#FeministClassics: ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’

I first saw this film as a teenager. I wasn’t super excited when my dad pitched this movie to me. I had seen Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and though I had liked both of them, I found them to be fairly male oriented films. The female characters seemed secondary. My dad countered, telling me that it wasn’t really Scorsese’s film. It was Actress Ellen Burstyn’s.

alice doesn't.gif

Ellen Burstyn had just finished making a little picture called The Exorcist and after seeing dailies, Warner Brothers told Burstyn they wanted to make another picture with her. They sent her several scripts, but in each of them, the woman wasn’t the protagonist. Her agent found the script for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Burstyn ended up bringing everyone on board, from producers to Director Martin Scorsese.

If you’re not familiar, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore follows Alice (Ellen Burstyn), a woman in her mid-thirties whose semi-neglectful husband dies suddenly. This leaves Alice with no money and her eleven year-old smart ass son, Tommy (Alfred Lutter III), to take care of. She decides to get back to Monterey, California, where she grew up. But since she has very little money, she stops along the way to save up, meets a couple of men, makes a few mistakes, and in the process finds out who she is and what she wants.

Here are just a few reasons Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a feminist classic:

The Cast

As I mentioned, this film belongs to Ellen Burstyn. She really was the driving force behind getting it made and in watching her performance, you can see she put a lot of her personal experiences into it. Also, she won the Oscar that year, though she wasn’t there to accept the award. Since she was in a Broadway show at the time, Scorsese accepted the award on her behalf, thanking everyone she had to told him to thank, including himself.

Alfred Lutter III made his feature debut in this film playing Burstyn’s eleven year-old son, Tommy. I’ve talked about him once before in my post on The Bad News Bears. He was only in four films before he retired from acting at the age of fifteen. Still, Lutter made quite the impression, in this film especially. He seemed like a real kid and he could be both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.

Funny side story: On the drive to set one day, Martin Scorsese was riding with Alfred. Alfred told Marty a story over and over, asking if he understood. By the time they got to set, Marty was completely annoyed but also thought it was hilarious – so much so that he put it in the movie (seen in the gif below).

shoot the dog.gif
Poor Ellen Burstyn. #IStillDontUnderstandThisStory

Kris Kristofferson was relatively new to film when he played David, Burstyn’s love interest. Scorsese tried to put him at ease, telling him to ignore the script and say the lines in the way that felt most natural to him. He was understated and (even with that crazy beard) incredibly sexy. You just can’t NOT like him.

what the hell do you want?.gif
A man’s MAN if I ever saw one. #SWOON

Harvey Keitel wasn’t in much of the film, but he certainly made an impression during his few scenes. Keitel played a man Alice meets while working as a singer, but he reveals himself to be CRAY. When I first saw this film, he scared the shit out of me. He still kinda does…

don't tell me what to do.gif
Keitel is TERRIFYING, amiright?

Diane Ladd was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Alice’s co-worker, Flo. When her character is first shown onscreen, she kind of seems like a bitch. The best part is that Flo and Alice’s relationship very organically becomes a friendship and their scenes together maybe mean more than Alice’s scenes with David.

diane ladd.gif
That hair THOUGH. #1970sStyle

Special mentions:

Two young, very talented actresses. The first is a twelve year-old Jodie Foster. She played Audrey, Tommy’s friend. As with Keitel, her part is not a big one, but she makes a major impression.

weird.gif
Oh, the 70’s…#shorthairdontcare

The second is actress Laura Dern, who was just seven years-old. She, of course, is Diane Ladd’s daughter and so, was in a scene in the diner, eating an ice cream cone.

CkGkKhnWsAAjd1Q.jpg
Does your eye spy little Laura Dern?

The Script

The script was written by Robert Getchell, who also wrote Mommie Dearest and This Boy’s Life. This is where the feminist aspect comes in. Although, of course, Robert Getchell is a man, this story was told from a female point of view. It was making a statement about what it was like to be a woman at that time and exploring how we define our happiness as human beings.

There was a major controversy over how to end the film. Burstyn believed the film was about Alice standing on her own two feet without a man by her side. The studio wanted David and Alice to get married at the end. They needed to find a compromise. So, Kris said, “Jeez, if he loves this girl – if I did – I’d just say pack your fuckin’ bags. I’ll go with you” (Kristofferson, Second Chances Doc). I  actually really loved the ending because it wasn’t saying that you needed a man to make you happy. Alice stood up for the things she wanted and she ended up getting all of them, including David.

don't give a damn.gif
Her face THOUGH. 

The Direction

Even though Scorsese was a hired hand on this film, he made it his own. He told Burstyn from the get-go that he didn’t know much about women, but that he was eager to learn. He was only 34 years old when he directed the film, but already he was experienced. He had already made Mean Streets, which is what got him the meeting with Burstyn in the first place and as my dad reminded me, he was an assistant director on Woodstock.

It was Scorsese’s idea to start the film with a semi-fantasy sequence which was shot on the old Colombia Pictures lot. It was weird and interesting and kind of gritty, much like the film itself. As a film buff himself, Scorsese saw the film as a Joan Crawford or Bette Davis vehicle. Without his direction, I believe the film would have been more of just a straight melodrama. He added humor, sensitivity and humanity to the story.

tumblr_nlc016N0NO1rovfcgo1_1280.jpg
Scorsese on set with Burstyn and Kristofferson

It’s funny, sad, and brilliant in its simplicity.

At its core, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is about human beings – all imperfect, all trying to figure out what’s going to make them happy. Beyond the style and music, the film hasn’t aged a day and I think that’s ultimately because it’s about human beings. It’s not a big story, but it hits on an emotional level. Burstyn’s contributions were major – she wanted to make sure this film was told through the eyes of a woman.

The film went on to be adapted to a very successful tv sitcom which ran from 1976-1985. With great performances and a legendary director, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is well worth the watch. IMHO, it’s a film which doesn’t get praised often enough, probably because Scorsese has gone on to direct so many classics.

My challenge to you: watch the film and try to tell the “Shoot the Dog” story to someone. I don’t know why. That just sounds fun.

I understand it.gif
I feel so bad for Alice here…

Vintage trailer below:

Advertisements

‘Baby It’s You’: A Forgotten Classic

I’m gonna be honest. Ninety percent of why I’m writing this post is because of my dad. Since I’ve been highlighting forgotten films, my dad has been hardcore campaigning for me to write about this movie since it’s one of his favorites. Personally, it’s not one of mine so you won’t hear me “fangirling” in this one. However, even though it’s not my cup of tea, this film definitely fits in with the other films I’ve covered in this blog. It’s romance. It’s high school. It’s a period piece.

If you’re not familiar, Baby it’s you, written and directed by John Sayles, takes place in the 1960’s and follows Jill Rosen (Rosanna Arquette) and Albert ‘Sheik’ Capadilupo (Vincent Spano), a young, slightly unorthodox couple in high school. It’s not a new premise: they come from different worlds. She has money. He doesn’t. She’s popular. He’s an outcast. Their romance isn’t exactly an obvious match to the rest of the world. And with Jill’s transition to college, the relationship certainly has some growing pains! It’s DRAMATIC.

we're good together.gif
DRAMAAAAAA. #IntenseAF

Here are just a few reasons you should watch Baby It’s You:

The Actors

When Rosanna Arquette was in Baby It’s You, she was just 24 years old. She had been in a few films before, but this was her first real starring role. And it shows in the best possible way! She’s natural, bubbly, and genuine as Jill.

Vincent Spano, funnily enough, was younger than Arquette. He was just 21 years old when he stepped in the Sheik’s shoes and similarly to Arquette, it showed. In essence, both of these young actors had something to prove and it’s easy to see, they put everything they had into this film.

too fuckin good for me.gif
I just want to say I never had a fight like this in high school. The sixties were a bit MELODRAMATIC.

The Time Period

I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for period pieces. Probably one reason my dad loves it. This is when he grew up and where he grew up: New Jersey, 1960s. I think because of that it scratches a specific itch he has, the nostalgia he has for his childhood. Certainly, Sayles knew that world well. He also grew up in that period, though he was in Schenectady, New York. The time and place are like a character in the film, the details are specific and all-encompassing.

baby it's you.gif
Do me a favor – play “Baby it’s You” by The Shirelles when you watch this. Makes ALL the difference. 

The Music

Sayles apparently had to work hard to get Paramount to let him score the film with classic rock songs. Luckily, it was one battle he ended up winning. To me, this is one of the film’s greatest strengths. I kind of feel like music-wise, I belong in the 60’s FO-REAL. Listen to this piece and bask in its awesomeness.

The Script

John Sayles wrote the script which was based on Producer Amy Robinson’s upbringing. Though there are other films of this kind which I think cover this ground (teenage romance) better than this one, there is a sincerity to the way this story is told that makes it stand out.

In relationships, there’s usually one person that holds on a little harder than the other. The Sheik is definitely that person. Whereas for Jill, he’s simply a high school boyfriend, the Sheik thinks their relationship has a future. Funnily enough, it’s not until they both face those facts that I think Jill really treats him like a person. By the end of the film, they’ve both matured and are able to treat each other with respect.

i'm not in love with you.gif
The truth hurts. #RealTalk

The Direction

This was not an independent film. In fact, it was Sayles’ first studio film. He didn’t particularly like the loss of control, especially in regards to the ending. Sayles won the fight to keep the rather downtrodden ending that he wanted, but the studio retaliated by only half-heartedly publicizing the film.

Still, with all that going on behind the scenes, Sayles made a film that would now only be made as an indie. It’s quiet and reserved and thoughtful. He brought the best out of his young cast and made a film that wasn’t scared to have complex characters, who were more than a stereotype.

best looking guy.gif
#Maturity

It’s nostalgic and truthful

While I still wasn’t deeply affected by this film the second time around, I appreciate the fact that it was made by people that obviously cared. The actors cared, the producers cared and their director cared. It’s not my favorite film but it is one that deserves to be remembered and highlighted. There, dad. You happy?

Also, shout out to my Jew girls out there!

Jewish girls.gif
Stereotypes, man. 

Vintage trailer below:

 

Why ‘Short Term 12’ is a Modern Classic

At the first TCM Film Festival, back in 2010, I think it’s safe to say my brothers and I were the youngest people there. We cornered Ben Mankiewicz (just kidding – he loved talking to us!) and asked him if he thought good movies were still being made today. We were trying to settle an argument in which my dad had asserted that most movies made after 1990 were of mediocre quality. Ben laughed and told us that of course, good movies were still being made. He said that whether it was 1940 or 2010, there are good movies and there are bad movies. No time is perfect. Short Term 12, made in 2013, is a perfect example for anyone who thinks that new movies are all crap.

I remember very distinctly seeing the trailer for this movie and saying, “Ooh, Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr!” Yes, I was literally seeing it because of the stars. I never thought it would become one of my favorite movies, but it did. When it came out in Los Angeles, I dragged my roommate to see it with me. We were two of four people in the theater…mind you, it was a week day, but still…

200-5.gif
Brie is EVERYTHING

It was one of those experiences you have where you come out of the theater and can’t believe something that amazing exists, something that touches you on such a deep level and is actually about an important issue. I was in awe of this film and so, went back to see it in theaters multiple times, each time dragging a new person with me. I was a little obsessive.

If you’ve never seen the film, here’s the 411: Short Term 12 follows a group of line staff at a short-term care center for foster kids. The place is essentially a halfway house – as Brie says in the film, “they just keep them [the kids] until the state figures out where they’re gonna go next” (Cretton). Brie’s character, Grace, is leader of the line staff. She’s a girl who has a few demons of her own. She takes her job very seriously and when they take in a new girl, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), Grace is forced to face those demons. And of course, that complicates her relationship with her boyfriend and fellow line staff member, Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) and drama ensues!

200.gif
#drama

So, even though this blog is dedicated almost exclusively to older films, I wanted to take a minute and talk about this film because it is already a classic. And here are a few reasons why:

The Cast

Obviously, Brie Larson won the Oscar this past year for her performance in Room, (which is also great), but I believe her performance in Short Term 12 was just as Oscar worthy. I remember hearing a story about James Cagney in which he gave advice on acting. He said, “You walk in, plant yourself, look the other fella in the eye, and tell the truth” (Cagney). Brie Larson, whether she’s heard that advice or not, reflects that ideal in this film. She’s so genuine in every moment. This movie would be worth watching just for her performance which is subtle, relatable, and heartbreaking.

200-2.gif
I think she pulls off this look pretty well…

John Gallagher Jr. is also wonderful as Mason. I’ve been a fan of John since he was in the original cast of Spring Awakening on Broadway. And then, of course, he was on The Newsroom, a show which I worship in a god-like way. He shares that same verisimilitude that Brie has. In every moment of everything I’ve seen him in, there’s never been one false moment. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to fall in love with him, in The Newsroom and in Short Term 12. Plus, he’s hilarious!

tumblr_n2e80y9YY81qe0fxmo2_r2_500.gif
Be still my beating Newsroom-loving heart…

Kaitlyn Dever was quite the discovery as Jayden, the new girl with an attitude problem. It’s easy when you first see her on screen to put her in a box, but she’s got layers upon layers and took her big emotional moments in the film and played them with subtlety. I’m sure we’re going to see great things from her.

tumblr_na3l6dQ0KQ1sem6jqo4_250.gif
Love the eyeliner action.

