Yummy and Yucky: The French Cuisine in “L’aile ou la cuisse”

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Right now, I’m writing my text for the Food in Film Blogathon AND eating a sandwich at the same time. SO CONCEPT. I have to admit, I’m a pretty greedy person. Things I can’t resist? Ice cream, french fries, Champagne, and mojito (among other things). When I saw the announcement for Kristina and Ruth’s blogathon, the first film that immediately pop-uped in my mind was L’aile ou la cuisse (The Wing or the Thigh), a 1976’s French film directed by Claude Zidi and starring the crazy Louis de Funès, Coluche, Ann Zacharias, and Julien Guiomar. France has always had a reputation for its gastronomy. No wonder why they also make films where food is at the center of attention. I was happy to dive into that film again since I had only seen it once before and that was many years ago (I wasn’t even really watching classics at the time). I even remember watching it with my sister. Anyway, I don’t regret my choice as it is pretty perfect for this blogathon!

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The central character of L’aile ou la cuisse is Charles Duchemin (Louis de Funès), the editor of an internationally reputed restaurant guide. He has just been elected at the French Academy and is about to retire after the publishing of the Duchemin Guide’s last edition. He hopes to transmit his knowledge of the French food to his son Gérard (Coluche), hoping he’ll eventually follow his vocation. However, Gérard is barely interested in a career in this field and prefers his life as a clown in a circus (something his father isn’t aware of). However, Charles has to face a more serious problem: Jacques Tricatel (Julien Guiomar), the owner of a mass-produced food company is about to buy some restaurants that were supposed to be awarded by the  Duchemin Guide. If these restaurants are bought by a company producing cheap food, the future of high gastronomy might be at stake. Tricatel is also quite decided to tarnish Charles’ reputation. So, this one has to stop Tricatel and make people realize what kind of horrid food his company produces. So, with the help of Gérard (despite himself) and his new secretary, Marguerite nº2 (Ann Zacharias), he’ll tempt to stop Tricatel’s shenanigans, and this leads us to an unforgettable climax.

L’aile ou la cuisse doesn’t lose time to introduce food in the story. The opening titles present us a most entertaining animation made with kitchen tools, plates, and pans. It’s accompanied by Vladimir Cosma’s dynamic scores. These opening titles give the spectator two clues: that this will certainly be a film about food and that it will be a lively one.

Watch this. The “song” will probably be stuck in your head for a while, but, believe me, it’s worthy.

Seriously, I love that music! Somehow, I can imagine majorettes dancing on that with giant kitchen tools instead of batons.

After these credits, we move to the introductory scene, the one presenting us the Duchemin Guide. I believe it’s a perfect way to begin the movie as it gives you a good idea of what the Duchemin guide is about and the importance it has. The reputation of French cuisine very much depends on this guide, so the great restaurants have to give their best to keep their good status.

Charles Duchemin is known to be someone quite “mysterious”. Us, spectators, know who he is since we witness his everyday life, but, when he visits a restaurant to rate it, he always disguises himself not to be recognized. This creates some pretty hilarious scenes. Thus, Louis de Funès is not introduced to us as the veritable Duchemin but as a fancy old lady. One of his employees has been appointed to rate a restaurant but Duchemin prefers to assist as a second judge. The restaurant staff has obviously recognized the “assistant” and treats him like a king. They serve him the best food they have and multiple plates. Meanwhile, Duchemin (as an old lady) is neglected by the waiters, which indicates that, even if they serve good food, their customer service isn’t the best.

Duchemin will also visit restaurants as a cowboy, a bride’s father, and a cab driver.

Claude Ziddi’s film is an interesting one as it shows us different facets of the “food world”. Indeed, we and Duchemin’s crew encounter the best and the worst of French cuisine. At some point, some meals are real masterpieces, but some other are made by cooks who doesn’t really seem to give a damn about what they are serving to their customers.

In this Japanese restaurant, cooking becomes a real performance.

