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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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Hitchcock’s Dangerous Waters

Hitchcock’s films have been analyzed through various subjects. They are recognizable for having common points, both in their narrative and technical aspects. We know Hitchcock liked cool blondes, “wrong men”, murders, stairs, trains, cameos, etc. But a subject that isn’t talked much about is the importance of water in his films. I was thinking about this recently and, generally, water in Hitchcock’s film is associated with danger or, at least, to something not positive.

I had the idea of writing about this as, yesterday, in class, we were talking about two Lucia Puenzo’s movies, XXY and The Fish Child. In both movies, water is associated with something calm, something not menacing and beautiful. And then I thought, “Oh not like in Hitchcock’s films!” Because Hitchcock obviously always comes to my mind…

How is the element water used in Hitchcock’s films? That’s what I’ll explore today through 17 of his films. I might reveal some spoilers, so be careful. There are movies I might not be discussing if I haven’t seen them already.

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MURDER:

Generally, water is associated with murder in Hitchcock movies. What always first comes to our mind when we think about Hitchcock movies is the famous shower scene from Psycho. Here, we could also associate this shower to vulnerability. Marion Crane is trapped like a mouse. There’s no way she can get out and save herself.  Why did the murderer decide to kill her in the shower? Let’s precise that Hitchcock did not invent that original murder, but Robert Bloch in his book of the same name. But anyway, why the shower? My theories are that it is a place where the victim becomes highly vulnerable like I previously said, but also where the blood is easier to wash. I’ve always liked this scene when Norman Bates cleans the blood in the bathtub after the murder. It’s all washed very quickly and easily. He doesn’t have to scrub during hours.

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Psycho, yes, is the first film we’ll think about when we mention water and murder while discussing Hitchcock’s films, but it’s certainly not the only one. A movie where water is absolutely like hell is the not so often talked about Jamaica Inn. Based on the novel of the same name by Daphné Du Maurier, it takes place on the Cornwall coast. Without going into the whole movie plot, the main problematic involves a bunch of criminals who provoke shipwrecks by turning off the light of the lighthouse on the coast. As a result, the boats dart on the rocky coast and sink. The survivors are then killed by the men and are abandoned in the water like the boats and the rest of the already dead crew. The criminals then steal the boats from their possessions. Unlike Psycho, this involves mass murder. The concept is very interesting, although I’ve always thought those men were going through a lot to reach their goal… Jamaica Inn is a very dark film. Water here is not only associated with murder, but also to barbarism. Poor Mary Yellen’s uncle is one of them. He and the other men are people with no manners and no consideration. They are more like beasts than humans, unlike [spoiler] Norman Bates, who remains a someone with manners despite his wrong actions (of course, we only discover at the end that HE is the murderer). [end of spoiler]. But of course, here we’re comparing someone with a mental case to common thieves with no common sense.

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Then, there is Saboteur. Here, it’s not complicated, one of Frank Fry’s hideous sabotage plans consist in the explosion of a boat. The struggle between Fry and Kane in the truck where the detonator remains among the most stressful scenes in Hitchcock’s filmography. Will Kane succeed to stop Fry from pushing the detonator? Unfortunately, no. The boat explodes under the eyes of terrified people. Here, what we associate with water is simply the boat. No need to explain why. One of the most memorable shots of the film is when Fry, sat in a car, sees the boat lying on its side in the water, and does this creepy criminal smile. By the way, Norman Lloyd, the oldest Hollywood actor will turn 102 years old next November 8! Very soon! 🙂

The last movie we’ll talk about is Strangers on a Train. Here, it concerns Miriam’s murder. Remember, Bruno Anthony kills her on the Lovers Island at the amusement park. The island is obviously surrounded by water, which allows the murderer to escape in his boat and go back on the solid ground. Here, the victim is not directly killed in the water like in Jamaica Inn or Psycho, but her murder takes place next to a watercourse.

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AFTER THE MURDER…

Sometimes, the victim in Hitchcock’s film would not necessarily have been murdered in  the water, but would be found in a watercourse, simply because that’s where the murderer decided to get rid of her. This refers to the famous cliché that murderers get rid of their victims by throwing them in a lake, a river, the sea, etc. Once again, water is associated to something creepy. I mean, who would like to go swim in a bay where a corpse has been found?

The first film we’ll think about is Young and Innocent. It’s poor Robert who discovers the dead body of actress Christine Clay while he’s walking on the beach. First, we see a hand appearing among the waves (kind of creepy) and then the whole corpse. But the presence of a belt as well let us know that she didn’t drown, but had been murdered by strangulation.

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Then there is Rebecca. During the whole movie, we think Rebecca died in a boat accident until we learn that she, in fact, died in her little house by the sea. [spoiler] In the novel she is killed by her husband Max the Winter, but in the film, she dies by falling and hurting her head (always in the presence of Max). But in both cases, Max decides to get rid of the corpse by putting it in the sailing ship and arranges for it to sink, so people would believe in an accident.[end of spoiler]. The ocean is menacing in Rebecca. This one seems always in movement, never calm and highly impressive. [spoiler] Rebecca’s boat and the corpse are found in the stressful climax of the film. [end of spoiler] If you have read Daphné du Maurier’s novel, it describes how, even if the west wing’s rooms give a beautiful view of the sea, the east wing’s rooms are more peaceful having a view on the garden. Precisely because there’s something, yes, beautiful, but also menacing and violent about the ocean, especially on windy nights.

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In To Catch a Thief, water is first associated with something casual and pleasant when France and John swim in the Mediterranean on a sunny day, until [spoiler] Foussard is killed. He is knocked out on the head and falls into the sea from a high cliff. We remember his inert face, with the eyes open, when he is found. Quite a shock for the poor guy…[end of spoiler]

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We then get back to Psycho, where water becomes important, not only during the shower scene, but also in those sequences where Norman Bates gets rid of the victim’s cars. And where does he put them? In the dirty pond! Clever. Here, water is used to hide something. Marion Crane’s car is fished out at the end of the film. We know her body is in the trunk of the car, but we’re thankful those details are not shown to us. Hugh!

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To wrap up on this category, the last film we should mention in Frenzy. At the beginning, one of the victims of the “necktie murderer” is found in the Thames under the terrified reactions of the Londoners. Mind the river.

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Murderers seem not to have understood something: even if you throw a body in the water, it will always come back to the surface… Better bury him!

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SUICIDE

A delicate subject, suicide has not been as much present as murder in Hitchcock movies, but it’s there. The first film that comes to our mind when we think about suicide in Hitchcock films is Vertigo. Remember, Scottie follows Madeleine (well, that’s what he thinks…) and, when they arrived next to the Golden Gate (the story takes place in San Francisco), she throws herself in the San Francisco Bay. Ironically, the Golden Gate is known as the bridge where the biggest amount of suicides was committed in North America. The second one is the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal where I live (…). Anyway, Madeleine creates an association between her and water by choosing this way of killing herself. Luckily, Scottie manages to rescue her. Poor Kim Novak, she really couldn’t swim. Hitchcock could be harsh on his actresses…

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Chloé from the mediocre film The Skin Game does the same and kill herself by falling into a pool. To be honest, I don’t really know why. It’s not a very good film, so I kind of forgot about it.

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Finally, Hitchcock’s early silent film The Manxman also contains a suicide scene when Kate elegantly throws herself in the water. Her wedding life was not going too well…

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A beautiful dramatical shot

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BOATS

Water also becomes dangerous when you are on a boat and this one sinks… This was used at its full potential in Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. After a boat as been sunk by the German army, its survivors find themselves surviving on a lifeboat, for an undetermined period. What will happen to them? They are lost, forever alone in this huge ocean. But “water” here is also a synonym of “hope”. They hope for rain, as they practically have nothing to drink. This Hitchcock’s film, where all the action takes place on the ocean is one of his most thrilling.

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There’s also an important scene in Rich and Strange that involves a boat sinking. That’s what happens to Emily and Fred at the end of their cruise. The poor ones think they are at the end of their life, but, luckily, they are saved by another boat. We remember when they are locked up in their room and the water starts coming through the door. It seems to be the end, but, when they wake up, Fred and Emily realizes they are not dead. That would have been too dramatic for such a film.

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OTHER

There are four more films I briefly want to mention that are also related to water in Hitchcock’s films.

First, there’s Sabotage. In this film, the two saboteurs have a secret meeting in an aquarium. It’s indeed a very special place to have a meeting. Of course, it’s a calm place, there are not too many people and the fish cannot really hear them… This is a very special scene in the film. Shot in an interesting visual way.

