Today, we’re celebrating something important: the legendary Sidney Poitier is 90, and he’s still with us! For the occasion, I’m hosting the 90 Years of Sidney Poitier Blogathon. Click here to read all the marvellous entries.
The first Sidney Poitier’s film I saw was In the Heat of the Night. I remember renting it at this video store that, unfortunately, doesn’t exist anymore and, like most 1967 films, truly enjoyed it. As two of the participants indicated it in their article, it’s a shame Sidney wasn’t Oscar nominated for his role. I honestly believe it’s one of his best performances. It’s full of strength, determination and charisma. You know, that kind of performance that shows us what great acting is. Anyway, just for that “They call me Mister Tibbs!” moment alone he should have been nominated.
But, luckily, Sidney won the Oscar in 1964 for his brilliant performance in Lilies of the Fields (1963). A most deserved Oscar as, I believe, it’s his best performance (well, for the films I’ve seen so far). Just like his the film itself, is portraying of Homer Smith is touching and honest. He doesn’t fail to make us smile, and share out his anger toward Mother Maria! The most amazing thing about this Oscar win is that Sidney was the first African-American actor to win an Oscar (the first actress was Hattie McDaniel for her performance in Gone With the Wind (1939) as Mammy). And it was about time! Just take a look at this speech. Golden moments like this one don’t happen often at the Academy Awards.
He’s so happy 🙂 ❤ Anyway, that moment just makes me smile so much! On another note: Anne Bancroft is gorgeous.
So far, I’ve seen 10 Sidney Poitier’s films (I know, I have many more to see) and I never was disappointed. Well, the only one that I might have liked a little less is Something of Value. I don’t know, it was a bit too dramatic. But never Sidney Poitier failed to impress me. As I told it, he kills it with that determination, the clarity of his speech, his presence, his wisdom… And that laugh! My, I love it. It just warms your heart, don’t you think?
Sidney was a man of many talents. Not only he could act, but he could also:
And even sing! (Warning: for those who haven’t seen it, this is the final scene of Lilies of the Fields! )
Ok, where is that musical starring Poitier now? Is there one? Because if yes, you have to let me know asap. And if no, well… too bad.
Sidney Poitier was not only the first African-American actor to receive an Oscar, but he also was one of the first one to be cast in leading, various and serious roles (other than a servant or a singer in a club, like it was often the case in classic films). And he rocked it and proved that not just white actors were able to play all kinds of roles. (And, between you and me, he’s better than some of them… hahaha). Sidney has always shown the greatest example of anti-racism through his films. In The Defiant Ones, he proves that an African-American and a caucasian can become friends. In Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, he proves that love between two persons of different ethnic groups is possible. In In the Heat of the Night, he proves that black men deserve to be respected as much as white men are, etc. Well, it’s more the film itself that proves all this, but let’s say he’s the proud representative of anti-racism movies. He’s a legend and everybody should be proud of him for what he brought to the divine art of cinema.
There is much more I would like to know about Sidney Poitier. I’m familiar with his work as an actor, but, I’d like to know more about his life (other than what I can read on Internet…). So, biographies’ recommendations are quite welcome here!
In 1992 Sidney Poitier received his AFI Life Achievement Award. His friend Harry Belafonte (who will also celebrate his 90th birthday quite soon – March 1) payed a tribute to him by singing Amen. We can see Sidney he’s thrilled and it’s personally one of my most favourite YouTube videos ever!
Faithful to my habits, I’d now like to present you my top 10 Sidney Poitier’s film! Honestly, it’s a hard job because, as I’ve said, I really love all his movies. But, let’s give it a try:
1- A Patch of Blue (this one is my favourite for sure)
2- To Sir, with Love
3- Blackboard Jungle
4- Lilies of the Fields
5- The Defiant Ones
6- Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
7- No Way Out
8- In the Heat of the Night
9- Edge of the City
10- Something of Value
Well, that gives you a rough idea.
Happy 90 birthday Sidney Poitier! You are one of a kind!
I’m so happy to announce that The Golden Boy Blogathon: a William Holden Celebration will be back again this year! William Holden is my second favourite actor and I truly enjoyed celebrating him via this blog last year. It was quite a success and everybody wrote marvellous pieces! So, it obviously had to be back! 🙂
Everybody is welcomed to participate. The event will take place from April 15 to April 17 (on Bill’s birthday), 2017.
As usual, there are some simple rules to follow:
1- Choose your subject. It can be anything related to William Holden. Please, no duplicates. William Holden had a long and beautiful career, so there are plenty of ideas. Of course, if you want to write something very personal like a tribute on why you love him (like I did last year), I can allow duplicates, because it’s a very vague topic. You can write more than one entry, but I would prefer you to limit yourself to two, precisely to give the chance to others to write about a topic they love (as I don’t allow duplicates).
2- Submit your subject by commenting on this post. You can also submit it via email at email@example.com, Twitter @Ginnie_SP or via The Wonderful World of Cinema’s Facebook Page. Give me the name of your blog, the URL, and your topic.
