Monday, March 22, 2010

Welcome to Ms. de Havilland

We begin our latest film festival with The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. It's true, our guest for this film festival has only a small part in it, but it is such a good movie, we decided to start with Ms. de Havilland in a supporting role.  She plays Lady Penelope Gray, lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth (Bette Davis).  Madly in love with the Earl of Essex (Errol Flynn), it is her manipulations that help bring about his downfall.  We did a little reading after the movie. Ms. D. did NOT want to be in this film - after all, it really isn't much of one for her (though she is still wonderful in it).  The movie is all about Bette Davis' Elizabeth and Errol Flynn's Essex. When they are on the screen, you watch them. When they are NOT on the screen, you wait for them to come back. Lady Penelope is just window dressing to propel the action forward. But when you have an actress of the caliber of Olivia de Havilland doing it, the part becomes memorable as well. (And, is this the only movie in which she appeared with Flynn, in which she DIDN'T end up with him in one way or another?)  We were able to find a scene with Davis and de Havilland:



Again, our reading reminded us of the story that I heard on TCM some time ago. That Davis loathed Errol Flynn, feeling he was not an actor worthy of her talent. But that, years later, she re-saw the movie (in fact, with Ms. D. in attendance) and admitted that it was, in fact, a wonderful movie and that Flynn was excellent in it. Just the final scene, as he goes to the block, demonstrates the subtlety of his acting. 

We also enjoyed seeing the very young Nanette Fabray as Mistress Margaret Radcliffe, another lady-in-waiting who is yearning for the return of her lover - a soldier in Ireland.  She is delightful; it is a treat to see her in a very different part from the musicals we were used to.

Next week, more Olivia. Join us for a comedy.

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