Archive for November, 2008


All gather round for Mrs Bridges' masterpiece

All gather round for Mrs Bridges' masterpiece

the next in the series of small screen masterworks…

by Allan Fish

(UK 1971-1975 3,172m) DVD1/2

What are we going to do with Uncle Arthur?

p  John Hawkesworth  d  Bill Bain, Derek Bennett, Raymond Menmuir  Simon Langton, Herbert Wise, James Ormerod, Cyril Coke, Lionel Harris, Christopher Hodson, Joan Kemp-Welch, Brian Parker  w  Alfred Shaughnessy, Jeremy Paul, Charlotte Bingham, Julian Bond, Raymond Bowers, Terence Brady, Maureen Brady, Joan Harrison, John Hawkesworth, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Deborah Mortimer, Rosemary Anne Sisson, Anthony Skene, Fay Weldon, Peter Wildblood  created by  Jean Marsh, Eileen Atkins  m  Alexander Faris  art  John Clements, John Emery, Roger Hall 

Gordon Jackson (Angus Hudson), Angela Baddeley (Mrs Kate Bridges), Jean Marsh (Rose Buck), David Langton (Richard Bellamy), Simon Williams (James Bellamy), Rachel Gurney (Lady Marjorie Bellamy), Hannah Gordon (Lady Virginia Bellamy), Meg Wynn Owen (Hazel Forrest), Nicola Pagett (Elizabeth Bellamy), Lesley-Anne Down (Georgina Worsley), Christopher Beeny (Edward Barnes), Jenny Tomasin (Ruby Finch), Pauline Collins (Sarah Moffat), John Alderton (Thomas Watkins), Jacqueline Tong (Daisy Peel), Raymond Huntley (Sir Geoffrey Dillon), Karen Dotrice (Lily Hawkins), Joan Benham (Lady Prudence Fairfax), Anthony Andrews (Lord Robert Stockbridge), Ian Ogilvy (Lawrence Kirbridge), Gareth Hunt (Frederick Norton), Anthony Ainley (Lord Charles Gilmour), Charles Gray (Sir Edwin Partridge), Cathleen Nesbitt (Lady Mabel Southwald), Keith Barron (Gregory Wilmot), George Innes (Alfred), Nigel Havers (Peter Dinmont), Celia Imrie, Freda Dowie, Ursula Howells, Robert Hardy, Georgina Hale,

If ever a series came to define prestige British television in the seventies, it must surely be Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins’ extended variation on Noël Coward’s Cavalcade.  It tells the fortunes of the inhabitants, both masters and servants, of 165 Eaton Place, London, from 1904 to 1930, encompassing the Edwardian era, the Titanic sinking, World War I, the roaring twenties and the Wall Street Crash.  It encompasses every form of drama and melodrama, played out in an inimitably reserved fashion.  In many ways, 165 became a microcosm not just for the period of British history it related, but for the audiences of British television of its era.  Even now, it is profitably reshown on satellite TV in the UK and on Masterpiece Theatre in the US, not to mention on DVD.  It became a byword for quality and, thirty years on, that quality remains basically undiminished. 


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by Kaleem Hasan

Early on in the film a page is opened and the overture to Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is seen. Kaufmann’s own work is a messy, knotty, bracing reworking of Proustian space. There are no magical madeleines here with coherently conjured up visions. There is only memory that is at once schizoid and anarchic. And it is ultimately a film about ‘impossibility’. The impossibility of love, of art, of aging, even of death. Then there is the saddest truth of this film — the impossibility of loneliness.  

In Proust the self is constructed every single day to re-configure the always lost paradise. There are circles here, returns and beginnings anew. The self is the daily compromise memory allows. But the search is rather charming, always a little romantic, even perhaps a little fabular. The ‘play’ of/in the world never quite defeats the quester even if there is finally a quasi-spiritual sense of repose. Proust is a bit like Cervantes but Don Quixote ends somewhere; In Search of Lost Time always loops in on its finales.   (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1937 92m) DVD1

Suitable for any occasion

p  Pandro S.Berman  d  Gregory la Cava  w  Morrie Ryskind, Anthony Veiller, Gregory la Cava (uncredited)  play  Edna Ferber, George S.Kaufman  ph  Robert de Grasse  ed  William Hamilton  m  Roy Webb  art  Van Nest Polglase, Carroll Clark  cos  Muriel King

Katharine Hepburn (Terry Randall), Ginger Rogers (Jean Maitland), Adolphe Menjou (Anthony Powell), Gail Patrick (Linda Shaw), Constance Collier (Catherine Luther), Andrea Leeds (Kaye Hamilton), Lucille Ball (Judy Canfield), Eve Arden (Eve), Samuel S.Hinds (Henry Sims), Jack Carson (Millbank), Ann Miller (Annie), Margaret Early (Mary Lou), Franklin Pangborn (Harcourt), Jan Wiley (Madeline), Grady Sutton (Butch), Phyllis Kennedy (Hattie), Peggy O’Donnell (Susan), Elizabeth Dunne (Mrs Orcott),

Welcome to New York’s Footlights Club, the venue for the 1937 annual gathering of Wisecrackers Anonymous.  Here we have a film that is a product of its time, which cannot help but date in certain ways, which constantly betrays its theatrical origins, and yet it is a secure in its classic status as ever it was.  Few people would argue against the calibre of the cast; Leslie Halliwell hit the nail on the head when he said that “the performances alone make it worth preserving” as there certainly have been fewer greater ensembles in history.  Even critical doyenne Pauline Kael observed that it was “one of the flashiest, most entertaining comedies of the 30s, even with its tremolos and touches of heartbreak.”  One could be cynical and say that Kael herself would not have been out of place tossing around waspish, cutting remarks amongst the guests at the Footlights, but she was right to praise it.  It truly is one in a million. (more…)

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Another bit of fun…


by Allan Fish


It’s been a while, with the poll and everything, but same rules apply…first to get the full six points gets to choose what header to put up to replace the blasted Wizard of Oz.

Played Seb Cooley, Sir William Porterhouse and Edward Moulton Barrett, saidWhy was I not made of stone like thee?and recited the Gettysburg address.

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by Sam Juliano

Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson performed at the newly-renovated Wellmont on Sunday night in front of a packed crowd.  His band, recently called “the best touring rock musicians in the world” by Paul McCartney, helped breathe life into both popular songs from the 60’s and Wilson’s new album, That Lucky Old Sun.  Wilson, who made a comeback after a lengthy bout with drugs, obesity and manic depression that nearly cost him his life, sat behind a keyboard, and performed a number of vocals, along with colleague Jeff Foskett, who superbly emulates the singing voice of Brian from the early years.  Foskett’s spirited reading of the best song the Beach Boys ever wrote, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, is front of a swirling psychedelic screen of colors and moving images, was one of the concert’s finest moments.     

Wilson, who received a thunderous ovation from both middle-aged and young rock fans, quickly announced that he was going to devote the first half of the program to early Beach Boys favorites like Surfer Girl, Fun Fun Fun, I Get Around, God Only Knows, California Girls, In My Room, Sloop John B, and their biggest hit of all, Good Vibrations, and the second half to the new album.  Utilizing an array of performers (many were Montclair locals) which included a small string section at the back of the stage, Wilson effectively had others bring back that special sound that originated in a Hawthorne, California living room and was afterwards synonymous with Pacific beaches.  Indeed, Wilson is arguably the greatest composer of American popular music during the rock era, (Paul Simon, Neil Young and a few others would contend for that designation) and the Beach Boys, which included two of his brothers in the five person band, are often referred to as the greatest of all American rock bands, with good reason.   (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

One of the most beloved films in movie history, and a centerpiece of baby boomer childhood, The Wizard of Oz (1939) was voted the greatest film of the 1930’s by 28 film lovers in a month-long Internet polling that recently concluded.  The poll, run by the blogsite, Wonders in the Dark, directed each voter to choose their 25 choices in numerical order of their ‘greatest’ or ‘favorite’ films of the Golden Age decade, and to list them on the appropriate thread.  This is the second time that a 30’s poll run by the same group, ended with The Wizard of Oz on top, although the membership of voters in both polls was disperate.  In 2005, a Fairview, New Jersey-based e mail network conducted a poll with similar specs, and the Judy Garland starred, based on L. Frank Baum’s children’s work, came in first, based on roughly the same number of voters who participated three years ago.     

