Reviews written by registered user
|24 reviews in total|
"Autumn Crocus" was the first play of UK writer Dodie Smith, using
pseudonym A.L. Anthony. The West End hit starred Francis Lederer in the
Novello role, with Martita Hunt and Fay Compton who repeated the school
teacher role in the 1934 film. Intriguingly, this 1931 plot was
borrowed (or inspired?)American playwright Arthur Laurents whose 1952
play, "Time of the Cuckoo" with Shirley Booth also had a spinster
school teacher seeking romance on her first trip abroad, and finding it
with a handsome local. (The UK teacher longs for the Alps, while the US
teacher goes for Venice.) I utterly adore Ivor Novello, but sadly must
report that, in the light of modern sensibilities, here he does NOT
play a romantic or sympathetic figure. Rather, he is comes off as a
smarmy serial seducer of fragile tourists. To avoid a spoiler, I won't
add to my list of his casual cruelties. Technically a beautiful film
and an exquisite performance by Fay Compton, but today's audiences
would cheer and clap rather than grow misty eyed at the conclusion.
"Time of the Cuckoo" was then filmed as "Summertime" in 1955 with Katharine Hepburn as the teacher, the seducer (Rossano Brazzi)being somewhat less caddish, thus allowing more poignancy. Then Richard Rodgers, with Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents, turned the plot into the less-than-successful musical. "Do I Hear a Waltz?" Since most older woman today are single by choice and have traveled extensively, we are unlikely to see any further reincarnations of this plot.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Whenever anyone claims to have seen "the worst film ever made," I chide them that they must not have seen "The Squatters Daughter." It is an absolute delight, a composite of every film cliché from a half dozen genres, combined with endless shots of sheep. We have babies switched at birth by gypsies, a dwarf who loves a beauty (think Quasimodo)and who is prepared to die for her, rough sheep herders (doubles of the American cowboy)dancing erotically with women in chic evening gowns to a jazz band, and a huge and technically clumsy forest fire. There is a father who has raised his adored son from birth, sharing all the joys of bonded parenthood. But when he learns the boy is not his biological son, he is able to turn his back on the lad as if he never existed. The ending is delicious. The villain is shot and writhes in agony on the floor, just out of camera range, at the feet of the boy and girl who are enjoying a smooch as romantic music rises and "The End" comes on the screen. Oh, heaven!!
Franciska Gaal came to stardom in Europe for her portrayal of Katharina in a much darker though no less romantic German film called Katharina Die Letzte -- Catherine the Last (a pun on Catherine the First, Empress of all the Russias). In the German version, Gaal as the schlub of a scullery wench is much dirtier, more clumsy, and totally believable as an overlooked bumpkin skivvy. Her metamorphosis through loving the blackguard cad is, therefore, more amazing and heartrending. Dear Franchot Tone is hardly believable as a immoral seducer, out to marry an heiress only for her money and willing to betray the innocent country girl to obtain his black ends. His German counterpart oozes villainy and smarminess, forced by Katherina's utter belief in his goodness to mend his ways until the ultimate scene. All the same jokes are there in the Hollywood version, scene for scene, but the morphing of the villain into a hero in the German version is what makes that film an exalting and memorable experience, traveling from dark cynicism to -- yes -- a happy Hollywood ending!
Although I can't speak German, alas, I had no trouble following the gist of this big, fabulous, fun musical. Marika Rokk was 46 when she filmed it and makes teen-aged Debbie Reynolds look like Whistler's mother. The gist of the story (I think) is that Rokk (sorry, Amazon doesn't let me to make umlauts without disconnecting me) is the owner and/or star of a South American nightclub. Unbenownst to her, the managers/bosses are gangsters and drug runners. Her daughter arrives in a school uniform (ndicating innocent sexiness), bringing along the boy she hopes to marry. However, the boy's stern papa back in German objects strongly. Marika discovers through a photo that she knows the man -- a former lover? Are the young couple brother and sister? This is skipped over, so perhaps not. Marika decides to fly with the youngsters to Germany and get papa's approval. The gangsters decide to include a shipment of heroin in her luggage. In Germany, Marika assumes various identities and disguises, most involving huge dance numbers in wildly colorful costumes. Her astute comic timing and ability to mug while being gorgeous gets full play. All ends well for the good guys, of course. This is basically a Twentieth-Century Fox musical in German, and totally enjoyable even for us non-German speakers.
