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Celebrating Joan Crawford with Autumn Leaves

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My friend Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting the Joan Crawford Blogathon to honour one of her favourite actresses. The event started on July 28, 2016 and takes an end today, on July 30, 2016. Of course, I had to be part of it as, even if I haven’t seen many of her movies, Joan immediately became a favourite of mine the first time I saw her on screen.

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For the occasion, I decided not to go with Joan’s most popular film, but with one that deserves to be explored, a favourite of mine. I name: Autumn Leaves.

Autumn Leaves was directed by Robert Aldrich in 1956. This was Joan’s first film under the direction of Aldrich. In 1962, she also starred in his most more well-known What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, alongside Bette Davis.

Autumn Leaves also stars Cliff Robertson, Vera Miles, Lorne Greene, Ruth Donnelly and Shepperd Strudwick.

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Joan Crawford plays the role of Millicent “Millie” Wetherby, a lonely woman who never seems to have found the true love. She works at home as a self-employed typist. Her neighbour, Liz (Ruth Donnelly), often visits her, but she seems to be the only one around. One night, she goes to the concert as she has received two tickets from her employer, but having no one to go with her, she goes alone. During the concert, she gets lost in her thoughts and thinks of the times she had to take care of her sick father, one of the main reasons why she wasn’t going out with men. On her way back home, sad and lonely, she stops at a little coffee to eat something. The place is packed and there’s only one table left. She sat there. A minute after, a young man asks her to share the table. She refuses, but he stays next to her, waiting for her to finish. Annoyed, she invites him to sit down, but she prefers not to speak to him. However, the young man succeed to make her laugh and she then becomes more friendly. They get acquainted. He is Burt Hanson, an army veteran, lonely like Millie. The next day, they go together to the beach where they kiss each others in the sea. Back home, Millie, who doesn’t feel comfortable with the situation, asks him to find a girl of his own age. A month later, Burt comes back and takes Millie to the movie. Once again, she rejects is love, but thinking twice about it, she accepts his marriage proposal. The couple marries in Mexico. However, Millie soon discovers that Burt might not have told her everything about his past, especially when his ex-wife (Vera Miles) shows off at her place with divorce papers. Mentally affected, Burt becomes aggressive and his entourage starts being worried for his mental condition.

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I have to say, it’s hard for me not to reveal everything about Autumn Leaves in this plot, because, at one point in the film, everything seems to happen at the same time.

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Here, Joan gives us a very sensible performance. She plays a woman many could identify with, because we all feel a bit sad and lonely at some point. Her performance is honest, and she amazes us with her big beautiful eyes. Joan shows us a great balance between the weakness and the strength of someone: her weakness being to be too afraid to make a step forward, to be afraid of what people might think of her; her strength being to fight for her love for Burt when this one starts behaving dangerously.

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Even if the film wasn’t a box-office success, Joan had a good opinion of it, saying “Everything clicked on Autumn Leaves (1956). The cast was perfect, the script was good, and I think Bob handled everything well. I really think Cliff did a stupendous job; another actor might have been spitting out his lines and chewing the scenery but he avoided that trap. I think the movie on a whole was a lot better than some of the romantic movies I did in the past… but somehow it just never became better known. It was eclipsed by the picture I did with Bette Davis.”

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On the set of the film: Cliff Robertson, Joan Crawford and director Robert Aldrich

Well, isn’t that a good way to convince you to see a film? Joan is right, some more obscure films can sometimes be real treasures. I personally think it’s always interesting to have one actor’s opinion about the film he or she has starred in, because the actor’s point of view and the spectator’s point of view can never be exactly the same.

Joan mentions Cliff Robertson “stupendous job” in the film. She was right to talk about him this way because, has much as she is great, I have to admit, he really steals the show. You may know that this is not the only time we’ll see Cliff playing a man with a mental disorder. We can also think of Charly (Ralph Nelson, 1968) for which he won the Best Actor Oscar. It’s a difficult task to move from someone “normal” to someone mentally disturbed (or the opposite in Charly‘s case), but Cliff does it with an amazing easiness. He’s also a real charmer and it’s difficult not to fall in love with him when we watch this film.

