Kaira is a talented, young cinematographer who is waiting for her big break. Luckily she has a good friend in Raghu, a fellow co-worker, who encourages her and looks out for her at work.
She also has a successful, loving boyfriend and a close-knit group of loyal friends. However, in spite of all of this, Kaira is a self-absorbed, emotionally distant woman who sabotages her relationships.
After dumping her boyfriend with the news that she slept with Raghu, she is given the opportunity to travel with Raghu to New York to work on a major film. But once again, her inability to trust and commit interferes with her life.
On a trip home, to visit her estranged parents in Goa, she overhears a speech by an unconventional therapist which prompts her to seek out help to deal with a past which has emotionally crippled her.
If you are under the mistaken impression that Indian films are all Bollywood musicals and women draped in saris, then Dear Zindagi will prove you wrong.
I watched this film with my sister and we both commented on how much it felt like an American film. Although it portrays the generational clash between the young, ambitious and modern Kaira and her more traditional parents, the viewer will be hard pressed to find any other traditional Indian stereotypes.
Although the first forty minutes of this film set me up to believe Kaira’s romantic relationships, or lack thereof, would be the focus of Dear Zindagi, it was actually only the impetus for the rest of the film. In actuality, this is a story about a woman whose childhood trauma has emotionally damaged her. Kaira’s fear of rejection makes it difficult for her open up and to trust others. Her unusual therapy sessions with the creative Dr. Kahn, opens her eyes to the truth about her life. Through this process of self-discovery, Kaira is forced to step outside of her comfort zone and confront some difficult truths. I do love that this film surprised me in this way. Instead of a romantic dramedy, I ended up watching a film with pearls of simple wisdom and a life-affirming message.
Although I am no expert and cannot argue the finer technical points of film, I loved the cinematography of Dear Zindagi, which is appropriate since Kaira herself is a cinematographer. Some of my favorite shots are those filmed in the beach town of Goa, which gives this film a light, airy, clean feel even while it explores deep issues. Although India has never been at the top of my travel list, the shots of Goa may have changed that for me.
One of my few complaints with this film is that I feel it would have benefited from some editing. The run time is just too long at two hours and thirty minutes. There were several scenes where the movie dragged a little bit, that could have been cut for a tighter film.
Also, for the first hour or so of this movie I had a really hard time liking Kaira. She came across as a selfish, spoiled brat who doesn’t deserve the loyalty of her friends. She makes excuses for her behavior and refuses to acknowledge that her actions have consequences. I almost gave up on her several times but I’m glad I stuck with her story, because I came to learn and understand the pain behind her behavior, even if I didn’t agree with it.
Although Dear Zindagi is an Indian film with English subtitles, many times the characters are also speaking English, switching back and forth between the two languages. This can take a bit of getting used to, but also makes it easier to watch if you have never seen a foreign film before.
Otherwise Dear Zindagi is a film which I recommend and not just because it is a foreign film. I really appreciated the message of this movie about dealing with the issues that cripple us and learning to forgive others and love one’s self.
I have so many favorite films (and books for that matter) that the word favorite seems in danger of losing it’s impact and meaning. But I can’t help that I genuinely love so many of the stories I watch and read that I want to re-visit them over and over again.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is one of my many film loves. I never get tired of watching it and often use it as a cheery tonic when I am having a bad day. It’s just so much fun. Instead of doing a review, I thought I would mix things up a bit and tell you why I adore it so much.
HENRY CAVILL– This is one of the few movies Cavill is in that I love. And it’s not because he can’t act, but for some reason he is cast in films which I just don’t think are very good. Still, even when he played Superman in Man of Steel, a film which was so convoluted that I didn’t know what was going on half of the time, I enjoyed watching him during its long running time. Honestly, I would watch him paint a wall. And yes, I’m just shallow enough to admit, that sometimes a movie can be saved by its’ eye candy. Of course, that is not necessary in this film. And thankfully, Cavill for once, ends up with a really fun role as American former thief turned playboy spy Napoleon Solo.
