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Marcus Welby, M.D.: A Full Life (1974)
A pleasant surprise to see an older Richard Basehart
I happened to come across this Marcus Welby TV episode, "A Full Life" and at first didn't recognize the actor Richard Basehart who plays a well- seasoned researcher, Professor Kirkcastle, whose health is scarred by past illnesses incurred in Malaysia that can turn serious for him in later life. He proves to be a very difficult patient for Marcus Welby to deal with but is willing to go along with the tests and treatment after some objections. It was easy to recognize the lovely Phyllis Thaxter later in the story as the nurse who tries to keep the professor in line and not overdo himself although he is adamant on going on this latest excursion to explore certain plants in a remote area. For me it was a trip down memory lane to see the old actors once again. At least we can appreciate having these films of them so many years later.
Strange Holiday (1945)
A reminder that freedom should not be taken for granted
I'm a great fan of Claude Rains so I enjoyed viewing this new (for me) film by such a fine actor who brings a dire warning message home to us. His perplexity and inability to comprehend what has transpired in the everyday world around him when he returns from a fishing holiday reveals a straight-line kind of thinking that sadly is quickly overturned when disaster has occurred.
The progress of the story, of complete alienation from routine life as he'd known it, made me realize how fortunate we are in N. America not to have experienced the oppression of an invading army such as what many small countries in Europe suffered in WW2 under the Nazis.
I don't know all the dates but it seems this film could have more logically fit into the period of wartime efforts to support 'the cause', as it has a propaganda ring to it which is ineffectual if coming after the war had already ended.
The Orwellian film "Nineteen Eighty Four" also has a similar message of individual oppression although there it's in the form of Big Brother.
Mention in the movie of Friday the 13th made me notice on my calendar that this week has a Friday 13th upcoming (December 2013). Small world at times!
"Strange Holiday" is a reality-check story with a message and there's nothing weird about it when properly understood. Just be thankful in the West that you've never been invaded by an oppressor.
This is a worthwhile film to add to one's collection particularly for Claude Rains fans.
A pleasant adventure in days gone by
I've just seen "Stingaree" the first time on TCM and enjoyed every bit of it as it takes me back to the excitement of the early movies I saw as a kid paying 25 cents for an all-day stay at the theatre on Saturday. To start was an hour of cartoons, the newsreel, then two feature films and we could stay to see it all over again if we wanted to. Those were the days! It does seem that the subject of Nellie Melba could've had a strong influence on this story, an unknown Australian singer who becomes famous worldwide. Irene Dunne is the servant girl Hilda who has dreams of a career and is given the chance to sing for the impresario Sir Julian. I had visions of Jeannette MacDonald in this role, it's her style, but Irene Dunne gives a more integrated performance and her singing is finer as it has somewhat more volume to project, in my opinion.
There ought to be a special medal created for Mary Boland, she's quite something in all her films, over the top, hilarious, showy, a grand flurry of mannerisms, delightful and absurd. She certainly adds wit to her films. Her amusing reference to protecting "British womanhood's virginity" brought back the quip, "Oh no, my dear, you mean chastity. Britain wouldn't have survived on women's virginity," was quite a funny hint.
Richard Dix has the role of Stingaree, the thief who is being hunted but he does have a good heart and is determined to help Hilda get her chance to be heard by Sir Julian which succeeds and she's off to make her career although Stingaree unfortunately gets captured in the process and must put in his time in jail during her venture into the world.
I'm always charmed by Una O'Connor who plays Annie the maid. She has such a distinctive presence in all her roles, one can only wonder what it'd have been without her in so many great movies such as Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) and Witness For The Prosecution (Ty Power).
Henry Stephenson performs as the man of the house, Mr Clarkson, married to the Mrs., Mary Boland, his is not a very large role but well done.
Andy Devine is quite young in this film and he plays the 'sidekick' of Stingaree for their robbery excursions.
One ought to be fair in judging the old movies, after all, the acting that was done in silent films is not what they did when talkies came along. So too, we should consider the time period and settle into that when viewing the oldies. Each decade brought along its own styles and fashions, and that needs to be taken into account when making a comment.
