Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Surprisingly good acting: Oscar Wilde, The Nun's Story, Man Hunt, Ride the High Country, The Moon and Sixpence

I watched The Nun's Story (1959) last night. I was expecting it to be mawkish and sentimental, awash with heavenly choirs and phony piety, and I doubted I'd get through 150 minutes of it without a lot of fast-forwarding. But I watched every damned minute of it - and loved every damn minute of it. I was expecting Peggy Ashcroft, Edith Evans, Peter Finch and Dean Jagger to be good - which they all were - but I doubted whether Audrey Hepburn could carry that much weight on her delicate shoulders. She smashed it for six. The fact that her ethereal, almost asexual, angelic beauty was actually enhanced by her nun's cowl helped - but in the end it was her ability to convey Sister Luke's continual struggle with the vow of obedience that made the film work (that, and Fred Zinnemann's masterly, unflashy, tasteful direction). Here's the official trailer:

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

That wedding, terrorist invaders, useful idiots, Venezuela, Bercow and lots, lots more...

As Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was born in Uganda, and describes herself as "part-Pakistani", and as she doesn't appear to be all that keen on white people, it's rather surprising...

Thursday, 17 May 2018

The greatest "drain the swamp" movie of all time? "Mr Smith Goes to Washington", showing on TCM at 9.30am this Sunday

I know I'm a terrible old softie, but I teared up during this scene:
Mr Smith Goes to Washington was yet another of those classic films I wasn't sure I'd watched from beginning to end. So I recorded it on the TCM channel, and my wife (a great Jimmy Stewart fan) and I ended up watching it a few days ago - and we both realised we'd only ever caught bits and bobs of it. What a deliriously wonderful experience it was: the world felt a happier, warmer, more hopeful place afterwards...

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Farewell, Tom Wolfe: dandyish Southern gentleman journalist and embodiment of hip conseravtism

Drawing by Tom Wolfe from In Our Time
The great American journalist and author Tom Wolfe has died at the age of 88. I'm ashamed to admit that I've only mentioned him once on this blog despite having read and thoroughly enjoyed the eight books he produced between 1965 and 1980...

Monday, 14 May 2018

Surprisingly enjoyable vintage movies: On Approval, Patterns, I Wake Up Screaming, Intruder in the Dust and If I Were King

There's nothing quite as satisfying as sitting down to watch a film with moderate hopes, only for it to turn out to be much, much better than one was expecting.  Such a film was the 1944 British romantic comedy, On Approval, which struck me as a poor prospect, but turned out to be an absolute hoot. It was the second adaptation of a 1926 "bright young things" stage play by Frederick Lonsdale (the grandfather of actors Edward and James Fox, as it happens). The screenplay was adapted by Clive Brook, who went on to direct and produce it - and somehow found time to play one of the four main characters, the feckless, selfish Duke of Bristol. I was expecting to sit stoney-faced throughout, but, instead, found myself roaring with laughter at the wittiest, most malicious, most expertly delivered, Noel-Coward-on-steroids banter...

Friday, 11 May 2018

The Grønmark Blog's ten favourite 50s rock'n'roll guitar pickers - from Cliff Gallup and Danny Cedrone to Roland Janes and Duane Eddy

When Gene Vincent turned up for his first recording session in Nashville on 4th May, 1956, producer Ken Nelson had session musicians standing by in the case the band weren't up to the task - standard procedure back then. When Vincent's lead guitarist, Cliff Gallup, plugged in his Gretsch 6128 with Bigsby vibrato tail-piece and played his first solo on "Race With the Devil", the session men packed up their instruments and left. Here's why:
Gallup's playing is about as inventive and witty...