Journey to Italy (Written by Carole MacLeod, Guest at The Wonderful World of Cinema)

The following review of Journey to Italy has been written by Carole MacLeod, guest at The Wonderful World of Cinema, for the 3rd Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon.

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Thank you for letting me be part of the third annual Ingrid Bergman blogathon.

I’ve been intrigued by Ingrid since I was ten, and was given a book Called Screen Goddesses. It was about many actresses: both the Hepburns, Audrey and Kate, Kim Novak, Mae West, the incomparable Rita Hayworth-and, of course, Ingrid Bergman.

The profile for Ingrid stated,” she didn’t need a ton of goo on her face…” needless to say, it’s a book that’s typical of its time, and doesn’t go into great deal about the nuances of her films. But it did have a complete filmography of her work and some really beautiful pictures. I didn’t quite appreciate Ingrid’s beauty then-I was more interested in Garbo, dressed in outrageous lame, or Jeanne Eagles, being chased by Jeff Chandler.

Fortunately I reread the book when I was a few years older and became intrigued by Ingrid. There was no TCM and no internet, but when CBC announced it would be showing Casablanca as a late night feature I was on the case. I stayed up late and was rewarded by seeing Ingrid’s work on film. I was hooked by her beauty. Her grace, her poise, her accent, her ability to make a scene come alive. How was it possible she only had two men interested in her? Everyone should have bowed down to worship her!

In November of 1946 Ingrid brought her interpretation of Joan of Arc to the stage. One evening there was a small technical problem and she thought the audience would laugh at her, because she fell while wearing a suit of armour. She writes, “ I learned at that moment that the audience doesn’t want anything to happen to you-they’re sorry for
you; they’re on your side; they don’t laugh at you; they weep for you. Yes, they laugh when it’s funny-when you ask them to laugh-but when it’s serious they hold their breath waiting for you to take hold again.”

With this attitude in mind I can understand how perplexing the rest of the 1940’s and 1950’s must have been to her. Ingrid approached the director Roberto Rosellini, suggesting they could find a project to work on. The project was Stromboli, and the two began an affair that shocked the world. Their marriage produced three children, and lasted for years. For the readers who are interested in this part of Ingrid’s story I recommend the Criterion Collection “ Ingrid Bergman In Her Own Words” which was made to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth. It has extensive home movie footage and long interviews with all four of Ingrid’s children. They describe their parents’
relationship, both in life and on film, better than anyone can-plus, this post is about Journey to Italy.

Journey to Italy came to life in part due to financial need. The Bergman/Rosellini family needed an income, and the film world seemed reluctant to accept them at that time. Liana Ferri, Rosellini’s translator, describes him as a person who showed different character traits to different people. He was, in her words, shrewd, foxy, and had a lot of problems: money problems, contract problems, and women problems. If he lived in peace, he was dead. (see Ingrid Bergman autobiography, p 205).

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Journey to Italy begins with Alex and Catherine ( George Saunders and Ingrid Bergman) travelling in Italy in style. He’s wearing a perfectly cut jacket with four button holes at the cuff: she’s wearing a tightly belted leopard skin coat and beautiful maquillage. They’re in Italy to settle their uncle Homer’s estate. Right away there is a sense of tension between them : of uncomfortable silence and the need to fill the air with sound. The problem with speaking is that they use words as weapons. After eight years of marriage they know each other’s weak spots and choose to use this knowledge to hurt each other. They cannot be alone together, not even to have a quiet drink. They have developed a sophisticated method to hurt each other with words.

In the bar they’re joined by a vivacious group of young people. Catherine watches her husband light a cigarette for an attractive, younger woman. She sees her husband as he appears to others and she is jealous. The next day she tells him as much, as he is just waking from a deep sleep. Partly to pique his jealousy, and partly because of their beautiful surroundings, Catherine chooses to remind Alex of a young man they both knew-a poet named Charles. Charles fought in the war and died before his work could be published. He had been exposed to gas and his lungs were destroyed.

The next day there is a swift quarrel between Alex and Catherine. Catherine leaves the villa to tour a museum that may have meant something to Charles (he had been stationed there in the way). Catherine wants her husband to be punished for his pride and his self assurance. Immediately upon entering the museum the music changes, suggesting Catherine’s inner turmoil. There are many long, lingering closeups of the sculptures, including the Venus the guide likes the best. The guide says this is his favourite Venus because she’s not as young as the others-she’s more mature. Catherine claims to not understand what the guide means. The closeups of the statues of the young men disturb her. They remind her of Charles, and the image she has of him in her mind. She has aged while her memory of him has not. She knows she has changed mentally too and has become bitter and cynical.

When she arrives home Alex is genuinely interested in what she has seen and experienced, but she snaps at him. George Saunders, as Alex, does an excellent job of letting the pain of the attack show in his face. His features twist in pain but he is used to this sort of interaction with is wife: it’s both painful and expected. There is a tiny flutter of emotion which he is quick to shut down, and his face returns swiftly to his suave mask. It’s a beautiful piece of work.

A commotion outside causes them to come to the window. A couple who are engaged have been fighting. Alex wants to know how anyone can be jealous before the wedding, and Catherine explains the time before a wedding is a very tentative time. Alex looks at his wife with a glimmer of understanding. He has just gained an important insight into his wife’s past and her present.

That night they attend a small party. Catherine’s beauty and grace make her the centre of attention, and she laughs, throwing her head back, showing her beautiful teeth. All the men openly admire her elegant beauty, and again Alex is jealous. He shows his jealousy by ignoring her. The next day Catherine visits a temple where people pay homage to a Sybil who can tell them what their future has in store for love. Catherine is still angry with her husband and she moves through the shrine with Charles’ poetry echoing in her ears. She tries to retain her cynical carapace as a coping mechanism but the beauty of the Temple of Appollo is too great for her to succeed. She leaves the temple and sees couples and children everywhere. There is a reference to death as a feeling of being abandoned and alone. It is clear Catherine can relate. She returns to her empty room to play solitaire, and wait for her husband to return.

Once Alex returns she waits for him in the dark of her room. She knows his routine and his habits and it’s clear that she loves him. As she tries to express any tenderness he rebukes her cuttingly. Her pain is now evident in her face and she cries in frustration. This couple really knows how to hurt each other.

The next day she fails to wake him at the hour he had asked her to. She visits another shrine and is overcome with emotion. Later in the day they visit Pompeii just as a couple’s body are excavated. Catherine is so over come she has to leave. Alex does not offer her his arm for support. They have decided to divorce as they are forced to wait for the ceremonial passing of a saint. It is a feast day and this saint has the power to perform miracles. One follower holds up his crutches-she has caused him to walk again. Does the saint have an affect on Alex and Catherine? If you have not seen this film stop reading here: yes she does! The ending is hopeful for our characters.

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Rosellini did a beautiful job of directing this film. There are gorgeous closeups of Ingrid throuout and her wardrobe is elegant. The dialogue is swift and the plot flows well. When I first saw this film I wasn’t moved by it: I thought he was trying for a Hollywood Douglas Sirk like effect. Now I’ve hanged my opinion. Rosellini was used to juggling several relationships at once and even left Anna Magnani for Ingrid Bergman. I think his neorealism had developed to the point where he could now express a whole panoply of emotions in his films. Both Ingrid and George were frustrated by the seeming lack of planning for this film: the dialogue was changed every night and the shooting was
constantly interrupted. Perhaps Rosellini used this to add to the tension in the first part of the film.

Ingrid understood at the time that the public simply would not accept her in the Rosellini films. She took responsibility for brusing the career of one of the fathers of neo realism. Her Holllywood career was simply to big for Italian cinema at that time. Privately she hoped that in time the films might better be appreciated. Her sentiments are echoed by Isabella Rosellini, in the short interview that accompanies the Criterion collections version of Rosellini’s Generale della Rovere. Isabella says the films failed commercially because at that time no one wanted to see Ingrid Bergman in a Roberto Rosellini film. I believe that over time they’ve held up remarkably well. I recommend that fans of Ingrid’s work take the time to watch this film and appreciate it. It’s not Casablanca, for sure-it’s to be appreciated on its own merits. Journey to Italy is as unique as Intermezzo and represents an important part of Ingrid’s cannon of work.

