In my post about what readers can look forward to on my blog this year, I shared my results of 2022’s Buzzwordathon readathon. Because I had four fails and didn’t finish reading December’s book before the end of the year, I chose to participate in 2023’s Buzzwordathon in an attempt to improve my results. Though I’m publishing my review for January’s selection in February, I did complete the book in the month of January. That book is The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman, as the theme for January was ‘life and death’. This means the words ‘life’ or ‘death’ had to be featured in the title.
One component that can affect my reading experience is the quality of descriptive imagery. This part of the story is what helps readers picture characters, events, and locations in their mind. Throughout The Life She Was Given, Ellen uses comparisons to elaborate on an intended point. An example is when she described the physical appearance of Merrick, an employee of The Barlow Brothers’ Circus. When one of the protagonists, Lilly, meets Merrick for the first time, “his face reminded Lilly of pictures she’d seen of the moon, with craters and dents and rocky parts”. In fact, Merrick was sometimes referred to as “the moon-faced man”. By comparing his face with the uneven surface of the moon, Ellen is not only describing Merrick in greater detail, she also writes how a child would view the world around them.
What drew me into wanting to read The Life She Was Given was the mystery surrounding Blackwood Manor, the home inherited by the book’s other protagonist, Julia. While the mystery itself was intriguing and held my attention, it wasn’t prioritized within Julia’s chapters. Instead, more focus was given to taking care of the horses on the Manor’s farm. Readers learn more about Claude, the man in charge of the farm, and Fletcher, the veterinarian, as well as their connection to Blackwood Manor. But because the mystery was not emphasized in most of Julia’s chapters, it took Julia almost the entire book to solve the mystery.
The Life She Was Given is a tough book to get through. This is not a poorly written piece of literature and I thought the book itself was just fine. The reason why The Life She Was Given is a tough book to get through is because of some of the topics included, which are heavier in nature. Some of these topics are abuse, violence, and mistreatment of animals. Ellen incorporates these subjects into her story in an honest way, not sugar-coating anything or holding back any punches. If you choose to read this book, please be aware of this fact before you start reading.
Overall score: 3.6 out of 5 stars
Have fun during Buzzwordathon!
Disclaimer: As I said in my review, The Life She Was Given contains heavier subjects, such as abuse, violence, and mistreatment of animals. Other content some readers may find offensive are the following:
— Characters swearing at several moments in the story
— Lilly being placed in some concerning situations, such as underage drinking
— Dialogue reflective of the 1930s and 1950s
— One chapter featuring a horse giving birth
— Mentions are characters dying, including a drunk driving accident
One of the first movies I reviewed this year was the 1950 film, Harvey. Since publishing my review back in January, that movie has become the most disappointing one I’ve seen this year, so far. Jillian, from The Classic Film Connection, recommended I give this story a second chance by checking out the 1972 Hallmark Hall of Fame production. Since this title is a remake and since I’m participating in The “Take Two!” Blogathon (which focuses on remakes), I found the perfect opportunity to watch this movie! When I reviewed 1950’s Harvey, I questioned what the point of the story was. This is because I was confused by what the movie’s creative team was trying to say through their project. Will I be less confused by the 1972 adaptation? Keep reading if you want to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
Changes from the original film: As I said in my review of the 1950 film, there were things about Harvey I didn’t like. One of them was the medical negligence Veta experiences at Chumley’s Rest. In the 1972 version, that specific scene plays out differently. When Veta is being interviewed by Dr. Lyman Sanderson, he notices how distressed Veta appears. Her body language, tone of voice, and tears are noted by the doctor as he listens to what Veta has to say. This leads Dr. Lyman to admit Veta into the hospital for her well-being. The mix-up is presented as an example of good intentions leading to bad results. The film’s dramatic tone also helps elaborate how terrifying Veta’s experience would be.
A sense of magical realism: An element I thought was lacking in the 1950 version of Harvey was a sense of ‘magical realism’. Because the story featured a 6 foot 3 ½ inch, invisible white rabbit, I thought that aforementioned element would be automatically included in the film. In the 1972 adaptation, there was a stronger sense of ‘magical realism’ within the overall story. At the hospital, a hat with two holes on top is found in Dr. Lyman Sanderson’s office. The staff question who this hat could possibly belong to. Since the holes on the hat would allow rabbit ears to stick out, the hat itself implies Harvey does exist. This along with other strange occurrences in the story show how the film’s creative team put more effort into including ‘magical realism’.
The acting: When I reviewed the 1950 version of Harvey, I talked about James Stewart’s portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd, saying it was “laid-back” and “somewhat philosophical”. Reprising this role in the 1972 version of the story, James brought these same elements to his performance. But this time, his portrayal of Elwood reminded me of Mister Rogers from Mister Rogers Neighborhood. What I mean by this is Elwood came across as the type of man you’d want to spend hours having a conversation with. Elwood’s approachable and pleasant persona make him such a fascinating individual. If Elwood P. Dowd existed in the real world, I’d like to think he’d come up with an interesting TED Talk!
Despite appearing in the film for a limited period of time, I liked Madeline Kahn’s portrayal of Nurse Ruth Kelly! Her pleasant on-screen personality allowed her to stand out and give a memorable performance! Her interactions with the other characters also came across as realistic. After Veta was admitted to the hospital, Dr. Lyman has difficulty finding her. In a state of panic, he thinks Veta escaped. Sensing Dr. Lyman’s panic, Ruth becomes concerned. Her face has fallen from the smile she usually carries and her tone of voice contains a sense of dread. There’s even an ounce of timidness to her overall demeanor. Scenes like this one make me wish Madeline was given more on-screen appearances.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Most of the story being rehashed: When creating a remake of a pre-established story, it’s important to do two things: respect the source material that came before your project and bring your own voice to the table. In the case of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s version of Harvey, more emphasis was placed on respecting the original film. While this idea isn’t a bad one, the 1972 movie’s creative team didn’t allow themselves to create a unique identity for their project. The sets in this film looked almost exactly like they did in the 1950 film. The story, more often than not, followed the 1950 movie’s narrative, making very few deviations. While watching the 1972 version of Harvey, I wondered, at times, why this remake exists?
A televised version of a play: In my review of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Foxfire, I talked about how that title felt more like a televised play. This is because the 1987 film contained a smaller cast and a condensed story. The 1972 adaptation of Harvey also felt like a televised version of a play. Fewer locations are a reason why. In the 1950 version, Elwood is shown taking Harvey to Charlie’s Pub. Elwood simply recalls this experience in the 1972 version. What’s also important to note is how the 1972 story takes place in either the hospital or the Dowd family home.
The underutilization of Betty Chumley: At one point in the 1972 story, Elwood makes plans with Dr. Chumley’s wife, Betty, to meet at Charlie’s Pub and share drinks. But because this trip was never shown on-screen, Betty received one less on-screen appearance. Within the story, she only appeared in two scenes. Personally, I think Betty should have had a stronger significance in the film.
My overall impression:
After publishing my review of the 1950 version of Harvey, Jillian, from The Classic Film Connection, explained how the story’s point was “about the right to be uniquely yourself and live life on your own terms”. Now that I’ve seen the 1972 version of this story, I think the Hallmark Hall of Fame film did a better job at executing this idea. What worked in the movie’s favor was how the story was just a drama instead of trying to be both a drama and comedy. Scenes like Veta’s hospital admittance elaborated how terrifying her situation would be. There was also a sense of ‘magical realism’, something I thought was lacking in the 1950 film. However, the majority of the 1972 movie was a copy of the 1950 movie. In 1993, Hallmark Hall of Fame released the film, To Dance With the White Dog. Based on what I know about the story, it sounds like a version of Harvey. But this time, a man sees a white dog only he can see. Maybe I’ll write about that movie in a future review.