The costuming for this film must bring a smile to the face of anyone
familiar with fashions of the 17th century. The film's action occurs in
1660, but Fairbanks and his colleagues wear jerkins fitted to the
waist, stylish about 1620-1630, but apparently considered more dashing
than the loose smocks and petticoat breeches of 1660. Then Maria Montez
arrives, wearing a gown clearly from the 1880 Wild West costume rack in
the Wardrobe Department. To atone, her second frock is only a century
out of kilter, something from about 1750.
I found the sound-stage exteriors very claustrophobic and phony, and I noted only 3 instances when I felt the "Ophüls touch," for example when the shutter blew open and closed, alternately revealing and concealing the lovers as they approach their first kiss. I'm also puzzled why Max Ophüls is listed as "Opuls" in the credits, but perhaps that is a phonetic rendering to eliminate the umlaut?
A fabulous confection. A prima donna hires a man to pretend to be her lover so as to protect her from an unwelcome suitor. Unbeknownst to her (the key to most comedy), he is a tenor in disguise. The musical battle between real-life husband and wife Jan Kiepura and Marta Eggerth to Mozart's "Turkish March" is a singing and comic tour-de-force. And the title waltz will have you dancing out of the theatre -- or just in front of your VCR. Kiepura, who did not age quite as well as his effervescent wife, here looks youthful and is in excellent voice. Eggerth is perfection as always. This film was available on commercial SECAM video some years back which is where I got it. It is certainly a major oeuvre of both stars and their director.
The TV prints of this film cut the "let's put the show on here" finale which included the brilliant star Julian Eltinge. Thus I was thrilled to acquire the new DVD so that at long last I could hear his fabled singing voice. His performance in the available silent Madame Behave had made me a dedicated fan, but finding more of his work has been frustrating. Alas -- Eltinge, along with prominently billed Broadway stars Trixie Friganza and Grace La Rue are STILL missing from the commercial DVD of this film, although he is mentioned in PR and on the box! We DO get to see Eddie Leonard (in black face!) and Blanche Ring (Does anyone actually view these films before promoting and selling them?)
I was really excited about this 6-part series when it was announced by BBC-America. The first two episodes aired in prime time, then suddenly it vanished and I tracked down subsequent episodes at odd times on the weekends. The final episode -- promising to reveal which of the many educated guesses by the students proved successful and which didn't -- aired ONLY in the middle of the night! I set my timer to tape it, but my visiting daughter walked through the room after I was asleep, saw the digital box on, and "helpfully" turned it off. Blank tape. ARGHH! BBC-America subsequently reran the first three episodes from midnight to 3 AM, but hasn't rescheduled the final three episodes. I am burning for a DVD version to be released in any country so I can find out how the story ends. (Also, I strongly disagree with the "take" of the other reviewer of this show on who showed what expertise. The "drama" of David's enormous ego may (or may not!) have been staged to create viewer interest. Hmmm. Anyway, LOVED what I learned from the show so far!! The dating-the-chair test was splendid, and I would have gotten only 4 out of 6, despite my years watching Antiques Roadshow, fooled by the Georgian revival chair.
Many are aware that Viktor and Viktoria was remade in the U.S. as Victor/Victoria, but an English-language remake was made the following year in the U.S. starring Jessie Matthews and Barry McKay. The film follows the German script closely including the scene with the geese, but allows McKay to be in on the impersonation much earlier. Intriguingly, neither the German nor UK version contain a single hint of homosexuality -- female and male impersonation were simply accepted theatrical forms. No nudge-nudge wink-wink. One of the more poignant and droll scenes in the German film is when the ambitious thespians descend several flights of stairs in a seedy theatrical booking building, singing to a joyous martial melody that they will climb ever higher and higher-- as they descend and descend.
This is a B Hollywood rip off of the plot of two very stylish 1932
musicals: Ich Bei Tag und Du Bie Nacht (Me by Day and You by Night),
directed by Ludwig Berger and produced by Erich Pommer. Score by Werner R.
Heymann. German version starred Käthe von Nagy and Willy Fritsch.
Simultaneously filmed French version was "A moi le jour, à toi le nuit"
me the day, for you the night) with von Nagy in same role and hero played
I haven't had the pleasure of seeing Rafter Romance, so I don't know if they bought the rights to the music, but probably not. One of the charms of the European version is that the hero works nights (thus needing a bed by day) as a projectionist, so the story occasionally switches to the one on screen. In the end, when the lovers discover they have been bedmates and decide to marry, they honeymoon in the cinema audience, watching a huge mittel-Europa operetta wedding on screen.
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