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Second, The Birds takes place in Bodega Bay. The bay is part of the pacific ocean and it’s in this little Californian town that aggressive birds will attack people. Once again, the menace is happening next to a watercourse. We see a lot of seagulls in The Birds, which birds that NORMALLY live by the sea (if there’s not a McDonald around…)

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Third, Roger Thornhill almost falls from a cliff when he is driving his car, drunk. Vandamm and his gang hoped to kill him this way, but, obviously, Thornhill manages to save his skin. Well, it would have been too weird if Cary Grant would have died in the first minutes of the film, no?…

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Finally, water becomes associated with danger at the end of Number 17, when the train, that goes at a very high speed, falls into the sea. The film is not a very good one, but that’s a moment we don’t forget. And, as much as the water is menacing for the train, by falling into it, the train also becomes a menace for the water as it pollutes it. Yes, we must have an environmental conscience, even when we watch Hitchcock’s movies! 😉

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There are some movies that I might not have mentioned that also use water as an object of fear and danger. I think there’s a plane that crashes in the ocean in Foreign Correspondent, no? But I preferred not to develop on the subject as I haven’t seen the film yet and didn’t want to say anything that could be wrong.

Well,  as always, there’s always so much to say about one specific subject in a Hitchcock film! I hope this was interesting!

See you! 🙂

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Margaret Lockwood Centennial: Tribute to a most Extraordinary British Star

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Margaret Lockwood. What could I first say about this actress? I love her so much, I honestly don’t know where to start. I’ve waited for this moment for so long. Oh sure, I could have written about my love and admiration for her before, but isn’t there a much perfect occasion than her centennial? Sadly, Margaret is no longer with us anymore, but that’s not a reason not to honour her.

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I first have to precise that I’m writing this article for the Margaret Lockwood Centennial blogathon hosted by my friend Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts. I was so impatient for this blogathon to start and, so far, I’m not disappointed. It’s so wonderful to read all those pieces about Margaret’s films. And two on Give Us the Moon! That’s dream for me! I certainly hope this blogathon will allow Margaret to become more famous around this place of movie bloggers. For one thing, I assume it will allow people to discover her and her films by reading all those entertaining entries:

The Margaret Lockwood Centennial Blogathon

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I want this hat and this bathing suit

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I once promised myself that I should see ALL Margaret Lockwood’s films before the venue of this event. Unfortunately, I’ve failed to keep my promise. The main reason is that not all her films are available, and it’s also a matter of time. But, for the moment, I’ve seen 18 of them. Not so bad for a start, no? I’m always in the mood to watch a Margaret Lockwood’s film.

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Anyway, let’s get back to Margaret herself. Like most people, I’ve first discovered her by watching Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. Along with The Wicked Lady, this one remains her most iconic film. I really knew nothing about her at the time, but enjoyed her onscreen presence. Of course, I was curious to see more of her work. So, I then watched Night Train to Munich and The Stars Look Down, both directed by Carol Reed. Why those two? I chose Night Train as it is often compared to The Lady Vanishes. And I chose The Stars Look Down as it also stars Michael Redgrave and I loved his pairing with Margaret in the Hitchcock’s film. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fully appreciate those films and for a silly reason. When I watched them, it was on YouTube (with no subtitles) and, at the time, my English wasn’t as good as it is today, so I couldn’t understand everything. Of course, I was able to see Margaret was a gifted actress, but it’s a big disappointment when you don’t understand what’s going on when you watch a film. Since then, I’ve seen Night Train to Munich again, and now it’s one of my favourite films of hers.

So, after having explored those three films, I’ve spent a long time not thinking too much about her films. But, one night, I was curious again and felt like watching more. So, I did my little research and dug two of her films on YouTube that appealed me: The Man in Grey and Madness of the Heart. And you know what? I loved them and understood everything. I think it’s from this moment that I decided that I should see all Margaret Lockwood’s films and that she was a favourite of mine.

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But all I was just saying is a bit boring, no? You are here to know why my admiration for Margaret is so big. As I’ve said before, I really don’t know where to start. Well, I could say that one of the things that first impress me about Margaret is how she was capable of playing many different kinds of roles. She’s simply one of the most versatile actresses I know. She could do everything! Margaret could be a helpful and caring young woman in Bank Holiday or The Lady Vanishes or the meanest of the wicked ones in The Wicked Lady or The Man in Grey. And who said she couldn’t play comedy?! Better safe your breath with me because I will win this case if you disagree with me. Look at Give Us the Moon. She makes me laugh so much in this film.

