I spent three days a week for ten years educating myself in the public library, and it's better than college. People should educate themselves- you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of ten years, I had read every book in the library, and I'd written a thousand stories. - Ray Bradbury
I recently finished reading 'Act One: An Autobiography by Moss Hart'. I'd been planning to read it for a long time, and happily, was not disappointed. I've been a fan of his writing since the first time I watched Frank Capra's 1938 movie, 'You Can't Take It With You', adapted from Hart's play which he wrote in partnership with George Kaufman. I immediately tracked down a copy of the play, which happily was paired with another of Kaufman & Hart's works, 'The Man Who Came To Dinner'. Incidentally, this play was also made into a movie, in 1942. Both of these works are absolutely hilarious, and a tribute to the combined brilliance of Kaufman and Hart. 'Act One' was written by Hart in 1959, and does not provide an account of his entire career. It begins in his childhood and concludes with the success of 'Once In A Lifetime', his first play with Kaufman. Since he titled the book 'Act One', Hart no doubt intended to write a follow-up, but unfortunately he died of a heart attack in 1961. One of the great things about reading an autobiography by a Pulitzer prize winning playwright is the quality of the writing... I've picked up one or two autobiographies "written" by famous people, and quickly put them down again, unable to get past the terrible writing style. There's no danger of that here: Hart's book is expertly written and a completely engrossing read. I'm not alone in thinking this, of course- in the theatrical world, 'Act One' is considered the definitive insider's take on the rocky road to Broadway success. And there can't be many autobiographies that have been made into plays themselves, as 'Act One' was (also a movie).
Moss Hart was born in New York to parents who were Jewish immigrants from Britain. He grew up in poverty; his father, who was disabled, eked out a living as a cigar roller until mechanization eliminated his job. In the first part of 'Act One', we see young Moss' dissatisfaction with his life: his loneliness and sense of alienation from his rather dysfunctional family- his domineering grandfather, his defeated father and emotionally distant mother, his silent brother, and his selfish, eccentric Aunt Kate. It is Aunt Kate who introduces Moss to the theater, though in a rather unfortunate way. Living off the meagre income of Mr Hart, Kate refuses to get a job or help with the family finances in any way. Instead, she spends every penny she gets her hands on buying tickets to the theater, occasionally taking young Moss with her. These plays- viewed from the cheap seats- fire Moss' imagination, and he is devastated when, after a fight with his father, Kate is ejected from their home.
From his youth, Hart dreams of escaping the poverty which surrounds him and entering the magical world of the theater. This seems a forlorn hope, however, as he is forced to drop out of school after grade seven and get a job to support the family. He works in a fur storage vault, which leaves him smelling so badly that no one will sit near him on the subway during his long trips home. Fed up, one day he just walks off the job and never goes back. Through luck-or fate- he finds employment as an office boy for a theatrical company, and has a series of jobs as an entertainment director at summer resorts. His accounts of these jobs provide a lot of humour, mostly because the conditions and demands of these positions are so unbelievably appalling. Eventually, through hard work, luck, and plain dogged determination, he meets the man who will change his life.
Hart has written a play which the powers-that-be think has promise but needs work, to which end he is sent to see George S. Kaufman. At this time, Kaufman was already a famous writer, one of the theatrical elite. He was also well known as a play doctor, who would collaborate with other writers, helping them fix and rewrite their scripts. I must say, this is my favourite part of the book because their unlikely partnership has always fascinated me. They were a study in opposites- Hart enthusiastic and mercurial, Kaufman almost allergic to any display of excitement or sentiment. Hart is at first completely intimidated by Kaufman, who is 15 years older and famous, which leads to some really funny misunderstandings. Hart spends the first months of their relationship starving, because Kaufman rarely eats while he's working, and Moss is too shy to ask for a lunch break. Also, he thinks for the longest time that George's wife is his sister, because Kaufman never bothers to introduce her, and again, Moss can't bring himself to ask. At one point, Moss mentally composes a speech expressing his gratitude to Kaufman, but when he starts to actually say it, George abruptly gets up and leaves the room. Moss is abashed and afraid he offended, until it is explained to him that George just can't take expressions of gratitude or emotion- they make him awkward and uncomfortable.
