June 3: West Point As I’m sure you well remember, it is my sacred mission to see every single Joan Crawford film ever made. I’m doing pretty well, too. I haven’t counted them up, yet, but whenever they pop up on TCM, I’m all like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen that.” This is an early Joan feature, from 1927, she co-stars with William Haines, whom I’ve always admired as an interior decorator and gay rights advocate, who was at the height of his celebrity when this picture was made. I’d heard a lot about this feature from several biographies of Joan’s, so I was glad it was finally on. It was not a bad picture, but it needed much more Joan, she had such a crap role. But, I often forget that she wasn’t always the giant celebrity she became, she used to work for no credit! Can you imagine!?! The film is about Brice Wayne played by Powell who is an incredibly arrogant and cocky young cadet at West Point Military Academy. He just thinks he is the shit, and he’s not. To make his ego even bigger, he is an excellent football player and so he is on the team. But because of his big ego and his stupid mouth, he is benched before the big game. All is forgiven and they win and he is reunited with Betty, who was played by Joan. Insignificant film, but I’m glad I finally saw it. [My Rating: 4/10, I’m sure this would have gone up considerably if Joan had more screen time.]
June 4: The Mad Miss Manton
Katharine Hepburn was originally offered the titular role, and if she had accepted, this would have been a very different, but equally intriguing picture. This was really rather good, hardly excellent, but it was an amusing ninety minutes. It’s all about Melsa Manton, a terribly spoiled socialite in Despression-era New York. Of course the commoners detest her, but she couldn’t care less. One night, her curiosity gets the better of her and she snoops around in a deserted house. I would have done the exact same thing, I love a good abandoned home. There are three I’m itching to see, but I need to find a good time to go when there is daylight and yet nobody around. Ah well, the time will come. Inside the house, Melsa finds a corpse! She hurries to the police and they rush to examine the body, but it’s gone. The police think that she made the thing up as one of her pranks. She’s offended because she was telling the truth for once. So, after a terrible writeup in the newspaper, Melsa and her friends decide to hunt for clues and find the killer themselves. In the meantime, Melsa falls in love with the journalist who sullied her name. It’s a charming picture. [My Rating: 6/10]
June 5: The Innocents
This film was supposedly part of the inspiration for The Others, so, of course, I had to see it. The vibe is very similar, but the whole film just fell quite flat for me. It takes place in Victorian England when Miss Giddens becomes the governess of two orphans in the countryside. The children she cares for, Flora and Miles, are rather well behaved and she has no complaints. The longer she is there, though, the more she learns about past events in the house. The former governess had an affair with a cruel man and then they died. Miss Giddens starts seeing the ghosts and somehow decides that the children have been possessed by these spirits. I couldn’t understand how she came to that assumption. She decides that she has to save the children from this evil influence and exorcise them. They aren’t willing to do this because it seems that Miss Giddens is the only one that thinks this and because nobody else sees the ghosts. It becomes uncomfortably sexual, not obviously, it’s very subtle, but there is a perverse undertone to the entire picture that is decidedly uncomfortable. I didn’t care for this movie. It left me rather bothered, actually. [My Rating: 3/10]
June 6: The Dark Secret of Harvest Home
She doesn’t know it, but Anne Rice and I are close friends. In my head, she’s one of my celebrity besties. I imagine us having coffee at her lovely home in the desert and then discussing our writing. We’d share what we were working on for a while, but then we’d be distracted by her magnificently angelic cat, Little Prince Oberon.
I’d bring my Tiger over and they’d play and nap while we worked. Ah, wouldn’t life be magnificent if dreams came true more often? About a year ago, she recommended the book, Harvest Home, on her Facebook page. Something about the cover grabbed my imagination and I was lucky that my library still had a copy as it’s long out of print. Thankfully, there is a reprint coming in September! I’ll be getting a copy. I dug right into that book and devoured it. It was wonderful! The story takes place in modern day New York, but when the Constantine Family move to the village of Cornwall Coombe (I love that name!) they seem to step into a kind of alternate reality which takes a while for the main character, Ned, to come to terms with. It’s a very old-fashioned village that take a great deal of pride in their traditions. The story is told over the course of a year, and we experience all the different harvest festivals. With each passing season, we learn more about the secret of Harvest Home (the main harvest ritual), there are strange deaths, stranger beliefs, and odd people. Magnificent story. The movie is a very faithful adaptation of the novel that stars my beloved Bette Davis in the magnificently written role of the Widow Fortune. The Widow Fortune is almost like the town dictator, but it seems that this is not a bad thing. She cares for everybody in the community with her herbal remedies and offers sound advice. Ned and his wife, Beth, settle in happily with their daughter, Kate and begin to live the more peaceful life they planned away from New York City. Ned is an artist and is working on a book of rural sketches, it’s his life dream. The longer they are there, the more strange he finds the people and he is terrified as he watches his family join them unquestioningly. I find it very difficult to describe the plot without giving it all away. I recommend the book wholeheartedly, and the film is quite good, too (thanks to Bette Davis), but is oddly hard to find. I watched it online on some Chinese website that I don’t believe was entirely reputable. [My Rating: 7/10]
June 7: The Iron Lady
