The Girl From Missouri, 1934 – ★★★½

Enjoyable Jean Harlow film in which she’s plays a gold-digger with a veneer of innocence, backed up by sparky comedienne Patsy Kelly.

Points to note: this is after the Hollywood Code was enforced to make films ‘decent’, although a joke or two still creeps in, and Harlow spends a fair amount of time in not that many clothes; older men like Lewis Stone and Lionel Barrymore always have a weakness for blondes; and there is always an exit from a window in the cover of darkness.

Franchot Tone is the love interest, and he and Harlow would team again to good effect in ‘Bombshell’. But this is very much her show and although it isn’t her best film, she is always worth watching and if you take a look, you might see why she was one of MGM’s hot properties of the 1930s.

Vía Letterboxd – loureviews


Pure imagination: Anthony Newley’s screen work

As well as being an unusually gifted singer and songwriter (his vocal style influenced the young David Bowie, and his lyrics graced the theme for ‘Goldfinger’, and the songs in ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’), Anthony Newley (1931-1999) was also an actor from childhood, gracing both big and small screen with interesting performances.

On the stage he could definitely be described as ‘larger than life’, perhaps a hangover from the days when he had to compete with his arch-diva wife of eight years, Joan Collins. His later years might have veered towards the cabaret and lounge lizard variety, but in those early days he was well worth watching, and even in later years there were occasional flashes of what might have been.

  1. The Strange World of Gurney Slade
  2. Sweet November
  3. Idol on Parade
  4. Oliver Twist  As the Artful Dodger.
  5. Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?  For sheer, and literal, cheek!
  6. Mr. Quilp
  7. Jazz Boat
  8. Doctor Dolittle
  9. The Small World of Sammy Lee
  10. The Guinea Pig

…plus 5 more. View the full list on Letterboxd.

Vía Letterboxd – loureviews


Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)

Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel is a much loved fable where vices like greed, vanity, and pride are punished while virtue is rewarded in the tale of Charlie Bucket, a boy of impossible purity, who never does a bad thing.

The story of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory has been filmed twice, first in the classic 1972 version starring Gene Wilder, and then in 2005 with Johnny Depp.  Both were successful,  but perhaps the earlier version has the edge because of its Bricusse-Newley score.

A song from that score, ‘Pure Imagination’, appears in this new stage musical (although its creators only get a tiny footnote in the programme), and sits awkwardly alongside new songs by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, which verge on the forgettable (except for ‘Vidiots’, ‘Don’t Ya Pinch Me, Charlie’ and ‘Strike That! Reverse It!’).

As Wonka, Alex Jennings is no singer but clearly relishes the mix of camp and cruelty in the character,  as he springs and sashays around in pink jacket, green trousers and top hat, looking rather like Dr Seuss’ cat.

A dance sequence from Charlie’s grandparents in a stretched-out act one reminded me of the inventors in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, while a creepy sweet seller is reminiscent of the Childcatcher of the same production.   I missed the ‘Candyman’ of the earlier version.

As for the children,  young Scot Rhys Lambert’s accent occasionally distracts, but he carries his solo songs well.  The other lucky golden ticket winners each have a showpiece set within the Bucket family’s ancient TV, and with Violet now a reality star rapper, Mike a sociopathic gamer, and Veruca an awful dancer (as Wonka waspishly remarks later, ‘her posture’s awful’), there’s been a bit of updating.

The Oompa Loompas are fun, with good puppet work,  the second half has snippets of technical brilliance (the glass elevator, the squirrels, the bits of magic), but perhaps the high point is Charlie’s flying paper plane.  Grandpa Joe (Barry James) is very good,  and there’s a couple of cleverly creepy appearances from Wonka before we join him in his factory.

Fun, fresh, but ultimately soulless and lacking emotional involvement, this production is too long at two and a half hours, and parts are better than the whole, but it remains enjoyable.

My thanks to http://www.Officialtheatre.com
for providing the tickets.


Disco Pigs, 2001 – ★★★★

Returning to this a couple of days after seeing Enda Walsh’s latest stage play, Ballyturk (also starring Cillian Murphy), I can see parallels in the weirdness of the writing and in the intensity of the relationship between Pig (Murphy) and Runt (Elaine Cassidy).

Dark, dangerous and desperate, this also has hints of sweetness in the quiet calmness of Runt. This was one of Murphy’s breakthrough performances, which he also played in the stage play. Surreal and strange, he lifts the play to something much more interesting than your basic ‘Romeo and Juliet’ teenage romance.

Vía Letterboxd – loureviews


Review: Joan Baez (Royal Festival Hall)

This week has seen the only 2014 tour dates in the UK of folk balladeer Joan Baez, someone I have admired for a long time but never seen live until last night.  The famous voice might have deepened and lost a bit of its power, but with her accompanists (Dirk Powell on guitars and squeezebox, her son Gabe Harris on percussion, and singer Grace Stumberg) she still manages to weave a powerful piece of magic with songs such as ‘Farewell, Angelina’, ‘Handsome Molly’, ‘God is God’, ‘Imagine’, ‘Catch the Wind’, ‘La Llorona’, ‘Joe Hill’, ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’, and others.

