Thursday, 21 February 2019

So, farewell Swiss actor Bruno Ganz - thank you for the Hitler meme and the glorious "Wings of Desire"

Until a few weeks ago, I only knew Bruno Ganz from a handful of appearances in American films - e.g. The Boys from Brazil and The Reader - and his memorable portrayal of Hitler in Downfall (and the endless internet memes it spawned)...

Thursday, 14 February 2019

A tribute to Brian Magee, superb broadcaster and philosophy's great late 20th Century populariser

One of the unintended benefits of television being so monumentally lousy at the moment - and the fact that, no matter how hard I try, I can't find a single "original" film, drama series or documentary on Netflix or Amazon Prime I have any desire to watch - is that, apart from vintage films, most of my time slumped in front of the TV in recent weeks has been spent watching 20 to 30-year old BBC programmes featuring one very clever man discussing philosophy with even cleverer men, without the aid of graphics or filmed inserts or CGI or anyone dressing up in wigs and historical costumes or hilarious contributions from stand-up comics or a voiceover telling us "Time's running out - our two contestants have less than five minutes to sort out the mind-body identity problem!" An odd way to spend one's time, you might think - but, I assure you, most of these one-on-one interviews are rivetting. The very clever man is always Brian Magee...

Christian Krohg, a great Norwegian realist painter who should be better known

If you want a self-portrait of an artist with a stonking hangover, ask a Norwegian...
Similarly, if you fancy a painting of fishermen in action...

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Sheer enjoyment movies: St.Martin's Lane, The Suspect, Unfaithfully Yours, House by the River, Ladies in Retirement and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

St. Martin's Lane (aka Sidewalks of London) is a 1938 British film starring Charles Laughton as the leader of a troupe of buskers, Vivien Leigh as a pickpocket he takes under his wing, and Rex Harrison as a successful songwriter who introduces her to the theatrical big time. Okay, it isn't a great film, but it's a lively celebration of the sort of busking that was still thriving in the West End in the early and mid-sixties when I used to queue to get into picture palaces in Leicester Square, it crackles with energy, and Laughton is quite splendid as the talentless ham who loses his heart to the lovely Miss Leigh (which he didn't do in real life - the two didn't get on, and the shoot was complicated by Laurence Olivier hanging around on days when Viv was scheduled to perform love scenes with Sexy Rexy). Well worth a Sunday afternoon wallow, and...

Thursday, 31 January 2019

The 25 greatest comedy performance by actresses in films

1. Carole Lombard in 20th Century (1934) - I could have chosen her performance in My Man Godfrey or Nothing Sacred, but this is the film which invented the screwball comedy heroine. In order to liberate Lombard's inner comedienne, director Howard Hawks told her a lie - that John Barrymore didn't rate her performance - then told her to go on set and give her co-star an unscripted kick up the arse:

2. Edna May Oliver (as Betsey Trotwood) in David Copperfield (1935)...

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Five great vintage French films, including the greatest thriller of all time, "The Wages of Fear"

When you've heard a film being praised to the skies for most of your life, it's apt to be a bit of a disappointment when you finally get round to seeing it, but the 1953 French-Italian thriller film The Wages of Fear (Le salaire de la peur), directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Yves Montand...

Monday, 28 January 2019

American magazine stands of the '20s and '30s must have been a riot of wit, vulgarity, elegance, taste, energy and colour


Howard Hawks - the brilliant Golden Age Hollywood director who deserves to be a household name

Before I started my vintage-filmathon about 18  months ago, I barely had a clue who Howard Hawks was. I knew he was a well-known Hollywood film director, but (as with William Wyler and George Cukor) I didn't know exactly which films he'd directed. In fact, I'd already seen - and mostly enjoyed - nine of his pictures: the terrific early gangster movie Scarface (1932), in which Paul Muni delivered a thinly-veiled portrait of Al Capone; the Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby (1938); the great Cary Grant/Rosalind Russell screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940); the patriotic Gary Cooper box office hit Sergeant York (1941); the charming Gary Cooper/Barbara Stanwyck comedy Ball of Fire (1941); the first pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall...