Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dragonwyck (1946)

Dragonwyck(1946). Period/drama. Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck and Ernst Lubitsch. Based on the novel Dragonwyck by Anya Seton. Music score: Alfred Newman. Cinematography: Arthur C. Miller. Cast: Gene Tierney, Walter Huston and Vincent Price, with Glenn Langan, Anne Revere, Spring Byington, Harry Morgan and Jessica Tandy.

Dragonwyck, is one of those films that would lose it's moody atmosphere if it were in color. I thought Vincent Price did an outstanding performance in one of his first films. The story starts as the innocent farmers daughter Miranda (Gene Tierney), excited to learn that she is related to the rich Van Ryn. And is being invited to visit their beautiful mansion to take care of his young daughter.. Miranda is instantly attracted to the handsome Nicholas, the owner of "Dragonwyck". Mean while, Nicholas busy fighting off a revolt of his tenant farmers and coming up with a plan to get rid of his wife. (Because she has not given him a son.) Miranda moves back home with her parents after the wife's death. Not long... Nicholas comes for her and they marry and Miranda gives birth to a son, the boy is not healthy and does not live. Nicholas begins to slip into insanity, moving to the attic of his mansion to live in his world of drug addiction..

A broken hearted Miranda looks for help from the the local doctor, Dr. Jeff Turner (Jeff Langan). Dr. Turner falls in love with Miranda, and he eventually learns that Nicholas killed his first wife to be with her, and he fears that Miranda might be next on the list.
Dragonwyck Movie Trailer.


Gregory Peck was the first choice to play Nicholas Van Ryn, but he bowed out when he learned Ernst Lubisch was dropping out as director. When second choice Laird Cregar died, Price was assigned.

Vincent Price lost 30 lbs. for the film.
Anne Revere (June 25, 1903 – December 18, 1990). Revere was a direct descendant of Paul Revere. She made her Broadway debut in, The Great Barrington (1931). Three years later, she went to Hollywood to reprise her stage role in the film, Double Door. She returned to Broadway to create the original role in the 1934 production of, The Children's Hour, and in later years she appeared on the New York stage in As You Like It, The Three Sisters, and Toys in the Attic (play), for which she won the 1960 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play.

Revere worked as a character actress in many films, performing in nearly three dozen films between 1934 and 1951. She frequently was cast in the role of a matriarch. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress three times and won for her performance in the film, National Velvet. Some of her other films include: The Song of Bernadette, Gentleman's Agreement, The Keys of the Kingdom, Body and Soul and A Place in the Sun.

She did not perform again on film for the next twenty years, finally returning to the screen in, Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon. She also began performing on television soap operas such as: The Edge of Night, Search for Tomorrow and Ryan's Hope.

Revere and her husband, theatre director Samuel Rosen, moved to New York and opened an acting school, and she continued to work in summer stock, theater and on television.

It is a fictional story of Miranda Wells and her marriage to Nicholas Van Ryn, set against an historical background of the Anti-Rent Wars, the Astor Place Riots, and steamboat racing on the Hudson River.

The book focuses on Miranda Wells: her longing for her rich cousin Nicholas Van Ryn and her marriage to him and her discovery of her husband's dark and twisted life.

The novel was adapted into the film Dragonwyck, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Gene Tierney, Walter Huston and Vincent Price.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

This Lady in Ermine(1948)

THIS LADY IN ERMINE(1948) Is a beautiful period film/ musical. As the Austrian army takes over Italy, beautiful Countess Mariana marries Count Adrian Murillo before he leaves to defend the castle. The overbearing General Dostal makes his headquarters at the castle of Countess Beltrami and immediately competes with the Austrian Crown for her attention. At midnight, all the portraits in the gallery come to life and ask Francesca, Angelina's great, great, great, great grandmother, to save the castle .

Count Murillo disguised as a gypsy breaks through the Austrian lines and is able to return to the castle. He is caught and ordered to be shot as a spy. The countess shares with him a time 300 years ago when her grandmother saved her husband by going before the general wearing only an ermine coat.

The colonel, enjoys Mario's musical performance, hires him to be his "personal gypsy." He soon learns that Mario is Angelina's husband and offers to let him go if she will dine with him at nine. Angelina does not come that evening, but Francesca later visits the colonel while he is sleeping. As the clock goes back to nine, Angelina joins him and demands a kiss from him. As she puts her arms around him, she throws the knife at the clock, stopping time.They dance and sing together, as the portraits watch them.The next day, when the colonel awakens he realizes that it has all been a dream .

Angelina rushes in and says that she could not reach Mario's general to plead for his life. The colonel sets Mario free, he tells her about the dream. She is deeply touched when he confesses he will always love her. She cries as she watches him from the balcony.

Will Mario walk out on her?
Will Angelina ever see the Colonel again?


Though this film is listed in his filmography as his last, Ernst Lubitsch only directed eight days' worth of shooting before he died of a heart attack on November 30, 1947. Otto Preminger was called in to finish the film, but took no credit and allowed Lubitsch to stand as director.

For me Grable is convincing in her performance of her two contrasting characters. And shares the honours in the verbal duels with her male supporting leads. Fairbank's performance in particular is also wonderful.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Queen Christina (1933)- Pre-code.