Talking about laugh, I love Margaret’s laugh. If Peter O’Toole has my favourite voice, Margaret has my favourite laugh (yes, British actors have a special place in my heart). Whatever if it is faked or not, it’s a laugh that simply makes me smile. It’s like a little crystalline melody. And that matches her gorgeous smile and her lovely look perfectly.

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This picture just makes me want to say “Youpi”!

Because yes, we can’t deny the fact that Margaret was one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the screen. With her big eyes, her dark hair and her perfect smile, she certainly could be envied. I (and I’m not the only one) always thought she looked so much like Joan Bennett (the brunette Joan Bennett). And the nice thing about this is that, when Margaret was in Hollywood, she and the American actress became good friends!

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Margaret and Joan Bennett saluting the Queen mother. I THINK Joan is the one who stands up.

Fortunately, Margaret wasn’t only beautiful, but also talented. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been a favourite of mine.

If you ask me my advice on what would be her best performance, I couldn’t possibly say. She was fantastic in everything and it’s quite hard to compare her performance in The Wicked Lady with her performance in A Girl Must Live as they are so different. I don’t say that all Margaret Lockwood’s films themselves are necessarily great, but just like Katharine Hepburn, Margaret made at least one interesting thing to look at in those less good movies: their leading actress. But, I must say that she did some of her best works under the direction of Carol Reed (Bank Holiday, The Stars Look Down, A Girl Must Live, Night Train to Munich, Girl in the News).

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Margaret and her Daily Mail National Film Award

Apart from her smile, Margaret often does little on-screen things that just makes her adorable. I can think of this moment when she practices tap dancing in A Girl Must Live or when she does exercises to stay awake in The Lady Vanishes.

If we explore her more wicked characters, Margaret represented the independent woman who fought for her ideals. Barbara Skelton can’t be a model for her crimes, but she can be one for her seek of independence.

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What also always impress me with Margaret is how she always had such a good on-screen chemistry with the other actors. Her duo in The Lady Vanishes with Michael Redgrave is pretty perfect no? It personally is one of my favourite on-screen duos. And Margaret Lockwood always did a marvellous evil pair with James Mason. She wasn’t necessarily the best of friends with Michael Redgrave, but it’s honestly hard to believe.

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Now that I’ve spoken about Margaret the actress, this now leads me to Margaret the woman. I must admit, before reading Lyndsy Spence’s marvellous book Margaret Lockwood: Queen of the Silver Screen, I was a bit scared to know more about her private life. Scared to be disappointed by her. Because we know that some marvellous actors and actresses weren’t necessarily recommendable persons. But, with Margaret, it simply was the opposite. Not only she charmed me as a person, but I could somehow identify myself with her, particularly when I was reading about her childhood. Just like me, Margaret was a shy kid, but she managed to express herself through the world of theatre. I never really did professional theatre like her. But when I was in High School, theatre was one of the classes I excelled the most at. I’ve never been very good at talking person to person, but I’ve always felt comfortable doing oral presentations and talking in front of an audience or a camera.

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On stage with John Mills

Margaret also was an actress because she wanted to be an actress. She didn’t do it for the money, but because she loved it. Of course, the acting career isn’t always a simple one, but Margaret was a strong woman. She also was a loving mother. That makes me think, her only daughter, Julia Lockwood also became an actress. She stars in one of my favourite British comedies: Please, Turn Over. Just like her mother, she has a lovely voice, stunning eyes and she’s talented.

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Mother and daughter

I was also surprised to read how Margaret Lockwood was popular and appreciated in the United Kingdom. She certainly was the queen of the Silver Screen in the 40s. I know many people who unfortunately don’t know her, but I hope this article will convince them to watch her films (other than The Lady Vanishes) and discover her.

Anyway, Lyndsy Spence’s book certainly is a wonderful biography and I highly recommend you to read it.

