Take 3: The Song of Bernadette Review

Shock and sadness. That’s how I felt when I discovered the passing of Patricia, from Caftan Woman, on Twitter. Upon hearing the announcement of the Caftan Woman Blogathon, I wanted to participate as a way to pay my respects to a fellow blogger. Over the years, Patricia has recommended several films for future reviews. So, it was only fitting for me to choose one of her suggestions for the event. Since the blogathon is commemorating a loss, I felt The Song of Bernadette was the most appropriate choice out of the recommendations on my Pinterest board. This also compliments other religious/faith-based films I’ve reviewed in the past, such as Ben-Hur and The Carpenter’s Miracle. With all that said, let’s start this review of The Song of Bernadette.

The Song of Bernadette poster created by 20th Century Fox

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: One of my favorite movies is Portrait of Jennie. Jennifer Jones’ consistent and captivating performance is one of the reasons why I love that film so much. In The Song of Bernadette, Jennifer’s portrayal of the titular character reminded me of her portrayal of Jennie. This is because she has a talent for pulling off an innocent demeanor without coming across as childish or immature. Throughout the film, Bernadette claims she is dumb. Yet, when asked what a sinner is, she tells the local reverend a sinner “is someone who loves sin”. The reverend even comments how Bernadette chose to say “loves sin” instead of “commits sin”. Personality wise, Jennifer brought a gentleness to her character. When speaking with one of Lourdes’ members of police, the policeman gets details of Bernadette’s story wrong. In a polite manner, Bernadette corrects him, pointing out the policeman’s errors in a soft-spoken voice. This innocence and gentleness allowed Bernadette to be taken seriously by the audience.

On 18 Cinema Lane, I have reviewed several of Vincent Price’s films. In most of these movies, Vincent portrays a character that can exude a sense of fear for the audience. But in The Song of Bernadette, his role of Vital Dutour was very different from his other roles. One reason is how Vincent is a part of an ensemble instead of a main focus in the story. Another reason is how Vital’s actions and choices were not chosen to cause fear. Despite all of this, Vincent carries his character with elegance and arrogance. In an effort to get to the bottom of Bernadette’s “visions”, Vital questions her story in his office. He speaks to Bernadette with a stern voice and presents a no-nonsense attitude. By interacting with her in this way, Vital is attempting in enforce his authority, thinking he will get his way. But because of Bernadette’s strength in her faith and her innocent demeanor, she is able to stand up to Vital. With that, both Jennifer Jones and Vincent Price are able to, acting-wise, go toe-to-toe with each other!

The set design: The Song of Bernadette takes place in the French countryside of 1858. But according to IMDB, the movie was filmed in California. Despite this, the set didn’t look like a set. Instead, it looked like a small French town from the 1850s! The architecture of Lourdes’ buildings was simple. Materials such as stone cover these structures. A traditional roof shingle design is displayed on top of these buildings. Like any well-researched production, the attention to detail was not overlooked! Vital’s office boasts two impressive things: a large desk and fireplace. The desk is a big piece of furniture that is coated in darker wood. Small, gold detailing can be found on the side of the desk. The fireplace is a massive marble structure, with etched detailing just below the mantle. Attention to detail and thorough research made this on-screen world an immersive environment!

Correlations with Biblical stories: When I reviewed the 1959 film, Ben-Hur, I talked about how certain Biblical events were incorporated into the overall story. With The Song of Bernadette, I could pick out moments that felt like unintentional correlations with some stories from the Bible. Toward the beginning of the film, Bernadette’s father is hired to dispose dirty rags from hospital patients. Shortly after being hired, Bernadette’s father can be seen pulling the wagon filled with dirty rags up a hill. This scene reminded me of the Crucifixion story, when Jesus is carrying the cross. The scene can also serve as a reminder how everyone has their own cross to bear, literally or figuratively. After Bernadette sees her first “vison”, Bernadette’s neighbors offer Bernadette’s family extra food they had acquired. The neighbors’ multiplying of food is reminiscent of the story where Jesus multiplied two fish and five loaves. Because this scene takes place after the first “vision”, I saw it as a miracle similar to the aforementioned Biblical story.

Using little to no dialogue: In two scenes, the movie’s creative team did a great job using little to no dialogue! One of them was the aforementioned scene where Bernadette’s father climbed up the hill. Orchestral music replaces any dialogue, which captures the emotions of Bernadette’s father. A long shot showcases the journey, elaborating how small Bernadette’s father is compared to the hill. This scene visually explained how difficult his life is. Another scene that used no dialogue is when Bernadette experiences her first “vision”. Not only is orchestral and choir music incorporated, the creative team uses a spotlight to accentuate Jennifer’s facial expressions. At one point in this scene, wind blew unexpectedly, signaling something was about to happen. Both scenes were able to say so much while saying so little!

The Caftan Woman Blogathon banner created by Lady Eve from Lady Eve’s Reel Life and Jacqueline from Another Old Movie Blog

What I didn’t like about the film:

The under-utilization of Antoine and his mother: In The Song of Bernadette, the titular character appears to be friends with a man named Antoine. Antoine also appears to be close with his mother. These two characters were only shown in a handful of scenes. Even when they were included in the story, their significance in the overall plot was weaker. The under-utilization of Antoine and his mother was disappointing, as I felt they could have offered more to the story. But since this movie was based on a book I haven’t read, I’m not sure if the limited presence of these characters is close to the source material.

A few ignored details: Toward the beginning of the movie, a friend of Bernadette’s explains to their teacher how Bernadette has asthma. This diagnosis is brought up on a few occasions by Bernadette’s family throughout the movie. But, for the most part, this detail was ignored and had little significance in the story. There were times when Vital Dutour was seen wiping his nose with a handkerchief. At one point in the story, he claims it’s “influenza”. However, it isn’t clearly explained what he’s medically dealing with. As I already said, The Song of Bernadette is based on a book I haven’t read. But if the creative team knew they weren’t going to utilize these details, it makes me wonder why they would include them in the movie?