All in all I enjoyed a first viewing of this adventure/ romance/ comedy film and I believe it's available to buy so that's good news too. Add it to your collection if you are a dedicated collector. Well worth it!
This England (1941)
Wartime film to uplift British morale, five vignettes of historical courage
Now that many British films are available on the internet I was pleased to discover this one today. It appears to be a lovely mix of five time periods in England, a glimpse into the past when life was simpler and closer to the land, "rustic" would best describe it.
It's wonderful to see the in-between films of fine actors such as John Clements (of The Four Feathers, 1939), and Roland Culver. Emlyn Williams, who is credited with writing the dialogue, appears as a haunting presence in each story, a reminder of the poorer people who are usually the ones to suffer most. Each tale illustrated how the townspeople rose up to defy injustices as well as dealing with newcomers who were different which unfortunately reflected some of the fears and superstitions of their time especially toward the gypsy girl. The episode of wartime in 1804 made me realize how the state of marriage was often decided on as a ticket to a lifetime of security, much like Jane Austen's constant reference to a good match being based on the person's annual income.
I love the British films, very nostalgic. It also made me realize how in North America we are not tied as much by traditions or ancestral land memories, ours is still a relatively new world here.
"This England" is a treasure of early British films, produced during the war years, and reveals the extent of the Brits' determination and fortitude as they lived through challenging times in centuries past and in the present.
Anna Sten turns in a realistic, fine performance
This is the first time I've seen Anna Sten in Nana and it's worth every minute of viewing. Of course what comes to mind is the opera La Traviata by Verdi which in turn was based on Alexandre Dumas the younger's novel La Dame aux Camelias, and I daresay the story has been told many times, of ill-fated deception of too many lovers.
Anna, whose spontaneous manner reminded me of Miriam Hopkins' strong style of delivery, is true to life and far more believable than Garbo whose acting came across as stilted. There are traces of Dietrich mannerisms in Anna's facial expressions but her beautiful features are truly awesome, a real beauty that I never tire of seeing.
This is a movie that I can look forward to viewing several times and not get tired of it. Recommended.
That Wonderful Urge (1948)
Wonderful collection of fine actors in this comedy remake.
After half a lifetime of viewing movies I finally got to see this film "That Wonderful Urge" with Ty Power and Gene Tierney, once again teamed up. Always interesting to see a new film not viewed before.
There's a fabulous, well-rounded cast - Gene Lockhart, Lucile Watson, Reginald Gardiner, Chill Wills, Porter Hall - all familiar faces, and I really felt much more could have been done due to the presence of these great actors appearing all in one film. Well, in Marlon Brando's words (On the Waterfront), you could say, "I coulda been a somebody" because everything was there except a fine script, but I'm thinking drama instead of comedy, my fault really. I think the main problem is that Ty and Gene are forever enshrined in my memory as two of the finest actors in that great story, "The Razor's Edge," an influence which is hard to shake free of and I'd gladly welcome another film of that calibre with them in it but my expectations will have to remain a wish.
Since the story of "That Wonderful Urge" is based on comedy I must admit there are many amusing moments and unexpected turns as the tale unfolds.
Thomas Tyler (Ty), a reporter, is out to get the inside scoop for his newspaper on the heiress, Sara Farley (Gene Tierney). After he poses as an admirer in order to obtain a story of her personal side, she becomes aware of his trickery and is determined to show him what it's like being in the spotlight of public news, and she does this by announcing to a group of anxious newspapermen the fact that they are indeed married. Needless to say from hereon the newspapers take over and the plot is up and running. It is then Tom-Tom's turn to refute the statement and it gets more complicated at every turn.
I like Gene Lockhart in his role as a judge and it reminded me of his later role in "Carousel" also.
This movie is one I recently bought as part of a box set "Tyrone Power Matinée Collection" where I thought I was getting five movies but it turns out to be ten, plus more extras. It's a must-have for those who appreciate Tyrone Power's films.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935)
Fine acting and good story
Excellent - just excellent! Finally I got to view this movie and am glad I acquired the tape. I need not explain all the details of the story since others have done such a good job of it already.