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Before writing this tribute, I had the chance to honour Margaret by creating a Facebook group dedicated to her and by editing a little video tribute that I hope you’ll enjoy:

Before leaving you, I should give you a little top 10 of my favourite Margaret Lockwood’s films:

1- The Lady Vanishes (the first one I saw and I think it will always remain my favourite)

2- Give Us the Moon

3- A Girl Must Live

4- Night Train to Munich

5- Highly Dangerous

6- The Wicked Lady

7- The Man in Grey

8- Bank Holiday

9- Madness of the Heart

10- Bedelia

I know, Cast a Dark Shadow, that is often considered among her best films, isn’t on the list, but it’s simply because I didn’t get the chance to see it yet. But I’m dying to see it. One day I will manage to find a way to do so!

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Well, thanks again to Terence for hosting such a worthy blogathon, and to you, Margaret, I wish you the loveliest heavenly 100th birthday ❤

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Back to School Blogathon: The Browning Version

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Yes, I’ll soon be back to school after about four months and a half of vacations (well, not complete vacations as I was also working). Anyway, back to the routine, the lectures, the work, etc. Luckily, university starts late and ends early so I’m not starting until September 6. And fortunately, as I’m studying cinema, I’ll also be watching many movies in class just like I like to do it at home.
To celebrate the return of classes, Robin from Pop Culture Reverie has decided to host the Back-to-School Blogathon. Of course, for someone who still is studying, this is quite an appealing event as it allows me to already be in the “mood” for it. As for those who have already finished school (a long or short time ago), I guess it will bring you back some memories, good ones I hope. You see, school movies are ones that can reach many people, but unfortunately, it’s not everybody in the world who has this chance to have a fair access to studies.
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School is a very general word that can include many levels of studies. After all, we all start going to school when we are about 5 and we can sort of finish quite late if we decide to do a Ph.D. Anyway, school is an important part of life and has an immense influence on our future. For this blogathon, I’ve decided to travel to a public boarding school in England and discuss The Browning Version, an Anthony Asquith movie released in 1951. The film stars Michael Redgrave, Jean Kent, Nigel Patrick, Ronald Howard and Wilfrid Hyde-White. It was based on a play by Terence Rattigan and the movie script was also written by him.
The Browning Version can be called a masterpiece and was released on Criterion. However, it seems that it doesn’t have the popularity and the recognition it totally deserves. When you think of “school movies” it’s the first one that comes to peoples’ mind.
The Browning Version focuses on the last days of Andrew Crocker-Harris (Michael Redgrave), a classic studies teacher, in an English public school for men (boys). Due to his health problems, he is to be transferred to another school where the responsibilities are less exhausting. He is about to be replaced by the young Mr. Gilbert (Ronald Howard). But those last days are difficult as “the Crock”, as he is called, begins to realise that, during all his 18 years of teaching at this school, he wasn’t only not liked, but positively disliked by his students. His wedding is also a failure and his economic position is not announced to be good after his transfer in the new school. To his students, Mr. Crocker-Harris is a boring teacher with no emotions and n0 recognition. However, one of them, Taplow, sizes the sensibility that is hidden in this man and believes that he is, after all, not such a bad person, but only a lonely one.
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We need more people like this little boy in our world. The Browning Version indeed makes us understand that we can’t really judge a person before really know her. After all,  what do we really know about our teachers? I mean, in their life out of school? Taplow is the only student of Mr. Crocker-Harris’s class to have witnessed more of his life at home as he sometimes goes to work at his place. He is a sensible little boy who sees behind the first image projected by someone. Indeed, it shows us that someone might not always express what he really feel. After all, we are all different.
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But in a way, it’s normal not to like all our teachers. And that can be so for many different reasons: a boring teacher, a teacher with whom you learn nothing, a teacher who has humiliated you, a teacher who is incomprehensible, etc. That can be the most wonderful profession as you get to know different young souls and transmit your knowledge to them. But it can also be a hard task if you add the different challenges and if you have a lack of motivation. Ok, I’m talking as if I were a teacher, but I’m not. I’m only writing this according to my good judgement.
