Thing Like Cricket!: The Friendship of Charters and Caldicott

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This weekend, Debbie from Moon in Gemini is hosting the You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon, honouring the beautiful thing that friendship is, on and off the screen. I was, for the occasion, inspired to write about the notorious British characters Charters and Caldicott, two friends portrayed by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne.

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It all started with The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938). This Hitchcock’s suspense is known for its variety of characters rich in personality and this includes Charters and Caldicott.

The two fellows are best known for being cricket addicts. They are always talking about it and for them, it seems that it’s all that matters in the world. In The Lady Vanishes, they are on their way back to Manchester for the Test Match and they simply CANNOT miss their train connexion at Bâle.

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On her side, Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) has lost her friend Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) and suspects something has happened to her. Oddly enough, everybody on the train tells her they haven’t seen her. Iris looks for witnesses and remembers Miss Froy had talked to Charters and Caldicott in the restaurant wagon when they were having tea. The two men pretend they don’t remember it, as they don’t want anything to interfere with their hurry to arrive in Manchester on time.

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See, cricket is the most important thing in life for them. They simply refuse to help because of it! And when Iris ask them how things like cricket can make them forget, it’s the supreme insult!

But as much as they try to avoid it, Charters and Caldicott will eventually be involved in the train situation that implies a bunch of spies.

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After having read that, you might think that Charters and Caldicott are not very sympathetic characters. But you are wrong. Their appearance in The Lady Vanishes was so appreciated by the public that they appeared in 3 other films: Night Train to Munich (Carol Reed, 1940), Crook’s Tour (John Baxter, 1941) and Millions Like Us (Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, 1943). They were also part of the BBC radio serials Crook’s Tour and Secret Mission 609. A one season TV series called Charters & Caldicott was made in the 80s, but this one obviously doesn’t star Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford.

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Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne appeared in 8 other films together as different characters: The Next of Kin, Dead of Night, A Girl in a Million, Quartet, It’s Not Cricket, Passport to Pimlico, Stop Press Girl, and Helter Skelter. 

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Charters and Caldicott are like peas and carrots. One couldn’t exist without the other. They simply are like non-identical twins and their personalities connect perfectly. We have no doubt they have a big complicity and we’ll have the tendency to think that they met at a cricket match and discovered a common passion. They seem to be a bit selfish and snobbish, but, somehow, they are always involved in a political conflict: in The Lady Vanishes they take part in the final fight and help the “good ones” to escape with the train and cross the border. In Night Train to Munich, they help an old friend, Dickie Randall (Rex Harrison), and also Anna Bomasch (Margaret Lockwood) and her father Axel Bomasch (James Harcourt) to escape from the Nazis. In Crook’s Tour, they became owners, by accident, of a record containing secret instructions for the German Intelligence. Their appearance is very brief in Million’s Like Us, but once again they are here to help their country as two English soldiers fighting in the war (the second one).

Because yes, despite their indifference toward life, Charters and Caldicott turn out to be two jolly good fellows that are always willing to help. They are “very British” and would do everything to save the faith of their country, even if it includes risking their own life.

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Charters and Caldicott are English gentlemen that are hilarious and this, unwittingly. First, because of their strong and comical devotion to cricket, something that is quite anodyne. Then, for always putting themselves in some ridiculous situations, but always trying to be serious. I can think of this scene when they have to sleep in the maid’s room at the inn in The Lady Vanishes or when Charters has his face covered with whip cream when he attempts to pick save the famous record in Crook’s Tour.

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Their way of thinking and their life priorities are rather amusing too. One of the best examples is when, in Nigh Train to Munich, they learned that England is at war, and the first thing Charters thinks about is what will happen to his gold clubs (!). Or when, in the same film, Charters is reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf as if it was some little easy going lecture, as if it was an Archie Comic or something like that!

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Charters and Caldicott are always talking about cricket, but the funny thing is, in all the four films we actually never see them attending a match or playing themselves. No, they always seem to be travelling together, in countries with an unstable political situation.   This makes their character even more interesting and we surely are curious to know more about their life in England.

We have the pleasure to watch the four Charters and Caldicott films as each of them gives us more information about their life and their personality. In The Lady Vanishes, we don’t know much about them, except for the fact that they are cricket addicts. Bon. Then, in Night Train to Munich, we know that Caldicott went to college AND had a friend named Dickie Randall. We also know that Charters is not only a cricket’s addict, but also a golf ‘s addict. And, finally, we discover how patriotic they are, and how to be treated as good British subjects is very important to them (even if the German don’t seem to give a damn at all…). Crook’s Tour maybe is the most revealing of the three as Charters and Caldicott are the main characters of the film. The story depends on him. Here, we learn that Caldicott is engaged to Charter’s sister, the very authoritarian Edith (Noel Hood), who doesn’t seem to be an idealistic choice for him. We also learn their first name: Sinclair Caldicott and Hawtrey Charters. We realize how they are important to each other when Charters thinks he has killed Caldicott by accident (but he hasn’t). His traumatized face tells us a lot about how he regrets it. Poor Charters! And also, one of my favourite things about this film is the fact that Caldicott is in love! Not with Charter’s sister, but with the beautiful exotic dancer La Palermo (Greta Gynt). He’s too adorable when he smiles too her, hypnotized. And it’s in Crook’s Tour that we’ll see the only Caldicott’s on-screen kiss. So, Charters and Caldicott actually have feelings and can also be in love with girls and not only with cricket! Finally, in Millions Like Us, we learn that Caldicott has a wife, but we don’t really know who it is. Could it be La Palermo???

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Caldicott in love!
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Noel Hood as Edith Charters
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Greta Gynt as La Palermo

 

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Charters and Caldicott are one of the best examples of what best friends are. Always, calling each other “old man”, they do not only have very connective personalities, but always seems to get along well. We indeed never or rarely see them angry at each other. They are perfect travelling companions and their complicity is contagious.

The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich, Crook’s Tour and Millions Like Us certainly wouldn’t have been the same without their presence. They form one of the most appreciable duos of the British screen. Of course, their interprets were brilliant too. Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne built those unique personalities and gave them the perfect essence to become first class characters.

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Charters and Caldicott simply are the proof that two ordinary English gentlemen can become some of the most interesting characters in a film.

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I would like to thank Moon in Gemini for hosting this fun blogathon! It was a perfect occasion for me to finally watch Crook’s Tour and Millions Like Us that I had never seen before. The Charters and Caldicott’s films are all brilliant in their own way.

Don’t forget to read the other entries!

You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon Day 1

You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon Day 2

You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon Day 3

See you!

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Fun picture of Nauton Wayne, Margaret Lockwood and Basil Radford on the set of Night Train to Munich
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Many Thanks from Me and Grace!

To my dear blogger friends,

I simply want to thank you for having participated to The 2nd Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon. It was a small one, but I enjoyed every moment of it and was impressed with all your articles!

Remember, without your participation, there would be no blogathon!

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I’m sure Grace Kelly would have been honoured by this marvellous tribute we gave her. Even if she’s no longer with us, we need to keep her memory alive!

If you didn’t get the chance to participate to the blogathon, I’ll make sure to host it again next year. 🙂

Of course, don’t forget to read all the great entries in you haven’t:

The 2nd Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon

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See you at the next blogathon, which should be announced on December 1, 2016. Patience! 😉

Life is a Circus in Trapeze

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It all started with Strauss’s The Beautiful Blue Danube… and a fatal plunge…

Trapeze is one of those movies made to hold your breath, to be at the edge of your seat and contempt the colourful world of the impressive circus. I’m writing on this film today for the At the Circus Blogathon hosted by Letícia from Crítica Retrô and Summer from Serendipitous Anachronism.

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I don’t do this often, but, as I haven’t seen many circus movies, I chose to review one I had never seen. But I knew Trapeze could only be a winner for me because:

1- It stars Burt Lancaster, my 5th favourite actor.

2- It stars Tony Curtis, an actor I’m appreciating more and more.

3- Seeing more Gina Lollobrigida movies is ok for me! Same for Katy Jurado (who is part of the last movie I reviewed: High Noon. I like the coincidence)

4- When I realized it was directed by Carol Reed, it grabbed my attention even more. Actually, if I’m not wrong, I think it’s the first American movie directed by Carol Reed that I see.

My verdict: not disappointed. Not one minute!

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A 1956’s Cinemascope film, Trapeze is an adaptation of the novel The Killing Frost by Max Catto. It won the Silver Bear for Best Actor (Burt Lancaster) and the Public Prize at the 6th Berlin International Film Festival, and Carol Reed received a nomination for Best Director at the Directors Guild of America.

The action takes place at the Bouglione Circus in Paris, trapeze artist Tino Orsini (Tony Curtis) has just arrived in town to meet the great Mike Ribble (Burt Lancaster), whom, he believes, is the only one who can teach him how to do a dangerous triple somersault. Ribble is first not interested in working with him. Years before, he got badly injured precisely doing a triple somersault that failed. He since has to walk with a stick. But Riddle admits to his friend Rosa (Katy Jurado) that Orsini has talent. He finally accepts to create an act with him and to teach him the triple. Things go fine and the two men work well together until Lola (Gina Lollobrigida) imposes herself to be part of the act. Bouglione ( Thomas Gomez) put pressures on all of them, believing the important thing for his circus is the money and the public, not so much the quality of the acts. Then starts a series of manipulations and the formation of an inevitable love triangle.

I remember I was once having a conversation with my grandfather about old actors and he asked me if I liked Burt Lancaster. Of course! And then he wanted to know if I had seen Trapeze. But I had not. I think it’s not long after that Summer and Letícia announced their blogathon, so I thought it was the perfect occasion to see it!

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Burt Lancaster couldn’t have been better cast as Mike Riddle. You might know that, before breaking into movies, Mr. Lancaster first worked as an acrobat in the circus world. That’s where he met his longtime friend Nick Cravat. Unfortunately, after having been badly injured, Lancaster had to renounce to the circus life. After having served in the army, he became a movie star. His first movie was The Killers.

Burt the acrobat!

Burt Lancaster has always been athletic. Except for performing acrobatics in a circus, he also practiced Basket Ball, athletics, and gymnastic. Lancaster didn’t hesitate to use his skills and what he had learned from the circus in movies such as The Flame and the Arrow, The Crimson Pirate and, of course, Trapeze. Lancaster was a performer on many levels.

Interestingly enough, I even read that Lancaster used to ask for a high bar set up on sets and locations so he could perform acrobatics and stay in shape. (IMDB) Well, we all have noticed what a great body he had!

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From The Rose Tattoo

So, Burt was meant to play in Trapeze. Because of his experience, the actor could perform all his trapeze stunts by himself. The only part that is not performed by Lancaster himself is this famous triple somersault. Lancaster first wanted to do it, but technical adviser Eddie Ward thought it would be best for him to double him for the dangerous stunts. Ward was eventually replaced by Nick Cravat for the final stunt. Well, even if we don’t see Burt doing the famous triple somersault, we still can see him performing as an acrobat and that’s a delight.

Burt doesn’t only impress with his athleticism, but also for his performance. As always, he is full of charisma and dynamism. He transmits his intention in many ways. On that trapeze, but also on the ground when, with his majestical face and his impressive manners.

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Trapeze certainly was Burt’s film (he also produced it), but Tony Curtis is a revelation too. Unlike Burt Lancaster, this one hadn’t worked in a circus before, but he had the stature to be convincing in the role. We also have to remember that this is not only a circus show, but also a movie with a story. Curtis was believable and I have to say I much enjoyed his performance.

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Gina Lollobrigida didn’t impress me much. She was beautiful, of course. She was ok, but I was more mesmerized by Katy Jurado’s acting. If Lollobrigida is a bit plain, Jurado gives a touching performance and can easily be a favourite. Yes, she has the beautiful role, but that’s not the point. The fact that Lollobrigida’s acting wasn’t wonderful enough created a sort of ambiguity and, to be honest, I can really say what I think of her character, precisely because of that. Sadly, the stunt woman for Gina Lollobrigida died after an accident on the set.

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We also have to give credit to Johnny Puleo, who plays Max. He is one of those supporting actors that is just so fun to watch. He adds a little something to the film and is nothing but appreciable.

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Trapeze is a movie I liked, not necessarily for the story. On this subject, I really enjoyed the first part involving Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis preparing their duo. But as soon as Gina Lollobrigida gets involved, things were a bit spoiled. That love triangle surely adds a plot element to the story. But it’s not what we like most about the movie. It’s this kind of love triangle that is here for no real reasons except entertain us a bit. That creates another problem for the film, a little hic. We can’t deny that Trapeze is a bit misogynist. I mean, all the problems seem to be created by the women. Why? Are they so dangerous? Even Rosa (Katy Jurado), a good and humble person, is accused of being the cause of a horse’s death. Luckily, Lollobrigida’s character evolves for the best and she sorts of become a more sensible person at the end.

No, Trapeze, except for Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis’s brilliant performances, impresses for its visual dimension. I mean, a circus movie has to be that way. First, it’s so colourful. I think that seeing this movie on the big screen would be an unforgettable experience. It’s a majestic rainbow that simply makes you want to go to the circus. To this colour is added the traditional circus music and we became part of the public. The camera angles were also brilliantly chosen and allowed us to have different views on the trapeze artists. The wide shot and the great wide shots allow us to have a great ensemble view on the performers, see their pirouettes and their teamwork. While the closer shots allow us to see important details such as Burt Lancaster and Gina Lollobirgida’s kiss in the hair or Burt Lancaster’s hands dropping the hands of his partner and causing his fatal plunge. The mix of low and high angles is also well welcomed and adds even more dynamism to the film. I have to see, the editing and the cinematography are among the most brilliant elements of Trapeze.

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Trapeze remains a very authentic film for the reason that it was shot on location. Well, somehow. It takes place in Paris and it was filmed in Paris. We don’t see the Eiffel Tower or the Arch of Triumph, but the artistic life of the city, the more underground part of it. But one thing is sure, Paris is lovely everywhere. The exterior scenes were filmed at the Cirque d’Hiver, which real life proprietor was Joseph Bouglione. The interior scenes were filmed at the Studios de Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine). The studios are not at the center of Paris, but not so far from it.

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The Cirque d’Hiver in Paris

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Finally, what makes this film a perfect circus movie is the fact that the world of the circus is omnipresent. I mean, people are performing all the time! I love this moment when Tony Curtis follows Burt Lancaster (who is not one bit interested in him) and wants to show him what he can do. He starts doing acrobatics around him in the street and that makes him just so lovable. Then, when Lancaster finally agrees to speak to him, he starts walking on his hands. Lancaster joins him and then, there those two men discussing business while walking on their hands as if it was something perfectly normal! Of course, we all do that in real life hahaha! But this adds a very appreciable comic side to the movie.

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Trapeze is one of those movies that makes you want to go to the circus. Just like when I go to the real life circus, I was very stressed for the performers when I was watching the film and hoped for nothing bad to happen to them. It might not be perfect on the narrative level, but for its main composition, it’s a film that remains highly entertaining. Anyway, I greatly enjoyed it and it fulfilled my expectations in a good way.

I want to thank Critica Retrô and Serendipitous Anachronism for hosting this colourful blogathon! Talking about circus movie certainly was something I’m sure not many people had thought of and it was a most rewarding experience! It even gave me an idea for next’s year subject, if the blogathon is hosted again!

Don’t forget to take a look at the other entries:

At the Circus Blogathon

See you!

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