE FLIES, leading as it does to tragedy, and starts with the boys chasing and killing a cat. The main adults are the estimable Harry Andrews and Kay Walsh as hero John Curlew's parents, and Michael Anderson as Lewis Craig, the bullying leader of the gang, as the boys are encouraged in their war games, but love and affection are very suspect - life during wartime! 
The worst thing here is to be a coward, as John realises, coping with his blustering father (Andrews) and his deepening friendship with the Jewish boy Mark Stein. But there is a real bullet among the blanks in their training exercises …
Leacock was a very prolific director, very good with children, who in the '50s directed films like THE SPANISH GARDENER [review at Dirk Bogarde label], and later went on to a successful career in American television with the likes of THE WALTONSDYNASTY and FALCON CREST. This though is a nice small little back and white film, and an early 'gay interest' title, which I managed to catch once as a supporting feature, but have now got a dvd copy. It's been well worth the wait.

THE GIRL WITH GREEN EYES & I WAS HAPPY HERE:

Two perfect mid-60s British black and white romantic dramas set in Ireland - both from Edna O'Brien stories, and both directed by Desmond Davis are 1964's THE GIRL WITH GREEN EYES and I WAS HAPPY HERE in 1966, starring Sarah Miles (a world away from her other overblown Irish romance for David Lean). I have written about these here before (Sarah, Rita, Edna O'Brien, Ireland labels). They do though make a perfect double bill. O'Brien's theme in both is the passage of love as her Irish country girls love and lose and set up new lives in London.
This was very relevant for me being Irish and new in London too then, as Miles' Cass goes back to her Irish village [Liscanor and Lahinch in Co Clare, where Cyril Cusack runs the hotel she used to work at, and which is closed for the winter, and Marie Kean presides over the local pub] while Rita and Lynn (wonderful as the feckless Baba) have their adventures in '60s Dublin as Tush is romanced by wordly older man Peter Finch (sterling, as ever); Marie Kean is his housekeeper, handy with a rifle. It ends with the girls on the night ferry from Dun Laoghaire to England - a trip I did myself many times - and shows us Rita's new life in London - she works at the WH Smith shop in Notting Hill Gate just across from the Classic Cinema (above) - an old haunt of mine! whereas Sarah also ends up wiser as her boorish husband comes to reclaim her, and her fisherman lover has found a new love .... both are perfect small films that pays re-viewing. I particularly liked Sarah's london bedsit with its great view of that '60s icon The Post Office Tower. Sarah went on to Antonioni's BLOW-UP (which according to her memoirs was not a happy experience for her) and then back to Ireland - Kerry this time - for the protracted shoot on RYAN'S DAUGHTER, released in 1970. Rita had the smash hit of Lester's THE KNACK among others, and she and Lynn teamed again to great comic effect in Desmond Davis's SMASHING TIME, great fun in 1968,as per reviews at labels. See Sarah and Rita labels for more on these treats. 


SANDRA or OF A THOUSAND DELIGHTS. Visconti's operatic melodrama from 1965, VAGHE STELLE D'ORSA (its from a poem) or OF A THOUSAND DELIGHTS or simply SANDRA - which I have written about here before [Visconti, Cardinale, Sorel, Craig labels]. 
It is a small film in the Visconti canon, overshadowed by those big operatic productions like ROCCOTHE LEOPARDTHE DAMNEDDEATH IN VENICE or LUDWIG. I first saw it when I was 19 in 1965 and then it became unobtainable for a long time. It was great to catch up with it again last year, and it was as powerful as I remembered. The stunning black and white photography by Armando Nannuzzi show Claudia Cardinale at her zenith, along with Jean Sorel as her brother and English actor Michael Craig as her husband.

Sandra and her husband return to the family home, one of those sprawling Italian mansions, in the Etruscan city of Volterra, where family secrets are slowly uncovered, as Sandra has to confront her brother who wants to resume their once-incestous relationship, her mentally ill mother and the crumbling estate and the secret about their father and the war ... Visconti builds it to a powerful climax,and the images still resonate. Good to see this back in circulation again, it is certainly one to seek out and keep.

And now, after all these moody black and white dramas, a burst of sunshine and colour and romance as we head off to the South of France, for a delicious mid-60s romantic drama/thriller, of the old school.
MOMENT TO MOMENT in 1966 is a glossy romantic thriller by old hand Mervyn Le Roy (his last film) set in the South of France and is a fabulous treat to see now at this remove. It was part of a double-bill on release initially.
The first half is lushly romantic as Jean Seberg drives around Nice in her snazzy red sports car, sporting a Yves St Laurent wardrobe that would still be the height of chic today - she is a bored wife whose (dull) husband Arthur Hill is away on business, and she gets romantically involved [as one does] with a naval officer on the loose - Sean Garrison, a bit wooden but does what is required of him, ie - he fills out his uniform nicely. Jean resists at first but ... add in Honor Blackman [just after her stint as Pussy Galore with James Bond] as the mantrap next door and the stage is set for some fireworks.
Then it turns into a Chabrol-like thriller with a missing body, police on the prowl, the return of the husband and the missing body (very much alive).  It is though all nicely worked out, a lot of it studio bound, but nice locations too. Jean is perfect here and its a perfect mid'60s treat. Great Henry Mancini score too .... it deserves to be much better known and would be a much better chick flick now than some of the current examples. There is a lovely moment at the well-known Colombe D'Or restaurant (still going strong at St-Paul-de-Vence - I read a recommendtion on it last week) with the doves flying into the sun .... perfectly romantic then with a few Hitchcockian twists and Seberg is in her lovely prime here. What's not to like? My pal Jerry loves it as well and thanks to him for sourcing a copy. 

2 comments:

  1. Well, I've never seen OF A 1,000 DELIGHTS, REACH FOR GLORY or MOMENT TO MOMENT (rare indeed) and you know how I feel about those two masterpieces THE GIRL WITH GREEN EYES and I WAS HAPPY HERE. SONS AND LOVERS is one I want to see again very much (it tied for Best Picture with the New York Critics) and I have ALL FALL DOWN, a personal favourite which I managed to get in Spain complete with book about it but in Spanish!

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