Voters continually identified with the musical-fantasy, as the one film, above all others that moved them the most from their childhood to their adult-years, unfailingly tapping into their sentiments of nostalgia, childhood memories, and as adults still being moved levels never exhausted.      (more…)

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by Allan Fish

This one is for the folks at the Katharine Hepburn Theatre and dcd…

(USA 1940 112m) DVD1/2

She was yar all right

p  Joseph L.Mankiewicz  d  George Cukor  w  Donald Ogden Stewart (and Waldo Salt)  play  Philip Barry  ph  Joseph Ruttenberg  ed  Frank Sullivan  m  Franz Waxman  art  Cedric Gibbons, Wade B.Rubottom

Katharine Hepburn (Tracy Samantha Lord), Cary Grant (C.K.Dexter Haven), James Stewart (Macaulay Connor), Ruth Hussey (Liz Imbrie), Mary Nash (Margaret Lord), John Halliday (Seth Lord), Virginia Weidler (Dinah Lord), Roland Young (Uncle Willie), Henry Daniell (Sidney Kidd), John Howard (George Kittredge), Rex Evans, Lionel Pape, Russ Clark, Hilda Plowright, Lila Chevret, Hillary Brooke,

Of all the films to suffer the ignominy of a musical remake, surely there can be no better film made into a worse musical remake than this.  Let us first get one thing perfectly clear; High Society has no redeeming virtues (with the exception of its end credits).  It is a truly awful film whose rating as a classic by many reviewers can only be described as collective madness.  Bing and Frank in the same film does not a classic make, Cole Porter’s songs are ordinary by his standards and the whole affair should be forgotten.  The original, however, is something else entirely.  If Trouble in Paradise was the pinnacle of pre-code sophistication, The Philadelphia Story personified post-code sophistication. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Tracy Letts’s Tony Award winning play August: Osage County is one of a line of plays about dysfunctional families who fight their demons, which translates to drugs, booze, adultery, guilt and severe depression.  Eugene O Neil’s Long Day’s Journey into Night comes to mind first, but Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? also deal with these issues most compellingly.  The production, directed by Anna D. Shapiro, is presented in nearly three-and-a-half hours, which is daunting for any show, much less this heady stuff, but it’s carried by some raw and funny dialogue, some corrosive characterizations and some bare-boned emotional battles among family members.     

The play brings together three generations of the Weston family, who are gathered in Oklahoma.  The pathologies present in the characters are exposed, and it becomes abundantly clear that these afflictions are what both brought the these people together and drove them apart.      (more…)

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by Peter Danish

On August 7, 1974, the sky was dark and threatening, the winds were approaching ten knots and the chance of rain was sixty percent.  Despite these harbingers of bad-tidings, at 7:15 a.m., Philippe Petit stepped off the South Tower of the still not quite completed World Trade Center in New York onto a 3/4″ in diameter steel cable.

            “I observed the tightrope ‘dancer’-because you couldn’t call him a ‘walker’-approximately halfway between the two towers. And upon seeing us he started to smile and laugh and he started going into a dancing routine on the high wire….And when he got close to the building we asked him to get off the high wire but instead he turned around and ran back out into the middle….He was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again….Unbelievable really! Everybody was spellbound in the watching of it.”   Thus reported Port Authority Police Department Sgt. Charles Daniels, who was dispatched to the roof to bring Petit down.

            Those of us old enough to remember the event probably have no idea the kind of subterfuge and intrigue that went into the planning and daring execution of the stunt. (more…)

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by Kaleem Hasan

Billy Wilder is one of the genuine American movie greats with masterpieces like The Apartment, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard and a host of other excellent works. My own weakness within his oeuvre is for his late gem Avanti but his greatest work to my mind is the very dark Ace in the Hole. This movie is now available for the first time on DVD (anywhere) in a gorgeous Criterion transfer and this is therefore the best time to visit the film outside a movie theater.

The plot in a very skeletal sense concerns a cynical newspaper reporter (Kirk Douglas) who drifts into an ‘edge of empire’ town in New Mexico, lands a job and a year later finds an assignment that becomes life-altering for him. As in many other Wilder works Ace in the Hole features much social commentary but unlike just about any of his other works there is a strong visionary intensity to the narrative. Most importantly Wilder (as was his wont) eschews easy and conformist resolutions. (more…)

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