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Mr. Crooked-Harris as the motivation. It’s clear to us that he is passionate by what he’s teaching. The only problem is that he doesn’t success to transmit this love of classic studies to his student in the right way. Has many of them suggest, he seems to have no emotion, but we’ll discover, thanks to Taplow, that he a sensibility is hidden in him.
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Michael Redgrave gives a brilliant performance in a role that was meant to be difficult. In an interview, available on the Criterion DVD of this film, the actor indeed explains that he likes to choose roles that don’t have an easy approach. I think that the challenge here was to play a man who first seems neutral, but who is in reality, highly tormented. It’s a role that makes us forget the sympathetic Gilbert from The Lady Vanishes or the refined Ernest from The Importance of Being Earnest, but in a good way. It simply proves us that Michael Redgrave was capable of playing many different kinds of roles. At the 1951 Cannes Film Festival, the British actor won the Best Actor Award for his performance as Andrew Crocker-Harris.
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Margaret Lockwood, who had previously starred in The Lady Vanishes and The Stars Look Down alongside Redgrave, was first considered for the role of Millie, Mr. Crocker-Harris’s wife, but the role went to Jean Kent. I’m sure Margaret would have been great too, but Mrs. Kent seems to have been meant for this role. With her ravaging beauty, she was perfectly able to play the seducing and passionate bad girls and she proves it right. The opposition between her character and Michael Redgrave’s one is fascinating, just like the way she will behave in society versus how she’ll behave when she is alone with her husband. Those situations seem to create two completely different women and Jean Kent was able to adapt herself to both of them like a chameleon.
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The role of Frank Hunter, Andrew’s fellow schoolmaster, was given to Nigel Patrick, an actor I didn’t really know, but who turns out to be quite intriguing. Brian Smith plays the little Taplow and his devotion as a young actor makes us having high hopes for him. The Headmaster was played by Wilfrid Hyde-White, who is great and appreciable without stealing the show from Redgrave. Finally, Ronald Howard (who was Leslie Howard’s son – I didn’t know that) plays the role of Crooked-Harris successor. His acting game is very simple, but convincing and he gives to his character a beautiful humility.
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At the 1951’s film Cannes Film Festival, The Browning Version also won the Best Screenplay Award and was also nominated for the Golden Palm. The script was indeed brilliant has it creates a justifiable evolution of the story and its characters. It helps us to understand the motivations and certain actions. The Crock’s vulnerability touches us as it touches Taplow. As a matter of fact, Taplow is the eyes of the spectator and, the more we are watching the film, the more we begin to understand Crocker-Harris just like Taplow does. The film also contains some well-thought lines who makes us having a reflection on the situation, one of them being:
 Andrew Crocker-Harris: I may have been a brilliant scholar, but I was woefully ignorant of the facts of life.
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And of course, there is the final speech, a moment of emotion that I won’t reveal to you in case you haven’t seen the film yet.
For those who wonder, the movie title refers to English poet, Robert Browning’s translation of the Greek tragedy  Agamemnon, which plays an important role in the film.
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Aside from his Cannes Festival wins and nominations, The Browning Version also won the Bronze Berlin Bear (drama) and the Small Bronze Plate at the Berlin International Film Festival.
It’s no surprise that the film won those international Awards, not only because it’s a clever one, but also because it’s one that can reach everybody across the world. It is English, yes, and we feel the British world and culture, but it’s a story that could happen everywhere at any time.
In 1994, a remake of the film was made with Albert Finney in the leading role. The movie was also nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, which proves that it is, after all, probably not a bad remake. But I still have to see it.
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I would like to thank gladly Robin from Pop Culture Reverie for hosting this wonderful blogathon, which was a good opportunity for me to go back in the “school” mood after such long summer vacations.
To read the other lovely entries, please click here.
Well, the bell just rang. I have to go now!
A chase melodrama, in which a film actress is murdered by her estranged husband who is jealous of her young lovers.  

The following day, writer, Robert Tisdall, one of her lovers, finds her body washed up on the beach.  However, as he runs off for help, he is seen by two witnesses who suspect he is the murderer.

Tisdall is arrested by the police for suspicion of murder, but owing to a mix up at the court, manages to escape and go on the run.   Now he must attempt to prove himself innocent of a charge of murder based on circumstantial evidence.
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Young and Innocent, a Typical Hitchcock’s British Film Indeed!

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For those who have read this blog since I created it, you probably know that I’m fond of British films (REAL British films). Following this idea, Terence Twoles Canote’s British Invaders Blogathon is one of my favourite blogging events. Last year, if you remember, I wrote about the very British Anthony Asquith’s The Importance of Being Earnest. For this year’s blogathon, I decided to go with my good old Hitchcock and introduce you to Young and Innocent.
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As a matter of fact, Young and Innocent is not Hitchcock most well known film, but it was my introduction to his pre-1940 British films. And I can positively say that, alongside The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, The Lodger, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Murder!, it’s one of his best from this period.
Actually, Young and Innocent is a good introduction to every Hitchcock’s films in general, not only those produced in the UK. Why? We’ll come back to that in a short while.
Young and Innocent (also known as The Girl Was Young in the US) was released in 1937. It was one of Hitchcock’s last films before moving to the States where he’ll make some films produced by the prolific (but not always appreciated by the Master) David O’Selznick.
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Young and Innocent is one of those typical “wrong man” Hitchcock’s films: A movie star, Christine Clay, has been murdered. Robert Tisdall (Derrick De Marney) is wrongly accused of being the murderer. Before the trial starts, he manages to escape. The Chief Constable’s daughter, Erica (Nova Pilbeam), after few hesitations, will help him to find the real murderer.
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This is very simple. And as you can see, a typical Hitchcock’s film. Of course, everything doesn’t happen the same way for each Hitchcock’s film of this type! The stories are not the same ones, the characters either.
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Like every Hitchcock’s films (except for The Ring), Young and Innocent was based on a literary work. However, IMDB informs us that the master of Suspense only used one-third of Elizabeth Mackintosh’s novel A Shilling for Candles (written under the name of Josephine Tey), and changed the identity of the murderer. The film’s screenplay was written by Charles Bennett, Edwin Greenwood and Anthony Armstrong. Charles Bennett is also known for being the author of Blackmail, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, Sabotage, Secret Agent, Foreign Correspondent and Saboteur‘s screenplays, all films directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The two men certainly made a prolific pair. Bennett was nominated at the 1941’s Oscar for his work on Foreign Correspondent.
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Young and Innocent presents us a delicious bunch of exclusively British actors who all portray quite intriguing characters. That’s one the strengths of this film: the characters’ variety and their strong contribution to the film.
Starting with Derrick de Marney as Robert Tisdall. This one has indeed the perfect “young and innocent” face. His acting remains very simple, but he doesn’t neglect that British humour that we appreciate so much in Hitchcock’s films. His kind manners make him credible as being the innocent one. In other words, he is one we can easily appreciate.
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This was not Nova Pilbeam’s first film under the direction of Hitchcock. Indeed, she previously played the role of Betty Lawrence in the original version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). She was only 19 when she starred in Young and Innocent, but what a brilliant actress she already was! It’s too bad that she wasn’t more well-know. However, she had quite a short film career. Her character, Erica, is someone who will take time before admitting she likes someone, but who will secretly do everything for this person. We can feel that, at some occasions, Nova Pilbeam is maybe a little bit too emotional, but she remains brilliant anyway. Alongside Vivien Leigh, Nova Pilbeam was one of the actresses considered for the role of Iris Henderson in Hithcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). The role went to Margaret Lockwood. Also, David O’Selznick, who saw her potential in Young and Innocent, wanted to cast her for Rebecca, but the part went to Joan Fontaine. Maybe this would have made her an international film star.
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Young and Innocent was Percy Marmont’s last film under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock. He doesn’t have a leading role, but a very useful and appreciable supporting one. He was very well-cast as the Chief Constable, Colonel Burgoyne, a man who applies the law, but who is not thick headed like some others. I have to say that, among all Hitchcock’s films he made, this one has to be my favourite role of his. He is simple (in the good way) and doesn’t exaggerate his acting.
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Edward Rigby, who portrays Old Will, is a perfect British character actor. Ok, I haven’t seen many of his film, but viewing Young and Innocent is enough to say that. He is, by no doubt, the funniest actor of the lot. Just to think of the way he dances makes me smile. Of course, without the character of Old Will himself, the film wouldn’t be the same and the events of the story would certainly take a different turn.
