About My Year in Film The Stars Reviews Contact Image Map

Monday, 31 January 2011

The Flame of New Orleans (1941)

I haven't done a film review for several months, so I thought it was about time that I got my act together and wrote one - and what better to start with that the 1941 film The Flame of New Orleans starring Marlene Dietrich, Bruce Cabot, and Roland Young.

Directed by René Clair, this film is truly surprising. From the reviews I'd read and the rating it had on IMDb (6.6/10), I was expecting it to be dull, stale, and whilst not exactly boring (can a film of 79 minutes be boring?), rather tedious to watch. I couldn't have been more wrong as it is in fact a lively, charming and thoroughly enjoyable romantic comedy.

In the film, Marlene plays Claire Ledoux, a woman masquerading as a French countess who arrives with her maid, Clementine (played by Theresa Harris), in New Orleans in the 1840s. It soon becomes clear that Claire's reason for being in said city is to snare a wealthy husband - a task that she soon accomplishes with the help of a little fainting trick (something that Marlene does rather beautifully, I must say!) and an excess of charm. The unlucky (or lucky... we are talking about Marlene, after all) fellow is Charles Giraud (Roland Young), an ordinary, nervous, and slightly pompous older man.

However, it's not all smooth sailing and soon Claire's perfectly thought out plan starts unravel. She meets (or, more accurately, is overturned by...) the dashing young sailor Robert Latour (Bruce Cabot) whom she finds infinitely more attractive than her stuffy fiancé but who doesn't have sufficient money to please her. She strings him along for a time, managing to keep both men in the dark about the other. Then, when someone recognises her as a girl he knew in St. Petersburg and is overheard relating a juicy story about her to his friend, the trouble really begins. Claire is, in true fashion, only daunted for a moment before thinking up a wonderfully ridiculous solution to the problem. The solution is one that has been used many times before by many extremely different characters and for a myriad of reasons, but Marlene makes it seem fresh and so wonderfully brilliant that it made me think, "Oh, how very clever!" even though I knew I'd seen it in films, read it in books etc. many times before. You'll have to watch it to find out what it is though, as I'm not going to tell you!

All in all, I think this film is a little gem of absolute perfection. I was so pleasantly surprised by it that it quite made my day! Marlene gives a wonderful performance, as usual. I was rather afraid that she was going to be playing a very mundane, feeble character, but I couldn't have been further from the truth. I really loved Theresa Harris as Clementine, who is just as much Claire's partner in crime as she is her maid. There's also a slew of great smaller parts (and I mean smaller. This film is 79 minutes, there's not really room for anyone else besides Marlene, Bruce and Ronald) all of whom are played by wonderful actors - Mischa Auer, Laura Hope Crews (whom you might remember as Aunt Pitty in Gone With the Wind and who plays a very similar role in this), Anne Revere and Andy Devine.

If you want to watch a light, frothy comedy full of beautiful costumes, sets and Marlene, I highly recommend this film ! ★★★★★

(OK, this was a kind of terrible mini-review, but... I never said I was good at them! ;D )

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Happy Birthday, Patricia!

Patricia Neal

20th January, 1926 - 8th August, 2010

Happy birthday to this wonderful woman whom we had the sad misfortune of losing last year. Despite not having seen all that many of her films, she is without a doubt one of my favourite actresses - and one of my favourite people.

If you've never seen any of her films, I suggest you watch The Fountainhead (1949) (with Gary Cooper) and Hud (1963) (with Paul Newman and Melvyn Douglas). You will not be disappointed!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Matador (or, how I fell in love with a Danish tv series and one of it's stars)

I love tv series. I watch fairly modern ones (30 Rock, Desperate Housewives, Doctor Who, Agatha Christie's Poirot, Gilmore Girls, Friends, Outnumbered...), and older ones (All Creatures Great and Small, I Love Lucy, Bewitched, Fawlty Towers, Jeeves and Wooster...), and everything in between. One thing I've never watched is a foreign language tv series. So when my friend Sara sent me all 4 series of a Danish tv series called Matador before Christmas, I was very hesitant. I don't mind watching things in foreign languages - as long as those languages are languages that I understand a little. I will happily watch things in Italian, French and German... but, Danish? I don't speak a word of Danish, and I felt that even with the English subs, it would be tedious to sit through 24 episodes - with lengths ranging from 40 to 90 minutes. But, oh, how wrong I was!

Last Saturday night I decided to watch the first episode to see if I liked it. For me, just watching the first episode of something usually isn't enough to make me really love it, but from the very beginning I was hooked on this fascinating and wonderful series. I'm currently up to the beginning of Series 3, and every episode just seems gets better and better! Even though I'm rushing through it, I'm also trying to savour every moment because I don't want to miss a single thing - and I believe that watching something for the first time is always the most magical and memorable!

Well, I suppose I should give you a (very) rough synopsis of the series in question seeing as I'm raving on and on about it.

Matador (1978 - 1981) is set in the fictional Danish town of Korsbæk between the years 1929 and 1947, and follows the lives, and the rivalry, of the town's two most prominent businessmen: Mads Skjern, who arrives in Korsbæk in the first episode and starts to build up a highly successful business, and Hans Christian Varnæs, a long-established banker from one of the town's old families. Skjern is not welcomed into the town, or helped in his business enterprises, by the old families of Korsbæk, and this sets into motion the rivalry on which much of the storyline pivots.

The beautiful theme tune

There are so many reasons I'm in love with this series. I'm a hopeless cause when it comes to well made tv series/films set around the time that Matador is, but mostly I can't help but fall in love with a tv series which has such wonderful, believable characters - it's jam-packed with 'em!

I would be lying if I said I couldn't pick a favourite character from the series as from the moment I saw her in the first episode, Elisabeth Friis, the older unmarried sister of Hans Christian Varnæs' nervous wife Maude, absolutely captivated me. She lives quietly in the shadow of her sister, taking care of both her and her children, Ulrik and Regitze, and running the household. A halting romance blossoms and fades between her and a member of Mads Skjern's family - Korsbæk becoming Verona, and the two parties in love, Romeo and Juliet. Her story is the one that intrigues me most in the series, and I can't wait to see if everything turns out OK in the end!

I'm quite tentative about stating, in a serious manner, that something I've just discovered, be it a film, an actor/actress, a song etc. etc., is now one of my "favourites". But I feel that it's a fairly safe assumption to say that Elisabeth Friis is going to be one of my favourite characters from anything for a rather long time. I asked Sara how she would describe Elisabeth (as well as having basically ALL of the same favourite actresses, we also share Elisabeth as our favourite Matador character :D ) and she said, "IT ISN'T POSSIBLE TO EXPLAIN ELISABETH FRIIS." Yep, when talking about Elisabeth, it is necessary to shout it because she really is so exceptionally fabulous. (I'm not joking!) Basically, she's everything I wish I was - quiet and calm, yet unyieldingly strong and determined, utterly charming, unselfish, and absolutely wonderful.

Elisabeth is played by the Danish actress Helle Virkner (15 September, 1925 - 10 June, 2009), and she's kind of put me under her spell. I think it's a testament to her brilliant acting (and abounding charm) that, despite not understanding a word of Danish, I am determined to watch as many of her films as possible - and a lovely fellow Old Hollywood/Helle Virkner fan has provided me with a few to start me off! I think I may have to get a "Teach Yourself Danish" book...

Well, I could sit here and ramble about Matador for days, but I'll leave you all in peace now. I can't recommend this series to you enough - if you decide to watch it, you will NOT be disappointed!

(You can purchase the box set (Region 0, with English subtitles) from both amazon.co.uk and amazon.com)

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Some classic film related New Year's resolutions.

Happy new year to all of my lovely followers! I hope you had a really wonderful and magical Christmas, and are now enjoying the beginning of 2011. I wish all of you the most marvellous classic film filled year imaginable! :D

Now, I never usually make New Year's resolutions, but this year I thought it would be fun to make some classic film related ones! I already posted this on tumblr, so some of you will probably already have seen it, however, I have added a few extras...

  • Watch more silent films. Much as I love them, I really don't watch enough. I often start watching them and then just never finish.
  • Watch more Hitchcock films. I am sadly lacking in the Hitchcock department - I haven't seen nearly enough of his magnificent films. I want to have seen all of his 1940's films, that I haven't already seen, by the end of 2011.
  • Try to complete my Deborah Kerr film collection. I've seen almost all of her films, but only own 30-something.
  • Try to complete my Greer Garson film collection. Again, I've seen almost all of her films but only own about 20.
  • Hoard more Eleanor Parker films. I doubt I'll be able to complete this collection this year, but I own about half of her films so I will try to add to those.
  • Hoard more Maureen O'Hara and Barbara Stanwyck films. Again, there's no way I'll be able to complete these collections in 2011 but I can certainly add several titles to them.
  • Pick at least one Old Hollywood actor/actress whom I currently dislike/ignore and try to watch more of their films to give them a chance. I've been meaning to watch more Elizabeth Taylor films because I've only seen 2 or 2, and, whilst I don't dislike her, I've just never really given her a chance and generally bypass her films. This time last year I wasn't a fan of Myrna Loy or Joan Crawford and now I love Myrna and really enjoy watching Joan's films!
  • Watch more Patricia Neal, Glynis Johns, Anna Magnani, Joan Blondell, Hedy Lamarr, Eva Marie Saint, and Jean Arthur films.
  • Try to watch as many of the films as possible on the following lists: IMDB Top 250, Academy Award Best Pictures, BFI 100 (Top British Films), The 100 Most Significant German Films, and AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies.
It'll be interesting to see how much of the above I have accomplished by this time next year. Will I watch more silent films that sound films? Will Elizabeth Taylor be one of my favourite actresses? Will I have watched 100s of films from the lists I mentioned? Who knows! Let's meet back here in a year...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...