Archive for May, 2013

Lili 1953 with Leslie Caron

What a gem of a film this is – and so colourful. Showing my age a little now, I remember in the early days of British Colour Television I was out with friends at a local pub and showing on this NEW Colour TV was this film ‘Lili’ and that memory still remains with me to this day purely because of the  bright colour – actually on a TV screen !!!   That seemed miraculous after all the TV years in Black and White – although I have to say television was very good in those days too. This film though was perfect to show off colour – and still is I think.

The film was released in 1953.

An absolutely perfect little film, “Lili” is probably Mel Ferrer’s best known movie role. He plays ex-dancer and crippled puppeteer Paul Bertholet opposite Leslie Caron in one of her most famous roles as the titled heroine. A musical fantasy based on a short story by Paul Gallico, Lili is a 16-year-old orphan left unexpectedly alone in a harsh world. She attaches herself to a glamorous magician called Marcus the Magnificent (played with just the right touch of shallow charm and careless concern by Jean-Pierre Aumont) and guilelessly follows him back to the carnival where he performs. When Marc’s half-hearted attempt to get her a job proves disastrous, the destitute Lili contemplates suicide, but the lame puppeteer Paul – who’s been watching from afar – uses one of his puppets to lure her back to safety and straight into his impenetrable heart.

Paul hires Lili to be part of his act and the new show, which features Lili interacting with his four puppets, becomes an overwhelming success. But Paul is too bitter and jealous to express his love for Lili except through the puppets, and after a particularly ugly argument with him, Lili decides to leave the show. Miles away from the carnival, she daydreams that her only true friends -  the four puppets – are walking beside her. As she dances with each of them, they transform one by one into their puppeteer, and she understands at last that the puppets who love her are in fact Paul.

Much of the charm of Lili rests with the casting of the film and Charles Walters’ crystal clear conception of the fantasy that borders on reality. Lili’s dreams are expressed in dance sequences, immaculately choreographed by Walters.  Ex-ballerina Leslie Caron is still as much dancer as actress in 1953, and both her male co-stars have enough dance in their backgrounds to be effective. Mel Ferrer in particular brings elegance and musical style to the final ballet sequence.

This film was a huge hit for MGM, adored equally by critics and the public, and receiving Academy Award nominations for Leslie Caron in the leading role, director Charles Walters, a nomination for the film itself and most significantly an Oscar win for the enormously popular song used throughout, “Hi Lili,” written by Bronislau Kaper.

                                                                       

 The song was sung in the film by Leslie Caron as Lili and Mel Ferrer as the puppet Carrottop, and residuals from sales of released recordings still accrue, indicating how much the music continues to be loved. Variations on the tune were used effectively for the final ballet sequence, as well.

While many reviews indicate the film belongs to Leslie Caron, who is truly inspired as the sweetly innocent Lili, the success of the film owes as much to the ensemble cast. It’s difficult to imagine any of the roles with other actors. The final ballet owes much to Mel Ferrer’s dance background, but his radio experience and fluent language skills also helped him create the unique characters of the four puppets, all of whom were voiced by the actor. And the surly Paul with his tortured romantic soul suited him perfectly. After 50 years, it’s still the role for which Mel Ferrer is best known, a true tribute to his part in this flawless gem.

Ironically – given the film’s enormous success – “Lili” was to become Mel Ferrer’s final starring role in a movie made in Hollywood. Although he co-starred in two more movies for MGM they were filmed overseas, and it was while shooting “Knights of the Round Table” in England that he met Audrey Hepburn. After their marriage in 1954 he lived and worked predominantly in Europe, never really capitalising on his biggest cinema triumph. “Lili” played a pivotal part in their romance, however. Apparently Miss Hepburn fell in love with Paul Bertholet before ever meeting Mel Ferrer and it prompted her to ask Gregory Peck to introduce her to him during the summer of 1953 while all three were in London.  Less than a year later Mel Ferrer was seated next to Audrey Hepburn when her name was announced instead of Leslie Caron’s for the coveted Oscar.

Leslie Caron (b. 1931) was the star of this film.  She was 22 years old when it was made, playing a 16 year old girl.  Her first film was An American in Paris (1951) with Gene Kelly (1912 – 1996) and is certainly the film she is most remembered for.  Lili was her fifth film.

