Posts Tagged ‘deborah kerr’

When Anna Leonowens is brought to Siam (now Thailand) in the 1860s, to be governess to the King of Siam’s many children, there is initially a culture clash between Anna and the King.  Both have preconceptions about the other’s respective country, and when Anna is not given the house which she was promised in her contract, she threatens to leave.  However, she falls in love with the children, and decides to stay, and both the King and Anna come to regard each other with respect and warmth.

Anna Leonowens was a real person, and this film is based on the novel Anna and the King of Siam, by Margaret Landon.  That novel was based on the diaries of Anna Leonowens, but it should probably be noted that the events are today disputed.  Also, this film was considered so offensive to the Royal Family of Thailand, due to its historical inaccuracies, that it is actually banned there.

As pure entertainment however, this film did tick all the boxes for me.  I would have liked to have seen more Thai actors playing Thai (Siamese) roles, and if this film were to be made today, hopefully that would happen.  Here, we have Deborah Kerr, who I always enjoy watching, as Anna, and Yul Brynner as the King.  Incredibly, this is the first Yul Brynner film I have ever seen, and any future ones will have a lot to live up to, because I absolutely adored his portrayal of the King (even if a lot of dramatic licence was used in his character).  There was real chemistry between the two leads, and Brynner was really funny throughout; I particularly enjoyed his boyish insistence that Anna’s head always be lower than his, and his constant, and sometimes inappropriate use of the phrase “etcetera, etcetera, etcetera,” after he hears Anna use it when she arrives, and she tells him what it means.  Incidentally, Brynner played the same role on stage, in over 4000 performances –  no wonder he inhabited the character so well, and with such charisma.

The film is also beautiful to look at, with an explosion of colour, and there is always lots happening on screen.  In addition, there are some lovely songs, including Shall We Dance? and Getting to Know You.  I also liked the beautifully danced, and wholly inaccurate interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was put on for the benefit of a visiting English envoy.

Don’t watch this film if you genuinely want to learn more about the events or period upon which it is based.  But if you like musicals, and want to listen to some lovely songs, and watch a terrific central performance, then give it a try.  I’ll definitely be watching it again in the future.

Year of release: 1956

Director: Walter Lang

Producers: Darryl F. Zanuck, Charles Brackett

Writers: Margaret Langdon (novel ‘Anna and the King of Siam’), Ernest Lehman, Oscar Hammerstein II

Main cast: Yul Brynner, Deborah Kerr, Rita Moreno, Martin Benson, Rex Thompson

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This film stars Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr…and that’s about it, apart from numerous extras who don’t have any real dialogue.

Mitchum is the Mr Allison of the title, an American Marine, who finds himself marooned on an island in the Pacific ocean, in World War II. The only other person on the island is Sister Angela, a nun who was also marooned there a few days earlier. Although the two of them have no common ground, with only each other for companionship, they form a friendship and affection for each other. But when the Japanese arrive on the island, they face a very real danger.

Before I go any further with this review, I have to say…I LOVED this film. Loved it. The cast (all two of them), the characters, the storyline – everything. Deborah Kerr is great as Sister Angela. The character had a gentle and kind nature, but also some real backbone, and a subtle sense of humour. This made her the perfect counterpoint to Mitchum’s Mr Allison, who was straight-talking, brave, heroic, and yes I admit it – very sexy! (Mitchum might not have been a conventional heart-throb, but my goodness he had something, and it’s very obvious here!)

The film reminded me in some ways of The African Queen – both directed by John Huston, both set during WWII, both have a main cast of just two characters with little in common, who find respect and affection for each other. However, while there are undoubtedly similarities, both films also have plenty of their own character and individuality, and the main parts in both films are played to perfection.

I started watching Heaven Knows, Mr Allison, with no expectations at all. I thought it sounded like a nice little film to pass a couple of hours away, but within about 10 minutes, I was totally pulled into the story and invested in the characters. It’s no exaggeration to say that this film has shot straight into my top five films of all time (alongside the aforementioned African Queen)! It left me with a warm happy feeling, and I will absolutely watch this again in the near future.

If you haven’t seen this delightful movie, I strongly suggest that you do so at the earliest opportunity!