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My overall impression:

Incorporating faith into film can be a tricky task. On the one hand, you don’t want to run the risk of alienating those who aren’t religious. At the same time, you want to acknowledge the beliefs of those who choose to include religion in their lives. The Song of Bernadettefinds a way to achieve “the best of both worlds”! Bernadette’s story is shown as a procession, a good exploration of how religious phenomena can affect a small town. The film doesn’t seem to take sides when it comes to the actual topic. Yes, some people make fun of Bernadette because of her “visions”. But there’s no antagonist or villain in the movie. Lourdes’ mayor and his friends don’t believe Bernadette. However, none of the men are religious, approaching the situation from a legal and literal perspective. Even the town’s reverend isn’t quick to assume the “visions” are religious. Out of all the movies I’ve seen this year, so far, I’d say The Song of Bernadette is the strongest one! If you are interested in checking this film out, I think Easter would be an appropriate time to see it. Personally, I wish I had seen it sooner, especially since I can no longer thank Patricia for the recommendation.

Overall score: 8.2-8.3 out of 10

Rest in Peace Patricia

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Bridge on the River Kwai Review

William Holden is an actor who I am familiar with. I have seen some of the films on his filmography and have even reviewed a few. So, when I came across the announcement post for The 5th Golden Boy Blogathon, I saw it as a great opportunity to explore William’s filmography some more! As I was signing up, though, I noticed how The Bridge on the River Kwai hadn’t been selected yet. Surprised by this, I found another good opportunity to check out a “classic”! For years, I had heard of the 1957 film. It is even featured on the American Film Institute’s list of The 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time. At the publication of this review, I have seen twenty-nine of the movies on this list, in their entirety. Some of these titles have been enjoyable, but there are others I wasn’t a fan of. Where does The Bridge on the River Kwai fall on that spectrum? Keep reading to find out!

The Bridge on the River Kwai poster created by Horizon Pictures and Columbia Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Since William Holden is one of the reasons why I chose to watch The Bridge on the River Kwai, I’ll talk about his performance first. This is not the first war film William has starred in. Four years prior to the release of The Bridge on the River Kwai, he appeared in Stalag 17. What makes his portrayal of Shears different from Sgt. J.J. Sefton is the material allowed William to expand his acting abilities. While on a beach at a nearby hospital, Shears is flirting with a female nurse. In this scene, William turns on the charm, sharing nice on-screen chemistry with Ann Sears. In the next scene, Shears carries a serious demeanor as he is called upon for a military mission. Out of Williams’ films I have seen, his character presents one of two personas: the “charmer” or the serious, no-nonsense man. In The Bridge on the River Kwai, Shears displayed both.

One of my favorite scenes is when Colonels Nicholson and Saito are attempting to make a negotiation. Colonel Saito, portrayed by Sessue Hayakawa, wants every member of Nicholson’s team to work on the bridge. Colonel Nicholson, portrayed by Alec Guinness, refuses this order. Prior to this scene, Nicholson stood his ground. He was even locked in a small hut because of his refusal. But Nicholson persevered, even carrying a dignified persona that ends up boosting the morale of his team. He consistently maintains this persona, especially during his meeting with Colonel Saito. This dignified, confident demeanor of Nicholson angers Saito. Up until that point, Saito presents himself in a professional manner. He is no-nonsense and doesn’t allow anyone to step out of line. But in his meeting with Nicholson, his anger becomes visible. Both Sessue and Alec gave different performances, portraying two different military leaders. Yet the strength of their acting abilities allowed them to go toe-to-toe with one another.

The scenery: The Bridge on the River Kwai had such magnificent scenery, it honestly stole the show! There are two locations I loved so much, I wanted to talk about them in my review. The first location is the hospital I just mentioned. The Mount Lavinia Hotel was the stand-in for the hospital. When looking at the exterior and grounds, one could see why this location was chosen. The trimmed lawn was a great contrast to the small white structure. The manicured gardens surrounding the hospital created a pleasant outdoor space. In the scene the hospital was featured in, a nearby beach was primarily showcased. The clear blue waters and bright sandy shore paired with the garden-esque surroundings illustrated a tropical oasis!

The second location is Major Warden’s office! Any time a scene took place in his office, glass windows in wooden frames were always open. This allowed the audience to see the beautiful view! Major Warden’s office overlooked a river. Sloping green hills sat on the sides of this river, contributing to the visually appealing view. Similar to the aforementioned hospital, Warden’s office also oversaw a trimmed lawn and manicured gardens. The spacious surroundings of this location presented the audience a peaceful atmosphere!

The music: There were some scenes in The Bridge on the River Kwai that included little to no dialogue. This decision led the film’s creative team to use music to elevate a scene’s tone. While stumbling through the jungle, Shears notices a group of vultures sitting on a nearby tree. As he walks through this environment, quiet orchestral music becomes louder. A “bird” appears out of nowhere, adding to the scene’s tension. The music gets even louder when Shears crosses paths with the “bird”. When the “bird” is revealed as a bird-shaped kite, the music stops. The tension and suspense of this scenario was accomplished by a combination of music and visuals!

The 5th Golden Boy Blogathon banner created by Virginie from The Wonderful World of Cinema, Emily from The Flapper Dame, and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood

What I didn’t like about the film:

A confusing first half: During the first half of The Bridge on the River Kwai, I was confused by what was happening in the story. This confusion was caused by the lack of explanations. At the prisoner camp, Colonel Saito continuously mentioned the importance of the titular bridge. He stresses how the bridge needs to be built on a specific day, even going so far as to claim he’ll commit suicide if the bridge isn’t built. What Colonel Saito failed to mentioned is the bridge’s purpose. Even though an explanation was eventually provided, it is given at the film’s half-way point. Had this information been given sooner, so much confusion could have been avoided.

