Monday, 16 December 2013

Joan Fontaine (1917-2013)

Joan Fontaine was one of the last true stars from classic Hollywood left. From memory, and excluding child stars (e.g. Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney), the only ones left are Fontaine's sister, Olivia de Havilland, Maureen O'Hara, Angela Lansbury and Luise Rainer. (EDIT: As Judy mentioned in the comments, I forgot a few: Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, Sidney Poitier and Doris Day.)

While her career dwindled after the mid-1960s, she left, mostly in the 1940s, a strong string of performances for which she is deservedly remembered. She went from minor role into minor role (most of which I don't think I have ever seen) in the 1930s until Cukor's "The Women" which was followed by her breakout and unforgettable performance as the second Mrs DeWinter in Hitchcock's "Rebecca". This film brought her recognition but also typecasted her as the suffering virginal damsel. She did this very well in the 1940s, in films that I love - "Suspicion", Ophüls' "Letter from an Unknown Woman" - and films that I don't  - "Jane Eyre", "The Constant Nymph". The one exception was "Frenchman's Creek", where (to quote my post) she was "not the Joan Fontaine Hitchcock and Ophüls showed the world, [she was] something else. Something much, much sexier." If I have to chose one performance other than "Rebecca" this would be it.

As the 1940s turned into the 1950s, despite an unforgettable performance in the Ophüls film, she found her limelight stolen by dogs (in Wilder's "The Emperor Waltz") or younger actresses (such as Elizabeth Taylor in "Ivanhoe"). She also did very well in a couple of darker roles, for instance in Nicholas Ray's "Born to Be Bad" (she makes the film watchable on her own) and more ambiguously in Lang's "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt". After that her roles became fewer and far between.

She got an Oscar for "Suspicion", which really should have been for "Rebecca"  (she lost to Ginger Rogers), making it the only performance in a Hitchcock film to win the award.  She was also nominated for "The Constant Nymph", which I find beyond my understanding.

Note: I have added a proper text to this post, which I didn't have a chance when the news first broke.

My thoughts on "The Constant Nymph" and "Frenchman's Creek".

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Peter O'Toole (1932-2013)

It was his first leading role on screen, and it was the one which made him immortal. No matter that his career lasted a further fifty years, he'll always be T.E. Lawrence, i.e. Lawrence of Arabia. The only reason he didn't sweap all awards, Oscar included, was Gregory Peck and "To Kill a Mockingbird".
A magnificient actor, not just in Lean's film but in films as diverse as "The Lion in the Winter" and "Venus" and two of my personal favourites the delightful "How to Steal a Million" with Audrey Hepburn and as the voice of food critic Anton Ego in "Ratatouille".

After seven missed nominations, the Academy gave him an honourary Oscar. He almost declined it, saying he wasn't over yet. He wasn't - he got an eighth for "Venus".

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Eleanor Parker (1922-2013)

I don't think I have seen that many of her films. Of course, the ubiquitous "The Sound of Music". Minnelli's "Home from the Hill". "Caged", the film that made her and for which she got her first Oscar nomination. And of course, "Scaramouche", in which she is absolutely wonderful. That red hair of hers in three-strip Technicolor is unforgetable.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Now on Twitter...

So now there's a twittter account for the blog. Follow it @cinemaandchoc

Longer posts will continue here, of course.