Monday, 18 February 2013

The Heiress (1949)


Olivia de Havilland won an Oscar, for her portrayal of the title character, Catherine Sloper, in 1949′s The Heiress, and if you want to see another side of this lovely actress, I definitely recommend this movie.


Miss Sloper is a plain, unaccomplished young lady living with her father, a wealthy doctor (Ralph Richardson) in New York during the mid-19th century. Despite having all the best schooling, Catherine is shy, unskilled in social graces, dancing, music … in short, all the things that young ladies were supposed to be able to do at that time. She is a constant disappointment to her father, who despairs of ever finding her a husband. More importantly, he compares her to her dead mother, and finds her extremely lacking. Catherine seems unaware of his disappointment, though, and remains blindly faithful to him, and not unhappy with her rather reclusive lifestyle.

All of that changes when she meets handsome Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), who immediately shows a preference for Catherine, and very soon sweeps her off her feet. Her father, given his negative opinion of his daughter, believes Townsend to be a fortune hunter, as Catherine will be very wealthy upon his own death. What ensues is a power struggle between Dr. Sloper and his daughter as she learns to stand on her own feet and makes plans to marry the man she loves. The big question, though, is whether or not he really loves her … or her money. 



The Heiress is a taut, emotional film with excellent performances. Each of the characters move through a variety of stages over the course of the film: we see Richardson indulge his daughter, then take control of her; he sometimes seems to acknowledge his dislike for her, but ultimately contends that his actions are out of love.  

Montgomery Clift does a truly remarkable job with the character of Townsend; one moment you’re sure he’s just a cad out for Catherine’s money, and the next moment you think maybe you’ve misjudged him, and he really does care for her. Both of these actors strike the fine balance necessary to showcase the flaws in their characters, and to keep the plot and the emotional tension of the movie running tight and high.

Olivia de Havilland, though, is a revelation. It’s hard to describe the transformation of her character without giving too much of the plot away, but I’ll do my best. In the beginning, Catherine is a loving, obedient daughter, content with life. She’s not at all unhappy with not being the belle of the ball. After she meets Morris, she is a young woman in love, capricious and emotional, and torn between her feelings for her lover and her duty to her father. What comes after, though, is something altogether removed from either of those aspects. She becomes a tower of strength, but at the same time, something so fragile that you fear she might burst apart at any moment.
All in all, if you like classic films, you should definitely give this one a try!  It's another favourite of mine! :) xx

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

Jim Blandings (Grant), a bright account executive in the advertising business, lives with his wife Muriel (Loy) and two daughters in a cramped New York apartment. Muriel secretly plans to remodel their apartment. After rejecting this idea, Jim Blandings comes across an ad for new homes in Connecticut and they get excited about moving.

Planning to purchase and "fix up" an old home, the couple contact a real estate agent, who uses them to unload "The Old Hackett Place" in fictional Lansdale County, Connecticut. It is a dilapidated, two hundred-year-old farmhouse. Blandings purchases the property for more than the going rate for land in the area, provoking his friend/lawyer Bill Cole (Douglas) to chastise him for following his heart rather than his head.

The old house, dating from the Revolutionary War-era, turns out to be structurally unsound and has to be torn down. The Blandings hire architect Simms (Reginald Denny) to design and supervise the construction of the new home. From the original purchase to the new house's completion, a long litany of unforeseen troubles and setbacks beset the hapless Blandings and delay their moving-in date.


On top of all this, at work Jim is assigned the task of coming up with a slogan for "WHAM"-brand ham, an advertising account that has destroyed the careers of previous account executives assigned to it.

Jim also suspects that Muriel is cheating on him with Bill Cole after Bill slept at the Blandings' alone in the house with Muriel one night due to a violent thunderstorm.

With mounting pressure, skyrocketing expenses, and his new assignment, Jim starts to wonder why he wanted to live in the country. The Blandings' maid Gussie provides Blandings with the perfect WHAM slogan, and he saves his job. As the film ends, Bill Cole says that he realizes that some things "you do buy with your heart."


A funny and charming film! xx

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Notorious (1946)

One of the best Hitchcock suspense films ever, Notorious was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1947 and continually ranks among Variety's all time box office champions.  Written and directed by the master of suspense and with a cast including the suave Cary Grant and an enigmatic Ingrid Bergman, the film is a joy to watch.

Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) gains notoriety when her father, a Nazi spy, is convicted of  treson against the US following World War II.  At a party thrown soon after, Alicia meets a handsome stranger named Devlin (Cary Grant) who reveals after a clash of wits and temperament that he is a U.S. Intelligence Agent.


Because she has fallen in love with the dashing FBI Agent, Alicia is persuaded into helping Devlin trap and catch Nazi mastermind Alex Sebastin (Claude Rains).  The more she gets involved in her work, the more at risk she becomes...



Enjoy! :) xx

Friday, 15 February 2013

Mildred Pierce (1945)


The film uses voice-over narration (the voice of Mildred). The story is framed by the questioning of Mildred by police after they discover the body of her second husband, Monte Beragon. The film, in noir fashion, opens with Beragon (Zachary Scott) being shot. He murmurs the name "Mildred" as he collapses and dies. The police are led to believe that the murderer is restaurant owner Mildred Pierce's (Joan Crawford) first husband, Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett), who under interrogation confesses to the crime. She then relates her life story in flashback.

We see housewife Mildred married to a newly unemployed Pierce. Bert at the time was a real estate partner of Wally Fay (Jack Carson) who propositioned Mildred after learning that she and Bert were about to divorce. In the divorce, Mildred obtained custody of her two daughters: 16-year-old Veda (Ann Blyth), a bratty social climber and aspiring pianist, and 10-year-old Kay (Jo Anne Marlowe), a tomboy. Mildred's principal goal is to provide for eldest daughter Veda, who longs for possessions the family cannot afford. Mildred needs a job and the best she can find is as a waitress – a fact she hides from Veda.

One day, Veda gives their maid, Lottie (Butterfly McQueen), Mildred's waitress uniform, thinking nothing of it, until Mildred admits her employment as a waitress, infuriating Veda, who thinks it lowly. Kay contracts pneumonia and dies; to bury her grief, Mildred throws herself into opening a new restaurant on the coast (next to what appears to be the Santa Monica beach). With the help of her new friend and former supervisor, Ida (Arden), Mildred's new restaurant is a success. Wally Fay helps Mildred buy the property, and then it expands into a chain of "Mildred's" throughout Southern California.

Mildred continues to smother Veda in affection and worldly goods, but Veda is nonetheless appalled by Mildred's common background and choice of profession while becoming obsessed with money and materialistic possessions. Mildred goes as far as entering into a loveless marriage with the formerly wealthy Monte Beragon in order to improve her social standing to regain her estranged daughter. Beragon lives the life of a playboy supported financially by Mildred, much to Mildred's dismay and potential ruin. Mildred ends up losing the business thanks to Monte's manipulation and Veda's greed.
 When Veda takes up with the scheming Monte, a showdown ensues at the beach house where the film began. We discover what really happened: that Veda, furious over Monte's unwillingness to marry her, is the one who shoots him. Mildred can cover for her daughter no more, and Veda is led off to jail. Before Veda leaves, she changes and says "I'll be alright." instead of saying what she usually says: " How could you?!", and gives Mildred a kiss on the cheek after realizing what Mildred has gone through to shower her with happiness. As Mildred leaves the police station, Bert is waiting for her.
Enjoy xx