A limited amount of urgency: In war films or films that involve a significant amount of action, a strong sense of urgency can be felt throughout the story. This sense of urgency encourages the audience to care about the safety and wellbeing of the characters. But because some scenes in The Bridge on the River Kwai were drawn out, the sense of urgency was limited. Toward the end of the movie, a climactic moment involving the story’s major players takes place. While I won’t spoil the movie, I will say this moment was drawn out a little longer than necessary. The action moved at a slower pace, which also effected the urgency. It seems like this creative decision was made to build suspense. However, it left me, at times, frustrated.

Inconsistent halves: Earlier in this review, I said William Holden was one of the reasons why I chose to watch The Bridge on the River Kwai. Interestingly, his character’s story was the one I found the most engaging. This movie features two major storylines: Colonel Nicholson’s team in the prisoner camp and Shears’ experiences in the military. Since Shears’ story was prominently featured in the film’s second half, I found that half the most interesting. With Shears’ story, there was a strong conflict and an even stronger part of the plot. Meanwhile, Colonel Nicholson’s story seemed to remain at a standstill. Like I also mentioned in this review, the film’s first half was confusing due to the lack of explanations. If The Bridge on the River Kwai had just focused on Shears’ story, the film as a whole would have been more intriguing.

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My overall impression:

Why is The Bridge on the River Kwai on AFI’s list of The 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time? I’m not asking this to be disrespectful or mean. I’m asking out of curiosity. When I think of lists like AFI’s, I think of movies that fit one of two categories: those that represent the time they were released and those that brought something new to the cinematic table. With The Bridge on the River Kwai, I can’t see this film fitting into either category. As I mentioned in this review, Stalag 17 was released four years prior to The Bridge on the River Kwai. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison was also released in 1957. With that said, what makes those two films less deserving of being on AFI’s list than The Bridge on the River Kwai? Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any cinematic advancements The Bridge on the River Kwai had to offer. The more films I watch from AFI’s list and the more I think of lists of this nature, I wonder what the criteria is? Was there criteria to begin with or is the list purely subjective? As I explore more “classics”, those are questions I will keep in mind.

Overall score: 7-7.1 out of 10

Have you watched any of William Holden’s movies? If so, which one would you like me to review next? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Harvey (1950) Review

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.

Harvey (1950) poster created by Universal Pictures

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.

Collection of white rabbit images created by freepik at freepik.com Hand drawn vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

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.

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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!

Sally Silverscreen

If you’re interested in reading Jillian’s editorial, here is the link:

In Defense of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

When I was invited by The Classic Movie Muse to join their It’s a Wonderful Life Blogathon, I had no idea what to write about. Because there are so many moving parts to this seventy-five-year-old film, it was kind of overwhelming to choose just one aspect. But then I remembered an editorial written by fellow blogger, J-Dub. On their blog, Dubsism, they have a series called ‘Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate’. The first entry was about It’s a Wonderful Life. In this editorial, J-Dub explains, without the sugar-coating, bells, or whistles, why they don’t like the Christmas classic. While I respect J-Dub’s opinion, I personally disagree with them. These differing viewpoints inspired me to write my editorial, where I defend It’s a Wonderful Life. Like I have said in previous editorials, my article is not meant to be mean-spirited or negative. It is only meant to express my opinion and present a different view to the subject of It’s a Wonderful Life. If you are interested in reading J-Dub’s article, you can visit their blog at dubsism.com.

It’s A Wonderful Life Blogathon: A 75th Anniversary Celebration banner created by The Classic Movie Muse from The Classic Movie Muse

Debunking the “Lie” of It’s a Wonderful Life

Throughout the editorial, ‘Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate’: Episode 1 – “It’s A Wonderful Life”, J-Dub claims the film is a lie. They believe the film is not only filled with nihilism, but that Pottersville is wrongfully villainized. J-Dub also says the film tells the viewer they are among “jerks who will crush our dreams for no other reason so they can suck the life out of us”. This statement relates to J-Dub’s belief that everyone in George’s life is trying to hold him back. For this part of the editorial, I’m going to discuss three points. The first point is about Pottersville. While the glitzy sparkle of the “dream town” may give the appearance of a successful paradise, it’s what the city represents that is important.

When George first visits Pottersville, he is unfamiliar with his surroundings. Beloved locals have drastically changed, but so have its citizens. One of these citizens is Nick, a bartender who works at Martini’s Bar. In the “dream town”, Nick owns the bar. With this ownership comes a mean attitude. He not only treats George and Clarence horribly, he also embarrasses Mr. Gower. The pharmacist in this “dream town” is now an ostracized criminal who is known for poisoning a patient. This leads me to my second point. The idea of success is not a bad one. However, it has the ability to change people for the worse. Pottersville is also the complete opposite of Bedford Falls, with Bedford Falls representing familiarity. Why do so many movie studios and companies choose to revisit well known franchises and IPs? It’s because they can, sometimes, capitalize on a fandom’s familiarity with certain characters and stories. Familiarity can also be experienced during the Christmas/holiday season, as people may choose to gather with those they are familiar with or carry on familiar traditions. Therefore, Bedford Falls’ representation of familiarity debunks J-Dub’s claim of the film containing nihilism.

My third point involves the people in George’s life. Earlier in this part of my argument, I mentioned how J-Dub feels the characters surrounding George are holding him back. But when you pay attention to what these same characters are saying and doing, this is not the case. Let me bring up Mary as just one example. Ever since they were children, Mary knew George wanted to travel the world. That was the plan after they got married. But when the Bailey Building & Loan was in financial trouble due to the Great Depression, those plans quickly changed. After seeing George desperately trying to help his clients, it was Mary’s idea to use their honeymoon money to pay these clients. To make up for the financial sacrifice, Mary organizes a honeymoon dinner at the infamous Sycamore House. The living room in this house is decorated with posters of faraway lands. Music fills the room to help elaborate the immersion of travel. Throughout the scene, Bert and Ernie can be seen assisting Mary in her plan of giving George a thoughtful alternative. If she was truly a “millstone” around George’s neck, why would Mary bother helping George save the Building & Loan on more than one occasion? Why would she plan the honeymoon dinner on the same day as the aforementioned crisis? Heck, why would Mary take the time to pray for George at the beginning of the movie? Personally, I think Mary serves as George’s reminder of what really matters the most.

Because this blogathon is celebrating one of the most iconic Christmas movies of all time, I thought sharing my cat ornament would make sense. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

George is the “Every Person”, Not a Criminal

A point J-Dub stresses in their editorial is how George Bailey is a criminal. This is because they see the protagonist as “a predatory lender” by “economically enslaving a large part of the town’s population by saddling them with debt they can never pay”. There are instances throughout the movie where Bailey’s Building & Loan is struggling to get by. Potter is explained the operations of “Bailey Park”, where the homes are lower in initial value. But these things are not done to cheat the system or live above the law. As the audience can see even from George’s younger years, the folks at Bailey’s Building & Loan simply care about people.

When the viewer is first introduced to George’s father, he is conducting a meeting with Potter. In this meeting, Potter claims the establishment’s payments are late. While this statement is true, Mr. Bailey tells Potter he is waiting payment from his clients, as he extended their deadline in order to prevent them from losing their homes. As George grows up and eventually takes over the Building & Loan, he chooses to follow in his father’s footsteps by putting the customer first. The purpose of “Bailey Park” was to provide their customers with the option of owning a house, instead of renting one through Potter. Even when Uncle Billy loses the $8,000 the Building & Loan needs to stay afloat, the situation is nothing more than an accident. Though Potter does threaten to have George arrested for the missing $8,000, he does this because he thinks his plan will help him finally achieve the Building & Loan, the same establishment he has always wanted to own. As George’s father said about Potter, “He hates anybody that has what he can’t have”.

George Bailey is one of the most beloved characters in not only the realm of Christmas movies, but within the world of cinema. Like I said in the title of my second argument, George is the “every person”, which makes him a memorable and likable character. Throughout the story of It’s a Wonderful Life, George experiences his ups and downs. He can become so frustrated, he destroys the architectural corner of his living room. But there are moments where he places others before himself, with George helping Violet start a new chapter in her life by giving her money as one example. Even though George’s life plays out differently from those in the audience, it does contain a sense of relatability. While working in the drug store one day, George is mistreated by Mr. Gower. The pharmacist physically hurts and yells at George for not delivering a bundle of pills. During this ordeal, George stands up to his employer, explaining how the pharmacist mistakenly placed poison in the pill capsules. This mistake was caused by Mr. Gower’s consuming grief, due to his son, Robert, dying of Influenza. Everyone has experienced a time in their life when bravery was needed. Because bravery can look different for each individual, the audience may see George’s decision as a huge step in his story. They may also see it as “something big, something important”.

Similar to what I said about my cat ornament, I thought posting my Christmas tree from last year would make sense for this editorial. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Standing Up for Clarence

Another aspect of disagreement between J-Dub and I is Clarence the Angel. J-Dub is not a fan of this character. They claim Clarence uses “predatory skills” to give George a false narrative by “misrepresenting reality in order to make an exceptionally nihilistic point”. Even as the film begins, the script makes it pretty clear Clarence really wants to earn his wings. But if you’ve been waiting over 200 years to get what you wanted, you’d make sure you did your job as best you could. Plus, with Clarence having the “heart of a child”, he wants to find the best in George’s character. While Clarence accepts his mission with awaiting wings in mind, he is not selfish. At the end of the film, Clarence gives George his copy of Tom Sawyer. Also, when George makes his ultimate wish of having never been born, Clarence gives George what he wants. But this granted wish is used as a teachable moment; showing how getting what you want doesn’t always mean getting it the way you want.

The “dream world” Clarence creates was never meant to be literal or mess up time. Instead, this exaggerated alternate universe was simply a visual example of a very important point. After being kicked out of Nick’s Bar in the “dream world”, Clarence tells George “Each man’s life touches so many other lives”. Even though this can be said about any other character in this film, George is the one who needed to hear it the most. At that point in the story, George is filled with fear, insecurities, and self-doubt. In fact, one of George’s reasons for considering suicide was Potter’s harsh claim that George is “worth more dead than alive”. If it’s anybody giving a false narrative, it’s Potter. With that said, Clarence tries to expose Potter’s lies throughout his mission.

Since Clarence is an angel, sharing this angel ornament was appropriate for this part of the editorial. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

George Plays His Part

In their editorial, J-Dub claims George “runs into a gigantic example of “crab in the bucket” syndrome”. This connects to their previously stated belief that the people in George’s life are holding him back. Toward the beginning of the film, George told his father he wanted to do “something big, something important”. That’s why he had dreams of going to college to become an architect. George’s father reminds him how working at the Building & Loan is important, as they are helping people acquire a home. As the story plays out, George’s father is proven right. Another way Mr. Bailey is proven right is during World War II. Everyone in Bedford Falls does their part to help the war effort. One of George’s responsibilities is hosting various drives, such as a scrap metal drive. Even though this seems like a small role in the grand scheme of things, it is “something big, something important”. United States history will tell you every aspect of the war effort provided a huge help in winning World War II. This includes things like scrap metal drives, as the metal was used to create weapons and machinery for the U.S. troops. Having those materials available was not only “big”, but “important” as well. George’s role may not have been glamourous like Potter’s life or news worthy like Harry’s military achievements. But to everyone who was helped by George, his role made a tremendous difference.

Cute Christmas image created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

In Conclusion

Though this editorial was submitted to celebrate the 75th anniversary of It’s a Wonderful Life, it was written to present a different opinion from that of a fellow blogger. J-Dub is not wrong for disliking this film and I’m not correct for defending it. What I’m emphasizing is how subjective film is. Both J-Dub and I approached the same movie. We each wrote an editorial, presenting the material in two differing ways. This provides more content for the reader and an opportunity to keep the conversation going. Maybe this is why It’s a Wonderful Life has been well-regarded for so long. Remember when I said how there are so many moving parts to this film? Well, I’m starting to realize that’s the beauty of it. No matter which aspect of the story you choose, there’s a conversation waiting to be spoken. With that said, I hope you check out J-Dub’s editorial. They put as much work into theirs as I did into mine. When it comes to blogathons, that’s what it’s really all about.

Have fun at the anniversary!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Pollyanna (1920) Review

When I discovered The Silent Movie Day Blogathon, hosted by In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood and Silent-ology, I knew I had to take part in the event! As I mentioned in my review of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, silent movies are not often covered on 18 Cinema Lane due to their availability. Speaking of the aforementioned film, that review was published back in January. So, my blog was due for another article about a silent picture. I was fortunate to find 1920’s Pollyanna on Youtube. While choosing this movie for the blogathon, I realized this would be the first adaptation of Pollyanna I would see in its entirety. While I have seen the adaptation starring Hayley Mills, I only watched pieces of it. Therefore, I can’t give an honest opinion on that film. I am familiar with the general premise of Pollyanna, despite never reading the source material or seeing an entire film version. I also haven’t sought out any of Mary Pickford’s movies before. Because of everything I’ve said in this introduction, I knew watching 1920’s Pollyanna would be an exciting experience!

Pollyanna (1920) poster created by United Artists

Things I liked about the film:

Mary Pickford’s performance: I thought the cast of Pollyanna was solid. But the one actor that shined the brightest was Mary Pickford! As I’ve mentioned before, actors and actresses in silent films must rely on body language, facial expressions, and emotions to convey what a character is thinking and feeling. While portraying Pollyanna, Mary was so expressive, using the aforementioned acting components to her advantage. She was even able to quickly adapt to each situation very effortlessly! What I also liked about Mary’s performance was how she displayed feelings of sadness and frustration. Realistically, carrying a happy persona is tiring. You can only be happy for so long and so often until the feeling itself starts to wear off. Because of Mary expressing these emotions, she helps prevent her character from being one-dimensional.

Mary’s wardrobe: An element of this project that, surprisingly, stood out to me was Mary’s wardrobe. Even though these outfits appear age appropriate for her character, a more creative reason is what caught my eye. The majority of Mary’s wardrobe consisted of light-colored outfits. These outfits allowed Mary to stand out and become the focus of a given scene. This creative decision was a simple one that worked in the project’s favor. It shows how much thought was put into the film’s presentation.

The messages and lessons: Before watching this adaptation of Pollyanna, I knew the titular character’s purpose was to, simply, make people happy. While there is truth to this statement, making people happy only scratches at the surface. Pollyanna, more often than not, tries to find the “silver lining” that will help her move forward in life. This mentality allows her to see the good in everyone she meets, even her stubborn Aunt Polly. In the 21st century, it can sometimes be difficult to put ourselves in a good mood. Even in the world of movie blogging, it can be easier to talk about bad movies or unfavorable movie news. But Pollyanna shows the audience that it is possible to find the “silver lining” in our lives, even finding the good in ourselves. These are lessons and messages that are not only relatable, but timeless as well.

The Silent Movie Day Blogathon banner created by In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood and Silent-ology

What I didn’t like about the film:

An unexplained scene: When Aunt Polly is first introduced, two small children dressed up as bunnies appeared on the table. They approach Aunt Polly with pitchforks in their hands, one of these “bunnies” even poking Aunt Polly with their pitchfork. After that scene, the “bunnies” never appeared again. They were never referenced by any of the characters either. It also doesn’t help that no title card provided context to the “bunnies”. This is a scene I wish was given more explanation.

Musical selections: To make up for the lack of dialogue, music is used to emphasis the tone of a given scene. While there were musical selections in Pollyanna that matched what was happening on screen, some of these musical selections felt out of place. In the second half of the film, Pollyanna deals with a difficult situation. This situation brought up feelings of sadness and low self-esteem. But the background music during this situation was a cheery, upbeat tune. Because of this musical choice, it kind of took me out of the film.

Pollyanna’s lack of uniqueness: Like I said in the introduction, I was familiar with the general premise of Pollyanna prior to watching this adaptation. Based on what I knew, I was expecting the titular character to magically make everyone feel happy, with the script making it seem like that was Pollyanna’s “magical power”. But as I watched the movie, Pollyanna reminded me of other characters; such as Anne Shirley, Heidi, and Annie. While I liked her promotion of the “glad game”, Pollyanna’s attempts at spreading joy to those around her didn’t feel much different from the attempts of the aforementioned characters. This discovery disappointed me because I expected Pollyanna and her story to be different from Annie, Heidi, and Anne of Green Gables.

Image of vintage movie camera created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Mary Pickford is someone I’d like to call one of the “grandmothers of cinema”. A face of Hollywood’s early years, she helped play a role in showing what was possible for, at the time, a new medium. This particular film also shows what is possible when it comes to adaptations. 1920’s Pollyanna is a fine film. With strong acting, effective creative choices, and good messages, it contains likable qualities. However, the movie kind of felt like a copy of similar stories. Pollyanna herself reminded me of other young characters with shining personalities, like Anne Shirley or Ceddie. Even the older characters’ transformations in attitude were reminiscent of those such as Daddy Warbucks, Marilla Cuthbert, and Heidi’s grandfather. With all this said, the movie didn’t add much to the adaptation table. I am aware of two other adaptations of Pollyanna, including Hayley Mills’ version I mentioned in the introduction. One day, I’d like to check these films out and see which one I like best!