3- Once your choice has been confirmed, please grab one of these banners to help me promote the event on your blog. The more the merrier! 🙂
4- On twitter, use the following hashtag: #2GoldenBoyBlogathon
5- On the blogathon dates, April 15, 16 and 17, 2017, I will publish a new post where you’ll be able to submit your entries. You can also send them via email, Facebook or Twitter.
6- If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. And enjoy yourself! 🙂
When Paula, Kellee and Aurora announced that they’ll be back for a fifth edition of their famous What a Character! Blogathon, I said to myself that this was something I shouldn’t skip and that I had to choose the right subject. I was supposed to write an entry, last year, about Jessie Royce Landis, but due to a lack of time, I had to skip it. I was a bit angry at myself because I had everything prepared, but well, those things happen. But I didn’t want to make this mistake again this year. I didn’t want to pick something too obvious like Claude Rains or Thelma Ritter (don’t get me wrong, I love those two). I first thought of Jack Carson. I love Jack and I was obviously thrilled at the idea of writing something about him and see more of his films. But then I said to myself “wait, Virginie, you have to look for the other possibilities. Jack Carson isn’t the only great character actor.” Then I thought of a few others, including George Kennedy and George Kennedy made me think of ARTHUR Kennedy. I remembered enjoying Arthur Kennedy’s few performances I had seen and even putting him in the 47th place or so of my top 100 favourite actors (now he would very probably be higher). I decided that he would be my character actor for the blogathon and, believe me, I couldn’t have made a better choice. I simply grew up loving him while I was preparing this blogathon, and now I’m totally fascinated by him. For example, last Wednesday, I was working and I was so impatient to finish so I could get home and watch Arthur Kennedy’s movies! I was (and still am) thinking about him ALL the time when I was preparing this blogathon. If he has such a presence on screen, no wonder why he also has a great one in my mind too! It’s been a long time since I’ve been so motivated about the writing of an article. Feels good!
I feel there’s so much I want to say about him. I should start by giving you my general appreciation of this actor and then will focus more particularly on the films I decided to watch for the blogathon, which are: City for Conquest, Elmer Gantry, Champion, High Sierra, Bright Victory, The Man From Laramie, The Desperate Hours, A Summer Place, The Window and Murder She Said... I like that because it reminds me of the good old times when I was doing those movie stars marathons. 🙂
Well, Arthur Kennedy, dear Arthur Kennedy. Was he Jack Nicholson’s father? Could have been, but that’s something we’ll very probably never know. But, on my side, I like to think he was. It might be just a fantasy, but I like the idea that those two amazing stars could be relatives. And I have to say, Arthur does make me think of Jack! They both have this unique smile. Similar eyes too, but I’ll say that Arthur’s one are gentler, softer. Their voice is similar too, without being exactly the same. Ok, this might just be me, but I think Arthur Kennedy’s voice sounds like a mix of Jack Nicholson, William Holden, and Joseph Cotten’s voice. I know, it’s quite a mix, but it’s just an impression I have if I pay enough attention to this detail. It’s, in fact, a voice that can be at the time very kind and comforting, but also more “rough” when it is necessary. Always agreeable to hear. We don’t associate Arthur Kennedy to crazy characters like we often do with Jack Nicholson, but I could imagine him in some of Jack Nicholson’s role and vice versa, without any problem.
I’ve compared a lot Arthur Kennedy and Jack Nicholson’s physical traits. And that leads me to answer a question: YES, yes I think Kennedy was handsome. He didn’t have a typical handsome face like Gary Cooper or Gregory Peck, but there was something about him. He was handsome in his own way and what glorified him was his impressive charisma, his self-confidence. Charisma is always a winner for me. And he had a unique face. Arthur Kennedy was Arthur Kennedy, he couldn’t have been anybody else and nobody could have been him.
But of course, I don’t like him only because of his physical appearance (!), but also because of his acting skills. Before I started working on this blogathon, the Arthur Kennedy’s films I had seen were Lawrence of Arabia, Elmer Gantry, The Desperate Hours and City for Conquest. I somehow thought that he was one of these very underrated actors who never received any Oscar nomination or so. Yes, yes, like all character actors he is condemned to be underrated, condemn not to be remembered as an iconic actor and that’s the sad truth, but about the Oscars I was wrong. Arthur didn’t receive any, but he was nominated for no less than 5 of them! I think that’s something to be proud of. These were for Champion (Best Supporting Actor), Bright Victory (Best Actor), Trial (Best Supporting Actor), Peyton Place (Best Supporting Actor) and Some Came Running (Best Supporting Actor). Ok, I personally would have nominated him for all his roles, but we can’t have everything! Notice that, except for Some Came Running, all those films were directed by Mark Robson. Arthur Kennedy often played under the direction of Mark Robson and I believe this one was able to bring the best in him. So, hurray for Mark Robson!