2. ARMIE HAMMER as ILYA KURAKIN -Here’s another piece of eye candy I enjoy, but unlike Cavill, in The Man from U.N.C.L.E I actually watched him for the role he played. Maybe it’s because I’m always drawn to Russian characters in any film, but I genuinely loved the reticent, loner, Russian spy. Cavill’s Solo, may appear to be the main character, but I think it is really Ilya who grounds this film and its story, keeping it from becoming ridiculous.
3. A RELUCTANT BROMANCE -I love a good bromance and this is one of my favorites. The fact that Solo and Ilya are spies for Cold War enemy nations who are then forced by their superiors to work together adds a nice spin to the somewhat unwilling friendship that develops between them. Maybe friendship is too strong a word. Thanks to their profession, both men are used to working alone, are highly suspicious and unwilling to trust anyone. But they do develop a fun rapport and mutual respect as they learn to rely on each other while still maintaining loyalties to their countries and keeping a wary eye on each other.
4. QUICK & WITTY DIALOGUE – One of my laments about modern film is that it often lacks the snappy, smart dialogue I appreciate in classic film. That is certainly not the case with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. There are one line zingers, combative repartee, serious conversation hidden behind a blase manner, all the things that make a dialogue driven film so enjoyable for me.
5. THE 60’s FASHION -Since this film is actually based on the original television series of the same name, it retained its original time setting in the 1960’s. Both of the main female characters get to wear amazing clothing pieces and accessories inspired by this decade. Alicia Vikander, who plays Gabby, gets to wear the most fun, colorful items. When I watch this film, I like to pretend that I’m her parading around in that awesome wardrobe. Our villainess, Victoria Vinciguerra also benefits from this film wardrobe, becoming the mannequin for sleeker yet still gorgeous styles.
6. A FEMALE VILLAIN! -Film villains are usually men. I like to see a female “bad guy”, but I believe they are really hard to get right. Many times, they tend to overcompensate and can come across as a caricature or they act so bitchy that you can’t even enjoy watching them on-screen. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. avoids these pitfalls and delivers a cold, calm, calculated villainess with the power and smarts of a male villain while still displaying her femininity. Actress Elizabeth Debicki, makes Victoria so much fun to watch as she slinks around the screen. Even though you know you should hate her, you also kind of want to applaud her guts and determination.
7. THE 60’s AGAIN -I love how this movie is very much like the caper films of this decade. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, accomplishing the result of being downright entertaining. And although I already mentioned the fashion, the rest of the film has a very 60’s feel as well, from the European settings, colors, tongue-in-cheek humor and more. I enjoyed seeing the use of split screens which is something you rarely see in modern films but was pretty prevalent in the 1960’s.
8. FUN SCENES – I love when a film has memorable scenes which stick with you and help you remember the film long-term. This one has at least two and I honestly can’t choose which one I like best, but if you watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. keep an eye out for the hotel wrestling scene between Ilya and Gabby. The escape scene with Solo and Ilya, with Ilya using his motor boat skills and Solo calmly sitting in a truck watching Ilya trying to lose the armored guards is also a lot of fun.
If you haven’t seen The Man From U.N.C.L.E then you are in for a real treat. There are so many things to love and discover about this film. (And did I forget to mention Hugh Grant has a small role??) It was left open-ended for a potential sequel, which after a mediocre showing upon its initial release didn’t seem likely, but may still happen. At least it hasn’t been ruled out and I for one am keeping my finger crossed. So check out this guilty pleasure and let me know what you think. (Trust me, you’ll thank me later!)
Watch: On DVD, Amazon, or with a Cinemax subscription.
A Tale of Love and Darkness is a film based on the book of the same name written by Jewish author Amos Oz. It is an autobiographical story of the author’s younger years growing up in Jerusalem in the years prior to and directly after the formation of the state of Israel.
Young Amos lives with his parents in Jerusalem during a tumultuous time. WWII had ended recently. Many Jews moved to the British occupied area of Palestine which is tenuously shared with Arab residents. His mother, in particular, seems haunted by her past memories of the destruction of her privileged life in Poland. Amos’ mother Fania does her best to show her love to her son and husband, but those memories make it difficult for her to connect with them. While reconciling herself to her new and challenging present in Jerusalem, Fania shares stories, both fact and fiction, to help distract herself and her son from the struggle of their daily lives.
Please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review to see my complete review of this film.
Idle Jean Howard wants to do her part for the war effort. Since there is a shortage of men, her father’s oil company has no salesmen. Jean volunteers for the job and despite her father’s resistance heads out onto the road to try to save some company accounts.
Although she gives it her best efforts in her cross-country sales tour, Jean has no success. She finally lands at the Black Hills Oil Co. where Earl “Slim” Clark agrees to listen to her pitch. But only if she wines and dines him first. Of course, Slim’s motives are suspect as it is clear he finds Jean extremely attractive. Jean agrees and heads out to look for a place to stay for the night
Unfortunately, Jean finds herself looking for accommodations in an overcrowded army base town. There is absolutely nothing available until a last minute cancellation secures Jean a reservation. The only problem is, the room available is in a motor court which only caters to married couples. So Jean, manages to coerce a lieutenant from the local base to register with her as her husband with the plan being that he can leave once she has checked into the room.
But of course, as usual in this type of movie, nothing goes according to plan. Lieutenant Don Mallory’s commanding officer is staying at the same place and happens across Don and Jean as the bellboy is taking them to their room. Things go from bad to worse and hijinks ensue as more misunderstandings arise and Slim arrives to take Jean to their “business” dinner. Being fake-married to a stranger can be challenging enough, but never has it been so hard to keep up appearances as the motor court is full of female busy bodies and both Don and Jean’s parents eventually show up unexpectedly.
Will Jean manage to land the sales account Slim is dangling before her? Will Don get kicked out of the army for breaking the morals clause by lying about the fake marriage?
Pillow to Post is a sweet little romantic comedy, that borders on ridiculous sometimes, but is still so much fun. Ida Lupino plays Jean Howard with a slightly scatter brained but determined air. Lupino generally starred in drama films and is a good actress but not one I typically choose to watch. However, she manages to play this comedic role well taking it almost to the edge of obnoxious but not quite. It doesn’t hurt that she slightly resembles an adult Shirley Temple which lends her an air of innocence as she juggles two men and a complicated situation.
I’m unfamiliar with the two actors who played the male leads, but I have no complaints with their acting skills.
One of the highlights of this film for me is seeing one of my favorite character actors Sydney Greenstreet play Don’s commanding officer, Colonel Otley. Greenstreet was known for being fat and several of his films would reference his weight as a joke in their dialogue. This film is no exception as it shows the Colonel on a strict diet to prepare him for being shipped overseas. He also gets the rare chance to play a comedic role as he often played the “bad” man in films. I prefer him in comedies because he has such a jolly laugh and often comes across as a devious little boy.
There is a running gag about one of the service man staying at the motor court, who is constantly on the search for avocados for his pregnant wife. The end of the film has her giving birth to multiples and he blames it on the avocados.
There is also a cameo appearance by musician Louis Armstrong who not only plays his trumpet but briefly sings in a scene where Jean, Don and Slim are at a dinner club.
Pillow to Post is not a groundbreaking film but it is a fun one to watch with a run time of just over 90 minutes. It is available on DVD and occasionally makes an appearance on TV.
Although I admit my exposure to foreign films is miniscule, it is pretty much a guarantee that any film set in France, in particular Paris, is going to pique my interest.
Italian Paolo is content with his life. He lives with his German girlfriend Greta in Paris, has a steady job as a tour bus driver and a dependable if not so good advisor in English friend Derek. After finally proposing to Greta, he finds himself continually crossing paths with the lovely Cecile. Although he is in love with Greta, Paolo cannot helped but be intrigued by the girl riding the bicycle. One day, while in pursuit of her, he accidentally hits her with his bus, which throws his life completely off course.
At the hospital, he informs the nurse that Cecile is his wife so that he can get information on her condition, (a la While You Were Sleeping). When the nurse escorts him into Cecile’s room, her young children immediately greet him with hugs and cries of “Papa!” You see, Cecile has always told her children that their father is off fighting dragons, but when he returns they will know him because he speaks English. Upon her release from the hospital, Paolo takes Cecile and the children to their home and finds himself in the predicament of caring for her and the children secretly while also trying to maintain his relationship with Greta, who begins to suspect that Paolo is hiding something important from her.
