Caftan Woman

Caftan Woman

Thursday, May 18, 2017

CMBA SPRING BLOGATHON, UNDERSEEN AND UNDERRATED FILMS: Simon and Laura (1955)


The Classic Movie Blog Association is proud to present its spring blogathon, Underseen and Underrated running from May 15th through 19th. Please turn to this site for the blogs listed to read about some hidden gems.


"If there's one thing you can't be on television, it is insincere."

Eager young BBC producer David Prentice played by Ian Carmichael in the 1955 comedy Simon and Laura makes the above pronouncement. I think we can all agree that in 2017 as in the mid-1950s, that statement holds as much truth as it ever did.

David's pride and joy is the success of his daily serial Simon and Laura, following the day-to-day happy married life of two of Britain's famous and glamourous theatre stars, Simon and Laura Foster. There was some talk at the onset of the program of getting the Oliviers, but David prevailed with his fondness for the Fosters.


Simon and Laura have decided to part ways - again.
Kay Kendall, Peter Finch

Peter Finch, in his first film lead, plays Simon Foster, an actor with a penchant for gambling and who has not been employed in his profession for at least the past 18 months. This is a source of consternation for both Simon and his agent Bertie Berton played by Hubert Greg, as the balance of who is supporting whom has been tipped greatly toward administration and away from creativity.

The always delightful Kay Kendall stars as Laura Foster who is fed up with Simon's gambling and his habit of letting other women accidentally misplace their scarves and jewellery in his jacket pockets. The next time Simon returns home to mother for good, she hopes he will actually stay away.

The marital tension between Laura and Simon lead to very entertaining - shall we call them "discussions"? Yes, for the sake of decorum, let us call them discussions. Their epic discussions are filled with crushing barbs that humourously hit the target dead on. Thrown bric-a-brac, luckily, often misses the mark. The dry barbs aimed at the makers and purveyors of television programming will still ring true to today's audience. I commend the BBC for its co-operation with this production that so knowingly skewers the relatively young medium.


Wilson and Jesse put up with Simon and Laura.
Maurice Denham, Thora Hird

The BBC program is manna from heaven that Simon and Laura cannot ignore. For the sake of their sagging careers as well as the salaries owed their butler Wilson played by Maurice Denham and their maid Jessie played by Thora Hird, the show must go on.


Janet and David are keeping secrets.
Murial Pavlow, Ian Carmichael

David and his scriptwriter Janet Honeyman played by Murial Pavlow skirt around their burgeoning romantic issues while obliquely flirting with their stars. The stars, meanwhile, are enjoying the boost to their careers as the program becomes a national sensation. Wilson and Jessie even have their own equally devoted fan base. 

Only the CT or Controller of Television at the BBC played by Richard Wattis has doubts. He questions how a happy family can be represented on the airways without a child in the mix. Enter "nephew" Timothy, a brat of a child actor played by Clive Parritt. A precocious child is little Timothy, whose popularity and very presence is a thorn in the sides of our stars.


Simon and Laura, the Christmas episode.
Peter Finch, Kay Kendall

Once the question of a child is settled, the CT wants more conflict written into the show. No couple could possibly be as blissful as our Simon and Laura, the CT contends. Another brainstorm has Simon leaving the show so they can bring a different love interest in for Laura. David is of the opinion that Laura is too devoted to Simon to allow the show to take that sort of a turn. David's delicacy in broaching the possibility leads to a host of misunderstandings.  After all, what is a relationship comedy without misunderstandings to be sorted out at the finale? The wild finale of Simon and Laura takes place during a live Christmas broadcast from our star's home instead of the set. If you think about your own families at Christmas, possibly you can imagine many scenarios for our couples.

Simon and Laura is laugh-out-loud comedy with a knowing and sophisticated attitude toward broadcasting/media. Alan Melville wrote the original play which was mounted in 1954. The play was adapted for the screen by Peter Blackmore. Muriel Box, the Oscar winning screenwriter of The Seventh Veil, directed the film, which is one of 14 features she directed in her career. 

All aspects of the film are of a high quality that adds to the enjoyment of the viewer. For instance, our stars are placed in a stunning mid-century home courtesy of art director Carmen Dillon, Oscar winner for 1948s Hamlet and Emmy winner for 1975s Love Among the Ruins. The costumes, especially the wardrobe for Kay Kendall, are marvelous and come from Julie Harris, Oscar winner for 1965s Darling. The score is by Benjamin Frankel, Golden Globe nominee for 1965s The Battle of the Bulge, and it perfectly captures the comedy and the romance. Ernest Steward who filmed the Doctor in the House and Carry On comedies is the cinematographer and the Technicolor is gorgeous to behold.

Simon and Laura is an under-seen comedy that deserves a new audience in the media savvy 21st century where we are beset by all too much "reality" programming.


Many thanks to The Nitrate Diva for introducing me to this funny film.










12 comments:

  1. Wow, a very timely movie -- and certainly in the underseen category for me as I've never seen it or even heard of it. What a delight. The live Christmas finale is especially intriguing.

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    1. It is a movie full of chuckles and the leads are perfection.

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  2. Interesting! I wonder if the producers had the I Love Lucy franchise in the back of their minds. Cool, also, to see a very early example of 'reality TV!' This one does sound like a lot of fun.

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    1. "Lucy" may have been an inspiration, combined with Life With the Lyons. Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon's 1950 BBC radio show went to television in 1954, the same year the play was produced.

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  3. This sounds similar to the Nick Hornby novel FUNNY GIRL, also about a British sitcom marriage, only in the 60s. The wife is the real star of the show, and the focus of the novel. The TV marriage is both an inspiration of and a reflection of real life marriages at the same time. There's also a lot to do about class differences and cultural differences and sexuality. It's a good book.

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    1. Sounds like something I should check out. Maureen may have it. I know she's a Hornby fan.

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  4. I gotta tell you, I've not heard of this film, but I love classic age British cinema! Always looking for a new movie from this period, so thanks for this!

    Rupert

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    1. It's very funny. I'm sure you'll get a kick out of it. Thanks.

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  5. Oh dear, I always get this one mixed up with David and Lisa. Sparkling write-up, as always, CW!

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    1. Ha! Well, not to detract from the drama in the story of David and Lisa, but there are times when I've thought Simon and Laura should be institutionalized.

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  6. You can really sell someone on a film, Our Lady of Great Caftan...though you got an assist by mentioning that some of my favorite character thesps are in this one (Thora Hird, Maurice Denham, Richard Wattis, etc.). Great write-up!

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    1. Thanks! I pull in all the fire power I can.

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