Overall score: 6.1 out of 10
Have you seen any version of Harvey? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame movies you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section below!
To all 395 followers, thank you for helping make 18 Cinema Lane the success it is today! With a new blog follower milestone comes a new blog follower dedication review! I recently read Black Star, Bright Dawn by Scott O’Dell. After reading that book, I realized how rarely I review films revolving around Native American stories. The last one I reviewed was Luna: Spirit of the Whale, with that review published two years ago. To make up for that, I decided to select Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Lost Child to write about and discuss! It also has been several months since I reviewed a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, with my review of Saint Maybe published last September. Within Hallmark’s library of films, those containing Native American stories are far and few between. These handful of movies have ranged in quality, with Dear Prudence being the best one, in my opinion. So, where does The Lost Child rank? The only way to find out is to keep reading!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Mercedes Ruehl and Jamey Sheridan are no strangers to the world of Hallmark entertainment, as both actors have appeared in at least one Hallmark film besides The Lost Child. Back in 2013, Mercedes starred in Banner 4th of July, a film I haven’t seen. A movie I have seen is 2008’s Dear Prudence, which starred Jamey Sheridan. I don’t believe Mercedes and Jamey appeared in a movie together prior to The Lost Child. Despite this, they had really nice on-screen chemistry! Their characters, Rebecca and Jack, seemed like kindred spirits. The acting abilities of Jamey and Mercedes are part of the reason why this is the case! When Rebecca first meets Jack at a bar, the audience can tell how in sync these two characters are. Jack and Rebecca appear to enjoy each other’s company, with the body language and facial expressions of each actor showing how their characters feel. Mercedes and Jamey not only had good chemistry with each other, they had good chemistry with the other cast members as well! Even though they weren’t on screen together, the scene where Grace, portrayed by Irene Bedard, calls Rebecca is one of the strongest scenes in The Lost Child. Throughout their phone conversation, genuine emotions were shared between both women. The strength of Mercedes’ and Irene’s acting abilities elevated the scene itself, as their conversation revolves around a very emotional subject. A combination of facial expressions, tone of voice, and use of emotionality worked in the favor of each actress, as the scene felt believable!
The scenery: The Lost Child was filmed in Superior, Arizona, according to IMDB. This is because the majority of the story takes place on a Navajo reservation. At several moments in the movie, the film’s creative team took advantage of The Grand Canyon State’s beauty by incorporating the natural landscape within establishing shots or weaving them into the story. A woman named Aunt Mary gives Rebecca a tour of the reservation. During this tour, Aunt Mary takes Rebecca to the spot where Rebecca’s biological parents got married. It’s easy to see why they chose to get married in that spot, as a piece of canyon rock dominates the space. Set against a clear, blue sky, this rock contrasts beautifully with the sky’s hue, as well as the green of nearby cactus. Before Rebecca meets Aunt Mary, she watches the sun rise. The sky gives off hues of orange and yellow, which help the audience focus on this part of natural majesty. Scenes like the two I mentioned are examples of the creative team taking initiative to show how beautiful Arizona can be!
An introduction to Native American culture: As I previously stated, the majority of The Lost Child takes place on a Navajo reservation. Because of this, Rebecca and her family spend time interacting with other members of the Navajo community. Through these interactions, Rebecca’s family, as well as the audience, learn about some aspects of the Navajo culture. When she’s trying to learn how to weave, Aunt Mary tells Rebecca to make a break in her blanket design, in order to prevent losing her spirit in her work. This simple piece of advice teaches Rebecca and the viewers how blankets created by Navajo members carry a special meaning with each design. One evening, Rebecca’s biological family gather around a fire and dance around that fire together. When Rebecca arrives, she asks what her family is celebrating. Her cousin shares how there doesn’t need to be a celebration to have a good time. The Lost Child is not the “end all, be all” when it comes to Navajo culture. However, if one is interested in learning more, this movie provides a good starting point!
What I didn’t like about the film:
A not so compelling conflict: In The Lost Child, Rebecca not only learns she is a Navajo woman, her biological family having been looking for her as well. However, this conflict is resolved within the first thirty minutes of the movie. To make up for the short resolution, the rest of the story focuses on Rebecca and her family acclimating to reservation life. Without spoiling the movie, I can see why Rebecca would make the choices she did. But I didn’t find this overarching conflict to be as compelling as Rebecca’s search for her family. Part of this has to do with how I’m not a fan of “slice of life” stories. The Lost Child is based on a book I haven’t read. Therefore, I’m not sure which parts are straight from the source material and which are creative liberties.
A missing twin brother: When Rebecca is around the age of thirteen, she accidently finds out she has a twin brother. Years later, she posts notices on the internet, in an attempt to find him. These posts are what lead Rebecca to Grace, one of her sisters. But when Rebecca meets her biological family, she abandons the search for her brother. Throughout the story, this twin is brought up in passing. His whereabouts or his name are never mentioned. Like I previously stated, this movie is based on a pre-existing book. Despite that fact, I was frustrated by this huge loose end.
Too many story ideas: I know there is only so much story you can tell in two hours, the run-time for The Lost Child. Therefore, you need enough story material to not only satisfy that run-time, but also hold the audience’s attention. In the case of this movie, there are too many ideas found within the story. Some of these ideas could have warranted its own film. One of them revolves around Rebecca’s daughter, Caroline, being bullied at her new school. Because of how many story ideas were in this film, some of those ideas get lost in the shuffle. A good example is Rebecca’s youngest daughter being diagnosed with a food sensitivity. Looking back on The Lost Child, it felt like the creative team tried to tackle so much in a short amount of time.
My overall impression:
The Lost Child is the forty-seventh Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I’ve seen in my life. At this point, I know what I like and expect to see in a film of this nature. Personally, I thought the 2000 production was just fine. But it didn’t leave a strong impression on me like other Hall of Fame titles have. I wish the story had focused more on Rebecca’s search for her family, as I found that more interesting than her reservation life. However, I recognize that the film is based on pre-existing material. As I said in the introduction, Hallmark movies revolving around Native American stories are far and few between. This can also be said for the coverage of these films on 18 Cinema Lane. When I do chance upon a movie containing Native American stories, I approach them in the hope they are good. For The Lost Child, it was about as enjoyable as Luna: Spirit of the Whale was, a movie I reviewed back in 2020. A good thing I can say about the Hallmark Hall of Fame project is how it does introduce the audience to the Navajo culture. Having beautiful scenery and containing strong acting performances also help its case. I happen to have other Hall of Fame titles on my DVR. The question is, which one will I review next?
Overall score: 7 out of 10
Do you watch Hallmark Hall of Fame movies? Are there any you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section!