Keith Stanfield had been in the original short that Director Destin Cretton made on the subject. He shines as Marcus, a quiet, smart, but insecure kid who’s about to turn eighteen, and thus, be thrown out into the real world, with no one to help him. He wrote original raps for the film and they are heart-wrenching and powerful.

tumblr_mz0cwv3a3L1qaywulo1_500.gif
Powerful words, no?

Finally, Rami Malek (who, of course now, has had great success with USA’s Mr. Robot) is great as the newest line staff member, Nate. His part may be small, but he makes the most of it and actually has some of the funniest moments in the film.

tumblr_nv3en0DNf71qes2tno1_540.gif
A slightly different character than he plays in Mr. Robot…

The Screenplay

Destin Daniel Cretton first made a short about this subject and then decided to expand it into a feature. He based on his time working in residential foster care. As such, there’s a weight to it beyond just being an entertaining story. He obviously wanted to tell this story because his experiences and what he observed were close to his heart. His story is what all great stories are about: human beings. Flawed as the characters might be, they’re completely relatable and feel true.

As a writer, his screenplay is truly inspiring to me.

tumblr_nqme1xb4J01uuyydfo1_400.gif
#HeartBreaking

The Music 

The original score for Short Term 12 was written by Joel P. West, who’s only just now, starting to garner some attention. To me, his music is vital to the film. It almost feels like another character. It’s subtle and somehow fits these people and their journeys perfectly.

As I mentioned, though, Keith Stanfield wrote some raps for the film and they are incredible. This one, especially:

The Cinematography

Brett Pawlak served as DP on the film and the results are incredible. This also goes hand in hand with the direction of the film. There’s a scene where Jayden is waiting to be picked up, listening to a song on headphones. Cretton and Pawlak do such a great job of making you feel like you’re in her head, going through it along with her.

tumblr_n5ojrzaXkQ1rsyukao1_500-1.gif
When she looks up THOUGH

It’s heartfelt and deeply moving

This movie left an impression on me. It’s special because it’s not exploitative. It’s coming from the heart and you can tell. Some people, like my dad, have a bias against new films simply because they’re new. And mind you, I think there are a lot of bad movies being made today. But, this movie is a reminder that a good story is a good story, no matter when it’s made. Cretton established himself as a filmmaker interested in characters and I can’t wait to see his next film!

 

tumblr_inline_n8kzpnxcHm1ror6v2.gif
Great line.

Watch the trailer below. The film is available to stream on Netflix. 😍

 

The Genius of Natalie Wood in ‘Splendor in the Grass’

I’ve discussed Natalie Wood once before on this blog in my post about West Side Story. Natalie was given the role of Maria based on the film I want to discuss today, Splendor in the Grass. Even more than West Side Story, Natalie Wood’s performance in this film affected me profoundly.

6yTFKj.gif
This scene THOUGH. #ImNotCryingYoureCrying

I first saw this film in high school. So, of course, it struck a cord with me since I was in that stage where obsessing over a guy was eh, extremely common. Crushes felt like life or death situations. Thus, I immediately felt a kinship to Natalie Wood’s Deannie, a girl who felt stuck between following her heart and making her parents proud. She wanted to be the good girl her parents believed her to be, but also would do anything to keep Bud Stamper interested.

If you’re unfamiliar with the film, here’s my short synopsis. Splendor in the Grass, made in 1961, follows Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty) and Deannie Loomis (Natalie Wood) in 1920s Kansas. They’re teenagers in love for the first time. But, they have one overwhelming obstacle: sex. While both of them are ready and willing to give that part of themselves to the other, they’re both fed poor advice by their parents and so, end up breaking up. Deannie doesn’t handle it well. In fact, she has a nervous breakdown. And of course, drama ensues.

Here are a few reasons Splendor in the Grass is a classic film staple:

Natalie Wood

Without Natalie Wood, this film would be only moderately interesting. She was 23 when she starred in this film, but was already a seasoned actress. She had been in the business since she was five years old. Still, Splendor in the Grass was really her foray into adult roles. And though she was young, her talent was clear. She had something inside her. Her vulnerabilities and emotions were out for everyone to see and that’s especially true in this film. Her range as an actress was clear – she was interested in characters and wanted desperately to be taken seriously as an actress.

200-11.gif
I mean, Felicity wasn’t the first girl to cut her hair after a breakup…

Warren Beatty

Beatty made his feature film debut in this film. William Inge, the writer, had cast him in a play a few years earlier, and so when Splendor in the Grass came along, he’s who Inge first thought of. Beatty and Wood apparently had an affair on the project, which Elia Kazan (the director) only encouraged, believing it would only make their love scenes better. Beatty was given this chance and it catapulted him to stardom overnight. There’s no doubt that he was very attractive, but like Wood, he had a certain X factor which made him a star. His intensity with his father and with Wood in the film is palpable.

200-9.gif
He definitely could have been like a hunky football player or something, amiright?

The Supporting Cast

Kazan and Inge knew how important the supporting players were and chose well, casting Pat Hingle as Bud’s father and Audrey Christie as Deannie’s mother. He also cast Barbara Loden as Bud’s wild sister, Ginny. They all brought gusto to their roles and Barbara Loden actually ended up becoming Mrs. Kazan a few years later. Loden also went on to write and direct Wanda in 1970, a raw film which was completely from the female point of view!

tumblr_ms1wrpYdXT1r2igv7o5_250.gif
A woman doesn’t enjoy sex. Just a male thing….obviously. #1920s

The Screenplay

The screenplay was written by the famous playwright and author, William Inge. His other film credits include Bus Stop, Picnic, and All Fall Down. Inge and Kazan worked together on a play and wanted to find another project to collaborate on. Inge told Kazan about an idea he had based on people he knew growing up in Kansas. Inge first wrote the book and then adapted it into a screenplay.

As a story, the film reminds me of a musical from a few years back: Spring Awakening. While Spring Awakening took place in the 1890’s, both stories were essentially about the same thing – society presenting misinformation and prudishness regarding sex. The conflict in Splendor in the Grass comes regarding a young couple’s inability to be together without sex being a factor.

tumblr_mwsw6vLj8G1qlh0bno7_400.gif
Aw, Spring Awakening…

Deannie’s mother tells her sex is not something a woman does because she wants to. A “good girl” doesn’t have those feelings, her mother tells her. Conversely, Bud’s father understands his son’s sexual urges and tells him to find solace in another kind of a girl. When Bud dumps Deannie, she goes mad, unable to eat, sleep, or find meaning in her life.

200-8.gif
This bath scene seriously is frightening…

The Score

Splendor in the Grass’s score was composed by David Amram who’s also known for his score for The Manchurian Candidate. His score is sweeping, melancholy, and somehow reflective of the 1920’s.

The Cinematography

Boris Kaufman, who also shot On the Waterfront and 12 Angry Men shot the film beautifully, with rich color and fascinating close ups.

tumblr_ms1wrpYdXT1r2igv7o7_250.gif
I don’t think she’s alright. #NervousBreakdown

The Direction

This is the biggy. Elia Kazan, known for many other films including On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire, knew how to get the best performances out of his actors. Natalie Wood, who was famously afraid of water, had apprehension even about shooting the bathtub scene. Kazan told her that he would focus the camera on Christie and just get reaction shots. This got Wood upset and thus, she shot the scene in one take and it may be her strongest scene in anything she ever did.

Kazan said “It’s not my favorite of my films, but the last reel is my favorite last reel, at once the saddest and the happiest…What I like about this ending is its bittersweet ambivalence, full of what Bill had learned from his own life; that you have to accept limited happiness, because all happiness is limited, and that to expect perfection is the most neurotic thing of all; you must live with the sadness as well as with the joy” (Kazan, TCM Article).

tumblr_oa774n7mvV1rce5tlo1_1280.jpg
Kazan on set with Beatty and Wood

Those Random things…

Trivia tidbit – Natalie Wood and husband Robert Wagner named their boat the Splendour after the film. It was that boat that Natalie fell off in 1981, drowning.

I came across this video of Robert Redford discussing Natalie Wood and just thought it was too good not to share. It gives you a view into who Natalie was as a person, separate from her on-screen persona.

I love this film because it’s honest. It’s about idealistic love and the idea that life doesn’t work out the way you think it will. It’s also commenting on a time period where sex was very much a taboo thing. At that time, there was no sex education. As such, their was a stigma with sex before marriage. There were no open lines of communication.

The last scene in the film, there’s a lot that’s left unsaid. But, it doesn’t need to be. Natalie Wood, with just a glance, could express everything she was feeling. And thus, her performance makes this film what it is: a true classic.

Plus, it’s just fun to watch the crazy parents give their awful advice which ends up messing everything up!

Vintage trailer below:

 

The Genius of Robert Redford and ‘Ordinary People’

Robert Redford, renowned Actor, Producer and Director, celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday. In honor of his birthday, I thought I’d discuss one of my all time favorite films, the wonderful 1980 family drama Ordinary People.

I first saw the film in high school right smack dab in the middle of teen angst. While I had never dealt with anything close to what this family was dealing with, I deeply related to Timothy Hutton’s Conrad. I remember being so emotional after my first viewing of the film that I had to excuse myself, embarrassed that I was crying.

If you’ve never seen Ordinary People, the film follows an upper class suburban family dealing with the aftermath of an accident which left the eldest brother dead. For Conrad (Timothy Hutton), it’s especially hard – he was with his brother during the fatal boating accident. After leaving the hospital (where he stayed after he attempted suicide) , his parents Calvin (Donald Sutherland) and Beth (Mary Tyler-Moore) try desperately to pretend they’re just an ordinary family. More than anyone, Beth has trouble expressing her emotions as well as any affection towards the only son she’s got left.

6357438255444021612006191632_tumblr_myuirqKVUD1r1ult6o1_500.gif
Awk…ward

Here are just a few reasons Ordinary People is a classic film staple:

The Cast

The cast makes this film what it is. Don’t get me wrong; it has many other strengths. However, without this cast, none of it would work.

Timothy Hutton was just 19 and if you can believe it, Ordinary People marked his first role in a film. And what a debut it was – Hutton was real, honest, raw. Perhaps, it was precisely because he was new that his performance was so natural. He’s one of the major reasons I fell in love with the film. He reminded me of another great actor, Logan Lerman. Hutton’s performance specifically made me think of Lerman’s performance in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. What can I say? I like emotional men…

Hutton won the Oscar that year for Best Supporting Actor…

let me feel bad.gif
A good looking man, no?

Judd Hirsch was also wonderful as Berger, Conrad’s therapist. Redford had seen him in Taxi and thought his rapid-fire way of talking would be perfect for Dr. Berger, as he’s supposed to be a little nutty or off kilter. Hirsch looked back at the film for EW’s anniversary piece, saying, “The only person I hung out with was Timothy. He was so young and green and had just lost his father [the actor Jim Hutton] a few months earlier” (EW).

you're alive.gif
Hirsch telling it like it is…

Mary Tyler-Moore played Beth, Conrad’s mother. This was quite the departure for her as she was known for playing upbeat, positive characters – specifically in the enormously popular sitcoms The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler-Moore show. With this film, Redford sought to explore Mary Tyler-Moore’s dark side. And her performance is fantastic, complex and subtle.

x950.jpg
A complex character to be sure…

Donald Sutherland played Beth’s husband and Conrad’s father, Calvin. Originally Redford wanted to see him for the role of Dr. Berger, but Sutherland convinced him he should play the husband. Sutherland’s Calvin is the parent really looking out for Conrad – he spends much of the film worried and trying to appease Beth, who believes they shouldn’t talk about any of their problems. He plays another great father in Pride and Prejudice so one could say, this film was just the start of this “type.”

you can't handle mess.gif
Quiet and reserved, but completely powerful

Elizabeth McGovern played Conrad’s romantic interest, Janneane Pratt. She was just about to start at Juliard, but Redford begged her to wait a few weeks. The film is certainly not hers, but her limited role gave her a chance to shine.

ashamed of.gif
Love that late 70s, early 80s hair…

The Screenplay

The film was based on a novel by Judith Guest. In the same EW article I mentioned, Judith spoke about the adaptation process, saying, “Ordinary People was my first book, and I was just thrilled that Viking was going to publish it. Then Redford called one day. I have a couple of brothers who are a bunch of jokesters, so when I got this call saying, “Hi, Judy, this is Robert Redford,” I said, “Yeah, sure it is.” I’m sure he gets that all the time. He just said, calmly, “No, it really is” (Guest, EW).

Alvin Sargent, who also wrote Paper Moon and Streisand’s A Star is Born, adapted Guest’s novel for the screen. Redford apparently sent Guest many drafts, asking her advice and giving her permission to criticize whatever she liked.

To me, the film is about loneliness and tragedy and the struggle to live through the worst moments in our lives. It’s also about understanding one another. Every character in the film is given depth, their own reasons for looking at the world the way they do. No one is a villain – they’re just imperfect people.

The plot in this film is small. It’s a character story. That starts at the script stage…and considering Sargent won an Oscar for his adaptation, I’d say he did pretty well.

The Direction

This is what it’s all about. Ordinary People was Robert Redford’s directorial debut. Funnily enough, Redford didn’t win any Oscars for his esteemed acting career. He, of course, won for directing Ordinary People and it is well deserved. The film is sensitive and unbelievably moving and that’s really because Redford believed in it. He put so much into it. For all aspiring directors out there, this is certainly one to watch.

