In 1946, one of the first movies to come out of post-war France was a live action version of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast- or rather, LaBelle et la Bete. Though adapted from a fairy tale, this film is more for adults than for children, with moments which are dark- almost gothic horror- as well as others which are surreal and dream-like. The effects are amazing for the time period, and the film- shot in glorious black and white- is beautiful to look at. It is, of course, entirely in French but it can be viewed with English subtitles. This version a lot closer to the original story than say, the Disney versions, but also is padded with extra characters and back story. Fun fact: the actor who plays Avenant (a Gaston-like character) also plays the Beast.
The scene below really highlights the beauty of the cinematography and also makes it obvious that Josette Day (who plays Beauty) was a ballet dancer before she was an actress:
Doris Day died last week at the age of 97. The first film I ever saw her in was Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much from 1956. In it, she plays Jo McKenna, a Broadway singer who is married to Dr. Ben McKenna (played by Jimmy Stewart). The couple are vacationing in Morocco and inadvertantly become involved in an international assassination conspiracy when a man who had been investigating the plot is stabbed on the street. Dr. Ben tries to treat him, but the man dies after gasping out some information about the assassination to him. The McKennas go to the police station to give a statement about what happened and what the man said but before they can do so, they receive a call telling them that their son Hank has been kidnapped and will be killed if they say anything.
Below is a scene from the 1982 movie adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, starring Anthony Andrews as Sir Percy Blakeney A.K.A. The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Jane Seymour- and her hair- as Marguerite St. Just (her hair is so big in this film that it should have its own credit). The role of baddie Chauvelin is filled by Ian McKellan. While I will love Leslie Howard as Sir Percy forever and always (1934 version) Anthony Andrews is also quite good as both the heroic Pimpernel and the foppish Blakeney.
The Kid is a 1921 silent film which stars Charlie Chaplin who also wrote, directed, and produced the movie. In it, Chaplin is The Tramp, an impoverished man who finds an abandoned baby in an alley. At first he cares for the child reluctantly, but soon becomes fond of the kid. Five years pass as the two scrape by together, surviving by the Kid throwing rocks through windows after which the Tramp- a glazier- just happens to come by carrying panes of glass. Meanwhile, the Kid's mother, who deeply regrets abandoning her baby, is searching for him. In the scene below, the Kid (named John) is gets into a fight with a bully which leads to the Tramp tangling with the bully's older- and much larger- brother.
The Kid is ostensibly a comedy, but it has some very touching moments. At one point, for example, the Kid gets sick and requires a doctor. While there, the physician discovers that the boy isn't truly the Tramp's son and reports this to the authorities. Soon two men from the city's orphanage arrive to take the Kid away, by force if necessary. Jackie Coogan breaks my heart in this scene.
The movie clip below is from the delightful 1938 version of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion. The name derives, of course, from the sculptor Pygmalion on Ovid's Metamorphoses who falls in love with the ivory statue of a woman which he has carved. In the poem, the goddess Aphrodite turns the carving into a real woman and Pygmalion marries her. In Shaw's play, Prof. Henry Higgins makes a bet with a friend that he can take a poor flower girl- Eliza Doolittle- from the streets and pass her off as a duchess by teaching her to speak English properly. Of course, it is far more complicated than this, and the process of turning Eliza into a "lady" takes months of hard work and, for Eliza, shabby treatment by Higgins. Admittedly, though, Henry Higgins treats most people shabbily. In the scene below, the bet has been won, with everyone at the ball convinced that Eliza was a privileged member of the aristocracy. As they return home, Higgins and Col. Pickering are in a celebratory mood and don't notice that Eliza is strangely silent. She is realizing that she's existing in a kind of limbo: she can no longer fit into her old life of selling flowers on a street corner, but lacks the resources and connections to join the upper classes. And, infuriatingly, the mercurial Higgins hasn't even considered the position in which remaking Eliza has left her. She finally snaps, hurls his slippers at his head, and passionately tries to explain to the flummoxed Higgins why she's so upset. I love the pairing of Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller in the roles of Henry and Eliza- they're both terrific in their respective parts. The film obviously differs slightly from the play... for example, the ballroom scene was added, as was the formerly unseen character of Count Karpathy (these additions were actually written by G.B. Shaw for the film). The filmmakers also modified the ending so that Eliza comes back, rather than just running off with Freddie. Shaw was actually completely opposed to this change but it is, in my opinion, a much better ending than the one he wrote. Others obviously agreed: the 1956 musical My Fair Lady (and the 1964 movie) were adapted from the 1938 screenplay rather than Shaw's original work.