This month’s Genre Grandeur is one I have been anticipating! That’s because of the film I selected for the event! January’s theme is ‘Comedies that feature characters who are either Stoners or Drunk’. After doing some research on the internet, I discovered the 1950 movie,Harvey, would be eligible! Harvey is a film I have been wanting to see for several years. Led by the beloved James “Jimmy” Stewart, so many good things have been said about this film. I was also interested in seeing Harvey because of its release date. Recently, I read an editorial by Jillian Atchley titled ‘It’s A Wonderful Life, James Stewart, and George Bailey’. In the article, Jillian explains there are two kinds of James Stewart films; pre-war and post-war. The post-war films, such as It’s A Wonderful Life, contain depth. I’d also add the post-war films feature higher stakes. Since Harvey was released four years after It’s A Wonderful Life, I was curious to see how deep this story would go. I also wanted to see how James would approach a character who is friends with an imaginary rabbit.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I have seen some of James Stewart’s movies prior to watching Harvey. What I’ve noticed about his roles in films like The Philadelphia Story, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It’s A Wonderful Life, and Rear Window is how there is a certain amount of charm included in his character’s personality. While portraying Elwood P. Dowd, James’ on-screen personality was different from what I’d seen before. In Harvey, Elwood is more laid-back. He also has a gentler persona, not having a care in the world. But there was one point in the movie where Elwood became somewhat philosophical. When asked by Dr. Lyman Sanderson and Miss Kelly how he first met Harvey, Elwood gives a thorough answer that is thoughtful and reminiscent. His answers to Lyman’s and Kelly’s questions not only captivate them, but the audience as well. This conversation shows there is more to Elwood when you look past the drinking and fascination with Harvey.
There were other performances in Harvey I enjoyed seeing. One of them came from Josephine Hull. Portraying Elwood’s sister, Veta, Josephine’s performance reminded me, to an extent, of Frances Bavier’s portrayal of Aunt Bee Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show. Let me explain myself; like Aunt Bee, Veta has her concerns and worries. You can hear the tension in her voice and see the fear in her eyes, illustrating how much Veta had on her plate. But, like Aunt Bee, Veta had her heart in the right place. All she wanted was for her brother to be a functioning and contributing member of society. Even if her actions weren’t always agreeable, Veta put her brother’s needs before her own. Because of her performance’s consistency, Josephine became an actress I looked forward to seeing on screen!
The set design: When I thought of Harvey, impressive set design was not what came to mind. So, when I first saw the set design in this movie, I was pleasantly surprised! A great location is the Dowd family home, which I wish was given more screen-time. While the house boasts a classic Victorian exterior, its interior was shown the most. In the house’s foyer, the stone staircase immediately caught my eye. Bearing a carved design, this staircase felt like it belonged in a castle! Another part of the home that features carved designs are the door frames. Marble fireplaces and stained-glass windows added exquisite details that highlighted the elegance and charm of the house! Another location I loved was Charlie’s! From some character’s descriptions, the bar sounded like a cheap or sleazy place. But when its interior was shown, it actually looked kind of cozy! The wood paneled walls were covered in framed photos. As a viewer, this gave me the impression the establishment is proud of their history. The booth Elwood sits at also gives off a cozy feel! The dark wood, tall backed seats surround a smaller, dark wood table. Above this seating arrangement was a small Tiffany style ceiling light.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Lack of comedy: According to IMDB, Harvey is partially classified as a comedy. As I’ve said before, comedy is a subjective genre. But personally, I didn’t find this movie very funny. In fact, I only chuckled once during this hour and forty-four-minute film. I could see the jokes the screenwriters were trying to deliver. Unfortunately, none of these jokes stuck the landing. On IMDB, Harvey is also partially classified as a drama. While watching this movie, it felt like the creative team involved leaned too much into the drama genre. There’s typically nothing wrong with having comedic and dramatic elements in a singular story. In the case of Harvey, the balance between these two elements was not there.
Medical negligence: In real life or fiction, members of the medical profession are human. They are not only capable of helping others, but also capable of making mistakes. However, there is a very fine line between making mistakes and committing medical negligence. In an effort to help Elwood, Veta takes him to a mental hospital called Chumley’s Rest. But due to a registration mix-up, Veta gets admitted into the hospital instead. The idea of mistaken identity and being forced to do something against your will sounds terrifying. Paired with the fact this situation is supposed to be played for laughs makes it worse. Because of this and because of how avoidable the situation was, it didn’t sit well with me.
No explanations for Harvey: As the title suggests, a portion of this story revolves around Elwood’s friendship with Harvey, a 6 foot 3 ½ inch, invisible white rabbit. Throughout the movie, I was waiting for an explanation of what Harvey was. I even waited to see if Harvey would show up on screen. Sadly, none of these things happened. Even though suggestions about Harvey’s purpose were given, no definitive answers were presented. Was Harvey truly an imaginary friend? Was he a mythical creature only Elwood could see? Was Harvey used as a tactic by Elwood to test people’s trust? As I continue to write this review, I still don’t know what Harvey is.
Decisions being flip-flopped: There’s nothing wrong with showing a character changing their mind about something. After all, that prevents them from being static. If a character is going to change their mind on something, you need to show the process of that viewpoint being changed. In the case of Harvey, that process was, sometimes, omitted. When visiting the Dowd family home in search of Elwood, Marvin Wilson, an employee from Chumley’s Rest, takes a romantic fancy to Myrtle Mae, Elwood’s niece. During Marvin’s visit, Myrtle expresses no interest in his romantic advances. But when they meet up again, later in the film, Myrtle suddenly wants to pursue a relationship with Marvin. Her change of opinion feels abrupt, with no lead-up to that decision. The omission of decision transitions sometimes left me frustrated.
My overall impression:
“What is the point of this movie”? I’m not asking this to be disrespectful or mean-spirited. I’m asking this because I’m genuinely curious to figure out what that point is. Sometimes, a film’s purpose or intended message is either obvious or easier to figure out. But with Harvey, I don’t know what the creative team was trying to say. Was this movie meant to be a cinematic PSA about how those with mental health related issues should be treated with dignity and respect? Is the film supposed to be an exploration of how some adults lose their sense of imagination the older they become? How am I expected to care about the filmmakers’ message when I don’t have a clear idea what it is? Besides being confusing, Harvey was, for me, disappointing. Because of James Stewart’s involvement in this project and because of the inclusion of a 6 foot 3 ½ inch, invisible white rabbit, I thought the movie was going to be whimsical and charming, with a sense of ‘magical realism’. Unfortunately, the 1950 film was none of those things. The lack of comedy and medical negligence did not help either. In all my years of watching movies, I never thought I’d see a James Stewart film I didn’t like. But, as of January 23rd, 2022, here I am.
Overall score: 5 out of 10
Have you seen Harvey? Which film from James Stewart’s filmography would you recommend I review next? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!
If you’re interested in reading Jillian’s editorial, here is the link:
When I think of the word “umpteenth” paired in the same sentence as film, I think of a movie that you love so much, you don’t mind watching it over and over again. A movie that deserves your undivided attention whenever it appears on television. A title that never fails to make you smile every time you hear it. For me, that film is none other than 1992’s The Bodyguard! If you were to ask me what my top ten favorite movies of all time are, The Bodyguard would be placed somewhere on that list. When I received my first Sunshine Blogger Award, I talked about how I loved this film’s soundtrack. So, for a blogathon that revolves around movies viewed for the “umpteenth” time, I found the perfect opportunity to write about The Bodyguard. But because it is turning thirty this year, simply reviewing this movie wasn’t going to do. Therefore, I decided to write an editorial explaining why I love the film so much! Without further ado, let me tell you why The Bodyguard still holds up thirty years later!
