Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Hideaways aka From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler ( 1973 )

Claudia Kincaid wants to run away from home. She is a romantic dreamer at heart and feels like her parents do not appreciate her. So, when she finds a train ticket with an unpunched ride, she decides to take off on an adventure of a lifetime. Together with her younger brother Jamie ( who is financing their expedition ), she plots their escape and, while riding in the bus to school one day, they take off for New York City. "You don't run away from a place, you run away to a place," Claudia says. And New York City is the place she wants to go to because that is where the Metropolitan Museum of Art is located. 

Claudia wants to live in the museum and immerse herself in history. One night, while at the museum, she sees a statue of an angel in a backroom and falls in love with it. It is part of a new art exhibition and may possibly have been sculpted by Michaelangelo. The famous Italian sculptor's mark is on the base of the statue but art experts have been baffled for years as to whether it is a genuine mark or not. 

Claudia was wondering just why she had run away and now it occurs to her that she wants to prove that she is capable of doing something grand and noble... just like the knights in the legends of King Arthur that she reads about. Solving the mystery of whether or not Michaelangelo carved the angel statue would be such a gesture. It would make her feel important. The only person who can help Claudia and Jamie solve the mystery is Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler ( Ingrid Bergman ), a recluse who once owned the statue.

"You know Jamie, this is really a great adventure, something we'll remember as long as we live. Not even a king has lived in a fabulous place like this."

The Hideaways is based on the popular children's book "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" written by E.L. Konigsburg. It was required reading for many elementary students during the 1980s and 1990s. This film adaptation escaped me as a youngster and the only filmed version of the story that I was aware of at the time was the 1995 television adaptation starring Lauren Bacall. 

The Hideaways is by far a superior adaptation of the story and a much better film overall. Sally Prager and Johnny Doran are excellent in the lead roles and Sally especially gives a touching performance as the imaginative and spunky Claudia. For such a little thing, she really does have a lot of wisdom. 
The dialogue throughout the film is so loose and natural which makes everything that the children say seem believable. It was Blanche Hanalis who penned the script. This marvelous screenwriter had a knack for writing dialogue for children. She wrote the script to The Trouble with Angels ( 1966 ) and also many episodes of Family Affair and Little House on the Prairie

The Hideaways could be classified as a coming-of-age film because Claudia and Jamie learn, grow, and mature through their experience of running away from home. Their sibling bond strengthens throughout their adventure and Claudia comes to see just how much she loves her family and how much they love her. 

Ingrid Bergman gives an excellent and sensitive portrayal of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. She is immediately captivated by Claudia and her interest in the angel statue and is eager to help this kindred spirit to solve the mystery. You get the idea that perhaps seeing Claudia and Jamie makes Mrs. Frankweiler regret that she did not have any children herself. 
George Rose, a fine English actor, has a marvelous part as Mrs. Frankweiler's patient butler Saxonburg. Richard Mulligan and Georgann Johnson have small parts as the children's parents and Madeleine Khan also has a brief appearance as a schoolteacher at the museum.

The Hideaways also features fine cinematography by Victor J. Kemper ( The Last Tycoon ), beautiful music by Donald Devor, and an excellent setting - The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was filmed on location within the museum and it is wonderful to get an inside view of such a famous New York institution. The children wander through all the major rooms and, as an audience, we get to see beautiful paintings by Degas, Leutze, Rosseau, and Monet. 

1 comment:

  1. I remember The Hideaways! Ironically, I’m watching the new Netflix series Dash & Lily and there’s a character called Mrs. Basil E.—named after the original.

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