Monthly Archives: August 2012

Prom 36: Glamorous Night – A Celebration of Ivor Novello

The late night Prom on the 9th August promised a lively evening of classic musical tunes from a more innocent era, that of the Ruritanian operetta as personified by composer and actor Ivor Novello.

Born in Wales in 1893 as David Ivor Davies, the young Novello adopted his mother’s maiden name, perhaps as it sounded much more grandiose and suitable for the theatre. Although primarily a writer of music for songs, he made a name for himself as an actor in the silent cinema, notably in the Rat trilogy, in Noel Coward’s ‘The Vortex’, and in two films for the young Alfred Hitchcock. His musicals were extremely popular in their day but are rarely revived outside of amateur groups these days, and the songs, although pleasant, could stretch a dedicated evening in the wrong hands.

So, with the Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder, two excellent singers took on the task of bringing Novello’s songs to a 21st century audience, with the help of Simon Callow as intermittent narrator. The tenor Toby Spence started proceedings with a rousing rendition of ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’, but he also provided, with piano accompaniment only, a rarity, Novello’s last song, ‘Pray For Me’, a quiet muse on mortality. The charming soprano Sophie Bevan gave froth and glamour to the songs associated with likes of Mary Ellis, Dorothy Dickson, and Olive Gilbert – ‘I Can Give You The Starlight’, ‘Someday My Heart Will Awake’, and the two duets with Spence: ‘We’ll Gather Lilacs’ and ‘Why Isn’t It You?’.

My verdict – a triumph. Callow’s tongue in cheek comments on Novello’s life and career held the interest, and singers and orchestra were in perfect harmony. The only thing missing was the witty and jaunty ‘Primrose’, one of my favourite of Novello’s songs which match humour with melody. But a small quibble on such a glamorous night.


The 50 films that didn’t quite make the cut!

My last post here was about my ‘greatest fifty films’ list. But since then I have been thinking about other films which would have sneaked in had I the luxury of choosing one hundred titles.

So, here are the fifty which ‘got away’. No less revered and loved, but not quite making the main cut. Again, sorted by decade.

1920s

51 The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925). Hard to see these days due to no official DVD release, but still one of the best films about the Great War.
52 The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1926). Hitch’s ‘first film’ by his definition, and despite an ending which didn’t convince, it has enough innovation going on to keep it fresh.
53 Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927). In any and all versions, the ultimate science fiction film.
54 Safety Last (Fred C Neumeyer, Sam Taylor, 1923). Harold Lloyd at his best. Other films might have tighter plots but this is the iconic image we have of him.

1930s

55 The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, William Keighley, 1938). The blueprint for all adventuring swashbuckers to follow, and what glorious Technicolor.
56 Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932). A stunning and creepy achievement.
57 Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931). The character and premise should be ridiculous, but it isn’t.
58 I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (Mervyn LeRoy, 1932). The strongest of the social drama pre-Code films.
59 The Merry Widow (Ernst Lubitsch, 1934). Chevalier, Macdonald. This musical sparkles with energy.
60 Peach-O-Reno (William A Seiter, 1931). A Wheeler and Woolsey comedy, naughty, spicy and fun.
61 Queen Christina (Rouben Mamoulian, 1933). Garbo in perhaps her best remembered (and parodied) role.

1940s

62 The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946). This film shows the return home of war veterans without sinking to cliche or sentiment. Known for its use of deep focus shots.
63 Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945). Noel Coward’s timeless romance.
64 Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941). The best debut film of any director or actor.
65 Hamlet (Laurence Olivier, 1948). A truly cinematic Shakespeare.
66 The Thief of Bagdad (Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan et al, 1940). A film which doesn’t quite gel, but remains curiously entertaining.
67 Without Love (Harold S Bucquet, 1945). A Tracy-Hepburn comedy romance with added pep from Lucille Ball.

1950s

68 Ben-Hur (William Wyler, 1959). When we talk about epics, the genre cannot be better represented than with this superbly shot and directed classic. Bloated it may be, but still very watchable.
69 The Seven Year Itch (Billy Wilder, 1955). Monroe at her vulnerable best.
70 A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954). The film which should have gained Judy Garland an Oscar, but instead proved to be the last hurrah for her musical career.

1960s

71 If … (Lindsay Anderson, 1968). An evocative fable of school and authority.
72 Judgement at Nuremberg (Stanley Kramer, 1961). For many great cameo performances, especially Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster. This film uses, but doesn’t abuse, star power.
73 The Lion in Winter (Anthony Harvey, 1968). Historical soap with great locations and a good example of taking theatre into the cinema, effectively.
74 The System (Michael Winner, 1964). Oliver Reed in his first leading role, a Brighton mod/rocker piece which remains challenging and provoking today.
75 Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (Ken Annakin, 1965). For pure enjoyment and a great theme tune.

1970s

76 Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979). Preferable in the original version rather than the Redux. A beautiful nightmare of ‘Nam, helped by The Doors and Brando.
77 Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971). Dirk Bogarde’s best performance in a hymn to Mahler and the beauty of the young.
78 Jesus Christ Superstar (Norman Jewison, 1973). Difficult to get a rock opera right on the screen, but opening out the locations and making the story relevant to modern times nailed it.
79 Mary, Queen of Scots (Charles Jarrott, 1971). Historically inaccurate, but by far the best Tudor film made, with lovely performances, and colourful locations.
80 The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, 1975). A guilty pleasure if only for Tim Curry’s Sweet Transvestite.
81 Scum (Alan Clarke, 1979). Powerful, bleak, disturbing drama.
82 The Tempest (Derek Jarman, 1979). Shakespeare for the 70s. It looks great and doesn’t betray the play.
83 Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971). A tale of the Australian Outback and the weakness of humanity. A truly beautiful film in every shot.
84 Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh, 1970). The best of all the music films, especially in the director’s cut. Contains all the drama and power of this greatest of rock festivals.

1980s

85 Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985). Flawed, but interesting.
86 The Last Metro (François Truffaut, 1980). Thoughtful, subversive, melodramatic, and wonderful.
87 Nijinsky (Herbert Ross, 1980). Ballet does not always transfer well to cinema, but this biographical piece remains strong in the mind even after one viewing, although it is difficult to find these days.
88 Le retour de Martin Guerre (Daniel Vigne, 1982). The original of what became ‘Sommersby’ and the ‘Martin Guerre’ musical. Touching, yearning, and very accessible.

1990s

89 Brassed Off (Mark Herman, 1996). A nostalgic love letter to the industrial north and their brass bands.
90 The Field (Jim Sheridan, 1990). King Lear in Ireland, and a career best performance from Richard Harris.
91 The First Wives’ Club (Hugh Wilson, 1996). Pure fun, guaranteed to lift the spirits.
92 Guinevere (Audrey Wells, 1999). An age gap romance which is celebratory, not creepy.
93 Michael Collins (Neil Jordan, 1996). Disturbing history lesson about the partition of Ireland.
94 Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1995). King Lear in Japan, perhaps the greatest Shakespeare film ever made.
95 Life is Sweet (Mike Leigh, 1990). Leigh’s funniest and most charming film.
96 Trojan Eddie (Gillies MacKinnon, 1996). A film of contrasts, shocks, and blarney.
97 Wilde (Brian Gilbert, 1997). Up there with the best of all biopics, with a great central performance.
98 Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (Randa Haines, 1993). A quirky celebration of ageing.

2000s

99 The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008). An action feature with some intelligence and stunning CGI.
100 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001). Purely because it brought together actors, models, CGI and a great script to create something very special.

Films matter to me if they make me laugh, cry, feel scared, feel revolted, make me think, stay in my mind. All the above meet at least one of these criteria, and so they deserve their place.


50 greatest films: my nominations

Every ten years, a section of film aficiandos and experts receive an invitation to submit their selections for the Sight and Sound ‘Greatest Films of All Time’, and 2012’s selections were announced yesterday, with the big news being that after fifty years, Citizen Kane has been toppled from the top spot by Vertigo.

To me, a film becomes ‘great’ if it is innovative, interesting, or informative – in short, if it has something to say, and stays in my memory. This can apply whether the film is a silent romance, a musical, a war film, a women’s weepie, or a kitchen sink drama. In my list you will find examples of all of these, and more. It is a purely personal list, however, and rather than sort it by numbers, I have chosen to break down my selections into decades.

