Unlike Gone With the Wind or The Wizard of Oz, A Girl Must Live is far from being 1939’s most well-known film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth seeing. I’m reviewing this film for the Fourth Annual British Invaders Blogathon, hosted by Terrence from A Shroud of Thoughts. As I’m always willing to promote some Margaret Lockwood’s film, this certainly is for me the best occasion for me to discuss this film.
A Girl Must Live reunites Margaret Lockwood and notorious director Carol Reed for the fourth time after Midshipman Easy (1935), Who’s Your Lady Friend? (1937) and Bank Holiday (1938). The film also stars German actress Lili Palmer, Renée Houston, Hugh Sinclair, Naunton Wayne, George Robey, Mary Clare and more. The film was based on the 1937’s novel by Emery Bonnett.
Margaret Lockwood plays a young woman who aspires to become a stage star. She runs away from her finish school is Switzerland and, under the suggestion of her friends, chooses a new identity in order to increase her chances. She is now Leslie James, daughter of the famous Leslie James. In the boarding house ruled by the lively Mrs. Wallis (Mary Clare), she meets Gloria (Renée Houston) and Clytie (Lilli Palmer), two chorus girls who fight constantly and who are both attracted to wealthy men. Not long after Leslie, Gloria and Clytie manage to join a chorus line, the rich (and single) Earl of Pangborough (Hugh Sinclair) comes to town accompanied by Gloria’s cousin, Hugo Smythe (Nauton Wayne). Obviously, Gloria, and Clytie will each tempt to seduce the Earl, being more attracted by his money than by his personality. This only increases their usual rivalry. However, when the Earl meets Leslie, he seems to find her much more interesting than the two crazy blond girls (because yes, they are crazy!).
A Girl Must Live mixes drama, comedy, and music. We can really call it a musical as the moments where the girls dance and sing are rare, but it gives us a lovely preview of how Margaret Lockwood could manage to be the star of a musical. After her successes with Bank Holiday and The Lady Vanishes, it is obvious that Margaret was an increasing star (and would become UK’s most popular actress in the 40s). 1939 was a year of self-research for Margaret as she tempted to start a career in Hollywood. That was not a success and, uncomfortable in the city of angels, she preferred to go back to England and that’s where she did her best work anyway. A Girl Must Live will never be considered a “masterpiece”, but it’s much better than Susannah of the Mounties.
The comic essence of the film is established from the beginning when Margaret Lockwood escapes from the school. Martita Hunt plays the principal. She is proud, but it’s hard to take her seriously as her manners are rather amusing. After falling on her poor butt, “Leslie James” is now ready to conquer the world. This scene is also an emotional one as the young lady also has to say goodbye to her school friends, whom she will probably not see before a long time.
We never really heard Margaret singing in this film, but there’s this scene where she is part of the chorus line stage number. In her solo, she talks more than she sings, but, nevertheless, she remains lovely.
There’s also this scene where she practices her tap dance. She’s so cute and amusing. Unfortunately, the scene lasts about 10 seconds. In 1945’s, Margaret starred in Val Guest’s historical musical I’ll Be Your Sweetheart, where we could see much more of her singing. However, her singing voice was dubbed by Maudie Edwards. Despite that, both A Girl Must Live and I’ll Be Your Sweetheart proves us that Margaret could have the perfect acting skills to rock a musical. Because, let’s not forget that she was, first of all, an actress and not a singer.
Margaret Lockwood’s chemistry with Hugh Sinclair is a convincing one. I love the fact that they always meet each other in awkward situations where the poor lady is rarely properly dressed.
You want some catfights? Well, Renée Houston and Lilli Palmer will offer you plenty of that. At one point, they even fight like knights using pokers as swords. In one of their greatest battles, a man delivers flowers for one of them. The flowers come from the rich Horace Blount ( George Robey). He’s waiting outside in his car. But he hasn’t chosen a good moment for his delivery as the flowers are thrown by the window during the fight and they fall around Mr. Blount’s neck. Even if the two girls are always fighting, there also is an unhealthy chemistry between the two. Somehow, they make me think a little bit of Bette Cooper and Veronica Lodge who always fight over Archie Andrews. Their moments of peace are rare, though.
Except for the amusing story truffled with numerous gags and the colourful characters, what I always liked about A Girl Must Live are the costumes. Those are simply lovely and suit perfectly the personality of each character.
A Girl Must Live is not really Carol Reed’s most well-known film, but it is the proof that he was able to direct comedies as much as he was able to direct films noir (Odd Man Out, The Third Man), war movies (Night Train to Munich) or dramas (The Stars Look Down, Trapeze). He chose Margaret Lockwood as his fetish actress and was always able to give her roles that suited her perfectly.
If you haven’t seen A Girl Must Live yet, I highly encourage you to do so. The film has nothing to envy to Busby Berkeley’s musicals of the 30s, but it’s a great entertainment and will only increase your knowledge of classic British films.
And here is a link for you to watch it. 🙂
A big thanks to Terence for hosting this always fun blogathon. Don’t forget to check the other entries!
From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My seventh review was for the 1961’s classic The Innocents directed by Jack Clayton. Enjoy!
In my past reviews for this column, I’ve primarily reviewed comedies or films that weren’t comedic, but that weren’t completely dramatic. This time, I’m going to explore a totally different genre, because I want to show that young people might also like heavy dramas. This is the reason why I’ve chosen to review The Innocents. This movie is not only a drama, but a horror-drama. The Innocents is a British film directed by Jack Clayton in 1961, starring Deborah Kerr, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin, Megs Jenkins and Michael Redgrave in a minor role.
The Innocents takes place in England during the 19th-century. An uncle (Michael Redgrave) who can’t take care of his nephew, Miles (Martin Stephens) and his niece, Flora (Pamela Franklin) hires a governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) to care for them. Their last governess, Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) died about a year ago. Miss Giddens accepts, despite her lack of experience, and moves to the family’s place in the country where the two orphan children live. It’s a big manor located in the beautiful English countryside. When she arrives, Miss Giddens hears a voice calling Flora, but she can’t tell where this voice is coming from. She then meets Flora, who hasn’t heard the voice, and they become good friends. A few minutes later, Miss Giddens meets Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper. Flora’s brother, Miles, is at school, but it won’t take long before he’ll be back home, because he has been, to everybody’s surprise, expelled from school. Miss Giddens tries to understand why, but Miles doesn’t want to talk about it.
If the life in this castle started in a quiet and peaceful way, it won’t take long before changing. Progressively, Miss Giddens notices Flora and Miles’ strange behavior. She has terrifying visions of a man and a woman who are not supposed to be part of the house, that of Miss Jessel and Quint (Peter Wyngarde), the ancient gardener, both of whom are now dead. Miss Giddens becomes obsessed by these hallucinations (although she thinks they are real), and is convinced Miss Jessel and Quint’s spirits possess the children. What else will explain their strange behavior? Miss Giddens will try to save them, but being crazier herself, she brings them to a fatal ending.
I had never been a fan of horror movies, but there are some exceptions and The Innocents is one of them. The movie itself is not that scary, but creepy. However, when you watch it and tell to yourself “what if this happened to me,” then, it becomes one of the most horrifying things ever. Of course, The Innocents is not like today’s horror films. Unlike today’s 21st-century horror movies, it is more refined. There is something poetic about The Innocents which makes the film beautiful. The Innocents is actually one of the most visually beautiful films I had ever seen. This is mainly due to the fine black and white cinematography created by Freddie Francis. The lights, the shadows, the white flowers, all make for a delightful spectacle for the eyes. The cinematography also adds certain strangeness to the film, especially during the visually mysterious hallucination scenes.
Deborah Kerr is definitely a model of acting in this film, able to change her emotions very easily. It’s actually her performance in this film that made her a favorite of mine. The role of Miss Giddens is one of her best performances. Her clear and pretty British accent is delightful to hear. Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin as the children are also perfect. There is something lovely, but also disturbing about them, which is just what we need for this kind of film. Martin Stephens is a kid, but very mature at the same time. He actually looks and acts more like a little man then a child. (Stephens also played a creepy child in Village of the Damned.) Megs Jenkins is also an appreciated actress starring in this film. She is warm and brings a lot to the movie. However, it’s too bad Michael Redgrave only has a small part, because he really is one of a kind.
What is also appreciated about this film is it doesn’t need a ton of scary scenes to scare us. Everything goes progressively. You can follow the story without necessarily having to hide behind your pillow every time someone opens a door or climbs the stairs. Of course, there is a worrying atmosphere, but this one is more suspenseful than terrifying. The movie takes place in a home with many secrets and things to discover (or not), which makes us think of Manderley, the famous De Winter manor in Rebecca. But there are some frightening scenes that teens will appreciate. For example the moment when Miss Giddens first “sees” Quint when she is playing hide and seek with the children.
Finally, we have to talk about the music, or more precisely the sound, which is a major element in this film. There isn’t really a soundtrack. As a matter of fact, the music is created by Flora humming “O Willow Waly” (which we also hear at the beginning of the film), by Miss Jessel voice calling Flora like an echo, and by the sounds of nature: the birds, the wind, the insects, etc. The work of the sound is remarkable and also adds poetry to the film. This only proves ambient sounds can be as affective as music to create a certain atmosphere.
It’s Halloween soon, so instead of watching something like The Exorcist, teens should watch The Innocents. It’s a film they’ll never forget and gives them the chance to see one of the greatest horror movies ever made.
Yes, I’ll soon be back to school after about four months and a half of vacations (well, not complete vacations as I was also working). Anyway, back to the routine, the lectures, the work, etc. Luckily, university starts late and ends early so I’m not starting until September 6. And fortunately, as I’m studying cinema, I’ll also be watching many movies in class just like I like to do it at home.
To celebrate the return of classes, Robin from Pop Culture Reverie has decided to host the Back-to-School Blogathon. Of course, for someone who still is studying, this is quite an appealing event as it allows me to already be in the “mood” for it. As for those who have already finished school (a long or short time ago), I guess it will bring you back some memories, good ones I hope. You see, school movies are ones that can reach many people, but unfortunately, it’s not everybody in the world who has this chance to have a fair access to studies.
School is a very general word that can include many levels of studies. After all, we all start going to school when we are about 5 and we can sort of finish quite late if we decide to do a Ph.D. Anyway, school is an important part of life and has an immense influence on our future. For this blogathon, I’ve decided to travel to a public boarding school in England and discuss The Browning Version, an Anthony Asquith movie released in 1951. The film stars Michael Redgrave, Jean Kent, Nigel Patrick, Ronald Howard and Wilfrid Hyde-White. It was based on a play by Terence Rattigan and the movie script was also written by him.
The Browning Version can be called a masterpiece and was released on Criterion. However, it seems that it doesn’t have the popularity and the recognition it totally deserves. When you think of “school movies” it’s the first one that comes to peoples’ mind.
The Browning Version focuses on the last days of Andrew Crocker-Harris (Michael Redgrave), a classic studies teacher, in an English public school for men (boys). Due to his health problems, he is to be transferred to another school where the responsibilities are less exhausting. He is about to be replaced by the young Mr. Gilbert (Ronald Howard). But those last days are difficult as “the Crock”, as he is called, begins to realise that, during all his 18 years of teaching at this school, he wasn’t only not liked, but positively disliked by his students. His wedding is also a failure and his economic position is not announced to be good after his transfer in the new school. To his students, Mr. Crocker-Harris is a boring teacher with no emotions and n0 recognition. However, one of them, Taplow, sizes the sensibility that is hidden in this man and believes that he is, after all, not such a bad person, but only a lonely one.
We need more people like this little boy in our world. The Browning Version indeed makes us understand that we can’t really judge a person before really know her. After all, what do we really know about our teachers? I mean, in their life out of school? Taplow is the only student of Mr. Crocker-Harris’s class to have witnessed more of his life at home as he sometimes goes to work at his place. He is a sensible little boy who sees behind the first image projected by someone. Indeed, it shows us that someone might not always express what he really feel. After all, we are all different.
But in a way, it’s normal not to like all our teachers. And that can be so for many different reasons: a boring teacher, a teacher with whom you learn nothing, a teacher who has humiliated you, a teacher who is incomprehensible, etc. That can be the most wonderful profession as you get to know different young souls and transmit your knowledge to them. But it can also be a hard task if you add the different challenges and if you have a lack of motivation. Ok, I’m talking as if I were a teacher, but I’m not. I’m only writing this according to my good judgement.
Mr. Crooked-Harris as the motivation. It’s clear to us that he is passionate by what he’s teaching. The only problem is that he doesn’t success to transmit this love of classic studies to his student in the right way. Has many of them suggest, he seems to have no emotion, but we’ll discover, thanks to Taplow, that he a sensibility is hidden in him.
Michael Redgrave gives a brilliant performance in a role that was meant to be difficult. In an interview, available on the Criterion DVD of this film, the actor indeed explains that he likes to choose roles that don’t have an easy approach. I think that the challenge here was to play a man who first seems neutral, but who is in reality, highly tormented. It’s a role that makes us forget the sympathetic Gilbert from The Lady Vanishes or the refined Ernest from The Importance of Being Earnest, but in a good way. It simply proves us that Michael Redgrave was capable of playing many different kinds of roles. At the 1951 Cannes Film Festival, the British actor won the Best Actor Award for his performance as Andrew Crocker-Harris.
Margaret Lockwood, who had previously starred in The Lady Vanishes and The Stars Look Down alongside Redgrave, was first considered for the role of Millie, Mr. Crocker-Harris’s wife, but the role went to Jean Kent. I’m sure Margaret would have been great too, but Mrs. Kent seems to have been meant for this role. With her ravaging beauty, she was perfectly able to play the seducing and passionate bad girls and she proves it right. The opposition between her character and Michael Redgrave’s one is fascinating, just like the way she will behave in society versus how she’ll behave when she is alone with her husband. Those situations seem to create two completely different women and Jean Kent was able to adapt herself to both of them like a chameleon.
The role of Frank Hunter, Andrew’s fellow schoolmaster, was given to Nigel Patrick, an actor I didn’t really know, but who turns out to be quite intriguing. Brian Smith plays the little Taplow and his devotion as a young actor makes us having high hopes for him. The Headmaster was played by Wilfrid Hyde-White, who is great and appreciable without stealing the show from Redgrave. Finally, Ronald Howard (who was Leslie Howard’s son – I didn’t know that) plays the role of Crooked-Harris successor. His acting game is very simple, but convincing and he gives to his character a beautiful humility.
At the 1951’s film Cannes Film Festival, The Browning Version also won the Best Screenplay Award and was also nominated for the Golden Palm. The script was indeed brilliant has it creates a justifiable evolution of the story and its characters. It helps us to understand the motivations and certain actions. The Crock’s vulnerability touches us as it touches Taplow. As a matter of fact, Taplow is the eyes of the spectator and, the more we are watching the film, the more we begin to understand Crocker-Harris just like Taplow does. The film also contains some well-thought lines who makes us having a reflection on the situation, one of them being:
Andrew Crocker-Harris: I may have been a brilliant scholar, but I was woefully ignorant of the facts of life.
And of course, there is the final speech, a moment of emotion that I won’t reveal to you in case you haven’t seen the film yet.
For those who wonder, the movie title refers to English poet, Robert Browning’s translation of the Greek tragedy Agamemnon, which plays an important role in the film.
Aside from his Cannes Festival wins and nominations, The Browning Version also won the Bronze Berlin Bear (drama) and the Small Bronze Plate at the Berlin International Film Festival.
It’s no surprise that the film won those international Awards, not only because it’s a clever one, but also because it’s one that can reach everybody across the world. It is English, yes, and we feel the British world and culture, but it’s a story that could happen everywhere at any time.
In 1994, a remake of the film was made with Albert Finney in the leading role. The movie was also nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, which proves that it is, after all, probably not a bad remake. But I still have to see it.
I would like to thank gladly Robin from Pop Culture Reverie for hosting this wonderful blogathon, which was a good opportunity for me to go back in the “school” mood after such long summer vacations.
To read the other lovely entries, please click here.
For those who have read this blog since I created it, you probably know that I’m fond of British films (REAL British films). Following this idea, Terence Twoles Canote’s British Invaders Blogathon is one of my favourite blogging events. Last year, if you remember, I wrote about the very British Anthony Asquith’s The Importance of Being Earnest. For this year’s blogathon, I decided to go with my good old Hitchcock and introduce you to Young and Innocent.
As a matter of fact, Young and Innocent is not Hitchcock most well known film, but it was my introduction to his pre-1940 British films. And I can positively say that, alongside The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, The Lodger, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Murder!, it’s one of his best from this period.
Actually, Young and Innocent is a good introduction to every Hitchcock’s films in general, not only those produced in the UK. Why? We’ll come back to that in a short while.
Young and Innocent (also known as The Girl Was Young in the US) was released in 1937. It was one of Hitchcock’s last films before moving to the States where he’ll make some films produced by the prolific (but not always appreciated by the Master) David O’Selznick.
Young and Innocent is one of those typical “wrong man” Hitchcock’s films: A movie star, Christine Clay, has been murdered. Robert Tisdall (Derrick De Marney) is wrongly accused of being the murderer. Before the trial starts, he manages to escape. The Chief Constable’s daughter, Erica (Nova Pilbeam), after few hesitations, will help him to find the real murderer.
This is very simple. And as you can see, a typical Hitchcock’s film. Of course, everything doesn’t happen the same way for each Hitchcock’s film of this type! The stories are not the same ones, the characters either.
Like every Hitchcock’s films (except for The Ring), Young and Innocent was based on a literary work. However, IMDB informs us that the master of Suspense only used one-third of Elizabeth Mackintosh’s novel A Shilling for Candles (written under the name of Josephine Tey), and changed the identity of the murderer. The film’s screenplay was written by Charles Bennett, Edwin Greenwood and Anthony Armstrong. Charles Bennett is also known for being the author of Blackmail, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, Sabotage, Secret Agent, Foreign Correspondent and Saboteur‘s screenplays, all films directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The two men certainly made a prolific pair. Bennett was nominated at the 1941’s Oscar for his work on Foreign Correspondent.
Young and Innocent presents us a delicious bunch of exclusively British actors who all portray quite intriguing characters. That’s one the strengths of this film: the characters’ variety and their strong contribution to the film.
Starting with Derrick de Marney as Robert Tisdall. This one has indeed the perfect “young and innocent” face. His acting remains very simple, but he doesn’t neglect that British humour that we appreciate so much in Hitchcock’s films. His kind manners make him credible as being the innocent one. In other words, he is one we can easily appreciate.
This was not Nova Pilbeam’s first film under the direction of Hitchcock. Indeed, she previously played the role of Betty Lawrence in the original version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). She was only 19 when she starred in Young and Innocent, but what a brilliant actress she already was! It’s too bad that she wasn’t more well-know. However, she had quite a short film career. Her character, Erica, is someone who will take time before admitting she likes someone, but who will secretly do everything for this person. We can feel that, at some occasions, Nova Pilbeam is maybe a little bit too emotional, but she remains brilliant anyway. Alongside Vivien Leigh, Nova Pilbeam was one of the actresses considered for the role of Iris Henderson in Hithcock’s The Lady Vanishes(1938). The role went to Margaret Lockwood. Also, David O’Selznick, who saw her potential in Young and Innocent, wanted to cast her for Rebecca, but the part went to Joan Fontaine. Maybe this would have made her an international film star.
Young and Innocent was Percy Marmont’s last film under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock. He doesn’t have a leading role, but a very useful and appreciable supporting one. He was very well-cast as the Chief Constable, Colonel Burgoyne, a man who applies the law, but who is not thick headed like some others. I have to say that, among all Hitchcock’s films he made, this one has to be my favourite role of his. He is simple (in the good way) and doesn’t exaggerate his acting.
Edward Rigby, who portrays Old Will, is a perfect British character actor. Ok, I haven’t seen many of his film, but viewing Young and Innocent is enough to say that. He is, by no doubt, the funniest actor of the lot. Just to think of the way he dances makes me smile. Of course, without the character of Old Will himself, the film wouldn’t be the same and the events of the story would certainly take a different turn.
Wait, I said Edward Rigby is the funniest actor of the lot. Actually, J.H Roberts as the Solicitor, Henry Briggs, is too. With is awesome accent he also embodies the most “British” character of the film. It’s too bad that we see him in the film for only a very short while. His presence, as much small as she is, is highly appreciated.
Finally, Young and Innocent introduced Mary Clare and Basil Radford to the Hitchcockian world. In Young and Innocent they play Erica’s aunt and uncle, but we also saw them together the next year as Charters and Baronne Isabel Nisatona in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. We also saw Basil Radford in Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn. Their part in Young and Innocent is unfortunately quite small. They play an amusing duo and we regret not seeing them longer. For those who have seen them in The Lady Vanishes, you’ll agree with me that it’s hard not to smile when we see them is this small scene of Young and Innocent. Of course, this film proves us Mary Clare’s versatility as an actress because her role is so different from the one in The Lady Vanishes. In Hitchcock/Truffaut, Hitchcock reveals to us that this birthday party scene where we see the two actors was cut in the American version of the film. Most regrettable. As he explains, it’s quite an important scene and it was stupid to delete it.
Apart from the actors, Hitchcock had his cameo in the film! And you know what? This is my favourite Hitchcock’s cameo. We see him during this scene when Robert escapes. He’s there with a very small camera which creates a cute and funny contrast: the big Hitchcock and a teeny tiny camera. This looks completely ridiculous, and, the poor one, he tries to take a picture, but we can clearly see he can’ because of all the scene’s chaos. He also tries to say something to the policeman next to him, but this one is too busy with other things to listen to him. Poor Hitch!
Take a moment to watch this scene (the cameo is at 1min28)
To continue with the narrative aspects of the film, what I like about it is the irony of the climax. During this one, the trio formed by Robert, Erica and Old Will is at the Grand Hotel to find the real murderer. I won’t hide to you that he is there indeed, but what’s funny about this scene is the fact that he completely ridicules himself. He’s not subtle at all. The Young and Innocent‘s villain is certainly one of Hitchcock’s most clumsy villains. He just has to see Old Will to loose all his credibility (you’ll understand why when you’ll see the film).
I also like this scene when Robert manages to run away by only hiding himself with a pair of glasses. Are people that nut? This film certainly has a lot of humour, a Hitchcockian humour indeed.
You might wonder why it is called Young and Innocent. Well, I read in a book about Hitchcock that, in this film, the children behave like adults and the adults behave like children. It’s not completely false! For example, at the gas station, it’s a little boy who fills up the gas tank instead of his father who is busy eating his lunch. And we can see Erica’s aunt amusement when she plays with the children at her daughter’s birthday party. The title could also be a reference to the simple fact that the protagonist of the film, Robert is young and… innocent: he hasn’t killed Christine Clay. But in a general idea, the two main characters of the story are young people. Derrick De Marney was already 31 when he starred in this film (it’s not “old”, but it’s not as young as Nova Pilbeam), but we have to agree that he looks much younger. I mentioned that, in the US, the film was called The Girl Was Young. Well, yes, she was young, but I believe it’s a much less interesting title as it contains nothing very relevant. This is just like if To Catch a Thief, for example, was called The Girl Was Rich…
For the technical aspects, Young and Innocent remains very interesting for this travelling shot in the Grand Hotel. The camera shows us a long shot of the ballroom and gradually moves to the murdered to end this travelling with an extreme close-up of his eyes. That’s something Hitchcock liked to do: moving from a general view of something to one very precise element. He repeated the same thing in Notorious, when the camera shows us the famous key in Ingrid Bergman’s hand, but the effect was not as much well made as it was in Young and Innocent. We can easily say that it’s the best shot of the film.
In the same scene, the music also has a very important role to play. For those who haven’t seen the film yet, I simply want to inform you that I’ll be revealing spoilers in this paragraph. As I explained in my article Hitchcock and the Music, that scene has to be my favourite collaboration between Hitchcock and the music. The way he uses it is quite amazing. During this scene, there’s a band playing music and the singer sings “I’m right here to tell you mister, no one can like the drummer man!” A song that seems anodyne at first, but who turns out to be a big clue as we soon discover that, the man Erica, Robert and Old Will are looking for his… the drummer man! Of course, this adds even more irony to the scene. No One Can Like the Drummer Man was composed by Samuel Lerner [end of the spoilers].
You can watch this scene here (or wait to see the full movie if you don’t want any spoilers revealed).
Warning: the song will probably be stuck in your head forever (but it’s a nice song, luckily)!
Well, Young and Innocent, as you can see, is one of those less known Hitchcock’s films that certainly deserve to be seen and be better known. I can say, without hesitation, that, after The Lady Vanishes, this one is my second favourite British Hitchcock’s film. It’s a real entertainment and it can only make you want to see more of his early work.
If you haven’t seen it, I invite you to do so, it’s only 1h20 😉
Aren’t they some movies that you always feel like watching, whatever the time, your mood, etc.? For me, Give Us the Moon, one of the most delightful comedies ever made, is one of them. Yes, a delicious film, just like ice cream. It’s one of those films that makes you forget your problems and simply appreciate a cinematographic moment. Talking about ice cream, it’s precisely for the Ice Cream Social Blogathonhosted by Fritzi at Movie Silently, that I chose to write about Give Us the Moon. I wanted to do so since a long time, but never had the occasion to. When I saw what Fritzi Blogathon was about (writing about movies that cheer us up), I said to myself “Ok, Virginie, that’s your occasion.”
My objective here will not only be to tell you why I love this film so much, but I also really want to convince you to see it as well, because you might have never heard about Give Us the Moon. It’s normal, it’s not a very well-known film, but you ought to watch it and discover it. It’s an order!
In this case, you might wonder how I came to watch this film. It’s simple. Two words: Margaret Lockwood. As she is one of my very favourite actresses, I want to watch all her films, so I purchased it (having then no idea what it was about), watched it and voila. Oh, and it also stars a young Jean Simmons which is for me a major bonus. Jean Simmons and Margaret Lockwood in the same film, that’s like dream!
This British moving picture was directed by Val Guest and release in 1944. It stars Margaret Lockwood as Nina, Peter Graves as Peter Pyke, Vic Oliver as Sascha, Roland Culver as Ferdinand Foret, Jean Simmons as Heidi, Frank Cellier as Pyke Sr. (aslo known as “The Fat One”), Max Bacon as Jacobus, George Relph as Otto, Eliot Makeham as Lunka, Alan Keith as Raphael, Iris Lang as Tania and Gibb McLaughlin as Marcel. The movie was based on the novel The Elephant is White by Caryl Brahams and S.J Simon, a book that I certainly would love to read. Caryl Brahams also participated to the writing of the film alongside Val Guest.
Give Us the Moon takes place in London after the second world war. Peter Pyke, a lazy young man, lives in his father’s chic hotel the “Eisenhower Hotel”, and doesn’t seem to do much of his life. However, his father is pressuring him to take care of the hotel business, which obviously doesn’t interest Peter at all. One morning, he receives a letter from an unknown girl asking him to meet her at the restaurant The Silver Samovar. The letter is signed “Nina Princess of…Ah! But that was in Moscow” Of course, Peter is curious and goes to the restaurant. On his way, he saves a tramp who was about to commit suicide by jumping in a river. The tramp accuses him to “interfere with his destiny” and finally asks him for money. At the Silver Samovar, Peter wait, and wait and wait, until he discovers that he is not the only one to have received the famous letter. He has been fooled. Angry, he decides to only take a glass of water. Then, the “famous” Nina arrives and begs him to leave, because her “husband” is “very jealous”. Peter goes, but comes back as soon as she has left to finish his glass of water (and doesn’t really believe Nina’s story). He then meets Heidi, Nina’s little sister. When Nina comes back, she doesn’t understand what he’s still doing here. He then tells her that “this would make a fine story for the morning paper”. Nina, scandalized, asks to her friends to not let him go. He is then brought in a room where are seated a few other people. Nina is angry that Peter might ruin the restaurant, but he tells her that this was only a joke. Meanwhile, Nina and her partners keep talking about “White Elephants”. Nina explains to Peter that he and his friend are “White Elephant”, meaning they are useless members of the society. They make money by doing nothing useful or helpful, one of them being Sascha, the tramp Peter had previously met. Peter confesses that he hates work himself. So, Nina and the other agrees that he should become a white elephant. Of course, this is just the beginning of the adventure.
Alongside movies such as Bringing Up Baby or It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World!, Give Us the Moon is one of the craziest comedies I’ve ever seen, but crazy in the good way! The moments where I don’t laugh are rare. Even when I just think about it, it makes me smile. See how a great effect it has on me!
The comedy in this film is first embodied by the characters’ variety. They are all interesting.
First, you have Peter Pyke. Peter is one of those people who succeed to escape from a boring business life to have some fun at last. Well, that’s what he is meant to be. Even if Peter can be easily irritable, on another side, he has a great sense of humour and he is a rather sympathetic person. Peter is played by Peter Graves. We’re here talking about the British actor, not the American one. I have to say it’s the only film of his I’ve seen, but I think he’s a rather nice actor. It’s easy to appreciate him. He and Margaret Lockwood have a great chemistry together. They also starred together in I’ll Be Your Sweetheart release the next year (also directed by Val Guest).
Then, there’s Nina. Nina is a white Russian and claims she once was a princess. However, Nina has a lot of imagination and Peter (whom she calls “Pete”) is not easily fooled. Nina is a sparkling young lady, full of life and energy. She also has a maternal side and often seems to forget that Heidi is not her daughter, but jus her sister. By playing the role of Nina, Margaret Lockwood proves us her versatility as an actress. Here, she is as lovely as ever and simply hilarious. I love when she does that little sigh “Hummmm!” She’ll certainly reach your heart when you’ll watch this film!
Sascha is probably the most deceptive of all the White Elephants. He finds incredible ways to make money, one of them involving Pyke Sr’s hotel. Sasha is a very expressive person. He talks and acts in a very theatrical way, what makes him a rather colourful character. Sasha was played by Vic Oliver, who certainly turns out to be an intriguing actor.
Heidi is the youngest White Elephant. She’s Nina’s eleven years old sister and a little pest. The only one who actually seems to appreciate her is her sister. Heidi hates school and always finds a way to run away from it. She’s a little rebel, smokes and drinks. But overall, she’s very clever and we can help being charmed by her girlish laugh. She’ll become Pyke Sr’s ally when this one will have trouble with the White Elephants at his hotel. This was Jean Simmons’ second film (the first one being Sports Day). She was only 15 when she starred in it. Even if she doesn’t have a leading role, her supporting part is rather important and any Jean Simmons’ fans will enjoy it. I think she’s my favourite character in the film.
Ferdinand Foret (Gee, I love this name!) is probably the laziest White Elephants. He’s always lying down in his sofa and seems to never get up from it. Ferdinand is working on a thesis about jealousy. He makes love to married women to study the husbands’ reactions. However, he has never been caught, so his business is going quite slowly… Until he finally gets caught by the landlord. He will be provoked to a duel. This film allowed me to discover Roland Culver, who certainly is an appreciable actor.
Pyke Sr’s only objective in life is to make sure his son becomes a businessman and run the hotel just like him. He talks a lot a constantly reproaches to his son to be too lazy. To him, the most important thing in life is to make money. However, he won’t say “no” to some fun… I think Frank Cellier was well cast as Pyk. He has the physic and the perfect attitude for such a character.
These are the most important characters of the story. Apart from them, there is Jacobus, a White Elephant who spends his time cutting reduction coupons to save money; General Lunka, who owns the Silver Samovar; Alan Keith, a White Elephant who has a “system”: “With 10 000 pounds I could make your fortune”; Otto, an hypnotic; Marcel, the hotel’s main valet and Tania, another white elephant.
All these characters, even the minor ones, add a rich substance to the film and make it so lively. It’s hard to say which one is a favourite as they are all very different and all have their own shiny personality.
When I was watching the film for the blogathon, I took notes and wow! I couldn’t stop myself quoting it. Give Us the Moon is, of course, a comedy as I have said and the dialogues are a major element to this hilarity. Here are some (ok, many) of my favourite examples:
1. Servant: It’s your breakfast sir.
Peter: There’s something down there staring at me.
Servant: It’s a bloater, sir.
Peter: Well take it away, it reminds me of Arthur Askey. (I was curious to know who Arthur Askey was. He was a British stand up comic).
3. Sascha [after Peter had saved him from his false suicide attemp]: Who are you to interfere with my destiny?
Sascha: What right have you to come between me and my chosen mistress, Death?
4. Sascha [ to Peter]: Then go away English man, to your life, to your roast beef, to your laughter. Ha! Ha! Ha!
5. Sascha [to Peter]: You’ve got money?
Peter: What a nerve! Ahaha!
6. Sascha [repeated line]: What is time? What is life? What is the universe?
7. Nina [talking about her imaginary husband]: He is an American from Chicago, a very bad man. They call him Two-Gun…erm… Two-Gun Abramovitch.
8. Peter: I forgot my water.
Servant: Your water?
Peter: Yes, the stuff that goes under bridges.
9. Heidi [first line. to Peter]: Tip him! (talking about the taxi driver).
10. Peter [meeting Heidi]: Howdy Heidi!
11. Nina [about Peter]: Treat him gently. He has a nice smile!
12. Heidi [ringin a bell]: Come on, wake up!
Raphael: Go away Heidi!
Ferdinand: Why doesn’t somebody drown her?
13. Tania [to Peter]: This is Otto.
Peter: What is he? A white zombie?
14. Otto [repeated line]: Mud. Everything is mud.
15. Nina : You know we must get the ceiling painted. [this line really comes out of nowhere, that’s what makes it funny]
16. Various characters: All elephants are my brothers.
17. Pyke Sr. [to a valet]: What are you doing here?
Valet: Nothing, sir.
Pyke Sr. : Do I pay you to do nothing?
Valet: Yes, sir.
18. Nina: It’s only the stupid person in this world who are happy.
19. Heidi [arriving to her new school]: Oh blast!
Nina: Heidi! Quiet!
Heidi: Well, I’ve left my cigarettes behind.
Nina: It is not nice that you drink and smoke.
20. Nina: Pete, look! A haystack!
Peter: Well, what of it?
21. Peter [sitting down on a needle in the haystack]: Ow!
Nina: My Pete. How clever of you to find a needle in a haystack!
22. Ferdinand [being provoked to a duel with the landlord]: The things I’ve done for my thesis!
23. Nina [to Peter on the evening before Ferdinand’s duel]: And now we must say goodbye to Ferdinand. And remember to keep a sad face because he has only a few more hours with us.
24. Nina [arriving on the duel location with a first Aid quit]: Ferdinand! Ohhh! Ferdinand! But you have won! This is glorious! Where is the dead man?
Ferdinand: We haven’t started yet…
25. Nina [to Sascha wearing a complet]: Oh. Sacha, but you look so distingué!
26. Pyke Sr. [surprised by Nina while doing his exercices at the hotel’s gym]: Good lord! How long have you been there?
Nina: But continue. Do not mind me. I like it. It reminds me of the ballet.
27. Pyke Sr. [writing a check to Nina]: Nina who?
Pyke Sr. : “Pay Cash”
28. Otto [power cut has started]: Dark. Everything is dark.
Ferdinand: Then why don’t you just shut up and go to sleep?
I know there are many, but I just love them all!
What I also love about Give Us the Moon is the irony of it. For instance, when the Russian characters talk in another language, it’s never in Russian, but always in French (???) making us wondering if they are really Russian! I can think of Nina saying ” We shall pay him back every sous” or “Bon” at the end of a sentence. Or I can think of Sasha saying ” Voilà!” or ” Oh pardon monsieur! Pardon mademoiselle!” And I have to say, from the few words we hear, their french seems quite good and well spoken. 😉
Another irony resides in the fact that the film takes place after the war. However, it was made during the war (released in 1944)! It gives us the clue that it was one of those films that were made to make us forget the troubles that were going on at the time, a movie to simply entertain the people in those difficult moments.
Finally, one of those little delightful ironic things is the fact that, every times Nina and Peter try to kiss, they are interrupted by someone or something. They are about to kiss and Sascha arrives: “Ex…quisite.” They are about to kiss and Heidi arrives, sidling on the banister. They are about to kiss and Peter sits down on a needle in the haystack.
What is also amusing about Give Us the Moon are the many references to classic Hollywood and famous movie stars in general:
The film is introduced to us with a quote: “If Any Character in this film resemble and character. Living of dead. Then that character has no character.” – Groucho Marx or Someone-
Sascha [Talking on the phone with the Swedish Ambassy]: Oh I just called you, it’s nothing important… I wanted to tell you, I love Greta Garbo”
A young valet at the hotel [about Sascha]: They said Jack Benny was the meanest man in the world.
Peter [about the man sitting at the table with Nina]: What is that pocket Charles Laughton doing at Nina’s table?
There are pictures of movies stars (including Marlene Dietrich) in Heidi’s room
One of the white Elephant, Sergei, is in Hollywood to become an actor. He has promised to the other members to send them half of his pay. They are all waiting patiently the famous “letter” since a long time.
Nina: Everywhere I have adventures. I remember when I was at Casablanca…
Nina: I was never in Casablanca.
I’ve always wondered if that was not a reference to the film Casablanca… Could be!
Finally, aside from all these quotes, various characters and movie stars’ references, what makes this film worthy and entertaining are all those delightful little moments and little details. The film is truffled by a ton of them, so it will be hard to name them all. You also have to discover them by yourself when you’ll watch it! Because you will watch it. Yes?
In the meantime, I can name a few of my favourites just to give you a preview:
– Nina and Peter’s love scenes almost always happen in the Silver Samovar’ staircase.
– In one of those love scenes, we heard sentimental music. Peter (and us) then discover it was Sascha playing violin with a little orchestra (the musicians of the restaurant) to add a romantic ambiance. 😉
– Heidi’s laugh.
– Nina’s smile and little grin.
– The servant at the hotel who takes a shoe instead of the phone.
– The door at the Silver Samovar who always creaks, telling us when someone is going in or going out.
– Nina’s stories.
– Heidi, who always finds a may to make noise and disturb everybody, often with a bell.
– Nina and Peter’s reaction when they discover Heidi has once more run away from school.
– When Nina shows a picture of Sergei to Peter.
– The lobster in Otto’s plate, starring at him.
– When Sascha cooks “crêpes suzettes”
And so on.
I’ve obviously have said much about this film, but it’s because there was a lot to say! I just simply love it! Give Us the Moon is not a known as a “masterpiece”, but it’s the perfect movie to simply be entertained and not having to think too much. It’s a film that deserves to be seen many times. While I’m writing these words, it makes me want to watch it over and over again. Give Us the Moon is the perfect film to cheer you up and make you forget about your life problems. Well, that’s supposed to be the objective of the movies people are talking about in this blogathon!
Anyway, I hope this long article (!) convinced you to see this film for the first time, or re-watch it, if you’ve already seen it. I swear, you won’t regret it!
Unfortunately, there aren’t any existing trailer of the film, but I’ll invite you to watch this only youtube clip. It’s short, enjoyable and it will gives you a good preview.