Friday, July 29, 2011

Let's Talk Classic Adaptations (really just an excuse to throw in a discussion about History is Made at Night [1937])

For a girl who pursued and read the classics (literary and musical) through her high school and early university career, I figure it always helps to brush up on classics of all mediums--- including those not yet viewed by me in the film genre. Here's some recent viewage of mine:

Brief Encounter (dir. David Lean, screenplay by Noel Coward ( based on his play, Still Life )

Any good people in it?: Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson --- both excellent and believable. Celia gets more and more beautiful and beguiling as Lean manipulates colour and light to expose a woman in love

Literary Significance: Often referred to as one of the greatest romances ever filmed for the cinema and rated as the 2nd best British film ever made according to the BFI 100 list
Read more about Brief Encounter here. This movie rightly depressed me because it ends so bleakly and so hopelessly. It rather views like Film Noir: even though the only suspense lies in rather chaste weekly meetings between two married people who border on consummating an affair. Perhaps what leaves your soul so wrenched is the collective decency of both; their normalcy and believability and your absolute assurance that should they have crossed paths in another time, they would have been absolutely suited for each other. The "end of the affair" ( to throw in some Graham Greene for you) is as ill-timed as their short courtship. There wasn't a dry eye in my apartment( well, I was the only one in my apartment; but you get the point)

All This, and Heaven Too (dir. Anatole Litvak, screenplay by Casey Robinson (adapted from the novel by Rachel Field)
Any good people in it? : umm, yah! Our pal Charles Boyer and the luminous Bette Davis ( although don’t try finding chemistry between these two because they don’t have any)

Literary Significance: based on a melodramatic historical novel about the thwarted passion between an aristocrat and a governess and the murder of said aristocrat’s domineering wife.
It’s really hard to take this movie seriously; but it is a lot of fun with lots of stolen glances and snow and tragic hand-wringing and a married couple that really likes to throw things at each other in their infuriated passion behind closed doors.

History is Made at Night
( dir. Frank Bozage, screenplay by C. Graham Baker

Any good people in it?: our pal Charles Boyer again –and he is the most compelling romantic lead. Also, Jean Arthur and her cello-like speaking voice….
Literary Significance: Well! not really as it’s not adapted or inspired by anything but, readers, it deserves a moment because this film is a GONG SHOW! Describes Slant Magazine: “History Is Made at Night, which Andrew Sarris has called the most romantic title in the history of cinema (and I'm not going to argue with him) is a patchwork quilt genre bender that stands as one of Frank Borzage's supreme achievements.” Genre-bending indeed! This is part romantic comedy-psychological thriller-murder mystery-American in Paris-fish out of water-social commentary- DISASTER movie ( like epic, SHIP SINKING A LA TITANIC type Disaster Movie).

If you pitched this to Hollywood today it would get eyebrows raised and little thought. But it was the 30s and screwball comedy was in and apparently you could use a bit of that as your platform to build a pyramid of genre numbing proportions. Do not TRY to explain this film to anyone after you see it. I am having the dickens of a time trying to explain it to you. The article previously referenced goes on to say: “The improbability of the plot serves as a sort of dizzying high, as if they were saying, "This is the movies, and we can do anything." Pretty much.

Somewhere I read that they started shooting the film before the screenplay was finished so the cast and crew were just as flabberghasted by the rapid sequence of events as you will be when you watch it ( which you should; only because you will never see anything ever try to be it again). Nick Pinkerton writes: “Much of the reputation for extravagant romance that the film holds among admirers of classic cinema, I think, is owed to Arthur—to watch her dance with Boyer is to witness a woman falling in love in real time.
I am not the only one to tackle this. See this blog

This one mentions Boyer’s knack with a hat
Read about Why Charles Boyer is Awesome in This Movie

Mr. Skeffington
(dir. Vincent Sherman, screenplay, Julius and Philip Epstein adapted from the novel by Elizabeth von Armin)
Any good people in it?: Claude Rains--- who eats his role for breakfast so mesmerizing and quietly strong he is in carrying the film’s undercurrent and Bette Davis’s eyes –also the rest of her, I guess, but her eyes are all you will notice.
Literary significance: another story taken from a popular melodramatic novel of the day. Released in 1944, I was very amazed by the ramification of German concentration camps utilized in the plot when Jewish Job Skeffington is imprisoned overseas, robbed of his substantial wealth and blinded by ill-treatment. Of course, during this era in Hollywood, the war was mentioned ( often to inspire American jingoism and as yet another means of propaganda)--- but rarely in such stark detail. The film also shows incredibly convincing newsreels from the Great War.

Note: Claude Rains really should have won an Academy for Best Actor for his turn here ( and not just a nomination nod for best supporting)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Women's Pulp Fiction: Now we KNOW where chicklit comes from

Have you ever read the Best of Everything? Well, you should. It’s about promise and hope and career girls who smoke cigarettes and drink coffee out of jars and hang out with dashing men.

It’s also scandalous for its time: with abortion and affairs and women abstaining ( or not ) from sex and talking way too much about all of it.

It features a publishing company at the end of the 1950s and a girl who is driven to become an editor and often sacrifices relationship for career.

A career? For a woman? In the 1950s? As fast as you can say TV Dinners, Jello and Spam, every preconceived notion you had about women of this era is stripped by the author to reveal a woman’s work world: with the same gossip, double standards and salary issues many young women face today.

It was made into a film, by the way, with Joan Crawford and Hope Lange and Stephen Boyd ( did I mention Stephen Boyd?) and Louis Jourdan ( but I think I need to mention Stephen Boyd again).

My friend Martha loaned me Skyscraper by Faith Baldwin ( a little pulp gem she had discovered at BMV here in Toronto) to take with me on a trip to New Orleans. I read it on the plane and then by the hotel pool.

Basically, the novel, as in the Jaffe story, features a young career driven woman. This time the scene is New York in the 1930s and the depression is keeping many from flourishing work. While our heroine dreams of climbing the company ladder, she is also severely loyal to her fiancé. Problem is, if she marries, she is no longer employed. During the depression years, jobs were given to those who didn’t have a support system: to marry meant a woman no longer “needed” to work and thus ambition was replaced by a docile domestic realm of motherhood and servitude.

What this incredibly cheesy ( at least to our standards) melodrama does is prove a very pertinent and lasting point: that women often feel they must choose one or the other: family --- or career. Though written and published near 80 years ago, this novel is surprisingly still relevant. Sure, the toned language, the hair rollers, the sweet dates and dutch treats and “wild” girls have been replaced by all of the mumbo jumbo that revolves around our 21st Century life--- but I don’t feel that the circumstances that plague said career girl are that different. She feels judged for choosing ambition over love and judged for feeling attraction to a man who doesn’t fit into the cookie cutter social status she is a result of .

These are two very interesting “chicklits” of yesterday which surprisingly feature the same ingredients as our modern fare of the same ilk: clothes, drinks out with boys, talks of sex and illicit acts, an obsession with shoes, double standards in the workplace and a wistful yearning for love and self-fulfillment at the same time. Sophie Kinsella this ain’t--- but you can see where she is coming from….

There are a few other titles in the same publication series as Skyscraper, under the umbrella Femmes Fatales: Women Write Pulp). Check out some of their other offerings, including the source material for the popular noir film, Laura.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Orleans In Literature

I just returned from a week in New Orleans with my friend Jess.

We stayed at the fabulous Maison Dupuy in the French Quarter, ate beignets, saw plantations and went on a swamp tour --- alligators swam up to our boat!

As a Canadian with a passion for Acadian history, I was greatly relieved to find that the Acadian ties in New Orleans are still prevalent. For those unfamiliar, the term Cajun is the evolution of the word Acadian. After the great deportation of the Acadian people from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick by the British (1754-62 thereabouts), many settled in Louisiana--- eager to be in an area that spoke French as they did. Hence, our long ties to Louisiana and the inspiration between Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Evangeline.”

Indeed, alongside Longfellow, New Orleans has a rich literary history matched to its bustling, carnivalesque culture. While there, I described New Orleans as a sort of jubilant melancholia: a colourful parade of pageantry in its music, food, architecture and yet housing something so very dark beneath the surface. This makes for the perfect melodrama that has erupted in literary form.

Mark Twain called the city an “upholstered sewer” and winding the smelly, hot platitudes of Bourbon Street I can see where he got the idea. To read more of Twain’s initiation with the city, see the chapter entitled “The Metropolis of the South” in Life on the Mississippi. Margaret Mitchell set Rhett and Scarlett’s mythical honeymoon in the great city in Gone with the Wind and Tennessee Williams was inspired by the rambling streetcars ( the streetcar which hurries down the gorgeous St. Charles Avenue past tree-lined boulevards and statuesque old mansions was a wonder), the oldest in North America, when he wrote of that tragic, wilting Southern flower Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Truman Capote and Anne Rice write often of New Orleans; the latter being one of the city’s prime residents. If you venture into the Garden District, near the famous “ city of the dead” Lafayette Cemetary, you will find Anne Rice’s beautifully gothic old home. The cemetery and its environs paint a perfect canvas for her vampires ( see Interview with the Vampire as one example).

