Friday, January 15, 2021

Portrait of a Lady ( 1968 ) - BBC

In 1968, BBC produced an excellent television adaptation of Henry James' critically acclaimed 1880 novel "The Portrait of a Lady". It aired as a two-part mini-series in January of that year. 

Suzanne Neve starred as Isabel Archer, the beautiful and spirited American woman who travels to England and becomes heir to a large fortune. This sudden windfall was meant to give her the opportunity to live her life as she pleases, to do as she likes without feeling an obligation to marry for "security".  Unfortunately, she wastes this opportunity when she decides to wed Gilbert Osmond ( James Maxwell ), an artist with extremely high-standards of living. She realizes her mistake too late and - having pride and a great deal of dignity - decides to simply bear it. 

If you are familiar with the work of Henry James then you will realize that The Portrait of a Lady plays James' usual tune of sorrow and disappointment. However, his extremely direct dialogue makes it a highly entertaining lament. 

This BBC production is not lavish in any way but the cast play their roles so well that even if they were standing on a bare stage their characters would come alive. Suzanne Neve is excellent as Isabel. Her character is so admirable that even her misguided decisions can be easily forgiven. Her cousin Ralph Touchett ( Richard Chamberlain ) certainly forgives her for letting him down. He put her on a pedestal the first moment he met her and delighted in watching her dare to dream and do all the things he could not due to his illness. Once she met Gilbert, those dreams vanished, and although Ralph warned her against marrying Gilbert, he still found it easy to love her for the eagle-like spirit she once displayed. 

Henry James often wrote stories that featured unusually spirited women ( for his time ). Ms. Archer is a woman who seems to have a glorious destiny ahead of her and yet no one is able to tell her what that destiny may be....and she certainly hasn't an inkling of what others expect of her, nor of what she expects of herself. When she meets Gilbert, she believes that becoming his benefactor may just be the greatest service she could render to the world but quickly discovers she was mistaken and finds herself in a disastrous marriage. 
Fortunately, this television adaptation focuses more on the events leading up to her marriage and does not spend much time dealing with the details of her marital sufferings. These events include Isabel meeting the handsome Ralph, being courted by the kindly Lord Warburton ( Edward Fox ), trying to dodge Casper Goodwood ( Ed Bishop ), and traveling the world with her Aunt Lydia ( Beatrix Lehmann ). 

Richard Chamberlain gives a stand-out performance as the sickly, but always happy, Ralph. Chamberlain had just completed his television series Dr. Kildare and this was quite a change from the kind of role that one would expect him to play. His performance garnered such critical acclaim that he remained in England and continued to do period films and other literary adaptations, eventually becoming known as the "King of the Miniseries". 

The Portrait of a Lady also features excellent performances by Rachel Gurney ( as Madame Merle ), Kathleen Byron ( as Countess Gemini ), Sarah Brackett, Alan Gifford and Sharon Gurney ( Rachel's real-life daughter playing her daughter on screen ). 

Like most of the BBC stage-to-screen teleplays, The Portrait of a Lady was split into episodes and aired over the course of several weeks. This play was aired in six parts ( 45 minutes each ). Despite the minimal set decor and simple direction, the episodes are never tiresome. In truth, there should have been one extra episode because some of the scenes skim over large spans of time too quickly. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Tanya Roberts Interview on the set of "A View to a Kill"

The beautiful Tanya Roberts passed away last Monday at the age of 65. Since she was best known for her work on the James Bond film A View to a Kill ( 1985 ), we thought we'd share a brief interview that was conducted on the set during the making of the final action sequence. 

Ms. Roberts was only 30 years old when she co-starred with Roger Moore, who was age 57 at the time of filming, making him the oldest actor to play James Bond. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

From the Archives: Red Canyon ( 1949 )

Edgar Buchanan and Howard Duff enjoy a relaxing talk on the trail in this scene from Red Canyon ( 1949 ), an entertaining semi-western from Universal Pictures. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store :

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Flood Tide ( 1958 )

Behind the mask of innocence.....murder! 

Universal Pictures made a number of good melodramas in the late 1950s that have fallen into obscurity today, one of which was Flood Tide ( 1958 ) starring George Nader. It's similar to The Bad Seed ( 1956 ) with its main antagonist being a child, but instead of being just a melodrama, it has a touch of murder mystery to it as well. 

The film begins with Bill Holleran ( Russ Conway ) being tried and convicted of murder....the murder of a man who was found washed upon the beach. He had got into an argument with a drunken friend at a party at his beach house and, according to Bill, they had a fistfight and then his friend stumbled away down the street trying to hitch a ride to town. However, a key witness claims that he saw Bill murder the drunken man and then drag his body out to the Pacific Ocean. 

That key witness is David Gordon ( Michel Ray ). He's an intelligent and conniving 10-year-old who was crippled in an automobile accident, the same accident that killed his father several years previously. His mother Anne ( Cornell Borchers ) is devoted to his well-being and believes in the innocence of her son. She is so attentive to him that he develops an intense jealosy whenever he sees anyone take an interest in his mother. 

Steve Martin ( George Nader ), is the owner of the beach house that Bill Holleran had rented. He was away in South America for several months, but when he hears about the case, he comes back to testify against young David.....he believes the boy to be lying. Alas, he is too late and the trial is over. Steve attempts to explain why he thinks that David may have been lying and thus begins a flashback of the events leading up to the trial. 

If you expect to watch an engrossing murder mystery, then you would probably be disappointed with Flood Tide, but if you like a good melodrama, then it is well-worth checking out. I found the first half-hour to be difficult to watch because Anne so willingly allows David to rule her life, but after the flashback ends, the film takes a nice twist and we see Steve playing psychological games with David in the hopes of drawing him out of his selfish misery and getting him to confess to lying. 

Steve is in love with Anne and he sees that the only way he can marry her is by winning the love of David. He valiantly tries to give the boy confidence in himself and make him realize that just because he is physically crippled does not mean he has to be mentally crippled. 

George Nader and Cornell Borchers are both excellent in their parts. Their blossoming romance is both touching to watch and rather sad because it seems so hopeless. Michel Ray is also very good as David. He was very much like Martin Stephens from Village of the Damned ( 1960 ), without the glowing eyes but equally dangerous. Ray made his first film appearence in The Divided Heart ( 1954 ), an excellent British film, and then he came to Hollywood where he had a very short career. He made a handful of westerns but is best known for playing Bud Brewster in the B-film The Space Children ( 1958 ). 

Also in the cast is the lovely Joanna Moore as Steve's old flame, Judson Pratt as a doctor who wants to help David, and Charles Arnt as a kindly grocer. Troy Donahue also makes a brief appearence as a teenager on the beach. 

Flood Tide has not yet been released on DVD, but copies of the film taped from late-night television can be found online. 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game


Look at all that beautiful white fluffy snow! We've been posting a number of tricky photos lately, so to cap the year off we have an easier puzzle for our Impossibly Difficult followers. Be the first to identify the film this screenshot was taken from and you've got yourself a prize!

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!


Congratulations to Brittany for identifying this screenshot from "How to Marry a Millionaire" ( 1953 ). In this scene, Betty Grable and Fred Clark just arrived at his lodge in Maine...and that's handsome Rory Calhoun fetching their luggage from the trunk. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The 12 Delights of Christmas Tag

Heidi of Along the Bradywine created a jolly Christmas tag to celebrate the season and we are pleased as punch to have been tagged by Paddy Lee, known by her readers as Caftan Woman. For those of you not familiar with tagging parties, they are simply a set of questions that you answer and then pass along to another group of bloggers whom you tagged. On to the questions! 

1) A favorite Christmas tradition?

There are a lot of them, most of which include watching favorite holiday films on the days leading up to Christmas...but one of our favorite traditions is making gesztenyepüré. It's a Hungarian chestnut purree dessert that our Oma ( grandma ) introduced to us when we were young. There is something delightfully nostalgic about tasting this frothy rum-soaked chestnut dessert on a cold winter afternoon.

2) Say it snowed at your domicile, would you prefer to go out or stay curled up inside? 

That depends on how much snow fell down. If it was just a dusting, we'd stay in, but if it came down heavy, then we'd scurry to put our ski pants on and go cross-country skiing! 

3) Tea or hot chocolate? 

Definitely tea...with plenty of cookies. 

The "milk of human kindness"...if it tastes like Earl Grey, I'll take a large cup, too!

4) Favorite Christmas colors (i.e. white, blue, silver, red and green, etc)?

White and green. The colors of snow and garlands. 

5) Favorite kind of Christmas cookie? 

Diana: Thumbprints and sugar cookies. We make them every year!
Connie: I love spekulatius cookies because they taste so good with tea, especially the ones with the stamped image of the little old man carrying a sack on his back. 

6) How soon before Christmas do you decorate (more specifically, when does your tree go up)? 

About a week into December. We take it down a week after New Year's Day, so it is up for a whole month. 

7) Three favorite traditional Christmas carols?

Diana: O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, Joy to the World

Connie: The Star Carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day ( set to the Johnny Marks melody ), Here We Come A-Wassailing 

8) A favorite Christmas song (i.e. something you might hear on the radio)? 

