suRecently, my friend Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood visited my Facebook group on Joan Fontaine and gave me the excellent idea to host a blogathon in honour of her 100th birthday on October 22, 2017. The idea was definitely an appealing one and I’m glad that Crystal thought about me for hosting it (I think she knows I’m a big fan of Mrs. Fontaine). I had to think a bit about it since the Grace Kelly blogathon is also coming up not long after, but I found it impossible to put that idea aside. I also said to myself that it would be nice if Crystal could co-host it with me and. fortunately, she accepted. This will be our second blogathon collaboration, the first one being the fun Marathon Stars Blogathon that we hosted in March 2016. I hope this one will also be a success.
Joan Fontaine didn’t have as much luck as her sister Olivia de Havilland and died before she could turn 100. Nevertheless, this is not a reason why we shouldn’t celebrate her!
If you want to participate to this blogathon, please consider these few rules:
1- Choose a subject. It can be anything related to Joan Fontaine: her career, a particular movie, her fashion style. You decide. You can submit your subject here, on Crystal’s blog, via e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Twitter (@ginnie_sp). Please notice that the event will take place from October 20 to October 22, 2017. Please provide the name of your blog and the URL.
2- However, there is one subject we don’t allow: an article about her feud with Olivia de Havilland. We are here to celebrate Joan, not to talk about that unfortunate thing. Of course, if you want to write about it on your blog, it’s your own business, but it won’t be considered for the blogathon.
3- We allow duplicates, but only 2 blogs for the same subject.
4- All articles must be new material. We won’t accept posts that were published before the blogathon was announced.
5- We allow a maximum of 2 entries by bloggers, just to give a chance to everybody.
6- Can I participate to the blogathon if I don’t have a blog? Yes! Simply send your text via e-mail and me or Crystal will publish it on our own blog and credit you.
7- Once your subject has been approved, grab one of these beautiful banners and put it on your blog to help us promoting the blogathon. These were made by both me and Crystal.
8- On the blogathon’s first day, me and Crystal will update a new post on our respective blogs where we will include all the entries and where you will be able to submit yours. Don’t forget, the blogathon will start on October 20, 2017, and will end on October 22, 2017!
9- If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask! 🙂
To help you in your choice, here are the topics that have already been claimed twice:
Last Saturday, we celebrated what would have been Joan Fontaine’s 99th birthday. Unfortunately, as I was quite busy, I didn’t really have time to do anything to celebrate the event on my blog. Well, I’m back with a top from the top of the world and would like to introduce you my 10 most favourite Joan Fontaine’s films. Of course, these are my personal choices, so I simply ask you to respect them (I think you know the song now)!
Here we go:
10. The Affairs of Susan ( William A. Seiter, 1945)
I must be honest, I really hesitated between The Affairs of Susan and The Bigamist, because I’ve only seen them once and quite a long time ago, so I don’t really remember which one I preferred. I’ll go with The Affairs because of Edith Head’s gorgeous gown.
9. The Constant Nymph (Edmund Goulding, 1943)
But one of my very favourite Joan Fontaine’s performances
8. Jane Eyre (Robert Stevenson, 1944)
Once again, it’s one I’ve seen quite a long time ago. But I remember enjoying it. Must revisit it as soon as possible as it is one of Joan’s most iconographic films.
7. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls, 1948)
Joan is lovely in this film. I couldn’t think of someone better for the role.
6. The Emperor Waltz (Billy Wilder, 1948)
Yes, this probably comes as a surprise (even to me) that I like it better than Letter or Jane Eyre, but it’s just a film I enjoy so much, and even more than that I’ve been to Vienna! You can read my review here.
5. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Fritz Lang, 1956)
A very underrated one. I watched it for the first time Saturday and highly enjoyed it. Fritz Lang is always a winner for me.
4. Until they Sail (Robert Wise, 1957)
Because of the cast: Joan Fontaine, Jean Simmons, Piper Laurie, Paul Newman and Sandra Dee
3. September Affair (William Dieterle, 1950)
Joan and Joseph Cotten. Such a beautiful film.
2. Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941)
Hitchcock! And she won the Oscar, you know!
1. Rebecca(Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)
Hitchcock again! I know, not a very original #1 choice, but it’s such a great film! What more can I say…
Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed. Don’t hesitate to share your personal top with me!
During the whole month of August, TCM has a special event called “Summer Under the Stars”: one day, one star. Movies starring this star are broadcast on the channel from the morning until the night. Unfortunately, I don’t have TCM on my television… but that doesn’t prevent me to participate to the 2016 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon hosted by Kristen from the inspirational blog Journeys in Classic Film. For this blogathon, each participant chooses a topic related to one star on the schedule. Today, on August 30, TCM is honouring Jean Simmons’s career. As she is an actress I absolutely adore, I had to choose her as a topic for my entry. I will more precisely talk about her performance and her character in the underrated 1957’s Until they Sail.
Until they Sail isn’t Robert Wise’s most well-known film, but it remains a secret hidden gem and proves, once again, his versatility as a movie director. I mean, the man could direct every type of movies: science fiction (The Day the Earth Stood Still), noirs (Born to Kill), dramas (Until they sail), musicals (West Side Story, The Sound of Music), horror (The Haunting), etc. I believe, he and Michael Curtiz were among the most versatile movie directors in Hollywood.
But let’s get back to our main movie. Until they Sail certainly has a stellar cast, not only including Jean Simmons, but also Joan Fontaine (Jean and Joan in the same film: that’s just idealistic for me!), Paul Newman, Piper Laurie, Sandra Dee (in her first feature), Charles Drake and Wally Cassell.
All the actors are brilliant, but today, we’ll focus on the angelic Jean Simmons.
Until They Sail takes place in Christchurch, New-Zealand during the World War II. The men from the town have left to go fight on the front. Barbara Leslie Forbes (Jean Simmons) and her sisters Anne (Joan Fontaine), Delia (Piper Laurie) and Evelyn (Sandra Dee) are on their own having previously lost their parents and having a brother, Kit, left with the army. The city is now a women’s one and seems quite empty with this absence of male figures. But the Leslie sisters manage as best they can to continue their life normally. However, Delia, who has just been married and is unhappy with it, moves to Wellington to work in the navy. The fear of the war is always felt in the sisters’ hearts, especially when they are thinking about what may happen to their relative, especially to Kit and Barbara’s husband, Mark. This lack of men doesn’t last long when American marines arrive to Christchurch. Anne will meet Capt. Richard Bates (Charles Drake) and will fall in love with him, and Barbara will make the acquaintance of Capt. Jack Harding (Paul Newman) during a visit to her sister in Wellington. They’ll soon realise that love in wartime is not an easy thing to manage.
Until they Sail was based on a story by James A. Michener and written by Robert Anderson. The movie is not known as the most famous one for any of the actors and unfortunately wasn’t a commercial success on its release. However, it can be considered a worthy one and deserves more recognition. Any fan of Simmons/Fontaine/Dee/Laurie or Newman has to make sure not to miss it. It’s a movie that makes you think. For once, it shows you how the civilians, mostly women, used to live during the war. We never see the men on the front. If we see soldiers, it will always be on the civilian side where there’s no battle. The battle that is presented to us here, is the temptation by the women not to feel too lonely and try to live as normally as possible.
Jean Simmons and Joan Fontaine are the two main reasons why I first watched this film. They are two actresses I simply adore. So, the idea of seeing them in the same film was nothing but very appealing to me. And I was not disappointed! I also love Paul Newman, and it allowed me to discover the forever sweet Sandra Dee and Pipe Laurie, who also turns out to be a fine actress (more often remember for the role of the crazy mother in Brian de Palma’s Carrie).
In the movie, it’s Jean Simmons who has the leading role. The film is mainly focused on her and the story is seen through her eyes. All the four sisters have an interesting personality: Anne is the serious one, Evelyn is the sweet and innocent one, Delia is the rebellious one and Barbara is the wise one.
Barbara is the first sister to be introduced to us. What we first hear are her thoughts. Jean Simmons’s voice is one I could recognize everywhere. It’s clear, melodious and well articulated. She certainly had one of the loveliest voices in Hollywood. Actually, her voice makes me think of Audrey Hepburn’s one. We can notice something quite special during the film about this voice: even when Barbara is emotive, she manages to speak as clearly as possible. I honestly think Jean Simmons would have made an awesome diction teacher!
Barbara is a real friend for her sisters. She is compassionate and probably is the one who thinks the more about her sisters. She tries to understand their problems and help them the best she can by giving them wise advice. She comforts them, share her goodwill with them and sometimes tries too hard to understand what is impossible to understand.
Even if she’s not the older sister (Anne is), it’s easy to say that she kind of play the role of the strong mother.