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Wait, I said Edward Rigby is the funniest actor of the lot. Actually, J.H Roberts as the Solicitor, Henry Briggs, is too. With is awesome accent he also embodies the most “British” character of the film. It’s too bad that we see him in the film for only a very short while. His presence, as much small as she is, is highly appreciated.
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Finally, Young and Innocent introduced Mary Clare and Basil Radford to the Hitchcockian world. In Young and Innocent they play Erica’s aunt and uncle, but we also saw them together the next year as Charters and Baronne Isabel Nisatona in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. We also saw Basil Radford in Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn. Their part in Young and Innocent is unfortunately quite small. They play an amusing duo and we regret not seeing them longer. For those who have seen them in The Lady Vanishes, you’ll agree with me that it’s hard not to smile when we see them is this small scene of Young and Innocent. Of course, this film proves us Mary Clare’s versatility as an actress because her role is so different from the one in The Lady Vanishes. In Hitchcock/Truffaut, Hitchcock reveals to us that this birthday party scene where we see the two actors was cut in the American version of the film. Most regrettable. As he explains, it’s quite an important scene and it was stupid to delete it.
Apart from the actors, Hitchcock had his cameo in the film! And you know what? This is my favourite Hitchcock’s cameo. We see him during this scene when Robert escapes. He’s there with a very small camera which creates a cute and funny contrast: the big Hitchcock and a teeny tiny camera. This looks completely ridiculous, and, the poor one, he tries to take a picture, but we can clearly see he can’ because of all the scene’s chaos. He also tries to say something to the policeman next to him, but this one is too busy with other things to listen to him. Poor Hitch!
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Take a moment to watch this scene (the cameo is at 1min28)
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To continue with the narrative aspects of the film, what I like about it is the irony of the climax. During this one, the trio formed by Robert, Erica and Old Will is at the Grand Hotel to find the real murderer. I won’t hide to you that he is there indeed, but what’s funny about this scene is the fact that he completely ridicules himself. He’s not subtle at all. The Young and Innocent‘s villain is certainly one of Hitchcock’s most clumsy villains. He just has to see Old Will to loose all his credibility (you’ll understand why when you’ll see the film).
I also like this scene when Robert manages to run away by only hiding himself with a pair of glasses. Are people that nut? This film certainly has a lot of humour, a Hitchcockian humour indeed.
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You might wonder why it is called Young and Innocent. Well, I read in a book about Hitchcock that, in this film, the children behave like adults and the adults behave like children. It’s not completely false! For example, at the gas station, it’s a little boy who fills up the gas tank instead of his father who is busy eating his lunch. And we can see Erica’s aunt amusement when she plays with the children at her daughter’s birthday party. The title could also be a reference to the simple fact that the protagonist of the film, Robert is young and… innocent: he hasn’t killed Christine Clay. But in a general idea, the two main characters of the story are young people. Derrick De Marney was already 31 when he starred in this film (it’s not “old”, but it’s not as young as Nova Pilbeam), but we have to agree that he looks much younger. I mentioned that, in the US, the film was called The Girl Was Young. Well, yes, she was young, but I believe it’s a much less interesting title as it contains nothing very relevant. This is just like if To Catch a Thief, for example, was called The Girl Was Rich
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For the technical aspects, Young and Innocent remains very interesting for this travelling shot in the Grand Hotel. The camera shows us a long shot of the ballroom and gradually moves to the murdered to end this travelling with an extreme close-up of his eyes. That’s something Hitchcock liked to do: moving from a general view of something to one very precise element. He repeated the same thing in Notorious, when the camera shows us the famous key in Ingrid Bergman’s hand, but the effect was not as much well made as it was in Young and Innocent. We can easily say that it’s the best shot of the film.
In the same scene, the music also has a very important role to play. For those who haven’t seen the film yet, I simply want to inform you that I’ll be revealing spoilers in this paragraph. As I explained in my article Hitchcock and the Music, that scene has to be my favourite collaboration between Hitchcock and the music. The way he uses it is quite amazing. During this scene, there’s a band playing music and the singer sings “I’m right here to tell you mister, no one can like the drummer man!” A song that seems anodyne at first, but who turns out to be a big clue as we soon discover that, the man Erica, Robert and Old Will are looking for his… the drummer man! Of course, this adds even more irony to the scene. No One Can Like the Drummer Man was composed by Samuel Lerner [end of the spoilers].
You can watch this scene here (or wait to see the full movie if you don’t want any spoilers revealed).
Warning: the song will probably be stuck in your head forever (but it’s a nice song, luckily)!
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Well, Young and Innocent, as you can see, is one of those less known Hitchcock’s films that certainly deserve to be seen and be better known. I can say, without hesitation, that, after The Lady Vanishes, this one is my second favourite British Hitchcock’s film. It’s a real entertainment and it can only make you want to see more of his early work.
If you haven’t seen it, I invite you to do so, it’s only 1h20 😉
A big thanks to Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts for, once again, hosting this amazing event. As Always, it was a pleasure for me to review an Hitchcock’s film!
Don’t forget to read the other entries as well:
See you!
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