We appear to be in the home stretch here. The pain is not as it once was, but it still means I can not type for longer than a few minutes without my wrist hurting or my fingers from going numb. So the dictated reviews and a ridiculous posting schedule continues on.
I cannot believe that it has been over two years since I last watched a new film (well, new to me) by Alfred Hitchcock. The Lady Vanishes takes me up to lucky 13 and there are still a large number of his classics left for me to see. He is an extraordinary director and out of the 13 I’ve seen only 1 film (Topaz) but I did not like. Now that is impressive.
The Lady Vanishes will easily rank amongst my favourite Hitchcock films alongside Rebecca, Psycho and Rope. In fact it has been a bit of a revelation as I had no idea that he directed a comedy. Okay each services more of a mystery/thriller, but I laughed quite often. Mostly because of those two cricket enthusiasts who served as supporting characters (although at the beginning you think they are going to be the leads) who were so successful that they managed to have their own series of spin off films.
What starts out as a lighthearted comedy in the hotel of a fake Eastern European States ends up being a thriller via a mystery. It worked so well in never amping up the suspense all the way towards the end that it was very annoying when I had to pause the action for a bathroom break. And much like the mystery in at the second act: nothing new is as it seems.
I saw a comment which said that in order to enjoy this film as much as possible you should know as little as possible. I would be inclined to agree with that, otherwise the suspense would not be as interesting.
What can be said is just how fantastic the script was. It was so quickfire and clever and yet when I look at the writers’ later credits and I can’t see anything that noteworthy. Sure, they worked on a lot of films but nothing on the same scale as a The Lady Vanishes. As always you have to praise Hitchcock for pulling the entire thing together and for getting amazing performances out of Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood. Dame May Whitty is, as always, a treasure in her role of Miss Froy.
This was the penultimate film the Hitchcock made in Britain before his move to Hollywood. I can’t exactly say it’s a pity because look at everything he made from 1940 to the end of his career. I am sure that if he had stayed in Britain he would still have been one of THOSE directors but I doubt he would have reached the heights that he did without Hollywood money. If anything The Lady Vanishes provided the perfect goodbye present to his native country.
Before watching Written on the Wind I had never heard of the director Douglas Sirk. It appears that with All That Heaven Allows I have seen his two biggest films. I absolutely adored them both and will be seeking out Imitation of Life once I have finished off the 1001 list.
Both All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind more expertly crafted melodramas with a top performance by golden age star Rock Hudson (who I’m starting to develop a crush on). Also they both feature amazingly vivid colours and beautiful cinematography which helps to make it a feast for the eyes as well as the heart.
However, whilst both films are clearly of a similar style there are some stark differences which makes them unique. When Written on the Wind was able to chew the scenery to give it a more knowingly soapy feel this melodrama is played straight. In fact you get so much more emotionally involved in the lives of Cary and Ron than you did with any characters in Written on the Wind.
What strikes me about the romance in All That Heaven Allows is how a lot of these prejudices still live on today. Sure there are ways that we have become more accepting of a relationship forming between a well to do widow and a working man 8-10 years her junior, but eyebrows would still be raised.
As I watched this I could not help but cast my mind back to when I recently watched Ali: Fear Eats The Soul. The relationship in that film between the German widow and her younger African husband and felt remarkably similar. It is just that you take all the baggage associated with the relationship in All That Heaven Allows and you add a racial element. With both movies I just felt myself perplexed at how their children reacted so cruelly towards their mother finding new happiness.
Actually let’s talk about Ned, her son, as he is a prick. Whilst the daughter also disapproves of this new relationship you can see that she at least it makes the effort during the first meeting. The son, however, doesn’t even give Ron a chance. One of his major arguments being the that she would have to sell the family house in order to move in with Ron. However, after he has successfully split Cary and Ron he brings up the idea of selling the house since neither he nor his sister will be able to visit in the next year due to his scholarship and her engagement. It really boiled my blood when he said that to her. What an ungrateful tosser!
I think you can tell this film got underneath my skin. I think a big part of that was Jane Wyman who was breathtaking in her sadness as the lonely Cary Scott. It was also a treat to see Agnes Moorehead in her role of Cary’s best friend. I wonder how many of these melodramas I have left to go on this list.