One scene in this part of the book which I find really humorous is one in which Kaufman's wife, Beatrice, insists that he stop working and come down to tea with their company. Exasperated and grumbling, Kaufman accedes to her demands, dragging Hart along with him. Moss is shocked- and embarrassed- as he enters the room in his rumpled clothes and finds himself in the presence of the literary and Hollywood elite: Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, Alexander Woolcott, and Leslie Howard, to name a few. What is less funny is the agony they suffer over the writing of 'Once In A Lifetime'. After months of writing, they believe the script is ready, audition actors, and go to work staging and producing the play. Unfortunately, it fails with audiences and critics, so they frantically write and rewrite, and still it's a failure. Finally, having hit a brick wall, Kaufman is ready to throw in the towel. Unwilling to give up, Hart studies his beloved play critically and realizes that more than repair work is needed: the entire last act of the play will have to be ripped out and a new one written. The drastic cut done, inspiration starts to flow once again, and he and Kaufman finish 'Once In A Lifetime', which becomes a critical and commercial success, as does their partnership. 'Act One' ends on a high note, with Hart moving his family out of their dingy apartment into a luxurious home, full of hopes and dreams for the successes to come.
'Act One' is a great book, sometimes achingly sad, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and always eminently readable even if it's not always completely factual. It must be admitted that Moss took a few liberties with the truth. For example, in 'Act One', he writes touchingly about his Aunt Kate's death. In truth, she didn't die: always odd, she eventually went crazy, harassing Hart with threatening letters, vandalizing his home, and setting fires backstage at one of his plays. He omits this from the narrative... perhaps Moss the playwright wrote the ending he thought she should have, rather than her actual one. It is also true that Hart wasn't always as upbeat and positive about Broadway and success as his book would have you believe. There is a diary that he wrote in the last few years of his life which chronicled his depression and disenchantment with all of it. His wife, Kitty Carlisle, refused to release it to the public until after her death, probably because of the biting things he said about some of their acquaintances. This would seem to contradict a lot of what he wrote in 'Act One', but it should be pointed out that at the time he was struggling with bouts of what has now been diagnosed as bipolar disorder, characterized by periods of deep depression alternating with times of extreme energy, punctuated by extravagant shopping sprees. To combat this, he was seeing a quack doctor who was giving him weekly electric shock treatments. The wonder of it is not that he was writing dark thoughts in his diary, but that he could function at all, let alone maintain a successful career. However the final act of his life played out, 'Act One' is the touching and inspiring account of a young boy who dared to dream big, and then made that dream become a reality.
"How many of us would be willing to settle when we're young for what we eventually get? All those plans we make... what happens to them? It's only a handful of the lucky ones that can look back and say that they even came close." - 'You Can't Take It With You'
'The Secrets of Happy Families' is a book by Bruce Feiler in which he discusses methods and strategies to improve family life and happiness. This isn't a review of the book, because I haven't read it. What I have read is someone else's review of it, and I was particularly interested in one point discussed. Feiler contends that happy families know about their family's history. He cites a study which was done of multiple families which found: "The more children knew about their family's history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self esteem, and the more successfully they believed their families functioned."
Reading this made me reflect back over my own childhood, and realize just how important oral history was to our family. Over the years, tales were told- and retold- of our parents' childhoods, and their families' as well. Also long term family history: the MacDonald clan has a long and colourful past which makes for exciting (and often violent) tales. These stories in particular have led me to make two trips to Scotland... I still remember the sense of connection I felt as I stood for the first time overlooking Glencoe, and on Culloden moor, of which I had heard so often as a child. I think these tales also sparked my love of historical fiction.
Time marches on, and now the children are my nephews and nieces. As they appeared on the scene, we just naturally began telling them the same stories we had heard as children, as well as some about our own childhood added to the mix. And they are fascinated by them, just as we were, requesting their favourites time and again. Some years back, inspired by her kids' love of these tales, one of my sisters hit upon the idea of writing a family storybook. Each fall, she emails everyone in the family a subject, and we all write of topical personal or family occurrences. Last year the subject was 'accidents' and entries included the tale of one of my brothers and I piloting our toboggan into a fence post at a high rate of speed, and a sister's bike crash which ended with her landing in a tree. We send these stories back to my sister, and at Christmas, her children receive a new chapter to add to their family binder. Her husband also sends it to the rest of the family in ebook form, so everyone can enjoy the stories. At one of our most recent family get togethers, I entered my sister's living room and found a bunch of the young cousins gathered around my eldest niece, Katie, as she read them the story, 'Great Grandma and the Halifax Explosion'. None of these kids remember their Great Grandma Dorothy, but they know about her. Through this tale, they learn about an important event in Nova Scotian history, as well as how scary it was for five-year-old Dot and her family. It makes her real and relatable; she'll never be just a figure in old photographs to them. As the years go by, these children will grow up and have families; they'll take with them these stories and add more of their own.
'The Wrong War' is a darker entry into the Hornblower series than the previous three. It deals with some very difficult topics, such as military intervention in other nation's conflicts, and the demands of conscience versus those of duty. These are questions which still plague us today, and the answers are always controversial and messy.
