Monday, September 27, 2010

Olivia Goes to Sherwood Forest

This week, our discussion looks at the ever wonderful The Adventures of Robin Hood.  I have to admit that it is hard to add anything worthwhile to a discussion of this movie.  Oh, I'm willing to admit to some flaws - perhaps Errol's tights are a little to green and shiny; perhaps Sherwood Forest is a TAD too perfect, but still - has ANYONE ever approached a role with a more appropriate swagger than Flynn.  His introduction to our Ms. de Havilland is perfect: "Welcome to Sherwood, my Lady", issued with aplomb from a tree limb! And then there is Olivia - so beautiful, radiant even, as Maid Marian.  She is spunky, in all the best senses of the word, brave, and daring.  Here, she is put on trial for helping Robin's cause:



And then, there is the wonderful character castings - the ever wonderful Claude Rains as Prince John. He is unctuous, supercilious, and all-together bad to the bone.  And we have his perfect match in Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisbourne. His fencing scene with Flynn is wonderful - and it so delightful to remember that Rathbone was himself an excellent fencer; easily the match of anyone to whom he (almost always) lost to.  Eugene Pallette as Friar Tuck is delightful (though I always seem to see him in The Mark of Zorro, bopping the enemy on the head as he mutters, in his gravel voice, "God forgive me"). And of course, let us not forget Alan Hale as Little John, and Una O'Connor as Marian's maid Bess.  This is a perfect cast - a wonderful representation of the brilliant character casts available at Warner Brothers.

Tune in next time for another Olivia de Havilland movie. 

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.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Olivia Rides the Wagon Train

This week, we're discussing Errol Flynn's first western, 1939's Dodge City. In it, Olivia plays Abbie Irving, a young woman who is forced to move to the godless Dodge City after the death of her father.  Unfortunately, she has to get there with her drunken brat of a brother (William Lundigan), who starts a cattle stampede with his gun-play, and ends up getting himself killed.  Of course, Abbie blames wagon master Wade Hatton (Flynn).  Wade meanwhile, enters Dodge City to find it being run by former adversary Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot), and after a horrible incident decides he is the one to bring law and order to Dodge.

This movie is full to the brim with wonderful character performances. We have the usual Flynn sidekick, Alan Hale as well as Guinn "Big Boy" Williams.  We have a rare character visit from the gorgeous Ann Sheridan (one wonders if Jack Warner was angry at her that week to give her such a small part), as well as the ever-wonderful Frank McHugh as newspaper publisher Joe Clemens. And the adorable Bobs Watson as Harry Cole, the reason that law comes to Dodge.  With a cast like this, (and these names are just the tip of the iceberg) can you really lose?

I have major problems with seeing Bruce Cabot in pretty much anything since I heard about his horrible actions to Errol Flynn later in their careers.  But one must admit he is truly loathsome here. Olivia is spunky, in all the best senses of the word, especially in the later portions of the movie (it is as though we get to watch Abbie grow up).  Here is one of their love scenes:




It is truly funny to see the screenwriters making an excuse for Flynn's presence in a Western (Wade is from Ireland, and has traveled the world).  Finally, we all adored Frank McHugh - he is funny and touching in this small, but important role. His performance in the film is well worth emphasizing.

Join us next week for another Olivia epic.