The problem is, Barbara doesn’t think enough about herself. She has too much to handle concerning her sisters and neglect herself. Of course, she can count on them too, but her fear of losing her strength insists her to stay aside. She worries about everybody, her sisters, the faith of the men who are at war and forget to be happy. Concerning that, the real inspiration would be Evelyn who, despite the fact of being conscious of the events, still manages to enjoy herself in the moroseness of Christchurch.
Barbara doesn’t easily get angry, but when she does, the main reason is “the war”. She is angry because of the war (which is totally understandable). She’s also an honest person, but will never tell the truth to someone in a way to hurt them. She is too kind for that. She’s calm, but she can explode. Is she resisting too much? In a memorable scene, she gives a passionate kiss to Capt. Jack Harding. This moment is intense and it looks like Barbara is releasing herself from something. Maybe she’s looking for someone she can count on to forget her loneliness. In a previous scene, she looks at her sister Anne and Capt. Richard Bate kissing each other. Her melancholic look makes us guess she’d like to have someone for her too, and that she’s probably missing her husband who is on the front. We certainly feel sorry for her.
Barbara often looks serious, sad and lost in her thoughts. We guess she’s suffering from a high feeling of loneliness. She often has this melancholic look in her face and we wonder what she’s thinking about. However, she can be happy too, and that’s how Jean Simmons shows us her facility of moving from one emotion to another. She can move from sadness to joy in no time. Those moments of joy allow us to admire Jean Simmons’s smile who is one of the most glorious smiles ever.
Jean Simmons is an actress who never needed to overact to make us understand what her character is feeling and to reach us. She’s an actress who can express a lot of things only with her gaze and subtle facial expressions. There’s this moment [spoiler] when her character Babara announces the death of brother Kit to her sister Delia. [end of spoiler] Here, she simply breaks our heart, but she doesn’t have to do much for it. It’s just the way her eyes are looking at Delia and the way she chooses to speak. This is not that much felt in the tone of her voice, but more in the rhythm of her talk. The way she simply says “Delia, Kit’s dead” is enough to make us understand the feeling of sadness that is omnipresent in the house.
She’ll also make us have tears in her eyes in this scene when she [spoiler] receives a telegram announcing the death of her husband Mark. She doesn’t even look at the letter, but simply goes away quietly in her bedroom while her sisters are looking at her and feeling sorry for her. Then, one she is alone, she bursts into tears. We don’t see Jean’s face at this moment, but only hear her cries and that’s enough for us to understand her suffering. [End of spoiler]
Jean Simmons certainly was a very natural actress and also managed to make a great teamwork with every actor of the cast. We are looking forward to the moments with her and Paul Newman as they are those where Barbara kind of expresses her true side, the weaknesses she tries to hide to her sisters so they’ll see her as a strong person. Those moments between the two actors are not exactly love scenes like the ones we see in typical classic Hollywood films. There’s something kind of “modern” and more realistic about them. It’s not a Cinderella story. She gets along well with him, but on what level?
Jean Simmons is often a synonym of tenderness and this is pretty well expressed in this film by the way she behaves, the way she talks and the words she chooses to express herself. Her tenderness shines through the final moment of the film and her wisdom, in her final lines:
“As they say, to understand is to forgive. Or is it, to understand is not to forgive? I can never remember. “
This simply represents perfectly the nature of Barbara Leslie.
Until they Sail is a film that deserves more recognition. It has a fabulous cast and the story is sad, but beautiful in its own rights. If you haven’t seen it yet, I first invite you to watch the trailer:
As a little girl, I wanted to be a princess and be married to a policeman (a policeman, not a prince). That would have been the ideal life for me. But, of course, I grew up and made wiser decisions. Because being a princess doesn’t only involve wearing beautiful dresses and being rich, but also a ton of exhausting responsibilities. Reality sometimes sucks. However, dreaming and having an interest for royalty is still possible. That’s how history was made, with its countless kings, queens, princes, princesses, countesses, etc. We can read about them in books or we can witness them in films. These can be real or fictional stories.
My friend Emily from The Flapper Dame invited us to participate to her blogathon, The Royalty on Film Blogathon, celebrating her two passions: movies and royalty. Of course, I was happy to subscribe for the event. My film choice for the event is an unusual one, not the first film we think about when we mention films about royalty: The Emperor Waltz (Billy Wilder, 1948). But as I’m going to Austria very soon, I thought that could be nothing but a most interesting choice.