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any silent films? If so, which one would you like to recommend? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Review

Whenever I think of Dorian Gray as a character, Stuart Townsend’s portrayal in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comes to mind. While I’ve never seen that film, I did watch a video review of it years ago. However, I know that, sometimes, no singular portrayal of a given character is the “end all, be all” when it comes to story-telling. This is one of the reasons why I chose to review the 1945 adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. The other reason is Peter Lawford’s involvement in the project. Once again, I am participating in the Peter Lawford Blogathon, hosted by Kristen from Hoofers and Honeys of the Classic Movie Era/KN Winiarski Writes. Last year, I wrote about 1960’s Ocean’s Eleven. At the time, I was not familiar with Peter’s filmography. Now that I have seen at least one of his movies, I had a starting point for which film to choose next! Before Dorian’s portrait transforms on us, let’s get this review started!

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I haven’t seen many of Peter Lawford’s films. But based on 1960’s Ocean’s Eleven and 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, it seems like he can be found in movies with larger ensembles. When it comes to the 1945 title, I was disappointed by this, as I was hoping to see more of his performance. Nevertheless, Peter did do a good job with the material he was given! Portraying David Stone, a man interested in courting Gladys Hallward, he resembled the youth Dorian himself desperately sought after. Despite appearing in a handful of scenes, David’s concern of Gladys felt genuine. You can hear it in the inflection of Peter’s voice and the expressions on his face. In a way, these things made David seem like a “voice of reason”.

During the film’s opening credits, I was surprised to discover Angela Lansbury also starred in The Picture of Dorian Gray. But similar to Peter Lawford, she also appeared in a handful of scenes. Despite this, I enjoyed seeing her portrayal of Sibyl Vane! Within this film, she sang a song called “The Little Yellow Bird”. It was nice to hear a musical performance from Angela, as I feel her singing abilities are underrated. When it came to her acting performance, Angela carried her character with a youthfulness I haven’t noticed in her other roles I’ve seen. Her expressions were more subtle, but worked for her character. Another actor who had subtle expressions was Hurd Hatfield. I’m not familiar with his acting work. But based on his portrayal of the titular character, he carried himself with a sense of professionalism. Hurd did, however, have very expressive eyes. At one point during the story, Dorian makes a mistake. When he realizes what he did, his eyes grow wide with alarm. Meanwhile, Hurd still shows a composure that he partly gave to Dorian, which maintains consistency.

The lessons and morals: Since this film premiered in 1945, that means it had to follow the Breen Code guidelines. The Picture of Dorian Gray certainly obeys those guidelines, but it also serves up some good lessons and morals. Toward the beginning of the story, Lord Henry tells Dorian how lucky he is to be young and attractive. He also tells Dorian to not squander his youth. These pieces of conversation can be used as lessons to appreciate the things you have and to not take anything for granted. Certain events in Dorian’s life highlight these lessons well. Another idea that is addressed in this script is actions speaking louder than words. This can be seen throughout Dorian’s relationship with Sibyl. While I won’t spoil what happens, I will say something comes up that relates to the aforementioned idea.

The cinematography: A surprising element in The Picture of Dorian Gray was the cinematography. This is because of how creative and well filmed it was! My favorite use of cinematography was when Sibyl visits Dorian’s house. As Dorian is playing the piano, Sibyl enters his study. But before she walks through the doorway, you can only see Sibyl’s shadow. Even when she does appear in the doorway, Sibyl’s face isn’t shown until she reaches Dorian’s piano. That was a good way to building anticipation for Sibyl’s appearance. A filming technique that appeared in several moments of the film was framing a scene as if the camera was following a character or hiding from them. A great example is when Dorian was placing a letter in his fireplace. The camera is positioned inside the fireplace while he is burning the letter. It provides the illusion of the audience watching from the outside looking in.

The 2nd Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon banner created by Kristen from Hoofers and Honeys of the Classic Movie Era/KN Winiarski Writes

What I didn’t like about the film:

Limited use of Technicolor: In the movie’s opening credits, it was mentioned that Technicolor was used in the movie. This made me excited to see how Technicolor would be utilized in the story. While I wasn’t expecting as much Technicolor as in The Wizard of Oz, I was hoping it would be consistently featured throughout the film. Unfortunately, that is not the case for The Picture of Dorian Gray. The Technicolor was applied to Dorian’s painting. But it was only used three times during the whole movie. I think if Dorian’s painting had been consistently presented in Technicolor, it would have highlighted the importance of the painting within the story.

The painting is kind of an afterthought: For those who don’t know, a MacGuffin can be an object that progresses a story forward. In the case of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian’s painting is that story’s MacGuffin. However, its presence wasn’t as significant as I expected. In the script, the state of Dorian’s relationships is given more focus than the painting. In fact, the painting is sometimes not shown on-screen. This made the painting itself kind of seem like an afterthought.

Dorian’s confusing choices: There were times when Dorian made choices that left me confused. One of these choices took place during his relationship with Sibyl. Throughout that relationship, Dorian appears to truly love her. He even seriously considers marrying Sibyl. But, out of the blue, Dorian changes his mind. Even the build-up toward that moment was confusing, making it difficult to interpret what happened. I realize all of that connects with the lessons I mentioned earlier. However, Dorian’s sudden change in attitude and choices was, to me, confusing.