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Autumn Leaves was among Robertson’s first films, but certainly not Joan’s first one, who had gained an amazing baggage of experience through the past years/decades as an actress. She was obviously a legend, and it was a thrill for Cliff Robertson to work with her. They certainly came up to be a most intriguing pair.

Ruth Donnelly surely does a fine job as Liz, making acting look easy. As for Vera Miles and Lorne Greene, they together make a delicious evil pair. Vera Miles is a very favourite of mine, so any appearance of her in a film, big or small, is always appreciated.

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Music has a very important role to play in this film. Indeed, Millie is a music lover. One of her favourite songs is Autumn Leaves. It’s indeed one of the many reasons why Burt likes her: she has great tastes in music. So, we can understand better why the film is called Autumn Leaves. During the opening credits, we can hear the song sung by Nat King Cole. Autumn Leaves was originally a french song called Les feuilles mortes composed by the poet (and screenwriter!) Jacque Prévert and popularized by singer Yves Montand. I think it’s important to precise it, because many people tend to forget the real origins of this song, which is both beautiful in French and in English.

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Les feuilles mortes sung by Yves Montand

As for the beautiful and poetic original score, this one was composed by Hans J. Salter and reflects pretty well the mood of the film.

Another one of this film’s qualities is the script. This one makes us see something different. Love story between an older woman and a younger man were indeed not common at the time, but it may be closer to reality as the woman is not always younger than her man. It shows us a very interesting progression of the characters, their evolution, how they change. Of course, we understand that Millie and Burt are meant for each other and together they, somehow unconsciously, help each others, for better and for worst. It’s a story that makes us think.

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Today, Autumn Leaves still remains an overlooked film, but it somehow is appreciated by some and recognize as a fine movie. Dan Callahan of Slant Magazine said of it :” All of Aldrich’s early work is intriguing, but Autumn Leaves is his secret gem. It’s been passed over as camp because of its star, Joan Crawford, but Aldrich brings all his hard edges to this woman’s picture. The collision of his tough style with the soapy material makes for a film that never loses its queasy tension.”

On its release in 1956, Autumn Leaves won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival.

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The wonderful Joan Crawford never stops to amaze us, even in less known movies such as Autumn Leaves. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you to do so. You’re in for a treat.

Luckily, the full movie is available on youtube!

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It was a pleasure for me to write about a Joan Crawford’s movie and celebrate this great actress. A big thanks to Crystal for organizing this event.

Don’t forget to read the other entries:

The Joan Crawford Blogathon

See you!

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Top of the World: 15 Madonna’s Clips

Madonna, the queen of pop, is certainly known for a bunch of awesome songs, for being very controversial, for her fashion style and some memorable video clips. For this top 15, I’ll present you what are my personal favourite Madonna’s video clips.

Of course, this is not directly related to this blog subject, but video clips are after all little movies!

Here we go:

15. America Pie (2000)

Directed by Philipp Stölzl

A cover of the Don McLean song, I like this clip as is shows diverse people from every class of the American society, which is very interesting.

14. Who’s that Girl (1987)

Directed by Peter Rosenthal

First, this is one of my very favourite Madonna’s songs (in my top 5). Her voice is so beautiful here! As for the clip, this one is just fun. And Madonna looks gorgeous.

13. American Life– the original version (2003)

Directed by Jonas Åkerlund

This is the original version that was then censored and replaced by a very basic clip. Yes, it’s shocking, but released at the beginning of the war in Irak, it’s certainly full of meaning.

12. Frozen (1998)

Directed by Chris Cunningham

Probably one of the most visually beautiful video of her career. It fits perfectly the mood of the song and it’s a real treat for the eyes. The clip won an award for Best Visual effects at the 1998 MTV Awards.

11. Girl Gone Wild (2012)

Directed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot

Yes, this clip can shock, but I basically love it for it’s stunning black and white cinematography. The mix between fashion and sexuality is also very interesting.

10. Oh father (1989)

Directed by David Fincher

I didn’t know this clip was directed by David Fincher! How cool. Beautifully shot in a soft black and white, this video is one of the most personal of her career, recounting the death of her mother and the difficult relation with her father. I must admit I cried the first time I watched it!  (And we have to say, the little girl is so adorable).

9. Into the Groove (1985)

Theme song of Desperately Seeking Susan, I love it as it shows clips of the film (which is a very favourite of mine). The editing is nice too. An entertaining song and an entertaining clip.

8. Erotica (1992)

Directed by Fabien Baron

Another shocking video, probably the most shocking of her career, Erotica certainly doesn’t leave you indifferent. What I like about this video is the interesting way in which it is shot, making it probably the most “artistic” video of her career. The presence of Isabella Rossellini in the clip is of course a major bonus!

7. Holiday (1983)

All I have to say is: I love this dance, and I love this retro stuff!

Note: this version is not the original one, but it’s my favourite one!

6. True Blue (1986)

Directed by James Foley

Once again, I love this retro stuff. I can’t help thinking of teen movies of the fifties when I watch this fun clip. It’s all blue, it’s True Blue.

5. Material Girl (1985)

Directed by Mary Lambert

Tribute or parody of the Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend scene from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? Whatever, it’s always a fun thing to see for those who like the film. Madonna looks pretty in pink, and hasn’t she gorgeous eyes? I love the part where the guy gives her the little flowers. So cute.

4. Express Yourself (1989)

Directed by David Fincher

First, a stunning feminist song, and then one of the most complex video of her career. So much happens, you just can’t fall asleep. David Fincher for the win!

I love the dance at the top of the stairs. Madonna certainly has a lot of energy.

3. Deeper and Deeper (1992)

Directed by Bobby Woods

First, I love the German introduction by Udo Kier. This clip inspired by Andy Warhol movies is probably one of the most underrated of her career. It’s not often cited as a favourite. Too bad, because it’s a great one. The dynamic editing fits the music perfectly and we love the contrast between the weird black and white shots and the fun color shots. It’s a video that just makes you want to do the party. Note the presence of Sofia Coppola and Debi Mazar.

2. Bedtime Story (1995)

Directed by Mark Romanek

1995, the year I was born. Fantastic! This clip is just… wow! It’s weird, psychedelic, beautiful, hypnotic, original. “Leaving logic and reason to the arms of unconsciousness”; that’s exactly what this clip is about. The Bedtime Story clip is all about dreams.

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  1. Vogue (1990)

Directed by David Fincher

This is probably not really a surprise, as I bet it’s a favourite for many people. But that’s understandable. I mean, this clip is just great! It’s so chic, we love the dances, the “vogueing”, the tribute to different movie stars and, of course, the wonderful costumes. Just like “Oh Father”, and “Express Yourself” this clip has the privilege of having been directed by David Fincher.

Well, that’s it. Of course, these are my personal choices. If you want to share yours with me, don’t hesitate.

See you!

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A Patch of Blue: When one sees with the Heart

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Is there some actors or actresses that you loved all their films you’ve seen so far? Sidney Poitier is, for me, one of them. I haven’t seen all his films yet, only Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? A Patch of Blue, In the Heat of the Night, The Defiant Ones, Edge of the City and Blackboard Jungle, but I’ve enjoyed them all very much. Plus, Sidney Poitier is such an awesome (and handsome!) actor. I don’t know what the world of cinema would be without his wonderful acting skills and his irresistible smile.

If you ask me what is my favourite Sidney Poitier’s film, I think I’ll have to go with A Patch of Blue. Of course, they are all great, but there’s something so special about this one. So, that’s the one I’ll be focusing on today.

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Just like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and In the Heat of the Night, A Patch of Blue is one of those anti-racist movies made in the sixties and starring Poitier. The story involves a young white blind girl ( Elizabeth Hartman) who becomes friends with a black man  (Sidney Poitier) and eventually falls in love with him. The fact that she is blind or not is not important, because Selina D’Arcy’s love for him is not stopped by all the racial prejudices. However, apart from this wonderful friendship with Gordon, Selina has to face some difficult times with her cruel mother, Rose-Ann (Shelley Winters) and her alcoholic grandfather “Ole Pa” (Wallace Ford). They live in very poor conditions; Selina has never been to school, she is neglected by her mother and, worst of all, she is used as a maid in the house. Of course, when she’ll meet Gordon in a park, things will change.

A Patch of Blue was directed by Guy Green in 1965 and the story was based on the novel by Elizabeth Kata, Be Ready with Bells and Drums. For her terrific and very convincing performance, Shelly Winters won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. The film was also nominated for Best Actress (Elizabeth Hartman), Best Cinematography (Robert Burks), Best Original Score (Jerry Goldsmith) and Best Production Design.

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A Patch of Blue is one of those films that makes you appreciate the simple things in life. The character of Selina d’Arcy is a real inspiration, not only for us, but also for Gordon, who discovers that one doesn’t necessarily need much to be happy. Since she is five, Selina lives in the darkness, but since she is born, she lives with a cruel mother who forbid her to be happy. So, when Selina has a new friend, her life changes completely. Gordon is certainly fascinated by Selina’s joy when she drinks pineapple juice, when she goes to the grocery store with him (my favourite part of the film – I work in a grocery store and when one of my friends was working with me, we were also doing some caddie rides!), or when she listens to Gordon’s little music box.

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But, for Selina, the most difficult thing about being blind is probably the loneliness. She can’t go to the park alone (until Gordon shows her how), she doesn’t have anyone for her at home and, this scene when she is alone in the park waiting for her grandfather to pick her is certainly one of the most heartbreaking.

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If “friend” is Selina’s favourite word, Gordon’s one is “tolerance”. Of course, this refers to the racial subject highlighted by the movie. People need to be more tolerant and accept the friendship and eventually the possible love relation between a black and a white person. Of course, Selina’s mother will do everything to put an end to this friendship, but we’ll soon discover that she’s not that strong… The 60s were, of course, a very important moment in the United States as the black people were starting to make their right heard, but much was still to be done (and even if the society advanced a lot since then, even today the situation is not perfect).

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Tolerance and patience.

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If Sidney Poitier, Shelley Winters and Wallace Ford were already well known actors at the time, A Patch of Blue introduced Elizabeth Hartman to the world of cinema. It was indeed her first film. She was 22. What a bright way to start a career! What a tour de force! Playing the role of someone blind is certainly not an easy thing. You have to be convincing otherwise it won’t work. Elizabeth Hartman could do this. Plus, she is absolutely adorable as a sweet and innocent girl. The way she expresses emotions : joy, sadness, anger, love is simply inspiring and makes us realize that the world needs more people like Selina d’Arcy. Of course, her Oscar nomination was quite well deserved. Unfortunately, she lost it to Julie Christie for Darling. I cannot really compare as I haven’t seen this film.

This is the only Elizabeth Hartman’s film I’ve seen so far, but it makes me curious to see more. I was so sad when I learned that she died very young at the age of 43 by committing suicide. When we see her in such a beautiful role as Selina d’Arcy, we would like to go back in time and do everything to help her.

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Sidney Poitier is without any doubts great too, as always. His smile and his laugh get me all the time. He makes us laugh, think and fall in love with him just like Selina. His wisdom and Selina’s (Elizabeth) one are perfectly teamed-up and that’s one of the reasons why the two actors have such a great on-screen chemistry.

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According to IMDB, Shelly Winters hated the role of Rose-Ann. That’s comprehensible as she is a terrible person! But Shelly had no pity for Rose-Ann and played her as she was meant to be. Playing mean characters is always something more difficult as it sometimes involves being someone completely different. Unless you are a cruel person in real life, but I don’t think it was the case for Shirley Winters. Her performance is perfect as she succeeds to make us hate her. That’s the main purpose of this character. Without revealing it, the last scene involving her is priceless. She simply realizes the consequences of what she has done. But it’s too late…

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Finally, if this film was Elizabeth Hartman’s first one, it unfortunately was Wallace Ford’s last one. Wallace Ford is one of those actors that you can’t not like. He often played supporting roles, but each time he’s a delight. Of course, we’re not too fond of Ole Pa, but he’s not that much of a bad guy. Of course, he drinks, he’s selfish  and doesn’t do much to protect Selina from her mother, but we just feel he’s very vulnerable. Wallace Ford was only 68 when he died in 1966.

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On a more technical plan, one thing that always struck me about this film is the poesy created by the black and white cinematography and the score. The softness of the music and the image allow the difficult moments of the film to be “beautiful” and the happy moments to be even more beautiful than they already are. We have the same effect in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980)

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The films’ main theme:

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Finally, as for the screenplay, we have an interesting evolution of Selina’s character and this one is certainly helped by the presence of Gordon, who has a major impact on her life and how she will then survive as a blind girl.