Am a great fan of Claude Rains so it was interesting to see him here as a younger man and a very good actor at that.
I was really surprised about Douglass Montgomery who plays the role of young Neville Landless faultlessly, and then to see him also reappear in a secondary role halfway through the film as an elderly stranger, Dick Datcherly, who comes into town and rents a room. What struck me most about Datcherly's appearance was his mannerisms and way of speaking, the nose, the long beard - I immediately recognized a striking resemblance to Fagin, played by Alec Guinness, in "Oliver Twist" (1946), as it was identical right down to the rasping voice. I'm sure Alec G. need only have taken one look at this characterization of Datcherly and he'd have found his clue to Fagin's appearance, they are so much the same! The story moves along very well, kept my interest, no dull moments, in my opinion. I was captivated by such a fine integrated performance from all the actors. It's my kind of movie!
Captures your attention from the start
Hollywood was in the business of producing entertainment and not necessarily historical documentaries. I consider this film to be a very good action-packed movie, the kind we would expect when going to the movies on a Saturday night when we were younger. It's just great sitting through this one.
I like George Sanders in this role as he has more scope here as Richard the Lionhearted, and at least he isn't a cad or the usual bad character as in most of the other films he's done, so it's a nice change.
Laurence Harvey is just fine as Sir Kenneth, the loyal Scotsman, and portraying a Scot he displays their usual staunch reserve by nature, quite in character I thought.
Of course Rex Harrison as Saladin is the master showman here, wily and filled with crafty schemes, at the beginning he manages to work his way into his enemies' camp, in the guise of a physician sent there by Saladin to treat Richard's wound as he has been laid low by a poisoned arrow shot at him. Luckily he survives.
Lovely Virginia Mayo lights up the screen in my view with her exquisite beauty and although she doesn't have a really fulfilling role, her portrayal of Lady Edith is well done.
It's good entertainment with lots of action and should be appreciated as such. I'm glad to add it to my collection.
Escape Me Never (1947)
Surprisingly good performance by handsome Errol Flynn
I think the casting of the actors is exceptionally good and Errol Flynn's nonchalant manner fits perfectly in this story. I felt it demonstrated the lesson that we don't appreciate what we have until it is too late and is taken from us. We mustn't take love for granted.
I was particularly interested to see Albert Bassermann appearing in this film and recognized his voice immediately because of his next and last acting performance which was in the famous 1948 film "The Red Shoes" in which he had a fairly significant role - not bad for an actor nearing 80 years of age!
Ida Lupino as 'Gemma' is cast adrift after a short union in marriage which produced a son, but she must fend for herself when tragedy ends the union. She links up the Sebastian (Flynn), a musician, who also happens to have a brother that is in music too.
I like the moderate display in this production of the film, nothing overblown or showy, but just plain and simple, almost like a stage production in a way and more true to the story.
It's an excellent movie and well worth seeing.
Very fine singing in this version of Pagliacci
This DVD presentation of "Pagliacci" (1954) with Tito Gobbi as Tonio, Franco Corelli as Canio, and Mafalda Micheluzzi as Nedda, is the best version musically in my opinion and much more integrated.
Personally I think the Prologue as sung by Gobbi is a marvellous gift from heaven! Unforgettable and simply superb. In this wonderful solo he tells us that the drama, although performed by actors, is about real human beings who like everyone else have ordinary human feelings. This is opera solo music at its finest.
In Act 1, the travelling players arrive at a small village and are greeted enthusiastically by the crowds, then soon move off to the local tavern leaving Nedda alone at homebase. She daydreams of being freed from her life there, free as the birds in the sky, and sings a wonderfully inspired aria filled with joy. To me it is a special musical moment to be remembered. Present only is Tonio, the simpleminded member of the group, who has a crush on Nedda but of course she is married to Canio, the leader. Tonio forces his attentions on her, moved by the love that stirs in his heart, but she scorns him, strikes him with a whip, and he backs away humiliated, vowing vengeance. This sets the tone for much of what follows as one feels a tension in the air whenever he's around.
Silvio (Lino Puglisi) is Nedda's lover and he next appears after Tonio has left the scene. He'd like to take Nedda away with him, wanting her to leave the group, and questioning her again what her feelings are for her older husband, Canio. Surely if she doesn't love him she shouldn't stay. She hesitates then reluctantly agrees to meet Silvio after that night's performance, to run off together, and they finish the scene with exquisite singing of their love and future life together. Such beautiful music.
Canio (Franco Corelli) is the jealous husband and now arrives, but he returns only to find Nedda with Silvio so he frantically chases after him but Silvio manages to escape and not be recognized. Not knowing exactly who it is Canio roughly demands that Nedda reveal his name. She doesn't give in to him however. The day moves on and it's time to prepare for the evening's performance.
We find in Act 2 that the play onstage begins with a Serenade sung by Beppe, very nicely performed by Mario Carlin. He plays Harlequin who sings to his ladylove, Columbine (Nedda). Canio has to play the part of Pagliaccio who suddenly bursts upon the stage and Harlequin runs away. This role playing is too close to home for Canio who lapses into the real life drama that started off stage. Now he demands from Columbine (his wife Nedda) the name of her lover and there is no pretending anymore. Thereafter is the denouement to follow.
When the opera was first performed it was not highly regarded by the critics but the major tenors of the time enjoyed the Pagliacci role and that helped to keep it popular. In modern times the opinion has mellowed and it's considered a very good example of expressive artistry, a nice compliment given that it's rather a short opera compared to most others. One gets to appreciate this music more and more after some serious listening. Well recommended.
Italian opera at its best
The film "Rigoletto" is marvellous and quite electrifying, every scene is so meaningful -- high drama at its best, I call it -- and so well acted by Gobbi, a master of his craft. What a pity I've waited six decades before having the privilege of seeing it.
The main plot centres on the Duke's philandering ways and the misfortune he has brought down upon the families at court who have suffered from his escapades, in other words, no maiden is safe when the Duke is around.
Rigoletto has a lovely daughter, Gilda, that no one knows about. The Duke has been intent on secretly courting her in the disguise of a student and has entered the house. However one night she is abducted from her home while Rigoletto unwittingly aids the courtiers involved for they blindfolded him and he does not realize until too late that it was not the neighbour's house but his own house and his daughter who were targeted by the abductors. In later scenes Rigoletto plans on his revenge for injustices done but it has surprising consequences.
If you like a riveting dramatic opera, you've got it here. Don't miss it.
Follie per l'opera (1948)
Fast comedy and wonderful music
It's a fastpaced, fast talking comedy. There's such a lot of wheeling and dealing going on in this film even from the start. Guido Marchi is a journalist with the idea of raising funds for rebuilding their damaged Italian church in post-war London. He hopes to succeed and thereby persuade Uncle Carlo to allow his daughter Dora to marry him. With a bit of sleight-of-hand he obtains letterhead stationery on which to arrange agreements with a handful of world famous singers to come and give a benefit performance.
We get to see and hear Gigli, Bechi, Gobbi, Schipa, and Maria Caniglia in popular operatic arias. Guido's sweetheart Dora (Gina Lollobrigida) tries to help him but she can get jealous when he strays too far in the company of Margaret (Constance Dowling). Tito Gobbi has more acting and singing than the rest, which is always special.
At the benefit concert Gigli sings from Andre Chenier; Caniglia sings the legendary 'Casta diva' aria beautifully; Gobbi performs his great piece de resistance, the 'Prologo' from Pagliacci; and Bechi shines in the 'Toreador Song'. All very interesting and enjoyable entertainment.
A favourite singing role for the 'greats'
It's a bit late in the day for me to have discovered this fine film version of "Pagliacci" (1947), but I'm happy to have found it because I do admire Tito Gobbi in all his roles.
The versatility of Tito Gobbi is truly remarkable. He plays two characters in this very realistic version, no frills, just the real dramatic story. As Tonio he is the simpleton who harbours a great love for Nedda (Gina Lollobrigida) but unfortunately she is the wife of Canio. She also treats lowly Tonio with considerable disdain when he has declared himself to her, and she scornfully whips him at one point and then he leaves humiliated but determined on vengeance. In his secondary role, Gobbi as Silvio is the dashing, very handsome villager who is Nedda's lover and wants her to run away with him that very evening. Nedda is uncertain but promises to meet Silvio after the evening's performance. and so they ecstatically sing of a beautiful future together. They, Tito and Lola, make a handsome pair on screen in this episode but musically I prefer the Corelli/Gobbi version on DVD (1954) in which Nedda, performed by Mafalda Micheluzzi, is wonderfully inspired in her joyful singing in anticipation, truly one of those special moments to be remembered afterwards.
Afro Poli as Canio, master of the company of strolling players, is the tortured soul, and his singing is done by Masini here. It seems a bit confusing to have separate actors in all phases and separate singing voices but one gets used to it. Gobbi is however himself in all acting and singing, and a marvellous voice it is.
It is in Act 2 that we hear Beppe, tenor, dressed as Harlequin, (acted by Morucci and sung by Gino Sinimberghi), sing a Serenade to his fair Columbine, Nedda. Abruptly Canio, who plays the role of Pagliaccio, Columbine's husband, suddenly appears on the scene. Harlequin runs away, and then the real life drama overwhelms Canio as he demands Nedda reveal the name of her lover. Catastrophe follows.
This drama was actually based on a true life incident which took place in Montalto in Calabria, where the composer Ruggiero Leoncavallo's father had been a district judge. Life can be stranger than fiction at times.
The opera was first performed in Milan in 1892 and was considered a fine example of 'verismo' opera. Unfortunately, while critics down through the years were not favourably impressed, the operatic 'greats' of the day, Caruso among them, loved to sing it and this sustained its popularity. Today's critics tend to regard it in a more kindly light, as being a 'powerful work' of unusual expressive quality. It's very grand how Gobbi sings the Prologue at the beginning. To me that's the finest moment!
The Hasty Heart (1949)
Life is so much better with goodwill and friendships ...
This is a special movie and simply one of the best dramas on film when it comes to a touching heartfelt story. As others have said, there are no gimmicks or pretensions, just a very genuine story of people doing their best under the circumstances, wanting to give friendship each in their own way, and of one who doesn't know how to accept it.
I recall seeing "The Hasty Heart" as a youngster and of course didn't understand most of it yet came away inwardly moved. It is only decades later when able to view the video that I was more totally drawn into the drama, the scenes and dialog, and could appreciate the superb performances of the actors. One can readily see how it had been a fine stage play because of such excellent dialog as the scenes unfolded. Really topnotch.
There is Richard Todd as Lachie, the recuperating soldier impatient to return home after the announcement that the war has ended. However, it's doubtful he'll be going as his time is limited due to serious health failure which he is unaware of. Others in the makeshift hospital ward are encouraged to befriend him when he is brought to settle in their midst but with mixed results because of his 'standoff-ishness'. I think Reagan is very convincing in his role as the American soldier who sees things as they are, speaks his mind, and knows how to accept life.
It's a wonderful story about the meaning of friendship and I think one other film similar to it would be "The Captive Heart" (1946) with Michael Redgrave, a very heartwarming wartime drama.
A great film in my opinion dealing with the plain, unadorned human side of life.
Rigoletto e la sua tragedia (1956)
Mostly a very visual rendition, less of the magical music
I must admit to being left somewhat dissatisfied after seeing this version of "Rigoletto" as it seemed to lack music! The voices of Gobbi and del Monaco are heard sparingly enough unfortunately.
It is valuable in presenting the visual setting of the story, no question of that, but was rather patchy at times and most noticeably very short on musical moments. One is taken into the time and place of the tale, the original atmosphere, and that is useful for picturing the scenes of the opera and how it unfolds, yet one longs for the glories of singing to reveal the story.
