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What a Character Blogathon: How Arthur Kennedy Changed my Cinematic Life

Actor Arthur Kennedy

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!

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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On stage with James Dean!

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 

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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

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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.

If you wish to read more about The Desperate Hours, I invite you to read this article I’ve written for the Great Villains Blogathon: Glenn Griffin: The Desperate Hours’ Villain.

Film 8: A Summer Place (Delmer Daves, 1959)

Role: Bart Hunter

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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

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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 

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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.

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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? 😉

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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.

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A big thanks to Once Upon a Screen, Paula’s Cinema Club and Outspoken and Freckled for hosting this amazing blogathon. It honestly felt good to be back after this absence due to final essays (that are fortunately over now).

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Don’t forget to take a look at the other entries, a good way to discover a bunch of other amazing and underrated character actors!

What a Character! Blogathon Day 1

See you! 🙂

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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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A Patch of Blue: When one sees with the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tolerance and patience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The films’ main theme:

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

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

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

[touching Gordon’s face]

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

Gordon Ralfe: What’s that?

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

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

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

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

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***

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

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

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

à

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How William Holden Conquered Me

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When I think about the fact that William Holden is now my second favourite actor (after James Stewart), it makes me realize how a person’s tastes can change. We’re celebrating today what would have been his 98th anniversary and, for the occasion, I’m hosting my first William Holden Blogathon, aka The Golden Boy Blogathon. For my contribution, I’m going to explain how he became a favourite of mine, and why.
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First time I saw William Holden on screen, it was in Billy Wilder’s Sabrina released in 1954. That was a good thing to start with as Holden was a Billy Wilder’s favourite, having starred in four of his films (Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, Sabrina and Fedora). Only, I decided to watch this film for Audrey Hepburn. As I wasn’t looking for him, I didn’t really pay attention to his acting (not to admit that I didn’t really care for him at the time and not to mention that his role in this film is not my favourite). Anyway, I then saw some other films with him: The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957) and The Bridges at Toko-Ri (Mark Robson, 1954). But, once again, I was paying attention to some other actors and not to him. Poor Bill! How I was cruel to him!
But, one day, I borrowed Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950) at my school library. I can still see myself looking at the dvd cover to see the names of the actors who were starring in this film. When I saw Holden’s name, I said to myself “Him again! I think I should pay more attention to him this time.” Of course, I had too as he is the main actor in this film…
I didn’t regret because Sunset Boulevard is the film that made him a favourite of mine. Immediately after I saw this film, I put him on my favourite actor’s list. I still think his performance in this film is one of his best. It’s so… honest! He was nominated for an Oscar, but lost it to José Ferrer for his performance in Cyrano de Bergerac.
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Of course, he wasn’t very high on my favourite actors’ list, but he was here, so that’s the most important. Anyway, as I enjoyed him in Sunset Boulevard it made me want to watch more of his films. If you remember, last year, I even did a William Holden’s marathon and watched 15 of his films, plus Sunset Boulevard again and that hilarious I Love Lucy’s episode! And I watched three more for the blogathon. So, with a total of 25 films viewed, he his the actor from whom I have seen the most films.
After I did my marathon, I put him on the 5th place in my favourite actor’s list. But the more I was thinking about him, the more I was fond of him and couldn’t resist putting him in the second position. Seriously, he is really fantastic (and quite handsome too, we have to admit it)!
So, when I think that, now, he is my second favourite actor of all times and I used to “not care” about him, I really laugh at myself.
Actually, there are several reasons why he is a favourite of mine. One of the first is his versatility as an actor. To me, he will always be one of the most verstatile actors to have ever grace the screen. Of course, it’s by seeing many of his films that I realized that. He could play a tough guy (The Wild Bunch), a sensible one (Our Town), both in the same film (Golden Boy). He could be romantic (Dear Ruth) or not really (Sabrina). He could be serious (The Devil’s Brigade, Sunset Boulevard) or funny (The Remarkable Andrew), and even more. And he excelled at transmitting to us all this myriade of emotions.
He was even good at playing himself! Look at him in this I Love Lucy‘s episode: William Holden playing William Holden in an humorous way is one of the best things that ever happened to classic television.
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Of course, something about William Holden that makes me completely gaga is his irresistible smile. *Sight*… He’s such a cutie pie when he smiles. I wish he was my neighbour you know. And he had the perfect ability to not only smiles with his mouth, but also with his eyes. Those beautiful blue eyes. Of course, physical appearance is not the most important thing about an actor, talent is, but I HAVE to say it: I have a big crush on him!! I love men with dark hair and blue eyes (and an irresistible smile). So Holden is pretty much the perfect model.
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Anywayyy!
Except his acting talent and his beauty, I have to say Bill began to have a very important place in my heart when I saw him in one of his very early films: Golden Boy. Thanks to  his co-star Barbara Stanwyck, to whom William Holden will always be her “Golden Boy”, who recognize her talent, he was able to be accepted in the world of movie stars. We don’t remember him much for this film, but it played an important role in his career. Not to mention that it was his first credited film. As he is my age in this film (21), I can sort of identity to him (and also because he plays violin and I used to play  the violin). Talking about violin, there this scene which is for me one of the most touching of Bill’s career. Bill as Joe  Bonaparte is back home and discovers the violin his father (Lee J. Cobb) had bought to him for his birthday. He is marvelled by this musical treasure and can’t resist playing. When he plays, there’s so much softness, so much tenderness in him. Then his family and a neighbour come to listen to him. His father has tears in his eyes when he sees him doing what he loves. We wished this beautiful and emotional scene would last forever! With his Bambi eyes, all we want is to take care of this golden boy.
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I read, in one of the articles for the blogathon, that William Holden often played very independent characters. I pretty much agree. We feel he knows what he wants and will find a way to do it. Yes, he can succumb to the temptation like in Sunset Boulevard or Golden Boy, but he knows how to say no, no matter what the consequences are. Our Golden Boy certainly knew how to transmit an unique and strong personality to each one of his characters.
He, of course, started his career very young (in his early 20s) and ended it in his early 60s when he passed away. If Barbara Stanwyck, THE Barbara Stanwyck, believed in him, it’s because he indeed had something to give to us. He grew up and the screen grew with him. He took an important and significant maturity, but that never shadowed his earlier performances that sculptured his talent. Holden was one of the actors who knew perfectly how to travel in time. When the cinema modernized itself, he modernized himself with him. He’s one of these timeless actors, you know.
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I told you previously that I didn’t know that much about William Holden’s personal life. That’s true. I haven’t read a biography about him and concentrated more on his films. The stuff I know about his personal life mostly is what everybody already knows: his relations with Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, his wedding to Brenda Marshall and, unfortunately, his tragic death due to reasons that I don’t want to talk about today as I’m here to honour him. Because that’s the thing: I think today William Holden would have liked to be remembered for the good he gave to this world and the history of cinema. Oh, Golden Holden was so devoted to his profession! I read about it very recently in an article from April 1956’s Photoplay written by his personal secretary. She explains how much he did for his job, too much, and how stimulating it was to work for him. He was also very independent in real life and didn’t need a servant to bring him his coffee. He wasn’t lazy, that’s for sure!
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With director Clint Eastwood on the set of Breezy
William Holden’s talent was recognized by the Academy in 1954 when they gave him a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Stalag 17 (Billy Wilder, 1953). Being rushed for a time’s matter, his acceptance speech is known has one of the shortest of film history, being limited to “Thanks you! Thank you!” I honestly hate the Academy for having put such pressure on him. Maybe he had important things to say! We don’t win an Oscar every night. Poor Bill, he seemed so shy. Fortunately, he seemed to have a good sense of humour. The following year, when he was presenting the Best Actress Oscar, he made a joke by saying to the public “As I was going to say last year… [Bob Hope comes whispering in his hear. He looks at his watch]…Well, time is running short again” (!) This night, he gave the Oscar to Grace Kelly, who were her co-star in The Country Girl (George Seaton, 1954). Oh! His smile when he read her name! We know he was happy for her!
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Stalag 17 was William Holden’s only Oscar. He also was nominated for his performances in Sunset Boulevard and Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976). This last one proving that, 25 years after his first nomination, he hadn’t lost is talent.
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I don’t know where our Golden Boy is now, but he surely is in each heart of those who love and loved him: his family, his friends, his girlfriends and even his fans. He is not with us anymore, but he would probably have been thrilled to know that people still find a way to honour him. Giving him the right remembrance was very important to me, that’s why I created the Golden Boy Blogathon. I invite you to read all the marvellous entries by clicking on the following link:
I also invite you to take a look at the video tribute I made when I discovered how awesome he was:
Happy heavenly birthday wonderful Golden Boy!
And to the readers and my fellow bloggers, have a nice Golden Holden weekend!
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Claire Trevor’s Films Marathon: Feedback

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I’m glad to be back with a new actor’s film marathon: a Claire Trevor’s Marathon. The special thing this time, is that I’ve made this marathon for a blogathon: The Marathon Stars Blogathon (hosted by me at The Wonderful World of Cinema and Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood).