This wine has a similar colour to the one Mr. Alexander serves to Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange…

Tricatel “food” (if we can call it food) is the perfect example of anti-French gastronomy. Indeed, when Charles and Gérard manage to enter in the factory, they discover how their food is made, which is a process that has to be denounced. Sadly, even if L’aile ou la cuisse is “just a film” it certainly reflects a certain reality.

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At one point in the film, Duchemin faces a pretty challenging problem: to Tricatel greatest amusement, he has lost his sense of taste! However, the renowned editor hasn’t finished to impress us. Indeed, in a scene, he manages to guess the name, grape variety, and year of a red wine only by looking at it.

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If you haven’t seen L’aile ou la cuisse yet, I highly recommend it. Not only it will make you travel in the world of French cuisine, but you’ll also appreciate it’s humour.

A big thank you to Kristian from Speakeasy and Ruth from Silver Screenings for hosting this delicious blogathon! 😉

Make sure to satisfy your appetite by reading the other entries!

Food in Film Blogathon Day 1

Food in Film Blogathon Day  2

Food in Films Blogathon Day 3

See you!

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My Favourite Spanish Film: También la lluvia (Even the Rain)

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When Aurora from Once Upon a Screen announced that she would be back hosting her Hispanic Heritage Blogathon, I couldn’t resist writing about my favourite Spanish movie: También la lluvia, directed by Icíar Bollaín and released in 2010. Since I participated to the last edition of the blogathon with my entry on Sarita Montiel in Vera Cruz, I became much more familiar with the Spanish cinema since, last year, I attended a class on the subject at university. I can positively say that it is now one of my favourite national cinemas. I even went to Spain last May. Beautiful country!

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When one thinks about Spanish cinema, the name we are all most familiar with is Pedro Almodóvar. As great as he is, there is, however, much more to explore in the Spanish cinema world. Before I watched También la lluvia for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect as I had never heard of this movie before. It was pretty much a “wait and see” situation. And well, as I’ve said before, it became my favourite Spanish film.

The film is a Spanish production but takes place in Bolivia. A film crew from Spain has come to the city of Cochabamba to shoot a movie about Christopher Columbus. The director, Christopher (Gael García Bernal),  and the executive producer, Costa (Luis Tosar), are accompanied by Maria (Cassandra Ciangherotti), who is making a documentary about the film. The city where they decided to shoot is struggling with a major problem: the government prevents the population to have a free access to water and ask them to pay money they don’t have in order to have an access to this vital resource. Inevitably, manifestations against the government start and become more and more violent. The city soon becomes a dangerous place for the film crew to stay and the shooting becomes more and more difficult, especially since one of the actors, Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri) is one of the main leaders of these manifestations.

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One of the main reasons why this film is my favourite Spanish one is because it made me discover Gael García Bernal whom, I think, is a truly gifted actor. People might be more familiar with the Mexican actor for his roles in Y Tu Mamá También (And Your Mother Too) or Diarios de motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries), but También la lluvia is one not to miss. And I have an interesting anecdote to tell you about this actor: One of my mother’s good friends is a movie maker from Venezuela and she knows Gael quite well because she met him in some Cuban film festival a few times, him and Diego Luna (his co-star in Y Tu Mamá También). And, apparently, she even danced with him! :O :O But she told me that, if she ever goes back to the festival, that I should come with her so she could introduce me to him (hoping he’s there). Wouldn’t that be amazing?! 😀

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It’s interesting how the film reunites both Spanish actors from Spain and from South America. But the film presents many interesting contrasts and these are not only reflected in the casting, but also in the story itself. We face two problematic situations: on a side a movie crew with a restricted budget who hopes to finish a movie, and, on the other side, a population who struggles for their right of access to water. If, for some of the characters, to finish the film is more important than their own safety due to the violence in the city or more important than the problem itself causing this violence, the film, however, shows us that one can change for the better when a situation becomes critical.

