Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Recapping Olivia deHavilland Month

When July started out, I had every intention of giving Olivia deHavilland the same amount of blogging love that I have given to this year's other stars of the month; alas, my spur of the moment, 10-day trip changed all that.  In addition to being off-line for my entire vacation, I had several days of preparation beforehand, and, of course, a return home after many days away, always sees a busyness of its own.  Thus, I've had little time for blogging, resulting in the lovely Miss deHavilland not receiving the kind of treatment I had originally intended for her.

Watching The Proud Rebel (which I reviewed HERE) was one of my goals for Olivia's month, and since I did do that, I don't feel like the month was a complete waste.  I had hoped to catch a couple of her collaborations with Errol Flynn---Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood were on the "must watch" list.  Alas, Captain Blood failed to capture my interest, so I turned it off after 25 minutes; and The Adventures of Robin Hood I never had an opportunity to try at all. Also, Hold Back the Dawn was a film I desperately longed to see, as it sounds like a fantastic viewing experience; unfortunately, I wasn't able to track it down.

One thing I did do, though, as y'all knew I was going to do, was to celebrate the beautiful Miss deHavilland in style by taking in Gone with the Wind on the big screen of Boise's historic Egyptian Theatre.  To say that experiencing that beloved film in such an environment was magnificent is definitely an understatement.  Truly, Gone with the Wind was made for the big screen, and I loved every moment of seeing it that way.  With next year being the 75th anniversary of that iconic film, I would imagine theatres across the country will be celebrating with their own big-screen showing.  If a city near you happens to be among those screening it, I heartily recommend taking it in.

Speaking of Gone with the Wind, They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To's readers have voted that as their favorite Olivia deHavilland film.  With 46% of the vote, GWTW snagged first place, followed by The Heiress, which received 28% of the votes.  The Strawberry Blonde, with 4 votes (12%), came in third, and tied for 4th place are Captain Blood and Hold Back the Dawn, each of which received 6% of the vote (2 votes each).  Garnering zero votes in the poll, and thus coming in last place, is To Each His Own, which is one of Miss deHavilland's Academy Award-winning roles.  (Funny, how these polls don't add up to 100%.)

For me, as revealed earlier in the month, Gone with the Wind is my favorite Olivia deHavilland film.  I don't see that ever changing, no matter how many of her films I see.  My favorite of Olivia's performances, though (and currently my second favorite of her films), is The Heiress (reviewed HERE).  The Snake Pit, which sometimes finds itself snagging the #2 position away from The Heiress, is currently my third favorite of her films.

Since the lovely Olivia got a bit ripped off during her reign as star of the month, don't be surprised if I choose to highlight her again next year.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Proud Rebel (1958)

The Proud Rebel, from 1958, is a heart-tugging (to me) Western starring Alan Ladd and Olivia deHavilland.  Directed by Michael Curtiz, this Technicolor film features Dean Jagger and Cecil Kellaway in supporting roles and introduces Mr. Ladd’s youngest child, David. 

When the Union Army blazed a path of destruction through Georgia, young David Chandler (David Ladd), witnessed the death of his mother during the burning of Atlanta.  He was then shipped off to an orphanage in the North, where he remained until his soldier father, Johnny (Alan Ladd), found him after the end of the war.  The trauma of seeing his mother killed and the city burned, so shocked the young boy that he was left unable to speak.  As the film begins, Johnny is intent upon finding a doctor who can treat his son, and the two of them, along with David’s beloved dog, Lance, make their way to Aberdeen, Illinois, where they meet with a local doctor (Cecil Kellaway).  Although Dr. Davis can’t help, he is acquainted with a physician who works with Dr. Mayo in Rochester, Minnesota, and he suggests he might be of help.

While the Chandlers are in the general store buying supplies for their trek to Minnesota, dog Lance is tied outside, where local bullies, the Burley brothers, attempt to steal him.  After Johnny is mocked for his Southernness and the boy for his inability to speak, a brawl ensues.  Frightened, David runs away and straight into the path of a wagon driven by local farmer, Linnett Moore (Olivia deHavilland).

Charged with assault and battery because of the brawl, Johnny is taken to court, where a Confederate-hating judge finds him guilty and sentences him to 30 days or $30.  Linnett pays Johnny's fine, saying he can work it off.  Though working for Linnette will delay him getting to Minnesota, Johnny intends to pay his debts and raise the necessary funds for the trip.    

The Burley patriarch, Harry (Dean Jagger), is determined to force Linnett to sell her farm, even approaching Johnny about working for him.  On top of that, a local man is interested in purchasing Lance and he makes an offer to Johnny for him.  With his desperate need for funds for the trip to Minnesota, Johnny finds himself considering the sale of David's beloved dog. Will he go through with the sale?  Will he assist Harry Burley in convincing Linnett to sell her farm?  And what about David?  Will he have the operation?  Will it be successful and enable him to speak again?  These are the questions which play out in the balance of the film.

While not a spectacular film, The Proud Rebel is an interesting, exciting, enjoyable viewing experience, with believable performances by all.  The characters created by Alan Ladd, Olivia deHavilland, and David Ladd are ones I really cared about and rooted for.  I found myself teary-eyed on more than one occasion. While I'm calling this a 3-star film, it's more like 3.5.

This film ought to be fairly easy to track down, as it is out on DVD and also available in its entirety on YouTube.  Fans of Alan Ladd and Olivia deHavilland ought to quite enjoy it.

Happy viewing!! 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Princess O'Rourke (1943)

Princess O'Rourke, from 1943, is a sweet little romantic comedy starring Olivia deHavilland and Robert Cummings, with Jack Carson, Jane Wyman, and Charles Coburn taking on supporting roles.  Garnering an Academy Award win for Norman Krasna's screenplay, Princess O'Rourke is somewhat like Roman Holiday, in that it is the story of a royal-blooded heroine falling in love with a common man.

Having been run out of her European country due to Nazi activity, Princess Maria (Olivia deHavilland), along with her uncle/guardian (Charles Coburn), is living in a New York hotel. Because Maria is of an age where she is expected to fulfill her duty to marry and have children---boys preferably---eligible men are continually calling on her.  Not attracted to any of the "acceptable" men, Maria is rather bored and unhappy; deciding that a change of scenery might do wonders for Maria's state of mind, Uncle arranges for her to visit a ranch in California.

Flying under the name of Mary Williams, our lovely heroine, in the hopes of catching a few z's and sleeping through the flight, downs far too many sleeping pills.  With bad weather keeping the plane in New York, Maria/Mary has no opportunity to sleep off the effects of the pills, thus, as everyone deplanes, she is out cold.  Feeling responsible for the woman, yet unable to determine where she belongs, pilot Eddie O'Rourke (Robert Cummings) takes her for coffee at a local diner.  Thinking that the slightly-dazed lady before him is simply in need of a good night's sleep, the waiter slips a sleeping pill into her coffee, causing her to pass out completely. Not knowing what else to do, Eddie takes the sleeping beauty to his apartment, where she spends the night.

Eddie and Maria begin seeing each other, but she doesn't tell him the truth about herself.  In fact, she invents a story which has Eddie believing she is a refugee, bound for a housemaid job in California. He asks her to marry him, but much as Maria loves Eddie and wants to marry him, she is pretty sure her uncle would not approve of a marriage between them, so she attempts to break things off.  Unbeknownst to Maria, however, her bodyguard has been following her and reporting back to Uncle, and when Uncle discovers that Eddie is one of nine boys and that his father was one of eleven boys, he embraces such a union.  Only thing is, the couple now has to run their romance according to the rules and regulations of Uncle and royal proclamation...and that poses a problem.  How it all plays out is the balance of the film.

While not a spectacular film, Princess O'Rourke is definitely cute, enjoyable, and loads of fun. Olivia deHavilland is sweet and well-suited to this role---and she's stunningly beautiful! Robert Cummings is delightful.  Jack Carson, who is absolutely not a favorite, is out of character here---and for that reason, he doesn't bug me like he usually does.  Jane Wyman, also not a favorite, is enjoyable in her role as well.  And Charles Coburn is terrific.  I got a huge kick out of him, especially as he reveled in the number of male offspring in O'Rourke's family, calling it a "veritable goldmine of boys." Again, this isn't a great's just a sweet, solid, 3-star film, well worth viewing.

The film is out on DVD, so it should be fairly easy to track down.  Additionally, it is on the TCM schedule for Saturday, August 24th, at 9:45 a.m. (ET).

Happy viewing!!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Light in the Piazza (1962)

First up for Olivia deHavilland month is Light in the Piazza, a touching romantic drama from 1962. Shot on location in Italy, this Guy Green-directed film also stars Rossano Brazzi, Yvette Mimieux, and George Hamilton, with Barry Sullivan taking on a supporting (and very pivotal) role.

Vacationing in Florence, Italy, are Americans Meg Johnson (Olivia deHavilland) and her 26-year old daughter, Clara (Yvette Mimieux).  Years earlier, Clara had been kicked in the head by a pony, resulting in a brain injury which left her with the mental capabilities of a 10-year old. As Clara grew to adulthood, she began being attracted to boys---and they to her; feeling that such relationships could never work given Clara's limited mental state, Meg and her husband Noel (Barry Sullivan) determined that their daughter should be taken abroad and, thus, removed from potential love situations.

