Book Review -A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

SYNOPSIS

Tressa Harlowe’s father did not trust banks, but neither did he trust his greedy extended family. He kept his vast fortune hidden somewhere on his estate in the south of England and died suddenly, without telling anyone where he had concealed it. Tressa and her ailing mother are left with a mansion and an immense vineyard and no money to run it. It doesn’t take long for a bevy of opportunists to flock to the estate under the guise of offering condolences. Tressa knows what they’re really up to. She’ll have to work with the rough and rusticated vineyard manager to keep the laborers content without pay and discover the key to finding her father’s fortune–before someone else finds it first. Continue reading “Book Review -A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano”

Joan Crawford Blogathon – They All Kissed the Bride (1942)

When mentioning popular actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Joan Crawford’s name is always in the mix. Though it has been said she relished her movie star status, that does not negate the fact that she also had talent. She may not have been one who preferred the work over the celebrity like her rival Bette Davis, but no one can deny she was dedicated to her career.

Crawford most often played modern women in dramatic films. Occasionally, she would step outside of her normal milieu. But she did seem most at home in dramatic roles. However, she was capable of more as she proves in the comedy They All Kissed the Bride.

SUMMARY

Margaret Drew rules her world with an iron fist. This includes her family trucking business as well as the lives of her mother and sister. She exhibits little softness or human emotion, barking demands like an automaton whose sole concern is efficiency and a healthy profit margin. She further erases any hints of femininity in her choice of name, going by her initials M.J.

The current thorn in M.J’s side is writer Michael Holmes, whose former exposes have seriously impacted other companies’ bottom lines. M.J. is determined to use all legal avenues at her disposal to stop the publication of his book about her father.

When M.J meets a charming stranger at her sister’s wedding, she begins to experience strange emotions for the first time. Though she tries to ignore her physical reactions to this man who keeps popping up, she can’t completely control them. Matters are made worse when she discovers the man who makes her weak-kneed is actually Mike Holmes!

For his part Mike is intrigued by the challenge M.J. presents. Deciding she needs to be humanized, he alternately sweet-talks, goads and even bribes her at their every meeting. Can these two opposites find common ground?

MY THOUGHTS

Crawford is an odd choice in a role originally slated for Carole Lombard. But when Lombard died, the part was re-worked to better suit Crawford who donated her salary to the Red Cross in Lombard’s name.

Photo Source: IMDb

The opening scenes of They All Kissed the Bride seem to present a familiar Joan Crawford, stiff hair to match her stiff personality. A real ball-buster. Before long however, it segues into a surprisingly charming comedy about a woman learning to accept all aspects of her nature, without viewing them as weaknesses.

Though I admire Crawford, she has never been a personal favorite of mine. Perhaps, because I prefer romantic comedies to dramas as a rule. However, she exhibits not only a softer side of the character, but also of herself as an actress in this film. I was surprised by how well she handled the comedic portions of the story. She even managed to make M.J.’s perplexity over her literal weak knees convincing. As she transforms from M.J. to Maggie (Mike’s name for her), she becomes downright endearing and appealing.

Supposedly, Crawford insisted on Melvyn Douglas being cast as her romantic interest in their fourth and final film together. It proves to be a wise choice. Douglas had a deft touch when it came to light comedy. Once again, he perfectly fills the role of a man with a creative temperament who finds himself intrigued by his uptight leading lady.

Mike Holmes has the potential to come across as selfish or a bully. However, Douglas is able to portray him as a man who doesn’t just challenge M.J. He also believes in her potential to be better. While he may take advantage of her at times, it is never with ill intent, but always for her benefit, though Maggie can’t always see that. Thanks to Crawford and Douglas rapport, I believed that these two opposites actually could attract.

But lest you think that Joan Crawford and Melvyn Douglas are the only attractions of this film, let me mention that they have a talented supporting cast. Old stalwarts, Roland Young and Billie Burke have important roles as M.J.’s right-hand legal advisor and her mother. Burke plays her usual flighty part, but with a surprising character twist towards the end. Then there is Allen Jenkins as a Drew Trucking employee, close friend and informant to Mike Holmes. Jenkins could occasionally over act his parts, but he is perfectly cast here. All the while he is giving Mike insider information on the company’s practices, he also unknowingly provides M.J. with first hand knowledge of her employee’s experiences with her rigid company rules.

Though They All Kissed the Bride will never be considered one of Joan Crawford’s best films, I would definitely consider it an under rated one. Giving her an opportunity to play both drama and comedy it proves that she is more versatile than she often gets credit for being.

 

Classic Film Review – Les Misérables (1935)

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.

SUMMARY

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.