With this problem concerning water, the film shows us that it’s sometimes the most anodyne things that can create riots. A Canadian like me couldn’t ever think of a restricted access to water since Canada is the country with the country with the biggest resources of pure water in the world, but, in this little city of Bolivia, the cost of water makes us understand that this natural resource is as precious as a diamond, even more. It is vital and essential. This aspect of the film was, by the way, based on real-life events.

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When I first saw the film, there’s a shot toward the beginning during the opening credits that made me realized that it would be a great film. The introduction (the casting scene, before the opening titles) told me that it would be interesting narratively, but this precise shot told me that it would also be the case visually. We see a helicopter carrying a big cross that will be used for the Christopher Columbus film. The helicopter flies over magnificent mountainous landscapes. It is simply breathtaking. Because of the cross, this scene sort of makes me think of the one in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita where a helicopter carries a statue of Jesus. Surely, Icíar Bollaín was inspired… Or not. But I wouldn’t be surprised she was.

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In this scene, we also hear the music score by Alberto Iglesias. This is another of my favourite aspects of the film. It’s a majestic score, very cinematographic and it matches the film perfectly, both for its narrative and visual aspects. Alberto Iglesias also worked with Pedro Almodóvar.

Except for the fact that it is generally a great film and that it won Awards, one of the best reasons to watch También la lluvia is that it was directed by a woman. We know that movies directed by women are much less numerous than the ones directed by men, so, when one can seize the occasion, it is not to be missed. The film was initially supposed to be directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Biutiful, Birdman, The Revenant), but Icíar Bollaín directed instead and I’m glad of it. I wonder how different it would have been if Inarritu would have directed it. I saw another film directed by Bollaín which is called Flores de otro mundo (Flowers from Another World). It is not as good as También la lluvia, but it’s an appreciable film and I would also recommend it if you want to see more Spanish movies.

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I want to thank Auror, once again, for hosting this blogathon! It’s always a pleasure to participate. 🙂

Don’t forget to check the other entries!

Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon

I’ll leave you with this top 10 of my favourite Spanish speaking movies.

Enjoy!

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Comedy Time: Libeled Lady (1936)

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14 years before he became the Father of the Bride, Spencer Tracy was the groom himself or, should I say, the “future” groom and the particular movie I’m thinking about is Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936). This gifted actor hadn’t made any movies with Katharine Hepburn, yet, but that was about to come soon in 1942 with Woman of the Year which is, to this day, my favourite movie starring this legendary couple. No, in 1936, both Spencer and Katharine (we can call them by their first name only, can’t we? After all, I’m sure I am not the only one who feels that they are like old friends) were both leading a respectable career on their respective side. Respectable from the beginning until the end.

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I’m telling you all this because my friend Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood had the bright idea to host a Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn Blogathon. It’s Halloween soon. So if you need to find an idea for an iconic couple costume, maybe a Tracy-Hepburn match could be an idea? 😉 Anyway, with her blogathon, Crystal doesn’t only celebrate the films they made together, but also the ones they made separately. After all, they all deserve to be reviewed. And that’s why I introduced this article with a few words on Libeled Lady. In this situation, it is the blond Jean Harlow who is Spencer Tracy’s screen partner and they are joined by Myrna Loy and William Powell, whom, we know, always had an amazing on-screen chemistry. Even if Katharine wasn’t in the portrait in this 1936’s film, we can try to understand why she was interested in working with “the best movie actor there was” as she called him. After all, the man had many admirers in the movie business and Katharine Hepburn wasn’t the only one. Among them, we can also include Marlon Brando, Michael Caine, Joan Crawford and more.

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If you like to laugh and love comedies like me, then 1936 is a year for you. In the silent department, we had the delightful Chaplin’s Modern Timesbut some talking pictures such as My Man Godfrey, Wife vs. Secretary, Cain & Mabel, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and, of course, Libeled Lady made us laugh too. After all, the 30s are the Golden Age of the screwball comedy (which happens to be my favourite movie genre).   Jack Conway’s film was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (but lost to The Great Ziegfield) which is a proof that, sometimes, the Academy can be interested in comedies and not only in heavy dramas or epic historical pictures.

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Libeled Lady is an opposition between high society and the world of journalism; those journalists who love gossip, but, sometimes, write stuff before thinking and then, have to face the consequences. Warren Haggerty (Spencer Tracy) is the managing editor of the New-York Evening Star newspaper. His wedding day has finally arrived, but he soon has to call his fiancee Gladys Benton (Jean Harlow) and postpone it because his business is in trouble: his journalists have falsely accused the rich Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) of being a homewrecker. She and her father are suing the newspaper for the modest sum of 5 million dollars… Ouch! Warren decides to hire writer Bill Chandler (William Powell), who used to work for the Star before being fired by Warren himself, to take care of the problem. They develop one of those plans: Bill will get married and then manage to go to London and come back on the same boat as the Allenbury (who happen to be in the British city). His plan is to have a moment alone with Connie so she can be accused “for real” of being a homewrecker and, therefore, drop the case. Warren volunteers his own fiancee to become Bill’s wife, to what she objects firmly, but finally accepts in order to help. Bill does meet Connie on the boat and they do make acquaintance. However, things don’t go as expected.

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During the shooting of Libeled Lady, the four actors became friends. Jean Harlow and William Powell were even engaged. Unfortunately, Jean died prematurely at the age of 26, in 1937, before they had time to get married. Libeled Lady was one of her last films. It is rumoured that Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy developed an affair during the shooting, but, of course, it is not a couple that would become as memorable as the Tracy-Hepburn one. 😉

If I’m not mistaken, Libeled Lady is the “oldest” Spencer Tracy’s film I saw. I immediately loved it the first time I saw it. I think it’s a movie that I should watch with my mother one of these days because I suspect it is the kind of film she would like. Plus, she’s already a bit familiar with Spencer Tracy, Woman of the Year being one of our typical mother-daughter films. So, while analysing his acting in this film, I realized that what makes Spencer Tracy a great actor is the fact that he makes acting look like something very easy to do. Nothing seems to be forced. He is a natural. We have the tendency to say that actors and actresses in old films were a bit theatrical (especially in silent films as they had to use their whole body to express an idea), but I wouldn’t include Tracy in this category. His acting was simple but effective. There was something very modern about it and I feel he could have defied time and be comfortable making modern 21st-century movies. We can easily call him a timeless actor.

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If Spencer Tracy had a twin, an easy way to recognize him would be with that typical felt hat he often wears on the side of his head. Like this:

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That is sooo him. And in, Libeled Lady, he doesn’t make an exception to this style. That’s how we like him. It is almost like Chaplin and his bowler hat or Buster Keaton and his boater.

If Katharine Hepburn wasn’t Spencer’s love interest in this film, he still forms an interesting couple with Jean Harlow. Of course, the chemistry isn’t as strong as the one he had with Kate, but it remains an interesting pair. I’ve noticed that Spencer Tracy often plays the role of a guy who gets opposed to his lady (Woman of the Year and Adam’s Rib would be good examples), but whom, in the end, truly loves her. Oh yes, we can say that Warren Haggerty doesn’t treat his wife super properly, sort spoiling what is supposed to be the happiest day of her life (her wedding) and involving her in his business problems. We, the public, can simply have compassion for Glady and admire her “patience”. Well, she doesn’t really “behave” patiently, but, in the end, she always accepts to make compromises.

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The only problem with this Tracy-Harlow couple is the fact that they could be a bit overshadowed by Myrna Loy and William Powell. After all, those two formed one of the most appreciated on-screen couples of the 30s especially thanks to The Thin Man. Before I saw this film, I had heard that their chemistry in it was incredible, but I couldn’t believe it could be THAT incredible, but it was. And it still is in Libeled Lady. So, of course, they steal a bit the show… as a couple. If we look at them as separate individuals, they each mark their place brilliantly.