I believe there is a 1947 "Rigoletto" with Filippesehi, Gobbi, Neri, and Pagliughi; conducted by Serafin, which can be acquired from the Bel Canto society, so I might get that if possible. Even a good CD version would have been more satisfactory. Obviously to me the drawing card is the music!
The Glass Mountain (1949)
This movie lives long in one's memory. Marvellous music too.
I too saw this film when I was a youngster and of course didn't understand most of it except that I loved the music and always remembered the main melody even after 50 years! The main attraction is the wonderful singing of Tito Gobbi, baritone, heard near the beginning when he sings the familiar theme song, with an accordion to accompany him. There's also the performance later on of the new opera "The Glass Mountain" and he is splendid in this as well.
Mostly the story revolves around a young married couple, Richard Wilder, as a music composer (Michael Denison) and his wife Anne (Dulcie Gray). In the aftermath of recuperating from a plane crash in war torn Italy Richard also meets Alida, a lovely Italian lady, and from her he learns about the legend of the Glass Mountain and seriously plans to write an opera based on it when he returns home. This opera would of course be written with his newfound friend in mind, Tito Gobbi, the baritone, as the central figure, and thank goodness for once a baritone is the hero! Let the tenors wait their next turn.
Eventually Richard must choose between a wife back home who loves him and the Italian new love who is devoted to him too. It is during the premiere of his new opera that events take a sudden turn when there's news of a plane crash in which his wife Anne was traveling in - this gives him the answer.
A very romantic film and beautiful music as well. An experience not to be missed.
Musica proibita (1942)
Love blooms, ancient family troubles, and wonderful singing by Tito Gobbi
This Italian movie, presented on VHS by the Bel Canto Society, had English subtitles so I could easily follow the story throughout. It is a very touching love story that bridges over two generations beginning from the early 1900s onwards.
It starts out with flashbacks to his younger days when Paolo (Gobbi) was studying voice but is ready to debut into a professional singing career. He is forced to work nights at a vaudeville show to pay for his lessons but looks forward to better days. He meets lovely Claretta (Maria Mercader) who also takes lessons from the maestro, and soon their romance blossoms. However, the course of true love never does run smooth.
When Paolo is invited to Claretta's home for a special occasion, her birthday, there soon develops a great deal of friction because her family, being wealthy, thinks Paolo is beneath her in the social scheme of things and is only seeking his fortune. Her meddlesome brother is intent on nipping their romance in the bud, ostensibly for family reasons, dignity, etc., and would stop at nothing to get his way, from loudly interfering in Paolo's singing performance onstage to being insulting at every turn, all of which leads to a major clash.
There are more details of course and too long to fill in all of them. The film is very steady paced with lovely intervals of Gobbi's singing included. I must admit to being a great fan of Tito Gobbi who has such a magnificent baritone voice, could listen for hours, plus fine acting skills, a very gifted singer indeed.
If you like a sincere love story and beautiful music, you can welcome into your collection this film which was a popular hit in its day. Great for Tito Gobbi fans!
So-so lighthearted movie, if you like broad comedy
Have seen the movie on video only once and doubt I'd want to see it again. It's just too painfully farcical at times for my liking. As someone says, those freaky brothers are a bit much to see, that's why I wouldn't want to endure the movie again.
Bette Grable is always beautiful, no faulting there.
I rather felt Rudy Vallee got some rough treatment in this movie and didn't have not enough opportunity to shine with his usual suavity as in other films.
Glad I saw it once but that's about it. I really prefer any other Betty G. movies than this one, sorry to say. Most are super.
The Farmer Takes a Wife (1953)
Just enjoy this lighthearted musical
It's easygoing, middle-of-the-road entertainment so no point taking it too serious or being critical. I happen to like Betty Grable films and this one is a lovely setting for her to shine in, a very photogenic lady.
Dale Robertson, as Daniel, is the farmer who finds work on the canal to pay his way so he can join a ladylove and settle down to farming in future, but plans don't always work out as intended. I feel it's a lesser role for Dale compared to other movies of his I've seen such as Golden Girl (1951) which was a very good role for him to star in.
