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Friday, March 18, 2011

Jane Eyre (1944)

l-r: Joan Fontaine (as Jane), Orson Welles (as Rochester), Margaret O'Brien (as Adele), Peggy Ann Garner (as Young Jane), and Elizabeth Taylor (as Helen)

England, 1829. As the film begins, young Jane (Peggy Ann Garner), an orphan, is living in a strict house of her wicked and cruel aunt (Agnes Moorhead). At the age of 10, she is sent to a prison-like boarding school, Lowood, where she's taunted, teased, called an "unregenerate child" and cruelly punished, all while getting "spiritual instruction". Her best friend Helen (Elizabeth Taylor) helps her keep her sanity.

Jane Eyre and her best friend Helen, played by Elizabeth Taylor

The story advances a few years and Joan Fontaine plays Jane at 18. She accepts a job at a country estate known as Thornfield Hall, where she works as a governess and caretaker of little Adele (played by Margaret O'Brien), who appears to be an orphan, like Jane. The master of the household is Mr. Rochester, played by Orson Welles, who is very domineering and intimidating. As time goes by, Jane learns to accept him and grows fond of him, becoming jealous when he courts another woman.

I was impressed with Joan and thought she was well cast opposite Welles.
Rochester also has feelings for her, but there is something he's not telling her.

I was not familiar with this story before seeing this movie, the first film version I had ever seen of this. So the last part of this movie really was exciting for me because I did not know what to expect. Why was the the door upstairs banging?, I asked. It is a thriller of a story. Joan Fontaine is excellent, and has the right personality and maturity to bring this character to life, even if she was a little older (27) than the character. Welles is also fantastic in this, very convincing as this character.

There have been a number of other movie versions of this classic novel over the years, but I haven't seen them and cannot compare them to this version. To me, this is the definitive version. Featuring a beautiful music score by Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane), intense black-and-white cinematography by George Barnes (Rebecca) and is well directed by Robert Stevenson. I really liked how at certain points actual pages from the novel were shown as Joan (as Jane) narrates.

The credited screenwriters are director Stevenson, Aldous Huxley, John Houseman, a good friend of Welles' from his early days in the theater. Stevenson went on to direct many classic Disney films of the 1960s. He does a good job directing all the child actors here, and gets a few comic moments out of little Margaret O'Brien.

This movie is 96 minutes long and you can watch it streaming on NetFlix or rent on DVD.


Edward Rochester............Orson Welles
Jane Eyre.........................Joan Fontaine
Young Jane (age 10)........Peggy Ann Garner
Helen...............................Elizabeth Taylor
Dr. Rivers.........................John Sutton
Mrs. Reed........................Agnes Moorehead
Mrs. Fairfax....................Edith Barrett
Blanche.....................Hillary Brooke

The final title card encouraged the audience of 1944 to buy war bonds.

This version was recently featured on Ebert Presents; view the clip here on the official website

Friday, March 11, 2011

Santa Fe Trail (1940)

Santa Fe Trail(1940). Western directed by Michael Curtiz. Cast: Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. The film was the seventh of eight films that Flynn-de Havilland made together. The outdoor scenes were filmed at the Lasky Movie Ranch, on the Lasky Mesa area of the Simi Hills in the western San Fernando Valley.

The story begins when Cadet Carl Rader, is dishonorably discharged from West Point Academy for conspiracy. His friends Jeb Stuart and George Custer, graduate and are assigned to duty at the most dangerous post in the army. While traveling, Custer and Stuart meet Cyrus Halliday, the man responsible for building the railroad and his daughter, Kit Carson. After arriving at the fort, they find Brown's army, has been terrorizing the countryside with their raids.

During a raid on a wagon, Stuart and Custer capture Brown's injured son Jason and before dying, Jason tells them where his father's hideout is. In disguise, Stuart rides into the hide out and is recognized by Rader, who takes him at gunpoint to Brown. Stuart, finds himself trapped in a burning barn but is saved by Custer and his troops. Brown does not go down without a fight.

Olivia De Havilland, plays a Calamity Jane type character, who gave Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan as George A. Custer, a run for their money.

Errol Flynn(20 June 1909 – 14 October 1959), was best known for his romantic swashbuckler roles and his flamboyant lifestyle.

Flynn co-starred with Olivia de Havilland in eight films, Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Four's a Crowd (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vote for Olivia as your all-time favorite actress

There is an exciting tournament going on right now at Monty's blog All Good Things. In the tournament, which takes place all this month, you are asked to vote between two classic film actresses, picking only one of the two as your favorite. The winner keeps advancing to further rounds of voting until there is a "final 4", then "final 2", then the ultimate winner - your favorite classic movie actress of all time.

Already several actress have been eliminated - sigh!

Good news, though - Olivia has advanced to the second round of 40's-era actresses. Can she make it to the next round? The final four? Favorite all-time classic movie actresses?

Your vote can help make that happen!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland on Wait Wait. . . Don’t Tell Me!

This past weekend, Olivia and Joan were featured in a question on the National Public Radio quiz show Wait Wait. . . Don’t Tell Me!

It was a part of the Not My Job segment, where a celebrity guest star answers questions on behalf of a listener. (If the guest answers two questions correctly, the listener wins a personalized answering machine message by the vocally-blessed Wait, Wait judge/scorekeeper and NPR newscaster Carl Kasell). This week’s guest was Lisa Kudrow and she’s a pretty smart cookie. She answered two out of three questions correctly, but did she get this one?

Here’s the question as asked by host Peter Sagal:

1930s movie stars Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine are sisters. They have had a legendary feud going back more than sixty years which began when what happened?

A. They both were nominated for the same Academy Award.

B. They had an argument over who got out first of the same limo.

C. A billboard with Joan’s face went up on Sunset Drive, blocking one of Olivia’s.

Lisa Kudrow guessed C. I’m guessing that many of the readers of this blog know the correct answer! Here’s a clip of the segment. The Olivia/Joan portion is about 7:25 in:

Yes—Peter Sagal called Olivia and Joan “1930s movie stars”—but we all know better, right?

Thanks to Tom for inviting me to contribute to the blog. I plan to do so more in the future!