Queen Christina (1933). Pre-code historical/ drama. Director: Rouben Mamoulian.The film was written by H. M. Harwood and Salka Viertel with dialogue by S. N. Behrman, based on a story by Salka Viertel and Margaret P. Levino. Cast: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Ian Keith and Lewis Stone. The movie is very loosely based on the life of the 17th century Queen Christina of Sweden, who, in the film, falls in love during her reign but has to deal with the political realities of her society. It was billed as Garbo's return to cinema after an eighteen-month hiatus.

In 1632, after her father, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, is killed on the battlefield, six-year-old Christina raised as a boy is crowned "king" of Sweden . And then promises to her court, that Sweden will fight until it wins the war.

Many years later, the now-grown Christina, who dresses in men's clothing, meets with her council and states for the good of the country, they must find peace. Christina then argues with Oxenstierna about marrying her Swedish-born cousin, Prince Palatine Charles Gustavus. Not wanting to marry a man she does not love, Christina rejects Oxenstierna's demands. To escape Christina, goes on a hunting trip with her servant Aage. While riding, Christina comes across the path of a coach filled with Spaniards, which have gotten stuck in a ditch. Because she is dressed as a man, Christina is not recognized and is treated as a male servant by Don Antonio de la Prada. Later, Christina and Aage seek shelter at the Inn and once again meet Antonio and his men. Antonio apologizes when he learns that Christina is a gentleman of means and engages him/her, in conversation. Christina impresses Antonio, after which insists that he take her to his room, the last room in the inn. After a polite argument, the couple decide to share the room. While Antonio undresses, Christina becomes uncomfortable, but finally reveals that she is a woman by removing her jacket. Surprised, Antonio takes Christina in his arms. For the next several days, Christina and Antonio, who is still unaware of her royal identity, fall in love and promise their lasting devotion to each other. Needing to accomplish his mission, Antonio leaves the inn, but arranges to meet with Christina in Stockholm.

Back at the palace, Christina is confronted by Magnus, who questions her about her disappearance. Christina's only care, is her reunion with Antonio and dresses up in her most beautiful gown to greet him. When Antonio is introduced to Christina, he is surprised but maintains his composure. Later in private Antonio, accuses her for playing with his affections and presents to her a proposal of marriage. Christina ignores her royal duties to spend time with Antonio. Jealous, Magnus hires two men to spread rumors about the queen's scandalous behavior, and one night in the Palace, Christina is met by an angry mob.

After calming the crowd, Christina confronts Magnus, where he threatens to have Antonio killed. For his protection, Christina orders Antonio back to Spain, unaware that the Spaniard has challenged Magnus to a duel. Christina calls together her court, announces that she is stepping down from the throne. While Christina says good by to her heartbroken court, Antonio and Magnus engage in their sword fight. What will Christina find when she reaches Antonio's ship?

Fun Fact:
Since John Gilbert was becoming less popular as a leading man, Greta Garbo was doing him a big favor by requesting him as the male lead. Unfortunately, the film did not help to re-establish Gilbert, and soon after he dropped out of pictures altogether.

I just watched Queen Christina for the first time. For me, it is a beautiful and haunting film. John Gilbert and Greta Garbo had wonderful on screen chemistry. My favorite scene in the movie, is when she is enjoying herself as a woman.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Black Swan(1942).

The Black Swan (1942). Swashbuckler film by Henry King. Based on a novel by Rafael Sabatini. Cast: Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara. It was nominated for three Academy Awards, and won one for Best Cinematography, Color.

After Pirate James Waring, is captured during a raid, Don Miguel puts him on the rack to get information about, Captain Henry Morgan. Who, Jamie says, is in England about to be hanged. Jamie, is soon rescued by his friend, Tommy Blue. Morgan comes in with the news that he has been made governor of Jamaica and has promised to maintain the peace between England and Spain. Morgan tells the men that if they lay down their weapons, they will receive a pardon and one hundred acres of land, but that if they do not, they will be punished. Captain Billy Leech and his partner Wogan, refuse to join and promise to take the Black Swan, to Maracaibo. Morgan takes Jamie and Tommy with him to Port Royal, where he is sworn in. Jamie attempts to sweep Margaret off her feet, but she says Roger Ingram is her fiancee. Unknown to Margaret, Ingram turns out to be a dirty rat and has given important information to Leech, about the English treasure. Leech takes over the ship and gives the captain's share to Ingram. Morgan sends Jamie after him, but Leech is able to escape and take over more English ships. When Jamie returns to Port Royal, Ingram says that he and Margaret will sail to England to take the news to the waiting king. Morgan orders Jamie to go after Leech. It looks as if he has joined up with the rebels and the men are set for a fight.

What a fun film. It has everything you could want in a adventure film, a handsome hero, a damsel in distress, bad guys, my favorite part of the film.. the sword fights and sea battles. I thought the film was a little too short..or maybe the ending was a little to abrupt in my opinion.

Fun Fact:
The ship in the picture was also used in the films That Hamilton Woman(1941), The Princess and the Pirate(1944) and Captain Kidd (1945).