Thelma Ritter too is a favorite of mine and here she plays the rich widow, Lucy Cashdollar, who plans on having a husband No. 6. She's beautifully dressed in all scenes, more so than I've ever seen her in other films, which of course fits her role here.
There's the usual barroom mêlées or free-for-all fights, songs sung by the lead characters, and romance where as they say, Love always finds a way. It's just charming entertainment meant for a pleasant Saturday afternoon, and is a video I like to have for cheering up when needed.
The Blue Lagoon (1949)
An unforgettable favorite movie in my younger years
I too remember seeing this film as a youngster at a local small theater that presented foreign films each week. It was the daring adventure of it all that stayed in my memory ever since.
Especially impressionable was the scene with Noel Purcell as the old seaman, Paddy, who drank too much, saw or heard apparitions and died of fright in a cave. I always kept track of Noel's career even decades later due to my seeing him then. There's also a youngish Cyril Cusack as the leering boatman, James, with designs on the lovely Jean Simmons, shown as Emmeline grown up.
Would very much like to own a video of this haunting film and refresh my memory of it. Where do I send my request?
Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)
Altruism and nobility - a long range view most cannot achieve.
This is a deeply moving story with superb acting although I didn't reach for the Kleenex. I would call it a very difficult lesson in life to be learned, about letting go of the past and thinking of present values and the future instead - reaching forward to the positive in life and releasing the past - something not everyone is prepared to do.
It is of a young couple, Elizabeth and John (Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles), who are abruptly parted by the duty of John's service in the First War. He is injured badly, and while wrapped in facial bandages in hospital he makes the decision not to notify next of kin and drop out of his young wife's life because he feels he could never be the same man again, at least to her. So he is presumed dead. Meanwhile back home she has been notified of this tragic news and manages to deal with it bravely even though she is going to have his child. Lawrence (George Brent) steps into her life to assist then eventually they marry and create a reasonably happy life together.
A weakness in the film that challenges us is that John's features were not altered so very much in the movie after his war injuries and the required facial surgery. I think more could have been done on this point to give the film greater credibility. Basically a beard was added and graying hair to camouflage his appearance but ... I mean, if you've known someone so well, it's well-nigh impossible to mistake their tone of voice or expression of the eyes ... so I had trouble getting over this shortcoming.
Twenty years later in the unfolding story it becomes indeed a razor's edge on which to tread when former wife Elizabeth again encounters John, who is now known as Erik Kessler, middle aged, graying, and has difficulty getting around. He has re-entered her life as an Austrian chemist brought to America to advise the firm which her husband operates! Small world at times, no? However, that's the story.
There is a great deal of reminiscing done by Elizabeth as she recalls touching moments from her time with John, and shows us how easy it is to look back longingly at memories of the past. But now, after nineteen years of their estrangement, reality has set in for both: Elizabeth has a family to care for, a present obligation which takes precedence, and John too has the responsibility of a young adopted daughter, Margaret (Natalie Wood).
So while every ensuing meeting brings them closer to the truth of their former relationship, it is a very thin line indeed that separates them from the possibility of true recognition of each other and the memories of bygone days. Each encounter seems to bring more remembrance that neither of them can fully accept but for different reasons.
I found the dialog most intriguing on several levels. It reminded me of the scales of Justice which are finely weighed for both sides yet never truly balanced. John, now known as the elderly Erik Kessler, talked of the future's promise that lay ahead for Elizabeth, of how she had a good life in the present and was needed by others. Here again he nobly steps aside so that she will have a more fulfilling life although he won't be part of it as he has so little to offer, or so he reasons. He points out to her that the memories of the past she holds are really of the good times and can never be recreated in the present for life has changed them both. Interestingly, it really does show us that living in the past is somehow a negative phase which never can be changed, and that we must take hold of Life in the present and look to the future where there is promise - for tomorrow is "forever", the past is "never".
This film expresses some very fine sentiments. Have ordered the book and hope to gain more by giving it a serious reading as well.
One of the best in Dickens films - a true classic.
Although I've seen the movie on TV a few times over the decades, today I received the DVD digital version of "David Copperfield", wonderfully restored, and I must admit that the subtitles were a tremendous help in catching every bit of the story.
To me Freddie Bartholomew as young David is the most moving character because as a sensitive, loving child he must endure so much injustice and heartache, what with the loss of his mother, the brutal treatment from his stepfather, and then being sent away to a workhouse, only to flee to the safety of his aunt in Dover, walking all the way by foot, in hopes of a better life to grow up in. The stark realistic atmosphere that envelops many of the episodic scenes draws one into the tale with captivating ease. I consider it even more convincing than the scenes from "Great Expectations", the version with John Mills in it.
W.C. Fields gives a remarkably sincere and fine portrayal of Mr. Macawber with all his many subtleties of speech. I couldn't picture it being performed as well by anyone else, and I think Ch. Laughton would not have been the right choice or as convincing.
I put this early film at the top of my list of great ones!
September Affair (1950)
A fine mature romance, with strings attached...
This is my first viewing so I can't start by saying it's a favorite, but with Joseph Cotten in the romantic lead and Joan Fontaine with all her charm and understanding, you really can't be far wrong to expect the best in a love story.
They meet on a plane flight, he as an untiring industrialist who has placed business and projects before his wife and son, and she as a concert pianist performing in various engagements on tour. An error in flight identity has these two fine people listed on a plane that crashed and they are mistakenly presumed dead. As their budding romance unfolds they both realize it's an opportunity for them to take hold of a new life together. That leads to complications of course, as we can expect.
I marvel at the way Joan (Manina) can reflect in her features so many subtle emotions, it's as if we can hear her unspoken words, the thoughts and agonies of a love that has many hurdles to overcome. That is great acting in my opinion.
Nightmare Alley (1947)
Walking a very thin line ...
I need not comment on the story since so many have already done so but I'd like to say that it's one of the best films I've seen to deal with the subject of basic "mentalism" and the "life beyond". It's remarkable how subtle the dialog becomes when appearing to be psychic, such as the episode with the sheriff and how convincing Ty Power becomes. It's excellent acting, I must say! He carries us along as well as his intended victim(s), with superb conviction.
However, there's a moral standard that cannot be superseded with impunity. Displaying mental gymnastics is one thing but when it falls into a code of conduct which ignores these basic human ethics and descends into self-serving action alone, it can very well spell disaster.
I was surprised by the strong performance of Joan Blondell as I'd seen her in so many films that were pleasantly entertaining, but here it was realism and unpretentious emotion.
Helen Walker seems familiar as a femme fatale; not sure if she'd ever played a good girl part in films but here she's in character and very effective too.
I've only seen this film once so will have to take it in a few more times to really appreciate the entire story. It does stay in one's thoughts long after. It's good drama, a bit raw, but at its best.
Seven Waves Away (1957)
A movie that makes you search your soul...
This was my first viewing of the film and in my humble opinion Ty Power was terrific as a dramatic actor. It really opened my eyes to his capabilities. He had what it takes to project the reality across to us, the viewers. Although I wouldn't want to be in his situation, of deciding on the fate of survivors in a lifeboat, still I felt his decisions were the best that could be done in such an extreme and dire situation. I'm sure no one would want to be in his shoes at that time.
Each actor contributed in their minor roles, - nice to see Stephen Boyd in an earlier role - Lloyd Nolan seen rather briefly, and Mai Zetterling as the nurse who was supportive throughout.
Who can say what each and everyone would be willing to decide on if confronted with the inevitable decision of life and death, or basic survival as in this case. It's certainly something to think about in quiet moments.
I found this film riveting throughout as the dialogue progressed and decisions were made, rightly or wrongly, on people's lives.
It's a remarkably realistic revelation of human nature at its best and worse. A "must see" for those interested in drama, and particularly in Ty Power's development as a serious performer. Well recommended.