This little romantic comedy is quite entertaining. Despite the fact that the film puts Paolo through the ringer emotionally and physically (he is essentially maintaining two households and lifestyles), it has an overall lighthearted feel. Paolo’s deception could make the viewer and the other film characters angry and distrustful of him, yet we catch glimpses of his true character as he cares for Cecile, falls in love with her children, while also coming to the realization that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
The other actors in this film all play their individual roles to perfection, and it is through their eyes that we see the real Paolo. The actress who plays the German Greta reminded me very much of Amy Adams, not only in appearance but in some of her mannerisms. Her Greta does a great job in handling her suspicions of her fiance while also continuing to speak of Paolo with respect.
The only face that was familiar to me was English actor Paddy Considine who plays Paolo’s friend Derek. He gets to play one of my favorite funny scenes in the film when some strangers stop him to ask for directions on the street and have the gall to speak to him in English.
I love that Girl on a Bicycle is set in Paris, but I also appreciated the international cast. Not only do we have French citizens speaking French, but we also get an Italian, a German and an Englishman who all break out into their own languages from time to time, which is part of the film’s charm. America may be the world’s melting pot, but this little movie is truly international and the first time I’ve seen this displayed so effortlessly on film. In fact, even though this is a foreign film, I was continually surprised by the fact that the dialogue is mainly English. One thing that really tickled me was the few little stereotypical jokes that were made about Germans. These are some of the same jokes I’ve heard in my own German household.
Although this is a sweet film, I will caution you that there is some swearing as well as a few sex scenes and one instance of female nudity. The nude scene is not sexual in nature and I suppose is more common in foreign films. The sex scenes are not particularly graphic, nothing more than we’ve seen in American films, but still I would have preferred the film had avoided these scenes as they are not necessary to the story.
This film is currently streaming for free with Amazon Prime.
In Honky Tonk grifter and con-man Candy Johnson is tired of being run out of every town he visits whenever the citizens discover who he is. So he and his partner hop on a train determined to find a small town which he can shape and control for even larger payouts such as graft. On the train, Candy’s eye is drawn by beautiful blonde Elizabeth Cotton who is traveling west to meet her father, a man she believes is an upstanding, honest judge. Elizabeth refuses to be tempted by Candy’s smooth line, resisting his obvious flirtation. Upon debarking in Yellow Creek, Candy recognizes Elizabeth’s father as a fellow con-artist, but keeps his secret for Elizabeth’s sake.
Candy soon begins his campaign to take over the town of Yellow Creek and Elizabeth’s affections. After winning a large stake in a gamble of Russian roulette, Candy builds his own saloon and donates money to build a town mission as a civic gesture. After a little light manhandling from Candy and a talk with the Reverend’s wife, Elizabeth admits her attraction to Candy and decides she will marry him with the mission to reform him. It’s not long before Candy is running the town and Elizabeth is running their home, but a wrench is thrown into this happy setup when the Judge grows a conscience for his daughter’s sake and decides to spill the beans on Candy’s real intentions.
This may just be my second favorite Clark Gable film, after Gone With the Wind. Actually, Honky Tonk has several things in common with that incomparable classic, not the least of which is that Candy Johnson is very similar to Rhett Butler and all the characteristics of that lovable rogue. Like Rhett, Candy is an admittedly selfish character, only interested in what profits him, who also displays a lethal dose of masculine charm. Candy’s pursuit of Elizabeth is determined and aggressive, yet with a touch of tenderness. Although, there is a bit of a power struggle between them at first, he makes sure that she knows who is boss, yet she also ends up with the upper hand in the end owing to his love for her.
This is the first of four films that Gable made with Lana Turner and it is a pairing which I really love. His dominant masculinity is a good match with her innocently sexy self and her soothing child-like voice. Too, the contrast between his dark looks and her wide eyed blonde curves is appealing as well. Gable was paired more frequently with other and better actresses (including acting greats, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow), but I prefer seeing him with Turner even though she cannot match the acting skill of some of his other partners. Her Elizabeth is just as determined as her man, she just tends to take a more subtle path towards her end goals. Elizabeth lends Candy a veneer of respectability and her love and faith in her weak father is sweet.
Another similarity with Gone With the Wind, is the presence of Claire Trevor, the saloon girl with the heart of gold, who is secretly in love with Candy, but stands by him as his friend, even when he marries another. Trevor gives Gold Dust depth and warmth, displaying her yearning and resignation in her eyes and through her subtle body language.
Honky Tonk fits a mix of genres, with some action and romance, dramatic and comedic moments. It’s setting as a mining town could also classify it as a Western. It really has something to appeal to everyone and is just downright fun to watch. It is too bad it wasn’t filmed in color as some of the costumes both Candy and Elizabeth wear in the film beg to be seen in multiple spectrum and not just black and white. I would love to have Elizabeth’s glamorous wardrobe.
If you are a fan of Rhett Butler, give Candy Johnson and Honky Tonk a watch. It’s Clark Gable at his roguish best. It’s available on DVD or you can catch it on the TCM channel this Wednesday May 24.
Today, I am excited to be participating in the Five Stars Blogathon which is being hosted by Classic FIlm TV Cafe.
Anyone who has been following my posts will know that I absolutely love movies. This being the case, asking me to pick five, and only five favorite stars was an almost impossible task! I mean really, it would be like asking me to choose my favorite book (another impossible task) or my favorite breath for that matter. But for the sake of following the rules, I have managed to narrow it down to the requested five. Just don’t get the idea that I don’t have other favorite film stars. And since this blogathon is in honor of National Classic Movie Day, I am sharing my favorite classic film stars.
Any one who knows me knows of my love for Cary Grant. His film Bringing Up Baby was my first introduction to him, to classic film and to screwball comedy, all of which remain favorites to this day. Cary Grant was a versatile actor who was equally at home in both comedies and dramas. His characters tended not to take themselves or life too seriously and yet also retained a darker edge about them which was highlighted more in his dramatic roles. And while I enjoy his later dramatic films, my preference will always be for his pre-war comedies. Who else could pull of playing men of sophistication and privilege who were able to laugh and make fun at their own expense? Not only was I ruined for mortal men by his onscreen style, humor and well-cut suits, but after reading numerous books about Cary Grant I also have great admiration for the man himself. He is a man who despite being raised in a working class home and lacking in formal education, through determination, persistence and self-education created a persona who is still known the world over for his class and artistry. It takes incredible discipline to re-create one’s self and that is just what he did, doing it so entirely that he didn’t just create a character, but actually became one who is still famous and respected today not only as a film icon, but also a fashion icon and respected man of business despite being long gone. For further details on Cary Grant and my regard for him, read my introduction to Cary Grant.
Hepburn was the other half of my introduction to classic film when I first saw Bringing Up Baby. And despite the fact that she doesn’t fit the mold of women I usually enjoy seeing on film and which were usually featured in classic films, it is precisely for that reason that she is my favorite actress. Like Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn was equally skilled in both comedic and dramatic roles including historical films, which Grant unfortunately never conquered. The women she played were generally of strong character and refused to be pigeon holed, an attribute that Hepburn also exhibited in real life. Although she appeared in some real stinker films which didn’t suit her, once she finally took full control of her career she had few misses. She could break your heart as she did in Alice Adams, The Rainmaker and Summertime, leave you trembling in shock and awe like she did in The Lion in Winter, or make you fall in love with her belief in her own worth as she does in Christopher Strong, Little Women, The Philadelphia Story and Adam’s Rib. She was a woman ahead of her time and it is for this reason that many of her films do not appear dated and still have something to say to modern audiences. Thankfully, this acting pioneer is well-regarded for her contributions to the art of film.
One of the reasons I am a fan of Clark Gable is that he generally plays lovable rogues, which is one of my favorite type of characters in any story. He started out in films playing villains, but his onscreen charisma soon led him into better parts. But he never really loses some of the villain attributes, often playing he-men with an edge of danger attached who are eventually tamed by the women they love. Who else but Gable could get away with onscreen physical violence and threats against women and have female viewers still panting after him like he’s a hero? He just had that certain spark, that allowed his characters to get away with despicable behavior while also making him desirable to women and men alike, if for different reasons. Of course, the fact that his characters are redeemed by the love of a good woman helps, or perhaps it’s the fact that though they fall in love, they are often bewildered by how they come to become domesticated. Of course, even when he plays very masculine men, there is also something of the little boy about him, tender and eager for approval. And even though his personal life isn’t exactly something to emulate, by most accounts he was very down to earth and modest of his great success. All this combines to explain why he was voted King of Hollywood and remained so until his death.
I can’t remember my first exposure to a Norma Shearer film. But somehow she remained memorable enough for me to seek out her other films. Although her career suffered at the end thanks to the enforcement of the moral Hays Code and the death of her husband and champion of her career, Shearer’s films made a tremendous impact and left quite a legacy. It is her pre-Code films which I fell in love with, watching her play women who pushed the boundaries and enjoyed it. Women who thought themselves equal to men and went out to prove it, while still dressing in sexy, slinky dresses and tempting the so-called stronger sex with her tinkling laugh. She forged a path not only for women onscreen but those who watched by playing roles which demanded women be respected, listened to and even feared for their strength, intellect and femininity. I thought I could not appreciate Shearer any more than I did, but then I started watching her earlier roles in silent films. I was mesmerized by her acting abilities which required a different set of skills than she used in her talking pictures. In any film or any role she is astounding. And even more astounding is her grit and determination to become an actress after multiple rejections and criticisms of her lazy eye and body shape. This is a woman who even challenged her husband, second in command at MGM, for a role she believed she could play. And she proved herself right while proving everyone else wrong. Despite the decades which have passed, she is still proving herself right and challenging the mistaken notions some have about classic film being outdated and boring.
My love for William Powell just kind of crept up on me. Even after reading and hearing numerous recommendations for his most famous film The Thin Man, I had no desire to see it, partly because the leading man didn’t seem appealing. Finally, I gave it a chance because of my interest in Myrna Loy. And it was so much fun. But still, an appreciation for Powell alluded me. I gained more exposure through his other film pairings with Loy and I think it must have been Manhattan Melodrama (featuring another favorite actor, Clark Gable) which sealed the deal for me. Thus began a quest to watch as many of Powell’s films as I could. Although I have yet to see any of his silent films in which he generally plays villains, I have seen the majority of his talking films and have never been disappointed. In some ways, he plays characters similar to Cary Grant, those of sophistication and humor. Yet there is a subtle difference which I just can’t put my finger on. He is suave and charming and his ability to deliver a quip has few equals. He often comes across mischievous and yet still trustworthy. I always know what I’m getting when I watch one of his films and they are always a pleasure to view.
Okay, I know I said I would follow the rules and stick to five, but I can’t talk about Norma Shearer without also mentioning my awe for her husband. So I guess, you will have to forgive me for not only breaking the rule of five, but breaking the rule of choosing film stars.
As I stated, how can I mention Shearer without also talking about her husband Irving Thalberg? Though he was not a film star onscreen, it can be argued that he was a star of film off screen. Along with Louis B Mayer, Thalberg was an instrumental and guiding force in creating MGM, the studio known as “having the most stars under Heaven” and also being the most powerful and influential of classic film studios. Thalberg was second in command as head of production answerable only to studio head Mayer. It was he who discovered and championed many of classic film’s beloved stars, including Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore and future wife Norma Shearer, among others. He oversaw over four hundred films in his tenure and was a visionary and risk taker whose ideas and accomplishments are too numerable to name here. The reason I admire him so much is that he did all of this in a little over fifteen years, starting at the young age of twenty and knowing that he would die young thanks to a weak heart. How many men of such a young age would be capable enough to basically run, manage and grow a business of such size and also do it well enough to gain the respect of not only his peers and competitors, but the world at large. And to do so while battling ill health is an even greater accomplishment. Few people are able to leave behind such a legacy even when living their lives to the fullness of old age. His commitment, determination and work-ethic are to be admired as is his character, strength and presence which allowed him to stand his ground with resolve in a business inhabited by strong personalities with strong opinions. And that is why I break the rules to share my favorite off-screen film star.
The Promise is set in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey, during the early years of World War I. Young Mikael Boghosian comes from a family of apothecaries, but his real dream is to leave his mountain village to attend medical school in Constantinople so that he can return to doctor his people. This dream has always been out of reach. That is until he betroths himself to a local girl in order to gain her dowry for the school fees. He plans to complete a three-year medical degree in two, and then return home to marry her. He believes he will learn to love her eventually.
In Constantinople, Mikael boards with a wealthy relative. Then he meets Ana a fellow Armenian raised in Paris who has returned to her home country with her American reporter boyfriend Chris Myers. Although an immediate attraction between Mikael and Ana stirs…
Vivian Hartley was born in 1913 in India where she was raised by her parents for the first six years of her life. Her mother eventually sent her to a girls convent school in England where she met friend and fellow actress Maureen O’Sullivan. Later on as she traveled with her parents she attended various schools in Europe and became fluent in French and Italian.
Vivian married at the young age of 18 to barrister Leigh Holman, a man many years older than she. By the age of 19 she had given birth to her only child, a daughter.
While pursuing her passion for acting in the theater, she met fellow actor Laurence Olivier with whom she began an affair. Although they were both married to others and had young children, they fell in love and eventually obtained divorces which enabled them to marry. They remained married for over twenty years and were linked together forever in the public mind since they appeared in numerous films and plays together.
Vivien Leigh suffered from bipolar disorder for most of her adult life, which greatly affected both her career and personal life, occasionally undergoing shock treatments to manage the illness. She also suffered through a couple of miscarriages and contracted a recurring case of tuberculosis. It was the tuberculosis that eventually killed her at the young age of 53.
Vivien Leigh always knew she wanted to be an actress, even telling friend and classmate Maureen O’Sullivan of her intent to become “a great actress”. This desire may have been fostered in her by her mother who introduced her to classic literature at a young age and who took young Vivian to her first play. After marriage and the birth of her daughter, she took the stage name Vivien Leigh and began to appear in small roles in the London theater. This is where she eventually met co-star and lover Olivier. She also began appearing in British films.
Both Olivier and Leigh were making names for themselves in the theater and British film, but it was Olivier’s role in Wuthering Heights and Leigh’s interest in playing Scarlett of Gone With the Wind that brought them to the attention of American audiences. Against all odds Leigh landed the very coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara winning her first of two Oscars.
Vivien Leigh along with Laurence Olivier continued to hone their craft in both British and American films as well as the theater balancing their busy professional life with a personal life fraught with mental illness, unfaithfulness, financial failures and other challenges. Through it all neither one gave any hint of their personal trauma.
Leigh managed to win a second Oscar for her role of Blanche DuBois, another Southern belle with issues, in A Streetcar Named Desire. Leigh originally played the role on the West End theater before it was brought to film, She has said that it was her time spent as the broken Blanche which “tipped me over into madness”. Despite this Leigh continued to make appearances in both film and the theater up to her death. Thanks to her talent she is an acting icon and upon news of her death, the lights of every theater in London were extinguished for an hour in her honor. And although she appeared in less than twenty films, both British and American, she left an indelible mark and is one of a handful of actresses to win the Oscar each time she was nominated.
Laurence Olivier -Not only did Olivier and Leigh appear in several plays together, but they also co-starred in three films, Fire Over England, 21 Days Together, That Hamilton Woman.
Robert Taylor -Both Taylor and Vivien Leigh were acclaimed for their looks. Sometimes this overshadowed their individual talents. Taylor and Leigh starred in two films together, A Yank at Oxford and the melodrama Waterloo Bridge, which was a favorite film of both.
Gone With the Wind (1939) -This is only one of the most famous and highest grossing films of all time. Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, it tells the story of the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction era as seen through the eyes of Scarlett O’Hara. Leigh won her first Oscar for this film.
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) -Leigh co-starred with Marlon Brando in another Southern tale of a dysfunctional female who becomes involved in a destructive relationship with her brother-in-law when she goes to live with her sister. Leigh’s performance in this film won her a second Oscar.
MY FAVORITE FILMS
Storm in a Teacup (1937) -A rarely seen romantic comedy set in Scotland which also stars Rex Harrison (of My Fair Lady fame).
Gone With the Wind (1939) -Listen, this film is a famous classic for a reason and I have lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this film. Besides who wouldn’t watch Clark Gable play Rhett Butler over and over again?
Waterloo Bridge (1940) -This is a remake of an earlier film about a doomed love affair between a soldier and a ballerina. It was both Robert Taylor’s and Vivien Leigh’s favorite film and is tragically beautiful.
“I’m not a film star; I am an actress. Being a film star is such a false life, lived for fake values and for publicity.”
“Comedy is much more difficult than tragedy – and a much better training, I think. It’s much easier to make people cry than to make them laugh.”
“All day long you’re really leading up to the evening’s performance. To time everything correctly, you have to take care of yourself – which is a very difficult thing to do, because it’s highly emotional.”
“Some critics saw fit to say that I was a great actress. I thought that was a foolish, wicked thing to say because it put such an onus and such a responsibility onto me, which I simply wasn’t able to carry.”
Japanese film Departures tells the story of Daigo a professional cellist who loses his dream job with a Tokyo orchestra. In debt, and with no other options, Daigo makes the decision to move with his wife Miko, back to his hometown to live in the house he inherited from his mother.
While job hunting, Daigo finds an ad for a job assisting in departures which promises good pay with no experience required. Upon arriving at the business which he thinks is a travel agency, he discovers from the owner that the ad is a misprint. The position available is actually as an assistant to help with “departures”, more commonly known as an undertaker.
The owner hires him on the spot despite Daigo’s hesitancy to work with the dead. Being unsure that he will keep the job and embarrassed by it, he does not inform his wife about the details of his new position.
But as time passes and Daigo is mentored by his employer, he begins to understand and value the importance of a job which helps grieving friends and family members send their loved ones off with a beautiful farewell.
“One grown cold, restored to beauty for all eternity. This was done with a calmness and precision and above all a gentle affection. At the final parting, sending the dead on their way, everything done peacefully and beautifully.”
For a film which focuses on death, Departures is surprisingly moving. Although the subject matter is both sad and serious, the message of the film and the journey Daigo experiences in his position, is both positive and optimistic.
One thing which really touched me is how the film portrayed the death of Daigo’s long earned dream of being a professional cellist. It is only after he releases this dream that he finds his true calling. Working with corpses is not most people’s idea of a fulfilling and meaningful job. Yet Daigo learns that although he is handling the dead, it is really life that he helps to celebrate. His work helps to bring closure and peace to those who mourn.
Because Departures is a film which celebrates life, the human relationships take center stage. Daigo still struggles with his father’s abandonment of him when he was young. And he grieves the fact that he missed his mother’s funeral because of his busy lifestyle. With his boss acting as both mentor and father figure, he learns how to accept and honor all lives, even those who lived imperfectly.
Daigo’s relationship with his wife also plays a major part in his transformation. Although she willingly accepts his decision to move their lives back to his home town, she balks at his newly chosen profession. Mika is entirely loving, supporting and accepting of Daigo despite the fact that he makes decisions without consulting her. She finally gives him an ultimatum, which reveals the depth of his commitment to his new life.
Although this is a deep and serious film, there are some humorous moments as you might imagine with this subject matter. The funniest scene is Daigo’s first assignment where he must help his boss prepare the body of an elderly woman who had died in her home remaining undiscovered for many days. I could sympathize with his disgust on entering her filthy home and his gag reflex upon seeing her decaying form.
A final highlight of this film for me was the window it provided into Japanese culture. It always fascinates me to see how other people live in comparison to my own way of life. The Japanese countryside is also pretty stunning and I felt like I had traveled to Japan directly from my living room.
Departures is a deeply touching story which portrays the dichotomy of life and death. In portraying the sadness of death, Daigo and the viewer learn how to appreciate the gift of life and to live it more fully.
This film is available to stream on Amazon and iTunes.