falderal : a moving images blog
Fire Over England ; 1937  ·  Posted by Tallulah

Director: William K. Howard
Actors: Flora Robson, Raymond Massey, Leslie Banks, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Morton Selten, Tamara Desni, James Mason
Country: United Kingdom

This entry is for the Viv and Larry Blogathon.

I have been meaning to watch Fire Over England because it stars both Olivier and Leigh so I thought that it would be perfect that I watch it and blog about it for the marathon. To be honest though, I was a little disappointed by it. There were so many big names behind it, specifically Erich Pommer, Alexander Korda, and James Wong Howe and it was obvious that it was a huge production, but it felt like a bit lacking. It reminded me of the large historical films that Hollywood made, for example the 1938 Marie Antoinette where there were great costumes and sets, but that was it. Even the actors seem like nothing and the beautiful costumes just overpower them.

Although I watched this film for Olivier and Leigh, the actress that stood out was Flora Robson. She had so much presence as Queen Elizabeth and was absolutely perfect. She WAS queenly and it was as if you were watching the real Queen Elizabeth (or how I imagined Queen Elizabeth was like). I was a disappointed by Olivier’s performance and I thought that his performance in this film supported the arguments that people made about how he was not a screen actor but a stage actor. He was so lovely in Pride and Prejudice and to see him less than perfect in this film made me a bit sad. I felt that he was a bit hammy, and not the good kind like John Barrymore, but from what I understand, this film was made earlier in his career before he reached the zenith of his career. I didn’t see any potential in him as a film actor solely based on this film but on the other hand, Vivien Leigh showed the potential that she had. Despite being a newcomer compared to Olivier when it came to acting, she showed energy and passion. Even though she had a minor role with a rather flat character, there was just something in her face and the movement of her body that just screamed out POTENTIAL TO BE A BIG MOVIE STAR. I cannot put my finger on it but there was just something about Leigh that I liked in this film. It was fun to watch an early film that she starred in and I think it’s the energy that I felt in her performance that made her performance in Gone With the Wind so great. That bubbly energy and drive that showed through in her performance in Fire Over England made me think that it was the right choice to choose Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara. I guess what I love so much about Vivien Leigh is that you feel this energetic drive every time you watch a film with her in it — you feel something that makes you drawn to her and she seems to be so open, vulnerable, and raw as if she exposes and gives everything in her film performance. I felt a bit of that in Fire Over England and that energy really shows through in Leigh’s future great performances such as Gone With the Wind, Waterloo Bridge, and A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s such a shame that I wasn’t able to write something nice about Laurence Olivier because I admire him as a film director and actor. I guess his talent just didn’t shine through in this film or I just wasn’t feeling his performance but it’s ok because I’ll be blogging about my all-time favourite Olivier film performance tomorrow!

IMDb Link: Fire Over England
Where to buy: Amazon.com

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