Monday, June 14, 2010

Historical Olivia (sort of)

Olivia appears in another very secondary role in The Great Garrick (1937).  This is VERY much Brian Aherne's movie, as the 18th century actor, David Garrick. The film makes clear that the incident is fictional (which is why I said "historical (sort of)" in the title); in the film, Garrick is invited to appear in Paris at the Comédie Française, only to antagonize his future costars by telling his English audience that he intends to "instruct" the French on proper acting techniques (his method of getting his English fans to "agree" to his departure to the continent).  Thus, the French actors set up an elaborate ruse to humiliate Garrick; into the middle of this scenario intrudes Germaine Dupont, Countess de la Corbe. Of course, Garrick (who has been informed of the trick), mistakes Germaine for a member of the acting troupe.  


Garrick was to the 18th Century what the Method was to the 20th.  He developed a less theatrical form of acting, and in fact, the movie has Garrick discussing his acting style briefly in the film.  (Quite humorous too, as he informs the French actors that he knew exactly who they were, since they didn't walk or move like people employed in an inn).  And while the real Garrick didn't marry a French woman, he did marry a German woman in what turned out to be an extremely happy marriage - he called her "the best of women and wives,"and it is said they were inseparable for the 15 years of their marriage.   And here's Hollywood's version of how he met his great love:




As to the film, it was not entirely successful; it was based on a London play, but never quite achieved the level of popularity that the studio had hoped for.  However, the lead actors, Mr. Aherne and Ms. De Havilland are quite delightful in it.  She manages to hold her own even with such wonderful character actors as Melville Cooper and Edward Everett Horton (and there is even Lana Turner in a bit part).  Finally, it is worth noting that (according to "The Films of Olivia De Havilland", though Mr. Aherne and Ms. De Havilland dated while making the picture, they ended up related - he married her sister Joan Fontaine  two years later.

Join us next week as we look at some movies that appeared on TCM for Ms. De H's birthday.

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