Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Lauren Bacall (1924-2014)

So sad to hear about the passing of the talented and beautiful Lauren Bacall.

"I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that"

May she Rest in Peace. 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Wuthering Heights (1939)

Wuthering Heights is my favourite novel, and I must admit I approach its film adaptations with some trepidation. I don’t feel as if there is a definitive film version of what some have called an impossible novel to film, and whilst it is not perfect, William Wyler’s 1939 version certainly has some 'right' elements. 

The film depicts the first half of Emily Bronte’s famous novel, and leaves out the second half which deals with the second generation at Wuthering Heights. This is quite common in film adaptions of the book. 
Laurence Olivier, who is great as Heathcliff, wanted his future wife Vivien Leigh to be cast as Cathy (she too wanted the part) but studio obligations saw Merle Oberon being cast instead. Leigh was offered the role of Isabella but declined, (at the time she wasn’t well known enough to be cast in the pivotal role of Cathy).
Oberon’s Cathy lacks the wild vindictiveness of the Cathy in the novel, and in some ways is a ‘nicer’ version. One cannot help but wonder what Cathy would have been like in the hands of Leigh who played a similar, wilful character in the years top film, Gone With the Wind.

Ellen the housekeeper also becomes somewhat ‘sanitized’, unlike in the novel, where she actively abhors Heathcliff, and shuns Cathy’s behaviour, the Ellen in the film looks upon both with pity. Even rejoicing at their reunion through death.  Whilst in the novel her motives are unclear, and her trustworthiness is doubted, in the film she is a noble woman, who looks after her charges and relishes in their final reunion.

However on the whole the film is a good one, and whilst not entirely faithful to the book, it is enjoyable and moving to watch. The wildness of the moors are beautiful even in black and white, and Olivier is commanding as Heathcliff, yet still inspires pity from the audience. Cathy's death and the final scene are  haunting. 


Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo (1948) is a gangster/ drama film directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Edward G. Robinson. It takes place in Key Largo Florida, with Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart), an ex soldier arriving at a hotel owned by one of his late comrades family. There he finds his friends wife Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) and his father James Temple (Lionel Barrymore) are unwittingly housing infamous mobster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) and his gang. As a hurricane approaches McCloud and the Temple's are held hostage. (Spoilers ahead!)

Tensions mount as Rocco becomes increasingly agitated with the storm, Nora and Frank. He is hoping to go to Cuba with money earned from forgery. His mistreated girlfriend Gaye (Claire Trevor), begins to realise over the course of the night that Rocco is no good, and after Frank shows kindness towards her, she helps him in return. After a policeman and two innocent victims are killed as a result of the gangsters presence, the hurricane finally passes, Rocco receives his money and is ready to depart. The man he hired to take him to Cuba however has left during the storm. And consequently Rocco forces McCloud to take them instead. 

With the aid of Gaye, McCloud secures a gun, and leaves Key Largo with the gangsters. The final climatic battle on the boat spells the end for Rocco and triumph for McCloud, who rings Nora to tell her he will be returning to Key Largo. 

The film was the last of four films Bogart and Bacall made together, and I must admit I wish Bacall had had a larger role! Claire Trevor won the the academy award for best supporting actress for her role as Rocco's girlfriend, and her performance is one of the highlights of the film. The escalating hurricane adds a different level of tension. 
This was my first time seeing a Bogart and Bacall film and I am looking forward to watching their other collaborations. Any recommendations? If anyone is reading, I would love to hear from you in the comments! 

3.5 / 5
Also here is the trailer for the film! Enjoy!