In Classics territory, the beginning of Manon Lescaut by Antoine Prevost and The Awakening by Kate Chopin both use New Orleans as their backdrops.

Finally, our pal John Grisham has used New Orleans as part of his unending love song to legal procedure coupled with southern morality in The Client and the Pelican Brief.

The narrative trajectory of slaves housed in cabins on the fringe of the great sugar cane plantations speak to the tragedy of the Slave era, yes; but also to the ability of story and song to withstand persecution and forced diaspora. Some of the Tales of Br’er Rabbit and other morality tales accredited to Uncle Remus winnowed from the plantations surrounding New Orleans.

The mélange of dialects resulting from the clash of American and creole cultures, not to mention laced with Caribbean and Acadian French make New Orleans a veritable melting pot of culture, history and snappy decorum.

Pending a close in-person immersion in the city my friend and I got to know very well, a mental “arm chair “ trip using one of the aforementioned stories as your portal is a worthwhile investment.

If you’re ever in New Orleans, I highly recommend the following:

A trip to the Red Fish Grill: delicious seafood in the French Quarter—great wine and ambience

A tour to Laura Plantation: a great Creole plantation and one of the best tours I have ever been on. This gorgeous building and its aligning slave row house some of the most brilliant first account narratives of the time period and the Golden Age of the South.

Café Beignet (the Bourbon St location)--we much preferred this to the much-lauded Café du Monde. Here, they serve hot and wonderful beignet and their patio seating in a courthouse dedicated to Jazz Legends is a treat. Every night trumpeter SteamBoat Willie and his crew perform a variety of favourites stretching eras --- a lot indigenous to New Orleans’ great jazz tradition and history.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop--- now a bar, it used to house the iniquitous dealings of slave trader /rum runner/ pirate brothers Jean and Pierre Lafitte. One of the oldest buildings in New Orleans with a subpar martini but a great candlelit ambience.

Monday, July 25, 2011

One Screenplay told 3--no--4 times; but only told WELL once....

If you have never seen a Charles Boyer film, you are missing out. Iconically, he has entered our public sphere without notice by many: his daring thief in the 1937 film 'Algiers', Pepe Le Moko, was the inspiration for Pepe Le Pew--- the little, enamoured french skunk in Looney Tunes. Add to this Mr. Boyer's starring opposite some of the classic leading ladies of his age: Irene Dunne, Jennifer Jones, Bette Davis, Jean Arthur, Hedy Lamarr, Marlene Deitrich, to name a few, and you have a roster of exceptional viewage.

I have been pursuing a bit of an unofficial Charles Boyer Film Festival This Summer: largely because, for the most part, the film roles he took were in really, really entertaining movies.

This includes his starring turn as voyager playboy Michel Marnet in 1939's 'Love Affair'.

You may be thinking: I don't know this film. But, yes. Yes you do. Chances are at some point in your life you have stumbled across 'An Affair to Remember': a word- for- word, frame -by -frame remake starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. If somehow that eluded you, you caught 'Sleepless in Seattle': a big homage to the story featuring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan --- clips of the Grant film are shown throughout. Perhaps you even caught the 1994 remake (it's the worst of the lot) starring Warren Beatty and Annette Bening: best known as being the last film Katherine Hepburn ever made. If you have ever thought of waiting for someone at the top of the Empire State Building at an arranged date, you have thought, subliminally, of this story. All four films, same source inspiration.

This movie, this screenplay ( penned in 1939 by Delmer Daves and David Ogden Stewart) is apparently so memorable that it needed to be made thrice. THRICE. .. with one popular homage.

I was reaching the point in my Unofficial Boyer Film Fest when this, one of his first American "talkies" ( he had done some silent film; but if you hear Boyer speak and immediately note, as I, that he could read the telephone book for a living, you recognize that these are not worth digging up and viewing) was in queue. I had to admit I was sort of "meh" about it. After all, I had seen 'An Affair to Remember' and 'Sleepless in Seattle' and I didn't really like either. Same story, mind, same inspiration and scaled love atop Empire State--- and I just didn't really care ( though I must admit to thinking of it while I was atop said State Building).

Oddly enough and completely unpredicted, I LOVED the 1939 Love Affair. Loved it! Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne had fabulous chemistry, the cinematography was interesting for its age and the playfulness of their "meet-cute" and courtship onboard the voyage that throws them together, the wistful, solemn and sacred visit to shore to Madeira and finally to the separation that blights their fateful meeting atop the tower worked very, very well. Of a story that I knew extremely well, this film made a surprise. ... it stripped all earlier familiarity and presented the same words, the same frames, the same characters in new, far more appealing light.

This preamble serves to pose the following question: in literature the same ingredients: words, settings, characters, plot strewn across two novels rarely happens ( except in adaptations, homages, pastiches) and the exact same story, told twice, would be easily differentiated, would it not? Is it even possible that one could tell word-for-word if Grisham copied all of Dickens' words--- in the same order? For truly, Affair to Remember is basically the closest remake of a film ever made... it's not even artistic re-interpretation---it's just the same thing...

but with different actors.

In film, two EXACT same plots and formulas are at the mercy of the director, yes; but mostly at the hands of the two leads.

The EXACT same scenes played by Grant and Kerr in the 1957 version left me completely flat--- but, the exact same words and scenes and movements and moments enacted by Boyer and Dunne worked wonders to a story I could, for years, take or leave.

The movie is one, sprawling cliche: at least by today's romantic dramedy standards. But, in 1939, the material was fresh---- it ends bittersweetly ( as those who have seen Sleepless in Seattle or Love Affair the Second by Beatty/Bening or the Cary Grant version will remember), it starts with a risque, tongue-in-cheek drip of banter between two actors who embody their characters so well you see their redemptions, their closeness, their slight changes before you.

Basically, this ramble is about the same thing. The same thing being told 3, 4 ( if you count the Nora Ephron Sleepless version) times; but only really working once.

Same script, same basic story... nothing special about it.... but somehow, the 1939 version struck a chord. It was touching, moving, funny and sleekly smart.

Major Bonus: it's in the public domain--- so hunt it un-guiltily on youtube and spend 97 minutes with a bonafide, Academy Award nominated classic.... starring Irene Dunne with her fabulous speaking and singing voice... and, of course, Pepe Le Pew.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dear: 'Now, Voyager', you ruined my life.... but in a good way

Like the best books, sometimes the right films have to find you at the right moment for their emotional impact and resonance to be optimal.

This rings true for my viewing of Now, Voyager (1942)this week. Somehow I always had an inkling that this film and I would connect; we just needed to meet each other at the right time. As a 30 year old “spinster” so much of Charlotte Vale’s (Bette Davis) borrowed butterfly wings and contentment with the stars (while just evading the moon) hit me on the deepest level.

To say that for two hours my heart was caught so tightly in my throat I had to remind myself to breathe is not hyperbole. Now, two days later, snaps of dialogue run on repeat mode through my head.

I had seen clips of this famed romantic film and have probably caught long lapses of it at some points in 30 years: especially as a gal who loves to catch interludes of black and white films. The other night , I saw it through for the first time and learned that like “It Never Entered My Mind”as sung by Sarah Vaughn or the TSO straining Ravel’s 'Pavane for a Dead Princess 'on a gloomy November night that there is a melancholy un-breaking here and a terse sense of nostalgia that burrows itself within my imaginative consciousness.

Here, as in The Blue Castle ( a favourite book) a 30ish woman has been stripped of her life by an over-bearing mother who feeds her belief that she has little self worth. Cocooned in a society house and watching years tick her by, her romantic and artistic nature is harbored in scrapbooks of a voyage past and the blissful carvings she etches into beautiful boxes.

She is mocked by her pretty niece and goaded by her mother and her existence seems to be that of standing on shore when all that excites, delights and smacks of love glistens on the waves beyond.

In fact, the theme of voyage pervades the story: from Charlotte’s recounting of a romance on deck in her early 20s (stifled, of course, by her mother) through the insertion of Whitman’s poem, "The Untold Want" by a kind doctor willing Charlotte to finally set sail (figuratively and literally) and penultimately in the voyage that defines her life and her burgeoning relationship with married architect Jerry, played by Paul Henreid. There is immediate kinship and an ethereally preternatural connection between the two fortunate enough to cross paths in the most unlikely circumstances. For those of us who subscribe to the Brontean tradition of kinship, this will hit a hard chord. What follows is a week of sheer delight as Charlotte finds herself validated in the eyes of a stranger. Her strength is drawn from the fact that someone loves her, yes, but in her acceptance that all she has bottled up in her mind and soul, now reflected in her being, is enough to set eyes to magnetically seeking her and conversation to circling her as an orb.