Year of release: 1957

Director: John Huston

Producers: Buddy Adler, Eugene Frenke

Writers: Charles Shaw (book), John Lee Mahin, John Huston

Main cast: Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr

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This movie chronicles the last months in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, as detailed in the book by Sheila Graham – Hollywood reporter and one time girlfriend of Fitzgerald. The author of such incredible novels as The Great Gatsby (which, if you haven’t read, I highly recommend) and Tender Is The Night, is now writing pulp fiction movies for a movie studio – accepting what work he can in order to pay for the care of his wife Zelda who is in an asylum, and the schooling for his daughter.  He meets Sheila Graham, and there is an instant attraction between them.  They fall deeply in love, but Fitzgerald’s alcoholism threatens to destroy their unhappiness.

First let me preface my thoughts on the movie by saying that I am aware that this account of real life events has been highly fictionalised and romanticised.  I decided to view it almost as a fictional film about fictional characters, which helped my enjoyment of it.  This is not a very popular film (Peck himself was not overly happy with it), and there were parts it which didn’t so well, but overall I did enjoy watching it.

I thought Peck played his part well, and really showed the difference between the witty, erudite and thoughtful sober Fitzgerald, and the drunken, overbearing and rude Fitzgerald (again, this may be misrepresenting the real man, so I am talking as if the character was entirely fictional).  Like many drunks, Fitzgerald could be funny and entertaining, but he couldn’t handle the alcohol, and it made him unpredictable to be around.  In fact, the scenes of a drunken Fitzgerald were some of Peck’s best scenes in this film.

Gregory Peck looks gorgeous – absolutely so – in this film.  One of the best looking Hollywood actors ever (to me anyway), here he is handsome and charismatic.  Deborah Kerr however, while looking lovely, didn’t seem quite so convincing in her role.  I thought she was terrific in An Affair To Remember, but here she seems overly theatrical in the part, and it was hard to really warm to her character.

The score is somewhat overblown, although there is some lovely music in it, but the movie does look beautiful.  If you’ve not seen this lesser appreciated movie, I think it’s worth giving it a go.  Much of the criticism levelled at it is entirely justified, but if you can take that on board, there’s still a lot of reasons to see this film.

Year of release: 1959

Director: Henry King

Writers: Sheila Graham (book), Gerold Frank (book), Sy Bartlett

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Deborah Kerr, Eddie Albert

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In this 1957 movie Cary Grant is playboy Nickie Farrente, and Deborah Kerr is reticent former night club singer Terry McKay.  They meet on a transatlantic cruise from Europe to New York, and end up falling in love.  However, they are both engaged to other people, and so at the end of the cruise they agree to meet up in six months time – at the top of the Empire State Building – after they have sorted their lives out.  But then fate steps in…will their love survive?

This film is actually a remake of the 1939 film, Love Affair, both directed by Leo McCarey.  I’ve not seen the earlier film, but certainly intend to for comparison purposes.

I think that this movie is so well known that most people know the ‘twist’ and possibly how things turn out, but I’m not going to put spoilers in this review.  Suffice to say that it was a lovely if imperfect film (to me anyway).  Cary Grant displays his classic easy charm, and Deborah Kerr is perfect as the more reserved Terry (I much preferred her in this film than in another film pairing the two actors – The Grass Is Greener).

There is more comedy in the first half, and this is eschewed in the second half for a more sentimental tone.  I liked the characters very much and cared about what happened to them at the end.  I thought the pacing of the film was almost perfect, the only (tiny) gripe being that there were a couple of musical numbers – although this film is not a musical – which seemed slightly unnecessary.  Overall though, this a lovely film, and certainly recommended for fans of romantic films.

Year of release: 1957

Director: Leo McCarey

Writers: Delmer Daves, Donald Ogden Stewart, Leo McCarey, Mildred Cram

Main cast: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr

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Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr play Lord Victor and Lady Hilary Ryall, a once aristocratic couple who have fallen on hard times, so open their stately home to paying tourists.  Charles Delacro (Robert Mitchum), a Texan millionaire is one such tourist who wanders into the wrong room, meets Hilary and is instantly attracted to her.  Hilary also feels the attraction and before long is running up to London for a secret tryst with Charles.  Meanwhile, Victor is upset at the thought of his wife falling in love with another man, and has a plan up his sleeve for getting her back…

This film is billed as a romantic comedy, and if you’re thinking that the above storyline doesn’t sound like a usual storyline for that genre – well so was I.  And indeed the first part of the film had little romance and even less comedy.  The storyline seemed to take massive leaps in a short period of time – Hilary and Charles met, and she went almost immediately from annoyance at his intrusion, to feeling mad about him and running off to meet him (although she had previously been apparently happy with her husband).  Victor meanwhile was lamenting the fact that his wife had fallen in love with another man, when she barely seemed to have had time to have exchanged more than a few words with him!  (I actually checked to make sure that I hadn’t missed out a huge chunk of the movie somehow).

However, just when I was starting to think I wouldn’t enjoy the film, things picked up with the arrival of Hilary and Victor’s vivacious friend Hattie, played wonderfully by Jean Simmons.  Thereafter, there was actually a lot of very funny moments and the film was most enjoyable.  Despite a rather disjointed first part, I was very glad I stuck with it!

What was perfect from beginning to end was the cast.  Cary Grant plays the part of the slightly scatterbrained Lord, who sees more than he lets on, to perfection, bringing humor and pathos to the character.  Robert Mitchum seemed an unusual choice for a romantic lead, but he was great – it’s no mean feat to make a character likeable when that same character is vigorously attempting to break up a marriage!  (And if you were thinking that it’s unlikely a woman would be tempted to pick Mitchum over Grant, here it’s just about plausible).  However, the part that really grabbed me was that of Hattie – Jean Simmons was so wonderful in this role.  It’s easy to imagine that Hattie could have been a very annoying character in the hands of  a different actress, but here she was sweet, sassy, lovable, exasperating and very very funny.  A special mention also for Moray Watson, who played the Sellers the butler.  Most of his interaction was with Victor, and he was the perfect foil for Grant’s bumbling Lord.  The only part that didn’t seem to stand out was that of Hilary, around whom the storyline revolved…I don’t think this was anything to do wtih Deborah Kerr’s portrayal, which was fine – it was more that the character was a difficult one to warm to.

And how does it all end?  Well, I’m not going to spoil it for you – you’ll just have to watch it and see…

Overall then, while this is not one of the best films I’ve seen recently, the cast made it definitely worth watching.  Any fans of any of the cast should certainly check this one out.

Year of release: 1960

Director: Stanley Donen

Writers: Hugh Williams, Margaret Vyner

Main cast: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons, Robert Mitchum

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This 1958 movie centres on the lives of a group of permanent residents at a Bournemouth hotel.  It’s out of season and they are the only people stopping there.  Inevitably, their lives become intertwined.  Wendy Hiller (who won an Oscar for her role) is Pat Cooper, the manageress of the hotel who presides over events with patience and good sense.  David Niven (who also won as Oscar for his performance despite appearing on screen for total of less than 16 minutes) is Major Angus Pollock, a man who is about to see his life unravel – an event which divides the other residents into those who want to see him ejected from the establishment, and those who are more sympathetic.  Rita Hayworth is absolutely stunning as lonely fashion model Ann Shankland, who comes to the hotel to see her former husband John Malcolm (Burt Lancaster, who also co-produced the film), although John is now engaged to Pat Cooper.

This really is a rather lovely film; its charm sort of crept up on me and I realised that I was really enjoyed watched the tangled webs which these characters wove.  The cast was uniformly excellent, with not a poor performance among them.

The film is based on two one-act plays by Terence Rattigan, but here the two stories are interwoven, to excellent effect (the title is taken from the separate tables where the guests sit in the dining room).  It does feel a little bit like watching a play, especially as every scene is based at the hotel.  The whole gamut of human emotion is displayed here, from despair to joy, anger to love, friendship and disdain.  I especially warmed to the characters of Pat Kerr and Sybil Railton-Bell (Deborah Kerr), a young woman who is downtrodden and dominated by her mother.

There were some great scenes, but my favourite was unquestionably the final scene, which appropriately took place in the dining room, featuring the separate tables of the title.  There are no spoilers here, so I won’t reveal more, except to say that it was very satisfying ending to a very entertaining film, and highly recommended.

Year of release: 1958

Director: Delbert Mann

Writers: Terence Rattigan (play), John Gay, John Michael Hayes (uncredited)

Main cast: Rita Hayworth, Burt Lancaster, David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Wendy Hiller

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