Monday, July 26, 2010

Olivia and Errol Get Married

This week, another Olivia/Errol adventure flick, and again we get history via Warner Brothers.  It's They Died with Their Boots On (1942), wherein Errol Flynn plays an unrecognizable (but wonderfully heroic) George Armstrong Custer, and Olivia plays his devoted wife, Elizabeth "Libby" Bacon.  The film starts with Custer's arrival at West Point (we are told he scored lower at the Point than did U. S. Grant), and where he meets his future wife.  He also meets his nemesis Ned Sharp (played with mustache-twirling nastiness by Arthur Kennedy).  During Custer's tenure at West Point, the Civil War erupts, and he is graduated early to serve in the active army.  Finally, he is able to get back to Olivia (having become a hero in the war) and wed her (despite her father's dislike of the Custer, who has a tendency to drink too much).  

There is an excellent documentary on the DVD, and if  you have a chance to get your hands on the DVD, do take the time to watch it.  There is a bit of discussion about the actual history of Custer (and of course, he was no way near as dashing as Errol. Nor was he anywhere near as pleasant as the character created by the talented Mr. Flynn).  Olivia's Libby is just lovely, and she gets to do a bit more here than in (say) The Charge of the Light Brigade.  Of course, her parting scene with Flynn (much cited when her performances are discussed) is gut-wrenching.  But also lovely are her scenes with Hattie McDaniel (as her servant Callie).  Finally, there is the scene in which Libby delivers Custer's "deathbed" statement.  Her quiet power is obvious.

Some other people to look out for here are Regis Toomey as Fitzhugh Lee, who leaves his position at West Point to join the Confederate Army (very nicely done) and Errol Flynn's scenes with Sydney Greenstreet (as Lt. General Winfield Scott) are quite funny, with Scott portrayed as a gourmand with a taste for onions.  And I must not omit Anthony Quinn as Crazy Horse; his Chief is Custer's military equal - a nobleman who is in the right, pretty much throughout the picture.

We'll be back soon with a much later Olivia film
We'll leave you with the trailer to the film:

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Olivia Doesn't Love Errol

This week, we looked at The Charge of the Light Brigade, another Warner Brothers attempt at rewriting history.  Errol Flynn plays Major Geoffrey Vickers, a military officer in India who is engaged to Elsa Campbell (Olivia de Havilland).  Only problem is, Elsa had fallen in love with Geoffrey's younger brother Captain Perry Vickers (Patric Knowles) while both were in Calcutta (and Geoffrey was off on a mission).  Naturally, this causes a falling-out between the brothers, and some antagonism from Elsa's father (Donald Crisp), who MUCH prefers the gallant Major Vickers to his office-bound sibling.

When all the inhabitants of Chukoti are massacred by Surat Khan (who spares Geoffrey and Elsa because of a debt he owes to Geoffrey), revenge becomes the goal of the Light Brigade.  And Geoffrey, who has nothing to live for without Elsa, is the leader in the Light Brigade's charge to kill Surat Khan (who has escaped to the Crimea!)

What any of this has to do with the actual Charge is a mystery.  They use a few lines from Tennyson, and the costuming is pretty much on target, but any other relation to history is purely coincidental.  The appeal of the film though, lies not in its plot; the movie is all Flynn.  If there is a problem with it, it's just that it is hard to understand why Olivia would prefer Patric Knowles to Flynn (No offence to Knowles, but he has NOTHING on Flynn.  An attractive man, Patric Knowles just does not have the electricity that Flynn brings to all his roles.)

The ending scene is glorious. So what if it is totally wrong? Only the Warner Brothers could make you think that the British actually WON the Charge of the Light Brigade!

Next week, we'll join Olivia and Errol again as the rewrite history.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Olivia Meets Errol

  1. This time, we're looking at 1935's Captain Blood - Errol Flynn's first major film role and his introduction to our heroine, Olivia de Havilland.  This film, seventy-five years later, is still magic.  The chemistry between the leads is palpable (yes, the word chemistry is overused. But with Olivia and Errol, it is the only word that works), and the sense of adventure is in the air.  Our Ms. de Havilland glows as Arabella Bishop, Flynn has a rakish air as Dr. Peter Blood, and love-hate relationship between the two characters is beautifully portrayed. 

Perhaps one of our favorite characters here, though, is Captain Levasseur, as beautifully portrayed by Basil Rathbone.  I'm sure all here know that Rathbone was a brilliant fencer, and could have beaten any of his co-stars without even breaking a sweat; the fight sequences between him and Flynn are wonderful - like watching a dance, but a dance where the prize is Olivia.  We also talked a bit about Ross Alexander, who plays Blood's friend Jeremy Pitt.  Alexander died only two years later, a suicide.  This was to be Alexander's breakthrough role; unfortunately his wife's suicide and his own private issues (according to the IMDB, Mr. Alexander was gay. Of course, one didn't admit to that and remain a successful actor in 1926) proved too much for him.

We also noticed that the pirate ship Captain Blood sails is named the Arabella.  It's never dwelled upon - unfortunately, on a small TV screen, it's hard to notice; but it must have been quire apparent on a big screen.  Such a little thing, but it tells us so much about Blood and his passion for Arabella.  Here's a trailer from the movie, for your enjoyment:



Next week, we'll be back to visit Ms. de Havilland and Mr. Flynn in somewhat different roles.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Olivia Roots for the Home Team

Though A Midsummer Night's Dream was actually Olivia de Havilland first film role, the first movie in which she was actually appeared was a comedy. The movie - Alibi Ike, a vehicle for comedian Joe E. Brown, in which Brown plays Frank X. Farrell, a big-league baseball player (for the Chicago Cubs, no less!) who is unable to tell a straight story.  Whatever happens, Frank has to make up some kind of lame story to excuse his behavior (thus, the title and his nickname on the team).  He meets and falls in love with the sister-in-law of the team's manager (Dolly Stevens, played by Olivia).  Of course, there is eventually conflict between them (because of Frank's inability to face up to ANYTHING in public), and a threat to our hero from some gamblers who want him to throw the big game.

Olivia doesn't get to do much in this film; it is Joe E. Brown's vehicle (who was at the peak of his popularity at this point). However, she does have one really good scene - she overhears Frank (who has just proposed to her) denying their engagement, and saying that she was merely an annoyance to him.  Her rage and hurt are done beautifully. You can see the pain in her eyes as she listens to Frank being an idiot. 

We spent some time as well discussing Joe E. Brown. No, this is not a movie to remember, but ultimately, you can see how likeable Joe E. Brown was.  This film points out WHY he was so effective many years later in Some Like it Hot.  Brown is an endearing man.  You like him, in spite of all the nonsense.  Thus, in the 50s, Billy Wilder was able to make Daphne's (Jack Lemmon) gold-digging humorous.  Brown's affection and wide-eyed "Well, nobody's perfect" make everything Daphne and Josephine do all right.  And, an interesting piece of trivia here, Brown played professional baseball for a time, worked as a broadcaster for the Yankees in the 1950's, and was the first president of PONY League Baseball and Softball.  His love for the game (he would make two more baseball-related films) ran deep.

In this trailer, you can catch a glimpse of Ms. de Havilland - as we mentioned, she is not the star in this film:

 

Join us again next week for an early swashbuckler.