I meant to see this picture the moment it came out, but I never seem to get to the theater so I finally managed to enjoy it when it came to my mailbox. It was not the film I expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I assumed it was going to be more of a biography of Margaret Thatcher, but what it was, was better, The Iron Lady is more of a snippet of her life interspersed with memories. Because they’re memories, they aren’t forced to be completely accurate. I’m not familiar with the Parliamentary system of government, but I’ve heard that there are some points that aren’t necessarily true. Didn’t matter much to me. The film opens on an elderly Margaret Thatcher, brilliantly portrayed by Meryl Streep. That woman can do no wrong. Can you imagine if she were to play Margo in the adaptation my novel (which I pray will someday happen)? I’d die. I would just die. You don’t see Meryl, you see Prime Minister Thatcher. It’s magnificent. Anyway, Margaret is basically a prisoner in her home because of her overly concerned staff and daughter. Her husband died a year or so ago, and she is just coming to terms with his death. His ghost, or apparition, or figment of her imagination, continues to live with her, and she often converses with him. He’s a comfort to her, but is also a bother, she knows that he’s dead and that he needs to go, but she doesn’t want to be alone. So, she avoids packing his things up for the charity shops and keeps him to herself. As she goes through the motions of grieving, memories flood back to her. We see her rise from a member of Parliament and then ascend to Prime Minister. It’s a tremendous journey she goes on and oftentimes at the sacrifice of those around her. We see flashes of the difficulties of her tenure, of her unwillingness to bend to others. Her politics are said to have saved the country, but it was hard to watch as she did things that appeared to hurt more than help. I suppose it’s true that you have to remove the thorn before you can heal, and this was certainly the case. I don’t think we would have been friends, but I respected her. Meryl Streep’s portrayal is magnificent, from the way she holds herself, to the way she blinks, to the very way she speaks. She is flawless in every way. The way the fine muscles in her face twitch from sorrow to happiness as she leaves 10 Downing Street for the last time is a marvel. That, that is acting. The film is excellently edited, too, no scene runs for too long, nothing seems out of place. But what I loved most about the entire film, and I’m not sure if it was something that Margaret personally feels/felt or if it was made up for the picture, but I was so inspired by her passion to have her life matter. I saw this on one of my more depressed days, and I was so taken by her passion. She wanted her life to be magnificent. She wanted to achieve things, even if people hated her for it, she wanted to be a success to herself, she wanted to be known and remembered. I feel much the same way. I want people to know me, to think of me when I’m not in the room, to love me. I recommend this film. [My Rating: 9/10]
June 8: Female on the Beach
I was sure I had seen this film, but I had not! It’s always a great joy for me to discover yet another Joan Crawford picture. I just adore her. There is something mysterious and real about her, something terribly honest, and yet at the same time secretive. It’s obvious that I can’t quite capture the reasons for my adoration! Female on the Beach is not one of Joan’s great roles, but she does the same phenomenal job that she always does. One of my favorite things about Joan is that she loses herself completely in her roles, you see Joan Crawford on screen, but when she is acting, you believe that she is that character, in this film, she becomes Lynn Markham. When her husband dies, Lynn goes to see his beach house to arrange its sale. She assumes this will be a simple matter, and the sale itself is, but annoyingly, there are many problems with the people around the house. All she wants to do is be alone, she needs to recover from her husband’s death. The day before Lynn’s arrival, the former tenant fell from the deck to the sandy beach below to her death. The real estate agent is bizarre and secretive. Her neighbors pry into her life and their live-in friend, Drummond Hall, is constantly in her home uninvited. When he asks her how she likes her coffee, she replies, “Alone.” It is deliciously snarky, I hope to use it someday in my own life. Anyway, Drummond was very close to the previous tenant and feels he can continue his lifestyle even though Lynn has no interest in this. It doesn’t take long for her to sniff out her neighbors true nature after she finds the diary of the previous tenant. They are schemers who try to make money off of people using Drummond. They have been quite successful until Lynn arrived. Even though Lynn knows what Drummond has done in the past, she finds herself drawn to him. She finds herself falling in love with him and finally she is passionately devoted to him. Even though she questions her feelings, she knows that her emotions must be true and so she marries Drummond. Finally, suspicions dawn on her and she realizes that she might be in deep water without a boat, quite literally. It’s a great picture. I love when Joan goes crazy. Truly, I do. The last part of this film is marvelous. I must admit that the film is a bit clunky, Lynn’s personality doesn’t always allow for her actions to be believable, but in the end, I enjoyed it. [My Rating: 8/10]
June 9: I Love Lucy: The Movie
I have been curious about this cinematic curio for at least a decade. I remember hearing about it years and years ago. My family watches more old television and films than modern, so I Love Lucy and The Brady Bunch are more familiar to me than Friends and Seinfeld is to my friends. When I found out that this film is really nothing more than a few episodes strung together, my interest waned, but I’ve always meant to see it. Finally, I did! Each of the episodes are hilarious in themselves, and they are equally funny on screen, but they don’t fit very well together and make it feel like nothing more than a long episode, there is nothing cinematic about it, and I think that was a mistake in filming. It was funny, of course, but if you’ve seen I Love Lucy, there’s no point in seeing this. It’s more of interest to diehard Lucy fans and those who are intrigued by the production of the show. [My Rating: 6/10 My judgement is not based on the content of this film, but by it’s assembly as a film.]
MOVIE of the WEEK: The Iron Lady It’s a magnificent film, inspired, and inspiring. Meryl Streep is fantastic as always, she is flawless. She more than deserved the Oscar for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher.