Sunday, September 30, 2018

THE DEBORAH KERR BLOGATHON: Reunion at Fairborough (1985)


Maddy Loves Her Classic Films and is celebrating Deborah Kerr on the occasion of her birthdate, September 30th, with a blogathon. Click HERE for the tributes to the actress whose name rhymes with star.

There is joy in watching experts in their field. Skill and talent can be inspirational. There is an added emotion when observing the art of acting when it holds up a mirror to humanity.

Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr at Mascot Airport, 1959
Have they finished The Sundowners or are they about to begin it?

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison in 1957 was the first teaming of two actors of vastly different backgrounds and temperaments, whose experience and talent combined beautifully. Their later big-screen collaborations would include a sophisticated marital comedy The Grass is Greener and a story of migrant workers in Australia, The Sundowners.

Robert Mitchum as Carl Hostrup and Deborah Kerr as Sally Wells Grant
Reunion at Fairborough

The final pairing of Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum would be Reunion at Fairborough, a 1985 TV movie originally airing on the American cable channel, HBO. Albert Ruben, whose television scripts include westerns, crime pictures and soap operas, and an Edgar win for 1980s City in Fear wrote this telefilm. Herbert Wise was the director. His long career included Emmy nominations for I, Claudius and Skokie. The music by composer Nigel Hess underscores the emotions with a feel not unlike the scores in films of the 1940s. Reunion at Fairborough was filmed on location in England.

In World War II,
America's Eighth Air Force attacked
Hitler's Germany from bases in Britain.

To the gallant men and women
of the Eighth,
and to the generous Britons who
opened their hearts and homes to them,
this picture is gratefully dedicated.

When we meet Carl Hostrup (Robert Mitchum) he appears to be a prosperous, if solitary man. It is when he returns to his apartment and contemplates suicide that we understand the depths of his despair. Fortunately, he changes his mind and is brought out of his depths by a phone call.

Robert Mitchum, Red Buttons

Dr. Nathan Barsky (Barry Morse), formerly Sgt. Barsky is arranging a reunion of the bomber squadron of which they both were members. It is in two weeks time at the village where they had been stationed, Fairborough. Barsky assumes "Hoss" Hostrup will attend and tasks him with finding that "tough little guy" Jiggs Quealy (Red Buttons). Carl needs to be doing something and when he discovers Quealy is a rummy who makes a little money by sweeping out a flophouse, he takes him on as a project. Jiggs is dried out and cleaned up and taken to the reunion.

Carl thinks often of the old days and the memories are in black and white. At home in Chicago, they are memories of planes and scared, yet brave young men. As the train takes him and Jiggs through the countryside Carl's memories are of a young woman and lost love.

The first day in Fairborough is a scene we have become familiar with through newscasts of similar events with bands playing and children waving flags. Banners proclaim "welcome" while a local reminds younger people of the old saying about the Yanks. "over-sexed, overpaid, and over here."

Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum

The first day also sees Jiggs fall off the wagon while Carl goes looking for that lost love Sally (Deborah Kerr). At Sally's home, he meets her granddaughter Sheila (Judi Trott) who offers to drive him to the shop where Sally works. Sally's immediate reaction upon seeing Carl is "My God!" causing Sheila to ask "Is he the one?" When Sally nods, Sheila shocks Carl with "Hello, Grandad."

Carl did not know of the existence of his daughter with Sally who died, along with her husband, in an accident at age 23. At this stage of her life Sally is not of a mind to apologize for the decision she made all those years ago. Carl would like to blame her, but he cannothonestly say if his younger self would have walked away or reached out for happiness.

Red Buttons, Barry Morse, Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr

Reunion at Fairborough takes its time allowing us to experience the festivities and reflections. Dr. Barsky is a guide through the physical location of the air base. It is a battered memorial to the physical and spiritual journey taken by himself and so many others. Barry Morse is wonderful in the role.

Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, Judi Trott

Sally and Carl reconnect, rehash the past and prevaricate about the future, particularly if they have a future at all. Carl tries to bridge the generation gap and family gap with his granddaughter. An activist against a local American missile facility, she and Carl are at odds about his defensiveness about her perceived hate for Americans. Sometimes they listen to each other and sometimes they just shout at each other.

Jiggs takes a clear-eyed look at himself for the first time while in the company of the companions of earlier days. He vows to turn over a new leaf, to be a better man. We can but hope that the experience of these days will carry him far.

Sheila comes to love her grandfather, as he quickly came to love her. She reminds him of how much there is to live for and inspires a soaring act of defiance to the passage of time. Carl begins to hope that Sally will someday be his.

Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum

Deborah Kerr is marvellous in this role. Always a beautiful woman, she is 64 at the making of this film and the picture of the prettiness so well-remembered by Carl and his friends. She is feisty and vulnerable, full of longing and love. Her chemistry with Robert Mitchum, five years older than his co-star, has lost none of that sparkle and deep camaraderie audiences first saw 28 years earlier. Simply dancing to Moonlight Serenade, they are electric.

Reunion at Fairborough is a moving story and a fitting coda to the joint careers of two beloved stars.












20 comments:

  1. Did Kerr's character try to contact Mitchum to tell him about his child?

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    1. No. She made the decision to have the child on her own. And that is part of the conflict. He wonders if things would have been different if he had known.

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  2. Lovely post about an underrated gem. I often wonder about how many times the love story at the heart of this film played out for soldiers and their sweethearts in real life.

    This film served as the perfect final outing for Deborah and Robert's screen partnership. There is so much to enjoy about this film, and the performances of Deborah and Robert are a major reason for me loving this film so much.

    Thanks for joining me to celebrate Deborah Kerr.

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    1. My pleasure entirely, Maddy.

      I have found this movie to be one that lives long and affectionately in the memory, and the casting of Deborah and Bob was genius.

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  3. I adore Deborah Kerr and enjoy her performances in anything! She and Robert Mitchum had wonderful chemistry.

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    1. We're so lucky they enjoyed working together as much as we enjoy watching them.

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  4. A movie I don't even know about. This sounds good.

    On a side note, Judi Trott was my favorite Lady Marian, well maybe second favorite, in the 80s show Robin of Sherwood. Anybody remember?

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    1. I had forgotten all about that program. I think they ran it on TVO once upon a time.

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  5. Haven't seen this one and would love to have seen the final Kerr/Mitchum picture, they were such a sublime pair on screen. So very different but they meshed perfectly.

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    1. We're lucky they came together as professionals and friends.

      Reunion at Fairborough is currently up on YouTube (last time I checked), so if you have a little time, put the kettle on and check it out.

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  6. Have just watched this film thanks to your post - wonderful film on so many levels, enjoyed it very much. Thank you - Valerie

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    1. Valerie, thanks for letting me know. I appreciate that and so pleased you enjoyed the movie.

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  7. This is such a lovely article, about a film that really seems to show how people experience life, love and loss. I adore Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr together, and I can just imagine how fabulous they are as an older onscreen couple. --Palewriter (Gabriela).

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    1. Thank you very much. I was very touched by the movie and hoped to convey that feeling.

      Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum are amazing as these characters. They really share with us.

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  8. Paddy Lee, Deborah Kerr is one of my all time favorite actresses. I first saw REUNION AT FAIRBOROUGH(1985) when it was first on. I taped it and I still have it on a VHS tape. I agree with you in that it is a moving story and a fitting coda to the joint careers of two beloved stars.

    Deborah Kerr was a great actress with immense screen presence. I could talk about her great performances in Classic movies until the cows come home. She was beautiful with her red-gold hair, blue-green eyes, and shinning complexion. In THE SUNDOWNERS(1960) she wore no makeup, no need to. Her niceness, sensuality, strength, and wit comes across in such a noble way.

    Deborah Kerr's best screen partner, in my opinion, is Robert Mitchum. He stated many times that she was the best actress he ever worked with and his favorite co-star, but more importantly, she was his favorite person and lifelong friend.

    Paddy Lee, thank you for stirring my memories of a
    Great Classic Actress.

    P.S. The photograph of Deborah Kerr and Bob Mitchum at the airport was taken on December 17, 1959, after they had completed filming exteriors in Australia and were on their way to England where the interiors would be filmed.

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    1. Thank you for many things. First, for sharing your admiration for Deborah Kerr and this film, and for enlightening me about the photo. It makes me happy to see the pair away from their many screen characters. Ida and Paddy of The Sundowners are folks I love spending time with more and more.

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  9. Ooh, how have I seen the other Kerr-Mitchum pairings and missed this one? It sounds like a lovely film. I love that as a classic film lover there is always something new to discover.

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    1. We're very lucky that way. There's always a new avenue to explore and a new love to discover.

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  10. Out of their three collaborations, this is the only one that has escaped my eyes so far. I'll have to correct this! Also, how classy do they look in the airport photo? Now I have airport look goals.
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Kisses!

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    1. Airport look goals! That's perfect. I find this film charming and memorable. I hope you find it the same.

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