The clip below is from Nicholas Nickleby, the 2002 film adaptation of Charles Dickens' 1838 novel The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby. It stars a much less hairy Charlie Hunnam as the titular Nicholas, Christopher Plummer as his villainous uncle, and a veritable who's who of well-known British actors in the supporting roles. Particularly outstanding is the always great Juliet Stevenson as the creepy and sadistic Mrs. Squeers. In the scene below, Nathan Lane is Vincent Crummles, the flamboyant founder of the Crummles' theater troupe who employs Nicholas and Smike soon after they make their escape from the ghastly Dotheboys Hall.
The movie clip below is from the 1938 film Angels With Dirty Faces. James Cagney stars as Rocky Sullivan, a hardened criminal who has returned to his old neighbourhood after spending three years in prison for armed robbery. He's there to track down his former accomplice (played by Humphrey Bogart) who owes him $100,000. In this scene, Sullivan makes the acquaintance of the local gang of teenage petty thieves. They admire his hardcore reputation and he decides that this admiration can be harnessed for his own purposes, recruiting the boys for use in his renewed criminal activities. Sullivan's actions put him in direct conflict with his childhood friend Jerry Connolly, now the parish priest. Years before when they were kids, the two were caught in the act of robbing a railway car. The two boys ran; Connolly got away but Sullivan was nabbed by the police and sent to reform school. He went on to a life of crime while Connolly reformed himself and became a priest, determined to save other kids in the neighbourhood from becoming what Rocky is now. Despite their former friendship, he is determined to bring Sullivan down.
The following movie clip is from the 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World which is adapted from the Jack Aubrey series of novels written by Patrick O'Brian. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, it stars Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey, Captain of the HMS Surprise and details his attempts to track down and stop the French privateer ship Acheron. The Acheron is wreaking havoc plundering British ships and seems unstoppable, being heavily gunned and possessing a revolutionary reinforced hull which is nearly impervious to cannon fire. It ambushes the Surprise early in the film, causing massive damage to Aubrey's ship from which it barely escapes. Aubrey refuses to abandon the hunt, effecting repairs at sea and then giving pursuit. The French captain is, however, just as clever and experienced as "Lucky Jack" and the chase becomes a game of cat and mouse, the lines between the hunter and the hunted becoming blurred. Master and Commander is not just an excellent action movie, it also is an examination of character, courage, and honour and how these things are tested in times of war. In the scene below, Aubrey and his best friend and confidante, ship's Doctor Stephen Maturin, are in conflict over a punishment ordered by Jack on one of his men who was insubordinate to a superior officer. Maturin objects to the harshness of the sentence- flogging- for a relatively minor offence while Aubrey maintains that there is a need for strict discipline on board a naval vessel, especially in times of war.
The following clip is from a rather unlikely Christmas film: 3 Godfathers, the 1948 John Ford movie starring John Wayne, Harry Carey Jr., and Pedro Armendariz. In it, the three star as rustlers/robbers who, while on the run, come across a woman in an abandoned wagon who is about to give birth. They help her, but she dies soon after having a little boy whom she names after the three men. Her final request is that they will promise to care for the child, and the criminals give her their word. It's close to Christmas, and Harry Carey's character- William- who, despite his way of life, has a certain belief in God's will, compares their situation to the three wise men finding the baby Jesus. He convinces the other two that they need to make a dangerous trek across the desert to the town of New Jerusalem.
This is a dark scene from the 1951 version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol which stars Alistair Sim as cold-hearted miser Ebenezer Scrooge. In it, the Spirit of Christmas Present shows Scrooge two neglected waifs who represent "ignorance" and "want". A shaken Scrooge asks if there is no refuge for them and the Spirit replies by throwing the miser's own callous words about the poor back at him: "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"