Baez has always been involved in political causes, and these were mentioned in passing, along with her participation at the legendary Woodstock festival (‘hundreds of years ago’).  The passage of time, too, was noted in her song about her relationship with Bob Dylan, ‘Diamonds and Rust’, where ‘ten years ago’ has now become ‘fifty years ago’.  A solo rendition of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ was quietly touching, as was a duet with Stumberg (‘Just The Way You Are’).  In the true folk tradition ‘Lily of the West’ and ‘The House Carpenter’ were welcome guests, while ‘Give Me Cornbread When I’m Hungry’ picked up the pace a little, and ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ gave new life to a song which can sometimes be described as over-familiar.

‘Forever Young’ and ‘Gracias a la Vida’ closed a pleasing set, which had been friendly, intimate, and truly enjoyable.


Review: Ballyturk (National Theatre)

There has been decidedly mixed press about this new play by Enda Walsh, which has come to England following runs in Dublin and Cork.   Hard to catagorise in any particular box, this can be classed as anything from black comedy to theatre of the absurd, to a frenetic physical showcase capped by a philosophical close, to ‘filling a room with words’.

A cast of three bring this play to the stage, under Walsh’s direction, and clearly every scene is closely choreographed, whether to the pulsing beats of ABC’s ‘The Look of Love’ or the smooth dialogue of the game of ‘Ballyturk’, where two men only called ‘1’ and ‘2’ create a day in the life of a town which only appears to exist in their head, from the local bully boy to the snipey lady shopkeeper (“I’ll not be out-bittered by a lemon”).  Despite the Daily Mail asserting these two are brothers, there is no evidence to say whether they are brothers, strangers, father and son, or lovers.  The conjecture is purely that of an audience who can make what they like of this set up.

Cillian Murphy plays ‘1’, and those who have seen him in both ‘Peaky Blinders’ on television, and in the films he has been part of (androgynously beautiful in ‘Breakfast at Pluto’, strangely vulnerable in ‘Disco Pigs’ – also directed by Walsh, tough in ‘Perrier’s Bounty’) know they show his range, which is built on here.  He’s a livewire of activity, whether bounding up on to the curiously placed wooden furniture, working himself up into epileptic fits, or simply getting on with the minutae of life with a force which leaves him drenched in sweat for most of the production.  He’s wickedly funny, too, and towards the end, quite heartbreaking, when he gets a chance to break from the repetitive existence he has shared with ‘2’ (dancing and drawing).

Mikel Murfi plays ‘2’.  He’s not an actor I was familiar with, but on looking him up he was born as Michael Murphy, and rebranded himself early on, having made many stage appearances, a lot of collaboration with Walsh, and the occasional film (‘The Commitments’, ‘The Butcher Boy’).  He is also a physical dynamo, and with quirky looks contained in an elastic face, he can switch from one emotion to another in a second, well showcased as he changes from one ‘Ballyturk’ character to another in a moment.

Into this bizarre existence, where the occasional disembodied voice comes through the walls, and ‘1’ and ‘2’ are – what – trapped? imprisoned? cocooned? – comes a louche visitor, known only as ‘3’, with cigarette in hand and, in a long existential monologue, a taste of what is available outdoors, from the disappointment of life to the things we all take for granted (sun, clouds, trees).

He is a challenge to the other two, and whether demanding tea and biscuits (which leads to an amusing biscuit jenga game, done in such a laid-back way it is almost imperceptible), singing an old classic, ‘Time After Time’ (with a microphone that appears from up high, for no reason) or quietly staring out ‘1’, he is a dynamic force coming into the partnership we have witnessed so far.

‘3’ is played by Stephen Rea, and his character is so quiet and nonchalant he exudes real danger and an unsettling vibe to the piece.  I hadn’t seen him on stage before but have been long familiar with his film work, and he hasn’t lost any of that power he’s brought to the screen in the past.

The ending, to me, was one open to interpretation, of what is beyond the wall which had parted to allow ‘3’ to join the party.  If ‘1’ and ‘2’ had always been able to leave, why hadn’t they?  If they were always destined to be trapped, why was the opportunity presented now, and what would it lead to?  Was the ‘death’ that ‘3’ spoke of really a reintroduction back into the real life, and the inevitable mortality that involved?  And just who was ‘3’, anyway?

As we left the National another audience member had clearly endured enough during the 90 minutes, dismissing this play as “a load of bloody rubbish!”.  The audience reaction generally was mixed, I thought, some enthuastically applauding, others muted and quiet.  I found ‘Ballyturk’ interesting, infuriating, funny, charming, and touching,  I might be biased as a fan of both Rea and Murphy, but they don’t disappoint, and this play is a challenge for sure, but a worthwhile one.


May We Borrow Your Husband?, 1986 – ★★★★

Watched on Saturday September 20, 2014.

A stellar performance from Dirk Bogarde as observant writer William Harris lifts this literary drama which doesn’t go in quite the direction you think it will.

Interior decorators Stephen (Francis Matthews) and Tony (David Yelland) may put on the camp a bit thickly but quickly they move on from simply being nightmare neighbours to something more dangerous when naive young couple Peter and Poopie (Simon Shepherd and Charlotte Attenborough) arrive on their honeymoon.

Quietly devastating and also wickedly funny, this is one of Bogarde’s best late roles as someone given to quoting the sexy poetry of the Earl of Rochester to the new bride while not sharing his wisdom as to the reality of her marriage.

This is a real dramatic treat and is available to view at the BFI Mediatheque.

Vía Letterboxd – loureviews


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