Diana: We Need a Little Christmas from Mame.
Connie: Little Altar Boy ( The Carpenters ) is such a jewel. 

9) A favorite Christmas movie? 

Diana: The Bishop's Wife ( 1947 )
Connie: Little Women ( 1933 ). 

10) Have you ever gone caroling?

Yes! It was an annual tradition at our church, but sadly, this year we did not have the pleasure of singing out door-to-door. 

11) Ice skating, sledding, skiing, or snowboarding? 

Skiing! Ice skating looks delightful but most attempts at it have turned into a wobbly mess. At least when you fall on skiis you land on snow. 

12) Favorite Christmas feast dish?

Diana: Yams!
Connie: I'm still looking for that one. 

Since the 12 Days of Christmas runs up until January 5th, we're tagging the following bloggers - Critica RetroThe Wonderful World of Cinema, Vienna's Classic Hollywood - to join in, but if any of our readers want to share their responses too, we'd love to hear them! 

1) A favorite Christmas tradition?

2) Say it snowed at your domicile, would you prefer to go out or stay curled up inside? 

3) Tea or hot chocolate? 

4) Favorite Christmas colors (i.e. white, blue, silver, red and green etc)? 

5) Favorite kind of Christmas cookie? 

6) How soon before Christmas do you decorate (more specifically, when does your tree go up)? 

7) Three favorite traditional Christmas carols? 

8) A favorite Christmas song (i.e. something you might hear on the radio)? 

9) A favorite Christmas movie? 

10) Have you ever gone caroling? 

11) Ice skating, sledding, skiing, or snowboarding? 

12) Favorite Christmas feast dish?

Sunday, December 20, 2020

All I Desire ( 1953 )

Naomi Murdoch is returning to the small town of Riverdale to see her daughter perform in a high school play and the town is in a gossiping uproar. Nearly ten years earlier, Naomi left Riverdale, her husband Henry ( Richard Carlson ), and her three children to pursue a career on the stage as an actress. The townsfolk - and her family - have not forgiven her. All except Lily ( Lori Nelson ), Naomi's younger daughter. It was a letter from Lily that brought Naomi on her homeward journey. 

Once back in Riverdale, Naomi comes to realize how much she has missed her family and her home. But she feels that it is too late to make amends. Henry and she argue the first night she arrives and their eldest daughter Joyce ( Marcia Henderson ) is particularly bitter towards her. To make matters worse, Dutch Heinemann ( Lyle Bettger ), a local shop owner, thinks that because Naomi is back in town they can pick on where they left off with their affair. 

All I Desire was directed by Douglas Sirk and, like most of his films from the 1950s, it is bubbling with soapy melodrama. Most of his films were shot in color, but this one was black-and-white and it was a good decision to film it in monochrome because of the emphasis it gives to the low-lighting and shadows that were beautifully captured by cinematographer Carl Guthrie ( Caged ). 

The script was an adaption of Carol Brinks' novel "Stopover" and, even though the film is only 80-minutes, it manages to pack in quite a lot of drama in such a short span....with, surprisingly, no loose ends. 

Barbara Stanwyck was ideally cast as Naomi and looks beautiful in the turn-of-the-century period costumes designed by Rosemary Odell. Naomi is a tired hardened woman who never really made it big in the theater world but she decides to play the part of being an elegant distinguished actress and make her family proud. Few actresses could have played this part with as much conviction as Ms. Stanwyck.

Richard Carlson is also well-suited in the role of Henry, the mild-mannered school principal who is shocked by his wife's return. Henry was beginning to grow attached to Ms. Harper ( Maureen O'Sullivan ), the school's drama teacher, but when Naomi comes back into his life, he has to re-evaluate his feelings. 

Also in the cast is Billy Gray as Naomi's son Ted, Lotte Stein as the Swedish housekeeper, and Richard Long as Joyce's charming beau.  Stuart Whitman and Guy Williams also have small parts as Lily's school companions. 

The publicity department at 20th Century Fox probably thought that the film's period setting would turn away audience members and so they created poster art that, amusingly, had nothing to do with the film. One poster has a background of storm clouds while a man ( presumably Richard Carlson ) kisses the neck of a negligee-clad woman who looks a lot like Barbara Hale. Another has a dark-haired Barbara Stanwyck cradling the head of Robert Mitchum, both of them wearing outfits that look like they came out of the 1940s (!). 

All I Desire did not need the pulp-fiction publicity to sell it, because the film is a fine production all around and is one of Barbara Stanwyck's best films of the 1950s.