Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
PS: It should be an easy three links to Grace from Sim.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
We are now in the fourth month of my self-imposed challenge to choose one film to recommend each month from TCM's schedule. December is a month filled with endless movie delights, but if only one movie is watched during the month it must be 1951s A Christmas Carol. I hear you. "Really, Caftan Woman? You must know that we all watch A Christmas Carol and who doesn't love the 1951 feature?" True, but Christmas is a time of tradition, not originality. A Christmas Carol has been a Christmas Eve tradition since my girlhood some fifty-odd years ago and this gives me a chance to sing its praises. It regularly plays on Canadian television on that night, and when VHS tapes hit the market it was my first purchase in case of any unforeseen distractions. It's not Christmas without that annual viewing with a hot pot of tea and something sweet (Nanaimo bars, anyone?).
Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge
John Charlesworth, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley
Assorted Cratchits champing at the bit for Christmas to begin.
In his story Dickens mentions Sir Roger de Coverley, a traditional Christmas dance tune and it is featured prominently at Fezziwig's party. Our local classic radio station in Toronto has the tune as part of its' Christmas playlist. I never can hear those fiddles start up without hearing Alastair Sim, with excitement in his voice, say "Look, there's Old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig - top couple."
We return to the inimitable Mr. Sim whose transformation from "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner" to "as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old city knew" is total and touching and real. It is all that is all we can ask and more from any performance of Scrooge and any adaption of A Christmas Carol.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Clarence: I'll tell you one thing, I'll never be baptized as long as that hideous monstrosity (pug dog statue) is in this house.
Vinnie: Alright. Alright. Clarence (Jr.). That pug dog goes back this afternoon and he is christened first thing in the morning. You heard him didn't you, Clarence? You heard him say that he'd be baptized as soon as I got this pug dog out of the house.
He: Don't tell me you're listening to Christmas music! The Americans haven't even had their Thanksgiving yet.
Me: You heard him didn't you, kids? He said as soon as it was American Thanksgiving it was all Christmas music, all the time.
What many people (meaning husbands) don't understand is that Christmas music, like the Christmas movies and books, must be started early or the season will pass without seeing reading or listening to all your old favourites.
I have a box full of tapes and CDs, and a shelf lined with LPs that call out to me. These are a but a few of the many.
Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack to the 1965 television special combines a true sense of childhood innocence with a touch of adult nostalgia that is at the same time a part of and transcends the iconic Charles Schulz characters of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder and Snoopy. For many youngsters it is their introduction to jazz. A happy introduction that will influence a lifetime of musical enjoyment.
Opening presents with the family
One for you and two for me
Oh, what a Christmas day!
Bing's classic Merry Christmas album with White Christmas, Silver Bells with Carol Richards, the fun tunes with the Andrews Sisters and the hymns gets a major workout this time of year, but I always start out with A Time to Be Jolly. It is a joyous album with a party feeling that I find irresistible.
Al Burt was a member of the Alvino Rey (married to Louise King) orchestra and through that association his carols were popularized by the King Family, first at their personal Christmas parties and on their television specials. His wonderful carols were recorded by Columbia records (company president James Conkling was married to Donna King) shortly before Al's untimely death from cancer.
Al Burt's lovely songs include Christmas Cometh Caroling, Jesu Parvule, Ah, Bleak and Chill the Wintry Wind, Bright, Bright, the Holly Berries, The Star Carol, Caroling Caroling, We'll Dress the House and Some Children See Him.
There's also the Robert Shaw Chorale and the Chieftains and Doris Day and The Mills Brothers and Peggy Lee and Jim Reeves and Roger Williams and The Platters and ...
Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends, and thanks for the often mentioned, but seldom followed guideline to when it is appropriate to listen to all Christmas music, all the time.
Friday, November 18, 2011
The Great Waltz
Above is my favourite performance of a title song of a movie, 1940s Rhythm on the River starring Bing Crosby. Christian Rub is the pawnbroker in the background who can't keep from grooving.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
EMS guy: "So, how straight was your nose this morning?"
Me: "What the Hell?!"
Me: "Is it like this every garbage day?"
Our admitting nurse was competent and funny. Hubby thinks she's cute.
Me: "What's he breathing with?"
My friends, in the words of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues: "Be careful out there".
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
The November choice is the film version of John Patrick's play The Hasty Heart directed by Vincent Sherman in 1949. The Hasty Heart is set at a convalescent hospital in the jungles of Burma at the end of WW2. The few remaining men are awaiting the unraveling of red tape of the healing of injuries before they are to be sent home.