We can’t talk about The Bodyguard without also talking about Whitney Houston. From what I’ve heard over the years, Whitney had little to no acting experience prior to working on the 1992 film. But her portrayal of Rachel Marron does not reflect what she didn’t have. Instead, Whitney did a fantastic job presenting Rachel as a complex character! Miss Marron is a singer and actress who is constantly presenting herself as a lovable starlet who can do no wrong. Behind the scenes, she is a mother and sister who craves control over her life and career. Whitney’s emotions and expressions weave through the story and adapt to each situation. A great example is the scene before Rachel’s concert. While backstage at the Mayan Club, Rachel receives a disturbing note. When she addresses this to Frank and her friends, Bill and Sy, Rachel discovers the delivery of these notes has occurred more than once. In this scene, she goes from being excited about her concert to expressing genuine concern and fear over the note to being upset by not knowing the severity of the situation sooner. Whitney delivers each line and expression in a realistic way, highlighting how multi-layered Rachel is as an individual!
I’ve always thought Kevin Costner should have portrayed James Bond at least once in his career. Now I know it’s an unspoken rule that James Bond has to be portrayed by someone from England/Europe. But before you write off my opinion as being silly, just hear me out. In The Bodyguard, Kevin is cast as Frank Farmer, a former Secret Service agent. While watching this film for the “umpteenth” time, I can point out some similarities Frank shares with the legendary 007. For starters, Frank has a signature drink, which is orange juice. He also has the look, with Frank sporting a suit and bow-tie at the Academy Awards. Frank possesses the poise, skill, and experience to successfully do his job. He can even turn on the charm when he wants to, as Rachel successfully tears down his defense mechanism of keeping his distance from others. But the most important part of my argument is that Kevin has the talent! What works in Kevin’s favor is his ability to consistently carry a collected and serious composure. While this is expected for a character like Frank, Kevin is given moments where genuine emotions are expressed. When Frank and Rachel go on a date to a restaurant, they talk about a woman from Frank’s past. As Rachel makes a joking remark about how she thinks the relationship ended, Frank remains silent, giving Rachel the impression the subject is no laughing matter. A few seconds later, Frank begins chuckling, revealing how he pulled a trick on Rachel. This scene shows that even though Frank is strong and can hold his own is his profession, he is still a man of feelings and fears.
Whitney and Kevin give great acting performances individually. However, it’s their on-screen chemistry that helps make their interactions memorable! From the moment Rachel and Frank first meet, you can feel the sparklers sizzling. Their banter bounces off each other like an exciting game of ping-pong. At first glance, you wouldn’t think Rachel and Frank would get along. This is because their personalities are the opposite of one another. But when they share private, intimate moments, Rachel and Frank are kindred spirits, understanding each other in a way that can’t be easily explained. The strong on-chemistry is not limited to the interactions between Whitney and Kevin. The interactions they share with the other actors in the film feel believable as well. One good example are the times when Frank interacts with Rachel’s son, Fletcher, portrayed by DeVaughn Nixon. Because of Fletcher’s desire to learn more about his mother’s bodyguard, the audience receives wisdom from Frank, along with clarity about why he is who he is. Fletcher’s curiosity of Frank is innocent and full of wonder, which presents the perfect counterpart to the dangerous and harsh reality of Frank’s career. These conversations between sweet and adorable Fletcher and tough and no-nonsense Frank kind of remind me of the conversations of Sarah and Eric from The Crow. The moments with Frank and Fletcher also allow the audience to take a break from the action and suspense The Bodyguard contains.
While we’re talking about Whitney Houston, let’s discuss the soundtrack. In my first Sunshine Blogger Award post, I said Whitney’s songs are such a timeless addition to any playlist. In the case of The Bodyguard soundtrack, these songs perfectly showcase the vocal range Whitney is known for! Delivering half of the soundtrack’s songs, Whitney flawlessly masters three different genres. The tracks ‘Run to You’, ‘I Have Nothing’, and the classic ‘I Will Always Love You’ are presented as emotional ballads that amplify the scenes they’re featured in. Meanwhile, ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ‘Queen of the Night’ are sassy and energetic pop tunes that are somewhat reminiscent of the “get up and dance” feel of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. ‘Jesus Loves Me’ gives Whitney an opportunity to contribute to the world of gospel music by presenting a heartfelt, powerful melody. These six songs not only compliment Whitney’s singing abilities, but they also add to the album’s musical diversity.
The Bodyguard soundtrack boasts a total of twelve songs. Each track is a good representation of its respective genre. As I already mentioned, ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ‘Queen of the Night’ are sassy and energetic pop tunes. However, those are not the only pop songs featured on the album. Lisa Stansfield’s ‘Someday (I’m Coming Back)’ is a pop song that revolves around a finished relationship. Pop influences can also be heard in the rock song ‘What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding’, sung by Curtis Stigers. ‘It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day’, performed by S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M., is a laid-back hip-hop track that is as straight forward as its title suggests. Another laid-back tune is ‘Even If My Heart Would Break’, an R&B song that features the vocals of Aaron Neville and the saxophone sounds of Kenny G. Alan Silvestri delivers on a theatrical score that carries a somber and serious tune. Finishing the soundtrack is Joe Cocker’s ‘Trust In Me’, which adds some country flavor to this strong album.
The Kitchen Scene
In almost any action movie, there is that one scene audience members talk about long after the movie ends. It usually involves a lot of action, showing characters in an exciting battle of good versus evil. But there is a scene in The Bodyguard that, I feel, is the best scene from any action film. In what I call “the kitchen scene”, Tony, one of Rachel’s bodyguards, is upset over a miscommunication caused by Frank. In a fit of rage, Tony decides to take his frustrations out on Kevin Costner’s character. But he quickly realizes he made a big mistake. Throughout this scene, Kevin’s fight choreography is fast and filled with adrenaline. But he executes the clean choreography with precision and focus while maintaining a cool, collected composure. Even though the kitchen is a smaller space, different parts of the kitchen are utilized. From Frank pinning Tony to the floor with a chair to Tony being thrown across the kitchen counter, the actors see the limited space given as a challenge instead of a hindrance. The best part of this scene is how there is no music or dialogue. This forces the audience to give their undivided attention to what is happening on-screen. While “the kitchen scene” is shorter in time length, it’s delivery is affective!
Blending Several Genres
The Bodyguard consists of four genres: action, mystery, drama, and romance. On paper, it seems like there would be an overwhelming amount of content in this one story. In reality, however, these genres end up complimenting and working with each other instead of competing or clashing with one another. The 1992 film revolves around Rachel’s dilemma, which involves her life being threatened by an unknown perpetrator. While this mystery takes place throughout the movie, the audience is given enough clues, suspects, and possible motives to keep them invested in the mystery solving process. Action is sprinkled into the story to raise the stakes and keep viewers on the edge of their seat. As I mentioned earlier, the moments with Frank and Fletcher allow the audience to take a break from the action and suspense The Bodyguard contains. The drama among the Marron family and the romantic moments between Rachel and Frank are also placed in the story to give the audience time to breathe after scenes focusing on the mystery and action. In these moments, the audience learns more about the characters, as well as their motivations for making certain choices. The cycle of these four genres moves like an ocean’s wave, in ebbs and flows.
Its Timeless Story
In the world of cinema, there are two types of film: those that are products of their time and those that stand the test of time. I can only speak for myself, but I feel The Bodyguard belongs in the latter category! Like I said in my previous point, this film consists of four genres. Instead of these genres coming together to create a convoluted narrative, the story ends up not being difficult to understand and follow. Even if you have seen The Bodyguard before, like I have, the script provides an intriguing plot, hilarious one-liners, and dialogue that is well-written, with these aspects of the film making your two hours of viewing worthwhile. Speaking of the plot, it is not defined by the time of its release. The assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan is mentioned on a few occasions. However, this is done to provide context to Frank’s part of the story. The romance between Rachel and Frank is based on the classic trope of opposites attracting. But the quality of the acting performances and on-screen chemistry make this concept work. While the film does contain heavier moments, they’re not too unbearable. This allows the movie to have a higher re-watchability rate.