When an unexpected interlude with Jerry in Rio ends, Charlotte is left to recognize that which has just past was probably the peak of her life. She says goodbye to Jerry and returns home. The slow walk that takes her in her front door and into the holds of her old life is tragic. Again, I think of The Blue Castle, when Valancy, circumstances changed, rips herself from Barney and returns to her mother and her drab existence.

A short engagement with an eligible widower and a few encounters with Jerry sustain her as she redefines herself under the watchful eye of a woman who no longer possesses her. Charlotte is a woman who is content to bottle memory, to live on the small mementoes of a love past and of the promise of helping someone who direly needs her.

The film ends with Charlotte accepting that happiness and contentment for her can be a slice of what others would grab all of. She is able to recognize worth in helping someone who reminds her so of herself and with the formation of a kind of family, she is able to experience, distantly, the relationship she has waited her entire life for.

This is romance without Hollywood consummation. The music swells and we are left without the final kiss; just the promise or dream of something beyond the characters due to circumstances, timing and sacrificial loss. Instead, we are left with one of the most tense and real and palpable moments ever filmed: Jerry, as he has done always, takes two cigarettes to his lips and lights them and, in silent, teary communion, the two recognize that what they have: untouchable, unbreakable, a forged strip of territory ( to paraphrase a line of the script) is heaven compared to the years of emptiness before.

In The Blue Castle Valancy admits: “"Isn't it better to have your heart broken than to have it wither up?[…]Before it could be broken it must have felt something splendid. That would be worth the pain." At the end of the film my heart was breaking. Somehow since I had invested in a bit of mirrored reflection with a character I identified with I willed the outcome to change. Instead, wish fulfillment is slightly tweaked from convention to acceptance. The happy ending lies not in traditional relationship; yet in the acceptance of a different kind of happiness and in two characters realizing that the pivotal point of their relationship is cemented when they are both free to come into their own. A symbiotic and touching relationship, yes, even though wedding bells will not peal and the moon is still far off.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Saturday Morning Out-of-Nowhere Film Adaptation: The Young Philadelphians (1959)

You know when it's Saturday morning and you're up and you don't want to get out of bed so you channel surf? And you hope to find a movie just starting so you can just watch it and not do anything?

My Saturday Morning Movie of this kind was The Young Philadelphians based on the novel The Philadelphian by Richard Powell. Note: I think they titled it on the young ones because the novel is supposedly a generation-stretching epic and we just hang out at the tail end.

Released in 1959 and starring Paul Newman in black and white ( as opposed to Paul Newman in delicious technicolour), it is a society story of social climbing, almost-affairs, oddly timed neck-arch kisses (so popular of the day) and black pumps with neat hats worn by secretaries with few speaking lines fringing law offices where great scandals take place. Look at the caption on the film poster! It's all about angry young moderns in suggestive poses, stripping the upper crust to the scandalous flesh underneath. bwa ha.

A young woman realizing that the man she has married for money and stature is impotent (played by Batman Adam West) flees to the young irish immigrant who loves her. Returning from her wedding night away from her spouse, she learns that Batman has been killed in a car crash. The young irish immigrant still loves her and visits her in the hospital 9 months later when she has given birth to their son. But, she wants her boy to have her late husband's clout of a family name so she refuses to accept his love. She also confronts her late husband's mother and says that even though they all know the child was not an actual Lawrence, she will keep the name for her son; but never expect anything else from the great family.

Fastforward years later and Paul Newman is a promising law student who takes a summer job in construction with his irish immigrant father as the foreman. During the summer he drinks at classy parties with his friend Chet ( Robert Vaughn who would go on to star in that 1960s homoerotic spy vehicle opposite David McCallum; but who was nominated for an Oscar here) and woos a really dazzling Barbara Rush: the daughter of a prominent lawyer.

They want to get married but her father eventually coaxes Paul into his established firm and Barbara thinks that Paul has sold out and used her for monetary gain.

...and it goes on and on with social cues and competing law firms and Newman getting smarter and smarter and wearing prettier suits and you really think this is a film about a young man's ambition and resilience. After all, he fights in the Korean war and even holds Chet's hand when his arm is blown off ( the still remaining one).

There are cold, wistful meetings with lovely Barbara and hi-jinx when Paul uses his (as of yet unknown to him) dad's political connections to sneak into the county records to steal a high client from a duelling firm.