The 1910s

1 The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1919). Innovative, and still feels fresh.

The 1920s

2 The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dreyer, 1927). Contains perhaps the greatest acting performance of all time, from Maria Falconetti.
3 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (FW Murnau, 1927). Not necessarily better than Nosferatu or Faust, but engrossing on many levels.

The 1930s

4 Dinner at Eight (George Cukor, 1933). A bubbly comedy of manners with Jean Harlow, Marie Dressler and the two Barrymore brothers.
5 Fury (Fritz Lang, 1936). An early Spencer Tracy film with a message about vigilantes and lynch mobs.
6 Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, 1933). The greatest of all pre-Code musicals.
7 Gone With The Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939). A great, epic, glossy soap opera of the American Civil War.
8 Intermezzo (Gustaf Molander, 1936). The Swedish original of the great romance between musicians.
9 Mr Deeds Goes to Town (Frank Capra, 1936). A charming slice of Capra-corn whimsy.
10 Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939). Garbo laughs!
11 Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939). A career defining performance from John Wayne in Ford’s memorable Western.
12 Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935). Polished floors, inky canals, and Fred and Ginger.
13 The Women (George Cukor, 1939). The greatest ensemble cast of ladies in the history of cinema.

The 1940s

14 Bambi (James Algar & Samuel Armstrong, 1942). Disney’s most emotional achievement, and one of the funniest.
15 Black Narcissus (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1947). The Archers’ colourful and over-wrought production set in a house of nuns.
16 A Canterbury Tale (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1944). A quirky, unique, and unusual war film.
17 The Clock (Vincente Minnelli, 1945). Judy Garland in her first non-musical role in this charming romance.
18 It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946). Perhaps the best of all ‘what if’ films.
19 Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949). A delicious crime caper with a twist.
20 Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944). A drama of obsession.
21 Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944). Hitch’s claustrophobic and clever anti-Nazi film.
22 The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941). A remake, but an excellent one, and the first film by Huston.
23 Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945). Joan Crawford suffers in a typical ‘women’s picture’.
24 Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942). And Bette Davis does the same.
25 Odd Man Out (Carol Reed, 1947). Deeply subversive and beautifully performed British classic.
26 Pimpernel Smith (Leslie Howard, 1941). The Scarlet Pimpernel set in wartime.

The 1950s

27 All About Eve (Joseph L Mankiewicz, 1950). An acerbic drama of theatrical poison.
28 An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli, 1951). For the dance sequence at the end alone, and Gene Kelly’s enthusiasm.
29 Born Yesterday (George Cukor, 1950). One of the rare handful of appearances by Judy Holliday as the scatty Billie Dawn.
30 From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953). Career-defining on so many levels, and remembered largely for Deborah Kerr in the sea, but has much more to it.
31 High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952). Anti-McCarthyism at its best. I could have picked the much later film of The Crucible, for the same reasons.
32 Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950). The strange story of Norma Desmond, and her iconic close-up.
33 Twelve Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957). A stifling and wordy courtroom drama which never tires.

The 1960s

34 A bout de souffle (Breathless) (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960). For Jean Seberg’s smile.
35 Les demoiselles de Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967). High energy and enthusiasm in this French love letter to the American musical film.
36 Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964). Simple perfection, and a perfect marriage of live action and animation.
37 This Sporting Life (Lindsay Anderson, 1963). Angst on the rugby field and by the kitchen sink.
38 The Trap (Sidney Hayers, 1966). Notable for Rita Tushingham’s mute performance.
39 West Side Story (Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins, 1961). The greatest of all dance films, and a potent love story based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
40 Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, 1968). A chilling horror film which does not have its tongue in its cheek.
41 Zulu (Cy Endfield, 1964). An example of the stirring ‘boy’s own’ epic, with great music and three-dimensional characters.

The 1970s

42 The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971). Derek Jarman’s designs and Ken Russell’s direction lift this film to greatness.
43 The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972). The blueprint for all crime epics to follow.
44 Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976). A blackly comic exploration of the influence of television on the masses.
45 Sunday, Bloody Sunday (John Schlesinger, 1971). A milestone in gay cinema, and full of unusual shots and ideas.

The 1980s

46 Chariots of Fire (Hugh Hudson, 1981). The greatest and best film about sport, which still feels relevant today.
47 Educating Rita (Lewis Gilbert, 1983). Michael Caine’s best performance and a touching portrait of adult education and self-awareness.

The 1990s

48 The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliott, 1994). A vibrant musical comedy, and perhaps the defining image of a transsexual character on screen, who gets her happy ending.
49 Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999). Bonkers, clever, unnerving.
50 Trois couleurs bleu (Three Colours Blue) (Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1993). All the trilogy could be included, but this is the best of the three on all levels.


Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Loud Alien Noize

Revealing the True Origins of Silence

Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies

Blog titling at its best

Emily Baycroft

Currently a final year English student at the University of Cambridge. Producing Intern for Fuel Theatre July-October 2016. Aspiring Arts Administrator/Theatre Producer, blogging about my projects (mostly).

MTAS

West End Reviews | West End Challenges | Exclusive West End News

A Red Lip And A Nude Shoe

Dior Dreams On A Kmart Budget

is there room for me to sew?

Quilting, Reading and the Movies

The Case for Jeanette and Nelson

"Whaddya gonna do? I love her. I think she loves me." -Nelson Eddy on the Jack Parr Show, 1960

STARDUST AND SHADOWS

Opinions on Classic Hollywood , B Movies, Grindhouse, SF film , Classic Horror, Film Noir, Books, and related subjects by Canadian film guy TERRY SHERWOOD. (This site is not affiliated with author Charles Foster and his book Stardust and Shadows.)

The Wonderful World of Cinema

This blog is all about cinema, movies and stars of every decades. It's wonderful!

Movie classics

Thoughts on older movies, especially those from the 1930s to 1950s.

Hiss and Tell

Featuring Gryff, the angry diabetic cat, and the humans who serve him

TESSA BARRIE'S LOST BLOGS

LIFE'S TOO SHORT TO BE NICHE ...

[insert title here]

just one of many things i'm still trying to figure out

buchanblog

A trip down Memorex lane

The Phantom Frame

Information about the creative works of Gareth Preston

West End Blog

Bringing you independent, honest, experienced reviews of current theatre shows. We believe theatre is something truly magical and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Archive Television Musings

"To waste one second of one's life is a betrayal of one's self! I wonder what's on television?"

Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Loud Alien Noize

Revealing the True Origins of Silence

Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies

Blog titling at its best

Emily Baycroft

Currently a final year English student at the University of Cambridge. Producing Intern for Fuel Theatre July-October 2016. Aspiring Arts Administrator/Theatre Producer, blogging about my projects (mostly).

MTAS

West End Reviews | West End Challenges | Exclusive West End News

A Red Lip And A Nude Shoe

Dior Dreams On A Kmart Budget

is there room for me to sew?

Quilting, Reading and the Movies

The Case for Jeanette and Nelson

"Whaddya gonna do? I love her. I think she loves me." -Nelson Eddy on the Jack Parr Show, 1960

STARDUST AND SHADOWS

Opinions on Classic Hollywood , B Movies, Grindhouse, SF film , Classic Horror, Film Noir, Books, and related subjects by Canadian film guy TERRY SHERWOOD. (This site is not affiliated with author Charles Foster and his book Stardust and Shadows.)

The Wonderful World of Cinema

This blog is all about cinema, movies and stars of every decades. It's wonderful!

Movie classics

Thoughts on older movies, especially those from the 1930s to 1950s.

Hiss and Tell

Featuring Gryff, the angry diabetic cat, and the humans who serve him

TESSA BARRIE'S LOST BLOGS

LIFE'S TOO SHORT TO BE NICHE ...

[insert title here]

just one of many things i'm still trying to figure out

buchanblog

A trip down Memorex lane

The Phantom Frame

Information about the creative works of Gareth Preston

West End Blog

Bringing you independent, honest, experienced reviews of current theatre shows. We believe theatre is something truly magical and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Archive Television Musings

"To waste one second of one's life is a betrayal of one's self! I wonder what's on television?"

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