Arthur Kennedy is always a good support in the films in stars in. To be honest, some (many) of them wouldn’t be the same without his presence. He is a wise actor and that wisdom is shown in his subtlety, the fact that he never overacts or “explodes” when it isn’t necessary. He’s a thoughtful and reflected actor. While I was watching his movies for the blogathon, I’ve noticed that, while he knows what he’s doing, he is, at the same time, constantly looking for a way to improve himself and make a scene be as worthy as possible. He is in constable harmony with the movie atmosphere or with the other actors’ acting skills. Arthur Kennedy is an actor who observes.
This great character actor is good at playing characters that are a bit hard to size. There’s often an aura of mystery around them. Men that we don’t exactly know how they are inside. Not meaning that they are bad, but just a bit secret. This also creates an aura of mystery around the actor himself. And that’s why I would love to read the book Arthur Kennedy, Man of Characters: A Stage and Cinema Biography. It seems to be an excellent one! Somehow, I could often associate myself with Mr. Kennedy. I think that “ambiguity” was a major factor. I’m a bit like that myself, creating a sort of wall so people won’t know too much about me, what I think and feel.
Arthur Kennedy apparently did some great stage work too. He started as an actor on Broadway in 1937. Too bad we aren’t able to see some of his stage work anymore… I do wish time machines would exist!
The impressive versatility of Mr. Kennedy as an actor was shown through a range of memorable films. It’s his performances in those films and the movie characters he portrayed that I am now going to explore in 10 of his films. Warning: I won’t be providing any plot summary for the simple reason that I don’t want this post being longer that it already is. I shall strictly focus on Mr. Kennedy’s performances and characters. Of course, I will prevent some plot elements if necessary.
Film 1 : City for Conquest (Anatole Litvak, 1940)
Role: Eddie Kenny
Nothing better than starting all this with Arthur Kennedy’s first on-screen role. In this film, he plays a musician and music composer, and James Cagney’s brother, who portrays a boxer. The two actors are in perfect harmony and support each other with their respective talents. The film provides some very touching scenes between him and Cagney, especially in the parts where Cagney is at the hospital after having been badly injured during a boxing match. Even if this was Arthur Kennedy’s first role and not the leading one, he certainly steals some scenes. He was young and full of life. Even James Cagney seemed impressed by him! And if I’m not mistaken, it’s James Cagney who discovered him for the role. As a music composer, he is passionate and passionating. In this concert scene, when he leads the orchestra, he is shown in an impressive glory and dynamism. Anatole Litvak did a great job at giving him scenes that would emphasize is talent and make us noticing him. Finally, we observe that the character he’s portraying is one that is often calm, but can explode. This is not only felt in his music and the way he plays piano, but also in the boxing match scene when is brother is being completely destroyed. The desperate Arthur Kennedy certainly breaks our hearts.
Film 2: Elmer Gantry (Richard Brooks, 1960)
Role: Jim Lefferts
I think this is one of my very favourite Arthur Kennedy’s roles and performances. In this world full of “passionate” Christians, he plays a reporter and perhaps the most normal character of the gang. What I like about Jim Lefferts is the fact that he represents the non-Christian spectators like me. Due to that, and other elements, Elmer Gantry is a film many can appreciate. I’m not religious at all, and religion is the central theme of the film. It remains a favourite and I believe Arthur Kennedy has a lot to do with it (of course I’m also a big fan of Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons). Jim Lefferts is a character that is hard to size. He is sort of a double- faced one, which makes him quite interesting. Arthur Kennedy is a great support to Jean Simmons and Burt Lancaster. He sort of adds a touch of wisdom in the film, in this crazy world! But what I appreciate the most about his performance is the fact that, while I was watching the film, me and him sometimes had the same facial expressions at the same time. That connection felt great! Due to that, he’s the character I understand the best in Elmer Gantry. Arthur Kennedy also plays a reporter in the masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. Once again, his “normality” creates an interesting contrast with Lawrence of Arabia himself, a greatly interesting man on many levels.
