Buzzwordathon 2022 – Review of ‘A Little Princess’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett

With my Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon underway and the start of May around the corner, it’s time for another Buzzwordathon book review! For April, the theme is ‘Big & Little’. Participants had one of two options: 1. Read a book that has the word ‘big’ or ‘little’ in the title or 2. The title has to feature a word associated with ‘big’ or ‘little’. Because I happen to own a beautiful copy of A Little Princess and because ‘little’ is in the middle of that book’s title, I decided to read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic! The 1905 story has been a favorite of mine for a very long time. However, this is the first time I read it in a novel format.

Here is a screenshot of my copy of A Little Princess. Sorry if the cover’s bottom half appears blurry. I tried to capture how sparkly the cover is. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

While reading A Little Princess, I became nostalgic of the 1995 adaptation, as I have loved that film since its release. So, it was interesting to read how similar and different the movie was from its respective source material. One major difference is how Frances provides explanations for character motivations and situations. I haven’t seen the 1995 adaptation of A Little Princess in years. From what I remember, though, Sara’s dad goes missing during battle and is assumed dead. This provides the catalyst for Sara’s struggles and lost fortune. Looking back on the film, it never made sense, to me, for Sara to lose everything simply because her father was missing in action. If her dad knew there was a chance he could be in danger, wouldn’t he have created a will for Sara? The source material provided a stronger explanation for the lost fortune, as Sara’s father invested in diamond mines, but his money was mishandled. Even though this situation is resolved by the book’s end, the inclusion of these explanations was a strength for the book itself!

Princess tiara image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ornamental-princess-crowns_1109199.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Another strength of the book is how Frances used descriptions to flesh out the characters and their world. At the beginning of the story, Sara is referred to as “wise beyond her years”. She’s also described as “intelligent”, “imaginative”, and “courageous”. Interactions between characters and narrations from an anonymous narrator provide proof of those statements. On the first day of class, Miss Minchin gives Sara a French textbook in preparation for an upcoming French lesson. Throughout this scene, Sara tries to explain to the headmistress that she already knows basic French, as she grew up learning the language from her dad. It’s not until the French teacher arrives that he and Miss Minchin discover how advanced Sara is in French. In the 1995 adaptation, important and timeless messages and themes can be found throughout the story. That is also true for the source material! Because Sara imagines she is a princess, she assumes how a princess would behave. This includes assuming how a princess would treat others. After finding some money on the ground, Sara plans to buy some food from a nearby bakery. But just before she enters the bakery, Sara sees a girl who appears to be worse off than herself. With the found money, Sara purchases a set of rolls. But she ends up giving most of the rolls to the aforementioned girl.

Here is one of the full page illustrations that is featured in my copy of A Little Princess. Artwork created by Ethel Franklin Betts and found on https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Little_Princess.

Even though A Little Princess has been near and dear to my heart, I’ll be one of the first readers to admit it is not a perfect or near perfect book. Though this flaw wasn’t consistent throughout the text, there were times when parts of the story were repetitive. A portion of the book’s last chapter provides a great example, as it re-caps almost everything that happened prior to that point. As a reader, I don’t like longer chapters. This can, sometimes, cause a book’s pace to be slower. While A Little Princess’ pace was steady, the book contained longer chapters, with thirteen pages given to the longest chapter. In my copy of the book, there are full page illustrations that bring to life certain parts of the story. I honestly wish these illustrations had a more consistent presence, as they could have broken up some of the chapters. Other than that, though, I still enjoyed reading A Little Princess all these years later! I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to read it again!

Overall score: 4.1 – 4.2 out of 5 stars

Have fun during Buzzwordathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Disclaimer: Because A Little Princess was published in 1905, some of the words and phrases are reflective of that time, with their context different from today. A few of these words are “queer”, “gay”, “fat”, and “chubby”. At one point in the story, a man from India is referred to as “oriental”. There is also a stereotype about Chinese people included in the text. Again, these parts of the story are reflective of the book’s time; 1905.

Take 3: Brave Review

When Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews announced the No True Scotsman Blogathon, there was a list of recommendations on the announcement post. On that list, the Disney Pixar film, Brave, was mentioned. At the time I signed up for the event, no other participant had chosen that movie to review. This surprised me, as Brave is a well-known title. Since I happen to own a copy of this film on DVD, I chose to write about it for the event. This DVD was given to my family as a gift several years ago. But until this blogathon, I never got around to watching it. Animated films are also not reviewed on my blog often. This is because I’ve already seen most of animation’s beloved titles. But there are times when there is that one movie that I skipped over on my journey as a movie blogger. Brave is one of those movies, so now it’s time to finally talk about it.