Obviously, if one is trying to avoid love, Italy is not the place to visit, for, Clara soon makes the acquaintance of Fabrizio Naccarelli (George Hamilton).  Never suspecting that Clara's childlike innocence is because she really is a child, Fabrizio finds her charming and delightful.  Clara adores him too---which greatly unsettles her mother.  Hoping to nip the relationship in the bud, Meg attempts to explain the situation to Fabrizio's father (Rossano Brazzi), but when she is unable to do so, she determines that the only way out is to leave Florence---and Fabrizio.

After meeting up with husband, Noel, in Rome, and learning that he wants to send Clara to a special school, Meg begins to see the whole situation differently. Although Noel insists that Clara's condition is the same and has not improved, Meg, who has been living with the dream that Clara will one day be able to live a normal life, is convinced that the trip has done Clara good and that she has begun to get well.  Further, knowing that Fabrizio adores Clara just as she is, Meg begins to believe that a marriage between them would not only work, but that it would be good for both of them.  Despite her husband's instructions to the contrary, Meg is determined to do whatever it takes to see to it that Clara and Fabrizio are joined together in marriage.  How it all plays out is the balance of the film.

A lovely, charming story, Light in the Piazza is definitely a "discussion piece" kind of film. Would we really deem a 10-year old capable of handling all the aspects of marriage?  Do we think it's right to withhold information from those whom it affects?  Each of us will have to wrestle with those questions as we watch this.

The Italian backdrop to the film is gorgeous!  If I didn't already want to visit Italy, I certainly would be wanting to after my viewing of this.  Olivia deHavilland is gorgeous here---stunning, really!  She's 46 and even more beautiful (I think) than she was in her 1940's films!  She gives a terrific, heart-tugging performance. What mom doesn't want a normal life for her child?!  What mom wouldn't do everything in her power to see her child happy?!  I could really identify with her heart, even if not her actions.

Rossano Brazzi is incredibly handsome and dashing---very much the stereotypical Italian gentleman.  And his lovely accent only adds to his charm!  George Hamilton is very good in his role.  While there are moments when his character seems a bit too immature to be a 23-year old man, the bulk of the time, he is kind, caring, loving, and sincere.  Mr. Hamilton brings Fabrizio beautifully to life.

Yvette Mimieux---in one of her earliest films---is really terrific. She's incredibly beautiful here, and she plays the part of the innocent, childlike Clara perfectly. She was 20-years old at the time, portraying a character who was supposed to be 26.  I never took her for 26...and not just because her character's brain injury had left her with a mental capacity of a 10-year old.  Had the film not given the age she was supposed to be, because she is so youthful-looking, I would have taken her for about 18, 20 at the most.

Filled with wonderful, gracious characters you can't help but care about, Light in the Piazza is a lovely, charming, heart-tugging film, well worth viewing.  I'm calling it 3 stars, but it's more like 3.5, and very close to 4.  Out on DVD, it should be fairly easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!

NOTE:  This article has also been published at Olivia & Joan: Sisters of the Silver Screen  (HERE)

Monday, July 01, 2013

Happy Birthday, Olivia deHavilland

Happy 97th birthday to one of my top-10 favorite actresses AND one of the few stars of the Golden Era who is still alive---the lovely and talented Olivia deHavilland!  (July 1, 1916)

The two-time Academy Award-winning Miss deHavilland began her career in a stage production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  So impressed was director Max Reinhardt with Olivia's performance, that he offered her the same role in the film version of the story, which he was also to direct. Soon thereafter, she was signed to a contract with Warners, paired with Errol Flynn, and the rest, as they say, is history.  I must admit, I haven't seen a single one of the pair's eight collaborations; however, this month of Olivia will change that!

As of now, my all-time favorite Olivia deHavilland film is Gone with the Wind, a film for which she received a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination.  With as beloved as GWTW is to me, I can't imagine it will ever be toppled from the #1 position.  However, it is not my favorite of her roles.

Rounding out my list of 5 favorite Olivia deHavilland films are:

2.  The Snake Pit  (with Mark Stevens and Leo Genn)

3.  The Heiress  (with Montgomery Clift and Ralph Richardson---reviewed HERE)

4.  To Each His Own  (with Mary Anderson, Roland Culver, and John Lund)

5.  Not As a Stranger  (with Robert Mitchum and Frank Sinatra---reviewed HERE)

Given my new appreciation for both Westerns and swashbucklers, this top-5 list may very well change by the end of the month.  I'll weigh-in then, as well as reveal my readers' favorite deHavilland film.  (Be sure to take part in the poll on my sidebar.)

So, here's to you, Miss Olivia deHavilland on your 97th birthday.  You will always be one of my top-10 favorite actresses. Thanks so much for making so many wonderful films, including the very beloved Gone with the Wind.  I hope you are enjoying good health and are surrounded by family and friends as you celebrate another year of life!!