For my full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Book Characters That I Relate To

Today’s Topic: Characters That Remind Me of Myself

Hosted by: That Artsy Reader Girl

Hmm, well this week’s topic has me a bit stymied. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a character that reminds me of myself. But then, I don’t know that I see myself clearly enough to define my identity.

So instead, I decided to focus on characteristics and experiences that I can relate to. Continue reading “Top Ten Tuesday – Book Characters That I Relate To”

Audrey Hepburn Blogathon – Enchantment by Donald Spoto

Audrey Hepburn

From the moment she burst onto the scene and even decades after her death, Audrey Hepburn has been an international star. Even now, she still receives more media attention than many of our current celebrities. Hepburn achieved fame as a film star, fashion icon and even a humanitarian.

But even though I’ve seen most of her films, read many articles about her public persona, I realized recently that I knew very little about the private Audrey Hepburn. The real Audrey. Who was she? I knew only the most basic of facts, which is why when the opportunity arose to participate in The Audrey Hepburn Blogathon, hosted by Janet at Sister Celluloid, I decided to review Donald Spoto’s biography, Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn. Continue reading “Audrey Hepburn Blogathon – Enchantment by Donald Spoto”

April 2019 Quickie Reviews

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.

Garbo and Asther in The Single Standard
Photo Source: IMDb.com

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”

Book Review – What the Wind Knows

Amy Harmon is a talented author who has penned stories in several different genres. As a fan of historical fiction, of all her stories, my favorite is From Sand and Ash, a WWII tale of love, bravery and an inter-faith romance. So, when I learned Harmon’s latest release was another historical offering, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.  As I’ve come to expect from Harmon’s novels, it did not disappoint. What the Wind Knows was a story I could not put down.

WHAT THE WIND KNOWS SYNOPSIS

Anne Gallagher grew up enchanted by her grandfather’s stories of Ireland. Heartbroken at his death, she travels to his childhood home to spread his ashes. There, overcome with memories of the man she adored and consumed by a history she never knew, she is pulled into another time.

The Ireland of 1921, teetering on the edge of war, is a dangerous place in which to awaken. But there Anne finds herself, hurt, disoriented, and under the care of Dr. Thomas Smith, guardian to a young boy who is oddly familiar. Mistaken for the boy’s long-missing mother, Anne adopts her identity, convinced the woman’s disappearance is connected to her own.

As tensions rise, Thomas joins the struggle for Ireland’s independence and Anne is drawn into the conflict beside him. Caught between history and her heart, she must decide whether she’s willing to let go of the life she knew for a love she never thought she’d find. But in the end, is the choice actually hers to make?

For my full review of this wonderful book, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Ten Book Quotes

Today’s Topic: Inspirational/Thought-Provoking Book Quotes

Hosted by: That Artsy Reader Girl

What a fun, original topic this week’s prompt is. I love quotes, but for some reason I find it much easier to remember film quotes than book quotes. The good thing about that is it led me to go back through all my book highlights to re-live some of my favorite lines.

As a lover of words and well turned phrases, I appreciate a really good quote. Some of these I chose because I found the sentiment beautiful, others because they echo my own opinion. Then there are the ones which remind me of important truths.

Continue reading “Top Ten Tuesday – Ten Book Quotes”

Series Review – The Hour (2011-2012)

I’ve long been a fan of actress Romola Garai as well as British period dramas, so I was thrilled when I discovered the BBC series The Hour. Not only does it feature Garai in a leading role, but it also co-stars Ben Whishaw and Dominic West. The Hour is a tautly written political and newsroom drama set in 1960’s London.

SUMMARY

Bel Rowley (Garai) achieves her dream when she is tapped to be the producer of a televised news program for the BBC called The Hour. Joining Bel are experienced foreign journalist Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor) and Bel’s best friend and fellow journalist Freddie Lyon (Wishaw). Also, new to the team, is the well-connected and handsome Hector Madden (Dominic West) who serves as “the face” of The Hour.

Together, along with the rest of their team, they present their weekly news program covering current events both national and international. But the investigation and presentation of this news is a fine balancing act. Not only are they constrained by the need to present proof in their stories, but also by an advisor from Westminster who wishes to censor any information not favorable to the government.

For my full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

Book Review – The Girls in the Picture; Bringing Early Female Film Pioneers to Life

SYNOPSIS

It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone’s lips these days is “flickers”—the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you’ll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all.

In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have earned her the title “America’s Sweetheart.” The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution.

But their ambitions are challenged by both the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender—and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world’s highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered.

With cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish, The Girls in the Picture is, at its heart, a story of friendship and forgiveness. Melanie Benjamin brilliantly captures the dawn of a glittering new era—its myths and icons, its possibilities and potential, and its seduction and heartbreak. Continue reading “Book Review – The Girls in the Picture; Bringing Early Female Film Pioneers to Life”