I’ve decided to go with Claire Trevor as she has always been a curiosity to me. I absolutely loved her in Born to Kill and, after having seen this one I had only seen her in William Wyler’s Dead End (in which she has a rather small part, but still was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar). Anyway, I had to see more of her work, so this blogathon was the best occasion to. We also celebrated her birthday on March 8, so this will be my way to pay a tribute to her.

During my marathon, I’ve watched a total of 7 Claire Trevor’s films. Well, more 7 3/4, considering that I didn’t have time to finish watching Raw Deal, but I’ll try to make a little come back on this one, according to what I’ve seen so far. And will try, of course, to watch the entire film one day!

My feedback will only focus on Claire Trevor’s performance and character for in each film. Hope you’ll enjoy and, if you’re not too familiar with her, I hope it will make you want to watch some of her films!

Film 1: Key Largo (John Huston, 1948)

Role: Gaye Dawn

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Wasn’t there any best way to start this marathon with what allowed Claire Trevor to win her first (and only…) Oscar? She indeed won the Best Actress in a Supporting role Oscar in 1949 for her brilliant performance in Key Largo. All the actors are great, but we have to admit that she steals the show. The lady she portrays in this film has a strong personality, and this element will often be used for Claire Trevor’s characters. We remember this line when she yells at one of the actors “GIVE HIM A BEER”. Her angry voice tone is very convincing! However, Gaye Dawn has a weaker side due to her alcoholism. We remember this heart breaker scene when she sings “Moaning Low”. She sings completely off key, with no energy. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall feel sorry for her, and so we do: meaning that her emotions are correctly transmitted to us. Gaye Dawn is first known to be on the wrong sad, but she ends up being on the right one when she decides to help Humphrey Bogart. That and her touching performance makes her the real winner of this film.

Film 2: Murder, My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk, 1944)

Role: Helen Grayle/Velma Valento

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Claire Trevor certainly was a queen of Films Noir and this film, along with Born to Kill, proves it greatly. However, I don’t think her character in this one was as much interesting as Helen Brent in Born to Kill. She plays a femme fatale (who lies about her real identity, adding a part of mystery to her character), a mean and cruel one. Claire Trevor knew how to play women with no pity. Velma Valento certainly was one. She doesn’t have that much a big part in this film, but the scenes where she appears are some of the most powerful as she has sort of a malefic aura around her.

Film 3: The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (Anatole Litvak, 1938)

Role: Jo Keller

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The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse was to me something very unexpected (in a good way). Just like in Key Largo, Claire Trevor’s co-male stars are Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson, but, this time, Bogart is the bad one and Robinson is the good one. Note that this film was released ten years before Key Largo. The Claire Trevor of Dr. Clitterhouse is the one we know well: it’s hard to say on which side she is and she uses this mocking tone of voice that is sort of her trademark. She knows how to confront people by looking to them right in the eyes. She wants them to know what she wants. A woman has to shine if she’s alone in a men’s world and Claire Trevor knew perfectly how to. However, she also can be impressed by them and this film proves it.

Film 4: Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)

Role: Dallas

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This is a film I wanted to see since a long time (I had seen excerpts in class and thought it looked great), so I certainly had to add it to my marathon. Here, Claire Trevor plays a woman who keeps her distances, who is cagey, but who turns out to have a kind heart. She is simply shy. During her trip in the stagecoach, she learns to appreciate those who travels with her. The more she gets to know them, the more she shows her tender side. Although, she doesn’t appreciate everybody, but when she does, it’s perfectly clear. I think this is one of the perfect film to illustrate Claire Trevor’s ability to change emotions. The Dallas from the beginning of the film is very different from the one at the end. This is not only a Western, but also a road movie. In every film genre, but particularly in this one, there needs to have an evolution of the characters. This was a success for Dallas. I also love the scene when she takes care of Lucy’s (Louise Platt) baby. She seems so sweet and so maternal.