My picture of my DVD copy of Brave. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The animation: Disney Pixar has a reputation for framing their stories in impressive technology. Brave certainly carries that tradition, as the animation looks realistic! In one scene, a close-up of an archery target board is shown. The rough texture was captured through animated technology, making it easy to forget the board wasn’t real. Many scenes took place in a forest at different parts of the day. The natural greens and browns were appealing to the eye, adding depth to the world around the characters. Speaking of hues, I really liked the use of color in this movie! Merida’s hair is a perfect example! No matter where she went, her bright orange hair provided a great contrast. There was one scene where Merida was in a forest at night. Since black was the primary hue in the forest, Merida’s hair gave a pop of color to that scene.

The humor: I haven’t seen a Disney Pixar film in a while. But, from what I remember, humor is a consistent component among these types of projects. When it comes to Brave, the humor was spontaneous, the type of humor I’m a fan of. After a successful day of exploring, Merida is talking to her horse, Angus. Then, out of nowhere, Angus hits Merida with his tail in a silly way. Later in the film, Merida’s suitors are being introduced. The father from one of the clans appears to be talking about a very muscular young man. As the introduction continues, the audience learns the father’s son was hiding behind the muscular young man, actually being much smaller in size.

The writing’s cleverness: While watching this movie, I was able to pick up on the cleverness within the script. When the various clans arrive in Merida’s kingdom, Merida’s mother, Elinor, is making a speech. During that speech, Merida discovers a loop hole that she can use in her favor, as she doesn’t want to get married yet. While we’re talking about the clans, let’s talk about one of the suitor’s fathers. Throughout the story, this character was known as Macintosh. At first, this sounds like a typical Scottish name. However, Brave was dedicated to Steve Jobs, who passed away a year prior to the movie’s release. One of Apple’s products was a Macintosh computer, so naming one of the characters after something related to Steve’s company makes sense.

No True Scotsman Blogathon banner created by Gill from RealWeegiemidget Reviews

What I didn’t like about the film:

Inconsistent characters: At the beginning of the movie, Elinor is introduced as a caring, protective mother. During her interactions with her daughter, she didn’t come across as overbearing in her protectiveness. But as Merida grows up, Elinor’s personality becomes a “bait and switch”. While she states in the story how she means well, she is overbearing in her protectiveness. At times, Elinor’s change in personality felt over-the-top. Merida herself is another character I found inconsistent. There were times where her clever and critical thinking skills shined, showing how she is an intelligent explorer. However, there are also times when Merida acts like a stereotypical teenager. I understand Merida is a young character and is not meant to be “perfect”. To me, though, it seems like the writers couldn’t decide which aspects of this character they wanted to emphasize.

Things happening too quickly: There were parts of the story that, to me, happened too quickly. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Merida doesn’t want to get married yet. This causes a conflict between her and her mother. While I won’t spoil the movie, I will say the resolution for this conflict was reached with little build-up. The bridge from Point A to B wasn’t as strong as it could have been. In fact, so much time was spent with Elinor and Merida fighting or both of them working to resolve another conflict, that the marriage conflict was somewhat overshadowed.

Parts of the story that didn’t make sense: Toward the beginning of the film, Merida’s father, Fergus, lost one of his legs while attempting to fight an evil bear. While that part of the story is simple to understand, it’s what can be seen in his castle that didn’t make sense to me. At one point, at least one taxidermic bear is found standing against a wall. After going through such a traumatizing experience, why would Fergus want any association with the animal that severely injured him? While we’re on the subject of bears, there is a witch in the story who is a woodcarver, with her work resembling bears. It is never explained why she chooses bears as her artistic focus. Therefore, her emphasis on this specific type of animal kind of felt random.

Essentials of Scotland image created by macrovector_official at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by macrovector_official – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

After sitting in a cabinet still wrapped in the manufacturing plastic, my DVD of Brave has finally gotten some use out of it. Now, you’re wondering what my opinion on the film is. Well, I thought it was just fine. There is good effort that was put into this project, as the animation itself shows. But I can think of other Disney/Disney Pixar titles that are stronger than Brave. While I liked the cleverness found in the script, there was more to be desired from the story. Structural issues, like weaker bridges from Point A to B, hurt the script. Also, it didn’t help how some parts of the story didn’t make sense. Despite all of this, Brave does bring something unique to the table. It’s also nice to see Scottish culture/heritage receive more recognition in the world of cinema.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Brave? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) Review

For the 2021 Swashbucklathon, I decided to review a movie that one of my readers recommended to me. It just so happens that one of my recent reccomendations, given to me by Patricia from Caftan Woman, was the 1939 version of The Man in the Iron Mask! Years ago, I had seen the 1998 adaptation of this specific title. However, I only have vague recollections of it, so I can’t give an honest opinion on that film. The aforementioned recommendation came after I had reviewed the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers. If you had read this article, you would know how much I enjoyed that film. But how does The Man in the Iron Mask compare to The Three Musketeers? Keep reading to find out!

The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) poster created by United Artists and Edward Small Productions.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I am not familiar with Louis Hayward as an actor. Despite this, I really enjoyed his dual performance as both King Louis XIV and Philippe of Gascony! Whenever Louis Hayward portrayed King Louis, he had a crazed look in his eyes, especially when King Louis was near something or someone he wanted. This can be seen when he meets Princess Maria Theresa for the first time. King Louis displayed a short temper as well. Meanwhile, Philippe had a gentler persona. He even got along with the people around him. When Philippe was apologizing to Maria about his inability to see her earlier in the day, the way he talked to her, as well as his body language, showed how he truly cared about her. Toward the beginning of the film, Philippe is sharing a meal with the Musketeers. He had a jovial disposition during this part of the scene, appearing to be enjoying the company. The Man in the Iron Mask is the first film of Joan Bennett’s I am reviewing. While I don’t have any other performance of Joan’s to compare to her portrayal of Princess Maria Theresa, I did like her performance in the 1939 film! What made it memorable was how well-rounded it was. Whenever Maria interacted with King Louis, she was headstrong, not afraid to stand up to him. But when she is with Philippe, she has a pleasant, more kind-hearted personality. Even though the Musketeers were on screen for a limited amount of time, I enjoyed seeing their camaraderie amongst them! It helps that the actors portraying the Musketeers had good on-screen chemistry!

The costume design: Back in April, I reviewed the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. A strength that movie and The Man in the Iron Mask share is the costume design! Exquisite is the word I would use to describe the costumes shown. One beautiful example is a coat Fouquet wore to a wedding. The black coat was adorned with black sparkly cuffs and edges. It was also covered with gold embroidery. Maria had an impressive wardrobe! One of my favorite outfits is a silk gown she wore when Philippe apologized to her. The gown itself complimented Joan’s dark hair. What adds to the look are the sparkling accessories! Diamond star hairpins could be found in Joan’s hair and a jeweled necklace was around her neck. A little bit of sparkle definitely helped elevate this outfit!

The set design: Another area of this film where the word, exquisite, could apply is the set design! In King Louis’ palace, the walls were covered with detailed wallpaper. Intricate wood carvings covered the chair in his office, showing off the affluence in his life. Carvings could also be seen in other palace spaces, such as over a fireplace in a sitting room. Fine details came in all shapes and sizes, as well as in various materials. In Maria’s room, two angel shaped lamps were located above a desk. These lamps looked like they were made of metal. The little things within these sets showcased the elegance this cinematic world had to offer!

The 2021 Swashbucklathon banner created by Paul from Silver Screen Classics.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Unclear details: There were a few details within the overall story that weren’t made clear. At the beginning of the movie, the Musketeers were named enemies of the King. They were also taken in as prisoners. But I didn’t hear why they were declared enemies. In fact, I don’t remember this reason ever being spoken. Had details like this been clarified, certain parts of the story would be less confusing.

A limited amount of action scenes: After watching the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers, I expected to see exceptional fight choreography in the 1939 film. While I did get to see some interesting fight sequences, there was less action in The Man in the Iron Mask than in The Three Musketeers. Looking back on the movie, I can think of only a handful of action scenes in this particular story. What this film emphasized was drama and romance. While having drama and romance can work in a film, this direction in The Man in the Iron Mask was much different than I had anticipated.

A somewhat misleading title: As I said in the introduction, I have seen the 1998 adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask. From what I remember, the audience knew early on there was a literal man in an iron mask. Even though this titular character was in the 1939 film, the mask itself didn’t come in until an hour into the movie. I understand that moment needed build-up. However, I think that part of the story should have taken place much sooner.

Princess tiara image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ornamental-princess-crowns_1109199.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

So far, the best film I’ve seen this year is the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. There was so much within that film I liked. When watching The Man in the Iron Mask, I wondered if this movie could compare to the 1948 film. While there were things about the project I did enjoy, I still like The Three Musketeers more. The 1939 picture was a likeable one. However, some flaws ended up holding this film back. One of them was how action was used sparingly. Other flaws, such as a somewhat misleading title and some unclear details, brought its score down. But I would recommend this film, especially if you’re looking for a title for Clean Movie Month. The Man in the Iron Mask makes me want to revisit the 1998 version in the future. For now, I need to focus on publishing my next blog follower dedication review!

Overall score: 7.4-7.5 out of 10

Have you seen any versions of The Man in the Iron Mask? If so, which one is your favorite? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen