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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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Hell in a High-Rise: The Towering Inferno (1974)

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The 70s was THE golden decade for catastrophe movies. Some of the best ones were made back then. Think of Airport, The Poseidon AdventureEarthquake and, of course, The Towering Inferno. It’s on this one, release in 1974, that we will concentrate today.

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The Towering Inferno was produced by Irwin Allen, known as the “Master of Disaster” (also produced The Poseidon Adventure), and directed by John Guillermin. Note: Irwin Allen directed the action scenes. The film, written by Stirling Silliphant, was a fusion of two books: The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson.

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Irwin Allen

The interesting thing is, before Irwin Allen at Fox had time to buy the rights of The Tower, Warner Bros. had already done so. Allen then got interested by The Glass Inferno and bought the rights. But instead of producing two movies that will obviously be very similar and be in competition, Fox and Warner decided to make a team and fused the two books together in one movie that became The Towering Inferno. It was the first collaboration between two major studios.

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The Towering Inferno was obviously a big budget film, with its ton of special effects and, most of all, its all-star cast: Paul Newman, Steven McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, Richard Chamberlain, O.J Simpson, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, etc. A real Hollywood dream. The film cost around $14 000 000 to produce (around $68 000 000 today) and was a big commercial success, winning around $140 000 000 at the world box office on it’ release ($678 000 000 today). Being one of the most entertaining movies of all times, and with such a cast, the success was assured.

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The impressive cast

However, the critical reception was more mitigated. It generally was good, but was mostly criticized by builders for some inaccuracies.

Despite that, The Towering Inferno won the Oscar for Best Cinematography (Fred J. Koenekamp, Joseph F. Biroc), Best Film Editing (Harold F. Kress, Carl Kress) and Best Original Song for “We May Never Love Like this Again” (Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn). It was nominated for Best Picture (Irwin Allen), Best Supporting Actor (Fred Astaire), Best Production Design (William J. Creber, Ward Preston, and Raphael Bretton), Best Original Score (John Williams) and Best Sound Mixing (Theodore Soderberg and Herman Lewis).

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Ok, I’m talking a lot about this film’s production and reception, but it’s because there’s a lot to say. But before I’ll go further with my own appreciation of The Towering Inferno, let me resume the movie briefly for those who haven’t seen it.

Like most catastrophe movies, it’s pretty easy to explain: A new glass high-rise has just been built in San Francisco. It’s the tallest building in the world. Architect Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) is back in town for its inauguration. Once arrived, he meets the builder James Duncan (William Holden). However, on the same day of the inauguration, a short-circuit produced at the 81 floor causes a fire. Roberts accuses Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlain), the electrical engineer, of being responsible. The ceremony takes place on the 135th floor, the last one. All those people will have to be evacuated before the fire kills them all. They will be helped by the courageous Michael O’Halloran (Steve McQueen), SFFD 5th Battalion Chief, and his team of firemen.

As you can see, it’s highly stressful.

What I found very interesting about the narrative lines of this film is how the spectator (us) sees the fire breaks before any character of the movies. Paul Newman & Co are looking for it in the building, but we know where it is before them and we see it growing. The suspense is perfectly established and the tension is more and more intense as the time passes.

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The Towering Inferno is a movie I love, it’s a movie that worked well but, it’s not either a “masterpiece”. It has its faults. So, before talking all good about it, we will start by getting rid of these little imperfections.

First, sometimes, it’s too much. Well, I’m particularly thinking of this scene when [SPOILER] Dan Bigelow (Robert Wagner), the Public Relations Officer, and his secretary, Lorrie (Susan Flannery) are caught in the fire and eventually die. It is somehow too dramatic, with the big music, the slow motion, Lorrie who becomes crazy, etc. It somehow becomes funny. I’m sorry, but I didn’t cry in this scene. [End of spoilers]

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It contains some catastrophe movies clichés. One of the best examples is, [spoiler] the cute couple who is separated by death. [end of spoiler]

And, something that I always found strange is why they didn’t show us reactions from people from the outside? I mean, this building is obviously in a popular neighbourhood of San Francisco, there’s obviously people walking in the streets. And when you see a building on fire, your first reaction is normally to stop and wonder what’s happening. The movie is mainly concentrated on the victims and the firemen, but I think it would have been interesting if we would have seen reaction shots of the simple witnesses.

But let’s stop this here because there’s also many good things to say about The Towering Inferno.

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First, the cast. The cast is spectacular. In my opinion (and that’s just my opinion)… Ok, I was about to say ” the best performances were given by…” and then I realized I was about to name almost everybody. However, I can’t say I’ve been impressed by Richard Chamberlain (maybe because his character annoys me too much. I know it’s not a good reason), Robert Wagner or Susan Flannery. They were not bad and I know some can think they were great, but just not my favourites.

I can no talk about all the actors and all the performances, but let me give you an overview of my favourites.

Teaming Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, two of the most popular stars in the 70s, wasn’t a small thing. Initially, Ernest Borgnine was supposed to play the fireman and Steve McQueen was supposed to play the architect. He, however, preferred the other role and was cast as the fireman. Paul Newman was then cast as the architect. Things went fair for the two actors as they were both given the same exact number of lines and both received top billings. On the set, it was a friendly competition. Paul Newman and Steve McQueen are two actors that have a similar acting touch. They act with no pretension and are convincing by reminding simple. I’m more familiar with Paul Newman, but, in this film, I can’t say if I prefer Paul or Steve. They were both brilliant. I have to say I love this moment at the beginning when Paul Newman is introduced to us in the helicopter with his 70s style sunglasses. Such a badass!

Faye Dunaway was known as a difficult actress and often arrived late on the set (which highly annoyed William Holden), but despite that, she could only add good to this film as she had talent. Of course, her Susan Franklin is not as good as her Bonnie Parker or her Diana Christensen, but her performance remains one of the bests in the film. And Faye has always been a personal favourite of mine.

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William Holden. Ah, William Holden! Well, I have to say that he is the main reason why I decided to watch The Towering Inferno for the first time (he is my second favourite actor after all)! Bill, even if he was getting older, had not lost his irresistible smile and his beautiful blue eyes. It might not be his most memorable performance, but I can’t help loving him as I love him in all his films. As I often said, William Holden was an actor full of sensibility and (subtlety). He never overacts and is always so hypnotizing. There’s this moment when he does a typical William Holden reaction and that’s perfect: toward the end, after he has spoken to Paul Newman, we can see he’s feeling guilty of what is happening. He has sad eyes and, I don’t know if you ever noticed that, but Bill sometimes does this little move with his chin and his mouth just like if he was trying not to cry. Breaks my heart!! 😥

Susan Blakely as Patty Simmons (Roger Simmons’s wife and James Duncan’s daughter) is an actress I had never heard of before. But hey, she’s cool! She is very touching and I think she inspires wisdom. At least, in this film. An intriguing and beautiful lady!

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I will wrap up this actors section with Fred Astaire and Jennifer Jones. It’s not surprising that Fred was nominated for Best Supporting actor. He is awesome! We are not only amazed by the way he acts, but also by the way he moves! We can see he was a professional dancer 😉 At 75, he still had an incredible posture. And Jennifer Jones, she is lovely as ever and also had an incredible energy. Unfortunately, it was her last film (not because she died, but because she simply decided to retire from acting in Hollywood). The two actors have a contagious chemistry and I think they made the best team of the film. I love when they dance together! (even if it lasts about 20 seconds…)

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Bonus: I’ve always liked the character of Mark Powers, the fireman played by Ernie F. Orsatti. He is the young, cute fireman with not a lot of experience. He is scared at the beginning, but finds courage and becomes a hero. I also love Carlos, the barman played by Gregory Sierra. He probably is the most sympathetic character of them all.

Something I find priceless about the actors are some of their reactions. I’ve previously talked about the William Holden’s sad guilty face, but here are some other of my favourites: When Paul Newman speaks on the phone with William Holden and literally lost his temper: “WE’VE GOT A FIRE HERE!”; when William Holden punches Richard Chamberlain in the stomach (I might sound sadic, but this was deserved. #GoBill); when the two firemen, Scott (Felton Perry) and Mark (Ernie F. Orsatti) realize which building is on fire, etc.

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Once again, I’m talking too much about the actors: I love the world of acting 😉

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The Towering Inferno was also brilliant for many of its technical aspects. The special effects are incredibly impressive. You might not know this, but real fire was used in the filming. So, the cast and crew basically put themselves in danger to produce this film. It was an audacious thing to do and it worked successfully.

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For its cinematography and its editing, The Towering Inferno also was at the top. Surely, what we remember the most from the cinematography is how the building on fire was filmed, but one scene that particularly caught my attention is when the first twelve selected women (including Jennifer Jones and Faye Dunaway) are in the glass elevator. The clear-obscure light is very beautiful, but also very strange. It inspires a moment of calm before the tempest.

We also have impressive aerial views of San Francisco at the beginning of the film. The city and its area are seen from Paul Newman’s helicopter’s point of view.

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It’s hard to imagine how The Towering Inferno was filmed. Around 50 sets were used (most of them were burned for the cause of the film). But the job was done and that’s why Irwin Allen was the Master of Disaster.

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And I bet it was not only a difficult movie to produce for its action and its special effects, but also for having to deal with all those top stars (no pressure…).

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In the 70s, John Williams was starting to build himself a name as one of the most brilliant composers of Hollywood’s new generation. His score for Jaws is probably his most well-known one from the 70s, but his score for The Towering Inferno is unforgettable too. With those aerial shots I was talking about, it makes the movie starts in a very dynamic way. It’s an epic score that fits perfectly the atmosphere of the film or any catastrophe movie. It’s the sound of panic on a hot nightmare. No wonder why he received an Oscar nomination. He lost to Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola for The Godfather Part II. Were also nominated this year Jerry Goldsmith for Chinatown, Alex North for Shanks and Richard Rodney Bennett for Murder On the Orient Express. Ok, the competition was hard, and that’s one of these moments when you’d like to give the award to everybody.

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Even if The Towering Inferno is a dramatic movie, it contains some moments of humour. Those are rare, very rare, but are highly appreciated. The first one I think about is when Dan Bigelow (Robert Wagner) arrives in James Ducan’s office. Duncan is here with Roberts and engineer Will Giddings (Norman Burton). Dan is all happy and proud to show them the giant scissors to cut the ribbon at the inauguration of the glass tower. But when he shows them the scissors, nobody reacts, everybody seems concerned and somehow depress to what he says: “What happened? Somebody hang a wallpaper upside down?” This really makes me laugh. Then they tell him a fire might be burning in the building…

There’s also this very sympathetic scene when Harry Jernigan (O.J Simpson), the Chief Security Officer, save Lisolette Mueller (Jennifer Jones)’s cat from the flames.

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There’s so much to say about The Towering Inferno! And if you’re still curious to know more about it, I highly recommend you to watch this very interesting mini-documentary on its making. Just for Paul Newman’s bloopers, it’s worthy! Here is part 1 of 2 (you’ll find the other one easily):

The Towering Inferno was not only one the best catastrophe movies ever made, but also a majestic tribute to firemen. It’s a movie that makes you realize how this is a hard and courageous profession.

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So, if you’re in for 2h30 of pure thrill and entertainment, The Towering Inferno is for you. I assure you, you won’t be bored a minute and will admire every moment of it for everything I’ve previously said in this article.

Well, what are you waiting for?! 🙂

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The Double Life of Mrs. Courtland: Genevieve Bujold in Obsession

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When Christina Wehner and Ruth from Silver Screenings announced their Dual Roles Blogathon, it was not long after I had seen Brian de Palma’s Obsession for the first time so, this film had to be my choice for the event.

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The ladies’ blogathon celebrates movies where one actor plays more than one role (ex: Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove or Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator). In Obsession, it’s Genevieve Bujold, who plays the dual roles; first as Elizabeth Courtland and then as Sandra Portinari.

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Obsession is a thriller directed by Brian de Palma, written by Paul Schrader and released in 1976. For its storyline, the film is often compared to Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Even the brilliant soundtrack also composed by Bernard Hermann has some similarities with the Vertigo one (the dramatic and then the very melodic notes).

On its release, Obsession received mixed critics, but, fortunately, was a financial success.

I read this on IMDB, so I have no idea if it’s true, that, apparently, Hitchcock was furious with the making of this film, precisely because it looked too much like Vertigo. You know that I love Hitchcock, but I think we have to see this film more as a tribute than as a simple copy.

When I watched the movie for the first time, I really didn’t know what to expect of it, so it’s not because of Hitchcock that I watched it. I watched it because of Cliff Robertson, who is one of my favourite actors. But it also was a good occasion for me to watch my first Brian de Palma’s film and my first Genevieve Bujold’s film (one of our Quebec’s pride).

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Genevieve Bujold and Brian de Palma

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Before I go further, it would be important for me to tell you what Obsession is about:

Obsession starts in 1959 with Michael (Cliff Robertson) and Elizabeth (Genevieve Bujold) Courtland’s 10th wedding anniversary at their big home in New-Orlean. On the same night, Elizabeth and their daughter Amy (Wanda Blackman) are kidnapped and a $500 000 ransom is asked to Michael if he wants to see them back alive. The police organize a rescue, but the kidnappers manage to run away with the two victims. Unfortunately, they all die in a car accident.

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16 years later, Michael still hasn’t recovered from the tragic events. He has to go to Florence, Italy for business with his colleague and friend Robert Lasalle (John Lithgow). Florence is where Michael had met Elizabeth. When he returns to the church where they precisely saw each other for the first time, he meets a young girl, Sandra Portinari (Genevieve Bujold), who is an exact copy of Elizabeth. Stunned by this resemblance with his late wife, he becomes obsessed with her. He falls in love with her and they eventually get engaged. When he goes back to New-Orlean with her, things don’t go exactly as he would have expected.

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Even if she plays two roles in the film, Genevieve Bujold’s part as Elizabeth is quite short. As a matter of fact, in the short screen appearance of this character, she doesn’t say a word. However, this doesn’t make Elizabeth Courtland an uninteresting and unimportant character. First, just like Michael, we are flabbergasted by her beauty, her doe eyes, and her softness. The fact that Elizabeth Courtland never talks sort of allow us to make our own interpretation of the kind of woman she is. On my side, I see her as a happy, shy and quiet wife. She and Michael simply make our heart beat when they dance together with their daughter during the party.

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Even if the screen appearance of Elizabeth is quite short, her character remains important as all the story revolves around her. The spirit and the idea of Elizabeth are alive from the beginning to almost the end of the film (I’ll let you discover why, because I don’t want to reveal any spoilers). Notice that we’ll see her again briefly in some flashback scenes.

Genevieve Bujold’s second character, Sandra, is much more developed and she is the main female character in the film. Even if she looks a lot like Elizabeth, her personality seems slightly different. She has a young spirit and seems more dynamic than Elizabeth. She knows what she wants, and yet doesn’t have the status of Michael’s wife like Elizabeth had. Sandra is an art student, but Elizabeth was a devoted wife. They also both live in two different time periods, so their way of thinking and even their way of dressing is different.

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The similarity with Vertigo mainly illustrated is the fact that Michael becomes obsessed with his desire to create the image of Elizabeth on Sandra, just like Scottie (James Stewart) wanted to create the image of Madeleine on Judy (Kim Novak). He doesn’t really love Sandra, he loves what she could become for him, an imitation of Elizabeth.

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Sandra herself becomes obsessed with Elizabeth and wants to know everything about her. She goes to her memorial and observes her personal belongings in what used to be her and Michael’s bedroom. Is she just curious or does she want to be perfectly like Elizabeth to satisfy her future husband?

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No wonder why this film is called Obsession! It’s a perfectly isotopic title.

There’s a scene in the film where Sandra observes a portrait of Elizabeth that can make us think of the museum scene in Vertigo where Madeleine observes a portrait of Carlotta Valdes. Sandra and Elizabeth have exactly the same eyes and this is demonstrated to us with alternated close-ups of Elizabeth’s portrait’s eyes and Sandra’s ones. The same shape, the same colour.

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But it’s in a memorable climax that we’ll learn the truth about Sandra. Why was she on Michael’s route? I’ll let you discover that by yourself because I don’t want to reveal any major spoilers.

***

Genevieve Bujold did great in this film. She plays two characters that, even if they look alike, have a quite different personality. This proves her versatility. As Elizabeth, she is majestic and, as Sandra, she is quite adorable. Due to the joy and innocence Bujold gave to her character, we immediately appreciate Sandra from the moment she says a few words. If Michael is amazed by how she looks, we are amazed by her vivacity and her beautiful energy. Genevieve will also break our heart in this famous climax scene. Moving from casual joy to deep sadness is something Genevieve Bujold seemed to be able to do easily. Of course, it’s the only film of hers I’ve seen, so I can’t really compare with the others.

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But I’m happy I did finally see one of her films, because, as I said before, Genevieve Bujold is one of our Quebec’s Pride. She was born in Montreal (where I live) and first had an acting career in Quebec. She became an international star and started starring in a foreign movie when she starred in Anne of the Thousand Days alongside Richard Burton.

As I previously said, the main reason why I decided to watch this film is Cliff Robertson. After having seen him in The Devil’s Brigade and Autumn Leaves, I was curious to discover more of his films. I was certainly not disappointed by his performance in Obsession. Even if Brian de Palma didn’t like working with him, the result was worthy. The film makes me realize that Cliff often plays characters with a very quiet temper (even if really upsetting things happens to him), but when it’s too much, it’s too much and he can explode. Just like Scottie in Vertigo, Michael’s character is a bit creepy, but fascinating at the same time. I have to say, I’m spellbound by Cliff Robertson’s performance in this film, especially by his voice. It’s the kind of thing that completely makes us forget Gidget

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John Lithgow is not an actor I’m too familiar with (I’ve only seen him in this film, Footloose, and All that Jazz), but, to me, this might be one of his most memorable performances. He is excellent as Robert. At one point, his character can be compared to Marjorie Wood (Barbara Bel Geddes) in Vertigo. He doesn’t play the mother figure like her, but he is Michael’s old friend and often tries to bring him back to reason.

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***

The cinematography of Obsession is very interesting and, because the image is often blurry and has a soft light, we constantly have the feeling we are in a dream. This light can be compared to the one in the cemetery scene in Vertigo. It adds a certain poetry to the film, and that’s why Obsession is not a visually crude thriller. The cinematography was supervised by Vilmos Zsigmond, who also work with Brian de Palma on Blow OutThe Bonfire of the Vanities and The Black Dahlia. In 1978 he won an Oscar for his work in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg).

Bernard Herrmann’s score for Obsession was one of his last. As a matter of fact, he composed his last score the same year and that was for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. The music in this film is both very dramatic and very melodious and poetic. This perfectly reflects the constantly changing atmosphere of the film. He also managed to create a great suspense just like he did with Vertigo. I’ve noticed that some parts of the score are also similar to Spellbound’s one (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945), but this one was composed by Miklós Rózsa.

***

Obsession is one of those films that deserves to be analyzed in depth. You know, this kind of film you would write a school essay on it. There’s much to say for both its narrative and technical aspects. Now, I’ve given you a brief view of it, but I hope it was enough to satisfy you and make you want to discover this film if you haven’t yet. I know I’ve often compared the movie to Vertigo, but this is something that is quite impossible not to do.

Before leaving you, I want to thank Christina Wehner and Ruth from Silver Screenings for organizing this very original and entertaining event!

Don’t forget to read the other entries!

The Dual Roles Blogathon Day 1

The Dual Roles Blogathon Day 2

The Dual Roles Blogathon Day 3

See you!

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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.
***
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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One of my All-Time Favorite Cartoons Blogathon: The Aristocats (1970)

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I’m not ashamed to say that I love watching animated features. Some people might say that it’s only for kids, but that’s not true. Otherwise, all those blogs wouldn’t be participating to the One of My All-Time Favorite Cartoons Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog. And believe me, these articles are not written by five years-old child! Cartoons can be appreciated by everybody. Some might be dedicated to a certain rank of age, animated films for adults only DO exist, but some others have no age ranking and can be appreciated by everybody. For this blogathon, I’ve decided to review an animated film that I love since I am a very young child: The Aristocats. It’s a movie I’ve seen so many times, and still enjoyed watching my  French version VSH copy. I know, I’ve told you that I always prefer to watch the original version of a film, but for animated films, I don’t really mind. And it takes place in Paris, so it doesn’t sound so inaccurate after all. 😉

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The Aristocats was produced by Disney Studios and directed by Wolfgang Reitherman. It was based on a story by Tom McGowan and Tom Rowe. Even if Walt Disney was dead in 1970, this is the last Disney film from which the production was approved by the man himself. It also was the first movie to be produced after his death in 1966. It took four years to produce it. That’s another thing that amazed me with animated films, especially the old one: it was a true artistic work. The original cast regrouped the voices of  Eva Gabor (Duchess), Phill Harris (Thomas O’Malley), Gary Dubin (Toulouse), Liz English (Marie), Dean Clark (Berlioz), Roddy Maude-Roxby (Edgar Balthazar), Scatman Crothers (Scat Cat), Sterling Holloway (Roquefort), Pat Buttram (Napoleon), George Lindsey (Lafayette), Hermione Baddeley (Madame Adelaide Bonfamille), Charles Lane (George Hautecourt), Nancy Kulp (Frou-Frou), Monica Evans (Abigail Gabble), Carole Shelley (Amelia Gabble) and Bill Thompson (Uncle Waldo). This film cost $4 M to produce and was a huge success at the box office and earned almost $57M at the world box office.

Here are some members on the cast:

Eva Gabor
Eva Gabor
Liz English
Liz English
Phil Harris
Phill Harris
Roddy Maude-Roxby
Roddy Maude-Roxby
Sterling Holloway (we all know this face!)
Sterling Holloway (we all know this face!)
Scatman Crother (remember him in The Shining?)
Scatman Crothers (remember him in The Shining?)
Hermione Baddley
Hermione Baddley
Nancy Kulp
Nancy Kulp
Charles Lane
Charles Lane
Bill Thompson
Bill Thompson
Monica Evans and Carole Shelley. Remember them in The Odd Couple!
Monica Evans and Carole Shelley. Remember them in The Odd Couple!
Pat Buttram
Pat Buttram
George Lindsey
George Lindsey

The story of this film takes place in Paris in 1910. Madame Adelaide Bonfamille, a former opera singer lives in a chic mansion with her butler, Edgar, and her four cats that she adores: Duchess (the mother) and her three kittens: Marie, Toulouse and Berlioz. One day, Monsieur George Hautecourt, her friend and lawyer, comes to her house to prepare her will. She declares that her fortune will go to her cats and then, when they’ll be dead, to Edgar. This one, who has heard the conversation, thanks to his speaking tube, is very jealous and wants to be the first to inherit the money. So, during the night, he decides to get rid of the cats. He kidnapps them and goes to the French country with his motorcycle. There, he is attacked by two dogs, Napoleon and Lafayette, and the basket with the cats falls of the motorcycle. Later during the night, the cats wake up in this unknown place. Very worried, they wonder what will happen to them. Fortunately, the following morning, they meet Thomas O’Malley, an alley-cat who will help them find their way to Paris. On the road, always accompanied by O’Malley, they will make interesting encounters and face many challenges.

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As this is an animated films, we can not really talk about the actors, but there’s a lot to say about the CHARACTERS. As a matter of fact, I think this is the Disney film with the most interesting characters. There are so many funny ones and rich ones. The variety is awesome and it’s quite hard to choose a favourite:

Duchess is the mother cat. She is pretty, with her white fur and she’s a devoted mother. She is kind and have a beautiful singing voice. She also loves her mistress, Madame Bonnefamille, as much as this one loves her.

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Toulouse is the oldest kitten. He paints and want to become an alley-cats. He’s very fond of Thomas O’Malley and looks like him.

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Marie is the middle kitten. She’s coquette and snobbish. She often plays the damsels in distress. She looks a lot like her mother and has a great complicity with her. Marie has a romantic soul and she’s a dreamer.

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Berlioz his the youngest kitten. He is shy, but a great pianist. I just love the moment when he is scared by a frog!

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Thomas O’Malley is an alley-cat. He travels a lot. He falls in love with Duchess and becomes a father figure for the three kittens. He also has a great singing voice.

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Edgar Balthazar is the butler. He is the bad one in this story, but also a very funny character (against his will). Among all Disney villains, he is my favourite one, especially because he is so ridiculous.

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Madame Bonnefamille is an old lady who LOVES her cats. She is devastated when she discovers that they have disappeared. She is a good lady and has a great heart. She’s rich, but she’s not snobbish.

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Georges Hautecourt is the lawyer and friend of Madame Bonnefamille. He’s a very dynamic little old man and a real joker. He likes to dance and cause a lot of troubles to Edgar. He is simply hilarious.

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Scat Cat is Thomas’s best friend and the leader of a cat jazz-band (yes yes!). He plays trumpet.

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Roquefort is a little mouse and a friend of Duchess and her kitten. Those cats don’t eat mice! When he’ll discover that the cats have disappeared, he will try to find them, but without success as he’s just a little mouse.

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Abigail and Amelia Gabble are two geese twin sisters. They came from England and are in France for a vacation. They’ll meet Duchess, Thomas and the kittens in the French country. I just love those two, with their British accent, they are just so funny! Their entrance is unforgettable, especially the way they walk!

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Uncle Waldo is the drunk uncle of Abigail and Amelia. Duchess and Thomas O’Malley seems to find him very amusing.

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Lafayette and Napoleon are the two dogs who attack Edgar (twice). Napoleon is the chief. He can recognize any sort of vehicle or pair of shoes only with the sound they make.

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Finally, Frou-Frou is Madame Bonnefamille’s house. Just like Roquefort and Madame, she is devastated when she learns that the cats have disappeared. Frou-Frou is very coquette and wears a little hat.

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My favourite character might be George Hautecourt, but I’m not sure. It’s very hard to choose! And those little kittens, they are just so cute!

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Who says Disney movie says songs. The songs in this film are all great and makes us want to sing while watching the film. The theme song during the opening credits is sung by no one else than Maurice Chevalier! My favourite Disney song comes from this film: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat. During this scene, it’s a real party. I just adore this part. I’m more used to the french version, but both are good! Anyway, cats who dance, sing and play music, that’s something we can only see in films and that’s what make this media so unique! I love the Italian cat in this scene, when he tries to seduce Duchess. The move he does with his eyebrows worth a million! This a a truly entertaining jazz score.

The Aristocats is a movie with a ton of great scenes and memorable lines. There are also many little moments that make this film unforgettable. I can think of the way Edgar’s hat jumps on the top of his head when he is one his motorcycle, the way the geese sisters walk, George Hautecourt mimics, when the three kittens pretend they are a train, when Berlioz plays piano, when Marie and her mother sing together, when Toulouse who imitates an alley-cat, when Toulouse paints, when the cats dance, Edgar’s stupid smile, when George Hautecourt dances with Madame, etc. These little moments are endless and makes the movie so well composed!

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Before taking a look at some of my favourite scenes, here are some of my favourite lines:

1- Abigail Gabble: Your husband is very charming and very handsome.

Thomas O’Malley: Well, you see, I’m not exactly her husband.

Amelia Gabble: Exactly? Either you are or you’re not.

Thomas O’Malley: All right. I’m not.

Abigail Gabble, Amelia Gabble: Oh?

Amelia Gabble: He’s scandalous.

Abigail Gabble: Indeed

Amelia Gabble: He’s absolutely positively a reprobate.

Abigail Gabble: A roue.

Amelia Gabble: His eyes are too close together.

Abigail Gabble: Very shifty, too.

Amelia Gabble: And look at his crooked smile!

Abigail Gabble: His chin is very weak, too.

Amelia Gabble: Obviously a philanderer who triffles with unsuspecting women’s hearts.

Marie: How romantic.

2- Napoleon: [listening] You’re not gonna believe this, but it’s a one wheel hay stack!

3- Thomas O’Malley: You know something? I like Uncle Waldo.

Duchesse: [laughs] Especially when he’s marinated.

4- Thomas O’Malley: Hiya, chicks.

[Abigail and Amelia Gabble laugh]

Abigail Gabble: We’re not chickens. We’re geese.

Thomas O’Malley: [sarcastically] No. I thought you were swans.

5- Georges Hautecourt: Come on, Edgar. Last one upstairs is a nincompoop.

Edgar: Could we take the elevator this time, sir?

Georges Hautecourt: That birdcage? Poppycock! Elevators are for old people. Whoops!

6- George Hautecourt: [Trips and almost falls] Whoops! Not as spry as I was when I was eighty.

7- Edgar: Morning, Frou-Frou, my pretty steed.

[whispers]

Edgar: Can you keep a secret?

[out loud]

Edgar: Of course you can.

[chuckles]

Edgar: I’ve some news straight from the horse’s mouth. If you’ll pardon the expression, of course.

I’ll have to stop there, because there are so many!

Except the “Everybody Want’s to Be a Cat” scene, another one I love is when George Hautecourt arrives at home and he is welcomed by the (poor) Edgar. I’ve told you he’s a dynamic little old man. Well, here is the proof. I’ve decided to put the French version, because it’s the most complete one on YouTube (although some parts were cut). Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll laugh even if you don’t understand everything!

I want to show you this scene when Edgar is attacked by the dogs for this little detail I was talking about: the way his hat jump. I just think it’s a very clever visual gag! This scene also shows how much Edgar is ridiculous.

I couldn’t find a video of this scene, but another favourite of mine is when Toulouse paints a portrait that looks like Edgar. It’s a comic moment because it’s not a very flattering portrait!

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Oh dear! I have too many things to say about this film! I just love it! I’m writing this and it makes me want to watch it again and again! I’ll finish by mentioning the beauty of the drawings in this film. Of course,  those were all hand-made and that’s what I found impressive with the cartoons of these times. What’s especially beautiful visually in this film are the images of Paris.

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The Aristocats has been favourite of mine since five years old or something around that. It will always have a special place in my heart. It’s such a fun and entertaining film! I don’t know if you’ve seen it or when was the last time, but make sure you watch it or re-watch it. It’s simply a MUST! This also makes me want to write more reviews of animated films!

Of course, before I leave you, a big thanks to Movie Movie Blog Blog for hosting such a fun blogathon! Take time to check the other entries:

One of my All-Time Favourite Cartoons Blogathon

See you soon!

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