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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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Top of the World: My Hitchcock Day + Some Top Lists

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Well, yesterday was this time of the year where I do my usual Hitchcock movie marathon in honour of him. My favourite movie director would have been 118 years old! Even if he is no longer with us since a long time, many continue to celebrate his timeless work. I started my little marathon Saturday by watching one of his early British films, Murder! starring the great Herbert Marshall in one of his very first roles. I’ve always loved that film. It has all the ingredients of a perfect Hitchcock film, except maybe a cold blond! Well, there is a blond girl, but she isn’t exactly the Hitchcock-type. Then, yesterday morning I watched Family Plot, Hitchcock’s very last film. Without being a masterpiece, this film featuring a score by no one else than John Williams is a great entertainment. The cast composed of Barbara Harris, Bruce Dern, Karen Black and William Devane is one of the elements that make it worthy. They are all perfect in their respective roles. It’s fun to think, when you watch that film, that almost 50 years before he released The Lodger! Hitchcock considered this film to be his first one, although he directed a few before (unfortunately, most of them are now lost or partially lost).

After a little pause to do some exercise, I went back on the couch and watched Saboteur. This early 40s film is one where so much is going on! Have you ever thought of taking a trip to Soda City? Well, that ain’t much of a town, but it certainly leads our heroes, Barry Kane and Pat Martin, to some important elements of investigation.

Yesterday, I also made an exception and instead of listening some David Bowie music (like I usually do) I listened to some Alfred Hitchcock movie scores (sorry David!). It’s always great to listen to Miklós Rózsa‘s score for Spellbound while doing the dishes. It’s my favourite movie score of all time and being very dynamic it helps me do things faster.

I also spent some time outside painting 3 little paintings illustrating Alfred Hitchcock movies: The Trouble With Harry, Suspicion and The Birds. I can’t show them to you now as I have not scanned them, but I certainly hope to do so as soon as possible.

Finally, I ended my day by watching Lifeboat and Foreign Correspondent. I chose these two films as I had only seen them once. Both excellent of course.

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Because I watched all these films, I didn’t have time to write a long tribute to Hitchcock. I already did it as a matter of fact, but I think I’m due for some little top lists. I’m not ready yet for the ultimate Hitchcock top list (ranking all his films), but I’ll see you next year for that. You see, next winter I’ll be attending a seminar on Hitchcock and Welles and I intend to have seen all of the Master of Suspense’s films before the classes start! Be reassured, there isn’t many more left as I’ve already seen 47 of them. 🙂 Unfortunately, there are a few that I’m afraid will be difficult to find (anyone as ever seen Elstree Calling?), but I’ll try my best!

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to make it easier for me and present you a little top 5 for each decade where Hitch released movies, going from the 20s to the 70s.

I don’t like to repeat myself, but don’t forget that these lists are purely subjective and represent my own tastes so I only ask you to respect them. Thank you!

The 20s:

1- The Lodger: Story of the London Fog (1927)

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I put this one at the first place as I remember being very impressed by it the first time I saw it.

2- The Farmer’s Wife (1928)

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Not a typical Hitchcock’s film, but certainly a fun one. A bit long though.

3- Blackmail (1929)

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Hitchcock’s first talking picture and also England’s first talking picture! Just that priceless scene makes it worthy:

4- The Manxman (1929)

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Another Hitchcock film starring the beautiful Anny Ondra. Not an excellent film and I honestly don’t remember much of it, but there was some beautiful cinematography. I once made a joke with a shot from the film. What do you think of it?

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5- Downhill (1927)

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The two left for me were these ones and The Ring. I chose Downhill since it stars the great Ivor Novello. There’s a shot in this film that makes me think of The Graduate. See?

The 30s:

1- The Lady Vanishes (1938)

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Well, that was an easy-peasy first choice as it is one of my very favourite Hitchcock films and the funniest also (without neglecting the great suspense). I love everything about it, especially the colourful characters. Saw it too many, but still not enough times.

2- Young and Innocent (1937)

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This film made me discover Nova Pilbeam who was only 18, but brilliant when she starred in it. It’s the first British Hitchcock’s film I saw and I’ve always enjoyed it immensely. The scene where the spectators discover where the real murderer is hidden is one of my very favourite!

3- The 39 Steps (1935)

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Certainly considered a masterpiece, this film can be cited among the perfect Hitchcock’s films (and this time, the cold blond isn’t missing!).

4- Murder! (1930)

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Once again, Hitchcock combines suspense, tragedy, and humour brilliantly here.

5- Secret Agent (1936)

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I’ve always loved this film for its cast: John Gielgud, Madeleine Carroll, Peter Lorre, Robert Young, Percy Marmont and Lilli Palmer. Do you need more? Peter Lorre is unforgettable!

The 40s:

1- Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

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Another one of my very favourite Hitchcock’s films and I believe that Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten) is one of Hitchcock’s best villains.

2- Rebecca (1940)

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I love both the book and the film. Perfect.

3- Spellbound (1945)

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I’ve always found this film highly fascinating. The dream sequence by Dalí was a great addition to this film and Dr. Constance Pertersen (Ingrid Bergman) is my favourite Hitchcock’s female character. And Gregory Peck is so handsome!

4- Lifeboat (1944)

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Hitchcock certainly knew how to develop a great story in such a small space!

5- Saboteur (1942)

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I hesitated between this one, Notorious and Suspicion (all excellent). I choose Saboteur because it’s a movie that never fails to grab my attention. It’s great to think that one of the members of its cast, Norma Lloyd, is still with us today!

The 50s:

1- The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

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And this is my very favourite Hitchcock’s film and also my 4th favourite movie of all times behind Some Like It Hot, Bringing Up Baby and It’s a Wonderful Life. James Stewart and Doris Day form an excellent duo and I love how Hitchcock makes us travel from Marrakesh, Morroco to London, England. It’s an adventure full of delightful suspense!

2- Strangers on a Train (1951)

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Ok, that film is just… wow! Next to Charlie Oakley, Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) is the other very best Hitchcock villain. That carousel scene is unforgettable. Well, the whole movie is. Plus, I love its black and white cinematography and the shots of the railways (seen from a moving train point of view).

3- Rear Window (1954)

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James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter (at her best), Edith Head’s costumes, etc… And to me, this is the Hitchcock’s film with the best suspense. Never tired of watching it, even after 50 times.

4- To Catch a Thief (1955)

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I remember, this is the 2nd Hitchcock’s film I ever saw and I’ve always loved it. Last Friday, I saw it on big screen for the second time! It simply makes me want to travel the French Riviera!

5- North by Northwest (1959)

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This once was my favourite Hitchcock film. Not anymore, but I still love it very much. Worthy for that plane scene, and more of course!

The 60s and the 70s. I combined those two decades since he only made 2 movies in the 70s (so it would be difficult to do a top 5, you know…):

1- The Birds (1963)

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This is the first Hitchcock film I saw and it fascinated me the first time I watched it (so much that I decided to watch it a second time in the same weekend). It has its faults, but it certainly needs to be seen by all Hitchcock’s fans. Probably his most iconic one along with Psycho. And it’s not because of that film that I’m afraid of pigeons, ok? (There aren’t any pigeons in it anyway).

2- Frenzy (1972)

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Quite an overlooked Hitchcock’s film. Immensely thrilling.

3- Family Plot (1976)

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Hitchcock’s last film and a fun one, but I’ve already said a few words about it earlier!

4- Psycho (1960)

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It’s not my favourite Hitchcock film, but it certainly is a worthy one. That scene where Lila Crane (Vera Miles) “discovers” Mrs. Bates is priceless (along with the famous shower scene, of course).

5- Marnie (1964)

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I always tend to forget that Sean Connery starred in a Hitchcock’s film. Well, there was one and it is the underrated Marnie, the second Hitchcock film starring Tippi Hedren (the first one being The Birds). I think the main flaw of this film is being a bit long for what it is (I mean, it’s not Gone With the Wind after all), but overall it’s a good one.

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Well, if you haven’t seen many Hitchcock’s films, I hope these ones can be used as suggestions! If you did anything special on this Hitch day, please don’t hesitate to share it with me in the comments!

Happy heavenly birthday again Sir Alfred Hitchcock! And also, happy heavenly birthday to his wife Alma Reville! She was a screenwriter, editor, and co-director who had an important influence on his career. 🙂

By the way, if you want to read more of my Hitchcock’s related articles, I invite you to click on the links in orange!

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The Dark Secret of The House on Telegraph Hill

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Have you ever planned to murder your husband or your wife? Me neither. I’m not married anyway. But that’s the type of conspiracy we saw more than once in the “wonderful world of cinema” and it’s not about to stop. However, as creepy as it may sound, this is the type of ambitions that can make a film strangely entertaining. Alfred Hitchcock, of course, was a master at that type of films with movies like Notorious or Dial M for Murder, but he was not the only one to excel at delivering us those thrilling husband vs. wife misadventures. Theresa Brown from CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch is hosting the ‘Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon which explores this type of movies. I’m glad to take part of it with my own review of The House on Telegraph Hill, a 1951 movie directed by Mr. Versatile Director: Robert Wise, and starring Valentina Cortese, Richard Basehart, William Ludingan and Fay Baker.

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By the way, I didn’t remember how great this film was before re-watching it for the blogathon. So, if you haven’t seen it yet, please do so.

Also, before going further, it’s my duty to tell you that this article will include major spoilers since I’ll be talking about it from A to Z.

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Where is Telegraph Hill? And where is this house at the heart of the story? In San Francisco, but everything starts in Poland during the Second World War. A woman’s voice-over introduces her own story to us from the first minutes of the film. She is Victoria Kowelska (Valentia Cortese). She has lost her husband during the war and her house has been destroyed by the Germans. She was deported to a concentration camp in Belsen. There, she met Karin Dernakova (Natasha Lytess) with whom she became great friends. Unfortunately, due to her poor health, Karin eventually died in the camp. To her great sorrow, Victoria has lost a good friend, but this situation was a way for her to have a better life. She knew that Karin has a son who lives with her rich aunt Sophia in San Francisco. So, she decided to take Karin’s papers and renounced her own identity.

When the camp is finally liberated, Victoria (now Karin) is questioned by Major Marc Bennett (William Lundigan), an American. The poor woman bursts into tears during the interview. Is it because she is presenting herself under a false identity? Is it because she is thinking of the horrors of the camp and the loss of her friend Karin? Probably both. Fortunately, Major Bennett is a kind man and tempts to reassure her. When Victoria leaves his office, he makes her notice that she has forgotten something. It’s her own passport. She tells the major that this passport belonged to her friend Victoria (who is, in fact, herself), but now that she is dead, she doesn’t need it anymore. So, Victoria tears it in two and definitely loses her real identity.

Victoria is then deported to a camp for persons displaced by the war where she communicates with Aunt Sophia. A cold answer comes a few days after: aunt Sophia is dead. The poor Victoria sees her dreams of going to America fading away, but her ambition is still there. Four years after she received the letter, Victoria manages to travel to New-York, where she makes the acquaintance of Alan Spender (Richard Basehart), Christopher’s guardian and a distant relative of aunt Sophia. It doesn’t take long for both of them to be charmed by each other and eventually get married. They moved to San Francisco to the house on Telegraph Hill, where Victoria finally makes the acquaintance of Karin’s son, Christopher (Gordon Gebert). But, now, she is the one who has to play the role of his mother. The moment where they first see each other is at first a bit awkward for both of them because, 1- Christopher hasn’t seen his mom in 9 years (when she send him to the US, he was just a baby) and 2- Victoria knows she is not Christopher’s real mom. Fortunately, our protagonist has a maternal instinct and they won’t take long before getting to know each other better and truly appreciate each other.