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I love Libeled Lady, not only for its incomparable casting, but also for its comedic side. This one is, of course, embodied by the actors (William Powell is the funniest one in my opinion), but also by a screenplay truffled with hilarious quotes. William Powell saying “C’est un cheval!” (“It is a horse” in French) is perhaps my favourite thing about this film. It’s nothing very extraordinary to say, but I just love his voice tone when he says it. And of course, we have to be put in context:

Connie [worried because Bill doesn’t want to go to her bazar]: Bill, what is it?

Bill [looking at the horse]: What is it? It is a horse. C’est un cheval!

And here are a few of my other favourite quotes:

1- Warren Haggerty: Would I ask you to do this thing for me if I didn’t consider you practically my wife?

Gladys: Would you ask your wife to hook up with that ape?

Bill Chandler: The ape objects.

 

2- Warren Haggerty [about Gladys]: She may be his wife, but she’s engaged to me

3- Gladys: The things I do for that newspaper!

4- Gladys [to the maid] : Today is my wedding day!

Maid: What, again Mrs. Gladys?

5- Warren Haggerty: [introducing Gladys] Mr. Bane, my future wife.

Mr. Bane: Nonsense! I’ll be in my office. Get rid of this woman!

Poor Gladys!

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Libeled Lady can also be praised for its beautiful on-location shooting in the californian wilderness where Bill goes fishing with Connie and her father. This is also where you’ll see one of the most hilarious scenes of the film. They invited Bill to go fishing because he pretends he knows everything about this sport, but really, he doesn’t.

And how dreamy is that little cabin in the middle of the lake where we witness a short, but beautiful scene between Myrna Loy and William Powell.

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If you’re in for a fun time and you haven’t seen Libeled Lady yet, you should definitely put it on your to-see list. After all, Katharine Hepburn did say of it that it was the funniest thing she ever saw. 😉 (Wikipedia)

I want to thank Crystal for hosting this blogathon! Please click on the following link to read the other entries:

The Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn Blogathon

You might have noticed that I hadn’t published any review for a long time. It was good to be back!

See you!

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Three Years Later… Three Guys Named Mike Is Still a Favourite

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Why this title to my new article? Well, do you remember that almost, almost, three years ago, in 2014, I started this blog and that one of the first reviews I published was one of Charles Walters’s Three Guys Named MikeThree Guys Named Mike? Well, as this review was very short, I thought that Love Letters to Old Hollywoods Van Johnson Blogathon would be the perfect occasion to re-visit it in a more developed way. No, I haven’t found a hidden meaning to this film, but I did developed my blogger skills since October 21, 2014, so I doubt this will be repetitive. Plus, I really hadn’t many followers in 2014, so I doubt many of you have read the review anyway!

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Well, here we are, with Three Guys Named Mike, again. A film where you realize that, yes, Mike is a common name (especially if three characters have this name…), but that it can suit all kinds of people! A film made for me since one of his central themes is planes (I’ve always loved planes).

Three Guys Named Mike is a 1951’s comedy directed by Charles Walters (High SocietyPlease Don’t Eat the Daisies), the king of agreable movies.

The story is quite simple: Marcy Lewis (Jane Wyman) has always dreamed of becoming an airline stewardess. So, after “studying” the profession with a bunch of anxious and motivated young women like her, she becomes one for American Airlines. Now a new stewardess, Marcy will meet three guys named… Mike! : Mike Jamison (Howard Keel), a pilot for American Airlines; Mike Lawrence (Van Johnson), a graduate research student in science and Mike Tracy (Barry Sullivan), a publicist. I bet you won’t be surprised if I tell you that the three of them fall in love with Marcy. Well, we have a situation here!

Who will she choose? Because she must choose one of them or none of them… I’ll let you discover that by yourself if you haven’t seen the film yet.

When the film starts, the sympathetic music score by Bronisław Kaper that we can hear in the generic gives us the clue that we are in for something fun and that doesn’t require too much concentration. Three Guys Named Mike is the perfect Friday night movie.

The film introduces us to a Jane Wyman full of dynamism. On more than one occasion she’ll make us smile and laugh. The energy she gives to her character is also beautifully transmitted to us. We can’t help loving her. Plus, that stewardess uniform suits her so well! Originally, the film was written for June Alyson, but, as she was unavailable, the part was given to Jane Wyman. Luckily, because June’s voice kind of annoys me… (sorry!).

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We’ve often seen Howard Keel in musicals such as Annie Get Your Gun, Calamity Jane or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Three Guys Named Mike isn’t one, but he is introduced to us with his beautiful deep singing voice while driving a car, en route to the airport. On his way, he picks Marcy, who thinks he’s just a chauffeur. What would be her surprise when she’ll realize he’s actually one of her future colleagues! If he is first arrogant with her, they’ll later develop a beautiful complicity. Personally, among the three Mikes, he is the one I would have chosen, because Howard Keel is so seducing in his pilot uniform! There’s a scene where we feel very sorry for him. He had bought flowers for Mercy, but, too late…the plane is already gone! Poor man…

Mike Lawrence, the scientist, is the second one Marcy meets. I must admit that Three Guys Named Mike is the only Van Jonhson’s film I saw so far… But, yes, it makes me want to see more of them (even if I saw this film for the first time around 3 years ago…) as he is charming, both as a scientist and a soda jerk (a student need to pay his tuition fees!). The introduction of his character is a rather amusing one. Being one of the passengers in one of Marcy’s flights, this one is very curious to discover more about him. However, when she tries to talk to him, she realizes he’s not really listening, especially when she tells him “This plane will be 48 hours late” and he answers by a simple “That’s nice…”. Later, they, however, make acquaintance and both us and Marcy realize that he is, in fact, a very nice person. It’s funny how Marcy always seems to bump into him, wherever she is (as if this would happen in real life…). Is it destiny? If Mike Jamison is the handsome Mike, I’ll say that Mike Lawrence is the cute and friendly one. It’s indeed very easy to be fond of Van Johnson in this film. The actor gives to his character a beautiful humility and his chemistry with Jane Wyman is at the top.

Finally, Mike Tracy (Barry Sullivan) is for me the less interesting Mike of the lot. He adds something interesting and necessary to the film, yes, but I find him a bit drab. However, he knows how to seduce, but it almost seems to be his only interest in life.

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Three Guys Named Mike is a story full of amusing adventures. Being a stewardess seems exciting, but also a bit stressing. For example, during her first flight, Marcy forgets something very important: the lunches! Well, when I think that some flight companies nowadays don’t serve lunch anymore… The humour is mainly contained in her character and Jane Wyman manages to keep it alive beautifully. No stress when you watch this film. The only question you are anxious to know the answer is: Who will she choose?

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I didn’t have time to write something very long as I’m also busy with my Ingrid Bergman Blogathon, but I hope this was enough to make you want to see the film if you haven’t yet!

A big thanks to my friend Michaela at Love Letters to Old Hollywood for hosting this blogathon in honour of Van Johnson!

Don’t forget to check the other entries:

The Van Johnson Blogathon

See you! 🙂

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The Barrymore Brothers Are Having a Dinner At Eight

Thanks to my friend Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon is back for a third consecutive year! This is the occasion for us to celebrate this notorious family of actors who developed its talent on more than one generation.

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My choice for this year’s edition is Dinner At Eight. As this film stars both Lionel and John Barrymore, we can proudly call it a “Barrymore movie”! But don’t be mistaken, however, John and Lionel don’t play brothers in this flick! The choice was also to my advantage, since, last year, I reviewed a movie with Ethel Barrymore (Portrait of Jennie) and the year before, a film with Drew Barrymore (Ever After). So, I was due to do something about John and/or Lionel. So, why not both?! Plus, Lionel Barrymore is my favourite actor in this family and, neither to say, the one I’m the most familiar with.

When I started watching it for the blogathon (only for the second time in my life), I had completely forgotten it was directed by the one and only George Cukor! Well, we do recognize his distinguished signature with a female cast brilliantly composed. We are introduced to the actors in the opening titles a bit in the same way as we are with 42nd Street or Gold Diggers of 1933. I guess that was fashionable in 1933!

Apart from the two Barrymore, Dinner at Eight also stars Jean Harlow, Wallace Beery, Marie Dressler, Billie Burke,  Madge Evans, Lee Tracy, Edmund Lowe, Karen Morley, Phillips Holmes, Louise Closser Hale, Grant Mitchell, Hilda Vaughn and May Robson. Quite a gang.

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All these actors are all worth mentioning as they all have their respective importance in the film. You see, Dinner at Eight is one of these pictures having for major quality the composition of the characters.

What we see in this film is everything that happens before the famous dinner. Millicent Jordan (Billie Burke) is organizing a dinner for Lord and Lady Ferncliffe that she had met in England with her husband Oliver (Lionel Barrymore). Through the film, we discover the various guesses and their respective personal problems:

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Oliver himself isn’t feeling too well and we discover later that it might be more serious than he thinks.

Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), a one-time great actress, is now broke and dealing with her downhill. Luckily, a great sense of humor keeps her alive.

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Mr. and Mrs. Jordan’s daughter, Paula (Madge Evans), is ready to put an end to her engagement with Ernest (Phillips Holmes) as she is now in love with the much older actor Larry Renault (John Barrymore).

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On his side, Larry Renault, just like Carlotta Vance, has to struggle with his lack of money and the fact that he is now a washed-up actor. More tragic than Carlotta tho, he finds refuge in alcohol.

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Businessman Dan Packard (Wallace Beery) and his wife Kitty (Jean Harlow) are constantly fighting. Kitty has a maid, Tina (Hilda Vaughn) who is the most patient person ever (and who looks like one of the extra-dancers in Hair by the way).

And Kitty is having an affair with Dr. Wayne Talbot (Edmund Lowe) who is quite lucky to have a wife (Karen Morley), who loves him (despite everything).

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Hattie (Louise Closser Hale) and Ed Loomis (Grant Mitchell) are last minute guesses so we don’t dig much into their life. However, Ed would prefer to be at the movies seeing the last Garbo picture.

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Finally, Millie has to deal with the obvious problems that come with the organization of such a dinner, and her cook, Mrs. Wendel (May Robson), is having trouble with the lion-shape aspic.

I think, with this kind of film, a presentation of the characters was in order. Apart from the fact that the two Barrymore don’t play brothers in this film, they are actually never seen in a scene together. I must admit, I was a bit disappointed by this aspect (because it would have been epic). They play, however, two very different types of characters.

On his side, Lionel is the wise and patient one who tries to see a positive point to life even in a critical situation. On his side, John is the tragical one, whose life became theatrical just like his profession. Both are great in their respective roles. Dinner at Eight confirms us Lionel Barrymore versatility as an actor as his character is quite different (and much more sympathetical) than Henry Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life for example. If I’m not mistaken, this is the earlier film of his I’ve seen. Actually, it would be Free & Easy, but he only has a cameo scene in this one so it doesn’t really count. Lionel Barrymore’s scenes with Marie Dressler are among the best things in this film. We feel an instant chemistry between those two veterans of the silver screen. Carlotta Vance and Oliver Jordan redefine the meaning of deep friendship. We also witness a very touching scene between him and Billie Burke toward the end of the film. Moral of the story: love is sometimes stronger than anything else.

