Monday, August 31, 2009

A journey from despair to hysteria

Just let me sleep it off...

Some movie recommendations from Elizabeth [Oh By Jingo! Oh By Gee!] caused me an emotional roller coaster yesterday. I know that I have a tendency to sink into the world of film, especially when I watch them alone and with a headset - there's nothing from the outside world that can reach me. But to go from inconsolable crying to almost choking to death with laughter (by now I sound like Jean Arthur) is something out of the ordinary, even for me. (Oh well, it doesn't happen every day...)

And for once, I will try to hold my promise to keep the blog post short. (Sure, no one has complained about them being too long, but personally I admire people who can express themselves in a short and concise way, and not, to directly translate a Swedish expression, "word poo".)

Director: William Wyler
USA 1942
134 min

See it on YouTube here.

When I am seriously curious about a film I haven't yet seen, I try to read as little about it as possible not to get it spoiled. Therefore I was quite shocked at finding Mrs. Miniver not being a sweet, cosy, utopian small town story (ey, I only judged by the title...), but rather a beautiful, smalltown nightmare. All the sweetness and sincere joy and appreciation for the fellow man only adds to the tragedy.

Mrs. Miniver (Garson) is the loving housewife of Clem Miniver (Pidgeon) in an English village anno 1939. The married couple's main problem by the beginning of the film is how to tell to one another that they both have too extravagant taste in their shopping for a middle class family (an expensive hat and a brand new car, guess who bought what), and their small children embarrassing the elder brother Vincent (Ney) and his love interest (Wright). This soon changes when Britain joins the World War II, and Vincent has to join the RAF, and Clem goes on a mission on the sea.

Just to further make this film crab ahold of the viewer, there is a sweet side story with a deer old station master, Mr. Ballard (Travers, who we recognize as the angel Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life, 1946), with a passion for roses. He names his most beautiful rose after Mrs. Miniver to enter the local flower contest. This makes it very hard to watch the scenes where the Germans start bombing England to pieces, not to mention the total loss of joy in the face of the otherwise so happy-go-lucky Vincent in the last scene. I frankly couldn't recognize him as the same actor at first.

Bombing of London, 1940.

This is such a beautiful and heart tearing film. Wyler admitted openly that he made the film for propaganda purposes, since he disliked America's isolationism from the ongoing war. The film helped the Americans to sympathize with their British equivalents. The last speech, held by Wilcoxon's vicar (supposedly re-written the night before shooting by Wyler and Wilcoxon), was used as war propaganda. It was translated into several languages and air-dropped in leaflets over Nazi occupied Europe on the request of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Since then, the speech has gone to history as The Wilcoxon Speech, after the actor who first performed it.

The final scene in a bombed church.

Well, in short this is a terrific film. Judging by my reaction (in total loss of hope, drowned in tears, inconsolable), I can be your witness that it's an emotionally gripping film. It got about a billion Oscar statues:
Best Actress in Leading Role - Greer Garson
Best Actress in Supporting Role - Teresa Wright
Best Cinematography B/W - Joseph Ruttenberg
Best Director - William Wyler
Best Picture
Best Writing, Screenplay
A popular rumor is that Greer Garson's acceptance speech lasted for over an hour, something that is completely wrong. She did however speak for five and a half minutes, and broke the record anyway.
Isn't it funny that Greer Garson later went and married Richard Ney, who plays her son in the film?

Yeah, grow a mustache so you look a little older!

Favorite scene: Mr. and Mrs. Miniver in the basement with their youngest children during an air raid. As most children do, they at first sleep through bombings and shootings, but when the bombs comes so near that the basement almost falls in on them, they wake up and are scared to death. There was something horrible in watching a helpless mother trying to keep her calm while comforting her children, who for once really has something to be frightened about.


USA 1947
110 min

See it on YouTube here.

After "The Miniver Experience", I needed something to cheer me up before I went to bed. And now I made the right choice!

Walter Mitty (Kaye) is a terribly absent-minded man who too often lets himself slip away into an exciting dream world of his own, where he is the admired hero and has a beautiful, helpless blonde (Mayo) on his arm.

His reality is however somewhat different. His work contains of control reading trash novels with poorly dresses women in despair on the front covers. His boss constantly steals his ideas and takes the credit himself, and Mitty's frequent daydreaming puts his employment at stake. On top of all, he's engaged to a girl (Rutherford) with a horribly spoiled dog, and an equally horrible mother-in-law (Bates, who also plays an annoying mother-in-law in the Powell/Loy comedy Love Crazy, 1941).

One day his path crosses that of his dreamgirl's real life twin, Rosalind van Hoorn (Mayo, again), and soon he is drawn into a dime novel plot of his own - only with the difference that this is for real, and he can't just snap out of it like he can with his fantasies.

This is such a sweet, entertaining and insane movie. I can't believe that I hadn't seen it before, because it's exactly my kind of humour. I think I like Danny Kaye... Boris Karloff was really frightening in a role that kind of mocks his earlier horror performances. And I certainly admire how Virignia Mayo manages to act opposite Kaye and keep from laughing at lines like "Oh, Gaylord!". She should have been rewarded with some kind of reward for that.

By the way; I read on IMDb that Mike Myers is doing a remake of this film, probably finished in 2010. I don't usually like remakes, but if they are done as an homage to the original and with great respect it can be really interesting. And if there is one actor today that can do this role, I definitely think that Mike Myers is the one. I'm curious as heck!

Favorite scene: The dream sequence below. One of them, at least. It's so hard to decide, the whole film is totally hilarious.


Elizabeth said...

I'm glad you liked the movies - they're some of my favorites! And I didn't know that they were remaking "Walter Mitty". If it has Mike Myers it has the potential to be OK, but I generally don't care for remakes!

Anonymous said...

word poo = ordbajseri?

/Mikael Uhlin

Lolita said...

I loved them! I am very picky with remakes - most often they only seem to want to bring in money with the title, and the remake has no similarities to the original. But a few times it is made good - and I hope for Walter Mitty to be one of those. I imagine that Mike Myers grew up with the original and wants to honor it!

Mikael Uhlin:
Exakt! haha

Kate Gabrielle said...

lol you're so funny!! :) I love "sure, grow a mustache" lol!!!

It's funny, I always want to write long posts because i think mine are too short (but I can never think of anything to say!!) I love your long posts :D

Mykal said...

Lolita: Great Post, but a little short for my tastes!;) I love your long posts! I have not seen Mrs. Miniver but will soon (I like a solid tear jerker sometimes). Nice bits of history in this post, which I always love. Kind of strange Garson marrying the guy that played her son in the movie, right? Yipes! can just imagine the jokes that went around Hollywood over that one.

I keep waiting for Danny Kaye to have some kind of renaissance. Maybe with the upcoming remake of Mitty that will happen. He was such a strange talent. I'll always wonder why Virginia Mayo didn’t make more films, or why her star didn't rise a little higher than it did. I always thought of her as exotic and mysterious somehow, a very rare quality.

Don’t worry about word poo. Let it flow! Sometimes a long post is just the right amount of words, particularly if they are arranged in fascinating sentences (as yours are). -- Mykal

Lolita said...

Kate Gabrielle:
Oh, really? It seems like I got the wrong idea about what to worry about with the blog... Thanks for giving your opinion! (And by the way, I always thought you often have the perfect length of you blog posts, so don't worry!)

Jeez, thanks for the input! I really thought I tired by readers with long posts, but I guess I will re-think a little! Or, as I always have, don't think at all and just go with what feels good.
Thank you so much for complementing my way of writing, it means a lot since English is only my second language - I can't really be 100% sure how my sentences and expressions sound to the American ear! (I mean, seriously - "word poo"?)
I will be better at writing the way that is natural for me, how I use to.
Thanks again!

Lolita said...

About Danny Kaye, I think his renaissance is just around the corner! People will probably prepare for the Walter Mitty remake and dig up its origins - that's one positive things with remakes ;)

Christopher said...

LOL..that suthern' singin' in the background on that Walter Mitty that rich technicolor..need to see this one again..long posts POO POO!=:o/

Juliette. said...

Love The Secret Life of Walter Mitty! Glad you enjoyed it as well. For some reason I've never had the desire to watch Mrs. Miniver. I know it's supposed to be brilliant, but I suppose I'll just have to wait for the inclination to take hold before a viewing, so I can truly appreciate it.

Lolita said...

Haha, yes, it's brilliant!
You like word poo or not? :)

Oh, but do watch it! But be in the mood, otherwise you might not appreciate it to the full. I absolutely adored Mrs Miniver, it was such a beautiful movie - even though it broke my heart big time!

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