At the beginning of the film, Captain Pellew is at a meeting at the Admiralty in which he is given orders to aid the French Royalists in their planned invasion of France. From the start, Pellew has grave reservations about the wisdom of the proposed plan, and its chances of success- especially since these plans may have fallen into the hands of the enemy. This unease only increases when he opens his sealed orders to find that their assigned landing point is such an obvious choice that the French can't help but be aware of it. His sense of impending disaster is obvious when he warns Hornblower to be on his guard at all times, worried he is sending Horatio and the others into a conflict which they cannot win.
As Pellew realizes that the Admiralty does not really expect the Royalist troops to succeed, he confides his sense of guilt to Lieutenant Bracegirdle over the fact that he suspected the plan was a foolhardy waste of effort and life and said nothing. When Pellew is in a longboat, rowing beside the common sailors, he is of course worried about the men on the ground, but what lends urgency to his strokes is the belief that he is partially to blame for their situation.
At the end of 'The Wrong War', Capt. Pellew demands from Hornblower an accounting for the failed mission and lost men. As Horatio struggles to answer, Pellew tells him grimly that he includes himself in the failure. Horatio's narrative in this film follows a similar course, pitting his sense of duty against his conscience. Lacking the information which Pellew has, he has no idea of the dubious nature of the mission upon which they have embarked. He soon learns, however, as Moncoutant and the French revolutionaries between them manage to destroy all his illusions.
All of the regular cast of the Hornblower series experience good character development in 'The Wrong War'. We get to see the comradeship between the men- Matthews, Styles, and Oldroyd in particular- as they face peril in a foreign land with courage and some gallows humour . Also, when Oldroyd is overcome with fear and panic, the others don't mock or despise him, but react with understanding. It is also heartwarming to see Matthews' concern over Kennedy's mental distress, both while holding the bridge, and later on, when Archie can't bring himself to blow it up. In both cases, Matthews is respectful of his superior officer, yet almost fatherly.
At the beginning of the film, Archie seems to have recovered some of the fun-loving personality he had displayed in 'The Duel', whenever Simpson wasn't around. He teases Horatio about his new uniform, and makes smart- alecky comments about the French troops and Major Edrington. As they enter France, however, it's obvious that beneath the surface Kennedy is still struggling with the after effects of his ordeal in Spanish prison. He seems to do all right when keeping busy, but anxiety and fear prey on his mind when he has time to dwell on these dark thoughts, such as during the waiting period at the bridge. Jumpy and on edge, he overreacts to the French presence, saying to Hornblower afterwards, "They mean to kill us!" Horatio doesn't sugar-coat the truth, essentially telling him, "Well, of course they do." The bluntness of this statement seems to shock Archie for a moment, but hearing the worst of his fears stated calmly as fact actually seems to steady him. He regains control of himself, and ironically, when Horatio later gives way to his grief and anger, it is Archie who pulls him back, giving him support and understanding.
Major Edrington is a great addition to the cast. He adds some much-needed levity as, with dry wit, he casually impales one character or another with a snarky verbal barb. He is also, however, a very competent commander and, as an experienced soldier, is far less shocked by what occurs than Hornblower. Horatio is used to sea battles, where he has certainly seen his share of destruction and death. He is unfamiliar though, with a land war, and the devastation it can cause to the civilian population. Mariette points out the helplessness she and the other townspeople feel, as both the revolutionary and royalist armies come through, taking what they want, using the town as a battlefield, uncaring about the collateral damage they cause. Hornblower sees this first hand, as Moncoutant engages in wholesale slaughter of the populace, and when the fighting starts, many people who only desired a quiet life are caught in the crossfire. Horatio finds this hard to accept but Edrington, a realist, points
out to him that they can do nothing to stop Moncoutant; the best they can hope for is to mitigate the damage he can do to their mission. As he advises Hornblower, "Never underestimate an enemy, but never overestimate an ally." They must work together to survive the dire situation they find themselves in, the result of this being that Edrington, at first rather dismissive of the navy, acquires a respect for Hornblower, Kennedy, and the rest.
As for Horatio, his finer feelings take a mauling in this episode. When we see him at the start, he is happy and hopeful, newly promoted and in his crisp new uniform. By the end of the film, the uniform is torn and dirty, not unlike Horatio's idealism. Whatever he has experienced before, Hornblower has never had reason to question that he was on the right side of the conflict. In 'The Wrong War', he must face the fact that, while perhaps not on the wrong side themselves, they have allied themselves with people who are-or who are at least as bad as those who are. I think that this is the true reason for his extreme reaction when Mariette is shot. It's hard to believe that it's caused solely by her death- after all, they barely knew each other, and let's face it, they had about as much chemistry as a plate of cold mashed potatoes. I think that Horatio had convinced himself that, if he could save this one person from the devastation that they had caused, then at least some good would come of their presence there. That hope dies with Mariette.
So, was 'The Wrong War' actually wrong? I think it was, and here's why. One of the terrible things about war is that people-and nations- are often forced by circumstances to do things which they wouldn't do under normal conditions. This sometimes includes holding your nose and allying yourself with people you distrust and/or despise, such as Russia in WWII. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" and all that. What you should be assured of however, is that the party with which you are entering this alliance can and will uphold their end of the bargain. If they can't, you've compromised yourself for no reason. Anyone spending five minutes in conversation with General de Charet would realize that he is an impractical dreamer, and Moncoutant is focused only on his personal agenda. They are untrustworthy allies who are unlikely to be successful at their assigned tasks.
The British Admiralty obviously knows this, and expects them to fail, which is why they only leave the Indefatigable to pick up survivors. Their reason for supporting this effort, I assume, is rather cynical: if by some miracle the royalists succeed, they will form a new government which will owe the British. If- as is more likely- they fail, they will at least be out of the Admiralty's hair, and may manage to distract and inconvenience the revolutionary army for a time. The thing is, this also means they are willing to send a number of their own- British sailors and soldiers- into a situation which they know will be both futile and fatal. There are of course times when it is necessary to send soldiers into situations which are likely, or even definitely, going to end in death. But just as military commanders trust their men to obey their orders, so the men should be able to trust their leaders not to send them into harm's way unnecessarily, or on a fool's errand.
This is why Captain Pellew reacts so strongly to the situation. It is hardly the first time that he's sent men into danger, but never before with prior certainty that they are doomed to failure. His sense of guilt that he allowed this to happen accounts for his urgent efforts to reach and save them. In the end, Pellew tells Hornblower that, as officers in the British navy, they have a duty to their king and country, but also to those under their command. This is what the top brass at the Admiralty forgot- that, as Horatio remarked in 'The Fire Ships', their duty "also lies with the lives of the men."
In 1990, TNT aired what is in my opinion the best adaptation of Treasure Island made to date. I say this, of course, not having seen all versions of it; Robert Louis Stevenson's 1883 book has been filmed at least 50 times over the years. It is a testament to the tale's enduring popularity that it has not only had many live-action incarnations, but has been reset in outer space, and even Muppetized.
I didn't catch the TNT version when it first aired, but had heard that it was really good. I eventually watched it on YouTube- where it can still be found- and enjoyed it so much that I decided to purchase it. To my dismay, I found it wasn't available anywhere, never having been released on DVD. Fortunately for those of us who love seafaring adventure and swashbuckling action- or simply great storytelling- TNT's Treasure Island was finally released on DVD in 2011. For the purposes of this review, I'm going to assume a certain amount of knowledge of Stevenson's original work. After all, to not have any clue about the basic plot line of Treasure Island, you'd have to be living Ben Gunn-like on a deserted island... in which case, you're probably not reading this anyway. Before I get started on the actual story, however, I want to mention how great the soundtrack is for this movie. It was composed by Paddy Moloney, and performed by his Celtic music group, The Chieftains, and is simply amazing. Here's a little taste of it:
I also want to express my admiration for Robert Louis Stevenson and the many tales of adventure he gave us, including 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' and my personal favourite, 'Kidnapped.' He apparently came up with the idea for 'Treasure Island' one day while amusing his stepson by drawing a treasure map. Many a map has been drawn since then as generations of children, their imaginations fired by this adventure story, have dug up their backyards in search of pirate gold. Happily for those of us who love the book, the 1990 film sticks very closely to its plot, whole swathes of the dialogue being directly lifted from the original work. There are a few minor changes to simplify things- for example, Jim's father is already dead at the beginning of the movie, rather than dying early on in the narrative- but most of the story remains intact.
One of the reasons this version of 'Treasure Island' works is its excellent cast. It begins, of course, with the arrival of Billy Bones at the Admiral Benbow Inn, which is run by Mrs. Hawkins, Jim's widowed mother. She is played by Isla Blair, and is literally the only woman in the movie. Fortunately, she makes the most of her limited screen time: Mrs Hawkins is a formidable woman, tough but honest, willing to pick up a musket or a club to defend herself and her son.
