Monday, June 21, 2010

Olivia Writes a Novel

This week, we were able to watch Devotion, wherein Olivia plays Charlotte Bronte, and gets to write the novel Jane Eyre. Again, Ms. De Havilland plays second lead, this time to Ida Lupino, who is playing her sister Emily. Ms. Lupino has the meatier role, as the tortured, dying Charlotte, but Ms. De Havilland ends up with more screen time (and more to do than just be tortured).  Her Charlotte harkens back to some of the earlier teen roles we've seen, such as Call it a Day and It's Love I'm After, where she gets to fall in love with a man who is already taken (and be a tad silly about it). However, this is no screwball story.  Because in the end, both sisters end up in love with the same man - Paul Henreid as the Reverend Arthur Nicholls. And he is oblivious to one of them.

As history, this film rather plays fast and loose.  Yes, Bramwell (Arthur Kennedy) was an alcoholic, and yes, Emily did die of TB.  But so did Anne Bronte (played by Nancy Coleman) and you wouldn't know it from this movie. In fact, Anne died about 6 months after Emily.  Charlotte did go to London, but after Emily's and Anne's deaths.  And Charlotte's marriage to Arthur Nicholls was no happy ending.  Her father was totally against the marriage, because he feared that marriage would kill his only surviving child (of the 6 born to him). He was right. Charlotte became pregnant; she and the baby died, probably the result of hyperemesis gravidarum, or excessive morning sickness resulting in malnutrition.  Another point, the sisters were all very small and probably slender - at an exhibit of their books and item at the Morgan Library in New York City, I saw one of Emily's gloves. It was TINY. I have VERY small hands - the glove would not have fit me. None of these ladies is in the least bit tiny or frail-looking!! A couple of items that they did get right though, were rather fun. The sisters three books (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey) did come out together (in fact Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey were published in the same three volume set). The other little piece that we enjoyed was that, when Charlotte visits Arthur Nicholls to give him a copy of her novel, she is holding three books. Indeed, Jane Eyre was published (as many novels were at the time - to accommodate lending libraries) in a three-volume set!

Like many historical films that play a little to fast and loose, this can be a problematic movie, but the acting is wonderful. We have some lovely character pieces here, especially Sydney Greenstreet as William Makepeace Thackeray, who manages to portray Thackeray as an adorable egoist!  Also fun to watch is Odette Myrtil as Mme Heger, who reminded us very much of Peggy Wood as the patient wife of the artist in Call it a Day.

We hope to see you again next week.  In the meantime, here's a trailer from the film:

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