Barbara and Paul run into each other, immaculately dressed, there is a scene where Paul almost has an affair with a hot, talented wife of a mentor lawyer and Paul even snuggles a chihuahua to charm an elderly client.

You would think that it's about how Paul learned to make it on his own and strive to live up to his heftily purchased ( purchased in death, emotion and sacrifice ) birth name.

But, actually, just when you think that you have 20 more minutes of the film and more awkward neck-arch kisses, it turns INTO A MURDER MYSTERY/COURTROOM DRAMA!

Honestly, readers, I had no idea that this happened as I knew nothing about this film so this blind-sighted me with melodramatic, scandalous delight! Suicide! Purchased Guns! stolen inheritances! scenes in the jail "Drunk Tank", unshaven men! trust issues! MENTAL ILLNESS!

There hasn't been a twist this unexpected since the Usual Suspects.

Chet ( Robert Vaughn pulling out the acting chops that scored him the Oscar nod) is charged with murder and Paul ( even though he is a tax lawyer) bumps high criminal lawyers to take the case for his friend. It's all a sequence about character, doing what's right, what makes a man a man, and who stole my cheque just because I slugged too many whiskeys!?

Oh kids, they just don't make them like this anymore. At all. Ever.

I promise you that I will never read the source material ( life's too short for twisted murder mystery/ courtroom drama/ class tales of sordid American Dreams ); but this was an enjoyable and intense and really interesting flick.

So, some Saturday morning on the verge of blurry-eyed " Should I go back to sleep?", I hope, instead, you give 2 hours to this gem.

Also, there's Paul Newman.

Friday, July 08, 2011



Let’s talk about some:

First off, I was delighted to re-discover a classic I have been aching to see since I was a teenager. When I was in high school director Ernst Lubitsch’s 1946 adaptation of Cluny Brown (based on the novel of the same name by Margery Sharp) stole my heart. I remember it stayed with me weeks after and I immediately sought out ( and loved ) the novel. The film is of course the ultra-condensed version; but still ridiculously charming. The film is NOT available on DVD ( though I have searched far and wide) but lo and behold some great person has uploaded it clearly onto youtube so last night I saw the film that stole my heart in yesteryear. In fact, I saw the film for the first time since several subsequent re-readings of its source novel in my early 20s (as a 30 yr old, saying early 20s makes me feel ancient).

The novel is a delightful little class comedy of errors set in small village Britain in the years preluding the Second World War. Cluny ( short for Clover), a snappy and imaginative plumber’s niece is sent into domestic service by an uncle who feels she needs to find her place. There, Cluny encounters a colourful bouquet of characters: winsome archetypes of the British upper class, a snooty chemist, a military retiree with a kind heart and an author-in-exile who is quite the play thing for a rich family who feels a Czech refugee emblemizes their commitment to stopping Hitler’s onslaught.

The film adaptation starring Peter Lawford, Jennifer Jones and Charles Boyer is just delightful: in the snappy, sharp and popcorn-paced tone one expects of those sparklingly written romantic comedies of the era. Jennifer Jones plays Cluny with a mischievous and sensuous undertone: her skin is luminescent and her dark eyes are wide and doe-like and you experience everything she does as she experiences it. Charles Boyer is divine as the Czech refugee, his delicious French accent caressing a sarcastic and dark philosophy that undermines and cuts British tradition as it rampages before him. The developing bond between his Prof Belinski and Jones’ effervescent parlour maid is a delight: they are very much kindred spirits.

There is a heap of double entendre in the film and scenes that border on risqué for its time period and the wordplay is fabulous. I was so glad I found it. It played quite well on my MacBook.

It also has nudged me to re-visit the book, I repeat, a favourite of mine in my early university years.

Next, I am thrilled to the gills for two upcoming adaptations of my favourite Dickens’ novel, Great Expectations. I have seen all available adaptations of this from the David Lean version to the modernized take to the miniseries with Ioan Gruffudd and Charlotte Rampling to that awkward late 70s BBC production and I have to admit that I have never been satisfied. Unlike Little Dorrit and Bleak House, complete and true homages to the works of this great writer, I always finish a film adaptation of GE less than full. Something always seems to be missing: whether they spend too much time on Magwitch and Havisham to fully play out the grace and compassion of Joe and Herbert Pocket --- may be part of the ongoing problem. Thus, I am thrilled with the new BBC treatment (take that BBC for swearing off 19th Century bonnet films! I knew this day would come) and the upcoming feature film directed by Mike Newell. I am sure between the two they will touch on some of my favourite facets of the great novel and comparisons will abound.