Monday, September 20, 2010

Olivia Sings

Our discussion this week focused on 1936's Anthony Adverse.  Fredric March plays the titular orphan who loves the young peasant girl Angela Guisseppi, who grows up to be Olivia de Havilland AND a great opera singer.  Interestingly, we learned from Robert Osborne that Kitty Carlisle auditioned for the role of Angela (which makes a certain amount of sense. While she is not the actress that our Olivia is, she is certainly an opera singer. That being said, Ms. de Havilland is lovely in the role of a young woman who grows to be a widely renowned opera star AND the courtesan of Napoleon Bonaparte. 

This is another of those films with an amazing cast.  Let's start with the prologue - Louis Hayward and Anita Louise as Anthony's parents. And the always wonderful Claude Rains as the dastardly Don Luis.  We did have one question, which might have been answered in the book (which none of us have read) - why on earth would the wonderful John Bonnyfeather (Edmund Gwenn) convince his adored daughter to marry such a horrible man?  Short of reading the book, I guess we'll never know.  And then, as Anthony grows, there is Gail Sondergaard as Faith Paleologus, Mr. Bonnyfeather's housekeeper.  She is just so wonderfully bitchy. She and Rains make the perfect pair in this movie (maybe even MORE perfect than Anthony and Angela!!)  And Billy Mauch as the 10-year-old Anthony, who is quite good (and rather adorable, without being sugary).  
The one performance we found totally laughable was that of Steffi Duna as Neleta, Anthony's tropical mistress. Someone seems to have told Ms. Duna that they way to express evil was to continuously narrow and widen her eyes.  We were in stitches (luckily, she is not on the screen for too long).  A quick check of her film history revealed that she did, in fact, appear in 22 films - until she married Dennis O'Keefe in 1940. Then she seems to have retired.  

This is one of those impressive epic adventures, whose reputation seems to have not survived as well as it should.  It has a lot of excellent performances (Gale Sondergaard won the first Best Supporting Actress award that year - the first year it was awarded.  She won against such notables as Maria Ouspenskaya and Beulah Bondi). If you get a chance to see it, it is certainly worth your time.  And while our Ms. de Havilland doesn't have much screen time, she makes good use of what she has (especially the early scenes with March).

Here's a scene with Anthony and Angela:




Next time, join us for one of Ms. de Havilland's more serious performances.

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