Film 3: Champion (Mark Robson, 1949)
Role: Connie Kelly
For his performance in Champion, Arthur Kennedy received his first Oscar nomination. Here, he, once again, plays a brother, and, once again, he is a boxer’s brother (Kirk Douglas’s one this time)! It’s with this film that I noticed how Arthur Kennedy was excellent at playing men with a certain concern, who often worry about what is happening around them. In Champion, Arthur Kennedy is again the most “down to Earth” character, unlike his brother whose fame isn’t doing any good. When he tries to reason him, it doesn’t seem to really work and we wish we could be here to help! Arthur Kennedy has a great chemistry with all the actors in this film, but what particularly struck me were his scenes with Ruth Roman. Those are simply beautiful. If we are good watchers, we can see, from the beginning of the film, that Connie is in love with Emma (Ruth Roman). I personally think he is the one who deserved her the most. The film also contains some memorable scenes between him and Kirk Douglas, especially the final one: just before Midge Kelly (Kirk Douglas)’s 2nd boxing match against Johnny Dunne, the two men are having an argument which ends in a fight. Arthur Kennedy puts an impressive range of emotion in this scene as the desperate men who doesn’t know what to do anymore to reason his brother. Once again, he “explodes” at the perfect moment. Finally, Champion is a film that can be praised for his impressive black and white cinematography. Due to that, Kennedy is as much filmed in a glorious way as Douglas is. One of my favourite shots is when he walks in the dark corridors that lead to the ring. The only light is focused on him and we can see the despair in his face and that he knows that [spoiler] all this won’t end with a happy ending… [end of spoiler]
Film 4: High Sierra (Raoul Walsh, 1941)
Role: Red Hattery
Arthur Kennedy’s role in High Sierra was a smaller one. As a matter of fact, it was his second on-screen role. But small or not, just because it’s Arthur Kennedy we appreciate any of his roles. I like the fact that one of the first things we see from him in this film noir is a smiling Arthur Kennedy. The film was, of course, much more Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino’s one. Arthur Kennedy simply plays one of those typical criminal “assistants” that are too often overshadowed. And I think that’s too bad and it would have been interesting to see more of him in the film. His acting shows potential and it would have been great if his character would have been more well-developed.
Film 5: Bright Victory (Mark Robson, 1951)
Role: Larry Nevins
Finally a leading role for Mr. Kennedy! An another Oscar nomination too. 🙂 We must admit that the competition was high at the 1952’s Oscar for the Best actor category: Humphrey Bogart for The African Queen (the winner), Marlon Brando for A Streetcar Named Desire, Montgomery Clift for A Place in the Sun, Fredric March for Death of a Salesman (ok, that’s the one I haven’t seen, but I bet he deserved the nomination!) and, of course, Arthur Kennedy in Bright Victory. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner, but, in my heart, they all are! 😉 When I started watching the film, Arthur Kennedy made me smile immediately. Not that he is doing anything that could voluntary make us smile, he’s just driving a car, but simply the fact that he’s here and that I was beginning to know him more and more. You know, just as if he was a friend. 🙂 In Bright Victory, he plays a man who becomes blind after being injured in the war. The moment when he receives the bullet and closes his eyes to express the pain is just perfect. Because he plays a blind man, Arthur Kennedy had to express a lot his emotions with his mouth, his voice, his gestures, and he did it right. I’ve noticed how he uses a lot his hands to show the tension his character is feeling, and this, especially after the heartbreaking scene when he learns that he won’t ever be able to see again. The scene where he tries to see his reflection in a mirror after having learned the bad news shows an emotional Arthur Kennedy, but, this time, emotional for what is happening to him and not what is happening to his relatives like in City for Conquest or Champion. Arthur Kennedy often shows an impressive energy and dynamism in this film, but can be calmer too. For example, when the lieutenant wants him to inform his family about his blindness, he looks at him like a little boy who has done something wrong. Poor Arthur! That telephone scene with his mother certainly is heartbreaking. Another great example would be this scene when he dances with Judy (Peggy Dow). There’s a lot of softness in him and it’s nice to see a romantic Arthur Kennedy! The evening ends with a kiss (and that was the first time I was seeing Kennedy is a kissing scene. Very worthy. *sight*….). You know that I love when Arthur Kennedy smiles, so, of course, that scene when he discovered that he has a sort of “natural radar” that allows him to “feel” the obstacles that are on his way is one of my favourite. He seems so happy and we know that his life will be alright after all. To continue with the touching scenes, I like the fact that Arthur Kennedy is very good with the girls in this film. That scene when he discovers Judy is crying is forever touching and almost made me cry. Or the fact that there’s always a lot of tenderness when he hugs Chris (Julie Adams), or when [spoiler] he hugs Judy in the final scene at the train station: the emotion! Simply beautiful! [end of spoiler] Arthur Kennedy was very thoughtful in this role. He somehow manages to make us feel his emotions and the emotion of his partners, with whom he always has an excellent chemistry. He is an actor who listens, who pays attention to his environment. If the feeling of anxiety is well expressed by Arthur Kennedy is this film, it’s also the case for the feelings of hope and happiness. The only thing I would have appreciated more from this film, and that’s not Arthur Kennedy’s fault, would have been to see more close-ups of his face. There’s one scene that does justice to that: when he’s on the balcony and opens and closes a light. There’s something sad in this scene, that is not only shown by his solemn face, but also by the light itself, as we know that, open or closed, it doesn’t make much difference for Larry Nevins’s eyes…
Film 6: The Man From Laramie (Anthony Mann, 1955)
Role: Vic Hansbro