Karin now lives in a beautiful mansion and wears gowns to make every woman with good tastes jealous. Those were designed by Renié, and are the pure definition of elegance. She has a new husband whom she loves very much and lives a wealthy life.

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However, Victoria’s new happiness is only a brief illusion. Even since the first night in her new home, we can feel a certain discomfort. Like many people in a new and unknown place, she has difficulty sleeping, despite being in a much more comfortable place than a concentration camp.

But this is normal no? I mean, who wouldn’t have trouble sleeping in such a situation? After having lived such events?

The real obstacle that is placed in Victoria’s way is Margaret (Fay Baker), Christopher’s governess. There’s something about this film that can make us think a bit of Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940): Victoria marries a man she barely knows, they move to a beautiful mansion and she has to face a jealous domestic, Margaret that is. From her first on-screen minutes, we feel the cold tone of her voice and guess she isn’t particularly happy having Karin (Victoria) intruding her life. As she was the one who took care of Christopher during 9 years and not Karin, it is obvious that she feels like a mother to him. Tired of Margaret’s opposition to her, Victoria fires her, but Alan reasons her explaining that she can’t fire someone who worked for them for 9 years just like that. Victoria realizes her mistake and Margaret remains part of the house. After offering her apologies to Victoria, she somehow becomes a  more agreeable person (but she doesn’t smile very much so she keeps that ounce of creepiness).

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One afternoon, Victoria discovers something rather odd. While she is playing baseball with Chris (who now treats her like a real mother) the ball gets lost in the grass and Victoria goes after it. She arrives next to a little playhouse with broken windows. Victoria is intrigued, but Chris begs her not to go inside as it is a dangerous place. Victoria, too curious, doesn’t listen to him and enters. The chaos that she finds there has nothing very attractive and the place is, indeed, a dangerous one. There is a big hole in a part of the floor and a part of the wall and whoever might step into it would fall in the streets of San Francisco from a great height. Chris explains to her “mother” that this hole was caused by an explosion from his chemistry set. Victoria to talk about it with Alan,  but Chris begs her not to tell him as he apparently doesn’t know. Later, she talks about it with Margaret, who doesn’t see either the purpose of talking about it with Alan since the boy was not hurt during the explosion.

During the evening, the Spender receive guesses at their house, one of them being Major Mark Bennett. Recognizing him, Victoria first tries to hide in order to avoid an awkward situation. When she doesn’t have the choice to face him, Mark recognizes her but is not 100% sure who she is. She refreshes his memory and finally realises that she has nothing to be afraid of and can enjoy an evening in his company.

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Later, Victoria returns to the playhouse and it’s there that everything changes for good. She investigates the place when she is surprised by Alan. He wonders what she is doing here with a smile on his face, but this is exactly a pleasant smile. He makes a step toward her, she steps back, with fear in her eyes, and fall in the hole. Luckily, Alan catches her in time. From this moment, Victoria’s attitude toward Alan changes: she is afraid of him and always seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

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Not long after, Victoria is supposed to go to town with Chris. This one finally can go as he has to finish cleaning his room. So, Victoria goes alone. While she is going down a street, she wants to brake, but realises that the brakes aren’t working. Then starts a furious stroll in the streets of San Francisco similar to the one in Hitchcock’s Family Plot. Victoria manages to stop the car by bumping in a pile of sand. She is physically not hurt, but mentally it is different. When she realises that Chris was supposed to be in the car with her, a reasoning is quickly made in her head: Alan wants her and Chris to be dead. Why? Because he’ll be the one inheriting aunt Sophia’s money.

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She talks about it with Mark, but this one doesn’t think Alan is a murdered, despite not liking him very much. They, however, start their investigation, but, each time Victoria tries to reach Mark (to whom she has finally revealed her own identity), it seems that Alan is in her way. Without revealing it out loud, we know that he knows that she knows. However, he still continues to play the game of the worried husband.

A log is added to the fire of suspicion when Victoria discovers an article about aunt Sophie’s death in Margaret’s scrapbook. She realizes that she received that telegram announcing her death actually three days BEFORE the real date of her death. It is obvious to her that Alan got rid of aunt Sophia with his own head, in order to access fastly to the fortune.

But is Victoria right? Could sweet face Alan Spender really be a murderer? Is she only imagining things like Lina (Joan Fontaine) in Suspicion?  Well, unfortunately, she has it right from A to Z. And this slowly leads us to the thrilling ending of this film.

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During the “last supper” Victoria is tense since she hasn’t managed to reach Mark all day (she was always surprised by Alan). She can’t eat a thing so she decides to go to the office to read. She is soon followed by Alan, who seems decided to watch her. When they go to bed, Alan prepares their usual before-bedtime glass of orange juice. However, Victoria hears him putting something in her glass. Is it poison? She asks Alan to go take her book in the library which he does, and she takes the occasion to call the police. Unfortunately, as the phone in the library is off the hook, she is unable to make a call. From the library, Alan listens to her “help!” with an evil smile on his face.

When Alan comes back to the bedroom and realizes Victoria hasn’t drunk her orange juice, he convinces her to do so. They finally drink their respective glass of juice by looking at each other in the eyes. That is a very tense moment in the film. Knowing that his wife is now about to die (because yes, he DID put something in the juice), he confesses the murders and the reason, which was, indeed, money. He tells her that he has put a whole box of sedatives in her orange juice in order to kill her. Panicked, Victoria begs him to call a doctor, but not for her: for him! While he was in the library, she put her orange juice in the pitcher and put in her glass what was initially the pitcher. So, Alan is the one who drank the juice full of sedatives. Alan is not feeling well and goes to Margaret. Victoria is looking for Chris (whom she thinks has been “kidnapped” by Margaret, who has always menaced to take him with her). She finds him yes, with Margaret, but they still are in the house. He is sleeping in Margaret’s bedroom and she is taking care of him. Alan claims that Victoria tried to kill him, but with a ton a panic, she has to convince Margaret that he wanted to kill her. Alan begs the governess to call a doctor, but, when she realises that he tried to kill Christopher too, she doesn’t call him. Margaret and Alan, who were lovers, were supposed to get rid of the family to live a rich life together, but let him kill Chris? That is something Margaret would never have allowed.

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Without a doctor, Alan can’t do much for his life so he dies. When the police investigate, it is discovered that Margaret never called a doctor so she is arrested for murder. Poor Margaret! Victoria and Mark, who know that she has somehow nothing to do with Alan’s death offers all the help they can to get her out of this mess.

Victoria now has nothing to do anymore in the house on Telegraph Hill. So, with her only suitcase in hand, she leaves the house with Chris and Mark in order to finally begin, we hope, a somehow normal life.

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It is not really surprising that Alan should be the victim of his own crimes. In the Production Code Era, a murderer had to be punished. However, the real surprise eventually resides in the way he becomes the victim. Clever little Victoria!

From 1951 to 1960, Italian actress Valentina Cortese and Richard Basehart were married. They fell in love while filming this film. Despite playing opponents, we seize their beautiful chemistry in the film. It is really because of Richard Basehart that I first decided to watch The House on Telegraph Hill since he was an actor that has always intrigued me. No regrets.  As the villain with a calm temperament, he is quite different from the nervous and suicidal Robert Cosick from 14 Hours! Valentina Cortese is an actress all in elegance who delivers a convincing performance. Her chemistry with William Lundigan is the definition of friendship and make their moments together highly appreciated.

The House on Telegraph Hill is not a so well-known film, but it deserves more recognition. It has a dose of suspense that many will appreciate.

A big thanks to Theresa for hosting this blogathon! I invite you to check the other entries. The link will be live on July 24th!

‘Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon

See you!

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Top of the World: Olivia de Havilland Turns 101!

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Today, the strong, lovely, talented, legendary Olivia de Havilland is turning 101 years old and we are very lucky to still have her with us! Aging gracefully, she certainly is one of the most beautiful women of that age! For the occasion, Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are hosting The Second Olivia de Havilland Blogathon + Eroll Flynn!

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For the occasion, I’ve decided to present you a top 10 of my most favourite Olivia de Havilland’s films! Remember, these are my personal favourites, so it’s purely subjective. I ask you to respect my choices.

Just to give you an idea, I’ve seen a total of 12 of her films so far.

Here we go!

10. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, 1935)

I’m not THAT much a fan of this film, but I’ve decided to put it at #10 as 1- It has to be praised for the excellent performances (including Olivia’s one), 2- A Midsummer Night’s Dream remains, after all, my favourite Shakespeare play, 3- I love the magic and poetry embodied by the dreaming cinematography and 4- the two other ones I saw, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and Santa Fe Trail left me a bit indifferent.

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9. Hush… Hush… Sweet Charlotte (Robert Aldrich, 1964)

Quite a creepy film, but I’ve always found Olivia de Havilland’s performance quite interesting as it is very different from the innocent Melanie Hamilton for example! And who would say no to a film reuniting her, Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead?

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8. The Proud Rebel (Michael Curtiz, 1958)

This western was the last collaboration between Curtiz and De Havilland. Somehow it’s not too well-known, but I think it deserves more recognition. It’s a beautiful film and our Livie is absolutely touching in it.

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7. My Cousin Rachel (Henry Koster, 1952)

One thing: I STILL have to read the book by Daphné du Maurier. Ok, this film contains his flaws, but it remains an appreciable one to see. Olivia is quite fascinating playing this ambiguous Rachel! Who is she really?! This film is a good way to size her versatility as an actress.

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6. The Strawberry Blonde (Raoul Walsh, 1941)

I actually just watched this movie today in honour of the celebrated one! I quite enjoyed it! It was a lot of fun. Olivia and James Cagney (such a great actor!) looked just adorable together. The presence of Rita Hayworth and Jack Carson was, of course, highly appreciated as well. A good comedy movie to watch when you feel like not concentrating too much!

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5. The Dark Mirror (Robert Siodmak, 1946)

I’ve always loved psychological movies and this one makes no exception to the rule. Playing two roles in one film never looks like an easy task, but, here, Olivia did it wonderfully. A fascinating film.

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4. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, 1938)

Of course, we all like the collaborations between Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn. This one has to be my favourite one without hesitation. Olivia is so lovely as Lady Marian and the film itself is a wonderful entertainment!

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3. The Snake Pit (Anatole Litvak, 1948)

I’ve said that I’ve always loved psychological movies. Well, this one is another great example. I love to see the evolution of the characters in these. Here, Olivia de Havilland certainly gives one of her best and more challenging performances. She received an Oscar nomination for her performance.

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2. The Heiress (William Wyler, 1949)

And happy birthday to William Wyler, who was born on July 1st too! Well, if Olivia won her second Oscar with this film, it’s not without reasons. An extraordinary performance, full of subtleties and perfectly calculated. She gives an extraordinary essence to her character and it’s hard to surpass her. I’ve loved this film since the first time I saw it. Of course, I don’t think William Wyler ever made a bad film…

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  1. Gone With the Wind (Victor Flemming, 1939)

Ok, I know, this is not a very creative #1, but what can I say? I love the film ok! There would be so much to say about it, but for what concerns Olivia, she illuminates the screen and is in perfect harmony with the rest of the cast. I couldn’t think of anyone better to portray Melanie Hamilton. This is the first film of hers I saw. What a great introduction to her filmography! 🙂

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Well, that’s it! Of course, don’t hesitate to share your choices with me!

I want to thank Crystal and Laura for hosting this amazing blogathon. Please take a look at the other entries here:

The Second Olivia de Havilland Blogathon + Errol Flynn Day 1

Happy 101 birthday dear Olivia!

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