Paint palette image created by Freepik at freepik.com <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-artsy-tools_836777.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/hand”>Hand vector created by Freepik</a> Image found at freepik.com

My overall impression:

There are movies that have fallen short of my expectations. Not all of these films have been bad. However, I was left desiring more from them. The Picture of Dorian Gray has now become one of those movies. Before watching this adaptation, I was familiar with the premise of this story. But that premise led me to believe the film would be more profound and thought-provoking than it was. The script did provide good lessons and morals. But I’m not left contemplating any deeper meaning on any particular theme. I was also disappointed by Peter Lawford’s limited appearance in the movie. Peter’s involvement in the project is one of the reasons why I chose to review it in the first place. Even though I liked his portrayal of David, I was expecting to see him receive a larger spotlight than in Ocean’s Eleven. If the Peter Lawford Blogathon returns for a third year, I’ll try to find a film where Peter was a leading actor.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray? Would you like for me to read the book? Please let me know 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

Take 3: Born Free Review + 340 and 345 Follower Thank You

Earlier this month, 18 Cinema Lane received 340 and 345 followers! Before I continue, I’d just like to say thank you to each and every person who has chosen to follow my blog. I appreciate you taking the time to read my articles and listen to what I have to say. Speaking of articles, let’s back to the review! For April’s Genre Grandeur, the theme is “travel films”. Because this topic is so broad, it took me a while to figure out which film I would write about. Then I remembered I had the 1966 movie, Born Free, on my DVR. While Joy and George Adamson, the story’s protagonists, do travel within the movie, it is not the central component of the story. I also have participated in Thoughts From The Music(al) Man’s Star/Genre Of The Month Blogathon, with my review of China Seas being my first contribution. April doesn’t have a theme, so I thought Born Free would be the perfect choice for the blogathon! Prior to writing this review, I had heard of, but not seen, the 1966 picture. This is because I was familiar with the movie’s theme when it was featured on the soundtrack for the film, Madagascar. Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for; the start of this review!

Because I recorded this movie on my DVR, I took a screenshot of the movie’s poster from my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

How the animals were showcased: While I liked the acting in Born Free, it’s the animals that steal the show! Animals were showcased in a natural way, allowing them to be shown in situations that are more realistic. None of the animals were given voice-overs, giving the audience a chance to witness their authentic expressions. A great example is when Elsa, the lion Joy and George take care of, interacts with a male lion. Throughout the scene, Elsa and the male lion take turns roaring. They also can be seen fighting over food. The way these lions were presented made it look like they were having a conversation. The human characters’ conversations about these animals also gave them a humanistic quality. After Joy and George leave Elsa alone with the aforementioned lion, Joy compares the experience to waiting for a daughter to come home from a date. The cinematography and script gave the animals just as much importance as the human characters!

The scenery: The majority of Born Free takes place outdoors, as the African landscapes serve as the principal scenery for the story. Toward the beginning of the movie, Joy is painting in her front yard. A clear blue sky enveloped a large space of plains. This specific location appeared peaceful as long shots were used to capture it on film. Another impressive location was the beach that Elsa, Joy, and George visit. Once again, a blue sky is visible, soaring over the blue of the ocean and bright beige of the sand. The beach was very photogenic, with long and medium shots helping to showcase that location!

The music: I liked the use of music in Born Free! The pieces of instrumental tunes provided the tone for each scene it was included in. When a suspenseful and tense moment took place, the sound of beating drums could be heard. This sound elaborated on the seriousness of what was happening in that particular scene. One example is when, toward the end of the film, Elsa is fighting with another female lion. For more light-hearted, joyful moments, the movie’s theme played in the background. Some scenes that featured this piece of music revolved around Elsa and her sisters as lion cubs.

Mother lion and her baby cubs image created by wirestock at freepik.com. Animals photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

An inconsistent narrative: When a close friend named John suggests Elsa should be placed in a zoo, Joy is completely against the idea. This decision has even resulted in a heated argument between Joy and George. Joy’s decision for wanting Elsa to remain wild is understandable. However, earlier in the film, she doesn’t object to sending Elsa’s two sisters to a zoo. Joy also takes in a baby elephant that Elsa happened to be chasing one day. This specific narrative was inconsistent, which prevented me from getting fully invested in Joy’s side of the story.

The run-time: According to IMDB, Born Free is an hour and thirty-five minutes. But because the story is a simpler one, I don’t think this movie needed that run-time. While watching the film, I noticed how some scenes contained montages. For example, when Joy, George, and Elsa go to the beach, a montage lasting several minutes featured these characters playing on the beach and in the ocean. I feel these montages were placed in the film to satisfy its run-time. Had these montages been shortened, the movie could have had a run-time of an hour or less.

Unnecessary voice-overs: Throughout the film, Joy provides voice-overs to explain what is happening in the story. These voice-overs were beneficial in understanding Elsa’s journey. But there were some scenes where Joy’s voice-overs were not necessary. At the beginning of a scene where Joy, George, and Elsa are at a camp, Joy explains how, one night, she heard the roar of a lion who was eating the livestock of a nearby African village. If the voice-over had not been included in this scene, the on-screen event could have spoken for itself. Having the voice-over only reminded the audience of what they already knew.

Colorful travel suitcase image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/beautiful-illustration-of-travel_2686674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When you think of “travel films”, a movie where the protagonist takes an extravagant and adventurous trip will likely come to mind. However, traveling can mean different things for various people. In the case of Born Free, Joy and George Adamson travel from England to Africa. Throughout the film, they also travel to town and several African villages. As I mentioned in the introduction, Born Free does not focus on the travels of Joy and George. Instead, it prioritizes the relationship these characters share with Elsa. While I liked the natural portrayals of the animals, these depictions are more suited for an older audience. This is also a simpler story, calling for a shorter run-time than the one it received. Not only were some of Joy’s voice-overs unnecessary, but her stance on keeping Elsa out of a zoo was inconsistent. Despite these flaws, I thought Born Free was a fine film! If you are interested in the subject of animals, I feel this is the movie for you!

Overall score: 7.1-7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any “travel films” lately? Do you have any films to recommend for the next blog follower dedication review? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The World of Suzie Wong Review

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!

The World of Suzie Wong poster created by World Enterprises, Inc.
Worldfilm, Ltd, Paramount British Pictures, Ltd, and Paramount Pictures.

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.

Traditional Chinese dragon image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/design”>Design vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

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.