The viewing of this film was a special one for me as Arthur Kennedy was starring on the sides of James Stewart, my favourite actor. It also was the first (and only one so far) western starring Kennedy that I was seeing. And the man is great in every type of role. Kennedy makes his first appearance in the film when he arrives to stop James Stewart’s aggressors. He warns Jimmy to not cause trouble in the town, and when Jimmy doesn’t “respect that” he has a fight with him. :O But strangely, unlike Jimmy he is quite calm after the fight. Arthur Kennedy still is a very “attentive” actor in this film. He has so much presence, even when he isn’t saying or doing anything. While he remains a very “relax” character (at a certain point) his unique love scene with Cathy O’Donnell (as Barbara Waggoman) is more aggressive and shows a more savage passion than the scenes with Peggy Dow in Bright Victory for example. Kennedy often proves is great acting abilities at many moments of the film. When he has a confrontation with Alec Waggoman (Donal Crips), toward the beginning of the film, he is angry, bitter and convincing. He NEVER overacts, but that doesn’t mean he has a lack of dynamism and good theatricality. He’s always very natural when he’s angry. When Dave is making a fire to attract the Indian’s attention, his “he’s completely crazy” face is just perfect. Kennedy shows a certain authority and remains [spoiler] and ambiguous villain. [end of spoiler] We just don’t see him coming. In the final confrontation with James Stewart, is desperate “What did I do to you!” makes us realize that he’s not the worst villain there is, mostly a misunderstood man. He then becomes the victim. He is “controlled” by James Stewart and we are not used to see Arthur Kennedy, the one who always stands up, the one who is so independent, receiving orders. That scene has one of my favourite Arthur Kennedy’s moment: his ” what the hell did we just do” face after he and James Stewart pushed the wagon full of rifles down the cliff simply cracks me up with laughs!
Film 7: The Desperate Hours (William Wyler, 1955)
Role: Deputy Sheriff Jesse Bard
Just like City for Conquest and Elmer Gantry, this was not my first viewing of The Desperate Hours. But I was impatient to see it again to pay a better attention to Kennedy’s performance. In this film directed by my third favourite movie director, William Wyler, Arthur Kennedy plays a deputy sheriff and he’s just perfect at it. He is greatly involved in his role and shows an impressive concentration. Depending on the situation, he knows perfectly how to choose the right facial expressions. Kennedy was a natural. If he loses his patient, it’s always in the appropriated circumstances, but he knows how stays reasonable. Kennedy stands tall in every scene of the film and always owns the screen. When I came at the point of watching this film, I was recognizing Arthur Kennedy’s voice more and more, and that’s something I always like. As a “detective”, he couldn’t have been better. With his long grey coat, his hat, his cigarette he is highly convincing. Jesse Bard is a man who knows what he’s doing. Never he will put the victims in danger, despite the very delicate situation. He makes the right decisions and saves the family in a wise way. Finally, the final shots of Arthur Kennedy in The Desperate Hours shows some great close-ups of his profile, which allows us to see his very “typed” face.
In this melodrama, Arthur Kennedy plays an alcoholic family father. What I like about this film is the fact that he is one of the first actors we see. He is here at the very beginning. Yes! Bart Hunter is a man with a certain sense of humour. That unique smile of his and those cheekbones are obviously always welcomed. 😉 Bart Hunter is a very daring man. But he’s quite patient and constantly trying to calm the atmosphere (for example, when Molly and Johnny are missing). But he can also lose his temper. For example, in this confrontation with his wife (played by Dorothy MacGuire): this scene is very interesting as it shows a different face of Bart Hunter. He becomes a broken man from a broken family. There’s a long part in the film where we don’t see Kennedy, but his “comeback” is a powerful one. Molly and Johnny find him, drunk, and announce him their engagement. It’s impressive how he’s staying very calm and patient while he’s expressing his disapproval. In this scene, Bart has a moment of physical weakness and the feeling of pain is very well acted by Arthur Kennedy. A Summer Place was a great opportunity for Arthur Kennedy to show his versatility as an actor in a very complex and, I believe, very misunderstood role. At some points, he really made me think of Jack Nicholson, but I can’t really explain why! Finally, one thing I love about Arthur Kennedy in this film is this moment when he says something in French. Of course, as this is my first language, it’s always something I appreciate. When Helen Jorgenson (Constance Ford) says that the bedroom is “très, très jolie” he replies ” Votre approbation touch mon coeur madame.” That was too charming and this accent was too sweet, I had to play the scene a second time. The funny thing is that Mrs. Jorgenson doesn’t understand what he’s saying so Molly (Sandra Dee) has to do the translation. It’s always nice to have a sort of connection with our favourite actors! 😉
Film 9: The Window (Ted Tetzlaff, 1949)
Role: Mr. Ed Woodry
The Window was a very interesting film about a boy who witnesses a murder, but that nobody believes due to his reputation of always telling stories. Here, Arthur Kennedy once again plays a family father. He was young and handsome in 1949 and had a lot of style. Mr. Woodry is a very patient man who first listens to his son’s stories with a certain amusement. But after he tells him about the murder, he tries to reason him and convince him that what he saw probably was just his imagination or that he is telling another story. We feel he becomes irritated by his son at some point, but he remains always very patient. Ok, I must admit there’s a moment in this film that really frighten me for a moment: after his son has run away from the house by his bedroom’s window to go tell the police about the story, Arthur Kennedy tells him “There’s something I will have to do, even if I don’t like it” or something like that, and he takes what looks like a wooden stick in a drawer. When I was watching that I was thinking “NO! No, he’s going to beat his son with this wooden stick. Please, Arthur Kennedy, don’t break my heart!” And the most frightening thing about it was the fact that he was staying very calm, just like a psychopath, you know. You can’t imagine my relief when I realized that this wooden stick was just the handle of a hammer and that he was only going to use it to close the bedroom’s window. Ouf! Don’t worry, Ed Woodry is a good father!