Lili had in it many of those 1950s actors and actresses that nobody remembers. It also included Zsa Zsa Gabor (b. 1917) as a magician’s assistant, also in her fifth film but this was very much a bit part.
For Mel Ferrer (1917 – 2008)  Lili was his seventh film.  Look for him in later hits; The Longest Day (1962), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), and on TV in “Falcon Crest.”
Leslie Caron – above – seen interacting with the puppets, who come alive for her and for the viewers.
I am also copying in this review from the IMDB site which I thought was a good one:-
‘Lili’ opens in the bright atmosphere of a French town with a likeable 16-year-old orphan looking for a job with her deceased father’s old friend… Lili soon discovers that the place is close and the baker with whom she came to work with has died a month ago…
With no money, no family, and no place to go, Lili meets Marc, a delightful entertainer who offers her a job as a waitress in a traveling carnival show…
Marc’s hilarious blend of comedy and magic leaves the wistful Lili roaring with laughter… Marc is breathtakingly good on stage… He is blessed with the fastest hands in the business… Lili is fired, that same night, for spending too much time watching his whole act…
Feeling intensely sad, hopeless, drained and helpless, Lili thinks of killing herself… She begins to climb a highly wooden staircase, ignoring a gently voice calling her to come along… She is distracted by a group of character puppets, who helps her forget her sorrow…
Lili is introduced to Carrot Top, the interesting fellow capable of running his life and everybody else; to Golo, the cowardly giant longing to be loved; to Reynaldo, the thief and opportunist full of compromises and lies; and finally to Marguerite, the vain, jealous beauty obsessed with self…
Childishly happy with the colourful puppets, and not realising that she is having a big impact, Lili receives the ovation that ignites her creative spark, responding to the four unique puppets losing herself in their questions and imaginations…
When she is asked to sing, Lili belts out an old song of love… The entire company of puppets behind her joined in for a stirring chorus… This was executed to perfection that night – accompanied by the waltzing music of the accordion…
The show is a hit! Lili’s childish manner proves she can entertain, persuade and appeal…
But Lili remains dazzled by Marc, who reinforces his spoken humor with visual effects… She dislikes the boss, Paul Berthalet, believing him to be cruel, heartless, frustrated and always angry…
Mel Ferrer had the talent for improvisation… He uses his puppets with humor, voice sound effects, stories and more…He captures Lili’s heart and soul… And by speaking through his models he was able to express his anxiety, curiosity, austerity, and confusion…
Lili, touched by the magic of romance, comes to understand the meaning of love much later… She tells Marcus: ‘I’ve been living in a dream like a little girl, not seeing what I didn’t want to see.’ She discovers that the love exuding from her adorable puppets comes from the loves of that unreasonable, mean, jealous, bitter puppeteer…
Jean-Pierre Aumont adds his charm to the whole story, and remains the beautiful magician armed with an exceptionally likable stage personality…
Kurt Kaszner continues to be Paul’s loyal and peaceful friend who explains to the delicate girl that the boss had once been a great dancer until his leg was injured in the war and could no longer dance…
Zsa Zsa Gabor behaves as the glamorous assistant whose fervent desire is to reveal to everybody her secret…
Charles Walters’ motion picture is not very musical, but his film culminates in a delightful dream ballet… Caron demonstrates a graceful dancing…
The movie received six Academy Award nominations including Leslie Caron as Best Actress in a Leading Role, and won the Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and accommodated the hit song “Hi Lili, Hi Lo.’
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Star Trek Into Darkness

Well this is of course a new 2013 film but the Star Trek series both TV and film have conections with the fifties film era.

Originally Jeffrey Hunter who had quite a career in films throughout the fifties, had taken the lead in the famous TV series.

 

He was “Christopher Pike”, captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, in the original “Star Trek” pilot in 1964. However, when an undecided NBC requested a second pilot in early 1965, Hunter declined, having decided to concentrate on his film career, instead.  Producer Gene Roddenberry, after hearing the news, wrote to Hunter, “I am told you have decided not to go ahead with “Star Trek”. This has to be your own decision, of course, and I must respect it”, and then asked Hunter if he would come back for “one day or two of shooting an additional action opening which can result in a fast, tightly cut, exciting film release”.  However Hunter, who had a six-month exclusive contract for the series lead, declined that request, too.

Footage from the first pilot was later incorporated into a two-part episode in “Star Trek” (1966)’s first season. (Roddenberry later tried to give the impression that it was he who decided not to rehire Hunter for the second pilot. But as executive producer Herbert F. Solow pointed out, major casting decisions for the series were made by Desilu and NBC executives, not the producer).

So the rest is – as they say – history and we then got William Shatner as Captain Kirk – and what a success he was in the role and in the series too.

This was a role he played on TV throughout the late fifties  –  and then after quite a while the films hit the big cinema screen to great success.

In 1961, Shatner had landed parts in two films, “The Intruder,” where he plays a rabble-rouser traveling from one Southern town to another, getting people to riot against court-ordered school integration. It was later released under the titles, “I Hate Your Guts!” and “Shame.” Shatner also appeared in “Judgment at Nuremberg.”
Then came the role for which he is undoubtedly best known: Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek.   Unfortunately, during the three years that Star Trek series ran, Shatner not only separated from his wife, but lost his father, as well.
Following the cancellation of Star Trek on NBC in 1969, Shatner went on to star in seven Star Trek films, make appearances in countless television series (including several long-running non-Star Trek series in which he played a leading role—TJ Hooker and Rescue 911, among them).  Over the years, the actor’s self-assertive sense of humor has come to define his career, and even translated into the personality of his Emmy Award-winning character, Attorney Denny Crane, of The Practice and Boston Legal. He also made such films as “Sole Survivor,” and the Sherlock Holmes classic, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Guest appearances on series like The Sixth Sense, Barnaby Jones, and Hawaii Five-O kept him in the public eye.  In addition, Shatner has written numerous fiction and non-fiction books in and out of the Star Trek vein.

Star Trek Into Darkness 2013  – and this time in 3D.

 

The Review below is a really good one :-

Truly spectacular, one of those rare amazing, inventive and often unpredictable blockbusters. The acting was great all round, especially Cumberbatch - who was superb. The direction, cinematography and visual effects were all greatly innovative and brilliant; the screenplay fun, often humorous and has a lot of heart for all its characters which are all really well developed.
The villain was very interesting and the development, dialogue and motivations of his character were very convincing and inventive, Cumberbatch’s fantastic acting greatly helped bring this character to life. Also the way he executed his plan showed a lot more cutting edge creativity than especially most modern blockbusters, not to say it’s done nearly to the same level of genius but something I haven’t felt in a villain’s characterisation/acting since The Dark Knight.
Overall, a mesmerising film with nice homages to the original series, one filled with heart, grace, innovation, superb characters and acting and some impressive, clever visuals and immersive 3D. Up there with the 2009 one, not sure which I prefer, possibly the previous one largely due to the more clever story, despite this one having a much better villain, still not sure though. Still a very strongly recommended film.

and also this review I have seen :-

The previous Star Trek movie is a tough one to beat. It was close to perfection (lens flares and all). So this movie had a tough up-hill battle ahead of it. I am happy to report that the writing, direction, cinematography and acting were all at least as good as the last one.
Cumberbatch is brilliant. I won’t divulge any spoilers, but I will say that the throw back to the earlier movies is very very clever and well executed. It is hard to find fault with this movie, particularly as it had very big shoes to fill. But it does so brilliant and effortlessly. The added depth we see in the characters of Kirk and Spock is icing on an already delicious cake!
Well done JJ, producers, actors, writers and musicians. This is one of the very few movies I have ever given full marks, and deservedly so.

Now view the trailer :-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=yhz4A5BCMAA

 

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So Long at the Fair – 1950

I remember watching this with my daughter Joanna, a number of years ago and neither of  us knew the storyline at all, so we were completely baffled by the way things developed and we could not work out how and what the conclusion would be. It seemed very sinister but everything fell into place at the end. Great film though and a terrific story.

I really like this film and love the story !!!

 

It took two directors, Antony Darnborough and Terence Fisher, to create SO LONG AT THE FAIR in 1950.  This romantic mystery starred Jean Simmons, Dirk Bogarde, Honor Blackman, and David Tomlinson.  Jean Simmons looked stunning as a visitor to Paris searching for her missing brother. It really was a mystery because he had just simply disappeared and no-one in the hotel seemed to remember that he had ever been there.

So Long At The Fair – The Story.  – Dont worry we don’t give away the ending !!!

Vicky Barton (Jean Simmons) and her brother Johnny (David Tomlinson) arrive in Paris to attend the Great Exhibition of 1889 and enjoy a night on the town before returning to separate rooms at their hotel. The following morning Vicky discovers her brother is missing. Not only is there no record of his registration at the front desk but his room doesn’t exist either. No one on the hotel staff recalls ever seeing him and in desperation Vicky goes to both the British consul and the local police chief but neither one believes her story. Determined to unravel the mystery of her brother’s disappearance, Vicky enlists the help of a sympathetic stranger, British artist George Hathaway (Dirk Bogarde), and their valiant efforts eventually uncover the truth. Based on a novel by Anthony Thorne, So Long at the Fair (1950) has a premise that bears similarities with Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938) but also looks forward to the “missing person” plot devices of Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965), Flightplan (2005) and other suspense films. Though leisurely paced, the intriguing narrative holds one’s interest through the unexpected but plausible resolution and the authentic period detail, lavish art direction and impeccable performances by the main principals help suspend disbelief. The directorial duties were shared by Antony Darnborough and Terence Fisher who displayed  who would eventually attain cult status for his stylish period horror films for Hammer Studios such as Horror of Dracula [1958], The Mummy [1959] and The Curse of the Werewolf [1961]. Both Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde were rising young stars in the British film industry when they appeared in So Long at the Fair. Bogarde, who was in danger of being typecast as a hoodlum after his two previous films (Boys in Brown [1949], The Blue Lamp [1950]), remarked in an interview at the time: “…personally, I’m a little tired of spivs  wide boys and junior crooks, however they come and in whatever period. I found So Long at the Fair a refreshing change after all these excursions into the shady nooks of petty crooks. For once I wasn’t sharp and sly, or imbued with the reckless daring which springs from cowardice.”
Bogarde and Simmons had never appeared in a film together before (and never would again) but they enjoyed a close working relationship on So Long at the Fair. Bogarde recalled, ‘Jean is about the sweetest girl you could wish to meet and all you read about her being natural and unsophisticated is absolutely true. She has a great sense of fun, and one of these days I would like to do a comedy with her.’ Simmons was equally complimentary saying, “He was such fun – a great giggler. I loved Dirk, and was hoping that perhaps we would be married one day; but I was dreaming, I was fantasising…I never really knew him. I didn’t realise he was gay – in those days people didn’t talk about it.” In another interview, Bogarde confessed that he actually didn’t care for So Long at the Fair, adding “but I had to do it, and at that point, I was very much in love with Jean Simmons. Rank thought it was a great idea to encourage their two juvenile stars and we were given this film which was supposed to launch our engagement. Unfortunately, by the time the film was finished Jean had fallen in love with Stewart Granger, thereby ruining the publicity effort.” Regardless of Bogarde’s own opinion of So Long at the Fair, however, it did help advance his career. One of the film’s producers, Betty E. Box, was so impressed with Bogarde’s performance that she thought of him for the lead in Doctor in the House (1954), the romantic comedy that catapulted him to major stardom in England and led to numerous sequels, two of which also starred Bogarde (Doctor at Sea [1955], Doctor at Large [1957]).
The critical notices for So Long at the Fair were generally positive, with many noting that the incident that sets the plot in motion was inspired by a reputedly famous disappearance case which had taken on the mythic proportions of an urban myth. The New York Times also commented that directors Darnborough and Fisher “have chosen to have their cast speak quite a bit of dialogue in French, a circumstance which may confuse American audiences. But they have also taken the trouble to set that cast, charmingly attired in Victorian bustles and top hats, in authentically bustling, carefree  Parisian locales.”
Producer: Betty E. Box, Sydney Box, Vivian Cox Director: Antony Darnborough, Terence Fisher Screenplay: Hugh Mills, Anthony Thorne Cinematography: Reginald Wyer Film Editing: Gordon Hales Art Direction: Cedric Dawe Music: Benjamin Frankel Cast: Jean Simmons (Vicky Barton), Dirk Bogarde (George Hathaway), David Tomlinson (Johnny Barton), Marcel Poncin (Narcisse), Cathleen Nesbitt (Madame Herve), Honor Blackman (Rhoda O’Donovan). BW-86m.
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Elvis – Love Me Tender 1957

Elvis Presley’s first film. This is the only film he made where he didn’t get Star Billing – he played second fiddle to Richard Egan and Debra Paget.

After watching  Elvis Presley’s debut film in its entirety and in widescreen, and I think it’s a good deal better than it’s usually given credit for. Richard Egan plays Vance Reno, who is serving in the Civil War and returns home after the war ends to join his family and reunite with his lover (Debra Paget). But a tragedy ensues when it’s learned that while he was away, his young brother Clint (Elvis) fell in love with and married his girl, after hearing that Vance had died. Also factoring into the trouble is that Vance has kept some Union cash which he never delivered to its destination when he found out the war had ended in the interim.

This turned out to be a good, solid story with fine performances, especially by Richard Egan. But again, Elvis is very good as a completely first-time novice actor. He always wanted to be on the big screen from youth, after admiring James Dean, Marlon Brando and Tony Curtis. For a film fan who never had any professional acting training or experience, he’s really quite good as Clint Reno. Though he didn’t want to sing in this film, Presley was already a big recording star so of course there had to be songs in the movie. The title tune is a classic and it’s very emotional as performed within the context of the film. I also like the singalong ditty “We’re Gonna Move”, which is performed by Elvis on the front porch “1950s-style” with his family, even though it’s 1865. Other songs include “Let Me” and “Poor Boy”.

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