It’s cathartic, superbly well-acted, and incredibly impactful.

Whenever a movie hits in such a big way, we wonder how it happened. And of course, the movie studios, try to replicate it. Success, many of them believe is just an equation. This element + this element = a great film. Unfortunately, in this medium, that’s not how it works. When a film works, it’s like lighting in a bottle. You have no idea how it happened – it just did. All you can do is appreciate it.

As an aspiring screenwriter and an avid movie-watcher, what I take away from the film is that caring is the key. You can’t watch this film and not see the love and sweat that went into getting it made. Studios didn’t want to make it at the time, believing it wasn’t commercial enough.

Ordinary People, to me, is an encouragement that little films, emotional films, films focused on characters, can also be successful. Redford, of course, founded The Sundance Institute to help fund independent films. And when you consider what this film was up against in the 1981 Oscars (Raging Bull and The Elephant Man), it’s an incredible statement that the film took home the Best Picture Oscar.

Vintage trailer below. Get ready for emotions you didn’t even know you had…😭

Why ‘The Story of Adele H’ is worth the subtitles

There’s a portion (okay, maybe most) of the film that’s in French, but don’t let that discourage you: The Story of Adele H is totally worth the subtitles.

I first saw this film in my early teens. I had seen a few other Truffaut films at the time – The 400 Blows, Antoine and Colette, Jules and Jim. The major reason I fell in love with The Story of Adele H was because it was about unrequited love…and I was in THAT phase – you know the one – where tragedy and loss of love you just can’t help but romanticize. Well, that was me.

tumblr_lzxqw4MKqX1qzjzyyo1_r2_500.gif
Ah, Adele, hate to break it to you, but he’s just not that into you…

Directed by the renowned French filmmaker Francois Truffaut, it’s based on the true story of Adele Hugo, the daughter of Les Miserables author Victor Hugo. The film follows Adele, who’s in love with an officer, and adores him so much that she gives up her life in France and follows him to Canada. Some light stalking occurs really…well, more than light.

If you’ve never seen the madness that is The Story of Adele H, here are just a few reasons I love it:

The Cast

The film is based on Adele Hugo’s diaries. In actuality, Adele was in her thirties when she went through everything. However, Truffaut decided to cast Isabelle Adjani who was just twenty. Still, whether it’s historically accurate or not, Adjani’s performance makes the film. She’s beautiful and vulnerable and relatable and heartbreaking. Also, she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance…which she totally deserved IMHO.

tumblr_m3zersu9Jw1r7o1ruo1_500.gif
Her costumes are EPIC.

Bruce Robinson plays Lt. Pinson, the man Adele gives up everything for. He’s aloof and handsome…everything Pinson needs to be.

tumblr_nkb9xsGNTW1rrjqbqo4_400.gif
Pretty handsome guy. #youcankindofseewhyAdelewasobsessed

 

The Script

The very nuanced script was written by Truffaut and, of course, adapted from Adele’s journal. The script trails her delusions and complete descent into madness. It’s truly a heartbreaking film, partly because you know it’s based on a real person.

However, there is a truth in the film – we, as human beings, tend to pick a person and then put them on some imaginary pedestal whereby they are the only person we could possibly love. It almost doesn’t matter if they don’t like you back. They are secondary to the person we’ve imagined in our heads.

The film is about obsession. You can’t even blame Pinson completely. Think about it: If you were him, would you want to be with someone who was SO desperate to be with you? Although, I will say, Adjani is so beautiful that it stretches believability that anyone would refuse her. #OnlyInTheMovies

HugoA ombrella.jpg
The Real Adele Hugo

Some great lines too:

imgres.jpg
#RelationshipGoals…maybe, maybe not?

The Direction

This may seem like somewhat of a repeat as I’m just going to sing Truffaut’s praises…again. But, directing is a different skill than writing, a different muscle. The film flows in a really interesting way. It’s quiet – it’s not an epic by any stretch of the imagination. However, his strength comes in eliciting Adjani’s strong performance. He once said of her, “She acts as though as her life depended on it” (Pop Matters Review).

tumblr_nyeqwmDQOy1ujgq8ro1_1280.jpg
Isabelle Adjani and Truffaut on set

The Cinematography

Néstor Almendros shot Adele H and the results are stunning. There’s something about the colors. The film is dark and at the same time, almost pale, like Adele’s face at the end of the film, drained of color.

tumblr_m7fun1tzrc1qmvm5no1_500.gif
Desperate much?
tumblr_mvnqnuuf0s1rertyro1_500.gif
But are you? #Delusions

The Creation of the Time Period

Usually, I wouldn’t mention this, but when you look at the artistry that went into creating 19th century Nova Scotia, it really is awe inspiring. The detail of the costumes and the setting is incredible.

Director Martin Scorsese once spoke about the costuming for his film, The Age of Innocence, saying that he specifically made sure the costumes weren’t perfect. In period pieces, the people almost tend to look like statues, not a hair or a button out of place.

I believe Truffaut’s Adele H follows Scorsese’s rule. The time period is believable precisely because it is not perfect.

tumblr_m15s6pQnPX1ro2c2ro4_250.gif
Just look at her hair …#GirlsIn19thCenturyHadHairProblemsToo

It’s Moody, Thought Provoking and Just Plain Fun

The film is moody. We are put so completely into Adele’s head that you almost feel like you are going mad yourself. Even though Adele lived in the 19th century and by all accounts, she was certifiably cray, she’s still intensely relatable – and not just if you’re a teenage girl in her romanticizing impossible love phase.

tumblr_npi2xkZzsT1qbi3zpo1_1280.jpg
Not completely out of line IMHO.

Most of the time, you just want to tell her, “Adele, he’s just not that into you.” But, alas, it’s hard to give advice to movie characters.

Vintage trailer below:

 

‘Young and Innocent’: Hitchcock’s Most Obscure Masterpiece

This past Saturday marked the 117th birthday of legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. The occasion made me think of one of my favorite Hitchcock films, Young and Innocent, or as it’s also known, The Girl Was Young. It was one of his early British films, which he made in between The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes! 

youngandinnocent1.jpg
Nova Pilbeam and Derrick De Marney in Young and Innocent

It’s not one of the acclaimed Hitchcock films you’ll see on those lists of the best movies ever made. It is a quiet film, one which was made on the cheap (Hitch used lots of set-models in this one) and which is not perfect by any means. Still, it’s immensely enjoyable due in large part to its charming leads.

If you’ve never seen Young and Innocent, here’s my quick synopsis. Nova Pilbeam plays Erica, a policeman’s daughter who befriends an escaped convict. Her co-star, the escaped convict, Robert Driscoll, was played by the handsome and witty, Derrick De Marney. Driscoll is accused of murdering a famous film actress and with the evidence stacked against him, he runs away. Erica ends up helping him, first reluctantly – then, because she believes in his innocence…and y’know, ends up falling in love with him.

Here are just a few reasons Young and Innocent is a Hitchcock staple:

The Cast

Nova Pilbeam is a revelation in this film. She was only eighteen at the time, but she projected supreme confidence and poise beyond her years. She’s also a kick-ass feminist heroine, using razor-sharp quips as her weapons.

Pilbeam was a famous child actress who also starred in Hitchcock’s original British The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1934. Although, she didn’t star in much after this film – she retired in the 1940’s – it’s easy to recognize her deep talent. She had an expressive face and personality. Her performance in this film is memorizing.

Also, how great is her name? Just imagine introducing yourself as Nova Pilbeam. Talk about original.

 

Who's that?.gif
Meet-cute time. 

Similarly, Derrick De Marney is also ridiculously likeable in this film. The way he looks at Pilbeam should make any girl swoon. Or, I should say, it makes THIS girl swoon. Robert is witty and snarky, but sweet and he makes it clear early on, that he’ll do anything for Pilbeam’s Erica.

anywhere you like.gif
#SWOON

The Script

The script was adapted from a mystery novel called A Shilling for Candles which was written by Josephine Tay. Several writers worked on the script including Charles Bennett, Edwin Greenwood, Anthony Armstrong, Gerald Savory and Hitchcock’s wife, Alma Reville. Still, with so many cooks, the script turned out quite strong. It was curt and to the point, while still having wonderful, snappy dialogue.

cars with detectives.gif
Erica’s one tough broad…#WittyGirl

The cinematography

One of Hitchcock’s greatest strengths was in knowing how to tell a story visually. Since he started in the days of silent films, he was used to it. Thus, his shots were more dynamic. He was interested in putting you in the character’s shoes – small looks where decisions were being made. He teamed with cinematographer Bernard Knowles on Young and Innocent, who also shot The 39 Steps.

intense close up.gif
Such an expressive face Ms. Pilbeam had…

Additionally, I think Hitchcock’s use of models was very interesting. He believed that whether the setting was “real” or not was of little importance. If the audience believed in the characters and the plot, then what did it matter?

model.gif
Real people in that car? I don’t think so…

BONUS: If you’re at all interested in Hitchcock, I think you’ll find this clip interesting. In it, he discusses visual storytelling and it’s fascinating.

 

The Romance

The romance is really the center of this film, although, of course, it’s all implied. The chemistry of Pilbeam and De Marney carries the film, even though shooting it wasn’t always so easy. Hitchcock wanted the scenes to be fast and he would apparently time them. Also, it was Pilbeam’s first romantic role.

hug in the shadows.gif
THIS SCENE THOUGH. #HeartSwelling

It’s frothy, light, suspenseful fun

Nova Pilbeam, who passed away only last year, was interviewed in 1990. She recalled seeing the film in a theater with her daughter years after she made it, saying, “What amazed me was that, firstly, the cinema was full and, secondly, it was full of young people. I would have thought that “Young and Innocent” was a very dated film, yet they seemed to find it fascinating” (Pilbeam). Great films and performances are never old. The same goes for Hitchcock himself. His films will surely be remembered as long as cinema is alive.

florence nightingale.gif
Light and frothy fun…

The film is now in the public domain and as such, is available to watch on Youtube for free. I found one that is wonderful quality. Enjoy the film and let me know what you think of it in the comments!

 

P.S.  – If you’re looking for Hitch’s cameo….

I spy.gif
I spy…

Happy birthday, Hitch! 🎉

The Weight of ‘A Place in the Sun’

I didn’t always like A Place in the Sun. In fact, I pretty adamantly hated it. I still remember the first time I saw it. I turned to my dad after the film ended and said, “That’s it?” He nodded, “Yep, that’s it.” I was LIVID. What was the point?

I felt like the time I had put in to watching the film was a waste. I was young, maybe twelve or so. I think, at that point, I still believed that every story needed to have a happy ending. Since A Place in the Sun did not, I dismissed it. It wasn’t until a few years after that when I decided to watch the film again, that I realized everything I had been missing.

A Place in the Sun, made in 1951, follows George Eastman (Montgomery Clift), a poor young man who moves to the big city just looking for a job. His uncle gives him a job at his factory. There, George meets and starts a relationship with Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters), a quiet young woman who works at the factory. Feeling obligated, George’s uncle invites George to a party at his house. There, everything changes because he meets Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor), a gorgeous, young socialite. They quickly fall in love. Only problem is Alice becomes pregnant. Let’s just say DRAMA ENSUES.

Since TCM is honoring Montgomery Clift this month, I decided this would be a perfect time to discuss this film and my introduction to him as an actor. I’ve spoken about him on this blog before, when I discussed The Heiress. He made that film a few years earlier, in 1949.

tumblr_mk70f0JzZj1qkg5u5o1_500.gif
Just look at that boyish smile…

If you’ve never seen the film, here are just a few reasons A Place in the Sun still affects me:

The Cast

I don’t think there have ever been two parts more perfectly cast than George Eastman and Angela Vickers. Elizabeth Taylor was a child star, known for the Lassie films and National Velvet. She credited Clift with teaching her what acting was, for he, of course, was one of the first method actors. Their chemistry is palpable and really is the major reason the film works. Both of them seem so genuinely in love with each other. Taylor was in love with Clift, even though he was gay. Their friendship is legendary and Taylor was fierce about protecting Clift.

tumblr_mj08sdLBFy1rmpzkqo1_500.gif
That dress though…#FashionGoals

Shelley Winters had the unfortunate circumstance of being cast as Alice Tripp, aka the only thing that stands in the way of George and Angela’s great love. The audience feels contentious towards her which she doesn’t deserve. Funnily enough, I found in my research that she campaigned for the part and only got it when she agreed to play the part sans makeup with an unflattering hairstyle.

Looking back at it, Winters playing her part so well is a huge reason the film works. She’s not evil, but she certainly can manipulate and is fierce about staking her claim on George. She has a way of making her human, complex, more than one thing – the mark of a great performance!

Wish that I was dead?.gif
Isn’t this just heartbreaking? 

The Direction

I’ve already discussed a George Stevens movie already on this blog, although it was very different tonally. The More the Merrier was a light screwball comedy. As I discussed in that post, Stevens was changed after witnessing the horrors of World War 2. He didn’t see the point in making comedies anymore – he wanted to make films that meant something.

Annex - Taylor, Elizabeth (A Place in the Sun)_NRFPT_04.jpg
George Stevens on set with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift

Stevens was meticulous and precise. He spent two years making A Place in the Sun. Years later, Shelley Winters recalled working with Stevens in her autobiography, saying, “He was the greatest director I’ve ever worked for. He made me understand that acting, especially film acting, is not emotion, but thinking. He had been a famous cameraman since the Keystone Kops days, and he showed me how the camera photographs your thoughts and sometimes your soul.” (Shelley Winters).

Stevens won an Academy Award for his direction of the film, but lost out on Best Picture to An American in Paris.

The Score

Franz Waxman won an Academy Award for composing the score of A Place in the Sun and it was well deserved. It’s melancholy and full of jazzy emotion. Don’t believe me: just take a listen!

The Screenplay

The screenplay was written by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown, but was adapted from a novel called An American Tragedy which was written by Theodore Dreiser. Dreiser based his novel on a real trial from 1906. A young woman’s body was found in a lake, having been overturned by a boat. The man she was with stood trial for killing her, even though he insisted she committed suicide. He was executed by electric chair in 1908.

The novel had already been adapted for the screen once in 1931 when it was directed Josef von Sternberg. Apparently, Dreiser did not like how it was adapted. Wilson and Brown treated the story with delicacy. The film was revolutionary in that it dealt with complex human beings. The characters weren’t simply the good guy or the bad guy. They were shades of grey. This is especially true with Clift’s character. We go through everything with him and so, at the end, when he’s pleading for his life, we don’t know how to feel.

Michael Wilson and Harry Brown won the Academy Award that year for Best Screenplay.

tumblr_miqvifxcvH1rv8zdao2_r2_500.gif
Awwww. 

The Legendary Friendship

Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift met on this film and became lifelong friends. They both give wonderful performances and obviously brought out the best in one another. A few years back, before Elizabeth Taylor passed away, TCM made a tribute video for Clift narrated by Taylor. It’s a great view into their relationship.

Critical Reception

Charlie Chaplin went to an advanced screening of the film in Hollywood and told director George Stevens that “This is the greatest movie ever made about America.” Only, now, looking back on it, do I understand what he meant. It certainly made an impression on me. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen at The TCM Film Festival a few years back, just after Elizabeth Taylor passed away.

tumblr_nflur98CSj1qdm4tlo1_500.gif
I’m not crying. YOU’RE CRYING.

It’s a powerful film and one that takes maturity to appreciate. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wish you could go back in time and steal all of Elizabeth Taylor’s outfits. I sure did.

Vintage trailer is below:

 

The Angsty Magic of ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’

I remember a stray Friday night in my preteen years roaming around our neighborhood Blockbuster with my family. For all you youngins out there, Blockbuster is a place where people used to go and pick out one movie to watch because they couldn’t just look it up on their computer or smartphone…okay rant over. I saw the cover for Some Kind of Wonderful and showed it to my dad – he nodded and said, “Yeah, you’d like it.”

At this point, I had already seen the other John Hughes staples – Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles. Although I loved them, once I saw Some Kind of Wonderful, it blew them all out of the water. My twelve year-old self related to Keith (Eric Stoltz) more than I related to any of Molly Ringwald’s characters.

don't fly too well.gif
Misfits = RELATABLE

If you’ve never seen Some Kind of Wonderful, here’s the 411. The film was made in 1987 and was written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch (who, at the time, had only directed Pretty in Pink). It is said that Hughes wrote the film partly because he was upset about how Pretty in Pink turned out. Both films follow the ‘best friend secretly in love archetype’ but the way they end is, shall we say, DIFFERENT.

Some Kind of Wonderful follows Keith (Eric Stoltz), a quiet artist-type, and his best friend Watts (Mary Stuart-Masterson), a tomboy with a bit of a crush. *Cough Cough* Meanwhile, Keith becomes interested in Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), a beautiful and popular girl at school. Class wars and teen drama ensues. Oh, and all that 80’s stuff too!

Here are just a few reasons why I’m still in love with Some Kind of Wonderful‘s angsty magic:

The Cast

The cast is EVERYTHING in this film. Eric Stoltz, who is famously known to have been the original Marty McFly in Back to the Future before being replaced by Michael J. Fox, plays Keith, a loner artist with a big heart. Apparently, filming was a bit contentious as director Howard Deutch and Stoltz did not get along. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine the film without Stoltz’s quiet charm.

200-4.gif
There’s something about his hair…amiright?

Lea Thompson, known for her role in Back to the Future and more recently, Switched at Birth, wasn’t particularly interested in the part. Howard the Duck, which she had starred in, had just been released. It was one of the biggest flops in film history. Stoltz apparently biked up Laurel Canyon to give her the script and urge her to play the role. And good thing she did, because she sorta kinda met her husband on the project, one Howard Deutch. That’s right, folks. She married the director. Like Stoltz, Lea was understated and obviously gorgeous – the perfect fit for Amanda Jones.

smile more.gif
Me too, Lea, me too!

Mary Stuart-Masterson was quite the revelation as Watts. She could play tough, while also exposing her vulnerability. With her short hair and don’t care attitude, she was pretty much my preteen hero, or heroine, as it were!

tumblr_m8bbfeCWHM1qakh43o1_500.gif
Her one-liners were killer!

The perfect casting extends into supporting characters. Elias Koteas is wonderful as the bully-turned-friend. He gives what could have been a throw away part, personality, and makes Duncan memorable and truly hilarious!

200-3.gif
Personality incarnate

Maddie Corman was perfect as Keith’s sister Laura. I’m embarrassed to say I related to her character a bit too much – she was a bit of a tattler. But, she did have some great one-liners. Her story is very interesting. She was a teenage actress and she went in to audition for the part in Some Kind of Wonderful during her mother’s battle with cancer. Knowing her mother was dying, she lied and told her she had gotten the part when, of course, she didn’t know that. She, of course, did get it and she’s brilliant.

getting into amanda.gif
Might be my favorite line…

Craig Sheffer is also wonderful as Hardy Jenns, the villain of our tale. He’s Amanda’s asshole boyfriend. He cheats on her, treats her like dirt, but he’s still kinda charming.

tumblr_lexapjU1jY1qdokywo1_500-1.jpg
What a LINE.

You also might notice little Candace Cameron Bure as Keith’s youngest sister. Not a big part, but definitely some memorable moments…

the girl is sex.gif
Full House was just a glint in her eye…

The Script

John Hughes wrote an amazing script. It wasn’t just filled with brilliant one-liners, though, of course, it had those! Hughes had an amazing talent for writing teenagers. He didn’t talk down to the audience and as such, his films still hold up today. Obviously, they’re very rooted in the time they were made, but when you think of the other films and filmmakers he inspired, it’s remarkable.

Additionally, I loved how he wrote the Amanda Jones character. She’s working class, beautiful, insecure, popular, sweet. In other words, she’s complex, like a REAL PERSON.

you didn't use me?.gif
I’m still wondering how they got into The Hollywood Bowl…

The parent dynamics were also great. Now, obviously, this is not new ground teen movie-wise, but I love the conflict between Keith and his dad. Keith’s dad wants him to go to college; Keith has different priorities.

when does my life belong to me?.gif
How many of us said something similar to our parents at 18??

The Soundtrack

The soundtrack is incredible and inextricable from the film. Like Hughes’ other films, the soundtrack serves as another character, giving the characters and their world life! Two of my favorites from the soundtrack are below: the March Violets cover of “Miss Amanda Jones” and Lick the Tins’ cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

The Romance

Like most films of this kind, the end is a couple getting together. It’s about the journey getting there. And what a fun, angsty journey it is!

195af870fb88b863548866965ca5734e.gif
The despair!
200-1.gif
Can someone say DUHHHH?
200-2.gif
I love this line and know I could never say it to someone without them laughing. HA
tumblr_nqvnllJIZ11uw71lqo2_500.gif
Probably one of the hottest kisses in film history…

While there is truth in it, I found that the best friend trope is really just that, a trope. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy it. I just don’t think it’s as real as my preteen self did. The ending of this film ALWAYS gets me. I cry happy tears, cause I can’t NOT.

 

2.gif
Already crying just looking at this GIF. 

The Nostalgia Factor

I saw this movie as a preteen and it made a huge impression on me. Obviously, I wasn’t born until 1992, so this was before my time. But, for all its flaws, I love this film unabashedly.

If a film still resonates, has it really aged?

200.gif
Ah, 1987. I was just a glint in my parents’ eyes…

Random Tidbits

A few years back, when I had just moved to Los Angeles, I remember seeing Some Kind of Wonderful on the American Cinematheque’s schedule. Unfortunately, I had no car that summer and also no friends willing to accompany me. I still haven’t forgiven myself for missing it. Lea Thompson and Howard Deutch were both there!

Their daughter, Zoey Deutch is now a star in her own right – however, it’s clear, having Lea and Howard as parents, she was born for this! She recently starred in Richard Linklater’s last film, Everybody Wants Some.

b031611a-0570_a_l.jpg
Howard Deutch, Zoey Deutch and Lea Thompson pose together as the Alzheimer’s Association gathers to celebrate the 19th Annual Night at Sardi’s at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. on March 16, 2011 (Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

The film captured the awkwardness of romance in high school. No doubt that its zingers definitely inspired the too-sophisticated dialogue of Dawson’s Creek which came a decade later. If you’re looking for an angsty, romantic, Saturday night watch, Some Kind of Wonderful is one of the best and certainly one of my all time favorites!

Vintage trailer below:

 

The Charm of ‘So Long at the Fair’

In one of my first posts for this blog, I talked about my love for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. When I was a teenager, I was shown a film which, in plot, is quite similar – So Long at the Fair.

When I first saw this film, my dad had recently stumbled upon it while watching TCM. He thought I’d enjoy it because of my love for The Lady Vanishes. It’s a small British film with two (at the time, obvi!) up and coming stars: Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde.

meet cute.gif
A meet-cute if I ever saw one…

The film follows Vicky Barton (Jean Simmons) who travels with her brother Johnny (David Tomlinson) to Paris in 1889 for the World’s Fair. Their first night in Paris, they’re having a grand old time…

paris.gif
That background looks SO real…

The brother-sister relationship is one of the fun parts of the film. Jean Simmons is so delightfully sweet and genuine. You can’t help but feel for her.

That night, she bids her brother goodnight and one of the hotel managers grabs their room keys…

dix sept.gif
17 and 19 for all you non-French speakers…

The next morning, something strange has occurred. When Vicky goes to wake her brother, his room has disappeared.

no bedroom.gif
Um, WHAT?

And thus, begins the premise of the film. Where is Vicky’s brother’s room and why is everyone insisting that he was never there at all?

There are so many reasons I love this film, but here are just a few:

Jean Simmons

This film was my introduction to Jean Simmons, not to be confused with Kiss’s lead singer. I hadn’t yet seen Guys and Dolls which is fitting considering she made So Long at the Fair first. She’s so genuine in every moment, you can’t help but be drawn into her grief.

Dirk Bogarde, her co-star, said of her, “Jean is about the sweetest girl you could wish to meet and all you read about her being natural and unsophisticated is absolutely true” (Jeff Stafford’s TCM article).

spoilsport.gif
19th century insults…amiright?

The Period

This would not usually be one I’d point out, but I so love the time period they recreate in So Long at the Fair. There is so much precision in the costumes and settings that you really believe that they’re in 19th century France. Of course, they do use some stock backgrounds, but that doesn’t bother me much.

anything can happen.gif
Just look at Jean’s hair alone! Classic…

The Romance

The film’s main plot can be more precisely classified as mystery or suspense. However, I really enjoy the romance in this film. Dirk Bogarde plays a British artist who learns about Jean’s predicament and decides to help her.

In interviews, Dirk seemed to assert that them being in the film together was a publicity stunt, meant to pair them together. Jean said in interviews that she was very much in love with Dirk during the making of the film. Whatever is true, Jean was with actor Stewart Granger by the end of the film and Dirk ended up being gay. But, no matter what the behind the scenes truth is, they did right in this film.

I remember telling my dad my biggest problem with the film the first time I saw it – Why don’t Jean and Dirk kiss or something? They needed to complete that storyline. 😉

did he happen to give you.gif
Dirk’s eyebrows, amiright?

The Premise

I don’t want to give away what happens, but I will say that it doesn’t go where you think it will. When I originally saw the film, I was genuinely surprised by its ending. The story is based on an urban legend that apparently took place during the Paris exposition. It has been the inspiration for several stories, including  Covered Tracks and an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

The film was based on a book by Anthony Thorne and was co-directed by Terence Fisher and Antony Darnborough. Fisher was an editor, but also a director known for his horror films The Mummy, The Curse of Frankenstein and The Curse of Dracula. 

It’s such a wonderful idea for a story, so simple and intriguing. What makes the premise so wonderful is that you’re always questioning if it is simply all in her head, which, to me, is scarier than anything else!

faint.gif
Vicky when she finds out what happened to her brother…

It’s FUN

So Long at the Fair is a small film, not an epic. It will not be remembered in the same class as The Lady Vanishes, but for all its flaws, it’s fun nonetheless. I think it’s worth it just to see Jean Simmons in one of her first roles. She carries the film.

I assume, like most people, that you’ve never seen the film. It’s only about an hour and twenty minutes. And…it’s on youtube (aka perfect afternoon watch). I love sharing this film because it is forgotten. It may not have been a film that changed the world or furthered filmmaking technique, but it’s charming, accessible and truly suspenseful.

Sit back and enjoy the charms of So Long at the Fair. Please leave comments letting me know your thoughts!