Patricia Neal, Richard Todd
Very slowly and painfully Lachey opens up to the people around him. He even falls in love with Sister Margaret, which complicates things for everyone. Eventually the feelings of friendship among the group deepen and, ironically, at a time when lies might make things easier they become harder to tell because genuine feelings require honestly. Honesty is also a military order when the Colonel must tell Lachy of his fate and send him home. A heart can break very quickly, but can it heal as easily when precious time is almost gone? The Hasty Heart is an emotional movie and a worthy one. The entire ensemble brings their best to the script with Richard Todd giving an outstanding performance, as evidenced by his Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Author John Patrick (1905-1995) was born in Kentucky. He began working for radio in the 1920s writing over 1000 comedy scripts and Streamlined Shakespeare for NBC. His early work in Hollywood was a mix of crime dramas such as Mr. Moto Takes a Chance and comedies like the prison send-up Up the River.
In 1942 John Patrick began volunteer service for the American Field Service providing medical support for the British Arm serving in Egypt and the India/Burma campaigns. His experience formed the idea for his play The Hasty Heart which had over 200 performances in the 1945 Broadway season. Ranald MacDougall (Mildred Pierce) adapted the screenplay and was nominated by the Writer's Guild of America for Best Written American Drama.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Holmes star Nigel Bruce, in his unpublished autobiography Games, Gossip and Greasepaint, said this of Neill:
"Roy was an Englishman by birth who had become an American citizen. He was a little man, very fussy about his clothes and like myself, he always smoked a pipe. He was an extremely kind and friendly person and all his assistants and the crews who worked for him were devoted to him. Roy was an extremely able director, having a great knowledge of film technique and of the use of his camera. During the many pictures we made under his direction we found him a joy to work for. Basil and I nicknamed him 'mousey' during our first picture and the name stuck to him from then on. We both became extremely attached to Roy Neill.”
I can’t help but think from that description that 1935s The Black Room directed by Roy William Neill and starring Boris Karloff was as felicitous a teaming between director and star as it was of star and co-star. You see, in The Black Room Karloff plays twins. It’s a movie trick that seems to fascinate both actors and audiences. Why settle for one Bette Davis when you can have two (A Stolen Life, Dead Ringer) or two of Olivia deHavilland (The Dark Mirror) or two of Hayley Mills (The Parent Trap) or two of Jeremy Irons (Dead Ringers), etc.?
Let’s have a somewhat spoilerish look at The Black Room.
Time passes and forty years later the younger brother Anton has been gone from home for many years, driven away by the curse, although being born with a withered right arm may preclude his bringing any harm to his brother. Anton has been a student, a traveler and has grown into a thoughtful and kind man. The Baron Gregor de Berghman has remained in charge of the family estate with the assistance of family friend the now Colonel Hassel (Thurston Hall). Colonel Hassel has become adept at hiding his fear and loathing of Gregor. Gregor is the sort of man who engenders fear and loathing. The local peasantry are of two minds about the Baron, some say he is a tyrant, others that he is a fiend. It is known that women who have ventured to the castle have never been heard of again.
Gregor has called his brother Anton back to the family estate asking for help with affairs which have become too difficult to handle. The obliging Anton returns to find the peasants on the brink of revolt, his brother a volatile sort, and Colonel Hassel’s niece Thea (Marian Marsh) a lovely and charming young woman. Thea is in love with Lt. Albert Lussan (Robert Allen) and frightened by the attentions of the Baron. Gypsy girl Mashka (Katherine DeMille) isn’t frightened by the Baron, but she should be.
Anton’s return is part of Gregor’s scheme to quell the rebellion and gain lovely Thea as his wife. It is a cunning plan involving murder, deception and the black room. Gregor will murder Anton and take his place subduing the angered peasants. He will worm his way into Thea’s good graces through her uncle. Gregor will have everything he wants. Gregor is not afraid of the curse of the de Berghmans.
The Black Room is a “little” movie with an epic feel. Boris Karloff is a joy to watch as both the adorable Anton and the grim Gregor. The atmosphere of dread and gloom is palpable and the pace is brisk. Recurring visuals that highlight the story are the use of mirrors that can't help but reveal truths, and graveyards and iconic religious statues that reinforce the spiritual nature of the curse and the belief.
In Karloff's Baron Gregor de Berghman we have a villain of the highest order and his comeuppance is as delicious as a splash of Irish in a cup of coffee to dispel a dark, dank October evening. Happy Hallowe’en!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
The television series Ironside ran from 1967-1975. The wheel-chair bound Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside was smarter than your average cop and inclined toward the gruff side upon occasion. I've always felt that The Chief and Sgt. Ed Brown had a quasi Wolfe-Goodwin relationship. For many years it was Don Galloway I would picture as Archie when reading the stories. Also, Johnny Seven who had the recurring role of Lt. Reese on the series would have made a fine Cramer.
Attention to set and costumes was beyond reproach. Just as Stout's stories had his characters static in age while time swirled around them, the series was the same with Archie making quips about Nazis in one episode, and mini-skirts in another.