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Archive for July, 2011

Pride and Prejudice ; 1940

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Actors: Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, Maureen O’Sullivan, Ann Rutherford, Marsha Hunt, Heather Angel, Mary Boland, Edmund Gwen, Edna May Oliver
Country: U.S.A.

I haven’t finished reading Jane Austen’s famous Pride and Prejudice because I couldn’t get past the first few pages and always dreaded even glancing at the book or anything related to Austen. I came across this film while my mom was on her old film spree and thought, “Heck, I’m never going to read that bloody book so I might as well watch the movie!” I never regretted that decision.

I have no idea how this film compares to the book but I could care less since I want to look at this film as a film, not a copy of the book. I loved the story, dialogue, costumes, the actors, EVERYTHING! I couldn’t help but relate to Elizabeth, although I think that I’m much less intelligent and witty as her, but I’ve been in the whole Darcy/Elizabeth situation before. Although the ending is predictable, the film is still enjoyable, especially to see Laurence Olivier, as Mr. Darcy, kiss Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Oliver). Even though I didn’t find Greer Garson to be attractive (I guess that’s suiting since Elizabeth isn’t supposed to be pretty? But wasn’t Garson seen as a beauty in Hollywood? She’s definitely grown on me like Irene Dunne so I guess she does have something to her. Now I’m going off on a tangent), I thought she performed her part to perfection and so did Olivier. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Mr. Darcy the way Olivier did… well, except Colin Firth, but he did anyway (I should watch that adaptation). You could just hate Darcy despite his good looks in the beginning, but eventually you see him the way Elizabeth sees him and your hatred for him slowly melts away. I don’t know if I should credit that to the script writers or Olivier’s acting or Leonard’s directing: I’ll give the point to Olivier. I loved the way Garson spoke, walked around as if she was gliding across the floor, and well, she was just charming. I fell in love with Laurence Olivier the first time I saw him in this film and thought he has got to be one of the most handsome men to have graced this planet. Not only is he handsome, but he is a talented actor as well. The way he held himself in a haughty manner but then he had to portray Mr. Darcy’s vulnerable moments and he did so to such perfection that I was smitten by him and the character of Mr. Darcy. It’s hard not to admire an actor who portrays emotions and change so well with just a simple glance, a raise eyebrow, or a gesture. If people thought that Olivier was a hammy actor, all one needs to do is turn on Pride and Prejudice; actually, I think that Olivier was good in all of his performances in the now classic films — it’s just Fire Over England that didn’t strike a chord with me (I’ll blame it on being a British production. I KID!). I think he has a certain charm that makes him able to pull off anything and make it look easy and natural. I don’t know how to put how much I loved the acting of both Garson and Olivier so you must watch this film to see it for yourself!

I can find no flaws in this film and it’s something that I would probably come back to quite often to watch. I had to wait seven months to re-watch it and I loved it just as much as I did the first time I watch it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I want to watch it again in the near future.

IMDb Link: Pride and Prejudice
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Fire Over England ; 1937

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

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