As I said, The Emperor Waltz takes place in Austria, and around the beginning of the 20th century. Virgil Smith (Bing Crosby), an American seller, and his dog Button are in Vienna to send a gramophone to Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. On her side, Countess Johanna Augusta Franziska von Stoltzenberg-Stolzenberg (Joan Fontaine) and her father, Baron Holenia (Roland Culver) are waiting in the hall too to meet the Emperor for a most important business. Johanna thinks the Emperor wants to create an alliance between her and another sovereign, but she then discovers that he simply wants to create an alliance between her poodle, Scheherezade, and his, Louis. Baron Holenia is most thrilled as this would mean they’ll be connected to the Emperor’s family. Meanwhile, Virgil is having trouble because people suspect that the box containing the gramophone contains a bomb. The palace is alerted and the Emperor has to wait in a little room until everything is fixed. A man of the court throws the box in the fountain and Virgil is obviously angry. He manages to save his product from the waters and shows the utility of the gramophone to the man in question and the soldiers, but this one orders him to leave before he even has time to meet the emperor. As he is going, the countess and her father come out of the palace with Sheherezade. Buttons sees her and run to her. They fight and Scheherazade bites Button. The countess, her dog and her father leave without apologizing. Later, Sheherezade suffers from a nervous breakdown. She is afraid of other dogs and the cause is Button. According to Dr. Zwieback (Sig Ruman), she has to meet the little dog again to overcome her fear. Johanna and Virgil will agree to make peace to help the dog. Which will work, I mean, REALLY work as the two dogs will fall in love and, as faith is mean to be, their owners too… The main story is presented to us as a long flashback.
The Emperor Waltz is meant to be a musical, however, we just hear a few songs all sang by Bing Crosby and his beautiful deep voice. The most memorable one is “I Kiss Your Hand, Madame”. Well, to me it is. So, for those who don’t like musicals (don’t mistake me, I love musicals), you can’t suffer too much by watching this film!
One of the songs, “The Emperor Waltz” is, of course, easy to associate with the title. That’s probably the main association we can make between the film and its title. Yes, there’s an emperor in the film and, yes, people dance waltz (we’re in the court of Vienna after all), but this is not the main suggest. The lyrics of the song were added to Johann Strauss music “The Emperor Waltz”.
Aside from the song, I’ll say that my own personal favourite music moment in the film is the one when Sheherazed runs away to join Button, who is on a little island in the mountains. She is pursued by her masters, and we can hear Rossini’s William Tell‘s Overture during the scene. That makes it both a funny and epic moment.
Everybody knows that music…
I said earlier that films about royalty could include real of fictional stories and/or characters. As for The Emperor Waltz, the story (and that won’t be a surprise for you) is fictional and most of its characters are. The only exception is Emperor Franz Joseph. Also known as Franz Joseph I of Austria, he was Emperor from 1848 to his death in 1916. Franz Joseph can also been known for having been married to one of Austria’s most iconic and famous monarch: Empress Elisabeth of Austria, also known as Sissi (immortalized on the screen by Romy Schneider). Sadly, no Sissi in the film, as this one was murdered in 1898 at the age of 60. Interestingly, the Emperor was portrayed by Richard Haydn, who also played Uncle Max in The Sound of Music, another film taking place in Austria. But with his long white beard and his shaved head, he’s pretty hard to recognize in the Billy Wilder’s film.
Of course, our main interest for the film is not necessarily for the Emperor, but mostly for the Countess and the American seller. Both Bing Crosby and Joan Fontaine used what they normally excelled at to satisfy us: Joan, her capacity to switch easily from one emotion to another and Bing, his seducing and beautiful singing voice. He was a fine actor as well.
Roland Culver was an interesting choice as Baron Holenia, who is seen a man who only thinks about fortune and important alliances.
Although the film takes place in Austria, the interior scenes were filmed in Paramount studios, and, as for the outdoor mountain scenes, they were filmed in Jasper National Park in Canada. I was a bit disappointed when I learned that, thinking first that it has really been filmed in Austria, but the illusion remains efficient. These are, after all, beautiful mountains and it’s believable. Of course, filming in Austria could have been more expensive. Now that I know more about the movie locations of this film. It doesn’t only makes me want to visit Austria, but also Jasper National Park, which seems to be a lovely and grand place too!