The Sunset Blvd. Blogathon banner created by the Brannan sisters from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

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 Wong is 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!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Royal Wedding Review (Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire Double Feature Part 2)

As I said in my review of Teenage Rebel, I haven’t seen many films from Fred Astaire’s filmography. In fact, the only two movies of Fred’s I’ve seen so far are The Sky’s the Limit and Funny Face. When I joined Crystal and Michaela’s blogathon, I knew which Fred Astaire picture I wanted to write about. Last month, I was recommended the 1951 film, Royal Wedding, by Heidi from Along the Brandywine. She suggested this film because of its use of split screens. Since I don’t have many Fred Astaire titles on my movie recommendation board on Pinterest, this was my first choice for this double feature! It is interesting that Royal Wedding is the last movie I’m reviewing in 2020. Musicals from the Breen Code era are usually seen as happy, up-beat productions. This is a contrast to the type of year 2020 ended up becoming.

Royal Wedding poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: A similarity I’ve noticed among Fred Astaire’s roles in The Sky’s the Limit, Funny Face, and Royal Wedding is how confident he comes across in each film! Speaking specifically about Royal Wedding, his character, Tom Bowen, had the showmanship you’d expect from a stage performer. Even though he was performing a duet in the movie’s opening number, “Ev’ry Night At Seven”, he had a stage presence that demanded the audience’s attention. This is because he had complete control over his part of the performance as well as experience leading other musicals. Fred also appeared comfortable as one of the leads in this film. Jane Powell’s on-screen personality in Royal Wedding was very sweet! Her character, Ellen Bowen, was also flirty without overdoing it. What worked in Jane’s favor was how she was able to keep up with Fred in their musical duets as well as hold her own in her solos. It definitely showed how strong of a performer she is! Because I’m not familiar with Sarah Churchill as an actress, I wasn’t sure how a Fred Astaire and Sarah Churchill on-screen pairing would work when I first saw them together. But as the film went on, I realized they had better on-screen chemistry than I expected! As an individual performer, Sarah gave her character, Anne, a sophisticated independence that never made her seem snobby or self-centered. In one scene, as she’s recalling to Tom how she came to be a dancer, Anne is so sure of herself when she talks about it. In scenes like this, you can tell that Anne has a healthy amount of self-confidence, partly because of Sarah’s captivating performance!

The musical numbers: When I watch musicals from the Breen Code era, I can’t help but notice the creativity that comes from some of the musical numbers! One example is Fred’s solo, “Sunday Jumps”. On paper, the idea of Fred dancing with a hatrack and exercise equipment might sound silly to some audience members. But because of the choreography and Fred’s dancing talents, that idea becomes a thoroughly entertaining one! Another solo of Fred’s, “You’re All the World to Me”, also showcases creativity well. In this musical number, Tom Bowen can be seen literally dancing on the walls and ceiling, as to visually represent what his heart is feeling for Anne. The number itself is also ahead of its time, as this particular idea wasn’t common in films from this era. I loved how a bright color palette was used in “I Left My Hat in Haiti”! It provided the musical number with an energy and personality that nicely contrasted the toned-down atmosphere of London. The musical number also did a good job at utilizing its ensemble.

The dialogue: Because of the Breen Code, screenwriters had to think and write cleverly when it came to expressing ideas that wouldn’t be allowed on film. That mentality can certainly be found in Royal Wedding’s script! After their performance, “Ev’ry Night At Seven”, Ellen complains about the theater’s lack of air conditioning due to the theater manager wanting to save money. Frustrated by that decision, Tom tells his sister how the theater manager will need a fan for one specific place. Subtle references like this one respect the audience’s intelligence and gave the screenwriters a chance to think outside the box when it comes to language. There were also memorable quotes within the script. During Anne and Tom’s conversation, Anne told him that dancing made her happy. She also said that she wanted to dance when she was happy.

The Third Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon banner created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

No major conflicts: In Anchors Aweigh, Clarence “Brooklyn” Doolittle and Joseph “Joe” Brady help their new friend, Susan, get an audition with a well-known composer at a movie studio. This served as the main conflict for the film. With Royal Wedding, there was no main conflict to be found. Instead, the story focuses on the two relationships between Ellen and John and Tom and Anne. Even when sub-conflicts were introduced in the movie, they are resolved rather quickly. Having one overarching conflict would have added some intrigue to this story.

Too many boyfriends: At the beginning of the movie, Ellen is shown having multiple boyfriends. This was to highlight the point of Ellen having difficulty ending these relationships. When Ellen’s boyfriends are interacting with one another, I had trouble keeping track of who was who. I understand this creative decision was made on purpose, to emphasize the aforementioned point. But this gave the audience unnecessary confusion.

The titular royal wedding as an afterthought: When a film is titled Royal Wedding, most audience members would expect the wedding itself to play a significant role within the plot. Because the story focuses on the relationships of Tom and Anne and Ellen and John, the royal wedding is treated as an afterthought. Sure, the characters casually bring it up from time to time. But there is little to no excitement in London just days before such a historic event. When a pre-wedding parade is passing by Tom and Ellen’s hotel suite, the scene places more emphasis on John and Ellen’s conversation, preventing the parade from being shown on-screen. The day of the wedding appears in the last twenty minutes of the film, but even that part of the story is overshadowed by the previously mentioned relationships.

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:

Royal Wedding is the type of movie where the acting performances and musical numbers make up for the weaker story. While the plot isn’t bad, it could have benefited from having a major conflict. If the creative team behind this movie wanted their story to be more interesting, it would have contained a mistaken identity. Ellen Bowen would switch places with the princess and fall in love with the prince, while the princess is mistaken for Ellen and eventually forms a romantic relationship with Tom. With this conflict, the wedding itself would have a greater presence in the whole story. It would also create a series of hilarious hijinks. Personally, I’d recommend Anchors Aweigh over Royal Wedding. The former has a stronger story and, in my opinion, is a more enjoyable film overall.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

What are your thoughts on Royal Wedding? Which movie is your favorite out of the ones I’ve reviewed this year? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen