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My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Candle in the wind
My Week with Marilyn tells the story, seen through the eyes of young Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), of the making of The Prince and the Showgirl, the film version of a Terence Rattigan play starring Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier who also served as the director. Michelle Williams portrays one of the great icons of American cinema and captures the little girl lost quality that drove Sir Larry to near madness even as he marveled at the way the camera loved her. Kenneth Branagh has nailed Sir Larry at a vulnerable point in his career as he attempts to deal with the profoundly damaged screen goddess. We see Olivier fuming over Marilyn's legendary tardiness and her reliance on her acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker.) Mr. Branagh's performance is remarkable and provides a brilliant counterpoint to Miss Williams's Marilyn -- they appear as creatures from two different planets. Dame Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike tries to run interference between the supernovas.
One of the pleasures of this film is seeing the plethora of British actors who pop up in small roles, among them Philip Jackson (Poirot's Inspector Japp) as Marilyn's fatherly body guard and Michael Kitchen (Foyle's War) as a film producer -- also Pip Torrens, Toby Jones, Simon Russell Beale, Jim Carter, Dominic Cooper, Richard Clifford, Gerald Horan, David Rintoul, Sir Derek Jacobi and lots more. In addition we get to hear Nat King Cole sing Autumn Leaves. Delightful.
Warm Springs (2005)
"You have done a brilliant thing."
In this splendid new HBO film about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his wife Eleanor says to him, "You have done a brilliant thing here, a magnificent thing." She's speaking of his work at Warm Springs, the polio rehabilitation center in Georgia, but the same can be said for Kenneth Branagh's charismatic portrayal of America's almost legendary president, who was elected four times and died in office in 1945. So many fine comments have been made about the film that I won't go over the same ground. It has obviously been created with love and care -- the production values are top notch, the screenplay and direction are strong. The casting could not been better -- there's not a weak performance in it, down to the smallest role. Mr. Branagh leads a superb company which includes Cynthia Nixon, David Paymer, Kathy Bates, Jane Alexander -- I add a special word for Tim Blake Nelson who gives a heartbreaking performance as the manager of Warm Springs. I can't imagine anyone who would fail to enjoy this film. Bravo, HBO!
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
Yes, Ronald Colman IS that handsome!
In reply to someone who questioned whether or not Ronald Colman was as handsome as people say, I add a resounding YES! He has real Hollywood Golden Age glamour. I don't have a lot to add to what other fans of Prisoner of Zenda have said, but it is a classic romantic swashbuckler. It is far superior to the remake with Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr. I love seeing Ronald Colman shake hands with Ronald Colman. I also love the scene when Colman enters the cathedral for his coronation -- he is every inch a king and no one would guess he is an imposter -- however, you sense that he is walking into a place he has never been before. Now that is subtle acting. If you haven't seen it, you are in for a real treat. The men, led by Colman, are all magnificent.
Random Harvest (1942)
As Sidney Pollack says, this is an Essential film.
I've seen Random Harvest a number of times, but recently I watched it twice as part of TCM's Essentials series hosted by Sidney Pollack. This time I was inspired to read the James Hilton novel, Random Harvest, which I recommend to all lovers of the film. If you know the film, you won't get the little surprise at the end of the book -- you will know it already -- but it's still a most enjoyable and heartwarming read. You will see that Smithy/Charles Rainier is quite a young man at the beginning -- however, I did not find Ronald Colman too old in the role, he overcomes the age difference with his splendid performance. And he doesn't seem too old to play Charles Rainier, the prince of industry. I can't imagine another pair who could play the two romantic leads, Greer Garson is so radiant. And all of us who watch old films know that people did look more mature back then -- they looked like real adults! This is such a romantic film, everyone should see it. And Sidney Pollack was right not to remake it -- let well enough alone!