As for the dialogues, some quotes in the film really make us think as they are full of meaning. Here are a few examples:

1- Selina D’Arcy: I know everything I need to know about you. I love you.

[touching Gordon’s face]

Selina D’Arcy: I know you’re good, and kind. I know you’re colored and I…

Gordon Ralfe: What’s that?

Selina D’Arcy: …And I think you’re beautiful!

Gordon Ralfe: [smiling] Beautiful? Most people would say the opposite.

Selina D’Arcy: Well that’s because they don’t know you.

2- Selina D’Arcy: It’s wonderful to have a friend.

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You might wonder why the film is called “A Patch of Blue”. It’s simply because the color Selina can remember the most is blue. She remembers the sky is blue.

But of course, it sometimes can be grey. It’s in a grey sky that Selina lived all her life, until Gordon came to her. He was this patch of blue in the grey sky.

A Patch of Blue is a film that will make you think. About love, friendship, racial problems and hope. It’s a real inspiration.

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The Strangeness of Rich and Strange

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Yes, Rich and Strange (or East of Shanghai in its American title) was very different from the other “typical” Hitchcock’s films. It’s not often cited as a favourite and it tends to be a bit forgotten nowadays. I want, today, to give a new fresh breath of air to this overlooked film, and appeal your curiosity. As I once said, my objective on this blog would be to review every Hitchcock’s films and I said every.

I’m writing about this film for the Hot and Bothered Blogathon hosted by Aurora at Once Upon a Screen and Theresa at Cinemaven’s Essays From the Couch, celebrating the films of 1932. Now, when I subscribed for this blogathon, I was sure that Rich and Strange was a 1932’s film. The thing is, some sources say 1931, some other 1932. But it seems that, it was released in London in  December 1931 and in the rest of the UK in 1932. So, I guess we’re OK, right?

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Rich and Strange was Hitchcock’s 7th talkie, the first one being Blackmail (1929). Trivia: Blackmail was also the talkie made in England. Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville and Val Valentine all participated to the screenplay.

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Alfred and Alma

The title of this film comes from a verse from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Indeed, the film is introduced to us with this quote from the play: “Doth suffer a sea change into something rich and strange.”

After this introduction, we enter in the adventures of Fred (Henry Kendall) and Emily “Em” (Joan Barry) Hill. They live among the middle class of the londonian society and nothing very extraordinary seems to happen to them. Fred is bored with the routine and that makes him irritable. He’s in seek of adventure and something new. Luckily for him, he receives a letter from his uncle who has decided to give him money from his inheritance, but he shall use it for travelling. So, Fred and Em sail from a cruise across Europe and Asia. But, the married couple will be defied by the presence of two other people: the “Princess” (Betty Amann) who has chosen Fred as a victim of her seduction, ready to break his marriage, and commandant Gordon (Percy Marmont) who becomes friend with Emily, but eventually falls in love with her. How will the Fred-Em couple survive to this? An old maid (Elsie Randolph) who annoys everyone is also part of the voyage.

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As you can see, Rich and Strange as nothing to do with the Hitchcock’s films we’re normally used to. Here, no murder and no suspense. Well, there’s sort of a suspense, which is “how will this end”? However, we still can feel the Hitchcock’s touch, especially in the film’s humour and the experimentation of some camera techniques and shots. We know, Hitchcock was a master and was always trying to add something new to the world of movies. But it is, of course, easier to compare this film with the other “non-typical” Hitchcock’s films than with the typical ones. Here I can think of Waltz from Vienna, Mr & Mrs. Smith, The Farmer’s Wife, and some others. I was talking about the humour. In all those films, whatever they are good or not, the humour always works for me. It’s rare that I watch an Hitchcok’s film without, at least, smiling.

Rich and Strange was not a commercial nor a critical success on its release. According to Hitchcock, that was mainly due to the cast and the way the characters were developed, which was not enough convincing. But, despite that, the master liked this film and, as he explained to François Truffaut (who also liked it) in the famous interview, it should have been successful. Hitchcock was very humble, so I guess he was honest with himself.

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Hitchcock and Truffaut

Of course, Rich and Strange could never have been Hitchcock’s most successful film, that goes without saying, but did it deserved better chances? Yes. Rich and Strange is probably one of his most underrated films, but maybe one of his most amusing too. It’s very easy to watch and it’s mainly here to entertain you. It works, but you need the motivation. The fact that it’s a film directed by Hitchcock should be enough.

One of the most interesting things about the film, is that it could have been a silent movie. The first scene is indeed very Chaplinesque and we don’t need any dialogues to understand it. As a matter of fact, the film was also belittled for its lack of dialogues, but, honestly, it’s the kind of film where you don’t need much said to understand what’s going on. The actors remain very expressive, but I didn’t feel they were over-acting.

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Yes, the actors. I like them! Of course, Hitchcock didn’t choose the most well-know ones of the time and that was maybe not very appealing, but I always enjoy a film with less known actors who have a certain potential. Joan Barry (not to confuse with the American actress) is a lovely blond, but has nothing to do with Hitchcock “cold blondes” like Grace Kelly or Kim Novak. Em is indeed full of innocence and a bit submitted to his husband. The misogynist aspect of this film, embodied by Fred, is maybe one of the things that disappoints me in this film. Anyway, Joan Barry is an actress we maybe didn’t really have the chance to discover as she stopped her acting career in 1932 when she get married. Joan is also known for her work with Hitchcock when, in 1929, she dubbed the voice of Anny Ondra in Blackmail. Hers was apparently more satisfying. Joan had indeed a lovely voice.

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Henry Kendall is a very… interesting actor. His name doesn’t ring a bell to many, but I feel that, if he would have had a Hollywood career, he could have been pretty well known. Henry Kendall didn’t only work as a movie actor, but also as a stage comedian, a theater director and an immaculately stylish revue artiste. He was a busy man, that’s for sure, and probably deserved more recognition. Henry Kendall wrote an autobiography, I Remember Romano’s : The Autobiography of Henry Kendall, which I’ll be curious to read one day.

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Percy Marmont was well known for his Hitchcock’s acting career in the 30’s for having started in 3 of his films, Rich and Strange being the first one. The other ones were Secret Agent and Young & Innocent. Unlike the previous actors, Percy Marmont had a more “international” career, having also starred in American and French movies. There’s something very “Hitchcockian” about Percy Marmont. He was indeed perfect in those middle-aged man supporting roles. Too bad Hitchcock never used him in his most well known American movies.

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Elsie Randolph was quite hilarious as the old maid. Thanks to her, the film doesn’t become too heavy as she adds some lightness to it. How can we forget her saying “Gooood evening!” or her facial expression every time she is looking for someone. The Old Maid is the type of person who will interrupt two lovers who are about to kiss. We need more characters like her! 40 years after, Elsie Randolph was seen in Hitchcock’s Frenzy as Gladys’ the lady working at the reception of the hotel.

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Finally, Betty Amann as everything of the oriental look to play the seductive princess. But I must say, her character really annoys me!

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Even if Rich and Strange remains a very simple film narratively, it can impress us with its technical aspects. We can think of this very interesting shot expressing Fred’s dizziness when he’s trying to take a picture of Emily on the boat. Or  [spoiler] this impressive boat-sinking scene where Hitchcock recreated a full-sized ship in a water tank. [end of spoiler]

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On the set of Rich and Strange

The film uses its humour at different degrees, sometime being physical humour, sometimes black humour (cat lovers might not like this film!), British humour, typical humour, etc. One of the dialogues especially makes me laugh:

Emily [who has just been pinched by a unknown man]: Let’s get out of here, I don’t like it.

Fred: Why not?

Emily: Someone just pinched me.

Fred: Where?

Emily: You perfectly know where…

This is the type of comic dialogues we could also find in The Farmer’s Wife.

As for the “physical” comedy, the opening scene is a perfect example, but the scene where Fred dances with the Old Maid is another great example.

So, as you can see, Rich and Strange is maybe not the “movie of the year”, but it deserves to be discovered. Anyway, every Hitchcock fan will have to see it one day or another.

A big thanks to Aurora and Theresa for hosting this blogathon. Of course, don’t forget to take a look at the other entries:

Hot and Bothered Blogathon Day 1

Hot and Bothered Blogathon Day 2

It felt good to be back blogging after three weeks of absence, even more!

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