Film 10: Murder She Said… (George Pollock, 1962)
Role: Dr. Paul Quimper
We finally come to our last film. In this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel starring Margaret Rutherford as the notorious Miss Marple, Arthur Kennedy plays a family doctor. He is a gentleman, quite agreeable. I’ve noticed that Arthur Kennedy’s voice in this film seems a bit more low-pitched than in the previous ones. But that might just be an impression! Anyway, it’s just a small detail. Dr. Quimper has a secret romance with Emma: we like that! The way he pronounces the name “Emma” is soft and beautiful. We, however, notice a certain tension in him when [spoiler] Miss Marple discovers that he is the murderer. But he handles this in a brilliant way, without any unnecessary rage. [end of spoiler]. Murder She Said… certainly is a fun film and it was a great way to end my little marathon. However, as Arthur Kenned is the second actor credited, I would have expected to see more scenes with him. That’s the only thing that disappointed me a bit about the film.
My viewing of Arthur Kennedy’s films certainly won’t stop here. I know I still have a lot to see, including his other Oscar performances. But this marathon made him an absolute favourite of mine, and as I’ve said in the beginning of this article, I couldn’t have chosen a better subject for the What a Character! Blogathon! I would have liked to talk also about his performance in Lawrence of Arabia, but I didn’t have time to re-watch this very long film in time for the blogathon. However, Monday I’m going to see the film on the big screen! 😀 Jealous? 😉
The wisdom of Arthur Kennedy impressed me much and the very thoughtful and calm character he plays in those 10 films sort of made me a better person. Arthur Kennedy has a great influence on me, because, since I’m watching his film for the blogathon, it seems that I am more patient myself. I’ve learned a lot from Arthur Kennedy and I’m forever grateful.
I hope that with this quite long article (!) I was convincing enough on why Arthur Kennedy is such a great character actor and deserves more recognition.
This year, we celebrated Margaret Lockwood and Olivia de Havilland’s centennials via blogathons. 100 is a wonderful age (my grandmother is almost 100), but 90 too! On Fabruary 20, 2017, the great and iconic Sidney Poitier would turn 90. We are lucky he is still with us. ❤
As I love Poitier, I thought: Why not celebrate him with a blogathon! This is why I invite you to participate in the 90 Years of Sidney Poitier Blogathon! The event will take place from February 18 to February 20, 2016.
I must admit, I was very impatient to announce this event. As a matter of fact, this post is ready since July… I know he is loved by many, so I’m looking forward to your participation and your help to spread the word!
Huh, before you ask, I don’t want to wait 10 years to celebrate Poitier on his centennial
Sidney Poitier changed the curse of film history. He was the first African-American actor to win an Oscar (while Hattie McDaniel was the first actress) and, as his friend Harry Belafonte said, he also was the first African-American actor to be given more important roles. He is a real icon of anti-racism movies and that’s because of this and his talent as an actor that he highly deserves to be celebrated.
To participate to the 90 Years of Sidney Poitier Blogathon, I invite you first to read the few rules:
1- Choose a topic. It can be anything related to Sidney Poitier. I allow duplicates, but no more than 2 blogs on the same film/subject. Articles must be new material.
2- I will allow a maximum of two topics per blogs. Simply to give chances to other as I don’t allow duplicates.
3- Once you’ve chosen your topic, submit it in the comment section, via Twitter at @Ginnie_SP or via my e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
4- Help me spread the world as I want this to be a big event: grab one of these banners to help me promote the blogathon on your blog.
5- On the blogathon days, I will update a new post where you would submit your entries. Don’t forget that it starts on February 18, 2017, and ends on February 20, 2017
6- If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask! And, most important of all: have fun!
Here is a list of the participant blogs and their subject
High Noon. Ah! This film that I first knew as its French title: Le train sifflera trois fois.
For those who are reading my blog of a long time, you probably know that High Noon is one of the films that made me discover classics, but also the film that made me discover Grace Kelly (and, as a matter of fact, Gary Cooper too). It’s also my favourite western. Why? We’ll come back to that later.
High Noon was directed by Fred Zinnemann (From Here to Eternity, Oklahoma!A Man of all Seasons) and produced by Stanley Kramer. Carl Foreman wrote the script and Dimitri Tiomkin wrote the music. The film stars Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Thomas Mitchell, Lon Chaney Jr, Otto Kruger, Lee Van Cleef (his first role, a silent one), Ian MacDonald, Sheb Wooley and Robert J. Wilke.
Released in 1952 and winner of four Oscars (including Best Actor for Gary Cooper), and three nominations (Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay), High Noon remains one of those timeless classics. For its brilliant composition, it’s one of the “old movies” that can be appreciated by many generations.
High Noon is a very “simple” western. No Indian chases here and no big countries. All the action takes place in a little town of New Mexico, Hadleyville. Will Kane (Gary Cooper), the town marshall, just get married to Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly), a young Quaker girl. A newly wed man, Kane is about to give us his profession and be replaced by a new marshal. But as soon as the wedding ceremony is over, the railway station man comes in a hurry to inform them that the notoriously terrible Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) is arriving by the noon train. His brother Ben Miller (Sheb Wooley) and his acolytes Jack Colby (Lee Van Cleef) and Jim Pierce (Robert J. Wilke) are waiting for him at the station. Kane had once arrested Miller for murder and this one was to be executed, but things changed and he wasn’t. People suspect that he is back to take revenge on Kane. So, they hurry him to live with Amy. On his way, Kane feels responsible for the protection of the town and decides to go back. Things don’t go too well for him as, Amy, a pacifist, tells him she’ll leave by the noon train if he doesn’t leave the town with her. Plus, Kane looks for people to help him confront Frank Miller, but nobody seems to have the courage to take such a risk.
High Noon is my favourite Western because it’s more than just an ordinary Western. The performances are ace and the visual dimension, is yet, simple, but also very impressive.
But let’s start with Grace Kelly, who is our main subject today. High Noon was Grace’s second film and her first important role. Even if it still was not a leading role, it was more important than the one she had in 14 Hours (Henry Hathaway, 19510. Anyway. Grace Kelly’s role in High Noon has always been one of my favourites of hers. As a matter of fact, it might be my favourite one. The main reason why is that Grace is so humble in this film. We know she had mostly played high society ladies, beautiful, clever, perfect. Too perfect. I love her in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief of course, but I find it difficult to identify with these classy characters. But Amy is more an ordinary girl. She has great values, she is simple (in a good way) and courageous too. She also has such a kind face and inspires confidence. Amy Kane was the innocent and sweet Grace Kelly, the pre-Hitchcockian cool blond. Grace also was only 21 when she starred in that film, my age, so it’s another reason for me to feel close to her!
For a second film, Grace Kelly gives quite a convincing performance. She is maybe not as much at ease as in Rear Window or maybe not as much poignant as in The Country Girl, but she still impresses us. I always remember this wedding scene at the beginning. Grace seems so angelic with her beautiful big eyes. Just the ultimate definition of the word adorable. Even if she first plays the calm girl, she manages to surprise us when she confronts Will Kane in his decision of staying at Hadleyville to face Frank Miller and his gang. I love this moment when she says to Gary Cooper (Kane) “Don’t try to be a hero! You don’t have to be a hero! Not for me!” There’s so much emotion in her voice, so much power. We almost believe she will convince Will to stay, but she, unfortunately, doesn’t.
It might not be obvious at first, but Grace also portrays a woman who is strong and independent. Some people might think that she abandons her husband by deciding to leave on the noon train. Maybe, but it also shows us that she makes decisions for herself. Then, [spoiler] at the end, when she finally decides to leave the train and go find her husband in the fight, she becomes the second heroine and proves us her great love for her new husband and her courage to do something she will normally not do: kill. [end of spoiler].
This scene between Grace and Katy Jurado, who plays Helen Ramírez, Kane and Miller’s ex-girlfriend, is a delight. Because it shows us a strong opposition between the woman of character (Helen) and the woman of values (Amy). Due to Helen and Will pasts, we are afraid the two ladies might not stand each other, but, on the contrary, we realize they kind of complete each other. We may also say that it’s thanks to Helen if Amy finally decides to help her husband. She makes her understand that she has to fight for her man if she loves him. For her clever performance as Helen Ramírez, Katy Jurado won a Golden Globe Award.
Grace was not happy with her performance and said about it that she was too wooden, but Fred Zinnemann found positivism in this and claimed that Grace’s lack of experience as an actress combined to, yes, he had to admit, the fact that she was a bit wooden only made her character more adorable and more touching. It was perhaps the perfect type of acting for someone like Amy Kane.
I have a great collection of Grace Kelly’s pictures and some of my favourite are these shots that were taken on the set of the film:
It has often been said that Gary Cooper was too old for Grace Kelly. Yes, it’s true. She was 21 and he was around 50. There’s a big age difference, but, due to the fact that I love Gary Cooper, I don’t mind much. As a matter of fact, I think Grace and him look good together. They’re a beautiful chemistry between them (one of my favourite moments is, at the end, [spoiler] when they hug each other after Miller’s death [end of spoiler]. There’s so much tenderness, so much beauty in this moment. Younger actors such as Gregory Peck, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Charlton Heston were also listed for the role, but, to be honest, I couldn’t imagine someone else than Gary Cooper as Will Kane. The film simply BELONG to him. It’s, in my opinion, his best performance, and there’s no surprise he won his second Oscar for it. His acting game is full of subtlety and full of honesty. Kane AND Gary Cooper are simply heroes in this film. For once, I have to say, no supporting actors surpass the main one.
The rest of the cast is marvellous too, but I’d like to focus on other aspects of the film now.
Something I’ve always loved about High Noon is how the music and the image share the film space so well. To me, this film is like a big choreography. I couldn’t imagine High Noon without “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'” or without Dimitri Tiomkins’s glorious, suspenseful and memorable score. It’s a must to the film and it reflects so well its atmosphere.
My favourite moment, precisely due to the image and the music, might be the opening. I mean, when I was watching the film yesterday, I just started it over three times because I just love it. We star hearing Tex Ritter singing “Do Not Forsake me” and the first actor we see is Lee Van Cleef. He advances toward the camera with style and his unique look. Even if he has a small part in the film, this moment glorifies him for sure. Then, Sheb Wooley and Robert J. Wilke arrive and add even more magnificence to this scene.
It’s no wonder why High Noon won the Oscar for best editing. This one plays with the multiple possibilities and creates a great dynamism in a film that, first, remains quite simple. The camera shots are perfectly chosen to convince our eyes and make this film unforgettable.
High Noon was filmed in a way to give power to everybody. Everybody seems to count in this film, even if their role is a minor one (remember what I previously said about Lee Van Cleef). Some of my favourite shots are the one when Grace and Kane leave in their carriage. They are filmed in a low angle shot and they look so noble. I love it.
I’m also quite a fan of most shots that include Lee Van Cleef. I mean, he has the most amazing close ups:
Grace Kelly also has her moment of prestige with well-chosen close-ups, which apparently made Katy Jurado a bit jealous.
The film also presents some amazing aerial shots, such as this one that accentuates the fact that Kane is now all alone. Look at the beginning of this clip:
High Noon is not a traditional western as it was much more based on good morals than “bang bang” and “cowboy vs Indians”. I have to say, I’ve never really liked it when Indians are the bad ones in Western, because, first it’s racist and, second, it’s not representative of the reality. But that’s another story! High Noon manages to escape with grace from these prejudices. The film is also known to be a symbolic opposition against the blacklisting and McCarthyism there was at the time. John Wayne saw it as the most un-American thing he has never seen. Fred Zinnemann said of High Noon that it was “a story about a man’s conflict of conscience.”
High Noon‘s screenwriter Carl Foreman was blacklisted during the Maccartysme area. Sadly enough, screenwriters seemed to have been the scapegoats of the Maccartysme…
His script remains memorable for the glorification of the individual, glorified with the words, and the values he shares so well with us.
As I often like to do it, here are some of my favourite quotes of the film:
1- Helen (to Harvey) : You’re a good-looking boy: you’ve big, broad shoulders. But he’s a man. And it takes more than big, broad shoulders to make a man.
2- Helen: What kind of woman are you? How can you leave him like this? Does the sound of guns frighten you that much?Amy: I’ve heard guns. My father and my brother were killed by guns. They were on the right side but that didn’t help them any when the shooting started. My brother was nineteen. I watched him die. That’s when I became a Quaker. I don’t care who’s right or who’s wrong. There’s got to be some better way for people to live. Will knows how I feel about it.
3- Helen: Kane will be a dead man in half an hour and nobody’s gonna do anything about it. And when he dies, this town dies too. I can feel it. I am all alone in the world. I have to make a living. So I’m going someplace else. That’s all.
4- Amy: Don’t try to be a hero! You don’t have to be a hero, not for me!
5- Will [on staying in the town, facing Frank Miller]: I’ve got to, that’s the whole thing.
High Noon is a movie full of good values and it presents us a good life lesson at the end. Simply, that people are sometimes weak and don’t deserve what is done for them. It’s pretty clear when [Spoiler] Will and Amy leaves the town without saying a word to anybody. Will just saved them from Miller, alone. Nobody wanted to help him. He throws his marshal star on the ground and leaves a hero, but a bitter hero. [end of spoiler]
High Noon was often described as “a western for people who don’t like westerns”. (IMDB) I think it’s true. For all the reasons I’ve previously said. This film is one of a kind and almost belongs to a separate category. It is also known to be a “Noir Western”.
It’s a film that will always have a special place in my heart, and writing about it was nothing but a good experience.
Other fellow bloggers have honoured Grace Kelly and her films with their contributions to the 2nd Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon. I invite you to take a look at them here.
Before I leave you, all I can say is happy heavenly birthday dear Grace Kelly!
She left us too soon, but her memory will always be honoured.