When we think about Billy Wilder’s filmography, The Emperor Waltz is not the first film that comes up to our mind. Billy Wilder himself wasn’t very satisfied with the film. As for the shooting, the Canadian weather didn’t make it easy, and the off-screen chemistry between Joan Fontaine and Bing Crosby wasn’t very good. Once again, poor Joan was snubbed by her leading actor…
On it’s release, the film wasn’t a big commercial success and the critics where mixed.
But despite that, The Emperor Waltz remains a lovely and enjoyable film, even if it’s not a perfect one. It was nominated to the Oscar for Best Costumes (Edith Head- what a surprise…) and Best Original Score (Victor Young), and to the Writers of Guild of America for Best Screenplay (Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder – they’ll both win the Best Screenplay Oscar two years later for their marvellous work on Sunset Boulevard).
Music and costumes are indeed among the best things in the film. I’ve previously talked about the music, so we’ll stick to the costumes. As always, Edith Head did a marvellous job to illustrate the story through a bunch of marvellous clothes. Those colors are a real treat for our eyes and, once again, it can make us dream to be a princess (or, in this case, I shall say: a countess!)
Anyway, The Emperor Waltz is a film that deserves to be explored, especially if you enjoy movies where love and royalty are the central subjects. It’s a light, funny and colourful film that can only make you pass a good moment. I’ve seen it twice, and twice I enjoyed my viewing, even if it’s not a masterpiece.
A big thanks to Emily for hosting this awesome blogathon! I invite you to read the other “royal” entries as well 😉 :
Are you ready for a new top list? I know you are! I’ve promised myself to come back with a new one every week and, so far, I haven’t really kept my promise… But I’m working on it!
So, today, I present you my top 15 favourite Oscar winning performances by an actress (to those who won for BEST ACTRESS. For BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, we’ll have to look at a futur top). I first wanted to do a top of my favourite performances by an actress without considering the Oscar wins, but it was too difficult as I have too many favourite performances! So, this seemed to be a good compromise, and I’m quite satisfied with my choices!
Of course, this list is very subjective. My top 1 might not be your top one, and your top 3 might not be my top 3. It’s not an objective list. These are just my personal choices and the first objective of this list is really just to entertain you and share my cinematic tastes with you.
To make this more thrilling, I’ll present you my choices in descending order. So, number one will be a more surprise for you!
But even if this is a subjective list, I do hope you’ll like it (or well, at least 1 or 2 of my choices ahah)! :O
Ok, here we go!
15. Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy – Bruce Beresford, 1989)
14. Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking – Tim Robbins, 1995)
13. Faye Dunaway (Network – Sidney Lumet, 1976)
Well, I do hope Faye would have won the Oscar for Bonnie and Clyde, but I also love her performance in Network (otherwise she wouldn’t be on the list!)
12. Joan Fontaine (Suspicion – Alfred Hitchcock, 1941)
The only actress/actor who ever won an Oscar for a performance in an Hitchcock’s film. Now that’s quite a moment in Oscar history! And she was great!
11. Diane Keaton (Annie Hall – Woody Allen, 1977)
Imagine if, being too shocked by the emotion of winning an Oscar she would have said “Ladida ladida la la” as an acceptance speech!
10. Natalie Portman (Black Swan – Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
9. Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight – George Cukor, 1944)
Yes, we do love very psychological performances!
8. Greer Garson (Mrs. Miniver – William Wyler, 1942)
7. Grace Kelly (The Country Girl – George Seaton, 1954)
THE COUNTRY GIRL, Grace Kelly, 1954, bottles
I know some of you won’t agree here, but I do think Grace deserved her Oscar for this brilliant performance! We have to support our favourites, no? 😉
6. Katharine Hepburn (On Golden Pond – Mark Rydell, 1981)
That was Ms. Hepburn 4th and last Oscar. A very well-deserved one!
5. Shirley Booth (Come Back Little Sheba -Daniel Mann, 1952)
Oh, I was so happy when I learned that she had won the Oscar for this performance! I just love her in that film!
4. Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday – William Wyler, 1953)
My favourite performance by my favourite actress 🙂
3. Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker – Arthur Penn, 1962)
2. Vivien Leigh (Gone With the Wind – Victor Flemming, 1939)
There’s only one Scarlett O’Hara, and that’s Vivien Leigh!
1. Olivia de Havilland (The Heiress – William Wyler, 1949)!
Ok now, I DO think this is the best performance by an actress. I’m both objective and subjective here!
Seriously, we have to give some credits to William Wyler for bringing the best out of his actresses (and actors)!
So that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this post! Please don’t hesitate to share your personal choices in the comments! 🙂