Oliver Reed gives a pitch perfect performance as the boozy old pirate Billy Bones. From the moment of his brash, swaggering arrival, we watch him gradually descend into drunken paranoia, drowning his growing fear in rum and inebriated belligerence. Actually, this role couldn't have been much of a stretch for Reed, whose life was one of riotous dissipation and whose untimely death in 1999 bore some remarkable similarities to that of Billy Bones.
Julian Glover is Dr Livesey, the Hawkins' family doctor and friend. He's also the local magistrate, and is the epitome of British imperturbability. When challenged by the bellowing, rum soaked Billy, the doctor calmly and eloquently tells him what he thinks of him and then coolly stares Bones down as he drunkenly threatens him with a cutlass. He is also a master of understatement: it makes me laugh every time when, after he and his men accidentally trample the vile Blind Pew with their horses, Dr Livesey views the remains and says, "Oh, dear." with a remarkable lack of concern. He is completely trustworthy, and it is to him that Jim first shows the treasure map. Always a voice of reason and sense, Livesey can be relied upon for good advice, and is frequently obliged to curb Squire Trelawney's wilder impulses. He is also an honorable doctor: while Livesey has no trouble shooting the pirates down when necessary, he also does not hesitate to patch them up, or treat them for their swamp fever.
Blind Pew is played by an almost unrecognizable Christopher Lee, and he is creepy . Knowing who's coming, it's unnerving to hear the ominous tap-tap of his cane through the mist, growing louder as he gets closer. Despite his blindness, Pew is anything but helpless. He doesn't have a Daredevil-like ability to sense things: rather, he uses his disability to lure people into getting close enough for him to grab and force them to do what he wants. He is so loathsome that you immediately side with Billy Bones, despite being disgusted by him only minutes earlier. Bones may be a sot and a criminal, but he doesn't give off the vibe of unadulterated evil that Pew does.
Richard Johnson gives an excellent portrayal ofSquire Trelawney, a goodhearted man with more money than sense. Trelawney, who is financing this venture, has done some travelling and so is deferred to by Dr Livesey and Jim in matters pertaining to the sea voyage. Unfortunately, swanking around Europe with a bunch of servants in tow isn't exactly the same as the potentially dangerous quest they're undertaking, and the Squire is the least suitable person to organize it. Trelawney is childlike in his excitement over the map, dressing in what appears to be an admiral's uniform, and insisting on choosing the crew himself. The problem is, he's a terrible judge of character, and susceptible to flattery; he approves of Long John Silver because he appeals to his ego, and resents Captain Smollet because he won't pander to his vanity. Silver sees him as the easy mark he is, and plays him for a sap. On the other hand, the Squire is brave and loyal, quick to admit when he's wrong, and a staunch ally when the chips are down.
Captain Smollet (Clive Wood) is an able and competent commander and a worthy adversary for Silver. Squire Trelawney originally dislikes him because he is brusque and blunt, with no talent for being tactful. This is obvious the first time we see him, as he walks into the Squire's cabin and announces, "Gentlemen, I don't like this cruise, I don't like the men, and I don't like my first officer... that's it, short and sweet." Despite his lack of people skills, he is much better at reading men and situations than the squire, but even he doesn't see through Long John Silver or foresee the coming mutiny.
The two central characters in Treasure Island are of course Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver, played by Christian Bale and Charlton Heston respectively. Heston is great as Silver, skillfully depicting the dual nature of the man- capable of being folksy and charming, but also of being treacherous and violent. The man who takes the time to explain the workings of the ship to Jim and tell him tales of adventure on the high seas, is also the pirate who murders another sailor in cold blood because he refuses to join the mutiny. It is also never quite clear whether Silver actually has a liking for Jim, or if it's all just part of his facade. Certainly he saves Jim from being killed, but that is at least in part to have a bargaining chip when and if things go badly for him. T.I. 1990 was written and directed by Fraser Heston, Charlton Heston's son, but his casting as Silver wasn't simply a case of nepotism (I'm looking at you, 'After Earth'), because Heston was actually really well suited to this role- taking it seriously, never winking at the camera, or descending into camp.
Christian Bale, already a critically acclaimed child actor for his role in Steven Spielberg's 'Empire of the Sun', provides us with a likable and believable Jim Hawkins. Treasure Island is an exciting tale of adventure, but is also the story of a boy becoming a man under very harsh circumstances. The Jim Hawkins who grinned excitedly at the sight of the Hispaniola in Bristol Harbour is a very different boy than the one who returns to England, soberly determined never again to venture to Treasure Island. He has witnessed the worst of human nature- greed, treachery, and murder; he has faced death, and caused it. But he has also seen some of the best of humanity in Dr Livesey, Redruth, Smollet, and the rest: courage, honour, and self-sacrifice. Jim has also experienced betrayal by someone he trusted, learning that evil can wear a smiling face. At first wary of Long John Silver due to Billy Bones' warnings about a one-legged man, Jim is won over by Silver's friendly banter and flattery. It is not until the apple barrel scene that he realizes what lies behind Silver's benevolent facade. In a nice touch, as Silver talks the young sailor Dick into joining the mutiny, he uses the exact words he had previously used to bring Jim around: "You're smart... smart as paint, I seen that right off." Near the end of the film, Long John Silver once again tries to worm his way into Jim's good graces, but Jim is unmoved, telling Silver calmly, "I won't be fooled by you again."
If I have any complaints about the casting, it would be about Pete Postlethwaite as the pirate, George Merry. Don't get me wrong- he's fine in the role- but that's just it: he's sadly under used. Every time he's on the screen, I wish he had a bigger part to play. There's not enough Postlethwaite. Also, while Nicholas Amer is perfectly serviceable as crazy old Ben Gunn, to me the definitive Gunn will always be the delightfully unhinged Geoffrey Wilkinson in Disney's 1950 version:
Then, of course, there's Elijah Wood's Ben Gunn in the 2012 miniseries... I'm sorry, I just can't take this seriously... I apologize to Nicholas Amer. Where was I? Oh, yes- as I said, the cast is really well chosen, and in particular, the decision to go with an older child actor as Jim Hawkins is an inspired one. I believe that Christian Bale was fourteen at the time, and this allows the movie to be darker and more realistic. It is easier to accept a fourteen year old accomplishing all that Jim does, rather than a younger child. As well, his being a teen allows the film to portray the pirates as evil and violent as they would realistically be.
Referring again to the 1950 Disney version, you just never believe that this Jim Hawkins is in actual danger. Partly, of course, this is because it is a Disney movie, but it's also because nobody wants to see a bunch of middle aged men menacing baby-faced Bobby Driscoll.Christian Bale is just old enough to make the violent scenes tense, but not uncomfortable.
Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' is an exciting adventure story which stirs the imagination of children and adults alike, and it has provided a prototype for almost every fictional pirate since its publication. TNT's 1990 version is a worthy adaptation of this work: in my opinion, one of the very best. If you haven't seen it, I would definitely recommend checking it out. You won't be sorry.
In Muzillac, they are met by the mayor, whom Moncoutant incredulously identifies as a local tradesman. The Marquis, already enraged by the thought of a peasant running his town, completely loses it when, entering his formerly luxurious home, he finds it in ruins. The locals are using his paintings and books as fuel for the fire, as they "serve no useful purpose." I must confess, I feel my first- and last- twinge of sympathy for him at this moment. He orders all the townspeople gathered, and then commands the mayor to take down the Republic's flag. When the man refuses and starts singing La Marseillaise, the people join in, until their sing-a-long is cut short by Moncoutant shooting the mayor. He then attempts to shoot a child who keeps on singing, until stopped by Hornblower. Apparently not a music lover.
He obviously isn't a fan of educating the masses either, as he orders his men to smash up the town school. Horatio, seeing soldiers driving the children and their teacher into the street, is inclined to put up a fight, but Major Edrington pulls him away, rightly pointing out that they're not in a position to do anything about it. Hornblower is still stewing about it at dinner that evening, but Moncoutant seems oblivious to this- or uncaring- as he is as obnoxious as possible during the meal. He speaks about the young teacher, who has now been forced to work as his servant, as if she isn't in the room, and treats her disrespectfully. Horatio bristles at this, and when Moncoutant mockingly accuses him of being a republican, he loses his temper and says what he thinks of the Marquis' behaviour. Hornblower then excuses himself from the table and stalks out of the house, where he runs into Mariette, the pretty young school teacher.
He offers to see her home safely, and escorts her to her house/school, where he helps her clean up and somehow ends up kissing her.Their tender moment is interrupted by some drunken French soldiers pounding on the door, trying to get at Mariette.Horatio spends the night there- sleeping in a chair- to protect her. He awakens to the sound of gunfire coming from the bridge, and arrives there to find a small number of republican soldiers are taking shots at the men holding the bridge. Kennedy, already jumpy and on edge, overreacts to this, and has the sailors firing wildly at the unseen Frenchmen. Hornblower orders the men to stop wasting shot, and Archie calms down and regains control.
Curiously, downriver Major Edrington and his men are facing the same scenario: a few French troops shooting from hiding. They seem mostly interested in getting the British troops to waste time and ammunition. Edrington and Hornblower find this suspicious, but have no choice but to continue following their orders. They are in agreement that they can expect nothing from Moncoutant, who has shown himself to be volatile and erratic.
This is certainly true, as we see when Horatio returns to the town and the carnage there. Moncoutant has set up his precious guillotine, and is happily executing many of the townsmen. Hornblower tries to get him to apply himself to setting up a line of defense against possible attack, which was their purpose in being sent to Muzillac to begin with. The Marquis, however, is completely uninterested, saying dismissively that the British soldiers can handle it... his own men are needed to round up and execute his victims.
Trying to figure out what exactly is going on, Horatio scouts around, and finds evidence that a sizeable French force passed through a short time before their arrival. He returns to the town, where the slaughter continues unabated, and questions Mariette. At first she refuses to tell him anything- why should she aid the force which is causing so much misery to her people? But when Horatio makes it clear his survival depends on it, she tells him what he wants to know. The republican troops came through Muzillac several days before the British arrived, on their way to meet General de Charette's force which- surprise, surprise- they knew was coming. Hornblower realizes this has all been a trap and Charette's army is doomed.
This is all too true, as we see in various cutaways to Charette's force and the Indefatigable. Heading inland, Master Bowles finds it odd that they have not met with any resistence... it all seems a bit too easy. Charette, however, takes this as a sign that the people are on their side. His touching naivete proves fatal as they are met by a much larger republican force. Charette and his men fight bravely, but are wiped out. Bowles survives by pretending to be among the slain, then killing one of the Frenchmen, donning his uniform, and escaping on a stolen horse.
Meanwhile on the Indy, Pellew has had time to consider the situation while waiting for word. Specifically, it took three ships to transport the royalist forces there, but only the Indy was ordered to remain. Obviously, if things go badly, the Admiralty has calculated that there won't be many men left alive to retreat. Then, as they hear the sound of heavy artillery in the distance, Pellew realizes that what he has feared all along has occurred. After waiting in vain for survivors to return, it becomes obvious that no one is coming. Pellew decides to disobey his orders, leave Quiberon Bay, and return to aid Hornblower and the others. Unfortunately, the ship is becalmed... there is no wind. Unwilling to wait, Pellew orders the men out in jolly boats: they will tow the Indy until they get a wind. Overcome with a sense of urgency, Pellew doffs his coat and takes his place at an oar with his men.
Back at Muzillac, the bridge is still under fire, but Archie is in control of himself and the situation now, and is even able to calm a panicky Oldroyd. Hornblower reports back to Edrington and tells him what he's learned. In the distance, they locate the oncoming French army, fresh from their victory over Charette's men. Realizing that they are vastly outnumbered and outgunned, Hornblower and Edrington decide their only option is to blow up the bridge and retreat to the beach. Edrington and his men head for the bridge, while Horatio goes to the town to warn Moncoutant, for all the good it will do. Indeed, the Marquis continues with his executions even as the republican troops near the town. Only when Horatio forces him to does he take action. Hornblower urges him to retreat to the bridge with the British troops, but Moncoutant refuses to leave his town. He and his men make a futile stand, and Hornblower stays to help, out of a misplaced sense of duty. As they are overcome, Horatio manages to make his way to Mariette's house, and the last we see of Moncoutant, he is being carted off to the guillotine- hoist on his own petard, so to speak. Horatio convinces Mariette to escape with him, and they jump from a window, but Mariette sprains her ankle, slowing them down.
At the bridge, the British soldiers and sailors are all across, and they are ready to blow it up. They are holding off in hopes that Hornblower will make it, but Edrington finally reluctantly tells Kennedy to light the fuse. Archie tries, but can't bring himself to condemn Horatio to certain death, so Matthews steps forward and gently takes over, firing the powder. Right after he does so, however, they see Hornblower heading for the bridge, supporting Mariette and closely followed by French soldiers, who unfortunately manage to shoot her. As Horatio kneels over her body, Archie sprints across the bridge and pulls Horatio up, and the two of them race across the bridge right before it explodes. Knowing that this has only bought them some time, they head for the beach, Edrington quietly telling Kennedy to look after the distraught Hornblower.
On the shore, they are caught between the sea and the advancing French army. As they turn to face the oncoming troops, Bowles comes riding up the beach to join them. Suddenly, there is the sound of cannon fire, and a bunch of the French soldiers go flying. The Indefatigable has arrived just in time and saves the day. Back on board the Indy, Horatio gives his report to Captain Pellew. Despite his best efforts, he cannot stop a few tears from falling as he asks his captain why they were there: they weren't wanted, and all that was accomplished was devastation and death. Obviously moved, Pellew confesses his own sense of guilt over what has ocurred, but then tells his young lieutenant that, whatever occurs to them personally, they must be a source of encouragement and inspiration to their men. The final scene is of Horatio and Archie high in the rigging, letting the fresh sea air clear the stench of what has passed out of their lungs and minds.