While on a dinner and movie date, Rachel asks Frank how many times he has seen Yojimbo, a Japanese film from the early ‘60s. Frank responds by saying he has seen it a total of 62 times. While I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen The Bodyguard in my life, I found this quote to be such a coincidence, as I’m writing about the film for the Umpteenth Blogathon! Whether you choose to watch this movie for the first time or plan on re-visiting it, The Bodyguard is a movie that, in my opinion, still holds up. It is not only an exciting action flick paired with an intriguing mystery, but there are moments in this story that can make you think. While talking with Fletcher, Frank tells him that when someone is afraid, that means they care about something. Frank’s quote not only provides an interesting perspective on fear itself, but it also highlights the intent of my editorial. Why do we celebrate the birthday of a loved one? Why do we commemorate a holiday or important historical event? Why did I write about a film that was released thirty years ago? It’s because we care about those people, events, or films. Watching a movie for the “umpteenth” time is like spending time with a good friend. You may know every line by heart and how the story plays out, but the time well spent will always be cherished.
Have fun at the movies!
If you’d like to check out the other entries in the Umpteenth Blogathon, you can visit this link:
Back in August, The Classic Movie Muse invited me to join the Bernard Herrmann Blogathon! I immediately became interested, but wasn’t sure which film I would choose. While I am familiar with the movies Bernard’s music can be heard in, I’m not that familiar with Bernard as a composer. But with the blogathon taking place on Halloween weekend, I wanted to watch a film that fit the occasion. Originally, I was going to review 1962’s Cape Fear, the movie I wrote about for the 2nd Annual Spooky Classic Movie Blogathon. But, long story short, that didn’t work out. So instead, I chose to review The Trap from 1959! Based on the synopsis, it sounded like an exciting story involving gangsters, the law, and a whole lot of conflict. But did I find the movie enjoyable? If you want to know that answer, you’ll just have to keep reading my review!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I’m not familiar with Richard Widmark as an actor. However, I did like his performance in The Trap! The easy-going and suave persona Richard brought to his character, Ralph, reminded me of Frank Sinatra. His facial expressions and use of emotions were believable as well. When a tragic situation happens in his family, genuine fear was shown on Ralph’s face. Because he was in a dangerous circumstance in the story, Ralph became vulnerable both literally and emotionally. Another character that was vulnerable was Ralph’s brother, Tippy. At the beginning of the movie, Tippy’s alcohol dependency is apparent. With a relaxed body position, a pained look on his face, and a tired tone of voice, Earl Holliman effectively portrayed how this problem can take over someone’s personality. Starring alongside Earl and Richard was Tina Louise as Linda Anderson. This particular character was desperately trying to get by and hold on for dear life. But Linda never came across as desperate or frazzled. Instead, Tina brought a sense of charm and a likable personality to her role. Through the script and Tina’s performance, it highlights how Linda cared about how she presented herself.
The music: Despite being an uncredited composer on this project, I did like hearing Bernard Herrmann’s musical scores! Similar to Cape Fear, the music helped elevate a scene’s suspense. It also fit the emotion depicted in a specific scene. Anytime Ralph and Linda interacted with one another is a perfect example of this. A pleasant, dramatic tune could be heard in the background, the kind you’d hear in a romance movie. Because these characters have a history together, this type of music seemed fitting. It added memorability to those scenes as well.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Very little excitement: With a movie involving gangsters, the law, and conflict, you’d think it would be exciting. But unfortunately, this story was lacking in the excitement department. Sure, there was a gun fight and a car chase. But these moments were far and few between. The first half of the movie focused on the gangsters’ preparations, emphasizing telling over showing. A road trip that was mostly bland took over the film’s second half. While I continued to watch this movie in the hope some excitement would arrive, it sadly never came.
Emphasis on drama: On IMDB, The Trap is classified as a drama, as well as an action and crime movie. But the script placed more emphasis on the story’s drama. Most of this film focused on the strained relationships among the Anderson family. Even as Victor Massonetti (the leader of the movie’s gangster group) was attempting to escape the country, there was still time to feature Ralph having a conflict with one of his family members. While there’s nothing wrong with featuring drama in a story, it overshadowed the more exciting parts of The Trap. This certainly felt like the screenwriters had difficulty balancing these three genres.
The run-time: This movie has a run-time of an hour and twenty-four minutes. With the way the story focused on drama over action, I honestly think the run-time was too long. Some scenes were drawn out longer than necessary. For example, when Ralph was traveling in a car with Victor, those scenes felt like they were longer just for the sake of satisfying the run-time. The beginning of the movie also satisfied this run-time by maintaining a slower pace. With a shorter run-time, the story could have gotten straight to the point a lot sooner. It also would have prevented some scenes from feeling like they dragged on.
My overall impression:
On the movie poster for The Trap, it says “Rocking the screen with triphammer impact!”. The only impact this movie had on me was making me want to fall asleep on more than one occasion. Within the first half, the story was reminiscent of 1954’s Suddenly, a movie I thought was just ok. But when the second half rolled around, it felt like a boring road trip film. As I said in my review, there was a gun fight and car chase in The Trap. But these exciting moments had such a limited presence in the overall story. One of the flaws of this film was relying too much on the drama genre. When a movie features gangsters, you expect action and excitement. Tensions over which man Linda truly loved were certainly not as riveting as the screenwriters thought. The Trap was, for me, a disappointment. While I liked the acting and music, it wasn’t enough to present a recommendation.
Overall score: 5.1 out of 10
Have you seen The Trap? If so, what are your thoughts on the film? Please share how you feel in the comment section below!
Movies that take place over a 24 Hour time frame (not including time loop movies) are the chosen subject for August’s Genre Grandeur. Since this theme is so broad, I needed to do some research before choosing my contribution. While reading through a list on Wikipedia, I came across the 1954 title,Suddenly. I have heard of this movie because it was recommended by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Last year, I reviewed five of Frank Sinatra’s movies. While most of the movies I’ve seen were either a comedy or musical, Ocean’s Eleven was the only one that was dramatic in tone. This makes Suddenly a unique project in Frank Sinatra’s filmography. Movies from the Film-Noir genre have also been far and few between on my blog. So, I’m hoping this review makes up for that!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: In Frank Sinatra’s movies I’ve seen so far, he was given roles that allow him to achieve likability. This is made possible through a charismatic personality. While Frank’s character in Suddenly, John Baron, carries himself with suave charisma, he is not someone the audience wants to root for. In fact, this part of John’s personality can make viewers uncomfortable. That’s because, as the movie poster says, he is “a savage, sensation-hungry killer”. The darker material is different from what I’ve seen from Frank’s filmography, so far. However, Frank gave a strong performance that really showcased his range as an actor! While he carried his character with the charisma he has portrayed in other films, he was quick to adopt anger. Whenever someone gave him an insult, John immediately grew intense with rage. It not only showed how John had an underlying instability, but also showed how Frank was like a chameleon with expressions and emotions. These elements help create a character that puts the audience on edge.
