Les Misérables is Victor Hugo’s fictional masterpiece of commentary on law versus grace and the power of redemption. It has been adapted for the screen several times. The latest adaptation is set to air on PBS very soon.
I was fortunate enough to see the stage play on Broadway and it is one of my favorite musicals. I’ve also seen the 1998 and 2012 feature films, which I thought fell a bit short of in capturing the soul of the story I saw on stage. When the opportunity arose to view the first big screen adaptation made, of course, I had to watch it to see how it compares.
Our tale is set in nineteenth century France. Jean Valjean receives an unjust prison term for a minor offense. It is while in prison he first comes into contact with the merciless Javert who eventually becomes a policeman.
After his release, he encounters a compassionate priest who challenges him to show the same mercy he has given Valjean. This changes the course of his life. Valjean assumes a new identity and leads an exemplary life. His financial success allows him to be generous with others, but from a distance.
Then another life-changing encounter occurs when Fantine, a young woman fired from his factory, dies and leaves her young daughter behind. At the same time the rigid Javert, has been searching for Valjean for a long time over another infraction of the law he loves so much. Valjean is barely able to escape with his new daughter Cosette. They head to Paris where they hide out for many years.
Years later a grown Cosette falls in love with the young revolutionary Marius. Marius’ group is under surveillance by none other than Javert. This brings Valjean and Javert into one last confrontation with a surprising ending.
April was pretty busy for me as I watched 35 titles. Among these, one was a new theater release, one was a new Netflix release, one was a documentary. I saw six silent films, twenty two new to me classic titles including one foreign classic, re-watched six films for at least the second time and viewed three television series.
TCM chose to honor Greta Garbo this month, so I was able to catch seven of her films (including the documentary). My favorite of those was Love, a remake of Anna Karenina with John Gilbert. But I also discovered that I enjoy watching her opposite Nils Asther as well.
Kay Frances was also honored for a day this month and I saw six more of her movies. She was definitely at her best in the pre-code era.
Some of my favorite discoveries this month include Garbo and Asther in The Single Standard, the silent film Souls for Sale, the BBC’s mini-series Mrs. Wilson, The Teahouse of the August Moon and Kay Francis in The House on 56th Street. Continue reading “April 2019 Quickie Reviews”
Last year I had the honor of participating in the William Holden Third Golden Boy Blogathon. Although Holden has never been a personal favorite of mine, I’m so glad I did, because I discovered Dear Ruth, which is a delightful, lesser known rom-com. With such great luck, I decided to join in again this year, and chose another one of Holden’s lesser known comedies, Meet the Stewarts.
Although he is in love, Michael Stewart is reluctant to marry Candace Goodwin. You see, Candy comes from a wealthy family and Michael is strictly middle class. He worries about their financial compatibility and has real doubts as to whether Candy can stick to a budget. But Candy is insistent, so they marry only after her father vows to cut her off without a dime.
The Stewarts are blissfully happy, but challenges quickly arise when they must furnish their house. They go over-budget, but Candy assures Michael they can economize elsewhere. Little does he know that this is the beginning of a pattern in their marriage. Not only does Candy have no concept of how to manage money, but she has no practical house skills either. After a disastrous joint dinner with both of their families, it is also clear that neither family has much faith in their ability to make the marriage work. When the strains of real life finally catch up and overwhelm them, will they be able to stay together? Continue reading “William Holden Blogathon – Meet the Stewarts (1942)”
John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara are one of the under-rated screen couples of classic cinema. Together they made five films, three of those with legendary director John Ford. One would think that three such stubborn, opinionated and temperamental people might find it hard to create such a charming, sentimental picture like The Quiet Man. But that is exactly what they accomplished.
After decades of living in the America, Sean Thornton is returning to his birthplace in the little villiage of Innisfree, Ireland. Most of the villagers are happy to welcome home a member of the Thornton family, with the exception of Will Danaher, the local squire. Sean and Danaher get off on the wrong foot after Sean purchases the little cottage where he was born out from under Danaher. Making matters worse, Sean also takes a liking to Danaher’s fiery-tempered sister Mary-Kate.
While the villagers welcome him, Sean must adjust to the Irish customs and traditions honored in Innisfree. Nowhere is this culture shock felt more than in his courtship of Mary Kate. Of course, Danaher refuses to make it easy for him. And Mary Kate runs hot and cold. But Sean is assisted by the local matchmaker Michaeleen Flynn, Father Lonergan and the Reverend Playfair in adapting to his home country and in winning Mary Kate’s hand.
Blonde romantic-comediennes are a staple in Hollywood films. Names like Reese Witherspoon, Meg Ryan, Goldie Hawn, Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow immediately come to mind. And every single one of them is a talent with many popular rom-coms under their belts. However, perhaps none is so affiliated with this genre as Doris Day. She had what might be the best comedic run of any actress in film history beginning with her first romantic comedy It Happened to Jane in 1959 running through her last onscreen appearance in With Six You Get Eggroll in 1968.
I grew up watching the Rock Hudson and Doris Day trio of rom-coms. I absolutely adored them and still never get tired of watching them. Then I discovered her one outing with Cary Grant (who is a personal favorite) in That Touch of Mink. Next I fell in love with The Glass Bottom Boat, with co-star Rod Taylor, which I reviewed for last year’s Doris Day Blogathon.
Don’t you love it when you take a chance on a movie you’ve never heard of and end up loving it? Such is the case for me with Operation Mad Ball.
WWII may be over, but there is a group of men still stationed at an American medical base in France. Among these are Captain Lock (Ernie Kovacs) and his nemesis Private Hogan (Jack Lemmon). Lock is a by the book sort of Captain who is unpopular with the other enlisted men. Pvt. Hogan, however, is a man with a glib tongue and quick mind. He is well-liked by his fellow soldiers, especially for his attempts to make life more fun on the base.
Also stationed on base is a group of female nurses, many of whom are officers. When a fellow private falls for a nurse, Hogan uses it as an excuse to play Cupid, by planning a ball. However, this is easier said than done. The machinations the men go through to secretly secure the site and the resources rivals a legitimate complex military mission. This is complicated when the base’s commanding officer Colonel Rousch (Arthur O’Connell) starts planning his own party for the same night. Hogan also needs to continually keep one step of Lock who is determined to finally catch him breaking Army regulations. Continue reading “Classic Film Review – Operation Mad Ball (1957)”
I love a good meet-cute. You know, it’ the moment where two characters meet for the first time. In most films, the meet cute sets the stage and the tone for all that is to follow. It immediately tells you what type of relationship the two characters will have as they get to know each other better. Some meet-cutes are in fact cute, others are antagonistic. Meet-cutes are actually one of my favorite moments in a film.
Have you ever allowed your prejudice or bias influence your ability to enjoy something? I have. Aside from the music, I pretty much avoid anything from the seventies. I’m just not a fan of most of what originated from that decade. Which is why, despite hearing nothing but positive things said of What’s Up Doc? I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it. Boy, was I wrong! What’s Up Doc? is one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen. And I say that as a connoisseur of comedic film. It’s my favorite genre. In fact, I think I laughed even harder the second time I viewed it than the first time around.
It all begins with four matching travel bags. One contains top secret stolen documents and papers. A government agent is hot on the trail, tracking them for recovery. The second belongs to the wealthy Mrs. Van Hoskins and contains her jewels. Dr. Howard Bannister is the owner of the third. It holds his beloved igneous rock collection. Howard is in town as a finalist for an important grant which would allow him to continue his studies on the effects of rocks in creating music. Accompanying him is his uptight fiancée Eunice Burns who manages his life like an automaton.
The fourth bag holds the personal effects of Judy Maxwell. Judy is a street smart young woman whom disaster seems to follow at every step. She is also remarkably book smart, full of random knowledge which she spouts off to the surprise of everyone around her. None of those carrying the bags are aware that anyone else has a bag resembling their own. And that is where the fun starts.
For the full review, please follow me over to the Silver Petticoat Review.
No matter what entertainment medium you favor, you can find family acting dynasties. The Fonda family is one which is well known to those who enjoy Hollywood films. Henry Fonda is the patriarch of this family of actors which includes his son Peter Fonda and grandchildren, Bridget Fonda as well as Troy Garrity. But it is Jane Fonda who I would like to focus on today.
Regardless what you think of her politics, Jane has made a name for herself outside the shadow of her father. With a career now spanning over five decades, fifty film credits, seven Oscar nominations (with two wins) she remains an active participant in the film community today.
Jane is also known for her many exercise videos, with her first one, Jane Fonda’s Workout becoming the highest-selling VHS ever. She has been married to a director (Roger Vadim), an activist (Tom Hayden) and a billionaire businessman (Ted Turner) and has two children. Continue reading “Fondathon – Sunday in New York”
When discussing talented or famous film actresses of the classic film era, Jean Simmons is not a name that comes up as often as it should. Often those with larger screen personas get all the attention. I myself have been guilty of overlooking her work. And yet, she appeared in some very successful films, was twice nominated for an Oscar and continued working until she died in 2010 racking up almost one hundred film credits. So I’m absolutely thrilled that she is receiving some well deserved attention with the Jean Simmons Blogathon.
In choosing one of Jean’s films to write about, I discovered that I have seen more of her movies than I realized. Despite being a beautiful woman, she has the talent of disappearing into her roles. What’s amazing is that she accomplishes this without any drastic changes to her appearance. Instead she actually BECOMES her character.
I have a few personal favorites among her pictures, and she has several famous film titles to her credit. But I wanted to choose one that I had not seen and also which I felt is a bit more obscure among her fans. That is how I found myself watching the 1963 film, All the Way Home. Continue reading “Jean Simmons Blogathon – All the Way Home (1963)”