The fourth Hornblower movie is 'The Wrong War,' otherwise known as 'Frogs and Lobsters'. In it, the Indefatigable has been recalled to England, and Capt. Pellew is at the Admiralty receiving a new assignment. He is informed that the government has been approached by General de Charette, an exiled French Royalist. He has formed a company of other Royalists and intends to return to France, raise an army, and restore the monarchy. The Indy and three other ships are to ferry the French force as well as a supporting company of British soldiers across the Channel. It sounds straightforward enough, but a lieutenant carrying a copy of the plan is murdered and the orders are missing. Pellew, who already considers the general's plan to be based on an alarming amount of wishful thinking, tells the Admiral that they must assume the orders are in the hands of the enemy. The Admiral, however, says they will assume no such thing, and orders Pellew to carry out the original plan.
Meanwhile, Horatio Hornblower is celebrating his new rank of lieutenant by being outfitted with a fancy new uniform. This subjects him to some good-natured teasing when he arrives back on the Indy, especially from acting Lieutenant Kennedy. Their levity is short-lived, however, as Pellew calls a meeting to impart their orders from the Admiralty. After this, Hornblower and Kennedy go ashore with some men to see to loading the soldiers and their supplies aboard the Indy and other three ships.
General de Charette arrives on the dock with his men, and the sight is not a reassuring one: the French force (the frogs) seems ill-trained and poorly outfitted. Accompanying them is Colonel Moncoutant, the Marquis de Muzillac who, having fled the Revolution, is eager to take part in this attempt to reestablish the monarchy. He seems affable enough at first, but Horatio is chilled when, as they load the French supplies, it is discovered that Moncoutant is bringing his own personal guillotine with him.
Also arriving is the British contingent (the lobsters) led by Major Edrington- or rather, Major Lord Edrington, as he is quick to point out to them. At first meeting, he comes off as a bit starchy and stiff, but obviously competent: his men are well trained and well disciplined, a jarring contrast with the French troops. What the French lack in training, however, they make up for in enthusiasm... Charette gives a stirring speech, which Horatio translates, hailing this as an historic moment, and extolling the glories of the French monarchy. That point seems debatable, but is popular with his audience, which cheers wildly, to the bemusement of the watching British soldiers and sailors.
On board the Indy, things are a bit crowded- and tense. The sailors, used to fighting the French, are less than enthused about ferrying them. The situation is also somewhat strained between the brass as well. Major Edrington is of the opinion that his men should lead the expedition, as they are trained and battle ready. Moncoutant bristles at the inference that his men are incompetent, but Horatio skillfully diffuses the situation, and as a result, Capt. Pellew appoints him liaison between the French and English contingents. Pellew himself is brooding; he has opened his sealed orders and found that they are to put the troops ashore at Quiberon Bay, the best place for disembarking, as anyone familiar with the French coast would know. It is so obvious a choice that Pellew worries the French cannot help but anticipate it, if they do indeed have the missing papers and know they're coming.
A small number of the French force led by Colonel Moncoutant, Major Edrington and his men, Hornblower, Kennedy, and some of the sailors are being put ashore near the town of Muzillac. Their orders are to secure the town and hold the bridge nearby, where it is assumed the Republican troops will attempt to pass to reach General de Charette's force. Extremely worried about the mission but trying not to show it, Pellew urges Horatio to be cautious and on his guard, then sails off to drop Charette and his men at Quiberon Bay. Charette, noticing Pellew's unease, tells him not to worry: one day Hornblower and the others will be telling the tale of how they helped liberate France. Pellew looks unconvinced. When they arrive at Quiberon, Pellew tells Charette that the Indefatigable has been ordered to remain there in order to give his troops an avenue of retreat should things, um, not go as well as the General hopes. He also sends along Mr Bowles to provide regular reports of their progression.
Back at Muzillac, the small force heads for the bridge, and we are treated to the amusing sight of Horatio attempting to ride a horse. Once there, Kennedy and the rest of the sailors- Matthews, Styles, Oldroyd,etc.- remain at the bridge to secure and hold it. To this end, they rig it with kegs of gunpowder in case they have to blow it up to keep the Republican troops from using it. Archie, his time as a P.O.W. still fresh in his mind, is growing uneasy about the entire enterprise and their role in it. As he confides to Horatio, he never thought to die in someone else's war. Hornblower, along with Major Edrington and his men, Moncoutant and the French soldiers, continues on to the town of Muzillac. To Be Continued...