Despite being the only actress in Suddenly, Nancy Gates’ did a good job portraying her character, Ellen Benson! While watching this film, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Judy Garland’s acting abilities. This is because, like Judy, Nancy brought a gentleness to her role. Throughout the movie, Ellen always put others before herself. She tries to protect her son, Pidge, from a world she feels is too dangerous. That part of Ellen’s story gives Nancy an opportunity to bring genuine emotion to her role. Toward the beginning of the film, Ellen and Sheriff Tod Shaw, portrayed by Sterling Hayden, debate over her overprotective nature. When Tod brings up her deceased husband, Ellen is immediately moved to tears. James Gleason provides a good counterpart to Ellen Benson with his portrayal of her father, Peter Benson. In the film, he has a more easy-going, light-hearted personality. While I wouldn’t say he was the movie’s comic-relief, Peter did prevent the story from being too dark. Peter’s ability to adapt to any situation and his quick thinking give the audience peace of mind, as it shows he has a good head on his shoulders and will know what to do. It also helps that Peter was the glue that kept his family together.
The subject matter: I was not expecting Suddenly to contain the real-life subjects it did. But they provided a good insight into the views, beliefs, and issues within the time period of the movie’s release. Because the movie takes place in and premiered a decade after World War II, the characters discussed the negative impacts of war. John Baron’s part of the story kind of serves as a cautionary tale when it comes to a war’s psychological aftermath. As John’s plan starts to unravel, the Benson family and Tod accuse John of being “un-American”. This reflects the McCarthyism that primarily took place in the ‘50s. United States history is also included in the story, with presidential assassination attempts brought up within the script. Tod argues these attempts were failures, because the perpetrators were not only caught, but also frowned upon in history. His insight into this particular subject is interesting, especially remembering what would happen a decade after the film’s release.
Film-Noir’s new setting: Whenever I think of the Film-Noir genre, I think of stories that take place either in big cities or shady places with a dark, ominous tone. With Suddenly, the story takes place in a small, suburban town. This type of location usually hosts stories that are light-hearted and matched with a happy ending. Suddenly’s pairing provided a good contradiction. It also expanded Film-Noir’s horizons, showing that movies from this genre can take place anywhere. It was a creative decision that was definitely thought outside the box!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Some weak performances: While I liked the majority of the acting performances in Suddenly, there were a few that were weak. One of those performances came from Sterling Hayden. When his character was involved in police/serious matters, Sterling successfully carried his character with stoic confidence. But when it came to tender-hearted moments, like when Tod is asking Ellen on a date, Sterling appeared stiff and wooden. Another performance that was weak was Kim Charney’s. I know Kim was a young actor when portraying Pidge. However, Kim carried one expression and emotion throughout the movie, causing Pidge to appear one-dimensional. I am aware that performances from young actors or actresses can be hit or miss. But, for me, Kim’s performance was a miss.
Unclear story details: Suddenly is the type of story where the audience figures out what’s going on as the film progresses. However, there are some parts of the story that don’t receive clarification. When John reveals his plan, he says he is being paid to carry it out. But the audience never learns who this anonymous benefactor is or why John is being paid in the first place. When telling Ellen about his past, John says the “experts” removed the feeling out of him. The identities of these “experts” and the reason for removing John’s feelings are never revealed. The omission of these answers feels like the film’s creative team is intentionally withholding information from the audience.
A self-contained story: The film-noir genre typically shows characters doing what they want and going where they please. This reminds me of Cady’s quote from Mean Girls: “The limit does not exist”. But in Suddenly, the majority of the story takes place in the Benson family home, as John is holding the family hostage. That part causes the movie to feel stagnant and limited, which is the opposite of film-noir’s nature. It also doesn’t help when the movie’s conflict is drawn out for most of the story.
My overall impression:
When I think about Tod’s view on presidential assassination attempts, I am reminded of the Touched by An Angel episode, “Beautiful Dreamer”. The majority of the episode’s story revolves around the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, with John Wilkes Booth believing the act will make people see him as a hero. Instead, he is seen as not only a coward, but also one of the most hated people in history. I find it interesting that two different pieces of media from two different time periods share a similar belief. Suddenly also makes me think of the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Foxfire. That’s because the 1954 film felt more like a play than a movie. During my viewing experience, I found myself picturing the Benson family home as a stage, with any event outside of the home taking place off-stage. With the story being self-contained, I honestly feel this production works better in that format. Suddenly provides good insight into parts of the 1950s, with the characters’ dialogue sounding authentic. I also liked seeing Frank Sinatra’s performance, as it shows just how far he can stretch his acting abilities.
Overall score: 6.3 out of 10
Have you seen any of Frank Sinatra’s film? If so, which one is your favorite? Tell me in the comment section!
In the world of American Girl, titular characters are, more often than not, given a birthday. As Cécile Rey’s birthday is on May 28th, I wanted to watch a movie that had something to do with music. This is because music plays an important role in her and Marie-Grace’s story. With that said, I decided to review the 1993 movie, Rigoletto, for my next blog follower dedication review! While I heard good things about this particular title, I have never seen it until this year. The one constant statement was how Rigoletto was “Phantom of the Opera for kids”. As someone who has seen the 2004 adaptation of the musical, I was curious to see how it could be adapted into a family friendly version. If you have taken notice, I have recently relied on older movies for my blog’s content. Come to think of it, I only reviewed one new release in 2021 so far. That’s because I enjoy discovering films that are new to me, as well as finding hidden gems in the world of cinema. This also correlates with my blog’s mission of giving underrated titles a “standing ovation”. Now, let’s raise the curtain on this review of Rigoletto!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Even though I liked the acting performances from the film’s younger cast members, it’s the movie’s older cast members that stole the show for me! One noteworthy performance was John Huntington’s! Portraying Ribaldi’s butler, Hans, John was able to serve as the story’s comic relief while, at times, being intimidating. When Bonnie’s mother visits Ribaldi’s house in an effort to address an impending eviction notice, Hans gives her a set of instructions. The tone in his voice and the look in his eyes is so intense and direct, even the audience may feel intimidated by his demeanor. But, as I mentioned before, Hans can also be a source of comic relief. In one scene, Hans makes a comment about music. This comment causes Ribaldi to throw a book at Hans. Even though the moment itself was hilarious, I was caught off guard because it was so sudden. While we’re on the subject of Ribaldi, let’s talk about Joseph Paur’s performance! His portrayal of Ribaldi reminded me a lot of the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. In scenes that were more suspenseful in tone, Ribaldi’s persona was aggressive and powerful, with his presence appearing intimidating at times. For more gentler moments in the film, such as when Ribaldi was giving advice to a boy named Porter, his personality was kinder. This allowed Ribaldi to become an approachable character as the story went on. Despite appearing in the film for a short amount of time, I liked Tracey Williams’ portrayal of Gabriella. Not only did she have a pleasant on-screen personality, but she also had good on-screen chemistry with Joseph Paur! Honestly, I wish she had appeared in more scenes.
The music: Because this movie is loosely based on the opera of the same name, there are musical elements within the story. Even though the musical elements were limited, I really liked the music! A memorable song is ‘The Curse’. Performed by Joseph Paur, this was an operatic piece that was powerful and emotional in tone and musical scope. It reminded me of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs ‘The Moment’ and ‘This Is Who You Are’. Toward the end of the movie, Ivey Lloyd, the actress who portrayed Bonnie, performed a song titled ‘The Melody Within’. While Ivey’s voice in the movie sounded fine and delicate, the song itself complimented her talents! Not only was it pleasant to listen to, but it also contained a good message. Musical numbers like ‘The Curse’ and ‘The Melody Within’ gave weight to the film.
Wisdom within the script: As I watched Rigoletto, there were several moments where wisdom could be heard within the script. This was such a pleasant surprise, as I was not expecting to hear that. When Bonnie’s mother tries to talk to Ribaldi about her eviction notice, Ribaldi explains how she has a home while he has a house. During this explanation, it is clear that Ribaldi had enough self-awareness to know what really mattered the most. After interacting with a rude peer, Bonnie reminds her friends how pointless it is to match unkindness with unkindness. While this piece of wisdom was simple, it served as a reminder for how to treat others. What also helped was how these pieces are woven into the script through dialogue. It prevented the wisdom from coming across as mini lectures or heavy-handed.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The “disappearing disabilities” subplot: In the town of Castle Gate, there are several citizens who have a disability. These disabilities could be seen or heard; from a young boy who stuttered to a woman who relied on a wheelchair in order to move from place to place. But as the film progressed, their disabilities were magically reversed. Without spoiling the movie, I understand why this subplot was in the story, as it did serve an important message. On the other hand, it kind of contradicts another important message, one about inner beauty. According to IMDB, Rigoletto “is a branch off of the story line of “Beauty and the Beast”, a story where you would find this kind of message. However, it feels like the movie’s creative team wanted to have their cake and eat it too.
Little to no context: Rigoletto is the second movie I’ve recently reviewed where there was little to no context in certain areas of the story. Toward the beginning of the film, it was stated that Ribaldi’s face became disfigured due to an “accident”. But the audience never learns about the accident itself, as well as Ribaldi’s life before he came to Castle Gate. Ribaldi reveals a magical mirror that he claims was given to him by “Snow White”. However, it is never explained if the mirror actually contains magic or is magical in a figurative sense. Similar to what I said in my review of The Girl Who Spelled Freedom, context would have been beneficial in understanding Ribaldi as a character.
Under-utilizing musical potential: While I liked the songs in Rigoletto, I wish it had been a musical, similar to productions like Beauty and the Beast or The Sound of Music. Throughout the film, I can think of only four scenes that featured characters singing. Even though the story should be the first priority of any movie, Rigoletto relied on the script’s drama more than the film’s musical components. I’m also disappointed by the missed opportunity for at least one duet. Maybe Ribaldi and Bonnie could have sang a song about friendship. Perhaps Gabriella and Ribaldi could have shared a romantic, but wholesome melody. This idea might have become a reality had the movie been a musical instead of a drama with musical elements.
My overall impression:
As I said in my introduction, Rigoletto has been compared to Phantom of the Opera. However, it felt more like a live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Because I like the 1991 version of the aforementioned story, I didn’t mind this subversion of expectations. In fact, I found Rigoletto to be an interesting re-telling! The emphasis on music within the world of Castle Gate helped the film obtain its own identity. Having the story take place during the Great Depression and relying less on fantastical elements also helps the film’s case. The movie did have its strengths, but it also had its flaws too. I honestly wish Rigoletto had been a musical like Beauty and the Beast, so its full potential could have been reached. If you do like films with musical elements or are a fan of “modern” fairy tale re-tellings , I would definitely recommend this movie! As this review reaches the final curtain, I want to thank all my followers for helping 18 Cinema Lane make it this far! Like I’ve said before, this blog would not be the same without you!
Overall score: 7.8 out of 10
Have you seen Rigoletto? Are there any musical movies you enjoy watching? Let me know in the comment section!
Last month, I had planned on participating in the Star/Genre Of The Month Blogathon, with January’s star being Doris Day. However, multiple projects throughout the month had filled up my schedule, preventing me from joining the event. To make up for it, I decided to participate in the blogathon this month, where the featured star is Clark Gable! As the only film of Clark’s I’ve seen up until this point has been Gone with the Wind, I was excited to explore his filmography! When I was choosing which film to write about, I also signed up for the We Heart Pirates Week Blogathon. To meet the requirements for both events, I have selected the 1935 film China Seas! Since Gone with the Wind is considered a romantic drama, it will be interesting to see Clark in a movie from a different genre!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Like I said in the introduction, the only film of Clark Gable’s I’ve seen is Gone with the Wind. Therefore, I didn’t know what to expect from his performance in China Seas. Even though this film was released four years before Gone with the Wind, Clark’s portrayal of Captain Alan Gaskell didn’t feel like a copy of Rhett Butler. For this particular role, Clark adopted the qualities of a natural born leader. Two of them were the strength and perseverance during times of conflict. When Alan is being tortured by the pirates, he never succumbed to the pain or surrendered to the enemy. He stood his ground instead, protecting his ship, as well as the guests and crew aboard it. I was pleasantly surprised to see Jean Harlow and Rosalind Russell in this film! Since I’ve seen very few projects from both of their filmographies, I was excited to see what they had to offer, talent-wise, in China Seas. What I liked about Jean’s performance was how versatile it was. Throughout the film, she used many different expressions as her character, Dolly, is boarding Alan’s ship. A fancy dinner in the ship’s dining room is a good example. At the beginning of that dinner, Dolly is in a pleasant mood, smiling and laughing at a friend’s joke. As the event goes on, she becomes bitter by Sybil’s presence. Speaking of Sybil, Rosalind’s performance was much different from her portrayal of Mother Superior from The Trouble with Angels and Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows. In China Seas, Sybil was more reserved than the other female characters. However, she had a gentler persona, which also helped her stand out. It was nice to see one of Rosalind’s earlier films, as this movie was released three decades before The Trouble with Angels.
The costume design: Some of the costumes in this movie were simply gorgeous! The dresses from the female characters definitely stole the show! At the dinner I mentioned earlier in my review, Jean wore a simple white dress that was slightly off the shoulder. The only applique was a metal paisley brooch, which added an element of pop to the dress. Later in the movie, Jean wears a satin gown. Similar to the aforementioned white dress, the satin gown was also given an element of pop. This time, the straps on the dress were covered with jewels. My favorite costume in China Seas was the pirate captain’s, as his was one of the most beautiful costumes I’ve ever seen in a pirate film! While it is simple, like Jean’s fancy dresses, it is the fine details that help it stand out! Paired with a silk blouse, the jacket is coated with an intricate design. The sleeves and boarders of the jacket are covered in fancy ribbon.
The pirate subplot: When I found out there would be pirates in China Seas, I was excited to see Clark Gable fight against them. The subplot involving the pirates was the best part of the overall story! It contained a mystery that unfolded as the movie progressed, featuring surprises and twists I didn’t see coming. There was also exciting action, which keep me invested. I was actually surprised by the amount of violence in China Seas because it was released in the Breen Code Era, where violence in films were kept at a minimum. However, it wasn’t graphic and over the top. This particular subplot also brought out each character’s true colors. I won’t reveal the movie for anyone, but I will say it was an interesting approach to providing character development!
What I didn’t like about the film:
A limited presence of the pirates: While I did like the conflict involving the pirates, they weren’t in the story for a long period of time. This part of the film was introduced fifty-eight minutes into this hour and twenty-seven-minute movie, with it lasting for about thirty minutes. I was honestly disappointed by this because I expected the pirates’ conflict to be the main story of China Seas. The captain of the pirate crew was one of the more interesting characters the movie had to offer, as he chose to become a pirate despite coming from a wealthy, noble family. However, the limited presence of the pirates prevented this character from receiving a lot of character development or screen time. Everything I said makes China Seas light on “action” and “adventure”.
A dull first half: As I just mentioned, China Seas is light on “action” and “adventure”. Even though those two things can be found in this movie, the story as a whole leans more into the drama genre. In the first half of the film, the script focuses on Dolly’s jealously toward Sybil. While this encouraged Jean to use a variety of emotions in her performance, I wasn’t interested in this part of the story. Other conflicts taking place in the movie’s first half includes whether Sybil’s pearls are real and Dolly trying to win back Alan’s love. These kinds of conflicts made China Seas feel like it was “Rich People Problems: The Movie”, revolving around problems that seemed stereotypical of wealthier individuals. Throughout the film’s first half, I kept asking myself, “When are the pirates going to get here”?
Confusing areas of the story: There were some areas of China Seas’ story that I found confusing. I’ll provide two examples for this part of the review. When Sybil is outside on the ship’s deck one evening, she is joined by one of Alan’s colleagues. Shortly after, the two can be seen kissing one another. Several scenes later, Sybil is spending time with Alan and expressing romantic interest in him. If she was romantically interested in Alan, why was she kissing another man? My second example is about the ending. While I won’t spoil it for any of my readers, I felt it didn’t fit within the overall story. The ending tried to wrap everything up in a nice little package. But with the events that led up to that ending, that part of the story became more confusing than it should have been. I know this film was released during the Breen Code Era, where happy endings were usually favored. However, the ending of China Seas was, in my opinion, not earned.
My overall impression:
While it was interesting to see Clark Gable in a different role and genre from what I’ve seen before, I found China Seas to be just ok. Were there aspects of the film I liked? Sure. The pirate captain’s costume was beautiful and I did like the acting performances. But I was disappointed by the limited amount of screen-time the pirates received. Before watching China Seas, I had expected the main plot to revolve around Clark Gable’s character dealing with the pirates. However, the most exciting parts of the story took place toward the end of the film, making the movie’s second half stronger than the first. Having a major part of the story focus on Dolly’s jealousy toward Sybil and obsession with Alan didn’t work for me. It came across as petty and immature. I do plan on seeing more of Rosalind’s, Clark’s, and Jean’s films in the future. But I hope the next movie is stronger than this one.
Overall score: 6 out of 10
Have you seen any of Clark Gable’s films? What is your favorite pirate movie? Please tell me in the comment section!
Sunset Blvd. is a “classic” that a majority of film fans have seen at least once in their lives. It is so iconic that the Brannan sisters, from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, have decided to dedicate a blogathon to it! Because I’ve already seen Sunset Blvd., I choose a film that was new to me. As it is a brand-new year, I wanted the first movie of 2021 to be a fresh step forward. After looking through William Holden’s filmography, I selected the 1960 picture, The World of Suzie Wong! Whenever I think of William, I always think of Joe Gillis from Sunset Blvd. But, as a movie fan, I know that William, acting wise, is more than this iconic role. Therefore, I am grateful to be given this opportunity to explore more of his film work!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Since I’ve only seen Sunset Blvd. and Stalag 17, there’s only so much I can say about William Holden’s acting abilities. What I will say is how William’s performance in The World of Suzie Wong was consistent! From what I remember, William’s characters in Stalag 17 and Sunset Blvd. were serious and had their guard up due to being suspicious of those around them. In The World of Suzie Wong, his character was similar to those from the two previously mentioned movies. However, a major difference was how those characteristics were softened a bit. This was because William’s character, Robert, had a love interest, which is different from his characters in Stalag 17 and Sunset Blvd. I am not familiar with Nancy Kwan as an actress. Despite this, I really liked seeing her performance in this film! It reminded me of the portrayals from actresses in the “Golden Age” of film, where leading ladies not only worked well with other cast members, but were able to, talent wise, stand on their own. While starring as Suzie, Nancy was able to pull off a performance that was captivating, emotional, and memorable! Another performance I enjoyed seeing was Jacqueline Chan’s! As Gwennie Lee, she was able to use her on-screen personality to her advantage. The other female characters in The World of Suzie Wong carried themselves with a sense of sophistication, making themselves seem more mature than they really were. With Gwennie, her personality was joyful, carrying a youthful heart wherever she went. This creative decision helped Jacqueline stand out among the cast!
An educated and aware protagonist: In a story where a protagonist travels to a different country or new place, it can be easy for the screenwriter(s) to create a character that romanticizes a location to the point of being arrogant or clueless about that specific place. With Robert from The World of Suzie Wong, that was certainly not the case! While in Hong Kong, Robert tries to educate himself about his surroundings. When trying to find a hotel, he speaks Chinese to a police officer. Even though he didn’t memorize the question, it shows Robert was willing to go out of his way to learn the language of his temporary home. Robert also seems aware of the people and the customs of Hong Kong. When talking to a business associate, Ben, Robert senses that Ben is attempting to pursue a romantic relationship with Suzie for the wrong reasons. He stands up to Ben and reminds him how Suzie is a person with feelings. Everything I just mentioned effectively drives home a point Suzie made about “a boy cloud with a good heart”.
The use of color: A film’s color palette can help make a scene visually appealing as well as present creative ways to showcase various hues. With that said, I found the use of color in The World of Suzie Wong to be very interesting! At the bar next to Robert’s hotel, all of the female characters wore bright colors. This nicely contrasted the location of the bar itself, a place that didn’t feature a lot of color within the interior design. Color was also used in other ways throughout the movie. One example was the O’Neill family’s home, where a set of red seat cushions provide the only splash of color in their primarily white dining room. Another example is present when Robert tries to find Suzie in the city. Though this scene is brief, the colorful neon lights within this space nicely stand out against the city’s darkness.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The concept of “keeping face”: Throughout the film, Suzie and her friends talk about “keeping face”. One night, Gwennie asks Robert if he will enter the bar with her. She tells Robert that if she were to enter the bar by herself, she wouldn’t be able to “keep face”. Later in the film, after Suzie is physically injured by a drunken sailor, she tells Robert to say that he hurt her so she can “keep face”. Because there were no explanations for what “keeping face” was or why it was important, this concept ended up confusing me.
The run-time: The World of Suzie Wong is a little over two hours long. Personally, I don’t think this specific story needed its run-time. In fact, the film could have easily been set at an hour and thirty minutes. This might be achieved by shortening some of the movie’s longer scenes. One of them is when Suzie journeys to an undisclosed location for reasons unknown to Robert. In an attempt to find answers, Robert follows Suzie all the way to this undisclosed location in a scene that lasts about two minutes. When there are multiple scenes that are longer than necessary, they add up to a run-time that doesn’t feel justified.
An inconsistent relationship: While William Holden and Nancy Kwan had good on-screen chemistry, the on-screen relationship of their characters was inconsistent. Throughout the film, Robert and Suzie’s relationship was “on again/off again”. It also doesn’t help that Robert and Suzie don’t officially become a couple until about forty minutes into the movie. I understand that relationships take time to develop and that they contain good and bad moments. However, when a story includes a couple trying to pursue a romantic relationship, the relationship itself needs to be consistent enough for the audience to stay invested in.
My overall impression:
The World of Suzie Wong is a film that gets hurt by its run-time. This two-hour story could have been an hour and thirty minutes, with longer scenes cut shorter to move the story along faster. This also would help Robert and Suzie’s relationship officially start a lot sooner. Without spoiling the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, I will say The World of Suzie Wongis much sadder than I expected. I am aware of everyone experiencing different situations in their lives. However, the sadness in this movie made the story feel like there was a gray cloud hanging over the characters’ heads. There are aspects of this film that I appreciate. One of them is the protagonists sharing an interracial relationship in a time when that idea wasn’t commonly shown in cinema. I also appreciate some of the film’s artistic merit, such as the acting performances and the use of color within various scenes. In the end, though, I found The World of Suzie Wong to be a just ok start to 2021.
Overall score: 6.4 out of 10
Have you seen The World of Suzie Wong? Has a movie ever enticed you to travel to its featured location? Tell me in the comment section!