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I’m less familiar with John Barrymore, having seen only two of his films, but I’ve noticed how he has such a strong on-screen presence. In a scene, he is the center of attention and he doesn’t need to do much to be so. Simply by standing there, he emits an incredible charisma. And that profile! I think we all agree, it’s one of the most famous profiles of cinema history. Of course, we never lose an occasion of seeing it. Just before his first scene, Billie Burke is talking about him with  Louise Closser Hale and this one praises his  “most heavenly profile” and then, the next shot is one of him standing in a hotel room, his iconic profile to the camera. What is fascinating about John Barrymore in this film is to see the evolution of his character and how he chooses to act according to it. His performance is more and more intense as the film evolves. Remember this scene when he looks at himself in the mirror after his agent told us that his career is over? Mirror scenes are often a symbol of existential questions such as “what will become of me?” in movies.

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There’s no need to say that 1933 was a strong year in cinema with movies such as this one, but also Gold Diggers of 1933, 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Little Women or The Private Life of Henry VIII. Movies of the 30s had a sort of class that could never be topped and Dinner at Eight is one of the best examples. I love all the fancy high society set of the whole thing with dreamy designs and costumes to die for. I bet you won’t be surprised if I tell you that these were designed by Adrian! I think the most impressive gowns are Jean Harlow’s ones. By the way, her character in this film kind of makes me think of me for the reason that staying in bed all day while eating chocolate is totally my style (I’m lazy). But back to Adrian. What I love about his costumes, is how light they seem to be. He also manages to keep it simple, but yet, immensely divine. And boy! I have a friend whose favourite colour is white. That may seem weird, but when I see Adrian’s costumes that glorify this colour, I completely understand why!

The script of this film is interesting. It was based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. However, screenwriters Frances Marion and Herman J. Mankiewicz, and director George Cuckor managed to give it a cinematographic dimension by making it dynamic enough for a movie. I like how the scenes alternate telling us what’s becoming of each character. As a matter of fact, except at the end, we rarely see a scene with more than three characters or so. The film also contains some memorable lines such as:

1 -Kitty: [Final lines] I was reading a book the other day.

Carlotta: [Nearly trips] Reading a book?

2- Miss Copeland: You were wonderful!

Carlotta Vance: Yes, that was the last thing I did.

Miss Copeland: I remember it as plain as if it were yesterday.

Carlotta Vance: Hmm.

Miss Copeland: Though I was only a little girl at the time.

Carlotta Vance: How extraordinary!

Miss Copeland: Oh, it’s wonderful, seeing you like this.

Carlotta Vance: Yes, it ’tis. You know, we must have a long talk about the Civil War sometime. Just you and I. (Poor Mrs. Vance!)

3-Dan Packard: Remember what I told you last week?

Kitty Packard: I don’t remember what you told me a minute ago.

4- Larry Renault: Listen to me old-timer. I’m drunk, and I know I’m drunk but I know what I’m talking about.

5- Hattie Loomis: [responding to Millicent Jordans’ upset about a dinner guest cancelling] I never could understand why it has to be just even, male and female. They’re invited for dinner, not for mating.

6- Carlotta Vance: Remember? They named everything after me: cigars, racehorses, perfumes, battleships!

7- Dan Packard: That’s no elevator. That’s a birdcage!

8- Hattie Loomis: Ed hates anything that keeps him from going to the movies every night. I guess I’m what’s called a Garbo widow.

9-Dr. Wayne Talbot: Oh, she’s not really sick, you know, woman with a lot of time on her hands, I prescribed a sedative, but she doesn’t really need anything.

Mrs. Lucy Talbot: How about an apple a day?

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These are just a few examples. Of course, there’s all the fuss about the famous aspic too. Delightful.

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So, Dinner at Eight is one hell of an intriguing film, and if you like the Barrymore, I highly recommend you to see it (the rest of the cast is pretty swell too!).

Last August 15, we celebrated Ethel Barrymore’s birthday, so I’m wishing her a very happy heavenly birthday one more time! 🙂 The Barrymore are legendary. Respect.

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A big thanks to Crystal for hosting this blogathon again!

Don’t forget to read the other entries of course. 🙂

The Third Annual Barrymore Blogathon.

See you!

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