Film 5: How to Murder Your Wife (Richard Quine, 1965)

Role: Edna Lampson

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How to Murder Your Wife was one of Claire Trevor’s last films. We had previously seen her in Westerns and Films Noirs, so to see her in a comedy was something completely new for me. Claire Trevor was, of course, older in this film, but still very distinguished. And boy, we happily discover that she could be the perfect Femme Fatale in Films Noir, but also that she certainly knew how to play comedy! Here, Claire Trevor plays a very eccentric woman. She has a supporting role, but, sometimes, those are the best. She is the perfect “annoying wife” and this allows us to see another side of the actress, a wilder one. At this point of her career, Claire Trevor could be considered to be a character actress due to the type of roles that were given to her. Edna is a very cool woman: she’s funny, she dances, she speaks Italian. Claire Trevor still his a strong and brilliant woman in this film, a leader, by defying the misogynist male spirit.

Film 6: Baby Take a Bow (Harry Lachman, 1934)

Role: Kay Ellison

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It was very interesting to see one of Claire Trevor’s later films (How to Murder Your Wife) and then one of her earliest (Baby Take a Bow). Her performance in this one is very different. She plays a more “innocent lady”, a sweet mother (how else could it be in a movie starring Shirley Temple?…). She has a more passive role in this film, but her presence remains appreciated. We are fond of her character has she is a truly good mother who cares for her child. Claire Trevor was still quite young when she starred in this comedy. Even if, by playing a “sweet and innocent” woman, she allowed us to see that she could play different types of roles, I have to admit, I prefer when she plays a strong woman who knows what she wants and defy male’s prejudices towards women.

Film 7: Dark Command (Raoul Walsh, 1940)

Role: Mary McCloud

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I think, among all the films I saw for my marathon, this one revealed my favourite Claire Trevor. Here, she is a real leader. She has a great energy, she knows what she wants, she gives orders to her brother and her father and they obey. RESPECT. When she smiles, it’s an honest one, not a false one like her femmes fatales’ smiles She’s very elegant.  One more time, she and John Wayne are reunited together in a western (also starring Walter Pidgeon). They have a great chemistry together. She intimidates him at first when he tries to talk to her. She’s not easy to approach! She’s somehow insulted when he asks her to marry him, considering that she barely knows him. She’s not interested. But she ends up appreciating him and sees a great friend in him. She also has a good chemistry with Roy Rodgers, who plays her brother in the film. Mary McCloud is a woman who loves her family and his devoted to it. She worries about her brother, but knows how to remain courageous. She’s more emotional when a misfortune happens to a member of her family or someone she loves. When she’s with Walter Pidgeon, she reveals us a calmer side. Claire Trevor still has her little ” mocking side” in this film, but that’s part of her charm.

Film 8: Raw Deal (Anthony Mann, 1948)

Role: Pat Cameron

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As I said, I didn’t have time to see Raw Deal in its entirety, but I saw enough to give you a little feedback on Claire Trevor’s performance. Pat Cameron is nothing but a woman in love. She cares for her boyfriend and won’t let it down (or will she?) She has a rival: another woman (actress). The confrontations between her and this woman adds a tension to the film. Pat will do everything to help her man. She helps him to escape from jail, which is not a small thing. As she often uses to do, the Claire Trevor of Raw Deal is not afraid to say what she thinks.

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Which one did I prefer among these ones? It’s hard to say! I hesitate between Stagecoach and Dark Command (clue: I love westerns), but they all have something special. I think I less appreciated Murder, My Sweet because it confused me at some point, but it remains something interesting to see.

Claire Trevor is certainly is an actress to discover! I’m glad I chose her. So far, I’ve seen 10 1/2 of her films. Born to Kill remains my favourite one of them all, but I hope I’ll see more! I love discovering new actresses, especially underrated ones like Claire Trevor. She was talented, strong and so beautiful!

To read the other entries, I invite you to click on this link:

The Marathon Stars Blogathon

I hope I’ll be able to make another blogathon soon! It has been a while.

P.S: If you are on Facebook, I invite you to join my new group dedicated to this actress: Claire Trevor: A Golden Actress

Annex - Trevor, Claire_NRFPT_04